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Celebrity Death Watch: Jim Raman was one of the Married Dentists on The Amazing Race. Joffre Stewart was a beat poet. W. S. Merwin was an off-beat poet. No, actually, he wrote about nature and won the Pulitzer, but I couldn’t resist. Marjorie Weinman Sharmat wrote children’s books, notably the Nate the Great series. Frank Cali was the head of the Gambino crime family. Tom Hatten acted in numerous movies but is more famous for hosting children’s television shows in Los Angeles. Richard Erdman acted in over 160 movies. Dick Dale was a guitarist, known primarily for surf music.

Birch Bayh was a senator from Indiana, who ran for President in 1976. He was responsible for two constitutional amendments (the 25th, dealing with Presidential disability and succession, and the 26th, which lowered the voting age to 18). But what was probably even more of an achievement was Title IX, which bans gender discrimination in higher education. He also worked on the Equal Rights Amendment and on an attempt to eliminate the Electoral College. In short, he was one of the good guys in my political reckoning. And he had a really cool name.

Weather: We had a day or two of lovely warmth, but it is now chilly again. The warmth inspired the trees to get ready for public sex and Thursday supposedly had the highest recorded tree pollen levels for March in the D.C. metro area. Sigh.

Hands on a Hardbody: I went to see Hands on a Hardbody at Keegan Theatre on Friday night. This is a musical that was only on Broadway for about a month, so is not well-known, but it sounded interesting. The premise is that 10 people are competing to win a truck from an East Texas dealership by lasting the longest at a contest, in which they have to stand with one hand on the truck at all times. They get only a 15 minute break every six hours. (This is, by the way, a real thing. The musical is based on a documentary about it.) The real story is, of course, who the people are and why they are willing to do this. Some of the stories are more compelling than others, of course. I particularly liked Jesus, who was saving up to go to veterinary school, and JD, who had been injured at work – and fired, as a result. The villain of the piece is Benny, who had won before. He’s trying again because his wife ran off with the truck he won the last time. In the end, he turns out to have a more sympathetic story than it seems at first. The other villain is Heather, who the dealership owner, Mike, has fixed to win. I had no sympathy for her.

The music was written by Amanda Green (who also did the lyrics) and Trey Anastasio (of the rock band, Phish) and is an interesting mix of styles. There wasn’t anything that was memorable, but it was an enjoyable enough score and fit the story well. I should also mention that the book was written by Doug Wright, who is probably best known for his Tony Award for I Am My Own Wife.

As for the performances, I particularly liked Shayla Lowe as Norma, John Loughney as Benny, and Duane Richards III as Chris. All of the performers were good, but some have fewer opportunities to be noticed as dramatically.

Overall, I thought this was worth seeing. I would also like to see the documentary it was based on.


Travel Show: I went to the Travel Show at the Convention Center on Saturday with a friend. I was pretty disappointed in it this year, though it may have been because I was tired after being out on Friday night. Plus, I had been to the much larger New York Travel Show in late January. I didn’t talk with people at any booth who made me excited about a destination I wasn’t already aware of. And none of the talks I went to were all that inspirational. I thought Peter Greenberg was particularly bad. While he was amusing, much of his advice was incorrect or irrelevant for most people. For example, he suggested that one should either carry-on or FedEx their baggage to their destination. Fine if you are going cross-country and staying in one place, but not feasible for a trip involving camping in the developing world. One person asked for suggestions about car rentals and he recommended either relying completely on Uber or using a European car company’s overseas purchase program. Oy.

I heard a little bit of Ian Brownlee from the State Department offering security tips, but he didn’t say anything I didn’t already know. And he was a less than engaging speaker. And then there was a talk by TV host Kellee Edwards on "How to Travel Safely and Explore More." I wouldn’t take advice on that subject from someone who got on the back of a motorcycle driven by a complete stranger when she got lost twice trying to find a waterfall near her hotel. She might have done better to have learned more than three words of the local language and to have found out how far a kilometer is.

Unconventional Diner: Because we were at the Convention Center, we got dinner at Unconventional Diner, right around the corner. I got a drink called Beast of Burden, which was, essentially, a glorified Moscow Mule – and quite tasty. As for food, I tried their chicken noodle soup, which was delicious. The broth was meaty tasting and slightly spicy, and was filled with chicken, alphabet noodles, carrots, mushrooms, and had two fluffy scallion matzoh balls. My friend was happy with her meatloaf, too. I got a scoop of raspberry-lychee sorbet for dessert, which was tasty, although, frankly, it would have been even better without the lychee.

Sunday: I had lots of household stuff I intended to get done. But I was out of the house for a few hours for a rehearsal for an upcoming storytelling show and did a couple of errands (e.g. grocery shopping) in the way back. Not nearly as much got done as should have. Oh, well.
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Celebrity Death Watch: Boro Maa was the matriarch of Matu Mahasangha, a Hindu reformist sect in West Bengal. Carolee Schneemann was an artist. Charlie Panigoniak was an Inuit singer, best known for his version of "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" in the Inuktitut language. Carmine Persico was the head of the Colombo crime family. Ralph Hall was the oldest person ever to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives. Dan Jenkins was a sportswriter, as is his daughter, Sally, who wrote a particularly excellent obituary of him in the Washington Post. Jed Allen was a soap opera actor. Raven Grimassi wrote books promoting an Italian form of Wicca. Asa Brebner was a guitarist who, among other things, performed with The Modern Lovers on a couple of their albums. Hal Blaine was a prolific session drummer.

Jerry Merryman was one of the inventors of the handheld electric calculator. I am old enough to remember when calculators were not ubiquitous. If I recall correctly, it wasn’t until 11th grade physics that we were allowed to use them for exams. And those early calculators just did addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division, and – if you had a really fancy one – exponents. That fancy one was, in my case, the Bowmar Brain, which cost $75. It was only a couple of years later, when I started college, that I got a Texas Instruments scientific calculator. I think it may have been a programmable one. It cost over $100 and had terrible battery life. By the time I graduated, I could buy a Sharp scientific calculator for about $20. That used AA batteries and lasted a couple of decades.

Non-celebrity Death Watch: Another former colleague, Sy Horowitz, died last week. He was a really nice guy, always interesting to talk with during a lunchtime walk on business trips. I wasn’t completely surprised, given that he was over 90, but having lost so many colleagues over the years makes me feel old.

Mostly Better: However, the cold viruses grabbed my vocal chords with them on their way out. Sigh.

Daylight Savings Time: I think I have found all the clocks that need to be reset. I cannot, however, figure out how to reset the owl that is nesting in our courtyard.

For the record, I would favor staying on DST year round. I love lots of light late in the afternoon. Please don’t remind me I said that if you should happen to be in the car with me at sunset, when I am likely to be whining about glare.

Social Media Annoyance: I can’t update my facebook status for some reason. Nor can I see my timeline. So, of course, I have all sorts of clever things I want to say.

That College Admissions Scandal: What I really want to know is how much the students involved were told about what was going on. I don’t think that, in general, students care as much about the alleged prestige of various schools as their parents do. (And, by the way, there are only two schools on the list that I would consider actual elite colleges, but that’s probably my academic snobbery at work.) I know there are students who have unrealistic views of what their dream school is, but it isn’t doing them any favors to get them into somewhere that isn’t a good fit for their abilities and interests. Of course, It appears that in some cases, their interests are partying and skiing, so I can understand why parents might not want to finance their little darling's dream education.
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1) I am still sick. I am particularly tired of being tired. On the plus side, I am somewhat glad to be lacking much appetite.

2)There is someone who has been trying to have a half hour or so conversation with me re: a work-related matter. I'm happy to talk with him and, while it sounds a bit vain, I am pretty sure I am the right person to explain the issue to him. However, I'd be more convinced of the importance of this if he hadn't had his admin reschedule the meeting three times so far.

3) I am sadder about Tom Seaver's dementia diagnosis than I am about Alex Trebek's pancreatic cancer.

I hope to be back in shape to be more interesting after spending much of the weekend in suspended animation.
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I failed at this last year, but I have done it several times in the past and decided to give it another go. The idea is to send something to someone every postal day of February (so Sundays and President's Day are excluded).

If you would like mail from me, send me a message with your address. I will attempt both legibility and wit, but do not guarantee either.
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Celebrity Death Watch: Mason Lowe was a professional bull rider, who was killed by a bull. John Bogle founded the Vanguard Group, popularizing index funds. Mary Oliver was a Pulitzer Prize winning poet. Glen Wood was a NASCAR driver. Brian Stowell was a linguist who, among other things, translated Alice in Wonderland into Manx. Tony Mendez was the real-life spy who the movie Argo was based on. Nathan Glazer wrote important books about American ethnicity, with something of a focus on Judaism.

Should Have Been Celebrity Death Watch: Anne Thomas died yesterday. She was an amazing woman – a storyteller, a writer, a world traveler, an activist – who didn’t let being a paraplegic get in the way of anything she really wanted to do. I will miss her and her stories.

Desserts: We didn’t get much snow on Saturday, so there was no sugar in the snow. As for other desserts, I got as far as making cranberry bread pudding. Mostly because I had cranberries that needed to get used up.

Gulf View Drive: On Friday, I decided I was in the mood to go to the theatre and a quick look at Goldstar showed me that the Washington Stage Guild had a production of Gulf View Drive by Arlene Hutton on offer. I had really enjoyed See Rock City, so this play made a lot of sense to see. (They’re the second and third plays in a trilogy. While I haven’t seen the first, Last Train to Nibroc, they stand alone quite well.)
As I expected, this was an enjoyable evening . There are interesting issues, including domestic violence and racism, but the focus is still on family dynamics. The performances were uniformly very good, with Laura Giannarelli especially convincing as the domineeringly awful Mrs. Brummett. It’s playing through February 9th. I recommend it to D.C. area theatre goers.

Lunar Eclipse: I didn’t stay up for last night’s lunar eclipse. I’ve seen a lot of lunar eclipses, for one thing. And it was insanely cold out.

Fruit: Today is Tu B’Shvat, which is that Jewish equivalent of Arbor Day, though actually the New Year for Trees. It’s traditional to eat fruit. When I was a child, we’d get trays in Hebrew school that had a lot of dried fruit – figs, prunes, dates, raisins, apricots, and bokser (carob), if I recall correctly. The only ones of those I liked were apricots and bokser. I’ve been making a point of eating fruit every day and have this mental debate about whether dried fruit counts. I’ve decided it does, but only once or twice a week. I didn’t think of it when I was grocery shopping, but I might have bought some dates (which I do eat nowadays), as well as the kiwi fruit that I did got this week. (Mostly because it was on sale.) I still have a good supply of clementines, too.

Now I am really craving bokser.
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Despite my Red Sox fandom, I have not lived in New England since 1980. However, when I visit Boston, I do feel like I belong there.

Not a Good Weekend to Look at Social Media: A lot of my friends from the puzzle community are at MIT for the Mystery Hunt. A lot of my traveling friends are in Singapore for SinDo (a big annual frequent flyer party). I am home. And I don’t get Monday off. And I need my vacation time for a trip in February. But it is still annoying to think of all the fun that friends are having while I will spend a lot of the weekend communing with housework and whining about the weather.

Weather: Supposedly we got another inch and a half of snow last night. While it was snowing when I walked home from the Metro station, it was mostly wet stuff that wasn’t sticking. And I didn’t see any real signs of it this morning on the sidewalk or street. I did, however, remember that I keep intending to collect a bunch of freshly falling snow in a pie tin so I can make sugar in the snow. (This is a New England thing – you boil maple syrup and pour it over a pan of fresh-packed snow and it turns into incredibly good caramel.) There didn’t seem to be enough snow last night for that and I had forgotten last weekend when it would have been feasible. This coming weekend’s forecast doesn’t look very likely either. But I should still make sure to buy pickles and sharp cheddar cheese (which are the perfect go-withs) when I go shopping.

Speaking of New England Things: Durgin Park, a very old Boston restaurant, closed last weekend. The food was never exciting and the waiters were surly to the point of hostility. But it was a classic. In honor of its memory, I am planning to make Indian pudding. And Grape Nut pudding, which I would have done last weekend if I had found a big pan to use as a bain marie. (Again, for those unfamiliar, both of these are essentially egg custards with corn meal and molasses in the first case and Grape Nut cereal for the latter.)

I also have some Granny Smith apples in the house. Which are the right and proper thing to use for apple crisp or apple brown betty and I admit I don’t really know what the difference between the two is.
I should probably cook something that isn’t dessert. I also have things other than cooking to do this weekend.
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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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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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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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Going back to the 5 questions meme, these are from lillibet. Feel free to ask me up to 5 questions and I will attempt to answer them.

1) Do you have a favorite month? If so, which and why? I like September, because I get to celebrate my birthday. Between that, the Jewish holiday season, and too many years of school, it logically feels like the new year to me. April is close behind because of warming weather and baseball.

2) If you had to leave the US, where would you settle? Israel is the most obvious place for me to go, since I’m eligible for citizenship there. And I have plenty of family around. Other possibilities are South Africa or Uruguay.

3) What kind of flooring do you prefer? Tile, carpet, hardwood, stone, other? Describe a particular favorite floor. I like the feel of carpet. Either 1970’s style shag carpeting or thick karakul wool carpeting. (I have a karakul wool area rug I bought in Namibia that I am still completely n love with after 20 some odd years.) But my all-time favorite floor was the radiant heat bathroom floor in a hotel room in Norway.

4) What's the nicest hotel you've ever stayed in, and why? Albergo Atlantic in Bologna, Italy was fabulous. The location was convenient, price was reasonable, room was clean and quiet. A decent breakfast (admittedly, a cold one, but that is typical for Italy) was included. The staff was friendly. It’s across the street from a good gelato place. And it's in Bologna!

Runner-up is The Library Hotel in New York. How could I not love a hotel that asks "fiction or nonfiction" when you check in? The only reason that it isn’t the winner is that it’s pricy.

5) What is the most interesting thing you've learned in the past week? Probably not interesting to anyone but me, but I found my great-great-grandfather’s birth certificate (from Ostrolenka, Poland) and, hence, I’ve identified my his parents. (That’s my maternal grandfather’s mother’s father, for those who are keeping track.)
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Work is busy but frustrating.

I have been in sort of a swirl of trying to get caught up on the chaos that is my condo, but getting distracted by other things (mostly reading things on-line and catching up on crosswords) instead. I had particularly good intentions for Saturday, but spent much of the day in suspended animation, i.e. alternating between reading and napping.

Sunday, on the other hand, was a swirl of activity. The morning was One-Day University, with three presentations focused on the theme of Genius. I will write more about those below. I was supposed to rush from there to rehearsal for an upcoming storytelling show, but realized I had misremembered when One Day University ended, so opted to run my story (which is not a new one) over the phone on Monday instead. That gave me roughly an hour at home to get some housework done before heading to Arlington for dinner and trivia at Heavy Seas Alehouse with some Losers, i.e. devotees of the Style Invitational. I was clearly tired as I badly misinterpreted a cocktail I ordered. Any Port in the Storm turned out to have ginger syrup and golden ale, not ginger ale. I was thinking it would be sort of like a Dark and Stormy, but it was too sweet. We did, however, win at trivia, even though we were completely hopeless at a fill-in-the-blank lyrics component, which involved a rap song none of us had even heard of.

FDR: The first was by Jeffrey Engle of SMU on Franklin Delano Roosevelt. He started by pointing out that a lot of politicians – including George H.W. Bush, Osama Bin Laden, and Kim Davis – have claimed to be acting in the name of freedom, but that most never define what they mean by freedom. FDR, however, was very specific in his Four Freedoms speech, which he noted came 10 and a half months before Pearl Harbor. Those four freedoms are, of course, freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from want, and freedom from fear.

Anyway, his main point was that FDR’s success was due to his skill with rhetoric, his optimism, his pragmatism / flexibility, and his empathy. Regarding the latter, he believed that bad things can happen to people through no fault of their own, probably because of his own experience with polio. (By the way, Professor Engel noted that people actually did know FDR was paralyzed, even if they didn’t see photos of him in a wheelchair.) As for political ideology, FDR stated that he was: 1) a Democrat and 2) a Christian. He thought aerial bombing was immoral, but realized it was a valuable tactic. Similarly, he (and the Democratic party of the time) believed in a balanced budget, but was willing to experiment with government spending to end the Depression.

Overall, this was an entertaining talk, especially because of a lot of trivia Engel threw in. For example, he talked about how disliked William Jennings Bryan was as Secretary of State because he was a teetotaler who banned alcohol from diplomatic parties. And he noted that "Make America Great Again was Warren G. Harding’s campaign slogan.

Marie Curie: The second talk was on Marie Curie by Susan Lindee of the University of Pennsylvania. She started out by pointing out that genius is a social category. That is, just being great at what you do is not enough. You have to work to get the recognition, too.

Anyway, Maria Sklodowski and her sister, Bronislawa (who became a doctor) were encouraged by their father in their studies. Originally, Maria was supposed to work as a nanny to pay for Bronislawa’s education, but their father got a good job, enabling her to enroll in the Sorbonne instead. She got top grades in math and physics. Her need for lab space led to her introduction to Pierre Curie and she married him in 1895, a little over a year after they met. Fun trivia is that they spent their honeymoon on a bicycling trip, complete with fashionable biking outfits.

The Curies shared the 1903 Nobel Prize in Physics with Henri Becquerel. Pierre insisted Marie (as she had modified her name from Polish to French) be included. In 1896, Pierre was killed in a cart accident after slipping on a wet road. (By the way, this was the day before the San Francisco earthquake and fire, so was a bit overshadowed in the news.) Marie went on to win the 1911 Nobel Prize in Chemistry. She also went on to a scandalous affair with Paul Langevin, who was married. The affair resulted in five duels, only one of which involved Langevin himself. Langevin eventually did go back to his wife, by the way.

Other notable things Marie did included creating x-ray wagons for use on World War I battlefields (and drive one herself, as well as teaching other women how to drive them and read the x-rays), writing a biography of Pierre, and persuaded an American journalist to raise money to buy her radium for her research. And she had two daughters, one of whom, Irene, shared a Nobel prize with her husband, Frederic Joliot-Curie, while the other (Eve) wrote a biography of Marie. Eve’s husband, Henry Richardson Labouisse, Jr., went on to win the Nobel Peace Prize in 1965 on behalf of UNICEF. More fun trivia is that Irene’s daughter, Helene, married Michel Langevin, the grandson of Paul Langevin.

Final point was that Marie Curie never made any statements about the rights of women. However, she did hire a lot of women in her lab, which may be more practical feminism. And she was very good at promoting herself, which is why we know more about her than a lot of other women in science. That goes back to the idea of genius as a social construct. Self-promotion is, alas, an element of genius.

Mozart: The final lecture was on Mozart and was given by Craig Wright of Yale. He started with having us sing, which was a good way to make sure everyone is awake after a couple of lectures. Unlike the other lecturers, Professor Wright gave an actual definition of genius as involving a person whose creative works or insights change society in some significant way (for good or ill) across time and across cultures. He then went on to talk about two types of cognitive processes in music – 1) perceiving and replicating music and 2) creating music. I’m not sure he is completely correct about the first of those. I believe that I perceive music well, but I am not good at replicating it. That is, there are various tests I do well at, e.g. of the ability to perceive intervals But I am no good at the mechanics of reproducing those to sing or play an instrument by ear. Mozart was very good at both aspects of the former, reportedly having perfect pitch, which enabled him to hear a piece once and them play it. And his manuscripts are lacking in corrections.

Wright than discussed aspects of creativity, which he said is facilitated by opportunity, motivation and an active and vivid imagination. Some of the things he talked about as far as creative thinking are associative thinking (which also included verbal, as well as musical, sounds in Mozart’s case), combinative thinking / synthesis, homospatial thinking (which he defined as multiple strands of information superimposed in one temporal space), iconoclastic thinking (including scatological thinking), and dhildlike thinking. The latter two could be combined as a lack of barriers to imagination. He showed various examples of these aspects of Mozart’s work throughout, including clips from the movie Amadeus. One of the most interesting was an animated visualization of the Jupiter Symphony.

At the end, somebody asked what other composers Wright would consider geniuses. He cited Mahler, Beethoven, and Bach. I’ve been pondering that question all week. I think there’s an inherent difficulty in thinking about it because we can’t really hear a piece of music the way people heard it when it was first written. I value the revolutionary aspect of genius, which is why I’d put Balakirev on my list for his work fusing traditional (Russian) folk music with classical practice, leading to whole idea of nationalistic music. So, while I think Mussorgsky was the most musically talented of The Five (or would have been if he hadn’t fallen to drink), Balakirev is the more historically important.

I am not entirely consistent, however, because I’d list Gershwin above Berlin, even though the latter is the one who really emphasized jazz and ragtime as fundamentally American music. And, yes, Mozart and Bach belong on the list, too, because I am a product of Western culture.
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  1. I went back to the periodontist on Wednesday. The area that had the laser surgery is healing well. And I'm done with the giant amoxicillin pills.

  2. I changed the furnace filter this week. I know you're supposed to do it every month, but I don't manage to get around to it. Anyway, it was long overdue and it was pretty disgusting when I took the old filter out.

  3. I ordered check refills. It had been over three years, so maybe it isn't surprising that the website address the old ones had for reorders was no longer correct. Surprisingly, the directions on the bank's website were actually helpful. I don't write a lot of checks, since I pay most of my bills automagically. So I figure the new supply will probably last me as long as I live in my current place.

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Celebrity Death Watch: Ward Hall was a sideshow impresario. Chelsi Smith was Miss Universe 1995. Peter Donat was an actor, best known for his television work, though his involvement in the American Conservaory Theatre in San Francisco was also significant. Adam Clymer was a political correspondent for The New York Times. Marin Mazzie was a musical theatre actress. Virginia Whitehill was a women’s rights activist. Dudley Sutton played Tinker Dill in the British television series based on Jonathan Gash’s Lovejoy mysteries. Maartin Allcock was the lead guitarist for Fairport Convention and also played keyboards with Jethro Tull. Arthur Mitchell founded the Danc e Theatre of Harlem. George Hatsopoulos wrote an influential textbook on thermodynamics. John Cunliffe was a British children’s author, best known for Postman Pat. Charles Kao won a Nobel Prize for his work on fiber optics for communications.

Denis Norden was an English humorist. I have fond memories of listening to him and Frank Muir on My Word many years ago. I particularly remember a story about Rene Descartes, whose wife told him not to eat the miniature quiches at a party as she was saving them for a late night snack. He explained this request to a friend by saying "I think they’re for 1 a.m."

Health Kvetch, Part 1: I had a (routine) doctor’s appointment on Friday last week. That included getting my annual flu shot, in my left arm. I also got the first shot of the new shingles vaccine, in my right arm. My left arm itched around the injection site until Monday. My right arm was sore whenever I lifted it until Tuesday.

Health Kvetch, Part 2: I had laser gum surgery (LANAP) yesterday, in hopes of it dealing with an infection both less expensively and less painfully than other options. The procedure wasn’t too bad and, so far, the recovery is not terrible, though icing the affected area much of the day yesterday was mildly annoying. (I took part of the day off from work, but did call into a couple of meetings from home.) However, the periodontist said the maximum pain is usually at the 3rd day, so we will see. So far, the pain has been pretty minimal, which might be due to taking Tylenol as a precaution. The other annoying parts (aside from the whole periodontist thing) are: 1) the huge antibiotic tablets that I have to take for a week and 2) having to eat a soft diet for 7-10 days. Hopefully this will prevent the need for worse things.

Museum Day – National Museum of Women in the Arts: Saturday was the annual Smithsonian-sponsored Museum Day. This means free admission to a large range of museums throughout the country. You have to get tickets in advance, which means you need to choose what museum to go to. The trick is to make sure you are going to something that normally does charge admission, which rules out the overwhelming majority of museums around here. I chose the National Museum of Women in the Arts, which proved to be a good choice. Some of my favorite pieces were Red Ice (a photograph by Deborah Paauwe), Jo Baker’s Bananas (textile art by Faith Ringgold), 4 Seated Figures (sculpture by Magdalena Abakanowicz), Carrots Anyone? (artist’s book by Susan Joy Shore), and Wonderful You (painting by Jane Hammond, in which she imagined herself as various mythical and mythological characters). All in all, it made for an enjoyable couple of hours.

JGSGW: The first Jewish Genealogy Society of Greater Washington meeting of the season was Sunday. The topic had to do with Shoah memorials in the former Soviet Union. But there is more value in the general schmoozing before and after the meeting.

Everything Else: I think I am finally caught up on puzzles from when I was gone. I am not, however, completely caught up on reading mail (both e and snail varieties).

Last night was book club. After reading an 800+ page book, we’ve decided to set a 400 page limit on future selections.

I should probably say something about baseball. And/or politics. But anybody who knows me at all can already figure out my opinions.
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Celebrity Death Watch: Oliver Knussen composed an opera based on the book Where the Wild Things Are. Melanie Kantrowitz was a poet and activist, writing a lot about Jewish women. Marion Woodman was a psychologist who wrote The Owl Was a Baker’s Daughter, an excessively Jungian analysis of eating disorders. Peter Carington was the Secretary General of NATO from 1984 to 1988. John A. Stormer was a propagandist, best known for None Dare Call It Treason. Henry Morgenthau III was a television producer. Carlo Benneton co-founded the clothing company that bears his name. Nathaniel Reed co-wrote the Endangered Species Act of 1973.

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I had good intentions involving all sorts of getting things in order, but my ambitions were outweighed by my need for regular naps. I did go out to see a movie in an actual theatre on Saturday (The Catcher Was a Spy about Moe Berg), to do some grocery shopping, and to have lunch with a friend. I was also supposed to help her with some paperwork, but she was having computer issues.
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How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying: I saw the Kennedy Center Center Stage concert production (i.e. minimally staged) on Friday night. Yes, the sexism is problematic, with secretaries whose sole ambition is marrying a tycoon. But there is plenty of humor, along with great songs and outstanding performances. They did cut "Cinderella Darling" – and I’d rather they had cut "Paris Original" – but there’s still the fun of "Coffee Break," "Grand Old Ivy," and "I Believe in You."

As for the performances, I was very impressed by Skylar Astin as J. Pierpont Finch and Michael Urie as Bud Frump. Betsy Wolfe played Rosemary well, though this production made her seem particularly predatory and, hence, less likeable. And then there’s Nova Payton, who is one of the biggest stars among local performers here and whose scat singing in "Brotherhood of Man" stole the show.

All in all, a fun evening.

The Flushies: Saturday was the Flushies, the "awards show" for the Style Invitational. I stopped off at Pie Gourmet on the way over to pick up a strawberry-rhubarb pie for the potluck. I should probably have brought an appetizer or main dish, as there were disproportionately many desserts, but that’s how it goes sometimes. There was lots of good conversation, followed by sing-alongs of parody songs, award presentations, and a game. In short, this is a good group of people to socialize with.

Memory Lab: On Sunday, the JGSGW had a session at the Northeast DC Library on how to use their Memory Lab. This started with a talk about archiving and preservation, which had some helpful info on things like naming files and selecting formats and such. Then we got a demo of both the audiovisual equipment, which you can use to digitize videotapes and cassette tapes (and copy data from floppy disks), and the high-resolution scanner. I probably won’t be able to make an appointment to use things for a while, given how overcommitted I am, but this is a great resource, and I am glad I went to the program.

Farewell to a Friend: Sunday night, I went out to dinner with some FlyerTalk friends, including two people visiting from Australia. The two locals included a guy who is moving to Bangladesh. I’m missing his official going-away party (due to a business trip) so was glad I got to see him. After dinner, we went over to his condo, which has and amazing view, including DCA and some of the monuments in the city. It was a fun evening and I was glad I got to see him before he leaves.
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Celebrity Death Watch: Ed Charles played third base, including a stint with the Mets, including their 1969 World Series. Louise Slaughter was the oldest member of the U.S. House of Representatives. Sammy Wilson won a Tony for playing Paul in the original production of A Chorus Line. Frank Avruch played Bozo the Clown in Boston through the 1960’s. Charles Lazarus founded Toys R Us. Louis Kamookak discovered the wreck of HMS Erebus. Wayne Huizenga founded Blockbuster Video. Zell Miller was the Governor of Georgia for much of the 1990’s. Seo Min-woo was a K-pop singer. Linda Brown was the subject of a Supreme Court case on segregation. Stephane Audran was an actress, best known for Babette’s Feast. Peter Munk founded the largest gold mining company in the world. Anita Shreve was a novelist. Stephen Reinhardt was a liberal judge. Connie Lawn was the longest-serving White House correspondent. Ron Dunbar was a songwriter whose works include "Band of Gold" and the execrable "Patches."

Rusty Staub played baseball as part of the original Montreal Expos. He came over to the New York Mets in 1972 and was one of the more notable players for them during my high school years. I have a bobblehead of "Le Grand Orange," acquired when I went to a game in Montreal. He was also the first Mets player to get over 100 RBIs in one season.

Steven Bochco was a television producer, most famous for ensemble shows like Hill Street Blues and L.A. Law. He also created Cop Rock, which is worth a look for the musical aspect.

Winnie Madikizela-Mandela was an anti-apartheid activist and the second wife of Nelson Mandela. She was a controversial figure, largely because of the human rights violations committed by her security detail. In addition to her praise of "necklacing," she is said to have ordered kidnappings. She also got involved in fraud related to a funeral fund.

Intern Reception: I went to a reception last week for MIT students looking for policy internships. This appeared to be the year of the economist, with nobody interested in space. I did enjoy several conversations, both with people I knew (including one from an unrelated and, hence, unexpected connection) and who I didn’t. But the most interesting moment of the evening was when a young woman leaned too close to a candle and her hair caught on fire. Nobody was injured, fortunately.

Pesach: As my father used to say to my mother, America is not as rich as they always told us. Here it is a major Jewish holiday and we don’t even have any bread in the house.

Interplanetary Addresses: I get a fair number of invitations to events, not all of which are anywhere near where I live. Not everybody remembers they are posting invitations to international websites or email lists. Therefore, it is not uncommon to get invited to something with the address being given only as, say, 2100 Main Street.

I have developed the mental habit of interpreting such things as 2100 Main Street, Mars.

Don’t Analyze This Dream, Part 1: I was taking a shared taxi to Island Park. I expected to be dropped at the train station, but the driver turned down Carolina Avenue. When we reached my house, I asked to be let out, but the driver wouldn’t stop. Instead, he continued to the corner and turned left onto Austin Boulevard – but in the oncoming traffic lane. I finally got him to stop by opening the rear right-side door, while he was still moving slowly. I threw $40 at him and left. Also, the house numbers were wrong. My house was 127, instead of 60, and the house next door was 241, instead of 66.

Don’t Analyze This Dream, Part 2: I was somewhere in China with my mother. I had arrived a day earlier, so had already taken the river cruise included in our tour package, but I went with her again. Everyone had to show their passports to be able to board the boats and an American man objected. Then we were in the apartment of a man named Anuku and his mother said he spoke such good English because he had studied at Virginia Tech. He had a tattooed Delta on his arm to prove that.

Commute Hell: There was apparently smoke in the tunnel near Virginia Square, so the Orange Line was shut down from East Falls Church to Clarendon. I was smart enough not to think that shuttle bus service would work, so I took the 29N to King Street, where I could get the Blue or Yellow Line to work. It was slow and crowded and reminded me of how much I prefer trains.

Weird Words: Some friends on facebook have been discussing words that they mispronounced because they've only read them, not heard them. I have to admit that I find myself wondering what sort of life people are living that words like "hegemony" or "antipodes" come up in conversation.
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I had a rather hectic week. (So what else is new?)

One Day University: Saturday was One Day University. This time they did it at Lisner Auditorium, which is a good choice as the seats are reasonable comfortable and it’s easy to get to by metro.

The first speaker was Stephen Kotkin of Princeton, His talk was on American Foreign Policy: Where Are We Headed? He had a strong emphasis on the role of economic considerations, starting with the Clinton-era theory that as other nations got wealthier, they would become more like us. He focused on Iran, Russia, and China. His major points were that Iran is constrained by the Sunni-Shia conflict and the potential for Kurdistan to be a disruptive force in the Middle East. In short, he concluded that it shouldn’t be a priority. As for Russia, he said we can’t ignore it, but we overfocus on it. China, however, is an economic powerhouse and we should prioritize remaining competitive with it. The way to do that is to invest in infrastructure and scientific competitiveness. While he was an entertaining speaker, I thought his graphics were terrible. I also wish he had talked more about emerging nations. When someone asked a question about India, for example, his answer was entirely focused on their role as a buffer against China. I was also concerned that he made it all about economics and ignored moral questions, e.g. the Russian invasion of Ukraine. So I found his talk interesting but not entirely convincing.

The second speaker was Jacob Appel from Brown University on Ethical Dilemmas and Modern Medicine: Questions Nobody Wants to Ask.. He summed the issue up with two questions: 1) When do people have a right to healthcare that society refuses to give them? And 2) When can people refuse care that society wants to give them? Then he talked about several examples. Issues include the cost of treatment, quality of life, chance of recovery, whether or not the reasons somebody gives for their decision should matter, and how long-held someone’s beliefs are. My personal bias is to go with somebody’s stated wishes, whether or not I agree with them, but that’s easier said in theory than in practice. At any rate, I thought his talk was very interesting and the highlight of the day for me.

The third speaker was Carol Berkin, who is retired from Baruch College. Her talk was on What The Founding Fathers Were Really Like (and what we can still learn from them today). I have a quibble with her definition of founding fathers, as she focused entirely on the people who were at the Constitutional Convention. That leaves out a number of people who were important to independence, even if they may not have shaped the later form the United States took. But within her framework, the people she singled out as particularly notable were Benjamin Franklin, James Wilson, Robert Morris, Alexander Hamilton, Gouverneur Morris, and (partly) James Madison. She had quite a lot to say about Gouverneur Morris, though I’d be somewhat more convinced had she pronounced his name correctly. At any rate, her key point was that most of the men at the Constitutional Convention were fairly ordinary, albeit rich. Still, 5 or 6 geniuses out of 55 delegates seems remarkable to me. Do we have anybody of that intellectual caliber in Congress nowadays? She was a good speaker, but I found her unconvincing, overall.

There was a break for lunch, during which I walked over to a Korean dumpling place I’d been meaning to try. Since when is it socially acceptable for somebody to occupy one of 6 seats at a restaurant while eating their own food out of a Tupperware? The food was just okay, by the way, so, for future reference, I would probably go to Beefsteak or Roti instead. Or maybe try one of the food trucks that were lined up around the corner.

The last speaker of the day was Anna Celenza from Georgetown University, speaking on The History of Jazz: America’s Greatest Original Art Form. This was the talk I was looking forward to the most. Perhaps it was the post-lunch haze or perhaps it was overly high expectations, but I was disappointed. She had some good points about the role of technology (specifically, recording, including piano rolls) in th spread of jazz She touched on several interesting topics (e.g. the racial divide in jazz, the role of agents) and ignored others (orchestration, role of women). Overall, her approach reminded me of my high school history teacher who spent months on the French revolution, 2 days on World War I, and one day on everything since.

Volunteer Training: Sunday saw me back in the city for a training session for the upcoming U.S. Science and Engineering Festival. The training was fairly painless. By the way, I think I was one of a handful of volunteers there who was not accompanied by school children. (I think the minimum age for volunteers is 13, but some of those kids looked younger to me.)


Work and Snow: We got a spring snowstorm on Wednesday. That meant the second day of my two-day meeting this week turned into a telecon. If I’m going to work from home, that’s probably the best sort of work to have. I was even able to reorganize my scarf drawer while listening to one of the presentations.

I was also busy because I had to cover a meeting for my boss and draft inputs for a semi-annual report. When I tell people that I go to meetings and write email for a living, I am only half in jest.

A Minor Ambition: Just once, I would like to finish reading the Sunday Washington Post on Sunday.


Now I am ready to search my house for a bag of pencils that I hope the other dimensional beings have returned. And to pack for my excursion to Connecticut for the ACPT.
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Celebrity Death Watch: Nini Theilade was a ballerina. Morgan Tsvangirai was the leader of the political opposition in Zimbabwe. Gunter Blobel won a Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. Billy Graham was an evangelist. Emma Chambers was a British actress. Sridevi was a Bollywood superstar. Nanette Fabray was an actress and singer and probably best known for her work with Sid Caesar. Shmuel Auerbach was an influential Israeli rabbi. Barbara Alston sang "Da Doo Ron Ron." Eido Shimano was a controversial Buddhist leader, who was forced to resign from his role in the Zen Studies Society after a sex scandal.

Cynthia Heimel wrote humor pieces for a wide range o publications. Her book, Sex Tips for Girls was a big influence on me

Prince Henrik was the Prince Consort of Denmark. He’s only significant because he scored me 20 ghoul pool points due to a quick trade. Since the rules this year let you reuse somebody after a trade, it was an easy way to get on the board. Instead of putting I.M. Pei back on the top of my list, I reloaded with Stirling Moss on the grounds that his retirement from public life probably means he is down to mere weeks. I have been known to be wrong about this sort of thing, however.

About Arming Teachers: I’ve already written my opinions about gun control and the latest massacre hasn’t changed them. I do want to say, however, that the idea of arming teachers as a countermeasure is a terrible one. If there is a school shooting, police who respond will have no way of identifying teachers and are likely to shoot anybody who is brandishing a weapon.

About Punishment and Civil Disobedience: I also have a quick comment about students getting suspended for participating in protests. I believe they should be punished as long as the punishment is exactly the same as for any equivalent action, e.g. other unexcused absences. Part of civil disobedience is being willing to accept those punishments to bring attention to the issues being protested. Compare to Gandhi serving jail time in South Africa for refusing racially-based registration.

Visiting Escribitionist: I met [personal profile] lillibet at Belga Cafe for cocktails and conversation when she was in town. I tried a cocktail called Yuzu Making Me Crazy which consisted of Untitled No. 2 Gin, balsamic, yuzu, beet syrup, and plum bitters. It was lovely, both in taste and appearance. The conversation was equally lovely, covering people and places and ideas.

Month of Letters: I have failed this year, though I have a couple of days left to write to people. I thought I could catch up and just never managed to. Which is about where I am on housework, too.

Election Security: Thursday night, I went to an MIT Club meeting on election security. There was good conversation beforehand. The talk itself was also interesting, covering mathematical techniques for ensuring accuracy of voting. But I do wish they did these things at a better location than Maggiano’s, which I think serves up vast amounts of mediocre food and overpriced mediocre drinks.

Storytelling: I did Saturday night’s Better Said Than Done show, which had a theme involving love, marriage, and commitment. My story had to do with DLL, a MUD I played on in the 1993 time frame and on which my character and another character had a rather unusual wedding. There was a wide mix of stories and a responsive, albeit smallish, audience. Overall, it was a fun evening.

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