Need a quick and easy way to entertain kids? Call the hazmat team!

I just came back to our program and saw that there were several police cars and a hazmat vehicle parked out front. There also was "caution hazardous materials" tape strung up around our building.

My coworkers inform me that some paint was dropped and broke open when the dumpster was being emptied. Yes, paint. Not radioactive paint or anything -- just the usual kind that's used on walls and things. Keep in mind though that our program has various licenses as a clinic and a preschool, so this means that even paint (well, in sufficient quantities, I assume) gets cleaned up by the hazmat team. Who knew? Makes sense though.

Right now there are a number of ominous-looking pieces of heavy equipment out back, several people in astronaut suits, and a Smart car (!) belonging to the contracted waste cleanup company. The kids in groups downstairs are having a blast watching all of this.

(I tried to take a picture, but it didn't turn out since we have those heavy metal mesh screens over the windows so the kids can't fall through.)

Stump Trivia at Our House East on Gainsborough Street kind of sucks

A group of friends and I decided to play Stump Trivia last night at Our House East. We'd played at other locations before, and I'd been to Our House before on other nights. Stump Trivia is fun, and Our House is a decent one-step-above-a-dive bar, so we figured it should be fine. Not exactly the case; the place really doesn't seem to know how to host a trivia night.

To start, the Stump website says that trivia starts at 8:30. We got there a little before eight, planning to grab some food. The banner outside the place said that trivia was at 8:00. OK, no big deal. We asked the bartender which section we should sit in for trivia. She pointed us to the correct section, but said that trivia starts at 9:30. We told her the website said 8:30 and their sign said 8:00, so they might want to make some corrections. Bartender first denied that the sign said that, then said that the bar wasn't in charge of the Stump website. No, but the bar can either get on Stump's case about changing it, or hold it at 8:30 until they do. I'm assuming that Stump has some sort of interest in having their sponsoring bars not piss off people who come to play Stump.

So, we get seated, order some food and drinks, and wait around. It's 9:30, and there's no sign of the trivia person. The manager walks by, and we ask him. He says it starts around 10:00 or 10:30. I tell him the sign outside says 8:00. He says "no it doesn't." Um, what?

Finally, at around 10:00, the place is packed with people screaming at the Sox/Yanks game, and the trivia guy shows up and starts setting up. We get our Stump card, and the guy starts talking into a mic at about 10:15. There's music blasting from the next room, the sound is still on on the TVs, and we can't hear anything he says. We see the manager and ask if he can do anything about the music. He turns it down slightly.

The trivia game starts, with about half of the people in the room playing and the other half not. People are blocking the aisles and yelling at the TVs. Again, we tell the manager that it's impossible to play trivia when we can barely hear the trivia jockey and it's hard to take our answers up to the jockey because the aisles are full of people screaming at the TVs. The manager says "there's a Sox/Yankees game on -- what do you expect?" Uh, yes, but then don't try to hold two events in the same room. Why not reserve the front few tables for trivia and turn the front TVs off? Even that would have been much better.

Then, some Marlboro promotion people start walking around with handheld computer thingies, asking people to enter information into them in order to get free lighters. In the middle of the trivia game! One of them walked up to us and started jabbering about the promotion right while the Stump guy was asking a question. Clearly, the promo people were approved by the management. It isn't like Our House is hurting for money or business -- did they really need to allow this right in the middle of the trivia game?

It got better around 10:45, when the game was still going on, but most of the screamers-at-the-TV had left. Hmm, don't most people who come there really really wanting to watch the game stay for all of it? Once there were only trivia players in the room, the Stump game was awesome as usual. Our team was called "yermom," and we ended up winning. "Yermom comes in first place!" shouted the trivia jockey.

We won a $25 gift certificate to Our House.

Where do moderate-income folks send their kids to preschool in Boston?

I've been running into this a lot lately with the families I work with. Many of the families make too much money for Head Start – their income guidelines require families to be below $13,690 for a family of two or below $20,650 for a family of four, for instance, which means that pretty much any family with one or more parent working full time isn't eligible, unless they have a lot of kids.

Then there are a few of the more-daycare-like preschools around, which are of greatly varying quality, and many of which don't offer an option for attending any fewer hours than five days a week 9-5 sort of hours. These are affordable, but again, not what the families are looking for who want a developmentally appropriate program but can flex their hours and don't need full-time childcare.

Boston Public Schools is aiming to provide a K1 (4- and 5-year-olds, two years before they start first grade) seat for every student by 2010, but that hasn't happened yet. K0 (3- and 4-year olds, three years before they start first grade) seats are even more sparse. For kids who don't automatically get a K0 or K1 seat due to having special education needs, this means highly competitive lotteries.

Aside from Head Start, BPS, and the daycares, about the only thing that seems to be available to families for 3- and 4-year-olds are programs that literally cost as much as many colleges and/or require students to be put on the waiting list as infants. Does anyone know why this is? Why doesn't Boston seem to have any community-center-basement sort of preschools? You know, the kind that working families send their kids to? All of the surrounding towns of various income levels seem to have plenty of these, but not Boston. If there are any, why don't the families or the staff at my program know about them?

Free Big Band concert in Highland Park Roxbury on Sunday August 3

This is just copied direct from the press release I was sent. I'm not personally involved with it, but it sounds pretty awesome.



BOSTON, July 14, 2008
Berklee College of Music and ParkARTS present an evening of swinging big band music in the style of Count Basie in Roxbury’s historic Fort Hill neighborhood with Kendrick Oliver & The New Life Jazz Orchestra and opener Lawrence Fields and his quartet. The annual Jazz at the Fort concert is free and will be held on Sunday, August 3, at 5:00 p.m., at the four-acre Highland Park on Fort Avenue, Roxbury, weather permitting. Folding chairs and blankets are recommended.

Jazz at the Fort is accessible from the MBTA’s Orange Line Roxbury Crossing station. Walk down Columbus Avenue to Cedar Street to Fort Avenue. Roxbury Community College provides parking on the corner of Columbus Avenue and Cedar Street. Highland Park is wheelchair accessible. For more information, call 617-747-2447.

Kendrick Oliver & The New Life Jazz Orchestra, a 19-piece group of vibrant young cats, has been captivating audiences and selling out concerts since 1995. Under the musical direction of conductor, arranger, tuba player, and Berklee alumus Oliver, the group plays Count Basie-style swing with foot-stompin’ arrangements, high-octane rhythms, an unrestrained brass section, elegant vocals, and a talented assortment of spectacular soloists. Oliver and New Life has had breakout successes with main-stage performances at the Newport and Tanglewood Jazz Festivals, the launch of a touring educational jazz program honoring Basie, and the release of the acclaimed Welcome to New Life CD, featuring Christian McBride, Jimmy Greene, Miguel Zenon, and Jeremy Pelt. Grammy-winning jazz trumpeter Nicholas Payton calls New Life, "one of the best big bands in the world."

Pianist and rising star Lawrence Fields plays contemporary jazz in the style of Herbie Hancock and his musical hero George Duke, with whom he performed in Chicago in June. Though he graduated from Berklee just this year, the St. Louis native has already toured in Branford Marsalis’ band and is currently the pianist in the Jeff “Tain” Watts Quartet. Fields will record with that group at the end of July. He also recorded with Alvin Batiste for the clarinetist’s new CD on the Marsalis Music label. A music production and engineering major at Berklee, Fields is the co-producer and pianist on drummer Terri Lyne Carrington’s next CD, out later this year.

Now in its 12th year, ParkARTS began as Mayor Thomas M. Menino’s initiative to present a yearlong program of arts and culture related programs and events in Boston’s park system. ParkARTS, the Boston Parks and Recreation Department’s multi faceted arts program, incorporates the visual, performing, and participatory arts. The 2007 ParkARTS performing arts program, sponsored by Bank of America, presents concerts at Boston neighborhood parks that range from jazz to symphonic music. Over 80 participatory arts programs will be offered including arts and crafts workshops and landscape watercolor painting classes.

Berklee College of Music was founded on the revolutionary principle that the best way to prepare students for careers in music was through the study and practice of contemporary music. For more than 60 years, the college has evolved constantly to reflect the state of the art of music and the music business. With over a dozen performance and nonperformance majors, a diverse and talented student body representing over 70 countries, and a music industry "who’s who" of alumni, Berklee is the world’s premier learning lab for the music of today -- and tomorrow.

Having "hybrid" stuck to the back to your vehicle doesn't negate the fact that your vehicle is unnecessarily heavy and large

So, Massport has this thing where people with hybrid vehicles can park in spots closer to the airport. I think the whole plan is pretty much just lip service, since I don't think most people drive to the airport very often, and people who are thinking about the planet and cost and convenience are going to take the T anyway. Also, the closer spots aren't that much more convenient, because all of the parking is still a hike from the terminal. Give people a discount on tolls or give them free coffee or something more useful instead. (Or, be like forward-thinking countries and have every public and private entity charge the living bejeezus out of unnecessarily large vehicles so that no one considers buying one unless they can't do their job without it.)

But still, I find the plan aggravating, because it just further reinforces the idea that anything that says "hybrid" on it is a better environmental choice than anything that doesn't. I mean, I guess I'm slightly thankful that some people are buying hybrid Toyota Highlanders instead of non-hybrid ones, but there's just no reason for anyone to buy one. If you truly need a 4WD vehicle because you live up an unpaved mountainside road or something, there are normal-sized Subarus and things that can also get up there without wasting as much energy. And the other 99% of you who buy these things to drive around on city roads just because they can, well, stop destroying my planet.

Dear Massport:

Why is the environmental initiative rewarding the use of hybrid vehicles specifically? Using a hybrid vehicle is not always the smartest environmental choice. For instance, the Toyota Highlander Hybrid holds 5 passengers and gets around 25 mpg. The Honda Fit 5-speed non-hybrid also holds 5 passengers and gets around 40 mpg. Just because a vehicle is a hybrid does not mean that its environmental impact is less than that of other vehicles that carry the same number of passengers. People who choose environmentally friendly modes of transportation should be rewarded. People who choose an unnecessarily large and heavy vehicle that happens to say "hybrid" on it should not be rewarded, as their vehicle is harming the environment unnecessarily. Please consider reserving space for vehicles with, say, a combined EPA rating above 30mpg. Thank you!

Wait, I didn't expect the troubleshooting guide to actually be helpful!

I'm a little alarmed here. I just went onto the Epson website because I was pissed off at my printer. After telling it what I was doing when the problem occurred (turning the thing on), it gave me these options:

Wait, you mean, "a banging noise" is common enough to make it to the troubleshooting guide? I followed through with its suggestions, and I managed to fix the printer. This doesn't make me as happy as one would think it would though.

See, I didn't actually go into the troubleshooting guide thinking it could possibly have a solution to my problem. I figured the printer was FUBAR, and I was just looking for somewhere to vent my frustrations. Here, I had fully anticipated that I would go in, start clicking on the options, and then end up having to scream at the computer, "NO THERE WEREN'T ANY FLASHING ERROR LIGHTS YOU STUPID FUCK THE PRINTER MADE A NOISE LIKE IT JUST RAN OVER AN ANGRY CAT," and then slam the computer shut and all would be well. It just had to go wreck my expectations by actually being helpful.

I'm liveblogging the thunderstorm

2:18 BOOM
2:19 CRASH
2:20 whoosh, thud, BOOM
2:20 CRASH CRASH CRASH BOOOOOOM for more livebloggy goodness!