Also, while I am on the subject of puzzles, I recently read Eugene Maleska's Across and Down, his 1984 book about the crossword puzzle world. It was amusing to see references to people like Mike Shenk and Merl Reagle as new constructors. (Neither had sold a puzzle to the New York Times when this book was written.) Will Shortz is described as "a budding young word expert." One expects the players to change in 25+ years, of course. But the main thing I want to mention is that the puzzles in the back reminded me how much the puzzles have changed. I prefer the current type, which tend to have more wordplay and fewer obscure crossword words.
Celebrity Death Watch: I have two celebrity deaths to note. The first is Hugh Martin, who wrote some familiar songs, such as "The Trolley Song" and "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas." The other is Shifra Lerer, who was a major star of Yiddish theatre. She was discovered by Boris Tomashefsky (probably best known nowadays as the grandfather of Michael Tilson Thomas). Yiddish theatre is a dying world and there can't be too many of its big names left.
Vacation planning: I will be spending my birthday in the Faroe Islands. This is a place I've been interested in since reading Tim Severin's The Brendan Voyage back in the 1980's. (By the way, I read the book because of Shaun Davey's orchestral suite based on it. I couldn't read certain sections without hearing Liam O'Flynn on uillean pipes in the background.) Anyway, I've booked flights in and out of Iceland and the ferry to and from the Faroes. The flights are not really great value for my frequent flyer miles, but I have a lot of Alaska Air miles and I tend to like to use miles, not hoard them. I have barely started researching the land part, which requires me to get from Reykjavik to and from Seydisfjordur. Apparently, one can either fly or take a bus to Egilsstadir and there is daily bus from there. Bus service in eastern Iceland is relatively complicated but that is precisely what makes this plan my sort of trip. And I have over five months to sort it out. I should probably also learn how to pronounce "Seydisfjordur" somewhere along the way. (As a reminder to myself, I also need to research how to get to Gulfoss Falls, which is claimed to be one of the most spectacular waterfalls in the world and is somewhere in Iceland.)
Quote of the week: At a staff meeting this week, someone described what he is working on by saying, "The only stable thing on this project is me."
Absurdity at work: I got a phone call the other day from my company's emergency hotline. Several of the regional offices were doing a tornado drill and I was instructed to go to an interior office. The absurdity is that they called again in five minutes with an "all clear." I have an interior office so this was not a real issue. But, if somebody had to actually leave their office to comply with the instructions, there was no way for them to get the all clear. (I discovered later in the day that they had also emailed the instructions, which has the same problem.)
Not a mysterious note to myself: In a couple of months, I am sure I will be trying to figure out what "Perken-NTIA" means. Actually, I was reminding myself, that Ken told me (i.e. "per Ken") that the source for a particular policy is the National Telecommunications and Information Administration. At some point I will also probably forget that "Norms Project" belongs to Audrey, not Norm. (The latter would, of course, need an apostrophe.)
Snacko: The space folks are not being totally ignored by whoever stocks the snacko. They have added Starburst. Admittedly, I don't see the point in most non-chocolate candies, but this still amuses me.
Awesome Concert: I went to darkest Maryland Wednesday night to see Pierre Bensusan perform at the Takoma Park Community Center. Fortunately, that's not too bad a walk from the metro, which alleviates most of my complaints about Maryland. He was in particularly fine form, musically. He was also much chattier than he had been at his January concert at Jammin' Java. The running theme of the evening was that Pierre kept asking the sound guy for "more reverb." At some point, someone in the audience called out "more cowbell" and then had to explain the reference. Pierre picked up on that and in the intro to another piece talked about the farm he lives on, mentioned that they don't have a cow but do have a cat, and speculated about adding a "cat bell" to the song.
As for the music, he played a fine mix of old and new. I was especially pleased that he played "Agadir Ramadan," which is such an evocative piece. He continued the north African theme with a piece titled "Oran" and mentioned that he's been invited to go to that city (which is his birthplace, though he left at age 4) to perform with local musicians. All in all, I continue to be in awe of his virtuosity. Based on comments I heard from other people in the audience, I am not alone.