Stanley Milgram Knows His Stuff

Det. Paul Falsone: You know, I was thinking of printing up one of those bikini calendars. You know, “The Cops of Baltimore”-type thing.
Det. Rey Curtis: What happened?
Det. Paul Falsone: You seen the cops in Baltimore?

Homicide: Life on the Street, “Baby, It’s You” (11/14/97)


So this evening I’d just poured myself a nice cup of tea, and I stepped out back to stand on the deck and call in the dog, when I heard a peculiar sound. It was the sound of an accident that took place on the main road, a couple of hundred feet from my house. What made it peculiar is that it sounded backward: BANG, then screeeeeeech!

The accident being clearly nearby, I grabbed my phone and walked out to the road. The accident was actually almost a block further south than I thought. One car had rear-ended another, and they were both blocking the better part of this four-lane road. Both cars had about a half-dozen people each surrounding them, but it didn’t look like anyone was on their phone, so I made the call to 911 and reported the accident.

Now, it was actually possible for the traffic to squeeze through a single lane, but of course everyone on foot was still hanging around the cars, so I grabbed one guy and told him to help direct traffic for the southbound side, and I’d take the northbound. He and I coordinated this single-lane traffic until the police arrived and blocked off the lane. So now there was no northbound traffic, and the southbound also had nowhere to go, so I started directing southbound cars down a side street.

And kept on directing cars down the side street.

And kept on doing it.

Now, I’m just some guy out there in street clothes. Fortunately my shirt is light colored, because it was pretty dark out there. But I’m standing there in front of an accident, waving at cars and directing them down the road, and they’re actually going for it. One guy in a taxi told me he just had to get over there to that block, and at first he couldn’t get it through his head that there’s glass and car parts everywhere. “You need to go down there and come back around,” I said.

“But I need to get over there,” he said again.

Finally I lost patience. “I. Don’t. Care. Go. Around!” He sighed and complied.

I did this for almost an hour. After maybe a half-hour, a truck drove up with traffic cones and such in the back. As he got out of the truck  I asked him if he was taking over. “Nope,” he said. “I just came to pick up my sign over there.” He pointed to a RIGHT LANE CLOSED AHEAD sign on the sidewalk. But then he broke out about 10 cones and put them across the road for me, telling me to just stack them on the sidewalk when I was done, and he’d get them later. He got his sign and took off.

At one point one of the cops came over and thanked me, because they were short-handed and couldn’t get another car to that side of the accident to block off the road.

But here’s the weird thing. At one point there was a lull in the traffic and I got curious to see whether the person in the car that had been hit was still there. And sure enough, she was. Then the penny dropped. I knew this woman. She was my neighbor from the house behind me. I turned around and her husband was right there. I asked him how he was doing. He told me “Not so good.” Well, sure. He wasn’t in the car, but heard the commotion and came out, like the rest of us. Only in his case, he found his wife in one of the mangled vehicles.

This woman is pretty tight with Wife, so I figured she’d want to know what had happened. Wife had already gone upstairs, so I knew she didn’t have her phone on her, but she probably had her tablet, so I broke out my phone and fired up Facebook Messenger, and let her know.

“XX was just in an accident.”

“How do you know”

“Because I’m at the accident scene.”

“Where”

“Out on YY Road.”

She was outside in about three minutes. By then the neighbor had been taken to the hospital in an ambulance, and her husband was with the tow truck driver, trying to figure out how to tow the car safely the half-mile to his preferred garage. Meanwhile I’m still directing traffic. Some people stopped to ask about getting back to the main road, a couple whined at me about how their destination was so close by and do they really have to go around? (Yes, dammit.) But in the end, they all just listened to the random guy who just walked out into the middle of the street and started waving at cars, stopping them so others could move through, and so on.

You know, back in 1961, a psychologist named Stanley Milgram did an experiment that essentially measured people’s response to authority figures. People would do terrible things to other people (not really, it was a setup), simply because other people who were wearing lab coats told them to do so. It was a fascinating experiment that was inspired by the Nazi “I was just following orders” defense after the war. And sure enough, these people, who were asked to administer electric shocks to other people, said similar things: “I didn’t want to, but he kept telling me to.” or “I was going to stop, but…”

Somehow I feel as though I was a kind of living example of this experiment.

Here’s the Milgram footage, if you’re curious. It’s fascinating stuff.

Stick It In Your Ears

Penny: So, how many people listen?
Wil Wheaton: Most people download it later, but usually a few thousand people listen live.
Penny: What? A few thousand people listen to you talk about nerd stuff?
Wil Wheaton: Again, right in the ears, straight to the feelings.

The Big Bang Theory, “The Fortification Implementation” (4/9/15)


Note: This post is cross-posted from my podcast’s website, How Good It Is, with a few edits so it makes a little sense. 

A few people have asked me about the what sort of stuff I go through when I put my podcast together, so I figured it would be fun(-ish) for me to take a closer look at the entire process and share it with you.

PART I—THE HISTORY

Image result for wbau -site:pinterest.comI’ve long had an interest in radio. When I was in college in the early 80s I spent inordinate amounts of time at WBAU, the radio station that was run by students at Adelphi University. (WBAU went dark in 1995, and that’s a whole other story). I thought I would go into broadcasting, but a few things, rather ridiculous ones in retrospect, got in the way and frankly I floundered for a few years. But I never lost the bug. And most people agree that you never do.

The other thing I’ve always been pretty good at is telling stories. I’m not prolific about it but I also have a personal blog called Baltimore Diary, where I occasionally bang out pretty much whatever is on my mind. (You know…the one you’re reading now?) The problem with a blog like that is that it doesn’t have a lot of focus, so the audience will always be small. Not that I’m writing for the popularity or the glory, but you like to think that someone other than your immediate circle of friends is paying attention. (I’m going to cross-post this over there, so if you click on the link you’ll just wind up reading this again unless you scroll down.)

So, finding a way of combining the two has been a little bit of a conundrum for me. I’ve been listening to podcasts for several years now. Marc Maron’s WTF was one of the first, and coincidentally I was one of his first listeners, because I started searching for my first podcasts to listen to only a few weeks after he started his podcast. (The Maron thing is a little bit of an aside and I’ll come back to it in a bit.) One of the other podcasts I adopted early on was Cerphe Colwell’s progressive show, which was a couple of hours of music that was pretty much in my wheelhouse. That show moved over to a different platform and I was still using an iPod, so unfortunately we had to break up. But Cerphe’s show was the first inkling I had that I could do a music program, and do it on my own terms. There was another one I listened to pretty much from the beginning, but it got kind of stale and, while it’s still running, that’s largely because it’s got a band of rabid fans that are, frankly, living in the past and haven’t figured out that the show has refused to evolve.

PART II—THE BEGINNING

Life got in the way for a couple of years, what with relatives getting sick and dying, so nearly everything went by the wayside. But a few months ago I started thinking about it again. And it was around this time that I started looking a little more closely at other podcasts to see what they were doing, and how they were doing it, and how they sounded, and a number of other things. I wanted to do something that had a specific focus (unlike the blog), and had a topic about which I could talk knowledgeably. I came up with a few ideas and crowd-sourced it a little bit, and the one that I liked best, AND had the advantage of not being like a lot of others, was this one.

Image result for musicradio 77 -site:pinterest.comI also crowd-sourced the title of the show, which I’d lifted from something I’d seen on Allan Sniffen’s website, and despite this, he was nice to me in my first couple of weeks. A few people came up with alternative names, but what they had was either already taken, or I couldn’t get the domain name. Plus it was growing on me day-by-day.

Image result for doug miles media -site:pinterest.comI also need to give a shout-out to my fellow WBAU alumnus Doug Miles, who DID make the cross over into professional broadcasting. He’s got the Book Talk podcast, and he covers the Orioles Spring Training season down in Sarasota, and he’s got a bunch of other stuff going on pretty much all the time. He took the time to give me a bunch of pointers on getting the thing up and running. Eternal thanks to him for his encouragement.

Some people have suggested that it’s a lot like Song Exploder, and in a way I agree in the sense that Hrishikesh Hirway also concentrates on a single track for each podcast, but he’s got a different format, and he sticks to more recent tracks, whereas I’m reaching back for the older stuff. So, we’ve each got our little corner of the genre staked out.

I did a LOT of planning ahead on this, including mapping out something like the first ten episodes, because if I couldn’t sustain that much, then what was the point? To be honest, I lost the list and had to re-do the advance planning, but being able to do it again, and with largely different stuff, meant that I was probably onto something with the longer-term prospects of the show. I got a format together, I figured out what I wanted it to sound like, and I started shopping for equipment.

PART III—THE NUTS AND BOLTS

The first couple of shows were recorded in my dining room, on summer days when Wife was out of the house and the dogs were outside. I’d have to stop recording every time the air conditioners came on, or shut them off and put up with the heat. I decided, however, that there was still too much ambient noise in the area because my house has a semi-open floorplan to it, and I still sounded kind of “live”.  Plus, I had to assemble everything and then take it apart again after each recording session, and I could see where that would get a little taxing on my cables and such. So I moved the entire setup into my basement, where I could put it together and leave it there.

 

Image result for behringer q1202usb 12-channel mixerMy first purchase was the Behringer Xenyx Q1202 12-channel mixer. It’s probably more than I need, input-wise, but I’ve also got the flexibility I’ll need to implement some ideas I have for future shows. And at about a hundred bucks, it wasn’t breaking the bank. I’d also purchased a couple of Behringer Image result for shure sm7 -site:pinterest.comUltravoice XM1800S microphones, but in the end I didn’t like the way they sounded. (They’re going to come in handy for a future project or two.) Until now I’ve been working with Wee One’s Shure SM-7 microphone. I DO like the way it sounds, but after all it’s not my mic. So this week I ordered one of my own, and I decided to take a step up. Come next week, How Good It Is will be recorded using an Electrovoice RE-20 microphone, which is my favorite of all time. I also Image result for re20 microphone in shockmount -site:pinterest.compurchased a shock mount to go with it, because I’m not going to be in a basement forever, Mom.

I have two other elements that I use. One is to help improve the sound and the other is to keep the production going smoothly.

The first is acoustic foam panels. Wee One got me a bunch of them as a Christmas present, which I mounted to doubled corrugated cardboard, and I purchased a second set and mounted those as well. So I record, surrounded by these two-foot-by-six-foot cardboard panels with acoustic foam on them, to help cut down the ambient noises.

And the other is a pair of laptops. One contains all of my sound elements: the theme music and the audio clips that I use during the show, and that’s jacked into my mixer. The other one does the actual recording, and is connected to the mixer’s output through a USB port. Software-wise, I use a program called Soundboard to store the audio clips so I can fire them at will. The only drawback to the version of Soundboard I’m using is that the clips have to be in WAV format, so I wind up converting some files  before I can use them. I use Audacity to record end edit the show. I’ve learned the hard way that you shouldn’t have other stuff running while you’re recording with Audacity because it can interfere with the recording buffer, creating a “skip” in the final playback product. (My professional tip for you today.)

I’d take a picture of the entire setup, but one of the laptops isn’t attached to the studio permanently; in fact it’s the one I’m typing on now (back in the dining room, am I). So next week I’ll take a photo and post it for the curious.

PART IV—POST-PRODUCTION

The show is very produced compared to other podcasts; I like to have some kind of stuff going on most of the time, which is a holdover from my radio style. That also means that the show is rather heavily scripted, because in many cases I’m timing things tightly. So editing the show usually takes a little while, but Soundboard has cut down on that and lately I’m just stitching together my beginning, middle and end. Once in awhile I’ll screw up and either re-do the entire segment I’m recording or, if I can find a decent point to edit, I’ll go back to that point and start over. I’m kind of proud of the fact that most of my edits are pretty invisible. I was good with physically cutting tape back in the day, and I’ve got a good ear for doing it digitally as well.

Image result for auphonic -site:pinterest.comOnce the show is edited, I upload it to a website called Auphonic for audio. Because the show is short, I can do all of my processing for free. But if it were longer, I’d pay for it because it’s made a huge difference in the show’s sound.

Image result for podomatic -site:pinterest.comFrom there, I upload it to this site, and to Podomatic, where the show is hosted, and it’s from there that your podcatcher gets it. I write up the post for this site and publish it, and after waiting a little while I publicize it on Facebook. The reason for the delay is that I’ve discovered, if I try to post on FB right away, Facebook can’t find the images. And sometimes it can’t even find the post! So I give everyone a little time to figure it out.

And now we get to the part where you come in!

PART V—WHERE YOU COME IN

You, my faithful listener/reader (and you’ve GOTTA be pretty faithful if you’ve gotten through nearly 2000 words and you’re still with me), will either read my Facebook post and come here directly, or you have iTunes or Spotify or some other pod organizing software, and it gets (usually) automatically downloaded to your device.

At this point I still don’t have a huge number of listeners, but that’s OK because the feedback I’ve gotten has been almost overwhelmingly positive. My strongest critic is my brother, who listens to a few at a time and then calls me to tell me what sounds crappy, and more often than not I agree with his assessments and have made adjustments.

So how do I decide what songs to cover?

There are a few songs where I know there’s an interesting backstory, and those come pretty easily. Other times, I’ll hear a song and just wonder if they have a story to them, and then the research begins. Occasionally I’ll hit a dead end (that is, there isn’t really much to tell), but that leads me into another story. Once in awhile I hear a bit of trivia on a radio show and that encourages me to dig a little deeper. (“Get Together“, Episode 4, is a good example of this.) And every now and again I look at what I’ve covered and see if I need to go in a different direction for awhile, e.g. have I done too many songs from the 60s and ignored the 50s? Have I concentrated on male artists too much? Rock vs. ballads vs. doo-wop vs. some other genre?

A couple of people have made suggestions, and one of them has already been turned into a show (H/T to Kevin), and another has given me an idea for something I want to do later, in the springtime (another H/T to Jerry).  For what it’s worth, I’m always open to new ideas, whether it’s about the sound, the content or some other detail (should I do more trivia questions?). I’m always happy to see comments and suggestions, whether it’s here or on the Facebook page.

Finally: a couple of people have asked me about monetizing the podcast somehow. That’s not my immediate plan; unless the show grows immensely in popularity, it’ll be a relatively inexpensive hobby for me. If I have to start paying for additional bandwidth and such because there are so many downloads, then I will have to think about doing something like that, but I’ll try to do it as unobtrusively as possible. The aim would be sustaining rather than profit.

One of the big takeaways I’ve gotten from this whole project is that it’s good to have something else to look forward to, that’s vastly different from everything else you do. And the other thing is something I’ve learned from several years of listening to Marc Maron (see, I told you I’d come back to him). His show was born out of the ashes of his previous job. At that point he was a mid-level standup comic and radio host, who lost the radio gig when his entire network, Air America, took a huge financial crash and went belly-up. But from those pieces he managed to rebuild—indeed, vastly improve—his career and, it seems, repair his personal life right in front of his audience. I’m not in that level of dire straits, thanks, but it taught me that there are always second acts, that there’s always redemption and a positive future, if you make the reach for it.

This post has been an incredible exercise in procrastination (hey, it was either this, or I start writing next week’s show), but it was also kind of fun for me to put together. Thanks again for all your amazing support, and for letting me into your head every week.

Effect on Affect

Dr. Mark Hall: Air doesn’t matter! Blood does. That’s the answer.

The Andromeda Strain (1971)


Let’s play some catchup, shall we?

This has been a bit of a rough school year for me.

This is pretty much me, all through this school year.

I’ve been distracted and moody, and my concentration has been out the window. And I’ve been feeling a general sense of discombobulation, you should excuse the technical term. And it felt as though every time I was finally getting on top of matters, I’d get whacked with a bunch of other issues.

When you do the job that I do, you expect to get a lot of different issues coming from many directions at once. But this year I’ve been feeling like I’m bailing a leaky boat. And I started to think that maybe I’m not cut out to work such a busy school anymore; that perhaps I need another school with a smaller caseload and so on. 150ish students, even with a part-timer assisting me, is a lot of kids to keep track of. And yet…and yet, I still believe in the school I work with and its overall philosophy, and the fact that I’m making a difference for a lot of students who are not only at-risk, but who are in some genuine crisis. But how much can a person take, anyway?

So that’s one thing going on in my life lately. Meanwhile, I have a new doctor. My previous doctor retired and moved to the West Coast, so I had to find someone new. I’m pretty fussy about this sort of thing, so I was glad when Wife found someone she thought I might like. And with a small caveat, she was right.

During the holiday break, I did a New Patient visit with the doctor. We did a medical history, and they took some blood samples, and there was an interview or two, and so on. And the doctor had some specific suggestions for me, and based on what we’d discussed, she gave me a couple of prescriptions.

A few days later, I got a call from her office. My blood work had come back, and the numbers weren’t good at all. My cholesterol was high, which makes sense considering I hadn’t taken any cholesterol meds in about two years. But then again, they weren’t as high as they were before I started taking medication, so that was a little encouraging. My triglycerides were also a little on the high side, and we’d address that later on. What was of bigger concern, however, was my Vitamins B and D levels. Those were pretty much bottomed out. Like, I should be running around naked at the equator to get my Vitamin D levels up; that’s how low it was. I was also told that my iron levels were low and that I should see a hematologist. In the meantime, I had a follow-up visit scheduled for this past week.

I didn’t call the hematologist, largely because the conversation would have gone something like: “Why are you here?” “Uh…my doctor told me to come here?” so I sat on that one until  the follow-up visit. But I filled the prescriptions and I started taking vitamin supplements, and life went on for a few weeks.

Last week, on Friday, I had my follow-up visit, and it turns out that my blood was in even worse shape than I originally thought. The guy who called me had essentially buried the lede: my iron was practically bottomed out. If I had a serious accident, I wouldn’t have enough reserves in my bone marrow to replace what blood I’d lost. And my A1C, which wasn’t on the sheet I’d received, was just barely high enough to put me in Type II Diabetes range. So we had some conversation about my diet, and my exercise, and there’s gonna be some more medication for you.

Image result for trulicity -site:pinterest.comI’m back on Pravastatin, but since my cholesterol was relatively low for a high value, I’m also back to the lower dose where I started. But because of the A1C, I’m also taking something called Trulicity, which is a pen-style injectable drug that I take once a week. You pop off the gray cap on the bottom, push it against your abdomen or your thigh, and press the green button. Needle pops its way in, the stuff injects for about five seconds, then you hear a click and you’re done. One of the side effects of Trulicity is depressing your appetite, so I may experience the weight loss regardless of my excercise levels, but she also noted that if my appetite truly crashes, I need to force myself to eat some lean protein and all the fruits and vegetables I (don’t, because I’m not hungry) want.

So we’ll see how that all works out in a few months, but in the meantime, all this goes a long way toward explaining why I’m having so much trouble concentrating on stuff at work. The bottom line is that there’s an underlying medical reason, and if I can get some of my numbers back in place, there’s a good chance that I’ll be feeling a little bit more like myself again, and that I can get my act back together.

And that’s not necessarily bad, right?

 

What’s at Steak, Here

Jocelyn Sheffield: I’d like you all to meet Nigel Waters, the Duke of Salisbury.
Fran Fine: Oh, I love your steak.
Nigel Waters: Thank you. Lord Worcestershire and I get together every Sunday for a barbecue.
Maxwell Sheffield: And the Earl of Sandwich pops by for leftovers.

The Nanny, “Stop the Wedding, I Want to Get Off” (3/16/94)


Someone recently invited me to join a cooking enthusiasts’ group on Facebook. I do enjoy cooking, so I accepted the invitation. It wasn’t long before I realized that I was pretty hopelessly outclassed by most of the people in that crowd. But what the heck, I thought: maybe I’ll learn something.

A few weeks ago, someone posed an interesting question to the page:

There’s a line in here that maybe should have provided a big hint.

I thought about this a little bit. What good could confectioner’s sugar possibly do?

Confectioner’s sugar is regular sugar that’s been ground into a fine powder. There are several different levels of grind available, but the most common kind is the “10X”, which means it’s been ground ten times. When you purchase this stuff commercially, however, there’s also a little bit of cornstarch added to the sugar to keep it from clumping. That’s why you can’t just use it in your tea when you’re out of granulated sugar.

So, taking all this into account, I opined that because confectioner’s sugar has some cornstarch in it, there’s the possibility that some of the juices that might drip out would instead stick to the surface. And while most dry rubs contain some (brown) sugar, I really couldn’t see that it would make a ton of difference. Other people said much the same thing, coming down especially hard on any suggestion that searing “seals in the juices”. If you know anything at all about cooking, you know that part’s pretty much a crock.

But stuff like that stays with me, and I got curious enough to actually try it. Would you like to see what happened?

Tonight, both Wife and Wee One were at the ballgame in Aberdeen, so I was on my own for dinner. Originally I was going to stop off at the supermarket and get something extra sad to eat, like a pot pie or a frozen pizza. Something not so complicated that would fill me up. And then the steak thing popped into my head. So I went to the meat department and found some boneless ribeye steaks. Then off to Produce to put a salad together from the salad bar. (I’ve been eating at the stadium the last three nights; there aren’t a lot of vitamins going on around there. Season Tickets can be a pain sometimes.) I got it all home—and it just started to rain. Ugh.

OK, kid, change of plans. Instead of grilling the steak, I’ll have to broil it instead. We’re not letting rain get in the way of Science. Let’s go to the photos:

This is the ribeye steak I chose to work with. It’s got a bit of an odd shape because the Giant puts it in a vacuum pack, and I’ve just cracked it out of there. The steak is about 10-12 ounces (best estimate; it was a three-pack).
Because of the vacuum packing, I gave it a light beating on both sides with my tenderizing mallet.
A light dusting—again on both sides—with the Montreal Seasoning. Not too much because I don’t want it to overwhelm the Experimental Ingredient. I tapped it again with the flat side of the mallet to keep the seasoning from falling off.
And then a dusting with the confectioner’s sugar. There’s a little bit more on the steak than it appears, because some of the sugar has already dissolved.
And now, onto my Teeny Tiny Broiling Pan. Four and a half minutes on one side, then flip it over and cook until the thermometer reads 135 degrees Fahrenheit.
The finished product, resting until it gets up to 140, which only took a couple of minutes. Medium-rare, baby.
The pan, post-broiling. Some of the fat has rendered and most of the color you see in the bottom is bits of the seasoning, rather than “juices”. So maybe the cornstarch retained some of it?
With a cut taken out of it so you can see the color and the juices, again. I hit a nice medium-rare, temperature-wise, but the meat spent more time with this side up than the other side, so you can see that the pink isn’t quite centered but instead is closer to the bottom. And don’t worry, I put it on a different, clean plate.

But the bottom line is in the flavor, yes? Of course. I took a bite. And frankly it didn’t have a lot of effect on the steak as a whole. It’s not as though it had developed a candy shell or anything. What I did notice was that the burned sections were really caramelized sugar, and they followed the thicker fat lines from the steak. Therefore, eating those burned parts wasn’t as unpleasant as it typically would be, because there was a slight element of sweetness behind them.

So…as far as the original question is concerned, I’m going with a big fat No. It doesn’t make the meat juicier or, for that matter, sweeter. It does help a little bit when you get to the burned bits, but then again would they have burned as much had they not been sugared? Eh, probably not.

So it was an interesting experiment but in the end I decided it’s not really worth repeating.

One Word: Plastics (paid for all this)

Alex: We just hadn’t planned on a change of plan.

Jane: Well who plans on a change of plan? I mean, that would be sorta paranoid, don’t you think?

Laurel Canyon (2002)


I’m sure you suspect by now that Wee One isn’t so “wee” anymore. In fact, she turned 18 a few weeks ago.

In addition to that, she graduated from high school this spring, in a ceremony that costs the City and the students something in the neighborhood of $30,000, because that school can’t do anything without over-complicating it in the name of “tradition”.

Ripken Stadium Entrance Gate
Ripken Stadium. This wasn’t from the Sweet 16.

Wee One doesn’t get a lot of parties, but we compensate by making the ones she does get, a little bit bigger. For instance, for her Sweet Sixteen we rented a box suite at Ripken Stadium and a bunch of her friends joined her in a party at the Ironbirds Opening Day festivities (with fireworks, naturally). We rented a large van to transport kids who couldn’t get to the stadium, the kids got souvenir hats and junk, they all ate well, we managed to keep them more or less contained, the Ironbirds won, and we got fireworks to boot. Not too shabby.

So this time around for her graduation party (she wanted that rather than an 18th birthday party), we decided to expand things a little bit. After all, there would be more family members involved, plus adult-age friends and well-wishers. And Wee One wanted a DJ who could also do Karaoke. So we started looking into booking a space in a restaurant’s private room area.

Based on a little Internet research, our first stop was a place called Johnny Dee’s Lounge, just off of Loch Raven Blvd. The guy we spoke to was pretty great and very flexible with the menu (and reasonably priced besides), but we weren’t sure that the space itself was suitable for our event, so we passed. That’s not a knock on Johnny Dee or his Lounge. We’d certainly consider them for a different event.

Our next stop was at Hightopps Grille in Timonium. Wife spoke with them on the phone and outlined what we needed, and the person she spoke to, named Michelle, told us about this dining space with an outdoor patio adjacent that could also be used, weather permitting. Ooh, nice. So on the weekend, we went to visit the restaurant, sample the food and see what the waitstaff knew. As it happened, we got a very knowledgeable person who was able to answer most of our questions, with which we peppered her throughout our meal. We came away with a good feeling and I emailed Michelle to tell her we were interested in having the party during these hours on that day, and we’d just gotten the menu so could we lock that down at a future date? No problem, says Michelle, and I’ve booked a room for you. (This turned out to be a red flag we’d overlooked.)

So Wife and I perused the menu and put together something affordable but not cheap (it’s a fine line, sometimes), and left a little bit of wiggle room so that when we presented it to Wee One, she was able to have a little bit of say in what was served up.

About ten days out from the party: Wife got back in touch with Michelle to finalize the menu and the headcount. That’s when she learned that we weren’t getting the dining area with the patio; instead we’d been booked into a private room in a different part of the restaurant. What’s more, it was a space we hadn’t previously seen. For several reasons, this was a potential problem: we figured the space we thought we had was just about big enough for our party, plus the patio area (assuming the weather was good) would be a decent escape zone for anyone who thought they needed a break from the music. We had to go back in and look at the new space.

One week out from the party: the new space was definitely a no-go. There was no room for the DJ, it wouldn’t hold all of the people in our headcount, it was dominated by a bar (in a party for a teenager), and everyone had to pass through the main bar to get to the party. Even if it hadn’t been a kids’ party, it wouldn’t have held our headcount, with or without the DJ taking out a table’s worth of space, and even if you took the bar’s stools into account as “seating”. The manager on duty was sympathetic but really couldn’t do anything for us—and he did look for a few options—and Michelle wasn’t available. What about Michelle’s boss? Nope. Michelle IS the boss. She’s the owner of the restaurant. She’d ignored half the details that Wife had given her and was going to try shoehorning us into this corner. Go sit in at the card table over there, kids, while the Big People (read: better spenders) eat at the grownups table. We were screwed, plain and simple. Hightopps was out, and they’d created a huge problem for us.

We got back in the car and started to cruise York Road, looking at restaurants and wondering what alternatives we had. When you’re only a week out, you also have to worry about paying a premium for asking them to do this on such short notice.

I really don’t remember who thought of it, but one of us had an idea. And it was one of those ideas that, when we had it, we wondered why we hadn’t thought of it in the first place. What about The Barn? We’d been there plenty of times, they have a decent-size space, they have a permanent zone for entertainers, half the staff knows who we are…what kept this place off our list? It’s still a mystery.

For the uninitiated, The Barn is a restaurant/bar that’s in the area where Parkville and Carney kind of mix together, near the intersection of Harford and Joppa Roads. The place called “The Barn” is actually gone; it’s been remodeled and is the new home of The Charred Rib, which coincidentally used to be in Cockeysville. So now they’re The Charred Rib at The Barn, but most people still just say The Barn.

Image result for charred rib at the barn

I remember The Barn in its older incarnation: shortly after I moved to Baltimore, someone invited me to come up there for Karaoke Night. I was living at the exact opposite end of the city, and didn’t have a good handle on what was where, plus I didn’t really know anyone yet. But I went and, while the place had a bit of a used-up feel, I had a decent time. Oddly enough, I even remember the date: it was January 29, 2002. But I’ve digressed enough so I’m not going to tell you why I remember it. (Hee.) Anyway, the place got VERY cleaned up at some point and is really nice.

There are two levels to the building: the top level is the full-time bar and restaurant area, and the bottom level is used in the evenings, and is where bands come to play. The walls are absolutely covered with rock and roll posters and memorabilia. (If you ask where the restroom is, you’re told to “go back there and turn left at The Beatles.”) Perhaps, we surmised, they’d be willing to accommodate us in the lower level. Wife called them up and managed to get one of the big dogs on the phone. He needed to check on another thing that was happening that day, and promised to call us back. Ten minutes later, we got a return call: we could have the space if we wanted it. Ten minutes after that, we were in the restaurant itself meeting with him and putting a menu together. A few hours after that, we were getting the word out that the time and date hadn’t changed, but the venue had.

The Queen of Karaoke
Wee One, Karaoke Queen

And precisely one week later, we had a fantastic party, thanks to the folks at The Barn. We spent a comparable amount of money to what we would have spent at the other place, but we’re pretty sure we got more food for our money. Everyone had a great time, Wee One was happy, Wife was happy, the folks at Discover Card are happy. And The Charred Rib at The Barn has another positive review on Trip Advisor and Yelp.

Father’s D’Oh

Walter: One wrong note eventually ruins the entire symphony.

—Alien: Covenant (2017)


Let me tell you about my Father’s Day today.

It’s possible—but not likely—that this is my last Father’s Day with one of my kids in the house. Daughter is living the adult life in North Carolina, and now that Wee One has graduated from high school, we have to consider the possibility that she’ll be spending her summers working, or otherwise occupied somewhere other than this immediate area.

So I figured, hey. Let’s do a little day trip, just the three of us. And everybody was good with it, so we packed into the car and headed up to the little town of Gardiners, Pennsylvania. I had two destinations in mind. Up in Gardiners there’s a farm stand called Peter’s, which isn’t a huge deal or anything, but it’s a destination and it’s a reasonable distance from home. We head up I-83 from the city, jump off a few miles after crossing the state line, and from there it’s a bunch of rural and semi-rural roads. So…nice views, rolling hills, just relax and sing along with the radio and gab about whatever, and then buy some strawberries or whatever’s in season (plus a surprise for Daughter next time she visits). AND, as we cruise through the area, there are a bunch of little antique and second-hand stores in between that we can poke in and out of.

Shortly before Peter’s however, in the town of York Springs, there’s a place called Concrete Jungle. It’s a small business dedicated to making, and selling, concrete statues, planters, birdbaths and such for people’s gardens. We’ve been there a few times and picked up a few items for our yard. This isn't ours because, as usual, I'm writing in the middle of the night and can't take a picture. More often than not, when we get something we’re paying a pretty low price for it compared to, say, Home Depot or Lowe’s. (As a For Instance, we purchased a pagoda lantern very much like the one in this picture for about $40; anywhere else it’d be twice that.) So this time around we popped in because we were in the market for a pair of matched planters for the front of the house. And sure enough, we managed to find a couple of nice ones that went for about $50 for the pair. Sweet! They’re plain concrete right now but we can color and then seal them to match the steps. I’d take a photo of them, but they’re still in my trunk. Also, it’s dark outside as I write this.

Anyway.

We picked up some strawberries and a couple of other goodies from Peter’s, then headed home. It was during this leg of the trip that we realized we hadn’t really eaten. As we passed through the town of East Berlin, Wife spotted a pit beef place and suggested we stop in there.

And that’s where things started to go south.

The place is called Hog Wild. It’s set back from the street and fronted by a patio with picnic tables. A few other, smaller tables sat on an elevated platform along one of the walls. The walls surrounding this area are covered with vintage (or, more likely, “vintage”) signs (not a knock, I know you can get a lot of these via catalogs and such). Inside are two or three tables and a service counter. We went inside and pored over the menu for a minute. Wife had a couple of questions because of her allergy, and the guy behind the counter, who turned out to be Rick the owner, was brief but forthcoming with his replies. His attitude seemed to have a little of “these guys aren’t locals; I’m gonna screw with them a little bit” or maybe he was just feeling a little acerbic, I don’t know. But Wife ordered Pit Beef without a roll (again, because allergies) but with onion. Then she asked if there was more than one size of the French fries, and he said, “There’s only one size: small.” So she ordered fries as well, and a lemonade. I was up next and ordered a Pit Beef sandwich with a roll, and with a little bit of onion. He asked if I wanted any barbecue sauce or anything on it, and I said “Oh–sure. I thought I saw it on the table, that’s why I didn’t bring it up.” He told me that it was out there, so I told him not to bother putting it on the sandwich, this way I could experiment with the different sauces out there. I ordered a can of Coke to go with it. Wee One ordered the Smoked Dip, which is essentially a Pit Beef sandwich with a side of Au Jus for dipping, an order of fries that she wanted to split with me, and also a lemonade. Total for these three lunches: $38.11. A little pricey, but OK. However, when I broke out my credit card, he simply pointed over my shoulder to the ATM and told me I could get money from there. Ugh. A little warning before this point would have been nice. I went to the ATM, withdrew $40 (and, of course, paid ATM fees since it’s an out-of-network machine), paid him and we went outside to wait.

And wait.

And wait.

And wait some more. I thought maybe I was just being impatient and not keeping track of the time, but the timestamp on my ATM slip said that I’d taken the money out at 2:10. By this point it was nearly 2:40. I said to Wife, “It doesn’t seem like they’re especially busy and our order wasn’t that complicated; I wonder what’s going on?” Wee One noted that nearly everyone out on the patio was waiting for food, and they’d all been there at least as long as we had.

At about 2:55 our food finally came out. The girl who served us asked Wife about her food sensitivity, because she was having a problem of her own and hadn’t nailed it down yet. Before she walked away, I said, “Can I ask a question? Is a 45-minute wait for the food typical?” This was genuine curiosity on my part; I’d been in plenty of pit beef places and while all of them had some kind of wait, none of them took that long. She looked taken aback by the question, almost as though nobody had ever asked it before. She said, “It’s not fast food!”

I said, “I get that, but I didn’t think you needed to raise the cow first.” Which I admit was a little snotty, but also so hyperbolic that nobody could reasonably think I meant it. Her reply: “I’m not forcing you to eat here.” That’s when I said, “Whoa. All right, then.” and let it go.

After she left, we talked about whether I’d said anything that was truly out of line, and ended up with “eh, not really.” Because here’s the thing: it’s a yes-or-no answer, really: either the answer is “No, but we’re shorthanded/we’re busier than usual/something broke down in the kitchen/whatever” or it’s “Yes, we spend all our effort on each order before moving on to the next/we hand-cut the fries so they take longer/something else.” Going on immediate defense with something like “It’s not fast food” was a little out of left field.

We began to eat our food. My sandwich, which I’d ordered with “a little bit of onion” had nearly as much onion as it did beef, but that’s no tragedy; I took off what I didn’t want and moved along. The food was…fine. It was pit beef; we’re not talking Serious Gourmet stuff here. As we finished our food, Rick himself came out asking if there was a problem with the food. “No,” I said. “The food was fine.”

“OK,” he replied, “because you upset my daughter when she was out here, and—”

Now frankly, I don’t really remember what the rest of his sentence was, because now I’m replaying in my head and I said, “Whoa, whoa, whoa, all I asked was—”

Unfortunately for me, he was on a roll and told me he didn’t want to hear about my whoa whoa whoas. (Yes, he told me that.) I repeated: “I just asked her whether a 45-minute wait was typical.”

“Do you see all the tables in there?” All three of them? Sure, I guess. That launched him into another tirade about if the food was no good he’d be happy to refund our money and send us on our way. Again I said, “The food was fine.” Now he’s moved on to We don’t need your kind here and I’m going to ask you to leave. I’m literally just sitting there wondering what the hell is going on. At this point the most I can muster up is just “Wow….Wow…” and then “OK.” I stand up and without another word, walk away from the place. Wife and Wee One, who have said very little at this point (because they were just as stunned), also got up and left, but that didn’t stop Rick, oh no. He kept on yelling at us, and at the other customers about us. I didn’t realize at the time he was doing that, because I’d left so directly that I figured that Wife had engaged with him and now he was yelling at her. But nope: they were right behind me and he was still doing his thing as I reached my car, across the street, with the rest of my family pretty much on my heels.

So in the end I really don’t know what set anyone off here. Maybe he was having an especially bad day. Maybe being in a town called East Berlin puts you in a Cold War frame of mind. Maybe when there are few other options for eating in a small town, you can generally get away with stuff like that. Maybe a million things. But the fact is, when you go to a small town, pay $40 for lunch ($2 ATM fee counts, in my book), and get abused out of the blue by the owner, it puts a bad taste in your mouth—you should excuse the expression—for the entire town.

Remember what I said several paragraphs ago about going antiquing as well? There are several places in East Berlin, PA that we had earmarked as potential stops when we were on the way up to Peter’s. Do you think we stopped in any of them on the way back? Not a chance. Our instinct was to get out of town as quickly as possible. But there were a few places that got our attention, and our money…in Thomasville, and Shrewsbury, and a couple of other spots on the way home.

Haddock Crateful

C.J. Cregg: You guys are like Butch and Sundance peering over the edge of a cliff to the boulder-filled rapids 300 feet below, thinking you better not jump ’cause there’s a chance you might drown. The President has this disease and has been lying about it, and you guys are worried that the polling might make us look bad? It’s the fall that’s gonna kill ya.

The West Wing, “The Fall’s Gonna Kill You” (5/2/01)


NEARLY ICKY IMAGE ALERT: If you’re my brother, don’t look at the end of this post. Maybe wait a few weeks and then come back. For everyone else, be warned that this post is long and rambling and, if I had any smarts, would be more than one post.

So my brother (the one mentioned in the previous paragraph) was recently injured in a fall at work. I told you a little about this a couple of posts ago. The fall wasn’t from a huge height, but it was a complicated one, enough so that Wile E. Coyote would be proud, I think. So, he had a broken pelvis requiring surgery and some interesting shenanigans in the rehab center that I don’t think I’m supposed to talk about.

When he first got hurt, his wife called me to tell me what had happened, and I don’t think she got more than a few sentences out before I started going through checklists in my head outlining what I needed to do in order to get down there. My brother, being pretty wise to how I think, had already issued a strict order for me NOT to come down, since there really wasn’t much I could do anyway. I took him at his word and stayed away, for a few weeks anyway.

As it happened, I’d already arranged for a visit to Beacon College, which is located in Leesburg, Florida. Leesburg is about an hour or so northwest of Orlando and just under two hours’ drive from my brother’s place. So when I set my visit date, I did it with an eye toward making it a long weekend so I could visit my brother.

Let me digress for a minute and talk about Beacon College: it’s a college which, like Landmark College (also mentioned not that long ago), is designed specifically for students with reading difficulties, with ADHD or who are considered to be somewhere on the autism spectrum. Their entire approach to educating students lies in determining how the student learns, how they process information, and then coming up with a plan of action that aims directly at that learning difference. The school itself is composed of several buildings in the downtown Leesburg area, such that you’re not entirely sure where the school ends and the town begins. Anyway, it’s a great school (and, if you’re interested, one of only a couple in the nation–and one of only 23 in the WORLD–with an Anthrozoology program) and worth considering if you suspect you’re smarter than your grades might indicate.

The folks at Beacon were amazing, and the 60-90 minute tour I’d expected turned into three hours of touring and some in-depth chat, and I’m hoping that they can pair up with my high school for some future project.

From there, I headed down to my brother’s place. I gotta say, I was pretty exhausted by this point, because I drove almost straight through from Baltimore to Leesburg, a 14-hour drive under the best of circumstances. I left around 8:30 PM on Tuesday and had no choice really but to stop in a couple of rest areas and do some catnapping (one of those catnaps was nearly three hours, in a gas station parking lot). So by the time I arrived at my hotel on Wednesday, I was pretty tapped out. I managed to get some sleep Wednesday night, but I don’t have the bounce-back skills I used to. I checked into the hotel near my brother’s house, then went to see what he was up to.

We had a happy little reunion, and ordered some takeout food from a place nearby. After dinner was a little more chatter, and he started talking about how he’d like to get out of the house for awhile, if I don’t mind. Hey, anything you want, amigo. We made plans for a couple of potential destinations on Friday, and I was back at the hotel.

Friday morning, I got to his place, and he wanted to visit his place of work. Now, getting him anywhere involves him using a walker to get to the car, and him using a wheelchair to get anywhere else once we arrive. I figure out a way to fit the wheelchair into my trunk, throw the walker into my backseat, and off we go…back to the Scene of the Crime.

Let me tell you something: they really like my brother over there at his place of work. I don’t think I’ve ever been greeted with that level of enthusiasm, anywhere (never mind at my job). He was chit-chatting with people before he even got out of the car. If you check out Frank Hagney's career on IMDB, you'll see that he has many more uncredited roles than credited ones. And in the office and the warehouse, it started to feel sort of like a scene from A Hard Day’s Night. I started to feel a little bit like the guy in It’s a Wonderful Life who does nothing but stand behind Mr. Potter and push his chair around. But it was pretty clear that they wanted him back as soon as possible, even if it was just part-time. My brother, being extra macho and whatnot, opined that he’d like to come back on a full-time basis if possible.

Our other destination was to see the water. That’s all; he just wanted to see the water. So from his workplace we headed down US19, and then a road called Alternate 19, which splits off from the main road in the town of Holiday and runs a little closer to the water. All the way down, we talked about how the area has changed since we were younger. I noted to him that there was a period of time where I’d constantly get lost because so much had changed during the year or so that would pass between visits. That actually happened to me on this visit, because I didn’t know that a road in his town had been completely re-routed to accommodate the expansion of a park.

As we got closer to the town of Tarpon Springs, he suggested that we make the turn down Dodecanese Boulevard, along the Anclote River toward the Sponge Docks. Dodecanese Blvd. is the heart of Tarpon Springs’ tourist industry, and hardly a day goes by that isn’t thronged with people who come to buy natural sponges, eat Greek food or just take a stroll along the docks to see the sponge boats doing their thing. You can even take a sponge-diving tour, where they give you the whole story of how the industry started in the late 1800s, and how the process of harvesting and preparing sponges hasn’t changed substantially since then. In fact, the Sponge Docks area hadn’t changed substantially during most of that time: the first time I visited was as a 12-year-old in 1975, and it was much the same until I was deep into my adulthood. Then along came a storm (I can’t remember which one) which, between the storm itself and the water surging up the riverbanks, pretty much wiped out the entire area. The town got a huge pile of money from the government to re-build, and nearly every building was restored.

Nearly.

Don’t let the nice paint job fool you; that paint may be the only thing keeping the insides of this building inside.

One building survived the storm, and oddly enough it was very close to the river. That building is called Sponge-O-Rama, and it’s the home of a couple of free exhibits that will teach you about the history and heritage of the local Sponge Industry. This comes in two flavors: Flavor One is the movie they show you, that loops around about every fifteen minutes. The film is dated, they’ll concede, but they keep it around because it’s such good documentation of the stuff they do. This film looked old in 1973 and it’s not looking much better, having been transferred from film to video tape and now to DVD from the video, so you’re treated to scanning errors and color bleeding. From there it’s on to the Sponge Museum, which is a labyrinth of poorly-lit full-size dioramas set behind plexiglass that’s so old, it’s started to fog up and is harder to see through every year. This area looks exactly the same way it did in 1973, and I’m pretty sure that the only thing keeping this part of the building together is the termites holding hands. And yet…it’s so goddamn charming that I can’t not go there when I’m in town. Except this time, of course, because my brother can’t get out of the car without a hassle and this was just a side trip, anyway. So after a pass through the area in each direction, we returned to Alternate 19 and continued down another couple of miles to the Honeymoon Island Causeway. We drove down the causeway, taking our time, until we got to the point where, in order to proceed, we’d have to pay a toll. Well, once again getting out of the car and into the sand wasn’t on the agenda, so I turned the car around and cruised back up the causeway. At one point I found a break in the railings and took my car down to the beach itself (about where the arrow is in the picture above), where I backed up against the rail and we sat there, chitchatting and watching the water. After awhile we headed back up the road (waiting for a sailboat to come through the drawbridge) and hit the local supermarket to get stuff for me to make dinner. He’d found a recipe in Food Network Magazine he was hot to try, but since he couldn’t stand up long enough to cook, we figured I could do the cooking and he could help with prep. (Go to the link; it’s good stuff!)

So while he was up and getting ready to cut up some peppers, he said to me, “Hey, wanna see the scar?” I, being no fool, said certainly. He told me that he hadn’t even seen it because he figured it’d make him woozy. So if you’re my brother, don’t look! Here it comes!

That's his right hip you're looking at.

Oh, and here’s some good news: he’s making his return to work, part-time, today! Go get ’em, man! They’re eager to have you back!

Those Who Serve

Usually when I do a Memorial Day post, I’ll put in this space pictures of soldiers, or monuments, or a collection of editorial cartoons designed to remind you that it’s not all about the barbecues. This year I was looking at some memorial sites and it occurred to me that while we have lots of memorials here in the US, there are several thousand soldiers who never made it home, alive or dead. And it got me to thinking about how soldiers of any nationality are memorialized. Here are some images of war memorial activities and places in other parts of the world.

Australian War Memorial, Canberra
British veterans on the parade ground outside Westminster Abbey commemorating the 7oth anniversary of V-E day, 2015.
Cambridge American Cemetery in England. Over 3800 American soldiers are buried here.
French President Francois Hollande re-kindles the Eternal Flame at their Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, May 2016. Out of frame (a few feet to the photographer’s left) are American soldiers who joined the ceremony.
I’m pulling this caption in its entirety from the Air Force’s website: A spectator plants flowers on a headstone at the Netherlands American Cemetery prior to the start of a Memorial Day ceremony May 25, 2014, Margraten, Netherlands. Dutch families can adopt a gravesite and maintain it as a way of showing respect for the actions of the fallen service member.
Soviet War Memorial in Berlin
Sailors from Navy Munitions Command East Asia Division Unit Guam join their sister village of Talofofo at a Memorial Day service held near the Talofofo Mayor’s Office May 24, 2014
Memorial Day ceremony, Seoul, South Korea.

I think one of the things that struck me most was that they’re largely indistinguishable from their counterparts here in the US. Wherever we are in the world, we honor those who gave everything they had in service to their country.

Peace.

Too Cool School

Sue Heck: We have to do something to help. I gave up my trip, so they don’t have to pay for it. And you guys better start thinking of ways we can save money, too.
Axl Heck: No way! It’s their fault. They don’t know how to budget. They should’ve stopped having kids after me. You guys are the real money drain with your braces and your special school.
Brick Heck: I don’t go to a special school.
Axl Heck: You don’t?

The Middle, “The Hose” (10/17/12)


This week I made a visit to a college in Vermont. Not for the benefit of Daughter, who is long-graduated, or Wee One, who’s already been accepted to a school in Pennsylvania, but for the benefit of my students.

Specifically, I was invited to visit Landmark College in the town of Putney, VT for their Professional Visit Days. Landmark isn’t just any college, oh no. Landmark is a school entirely geared toward students with learning differences, including reading difficulties, ADHD, and even students who fall on the autism spectrum. Most of the students who attend there have flunked out of some other school, because that school didn’t really have a handle on their learning style. So in a way, it’s a college version of the high school I’m working in, with the overage and under-credited kids. And even with the disproportionate number of Special Education students, although they’re at 100% where we’re more like 30%.

Landmark bills themselves as “The college of choice for students who learn differently,” and everything they do is geared toward that fact. The first thing they do with students is try to figure out what that difference is, what their learning style is, how their minds work. They put a lot of neuroscience research into this, and have come up with their working definition of Executive Function (short version: it’s how your brain controls all of your processes), which they use to help the students plan a means of approaching their education. And one of the first things they do is focus on the student’s STRENGTHS rather than their deficits. So, for example, if a student has a low processing speed, that’s reframed as the student working deliberately and taking their time to get the right answer. (I usually tell them, “you’re not fast, but you’re accurate” which is a step in the right direction, I think.)

At any rate, Landmark has a very low staff-to-student ratio, and a class of 15 is considered to be pretty big. There’s an emphasis on coaching the students without constantly holding their hands (they’re still responsible for college-level work, after all), and on Universal Design in Learning, something which I’ve argued for for a long time, and frequently gotten pushback over (“If you’re accommodating everybody, then you’re accommodating nobody!”, which is crap). And while they’re not on the cutting edge from a technology standpoint, they do have a very good handle on what works with their students and what doesn’t.

Props to Craig Froehle for this image
This illustrates it well, except that it assumes that the problem is with the people, when in fact it’s also a matter of the terrain they’re standing on that’s providing hassles. Also there’s a fence, and maybe that should be removed altogether. I dunno, something’s vaguely wrong with the metaphor here, but in the end I do like it, even if I’m overthinking it.

As I noted earlier, Landmark is located in Putney, Vermont, which feels like the middle of nowhere but really isn’t. It’s only a few miles from Brattleboro, and also a stone’s throw from Keene, New Hampshire, where most of the bigger stores are (e.g. Walmart). Many students, despite their age, don’t have transportation of their own, so the school arranges lots of field trips to the movie theater, or over to Keene, or other traveling-based activities. Plus, there are lots of things to do on campus as well. For a school with only about 500 students, there is definitely more than its share of things to do.

One of the revelations I had when visiting this school was the way that the students, almost to the last, all gave me some version of “I knew I had a disability, but I really didn’t know what that meant/how it related to me.” All of them have stories about being given medication, or someone else doing their schoolwork for them, or being excluded from their own IEP meetings. From that standpoint, I have to say that again, we’re ahead of the curve a little bit, since I insist that students attend and participate in their own meetings (there’s not much I can do with truant kids, but if they’re in the building, sure). I have more work to do in this area, to be sure, but it’s good to know that I’m better than most.

Next week I’ll be visiting Beacon College in Leesburg, Florida. That visit won’t be as comprehensive as Landmark, but I still hope I’ll learn a lot and have some exciting stuff to share when I return.

 

Ahead of the Curve

Ida: I didn’t know, nobody told me that it cost money to get old. I just figured that was one thing you got for free. But it isn’t: the retirement home costs money, the doctors cost money, medicine costs money. I always thought it was so sad I’d outlived my whole family; but I didn’t know that it was going to be a punishment.

The Golden Girls, “Brother, Can You Spare That Jacket?” (12/3/88)


I have two brothers: one of them is about a year and a half younger than I am, and the other one is about six years younger. This story is going to be about the older of the two.

So when he was in his late 20s, he met and married a woman who is a few years older than he is. She had had a daughter when she was sixteen, who in turn had a daughter when she was sixteen years old. This basically made my brother a grandfather at the age of 28.

That daughter had two other children, one of whom is now in her early 20s and recently became a parent herself. So now my brother, at the age of 53, is a great-grandfather.

A few years ago, a series of incidents took place which ended with my brother’s insurance company paying off his mortgage. So in his late 40s, he was able to stop making mortgage payments.

If this had happened, he wouldn't have broken his damn pelvis. A few weeks ago, my brother was at work. He was on a ladder, about five feet up, when he lost his balance and fell. Being only about five feet in the air, ordinarily this wouldn’t be too big of a deal, but in this case it was a little more of a convoluted situation and he went down hard, breaking his hip and pelvis in a few places. Now he’s doing rehab and getting around with a walker (though healing nicely so far).

So…grandfather at 28, house paid off in his 40s, great-grandfather at 53, now breaking a hip? It seems to me that he’s reaching most of his life milestones about 20 years too early.

On the bright side, he’s never He's been known to do this. especially worried about kids being on his lawn.