Thursday, October 26, 2006


I got back from Chicago on Monday morning, and then spent the last two days in Philadelphia. And I'm headed back to Chicago this weekend through next Wednesday. It's enough already!

Philly and the next Chicago trip (and the LA trip a week and a half) after that are all for staff training. And on the drive back from Philly today, I started reading all of the evaluations. Most of them were pretty good, and people actually took the time to write things out, so that's good in and of itself. I can't remember the whole exact phrase written by one participant, but the bottom line was "Andrea was rude and condescending." Whatever.

This was someone who came up to me after the first session of the day and said that she hadn't checked out of the hotel. Why? Because she hadn't looked at the schedule and didn't know that we weren't going back any time during the day. Her flight wasn't until 7:45pm, so she figured she could just leave everything there. She said most check-out times weren't until at least noon. I told her I had no idea what time check-out was and suggested that she go back and check out as soon as possible. So she thinks I'm rude and condescending? I'm ok with that.

Strangely enough, she also said good things about one of the sessions I led, so I give her credit for not letting her negative feelings toward me cloud her ability to learn from me. Maybe she can also learn to read the conference schedule next time....

Monday, October 23, 2006

The Chicago Marathon

I was not one of the 44,000 runners in this year's Chicago Marathon that took place yesterday in Chicago. I was traveling to and from Chicago with most of them though. In line, waiting for my flight, the conversation was about running - training runs, what to eat, breaking in new shoes, running 1/2 marathons, how to best recover, how to find a hotel close to the start of the race, how to get back to the hotel after the race, and how in your first marathon you really don't notice the first 13 miles because you're just so excited. So this conversation is taking place all around me and I felt like I was in an movie with the camera circling the conversation and going around and around and around.

And then I said, I'm not going for the marathon, but I've got to just ask you all a question. I asked, "So you're not late for anything, and no one is chasing you, but you're still running?" There was a very, long, extenuated pause while they looked at me like I was from another planet. They quietly said, "uh huh", moved a little farther away, and continued their conversation using their "inside voices" so the other non-runners (maybe two other people?) wouldn't interrupt.

And this morning on the way back to DC - once again, all the runners. But this time they didn't look so excited! There was a mass of humanity trying to get through security at Midway. And yet the people you saw running for their flights were the ones running for appropriate reasons - - because they were late for something! .

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Terry Pratchett and the Scrambled Egg Taco

A few weeks ago I saw that Terry Pratchett, an author I like, was coming to speak at the local Borders tonight. The books are fairly creative and very funny, and I wanted to see what he was like in person. So I went and found out that in person, he is very creative and very funny. The audience appeared to be a mix of children and Star Trek fans (sans uniforms). And it was packed. I got there at 7:00 when it was supposed to start, and it was clear that some folks had been there for an hour already, jostling for prime seats and floor space. In the mean time, all these folks paid a lot of money for his new book (and his signature), and I've got it on hold waiting for me to pick up tomorrow at the library. Ok, it won't have his signature in it, but my guess is that the words are all in the same order.

I was pretty hungry when I got home. We had one tortilla left and I thought I would make scrambled eggs and make an egg burrito. I didn't pay attention to the fact that I'd bought small tortillas, and the last one in the bag was the runt of the litter. And I made too many scrambled eggs. I realize that there are many times in life where that is an oxymoron, but in this case, it was not. The tortilla didn't come close to closing, and I wound up with a sort of scrambled egg soft tortilla. I supposed I could have left some of the eggs out and had an egg tortilla with a side of eggs. But at the time, I just didn't think of that.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

My new bicycle!

Well, this is the new bike. A little retro, rides well (so far) and while you can't see it in the picture, it's got a loud bell, too. Thanks Stanley Abramowitz for helping me figure out what to get!

Saturday, October 14, 2006

My name is...

I was out tonight, sat down with a book, looked up, and said, "Hi Christine." I'd never seen Christine before, and she'd never seen me, resulting in a puzzled look on her face when I greeted her. She politely replied "hello", but it was really more of a question. I then mentioned that she was still wearing a nametag. She was clearly at some conference or business meeting (it wasn't a sticky "Hello my name is..." tag) and in big printed letters her badge read "Christine".

She looked down, looked a little embarrassed and said, "I can't believe they let me walk out with that!". And then, she sat down and drank her coffee. And left her name tag on.

Friends came to join her, she got up to get more coffee, they chatted the night away, and everyone knew her name. I guess maybe she really was that friendly....

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

A Ringing in My Ears

It's not just busy season at work, it's high busy season. So I have spent at least 7 hours a day for the past three days on the phone. And mainly I've been listening and not talking. It's easier to get email done that way. (I'm a good multi-tasker, but even I'm not that good.)

So when the phone rang tonight and it was a friend I hadn't spoken with in a while, I figured I should answer the phone. That was a mistake. Both ears need access to more air than they've been getting with a phone pressed up against them all the time and I'm afraid my neck will be permanently askew from holding the phone between my shoulder and my ear. You know, the same way we were told as kids that your face would stay pouty forever if you didn't stop pouting right away.

And I don't think a headset is the answer. Then the voice on the phone will have to compete with the ones in my head. You know, the ones that are telling me, "what you should really say to this bozo is...." It's a toss up which voice would win.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Black, White and Blue

Well, tonight was another painting class. We got to use black, white and one tone. I chose blue. We could mix the three any way we wanted. The teacher set up a still life and wanted us to paint it. Yeah right.

But first, she showed us some slides of some famous paintings. I couldn't tell you now who painted them, but she did talk about the fauvists and the surrealists. I asked if they ever teamed up against each other in a game of flag football, or three-on-three basketball.

She didn't get it. When I asked if it was more like rival gangs, she got it, but didn't think it was funny.

After the slides, she talked a little about color theory and the triads. I figured out that she wasn't talking about the street gangs in Tokyo (but maybe their called the Tong?) and one person (Cathy) was asking a lot of really basic questions. When she was finally done explaining it all, Cathy asked, "should we care about this?" It was a classic question. She was naming some of the colors in some of the triads, and she got to ochre and umber. Then it was my turn for a classic question. "What color is ochre"? Evidently is sort of like yellow.

Back to the still life...

The scene was set with two black boxes, a brown bowling pin, a small blue and white pitcher and a marbled bust of George Washington on one, and a "castle" made of cardboard on the other. There were two green wine bottles in front. It was all sitting on some of the ugliest striped fabric you've ever seen. It was good that we were only allowed to use one tone because had we had to more accurately reflect the colors, it would have been grounds for tuition reimbursement.

She said we should first draw the picture on our gessoed paper. Here's the thing. I can't really draw. And I didn't have a pencil. I still managed to do relatively good quick abstract sketch of the scene, which, if you were looking at the table and then glanced quickly at my sheet, you might be able to see a remote, passing resemblance. Like the boxes, the bowling pin and the bottles. I claimed presidential blindness and excluded George Washington from my painting.

Painting was a whole different story. I learned several things tonight.
1. If you need to fill in a lot of space with one color, you should mix enough at the beginning so you have enough for the whole space.
2. Black, white and blue mixed together looks different than white, blue, and black mixed together (see above)
3. It takes a lot of white to lighten up a mush of black and bruise (a color I like to call bruise).
4. I really glad I'm using acrylics and not oils.
5. If you focus on one thing and draw it really big on the page, you don't have to deal with the rest of the stuff on the table. It's sort of like being in high school and triple spacing papers with 2" margins on all sides.
6. Retarder doesn't just make the paint stay wet longer, it makes you paint more slowly.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Did I mention...?

That my little community college non-credit art class had homework? And that I figured out why the classes are reasonably priced?

Why are they affordable? Because they have to be in order for students to be able to pay for all of the materials! A few weeks ago, Ronnie went to pick up a materials list for me. And I went out and bought all manners of paints in colors whose names I can't pronounce, papers, gesso (why this can't be pronounced with a hard 'g' is beyond me), brushes, a plastic palette, a palette knife and a few other items on the list. And the first day at class, the teacher tells us that she has a new materials list, most of which is similar enough to the one nearly all of us picked up in advance, but not quite. But in addition to bigger paper, she wanted us to buy retarder. I just think there should be a different word for it.

And I haven't done my homework yet, which was to paint a color wheel and then tint and shade the colors. Maybe tomorrow.

But today, since there were coupons in the paper yesterday for Michael's (the craft store), I figured I'd start there to see if they had the additional supplies. I figured even if things were a little more expensive, my 40% off coupon should balance things out a bit.

But here's the thing about Michael's, you can get lost in there. This is where people with multiple personality disorders lose their time. Seriously. I knew exactly what I was looking for. And yet, an hour later, I walked out with one item, but realized I was now familiar with silk flower arranging, make-your-own candle supplies, and all matters of Halloween crafts. And yet all I bought was a $.69 2" paint brush to gesso (don't forget the soft 'g'!) the big paper I still had to go buy!

Real art stores are more intimidating than craft stores, but the staff are much friendlier. Or maybe it's my look of complete ignorance that send people my way before I mess things up too much....

Invited Guests

Pre-packaged temporary booths have sprung up in nearly all the flat driveways and backyard decks all over the neighborhood. Some have walls of blue tarp, and others are clearly older, with faded blue or yellow cloth. Like the pumpkin and Christmas tree sales that seem to pop in parking lots all over town a few weeks before their respective seasons, one would think that the same could happen in our neighborhood selling bamboo (or bamboo mats), lights, and other sundry decorations.

I've heard of more than just a few people who use Home Depot as their supply store rathe than the "Sukkah Store" in New York. A few PVC pipes, blue tarps, and some 5 gallon buckets of sand and you can have a beach party afterwards.

Last night I went to someone house for dinner. They have a new sukkah that had paneling. And a florescent shop light rigged up in addition to the Christmas lights. And their ushpizim (the "official" invited guests) were reprented by small stuffed muppets sitting precariously on the wall (well, technically sitting on an unused piece of wall that was leaning against the wall). I believe that last night's official guest was represented by the French Chef.

They had us introduce ourselves and in doing so, we had to name someone we would invite to the Sukkah from Jewish history. Those named covered a fairly wide range - Moses, Leah, Ruth, Ben Gurion, Shabtai Tzvi and Jesus. Someone named a musician (but I can't remember who it was), and there were a few random rabbis named who I've never heard of. The last person to introduce themselves is a legislative assistant and thought Senator George Allen would be a good person to invite since he's probably never celebrated Sukkot before. Someone invited their grandmother, which might have been part of her personal history, but the rest of us had never heard of her. I thought about inviting Ben Gurion's wife (even before he was invited) because I'm curious why she fed him food that he hated everyday. (Go to the museum in Sde Boker and read the story, or I'm sure it's google-able).

Among those not invited: Bob Dylan, Jerry Seinfeld, Nachson, Rashi (although Toby thought about inviting him, but a miss is as good as a mile, in this case), and Columbus (because wouldn't be interesting to finally know for sure?).

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Paint by numbers

I'm taking an intro to painting class at the local community college. This week, we were allowed to use only two colors. Black and white. We practiced tinting and shading. And we got a whole vocabulary list. We don't have to learn it all, but some of us now know the definition of tinting and shading. At somepoint in the end, a few of us rebelled and used a tone (i.e. not black or white). I chose blue. The other person in the class (other than me) who also knew nothing about painting chose red. What I learned, was that when you shade blue, it looks like a bruise. And it's easier to tint blue than it is to tint black. I'm not really sure how that is or why it is, and the teacher didn't try to explain it. Of course, unless she's a mind reader, she wouldn't have known that I was curious about that, since I didn't actually ask her.

She told us that next week we're going to be painting a one-tone (plus black and white) still life. And she says that it involves drawing before you paint. I can't draw. And she didn't laugh when I asked if that meant it would be ok if it was a more abstract rendering.

Did I mention that she gave us homework?!

Monday, October 02, 2006

No ransom needed!

Well, I spent the Day of Atonement at Chabad, and I'm pleased to say that this encounter with Chabad did not lead to a kidnapping. It may be because I didn't get into a car with the rabbi, but either way, I was pleased to move about on my own free will. (If this makes no sense to you, go back to early June entries.)

A few thoughts on the service. First, it was nice. They say every single word there is to be said in the machzor (prayerbook), but they only say it once, so it goes pretty quickly, except for Avinu Malkeinu, which they sing like everyone else does. And there were a few places, like the kaddish (all varieties) that I noticed extra words, usually about the coming of the Messiah (speedily and in our days, Amen). There was no choir, and there was no general flourishment in the singing. The mechitza (separation) was a sort of sheer curtain and a bunch of silk plants - not too horrible as far as these things go. The rabbi was pretty good and spoke well and I wouldn't be able to say that he gave a sermon per se, but it wasn't a d'var torah either.

Since I've been at Bet Mishpachah (the LGBT synagogue) for the last few years of holidays, there were definitely some big differences. First, the Torah reading in the afternoon was not something that was read at Bet Mish. It's the part of Leviticus that talks about "man shall not lie with another man..." And then, while we were singing Avinu Malkeinu, I realized that I've become accustomed to the next line being "Imeinu Shechinateinu", which I kind of like, but which was clearly absent here. Lastly, there's a whole litany of things (the "ashamnu" paragraph) of ways that we've sinned over the past year. At Bet Mish, in addition to this, they also sing a paragraph of good stuff (the "ahavnu" paragraph) to a tune that one of their members wrote. I'm not sure what the right mix of Chabad and Bet Mish could be....

Last night on the way home we were coming down the main street (not ours) only to be blocked by 4 firetrucks and the remnants of a burned out house. The house was still standing, but anything inside looked charred. We think the family left candles burning when they went to Kol Nidre, and came back to the fire, or the aftermath. There weren't any ambulances, so we think that (hopefully) no one was hurt. Of course, when we came home we could see through the front window that our candles were still burning. This morning, you could still smell the fire near their house.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Blogging for the Big Book

On most of the other Jewish blogs I've seen, this week has been full of profound thoughts, apologies to neighbors, and reflections on the year. I can only assume that this is how they've spent their time outside of blogging as well.

Me, not so much on the reflection or deep thoughts. Or apologies to neighbors. Last night, with just a little too much time on my hands, I applied to be a staff person on a birthright trip (sorry, a Taglit-birthright israel trip) run by another organizer. I know them well, but I admit to being only a little frightened that someone I didn't know (and who didn't know me) might see the application before the people I do know.

I got a response already this morning. From the person I know. He said that my ideas on celebrating Shabbat in a pluralistic community were creative but that he didn't think they would be able to implement any of them this winter. For example, I suggested re-examining the notion that Shabbat must be celebrated beginning Friday night. I think that starting with a few hours on Tuesday, finding a bit of Torah reading on Thursday, and finishing up with some time on Saturday was a way of integrating the concept of Shabbat into daily life. Evidently that's just not what it's about.

He ended his response wishing me lots of luck in getting my name put in the big book. I told him I forgave him and hoped to see his name there as well. The way I see it, I should probably figure out where I'm going to services before I can expect to see my name anywhere!

Lest you think that just because I'm practicing a more active secular Judaism that I don't think about Jewish things, I did have a Jewish question just this morning. I was talking to a friend about Jonah (you know, the guy who got swallowed by the whale). Jonah is read in the afternoon service of Yom Kippur. Why is it that the only person who gets to eat on YK is the whale? This is how I'm going to spend my day tomorrow - trying to answer this question.

If you've got answers, let me know. If you're fasting, I hope it's an easy one. If you're not, I hope it's worth it.