Everywhere and home again…

4 October, 2015
Rat Fink

coffeecupthat’s the sailor’s way.

Yes, I’m quoting Willy Wonka sort of quoting William Allingham (Gene Wilder actually said Around the world and…). Did you know that the original Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory movie is full of adult-ish literary references? Love it. But that’s not what this morning’s post is about. I will mince no words; it’s about coffee. More importantly: coffee makers. 

Back in, oh, 2000 (?), the Thriller and I bit the huge coffee bullet and purchased one of these. We were both coffee hounds, and loved how good the brew smelled and tasted every morning. We were (and still are) even known to make a pot in the afternoon or early evening. I can’t remember exactly why, but when the Keurigs came out, I felt I needed to have one, so we got rid of the big bad Bunn. Meh. The Keurig was fine; I even had one in my classroom. However, we were both bothered by the incredible amount of plastic waste created by the then-unrecyclable K-Cups. So, the hunt continued.

The Thriller bought a standard Mr. Coffee machine, and all was well until I spied a Verismo on TV. Of course, being a self-proclaimed latte aficionada, I had to have one, and the pods were recyclable. So, make room on the counter for the new machine. Again, meh. Turns out I didn’t love it as much as I thought I would. So, back in the box it went, and we decided to get a smaller, counter-top version of the Bunn, which we are still using (pictured at left).

But check this out. In the almost two years we’ve had this unit, a slow-but-sure transformation has taken place. Does this look strange to you? I mean, I know our floors may be a bit out of level in places, but this is extreme. It’s gotten to the point where I have to physically lift the top of the unit to shove the decanter into its place on the heating plate. Bizarro. It has to go.

So, what did we do this morning? We bit the huge coffee bullet and purchased one of these. :-)

Have you ever done that? Gone everywhere and home again? Bonked yourself on the head and said, “Why didn’t I just stick with what worked?”

Oh, such enormous problems today…psh.

PS — I still have the Verismo. I’ll sell it to you, on the cheap.

“It was raining bodies.”

3 October, 2015
Rat Fink

I read to escape.

My job brings me no small level of worry and stress some days, and if I couldn’t turn to some healthy method of decompression come bedtime, I’d sleep even less than I do now. So I look forward to my routine announcement to the Thriller: Night, hun. I’m going up to read.

Occasionally, I step off my predominantly fiction-oriented path to take in a biography or historical account. For the last several weeks, I’ve spent 20 minutes a night with David Von Drehle’s Triangle: The Fire That Changed America. Undoubtedly, some New York observers of the horrific events of September 11, 2001, when victims with no other option leapt out of windows to their deaths, couldn’t help but be reminded of the worst workplace disaster in American history (prior to 9/11).

Typical day at the Triangle

Typical day at the Triangle

Eyewitness accounts of the March 25, 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Company fire feature a wide range of images, emblazoned in the memory banks of those who were unfortunate enough to have watched the tragedy unfold in an ill-conceived, overcrowded, poorly ventilated, stifling 8th-floor-and-above women’s blouse factory death trap, staffed mostly by immigrant girls who worked 52-hour weeks. Once the lit cigarette was accidentally thrown into an under-table fabric bin, fates were sealed. Twenty-five minutes later, the factory lay in ruins, and 142 people were either dead or would die later in Manhattan hospitals. The ways in which many of the workers perished does not make for drowsy nighttime reading.

One witness said, “It was raining bodies.”

Girls by the dozens fell — or were dropped by male workers, who then followed them — onto the pavement, from eight and nine floors up. One observer remarked that it was an eerily quiet scene, disrupted only by the sirens and occasional shouts of Don’t jump! from those looking up in horror from the street. Systematically and silently they fell, choosing instant death over the agonizing torture of slowly asphyxiating on the smoke, or worse, being burned alive. Others saw police and firemen having to stop to remove corpses from the sidewalks so rescuers could get to the building.

It was a perfect storm of disasters:

  • Several doors were locked by bosses, in an effort to make sure everyone left at the right time and from a monitored exit. When the fire broke out and spread instantly, hundreds of people encountered locked door after locked door. As they wasted precious seconds trying to find another way out, the smoke and flames grew exponentially.
  • The New York City Fire Department’s water hoses lacked sufficient pressure to reach the ninth floor, and their ladders did not stretch far enough. Workers died within plain view of rescuers who simply couldn’t reach them.
  • Even though another deadly factory fire in New Jersey just four months earlier claimed 25 lives, and public outcry put great pressure on factory owners to improve workplace safety, not a single fire drill or posted route of egress was implemented at Triangle. Once the flames began, no one knew what to do or where to go. These wasted seconds of confusion cost many their lives.
  • The building’s only fire escape was poorly built, and the result of utterly baffling design:  the rickety ladder ended in a 20-foot fall into a skylight.

Nothing left

The aftermath included no shortage of demands that workplace safety be a city priority, and that labor unions be given the respect they deserved. (The organized labor aspect of this tragedy is another post altogether.) Indeed, the Triangle fire not only influenced large-scale changes in building codes and union law, but also played a part in the changing face of American politics, from the corruption of Tammany Hall to the inception of FDR’s New Deal.

What struck me most about the book, however, is how horribly these immigrant workers were treated. The great bulk of New York’s clothing industry was kept afloat on the backs of underpaid, overworked young people from Russia and Italy, who barely scraped enough wages together to pay for a bed in a filthy tenement house where there were four and five people per room. Many scrimped and went without so they could send money back home to their families. I can’t imagine the joyless life they led, while their immediate superiors dined out every night and were driven about in limousines.

It’s a good read, though, in that I have learned much about the history of labor relations in the US, and for this teacher union president, the information was timely and appreciated. However, for nighttime relaxation reading? I think I’ll go back to Stephen King. ;-)

Fink, back to the couch with the DayQuil and electric blanket

Ain’t that the way?

29 September, 2015
Rat Fink

You go away for a while, and when you come back, things are all janky. That’ll teach me to abandon this place. I’ve been thinking about writing to you every day, but man, life has been one big pair of bossy pants. Three weeks without nonsense from me, and you know it’s serious.

When I logged into WordPress this morning, my theme had gone away. *p00f* My standard header was gone, having been replaced by WordPress’s concert b-flat beach umbrella picture. Custom logo was nowhere to be found on a media search, and I still can’t find it. I haven’t gotten into the site guts via FTP yet, but that’s on the menu. Until then, this understudy will have to suffice. Strange, eh? And my media plugins are acting all ooky, too (sorry about any strange picture behavior — gotta check this out). Ghosties in the code.

So, what’s news? It’s been too long since we’ve checked in with each other. As I’ve been up since 2:55, I was able to amass some randomness for you. Behold:

  1. You’ll get a little nostalgic kick out of these old cell phone commercials. Haha. I remember when I thought I was oh so de rigueur for having one of these, then later, a snazzy little Razr flip phone, tricked out in Fabs skin. Shoo-ee. ;-) Anyway, the commercials are funny. Have a looksee.
  2. There hasn’t been a whole lot of good sleep happening at the Fink house lately. It’s Pax. Pacing, crying, panting most of the night, and often during the day as well. We can’t figure it out; he’s fed, watered, loved, seemingly healthy, and not in pain that we can see. So, the vet was called yesterday, and puppy will start on his anxiety/panic attack meds as soon as they arrive. We hate putting him on drugs, but he is clearly miserable while going through this, and so are his humans, who have tried just about everything they know to mitigate his symptoms. Stuff’s gotta stop.
  3. Did you know that Planned Parenthood’s government dollars **do not fund** abortions, and haven’t for 40 years? They do, however, fund many other services. In fact, I, as a married, churchgoing young woman in my twenties with two small children, would have been lost without Planned Parenthood back in the 80s. My miserable excuse for health insurance did not cover birth control, and we were poor as church mice. PP allowed me to pay on a sliding scale, unlike the doctor’s office and pharmacy. I remain grateful to them, and I know I’m not alone.
  4. Cedar Point’s at it again. Tallest, fastest, everything-est. The new-in-2016 Valravn looks kind of fun. View the video in full screen mode.
  5. Hey, it’s Coffee Day, in case you haven’t heard (although every day is coffee day around here). Go git yer freebs.

Speaking of getting a move on…it’s time to haul it upstairs to the shower. Have a great Tunesday, fiends — glad to be back among you!

RF, ghost(code) hunter

Backing up a chapter (of life)

12 September, 2015
Rat Fink

ratgirlIt wasn’t in the “wait, I need to back up and slow down a little” sense (although that might benefit me as well). Rather, I spent some much-needed time backing up finkweb.org this morning.

As the files flew by in the download window of my FTP client, and I recognized filename after filename, I realized the degree to which this small collection of stories has encapsulated many of the major events in my life over the past 7+ years. My little blog about nothing. Awww.

Defined as the modern-day personal journal, blogging has become more than just keeping a record of life or trying to sustain a business or get advertising done. In a way, it’s letting people read your diary. Did you ever have one? I started several in the past, only to lose them or lose interest in them. How I wish today that I’d held onto them. Fortunately, for most of us who blog, we filter our “public” diary to present only that which we are willing to share. (Although there are some online journals that are so extremely graphic and detailed, I’ve been unable to read on.)

I like to do a retrospective every year or so, just to thank you for stopping by and to revisit some funny stuff we’ve all observed and said. From the incredibly mundane posts about generic stuff, to my oft-mentioned, surreal, bizarre brush with a celebrity; through the countless rants, bossy opinionssilly observations that are interesting probably to only me, and semi-snarkish reviews — you’ve been there. Most likely looking like this, but you’ve been there. More importantly, many of you have done what I hoped all would do when I started this little venture: respond in the comment section. Most of you know what a shameless extrovert I am, in that I derive much of my energy (and validation) from interaction with others. You make all the effort worth it.

And now, off to work. And by “work,” I mean lesson plans and assignment creation and choreography and score study and feeling sorry for myself because I have a sore throat and can’t have the A’s over tonight for a visit.

(But hey, the Browns are on tomorrow. Wahoo!)

I have missed you.

7 September, 2015
Rat Fink

I’ve been thinking.

Seriously. I’ve thought about you every day since my last post on the 26th of last month. Last month! If this doesn’t set the record for time between visits, it has to be close. Did you miss me? Please say yes. It’s not because my brain hasn’t been full of things to tell you, mind. Rather, by the time I drag it out, guzzle the coffee, hit the shower and the road, the quiet time has evaporated.

Mark me: someday I will live the life of the semi-retired and do a stay-at-home job. I’d love to be paid to write, like our RtB fiend (and my writing mentor and overall cool guy) Ross. He might tell you “it’s not all it’s cracked up to be,” and he’d probably be right because many jobs rarely are as glamorous as they seem, but I aspire to that level of independence and, admittedly, forced creativity once in a while. I wonder if he ever feels pressure to be brilliant at dinner when the muse simply isn’t talking. Ross, if you’re reading today, give us a comment, would you?

OK, as mentioned, I’ve had several things to talk to you about, but the “Round Tuit” has eluded me. First — how’s your Labor Day morning coffee going? I overslept this morning (thank you for that 3:30 a.m. trip outside to check the weather, Pax). We had the Js overnight, which was really nice. Speaking of the Js…

Many of you already know from Facebook posts that son Seamus and the Js were in a terrible rollover car accident Saturday, from which they miraculously and inexplicably all walked away with minor injuries. He misjudged the turn into his driveway, and when he jammed on the brakes, they locked. In an effort to turn out of the skid, he hit the ditch and the car propelled itself into a roll and landed on its roof.

The sheriff told Seamus that when he rolled up on the scene, he expected fatalities.

The sheriff told Seamus that when he rolled up on the scene, he expected fatalities.

Eight-year-old Jake was able to free himself from his seatbelt and crawl out the shattered back window. Justin was stuck, hanging from his booster seat, not strong enough to release his seat belt. When Seamus came to, after being smacked in the face with the airbag, he said at first, he didn’t even realize he was hanging upside-down. After a second, he realized what was going on, and went into lifesaving mode. He began shouting the boys’ names and struggling to free himself. He crawled out the broken driver’s side window and pulled Justin to safety through another window. He said the boys were surprisingly calm (likely the shock), and they all three stood looking at the wreckage. The EMTs examined the boys and declared them just bruised up a bit (Jake has a bit of a sore neck, and six-year-old Justin told us that he is “100 percent not injured”; both boys have seat belt burns across their necks), and Seamus had to have a couple stitches above his eye, but otherwise they are — incredibly — unharmed.

Seamus holds a CDL with over 70,000 accident-free miles as a truck driver, and has never been involved in so much as a fender-bender in his personal vehicles. That something like this happened to him of all people scared us in an enormous way, and drove the point home that anything can happen at any time to any one of us. So before you finish reading this: is there anyone in your house you’d like to tell “I love you” to real quick? I’ll wait here.

SO, it’s Labor Day, and who do we have to thank for that? Lessee here…while the real “author” of Labor Day remains a bit of a controversy (two men are credited with its inception in the late 1800s, each named “Maguire” and “McGuire,” interestingly enough), it’s universally agreed that we can thank those nasty, selfish, thuggish labor unions for this day to cook out and be lazy or get stuff done around the house and yard in preparation for fall.

I keed. :-) It’s because of those nasty labor unions that you even have weekends off, or whatever days you take for yourself during your work week. That’s something worth celebrating. Truthfully — and I say this as president of my local teacher union chapter — I wish we didn’t need unions. But what’s been done all those years ago is too far down the line to undo now; we’re stuck with them and we have to make the best of it.

I suppose I should cut this off before I waste away the whole morning. I hope you’re doing exactly what you want to do on this Labor Day. For me, labor resumes tomorrow, but first, lunch with Mavis, some lesson plans and catching up on my recorded Sunday night shows is in order.

Have a great vacation day — fall is around the corner!