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I fell asleep about 9 last night. I was expecting to be woken up by fireworks or people banging on pots and pans, but, no, All was quiet, possibly because it was raining but more likely because I live in suburbia.

I woke up at 4:30 in the morning, in the middle of an interesting dream. I was in Nairobi and had to wait in line to get into a museum, where there was an exhibit of elaborately decorated wooden pens - some just nicely turned cylinders of exotic woods, some elaborately carved. Then I went into the courtyard where there was a traditional Shona dance (rather out of place, as that’s one of the major ethnic groups of Zimbabwe). It included women chanting a lullaby in Hebrew ( also out of place). Just before I woke up, I started to panic about getting malaria because I had left on the trip in a hurry and not gotten a prescription for anti-malarial drugs.

It is a good thing I don’t attach much psychological importance to dreams.
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I am reasonably sure I won’t see any more movies in 2018, so I might as well do this wrap-up now. I saw only four movies this quarter, but they were all ones I liked.

  1. To Dust: I saw this as part of the year-round program of the Washington Jewish Film Festival. Shmuel is a Chasidic cantor in update New York, whose wife has died of cancer. He has nightmares about her continuing to suffer until her body has decayed. So he seeks out a college professor, Albert, to help him understand the process of bodies decaying. This leads to a lot of bizarre incidents, ranging from stealing a pig to Shmuel’s sons’ attempt at exorcising a dybbuk. There are excellent performances by Geza Rohrig as Shmuel and Matthew Broderick as Albert. The thing I found most striking is how much Shmuel obviously loved his wife – something one doesn’t expect in a culture that has arranged marriages. This isn’t a movie for everyone, but those who like dark humor will find it worth watching.

  2. Bathtubs Over Broadway: I learned about this documentary via a mention in the Forgotten Musicals facebook group and I knew I had to see it. As soon as I saw it was playing at a nearby movie theatre, I got myself there. And, indeed, it was right up my alley. Steve Young, a comedy writer for David Letterman, discovered the world of industrial musicals and obsessively tracked down recordings and footage and interviewed people involved. This was a huge industry, including many big names – ranging from lyricist Sheldon Harnick to performers like Florence Henderson, Chita Rivera, and Martin Short. The excerpts from the musicals are hysterically funny. I have long claimed that anybody talking about something they are passionate about is fascinating and this is a great example. If you have the opportunity to see this, please do so.

  3. Book Club: Diane Keaton, Jane Fonda, Candice Bergen, and Mary Steenburgen play four women who are part of the same book club. They’re reading 50 Shades of Grey and it triggers something in their love lives. The four love stories are quite different. Sharon (Candice Bergen) hasn’t dated in years, but tries out on-line dating. Vivian (Jane Fonda) rekindles an old romance. Diane (Diane Keaton) meets a handsome pilot who helps her get through her fear of flying, but her daughters try to parent her along the way. And Carol (Mary Steenburgen) has to deal with her husband’s lack of interest in sex since his retirement. Those struck me as relatively realistic situations. And it’s nice to see older women being treated as sexual beings. This is pretty much a predictable chick flick, with nothing horribly surprising, but it was an entertaining enough diversion on a flight.

  4. Crazy Rich Asians: I watched this on another plane. It’s somewhat standard romantic comedy fare in many ways, with a mildly exotic setting. Rachel Chu (played by Constance Wu) is a likeable character, with a lovely and loving relationship with her mother. Her wealthy boyfriend, Nick (played by Henry Golding) has a more complex family situation, with expectations from being the heir to a real estate empire. I didn’t think his character was as well developed, nor did I really get what Rachel saw in him. It was, however, fun to recognize places in Singapore (a place I have deeply mixed feelings about, but that’s another subject). And Rachel’s self-awareness and the triumph it brings made the movie enjoyable. Recommended.

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I put away the laundry, did the hand washing (e.g. nylons), and even changed the bed linens. The latter is a chore that takes about 3 minutes, but which I can procrastinate on for days.

I am almost caught up on puzzles (with just this weekend’s to do, though that does include a Hex cryptic).

I think I am ready to submit my 2019 ghoul pool list.

Most importantly, I made it to knitting group, which had rather high turnout. I made a lot of progress on an amigurumi project, though the face embroidery still needs to get done, which is always the pain in the ass part. I probably have to search for some suitable yarn or thread for that. (I am being vague because this is a gift for someone who sometimes reads my blog.)

I plan to spend another hour or so on newspaper reading before going to bed.
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I managed to do a load of laundry, but I still need to finish putting things away.

Other than that, I spent much of the day alternating between reading newspapers and magazines and taking naps. I’ve also been working on my ghoul pool list. I did pretty badly this year, though I’m still ahead of our Australian players.

I am trying to believe I will be more productive tomorrow.
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The theme for Week 52 (December 24-31) is Resolution. My major genealogy-related resolution has to do with organizing my files and research. I actually have a good idea of how I want to do this, essentially with hanging file folders color-coded for each of my great-grandparents.

I also need to do a better job of reviewing DNA matches.

And there are some parts of my family I really need to do more research on. For example, my mother’s maternal grandmother, Malka MAKOWER, had at least one sister, who I know about only because she’s listed as the closest relative on Malka’s passenger manifest when she arrived at Ellis Island. As another example, my father’s paternal grandmother, Tsivia BRUSKIN, had at least two children with her first husband and I’ve not really done much research into what became of them.

I think a good starting point would be making a list of questions I’d like to answer.

Note that this is the last prompt of the year. Apparently, there will be new prompts next year, but I don’t intend to be quite so completist about using them.
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I went out with a friend last night to see the Harlem Globetrotters. We had dinner beforehand at Jaleo, largely because I was pretty sure she wasn’t adventurous enough for some of the other options in that general vicinity. We had a number of tasty dishes, including beet salad, something with quail and lentils, and a rather smoky asparagus dish. Also, a dessert that consisted of a sort of chocolate cake with ice cream that also came with a crispy brittle containing sage. While the food was good, the experience was marred a bit by a large family at a nearby table who let their young children run around the place entirely unsupervised. I have no problem with young children being taken to nice restaurants, but it is the obligation of parents to teach them how to behave appropriately when they’re there.

As for the Globetrotters, their shtick hasn’t really changed much over the years, though the background music has (except for Sweet Georgia Brown, which is eternal). The ball-handling remains showy. All in all, it was a fairly entertaining evening, though not necessarily something I’d need to do again.

By the way, our seats got upgraded for some reason. That put us close to the action, but it didn't give us any more leg room. Still, not too shabby for discount tickets from Goldstar.
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I promised a couple of people that I’d explain a few things re: the partial government shutdown and who it does and doesn’t affect. If you aren’t interested in politics, feel free to skip.

The most important thing to know is that there is not a single budget bill. Instead, there a dozen different appropriations bills. Five of those were signed by the end of September – which is interesting, because the fiscal year starts on October 1st though it’s rare for Congress to pass the bills by then (much less for the President to sign them). So, for example, the Department of Defense, the Department of Labor, and the Department of Education aren’t shut down. By the way, you may have heard of an omnibus spending bill. That’s what it’s called when the various appropriations bills are combined into one. More common is what is called a minibus, which combines some, but not all, of the appropriations bills. While it seems like those would be good things, the problem is that it can hold some agencies hostage to an issue with one. Right now, the issue has to do with the Department of Homeland Security, but the shutdown also impacts Agriculture, Science, Justice, Commerce, Interior, Transportation, etc.

For some things (defense and intelligence), there are two types of budget-related bills in Congress – appropriations and authorization. Appropriations tells you how much you can spend and authorization tells you what you can use that money for. The tricky thing here is that if even a single dollar is authorized, the agency can spend up to the amount of the appropriation. The way I like to explain this is to imagine that you were asking your parents for tuition money for college. They want you to study international real estate finance, but you want to study underwater basket weaving. They authorize you to take Real Estate 101, but you can’t sign up for it until they also give you an appropriation for the tuition money. Good luck finding the lab fees for wicker and scuba gear.

Now, the impact on contractors is more complicated. See, some appropriations cover multiple years. What matters then is whether the money for a contract has already been obligated. The other thing to be aware of is that the period of a contract does not necessarily match the federal fiscal year. If a company is already on contract for services from January through December, the failure to renew an appropriation in August won’t matter – until the end of December.

The even bigger issue with shutdowns that people don’t talk about is collateral damage. That is, government employees who aren’t working and aren’t getting paid are also not going out to lunch near their offices and getting haircuts and shopping for non-essentials on their way home. That’s a huge impact on a lot of people in places with government workers.


Dec. 25th, 2018 07:57 pm
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I spent the morning sitting by the pool listening to music drifting up the hill from downtown Charlotte Amalie - a mixture of choirs having a carol singing contest and more steel drums.

There were 5 cruise ships in port, so it looked lively in the shops passing through on the way to the airport.

I had a good flight - got upgraded and we landed slightly early. All in all, it was a nice enough weekend getaway.

No more flights this calendar year!
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I spent the day walking around town. Top sight was synagogue. Disappointed that Camille Pissaro's house was closed. Infinite shopping opportunities, but I was more interested in architecture. Other highlight was a youth steel drum band playing outside the post office.

I was tired and footsore by afternoon and still had a long uphill climb to my B&B.

St John

Dec. 23rd, 2018 07:32 pm
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My trip improved a lot today. I took a taxi to Red Hook and the ferry across to St. John, where I negotiated a tour (with a group of people). Top sights included some beautuful beaches plus the Annenberg Sugar Mill ruins. Best of all, the National Park Visitor Center was open because the shop is run by the Friends of the National Park. So, despite the shutdown (which does furlough the rangers), I was able to stamp the passport book and buy a sticker. I also bought a patch.
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The Seaborne fiasco was not the only complication in getting away. My flight to EWR was delayed, first due to the plane arriving late at IAD, then another hour or so due to air traffic control. So we got to EWR at 1 in the morning. Between AirTrain issues and hotel shuttle issues, it was another hour before I could get to bed.

Then I slept through my alarm clock, but fortunately woke in time to make my flight. Again there were shuttle problems but another passenger let me share his ride.

Anyway, I made it, in a complete state of exhaustion. There was a massive downpour to greet me. I am hoping things will improve.
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Vacation proceedings were going well. I had managed to find both my National Parks passport book and the refill for my blood pressure meds. I’d checked in on-line for my first flight and been only a little concerned that United couldn’t give me the boarding pass for the connecting flight, which was on Seaborne Airlines. And then I got an email from Expedia that Seaborne had cancelled the flight. Oddly, it was still showing up on their website, though it wouldn’t let me select a seat. It stopped showing up on United, however.

I called Expedia and, while they couldn’t figure out what happened, a quick web search suggests Seabourne has a bad reputation for last minute cancellations. Fortunately, I know how to use ITA Matrix, so I was able to suggest an alternative routing to the agent I was talking to. It does mean having to pay for a hotel at EWR for tonight, but that isn’t a big deal. And it means I will: a) get more sleep and b) be on a better plane for the long leg (United’s seatback entertainment options tend to be very good). Also, I will get more United miles. So I am looking on the bright side of things.

By the way, I don’t know what the wi-fi situation will be at my B&B, so my entries for the next few days may be delayed.
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1) If you have not been at the previous 3 meetings on a project, perhaps you might want to keep your mouth shut instead of whining about a topic we already spent six hours hashing out an agreement on.

2) I ignored much of the yammering above and bit my lip while writing Christmas cards. At some point, I wrote something in my notebook that started out having to do with the meeting and ended with "best wishes for a great 2019." I guess I don't multi-task as well as I think I do.

3) I need to find my National Park Passport book. It will, of course, be in the last place I look.
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The theme for Week 51 (December 17-23) is Nice. This was a tougher question than I expected. Oh, plenty of my relatives were nice enough, but nobody really stood out to me for exceptional niceness.

And then I thought of a story I know very little about. I have a picture that I think was taken some time in the 1920’s of my paternal grandmother, her sister, and another women. According to one of my cousins, the other woman is somebody who my great-grandparents, Schachne and Chaya FAINSTEIN, took in when her parents were killed in an accident. They had two sons and another daughter, too. (Possibly a third son, though I haven’t found any records of him after his birth.)

That sort of informal adoption seems above and beyond the call of duty as it were. So I’ll nominate them for the nice list.
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Celebrity Death Watch: Philip Bosco was an actor, who won a Tony for his performance in Lend Me a Tenor. Jael Strauss was a fashion model. Les Kinsolving was the first White House correspondent to ask questions about the HIV/AIDS epidemic (during the Reagan administration). Julia Vinograd, known as the Bubble Lady, was a street poet in Berkeley. Harry Shlaudeman was a diplomat who served as ambassador to a number of Latin American countries, including Venezuela, Peru, Argentina, Brazil, and Nicaragua. Pete Shelley cofounded and was the lead singer of the Buzzcocks. Victor Hayden, known as The Mascara Snake, was an artist and perfomed with Captain Beefheart. Rosanell Eaton was a civil rights activist. Evelyn Berezin designed the first word processor and worked on computer systems for airline reservations. Alvin Epstein was an actor and director, best known as something of a specialist in the works of Samuel Beckett. Rob DesHotel was a television writer and producer who worked on Buffy the Vampire Slayer among other shows. Jacques Gansler was the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics from 1997 to 2001. Bob Bryan was the co-creator, with Marshall Dodge, of Bert & I, a series of humorous stories about a couple of fishermen in Maine. Nancy Wilson was a jazz singer. Patricia Marshall was an actress, best known for her roles in Good News and The Pajama Game. She was also the widow of playwright and screenwriter Larry Gelbart. Joan Steinbrenner was the widow of George Steinbrenner and got involved in the business aspects of the New York Yankees. Jerry Chestnut wrote country songs. Colin Kroll was the founder of Vine and HQ Trivia.

Melvin Dummar claimed to be an heir to Howard Hughes’s estate. His story is well known as the basis for the movie, Melvin and Howard.

Penny Marshall was an actress (best known for Laverne and Shirley) and director. She was one of the first women to become well known as a director. In particular, she directed my second favorite movie of all time, A League of Their Own.

Galt MacDermot wrote several musicals, notably Hair and Two Gentlemen of Verona.

Holiday Party: Today was the holiday party at work. This year, they went with somewhat Mediterranean catering, with hummus, grilled vegetables, and various grilled protein things, including salmon. There was also salad and cheese and crackers and fruit. And several desserts, including chocolate cake. This fit in well with my contribution to the white elephant gift exchange, which was a Turkish tea set, I had gotten as a gift from a hotel in Istanbul (two plastic cups, with saucers and spoons, plus powdered apple tea). I supplemented that with a Starbucks gift card. I ended up being the last to choose, so I ended up choosing to take a stack of boxes of Godiva chocolate truffles. At least one of those boxes will go with me to book club tomorrow.

Speaking of Work: If it weren’t for the telephone, I would get so much more done. I have been trying to write up notes from last week’s conference, but I keep getting interrupted. Tomorrow will be even worse, as most of the day will be occupied with a briefing on a study we’ve had going on. I should probably read some of the several slide packages in the read ahead, but I am not sure I can stay awake through that.
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I don’t remember who was talking recently about reading lists, but I was reminded of a booklet that our library system (or, possibly, some county office) sent out the summer before either my junior or senior year of high school. It claimed to be a list of books that colleges would expect all incoming students to have read.

Naively, I believed them and set out to read a lot of the books listed in the booklet. I don’t remember most of them, but Sartre’s No Exit stands out as a play that is entirely inappropriate to inflict on teenagers unless one wants to give them a head start on major depression. Sartre was wrong. Hell is not other people. It is reading existentialist plays.

I think I read about half the books listed and the omissions had pretty much no impact on my college career. Admittedly, I majored in mechanical engineering, but I did do my humanities concentration in literature.
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At least I got out of the house and did the most critical grocery shopping. I was really motivated by the annual NY Times puzzle supplement. Not that I’ve actually ever gotten around to doing last year’s or, for that matter, the year before. I take them with me on vacations but never get around to them. Maybe this time...

I even managed to cook a reasonable dinner. I had taken a chicken breast out of the freezer yesterday, but it hadn’t finished thawing by 7 p.m. so I ended up eating an apple and some nuts for supper instead. Tonight, I cooked the chicken and, happily, remembered the bottle of Nando’s periperi sauce I got as a gimme at the South African embassy back in May. I had it with some steamed green beans. I bought too many of those so I think I will throw them in a curry with potatoes, carrots, and onions tomorrow night.

I did not, however, get through writing Christmas cards. Or sorting out the annual begging letters. Or catching up on a billion other chores.
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Yesterday involved getting some arrangements finished for my trip to NY at the end of January. This reminded me why I like to travel alone. I am going with a friend. Well, sort of, as we are going to take separate trains up, primarily because I refuse to take an early morning train after coming back from a business trip the night before. This morning she called me concerned about what time we will meet and where we will have dinner. Because, you know, there’s nowhere to eat in midtown Manhattan. Oy.

After that I took a nap, tried to get caught up on some housework, took another nap - lather, rinse, repeat. I hate these days of low accomplishment. But my body must have needed it.
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The theme for Week 50 (December 10-16) is Naughty.

This one is pretty easy, because I think of being naughty as something that is not quite right but not actually evil. And that seems to suit the circumstances of what my grandfather’s youngest brother, my great-uncle Willi, did.

The Morro Castle arrived at the port of New York on 26 December 1930. Most of the passengers had no particular problems at Ellis Island. There were a couple of issues relating to a 21-year-old tailor named Wolf CHLIBIOCKI, however. For one thing, he didn’t have a visa. For another, he had stowed away on the ship from Havana. The inspector at Ellis Island marked the record LPC, which means they thought he was likely to become a public charge. At least two of his half-brothers (Nathan and Max) and one sister (I’m not sure if Adele was a full or half sister) were already living in the U.S., but they denied his appeal and sent him back on the Oriente, departing on 31 December. I’m not sure whether or not any of them were even notified. I’m guessing not, because there is a penciled note about Nathan, but it has his surname incorrect (he went by LEBOFSKY, not LUBOWSKY) and the address just says "New York, NY," with no street address. (And, I am pretty sure Nathan was living in Brooklyn by then.)

There’s a little more info from the record. For one thing,t indicates that he’d been living in Havana for 2 ½ years. For another, it gives the address of his brother, Simon, i.e. my grandfather, as Calle Habana 207. That would be fun to look for, should I ever get to Havana.

He did eventually get to the U.S. legally (in 1937, via Canada and a border crossing at Buffalo). Far from becoming a public charge, he had a successful career in the fur business. I didn’t know him well, but I had the impression of him as a fun-loving and happy man.


Dec. 13th, 2018 07:55 pm
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I spent yesterday and today at a work-related conference. One thing I find myself doing is counting the number of women at meetings and it was particularly low at this event. It’s hard to tell because not everyone was at all sessions, but it was definitely under 10%. Sigh.

Also, this was the sort of thing which has a token talk by a congresscritter. I won’t give specifics since it was a non-attribution event, but he offended me by giving a very partisan talk and by not using the correct name for the other party. In addition, aside from one slide his staff had prepared, almost none of his talk was relevant to the subject of the conference.


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