Movin’ On Over

The Wolf: Maybe I can give you guys a ride. Where do you live?
Vincent: Redondo Beach.
Jules: Inglewood.
The Wolf: In your future… I see a cab ride. Move out of the sticks, gentlemen.

Pulp Fiction (1994)

This may be the first time I've attached a picture to the quotation.






So if you’re paying attention—and chances are, you’re not—you may have noticed a few changes here at Baltimore Diary.

First, there’s a new layout. I’m not quite sure I’m happy with it, but I’m still fooling around with it. We’ll see how that shakes out. The TV and movie quotes will remain; they’re a fun gimmick, even though they’re also probably the hardest part of my blog posts. Sometimes it takes me longer to find a good quotation than it does to write a post.

The tall boxes are for the longer posts. But the other important thing is that Baltimore Diary has its own domain now! Welcome to!

There’s no more clunky Typepad address to deal with, and I think that’s pretty much all the difference for you. That, and the URLs of the posts appear to be a little less straightforward. But that’s OK, given that the URLs for the posts with longer titles tended to get weirdly complicated.

This blog is powered by WordPress software, as opposed to the Moveable Type software that Typepad works with, and while all 800-something of the posts have ported over, the formatting may be a little clunky, or images may be missing. I’ll do my best to straighten some of that out.

Incidentally, this has nothing to do with any dissatisfaction with Typepad; they were a good home for many years. I just wanted a little bit of a different look, and the company that handled the domain purchase offered up a really good deal for the hosting, and that’s about that. Maybe that’s a little cold-blooded on my part, but I’m sure everyone will get over it before long.

Personal Recipe

Here’s a fact that I’m sure will come as a shock to many of you who don’t pay attention: I’m a Native New Yorker. As a result, I have this bad habit of saying pretty much what’s on my mind.

Here’s another fact: New Yorkers have a reputation for being rude, but they’re really not. Most of them aren’t, anyway. What they are, is they’re abnormally direct with their opinions.

One time I was in Manhattan and I was downtown, in Greenwich Village, looking for Ray’s Pizza (the one on Prince Street, though I didn’t know that at the time). I asked someone for directions and he told me where it was, then said to me, “But you don’t wanna go there.”

Huh. Really. “I don’t?”

“Naw, you don’t wanna go there. You wanna go to Pizza Suprema. It’s the best in the City, up by Madison Square Garden. Try the upside-down slice.” Then he told me where the nearest train station was (you don’t say “subway” unless you’re a tourist, thanks) that would put me on the 1 or the 9 train (“don’t take the 2 or 3, they’re local trains, it’ll take you forever”) and sent me on my way.

In fact, the 2 and the 3 only add two stops between Houston and Penn Station, but what the heck. And Pizza Suprema’s upside-down slice is pretty damn good. But the point here is, New Yorkers will tell you what you want, especially when they realize you don’t know what you want.

This is something I’ve retained, even after nearly ten years in Baltimore. But I’m learning that there’s a fine line between being the guy who’s a straight shooter and being That Guy. The Straight Shooter is admired; That Guy is kind of a jerk. And I think I’ve done my time being a jerk, many many years ago. So my goal is to continue saying what I mean and not varnishing the truth too much, because it’s really not so precious a thing that nobody can look at it, but not to do it by becoming That Guy.


I do not wish to expiate, but to live. My life is for itself and not for a spectacle. I much prefer that it should be of a lower strain, so it be genuine and equal, than that it should be glittering and unsteady. I wish it to be sound and sweet, and not to need diet and bleeding. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Think about the type of person you’d NEVER want to be 5 years from now. Write out your own personal recipe to prevent this from happening and commit to following it. “Thought is the seed of action.”

A Month of Writing

My blog posting has been all kinds of spotty for the last few months, and I want to remedy that. Fortunately, I’ve gotten a goose from the folks at The Domino Project, who are sending out writing prompts every day for the next thirty days. It’s not like the novel writing in November thing; each prompt is supposed to be different but introspective.

What I’ll do here is run the post (I won’t open with the media quotations during this period), then I’ll reveal the prompt. I’d be grateful if you’d put your comments here; many times I see nice responses on Facebook, but they’re a bit on the ephemeral side as a result.

Okay, let’s have some fun!

When I Don’t Write

Lucy: I’ve got one foot on the accelerator and one foot on the brake. If I took my foot off the brake I’d burn rubber halfway across this country. Don’t believe all that romance about writers block. Everybody has it: butchers, bakers, writers; it just means you’ve got one foot on the brake.

Paris, France (1993)


writers-block Like so many other people who keep blogs, I get blocked once in awhile. Sometimes it’s because I don’t think I have much to say; sometimes it’s because I have plenty to say but I know who’s reading; sometimes it’s because I have a lot to say and it’s all pretty disorganized. During those times, nothing seems to really coalesce out of the cloud of stuff to write about.

Not that you care.

But the other thing I’ve noticed is that, when I’m not writing for the likes of you, Dear Reader, there’s a bunch of creative energy that needs to go somewhere. And that’s when things get a little weird at work.

In my current job, I read and write a LOT of e-mails. And when you do so much writing, sooner or later the creative bones start to assert themselves. Fortunately, as the saying goes, I know my audience and I save that sort of thing for the people who will appreciate it. My co-workers find me much funnier, for instance, than the principals.

Last week I wrote an e-mail that was laced with Communist dogma. I even found a nice Hammer & Sickle picture for the background. In other cases I’ve written e-mails as though I was Buffalo Bob from Howdy Doody, or as the leader of the Mickey Mouse Club. One e-mail I wrote acknowledged that there were only men in the office at the time, and proclaimed, “Let the swordfighting begin.”

Looking back, I’m not sure if they got that one. I’m not positive I got that one.

So if you come here and you don’t get a new dose of entertainment, well then—I must be doing my job.

Wait, that didn’t come out right.

2009 in Review

Ralph: Just remember, you can't put you arms around a memory.

Alice: I can't even put my arms around you.

The Honeymooners, "Better Living Through Television" (11/12/55)


This is a post that changed very quickly from idea to execution. The original intent was to do a fun recap of some of the news events that took place this year, but as I began to do some of the research involved, it came to me that most of the stuff that was newsworthy wasn't really worth writing punch lines about. Some of them were already punch lines, in fact; they were kind of tough to top. 

The other thing that happened was a weird little confluence of events that took place this past week. It started with a joke that I'd posted to Facebook: 

It sucks that someday I'm gonna die, and people will gather, and they'll all say nice things about me, and I won't be there to hear it. And the big shame is that I'll have missed it by only a couple of days.

This was a paraphrase of something I'd nicked from Garrison Keillor. It was one of those little absurdities that amused me, so I tweaked it and posted it. Unfortunately, I actually wound up worrying a few people, especially when my next post started to move into the medical tests I was going through. That engendered another rash of comments, some of which were general "good luck to ye" comments, some of which were "I've been there, you'll be fine" comments, and a few which were more in the "don't go dying on us" realm. 

These comments, all of them, took me to a different place. It was a place where I wasn't soliciting comfort, or encouragement, or anything really, but I managed to get it anyway. And much of it–most of it, really–came from people I haven't laid eyes on since Pat Benatar was still tearing up the pop charts. But we've managed to reconnect in some small way, and those folks took the time to send a few positive words, and it really meant a lot to me. 

So while a lot of weird, bad stuff happened to me this past year, such as almost getting Dooced this summer, and being in financial straits the whole rest of the year as a result, and losing a family member, I've decided to instead focus on the positive things: I've got a wife who seems to have some measure of affection and respect for me (only god knows why and he ain't telling); I've re-connected with some other family members with whom I haven't had much of a relationship for the past several years, and I'm not only re-building relationships with folks from high school, I'm establishing new ones that weren't there the first time around. And I hope to continue building on all of this in the year to come. 

Here's to 2009, and to an even better 2010. 


Alvy Singer: [addressing the camera] There's an old joke – um… two elderly women are at a Catskill mountain resort, and one of 'em says, "Boy, the food at this place is really terrible." The other one says, "Yeah, I know; and such small portions." Well, that's essentially how I feel about life – full of loneliness, and misery, and suffering, and unhappiness, and it's all over much too quickly.

-Annie Hall (1977)


Housekeeping Note: this is another post I started several days ago and didn't finish until just now, so I'm clearing out some mental cobwebs getting it out there. 

WKRP-Tukery-Away_l  One of the things I've noticed about having a blog, and later on a Facebook account, is that you never know what's going to spawn a response and what isn't. Usually when I do a FB post that's related to The West Wing, I'll get a couple of "likes" and maybe a comment or two. This year I got nothing. On the other hand, an offhand reference to an episode of WKRP in Cincinnati launched all kinds of conversations. Likewise, another comment I made about watching TV on Thanksgiving Day launched a similar number of responses. 

A short while back I did a post about the high school friends I have nowadays, and the relative lack of overlap that the modern-day group has with the friends I had then. It's not a big deal, just something I noticed. And while the post itself has no comments attached to it (at present), it has engendered several responses. Most of them have been about what a funny/witty guy I am, and how they never suspected that in high school. (My stock response is that I was funny but not especially witty, which I think is more or less true.) But there was one brief conversation I had with someone that actually touched me, a little. Much of what you'll see here is heavily paraphrased. My memory isn't that great. 

A few days ago someone took the time to send me an Instant Message on Facebook. She opened with "I owe you an apology." This actually confused me, since I didn't recall her saying anything odd, or mean, or unusual, in the recent past or ever, really. 

She went on to say that she'd read my post, and it had gotten her to thinking back to high school. And the bottom line was that, if she'd said anything rude to me, or purposely ignored me, or done anything mean in my general direction back then, then she genuinely apologized for it. 

What do you do with something like that? 

In my case, I thanked her and told her (truthfully) that I hold no ill will toward anybody from school. She noted that there were some people from those days who seem not to have changed at all, and others who surprised her by going a long way in life. (Apparently I was in the second batch.) We chatted a little bit about some of the people–not by name–who pretty much peaked in high school and how you never really know. At that point I had to sign off so I thanked her again and bade her good-bye. 

You know what? That was a pretty brave action on her part, and you don't get a lot of opportunities to do something like that in life. I tried once a couple of years ago: I wanted to re-connect with someone from my past so I wrote a letter and sent it out. I never got a reply. But at least I took that opportunity. 

So thanks to you, RFP: you didn't do anything to make my life more miserable back in the past (that I know of, anyway), but you did brighten my week a little bit in the present. 

Prose in a Poetry Style

So, where have I been? 


Close to being Dooced. 

Kid you not. 

I was mean to someone last year and they complained formally. 

Took some time to clear it up.

Whatever, it's all better now.

And, I have some plans for the next couple of months. 

You'll see details in a few days. 

No hints before then, unless you read the placeholder page. 

Exit, stage right (till the next post). 

In Which I Get Dooced Before I’m Even Hired

Bill Maher: New Rule: Bluetooth headset users have to do something that lets me know you're just on the phone and not a dangerous schizophrenic. Right? We don't know if you're talking to your secretary or the evil leprechaun who lives in your head. You're not the chief communications officer of the Starship Enterprise. You're a shoe salesman asking your mom if you can bring over your laundry. If I wanted to overhear every tedious scrap of brain static rattling around in your head, I'd read your blog.

Real Time With Bill Maher (3/17/06)


Inside ed logo A few days ago I posted a story about my visit to the City Schools' job fair, which gathered a ton of hits (almost 500 over two days, largely thanks to Sara Neufeld's linking to it from the Baltimore Sun's Inside Ed blog) and even generated a few comments, which are kind of rare in these parts. If you haven't read that post, go ahead. I'll wait here for you.

Ready? OK. You'll recall that I spoke with the representatives from a school who were recruiting to replace a friend of mine. As it happened, I lost my cell phone the day after the fair, because I'm pretty good at that sort of thing. So they finally got through to me on the Tuesday following the fair. They were impressed by our chat and wanted to meet with me. I made arrangements for the following Tuesday, yesterday, in the afternoon.

I wound up having to call the school to push the meeting back a little bit because of an emergency meeting for a student and they were OK with that. After the meeting, I drove down to the school and checked in with the secretary. She led me to a room, where they asked me to sit in the lobby for a minute while they finished whatever they were working on.

A minute later, a man came out and, despite the fact that I'd met him at the fair, introduced himself. Well, what the heck. I shook my hand and introduced myself (again). He said to me "Yeah, we met at the fair." Yes, we did, I confirmed, and we walked back into the room.

There were three people in the room, two of whom I'd met at the fair, and a third man, who was introduced to me. Then one of them started telling me the story of the school, and the IEP Team Associate position in particular and how it fit into the broader story.

One of the things that struck me as odd was the fact that this guy was willing to discuss some of the specifics of my friend's situation, how her position was getting cut back and some of the discussion that had taken place. I always thought that personnel issues were confidential, but what do I know? I'm a teacher-level employee.

Swearing The other thing was that, as he told this whole story, he felt free to lace it with what some Star Trek fans might call "colorful metaphors". IEPs from thus-and-such school were "shitty"; this thing was "fucked up" and so on. I'm not a prude by any means, but I don't usually speak this way, and I'm sure you've noticed that I don't usually use such words in this blog. Swearing has a specific purpose for me and I would have to get caught off-guard to use it in a school setting, even if nearly all the students are out of the building for the day. It doesn't feel professional. But, to each his own. This was essentially a second chance for us each to make a good first impression and it wasn't going well, perhaps for both of us. 

Then he let the bomb drop, however subtly. He let it be known that he'd read the post and that he recognized himself in it. The conversation turned toward a defense of the school and how they represented themselves and like that, and how they're not liars. I'm not sure if he was expecting me to apologize or what, but finally I said simply that this was my impression of the day, this is what I saw, this is what happened, and who knew that this coincidental thing was going to happen. 

Then they asked if I had any questions, and I said not really; I'd learned a lot from the other day's conversation and that I liked the approach that they took toward the educational model. I also noted that there were times when I needed to break schools out of their special education models because they were so entrenched, so I was of a similar mindset to theirs in that respect. They asked about where I was currently working, and I noted that my current school (the one that isn't killing the position entirely) is increasing to a half-time ITA. "Is that going to be you?" they asked. "Yeah, if I want it," I replied. Then they asked what I'd like to do. I told them I'd prefer a full-time position but I recognize the realities of the job and would take two half-times without complaining too loudly. They nodded, shook my hand again and that was that. 

So at this point I'm not sure what really happened there. Did they have me come in anyway so that they could tell me that the jig was up? Did they expect an apology from me (in which case, they don't know me very well)? They didn't really offer me the job with them, so far as I could tell, but maybe I didn't read the cues carefully enough. At any rate, this one has taken a bit of a weird turn, so I think I'm going to have to pass. 

Me & Yellojkt

Robert ‘Granddad’ Freeman: Didn’t Jerry Lee Lewis marry a thirteen-year-old baby?
Uncle Ruckus: You can’t compare a chocolate monkey like R. Kelly to Jerry Lee Lewis! He was the king of rock n’ roll. Great balls of fire!

The Boondocks, “The Trial of R. Kelly” (11/13/05)


Of all the blog buddies that I have, Yellojkt is the one whose life appears to have the most parallels to mine, despite our different background and current situation. There are enough similarities that each of us, I think, could easily have wound up with the other’s life, had a few key choices gone differently.

So I’m going to swipe one of his posting styles and do a side-by-side comparison chart. Also, I get to goof around with writing a table in HTML, since Typepad doesn’t have buttons for that. </nerd>

I don’t think I’m sharing anything here that couldn’t be gleaned from a reading of either blog, but rest assured it’s all in good fun. A sharp-eyed person might see past this chart and determine that it’s about something else, but you’re just seeing things.

Blog/Current Banner Bailey Banner

Foma Banner (this is one of several blogs he has, but there’s only so much attention span you have)

Current Avatar My avatar MiiWiiMed
Blogging since November 2004 April 2005
Age 45 44
Location Baltimore City Howard County

Adelphi University (BA), C.W. Post (MS)


Georgia Tech is all we ever hear aboutLogo-coe

Occupation Special Educator I dunno, something Dilbert-ish
If you see this name in a chatroom or an Internet forum you’re probably reading him ccradio, there’s a long story behind it that I don’t think I’ve shared here yet Yellojkt, because of GT
Hero According to my Facebook page, there are no heroes, or villains for that matter According to his 1/8/06 post, Ted Forth Ted Forth
Spouse I’ve had two. I’ve been with GF now longer than either of them. Got it right the first time. I think he and his wife met from adjacent bassinets in the hospital.
Children One daughter, now a senior in high school. Wee One is GF’s daughter, but recently decided to start calling me “Dad” One son, now a freshman at GT.
Crushes Sheryl Crow
Sheryl Crow Press Photo  
Angelina Jolie
Jolie in Wanted
World Travel

Hasn’t left the States since 1978

Has recently been to China and Vietnam, we’ve seen pictures of him in Europe…maybe he’s really an international spy.

Domestic Travel Knows the I-95 corridor from New York to Jacksonville intimately Actually gets to do posts from cities across the USA
Rather Nerdy Blog Moment

Pirating the software from my head CT scanMine Head

Getting jazzed because he’d installed a light fixture on his ownLight-front-door-new, which in turn kept the Internet from shorting out in his house (1/17/08)
Social Faux Pas Most people think I’m a really arrogant sonofabitch till they get to know me. Doesn’t come to enough of my parties (read your mail, dammit!)
Weak joke in the sidebar that doesn’t fit correctly “Obama hasn’t hired me for a job yet” “I’m an idiot for joining Blog 365”
Connections to Kurt Vonnegut My first post was on Kurt Vonnegut’s birthday so I offered up birthday wishes. Also, several years back when I worked in Manhattan I passed Vonnegut on the street but I didn’t say anything to him because I was too chicken. (Plus, that sort of thing just isn’t done in New York.) Vonnegut’s book Cat’s Cradle provides the overall conceit of the blog itself. The words “Foma” and “Wampeters” are from that book. The first post explained this in some detail.
(I always wondered why he doesn’t refer to his blogroll as a “granfalloon”.)
Another literary coincidence Had a subscription to Spy Magazine Also had one (and now we each know who the other subscriber was)
Famous guy shoutouts None that I know of Has gotten public acknowledgment from both Francesco Marciuliano and Josh Fruhlinger

Hm. Maybe we’re not so much alike as I originally thought.

UPDATE: I just thought of one more thing. This is the SECOND post I’ve done which has Yellojkt in the title. Yellojkt has written none which involve me in the title. Not that I’m showing any bitterness toward the sonofabitch.

Hey, They Could Do Worse–Though I’m Not Sure How

Mandy Hampton: Leo, please tell Josh that I can play a role in issues and that it's not going to be an end to this administration.
Josh Lyman: I don't think it's going to be an end to this administration, Leo, I think it's going to be an end of this republic.

The West Wing, "The State Dinner" (11/10/99)


So just to boost my spirits a little bit, and to celebrate my Blogiversary (four years as of today!), I sent a job application to the Obama administration.

Right now it's just an interest form with not much else to it. Later on, I presume, the other stuff will come up, such as what specific job I might be interested in.

I get the feeling that there are plenty of things which might disqualify me, many of which I've written about here. So in that sense I guess the disclosure part is out there. But what the hell–to be part of something like that would be nothing short of amazing.

I guess if I actually got a job with the Obama administration (Secretary of How They Handled It On The West Wing), I'd have to take a leave of absence from Baltimore City Public Schools. I wonder if they'd miss me?

I presume I'd also have to step away from this blog for awhile. On the other hand, I'd have a million bucks' worth of book that I'd be able to write at the end of it all. Heh.

Dare to dream!