Friday, December 24, 2004

The good pie crust.....

Everything works best if things are chilled. Chill the mixing bowl, spoons, measuring cups,as well as the milk, oil, etc. Not necessary to go overboard but the chilling helps.

Mix 1/2 cup of canola oil (Wesson brand is known to work well.) with

1 1/2 cups of sifted flour and
a pinch of salt.

Then add 5tbs of milk (1/4 cup + 1tbs).

You should derive an "oily-like" ball of dough.

As I received it the recipe then allows for digital manipulation in the pan to form the crust. However, what works best for me is to roll it out between two pieces of wax paper. It is then very easy to fix any wrinkles, cracks, or other damage with your fingers after flipping it into the pan.

Bake it empty at 350 for ~10 minutes. You can put milk or egg whites on it to get the nice browning if you so desire.
If you fill it... depends on the filling what you want to do but, the recipe calls for 375 for ~1 hour.

I like this crust because it is easy, has a good taste on it's own without anything in it, and has a nice flakiness to it.

Monday, December 20, 2004

Playing with Fire

A major theme of the last week's events is "all the stuff I learned about kids and fire."

Lesson Number One - Do not allow the boys to start the schoolhouse fire.

This particular lesson is representative of how slow a learner I am. One particular student prides himself on his ability to start our heating and cooking fires. In all reality the kid has no special skill but a tendency towards stoking the fire to the point where we are cooking birds perched on the roof for lunch. Because of ill-fortune and inadequate supplies, the first time I attempted to build the school house fire, I was not terribly successful. This was not such a bad thing because the weather was not yet that cold. However, this failure legitimized pyro-boy in claiming that I am not capable of building a proper fire. So, the last couple weeks when he has come to school his pattern has been to come to the school house, see that no fire is burning, insist and demand that he be the person to start it, then spend his entire school period playing with the fire instead of working at his math. On another day, another student did the same thing. I have therefore determined that I must be in the school early and have a roarer going before the first kid even thinks of prancing his way down.

Lesson Number Two - Do not allow the boys to sit with the door to the Franklin open during school.

In material this lesson was considerably more costly than the last but was more quickly learned. Once upon a time, I had two of the guys in school. One was sitting in front of the stove and asked that the door be open so he could look at the fire while he was working on whatever assignment he had at the time. Benign enough, I thought. So, I allowed for his wish. The other student in the class, being the type with some real social issues works really hard in awkward and inappropriate ways to obtain the approval of his peers. This student saw the open flames as an opportunity to create amusement for the other guy. Boy, did he exploit that opportunity. In the course this kid has burned the chalkboard eraser twice, a couple of books, and who knows how many writing implements. Now I must confess that sometimes he had to actually open the stove door to burn some of these things. However, the exposed flames have proven too much of a temptation. They even tried spraying window cleaner into the fire convinced that it was flamable despite my protestations otherwise. I usually don't like to argue with the boys over anything because it is almost never worth it. But now, I do fight to ensure that the stove door remains closed unless I'm putting wood in it.

Lesson Number Three - When dealing with extreme behavior problems involving fire, it's probably best to take the fuel away.

In Massachusetts right now it gets dark at around 4:30. I can have my students in school as late as 6:30 on some days so we have to have the kerosene lanterns in the school house. One afternoon a student determined to not do school work took an empty paper towel tube and stuck it in the chimney of his kerosene lamp and lit it on fire. He then proceeded to wave it around like a madman. This waving included getting it dangerously close to my face. Continued refusal to stop and put the thing out prompted me to grab the dust pan from the floor and slap the tube which successfully extinguished the fire. Unfortunately the student took this as a signal that he was to reignite the tube and thrust it into my shirt. It was that nice green army shirt I got at Grunts and Postures. You know the one. Anyway, the sleeve has a few nice little holes burned on the sleeve now. Realizing that extinguishing the fire was going to be inadequate this time, while he was waving the thing, I pulled some judo move where I grabbed his wrist and disarmed him. What remained of the tube found itself shortly consumed in the fireplace, never to be wave in anyone's face again.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

The Damage a Little Drug Test Can Do

Once upon a time there were some boys coming back to the island. You see they are allowed to leave from time to time for important holidays or other weekends and only on condition of adequate behavior. This one time a special group of boys came back and at least one smuggled cigarettes onto the island.

During this week one of the staff had decided to quit smoking so, his sensitivity to the scent of cigarette smoke was significantly enhanced. Several times during the week he caught a whiff and once even thought he perceived other substances in the air.

On one day, a group of boys behaving rather suspiciously in their pursuit of unsupervised time prompted the shift leader to require urine samples for drug testing. The lot lied quite poorly about how they wouldn't be so stupid as to be smoking and they didn't care what the results were going to be because they were all going to come back clean. This event reminds me that at times the students remind me of a certain Claudius but, I digress. Maybe I've mentioned that before.

Anyway, one of the boys later that night asked if we might be plotting to get him. His claimed supposition was that the school staff were going to manipulate his test results in order to prevent him from taking his next trip from the island. I attempted to assure him that his fear was unthinkable, that the staff's desire was to help, not punish him. He remained unconvinced.

Certain that he was basically screwed, he decided to screw himself the rest of the week. He got himself in trouble via excessive inappropriate (non-academic) sexual conversation. One day, he refused to go to school. Other things he did are beyond my ability to publish for their vileness. Anyway, he put himself at true risk of that which he feared.

Convinced of his completely imaginary fate he may have earned himself the penalty. But then of course I'm assuming that his fate was imaginary.

Saturday, November 20, 2004

"At least now you know I have them."

The students on the island have a fairly well established hierarchy. It has been quite easy to pick out where each individual fits in this heirarchy. One of the gammas seems to percieve himself as beta as demonstrated by the fact that he is the most likely to express aggression, give commands to other students, and in general engage in posturing. Testosterone flows freely in this void of seratonin.

The island also has a very obvious omega. Whenever something is missing, this student is accused. All the boys take opportunities to order him around, criticize him for weakness, and in general harrass him. This last week more physical forms of
harrasment increased to the tune of multi-student gangs taking punches or kicking and the victim lying in the fetal position covering his head with his hands.

There are arguments going around about how to help this kid make some personal progress and the social environment now complicates it. He consistently refuses to stand up for himself and tries, sometimes literally to hide behind the staff. The fact is he cannot possibly feel safe. But at the same time he cannot possibly be safe if he requires a constant adult bodyguard. This is something the victimizing students like to frequently point out often as a justification for their abuses. "We're trying to help you learn to stick up for yourself", they say. That claim is of course complete crap. It is quite simply the power-trip. These guys are just getting off on dominating someone, and doing it quite completely.

His cowardice is not entirely unfounded. It's not like this is an average ability kid who's merely psychologically blocking himself. He's kind of tall but he has very little physical strength and poor coordination: products of his background. I'd hoped that my pathetic attempts to participate in island athletics would encourage him to get out with the others and get some exercise. After all, if I can get out there and play as poorly as I do and make it back okay, surely he would see that he could as well. Unfortunately as ill-suited as I am, my abilities are much closer to that of the other folks than the omega's are to mine.

One of both the funniest and saddest events involving him occurred the other night. A few people were in the kitchen where teh alpha started tease the omega by feigning and eventually kicking him. In fact one kick landed right in that special place no true male wants to get kicked. "I didn't mean to kick your nuts", the kicker protested laughing. He continued to apologize profusely while the kicker was bent over in pain. "At least now you know I have them", he said. Indeed he has them. Now if only he could find them.

Friday, November 12, 2004

Proposed Anthem

Due to my position as Poet Laureate of Flannel Haven I have assumed responsibility for composing lyrics for a national anthem. The said lyrics follow, and I seek a response from the Triumvirate or other interested parties. I have no idea how the music will sound.

You tell me that you love me
That you'll do anything.
But just what exactly
Does 'anything' mean?

Will you give me riches
In money and gems,
The wealth of the earth,
Silken robes with straight hems?

Will you give me your flannel?
Will you give me your flannel?

Will you work, sweat, and suffer
For all my commands?
Will your strength, heart, and labor
Bend to my demands?

Will you give me your flannel?
Will you give me your flannel?

Do you love me more than your mother
Than your gimp little brother?
Would you sacrifice things most dear to your heart:
Your hobbies, awards, and plumbing to start?

Will you part with addictions,
Forsake privacy?
Will you risk precious limbs
For your loyalty?

Will you give me your flannel?

* At the end of the song the singers should repeat the word "Eep" five times in a high pitched voice in succession.
The proposed title of this anthem is: "Will You Give Me Your Flannel?"

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Den of Theives

The title of this post inspired by this last week's events on the island refers to three events of theft.

Event number one: student code name "Delta" was in school with student code name "Iota." As we were leaving school Delta took posession of one of Iota's magazines. When it came up missing Iota accused Delta, he having been the only one besides myself with opportunity to take it. For whatever reason Iota was not inclined to suspect me. Somehow the sketchiness of my charachter has yet to be rewarded. Upon returning to the house the magazine was observed being hidden in a couch by one of the staff and was quickly recovered. The motive for stealing the magazine having not been satisfied Delta proceeded to snatch magazine number two. This time he took greater labors to accomplish his goal by not leaving it in such an obvious location. Delta in fact made the unreadable for future purposes by depositing it in the latrine. Iota responded to this event with a great deal of ire but inquired of Delta his motivation. Delta said, "Because I have no use for it." The total lack of consideration of feelings intensified Iota's ire and he decided to pummel Delta for a breif period before being restrained.

Event number two: Student code name "Epsilon" snatched all three existing pool cue balls from the house. In their absense other students took a spare 8 ball and colored in the white bits with a red marker to use as a cue. Within a day or so a student walking in proximity of the schoolhouse came upon one of the old wells and there spotted at the bottom of the well three cue balls sitting in a row. This same student, code name "Alpha," proposed that he might retrieve them as a form of community service. At the well a variety of things were attempted and proposed. All efforts that would accomplish the job from the surface availed nothing due to the depth of the well. It was then proposed that Alpha enter the well bodily as lowered by a rope. A couple different ideas were tried but the best was that he sit on a type of bouy and hold a rope. However, when lowered into the hole Alpha panicked, refused to release the surface to grab the rope, and was drawn again from the hole.

Event number three: This final theft probably three students code named "Beta," "Rho," and "Tau." How exactly it all came to pass was never fully discovered. After coming in from football one day, the shift leader announced that something had been stolen. The thief was given the opportunity to return the unnamed item or room searches would be done. Noone fessed up so the rooms were tossed. One of the students asked if it had been a something from my person which made me suspicious that he knew something so I checked to find my key to all the island locks missing and then heard from a staff member that someone had broken into the office and stolen his cigarettes. The search found nothing and things went back to something of normal with heightened supervision of students. As this was going on I came down the stairs and apparently walked in on a conversation between Beta, Rho, and Tau that cut off quite suddenly and suspiciously. It seemed that Beta and Tau had been explaining to Rho what they had done. It have been just the night previous that while walking with Beta and Tau on the island that Beta had seemed far too interested in the fact that I had a key.

Later, while in class during the math bit, I deliberately did not get out the calculators that were locked up and the students asked why. I explained that my key had been stolen and as so many times from Beta's response I was reminded of Claudius and the players. Beta and Rho claimed no knowledge and that they didn't believe in stealing 'cause it's bad hmmmmkay! During school Tau visited class. He had been working in the kitchen. A secret not was passed from Rho to Tau. The contents were later discovered to be a plan to return certain of the stolen items. Meanwhile, in asking questions and describing the awfulness of stealing Beta revealed that he knew exactly what had happened and how.

By lunch the key had reappeared along with the package and 5 cigarettes.

Saturday, November 06, 2004

The Place

Hopefully this reading will be worth the while of anyone who bothers to test it.

I am now happily settled into a transitory state. I told many folks that I was going to be moving temporarily into an apartment on the cape until I could get a satisfactory residence within walking distance of a Boston train station. When I first heard of the apartment I was given very little detail except that someone at the school had arranged for it and that the proposed rent was 250/month. This would be rather excellent considering the location. It would also prove incredibly convenient for me in that I would have the opportunity to more fully investigate Boston and have time to pick out the most perfect apartment. That things should not be so rosy should have occurred to me much sooner than it did because the trail of breadcrumbs had been laid out. However, my bleeding optimism and offerings of benficent doubt eventually caught up with me. The morning I arrived for work a couple of weeks ago, one of my bosses asked about my housing plans. I told him that I didn't know for certain all the details except those things that I've told everyone. He concurred that he was of similar information but that the expected rent was in the range of 250-300. I also got some information that indicated cooking was going to be constrained. Later that day I found out the name of the person who'd made the arrangements and in another discussion was told something about a barn. This notion of barn had me a bit confused but I figured it could have been a kind of joke, a rennovation, something other than me sleeping in a hay loft.

Because I had to go out to the island that morning I didn't hear more of it for a couple of days. Wednesday one of the students was graduating and a group of staff came out to the island. The party included the gentleman who'd arranged for the apartment at which time I learned that it was in fact a barn with some modifications. A well insulated bedroom and bathroom had been put in the second floor. Certain windows were not to be opened during the winter because heating issues and potential for freezing pipes and several other things I couldn't commit the details of to memory. The presence of a smart but disabled old lady was clarified and confusingly she was consistently referred to as "my land-lady." That is to say that Mr. So-and-so spoke of her as his land-lady, not as mine. He also mentioned that there was some linen available for me to use in the house. He would turn on the water heater and turn off the dish network and remove the TV for me. All of these things were clues to what I would find but, I missed and ignored their signifigance.

The blessed day arrived. Friday came, I made it back to shore, and my boss was to show me the road to this barn turned apartment. We met the old lady at her house which was next door. Turns out it was a barn of her family's and she's been selling off little bits of a huge lot over the years around there other out buildings being converted into homes over the course of it. She explained that the place was clean but she'd been up there to find a bit of clutter around. On this comment I imagined bare rooms with a few odds and ends left behind in corners or on shelves, something akin to what I've left behind when I've moved out of apartments in the past. The old lady gave me the key. The barn was locked up by a padlock. The three of us openend it and climbed the stairs. What we found there defied all of my expectations. The first room of the second floor was filled with boxes of random bits of a man's past. There was a long pipe along one wall covered in hanging clothes. The floor was covered with bits of hay tracked in from downstairs. The dresser was covered with material on top and the drawers beneath were still half-full of clothes.

I was surprised by this but not too. I had been given the impression that the spaces outside of the bedroom and bathroom were not particularly organized or otherwise taken care of and considered how much work it would take to fix things up a bit as we looked in the bedroom. Someone surely still lived there. The bed looked as if it had recently been slept in. There were bits of paperwork, pocket knives, deodorant sticks, coins, business cards, a million different things that a person needs from day to day. The TV was still there and my boss noticed what she thought was a belt sander. Convenient, if I was looking forward to doing any kind of wood sanding...? We crossed over to the bathroom and found a similar sight. Everything had been newly constructed and seemed to be in working order, in fact as if it had been used within the last twenty-four hours. The vanity was covered with toothpastes, shaving cream cans, after shave lotions, facial moisturizers, and yet more sticks of deodorant. I was stunned.

My boss may have been even more stunned. She apologized profusely protesting that she too had been misled regarding the conditions to be found. She left, and for me the moment of true agitation had not yet come. I climbed back up the stairs and went into the bedroom to get my bearings on how exactly I was going to move in and what I was going to do with my stuff. It was then that I took a close look at the bed and discovered rodent feces. Rodent feces on a bed that looked like it had been slept in the night before. A bit apalled, I looked around at the floor to discover more signs of the passage of mice.

Before I came out here I had determined that I might live in this place as much as 6 months. That would allow me to get my bearings and spend the time to find an absolutely perfect place in Boston. Now, I thought a month sounded like plenty of time and wondered why it shouldn't be within a week. I won't detail all of my responses to this situation but, let me say I continue to find interesting and fun surprises. The belt sander turned out to be some kind of massage device. I found a passport, a fridge full of fungus and something that looks like vomit, bits of hay covering bathroom and bedroom floors, etc, etc. I hope I don't have to be here too long.