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fauxklore
Celebrity Death Watch: Morris Wilkins invented the heart-shaped bathtub. Jim Bailey was a female impersonator. Beau Biden appeared to be a worthy successor to his father’s political legacy. Hermann Zapf designed typefaces. Will Holt wrote the song "Lemon Tree."

There were also two huge losses in the folk music world. Jean Ritchie was a major folk musician in the Appalachian tradition. I remember listening to her on records about as far back as I can remember. And Ronnie Gilbert was part of The Weavers, as well as having performed solo and with other musicians, notably Holly Near. She had a powerful voice and a powerful presence. Her song, "The Death of Stephen Biko," was one that reminded me that protest songs continued to be relevant after the 1960’s.

Washington Folk Festival: The last weekend in May was the Washington Folk Festival. Because I was doing the Indie 500 on Saturday, I was only able to attend on Sunday. My performance was at the end of the day, which meant a pretty thin audience. I did a couple of experiments in my telling, one of which worked, and one of which failed badly. The one that worked was to have a vote on "The Farmer and His Animals" about which of his animals (the rooster, the pig, or the cow) the farmer should kill. The one that didn’t work involved the idea that Henny Penny was the victim of auto-correct, having intended to tweet "the sky’s appalling" as part of her job as a weather observer. I had not entirely thought through what I was going to have other characters doing, so it fizzled. I also told a Bill Greenfield story and was amused to see someone in the audience aping my motions as Bill reached inside the mouth of the bear who was about to eat him, grabbed hold, and turned that bear inside out. For my own records, the other two stories I told were "Seeking Destiny" (with a little adjustment to get a chicken into it) and "Prince Rooster."

35th MIT Reunion: This weekend was my 35th MIT Reunion. Wow, do I feel old. But I also feel incentive to survive another 15 years, so I can get my red jacket. I flew up to Boston on Friday morning and got to campus in time to drop off my bags at Baker House (where I was staying in a room that had surprisingly few walls) before going first to the Hillel reception. I had a nice long conversation with someone I hadn’t seen since I graduated. Then I went over to the McCormick reception (the dorm I’d lived in as an undergrad), where the most interesting conversation I had was with a woman from the class of 1965 about her experiences trying to find a job with a chemistry degree in those days. The short version is that people told her she should be a secretary and her degree would be useful because she could spell the names of chemicals correctly!

As for Class of 1980 events, we had a talk on hacks and pranks, which was quite entertaining. Then we walked up to the MIT Museum for dinner. I saw many of the people I was most looking forward to seeing and had lots of interesting conversation. Apparently there was some confusion with the caterer which also meant we had an open bar. That may have enhanced some of the conversation, but I like to think my classmates are interesting enough even without a couple of glasses of white wine. I was astonished to discover that the museum shop had absolutely nothing I felt a deep need for. I guess I’ve bought it all on previous visits.

Unfortunately, the people in the room next to mine at Baker appeared to be a family who had never taught their children the concept of an inside voice. And, in fact, it appeared that the adults were themselves unaware of this concept. Between that, traffic noise from Memorial Drive, and doors slamming, I got way too little sleep. Fortunately, the Technology Day program was interesting enough that I didn’t drift off too much. The topic was "Private Lives in an Interconnected World" and the speakers covered topics ranging from nanophotonics (pretty marginally connected to the theme) to cybersecurity policy to use of data for urban planning. I wish there had been more time in the program for the Q&A. And I could make several snide comments about the presentation skills of academics. But, overall, it was worth a few hours of my time.

Then came lunch, which was followed by the presentations of the class gifts. My class raised over $2.3 million, which is pretty impressive for a year that isn’t a major reunion. (For major reunions - namely the 25th, 40th, and 50th - they count all gifts over the previous 5 years, as well as pledges for the next 5. For everyone else, it’s just the single year.)

We had a significant disadvantage at the Tech Challenge Games, because our class had only about 25 people there. The classes where people bring a bunch of young children can do more with some of the events. We were also disadvantaged in the trivia bowl part by being at the far end of the field, which highlighted the limits of the audio system. I have probably said this before, but I will note that: a) I suck at paper plane construction and b) I can redeem myself by writing haiku. Though the poetry contest topics this time out were definitely not very inspiring – red blazers, the 1916 move of Boston Tech to Cambridge, MIT football, and snowpocalypse. I think my best effort was on the first of those:

Cardinal jackets
make perfect accessories
to go with grey hair.

I took a break from crowds of people to call a friend who is recovering from surgery and to work logistics for getting together with another friend the next day. Then it was off to the new Ashdown House (way the hell over on Vassar Street) for a barbecue dinner. The food was about what you would expect of barbecue in Massachusetts, but there was plenty more good conversation. I skipped the later night activities for several reasons and was able to get some sleep before the feral family next door woke me up.

The Shrine of the Green Monster: I skipped the Sunday brunch because I just wasn’t feeling enthusiastic about it. Instead, I had a large and tasty late breakfast at The Friendly Toast, a place in Kendall Square that is more of less one of my regular Boston breakfast spots. (I had one of the daily specials – a breakfast burrito with scrambled eggs, black beans, veggie sausage, and jalapeno-jack cheese.)

Then I went over to the Hampton Inn near the airport to leave my bags. Back to the city, it was time to meet up with my friend, Penny, to go to Fenway Park! The timing on coordinating meeting up worked amazingly well, as I had just about stepped out of the Kenmore Square T stop when she called, telling me she was right outside the souvenir shop across from Boston Beer Works.

So, Fenway. No matter how many times I go there, I never tire of the energy of the ballpark. There is really no other place like it. We were up in the Pavilion Box seats, which meant a bit of a stair climb to get there, but the view was great and, because of the intimacy of the ballpark, it didn’t feel like we were away from the action. Things started badly, with Clay Buchholz gave up 3 runs in the top of the 2nd (and another run in the 4th), and the Sox were not doing anything offensively for ages. But when they did open up, they did so explosively. Starting with a home run by Rusney Castillo, they ended up scoring 7 runs in the bottom of the 8th. You may have heard us screaming ourselves hoarse if you were anywhere within, say, a couple of thousand miles. What an exciting half an inning and what a game!

Penny and I got some coffee afterwards. Then she went off to get her train to deep suburbia, while I decided it made sense to walk at least part of the way across town. In the end, I walked all the way down to South Station, because walking in Boston is just so pleasing. Thanks to the T and the hotel shuttle, I got to the hotel in time to try to get a semi-decent amount of sleep. Which means that, yes, I completely forgot about the Tony awards. That’s just as well since getting up for a 6 a.m. flight was challenging enough.

And now I am all caught up, at least until tomorrow.