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Captain Denny Flanagan is a United pilot who has an amazing reputation for customer service and has been, oddly, willing to go and hang out with flyertalk types, including posting his schedule on flyertalk. I've flown with him a few times and run into him at airports (mostly LAX) a few times and had dinner with him (and a bunch of other folks) a few more times. He's retiring in a couple of weeks and I would have liked to be on his retirement flight. But that's the middle of the week and I still have, um, negative 30 something hours of vacation, so it just wasn't workable. But, looking at his schedule, I did see something eminently doable. Namely, he had a flight from LAX to DEN on Saturday afternoon and a flight from DEN to DCA on Sunday morning. There were plans for a dinner get-together in Denver, as well. So, why not?

For various complicated reasons, it made sense for me to fly from IAD to LAS on Friday night and spend the night not really getting any sleep in Vegas. I may have won a couple of hundred bucks on a slot machine somewhere in there. By the way, the flight to LAS was on a 737 and there was some weird DirecTV problem that kept them from charging for it. Which would have been fine, except that the set at my seat was not allowing me to change channels. I had a book and crossword puzzles, so it didn't really matter, but I also now know more about Home and Garden TV (or whatever it's called) than I ever wanted to. Unfortunately, I fell asleep during the part that would have told me which house in Islington the couple who were moving to London chose.

I got upgraded going from LAS to LAX, which isn't really a long enough flight for it to matter. I must have fallen fairly soundly asleep, as I have absolutely no memory of the flight between boarding and deplaning. I had a few hours to kill at LAX, during which I ran into a colleague, who was on his way to London, and we had a nice chat. (He and I worked in the same organization 20 or so years ago and, while he is semi-retired now, we are technically in the same department again.)

On board the LAX-DEN flight, I met up with three other people (a guy from San Francisco, his wife, and her sister) going for Denny's event. Captain Denny took us up to his "sky office" and we all got photos sitting in his seat on the 757 - and wearing his hat. Once we got to Denver, the four of us shared a cab downtown. The others were gung-ho about going to a marijuana dispensary, which is something I have no interest in. I went to my hotel, instead, and zoned out for an hour or so.

I was staying at the Brown Palace, which is historic and classy. (It is also Marriott branded these days, as part of their Autograph Collection.) I like staying at places with character, but let's just say it's a good thing I don't feel the need for large rooms. I also think it's a bit weird that the closet is inside the bathroom. On the plus side, the bed proved to be extraordinarily comfortable. And there was a ceiling fan. (No mosquito net, however. Whenever I am staying somewhere with a ceiling fan and a mozzie net, I feel like I'm in one of those Sydney Greenstreet movies from the 1940's. Though it occurs to me that I can't actually name a Sydney Greenstreet movie that involves ceiling fans and a mozzie net. At any rate, the Brown Palace oozes comfort, not exoticism.)

I wandered over tot he Sheraton for drinks and dinner. The Titan IPA was just OK, the chili was good (and sufficiently spicy). And the conversation was first rate, though I probably should not have replied to the question "Are you Canadian?" with "no, I'm normal." (I was talking to a guy from Edmonton and someone else joined us in the middle. Random people don't normally ask me if I'm Canadian.) As far as I could tell, everyone talked to everyone else, which is the mark of a good party.

I was, however, exhausted, so left fairly early and went to bed by 10. In the morning, I walked up to Union Station (just about a mile, and a very pleasant walk in the cool weather), where I got the new train to the airport. They claim the train takes 37 minutes, but it was actually more like 50. DEN is a good airport in terms of facilities and I enjoyed breakfast at Pour La France, followed by browsing at the store around the corner from the airport branch of the Tattered Cover (which sells all sorts of local arts stuff and offered numerous temptations that I resisted). And, of course, The Tattered Cover itself requires tremendous restraint.

The flight was fine. I stayed at the gate long enough to wish Denny well before going home, where I immediately took a nap. All in all, it was a completely ridiculous trip, but it was fun. And I think it's important to remember people's life's milestones, of which retirement is certainly one.
19 May 2016 @ 09:43 am
I had a coupon for a free sample box from Graze, a subscription box for snacks. I’ve been thinking I’d like to experiment with my snack routine for afternoon snacks, so decided it would be worth trying out. I should explain that I eat lunch about 11:30 and dinner about 7:30, so having a snack in the mid-afternoon works well for me. I’ve been eating either a granola bar or a packet of Trader Joe’s trek mix with almonds, cashews, and dark chocolate. The latter is pretty much my idea of an ideal snack. It’s a little salty, a little sweet, decently high in protein, and a reasonable (1.5 ounce) portion size. However, it is a bit high in calories at 260. Still, woman does not live by nuts and chocolate alone and Graze has a pretty wide variety. While they choose what to send you, you can check off a lot of boxes on preferences, so it seemed worth a try. I have things set to avoid raisins and bananas and, after this initial box, will be getting an 8 snack box every other week. In other words, expect lots of snack reviews.

Snack #1 – Sweet Mustard Ranch: The ingredients for this were poppy seed pretzels, sour cream & onion cashews, and mustard breadsticks. Calorie count is 130. I thought this was tasty enough, though I tend to like my mustard spicier. There was a definite hint of sour cream flavor, which was nice, and definitely preferable to the expected ranch flavoring. Overall, I thought this was pretty good, but not something I would want to eat frequently.

Snack #2 – Pumpkin Spice Flapjack: This is the British sort of flapjack, i.e. a sort of miniature granola bar (well, actually three of them to the package) made with rolled oats, dates, and pumpkin spice mix, i.e. sweet spices like cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg. Calorie count is 230. It’s somewhat higher in sugar than I’d want to eat every day, but it isn’t cloyingly sweet. It was moist and chewy and, overall, quite pleasing in both taste and texture. Dates are the sort of thing I don’t normally eat, largely because of their sticky texture. They worked well in this, however, and I was pleasantly surprised.

Snack #3 – Chocolate Pretzel: This consisted of pretzel sticks with a thick chocolate hazelnut dip, sort of like Nutella. Calorie count is 140. As far as I’m concerned, you can’t go wrong with anything along these lines and I found this absolutely delicious. It was my favorite snack of the box.

Snack #4 – Salted Fudge and Peanut Cookie: This is not an actual cookie, but a deconstructed one. It’s a mix of salted peanuts, redskin peanuts, miniature cocoa cookies, and vanilla fudge. Calorie count is 230. The redskin peanuts definitely dominated the flavor profile, which is fine because they are something I like. The little cubes of vanilla fudge didn’t seem to add much to this. Overall, it was very good. I think it would be even better without the fudge, which mostly added calories without a lot of flavor.

The Verdict: None of the snacks here were horrible, though I obviously liked some better than others and adjusted my ratings accordingly. I think the biggest challenge going ahead will be to keep myself from eating all of the stuff at one go. (I managed not to do it this time, by limiting what I took to the office.) By the way, if you are interested in trying this, I have codes that will get you your first and fifth boxes free, so just ask for one.
17 May 2016 @ 03:28 pm
The bigger show I am promoting is Best in Show, the 5 year anniversary show for Better Said Than Done. The show is Saturday night, May 28th at 6:30 p.m. at Jammin' Java in Vienna, Virginia. Come early - you can get dinner and drinks there, too. I'm one of the 10 finalists and I know at least two of the others are promoting the show heavily, so I really need to have my own supporters there to have a chance.

This will be a new story. What's it about? Well, the country is a bit tilted, and everything loose falls into California. Or maybe it has more to do with the trauma of starting high school and why one should not be a smart ass when filling out forms. (I do actually know what it's about, but those are the funnier things.) I have a little over a week and a half to make it have an actual ending.

Anyway, go and get tickets now because the show might sell out. And see if I can pull it together.

If you absolutely can't make that, I am also performing at the Washington Folk Festival. Sunday June 5th from 4:30 to 5 p.m. I'll be on the Storytelling Stage at Glen Echo Park performing a set called "Calculating Women." It's a collection of stories about real, imaginary, and complex women facing the world with wit, cleverness, and a touch of mathematics. The venue may be in darkest Maryland, but it's free and there's lots of other fun stuff at the festival.
Celebrity Death Watch: John Bradshaw wrote self-help books, popularizing the idea of the "nner child." Katherine Dunn wrote the novel Geek Love, which I admit I didn’t like as much as everyone thought I should. Andre Brahic discovered the rings of Neptune.

Weather Whine: It was nice out Saturday morning. But we’ve had rain nearly every day for weeks. Sunday was sunny enough, but horribly windy. And this morning is very cold for May.

City of Angels: I went to opening night at Next Stop Theatre in Herndon of this Cy Coleman musical. I saw a touring production of it in L.A. in 1991. My recollection is that the production was fairly technology-heavy, using a lot of film and special effects, which made me wonder how it would work in this small theatre. The answer was, alas, not as well as it should have. The actual technology lack, however, had to do with the sound design, which left most of the cast overwhelmed by the otherwise excellent musicians. (This is a fairly common problem. I used to blame actors for not being able to project, but not when it affects pretty much all of them.) The book is still funny, though I find some of the lyrics less clever than I thought they were 25 years ago. In particular, I cringed a bit at "’ll be leading an ovation, at your asphyxiation" I may have been biased by my annoyance at David Zippel’s mediocrity for The Good-bye Girl, in which he failed to execute " Sondheim-lich maneuver."

The performances were a mixed bag. Katie Keyser was appropriately sultry as Bobbi, singing "With Every Breath I Take," a song that would have become a standard had this been a 1950’s musical, not a 1990 one. But she seemed less convincing as Gabby. The best performer was Katie McManus, who played Oolie and Donna. (I should probably mention, for those who are unfamiliar with this show, that most actors double, playing one "real life" role and one "movie" role. It’s reasonably easy to tell who’s who, since the movie roles are dressed in black and white, while the real life ones are dressed in color.) The actor who I had a lot of reservations about was Grant Laughney, who I thought overdid things as Buddy. But one can’t really tell whether that was him or misguided direction.

Overall, this isn’t a terrible way to spend an evening in Herndon. But it’s more of an if you’re in the neighborhood type of thing, than one worth driving any distance for.

EU Embassies' Open House: Saturday was the annual European Union Embassies' Open House. (The Around the World Open House was the previous weekend but I was too tired from my business trip to make it to that one.) I was somewhat time-constrained, due to afternoon theatre tickets, so my friend, Paul, and I based our visits on the length of the lines to get in. Luxembourg had a bit of a wait, and was, frankly, not all that interesting. Romania was better and we even got to talk with the ambassador (who was wearing a t-shirt!). Latvia had everything set up outside, with lots of food sample – grey peas (not bad), cheese, extremely good black bread, and, best of all, chocolate. I also enjoyed talking with a young man from Daugavpils (Dvinsk in Yiddish), which is where parts of my father’s family lived at times.

Slovenia had a particularly favorable wait to fun ratio – short line and lots to do. A lot of which was, of course, food sampling. Alas, we were too early for the wine and beer tasting. We moved on to Estonia, where I talked with a spinner about Estonian wool and we got (so-so) chocolates on the way out. Bulgaria’s line was moving slowly, so I ran over to Cyprus while Paul waited. Alas, there was not much to see there, unless you were a small child who could try on their traditional costumes. When I got back, Paul was still waiting to get into the Bulgarian embassy, but I thought it was better if I left for my theatre commitment.

I had fun, but one really should use the whole day if one can. With enough time, we could have gone up to Belgium, aka chocolate heaven.

110 in the Shade: My afternoon theatre commitment was to see 110 in the Shade with Chris, a friend and former colleague. It was an excellent production of a musical I like quite a bit. (I had seen Roundabout’s production with Audra McDonald and John Cullum and, of course, I have a huge collection of cast recordings.) This is a show that really depends a lot on the quality of the actress playing Lizzie Curry and Tracy Lynn Olivera was more than up to the task. She was especially good on "Love, Don’t Turn Away," "Simple Little Things," and"“A Man and a Woman." Ben Crawford was a charming Starbuck and did an excellent performance of "Melisande." All in all, a lovely show and it is always such a pleasure to see actual choreography. Unfortunately, we were at the last performance or I’d tell you to run out and see it.

Suspended Animation: I had vague plans to go to the Jewish Genealogy Society of Greater Washington meeting on Sunday, but the topic was Ukrainian research, which isn’t particularly relevant for me. I could also have gone to knitting group. But I decided I just needed to get stuff done at home. So I only made it out of the house to do some essential grocery shopping, then alternated between reading (part of) the Sunday Washington Post and napping and didn’t really get much done at all.
I mentioned a little while ago funding the translation of a couple of pieces my grandfather wrote for the Lite (i.e. Lithuania) memorial book. This piece is the first of the two. To the best of my knowledge, Elkhanan Markus wasn't a relative, but it's still interesting. I'm still waiting for the Jewish Opera Studio chapter to be translated.

The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum offered up a description of an artifact that belonged to a cousin twice removed. I've already mentioned the artist, Rafael Chwoles (also spelled Khvoles in some records). Rivka was one of his sisters and the museum has a vest of hers. After the war, she became a chess champion in Lithuania and later competed and taught chess in Israel, as well as becoming an artist herself. Another sister, Sonja, survived, but I don't know what became of her. Anyway, the museum record has an interesting story.

Speaking of Rafael Chwoles, it appears that there is a fair amount of his work available. I rather like this painting of the ruins of the Vilna Gaon Synagogue.

Finally, I found a Hungarian site re: the Shoah which has an excel spreadsheet having to do with survivors, presumably at a transit camp somewhere in Hungary. I remember my father telling me he passed through Hungary after the war and I have a photo that he said was from Budapest. The spreadsheet refers to interviews with the survivors, but I've been unable to find the interviews on the site. (I have a couple of people who speak Hungarian looking.) But the spreadsheet has a few interesting things. Both Dad and Grandpa are listed in it. Grandpa's profession is listed as a "shoe upper-maker." Now, that may be a peculiarity of Hungarian, but it struck me as an interesting distinction. The other thing is that Dad's birthday is given as 1 March 1930. As I've mentioned before, most of the later records (including all his American ones) give his birthday as 15 September 1929, but he always said his actual birthday was 1 September 1930. This provides yet another date. I don't suppose we will know the truth unless records from Koenigsberg (then East Prussia / Germany, now Kaliningrad, Russia) become available. It also gives Grandpa's date of birth as 20 July 1906, which we know is wrong, as his actual birth record is available and says he was born 18 September 1906. And both have place of birth shown as Kowno, while we know Dad was born in Koenigsberg and Grandpa in Vilna. So it seems fairly clear that this file is not especially accurate. But I'd still like to see the interview.
I have a couple of metro haikus that have been sitting in my notebook for ages, but I don't think I've posted here.

Tourists - please do not
block the escalators by
standing three abreast.

I wonder where they
buy the sound distorters they
use for announcements.

So the big metro news is that they announced plans for something they are calling SafeTrack that will allegedly address the safety problems in the system. That should be a good thing and is certainly necessary, but I have some reservations about the actual plan and a lot of skepticism about it making any sort of difference other than screwing up everybody's commute for at least the next year (and, more likely, given this is WMATA we are talking about, the rest of our natural lives).

First thing is that they will be closing the system at midnight every night, starting at the beginning of June, instead of staying open until 3 a.m. on weekends. There goes the safety argument, since that is likely to hugely increase the number of drunk driving accidents. I base that claim on the condition of a large percentage of the people I see on Metro on Friday or Saturday nights. Let's just say that there are a lot of highly intoxicated George Mason students on the Orange Line.

They are also talking about having maintenance workers start at 8 p.m. on weeknights. That sounds like it requires (unannounced) single tracking, based on the way they've been doing this for the past several years. During which we've experienced horribly inadequate night and weekend service with no apparent improvements as a result of the alleged work. (I say "alleged" because it's rare that one actually sees anybody working when passing through the single tracking zones. And we all know the system has continued to deteriorate.) They typically advertise trains every 20 minutes, but I always seem to be waiting at least 35 for those trains. When I spend twice as long waiting for trains as actually on them, I get annoyed.

But that's the least of it. They're shutting down or single tracking segment by segment. And, of course, my segment (the western end of the Orange Line) gets the longest stretches of single tracking - a total of 89 days, plus another 16 days of 1/3 of normal service for a shutdown at another segment. And the Blue Line parts of my commute will be affected by two shutdowns, one of 18 days and one of 7 days. The most egregious part of their plan for the latter is to run a shuttle bus only between Pentagon and Arlington Cemetery during a shutdown between Pentagon and Rosslyn. On any given day, about a dozen people (and those are largely tourists, so barely count as people) get off the train at Arlington Cemetery, versus the 30,000 who go from Rosslyn to the Pentagon (or further south). Oh, sure, we can go to L'Enfant Plaza and take the Yellow Line, but that doubles the length of my commute, which is already 25% slower than it was just a few years ago.

Okay, but it's necessary. The thing is that this will do absolutely nothing about the real need, which is an additional track through the core of the system. Nor does it do anything about train malfunctions (e.g. doors not working properly) which are the most frequent source of major commute delays.

But most significantly, why the hell should I believe this will be effective when all of the shutdowns and alleged track work of the past several years haven't been?

To be honest, I don't have a better answer. Just expect me to be even grumpier over the next year as I continue to endure commuting. Driving would start to look more appealing, except that the Virginia Department of Transportation hasn't repaved many of our local roads since the days of Thomas Jefferson.

And, oh yes, if you don't live here, please stay away.
Tags: ,
09 May 2016 @ 04:13 pm
Celebrity Death Watch: Jok Church drew the science experiment comic strip You Can with Beakman and Jax. This was, apparently, the first syndicated comic strip drawn and distributed by computer. Daniel Berrigan was a priest and peace activist.

Business Trip: I spent most of the week in Florida for a series of meetings, which were reasonably interesting and productive. The highlight was a field trip to see the last satellite of our current program and the launch vehicle which it is going to get its ride on. This was just a shoe-cover tour, versus one requiring more protective equipment, but it is still always good to get to see actual hardware.

I also got to go out to dinner (at a very good Cuban restaurant) with some old friends who live down that way and talk about international travel.

I should note that this trip was my first experience with Jet Blue. The service was fine and, most importantly for a business trip, the schedule was convenient. And their snack options include blue corn chips, which are always a good thing.

The Mystery of Love and Sex: Despite having had to get up at oh-dark-thirty to drive back to Orlando for my flight home, I went to Signature Theatre Friday night for this play. The title is terribly misleading. While the story does have something to do with people coming to terms with their sexual identities, the real issues involve broader assumptions about who people are. The basic plot involves a Jewish woman and a black man, who have been best friends since they were children and who most people expect will marry each other. The only catch is that she might be in love with a woman. And he hasn’t come to terms with being gay because he’s a Baptist convinced he will go to hell. Then there’s the problem of her father, whose mystery novels have racist, sexist, and homophobic undertones. This all sounds like one of those dreadfully serious plays that 20 year olds write when they are being proud of themselves for coming out, but that isn’t the case at all. It’s actually quite funny and an enjoyable couple of hours. Too bad about the title, though.

Caroline, Or Change: I was too exhausted to do much of anything all weekend, which means I even skipped the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival. I did, however, have a ticket to this production at Creative Cauldron in Falls Church. I’m not all that keen on playwright Tony Kushner (mostly for political reasons, which I needn’t get into here). But this was a musical at a theatre I like a lot and I got the ticket very inexpensively, due to a gift certificate at Goldstar. I am glad I went because I liked it quite a lot. The plot involves a black maid working for a Jewish family in 1963 Louisiana and her complicated relationship with the sad son of the family. Some of the clever things involve her interactions with the radio (played by a trio of women in glittery red dresses), the washing machine (a woman), and the dryer (a man). The family is consumed in the tragedy of the mother’s death from lung cancer. The father has married a friend who is not adjusting well and who can’t reach the boy. At their best, musicals use their scores to illuminate character and to enhance the mood and Jeanine Tesori’s score, with a mix of ethnic styles, did this effectively. It also helped that Iyona Blake was outstanding in the title role. I also want to offer shout outs to Ethan Van Slyke as Noah Gellman, a demanding role for a young boy, and Tiara Whaley as Emmie Thibodeaux, who gave a spirited and convincing performance. This is playing through the end of May and I highly recommend it if you are looking for something to do in Northern Virginia.

Don’t Analyze This Dream: I am a bit vague on the details, but I know it involved serving one of my government customers, who is a big burly guy, coffee in little dainty teeny tiny floral cups.
This is one of those catch-up posts. What can I say? I do a lot of stuff.

Celebrity Death Watch: Arthur Anderson was the voice of Lucky the Leprechaun, telling us about cereal being magically delicious. Doris Roberts was a character actress, who I first took notice of when she played a guest role on St. Elsewhere. Ben-Zion Gold was the rabbi at Harvard Hillel during my years at the superior institution up the street.

You don’t need me to tell you about Prince. And you’d be better off asking somebody else about him, anyway, since his music wasn’t really my thing. Billy Paul, who sang "Me and Mrs. Jones," was more to my taste. But the musician whose death I really want to highlight is Papa Wemba. He was a major figure in the world of Afropop, which is very much my thing. If you can listen to his music without dancing, you may want to consult a doctor to make sure you aren't dead yourself.

Made in Space: As I mentioned previously, the theme of this year’s MIT Club of Washington seminar series was space. This talk was not actually part of the series, but many of the same people were there. The speaker was Andrew Rush, the President of Made in Space, which has demonstrated (in a very limited way) additive manufacturing in space. For example, they used a 3-D printer to produce a tool on the International Space Station. Their plans are a lot more ambitious. I grasp the benefit of not needing things to survive the launch environment, but he didn’t address having the manufacturing equipment survive the space environment. For example, what are the impacts to electronics of energetic charged particles? And he didn’t really talk about the economics at all, since certain components (mostly electronics) would need to be stockpiled in the manufacturing facility. Still, it was an interesting talk. And, as a bonus, one of the people there was someone I was very friendly with as an undergrad and hadn’t seen in close to 36 years!

Book Club: The major reason to belong to a book club is to force yourself to read books you might not choose otherwise. This session’s book was Minaret by Leila Aboulela. It was an interesting book, with a somewhat unsatisfying ending. It would have been helpful to know a little more about Sudanese culture – and clothing, as I had to google what a "tobe" is. (It turns out to be more like a sari than like a burka, which is what I had been envisioning. One thing I continue to find amazing is other people’s limited views of the world. That is, except for the Tajik woman in the group. Of course, they probably think my view of the world is weird - e.g. my scale of how much a country is likely to be a basket case based on what colonial power dominated it.

Speaking of the Basket Case Scale: The worst colonialists were the Belgians. It isn’t clear that there’s an adequate sample size, but I wouldn’t want more countries to be as screwed up as the Congo is.

The Dutch were horrible colonialists, but, fortunately, were usually kicked out by the French or British before they could do too much damage. There are, however, no excuses for the basket cases they made of Indonesia and New York City.

Former Portuguese colonies are, in general, doomed to an eternity of civil war. The only mitigation is that they tend to have great music.

Former French colonies are also doomed to be basket cases. On the plus side, the French are sometimes willing to come back in and help them out. And they tend to have good bread and good coffee.

Former English colonies are a mixed bag. They tend to have some level of democratic government, but may have lasting ethnic tensions. Quality of food and music is more variable.

Former German colonies seem to end up with suspiciously long serving leaders, but, again, it isn’t clear if the sample size is adequate to judge. On the plus side, they tend to have good roads.

Surprisingly, former Spanish colonies may be the most functional. Admittedly, the lifetime of a President for Life may be measured in days, but the periods between junta rule are often reasonably free politically.

Innovation Reception: I had an MIT-related reception to go to on Monday night, which was kind of a pain in the neck since, being Passover, I couldn’t eat much of the food. (They did have some raw veggies.) The talk was fairly interesting, with an emphasis on nano-technology. I have to admit to a certain level of skepticism about the emphasis on nano, largely because of my experience with the technology valley of death. That is, the overwhelming majority of technologies fail to make it from research to operations (or, in this case, commercial viability). Academics are always way too optimistic about this, but it affects the riskiness of technology investments.

Pierre Bensusan: My very favorite musician on the planet playing at a place just a couple of miles from my home? Of course, I was going to be there. I’ve seen Pierre perform live numerous times and I continue to be blown away by his guitar virtuosity.

Passover: I have been somewhat unenthusiastic about Passover this year. The only significant cooking achievement was a frittata with asparagus and mushrooms from the farmer’s market. And, frankly, that is as much a shopping achievement as a cooking one.
This is the other half of my recent genealogy updates.

The Lite Yizkor Book: I had been thinking about it for a while, and I finally decided to go ahead and inquire about getting the two chapters of the Lite (i.e. Lithuania) Yizkor book that my grandfather wrote translated. (For those who missed it when I mentioned it previously, the two chapters were "lchanan the Shoemaker"and "he Jewish Opera Studio."

The price for translation came in as something I thought would make a reasonable charitable donation, so I went ahead and funded that, with some additional money, potentially towards the chapter on Jewish artists in Lithuania. I’m not sure what the timeline will be, but I know the coordinator has already contacted the translator they use.

BRUSKIN / BIKSON / KHVOLES: There was a big update to the Litvak SIG databases recently, so I thought it was worth rerunning various searches. This proved to be quite useful and, in fact, cleared up a couple of major mysteries regarding my great-grandmother.

I had previously found the birth record for my grandfather, Leib NODEL, in Vilnius in 1906, as well as the death record of his father, Pinkhas NODEL in 1909. This new search turned up the record of his marriage on 9 November 1905) to Tzivia BIKSON, the daughter of Khatzkel BRUSKIN. Pinkhas was 42 years old and Tzivia was 29. Most significantly, the comments section said "ivorce and widow." And, indeed, a search for her turned up her first marriage to Shlomo BIKSON on 20 December 1895 and his death from typhoid fever in Vilnius on 4 December 1901. They had a son, Isaak, who was born in Vilnius on 10 August 1896. I also found a passport registration record that shows Zvija and Schloma BIKSOHN living in Riga in 1900.

The only problem is that my father thought his grandmother’s maiden name was CHVOLES. But I’ve resolved that mystery, too. See, Khatzkel BRUSKIN (who was from Polotsk, in what is now Belarus) had several other children. And one of them is a daughter, Khava Leia, who married Movsha KHVOLES. Bingo! It gets even better, though, because there is a birth record for their son, Rafail KHVOLES, born in Vilnius on 25 April 1913. Looking up the biography of the artist, Raphael CHVOLES, gives me fairly high confidence that they are the same person. Who, you ask? Only one of the most famous Lithuanian Jewish artists, who I now have evidence was my grandfather’s first cousin. That matters because, of course, my grandmother’s first cousin was another Lithuanian Jewish artist, Chaim Meyer FEINSTEIN (to use the more common spelling). I have to wonder if the two artists knew each other.

Going back to the children of Khatzkel BRUSKIN, in addition to Tzivia (my great-grandmother) and Khava Leia, there were at least three sons. Another daughter, Nakhama Liba, died in Vilnius on 11 August 1902 at age 6.5 of lung inflammation. And it appears there was yet another daughter, Tzirka-Dveira, who died in Daugavpils on 11 January 1888 at the age of 6 months.

Izrail was born on 24 February 1894. Except that there is also a record of his birth on 21 March 1892 in Daugavpils, Latvia. Of course, it is possible that there was another child given that name who didn’t survive. That Latvian record does fill in two blanks, however. It tells me that Khatzkel’s father was Rafail and that his wife was Rokha-Frieda Girshovna ILGOVSKI. (That is, her father’s name was Girsh.) Izrail married Sheina YOSEM, whose father was Benjamin, on 1 January 1915 in Vilnius. They had a son named Peisakh, who was born 14 September 1915 (nice timing on that, by the way). They had two more sons – Khatskel (born in 1919) and Girsh (born in 1922). They emigrated to Argentina (Iszrael in 1923 on the Atlanta, Sziena and three children on the Wilns in 1924.) Izrail was a (house) painter. I haven’t dug deeply into the Argentinian records, yet.

I haven’t found a birth record for Abram Leiba, but there’s an internal passport record indicating he was born in 1881 in Daugavpils. I did find that he married Malka IUTAL, the daughter of Movsha Leizer in Kaunas in 1906. They had three sons, Meir (born 9 December 1907), Moisei Leizer (born 8 December 1911), and Rafail (born in 1917). As of 1932, Meyer was a student, Moisey Leyzer a shoemaker, and Rafail a printer. I suspect that Abram Leiba was the man who my father described by saying his father had a prosperous uncle, who lived in a very modern, circular house in Kaunas. I have a list of names my father wrote down (for an unknown reason) that includes a man named Alter, the son of Yichatzkel (which is the Hebrew name for Khatskel), and his two sons, Moshe and Meir. Therefore, I believe Abram Leiba would have normally been called Alter, which is a name that might have been added to a man’s name if he were ill. That sort of thing tricks the Angel of Death, who isn’t as bright as you might think he should be.

I’ve found a birth record in Daugavpils of yet another son, Khaim-Mordukh on 19 December 1878. There are scans of the Latvian archive data, so I should be able to download it and see if it tells me more. I should also note that the surname in that record is spelled BRUSKIND. As you might have already noticed, spelling (especially in Latin characters) in Eastern European records is, uh, fluid.

By the way, if anybody is wondering about the international borders, both Daugavpiis (Lativa) and Polotsk (Belarus) were in Vitebsk guberniya and were at various times part of Lithuania. Vilnius (Vilna in Yiddish) was part of Poland during the post-World War I period of independent Lithuania. It looks like the NODEL family was from Dusetos, Lithuania and the BRUSKIN family from Polotsk, Belarus, but both ended up in Daugavpiis, which is more or less midway between Vilnius and Polotsk, at various times. All of this gives me an interesting itinerary for a heritage trip I am tentatively planning for the summer of 2017.
20 April 2016 @ 01:15 pm
And here’s the genealogy update I promised. Actually, the first of two. It was getting long, so I decided to separate out the stuff on Mom’s side of the family from the stuff on Dad’s side.

SCHWARTZBARD 1 – Tracing Back: Back around October, a researcher contacted me (via the JewishGen Family Finder, JGFF) asking about SZWARCBORT (one of many alternate spellings) from Ostrow Mazowiecka. This led to me finally getting around to getting my great-grandfather’s birth certificate translated then being able to find the record for his parent’s marriage. Hercek SZWARCBORT and Sura Dwejra MASLO were married in 1867 in Ostrow Mazowiecka. And then, the other researcher filled in a lot of other information.

Sura Dvejra’s birth was registered in 1852 (though she was probably born earlier than that) in Zareby Koscielne. Her father was Abram Berek MASLO, but I don’t have any information about her mother. Abram Berek’s parents were Ick MASLO and Ruchla Jankelowna GASIOR, who was from Andrzejwo. Ick’s father was also Abraham ad his mother is unknown. Ruchla’s father was Jankel Abramowicz GASIOR, who died in 1854 in Ostrow Mazowiecka. Her mother was Dwejra GASIAK, who died in 1845. Dwejra’s father was Julek Jlko GASIAK, who died in 1839 in Nur and her mother was Ryfka AYZYKOWNA (i.e. daughter of Isaac). Julek’s father was Szajko.

Hercek was born in 1847 in Ostrow Mazowiecka. His father was Wolf SZWARCBORD and his mother was Guta Rywa ROYZENFELD. All I have on Guta Rywa is that her paren’ts were Herck ROYZENFELD and Eydla. Wolf, however, married 4 times (Guta Rywa was his second wife), so his tree has a lot of branches. Wulf’s parents were Aron SZWARCBORD and Etka MOSZKOWNA. I suspect the latter is a patronymic, not an actual surname, especially as it appears that her father was Moszk ABRAMOWICZ (again, a patronymic, meaning his father was Abram). Aron’s father was Leyb JAKUBOWICZ (another patronymic, meaning his father was Jakub). Wulf appears to have been from the town of Wesewo.

That’s a whole lot of begats, but the bottom line is that it gives me at least some information back to the early 1700’s. And it provides hundreds of cousins of various degrees. So, again, the JGFF proved very useful.

SCHWARTZBARD 2 – Chaim Wulf and his family: The other big area of progress on the SCHWARTZBARD side has to do with my great-grandfather’s brother and his family. Chaim Wulf SCHWARTZBARD went by Hyman in the U.S. The big breakthrough came thanks to a Jewish Genealogical Society of Greater Washington assisted research program. My assigned maven located a death certificate for him. This was for the death of a U.S. citizen abroad (in this case, in Israel) in 1959 and had the names of the various people who were notified, who turned out to be his children. Some of those were findable on immigration records and census records and so on. The short version is that he and his wife Estera Bliuma nee BERKSZTEJN (who went by Ester in the U.S.) married in Ostrow Mazowiecka in 1893. He came to the U.S. in 1909 and she followed in 1920, along with 4 children – Itka (born 1901 or 1902), Herschel (born 1906), Rifka (born 1908 or 1909), and Simche (born 1909 or 1910). By the way, this is also pretty good evidence that my great-grandfather’s sister, Itka, had died by 1901 or so, since Ashkenazim don’t name children after living relatives.

The children listed on Hyman’s death record are Mrs. Yetta RADLEY, Mrs. Ray GINSBERG, Mr. Harry SCHWARTZBARD, Mr. Sam SCHWARTZABRD, Mrs. Simcha BART, Mr. Harold BART, and Mrs. Rose SKLAR.

I can match up Yetta with Itka from the immigration record. Her middle name was Muriel. She was born 23 March 190 and married Samuel ROTHENBERG, who was from London, England, on 6 October 1923. She was naturalized on 26 November 1937. They later (6 April 1946) changed their surname to RADLEY. It appears that they had three children. A couple of those children may still be living, so I will not give details publicly. Yetta died in Los Angeles on 15 November 1985.

At least in the 1940 census, the RPOTHENBERG family lived with Yetta’s brother, Harry SCHWARTZBARD, who I believe was originally named Aharon and may have come over earlier than his mother and siblings. Harry was unmarried and was a doctor according to that census. It appears that he was three years older than Yetta. But her age is incorrect on the census, so it’s hard to say. Harry did later marry Sophie LEVINE and they had at least four children.

I can also match up Ray GINSBERG with Rifka from the immigration record. She married Al GINSBERG and had at least two children. I have a photograph of a rather elegant woman in a fur coat, which is labeled "Cousin Ray." I suspect this may be her.

Rose married a man named Joseph SCHLAREFSKY in Philadelphia in 1933. They later changed their surname to SKLAR. Both of their sons, Norman and Leon, are deceased. Norman was married to Blanche (whose maiden name was possibly SPERO) and they had two children. Leon was married to Suzanne (maiden name unknown) and I don’t know of any children.

I think Harold BART (or BARD according to some records) must be the Herschel of the immigration records. He married a woman named Henrietta and they had three children.

Simcha is a bit of a mystery. He appears to have sometimes used the first name Sol and sometimes shortened the surname to BART or BARD. Mildred LEVINE and he married Mildred LEVINE in Manhattan on 11 June 1932. It appears that he might have predeceased his father since the notification of Hyman’s death was sent to Mrs., not Mr., SImcha BART, but it is also possible that was an error on the part of the clerk making the notification.

Finally, I don’t have any information about Sam’s immigration. I do know he married a woman named Dora (shown as Dorothy on one record) and they had at least three children. In the 1940 census, he listed his occupation as a garage attendant. And I found his World War II registration card, in which he uses Samuel, not just Sam. He owned Everlite Garage Services Station in Broolyn. According to the card, he was born on 11 March 1894. He died 14 March 1959 in Dade County, Florida (i.e. Miami-ish) and is buried in King David Cemetery in Putnam Valley, NY. Dora died July 18, 1968.