February 2008

So my employer is having a tribute to Black History month.  On February 28th.  Which sort of makes me suspect that they hit February and they were like, oh F—, we’d better do something – quick , how quickly can we book someone?!?

Now, it’s better than nothing, the tribute that is.  And the group that is doing some singing and dancing sounds pretty cool because in addition to touring they run an inner city arts center in a big city several hours away.  What’s ironic, is that here is this performance group, that’s also some kind of non-profit that provides vital enrichment services to poorly served neighborhoods, which are predominantly African-American, and what is my employer spending resources on?  Hiring this group to entertain some people hours away in a predominantly white area, presumably so it can can feel like it’s doing it’s part to support diversity.  Now, I’m hoping that the performance comes with a big fat appearance fee and/or donation to the arts center, but wouldn’t it make more sense to  spend money more directly?* 

I mean, I understand its Black History month, but isn’t part of the emphasis is not only to recognize achievements of the past, but by doing so, enable successes in the future?  You’d think my employer could spend its energies in either doing a donation campaign for this great organization or perhaps encourage more spending in the arts generally, which in underfunded schools, goes lacking?  That, to me, would be more to the point.

 * Don’t get me wrong, I think outreach about fabulous programs is great – particularly if the group has a good opportunity to talk about some of their  work that might encourage the audience to support it.  But I’m guessing few, if any, of my fellow employees will go, although my employer generously encouraged supervisors to be “flexible” about letting employees re-arrange their lunch hour or use their vacation time to attend.  And since the notice about the event came out on the 26th, for an event on the 28th, my impression is that this is a totally half-assed PR event.   Which pisses me off.**

**Kind of like the way that the week of MLKJr day is the only time you hear schools or media talking about civil rights and/or racism.  An acquaintance of mine had kids (high-school age, who should know better) who literally did not know why they had the day off that week – they assumed it was some sort of faculty enrichment day.   Seems to me that faculty should start enriching their students, with knowledge, dammit.


I watched the Oscars last night as I do every year.  I’ve seen so few movies that there was  only one of all the movies nominated for anything that I had seen: Once, nominated for best song.  Because I hadn’t followed all the nomination hype I had’nt even known it was up for it.  Then I got giddy because itwas so remarkable.  So I sat with both toes and fingerse crossed hopinng they would win (and then I changed that to hoping that none of those dreadful songs from Everlasting won (ugh, all totally packaged those pieces) because I didn’t want to be wishing against the cute 11 ear old involved in the other song.)  Anyway, I was thrilled for them when they won.

If you haven’t seen Once,  go and rent it.  It’s is a lovely little film, very low budget, but all the yearning and confusion are so well done.  After I’d seen it I wanted to invite the characters over for coffee to find out what they were up to, but seeing the musicians/actors from the film singing one of the many songs from it was  and winning the Oscar was almost as good.

fyI: the backspace key on my home computer is broken so if some of t my typing over the next few weeks is abysmal, that is why.  Just can’t get the same flow when you have to go back, highlight & delete.

I moved frequently as a young child.  Until I was 10, I never lived anywhere more than about 18 months; one place as little as two weeks (where I was born), totaling seven states (multiple cities in several) and one other country.   Then, we settled and stayed in the same town until I graduated from highschool.  I went to college about as far away as I could from my hometown.  After college graduation, I moved to the big city, where mr. jolt had moved a year earlier. 

I remember vividly my first days in the city.  I was one of the fortunate few of my graduating class that had a job (it was the early 90s), but I had a few weeks before it started.  The city was completely overwhelming to me, having spent all my formative years in small towns, outer suburbs, or or rural areas.  And it took forever to feel connected, to feel like I had any stake in the city and what happened to it.  Twelve years later, when I felt like I owned the city, when I knew my immediate neighborhood inside out, we moved several hours away.

Once again, it took a lot of time to feel connected.  I now feel like I have a decent circle of friends – people I do girl’s night out with, couples we have over for dinner, families we do playdates with.  But I still find it hard to become invested in the local community, other than the school that the boys go to.

A large part of this is that I have no idea how long we’ll be here.  As an academic,  mr. jolt would like to be at a larger university, to be part of a larger academic community.  While this is a great area to raise kids in, and we wouldn’t be unhappy if we were here until the kids went to college, we would be putting some career aspirations aside to do so (my ‘dream job’ isn’t available here).

It makes it hard on a lot of little levels – do I paint the house to cover the thousands of scrapes, dents, etc. made by the boys?  Or do I wait until just before we put the house on the market?  Do I bother replacing the hideous drapes left in the front of the house by the previous owners, or not bother?  Do I gun it at work with the idea of leaping up the ladder in some of our sister organizations? (there’s nowhere to go where I am unless somebody moves or dies)  Or do I work hard enough to do well, do a B+ effort because I won’t be here long enough to move up?  Should we move into a better school district, or do we not bother because we may not be here in a year or two?

All of this combines to form a sense of rootlessness, of disconnectedness.   I don’t deal well with uncertainty, generally speaking.  And yet, I’ve become used to a sense of underlying uncertainty that infects all my decisions.  There is no predictability in the lateral academic market — you never know when an opportunity at a school one is interested in will open up.  And even if you hear of an opportunity, it may be a place that one has absolutely no intention of moving to (this has happened once or twice to mr. jolt already).

Anyway, I have been constantly gnawing at this issue, like a baby on a teething ring, and I still haven’t figured out any solutions.  Every few months, mr. jolt will hear of a rumor here, rumor there of possible opportunities and we evaluate – do we have any interest in moving wherever it is?  Should he pursue it?  So far, none of the opportunities has been worth chasing.  None of the locales would make it worth uprooting.  In part, we both would like the next move to be IT, at least until the boys go to college, but more and more, I think that is an unrealistic expectation.  Recently, mr. jolt heard of a possibility that is not, on its face, out of the question.  We’re having dinner together Saturday night to belatedly celebrate our dating anniversary and the question of whether to explore the option will be heavily discussed.

Once again, the selections that arrived for this month’s cheese of the month club were a mix: two cheeses that, while excellent, are not at all unusual.  And one I hadn’t had before: Cantal.

Cantal is a French cow’s milk cheese and is an older style, older than Roquefort and Livarot (according to the flyer that came with it).  I think it looks somewhat like Gruyere, and has a somewhat similar flavor, but the texture is softer.  The consistency is of a sharp cheddar, so it’s easier to slice.  Also, I think the flavor is nuttier than Gruyere, with a hint of butter.

Cantal comes in several types, one made from raw milk, Cantal Fremier, and the other from pastuerized milk, Cantal Laitier.  The sample I had was the latter.  It would be great in a gratin or soup, but as a French poet once said, “To elaborate on Cantal is an error of taste; it is all simplicity.”  Delicious!

So mr. jolt swanned off today to teach his class where he’s a visiting professor; as usual he’ll stay over to teach and go to the classes he’s taking tomorrow before gallivanting off to warmer climes for a conference, leaving me with the children for 5 days.  Tonight, however, I had a professional/social meeting so I arranged the sitter.  I arrive at home at 10, thinking, hmm, maybe I can just go to bed!

Then I remembered, oh, I need to make a lunch for LB.

Then I remembered, oh, tomorrow is Valentine’s Day.

Then I remembered, oh fffffffft, we never did cards.  So I do cards for LB’s class, hoping I can get BB to write his own classmates’ names in the morning (if not, it will take me 5 minutes).

Then I remembered, oh FFFFFFT, I never had mr. jolt sign us up to bring stuff for either class party.  Double ffffft!!  I can’t run out to the store because the kids are asleep and it’s just me.  Quick! Open the pantry- what can be there?

Let’s just hope that the kids like “butterscotch drop cookies” (found on the side of a box of cake mix, with a convenient bag of butterscotch chips perched above) with pink, purple, and red sugar on top.   I’ll let you know.

Update 1: I burned the first batch b/c I didn’t set the timer right.  This is what happens when you try to bake after a couple of beers.  Triple FFFFT!!

Update 2: Hmm, not bad.  Not as good as chocolate chip, but not bad.  Because I burned the first batch I only have enough cookies for one of the classes, so I ran downstairs to where I stash all the leftover party favors. Score!  I’ve got enough animal stencils for BB’s class and LB’s class gets the cookies.  Lesson: never throw out extra party favors – they will save your ass some cold night in February when you can’t run out to the store for cookies.

Every parent gets at least one minor adventure with plumbing — a golf ball or other object flushed down inappropriately.  BB and LB, however, have decided that such plebian plumbing pastimes do not fully express their appetite for destruction.

Initially, they explored the ordinary mis-flushing opportunities.  Not content with plugging up merely the toilet, they decided to go for the gold, to plug up the sump pump that moves the excresences of the basement toilet up to the street-level sewage line.  Not only did they manage to plug up the pump, they plugged it so bad that we had several inches of fetid sewagey water sitting in one unfinished corner of our basement.  Pleasant, no?  Many baby items I’d planned to pass onto expectant friends were fatally damaged in the deluge.  The bright side was that they didn’t actually break the sump pump so when we wrote the check to roto-rooter for $300 we felt happy it wasn’t $800.

For their next act, they struck during a brief lull in winter weather last year.  During a freezing few days, mr. jolt and I suddenly noticed a severe dip in our water pressure, particularly in our shower.*  We called the water company, which came to inspect, but couldn’t find the problem because the pipe leading into the house was buried in snow.  The next day, while picking up toys in the living room, I heard a faint gushing sound outside.  I glanced out the window and  saw that our outside faucet was on, full force.   Turns out that during the brief thaw, one of the boys turned on two of our outside spigots full force, which then spewed water for over 48 hours.  That months’ water bill: $300.  For February.

This evening, I was down in the basement looking for something** when water from our other sump pump, which pumps out ground water underneath the house,*** started spraying madly all over a corner of the basement, sending me shrieking upstairs.  I figured that maybe the end of the sump pump pipe, which merely pours the water out next to our back patio had frozen over.  I should have known better; it was not that simple.  One of the dynamic duo had placed a bucket under the end of the pipe so that over the course of several days as water was pumped up and froze, an entire bucket of water froze up over the end of the pipe.  The resulting pressure busted the pipe connections in the basement between the pump and the outflow pipe, resulting in my impromptu basement shower.  Do you know how many pitchers of steaming hot water it takes to melt a bucket of ice?  I do-yippee!   We’ve patched together pump and pipe with duct tape until a plumber can get here.

Stay tuned for future adventures in plumbing . . .

*Our shower on its best days is a tiny spigot in a too big space that never steams up.

**What I was looking for in the basement was something to repair other destruction in the house, which could easily be the subject of another half dozen blog posts.

***We’re on top of a hill – how on earth is there groundwater underneath the top of the hill?  I’m wondering if we’re on top of a natural spring?

jolt: It’s after 3!  You could have called, when you said 1pm or 2ish, I hoped for earlier so we didn’t go anywhere; we’ve been sitting around waiting.  You know I hate waiting around more than anything!

mr. jolt: You’re right; I’m really sorry.

jolt: You know, I really hate it when you get all nice and sorry.  I get all worked up to be really pissed off and you don’t even let me get a good head of steam going.

mr. jolt: I’m sorry I apologized.  I’ll try not to do it again.

jolt: And on a day when I’m reading a novel about oppressed wives in the 1920 and 1950s – that doesn’t help, you know!

mr. jolt: <snort>

Complete cure effected by judicious errand run by myself, leaving him with the boys and his mom.  Needless to say, the latte I got while I was out helped immensely.

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