Saturday, April 19, 2014

on "slow reading."

I guess how I think of it is a "thing" now. (Or maybe I read the term somewhere and wound up thinking I came up with it).

There's been some concern voiced that reading stuff online - which tends to be bite-sized, rather than meal-sized - is affecting people's ability to comprehend longer or more challenging pieces.

Apparently literature professors are noticing this: "“They cannot read ‘Middlemarch.' They cannot read William James or Henry James,” Wolf said. “I can’t tell you how many people have written to me about this phenomenon. The students no longer will or are perhaps incapable of dealing with the convoluted syntax and construction of George Eliot and Henry James.”""

 I wonder how much of it, though, is "can't" versus "don't really want to."

This makes me a little sad. I read "Middlemarch" about 10 years ago and I do remember at times it took considerable concentration, or I had to go back and re-read sections: it's a challenging book.

But I read it on my own, as an adult more mature than the typical college student. Also, one of the beauties of being able to read what I want, on my own schedule, is that if I bog down and lose the thread of one of the plotlines, it's easy enough to go back, re-read, and pick it back up.

Other beauties of reading on your own as an adult:

1. You can read whatever you want to. You don't have to read "the classics" if you don't care for them. Nor do you have to read bestsellers if you don't care for THEM. You can read all the work of one author if you want.

2. You can indulge your odd little reading quirks - as I said, you can read all the work of one author if you want (I still have that little life goal of reading all of Shakespeare's plays. Next up, I think, after I finish my current novel, is Richard III). Or you can read or re-read a series in order. Penguin is republishing all (apparently all) of the Maigret mysteries.....I'm really tempted to get the ones I don't already own and read them in order. (I can read a Maigret, at least in English, in a couple days).

3. You never have to take an exam on the book. You never have to write an essay on some particular topic from the book. You don't have to suss out whether your instructor hews to a certain political or theoretical view, and craft your essays to fit that view so you get a better grade (that's sad but true in some courses....)

4. You can take as long as you want. When I read "Middlemarch," it took me somewhere between six months and a year. Of course, I was doing other things at the time and I often didn't have much time to read "for fun" on any given day. It took me a couple years to read "Bleak House," including a couple of restarts when I got frustrated with the novel, put it aside for quite a while, and then forgot where I was or the thread of the story.

I took Great Books I and II as my literature courses in college. One of the things that frustrated me was the pace at which we were expected to read - I joked to one of my friends in the class that it should be called "If this is Tuesday, then this must be Plato" (a la the old fast European tours). I don't remember all that much of what I read because being forced to read really fast (especially when I have other classes with a certain amount of reading) causes my comprehension to tank.

I do think there are different style of reading, and different "ways" of reading that are beneficial to learn. I use the skimming method a lot - reading stuff online, checking up on news, looking at science news that I might want to mention in class but that I don't need to know deeply. Or a very superficial reading like for magazines. But I do read more deeply - when I read for my own edification, or when I read fiction for my own entertainment. (And probably there are differences in how I read depending on if that fiction is something like a Simenon mystery or a Dickens novel).

When I'm reading to "learn" something - whether it's a journal article for my research, or a book about history  - I'm willing to go back, to re-read parts, maybe even read the whole thing again (well, for articles, not necessarily for a 500 page book). And I will also go back in some novels, if I lose the narrative thread or if a character pops back up 50 pages later and I go "Who he?"

Digression: one thing I notice about a lot of Victorian-era novels is that they have a bunch of different narrative strands, which tend to come together and tie up as the novel nears its end. Dickens does this a lot, as do Trollope and also George Eliot. I know Dickens' novels were serialized in magazines (Don't know about the others but they could have been; that was a very common thing then). That's sure a way to increase circulation: print a chapter of a novel, end it on some cliffhanger ("Does Little Nell live?") and then, have the next chapter that comes out - or the next three chapters - be on one of those unrelated threads.

Right now, I'm reading Eliot's "Adam Bede." This was her first novel, apparently. I'm enjoying it. I am finding it a much simpler read than I remember Middlemarch being. (Of course, her novel Silas Marner used to regularly be taught to grade school students. I have never read it, so I can't speak to its difficulty or lack thereof). The title character is a woodworker/carpenter/cabinetmaker, who is (I suspect) going to be the hero of the piece (along with his younger brother, Seth). However, there's also the interesting story of Dinah Morris, who is a Methodist woman who goes and "preaches" out on greens and open places. It's interesting to me because the novel is set at the very end of the eighteenth century, and I didn't know that women were allowed to preach then - apparently they could not have a church (well, the Methodists would not have, in those days, in England; they would have had "chapel" instead) or been officially ordained, but they could do a sort of missions-work.

Another interesting thing in the novel - if a little sad - is seeing some of the open prejudice of Church of England people for the "dissenters" - which is what the Methodists were considered.

(Side question: how did the "early " Methodists or the British ones differ from the American denomination by that name? From my reading of Victorian novels, I get the sense that the old-school Methodists were very serious and severe and even somewhat dour, which does not seem to have continued today)

One thing I find slightly difficult with the novel is the dialect. A lot of the dialog is written in a dialect that "sounds" to me to be a bit North Country or perhaps a bit West Country. (Supposedly the town where it was set was based on one in Northwest England). In a few cases I've had to read a line out loud so I could really "hear" what the word was, and then figure it out based on how it sounded and what the word would sound like in either RP English or in my own American English.

My copy of Adam Bede is a nice old Zodiac Press edition. It was, in fact, bought long before I was aware that some book-collectors collect and prize the Zodiac Press editions; it just was a nice book that I didn't already have at a good price. The typeface is comfortable to read, the book is a nice size...and yes, that matters to me. The physicality of a book is part of its pleasure for me, which is why I tend to be disinclined to get an e-reader. (Also, in that article I linked, they refer to a study that showed a group of engineering students actually had better reading comprehension from reading on paper than on a screen. Granted, it was a small and rather specific sample, but - I know I read more comfortably off paper, and I suspect my comprehension and memory for what I've read is better.)

But I do wonder about a lot of the things I like and value - books, classical music, stuff like good quality chocolate and tea - are those going to continue to be available? There's been a certain amount of discussion over SiriusXM's changing out of its "40s on 4" channel - which played big-band music - for a Billy Joel channel. They say the change is temporary but I would not be surprised if they decided to get rid of the "old fogey" music. Which is sad, because that channel actually used to be one of my pre-sets. I am not sufficiently a fan of Billy Joel to want to listen to a channel only devoted to him. But I did enjoy occasionally listening to the swing music. But I do wonder: how many in my generation care about classical music, or swing music? How many of us still care about nicely-produced books (or about books at all, given the statistics about the number of people who claim not to have read a single book in the past year)? (and where are the snows of yesteryear? I may just be getting old.)

Thursday, April 17, 2014

matters of temperament

Over the past couple weeks, a few of the blogs I read have been discussing introvert vs. extrovert and also "are introverts really all shy?" (short answer: no, because technically "introvert" vs. "extrovert" relates to whether you prefer to recharge alone or with a group of other people).

And yeah, I do think a lot of things in society now kind of militate against being an introvert - you see all these people walking around talking to people (or, well, now, more often texting or doing Facebook updates) all the time. I relish being able to walk across campus to carry paperwork to an office or go to a meeting because that means a few moments when I can be alone with my thoughts. I don't have enough to say, I think, that I could constantly be texting people or doing the booking of Faces.

Digression 1: I don't Facebook. I have an account, because very occasionally I need to see a page for which I have to log in. (My town's minor-disaster-management page - when we had a boil order that seemed to go on and on, the only way I was able to find out it was removed was by registering for Facebook and looking at their sooper-sekrit members-only page. Which is annoying.) But it seems to me like a Facebook page requires an awful lot of curating - I know people who update theirs with photos and such multiple times a day. And yeah, I suppose it's a good way to keep up with someone who is in the hospital or otherwise ill (it seems several people at church know exactly what's up with the people who are injured or sick, from facebook updates) - well, I also sometimes feel like there's such a thing as too much information. It seems to me that for some people, Facebook really breeds drama. Or you find out things about a person you'd rather not know. (One reason I don't internet-stalk certain famous people I have a certain level of regard for, is that I'm afraid of running across something that will disappoint me, and will make me regard them less highly).

Anyway. As I said, I prefer to be alone with my thoughts when I have a few moments' downtime like that.

I also know that I don't like crowds. Don't like them at all, to the point where if there's some event I MIGHT want to go do (the Germanfest in Muenster, TX, is an example) and I think about how many more people will be there than what the town normally has, I kind of decide not to. Now, it would be different if I had someone to go with - another person does serve a bit as a buffer for me in a crowd situation.

And I don't like noise. Or strong smells. Or over-bright lights.

And I don't know how I got onto it, but I saw the term "highly sensitive person" so I looked it up. There's even a test. Now, granted, this is all pop psych stuff, and even Wikipedia calls it "fringe theory" - but it's kind of frightening how many things on that test I actually exhibit.  Maybe not to the degree of having to "withdraw to bed" but I admit, more and more, over my "lunch break" when I don't have office hours? I close my door. So I can eat my lunch without being interrupted or dealing with hall noise.

And this one: "When I must compete or be observed while performing a task, I become so nervous or shaky that I do much worse than I would otherwise." Though for me, it's more "if I realize I'm being judged" - I can get up and speak or read before a crowd, no problems. But I've noticed I don't play as well during piano lesson as I do when I'm just practicing for myself, because on some level I feel pressure to do really well.

And I startle easily, and I don't work effectively when I know I might be interrupted, and I do get rattled when I have a lot to do in a short period of time.

Adherents of this hypothesis claim that some people (they say about 20% of people) process information and stimuli a little differently, and that's what leads to the traits.

I don't know. The whole "fringe theory" designation makes it seem a bit in tinfoil hat territory to me, but then again, a lot of the stuff described fits me so well. (I'm not really the "female Sheldon Cooper," as an ex-administrator claimed, but I do show a few of his traits - at least the ones as regards sensory input).

I also don't like the term "highly sensitive person" because that sounds really "special snowflake" to me and one thing I try very hard NOT to be is a "special snowflake," even to the point of putting up with stuff that maybe I shouldn't have to.

I tend to think of it more as "easily overwhelmed" or something like that. But loud noise does bother me, and it seems to bother me more than other people. (My mom has said, on talking about some event or something at church, either, "There were a lot of crying babies there, you would have hated it" or "They had amplified music and it was kind of loud, you would have been really uncomfortable"). And strong odors bother me, or even odors that aren't strong but are bothersome. (I always have to take the kitchen trash out to the can immediately after putting a chicken wrapper in it because I know if it sits over night I'll smell it all the next day). And trying to juggle all the stuff I have to do can really get me down, to the point where I snap at people if they try to change my schedule when I feel like I've carefully Tetrised in everything I have to do.

I don't see it so much as a "blessing" as some sites do, but as a warning: "Be careful so you don't annoy other people with your insistence on keeping to a schedule."

I will say I don't seem to cry particularly easily (a trait they claim), though I do have my moments.

I hope tonight is not one of them. We are doing a Maundy Thursday service, where there is going to be a complete reading of the Gospel of Mark. I'm one of the readers, because getting up in front of people and reading doesn't bother me, and I can do it fairly well. (Well, I rehearse ahead of time, so I'm not coming to the reading "cold."). I have chapters 3, 8, and 14. (There are five readers including the minister). Chapter 14 is going to be the tough one, both logistically (it contains the Words of Institution and we are doing a communion service, so I have to remember to stop at a couple places to allow things to happen) but also emotionally, because it's the one that contains Jesus' arrest and trial, and Peter's denial, and ends with the cock crowing and Peter weeping. And I can sometimes get caught up in things I'm reading....I felt my throat getting a little tight during the rehearsal last night. I really don't want to start crying because I feel like that would draw attention to me rather than to what I'm reading.

(I don't think I ever mentioned it but in a similar situation not quite ten years ago, I did start crying - it was at either a Maundy Thursday or Good Friday service, and I had been asked to pray, and I referenced Jesus' arrest and betrayal and execution, and suddenly it was like the weight of all that hit me, and the idea that it wasn't the Romans or the temple authorities that crucified Him, really, it was all of humanity,  and I just couldn't keep going. It was kind of uncanny because it was one of those sudden onsets of emotion that are so rare for me - I think I can only think of one other time in my life when I was so taken off-guard by my feelings. I started to cry and had a difficult time stopping. I was terribly embarrassed but people understood. Now, granted, there was other stuff happening at that time - the husband of a colleague had just died suddenly, and one of my relatives was going through cancer treatment, and it had been a more difficult semester than this one was. But still. So I'm hoping I can get through the reading tonight okay.)

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Planning next sweater

I do still have Hagrid on the needles, but I want to start another sweater. I'm considering winding off at least a skein of the Spud and Chloe I bought for the Belvedere cardigan and at least swatching it tonight. This is a lighter, lacier sweater that could be worn in heavy air-conditioning in the summer, and honestly, I feel more motivated to work on it than on the Hagrid sweater right now.

I also took the afternoon off and went grocery shopping. And I have my Easter dinner planned: I am going to roast another chicken. I saw the semi-organically-raised, "humane" chickens at the grocery and I remembered how delicious the one was I roasted for my birthday, and how lovely it was to have good leftovers for the rest of the week. So I got one. I might also either bake something Saturday, or else maybe do coconut baked custard.

One of my little traditions is for holidays that I'm "here" for (as opposed to Thanksgiving or Christmas), I make some kind of special meal for myself. I either do one that involves more cooking effort, or that is maybe a bit more expensive than what I normally buy.

I also took a swing by the toy aisle, to look for blindbags.

They had a box of the current wave (the Rainbow Wave), but there was also one lone neon wave bag left - which was strange to me, they haven't had neon wave for ages now, but then again, apparently inventory was just done, so maybe it was found somewhere.

I decided to buy it, since it seemed lonely, but said to myself, "Watch, it'll be another Flim or Flam and I already have a couple of each of those."

Nope. I was rewarded for buying the sad single blindbag:

sunny rays

Sunny Rays, a pegasus I don't have. So it was worth buying the bag.

She's standing next to the little LEGO model Big Ben (or rather, the Elizabeth Tower, where resides Big Ben, which I've been told is either the clock or the bell inside the clock) that my brother gave me for my birthday a couple years ago.

Here's a better photo of the LEGO:

Big Ben

I can't quite bring myself to take these down just yet, even though I do have Easter decorations, and this weekend is Easter. But I did pull out one decoration.


This is one of those bunnies from a free pattern from Wee Wonderfuls. He's made out of scraps of fabric left from my childhood - my mom tells me, though I don't remember, that I had a little top out of this fabric. (Yes, my mother has bits of nearly 40 year old fabric on hand, stored away. I like that, actually: having bits of fabric from my childhood that I can incorporate into quilts or other items.)

Tuesday morning things

* Meeting last night, so limited worktime on any projects. I did add a couple more rounds to the body of the Big Mac.

* Moments of indecision this morning: the departmental photo is being taken, so I had to figure out what to wear. Nothing that would wash out my complexion (I already look like a ghost next to a few of the other faculty), nothing too aggressively feminine (not that knit dress, not the one I have to wear a sweater over because otherwise I'm conscious of my bustline all day). Not that grey dress that is just a little low cut. I also put my hairbrush in my purse for last-minute touch-ups (I already have a lipstick over here for reapplication). I finally went with a long medium-brown skirt and lilac turtleneck (it's cold again here). I did add my long strand of multicolor (white and two shades of brown) dyed freshwater pearls to dress the thing up a little.

The thing is: one of us is retiring at the end of August, so aren't we just going to have to do this again in six months or so?

Since I've had the digital camera and have posted photos here of myself in knitwear, I have got a little more comfortable with having my picture made (I used to like to run away when someone had a camera and was taking "casual" shots), but I still spend an awful lot of time excluding outfits that I think are wrong.

* The photo is at 12:30, and I get out of class at 12:15. My SOP on Tuesdays this semester is to go home and eat lunch at home after class. (And I couldn't face packing a lunch for today). I slipped a granola bar in my purse just in case. Some days I get hungry before 1 pm, some days I don't. And I've learned not to let myself get too hungry; I get weak and a little distracted. And sometimes cranky. (There's a study that has apparently shown that 'hangry' is a thing. I'm not part of a couple but I know that my tolerance for stuff like "but I don't KNOW how to convert acres into hectares!" or "But you never told ME specifically there was going to be an exam today, and how should I know that when I wasn't in class!" is way way lower when it's past noon and I've been operating on three ounces of orange juice and a small bowl of cereal consumed at 6 am.... Actually, this whole study makes me think about how many millions of Americans are on some kind of ill-advised diet plan (as opposed to a smart diet plan, where they get enough nutrition but limit junk) and are just hungry all the time and make poor decisions and are snappy. I know when I did ill-advised dieting in college ("Nothing more than 1250 calories a day, and you have to write down EVERY SINGLE THING you eat") I got really cranky and could only last a couple weeks on it.)

Pull quote: ""What we conclude is that glucose is the food for the brain that we need to exercise self-control," Bushman says. "And when people's glucose levels are low, they are poorer at exercising self control.""

Interesting. So, a large proportion of the population is expected to exercise high self-control over what they eat (if you read any typical 'women's' magazine) and yet they are depriving themselves of the very thing that allows for that self-control. (There are previous studies that suggest that people who are sort of chronically hungry make poor decisions. That says something kind of sad about people in poverty who are "food insecure," that it would probably make it harder to do things to overcome that. But it also says something about the dieting mentality, where people who CAN afford to feed themselves choose not to. Or choose not to do so in an intelligent way.)

*  Some days I realize what a dinosaur I am. They are having "brown bag lunches" here on campus (short presentations on different things.) I've never gone to one because afternoon labs makes doing anything over the noon hour difficult, but the one for this week is "Using Twitter in the classroom" and I admit my reaction is kind of "and why would I want to?" Oh, I can see how some classes, particularly large classes, might find it useful - but I would just find it another distraction. Seriously, I wonder what things like Twitter and instant Facebook access on the smartphone and all that is doing to attention spans and styles of working and styles of interacting.

Also, it directed participants to "bring your smartphone." I suppose I will assimilate into the Borg eventually but I really don't want a smartphone, when I see what it has done to a lot of people: I can sit waiting for a meeting with a group of people I know, and everyone else is dinking around on Facebook on their phone, and no one is TALKING. (I should bring my knitting and pull it out, just as a little statement.) I know I can get sucked into internet stuff awfully easily: I wish no one had ever told me about the 2048 game and all its variations (there are a couple Ponified forms out there, there's a Doge form, and there's supposedly one that uses terms from academic publishing like "revise" and "resubmit" and the 2048 tile is "published). So I really don't want one.

Actually, one of my silly quixotic life goals is this: to be the last holdout faculty on campus who doesn't have a smartphone. I'm getting close to winning at that.

Monday, April 14, 2014

and another try

Just to see if the "grab the html" from Flickr is the way to go.


This is the tulip that was so pretty a couple weeks ago, but now has withered and dropped all its petals, thanks to the cycle of hot/storms/cold/storms/hot. (And we might get a freeze tonight).

So, how's this picture working? Okay?

Are pictures here?

Charlotte noted she couldn't see the pictures I posted. Is that true of anyone else? I know on my computer it takes a couple moments for them to load; I think flickr has sludged something up in its interface that slows things down.

I suppose if I have to, I can save them to my desktop and post them via Blogger's picture capability, like this:

Okay, this is from flickr:

This is saved to the desktop, uploaded via Blogger:

There's actually no easy way that I can see to directly download to my desktop from flickr. I had to grab that off the previous post, save it, and repost it. (Stupid flickr. I suppose they do that to protect the privacy of people's photos and prevent people from stealing them and using them, but it makes it a pain. And if people can't see my pictures from flickr, what's the point in having an account? I might as well just upload directly to Blogger.)

I don't know what else to try. Flickr claims it supports Blogger and you can post photos there. I can see the photos on my computers. They do say that Typepad blogs are no longer supported with photo support...

Here's a third option, grabbing the HTML. This may just make a link, though:

finished basketweave Charlotte, can you see this one? It's a different way of linking the photo. If this way works I will use it in the future because it apparently disables the slightly-annoying "scroll through" feature that gets carried along with the photos. (Maybe that's what's hanging it up for Charlotte? Maybe it requires some widget she doesn't currently use?) Ugh, I don't like it when services change how things are done and also don't have any kind of easily-accessible help.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Basketweave is done

I finished sewing it up yesterday.

This is actually  a man's sweater, at least the original pattern was. I made the smallest size (44") and it fits generously. (I made the sleeves shorter than recommended; any longer and they'd be too long).

I used a brass jeans zipper as the zip in it. Partly because I prefer the chunkier look of the metal against the wool (it's worsted weight, so it's kind of a "crunchy" sweater). Also, sometimes the plastic (nylon) zippers you can buy are kind of wimpy and poop out after a certain amount of wearing, and I don't want to have to replace the zipper any time soon.

I may actually wind up wearing this this week; Monday our high is supposed to be 50 degrees so I might wear this over a blouse and just take it off if I get too warm.


Work on the Big Macintosh is progressing. I've finished crocheting the head and am working on the body. I made the chest a bit broader; the original pattern I'm using gave kind of a skinny, slope-shouldered pony, and surely Mac gets too much exercise working on the farm to have a skinny chest.

I've also kind of figured out how to make the legs a bit stockier.

I have yarn put aside for a Colgate, who will be the next pony. And I'm toying with the idea of both really altering the pattern I'm using right now and doing a Bulk Biceps, or using the standard girl-pony pattern I use and making a Maud Pie - though for her, I'd have to get a little bit of dark blue jersey fabric and make up a dress for her; it wouldn't do for Maud to run around starkers. Actually, now, I wonder about the rules-of-dress in Equestria - most of the time the ponies DON'T dress up (there was actually  a sort of funny joke in the Grand Galloping Gala episode about this). Except some ponies do, at least some times. Or maybe the more adult ponies do? (There's precedent for that: in Little Bear, both his parents wear clothing, but Little Bear does not). Both the Cakes wear aprons. And Granny Smith wears at least a shawl.

Or maybe it's just a personal preference thing; maybe Maud covers most of her body in keeping with her normally-rather-impenetrable personality.)

And another faith-related thing, if I may:

Interesting observation made in the sermon today, something I had never thought about. The minister pointed out that both Judas and Peter were betrayers, each in their own way. (Judas, literally, and Peter by denying). But their reaction to the regret they felt afterward was very different - Judas tried to return the 30 pieces of silver, could not, and went and hanged himself out of guilt and remorse. Peter, upon hearing the rooster crow and realizing the denials he had made, "wept bitterly" but kept on going....and was ultimately forgiven for what he did, and in fact, became one of the bedrocks of spreading the gospel.

That just struck me. That we all do wrong, but we also have a choice in how we react to that wrong - that we can make the life-denying choice or the life-affirming choice (and seek forgiveness, and keep on going) and that ultimately, if we make the life-affirming choice, everything can change for us.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

and more ponies

There really does seem to be a small core of what one might call Pony Studies or perhaps The Consolations of Pony Philosophy out there.

Via a twitter convo, I found another article that spoke to me:

Duality of Ponies. It contains the observation that Equestria is not free of pain (though I would argue it seems freer of the slings-and-arrows of everyday life, and freer from the being-nibbled-to-death-by-ducks that occurs in everyday life). But that the real secret to it is that there is joy that allows you to power through the pain, and that joy is close enough to the surface, and friendship allows you to tap into that joy. Pull quote:

Joy - real joy - comes not from a life free from pain, but from our conquest of that pain. Pinkie Pie rose from a rock farm - gray and dull - and taught her entire family the joy of parties - the meaning of pink!

Yes, Pinkie, when at her best, is the most joyful pony ("Smile, Smile, Smile" is one of those things I listen to when I'm really down, to pull myself back up). But she does have moments of sadness or self doubt - one of the earlier episodes featured the other ponies all coming up with increasingly thin excuses as to why they couldn't attend Gummy's after-birthday party that Pinkie was planning, and so she begins to assume that it's that they don't love her, they are wanting to get rid of her from the friendship, they are pushing her out.

As someone who experienced perhaps more than her fair share of peer-rejection as a kid, and as someone who tends to "awfulize," that resonated  with me. And Pinkie goes all crazy-sad and starts talking to turnips. (You kind of have to see the episode to understand).

As it turns out, it totally wasn't what she assumed: Pinkie, in her drive to make Gummy happy, had forgotten HER OWN birthday, and the reason the other ponies couldn't go to the party she was planning was that they were planning a surprise party for her.

And of course, when she learns that, all is forgiven (and her stick-straight, sad-crazy-Pinkie hairstyle poufs back up into the bouncy Pinkie-perm she usually has). And she's happy again.

Joy - real joy - comes not from a life free from pain, but from our conquest of that pain. Pinkie Pie rose from a rock farm - gray and dull - and taught her entire family the joy of parties - the meaning of pink!

And of course, to a Christian (as well, I suppose, to those of other faiths, but Christianity is my path), that phrase should mean something: joy is NOT a life free from pain.

One thing Chappy used to say on a regular basis, and I remember this, was that she counseled people NOT to think that becoming a Christian meant your life would be easy - there would be the same pain and hurt and injuries and illnesses that all humanity experiences. But the difference was you had hope and, yes, joy. That joy is the thing that allows you to overcome pain. We're drawing in close on Easter, which is both a reminder of great pain (Good Friday, which to us moderns seems ironically named) but also the great joy that follows three days later....

It's remarkable the lessons these silly little equines can bring to you if you listen to them.

Friday, April 11, 2014

It's always something...

So, last evening, I lost Internet connectivity. I looked at my modem and thought, "Really? You pick now to die?"

I tried a short power cycle, nothing. I had to go over to do the Children's Play ticket-taking stuff, so I just left it plugged in and hoped it would correct.

Got back home. Nothing. So I unplugged it again and called the ISP.

My ISP/cable company has the second-most annoying phone tree I have ever used. (Top honors, if you can call it that, still belong to the IRS). Finally got someone after sitting through (1) a good bit of them bragging about how fast their internet speeds are and (2) a long-winded whine about how bad old Viacom was holding them up for more money, so that's why our Viacom channels went bye-bye. (Except they did not, so I don't quite know what's going on).

The guy I talked to said it could be the modem, it could be the splitter, it could be the line into the house. So okay. He said since I had a service totally out, they'd try to get someone out tomorrow (which would be today).

After the phone-stravaganza, I replugged the modem. Lights! my internet was back.

So this morning, I tried calling them back to cancel the appointment. Never got anyone, not after almost 10 minutes on hold, which as it turns out was providential, because when I got home about an hour ago, there was a message from the lineman guy to call him back. I did, and he said, "I'm out in your alleyway. I need to replace part of your cable and [what sounded like trap], the cable got chewed by a squirrel and the [trap] is really  old."

So he did. I could tell when he had because all the lights came back on on the modem. But then he came in to look at the set up - changed out the cable to the modem, and in fact, changed the modem altogether. (The modem I had was from 2007 and it still seemed fine to me, but I guess they wanted to put in a newer one. I pay a small monthly rental fee for the modem so I suppose it's just as well I got a new one.) So everything should work well from here on out, I hope.

He also said I'd get a few days of free HBO (And yes, there it is), that that is standard with new traps. (I suppose the trap is what keeps a person from leeching the premium channels without paying.) He also said that the periodic drop-outs of the upper channels (which includes TCM and Hub, the two ones most important to me) would stop, apparently that was related to the squirrel damage and windy days or something.

I will say: even if the head office doesn't seem that with-it (and their phone tree is a nightmare), at least the local techs are nice guys and are good. The senior guy on the job told me to call him back (I have his number) if something's not right. 

Well, if things break in threes, I should be good now. (Old home computer/air conditioning/cable and modem).

Also: probably one of the odder Amazon combinations I've ever ordered came  today. A larger-print edition of the New International Version Bible (I needed that version for a particular reading) and a Ty Pinkie Pie beanie baby. (Yes, I already have a big Pinkie Pie I made, but I kind of wanted the little one too)

Weekend of slackdom

That's what I've decided this weekend will be. (Well, with two things I need to do - Sunday school lesson and grading some exams, but that might be this afternoon).

Because: allergies, whoa. Mine have been really bad. I'm convinced now it's allergies and not a cold or (God forbid) a relapse of that awful respiratory thing I had at the end of February, because the symptoms get better or worse depending on what I'm exposed to. They were a lot worse yesterday after spending Wednesday afternoon in the field with a class. Also going through soil samples every day does not help, though I wear a face mask for that. So I need a few days away from some of those things.

There's a trash-off tomorrow but I'm not going. For one reason: four hours out in the wind and bending down close to moldy leaves to pick up whatever leavings people have carelessly and thoughtlessly thrown around would be terrible for my allergies. For another: I just really want that time to myself. Also, I hate to say this, but I'm coming round to the philosophical viewpoint that maybe it's not good for the offenders for people to pick up their trash for them - as I've said before, the people who go do this service are people who would NEVER litter themselves. And while the people who cannot pick up the litter that blows/gets dropped in their yards (the disabled or very elderly) benefit from the day (and I've had people thank me because of those reasons), I sometimes wonder if having the trash periodically disappear kind of allows the people who toss it to figure they're entitled to, because there are obviously "little people" whose job it is to pick it up.

I don't know. I hate litter because it seems so unnecessary, but I also hate that x number of people put in x number of hours cleaning it up - and then a month later, it's all back. (As I've also said before: I'd love people caught littering to spend a mandatory - as in, you can't weasel out of it by paying a fine or whining that you're "too busy" or "too important" - 100 hours community service picking up trash.)


Also, I worked at the children's play last night. This is an annual effort between AAUW and the uni's theater department to fund our scholarships. I can only work the "public" performance (the others are during the day, for school groups), because of my class schedule.

Tickets are $2. I've actually had people gripe at me about the cost. All I can say is "It funds scholarships. And what does a movie cost these days?" (We don't currently have a movie theater; the nearest one is in Sherman. It was rumored a big new one was going to be built but as the posited location is where the IHOP now is, I guess the assumption is that people will just drive to Sherman.)

Something I noticed - I had had a number of the "theater kids" in my gen bio classes back when I taught gen bio. I saw a few of them again last night. I got to observe them interacting. I don't know how much of it was put on ("This is how people expect actors to be") and how much was actual, but of what was actual....well, there's a difference between the arts and the sciences that is real, I guess.

One student, on seeing the younger sister of a friend of hers, ran to hug her and waxed effusive about how tall she was getting and "OMG, are you 20 yet? Let me look at you. Don't grow up too fast!" (The child in question was perhaps 9.)

Me, in a similar situation: "It's good to see you again." And I probably wouldn't run-to-hug.

I wonder if the sciences attract more introverts and things like theater attract more extroverts? Lynn was speculating yesterday on whether it's more nurture or nature. I think it's both. I know I'm an introvert in part because I have "introvert genes" (everyone else in my family is) but also because I grew up in that family and being introverted was treated as normal. (I think where you might learn something about the development of either temperament would be in a family where there were some of each...see what temperament dominated in the child after they had one introverted and one extroverted parent).

I'm an introvert but I'm really not as shy as some. Some people equate introvert with "won't ever speak in public and wants to hide from people" but really it's more: introverts become overwhelmed when they have to do too many interactions, and they need to recharge either alone or with just one or two closely trusted people. I can talk to people in public and do. In fact, I'm actively disappointed when I'm riding Amtrak, get to the diner for the "communal seating" dinner, and wind up with other people who either (a) form a closed group and don't want to include me in the conversation or (b) spend the entire meal playing with their smartphone.

It's actually almost like there's a parabolic curve of shyness for me: people I barely know, if I feel like they are willing to talk to me, I can talk with them. People I know very well I'm comfortable with and I can talk, sometimes even saying stuff that later on makes me go, "WHY did you say that? Oversharing!" or "You didn't need to stick your oar in just then but you did."

But it's people I kind of know but haven't hit that level of comfort with that I get shy around - I think I'm still feeling like the relationship could go either way, and I don't want to do or say something stupid or oversharey or weird and make them not like me.

I will say I have a much harder time if I'm in a group where everyone else seems to have a history together - if I go to a party where most of the other people know each other well, or have come together and I went alone, I wind up assuming "They'd rather talk with each other than talk to me" and I kind of hug the wall. Or if the people seem smarter or "cooler" or more accomplished or something, where I start thinking, "They're going to judge me negatively. Look at these women, they all look so perfect and here I am with my cruddy flat shoes and my hair all a mess and no eye make-up on, they must think I'm some kind of country hick." Or something like that. And that's when I get shy and can't talk to anyone. And I realize my judging of the well-dressed or whatever people as "They're not going to like me because" is as prejudicial as would be their (theoretical) "Look at that woman, who does she think she is, can't she even comb her own hair?" but I've had experiences in the past where I wound up hanging out with people more concerned about appearance than I am and it got back to me that they thought I was kind of pathetic or something because of how I dressed.

(That's a big part of my introversion that gets to me - that feeling that everyone's eyes are on me and they're noticing every little thing and I'm going to be judged harshly. Really, I know, most people don't do that, but sometimes I get into that mindset and it's hard to break out.)

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Sweater almost done

I'm slowly sewing up the side seams of Basketweave. The zipper is in (it wasn't as big of a pain as I thought it would be to sew in by hand), the sleeves are on. I'm just not that far on the first set of sleeve/side seams; I'm trying to do this especially neatly and it takes a while.

But it's nearly done.

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

All is forgiven

Yeah. I'm deciding that all the delays on getting the computer were because the place was absolutely committed to having it RIGHT. The guy who set it up told me, "Yeah, when we checked the drivers yesterday [he did not say which one], one of them crashed and we had to reinstall. But it's stable now." Better I had to wait (though I still say it would have been more courteous to call me and tell me) than have some big-box place come out and plug it in and go, "OK, you're on your own."

And they comped me a nice new router for my trouble. The old, old Linksys (which may no longer "talk" to newer computers, or it may be that a book fell on it a few days ago, even though it lights up and "acts" like it's on) is going to go to the next electronics-recycling day. As may my printer (unless I can find someone who "needs" an HP 720 deskjet. It still works, it's a darn good printer, but it's hard to find ink for, and also, I don't have the driver CD for it any more). And the shell of the old laptop. (They gave me the hard drive, because "We didn't pull every last thing off there, just the stuff that looked important, so if there's something you find you need, call us and we'll come out and try to transfer the file over." but a quick scan of the files that DID get transferred over, it looks like everything I would even remotely want)

I started it up briefly this morning because I remembered I needed to print my train tickets for my May trip and I wanted to do that. (The new printer is also nice. It's an all in one - it scans and copies as well as prints, and it can be made to act as a fax machine with extra work and money to the phone company. But then again? Anything I would want to fax these days can pretty much be scanned and e-mailed.)

Also, there was no charge for the hour plus of the tech's time in setting it up; that's just part of the deal when you buy a computer from them. (If it breaks, or if I need something else done, that will cost....unless it's something that's "their fault.")

At one point, when we were standing around trying to figure out the router problem (the modem and router are in my living room, near the cable inlet), he remarked, "So, you knit and crochet?" after seeing the sweater and sock and other stuff in progress spread out. (He did not ask: "So, you're a Brony?" even though I KNOW he saw the Ponies on my mantel. He did refer to having watched anime, which I know isn't the same thing, but at least he's not one of those grown-ups who thinks any grown-up with interests in 'childish' things is strange and not to be trusted)

I do have to read the printer manual to figure out how to scan and everything. And the easiest way to print photos. (I have a lot of photos of my niece saved via my webmail that I want to print out). And now if I draw something and want to share it, I can scan it. Maybe I will actually take up drawing a little bit again. I was never that great but if I take my time and don't get impatient, I'm okay. Maybe some "OC" ponies will come to grace this page, I don't know.

What I said

A couple days ago, I speculated on Pinkie's rap and how soon it would be before a fan parodied the old Fresh Prince of Bel Air theme song.

Not long.

I like how they rewrote it to be Pinkie's story.

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

And hello world

And that's what I feel like saying. The guy just got done with all the installation stuff. It turned out I needed a new router; my circa 2007 one didn't work with the newer hardware. And I can't figure out how to change the onboard trackpad mouse (disable it) without disabling the plug in mouse I prefer. (Sometimes when I type my hand drags on the trackpad and messes up what I'm typing, which drives me nuts. Maybe I need to learn to type differently, I don't know.

The guy was a bit over an hour late. I wound up calling at 4:30 to see what was up. I was told he was delayed and that he was on his way ("the tech's in the mail"?). But he finally got here.

It took forever to get the internet configured (along with the router issue; the shop comped me the router for my time and trouble, which I am perfectly fine with). And he had to download Office for me. And set up the wireless printer.

The computer came with Chrome and he installed Firefox. I said I didn't care as long as it wasn't Internet Explorer and he fistbumped me over that (heh. I guess no one likes that browser.)

Except for the annoying trackpad issue (which I may try to get resolved, I don't know), it seems pretty good.

Yeah, I kind of loathe the trackpad but by changing how I type (which slows me down I can avoid hitting it.

But golly, this has been a saga and a half.

Oh, NOBLE!* I can listen to Pandora over this computer and the speakers are really pretty good. Nice.

(*Yes. I watch Transformers Rescue Bots. Another cartoon I am SO FAR out of the demographics of. But I don't know; it's moderately amusing at times and I kind of like the family dynamics)

And now I have the Ink Spots station I made running. I don't listen to it at work because vocal music interferes with working for me, and I get that being a fan of the Ink Spots, for someone of my age group is a little weird and is harder to explain even than my classical music fandom. But it's fun to listen to at home - just heard a studio take (well, it starts off with banter, so I assume it's not the one that went to pressing) of Dean Martin singing "Ain't that a kick in the head" and I also heard one called "Mahzel (Means Good Luck)" by the Ravens. (Interesting: an African-American pop group singing about a Yiddish word.) 

The computer guy recommended running out the battery to the very end of its charge the first few times, so I'm going to listen to Pandora for a while more tonight, and if it runs the battery out, great, it can recharge overnight. And I'm getting better at typing without dragging my wrists over the mousepad thing.

And now, customization time. My wallpaper is a picture (Snagged off of Equestria Daily or somewhere) of Pinkie Pie riding the "The More You Know" star, because the start up sound sounds a little bit like that, and also I found the picture in my transferred files. (So I guess if they inspected files, they'd also find Pony pictures). And it amuses me a lot.

dare I hope?

I've been informed, via e-mail (I started using that, thinking, well, I won't be in my office to field calls but I can check e-mail after class) that the computer is FULLY READY and that I have a 3:30 pm appointment to get it set up. As this was from the owner (the guy I know), I'm more sanguine.

I think part of the issue in this whole thing is differences in information level and information transmission.

I tend to be, and I know this but am not always good at conveying it, a high-information-requiring person. I want to know how much longer I have to wait if I'm on hold on the phone (I like the places that have "dynamic queues" where they TELL you). I want to know if someone can't come out after they made an appointment. I will actually be less angry over a call that goes, "Listen, we have a really big emergency and I know your call is just a routine service call, would you mind rescheduling" than if the company doesn't come for HOURS and doesn't let me know anything. In fact, if I get a polite, "Do you mind rescheduling?" call close to the start of the wait-time window (or even before), I'll be pretty cordial about it and go "Yeah, okay, would Friday work?" Because I've had times when I had emergencies (like dental emergencies) and I know I got squeezed in and I appreciated my emergency being I can understand other people's emergencies.

But with this computer stuff, I would have appreciated calls that said,  "We're having a problem transferring files; can we reschedule?" or "Things are going wrong with the set up and we won't be ready today."

But maybe most of their customers aren't high-information-requiring people, and they're just used to that.

So again, it's maybe kind of like Ask Culture and Guess Culture: that there are some cases where I have to force myself to be more patient and be more willing to "be in the dark" about things, even though I would vastly prefer more detail. I don't know.

I will say I heavily front-loaded my work day in the hopes that I could get an appointment; I came in a bit early and wrote most of an exam, and then I did my two sample's worth of soil sorting (even though earlier this morning I had about 10 minutes of a really tight painful chest that suggested I was fixing to have asthma problems. I've never had a full-blown attack in the sense of requiring a trip to the hospital, but I've had times where my intercostal muscles sort of cramped up and my lungs seemed to clamp down. I don't know why that would happen this morning; it's not unusually humid and the pollen is no worse than it was)

But at least now I'm free this afternoon. (Maybe, thinking magically, that's the key: the two days I twitched and fretted because I "could have been getting research done" the set up didn't happen, and now today, when I will just be sitting at home crocheting on my Big Mac, they'll be there.)

Also, I finally heard back from OUP that they received my review. I was worried something had gone wrong but apparently *I* didn't receive the e-mail the guy sent out acknowledging the review. (Stupid campus goes wonky about once a week, usually on an afternoon they're "webcasting" something from one of the remote sites.)

So maybe things are looking up. I'm still sad about Mr. G's death and sad I won't make his funeral, but at least it doesn't quite feel so much like huge pieces are dropping off the world.

Long-term projects

I've got a bunch. That may actually be some of my distress. (Why can't I feel about projects like I feel about novels? It can take me six months or more to get through a thick Victorian novel but it never bothers me. I like "slow reading," which is another post for another time).

I got the zipper band done and the zipper in Basketweave last night. I started to sew on the first sleeve but just couldn't keep going on it. Part of it may be that it is now really too warm to wear a wool pullover and whenever I do finish this, it'll have to be tucked away (safe from carpet beetles) until the fall. Normally with sweaters I get excited as I get near the end and just want to finish it but oddly I don't feel that with this one.

(Again. It may be allergies. Or it may just be life-stuff going on. So far 2014 has been a year full of lots of sad things, and I'm just kind of sad and at loose ends and right now it's hard for me to get excited about much).

I've also been quilting on the quilt in the frame. I'm not quite half done with the borders so it will still be a while. I have to be in the right mood to work on this. I'm marginally more interested in getting this done so I can put together a new top, backing, and batting and put it in the frame.

And the other "long term project"? (Getting my new computer). Yesterday afternoon around 4:15 they said that "We're just checking to be sure all the drivers work, and then we're going to pack it up and we'll call you." They never called back. (Obligatory, stereotypical, joke about why computer guys have such a hard time getting girlfriends: they don't think to call back). I assume that means something went wrong with one of the drivers. I don't know whether to call today (I am beginning to feel like the persistent widow in that parable, and not in a positive way) or to wait for them to call or what. Or, since it was intimated that part of the problem was "this machine was built for Windows 8 so Windows 7 is giving it problems" to just throw up my hands and go "OK. Sell me a copy of Windows 8 and install it on the computer so I can actually HAVE  a home computer one of these days."

I don't know. I've gotten my hopes up so many times with this that I think I'm being taught "Don't EVER be happy about ANYTHING because you will only be disappointed." Seriously. I was so stupid, I got really excited yesterday afternoon when they said "We're just testing the drivers." I shouldn't have.

I guess I just have to hope that my office computer (Which still runs XP, and there's been no word of a replacement or update: our IT department is down to like 2 guys so they spend all their time putting out fires, so to speak) holds up until I get the new home one. Or I'll be doing all my work in the student lab, and getting booted out when the room is needed for a class.

Again I say: being an adult is way harder than what I was told.

And I do just feel tired and sad. Part of this may be, as I said, allergies, part may be situational (recent deaths of several people I cared about on some level, lots of gray days here which normally don't affect me but seem to have of late, a sense of being taken for granted for everything I do but when I need help, no help is forthcoming). Part may be medication-related. (I think at least one of the medications I'm on has "mood changes" as a listed side effect. I may just have to go off it and learn to live with bad hives again.)

Lynn linked the other day to a website of "15 Bizarre Human-Body Related Facts," where a claim is made that the more intelligent you are, the greater the frequency of dreams while sleeping. Yeah, great. Another downside to being smart. I've been having a lot of dreams I remember of late. Last night's one was that my house was falling apart (literally: I walked outside and looked at the kitchen wall. The house in my dream was covered with shingles rather than vinyl siding and I could see big cracks and gaps in the shingles, and between them, instead of the actual house wall, a whole bunch of crazy scaffolding. And somehow my backyard had become a junk pile where people had thrown old fenders and water tanks and stuff). And I couldn't figure out whom to call to come and help me, and what it made most sense to get fixed first, and how on earth was I going to afford all of it?

I have a nagging sense that that MEANS something....not that there's literally something big going to go wrong with my house shortly (I don't believe in prophetic dreams, at least not for stupid personal stuff), but that there's something....maybe it's that I feel like things around me are getting progressively worse and I'm kind of helpless to fix it...funding issues at work and dwindling church membership and all that. I don't know.

Monday, April 07, 2014

not good news

ANOTHER death in my church family. This one was a man who had, on occasion, filled the pulpit in the absence of a regular minister. And he had been an Elder, but of late, had not been in sufficiently good health to serve. He was a nice man. I didn't know him WELL, but I liked him. He always used to call me "young lady" (said in an affectionate way, not a stern way), which I guess I was to him. (He was a Vietnam vet. I don't know his age otherwise.)

He had been ill recently; some kind of infection that couldn't be identified. I guess at one point they had him in isolation, either out of concern for him getting other sicknesses or maybe him passing on some unknown thing. I don't know.

Maybe this will be one funeral that's at a time I can go to it. If not, I'll be going to Family Hour; I think as head elder I need to be there for at least one of those.

I'm about ready for the bad news to be done. 2014 has really sucked rocks so far, both for me personally and for a lot of people around me.

Edited to add: The funeral is Wednesday morning in Dension and there's not going to be a Family Time. So I can't go, not without cancelling most of the day's classes. I hate being employed at a place where I can't easily take time off. I know everyone understands, but still.

Monday morning things

* Big new news of the morning: Mickey Rooney has died. And here's a CNN FAIL I spotted: they showed his lifepan as "1930-2014" on at least one of their graphics. Uh, he was 93. Being born in 1930 would make him **83**. Also, he couldn't have starred as a teen in all those late-30s movies. (And yeah, it's possible some stars lie about their birthyear but I don't think Rooney ever did)

And now I have that Animaniacs parody of the Small World song ("It's a big, big universe, and we're all really puny/just a little tiny speck, about as big as Mickey Rooney") running through my head.

* Gah, I hope this is allergies. I'm feeling really tired and unmotivated despite having had a weekend.

Well, okay, a weekend that had one meeting that involved some people airing bad feelings (not directed at me, I was a bystander, but still) and that kind of got me down. I don't like how some people (a) let stuff fester until it gets really bad, and then air it all at once and (b) look for a messenger to deliver their complaints instead of doing it directly themselves. Whenever I hear a second-hand complaint directed at me, my reaction is, "And why did the person in question not have the guts to come talk to me themselves?" I mean, I'm pretty dang avoidant but when something is wrong that I want fixed, I go find the person who needs to fix it and talk with them.

* I did spend part of Sunday working on quilts. I got most of the stuff cut for that lantern quilt (Still to cut: 100+ 2 1/2" by 2 1/2" squares and a couple bigger chunks of the background). It's one of those quilts that doesn't look like anything much until it's all together, so although I started sewing, no photos.

* I also got the beans in before the rain started. So hopefully they'll start growing soon. No joy on the beets; the couple that came up either got eaten by slugs or damped off. Maybe this was a bad batch of seed. If nothing more happens I'll just use that spot for tomatoes when it gets warm enough to put them in. Or maybe nasturtiums.

* I think I heard a screech owl when I was up shortly after 4 this morning. (I woke up earlier than normal; unpleasant dream involving rats, so it seemed preferable to just get up). There was something out front of my house making a mid-range "hoooooooooooo" noise. It didn't quite sound like a cat, which could be another animal out at that hour. (I have a big old pecan tree that could provide a roost/hunting vantage point.

I hope it was an owl; owls are welcome because they eat rodents.

(Added: It sounded a little bit like the "descending trill" here. Not exactly, so I'm not convinced, but I can't think of anything else that would be out that time of night that might make a sound like that. I suppose it could have been some other owl; we have barred owls here and I think great horned.

Sunday, April 06, 2014

And some Ponies

This week's new episode. I just have to say...once again, I'm struck by the sophistication of the concepts the writers are putting in (and even better: making totally palatable).

Last week's episode centered on the placebo effect, on "when do you let a white lie slide and when do you tell the truth" but really mostly on the placebo effect. (And also, pony synchronized swimming is a thing, which I find wonderful.)

This week's was on different ways of learning. No, really. Rainbow Dash had a big test to study for to try out for the Wonderbolts Reserves. Twilight tried to help her but as Twilight is the traditional "egghead," Twili's study methods didn't work for Dashie.

(Heh. I recommended making flashcards to my Principles I class. Once again I am like Twilight. Well, except I don't highlight in books and I don't recommend doing so - I may underline IN PENCIL passages I want to find again BUT ONLY IN BOOKS I MYSELF OWN. I was actually surprised at the "highlighter" scene...)

So they tried other methods: Fluttershy got her animal friends to put on a play about the material. Rarity used visual learning (it's super effective!) - the historical Wonderbolts uniforms (and, oh my Celestia, the 1970s-fabulous one she put on Fluttershy! It was just a brief moment but I was laughing and squeeing all at the same time). Pinkie Pie did a rap, complete with an 80s-style hip hop video.

And a digression here: one of the tiny little things some people might not notice, but that I think is actually a huge wonderful thing, is how the writers or storyboarders will do subtle shifts of animation style. This is probably most noticeable in the MMMMystery on the Friendship Express episode, where Pony Joe as Con Mane is shown in a James-Bond style movie, and Gustave The Gryphon is an old "Perils of Pauline" style villain, complete with "grainy" black and white film and twirly mustache, and Mulia Mild is a ninja, with the "film stock" of her episode slightly degraded in the way some of the old "samurai warrior" movies' film stock is.

Here, Pinkie Pie's rap is 80s-style video, complete with the slight "tape degradation" that you see on old, much-played VHS tapes. It's a little thing and maybe a lot of the kids watching it didn't notice it, but I did, and it made me happy.

(How soon before the Pinkie-does-a-Fresh-Prince-of-Bel-Air-theme-song-style rap, in the fanart?)

Applejack isn't much help, she just says, "Oh, I've been doin' this (learning about apples) for years. How long you got?" and when Dash tells her "12 hours," Applejack basically says "you're on your own, then."

(I admit, at one point, I was fearful: "Oh no, this isn't going to be a Very Special Episode where we learn Dashie has a learning disability and they go all heavy-handed about it, is it?" But they didn't, thank goodness)

But later, Twilight realizes that Dash learns by "multitasking" (Well, I would actually say it's kinesthetic learning - she learns by observing subtle stuff while flying, and she remembers it, even though she's not consciously trying to learn it). And so, Twilight (who can fly now, remember?) takes Dashie "for a fly" and the other Ponies, down on the ground, demonstrate the things Dash needs to learn. And she does.

And while the ending is perHAPS a bit pat....still, it's a nice episode and it had me thinking about how I learn. And perhaps one of the reasons I've been so successful over the years is that LOTS of methods work for me. (Well, not rapping, in fact, I find it vaguely distasteful when it's implied that educators need to become entertainers to "engage" students). But I learn visually: all the plants and insects I know, I know because I've seen them enough times to make a "search image" in my mind that I can call up when I need to remember them. And I learned my stuff over a long timespan - in college, I'd start studying for a big exam 2 weeks before the date, and just study a little (like a half-hour) each day, and that seemed to work so much better than trying to cram. And also, with knowing stuff like plants and insects - I have worked with that for a long time. When some of my students seem amazed that I know as many plants as I do, and ask how I learned them, part of my answer is, "Well, I've been doing this for probably as long as you've been alive." (And yes - my first summer of fieldwork was in 1992, 22 years ago now).

But I also learn well using traditional methods - I always liked lecture classes just fine, and I can learn from reading.

But I also find I am somewhat of a Rainbow Dash-type learner; I tend to pick up stuff figuratively on the fly (see what I did there?) and there's a lot I notice but might not consciously be trying to remember - like landmarks and stuff. Or things I happen to read in passing. Or things I hear while I'm knitting. (I can remember what I was watching on television when I look back at what I knit over past days.)

Anyway. I really liked this week's episode and I think the writers of this season, by and large, are doing really well. And in some ways, the topics they are covering are a lot more sophisticated than the average, say, sitcom aimed at adults. Yes. A cartoon supposedly aimed at 7-12 year olds is smarter than a lot of shows aimed at people in their 30s. That's kind of sad in a way, but also kind of not. And anyway, I'm free to watch and enjoy the show even if I'm not in the 7-12 age group.

Saturday, April 05, 2014

Taking Saturday off

No, really, I did. I'm just in here (at my office) to grab the bucket I will need to transport the soil for Monday's soil-invertebrate lab.

I stayed pretty late last night; I wanted to type up the (long) minutes from the AAUW meeting while everything was still fresh in my mind, because apparently my minutes are Important Records that will need to be filed with the IRS (yipes).

I didn't do any of the soil-sorting I had intended to do. I didn't do it today, either, because I decided I had life-maintenance stuff I needed to do (shopping for things not locally available) and that I probably need to keep up with life maintenance even if it means it's at the expense of getting the research done faster.

(I have a hard time with that kind of thing. I tend to look at stuff like, oh, restocking the laundry detergent I have to use because my skin is a delicate flower and go "Normal people would just go to the Green Spray and get a box of Biz, I shouldn't have to take time off to get my special unicorn-milk laundry detergent." Or whatever. Or I tend to put off my time to recharge until the point where I'm really grumpy and on the verge of crying over some dumb little thing).

I let myself sleep in this morning; I slept until just after 7, which normally I NEVER do (weekdays I'm up at 4:30, most weekends I'm up around 6:15 even without an alarm, so I must have been tired).

I did do a bit of knitting last night and this morning (during Ponies) - I pulled out the pieces of Basketweave and wove in the ends on the body (and there were a LOT of ends; the skeins I used were small skeins) and sewed the shoulder seams and then picked up all the stitches for the collar and started on it. I don't know that I'll finish it this weekend but the one really big task (casting on all those stitches) is done.

After that, I ran to Sherman for the aforementioned detergent and also to go to the Target and the JoAnn's (I needed more white Kona cotton, and I had a 15% off coupon). And I got the new Simply Knitting UK at the bookstore (And the new knit.wear). And while at the natural-foods store, I replenished my vegetable stocks. (I am happy to report they now carry more salad greens; they used to pretty much only carry kale and arugula, which, though I know they're really Good For You, I just can't eat. Too bitter for my taste, yes, even the kale is too bitter to me).

When I got home, the mail had come. Including fabric for two future quilts (one of which was the one I bought the white Kona cotton for). Fat Quarter Shop is FAST. (Well, I think they're in Texas, so they're close to me - but still, they seem very good about same-day shipping of stuff that's in stock).

One is called Storybook - yes, it's a nursery-print line, really, but it has cute fabrics. And I found the PERFECT pattern for it (well, because of that castle print - I was thinking they were more fairy-tale or medieval themed fabrics, but there's a print with a plane on it. Oh well. It will still work). It's called Fairground and it is a design with banners (so I immediately thought "Ren Faire!" when I saw it, thinking about the castle-print fabric). It's a free pattern from Moda Bake Shop, which is a site I sometimes consult when I'm looking for pattern inspiration - most of the patterns are for their various pre-cuts (10" squares, 5" squares, 2 1/2" strips) but of course if you don't buy the precuts, you can cut your own out of yardage.

Also, it seems that that pale peachy pink/teal/grey colorway is a popular one right now - I have a Jelly Roll of a different line of fabrics (it's called Modern Roses. I'm going to do a modified postage-stamp pattern with it, where each group of 16 "stamps" is framed with a solid fabric - except, in my case, I got tonals in that tealish color and the peach to use for the frames, rather than solids. The color really is more of a peach than the orange that shows up in those photos (or at least does on my monitor).

The other one is "Britpop" fabrics - I have a few British themed (or coordinating - one with what look like woodcuts of old bicycles) fabrics that I wanted to make into a quilt, but I didn't have enough or enough variety, so when I heard of that collection, I decided I wanted a 10" square pack to use to fill in. Still no idea of what pattern I'll use but I find often when I accumulate a group of fabrics, a pattern will suggest itself later on.

Also, perhaps to atone a bit for all my fussing this week (I do not deal well with feeling like my time's being wasted, or when I'm not being given all the information I might), here are some pretty photos. I took these on Tuesday before our couple hot days (Well, dangit, 85 in early April IS hot) and before the storms. The forsythia is done for the year now, and the tulip's on its way out:

Already the Forsythia was close to done on Tuesday, a lot of the petals had dropped.

Daffodils. These are actually "doubled" ones that have more petals (Well, tepals, really - the petals and sepals look the same) instead of the "trumpet" of fused tepals, and I admit I like the more traditional shape better.

And the tulip. This one blooms only rarely; I think most of our winters don't get cold enough for bud formation, and I can never remember to dig the bulbs up and chill them over the summer. (Also my vegetable drawers in the fridge are generally too full).

This color, along with the dark red with black center and stamens, are my two favorite color combinations for tulips. (When I was growing up, my mom used to have the red-and-black kind in the garden in Ohio.)

Friday, April 04, 2014

Well, guess what

If you guessed, "She still doesn't have her new home computer," a winner is you.

Yeah. So. The air conditioning guys called a couple minutes past 2, came, took care of the issue (low coolant, as I guessed) and left.

At about 3, I thought, "I better call the computer place."

So I did. I was told the owner was "handling" it and would call me back.

No bueno. No, no bueno. So I wondered: Was the new computer broken already? Did something go wrong in the file transfer? Did they find a file with a title that set off alarm bells and the Feds are on their way to haul me off? (The fact that I have nearly only Sunday school lessons, cat macros, knitting patterns, and photographs from my cousin's wedding on that hard drive would suggest no to the third possibility)

So I waited. And waited.

And finally, at a bit before 4, decided to call back.

The call got dropped the first time. The second time, the guy told me, "There was a problem in the file transfer."


Apparently somehow the files got "corrupted" because of the "tool" they were using, and they had to wait for a new "tool" that was supposed to come in this afternoon. (Apparently, like that town in O Brother Where Art Thou, we are a geographical oddity, only, instead of taking two weeks to get here, everything is supposed to come in at the end of the day on Friday).

And, for all I know, that's a "pooter valve*" explanation. I don't know enough about computers to know how likely what happened is to happen. (Or maybe I just need to accept that I am a Disaster Girl of sorts, and figure out some way to parlay that into something benefiting me.)

(*Is that just an extreme regionalism from where I used to live? "Pooter valve" is what the mechanic tells you is wrong with your car if he thinks you're too ignorant to know otherwise. The Internets doesn't give any references to it, so it may be a very isolated usage.)

So. Once again I spent time sitting at home, waiting, (Which means I have to come in here tomorrow morning and do research, unless I stay extra late tonight to do it).

POSSIBLY they can set it up on Monday. POSSIBLY. At this point I do not trust that I will EVER see this computer. (If I ever do get it, I'm going to name it Unicorn or perhaps Hen's Tooth)

They are refunding me the cost of MS Office for my time, which is generous, but still, dadgum it, why didn't they CALL me as soon as they found out the file transfer was borked, so, I don't know, maybe I could have gone and done my grocery shopping at 2:30 pm after the A/C guys got done?

I was nice. I was polite. I hated making that second phone call to ask what was up and why hadn't I heard back but I guess sometimes you have to get more forceful than I like to get.

Anyway, another day of sitting at home most of the afternoon seems to be looming. I'm not happy about that. And no, I can't do stuff like practice piano because I cannot concentrate when I feel like the phone is about to ring or when I am even waiting for someone to call.

Thank goodness, Friday

* My taxes are done and in. I've decided it's definitely worth it to me to hire someone. The cost at the Jackson-Hewitt here (which is probably standard) was less than I expected, and I had a $50 off coupon, which meant I got the state taxes done "for free."

It's worth it to me for three reasons: First and foremost - someone who knows what they are doing is doing them, instead of me flopping around and trying to interpret the more arcane bits of instructions. (If you only have a single salary and no investment income and not enough deductions to count, your taxes are probably simple. I have investments - part of that Plan For Not Having To Eat Cat Food When I'm 80 - and some of them get complicated. And even more than "qualified dividends" complicated.) The tax lady said, "I like doing returns like yours because they challenge me and give me a chance to use my education." (And I like that. There's something to be said for a person who goes, "This was harder than the usual stuff in my job and I liked it because it was a challenge.")

Second, it saves wear and tear on me. These days, anything that reduces my stress level is worth it.

Third, I got back that time - and last year, it took two full days to do the taxes.

I'm getting a decent refund from the feds. (Well, my dad would say: "You gave the government an interest-free loan!" but whatever. I can't predict exactly what my withholding should be in any given year because of capital gains and losses). Also, her encouraging me to bring in all the bits and pieces I had that worked for Schedule A helped with that. This is my first year ever for filing one but it turns out that at this point, it makes sense for me.

I owe the state a small amount. (I *always* owe the state). I just have to send off a check for that.

I've already thought about that refund (even though a colleague of mine didn't see his Tax Year 2012 refund until January of this year....) I need to replace the big chair in my family room as the upholstery is about shot and the padding in it is, too. And my iron could stand to be replaced. And sometime I want a new digital camera. So hopefully, everything will go smoothly with my taxes and I'll see the refund before too long.

* Also, it looks like we (the AAUW group) got the issue with losing our tax-exempt status sorted. (Short answer: never, ever trust the national leadership of any group to do the stuff they are saying they are doing. Also, apparently lots of things got screwed up when the IRS changed over from the filing of paper forms for the paperwork to electronic filing Quel surprise....) One member who had some tax training (she does the free help-with-taxes-for-seniors that VITA offers here) managed to fight through the stuff, and a local CPA donated some of her time to look over the forms to be sure they were right.

But, it means things are going to be a lot more complicated going forward; we are going to have to do a big whack of paperwork every year. (Sigh.)

Also, we have to elect new officers. I immediately agreed to be secretary again, as a strategic move: I knew the president didn't want to succeed herself, and I so do not want to be president of the group again, and did not want to deal with the pressure to do so. (And anyway, I think I make a better secretary. In MLP comics terms, I'm more of a Raven than I am a Celestia). Also, as the Keeper of the Yearbook, it's good for me to stay as secretary rather than take on a bigger job on top of doing the yearbooks every year.

* I saw this yesterday. First it depressed me a little bit, but then I realized something: This is why I do things like make quilts. Because those are accomplishments that *literally* pile up (as in the stack of completed quilts on my guest-room bed). And yeah, maybe it's not the same as having a grant funded or winning the rare teaching award, but still: it's something I count as an accomplishment.

(If the type is too hard to read: it says "If Tetris has taught me anything, it's that errors pile up and accomplishments disappear")

I did start cutting the pieces for the next quilt (the one inspired by Japanese lanterns.) Didn't get very far but at least I have all of the main fabrics ironed and ready to cut.

* My first row of beets is just now starting to come up. If the various guys (Heh, now I'm thinking of that Steven Universe epsiode: "Guys? You know: Guys Under Your Supervision" - where he is talking about the little figures he gets out of a gashopon machine) get done in decent time this afternoon, I think I'm going to plant the beans (all the rain we've had will have worked well through the soil) and maybe another row of beets and perhaps the nasturtiums I want to plant.

Home grown green beans are so far superior to anything you can get at the store. (Well, maybe those with Locational Privilege who have access to a Whole Foods or a Fresh Market or something can get decent fresh beans, but here, they pick them far too mature and they're kind of blah and woody by the time they make it to market - so I rely on frozen beans, which are also generally harvested at a more-mature stage than what is ideal)

Thursday, April 03, 2014

giggling a little

Just called my usual HVAC place. I explained the problem to the guy who answered, and then said, "I was wondering if someone would have some time to come out tomorrow afternoon and look at it?"

He paused, and said, "You are a wonderful person. I have had people demanding I come out today."

I laughed, and said I had no time to be home today. (He's having to have their secretary call me back to arrange the time - he's just a repair guy and she does all the appointments).

It's storming right now so I expect it will be cooler tonight than it was last night, so not having A/C should not be an issue.

Thursday morning random

* Maybe someday I will have something crafty to post about.

* Got home yesterday afternoon, turned on the A/C to try to suck some of the humidity out of the air.

Guess what?

Yup, that's right: something's wrong with it. (Apparently this is my year for "Nothing is allowed to go smoothly.") The only consolations are that it's supposed to get cooler this evening (so I won't have another night of dreaming my chest is in a vise) and, since I'll be home ANYWAY tomorrow afternoon, I'm going to see if the guys can come out and look at it.

It'll be a race: who is least late for their appointment with me? Computer guy or HVAC guy?

(I'm guessing the system is low on refrigerant. It DID cool some and remove some humidity, but the cooling was not as powerful as I remembered from last fall. It's also possible something's borked with the blower system, I don't know)

* Apparently they have shut off all the HVAC in my building on campus. On the upside, that means the heat is finally off, but on the downside, it means the air everywhere is stagnant. And with humidity, that's bad, at least for me: still air plus humidity makes me feel like I can't breathe.

* I did get the brownies made. There are places in town that sell already made brownies, but one of them is the wal-mart, and the other is a catering place that's only open from 9 am to 2 pm. So I ran out, got the mix and a pan (and a few other things; if I can't make time for the natural-foods store this weekend, at least I can rely on the Green Spray now as I replenished my supply of the few things (organic milk, the good kind of lower fat cream cheese) that they don't carry.

I also picked up a couple more bags of Beanitos, which I discovered the wal-mart carries (Well, for now. Wal-mart seems to have a track record of dropping stuff they carry unexpectedly). Beanitos are chips, but they're chips made from beans (and rice). I am guessing they were designed partly for the gluten-free market, because they are gluten free. But they're also quite low in sodium, and they fit nicely into the craving for "slightly salty, crunchy, and savory" that I sometimes get. I figure they're probably better for you than corn chips....and anyway, I NEED something like that, something savory-tasting and that's not mushy cooked  vegetables or leafy salad greens once in a while.

*Another good food item I've discovered: the natural-foods store sells Lundburg Farms (and that name always unfortunately makes me think of Office Space) products, and one thing they have is a combination of rices and quick-cooking beans (lentils and black-eyed peas) called Olde World Pilaf.

It's very good. It has no salt (it's just the beans and rice). It takes almost an hour to fix but nearly all of that time is unattended time - you put the mix on to boil, cover it, turn it down to simmer, and then let it go for 45 minutes. Then you pull it off the heat but leave it covered for 10 more.

It's good as it is, but you can flavor it however you want - I added a little chipotle sauce to it when I ate it.

My only complaint is that the ratio of rice to beans is too great, but I suppose a person could throw in an extra handful of lentils or split peas to remedy that.

* I DID start something new - Tuesday night, when I was all ticked off about the computer thing, I pulled out the Mr. Ed pattern and the wine-colored Red Heart Soft I had on hand, and started a Big Macintosh. Yeah, he won't be "show accurate," as I said (though I may alter the leg pattern a bit to make his legs less spindly, and do fewer decreases in the chest region to make him look a bit more buff). But I don't really care as long as the face (eyes and general expression) is mostly close and the coloring is right. (I'm not going to do the eyes as the pattern directs, which gives kind of bulgy exophthalmic eyes - I'm going to do appliqued felt ones, like on the other Ponies I've made. (Just not with big eyelashes). And I'll do little "freckles" (The little white spots he and Applejack have - I presume they are supposed to be like freckles are on a human).

Making toys is soothing to me, I think it's because it's something I did as a kid (in fact, making toys was one of the first crafts I ever did - knitting clothes and doing embroidery and quilting came later).

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

straw, camel's back

I think that's what yesterday afternoon was.

I get upset when my schedule is disrupted because I have to schedule so tightly because I'm so busy. (I'm already fretting about when I get the bags of soil sorted through for this seems during an average class day, stuff comes up). I also get upset when I sense my time is being wasted, which happens from time to time on a college campus. (Occasionally there are higher-ups who get a power charge out of making people wait for them when a meeting is called. Luckily, none of my 'regular' meetings are that way, but it happens)

The set-up is at 2 pm and I'm expecting it to take at least 1/2 hour, so that would put me in Sherman no earlier than 3 (and that's assuming the guy is on time, and there aren't any hangups). So I don't know. It's a long enough drive I like to do several things while I'm there, not just go for one thing.

We need a better big grocery in this town. Green Spray is good, but they're very small and their produce section is limited. And when I said "stepped on" produce, yeah, some of the wal-mart produce looks that way. And I won't buy the brand of salad (their house brand) they sell - I bought some once and it was terrible. You'd think someone couldn't ruin salad greens but somehow they did. (At least I can get bagged spinach at the Green Spray and I've kind of been living on that). Or we need a CSA system where I can order boxes of stuff. We don't have that, don't even really have a proper Farmer's Market. (When as much of your diet is vegetables as mine is, you care about them more, and you care about them being good and organically grown whenever possible and not, like, having been sitting on the loading dock for a week before they're put out for sale.)

I did do one other thing yesterday afternoon - I decided since I was already kind of in a hissy-fit mood, that I'd go out to the cable-company's local office. (They do not have a local phone number, but I know where the office is hidden). I thought, best case scenario, they go, "Oh, man, we're sorry for the mess-up - wait, let us get you a box from the back" and I'd go home with a set-top box.

Well, that was not offered even though they had one sitting on the counter and I kind of eyed it. I told them about my early call, about how on the later call someone tried to claim I had called the wrong number (!)  and that I was concerned my service was going to cut out for lack of a box.

Well, it turns out it's not switching over Friday like we were originally told. When does the switch over happen? No one knows. They did tell me I "should" have my box in time before the switch over. But no one knows when it is.

Yeah. so.

(I was polite to the ladies, one of them seemed fairly frustrated at the lack of information the head office had given THEM.)

Also, something I've noticed lately: very few people in customer service say "I'm sorry" or "We're sorry" any more when a customer is inconvenienced. I realize that that's kind of like wanting to hear "thank you" when you help someone - that you shouldn't expect it - but it does make things a little nicer and a little easier even if it's likely that they're just PRETENDING to be sorry. 

I say "sorry" all the time as a way of hopefully placating people so they won't be angry. Said it just the other day when I had to tell a student that no, he could not hand in a paper a week late, because, as per the syllabus, late work is not accepted. And yeah, in a way I am sorry: sorry it will hurt the student's grade, but also sorry that they couldn't abide by the rules of the class and therefore are forcing me to play bad cop in the situation. (Surely, surely, many workplaces still have deadlines on stuff? I have deadlines on things - article reviews, textbook reviews, revisions of manuscripts, grant proposals. I've never actually missed a deadline so I don't know if there's any forgiveness in professional cases but I generally assume there ISN'T and budget my time accordingly. I suppose, with something like a revision of an accepted paper, if I became violently ill for two weeks and was physically unable to do the revisions, they'd cut me some slack and not rescind the acceptance, but I hope never to test that out)

Also, all the Viacom channels (well, the ones I thought to check) are still available on my cable, and there's no ominous "Call this number now and DEMAND your channels back!" header like there was a few days ago. I guess the cable company caved to Viacom's demands, or maybe this is just part of the regular kabuki theater between channel-providers and cable companies, that then allows the cable companies to go to the customers and go, "Look, guys....we got those channels back for you but now we need to increase your monthly rate, because of the greedy channel-provider." I don't know. I probably should have called the number and gone, "You know? Except for SpongeBob SquarePants, I don't really watch anything on the channels I'd be losing, so go ahead and let them drop." 

(I'm not really in the demographics of most of those channels....there's the "channel for men" (or so it used to be called), the channel for teens/twentysomethings, the LGBT channel, a couple kids' channels, a tween channel. I wish there were a "middle aged spinster channel," but I suppose we don't count demographically. And anyway, what would they show? Programs about cats?  (Maybe Hallmark is actually the middle-aged spinster channel, now that I think of it). I just wish there were still a channel that actually showed educational programming that was actually educational. PBS does sometimes, though most of the daily block here is taken up with kids' educational shows rather than ones aimed at adults. I also wish HGTV still occasionally showed quilting or crafts shows, instead of just the "couples arguing over what home they want to buy" programs (Why are so many programs now about conflict? I have enough conflict and arguing in my day-to-day life that I want something just kind of soothing for my entertainment)

AND in the midst of all this, I just remembered I'd supply brownies for a church "feed the college kids" lunch tomorrow. (I was going to make them last night, and of course I forgot). Crud. Usually I use a mix for these as it's faster and brownie mixes are not that bad. But I don't have a mix on the shelf (and I also usually use a 9 x 13 disposable pan, which I also currently do not have on the shelf). So, I guess after piano, if it's not storming too badly (the storms are supposed to start around 4, so I should be able to take my field lab out). 

But, meh. It would have been so much easier if I had thought of that yesterday. I can get the mix at Green Spray but last I looked, they didn't have the disposable pans, so either I have to risk sacrificing one of my glass pans (they get carried a couple different places and it's possible for a pan to get dropped) or go to the wal-mart. At 4 pm. On the day before big storms. (Or I could get up an extra hour earlier tomorrow, run there in the middle of the night, cook the brownies while working out....but that way lies madness.)