Saturday, October 27, 2007

So Much for the TSA...

I am sitting here at JFK Airport in New York with a 1 liter bottle of water in my bag - a 1 liter bottle of water I brought all the way through security. I was not stopped, inspected, or delayed for a second at any point through the passage. Three ounces is the limit - 33.8 ounces is in a liter - almost 11.3 times the allowed volume.

I discovered this bottle on my own when I opened the bag to take advantage of the free wifi in the jetBlue terminal. I looked around for security officers shadowing me, standing in the doorways with hands on their guns, ready to fire at the least provocation, but no, that was not the case. There were no security officers to be seen so I happily did my post for day 5.

Maybe they took pity on me if they realized I spent $6.50 for a bottle of water from the hotel mini-bar because I was so thirsty and the maid had forgotten to leave any cups which prevented me getting any water from the faucet.

Despite my feelings about the overboard efforts to eliminate ANY and ALL risk from our lives in the name of national security, I find it disturbing that such an egregious violation of the rules went completely unnoticed.

I'm not thirsty, but I don't exactly feel safe.

New York - Day 5

Another day of conference, that while good, did not entirely meet the needs I had professionally. It was good, intense, and valuable information, but it never quite addressed what I was seeking.

I did, however, have my first experience at presenting at a national conference as part of our team. That moment of glory and recognition died a pitiful death that evening while I was waiting in line for a cabaret show my friend J. had suggested and was attending with some of his partners. One of them mentioned a presentation she attended that morning and commented on how valuable she found the information. I casually interjected that I was the presenter and she adamantly replied that no, it was not my presentation, "Don't take offense, but they guy who presented was taller and was wearing a dark suit."

The easiest way out of an awkward situation is through humor, so I replied that I had changed clothes in the intervening fourteen hours and removed my leg extensions. At that point she ceded that I was indeed the presenter. Maybe it was the dry wit that convinced her because I'm not sure she bought the leg-extension argument.

Earlier, to begin the evening, I met Eric, his bf, and Lunar Gemini for drinks at Barrage during happy hour. As always an evening with them was filled with humor and political vitriol - just a good time. They alone are reason enough to visit New York.

Upon leaving them, I went to see the off-Broadway production of the new musical, Frankenstein. I give the performers tons of credit for the quality turns they presented with material that was decidedly lacking, from a source that clearly exceeded the skill of the team who put it together.

And that led to the instance of my ego being cut off at the knees, so to speak, at Don't Tell Mama. I'm quick to forgive and even more quick to get over my ego (no comment from the peanut gallery), so I took most of the group a few doors down to The Ritz (no website found), a bar and dance club. So me of New York's prettiest boys were there and we danced until 2:30 a.m.

Actually, that was technically day six, so maybe it should be on the next post....

Thursday, October 25, 2007

New York - Day 4

Today the conference was in full swing - starting with a regional group breakfast at 7:30 a.m. (which is 6:30 a.m. back home), so I was at it bright and early. The news promised lessening rain, but as I set out on my trek to the conference hotel with a planned stop at the coffee supplier, it was raining harder than at any point since I'd been in the city.

My small umbrella was not doing the trick at all, so I took the route I could find with the most overhead scaffolding and managed to reach the conference only a bit damp and ahead of the chickens who took a cab.

The sessions I attended were good, but didn't really address needs I had. I tried to pick carefully, but found in many of these sessions, my organization is far ahead of these doing the presenting. I should be doing more than one presentation at this conference. Actually, so far, I could have presented the entire conference.

After the conference I went to meet up with Southern Boy, his bf, and a good friend of his for dinner at S'mac. He's written about going there several times and as much as I don't like mac and cheese, I just had to try a restaurant where that is the only thing served. I had the Brie with roasted figs and shitake mushrooms. It brought an entirely new horizon to my idea of mac and cheese and completely removed the image of the blue box from association forever. The friend and the bf were both generous and gave me bites of theirs to eat. Each was unique and good in its own way.

After the experience with the PB & J French Toast of a couple weeks ago, I'm definitely going to have to experiment with the mac and cheese theme next.

Grilled cheese wont' be far behind.

After dinner we wandered around East Village for a while and went to Porto Rico Importing Company and bought coffee in bulk - which means I'm going to have to leave something in New York since my suitcases were already over-stuffed coming here. I bought two half-pounds of beans. Can't wait to get home and pull out the grinder.

We then headed over to Veniero's Pastry Shop for coffee and dessert. The incredibly creamy cheesecake weighed down any chance of the coffee keeping me up tonight.

I would definitely go back to the East Village for food again. And now I'm back at the hotel at 10:00 to review the powerpoint for tomorrow.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

New York - Day 3

The third day in New York began the start of work. The conference registration and first sessions began, and as expected with this conference, everything went smoothly and the first two sessions were not bad even though the big guns of the conference were yet to come.

My friend Jim and I did go to see Spring Awakening and there is really not much I can say about it beyond what has already been written. It is the second Tony Award winning show I've seen this week and it was as challenging emotionally as Avenue Q was entertaining. After working 17 years with teenagers, the show moved me and left me thinking throughout the night. I have no doubts but that I will continue thinking about it over the months to come as I listen to the cast recording.

New York - Day 2

Day two in New York turned out to be much more subdued than day one, which is fine - this is vacation after all.

I slept late - well, late for me and then relaxed around the hotel room until about 11:00. Since I'm just off Columbus Circle, I decided to walk to the Metropolitan Museum of Art through Central Park. I was amazed at how used the park could be in the middle of a workday. Families, children from schools, joggers, and tourists were everywhere. The park was a bastion of relative quiet in the city, even with all the people there.

If I thought the park was busy, that idea was shattered by the busyness of the Met. The steps were filled with people and the galleries were teaming. The Age of Rembrandt exhibition is definitely worth seeing if you are in New York before the first week of January. The Abstract Expressionism and Other Modern Works and the Depth of Field exhibits were also outstanding.

The Met was my main goal of this trip, so I'm glad I spent several hours there. The time truly melted away as I gazed upon the masterworks. Still, it was surprisingly tiring. I'm going to have to make another trip to see galleries that I didn't even begin to approach. I could probably do that for the rest of my life and still not see everything there.

For dinner I met up with some friends and we went to Whym on 9th Ave. It was worth trying if you are in the neighborhood, but I wouldn't make a trip there for it.

After dinner I went to Therapy for drinks and the lip sync show put on by Sweetie. Sweetie was anything but to drunk and obnoxious women patrons or guys who thought they could lip sync, but couldn't. Other than the show, it was a rather typical bar; however, the do make their drinks fairly strong which is a good thing.

Monday, October 22, 2007

New York - Day 1

I am so excited about being in New York for vacation for a few days. I booked a really early flight out of Austin just so I could have some time today to get oriented to the city and all worked out well. I was even able to get tickets to one of the shows I've wanted to see for years.

The flight this morning went amazingly well considering we were having rain and thunderstorms in Austin as I was leaving.

I arrive in New York to a heatwave. Thank goodness for Febreze or the fact that I packed three changes of clothing each day would not have been enough.

Hey! It's New York and I 'm from Texas. I have to look and smell good to prove we are not all from the sticks.

One of the first stops I made after checking into the hotel was the TKTS booth to see what shows I could get. Quite happily, I was able to get a 4th row seat to Avenue Q. I have adored the music to it since it first debuted and have tried to imagine just what it would be like to have live people interacting with puppets. Amazingly, the puppets were just as much characters as the people and I actually found myself watching the puppets rather than the actors manipulating them.

I can see why Ave. Q won the Tony for best musical, but I still like Wicked better.

On the walk back to the hotel I decided to make it a nice stroll. I sauntered along at a nicely relaxed pace.

I kept PASSING all the New Yorkers. I thought everyone here was at such a fast pace. Those are the stories I've heard and what I've experienced from all my past visits. It was obvious enough that I noticed it. I must admit, I walk fast for a Texan, but was not expecting to be in the same league as Manhattanites. Maybe I should consider the Olympic speed-walking competition if my stroll in New York surpasses daily New York.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Just so you know...

Just so you know, drinking a gin and tonic after eating a big bowl of ice cream with chocolate sauce is not necessarily the best thing to do.

Now you know.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Fallelujah - briefly.

The weathermen got it completely wrong today. In fact, this may even be a record for the annals of meteorology, but I’m really not complaining.

The forecast for today was partly cloudy in the morning with sunshine and a high of eighty-eight in the afternoon. We stayed cloudy with a misty haze and a high of seventy-three degrees.

It’s FALL!

Well, for a day. The forecast is for temperatures back into the nineties in the coming days.

Fall around here is that brief period in which the leaves and grass are still green but the afternoon high temperature stays below the mid-eighties. It is perfect for being outside so you can breathe in all the allergen laden air.

Yes. Good times indeed. And I’m going to enjoy the few hours of it I have left.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Food Review: PB & J French Toast

Friday on Sirius OutQ, the morning show began a new series with Betty Fraser of Grub restaurant in Las Angeles. She began with a bang by suggesting peanut butter and jelly French toast.

I listen to the show while driving – I now believe that drooling and driving is at least as dangerous as drinking and driving.

That evening while having dinner with a friend, I told him about the peanut butter and jelly theme Betty used on the show. Without hesitation he decided I would make the French toast for Sunday dinner.

There are so many varieties of jelly; I spent the rest of the time leading up to Sunday deciding what kind of jelly to use. The idea of adding thinly sliced bananas to the sandwich ultimately led me to choose strawberry jam.

So on Sunday afternoon, I baked a honey-sweetened whole wheat bread for the meal. I also bought a loaf of Texas toast as an option for the dinner guests.

I also decided that a strawberry sauce with powered sugar and whipped cream would make a great finish to the toast, and it did! Normally I take a photo of new dishes that look particularly good. The PB & J French toast did not last long enough to photograph. The two guests I served dove right in and indicated they would be back again for more after they came out of the diabetic coma.

I’m hoping that Betty Fraser continues bringing such good, down-home suggestions for food, and I think she will after seeing the Grub menu. Home cooking. Comfort food. Whatever name one chooses, food in the style of French toast keeps the kitchen as the room where people gather. It is exactly the kind of food I enjoy making. The PB & J French toast is one of those dishes I’ll continue to experiment with and enjoy with the variety of jellies available – I’m pondering jalapeno jelly….

Losing My Mind

The model of Rodin’s “The Thinker” was given to me as a groomsman’s gift by one of my very best friends. Since that time I have proudly displayed it in my classrooms, offices, and in my library at home.

This weekend while cleaning, I knocked it off its table and it crashed to the floor breaking its arm and crushing its skull. I thought for a bit I could repair it, but the head was in so many shards that it would end up being more glue than plaster and the head would more resemble the elephant man than the thinker.

I realized, too, that the thinker without his head in many ways represented me these days. My work and social lives have become so hectic and overlap so much that I have to keep a portable to-do list with me most of the time. Mostly it’s good, but it does eat into my alone time.

I’ve said it before and it remains true, despite the outgoing nature people see in public, I’m really very much an introvert and need time alone to recharge my personal batteries. Lately it feels like I’ve been “on” so much that my mind takes breaks on its own in the middle of the day or the middle of a conversation.

I’m on the countdown to a couple days of vacation. Fortunately, I’ll be able to do that and regain my mind, but I’m afraid the statue is permanently changed.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Forty-one and Counting

For a number of years through my twenties I composed a letter each year that added one life lesson I learned for each year I had lived.


I recognized the foolishness by the time I reached my thirties and so stopped the list. Life lessons are not always maxims that fit into a pithy sentence.

Now that I’m in my forties, I just don’t care!

It is not that I don’t care about the life lessons; it’s just that I don’t care so much about sharing them – life’s lessons are lessons that come from life. It really does not matter to me the lessons you’ve learned and you probably don’t want me preaching my lessons to you.

Well – maybe the life’s lessons that involve physics (sticking metal in an electrical socket, etc.) would be some things you can use, but do you really care that I’ve learned that single men my age are usually single for a reason?

Does it matter that I’ve learned that quality underwear can make a bad day at work so much better?

Does it matter to you that even though I’m a former English teacher I don’t think punctuation is necessary and that I can run clauses together to display a sense of urgency if that is how I want my writing to read for I’ve learned that communication is far more important than a syntax perfect paper.

Maybe you could benefit from understanding how, despite all the social reasons for rejecting it, my faith is a cornerstone of my character and that I believe maintaining an abiding sense of joy creates resilience and makes life worth living.

I could go on for thirty-six more, but I don’t really want to appear as foolish as I did in my twenties. I’ll just spend the next 366 days (leap year) figuring out lesson forty-two (see "pop culture" reference).

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Was that my cell phone...

or do you make me all tingly in my pockets?

For several months, I have been experiencing a tingling sensation in my pocket area from time to time and frantically grabbed my cell phone to see who’s calling or who left a message only to be disappointed that there is no trace of a call, missed call, or message.

I feared I was getting some strange nervous disorder which caused my right thigh and pelvic area to tingle intermittently.

I feel so much better now though – the news on the Associated Press today relieved my worries. A new phenomenon, much like phantom limb syndrome has been discovered with cell phones and BlackBerries: it has been called “ringxiety” and “fauxcellarm.”

April is six months away, so the story must be serious. And it does make me feel so much better – I truly thought I was losing my mind (yet again) or was having some kind of nervous tic.

The sensation came most often when I was in busy and loud situations and was expecting a call or text from someone, so I prefer the term “ringxiety.”

“Fauxcellarm” has a nice roll on the tongue.

Ringxiety is easier to text, so I’m guessing it will make it into Webster’s first.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Bulleted Life

  • too busy to read sentences
  • must condense
  • to the point
  • only essentials
  • noun
  • verb
  • no adjectives
  • no adverbs
  • no phrases
  • just facts
Lately at work it seems that everything we do has to be done in bulleted lists rather than any kind of written narrative. The explanation given is that all the administrators are too busy to read much, so they need just the essentials.

Now that kind of writing has spilled over to correspondence we send out of the office or make public. I was directed to write a letter home to parents and students and when I submitted it, I was told there was too much writing!

Half the page was a bulleted list!

I find it highly offensive that in education we are unwilling to expect people to READ!

Initiatives by Bill Gates and other “educational reformers” have the 3 R’s as Rigor, Relevance, and Relationships in a major move away from readin’ (w)ritin’, and ‘rithmatic. The old 3 R’s have been condensed to literacy and numeracy.

I’m just disturbed that in education we don’t read or write anymore. Literacy (readin’ and [w]ritin’) remains as one of the fundamental skills on which we focus; we just don’t practice those skills ourselves!

My Sunday School class, on the other hand, provides plenty of opportunity to read. We are doing a book-study on the Gospel of John and I’m reading five other books to go along with it.

Can you imagine that?! I have more literacy at CHURCH than in my JOB (in education).

The world is really upside down – I wonder which horseman of the apocalypse reading is…?

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Soundly Confused

Last spring I bought the new television and have gradually experienced some of the features that come with a HDTV.

Since I'm too cheap to pay for the cable package that includes high definition broadcasts, I bought a basic hd antenna and get my high definition for free. Since I have the sound being fed from the television, I've discovered that hd broadcasts are in surround sound.

You may wonder why I am just discovering this six months later.

I rearranged the living room this weekend and am now sitting in a location.

Twice today during football games I got up to go out and check to see the rain.

It was not raining - it was crowd sounds from the broadcast.

And someone to the back right of the microphone has a REALLY annoying noisemaker. There is nothing that resembles rain there, more like some kid playing a toy trumpet outside my window.

I finally like my living room, but the new arrangement is going to take some getting used to. I'm especially going to have to get used to the sound and stop looking out the window or running to the door to see the rain.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Poking About

I may be gay, but I always knew reproduction involved a bit of poking - I just never realized it was with needles.