Survivor Vanu-what-two?

GF will tell you that I totally called Chris to win it last week. I thought it would be a 4-3 vote, though.

With Chris in the Final Four, he was in pretty tight with all of the other three players. Plus the rivalry between Eliza and Twila left him off the radar screen for booting anyway. He won the immunity (not that he needed it) and Eliza got bumped. Now it’s Scout, who had a total under-the-radar strategy going on (and which so rarely works); Twila, who’s basically pissed everyone else off, especially about the whole swearing-on-her-son routine) (oh, and let’s all get over that righteous anger, shall we?); and Chris. At this point, Scout looked strongest against Chris, because she hasn’t bugged anyone and so the female alliance can remain in place at final Tribal Council. However (I figured), since the final Immunity Challenge is invariably an endurance challenge, and Scout has never performed well in physical challenges, it’s going to be either Twila or Chris who gets immunity. Chris would have to decide whether it’s him vs. the 60 year old woman or him vs. the woman who’s managed to alienate a lot of people. Sucker bet, that. If Twila gets immunity, I figured she was pretty loyal to Chris and Scout would be gone again. Twila vs. Chris seemed like the most likely Final Two for me.

So I thought that the vote would go:

  • Ami: Twila because of the female alliance
  • Eliza: Chris because she hates Twila
  • Julie: Chris because she’s smitten
  • Scout: Twila, also because of the alliance and because she would admire Twila’s honesty vs. Chris’ maneuvering
  • Leann: Twila because of the alliance
  • Chad: Chris largely because he didn’t really know much about Twila except what he’d gotten at the TCs
  • Sarge: This, for me, was the swing vote. I knew that he was pretty tight with Chris, but I also knew that he had an alliance with Twila. Whether or not he felt betrayed when he was voted off was in question.

So my guess was ultimately Chris, 4-3. Sarge and his "Psych" bit? Whatever. Leann was the only one that specifically surprised me.

Having said that, I did enjoy this season. Burnett’s weird-ass twists, which never seem to have quite the desired effect, proved more or less ineffective yet again but that didn’t make the intrigue any less interesting.

Next season (no premiere date announced?): Palau. And with 20 contestants. And still one more "twist that will change the way the survivors view the game." Yeah, okay. Perhaps it’ll be all one big tribe to start with. That’d be something. I guess.

It’s A Wonderful Idea

Today, the Senator Theatre held its annual benefit show for the Maryland Food Bank. For the cost of either $3 worth of nonperishable food, or $3, which they’ll donate to the Food Bank, you get free admission to the theater. The cool part is the films that they screen for the benefit: you can see either It’s a Wonderful Life or the 1951 version of A Christmas Carol (the one with Alistair Sim).  GF and I brought in $9 worth of Chunky Soup that I’d bought at Sam’s Club and we still feel like we got a bargain out of it. And to see It’s a Wonderful Life on the big screen is unbelievably cool.

We’re talking honest-to-god big screen, too. The Senator is a single-screen theater so it’s not like going to a friend’s place and watching it on their big-screen TV. You’re seeing all kinds of weird little details that don’t even show up when you watch it on DVD. For instance, in the scene where George first gets the pills from Mr. Gower, it’s still tough to see that the bottle is clearly marked POISON when you watch on TV. It is just IN YOUR FACE when projected.

Incidentally, I got a large tub of popcorn (with "real creamery butter", according to the sign) and a large soda for $11. That somehow feels like a bargain. The only disappointment was that the theater wasn’t more crowded. Why aren’t more people taking advantage of this!?

Next week, on Saturday, they’re doing a family day at their companion theater, the Rotunda Cinematique (same website). Free admission to Miracle on 34th Street (1947 version).

I only wish the theater wasn’t so dusty when I go. I always get dust in my eyes when I go to the Senator and see It’s a Wonderful Life. Yeah, that’s it: dust. I’m very allergic. So are most of the other patrons. Heh.

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!


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


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.

Freud Would Have Been Proud

There’s an old joke explaining Freudian slips:

One man is telling his friend: "I had the worst Freudian Slip the other day."

"What is a Freudian Slip?" the friend asks.

"You know, it’s when you mean to say one thing, but you say something else that reveals what you are really thinking about. Like the other day I was at the airport and this really beautiful lady was helping me. Instead of asking her for ‘two tickets to Pittsburgh’, I asked her for ‘to Pickets to Tittsburgh."

     "Oh, now I know what you are talking about," the friend says, "It’s like the other day when I was having breakfast with my wife. I wanted her to pass me the orange juice, and instead I said, ‘You ruined my life, you bitch!’"

Okay. So without getting into too much detail, the principal at one of my schools is a consummate wack job. Last week at a meeting she spent several minutes sniping at a parent, basically hijacking the meeting and basically forcing everyone else to sit and watch until they’d settled down. This week we were doing an evaluation meeting and I was reporting on my assessment of a five year old when she suddenly starts comparing him to fifth graders. So what I said was: "Well, when we do the evaluation meeting on the fifth graders, we’ll address it then."

What I meant was: "This is too goddamn important to have you cluttering us up with your weird-ass non sequiturs and do you think I could just get through ONE fucking report without some bizarre interruption?"

Yeah, I got written up. When she quoted me in the memo (which she had a secretary deliver, the coward), she wrote down something that makes no sense whatsoever. I’d laugh if it weren’t so tragic.

Flying Blind

So here’s an odd little detail. I can’t see this website at work. It’s blocked by the firewall as a "Free Page." Someone should tell them that it ain’t free for me, but I digress.

I can, however, access the control panel and POST from work. I can also go back and edit previous posts. I just can’t see how the page itself looks.

And, of course, I’m telling you all of this instead of writing up an educational assessment on a student. It’s only due on Monday and I’ll be in New York all weekend, what’s the big deal? I can still pull one outta my ass if I need to. Although, truth be told, this one needs to be good, not like a perfunctory one I wrote last week. So I’ll be dealing with that for the better part of the day.

Onward to Boston

Friday afternoon and we’re in Boston. I’ve been there a couple of times so I know the area a little bit. Yeah, not so much. I got lost a couple of times looking for the place I remember where it’s cheap to park. Except it’s not so cheap anymore. I can live with that for now; at least we’re there.

So we’re near the Common and as any good tourist (ecch) knows, that’s where you start because you’re going to travel along the Freedom Trail, baby! The Freedom Train (for the uninitiated) is a red line that goes through town, leading you to some extremely historical places related to the Revolutionary War. Sometimes it’s a four-inch red stripe on the sidewalk/street; other places it’s a double row of bricks set into the sidewalk. So you get to see things like the graveyard where John Hancock and Mother Goose are buried, not to mention the victims of the Boston Massacre. Plus there’s Paul Revere’s house, the Old North Church ("one if by land" etc.), the USS Constitution (which is still an active-duty vessel) and several other things of assorted levels of cool.

Now, I’ve compressed stuff: the Freedom Trail really can’t be done in a single day. We started it on Friday and finished it on Saturday. In between we also had dinner at an Italian restaurant (Mother Anna’s on Hanover Street. They don’t have a website but they’re well worth searching out) on Friday.

For Saturday lunch we went to (sigh) Cheers. We actually went to the one on the Boston Common, the one that used to be called the Bull & Finch, and it’s where they shot the exteriors for the TV show. Last time I was there it was still called Bull & Finch, but I guess they’ve finally dropped all pretense. There’s also now a Cheers bar at the Quincy Market, which is a reproduction of the Hollywood set. The one on the Common isn’t and is likely to disappoint the few people who actually expect to see the same stools where Norm & Cliff sat.

Here’s a thought: Picture yourself as a local, coming to the Bull & Finch as a regular because it’s a fun place to hang out, to be with friends, to have a beer after work, whatever. Then along comes this television show and now it’s Tourist Central and your favorite watering hole is ruined. Ruined. By people like me. Heh.

We also went to the Public Garden because GF wanted to see the statues of the ducks. There’s a children’s book called Make Way for Ducklings that’s set in Boston and as a tribute they installed slightly-larger-than-life-size bronze duck statues walking on a cobblestone street. Mrs. Mallard and her eight children. GF actually chased a child off of one of the statues so that she could get a picture of the ducks.

One of the culinary highlights of the trip was our visit to Finale Restaurant, which specializes in desserts. They have the occasional "real" food as well, but their big deal is desserts. And sumptuous ones at that. GF had something called Molten Chocolate, which is a baked-to-order cake, about four inches across, filled with a gooey chocolate center and with a scoop of coffee ice cream on the side. I had crème brulée, which was served in a soup dish (never mind the ramekins!) and topped with fresh fruit, including two of the biggest fricken blackberries I have ever seen. Usually these things are, what, the size of a nickel, top to bottom? These berries were maybe the same size as a half-dollar and nearly spherical. I nearly made a huge mess with the juice when I bit into it. So that’s something you have to do at least once before you die. I should have killed myself right there.

More From Plymouth

We got to tour the town and I picked up an antique oil lamp from the Old North St. Tea and Curiosity Shop, which for my money is more curiosities than actual tea. Besides which, the guy wanted to serve me a latte. Yeah. Anyway, I got the lamp for $35. It’ll look nice in my dining room. I have an alcove I want to hang it in, once I get the glass panes replaced.

For Thanksgiving dinner we went to the Plimouth Plantation itself, which is not walking distance from town. Well, it could be but it’d be a long-ish walk and the road itself isn’t pedestrian-friendly. Best to drive or take mass transit. We got there early so we toured around the plantation a little bit. It’s broken down into two areas: the Pilgrim colony and the Native American colony. We spent too long with the Pilgrims so we didn’t get to see the other one. It’s a pretty cool deal, though, what with seeing people at work and play in period costumes and speaking in contemporary (for the 17th century) fashion. The people don’t break character for anything, which is pretty neat, but the illusion of being in the 1600s breaks down when A) you have fourteen million people wandering around and trying to trip them up; and B) you catch a role player using the exact same rap in a second context, especially when he has to shoehorn that information into the new place. But it was all fun nonetheless. They also had a small exhibit of stuff related to the PBS series Colonial House, since they provided some technical advice and aided with the building of the structures.

We went to dinner and in our case, it wasn’t people in period clothing or anything like that: it was a pretty traditional Thanksgiving meal in the way you’d expect to see, with turkey and stuffing, etc. There is a theme dining that day, but the time period they use is the 1850s or so, so when I called to make the reservations I bailed on that one. I want Pilgrims, dammit! Not that I got them with my dinner; everyone was dressed in typical waitstaff outfits. They do give 1627-style dinners (I later discovered), but they don’t do it on Thanksgiving Day. Ah, well. There’s always 2006.