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15 December 2017 @ 03:36 pm
I have Graze snoozed for a few weeks for vacation (and a little beyond because their vacation algorithm is weird). So this is the last of these entries for the year.

Lemon Drizzle Flapjack: This is a rolled oat flapjack (i.e. soft granola bar) with a lemon yogurt drizzle on top. It has 240 calories. This is one of my very favorite Graze snacks – deliciously citrusy with a satisfyingly chewy texture.

Thai Sweet Chilli Dippers: This consists of a sweet chili sauce with soy-rice crackers to dip into it. It has 83 calories. The sauce was reformulated a while ago and is both spicier and less sweet than it used to be. That’s a good thing in my opinion. But the sauce is also gloppy in texture, so a bit messier to eat than some.

Raspberry & Coconut Muffin: This is a mixture of raspberry-infused cranberries, coconut, amaretti drops, and almonds. It has 140 calories. The mixture is pretty tasty, though a bit heavier on the coconut than I’d prefer. Overall, a reasonably good sweet snack.

Chocolate Pretzel Dipper: This consists of a chocolate hazelnut dip, with pretzel sticks to dip into it. It has 140 calories. I get this a lot and continue to like it. If you like Nutella, you would probably like this.

Mocha Walnut Cake (new): This is a mixture of walnuts, raisins, and milk chocolate coated coffee beans. It has 190 calories. Chocolate-covered coffee beans are a wonderful thing, but there aren’t really quite enough of them, compared to the walnuts and raisins. This is still quite good, but if the ratio of components were better, it could be sublime.

Sweet Memphis Barbecue:This consists of salsa-flavored peanuts, wild rice sticks, and BBQ-flavored peas. It has 190 calories and 7 grams of protein. It’s a nice, slightly spicy savory snack, with lots of crunch. Overall, a good combination of flavor and texture.

Smokin’ Protein Kick: This is a mixture of chili lemon broad beans, hickory smoked almonds, and roasted pumpkin seeds. It has 170 calories and 8 grams of protein. It’s not bad, but the broad beans actually have too much lemon flavor and the pumpkin seeds are not very interesting. Overall, there are other savory snacks I prefer.

Garden of England: This is a mixture of dried apple slices, dried miniature strawberries, and black currants. It has 80 calories. I think this is my favorite Graze fruit snack, because the strawberries are so very good and the currants provide a nice touch of tartness to balance things out. It had been a while since I’d gotten this, so I was glad to see it back.

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11 December 2017 @ 05:03 pm
Celebrity Death Watch: Norman Baker was a navigator on three of Thor Heyerdahl’s expeditions. Neil Gillman was a major philosopher of Conservative Judaism. Rance Howard was an actor, though is probably better known as the father of Ron Howard. Lowell Hawthorne was the founder of Golden Crust, a Jamaican restaurant and frozen food chain. Ali Abdullah Selah united Yemen. Shashi Kapoor was a Bollywood actor. Christine Keeler was the model at the heart of the Profumo affair, a famous British government sex scandal. Johnny Hallyday was a French rock star. King Michael was the king of Romania and staffed a coup against the fascists in 1944. Conrad Brooks acted in a number of atrocious movies, primarily those made by Ed Wood. Tracy Stallard played baseball for the Mets and for the Red Sox. He is most famous for giving up the 61st home run hit by Roger Maris in 1961 Simeon Booker was a significant African-American reporter.

Jim Nabors was an actor and singer, best known for playing Gomer Pyle on The Andy Griffith Show.

John Anderson ran for President in 1980. He generated a lot of enthusiasm among people like myself, who are socially liberal and economically conservative. Frankly, I haven’t been anywhere near as enthusiastic about any candidate since.

Joan Hess was a mystery writer. Both the Claire Malloy series and the Maggody series are popular humorous cozies, which I highly recommend. She also wrote a series of botanically themed mysteries under the name Joan Hadley.

JGSGW: There was a Jewish Genealogy Society of Greater Washington meeting the first Sunday of December. The speaker was from the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum and mostly served to convince me that I need to go down to the museum and spend some time with the databases they have which are not on the internet. And it apparently takes some particular expertise to deal with the records they have from the International Tracing Service. It’s handy to live nearby, but it isn’t as if I have any actual free time.

Radio Show: Speaking of lack of free time, I had to leave the JGSGW meeting a little early to go home to tape a story for a radio show. The Story Hour with Wendy Mann will air on Wednesday December 20th and repeat on the 29th at 10:30 a.m. on WERA 96.7 FM in Arlington. It’s also on mixcloud.com. The show is a full hour of holiday stories. My Chanukah in Chelm story is just a small piece of it, but I am sure the rest of the stories are well worth listening to, also.

Ah-choo: Then there was work to cope with. Except I got a cold, so was out for a couple of days. Sigh. Because it isn’t like I wasn’t busy enough and stressed enough to start with.

Holiday Party: The annual condo complex holiday party was last night. The food was good and the conversation was lively, though rather a bit much on the adult side, e.g. a lively discussion of water heaters and dryer hoses. I also discovered that a colleague lives in the complex. (She is newish to our office, though has been with the company for a while, at a different facility.) Also, for those who have followed these parties in the past, no man in kilt, alas.

Brief Political Rant – Jerusalem: The kerfuffle over Trump saying the U.S. recognizes Jerusalem as the capital of Israel is really much ado about nothing. It is not, despite what a few people have posted on facebook, him telling another country what their capital is. Jerusalem has been the capital of Israel since independence and the government offices are there. There have been repeated bipartisan resolutions in the U.S. Congress to relocate the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem. In practical terms, it makes sense to have embassies near the seat of government of the country they’re in. And, realistically, the embassy would end up being in West Jerusalem, which is not really in dispute. (There is little to no Palestinian interest in West Jerusalem, just as there is little Israeli interest in most of East Jerusalem. The disputed part of Jerusalem is a small area, pretty much confined to the Temple Mount.)

Brief Political Rant – Sexual Misconduct: There are degrees of misconduct and I am concerned that the current rush to be rid of anybody who has done anything questionable misses that. No, I don’t want to have to deal with off-color comments or unwanted pats on any part of my anatomy, but those are not equivalent to raping a child.

More broadly, how should we deal with bad behavior of people who have accomplished good things? An example which comes to mind is a current debate within the Jewish community regarding the music of Shlomo Carlebach. For those unfamiliar with the name, he was a rabbi who wrote a lot of songs that are widely used liturgically in Jewish Renewal (and some modern Orthodox and some Conservative) circles. He was also apparently abusive towards some women. So, should his music continue to be used in services, knowing that his can feel hurtful to women he molested? It’s not a simple question. I tend to believe that art itself can overcome any evils of the artist. If I didn’t think that, I wouldn’t gawk at Caravaggio’s paintings, for example. But there is the passage of time there, while Carlebach’s actions are much more recent history. Then, how much time has to pass? And how much remorse must a malefactor show? None of this is easy. I do know that treating it as if every case is the same and metaphorically hanging them all can’t be the right answer.

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08 December 2017 @ 02:03 pm
I am swamped at work and annoyed at the world. But I can sort of keep up on snack reviewing. And, yes, my general stress level is probably why I am obsessed with this topic.

Twist of Black Pepper: This is 130 calories worth of microwave popcorn with salt and black pepper. I get this fairly often and continue to find it satisfying. It’s just about the right amount of popcorn, pops up with few orphans, and has a nice flavor twist thanks to the black pepper.

White Chocolate with Wild Blueberry Toasts: This consists of miniature toasts with blueberries and blueberry-infused cranberries, along with a white chocolate dip. It has 130 calories. White chocolate is not, of course, actual chocolate, but this is still a nice sweet snack. They’ve done a good job on getting the proportions right, so you have just the right amount of dip for each piece of the toast.

Summer Berry Flapjack: This is a soft oat granola bar with strawberry and raspberry infused cranberries. It has 230 calories. This is delicious, albeit a bit sweeter than I would want regularly. It’s also filling enough to serve as a lunch substitute.

Booster Seeds: This is a mix of sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, and golden flaxseeds. It has 200 calories and 9 grams of protein. It’s good enough, but not very exciting. And the flaxseeds, being tiny, are a bit of a pain to eat.

Eleanor’s Apple Crumble: This is a mixture of soft apple pieces, raisins, and caramelized honey and cinnamon apples. It has 110 calories. It is best to eat all the components together, but that doesn’t stop me from noting that I particularly love the almonds. A nice mix of flavors for a sweet snack.

Fiery Teriyaki Crunch (new): This is a mixture of soy-glazed almonds, edamame beans, jalapeno chickpeas, and chili broad beans. It has 130 calories. I thought this was surprisingly good, though not exactly fiery. The almonds had a slightly sweet undertone, which was a nice contrast with the rest of the ingredients.

Super Kale & Edamame (new): This consists of kale chips baked with cashew butter and chia seeds, along with edamame beans. It has 110 calories. I was skeptical about this – and justly so. The kale chips crumbled annoyingly and, alas, the cashew butter did not harmonize with the kale flavor. I trashed this snack, so I won’t get it again.

Jelly Doughnut:This is a mixture of raspberry fruit strings, almond slivers, raspberry infused cranberries, and vanilla cookie drops. It has 130 calories. If you eat all of the components together, it does taste surprisingly like a jelly doughnut. The raspberry fruit strings are particularly awesome, but the key to this is the balance of flavors and textures, since the fruit strings alone would be way too sweet. Yum.

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01 December 2017 @ 05:01 pm
I have been crazy busy, both with work and play. So what else is new?

Reno: I took a quick trip to Reno for Thanksgiving. Flying on the holiday itself is actually a good thing to do and resulted in my having an entire exit row to myself between IAD and SFO. I stayed at the Silver Legacy which is nice enough, but downtown Reno has deteriorated since I was there last. Vegas offers better people watching and more up-to-date gambling machines. Er, no, Cats is not a "hot new game" given that it has been around at least five years. Still, the flights were cheap and it was good to get out of town for a few days. Flights were more crowded coming back, but I did still have an empty middle seat next to me on the way home, by the way.

Rasika West End: I went out to dinner with flyertalk friends on Sunday night at the West End branch of this well-regarded Indian restaurant. The palaak chat was amazing. The Goan fish curry was good, but not quite as spectacular. It was good to see people I hadn’t seen in a while, including the out-of-towner who provided the excuse. And, of course, I love conversing with the tribe of travelers.

Angelique Kidjo: Last night, I went to see Angelique Kidjo at the Kennedy Center. She is one powerful woman and her concert focused (in part) on strong women who had influenced her – Miriam Makeba, Celia Cruz, and Nina Simone. She also managed to get a whole hall full of Washingtonians up and on their feet, dancing and singing along. I’ve loved her music for years, but this was the first time I’d seen her live. If I have any say in the matter, it won’t be the last. I should also note that I am pleased by the work she is doing to support educating girls in Africa. She’s not just a great singer, but a great human being.

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22 November 2017 @ 02:28 pm
Celebrity Death Watch: Ann Wedgeworth won a Tony for her performance in Chapter Two. Malcolm Young was a guitarist who co-founded AC/DC. Lilli Hornig was a scientist on the Manhattan Project and later advocated extensively for women in science. Mel Tillis was a country singer-songwriter. Della Reese was a singer and actress, probably best known for Touched by an Angel. Dmitri Hvorotstovsky was an opera singer.

Charles Manson was a sociopathic monster.

David Cassidy was a pop singer, best known for The Partridge Family. He played a brief role in my teenage crush rotation, in between Bobby Sherman and a changing cycle of boys at school. I had a one-track mind, but a lot of trains ran on it.

Friday Night Lights: There was a dinner at Sixth and I Synagogue for people 50+ who wanted to talk about building community among those in our age group. Since I have kvetched in the past about how many of their programs are identified as being for people in their 20’s and 30’s, I thought it was worth my time to go. It looks like the upshot will be some sort of on-going series of programs. I should also note that one of the other people there was a guy I know from flyertalk. It’s always interesting when different parts of my life intersect.

Crazy For You: On Saturday, I went to see Signature Theatre’s production ofCrazy For You. Since I believe that the Gershwins are the pinnacle of American music, this would seem like a sure-fire afternoon of enjoyment. Except, the book is by Ken Ludwig, who has written a couple of farces I had the misfortune to see. The combination of TheFox on the Fairway and Moon Over Buffalo are a large part of what convinced me that farce is just not my thing. Fortunately, it turns out that Gershwin – plus a lot of tap dancing – can overcome Ken Ludwig. The show is largely based on Girl Crazy with some additional songs (and some removed) and a somewhat modified plotline. The key thing is that there is a fabulous score and excellent choreography. There is even one line of dialogue which was funny despite being in the service of a silly situation involving both drunkenness and mistaken identity.

There are too many great songs to list them all, so let’s settle for just a few:
I Got Rhythm
They Can’t Take That Away From Me
Someone To Watch Over Me
I Can’t Be Bothered Now
Embraceable You
Nice Work If You Can Get It (which is one of my all-time favorite songs.)

As for the performances, Danny Gardner and Ashley Spencer had plenty of tension, mixed with chemistry, as the leads. Then there were several Signature regulars, including Bobby Smith, Maria Rizzo, Natascia Diaz, Sherri L. Edelin, and Thomas Adrian Simpson. I also want to call out A. Ross Neal as Moose.

If you like an old-fashioned musical, you can’t really go wrong seeing this one.

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21 November 2017 @ 01:10 pm
I have at least one more political rant to write (re: taxes) and an entry on the usual things I have been doing. But, first, the latest snack reviews.

Original Fruity Flapjack: This is a rolled oat soft granola bar with apricots, dates, raisins, currants, sunflower seeds, and pumpkin seeds. It has 230 calories. It’s no secret how much I love Graze’s flapjacks. The taste of this is definitely dominated by golden syrup, but you can taste the fruits and nuts. The texture is soft yet chewy and it is satisfyingly filling. Very good.

Fantastic Forest Fruits:This is a mix of soft apple pieces, blueberries, cherry-flavored raisins, and lingonberries. It has 80 calories. I like the blueberries and lingonberries and the apple slices are okay, but unexciting. The cherry-flavored raisins don’t really do much for me. I have gotten this a few times and don’t dislike It enough to trash it. Yet. But there are definitely other Graze fruit snacks that I like better.

Snickerdoodle Dip: This is a snickerdoodle cookie dip with cinnamon pretzels to dip into it. It has 150 calories. It is one of the best sweet snacks that Graze offers, in my opinion. Delicious.

Veggie Caesar: This is a mixture of sour cream and onion half-popped corn kernels, cheddar bruschetta, and edamame beans. It has 120 calories. This is an excellent savory snack, with lots of flavor and lots of crunch. It’s the sort of thing I’d never think of on my own, which is why I like Graze.

Peach & Rhubarb Pick-Me-Up (new): This consists of dried rhubarb slices, dried pear slices, and peach fruit drops. It has 110 calories. This is a nice combination of flavors and not too sweet. The peach drops are particularly delightful.

Soy Roasted Seeds: This is a mix of roasted sunflower seeds and roasted pumpkin seeds with soy sauce. It has 200 calories. There’s nothing wrong with this, per se, but it’s pretty boring.

Dill Pickle & Pepper Crunch (new): This consists of black pepper and lemon broad beans, dill pickle almonds, and carrot chips. It has 120 calories. This sounded really weird and I was apprehensive about trying it. But it turned out to be great. The dill pickle almonds have enough pickle flavor to satisfy me, without being too salty. I marked it as "love." Unfortunately, this is a limited edition snack, so who knows if I will ever get it again?

Wholesome Honey Nuts: This is a mixture of honey drizzled cashews, pumpkin seeds, and baked salted peanuts. It has 200 calories. I like the combination of sweet and salty, along with the crunchy texture. Well balanced, especially if you eat all of the components together, and tasty.

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20 November 2017 @ 03:01 pm
This was somewhat triggered by the Law Vegas shooting, but I always like to take a bigger picture approach to what is going on. And, also, I write too slowly for timely responses to news stories. There have been several more mass shootings since, so this is, alas, still timely.

So, first of all, the 2nd Amendment is the Elephant in the Room for a lot of people. I am of the school that believes that the clause "a well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State" actually means what it says. That is, that the right to keep and bear Arms applies exactly in the context of providing the security of a free State, not for private purposes. The counterarguments are ahistorical and ignore the development of a federalized military system within the U.S. I am, frankly, not interested in debating this point, because nobody will ever change another person’s mind. (Note that I tend to be more on the Federalist vs. States’ Rights side of almost any discussion about U.S. politics.)

At any rate, there is no doubting that some level of gun control is permissible under the 2nd Amendment. Nobody is arguing that felons should have easy access to firearms, for example. I used to say that nobody would argue that the mentally ill should have easy access to firearms, but there are politicians who have proven otherwise. Nobody is arguing for individual rights to own, say, sharks with laser beams attached to their heads. The question is where to draw the lines.

I should start by pointing out that mass killings refers to incidents in which at least 4 people, not including the perpetrator, are killed in a single incident, typically in a single location. If there are multiple locations, it becomes a spree killing. And if the incidents are separated by sufficient time for a cooling-off period, we are talking about a serial killer. I am not sure the distinction between mass killings and spree killings is useful, but serial killers seem to be sufficiently separate not to include in this discussion. I am basing that on the idea that serial killers choose their targets, rather than acting indiscriminately. (Spree killers may be in-between, There seems to be less info regarding them.)

Even though mass killers are indiscriminate, there are differences in motivation. I’d say the broad categories are: 1) mental illness,2) targeting of specific people with others caught in the cross-fire, 3) hate crimes towards specific groups, and 4) terrorism. There’s an overlap between terrorism and hate crimes, but there are enough differences in what one would do to prevent those that it seems worth it to me to make a distinction. This is why it annoys me when people claim that all mass killings are terrorism. Terrorism has an actual definition. Actually, several definitions, but they are all based on the idea of trying to cause a political or social effect. None of the differences have anything to do with the race of the killer. The reason that the media and politicians characterized Las Vegas mass shooter Stephen Paddock as a "lone wolf," not a terrorist was not that he was white but that they were quoting the police deputy in charge of the case who had no evidence of a political or social motive.

It is also blatantly untrue that white people don’t get characterized as terrorism. Since 9/11, there have been 620 people convicted of terrorism-related offenses in the U.S. 100 of those were Moslems, 87 of whom were home-grown radicals, with only 13 immigrants. The rest were a mixture of white supremacists, anti-government extremists, animal liberationists, anti-abortion activists, and people protesting various foreign governments (e.g. attacks on foreign diplomats). (My primary sources for this are the Heritage Foundation and the Rand Worldwide Terrorism Database).

The reason this matters is that it affects responses. The way we deal with terrorism (not always appropriately) tends to be by cracking down on the groups perceived to be causing that terrorism. That is a case where there does appear to be some level of bias at work, at least in some states. But it does very little for random mass shootings. Note that not all mass shootings are all that random. The majority of cases seem to involve things like spill-over from domestic violence and/or workplace violence. The way to deal with those is via appropriate gun control. I think there are some common sense measures, starting with allowing research into what does and doesn’t work. We do know, for example, that when the rule in Virginia that limited gun purchases to one a month was overturned, shootings in Virginia increased.

I also see no reason for any private citizen to own systems that can fire large numbers of rounds in a short time.

But the biggest thing is to keep guns out of the hands of people who have proven they are dangerous. We have too many cases of people who are demonstrably mentally ill being able to acquire weapons, largely because of inadequacies in the background check systems. We know lots of warning signs like domestic violence and violence against animals. (The latter is one of the hallmarks of sociopaths and often starts at a young age, by the way.)

Another thing to keep in mind is that the biggest danger we face is not the random shooting. It’s the argument that results in a shooting because a gun was handy. Or the accidental shooting because a gun was handy. So far in 2017, there have been 54,630 gun violence incidents in the U.S., resulting in 13,783 deaths. (This does not include suicides, which run to 22,000 a year.) Only 321 of those involved mass shooting. For those arguing about the utility of guns for defense, there were 1801 incidents involving defensive use of guns. There are nearly as many (1781) unintentional shootings. My source on these figures is Gun Violence Archive.

Let’s be alert to the warning signs among people we know and try to get the right law enforcement and mental health responses. If you have children, don't let them play at houses where there are unsecured guns.

Above all, let's talk about this like adults.

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17 November 2017 @ 04:08 pm
Celebrity Death Watch: Nancy Friday wrote about women’s sexual fantasies, thereby persuading my generation of women we weren’t abnormal. Richard F. Gordon, Jr. was an astronaut. Roy Halladay was a great baseball pitcher, and one of a handful who won Cy Young awards in both leagues. John Hillerman was an actor, best known for his role on Magnum, P.I.. Ray Lovelock played Fyedka in the movie version of Fiddler on the Roof. Jeffrey Richelson wrote books about the Intelligence Community and about satellites. Liz Smith was a gossip columnist. Nancy Zieman hosted a public television show about sewing. Salvatore Riina was the chief of the Sicilian Mafia.

Bobby Doerr played second base for the Red Sox and is in the Hall of Fame. Hehad been the oldest living former major leaguer for much of the last year of his life. He was also alleged to have been the person who taught Yaz to be a power hitter.

JGSGW Meeting – and a Couple of Related Personal Notes: A week ago Sunday was a very interesting Jewish Genealogy Society of Greater Washington Meeting. Rabbi Gary Gans talked about his aunt, who was almost deported because she lost her citizenship by marrying an alien and voted illegally despite that. This led to an interesting discussion about family secrets and what it is and isn’t legitimate to reveal.

As far as family secrets go, I have a situation in which I know of someone who married in Europe. That person then remarried in another country after the Shoah, despite knowing their original spouse had survived. In this case, I do not have documentary proof, which is part of my rationale for not telling the details. But there is a certainly a potential lie of omission there.

The other interesting point has to do with my grandmother. She emigrated from Poland to the U.S. (New York) in 1920 and was naturalized in December 1923. She married my grandfather, who was a Polish citizen in Havana on 14 January 1930. This wouldn’t necessarily be a problem because the law changed in 1922 and marrying an alien didn’t automatically cost a woman her U.S. citizenship. But, as I understand it, if a woman married an alien and lived outside the U.S. for more than 2 years, she did lose her citizenship. And Grandma and Grandpa stayed in Havana until May 1932. There isn’t any evidence that she re-naturalized. Grandpa was naturalized in January 1939. It can’t be that Grandma was covered by that, because she was one of the witnesses on his petition for naturalization. It all sounds rather suspiciously tangled to me.

Elections: Last Tuesday was election day. All of my choices won, which made me happy. I should note that the election which got the most press was in the next county over, where Danica Roehm of Prince William County became the first openly transgender person to win an office in a state legislature. Her opponent, Bob Marshall, has referred to himself as "Virginia’s chief homophobe" and made an issue of her being transgender. But the thing I think most people missed is that she focused her campaign on actual issues, notably transportation and, specifically, the need for improvements to Route 28. The triumph of substance over bigotry makes me especially happy.

Condo Association Annual Meeting: The next night was my condo association’s annual meeting, which was relatively short and painless.

Balkan Dinner: Then came Thursday night, when I went out to dinner with a few people from Flyertalk. We went to Ambar, which is a Balkan restaurant in Clarendon. While they have a $35 all you can eat small plates deal, we decided that we were better off going a la carte. I got roasted eggplant spread, the Balkan beef patty (essentially a spicy hamburger), and Brussel sprouts. The Brussel sprouts were disappointing, largely because the yogurt and lemon sauce didn’t work for me, but the rest was quite good. I would certainly be willing to eat there again

Story Swap: I hosted this month’s Voices in the Glen story swap on Saturday night. That meant a flurry of housecleaning. Unfortunately, by the time I would have been vacuuming, my back was killing me from the rest of what I’d done. I am glad that storytellers are a forgiving lot. We had a small group, but good stories and interesting conversation.

Ah-ah-ah-choo!: I succumbed to the cold I’d been fighting off for several days and stayed home from work for two days this week. I’m not quite over it, but I am considerably more functional. Despite being sick, I did go to Storytelling on the Lake in Reston, where I told a story I call They Tried to Kill Us, They Failed, Let's Eat.. I was also really happy to hear David’s story of extreme holiday decorating again.

I have political rants to write and so on, but I also have work to get done. That's enough for now.

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08 November 2017 @ 12:20 pm
Snacks before politics.

Sesame Garlic Crunch: This consists of garlic sesame sticks, oat bran sesame sticks, and multigrain soy crackers. It has 140 calories. It’s nicely crunchy and flavorful. This is the sort of thing that makes me appreciate Graze’s portion control, because I would be all too likely to eat handfuls of it mindlessly if I had a big bag.

Sweet Korean BBQ Crunch (new): This is a mixture of Korean BBQ-flavored almonds, black pepper almonds, black beans, and soy-roasted sunflower seeds. It has 150 calories and 9 grams of protein. I thought this was interesting, but not entirely successful. The Korean BBQ flavoring seemed a bit on the sweet side to me. The black beans don’t contribute much other than crunch. I’m willing to try it again, but, overall, I’m on the fence about the flavors.

Pumpkin Spice Flapjack: This is a rolled oat flapjack (i.e. soft granola bar) with dates and pumpkin spice. It has 230 calories. This is nicely spicy (mmm, cinnamon) but a bit sweeter than I’d prefer. Not bad, but there are other flapjacks I prefer.

Creamy Ranch Kern Pops: These are half-popped corn kernels with ranch seasoning. They have 140 calories, I really like the texture of these. The flavor is also good with a nice ranch tang. A good savory snack.

Summer Berry Compote: This is a fruit dip (essentially, jam) made with raspberries, strawberries, and black currants, which comes with three pieces of whole grain shortbread for dipping. It has 130 calories. The shortbread is rather dry and tasteless, but that doesn’t matter since you could dip cardboard into the compote and I would eat it happily. I love berries and this is thoroughly delicious. The black currants add a bit of tang, moderating the sweetness of the compote. Absolutely delicious – and another good argument for the built in portion control, because I could eat a vatful of this stuff.

Cinnamon Apple Pie: This is a mixture of cinnamon dusted apple pieces, yogurt-coated raisins, and almonds. It has 160 calories. The mix of flavors and textures is appealing, but the almonds need to be in smaller pieces to make it easier to eat all the components together.

Peanut Butter & Jelly: This is a mix of baked salted peanuts, raspberry fruit strings, and vanilla fudge. It has 220 calories. It’s best to eat all of the components together, but it’s hard to resist devouring the fruit strings, which are wonderful. This is a good combination of flavors and textures – sweet without being cloying.

Smokin’ Protein Kick (new): This consists of chili lemon fava beans, almonds, hickory smoked almonds, and pumpkin seeds. It has 170 calories – and 8 grams of protein. I couldn’t quite make up my mind on this snack. The pumpkin seeds were pretty boring. I liked the hickory smoked almonds, but there weren’t very many of them. There actually didn’t seem to be a lot of the regular almonds either. The fava beans were interesting, but I’m not sure the flavoring worked well. It’s the sort of thing I’m willing to try again, because my reactions sometimes depend on my mood or the time of day or the phase of the moon or whatever.

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06 November 2017 @ 03:16 pm
I have other things to write about, but I also have a lot of work to get done. So let's keep this to one topic.

On Thursday night, I went to see Mean Girls at the National Theatre. This is a new musical with a book by Tina Fey, music by Jeff Richmond, and lyrics by Nell Benjamin. It’s already booked for Broadway. I wouldn’t normally go to see a show on the second day of previews, but it was the only night I had available for which non-premium seats were available.

I should note that I’ve never seen the movie on which the show is based. I gather that it is reasonably true to the movie, but modernized, particularly to account for the use of social media. The plot centers around a teenager, Cady Heron, who has been raised in Kenya by her biologist parents. They decide that she needs to be socialized, so they relocate to Illinois, where she trades lions for the jungles of a suburban American high school. She’s courted by the artsy kids, Janis and Damien, who explain the school’s cliques to her (and also act as a sort of Greek chorus, telling the story to a new freshman class.). Cady’s exotic background also captures the attention of the "plastics," three girls at the top of the school social hierarchy. Regina is the cruel leader, or as Cady quickly realizes, the apex predator of the group. Gretchen wants a boss and Karen is simply a dumb blonde. Cady has to choose what she’ll do to fit in. That also includes acting dumb in math to draw the attention of Aaron. Things work well for her for a while, but go horribly wrong, with jealousy and betrayal.

The main reason I had wanted to see this was the buzz over Tina Fey’s book. That buzz was justified, as I found the book genuinely funny. I thought the cruelty of teenage girls was captured accurately and I thought the behavior of most of the characters rang true. The music was not really my speed and I thought several of the songs went on for too long. Surprisingly, I thought the songs that worked the best were actually a couple of rap numbers, e.g. "Whose House Is This?" in which Cady’s attempt at throwing a party gets out of hand.

As for the performances, Erika Henningsen was very convincing as Cady. I was also impressed by Barrett Wilbert Weed as Janis, Grey Henson as Damien, and Kerry Butler as all of the adult women – three roles which were quite different from one another. But the performance which I want to particularly note was Kate Rockwell’s as Karen. She had just the right touch of innocence and confusion.

I should also note that there was a technical glitch in Act Two, which resulted in the house lights being brought up for several minutes and Tina Fey coming out to reassure people that nobody was hurt and to thank us for our patience. This is precisely why I would normally wait until later in the run to see a new show. It all worked out, but it did make for a late night.

Overall, I think the show is successful and I predict it will be a hit on Broadway. Buy your ticket early.

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