Princess Muse

Monday, October 24, 2011

Musings on Vacation and the Auto Train

Did ya miss me?

Sorry I've been away for so long.... work has been a little hectic, and then I went on vacation.  And where does a Muse vacation?  Well, I suppose most would go to Greece, but this one goes to LegoLand and Disney World in Florida.

We took the Auto Train this time, instead of me driving down to Florida.  I still didn’t get much sleep (we were right in front of the Lounge Car, so anytime anyone went into it, the noise tended to wake me up.  On our way back, I think I’ll make sure I take a sleep aid and see if that makes a difference--yes it did!), but I also didn’t have to worry about crazy drivers.

It’s about a 16 ½ hour trip from Lorton, VA (where we could load our minivan onto the AutoTrain) to Sanford, Fl (about 15-20 minutes outside of Orlando).  They make a short stop in Florence, SC to refuel and change crew.  (When we drive, Florence is our traditional stopping point to have dinner and spend the night.)
The Lorton, Va station
On the train to Sanford, Fl., there were about 490 persons on our train, with 250 vehicles.  We had 42 cars total (16 passenger and 26 car carriers).  On our way back to Lorton, there were 212 passengers, with 107 vehicles.  We had 44 cars total (15 passengers and 28 car carriers).
The Sanford, Fl. station
We passed through Richmond and Petersburg, VA, but not Colonial Heights. 
The James River

Sadly, the AutoTrain serves Pepsi, not Coke.  Note to self:  buy a six pack of Coke to have on the way back!
Missy’s Top 10 Reasons Why the Auto Train is Better Than the Airlines….
Auto Carrier
  1. I only have to be there an hour ahead of departure time (unless your car is oversized, in which case, it’s still the two hours ahead).
  2. Free wifi in the stations.  And it was easy to get to sign on.  I’ve been to a few airports that promised “free wifi,” but getting to the “acceptance” page was hard.  No wifi  on the trains, but that’s okay.
  3.   NO TSA.  No patdowns, no metal detectors, no taking off your shoes.
  4.  Legroom!  With my derriere all the way back against the seat, I could barely put my feet on the foot rest--and I’m 5’7”.  Even if the person in front of me reclines their seat as far back as it will go, there’s still plenty of room for me.
Look at all the legroom my husband has!
     5.  You don’t have to unplug your electronic devices during departure.  No sensitive electronics to potentially mess up.
     6.   You can move around the whole time and there are no seat belts.
    7.  Free coffee, tea and water.
    8.  Dining cars.  You have a choice of meals (Salisbury Steak, Savory Chicken or Vegetable Lasagna), free table wine (with refills), and a choice of dessert.  The food was pretty good, with a decent portion size.
    9.  Power outlets.  We had two by our seats.  I didn’t have to worry about my electronic device running out of juice.
    10.  Sleeper cars.  We didn’t take advantage of this (I think it costs $50/person extra), but I love that they’re available.  Husband of one my fellow passengers had one (he has a bad back) and said it was pretty comfortable.

Our trip back wasn't as smooth as our trip down.  There was an electrical problem (I think it was just a faulty sensor), but it took a while to figure out what exactly the problem was.  Then, on the overnight portion, there were a couple of trains ahead of us that had mechanical problems.  Instead of getting into Lorton around 9 am, it was about 12:15 pm.  Then it was almost an hour to get our car off the carrier.  Even with these problems, I still would rather take the train than fly.

Well, I have to finish my musings on all the aMusements I had last week....tomorrow:  LegoLand Florida!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Musings on Not Feeling Well

I haven't been feeling very well lately.... more than a simple cold, less than the flu.

I don't like not feeling well.  Last week it was all elevated temperatures, chills, aches and pains, the dry tickle and cough, and, of course, the never-goes-away headache.  This week,  it's the frog-in-the-throat cough (please, don't make me laugh, because that'll bring on the cough) and feeling run down, with the headaches tossed in because the coughs make my brain rattle around.

I'm not a good patient.  That is to say, I don't rest and take it easy like I should.  Mostly, that's my personality--De Nile ain't just a river in Egypt, hon, but it's also because I'm a sub.  Yes, if I were truly sick (meaning that I really couldn't get out of bed without falling down), I would cancel my job and ask for a sub--but that sounds a little silly, to me.

I also tend to be melodramatic.  Not to the point of "O Woe Is Me.  I Have A Hangnail and Now I Will Die!" drama, but not too far off.  I think it's because I don't want to slow down, but I want you to understand that I'm only able to function through Sheer Will Power and Stubbornness.  I am a convoluted person.

When I was in grad school, I somehow contracted mono.  When the doctor told me what I had and that I needed to slow down, I remember looking at him and saying, "But I can't miss school and I'm doing an internship.  There is no slow down."  He looked back at me and said, "You better find a slow down, or you won't be able to do anything."  We agreed that I could go to class and do my internship (luckily, it was just one day a week), as long as I rested the rest of the time.  Of course, we never defined "rest," so I was able to make it up as I went along.

Luckily, I don't get sick very often.  Even when I do get sick, it doesn't seem to affect me as much as others.  When we were kids, my brother complained of the sore throat and ear ache.  Mom took us down to the Dispensary (military walk-in clinic).  They tested my brother for strep and it came back positive, so they needed to test me.  Turns out I had a worse case of it, but I felt fine.  Go figure.  Boy, was I mad at my brother for making me sick!

Anyway, I hope I get over this whatever-it-is.  I've got new aMusements to enjoy.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Musings on History and Current Events

I'm 46 years old, by the calendar, but inside, I feel more like a 20-something.  Sometimes, it's hard to remember that I'm older than a lot of my friends (thanks to the fact that I had children a little later than most people), since a lot of the people I hang out with are the parents of my children's schoolmates.  It's pretty funny sometimes, because I'll mention something that happened when I was in high school or college and they'll look at me funny and say something like, "Oh, I was 10 when that happened."

Being a Social Scientist by degree, with a strong interest in History, I'm aware of the Speed of Time.  As Einstein noted, Time is Relative.  What is Current History for me (i.e., the Cuban Missile Crisis--happened a few years before I was born, but close enough to my lifetime that it's still a Current Event), will appear like Ancient History to my boys.

So, here are a few more Current Events (for me) that will be Old News to them:

The Cold War (roughly 1946- 1991)
  Okay, a lot of things happened here long before I was born, but, let's face it,  the Cold War shaped a lot of the influences in my life:  The Apollo Program, the Vietnam War, my living in Germany (heck, my parents even meeting was influenced by the Cold War--my Mom was a teacher from Nebraska teaching at the DODSEUR (I think it stand for Dept of Defense Schools-Europe) in Baumholder and my Dad was an Army Officer from Florida and was stationed there.)  The Cold War was why I got to live in West Germany for three years.  I even wrote a paper for a job application predicting the Fall of the Berlin Wall.

The Apollo Space Program (1961-1975)
  Started before my time, but the manned flights started when I was about 2 or 3 (depends on if you count the launch rehearsal fire that killed Virgil "Gus" Grissom, Edward White and Roger Chaffee as being a manned "flight" or not.)  We used to watch all the television coverage.  I can remember chanting along with the television during the Countdown to Ignition and Liftoff.

The Vietnam War (November 1, 1955 to April 30, 1975)
  The War was half over by the time I was born, but combat units weren't truly deployed until 1965.  Obviously, as an Army Brat, I was very aware of the War, but as a kid, I wasn't really sure what was happening, just that my Daddy wasn't home.  I'm not sure I really knew where my dad was the first time he was deployed to Vietnam, but I remember waving to every plane I saw flying overhead.

Watergate and Nixon Resigns (June 17, 1972 and August 9, 1974)
  I remember Nixon's Resignation a little better than the actual scandal, because my mom called me and my friends in from playing so we could watch Nixon leaving the White House for the last time.

The Assassination of Aldo Moro (May 9, 1978)
  Okay, not an assassination that means a lot to most Americans, but I remember it because I went to Italy a few weeks after this happened.  My friend Amy and I practiced our "commando" moves just in case the Red Brigade decided to take over our tour bus.  Not likely to happen, but with American military personnel and their families on the tour, not entirely out of the realm of likeliness.  Aldo Moro was the Italian Premiere who was kidnapped by the Red Brigade (an Italian terrorist group) and killed.

The Space Shuttle Program (1981-2011)
  I'm using the dates that NASA sent the Space Shuttles into orbit.  The Enterprise was a test shuttle (a fact that I suspect most Trekkies are a little bitter about--I mean, really.  Name the Shuttle after a TV space ship but never use it in a mission?  C'mon!)  The Columbia first went into orbit on April 12, 1981.
   The Challenger Disaster, on January 28, 1986, I remember very well.  I was at FSU, walking between classes, when I heard a loud explosion.  I looked up and could see the aftereffects of the explosion.  I dashed into Suwannee Arcade (where the Administrative Offices were) and asked one of the secretaries if they knew what that explosion was.  She turned to me and said, "The Shuttle just blew up."  I was shocked.  It was also my friend Sheridan's birthday.  He was in French class at the time, but about to get out, so I ran over to tell him what had happened.  Not a happy birthday for him.

The Fall of the Berlin Wall (November 9, 1989)
  The late 1980's saw the beginning of the End of the Cold War.  The people of many Eastern Bloc countries, such as Hungary, and Poland, were demanding more freedoms and economic opportunities.  In October, 1989, I was applying for a job with a government agency and had to write a paper analyzing a current event and make a prediction, based on reports, of what would be happening in the near future.  East Germany had just opened the border between it and West Germany.  As I read reports of how many East Germans were crossing over into West Germany, I wrote in my paper that I thought East and West Germany would have to reunite.  A few weeks later, the Berlin Wall fell.

The Columbine Massacre (April 20, 1999)
  I was teaching 7th grade at this point.  Mostly, I remember teachers and administrators wondering how we A) talk about this with our students, and B) how we make sure this couldn't happen at our school.  I remember my students being worried about it happening at our school.

9/11 (Ummm...yeah, 9/11/01)
  I was at home with my Older (at the time Only) Son.  I was just getting us ready to go to the store  when the channel was accidentally changed from PBS to ABC.  At the time, the first plane had just hit the first of the Twin Towers.  I thought (as many probably did at first) that this was a tragic accident, that somehow the plane had malfunctioned and the pilot flew into the Tower.  Then, it happened again.  When the plane hit the Pentagon, I was in such shock.  I called my mom, hoping that we didn't know anyone stationed at the Pentagon. (We didn't.)

The Iraq/Afghanistan War (March 19, 2003 to Present Day)
So many things.  So many conflicting emotions.  I think I'm going to have to let this one sit for awhile and let History sort it out.

The Election of Barack Obama (November, 2008)
  No matter how History treats the Presidency of Mr. Obama, I just remember how proud I was that an African-American could be elected president based on his Ideals.  I really thought I'd be so much older (or even dead) before this would happen.

Well, all this heavy thinking has given me a headache (okay, I already had a headache, but still....).  Time to go aMuse myself.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Musings on The Maryland Renaissance Festival

And so the Wheel of Time has slowly moved forward, with Summer sliding into Fall.

Baseball is giving way to Football (and Hockey and Basketball).  School has started in earnest, and the days are getting shorter and cooler.  The Hummingbirds have left me (gotta remember to take down the feeder!) for their Winter Home in Mexico or Panama (maybe I should practice my Spanish on them, huh?)

The best thing about Fall is the Maryland Renaissance Festival.

I've been coming to the RenFest since 1988 (more or less).  At least once a year, and more recently, at least twice a year.  I've been going in costume for the last 5 or 6 years.  I'm the tavern wench in the dark blue outfit.  It also doubles as my Halloween costume (the under blouse goes down to there for the RenFest, but up to here for Halloween--gotta keep it G-rated around the kiddies, ya know!)

The RenFest has been happening since 1977 and now has a permanent site in Crownsville, Md (just up the road from Annapolis, off of I-97).  It cycles through the 6 wives of Henry VIII, with each wife getting a year.  It keeps it different and a little fresh for everyone.  You can follow the Royal Court around and watch the story unfold, or you can catch one of the many great shows.  There are musical guests (the Pirates Royale are pretty good) as well as stage shows (like "O" A Fool or Shakespeare's Skum).  In the past, the Rogues (one of my favorites) have played (alas, not this year.  *sigh*) and Hack and Slash (swashbuckling heroes) have performed at the Festival.

I go with my usual (or maybe that should be unusual) crowd:  Kim, Charlie, Emma, Stephanie, Matt, Zach, and Ken.  My Wild Boys are not into the RenFest (I have no idea how that could happen), so they stay at home with my in-laws.  Lately, though, it's been hard getting us all together, and this year  Cait's away, but she'll be coming down for a visit and wants to go.
The Unusual Suspects

Lately, I've been taking a lot of pictures at the RenFest, mostly of the little details that are easy to overlook. Sometimes, it's a little garden that's been planted near one of the shops, other times it's something... different.. on top of one of the buildings.  Someday, if I get myself organized enough, I think it'd be fun to do a kinda scavenger hunt, where you have to find where the pictures come from.

Do you know where this garden is?

Or this face?

King Henry VIII and Katherine Parr

If you're in the neighborhood, you should drop by.  You don't have to wear a costume (Charlie and Ken never do) to have a Good Time and aMuse yourself.  The Maryland Renaissance Festival runs through October 23, 2011.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Musings on The Hunger Games

My friend Kris just finished reading The Hunger Games  trilogy by Suzanne Collins and asked me what I thought about it.

I've read all three books about three times each.  It was another of those Lay's Potato Chips things.  Once I read the first book, I had to read the next two... and then I had to go back and re-read them.

For those of you who haven't read the books, it's set in a near future, post-apocaplytic US.  What disaster befell the US is never explained (Collapse of Wall Street?  Class Warfare?  Lack of Clean Laundry?), but the country has been divided into 13 Districts and the Capitol Territory, which seems to be centered in Colorado.  The country is renamed "Panem" (because we are No Longer United States).  The division of the Districts isn't really made clear, but District 12 seems to be one dirt poor mining town in the Appalachians.  The rest of the Districts are kept poorer than the Capitol, but depending on what is produced in the District, some seem to be relatively well off.

At some point, the Districts rose up against the Capitol in rebellion, but were defeated by the Capitol.   As a punishment,  each District must put up two "Tributes" (one boy and one girl) to participate in the Hunger Games--think Survivor meets The Lord of the Flies.  These Tributes are chosen by lottery, from the available children ages 12 - 18.  The older you are, the more times your name is entered into the lottery.  Additionally, you can put your name in more times in order to get a larger tesserae (an allotment of cooking oil and grain).  Call it High Risk Welfare.   Only 24 tributes are selected because District 13 was bombed and no one lives there any more... but among the oppressed is the rumor that a rebellion is forming in District 13, which might not have been as devastated as previously reported.  The chosen Tributes are then whisked away to the Capitol, and get about a week's worth of training.  The Tributes are Mentored by their Districts previous winners.  For District 12, this is a drunk named Haymitch.  Then the Tributes are taken before a panel of Gamemakers (more or less the Producers of the televised event) to demonstrate their "talent"--camouflage, traps, shooting a bow, throwing knives, etc.  The Gamemakers then put up the odds on each Tribute's chances of "winning" the Hunger Games by ranking them between 1 and 12.  The night before the Hunger Games begin, there's an "Up Close and Personal" show with each of the Tributes together on stage.  The next morning, the televised Hunger Games are broadcast.  There can only be One Winner.

The Trilogy follows the Tributes from District 12, Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark, and, to a lesser extent, their Mentor, Haymitch, and their assigned teams of Stylists.

And that's as much synopsis as I'm going to give--in the words of one of my favorite Dr. Who characters, "Spoilers, darling!"

But, could the World of The Hunger Games happen?  In my most optimistic times, I think that there's no way Society could devolve into such savagery.  But then, I hear that at political debates people cheer about the number of Death Row Inmates candidates have allowed to be killed, and that other people say that those without health care should be allowed to die if they have a disease like cancer and can't afford treatments.  I see the number of violent video games that are produced.  I remember movies like Death Race 2000 ("Twenty points if you hit the pedestrian!")  The number of competition shows on tv are growing (most of them are benign, but what happens when the Producers need to add controversy to their show to increase the ratings?  Sure, this year it's Chaz Bono, but....) and I have to wonder.

So, if it's this grim, why do I love these books?  For one, I enjoy post-apocaplyptic stories.  Alas, Babylon read it about 14 times until my mother made me stop (I kept wanting to dig a bomb shelter in the backyard.),  The Stand-- the only Stephen King novel that doesn't cause me to have nightmares.  Maybe it's the Army Brat in me, I dunno.  The other reason why I love these books is because they are, at heart, Books of Rebellion.  One Girl Against the Evil Empire (even though she does it most unwittingly).  It's Star Wars (IV-VI).  It's Firefly.  It's the American Revolution.  It's the feeling that One Person Can Make a Difference.

But read the books.  They're pretty well written and you get caught up in the Drama of It All.  And there is well as tragedy.  Plus, they're making a movie of it.  We'll meet later and discuss Why The Book Was Better (because the book almost always is....)

Almost time to aMuse myself with more College Football....Go 'Noles!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Musings on Domesticity....

As most of my friends can attest, I am not very domesticated.

My mom tried.  Really.  She initiated  me in the Rites of the Washer and Dryer (and told me to take things out promptly so I wouldn't have to iron my clothes), she showed me the Secrets of the Stove and the Oven.  We explored the Mysteries of the Vacuum and the Duster.    The Fine Art of Dishwasher Loading was covered.  All to no avail.  My house will never be on the cover of House Beautiful.  Alas, Martha Stewart will never come to call and invite me on her show to demonstrate my ways of Artful Napkin Folding.  My friends joke that I'm more likely to be invited on Hoarders than Sensible Chic.....

It's true.  I'd rather read a book than clean the house.  Lately though, I'm beginning to feel like my house is too small.  It's not a large house, but it's no smaller than most of the quarters I grew up in.  I think the big difference is that I'm not moving every year.  When you move frequently, it forces you to go through your things and get rid of the things that you've outgrown (physically and emotionally).

So, Operation:  De-Clutter is underway.  The first step is to go through all the boys' clothes and get rid of the things that are too small.  To this end, I have already done 6 loads of laundry.  Current clothes have been sorted, folded and put away.  I have a small mountain of clothes that are too small in a laundry basket.  They will be sorted through and some of the clothes will be donated to our school nurse (for when the littles have an accident) and some will be donated to whichever of the 5 or 6 charities that regularly call us calls first.

Next up, will be the toys.  I haven't really gotten rid of most of the boys' old toys.  I still have toys from when they were babies.  I think it's time to get rid of those now.  The odds of me willingly agreeing to having another child are slim to none.

Then the books.  Yes, I love books, but I have more books than I have shelves for.  It's time to get rid of a few.  Either there will be a book sale at my house, or I'll find a charity for all my discards (or maybe a combo).  Heck, I could probably start my own used book store with the books I currently own.

It won't be easy.  It certainly won't be pretty.  But it will be worth it if I can steam-vac the carpet again.

Besides, Book Club is supposed to meet at my house in December.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Musings on Short Story Collections

Funny how a novel will keep me up all night, eager to get  to the end, but I can linger over a collection of short stories for a week....

I'm reading Naked City, edited by Ellen Datlow right now.  20 urban fantasy stories by some really terrific writers that I really like to read, like Jim Butcher (though I've only read his short stories, oddly enough), Patricia Briggs (who was not writing about werewolves) and Peter S. Beagle, as well as some I haven't read at all (or very little).  The first half of novelists are definitely fantasy stories, with either fantastical creatures (trolls, pookas, the fae, even the Green Man) but the last ones are a lot darker, edging more into horror than fantasy (although there are fantastical elements).

I like short story collections.  There's something nice about reading a story and being able to put the "book" down and doing something else and then coming back to it.  With a novel, I feel such a compulsion to finish the story that I view the rest of my life as a bothersome interruption until I can get back to the book.  (Even Florida State Football cannot distract me from finishing a novel-well, unless it's the Gator Game, or the Miami Game.  I'll have the game on, but most of my attention is on the book.)  I think it's because I get that sense of "done," that, even if it's bedtime and I've just started the collection, I can put it aside and read the next story tomorrow....even if the next story is by one of my favorite authors.

I have all sorts of short story anthologies.  I have different Bedford Readers, anthologies from Southern Writers, Stories of the South, Mystery anthologies, Fairy Tales anthologies (I love collecting fairy tales from different countries), the Year's Best ______ Stories (usually SF or Fantasy), Star Trek anthologies (you have to admire a fan base that keeps putting out stories about characters that haven't been portrayed in almost 20-40 years--and they're good stories).  Oddly, I haven't really seen any Star Wars short story collections--either the epic-ness of the movies and subsequent novels make it too hard to visualize a story in anything shorter than 200 pages, or Lucas hasn't authorized any short stories (and I know that they're being written) or I haven't been in the bookstores the month they came out.

Short stories can be tricky.  By definition, the reader has to make assumptions in the story--the author can't take too long to establish setting, or characters.  Sometimes, the short story feels more like "Chapter 1" of a longer story, which leaves me vaguely dissatisfied.  Yes, the story has an ending, but not a real resolution.  Then you have to decide if you liked the characters and setting enough to see if maybe it really was a proto-chapter to a book.  Sometimes you get lucky and you get a proto-chapter as a short story, but the story is complete enough that it doesn't matter if a book was written or not. Then you get to read more.  Now that's magic.

One of my favorite short story collections are by George Alec Effinger.  He wrote a series of stories about Maureen "Muffy" Birnbaum that started out as a parody of Edgar Rice Burroughs' John Carter of Mars stories.  Sadly, the collection Maureen Birnbaum, Barbarian Swordperson is out of print, and isn't even an ebook (but if you go to Barnes and Nobles' website, and I'm sure, you can click to let the publisher know that you want to read this), so you'll have to hopefully stumble upon it in a used book store.

Another one I really like is Neil Gaiman's Smoke and Mirrors.  Neil Gaiman is a phenomenal writer and his stories always blow me away.  I bought this collection because he wrote a version of "Snow White" called "Snow, Glass, Apples."

I don't like Arty short stories.  I never feel like I know what's really going on, and I suspect that either: a) the author doesn't really know what's going on or b) the author secretly despises readers and doesn't want them to know what's really going on.  Too much like real life, if you ask me.

Well, I have one last story to aMuse me before I have to find another story to read.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Musings on Being a Substitute Teacher

I love my job.  Really, I do.

Oh, yeah, sometimes I complain about it, but name me one person who always is perfectly happy about their job and loves everyone they work with, and I'll name one person who's living a delusional life.

But, being a substitute teacher is great.   Especially an Elementary School Substitute Teacher.  My days are varied.  One day, I'm teaching 4th grade.  The next, it's 1st grade.  The next, 3rd grade.  Sometimes, I'm the Technology Teacher.  Or the PE Teacher.  Everyday, it's a new adventure.

Yes, sometimes the kids will act up and try to see where your limits are.  The key is to set the rules and follow through on the consequences...just like being a parent.  Try to make the punishment realistic, and something you don't mind following through with.  Don't tell the kids they'll have to eat lunch with you if you really don't want to have lunch with them.  (And some kids don't see that as a punishment at all!)

The nice thing about being a sub, at least to me, is that I sub in a school where I'm appreciated.  The teachers treat me as a colleague, not as a warm body.  They know that I'm willing to sub any grade, any subject.  I don't mind getting the last minute jobs (like I was really going to tidy up the house anyway?).  I appreciate advanced notice, but sometimes they (or their kids) get sick--it's not like you can schedule these things.

And I think the teachers know that I'm going to do the best job that I can.  I'm going to bring a positive attitude to their students.  I don't always need the detailed lesson plan (although, again, it's appreciated--less thinking on my part), as long as I know when I need to move to the next part of the lesson, or when the kids need to go to their "Special"... and when to pick them up.  I have enough life experience that I can stretch a lesson out if I need to, or I can have the class talk about something related to the lesson.

Don't think that being a sub is an easy job anymore.  Rarely do I show movies to the kids all day long.  No, I teach math, reading, science, social studies--everything their teacher would normally do.  With all the Standardized Testing done in our schools anymore, teachers rarely have the luxury of having a sub show filmstrips and videos all day long.  Sometimes, I have to--the teacher needs to see how the students handle the next lesson, or they're going to start a new unit, but those days are rare.  And, unlike a teacher, I have about 5 minutes to look at the lesson and figure out how to present it to the class.  Makes for some interesting lessons, sometimes!

Even though the pay is a lot less than what I could make as a full time teacher, there are some sweet benefits for being a substitute teacher.  I don't have to prepare the lesson plan, I don't have to grade the papers (although, sometimes I will mark right and wrong answers--but I won't put a grade on the paper, especially on a spelling test.  Things I would count wrong, a teacher might give the student at least partial credit for.), I don't have to get grades in at the end of the quarter, and I don't have to go to faculty meetings.  (Although certain teachers think that I'm at the school often enough that I ought to go to the faculty meetings!)

But the best part of being a substitute teacher is getting to know the kids and to know that they see me as a friendly adult and that I'm there to help them.  There's nothing better than having the students say, "Hi, Mrs. Katano!" or give me a hug as they walk down the hall.  Or if I see them outside of school and they get so excited to see me. (And then the next day, they come up and tell me, "I saw you yesterday at such-and-such place!")

One year, I subbed in the kindergarten so much, that every time I walked into the cafeteria at their lunch time, I'd be mobbed like a rock star.  Now, that's a great feeling.

Not as great as having your kids tell you how much they love you, but almost.

The kids sure do keep me aMused....

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Musings on Nature's Fury

Okay, just to recap, since August 23rd, 2011, we've had in the Baltimore area:
        1 Earthquake
        1 Hurricane (Irene)
        3 days of heavy rain (thank you, Tropical Storm Lee), which lead to lots of flooding and sump pumps failing everywhere.

If I were a superstitious person, I'd say Someone was trying to tell me Something.  Luckily, I'm not superstitious, so I can just ignore the Signs of the Impending Apocalypse.

Back to School Nights are not cancelled due to heavy rains.  Attendance was down, but if I had to deal with a flooding basement, I'd have stayed home, too.  In a way, though, it was nice going when there weren't as many parents there.  I felt like I got to see the teacher, although there still wasn't enough time to personally chat with any of them.  (Remember, the first rule of Back to School Night:  It's about hearing about the curriculum and class procedures, not about connecting with the teacher.  Email is your best friend.  Really.)  Because of the Back to School Nights, my sleep habits were messed with and I got maybe 8 hours of sleep in a 48 hour period.  Cranky and exhausted described my mood by Friday evening.  Thank God for the weekend.

We had anywhere from 5 to 14 inches of rain in the Baltimore/DC area, according to meteorologist Doug Hill (WTOP radio).  I read somewhere that if it had been snow instead of rain, it would've been something insane like 70" of snow.  I can handle rain much better than snow.  Main Street, in Old Ellicott City (just down the road from me--about 3 miles) had some bad street flooding when Tiber river overflowed it's banks.  Here are a couple of videos I found (I was teaching 2nd grade on this day.  Somehow, we didn't close schools--maybe the Powers That Be thought we were safer in school.  I think we were.)

This video was taken just over the Patapsco River bridge in Old Ellicott City (OEC).  Most of the river you'll be seeing is actually the Tiber, not the Patapsco.

And from further up the road, by the Ellicott Mills Brewing Company restaurant:

I have a couple of pictures of the Patapsco River the day after the flooding:

Patapsco River at the Baltimore/Howard County line

Patapsco River at the Bridge (going towards OEC)

And a few of the Patapsco from further down (Washington Blvd) by the Avalon area of the State Park (which was closed...)

Patapsco River at Rt 1 (I-895 off ramp in background)

Detritus collected by pylons
Patapsco River at Rt 1

But, the sun is shining.  My older son (with supervision from his grandfather), has mowed the lawn.  There's still a chance of rain in the forecast for the next few days, but nothing like what we've had.  (Honestly, we had thunder and lightning that made me think of when I was in Taxco, Mexico.  Loud and rolling on forever.....)

Oh, and as if there isn't enough to worry about, my friend Liz says her old sump pump caught fire during all this rain, so I guess we'll have to add "sump pump inspections" to our List of Things to Do before the next weather event.....(everything is fine at her house...her husband got it mostly under control, but the Fire Department came and made sure it was all safe.  Yay for the Firemen!)

Dry out and stay aMused....

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Musings on Back to School Nights

Yay me!  I get to go to not one, but two back to school nights!

We got a robo-call from the principal of the elementary school that my younger son attends reminding us about Back to School night.  My husband asked me, as this is our seventh Back to School night at the elementary school, if we really needed to go.  Oh, I was tempted to say "No," but really, we do need to go.

Here's the thing about Back to School Nights:  it's a chance to hear about the curriculum your teacher will teach your child this year.  It's also a chance for you to show your child's teacher that you plan on being an involved partner in your child's education.

Now, let's define what I mean by being involved.  To be involved means to make sure that homework is done.  Ask your child how they did the homework.  Ask questions about what they are learning.  Find out what books are being read in their reading class.  If you're familiar with the book, talk about it.  Discuss concepts learned in science.  Have your child teach you how to do math (the ways math is taught does change.  How my sons have learned math is different from how I learned--yeah, way back in the Dark Ages).  My best semester in college was the semester I hung out with people in my classes.  I didn't study any harder, but I had a better grasp on the concepts taught--why?  Because I discussed them with my peers.  Plus, your child will get a kick out of "teaching" you, and you'll be able to strengthen bonds with your child.

However, being involved does not mean second guessing your child's teacher.  If you do have questions about how something is being taught (or why or anything else), ask nicely for an appointment.  Do not tell a teacher that you will see them tomorrow at 10 am.  It may not be their planning time.  Your child's teacher has a 50 minute planning time.  In that time they may need to meet with other teachers about activities happening in the school, grade papers and get set up for the rest of the day.  They have an half-hour for lunch, and then they have to supervise recess.  The rest of the time, they are involved in teaching your child.  Even if there is seat work being done, your child's teacher is probably helping students with questions.  They are not sitting around reading romance novels and eating bonbons.

As your child gets older, it's still important to go to Back to School Nights.  You will have less time to interact with the teachers (and really, Back to School Night is not the best time to have "face time" with teachers.  Sadly, you are 1 in 150.  Teachers are allotted about 10 minutes to do a presentation before you have to go to the next "class"), but by being there and listening (and not talking to the parent next to you), you are sending out the message that education is important.  More importantly, you are sending this message to your child:  What you do is important to me.  I want to make sure that you are getting the best education that we can get.

Besides, the teachers have to be there.  You don't.  Your showing up tells the teacher that you appreciate them doing their best job with your child.

Besides, there could be something aMusing at the PTA meeting.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Musings on Playing Bridge

I will never be a Grand Master.  Or a Life Master.  Heck, I'll never earn even 1 point towards any of that.

The ACBL (The American Contract Bridge League) hates my style of play.  'Cause, baby, we roll casual.  We trash talk.  We sing songs.  Last night, we even rolled gangsta-style.  (Okay, white-bread suburbia sanitized  gansta, with no bling, but still....leave me to my fantasies.)  Yeah, this ain't my momma's Bridge Club.  Taunting (good natured, but still taunting) is encouraged.

Spades are the Boss suit.  Queens are Strumpets.  Jacks are Gigolos.  If the contract is for 3 No Trump, a portion of the "My Three Sons" theme must be hummed.  If the contract ends up being in Diamonds, "Diamonds are a Girl's Best Friend," is sung.  If the opposing partnership ends up taking enough tricks for a slam, but slam wasn't bid, your partnership must high-five and say "Slam Defense!"-- especially if your partnership entered the bidding, no matter how briefly.

We discuss a lot of bidding--while we're bidding.  I have a tendency to get lost in the details and Bridge is a lot of details and conventions.  If you're really good, the game is all but won in the bidding.  With the conventions, you describe your hand to the table, but that's okay, because everybody else is describing their hand to everyone as well.

I am not very good.  I'm not even sure I describe my hand very well.  Luckily, my friends, Kim and Charlie, and my husband have played with me long enough that they understand what I'm saying, even if I don't say it very well.  If Charlie is my partner, I tend to bid a little more recklessly.  Luckily, Charlie's a good enough player that he manages to make the game.  I'm a good enough player that I can make it 85% of the time.  And they know that if I keep bidding a suit, even in the face of daunting opposition (like my partner all but shouting, "Stop bidding that suit.  I have no support for it.  I don't care that you have honors!"),  that I have honors (at least 4 of the 5 top cards in a suit) and I want the points, dammit.  We might go down, but I'm getting my points for honors.  If Kim is my partner, I try to focus on what's going on--and if Ken's my partner, well, all bets are off.

Every now and then, at least 3 brain cells rub together and then the magic happens.  I am One with the Bridge Universe and there is no stopping me.  It usually happens when I partner with Kim--probably because I'm actually trying to play Serious Bridge.  I tend to get hands that are heavy on points and good suits.  A few times it all backfires, but unless you know you lost because of dumb playing, hands are dissected and discussed.

But I play Bridge the way I like it.  For fun.  No pressure.  Trash talking encouraged.

Although I like to aMuse myself with the fantasy of leaving some plush salon in Monte Carlo wearing a faux fur floor length coat with my 4 inch stilettos, with the red dress slit-not-all-the-way-to-there.  I take back the leash of my sleek designer dog (Afghan, or maybe a Borzoi or a Wolfhound of some sort) from the bouncer in a tux.  Omar Sharif is slumped at the table, pale and trembling, and says to someone, "Damn, that girl got some serious game."

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Musings on Florida State Football and the Marching Chiefs

It's no secret that I adore the Florida State Seminoles.  It's my mother's fault I'm such an FSU football fan.  Although I went to FSU because my dad had gone there, it was my mom who took me down to Freshman Orientation and bought me student tickets to the games because she "wanted to make sure I got out of the dorms one night a week."

My freshman year, I was not impressed with football.  Didn't get it in high school, didn't get it my freshman year.  Yeah, I was the band geek who brought a book to read while the game was going on and yelled at people during half-time so I could watch the half-time show... and when your band is the Marching Chiefs, the half-time show is worth watching!

I wish TV would show the half-time shows again....

My sophomore year, I was rooming with Kim and Carol and a football fan was born.  Oh, I still yelled at people to sit down during the half-time show, but I learned to appreciate the game, and to be a good fan.  It's okay to want your team to win, and to believe that no matter what they are the morally superior team, but there is no reason to be mean and use foul language about the opposing team.  (Nope, you won't even hear me be mean about the Gators.)

I actually met Coach Bowden twice.  I used to belong to the Seminole Club of Washington, DC, and the club used to be part of the Bobby Bowden Golf Tour (I don't know what it was really called, but Coach Bowden would go around to some of the various Alumni Clubs and play golf with members in the off-season.)  One year, I was able to take the day off and help out.  At the dinner reception, the club had me stay with Coach Bowden and make sure he had pens for autographs.  He was always very nice and gracious to everyone.  The next year, I wasn't able to take the day off, but I made it down to the reception.  I stood in line to get my autograph (really, it was for my grandmother.  She just loved Coach Bowden) and Coach Bowden looked up at me and said, "Hey, you were the Pen Girl last year, weren't you?"  Either I'm that hard to forget, or Coach Bowden is that good.  I'll let you decide.

I didn't like how Coach Bowden was pushed aside.  I'm not saying that Coach Fisher hasn't been great (hey, 10-3 is a really great first season as a Head Coach), but I think that Coach Bowden earned the right to retire when he wanted.  Also, the meanness that was coming out was unnecessary.  I was at FSU at the beginning of the Dynasty Years (seven years after Coach Bowden became Head Coach), and I remember  how thrilling it was when FSU started to be ranked in the National Polls.  I was in Raleigh when FSU joined the ACC.  A lot of the guys in my office had gone to NC State and just looked at me when I told them I'd gone to FSU.  The Friday before the FSU-NCSU game, one of the guys plastered my cubicle with headlines about how NC State had a chance of beating FSU.  I just smiled, took the headlines down, and waited for the game to be played.  That Monday, I got to work a little early and took my revenge.  I'm nice, but I'm not above a little revenge.

Yeah, I'm watching the game against University of La-Monroe on ESPNU.  I wish the score was a little higher, but UL-M is expected to do well in their conference, so they're not the total cupcake team you might think they are.

And just because this commercial aMuses me:  

Go Seminoles!

Friday, September 2, 2011

Musings on Education in the Future.....

There's a lot of new ways for students and teachers to interact with each other using technology that go beyond just having a computer and a program in the classroom.  It makes me excited for the future.

Now, I think that we will always have younger students coming to a building, if for no other reason that you can't leave young children at home alone and even if a parent is tele-commuting, they won't be able to supervise their child while working.  It's possible that high school and college students will be able to "attend" class while at home, but for now, at least, we'll need school buildings for education.

Of course, one of the problems with schools is that they are under-funded in many ways to take advantage of new technology--and technology changes so fast right now that by the time a school or school district buys a new technology, such as a Promethean Board (prices range from $709 - $6,000 per board/system),  or the ELMO (prices range from $500 -$1,500, roughly), something better might available. Even netbooks cost about $400. I am not knocking these technology solutions, just pointing out that using technology costs a lot of money, money that schools/school districts don't always have.  Heck, an overhead projector costs about $300, so no matter what, we're talking big bucks overall (just count how many teachers there are in your school.  Almost every single one of them use some sort of projector at least once a school year, and if they are a "regular" classroom teacher, they use them all the time.  When I taught Spanish, I used about 4 overhead transparencies per class every day).

Of course, if you buy into the technology, you need web resources for students to use, which can be a little tricky.  We want safe and secure places for our children to learn, both in the physical environment, and in the virtual environment.  Luckily, there are a lot of sites schools can use for education.  Promethean Planet has their own programs and websites for use with their Promethean Boards.  Teachers are using wikis (yep,  just like Wikipedia--but not necessarily Wikipedia) for students to virtually discuss topics.  There is also Edmodo, which looks similar to Facebook, for topic discussion.

To really take advantage of new technology, you need to have teachers who are excited by the new possibilities and direction in education.  Not that there isn't value in the "old" ways, but when I look at what is available, I get excited about teaching.

Florida State University (yeah, you knew I'd work them in here somehow, didn't ya?) has a new Certificate Program:  BOLT (Blended Online Learning and Teaching), that I hope to be able to earn.  (For more information, go to

My philosophy about teaching is that the most engaged learners are the most aMused learners.....

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Musings on Schedule Changes and Sleepless Nights

So, the end of August has brought back the start of school, which means that my days of sleeping whenever and getting up whenever are over.   Caulfield, in the comic strip Frazz, sums up my feelings just about perfectly:  "I don't mind learning.  I mind structure."

I have to get up earlier this year than in previous years.  My Older Son is in 6th grade and riding the bus for the first time.  Trying to figure out what time he should be at the bus stop was frustrating.  Our county shows the start time for each bus run, but not what time to expect the bus at each stop.  Do I add 5 minutes for each previous stop?  Should he be at the stop when the run starts?  Consequently, he was at the stop almost 25 minutes early.  Not that I regret that too much....I'd rather be too early than too late.  But would it be too much for the County to put a note telling parents how much time to allow per stop?

Younger Son ended up at school almost 20 minutes early,  too.  Figuring out the timing of all these schedules is going to take a little while.  And then we get to re-adjust once I start subbing again.

With the earlier get-up times, you'd think I'd adjust to a slightly earlier bedtime.  I was tired last night.  Exhausted, in fact.  I wasn't home very much yesterday.  Between running errands and grabbing the things I'd forgotten, I didn't have a chance to sit at home and savor the quiet until almost 2:00.  Not much time to really relax because then I had to start thinking about pick-up time for Younger Son.  When it was finally bed time, did I collapse in a little heap and start dreaming the dreams of the just?  Oh no, I did not.  I did the one thing I knew I shouldn't do.

I started a new book.

I started a new book, even knowing that  I would have to read it until it was finished.  See, new books for me are like Lays Potato Chips:  I can't just read one chapter (Lays used to have an ad slogan of "Betcha can't eat just one."  And no, I can't.  Sometimes, Madison Avenue just adores me).  If the book is good enough, I'll start and I'll think to myself, "Oh, I'll just read a chapter or two, then I'll stop and save the rest for tomorrow."  Next thing I know, it's 2 am and I'm wondering why I started that book so late in the evening.  (For the record, the book in question was Christie Craig's Don't Mess with Texas.  Light romance  whodunit with comedic overtones.  I like her stuff.)

Which means that it's almost 2 pm and my head hurts from lack of sleep, but I can't take a nap now because I'll no sooner start to doze off when I'll have to go get Younger Son and then deal with homework.  Yay.  Oh, the joys of being the at-home parent.

All this is also kind of a roundabout way of saying that I may be an irregular blogger for the next little while.  Until I figure out what the schedule is going to be.

Keep a sense of humor and stay aMused.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Musings on the Dawn of a New Era....

Well, it looks like all my natural disasters are done with, so now I'm waiting for the unnatural disasters:  asteroids (although, that might still be a natural disaster), zombie apocalypse or alien invasion.  I'd say "Bring it," but I don't want to tempt fate too much....

Steve Jobs announced that he was resigning from his position as CEO of Apple.  Frankly, I haven't been paying much attention to the news lately, because really, around here, it's all been about earthquakes and hurricanes and power outages and stuff like that.  Umm, living through it (although, thankfully WITH power), so I don't really need to hear the newspeople yapping about it.  So, I'm assuming that Mr. Jobs is resigning due to whatever health issue he's been dealing with for the past few years.

So, this is my love letter to Apple, and by extension, to Mr. Jobs.

I've been a MAC girl since 1995.  I was working on my teaching certificate, and at that time, the elementary and middle schools in Baltimore County used Macs.  Although there's no blue NEXT button on my Mac (see my entry "Musings on Being a Tech Goddess" if you don't know what I'm talking about), I have always found Macs easy to work on.  Straight-forward.  Even logical to the Missy-brain (which, if you know me, you know does not always work on the same logic that the rest of the world seems to use.  I blame PCs.)

My first Mac came bundled with a Newton.  I liked my Newton.  It was, of course, a pre-courser to the Netbooks, and was only black and white (and didn't have Internet capability), but what was handy for me.  I could easily write my drills for my students, print it out on my laser printer (on the acetate transparency) and have it on my overhead projector before classes changed (about 5 minutes).  My students loved my Newton, too.  I remember one day, I knocked off my desk accidentally and several of my students mourned with me.  We all did the happy dance when it came back from Apple with the repaired screen.

Since that first Mac, we've gotten two others, plus 2 iPod Touches, 1 iPod classic, an iPad and my MacBook Pro.  I love them all.  I love iTunes, although I'm not real happy with Apple insisting on taking a bigger cut from Amazon and Barnes and Noble if I want to buy a book on my iPod Touch with my Barnes and Noble app (okay, in reality, I only buy books on my Nook, and I don't foresee ever being without my Nook, but it's the principle of the matter.  I'm sure Apple will say that they have a good reason for insisting on this, and maybe they do, but I am, sometimes, an unreasonable consumer.)

I really like iTunes customer service.  I recently realized that one of the albums/playlists that I purchased last month was missing a song.  I tried to buy it, but iTunes wouldn't let me (probably because it thought I had already purchased it).  So, I sent an email off to iTunes Customer Service asking what I could do about this.  They reviewed the problem, realized that I should have gotten the song and said they'd refund the purchase price of the album and fix it so that it was as if I hadn't purchased the album/playlist.  Very nice about it.  If you get Guy or Grace, tell 'em I said "Hi!"  They were super (and I intend to send an email to them saying so--actually, I sent one, and I intend to send another.  Maybe I'll even make a phone call to a supervisor and say so.  Which reminds me, if you get good service, please make sure you tell them that.  Most of the time, customer service reps only hear about what a horrible job they (or someone else in CS) has done.  It only takes a moment to thank someone and it really makes their day.  Take it from someone who has worked customer service).

The other night, I had a weird dream.  In my dream, I was...somewhere.  Convention, office building, I'm not sure where.  I had my MacBook with me.  I looked  up, and there was Steve Jobs.  I went over to him to tell him how much I enjoyed my Apple products and to wish him good luck in the future.  He looked pleased that I said that and noticed my MacBook.  He had me put on the desk/ledge/whatever and started doing some cool things with it.  I wish I remember what it was, but it was just cool.  So, thank you, Mr. Jobs (and Mr. Wozniak!) for Apple Computers.  Good luck in the future.

No, Apple's not perfect, but I wouldn't trade any of my Apple products for anything.  I can't wait to see what will happen next.

Keep yourself aMused.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Musings on Lessons Learned....

We lost power for about 16 hours--thankfully, the electrical pole stayed upright this time!
The electrical pole stayed upright!

Lessons learned:

1)  Buy batteries when you don't need to have them.  That way you're not fighting everybody else for them.  Same with toilet paper and bottled water.

2)  When there's no power, there's no wifi router.  So even if everything is all charged up, you still can't update Facebook or Blogs.

3)  When there's no power, the FIOS powered land line is out.  Verizon needs to fix this.

4)  Starbucks and McDonald's are your best friends when the power is out, because they offer wifi to their customers.

5)  A smart phone may be a new priority. so I can check the school websites to see if there is school after an event like this.

6)  Eating ice cream for breakfast is acceptable if there's a power outage.

7)  Make sure you know where the battery operated radios and the flashlights are a few days in advance.

8)  Make sure all your laundry is done before you lose power.

9)  Make sure you know where the tea-light candles are.

10)  Make sure you have good neighbors.  You want to have good friends for the "grill-the-freezer" parties.
Fondue is a good power outage dinner.

11)  A battery operated back up sump pump can be an essential.

12)  A deck or two of cards and a handful of dice can keep the doldrums from hitting.

13)  Have car chargers for all your electronics.

The leaving edge of Irene?

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Musings on Vactions (sort of)

So, before Irene really gets here (she's knocking on the door right now--it's been raining for a couple of hours and it's a bit breezy, but not bad yet), and before school starts (Monday?  Tuesday?  Who knows at the moment!), time to reflect on the past summer...

Haven't done much this summer.  Mostly, I've sat on the porch and written this blog, read books and generally have done nothing.  I haven't even made it to the pool.

Sometimes you need a summer of nothing.  This is what a summer vacation is supposed to be about.  A time to kick back and rest.  The military sends its personnel on "Rest and Relaxation."  Sometimes, I want to be busy and see the sights and do stuff.  This summer, I wanted to do nothing.

Had a birthday.  Celebrated my mom's birthday.  Wished my friends who have summer birthdays happy birthday.  Birthdays are the best.  Birthdays are a time for friends and family to get together and celebrate.  It's not the presents that matter, it's the friends.  Not that I'm opposed to presents.  I love presents.  I love to just look at the wrapped present and imagine what could be inside.  It's kinda like Schrodinger's Cat.  Until I open the present, it could be anything.

Sometimes a vacation trip is just what I want.  We go to Disney World a lot.  My parents have a time share in Orlando (among other places), and are nice enough to share with us.  I love going down to Orlando.  It gives me a chance to meet up with Arlyn.  Now that I've re-found some of my Florida friends, I hope to meet up with Debi and my cousin Chelle.

Not all vacations have to happen during the summer.  I won a trip to Iceland once.  My credit union was holding a raffle.  They called to tell me that I won on my Birthday.  I was pregnant with Younger Boy, so we couldn't take the trip right away.  We went in April.  It was a 2 night, 3 day trip.  This was one of those times when I packed as much as I could into the limited amount of time.  We went on a City tour of Reykjavik, the Blue Lagoon, and a Circle Tour, which took us out to see the Geysir, and Thingvellir National Park.  

Statue of Leifur Eríksson in front of Halgrímskirkja
The Law Rock at Thingvellir National Park

The Geysir

Anyway, I may not have taken any trips, but I've had a great summer.  Now, I'm ready to take on the current school year and all the challenges to come.

(We still have power.  Funny--I'm watching Dr. Who and the Doctor says, "If you all don't prepare for this storm, you will be in terrible danger.  Sometimes synchronicity is pretty funny.)

Stay aMused.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Musings on Battening Down the Hatches

What a week....first, there was an Eathquake (cue Carol King's "I Feel The Earth Move")... then the Gavin DeGraw/Maroon 5/Train concert (OMG!  I channelled my inner 21 year old!), then we had "Meet Your Teacher Day" at the Elementary and Middle School (I was exhausted afterwards), and now we have Hurricane Irene to prepare for....oh, and who knows if we'll have school on Monday....I'm ready to crawl under the bed and not come out for a week!

The worst part about knowing that a major storm is coming is that you don't always know how much you should prepare.  Over-prepare, and you end up with a life time supply of "C" and "D" batteries.  Under-prepare, and you run the risk of not having enough citronella for the Tiki torches.  Trust me, there is nothing worse than not having enough citronella for the Tiki torches.

What's even harder is that the weather forecasters can't tell you exactly how bad it's going to be.  It's not their fault.  There are a lot of factors to consider.  A few miles either way can make a storm a mild annoyance or a catastrophe.

Of course, it doesn't help that very few people actually prepares for eventualities until the last minute.  At the moment, you can't find a "C" or "D" battery to save your soul.  Generators sold out in record time.  Grocery stores have bare shelves where the milk, bread and toilet paper used to be.  I haven't seen people fighting for the *last* of anything, but I'm sure somewhere it'll happen.

Currently, Baltimore County is currently under a Tropical Storm Warning (Friday afternoon).  The worst of the storm is supposed to be Saturday afternoon to Sunday morning.

Don't worry.... I have a USB to cigarette lighter converter....I'll let you know just how bad it is, even if I have to hide in the car......

Stay dry and aMused.....

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Musings on Hurricane Isabel....

I know, it seems like I'm just the Muse of Doom and Gloom, with Hurricane Kate memories and Earthquake postings for the past few days, but my neighbor Kim was a little surprised that I didn't blog about Hurricane Isabel, which was much more of a comedy of errors in a lot of ways.... but I didn't want a blog that went on forever, and since Kate was prompted by a posting on the FSU Facebook page, it didn't seem appropriate....and since we're about to attacked by another "I" Hurricane.....

Now, the true story of Hurricane Isabel can be told.....

In September, 2003, Isabel was a Category 2 Hurricane when she came ashore in North Carolina (much like Irene is supposed to be), but by the time she got to the Baltimore area, she had been downgraded to a Tropical Storm.  While we were extremely lucky, we still had a lot of damage and trouble.

It all started in the late afternoon.  I remember hearing a loud "pop" from the backyard.  One of the trees in the field right behind our next door neighbor's yard had fallen and taken out the electrical pole in my backyard.  I called BGE (Baltimore Gas and Electric) to report the damage.  Not long after, the Fire Department came to assess the damage.

View from Younger Son's room of the downed electrical pole


Fortunately, the tree fell between our houses, but the Fire Department recommended that we find someplace else to sleep that night.  Thankfully, our neighbors Hal and Kim offered us floor space in their living room.

So, with that settled, we headed down to our other neighbor's home for a Hurricane Party.  The grown-ups stayed upstairs, talking and eating potluck.  The kids went downstairs into the basement and played games. Nick was almost 3 1/2 at this point, and Christopher not even 1, so they stayed mostly with us, although Nick would go downstairs and play for a little while.

Mostly, we got high winds and rain.  It rained so much that Hal and Kim's basement flooded a bit and they had to ask neighbors who face Frederick Road (and therefore still had power), if the could run some extension cords to keep the back-up sump pump going all night.

After the night that we spent at Hal and Kim's, Ken and I went back to our house to assess damage.  We decided that it didn't seem like there was any water damage (other than a little dampness in the basement, I think), we would spend the rest of the Hurricane Recovery time in our own home.

Our street was blocked by a downed Bartlet Pear tree, for which reason I have vowed never to plant one of those suckers.  If it's not hurricane proof, I want no part of it.....Road crews, luckily, cleared it out quickly so that we could get out, although with much of Catonsville without power for the first few days, there wasn't anyplace to really go to....

With no power, we were forced to amuse ourselves the old fashioned way, by hanging out.  We would have nightly Tiki parties.  The kids would run around while we grown-ups sat around and talked about everything and nothing.....

There were so many lines down that it took almost all of a week for BGE to finally get around to repairing our downed line.  In Maryland, Delaware and West Virginia, there were 1,416,000 residences without power (Dept of Commerce Service Assesment)  When the crews finally got to us, we were so happy!
Out of state electrical crew comes to the rescue!
Older Son watching the crew
Watching the electrical crew was the big entertainment of the day

Hopefully, Hurricane Irene will be kinder to us.  She's expected to have an impact on our area on Saturday or Sunday.  School is supposed to start Monday.  Rest assured, I'll let you know how it all happens.

A few more Hurricane tips, courtesy of my friend Arlyn, who still lives in Florida:

With the loss of power, comes the loss of access to ATMs.  Pumps at the gas stations can't work without power, so it's vital that you get money and a full tank of gas before the storm hits.  

Make sure you have food for your pets as well as yourself.

Don't forget to stock up on batteries and flashlights.

A few that I remember:

If you are sheltering in place, make sure you fill those tubs and anything else with water before the storm hits.  Any water that you get from the tap after the storm should probably be boiled--just for safety's sake.

If you have to evacuate, it may be a long time before you get someplace where you'll be able to find available lodgings--remember, everybody in your area will be leaving, too.

Cell phones may not be working.  If the towers go down, it will cause disruptions

Even if you think the power company should've been able to repair your lines faster, don't take out your frustrations on the repair crews.  Yes, they're getting paid well, but some of them are coming from out of state to help out.  Be nice.  Thank them for their hard work.  They're doing the best they can.

Ocean City, Md is facing mandatory evacuations now.....oh, let the fun begin!

Time to go be aMused.....