Apr. 17th, 2019 01:51 pm
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Celebrity Death Watch: Charles Van Doren was a contestant on the quiz show Twenty-One in the 1950’s and was caught up in the cheating scandal, as he had been given answers by the producers. Earl Thomas Conley was a country music singer-songwriter. Scott Sanderson pitched for several baseball teams, including the Expos and the Cubs. Ian Cognito did standup comedy in Britain. Georgia Engel was an actress, best known for appearing as Georgette on The Mary Tyler Moore Show, but she also performed in several musicals, including Hello, Dolly and The Drowsy Chaperone. Tony Buzan wrote several books popularizing mind mapping. Gene Wolfe was a science fiction writer. Bibi Andersson was an actress who appeared in several Ingmar Bergman movies. Les Reed was a songwriter whose works included "It’s Not Unusual."

Whew!:I had a very busy week at work last week, accompanied by a busy week at home. The latter was largely due to taxes. Almost all of the effort of doing taxes is in finding all of the paperwork. Every year it seems that one or more pieces of paper (a 1099 interest statement or a receipt for a charitable donation, typically) goes missing, resulting in much scrambling to find it or search for a replacement source of the relevant info. And every year I swear I will do a better job of filing. At any rate, it did get done. Only to get into the other annual whirlwind known as cleaning for Passover. If it weren’t for that, I’d probably never discover that my pantry has a jar of marshmallow fluff and a can of water chestnuts, not to mention an absurd number of bottles of vinegar. (Presumably each of those was bought with a different recipe in mind.) I still have to clean the oven, vacuum, and achieve total world domination.

But that doesn’t mean I didn’t also have a busy weekend.

Grand Hotel: I went to see Grand Hotel at Signature Theatre on Saturday afternoon. I saw the movie long ago and, as far as I remember it, the musical is reasonably true to it. The plot revolves around several people staying in the hotel in Berlin during one day in the late 1920’s. Elizaveta Grushinskaya is an aging ballerina, accompanied by her companion, Raffaela, who secretly yearns for her. Flammchen is a secretary who wants to be a Hollywood actress. Otto Kringelein is a dying Jewish man who is trying to experience some of what has passed him by before the end. Baron Felix von Gaigern is an impoverished nobleman – and thief. The most passionate moment in the whole thing involves the romance that develops between Grushinskaya and the Baron. The Baron is easily the most appealing character in the ensemble, raising the hopes of several of the others, while ending up doomed himself.

The performers included a number of familiar faces. Natascia Diaz was excellent as Grushinskaya and Nkrumah Gatling, as the Baron, made a fine romantic foil for her. But the most striking performance was by Bobby Smith as Otto Klingelein.

Overall, this isn’t one of my favorite musicals, largely because I think it is rather shallow. Maury Yeston seems to have gotten involved with too many of these shows that try to follow too many characters at a superficial level. (I have the same issue with Titanic, for example.) Still, I liked it well enough to find it a diverting couple of hours.

Story Swap: Saturday night was a story swap. We had a small group, but it was still enjoyable. Eve had a long pourquoi story, which I think was from Guatemala. I told my father’s version of the crossing of the Red Sea. And there was a lot of general schmoozing.

One Day University: Sunday was One Day University. I was a bit annoyed that they did not include coffee this time out – unlike all the other times I’ve attended. I wasn’t going to pay four bucks just for a caffeine fix. (Instead, I went over to the nearby CVS and got a coke zero for 2 bucks.) Still, this really seemed pretty chintzy to me.

There were three lectures this time. The first talk was by William Burke-White of the University of Pennsylvania Law School on America and the World 2019: Where Are We Now (And where are we going?. His basic message was that, since World War II, the U.S. has led the global order with four pillars: 1) sovereignty (nation state as basic actor), 2) security (territorial integrity), 3) economic liberalization (currency convertibility, financial stability), and 4) open, rules-based system. What is changing now is the rise of China, leading to a trade war, along with a rise of populist nationalism, due partly to economic disparities. Information transparency and manipulation has led to a lack of secrecy in diplomacy. He also mentioned artificial intelligence and climate change as influencers, though he was less clear about their effects. I can’t say he really said anything I found startlingly new and original, but he was a reasonably interesting speaker.

The best lecture of the day was by Jennifer Keene of Chapman University on World War I: What Really Happened and Why It Matters. She emphasized the importance of the decision for conscription, which included public draft registration on particular days. Despite the public nature of registration, there was an almost 11% rate of draft evasion, which is higher than for Vietnam. While 95% of the men in the Civil War were combatants, only 40% were combatants in World War I. The work of those support troops was not as recognized and respected, which had a disproportionate impact on African Americans, who were overwhelmingly (89%) assigned to non-combatant roles like lading ships.

As for the importance of WWI, she noted that the German threat to the U.S. was real, including both the threat to shipping and sabotage within the U.S. But a more lasting impact was the rise of interest in Civil Rights, partly in response to the Espionage Act and the Sedition Act (which made it illegal to oppose the government and led to the founding of the ACLU). She had several stories related to issues like women suffrage, rights of African-Americans, rights of immigrants, and the peace movement that grew in the 1930’s, which made the U.S. reluctant to enter WWII. Overall, she was a dynamic speaker and held my interest.

I had expected to enjoy the final talk, by Mark Mazullo of Macalester College on Mozart and Beethoven: The Lives and Legacies of History’s Most Famous Composers. But I just didn’t buy his key premise that both composers were inherently tied to the revolutions of the era (both political and industrial) and to empathy as a road to democracy and human rights. Yes, they were entrepreneurial compared to, say, Haydn, who worked for Count Esterhazy, but I’d argue that gave them more freedom to write what they wanted, while also adding greater insecurity. Mazzullo brought up the point as the reason why Beethoven wrote only 9 symphonies while Mozart wrote 41 and Haydn wrote 104. But Haydn lived to 77 and Mozart died at 35, so you could argue they were roughly equally productive. (Beethoven is a bit more complicated – he never really composed quickly and modern scholarship suggests his lifelong poor health was due to chronic lead poisoning. But he also had plenty of patronage during his earlier years.) Overall, I don’t think I really learned anything new from this talk.

Notre Dame: I went to Notre Dame with Robert (the gentleman with whom I conducted the world’s longest running brief meaningless fling) during a weekend in Paris In 2009. It took some effort (and Berthillon ice cream) for me to persuade him to wait in line to get in, but we were both suitably impressed with its grandeur. I believe that grand works of art and architecture are proof of the value of divine inspiration. However, as I read about the large donations to restore the building, I can’t help wondering how much else could be accomplished with that money – education, job creation, etc.
fauxklore: (Default)
It was my turn to host our monthly story swap. Which meant making at least a nominal attempt at making my condo presentable.

As usual, I started out with good intentions to put things where they belong ( which is often the trash). But there is never really enough time. So the boxes where I put things I intend to get to are overflowing. And there are stacks of things on half of my bed, which I need to sort out.

Also, why do I have a bag-less vacuum? It seemed like a good idea at the time, but it is a pain to empty. The bin has way too small a capacity. Four sweeps over the floor did not get all of the dust and shreddies that spilled from emptying the shredder. But that was all I could handle doing.

After all that, three of the 5 people who had RSVPed canceled. We had nice seasonal stories anyway.
fauxklore: (Default)
I was up until 2:30 am or so last night, thanks to a genealogy rabbit hole, mostly involving trying to find out exactly when Ephraim KHAYKEL (later KHONKEL) left Seta, where he was born, for Pumpeniai / Puselatos. It’s relevant only because it might help trace a connection to someone else researching similar names and places.

I fell down a different sort of rabbit hole, involving old mail, today. Let’s just say that things that turned up on my desk included a newsletter from July and coupons that expired in, um, 2015. Those are now in the recycling and the trash, as appropriate. I think that means I am not a true hoarder.

In other news, Chappy Chanukah!
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Extended Restaurant Week: Some flyertalk friends invited me to join them for an extended restaurant week dinner at 2941, which is probably the best restaurant in Fairfax County. It’s an excellent place to go for this sort of thing, since one can’t normally get out of there for much under a hundred bucks, even without alcohol. They had a reasonable number of selections (3 or 4) for each course, with only one that had an upcharge. I had a nicely citrusy ceviche for the appetizer, which also had the interesting touch of fried tortilla strips for some crunch. For the main course, I got the duck Bolognese, which was quite tasty. The chocolate velvet (essentially a chocolate mousse) made an excellent wintertime dessert. And they are one of a handful of places that has drinkable decaf. The food was excellent and the atmosphere is quiet and highly conducive to conversation. It’s really a lovely place and I’m glad the others involved thought of me to fill out the party.

MiniFest:Saturday was the Folklore Society of Greater Washington Mid-Winter MiniFest. My set wasn’t until 4:30 in the afternoon, but I was carpooling with another teller, so ended up going for the whole day. There were some song and dance tracks I might have liked going to, but I have been having knee issues that I thought would make Intro to Morris Dancing a bad idea and the singing I most wanted to go to conflicted with some of the storytelling I most wanted to hear. So I spent almost the whole day at the storytelling room, with a couple of breaks to go to the Green Room for tea and snacks. I also did a minor bit of shopping, largely because I saw something which made me think of someone I know. And the same stall had local honey, which is something I had run out of a while back. (I have two other sources, but won’t see either for a while.)

Anyway, everyone I heard did reasonably well. I was particularly pleased with the performances by the three members of The Twinbrook Tellers (our youth affiliate) who performed. As for my set, I had crowd-sourced some new similes to use in "The Baker Woman and the Miller’s Daughter," but forgot the one I had most wanted to use ("as hard as a rock café"). The story that got the best reaction was "Berel the Baker," and, having been there, I can truthfully assert that one cannot get a bagel in Chelm. I also told "Nasruddin’s Cat" and "Clever Greta." Why, yes, there was a food theme. Overall, I had fun both telling and performing.

Sunday: The weather was dreadful. There were a couple of things I might have gone out for, but nothing I absolutely had to. I got through a bunch of household paperwork, though not, alas, all of it. And I almost read the entire Washington Post.
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Celebrity Death Watch: Kate Millett wrote the feminist classic Sexual Politcs. Gene "Stick" Michael played baseball and moved into management, primarily with the Source of All Evil in the Universe. Don Williams was a country music singer, as was Troy Gentry. Michael Friedman wrote the score of Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson. Len Wein was a comic book writer and editor, credited as co-creator of Wolverine. Don Ohlmeyer was a sports television executive, responsible for Monday night football. (He was also the mentor of someone I grew up with, who has some very interesting stories about him.) Nancy Dupree was an historian who focused on the history of modern Afghanistan. Jack Kiel created McGruff the Crime Dog.

Jerry Pournelle wrote science fiction and published articles on military strategy. He had actually worked for the company that I am employed by at one time (as well as other companies in the space industry). He was alleged to have been the first author to have written a published book using a word processor on a personal computer. I have absolutely no recollection of having read anything he wrote, but I think I have read anthologies he edited.

Lotfi Zadeh was a professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at the University of California, Berkeley, and is best known for his work on fuzzy logic. I am somewhat hesitant to list him because there had been at least two earlier, incorrect reports of his death. But the EECS department is now reporting it, which is a more reliable source than various Azerbaijani sources. Incidentally, it is probably not well known that he was Jewish, at least technically, as his mother was a Russian Jew. (His father was Iranian and, I assume, Muslim, in which case the Muslims would claim him too. Though maybe not, since he apparently went to a Presbyterian mission school when his family returned to Iran from Azerbaijan. None of this actually matters in the least – I just think it’s interesting. And is perhaps an example of fuzzy religious and national identity.)

Birthday: I turned 59 on Labor Day. I really want my life to be in much better order by the time I’m 60.

Speaking of Order: I more or less tore my living room apart looking for what I had done with some theatre tickets. Of course, they turned out to be in the pile that I was positive that they absolutely could not be in. In the process of searching, I did manage to throw out 4 bags full of papers. What is pathetic is how much there is to go.

A Little Night Music: That ticket was for Signature Theatre’s production of A Little Night Music. Signature makes something of a specialty of Sondheim so this was a sure bet. And it was, indeed, a good show. There were lots of familiar performers, e.g. Bobby Smith as Frederik, Sam Ludwig as Henrik, Maria Rizzo as Petra, Will Gartshore as Carl-Magnus, and Holly Twyford as Desiree. I should note that Twyford is known as an actress, not a singer, but was more than up to the role. But the real highlights were Florence Lacey as the acerbic Madame Armfeldt and Tracy Lynn Olvera as Charlotte. Both performers highlighted the humor of some of Sondheim’s wittiest lyrics. Even though this is a show I know well, I still noticed lyrics I hadn’t quite caught before. Overall, this is among the best theatre I’ve seen here.

I do have one complaint, however. The air conditioning was way too aggressive. It wasn’t even hot out. I need to remember to bring a sweater or shawl whenever I go to Signature.

Also re: Shirlington: I had amazingly good parking karma for this trip to Signature, with an available spot right by the stairs / elevator in the closer garage. I believe the reason for this is that it allowed me to do a good deed. There was a miniature Celtic festival going on and a blind woman was trying to find a place to sit to listen to the music. I let her take my elbow and led her to the chairs set up in front of the stage.

Story Swap: Saturday night was our monthly story swap, which is always fun. I have found an Albanian story to tell, which went over reasonably well. Especially the part in which the hero is sent to collect overdue taxes from a church full of snakes.

JGSGW: There was a Jewish Genealogy Society of Greater Washington meeting on Sunday. The topic was ancestry tips and tricks, but, alas, that was pretty much focused on tips for your tree on ancestry and I don’t keep mine there. I was hoping for tips on more effective searches. And, given that the speaker was time constrained, I didn’t bother asking. I did have some conversations before the meeting which were most useful, so it wasn’t a waste.

I had intended to go to a storytelling show later in the day, but I was too tired. At least I did manage to get grocery shopping done on my way home from darkest Maryland.
fauxklore: (storyteller doll)
Weather: It's March and it is 70+ degrees out right now, which is absurd. Of course, they are talking about possible snow for Friday, sigh. I'd rather we had unseasonably warm weather on the weekend, when I could take advantage of it.

Calendars: Except, really, I can't as my weekends are completely booked up all month, even if I color-coded one of them incorrectly on my calendar. (I have a ridiculously complicated method of coloring squares on a year-long calendar, with multiple highlighters intended to show everything from holidays to vacations to travel that I don't need vacation days for to local commitments like theatre tickets. This is supposed to keep me from double-booking myself. In practice, it creates an attractive product, but I still double-book myself.)

General chaos: I pay most of my bills automatically, but there are a couple I write checks for. In order to pay the bills, alas, I first have to find the bills. I used to be so organized. I think I never really got things back together when I bought my condo. Which was, admittedly, several years ago. I really need to devote some time to getting things together. I did go through a bunch of unopened mail last night, but only made it about halfway through. I will, however, note that for dead people, my parents sure get an awful lot of life insurance solicitations.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Celebrity Death Watch: Noel Neill played Lois Lane on the 1950’s Adventures of Superman series. Abner Mikva was a representative from Illinois and, later, a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. Max Ticktin was a leader of both Hillel and Chavurah Judaism (playing a key role in Fabrangen, here in D.C., for example), as well as teaching at George Washington University.

Elie Wiesel deserves his own paragraph. I first encountered him when I was 13 or 14 and read The Town Beyond the Wall. This was the novel that got me started keeping a commonplace book (that is, a collection of quotes), because I felt compelled to copy down his condemnation of indifference. I went on to read several of Wiesel’s other works and, of course, he was a highly visible voice of witness regarding the Shoah. In short, he was one of the reasons I feel the obligation to tell the stories of my family. Memory is important.

The Bridges of Madison County: I have neither read this novel nor seen the movie adaptation, so I can’t say how true to the source material this musical, which I saw last week at The Kennedy Center, is. The great surprise of the evening was that composer Jason Robert Brown was conducting the score himself and I found it interesting to watch his conducting, which was fluid. As for the show, I thought the first act dragged a bit, but the second act really caught me. I did seem to have gotten something in my eyes during parts of it. Overall, I liked much of the score and still have "One Second and a Million Miles" stuck in my head. I do, however, wish there was more actual choreography. As for the performances, they were all at least okay, though Elizabeth Stanley’s Italian accent seemed uneven to me. The highlights were the comic relief provided by the neighbors, played by Mary Callanan and David Hess. Overall, it was worth seeing.

DNA: I sent in my sample to Family Tree DNA several weeks ago and got results back a couple of weeks ago. The first match I had was with a (known) second cousin once removed. Figuring out potential relationships is tricky as so many people don’t really list info in their profiles, and I am probably guilty of not having filled mine out enough either. Anyway, my haplogroup on the maternal side is V7a and my ancestry is claimed to be 98% Ashkenazi Jewish and 2% North African, which is not especially surprising. I need to invest some time in understanding all this and how to sort through the 700+ matches I have.

Long Weekend: I had grand plans for organizing and decluttering. Well, at least I did laundry and went to knitting group. (I did go through some things, but, sheesh, there is an awful lot of crap of stuff in my place.)
fauxklore: (storyteller doll)
Celebrity Death Watch: Patricia Elliott won a Tony award for playing Countess Charlotte in A Little Night Music on Broadway. Lemmy Kilmister founded Motorhead. John "Brad" Bradbury was the drummer for the ska group, The Specials. Meadowlark Lemon was the most famous player for the Harlem Globetrotters

Dave Henderson played baseball. While he was only with the Red Sox for one season, he hit a critical home run in Game 5 of the 1986 ALCS, which kept the Sox in the running and let them, eventually, get to the World Series that year.

I want to especially highlight Scottish singer / songwriter Andy M. Stewart. Apparently, he had been quite ill for some time and was paralyzed after failed spinal surgery. At least he didn't have the galloping bollickitis. (Before you ask, it's a lyric reference.) Anyway, I saw him perform at least a couple of times with Silly Wizard, as well as during his later tours with Manus Lunny and Gerry O’Beirne. I loved both his voice and the wit of his songs. When I first heard "The Queen of Argyll" (on one of the Silly Wizard albums), I played it about a dozen times in a row. (I still think "the swan was in her movement" is a brilliant line.) I really need to go out to listen to Celtic music more.

Good For the Jews: This is a music / comedy duo who do a show every Christmas eve at Jammin’ Java. It makes a good outing for the NoVa Chavurah. I’d gone a couple of years ago and went again this year. They didn’t have a lot of new material, but there was some. And it was fun hearing some of their older stuff again, e.g. "They Tried to Kill Us, We Survived, Let’s Eat," "Going Down to Boca," "Reuben the Hook-Nosed Reindeer," etc. And there was a Steven Wright style Pesach joke I thought was brilliant. Some of the humor is a bit crude, but we are earthy folks after all.

The cutest thing was after the show when David (one of the guys in the duo) talked with a woman from our group he had sort of flirted with and sort of picked on during the show. It turned out that she thought her family might live near his, but he couldn’t remember the name of the development in Florida they’re in. So he called his mother – and then put our friend on the phone with Mom.

Afterwards, we went over to Amphora (a nearby diner) for desserts. (Or, I suppose, non-desserts, as some people got stuff like appetizers or breakfast items.) I realize they were very busy, but the service was truly atrocious. Slow is one thing, but forgetting to bring items (or bringing the wrong item) is another. And I have a particular dislike of waiters who auction off items.

Jewish Christmas: I did the traditional movie and Chinese food thing. For the movie, I chose Spotlight which was superb. I will say more about it when I do my quarterly movie review.

As for the Chinese food, that was a Chavurah dinner outing to East Chateau. Which is conveniently close to my place and has very good food, though the service is slow (and they also tend to auction off the food, which is a real problem when one person at the table can’t remember what she ordered). Still, there was good food and good conversation and that’s pretty much all one can hope for at this sort of thing.

The Rest of the Weekend: I had grand plans for achieving organizational nirvana. I did get rid of a few odds and ends. I got about halfway through the annual desk drawer clean out. And I actually read the entire Sunday Washington Post by the end of Sunday.

But there is much much more to go. Sigh.
fauxklore: (storyteller doll)
I have lots to catch up on (so what else is new?). The most significant is the National Storytelling Conference, which will get its own entry. Or, more likely, two, because something I want to say will take some analysis and I don’t want to lose that in the clutter. I promise those will be more interesting than this entry is likely to be.

But, first, some other stuff.

Celebrity Death Watch: "Rowdy" Roddy Piper was one of the few pro wrestlers I’ve ever heard of. Alan Cheuse reviewed books for NPR (and wrote several of his own). Ainger Lynn Anderson never promised me a rose garden. Ann Rule wrote true crime books, the best known of which was The Stranger Beside Me about Ted Bundy. I’ve read many of her books, which fall into the guilty pleasure category.

Politics: Wit making its way around my circles is that the Washington Nationals are offering a season discount to the first 4000 presidential candidates.

Quick Genealogy Notes: I finally found where I’d put my library card, so was able to use the library edition of Ancestry. I found Max Lubowsky’s naturalization certificate, and it seems he can’t be Icek Chlebiocky, since the immigration dates don’t match.

The new social security application database, though, turned up a few things. Apparently my great-uncle by marriage, Ely Fuchs, was legally Elias. And his parents were Abraham Fuchs and Rebecca Heller. His birthplace is given as Kragow, Poland. That would seem to be Krakow, but there are some other possibilities.

More fun was the discovery that Athalia Lehrman (Mary Lubowsky Lehrman’s daughter) was using the name "Timmy Lee" at some point. A bit of googling turned up an entry in the copyright index of a book she wrote called Poems by Timmy Lee. It doesn’t look like the Library of Congress has that, but they do have a symphony she co-wrote. I see some fun research ahead.

Decluttering: I took advantage of the library excursion to drop Mom’s eyeglasses into the Lion’s Club donation bin there. I also dug out a few old pairs of mine and threw them in. I did keep one pair with frames I could see reusing.

Story Swap: The monthly Voices in the Glen swap was at Penelope’s, which was nicely convenient for me. I thought about walking over, but was concerned about the lighting (or lack thereof) on one street coming home. There was an excellent turn-out, including a few newcomers. And, of course, lots of great stories.

Sometimes You Only Need to Read the Headline: "Texas man injured as bullet ricochets off armadillo."

And Sometimes You Really Should Read On: I was disappointed that the story headlined "Bat Boy Dies from Swing" had to do with baseball, not that mythical West Virginia tabloid creature.
fauxklore: (storyteller doll)
Celebrity Death Watch: Anne Meara was a comedian / actor, the wife of Jerry Stiller and mother of Ben Stiller. Tanith Lee was a writer of fantasy and horror.

John Nash was, essentially, the founder of game theory – about which more in a moment. His wife, Alicia, died with him in the same car crash. She was given a lot of credit for mental health advocacy because of her dedication to him, through his struggles with mental illness (as documented in the movie,A Beautiful Mind. But I want to note that she also had a degree in physics from MIT and worked in a computer center there.

About Game Theory: There are two basic approaches to multi-criteria decision making. In one, you agree not to better your position if it would worsen your opponent’s. So, essentially, the two players agree to act as a single decision maker. This is known as Pareto-optimality, after Wilfredo Pareto, an Italian economist. (Pareto was also responsible for the 80-20 law, which states that 80% of the work is done in the first 20% of the time.) While Pareto-optimal solutions are generally better for the participants, they are subject to cheating. John Nash came up with the Nash equilibrium, which is a minimax approach. In short, it works on the assumption that the other guy is out to screw you.

Pareto ended up in exile in Switzerland. Nash spent most of his adult life hospitalized for schizophrenia. The choice is yours.

Food Pornography 1 - America Eats Tavern: I got together on Friday night for dinner with imaginary internet friends (well, I’d met one of them before) at this Jose Andres restaurant in Tyson’s Corner. It was mildly challenging as I had laryngitis, an aftermath of the allergy / dust issues I mentioned previously. I am a big fan of Jose’s restaurants. This one’s concept is historic American dishes. I drank a Dragon’s Milk Bourbon Barrel Stout, which was quite tasty. The others got an assortment of hams, which I don’t eat, so I got roasted beet salad, which was very good. There were hush puppies, two soups (asparagus and cream of mushroom), deviled eggs, Harvard beets, roasted cauliflower, and cranberry glazed brussels sprouts. The latter were so good we got a second order of them. I got the pineapple upside down cake for dessert, but one of the pies (key lime or lemon meringue) would have been a better choice. Overall, it was an excellent meal, accompanied by excellent conversation.

The American Museum of …: I drove up to my mother’s house and did some more clearing out. All of the books are now with me, along with the portrait of my grandmother. And a bunch of school supplies to donate to schools when I travel in the developing world. I gave all the coupons that were still in the house to the exchange at her library. I cleared out a few desk drawers, which included what I refer to as the American Museum of Rubber Bands, the American Museum of Pens that No Longer Write, and the American Museum of Packets of Plastic Cutlery. The rubber bands are in a ziploc bag, the dead pens were thrown out, and the cutlery went with my uncle, who will bring it to his synagogue. I also have to wonder why Mom not only saved every pair of glasses she ever had, but glued on a label indicating what years she wore that pair. (Those are in my house right now, waiting for me to take them to my library, which has a Lions Club drop box.)

Food Pornography 2 – Lido Kosher Deli: My uncle drove out to the house on Tuesday evening and we had dinner at the Lido Kosher Deli. I got chicken noodle soup, a hot open faced tongue sandwich, stuffed derma, and kasha varnishkas. (There was also cole slaw and pickles for the table). It was very good, but too much food. I made him take all the leftovers, including mine, because I was leaving early in the morning and it seemed too awkward to travel with. Though I suppose I could have taken any of the three or more coolers that are in the house.

Cluter, Clutter, Sigh: Of course, now I have another umpty-ump books added to the clutter at home. I don’t know where I am going to find the time to deal with it all. But at least I know where I get the tendency from.
fauxklore: (storyteller doll)
Celebrity Death Watch: Jayne Meadows was an actress, most famous for having been married to Steve Allen. Suzanne Crough played the youngest member of The Partridge Family. Jack Ely mumble-sang "Louie Louie" with The Kingsmen. Ben E. King sang "Stand By Me." Jean Nidetch founded Weight Watchers, inflicting untold damage on American women.

One Day Hike: I spent a few hours on Saturday morning volunteering at the Seneca Creek support station for the One Day Hike of the C&O Canal towpath. I did a few miscellaneous chores, e.g. hanging up signs, but most of my time was spent checking hikers out of the station. That meant I called out their bib numbers, while the other person at check-out wrote down their times. It wasn’t too arduous, though it was bloody cold out. We didn’t lose any hikers, though a couple did drop out at the station. I should also mention that this station was only for people doing the full 100K, which made it easier, since we only had one list of hikers to deal with.

Storytelling: Saturday night was a Better Said Than Done show I was performing in. I told my flying story. I don’t normally wear costumes, but this was a fine (and rare!) opportunity to wear my flight suit. It went well, overall. It is always a pleasure to tell to such a responsive audience.

Sunday:There were 2 things I wanted to do on Sunday. Both of them were in Baltimore. Given the unrest on Saturday (which was repeated on Monday), I thought better of it and caught up on some household odds and ends. Of course, my place still looks like an audition for Hoarders, but I am slowly making progress.

(Sub)Urban Planning Rant:The Virginia Department of Transportation did a presentation at my complex the other night about their plans for widening I-66 outside the Beltway. There were plenty of concerns raised, which mostly amounted to this benefiting the people who live further out at the expense of those of us who live close in. (We are just outside the Beltway. Almost everyone who lives in our area does so because of the short walk to the Metro.)

They claimed they would add transit improvements (e.g. some dedicated bus lines). But everything I have ever read about adding highway lanes indicates that it just increases traffic. They just widened 66 in the Manassas-Gainesville area and now they’re talking about doing that again? Why should I believe it will help? If you’re really going to get people out of their cars, you need to make using their cars more painful than the alternative. Adding a variable toll for 2 lanes (out of 5) in each direction is unlikely to do that.

The other problem is that all of the planning assumes everyone works downtown. That is less and less true. What we really need is an outer Beltway, maybe a partial replacement of Route 28.
fauxklore: (storyteller doll)
Celebrity Death Watch: You don’t really need me to tell you that Leonard Nimoy died. But you may not know that I once owned a pair of Spock ears.

You also probably know that fantasy humorist Terry Pratchett died. I enjoyed much of the Discworld series, though I found it wildly uneven. His handling of Death in the books was particularly delightful and many of the obituaries of him I’ve seen picked up on that.

You are much less likely to have heard that Issachar Miron, the composer of the Israeli song "Tzena Tzena" died.

Heckman’s Deli: I went to the first outing of a meetup group for Jewish delis in the greater Washington area. This was at a year-old place in Bethesda called Heckman’s. Short version of my review is that the matzoh ball soup was very good (though, of course, not as good as my mother’s), tongue sandwich was okay but the rye bread was cut too thick and the mustard wasn’t spicy enough, cole slaw was a bland failure. Service was friendly and reasonably efficient. Conversation was excellent and I will definitely go to future meetups, schedule permitting.

Travel Show: The Travel and Adventure Show was the weekend before last. I should not really be allowed to go to this, but I did. I listened to one talk, which didn’t really tell me anything knew, and collected a bunch of brochures. I also stocked up on cloth grocery bags, since those are now the gimmes of choice. (Oddly, only one booth was giving out hand sanitizer this year.) The Sea World people had an adorable black and white ruffed lemur there – along with its trainer explaining why you don’t want one as a pet. In short, they can’t really be housebroken. Most useful info I got was from a guy I talked to about Brazil, who had some specifics on neighborhoods to check out in Rio and places to hear good music.

Afterwards, the friend I went with and I went out to brunch at Acadiana. Good food, interesting drink with basil in it, and good service, but I needed a 2 hour nap when I got home. At least, I didn’t need supper.

What Do Liberals Want? I was reading Harry Golden’s Ess, Ess, Mein Kind recently and he had an essay on what liberals want. This was written in the mid-1960’s and his list was:

  1. A broad program of federal aid to education
  2. Medical and hospital insurance for the entire American population, every man, woman and child
  3. A federal Fair Employment Practices Act (this had to do with what we now call Equal Employment Opportunity, and was focused on preventing racial discrimination)
  4. "Right to Work" laws repealed

Plus ça change …

This Past Weekend: I had intended to go to a storytelling house concert on Saturday night, but between the pollen count and the dust I stirred up in a housecleaning blitz, I was felled by a sinus headache. Sigh. At least the housecleaning turned up a few things I’d been looking for. For example, the yarn for my purple sweater, the needles and the pattern are all now safely cohabiting in one of those cloth bags from the travel show.

I did make it to knitting group on Sunday. We’re finally in the new building. It’s nice enough, but the lighting could be better. And the windows don’t open. I expect they will overdo the air conditioning in the summer.

Storytelling and Genealogy: Something I’ve wanted to write about for a while was an area of frustration I have with respect to genealogy as a pursuit. Tracking down lists of names is interesting as a puzzle, but hardly compelling to anyone else. I want to know the stories behind the people. It’s much more interesting to hear about things like my grandmother mailing her engagement ring back to her fiancé in New York when she met my grandfather or about the cousin we no longer see because his drunkenness at a wedding caused the groom’s mother to break her leg or about my great-grandmother’s sister’s father-in-law dying when a box of goods fell on him on the railroad than to read lists of begats. But finding those stories is challenging for anything beyond the past couple of generations.

There is also a broader issue that comes up with other types of historical stories. Namely, history has to be true. When I tell personal or family stories for an audience, that isn’t necessarily the case, but I have to be up front about when what I am telling is based on a true story and not entirely factual. For example, I tell a story about weddings in my family. Every incident in the story is true, but some of them – like the officiant dressed in a kimono and Spock ears - were things at friend’s weddings, not those of cousins. I like to make a distinction between facts and emotional truths. For genealogy, one needs facts.


Dec. 4th, 2014 02:20 pm
fauxklore: (storyteller doll)
Celebrity Death Watch: I missed Mark Strand, former poet laureate of the U.S., in my last round-up. Herman Badillo was a prominent politician in New York in the 1970’s. And, I have to admit that L. Stephen Coles is relatively obscure but I am noting his death because of the irony of the director of the Gerontology Research Group dying at age 73.

Follow-up on Knitting Needle Storage: I stopped by The Container Store after my appointment yesterday. And, alas, pasta is not long enough. I will need to brave the yarn stores, which is, of course, inherently dangerous. (I am fussy enough that on-line shopping is too risky.) Alternatively, if somebody I knew had a 3-D printer ….

I did, however, succeed in buying some stacking drawers to help with the massive number of socks I brought back from Mom’s. I don’t believe I will ever need to buy socks again, unless I go insane and start throwing out perfectly good ones. For example, Robert had an uncle who never wore a pair of socks twice. He went to Woolworth’s every week to buy a fresh supply, wore them once, and threw them out.

(Actually, I will need to buy walking socks at some point, because walking socks make a huge difference if you walk any significant distance. But they count as sports equipment, not clothing.)

Things People Collect: When I was about 9 or 10, Mom made me collect Mercury dimes. Well, she made me collect some sort of coins and I chose dimes. (My brother went for pennies. Mom had quarters. Nickels were neglected because Dad was smart enough not to go for these schemes.) We found my dime collection in her house and my uncle sold them. I got $1.10 for each dime, which is not too bad. (There were only 19 dimes in the collection, so it’s not exactly a windfall, but it was painless.)

I’ve brought Mom’s stamp collection to my place and need to make an appointment to get it appraised. I doubt there’s anything valuable, but you never know.

Apparently, Mom also collected phone cards. I suspect these are even less likely to be of any value. Nor, of course, are plastic grocery bags.

Parts of my doll collection may have some value. As may some of my ballpark gimmes. But I am fairly sure that my collection of advertising bookmarks will become landfill when I’m gone. If not sooner, because I have to admit to not being all that sure why I bothered with them in the first place.
fauxklore: (storyteller doll)
·For several years, I have been seeking organizational nirvana. I am a complete sucker for organizing tools and, for example, consider hanging file folders to be one of the greatest inventions of my life time. (They are right up there with velcro and Lee press-on nails, but I digress.)

One thing that has defied organization, however, is knitting needles. Circular needles are not a real problem, as there are binders with pockets that work perfectly well for them. (Cheap tip: there are similar binders sold for fly fishing which work just as well and cost a lot less.) I have a couple of good enough zip-up cases for crochet hooks. Double points are also no problem, as I hate them and only keep one set that I use as cable needles, so they fit in my notions bag. (The notions bag is, by the way, a repurposed United Airlines Global First amenity kit.)

But straight needles are a pain. They can be up to 14 inches long. I have a zip-up fabric case that looks like it should work well, but it is built upside down, so unzipping it makes all the needles fall out. I’ve never really liked the roll-up fabric cases. What I really want is something with a hard case.

I had a moment of inspiration today on something else to try. What else is long and straight? Spaghetti, of course! And they sell plastic containers for spaghetti, don’t they? I’ll have to make sure those are actually long enough, but it is worth a try.
fauxklore: (storyteller doll)
As I am sure I have mentioned before, I tend to think of September as the beginning of the year, what with umpty ump years of school, the High Holidays and, of course, my birthday.

This, plus a particularly high level of chaos at work, has me in reset mode. I am trying not to do too much at one time so I don't get burned out. Top priority is getting paperwork sorted out. So far I have found a check from late April, as well as way too many begging letters. (If a charity sends me 3 letters in one week, I will deduct 30% from any amount I was contemplating giving them.)

This will not be helped by having pretty much every weekend for the foreseeable future committed, along with the risk of a short notice business trip.
fauxklore: (Default)
I've had a productive day of shredding old files and somewhat clearing off my desk. I haven't started on the desk drawer, however. Nor have I found either of the two things I was looking for, both of which I was sure were on the desk. I believe I have to brave the box of shame to locate them. (For the uninitiated, the box of shame is a box in which I toss non-urgent mail. Things all too often marinate in there until they become urgent, alas.)

In the course of this fit of organizational mania, I ran across the collection of items from the Hammacher Schlemmer catalogue that I clipped for purposes of mockery. To whit:

  1. The Fingerprint Recognizing Espresso Machine. For a mere $3200, you scan your fingerprint and he machine remembers how you like your coffee. It can store up to six fingerprints and drink profiles in its database. I will stick to the aluminum drip pot I bought in Vietnam for well under a buck, thank you.

  2. The Constellation Projecting Turtle Night Light. I admit I sleep well under starry skies, but I always assumed that was because sleeping under the stars meant sleeping outside, ideally in a nice dark desert. And I am not sure why I would want anything in the shape of a turtle somewhere in my bedroom. (Nothing against turtles.) To be fair, there is also a ladybug option. I don't think a foot-long ladybug proecting green stars on the ceiling would help me sleep, however.

  3. The Lady's Washable Cashmere Activewear Set. Okay, it is washable, but cashmere sweats are just wrong. At least it isn't pink. (It comes in a choice of grey or black.)

  4. The Only Scootercase. A suitcase with a built-in scooter. Because oblivious people who roll their roll-aboards over my feet aren't enough of a menace at the airport.

  5. The Personal Soup Chef. This automatically chops vegetables and simmers broth to make homemade soup. In other words, it's a heated blender. It is, apparently, just too much trouble to cook things and put them in a blender.

And, yes, I am well aware that I own things other people would mock.
fauxklore: (Default)
Cleaning out my old office was, not surprisingly, quite a chore. I ended up filling 29 burn bags. (Everything gets burned or shredded there. The hard part is, of course, deciding what goes out and what to leave for whoever backfills me.)

Then I went to Colorado for the weekend to go to a big party friends there have annually. The travel went amazingly smoothly (in both directions) and it was great to spend time having intelligent conversation with people I like. (Which is not really all that unusual, but a few of these folks I do not see often.) I also had time for the shorter (5K) Volksmarch in downtown Boulder, which has changed less than I might have expected given how long it had been since I'd been there. Overall, it was an excellent weekend.

Getting started at the new job is stressing me out, however. The people are fine and I am sure I will be useful sooner or later, but there are lots of administrative things that are taking longer than I'd prefer. I am also trying to deal with a higher than normal level of chaos at home and my usual crazy calendar. I am coping with this via a minor flurry of activity since doing something is pretty much the antidote to depression for me. I may be able to see my desk again soon.
fauxklore: (Default)
I've been absurdly busy but I did want to post at least a partial update before I go off-line for a few days.

Celebrity Death Watch: Major celebrity death of the past several days is Sidney Harman. Aside from having made lots of money in audio equipment and then gone on to buy Newsweek for a dollar, his major claim to fame in the D.C. area is that the theatre used by the Shakespeare Theatre Company is named for him. He and his wife, former Congresswoman Jane Harman, were long term patrons of the arts here.

Random Trivia: 14% of our troops who have been medically evacuated from Afghanistan have had altitude sickness.

Taxes: Virginia ended their free file program after last year. The idea was that people with lower incomes would get to use commercial providers free, while others could pay to file electronically. Being a cheapskate and noting that the feds at least have free fillable forms, I intended to file on paper. But Intuit saw a marketing opportunity and provided a prepaid code for all Virginia taxpayers, making it free to use their turbotax product. This meant that I used turbotax for the first time in my life (for both federal and state taxes). I found it fairly annoying that things are arranged in a different order than they are on the forms and call for more information. For example, I don't have to enter the info from 1099-INT and 1099-OID forms in separate sections on Schedule B, instead of just separate lines. Nor do I have to list each of my charitable contributions with the exact date. Overall, I wasn't super impressed and wouldn't bother to pay for the software. People who are less compulsively organized or more intimidated by tax forms may find the experience more satisfying.

Social Media: I've been getting some odd LJ comments. They aren't obvious spam, but they just say things like "this was an interesting topic." Which, of course, is completely generic and doesn't bear any particular relationship to anything I wrote. In all cases, when I look at the commenter's LJ, they have no entries, no friends list, and just a bunch of comments. Has anybody else experienced this and what could somebody be aiming to gain out of it?

House Envy: I went to a friend's housewarming party this past Sunday afternoon. He bought a condo in Crystal City towards the end of last year and moved in right at the beginning of January. He has already replaced the dining room floor, decorated with his vast collection of antiques (e.g. hung several old maps, arranged a lot of glass objects in curio cabinets he inherited from his greatgrandparents, etc.), arranged an assortment of stuffed animals on the guest bed, and so on. More to the point, he appears to have actually unpacked everything. Now, admittedly I didn't open up closets and maybe he has a messy storage locker somewhere, but I've lived in my condo for over 3 years now and my den remains the Black Hole of Vienna and I haven't hung most of my pictures. (Partly that is because I am looking for some display cabinets and haven't had time to find ones I like.)

He also has an awesome view of the airport, the river and much of the District. There's a part of me that envies the view but I made a concious choice of where to live and I prefer my neighborhood. I realized that much of my envy had to do with the orderliness of his place. And that is something that is within my control. I'm not going to ever achieve a clutter-free life (nor would I really want to) but I can do better.

Travel Planning: I believe I've mentioned before that I am planning a trip to Iceland and the Faroe Islands. The news this week noted that the Phallological Museum in Iceland has finally gotten a human specimen. This sounds like such a bizarre museum that it may be worth adding to my itinerary.

Reviews to Come: I saw Pink Martini (with the NSO Pops) on Wednesday night. Last night, I drove to Herndon for the Elden Street Players production of the musical, Thrill Me: The Story of Leopold and Loeb. Expect reviews some time next week.

Upcoming Calendar Items: I have mailed in my registration fee and made my travel arrangements for Convidence. On a completely different note, I have almost decided to enter the 2nd annual Virginia Tall Tales Championship.
fauxklore: (Default)
First, here is a great description from a not entirely satisfying mystery (The Cereal Murders by Diane Mott Davidson). "For the Bronco get-together, she wore a chartreuse knit sweater and skirt trimmed with fur in dots and dashes, as if the minks had been begging for help in Morse code."

I often get brochures in the mail or clip a magazine article that I want to look at, but not with any particular urgency. I put those in a box in the study nook that I refer to as "the box of shame." The shameful part is how long it takes me to actually deal with any of it.

But every now and then I do go through it, usually when it is about to overflow. Much of it is easy enough to deal with. The brochures get read and tossed or filed, the stacks of puzzles either get solved or return to the box, the coupons that expired two or more years ago get thrown out. Inevitably, I also end up finding mysterious, indecipherable notes to myself.

In November 2008, I wrote the word "Holdaway" on a calendar page. It must have been important, since I outlined it with the same sort of box I outlined the word "TEA" with. The latter was a reference to my need to bring a fresh supply of tea to the office. I just googled "holdaway" and it seems to be a name (or, possibly, a device having to do with mooring the boat I don't have). I have no idea why I wrote this down. Nor do I understand why I wrote "No Hawaii" on the back of that page. I do, alas, understand the note that "1 crapton = 6 buttloads."

In some cases, I suspect the problem is my handwriting. (Yes, I got C's in penmanship all through elementary school.) I figured out that one note reads "collective potential of human imagination" but I had to think a lot harder to realize that what looked like "Good for the sheep" is really "Good for the shoes." I would not have figured that out had it not been on the calendar page for Josh Kornbluth's Andy Warhol: Good for the Jews which contained that pun. I cannot explain why I was taking notes at the theatre. Maybe I need to take a class on creating my alter-ego to figure this out. Even having the super powers that would make me need an alter ego won't tell me why I wrote down "black or white or shiny" last March, though I suspect it has something to do with spacecraft or space suits because I was at a NASA workshop that day.

Finally, I would like to believe this item (from October 2008) is the lyrics to a song, but it could very well be a puzzle. In which case, somebody cleverer than I am can solve it.

As I was walking down the lane
From the dead, the living came
6 there were
1 will be


fauxklore: (Default)

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