Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Wednesday morning random

* I don't know if it's my brain decompressing, or hormones, or what, but I've been having very intense dreams. Not nightmares per se, but lots of stuff crammed into the dream, lots of stuff to process, and sometimes a real feeling of claustrophobia or not-quite-panic (e.g.: almost missing an important flight somewhere)

I don't like it. It frequently happens during exam week which makes me wonder if it's some kind of decompression after the semester.

* Monday night was the CWF Christmas party. It was...subdued. That's the best word for it. We've lost a couple people in the past few years (deaths or moving away) and this year, a couple of people who might have been there, weren't (illness, or in one case, a woman was with her husband in OKC because he was getting chemo). There weren't many of us. And ironically? We do it as a potluck where one person volunteers to bring a main dish (something kind of like ropa vieja this year) and everyone else brings sides or desserts. We had no desserts this year - I brought Harvard beets, a couple people brought corn dishes, there were green beans, there were a couple of starches (potato dishes and a rice dish) and there were rolls.

(Confession: I was slightly disappointed. I don't get "different" desserts often and I look forward to it. Even though the last time I had banana pudding it made me a little sick because apparently I am allergic to bananas now).

It was quiet. I remember the years when one of our older members was well enough and she had it at her house and there were maybe 20 of us, and we sang and laughed and ate and also did a white-elephant gift exchange, which, while it was time-consuming and you often went home with a fairly useless item, was good for some laughs.

This year we just had a short business meeting, wrote our checks for the Crisis Center (we decided instead of exchanging gifts to give money to the local "women's and children's shelter" (meaning: women escaping abuse, sometimes with their kids) so they could provide Christmas for the people staying there. And sadly, we've been told the use of the shelter goes up during December....I guess for a lot of people the holidays are stressful and it comes out in a bad way. They're always very grateful for the help we give, and one of our members is on the board, so she knows the work they do.

Also, we talked about the local homeless population (this was also something we talked about at AAUW). There is not a homeless shelter in our county, and there really needs to be. But until a few years ago, the city leadership denied there even WERE homeless people in town, something most of the residents raised their eyebrows at.

On cold nights, the local library - which has a large atrium type area where cots can be set up - opens its doors to anyone needing a place to be in out of the cold. They also apparently have someone who distributes donated food (and there are a couple microwaves people can use to heat stuff up). And another person who has arranged to collect and distribute donated winter wear. While this is a good first step, really, we need a dedicated shelter here, preferably one with separate wings where families can stay together, and places for solo women and solo men. And that provides some kind of support in the form of counseling when needed or help so maybe some people can find work and, hopefully, eventually stop being homeless.

But yeah, like so many other things in my area: it will take a core of dedicated volunteers who can raise money either from people or corporations or maybe some of the big charities. And I don't know of a building that would work....I do know there are code-issues when you start to talk about things like homeless shelters and a lot of the empty buildings in town are empty because they're not up to code.

Also, a shelter would probably have to be near the downtown somewhere - if you put it too far out of the center of town (where the people who do have some kind of work are working) or where it's hard to get to if you don't have a vehicle, people won't use it. Though again, I'm not sure some people want the problem to be that "visible," though I will say, as someone who is often out early in the morning, right after sunup: it's visible to me, because I see people walking along with their sleeping bags and big rucksacks and you kind of have to guess they're not camping voluntarily....

But yeah. It's just one of those things that kind of stinks about how things go. I suppose the city is perhaps a bit unwilling to face the problem because (a) they'd really rather see the homeless people move on to somewhere else and (b) they want to try to make us look more prosperous than we really are.

* I finished the knitting on Grasse Matinee last night but I still need to weave in the ends, and I also need to block it, most likely: it looks like the hems want to roll. Since this IS sock yarn, I might try a short cold machine wash on gentle, followed by drying/blocking flat.

I still haven't fully decided on which, if any, sweater will be my over-break project. Yes, I need to pick up the owls sweater again some time, but that's an awful lot of yarn to haul. It might be better to dig Celestarium back out and focus on that (more portable) and also some of the other smaller projects. Probably I need to dig out a lot of the stalled projects (I have a couple scarves going, too) and take the smaller ones and try to finish them up.

Or maybe I take the Augusta cardigan, seeing as it's worsted weight and might knit up fairly fast. I don't know.

* Am surprised at how tired I am this week. I am not doing any extra, I am sleeping about the same amount. Maybe just the end of the semester? I don't know.

* I finally got around to watching "Paddington" (after buying the dvd over a month ago). I liked it. It's a bit different from the books. I remember the books as being MUCH more slice-of-life, as in "Paddington goes to school with Jonathan and things do not go as planned" or "Paddington unwittingly foils a counterfeiting scheme and winds up unknowingly delivering its ringleader to the police." The movie version injected a good bit more Peril (in the form of a taxidermist who wanted to taxidermy Paddington) and also had a sort of hand-waving backstory as to how Paddington had a link to England and also how he managed to learn English....I think in the books he just kind of appeared, and it was just assumed that Of Course Bears Can Speak English, Even Bears from Darkest Peru.

I would have liked more of the slice-of-life comedy that existed in the books - there were a couple scenes of it (Paddington foiling the pickpocket).

Also, I remember Mr. Gruber playing a larger role, and being a friend of Paddington more than of Mrs. Brown, but that might be misremembering. I do remember Paddington going to visit Mr. Gruber frequently, sometimes to get advice, sometimes to just share elevenses. (As in the movie, the book's Mr. Gruber was implied to have been a refugee of sorts - in the books, I assumed it was from Nazi Germany; the movie, I am not sure about - could have been Hungary, and he fled when the Soviets took over.)

And I remember Mr. Curry in the books as being less creepy and sinister and more just that annoyed neighbor with no sense of humor (I think in the books it was also implied he was East Indian? Or maybe that was just one of the cartoons made?)

But, the need to inject Peril because of Excitement aside, I liked the movie. I thought Paddington's voice actor was particularly well-chosen. I guess there's a second movie, playing now in the UK, probably will come here. While I don't go OUT to the movies, I might get the dvd when it comes out.

* I am also reading "The Box of Delights" by John Masefield. I started this last year and got side-tracked so picked it up again this year. Because of the Christmas theme, in part. A couple of thoughts:
 - apparently this is a continuation of "The Midnight Folk," which I also have, and now I wonder if I should have read first, because some of the things referenced in this book feel very like you've been dropped in the middle of the story and you kind of have to figure it out.

- This is the kind of "fantasy" I like. I could never get really that into the traditional "high fantasy" (like Lord of the Rings) because it was so divorced from our world. But in this novel - it's set sometime in the mid 1930s, I guess - it's England, but it's England with some possibility of magic, and with some talking animals (the Mouse, apparently). And there's a good v. evil conflict. But there's that grounding in reality: the humans are human, the adults don't totally understand what the children are up to (and, I suppose, some degree of the "magic" could be in the imaginations of the children), and there are solid real things like meals and Christmas trees and snow to help ground the story.

- I have a bad habit often of imagining cartoon characters I know (because that is most of the tv I watch these days) in the roles of some book characters. I can't help picturing Maria Jones as a sort of British Louise Belcher, and honestly, I think Louise would like the pistol-packing, villain-biting, Maria. (How old IS Maria supposed to be? I assumed she was a quite small child, but her level of toughness and bloodthirstiness suggests a minimum age of 8 or 9, at least based on my memories of my own childhood). I know Kay is about 13, and that children in past years seemed younger than they do now (they were innocent for longer).

At any rate: I am enjoying the novel. Part of me feels a bit guilty for not reading something "harder;" this fall I have read a lot of mystery novels and fantasy stories (I need to get back to finishing "The Grey King" some time, and then the last novel in "The Dark is Rising" sequence).

I suspect part of it is that I like these novels - and perhaps, on some level, need them - because they show a world with a clear division between good and evil, and that good wins, and that sympathetic characters choose the side of the good. And there have been sufficient horrors in the news this fall, and in some cases the good/evil divide is not as clear as I'd like it, and there have been cases of people whose work I perhaps once enjoyed turning out to be really rather unpleasant human beings, and....I don't know. It's an escape, I'm sure, but I'm not sure it's any less-healthy of an escape than what many people do.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

In a teacup?

I don't know if this is one of those tempest-in-a-teacup things, or if it's indicative of the fact that "we own all your personal data and will use it as we see fit" and also that people, in general, seem to be getting meaner, but it was all over Twitter last night that Netflix jokingly "shamed" an anonymous subscriber for watching "Lord of the Rings" 361 times last year.

Okay, on one hand: that kind of data is interesting, in a "hm. People are different from one another" sort of way. (Considering that my own television watching these days is about 50% cartoons, 20% weather channel/local news, and 20% sappy movies). But hinting that there's something wrong with the person - which is what the post seemed to do - isn't fair or nice.

(Coal in Netflix' stocking!)

For one thing, walking in another person's shoes: what if the "viewer" is actually the parent of an autistic child, and that child is deeply comforted by repetition, and Lord of the Rings (I think is was specifically "The Two Towers," as the installment) is something they love, and it makes their life better and easier? That was my first thought, having known people with autistic kids. Sometimes the only way to get the child to sit down so you can comb his or her hair (or even wash their hair) is to have something they love on the screen.

I suppose there are other explanations. But that was the most charitable one and the first one I came up with.

But yeah. That kind of thing, what Netflix did (and I guess Spotify did something similar?) smacks of bullying to me. One form of bullying - one form I experienced a lot as a kid - is for people to find something about you that is DIFFERENT, and to harp on that difference. And it gets to the point where even if you liked being different in that way at the outset, you come to hate it, because the fact that you don't fit in, that this other person sees you as weird, is being shoved in your face day in and day out. Few adults are strong enough to stand up to that, and even fewer kids.

(I will present as an exhibit: how in 7th grade I forced myself to listen to "top 40 radio" even though I hated it, because I felt like I needed to know what songs and artists were popular, and I knew that the kids thought I was weird because I listened to WCLV instead, and that I liked classical music. Yeah, I did something I hated in the name of seeming more "normal." Spoiler alert: it didn't work.)

But yeah. On the same day when a news story came out from social media about a kid suddenly being lionized (and then his mom being outed as a Milkshake Duck, I guess, and 2017 is just an awful year in general) because he was bullied, and suddenly he gets special treatment and all....shouldn't businesses learn that being rude to their customers isn't funny or cool?

Or at least, from my perspective, it isn't. (I know of at least one person who cancelled a Netflix subscription over this.)

I dunno. As an eternal outsider, I see behavior like that and I think, "If this were a person I knew in seventh grade, they'd be one of the borderline-unpopular kids, trying to curry favor with the popular kids by trashing on kids even less popular than them." Yeah, pecking orders aren't just for chickens.

And yes, people might argue: but all Netflix subscribers are (supposed to be) over 18, so they're adults, and adults can just suck up whatever bad things happen, no?

I would argue adults are as vulnerable in some ways as kids. I've had people say stuff to me as an adult, say stuff ABOUT me, that hurt every bit as much as when one of the snobby popular girls teased me for wearing knee socks with a skirt when they had all "graduated" to pantyhose. The only difference being, as an adult I've learned that showing ANY reaction to that kind of thing is EXACTLY what the person wants, and so I try hard not to dignify their unpleasant remark with a reaction. But it's still corrosive INSIDE - just because I don't run away crying like I did at 12 doesn't mean I don't feel it.

Adults have feelings too. And adults often put up with a lot more in their everyday lives than kids do - work, bills, taxes, laundry, budgeting, having ill relatives, etc. And it does feel like another unnecessary cinder block added to their load.

Plato probably didn't actually say "Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle" but the statement is still a good and a true one. And it seems that as the world becomes harder and colder (or appears to have), more and more people are forgetting to be kind - or are deciding not to, in the interest of getting ahead/getting someone to notice them/throwing a punch before someone throws it at THEM.....and, it just doesn't HELP.

(I joked that I was glad Etsy did not do the same; would hate to see a social-media post where they drag an "anonymous" 48 year old woman for having ordered 30+ vintage My Little Ponies in the past two years, and "wow, what is she lacking in her life?" or some such)

Monday, December 11, 2017

that is better

So, yes, I ordered a couple more Ponies last week. Because it seems I need More Pone in my life. (That's one of the ways I try to distract myself from the discouragement that gnaws at the edges of my soul. And yes, when I look at it with a very cold, hard eye: I know that my heirs, whoever they may be (either my niece at this point, or perhaps the children of my cousins) are going to have an awful lot of stuff they won't know what to do with - I suspect once the current generations have died off (including mine), the generations that grew up with virtual everything will not be so motivated to collect anything: already I have read that the sort of vintage mid-century furniture (not antique but well made and real wood) and older are hard to sell, apparently millennials want a more-mobile lifestyle, or perhaps because many of them despair of ever owning a house, they don't invest in furniture....)

But I'm here now, and I hope to be here for at least 40 more years (maybe 50. I come from long-lived stock and barring some kind of individual accident or wholesale destruction, I suspect I'll be around a while). And I don't show any sign of outgrowing these. And anyway, they're cheaper than shoes and they don't make my bum hip hurt. So.

Two new ponies.

First, Toe Dancer. Yes, another ballerina. No, I don't know that I plan to collect all that were made (I know there is at least one more "adult" pony ballerina, maybe more). This is a baby pony, which as I've said ad nauseum are my favorites.

Yellow Pony (my favorite pony color) with purple hair, and the hair is good and thick, and has what I think what collectors call "factory curl" still in it (i.e., it has not been combed out).

These are just so silly and so cute. A real horse ballerina would be kind of a horrorshow (even though there are horses trained to do something like dancing, as a fancy type of dressage.)

And then the second one: Yo-yo, a newborn-sized pegasus. I didn't have a tiny baby pegasus before, so I'm extra happy about this one. She has the "fading" hair, but it's still pink, so I will have to be careful where I display her. (She also still has her comb and bottle; little accessories often lost):

You can see in that second photo how tiny she is.

And the reason I said this is "better"? At first, my package didn't show up. It was supposed to come today, there was no package on my porch or mailbox....I checked the tracking and said it had been delivered today. Went back and checked.

There was no good way on the USPS site to report it. I ALMOST e-mailed the seller a "what do I do now" message, but the USPS claimed they wouldn't investigate until a week's delay....and of course, a week from now I leave for Christmas.

And I stomped around a little and grumbled, muttering imprecations against lazy substitute USPS drivers ("My regular person, she knows me, she'd see my car and know I was home and bring it up" "Probably the person just marked it delivered but didn't because they're lazy"). Then I worried: what if it got misdelivered? Would the person put it back in the mail? Or, considering the fact that I've just come to assume lots of people are dishonest (low faith in humanity these days), what if they open it to see what it is, and then just chuck it, because it's of no value to them? (Or, keep it....)

So I felt bad. I thought, "Well, maybe it will show up tomorrow."

But then, after making my food for the CWF Christmas dinner tonight (Harvard beets - well, I like 'em, and they're a vegetable, and there's often a shortage of those), I heard a little noise at the door. "Oh glory be," I thought, "The delivery person came back."

Nope. It was someone - I don't know them, haven't seen them before, but a man and a young woman in a car, she had come up to the porch and was setting a box on it.

"OH!" I said "Did this get misdelivered to your place?"
She said yes, it had.

"Thank you for bringing it by! I appreciate it!" (And as I said on Twitter: Santa, they deserve an extra present this year).

So now I have my ponies and I guess there's at least one set of honest people in this world.

And Advent thoughts

Traditionally, at least in my denomination, each week of Advent is given a theme, and the idea is you reflect on that theme, you think about how you can either work for that thing, or inject more of it into your own life (on the presumption, for example, that if you are living as a more-loving individual, that will increase the balance of love in the world, and make it better for others, at least those around you).

The themes are Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love. In that order. So the first week (December 3) was Hope; this week is Peace. Next week is Joy (we, like many congregations, have a special pink candle for this week - the other weeks get purple, the color of Advent).

And I was thinking about that yesterday after church. Of all four of those things, I have the hardest time, I think, with Joy. (Of late, at times I've had a hard time with Hope, as well). I mean, having a hard time feeling it. I am not a naturally joyful person, despite my sometimes outward appearance. A lot of the things I do, I do because I'm frantically trying to cheer myself up or stave off feelings of worry or doubt or pessimism. I think I have always been thus: I was probably too serious as a child. I think now, as an adult, that there were so many things I could have done as a kid/tween/teen/even a twenty-something that I can't do now, and why didn't I do them when I could? Things like dotting my I's with little hearts or flowers, or adopting a cutesy nickname (I guess I always felt as a kid that a nickname was something you had to be given, not something you could bestow on yourself. And I guess I'm not the kind of person who tends to attract nicknames; at least, no one ever called me by one). Or wearing funny clothes, like the animal-hats that some of my students wear.

I want to wear a hat with ears and panda eyes on it. But I'm afraid that I'd look ridiculous or like mutton dressing as lamb, so I don't. I could have when I was 24, but back then I was so bent on seeming grown-up and like someone who could HANDLE doing a Ph.D. that I probably wouldn't have.

And anyway. All of those outward things - the hearts to dot i's, the silly hats,the nicknames - would have not matched with the inner tendency towards seriousness and anxiety. And I know, I know: that's not in keeping with my faith, but I think it's also part of my "hardwiring" so I don't know where the two intersect. And I suppose on some level the world needs its share of more-serious people.

And I don't know why I worry about it. I suppose it's the whole "blondes have more fun" idea - that somehow, people who are less serious than I am are, on balance, happier. I would like to be happier. I would like not to walk around with a list running in my head of what I have to get done in the next week and feel like I must always put duty before pleasure.

And yes, on some level I am content, and when I get out of my own head enough to realize how good I have it, even happy. But "Joyful" in the sense of shouting for joy and running around hugging people is not me.


I am better at Peace and Love, even if Peace, as I practice it, is very often Me Keeping My Darn Mouth Shut When I Really Want To Say Something Because I Know The Other Person Will Get Upset Or Will Challenge Me, and that's not real peace.

(I remember reading somewhere that there are different kinds of peace. The one most Christians want - the true Peace on Earth, the peace of God, because all people are doing right and are avoiding doing things that harm others - is something we won't get in this lifetime. But that there is a second, more-illusory peace, a peace that is really no peace at all because it's the peace of a boot standing on a neck to keep it down. It's why some of the former Soviet satellites plunged into civil war once the empire crumbled - during Soviet occupation, there was apparent peace because there was oppression. And yes, sometimes a desire for peace can lead to a sort of oppression - my own self-censorship in some cases to avoid rocking the boat. And that's not a kind of peace we want, because peace without freedom is not really peace).

And love. I am pretty good at philios type love and even (I would boast) better than many at agape love. (But of course: we live in a culture that privileges Eros over all).

Hope....I have become less good at. Perhaps it's a factor of age: when I was in my 20s, my life was still almost entirely before me. Who knew what I would do? I might be a great researcher! I might head up some NGO that did great good.....and then, I wound up teaching at a small, little-known university, doing very limited publishing. Realizing that I'm neither as smart as I once believed myself to be nor as motivated as I once thought. And also realizing that sometimes circumstances are a little against you, and that maybe 0.025% of people are actually superstars, and the ones that are are waaaaaaay better at self-promotion than I am.

And also: I wound up with most things I wanted, in one form or another. I am teaching. I have a job where I (pretty much) never have to violate even the most minor points of my ethical code, where I have some degree of time-flexibility, where there isn't an insane level of kissing-up to bosses expected. I own a smallish house and an older car. I have enough money to pay my bills on time and to keep reasonably nutritious food on the table. I have things that most people 100 years ago could only dream about: running water in my house, hot water without having to heat it on the stove (and for that matter: a stove that runs on quiet, fumeless electricity, rather than wood or coal). I have entertainment options that didn't exist 100 years ago, some that didn't really exist even 30 years ago....

and as a result, I've sort of run out of things to dream about. In some cases (job, home ownership), I've achieved that dream. In others (having a love of my life), I've concluded that dream is highly unlikely and probably unrealistic for me.

I'm....not sure what to PERSONALLY hope for. Oh, it's easy to hold out vague general hopes: my biggest one being they find treatments for things like cancer and Alzheimer's disease and the other big-bads that make a person's retirement years not what they had expected. But personally? In my own life? I don't know. "Getting more papers published" seems like an awfully small thing to hope for. Some of the big things I thought about at 24 - like doing Great Research - are not gonna happen, not given my circumstances (it's a bad funding time, I don't have time with teaching 3 or 4 classes a semester, and I really don't have the energy or ambition, as it turns out. And I'm at a small school with little equipment and resources and the logistics would be 100% on me). I have vague thoughts of what I might do in retirement - when I have more time - I know I've talked about somehow getting a long arm quilting machine and doing lots of quilts, either for Project Linus or just as a service to people who have tops they want finished....or I've thought in the past about going to seminary, though I've concluded that while I can do the "God part" of that just fine, the "people part" would get me down - it would be even harder, in some ways, than some of the human interactions I have in teaching, and I don't know. (My denomination doesn't do ANYTHING like nuns - the Episcopal church does, I guess, still, but something like that might work better for me than being a university or hospital chaplain, or leading a church....)

But yeah. "What do you want in 2018?" only brings up for me vague hand-waving like "less bad news" or "maybe a treatment for Specific Disease X" and not "I want to do this with my life" or "I want that to happen for me"

And yes, I know all four of the things - Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love - are meant to remind us of what comes After this life. But the thing is, we're all mired in the here and now and we have to try to make the best of what we have. And sometimes it feels like....I don't know, I'm not doing the best I can.

(Sorry for tmi)

This is for me, much more than for you, because this seems to be the best way of me keeping a reliable record.

but: time to reset the "time to menopause" clock. (Sigh. I was just thinking the other day "Maybe I'm finally done") Glad I still have supplies on hand.

Exam week Monday

My hip still hurts.

My bursitis flared back up LAST weekend after driving the 6 1/2 hours. I had just got it back mostly gone, then came the 90-minute Title VII presentation. Sitting on hard plastic chairs (why do I have fat all over my body EXCEPT on my butt? I could do with a slightly smaller chest in return for a little padding there....) that are molded in such a way that if your hips are wider than the average 8 year old boy's, you're going to wind up uncomfortable.

And I did. In retrospect: I should have sat in the back, where I could have stood up every 15 minutes or so without it seeming disruptive, instead of in the middle of the room (I picked the spot because it was nearest to two exits: sometimes I get a bit paranoid when all the faculty are massed somewhere, thinking, "If some disgruntled-former-whatever wanted to do harm to the lot of us, this would be the time....")

Also, I will note: there were a couple places where I wanted to stand up and say "Ninety percent of the women and perhaps thirty percent of the men in this room have experienced what is being discussed, please move on." I hope no one had PTSD brought up by some of the stuff.

And yes. We found out that we did it because, indeed,  some now-retired people in positions of power did what they ought not, and so the rest of us get punished. (Kind of like: you get coal in your stocking because your brother was disobedient all year, but he still gets candy).  I know life isn't fair, but it just seems like this is unnecessarily unfair.

And they warned us that more is coming. Great. Next time I'll sit in the back and stand up and if anyone says anything, I will point out I have a chronic condition that makes sitting in crappy chairs for longer than 20 minutes a bad idea. Surely I'm not the only one with back/hip/knee problems who finds being forced to sit for 90 minutes burdensome?


And I came in this morning to all the e-mails. One person who needed something of me, never showed during the scheduled times, showed up while I was in the meeting and is now unhappy.

Another person wants extra credit.

Other people want permission to hand stuff in late.

This kind of thing is the thing that wears on me most about teaching: all the asks. All the assumptions that I'm perfectly happy to write make-up exams on short notice, that I will allow re-dos, that I offer extra credit to make up for the many assignments skipped.

(That last isn't so hard for me: I just reiterate the syllabus policy of "No extra credit." I have several reasons for this:

1. "In fairness to all students": offering extra credit AFTER the class is over means not everyone gets a shot at it, and that's not fair or ethical. In fact, once I told a student that that kind of thing went against my code of ethics (that is: I do not offer points to people that not everyone can earn) and their response was "Don't worry; I won't tell anyone" and I was like LET ME EXPLAIN TO YOU AGAIN WHAT 'ETHICS' MEANS BECAUSE YOU HAVE CLEARLY FAILED TO GROK IT.

2. It makes more work for me, at a time when I'm busy and tired and just want to be done and think about relaxing and also think about scramming out of here for a little while. I think there is a disconnect that people don't believe or understand that faculty experience exam week stress too. (On Ivory Tower Fiber Freaks, someone reported how trained "therapy dogs" were brought in for a session where students could go and pet them - as an exam-week destressing thing - and when a couple faculty showed up, the people running it were like NOT YOU and that just seems so....needless.) And yes, I get it: we're more mature so we are supposed to have better coping strategies. And we get paid to do this. And it's not our future careers on the line (except it kind of can be: too many students earn Fs and you're getting talked to after your post-tenure review). But the assumption that we are either inhuman  or's false.

and a lot of us would just like the chance to pet friendly doggos during exam week.

3. I have copious opportunities to earn points during the regular semester. In fact, in two of my classes, I do a "drop homework" or "drop lab" where people who complete ALL the work get the "drop points" as bonus points: so it doesn't penalize people with that one week they're out sick, but it rewards the people in a v. tiny way who made it to every lab. And I find in about 80% of the cases someone comes to me requesting extra credit, it is that they have not done all the assigned work for the class, and again I ask: why should I make extra work for myself, then?

But yeah. It kind of sucks having to e-mail people back a "no" because there are a small number of people who will e-mail back "but why" or "my other profs do this" (Oh, and if your other profs jumped off a bridge, would you expect me to?) someone firmly in Guess Culture (where I don't ask for stuff unless it seems eminently reasonable AND I am fairly certain I will hear a "yes" and the other person won't feel put out) dealing with Ask Culture people - who ask for the moon, and when you go "Wharrrgarrrblll what makes you think I can do that?" they go "Well, it never hurts to ask" (And I think, always: but maybe sometimes it should)

I also had someone accuse me of taking class materials down off the course webpage. Of course I did not do that. I leave the stuff up there until the page "expires," usually some time a year from now when the people who administer the CMS purge old pages.

But, I figured: IT did an update this weekend (which briefly messed up my ability to get campus webmail from home; trying to get in led Malwarebytes to warn me of "malicious scripts" in the page, and I didn't want to risk it in case someone had altered something to hurt us). I figured it was possible the update could have broke something.

So I went and checked.

Of course everything was still there and in exactly the place where it's been all semester long, and I e-mailed the student reminding them of the location of the stuff, just in case it's been so long since they looked at it they forgot but....

Yeah, a lot of this is my personality coming out here. I was super-independent as a student. If there had been CMS webpages when I was a student, and I couldn't find something on it, I'd have clicked every button and link I could find on the page before e-mailing the professor about it. I find a certain number of our students will try ONE thing and then give up and ask for help. Same thing with getting articles online: I once had someone get v. belligerent with me (and my co-teacher, fortunately this was a co-taught class) because he just handed in an abstract and we said, "No, you need to read and write about the ENTIRE paper" and his response was "I can't FIND it" and darn it but we had a copy of that paper in less than three seconds. 

And yes, I know, I've always been "too" independent (see: One Reason Why I am Not Married) but it's frustrating to have to field requests vaguely accusing me of doing stuff I didn't do just because the person in question apparently couldn't be bothered to look a little harder.

(It's possible, I suppose, the IT update messed up the CMS for a while, and they tried accessing it then, and I did reference the IT update....but seeing as the stuff is where it's always been....)

But yeah. When I get those students, who will spend ten seconds looking for something and then give up and demand help (or worse: not do anything until the last minute and THEN demand help), I wonder how they're going to fare in the working world. I know I once had a TA I non-recommended for further employment because I literally had to hang over him and tell him every five minutes what to do - most of the TAs I've had, I could give a list of what needed to be done to, and they'd go do it and only MAYBE come find me if someone had moved something and it wasn't where I told them it would be. But this person would complete one part of one task and then be like, "Okay what do I do now" and it got so of the reasons I don't generally push to have a TA in my upper level classes is I often find it's easier to do the work myself than it is to supervise someone in doing it.

So anyway. I am really really really hoping that my dad is a bit better over break, and that no one else gets hurt, because it would be nice to give up a little responsibility for a little while, and maybe have someone to fuss over me a little. (That doesn't happen enough, I think. I get fussed over a LITTLE bit at church, and that's nice, but....I feel like I would like to be fussed over a little more).

Because on top of all the work-stuff like usual, and the additional requests for help and other stuff, I also have laundry and marketing and cooking and dishes and cleaning house and all the other life-tasks that a person needs to do to remain hygienic and healthy.....and it's just me, I have no one to help me. And so it gets to feel like too much when someone is asking me "hey can you print all this stuff out for me and wait around until I get there and then give it to me?" or whatever the unreasonable-seeming-to-me request of the day is.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

a favorite movie

This is gonna be about "It's a Wonderful Life," which I know is somewhat polarizing in our culture. If you loathe the movie, just don't read.

(I don't have the emotional energy to say "fight me" about this, but really, it is one of my favorite movies of all time. Not just for Christmas, of all movies I've ever seen.)

I like it, in large part, because it presents a world, a reality, better than our own. Especially in 2017, which seems to have been the year of getting "people do terrible things to one another" smashed in your face again and again (like Jimmy Cagney smashing a grapefruit into Mae Clark's face), it's a nice bit of idealism.

And yeah, even as I've said I've had the idealism beat out of me by 2016 and 2017, I think it's still in there, somewhere, deep down. Maybe cowering in a fetal position, but it's still there.

And yeah, there are terrible people - or at least one terrible person  - in It's A Wonderful Life. But the majority of people are at least shown as decent people. People who care about one another.

The bit at the beginning, where different people - Mr. Gower the pharmacist, and Mr. Martini, and Bert the cop, and Ernie the taxi driver, and his own family - all pray for him. That part ALWAYS gets me. Especially the people who are not Bailey's family. (Even as I know I have prayed for people I was not related to).

It's always a striking movie to watch through (I watched it on USA last night, and though they stick in ads - I wish they wouldn't, but I get that they feel they have to). You remember the parts with Clarence, but really, he doesn't show up until more than halfway through the movie. The first part is all scene-setting - all showing first, why George Bailey is a man worthy of saving, and second, what the events were that led up to his near-downfall. (spoiler alert: not his fault, beyond maybe, "what would have been different if he'd taken money to the bank instead of Uncle Billy")

George is a good guy - I think the complaint some people have against the movie is that he's TOO good, that he's given up all his big dreams in order to help others. But it seems to me that there are an awful lot of people I've known in my life who have, like George, sighed, and figuratively cancelled their trips around the world, because somehow they were needed at home.

But there's other stuff George has done all his life - the whole reason Mr. Gower is praying for him is that George, as a kid, working in the pharmacy, caught that a distressed (and drunk) Gower put poison rather than medicine in some pills. (Mr. Gower was distraught over the death of his son). George, despite being yelled at to "just deliver them," does not, and gets slapped around for his trouble - until Gower sobers up enough to realize what he almost did.

And of course, upon the sudden death of his father, he takes over the "building and loan." (I admit I'm not totally familiar with these. I assume they are similar to the Savings and Loans that became infamous in the 1980s, because so many of them failed because of problems with interest rates - I guess they had loaned out at a low rate, and then the Feds raised the interbank rates, and....things got bad. I just remember it being another Bad Thing in the news when I was young).  And Bailey does keep the place afloat, in one case sacrificing the money collected for his honeymoon.

(And yeah, I know: "No one is that good." But I want to believe it).

The idea presented is that Bailey is for the "little guy" and Potter was the "greedy banker." And yeah, I know some people argue it's an anti-capitalist movie, except I don't think it really is. I think it's more anti-greed, or pro-trying-not-to-have-it-be-so-unfair-to-the-little-guy.

One thing I did notice in the movie this year - at one point Potter almost says something along the lines of "but he eats and drinks with sinners" and I realized, even more on this viewing: perhaps Capra was intending to show that George, even though he doesn't really do much "God talk,' learned his Sunday School lessons well....the whole being willing to be self-sacrificing for the good of others.

And yet, and the title of the movie points out, George wound up with a better life than he might have otherwise. He has a loving family, he has a purpose, he has the respect of many other people in town.

But, like a lot of us, George isn't that happy....when things go badly, they go really badly. And it's capped with Uncle Billy being Uncle Billy, and the unfortunate fact that Potter wound up with the $8000 by mistake - and you get the feeling that literally ANY OTHER person in town, upon opening that newspaper, would have gone "Oh, no, Uncle Billy!" and tracked him down to return the cash....

And so George melts down, because he feels responsible. He shakes Uncle Billy, he blows up at his family (making at least two of his kids cry), and he storms out of the house, the words of Potter (who knows very well what is happening) "You're worth more dead than alive" echoing in his ears....

and enter Clarence. And the part of the story everyone remembers happens: what would be the case if George Bailey never existed?

(And yeah, yeah, I admit discomfort at the "What if Mary Hatch had never married" bit because, as I speculated this year:"maybe we're in the timeline where my soulmate actually never existed" but then again the 1940s are not today - thank God - and I suspect Mary Hatch was paid almost nothing and had to live in a rooming house and was miserable.)

And as I've said many times: George Bailey was lucky. The rest of us rabble, out here working and paying and living and dying just have to assume that what we're doing with our lives has some good effect. And while I doubt any of us could be linked to saving the lives of a whole destroyer full of men (because George saved his kid brother, who went on - as a war hero - to save all those lives), I suppose we do SOME good, it's just hard to see.

And the ending. Yeah, I know, some people have argued the ending is unrealistic. But honestly, in this world now of Go Fund Me and Kiva and similar - aren't there are lot of people out there, figuratively, running around with laundry baskets asking people to throw in a buck or two, and the "missing $8000" is made up that way? (And yes....the bank examiner even throws in his own buck - proving he's not such a bad guy. And the person with the warrant for Bailey's arrest tears it up).

And I know a lot of people have talked about wanting to see Potter get his (and I guess there was a Saturday Night Live sketch that involved the townspeople banding together to go beat the tar out of Potter?) But. For one thing, no one really knows that Potter found and kept the money. And second, I like that the movie ends on a purely loving note - that all the "rabble" George helped have come to his aid (quite the opposite of what Potter speculated would happen) and things are made right, though made right by the sacrifices of people who have little (but then again: all those times George sacrificed for them).

I also think of the words (that I quote from time to time here) of my grad-school buddy Craig, who, when I was talking about a terrible boss I had at the time, someone who literally made me cry (and I was tougher in some ways as a 20-something than I am now): "You just have to work with her. She has to live with herself." And while I suspect the Mr. Potters of the world don't feel the same kind of horror and guilt that a decent person would over having done wrong, still....if Mr. Potter found himself in some difficulty, who would come to his aid? Would people as readily pray for him as they did for George Bailey? Would Mr. Martini, or Bert, or Annie throw a few dollars (hard-earned dollars) towards helping him out? And perhaps that's the real punishment of Mr. Potter: that he's alone, that he doesn't have people who care about him.

Saturday, December 09, 2017

A couple finds

I wound up only going to one antique store; I had other places I needed to go.

First, the Target - going there at 10 am on a Saturday was surprising. I expected it to be slammed, especially a couple weeks before Christmas. It was not. (In fact, walking back to my car, a woman walking up to the store asked, "So, is it crazy in there?" and I said "No, I didn't even have to wait in line to pay" and she cheered).

Got a few staples (more chili sauce, for example) and also picked up my Toys for Tots gifts. This is a thing I do every year: I buy a toy that either my brother or I: (a) would have wanted had it existed when we were kids or (b) is one that still exists from when we were kids that we enjoyed.

This year, I did both:

Toys for Tots gifts

I would have been ALL OVER Littlest Pet Shop if it had existed when I was seven or so. Small (pocket-sized, most of them), super-cute, animal toys that you can collect: pretty much hits all the points of what I wanted in a toy. And Uno, a game my family spent MANY hours playing when my brother and I were growing up. It's a simple game but it's fun.

I also ran to the bookstore (they had the Christmas edition of Simply Knitting, which will probably be this evening's perusing, and also another big book of British Christmas-themed patterns including a plum pudding tea cozy, so I could not resist buying that. (I don't have a tea cozy and am not sure I need one as I usually make tea by the cup....)

And to JoAnn's, and found on sale two big collapsable (fabric, so sturdy) boxes for holding tree ornaments - so I bought them. I am toying with the idea of using Monday morning on the 18th, before I drive off, to take my tree down (if I can bear to). But I also need to get a bag to hold the tree parts, that might be a Lowe's run. I also got a new pair of small sharp scissors after all the trouble I had last night cutting the felt for Scootaloo's eyes. (I need to find someone who does scissor-sharpening locally).

And to the Ulta - got a hair masque (my hair is dry and brittle this fall, and I am worried I might be developing a bit of a thin spot on top) and also some keratin-infused shampoo. (I know, I know: hope in a bottle but it probably won't hurt. Might not help, but won't hurt)

(And before you ask: I had my thyroid levels tested last go round of blood work and they are fine; I think this is purely environmental. And at any rate, I have no other symptoms of a thyroid problem)

And then to the antique mall. I wound up spending $15 - $5 on two small ornaments:

little flocked Santa

A wee tiny (like 1" tall) flocked Santa. These kinds of things were super common when I was a kid (we had some fairy skaters like that) and I kind of like having ornaments representative of what we had during my childhood. They had a whole basket of these - some looked older, some were in worse condition, there were a couple of Mrs. Clauses too, but this was my favorite.

And then this:

Dalmatian tree ornament

One of the 101 Dalmations, in a Santa hat. A McDonald's tie-in from 1996 or so when the movie was re-released. (I don't know for sure if this was an official McDonald's thing or of someone just glued a Santa hat onto one of the Happy Meal toys; the fact that you hang it from a hook hooked under the collar (rather than a separate hanging loop) and the fact it hangs unevenly makes me wonder. But at any rate: it's cute, it was two bucks, I like it.

And then there's this.

A fifty-year-old stuffed toy horse. Not in great shape, but I might be able to fix her up:

vintage toy horse

The tag says "1967 KAMAR Made in Japan" so I know how old it is (older than I am). These "glamour" animals were popular in the late 60s and early 70s - older sisters of some of my friends had them on their dressing tables. They are not cuddly (stuffed with excelsior?) but are still kind of interesting. Sort of a precursor to My Little Pony in a way?

The eyes are kind of trashed - they are flannel, glued on, and they've worn off. I admit, I picked this up - it was $10 - and thought about it, put it back down, and went to the next floor of the mall. I kept telling myself, "You don't need it" and darn it, but by the time I had walked around that upper floor, I had convinced myself, "But maybe IT needs YOU." (I am too good at anthropomorphizing inanimate objects). I am thinking after Christmas, when I have a little time at the start of next semester, I will try cleaning it up (and detangling the long fake-fur mane and tail). I am considering maybe using upholstery cleaner (but testing first, to be sure - I bet that body color might fade). And I'm thinking of tracing the eyes and making new ones out of felt, and gently tacking them on with little stitches over the existing eyes (rather than ripping the old eyes off altogether: the first rule of intelligent tinkering is to keep all the parts)

here are a couple screengrabs (just from Pinterest; it's gotten increasingly hard to do good sourced image searches with that thing out there) showing the horse in two different colors but more-original conditions (mine is missing her nostrils). So I can use these for reference:

I think I've got a lot of work to put in on that mane and tail first...but I like the eyes on these, they look much more "1960s" than I would have guessed from what remained on mine.

Another finished thing

I WAS going to take a hot bath last night (the teal deer: ninety minutes of sitting, in a non-ergonomic molded plastic chair, made my backside and my bum hip hurt).

But I got involved with finishing Sleepy Scootaloo, and once I got the hair on, I wanted to do the face.

I might have been better off waiting for morning. I'm not 100% satisfied - I think the eyes are maybe a little too oval and too small and they make her look more mature than she is. But I don't know if I want to change it (a lot of unpicking and maybe damaging the crochet) at this point. (though I could try making larger eyes and putting them on OVER these; that might be worth a try, I don't know).

Then again, things don't have to be (and won't be) show accurate, at least not in this medium:

sleepy scootalooo

I do like the pattern - it's not too long to make up, it's not involved, and it makes a nice-sized toy.

Here's the face. Like I said, I can't decide. I might live with it a couple days before I consider doing a different one:

sleepy scootaloo 2

I might also need to trim her bangs, I don't know. Scootaloo's forelock is shorter than that.

sleepy scootaloo face

Friday, December 08, 2017

Procrasti-grading thoughts

* I have grading to do (yet again) but don't want to do it right now. (I am done until 2:30 pm, which is our Title VII thing). I do have to wait for my research student to unlock the area with the hose (if it didn't freeze up overnight) at 11, then I can go home and eat lunch and relax a bit before I have to come back.

* I will say the "Polaris" bear I bought - I talked about her some weeks back - was a good purchase. She is very squishy and nice to hold, and good to hug to your chest when you're sad or having a hard time sleeping. I don't know if it's special stuffing in her or the combination of a very soft and pliable fleece type fabric for her body and the stuffing. It feels like polyfill, but nicer and finer polyfill than what I can generally buy.

I find this year I have relied on hugging stuffed animals as a self-soothing strategy more than in recent years. Me finally breaking down? The horror that is 2017? I don't know. (Or maybe it's just me letting go of the 'this means I'm a fake grown-up' thing and realizing if it brings me comfort, it's a good thing)

* Am ALMOST done with the sleepy Scootaloo. The front legs are on; am planning on attaching the other bits and maybe the hair during my pre-Title VII -presentation break. And plan to do the face tonight. She will not have a cutie mark: she's a little small, and also, the CMC cutie marks would be really hard to render - complex, and lots of colors. And anyway, so much of the Pony History had them as "blank flanks" that I prefer to imagine her being in that part of the timeline.

Yes, I overthink these things.

* I do have to remember to get to the bank. I depleted the cash reserve in my wallet because it was time to chip in for the annual gifts to the departmental support people. I do this because they're good people (our custodian, in particular, goes above and beyond) but also because they're not paid all that well and it seems like a nice thing to do.

* Tomorrow is antiquing day. I'm already mentally planning my route - I should check online when the places I want to go to open. (Or maybe I do the Target stuff first, on the grounds that Target is more likely to be overcrowded than an antique shop. My tentative plan is to do the "non perishable" shopping, go get a good barbecue lunch, and then run to the Green Market and the Kroger's, and then go home.

(The Sherman one opens at 9; most of the Denison ones, at 10. Okay. So maybe I run to the Target first, then the antique mall in Sherman THEN backtrack for the other places, then decide if I want to go to the one in Denison....I don't know. Or maybe I just leave home a little later, avoid backtracking, and just deal with the crowds I imagine will be at the Target....)

* And yeah, like magic, my stomach got better yesterday afternoon. Am beginning to wonder if maybe it's pineapple I'm sensitive to, because it does seem to correlate with the slight gastritis I've got lately. I may have to do a challenge test over break. (Or it could be stress. Or weird hormones. Or any number of things, I don't know). At least I didn't have to worry over the slightly weird food (spinach dip, mini quiches) at the party last night. And so far nothing set me off, so.

Alternative possibility: I ate a couple "hipster marshmallows" (Smashmallow, an all-natural-ingredients brand: it has gelatin in it and tapioca starch but no sorbitol. And I wonder if maybe tapioca tends to settle slightly upset stomachs? I don't know.). Anyway, I want to get more (the strawberry is my favorite flavor with root beer float a close second) if the natural-foods store has them when I go.

* And yeah. I like those mini quiches and am thinking for the Family Christmas at church I do just a normal sized batch of the meatballs (so less chance of having to take leftovers home and maybe freeze them - I leave on Monday after the party) and also buy a box of mini quiches and heat them up. They will probably get eaten.

I like full sized quiche, too. I make it once in a while - usually in crustless form because it's easier and anyway, I don't need the extra fat and carbohydrates in the crust.

* A feature on Ravelry on "how to get hearts" (that is: how to get stuff you've made favorited) and I admit, it makes me slightly sad: we shouldn't be striving for that, should we? We should be sharing stuff for the sake of sharing it, and maybe if someone favorites it it's because they like it or it's something they want to make, and not because we keep shoving it in their face.

(I am hearing Jon Lovitz as The Critic in my head now: "Buy my book! Buy my book!")

I dunno. I get favorites on some of my projects but they are mostly from people who are friends of mine online. I get that my projects will never be as beautifully photographed as those of someone who has the proper set-up, a really good camera, and lots of time for "styling," when my photos are usually quick late-evening shots of something moments after I finished it, because I'm just so glad to have blogfodder that's not just me rambling about what's going on in my life.

I don't know. One of the things that slightly disgusts me about social media and what it's done to us is the need for "likes" or "hearts" or whatever. And I see it in  myself, and get mad at myself for doing it: I log on to Twitter and none of the people that I mutually follow are on, so I feel lonely. Or I post what I am SURE is a "bon mot" and no one favorites it. And dangit, that's not why we do it. But it's what social media makes us in to.

And so I waffle. Part of me goes, "You should just delete your Twitter account; you will get all that time back to knit and you won't feel so dependent on the little jolts of approval you imagine others are giving you when they like something you say or reply to you." But part of me knows I'd be awfully lonely, especially those long empty office hours when all my grading's done. And also, there are a few people I keep track of on Twitter - if I don't see them for a few days, I worry slightly, and am relieved when they come back. I tend to be a little hands-off about contacting people, but I do worry when someone seems absent from their usual online hangouts. (It is possible, sadly, for people you know from online to pass away, and you only find out when some third party who is closer to them confirms it).

(And yeah, that may also be part of my persistence of being on: feeling like, if people think I "should" be around (not like when I'm on break) and I'm not, maybe they will worry a little about me? Because sometimes it does feel like my connection to this world is a little tenuous - my parents call me regularly and of course I have work and church, but during some of the long summer weeks, if something happened to me, no one might know for a little while.....and you know, I would want someone to worry and maybe try to check up on me....)

But yeah. Maybe in 15 years things will settle down and we'll get used to social media like we got used to (wired) telephones and radio and television, but right now it does seem like we're trying to figure out not just the etiquette of the thing, but how it's altering our brain-wiring (which I'm sure it is, and that thought is a little scary).

And Friday morning

The party last night was okay. Not lots of people there - it was v. cold, so some didn't venture out, I guess. One person had had a (horrifying details redacted) eye surgery and was recovering.

There was enough food, and enough nutritious food. Mini quiches, I was able to eat the grapes on the platter of otherwise-not-good-for-my-digestion raw veggies, some dips - and I realized Ritz-type crackers are NOT too crunchy for my poor teeth, so that was nice, to be able to eat spinach dip and crackers again. And my meatballs, and someone else brought chicken nuggets that looked a bit like the Applegate Farms kind I buy.

There were desserts but a lot of them were hard and crunchy (those flat, pizzelle-like cookies, and a couple things that looked suspicious for peanut-butter content). But there were brownies and pumpkin bread so that was good.

There was also what is sometimes jocularly called "Baptist champagne" around here - white grape juice with ginger ale in it. (One of the women - as I was eating and drinking, I heard the word 'champagne' and was like "wait, I've already had two glasses, now I won't be able to drive home" but then realized "I can't taste alcohol in it so it can't be..." and then someone else said something about Baptist champagne so I relaxed. I drink rarely enough that sometimes I think I won't recognize it, but I probably would - most wines taste to me like something died in them, so I would expect I'd be able to detect the alcohol in a champagne punch)

We didn't have a business meeting (even though I ran back to my office to get a copy of the minutes, which I had forgotten when I went home to grade). (It wound up still being a long meeting, because people wanted to talk. I left at 9 pm and I was the first to leave....I am also the only one still working for a living, so I'm not too surprised. But yeah. I can't really be out past 9 on a school night. And I don't like being out that late on non-school nights, though if I don't have to be the one to drive home in the dark I'm MORE okay with it).

We also did a gift exchange. This is what I gave the scarf I knit to. I think that was a good choice; it was the most "stolen" gift (we play "Dirty Santa," or a variant of it - gifts can only be stolen twice before they are "locked" and no longer able to be stolen. Or else, perhaps, we'd be there all night...) The person who wound up with it, it's good with her coloring, so I'm glad I gave the scarf now. And anyway, I have a whole other ball of the yarn to make the same or a different scarf with (I am leaning towards doing the triangular shawlette type scarf that has its pattern on the ballband).

As is typical in these "blind" gift exchanges, I get a thing that, while nice, isn't that useful given how I live my life. I got a relish dish - three conjoined small dishes, one labeled "catsup" another, "mustard," and the third, "mayo." There's a spoon (just one spoon, and so I guess you either risk getting mustard and mayo mixed, or you have to wipe it between uses).

The thing is: I don't entertain and I don't have a family. If I am putting a condiment on something I'm going to eat, I do it in the kitchen when I plate up the food, and I only ever use one condiment at a time (and I almost never use mustard). So I don't know.

If my parents still entertained like that I'd regift it to my mom. But they don't, either. Nor do my brother and sister-in-law, and in fact, I don't really know anyone who would use it. I suppose I hang on to it until some regifting opportunity or else repurpose it to hold spools of thread in my sewing room or something.

But really, for me, the fun of these is seeing the reactions of others to their gifts. I tend to expect little from "blind" gift exchanges because, as I said, I live differently than most (no family with me, don't entertain, don't really do the "gracious living" type of dining - sometimes, if it's something really simple, I don't even get out utensils).

There was also talk about how (long before I joined) the gift exchange was not a "nice gift" exchange, but a white-elephant exchange. But the problem with "white elephant" is people interpret it differently. The INTENTION was, "bring something that is a nice thing but you can't use, but someone else might want" (so: my relish dish would fit). Apparently a couple people interpreted it as "some old gross thing you give for the lulz to see someone's disappointment upon opening it." They ended the practice the year someone received a pan that had been used as a dog dish - with "wet" dog food still crusted on to it.

Yeah. I don't like those kind of gift exchanges either.

We used to do a white-elephant exchange at CWF, but it was mostly the first type of things. Lots of fancy aprons going into the exchange, for example. Some years back we quit doing that on the grounds that people don't really need more stuff, and instead we either bought gifts for, or donated an equivalent sum of money for, the local women's and children's shelter. (One of our group is on the board and knows about its "secret" location). I like that better; it seems more useful (this year we are just doing a monetary donation, figuring the shelter board can buy what they feel their current residents need/want as gifts)

I dunno. I do still like getting gifts, but I don't care as much for the "blind" or "draw out a gift" gift exchanges because there's half a chance of getting something you can't use. (Even food would be a problem - someone who has to do gluten free getting cookies, for example). I don't think the "pick a name at the November meeting and get a gift for specifically that person" would work, and anyway, people seem to enjoy the Dirty Santa (I'm not a huge fan; it seems that if you get a particularly nice gift, you won't get to keep it - I would have been just as fine with the first woman who unwrapped my scarf keeping it, it looked good on her, too.)


There have also been a couple of types of news stories I find sort of low-level distressing.

First: "porch pirates." These are people who apparently stake out neighborhoods, or follow the mail delivery/UPS person and then steal packages off of front porches. (That seems not to be a thing in my neighborhood; a neighbor who is frequently on the road for work has had packages sit on her porch for 3-4 days until she gets home to retrieve them).

The suggestion, as is always the case here, is "put more effort on the consumer" - they are suggesting people take out a UPS store account so they have a "mailbox" there (more expense, I presume). Or have it sent to work (not always possible; some workplaces won't accept "personal" mail). Or, one police department in a small town is offering their office as an address, and then you can come in, show ID, and get your stuff (And I'm wondering: will they do a warrant-check on your ID while you're there?). But yeah - the 'central location' thing is not great in some cases, because either it's far away (the nearest UPS depot to me is in Hugo, an hour away, so having something held at the depot and my going to get it would not be possible) or it's open short enough hours that a person who works a normal schedule (or even a slightly-abnormal schedule, like me) might be hard pressed to get in to get their stuff.

(And there's the whole "Amazon wants their delivery people to be able to enter your house using an Internet of Things device" and for a single woman who lives alone and who has never had a stalker and doesn't want to - that's a nope from me.)

And it does seem, once again, it's a case of "the innocent people who are being hurt here need to go to extra effort, rather than things being done to crack down on theft." (I would not be surprised if these stories kept coming, and eventually then the USPS announces they are rolling out a new anti-theft service called You Must Come Pick Up Your Mail From The Post Office Rather Than Get It Delivered. Which of course would save them money and put giant hassle on consumers, but that seems to be the trend in our country)

The thing that annoys me about package theft: most of the stuff I mail order is highly specialized and pretty unfencable (I assume what the thieves want are electronics, jewelry, the typical stuff that can be sold at a pawnshop or a dodgy yard sale). Books, yarn, tea....that kind of thing. If someone ripped off a package from my front porch, it would probably wind up in a Dumpster.

It also annoys me to think that someone might have to explain to a loved-one why there was no gift under the tree for them, because that gift was ordered with a short turnaround time, got stolen, and had to be re-sent from Amazon or where-ever. 

The second one is about a rash of thefts of those "laser light" devices (and other Christmas decorations) that people have put out. 

And yeah. I get not liking Christmas decorations. I get decrying the (really rather tiny) bit of electricity they 'waste' because I hear that from people. I'm not sure that's what's at work here.

I don't know what the motivation is. Maybe the laser light things sell well at dodgy yard sales, and anyway, selling something for $5 that you picked up on a five-finger discount is $5 in your own pocket? Or is it just people being stupid? Dumb pranks? Or people being mean-spirited? I don't know.

But it makes me sad: people put out Christmas lights to make themselves happy, their families happy, their neighbors happy. Maybe not ALL the neighbors are happy (have heard cases where someone got taken to court over the "traffic nuisance" their impressive light display caused). But it makes ME happy to see them, driving around in the evening. And it makes me sad to think of someone destroying that for either "the lulz*" or to get for free a set of lights they can then sell or put up themselves.

(*If God ever decides to wipe out the human race, I suspect it will be as much over people doing really rather mean-spirited things "for the lulz" rather than over anything else. Because it's SO unnecessary. And it causes suffering - maybe not great suffering, but it's pain caused for an unnecessary reason)

And so far, there haven't been calls to "well, just don't decorate for Christmas outside" though there have been statements about using bike locks and the like to secure stuff. And that makes me sad: what a world we live in when we have to lock down Christmas lights so someone won't steal them.

(And there are also cases of people vandalizing displays, though I don't know if that's actually breaking the stuff or the sort of juvenile-prank "vandalism" like re-posing two lighted reindeer so it looks like they're copulating - that kind of vandalism, while perhaps annoying, can be un-done, but not if someone busts up your lights or slashes your inflatable snowman)

I was just thinking this morning, after hearing two news stories about these things: perhaps the real "War on Christmas" isn't some ginned-up non-controversy about some stores choosing, as policy, to say "happy holidays" because they think it's more inclusive, but it's mean-spirited or selfish people making it harder for individuals to celebrate as they personally wish to.

And I also wonder: if this continues, will this lead to fewer people doing outdoor decorations? Or more people deciding "Eh, I'll just give cash instead of a gift, let the person deal with ordering their own present" and the spirit of the (fun, and admittedly-secular) part of the holiday dies a little more. Will I see a sharp decline in this kind of celebration in my lifetime? (Already I think some things are gone: breakfasts with Santa, for example.)

I dunno. I try not to take stories like these as evidence of the coarsening, cheapening, and increasing incivility of everyday life, but sometimes it's hard to be optimistic about our culture.

Thursday, December 07, 2017

Moment of Christmas (II)

I have no idea if this is considered offensive now or not. But this is one of those "gag" records that used to make the rounds. It's mocking the northern-Midwest-Swedish-immigrant accent (and lifestyle).

I am not Swedish, but my mom grew up in a community that had LOTS of Scandinavian immigrants and a few of the in-laws in her family were Finnish or Swedish.  (In fact, I may have first heard this through one of them. I do think some of the ethnically-European folks tend to be less bothered by these kinds of things; it may have something to do with the fact that they faced less hardships than some immigrant groups did).

But yeah, to a certain extent, I do "yust go nuts at Christmas." Not quite like Yorgi, but I find myself thinking "I just go nuts at Christmas" over and over again as I put up more decorations, or arrange to send more cards, or whatever.

I think this used to be a fixture on Dr. Demento as Christmas approached.

And then of course, there's this, from another European immigrant group. It's the kind of song that I'm good with hearing maybe ONCE at Christmas time (it ran on Sirius XM's "nostalgic Christmas" channel the other day as I was driving in to work).

Again, I have no idea if this is offensive to Italian people or not. I grew up around a few Italian-American people and they tended to just laugh at these kinds of things.

Moment of Christmas

This comes from "Home Alone," a movie I've never been able to watch all through (I think I was a little old for it already when it came out in 1990 and I'm never really a fan of relentless slapstick) but this is certainly a pretty song that's gotten a life beyond the movie (I have heard instrumental versions of it woven into "classical" Christmas medleys).

This version is particularly nice, because it has Christmas images from Quebec. (I confess, someday, if I were doing a "take Christmas as a vacation somewhere and stay in a hotel" Quebec City would be a choice place. I even speak French passably well enough to get by....)

A few things

* Dangit, sorbitol: I had been having some tummy troubles yesterday. I attributed it to too much tomatoey stuff and citrus (too much acid food) but then I thought about the "marshmallow covered in chocolate" Santa I ate the night before, and dug out the wrapper from the trash. And yeah, sorbitol is in it. It's sometimes used as a humectant in foods like that (cheaper and more tasteless than things like honey, which I, as a home cook, would use).

But I'm super sensitive to it, and I wonder if that's what did me in. My stomach's still oogy this morning.

* I bought a crocheted okapi pattern off of Ravelry. I've wanted a stuffed okapi for a while but decided it's more reasonable (and fun) to make one myself than to buy one (even if Amazon has a couple of cute ones). So that will be one of my over-break projects.

* I finished the bits for the Sleepy Scootaloo last night, and started putting them together. I decided to just do the "small part" of the wings (there is the small part, which is the top, and then longer "feathers" that go under it). First, because I was sick of crocheting at that point, but more importantly: Scoots has proportionally small wings (which is perhaps why she cannot fly but can glide a bit). I have pretty well decided I want to do felt eyes, and have them sort of half open - so she's not "permanently" asleep but she looks sleepy.

(I didn't like toys with permanently closed eyes when I was a kid, because you could only play they were asleep. Or, well, dead, but I didn't want to consider THAT).

it's a nice smol pone. I may make more of these because it's a pleasing pattern. Especially if I find more background ponies I want a stuffie of but don't have the energy to do the full Elisatbeth Doherty pattern for.

(Hm. Maybe this is how I get a stuffie Bulk Biceps?)

* Tonight is AAUW party, so I don't know if I'll finish Scoots or not. (I give an exam, so this afternoon will at least partially go to grading that).

After finishing Scootaloo, I want to finish Grasse Matinee. I already shifted over to the worsted weight sweater I have going (the Augusta cardigan) as an invigilating sweater, and am contemplating taking it as my "Christmas break sweater" (rather than the owl sweater, though I might change my mind back later - there's just a lot of yarn to drag along for that fair isle sweater).

And I boxed up the scarf, so that decision is made. I made a card with the washing instructions (such as they are) because I couldn't find the ballband and didn't want to give away the one on the other skein, because it has a pattern I want to make on it.

* I am looking forward to some time off.

First, this weekend, what I want to do:

- Go to the antique malls in Sherman and Denison
- Go to the bookstore and see if the new "Christmas Number" of the British knitting mags are in
- Go to the Target for a toy for Toys for Tots (I still need to do that. Did not see anything at the wal-mart I wanted to buy and give)
- Go to the Ulta
- Get lunch out (provided my stomach is 100% better: barbecue. If not, maybe something milder from the Panera)
- Maybe go to the JoAnn Fabrics, I don't know
- Do grocery shopping for exam week. Try to make it so that's the last grocery run I have to do before leaving on break (if there is ground turkey with a far-out enough expiry date, get the turkey needed for the meatballs for the second party. And I need more chili sauce. And I also need more nail polish remover pads, which is probably a thing for Target).

Once I get up to Illinois, I want to:

- Go to the Michael's (better yarn selection than other big box stores) to obtain yarn for the stuffies I want to make over break, and maybe more stuffing
- Go to Fresh Market. (If I go alone - I might just buy some fancy candies and little jams as additional stocking gifts for my parents)
- Walk a half-hour each day to keep my fitness up/regain what I lost during my bout of what I now thing was mild flu. The walking is good in my parents' neighborhood, better than where I live. Lots of people have friendly dogs they walk and they invite you to pet the dogs.
- Do lots of knitting and crocheting, just generally make stuff.
- Make the cutout sugar cookies I do every year
- Maybe make marshmallows, if my mom has time to help. Homemade marshmallows are fiddly but really good, but ideally you need 2 people (and a dry day) to do them.
- Possibly make fudge. Or try to find another good "soft cookie" recipe (Crisp cookies I have to dunk in tea to eat, because of my poor teeth/weird misophonic sinuses - I can't bear anything that crunches any more).
- Catch up on my sleep.
- Probably not do any work-related stuff. Because I worked hard this summer and fall, and I"m tired.

Wednesday, December 06, 2017

Wednesday midday things

* Have decided to give the scarf as the AAUW swap gift; I think it will be better-appreciated (judging the tastes of the people in the group). Also, I have another whole skein to make myself something with.

If anyone knows of a charity that needs 100% wool hats and they don't need to be superwash, please e-mail me or drop the name int he comments. I'd like the little hat to go somewhere but as I noted, most Stateside charities, at least, want things that can happily go in a washing machine.

* And that also means this afternoon is meatball-making time: I am going to make and shape and slightly pre-bake the turkey meatballs for tomorrow night's party, and then put them in my slow-cooker thing with the sauce, and keep them in the fridge until about noon tomorrow, and then cook them the rest of the way.

I also will be doing a second round of these in a bit over a week for the tasting party/Family Christmas thing at church. (I don't often get to go; many years I've already left but this year it just happens the last Sunday before Christmas Eve is the day before I go).

They're easy and I like them and also lots of other people like them. I posted the recipe for these a couple years back. They are my go-to "bring a finger food" thing because, like I said, they're easy, they're good, and, all too often "finger foods" means you get eighteen plates of cookies and very little nutritious substantial food. (Note to self: pick up more oatmeal and an onion on the way home).

More and more, I find that the protein-rich foods (meatballs, cheese plates, devilled eggs, little sandwiches) are what are the "treat" for me at these things, more than the sweets. And that's not just because I can't eat peanut brittle any more or really hard crunchy cookies.

* Sent off all my "internet friend" cards today - for the CPAAG swap, and for a couple people who are just friends from online I send cards to, and for the people from ITFF who wanted cards. I do still have to do the ones for my aunts and uncles, and for a couple family friends, but I write a little more in those, so they take longer. (I am weighing the idea of doing a very short - like, 2-4 paragraph - Christmas letter this year, as I actually had a couple interesting things happen in my life: teaching the new class, winning the research award, becoming more active in ONPS. I know people hate "Christmas Letters" but mine would be pretty short. And that way, I might consider sending one to my old graduate advisor if I can remember his address, and to a couple other faraway people. I guess it's not bragging too much if it's short? And anyway, people don't have to read it.)

I also learned: you can buy "International" stamps, and as long as your card is under an ounce (two ounces to Canada, I guess), you can just pop the stamp on it and send it from any mailbox. I sent two cards to the Netherlands and one to Australia that way.

* I still have plans Saturday for a day of self-indulgence (Antiquing, and lunch out, and a run to the Ulta - I have a coupon - and a run to the bookstore in the hopes they at least have the "Christmas number" of Simply Knit). Friday afternoon is out, and I had forgotten that until I looked at my calendar: at 2:30 pm I have "Title VII" training. ALL employees who work with students are required to do this. (I am not sure if this is a new/existing federal regulation, or if this is specific to us, as we had - without giving too much detail - a couple highly placed people who donked up bad when it came to treating someone in a protected class the wrong way. Those two people, I will note, have since retired so they don't have to do the training. Which, if that's why we need it, is often how things work....the person who violates the rule slides away, and everyone else suffers. Goes alla way back to third grade, when Billy D. wouldn't stop talking in class, so we all had to put our heads down on the desks and sit through recess without talking or doing anything instead of getting to go out and play. I am not sure the purpose of that kind of punishment - peer pressure, so the kids remind Billy D. not to talk in the future? Or make the kids resent the rule-breaker? Or maybe just train kids for a working future where they sometimes get punished for the actions of others....)

Anyway. It's 90 minutes long. A colleague has pointed out the AAUP party is right after it concludes, and he promised "adult beverages" but I don't consume "adult beverages" and frankly would just rather go home, so....

I also think of how, shortly before my parents retired, then Gov. Blagojevich instituted an online "ethics test" all state employees had to take. Yes, the same former-governor who allegedly offered to "sell" the Senate seat Obama had held before he became president....I remember noting quietly to my dad, "Isn't it a little ironic Blago* is making you all take an ethics test?" and his response was, "Shut up, Erica."

(*Really, could apply to 3 of the last 5 Illinois governors, to be honest here)

But yeah, whatever. I just hope it's not 90 minutes of being yelled at that we're horrible people because I am just tired enough that there might be tears. (I doubt that it will be that though)

* Listening to some of the stuff my chair is having to do to wrap up a visiting scholar having been here makes me glad I'm not chair. I am hoping I can make it to retirement without having to be chair. (When our current chair - who is excellent and who does a great job - burns out or needs to step down, I think there's another colleague who would be willing to take it on.)

I am too much of a people pleaser, but also too resentful of horsepucky, to be able to comfortably put up with some of the stuff my chair puts up with. I especially resent when I feel like someone's either blowing smoke or micturating on my leg and telling me it's raining, which seems to be a common thing that happens from higher-ups in bureaucracies. (My chair has certain....facial tells....she uses when she's passing on information she was told to pass on, but which she doubts the veracity of. We very much feel like she is firmly on OUR side, which is what you want in a chair)

things I think

This was from a stream of Twitter speculation....

If I were worldbuilding from scratch, while I'd still give people free will (and therefore, the ability to not be good people), I'd also factor something else in.

A Santa Claus. For everyone. Yes, a really real, literal Santa Claus. And one unmoored from any religious antecedents, so you could be, for example, Buddhist, and still get a visit from Santa.

And Santa would be for adults as well as children.

Oh, no one would get a *lavish* gift - it would be small things, perhaps in some cases ephemeral things like an amaryllis to sprout or a box of nice cookies - but there would be that "small gift once a year" thing.

But there'd be one catch: You had to be on the Nice List. Yes, there would be a Nice List. Based on how you treated other people, based on whether you were honest, and based on whether you were trustworthy and did your work and those kinds of things.

Because I tend to be all about the outside validation (more than is good for me): getting a "Santa present" would mean you were doing okay. Not getting a "Santa present" would mean you should examine your life and figure out where you need to be better. (There would be no coal or switches. There would just be nothing for the people on the Naughty List. Why make Santa go to the effort to bring a "you done donked up, human" gift to someone?)


And yes, I'm being completely fanciful here, but....wouldn't it be nice? Maybe, as the old year fades away, to come home one day to a small wrapped package in your mailbox (or, since we're allowing for magic in this world, sitting on your kitchen table). And you'd see it, and you'd know: hey, I did okay this year. And then you'd get to unwrap it and there would be some small fun thing for you (because Santa, being magic, would know what would be the best small fun thing for you).

And of course, kids would get them too. But SO WOULD ADULTS. (And as I've said: that does feel like a cheat of adulthood - no Santa for adults, and we are expected to be even more-good than children are).

And, as I said, EVERYONE would get them, there would be no, "oh, no, poor kids don't get a Santa like kids from better off families do." And "Jewish kids get a Santa present as well." And all of that.

Though then again - I could see some of the people who were not Good Humans either pretending by buying something and showing it off, or throwing tantrums about it, or maybe just taking the gift intended for a family member or housemate and claiming it as their own. Because you never know what people will do in a selfish mood.

Tuesday, December 05, 2017

tweenhood desire achieved

My first Christmas present to myself came today. (I am quite sure the Folio books will have to wait for me at the post office: no news of them being shipped yet, and it's only about 12 days before I leave town. But that's okay.)

Anyway. I say "tweenhood" because these dolls were out in 1982 or 83 and I would already have been on the cusp of teenagerhood (which is also why I didn't have so very many - again, trying to seem more sophisticated than I really was, and so denying some things I wanted. Also, lack of allowance money....)

But here she is. Orange Blossom. (My Strawberry Shortcake collection is now more diverse....)

The boxes are very like the original boxes I remember. (the lights from my tree are reflecting on the plastic on the front there).

And here she is, unboxed:

It's hard to get a good photo of a darker-skinned doll, at least with the webcam. But the little shoes! I love the shoes. And the dress, which is like two ruffles - one for the top and one for the skirt.

(And yes. I am in my pajamas at just past 5:30 pm. It was a long day, don't judge.)

She does have a scent but it is not identifiably "orangey" and these dolls do tend to lose their scent a bit once out of the box.

I trimmed the little plastic thingies holding the hat on so I could ruffle up/adjust her hair so it looked better, and also so I could put the hat on at a more flattering angle.

I always chuckle when I remove these from boxes - way back when I was a high schooler collecting dolls, there were a lot of arguments in the doll magazines about whether or not to remove from boxes. A lot of people were really hardcore that the dolls should not merely have their boxes kept (I usually don't, any more - no room) but should be NRFB - never removed from box. And even back then, when I still believed I could sell them for actual money some day, I thought that seemed like no fun.

Nowadays, I realize that you're not going to recoup any sort of investment on these. It's only the really old rare stuff - like the old Jumeau bisque dolls, or the odd rare celebrity dolls of the 1940s - that fetches high prices, and you're better off unboxing and enjoying. (And also - some modern doll collectors have found their dolls get discolored or otherwise spoiled from the packing materials. So even more reason to let the dolls be free and have fun).

But yeah. I once bitterly remarked the only good thing about adulthood is that you have a bigger allowance (and if you're like me, no one to roll their eyes/comment you should save your money/ask you 'wouldn't it be nicer to donate that cash somewhere?' when you spend it on a toy). And while it's not the SAME as being, say, seven, and young enough to actually construct elaborate imaginary worlds around these dolls, and spend hours playing with them....still, they're awfully nice little things to have, they make life for me nicer and more fun.

Why grey-haired professors?

On the first day of end-of-term, my teaching load gave to me: One student with a burgled truck and all papers gone.

On the second day of end-of-term, my teaching load gave to me: Two cases of Norovirus trying to come to class, and a student with a burgled truck.

On the third day of end-of-term, my teaching load gave to me: Three students with car problems, two cases of Norovirus trying to come to class, and a student with a burgled truck.

On the fourth day of end-of-term, my teaching load gave to me: Four reports I need to file because someone forgot about them, three students with car problems, two cases of Norovirus trying to come to class, and a student with a burgled truck.

On the fifth day of end-of-term, my teaching load gave to me: FIVE POWER OUTAGES! Four reports I need to file because someone forgot about them, three students with car problems, two cases of Norovirus trying to come to class, and a student with a burgled truck.

On the sixth day of end-of-term, my teaching load gave to me: Six invites to on-campus social things meeting when I'm in class or exam,  FIVE POWER OUTAGES! Four reports I need to file because someone forgot about them, three students with car problems, two cases of Norovirus trying to come to class, and a student with a burgled truck.

On the seventh day of end-of-term, my teaching load gave to me: Seven mysterious "i can't be in class today sorry can i have a make-up" messages,  Six invites to on-campus social things meeting when I'm in class or exam,  FIVE POWER OUTAGES! Four reports I need to file because someone forgot about them, three students with car problems, two cases of Norovirus trying to come to class, and a student with a burgled truck.

On the eighth day of end-of-term, my teaching load gave to me: eight computer centers with broken printers or no paper,  Seven mysterious "i can't be in class today sorry can i have a make-up" messages,  Six invites to on-campus social things meeting when I'm in class or exam,  FIVE POWER OUTAGES! Four reports I need to file because someone forgot about them, three students with car problems, two cases of Norovirus trying to come to class, and a student with a burgled truck.

On the ninth day of end-of-term, my teaching load gave to me: Nine people with personal problems,  eight computer centers with broken printers or no paper,  Seven mysterious "i can't be in class today sorry can i have a make-up" messages,  Six invites to on-campus social things meeting when I'm in class or exam,  FIVE POWER OUTAGES! Four reports I need to file because someone forgot about them, three students with car problems, two cases of Norovirus trying to come to class, and a student with a burgled truck.

On the tenth day of end-of-term, my teaching load gave to me: Ten mandatory "training sessions for compliance with governmental regulations,"  Nine people with personal problems,  eight computer centers with broken printers or no paper,  Seven mysterious "i can't be in class today sorry can i have a make-up" messages,  Six invites to on-campus social things meeting when I'm in class or exam,  FIVE POWER OUTAGES! Four reports I need to file because someone forgot about them, three students with car problems, two cases of Norovirus trying to come to class, and a student with a burgled truck.

On the eleventh  day of end-of-term, my teaching load gave to me: eleven assignments I have to grade, Ten mandatory "training sessions for compliance with governmental regulations,"  Nine people with personal problems,  eight computer centers with broken printers or no paper,  Seven mysterious "i can't be in class today sorry can i have a make-up" messages,  Six invites to on-campus social things meeting when I'm in class or exam,  FIVE POWER OUTAGES! Four reports I need to file because someone forgot about them, three students with car problems, two cases of Norovirus trying to come to class, and a student with a burgled truck.

On the twelfth day of end-of-term, my teaching load gave to me: twelve reminders I need to order next semester's textbooks and have my syllabi for then already made up,  eleven assignments I have to grade, Ten mandatory "training sessions for compliance with governmental regulations,"  Nine people with personal problems,  eight computer centers with broken printers or no paper,  Seven mysterious "i can't be in class today sorry can i have a make-up" messages,  Six invites to on-campus social things meeting when I'm in class or exam,  FIVE POWER OUTAGES! Four reports I need to file because someone forgot about them, three students with car problems, two cases of Norovirus trying to come to class, and a student with a burgled truck.

Yeah. I really want to just sit at home and watch sappy Hallmark Christmas movies and drink hot chocolate and knit. But I can't.