Puzzle People Deaths: I met Leslie Billig only in passing at a couple of crossword tournaments, but it is clear from what other people have said that she was well-liked and a significant loss to the tribe of puzzlers. The loss that has hit me harder is that of Thomas Gazzola, known within the NPL as Maso. He was a brilliant man, the creator of numerous puzzles, including a late-night game that I still think of as Doubles Jeopardy, even though he later changed that to It Takes Two. I was always astonished (and excessively proud of myself) when I could beat him at any sort of trivia. His death is particularly tragic, as he was the victim of a drunk driver, who struck him while he was jogging near his home. This year’s con will not be the same without him.
Leading Jewish Minds: Tuesday night was the first Washington area edition of the Leading Jewish Minds at MIT series, sponsored by MIT Hillel. Traffic going to McLean was a mess, but I made it in plenty of the time to the home of our gracious hosts. I hadn’t expected to know anybody (other than the Hillel staff) but, in fact, the attendees included someone I met a while back via a mutual friend and another person whose cousin was a good friend some 30+ years ago. The event was advertised as having "light kosher dairy refreshments." Ignoring the kashrut question, at a non-Jewish event, that would mean wine and cheese and maybe crudites. At a Jewish event, light refreshments means a groaning board, including noodle kugel, spanakopita, lox, salads, etc.
The speaker was Dr. Gerald D. Cohen '88, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Macroeconomic Analysis at the US Department of the Treasury, who spoke about the outlook for the US economy. I thought the most interesting part of his talk had to do with metrics, i.e. how we actually measure how the economy is doing.
Food Pornography – Pizza Edition: There was a flyertalk dinner at Fireworks Pizza in the Courthouse area on Wednesday night. The place was quite noisy, which is an issue, but the food was well worth it. The beer list offered too many choices, so I went with a cocktail, instead – The Calm Before the Storm, which was their version of a Dark and Stormy. It was quite good, with strong ginger flavor. (One of the reasons I rarely order these is that most American ginger beer is unimpressive.) As for food, the tartufo pizza had lots of tasty mushrooms (shitake, cremini, maitake) and an excellent thin crust. It is probably the best pizza I’ve had in the area and I would certainly try some of their other offerings.
The evening also solved a bit of a mystery. A couple of weeks ago I ran into somebody at a bookstore, who clearly knew me as he called me by name. He looked vaguely familiar, and I was pretty sure there was a work connection, but I could not place him at all. Well, he was at that dinner and it turns out that he works with our software team. But he is based in Seattle, so it’s not like he’s around all the time. We had never actually worked together but had had a conversation re: flyertalk once on the way into the building (since I had a backpack with a flyertalk tag on it).
Everybody Knows: I thought that everybody knows that there are stalactites underneath the Lincoln Memorial, formed by the limestone of the carving dripping down into the cavernous understructure. I have, in fact, been there and seen them, though it is some years ago. Nobody in my office knew about this. Alas, it appears that they’ve closed off public access, so they will remain unconvinced.