Saturday, February 24, 2018

Oh no,, no

Okay. Everything has changed.

I just got an e-mail: a Prayer Gram.

These are almost never good.

A person from my church- -someone who was very active, did a lot, someone I regarded as a very good friend - died suddenly today. (He was about 10 years older than I was. He had had the flu, but I thought he was well over it)

I am....just gobsmacked. In disbelief. It's horrifying.

I can't even be upset about the volunteer-effort stuff any more....I'm just speechless. I feel really really sad because he was an exceptionally nice person and he will leave a big hole.

He was joyful in the way I only wish I could be. He was what I think of in my mind as the "good kind" of extrovert - always friendly, always welcoming, making people feel good. He played "Santa" at the Christmas party and made me blush furiously (and I hate blushing) with a gag about whether I'd been naughty or nice....I just can't believe it.

Church is gonna be HARD tomorrow.

Stick a fork

Editing a bit rather than deleting...

In a bit I have to go and set the beans for the "quick boil" so they can bake overnight while I sleep.

But yeah. This day has been extremely tiring for me, and it played badly with some of my personal "issues" (specifically: I hate uncertainty and being unable to plan, I hate being rushed, I hate feeling like I "failed" some arbitrary deadline)

And one other thought: All of the problems, all of the issues with this? Could probably be traced to People Who Are Already Too Busy Being Given Yet Another Task To Do: the loosey-goosey planning, the not-knowing-stuff-'til-the-last-minute, all of that. But that's how it is, now, at least in my state: everyone in education has to do lots of extra unpaid work and sometimes it gets kind of slip-shoddily done. (I probably need to take a lesson from that and instead of shorting genuinely important-to-me things like research planning, do more of a slip-shod effort on the volunteer work. 'Cos what are they gonna do? Fire me from my unpaid job?)

I gave my last test from 2:50 to 3:50. I was hoping people would finish up early but they did not. So, the final scores were due in at 4:30. I already had a key made up but a few questions were essay-type,so I had to read a bit to grade. (That was a mistake. That was a TOTAL mistake).

I was done and got over to the building at 4:35.

It was locked. My chair was there, also locked out. She said she was texting the head honcho to be let in but he wasn't responding. I ran around the building twice (the farthest I have run in a long time) and tried all the other doors. NONE were open. Running back, I saw a custodian through the glass door and pounded on it until he let me in.

Everyone had left except two of the other faculty. They were all at the awards ceremony. (So: I guess they couldn't give out awards for my event. Well, it's not my fault. I didn't schedule a bare 40 minutes grading time). The person who collected the stuff had gone, so I had to leave it on an unattended desk. If that's bad test security, I don't care. If I didn't get all the paper work in, I don't care.

THEY CAN FIRE ME FROM THIS FOR NEXT YEAR.

I'm not happy. And tomorrow I have church, and lunch after church (for which I am making the beans) and a Wesley center board meeting so....I don't get a single dang bit of time off. And Monday it's back, hammer and tongs, to work.

If I were a different sort of person, I'd just stay home tomorrow. Ignore the phone when it rang, let people worry a little about me. Then say I had a migraine and was in bed. But I can't do that, it's not in my nature, and I also suspect (given who's on the roster) I will be called upon yet again to fill in for eldering...

I think of my old grad school prof who once commented that all that unpaid unthanked volunteer stuff was "stars in your crown" (I presume he meant of the Heavenly variety) and I admit some days I would be happy with more time and freedom in the here and now and fewer "stars" at some future point, because it's not gonna actually matter then.

I also got irritated at a colleague who was not taking part who came in right as I was grading and asked me if I "had a second" for something. I was....somewhat rude to him, I think, but perhaps justifiably. 'Cos if I had given him "just a second" (which it NEVER is "just a second"), I would have been even later and might not have got in the building at all to drop my stuff off.

I wish there were a secret weekend day only given to those who do volunteer work, so we can rest up from our busy lives....


ETA: And I forgot to put on the dishwasher when I left the house so I'm going to have to hand wash things to be able to eat dinner. If I weren't worried about sodium (and especially now, I know my blood pressure is spiking from all the stress of today), I'd go out to eat. (Or rather: get carryout, because I do not feel comfortable walking into a restaurant alone at dinner time, especially here, where there are precious few "nice" (non-fast-food) restaurants, and I'd feel bad taking up a table that a couple or family might be eating at). But no, I guess I hand wash a few plates and forks and figure out what I have hanging around here at home.

this is one of those times I wish I had a chef. Or someone else in my life. Just someone to talk me down and tell me it's OK, I did my best, and it was good enough even though I don't feel like it was, and "Oh, sweetie, let me put the kettle on and I'll fix you something to eat..." but no, I was too independent, and so now I have to figure out my own darned dinner.

The biggest issue, and why I'm so grumpy: I need downtime, and quality downtime. Not fifteen minutes grabbed here and there....ideally, a full day per week, and this week I'm not going to get that. I also get irritated that it seems to be somewhat taken for granted that we do this, there has been no acknowledgement that "hey, we know you're busy, and we appreciate you taking this time" and yes that matters to me.

Or maybe I just fail at adulting, and everyone else is on top of this, and it doesn't feel like an imposition to write two 75-question tests and then give and grade those tests, I don't know. Maybe I really am just less capable than everyone else and I'm a fool to be complaining about not having enough time for things. I don't even know any more.

Comedy of errors (II)

I am in my office. Yes, my first event starts at 11 or so, but I have grading and research reading and I also had a vision of some bright light thinking, "Hey, why don't we block off the biology faculty lot for overflow parking?" (I should have guessed they would not, as it is too far: we are a quarter-mile from the rest of campus)

I did quickly pull in to the main building where stuff is going on and got my packets, so at least I avoid having to walk over in the rain. I will have to walk (or drive) back over there to turn in my results.

But yeah. It's already not a good day: it's bucketing down rain, I have seen many students whose projects are already soaked (I really feel for the kids who are doing projects instead of taking an exam, like my section is doing). I had four or five kids nearly run into me as I was trying to get into/out of the building, but at least one of them had misted-over glasses. But yeah. All my introvert alarm bells are going of and that makes things bad: I really dislike crowds of unfamiliar people.

And my umbrella is broken. I could not get it to stay closed and had to kind of tear up my hand (on the ribs) holding it closed, and then it didn't want to open and I've only had this for a couple years and not used it that much and WHYYY can they not make an umbrella that breaks so easily? (Probably the answer is: they can, but no local stores sell them, because they are expensive and everyone is either broke or cheap so instead they buy the crummy weak umbrellas and then replace them every six months. Maybe I need to find a British men's haberdashery and buy myself a PROPER umbrella, even if it costs $200)

And then I sat down to gear up for research-reading by doing a little grading, and one of my colleagues comes running in: "Can you proctor one of my tests, my TA never showed up" and I admit I audibly groaned because really, Universe, is it not enough I am giving up four hours of my day to be involved with testing? but I went. Fortunately as I got down there the TA showed up but yeah, I would not be surprised if some people either can't get in, or flake out, and I'm glad I'm not in the main building where I surely WOULD get grabbed to help out.

The weather is the worst part of this. If it were sunny and 60 degrees I would be a lot cheerier but it's rained all week long, I'm having to take alternate routes around town because of streets flooding, and it's just miserable. I smell like wet wool because I'm wearing a sweater (And I changed clothes once because I saw myself in a mirror at home and thought "You look weird and the kids will think you are weird and will not respect you" and yes I am very nearly 49 but have been so damaged by my junior-high experience 35 years ago that I still care what a bunch of kids might think.).

Someone on ITFF who has also done this claims "It's a good Science Olympiad if no one cries" but I'm almost at the point of it having been a bad one for me.

Added: I don't even know how many teams to expect. I have 12 exams ready, the list has 22 teams, a colleague tells me there won't be that many but what on earth do I do if I have 13 or 14 teams show up? The time on these things is tight enough I don't have TIME to copy many more exams if it comes down to that. I am not, however, going to fight our fractious office copier to make the 10 more exams I MIGHT need if all the teams send someone.

This is....kind of ridiculous. I need more information than I've been given to function well, but no one seems to care about that. Once again, I have to be the grown up and squash down my misgivings and discomforts and feelings and just do the thing, and nobody cares. NOBODY CARES. that's one thing these past few years have taught me: no one with any power to make my life happier in a material way* cares enough about me or whether or not I'm happy and functional. Everyone is selfish except for chumps like me.

(*Excepting friends who send cards or gifts, and they should not have to do that. I am talking about legislators and others with power who could make my job a little less complex or a little less worrisome. I get that my own happiness is my responsibility, but neither should people with power throw roadblocks in my way to make my life harder.)

And my lunch today, instead of tea and some kind of nice warm tidbit I prepare at home, is once again cold yogurt and fruit, because my plan is to be up here until I can go home for good. (I have my reading and my grading and also some knitting). But I wish there were more things in my life these days I was doing because I deeply wanted to do them, and fewer things I was doing because I felt I SHOULD be doing them.

I also found out a new committee I volunteered for met, but I didn't know about the meeting because I hadn't been added to the e-mail list, but I don't think anyone can blame me for not having been there because it's not like those meetings are widely publicized :(

I need a hug, but there are many things in this life I feel like I need but know I won't get.

Edited to add: it occurs to me that a lot of my frustration and upset-ness about this whole thing is that I feel a total lack of control in it....I didn't really have a choice whether to do it or not, because I was the "logical" person to do it, no schoolteacher was stepping up to do it (and given what they are paid in my state, they should not have to give up a Saturday. Even less than I should have to), I've received precious little information of the sort I need to do an optimal job, information is slow in coming (I just found out last night that I did NOT have to be here at 7 am), and some information is lacking (e.g., number of teams to expect) and all of that combines to work on all of my anxieties - "What if I do a bad job because I don't have the right information, but I still get blamed and looked at as being incompetent because I did a bad job?" Granted, perhaps the biggest real-world implication of me doing a bad job is I DON'T get asked to do this next year, which is actually a reward*.

But yeah. All of the flaws of this set-up are exactly the things that are crazy-making for me, and that manifests as grumpiness and a feeling of "why do I have to be doing this? Some of my colleagues are still at home in bed today, or are out having fun, and I won't even GET a weekend and will be exhausted and cranky come Monday."

(*I think of - was it Jonas Salk who said "The reward for good work is more work." I don't think he meant it bitterly but in our new, "do more with  less" world, it does seem like people who are high achievers get more work dumped on them)

Friday, February 23, 2018

Another little gift

Well, for one thing: My Deramores' order came. As I was suspecting, it DOES ship direct from the UK, so it took a while. (Though I will admit a slight annoyance over getting DAILY advertising e-mails from them, and yet, they could not send my package so there was any tracking info. I was planning on "They have 'til March 1, and then if it doesn't come, I am e-mailing them and asking what is up")

I haven't opened it yet. I will, shortly

(ETA: I did. Pretty! And I think the Stylecraft brand 100% acrylic is far, far nicer in texture than any of the US 100% acrylics I have worked with. Deramores' takes a long time to get here but I may well be ordering from them again if there is some UK-specific brand I want in the future. Heck, the Stylecraft acrylic would be nice for things like Ponies....it IS a dk so they would be a bit smaller, but it seems nicer than Red Heart or what I can get here. Yes, nicer even than Vanna's Choice (my previous favorite) by a long shot)


I also realized: when I bought this, I was thinking about the number of squares (somewhere around 90) that need to be made, and there are six different colors (one gets used for every 5th and 8th round....) and I was almost on the point of figuring out a combinatorial to see how many different ways you can do the blocks....I may still do that and just do them in order, so all the ones that are yellow-white-red-mint-pink-green-mint get done first, for example, and then I do yellow-red-white...and so on. I will have to sit down and crunch numbers. (Yes. I am a bit of a math geek. But I think doing it that way will (1) make it less likely I run out of any color and (2) I have the best mix of colors.)

I had planned to go to the quilt shop to buy fabric for the sashing on a quilt I want to make with one of my "hoarded" layer cakes - I think this was one I bought at HNT before I even knew they were going to be closing down.

I didn't go, though. I am slightly bordering on a migraine (it's been very rainy here, and I suspect the molds are getting to me, and I also had some asthma issues in the classroom this morning) and after running to Green Spray (for Anasazi beans) and the post office (to send off my ITFF card-swap card, which is going to Europe), I felt like my driving was bad enough, and also my peripheral vision was "triggering" on things it should not be (interpreting angle-parked cars as "oh no, something is backing out towards me") which sometimes happens when I'm close to having a migraine, so I figured it was best to just get home.

That's when I found the Deramores' package. And more in the mail: my card-swap card, and also a nice card ("Birthday Princess," with a knitted toy unicorn on it) and a squishy My Little Pony blindbag:

Princess Celestia, or perhaps as she should better be known:

SQUISHLESTIA

So that was good.

(I might take my birthday afternoon and go to the quilt shop. I THINK they asked my birthday when I joined their club. I don't KNOW that they do anything special but they might....)

I did also find out - by e-mailing the head guy for the Sci Oly - that I don't need to be there at the crack of dawn like I thought; I just need to pick up my materials "any time before your event" and my first event is around 11 am so....maybe I not set my alarm clock (I will still likely be up around 5 or 6) and I do my Sunday school lesson tomorrow morning before going over. I figure I don't need to be there crazy early because I doubt anyone will be parking in our lot, and anyway, the first events are at 9 - and I can probably be ready and over there before 9.

(And geez, if I had known: I could have gone to Mart of Wal tomorrow morning instead of this noon, which I think was partly how I got the headache; it seemed to be Entitled Jerk day and several times I had to ask multiple times for someone to move out of the way so I could get through an aisle or even out the stupid doors)


My weird brain

Or: "This is your brain on a Ph.D. and too much geeky pop culture":

I was discussing J. Connell's famous experiment with barnacles (members of genera Balanus and Chthamalus) where he looked at why they showed zonation. In short, Balanus is more competitive but sensitive to drying out, so while Chthamalus survives in the dryer areas (where Balanus can't), when the two are together, Balanus tends to either undercut or crush Chthamalus because it grows bigger faster.

And suddenly, my brain, completely unbidden, started to sing:

"Balanus man, Balanus man,
Balanus man hates Chthamalus man
They have a fight, Balanus wins,
Balanus man."

I almost started giggling in front of class but then if I had, (a) I would had to explain why, and probably got a bunch of blank looks and (b) I would have used up the precious few last minutes of class I needed to finish the discussion

But yeah. Now I kind of want to try to rewrite more TMBG songs to be about ecology....

Friday morning things

* I did manage to knit a bit last night - I worked on the current "simple sock," which is being made of some Online self-striper that I *probably* got cheaply on sale from Simply Sock Yarn (she seems to often have the Online brand on good sales). It's an unusual color combination - bright, almost neon stripes (orange, purple, greenish yellow). I think it's this one (different seller but I'm pretty sure that's the yarn). I kind of like the "bright stripes on dark background" look, and so many of the striping yarns either don't have a "background" color or else are white for the background color...

* I am also nearly done - thanks to giving a Soils exam earlier this week - with the left front of the Augusta cardigan; I have half a plan of working on that tonight to finish the front and maybe start the right front. (I give an exam in another class next week - well, shoot, I give an exam in a class nearly EVERY week, because one class I have has five exams (the gen ed where we all have to follow a set plan), and the other classes I schedule four so I can do one as a "drop" exam)

* I am already excited for getting out next weekend to go shopping. I will have to check to BE SURE that the quilt and yarn shop will be open (am bracing for disappointment because): Whitesboro apparently got v. bad storms and many people have had several days of power outages. (I will be deeply disappointed though if the yarn shop and quilt shop are NOT open next Saturday for whatever reason, or if the weather turns too bad, or if I happen to get sick again - often, it seems I get a URI right around my birthday).

And yes, that's one specific way in which I'm deeply immature: when I am looking forward to something and then something comes up - I get very deeply disappointed, and feel hard-done-buy, and even get kind of cranky, especially if it's some last-minute work or other obligation that has come up. I'm also not terribly good at doing the "I have....plans" shifty-eyes thing to get out of unwanted tasks, though I think some of my colleagues have become masters at saying "No, I can't do that then" when they really don't have any big plans. And maybe I need to get better at that, given that there have been times I've wound up sitting in the kitchen floor crying because I am running out of food and I can't figure out a time when I can get to the grocery store when it won't be unacceptably crowded. (This is a problem with wal-mart. I am considering going after my 10-11 class today, hoping I can beat the Friday afternoon rush. Because I can't go tomorrow, and Sunday I will be doing the finishing bits for whatever I take to the potluck)

(A check of Quixotic Fibers' website shows they are doing a mitered square class on the 3rd, so unless there's some big EMERGENCY they should be open - I know it's a small operation and if the owners go to a show or on a buying trip or get sick, the place closes, but they seem to be very good about e-mailing their customers to let them know).

Another thought for enjoying my birthday "month" - maybe if the rain quits enough this afternoon I run to Lulu and Hazel's, and if nothing else, get some plain solid colored fabric for a background/sashing on an upcoming quilt. One of the new books I got for my birthday has a quilt made out of a Layer Cake that I want to use one of the Layer Cakes I have hoarded up for, but it takes a fair amount of white background. (Or, I might go with a v. pale pink or v. pale turquoise, given the colors in the Layer Cake)

* And I've pretty much decided to do beans. Not baked beans, more western-style beans. Provided Green Spray has Anasazi beans in stock, I am going to do those - just beans and an onion and some spices and maybe a bay leaf, and I MIGHT get some diced ham to bring separately for those who want meat with beans. (Our minister is a vegetarian and a couple of the kids who sing in the choir might be too, so I try to be conscious of having a main dish that vegetarians can eat. And I like to bring a main dish *I* can eat, given my celery allergy and dislike of green peppers and need to avoid excessive salt.). I can cook them overnight: do the boil-and-sit after I get home Saturday, then pop them in my Dutch Oven in the oven on low (with extra water just to be safe) overnight, and that should work fine - they will cook eight hours or so.

I figure that would be easier than the other option: making a dessert.

* I confess I am kind of longing to start a new project. Either one of the crocheted ponies I have brewing in my head (G4-ized versions of Surprise - with crocheted corkscrew curls, because the G4-ized fanart of her gives her hair like Pinkie Pie, and a G4-ized version of Heartthrob). Or a pair of really *complicated* socks. (I bought some size US 00 sock needles (that is: like 1.5 mm diameter) and I have a few quantities of yarn ahead where I bought more than the standard 350-400 yards, because I want to try some of the complicated "men's socks" patterns in Nancy Bush's "Knitting Vintage Socks" but I will need to downsize them just slightly - I have a smaller "foot circumference" than what the patterns specify. And my feet are shorter, but I bought the full amount of yarn on the grounds that I couldn't predict how much *less* I might need. If I wind up with a whole 300+ yard skein left over, I can either use it for hat/ mitts or can maybe swap it or give it away to someone. Or, if I ever had oodles of time and a good place to donate, knit caps for people who need them...). Or another small shawl. (I really should dig out the ongoing projects I have - Celestarium and the Scottish Heather shawl, and I bet there are a few others- and finish them).

* I finished "Death of a Busybody" the other night. This is one of the Inspector Littlejohn novels by George Bellaires. Again, he's not the greatest writer that ever was, but the novel is enjoyable and I like the character of Inspector Littlejohn. (I mainly read detective novels for the recurring sleuth characters - here, he's an official member of the police, a quiet, thoughtful, workmanlike inspector, good to his wife, kindly towards his counterparts in the rural police forces he tends to wind up working with). I also read them for the settings, here the country towns of Hilary Magna and Hilary Parva. (In the US, we don't seem to have towns with Latin naming conventions. Then again, we were never occupied by the Romans...) And I also read them for the fact that good triumphs in the end: the one who did wrong is found out and punished (or punishes him/her self; a not-inconsiderable number of these seem to end with jailhouse suicides, I suppose, to save the executioner the burden of another death on his conscience? And these being of the time they were, there's no suggestion the "suicides" are anything other than exactly that: a guilty person's guilty conscience driving them to do it, or perhaps, to avoid the execution by going out on their own terms)

I'm also still picking away at "Back from the Land," I just slogged through the chapter on how marriages/relationships broke up because of stresses related to the whole back-to-the-land thing. (For one thing: if you're living in a 20-square-foot cabin in the dead of winter in New England, and your only car is on the fritz, there's no where to go to get away from the partner you are angry with. And for another: it seems in many cases the couples wound up somewhat unequally yoked, in that one shouldered more of the unpleasant work, or one was more 'all in' for the hardships that that kind of life imposed). It was kind of a depressing chapter. (And also: it seems it's impossible, by and large, to successfully "go back to the land" alone - too much work. Though I'm sure I've read of bachelor farmers and single-women homesteaders who did it, I wonder how they managed. I am guessing in some cases they weren't *really* alone - in many cases from what I've read, unmarried farming-types were often two or more siblings sharing living quarters and work, kind of like Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert...)

But yeah. I think one could do SOME of the voluntary-simplicity things (I might, in some ways, be happier, and would probably be more productive with neither Internet nor cable, and I might be able to survive without most electric devices, though an air conditioner in the summer in this climate would be necessary), but I think doing it ALL - where you have to haul water, and use an outhouse (and presumably, clean and re-dig the pit for same), and chop and season wood for the winter, and keep a fire going all winter long, and try to cook on a wood stove, and try to raise/hunt/forage all your food. One of the little secrets of 1800s life, I think, is that so many people had hired-hands or servants was because it's too hard to do it all yourself....

The author of the book writes of her sheer resentment of having to use an old, non-automatic, wringer washer for clothes. I have a *tiny* bit of experience with those: my grandmother had one. (Actually, I think it was the one my parents had when they were first married, that they then gave to her when they got an automatic - she had been using a laundromat/tub and washboard before that). They're not fun to use on a regular basis because you do have to fill them (if you're doing a cold-water wash, like you would for not-heavily-soiled clothes, it's not so bad, because you don't have to heat the water on the stove first). And the wringers are kind of dangerous. (I thought they were cool when I was a kid, but I wasn't allowed near them, because my grandma said I'd break a finger in them). And they mangle buttons if you're not careful. And then you have to hang the clothes to try, which in the winter means either they freeze-dry, or you have to hang them in the house (my grandmother had something that looked like a giant umbrella swift with sticks on it for hanging clothes in the house). And yeah, it was a LOT of labor. I probably would not change my sheets every week if that was how I had to wash them.

And again: I wonder if a lot of the back-to-the-landers never experienced this kind of thing? As I said, hearing my mom's stories of growing up without indoor plumbing (and my own few experiences with either camping, or that week when I had no water to my house because of a broken line) have inoculated me against wanting to ever live without running water.

I also admit I wonder if this is going to show us how the "tiny house" movement shakes out: a lot of the tiny-house advocates remind me a bit of the back-to-the-landers with their zeal and their sense that they are the vanguard of the Fixers of the World and the Solvers of All Problems. And I, an old person (comparatively speaking) look at the houses and go:

1. Where do you store enough canned goods in case there's an ice storm or a trucking strike?
2. What do you do when the weather is horrible (we have had rain every day this week and even as someone who *likes* rain I find it getting on my nerves) and you are stuck inside the same 400 square feet, perhaps with a partner, perhaps even with a kid and a wet stinky dog, for days on end?
3. Doesn't having to go down a ladder from your sleeping loft in the middle of the night if you have to pee get really old really fast? (Okay, yes: maybe guys have an advantage there if they (ugh) keep an empty bottle next to the bed, or have a window they can open up there. But still) And for that matter: for the ones that have composting/chemical toilets: doesn't the constant toilet maintenance get to be a giant drag? I get the sense that especially if you live with a couple others, you have to empty the thing on a regular basis and ugh. I'm all for environmental friendliness but I don't think I could do that: there are things I would much rather give up.
4. Where do you keep your stuff? (The answer is, I guess, you DON'T: you don't own actual books, you don't keep family heirlooms, you don't collect vintage My Little Ponies, you don't knit or quilt or any hobby where having stored supplies makes any sense. Granted, some of those folks may have the "city privilege" of living only a few minutes from shops selling supplies for their preferred hobbies, but I admit I have a bit of a hoarder mindset for supplies, because if I suddenly decide I want to start a new sweater, it's Sunday afternoon, nothing within an hour of me is even OPEN....well, I can't, not without a yarn stash)

So anyway. I wonder if in a few years we're gonna see a falling-out-of-love with it, and only a few really hardcore folks stay on. (There are still a few back-to-the-land type communes, but far fewer than in the late 1970s.)

I dunno. History doesn't repeat itself but it does rhyme, the saying goes, and maybe I'm too good at seeing patterns but there does seem to be an awful lot of some of the Tiny House Movement (at least how it is currently promoted and faddish) that sort of maps on to the back-to-the-land movement.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Not totally happy

Campus, yes, is open today. 1/3 of my 8 am class was present. I taught most of the time and then let them go early. Later on I found out several people could not get out of the rural area where they lived safely (trees down), one was at the ER with someone, another couldn't manage childcare early in the day because schools are closed and....yeah.

Lots of trees down. We're gonna lose one of "Hollywood junipers" (no idea if that's a cultivar or what, that's what I was told they were) next to the front door; it's bent nearly all the way over and I drove in the other drive to avoid it.

It's supposed to get over freezing this afternoon and I hope it does, and I hope the ice on the trees and power lines just melts nicely instead of causing more breakage.

This was a fricking full-fledged ice storm, but apparently no one recognized it as such.

I was worried this morning - my mind turns odd places while working out - "What if the power outage hit campus and fried my office computer?" (it happened once before, but that was a transformer close to the building actually blowing out). I realized I hadn't saved the "teaching statement" for the award, or (more urgently) the Science Olympiad exams anywhere else.

Well, the computer apparently had shut itself down overnight (Long story short: but I leave it on so all the maintenance type stuff that happens in the background can happen overnight, and also, one of the things that seemed to contribute to the old one failing was too much on-and-off). But it was OK, and I've uploaded my teaching statement to the award site and should print the Sci Oly exams today.

And yeah. Another change in plans: more teams in one section, fewer in the other, but wait, there might be some teams who signed up and haven't confirmed and are still coming and....no stability and changing plans make Erica something something.

I didn't do anything, really, relaxing last night (unless you count hanging out online, at least for when I had power). I need to make more time for that. Especially tonight and tomorrow night, seeing as Saturday is entirely spoken for, and Sunday is church, then lunch after church (and I am still coming up empty as to what to make, and might just default to doing a big batch of some kind of snack cake or something, or maybe I get some canned fruit and do curried fruit again, I could do that in a hurry Sunday morning). AND a Wesley center Board meeting, so....I am not a happy camper.

NEXT weekend, though. Next weekend I am putting work aside at 11 am on Friday (when I walk out of class) and am ONLY doing piano practice (which I want to do anyway) and prepping my Sunday school lesson - and other than that, no. Friday afternoon will be relaxation, maybe watch some cartoons and knit, Saturday is going to be a trip to Whitesboro and maybe Sherman, Sunday afternoon I think I will sew....and no one can ask me to do anything, certainly not on campus, because my response will be "I am not available." I was available THIS weekend, so I am not available next.

But yeah. It seems that when stuff happens - like the power going out - I get sidetracked and do stuff like run around checking on battery supplies and trying to find battery operated alarm clocks and also sitting and fuming and stuff. I could have just taken the simple sock I am knitting on and got into bed and knit by lantern light, and just left one light in the living room on so I'd know if the power came back on....

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Comedy of errors

So. Right before 7 pm (I know, because my parents call at 7 pm on Wednesday) the power started flickering and doing "brownout" type things (lights getting very dim). I shut off the furnace and shut down my computer out of fear of a power surge damaging things (though the computer is on a surge protection system, so it probably would be OK)

Then it all went. No lights, no furnace, no alarm clock....no Internet, of course, although I had a nearly-fully charged laptop battery.

So I rounded up my camp lantern. And turned on the tiny string of LED battery lights I put up over my bed LAST Christmas and never took down. And I got out my glowy cat nightlight thing (it's like Kuchi Kopi from "Bob's Burgers", I now realize, only, a cat, and not inclined to plant evil suggestions into people's heads...) But it was lower on charge. So I turned on the computer to charge it (it charges off a USB cord). Played a few games of Mah Jongg Titans and Minesweeper (did you know there is now a "pacifist" variant of Minesweeper, where it's flowers instead of bombs?)

Gave up, decided to get into bed. Took my battery radio to see if there were any updates and dangit but I don't know what the local radio stations are, and anyway, there aren't really "local" stations any more, they just use feeds out of LA or New York or somewhere and this is one of the things that has changed so much since my youth and it annoys me - I tend to feel like every small town should have some kind of news and community station - heck, if you don't have enough going on for news, do a swap-shop. Or interview the local high school athletes. Something. Because when it all goes to pot and us few smartphone Luddites need information....well.

I guess the answer is: I need to get a smartphone some time, so I can look junk up when my modem is down because the power is out or some silly person in my cable/internet company fat-fingered the wrong button (I had lost nearly all my cable channels earlier in the evening, before the power outage. But now they're back).

And yeah. The outage made me unhappy and restless. I can sit happily through 20 minutes without power, much more than that and I wonder: when will it come back....and WILL it come back?

And I realized: I have no way to set an alarm for tomorrow morning (No smartphone, remember, and my clock-radio thing is electric). I dug out an old battery powered alarm clock I had, put a new battery in it and....womp womp. The alarm no longer works. (It is now in the trash. No point keeping a battery powered alarm clock if it won't alarm). Yes, I need to get another one. (Even if I get a smart phone, I'm d....d if I leave that thing on all night long for every alert and notification to wake me, and that would allow people to call me when I'm sleeping).

And then I realized: if the power's not back on tomorrow:
1. How will I dress in the dark? (Okay, okay: I hear the predictable joke: "How will anyone be able to tell the difference in how you look if you dressed in the dark than from when you dress on a normal day?")

2. How will I put on make up with just a flashlight? Already today I got way too much blush on because I was in a hurry and didn't realize it until I went to the restroom midmorning.

3. Worst of all: How will I get my car out? There is only one entry and exit to the "car compartment" of my garage, and it is the big door that is on the door opener. Yes, this is a flaw - the person who owned the garage before me had a big wall with cabinets put up between the "back door" in to the garage and the car compartment. (Some day, if I have the money to have the thing renovated, I'll get the guy to tear that down - I don't need the tiny narrow "potting shed" that it created, and there have been times where being able to get into the garage by ANOTHER door would have helped. And heck, I guess you can get upgraded opener systems with a battery back up now; that might be a nice thing to have)

So anyway. I called my secretary's office number and left a grumpy message fundamentally saying, "If campus is open tomorrow but I don't have power back, I won't be in, cancel my classes" because I'm sorry but it's too much to expect me to walk in under icy trees when I've also had to worry about getting my face made up in the dark and probably not slept well between worrying about "will I wake up in time" and also having to hear every a-hole in the neighborhood who is now super excited because he can drive around in his big ol' truck with his terrible music playing on "11" and everyone HAS to listen because they can't do things like run white noise machines to block out the terrible music....

But anyway. Power came back on around 8:30 or so. I checked my campus e-mail: campus is still open as of now, but - get this - campus police is asking people not to walk under trees on campus because the icy branches are falling down.

Gee, wouldn't it be nice if there were a way to, I don't know, not REQUIRE people to be on campus so they could stay home tomorrow and not walk under icy trees - or worse, under icy power lines that might snap and electrocute them? Argh. (The local school district has closed; they rarely close. And I know I have students in my 8 am class with a bad, bad commute)

Oh well. I guess I go to bed (might watch one of the "Bob's Burgers" re-runs to calm down a little first) and plan on getting up and being ready for another icy day...

Safely back home

Yeah, I had 11 of 24 students in class today. As I said, my policy is "If it's not safe for you to drive, don't, I won't mark you absent." Do people abuse the policy? Probably. But I'd rather have 10 students sleep in and claim bad weather than one person get into a wreck trying to get to campus.

More people made it for lab - I think I counted 19? I know a couple people got stuck behind a bad accident (couldn't cross a bridge) earlier but obviously it cleared because they were present.

I made it home safely. The roads are OK, but lots of trees are bending low:

no es bueno

ai yi yi

Those are just the ones in my yard, that I've kept more or less trimmed up. I saw several broken ones (at least one was a Bradford pear, which is a crummy tree with weak wood, but still) on the way home. I'm more worried about the power lines and am hoping we don't lose power....but if we do, we will be OK. I have a battery powered lantern and I can get into bed under a bunch of blankets (and depending on what the news says when it comes on, I *might* heat up my buckwheat bags - while I still have power - and stick them in the bed to pre-warm it). If I lose power, I stay in bed and read as long as my lantern holds out. Added: I have a second set of batteries, and it's an LED lantern, so the batteries last a long time, so I should be OK.  (For extended emergencies, I have a "chamber lantern" that will burn olive oil, but I'd rather just use the battery powered one because no flame is safer)

So, I don't know. Our sister school shut down at noon, but I guess they're getting it worse than we are? And a bunch of school districts to the west of us have already declared they won't open tomorrow. We'll see. (Again, I would not be averse to a day off....though a day off with no power and no heat might not be as fun....I could probably hole up in bed with my book and my knitting, but I'd rather the power stayed on).

So...yeah. I think I'm gonna do my Duolingo, and wash my hair, and maybe make dinner (am thinking bean burgers again) early, frontload all the things I might want electricity for, just in case it goes out later when it gets even colder or we get wind....

Also, apparently my birthday presents from my parents arrived (I already know what they are; they are what I asked for) and the mail person made the trek up to put them between the door and the screen door, so that's good. (Then again: they were too big for the mailbox. Sometimes the "little" Amazon boxes wind up crammed in the mailbox and I can't quite get them out without a fight or without just cutting the box while it's still in the mailbox)

I hope this moves out soon. I need to figure out when I can get my prescription (I didn't do it again today, didn't fancy driving around any more than I had to; I said a rather unladylike word when I looked at some of the power lines near campus and realized how low they were dipping and how laden with ice they were, and I was imagining what would happen if one snapped).

So anyway. Depending on conditions my evening might be holed up in bed with Pfred and Meowth and all the other various stuffies and reading by lantern light....

And more opinions

Yeah, I have 'em. And I'm done with what I "have" to have done during office hours for this week, so I can sit and think, and am not greatly motivated to read research stuff, even though I should be.

I am thinking about the "false alarm" things with school threats. There have been, I think, four, in my general area - and more in the state as a whole - this past week. All of them coming in the wake of the terrible Florida school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas* high school.

(* I knew that name sounded familiar - she was an early conservationist; she also wrote The Everglades: River of Grass which I think I may actually have READ at some point, or read excerpts from. When I was 10 or so, my family made a spring break trip that included the Everglades and I think my dad gave me some stuff to read because I was interested in it, and some selections from that book may have been in them. I also think I wrote a school paper on the Everglades at some point. Douglas was also a women's suffrage activist... and now THIS is what we're going to remember her name for, not her conservation or voting-rights work.)

But anyway. We hear about these more right now, and it's a combo platter of things.

First thing is a stupid thing, if it's happening: these threats actually happen on a regular basis, but the news media is playing them up now because everyone's on edge, and panicking parents gets eyeballs, so hey, let's report on the kid drawing a WWII scene in history class who put a gun in the hands of a soldier he drew, and let's treat it like he is a violent threat when he's probably just a history geek or maybe had a great-grandfather who told war stories...

Second thing seems fairly likely to me but aggravates me: schools are locking down on a hair-trigger now. The latest report, from a school in the town east of me, was because a student wrote a "play or a poem" (the news won't clarify) that "disturbed" a teacher, and so the whole school went on lockdown as a precaution....

I dunno. I think of some of the stuff I wrote as a kid, some of the stuff my brother wrote. Nothing ever really violent but you know? I was into fairy tales as a kid and fairy tales have violent stuff happening. And also, in the stories you write as a kid? Poofing away an evil witch or slaying a demon knight is kind of normal-for-a-normal-kid: it's how you deal with your fears, or how you fantasize solving big problems in your life. Granted, I don't know how "disturbing" this "play or poem" was but....if you're worried about the kid, you take the kid out of the class, to the school psychologist's office (if we even have those any more; budget cuts) and the problem is mostly solved. (Also, I will note: this was an elementary school. Most of the kids could probably still be physically picked up and removed from class by a teacher).

But yeah. The combination of "wow, all these kids are like little powder kegs now" mentality that the news seems to foster, coupled with the "what would the parents say if something bad happened" leads to things like lockdowns and drills and stuff.

And I admit: an active-shooter drill would have been unsettling to me as a kid. Fire drills, eh, meh - you went outside, single file, with your class, and stood there, and depending on how much of a disciplinarian/stickler-for-the-rules your teacher was, you either cracked jokes with the people next to you in line or stood there in silence until they rang the "all clear" bell and you filed back in to class. Tornado drills were scarier because even as a kid, I knew that getting down on your knees and shielding the back of your neck with your hands wasn't much of a protection, and so the prayerful posture was maybe mainly to give you a chance to make your peace with whatever your concept of God was before you were destroyed....

And so, I wonder, what is going to be the psychological impact on kids who are taught to file out of a building, with their hands up (to show they have no weapons) or to huddle under their desks (echoes of Duck and Cover, from a generation before me) on a regular basis, just to be prepared because "maybe someone is coming to kill you and there's nothing anyone can do to prevent it"

I don't know. I think I would have found Duck and Cover drills even worse than tornado drills. Fortunately, those were over by the time I was in school.

(Maybe I lived in sort of a golden era: after the real pretending and posturing of the Cold War was over, but before modern terrorism/random violence became so top of mind. Maybe that's the legacy of the older Gen-Xers? That we grew up in an era that felt a bit more safe than now?)

Similarly, I wonder what the new world of clear/mesh backpacks (so everyone can see if you're carrying contraband - or if you're a teen girl having your period) and metal detectors in school is going to do. And now the new thing: bulletproof backpacks. (Not sure how a school decides whether to mandate THOSE or the clear backpacks - I guess it's "are our kids more likely to be a threat or a victim" which is a terrible decision). (And also the veiled suggestion someplaces about teachers/professors being a sacrificial lamb in order to allow more time for the students to escape. They don't pay me remotely enough, the selfish part of me says....though I suspect my training would kick in in a pinch and I'd do it, figuring "Some of these students have small kids at home; I have no one who would miss me like that")

But the third reason is the one that really makes me angry:

Someone on the news proposed a lot of these false threats were "kids wanting to get attention."

Cue Nicolas Cage "You don't say!!!" face here.

Or, as Milhouse van Houten put it: "Trouble is a form of attention."

And here's why I get annoyed: this seems very typical human behavior for me. Do something, you think it will benefit you, but you don't give a flip how it might harm others. You don't care that your school goes on lockdown and maybe some of the Littluns are scared, but that doesn't matter to you. Or maybe you do it hoping school will be dismissed for the day (I have heard of that happening) and it's kind of like the dumb old "bomb threats" that got called in to my dad's largely-commuter campus back in the 70s and early 80s. And ironically, these "bomb threats" always came during midterms....

and in that more-relaxed era, I think a lot of the faculty rolled their eyes and held class anyway.

I do know my one "bomb threat" experience as an undergrad - one day, sitting in Dr. Beck's Paleobotany class, we were told we needed to leave the building, a bomb thread had been called in. We filed out of the building and stood around talking. One of the guys I knew from class turned to me and remarked, "If there's really a bomb and it goes off, we're too close to the building to be safe, we should probably move farther away" so we did. I don't remember what eventually happened, whether the rest of the class was scrubbed and we went home, or if we got called back in....no bomb was ever found.

But anyway. I do feel annoyed about these kinds of things as a cry for attention. Yes, yes, lots of kids don't get the attention they need. Guess what? Neither do a lot of adults. And yes, some of them act out in bad ways. But a lot of us have learned the control and also are reactive enough to peer-disapproval to not act out in bad ways. (Confession: I crave attention a lot and don't get it often, but I mostly restrict that by doing a lot of tweeting and then hoping someone responds to me. I'm too inhibited to do truly outre things like dying my hair wild colors, or saying really provocative things, or other kinds of minor social transgressions that might get attention, but that might bring negative attention). So I feel irritated when I'm sitting here, sometimes feeling invisible, and someone else, who is apparently feeling invisible, decides to screw up an entire school day and possibly scare fellow students and even teachers....it seems v. selfish to me, and I admit - as I said on Twitter - the somewhat-unChristian part of me says "I hope that kid gets plenty of attention going through the juvenile court system" but yeah - actions have consequences.


bad weather time

So. It rained heavily all day yesterday. So much so, I decided not to pick up the prescription refill (one of my antihistamines - I still have a couple days' worth) or go to Pruett's. Cold, unrelenting, nasty rain. I took stuff out to the trash and got soaked. I got soaked checking the mail.

It turned colder over the evening. I kept checking the list of closings, hopeful. (A lot of my students have long commutes, and it's a pain dealing with "I couldn't get in safely, can you please review everything in office hours?" requests, and honestly? You'd think TPTB would remember the people with long commutes).

They warned about bridges and overpasses. Folks who live in Ardmore or Sherman don't have any choice but to brave at least one bridge to get here.

And gradually, the school closings rolled in: many of the districts near here. Not the local district, but they seem to never close for anything (Perhaps they already have too many days off in the schedule?).

I finally went to bed, figuring maybe they'd decide overnight if it got bad.

Woke up at 5 am (today is technically a rest day for exercise, but I half-promised that if campus was closed, I'd do it later in the day). Called the number. Nope: "Drive safely!" oh yes, forget you very much, recording.

So I thought: well, maybe the person whose job it is to decide wasn't up overnight so I watched the local news. Nope. I decided when the local district bus drivers had reported to the bus barn (some of the buses run as early as 7 am, so I figured 6:15 was the latest) and those schools were still open, we would be open.

I did wait a bit later than I ordinarily would to drive in, so I could see better. And I took a different route: Wilson, which I normally take, has poor visibility (wooded, and also twists and turns) and people drive too fast on it. But most of all: it floods when we get a lot of rain. So I drove in the "back" way, which is a lot longer. Drove through some nearly flooded roads (Yes, I know, I know: "Turn around, don't drown" but when you HAVE to get to work and there are NO roads that don't have water going across them, you just gun it and pray). Some smallish branches down and a lot of trees and shrubs are bending low under a load of ice.

Oh, and my trash can. I put it down in the cold rain around 4 pm last night. It got tipped over during the night (or some jerk came by and tipped it over, we sometimes have people who do that, though I would hope someone wouldn't venture out into near-freezing rain just to be a pain to their neighbors). So I had to pick it up. But right then my hands were full with my purse, my lunch kit, and a stack of exams I had graded last night.

(An aside: there was talk on Twitter the other day about the newest Doctor on Dr. Who (the first woman Doctor) and jokes about whether her clothing would have pockets, because a notorious thing about women's clothing is either shallow useless pockets or lack of pockets altogether, and I commented "Don't make the Doctor carry a frigging purse, you can't save the world if you're worrying about lugging around a purse" and I stand by that)

So I got my car out, so I could put my lunch and purse and the tests (which were rapidly becoming wet in the rain) in it. And then got back out, hauled the trash can up (They are hard for me to lift and I am NOT a weak woman; I work out. I wonder what someone much smaller or frailer than I would do). And then I picked the couple of items that had spilled out into the street- and were soaked and ice-coated - up, and put them back in the can.

($5 says that when I come home, either they won't have been through to pick up the trash on the grounds it's "too icy," or else my trash can will be lying in the street on its side and I'll have to haul it up AGAIN to put it away).

Drove over here. Looked worriedly at the bending trees and noticed a few branches down in the street. Also, the power lines are icy and I really hope none of them snap; a live line going down into a large puddle would be very, very bad. (And I hope if we lose power the decision is made to close campus. You'd THINK it would, but once before, the statement "Can't the professors teach without electricity" was made)

I parked in a different (more distant) spot, because I quickly calculated the most-likely trajectory for a large branch off the tree I normally park under to fall, and decided I'd rather walk farther in than risk a damaged windshield.

My big worries now are: (a) Power lines will break and it will be difficult for people to get home safely because of live wires down. (Though mercifully, there seems to be no wind) or (b) it will get so much worse it will be unsafe for me to drive home this afternoon (I did pack a few more bits of food in my lunch, and have a blanket in my office, but will be exceptionally unhappy if I wind up having to try to sleep on my office floor) or (c) my car will wind up a block of ice (No, I didn't think to bring a scraper in to my office with me. If c happens, I will call campus police and ask for an assist, or else see if there's some piece of lab equipment I can use to get the ice off).

But yeah. I anticipate having smaller classes than normal today. So far no one has called or e-mailed me but that may be coming. (Already I have a couple people absent from lab for some kind of university thing they have to be at).

I could have done with just a day at home, and missing a day of classes here would not have mattered; I am keeping up with the syllabus in the one I have today fine.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

"Marigold Heavenly Nostrils"

I had originally considered writing about my ongoing frustrations with how life works here and now (the most recent ones: students skipping my class because of "work opportunities" they cannot pass up because money, so I'm left to play catch-up with them in office hours. I'm not mad at the student; I'm mad at the system and how our economy is such that people have to work long hours to have gas money. And also a system that sells the idea of "You can work full time and go to college full time" because you CAN'T. I work full time and I can't imagine taking on even another part-time responsibility at this point. And I'm irritated by the guy in our Legislature who is apparently agitating for us to go to year-round Daylight Saving Time because....well, I can only assume it's because he wants to golf in the afternoons of warm winter days. What that will mean for the rest of us? I'll be driving to work in the dark from October to about April now with no midwinter respite caused by Standard Time. (And I will STILL be driving home in the dark often in winter, so there's no gain for me). And for those of us close to a border with another state? Ohhhhh maaaaannn. So let me think: On DST, 8 am is actually, what, 9 am in the other states. And 3 pm is actually 4 pm and good luck teaching labs to people who are parents with kids in the Texas school system, I'll get even more "Hey I have to leave at 2:15 I hope that's OK" requests than I do otherwise.

This semester just already has some stinky dynamics: we've been warned that Rodeo and Basketball and I think Baseball have terrible travel schedules this spring, so we need to be 'flexible' which amounts to doing lots of make-up exam times and also probably reteaching a lot of stuff in office hours. And to me, it just seems further evidence of how little my chosen profession matters to ANYONE at all....)

But anyway.

What I need is a magic unicorn. At least I can read about them. I had referred to finding "Book 2" (apparently there are 7 at this point) of the "Phoebe and her Unicorn" series. These are all-ages graphic novels. (No, they are NOT just for kids. Reading them, I am reminded of things in my childhood and I am enjoying them as a nearly-49-year-old).

I ordered Book 1, after being unable to find it in the store (and being irritated by some rude comics fans who were hanging around and who apparently had the attitude that (a) women  or (b) people over 35 or (c) both are not allowed to be interested in graphic novels).

I started reading it. I like it. I like it a lot. Book 1 has an introduction by Peter Beagle, who wrote "The Last Unicorn" (which I have heard of, but never read, and never saw the movie based on it). Book 2 has Lauren Faust - the person responsible for the most recent iteration of My Little Ponies (but sadly is no longer associated with the show - I think she left after season 1)

But anyway. One of the comments Beagle made in his introduction was that the comics reminded him of "Calvin and Hobbes," and yes, I see that: Phoebe has a little bit of Calvin's attitude to her - feisty, not over-fond of school, not in awe of the "popular" kids (her main antagonist is a pretty popular girl - or at least a girl who is pretty and popular in her own mind, I don't know).

But anyway. Phoebe starts out like many nerdy kids - sort of rejected, lonesome, wishing she had friends who were more like her (so: basically me at 8). One day, angry about something, she heads off to a pond that is her "angry place" and starts skipping stones - and hits the nose of a unicorn who is submerged in the pond.

Apparently the deal is this: Unicorns are so very vain that, like Narcissus, they get sucked into bodies of water after staring at their reflections for a long time. So Phoebe freed the unicorn (name: "Marigold Heavenly Nostrils") and now Marigold has to grant Phoebe a wish.

After the usual "No, you can't wish for infinity more wishes" clauses, Phoebe does what any reasonable child would have done - what I would have done in her position: she wishes Marigold would be her friend and hang around her forever.

(Later on, she does free Marigold from that obligation - but Marigold decides to stick around anyway).

And it does seem that this is not wishful thinking: Marigold is NOT a figment of Phoebe's imagination or an imaginary friend (though I suppose it could be being played so subtly that I'm missing it, and that I also really want to believe this is a timeline where unicorns are real)

Anyway. Marigold does have a "cloaking device" - called the Shield of Boredom or Shield of Ordinaryness - where people won't see her if she doesn't let them. As a result, she's protected from being nabbed by a zoo or some crappy billionaire type who might want her for his own children, or prevents her being photographed for tabloids and the like.

And Marigold is a good friend to Phoebe, despite her vanity and boastfulness. It's....in a weird way it's kind of soothing to see a lonesome little kid that the popular kids rejected (a lot like me) get a friend like Marigold. Even if it's in a comic book and really 40 years too late to make a difference to me...

And Phoebe is very "real." She has some of the same anxieties I did as a kid, she talks the way I remember little kids talking, she's interested in the same stuff. That's a big part of what makes the book enjoyable: Phoebe is not a little brat, nor is she a prig, nor is she perfect, nor is she SUCH a screwed-up mess it's depressing to read about her - she's more or less a normal kid with the normal anxieties and sadnesses normal kids have, and some of the same joys.

A lot of what happens is more or less "slice of life" - though with the addition of a unicorn. A lot of it is Phoebe and Marigold just playing out in a forest/grassland area that seems not unlike the one where Calvin and Hobbes played, and also is not unlike the "vacant lot" next to the house I grew up in. Some of it takes place in school, of course (and Marigold is not there, of course, though she seems to be waiting, cloaked, to carry Phoebe home - and what a joy that would have been as a kid, not to have had to ride the bus any more; the buses in my school system were even more Lord of the Flies than school itself was, because there were no teachers to intervene). We meet Phoebe's parents (who are cooler than my parents were, despite Phoebe's insistence on her dad's uncoolness). She tangles with her adversary (which winds up with hair being lost, and a promise made to the antagonist - whose name I forget right now - that she can ride Marigold in to her birthday party).

And yes, Marigold makes good on the promise - but doesn't really drop the Shield of Boringness, so the unpleasant little girl is disappointed at how little she impressed her friends - but Marigold makes it up to her by giving her a wrapped box of pure happiness.

Yes. That's what is in the box. Happiness. Not a thing that will make her happy, but happiness itself.

(And I wondered, seeing as my birthday is in another week: how long does that happiness last, and is it something one can order off of Amazon? Because really, the other things I might want for my birthday are just attempts that "hopefully this thing will bring me happiness" and that usually does not work).

Later on we meet Max, who might (or might not, I don't know) become a bit of a first crush for Phoebe....

Anyway. It feels "authentic" to what I remember my third and fourth-grade experiences being (Well, without the unicorn part, of course), which makes it enjoyable and tells me maybe I wasn't such a little freak as the other kids tried to convince me I was....I'll probably get the rest of the books in the series when I've finished these.

Monday, February 19, 2018

one thing's done

Sent in the revision, got back an "Okay, then, we're ready to move on" (to copyediting) so the manuscript is fundamentally done.

My usual response these days to this sort of thing:



Yeah, it's gonna be an early night tonight, I think.

And it's Monday

* Yet another revision of the endless paper of doom. In a minute I'm going to attend to that. (Already today: have prepped lab, written an exam review for a class, loaded up the next round of material for my other classes, taught a class, written the "statement of why I deserve the teaching award" (and I find that kind of thing hard; I hate having to talk about the "good stuff" I do because I look at it and go "I am just doing what people should be doing" but maybe the fact that people *don't* do that sort of thing is why I got nominated. No matter what I think about "should" or "should not.")

Edited to add: NOPE, can't work on the revision: the editor forgot to attach the manuscript! So I guess that happens tomorrow, instead, and I guess I revise my exam today. Argh.

* Saturday I got the junior level test written; probably tomorrow I will look it over and will change up some of the questions (making them harder) for the senior level test. One bit of good news: I give my tests in my classroom building, so I presume that means I can park here (and I will be here before the students likely will, and anyway, they are coming on buses) so I won't have to walk in what will likely be pouring rain. AND I have access to a fridge so even though I will have to bring a lunch (sigh) at least I can keep it cool so I am not limited to non-spoilable foods. AND I can retreat to my office to score the tests: a big issue last year was I was having to grade those, in a hurry, in a room with at least a dozen other people, and they were talking, and I am not the kind of person who can concentrate when people around me are talking.

* I did push through yesterday and got all the rest of the "flying geese" units done for the "birb" quilt - next up is to set those together, then I can make the blocks. This might be as much as half-done, though it doesn't feel like it because I just have small bits lying around. (That's one of the frustrating things about quilting; progress seems so slow for most of the process).

I also started the armhole decreases for the left front of Augusta. I'm hoping maybe I can get this done tonight? And start the right front? Because I give an exam tomorrow and it would be nice to have something easy to work on. (I also have a pair of simple socks going, so if I don't get to a good point on Augusta, I could always work on those.)

*Not gonna lie: I would have appreciated having Presidents' Day off, though. But I still probably would have come in for a few hours because I did have to write that statement and I need to revise the paper (yet again). But I could really deal with a day when I could just be home and have nothing expected of me.

(This weekend: nope. Saturday is Sci Oly, Sunday is church (including Sunday School), a meal after church (And I am still trying to figure out what I can make that will take minimal preparation and/or could cook while I am away on Saturday or overnight Saturday night), and then a Wesley Board meeting at 3 pm....so I don't GET a weekend this coming weekend and yes I am somewhat bitter about that. The following weekend - 3-4 March - I am NOT doing anything I don't WANT to and if someone tries to rope me into some volunteer effort I am saying I have plans, never mind that those plans consist of going to Whitesboro on Saturday and maybe sewing on Sunday afternoon.


Edited to add, about 2:15 pm:

As it turns out, the "revisions" were some incredibly minor stylistic things the editor changed - so minor, I did not notice them until I compared this version with the previous one. I had been on the point of e-mailing him, wanting to know if he sent the right version - glad I did not do that - when I decided to do the comparison with my earlier version.

And honestly, at this point he ALMOST could have inserted "I made a doody" somewhere in the paper and I wouldn't care because I'd be done with it. That's how sick of the manuscript I am.

(Sadly, my attempt to insert the phrase "huge tracts of land" in the OTHER publication I should have coming out soon was spotted and nixed by my co-author....)

(This is perhaps why, as much as I might DREAM about the idea of being a 'renowned' author (at least in some subfield) like Stephanie Pearl-McPhee, I don't think I could be. I get way, way too sick of things like manuscripts and if I tried to write a book I think there'd be a Dark Night of the Soul where I threw the thing against the wall and stalked off and said "I'll just go on teaching for a living." The sad thing, really, is - to get any of the goodies (crowds waiting to hear you speak, people excited to see you, people wanting your autograph) there's a lot of incredibly awful and hard work that goes into it first, and there's no guarantee of the goodies even after all that work. There are some very specific ways in which I lack patience)

So, that's done. And I did a partial edit of the test (to transform a junior-level into a senior-level test) and I can work more on that tomorrow.

I think this is going to be an early night for me. I am tired, for some reason. And also, I did not wash my hair as planned last night because (a) It didn't exactly need it, and I find too-frequent washings in the winter makes it even dryer and (b) I wanted to use that time to finish the flying-geese units instead, and I didn't want to go into my sewing room with wet hair because my sewing room is cold, and even if going into a cold place with wet hair doesn't actually make you sick, it's uncomfortable.

Am debating a run to Pruett's for some additional small-treat type item to go with dinner, either some kind of fresh fruit or see if they've got any different cheese. I don't know.

I got a lot done today but I still would have liked to have had Presidents' Day off, and of course there will be no mail to meet me when I get home. (And I will have to remember to put the trash out tomorrow night - we get stuck with having to remember "Wednesday trash" for every Monday federal holiday, which means "nearly every one of 'em")

Saturday, February 17, 2018

My birthday month

Yes, it continues. Next weekend is already (sadly) spoken for by work and the like (though perhaps I could make another flying grocery trip Friday afternoon if I need to, or maybe even consider going out for a lunch somewhere). My birthday shopping day will probably be March 3 at this point. (Potential plan is to, as I have the past several years, go to Whitesboro for a yarn shop and a quilt shop, and then swing back through Sherman for groceries. One upside: I'll have been paid then and it may feel more comfortable to get some cash out of my account and just spend cash on stuff).

But I am already accruing some goodies. A package came from Bas Bleu today which I am guessing is a book I asked my parents for (I am leaving that to open until my actual birthday). And a box came from a Twitter/Ravelry friend - she told me it would keep, so I might save it for a bit as well. And Lynn sent me a card.

An aside and a comment: Cards are really important to me and I really love getting them for holidays. I could probably be content without presents on my birthday as long as I got cards: to me a card symbolizes that someone is thinking of me enough to go to the effort to put something in the mail. And also, cards are nice mail: they are not bills that must be paid or obligations that must be met or junk mail that must be disposed of.

And earlier, I got a surprise Amazon box, from loyal blogreader Angie. Two quilt books from my wishlist - which I have not even had time to glance at, but maybe this evening when I get into my pajamas and want to relax, that would be a good time. And this:

A dragon (Asian style rather than Western style) neck pillow. I have already named him Haku because he looks like a baby version of the river-guardian dragon from Spirited Away. He's nice and soft and squishy, and yes, that kind of tactile thing seems increasingly important to me - having soft nice things around me.

I also bought myself a little present today at Mart of Wal. I've taken up the habit, especially when there early on a Saturday morning, to run through the toy aisles just for fun - to see what they have, and once in a while I will buy something.

They had those "Fingerlings" toys today - monkeys, sloths, and (relevant to my interests) unicorns. Well, one of them - the purple one, named Alika. I had thought about these off and on, the idea that they supposedly respond to your touch and to motion interested me, and at $15 it was cheap enough for a silly thing.

After playing with it a bit first thing this morning, I thought, "Maybe she's just doing random noises and motions, and the idea is people THINK she's responding, she's too small and too inexpensive to actually have sensors" but I've looked at a couple articles about these and apparently, yes, these have touch and sound sensors (I noticed she did seem to make a lot of noise when I had her on while I was practicing piano, and right now she's reacting to the Gottschalk piece I'm listening to). And perhaps positional sensors? One article said they respond differently if held upside down....

She seems to sneeze a lot? And if you hold the top of her head for a while she makes a sound that sounds like passing gas. (Well, a very dainty and delicate passing-of-gas). And she plays music if you hold her like a baby and rock her....and it does seem that if I pet the back of her head, she coos - and the articles did say they had sound sensors.

It's an incredibly stupid thing but again it's kind of fun and I can suspend disbelief enough to take some sort of comfort in a tiny robot that coos when I pet it. (And yes, I thought to myself: what if these have tiny transponders in them, where they pass some kind of information on to the NSA or somewhere. But all they'd pass on from mine is that I like stroking the back of her head and her back, and rocking her, and playing music for her. I can't tell you how they'd respond if you mistreated them, because (a) I don't want to break her and (b) I can't bring myself to mistreat something that is even a plastic replica of a mythological beast).

And yes, I've seen the "robot cats" and the like and I confess, I think these are sort of a good idea in specific applications - I have heard of them being used in nursing homes with patients with things like dementia where caring for a live animal might be more than they can handle, and where caretakers are already stretched thin, but having something that would (at a minimum) purr when you pet it would be comforting. And I would kind of want a robot animal like that - for one thing, it would be less allergenic, and for another, with my weird schedule, I wouldn't feel bad leaving it alone for long periods of time during the day (I could even switch it off). And yes, if this little creature gets too "demanding" I can switch her off until I'm ready to play around with her again.

They take batteries, and presumably the batteries can be replaces (the cover holds on with screws). But there's an on-off switch so I will leave her off when I'm not actively interacting with her, so the batteries will last better.


Edited to add: a day later and I don't reject the purchase. Me chillin' with my robot unicorn:



Finally, something finished

Work has eaten my life of late.

First, this was revising papers for publication (the fact that I have heard from the Proceedings that "everything looks good" tells me I'm done with that one, and I haven't heard from ONPS so I'm hopeful that means it's in the final cleaning-up stages). Then the Science Olympiad tests (I finished the junior-level one today; I can use a lot of that, with some changes and modifications, for the senior-level test). And meetings. And next weekend is pretty much eaten up (the Olympiad, then Sunday is a lunch at church and a Wesley center board meeting)

But I did manage to finish one little thing:

hat and mitts

No, not the gloves; have had those done for a while. The matching hat:

hat


I'm delighted I won at "yarn chicken" with these (turns out it wasn't even that close - I have a little chunk of the yarn left over). The mitts are the "Matane" mitts (pattern by Catherine Côté) that I finished over break. The hat is the excellent and simple Scraptastic Hat by Jane Tanner. This is a knit-in-the-round fingering-weight hat - you can make it out of all one yarn (it's excellent for self-patterning yarns) or out of bits and pieces of leftovers. It makes a fast, fun hat that is easy to wear and is comfortable - and it would work for anyone; it's not "gendered" in its look. (It's the one I made the Uranus hat - which I still wear from time to time - last year). 

I finished the hat late last evening; I had knit most of it over break and just had the decreases left to do. Finally, I just decided, "Maybe I can finish it in about a half hour" and I was right; I caught the 9:30 pm re-run of "Bob's Burgers" (Yes, I still enjoy it, I even enjoy episodes I've already seen) on Cartoon Network and managed to finish it off. 

The yarn I used is a String Theory Colorworks (her Continuum self-striping) in a color called Temporal Rift which I am GUESSING is an homage to the Fourth Doctor's scarf, because the colors are similar. I wanted it for mitts, and once I started on the mitts, I thought, "I bet I'd have enough for a hat, it would be nice to have a matching hat"

You can see the effect that the diameter of the piece in question has on the stripe width, which is kind of fun - fatter stripes on the smaller-diameter gloves, thin stripes on the hat (it's about 22" in diameter; I made it a little big - it's unlikely to blow off and a looser hat is less likely to mess up my hair). 

Oh, and the shirt? This was one of those online shirt-shop purchases (Threadless? Red Bubble? I forget where) Here's a better photo (albeit one where I have a weird expression; I don't know what I was thinking there): 

Quiet night at home

It says "Quiet Night at Home Club" which I love dearly. It's also a nice shirt in that it's not TOO heavyweight - the fabric is a thicker interlock than a typical t-shirt, so is warmer than a long sleeved t shirt would be, but it is thinner (and not fleecy) than a sweatshirt, so it's a good inbetween shirt. 

(ETA: It's from Threadless. I bought it at the same time as I bought a navy blue t-shirt with a snowy owl on it - I saw the artist for the snowy owl shirt's work somewhere, and liked it so well that I wanted a shirt with the owl on it. And then I saw this too and really liked it. It's called a "French Terry Crew-Neck" so I guess French Terry is the fabric....)

Friday, February 16, 2018

still love teaching

Lots of distressing budget/future news out there about higher ed. The most recent one: because of the failure of a plan that might have stoppered the budget hole (but had tax increases), there's gonna be another 2% cut to all state agencies. (I am trying to work out how many furlough days that could be for us, though hopefully they figure out some less-painful way to deal with it. And I know they can't legally do it, but: I'd rather just take a straight pay cut than deal with the finagling of furlough days, which feels like adding insult to injury).

But the heck of it is - and the response I give to people who ask me why I don't just quit - is that I really genuinely enjoy teaching, and I (by and large*) enjoy teaching here.

(*It's frustrating when we don't have equipment or supplies, but thus far I've managed to jerry-rig some things, and bought some supplies out of my own pocket)

I had a case of that yesterday. I have a student in my intro class that I have pegged as an "anxious person." (I also have someone in my ecology class like that).

Anxious-people students take a couple different forms. The one I took - the one most familiar to me - is to be hypervigilant about things like deadlines - when I was a student, I made copies of my class syllabi (at least, in the classes that pre-announced when exams were) and taped them up next to my desk so I would know. (And as a professor: I still keep a wall calendar, with a square for each day, and I write in all the things I must do, so I can see at a glance when I need to start planning to write an exam and the like). I rarely asked questions of the faculty as a student - for one thing, I was mostly on top of things, it felt like, but for another - I think I referred to an instance where a friend of mine who was taking Chemistry with me went in because she didn't understand how the prof was approaching thermodynamics (it was totally different than how the textbook did) and he yelled at her for being 'stupid' and that pretty much told me that I didn't want to do that. (Later on, a few of the more advanced classes: yes, I went in, at least in the ones where the profs seemed approachable. I never had a bad experience but again, being Guess Culture, I never went to talk to a prof unless I felt like he or she would be willing to answer my questions).

But anyway. More frequently the type of "anxious" student I notice is the person who is always coming in with questions they already know, who stop me in class and ask me to reiterate something, who ask "when is our next exam" shortly after I have announced it (and it is in the syllabus). And I get that it's largely anxiety that does that to a person. I need reassurance a lot though mainly I just depend on myself for that by keeping detailed notes and the like.

When I'm at my best, I can just take a deep breath and remind myself that this person is Anxious, and answering their questions or whatever will help them, and it's not meant to be annoying to me.

But when I'm tired or stressed or anxious myself, it does sometimes feel like yet another demand on me to reassure another person, when I have no one to reassure me, and so I am being asked to give up yet another small bit of my emotional energy, and what if I have none left for myself at the end of the day. But still I sigh, and answer the question or reassure the person. Because that is how I am.

But sometimes, you do see someone in a different light: a couple years ago when an athlete asked me to tutor him, but the ONLY time he had open was at 7:15 am, and I grumbled about "yet another entitled athlete" but I did it anyway, and in the course of tutoring I learned that he did kind of struggle with college, and was worried about keeping his grades up, and as the tutoring progressed, I saw him get better and better at the material, and he wound up earning a B. And he had talked about how he needed to learn the stuff and keep his grades up, because he wanted to become a physical therapist, because a friend of his had been in a serious accident, and he had seen what the physical therapists were able to do for his friend....and I don't think that was softsoap, I don't think he had any reason to tell me that if it wasn't true. And he wound up earning a B in my class. (A low-ish B, but still, a B).

And then this week: my Anxious intro student came in to talk to me because they earned "a low grade" on one of the homeworks, and didn't do quite as well as they wanted on the first exam and they wanted to know if they could still pass the class. And I told them yes, it was early days still, and to come in if they needed more help, and anyway, the homeworks really counted for very little, so a poor grade on one of the 10 or 12 of them wouldn't make that much of a difference. And then, yesterday afternoon, I had them in lab. And it was chemical-model day, where they build models of sugars (glucose and galactose, and I taught people who weren't in my lecture the numbering convention for the carbons - which I guess isn't taught much any more?) and amino acids and a glycerol and a fatty acid....and for some of them, they do the dehydration synthesis (where you join together two monomers, and you get a water molecule as a result, because one of them loses an -OH and the other an -H). I explained it but also went through and demonstrated it to some of the groups and when I got to my Anxious student and their lab partner, their reaction was....interesting.

"Wait, that's how it works?"

"Yes, and it's kind of similar with amino acids, except you take the H off the amino group of one and the OH off the acid group of the next one in the chain"

"OMG that's so cool! Oh, this is crazy! My mind is blown..." (&c., &c. and sustained geeking out over it).

And you know? That sort of thing is why I stay in teaching. Seeing (first) the light go on when someone figures something out (with just a little help from me*) and then (second) someone get really excited about something that is so familiar to me that it's become mundane. (But biological chemistry IS kind of interesting, even if it's not really my field)

(*Sometimes people get annoyed with me in lab because I ask them questions to try to direct them to answering their own question rather than outright telling them, but it's my experience if you make someone dig around in their own brain for the answer, they remember it better. It's not QUITE the "Socratic method," but it's close)

But yeah. It's that kind of thing that makes the grading worth it. Or the reassuring-people-when-I'm-really-in-need-of-reassurance myself worth it. Or the worrying-about-how-and-whether-I-will-get-paid-in-the-coming-months worth it. (And I would add: I'm not sure you get that kind of satisfying interaction with online teaching: another big worry of mine is that some bright light will decide to make us go "all online" and then I'll have to decide: do I want to have to modify how I do EVERYTHING, or do I want to look for a new career?)

Thursday, February 15, 2018

another hyperlocal thought

As I sprayed the Dymista (the new anti-allergy med my doctor gave me a sample of) into my nose this morning, I wondered: "Could this be what made me stupid yesterday? Could I either be reacting to it, or could I have too many antihistamines in my body now?" (it is an antihistamine mixed with a steroid and I suppose it's possible it's the corticosteroid making me stupid)

(She knows I am on loratidine and monteleukast, so I doubt she'd give something prone to react badly with them, but mistakes can be made)

But yeah. Sleepiness is one of the "severe" side effects (though the other severe ones are scarier and I'll preserve your sensibilities by not sharing them).

So I don't know. Maybe I discontinue it for a few days and see if I pop back? I could tell I wasn't 100% on my game in class this morning. It's not like taking it has suddenly given me vast freedom from any bad allergic problems, so this may not be that useful to me.

The problem is, it's so hard to know: this could be being overtired. This could be having too much to do. This could be worrying about stuff like the science olympiad test. This could be I need more iron in my diet...

But yeah. It was just a sample so it's not like I'm even out a co-pay if I quit using it. Also it smells very strongly of roses and if I straighten up a little too soon after using it, I get a horrible bitter taste in my mouth - I presume it's the spray either affecting the part of my nasal cavity cued in with taste, or perhaps a bit of it sliding down into my mouth.

things I think

Way back over the weekend (which now feels like it was about a month ago), the phrase "brighten the corner where you are" popped into my head. Because I have a lot of random half-remembered cultural/pop-cultural references (in part, because of my demographically-weird family: my maternal grandmother was born in 1897, married in 1917 or thereabouts, and my parents were small children during WWII), I often wind up having to look stuff up that I might have heard years ago and only half remember.

Here's a version of it. It's one of those old "Southern Gospel" songs:



The relevant lines are these:

"Do not wait until some deed of greatness you may do,
Do not wait to shed your light afar;
To the many duties ever near you now be true,
Brighten the corner where you are."

(Though the rest of the song - which is more specifically about guiding people to Jesus, though he is not actually NAMED, merely referred to as The Morning Star - is probably also relevant, I am not good at all at what is called evangelizing. I mean, I guess my life can kind of be an example but I've never been good at inviting people to church unless they explicitly say something like "Hey, does this town have a Disciples church? It's what I grew up in...")

But anyway. When I'm in a "strong" mood, I can go, yes, that's true: all we can do are small things but we can do those small things with great love, and anyway, if everyone made an effort to brighten the corner where they were, there would be an awful lot of bright corners.

But on days that aren't so good - like yesterday, for reasons both hyperlocal and more global - I look at the world and go "no matter how hard I try to brighten my corner, the ugliness of the world keeps encroaching." I mean, you can put up pony blindbag figures and posters of pretty scenes from the National Parks and kind notes from students in your office, but that's not going to totally insulate you from feeling impostor syndrome over a task you feel not-quite-up-to (my agony with the Sci Oly tests) or from being frustrated at a student who is struggling, who doesn't want to put in effort to get better, but who regularly sends you long complaining e-mails and you must figure out a gracious way to fundamentally say "put on your grown-up pants, here is the office you need to go to to fix this, stop complaining at me because I have no power in this situation"

Or, more globally: well, I don't need to talk about what happened in Florida yesterday because people wiser and more-informed than I have already talked about it at length (as well as people more foolish and less-informed than I).

But these days I do often find it hard not to feel considerable despair - yes, I can brighten the corner where I am, but what good can that possibly do? The frustrating thing is that people of goodwill, people whose motives are fundamentally good, can work as hard as they can, and still, one person who has chosen to go over to evil can ruin so many lives - there are now seventeen families that are forever altered, and countless more (the families of the wounded, or even just the kids who witnessed it) that are forever changed.

I dunno. As I've said before (quoting something Luther is alleged to have said) "God help me but I cannot do otherwise" and I will continue to sigh heavily and then choose my words carefully as I write a nicer version of the "put on your grown-up pants" e-mail to a student who isn't taking enough initiative in their life. Or I will continue to listen compassionately to a student who comes in for help, but then also starts talking about some specific problem they have in their life - not to make me feel sorry for them or because they think I can do something to fix it, but because they just need to tell someone about it. Or I will continue to do stuff I don't want to do but that needs to be done and which I am the logical person to do.

But it gets harder and harder to have any faith that what I'm doing is having any fundamental good impact on the world; it's like spitting into the ocean.

I don't know. As I said before: this week has felt monumentally long. It's been like Sisyphus pushing that boulder up the hill. The ONE consolation I have for today? When I get home at the end of the day I don't need to go back out - I can wash my hair and put in the laundry and put my feet up and cook a proper dinner and maybe even knit a little bit.

But yeah, back to a certain feeling of discouragement and impotence about bettering the world.