Are You Ready For Some Football!

Yesterday, Brother and I went to my first professional football game, to see the Tampa Bay Buccaneers host the Carolina Panthers. Going to see live football is a mixed blessing, I’ll tell you what.

First, I should mention that we had GREAT seats. We were maybe 12 or 13 rows from the sideline, at about the 35 yard line. Although frankly I don’t think that there are any bad seats in Raymond James Stadium. It’s a very well-planned, well-laid-out place. The concourse is open-air at the ends, and at the north end of the stadium, the concession stands have facades decorated to resemble an old fishing village. In front of those is a full-size (103 feet!) pirate ship. That whole section of the stadium is called Buccaneer Cove. Here’s the view from one end of the concourse (click for bigger): Pirate_ship

And here’s a view from the other end of the field. Since the field itself is barely visible, I have to presume that the photo was taken with a zoom lens:Raymond101

Whenever the Bucs score, the ship has eight cannons that fire once for each point, and again once whenever the Bucs make it into the red zone (inside the 20-yard line). Plus, the skull at the bow will occasionally spew smoke. It’s very cool.

So the Bucs lost yesterday, 37-20, which means the season is basically over for them. But we had a ton of fun nonetheless. We hung out before the game and drank beer and ate sandwiches, we bought T-Shirts and a pair of Bucs socks for Daughter, we drank some beer, we won Can Cozy T-Shirts by answering trivia questions, we had some beer, we ate hot dogs and jalapeno pretzels, we had some beer, I got a free Linebacker Goofy bobblehead…oh, and we had some beer.  (Here’s where I become the #1 hit today on Google searches for "beer".)

Have a Holly Jolly Yadda Yadda Yadda

Greetings from the Sunshine State!

Yeah, "sunshine," my ass. I have the worst luck when it comes to visiting Florida, weather-wise. But it’s all part of the fun.

I got out of work early on Thursday–wait, let me start over.

I went to a meeting at the Area Office on Thursday that lasted for three hours. Can you believe that? (Say yes.)
When I got home it was pouring. And we still had yet to put the cartop carrier on the vehicle. (I’d have done it last night, but that would have meant taking the thing to work, and frankly this school is in a rough neighborhood. They’d have stolen the carrier and the car with it.) So I made lunch for Daughter and myself, and we watched The Amazing Race, which I’d Tivo’ed from Tuesday. Jonathan is still an ass who engages in acts of domestic violence. And never mind the half-assed apology he issued on his website. It’s a crock and…yeah. I’m going to leave that one for others to deal with.

Raining, raining, raining. Finally we say The Hell With It, let’s get wet and go, already. I gotta give Daughter credit for not bitching too much about that. Nearly 3:00 and we’re good to go.

This will probably come as a surprise to absolutely nobody, but when it comes to driving down I-95, Virginia sucks. Let me say that again with a little more emphasis. Virginia. Suuuuuucccckkkssss. It took us at least six hours to get through the what, 270 miles or so of Virginia. I don’t think we were over 50 MPH at any point that afternoon/evening. I was hoping to make it to, say, Florence, SC, so that the Christmas Eve portion of the trip wouldn’t take so long, but around 2am I had to give up. I was in Fayetteville, NC, nearly 200 miles short of Florence. This meant that the trip was going to be at least three hours longer the next day. Sigh.

So Christmas Eve driving was more or less uneventful, but long. I have a story to tell about that, but I’m on dialup these days and I think I’ve burned up enough phoneline time for now. So…happy holiday and More Later.

A Faboo Recipe

When I first moved to Baltimore and decided that I wanted to have a holiday party, I figured that no party is complete without Egg Nog. But I didn’t just want to buy cartons of the stuff and put it out for guests to spike, no sirree. So I looked for a recipe for honest-to-god homemade Egg Nog. And I found:

Baltimore Egg Nog!  You can’t beat that!

I tweaked the recipe that I found a little bit and found that this works really well. Start early! Don’t wait until the last minute.

12 eggs, separated
2 cups superfine sugar (I put regular sugar in the food processor for 30 seconds or so)
1 cup brandy
1 cup peach brandy
1 cup rum
1 quart heavy cream
1 cup milk
nutmeg (for those who are so inclined)

Mix the egg yolks with the sugar until it’s all smooth (I use the processor for that part too). Add in the alcohol. Slowly stir in the cream and the milk. Refrigerate until everything’s cold, at least a couple of hours.

If it isn’t already, put the chilled mixture into the punch bowl. Beat the egg whites until they’re stiff. Fold them into the chilled mixture. Serve. Have the nutmeg available for those who like it on their Egg Nog.

Bon appetit!

Mildly Amusing Tale

A coworker related this story to me yesterday:

In the early summer of 2002, there was apparently a baby boom as part of the aftermath of 9/11/01 (and by the way, how come I didn’t get any of this action? Never mind, I already know that one). A friend of hers was one of the women affected by all this nookie, and found herself in a very crowded maternity ward delivering her fourth child. The hospital was so crowded, in fact, that they were offering incentives to the new moms to get them out in 24 or 36 hours, rather than 48 hours. Some of the incentives included home nursing services, a few freebie followup visits, and so forth.

Well, this friend felt quite healthy and waited patiently for someone to make this offer to her. When it didn’t come, she finally asked a nurse why they didn’t offer to discharge her early.

The nurse said, "Oh, honey, you have three kids at home. You need a few days off."

Now We’re Cookin’ With Gas

Ecch. I fell asleep on the sofa last night. GF woke me up at about 6:30 and I actually managed to sleep some more, till a little after 9. And now we’re off to the races, cooking-wise.

So far today, I’ve prepared:

  • Black-eyed peas (can’t have a holiday party in the south without ’em, I tell you what)
  • Boiled Shrimp
  • Antipasto Platter
  • Beef cubes in a fruit-based barbecue sauce

And it’s only what, a little after 1:00?

For the shrimp and the peas, I used the recipes from Consuming Passions, by Michael Lee West. It’s a collection of stories centered around food, with a bunch of great recipes stitching them together.  It’s somewhere between a cookbook and a memoir, and basically allows you to sit on her front porch and taste the South. A fun book, really.

Lengthy Day, This

Today we had what we in the biz call an "MRE" meeting. MRE stands for More Restrictive Environment, and if you want a student to go into a special program because of his disability, you have to have all kinds of documentation to justify the placement. You can’t just decide that he’s a pain in the ass and kick him out of school.

As usual, I can’t give away a lot of detail but this youngster is in a world of pain and misery and I do believe that the educational program that we put together is appropriate and can actually do him some good. Despite all the prior work that a couple of us did earlier in the week, there was still so much to go over, and we almost didn’t have everything we needed, which would have meant waiting another few weeks to get him the help he needs. So that entailed bulldozing a few things past my boss to convince him that we could do an adequate job.

This meeting took four hours. I came out of it exhausted and wrung out. We all did, I think. But I also think that we did a little more good in this little corner of the planet, and since I’ve done that twice now this week, I’m probably done with that sort of thing for awhile. Back to the treadmill of low-satisfaction stuff for me. I’m glad I at least get to do it now and again; that’s the stuff, man. That’s what the job is about.

We’re staging a Christmas Holiday party tomorrow night, so I did some almost-last-minute shopping this evening and got to cooking. Tonight I made baked ziti and my world-famous meatballs that my mother accidentally invented. I’m also soaking beans to make black-eyed peas tomorrow. I’ll have macaroni & cheese, a garden salad, some of my homemade Boursin, and a few other odds and ends. Yeah, them’s eats.

Florida Dispatch

Ooh! I almost forgot! My brother managed to get tickets to the Tampa Bay/Carolina game on December 26! The bad news is that they may not have much chance of being in the playoffs by then. And we’ll be on the Carolina side of the field. But I’m going to a Bucs game! Woo Hoo!

Zzzzzzzzz

A book I spotted in the Borders in Boston (click to embiggen):

Massachusetts_04_036

I’m just saying.

What a weird-ass day today was.

You already know about Monday and my spouting off at the principal. Today was the fallout from that. There was another copy of the writeup in my mailbox and a note from her: "Please see me."

Hm. Given that the first line of the memo was "Warning?" (that’s how it was written, with a question mark) and the last line was a place where I’m supposed to sign this thing and return it, I decide that this is a disciplinary action and I’m going to get me some union representation. I poke my head in on the building rep, who—as it turns out—is no fan of the principal, and tell her what happened and show her the note. It was pretty amusing, watching the expressions cross her face; an interesting mixture of confusion and amusement. Finally she tells me that I should just write a rebuttal correcting the errors and leave it at that. No point in turning it into an argument that’s only going to stress me out.

So, five drafts later (gotta write, then delete, all the poisonous stuff so it’s out of my system) and I’ve got the rebuttal ready. Finally she approaches me and tells me that it’s time for us to talk about the memo. I tell her, "OK, we need [Union Rep] to come down, then." That didn’t exactly brighten her day. She told me that I didn’t need any such thing. I said, "Hey, when I’m given something that says ‘warning’ at the top and has a place for my signature at the bottom, that says disciplinary action to me and I’m bringing a rep." She lets me get the rep.

We go through twenty minutes of whether this is disciplinary in nature, whether I said what I said, whether I was going to apologize (I didn’t, although I did admit that I was terse), whether I was going to guarantee that it wasn’t going to happen again (yeah, not so much), whether I was going to sign the thing or not, whether my rebuttal was accurate (more so than hers, I daresay), whether I was going to sign the memo (I didn’t, but I didn’t specifically refuse), blah blah blah blah blah. Basically we sat there and let her blather on about all kinds of stuff about respecting others, especially when "company comes to the table" and I don’t know what-all else. Right after the meeting broke up I noted that the auditor had been through my files and we were nearly perfect (one minor problem, easily fixed). So with any luck, I’ll be missed someday in the future.

So there was that. Then there was a Medicare survey that was due this afternoon. I’d planned to bring it to my supervisor in the afternoon, but I wound up having to do a home visit on another student. I can’t give away too many details, but the visit itself was pretty important. I sent an email to the office saying that I couldn’t get in because of the visit, and I’d have the stuff waiting for him when he arrived in the morning.

Tonight was the night that my book club meets. I went and did that, had a couple of pleasant hours of chitchat. Nice stuff. On the way home, about an hour ago, I get a text message from GF telling me to call the supervisor right away. He’s bitching me out because I didn’t get the survey in today and "How many times do I have to remind you about these things?" Erm…I’m not in the habit of bringing stuff in late. Exactly on time, perhaps, but not late. "You had this thing due, you got an extension [everyone did], and it still wasn’t in on time. I’m not happy."

You know what? These two events more or less bookended my day. In between I got a lot of stuff done. I arranged meetings for students, I talked to parents and teachers, I got a lot of backlog done, I survived an audit and did well with it besides, I had to break it to a mom that her kid is autistic and, by the time we finished, she was actually thanking me for ensuring that he got the help he needs. I had a very productive day despite the crap I had to eat. Yeah, I’m sleeping well tonight.

They Know A Thing Or Two About History Here

Whee! Greetings from Boston, Massachusetts! Let me regale you with a little poem:

There once was a girl from Boston, Mass
Who went into the water up to her ankles.
(It doesn’t rhyme now, but wait till the tide comes in.)

That was my grandfather’s favorite joke. Go figure.

So anyway, Girlfriend and I decided a few weeks back that, since we weren’t going to have our kids for Thanksgiving weekend, we’d go away somewhere. And what better place to visit at Thanksgiving–where we’d stand a good chance of places being open and all–than Plymouth, Massachusetts?

I looked up some information and made a couple of phone calls, and next thing you know I have tickets to have dinner at Plimouth Plantation. GF made a few calls of her own and got us lodging at a Bed & Breakfast for Wednesday and Thursday nights. For Friday and Saturday we’d go to Boston and stay at the Tage Inn. (I’ve stayed at other Tage Inns and really liked them all, but this seems to be the best one if you want to be a Boston Tourist, based strictly on proximity and services.)

Let me tell you a little bit about the Mayflower B&B. It’s a really cool place to stay. The owners are Charlotte and Ron Schoen, and they are just the nicest people around. GF called a few places and let them know that we’d have to arrive late, and she was the only one who was willing to accommodate us. Plus they didn’t hassle us about late breakfast the next morning. It was that, plus a million little things, explaining to us where to go and whom to talk to and the local history/color and the chitchats we had and…yeah. If you’re going to stay in the area, go there. They’re great and they’re also one of the more inexpensive places to stay, besides. Because you know what? You could stay a little cheaper in a hotel, but they won’t feed you the next morning AND you’ll have to pay a horrific hotel tax, so it all actually cancels out. So, Mayflower. That’s the place. Tell ’em I sent you.

Plymouth, Massachusetts, is a town where tourism is definitely the main industry, although I also get the feeling that it didn’t occur to anybody until maybe 80-90 years ago. Before that, it seems like the town had no real interest in their past. But anyway, there are plenty of cool things to see in the town itself, including the Mayflower II (a reproduction, there’s a story why the original isn’t around anymore) and Plymouth Rock itself. Some people have said that Plymouth Rock was a disappointment, that it wasn’t as big as they expected, etc. but I was OK with it. I did find it kind of funny that, at some point, the rock broke and they repaired it with cement. There’s a whole story behind that, too. I’ll let you look it up yourself.

We also got to see an honest-to-god protest march. It being Thanksgiving Day, the local Native Americans (the Wampanaog tribe, don’tcha know) kinda-sorta have a problem with that whole White-Folks-Screwed-Us-Out-Of-Our-Land thing. Not that I blame them. So since 1970 they’ve held an annual Day of Mourning to make more people aware of what’s happened. They have a rally with speakers and such, and then they all march through the town. Again, I have no problem with that. What I did have a problem with was the banner regarding Native American homosexuality and how that’s a perfectly natural thing to have. And again, I don’t have a problem with that specifically, but if you’re getting into the whole "Broken Promise" argument, you really don’t want it diluted with other issues such as Leonard Peltier (a Native American political prisoner) and Wampanaog homosexuals. Stick to the topic, people. You can get extra marches out of the other two. And hey, at least the homosexuals got to march in this parade. Look at all the grief they get on St. Patrick’s Day.

OK, it’s late. More later.

Warming Up

Today I’m working on designing the invitations to my annual Christmas Holiday party. The hard part is coming up with an image on the invitation that somehow perverts Santa Claus. Don’t ask me why; it’s something I did the first time around and just kept up the tradition.

I’ve also got football on. Usually I watch one game at a time, but the Ravens-Atlanta Falcons game is on and, for a change, they’re airing the Tampa Bay Buccaneers-NY Jets game. Unfortunately, they’re running at the same time so I have to switch back and forth. And, of course, it’s not like the Bucs can have possession, then I switch and watch a Ravens possession, oh no. They’re both running the ball at the sema time. They’re even doing the cutaways to see what else is going on around the leage at the same time; they’re doing the fricken commercials at the same time. On the bright side, given the season that the Bucs are having, I’m kind of glad that I didn’t get my brother Bucs tickets for his birthday last month. Heh. Yeah, the Metallica show was a much better buy.