Tag Archives: baltimore

Bouncing among books

I picked up Color of Law again because it seems timely. Put down Lafayette in the Somewhat United States: Vowell’s style just doesn’t work for me. Enjoyed Bujold’s novella, The Physicians of Vilnoc, a Penric and Desdemona story that suits today in some ways; I can’t decide if the resolution works because it is so simple and pat within the story itself or if it just frustrates me given that is not a realistic expectation for our current parallel. I pulled Zinn’s History off the shelf, but I’m not going to re-read it until I’ve finished CoL. At some point I want to resume reading Chernow’s biography of Alexander Hamilton – I set it down a few years ago about 1/3 in and haven’t gone back; after listening to the Hamilton soundtrack last week and noticing all of the liberties taken relative to that 1/3, I’m curious about the rest. And I kinda of wonder if fans of the musical realize *how* AU it is.

The Maryland primary election was held on 6/2, but the results for many of the Baltimore races – where the primary is effectively the general – weren’t finalized until 6/9 due to logistical issues involved in the mailing. [Which was NOTHING nearly as bad as Georgia’s election mess from this past week.] Anyway, the new mayor-to-be was trailing significantly before the mailed votes were finalized, and the then-leader was the former mayor who had resigned in 2010 and was charged with theft/corruption and perjury. I…really don’t understand that on a fundamental level.

Work has been as usual for the most part. The conference/training we were planning for August has been canceled and we’ll try to reschedule for next fiscal year; I just don’t think anyone will be willing or able to travel in August or even September. We have not been told anything about plans for after 7/15, when in theory we would go back to the office. But I don’t think it will happen. People have been asking about reimbursement for computer equipment at home since March and have been told no consistently, but that changed this week. Now a small amount is reimbursable as income, which makes me think they are preparing to tell us we should expect to be working from home for a while longer and people will need to improve their work at home setups.

Random thought brought to you by nice weather and my open windows: why do motorcyclists bother with radios? It’s been really noticeable lately, motorcyclists blasting music loud enough for the rider(s) to hear it, meaning loud enough to drown out the engine and to be heard for blocks around. That volume seems like it cannot possibly be healthy for the riders themselves long term.

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Week whatever of working from home: now with protests

Today’s Chomsky-esque translation exercise in Duolingo.

In other news, my neighborhood has been relatively quiet for the last week, given its proximity to staging for marches on Saturday and Monday. Lot of helicopters Monday. Woke at 3am this morning to a fire alarm: not my smoke detector but the piercing, building-wide wail that I’ve only heard during tests before. Unknown people set the recycling and trash on the curb on fire. Fire department was on scene before everyone was out of the building, and there’s no damage to the building, but it’s disturbing in retrospect. Went for a walk south this evening, after walking north and west the last couple of days. A bunch of small businesses have boarded up but have signs that they are open still. Not all have. I think most of the boarded businesses were damaged in 2015 and did it as a precaution this time around.

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Entertainment

Channel surfing this evening, I ran across two older movies:  Miss Congeniality and Star Trek (2009).  I had forgotten that a young Chris Hemsworth had his big movie debut (but not overall debut) in the ST reboot.  And I’m reminded that the Chris Pine version of Kirk is not an improvement or equal even to Shatner’s.  Ugh.   But Karl Urban’s Bones is terribly pretty.  Twenty years after the fact, I have mixed feelings about Miss Congeniality still, but still watch it when I run across it, like The Princess Bride and any/all of the Harry Potter movies.

I ordered a Portuguese-English dictionary and a conversational grammar book.  Duolingo is not cutting in.  At some point, I may sign up for lessons online.

Work remains a little less than ideal.  We have no idea when we may reopen.  Even if there is an official reopening, the lack of public transportation and lingering health/childcare issues will probably mean that a large chunk of time will still be spent teleworking.  (I do not want to drive into DC every day but also do not want to get onto a a bus or train.)  We are working at a pace >35% over last year but with fewer people.  It’s not sustainable.  Everyone is stressed out.  Our best (IMO) contractor gave notice: he’s moving to a different contract with better benefits.  I’m happy for him – he’s very thoughtful and methodical and diligent, and he is early in his career, so this is a good move for him.  But it kinda leaves us in the lurch – which was a known risk that everyone ignores – because he’s got a lot of expertise that no one else in the group has; I come closest but would be the first person to say that is NOT my area of expertise and I don’t have the bandwidth (or interest) to become an expert.

ETA:  While I was out for a walk on Sunday, I ran into the owner of a couple of small, local businesses.  He was prepping for the lunch carry out at one of them.  One has reopened and the other has not.  The reopened business does carry out only right now, and is focused on sandwiches, burgers, milkshakes, some alcohol.  He said that business is down but enough to scrape along.  The business that has not reopened for carry out offers cheese plates and some sandwiches, but relies more on the bar (seriously, their Pink Cadillac is my favorite).  So it is more dependent on foot traffic and people hanging out.  He mentioned that he might not reopen the other one, which is a reasonable business decisions.  But I’m totally bummed on a personal level since I kinda like that food better, but also because it means the bartenders will likely be out of work.  One was getting ready to limit her hours (school/professional reasons!) but a couple others depend on that job as primary income 😦

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The first quarter of 2018

Well…the reading slump has improved, if only by the smallest of increments.  Four books finished!  Three more books from authors whose series I used to love attempted and DNF’d; two of those were library books, and now they are not even on the library list.  I would not characterize any of the four I finished as five star reads, but I am going to look for other work by one author.  Another of the books reiterated that New Adult fiction and a Very Popular Author in that subgenre are REALLY not for me.

Next up on the fiction front:  Wrong to Need You by Alisha Rai.  An autographed copy was on display at the Strand when I was in New York a few weeks ago, and it was an impulse buy.

Currently working through on the nonfiction front:  The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America by Richard Rothstein.  I can only read this in small increments because it is so infuriating.  I live in Baltimore; the modern effects of segregation are painfully apparent here, exacerbated by the flight of heavy industry.  I worked briefly in a landlord-tenant clinic years ago, representing low income tenants in rent court.  Even so, I had NO IDEA that the segregation was written into law; I thought it was a function of the racist application of law.  My white privilege there.  *cringes*

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So bored with this winter weather event

So I went to work on Friday, with a bag packed in case I decided to stay in DC.  There were a grand total of three people in my end of the building.  In fact, I had no idea there were as many as 100 people (out of 2,000+) in the office until 12pm, when the building closed and everyone except security was expected to leave.

In the end, I decided that I’d rather be snowed in at home, where I could be bored among my stuff for entertainment rather than in a hotel or couch-surfing.  Which is just as well, since the Pens-Caps game was postponed.  Actually, I was kind of entertained by the email that the Marc Train/MTA sent out in the afternoon (before the ANA-Caps game was postponed) that basically said, “The last train out leaves at 7:40p. We are not holding it for the Capitals game.  Be on the train or find your own way home in the snow.”  Not literally, of course, but that was the subtext as I read it.

So I took the 12:20p train home, which was PACKED.  When I boarded at 12:05, the last of the seats were being taken and by the time it left the station, the aisles were impassable in some cars and the vestibules were full, too.

Got home in time to run a couple of errands, including a run to Cafe Poupon for emergency rations.  (Seriously, croissants make being blizzard-bound so much better.)  They were closing early and were pretty much cleaned out of everything.  The only croissants left were ham and cheese (fine by me), with a few other pastries and a couple of quiches.  Lorelei said they were surprisingly busy, mostly people stocking up.  (Hah! I’m not the only person who likes to have Emergency Croissants on hand.)

Charles St in snow

Standing in the middle of Charles St., no cars to be seen.

I went out Saturday when NOTHING was moving except the snow.  I stood in the middle of Charles Street and probably could have made a snow angel without worrying about being run over.  The major streets had seen a plow (plough?) at least once but two or three inches of snow had accumulated since, and most of the cross streets hadn’t been touched.  On Sunday, I cleared the 20″ of snow that had accumulated on my balcony.  The power went out in my building; it was weird because everyone lost power to the stove and microwave and kitchen lights, but not to their hot water heaters, refrigerators, other outlets, etc.  BGE took care of it pretty promptly, which I appreciated.

snow pile

You have to walk in the street to get to the sidewalk on that side of the street. But the city said not to shovel into the street, so piles are going to appear on corners.

Today the streets are slightly better, and a fair amount of sidewalk has been cleared.  Feeling stircrazy, I walked down toward the harbor, and ended up having lunch at Cazbar (I’d highly recommend the pumpkin soup).  There are two lanes cleared on most of Charles Street.  Which would be great if people didn’t keep trying to park in a parking lane that isn’t clear yet, effectively reducing traffic to about 1.5 lanes.  There’s a giant snow pile on one corner that’s at least 9 feet tall.  Monument Street has not been cleared at all. I’m hoping that things will be closer to normal tomorrow.

Stuck

There is actually a car hiding under all that snow. It’s plowed in on the street side and shoveled in (the sidewalk was very well cleared by the business owner) on the sidewalk side. And the temperature has been high enough to cause melt, followed by freezing overnight. That’s not going to be fun to dig out. Unless maybe it gets towed, but I’m not even sure how they’d get it out to tow it.

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Magic Breaks – meh

The new Ilona Andrews book came out last week.  I read it.  It was fine?  I mean, I like their voice/style in this series — unlike other work they’ve done that didn’t really wow me.  But as I’ve mentioned in the past, the world building is kind of wobbly sometimes and some of the copy editing and proof-reading has been less than impressive given who their editor is at Ace.  (The lack of commas when multiple adjectives are used to modify a single noun drives me crazy.  And I love how the sword’s name changes might sword-fight.)  This book isn’t a *huge* surprise, plot-wise, but in some ways it feels a little forced, as if the characters as originally established have taken a hard left turn.  There were signals in earlier books but it all just feels heavy-handed to me.  Other readers’ mileage may (and does) vary.  But I think I’m finished with the series.

~~~

I went to today’s game against the Mariners on impulse.  \o/ to Nick Markakis for his lead-off, game-winning HR and his 1,500 hit as an Oriole.  The game was excellent, but two ancillary things are stuck in my mind.  First, I stopped at the team store, thinking I’d buy a t-shirt since the last merch I bought (for myself) was a Mike Mussina t-shirt; he’s long since retired from the despised pin-stripe team, which tells you how long ago that was.  There’s a ladies section full of poorly made, overpriced stuff.  An Orioles bikini?  Uh, no, I’d like a plain t-shirt, no player name or number, no pink, no sequins, and reasonably priced.  By reasonably priced, I mean priced at about the same amount that men’s apparel goes for rather than 30-50% more.  Ugh.

Second, I really am not comfortable with the singing of God Bless America and accompanying kudos to the military during the 7th inning stretch.  That song reminds me of being in middle school, learning about “manifest destiny” and not really getting it — people really thought their god gave them a right to own the country from sea to sea? what kind of bullshit propaganda is that? — and the sports/god/military combination feels really creepy and infringing on my freedom of religion while pushing a model of patriotism that I do not subscribe to.  Church and state are (in theory) separate, and I don’t want either of them interfering with baseball.  (Or hockey or tennis, etc.)

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Sunset at the Fort

Monday morning was dreary and overcast, so I did not take my planned walk to the fort. The day may have cleared but I was too busy for the walk (an hour or more, depending on route and whether I do a lap around the fort). It was approaching dusk by the time I set out. The fort was closed, but I got to enjoy a gorgeous sunset of orange and magenta over south Baltimore.

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Enjoying the sunshine at the Fort

Saturday was a gorgeous day. In the morning, I walked down to Fort McHenry with a packed lunch and an old blanket. Stretched out in the shade and enjoyed the sunshine and people-watching. Below you can see the view from my spot, including the Key Bridge.

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Centerfield

This year is the 20th anniversary of Oriole Park. I’m hardly an impartial judge, but I do think the stadium has aged well. Two or three hours spent in left field (my preferred locale) on a sunny Sunday is one of my favorite spring/summer pass-times.

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there are times when I don’t understand why the city isn’t already bankrupt

The finance office in Baltimore City is ridiculous.  

I paid my quarterly water bill and an alley paving fee last month.  Separate checks, separate envelopes, separate account numbers, separate invoices.   And on Thursday, I got a delinquent notice for the alley paving bill.  WTF?  The check cleared!  So I checked my account online.  My water bill shows the payment I made PLUS a credit in the amount of the alley paving payment.  Obviously, despite noting the account on the check and sending it separately AND including the invoice, the finance clerk applied the payments wrong.

So I called to get them to apply the alley paving payment properly, since I do not appreciate getting a delinquent notice.  Their answer:  provide proof of payment and request that the payment be transferred.  

Okay, they HAVE proof of payment on their books.  This is their error.  Why do I have to get copies of my canceled check and take it to the finance office in person to get it fixed?

If I hadn’t labeled everything carefully and intentionally sent the payments in separately, this wouldn’t be so irritating.  But I was very careful, mostly because I’ve dealt with the finance office for years in a professional capacity and have never been impressed by their performance.

There are times when I wonder if the city hires incompetent people intentionally.

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