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22 February 2017 @ 02:10 pm
Celebrity Death Watch: Stuart McLean was a Canadian broadcaster, whose The Vinyl Café also aired on NPR. Richard Schickel was a film critic. Omar Abdel-Rahman, also known as "The Blind Sheikh," was convicted of seditious conspiracy in relation to the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. Nancy Willard wrote children’s books. Kaci Kullman Five was chair of the Norwegian Nobel Committee. Kenneth Arrow was a Nobel laureate in economics. Larry Coryell was a jazz guitarist.

Norma McCorvey was the Jane Roe of Roe v. Wade. She later became active in the anti-choice movement. Note that she never actually had an abortion, as the Supreme Court case took three years.

Leah Adler was Stephen Speilberg’s mother and also owned and ran The Milky Way, a kosher dairy restaurant in Los Angeles. I can’t count how often I’ve eaten there, especially since I used to live more or less across the street from it. I particularly liked their lasagna. Mrs. Adler was a charming hostess, and part of the appeal of the place.

Mildred Dresselhaus was an MIT professor, and one of the most prominent women in science. She did vital work in thermoelectrics and materials, especially nanotechnology. But, more importantly, she inspired almost every woman of my generation at MIT.

Presidential Dining Note: It doesn’t appear that Donald Trump eats out here, except, possibly, at Trump-owned properties. I realized this when I got lunch at Good Stuff Eatery and they still have the Prez Obama burger and the Michelle Melt on the menu. Admittedly, it’s only been a month, but I don’t expect to see him at local restaurants or cultural events very much.

Not Everything Evil is His Fault: I’ve made no secret of my feelings about Trump’s incompetence and bad ideas. But not every bad thing that happens here is his fault. Two specific items are not. First, it is perfectly normal for political appointees to submit their resignations to be effective on inauguration day and, despite what some people have commented in various places, only a small percentage (5% or so) get asked to stay on. That doesn’t, of course, excuse Trump’s slowness in naming appointees. Out of 549 appointments requiring Senate confirmation, 14 have been confirmed and another 20 are awaiting confirmation. This is well behind the pace of past administrations. But that may be a good thing in this case. It means that career civil servants are acting in a number of positions and, in general, people who are career vice political are more likely to push back against bad ideas. Politicals know they only have so many silver bullets, so conserve them and sometimes don’t act when they probably should. On the other hand, politicals are usually easier to deal with for precisely this reason.

The other thing that is not Trump’s fault is Customs and Border Patrol asking people to unlock smartphones and, in general, seizing electronics. This is a bad thing, yes, but the exception to the need for a search warrant when it comes to electronics at borders has been policy for a number of years. There are a couple of court cases which affirmed the CBP right to do so, both of them involving child pornography. My advice is not to travel with electronics with important data. (My company will lend international travelers clean laptops. Not sure what they do about smartphones.) In my opinion, the only thing that would really help here is for a case to get to the Supreme Court. Of course, there is no guarantee of privacy rights prevailing there.

Commonwealth Politics: In general, Virginia has Democratic politicians who align well with my views. But it has occurred to me that I can’t think of any women who are up and coming right now. Of our 11 Congressional districts, the only female congresscritter is Barbara Comstock, a Republican. So what other women could run for Congress? Maybe Delegate Charniele Herring, who seems to have an interesting personal history, including growing up in a military family and spending some time in a homeless shelter? Or the much more privileged Sharon Bulova, who chairs the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, except that she would be in the 11th district and Gerry Connolly doesn’t seem likely to step aside? I’ll admit I don’t know a lot of the politicians from outside Northern Virginia. Is there anyone in the Hampton Roads area or Richmond?

Intentional Walks: The Washington Post reported today that MLB is going to do away with intentional walks, replacing them with a signal from the dugout. This is wrong, wrong, wrong. While it may be rare that they had unintended consequences, such as an overthrow allowing base runners to progress or a pitch too close to the strike zone allowing a hit, that could always happen. And the psychology gets changed when the target has to stand there and reflect on how afraid of him the other team is.

For something this evil, I do indeed blame Trump. (Along with, of course, Robert Mugabe and the New York Yankees.)
21 February 2017 @ 03:54 pm
I've had a fairly sociable week or so.

Wednesday night, I went to the California State Society Ahhhscar Night party, as a guest of a friend. He told me he'd be wearing his tuxedo and advised me not to show any restraint, so I wore my most classic black cocktail dress, my feathered hat, and my grandmother's amethyst necklace and earrings. It worked well. Rather amusingly, several people on the metro commented on my hat and there were lots of people at the party itself who complemented me on my outfit. I never really got a handle on the crowd. Not that it was cliquish, per se, but the music was loud and I was mostly waiting for people to approach us. I think the highlight of the evening (aside from spending time with the guy who invited me) was the conga line we got caught up in.

I decided not to go to another party on Saturday night because I had good intentions regarding housework. I did make a little progress but it is emptying the ocean with thimblefuls. There is a reason I refer to my den as the Black Hole of Vienna. On the plus side, I actually finished reading the Sunday newspaper on Sunday for a change, having read most of it on Saturday.

Sunday was a Style Invitational Losers' brunch. I hadn't been over in Rosslyn in ages (well, except inside the metro station, which doesn't count) and was surprised at how much has changed. The building I used to work in has a Target now. (I'm not sure what is on the upper floors. I had an office on the 5th floor and shared a bullpen type space on the 13th floor.) The brunch featured good conversation, including reminiscing about voting machines and old TV shows.

I'd thought I would go to knitting group afterwards, but the brunch ended up late enough that I decided it wasn't worth it. A friend who is getting divorced is storing some things at my place, so she came over with a couple of more boxes. We had a nice chat and ordered in Chinese food for supper.

Monday was a holiday. I did make somewhat more progress on the mountain of papers to deal with. But I also went into the city in the evening for a special tour of Studio Theatre, which was an MIT Club of DC Partners and Patrons event. They showed us all 4 theatres and lots of behind the scenes area (e.g. the set shop, the paint shop, the costume shop). The highlight for me was the set for their upcoming production of The Three Sisters, which has actual birch trees. It sounds like an interesting production, running in parallel with No Sisters in the theatre above, with the same cast using a backstage staircase to move between the two plays. But I'm not really big on Chekhov and my schedule is fairly overcommitted (so what else is new?) so I doubt I will go to the two plays.

In discussing theatre with some of the staff, I realized that as much as D.C. is a great theatre town, we are lacking one thing. There is no company here that specializes in older, obscure musicals, akin to what York Theatre does so well in New York or 42nd Street Moon does in San Francisco.
16 February 2017 @ 04:39 pm
I have political things to write about and fun things to write about, all of which will require time and thought. So here is the latest set of Graze snack reviews.

This box was almost all repeats, so my comments will be particularly brief.

Peachy Orchard: This mix of dried pear slices, rhubarb slices, and peach fruit drops has 110 calories. Overall, this is a good fruity snack. As I’ve said before, the peach drops are particularly nice.

Sweet Memphis Barbecue: This mix of salsa -flavored peanuts, wild rice sticks, and barbecue-flavored peas has 190 calories. This is an excellent savory snack, high in protein and not too salty. I appreciate the built-in portion control for this sort of thing.

Chia Coconut Cookie: You actually get two cookies and a bag of black tea for 120 calories. The cookies are tasty and just sweet enough. I’m not a fan of dunking because I don’t like getting crumbs in my tea, but I think these would actually hold up to it. It’s just the sort of thing I like for a mid-afternoon break.

New York Everything Bagel: The reformulated version of this added cheese-flavored cashes and roasted pumpkin seeds to the poppy seed, onion, and sesame sticks. That also added protein (up to 7 grams) and calories (now 200). I like this, but I liked the original format, which was just the sticks, better. Admittedly, this is probably better for me. And it is still very tasty.

Roasted Chili Honey Peanuts and Almonds: This is 210 calories worth of roasted almonds and peanuts with a chili and honey glaze. You could put a chili and honey glaze on nearly anything and I’d love it. This is one of my very favorite Graze offerings and another good argument for their portion control. Yum.

Garden of England: This combination of dried fruits (apple slices, mini strawberries, and black currants) has 80 calories. It is my favorite of Graze’s pure fruit offerings. I will note, however, that this time there seemed to be a shortage of the strawberries relative to the black currants. But it could just be that I was in a bad mood due to searching for acceptable flights for an upcoming trip.

Chinese Shiitake: This soup consists of mushroom broth with dried shiitake mushrooms, corn, and rice noodles. It has 90 calories. It is pretty tasty, though a little on the salty side (as are most soups.) The rice noodles tend to stick together a bit, so it’s hard to get a spoonful that mixes all of the ingredients. But, overall, I like this as a light lunch or a supplement to other lunch foods.

Original Fruity Flapjack (news): This showed up now that I am allowing snacks with raisins. It’s a typical Graze flapjack, i.e. soft oat granola bar, with dried fruits (raisins, apricots, dates, and currants) and sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds. It has 230 calories. I thought the most dominant flavor was golden syrup, but there is definitely plenty of fruit and nut flavor, too. I’d have liked more apricot flavor, but that’s a minor quibble. Overall, this is a nice, hearty, and filling snack.
13 February 2017 @ 03:29 pm
Celebrity Death Watch: Richard Hatch was an actor in Battlestar Galactica among other things. Sir Peter Mansfield won the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 2003. Mile Ilitch owned much of Detroit or at least its sports teams (the Red Wings and the Tigers) and a mediocre pizza company. Damian was a British pop singer. Al Jarreau was a seven-time Grammy winner for his jazz and R&B music. Raymond Smullyan was a mathematician and wrote books about logic puzzles, e.g. What is the Name of This Book? and This Book Needs No Title.

Non-celebrity Death Watch: Howard Margol was a major force in Lithuanian-Jewish genealogy and responsible for a lot of the resources I use regularly. He was helpful in answering questions and teaching others how to do their research. May his memory be for a blessing.

Storytelling – The Grapevine: I made it to darkest Maryland (actually, come to think of it, Busboys and Poets might be on the DC side of Takoma / Takoma Park) Wednesday night to see Jeff Doyle and Anne Thomas tell. I also told "The Three Sisters" in the open mike. Jeff told two stories involving encounters with bears. Anne did a few personal stories about disability. Overall, an interesting night.

Storytelling – Short Story Slam: Thursday night had me back in darkest Maryland – Bethesda, to be precise – for the story slam that Michael puts on monthly. I have mixed feelings about this sort of thing, since a part of me objects to competitive storytelling. But there was plenty of good material on the theme of matrimony. Michael led off with a particularly funny piece about getting married in Communist China, including what he referred to as "emergency sex education." I told an abbreviated version of "Border Crossings." I actually tied for the third highest number of votes, but since the top two vote-getters went over the time limit, it came down to the tie breaker, and I had the shortest story so won first prize, which was exciting. Overall, it was fun and worth the exhaustion the next day.

JGSGW: I spent most of the weekend between suspended animation (i.e. catching up on sleep) and trying, not very successfully, to get some housework done. But I did make it to the JGSGW meeting on Sunday, which had a presentation on debunking myths about Jewish genealogy. I can’t say I learned much, but it was entertaining. And the time for networking was potentially useful.

Weather Whine: I would rather it were consistently cold than this annoying up and down we’ve been having. It got up to 70ish on Wednesday and then dropped to the 20’s on Friday but was back in the 60’s all weekend. This morning it was 30-something (but 25 with the wind chill factor) when I left for work. Just make up your bloody mind for a few days in a row, please.

Metro: Both storytelling events last week involved the Red Line, which meant changing to the Orange Line for the rest of the way home. That’s fine, but they were single-tracking around McPherson Square at night and things aren’t synchronized, so I had 15+ minute waits at Metro Center both nights.

Friday had a different annoyance as they turned the Orange Line train I was on into a Silver Line train. I was napping, so missed the announcement. Fortunately, I woke up at McLean, so only had to go back one station to switch, but they shouldn’t do this. Especially as they already run twice as many Silver Line trains as Orange, despite ridership on the Orange Line being several times higher.

Today started a new SafeTrack surge, which means no Blue Line service for 18 days. I had an early meeting at the Pentagon, so took a bus which was way more crowded than I’d ever seen it before. That worked, but was still annoying. In short, expect me to be grumpy for the next several weeks. It’s still better than driving.
09 February 2017 @ 02:58 pm
1) I think I need to needlepoint "Nevertheless, she persisted" on a pillow.

2) For some reason, I wanted an alliterative description of the President. I came up with "vulgar, venal, and vile." I am not really sure what I am going to use that for, but it satisfies me to have thought of it.

3) I have worked in this complex of buildings for over a year. And I've been around here for years longer than that, going to meetings at various facilities. It was only on Monday that I discovered that there is a convenience store in the next building (connected to mine by an indoor walkway.)

4) My boss just sent our group an article about hagfish slime. I am not the only person around who is easily amused.
07 February 2017 @ 12:53 pm
I have thoughtful brilliance to write, but this ain't it. However, I have done a few things lately...

Celebrity Death Watch: William Peter Blatty wrote The Exorcist. Alan Jabbour was a fiddler and founded the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress. Dick Gautier is best known for having played Hymie the Robot on Get Smart, but I want to note he was also Conrad Birdie in Bye Bye Birdie on Broadway (and, in fact, won a Tony for that role.) Anthony Armstrong-Jones was better known as Lord Snowden, a photographer and the one-time husband of Princess Margaret. He was, by all accounts, better as a photographer than as a husband. Vicki Lansky wrote the cookbook, Feed Me I’m Yours. Brenda C. Barnes was the CEO of Sara Lee for several years. Loalwa Braz was a Brazilian singer-songwriter. Maggie Roche was a folk-rock singer, who performed primarily with her sisters. Yordano Ventura and Andy Marte were both baseball players from the Dominican Republic, who died in car accidents on the same day. Eugene Cernan was an astronaut and, notably, the last man to walk on the moon. Mike Connors was an actor, best known for playing Mannix. Bob Holiday was an actor and played Superman more than any other actor, including starring in the musical, It’s a Bird, It’s a Plane, It’s Superman. John Hurt was an actor, most famous for starring in The Elephant Man. Mary Tyler Moore was an actress, most famous for her television roles (especially as Mary Richards on The Mary Tyler Moore Show) but also on Broadway and in film. In Minneapolis, there is a statue of her tossing her hat in the air. Harold Rosen led the team that built the first geosynchronous communications satellite. Etienne Tshisekedi was the head of the opposition party in the Democratic Republic of the Congo for many years, including a couple of brief stints as Prime Minister. David Axelrod was a jazz / fusion musician, composer, and producer.

Professor Irwin Corey was an interesting comedian, parodizing a certain sort of intellectual and billing himself as "the world’s foremost authority." More importantly, he was on my ghoul pool list, so his death earned me 15 points in the game.

Non-celebrity Death Watch: John Shipman, known to many as Groot, passed away on January 31st after a short battle with an aggressive cancer. He was a kind and generous man, a lover of good music and good food, and proud of his influence on students at New Mexico Tech. I don’t get to Albuquerque often, but will miss having dinner and conversation with him when I do.

Storytelling: I told Border Crossings, a story about travel and weddings and the like last Saturday night as part of the Better Said Than Done show at The Auld Shebeen. It went well. You can watch the video and see for yourself.

A Visit to Lebanon: The most recent embassy event I went to (via my alumni association) was last Monday night at the residence of the Ambassador of Lebanon. The food was tasty, with a wide mix of dishes, including particularly notable fattoush. There were also good Lebanese wines. The talks were by the charge d’affaires and by the president of the MIT Alumni Association and were quite positive about the future of Lebanon. Good food, an interesting setting, and intelligent conversation always makes a nice evening out.

Business Trip: I went out to California last week for a meeting in San Diego. I took advantage of the trip to spend part of a day at the corporate mothership in Los Angeles, which was fairly productive, as were the discussions I actually took the trip for. The travel was rather annoying since it got set up a bit last minute, meaning I ended up with window seats, instead of my preferred aisles. (On short flights, I like windows, but not disturbing people in order to get up is a higher priority.) The flight to LAX was particularly cramped. And the wifi wasn’t working, so there was no entertainment. The drive to San Diego was not as bad as it might be, but there were some rough spots, especially since I left later than I’d planned to. Mostly, I got held up by an accident around San Clemente and then things just crawled through La Jolla getting to my hotel. The main result was that I concluded that the same person who designs United’s economy class seats designed the seat in the Kia Forte I had. That is, poor padding and no lumbar support. I flew back from SAN, with a connection at LAX. Actually, I didn’t fly back – I flew to EWR, since I had pre-existing plans in New York. About which more in a minute.

I was also able to get together on Thursday night with an old friend for dinner and a nice, far-reaching conversation.

Jewish Soul Food: Since I got to New York after midnight, I slept in on Saturday morning. That meant skipping breakfast and having an early lunch. The matzoh ball soup at the Second Avenue Deli is fairly good, though since when does chicken soup have dill in it? The half a tongue sandwich I also had was sheer perfection. Add in a full sour pickle and this addict got her fix for the next several months.

Milk and Honey: The purpose of the trip was seeing York Theatre’s mufti (i.e. semi-staged, street clothes) production of Jerry Herman’s first musical, Milk and Honey. I was familiar with only a couple of the songs from this show and concluded the score really needs to be known much better. It’s lively, very clearly Jewish music (since the object was to make a sort of Israeli equivalent to Oklahoma), and simply a delight. The performances were wonderful too, especially Alix Korey as Sylvia Weiss, the role originated by Molly Picon. I also really liked how they handled the parts of the staging that involved animals. The show is probably unrevivable for a number of reasons, but I still enjoyed it immensely. I’ve seen several shows at York and I continue to be impressed.

Not That Jewish: This is Monica Piper’s one-woman show at New World Stages. It is billed as comedy, but it’s really storytelling. I was expecting something of a comic rant about Judaism, but this was a more serious and deeper exploration of what being Jewish means if someone is not particularly religious. There are dark areas – failed relationships, parents dying, single parenthood, breast cancer. But there is a lot of humor along the way. And the piece got pulled together well at the end. Overall, I’m glad I saw it.

Trains: Amtrak was surprisingly efficient going home. The Washington Metro, not so much, as they had scheduled track work that shut down the Orange Line from Eastern Market to Foggy Bottom. Normally, I’d get off Amtrak at New Carrolton and just ride the entire length of the Orange Line, which is slow, but means I don’t have to shlep luggage. This time, I took the Red Line from Union Station to Gallery Place, Yellow Line from Gallery Place to Pentagon, Blue Line from Pentagon to Rosslyn, and then the Orange Line home. I’m exhausted just typing that. And the next Safe Track surge approacheth, sigh.
30 January 2017 @ 02:02 pm
I have lots of other things to write about, but it takes more energy than I have right now to write rationally about politics (which is much, though not all, of it). So you get the latest in snack reviews.

Twist of Black Pepper Popping Corn (repeat): Popcorn flavored with black pepper? At 130 calories a bag, this is a tasty and healthy snack. I especially like that it isn’t just plain popcorn which, face it, I can get cheaper at my local supermarket.

Vitamin C Crush (new): This consists of dried mango, dried pineapple pieces, and coconut flakes. It has 110 calories. The coconut flakes definitely dominate the combination. Overall, I think this is okay, but it could be better balanced. And, while Graze usually does very well with dried fruit, their dried pineapple is not as good as what I can get at, say, Trader Joe’s or even Wegman's.

Lemon Drizzle Flapjack (repeat): Well, yes, this soft granola bar with lemon curd and yogurt drizzle is 250 calories. But it works fine as a meal replacement for one of those interminable lunchtime meetings other people are inclined to schedule. This is one of my very favorites.

The Cheese Board (repeat): This has cheese-flavored cashews, cheddar cheese bruschetta, and baked herb bites. It’s 120 calories. Overall, it’s a reasonably tasty savory snack, though I wish there were more of the herb bites relative to the other ingredients. But, then, I am more of an herb person than a cheese person.

Honeycomb Almond Protein Granola Topper (repeat): This has oat and barley granola, almond slivers, chocolate coated honeycomb, and soy protein crisps. It has 150 calories and 5 grams of protein. The crunchiness is nice and the chocolate coated honeycomb is delicious. I wish there was more of the chocolate coated honeycomb relative to the other ingredients, though it’s hardly a meager portion. It’s just that I like that part so much. Very good.

Thai Tom Yum (repeat): This is a spicy broth that comes with zucchini, red pepper, and rice noodles. It’s only 50 calories, but still makes a reasonably satisfying lunch. The lemongrass and kaffir lime leaves are definitely the dominant flavors. I find it works better if you let the dry ingredients steep a bit longer than the directions say, so they absorb the spices.

Eleanor’s Apple Crumble (new): This is a mix of soft apple pieces, caramelized honey and cinnamon almonds, and raisins. Yes, raisins. I decided to remove them from my taboo list, largely because of my positive experiences with other dried fruit I was skeptical about (e.g. rhubarb). And, frankly, they were fine. The mixture has 110 calories, which is less than one would expect, given how sweet it tastes. Overall, like many Graze dried fruit mixes, it works best if you eat all the ingredients together. Despite which, I do have to say that the honey and cinnamon almonds are the highlight of this. Overall, not bad, though I think it is actually a bit too sweet.

White Chocolate with Wild Blueberry Toasts (repeat): This is a white chocolate dip with whole grain blueberry toast slices to dip into it. It has 130 calories. It has more blueberry-infused cranberries than actual blueberries, but it does have some wild blueberries. Overall, it’s pretty tasty, though, of course, white chocolate is not actually chocolate.
25 January 2017 @ 01:45 pm
I got back from vacation on Sunday, but am still not really caught up, either at work or home.

Anyway, the whole point of the vacation was to avoid being around DC during the inauguration. This is not a political statement. It has to do with avoiding crowds. Especially crowds of people who don't know how to ride the metro correctly. (Stand on the right, damn it! And let people off before you try to get on.) Even though I don't get off for MLK Day or Inauguration Day, the guvvies do, so I also knew nothing would be happening at work.

Why Nicaragua? Well, it's a reasonable distance to go for a shortish trip. It's relatively safe. And relatively cheap. Plus, of course, I had never been there before. I spent one night in Houston on the way, followed by three nights each in Leon and Granada. I'd have liked a couple of more days, which would have allowed me to get to Isla de Ometepe, which has petroglyphs and other pre-Columbian sites, but I couldn't bend the calendar to my will. I did manage to stop for part of a day in Masaya on the way back to the Managua airport.

Highlights, in brief:

Leon has a lot of interesting churches to look at. The Cathedral is the largest in Central America, allegedly having been intended for the far larger and more prosperous city of Lima, Peru. La Merced has the most elaborate interior. El Calvario had my favorite exterior, with brightly painted scenes.

There are also museums to visit. The Museum of Revolution was interesting, but difficult due to my limited Spanish. Leon was the center of the 1970's revolution that overthrew Somoza and there was a definite Sandinista propaganda aspect to the museum. Fortunately, one does not need language skills to deal with art museums and the Ortiz-Gurdian Foundation is quite a good one, with a lot of modern Latin American painting (and some older pieces). My favorite museum, however, was the Museum of Legends and Traditions, which had extensive descriptions in English of the folkloric papier-mache figures it depicted. Lots of familiar stories, e.g. La Llorona, were included, but there was others I hadn't encountered before, such as the woman who lost a child after being raped and gets revenge on unfaithful men by asphyxiating them with her engorged tit.

There was also a nice park and coffee house culture. I need a certain annual dose of sitting in plazas watching the world go by and was able to fulfill some of that requirement.

As for Granada, it is the more popular tourist destination, but I found it less appealing. There's an excellent museum in the Convent of San Francisco and some interesting archaeological exhibits at Mi Museo. The ChocoMuseo was less interesting than it should be, largely because it was too crowded. The churches are, in general, less extravagant than those in Leon, except for María Auxiliadora, which is simply lovely. The problem I had was that the whole vibe was just too touristy. Granada is a popular place for Americans to retire to, so it just didn't feel foreign enough. I don't really see much point in going to Central America and being surrounded by, say, Irish pubs. It probably didn't help that it was very very hot and humid. Leon was, technically, hotter, but was also breezier, so it was pleasanter to walk around.

As for Masya, the two main things to see there are the volcano and the crafts market. The former is erupting and I will have to say that standing at the crater watching the extensive smoke was quite something. The museum at the visitor center is, alas, not all that good. As for the crafts market, I'm not really a big shopper and I thought a lot of what there was for sale was much of a muchness. I did buy a doll for the collection I don't have (i.e. I don't collect dolls, but everyone in my family thinks I do), but didn't find anything else that was at all tempting.

Overall, I'd say the trip satisfied its purpose. I enjoyed myself, though I don't feel any particular need to go back.
12 January 2017 @ 02:48 pm
Another box entirely of repeats. It isn’t as if there is any shortage of things I’d like to try, including some I’ve tagged as "love."

Baobab & Raspberry Clusters: This has baobab and raspberry coconut chips, dried apple pieces, and pumpkin seeds. It’s 130 calories and reasonably interesting. I like that it isn’t super sweet and it is definitely interesting, something one wouldn’t get just anywhere.

Raspberry & Coconut Muffin: This is a deconstructed mixture of rasp[berry infused cranberries, almond slivers, amaretti drops, and coconut flakes, with 140 calories. It could be a bit better balanced, as I thought there was too much coconut relative to the other ingredients. But, aside from that, it’s pretty tasty, even if it is not very muffin-like. Graze’s infused dried cranberries are really quite remarkably good.

Strawberries and Cream Protein Granola Topper: This consists of oat and barley granola, yogurt-coated strawberry pieces, soy protein crispies, and freeze dried strawberry pieces. It has 130 calories. It’s a good, crunchy topping to put on yogurt, though I still prefer fresh strawberries over anything else.

Thai Sweet Chili Dippers: This consists of sweet chili sauce, with multigrain soy rice crackers to dip in it. It’s only 80 calories. It had been a while since I’d gotten this, and I liked it more this time, though it is still a bit too sweet and not quite hot enough for my tastes.

Veggie Caesar: This has ranch-flavored half-popped corn kernels, cheddar cheese bruschetta, and roasted edamame beans. It’s 120 calories and seems surprisingly filling to me. Overall, this is a good savory snack – wholesome and creative.

Booster Seeds: This mix of sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, and golden flaxseeds has 220 calories and 9 grams of protein. There’s nothing wrong with it, but it’s not very exciting. And the flaxseeds are tiny, making them a pain in the neck to eat.

Chocolate Pretzel: This consists of pretzel sticks with a chocolate hazelnut dip and has 140 calories. It’s one of my favorite Graze snacks. Simply delicious, assuming, of course, that one likes chocolate.

Summer Berry Flapjack: This is a flapjack, i.e. a soft granola bar, with berry-infused cranberries. It has 240 calories, but it is also quite filling. Like all Graze flapjacks, it's good, but I did find this one a bit on the dry side.
10 January 2017 @ 02:09 pm
Celebrity Death Watch: Charles J. Colgan was a long-time member of the Virginia senate and founded Colgan Air. Mario Soares served as President and Prime Minister of Portugal for a couple of decades. Nat Hentoff wrote for The Village Voice and The Wall Street Journal, primarily about jazz music and politics. Ayatollah Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani served a couple of terms as the President of Iran. Clare Hollingworth was the British journalist who broke the news of the outbreak of World War II.

Sister Frances Carr was one of the last three Shakers. There are now only two members of the sect at Sabbathday Lake in Maine. I have a long-standing interest in the Shakers (and other 19th century Utopian communities), who I admire for their philosophy of "hands to work, hearts to G-d." Their combination of egalitarianism, craftsmanship, and innovation is intriguing and their music is a huge influence on American folk music in general.

Om Puri was an Indian actor, who also appeared in a number of British and American movies, e.g. East is East. I am highlighting him because I had actually thought of putting him on my ghoul pool list, but didn’t because I thought he had died a couple of years ago. I should have googled him to check. Oh, well.

For the record, my list of people I predict will die in 2017 is:
20. Buzz Aldrin
19. June Foray
18. Beverly Cleary
17. Robert Mugabe
16. Gord Downie
15. Irwin Corey
14. Shannon Doherty
13. Valerie Harper
12. Tommy Chong
11. Frank Langella
10. John Cullum
9. Tommy Tune
8. Queen Elizabeth II
7. Javier Perez de Cuellar
6. Jimmy Carter
5. Dick Van Dyke
4. Sidney Poitier
3 James L. Buckley
2. Birch Bayh
1. John Paul Stevens

Titanic: I went to see Titanic at Signature Theatre on Saturday. Because of the snow, I used metro plus bus, which worked well enough, especially since I was lucky enough to not have to wait for the bus at all.

As for the show, the performances were excellent. I want to particularly note Sam Ludwig as the stoker, Frederick Barrett, who gets a couple of great songs – one comparing working on the ship to working as a coal miner and one proposing (over the wireless) to his girl back home. Tracy Lynn Olvera was also notable as a social-climbing second class passenger. I also thought Katie McManus was very good as the forthright third class Irish immigrant, Kate McGowan.

The show is grand and the second act (after the iceberg) is moving. But, there are both too many and too few subplots. It’s hard to care about characters when you’re switching between lots of them with each song. Unfortunately, I don’t see a way around that without making the show 4 hours long. I also have to admit that I didn’t really care for most of the score, which was rather more operatic than my tastes. There were exceptions, e.g. "The Proposal / The Night Was Alive" and the lively "Ladies Maid." I also want to note that Yeston apparently believed the myth that the band played "Autumn" while the ship sank (which is, I suppose, better than the "Nearer My G-d to Thee" myth), while historians now claim the actual hymn played was "Oughten."

By the way, every attendee gets a boarding card describing a passenger. I got Mr. William Cruthers Dulles, a 39 year-old first class passenger. They provide a web page to look up the fate of your alter ego. He died in the sinking.

JGSGW Meeting: I was really interested in the topic for Sunday’s meeting of the Jewish Genealogy Society of Greater Washington, which had to do with how to get reluctant relatives interested in talking with you. How interested? Well, when I went out to drive to darkest Maryland for it, I found my car had a flat tire and I paid for a taxi to get there. (I got a ride home from friends.) I’m not convinced it was worth it. I did pick up a few tips, but most of the talk was stuff I already knew.

And, sigh, I still have to find time to get the tire replaced.

Hidden Figures: Finally, last night I went to see Hidden Figures, the current movie about African-American women who worked as computers for NASA, performing mathematical computations in the early days of the space program. The story is a compelling one, involving three women doing their very best to make things happen, despite all the obstacles (both racial and gender) thrown in their paths. It’s not a word I use often, but I found it inspiring and highly recommend seeing it.