28 November 2011

Leta's Rule of Purses

"If one's purse is capable of carrying the weight of a small child, one will."

Time for something smaller.

14 September 2011

Don't Throw the Past Away

I have an audition for another Irish play, Brian Friel's* Dancing at Lughnasa.  If I am cast, I will need an Irish accent for the weeks of rehearsals as well as the weekends of performance.  The chances of it not leaking into my every day conversation I leave as an exercise for the reader.

*If I say I have an audition for an Irish play, one can assume that I mean one by Brian Friel.  I am one of the few theater geeks I know who finds Martin McDonagh hard to take.  I'd much rather watch the crew do the clean up and reset all the blood squibs than actually watch The Lieutenant of Inishmore.

13 September 2011


New Hampshire Public Radio covered NPR listeners response to their 9/11 coverage.

Now I'm wondering if I should write and tell them that when I hear "you'll reap the rewards" in their fundraising ad, my brain automatically fills in "of your pluck, my boy, in the Bailey and Middlesex sessions."

09 September 2011

I can't take it anymore

Sometimes public radio does what I call over covering a story and rather than just bitch to David about it, I wrote to the Ombudsman* and outlined my concerns.  I didn't use any of the bad words that I've been using to the radio recently, so I consider that a win.  (If this siphons off some of my annoyance and David doesn't have to listen to me be irritated, he may consider it a win as well.)

I suspect that this will accomplish nothing but I feel better for having written it.  During the last president election caller after caller to the Diane Rehm show begged the panel on the Friday News Round Up to scale back the discussion of the "horse race"**.  The panelists, every time, said that they had to talk it to death because that's what people are interested in.

The New York Times ran a piece back in 2007 that neat sums up my dismay with horse race coverage:  "The campaign coverage has been sharply at odds with what the public says it wants, the study found, with voters eager to know more about the candidates’ positions on issues and their personal backgrounds, more about lesser-known candidates and more about the debates. 

But the media is even more obsessed this time around with questions of tactics and strategy, despite what the study described as a “generational struggle” in both parties. Horse-race stories accounted for 63 percent of the stories this year compared with what the study said was about 55 percent in 2000 and 2004."

If you are the sort of malcontent that I am  -- or if you are dismayed that there is not enough coverage of 9/11 this week or won't be enough of election -- the Ombudsman (see job description, below) can be reached via the Contact Us button on NPR.org.

Dear Ombudsman,
An effective way to make me no longer care about a subject - or to get angry every time it's raised - is for public radio to over cover it.  When public radio becomes One Thing Considered -- as it has with the 9/11 anniversary --and has story after story on the subject, each one with a more tenuous connection, it just burns out any ability to hear any more about it.

The events of 9/11 were a defining tragedy for this generation and it makes me truly sad that I can't listen to Morning Edition or ATC right now without thinking "Oh good grief, another one?"  and changing the station.  I won't be listening to public radio this weekend because I can't stand to have truly important things turned into noise.

I understand that anniversaries make a convenient hook for stories that might otherwise lack one.  But the hook is overfull.
The same thing will happen during over coverage of the 2012 election.  By the time the 2008 election was over I believe that public radio had spoken to every person living in Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina.  I grew to hate all of them, let alone the people running for office who I had grown to detest long before through overexposure.  I remember at one point thinking "Another election story?  Another?  Is nothing happening anywhere else in the world?  Sweden maybe?"
Please consider scaling back.  I would appreciate it and I don't think I'm the only one.

*Ombudsman is a Latin term that means "the person corporate has assigned to actually have to listen to the random whining and complaining of the malcontents."  What a great job to have ...

** The horse race is political handicapping and on the FNRU it's usually about the fundraising.

29 August 2011

Another reason I like my job

I am in charge in planning the annual meeting of our managers and Board of Directors, a very fine group of people with whom I greatly enjoy spending time.*

Today I sent out the e-mail confirming the date and location of the meeting, to wit:

As mentioned previously, the managers meeting will be held [date]. We had originally hoped to have the meetings here in the DC area but a city-wide meeting** is taking place that week, so we will meet at the [location]. [Further details, blah, blah, blah]

Within a few minutes I got a reply from one of our Operations Managers: Wow – a city wide meeting. Do all residents have to attend? That must be one heck of a gathering!

And I answered back: Yes! That’s exactly it. Plays hell with restaurant reservations with 600,000 all trying to get a table.

This is why when people ask me what I do I say that I work with smart people who can take a joke.

* I would probably enjoy it more if my brain weren't running a constant hum through my head of "What have I forgotten to do?  What have I done wrong?"

** A city-wide meeting has lots of stuff going on in the Washington Convention Center and fills every hotel.

26 August 2011

I like to look

Tess Vigeland* hosts my favorite radio show about personal finance** and over the past couple of years if there is one thing that she has said more than once it's that during volatile times like these we should just throw the investment statements in a drawer, unopened.  "Don't look!"

(Hmmm.  Maybe there should be more exclamation marks in that because Tess always sounds very emphatic when giving this particular piece of advice.)

I respect Tess immensely and enjoy her reporting but I have to say:  I like to look.

In fact, I look every week.  On Monday morning, as a matter of fact.  I've kept a series of Excel spreadsheets (one per year) for the past ten years.  The data?  The balance of my 401(k).  The purpose?  I do better with feedback.  When watching my weight, I get on the scale.  When I was digging my way out of debt, I paid lots of attention to my bank balance and those debts with my lists and graphs and calculations***.  If I could figure out how to as quickly and easily quantify how many lines of dialogue I know versus how many I need to know, I'd do that, too.  And probably learn the darn lines faster.****

I know that sometimes the news will be good and sometimes it will be ... less good ... but locking in losses when the numbers are down remains a poor idea.  So I look.  And I chart.  And I leave my 401(k) alone.  Every few years I rebalance but not during a volatile period.  And I look.  And I chart. And I make jokes about which brand of cat food Pekoe and I will be sharing during my golden years.

Oddly enough, I started doing this charting three months before 9/11 so if you look to the left you can see the  10 percent drop in my balance after that awful day.  It was a scary drop at the time but the balance recovered in a few weeks and compared to 2008 it can't even be seen.  From May of '08 to March of '09 I lost 40 percent of the then current balance.  Right now I'm down 8 percent from just before the whole Debt Deal mess.  But the numbers on the right are still higher than the numbers on the left. Up and down, up and down, but generally up.  Looking has taught me to take the long view.  I'm saving for the future, not for this morning's balance.

As I like to say, if I look out of the window during the winter and see that it is snowing, I don't throw away my summer clothes.  So I look.  And I graph.

I like to look.

*It's pronounced Vigg-land even though it looks like Vie-gland.  Sort of like it's pronounced Lee-tah even though it looks like Lett-uh.  Those who can pronounce us can't spell us and vice versa ...

** Okay, there's not a large sample, I realize.  Not the point. The show is awesome, as is Tess.

*** And lines and circles and a few paragraphs on the back.  

**** When a friend was in labor and said that she wanted to go to the midwife's office to find out how dilated she was because she "needed to know the numbers" it made perfect sense to me.  Of course, if it hadn't made perfect sense to us, then her husband, mother, and I might have recognized this for the class transition phase thinking it actually was.  S'okay.  We got to the hospital with several minutes to spare. What?

22 August 2011

Rhyme of Rhymes

Savoynet has been discussing poetic rhymes lately, especially how the word "wind" is to be pronounced in a given phrase and one of our members posted this poem.  

Andrew Lang (Scots poet 1844–1912), in Longman's Magazine:


Wild on the mountain peak the wind
Repeats its old refrain,
Like ghosts of mortals who have sinned,
And fain would sin again.

For "wind" I do not rhyme to "mind,"
Like many mortal men.
Again" (when one reflects) 'twere kind
To rhyme as if "agen."

I never met a single soul
Who spoke of "wind" as "wined," And yet we use it, on the whole.
To rhyme to " find" and "blind."

We say, "Now don't do that agen,"
When people give us pain;
In poetry, nine times in ten,
In rhymes to "Spain" or "Dane."

Oh, which is wrong or which is right?
Oh, which is right or wrong!
The sounds in prose familiar, quite,
Or those we meet in song?

To hold that "love" can rhyme to "prove"
Requires some force of will,
Yet in the ancient lyric groove
We meet them rhyming still.

This was our learned fathers' wont
In prehistoric times.
We follow it, or if we don't,
We oft run short of rhymes.

21 August 2011

If we'd met when we were teenagers. And Irish.

Mag:  Oh, you're so clever!  Well, I'll tell you something:  there are occasions in my life when I know how G-d feels.

Joe:  Good for you.

Mag:  And one of those occasions is now.  (Puffing her cigarette regally.)  At this moment G-d feels ... expansive ... and beneficent ... and philanthropy.

Joe:  Philanthropic.

Mag:  (after momentary setback).  And we will not be put into bad humor by grubby little pedants.

Joe:  Look, Mag:  we came up here to study.  What are you going to do first?

Mag:  French.  And then maths.  And then Spanish.  And then English language and literature.  And after lunch geography and the history of the world.  I have planned a program for myself.  The important thing about revising for an examination is to have a method.  What are you starting with?

Joe:  Maths.

Mag:  Then what?

Joe:  That's all.

Mag:  Only maths?

Joe:  Huh-huh.

(She considers this absurd idea for a second.  Then, because Joe is wiser in these than she, she readily agrees with him.)

Mag:  Then that's what I"ll do, too.  (Really worries.)  My G-d, if the volume of a cone doesn't come up, I'm scootrified!  Not that I care -- I can afford to go down in one subject.  (Pause.)  Joe ...

Joe:  What?

Mag:  What's the real difference between language and literature?

Joe:  You're not serious, Maggie!

Mag:  Don't -- don't -- don't tell me ... I remember now ... One is taking and the other is ... books!

Joe:  Talking? ...

Mag:  That's it.

Joe:  That's no definition!  Language is ----

Mag:  Don't say another word.  I have it in my head.  But if you start lecturing, I'll lose it again.  I have my own way of remembering things.

19 August 2011

Thank you, Fin Dwyer!

I was recently asked to sub for another actress in a one-act at Silver Spring Stage.  A week's notice, okay, but really that just makes it exciting, right?  And besides, I'm playing a narrator, so I can consult my script while I sit in a chair.  Easy peasy!!  I can read! I can sit!  I can read and sit at the same time!


The play in question is the first act of Brian Friel's Lovers.  Brian Friel is Irish.  So are his characters.  That means that they have ... Irish accents.  And preferably not "Irish Spring" or "Lucky Charms" accents.*  I have long said that I had an Irish accent that would pass auditions but I'd never had to put that to the test before.

So I collected the script a few days ago and have rehearsed with the cast a few times. And the other night at home I re-loaded all of the Irish History podcasts that I had previously listened to back onto Smudge.  And I have been wandering around in my free time listening to the host, Fin Dwyer, tell stories that can be summarized as "As then things went very badly for the Irish"** and repeating what he says more or less phrase by phrase.***

No would seriously mistake me for a resident of the Auld Sod but I think I'm at least ... not jarring.

And I was, of course, no end of pleased when our director was giving notes one night and suggested to another cast member that their accent was wandering.  "Maybe you could listen to some Irish History podcasts," she said nodding at me.

Possibly more difficult will be to stop speaking that way when not in performance.

So this is my tiny effort to repay Fin for the assist.  If you have any interest in Irish history, I highly recommend his podcast and website. 

*Telling an actress that she has a Lucky Charms accent is the sort of thing that makes people go all slitty-eyed and resentful, though outwardly still smiling and charming.

**See, for example, the Vikings.  

***In the episode about the Spanish Armada, I got really good at saying the word "gun" with the proper accent.  Such a pity that word doesn't occur in the play.  Well, unless I work it in every so often.  "He carried his school-books *and a gun* in a leather satchel."  Like that.

09 August 2011

Everyday Words

I don't know if I found Words We Live By on my own or if David sent me the link but it's exactly the sort of thing that we flag for each other.  In this case, I'm not entirely sure that "Dwight Garner" isn't some kind of obvious pseudonym because there are entire bits in here that David could have written.  To wit:
My family recently moved to western New Jersey;* a bus trip is a convenient way to reach New York City. The surprises began when, aboard our early-morning Trans-Bridge bus, we decided to read together, for the first time, the small print on the back of our ticket stubs. 
On that street sign Singer’s name is spelled entirely in capital letters — in all-caps, as word people say. This turned out to be worth noticing. New York City is in the process of eliminating its all-caps street signs; they turn out to be less legible than those in upper- and lower-case. The New York Observer has called this sign-swapping project, due to be completed in 2018, a "$28 million copy edit."

And, of course, I have the hidden clue that the "also on the New York Times" box features a link to a story about boxed wine, David's current favorite way to be eco-friendly while imbibing.

Even Hamilton Burger could get a conviction on that kind of evidence.

*No, David doesn't live in New Jersey, nor does he have children.  I am assuming that those are merely corroborative detailintended to give artistic verisimilitude to an otherwise bald and unconvincing narrative

01 July 2011

Or ... maybe not

The heart has its reasons of which reason knows nothing.   Blaise Pascal

I think my favorite thing about watching Pinter's plays is that almost as soon as I think I understand what was going on, a voice in my head tells me "No, that's not it.  Try again."

We saw Old Times last night and its themes of the unreliability and possessiveness of memory meshed perfectly with that sense I always have of not having understood what I just saw.  Or having understood it through my own filters.  We interpret what we think we remember, changing the memory, and changing its meaning.

I don't remember several things about what happened when I got rear-ended a couple of weeks back, but at least I know that I don't know. It's very comforting to have a yes or a no answer.

The plays I hate the most - and they are often early plays by newer playwrights - are the ones where when asked why a character did something, said character responds immediately, with the complete reason.  In complete sentences, too. I don't actually know anyone like that.  We are mysteries to ourselves just as we are to others.

So now I'm revising what I saw.  Did this mean that?  Why did she behave that way?  Did I totally misunderstand that character?  That scene?  That play?

And because it's Pinter (pause) I may never know.

... And that's okay.

30 June 2011

Very live theater

A fun article from the New York Times about this summer's en plein air shows.

In Outdoor Theater All New York's a Stage.

But this isn’t exactly hit-your-spot, say-your-lines theater. With two wild cards — the audience participation and the uninitiated public that is buzzing around — anything can happen, and at the performance I took in, it did.

Yosef Solanski, a rare Jewish immigrant in the Irish neighborhood that is now Chinese, is crucial to the crime, and he was played by Mr. D’Amore himself. Just as Yosef, a close friend of Mary Ryan’s, was explaining to us that he often slept in yonder park, someone who really does sleep in yonder park came up and called him a liar. He had never seen him in the park, the fellow insisted, and much shouting ensued.

27 June 2011

Kitchen Rules

Everybody's office has different kitchen rules.  Here are a couple of ours:

Today someone put a cake in the kitchen at work and our controller and I found it.  He wasn't sure what the deal was but I pointed out that the presence of plates, forks, and no sign saying "Can't Touch This" meant that the cake was being shared.  I also told him that it was up to him to take the first piece.  Someone had to start the darn thing and we know that because it's filled with gluten, I can't.

He was convinced that this was some kind of trap.  I promised him that if it were not meant to be shared, it wouldn't be unguarded in the kitchen.  C'mon, engineers work here. College interns.  Those folks can strip an entire box of donuts in a few seconds.

So I said that if he started the cake and anyone gave him any crap, he could refer them to me.  "I got your back. I'll explain."  "You'll say you never said any such thing."  "Exactly.  I might even say that I'd never met you."

He started the cake.  We found out later that it was leftover from a birthday party the evening before and intended for general consumption.

Rule #1:  Food left unguarded is for sharing.  Candy you don't want to share should be kept on your side of the computer screen or in a desk drawer.  Anything out in the open is intended for all.

Rule #2:  You move your feet ...  Most frozen entrees require heating, stirring, and more heating.  A lot of people put their food in for the first three minutes and then wander off.  I know I do.  We have a "move your feet you lose your seat" approach to the microwave.  If the microwave dinged for my food and you're waiting to heat your food, take mine out, put it on the top of the microwave, and put yours in.  Sometimes new people hover near the microwave, reluctant to mess with someone else's lunch, but we quickly enough train them to our ways.

I don't know how other kitchens work but I've been working here so long I don't think that I could change my ways.

23 June 2011

Fair Warning

People from my past find and friend me on Facebook with a certain regularity.*  The farther back they are from the  more I think that the "about me" should be changed from "Leta spends a lot of time in theaters" to the equally accurate but more "full disclosure"-like "If you thought I was nice but weird back then, well, I still am. Sure, I cover the weird better, but time doesn't make us different, just more thoroughly ourselves.  Weird has had quite a while to settle in and get comfy."

* Which is fantastic.  When it happens, I tend to spend a whole bunch of time just saying "Wow ... [name]. Wow ..." and looking at their profile to see what's new with them.**

** And the very best "from the past" friending I got was a college boy friend.  There was a time when that wouldn't have been possible, so finding out that he no longer disliked me made me very happy indeed. 

22 June 2011

Car accident

You know how a new car is new until it gets its first ding in it?  Well, Gracie, my lovely VW Jetta, went from new to not-new this past Saturday night.

I was on my way home from seeing the NVTA one-acts and stopped when I got hit from behind.  And it's actually kind of lucky that I was there because I was the buffer between the BMW that hit me and the Subaru in front of me.  In the Subaru was a married couple with their one-year-old child.  So by "lucky," I don't mean "lucky for Leta" but "lucky for the folks in the Subaru."

They didn't seem to see it that way at the time, of course.  The mother of the one-year-old had enough adrenaline looking for an outlet that it didn't much matter what I was going to say ("Ma'am, I wasn't moving.  That guy hit me!") because she wasn't going to process it.  So she yelled at me for a while about how hitting their car with her child in it WAS NOT ACCEPTABLE.  (I, of course, agree.  Given a choice, I would not have been pushed into their car.  I also understand that scaring a mother about her child will immediately bring out the protective instinct.)

So I'm kinda listening to her and kinda trying to explain that I didn't initiate this event and kinda thinking about how I hit my head on the steering wheel and now my head hurts.  And about how a friend of mine was in a low-speed impact that left her with herniated disks in her neck. And then the guy who hit me starts asking if he can just give me his information which I didn't understand at the time but now assume to mean could he give me his insurance information and then leave.  And I am certainly the sort of accommodating idiot who might have agreed to that except that Subaru Mom then started screaming about how she was going to call the police.  So, actually, I was lucky that she was there, too, I guess.

The nice policeman arrived promptly and started collecting information.  He asked if anyone was hurt and I said that I hit my head and that it hurt.  Clearly, I was lucid* and not bleeding but he called for the EMTs.  Looking back, I wish that I had taken the time while the Subaru Mom was on the phone with the police to put back into my purse everything that fell out of it when it fell off of the seat when the BMW Guy hit me.   Not because my purse was filled with contraband but because I wouldn't get a good look at it again for another 3 hours or so and spent that time worrying about things like my iPod.

The EMT guys put a neck collar on me and strapped me to a back board and loaded me into the ambulance.  There are patches of the whole event that I don't remember very clearly so I don't remember if the police officer or I decided that a trip in the ambulance would be a better option than me driving myself to the hospital.  Obviously, if I had, say, passed out while driving myself to the hospital** we all would have regretted not having me be driven there by the nice EMTs, so whoever suggested the ambulance trip, the other probably agreed pretty promptly.  I did think to ask for my purse and my magazine.  I've been to hospitals.  There's always plenty of time to read ...

I always wondered what it was like to ride in an ambulance and the answer is ... kinda boring.***  I was strapped to the back board and one of the EMT's spent a pretty decent chunk of time making sure that I was really, really strapped to it, which include taping my head down across my forehead so that my head wouldn't jiggle.  They said that I dealt with it better than many other people have. How did I deal with it?  By chatting with the EMTs, of course.  If I can chat through things, I can get through things.  Anyway, I spent the trip looking at the ceiling.

At the hospital I had nice, clear line of priorities.  As each one was dealt with the next one moved into higher prominence.  They were:

1.  I wanted my phone because I had left a message for David and didn't want to not answer if he woke up, got the message, and called. Scaring one's nice boyfriend unnecessarily is bad karma. I called him again later and actually talked to him.  Hmmm.  Did I do that before or after I got to the hospital?  Don't remember.

2.  I wanted to be released from the back board. My scoliosis makes lying on my back uncomfortable after not too long a period of time.  I was released from the back board within a couple of hours.****  It's also hard to read while strapped to a back board, so I read intermittently and filled the rest of the time worrying.

3.  I wanted to use the bathroom.  I wanted this with more and more urgency as time went on but they couldn't let me get up until the neck collar had been removed and they couldn't remove the neck collar until after the X-rays had been read.  I don't know how long it took and I was only in the hospital, really, from about 12:30 AM to about 4:15 AM, so it couldn't have been the two days it felt like, but boy, oh, boy, was I ever glad to be released from the neck collar when it finally happened.

4.  I wanted to know where my glasses were.  Not in my purse.  Not with me.  Hopefully in the car.*****

5.  I wanted someone to be nice to me.  Not "nice to me" in the kind but professionally detached manner of hospital personnel but "nice to me" as in saying "you poor baby!" and expressing outrage on Gracie's behalf.*+5 *+6  So ... using my phone which has a dedicated button for Facebook, I posted a status update.  I knew that by saying that something bad had happened to me that I was possibly stirring up, well, several hundred people, but it was cold in the hospital and I was lonely.  I kept it reasonably low-key and posted this at 4:54 AM while waiting for a cab. Car accidents suck, hospitals are boring, and I'm glad I'm okay. Bruised and headachy but okay.   

Quite a few of my friends are early risers, so the first "you poor baby!" comments came in about 15 minutes later and continued through the next couple of days.  The actual wording of "you poor baby" was "glad you're okay."

On Sunday evening I posted a follow up:  In theory it's the Naprosin that makes me feel better but I know that it's the love and good wishes from so many lovely friends that's the real extra strength pain relief.  I am very lucky to have lots of people who are nice to me.

6.  I wanted the stupid [expletive] cab to show up.  I called the cab at 4:20 AM and got a text at 4:23 saying that it was 3 miles away.  I had to option to text "where" to find out how far away the cab was.

I went outside (where it was slightly less frigid) to wait for the cab.

At 5:02 I sent the "where" text because I was wondering how it could possibly take 40 minutes to cover 3 miles.  I got the reply that the cab was 4 miles away.

At 5:20 I sent the "where" text again and got the same answer.  I went back into hospital and called the cab company.  They sent another cab which arrived at 5:28.

If I hadn't been so tired and shook up, I think I would have started the process earlier.  I don't like Yellow Cab now.  I may never like them again.

7.  I wanted to collect Gracie, see if she was drive-able, go home, go to bed.  The impound lot she was towed to was only a quarter mile from the hospital, so this part was rather easy.  Except for the $343 tow bill.  On the plus side, the driver put my iPod into the glove compartment for me instead of stealing my car charger like the last time that I was towed.  A new iPod Touch would have cost me about ... $300.  Hmmm.

8.  After I got home, I wanted Pekoe not to respond to how stressed out I was by doing the things that he knows annoys the bejeebers out of me.  I was fresh out of bejeebers, so he got evicted from my bedroom until after I'd had some sleep.

Today I am bruised, much less headachy, and very, very grateful that it wasn't worse.

*Or as lucid as I ever appear to be.

** I didn't pass out at any time during the whole event.  Just sayin'.

*** Don't tell my father this.  He is the President of the Ambulance Authority Board in the county where he lives.

**** Or what seemed like a couple of hours.  Boy, time really slows down when you're staring at the ceiling worrying.

***** Yes.  In the car.

*+5 Gracie is the Jetta.

*+6 The rows of asterisks were getting too long.  The next step is exponential notation.

27 May 2011

How to support engineering

David and I were headed out to dinner last Friday and as we were walking to the Thai place that we like, I noticed a bunch of people with some kind of big display set up on Ellsworth Drive. And because I am inexorably pulled toward bunches of people with big displays* as Pekoe is inexorably pulled towards people wearing colors that have a high contrast to orange cat hair, I veered in toward the people to see what was what.

What it was was the Blair Robot Project***.  My alma mater sponsors Team 449 in the FIRST Robotics Competition and I won't bother to retype all of the "about us" text, but Blair competes prett' near every year and does pretty well prett' near every year. 

I admired the robotics, explained why I couldn't have any of the baked goods they were selling, stuffed a buck in the till, took a picture or two, and asked for some literature. I also gave my business card to the one of the adult mentors and suggested that she e-mail me and ask for a donation. I figured that if I got an e-mail, then they actually wanted the money.  I got the e-mail!

My company is chock full of engineers, so I figured that I could convince my Boss that supporting this kind of thing could help to grow our future employees.  And, not to put too fine a point on it, a whole bunch of the Blair Robot Team are ... female.  Women are underrepresented in science and engineering.  Sort of like wheat products are underrepresented on my shopping list.

Had he been hard to convince, I had a good paragraph from their hand-out at the ready:  "FIRST encourages high-quality work, emphasizes the value of others, and respects individuals.  FIRST and FRC are not just about building better robots or better engineers - they're about about building better individuals and better communities." Alas, I didn't have to quote this high falutin' rhetoric because my Boss agreed right away that our company should make a donation.  The check request awaits his signature. 

So if you wish to support science and engineering, or future women engineers, or cool robot stuff, check out their website:  Blair Robot Project or this one For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST).  If you want to make things super easy on yourself send a check to Montgomery Blair High School, 51 University Blvd E, Silver Spring, MD 20910 (put "Robotics Team" in the memo line). 

And if you want to see why I want to work with these folks after they graduate from college, check out the Quotes page.  Three of my favorites:

"The drive chain is loose? Not my problem. Here, have a wrench. It might not be the right size." Eric Van Albert, in a rather blunt blog post

"Robotics is really preparing us for jobs at NASA. Look. We're past deadline overweight, overbudget, and our [project] doesn't even work!" Ben Shaya

"The harvester almost harvests, the shooter almost shoots, the robot almost drives, and the code almost compiles!"Ben Shaya, in describing the progress made on the robot

*What do I veer away from?  Well-meaning volunteers (or poorly paid staffers) with clipboards who ostensibly wish to "educate"** me about their issue but are really fundraising.  I don't give money to people on the street. 

**In the Leta dictionary (i.e., what I've noticed that people really really seem to mean) "educate" means "hector others into seeing things your way." 

***I think that's the first time that I didn't accidentally type "Blair Robert Project." 

24 May 2011

Doing what I thought I would

I love money. I love everything about it. I bought some pretty good stuff. Got me a $300 pair of socks. Got a fur sink. An electric dog polisher. A gasoline powered turtleneck sweater. And, of course, I bought some dumb stuff, too.
---  Steve Martin

My mother passed away a few months ago and left me some money.  I didn't expect this because when she died, I was scheduled to meet with the finance people where she lived in a few weeks and get the ball rolling to sign her up for Medicaid.

We'd have conversations, Mom and I, where she would fret about having nothing left to leave me and my nieces.  And no matter how I answered ("You don't have to leave us anything.  You raised me and have given me lots of good memories as well" or "We didn't earn the money, it should go to keep you comfortable." or "Don't worry, you *won't* have anything to leave us and that's really okay."*) she still fretted about it.  Which meant that even though I was in charge of her bank account (which was larger than mine) and received the statements for her (reasonably small) mutual fund, etc., Mom and I had trained me to think of her as inches away from destitute.  So I figured that when she died, she would be poor, I would pay for her funeral, even more stuff I have no room for would end up in my apartment, we would miss her, the end.

In addition to fretting about running out of money, Mom said many times that she didn't like living there and hoped that she wouldn't have to do it very long.  I can't say that I blame her because I can't think of anyone who has ever expressed a hope to spend their final years in a nursing home, no matter how nice it is.***  So in my heart of hearts, I guess I wasn't too surprised when she passed away in January.  I'm grateful that it was a relatively easy passing and not the scary and horrible one I'd feared for so long.

And in the end she got her wish.  She had something to leave us.  I got 50% of her estate and my two nieces got 25% each.  I was so prepared to left just mementos that my first response was nausea.  I was literally nauseated.  And then I was scared because I've seen how not very good with money I could be.

For years I would think off and on about what I would do a with a "windfall."  What if I won the lottery?  What if I found bags and bags of money?****  But, okay, let's assume some strings-free money, what would I do.  The fantasies always ended up having three elements:

1.  I'd get rid (finally) of my student loans.
2.  I'd buy a new car because the Protege which has served me so well is a little old lady now.  She's 12 which is, what, 96 in human years?  120?
3.  Fund my retirement.
4.  I'd give more more to charities I care about, especially theaters.
5.  Other.  Often other included stuff like pedicures or massages or a personal chef.  When I was thinking really huge sums of money than #1 was "move Mom out of the nursing home and get her in-home care."

But I always assumed in the way back of my mind that I manage to fritter the money away.  Theater tickets, meals with friends, impulse purchases, having the No Money for Leta fairies steal it in the night ...

Now that I've inherited Mom's savings and her annuities, though, I am rather proud that I'm doing what I hoped I would do.  My desire not to waste this final gift from my mother has meant that I am being more careful with it (I think) than I usually am.  The scorecard so far:

1.  The student loan monkey is off my back.  This is like having a hefty raise in pay.  Half of that money is going to savings, so it feels as though I've turned my loan debt into a dollar-cost-averaged savings plan.  That happened first.  The brunette you saw dancing in the streets?  That was me.  So, check.

2. I bought a shiny, new Jetta.  Sunroof.  Manual.  Elegant charcoal grey color.  And an Equality Maryland affinity license plate, so that's a few bucks that went where my mouth is.  Check.

3.  My (very attractive, how can there not be an extra fee for that?) new financial planner and I have already started deciding what's gonna go where so that I won't have to eat cat food when I'm older.  Check.

4.  Silver Spring Stage got a check from me.*****  So did several other theaters I like.  My favorite was when I walked up the lady running concessions at Forum Theater during intermission and when she said "May I help you?"  I said "Yes, you could give this check to the right person for me, please."  And she looked at it and "Oh my, yes!  Thank you!"  And it wasn't even that large of a check.  I felt like a patron of the arts for the rest of the evening.  Check and check.

5.  See the Steve Martin quote, supra.  Mainly I've bought some new clothes and picked up the check more often.  But even so.  Annnnnd, check.

One of the nice things about having some extra disposable income is that when I went to see a show at the Hub Theater and the nice lady selling tickets accidentally overcharged me (not by much, just a few bucks) I suggested that instead of going through the effort of cancelling my transaction and re-doing it, she just code the overage as a donation and send me a thank you letter (because I think I *will* be itemizing this year).  She was delighted to comply. And once again, I feel like a patron of the arts.

I could get used to this.  I really could.

*Multiple Sclerosis as severe as my mother had it is very expensive.  The "continuum of care community" where she lived for the last ten years of her life started out costing about $5,000 a month when she was living independently and having aids come in a few times a day and, when she had to move over to the nursing home section and having skilled nursing ended up costing $313 dollars a day.**  (For people who do math as well as I do $313 x 30 = $9,390 per month or $114,245 per year).  This was significantly more than her income.

**Of all the folks I have met with MS, I haven't seen anyone with a worse case than Mom's, so most people with MS diagnosis should not look at Mom as a pattern for their own futures.

***And, as nursing homes go, it was very nice.  But still depressing.

****Not that I buy lottery tickets, but fantasy doesn't require that.  And if I found bags and bags of money, I'd call the FBI.  I grew up in America. I watch TV.

*****The Stage is my theatrical home, so they got the biggest check.  By far.

16 March 2011

She opened the door. I walked through it.

My friend Patty asked on Facebook:

What proportion of your electricity usage do you think comes from nuclear power? (I was surprised when I saw the figures.)

And I said:

I actually know this one: Annually, about 26%, compared to about 20% for the US. (Ours comes from the Calvert Cliffs facility.) We also use a lot of coal (50% compared to the US 51%). Nuclear power is kinda scary every few decades. Coal ruins our environment every day. Maryland's hydropower component is about 3%. If we lived in Idaho, almost all of our power would come from hydro.

And then I added:

Japan is 11% nuclear and 46% oil, most of which is imported.

And it was actually on my mind because as we all worry about and pray for the people of Japan and the horrors they are experiencing I was wondering how much of their power comes from nuclear and how they would replace it were the plants to be permanently closed for some reason.

And here's the answer from the U.S. Energy Information Administration's Analysis of Japan:
Japan has few domestic energy resources and is only 16 percent energy self-sufficient. Japan is the third largest oil consumer in the world behind the United States and China and the third-largest net importer of crude oil. It is the world's largest importer of both liquefied natural gas (LNG) and coal. In light of the country's lack of sufficient domestic hydrocarbon resources, Japanese energy companies have actively pursued participation in upstream oil and natural gas projects overseas and provide engineering, construction, financial, and project management services for energy projects around the world. Japan is one of the major exporters of energy-sector capital equipment and has a strong energy research and development program that is supported by the government, which pursues energy efficiency measures domestically in order to increase the country's energy security and reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

On Friday, March 11, a 9.0 magnitude earthquake struck off the coast of Sendai, Japan, triggering a large tsunami. The earthquake and ensuing damage resulted in a shutdown of 6,800 MW of electric generating capacity at four nuclear power stations that have a total capacity of 12,000 MW (some plants previously offline for maintenance). Other energy infrastructure such as electrical grid, refineries, and gas and oil-fired power plants were also affected by the earthquake. Japan likely will require additional natural gas and oil to provide electricity, however power demand may be dampened at least in the short term as a result of the destruction of homes and businesses. According to some industry estimates, fuel oil and natural gas consumption could increase by up to 238,000 bbl/d and 1.2 Bcf/d*, respectively, depending on the combination of fuel substitution.

Total primary energy consumption in Japan is over 22 quadrillion British thermal units. Oil is the most consumed energy resource in Japan, although its share of total energy consumption has declined from about 80 percent in the 1970s to 46 percent in 2009. Coal continues to account for a significant share of total energy consumption, although natural gas and nuclear power are increasingly important sources. Japan is the third largest consumer of nuclear power in the world, after the United States and France. Hydroelectric power and renewable energy account for a relatively small percentage of total energy consumption in the country.

The analysis contains lots more information, including the good news that Japan has been decreasing their oil consumption due to government emphasis on conservation and efficiency.  Perhaps we should consider doing the same.**

* Barrels per day and Billion cubic feet per day. A barrel is 42 gallons. A cubic foot is still what they told you it was in grade school.

** Want to know lots of cool stuff about our energy sources and uses? Our very own Department of Energy knows all and tells lots.  Especially about renewable energy resources.

Why community theater is my home

From a Silver Spring Patch interview with Silver Spring native Michael Blaustein:

Patch: What have you learned about the business?

M.B: In any industry it is a business. While it is important to build genuine relationships, this business is based on money. Money runs the business. When there is no money being generated those "friendships" slowly fade.

Patch: What do you say the key to your career is?

M.B: I would say networking is. In this business I would say talent is 30 percent and networking is 70 percent.

More than once I have described acting in Hollywood or New York as a career in sales with yourself as the product.

11 March 2011

The Official AN/SPS-30 Cigarette Lighter

This post from Silver Spring: Then and Again is another one of those areas where elements of my personal history come together.

I live in Silver Spring (or at least moved here as a child) because APL was here. The Navy assigned Dad to APL, possibly as a Tech Rep, so my parents bought a house a couple of miles away. We expected to be here for two to three years. Naturally, I therefore ended up doing all but a few months of my schooling in Montgomery County schools.*  (I'm not sure but I think if I asked Daddy why the Navy assigned him there, he would say that it was to put him in proximity to Crisfields for lunch every day.)

So I grew up in Silver Spring, Daddy worked at APL, and the third leg of this triangle is, of course, that the company I work for now does radar here in Silver Spring, blocks from the old APL site.

Looking at the plaque, I can even understand most of what it says because quite a few of our contracts say much the same thing.  The numbering system for contracts hasn't changed, probably since 1781.

Not that I smoke, but if one of those were to show up at yard sale, I think I'd buy it in a hurry.

*I started kindergarten in at Quidnessett Elementary School in North Kingston, Rhode Island and we moved to Silver Spring in November of that year.  The year that I was 14, I spent six months living with Daddy in Belgium and attended the base school from March to June. Other than those brief lacunae, teachers at Parkside Elementary, Eastern Junior High, and Montgomery Blair High School had the daily struggle of getting me to stop daydreaming or surreptitiously reading.

Lots of Information

I read a book review in the New York Times that I am assuming that David has already read. And I'm kinda assuming that he'll buy the book.*  And after he does, I'd like to borrow it.

Because how can one not want to read a book where the reviewer and the author write, thus, about Ada Lovelace:

Some [colorful digressions] are included just for the sake of introducing the great eccentrics whose seemingly marginal inventions would prove to be prophetic. Like Richard Holmes’s “Age of Wonder” this book invests scientists with big, eccentric personalities. Augusta Ada Lovelace, the daughter of Lord Byron, may have been spectacularly arrogant about what she called “my immense reasoning faculties,” claiming that her brain was “something more than merely mortal." But her contribution to the writing of algorithms can, in the right geeky circles, be mentioned in the same breath as her father’s contribution to poetry.

And if David doesn't, I'll buy it and he can borrow mine.

"The Information: A History, a Theory, a Flood" by James Gleik

07 March 2011

Audrey’s WATCH Award Speech

The WATCH awards were held last night at the the Birchmere Music Hall in Alexandria.  It was, as always, a very fun evening and I got lots of compliments on my dress*.  Any evening spent with 500 theater people and a bar is going to be a good evening.  I mean, really, how bad could that be?

The ceremony went well and the winners were pleased and the nominees who did not win were gracious (at least in my hearing) and the wait staff was busy bringing more drinks.  As I say, about as usual.

Because I am standing on the stage for the whole thing, I generally don't applaud for winners or speeches.  I smile.  I smile at the top of the evening and I smile all the way through.**  My friend, Chuck, one year complimented me at the end of the evening on how I was still smiling.  "Oh, am I smiling?  How nice."  :-D

But the evening took a memorable turn when my friend, Audrey, won for Featured Actress in a Play.  I was pleased for her for more than one reason:  She's a damn fine actress and she's been through a really rough time.  Taking home a piece of lucite won't make the last year any easier, but I'm very glad she got it.

And when she gave her acceptance speech, which like everything that Audrey writes was honest and funny and smart and likely to give me a lump in my throat,  Audrey accepted her award by giving a tribute to community theater which not only put that lump there but made me teary-eyed as well.  In those few words, she summed up exactly how I feel about this hobby of ours and how I feel about the friends I've made doing it.

So I asked her if I could post it here.  And tough, kind, generous Audrey said of course I could.

Congratulations, Honey!  And no fair making me cry in public.

Thank yo­­­u for this recognition. Thank you to my talented cast an­d crew, our designers and technicians, and mostly, our fearless director Chris Curtis for giving me the opportunity.

I just need to take a minute here, because this isn’t about me… it’s about us.

A few years ago, my play Fin and Euba premiered in a local one-­act festival. It was later published in an anthology called Best American Short Plays. I used to think that kind of thing only happened to folks like Edward Albee. But sometimes I actually call myself a playwright. And I have community theater to thank for that.

Last year, while I was performing in the show Rabbit Hole, for which I was nominated for tonight, my husband, who has been battling kidney failure for years, went into the hospital and stayed there quite sick for 5 months. He lost his job. And our house went into foreclosure. But I was not alone. Bridget Muehlberger and Erika Imhoof said, “it’s not going down like this.” They, along with every single cast and crew member of Rabbit Hole, along with many, many other volunteers, produced a yard sale and fund­raising effort that saved my house… and my life. I wouldn’t have a home right now if it weren’t for community theater.

Take a minute and look around at your table. Chances are there’s someone in front of you or beside you, who knows your favorite show tune or your mother’s maiden name or where the bodies are buried. Someone you cannot imagine living without… someone you never would have met, or had the chance to love, if it weren’t for community theater.

Community theater is a lot more than just a few crazy actors and techies who stage plays and throw cast parties, admittedly, really great cast parties. No.

Community theater is what we choose to do instead.

Because, let’s face it. It’s cheaper than therapy. More fun than prime time television. And probably more rewarding than that night class at the annex. It’s a home. Community theater, is a really great… warm… life-­giving home.

Thank you.

*That cost $32.  The only thing better than a sale is a clearance sale.  Thank you, Lord and Taylor's!

**One of the reasons why I wear flats. It's much easier to smile if your feet don't hurt.

02 March 2011

Why I do dark, difficult plays sometimes

I'm currently in rehearsal for The Shadow Box which is a lovely play about three families coping with terminal illness.  Needless to say, it has fewer laughs and "feel good" moments than your average Neil Simon play.  The show isn't about uplift, it's about closure.

I find myself feeling the tiniest bit defensive about the show because a cheery evening out, it ain't.   Frankly, it's always easier to ask your friends to come see happy comedies.  But theater, as I like to say, is the stories we tell ourselves about ourselves.  How human beings got where are are and how we'll get where we're going.  And that isn't always sunny or uplifting.  Sometimes it's sad or difficult.

My friend, Craig, who loves dark, difficult plays recently directed David Harrower's Blackbird in comparison to which The Shadow Box is pretty sunny.  I think that he would be very interested to read these quotes which were found and posted to Savoynet* by Andrew Crowther** about W.S. Gilbert's drama The Hooligan which is celebrating its centennial this month. The Hooligan is story of a condemned man's last hours.

Andrew wrote:

A comment from the Stageland column in the Penny Illustrated Paper of 11 March 1911 (a more racy and perhaps more working class paper than others):
It disturbed everyone. Most to applause; a few to resentment. There was the ruddy, ample gentleman whom I met in the bar during what the Col. calls the 'Intermission.' 'You come here to be amused, not to be----" He groped for the word and lost it. 'A man of a morbid turn of mind might think it all right, mightn't he?'

A play that can wing a ruddy, ample gentleman; leave him puzzled, gasping, unsettled; stir up vague doubtings about killing folk and giving them 'no chanst'--a play like that is a play which you ought to pop in and see at once.

In Holbrook Jackson's essay "Why Do We Laugh?" in his volume of essays Occasions (Grant Richards, 1922, pp 94-95):

I always felt that the laughter provoked by [James Welch's] characterization in The Man in the Street was an expression of relief from the underlying tragedy of the thing. But if there is any doubt about that, there could be no doubt whatever about the small gasps of hysterical laughter during his realistic interpretation of the condemned man in Gilbert's little tragedy The Hooligan. The theme is so painful as to be almost unbearable. I have seen people walk out in the midst of this play unable to stand any more of it. Yet those who remained in the grip of the horror, watching Welch revealing the fear of a condemned man during his supposed last few moments on earth--the fear of a man who is half idiot, and who has very little worth preserving in his life--those who remained laughed every now and then at the humour of it. Some things may be too deep for tears, but nothing is too deep for laughter.

* An e-mail list for Gilbert & Sullivan fans

**Andrew is a G&S scholar who has added greatly to what we know about those two men, their works, and their times.

26 February 2011

The Sting quote I really like*

"Bad reviews should give you a bad breakfast but shouldn't affect your lunch."

*At some point I will post a quote from Stewart Copeland so that he doesn't think that I'm taking sides.  Maybe it'll be one of the snarky things he said about Sting that make me laugh.

25 February 2011

Uncle Tom's Cabin

I started writing this post (oh my) a long time ago, when the story first ran about the loction of the cabin. I've been moved to update and finish it because the cabin will be open to the public this weekend.

* * * * *

It's a funny thing but until somewhat recently I assumed that Uncle Tom's Cabin was located in the deep south somewhere. Mississippi or Alabama or something. Although the image of Eliza running across a frozen river in the deep south should have put paid to that.

According to this website, the story begins in Kentucky and the icy river is the Ohio. The eventual destination is Canada. Later Tom is sold "down the river," but I'm not sure where. The one thing I do know is that the cabin of Josiah Henson, the slave whose autobiography inspired Harriet Beecher Stowe to write the book, still exists and is located ...... in upscale Bethesda, Maryland.

Maryland, a border state during the Civil War (and a slave state before it), was put under martial law during the war because of the number of pro-Confederate officials and its proximity to Washington, DC.  My state, however, did remain part of the Union, (whew) due in part to the efforts of her governor, a slaveholder, who negotiated with federal officials.

Quickie geography refresher - the District of Columbia was originally a diamond-shaped territory donated by Maryland and Virginia. It is now a sort-of diamond-shaped territory with a ragged lower left (the Potomac River) because the Virignia section (Arlington - named for Robert E. Lee's home) was returned and is now the site of, among other things, the Pentagon and Arlington National Cemetery.

Several major arteries go from the Maryland suburbs into DC, including Georgia Avenue, which passes in front of my church. And buried in the churchyard are 17 confederate soldiers who fought in General Jubal Early's raid and the Battle of Fort Stevens.  (The deli up the street has a General Jubal Early burger on their menu.)  I will pass the church (and the deli) on my way to the Josiah Henson Special Park.

And if they have copies of the Reverend's autobiography for sale, I shall buy one* and learn more about the history of my state.

*You know, to provide a bit of income to the Special Park.  If they don't, I can read it on-line.

23 February 2011

Maryland SB 116

The Maryland "Civil Marriage Protection Act" has been debated today and will get its final vote tomorrow. I had urged my representatives and the governor to support the bill. I didn't say anything terribly interesting or unusual, just that I support equal rights, including equal marriage rights, for all Marylanders. I took Equality Maryland's basic "please do the right thing" e-mail and added my own thoughts, including my belief that "gay marriage is just marriage."

And it certainly didn't hurt that one of my reps, Delegate Sheila Hixson, co-sponsored the legislation and another, Senator Jamie Raskin, was one of the legislators who introduced the bill.

So I am holding my breath as Maryland is given the chance to treat all of her citizens with dignity and respect. Sort of like in 1864: “Because Maryland remained in the Union, it was exempted from the anti-slavery provisions of the Emancipation Proclamation.(The Emancipation Proclamation only applied to states in rebellion). In 1864 the state held a constitutional convention that culminated in the passage of a new state constitution. Article 24 of that document outlawed the practice of slavery. In 1867 the state extended suffrage to non-white males." (Via Wikipedia)*

The full text of the bill can be found here. It ain't very long and, frankly, it's not all that provocative. It merely lifts the "one man and one woman requirement." But then most really big things aren't that wordy.

And here is Senator Raskin's reply to my letter:

Dear Leta

Greetings and thanks for your very thoughtful note in support of the Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Protection Act, the legislation that I have introduced with Senator Madaleno to end the stain of discrimination against tens of thousands of people in our state who are locked out of the institution of marriage. I consider it not only a serious moral and constitutional obligation but a high honor to be fighting for equal rights, benefits and responsibilities for my thousands of gay and lesbian constituents. We are making major gains across the country in securing equal citizenship for all our people and dramatic progress here in Maryland, where I believe we are on the verge of passing SB 116 this Session. I have been working very hard to convince wavering and undecided colleagues that this will be a vote they can be proud of for the rest of their lives. We had an extraordinarily successful hearing on Tuesday, February 8 in which the breadth and passion of support for marriage equality was manifest, along with the palpable weakness of arguments on the other side. On Thursday, February 17, I joined six of my colleagues on the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee to vote in favor of the bill, 7-4, and to report the bill to the floor; the Committee also adopted an amendment I offered to assure churches and church-sponsored groups that they will not have to participate in the solemnization or celebration of any marriage they choose not to. In any event, Equality Maryland has been doing a superb job organizing, and I am convinced that we are going to win.

I am certain that the days of marriage discrimination are numbered and we will see justice on this front in our lifetimes, probably very soon. I am proud to be part of this movement for equal rights under the law for all Marylanders. Thanks for taking the time to write me, and please stay in close touch.

All best, Jamie

*I was actually assuming that I would have to include an example of some disgraceful aspect of Maryland history, so I am very grateful to Those Strangers on the Internet for providing me with something more uplifting.**

**And now you’re trying to remember when the 13th and 15th Amendments to US Constitution were enacted, right? December 1865 and February 1870, respectively. As goes Maryland …

03 February 2011

Luckily he shares my sense of humor

Actual conversation with my Boss today:

Me:  I'm going to run an errand.

My Boss:  Are you?  I won't be here when you get back.

Me:  Is that a threat?  If I walk out, you're leaving?

Nothing like a little pretend emotional blackmail to liven up the workday.

30 January 2011

I'm in

Religion takes a lot of knocks these days, so it's extra nice to run into onto of those bits that remind me why I (somewhat inconsistently) get out of bed on Sunday morning and go to church.  The readings and psalms and Gospel today were generally on the theme of being what my friend Brett calls being "a good man among men."  This is the bit in particular that made me nod and think "Yup.  I can sign off on that":

"He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your G-d?"  

Micah Chapter 6, verse 8

Although, truly, religion isn't required, it does makes a nice framework for me.

28 January 2011

The Dress

Much-more-consistent-blogger-than-Leta, Quinn, has written two posts recently on what women wear they to big Hollywood award shows and why fortheluvvagahd they wore that:  Dark Globe and I'm a Barbie Girl in a Barbie World.  Much fun -- go read them.

And, of course, the nominations for the WATCH awards were announced a couple of weeks back. As we were standing decorously to the side after we'd read our share, Sue leaned over to me and said, "But more importantly -- have you bought The Dress?"

I haven't yet.  And I'm trying to decide if I should recycle one of the ones I've worn before or get a new one. ....  Dither .... Dither .... Yeah, I'll probably get a new one.

I don't have the many various requirements that ambitious starlets do when choosing a dress, fortunately, so I was able to list my requirements in a comment on Quinn's second post:

1. I must look fabulous enough that strangers stop me to compliment the dress (This actually has happened. Made my lifetime.).

2. In order to look that fabulous while standing on a stage for three hours the dress must not be painful in any way.

3. I must be able to buy the dress at Loehmann's for not much money in about a half hour on my way to rehearsal for whatever show I am in that time.

The fact that I -- a non-fabulous, middle-aged woman -- achieve these goals most years is an annual miracle.