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September Prompts

1. When did you last stay in a hotel, and where? August in Chicago.

2. Have you ever had any teeth pulled? Yes. Wisdom teeth, back when I was 30ish.

3. What is one of your favorite comedy movies? The Gods Must Be Crazy.

4. Do you have a crush on anyone that you haven’t really talked to before? I have a minor crush on Ari Shapiro (NPR reporter and cabaret singer). And, yes, I know he is: a) gay and b) married.

5. What is your least favorite sour patch kids color? I have no idea what colors sour patch kids come in, but I usually dislike black and red candies.

6. Have you ever won a competition? If so, what was it and what did you win? I was on an award winning newcomb team in 4th or 5th grade and got a keychain for that. (Newcomb is a sort of variant of volleyball that we played in elementary school. It was apparently very popular in the early 20th century and has pretty much died out by now.)

7. Did you ever take classes for a musical instrument when you were younger? I took many years of piano lessons and played the viola for a couple of years in elementary school.

8. How often do you walk around barefoot? Most of the time when I’m home.

9. What architectural style was your childhood home? Split-level ranch.

10. Who do you usually say hello or good morning first? I live alone. I don’t really say good morning to anyone most days.

11. When was the last time you visited the park? Who did you go with? I walk to the park near my house at least every few days, generally alone.

12. What language did you take in high school? I took 4 years of German and 2 of French.

13. Have you ever been to a drive-in theater? Not that I can think of and I am fairly sure I’d remember if I had.

14. Have you ever been on vacation with someone other than your family? I’ve gone on trips with various friends and traveled with tour groups a few times.

15. Do you think doctors should be able to prescribe vitamins? I don’t see an advantage to prescriptions vs. buying vitamins over the counter.

16. If you have a significant other, how long have you been together? I don’t currently have a significant other, but the gentleman with whom I conducted the world’s longest running brief meaningless fling and I were together for over 26 years.

17. Have you ever been a part of a wedding party? I was the flower girl at my uncle’s wedding when I was not quite 5 years old

18. What song are you listening to at the moment? I’m playing Codenames with friends over zoom and the song "Downtown” just came up in discussion.

19. What was the last piece of furniture you purchased? My desk chair.

20. Do you have an iPod? Not any more.

21. Do you usually have to wear a belt with your pants? No.

22. Have you ever donated blood? If not, why not? I did years ago, but they won’t take my blood now because I’ve traveled too much in weird parts of the world.

23. What is a meme or picture you’ve seen recently that has made you laugh? “It is important to get a good night’s sleep so you can fully experience the quiet despair of everyday existence.”

24. Have you ever bought something recommended by an ad on social media before? Sort of. I think I first saw Hot Chocolate Designs shoes on a Facebook ad.

25. How often do you go to the beach?Not often enough.

26. Do you ever look up actors you think you recognize in movies and shows? Now and then.

27. Do you prefer earphones or over the ear headphones? I find headphones much more comfortable.

28. Do you remember when you first went on the internet? It was about 1985 and I spent way too much time on Usenet.

29. What is one thing that you refuse to ever do in your lifetime? Bungee jumping.

30. Which one of your friends is the most outgoing? Teri probably.

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storyteller doll

3rd Quarter 2021 - Books, Movies, Goals

Yes, I am behind on things. I am planning to get caught up real soon now.


Thirteen books this quarter! That’s the pace I should be aiming for all the time.

  1. Amos Towles, Rules of Civility. This was a book club book and I think those of us who voted for it did so because we’d all liked the author’s A Gentleman in Moscow so much. This novel had some moments, but was not nearly as charming as his other one. The story involves a young woman working as a secretary in New York who has a chance meeting with a man and ends up being thrown (along with her roommate) into the whirl of high society. She ends up juggling a literary career, several men, and her general zest for life. But nothing much really happens and, frankly, I didn’t think the book was very interesting.

  2. F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby. I read this in high school and didn’t particularly like it then. I decided to reread it because a couple of friends were discussing it on Facebook. I still didn’t like it. All of the characters are selfish and entitled. Gatsby's obsession with Daisy is creepy and not really adequately explained. Tom Buchanan is a bad husband - and a bad person, in general. And everyone else (especially Nick) is just hanging around partying with no depth. I was glad to have forgotten most of it in the past 45+ years.

  3. Alexander McCall Smith, The Peppermint Tea Chronicles. It’s always enjoyable to spend time with the 44 Scotland Street characters. Dominic conspires to get Angus new clothes, Bertie and Ronald obtain a dog, Stewart appears to be embarking on a new romance, and Pat is definitely falling for Matthew and Elspeth’s new au pair. In other words, nothing major happens, but it is all very cozy and delightful. Highly recommended.

  4. Janice P. Nimura, Daughters of the Samurai. This was another book club selection. It tells the story of three Japanese girls (originally five, but two didn’t stay long) who were sent to the United States in the late 19th century to go to school and bring modern education for girls back to Japan. This was a fascinating book and I learned a lot both about Japan and about the evolution of women’s education in the U.S.

  5. Pete Hamill, Snow in August. This is a very strange book. The story involves an Irish-Catholic boy in Brooklyn who befriends a local rabbi, who has a complicated Holocaust-related history. He also incurs the wrath of a local tough guy, who beats him up badly. The writing is absorbing and I enjoyed reading this - up to the last couple of chapters, which takes a very strange turn that I didn’t find entirely satisfying.

  6. Alexander McCall Smith, The Department of Sensitive Crimes. This is a new series, in a new genre, called Scandinavian blanc (to contrast with Scandinavian noir). The idea is to have a special police group that handles oddities. For example, a young woman’s boyfriend disappears, but he was actually imaginary all along. The book is moderately entertaining, but not really as funny as I think it was intended to be. I might read the next one in the series if I find it used, but I am unlikely to go out of my way for it.

  7. Sally Rooney, Normal People. This was another book club book. The plot, such as it is, involves two people in a small town in Ireland who enter into a relationship, that sort of continues as they go to college. The woman has been abused and is a masochist, while the man suffers depression, partly related to his insecure social status. Both of them have other screwed-up relationships with other people. Overall, an unlikeable book about unlikeable people. I rarely say this, but I absolutely hated this book.

  8. Sisterhood of Congregation Beth El, From Manna to Mousse. This is a congregational cookbook from the 1960’s. The recipes are predictably awful, with lots of prepackaged ingredients. There are also some that are unpredictably awful, like the one that uses baby food banana in a marinade for chicken. I find this sort of thing amusing, albeit unusable.

  9. Dick Francis, Second Wind. A meteorologist, who often provides weather predictions to horse trainers, accepts an invitation to fly through a hurricane, and gets entangled in mysterious goings on on a Caribbean island. Like all Dick Francis heroes, he has remarkable powers of survival and recovery, bounding back from a couple of near-fatal incidents. At any rate, Francis is a reliable escapist author, with strong plotting and plenty of excitement. Recommended.

  10. Dr. Seuss, You’re Only Old Once. I got this from a friend who is thinning his shelves. The silly rhymes and drawings are typical of Dr. Seuss. But I was disappointed to see yet another take on aging that is all about health issues. I will probably pass it along to someone else.

  11. Eric Schlosser, Fast Food Nation. Yes, I know every else read this 20 or so years ago. Frankly, it didn’t tell me much that I didn’t already know. Low-wage workers are exploited, factory farming and meat processing are bad, etc. The pandemic has, of course, added new dimensions, but none of this was news even when this book was written. It’s still reasonably worth reading - just not the revolutionary work it was portrayed as.

  12. Nancy Pickard, Twilight. Two people have been killed where a rail-trail intersects a highway. Jenny Cain agrees to look for possible solutions to improve safety, but has to fit this in with her efforts to put on a Halloween Festival for her small town charitable foundation. That’s all interesting enough and plenty of exciting and mysterious thing happen. Unfortunately, the conclusion is something of a cop-out.

  13. Marcus Barbeau. The Golden Phoenix and Other French-Canadian Fairy Tales. I’m lucky if I find one or two tellable stories in a book of folk tales. This one, however, was excellent. I found all of the stories tellable, though there are a couple I am unlikely to bother learning. I have, in fact, already told one of them at a story swap. I also appreciated the chapter at the end that discusses the (mostly European) origins of the stories and where they were collected.

Movies: Only one this month, which was via an AARP free on-line Movies for Grownups showing.

  1. Miss Pettigrew Lives For a Day: Miss Pettigrew has been fired from her job as a governess and the employment agency no longer wants to help her, so she picks up a slip of paper and presents herself as a personal assistant to an actress. Surprisingly, they hit it off and Miss Pettigrew is swept up in a social whirl. She gets a makeover, sorts out her employer’s love life, and finds a romance of her own. I thought this was a charming movie and well cast (with Frances McDormand in the title role).


I entered the Sty;e Invitational 3 more times (brining me up to 5 out of my goal of 6 for the year). I even got ink for one of them.

I’ve read 30 books, out of my goal of 52 for the year.

I got another 4 stories (2 personal stories and 2 folktales) into tellable condition, so I exceeded my goal of 4 new stories for the year.

I still need to do a bunch of organizing tasks and do a used bookstore run. Sigh.

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storyteller doll

Where Does the Time Go?

I keep meaning to post here and not getting around to it. Here’s an update.

Celebrity Death Watch: Carola Eisenberg died in March at the age of 103. She was the Dean of Students at MIT during at least part of my undergraduate days and was the first woman to hold that position. Adlai Stevenson III was a senator from Illinois through the 1970’s. Edward Barnes co-created Blue Peter. Neddy Smith was an Australian criminal, who I’d had on my ghoul pool list a couple of years ago but given up on. Art Metrano was an actor who appeared in the Police Academy movies. Audrey Haine was a pitcher and Joan Berger was an infielder in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League. Abigail Guzman was the founder of the Shining Path terrorist group in Peru. Don Collier was an actor in television westerns. Ida Nudel was an activist who was instrumental in freeing Soviet Jews. Norm MacDonald was an actor and comedian. Reuben Klamer invented board games, including The Game of Life. George Ferencz was a theatre director. Penny Harrington was the first woman to head a major police department in the U.S. (in Portland, Oregon). Clive Sinclair was pioneer in electronics, including personal computers. Jane Powell acted in a lot of MGM musicals. Ronald Probstein was a professor of mechanical engineering at MIT, who did a lot of research on hydrodynamics and spacecraft reentry. Sarah Dash sang as part of Labelle. Melvin Van Peeble was a filmmaker, actor, and director. Peter Palmer played Li’l Abner on Broadway. Al Harrington was an actor, best known for appearing in Hawaii Five-O. Willie Garson was an actor known for appearing in Sex and the City. Jay Sandwich was a television director who won four Emmys. Roger Michell was a film director, whose work included Notting Hill. Pee Wee Ellis was a saxophonist. Bobby Zarem was a publicist for people ranging from Dustin Hoffman to Cher. Michael Tylo was a soap opera actor. Lonnie Smith was a jazz musician. George Frayne, better known as Commander Cody, was a pioneer ion alt-country music. Lars Vilks was a sculptor who founded his own micro country, Ladonia, due to a property dispute over the location of some of his work.

Willard Scott was best known as a TV weatherman. He had also been the creator of Ronald McDonald, but the company decided they wanted to use a thinner man as their mascot.

Harold Franklin was the first black student at Auburn University. The university removed everyone else from a wing of his dorm to prevent contact with him and refused to grant him his degree by creating various pretexts to refuse to accept his thesis. It took until 2001 before they acknowledged his having been their first black student, even though he enrolled in 1964. They finally granted his master’s degree in 2020 after he had retired from an academic career at other universities.

Anthony Hewish was a radio astronomer who won a Nobel prize. He is widely reviled for having appropriated the work of his graduate student, Jocelyn Bell, who discovered pulsars.

Rabbi Moshe Tendler was an expert on Jewish medical ethics. His writings on the subject of organ transplantation (which include discussion of the concept of brain death) have been very influential in the Orthodox Jewish world.

Tommy Kirk was a child actor in Disney films, including Old Yeller and The Shaggy Dog. His later career was, alas, destroyed by drug addiction.

Health Update: I think my rib is as close to fully healed as I’m going to be able to tell. However, I wrenched my left wrist painfully last week. How? I was just trying to open a a plastic bottle of Coke Zero. See, I knew soda was bad for me. (I eventually had to resort to using pliers.)

Rosh Hashanah Leftover: I forgot to mention that I had seen a video (about cooking fish) that mentioned five traditional foods for Rosh Hashanah. These are apparently based on having Aramaic names which sound similar to words in accompanying blessings. These are zucchini, black-eyed peas, leeks, Swiss chard, and dates. I wonder if this is the source of the Southern U.S. tradition of eating black-eyed peas for the (secular) new year. Also, Ashkenazim (i.e. Eastern European Jews) added carrots to the list, presumably because of availability.Of course, a better known tradition is to eat the head of a fish or a sheep. If you’re a vegetarian, you can just have a head of lettuce!

National Book Festival: The National Book Festival was the last week or so of September and was mostly virtual. I watched two presentations. One, on book construction (i.e. book structures and bookbinding) was mediocre, but might be of more interest to people less familiar with the topic. The other was about crossword puzzles and featured Will Shortz (of course) and Adrianne Raphel. They were entertaining and there was some fun crossword trivia included. I need to find time to go back and see what other presentations I want to watch.

Aptonym: The founder of Epik, the web host of choice for neoNazis and other right-wing lunatics is named Rob Monster. And that is, apparently, his real name.

Korean Food: I went out to dinner a few nights ago with a friend who I hadn’t seen in a while. We went to ChiMC, which is a Korean place near where I live, chosen for interestingness, outdoor seating, and easy parking. She got their signature fried chicken, but I am not so keen on fried chicken, so I opted for something called tteobokki, which consists of fish cakes and cylindrical rice cakes, in a spicy sauce. It was pretty good, assuming you like spicy food, but the texture of the rice cakes was a bit weird.

Mock Jury: I spent a day in a hotel conference room being a mock juror. I can’t write about any of the details, but it was interesting and I walked away with $200. I’d do it again. I’ve filled out an info form with another company that does what sound like similar focus groups. (And I felt like Susan Dennis who seems to do lots of focus groups.)

Speaking of Finding Time: The National Storytelling Festival is going on right now. But I have two things I need to finish by October 5th, so I won’t be watching any of it until at least Wednesday. Plus, of course, baseball is another distraction, what with my Red Sox facing the Source of All Evil in the Universe in the Wild Card playoff on Tuesday. I went to Saturday’s game at Nats Park, by the way, which was exciting, but in a way that I am sure was not good for my blood pressure. Fortunately, the BoSox pulled it out, but the eighth inning was decidedly scary. And why did Alex Cora leave Austin Davis in for the ninth? Admittedly, that led to the rare sight of a pitcher being deliberately walked (and then advancing to second base, a place he probably hadn’t seen since high school) but he raised the stress level in the bottom of the ninth by giving up a two run homer.

A Follow-up re: the Flushies: You can hear me interviewed on the You’re Invited podcast. The little segment where Mike talked with me starts just about 07:34, but if you listen to whole show, you can get an idea of what my social life is like. And, as a bonus, this is a photo of the shirt I was wearing (which is part of what we talked about):


I will fully admit I don’t know what all of the equations are supposed to be. And I especially don’t know why one of them is repeated on the shirt.

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storyteller doll

Keeping Busy

I’ve been fairly busy the past couple of weeks.

The Beltway I picked up some books from a friend who lives in Beltsville and is clearing out some of his collection. The map function on my phone routed me through way too much construction, but I managed to get there fine. I did choose a different route home, but the radio suggested the outer loop of the Beltway was backed up, so I took the inner loop. which is more or less the same distance. So I drove more or less the entire way around the Beltway to run a 15 minute or so errand.

Yom Kippur: I went to a zoom service put on by Shirat HaNefesh, which was not ideal but was better than the other ones available over zoom. I do like their cantor and several things about their services, but nothing over zoom is going to be entirely satisfying. And I don’t really care for the use of musical instruments and some other less than traditional aspects. But at least they do a good job of showing a PDF of the service and have some interesting ideas to think about (in this case, having to do with how we address poverty).

Break the Fast: My chavurah had a breakfast gathering after Yom Kippur. There were standard foods like bagels with cream cheese and lox, as well as various salads. And desserts, including my contribution of tahini and halvah brownies, which were well received. (I did have some leftovers, which I wrapped individually and put in the freezer.)

Mama Tigre: I went out to dinner with a friend Friday night, largely because she said she needed some intelligent conversation to counter some issues at work. We went to Mama Tigre in Oakton, which is a newish Mexican fusion place. Most of the menu is pretty normal Mexican fare, but a few things have Indian touches. I got cauliflower tacos, which were quite tasty. It was good to see her, as she isn’t someone who I see often and we had a lot of conversation about things like travel and dancing and yarn and everybody’s lack of executive function in these days

Story Swap: The Voices in the Glen monthly story swap was Saturday night. I didn’t have anything I felt like telling, so I just listened. Jim had a particularly interesting story that had to do with the construction of the Pentagon.

The Flushies: Sunday was the Style Invitational Awards gathering, called the Flushes. It was at a lovely house in Potomac - a big enough property that 60 people in the backyard did not feel crowded. My food contribution was something called archaeologist’s cornbread, which has layers of white, blue, and yellow cornbread. That tasted fine, but the different colors of cornbread don’t taste all that different, so it’s really just a stupid culinary trick. There were songs to celebrate the Loser of the Year (actually plural, since we did last year as well as this year) and one of the major highlights was Jonathan Jensen’s acceptance speech in song. We also played a pub trivia game. My team was far ahead but blew it on the final question. It was still fun. And, of course, it was good to see people who I don’t see often and meet some people who I hadn’t met before.

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On My Mind

Rib Progress:I am continuing to recover from my broken rib. I can drive reasonably comfortably, for example, though I have to make sure to pull up particularly close to the electronic pad that opens our garage door, so I don’t have to reach too far with the key fob. The main thing that is annoying is not being able to lift heavy objects, so I had to make multiple trips between car and condo to carry my groceries in. And I am still more comfortable sleeping on my back, instead of on my side which would be more usual for me. Oh, well, it’s been just 3 weeks and my doctor did say it would take 6 weeks to heal.

Follow-up re: Dancing: So, after writing about it in the August prompts, I went and looked up both local Israeli dancing and Israeli dance events. There is one local dance reasonably near where I live. There is also an event in 2024 I think I have to go to - a dance weekend built around the total solar eclipse. The most amusing part of that is that it is being run by someone I know. In fact, he taught an intermediate/advanced dance class I took back in 1978 or so. (And he’s a Facebook friend, though not really active there.) So I have about two and a half years to get back into dancing shape.

Chavurah Dinner: My chavurah (Jewish friendship group) had a dinner at Silver Diner on Sunday night. We got a large table in a tent outside. I had some tasty fish tacos. There was lots of lively conversation, so it was a pleasant evening out.

Gift Certificate Problem: I bought a friend a gift certificate from Lake Champlain Chocolate (which I know she likes) for her 60th birthday. She went to order and discovered that, since it is still summer, the only shipping option was next day air - which would have been nearly fifty bucks. She’s just going to wait until October, when they will do ground shipping, but shipping cost had never even crossed my mind.

Rosh Hashanah Thoughts: I did a bit of (virtual) shul hoping this year. I gave up on one because of technical failures, combined with poor quality cantorial choices and entirely inept shofar blowing. The second was better, but the real winner was a synagogue in Florida that felt more traditional. I really should have done better planning to arrange something I could go to in person, however, since I find my attention span is much worse for zoom services.

My main takeaway this year was that “Unetaneh Tokef” (the prayer that includes the various fates for people being judged on the High Holidays) felt particularly timely and relevant. Who by fire? - western North America. Who by water? - Louisiana. Who by war? - Afghanistan. Who by plague? - the whole world. Okay, I’m not worried about stoning or strangling, but still … it hits home.

9-11: Saturday was the 20th anniversary of 9-11. It is, of course, sad, but I was irritated by all the talk of America having come together that day. I haven’t forgotten the attacks on people wearing turbans (many of them Sikhs, not Muslims) or the on-going paranoia and security theatre. There were acts of heroism - the passengers of United Flight 93, the first responders climbing up the stairs of the World Trade Center as people were climbing down, and so on. But we entered into an entirely unnecessary war in Iraq, gave up on many traditional American values (it is not unpatriotic to criticize the government, for example, not to mention the rise in anti-immigrant sentiments) while refusing to confront Saudi Arabia which was the homeland of the terrorists who killed nearly 3000 people.

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August Prompts

1. Do you enjoy dancing? Very much. I took ballet classes as a child, was in modern dance club in high school, took various dance classes (mostly jazz) in college. But my biggest involvement in dancing started in college and involved folk dancing, primarily Israeli but also international. I continued folk dancing through about 1990, including going to a few Israeli dance retreats in the late 1980’s, including with some big name choreographers (Moshe Eskayo, Moshiko Halevy, Israel Yakovee). Somewhere around late 1990, I broke my ankle, so was off dancing for a while. Caffe Dansa had closed by then. I was traveling a lot for work. And I stumbled upon storytelling, which took over much of my life. Since then, I have taken some Bollywood dance classes and done some zumba. I really need to get back into dancing (once my rib heals, that is).

2. Have you ever had a long distance relationship? The gentleman with whom I conducted the world’s longest running brief meaningless fling progressed from living in the same city, to living in different cities in the same state, to living on different continents. I am sad to say that this suited me in a number of ways.

3. When you make a mess are you more likely to clean it up right away, or do you get to it later? It depends on what sort of mess it is. I wipe up liquids and yucky things right away, but paper messes can sit a long time.

4. What do you look forward to the most about the colder times of the year? Being able to take a walk without getting horribly sweaty.

5. Have you ever hung your clothes out on a clothesline? Sure. This was normal when I was a child. In adulthood, it’s mostly been while traveling.

6. What is the dumbest way you’ve injured yourself? I broke my ankle by falling down one step.

7. If you use libraries, what is the largest overdue fine you've ever had? I don’t think I’ve ever had an overdue fine. I read fast.

8. When was the last time you did something for the first time? Well, I go to new places all the time, if that counts. I’d also add breaking a rib about two weeks ago to something new but I would really rather not repeat that experience.

9. Which holiday is your favorite to decorate for? I don’t decorate for holidays. If I lived in a house, not a condo, I’d build a sukkah and decorate it.

10. What craft project do you want to do next? First, I have to finish this cross-stitch I’ve been working on for months and am not quite halfway through. Then, probably finish a couple of afghans.

11. Do you have any family members that you've never met? There are lots of cousins I’ve never met. But the closest relative I’ve never met is one of my father’s half-sisters.

12. When it comes to friends, what's the biggest thing you have in common? My friends fall into a few categories - people I’ve worked with, people with common interests (e.g. storytellers), people I grew up with and/or went to school / college with, people I’ve traveled with, etc.

13. Did you ever hit anything while learning to drive? I’m sure I hit the curb when learning to parallel park, but I can’t think of anything else.

14. Do you prefer bright colors, dark colors, or pastel colors? It depends on the context. I like to wear a combination of black and bright colors. But I like more subdued toes for home decor.n

15. How long have you lived with the person/people you currently live with? I live alone, so I suppose all my life.

16. What was the dumbest thing you ever did as a teenager? Go out on a friend’s boat at night without lights.

17. Would you prefer hardwood flooring or carpet in your home? I like nice soft carpet.

18. What’s the most you’ll pay for a pair of shoes? Maybe a couple of hundred dollars

19. Which flower is your favorite? I like the look of irises and they’re what I’d usually buy to put in a vase. But I also like several flowers with strong smells, like old-fashioned roses. Or lily-of-the-valley.

20. Which season do you think is the prettiest? Autumn.

21. What is the last thing you cooked? Kasha with onions and mushrooms.

22. If you could live in a fictional world, which would it be? I’m not sure if it counts since Edinburgh is a real city, but I’d love an apartment at 44 Scotland Street.

23. Where was the farthest you’ve ever traveled from home? Furthest north - above the Arctic circle in Norway. Furthest south - Antarctica. Furthest east/west - maybe Perth, Australia? I’ve circled the globe, so there are lots of options.

24. Have you ever slammed the door when you were mad? I’m sure I did as a child, but not in many many years.

25. How old were you when you met your first love? About 15. We both went to a Saturday science program at Columbia University.

26. Were your college years the best years of your life? They had many good aspects, but I think my 30’s were the best years of my life.

27. What’s the most relaxing thing you did today? Take a nap.

28. What do you usually drink with breakfast? Coffee or tea.

29. How many closets does your house have? I have a huge walk-in closet in my bedroom. There’s a fair sized closet in the other bedroom. Then there’s a coat closet in the entrance hallway and a linen closet next to the kitchen.

30. What year is your car? 2019.

31. What’s the largest animal you’ve ever had as a pet? A cat named Sunshine who we had around when I was in junior high.

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Birthday Traditions

But first, a tip from that 1960's cookbook: "Use a pastry blender for slicing bananas quickly." I am sure that the 12 seconds this might save is sooooooo useful.

Anyway, I had a quiet birthday. I went out to lunch with a friend. We ate at Elephant Jumps, a very good Thai restaurant. Basil chicken - yum. My friend had picked up cake at Nothing Bundt Cakes and told me to close my eyes. When I opened them, she'd stuck in these very cute cat-shaped candles. (The cake was tasty, too.)

My family had two big birthday traditions. One (which really came from my mother's family) was that you got your age in dollars. You got other gifts, too (e.g. my mother often bought me jewelry at one of the local antique stores) but that was the important one and the one my brother and I looked forward to.

The other big tradition was that we went out to dinner and the person whose birthday it was chose where. It was pretty much always Palace of Wong, a Chinese restaurant in Rockville Centre (a few towns away), but Mom sometimes chose Mariner's Haven or the Deep Six, which were seafood places near our house. My father celebrated his birthday twice. His real birthday was September 1, 1930, but he had lied and said it was September 15,1929 to avoid a selection at Dachau (saving his life) and was never able to get the records corrected when he came to the U.S. Apparently, the judge when he naturalized told him to be happy he'd collect Social Security a year earlier.

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Before the Fall

First of all, I am recovering reasonably well from my broken rib. For the most part, it doesn’t feel much worse than a bad backache at this point and is manageable with decreasing amounts of tylenol Now for the catch-up on other things (including the trip that led to the trip…)

Celebrity Death Watch:Paulette Goodman was the president of PFLAG. Lucille Times was a civil rights activist. Sean Lock was a comedian. Douglas Ankrah invented the porn-star martini. Gary “Chicken” Hirsh played drums for Country Joe and the Fish. Kara Upson was an artist, best known for The Larry Project. Jill Murphy wrote The Worst Witch. B. Wayne Hughes founded Public Storage. Chuck Close was a photorealist painter. Sonny Chiba was an actor and martial artist, best known for appearing in Kill Bill: Volume 1. Jeanne Robertson was a humorist and motivational speaker. Don Everly was the older of the Everly Brothers and wrote some of their songs, including “Cathy’s Clown.” Michael Nader was a soap opera actor. Jimmy Hayes was a hockey player. Jerry Harkness was a basketball player. Ron Bushy played drums for Iron Butterfly. Charlie Watts played drums for the Rolling Stones. Mal Z. Lawrence was a borscht belt comic.

Gilbert Seltzer continued working as an architect until at least the age of 105. (He was 106 when he died in August). He designed a number of buildings on college campuses. He was also the last surviving member of the Ghost Army,, which decoyed German troops away from World War II invasion beaches. He earned me 18 ghoul pool points.

Tom T. Hall was a singer-songwriter. “Harper Valley PTA,” which became a hit for Jeannie C. Riley, was one of his more famous songs. He also wrote a number of short stories.

Micki Grant was the first woman to write music, book, and lyrics for a Broadway musical (Don’t Bother Me, I Can’t Cope), as well as writing and acting in a number of other shows.

Maki Kaji popularized sudoku and may have given it that name. He did not, however, invent it. Dell Puzzle Magazines had been publishing it as “Number Place” since the 1970’s and the puzzle form really dates back to Euler.

Carolyn Shoemaker was an astronomer, best known for co0discovering Comet Shoemaker-Levy. She apparently set some sort of record for discovering comets and asteroids.

Lee “Scratch” Perry was a reggae musician, songwriter, and producer. That grossly understates his influence on the genre, as he worked with a wide range of other musicians and pioneered studio techniques for reggae, dub, rocksteady, etc.

I assume you don’t need me to tell you about Ed Asner. He was the first actor to win Emmy awards for both comedy and drama for the same role (as Lou Grant, of course). He appeared in a large number of movies, television shows, and plays, and was the president of the Screen Actors Guild in the early 1980’s. He was also a political activist, with notable involvement in opposition to U.S. policy in Central America in the 1980’s.

Don’t Analyze This Dream: I was at some sort of museum with my brother. The museum was in two sections, the first of which was a zoo, which we finished going through fairly quickly. There was a long tunnel-like hallway to the other section and he stayed back for some unknown reason. When I got to the other section, it turned out to be mission control for some space program involving French astronauts. The spacecraft was under attack and when it was hit, a dying female astronaut landed on the floor of the room I was in.

Ink!: I got ink in the Washington Post Style Invitational Week 1446. The contest involved a crossword grid in which certain letters were covered with lentils, which you could replace with any letter you chose. My entry, which won an honorable mention, was “Pants-0n Fine: What the Norwegian beach handball team has to pay for not wearing bikini bottoms.”

The Best of 1960’s Cookery: I am looking through various cookbooks I have in my house, some of them from my mother. In one, which is a community cookbook from a synagogue in Connecticut, there are some real 1960’s classics. Think tomato aspic and such. Anyway, there is one recipe for “tropical chicken” which calls for chicken breasts to be marinated in a mixture of bottled Russian dressing, jarred strained bananas (i,.e. baby food), lemon juice, onion, ginger, salt, and pepper, before being grilled. I hate bananas to begin with, but this just sounds horrific. Another recipe in the same book calls for blending peaches, but notes that if you don’t have a blender, you can just use jars of peach baby food!

Before the Fall: I went to Chicago primarily to go to a couple of FlyerTalk Dos - meals with other people who are passionate about travel, airline pointss and miles, and such. I’ve been to Chicago numerous times, so was looking for things to do that I hadn’t done before. One of my minor obsessions is national parks and I noticed that it is possible to get to Indiana Dunes National Park from Chicago by train. This worked pretty well - you take the South Shore Line and get off at Dune Park. It was slightly confusing to find the trail to the visitor center, because you have to walk north a bit to get to the southbound trail, but I figured things ou and found my way. The walk is roughly a mile and a half and is easy (paved) and pleasant. The visitor center shows a film about the park, which incorporates a state park and various other attractions and is, apparently, a good place for birding at some times of year. There are various other exhibits at the visitor center, but they weren’t memorable. All in all, it’s not up to, say, Acadia or Zion, but the National Park Service always does a good job and it was good to be able to stamp another national park in my passport book..


On Friday, I met up with a couple of FlyerTalkers to go to a game at Wrigley Field. I noticed that The Bagel Restaurant and Deli, one of the more highly reviewed Jewish delis in Chicago, is not far from the ballpark, so had lunch there (a tongue sandwich on an onion roll and potato salad). It was delicious, but there weren’t any sour pickles. It was a pleasant walk of maybe a mile to the ballpark. Our seat were on the third base line but shaded, the weather was nice, and I didn’t care who won the game, so it was a good ballpark experience. (My previous experience at Wrigley involved a seat with rather obstructed views, so this made up for it). The Cubs lost to the Royals, who I have something of a soft spot for because a guy from my home town used to pitch for them ages ago.


After the game, we walked up to Irving Park Road and took a bus west to meet up with more FlyerTalkers for dinner at D’Candela an excellent Peruvian restaurant. There were pisco sours, of course, but the main feature was roast chicken. There were also empanadas, ceviche, chaufa (fried rice), potatoes in a yellow sauce, plantains, and probably other stuff I’ve forgotten about. The food was delicious and the conversation was lively, so it was a pleasant evening.

The next day was Saturday and I started the day with a new and unusual tour. I’ve done both a walking tour and a river tour of Chicago architecture in the past - but this was the Ugly Buildings Tour. I would suggest you do the normal tours first, but this made an interesting contrast. Some of the buildings in question are parking garages, which I admit to having low expectations of. Some did not strike me as particularly ugly. But there are others which are fortress like and uninviting. Overall, I’d say the tour was educational, as well as amusing and was a good use of a couple of hours.

I spent the afternoon going to the Shedd Aquarium. It’s a reasonably good aquarium, but I was a bit tired and it was more crowded than was optimal, so I didn’t enjoy it as much as I expected to. Also, they have weedy sea dragons, but not leafy sea dragons, which is always disappointing. (The latter are my favorite aquarium critters, by far. My least favorite aquarium critters are juvenile homo sapiens, of course.) There was also confusion about the bus back downtown, which was not running from the stop right in front of the aquarium due to a football game. Some sign to indicate that would have been helpful. (There is another stop quite nearby, by the Field Museum, so this was mostly an information problem.)

Sunday started with the other FlyerTalk event - breakfast at Uncle Mike’s a Phillipino restaurant. I had their Manila omelet, which was tasty. This was a smaller group than Friday night had been, but the conversation was just as lively. After that, I walked up to an “attraction,” a friend had suggested. The Shit Fountain was designed to remind people to clean up after their dogs. I’m not sure it was worth the detour (a little under a mile), but it is was something I hadn’t seen before.
When I was going back to my hotel, I noticed that the Chagall mosaic, The Four Seasons, was only a few blocks further, so stayed on the El and went to see that, which was considerably more worthwhile.


After that, I checked out a street festival nearby, then went to my hotel room and rested for a while. I had bought a ticket to a storytelling show in the evening and noticed that the venue was fairly close to another thing I was interested in - Oz Park, which has Wizard of Oz related statues. It was a pleasant walk around the park to see those.


It was on the way from Oz Park to the nightclub where the storytelling show was that I fell on an uneven bit of sidewalk. I didn't realize how injured I was, so I went to thee storytelling show, took the El back to my hotel, and tried to sleep. I was in enough pain by the morning that I cancelled the rest of my trip and came home.

What I had intended to do was see two more things in Chicago (the Banksy Exhibit and the American Writers’ Museum) and then take the train to New Orleans to go to the Museum of Southern Jewish Heritage and maybe the Audubon Zoo if the weather cooperated. Oh, well, some other time.

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storyteller doll

Best laid plans

I was having a good time in Chicago, until Sunday night when I fell on an uneven bit of sidewalk. I did not, at first, realize how hurt I was, but was in more pain as the night wore on. Instead of taking the train to New Orleans as planned, I came home, where I went to urgent care and found out I have broken my 9th posterior lateral left rib.

This is the worst pain I remember in my life. Tylenol helps some; ice helps less. I can look forward to about six weeks of misery.

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Plenty of Pennsylvania

I was going to combine this with my upcoming trip, but I’ve thought better of it.

My friend, Roger (who is one of the people I play games with over zoom most nights) was in a play at the Gettysburg Community Theatre, so I drove up to see it. The play consisted of several skits from the Carol Burnett show, the funniest of which were episodes of “Of the Stomach Turns.” Overall, the material is rather dated, but the point of this sort of thing is supporting friends. The drive up wasn’t too bad, by the way, except for the first couple of miles getting to the Beltway, which was slow due to an accident on I-66. I had time for lunch and a walk around town before the show. This sculpture, on the main square, is referred to as “Lincoln Meets Perry Como.”


After the show, we went over to Mister G’s for some excellent ice cream. The black raspberry had intense fresh fruit flavor, which was perfect for a warm summer day.

I stayed at the Courtyard by Marriott, which was fine, though a bit out of the way. In the morning, I headed west, mostly following the Lincoln Highway over the next couple of days (which is a combination of Routes 30 and 31, and was one of the earliest transcontinental highways in the country). My first stop was Mister Ed’s Elephant Museum and Candy Museum in Ortanna, maybe 20 minutes or so from Gettysburg.


I walked the outside trails first, which take you past statues of elephants and giraffes and a Bigfoot and Snow White’s dwarfs, as well as a teapot shaped building which has a collection of teapots. Then I went inside, where there are 12,000 or so elephants, including pictures, figurines, plashes, and even vodka bottles. There’s also a huge candy store, which didn’t really tempt me. But I felt obliged to buy something so got some peanut brittle, which seemed suitable. I also bought a refrigerator magnet that says “Forget princess … I want to be an astrophysicist.”

I continued west along a scenic twisty stretch of road to Bedford. I was reminded several times (e.g. by Trump signs) that a guy I used to work with used to refer to rural Pennsylvania as “Pennsyltucky.” Anyway, the most famous thing in Bedford is this giant coffee pot. Apparently, there used to be an actual coffee shop inside, but I peeked in and the building is empty now.


While I was in Bedford, I also visited the National Museum of the American Coverlet, which exhibits historic (mostly 19th century) woven coverlets. These are double woven wool bed covers, made on a Jacquard loom, and have attractive, intricate patterns. (I prefer the geometric ones, but there are some more figurative designs.) I would have liked more informative signage, but it was still worth a stop.

I spent the night in Somerset, which was about another hour or so west. The Fairfield Inn there was surprisingly nice - quiet and comfortable and had an okay breakfast. In the morning, I drove up to the Flight 93 Memorial, about 20 minutes away. I started with the visitor center, which has extensive exhibits about 9/11 in general and United Flight 93 in particular. It was really hard listening to the recordings of voicemail messages a couple of the passengers and one of the flight attendants had left their families. It was also interesting hearing parents trying to explain things to their children.


I walked the hiking trail around the site (a total of a little under three miles), which crosses a few lakes and streams and has lots of trees, some of which were changing color already, allegedly due to the dry weather they’ve been having. I got over to the Memorial Wall area about 20 minutes before a ranger program, so stopped to rest. That proved to be a good thing, as a thunderstorm blew through. The ranger talked mostly about three of the passengers who were activists in other areas of life (one involving disability, two involving environmentalism) and emphasized how the decision to overpower the hijackers was unanimous among the passengers. The rain let up enough to allow me to continue the walk, passing the boulder that marks the actual impact site and the memorial wall to the people who died in the crash.


I finished the walk back at the visitor center. Then I got back in my car and drove up to the Tower of Voices, which has 40 chimes, representing the 40 people killed in the crash.


Then I drove back to Somerset, where I had lunch at a diner before going to see Laurel Arts, where there was an exhibit of work by Jenny Wilson and Peggy Black. The latter’s fiber art (elaborate quilts) was quite striking. But the main reason for going there was the gallery upstairs, which exhibits work from the Guild of American Papercutters. While I did take some photos (with the permission of a staff member), I am not entirely comfortable including the photos publicly. (I did post some of them to Facebook, but I keep my page fairly locked down.) I will say that they’re pretty amazing - very elaborate, mostly black and white, but some with other colors, too. It was definitely worth checking out.

Then I drove south and east, including an annoying thunderstorm along the way, and spent the night in Charles Town, West Virginia. I did go to the casino there, where I lost some money on a Little Shop of Horrors themed slot machine. In the morning, I got breakfast at a diner before driving home. All in all, it was a nice trip and I think Twain (my car) enjoyed getting away from home too.

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