Thursday, August 30, 2007

Speaking of Immaturity, I Got Budged at the Bank

Yes, I'm standing in line at the bank and this dude just comes up, stands to the side of the line, and when it moves forward, inserts himself in front of me! Low-down dirty good-for-nothing BUDGER!!!!!!

I didn't say anything partly because I was so surprised, and partly because despite the "AnimeCentral2000" T-shirt, he looked mean and angry.

I don't think I've been budged since I was 7, and that was probably back-budgies, so it was at least morally semi-legitimate. This was just bald-faced budging. Appalling.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

I May Be Immature, But I Have Great Aim

My husband and I were eating at Vallarta's the other night (where he drank like 3/4 of my margarita, but whatever) and I was struck by a sudden fit of immaturity: I felt the overwhelming urge to blow my straw wrapper at my husband.

Which I promptly did.

And which I shot right into his open mouth as he ferried a salsa-loaded chip into it! He just stopped dead and looked shocked. I felt really bad, but I was laughing so hard I was crying nonetheless. (In fact, I'm chortling as I type this.)

That may cure me of straw-wrapper blowing for a while.

Bus Update

Superintendent Hinton told Diane Vespa that a policy will be put in place ASAP. Kudos to him. Further bulletins as events warrant, as Calvin used to say.

Monday, August 27, 2007

What Other Districts Do with Misplaced Children on Buses

I got on the horn and called around a little. This is what I was told:

Chicago Public Schools: Spoke with a department employee. On district buses, drivers are in constant contact with dispatch. If an misplaced child (whose parents haven't yet called in a panic) is on the wrong bus, the child is taken to the nearest Park District location and turned over to the police for safekeeping until the parents are located and the child returned home safely. If drivers in contact with dispatch are able to match up missing parents and children, other steps may be taken, or the child may be taken to a Park District site so the police can return them home.

Rockford District 205: Spoke with the director there, Gregg Wilson. Drivers check children's names off a list, and children are not allowed to get off at the wrong stop. (This might not have helped if Diane's son's name was on the wrong list.) If the child says, "This isn't my stop" and/or starts to cry, the driver immediately stops, tries to call dispatch, and returns to the terminal with the child. He said that during the first few days of school, the amount of radio traffic can make calling in to dispatch difficult or impossible, but that drivers attempt to do so and may use personal cell phones to call in via phone. He also said that parents are always notified as soon as they are aware of a misplaced child, told where the child is, and given a time estimate on how long it will be before their child is returned to them. He usually speaks with parents personally. He expressed surprise that 150 would have problems with radio contact among the buses (unless it was first-week traffic overload) and confidence that our transpo people here are good and would resolve the situation. His secretary informed me that when a child is misplaced or missing, nobody in the department goes home until the child is found.

Edited to add: Rockford did tell me they actually had exactly this problem today, a little boy who had the same first name as another little boy and ended up on the wrong bus, then freaked out and said to the driver, "I don't live here," and Wilson told me it went down basically exactly as detailed above. He also did emphasize that these errors do happen, that it's a terrible thing, but they do happen. Which seems to me all the more reason to have a policy in place!

I called a few suburban districts, but their transportation directors had already gone home for the day.

I did not attempt to call Michael Sullivan -- it's too late in the day now (I initially posted at 4:30 as the timestamp says but edited as I got more info from making calls) -- so I did not have an opportunity to request the official District 150 policy for these situations. But it seems clear that there either is no policy, as Diane was told by lower-level officials, or that policy was not followed if 150's policy is similar to Chicago's or Rockford's.

District 150 Loses Child on First Day, Seems Puzzled When Parent Upset, Applicable Official Blows Off Meeting with Parent

You can get the full story here on peoria.com, but basically Diane Vespa's child was put on the wrong bus because of a clerical error. NINETY MINUTES after school let out, the school and transpo people had still not located her kindergartener. The school was helpful. The transpo people were not, and seemed puzzled as to why she was, you know, screaming hysterically into the phone. (Eventually the bus driver of the wrong bus brought him home.)

Anyway, she met with the District 150 transpo people (that post is on page 3 at peoria.com), and the District 150 Transportation Supervisor, Michael Sullivan, did not show up for the meeting. He sent a deputy supervisor and a field inspector. There are no emergency lost-child procedures in place and, Diane was informed, they have no intention of putting any emergency lost-child procedures in place.

The level of "unacceptable" going on here is unreal. It boggles my mind that the district doesn't already have lost-child procedures in place, since "kids on wrong bus" is not an unusual occurrence. There should at least be ways to communicate between the buses, dispatch, and the school or district administration. It should not take more than 15 minutes on CBs or radios or cell phones to locate a misplaced child if that child is still on the bus. And it certainly should not take more than 15 minutes to discover that the child has LEFT THE SYSTEM (gotten off at the wrong stop, been kidnapped) so that the police can be called and the cavalry called in.

I'm totally gobsmacked. Apparently to find a misplaced child in District 150, we have to put out an Amber Alert on school buses!

It's one thing not to have any procedures in place because your slap-dash method of coping with lost children on buses has worked until now. (Although with the number of emergency procedures District 150 does have in place for everything from tornadoes to school shootings, I'm rather shocked there's no lost-child procedure.) To state that now that the flaws in the system have been vividly and horrifyingly highlighted, you have no intention whatsoever of putting into place basic, commonsense procedures is irresponsible to the extreme. And, I must add, begging for a lawsuit -- the defense of which would be at taxpayer expense, of course.

Diane's a little worried that people might get annoyed with her for making a fuss about this. The heck you say! RABBLE MUST BE ROUSED, people. Fuss must be made. School board members must be petitioned. Administrators must be hassled. This is the institution responsible for our children 6 hours a day, and these are OUR public employees and OUR tax dollars at work. I want some answers, and I want them stat, and I want them from Michael Sullivan.

Peoria and District 150 talk a lot about wanting to lure and keep young professionals in the city instead of losing them to Dunlap and District 323. Well here's a memo: 1) Don't lose their children to start with; 2) Find them faster when you do; and 3) Send the highest-possible level official to answer to parents instead of blowing them off. And, hey, 4) Recognize when your policies are useless and fix them.

Administration contacts are here; transportation contacts are here; and your school board member contacts are here. Get to it. (And while we're at it, Keller's principal's contact info is here, and he deserves major props as the only person in this farce who was helpful.)

I look forward to responses from District 150's Transportation department and Administration, as well as the school board. I would like to know how they plan to address this issue and I am hopeful they will do so quickly and well.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

My Shameful Love

for LOL Cats.

I totally want to make this my ad:

Need a Lawyer?

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

What Are You Reading?

Eyebrows is feeling a bit fidgety trying to find some good fiction to read lately. So tell me what you're reading now, or read lately, that you enjoyed.

I've been on a Jane Austen kick all summer long, so I just finished re-reading Pride and Prejudice for the 2nd time this summer, and decided to have a go at George Eliot's Middlemarch, which is one of those books I'm always meaning to read but never do. I've also begun Douglas Hofstadter's Pulitzer-Prize winning Gödel, Escher, Bach, but it requires a lot of concentration for someone like me without a ton of math, so it's been pushed a bit to the side while I prepare lectures for my philosophy class.

I had picked up some fiction at the library, which turned out to be a riff on Machiavelli's The Prince (and on Par Lagerkvist's The Dwarf, which is a riff on The Prince, only it's good; you should really read it), only it was AWFUL. Characters walking up to one another and saying things like, "Well, Jane, you've become the wife of a powerful Duke and squeezed lots of money out of your peasants. What's next -- angling for Queen?" Because good Machiavellians always discuss their evil plotting in public, the better to advance the exposition of a weakly-written novel. Just so you know.

I've also recently chugged through The Dangerous Book for Boys (British authors doing American edition not quite clear on meaning of "gerrymandering"), Naomi Novik's Temeraire series, Lois McMaster Bujold's new "Sharing Knife" books (1st is good, 2nd goes nowhere and takes 300 pages to do it, apparently because she decided it'd be a trilogy instead of a pair while in the midst of book 2), and pretty much everything by L.M. Montgomery, because Jane Austen kicks frequently occur in concert with L.M. Montgomery kicks.

So what are you reading? What should I read? Do share.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Back to School

Started back to class today. Only slightly hoarse. Very, very busy trying to get everything in order! Taking a class this semester as well, Basic Nutrition, which is already making me feel guilty. Teaching Ethics, Business Ethics, and Philosophy. So far, so good!

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Profiling at the Drug Store

I'm at Walgreens this afternoon picking up spousal junk food and some toilet paper, as I am nearly out. I grabbed the big 12-roll package because, well, who wants to have to buy toilet paper again right away?

Now, I'm wearing a T-shirt and shorts with my hair in a ponytail, and I realize that in such get-up, particularly when my hair is in a ponytail, I look much younger than my age, and I'm used to being carded at normal carding-type activities when I am so dressed.

So I get to the check-out and the cashier says, suspiciously and intently, as if she really doesn't know the answer, "What's the toilet paper for?"

I was completely taken aback, literally stumped into silence, because she really sounded like she wanted to know and I could not imagine how a 50-something woman would not already know what toilet paper was for, nor why she would ask such a rude question. I stood there staring for a long moment, with a puzzled and indignant, "For wiping my butt," on the tip of my tongue before I finally managed to stammer, "I'm almost out."

She continues to stare narrowly at me for a long moment and it slowly dawns on me, from the dim recesses of my memory, that I recall enforcing an anti-TPing policy when I worked at a five-and-dime type place in high school, whenever teenagers tried to buy large quantities of toilet paper, because obviously no teenagers are ever sent to the store to buy toilet paper for their mothers; the ONLY reason for buying toilet paper while teenaged is vandalism.

"I'm twenty-nine!" I blurt. I'm still quite befuddled by this whole interchange and my mind and mouth are not quite functioning in concert.

She finally (but still suspiciously) rings up my toilet paper.

Now I'm really glad I didn't try to buy Sudafed!

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

The Feline Bathroom Regiment

Grey Cat has loved showers since he was a kitten, when he would not let me out of his sight (because I caused the food to appear) and followed me into the bathroom and then would wail piteously while patrolling the sink because the mean nasty loud water was trying to kill me. Eventually he discovered that he likes the heat and steam and never, ever, ever misses a shower. He believes we run a private sauna for him. This becomes slightly problematic when we have house guests, since Grey Cat knows how to open the bathroom door and simply lets himself in when someone is in the shower (leading to draughts of FREEZING COLD AIR in the dead of winter). We always have to warn people, "We're not perverts, it's just our cat."

Orange Cat has always hated the shower, but lately he has taken to napping nearly all day in the bathroom for reasons unknown. So whenever one of us goes up to the bathroom to take a shower, Orange Cat wakes up, stretches, and with great dignity vacates the premises, and Grey Cat, with equally great dignity, walks in and takes up Orange Cat's sleeping spot. GOD FORBID you close the door before they have finished the changing of the guard; disturbing the cat routine leads to much unhappiness and periodic claw-related scars.

I find the whole thing is unutterably amusing, while I stand there in my bathrobe waiting for a full-on ceremonial exchange of watch-cat duties.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Extendo-Party

One of the great privileges of being an adult, aside from being able to have a beer with lunch (a totally underappreciated luxury, that), is being able to celebrate your events as long as you bloody well want to, as there are no authority figures to say, "Look, your birthday was over three weeks ago." Which is generally to say, we spent about a week celebrating our 5th anniversary (which was last Friday) starting a week ago today with the Chef Kevin dinner and winding up yesterday at Rizzi's for more food. "Should we go to a movie? For our anniversary, I mean." "Let's order some pizza -- it's our anniversary."

Alas, I think we've about run that excuse into the ground. On the plus side, I have enough leftovers in my fridge that I can put off grocery shopping at least another two days!

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Eyebrows Loves Bureaucracy

I was filling out a W-4 today and, as I always do, took my passport for my supporting document. I've never had a problem before. Not so today. Now, this is not verbatim; this is basically the gist of the argument I had with the woman. I gave her my passport, and she said, "I need your social security card."

"No you don't, you have my passport."

"I need your SSC so we can file your tax paperwork."

"No you don't."

"It's the employment eligibility document."

"So's a passport. They're only given to U.S. citizens; therefore, DEFINITIONALLY, if I possess a US passport, I am eligible to work in this country." (I did say that part.)

"The law says you have to have give me your social security card."

"The law is right here on the back of the W-4 and quite clearly states I can use my passport. It's the VERY FIRST document listed." (I wasn't so snippy about that part.)

And here we get to the real reason: "Well, EVERYBODY ELSE gives me their drivers' license and social security card!"

But, as my mother always told me, I am not everybody else. (And she's not everybody else's mother.) I didn't say that, though. After arguing about it with me further, she finally agreed to take the passport but warned me darkly that I'd probably have to come back because my paperwork was inadequate.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Five Years Ago Today, I Think I Was Sobbing from Stress

So this Friday my husband and I have our five-year wedding anniversary. FIVE YEARS! Counting backwards from the day of the wedding, I'm pretty sure this is the day I finally lost it and just started crying from all the stress of all the last-minute wedding things.

Anyway, I can hardly believe it's already been five years. The internet informs me that 18% of couples are divorced by five years. Sometimes I marvel that we're both still alive, since two type-A lawyers in one household makes for some headbutting, typically including arguments wherein somebody demands somebody else adhere to the rules of evidence and then degenerates into arguments about if X piece of evidence of failure to clean the kitchen is allowed, whether Y piece of evidence of failure to empty the litterboxes is also admissible to the argument.

My husband is hard to shop for, because he mostly only covets books, and you can only give so many special books as meaningful presents. So this year, I was creative and I hired Chef Kevin to come and cook us a super-awesome gourmet dinner at home. I think as a gift it was quite a success, and as a meal it was a DEFINITE success. In fact, I think we're still both in food-induced stupors, and there was this fondue-in-a-pastry thing that I swear I am going to learn to make because I think I could eat nothing but that for the entire rest of my life.

(There is a 2nd part to his present but I haven't finished it yet. Maybe I'll be done by the actual anniversary on Friday.)

Monday, August 06, 2007

Thursday, August 02, 2007

My Pedicurist Outdoes Herself

So this was a good thing -- and AWESOME thing -- in my otherwise Murphy week. Check out these super-elaborate flowers my pedicurist did on my toes:



(I know it's a little hard to see detail even that close up. I also have discovered there's not really any way to crop a picture of toes that doesn't make them look creepy.)

I seriously overtipped.

National Nails, in Northwoods, right by the Smo-King Pit.

Murphy's Law Is Ruling My Life

It's a truism of life that when things all START going wrong at once, they tend to KEEP going wrong for quite a while before it all starts turning back around at once. ANY DAY NOW my universe wants to go back to normal is okay with me.

My husband and I have been testing our marriage in one of the traditional ways: Home improvements we're not particularly qualified to do. In our case, a new screen/storm door. (He keeps calling it a "glass" door and I have to keep explaining that a glass door is like a French door to your patio or something, whereas the door that goes in front of your front door is a STORM door or a SCREEN door depending on the season. He thinks this is stupid.) Our old door was a) ugly and b) not functioning in any fashion like a DOOR. It didn't latch, the full-length glass insert was held in by just two brackety things (should have had 8 to 10) so the glass swung relatively free, it didn't even up with the door hole so it didn't insulate (even if the glass had been in properly) and it had no screen insert. We couldn't actually leave the front door open ever (not that there's much point without a screen) because Grey Cat knew how to push the storm door open since it didn't latch. Sometimes wind would just blow it open for funsies and scare the crap out of us.

Anyway, we bought this uber-door at Menard's and it all went really well until we got to the latching part, which is NOT GOING WELL AT ALL and if it won't latch, there was no point to replacing the crappy old one. Very frustrating. I can SEE the screen but I can't USE the screen. It's sitting there all tantalizing me and stuff, not latching.

(Grey Cat thinks this is the best project ever and keeps trying to escape. Orange Cat just LOOKS at him, because the food lives INSIDE and only morons want to go outside.)

Amid all this door trauma, I received a piece of Amish-made furniture I had ordered which MY MAIL PERSON BROKE. At least, I am forced to assume it was my mail person. The one who hates mail. The one who routinely drops or throws packages on my steps despite knowing I work at home. The one who has necessitated return upon return of things we ordered because she destroyed them. The one who THREW HARRY POTTER AT MY DOOR WHEN SHE COULD SEE ME SITTING OUTSIDE AT MY NEIGHBOR'S GARAGE SALE AND HAD JUST SAID HI TO ME.

Do you know how much work it takes to break a piece of utilitarian Amish-made furniture? It's built like a Mack truck. So I've finally complained. Probably she should not have destroyed expensive furniture during Murphy's Law week. I can't take it anymore.

Otherwise, my inbox is overflowing, I'm out of clean laundry, my cupboards are Mother Hubbard bare, and the Secretary of State wants to charge me obscene amounts of money to renew my plates (of COURSE that bill comes during Murphy's Law week). And yesterday I'm trying to find something to eat for lunch, realize the lettuce in my fridge has gone bad, and get myself in a snit over it. It wasn't until I went to bed that night that it dawned on me that I've got a whole row of lettuce that's just come up in my garden and I could have made myself a salad if I'd just thought for a second.

So I'm feeling a little sulky. Any time you want to do a U-Turn, universe! ANY TIME NOW!

ADDENDUM: Craaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaap. In the 30 minutes since I posted, I got ink pen on my new clothes AND discovered I have to go to the DMV.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Blogger Bash!

Blogger Bash last night was, as PI noted, particularly awesome. Lots more women there than usual, so we were having a hoot down at the non-serious end of the table. Huge turnout, and great fun. Everybody should come to the next one!

(I think the private room helped make it awesome, so props to Chef Kev!)