Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Okay, maybe not

Maybe I do have a few posts I can write and "embargo" during my vacation, so there's some activity here.

One thing I'm thinking about, one thing that struck me last Sunday, is something that was said in church. There was a discussion in the sermon about the things deep in our hearts that we need to try to eliminate in order to better see God and better love our neighbors- he used the image of the infamous "garbage barge" that traveled all over the place seeking a port in which to unload.

But one of the comments he made particularly struck me, about needing to get away from the idea of valuing ourselves based on our accomplishments. (Previously, he had talked about the error of valuing ourselves based on what we own, which of course, we all, as good Christians, nod at, because we understand how that's wrong even though some of us may do it sometimes).

But yeah. That struck me because it is a fault I sometimes have. How many times have I complained that I'm "wasting my life" because I'm not devoting more of my time to research? Or how many times do I bitterly wish I had written some kind of popular book (a la the Yarn Harlot), because then I'd feel like I'd "done something" with my life?

(Part of that is, I confess, a bit of jealousy - I look at people, like a particular knitting designer who is BOTH a singer-songwriter and a pattern designer, and I think, "she has fans in TWO media" and then I feel a little sad because I don't really think of myself as having "fans." And I know: I shouldn't CARE, I should care about doing the right thing by people, and part of the reason I don't always have adoring throngs of students is that my expectations are high and I enforce the rules and come down hard on things like plagiarism. But sometimes I think, in a grass-is-always-greener way, that it would be NICE to do stuff like designing for a living.....oh, I'm sure it has its awful parts as well, but it's so easy to see how "pretty" it is when someone just shows the nice or romantic parts of it)

I wonder sometimes if this is a lesson I learned from school; I didn't have a lot of friends and the main way I got attention was by being good at stuff, and I wonder if that taught me somewhere along the way that my worth is tied up to 'what have you done lately?' but I know it's something I struggle with. At my best, I can push it all away and say "I have worth because I am a PERSON." but at my worst I am running around in golden-retriever mode trying to make everyone happy so they will like me because I get in this mental loop where I feel like people will only like me if I'm doing stuff for them....

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Little finished item

One of my friends on Ravelry is doing a hat and mitten drive for a low-income area near her. A bunch of us volunteered to do stuff.

I didn't get as many things made as I had hoped, but here's one more item done:

slipped stitch hat

It's a slipped-stitch hat. It's the Skipper's Watch hat pattern, free from KnitPicks. It's designed for sportweight yarn so I used some old Socka 6-ply I had on hand - because Socka is washable and the colors are bright.

The slipped stitches sort of interrupted the patterning but I still think the hat looks fine. I will say it took a LONG time to knit because the fabric grows slowly but hopefully that means it will be warm for whoever gets it.

(And I'm all packed and ready. Just a few more hours.... I did wind up writing a few "embargoed" posts for while I'm gone)

Monday, July 27, 2015

a few decisions

1. I'm taking the Hagrid es sweater with me to work on, instead of winding off yarn for yet another stole project. (I have one in-progress I'm taking, and am also prepping the yarn for the Antarktis shawl. I'm going to use a Phydeaux fingering weight in a colorway called "Winterfell" (an example is here but like all hand dyed yarns they vary, and mine has more white on it)

2. I'm going to do the lace-column socks out of what I am now thinking of as Granny Smith Green yarn (a neon-y green, like the "sour apple" color that some candy comes in). The neon pink - which is pinker even than Pinkie Pie's mane - is going to eventually become Spring Forward, a pattern I've wanted to do for a while but never found the "right" yarn for.

3. I also need to wind off the "unicorn" yarn - it's called Unicorn Rainbow Glitter Fight, a pastel-y rainbow yarn with Stellina in it so it does glitter a little. This is going to be just-plain socks and I'm hoping it won't pool too badly.

4. Some toy patterns, including the flapjack octopus I talked about earlier. I'll have to set aside eyes of the right size.

Oh, I won't finish or even start all of these but I feel like I need to have a choice of what to do. And in normal times I swap out projects and don't work solidly on just one.

Also, I wonder if I'm going to be coming home with (or sending myself) a few things; my mom said she went through a few boxes in the basement that never got opened after their move and she found a bunch of stuff she thought had been lost in the move. Some of it went to my brother - she found, for example, the giant old Star Wars themed toy-storage wall hanging she and I made (when my brother was small and had the Star Wars figures - this would have been the first run of them - we made him a wall-hanging one year for Christmas that had elastic loops on it that he could tuck the figures in to. At least the ones with arms - the elastic was tucked up under their arms. We also put on a couple of pockets for other toys and I think a little pocket to hold the various weapons). She thought maybe my niece would like it, and after washing, she said it looked nearly new.

So I'm wondering what else she found....I can't think of anything I had that I feared lost but it's possible there's something I forgot about that I would be happy to have back. (No, I didn't have any of the original run of Ponies - I considered myself too old for them when they came out - and the one toy from that era I bought (Strawberry Shortcake) is on a shelf in the bedroom I use in that house, but maybe there's something). She also said she had found some fabric she "thought" was mine (in that I bought it, intending to make dresses or blouses of it). I'll have to see....

(One thing I should do is put a shelf up somewhere in my bedroom HERE and retrieve the few favorite dolls from my old doll collection, and maybe arrange to sell the rest or something. I don't have space for a full collection any more and anyway, I'm less interested in amassing a big collection than I once was. Oh, there are a few dolls I'd buy if I saw them at a price I felt comfortable paying, but I think I could probably get rid of most of the collection without too much pain. The main question is do I do it myself (by opening an etsy shop or something) or do I go through a broker and wind up having them do the work but also get most of the profit? I don't know. I do know that I won't get back what I put in, moneywise, stuff doesn't appreciate like people once thought it would.)

Sunday, July 26, 2015

New quilt begun

I finished cutting the background fabrics (80 each of squares, two different sizes of rectangles, and then 40 of the biggest rectangle) for this quilt today.

I think I'm going to cut the focus fabrics block by block and make the blocks one at a time. I made the first block before completing cutting the backgrounds just to be sure it "worked" (sometimes quilt blocks don't, because of an error in the pattern). And then I made three more:

new blocks

It's a modification of a Log Cabin block; each of the big blocks is made of four subunits - kind of like a Log Cabin block where the "hearth" (the square that is central in traditional Log Cabins; it is traditionally red or orange to symbolize the hearth) is off in one corner rather than the center.

I can also see how you could arrange the sub-blocks differently (here they are almost in a garden-path type arrangement) to get a different look.

The original quilt is from that "Generation Q" magazine I was talking about a while back - the original quilt was in a pale grey for the background and different shades of violet for the focus fabric, but I went with my own colors here.

The finished quilt takes 20 blocks; it is slightly shorter than a twin-bed quilt but about the same width. I could also see making it bigger (If I had more of the background fabric, I'd add another row to make it longer) or using a different color scheme.

Here's a close up of my current favorite block:

close up of blocks.

also, I have to say, unless in the next day or two I'm hit with some real posting inspiration, I will be taking a short blog-vacation along with my real vacation - normally I do embargoed posts but I'm kind of out of ideas at the moment, so it might be 10 days or so before I post again. (Just saying that so no one worries).

Saturday, July 25, 2015

failing at lazy?

Apparently, I do.

I knit a bunch on a donation-hat last night. But then this morning I decided to do some research-reading, and so spend a couple hours going through the backlog of articles I had set aside. (I need to be more disciplined about this; during the semester I get busy and tired and don't do it, but I need to, in order to keep up with how things change). And anyway, it keeps my mind active. (I read one on how it's now thought that older-growth forests, especially in the midatlantic region, are better at sequestering carbon than once thought. And one proposing a definition of "old growth" that could fit grasslands. And another one about stream architecture and how it affects plant diversity on the streambanks and things like plant dispersal.)

Then I decided I wanted to take a couple of tops in to the quilt shop....the most-recently finished top and a much-older top with a Texas Wildflowers theme. (I had found a backing fabric that was just irresistible for this one on my last trip to JoAnn's - I did have a bandanna print that would have worked but when I saw the vintage-style print of Texas bluebonnets on a white background (and with both "The Lone Star State" and "Texas State Flower the Bluebonnet" on it) I really wanted THAT for the back instead. (I can use some of the bandanna print for the binding.)

Of course, that required ironing off and cutting and sewing....sewing backings is kind of an effort even though it's usually just a long, straight seam, but it's a huge quantity of fabric to wrestle. And there's the added concern that you have to cut it just right (especially if you've cut it close on having enough fabric) in order to get it big enough. (For longarm quilting, the standard is 8" bigger in each dimension than the top is - so they can attach it in to the machine)

But I got that done, and folded them up and took them down. They should be done in September, maybe early October. I expressed approval at the "end of September" projected date and they asked if they were for Christmas presents and I laughed and said they were for me....and then the woman who does the quilting said, "Then you won't call me up and yell at me if they're not done until early October then?" And I kind of laughed and said that was fine, if someone came in demanding their quilt be done right then, I wouldn't mind waiting a little. I figure being "nice" and flexible like that when I can pays dividends. (And people being what they are, I suppose she HAS had people call her up and yell at her....but the thing is, if you're someone who makes stuff, you tend to understand that deadlines can't always be deadlines, and stuff happens....and yeah, it would stink if you were wanting to put the quilt in a show or something, but I kind of feel like YOU have to plan in advance and allow some flexible time if someone else is doing part of the work....)

I also dug out some of the yarn for the over-break projects, and I found some yarn and a pattern I had put aside (for yet another stole, this one is called the Scotch Thistle lace stole and I have some green-and-purple Lorna's Laces sockyarn for it - I've had it in the stash for years and maybe it's time to start it.

(I have to decide whether to take that or the Hagrid sweater as my "big" carry along project. I'll have to think on it.)

And finally, after getting back from the quilt shop, I did the workout dvd because all the sitting yesterday made my back hurt a little, and working out usually helps it, and also I feel less "blah" after having worked out...

So yeah. Not very good at being lazy.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Declaring lazy weekend

I got stuff done today....

1. I had the six-month checkup with my internist that I guess people with high blood pressure are condemned to have to do. (Normally, I had annual checkups with a doctor). The only bad thing was I had neglected to have the blood panels done. I can get them done there but it requires fasting and then coming in on a weekday, and I guess they open at 9? Well, maybe that week when I get back, before classes officially start, there will be a day when the meetings start late enough that I can do that.

Or I go and teach my 9 am some day on an empty stomach and then go have it done. Or go to the ER for it on a Saturday but I suspect her hint of having it done in-house was that it's cheaper.

Or I could just figure that I've been eating healthfully enough and go do it Tuesday before I leave town. (I worry, though I am probably more careful than many people. I mainly worry about blood sugar as my dad is pre-diabetic and I do occasionally like a bit of chocolate or dish of gelato...but I also don't drink soda or eat much bread or potatoes, so....)

The doctor did ask me if I ate many "processed" foods. (We had this discussion before, when I first started there. And no, I really don't). I admit I wanted to ask "what do you mean by processed" because I know some people who think cooking a vegetable is "processing" it and technically it is, but I decided that she probably meant stuff like frozen dinners and I said no.

I probably eat less than the average American but more than the average hippie. I also considered saying that but figured it wouldn't be helpful. (For what it's worth: most pre-prepared meals are outside my sodium budget but I DO use some canned things, like beets and low-sodium beans, and occasionally use spaghetti sauce if I can find one low enough in sodium)

I don't know. Diet is a big issue. I admit if after my blood work I turn up prediabetic I might just try to figure out some kind of "human chow" or soylent (but without soy; I'm mildly allergic to it) and just consign myself to living on that until my blood numbers improve.

(I'm probably being more perfectionist about this than I should. Typical breakfast: oatmeal done in the microwave with a small handful of high-cacao bittersweet chocolate chips, typical lunch, plain yogurt, cheese, fruit, typical dinner: often stir fried spinach, some other vegetable, maybe a fruit, maybe something like some canned salmon. Snacks: a dish of gelato or a few cookies. Maybe a cup of tea with 'sticky milk' in it. Other beverages: water, skim milk, unsweetened seltzer water, occasionally a coconut water. It's just, there's SUCH a drumbeat about Type II diabetes on the health news that I get worried about it)

2. I edged the yard and cut all the stupid privet and mulberry and winged elm and whatever else seedlings out of the front gardens. Did a little on the back but ran out of steam. (I reserve the option to do more in the back on Saturday if I feel like it)

3. Did the necessary pre-trip stuff like arranging a mail hold.

4. Wrote the Sunday school lesson.

So anyway: it's also really hot. The air conditioning is struggling (despite it being a new unit) to get it below 78 in here. So I think I'm going to get into something cooler than the skirt and top I wore to the doctor's (I changed into old clothes for yardwork and then back to run errands....) and sit here and knit on something. Still thinking about what projects to take; I found a simple columnar-lace sock pattern I want to do out of some neon yarn I bought but I can't decide whether to use the electric-bubblegum-pink or the Granny-Smith-Green for it....

I also have to wind off a couple skeins to take with me for future projects (the Rainbow Unicorn Glitter Fight yarn for plain socks, a blue and grey variegated for a shawl) and figure out some other projects.

But also, I kind of want to be lazy this weekend because I've spent most of the summer not-being-lazy and I'm tired and it's also really hot out. 

should not be

Two little things (because it's easier for me to look at the little things than the big things, like theater shootings) that should not be:

1. People calling from spoofed numbers, and calling, inexplicably, multiple times in a short span. Last night I got four calls in just under 2 hours from 405-759-0266. This LOOKS like an Oklahoma City number, but I am sure it is not - I'm sure it's spoofed. Also, it's "Unknown Caller," which numbers I do not answer.

they don't leave a message. I am not sure what the purpose of the calls is but it's annoying to jump up every 20 minutes or so to look at the phone to see if it's a call I want to take.

I looked into blocking numbers, and guess what, I can.....if I pay A T and T for that privilege.

Womp womp.

So I guess unless they get really offensive - like, they start calling late at night - I'll just keep griping about it. (I already pay for voice mail and for caller ID)

I don't GET why they can't track down the people behind these spoofed numbers and shut them down. I suppose they lack the will or employees or money (hah, given what I pay each month for phone service, I doubt it's that last). But it's ANNOYING.

2. Had another near-miss near-accident the other day. Once again, someone on a cell phone....I was turning off Wilson onto First (some of you will remember that that is the same intersection where I got hit back in March or so). I was making a right-hand turn. As soon as it was clear and I started my turn, a young woman came barrelling up on First, no turn signal, and whipped a very *short* left-hand turn onto Wilson. I had to swerve and slam on the brakes because she slewed over into my lane and would have hit me if I kept going.

And I looked over and yeah, she had a cell phone pressed up to her ear.

The worst one, though, was someone pulling out of an apartment complex's drive INTO my lane and I had to run up on the curb to avoid being hit. The person driving the car was looking down - texting - and when they saw me looked at me as if, "Why are you on MY road?"

A T and T runs a horrific PSA showing a slo-mo simulated accident allegedly caused by someone looking down at her phone. And these PSAs are everywhere. But people just ignore them. (Always the way: the people like me, who are responsible, know that we CAN'T use a cell phone and drive at the same time, so we don't.....and we cringe at the PSAs. But then there are people who just don't care or justify it to themselves or figure the rules don't apply to them or "just this once" or whatever). And so, we have to all be extra vigilant.

(I'll also say I REGULARLY get behind someone driving about 15 or 20 in the 40 mph zone on First - and they always have a danged phone pressed to their ear. It's a little thing but it annoys me because it is usually when I am on my way home, and it's like, "Here, the Universe is just going to make it be that much longer before you get home.")

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Thursday morning random

* I was complaining earlier this week about my teeth hurting again (my top teeth, and in particular, the pain centers around one eyetooth - it's the one that sustained some damage a long time ago so I worry about it. My dentist seems unconcerned but still I worry). Anyway, the pain comes and goes. Sometimes it moves to other teeth. It was bad yesterday and the day before and I was just beginning to think, "Maybe I need to woman up and go see the dentist" even though when I was in four or so months ago for a checkup (and x-rays) he didn't see anything at all wrong with it.(And it was hurting then, and actually worse than it is now)

Then, late last evening, not having had dessert after dinner and deciding I was slightly hungry, I got myself some ice cream (more properly: gelato. I've been buying the Breyer's gelato; it's fairly good).

I realized, while I was eating it: wait, the cold doesn't hurt my tooth. If it was a screwed up tooth, wouldn't the cold hurt it? And then, afterward, I realized: it doesn't hurt any more.

So, maybe it's just inflammation from stupid sinuses, and the cold ice cream dealt with that? I hope?

Also, I would think if it were an infected tooth I'd be sicker, and it would get progressively worse, rather than teasing me by getting better and then suddenly coming back. I don't know. I don't want to lose the tooth but I also don't want to go through a whole bunch of procedures either.

* Grass pollen is extremely high here right now, which is perhaps part of it. And my neighbors to the south have an unmown yard - the grass is 14" tall in places. And I know I should be more forgiving, but it rankles me that I spent a couple weekends LAST summer obsessively grooming my lawn and garden after the city griped at me for one patch of grass that wasn't even 8" tall. I know life isn't fair but sometimes I feel like I'm the (to use an animation-trope term) the butt-monkey in a lot of life situations and I catch stuff other people wouldn't.

Also, most of the grass in that tall lawn is flowering and it's cranking out pollen. When I first get up in the morning I have a hard time focusing my eyes for about 10 minutes, I'm sure that's allergies. (Also my eyes feel kind of "gummy" first thing in the morning).

* Weirdness in my building: some strange things have happened this summer when no one was around - snacks the Administrative Assistant keeps on hand disappeared, one weekend some dog dropped droppings in one of the halls. And now, one of my colleagues had the grate at the bottom of his door (we have metal grates in our office doors, for ventilation) kicked in. Our doors are impossible to jimmy using the simple credit-card technique so I'm guessing someone tried to get into his office. Why? Either to steal stuff (nothing was missing, but then, the only "valuable" thing in that room is a uni-issued desktop computer and I have no idea if a desktop has any "fence" value) or to try to get a look at his tests (I don't think he had any copies of an upcoming exam out).

Though I kind of suspect it was the former, because another colleague had an electronic balance stolen out of her lab. (I checked mine. They're all still there, but then, the prep room where I keep stuff is a huge mess - the one colleague who used to use that room too has kind of abandoned it - and I suspect I'm the only one who knows where stuff is)

But yeah. It's unsettling. The chair said it was apparently happening on weekends when "no one" was up here. I am frequently in on Saturdays but often keep my office door closed when working. (Still, I don't think I'm going to come up here this Saturday. I have work I COULD do but I may just load it all onto a flash drive and take it home with me and work at home.)

The low-level-stuff-being-stolen bothers me (we don't have ready funds to replace stuff, and it's creepy to think of our balances winding up in a meth lab, especially if they still have the "control tags" on them marking them as university property) but it would bother me a lot MORE to meet up with someone who was not supposed to be here when I was the only one in the building.

Campus police are aware and are supposed to step up their checks, but we're a distance from the rest of campus and we kind of wind up being the "red-headed stepchild" in these things. (There's been a boom of building apartments in the past couple years and more people right around us, so I don't know if that's the source of the intruders)

* Had a long meeting yesterday afternoon, part of which involved dealing with some fallout from two people (neither at the meeting) who have giant personality conflicts, should probably NOT be working together on stuff, and who apparently had a screaming fight at one point.

I don't know. I think the last time I screamed at someone it was my dad when I was a teenager. If there's another adult I have to work with who is being difficult I tend to sigh a lot and maybe modulate my voice *downward* (sometimes speaking more quietly gets the other person to shut up a little and listen) and all that. In a worst case scenario, if I felt myself getting angry to the point where I might say something I'd regret, I excuse myself from the situation and just walk away until I calm down. Or, in some cases, I just decide my opinion is less important than theirs, obviously, and try to do what they want (within reason, of course).

But I will say I've tangled with one of the people involved and yes, they can be somewhat abrasive and difficult to work with. I generally deal with it by being very, very quiet around them and when they're ranting, just letting them get it out.

One thing I've learned as an adult is that a lot of people don't have anyone who listens to them on a regular basis and sometimes that makes people a little....pent-up. And I sometimes wind up as sort of an unwilling audience to someone like that. I kind of hate it, and sometimes I do try to politely say, "I'm sorry, but I really have to get off the phone, there's somewhere I need to be..." and in my more self-centered moods I gripe to myself about how I often have no one to listen to me when I need to talk (hence the blog, hence the Twitter account...) But yeah, I can understand the feeling of not-being-heard, and I sort of wish no one (self included) felt that way....

I never know how to deal with 'difficult' people. My usual method is to avoid them, but you can't always do that. The unfortunate thing is I have enough people-pleaser and conflict-avoider in me that I often tend to placate people in ways that sort of enables them to continue in being difficult. If I were tougher I'd probably call people on their rudeness or abrasiveness or whatever, but....I get tongue-tied and never know what to say, and my heart starts racing and I feel kind of sick when I have to confront someone over ANYTHING. (even when I have to tell someone who plagiarized a paper, "Yes, you received a zero, and you did because HERE is the webpage you copied verbatim from, without even bothering to cite it.") I don't know why I am that way but I am. (Nature or nurture? Too many times as a kid being told "I won't be your friend any more if..." teaching me that unless I always give in, no one will like me? Too many introvert genes? Spent too much time as an only child or older sibling who didn't really have to fight for attention? I don't know.)

The meeting itself was kind of stressful and I admit after I got home and ate dinner I went and got my Dr. Whooves stuffie and carried it around with me for a while when I was working on other stuff. I tell myself that I'm an adult and that kind of thing shouldn't help me but strangely enough it does.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

happy is useful

I'm working on making up my "new" presentations for the new textbook we have in the intro class this fall. But also taking some breaks here and there.

I've....discovered the earlier-gen Pony tumblrs.

I admit, I avoid some areas of the Pony fandom, including a lot of the G4 tumblrs, because, well, a lot of people on tumblr are really, really big on "Rule 34" and that just makes me feel sad and squicked out because I go to Ponies to recapture some of the innocence I had as a kid before I knew about all that kind of stuff.

(Digression: when I was a very small child, I figured out "where babies came from." My mom had my little brother so I kind of knew about the biological fact of pregnancy, that the baby developed INSIDE mom, so no stork story would work for me. But what I figured was this: if a mom and a dad loved each other a lot, somehow God decided they were ready to have a child, and presto, the woman became pregnant.

Yeah, I had a pretty sheltered childhood and I think all the babies I saw come into the world were babies who were greatly hoped for and expected, so that's probably how my mind figured that out. Also the whole story of Mary (the mother of Jesus) probably influenced my idea of God saying "make it so" and the couple having a baby....I didn't learn the mechanics of procreation until I was ten, and I admit I was pretty weirded out by it for a good while after. Which is why I boggle a little when I hear of 12 year olds having kids)

Anyway. I like sometimes to hark back to that more innocent time. I don't know. I'm weird that way I guess. Sometimes I think I probably didn't enjoy my childhood enough and that's why I keep trying to go back as an adult and recapture little bits of it.

Anyway, I've talked before about enjoying Heck Yeah, Pony Scans, which is largely the collecting blog of one of the earlier-gen (mostly G1, the original ponies) collectors. Like me, I think she likes the whole innocence of the early-days thing, and it's a very family-friendly type of blog. More recently, I've followed a few of her links to other blogs:

Pony Guru: Pony Collectors Anonymous (including lots of "how to store and display" and also features on restoring or remaking damaged ponies. Back in my doll-collecting days, I used to occasionally buy the sad, cheap, slightly damaged dolls and clean them up and make new clothes for them and bestow new characters on them. Because I could. So I feel some affinity to the Pony Restoration posts.)

The other thing I like about these tumblrs is that by and large they are very positive - it's the "look at this cool thing I found, you might enjoy it" or "look at this clever thing my friend made" - there's relatively little snark, there's little infighting, and that's kind of a relief in the fandom world.

Most recently, I've looked at Princess Golden Light (I'm the Princess). Again, largely a collecting blog with a few comments here and there and some nostalgia.

But on one of the archive pages, I ran across this quotation, and I liked it (Actually, it was a post tag, and I hope she uses it more often):

"Not everything has to be useful because some things are allowed to just make me happy too."

(Later on, apparently a commenter pointed out that happiness IS useful, and I agree with that too)

But that does sum up a lot of things for me. Why I buy (and use) old linen dishtowels at vintage stores - it would probably be cheaper to get just a floursack towel at the wal-mart, but it's more fun to find one with a crazy vintage pattern on it, or that is salmon pink and green and so matches my crazy kitchen color scheme. Or why I like embroidered pillowcases. Or why I have such a shocking number of amigurumi ponies. Or why I seek out house-shaped teapots even though I never actually USE a tea pot because I never drink that much tea at a go. Or why I spend big bucks on Folio Society books when I could find cheaper paperback is short, I work hard, and it IS nice to have some things that are just there because they make me happy.

And looking at pastel ponies online makes me happy, too. Oh, I admit, I'd be horrifically embarrassed if a colleague or student walked in while I was taking a break at work to do it. But still. It makes things *better* somehow. I can't quite explain why.

A commenter on the Princess Golden Light blog remarked: "My day is always brighter whenever I see one of your posts and whenever I'm having such a horrible day I sneak on to your page and just look at all the pretty ponys and smile. Thank you so much for that."

And yes. That's part of it. It's a simple thing that can make my day brighter. Oh, I understand that for most people, pastel ponies wouldn't make their day brighter at all - but I think for each person, they can find that thing that does, and maybe hang on to it, and remember it on the tough days.


Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Classes nearly done

Two more days. On the one hand, a break will be welcome, on the other, I will miss this crew of students. Summer students are kind of a breed apart and I enjoy having them - I find the summer crew is more likely to have a critical mass of the funny-geeky students who actually laugh at my jokes (partly because they get them) or who get caught up in the stories I tell in class.

A couple of things:

1. I may have gained a new advisee because the student said they liked how I taught and also their regular advisor is going on sabbatical.

2. Pre-meds. Heh. I had someone in my ecology class get mildly freaked out over a praying mantis in the field. That said, I think I convinced a few people that being a "mudballer*" isn't so terrible. Don't think I won any converts, but at least I might have broadened a few perspectives.

(*There are two factions, some would have you believe, in biology: the "mudballers" and the "tubesuckers." The tubesuckers, you can probably guess, are the lab biologists. The mudballers are people like me - field biologists. The names are mildly derisive but when I've heard them used it's been mostly in a gently busting-your-chops sort of way. And anyway, I totally own up to being a mudballer, seeing as a lot of my research involves soil and I don't mind getting dirty or making a mess in lab. I'm not sure where the mathematical modellers fit in with all of this; they're even more isolated from the messy stuff than the tubesuckers are....)

3. One of my pre-meds asked me, one day in a field lab, "But what are grasshoppers FOR?" I kind of boggled at her for a moment - that's an awfully broad question and could be answered many different ways (I presume she didn't mean it so much in a philosophical/epistemological sense). I finally said, "They eat grass, and also are food for some other organisms" which seemed to be the desired answer.

It makes me laugh a little because I don't think I've ever asked, at least as an adult, "But what is (that species) FOR?" I just kind of accept that everything has a role and is here for a reason....

4. One day in the intro class lab - my TA was one of my ecology students - a couple of the students were talking about how they were going on to other schools in the fall (because we have neither an engineering school nor a forensic science department*) and the TA commented, "Well, if you ever have any questions about stuff, just call [fillyjonk] here, because she's real smart."

And while I didn't do what I might have done in years past and protested in false modesty that I wasn't all THAT smart, I did say "I'm smart but I also have a lot of gaps in my knowledge about stuff." and he responded, "No, she's real smart." So maybe all my goofy stories about random stuff do have a good effect.

And you know? If one of them e-mailed me a question about something I was knowledgeable about (or knew where I could point them to get knowledge), I'd totally e-mail them back. This was a fun group of students and I am a little sad that some of them aren't staying on here.

(Also: yes, I may be "real smart" but I have a couple other secrets up my sleeve: I have a freakishly good memory and I also am very, very good at finding information fast online. And GOOD information too, not the weird listicle might-be-true, might-be-junk kind of information that passes for so many websites these days)

(*I am now imagining just how awesome it would be if we DID have an engineering school. I think we could attract a lot of students because the next nearest school with one is pretty distant. Of course, that would take money and legislative will for that to happen.

I think I've said before that if I were starting all over again from 16 or so, I'd work harder in Calculus and learn it better and try for Materials Science Engineering or something because I think it would be kind of fun to have a career where you get to try to break things for a living.)

Oh it's hot

I have to do more piano practice before my lesson later but I'm taking a break after practicing and then cleaning the house up a little.

It's really hot out. We don't have a "heat advisory" because apparently it has to be hotter than 96 (air temperature, not "feels like" temperature) for that to happen.

I'm glad my A/C is working.

I finished "Cool" a little while back. I enjoyed it, it was really pretty informative. A couple of later-on facts: Nixon did really badly in the heat; apparently a minor-league dirty trick Kennedy's people pulled at one of the debates was cranking up the thermostat in the venue (Kennedy, apparently, tolerated heat much better). And so, of course, the Sweaty Nixon meme (though we didn't call them memes before the internet) was born.

(I could be misremembering that from the book; other sources note Nixon was running a fever of 102 in that first debate and declined make-up - it was some kind of an out-manlying thing, Kennedy who was younger and more photogenic had also declined. And it was in a later debate that Nixon had his people crank down the AC to a cold temperature and the GUARD it so that Kennedy's people couldn't turn it up. And one site also reminded me of "fangate" in a recent election with Charlie Crist)

Carter, in part because of the oil embargo, pushed for thermostats set at 80 during the summer in Federal buildings (80! That would be okay in Phoenix, where it's dry, but deadly in parts of Texas, especially if it was a newer building where ceiling fans had not been installed - a lot of older public buildings had them and they do help. Our old offices had them - the new ones do not and they can get really stuffy really fast if the A/C is off or if it goes down).

(I very vaguely remember the embargoes. Mainly from sitting in the backseat of my dad's car while waited in line on "their day" to buy gas and while he cussed mildly about having to wait. The 1970s were an interesting decade in the Chinese curse sense of interesting.)

And the guy makes the argument that yeah, it sucks a lot of power, but at the same time - no modern building has been made to exist without it, and big swathes of the country would have to shut down in summers without it, any more. (I think of the opening lines from To Kill a Mockingbird, about Alabama summers, and how women bathed three times a day and suchlike. I can just say, I would NOT be teaching summers if there were no air conditioning.)

I think one of the other things some of the people who are blanket anti-air-conditioning don't think about is that some people do have health conditions (I have bad allergies and lowlevel asthma, and airconditioning makes it SO MUCH BETTER) and that people vary in their heat tolerance (Probably the ONE thing I share in common with ol' Nixon is that my ideal room temperature would be somewhere around 70 degrees.)

If I had to limit my usage for money or whatever reasons, I'd run it at night, or run it colder at night and hotter in the day - for me, I am most miserable trying to sleep if I am too hot - I don't sleep, I lie there and perspire. (I do tend to, as they say around here, "run hot.") And not sleeping makes me miserable and dysphoric. (I'm already not my best in the summers; even with air conditioning I don't feel quite "right" when it's this hot).

I started a new non-fiction book - this is one of the ones I got as part of my "pay" for reviewing a biostats book for Oxford U Press. It's called Ancestral Journeys and is about the early human settlement of Europe. I've long had an interest in ancient history (or, I guess here, pre-history) and archaeology. This is the "newest" book I've read and they're talking about how now DNA analysis can be used for a lot of things - they talk about "aDNA," or "ancient DNA" - the stuff you can extract from teeth and bones. (They also talk about the haplotype issue and how Cheddar Man, sadly, really probably DOESN'T have a patrilineal-chain descendant in Cheddar, and also how those ancestry-place DNA tests aren't all that accurate (which I already knew, based on some of the ones I've seen people get).

I'm just now to the point where they're getting into historical linguistics, which really interests me. (I very nearly majored in something like that, except for two things: 1. limited job market, I realized the only job I could get would be a professor at a school that offered that, and increasingly few do and 2. even then, it was politicized in certain ways that I didn't really like. Or maybe that was just the school I was at. And so I stuck with biology but it does make me smile to see that biology - though not the kind I do - is sort of bleeding over into what I considered majoring in.)

Part of it, for me, is the wondering about how people lived. We can't ever really know for sure (absent some kind of Connie Willis time-traveling) but it's interesting to speculate. What would it be like to be one of the first farmers? (And how did people figure out that sticking a seed in the ground resulted in more, later on?) What would be the reaction of a group meeting up with another group, where one group had wheeled vehicles and the other did not? How did people make sense of the world around them?

On my mind

So, they told me, you need to go set up an account at THIS bank. They have one branch in town, it's over there.

And I sighed with annoyance. It was over in the farthest corner of town from me, somewhere I never went, that I assumed was just another residential-area. Why would anyone put a bank in an old housing development? Especially here, where it's a foregone assumption that people have cars and are willing to drive to go anywhere?

I also didn't WANT another account at a separate place, with all the probably-different login procedures and yet another complicated password to try to remember. But that's how life is, so I set off to try to find the bank branch and do what I needed to do.

As I said, this was a side of town totally unfamiliar to me, I had never been there before. So I was surprised to get there and see what looked like a small shopping district - why did no one mention the existence of this before? And there was a big, older building, like one of those old (1800s) hotels, the kind where the entire ground floor was either reception areas or shops. For some reason, I decided to go in...

And it turned out that it was something like a Christkindlmarkt, going on right then and right there (And there was a distinct German or at least Alpine feel to it: one of the stalls had an enormous taxidermied bear standing in "attack" position). There were stalls selling crafts, some selling food, some with antiques, even some with clothing. And it was all NICE stuff - not the usual kind of flea-markety poorly-made junk that seems to show up at itinerant-stall places. It was busy, but it was a busy-ness completely different from the wal-mart on a day when it is slammed - no one was rude, no one was pushing. There was a bit of a din, but it was a happy din.

I walked around for a bit, amazed - seriously, how did I live here fifteen years without ever finding out about this? and then thought, "But you have to find that bank branch, you have to take care of the account stuff. So I went back out to my car. And I realized, when I got there, I could not find where I wrote down the name and address of the bank branch - and this seemed like a stunningly complex little part of town, lots of side streets and stuff in unexpected alleys.

So I started to drive around slowly. Noted the parking for the Christkindlmarkt sort of place, with definite plans to come back as soon as I could. I wound up stopping in front of a store that sold nothing but skirts (yes, in fact, "skirts" was part of its name) and decided I had to look in a phone book for the address. Found the old phone book I keep in my car, then couldn't remember the name of the bank I was looking started with A, I think. Or was it O? This was very unlike me, normally my memory is better, and also, I'd have had that slip of paper with the name and address in a pocket or at least in my purse...

and then I woke up.

Yeah. The whole Christkindlmarkt thing was just a dream. I'm both slightly sad and annoyed.

I used to regularly have dreams like that - of finding something WONDERFUL and unexpected somewhere (shortly before moving into my house they centered on things like finding a "secret room" in my house, or finding out that the backyard was much larger and more spectacular than I had thought, with things like waterfalls and small forests in it).  I don't know what it means psychologically. A desire for escape? A fed-up-ness with things the way they are and a longing for something "more"? I don't know.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

And another pony

I finished the Dr. Whooves pony today:

Dr. Whooves face.

I used a Nerdy Knitter (she has patterns both on Ravelry and on Etsy) for this; it's the Tenth Doctor version (I think she also has a Fourth Doctor that comes with the scarf).

I did have to sort of free-hand the face; I must crochet tighter than the pattern designer because mine came out a bit smaller (I guess) and the eyes given in the pattern were too large. That's not a problem though.

Dr. Whooves (10th)

I did do the flank insignia pretty much the same size (I pretty much used the given pattern):

Dr. Whooves cutie mark

I never really went for him as a "background character" until the 100th episode. As I said before, the voice actor (Peter New) did a really wonderful job with giving him a voice (and adding to the character the writers wrote). In the Ponyverse, he has almost as much of Doc Brown from "Back to the Future" as a Time Lord in him....sort of a slightly goofy scientist character. (I don't think there'd be any actually MAD scientists in the Ponyverse, just slightly goofy ones).

And of course, the interaction with Derpy was so sweet and so fun. A lot of the fans posited her as a "companion" for Dr. Whooves (even though Rose also had strong support, given her name), but they chose Derpy (Well, okay, her real name is apparently Muffins) for the episode. And she is so cute with him.

Doctor and Derpy

"Like a million bits!"

You can also see in that photo that the ponies made off the Elisabeth Doherty pattern (that's Derpy) are a good bit smaller. But somehow, it works. As a stallion, he'd be taller.


He's a bit bigger than the ideal size to tuck under one's arm while reading, but still a nice cuddly size - not too large. (Chrysalis is a little bit big; as I said before she's almost as big as a medium-sized dog).

I do think I'll take a bit of a break from making Ponies, at least until after my short vacation next week. Too much crocheting stresses my hands. (I still think Treehugger is the next pony in the queue).

Saturday, July 18, 2015

NWS' New Image

(yeah, yeah, need to get back to grading but)

National Weather Service recently changed their images. The old "hot" image had a distinct "Eye of Sauron" feel to it, so I guess they changed it to something "friendlier." Or so they thought.

It makes me think of this:

(And yeah. I had to do that alteration using PowerPoint. I don't have any REAL image manipulating software and the base image was too small when uploaded at Cheezburger).

Compare this to the "old" hot image:

I'm not convinced the change is an improvement.

waiting to dry

My hair, that is.

I got up early (well, not early for me. In the summer, even without an alarm, I usually wake between 6 and 6:15) and once the sun was up and the dew was mostly evaporated, I went out to mow the lawn. (I have an old-fashioned reel-type mower that is quieter than the average car motor, before you excoriate me for waking my neighbors).

Yeah. It's already humid. Not that hot but dewpoints up around 70 so I was pretty tired and sweating like a racehorse* and had to shower (and wash my hair) because of allergens and also being hot and sweaty. So now I have to decide: do I go over and finish my grading as soon as my hair is acceptably dry enough, or do I watch re-runs of Ponies and go over after lunch?

(*except, do racehorses actually sweat? Most furred mammals don't, except through their paw pads....that's why dogs and cats pant. Okay, wait, reliable sources on the internet (Practical Horseman magazine) says they do)

I was thinking as I finished mowing about how when I was a kid, I used to mow my parents' lawn to earn money to buy toys (and later on, albums). Now I mow my own lawn so the city doesn't fine me.

But I will say there's more to it than that. There is a certain satisfaction at looking out over my lawn when it's done and seeing all the neat, clean, equal-height grass. (And it's looking especially good now; the rain we had this spring led to the thin patches growing in thicker).

(My neighbors to the south.....well, I've now mown my lawn FOUR times since they last mowed theirs. I'm looking with mild irritation at their 10" high (in spots) grass, all the pollen it's discharging, and remembering the "nasty gram" I got last summer. Oh well. Maybe they'll deflect scrutiny from me this year, I hope.)


The new issue of KnitScene is out (Fall 2015). They have a "style icons" section - sweaters inspired by "a few of our favorite fashion icons." And I guess this is how far out of the loop I am, I looked at several of them and couldn't possibly guess who.

Like Maduri: a rather plain turtleneck pullover with some kind of knit-purl pattern.

I'm guessing Hyannis Port is inspired by Jackie O, simply based on the name (it is a chunky turtleneck with a cable.)

(The models they use are multi-culti and don't apparently look like the "style icon" that inspired the sweater. That would have helped Moondancer types like me who don't really know fashion....)

The one I immediately liked was Couturier: a structured cardigan obviously inspired by Chanel. (And, joy: I have some "uncommitted" Berroco Vintage in my stash - a sweater's worth bought on a good sale at the local quilt/yarn shop - and I have ENOUGH of it for my size, and it is the RIGHT WEIGHT. I think it's going to become this sweater eventually).

The Oddity Scarf MIGHT be David Bowie, in his Ziggy Stardust incarnation? I'm guessing this because they say something about "your inner rockstar*" and there is a zig-zag of red worked onto the scarf.

(And anyway. No magazine ever would have the poor taste to imply a scarf pattern was inspired by Isadora Duncan....)

There's the Brigitte headband, which has kind of a sixties vibe, so I'm saying that one is Brigitte Bardot. (And actually, they SAY it was inspired by her headbands. So I guess their target audience would know what "Maduri" referred to but not who Brigitte Bardot is?)

And then there's Virginie: a simple, slouchy sweater that could be worn slightly off the shoulder (and they suggest wearing it with slim pants) so I'm wondering if that one could be Marilyn Monroe. I actually kind of like this one, as simple as it is, but I know I'd never shell out for the recommended yarn. Hm. I wonder if the fuzzy KnitPicks yarn (their version of Rowan's Kidsilk Haze) would be the right weight....I have some of that in-stash too.

(It would have been more clever, I think, if they could have posed the models in poses that more typically mirrored the "icon" or with shots that were in the style of the era: all of these are just very simple on a blank background)

(*And again: the whole "rockstar" thing. It bugs me.)

Friday, July 17, 2015

And it's Friday

I really need to get down to work; I collected the student papers on Thursday (Well, I said, "You all are responsible people and I know you are busy so I would allow maybe an extension until Monday but really if you have it done, e-mail it to me by Friday" and I think I'm going to live to regret that as I don't have three papers, and therefore cannot mark the task as "done" until I get those three....)

I started Dr. Whooves' mane. It's done in pieces that are then connected (so it has points). I figured something out. I think it's clever but it's probably not that clever, but anyway:

How do you tell "piece 1" from "piece 2" and from "pieces 3 through 6"?

Well, on Chrysalis, when I made her, I took Post It notes, and stuck them on each bit, but some of the notes fell off. This time, I realized: I still have the "tail" from where I started the piece left on it, I won't be removing that until I weave that end in when it's done. So I tied knots in the yarn tails: one knot for Piece 1, two for Piece 2, and so on. Like I said, it struck me as clever but it's probably not so very clever.

In just over a week I get another short break, as usual I'm going to visit my parents. Part of this is that I need to do some clothes shopping and it's just EASIER there (Sherman is very spread out and the construction there is still bad, and the two stores I might be most likely to shop at are on opposite sides of the interstate and getting between them is STILL not easy). (One thing I need to do is find a store where they don't frown on trying on bras. I've realized that since doing the fitness dvd in addition to the cross-country ski exerciser, I've lost some girth around my ribcage and the current band size I have is a little too large, so I want to try dropping down a size and see how that works. They go, typically, in 2" intervals.... I will hasten to note that cup size has not changed; that part of me seems fairly resistant to weight loss. Not that that bothers me; I'd rather have an itty-bitty waist and bigger other appendages.... I'm thinking the Von Maur, which is more expensive but also nicer and has nicer people working there might be the best place to try. Heck, they may even have a "fitter" there, for all I know, and maybe she could help me)

I am, as you might guess, already thinking about projects. I plan to take the couple of in-progress things (the long-stalled cabled socks, the Rickenbacker shawl, which is getting more and more done on it) but I want a couple of "new" projects.

One is going to be Haruni (that's a Ravelry link but I think they recently opened their pattern section to even non members? Maybe?) It's a shawl based on a fern-leaf lace pattern. It's designed to be made with ~550 yards of sock yarn and I have some pretty, soft-grey-with-pastels I got a while back for a shawl, and I like it for Haruni.

I also am going to do at least one amigurumi; someone came out with a pattern for an amigurumi version of a recently-discovered flapjack octopus and it is cute in its own simple way. You can see a photo of the actual animal at Featured Creatures. And really, that's a pretty accurate amigurumi, as amigurumi go....

I also kind of love that the scientific name of the octopus is Opistoteuthis adorabilis, because there are way too many things in the natural world with the specific epithet of horribilus or spinosus or something like that. (And yes. The scientist who named it chose the epithet because of "adorable.")

(I will also confess to thinking that with a few minor modifications and a color change, that pattern could be used for a least, the G4 kind of Smooze)

And I want to start a pair of simple socks. One day last week, feeling sorry for myself over stuff (I think it was when a difficult committeemember called me up and talked at me for a while, and I was reminded again that either I don't brain some people well, or there are some people who just do weird things like expecting others to read their minds when they say something totally opposite to what they think) and I ordered some sparkly rainbow sockyarn.

No, really. The colorway is called (if I remember the order of the words right) Glitter Rainbow Unicorn Fight

Given my new fondness for Star vs. The Forces of Evil, I really want socks of that colorway. (GLITTER RAINBOW UNICORN FIGHT could be one of Star's "spells"). Just simple socks, to be worn under slacks in the winter with my Mary Jane type clogs....but I think I will feel perhaps slightly more powerful on the days when I wear them. I hope.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Cartoons and happiness

As I've said before, I watch a lot of cartoons. In fact, by and large, the majority of my television watching is cartoons or otherwise diverting fare (I have, of late, been watching Tiny House Hunters: the concept of tiny houses intrigues me as much as I know I couldn't do it myself, and sometimes the "house hunter" type shows bug me when the people doing the hunting get very entitled or whiny, but still, it's fun to see the houses*)

(*Okay. I COULD see a tiny house being something like either a vacation house, or a "I really need to bug out of town where people can't find me" type house. But I couldn't live in one full time. Not with our summers; I'd go stir crazy trapped within 400 square feet or whatever. And I also remember how depressing it was when I lived in a studio apartment and could see the dirty dishes in the kitchen sink from my bed....)

The Mary Sue ran a story the other day on Star Vs. The Forces Of Evil, a fairly new Disney cartoon on Disney XD. I really like this cartoon a lot. Over at The Mary Sue article they bring up some of the "feminist" (a word, I think, that has become kind of useless because it can mean so many things) implications of the show and such, but I admit the show just makes me HAPPY in a lot of ways, and that's why I like it.

I can't quite explain what it is about it that makes me happy. It's colorful, for one thing, and colorful things make me happy (I think this also explains part of my love of yarn and fabric). And yeah, it has a female protagonist who SO doesn't do the damsel-in-distress thing, and also it doesn't seem to be in a hurry to 'ship' any of its characters (One thing I object to about a lot of shows for grown ups is the frequency with which some of the main characters seem to fall into bed (and I suppose, out of) with each other... granted that I don't pay much attention to my friends' social lives but it seems almost no one out here in the heartland is nearly that "active" as the people on tee vee. This may actually be a reason why I like cartoons in general: less stupid relationship stuff).

And it's just nonsensical in some ways: Star's best friend from her old planet is named Flying Princess Pony Head, and Pony Head is literally a floating, disembodied pony head. And this is totally normal to Star, she doesn't see it as strange at ALL. Or that she gets chased by bizarre villains. (There is one called Spikeballs; he has spiked balls for hands. And he actually shakes hands with either Star or Marco in one of the episodes...) Or that she can use scissors to open up a wormhole to another dimension....

The show is essentially a parody of the old "Magical Girl" style (something from anime; I'm not that familiar as the only Magical Girl show I have really seen was the old American dub of Sailor Moon). But Star has the magic wand, and she states the "spell" she's going to use to fight the baddies - this is standard Magical Girl stuff. Except hers are wonderfully goofy:

NARWHAL BLAST!  (Tiny narwhals attack the bad guy)
RAINBOW BUTTERFLY ARMAGEDDON! (Huge burst of rainbow butterflies....)

(And okay, I admit it: occasionally now when I have some difficult thing to do, that will require a lot of "emotional spoons," I find myself thinking NARWHAL BLAST or RAINBOW TORNADO or something Star-like before it, to psych myself up)

I think also I like the show because of Star. She's incredibly, goofily optimistic and she is also far more confident than I ever was as a tween or am as an adult. I also like the friendship dyad with Marco, the son of the family Star is staying with as an 'exchange student' - Marco is far more cautious and controlled. And Star helps him break out of that a little bit. (I need a friend sort of like Star).

(Also, some people in the fandom are wanting to "ship" Marco and Star. NO. STOP. Their relationship needs to be more like a brother-sister relationship for this thing to work.)

One reason SOME people criticize the show a little bit is they say it's too "simple," that it doesn't try for deep plotlines. That's actually a big reason why I like it: it's silly and goofy, it's 11-minute episodes. Problems happen but they get taken care of in that time span. The show doesn't strive to be emotionally deep like Steven Universe has become, or like Adventure Time became even before Steven Universe.

And I have to admit, the deeper, more metaphysically-minded cartoons: there's a place for them, but I have to admit I tend to wander away from a show a bit when it gets too, what I call, "sad." I think part of it, for me, is that there's not resolution: big questions are raised and left hanging. In Adventure Time, at least last I watched it, the universe of Fin and Jake was one that was post nuclear-war, the Ice King had originally been a nice researcher-type who was driven mad by an evil crown, and Princess Bubblegum had gone from being a cute squishy ruler to someone with kind of messed up ways of dealing with the world.

And I haven't kept up with Steven Universe* but it seems like it got very dark very fast. (A recent episode I DID see involved some kind of a plotline with "experimentation" that cast one of the side characters in a vaguely Mengele-like role. Oh, we don't see the atrocities on-screen, just the after effects of them, but still).

(*Part of this is Cartoon Network's goofy way of scheduling stuff, where there are no new episodes for months on end, and not even really re-runs of the existing ones, and you think the show must have ended, and then, boom, there's a whole mess of new episodes all dropped at once when you don't have time to watch them. I find these days mostly when I turn on Cartoon Network, they're showing either Teen Titans Go which ranges from mildly funny to meh, or The Amazing Adventures of Gumball, which is stupid-funny and I do like stupid-funny things but I've seen all the episodes like three times already....)

And I admit: there are enough sad and confusing things in real life for me that I prefer cartoons that are simpler and more straightforward. As I said in a comment at TMS, Star makes me happier after I've watched it, and there aren't a lot of entertainment things these days that do it - where I just, plain and simple, feel happier for having watched.

And I admit: my current favorite cartoon deals with some fairly heavy emotional stuff (see my review of the latest episode, a couple days ago), but to quote Sweetie Belle: "If it's a friendship problem, it'll be wrapped up in about half an hour." And again: that sense of resolution, that, by and large, the world has been put right again, is part of what makes me happy about these kinds of shows.

And YES, it's unrealistic to wish life were that simple, that problems could be easily dealt with - but sometimes I am (to quote a family friend) a Bear of Very Little Brain and I do wish life were that simple.

(Also, apparently the creator - her name is Daron Nefcy - originally wrote the story as a comic, and in the original story, Star was not an interdimensional princess sent to Earth, she was a delusional sixth-grade loser who only BELIEVED herself a princess superhero. I definitely prefer the final version of things. That first one would have been crazy frustrating and depressing as a cartoon).

I also like the Disney XD show Gravity Falls. (And I DID get to see the new episode; they re-ran it the next night). This episode was a big "reveal" and kind of a bringing together of a few threads in the show. (At one point, Soos* makes the comment that he hopes everything that comes out will be in line with his "fanfiction"

(Yeah. That's a thing now, I guess. The idea that there's a fan base that speculates on stuff and is Deeply Disappointed when their speculations don't bear out. This is where I depart from fandoms a little)

Anyway. I will say the summing-up-of-threads worked out pretty well (IMHO). Yes, Stan Pines (Stanley, not Stanford, as it turns out) is still a grifter and a crook, but that's explained. And he has a brother. And some of the reason Fiddleford McGuckett became a crazy old prospector type is explored....

the comment is made by the REAL Stanford that Stan can stay around "until the end of the summer" which makes me think that maybe the show is getting ready to wrap up....but then again, Phineas and Ferb lasted what, seven years? over the course of what was supposed to be one summer.

I find myself wondering if the person who came up with this series had an incredibly detailed plan of what happened when, up to and including the final episode, or if he's just really, really good at incorporating stuff and dealing with earlier issues without having to retcon anything.

(*Short for Jesus; he is Hispanic, apparently - at least, his grandmother is called Abuelita** and she has an accent, and I find myself asking, why is his nickname not Chuy then?)

(**And although Abuelita's role tends to be very small, I love her as a character. At one point, Stan (the old-man character) kisses her for some reason and her response is "Okay. I go vacuum my face now." Heh.)

Gravity Falls is another show that makes me happy. It's not as self-consciously CHEERFUL as either My Little Pony or Star vs. The Forces of Evil, but there's something about it....the fact that Mabel is so happy and Dipper wants to use his intellect to figure crazy stuff out, and the fact that there is this crazy stuff happening that, at least this far, isn't so much creepy-crazy as it is just crazy-crazy.

(Though I still didn't like Bill Cipher. Or Li'l Gideon, both of them were pretty creepy and I'm glad the show has kind of moved away from using either one)

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

And further along

Dr. Whooves now has legs.

He still looks a little deer-like; I'm hoping the mane and tail will change that but I may have got the ears suboptimally positioned.

I will say he's nice and cuddly, a nice size and configuration.

I think my weekend project will be to do the mane and tail (the biggest bits of crocheting that remain) and the face, cutie mark*, and collar and tie. I decided to use green rather than red for his tie (In the pattern the tie is shown as red but I like the green better)

(*Or flank insignia, which I think works better for a male pony)

Wednesday afternoon random

* Totally underwhelmed by Amazon's "Prime Day" offerings. A few electronic gadgets, most of which sold out rapidly, and then lots of random junk (Giant tub of whey protein powder, anyone?) that I don't want. The few books on offer were mostly suspensy bestseller types; there were a few Elsevier books but they were all medical-school texts. Sigh. (I confess, I was hoping for maybe a "You may order one item off your wishlist and take 40% off of it" or something similar. But I guess the point of sales is to unload stuff you overbought and that few people really want...)

They did have a Roomba and I sort of want a Roomba but it wasn't the model I want and anyway, it was still more expensive than I can justify spending, considering I can do about the same with a Swiffer and fifteen minutes' work.

* The President is in my neck of the woods today. My secretary was listening to the security detail talk on her police scanner (her son is a deputy sheriff, so she keeps the scanner on hand to keep tabs on what he's doing). It's a closed meeting, so only dignitaries are there.

I guess the last time a president was here it was Taft? If I'm remembering the news reports about the history of presidential visits. And he just rode through on a train.

No, I don't expect my university to get any goodies out of this visit, unfortunately. (We could use it: we got permission to raise tuition but our appropriations were cut, and I think the loss in appropriations was actually bigger than the tuition no pay raises and repairs and stuff are now on the back burner. Including fixing the leaky roof and the mold garden I assume is inside every dropped ceiling. (Honestly, rather than my pay being raised, I'd rather see (a) some of the "deferred" maintenance be tackled and (b) better salaries for the staff people, who really take it on the chin pay-wise)

(And some people are protesting the visit. Fine, that's their right. But they're doing it in a way that almost seems calculated to get them shown on late-night talk shows as the very stereotype of a redneck. I am facepalming quietly at my desk after reading that news story.)

* The Pluto news yesterday was interesting, all the stuff people were reading into the image (probably an impact crater) on its side - a heart, Pluto-as-in-Mickey's-Dog, I think someone saw a rabbit?, and also, someone photoshopped Nightmare Moon on there because of course.

(It turns out the heart wasn't so very heartlike but more an artifact of the false-color process. Boo.)

But it is kind of amazing to see how much more detail we've got now, as opposed to everything from years previous. I suppose someday maybe there will be samples collected from further planets, or a Rover sent like there was to Mars (though I'd really like to see them try to learn about the surface of Jupiter first)

This may just be me but: I think we need to do more of this kind of thing. It was heartening to see the engineers cheering when the flyby was successful. It's interesting to learn about something so distant from us. This is the kind of news I enjoy watching and hearing: it's not the "WAGD" type of news, it doesn't show people being awful to one another. Rather, it shows what people can do when they use their ingenuity and their skills. (I kind of miss there being a more-active space program. I never wanted to be an astronaut or even a NASA engineer, but still: there's something cool about it. It's something aspirational about us as a nation.)

And yeah, I feel similarly towards news about advancements in cancer treatment and such and will cheer the news of a cure if it ever comes, but it also seems health-related news has become so fraught and is so easily spun....

* I was looking up information on epigenetics the other day. Epigenetics is a new sub-field of genetics (new enough the definition is not entirely agreed upon, but I guess a simple one would be, "Environmental influences can have a long-term effect on gene expression"). For example, rat pups that receive a lot of maternal care  grow up to express more of a protein that apparently combats anxiety and physiological stress than rat pups that don't (There's even a fun little game at this website about it).

(I also wonder: are there things in my personal background that led to me being a more anxious person than I might? I mean, I get that humans aren't rat pups and I think my parents did a good job with the human version of "parental care" but....I know I'm more tightly wound than is ideal, and less good in unfamiliar situations. Huh. And I wonder if some of the vaunted "Oldest Child Stereotype" is related to the first-time parents having been more anxious with their firstborn. I definitely display some of the stereotypical oldest-child traits, both good and bad....

Though in a happier vein, perhaps we can learn from epigenetics how to do stuff like fight PTSD in returning soldiers...)

Anyway, about health news being misreported and "fraught" - some of the information I found were self-help types using some of the basic ideas behind epigenetics to essentially claim you could "think yourself successful" and the like. (And I groaned inwardly, and thought, "This is going to lead to another bad old round of 'you didn't think right, so you brought that cancer on yourself' unhelpful statements by well-meaning people to patients"). So yeah. On the one hand, epigenetics is fascinating but I can also totally see how bits of information can be taken from it, spun and repackaged, and made up into something ugly. (Kind of like how some of the early genetic work, like Mendel's work, was seized upon by the Eugenics types to try to argue with 'science' that "undesirable" types shouldn't breed.....)

* One good thing about doing labwork where you need to wear one of those nose-and-mouth covering facemasks: you can sing very softly to yourself and no one else will know. (Current favorite: Taylor Swift's "Shake it Off." And I will note here one thing age is doing for me is it's burning away a lot of the false sophistication I had when younger; even ten years ago I could not have appreciated a song like that. But it's a fun, catchy song, and it also has a message I probably need to get better at internalizing: that there will always be people who talk smack to your face or who say mean things behind your back, but you should keep your head up and keep going. And while the opening of the song isn't all that descriptive for me (I do not stay out late, no one has EVER accused me of having nothing in my brain, and if anything, I go on too few dates...) still, there is something irresistible about being able to shrug and go "The haters gonna hate....the fakers gonna fake" and keep on moving...)

Though I admit it's probably funny that I'm singing it while wearing a fiber facemask and a lab coat that's more soil than fabric at this point (Honestly: I'm afraid to wash it, because I'm afraid it will either disintegrate totally or the mud it generates will clog my home's plumbing. It's an old, old coat, scored it off of one of the retiring faculty at my grad school. It barely fits me because it's a man's 36" chest and I have some chestal appendages that are bigger than 36" in total....but it works and it was free, so)

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

On buying books

Today is the release day for the much-hyped "Go Set a Watchman," which is apparently, depending on who you listen to, a sequel-ish to To Kill a Mockingbird (in that Scout is a grown-up), or, what seems more likely to me because of one big leaked plot point, an alternate-universe version of it.

Apparently Lee wrote this book first, and then, on advice from publishers, redrafted, rewrote (and some say, had assistance from Truman Capote) and developed "To Kill a Mockingbird," which I dare say is one of the best-loved books of its era. (And I'm pretty fond of it, too. I first read it at 14 or so which is probably about the perfect age to first read it)

I also have to say I am deeply fond of the movie that was made based on it as well (and have actually seen the movie more recently than I read the book  - I own both, the movie on dvd and the book in the nice Folio Society edition that came out a few years ago)

I don't, right now, have plans to read "Go Set a Watchman." Part of it is, I'm a little suspicious of the circumstances: Harper Lee, though apparently still in possession of her faculties, is up there in years, and previous to now, apparently didn't want the book published. And her sister, who was her attorney, recently died, and a new attorney took over.....and I admit, when I first heard of the release of the book, I found myself wondering if Lee could be having financial difficulties....I had also heard some people who saw "advance sections" or whatever you call it, that it wasn't as good, the prose wasn't as polished.

But I also admit, the difference in Atticus Finch between the two novels is another reason. You may call me immature if you wish, or naive, or whatever term you want, but I want a few heroes in literature/movies/whatever that are really, truly 100% hero. Not heroes-with-feet-of-clay. Not heroes-that-are-actually-antiheroes-that-manage-to-sort-of-redeem-themselves. And in the new book, it does seem Atticus has either developed - or possibly, always had - feet of clay. And meh, I know, "that's how real life is" but part of the reason I like to read (and part of the reason why I have the full run of Andrew Lang's Fairy Books) is that I like being able to escape real life a little bit from time to time, and get a glimpse of a place where people are better than people actually are, or things are nicer than they actually are, or where being a good and kind person is actually, tangibly, materially rewarded (clever rewrites of that fairy tale about the frogs and toads notwithstanding).

And I openly admit it's childish to say "I don't want my headcanon ruined!" but honestly, that's part of it. I'm not ready to be told that Atticus Finch was really a racist who looked down on African-Americans.

So yeah. I admit, reading a snippet of it put up somewhere - about grown Scout taking a train trip home, I was briefly intrigued, but I think still, I'm not going to read it until lots of other people have, if then. Just not up for bad surprises, and this book feels like it's got a few of them.

Also, I have to say about the hype for it: it feels very manufactured to me. I don't know anyone among my book-buying colleagues and friends who has expressed excitement about this coming out, or who has said "I'm gonna go buy it on the first day!" And I remember that about the Harry Potter books, even among a few childless adults: the fact that they went and *waited in line until midnight* to get the book, the whole party atmosphere - it doesn't seem to be here. It feels to me like the publisher is pushing this on a customer base that is, it seems to me, by and large going, "We don't want New Atticus Finch; we want Atticus Classic."

So anyway.

That said, I did order a couple of *other* books yesterday. Yeah, yeah, I don't need *more* books but two of these are "permanent copies" (nice hardbacks) of books I love but have only in paperback, so I'll probably give the paperbacks away (maybe even make it a blog giveaway, if someone wants them!)  when the hardbacks come. Folio Society was doing its summer sale, and they had a couple of either republications of, or "whoops, there were a few boxes of these left in the warehouse" of older books. One was Father Brown Stories, which I've enjoyed (I also enjoy the current ones running on PBS with Arthur Weasley* got up as Father Brown even though they are set at a much later time and considerably changed from Chesterton's original stories) and the other is "Diary of a Provincial Lady" which is an extremely funny and arch book and which I enjoyed greatly even in a not-that-great paperback copy (It was one of those print-on-demand jobs and a few of the pages aren't aligned perfectly).

(*Not really but it's the same actor and I can't think of his name at the moment, and anyway, it amuses me to imagine Mr. Weasley masquerading as a muggle to learn about them)

So it makes me happy to get good "permanent" copies of those (and I really need to weed my other books to make room).

I also ordered "Gods, Graves, and Scholars," which is a fairly famous book on the history of archaeology, and given my interest in it (and current reading of some archeological stuff), I wanted a copy.

I also ordered, from Amazon, an "intelligent non-specialist" book on epigenetics, hopefully it is good. I want to learn more about this. (But sadly, like so much, you have to be careful: there were some books listed there that smacked strongly of being self-help books where they used "epigenetics" in the title, apparently some people believe you can change your gene expression by *thinking* about it, which, in my limited understanding of epigenetics, does not seem correct. But seriously, one of them almost was "Change your Gene Expression to Win Friends and Influence People." Ugh.)

Monday, July 13, 2015

Bad old joke

"What do you call a deer with no eyes?"

"No i-deer."

"What do you call a deer with no eyes and no legs?"

"Still no i-deer."

(The things that made us laugh when we were 12. There are some even more horrible jokes involving blenders and frogs and such).

Anyway. I thought of this today because:

That's Dr. Whooves with his head attached to his body. I have three of the four legs done, so he's getting close to done.

Otherwise, not the most wonderful day. Interpersonal junk to deal with, one very needy person in particular. And then the new episode of Gravity Falls, which I was looking forward to, I couldn't watch it because my stupid cable company randomly had a few channels (well, close to 1/3 of them) drop out tonight. I called (and waited on the phone forever while they played the same guitar riff over and over again and repeatedly told me I could log on online and pay my bills and such) and was finally told, "Oh, it's been called in, they're working on it." (The channels are still not back. I'm wondering, as we were due to lose HD Net Movies and AXS, if someone fat-fingered the wrong thing and dumped a bunch of the active channels.) And it's crazy hot - the air conditioning is set on 76 and it's run steadily since I've been home to try to keep up. And my neighbors to the south have some loud thumpy bass thing going that I can hear in my living room through the walls and closed windows and over both of our air conditioning units. If I could hear it in my bedroom I'd be knocking on their door, but luckily I can't.

"Do Princesses Dream....."

Okay, I wrote this Saturday morning right after watching the episode but am setting it to post a couple days later in the hopes of avoiding spoilering anyone who watches the show, but who does streams/iTunes/whatever way of watching it.

But, whoa. This one delivered a heavy emotional message. More so than last week's; I think it was because I was expecting the message last week ("Twilight thinks she was a bad friend to her friends, and one pony especially suffered from her supposed rejection"). This week, I wasn't. I had only heard the title (A play on the famous "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep" novel title) and vaguely knew it was about Luna and dreams.

And I admit, I wasn't prepared to like the episode when it started: so a dream happens (turns out, not clear to whom) where Luna re-transforms into Nightmare Moon, and the Mane Six show up, and they Rainbowfy (and I went, ho-hum, we're bringing THAT trope back now?) and they "restore" her.....but some bit of sparkly goo leaves her and flies out a window.

It turns out that's the Big Bad of the episode, but how it came to be is different that what I was assuming. (I was thinking, for at least the first half, "Oh, this is going to be like the comic arc where some kind of Dark Magic from the moon transformed Rarity into Nightmare Rarity like it did with Luna and Nightmare Moon, and they're going to have to go all Magical Girl and fight it....)

And I admit, the "nightmares" of the Mane Six are definitely children's nightmares: monsters, stuff chasing you. When I have nightmares, the really Big Bad ones (which thankfully are rare) where I have to get up and go sit in another room and turn a light on for a while, it never involves monsters or running from something. It's far more psychological: someone I love very, very much is dying. Or they have chosen out of the blue to reject me. Or I've been involved in something very bad through no fault of my own (hitting a kid with my car when said kid ran out from between two parked cars a fraction of a second before I came there) and even though it's not my "fault," I have to deal with the fallout AND everyone else thinks I am to blame and demonizes me even though there was nothing I could do to prevent it.....) Or the world has become a dystopia and the only choice is to conform to an immoral way of being (sacrificing other people or some such) or allowing myself to be killed....

In the episode, Rarity's dream involves fashion inspiration, and in her nightmare, the dresses become monsters. In Fluttershy's dream, she's Angel's pet and he's brushing her, and then in her nightmare, he turns into a monster rabbit: you get the idea.

Anyway, as I said, I was a little "ho-hum, monster dreams."

Also, Luna can "mind link" to a dreaming pony. Which is actually a little creepy and I'm sure the NSA jokes are coming about it.

And yeah, the Big Bad had to be dealt with. (It's called, apparently, a "Tantabus"? If I heard that right. At first I thought Luna was saying "Tantalus" and I was thinking of either something like this (which tends to feature in some Golden Era mysteries) or the mythological figure from which we get the word "tantalizing" (his punishment was to be starving and thirsting and food and drink always JUST out of reach).

But apparently it's a mash-up of "tantalizing" and either "succubus" or "incubus," the horrible nightmare creatures. Or at least, I assume that's what the writers were going for, they're no slouches at using mythological allusions and creating their own.

Anyway, the issue with Tantabus is that if it spreads, if it infects other ponies' dreams, it can grow and become "real" and eventually invade the waking world (okay, that's getting a little creepy).

So to try to combat it, Twilight suggests that ALL the ponies be mind linked in a giant dream. On the one hand, this furthers the story (maybe they can together have the power to defeat the Tantabus), on the other, it gives the writers a chance to goof a little bit (Giant Derpy! Princess Big Mac! (and on that last, you can't totally convince me "the writers insulate themselves 100% from fan-made stuff to avoid tainting the show" because I've seen too many things that seem drawn from the fandom)

(Oh, and Scootaloo being able to fly in her dream: all the feels.)

But then the heavy part comes. Even with ALL the ponies dreaming together and using whatever superhero power they can conjure up (Seriously: Filthy Rich shoots money at the thing), they can't defeat it.

And then, somehow, Luna makes her confession: The Tantabus is her own creation. She made it for herself.

Because she felt the need to have the same nightmare every night.

To punish herself. For having been Nightmare Moon. And to remind herself never to do that again. (And I said, sitting alone in my living room: "Oh, Luna. Luna, no." and felt very sad).

Yeah. Luna couldn't forgive herself for what she did what, four years ago now, and for which every other pony has forgiven her (and for some, she is their favorite princess ever)

And okay. That was kind of straight in the feelings for me. Partly because I was NOT expecting that turn (and that's really, really heavy for what is ostensibly a kids' show) but also partly because, yeah, I can feel it. The stuff that comes and torments me in the middle of the night when I can't sleep is often every weird or awkward or inadvertently-hurtful thing I said to someone, or the times when I brushed someone off because of my own stuff and they really could have used my help and my listening to them.....and while I've never really done anything Big Bad the way some people have (I can't even say I've ever stolen another woman's guy, or that kind of petty-league bad stuff like that), still, I do remember those things.....and I do find it harder to forgive myself than I find it to forgive others. ("You should have known better. You should be better than that"). And I have a hard time for a few days during my waking hours letting go of stuff if I say something untoward to someone, either because I'm misreading the tone of the situation and make an ill-advised joke, or if I lash out a little because of my own hurts. (Though I guess you could say Nightmare Moon was Luna lashing out because of her own hurts, just writ large.)

(Also, I'll note that as much a stunningly-good memory is a blessing - it's what allowed me to do so well in school, for example - it's also a curse in that I DON'T forget the awkward or inadvertently-hurtful things and can remember stuff even from 30+ years ago....)

And, well....they convince Luna to "let it go" and to forgive herself (I don't remember this part of the episode as clearly because I was so bowled over by the "Luna still can't forgive herself part" and how emotionally complex this show is sometimes). And it ends happily: the ponies wake from their dream knowing Tantabus has been vanquished.

And there is Luna, fast asleep. Somepony (Applejack, maybe?) says she wonders what Luna is dreaming about. And we see it: a very peaceful location, with giant glowing fuchsia-like flowers, and giant glowing mushrooms, and she is sleeping on an island in the moonlight.

(And, oh, poor Luna.....was she having nightmares and bad sleep EVERY NIGHT since her restoration from Nightmare Moon? No wonder she seemed sort of grumpy in some of the episodes)

It's remarkable to me that a kids' show - a show aimed at little girls, really, and that was designed to sell pastel plastic ponies - carries this level of emotional freight.

And it occurs to me, a lot of the recent episodes (and perhaps, if you went back and looked, a lot of the episodes, period) are about forgiveness: last week's was about going back and asking forgiveness from someone you felt you had wronged; this week's is about forgiving yourself. (And personally: I find the forgiving one's self harder than forgiving someone else, or even asking their forgiveness).  And I suppose you could stretch to say the yak episode was about forgiving others who were different from you.....and I'm sure there have been plenty of "I need to forgive my friend" moments, I just can't immediately think of an episode where that's featured. (Maybe, possibly, "The Last Roundup," where Applejack runs off after the rodeo without telling anypony why.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Just trying something

Someone on Flickr Help Forum suggested a "hack" to make your photos post without the headers.

It's annoying to have to do and I suppose Flickr can whine it violates "terms of service" but I'm gonna give it a try and use it until they say I can't.

Edited to add: HA! Success. What you do, for other Flickr users, is to delete a bunch of stuff.

Essentially, you take everything out between the first "a" and the "href" and then take everything out after the final a. So it's down to a simple "a href="" code like what protocol typically is. Like I said, Flickr probably says somewhere it violates TOS but then again they didn't tell ANYONE about it and the paid customers are getting hosed by it too, so.