January 29, 2009

More Odds and Ends

Two entries in one day? How can that be ? AS I mentioned in the previous entry I started this a few days ago but left it on my flash drive in the office.

It would seem like I have been neglecting my blog again. I thought it was just a couple days ago that I posted an entry, but it has been a week and a half. Where has the time gone? I won’t go into a day-by-day posting here, but not surprisingly I have been just a tad busy at work. Classes began on the 14th, and it has been a hustle in the office ever since. As far as the theatre goes, it is going to be a very busy term. Usually there are no events of note in January, and February doesn’t get bust until later in the month then it is non-stop until the end of April. Not so this time around. The first event of the term was last Friday; the first of a 3-week series called ‘Best Dance Crew, based in the television show of the same name. It pits the various campus dance and performance group against on another. The first one was a fun event and much to my surprise had almost 400 people in the audience. We will see how the following weeks go.

The rest of the events for the term are starting to fall into place, and I am having visits by gaggles of student producers stopping in to discuss their events. There seems to be about a dozen really active performance groups on campus about half of them perform in this space. Those that do perform here like to invite the other groups to perform a piece as a ‘guest’ of the host group, including that group who already perform regularly in the space. Over the course of the term a few campus organizations also produce ‘variety’ shows as fundraiser for any number of causes. They too invite the various campus performing groups to perform a piece in their shows. The result is that all the same groups seem to be performing in the theatre on any given weekend regardless of whom the primary performing organization is. It gets just a little repetitive. And to be perfectly honest, many of the performances are just not that good, but the kids are having a great time performing for their friends, it just becomes hard to see the same mediocre work over and over again. Oh, am I sounding jaded… It is going to be a long semester I think.

Another little Youtube note here. A couple of month back I posted a video of Alejandro Escovedo playing at the Democratic National Convention. I had taped it off the TV when it was broadcast (he opened for Hilary Clinton) edited it on my Mac and uploaded, and thought nothing of it. Time passed ….. A couple days ago I logged on the Alejandro’s My Space page to read some reviews that were posted there, and I noticed that featured on his My Space page was a video of him playing at the DNC. A little research proved that it was in fact a link to the video that I had posted in Youtube. I was chuffed.!

Here is another little moment of Zen. We went to see Ritchie Havens in concert just before Christmas. The concert was wonderful by the way; we had read some biological information somewhere that mentioned that his grandfather was part Native American from the same reservation as much of Mrs. family is from on Long Island. We had hoped that Ritchie would do a meet and greet after the show and Mrs. was going to mention something about being ‘cousins’. Unfortunately the concert hall policy didn’t allow for that so instead when we got home Mrs. sent him an email to the address listed on his website, and left it at that. Much to everyone’s surprise yesterday a response from Ritchie arrived in her in-box, thanking us for attending the concert, and saying that yes they might be cousins, as he was doing research into his grandfather and other relatives on the ‘Res’. She was chuffed!

Mrs. suddenly has people sending her job listings for positions with foundations. She had a job interview last week for a position with the foundation that she did a fellowship with in 2007. When she had finished the fellow ship there was some talk of finding her a permanent position there, but nothing came of it at the time. She was a little disappointed, but moved on to take a development position with a national charity for which she works today. The job is right in her filed, environmental work, and she felt the interview went well, but now there is a lot more competition for the position. They told her that they hoped to have the candidate pool down to 10 people by April. (Fingers crossed.) The other some one else forwarded her a job posting for a similar position with another foundation. She doesn’t mind the work at the charity where she is now, although she does have some differences with management in here area, she feels that it isn’t really able to use her full skill set and knowledge where she is now. Perhaps someone is looking out for her.

That is probably enough right now, I have more on my mind but I’ll save it for another entry.

The new construction behind us.

Slush Cup and Freeze

The Walk to Work

It seems that the only thing I can write about is the weather. Actually that isn’t quite true. I had a whole other post written, but I left it at my office on my flash drive, so until I can retrieve that and finish it, I’ll talk about the weather again.
The Boston Globe reported this morning that since December 1, Boston has had 49 inches of snow. The usual total for this time of the year is 22 inches, and the normal snowfall for the entire winter is 44inches. In addition the temperature has been well below normal as well so much of that snow is still with us in the form of mounds of frozen snow and ice along curbs and sidewalk where has been deposited while shoveling in the preceding weeks. What a mess!

So we got another snowstorm yesterday. We knew it was coming so most of the schools in the state cancelled classes for the day, and it was a good thing that they, because by late in the afternoon; the city was a mess, but I get ahead of myself.

The snow didn’t start falling until late morning, when I left for work there was perhaps an inch on the ground, but it was falling at heavy rate, and by the time I got off the subway on the other side, there were about 3 inches on the ground. Some time mid-day, the snow began to change to sleet, and then later to rain, although it was still falling at the same rate. By the time I left work, there was 4 inches of snowy slush on the ground. Where the walks have been shoveled there was a thin layer of ice from the sleet, now with a thin layer of water over the top. The only thing more slippery than ice is ice with a film of water over it: treacherous! All this rain and melting snow flowed to the storm drains that quickly backed up, causing it all to collect at corners and in some cases pool across the street. The slog home was slow and rather uncomfortable alternately trying to keep from falling on the ice and avoiding pools of cold slushy water. I was mostly successful in the former, only falling once, the latter not so much so, more that once stepping on what appeared to be solid snow only to be camouflaging several inches of water below the top layer. By the time I got home my pants were wet halfway to my knees and my face was a raw from the sleet and rain.

On a side note, one of the joys of wearing glasses is stepping from the cold outdoors in the warmth of the subways stations to have my glasses fog up within seconds of entering the station making me blind as I step on the escalator. It is a dangerous but exciting life.

I got home changed out of my wet boot s ands pants and got myself warm on the outside and in then on the inside with a little of the ‘red stuff’ we concoct every year. I then suited up in my rain pants and golashes and went back out to shovel slush from walks and from the car. That was more a matter of getting the water to flow off the sidewalks and into the street, carving channels through the mounds of frozen snow along the sidewalks.

I woke early to the morning to the sound of tires spinning on ice while trying to get up the hill in front of the house. The rain had stopped some time in the night, and of course everything froze. There was a thin glaze of ice on the streets; the sidewalks that had been shoveled were slick with a layer of ice the ones that hadn’t been shoveled were impassable. I got out early and salted our walks; I have gone through nearly 100 lbs of salt this year nearly double what I use in a normal year, and it is only January. If this weather keeps up, I may pass 200lbs.

The trek to work was not as painful as the trip home, but it was even more treacherous, with every surface covered with a layer of ice. It was safest to walk in the middle of the street where the trucks had salted, but that presenting a different hazard of having to dodge cars, which were also traveling on the still slippery roads. By the time I got to work my legs were cramped for having to ‘Penguin walk’ almost all the way to and from the subway.

And we moved from Michigan for this?

January 15, 2009

Cold, Cold, Cold

It is just frigging cold here. It was 11° F (-12°C) this morning when I left to take the boy to school at 7:45am. It is supposed to be colder tomorrow, dropping to close to 0° overnight. The car doesn’t warm up until after I have dropped the boy at school, and the cup of hot coffee I brought with me for the trip is cold before I have traveled 6 blocks. But by the time I get back home, the car is toasty, and I am warmer than I probably will be all day, and I am reluctant to get out of the car.

When it gets this cold, the furnace just runs and runs trying the keep the house warm. Finally I drop the thermostat to 66° to give the furnace a break, I only wanted the house at 68°. I turn it down to 62 at night, and it wakes me every time it turns on it the middle of the night, trying to keep the house at that temperature.

I worry about the boy being warm enough as he ventures home from school, first on the school bus, then as he waits in the cold for the city bus that will drop him 6 blocks from the house, from where he will have to walk a windy path up hill.

I worry about the pipes freezing, and the car not starting.

For my own trek to work, I am trying to be good and take public transit but that is a painful proposition as well; a six block into-the wind walk to the subway station, up to a 15 minute wait for the train, outdoors of course, and another half-mile walk to campus on the other end of the trip. Then do it in reverse at the end of the day on then is it dark.

Mrs. takes the train to work too, although at a different time than I. I don’t worry about her so much, she knows how to stay warm. The other day however, when I got home she had not arrived yet. I asked the boy if mom was home, and he said ‘No, she called and said that she lost her T-pass and she is walking home.’ Shocked, I called her cell phone but it went right to voice mail. It is only 3 and a half miles, but it is all on the means streets of Boston and there is no direct route. Not much to do but wait. When she finally arrived I asked her about walking. She said that she told him that she was walking back to the office to find her T-pass, and was going to be a little late. She was unsuccessful in finding the pass, but she walked back to the subway station, purchased a ticket and took the T home.

I quizzed the boy about her message and he admitted that he didn’t remember very well what she said told him. Sometimes I just want to smack the boy.

Here is a little Little Feat performing Cold, Cold, Cold to warm you on a winter day.

January 12, 2009

Dog Days of Winter

It took us a couple of days to get back on schedule after almost two weeks on holiday. It was a particular problem for the boy who we had been letting sleep in until 8 or 9 in the morning when we normally give him first call at about 6:30am. He is definitely not a morning person, and it can take him a half hour or more with repeated calls for him to actually get his feet on the floor. Wednesday morning when I went in to call him for the 3rd or 4th time I found him asleep, head in his pillow but on his knees with his butt in the air. It was a tempting target to swat him to wake him but I resisted. It wasn’t so hard for me and the Mrs. to get up early again but I think more to the question was whether we were ready to go back to work. I have been frequently waking at 4am for some reason and I am not sure why. There is no burning issue that has me tense or preoccupied. I think I am just getting over heated. I guess I just have to quit cuddling so close with Mrs. under the flannel sheets and down comforter. Anyhow when that happens I get up use the bathroom, check my e-mail and settle back in bed, turning my light on low and reading for a while. Inevitably Mrs. alarm goes off just about the time I am falling back to sleep. Like the boy she needs multiple reminders t hat it is morning, so the alarm starts ringing about an hour before she actually needs to be up. The result is that when I wake early, I seldom really get back to sleep soundly for the rest of the night.

The New Year brought a round of bad news. I heard that a good friend from high school passed away from cancer on Christmas Eve. My all-seeing mother spotted the obit in the local paper and forward it to me. I had nor been in touch with George in a number of years, both distance and time had sent our paths in different directions, but we had been very close in high school, participating in drama together, and we both shared similar tastes in music, art and politics. On top of that I also received word from another old high school friend that she had been diagnosed with a rare form of cancer that affects the blood vessels. While her spirits are good and she is confident that she can beat it, the diagnosis is not good. The two incidents have brought home that sense of mortality that is becoming all too common for me. At this age, I wonder if every ache and pain is the sign of something more serious than just an ache or pain of aging.

More bad news; I got the annual report for my retirement account. It seems that I have lost $60,0000 last year without even trying. That takes into account the contribution that I have made as well as the university’s contribution as well, otherwise the number would have been worse. I was feeling like my account had begun to recover from the last down turn, but it was nothing like this. I wasn’t planning on retiring in the next few years, at least until the boy is out of school, but even that looks like it is in question now. Given everything, our financial situation is pretty good. I’d like to think that our jobs are pretty secure, but in these times, you just never know. We have been trying to refinance our house for several months without much success, perhaps with the interest rates dropping and some of the federal programs coming around, we might have better luck.

Given all the bad news, there is a little life around the house. We were given an Aero-Garden for Christmas. They are a little mini hydroponic garden that you put on your counter. The plants come in little pods that you insert in holes in the top. After that you basically add water, plug it in and hit the go button, and nature takes over the rest. After 2 weeks we have seven budding herb plants. We have been watching them grow like they were little kittens or something. It just goes to show how desperate we are for something green as we head into the dog days of winter.

This time of the year always seems endless. After the holidays, there really isn’t anything to break up the monotony of the winter except, ah .. March. The local news reports that December had a heavier that usual snowfall, and that we should expect more of the same until ah .. March. I purchased a 50lbs bag of sidewalk salt two weeks ago, and have already gone through nearly half of it. In a normal winter that is usually enough to make the entire winter with a little left over for that first early snowfall in November.

I am tired of shoveling snow already. We just got the latest batch on Saturday night, another 4 inches. The difficulty with snow in a city like Boston is that there is nowhere to put it when you shovel. Our house is on a corner and set right at the sidewalk with no front or side yard. Additionally there is no parking strip between the street and the side walks. To shovel a path on the sidewalk one has to either pile it against the house (not a good idea) or pile it along the outer edge of the sidewalk. Then there is the matter of getting ones car dug out, but now there is a pile of snow between the cleared path and the car. But you need to be able to get to the car, and where are you going to put the snow that is on the car? You could put it in the street, but the plows are just going to come along and plow the car back in. So what happens is that the snow gets piled at front and back of each car, creating individual cleared parking spaces. Having spent possibly hours digging ones car out, residents become protective of their parking spaces, using any variety of items to mark their spaces while unoccupied to prevent others from usurping them. The most popular marker is a traffic cone purloined from a construction site; second most is an ancient chair of some sort, and usually well past its useful life. Followed by milk crates, trashcans or large plastic child’s toys, much of which will be left out after the snow has melted and become just so much more trash on the street.

Sometimes I long for the rainy winters of the Northwest, although even they have been having severe weather this winter with heavy snow at Christmas, and now heavy flooding as it melts.

I am going to go watch the little plants grow for a while and dream of spring.

January 1, 2009

Holiday Spirits

The Christmas photo 2008

I must say that we had a hard time generating the holiday spirit around here this year. If it weren’t for having the boy we might have tried to avid it all together. But try as we might the Christmas spirit finally did arrive a few days before the actually day. The hot buttered rums and a couple extra days off from work may have helped. Until the last few days the Mrs. and I were still asking each other what we wanted for Christmas. For the boy it was another thing all together. He had a pretty extensive Christmas list and we did our best to if not follow it at least spoil him, with toys, trinkets and clothes. Virtually every gift under the tree was for the boy. The one gift that didn’t fit under the tree was a new guitar that we bought him. An IbanezAES20, he had seen in about a year and a half ago when we were shopping for a full size classical guitar, it is an electric/acoustic in black with a distinctive diamond shaped sound hole. We ordered it online, and it arrived via Fed Ex encased in 3 boxes. To make it more playful for him, I wrapped all three boxes and enclosed them, as they were when it was shipped to us.

We went to Fanueil Hall and downtown crossing on Christmas Eve to do a little final shopping see if we could catch some good sale prices. The weather was nasty; cold and snowy but it was very Christmassy. Mrs. found a nice pair of slippers for me, (the only thing on my list) and we picked up a few other items for family and friends, and the boy got to visit his favorite store, Newbury Commix, a purveyor of music, video, Comics, action figures and all things tasteful for teens. He had some Christmas money to blow, we suggested that he might spend some of it on gifts for family and friends, but he chose to purchase an action figure of the 5th DR. Who. Ah the priorities of 13 year-old boys! While passing thru Downtown Crossing, we saw one of the more notable local affects of the ‘Economic Down-turn’ at the site of the former Filenes. Macy’s had bought the store a while back, and big plans were made to refurbish the store, (A historic site) and convert it into new retail space which was to include a hotel and at the same time put a little polish in Downtown Crossing. Unfortunately funding dried up and now instead of a thriving department store with it’s legendary bargin site ‘Filene’s Basement’, the city is left with a large hole in the ground for the foreseeable future.

Filene's Basement

Christmas Day dawned sunny and surprisingly warm with temps in the 40s. The boy let us sleep a reasonable amount of time and we were able to get some coffee in us before he dragged us to the tree. As I mentioned, he made out like a bandit and was surprised thrilled with the guitar. The wrapping entertained him, and kept the suspense going for all of us. I don’t suppose that a 13 year-old boy needs to own 3 guitars, but he shows a real interest in the instrument, and wants to break out from the classical training that he has been getting, so this will give him another tool to work with. The rest of the day was quiet, as the usually are these days, having no family close-by. I did track down my family in Seattle who were all gathering at a brothers house for dinner, and spent at least an hour chatting with most of them on the phone. I miss those family free-for-all gatherings on the holidays, coming from a large family, with a large extended family, those busy loud holiday were just a fact of life, As much as anything, I wish for the boy to be able to share in some of the that experience. I guess if I want that we are just going to have to travel out west one of these Christmases.

The days following Christmas have been spent keeping the boy as busy as possible. We did a little post Christmas shopping, and spent an afternoon at the Museum of Fine Arts, and have watched a lot of movies on DVD. Mrs. had to go into work at the first of the week, but was also suffering forma holiday cold, so she took a sick day off. The weather has been the usual variety. It warmed up after Christmas with one day reaching over 60°F, which melted all the snow. But as I with this on New Years day it is barely 20° out and we have an additional 6” of snow on the ground. The temp dropped yesterday and a storm blew in mid-day, which scuttled our plans for New Years Eve. Instead we spent it huddled on the sofa under blankets watching the Star Wars movies.

The streets are now clear, and we are about to head off to participate in one in a new years day tradition, bowling with a couple of friends! None of us are any good, but it gets us out of the house. When done we will return home to a pot of split pea soup that is cooking in a crock-pot.