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.

Get Me, I’m a DeeJay

And a nerdy one, at that.

Have you seen or tried Yahoo’s Launchcast yet? It’s your basic streaming audio radio program, but the difference is that you get to rate the artist, song and album. Yahoo then takes your ratings and uses them to select the next song that it’s going to stream down to you. You can also listen to other people’s stations and allow their selections to influence yours.

There’s a freebie version with ads, or for less than $5 a month you can get it ad-free. Not a bad deal if you spend huge amounts of time with your computer. Or, even if you don’t but you still listen to a lot of music, you can just turn the speakers up.

But here’s the truly nerdy part. I’ve got an audio cable going out of the computer, under the floor and coming back up on the other side of the room, where it’s plugged into the stereo system. (This is THE best reason to have a basement.)  And, of course (heh), I have the backyard wired for sound. So I can listen to streaming audio pretty much anywhere in the house. I’ll admit it sounds a little stupid having this stuff at top volume when I’m also working and I hit an error message or something, but for the most part it’s kinda cool.

If you’re interested in Launchcast, here’s the link to my station:

My Launchcast Station

The Joys of Modern Technology

Um, yeah.

So it’s Report Card season here in Baltimore. Teachers are filling out all kinds of forms that will wind up On Your Permanent Record and then you won’t get into Harvard. Or Baltimore County Community College, whatever.

With the special education students, they get a separate report card for their Individual Education Programs, or IEPs, so that the parents find out how their child is doing on his/her individual IEP goals. The regular report cards are a lot of writing in the information on forms, but the IEP report cards require computer entry and then get printed out. And since the teachers have to take time out of their days to do the data entry, this is not a good time for the city computer servers to go down.

And down they did go. Oh wait, no they didn’t: A call to the IT monkeys revealed that it wasn’t the City server that had gone down. No sirree, it was just the server for MY school. So I’m the only one that’s screwed. No email, no IEP report cards, no data verification reports…and I can’t print out any documents, because my printer is networked too. Teachers are already peeved at me for other reasons so this wasn’t helping. So we lost the server for the whole morning. It just came back up. So naturally I’m doing this instead of working. Hah!

Actually, I have students to test today and it’s their lunchtime, so I’m just killing time till they get back from lunch. But the city servers have been screwy for the last few weeks and that’s bad, people, real bad. We’re getting too dependent on the system now to have to deal with wonky servers.

Happy VD!

Happy Veteran’s Day!

And while I’m at it, Happy Birthday to Kurt Vonnegut. Those of you "in the know" are probably aware that he was in Dresden during the firebombing in World War Two. That event was the nucleus of his novel Slaughterhouse-Five.

Veteran’s Day has pretty much lost its meaning around here. Schools were open all week this week, trash was picked up, the only thing we lost was mail delivery. I suppose we could complain that that’s pretty much the case for every holiday nowadays, that they’ve all lost meaning. Christmas is too commercial, Labor Day is just another day off, Memorial Day? Well, at least it’s the unofficial start of summer, I guess.

I remember reading something awhile back about how the kids today don’t respect anything, times have changed, society is crumbling, blah de blah de blah, and of course the quote goes back to ancient Greece. But I’m talking about something more specific; the meaning of some of our holidays. Yes, Christmas is terribly commercialized. But it also still (for me, at least) manages to retain its core of good will towards others. Thanksgiving still holds its shape as a time for families to get together and share in a feast. Now, as I’m reflecting on it, it seems to be the truly patriotic holidays that are fading away: Veteran’s Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day ("Celebrate the freedom of your nation by blowing up a small piece of it"—Apu N.), Presidents Day—and don’t get me started on that one—so what does that add up to? Is America starting to crumble as a nation? Is this a symptom of the coming dissolution of our nation?