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Celebrity Death Watch: Joe Bellino was the first Navy football player to win the Heisman trophy. David White was a doo-wop singer and songwriter, whose hits included At the Hop." Nipsey Hussle was a rapper. Dan Robbins invented paint-by-number. Vonda McIntyre was a science fiction writer. Philip George Furia wrote books about Tin Pan Alley, with a focus on lyricists. John Quamby played the Health Insprector on Fawlty Towers. Marilynn Smith was one of the women who founded the LPGA

Ernest "Fritz" Hollings served as a Senator from South Carolina for almost 40 years, after having been governor of South Carolina before that. He started out as a segregationist but came to support at least some civil rights issues. He championed food stamps. He also created NOAA. On the minus side, he voted against the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 and supported the interests of the media industry with respect to emerging telecommunications issues. Overall, he was relatively liberal for a Southern Democrat. I should also note that he earned me 24 ghoul pool points.

Trip to El Paso: I went to El Paso for the weekend. Getting there was not too bad and I even had time to grab dinner at IAH during my layover. I walked over to the Downtown Artists and Farmers Market on Saturday morning, where I discovered that most of what is farmed in El Paso appears to be jams, baked goods, and the like, with the only produce for sale at the market being microgreens. The artist goods ran heavily towards fancy soaps and fiber things I could make myself, though I did happen to see (and buy)something that will be a perfect gift for a friend. It was still pleasant walking around and talking with the merchants.

Then I followed part of a walking tour of historical architecture. Much of the central part of the city was designed by one architect, Henry Trost, during the early 20th century, leading to a distinctive look for the city. Then I went to the Art Museum, where the most notable works include a collection of retablos (Mexican devotional paintings, sort of a Catholic folk art equivalent of an icon) and a rather disturbing exhibit of pieces by Julie Speed. At that point I was ready for a late lunch and went to a place called Elemi that sounded interesting. I wasn’t super hungry, as I’d had a largish breakfast at my hotel, so I just got two tacos – one chicharron de pescado (cod, slaw, grapefruit, and lime aioli) and one coliflor almendrado (cauliflower, almond mole, almond "cojita," and cashew crema). Both were on blue corn tortillas and both were delicious. The cauliflower one, in particular, may be the best vegan dish I have ever had. I also had strawberry lemonade to drink, which was quite tasty. I would definitely be happy to eat there again.

I had contemplated going to the El Paso History Museum, but I decided I needed a nap more, so went back to my hotel for a couple of hours. In the early evening, I walked over to Southwest University Park for a minor league baseball game – the El Paso Chihuahuas vs. the Las Vegas Aviators. The ballpark felt pretty average to me, but I may have been negatively biased because I had a really uncomfortable seat on a metal chair in the last row, vs. one of the plastic ones in any of the other rows. On the plus side, the food offerings had a lot of local flavor. The fans didn’t seem super enthusiastic, but that may have also been because the Chihuahuas didn’t play well. Cal Quantrill’s pitching was inadequate and he was out by the 4th inning. There were also a couple of errors by third baseman Ty France. In the end, Las Vegas won 12 to 5.

Speaking of Baseball: I am hoping that being at home will restore my Red Sox to what they should be.

Travel Hell: Getting home from El Paso on Sunday was, er, challenging. There were severe thunderstorms around Houston, leading to a ground hold on everything coming into IAH. Seeing that the 8:18 flight was delayed and figuring my 10:05 flight would also be delayed, I switched to the 8:18, hoping that would give me time to get my 2:30 connection from IAH to IAD. That would have worked – except that IAH closed and the plane I was on got diverted to DFW. We needed to refuel at that point, by the way. We ended up being on the ground at DFW for about 5 hours, if I recall correctly. I changed my IAH to IAD flight to a significantly later IAH to DCA one. I also discovered that my original flight from ELP was delayed almost 4 hours so, yes, changing planes had been the right thing to do. In the end, I got home about 7 hours late. But I did get home safely, which is what counts.

Tonic at Quigley’s: I went to a play with a friend last night (about which, more below) and we had dinner before at Tonic at Quigley’s. This place has a reputation as being largely a hangout for GW students, but French President Emmanuel Macron had dinner with Congressman John Lewis there last year. My friend got a burger and tater tots, which is pretty much what Macron had eaten. I went for the ahi tuna salad, which was quite good. I also had a G&T because how could I not at a place named Tonic?

Ada and the Engine: What we went to was a staged reading of Lauren Gunderson’s play Ada and the Engine, about Ada Lovelace and Charles Babbage. This was art of the Cultural Programs of the National Academy of Sciences, in collaboration with the Shakespeare Theatre Company. The director, Samantha Wyer Bello, introduced the program, noting that they’d had a whopping five hours of rehearsal. Obviously, that meant that the actors were reading from scripts, with another performer reading the stage directions. The short prep time did lead to a few flubs here and there, but, overall, I was impressed by the readings. Chelsea Mayo was a very charming Ada Byron Lovelace, David Bishins was passionate as Charles Babbage, and Jonathan Uffleman was surprisingly likeable as Lord Lovelace, who didn’t understand his wife, but sincerely wanted her to be happy, while Nicole Brewer was up to the challenge of being the unlikeable Lady Anabella Byron. There were a lot of interesting ideas in the script, touching on visions of the future from Industrial Revolution England to how the arts and science interact to the role of women in society. The stage directions were quite detailed and seemed to me to present some serious challenges for a full-up prpduction. What none of that tells you is how funny the script was. This was a delightful presentation and I would love to see a fully-staged version.

There was also a short talk-back with the playwright after the reading, which came about somewhat by chance. Gunderson had just flown in (she lives in San Francisco) because of a commission at the Kennedy Center. She talked about her interest in women in science and mathematics and about the research she did in writing the play. She also noted that doing the reading at NAS was interesting because there was such a nerdy audience, with people laughing at lines that don’t usually get such a strong reaction.

I have probably said this before, but I truly appreciate living somewhere with such amazing cultural opportunities.

Yawn: Two nights in a row of under 6 hours of sleep is definitely sub-optimal. It also didn’t help that we had a power outage at my complex this morning. I plan to collapse right after supper tonight.
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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.
fauxklore: (travel)
Celebrity Death Watch: W. E. B. Griffin was a prolific novelist, who, among other things, co-authored several of the books in the M*A*S*H series. Betty Ballantine was a publisher, who popularized paperback books. (She was, alas, on my back-up list for the ghoul pool.) Bibi Ferreira was a Brazilian actress and singer, who brought Broadway style musicals to Brazil. David Horowitz hosted a television show about consumer affairs. Ross Lowell invented gaffer tape. Sal Artiaga was the President of Minor League Bseball in the late 1980’s. Theodore Isaac Rubin wrote several books of pop-psych, including the short story that the movie David and Lisa was based on. Bruno Ganz was an actor. Toni Myers made IMAX documentaries about space. Wallace Smith Broecker coined the term "global warming." Don Newcomb was, among other things, the first black pitcher to start a World Series game. Karl Lagerfeld was a fashion designer. Vinny Vella was an actor who specialized in playing gangsters. Fred Foster was a record producer and songwriter, best known for "Me and Bobby McGee." Mark Bramble directed Broadway musicals, including 42nd Street and Barnum. Peter Tork was a Monkee. Beverly Owens was an actress, best kinown for playing Marilyn Munster in the first season of The Munsters, after which she stopped acting and married the show’s producer. Stanley Donen directed movie musicals, including Singin’ in the Rain. Margaret Scott was a ballerina, notable for founding and directing the Australian Ballet School.

Lee Radziwill was best known as being the sister of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. It’s hard to say which of the Bouvier sisters married better, but Lee did get to be a princess, at least until her divorce. I should note that I have some evidence that some members of my family lived on Radziwill land in Kedainiai, Lithuania.

Ken Nordine created a unique form of art he called word jazz, that involved improvised poetry with jazz music as a background. I stumbled upon part of his recording Colors on the radio late one night and it got me interested in jazz. Also, he earned me 18 ghoul pool points (including uniqueness points).


Vacation Summary: I went to El Salvador for a week. Why? Partly because there’s an archaeological site there I particularly wanted to see, partly because there was a good sale price on the tour, partly because I wanted to see for myself what it is like in a place with such a horrible reputation. Overall, I had a pretty good time and was glad I went, though I don’t feel any particular need to go back. Here’s the quick summary:


  • Arrived in San Salvador. Hotel was in the Zona Rosa, which was safe enough, except for the challenge of crossing busy a busy street to get anywhere. Group had 11 people (6 Canadians, a couple from Hing Kong, a British woman, one other American, and me) plus our Guatemalan tour leader. The next day, we got a tour of the city center, with Iglesia El Rosario, a modern church with interesting stained glass, as the architectural highlight. We went on to the Museum of Anthropology for way too short a time.

  • Then we drove to Suchitoto, where we had a short orientation walk around town, which is one of a few reasonably intact colonial towns in the country. There was a big arts festival going on and I went to an opera presentation with one of the Canadian guys. We had supper at a place where you make your own pupusas, which was fun, but time consuming.

    I chose to explore town on my own, instead of taking a city tour. The only real flaw in that plan was that a lot of things were closed on Monday. I did a little sketching of the church exterior, enjoyed people watching in the square, checked out the market, and made it down to the Museum for Art and Peace, which has good info on the indigenous population, as well as artwork by children in their school, which emphasizes anti-violence programs. Later on in the day, I went on a sunset boat cruise on Lake Suchitlan, which involved seeing a lot of birds. Egrets, I’ve seen a few … (Also, every cormorant in the known universe. Plus swallows, vultures, kites, hawks, and pelicans.) Some people did a very early morning bird watching kayak tour in the morning, but 5:30 is too early for me to be functional. I did a quick trip back to the town square and checked out the Museum of 1000 Plates and More, which was just the sort of kitschy attraction I enjoy.

  • We went on to Joya de Ceren, which I would consider the must see of El Salvador. Mayan town was buried in ash after a couple of volcanic eruptions, ca. 600 CE. It is the only site where one sees ruins of day to day Mayan life. There was a very good guided tour. They are still doing excavations, so things are likely to get even better. From there, we drove to Santa Ana, where we had lunch and a short time to check out the neo-Gothic cathedral (only such one in Central America) and the National Theatre. We drove on to the ruins of Tazumal, but arrived just after the site closed. We could still photograph the pyramid from outside.

  • Our next couple of nights were in Ahuachapan, which is not much of a place, but a good base for the Ruta des Floras. We toured a coffee processing plant (so-so coffee, in my opinion), wandered around the village of Ataco, which has a lot of interesting murals on its buildings, and went to a labyrinth (technically, a maze, but the Spanish language doesn’t seem to make the same distinction as English does), which I failed to find the center of. In the evening, most of us went to the Santa Teresa thermal baths, which was very relaxing.

  • Finally, we drove to El Tunco, with a nice stop in the town of Nahuizalco, which has a largish market, some high-quality crafts shops, and a particularly nicely landscaped town square. We also had a stop at the fish market in La Libertad, which was interesting and friendly. El Tunco is very touristy, but is mostly a surfing beach and nightlife town, so not really my speed. Still, a day to spend relaxing with a book isn’t a terrible thing.

  • And then I came home.


A Quick Comment on Group Travel: Being on a tour was the most practical thing to do for a dicey destination like El Salvador. While we didn’t have any issues, our bus driver was commuting from his home and got held up at gunpoint on his way home one night. (We did see some policemen in San Salvador who covered their faces so they can’t be identified by gang members.) But I was also reminded of why I prefer to travel alone. About midway through the trip, my roommate (the other American) opted to pay a single supplement and leave me alone, which helped. There wasn’t anything wrong, per se, but we just weren’t compatible on a couple of basics. She wanted the room several degrees colder than I did (under 65 Fahrenheit, vs. my preference for at least 76 Fahrenheit) and she slept a lot later than I did. There was one other person in the group who I found annoying, because she prioritized her desires (e.g. for particular photographs) above what other people wanted, which came to a head over an issue re: tipping local guides. We had voted at the beginning of the trip to not have a tipping pool, but to let people handle it individually, but she still tried to collect specific amounts from everyone to tip as a group. She did back down when confronted, but it left some bad feelings. I should also mention that I had been afraid that the group would all be a lot younger than I am, but most of the people were roughly in the same age group I’m in, with only a few youngsters.


JGSGW: Sunday was a two part Jewish Genealogy Society of Greater Washington meeting. In the morning, there was a brunch. There was a speaker who was advertised as giving a talk on Central European resources, but who had nothing prepared and managed to give inadequate answers to most of the questions people asked. In the afternoon, he gave a talk about the history of a pickpocket, which was interesting and entertaining, but not as organized as it might have been. I’d have liked to hear about how he did his research and got to the story. On the plus side, I found a possible source for some specific records I am looking for (via another person, not the speaker).

Back to Work: It is always surprising how much can accumulate in even a single week away. Sigh.
fauxklore: (travel)
You would think that somebody who travels as much as I do would be more organized about it. Instead, I inevitably end up in a pre-vacation panic and flurry of activity. Admittedly, this is not helped by being insanely busy at work and, hence, more exhausted than usual.

Which is to say that I will be gone just over a week. Assuming that is, that I manage to actually pack and get myself to the airport. It isn't clear how much internet access I will have as reports are mixed and not necessarily up to date.
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Celebrity Death Watch: Harris Wofford was a politician and civil rights activist. Maxine Brown was a country singer. Kaye Ballard was an actress and singer, best known for The Mothers-in-=Law on television in the 1960’s. Jonas Mekas was a film director. Diana Athill was a literary editor and memoirist. Meshulam Riklis was a businessman of the sort that gives Wall Street a bad name, but is better known for having married (and later divorced) Pia Zadora. Florence Knoll designed modern furniture, largely for offices. Fatima Ali competed on cooking-oriented reality TV. Michel Legrand was a composer, best known for the song "The Windmills of Your Mind" from The Thomas Crown Affair. Jumani Johansson claimed to be the illegitimate son of Malawi’s long-time president, Hastings Banda. Peter Magowan co-owned the San Francisco Giants. Rosemary Bryant Mariner was the first woman to fly jets for the Navy and the first to command a military aviation squadron. Patricia McBride Lousada (who is not the same person as Patricia McBride) was a founding member of New York City Ballet and a protége of George Balanchine and Merce Cunningham.

Oliver Mtukudzi was a Zimbabwean guitarist and cultural icon. I was privileged to see him perform in 2012 at the Lowell Folk Festival.

Russell Baker was one of my favorite writers. He wrote more columns for the New York Times than anyone else and won two Pulitzer prizes, including the first ever giver to a humorist. The other was for his memoir, Growing Up. He also scored me 15 ghoul pool points. (I’ve backfilled with Harry Reid.)


Errata: I didn’t watch someone die per se, but I did witness a suicide. I was in Prague, walking across the Charles Bridge to the Old Town after visiting the castle. A guy climbed up on a railing and leapt off. He landed on a plaza below, not in the river. I had nightmares the rest of the time I was in Prague and for about a week after I left.

New York State of Mind: I may be swamped at work, but I had made plans for a weekend in New York, so I took off Friday and took the train up. The excuse was a get-together, vaguely organized by some Travelers’ Cwntury Club folks, focused on the New York Times Travel Show. The hotel price (at the Doubletree on West 40th) was particularly good. One of my friends wanted to come, too, so we made some dinner and theatre plans. The catch came when she broke her ankle while on vacation. She decided to come anyway. The travel show could have been a huge issue, but it turns out that one can borrow a wheelchair (for free!) at the Javits Center and I was willing to push her around. We also had to use taxis and Lyft to get around, instead of just walking, but so be it. I’ve had experience with a broken ankle myself and it’s not like it was fun for her.

I figured out why the hotel was so cheap, by the way. Aside from the annoyingness of having to rearrange furniture (in this case, moving the desk) to close the curtains (a fairly common hotel problem) and absurdly slow elevators, the heat in my room was entirely inadequate. I finally got the room temperature up to something humanly tolerable by turning up the heat to 87 and putting it on high fan. The hotel restaurant (where we had breakfast with the group that had arranged the get-together) was pretty dreadful, with bland food and slow service. The really egregious problem came Saturday night, when we came back and they weren’t letting guests in the main door and two of the four elevators were reserved for their roof-top bar. They relented with my friend due to her broken leg, but I had to shove past them, with them threatening to call security, to get in. If two people are together, you should let both of them in, assholes. The two redeeming things were that the room was pretty well sound-proofed and the bellhop, with whom we had stored luggage on Sunday, was very helpful, offering us bottles of water and opening up a wider door so my friend could manage more easily.

But I was only in the hotel to sleep and I have experienced worse in my time There is a much better Doubletree on W. 36th, by the way.

Restaurants: On Friday night, we ate at Barbetta, suggested by another friend. This is the oldest Italian restaurant in New York and is quite formal. Some people might think that’s stuffy, but it was fine with us. Their prix fixe menu is normally $58, but because it was restaurant week, it was $43 for the three course meal. (The a la carte menu was also available.) I should have asked about prices for drinks, however, as they charged me $30 for a Campari and soda. Anyway, I got beet salad, paillard of chicken with fennel, and pears baked in red wine (something I actually had a craving for recently and am too lazy to make). All of it was quite good. The service was attentive, without being intrusive. And it was quiet enough to carry on a conversation.

On Saturday night, we went to the Third Avenue location of P. J. Clarke’s. This is another really old place and we chose it largely due to proximity to the theatre we were going to. The food is not very exciting (I had chicken pot pie), but they have a good beer list. The table we were initially seated at was by a window and there was a draft, but they moved us. It’s noisier than I’d have liked, but it was fine for what it is. Given my friend’s limited mobility, it was a good choice.


Come From Away: Friday night’s theatre excursion was to see Come From Away, which I’d been wanting to see for ages. It had done a pre-Broadway run at Ford’s Theatre but I never managed to make it work with my schedule. Anyway, for those who are not familiar with it, it tells the story of the diversion of 38 planes to Gander, Newfoundland on 9/11 and the relationships that developed between the townspeople and the plane people. Some of the stories are composites, but several are of individual people – a woman from New York who was worried about her firefighter son, the first female captain of a commercial airline, etc. I mention those two in particular, because they were among the more moving stories. The music is suitable for Newfoundland, too, with its Celtic influences. This is a true ensemble piece, not least because the various actors all play multiple parts.

There are a couple of things I can quibble with. For one, during the song "Prayer," an Orthodox rabbi talks to a Jewish townsman who has been separated from his heritage since he was snet as a refugee from the Shoah and they sing "Oseh Shalom." While the melody is a very familiar one now, it was actually written by Nurit Hirsch for the 1969 Hasidic Song Festival, so a man who hasn’t had any Jewish exposure since he was a child in the 1940’s wouldn’t know it.

Later on, some of the plane people get screeched in, becoming honorary Newfoundlanders. This involves drinking Screech rum and kissing a cod. They all balk at the latter, but as someone who has experienced this ceremony itself, the rum is far worse than the cod.

Anyway, those are minor nits and did nothing to take away from how much I enjoyed this show. I would definitely be willing to see it again. Though I would bring a lot more Kleenex with me. Do go see it if you have the chance.


Camelina: On Saturday night, we went to see Carmelina as part of York Theatre’s Musicals in Mufti series. I have seen a number of productions there, although it was my second choice for the evening. My first choice was The Book of Merman but my friend had assumed I had meant The Book of Mormon and vetoed the idea since she’s seen that. I should have explained the parody version, but this was fine with me as I think York always does a great job.

Anyway, Carmelina was by Burton Lane and Alan Jay Lerner, with additional lyrics by Barry Harmon and book by Joseph Stein. It is based on the movie Buona Sera, Mrs. Campbell, though many of you are more likely to recognize the plot from Mama Mia. Carmelina, who lives in a small Italian village, made up a dead American war hero, Eddie Campbell, who she claimed was the father of her daughter, Gia. She had actually slept with three different American soldiers and has been extracting money from all three for 16 years. Old fashioned, indeed, as nowadays, they'd insist on DNA testing. All is fine until there’s a reunion of the American soldiers who served in that area. There is also a café owner, Vittorio, who has been mooning after her.

I should explain that the Mufti series involves minimal staging and actors are often still carrying their scripts. This was exactly the sort of show which the format is well suited for, since it doesn’t involve big production numbers. What it does have is a lovely score and a witty book. It flopped in 1979 (only 17 performances) because it was perceived as old fashioned, but I really loved it. The notable songs include "It’s Time for a Love Song," "Someone in April," "One More Walk Around the Garden," and "The Image of Me." It was also well-performed, with Andrea Burns as Carmelina, Anne Nathan as her maid, Rosa, and Joey Sorge as Vittorio. All in all, a delightful evening.

By the way, Burton Lane’s widow and his stepdaughter were there, sitting right next to my friend (who got moved to the front row because of her leg). And John Kander came over to talk to Mrs. Lane during intermission. I was proud of myself for refraining from swooning fan girl behavior.

Travel Show: Since the travel show was the ostensible reason for the trip, I should probably say something about it. I had gotten a deal for admission from one of the exhibitors – free ticket for one day, $5 plus service fee for the second day. On Saturday, we mostly went around the exhibit hall, collecting brochures and swag. I like to look at travel brochures for destinations I plan to travel to on my own, just to get itinerary ideas. I did also get some info on a couple of specific destinations I’m interested in. (I have booked at least three trips I found out about at either the New York or DC travel shows in the past.) We did also go over to the Ask the Experts area and talked to people about travel insurance and about Bolivia.

On Sunday, we went to a presentation on the Camino del Santiago. Then we went ot hear Pauline Frommer talk about up and coming destinations and new travel planning tools and such. And we went to a couple of other Ask the Experts tables to find out about gadgets and about what to do when things go wrong.

All in all, it was a good weekend, though tiring. I slept pretty much through from Newark to Baltimore on the train home.
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Celebrity Death Watch 2018: Peter Masterson wrote The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas. Norman Gimbel was a lyricist, best known for "The Girl From Ipanema" and "Killing Me Softly With His Song." Raven Wilkinson was the first African-American woman to dance for a major classical ballet company (the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo). Donald Moffat was a character actor who won a couple of Tony awards. Paddy Ashdown headed the British Liberal Democrats. Liza Redfield was the first woman to be the full-time conductor of a Broadway pit orchestra (for The Music Man). Wendy Beckett, better known as Sister Wendy, was a nun who became famous as an art historian and critic. Herb Ellis was an actor who co-created Dragnet. Roy Glauber was a Nobel-prize winning physicist. Sono Osato was the first American and the first person of Japanese ancestry to perform with the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo. Lawrence Roberts led the team that created the ARPANET, which made him the founding father of the internet. Nancy Roman was an astronomer who planned the development of the Hubble Space Telescope. Seydou Dadian Kouyate wrote the lyrics to the national anthem of Mali. Amos Oz was an Israeli novelist. Dame June Whitfield was an English actress, best known for appearing in Absolutely Fabulous and for playing Miss Marple on a radio series. Brian Garfield wrote Westerns and mysteries. Dean Ford wrote that one-hit-wonder "Reflections of My Life" for his group, Marmalade.

Jane Langton wrote children’s books and mystery novels. Her Homer Kelly mysteries were literate and witty, with a strong sense of place (largely New England) and charming line drawings. I particularly recommend Natural Enemy (as long as you aren’t an arachnophobe) and The Escher Twist

Larry Eisenberg was a biomedical engineer and science fiction writer. But his bigger claim to fame was in the form of letters to the New York Times, in which his news commentary was in the form of limericks.

Celebrity Death Watch – 2019: Pegi Morton Young was a singer-songwriter and the first wife of Neil Young. Larry Weinberg was a real estate developer and owner of the Portland Trail Blazers. Gene Okerlund was a wrestling announcer. Bob Einstein was an actor known for Curb Your Enthusiasm and for portraying Super Dave Osborne. Daryl Dragon was the Captain in the Captain & Tenille. Jerry Buchek played baseball for the Cardinals and the Mets. Herb Kelleher co-founded Southwest Airlines. Sylvia Chase was a news anchor and journalist. Harold Brown was the Secretary of Defense from 1977-1981 (under Jimmy Carter). Eric Haydock was the bassist for The Hollies. Moshe Arens was the Israeli Minister of Defense for a few terms, as well as being an aeronautical engineer.

Celebrity Death Watch: The lists for this year are officially published so I can reveal my selections for who I think will die in 2019. (The numbers are how many points I’ll get if that person dies.)

20. Kathleen Blanco
19. Leah Bracknell
18. Tim Conway
17. Kirk Douglas
16. Herman Wouk
15. Olivia de Haviland
14. Stirling Moss
13. Jean Erdman
12. Ernest "Fritz" Hollings
11. Al Jaffee
10. Beverly Cleary
9. Jean Kennedy Smith
8. Johnny Clegg
7. Lawrence Ferlinghetti
6. Ken Nordine
5. Jerry Herman
4. Jimmy Carter
3. Russell Baker
2. Robert Mugabe
1. John Paul Stevens

Don’t Analyze This Dream – Part 1: A man was wearing a bright blue sequined suit and standing in the doorway of a metro train. The person sitting next to me commented on the conservatism of my clothing (maroon sweater, grey skirt) and pointed to a woman wearing a red sequined dress and white fur wrap.

Don’t Analyze This Dream – Part 2: A stack of my books were on the night stand at a friend’s house. I reached for what I thought was a poetry book at the bottom of the stack,intending to read a poem or two before going to bed, but it turned out to be a copy of Barbara Tuchman’s A Distant Mirror.

Tone Rangers / Impitched: I was pretty exhausted on Friday night, but I still forced myself out of the house and went to Jammin’ Java (conveniently near my house) to see one of my favorite local a capella groups, The Tone Rangers. They had a guest group with them called Impitched, who I thought were fine musically, but whose choreography was weak. The Tone Rangers were as good as ever, with some of my favorite songs, e.g. their arrangements of "Southern Cross" (which is one of my favorite songs of all time), "Helen," and, of course, their most famous piece, "Wild Thing" (which starts out as Gregorian chant). They also continue to be very funny, in general. My favorite joke of the night was about how, with the success of The Crown on Netflix and Victoria on PBS, Amazon Prime is coming out with a confusing series about cops in New Jersey. It’ll be called The Crown Victoria. Overall, it was a great show and I felt energized within the first 10 minutes of it.

TCC Luncheon: Saturday was a Travelers’ Century Club luncheon. There was a huge turnout, which has the downside of making it harder to mingle. There was lots of great conversation. What other group of people is there where having been to 108 countries and territories puts you on the low side? And it is fun to both give and receive travel advice.

Housework: It is remarkable how long housework takes and how much energy it saps.
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2018 was fairly stressful, largely due to a work situation that appears to be resolving itself. And, of course, the state of the world didn't help.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So what about goals for 2019?


  • Finish shredding and filing household paperwork.

  • Organize my genealogy files, both physical and electronic.

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

  • Organize photos. Yes, really.

  • Read at least 52 books.

  • Enter the Style Invitational at least 4 times.

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

  • Bring lunch to work at least twice a week.

  • Eat fruit every day.

Home!

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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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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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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Celebrity Death Watch: John Rogers was the president of San Diego Comic-Con. Douglas Rain was an actor, best known as the voice of Hal in 2001: A Space Odyssey. Katherine MacGregor was an actress, best known for Little House on the Prairie. Caroline Rose Hunt was the daughter of oil tycoon H. L. Hunt and, at one time, the richest women in the United States. Roy Clark hosted Hee Haw. Alec Finn was a bouzouki player who cofounded the Celtic band, De Dannan.

Stan Lee founded Marvel Comics. He created a number of popular characters, e.g. Spider-Man and the Fantastic Four, but may be more significant for having challenged the Comics Code Authority in the 1970’s. While I recognize his importance to the industry, I’ve always been more of a DC gal myself.

William Goldman was a novelist and screenwriter, whose best known work was probably The Princess Bride. He won Oscars for the movies Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and All the President’s Men.

Barre Toelken was a folklorist. He directed the folklore program at Utah State University and authored important works both on folklore theory and on Navajo stories.


Word of the Day: Aibohphobia = fear of palindromes.


Weather Whine: It snowed on Thursday. Just about an inch and a half, but this was the first accumulating snowfall in November in northern Virginia since 1995, i.e. before I lived here. I was definitely not psychologically ready for it. Fortunately, everything was pretty much gone by Friday.


Charleston, West Virginia: I checked off a state capital volksmarch this weekend with a trip to Charleston, West Virginia. The flight from IAD to CRW was quick and arrived about a half hour early, though we then had to wait 20 minutes to get someone to the gate. My hotel allegedly had an airport shuttle, but it had stopped running by the time I arrived. And, in fact, it doesn’t run at all on the weekend, which is something you’d think would be worth mentioning on their web page. To add to the annoyances, there is exactly one taxi company in Charleston and, when I called them, they said it could be up to an hour to get someone. So I used Lyft, instead, despite my ethical qualms about ridesharing companies.

As for the volksmarch, it was a reasonably pleasant walk. The capitol building is quite grand architecturally, with an elaborate dome. I can’t comment on the interior, as it was closed on weekends. I did, however, check out the West Virginia State Museum, which had a reasonable set of exhibits on the history of the state. There’s also a walk along the Kanawha River and a nice enough historic area downtown.

While I enjoyed the walk, I’ve been having sporadic foot pain and it was much worse after doing it. (I suspect plantar fasciitis.) So I am giving myself a rest from walking for a while. And taking Tylenol for a few days.

By the way, CRW was just as annoying on the way back as it had been on the flight there. I had an early morning flight and was not successful in pre-scheduling Lyft, i.e. the schedule option was greyed out on the app. So I called the one taxi company and scheduled a pick-up. They showed up 27 minutes late – and after I called twice to check on it. The first time (when he was 12 minutes late), the person who answered claimed he would be there in 5 minutes), while the second time, she claimed she had no way of knowing where exactly he was. I got to the airport in plenty of time because I am me and plan to get there early, but there was no way he was getting a tip. Then my flight was delayed over 45 minutes due to a lack of ground crew at the airport. Sigh.

There were a few things I had intended to do yesterday (Sunday) afternoon, but I was too tired after getting up as early as I’d had to. Another victory for my bed in its battle against productivity.
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Celebrity Death Watch: Elder Roma Wilson was a gospel musician. Ntozake Shange was a poet and playwright, best known for For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide / When the Rainbow is Enuf. Bernard Bragg co-founded the National Theatre of the Deaf. Whitey Bulger was a gangster. Roy Hargrove was a jazz trumpeter. Raymond Chow was a film producer in Hong Kong, credited with discovering Bruce Lee. Donna Axum was Miss America 1964. Francis Lai wrote the score for the film A Man and a Woman. Evelyn Y. Davis was an activist shareholder and corporate gadfly, who at least once made the list of 25 Most Annoying Washingtonians. Micheal O Suilleabhain was an Irish composer and musician. Wallace Triplett was the first African-American to play in the NFL.

Willie McCovey was a baseball great, primarily playing first base for the San Francisco Giants. He holds the National League record for grand slam home runs. There’s an inlet outside of Whatever Telephone Company It is Named For Today Ball Park in San Francisco that is known as McCovey Cove.

Little Shop of Horrors: Before going away, I saw Little Shop of Horrors at The Kennedy Center. This was part of their Broadway Center Stage series, which are concert versions, i.e. minimally staged, with actors sometimes referring to scripts. The most notable part of the staging was that, instead of using puppets for Audrey II, the person playing the plant wore a suit and gloves to represent it. That worked better than I might have expected, though I still prefer the puppetry. Anyway, it remains a fun show, with an enjoyable score. The performances were also quite good, with Megan Hilty doing an excellent job as Audrey, very much akin to Ellen Greene’s intonations. Josh Radnor was also good as Seymour. Lee Wilkof, who played Mr. Mushnik, was the original Seymour off-Broadway. And Michael James Leslie embodied Audrey II (the plant). Overall, it worth the late weeknight.

NYC Weekend – Part 1: Nancy Drewinsky and the Search for the Missing Letter I had a trip to New York already planned when I realized that I could just go up earlier on Friday and see this Fringe show, written and performed by my friend, Robin Bady. Robin is an excellent storyteller and this piece has to do with how the McCarthy era affected her family. She was too young to be really aware of what was happening as her father, an engineer, was suspected of being a communist, along with several of his colleagues. The answer is complex and her attempts to find out the story were met with reluctance to talk about what happened. It was an interesting story and well-told, though still somewhat of a work in progress. I hope to see how Robin develops it further as time goes on.

NYC Weekend – Part 2: Museum Going Saturday was a dreary day – cold, with heavy rain. Fortunately, New York has plenty of museums to spend such days in. I started with the Guggenheim on the grounds that I had never been there. The architecture is as much a draw as the artwork. The main exhibit was of works by a Swedish artist named Hilma af Klint. The most interesting of her work was from a series called Paintings for the Temple, which was based on her involvement in mystical philosophies like Theosophy, leading her to a mixture of abstract symbols and characters. They reminded me of the magical symbols I used to draw on the corners of my papers in school during a flirtation with witchcraft in my early teen years.

There was also an exhibition from the Thannhauser Collection, which included Impressionist, Post-Impressionist and other art, including several pieces by Picasso. Overall, I enjoyed the museum, but it was crowded and the admission fee is on the high side.

I walked a few blocks north to the Jewish Museum, which is free on Saturdays. I started with their permanent collection, which had several interesting pieces. I was particularly taken by a portrait of an Ethiopian Jew by Kehinde Wiley and by a sculpture called Venus Pareve by Hannah Wilke. I should also note that I was impressed with how much art by women was part of the collection. I also really liked an exhibit of excerpts from television shows having to do with psychotherapy.

But the main reason I had gone to the museum was to look at a temporary exhibit of work by Marc Chagall and other artists active in Vitebsk in the period just after the Russian revolution. Having been in Vitebsk in early September, I felt almost obliged to see this. And, of course, Chagall has long been one of my favorite artists. The exhibit also included works by Kazimir Malevich and El Lissitzky and others. There was a good mix of works and I thought the exhibit (which runs through early January) was well worth seeing.

By the way, I was just leaving there to meet a friend for coffee when I heard about the Pittsburgh massacre. I will write about that and other political matters separately.

NYC Weekend – Part 3: They Might Be Giants The actual reason for the trip to NYC had been to see They Might Be Giants at Terminal 5, a cavernous night club in the extreme western part of midtown, a land populated largely by auto dealerships. I think of them mostly as a novelty act, due to songs like Particle Man and Istanbul and Why Does the Sun Shine? All of those were part of the show. But there was a lot of other material, not all of it funny, and much of it too loud for me. I liked the second set better than the first, but I am really too old to go to concerts that don’t start until 9 at night. Also, I was completely earwormed by The Guitar (The Lion Sleeps Tonight.

NYC Weekend – Part 4: Restaurant Going Friday night a bunch of us had dinner after the show at Cowgirl in the West Village. I got Frito pie, which amused Robin, who was unfamiliar with this wonderful dish of chili (vegetarian in my case, though they also have beef) with cheese and sour cream and the like served over an actual bag of Fritos. I also had a very good IPA, but I don’t remember what it was and they don’t have their drink menu on-line. If you want Tex-mex food in Manhattan, this would fill the bill, but it was on the noisy side.


Saturday night’s dinner before the concert was at Inti, a Peruvian restaurant on 10th Avenue. I got a very nice grilled chicken dish, with garlicky vegetables. Surprisingly reasonable prices for mid-town Manhattan, too. I’d eat there again.

Before leaving on Sunday, I had brunch with friends at Pete’s Tavern in the Gramercy Park area This is one of several places that claims to be the oldest restaurant in New York. The fried chicken sandwich was very tasty. Overall, everyone seemed happy with their food and drinks (I went for Irish coffee) and the conversation was lively and entertaining.

Business Trip: I got home about 9 at night, which meant rushing around to unpack and pack for a business trip to Layton, Utah. Aside from being exhausted and having a fairly intense work schedule, there’s not really anything to say about that. I was originally supposed to come back Thursday night, but the trip got extended because our team had to outbrief in the late afternoon. I spent most of Saturday in a state of suspended animation.

WBRS Reception: I did drag myself out of the house on Sunday, first to go grocery shopping and later to go to a William Barton Rogers Society reception (related to giving to MIT) at the Spy Museum. There were heavy hors oeuvres (particularly good spicy tuna cones, as well as veggie tacos served in lime halves), along with lots of intelligent conversation. The main feature was a talk by Eric Alm, co-director of the Center for Microbiome Informatics and Therapeutics. His main point was that indigenous populations tend to have a more diverse microbiome population than people in the more developed world. He also had some interesting data on how quickly one’s microbiome can change in response to travel or illness. Fortunately, he didn’t mention any changes in response to dessert.


Things Still to Write About: Voting. Condo association annual meeting. How the Virginia Department of Transportation is going to screw us over. How Jeff Bezos is going to screw us over. Possibly a locked entry re: work.
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Another Colleague Gone: I heard that Lance Newman passed away recently. I worked with him for many years, including being his manager for a few of those and having him support me from one of my program office jobs. The last time I saw him was a couple of years ago, when our former secretary organized a luncheon reunion of sorts. It was just after his picture had been in the Washington Post, in an article about the first four African American students at a school in Arlington. He was a good engineer and a nice guy, smart and easy to work with. I will miss him.


A Rant About Scheduling: I am trying to be a responsible adult and schedule a couple of routine medical things. Labs are no issue, because they don’t require scheduling, per se, but just a drop in. The problem is that the person who schedules mammograms is not the same person who schedules anything else. So I had to go through the scheduler to get to the mammogram scheduler and then go back to the regular scheduler to schedule the blood pressure check. (Mammogram slots are a rarer commodity so it made snese to schedule that first.) The fact that I couldn’t do this on-line is particularly annoying to begin with, given my feelings about telephones.

I still have to schedule an ophthalmology appointment, but that is even tougher because I need to do it in the afternoon and I have more afternoon conflicts.


Speaking of Blood Pressure: The Red Sox – and, specifically, Craig Kimbrel, seem determined to raise mine.

Roy Zimmerman: I went to Roy Zimmerman’s house concert in Derwood, Maryland on Friday night. The drive there was really irritating, with two accidents along the way. I noticed the engine temperature in my car rising as I was crawling along and was afraid it would overheat, but it dropped rapidly once I began driving at a faster speed. I probably need to get something looked at.

Anyway, I got to the house just in time for the concert. Fortunately, it was worth going to. Roy sings funny songs about politics and they went over well with the crowd. There were some I’d heard before and several I had not. If you want a sample of his material, my favorite song of the evening was Psychedelic Relic:



By the way, the drive home was only mildly annoying, as they start doing roadwork on the Beltway at 10 p.m. on Friday nights. I really prefer going out to places that are reachable by metro.


Richmond Folk Festival: My friend, Paul, invited me to come down to Richmond and go to their annual Folk Festival with him. I made life far less stressful for myself by taking the train down, instead of coping with the inevitable roadwork on I-95 on the weekend. The catch is that only a few trains serve the Main Street Station downtown, but Paul picked me up at Staples Mill, which also meant a drive along Monument Avenue (and his tour guide commentary) along the way.

The festival is in downtown Richmond, close to the James River. There were 8 stages, though we ignored the children’s area and the Virginia Traditions Stage (which had things like an apple grafting demo and an oyster shucking contest). I wanted to hear Josh Goforth (who tells stories, but focused on ballads for what we were there for) so we went over to the Lyft Stage. That meant we also caught part of Lulo Reinhardt, Django’s great-nephew. He’s an excellent jazz guitarist and I liked his performance so much I bought one of his CDs later in the day, when we found one of the sales tents. Josh’s ballads were more familiar and also worth a listen.

We walked down to Brown’s Island, where we listened to Leroy Thomas and the Zydeco Roadrunners at the Dance Pavilion. I thought they were just okay. Then we got some gelato and walked out on the bridge for Paul to take photos of how high the water was after last week’s storm.

We meandered back up to the Lyft Stage and listened to Tamburaski Sastav Ponoc (a Balkan tamburitza band), who I enjoyed. I wanted to check out the crafts marketplace, so we went back down towards the river. The crafts were, alas, not generally to my taste. Then we walked (slowly, as my knee was aching by then) up the hill to stake out some space within earshot of the Altria Stage, where Mavis Staples was performing. She was, in my opinion, one of the must-sees of the festival, though rather too many other people thought so as well.

By the time she was done, we decided we needed dinner. All the festival food areas were downhill and I didn’t want to have climb back up the hill, so we trudged up through town to Perly’s, a Jewish deli I had heard good things about. I thought it was quite good, which is surprising for Richmond. The matzoh ball soup had lots of stuff in it (chicken, carrots, celery) as well as a matzoh ball with a good texture, though there was rather more dill than I’d have preferred. The tongue sandwich I got was excellent. Paul got something called a Jewish Sailor, which had pastrami, chopped liver, beef sausage, and red cabbage. (Apparently, the Sailor sandwich is a uniquely Virginia and mostly Richmond thing, and normally has pastrami, knockwurst, and cheese, by the way. Supposedly it originated with sailors studying at the University of Richmond during World War II.) I also had potato salad (reasonably good) and Paul had French fries, which he said were light and fluffy. Bottom line is that I would eat there again.

We walked back to Paul’s car and he drove me to the Hampton Inn, where I was spending the night. It's slightly weird, as it occupies the upper floors of a building, with a Homewood Suites on the lower floors. I got a train in the morning from the Main Street Station (much more convenient and quite grand, though with only limited service). Overall, it was a good trip and I got home in time to get a few things done at home, though I always have more to catch up on.
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It’s time to do some of the catching up. Let’s start with a trip to New York in August, just before I went on my real vacation.

Lollapuzzoola 11: I’ve said before that Lollapuzzola is my favorite crossword tournament. It’s smaller than the ACPT and less pop-culture heavy than the Indie 500. Historically, the puzzles have been just a little bit wilder in their themes, although I thought that this year’s were actually pretty much on the normal side. Even without cell phones going off or people imitating cats, I still had a good time.

The travel was mildly stressful, as there was some sort of Yellow Line delay and I got to Union Station just as my train to New York was boarding. Still, the train is definitely the best way to make the DC to NYC trip and it’s not like I actually missed it. I stayed at the Renaissance on West 35th Street, which is convenient to Penn Station and proved to be quieter than most of the other New York hotels I’ve tried. (My favorite is still the Library Hotel, but it is hard to get a good rate there, so it’s splurgy. I also love the Algonquin, which is a good use of Marriott points.)

They’d moved locations this year to Riverside Church, which is across the street from Grant’s Tomb, aka one of the New York City tourist attractions I have never actually gone to. It’s up near Columbia University and it had been over 40 years since I’d been over that way. It’s changed less than one might expect, though there are more chain restaurants on Broadway than there were back in the mid-1970’s when I went to a Saturday science program for high school students at Columbia.

Puzzle 1 was by Aimee Lucido. The theme was easy to figure out, though I think someone could have solved the puzzle without really grasping it. I solved it cleanly in 12:16. That’s slower than the top solvers, but still reasonably respectable.

Puzzle 2 by Erik Agard and Yacob Yonas didn’t go quite as well for me. I didn’t completely grasp the theme. The "aha" moment struck about 5 minutes after I turned the puzzle in. That wouldn’t have made much of a difference – but there was a crossing clue I didn’t know the answer to. Had I completely understood what was going on (or, at least, read the theme clue a bit more carefully), I wouldn’t have had an error. I had a decent time (11:59) and, frankly, I doubt that taking another minute or two would actually have helped. So much for the goal of solving cleanly.

Puzzle 3 by Patti Varol went better. I enjoyed the theme (which I understood) and solved it cleanly in 13:05. I think the lunch break followed that, during which I went with several people over to Sweet Green, a salad chain that has good food but annoys me on the grounds that they don’t take cash. My willingness to go with the group is based on my usual prioritization of sociability over at least some of my persnicketiness.

I didn’t think that Jeff Chen’s Puzzle 4 was particularly interesting, though I solved it cleanly. It took me 23:39, which was also reasonable.

Puzzle 5, by Paolo Pasco, had the sort of theme that I always enjoy (and which I figured out reasonably easily). I solved it cleanly in 23:59, which, while respectable, was a tad slower than I should have been.

I ended up finishing 112th out of 253. That’s the 55.7th percentile. (If someone happened to see what I said on facebook, I only just now realized how to look only at the individual competitors and not include the pair solvers.)

To keep up the history, that isn’t quite my best showing at Lollapuzzoola, but it’s decent. I would, however, have preferred to have solved cleanly, instead of having that error in puzzle 2.

2012 – 42.6
2013 – 44.6
2014 – 57.6
2015 – 51.0
2016 – 59.1
2017 – 53.7
2018 – 55.7

I had the traditional pizza for dinner. And then I took the subway back downtown for my equally traditional theatre-going.


SpongeBob SquarePants: I had chosen to see SpongeBob SquarePants: The Broadway Musical on the grounds that: 1) it had gotten pretty good reviews and 2) it was closing in September. The plot involves the town of Bikini Bottom in a crisis, involving a volcano that is about to erupt. SpongeBob enlists the aid of a squirrel scientist named Sandy Cheeks and his best friend, Patrick (a sea star) to save the day.

The story is fairly idiotic, but I do like that things are saved via science – and by a female scientist at that. The score consisted of a series of singles by a number of pop artists and was fairly forgettable. As for the performances, Ethan Slater was good in the title role, but I thought that Gavin Lee as Squidward really stole the show. Overall, this is really geared towards families with young children and would probably appeal more to people who love, say, The Lion King, which I also described as a show where I walked out humming the costumes.

I took a relatively early train home. I still had time to walk up West 35th Street and photograph the plaque which marks Nero Wolfe’s home, though there is no longer a brownstone there.


nerowolfeplaque
fauxklore: (Default)
I got back from vacation yesterday. Quick summary is:

Part of a day in Zurich - museum going.

On to Latvia. A fair amount to see in Riga including Jewish sites and a lot of Art Nouveau architecture. A couple of excursions, with the highlight being Kuldiga. On to Daugavpils (aka Dvinsk), which has family connections.


Next, to Lithuania. Zarasai, Dusetos, Panevezys, Kedainiai, Josvainiai. A couple of days in Kaunas, including time at the archives and some interesting genealogy research. Vilnius, via Trakai. Center of Europe.


Flight to Minsk. A few days in Belarus, including excursion to Polatsk and Vitebsk. Less success with family research, but did commune with Marc Chagall.

Long flight home. Much to catch up on. Including here.

Loserfest

Aug. 13th, 2018 01:57 pm
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On Saturday, I drove up to Frederick, Maryland to go to Loserfest, a gathering of devotees of the Washington Post’s Style Invitational humor contest. Kyle organized a number of activities and people were free to choose which ones they wanted to attend.

I started with the tour of the National Museum of Civil War Medicine. Actually, I got to Frederick in time to grab a cup of coffee (from Beans and Bagels across the street) first. As for the tour, we got a 45 minute version of what would normally be a two-hour tour, which mostly meant that we didn’t have time to read many of the signs. Our guide, Bob, was informative and entertaining. We did get tags that would let us go back to see the rest of the museum, but I don’t think many of us managed to do that.

Next up was lunch at JoJo’s Restaurant and Tap House. I had a very nice seared tuna salad, with assorted greens (including spinach), goat cheese, raspberries, blackberries, and candied walnuts, along with a poppy seed vinaigrette. I think everybody was happy with what they got – and with the wide-ranging conversation.

After lunch, I browsed a couple of stores (including a comic book and game store, but I can’t really buy games until I inventory what I have) before walking over to see the annual National Clustered Spires High Wheel Race. The competitors ride a variety of pennyfarthings, both antique and modern. There were competitors who came from all over – including other countries, such as Sweden. The racer with the most interesting story was Bill Soloway, who had a specially decorated bike and a jersey supporting organ donation, as he was the recipient of a heart transplant. We watched the first qualifying heat, then made our way a few blocks south to Clue IQ for our next activity, an escape room.

The room we did was called Conspiracy and had a number of puzzles involving things like the Masons, faked moon landings, aliens, JFK’s assassination, and so on. The production values were high and the puzzles were interesting and challenging. We didn’t manage to escape within the allotted hour, but we had good teamwork and we had fun. We found out afterwards that it was their hardest room, which might not have been a good choice in that only two of us had ever done an escape room before. But it also allowed the largest number of people to participate.

We walked over to the Delaplaine Arts Center for a quick look at an exhibit called Tacky Treasures, which was moderately amusing but not really my thing. Kyle also had us look out a window at a mural of an angel on the Community Bridge over Carroll Creek. When we went out and looked at the angel straight on, it was decidedly distorted. That’s a good example of anamorphosis.

I stopped to check email and facebook briefly, then strolled up Market Street, stopping in a bookstore because I can’t not stop in bookstores. We met up for dinner at the White Rabbit Gastropub, which had an impressive beer menu (and the nice touch of offering their draft beers in 5 ounce servings for those of us who are not big drinkers). I got their steak and fries churrasco, which was tasty, although the fries were a bit saltier than I’d have preferred. I also split a chocolate taco (chocolate waffle shell with vanilla ice cream and chocolate sauce) with another attendee. I should also mentioned that the décor included a stuffed elk head, which we named Lawrence Elk.

After dinner we went over to Serendipity Market where Kyle had arranged for us to use their loft to play games. We stuck to the adult version of Code Names. I did remarkably well when it was my turn to be spymaster. But the best play of the evening was when Anne clued "dick" and "kitty" with "Whittington." Overall, it was a fun day

I had opted to stay overnight in Frederick, so I drove over to the Hilton Garden Inn. It was decently quiet and the bed was comfortable, but I still felt that I slept poorly. In the morning, I got breakfast at the nearby Silver Diner and drove home with no issues. I stopped at the supermarket once I got off the Beltway. I’d heard that there was going to be an attempt to fill up the parking lot at the Vienna Metro to keep the "Unite the Right" neo-Nazis from being able to find parking, but there appeared to be lots of spaces available at 10:40 or so. There was also a very visible police presence. News reports (including a couple from friends who were out counterprotesting) indicate that the white nationalists were far outnumbered by the civilized human beings opposing them.

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