Sunday, April 26, 2015

Sunday evening stuff

* Apparently the poor picture quality was just in the loading step, once the program loads the picture quality is fine.

I watched an episode of the PBS "Secrets of London" series on Selfridges (I think that was the one I didn't see in the program's original run) and a couple episodes of an odd little anime called something like Loki Ragnarok: Mythical Detective. (I wonder how much of the plot is lost in translation, or how much of the American-scratching-their-head-a-little is related to cultural differences. American cartoons seem to be a lot more straightforward and simple in exposition....or at least, in this one, you feel dropped in the middle of a story and left to kind of figure it out)

* I will have to be careful not to run over my bandwidth amount for the month, they send you an e-mail warning you and then charge you more (Oh, of COURSE). I'll have to figure out how much streaming music or video eats up and plan accordingly.

* I started a simple watchcap. One of my friends on CPAAG is doing a charity drive for a couple schools in her area for kids who won't have warm things in the winter. As the send-in date is going to be this fall, I figured I could do at least a FEW things and I had some yarn I bought on sale a while back with that in mind. There's often a shortage of "boy themed" stuff so I'm doing a simple watchcap in bright red, and I also have a skein of hunter orange for a second one. And I have some navy blue Wool-Ease from the stash that I might turn into mittens. (This is one of those "I may not be able to do a lot, but I can do something" kind of things)

* I have a couple pairs of socks going on to work on, and some other stuff. And the couple of amigurumis. I did happen to buy a couple possible appliques for the Mabel Pines doll - a cute cat or a cupcake. The cupcake is just a little large but might still work - I will have to see which one I want to use.

* And speaking of American animation - this week's episode of Ponies was a nicely-done one, in my estimation. The question of, "How do you introduce children to the concept of dealing with grief without the trauma of actually having a character die?" was addressed - Tank the Tortoise (it's a long story) is going to hibernate through winter, and Rainbow Dash is grieving being without her pet for several months (and grieving the plans she had made with him - sledding, playing horse-hockey*)

(*I'm wondering if there's a subtle joke there, kind of like horse-pucky. Which I used to occasionally say until one of my colleagues called me Colonel Potter.)

So Rainbow Dash gets to go through the five stages of grief (Well, "bargaining" kind of took the form of "trying to cheat Ponyville out of having a winter by tinkering with how Cloudsdale works") and did come to the ultimate acceptance that yes, Tank will be gone for the winter and that stinks, but that's how life is.

Another joke I appreciated: the whole Who's on First bit, coupled with the, "Giving ponies noun-based names that could conceivably apply to things in their jobs is not such a great idea" bit. (And the fact that maybe some of the weather-ponies are not the brightest crayons in the box, seeing as Dashie was able to steal the clouds out from under them as they were discussing).

Also: "Fluffy Clouds." Heh. I'm REALLY hoping we see Fluffy Clouds again.:

(From Dr. Lone Pony)

Interesting in-universe things:
- The idea that the weather and even the seasons are totally pony-controlled, and Cloudsdale is kind of a floating city that moves from place to place.

- Running of the Leaves happened again. It's these little continuity-minded things that I love so much because they make it a universe with internal consistency.

- I'd like to see more wintertime episodes but maybe snow is hard to animate? For a while I was wondering if maybe the Ponies just hibernated in the winters (never mind that real horses don't, they just grow thicker coats) and that's why we never saw them in the winter except for Winter-Wrap-Up and the mock-Christmas special.

- I guess Twilight worked the walking-on-clouds spell again so the ponies could visit Dash in her home. Well, the ponies who were NOT Fluttershy  or Twilight (I presume alicorns can walk on clouds just like pegasus ponies can)

At the end, when Rainbow is in Stage 4: Sadness (and I can't help but think of the old Simpsons episode where Lisa named off the stages as she and Bart went through them, though I forget what it was about - probably something silly like not getting to go to Krustyworld). And Dashie is all depressed and in her bathrobe (with Tank slippers, and Tank has Dashie slippers....). And her friends show up and try to comfort her, and Fluttershy goes for the jugular, of sorts, delivering tough love ("Rainbow, your winter is going to be petless.") because (a) Rainbow needed to hear it for real and (b) she "needed to get it all out" (cue crying scene).

I liked this bit a lot. Even though she is the Pony of Kindness, she sometimes needs to use tough love (she learned that on the Breezies, remember? There's that continuity thing again). And it seemed utterly right for the Animal Pony to remind Dash that yes, tortoises need to hibernate.

Another bit I loved: "Applejack cries on the inside." I found it funny but I suppose if you buy the fan-canon that Applejack's parents died when she was young (leaving her to raise her younger sister), there is also a bit of pathos to it. But again: it does seem in keeping with who AJ is. (And I admit, I wish I were the kind of pony person who could "cry on the inside" and not let it show outwardly.)

(Twilight doesn't cry openly, either. Some fans are hypothesizing it's because she can't relate to the situation and doesn't understand Dash's upsetness, and that she's being in her head too much here. I don't know. I tend to think that perhaps more than any of the other ponies, she's grasped that yeah, Tank's gonna hibernate, but no, it's not the end of Tank. Though some other fans have raised the "now she is an Immortal (because alicorn)  and has contemplated her friends' mortality so much that she cannot be moved by the temporary absence of a pet....I tend to think that's overthinking it a little)

But, once again, I stand by my assertion that the writing for this ostensibly-kids' show is better than much of the writing in shows for adults....

Saturday, April 25, 2015

trusting my cleverness

New dvd player (a Samsung, in the past I've had good luck with their products) has been obtained.

AND successfully set up. I had no choices other than ones that could connect to the internet, so I figured, I might as well. There were three Samsung models; I went with the midpriced one (just about $95 with my discount and on sale). (The more expensive one had 3-D capacity, and I have reason to believe that with my astigmatism, 3-D might be lost on me, and anyway, I know other headache-prone people who have said, "Don't do it! It gave me migraines.")

Anyway. I asked the nice young man in the Target electronics department if it was simple enough to connect it to a home wireless network and he said yeah, and if you have it secured (and really these days, you probably should) you would need your password. He also noted that it didn't come with an HDMI cable, which was good to know. (You'd think, paying $100 for something, it would come with all the cables, but oh well).

I was a bit concerned because this was srs technology (for true: the last time I bought a dvd player, none of this stuff existed, there were little different-colored jacks you plugged into the back of the tv and it just played dvds). I was concerned I'd not get it set up, or set it up in such a way I blocked access to the internet on my laptop or something like that.

So I got it home and set up. And yeah, it was easy enough to tell it how to find my home network, and it did. And it seems to have been mostly successful.

I can get Pandora on it, which pleases me. I pay about $4 a month for an ad-free subscription, and now it's even more worth it - I can set the thing just to play music when I want music (I have a variety of stations - several classical, one called "Mit Schlag" which I am still trying to train (I set it up for the "sweet" vintage 1910s and 20s music, like some of what Max Raabe does), one based around Dandy Livingstone and other rocksteady acts, one that plays sort of quirky rock like They Might Be Giants....) Radio here is boring to me (we have both kinds of music, as the proprietess of Bob's Country Bunker might say. Well, we also have "classic" rock that is unnerving to me because "classic" rock is now stuff I rejected as Top-40 boringness on its first go-round. I still think of Classic Rock as what was called Classic in my youth - that is, 50s and 60s stuff)

Anyway. I now have more music options. (Ooh, I should really make a Celtic channel, since the digital music service through my cable company dropped its Celtic channel)

And I can watch Amazon Prime, though the video quality is not great (I may have to play with the settings, that may be the issue. Or it may be my connection is not fast enough). And if I ever break down and get Netflix, I can watch it on the dvd player. (Also, Amazon Prime has a lot of weird anime - like Princess Tutu - in dub form)

And it plays dvds. (You better believe I checked that first.) So I can do the Kenn Kihiu workout again. And I can watch my Miyazake moves and the other nice and fun movies I have. (Nice and fun movies are important to me. I don't particularly like sad or violent movies. Or rather, needlessly sad - some of the Miyazake movies have some sadness in them, but the overall sense is one of a nicer world (well, except maybe Princess Mononoke, which I don't have) than this one).

(I also admit I feel somewhat moved, given what happened earlier today, to donate the equal cost to one of the relief organizations. Yes, I can afford it, if I cut back on book or yarn spending for a little while.)

Sad this morning:

1. We had big storms last night. When I got up and checked this morning, there were 0 baby birds in the nest. Now, granted, they had most of their longer wing feathers so it's possible the parents moved them somewhere, but I suspect that's me telling myself that. (I haven't been out to check under the bush, it would break my heart too much to find dead baby birds. Because I don't think they could have survived the night on the ground if they fell out of the nest.

the one possible moment of hope is that late yesterday afternoon, it looked like only one bird was in there so maybe the parents did somehow get them moved.

Edited to add: when I took some stuff out to the mail, I checked around the base of the bush where the nest was. I couldn't see any sign of the baby birds, and I also have not heard the parents doing the "alarm call" like they were doing when the crows got the batch last year. So I am telling myself they safely moved the babies and have them hidden somewhere. (They were probably close to being able to fly, if not being able to fly well. And their eyes were open)

2. In bigger news, there was a huge earthquake in Nepal. A lot of our International students come from there. If I remember correctly, the student in my intro bio class who is from Asia is from Nepal. (I admit I tend to have a bit of a soft spot for the International students.)

They're saying close to 700 dead (and that will probably go up). I don't know what the population of Nepal is but I can imagine our local students are probably trying to get in touch with friends and family this morning. While it's always a terrible time for this kind of thing to happen, it's especially bad right now, next week is the last week of the semester and the following week is final exams. Depending on how things go, we may need to try to make alternate plans for some of the Nepalese students to finish the semester if they lost loved ones or if they have to try to take care of stuff (I can't imagine that right now going back there would serve much purpose - better to let the aid workers handle stuff for now - but depending on someone's beliefs, people may have to rush back for funerals.)


There' s just the typical awful stuff going on in the news - people being awful to one another in a bunch of different ways. (I probably need to try to get the updates about Nepal online so I don't have to also listen to stuff about police-involved shootings and people doing arson and political commentators talking over each other and other things while I'm waiting for an update).

I can tell I'm tired and worn and my allergies are making me sad*. When I first got up and was flipping between the cartoon channels, one of them (Qubo, I'm guessing - I think they have a somewhat religious- and ethics-concerned leadership) showed an ad - it played Louis Armstrong singing "What a Wonderful World" and started off with shots of beautiful landscapes.

(*Histamine affects alertness and I think it affects other things. I know when my allergies are bad I'm more sad and even more prone to get weepy over stupid stuff)

And sadly, this is how cynical I've become about tv ads - I said, "Okay, when do they show the pollution and tell us how much we've screwed it up?" but they didn't - the song just kept on, the nice photos just kept on. When the song got to the part about "The colors of the rainbow/so pretty in the sky/ are also on the faces/ of people going by...." they started showing people. Happy people, loving people. Little kids hugging each other, teenagers happily fistbumping, an older couple close-dancing.

And I started bawling.

Stuff like that, when I'm in a susceptible mood, just makes me cry. I think it's because in a way, that's my image of how the world should be - people loving each other and being kind to each other, the world being beautiful. (It was a Foundation for a Better Life PSA - just designed to uplift people, I guess)  And yet, all too often, it seems like what we're shown (note my "cynical" observation above) is just the opposite. Oh, I know the world is full of both good and bad, and you can't focus on just one or the other (and I admit I have a suspicion that the good slightly outweighs the bad, that there are more people out there doing loving acts that you never hear about for every person who is shown on the news for jerkish behavior towards others).

ETA: Here it is. Rewatching it made me tear up again.

So yeah. I need to do my Sunday School prep and practice and I think I need that day out. I've already given myself permission to go to Cackle and Oink for lunch (barbecue is really more salt than I should have regularly, but their ribs are so good) and maybe buy some pretty fabric when I'm out, and get my new dvd player. And get the stuff I need to make food for people I care about. (There's a lunch at church on Sunday - I'm doing a spinach salad - and lunch at school on Monday - I'm doing meatballs). And I'm reframing it not as "Gah, I have to do more cooking this weekend I might not otherwise do" but as "I get to make food for people I care about."

Friday, April 24, 2015

And one more

I know I kind of bombarded people with Postmodern Jukebox stuff, but here's one more: Taylor Swift done Motown style. Partly because Von Smith is so adorable. (And as I am probably easily old enough to be his mother, I think it's okay for me to say that and no one attribute anything strange to it. I mean he's adorable in an "If he were my kid I'd be so proud of him" sort of way:)

eyes are open

On the baby cardinals, I mean.

And THEY'RE SO FLUFFY I'M GONNA DIE. They are ridiculously fluffy right now. (I can't photograph them through the window, so you'll have to trust me). The bigger one (I think they hatched a day or two apart) is starting to "pink up" a little.

This is farther than the nest got last year so I'm hoping this one succeeds....

Losing my motivation

I think it's Allergies Round Two (or maybe Round Three, hard to tell) for the spring: One day I noticed my neighbor's pecan was out and flowering, the next day I noticed I was congested again. (And the day after that, my pecan started to flower. Yeah, my pecan tree is just a little Special....)

Tree-pollen allergies kind of take away my energy - I feel like I need to sleep more, things seem more effort-ful than they should. Sad, because I had gotten over Round One of allergies and was beginning to feel more hopeful about getting stuff done, and then this hits. (I'm antihistamined to the max - I always am, hives - so there's nothing more I can do other than make sure the filter on my furnace/ac blower is new)

It was an effort getting through the short papers for one of my classes last night. (I will say they were better - and I don't suspect these of plagiarism, the topic is too specific and the writing on the papers doesn't sound tweakled* from anywhere - so I'm wondering if the students slacked off on the first paper, thinking I wouldn't grade them that closely, and then were surprised when I did. That annoys me just slightly - the fact that someone puts in less effort because they think they can halfway it and get by. Oh, there's stuff in my life I've halfwayed, but more often it's things like cleaning house or whatever that really only affect ME.)

(*But I still will check. And, "tweakled," if I'm remembering correctly back to my doll-collecting/auction-going days, was a term used to apply to a company that either got ahold of molds another company used, or made a mold off their product, and did a knock-off product that was similar but not quite as good. Fairly common in the old early-20th c. bisque dolls, especially when Japan started producing them, some of the factories "tweakled" German molds instead of making their own. I could be misremembering the word....)

But at least I read them all. Have to put grades on them this morning. I will probably be more generous on these, mainly because I'm tired.

I have tentative plans tomorrow to run to Target (because I get 5% off there, and on an expensive thing, that's a decent amount) and look at dvd players. I think, based on the information the local place gave me, the one model they sell is one of the fancy snazzy hooks-up-to-the-internet-so-you-can-watch-Netflix ones, and from a few reviews online, it seems like occasionally their firmware updating hangs up....and I don't want another thing with firmware to have to update. (And if I want to watch streaming video, I have a nice laptop I can use). So I'm going to get one of the cheaper, "just a dvd player*" models. I guess that will be my "treat."

(*Cue David Lee Roth. Or maybe Louis Prima.)

 I kind of hate that that's my "treat." I don't find buying electronic gadgets all that fun or exciting (unlike a lot of people) and especially not when it's replacing something that I feel like *should still be working, darn it.* I admit I am kind of a cheapskate about some things and this is it. I'll happily spend close to $100 on yarn for several pairs of socks, but spending that on an appliance, and I balk a little.

(I also still need to replace my microwave. It still works but the turntable in it is getting balkier and balkier.)

I also figured out the finger food I'm going to make - I'm going to do the crockpot raspberry meatballs I've done a few times for AAUW get togethers. They're fairly easy to make, most people like 'em (and I like 'em), they're lower in sodium....and I can make them, cook them the night before, refrigerate them, and then pull them out to heat up shortly before the lunch). That will mean a trip to Kroger while I'm down there, because it calls for ground turkey and seedless raspberry jam and I think one or two other things I don't have on hand at the moment.

I did also start a new project last night, as a reward for powering through the papers: I pulled out my "Mount Rainier" (grey) Heartland yarn and my Elisabeth Doherty amigurumi book, and started on Folio. (Sorry, Mabel Pines.) I'm just barely begun on the head. I will have to figure out a good way to do the mane - I want her to have a loopy mane and fringe, so I'm thinking there must be some kind of crocheted loop-stitch I can do, maybe off of a chain foundation, and then sew it to her head. Instead of doing the painstaking "rooted in" hair like I did on the other Ponies. The "rooted in*" hair is great for Ponies with long straight hair but if you want curly hair it doesn't work so well.

(*This is another doll-collecting word. Rooted hair is like what Barbie dolls currently have, where it's punched in through the scalp and secured on the other side and therefore is hard (but not impossible) to pull out. I use something like a larks-head knot to anchor strands of yarn around the stitches and it gives a similar effect.)

(Actually, I think it's funny that I've gone from doll-collecting - something I was very big into in high school and even into grad school - to stuffed animals instead. Oh, I still have most of my dolls (though some days I think I should winnow the collection down to my few favorites, bring them down here, and sell the rest). When I was a small, small child I had a few dolls - a couple of baby dolls relatives bought for me, a big Raggedy Ann my mom made - but when I got a bit older, like 4 or 5, I totally preferred stuffed animals, to the point where, when someone gave me a Barbie, I didn't really know how to play with her and wound up trading her to one of my friends for a small toy dog. My parents' weren't too happy about that because the doll was a GIFT after all.....but as a landlocked child with a fear of deep water, a  Malibu Barbie was a pretty useless thing. I did play some with paper dolls as a kid but they seemed different....then I got interested in the history of things and started collecting dolls as a teen. The dolls were mainly for the clothing styles....the stuffed animals I have now are as "pet substitutes" because I can't have a furry animal because of allergies.)

Thursday, April 23, 2015

I did this

This is something I've been wanting to do for a while but never got the chance.

In the lab room where I teach this afternoon, I share space with one of the anatomy classes. So the prof in charge had left some specimens out so his students could come in on off hours and study.

I went over to the box of (model) human bones, pulled out the long upper-arm bone, and declared, "I found this humerus."

At least my TA laughed.

something o'clock

I had a student stop one of my classes absolutely dead today. This student claimed I had not put something up on the class webpage I KNEW I had put up. We went back and forth about it for several minutes and finally I sighed and said, "Okay. Let me bring the page up here and now. I will look for it and if it is not there, I will put it up this instant." (I had my thumbdrive with me that had the document on it)

Student had their phone out (I know, I know, but I've given up) and was looking at the webpage. Before I could bring it up on the class computer, the student goes, "I see Document X, Document Y, and Document Z...." And I was all "IT'S DOCUMENT Y. I TOLD YOU THREE TIMES IT WAS CALLED DOCUMENT Y." (I didn't actually yell, but I did kind of say it through clenched teeth)

I have a headache now. And yes, this is a student who is extremely anxious but stopping class for this kind of thing is no bueno. And this is an upper-division student, so they should KNOW.

I am so ready for this semester to be over.

I totally feel like I need a treat but I don't quite know what. I'm trying to "reduce" a little bit (annual checkup in a bit over a month and another checkup in July and I'd like to be slimmer and also I want to be sure my blood sugars stay dad had another bout of his fasting glucose being high, though his A1C was good, so Type II diabetes is top-of-mind for me, despite the fact that I exercise and am careful, generally, about how I eat. (I just like chocolate probably a bit more than is ideal))

I have more tea on hand than I can use - I can only drink tea when I get home before 4 pm, caffeinated tea after 4 and I don't sleep well. Ditto with yarn, ditto with books (I mean, having more on hand than I can use).

If I knew the places in town better and was less touch averse, I'd look into getting some kind of simple massage scheduled.

Thursday morning random

* After getting home from my colleague's talk last night, I decided to try the dvd player with other dvds, just in case the exercise one had got damaged or something. The dvd player itself seems to be failing - won't read some of the dvds it formerly would. So I guess it's time to invest in a new one. I will have to see what kinds of low bells-and-whistles players are out there. I guess some  of the newer models will connect to the Internet so you can view Netflix programming and stuff but also, I've found, the higher the complexity, the greater the chance for epic failure. (And one of the connected models, I read some reviews on it, and people said the updating-firmware stuff was a pain, that it often led to the unit messing up). Oh well.

* There's a tv ad locally: "Prom is the most important night of the year!" Really? I don't know. (I didn't go to my own prom; by the time I worked up the courage to ask the guy I wanted to, someone else had asked him. And yes, no one asked me*. One of my friends was going to her boyfriend's prom at another school, one of my friends was going to our prom with the guy she was kinda-sorta friends with, a third friend didn't want to go, so the idea of us going in a big group and going without dates wasn't possible, and I wasn't spending what a dress would cost (and the tickets) just to go and stand in a corner and leave early).

(*As a teen, I took this as evidence of my utter hideousness but now as an adult I wonder if it was perhaps I intimidated some of the chaps a little - I had a friend from grad school, after I had graduated and left, comment that "Tom (not his real name) wanted to ask you out but he was always a little afraid to." Granted, Tom wasn't quite my type - but generally, if a guy asked me out, I'd go out with him at least once. I mean, unless he had a super-bad reputation, like someone who tried stuff that shouldn't be tried on a first date and got really pushy about it)

I wonder, though. It seems sometimes prom has become almost like a mini-wedding, at least from the standpoints of the trappings and expenses. (And, I say cynically, prom being what it's become, perhaps there are a few quiet weddings in the summer months after the prom...)

Heh. One memory - we were all given "invitations" in the form of glasses (or coffee mugs? I forget which) and it said "Touch of class" on them. Showing mine to my friend, I covered up the "cl" with my thumb and said that was more like what people were expecting Prom to be, and another friend proposed changing the C to a G (a lot of drinking went on after prom....)

I dunno. The Grand Galloping Gala it was not, I assume. I would have liked it and considered going if there weren't all the crazy things like those I listed above tied to it - if it was just a show up, hang out with your friends, drink some Hi-C, maybe dance a little, and then go home, sort of thing.

(I also sometimes think maybe there needs to be a "make-up prom" for those of us who never went as teens. Oh, I'd probably hate the thought of going out and buying a big poofy dress that I might wear to just one event, but then again, maybe we could just dress "sophisticated casual" and leave it at that. And all of the insanity of after-prom parties and someone renting a hotel room and getting an older friend to buy beer wouldn't happen, because we're all old and would want to go home at 10 pm to go to sleep....)

* This is the last weekend with much in the way of open-time before the deluge hits (next week, I collect a major paper in one class, and on the same day, lab books in another one. Good planning there, fillyjonk.)

I'm considering going and doing something - either antiquing or maybe just going to the stores I like to go to but generally skip in my Friday afternoon mad-dash to get groceries somewhere a little nicer than the local Wal-mart. I don't know. I do take up a paper today I will have to grade, and I have two exams to write...And I have a salad to make and a 'finger food' to make for Monday. 

I'm tired. I'd like a full day without other responsibilities, without the cook/clean/practice/exercise whatever nagging in the back of my head so I can just sit down and do something fun.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

asking for suggestions

So, the remote to the dvd player - the player I bought back in 2007 - died. Nothing I did, not replacing the batteries, not unplugging/replugging the player, not trying a different set of batteries....

So I guess it's time for a new one.

Anyone have particular brands to recommend, or anti-recommend? The local appliance center (which is kind of a misnomer as they mostly cell furniture) sells LGs but apparently that's it.

I don't want one with lots of crazy bells and whistles - I don't particularly need to access Netflix from it, and sometimes having more stuff to hook up to the Internet means more problems. I know there are just-plain players that are fairly cheap.

(And yes, possibly a universal remote would be a possibility, but I'd hate to sink almost the cost of a simple new dvd player into a remote and maybe have the old player die....)

Any ideas? I suppose I could order from somewhere and have it delivered here if I didn't want to go with an LG or take Wal-mart potluck.

And more music

I'm working on a couple of new pieces for piano. First, from the big book I have of 1920s-1950s "Standards" is "Always" - a waltz by Irving Berlin.

(Again, I don't know whether these are supposed to be the original arrangements as published? No name of an arranger is given so I am assuming that is the case).

"Always" is pretty. It's also, I don't know, to my ears almost a little sad or elegiac - there's certainly a tone of longing in there. (Or maybe it's just that I think it was used in the old (1974) version of The Great Gatsby or some movie like that, where the characters ultimately wind up unhappy). I'm probably seeing it through my own "lens" because the history of the song says Berlin wrote it as a wedding gift to his wife.

I also think it's interesting, while it's clearly meant to be a song involving ROMANTIC love, the chorus could exemplify other kinds:

"I'll be loving you always
With a love that's true... always
When the things you've planned
Need a helping hand
I will understand... always
Days may not be fair... always
That's when I'll be there... always
Not for just an hour
Not for just a day
Not for just a year
But always"

Given the vagaries (as I see them at least) of romantic love, that almost sounds more to me like the promise a parent makes a child. 

Or, seen through another lens that strongly influences my life - I can almost imagine Christ saying those words. Especially the "not for just an hour, not for just a day...." part. 

I'm also working on an arrangement of "A Mighty Fortress." I bought a book of arrangements of "classic" hymns (the arranger is Philip Keveren). It's a challenging arrangement. And I might not have chosen it if I had read his description he had in the front of the book of each of the pieces - this arrangement is inspired by Mussorgsky's "Pictures at an Exhibition."

I find the more "modern" style of music difficult because you can't "anticipate" (or at least, I can't "anticipate") as well what's going to happen. With Baroque music, I feel like I kind of know what the next chord is or where it's going to go next - I'm working on the second section of this and whoa, the accidentals. So I have to watch very carefully, because I can't always tell if I'm hitting the right note by the sound. 

Also, it changes keys in each section (I suppose, like "Pictures at an Exhibition") so I start out in B-flat and then it moves to D, but D with a ton of accidentals (so possibly B minor, really)


And two more videos. I don't know when or how I first ran across this group (Postmodern Jukebox), but I really like their work. They re-imagine current pop songs as if they were from an earlier era. (They also use the "radio edit" version, which I appreciate, so for example, in the Thrift Shop song, they say "freakin' awesome" instead of the other gerund that Macklemore uses. Of course, Weird Al used "Super Awesome" which always makes me laugh and which I like even better. I mean, the word there is merely used as an intensifier, so why NOT use "super"? I think it makes me laugh because it sounds "so 80s" to me)

Anyway, here's "Thrift Shop" as if it were a 1940s pop song:

I find myself watching the keyboardist in this. I WISH I could do that  - I don't have the confidence and I find I can't come down on the right chord a lot of the time. Maybe with more years of practice? I hope. 

I also love it when people do these kind of reimaginings because I feel like I can understand the structure of the song better - what is essential to the song keeping its character, how much can you change the tempo or style without it becoming something totally different?

Here's another re-imagining they do that I love very much: All About that Bass turned into a burlesque-style song! (I think it's what the pianist does that does it, though the drummer's beat helps)

Heh. I can almost imagine Gypsy Rose or someone strutting around a stage to that. (And anyway, weren't the old burlesque ladies a little bit more generously built than most of the models/dancers of today?). Again, I like this because it amuses and intrigues me to see a song that is so entrenched in one style done in a totally different style - and yet, you can still pick out the melody.

(I like this version better than the original. But then again, I like the chemistry version better than the original.)

Actually, Postmodern Jukebox is pretty amazing - they do a lot of different "vintage" styles (they cover a rap song in Klezmer style and do part of it in Yiddish!). I tend to think this kind of thing (sort of like Weird Al) takes a lot of musicality and a lot of creativity.

(And yes, Charles, before you ask: they have a version of Friday. Kind of done in a slow-jazz ballad style)

Edited to add: I think one of the reasons I like this kind of thing is the whole alternate-universe idea, that maybe there exists an alternate universe where swing jazz remained the dominant pop-music form or something, and life stayed generally more stylish than it is now....the fact that on the version of Friday they did, there's the comment "A little-known live recording from the Blue Note catalog" made me think of the alternate-universe angle.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

A little nonsense

I ran across this this afternoon. Pony Poka Poka.

I nominate this for the new Rickroll video to link to.

(I think it has something to do with a video game where you hammer on stuff.)

Also, Poka Poka is NOT the same thing as Polka Polka. But there exist such things, in fact there exist a number of them because apparently someone has taken most of Weird Al's polka-medly compilations and found clips from the show that kind-of-sort-of work for the words. Or if they don't work, they're amusingly inappropriate. At least if you're a fan of the show:

I admit I have great love for Weird Al's polka medleys, because of the way I think he skewers pop music that sometimes takes itself a bit too seriously by inserting funny sounds (Predictably, he uses a flatulence sound occasionally) and where he inserts common "tropes" from polkas (I guess you'd call them motives?) so you hear a little snippet of "Too Fat Polka" or similar in the middle of some angry pop song.

(And I confess. Some of the songs, like Macklemore's "Thrift Shop" sound BETTER to me in polka form. What can I say? I grew up in the Cleveland radio market and until I was in college thought every city of any size had at least one radio station that played polka music and broadcast in Polish or Slavic for part of the day)

Here's the polka medley from his most recent album:

One of the things I love about Weird Al is how clever and creative he is with his parodies (and things like stitching together all those disparate songs and making it work; that's not easy and probably requires a lot of transposition and bridging between keys) . But I also have to give credit to the people who put these videos together, finding the right bits of footage. (I laughed and clapped over several of the bits in this one - Pinkie doing "Call me Maybe" to Cranky!.)

Also, this one's particularly appropriate because it has Weird Al Pony ("Cheese Sandwich," the party pony).

The especially wonderful thing, I think, about Weird Al is how many people said he'd essentially be a flash in the pan - hit it big with one or two parodies and then be forgotten. But he's still going, and in a lot of cases, longer than the acts he started out to parody....

(And there's even a second version of this, with some different clips, by someone else....)

Moomin origin story!

I read all the Moomin books (some multiple times) as a kid. I think Moominvalley Midwinter, or perhaps Tales from Moominvalley were my favorites, but I also liked Moominvalley in November - the last book in the series, and somewhat sad, in that the moomins never appear - they have gone off somewhere and various friends and acquaintances show up at their house - Toft, who is lonely; Mymble, who wants to visit her sister who lives with the Moomins, and the Fillyjonk* who freaks herself out (nearly falling off her roof while obsessively cleaning) and decides she "needs to be around people."

(*Apparently, based on some of the other books, fillyjonks are a species rather than a single individual)

And they, and others, show up, and wait for the moomins to return. And some commenters have speculated on whether the book isn't maybe a little too sad for children? But I remember liking it and feeling like it captured some of what was true about life - sometimes people went away and it wasn't always because they wanted to (I lost my paternal grandmother around the time I was a fan of the book).

However, there was one Moomin book I'd never read, because it hadn't been republished here - the Moomintrolls and the Great Flood. I knew vaguely that the series supposedly started with Moominmamma and Moomintroll finding Moominpappa and finding he had built them a house....

But I noticed Amazon had it, so I ordered a copy. It came yesterday, from Wordery Bookshop in the UK. (Apparently it's not widely sold here). It's interesting to see the characters I know so well in sort of embryonic form. Apparently Jansson wrote this shortly after World War II, as a response to all the horrors - she wanted something sort of fairy-tale like, with *nice* characters.

We mostly see Moominmamma and Moomintroll in there. (Moominpappa makes an appearance, but not until the very end - the search for him is the driving force of the story). Moominmamma is pretty much her capable quiet self. (I always liked Moominmamma. She remained calm no matter what happened, usually had what someone needed in the purse she carried, and she generally wants everyone to be happy.)

There's also an animal called "The small creature" who looks a lot like - and acts a lot like - the character called Sniff in the later books.

And they  meet up with a girl with blue hair (her hair glows and lights the way, and in the introduction it's suggested that Jansson was influenced by Carlo Collodi's Pinocchio there).

On the way, they meet up with a magician who lives in a deep forest where he has made a sort of artificial sun (the forest is so dark they can't see the sun) and garden that is made of candy. (And I found myself wondering if Roald Dahl could have read this book before creating the Chocolate Factory....)

The moomins look a bit different from their final forms; they are thinner and their noses are slightly differently shaped. But their characters are clearly recognizable.

I liked Moominvalley as a kid. It was a quiet place. Oh, people had Adventures but mostly those Adventures were pretty nice and if you needed something usually Moominmamma had it. And there was good food to eat, and a nice garden....I wouldn't have enjoyed the hibernating so much, I remember thinking, but the rest of it was pretty nice.

Monday, April 20, 2015

The cruelest month

There's something about April. I get that some of  the bad stuff that happened in Aprils past was traceable back to previous bad things (the old "an eye for an eye" thing - "I'm'a gonna kill innocent people, because innocent people were killed before")

the biggest thing, locally, is the anniversary (I thought it was today but it was yesterday, actually) of the Murrah Building bombing in OKC.

I remember this....I wasn't here, didn't even know I'd be moving here (I had started on my dissertation, was a few months into it). I was sitting in Biostats class that morning and a student came in and said, "Did you hear, the Federal Building in Oklahoma City got blown up!" At the time, we didn't realize how bad it was - most of us only associated OKC with where our tax forms went (back in those days, we all mailed in paper forms, and there were regional offices). It was only later, when we got out of class and trooped up to one lab where there was a radio that we found out the full scary extent. (And then later, the photos. The (in)famous photo of the firefighter carrying out the wounded/dead child from the day care. I think that's the one that really brought home to people how evil the bombing was). That was 20 years ago now.

The bombing was allegedly, so it came out in trial, retribution for the burning of the Branch Davidian compound in Waco. (And again I say: "An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind." I hope if I ever lose it to the degree that I think killing someone else's kid is an appropriate response to someone I regard as "one of my own" being killed, I hope someone shoots me before I get that chance. I'm serious.)

Then, in 1999, there was the shooting at Columbine. This was the first big school shooting, followed by far too many others. Again, I remember that one - I remember sitting up in the guest room at my parents' house (which I kind of used as a sitting room in those days) and watching it on the evening news and being horrified. And then, some eight years later, the Virginia Tech shooting - which led to some changes on my own campus; we were given some "training" (O how useless it would be in a real incident, though) and we had to complete some certificate-based NIMS training online.

And the Boston Marathon bombings - more violence, more awfulness. I don't think either of the school shootings or this can be linked to other events the way the OKC bombing was allegedly linked to Waco. But there does seem to be something about April.

And the fertilizer-plant explosion in West, Texas - which was more a natural disaster than any one person's choice to perform an evil act - but still, many people were killed, a small community was largely destroyed, lives were altered forever.

The events make me wonder if there's something about April - if somehow people who are on the edge of doing something awful get pushed into it this month for some reason - the fragile, beginning spring in much of the country, the fact that winter is over and it's easier to get around again and get out and do things. I don't know. I wonder if it's similar in a way to what someone once told me, that sometimes people who were suicidal but never expressed or tried to act on it, went ahead and did it after going on medication, because apparently the medication gave them the volition they were lacking. (Someone told me this in the wake of a cousin of mine committing suicide. It actually helped me a little to think of it that way. It was a complex situation and while I wish he hadn't done it, on some level I can see how much he was hurting and how bleak everything looked to him where he was at that time. And it happened more than 10 years ago at this point so I'm pretty much over it and I've forgiven him but I wish he had called someone up instead, and someone had come and got him..... he was in December, though, so it doesn't fit the April pattern)

(Those are the ones I remember. I guess Lincoln was shot in April, and the Titanic went down in April as well).

on "cutie marks"

Apparently the theme of this season is "cutie mark madness." (I kind of called it early on, when they started advertising the big Rarity figure/brushable/doll-that's-not-cuddly* where she was covered with light-up diamonds)

(*I don't know, but I think a doll, at least a doll of an animal, needs to be cuddly in order to BE a doll rather than a figurine. Yes, I know, for humanoid dolls a great many are not cuddly - Barbie and her ilk - but somehow that's different. Maybe we save "doll" for the cuddly ones and apply "action figure" to the non-cuddlies. Heh. The idea of a "baby action figure" instead of a "baby doll" is cracking me up now. Though really, aren't some of the more realistic baby dolls really kind of "action figures" in the sense that you DO things with them, like giving them bottles and changing their diapers?)

Anyway. The 2-parter season opener was all about cutie marks, and raised the spectre of "what if some ponies decided that the differentiation of cutie marks was a bad thing, and wanted to try to become as equal as possible?" (Hint: it's not good)

Last week's was more a slice-of-life episode, of sorts, but then again, each of the Five Friends of Twilight wanted to decorate her castle using something from her own special talent (rather than, for example, hauling lots of books to the castle, for BookPony).

This week's was a Cutie Mark Crusaders episode. Yeah, I was kind of meh about them at first. I like them better now but still prefer the episodes with the grown-up (or almost-grown-up, we don't know for sure how old the Mane Six are but I envision them as being equivalent to humans in their early 20s).

The precipitating factor of the whole episode (I'll try not to spoil it too much) was that Babs Seed got her cutie mark.......a pair of scissors. (Yeah. For an Apple family relative. Then again, she lives in the city).

No, she's not a bonsai expert, apparently. It seems she's good at mane-dressing.

So, immediately, this bit of silliness popped into my head:

"But Babs, it's MEANT TO BE! We have the same cutie mark and everything!"

"Aw, geez, Snips. I dunno. I'm sure you're a nice pony and all, but.....I'm not sure I want to go to the Ponyville Prom wit' youse."

(Babs is from Manehattan, but she talks more like she's from the Bronx. Or Brooklyn? I get my New York Tough accents mixed up....)

I also found myself wondering if this meant Babs was going to have to leave school and start an apprenticeship or something somewhere.....then again, in the Ponyville school, most of the ponies there seem to have their cutie marks and still go to school.

(Can you imagine? A pony wakes up with their cutie mark, and it's like, "Okay, your fillyhood is over....time to go work for a living. No, no, can't say goodbye to your schoolfriends." That would be kind of awful but then again, many years back, kids left school at 14 or so to do apprenticeships sometimes)

Then again: wasn't Babs originally unhappy in school? That she was bullied, and that's why she turned around and bullied the CMC? (Which again, strikes me as a very authentic thing - that the bullied kid, on finding kids weaker or lower on the ladder than she is, goes after them. It's not RIGHT, of course, and you would think of all kids, a bullied kid would realize the importance of compassion to the downtrodden)

It also raises the question: if your cutie mark denotes a special talent, and you are somehow magically able to do that talent because of the cutie mark, then WHAT is the special talent of Silver Spoon and Diamond Tiara? Being annoying? Being one-percenters? Lording it over otherponies? Because those two strike me as fairly useless, then again, I had way too much experience with well-off girls who liked to talk about how their families went to the Bahamas over Christmas break and who had every new fancy new trendy thing from Bonne Bell Lip Smackers to Bermuda bags to Jordache jeans, and who were all too fond of pointing out that I happened to have none of those things....

Or maybe rich ponies don't NEED a talent? That seems pretty boring and I would think it would almost be a punishment, to see all these Useful Ponies around you growing apples and moving clouds around and baking cakes and stuff....and your talent is just to spend money on those things. Then again, I may have some odd and specific prejudices...

The only other youngpony we see the cutie mark very explicitly of is Twist, and hers is clearly candy making, and it's implied she was good at that even before the cutie mark. (The other young ponies are either blank-flanks or they have an ambiguous cutie mark, like Sunny Days and her sunshine.(And there's the chubby little male pony, I've seen some fans call him Russel after the chubby kid in "Up," who has a knife and fork - he could become a chef, or a restaurant critic, or a competitive eater, I suppose) (And has Twist left the show? We don't see her in school any more. Well, maybe that's one case of a pony leaving school to do an apprenticeship/start work)

Also, I wonder if Twilight comes from a wealthy family. Some of the things that have happened before seem to suggest it, and also, in last week's episode, the fact that she could take Spike to "Quills N Sofas" to buy him a bed (right after an extensive spa day) makes me think Twi might be a trust-fund filly. Or maybe being Princess brings a salary with it? (I also wonder if Fluttershy comes from money - I doubt her animal friends can pay for her care of them, and barter only works so far.) I'm probably overthinking this and it's typical kids-cartoon logic, where there's money available when that money is needed and ponies don't generally have to budget (despite Applejack's occasional fears about the Apple family losing the farm)

One other hopefully-not-too-spoilerish thing from this week's episode: We see Pinkie Pie in her chicken costume (from the Nightmare Night episode) playing the role of the morning rooster at one point. I didn't catch it on the first viewing, just that "something being carried by balloons went by the window" but on the second viewing I saw - yup, it was Pinkie. I love the little bits like that that the animators/writers put in. They don't draw attention to them, but they're there - and those kind of things suggest to me that the people coming up with the gags for the show really love the show and love doing it.

New quilt top

I cut all the blocks for the Far Far Away quilt yesterday.

And I laid out the quilt. This is a step that sometimes takes me a while because it's kind of an arduous step. I don't have a design wall and don't have space for one, so instead I clear a floor space and crawl around on the floor. I *just* have space in my living room to do a twin-sized top.

Then, of course, I have to pick up all the pieces, stack them, pin them, and identify which row each is.

I did start sewing the blocks together last night but didn't get very far.

I have another top - this is one using sweets-themed fabrics from a Connecting Threads connection that has been sitting in block-form for well over a year because the thought of laying it out seemed to be too much whenever I thought of it.

I know some people have folding design walls (pieces of fiberboard with flannel on them - the blocks "stick" to the flannel so you can lay out the quilt on a vertical surface) but I don't know where I'd store it or even stand it up to use it.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Signs of spring (II)

1. the baby cardinals have hatched. It must have been in the past day or so, today is the first day I didn't see the mother sitting almost full-time on the nest. The parents seem to be relying heavily on some kind of small green inchworm-type caterpillar to feed the young.

I hope this nest succeeds; it was kind of heartbreaking last year to realize something ate the babies.

2. I now have six tomato plants: four San Marzanos and two Jet Stars. I have room for six more plants but am going to wait a bit to see if I can find Arkansas Traveler (a pink tomato and my favorite variety). There wasn't a lot of choice at the garden center yet, but at least these plants look good and healthy.

I also bought a few Leptinella squalida - a ground cover in the Asteraceae. I had never heard of it before (it's from New Zealand but MoBot seems not to object to it, so I presume that means it's not invasive). It's an interesting little plant; the foliage is fernlike and the variety I got is very dark, almost blackish. (I knew it was Asteraceae from the buds - it's going to have daisy-like flowers). This is going in the north side of the house - I want to eventually fill all that area in with low-growing perennials so I don't have to do so much crazy weeding all the time.

I guess it's All The Ground Covers time right now - the first time I've seen much monkeygrass for sale was now. If I had more time and energy and a load of topsoil for the back of the yard I'd seriously consider putting in a ground-cover shade-garden back there, but I'm not ready. (And anyway, specimen plants are a considerable investment....)

Saturday morning random.

* Got a call early from my chair. Was the town trash-off today? (Yes, it is, but I don't do those any more. Not after the whole water-bill debacle and especially not after the nastygrams about my yard when it was still in compliance - if anyone asks, my stock response is "All my energy in that direction is spent keeping up my yard these days.") Yes, that's kind of petty but I spend so much of my life striving NOT to be petty...and anyway, my allergies have been REALLY bad (both hives and sneezing type allergies) so being out in the pollen for four hours today probably isn't ideal)

* I did run to Sherman yesterday after class. The only bone stock I was able to get was the little packages of "bone broth" which is sold for "sipping" (freaking hipsters with their Paleo diets). I guess I will check out some of Purlewe's links and see if I can order it when I want it.

This is the a-number-one thing I dislike about living in a "small" area - especially one that's traditionally a bit economically depressed - there are some products that simply do not exist for us here. I often roll my eyes over Eating Well or Cooking Light and their coastal/big-city privilege, where they figure that OF COURSE you have access to a well-stocked farmer's market year-round, and OF COURSE you can get a diversity of fresh fish and OF COURSE you never have to look askance at the cauliflowers in the market and wonder just how old it is and if it would still taste okay.

I wish we had access to a larger better grocery. The Kroger in Sherman is nicer than what I have here (only big grocery is a wal-mart) but they don't have everything. And as nice as the natural-foods store is, they are sometimes a bit lax about restocking - or perhaps their suppliers are a bit lax about sending. They will order stuff - but it's a pain to go down there one week and have to order what you need (when they don't have it) and then go BACK the next week.

Where my parents live, there are undesirable things - the traffic can be awful, HOAs are even more insane than some of the city regulations are here, there are more judgmental people - but they also have so many groceries, and if you can't find what you want one place, it's a fairly short drive to try another place. (And they recently got a Hy-Vee. One of the best-rated groceries in the US. I have a wal-mart, the bottom of the pack.)

* The reason I wanted to stock up on bone stock was that I discovered that Tourin des Landes is really fantastic when made with it. This is a sort of onion soup (I gave the recipe a long time back.) One nice thing about the brick-packs of broth is that you can make smaller quantities - I made a half-batch of the soup last time and was able to eat it up in just a couple days. I think I also did a better job of cooking the onion down this time (I sometimes get impatient). Also, the La Moderna "fideo" (vermicelli) comes pre-broken and it seems to be made for putting in soups.

I admit, I tend to be suspicious of "faddish" things and might not have tried bone stock if I had first heard of it as "this is a Paleo dieter thing" (which it kind of is). I first heard of it as "this is something the old-time French chefs used, and it makes soups taste richer." I tend to be more swayed about using a food product if I am told, "This makes things taste good" than if I am told "This trendy new diet you should be on emphasizes it." (Also, bone stock is not really the magical elixir of nutrients it's made out to be - but it does taste darn good in soup).

And yeah, if I could get my hands on a bunch of chicken bones (or freeze the carcasses of the next few chickens I roast and then use those), I could make my own, but - the Pacific brand, when I can find it, is excellent and is not all that expensive. I suspect bone stock is something that's cheaper to make in really enormous quantities, especially if you're a big food concern that happens to have lots of chicken bones resulting from other stuff you make.

* I didn't take the time to go to the JoAnn's even though I really wanted to. (And it might have been a good mental-health break). It was late, it was threatening storms (though they never developed), so I ran to the bookstore quickly (the new Simply Knitting UK....) and then the natural foods store and the Kroger's.

* After New Ponies (an hour away, and I really need to get off here and practice) I am going in to do a soil sample....and to send off my suggestions on the paper (oh please, oh please, let it be accepted this time) my advisor wrote on which I am a co-author. (I can at least note that it has been submitted on my post-tenure review plan). And maybe do a couple soil samples - I didn't do any yesterday because of mowing the day before. (I have to strictly limit my allergen exposure, because of hives....this spring they've been bad because it's been so wet). And I have to write an exam for next week. (It never ends...)

* Rewatching "Cutie Markless," I was reminded of something I noticed but didn't comment on - after losing their cutie marks, the Mane Six become ever-so-slightly PALER than their normal colors...not quite as bad as when Discord affected them, but slightly paler (And I guess the townponies did, too). So maybe knowing what you are good at in life, having that special talent, makes you more radiant and more "strongly colored" in the sense of being yourself? Interesting.

* Also, after a lot of maundering around about my "special talent" - I've come to the conclusion that it is finding and evaluating information quickly. (Especially online). I think Scholastica's cutie mark (a lamp of knowledge) would still work for that (Scholastica is my "OC" pony who is probably closest to me in looks and personality). And I like it better than some of the options for "online" search - a computer mouse, a URL, or the pointy brackets used when citing a URL in a publication.

(And I really, really need to finish Mabel Pines up, and start Folio, the other OC pony I want a 3-dimensional, "real" stuffie of. I have the yarn for her, I know right where the pattern book is....)

Being able to find information and evaluate it quickly is a pretty darn good special talent, I think - almost anything I'm curious about I can find out. And I can help other people. And I can amaze my students with the skill.

(Another skill I have is doing math quickly in my head. I did some - just estimating, but I can get really close with estimates - for showing how to do some calculations the other day in class. I asked the one guy who had his calculator out to check my estimates and see if they were accurate and his response was something like, "Dang, you are really close to the actual value." Being able to do estimated calculations by rounding or using numbers you know are "close" to the number you are using - this was squaring and taking square roots - is a good skill to have. I guess I mainly developed it over the years by just using it....a lot of those skills I think you just have to use to be able to develop them, they can't so much be taught. Then again....the idea of being able to spitball numbers in your mind to see if what the calculator or the computer stats package is spitting out makes sense is an incredibly important thing....I found I entered some data wrong in my most recent manuscript (before submission, thank goodness!) because I looked at the SPSS output and was like, "Whoa, that doesn't make sense" and went back and checked the data....and that's a skill lots of people seem not to learn in school any more, or maybe people just are too lazy to do, I know not many of my students seem to do it even when I explicitly show how it can be done)

Friday, April 17, 2015

a random thought

Said over on ITFF: "I can understand that last. I get kind of bitey when there are too many strange people around who want to interact with me."

(In response to someone talking about having friends over to "meet" her crested geckos and one of them being a little bitey because of the stress).

The funny thing is, I immediately wondered if my Ravatar-creature (currently it's Fluttershy OF COURSE) would get "bitey" if she felt threatened. Or if any of the Ponies would. Or, if somehow, there were forced Pony-human interaction (I KNOW THE EARLIER SHOWS HAD IT BUT I DO NOT WANT THIS TO BE A THING IN THE CURRENT RUN) would result in someone biting someone.

(I'm guessing Rainbow Dash would be most likely to bite a would-be human handler)

But yeah. I don't literally get "bitey" but when I have too much forced interaction with strange people I get kind of uncomfortable and am not totally myself. (It's the Introvert Way.)

a little bleg

Does anyone out there in blogreader land have a favorite online grocery/gourmet food supplier?

I'm thinking especially for the slightly  oddball things I use that can be hard to find here - for example, Pacific Foods' "bone stock" is unsalted and is wonderful for using in soup, but I have to get it from the natural foods store in Sherman (and hope they have it in stock the day I get down there).

I've used Amazon for some things but in a few cases, you have to order such an enormous quantity AND some of the sellers seem to have stuff close to its expiration date - and I can't buy a case of six (or whatever) boxes of bone stock and have to use it up within two weeks or something.

(The one online-for-delivery-nationwide grocer I tried didn't sell bone stock. And it would be very certain specific things - low-sodium varieties of some stuff, things without certain additives*)

(*I love the bone stock because it has two ingredients: chicken (and chicken bones) and rosemary extract. The rosemary extract is a preservative. It has no added salt, no celery to give me hives, no green pepper to maybe give me hives....)

I don't always have time to drive to Sherman when I want to for stuff....this week it's going to be an effort as I don't get out of class before 2, and we might have bad afternoon storms, and Saturday will be worse, and besides, I have some research stuff I need to do tomorrow....

Friday morning random

* Was slightly alarmed to hear of a stabbing in my town last night. (There are about 15,000 people in my town but it seems we have disproportionately much violence like that). This morning, I learned (as I kind of expected) it was a "domestic" - the man's daughter stabbed him for some reason.

I don't know. I sometimes tell people "Don't get involved with drugs and don't leave your doors unlocked, and you'll avoid most crime" but I guess I really need to add, "Don't have a messed-up family" though that's probably harder than remembering to lock your doors.

I dunno. In the few bad arguments I had with my parents as a teen, the end result was me stalking out of the house and going for a walk until I calmed down....

* Mowed the lawn last night in what was probably a brief break between rainy systems. I'm already wondering if this year is going to shake out to be like 2007 again. On the upside, our drought will end and the lakes will refill. On the downside, in 2007, a lot of the field sites flooded and it was challenging finding places I could do the summer labs.

* I started a new pair of "simple" socks (just ribbed cuffs with stockinette everywhere else). I pulled out one of the many self-striping yarns - this one is a Biscotte et Cie. yarn (Felix). The colorway is called Rond Rond Macaron. I bought it because (a) purple) and (b) the Macaron made me figure it was named for the colorful French cookies.

Now I find out that Rond Rond Macaron (more commonly written, it seems, Ron Ron Macaron) is a children's game of sorts, kind of like "our" (anglophones) "Ring around the Rosie."

I found a couple versions of the words online but the French is so telegraphic that I can't really figure out what, if anything, is being said.

* There's the old urban legend (And apparently it is JUST legend) that Ring around the Rosies was derived from plague times. (It seems folklorists tend to believe it's mostly a nonsense rhyme - well, maybe Ron Ron Macaron is also, which is why I can't parse it out).

* I also have a yarn from that company called "Bonbons Pyramide" which now makes me wonder if the name means more than just the pyramid of candy I envisioned. (Both socks - the macaron socks and the Bonbons Pyramide socks that I will make later - I will probably wind up thinking of as Pinkie Pie socks, because of the sweets connection)

(Okay. A quick internet search suggests that Bonbons Pyramide is just that - something like a wedding cake, but composed of stacked-up bonbons).

*And on the dyer's website (the English version), there is a picture of macarons next to the yarn I am using - so maybe it really is just about macarons here.(And I see several other yarns I might want - Creme Brulee, Chevalier, and Scotland Inspiration...)

* Interesting link over at Hit Coffee about The whole Gamergate thing and another way of interpreting the hostile reactions. The idea that the long-term gamers feel "displaced" when new people come in. And while I IN NO WAY sympathize with what they did - doxxing and death threats and hurling sexual/racial/whatever epithets is Bad Human Behavior of the worst kind, it's also, I think....maybe a bit of a common human reaction, at least among people who are outsiders, when something they like increases in popularity?

I mean, how often on knitting blogs or boards have you heard a woman sigh that a man knitter is getting attention because (to be PG about it) he's XY rather than XX? I've done that myself. And I will say I've seen cases where a male knitter got in the news and I thought, "If he was a woman what he was doing would not be seen as newsworthy, and what's more, women doing far more amazing or artistic knitting are being ignored." And I admit to being a bit of a crank about this new thing called "arm knitting" - where you don't use needles but use your arms and use superbulky yarn and I feel like it's kind of limited in what you can make (as compared to knitting with needles). Okay, maybe it's a good way for people to try out a new craft with less investment up front (needles are expensive) and maybe it would be a good way to knit if the TSA said you couldn't take needles on the plane (then again, I bet there's not enough space on a crowded plane to arm-knit). But I feel like....people who do it the traditional way are being bypassed in favor of something that's new! but not necessarily seems to be that way everywhere.

(I will not belabor the point but there is the whole "OMGosh, you lecture?" response when someone learns about your teaching style, the unspoken thing being, "Don't you know that's an AWFUL way to teach and you should be doing flipped classroom/discussion/active learning/some other new technique" And of course it's generally someone who hasn't been in a classroom - or hasn't been in a classroom with the type of students I teach. I tried stuff like that some years back when I was younger and had more energy and found it failed a lot of the time with our students - oh, the super engaged 10-20 percent were still engaged, but I "lost" a lot of people. With lecture, the super-engaged still are, but the less-engaged people also learn something, I find.....and I don't buy the idea that it's my fault if less than 100% of my students are fully engaged in the class. )

But anyway. I said something a while back about traditional groups (knitters, quilters, whatever) needing to be willing to welcome new people (because that's the only way stuff carries on into the future). And also, being rude to "noobs" is just being a crummy human. But I will also admit a certain weariness with the sort of breathless, everything-is-a-trend way that things go now.

So while I don't sympathize with the behaviors and think they were definitely wrong, I will say many knitters have sighed when some new member of an online knitting group signs on and either goes "Can you bring knitting needles on a plane I am flying to Paris next week and I don't want to have to sit and do nothing for ten hours and I have this scarf I am working on" or who acts like s/he invented some "new technique" s/he just discovered.....and it's something many knitters have done for years. (And I am not a fan of the periodic trends for super-chunky yarn, or yarn in eye-searing neon colors....)

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

My invigilating knitting

This has been (mostly - I did the neckline and shoulders this afternoon at home) my invigilating-knitting project this semester:

stripey back

It's the back of Version 2.0 of the High Street Vest. This one is knit of Noro Taiyo (Color 6) with an older Regia 6-ply Silk as the ribbing - which will also be the neck and armhole ribbing.

I have two balls of the Taiyo and the back took just under one (and the front, because of the deep v-neck, takes less yarn) so I'm in good shape.

I want to cast on and start the ribbing of the front tonight; I have an exam to give tomorrow.

"Free range kids"

This has been a thing in the news lately - because of the (perceived) epidemic of helicopter/bubble-wrap parenting (where parents hover over their children wanting to protect them from every harm, which results in eventual adults who are even more risk-averse than I am*)

(*I'm risk-averse, but mainly about things like bungee jumping and swimming in water known to harbor parasitic amoeba. I don't mind speaking up when I see something wrong, or criticizing something needing it)

And also, in some of the more fringey areas of the news, there's been an attempt to generate outrage on the behalf of a few parents being investigated by Child Protective Services for doing stuff like let their kids walk a few blocks unsupervised.

(I admit, I tend to be a bit cynical of those stories. So many times when there is a "the Authorities are investigating this person for a minor thing, they're overstepping their bounds!" it turns out the person in question has been a problem person for a long time, and the "minor" thing is something they can actually be investigated for or charged with. Then again, some Authorities DO overstep their bounds these days, as I found out last summer with the whole debacle with my alleyway that then led to my being "cited" for "overly-tall grass" that was actually about 6" below the height at which you are supposed to be cited....)

But anyway. I wonder if this is also perhaps an attempt to conjure up some gen-X nostalgia (we're getting old enough to be cranky and nostalgic now). Lots of us were kind of free-rangey as kids. Some Gen-Xers were even forlorn "latchkey kids" - usually children of divorce who came home to an empty house, let themselves in, ate snacks while watching re-runs of the Brady Bunch and on, and on.

I wasn't as free-rangey as some kids, but I do think of the things I got to do that maybe parents today would cringe at. I used to regularly, as a fairly young kid, walk down the street to my friend Elizabeth's house. (And sometimes she walked up to mine) She lived, as I remember, five houses away, which would have been a "long" city block, at least. (And for part of that time - though that was when we were older - a kid who eventually went to "juvie" for seriously beating up another kid on my street and also for petty theft - lived in one of those houses). Oh, my mom and her mom both knew where I was headed, and if I had not arrived in a very short time, a phone call would have got both our moms out looking. (And most of the neighbors along that street knew us and kind of watched over us).

I also ran around outside a lot. There were "vacant lots" (which were really more like abandoned pasture - this was a small town, not a city) behind and to one side of my parents' house, and my brother and I used to play there a lot. We were kind of within vision of our parents, and we were certainly within calling distance of the house (I mean, oral calling - this was in the days long before cell phones). But my parents also trusted us a certain amount - they knew that if we saw clouds building up and heard thunder, we'd head back home. Or if we saw a strange dog running around we'd head home. And they knew we were smart enough not to throw rocks at hornet nests or stick our hands in holes where snakes might live. (And we were. I was afraid of both hornets and snakes as a kid).

We also used to go "exploring" with the kids across the street - there were a pair of twins, Tim and Jan, who were about five years older than I was (my parents trusted them to watch over us - Jan babysat my brother and me a few times). They would go along with us. There were a lot of undeveloped areas around our housing development and we'd go walk around in them and look at them. (There was one area of the development that had had streets and sidewalks laid out, but didn't have any houses or streetlamps yet). No one ever got after us for it - if we ever saw a cop, they never said anything to us, they might have known that we were not troublemakers, so.

"Exploring" was fun. We were never all that far from home but it felt kind of far. We used to climb over the chain-link fence at the back of the house where Tim and Jan lived, and we'd be in an area that was like forest to us. (It was probably second or third growth, the kind of junky stuff that comes in to disused land, but it was "forest" to us). We'd roam around looking at stuff and talking about what it might be like to live out there, like in a cabin or something.

We did once get into a hornet's nest - Tim urged us to run to get away from them, and then he shepherded the kids who got stung back home. No one was allergic to stings, so the worst that happened is that some of us were crying.

Sometimes we went exploring in the creek that ran through the neighborhood. I remember trying to catch frogs (they were always too fast) and falling in once or twice - but the creek was shallow and the bank was neither steep nor all that muddy, so getting back out wasn't hard.

I also used to climb trees a lot as a kid. I suppose that could be seen as dangerous, but I was careful. I never fell - my grip slipped once or twice but I was aware of the danger (but not so aware as to be scared). My mom never seemed to worry excessively about it, or at least she never expressed worry about it to me. Part of that may have been that she could see the tree I climbed most of the time from the house, and so she could look out and see me there, and maybe she watched me more than I realized.

And yeah, a lot of that was the result of having grown up in a pretty safe small town. When I got a little older, like around 12, there were some worrying news reports of high-profile kidnappings, but even the nearest one wasn't all that near to where we lived. (Honestly, the biggest dangers probably WERE things like dogs and hornets).

I don't know. We were careful about things - we knew how to safely cross the street, where traffic was bad so not to walk around those areas. We knew how to get back out of a pond or creek if we fell in. We knew some basic first aid and generally when an injury was something you could "walk off" vs. something you probably needed to go home to have a parent deal with. (Also, there were parents around - my mom didn't work, Elizabeth's mom worked evenings, as did Jan and Tim's mom, some of the dads had odd hours so there was usually someone's mom or dad home if they were needed). And we had enough people on our street we knew that even if we were way up the street at the creek and someone got hurt, there was a house we could knock on the door of and ask them to call one of our parents....

I wonder if some of the decline of community, the fact that kids don't feel comfortable doing that anymore (knocking on a door and going, "My friend sprained his ankle! Can you please call his mom, her number is...") and that increasingly, no one is home during the days. (But then again: so many kids have cell phones.) I wonder if some of the discouragement of free-ranging kids in smaller towns or suburbs is due to an artificially inflated sense of danger (which I would partly lay at the feet of the 24-hour news cycle).

The other thing I wonder about, though, is whether more "indoor" or "bubble wrapped" kids don't get the chance to earn some of the common sense we had - for example, my friend Tim knew instinctively what to do about the hornet's nest (and he also suggested first going to find some mud to put on the stings, but we all wanted to go home instead). And I knew what was probably a safe thing to attempt (climbing a tree with good sturdy branches) and what wasn't a good idea (crawling out on a thinnish branch stretching over a pond). And also stuff like how to get someone home after they sprained an ankle. (I don't remember any of us sustaining any worse injuries than bee stings or twisted ankles....a few kids wiped out on bikes and got injuries that way, but just walking around, I don't remember serious injuries).

Part of the reason we were outside so much as kids is that there wasn't as much indoor entertainment. Video games were in their infancy (We did have Pong, but Pong wasn't fun for very long). Very, very few people had cable and there were something like four or five local channels, and during the day what they showed was "boring" (game shows and soap operas). But I wouldn't trade running around poking mud with sticks and trying to catch frogs for having the best video game system or all the cable channels out there, and I feel sad for kids who don't live somewhere where they can do that kind of stuff.

Edited to add:  A few more thoughts on this. I wonder if some of the "how DARE those parents let their children walk alone in a residential area" backlash is because there actually aren't just free-range kids, there are what I would call  "feral" kids.

"Feral" kids (and yeah, I don't entirely like that designation) are the kids who aren't really parented at all - instead of parents giving them boundaries and saying, "Yes, you may walk alone to your friend's house down the street but I'm going to call her mom so she knows to look for you, and please be home by 4 pm" the parents kind of ignore the kids and leave them totally to their own devices.

It's a fine line. I don't have a problem with kids walking in a residential area, but I was really kind of unsettled to see a small-ish kid (I estimated about 8) walking alone along the side of one of the main drags in town - in addition, a street with no sidewalks, so he had to navigate through the parking lots of businesses.

Also, I've seen kids be rude. When I was a kid, we were, well, kids, but we tried not to be rude - our parents taught us better than that and we mostly had a certain degree of deference towards adults. But kids doing stuff like playing "chicken" with cars (on their bikes or on foot) or similar things, or knocking over trash cans - that's not "free range kid" behavior, that's potential-problem behavior.

And I remember a few years back, around the fourth of July, a few boys (probably about ten-ish) were lighting firecrackers and bottle rockets and throwing them into the street - a not-heavily-used street, but one that is used. (I waited at a stop sign until they saw me and didn't have any lit firecrackers, then slowly pulled through). (And anyway....I don't like the idea of a kid that young using firecrackers unsupervised. Oh, maybe some kids did it years back, but I know when my brother wanted to shoot some off, even as a teen, my dad insisted on supervising. And he insisted on there being a large bucket of water nearby, not just in case of fire but to "drown" any duds to be sure they wouldn't go off later)

Again, I think it comes down to a common-sense thing: most of the even-slightly-daredevil kids I knew as a kid wouldn't play chicken with a car - that was just dumb and a good way to get yourself in bad trouble. But I do see it from time to time. (Or maybe I hung out with a fairly tame crowd).

But now I think of it, I wonder if people calling the cops on "kids out loose" where in some cases, it really is just kids walking to a friend's house or not doing anything other than going out for a walk is the result of the Few Bad Apples yet again - the kids who vandalize or do dumb hazardous things or do things like tip over trash cans, and so now all kids have to pay....

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Not ready for

So my mom called me this afternoon. The long story short version: she broke a tooth, a tooth with an old filling, on a Butterfinger bar, and had some headaches in reaching her dentist (she has an appointment tomorrow, though, finally).

Anyway. I kind of sighed and cringed through the call. I am very, very dental phobic. My mom knows I am. She knows I called her about four times to cry at her when *I* broke a tooth over the July fourth weekend a couple years ago. She knows how carefully I vet anything I eat now, and don't eat nuts or hard foods any more. Even hard breadcrusts are either rejected or dunked in tea/water/milk before being consumed.

(Ugh. Yeah, I guess I am a little racoon-like in that respect).

I can tell why she called - she wanted reassurance and the hope that it would JUST take a crown to fix it. (She went through a root canal this past fall - on top of the whole discomfort thing there was also the going-to-a-different-doctor (her long-time dentist doesn't do root canals) and finding-his-office and all that*)

(*My mom may be a bit more like me than I realize)

The good news is the break sounds very, very similar to the break I had happen - if anything, it's smaller - so it sounds very likely a crown prep will do it. And I told her that.

But yeah. This is one of those things I'm not really ready for. I'm having a hard time seeing my parents as fallible in certain ways. Having to be the one who reassures my mom about dental stuff is one of those ways. (And, in a larger sense, I get worried about the whole idea of losing them as sources of reassurance, because then who will reassure me when I need it?)

I also wrote a while back about how she was talking about something that happened when she was a young teen, and I was shocked to hear that other girls in her school looked down on her - they didn't exactly bully but they certainly excluded (which is the most common form of girl-bullying, anyway). And I just sat there, even though I was in my forties at the time, and was shocked - my mother was an unpopular kid? My smart clever kind pretty mother, who should have been by rights, the most justifiably-popular* person (because she was smart AND nice to people) in her school. And she wasn't. And somehow, that killed me a little.

(*There are people who are justifiably popular because they are good people and are kind to everyone else. There are also people who are inexplicably popular - because they are mean or something. And then there are the unjustifiably-unpopular and the justifiably-unpopular and the just plain was-unlucky-so-is-unpopular. I class myself in school somewhere between "unlucky-unpopular" and "possibly-justifiably" because I was a little egghead who cried easily, but also I came from a family not wealthy enough to afford the designer jeans all the popular girls had. And I didn't always have the keenest grasp of social structure and things, but that really wasn't my fault, it's how my brain is wired.)

Though I generally have a hard time with the fallibility of people I look up to. I remember once as a teen, when I was very, very angry at myself about something (I think it was failing the driving test) and I was just generally slagging on all the things I thought were wrong with myself, and I screamed, "and I'm ugly, UGLY! Why do I have this face?!?!!" and my mom - she was in the car with me, and we had just pulled in the drive at home - turned to me, and quietly and perhaps with tears in her eyes (they were in her voice, but I didn't look closely enough at her to see her eyes) said, "you're prettier than I was."

And that shocked me into silence.

I still can't quite believe what she said, having seen pictures of my mother as a teen (and especially as a young adult - in photos as a young married she was almost glamorous, at least to my eyes). Though I've softened my stance on my own appearance in the intervening years, still, my mother was pretty, and I think especially given the times, she was "prettier" in the sense of looking like what was considered pretty when she was growing up than I was during my times (the 1950s vs. the 1980s). (Then again, I never had the horror that was a spiral perm)

But yeah. One of the hardest things I find about getting older is the thought of giving up the role of the "child" and having to be the "parent" to everyone.

Days are busy

So. Monday morning, got up, started working out. I had the AC on even though it wasn't super hot out (still, 70 degrees F at 4:45 am - that's still too warm too early, IMHO). It was very humid. So I wanted to suck some of the humidity out of the air so I could breathe.

And then, I realized: hey, the temperature went UP. That's never good.

When I finished the workout I went outside to look at the AC unit because I had a suspicion.

Yeah. That son of a gun would freeze up in the middle of summer on the equator Yeah, it had iced up.

So I sighed, turned it off, and made plans to call the "guy" who takes care of such things. I also decided to set the appointment for THIS afternoon, because lab and piano lesson.

I taught as usual but wound up having to teach my lecture class sitting down - for some reason I couldn't catch my breath (asthma - and it's super humid in the classrooms) and so rather than feeling like I might pass out or having to stop and kind of gasp every five minutes, I sat down. (This is the class where most of the students seem to care about the subject, so it wasn't chaos).

Taught afternoon lab. I felt slightly better during that, perhaps because I had eaten (apparently in some people one of the meds I'm on can play heck with your blood sugar if you've gone a while without a meal) but also because whatever it was (possibly a cramp in the intercostal muscles; I get them sometimes) had passed.

Went home, picked up a few things and was practicing in preparation for the lesson. AC place called - there's an opening, would I like them to come out now? I said yeah, even as I got nervous about the idea of someone banging around on the AC unit while I was trying to have my lesson (but as it turned out, he got done before my teacher arrived).

Diagnosis: trying to run the thing while it was too cool out plus I need to change the filter more often. (I had been changing it every 2 months or so, but the guy said, "it's a little small for the unit so it clogs up faster" Good to know but gah, so tired of jerry-rigged things. This setup was installed long before I bought the place). The unit seems to still be OK but will someday need to be replaced. The guy told me that regulations were changing and after this year, 13 SEER units would no longer be available and the higher-SEER units would be "20% or so more expensive" (Then again: when my dad and I discussed it once, he thought it made sense to pay more for a higher SEER unit, because energy saving over the long run. I don't know. I just want to be cool in the summer. I mean - they could make a super-efficient unit by having it set so it wouldn't run as much in peak hours and let the house heat up. But if the higher SEER is more efficient and keeps the house reasonably comfortable - I'm willing to pay for that.)

Still, he seemed to think I didn't have to make that decision immediately unless I wanted one of the remaining lower-SEER models.

He did say that the disruption to my life would be minimal (one guy I had out once was like OMGWTFBBQ WE WILL HAVE TO PUT A NEW UNIT ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE HOUSE BECAUSE TREES AND WE WILL HAVE TO REDO ALL THE DUCTWORK and I was like NO, because of the cost and because being without AC and with guys crawling all over the house for a week makes my skin crawl.

So, I don't know. If my summer classes make I might hire the guy to replace the unit, though doing it in the summer is not ideal. (I suppose I could do it early fall, if I don't care about the cheaper lower-SEER models)

If I were really willing to deal with a lot of workpeople, I'd look into one of those whole-house dehumidifiers that I've heard about; really my biggest problem spring and fall is not heat, it's humidity, and I can tolerate a hotter temperature if it's not sticky.

Aside: does anyone have a favorite place they mail-order filters from? My filter is an odd size (12 x 20) and not all the stores carry it. (The Lowe's in town does not, the Wal-Mart sometimes does not....the Kroger's in Sherman, oddly, does, and so though they're more expensive there, I sometimes wind up buying them there).

I'd really like the get the "allergen defense" ones. The Lowe's offered to order some for me and they did, but they were really crummy cheap filters that didn't block dust or allergens. (I suppose the "allergen defense" ones do clog up faster, but....)

Amazon had them at one time but if there were a specialized filter depot that sold all kinds and sizes I'd be more inclined to use them...


I tweaked my shoulder somehow working out yesterday and today it hurts a little. (I used heat and ibuprofen. It's better than it was but not totally back to normal.)


Last night was also CWF, so after piano I had to quickly eat dinner and then run off there, especially since I was in charge of the lesson.


I need to learn to take things like paper rejections as less a rejection of me and my work and more as something that just happens. My graduate advisor (who is now retired) sent me a manuscript to read. He noted it had been rejected from two big journals and he was now going to try a smaller journal. I hope it gets accepted this time as I am a co-author on it (it's some research I participated in the beginning stages of when I was a grad student).

I have a hard time with that, though. I'm too good at feeling shame about stuff like that*, where "Oh my gosh, I submitted a paper and it got rejected, EVERYONE WILL KNOW" and really, most people in the sciences, they get so many rejections that it's not a big deal. But still - fear of failure is deeply ingrained in me, I think because I felt when I was a kid like my academic successes were the ONLY thing I had (seriously, the few times I failed at something publicly in school, like the time my idiot criminal** 7th grade science teacher had us do these "active learning" things and I misunderstood the instructions on one and did it wrong, and then everyone harassed me and teased me  for weeks because Look, the Egghead failed! and they seemed to take especial glee in the fact that the Smart Kid failed.  And it was pretty unpleasant. (Seventh grade kids are *awful*. I hated seventh grade. It was like everyone was at their most cliquish and they looked for the tiniest weak spot on anyone, and they struck at that weak spot until the person collapsed like a zebra with a broken leg out on the Serengeti)

(*And also other stuff, like federal investigations of people that work at the same place I do even though I had nothing to do with the incident in question)

(**Seriously, he is. "Inappropriate relationship" with a student, some years after I graduated. But I did always get kind of a skeevy vibe off of him, and I made sure I was never alone in a room with him.)

But anyway. I don't know how a person gets to the point of being able to shrug off those kinds of rejections - or maybe some people are good at it and others aren't. I'm not, which is why I have such a hard time submitting anywhere.

Another thought on papers and rejection: I guess I get very much into the idea of "your paper got rejected because it was bad" and that's often not the case. Rejections can happen because "your paper is okay but it doesn't fit with the upcoming issues of the journal" or "it's a bad fit for us" or "it's fine, but there are more pressing papers we need to publish" or "there are lots of papers and yours was good but others were better."

My philosophy is different from many people's: my advisor tends to go for the highest impact journal he thinks he has a shot at, and then goes down from there. I start out with more modest ambitions simply because I'd rather get the paper out but in a smaller journal than go through three to five years of trying and trying again. Maybe that's not a good strategy but meh - with the availability of stuff online any more, it's easy enough for someone to find a solid paper that's in a small journal. I'd rather submit somewhere that has a 50% or better acceptance rate than somewhere that has a 10% acceptance rate. (Well, factoring out Sturgeon's Law and only considering the papers that AREN'T crud). Also, I am at a fairly obscure school, I don't have big funding, don't have big-name co-authors, don't do big expensive science - and yeah, all of that makes a difference, there is a certain glamour you must possess in order to make it into the really big journals, I think.

But anyway: academic publishing is a game, and I'm not to the point yet of not being a sufficiently good loser to be able to shrug off rejections. Someday I'd like to be there.