Sometimes things just work out

Sep. 26th, 2017 06:42 am
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I am not that great about having just the right place for things (and especially about returning those things to that place once I've used them). But today, that sort of thing worked out perfectly for me.

As you probably recall, three months ago, I was in a rollover accident. I was wonderfully fortunate to literally walk away from that accident (since it was just over a block from where we then lived, I literally walked home once I was no longer needed on the scene). But one of the casualties of that accident was the eyeglasses I was wearing. In all the tumbling, they went missing and were never found.

Replacement was a multi-step process: we returned to the America's Best for their deals where an eye exam and two pairs of the glasses are almost as cheap as the eye exam many places. But, for that good place, your glasses are sent to a lab and come back in a week or two. But my eyesight is bad enough that that delay was too long to wait (especially with preparations for our move). So, we took the prescription from that eye exam, and went immediately to the LensCrafters to get a pair of glasses made in an hour. So, I went home that night with a pair of glasses I could wear.

It might have been moving day itself when we got the call from America's Best that the glasses we'd bought from them were available for pick-up. (Even better, their location is only about a mile from our new apartment.) So, I tried them on in the store, and I preferred the LensCrafters glasses (you get what you pay for?) But the two pairs of glasses from them are about the same quality as those I wore before the accident, so perfectly usable. And they have sat, in their bag, on a shelf of a small end table.

Fast forward to this morning. I got out of bed earlier than I would prefer after some annoying dreams, but continued resting on the love seat for a few hours. When I finally felt ready to start waking up, I could not find my eyeglasses. Still pre-dawn, I turned on the lamp, stood up and felt around the cushion, checked the table beside me: no glasses. I thought "well, maybe I was so asleep that I didn't bring them with me," and felt around the bedside table. No dice. I also checked on the vanity in the bathroom.

Often, it would be at this point that I would start getting really frustrated by my inability to find something that shouldn't be too far away. But, I knew where that bag was. I pulled out one of those pairs: I could see! Once I could see properly, I found it (on a different shelf than I expected) very quickly. (And, having benefited from knowing the location of the spare eyeglasses, I returned that pair to its case and the bag to its now-usual place on the end table shelf, where it will be handy next time I need them.)

Bending the Knee

Sep. 24th, 2017 05:04 pm
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userpic=divided-nationOver on Facebook, a conservative friend of mine posited the question, “Someone, anyone… please enlighten me by pointing out the racist portion(s) of the following song lyrics:”, after which he quoted the Star Spangled Banner. I hesitate to respond directly on his post because of the shitstorm from the Trump-dittoheads that would ensue; instead, I’m responding on my forum.

First and foremost, the problem is not with the anthem itself, just as the fight against the Confederate statues is not about the specific statues, or the protests against the pledge are about the specifics of the pledge. The problem is with the underlying symbolism. Further, “racist” is the wrong term. “Problematic” would be much be much better.

So where is the problem? It is captured in the simple phrase, “Land of the free”. The problem is that our nation is not living up to that ideal.

Are we the “land of the free” when:

  • A black US citizen cannot drive through a white neighborhood without being pulled over, while a white US citizen driving through a black neighborhood is not hassled?
  • A brown US citizen cannot drive near the Mexican border without being stopped and asked about his immigration status, whereas a white US citizen driving near the Canadian border is not stopped?
  • An Arab-American US citizen wearing a hijab is instantly suspect of being a terrorist, whereas the white guy buying the nitrogen and ammonia is not suspicious?
  • When statistics show that brown and black citizens arrested as suspects by the police are more likely to be treated harshly, receive longer sentences, and be shown less lenience.
  • Our President criticizes black football players for not standing up and putting their hand over their heart for the National Anthem, when he has been recorded not doing so?

By the way, when y’all go to church, how do you show respect to G-d? You kneal.

We say we are the Land of the Free, but we don’t demonstrate it as long as we discriminate against people based on conditions that are not of their choosing: skin color, country of origin or heritage, religion, sex, gender, orientation. People are choosing to show respect in a non-traditional form, because that which is different must be respected as well.

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Death and Ceremonies.

Sep. 24th, 2017 01:49 pm
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For the Bangles, Sunday was their Fun Day. Their I don't have to run day.  Not mine. Sunday is my Park Day, my listen to the bark day, the find the poopy mark day:



(That's not a breakfast sammich in my right hand:P)

Instead, Saturday is the one day usually without an alarm or an agenda. Except yesterday. The longtime companion of a recent coworker had died, and yesterday morning was that set for his funeral at a small but beautiful Catholic church on Buffalo's west side.

I maybe met Randy once, and didn't work with Jan all that long either, but she's the kind of person you have to come out in support of.  I found the neighborhood- now more Muslim than Catholic- and a parking space on an adjacent street.  Two sights caught me before even setting eyes on the church itself: a cat crossing the street who was more the size of a puma; and a little girl from the neighborhood, dodging oncoming mourners while heading down the sidewalk on a pogo stick.  It's been years since I'd seen one of those in play, and it added a needed touch of levity to what would surely be a sad event.

Randy had overcome more than his share of sadness in life. His parents both died when he was still a teenager. After joining the Navy soon after high school, his first job took him to Rochester, and an almost 30-year career with the Big Yellow Box. Jan had been his high school sweetheart, but they each married and went their own ways.  In time, both of their spouses predeceased them, and Randy was also faced with the premature death of one of his own two sons and with having to care for the younger mentally challenged son, as well. Jan was immense help to him and his son. I chanced to meet him just past the pogo stick- he seemed sad, but supported by a lot of extended family.

The service itself was brief but beautiful. An old-school Catholic parish in a barely Catholic neighborhood presents challenges- often responded to by the Diocese shutting the doors- but this one seemed determined to do God's work for whoever is in need. The priest was African, the pianist/soloist Korean, the altar boys probably Filipino- and the signups in the back weren't for chicken barbecues or pro-life rallies but for helping the immigrants of the community.  Randy's brothers spoke briefly near the end of the memorial, and then the naval honor guard came forward.  There was no casket present, so the sailors unfurled the flag fully before re-folding it and handing it to Jan and to Randy's surviving son.  THAT's the kind of display of a flag that nobody can take issue with.

Randy donated his body to UB's anatomical study program, and in time he will be interred in Rochester's Riverside Cemetery to join his wife and son. My father-in-law also rests there. 

----

I came home to the sounds and fury of a deranged leader who had decided, the night before, to make an incredibly big deal out of the almost-forgotten protests taking place during the playing of the National Anthem at NFL games.  The Cheeto has since doubled and even tripled down on his vitriol, cursing those who protest and demanding their sacking (and not the kind by defensive ends).

You keep using those words, "Respect for the flag." I do not think they mean what you think they mean.  To me, they mean the freedom to express dissent, as long as it is peaceful.  I'm more than halfway through the first week of the Ken Burns Vietnam series, and also just finished a piece about Cheeto's fellow despot-in-crime, North Korea's Kim Jong Un.  Both of those presented tales of citizens, both North and South,  being forced to support the aims and symbols of their repressive governments, being threatened with arrest or worse if they didn't comply.  We are better than that.  Our flag flies for even those who don't completely agree with everything it has ever stood for.  And to ostracize and name-call those who exercise that right? Not right.

The owners of the Bills made this statement in response to the oppobrium from Alabama:   

Several of us met tonight -- players, coaches, staff, and ownership. Our goal was to provide open dialogue and communication. We listened to one another. We believe it's the best way to work through any issue we are facing -- on and off the field.

President Trump’s remarks were divisive and disrespectful to the entire NFL community, but we tried to use them as an opportunity to further unify our team and our organization.

Our players have the freedom to express themselves in a respectful and thoughtful manner and we all agreed that our sole message is to provide and to promote an environment that is focused on love and equality.

The comments in response to that are running about 90 percent "love it or leave it," but those are not indicative of the world at large. Or of the team- which locked arms for today's anthem, some kneeling, some not. Saying, "we disagree on some things, but we are together where it matters."  I will not say a word about how that will translate to the game's outcome until it's over, but for now it's a very good sign- and I think even Randy would have been proud of them.

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Tonight is the premiere of Star Trek: Discovery (FB). The first episode will be broadcast on CBS; for the rest, those in the US must subscribe to CBS’s exclusive pay-streaming service, CBS All Access. I’m a long time fan of Star Trek, and avidly devoured all of the TV series from the point where I could choose my television: the animated series, ST:TNG, ST:DS9, ST:V, and even ST:Enterprise. But I’m not going to be watching Star Trek:Discovery beyond the first episode (and possibly not even that). I think that were Gene Roddenberry alive, he wouldn’t be watching it either.

Here’s why.

In how CBS has chosen to broadcast Star Trek:Discovery (ST:D), I feel they are not being true to the Star Trek vision. Gene Roddenberry emphasized in Star Trek an optimistic attitude, a view of the world where barriers between people did not exist. The class distinctions were gone, and race, gender, orientation, religion, and similar divisions were not factors. All of the other instances of Star Trek on the small screen were egalitarian in their broadcast: if you had a TV, you could watch them, be they on NBC (TOS), the UPN network (Enterprise, Voyager), or syndicated (TNG, DS9). But for Discovery, this isn’t the case. Those without Internet access or those who are not paying for streaming service (read: most cable and satellite users) are disenfranchised. They can’t watch the show. Those with Internet access can, but only if they pay. This reduces the audience to a particular wealthy demographic.

That’s problem enough for the Emmys, as I’ve discussed previously. They no longer serve to encourage excellence in Broadcast TV (or basic cable).  Let the plebeians have crappy TV; those with the means can pay to watch the quality stuff on Netflix and Hulu and Amazon and … Streaming provides the wealthy audience that buys stuff, or pays the network directly for their programming.

But for Star Trek? Putting Star Trek on a streaming platform creates the exact class distinctions that Roddenberry fought against. It is a pure grab for money and revenue from technically savvy Trek-fandom who have more money than they need — money CBS feels free to separate from them. Much as I want ST:D to succeed, it should be on a mainstream broadcast or basic cable channel: the CW or SyFy, not pay-streaming.

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The 39 Steps (Actors Co-Op)And so, with Alfred Hitchcock, our theatre hiatus of almost 6 weeks comes to an end. Between Hamilton, which we saw on August 12 and this production of The 39 Steps, saw us traveling over 4,800 miles (at little over 4,905,290 steps, at the average stride rate).  The break, due to a combination of vacation and other activities, was a palette cleanser. And we’re ready to slowly start back up theatre, and our first show was the first show of the 26th season of Actors Co-Op (FB): Alfred Hitchcock’s The 39 Steps, adapted by Patrick Barlow.

We last saw The 39 Steps at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB) in May of 2010. Back then, I wrote about the production: “This is one production I expect to have a long life after the initial tour: it can easily be done by inventive companies.” The show has: I’ve begun to see regional companies doing the show on a regular basis — I think there are two or three doing it in Southern California alone.

Here’s how I described the show back in 2010:

The original “39 Steps” was a 1935 British thriller film directed by Alfred Hitchcock. The short version of the plot of that film, from IMDB, is “Richard Hannay is a Canadian visitor to London. At the end of “Mr Memory”‘s show in a music hall, he meets Annabella Smith who is running away from secret agents. He accepts to hide her in his flat, but in the night she is murdered. Fearing he could be accused on the girl’s murder, Hannay goes on the run to break the spy ring.”. You can find a more detailed summary of the film plot on Wikipedia.

This stage version of “The 39 Steps” is a comic farce interpretion of the movie. It takes the original mystery film, and puts the exact story onstage as if it was done by a group of four British actors at a cheap theatre. One actor takes the Richard Hannay role; one actress takes the three female lead roles (Annabella Schmidt, Pamela, and Margaret)… and the other two men take all of the remaining over 150 roles from the film. Along the way, they throw in every Hitchcock cliche and reference you can think of, including names of every Hitchcock films and most of Hitchcock’s well known situations (such as the shower scene from Psycho and the airplane chase from North by Northwest). They even throw in a Hitchcock cameo!

Making this even more fun is the fact that they don’t do this in the sort of expensive production you’ve come to expect from Broadway these days. They do it on the cheap, using clever invention (such as rear projection, puppets, representational props) to make up for the all-too-common overdone show.

The Actors Co-Op version of the show hewed close to the above, although they slightly altered the framing device and changed the execution as appropriate for an intimate theatre.This production framed the show not as British actors in a cheap theatre, but filming a production in the 1930s. I don’t recall any significant use of rear projection or seeing any puppets (and do not recall any shower scene or Hitchcock cameo). But other than that, the inventiveness was still present — including a great running gag with a window. They used props extensively to create the scene and the place, and it worked very well. They also changed the makeup of the clowns from two men to a man and a woman, which actually added a bit to the humor. They even brought in the Maltese Falcon.

Not being familiar with the script, I can’t say how much of the invention is dictated by directions in the script (stemming from the original production), and how much comes from the director (in this case, Kevin Chesley (FB)). If I had to hazard a guess, I’d estimate about 60/40, with the story giving the basic manic structure and suggesting broad execution approaches, and the director filling in the specifics and adding additional references and tricks as they saw fit. Assuming that is the case, then Chesley did well with this. Not only was he able to capture the farce timing required for this show, and not only did he pull all of the distinctly different characters out of the actors, but he was able to adapt the story from a well-funded production on a proscenium stage to an intimate theatre (under 99 seats) production in the three-quarter round, using no rear projections and a basic set of props.

The actors also captured the farce nature of the show well. In the lead position was Kevin Shewey (FB) as Richard Hannay. He was the straightman to the farce, the person moving the plot forward while being the center and catalyst for the comedy. He did this well, maintaining his composure in the madness. His regular ingenue was Lauren Thompson (FB), who played the main named female roles: Annabella, Margaret, Pamela, and the Radio Announcer. Demonstrating a variety of accents and personalities, Thompson was fun to watch. Both had to perform quite a bit of physical comedy, which came off well.

Supporting them were the two clowns, Townsend Coleman (FB) and Carly Lopez (FB), who covered the remaining 10,000 characters and roles. Well, probably less than 10,000, but it was a lot.  All of these characters — different sexes, different dialects — required lots of physical comedy and quick costume changes, which were executed well. It was fun to watch.

Supporting this effort was the production team: Scenic designer Stephen Gifford (FB) and Prop Master Lori Berg (FB) worked together to provide a very inventive stage and loads of props to support the storytelling (and where did she find the phone decanter). Adding to this were the equally inventive costumes of Vicki Conrad (FB).  Warren Davis (FB)’s sound design provided the appropriate sound effects and ominous music, and Andrew Schmedake (FB)’s lighting design provided the, umm, appropriate lighting effects and ominous lighting. Adam Michael Rose (FB) dialect coaching provided the appropriate dialects and the ominous … well, suffice it to say that the show has a large number of dialects — multiple English and Scottish dialects, as well as German — and Rose helped the actors get the different dialogs down pat. Rounding out the production team were: Derek Copenhaver (FB) [Stage Manager], Thien/Tintin Nguyen/FB [Assistant Stage Manager], Nora Feldman [Publicity], Jorie Janeway (FB) [Producer], Selah Victor (FB) [Production Manager].

The 39 Steps continues at Actors Co-op (FB) through October 29th, 2017. Tickets are available by calling Actors Co-op, or through their website. Discount tickets may be available through Goldstar. The production is clever and extremely funny, and well worth seeing.

Note: There was one non-production related discordant note. We’re Jewish. Actors Co-op (FB) is a ministry of First Presbyterian Church in Hollywood [FPCH] (FB), which is noted in every program in their mission statement. We have no problem with that — we’ve attended productions from other church ministry theatre groups such as ELATE, and we’ve never noticed any overt proselytizing — only excellent theatre. That’s why we subscribe and recommend this company to others — excellent theatre. However, as we were leaving the show, we noticed a sign on the side of their fellowship hall from FPCH indicating their ministries, which included Jews for Jesus. JFJ and similar groups (the so-called “Messianic Jews”) are problematic for Jews, as they have, as part of their mission, conversion of Jews to Christianity, and they often use misleading tactics to do so. That FPCH supports them does make clear their Christian nature; still, seeing that sign gave this Jewish audience member pause. It will likely be rotated out by the next time we’re on campus, but the company might consider discussing with FPCH the impact of publicizing such ministries on the broader theatre audience attending their shows.

Dining Notes: Normally we hit the local Fresh Brothers Pizza (FB). They are near the theatre, have great gluten-free options, and most importantly, their own parking. Last night, however, we wanted something different as I’m trying to reduce my cheese consumption. Our choice was Localli (FB), which is about 1 block further east than Fresh Bros (on the E side of Gelsons). They also have their own parking lot. It is a combination health-food market and sandwich shop, with some excellent and tasty sandwiches and salads — healthy, and available gluten-free and vegan. It isn’t fancy. Still, I think we’ll be back. There’s also a Thai Restaurant — Pimai It’s Thai (FB) — in the same parking lot that we might try next time.

***

Ob. Disclaimer: I am not a trained theatre (or music) critic; I am, however, a regular theatre and music audience member. I’ve been attending live theatre and concerts in Los Angeles since 1972; I’ve been writing up my thoughts on theatre (and the shows I see) since 2004. I do not have theatre training (I’m a computer security specialist), but have learned a lot about theatre over my many years of attending theatre and talking to talented professionals. I pay for all my tickets unless otherwise noted. I am not compensated by anyone for doing these writeups in any way, shape, or form. I currently subscribe at Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB) (well, make that 5 Stars Theatricals (FB)), the Hollywood Pantages (FB), Actors Co-op (FB), the Chromolume Theatre (FB) in the West Adams district, and a mini-subscription at the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC) (FB). Through my theatre attendance I have made friends with cast, crew, and producers, but I do strive to not let those relationships color my writing (with one exception: when writing up children’s production, I focus on the positive — one gains nothing except bad karma by raking a child over the coals). I believe in telling you about the shows I see to help you form your opinion; it is up to you to determine the weight you give my writeups.

Upcoming Shows:

September is very quiet for theatre — The 39 Steps is our only show. I’ve been looking at the shows coming across Goldstar, and there’s not much that is drawing me to them. So we’ll see about how the upcoming weekends fill out. Currently, our October theatre begins mid-Month with  Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat at Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB), the Upright Citizens Brigade (UCB) at the Valley Performing Arts Center (FB), and a tribute to Ray Charles — To Ray With Love — also at the Valley Performing Arts Center (FB). The third weekend in October brings Bright Star at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB). Looking into November, we have The Man Who Came to Dinner at Actors Co-op (FB), the Nottingham (FB) and Tumbleweed (FB) Festivals, a Day Out with Thomas at Orange Empire Railway Museum (FB), Spamilton at the Kirk Douglas Theatre (FB) and Something Rotten at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB). December brings ACSAC 2017 in San Juan PR, the Colburn Orchestra and the Klezmatics at the Valley Performing Arts Center (FB),   Pacific Overtures at Chromolume Theatre (FB), and our Christmas Day movie. More as the schedule fleshes out, of course, but we’re booking all the way out in mid to late 2018 already!

As always, I’m keeping my eyes open for interesting productions mentioned on sites such as Better-Lemons, Musicals in LA, @ This Stage, Footlights, as well as productions I see on Goldstar, LA Stage Tix, Plays411 or that are sent to me by publicists or the venues themselves. Note: Lastly, want to know how to attend lots of live stuff affordably? Take a look at my post on How to attend Live Theatre on a Budget.

This entry was originally posted on Observations Along The Road (on cahighways.org) as this entry by cahwyguy. Although you can comment on DW, please make comments on original post at the Wordpress blog using the link below; you can sign in with your LJ, FB, or a myriad of other accounts. There are currently comments on the Wordpress blog. PS: If you see share buttons above, note that they do not work outside of the Wordpress blog.

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Transportation Perspectives

Sep. 23rd, 2017 01:14 pm
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Continuing the task of clearing out some news chum that has accumulated, here are some articles related to transportation, in honor of Curbed LA’s Transportation Week (as good an excuse as any):

  • The Evolution of Transportation in Los Angeles. This is an interesting photoessay that looks how transportation evolved in LA, from early horses, wagons, and stagecoaches to the Pacific Electric to the private automobile.  It also explores how highways have reshaped the city.
  • The Streetcar Conspiracy. The next article looks at the truth of a subject touched upon in the previous link: the canard that car and tire manufacturers conspired to destroy the Red Cars.  Their conclusion is right: there was no conspiracy. I’ll add some more reasons why the conspiracy theory was bunk: people moved to private cars because they gave more flexible routing, and the cars themselves were newer and better maintained. Even into the 1960s, PE was running cars built in the 1920s. The crime was not the death of PE and LARy, but the loss of the right of way.
  • The Rebirth of the Historic Trolley. The third link look at the rise of the Historic Trolley Car Tours. These tours, of course aren’t on really trolley cars (which have tracks and trollers), but on buses made to look like streetcars. Why the nostalgia for a form of transportation most people didn’t ride.
  • Self Driving Cars. Moving away from Los Angeles, here’s an interesting article on how former military bases are being used to test self-driving cars. Military bases, in many ways, are perfect for the tasks: they have mini-communities with streets, houses, and schools, but not people that can be hurt.
  • Provision Driving Changes. Lastly, an article about a proposed change in California that would change the age under which provisional driving licenses are issued to 21 from 18. Assembly Bill 63, authored by Assemblyman Jim Frazier, D-Discovery Bay, will extend the age range of the provisional licensing program from 16 to 21. New drivers will first need to complete drivers ed to then get their provisional license, which will prevent them from driving between the hours of 11 p.m. and 5 a.m. and transporting anyone under 20 years of age, unless accompanied by a driving instructor. The license restrictions remain in effect for the driver’s first year. Active-duty members of the California National Guard, the State Military Reserve or the U.S. Armed Forces will be exempt from the program. Also, individuals age 18 and older who have an ambulance driver certificate, school bus driver certificate or a commercial driver’s license from the program are also exempt.

 

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Life Lessons

Sep. 23rd, 2017 12:53 pm
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round challah userpicThe Jewish New Year started Wednesday night; perhaps you saw my post on it.  For us, this service was a little different. Our daughter had just moved out of state to go to graduate school in Wisconsin. In turn, we had acquired a pseudo-daughter: the daughter of my cousin had moved in with us six months ago and was turning 18 on Rosh Hashanah. Our role with respect to her was not just to provide housing, but to provide lessons in “adulting” — helping her transition to being an independent adult. The effort has been quite challenging; she is very different than our daughter in many many (or so many) ways. She joined us at services Wednesday evening, and all I can say is that the Universe must have known.

The service opened with a very interesting story from the rabbi about a man who complained about the adversity in their life. This man went to a rabbi and asked how to deal with that adversity. The rabbi asked him to bring three pots of water to a boil. In one he was to put a potato, in one an egg, and in one a scoop of coffee. After twenty minutes, he was to turn off the water and examine each pot. All three objects were subjected to the same adversity. One, the potato, became soft and weak. Another, the egg, became hardened. The third, the coffee, changed the water into something better. Adversity isn’t the issue. How we respond to it is.

During the sermon, the rabbi read a letter she had written to her daughter, who was going out of town for college. She has subsequently posted that letter, which I urge everyone to read. There were numerous sections relevant to the young woman currently living with us. Here’s an example of a particularly good paragraph:

You will make mistakes. Some will be small and easily repaired, like missing a deadline. Others will be devastating and not so easily repaired. There are some things that you will only learn the hard way, and it will be painful. Mistakes are a part of life and part of growing up and learning; and you can’t avoid them no matter how old you are. It is up to you to decide to learn from your mistakes. The lessons of the High Holy Days can teach you how to do tshuvah, to truly make repentance. First you must admit that you have done something wrong — and not in general, but in detail; you must recognize your wrongdoing, without downplaying it or making excuses for yourself. You may want to hide from your mistakes sometimes, but owning up to them is the only way you will change. If you hurt another person, you need to apologize. Not a generic blanket apology on Facebook, not a text, not an insincere “sorry, not sorry” but a genuine apology where you acknowledge your part in causing hurt. Yes, this might be an awkward conversation, but it is a necessary part of the process. In the words of Dan Nichols, “embrace the awkward,” and your relationships will be stronger. If you can learn to take responsibility and apologize for the small hurts you cause, you will have the tools to do the same for the harder ones. And then, forgive yourself. It is OK to make mistakes; you don’t have to be perfect. Don’t beat yourself up over your missteps — learn from them, so you can do better in the future.

Part of the discussion touched upon areas we’ve discussed with our daughter. She went to Berkeley for her undergraduate, is passionate about social justice, and is a devoted Yiddishist (for all that means). She is less than enamored with Israel, especially for its treatment of minorities and the Palestinians. She has fallen into the understand of what many see Zionism as today, which has morphed from its original meaning and intent. Therefore, when I heard the following in the Rabbi’s sermon, I though of her:

Stand up for what you believe in. If your relationship with Israel was a Facebook status, you would label it as “complicated.” For years you have been hearing about the dangers of anti-Zionism on campus. Make no mistake: anti-Zionism is anti-Semitism. BDS, the movement to boycott, divest and sanction Israel, is anti-Semitic — but they are attracting Jews, especially Reform Jews, by pretending to be a social justice movement. You have learned here at TAS how important it is to stand up to oppressors, to fight for rights and to make sure that all people are treated equally. BDS preys on that by telling you that if you really, truly care about social justice you will recognize Jews as oppressors and will stand against Israel. There are people who will tell you that unless you denounce Israel you can not have a voice in any other issues.

This summer Jewish groups were asked not to participate in the Chicago Dyke March because a rainbow flag with a Jewish star on it was considered threatening and against the values of the marchers. Similar things were said by the organizers of that city’s Slut Walk. There are people who will try to tell you that you can not be a feminist if you are a Zionist. They are wrong. This is anti-Semitism. Calling it anti-Zionism does not change the fact that it is anti-Semitism. Zionism is the belief that Jews are entitled to a nation in our ancestral homeland, Israel, and modern Zionism encompasses our values of democracy, pluralism, and equality. A love of Israel demands honesty and a commitment to the continuation of building a morally exceptional society — to be a light to the nations.

The good news is that your relationship with Israel should be complicated. Israel is not perfect. The Israeli government is not perfect. Just as we can love America without loving everything our government or leadership does, you can love Israel without loving everything its government does. The treatment of Bedouins and discrimination against non-Orthodox Jews are just two of the serious issues that are deeply problematic. Loving Israel does not mean you agree with everything; it does not mean that you will not have reasons to legitimately criticize — there are legitimate problems and you should criticize when it is called for.

This dovetailed with another post I had been saving for my News Chum from the “This is Not Jewish” blog: A post on how to criticize Israel without being Antisemetic. This is an important subject: my daughter is right that much of the behavior of the Israeli government is wrong (as is much of the behavior of the Palestinians — this is one area where both sides have deeply flawed behavior). As this post puts it:

For those good-faith people, I present some guidelines for staying on the good side of that admittedly murky line [of not being antisemetic], along with the reasoning why the actions I list are problematic. (And bad-faith people, you can no longer plead ignorance if you engage in any of these no-nos. Consider yourselves warned.)

I particularly like their item 5:

Don’t say “Zionists” when you mean Israel. Zionism is no more a dirty word than feminism.  It is simply the belief that the Jews should have a country in part of their ancestral homeland where they can take refuge from the anti-Semitism and persecution they face everywhere else.  It does not mean a belief that Jews have a right to grab land from others, a belief that Jews are superior to non-Jews, or any other such tripe, any more than feminism means hating men.  Unless you believe that Israel should entirely cease to exist, you are yourself Zionist.  Furthermore, using “Zionists” in place of “Israelis” is inaccurate and harmful.  The word “Zionists” includes Diasporan Jews as well (most of whom support a two-state solution and pretty much none of whom have any influence on Israel’s policies) and is used to justify anti-Semitic attacks outside Israel (i.e., they brought it on themselves by being Zionists).  And many of the Jews IN Israel who are most violent against Palestinians are actually anti-Zionist–they believe that the modern state of Israel is an offense against God because it isn’t governed by halakha (traditional Jewish religious law).  Be careful with the labels you use.

This is the reason why “anti-Zionism” is considered by most to be a synonym and cover for antisemitism. There is a big difference between the beliefs of Zionism and the behavior of the state of Israel. It is like equating Libertarians with Republicans.

I strongly urge anyone with children to read the first link, and those with Jewish children to teach the second link.

 

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Words, Words, Words

Sep. 23rd, 2017 09:18 am
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Words, words, words!
I’m so sick of words
I get words all day through
First from him, now from you
Is that all you blighters can do?
(“Show Me” from My Fair Lady, M/L: Lerner and Loewe)

Words, words, words (and their underlying concepts): we use them everyday, but as they say in The Princess Bride: “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.” Here are some articles that have passed through my various RSS feeds and sources of late that relate to words/concepts, and their use/misuse:

  1. Words You May Be Using Wrong. This is an interesting summary of a scientific paper that explores 50 terms that people regularly confuse and use wrong. For example, there is a significant difference between asocial and antisocial, and most people use the latter when they mean the former. Envy and jealousy are similarly confused. Race and ethnicity. Serial killers vs mass murderers. Quite an interesting read.
  2. Lost Words That Deserve a Comeback. Here’s another interesting word list: 30 Lost English Words that Deserve a Comeback. We had a good example of such a word in the last few days: dotard (meaning “an old person, especially one who has become weak or senile”). I’m not sure that’s the word I would have used.  Sillytonian seems better to me (A silly or gullible person, esp. one considered as belonging to a notional sect of such people). In any case, it is worth reading the list.
  3. Open and Closed Minded. Speaking of Sillytonian people, one of the major complaints about that group is that they are so closed minded (but they would say the same about us). But what does it mean to be open or closed mined. Here’s an exploration of 7 significant ways you can tell open from closed minded. For example, closed-minded people don’t want their ideas challenged. They are typically frustrated that they can’t get the other person to agree with them instead of curious as to why the other person disagrees. Where are you on that spectrum?
  4. Infinities of Infinities. Infinity is a concept that has fascinated me since high school. The math surrounding the concept is so weird: ∞ + ∞, for example, equals ∞. The infinity of all even numbers is the same as the infinity of all numbers. However, for the longest time, we have believed that the infinity of all rational numbers (that is, those that can be represented by a fraction of two integers) was actually smaller than the infinity of all numbers including transcendental numbers (i.e., the real numbers like π that can’t be represented by a fraction). It now appears that we were wrong, and all infinities are equal. I expect this is something we’ll keep seeing come back, because it is in someways counter-intuitive, like the ever-present Monty Hall Problem.

Words, words, words!
I’m so sick of words
I get words all day through
First from him, now from you
Is that all you blighters can do?

P.S.: If you like words, here’s a newly discovered Kurt Vonnegut short story.

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What it’s like for girls

Sep. 22nd, 2017 03:39 pm
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[personal profile] marnanel
I've always dressed androgynously and worn my hair long since childhood, because of being nonbinary, but this was the first time I'd got this treatment. I think it gets more common after puberty?

When I was about fifteen, I participated in a thirty-mile walk to raise money for charity. The final checkpoint was a pub, and of course everyone went into the beer garden and lay down on the grass.

Now you know how when you've been exerting yourself, you can walk fine until you stop, whereupon your muscles seize up. Well, after lying on the ground for a few minutes I got up because I needed to go into the pub and find the toilet, and of course I could hardly walk. So I hobbled towards the pub door.

A middle-aged man walked up and held my elbow, saying, "Let me help you, my dear."

First thought: wtf?! Why has this creep grabbed my arm without asking?

Second thought: Oh! In these baggy walking clothes, he thinks I'm a girl.

Third thought: Wait a moment. That means that girls get this sort of treatment all the time and I'VE NEVER NOTICED.

It was seriously a life-altering moment.

Transitions....

Sep. 21st, 2017 03:36 pm
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[personal profile] captainsblog
More or less chronological from the past day:

Our longtime neighbor's house is finally up for sale. The sign went up late yesterday, and a listing showed up this morning.  By this afternoon, the listing realtor's site for it had been taken down. Did it sell that fast, or is something else going on?  This third-party site still has the info and some photos of in and out:



Yup, it's the answer to life, the universe and everything!



All traces of Betty's gardens are gone.



A retro-fan friend of mine picked right up on the built-in radio, likely of the same vintage as the '57 Buick of a built-in oven we still have in our kitchen next door.

Anyway, all this can be yours (including the curtains). Unless it can't because it sold in under a day- which does happen around here these days.

----

Also last night, before I saw any of those pictures, I saw this one:



A friend and fellow aminal lover posted this tale from the City of Buffalo Animal Shelter:

 

Lilly is a 12-18 month old chocolate lab mix who came to the shelter when her owners moved out of their house and left her behind. A concerned neighbor brought her to our care.

REALLY?!? Who does that? She looked well cared for, and the rest of the listing said she was doing well meeting people and other dogs.  I knew the time was all wrong- with Eleanor's three month layup, she's going to have enough trouble letting one dog out the back door during the day- but cmon. That FACCCCCE.  So I detoured after court this morning and checked. Sadly (or happily, really), Lilly already got adopted out. There were plenty of other choices, most of them pitties, but no. This would have been for Tasha- our first doggie rescue, a Chocolate lab mix who we gave the best 12 years of her 13 years of life through a few years ago. I'll continue to say no, but I'll never say never.

----

In other transitions, a longtime friend lost her longtime cat companion the other day. But not many Rainbow Bridge residents have a whole series of mystery novels starring them for us to remember them by:



Closer to home, the longtime companion of a former coworker passed away this week after a very long series of end days. His funeral is Saturday morning, and I think I need to go to that.

----

I think I also need to go out of town tomorrow for my only trip this week.  Nothing about THAT ever changes.
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Apple in Honeyuserpic=tallitRosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, starts at sundown tonight, September 20th. Thus, it’s time for my annual New Years message for my family, my real-life, Blog,  Dreamwidth, Google+, Tumblr, Twitter, and Facebook friends (including all the new ones I have made this year), and all other readers of my journal:

L’Shana Tovah. Happy New Year 5778. May you be written and inscribed for a very happy, sweet, and healthy new year.

For those curious about Jewish customs at this time: There are a number of things you will see. The first is an abundance of sweet foods. Apples dipped in honey. Honey cakes. The sweet foods remind us of the sweet year to come. Apples in honey, specifically, express our hopes for a sweet and fruitful year. Apples were selected because in ancient times they became a symbol of the Jewish people in relationship to God. In Song of Songs, we read, “As the apple is rare and unique among the trees of the forest, so is my beloved [Israel] amongst the maidens [nations] of the world.” In medieval times, writes Patti Shosteck in A Lexicon of Jewish Cooking, apples were considered so special that individuals would use a sharp utensil or their nails to hand-carve their personal hopes and prayers into the apple skins before they were eaten. And the Zohar, a 13th-century Jewish mystical text, states that beauty – represented by God – “diffuses itself in the world as an apple.” With respect to the honey: honey – whether from dates, figs, or apiaries – was the most prevalent sweetener in the Jewish world and was the most available “sweet” for dipping purposes. And as for the biblical description of Israel as a land flowing with “milk and honey,” the Torah is alluding to a paste made from overripe dates, not honey from beehives. Still, enjoying honey at Rosh HaShanah reminds us of our historic connection with the Holy Land. Although the tradition is not in the Torah or Talmud, even as early as the 7th century, it was customary to wish someone, “Shana Tova Umetukah” (A Good and Sweet Year).
(Source: Reform Judaism Website)

Rosh Hashanah ImagesAnother traditional food is a round challah. Some say they it represents a crown that reflects our coronating God as the Ruler of the world. Others suggest that the circular shape points to the cyclical nature of the year. The Hebrew word for year is “shana,” which comes from the Hebrew word “repeat.” Perhaps the circle illustrates how the years just go round and round. But Rosh Hashana challahs are not really circles; they are spirals… The word “shana” has a double meaning as well. In addition to “repeat,” it also means “change”. As the year goes go round and round, repeating the same seasons and holidays as the year before, we are presented with a choice: Do we want this shana (year) to be a repetition, or do we want to make a change (shinui)? Hopefully, each year we make choices for change that are positive, and each year we will climb higher and higher, creating a spiritual spiral. The shape of the Rosh Hashana challah reminds us that this is the time of year to make those decisions. This is the time to engage in the creative spiritual process that lifts us out of the repetitive cycle, and directs our energies toward a higher end.
(Source: Aish Ha’Torah)

There are also apologies, for during the ten days starting Sunday evening, Jews examine their lives and see how they can do better. On Yom Kippur (starting the evening of September 29th), Jews apologize to G-d for their misdeeds during the past year. However, for an action against another person, one must apologize to that person.

So, in that spirit:

If I have offended any of you, in any way, shape, manner, or form, real or imagined, then I apologize and beg forgiveness. If I have done anything to hurt, demean, or otherwise injure you, I apologize and beg forgiveness. If I have done or said over the past year that has upset, or otherwise bothered you, I sincerely apologize, and will do my best to ensure it won’t happen again.

If you have done something in the above categories, don’t worry. I know it wasn’t intentional, and I would accept any apology you would make.

May all my blog readers and all my friends have a very happy, healthy, and meaningful new year. May you find in this year what you need to find in life.

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usability struggles

Sep. 19th, 2017 10:51 pm
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I spend a lot of time on, and am a volunteer moderator for, several Stack Exchange sites. (Mi Yodeya is one of them.) SE has a banner ("top bar") that is the same across all sites. It contains notifications, information about the logged-in user, and some key navigation links. For moderators it contains a few more things relevant to that job.

Until recently it looked like this (non-moderator view):

original

The red counter is the inbox (waiting messages) and the green one is reputation changes. If there aren't any, you just get the gray icons that those alerts are positioned over. If I were a moderator on that site, there'd be a diamond to the left of my user picture and a blue square with the flag count to the left of that.

They've just changed this design. (Well, the change is rolling out.) Here's what it looks like now (for a moderator):

new, notifications

The most important links for moderation are the last two things, the diamond and the blue box with the number (flags). They're on the far right, where they're less likely to be seen for various reasons. (Non-moderators don't get those indicators.)

In the old design, those moderator indicators -- which are important -- were toward the center where they're easier to see. Also, all the numbers were a little bigger and easier to see.

When this was announced there was a lot of immediate discussion in the moderators-only chat room, during which I got a little upset about the reduced usability, especially those moderator controls -- which had a good chance of being scrolled away in a not-huge browser window, because SE doesn't use responsive design. After I calmed down I wrote a post on Meta about how this was going to make it harder for me to do my volunteer job, particularly with vision challenges. I expected to get a few sympathy votes, some "get a bigger monitor" snark (which wouldn't help, by the way), and no results.

That post is now one of my highest-scoring posts on the network. And I have a meeting with the product manager and a designer at SE next week to demonstrate my difficulties in using this in more detail.

Meanwhile, I've gotten some help with userscripts from some other moderators. It's hacky and a little buggy and it slows down page loads and I have no idea how to adjust some things, but at least I can see my notifications and the moderator stuff is in a better place. It'll do for now.

I sure hope I can get them to bake some of this in, though. The page-load delay is a little disconcerting as stuff jumps around on the screen. (Also, userscripts do not work on my Android tablet.)

Beyond the immediate problem, though, what I really hope for is to find some way to raise a little awareness that usability is hard, designers are not the users, there are all kinds of people with all kinds of usage patterns and constraints, and you need to somehow, systematically, figure out how to design for the larger audience. That's going to be the hard part.

Emmy Awards: Relevance and Privilege

Sep. 19th, 2017 05:38 pm
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Over on Facebook today, a friend of mine posted a very interesting query: “So of all who watch the Emmy’s year after year…. do you actually have access to all those networks and shows that are nominated?”. This dovetailed with a feeling I had watching this year’s Emmys: What happened to the days when most people could see the Emmy winning shows on broadcast TV? This year there were very few network shows nominated, and even fewer winners. In fact, many of the winners weren’t even broadcast on channels one could get on traditional over-the-air, cable, or satellite TV as part of the basic subscription packages. They were on channels that, like HBO, you had to pay premium prices for, or channels like Hulu which you had to have an Internet subscription to watch.

Thinking about this further, on my Facebook, I asked: Wouldn’t it be great if we could get an awards show for excellent on channels that everyone could see: free channels or those included is most basic packages. That would encourage those channels to be excellent, not just those that can command premium prices.

But, driving home, what I realized is something unspoken about the Emmys: We may celebrate diversity behind the camera — especially this year. But we don’t have diversity in front of the screen. The inclusion in the Emmys of premium channels and channels that depend on the Internet have an unwritten presumption of a form of privilege: the privilege that provides the means to pay for premium subscriptions, to have Internet service, to pay for the extra devices, to pay for the computers and such. Many of the poor in this country don’t have those means — our rush to the Internet has simply passed them by and most people don’t care. There is no requirement of Universal Internet Access, like there is for phone service.

In our push to recognize quality in premium channels, we are sucking the quality from the accessible-to-all channels. And in doing so, we are dumbing down those channels and hurting the entire viewership of TV.

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Talking Like a Pirate

Sep. 19th, 2017 11:12 am
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Today is International Talk Like a Pirate Day, so let’s all talk like pirates: Arr, Hedge Fund Landlords. Arr, Student Loan Servicers. Arr, Developers.

 

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chicken of naps

Sep. 18th, 2017 04:19 pm
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[personal profile] kyleri
it is Monday, & we are here

a breath for Monday

what worked?

small steps. small steps. a lot of naps. so much napping.

next time i might...


do fewer things in one day

the hard:


so tired. SO tired. so very, very tired. So tired of being so tired. hey, body, i got shit to DO here.

hanging out with someone i KNOW is a bad idea for me to hang out with. don't, just don't, if i don't have to, don't, & chances are i don't have to.

Tom's wandering off for more days at a time, still, so i'm worried about him pretty often. ugh, tomcats.

the good:

the house is still happening. i'm gonna be vaguely surprised this is working for probably six months after we have the title in hand.

rommmate spent the weekend at a pagan event, thus giving me some badly-needed alone time.

donkey races in Cerrillos, which was pretty much the best thing i'd seen in a month.

finally getting on top of the post-event stuff, which is pretty nice, i hate having stuff half-done & sitting

superpowers & such:

Take a Damn Nap. also, Take a Damn Nap.

the plan:


this week enough stuff is unpacked & refrotzed that i get to make things! i like making things. it's the best part.

church, me and food

Sep. 18th, 2017 03:19 pm
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[personal profile] kayre
I'm lactose intolerant. It's pretty much a joke in our culture now, but I really am, and quite severely, plus I get a couple of extra reactions as a bonus. Even a small dose of milk means 6 to 12 hours of diarrhea and stinky farts, another day or two of feeling achy and uncomfortable, patches of eczema that last a few days. LactAid pills help; they most definitely don't prevent reaction.

Churches love food. Coffee hour with sweet baked treats. Refreshments at almost every gathering, ranging from more sweet goodies to pizza. Potluck suppers. Catered suppers-- spaghetti, lasagna, even turkey dinners.

If I don't tell folks (and maybe if I do, see below), my choices are: eat and get sick; don't eat anything; bring my own food; or skip the event. Oddly, anything but the first will upset some folk. Abstaining or bringing my own food leads to people being hurt that I won't try their offerings, or even accusing me of 'trying to make them feel guilty.' And as a church staffer, skipping food events can be a professional problem as well as a social sadness.

From the church point of view? It's a bother to accommodate food issues. There are at least four of us who are lactose intolerant to some degree; two vegetarians; two people with celiac disease who are only occasional attenders; one minor nut allergy (but not to the point of violent reaction); and, unknown to most, at least one recovering alcoholic. Folks who can and do eat anything and everything seem to find it overwhelming to contemplate feeding those of us with food issues. Mostly the reactions I see are thinly veiled irritation.

What could be done? First and easiest would just be to LABEL everything. Put out a card with the name of the dish on one side, and ingredients on the other (or I don't know/made from mix). Next-- actually talk to us and ask what works? I am absolutely happy to suggest possibilities, substitutions, or modifications that aren't burdensome; after all, I do them daily. Considering varying needs early in the planning is especially helpful-- salad bar rather than tossed and dressed salad, please!

But the bottom line... is that I am often reminded that I'm not worth the trouble of feeding me. (Not only at church, but honestly, it's the worst.) Me being lactose intolerant is inconvenient for other people. Sorry, not terribly sympathetic to that point of view.

So much of the so much

Sep. 18th, 2017 08:36 am
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[personal profile] sine_nomine
There is lots going on. Mostly good. Some not so good. I watch the news on the hurricanes and marvel at The Weather Channel's ability to make weather "news". It would be interesting to research that shift, in fact.

And I worry about the people in harm's way - especially places like Barbuda which were nearly obliterated by Irma (and not "decimated", as I heard one person describe it; yes, common parlance has gotten "decimation" to mean "in large part" versus "one in every ten - be it tithe or killing of mutinous soldiers.... but it lacks the precision and clarity and honesty that "obliterated" does, to me).

And I worry about the people in my life who are wrestling with personal hurricanes, and those challenges.

And I struggle with a bunch of stuff myself, and try to figure out how to move forward, but move forward I must.

Onwards.
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The last three workdays last week were bookended by trips to Rochester for both work and teeth.  The only scheduled work of Wednesday was signing up a couple's wills; only one of them showed up, though, so that wound up making for a very early start on Friday to get Mr. Client's done, as well.

The Wednesday dental appointment was the more routine one- just a semiannual cleaning. The new hygienist is very young, very good, but very chatty. Better to be that during a cleaning than during what came two days later.

Emily's office is just down the road from Dr. Ron's, so I stopped over there to drop off a copy of Nothing- a quirky Canadian film our friend Ann recommended to us.  Since I was running a little behind schedule, I just found her car in the parking lot and slipped the DVD under her windshield. I even texted her that I would probably do that....

which she apparently forgot.  By the time she got home, a good 20 mile drive, she hadn't realized I'd done it, but amazingly, it was still there under the wiper.  Good thing it hadn't rained that day;)



----

Two days later, I was back there, to take care of problems with two teefs.  One, I'd known about for ages; the other came up on an x-ray last time I was in. Either could have turned into a major crown job, but we got them both filled and smoothed out with much less time and expense.  Before that, I also finished Will Number Two for Wednesday's couple, and got back here at a decent hour for, among other things, watching a goofy Scandinavian film that Netflix sent us; both of us were getting deja vu throughout, which made sense, because not only had we seen it before, we own it.  Then last night, we watched Repo Man, which we knew we owned, in honor of the passing of Harry Dean Stanton.

----

Small world time at the dog park today.  I'd fallen behind on a lot of paperwork with the time spent driving and sitting in dentists' chairs, so I tried cranking out a bunch of stuff from home on Saturday morning. It wasn't going well- the printer jammed, the work was dreary, and I was in Such A Mood when I left to finish up at the office, I decided to work in a workout first. It shouldn't have been overtiring (I check their unofficial schedule on reddit before booking anything), but for whatever reason it really wore me out. But the instructor is a really nice guy- my second class with him at the studio on the other side of town that is actually closer to my office than my "regular" one is.

Turns out I'd already met him before.  Not long into our first trip round the Parp!, we saw a couple of beagles who've been there before- Peter and Piper.  Their male human looked at me kinda funny, and we finally concluded that he's the trainer I'd done the class with the day before.

----

Recording Vietnam as I finish this.  I don't know if I'll get into it, but everything I've read about it, and about Burnsian documentaries in general, has been very positive.

a conversation snippet

Sep. 16th, 2017 10:36 pm
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[personal profile] cellio
Tonight at our s'lichot service (something tied to the high holy days), a fellow congregant greeted me and said "I haven't seen you in hours!". (We'd both been there this morning.) I said "hours and hours!". He complained that I was getting carried away.

I responded by saying: "hours" means at least two; "hours and hours" therefore means at least four; it's been longer than that since this morning, so "hours and hours" is not inappropriate.

It was at this point that somebody standing nearby said "oh, that's where I know you from!". We'd both been in a talmud-heavy class a while back.

There are worse things to be remembered for. :-)

Question thread #56

Sep. 16th, 2017 07:45 pm
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[personal profile] pauamma posting in [site community profile] dw_dev
It's time for another question thread!

The rules:

- You may ask any dev-related question you have in a comment. (It doesn't even need to be about Dreamwidth, although if it involves a language/library/framework/database Dreamwidth doesn't use, you will probably get answers pointing that out and suggesting a better place to ask.)
- You may also answer any question, using the guidelines given in To Answer, Or Not To Answer and in this comment thread.