fauxklore: (storyteller doll)
I have a couple of metro haikus that have been sitting in my notebook for ages, but I don't think I've posted here.

Tourists - please do not
block the escalators by
standing three abreast.

I wonder where they
buy the sound distorters they
use for announcements.

So the big metro news is that they announced plans for something they are calling SafeTrack that will allegedly address the safety problems in the system. That should be a good thing and is certainly necessary, but I have some reservations about the actual plan and a lot of skepticism about it making any sort of difference other than screwing up everybody's commute for at least the next year (and, more likely, given this is WMATA we are talking about, the rest of our natural lives).

First thing is that they will be closing the system at midnight every night, starting at the beginning of June, instead of staying open until 3 a.m. on weekends. There goes the safety argument, since that is likely to hugely increase the number of drunk driving accidents. I base that claim on the condition of a large percentage of the people I see on Metro on Friday or Saturday nights. Let's just say that there are a lot of highly intoxicated George Mason students on the Orange Line.

They are also talking about having maintenance workers start at 8 p.m. on weeknights. That sounds like it requires (unannounced) single tracking, based on the way they've been doing this for the past several years. During which we've experienced horribly inadequate night and weekend service with no apparent improvements as a result of the alleged work. (I say "alleged" because it's rare that one actually sees anybody working when passing through the single tracking zones. And we all know the system has continued to deteriorate.) They typically advertise trains every 20 minutes, but I always seem to be waiting at least 35 for those trains. When I spend twice as long waiting for trains as actually on them, I get annoyed.

But that's the least of it. They're shutting down or single tracking segment by segment. And, of course, my segment (the western end of the Orange Line) gets the longest stretches of single tracking - a total of 89 days, plus another 16 days of 1/3 of normal service for a shutdown at another segment. And the Blue Line parts of my commute will be affected by two shutdowns, one of 18 days and one of 7 days. The most egregious part of their plan for the latter is to run a shuttle bus only between Pentagon and Arlington Cemetery during a shutdown between Pentagon and Rosslyn. On any given day, about a dozen people (and those are largely tourists, so barely count as people) get off the train at Arlington Cemetery, versus the 30,000 who go from Rosslyn to the Pentagon (or further south). Oh, sure, we can go to L'Enfant Plaza and take the Yellow Line, but that doubles the length of my commute, which is already 25% slower than it was just a few years ago.

Okay, but it's necessary. The thing is that this will do absolutely nothing about the real need, which is an additional track through the core of the system. Nor does it do anything about train malfunctions (e.g. doors not working properly) which are the most frequent source of major commute delays.

But most significantly, why the hell should I believe this will be effective when all of the shutdowns and alleged track work of the past several years haven't been?

To be honest, I don't have a better answer. Just expect me to be even grumpier over the next year as I continue to endure commuting. Driving would start to look more appealing, except that the Virginia Department of Transportation hasn't repaved many of our local roads since the days of Thomas Jefferson.

And, oh yes, if you don't live here, please stay away.
fauxklore: (storyteller doll)
I have other things to write about, but let me drop a quick note re: how miserable this week has been for commuting. Monday was tolerable, but the metro was running on a holiday schedule, which meant long waits at Rosslyn for connecting trains.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Please, buy me a condo in Punta del Este, Uruguay?
fauxklore: (storyteller doll)
I’m leaving for Recouvery tomorrow, so I wanted to get caught up before then. Here is what I’ve been up to.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The event was better than I had anticipated. The stories that had problems had the usual sort of problems with personal stories, e.g. no real idea of what the story was about, leading to a lack of a real ending. But, overall, there were several satisfying stories. From the standpoint of a teller, I thought the audience was a good, highly responsive one. I should also note a particularly high level of diversity among the attendees, which is (sadly) all too rare. I will definitely go again, schedule permitting.
fauxklore: (storyteller doll)
Celebrity Death Watch: Casey Kasem probably didn’t originate the pop music count down, but is widely associated with it. Tony Gwynn was one of a handful of baseball players who remained with a single team (the San Diego Padres) his entire Major League career. Ultra Violet was an artist and Andy Warhol’s muse for more than 15 minutes.

Yemen Blues: Thursday night saw me at the DC Jewish Community Center to see Yemen Blues perform. This is a fusion band, led by Ravid Kahalani. I’m not entirely sure how one would characterize their music, which is why the "world beat" label is handy. The largest influence is Yemenite (duh), but there are West African rhythms and blues and other jazz forms. The percussion was particularly notable and there was one piece I can best describe as an intriguing battle between Middle Eastern and Latin percussion. There was also some notable oud playing. My one complaint was that the space was not really conducive to movement and this was music that demanded to be danced to. From my Israeli folk dance days, I know that the dancing of Yemenite Jews was traditionally very constrained in space and primarily up and down, with the explanation that the people did not love the land, so they danced as if their feet were on fire. So maybe that was suitable after all. (Actually, I do have another complaint. The concert started 20 minutes late. That’s a lot on a weeknight. But it was good enough that I will forgive them.)

Ordinary Days: Friday night I schlepped to Bethesda to see Ordinary Days, a musical (really a song cycle) by Adam Gwon. It was worth the effort as the show was thoroughly charming. The story involves two pairs of New Yorkers. The best of the characters is the semi-hysterical grad student, Deb, well-played by Erin Weaver. The free-spirited Warren is her foil and helps her to see that there is beauty in the small things in life. The other couple, Jason and Claire, are less satisfying characters. For one thing, he belongs in, say, Iowa and he’s really only in New York because he fell for her. But, more significantly, there is some great trauma that keeps her from letting him in and we don’t find out what the twist is until almost the end of the show. The revelation (in the song "I’ll Be Here") makes her a lot more sympathetic, but I found it hard to believe she’d been with Jason an entire year and not told him about it. But, overall, that’s a minor flaw. The music is lovely. And there is plenty of wit in the lyrics, along with delicious subtle tidbits, e.g. when Deb, who is doing her thesis on Virginia Woolf, makes a reference to having a room of her own. A show like this is a good reminder of why Gwon is considered one of the rising stars of the musical theatre world.

And, look, unlike everyone else in the greater Washington D.C. metropolitan area, I managed to write about the show without using the word "extraordinary!" (But it is.)

Ah, Metro – Last Monday night’s Red Line Haiku Version:
Metro’s web site claims
single tracking starts at 10.
Half hour wait at 9.

Ah, Metro – Friday night’s Haiku Version:
Track fire delayed Blue
Line. Had I known, I would have
taken the yellow.

Bethesda station
has the worst escalators
in the whole system.

(Yes, I understand that Metro’s priority is to get people out of the stations. But there was really no reason for both working escalators to be going up at 9:30 at night. Walking down the half mile long non-working escalator is hard on the knees of this grumpy old person.)

The Weekend: I spent much of it sleeping, though I did get some errands done. And I made it to knitting group where I showed off my "it’s not stash, it’s souvenir" yarn purchase from Italy. I have this idea for a patchwork jacket using these odds and ends I have picked up in various places. It will be a while before I start on that project, but I am already referring to it as A Coat of Many Countries. What I actually did was crochet afghan squares because I need to destash a bunch of acrylic and that is a good way to do so. And it is also brainless enough that I can do it while talking.

Moral Dilemma of the Week: Neptune needs a bath. Normally, I look for a group of teenagers doing a car wash for charity. Well, Arlington County has banned charity carwashes because of the impact of run-off on the Chesapeake. Fairfax County has not done so yet, but I do actually care about the Bay. Apparently, commercial carwashes are okay because they have ways to capture grey water. But I still feel like I’d rather have my money going to a school band or the like than to Mr. Wash.

The Prostate Dialogues: Last night’s outing was to see Jon Spelman’s one-man show at Theatre J. I know Jon and I admire his storytelling, so I can’t give this an unbiased review. It’s a brave show, with a surprising amount of humor. In addition to his experience with prostate cancer, the work deals more generally with issues of aging and mortality and what manhood is. I’m not sure how somebody under, say, 50 will react, but I found lots to relate to, even without a prostate. By the way, there was a talk-back, but I didn't stay for it because going out on a weeknight means enough sleep deprivation as it is.

Commute Miracle – the Tuesday morning haiku version:
bus to the Mark Center came at
seven forty-three.

Some Like It Hot: I like hot weather, but the current heat and humidity, which is reminiscent of Benin, is too much, even for me.

Books and Gelato: Since I was already over at Dupont Circle last night, I stopped in the used bookstore there. And I found a copy of Don Camillo Meets Hell's Angels. I didn't even know about that one. Afterwards, I stopped in at Dolcezza Gelato. The cinnamon was good, but the winner there was the strawberry tarragon, which may be the only good pink thing on the planet.
fauxklore: (storyteller doll)
The metro can be
efficient when there is no
track work. Like today.

I got to Union Station about an hour before my train and stopped at McDonald's to buy a bottle of water. Harry Shearer had a running joke about Santa Monica being the "home of the homeless" and that description definitely applies to the Union Station Mickey-D's.

The train to NY was fine, except that the wi-fi was not working. (It was not my ineptitude. They made an announcement.) The Long Island Railroad worked as well as ever, too.

Mom gave me the quick disaster tour of town. I then helped her change an ink cartridge in her printer, made her reset her facebook password and will try to teach her how to use her cell phone in a while. On the plus side, there was NY pizza for dinner (and a long wait for delivery).

Further proof I am a bad daughter is that, on seeing several boxes of stuffing mix on the dining room table, I asked Mom if she is planning to stuff an emu.
fauxklore: (theatre)
This is mostly the theatre-going part of my catching up. But, first, a couple of other items.

Baseball: The Nationals had a mid-season deal to get tickets for three games (one each n July, August and September) and a cap for about $45. So I braved the Fourth of July tourist crowds and went into the city to see them play the Giants. The game was an exciting one, with the Nats winning 9-4. I had some issues, however, with my seat, as it was right behind one of the protective pieces of plexiglass, leading to annoying reflections blocking my view at times.

Celebrity Death Watch: There are lots of celebrity deaths to report. Doris Sams played baseball in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League, which inspired the movie A League of Their Own. There may be no crying at baseball, but there is at funerals.

Nora Ephron wrote amusingly bitchy feminist essays, along with some movies. I didn’t always agree with her, but her work was usually interesting.

Lonesome George was the last Pinta tortoise, so his death also means the extinction of his sub-species. I saw him when I went to the Galapagos. He looked sad, but I think tortoises inherently look sad.

Andy Griffith was, of course, most famous for his TV performances as the sheriff of Mayberry. I once went to Mt. Airy, North Carolina (his home town) and ate lunch at a diner that had dishes named after the characters from his show. By the way, unlike most tourists, my interest in the town had to do with two of its other residents. It was also where Chang and Eng Bunker, the Siamese twins, settled.

The celebrity death I most want to highlight was that of Richard Adler. With Jerry Ross (who died at a young age of pneumonia), he co-wrote The Pajama Game and Damn Yankees. Anybody who knows me at all, knows why the latter is among my favorite Broadway musicals. (Note that the Red Sox are playing four games against the Source of All Evil in the Universe this weekend.)

First You Dream: Speaking of musicals, I saw First You Dream at The Kennedy Center a couple of weeks ago. This is a revue of Kander & Ebb songs, without any particular narrative and with very little dialogue. It was enjoyable, largely because of some excellent performances, notably by Matthew Scott and Heidi Blickenstaff. I particularly want to note Scott’s performance of the Hungarian bit from “Cell Block Tango.”

There is some incongruity, however, as the songs are taken out of context. For example, I suspect that most of the audience had no idea that “Go Back Home” (from The Scottsboro Boys) is sung in the musical by a teenager who has been sentenced to death for a rape he didn’t commit. Similarly, the selections from Kiss of the Spider Woman gave no indication that they are sung by a political prisoner.

Still, the songs are enjoyable in and of themselves and I admit to having particularly liked a few unfamiliar songs I don’t actually know the context of. Some highlights include “Ring Them Bells” from Liza with a Z, “Military Men” from Over and Over and “I Miss the Music” from Curtains. (Okay, I do know the context of the latter – and I also know that the show was completed by John Kander after Fred Ebb died, making it particularly poignant.) The greatest show-stopper was “Boom Ditty Boom” from 70, Girls, 70), which was an incredible showcase for Karma Camp’s choreography. I really need to be more familiar with this show, since the description I’ve read of it sounds quite entertaining. (And I also like the song “Coffee in a Cardboard Cup,” which is from it.)

I will also admit to disliking the title song and feeling hit over the head with its message, but that was a minor flaw in an otherwise enjoyable evening.

The History of Invulnerability: All I knew about this play at Theatre J was that it had to do with Superman creator Jerry Siegel and how he (and artist Joe Shuster) were pretty much screwed over by Harry Donenfeld and National Allied Publications. There’s actually a lot more to David Bar Katz’s play, including a provocative Holocaust story, involving a young boy in Auschwitz-Birkenau whose smuggled comic books leave him fantasizing about Superman rescuing him. The structure is a conversation between Superman and his creator, which also brings in Siegel’s estrangement from his real-life son. Is Superman Siegel’s true son, a god, or a golem?

Given the complexity of the play – and the shocking moments in it – I am loathe to write a lot of details about what happens. I will say that I found myself saying, “wow” out loud at the end of the first act and having more mixed reactions when the play ended. Those reactions were both entirely due to the Holocaust sub-plot.

All in all, I’ll recommend it for what it has to say about creativity and the response to being a powerless outsider. I can also commend the performances, especially by David Deblinger as Siegel. But be aware that this is a dark and disturbing piece, not a light romp through the comics.

The Music Man: Finally, I saw The Music Man at Arena Stage on Tuesday night. I had a bit of frustration with the box office as I had bought the ticket via Goldstar and the guy at Will Call initially gave me a balcony ticket for The Normal Heart instead and I had to actually argue with them (showing my receipt) to get what I had paid for.

Anyway, there aren’t any real surprises in this production. It’s familiar material, intended to balance the season budget with a sure-fire blockbuster. Kate Baldwin is excellent as Marian the librarian and Burke Moses is a competent Harold Hill. I do have two complaints about the production. The first is the modernization of the costumes, which is an annoying anachronism. (Marian wearing trousers? No.) My bigger issue is having left out the overture. It is bad enough that so many musicals are written without overtures nowadays. Why delete them from shows that are intended to have them? Especially since they are often a good way to get the laggards in the audience to shut up.

The most thrilling moment in the production, by the way, came at the end of the curtain calls, when the doors opened and an actual marching band came in, playing “76 Trombones.”. They do not, apparently, do this every night. I heard that the band in question was from New Jersey and in town for the Fourth of July parade the next day.

Note to self: check Nationals schedule before going to Arena Stage, as the ballpark is one stop away from the theatre. It’s bad enough that I have to deal with metro crowding when I go to ballgames. But that is the subject of another rant.

A Very Brief Transit Rant: The Washington Post has a transit columnist called Dr. Gridlock. His repeated advice to people who complain about Metro annoyances is to tell them just to drive. That’s like criticizing people who want to improve public schools by telling them to send their kids to private school.

My biggest complaint, by the way, is about riders who won’t let people off before they board the trains. Hence, this haiku:

Basic courtesy
Is all too rare among those
Who ride on metro.
fauxklore: (Default)
And, of course, I won't write about those items in order.

Better House and Office Keeping: I am trying to do in-processing for my new job and out-processing from my current job. This is all very chaotic and stressful and threw me into a brief "why am I doing this?" moment. Then I got asked to cover a last minute meeting yesterday and remembered why I was doing it. It wasn't that it was that terrible a meeting. It's just that the only reason we needed someone there had to do with politics, not usefulness. That will, of course, never happen with the new job :)

I have also verified that Pink Martini provides the best soundtrack for office cleaning, assuming one does not mind the earworm side effect. (Which is, curiously enough, "Amado Mio" rather than "Sympathique.")

Metro haiku: Summer brings crowds and bad behavior. Hence, I feel compelled to offer this etiquette lesson.

There are 50 folks
standing in this car. Don't take
up a seat with bags.

Company: I went to see the filmed version of Company on Sunday afternoon. I enjoyed it for the most part, but I still prefer live theatre for the immediacy and intimacy. Also, Stephen Colbert is not much of a singer. My biggest quibble is that you are so close to the faces, you are forced to see where they hid the mikes in people's hair. Inevitably, I find myself thinking it looks like the actors have bugs on their faces.

Still, it is a great score and I do recognize that productions like this do provide access to shows for people who live in places lacking in theatre. Or people who think theatre is too expensive. (Although $18 for a movie version is awfully steep. I actually got $12 off by using a free movie coupon I had from some refund offer or other.)

Two other comments re: the show:
1) the theatre I saw it at stopped it for intermission several minutes too early, making an odd interruption to the scene with Amy's wedding. Very bizarre.

2) While "Another Hundred People" is a definite show stopper, it is also profoundly depressing.

Shakespeare: No, I did not go to a Shakespeare play. It may be surprising but I have seen exactly one Shakespeare play in my life. That was a production of Measure for Meaure that I saw on a particularly bad date in my undergraduate days. (The badness was entirely on my part and can be summarized as 19 year old Miriam still cared too much about other people's opinions, so did not give a fair chance to a guy who some of her friends did not care for. But she really wanted to see the play. I like to think I've grown up. Or at least stopped talking about myself in the third person.)

Anyway, what I did go to was the MIT Club of Washington Partners and Patrons event Monday night, which featured Michael Kahn, the director of the Shakespeare Theatre Company, as the speaker. He gave a lively and entertaining talk about the theatre environment in Washington. Curiously, I'd had a conversation on pretty much the same subject with a couple of folks at Dulles airport a couple of weeks ago. The short version is that there is a lot of theatre in Washington, but people who don't live here don't seem to know that. In a way, I think that is advantageous, since it allows theatre companies to put on more challenging shows, instead of the splashy big productions that tourists flock to.

Another interesting point came up during a conversation after the talk. Most of theatre companies can ease their financial burden by mixing a few big shows with ones that have small casts. But all of the classical pieces that a company like Shakespeare Theatre Company does have large casts, so their finances are inherently more challenging.

Finally, during the talk Michael Kahn mentioned that their upcoming production of The Merchant of Venice is set in 1920's New York. The logic is apparently a similar ethnic mix. This made me at least somewhat interested in the show, though I have no idea where I would find time to see it.

Quote of the Day: Found in a memo in my office, was the description of a program as having "not managed to deliver anything except schedule delays."

Mish Mosh

May. 1st, 2011 08:36 am
fauxklore: (Default)
I have an unexpected weekend free, so here's another catch-up entry.

Free Weekend: I had planned to go to Staunton for a VASA board meeting and stay overnight to do a Volksmarch today. The board meeting got cancelled. My condo is grateful for the attention.

Commuting: I've had a few annoying metro moments lately, suitable for haiku. Let's start with Friday's fun at Crystal City:

This morning, doors would
not open because the train
overshot platform.

I had been on time, but that extra stop to the airport and trip back made me late. I'd also had that extra stop earlier the week but had nobody but myself to blame:

It is bad enough
when I'm absorbed in reading
and miss my station.

Which is why it is a good thing I live at the end of the line. Except when the worst fellow passenger ever is also going to Vienna:

He took up four seats
then lit up a cigarette -
also needed bath.

Game theory: The Prisoner's Dilemma (a classic problem in game theory) came up at a meeting I was at on Thursday. It gave me an opportunity to point out that neither approach to it (both of which are valid) is entirely satisfying. Pareto died in exile and Nash spent much of his adult life hospitalized for schizophrenia.

Work comment of the week: One of my colleagues referred to a meeting as having been held in "one of those big sleeper conference rooms."

Disease trivia of the week: Armadillos can transmit leprosy to humans. I never did trust animals that think they need armor.

Books purchased: I took advantage of being at Dupont Circle on Friday night to do some book shopping. I found a book of Yiddish folk tales at Second Story Books (which is mostly a used book place). And I bought John Pollack's The Pun Also Rises at Kramerbooks, as well as Old Jews Telling Jokes which will make a reasonable Mother's Day present.

Theatre: The reason I was at Dupont Circle was to see National Pastime at the Keegan Theatre. This was advertised as a musical about a fictional baseball team, which is right up my alley. The show was reasonably entertaining, but nothing brilliant. The plot, such as it is, involves a struggling radio station in Iowa in 1933 which tries to save itself by making up a baseball team, whose games (in Europe to keep anybody from trying to go to them) they will have exclusive rights to broadcast. It works fine - until a reporter from Life Magazine wanders by. There are a couple of love stories woven in. One involves the person behind the scheme (the owner's daughter who happens to be a big shot lawyer from Chicago) and the station manager. The other involves the primary baseball reporter and the woman who does traffic reports and such. He doesn't act on anything until one of the thugs, hired to pretend to be a ball player and do on-air interviews, makes a move on her. Then he takes revenge by killing that player in the next game.

A lot of the humor comes about because the two guys doing the broadcasts don't know anything about baseball. So, for example, they don't understand the symbols for the positions when they cover the first game and say things like say things like x is at C and y is P-ing on the mound. And they take it too literally when the station manager throws a suicide squeeze into the script later on.

Unfortunately, there are a lot of little things that are distracting. It's hard enough to believe two adult American men in 1933 are that ignorant about baseball. It's even harder to believe that a woman lawyer would be able to run everything in that era. (And, really, to have her wearing a pants suit in much of Act 1? No.) There are plenty of anachronisms and errors. The team schedule, for example, makes no sense in that era of limited air travel. A radio station in Iowa (which is west of the Mississippi) could not be named WZBQ. And the flags everyone waves in a scene about how great being an American is were current ones, with too many stars. These are nits, but all of this could have been solved with competent editing. Just because it's a musical doesn't mean you don't have to do your homework.
fauxklore: (Default)
A transit system birthday haiku:
The Metro System
is now 35 years old
and showing its age.

Celebrity deaths: There are a lot of recent celebrity deaths. In the political world, I'll note both Warren Christopher and Geraldine Ferraro. In show biz, there was Farley Granger and, of course, Elizabeth Taylor. (Oddly, I think the only one of Liz's movies I've seen is A Little Night Music.) The literary world lost Dianna Wynne Jones. And, most significantly to me, the sports world lost Lou Gorman, the general manager of the Red Sox from 1984-1993.

A strange work-related thought: If the sky is falling, will that create orbital debris?

A strange work-related quote: "Anything human-created in space would have had to be launched."

Another incomprehensible note to myself: I have no idea why, but I wrote down the phrase "SoLo(W)" in my planner.

A strange observation prompted by a voicemail message I got this week: It must be particularly inconvenient to have a lisp if your name starts with "S."

Trivia about the Old Dominion: Someone asked me this a couple of weeks ago and I just got around to googling the answer. Virginia has 95 counties and 29 independent cities.

Not really a political observation: Antonin Scalia was ticketed for his role ina 4-car accident on the George Washington Parkway this week. I wonder if he will fight the ticket.

Good news in the book world, part 1: Politics and Prose (a very good independent bookstore in D.C.) has found a buyer. Actually, a pair of buyers.

Good news in the book world, part 2: The newest No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency novel, The Saturday Big Tent Wedding Party is just as charming as the previous books in the series. I particularly liked how Charlie (one of the apprentices at the garage) was handled.

I still have other things to write about, but will do so separately.
fauxklore: (Default)
I should have mentioned that somebody developed a playlist of songs from our undergrad days to play at our class dinners at the reunion. The only song on that playlist I remember hearing multiple times is "We Will Rock You." I probably noticed it because it is my least favorite song of all time.

Anyway, I did promise to post my haiku entries from the Tech Challenge Games. Two of the topics (the MIT Energy Initiative and Ray Stata / The Stata Center) did nothing for me. My try at the Large Hadron Collider was pretty feeble:

Will it create a
black hole and destroy the earth?
First, get it running.

On the topic of Obama at MIT, I came up with:

Hope and change? Now the
President knows which Cambridge
school he should go to!

But the really inspiring topic was the iPad. The first of these is weak, but I'm pleased with the other two:

The main thing Apple
padded is not the features
or apps. It's the price.

The Mafia is
using ipads to plan hits
The real killer app.

Apple is going
to make a larger version -
the i-maxipad

I was able to get back to my more normal haiku topic during the week, alas:

Reported smoke at
Federal Center Southwest
No trains are stopping

And Amtrak offered up a surprise, too:

The quiet car is
actually quiet on
Thursday afternoon
fauxklore: (Default)
First, there are a whole bunch of celebrity deaths to note. I have to admit that I never really cared much for Art Linkletter's sort of humor, though I do understand why he was popular. I never understood, however, why Gary Coleman was popular. (I do admit to finding the use the creators of Avenue Q made of him very funny. I also think that makes me a bad person.) There was also a Dominican baseball player (Jose Lima), which I mention largely because I am sort of planning a trip to the Dominican Republic largely so I can go to a ball game there. Finally, today's news brings the death of Dennis Hopper. As further proof that I am a bad person, my immediate mental association with him is this little bit of verse from my youth:

I ride my Harley chopper
Just like Dennis Hopper
I ride my bike alone
and tear up the old folks' home

In more positive news, I saw that Lori Berenson has been paroled. Since all of my co-workers reacted to my mention of this with "who?" I will explain that she is a nice Jewish girl from Long Island who went to MIT, but dropped out to do aid work in Latin America. She got involved (and here is where the story gets blurry) with a Peruvian terrorist group called Tupac Amaru. (The name is that of a leader of an Inca rebellion which fought the Spanish colonial administration, by the way.) Part of the blurriness has to do with who you call terrorists and who you call freedom fighters, but more of it has to do with just what her role with them was. At any rate, she's been in prison since the mid-1990's. She married her lawyer (who was also part of Tupac Amaru) and had a child in prison about a year ago. They're going to make her stay in Peru for the remaining five years of her sentence, but at least she won't be in prison.

The Watergate Hotel is being sold. I wonder what kind of bug inspection the buyers will insist on.

The other item from the newspaper I wanted to mention was John Kelly's column about After the Storm. These guys perform at the entrance to the Crystal City metro station frequently and they always lift my mood for my evening commute. At least for a few minutes. Then I have to get into the station and deal with cluless tourists. Which prompts these haiku:

Actually my
time IS more important than
yours is. Damn tourists.

Someday I will crack
and throw a tourist onto
the metro train tracks.

I don't think I ever followed up on it, but Jammin' Java did refund my money for the cancelled Pierre Bensusan show once I called them. The performance venue that I am annoyed at currently is Studio Theatre. I have gone to two shows there over the past couple of years. One of those I was lukewarm towards and the other I completely detested. But what I am annoyed about is that they keep calling me for donations. I have asked them at least four times to remove me from their call list. Short of them premiering, say, a new Sondheim musical, I will not go there ever again.

I went to see A Prairie Home Companion at Wolf Trap last night. Garrison Keillor is very good at what he does and it was very entertaining. The guests were jazz singer Inga Swearingen (who did a lovely rendition of "Lazy Afternoon" from The Golden Apple) and folk singer Tom Rush. In addition to a few of his own songs, Rush sang "Old Blevins" by the Austin Lounge Lizards, which I mention largely so I will have a reminder to get tickets to their show at Wolf Trap next April. He also had a great line about The Old Man of the Mountain - "it is creepy to have outlived a geological feature." All in all, it was an enjoyable evening, despite the couple seated behind me who apparently believed they were in their own living room and could, therefore, continue an argument they have been having for 33 years while people were up there on the stage talking and performing music.

This morning I drove down to Fredericksburg and did the river trail Volksmarch. I had actually intended to go to Richmond, but the traffic was so heavy that I bailed. This was a pleasant walk, especially along the canal trail. I didn't much like the couple of sections along a busy road with no sidewalk, but the historic district is always nice to walk through. And the expected rain held off, so I didn't even have to drive home in a storm.
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Just because I haven't done this in a while and I am in the need of a wee bit of creativity.

Electronics are
being stolen on metro -
Don't use them near doors.

That is the advice on a poster about thefts of cell phones and music players and the like. One has to wonder if the person who wrote that advice has ever actually taken a metro train at rush hour.

There will be no trains
between East and West Falls Church
the next three weekends.

This is related to construction work for the metro extension towards Dulles. ("Towards" not "to" since they have only funded the first phase, through Tyson's to Reston.) They will have shuttle bus service, but it is still a pain. I will probably just drive to Wolf Trap (for A Prairie Home Companion) tomorrow night but I need to go into the city Monday evening (which will still be without service since holidays count as weekends on the metro). I may decide it is easiest to drive to East Falls Church.

Fares will be rising.
Adding "peak of the peak" fares
makes driving cheaper.

There's the catch-22 of fare increases. When you make it too pricy, people drive instead, so metro ends up with even more shortfalls.
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I have, as usual, too much to do.I am scrambling to get things done before back to back trips. The business trip to L.A. is for a conference but I am trying to squeeze in a couple of meetings, too. And I am planning to take advantage of the timing to go to both Long Beach Storytellers and Community Storytellers. I'll have a night at home when I get back and then fly up to Boston, nominally for the Boston Crossword Puzzle Tournament. Somewhere in there I have to deal with life maintenance like laundry and taxes and such.

Sometimes life gets in the way of things I planned to do. I'd intended to go to zumba (or possibly try out a hula hoop class) tonight but the metro got in the way. I did scribble down a few haikus once I finally got on a train, only the first of which is really related to tonight's commute:

19 minutes is
way too long to wait for the
Blue Line at rush hour

Please do not block
the door with your stroller. Have some
common courtesy.

Manual braking
makes the metro ride herky
jerky. I feel ill.

Cherry blossoms may
be nice to look at but they
bring ugly tourists.

I need to sleep at times, also. I woke up in the middle of the night and it took me a long time to get back to sleep, not helped by my deciding that I wasn't going to get back to sleep and doing a few things on-line. When I did get back to sleep for a few hours, I had a dream in which I had managed to lose two cars in the same parking lot. [livejournal.com profile] piefessor pointed one of them out to me, but it turned out she had really stolen the license plate and the trunk of my car and installed them on an orange and white PT Cruiser. I was upset that the jar of spaghetti sauce I'd had in the trunk was missing.

But I still managed to watch The Amazing Race. And I will put spoilers behind a cut.
Clicky here. )
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The Travel & Adventure show was today (and continues tomorrow) at the Convention Center. It's potentially dangerous to my budget, but it is a usually a good source of information. However, this year's offerings were fairly thin. There was some good information and I collected brochures on Ethiopia (since I am contemplating the Omo Valley) and on some West African festivals (as I have wanted to go to the Festival in the Desert for quite a while), as well as a few other things. But there were far fewer exhibitors than usual. And, for some mysterious reason, the travel show was combined with some sort of real estate show. I can understand the people selling vacation homes, but I really don't grasp why the gutter cover people were there. Or the Mahatma rice people, for that matter. I ran into a friend who also complained about the reduced size of the show. Very disappointing.

On the cultural side, Kajal (the woman who teaches my Bollywood dance workout class) was there. I missed her group's performance, however, since the metro had been troublesome. Or to put it in my more normal metro complaint medium:

I don't understand
why they can't offload just the
car with broken door.

Not that that would really have helped since it was the car I was in that had the door which wouldn't close at Clarendon, but still ...
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One of the great things about living in the D.C. area is the opportunity to go to events at various embassies. Last night was an MIT Club of Washington reception at the Israeli Embassy. I had not known that this was the first embassy to purchase a plot on International Drive (where several others are located - in fact, the new Chinese embassy is across the street and I'd been over there before twice when I got my visa to go to Ghana).

The building is modernistic and rather plain, at least judging from the hall we were in. They had the reception catered by Kosher Mart in Maryland, so it was not particularly exotic, but the food was tasty and plentiful. It does raise the question of what the proper wine to have with a pastrami sandwich might be. (I waited until after the talk and had a glass of merlot.)

The talk was given by a representative from the trade ministry and was titled "From the Land of Milk and Honey to the Land of Tech and Money." The most interesting chart was probably the one on citrus vs. software, highlighting the transformation of the Israeli economy. It also reminded me of how much the socialist Zionists have declined in influence. Another interesting point had to do with the relatively low labor participation in Israeli society, which was attributed to cultural values of Orthodox Jewish men and Arabic women.

By the way, the ambassador and his wife came in briefly at the end of the talk. (They'd been at a reception at the Russian embassy.) All in all, it was a very nice event.

The trip home was a bit less pleasant. I walked back over to the Van Ness metro station and, while waiting for the Red Line, heard an announcement that there was "an incident" on the Orange Line to Vienna and all trains were holding. When the Red Line train came, the driver announced that there was single tracking on the Blue Line between Federal Triangle and Farragut West due to reports of someone struck by a train at McPherson Square. At Metro Center, there was no indication of any Blue or Orange Line trains running and an announcement that trains were turning back at Federal Triangle and at Farragut West. There was a claim that there were shuttle buses, but no indication of from where. (The Metro Center station has at least 4 exits, so this is significant.) I figured that the best bet was for me to take the Red Line back a stop to Farragut North, exit, and walk the one block to Farragut West. This did, indeed, prove to be a good approach.

Not that there was any more information at Farragut West, beyond confirmation that somebody had been hit by a train at McPherson Square. I waited on the Vienna platform with several other people griping about the loack of information. A train pulled in on the opposite platform and, when people got off, they announced it was going out of service. Then they announced it was going to Vienna, so I went across to that platform and got on. Then they announced it was going out of service and we all had to get off. But, before we did, they announced it really was going to Vienna. Which it did. (It switched back to the correct track between Farragut West and Foggy Bottom, by the way, so the ride home was quick enough.)

No metro issue can go by without my writing haiku about it, of course. Hence, these offerings:

Nearly once a month
some jerk commits suicide
using the metro.

This is really most
inconsiderate to do.
Please use gas instead.

(By the way, there was an article not long ago in the Post re: the psychological impact of metro suicides on the drivers of the trains which have struck and killed people. So it's not just the inconvenience to think about.)

is the hallmark of metro's
info to riders.
fauxklore: (Default)
1) I am intrigued by what news stories do and don't get major headlines. I'm surprised the Stewart Nozette case isn't getting more news. He is a former NASA scientist, who tried to sell classified data to Israel. Except it was the FBI and not the Mossad who contacted him. I don't think this will be another Pollard case, though, since it seems Nozette was seeking money, while Pollard acted on ideological grounds. (I also think that's why the parts of the Jewish community who think Pollard got too heavy a sentence are wrong, but that's a separate subject.)

2) Tuesday was the last day of the Crystal City farmer's market. It's been very convenient having it right outside my office and I'll be happy when it starts up again in the spring. In the meantime, I stocked up on Stayman apples.

3) Somebody is turning "The Man WHo Mistook His Wife for a Hat" into an opera. Just as I believe that mental illness is not a good subject for musical comedy, neurology does not seem like promising material for opera.

4) My list of things to write about here includes the word "exposure," but I have no idea what that is supposed to mean. In case I happen to ask about the string of numbers on the next page of my planner at some time in the future, it was a document number and Andy's fax number for me to send it to.

5) I managed to save myself about $130 on a trip to San Francisco in December by buying the ticket at exactly the right time. I love it when I get the last seat at the discounted price.

6) The metro had a little service challenge yesterday morning:

Amtrak fire at New
Carrollton this morning screwed
up the Orange Line

and then there is the usual behavior of fellow riders to write haiku about:

Someone should offer
a seat to the woman who's
holding a baby

(If I'd had a seat, I'd have offered it to her, of course.)

7) Go Phillies! (I am blaming last night on Pedro having had a cold.)

8) I vaguely remember putting my cell phone down somewhere when I came home on Sunday evening. And I remember thinking that wherever I put it was a bad idea because I would have trouble finding it again. Sure enough, I have no seen it since. If it doesn't turn up by the end of the weekend, I'll call to get it replaced.

9) An interesting tidbit from the new issue of Technology Review - in 45 BCE, Julius Caesar banned private vehicles from the center of Rome during daytime hours to try to reduce congestion.

10) This song is stuck in my head from my Bollywood dance class Wednesday night, so I thought I'd try to inflict the earworm on others. Unfortunately, it's the steps to an entirely different dance that are stuck in my head with it. (The choreography we did to it is not the same as the movie clip.) If you are wondering why there are so many blondes in a Bollywood movie, the film is apparently set in Miami.

fauxklore: (Default)
I am actually doing some desk cleaning, instead of my usual method of merely whining about desk cleaning.

And I stumbled upon a piece of paper from July with a couple of metro haiku that I never got around to posting. I should probably explain that a PID is a Passenger Information Display. They're supposed to tell you how long a wait you have for the next train, though often you have to wait for them to scroll through dozens of elevator outage messages. Sometimes, though, they just stay blank:

I hate non-working
PIDs. when will my train
come? No way to know.

This one is pretty self-explanatory, other than noting that I had theatre tickets the night I wrote it:

Blue Line delay
meant no time for a good meal
before tonight's show.

In other news, I think I can safely throw out the directions to the hotel I stayed at in Dijon in May.
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In the course of doing a wee bit of desk unshoveling, I stumbled across some metro haikus I never posted here. These go back to June, but are really pretty timeless for us weary commuters.

Waited twenty-three
minutes for train whih should
run every five. Damn!

The indoor voice is
apparently not taught to
children nowadays.

I also have the obligatory cryptic notes to myself. Surprisingly, I recognized a sequence of digits written on one scrap of paper as a frequent flyer number. I can more or less figure out what I meant by things like 24-28 and 1-5 for Festival, and I actually just realized that it was the Smithsonian Folklife Festival. I am reasonably sure I know what I was supposed to tell Vic and I think I actually did tell him. But I have absolutely no idea who Ben Regngert might be and why he is associated with 19 x 19 foam board.
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Just because I haven't done this in a while.

If you're going to
hold on to the top rail, please
use deodorant.

(I've had to breathe a bit too much eau de armpit this week, given the hot weather.)

Crowds expected this
this weekend. Why is metro
running no service?

(They are closing the blue line through Alexandria and Arlington and running one train every 36 minutes on the yellow line, which will inevitably turn into more like every 45 minutes. The same weekend as every sports team is playing, as well as normal tourist stuff. This has no impact on me, but I can still kvetch.)

Car too hot? You can't
just move to the next one since
they're all too crowded.
fauxklore: (Default)
I was already grumpy for reasons I will write about in a separate friends-locked entry.

Then came the little matter of getting home. But, hey, there is always haiku to alleviate the pain (or, at least, spread it around). Hmmm, maybe Metro wanted me to celebrate National Poetry Month!

From Crystal City
to Rosslyn, I was on a
train with no A/C.

Then I waited for
over twenty minutes for
my Orange Line train.

No times on display?
An inevitable sign
of a long delay.

It is not as if
driving down Route 50 would
be any better.

Train malfunction at
Farragut West was to blame
for my misery.

The fundamental
problem is having just one
track per direction.


fauxklore: (Default)

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