Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Growing Up Italian

My cousin Jen shared this with me on FB earlier, I wept by the end of it because it is so beautifully done and reminds me so much of my upbringing. If any of this sounds familiar to you, please share in the comments section - enjoy!

We had a number of the home shopping experiences - the dry goods guy was "Irving Blum", or as my mother called him (and I know for those of you who have no understanding of the context of the time and place may think this is anti-semitic) "The Jew" (she would refer to him as The Jew while he was there, he'd laugh and refer to her as "the Ginny"). Mr Blum would have all sorts of things in his trunk, bring them in for my mom to see and haggle over the price for what she wanted, then pay "on time" as he would record her debt in a small book that he would leave with her and write in pencil.
So much in this rang true - so interesting and so nostalgic!

Monday, April 29, 2013

The Evil of Two Lessers?

 VS.

Currently, I have Verizon for all my services (TV, Internet, Phone) - they've increasingly annoyed me in recent times, especially the last few months. Last month, my bill was way off and after 30 minutes on the phone, it was determined that they removed my bundling discount and charged me for a second box that I don't have. It was a long conversation but ended with the appropriate credit replied and an assurance that it was all straightened out. Sure enough, my bill was adjusted to the correct amount leading me to believe that indeed, all was fixed.

Cut to today, I receive my new bill and once again, the exact same fuck up and I am not happy about this because I need to kill a bunch of my time to get them fix their ridiculous and inappropriate screw up. I went ahead and called and after a bunch of press or say crap to navigate, I was talking to Jordan.

I have to admit Jordan worked hard, but he has only limited power. Another half-hour came and went and I did get the appropriate credit applied and an added assurance that he would submit two work tickets to get the reasons my bills are wrong clarified and taken care of and even set up and follow up call in two weeks.

Ultimately, I'm debating whether it's time to separate from Verizon (the devil I know) for a brief time and employ Comcast (another evil empire) for a while. I know the Comcast sucks too, and they will treat my like shit after a while as well. However, up front, they will give me an introductory rate and also kick me back a few hundred bucks.

I just hate how all of these companies with go all out for their new customers with deals and bundles but once they got ya, boy do they not give a crap; I just don't understand!

All I know for sure, right now, Verizon is on a very short least. Until then, later!

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Grocery Store Finds

The intent: My friend Michael, a native of England but now residing in the USA, made mention of a childhood favorite of his, Jacob's Cream Crackers. He went on enough about them to make me curious so I nosed around for a few days and here in New England, at a grocery store called Wegman's, found them.
Upon opening the package, I too was sent back to my childhood as they immediately reminded me of a cracker called "Uneeda Biscuits", formerly sold as a Nabisco brand (discontinued a few years ago as I understand). Jacob's Cream Crackers look like I remember Uneeda Biscuits looking and taste like I recall as well. I slathered some butter on a few and my daughter and I ate them while I told her this story.

Also while shopping at Wegman's, I found something on the shelves that seemed to disturb me somewhat:
Does anything about this presentation scream, "Eat Me!"?

The nostalgia pile just blew a hint of Social Tea's and Lorna Doone's into my brain!

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Parker Postey

This is my pal Parker :)

Hey little dude, what's over there on your right? I think it was your dad! Nice! Thanks for looking at my camera...love the position of those hands :)


I took a ride up to New Hampshire today to visit my friend Barbara for the first time since she left for maternity leave; to visit her, her baby (Parker) and her fiancee/baby daddy Ray.

We had a nice visit, some lunch, laughs and hanging out. Parker got a little cranky when he was still, so his dad was walking him around; the motion seemed to satisfy the boy as he was calm when moving and cranky when still. I took over for a short time walking him around...he was a fun one, with a decent set of pipes for sure!

Friday, April 26, 2013

Finally!

The other day, I finally made a decision on a treadmill and placed the order. Pictured here, the Nordic Track Commercial 1750 - currently en route to my house.

Of course, once I finally settled on the specific treadmill, the negotiations went into high gear and I think I did a pretty good job.

The local Sears had this model on the floor and not far away, the local Sports Authority had another of the major contenders in my short list. I got to take a spin and made a decision to go with this model, which has a few less bells and whistles than a couple of the other models/brands but it's also hundreds of dollars less expensive and does all that I need it to (and I am sure, more). I also negotiated in an extended warranty and even white glove delivery (includes installation).

I am looking forward to the arrival!

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Teaching Hurts Sometimes

I have this one student who is a real piece of work. She received an "F" as her midterm grade and then basically accused me of intentionally trying to fail her; she even went to the dean of the department. The silly thing is that she didn't submit half of the work due to that point so even if all she did submit was perfect, she would still be failing.

She then submitted an assignment, one in which she had three weeks to complete, and did so incorrectly. My instructions to the entire class very clearly state that if the assignment was not submitted as required, no credit would be received and as such, she received a zero. She was beside herself, actually asked me if I was kidding but I responded that I was only carrying out what I indicated on the assignment. She very disrespectfully asked that I "READ IT, IT'S GOOD...". I took a minute to read the thing, placed it through a plagiarism checker and 34% of the document was plagiarized from four different sources.

I recently opened up a discussion forum where I ask for student feedback. I've been doing this a while and often get really interesting feedback. In this case, this student decided to bash me and attack my integrity in public. I defended myself with a reply that exposed her lies with factual truths. Apparently this "hurt her feelings" and she spoke to the dean of students about this, who went to the provost.

I had a chat with the provost today, she's super cool and I have a lot of respect for her. This is all stupid, this student is a piece of work, I have zero respect for her as a human - but I am so confused as to how someone who is so obviously a slacker and at fault is so willing to invest so much time on a lost cause. I have every minute she's spent in my course documented - I can prove my case without any effort whatsoever.

I don't like to be attacked and it's completely unwarranted. I don't care if a student doesn't like me or even my teaching style/methods. However, there is no mystery with me, on day one of the course, I spell it all out - if you decide to stick around, then you are agreeing to abide by my class rules; all of which are approved in advance by the dean of the department.

BREATHE!!!!!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Later That Evening

Saturday evening, after my visits to the hurricane damages areas, I visited my friend Rob and his family. he and his wife invited me to dinner at their country club. I wasn’t sure what to expect because Rob mentioned I would need to bring dress slacks, a collared shirt and a jacket. My first reaction was who the heck would want to dress up outside of work? I need a good reason to get dapper but after all that had gone on Friday in MA and what I expected from my earlier Saturday visits, plus getting to hang with Rob and Dianne – something I hadn’t had the chance to do in a  very long time, all that plus my curiosity and I had to go for it.

Dinner was quite excellent, there was a lovely array of appetizers served buffet style, dinner was your choice of steak (T-Bone, Filet Mignon or Ribeye- there was a bizarre fish option, which seemed weird for what was billed a “Steak Dinner”), potatoes came on the plate and on the table, family style, were mushrooms, cream spinach and fried onions – and wine.
After dinner, there was a DJ playing music and a dance floor screaming for attention; this was where a pretty great moment happened. At one point, the DJ wanted everyone to come up for a tribute to “all our friends in Boston.” He played the song “Sweet Caroline” (they play this song at every Boston Red Sox home game for the 7th inning stretch). At first, everyone was scattered around the dance floor and when the line, “hand, touching hands, reaching out…” came up, everyone just reached out and held hands up in the air for the chorus – that was cool enough. There was this old lady in the middle of the dance floor all by herself, so I turned to my friends and said, “I’m going in for the kill” (meaning I was going to dance with her) and so, I did. She got so excited, her face lit up as if to say, look at me with this young whippersnapper, it was very cute and everyone kind of formed a circle around us, watching us and kind of cheering us on. Then, without my knowledge, Rob clued the DJ as to where I live prompting him to address the crowd, “how about a hand for Chris from Boston right in the middle of the dance floor” – everyone then began to applaud, so I turned to the crowd, ran around the circle high fiving everyone – they loved it! It was all just so sweet, sincere and fun and a great way to balance the difficult images I had seen up close earlier that day.

Monday, April 22, 2013

What's Left of Sandy

As you all know, last Friday here in MA was just crazy. My circuits were fried by late afternoon and was so relieved at the capture of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev that I decided to go to bed at 9:30pm – it helped, considering I was planning to wake up at 5 in preparation for an early departure as I was driving to New York. I left my house somewhere between 6:15 and 6:30 for the nearly 4 hour drive and was quite surprised at the amount of traffic I encountered at some points considering it was Saturday.

My first stop was Rockaway Beach, one of the two areas I visited that were greatly affected by hurricane sandy back in late October of 2012. My friend Christine along with her husband and two sons live in Rockaway and were home the day the storm hit. Christine and her kids took me for a walk along the beach, just up the street from their house, and when I began seeing damage with my own eyes, my first instinct was to take a picture but the funny thing is, as soon as I reached for my phone, I had this feeling like it would be so wrong to take a picture – I was there, seeing it with my own eyes and no photo will ever replace the images I was seeing by being there. Seeing the current condition of Christine’s house was also awakening and we then took tour through the town, in many cases all that was left was a big empty chasm where once a house stood. Sand in the streets, blocks from the beach, water line markings and a host of reminders of what that storm left behind, despite months of cleanup from first strike are just some of the things that I witnessed. We then visited about half a dozen homes of others who were affected, part of my trip was to deliver handmade afghans (made by a dedicated group of knitters at my church); for each of the homes I visited, I presented them with one of the afghans. I don’t quite know how to describe the reaction I got when I handed off the afghan – but it was one of those things where the only reason there were words is because it’s the way we communicate, because I can’t really explain the reaction or how it made me feel, other than realizing how much it means to these victims that others are thinking about them, praying about them, and helping where they can. This all was such a beautiful thing to be a part of!
After my time in Rockaway, I headed to the nearby Breezy Point, a small beach community with a unique history. My friend John and his wife Christine live there and suffered a great deal of damage to their home; but their home was salvageable, unlike the ones that once stood on the many empty spaces I saw on Saturday. Of course salvageable is relative, and again, words fail me. The fact is, I could go on and on and expend many different words and only end up saying the same thing. John gave me a tour, again, I got to hand out some beautiful afghans and spread some love.

I think if I can drive one point home, it’s that while nearly 7 months have passed and so much has happened in our world since that hurricane, there is still so much to be done, years and years of work and an exorbitant amount of money. Please remember all who were affected and if you have the ability to help in any way, please do so.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Teaser (no Firecat)

Anybody get the reference in the title?

I have much to talk about from my weekend trip to NY. I toured the damage (and the cleanup effort to date, 7 months or so later) from hurricane sandy and visited with a number of the people who were affected. I later, had a wonderful "moment" at a dinner event during a tribute to the people of Boston. The full details to come....I'm a bit worn down from the drive back and have some other things to catch up on but stay tuned - you will hear all about it here.

One odd thing on my drive back. My GPS has a traffic sensor and rerouted my away from I95 to the Merritt Parkway. I had to stop at one of the rest stops, which are small on the Merritt, for gas and some fortification. They recently rebuilt the rest stop I went to by adding a Subway restaurant and a Dunkin' Donuts in addition to the convenience store but they failed to expand parking. With only about 10-12 parking spots including handicapped and one for low emission vehicles, I had to wait about 30 minutes - to get gas, then park. Inside, the convenience store was backed up as there was only one cashier (my bet for slowest cashier in the country) despite having been built with two registers. It was not fun!

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Early Saturday

Usually if its Saturday and I am getting up at 5 am it's because I forgot to turn off the alarm; I get up, yell FUCK (in my head), turn off the alarm and try to fall back asleep. Today though, it was intentional. I need to get an early start for the 4 hour drive to NY.

Today I will spend part of my day visiting victims of hurricane Sandy and delivering handmade afghans made by a dedicated group of knitters at church. Later, I will visit with some friends, spend the night and return home tomorrow.

As for all the craziness yesterday here in MA, they got him. I went to bed at 9:30pm drained emotionally and physically. I did wake p 3 times through the night but all is okay! Also, my daughter made it home safely.

That's all for now...

Friday, April 19, 2013

Slowly I Turn, Step by Step

 
Watching the clip and laughing is the only thing that helps to ease the crazy tension of all that is going on around us right now. I had read on one of the news wires that they were inspecting cars all the way up at Niagara Falls relating to the incident here.
 
For the sake of archive and reference, the city of Boston and some surrounding areas are in lock down as there is a search for one of two suspects (the other was killed) responsible for a bombing during the Boston Marathon this past Monday.
 
The thing that caught my attention about the activity at Niagara Falls is because my daughter is there with her mother and up until I heard the news, I was glad that my daughter was away from all of this. Turns out I spoke with them and they were indeed stopped and questioned and my ex-wife had to provide both her and my phone numbers.
 
I guess that means there is a possibility I will get a visit or a call from the authorities. So strange!

UPDATE

For those of you who may come here every now and again to see what's up with me, and, if you are on top of the news of the day, you know there's some scary stuff going down in my area. Here's what I posted to Faceboook this morning -

UPDATE:There's lots of crazy shit going down in my neck of the woods and I've gotten a number of texts, messages and calls. THANK YOU, all of you for your concern; I am safe-just far enough out of the way (for now) to be out of the line of fire but definitely close enough that its a little scarier than this being just another news story. I have many colleagues, friends, students and others in the area wher all the action is going down....all I ask is for your good thoughts that all ends soon and the innocent stay safe. Please, keep only good and positive thoughts, resist the temptation to think and dwell in the bad, it serves no purpose. Much love!

I am okay. I am human, I do have emotions and feelings about this and am trying to express them by channeling them into doing good work, focusing on helping people and holding on to hope and faith.

Thanks to all of you who have reached out in concern. Hug the people that are close enough to you!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Words

There is so much going on in the world right now that it would seem impossible not to be able to talk about some if not even one of them. Yes, I do have feelings and thoughts about some of the things going on but I decided on Monday evening some time that without hard core facts, it makes no sense for me to speculate on the possibilities - in fact, such speculation can only serve to make matters worse. Therefore, I chose to focus my energy on healing and looking out for others who need healing, on being grateful for all that I have to be grateful for and on trying hard, to stay focused on living life and not dwelling in the maybe and that which I can't change.

I'm leaving it right there for tonight.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

the Wild Turkey Equalizer

When traffic is at a standstill, it's not uncommon to get frustrated and begin with an anger toward the driver directly in front of you and then slowly up the line, you know there must be some jerk up there being jerky and ruining everyone's day.

I was driving today on a road in town and traffic came to a sudden halt. I kept my cool but could see a few people trying to peer out their window and figure out what the deal was. Then, there it was, a wild turkey just hanging in the middle of the road taking in the sights ands saying a big fuck you to all of the cars exclaiming with his (or her) confident sneer, "this land was mine before it was yours, I'll move when I am ready!"

It seemed like minutes but I know it was seconds later, the turkey took off for the woods and traffic resumed. All I could do was laugh.

Marathon Monday: A Love Story (by Erin Dionne)

My friend Erin wrote a beautiful essay about the Boston Marathon, the link below will take you to her blog and her story - I urge you to read it:

http://bostonerin.livejournal.com/165641.html

Monday, April 15, 2013

Boston Sadness

Today was a a pretty dark day for the city of Boston, our Country and the World. The annual running of the Boston Marathon has long been a day where families, friends, neighbors and large droves of people in general get together along the marathon route and have fun celebrating.\

On this particular day, there were a series of explosions not far from the finish line that caused deaths, injuries, and general chaos in the world we live in.

There has been much speculation and I've kept away from the news for the past couple of hours so I don't know if there are any new developments but I made a conscious effort to not pay attention to anything that isn't solid fact, to avoid the speculation and just focus on the things I know; the be grateful for the safety of those I know are safe, grateful for all of the loved ones in my life wherever they may be.

There was some concern about three people that I knew that were running in the marathon, there were hours of texting, messaging, posting, calling and what not but eventually, I learned that all were safe.

I've been going in and out of emotions. It's all so sad.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

4 Q'a with some A's


If you could learn how to do three things just by wishing and not by working what would they be?
One would be playing the piano. Look, I’d love to play guitar, bass, drums, all other instruments as well but if I only get one choice, it’s going to be the piano.

The second would be to swim. I have had a deep fear of the water (in particular, of drowning) for most of my life and I can’t overcome the fear long enough to even get in the water to learn how to swim.
The third would be the skill set of a general contractor. I cringe anytime I have to pay someone to fix or do something in the house; it would be so great if I had the know how to do it myself.

What's the best joke you ever heard?
A horse walks into a bar, the bartender looks at the horse and says, “So, why the long face?”

What is under your bed right now?
Dust bunnies

If you had to choose would you live on the equator or at the North Pole?
Tricky! Normally, I would ch0ose colder weather over warmer as I think it’s easier to get warm that the get cool in those situations. However, the equator and the North Pole are extremes and with the North Pole, I feel the end result proper living conditions would be far more dangerous that if the same were to happen on the equator (given all other things being equal).

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Getting Dizzy from The Hizzy

I've been very deep into a music project but as of just moments ago, I have completed it and am very please with the results.

The last few days have been a little reminder of the unpredictability of weather in New England.

I still have not purchased a treadmill! This bothers me a but but I have been a little more creative about my workouts, I've actually used my yoga mat for instance and have learned that resistance bands can be painful.

I recently received two refunds from Amazon as part of their price protection program, each of the refunds was for one cent. It's kind of funny and it costs them way more to process those but I understand why they do, by remaining consistent on their price protection policy, they keep all customers happy and in the end, the cost of the refund pays for itself many fold.

I must say I am a bit creeped out about how sometimes while on web sites, the ads I see have relevance to things I've googled.

I think that's about all I have for now...Enjoy!

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Go Figure!

I can't figure out this one particular student. She first contacted me after midterm grades were issued, she had an "F" at that point and couldn't seem to understand why and asked for clarification. I provided a very detailed account but all you really need to know is that she failed to submit 55% of the work due up to that point.

She was then recently submitted a project which she had three weeks to complete. I provided a very detailed set of instructions along with a grading rubric that very clearly stated, and I mean very clearly stated that if the assignment were not submitted properly, that no credit would be given; she failed to submit it properly and therefore received a zero.

I explained the reason for the grade, citing the rubric, she would have none of it - totally beside herself and utterly disrespectful commanding me to "read it, it's worth reading", etc. I had to let some time pass before replying because I was so angry with her but stood my ground. Here's the thing, I read the submission and ran it through a plagiarism checker. Aside from being extremely mediocre at best, 34% of her words were directly lifted from a total of four sources, not one of which were cited. I called her on this and her excuse was that I didn't specify that references needed to be cited. She's losing it because she needs to pass the class, claims to have paid out of pocket and even used the excuse that the reason she didn't submit the first four assignments was because she ordered the book by mail and it hadn't arrived. She was willing to not do work that totalled 15% of her final grade for this reason!

Here's the real kicker, the one thing that makes me conclude she's gotta have something wrong with her. She filed a complaint against me to the dean of the division claiming that I am trying to sabotage her grade. What? I have physical evidence, some of which include her own admission that she's missing an enormous amount of work and the situation with the project - all of which I gave open access to the dean along with all of the emails and happily, the dean agrees that I have been more than reasonable. I can't for the life of me understand the rationale of filing such a complaint knowing full well that there is know way that she can support such a ridiculous and insulting claim.

*************************
A quick update on my post "The Harder Part of Teaching" from April 1st: we were able to work out a mutually agreed upon schedule of due dates, while I told him that he must make his health and recovery his first priority. He was content with our agreement and thus far, has lived up to his end of the bargain.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Pugsley's Sister

The name of this post was a desperate attempt to be silly funny with a vintage TV reference alluding to the actual day of the week I am writing this.

Ever notice how significant the quality of the type in a book directly affects the reading experience! I've had to stop reading two books that I got from the library because I get a headache from the type. I guess I need to think about the large type editions more frequently.

Currently planning a drive to NYC to deliver afghans to folks in Breezy and the Rockaways who were affected by Hurricane Sandy. I'm thinking there may have to be a meal from either Brennan & Carr or L&B Spumoni Garden as well!

Funny work story - I was in the cafeteria kitchen chatting with Jonah, the dude that works in there and all of a sudden, we both hear this beeping tone. Jonah goes and checks out the fryer, the register, and nothing. I walk out in to the open area and followed the sound and after about 5 minutes, confidently felt it was a vending machine on the wall. I went back to announce it to Jonah then headed back to my desk. It was on the walk back that I reached into my pocket, pulled out my cell phone and realized I was the source of the beeping! Somehow, I jiggle triggered an alarm on the phone...I was laughing so hard, I had to tell Jonah, we laughed! So silly!

'Nuff said I guess....Peace!

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Sugar Packets and Fatherhood

My daughter is participating in this thing at school where everyone needs to bring something and she agreed to bring sugar packets. In true teen fashion, she presented this information to me at a time where she could only have thought everyone has sugar packets, no biggie. I explained that I didn't have them but I would provide her with some sugar in a container to bring.

Turns out, to a teenager, the idea of bringing a container of sugar is weird! I had no idea but she felt that way and I heard back from a reliable source that indeed it would be weird. So, a bit before 10 pm, in my small suburban town, I set out for sugar packets while dressed for bed. I admit, there was a time in my life where this journey would have not been my favorite thing to do but that truly wasn't the case this time, the idea of ding this for my kid brought me joy and I knew the options were limited for my attempt.

First stop was local convenience store #1. I went in, scoped the coffee counter only to find packets of sugar substitutes and a diner like pouring container of regular sugar. I quickly scanned their shelves for packaged sugar packets and as predicted, came up empty; next...

Stop #2 was the Dunkin Donuts inside the gas station. CLOSED!

For a minute, I felt like Babe Ruth in the bottom of the night, down by 1, one on, two out and two strikes... I scanned the area then turned to face south-westerly and pointed to convenience store #2, then drove over there (a few blocks away).

This store was open, I parked, entered, and as approaching the coffee station had my heart sink because I saw the same pour container as convenience store #1. However, I ventured closer and to my delight, there were packets! I turned to the man behind the counter and said, "you are going to think I am nuts (as I am grabbing sugar packets), my daughter needs these for school, about 12 or so and I am more than happy to pay you for them, I know that you pay for them, I..." He stopped me and said, "it's okay, take them!" Very cool!

I came home and brought them straight up to Vickie who was in her room and the look on her face mad the whole silly journey worth every second of it.

Monday, April 08, 2013

Hey There Georgie Girl!

I was just a small boy when this song came out, but I have memories of hearing it and even of my brother singing it to me. In fact, via my sister-in-law, here is what my brother had to say when I asked if he sang it to me, "...it got so much airplay that he couldn't get it out of his head, so he sang it to you to mess with you." I had no idea, nor did I give a crap, he was being a jerk :) I only knew he was sing the song to me and that song made me smile.
 
I went to see my old friend Mike Verge perform his last album in it's entirely in a show he did at a small music school where he works. I hadn't seen mike in quite a few years and I end up seeing him twice within a few days! Mike is a great songwriter and a dynamic performer - her hasn't lost a step!
 
Been stressing out over a student who is complaining because I graded her assignment the way I said the assignments would be graded. Crazy!

Sunday, April 07, 2013

Sunday, Sunday...

There was a young baby baptized at church today. Seeing that young baby, little Alexis, was healing in many ways. As you readers know, the funerals have been getting a it much of late and just celebrating this new life felt good.

Victoria and I won't to me of our favorite spots for breakfast pizza after church. We ended up getting one slice each then splitting a "Visions of Katherine", a specialty sandwich of this shop at her request.

I got in a couple of loads of laundry, a little TV, a short nap and finished grading projects....productive and relaxing.

The more I use Apple products, the more I don't like them and am yet more perplexed at those who've switched over claiming they find it easier to use. I know it's a personal preference thing but I just don't get it myself.

Every time I watch an awards show, I understand even less how nominees are qualified.

I guess that's it for now.

Saturday, April 06, 2013

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Show

If you asked me last evening where the number one place I wished to be was, my response would have been the Aragon Ballroom in Chicago seeing Volbeat with the coolest and my favorite Volbeat fan.

I ended up taking a short road trip to Woonsocket, Rhode Island with John Esposito of The Road Dawgs to see these guys:

To call The Fab Faux a Beatles cover band wouldn't be inaccurate, but also would not serve them justice. The Fab Faux features stellar, world class musicians who put a level of detail into their recreations of Beatles music that is far beyond what most can understand.

I first heard The Fab Faux on the Howard Stern show a few years back and was blown away at what I heard and at that time, I set a goal to see them. the last few times they were around, they were playing venues that had their ticket prices pretty high and I just couldn't swing it. Thanks to my friend John and a little theater in the small town of Woonsocket, RI, last night I had the chance to see this band and was blown away in person at just how good they are.

The show began with a performance of the entire record "A Hard Day's Night" followed by a short break and then a set of random Beatles greats.

On the car ride, John and I were taking about all sorts of stuff but one of the last things I spoke of before we parked to head for a bite to eat across from the theater was my friends Jenn and Steve and one of the things I mentions was how they once played with this guy Mike Verge.

After we get out of the car, and provide directions to a Chinese restaurant in a town we no nothing of to a passerby, we cross the street and go into Ciro's Tavern hoping for a plate of fish and chips before the show. Turns out, everyone else had the same idea and they were too full to seat us in a time frame where would could both eat and get to the show on time. In that moment, John and I used our new knowledge of a Chinese restaurant nearby and our old experiences of knowing food is usually fast in Chinese restaurants, we left Ciro's to head to Chan's.

Just as we open the door to Ciro's to leave, who is standing right there but Mike Verge himself (along with his son Dylan). It was crazy, I has just spoken of him minutes earlier, hadn't seen him in almost a decade, but there he was. We greeted, spoke briefly, then went about our business.
 
All in all, a pretty good second choice though there were at least a few times in the night I was wondering what Volbeat was playing, how good they must have been, how much I want to see them live, especially with the coolest Volbeat fan in the world.

Friday, April 05, 2013

When 3 in 5 is Not Good

This morning I will be attending my 3rd funeral in 5 weeks; I do not like this! This one, for a very young man, 29 years old. Andrew was the oldest child of a couple that go to my church, he had special needs and for the last 7-9 years, lived full time in a facility.

When I first started going to this church, Andrew was still living at home and attending church - his parents would bring him in his wheelchair and I recall him being very attentive to the service and particularly responsive to the music.

The last two of these funerals were people that most would consider way, way too young to die and in both cases, survived by their parents.

Funerals always have a sadness about them, but as a rational human, I understand that people die but sometimes it's very hard to accept death, especially in certain circumstances - it really gets you thinking.

My thoughts and prayers are with Jim and Ellen today - I hope yours will be too.

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Hat Trick

We have a student at the college who is in a wheelchair, an older woman with grown children; her name is Mary. She's a nice lady, she often asks me for advice about computing devices and software and how certain things might work best for the way she needs to work so that she can be productive despite her physical challenges. Mary has a sweet assistance dog named Mandee; Assistant dogs are not supposed to be interrupted or fussed over but Mandee is spoiled a bit and gets lots of attention.

When I got back from lunch today, I saw Mary and Mandee in the library so I stopped over to say hi and pet Mandee. Mary turned to be and in a very nervous and sad trembly voice started talking to me and because of what I later learned, emotional state, she was not quite clear enough to understand.

I got up from Mandee's level and sat in a chair so I could talk eye-to-eye with Mary and asked her to slow down a bit. She then explained that one of her closes friends, so close in fact that she was considered family, died and waited to know if I could suggest where she might get prepare food locally for the memorial service.

I find it so interesting that in an academic setting, there is still room for human interactions such as this one. In this case, I've given Mary a lot of professional time to help her with a number of technical issues and advise her on a variety of technical issues and in this moment of her own personal grief, she saw it fit to share that personal moment and ask me for advice.

I think in some way, this is a piece of an illustration on my thoughts about the impact of education on civility and civilization and society in general. I may teach computer science and work in the area of Academic Computing but I am also a part of the society in which I am a member and sometimes, it's necessary to reach out to someone who needs your help even if you don't think it's "your job" to do so.

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

Recipe: Chocolate Gooey Butter Cookies

This is a Paula Deen version:

Ingredients
1 (8-ounce) brick cream cheese, room temperature
1 stick butter, at room temperature
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 (18-ounce) box moist chocolate cake mix (Note: I was unable to find an 18oz cake mix, most are 15.25 or 16 - buy two boxes and measure out the full 18 oz. if necessary - I experimented).
Confectioners' sugar, for dusting

Directions
In a large bowl with an electric mixer, cream the cream cheese and butter until smooth.
Beat in the egg.
Beat in the vanilla extract.
Beat in the cake mix.
Cover and refrigerate for 2 hours to firm up so that you can roll the batter into balls.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Roll the chilled batter into walnut sized balls and then roll them in confectioner's sugar.
Place on an ungreased cookie sheet, 2 inches apart.
Bake 12 minutes.The cookies will remain soft and "gooey."
Cool completely and sprinkle with more confectioners' sugar, if desired.

Watch her make them:

Monday, April 01, 2013

The Harder Part of Teaching

Been in touch with a student over the past couple of weeks. Turns out, he's quite sick and get attend class or do his assignments as a result of his illness and he is asking for significant extensions on deadlines.

It may seem like a cut and dry decision, but it's quite complex. I am very sympathetic to his reason for not being able to complete the work and I am willing to have some lenience. However, he's asking to be some 3-5 weeks in arrears on his assignments before even beginning to submit them and this just is not possible; especially since he has two other classes and he is asking the same of those instructors. He'll never be able to make up that much work and I can't leave the entire course in limbo like that - it just isn't done.

I tried several ways to explain this to him and to tell him that he really should focus on his health and his recovery and that school will still be here when he is well. He hates the idea of "wasting" the first half of the semester.

It's emotionally draining because I really feel for him and I fear he might risk his health to complete his work.

This is a hard one!