Saturday, November 22, 2014

Some pony silliness

There's a lot of fan-made pony stuff out there. I tend to avoid the more "dark" or "adult themed type stuff (And yes, the internet being what it is, there is "adult themed" type pony stuff, and I'm not talking "adult themes" like buying life insurance or doing your taxes).

But there's also a lot of innocent stuff. That I like.

And there's just some plain old headscratchingly silly stuff.

An earlier version of this (same song, different animation) made the rounds as "Princess Celestia Being Deep" (and I admit, because of that, if I were ever to cosplay as Princess Celestia? I'd glue my Celestia little figurine to my crown).

But there's a new version, and it actually has a sort of storyline to it. (You have to watch to the very end. You have to. I actually laughed out loud at the ending.)

It occurs to me that if you aren't steeped in the mythos of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, this makes even less sense. In short, Equestria was ruled by a pair of sisters, Celestia (who raises the sun in the morning - she is the white pony) and Luna (who raises the moon, the dark blue pony). Luna gets rather uppity at some point, so Celestia banishes her to the moon. But Luna becomes Nightmare Moon (Or perhaps she did before banishment; it's been a while since I saw the first episode). She then manages to return to Equestria where she kidnaps her sister.

Before the kidnapping, Celestia sends Twilight Sparkle, her star pupil, and Twilight's dragon assistant Spike, to Ponyville so that Twilight can learn about friendship. Which she does. And it turns out it's with the help of her newfound friends that they defeat Nightmare Moon, turning her back to Luna, and rescuing Celestia. (And this being a show about love and friendship, Luna and Celestia reconcile and actually Luna is now a pretty sympathetic character on the show).

Oh, and Pinkie Pie has a party cannon.

(Flufflepuff does not exist in the show itself; she's a fan-made creation that has kind of taken on a life of her own. I even made myself a stuffed Flufflepuff. Because I could.)

Friday, November 21, 2014

And more decorating

Here are more of the decorations. I set my "Grandfather Winter" (I think of him as being more like the Russian figure than Santa Claus or even Father Christmas) under the tree, and a few smaller figures (a nisse, a couple of smaller santas, and a vintage elf like one my grandmother used to have):

Santas and nisse

I also put out my Gene dolls. I don't even know if these are still made but back around 1998 they were a big thing for a certain segment of doll collectors. I have two - a brunette who was from one of the earlier runs, and a platinum blonde whose knees actually bend. (Gene is not very posable, unfortunately).

Even though the blonde is more posable, I like the brunette better; I think the hair color suits her better.

Both of these are outfits I made back when I had more time to do things like sew fabulous doll wardrobes. They are the most Christmassy outfits she has. Both of them are partly handsewn (the fiddly bits) and partly machine-sewn (the longer seams and things like hems.)

Gene blonde

Sort of a flapper-style dress, with a "fur" (really a sort of faux velveteen) jacket. (It's hard to photograph this Gene well. Here's one without flash, but it's probably kind of dark:)


And the brunette. (One of the other things about Gene is she has that kind of thousand-yard stare; it's like her eyes are never really focused on the person looking at her but are looking off somewhere far away).

Gene brunette

One other thing I did was got out a white china Christmas tree that you can put a candle in. However, I like the LED light faux tealights, because of no threat of fire and no smoke. (The ones I have you can replace the batteries in so they're not QUITE so one-use-and-then-throw-it-out.)

white tree


The KnitPicks order I placed a little while back came today, despite SmartPost's tracking's claim that a package that took 2 days to make it from Ohio to Dallas would then take 4 days to get to my doorstep from Dallas. This contains the yarn for Miss Cheerilee..... and they sent me two balls of one of the Brava yarns I only ordered one of. (I got two of the body color, which I hope will be enough, and two of the darker mane and tale color, which is probably way more than I need, and I ordered one of the lighter color....but got two, despite paying for one.) My upbringing being what it is, I called KnitPicks to tell them and offer to pay for the second ball (easier than sending it back). The man on the other end chuckled and told me to "just keep it" but that he'd tell the stockers so they could enter it for inventorying.

Then after I got off the phone, I wondered: they were doing a "buy $15, get a ball of Brava free" promotion. I wonder if that was it even though I didn't expressly ask for it. At any rate, I feel better about it than if I had just kept the ball of yarn without saying something.

I also got yarn for another Crofter's Cowl, after thinking how handy the one I have is and how I'd like another in a different color. And some Capretta, for a minishawl.

And Friday's here

And I met my deadline of "stuff I need to have done in order to take Saturday off," so YESSS!

It's supposed to rain like crazy here tomorrow so staying home looks definitely appealing. I have enough food to last for the 3 1/2 days until I leave for Thanksgiving break, so no running to the Mart of Wal (which would not be appealing the weekend before a big, food-centric holiday).

(And my teeth are STILL better this morning. I wonder if that was just some crazy persistent virus that I've finally beaten. I've found that with me the aftereffects of respiratory viruses last far longer than the major symptoms - I'll be tired or borderline-dysphoric or off my feed for weeks after I've ceased coughing and sniffling. And yeah, maybe the "off my feed" has been part of the reason for needing a belt but I needed to put one on again this morning and with a pair of slacks I know I didn't have to belt last time I wore them a few weeks ago....)

Anyway. My plans for today, outside of teaching, are to grade the big take-home exam that comes in today and take my car in for an oil and filter change. (Luckily, those two can be combined - my shop doesn't do loaners, a fact which frustrates me slightly, but apparently NO ONE in town does that. So I have to either go and wait or else finagle rides from people, and finagling rides takes more emotional energy than I have some days, so....)

And then I am going home. And taking a hot shower and washing my hair and getting into pajamas and just sitting and knitting for the rest of the evening. And doing the same tomorrow, with breaks for piano practice and *possibly* the workout. (I didn't do it as many times as I intended this week - 3 rather than 4 - because I think I pulled something one day and I had to take yesterday off because I was hurting. I was still hurting a bit this morning. But hurting slightly is a sign that my muscles are being worked, no?)

Anyway. My partial goal is to finish the first armwarmer and maybe start the second. (Sunday is pretty much a washout in terms of knitting: it's decorate-the-church day and as we are small and few and not too many people who can climb and stretch, I plan on being there a while, and then it's the community Thanksgiving service, which I think I will go to, as the local Ministerial Alliance runs it, and the offering taken goes to them, and they do good work in town - they are the ones who make the arrangements to help stranded travelers and direct people in need to food banks, while at the same time getting some verification that they're not being ripped off by someone who ISN'T genuinely in need)

I'll probably take the armwarmers, if not finished, on my trip. I'm probably not going to take MUCH knitting, as it's a short trip AND my brother, sister-in-law, and niece will be there, so I will need to be more "social" and also I am thinking having knitting out with a curious 2-year-old around is probably not the greatest of ideas. (I suppose I could take yarn, hooks, and pattern for something like a simple crocheted hat or scarf; I suspect it's easier to recover crochet after grabby hands get to it)

I am really eager to get done with the gift knitting (I still have most of a pair of socks and the very end of a pair of socks, sigh) and on to something for ME. It's starting to feel like an obligation and I am slightly annoyed at myself for being so enthusiastic to do this again. Oh, I'm sure it will be all better when people ooh and aah over their gifts (at least my mom will, even if no one else does), but for now, I keep thinking about the Queen Chrysalis amigurumi and about how the yarn for another big ami - this one being Cheerilee - is on its way to me in the mail. And how I still have the unworked Mabel Pines pattern and yarn for that, and and and.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

I was smart

Smart to arrange for Print Shop to take delivery of the skiier, that is.

I got an e-mail today that says it just shipped out. (Sigh.) This was something ordered on, I think, the third of this month?

It should arrive there on Wednesday of next week. When I'm gone. (I'm not even sure Print Shop is open then but I presume UPS  or whoever the carrier is won't try to deliver when Print Shop isn't open).

But, golly day. I FINALLY get some information back from them. (And now, who wants to bet I get endless spam from them, like I do from Vermont Country Store and other retailers I made the mistake of ordering online from?)

I will say I think I'll keep doing the Dance X workout. I'm thinking, if I can work myself up to it, do that three days a week (maybe, MWF) and the skiier two days (T, Th) and take weekends off. That means different muscles get worked AND less wear and tear on the skiier, which, as I noted, is NOT as well made as the first old (US-made) one I ever had was.

(If Nordik Trak really wanted to become a top notch company again? They'd make the skiiers like they used to. They'd probably be over $1000 but if I had, say, a fifteen-year guarantee on one, and a better way of getting spare parts, I would SERIOUSLY consider it. I'd rather pay more for something that's well made and lasts than pay less for something less well made. And I'd pay more for something made HERE, by employees I was fairly sure were making a reasonable wage....)


My teeth (or perhaps my phobia about my teeth) is getting better. It no longer hurts to bite down on "moderate" food (I still don't enjoy crunchy things, but there are few crunchy things I "need" to eat). I did chew very carefully (and on the back molars) the one pecan on top of my serving of sweet potatoes today (I have been mostly "off" nuts, partly because of tooth-fears, partly because I'm starting to have a sneaking suspicion that possibly, just possibly, tree nuts contribute to my hives). But I don't visualize that front eye-tooth (the one with the "calcified canal") as snapping every time I eat like I was earlier. Crunchy breakfast cereal still isn't terribly fun, though.

That was PARTLY the pain - probably caused by a persistent virus in my sinuses. But also, I do think I've developed a tiny bit of tooth-fear, though that could be partly a result of weird hearing sensitivity from the whacked-out sinuses - I mentioned how much I hated the sonicator, because it was "loud" on my top teeth? Chewing has been the same way. I've had moments of fear when a cranberry seed (from dried cranberries) or even a particularly tough chocolate chip fractured in a strange way - I'd hear it, and go "OH NO, I broke another tooth" only to find my teeth were all sound.

I don't know if there's a way to fix this or if I just have to learn to live with it. I wonder if the sinus-irrigation has shaken something loose somewhere, like in my eustachian tubes, and I"m hearing top-tooth stuff more clearly than I had or something. It's getting better or I'm learning to tolerate it more but I'm still cautious. (Though maybe, with bad softy British-Isles-heritage teeth, chewing carefully is a good idea anyway).

At least I was able to eat today's departmental Thanksgiving lunch (turkey, sweet potatoes, cranberry salad, and a fruit relish - I skipped the dressing (celery) and the green bean casserole (just don't care for it)) without incident or worry.

(Oh. We also had potstickers. I whispered to my Best Frolleague Forever who was sitting next to me, "We need to hire more International faculty - our new hire, who is originally from China, brought the potstickers. Shades of grad school and how I looked forward to the seminar-snacks that Dr. J's lab sponsored - several of his students were East Indian and they made samosas and all kinds of interesting and good foods. It always made the labs that had students who were mostly (a) American, (b) male, and (c) people who didn't give that much of a care look bad, when they'd bring in a bag of chips and a six-pack of sodas).

Weird little thing

From last night's parental phone call:

Apparently, we (and a set of cousins of my dad's) are the inheritors of mineral rights to some oilfields in Dewey County. Dewey County as in the state where I currently reside (though they are HOURS from me, off in the northwest of the state).

Apparently some of my dad's mom's German relatives, when they were living in Kansas, invested in this. I don't know how long ago but it had to be pre-1920s if it's the person I'm thinking of. And all these years later, attorneys for some oil company managed to track us all down through an page an uncle of mine curates.

Yes, there's money involved: a per-acre bonus (my dad and his two brothers share the interest in 21 acres; the cousins apparently have the other 21). I can't remember what my dad said the per-acre signing bonus was, not huge but not inconsiderable either. And then apparently, if the field is productive, there are royalties.

Two thoughts about this, one frivolous, one serious. Serious one first: Oh crud, this probably means some day my taxes will be more complicated (if there are royalties and my brother and I wind up inheriting).

Frivolous: Does this mean I could style myself as some sort of oil baroness? Given my stereotype of "Dallas" people, that means I need to learn to tease my hair up high and start wearing a lot more jewelry than I do. And probably read Southern Living more closely and start adopting some of the styles and ways of doing things....

Still, the main thing that's interesting to me is that all those years, no one knew about this. All those years ago my great-grandparents (or actually, I think great-great grandparents) bought rights to a patch of land in Oklahoma, and no one knew about it until now....

(Though I confess I wish it was more some kind of "Oh, hey, we found some of your great-grandma's costume jewelry, do you want it?" or "There's a whole bunch of neat old books they owned that we're sending to you." This is a lot less tangible link with a part of my family I know little about....)

I also admit I kind of want to find the legal address of this land and drive up there and just see it. Kind of like I want to try to track down where the family manse was (apparently) when some relatives on my dad's dad's side of the family were richfolk in Covington, Louisiana, and go look at it. Even if it's just a vacant lot, which it probably is, because the family lost its money, moved away, and the house burned....

Why we can't...

As I said over on Twitter yesterday, "This is why we can't have nice things."

it's possible to anonymously mail someone feces. (NB: strong Anglo-Saxonism for excreta used over there). I think this falls under the "don't be a jerk to other people" clause of humanity. I try not to be a jerk. Sometimes I have to administer tough love, sometimes I have to tell the hard truths, but I try not to be a jerk while doing it. But I think mailing dung to someone, anonymously, seems pretty much "jerk behavior."

This bothers me for several reasons. First, it's USELESS as constructive criticism or as a tool to genuinely encourage someone to change their behavior. Apparently the note sent with it says, "You did something that offended or annoyed someone. Be a better person in the future." As I strive, in my day to day life, not to offend or annoy people, but sometimes do, because I'm a bit socially awkward, I DON'T ALWAYS KNOW WHAT I DID. If I say something problematic, I need the person to come to me and go, "You know that joke you made? It was kind of offensive to me." If they're honest and genuine (and not just jerking me around, which I've had happen - someone gets me going and all crazy apologizing and then goes, "Psych! I wasn't offended at all, that joke wasn't offensive" while here I've been questioning myself), I will apologize profusely and never make that joke or one like it again. Or if I used a word that's "bad," I will drop it. Being told to "be a better person in the future" would really sting (even if it's not entirely true of me; I don't think I'm a horrible person now) because (a) "How? What is it that I'm doing that I specifically need to change" and (b) I'm trying hard already to be a decent person but obviously failing at it.

However, that almost never happens to me, because, as I said, I try to be kind to people.

The other thing is, someone sending it as a "joke" - well, they better be pretty sure their recipient has a similar sense of humor. If this happened to me, especially when I was having a low-confidence day (unproductive human interactions, or class went badly, or I'm just extremely tired and feeling a bit sorry for myself), it would cause all kinds of awful emotional fallout. Even on a good day I wouldn't find it particularly funny. I spent too many of my formative years being the butt of others' jokes, or being excluded, or being treated like the material that is sent in these packages, to be able to do anything but do a weak "social" laugh in response to those kinds of jokes. ("Social" laugh - where you really are kind of hurt and troubled by the joke that was made, but you pretend to laugh anyway, because tearing into the person or starting to cry in front of them is the response they want.)

This is also why the anonymity is a problem. You wouldn't necessarily know who sent it, and so, you might go around changing a behavior that's NOT a problem, but still annoying someone with the behavior that IS. It seems awfully passive-aggressive to me to send someone an anonymous box of dung rather than going to them and trying to clear the air. And it also seems monumentally unproductive. (Though I suppose if you're just angry at someone, you could be blinded enough by your anger to think that this is a good idea). 

If I have a problem with someone, if someone says something that offends me, I take one of two paths: first, if it's someone I will never interact with again (e.g., anonymous internet troll, not that I have to deal with those very often), I just ignore it. Or I roll my eyes and tell myself, "You just have to deal with them; they have to live with themselves." On a bad day, yeah, I'll be kind of hurt, but I won't engage. Because it's not worth it, and usually rising to a troll's bait is exactly what they want, and therefore they win.

If it's someone I interact with on a regular basis that has offended me, and need to keep open channels of communication with, I will find a time when I can go talk to that person, just the two of us, and go, "You might not realize it, but that joke you made in front of the whole meeting at my expense? I didn't find it terribly funny and here is why...." I rarely have to do that but when I have, almost every time the person goes, "Oh, crud. I didn't mean that" and apologizes. (I recognize that just as I can be socially awkward and not realize what I said was hurtful, other people can be as well).

Actually, I guess there's a third group: people I may have to deal with in the future but don't regularly. Most of the time there I let the issue drop, partly because the couple people I know like that ARE slightly trollish and so my rising to their bait (other than with a very neutral and measured response, like "You don't know me quite as well as you think you do") is what they want. In those cases, I generally avoid the person as much as I reasonably can, and keep a tight fist wrapped around my emotions when I am dealing with them, because I do know one or two people who seem to enjoy pushing others' buttons. (Why? that's something I've always wondered).

As I also said on Twitter, I'm going to use my time, energy, and postage money to send stuff to people I LIKE. (And yes, I realize, the droppings are something you order; you don't need to go out and collect them or package them yourself, but still). I'd rather send a card to a friend who's going through a little bit of a rough patch and imagine that maybe the card will cheer them up a little. Or like I did last Christmas, send my extra blindbag ponies to random card recipients. Because I liked imagining the person getting the little bag in the mailbox, and going "What?" and then opening it and laughing. I'd rather send random stuff that makes people I like happy, than that makes people who have ticked me off more upset. (And anyway: sending poop to a troll? Probably won't do anything to un-troll them.)

(waving at Dustbury, who was in part the inspiration for this)

(Edited to add: because he linked to the original story I was commenting on. Yay social awkwardness, even on the blog!)

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

"Holiday brain" strikes

I've mentioned this before, what I call Christmas Brain, or, if you're talking more generally about the Thanksgiving/Christmas holiday megalopolis, Holiday Brain.

It happens to me every year. When it happens varies, and it has a little bit to do with how tired I am in my day-to-day life. This year, it hit early. (I blame teaching an overload, and also having a few people as students who have either been difficult through no fault of their own(*) or have chosen to be difficult)

(* Students who just have ongoing life issues and health problems and who seem to constantly need stuff made-up or about whom I am constantly getting e-mails asking they be excused from whatever. I get that it's not their fault but it does complicate my life a bit.)

I just want to go home. And stay at home. And listen to Christmas music or watch the dumb sentimental Hallmark Christmas movies or the old Rankin-Bass specials (Apparently Mr. Rankin passed away just recently. R.I.P., those specials were a precious part of my childhood. I should probably do a blogpost about them sometime)

And I want to knit. First on gifts, but then on stuff for myself. And do silly things like make toys and work on doll clothes and just generally recapture a little hint of that good feeling I had as a kid, when I was on Christmas break, and I could just play, long fanciful hours of building Lego houses for my toy animals (while my brother, sitting beside me, built Lego cars or Lego spaceships). Or of making clothes for my stuffed toys. (I preferred stuffed animals to dolls as a child. It was only in high school, with starting to get interested in fashion and also history, that I developed more of an interest in dolls). Or of baking cookies. Or, or, or - any dozens of things. I remember making Makit and Bakit Christmas tree ornaments or "suncatchers" when I was a kid (Does anyone else remember those? Little plastic bits you put into a metal frame and then baked in the oven? I bet the fumes were really bad for you, but....we had lots of those. They were a big thing when I was a kid, and were fun and not that expensive. After a while, the plastic shapes did shrink and fall out of the frame....). All that kind of stuff.

I need to get out all my Christmas craft and Christmas nostalgia books and start looking at them.

A lot of it - the makit and bakits, the potholder loom (I should get mine out again), stuff like that - it wasn't so much about the product as it was the process. The fun of making, the fun of having something different to do. In my family, it seemed that "Christmas break" and "making crafts" just seemed to go together.

That's still true for me; one of the big times of knitting and crochet productivity for me is the Christmas season, when I'm off from school and can just relax and knit or sew or crochet or whatever.

But I want to start doing that NOW. I'm ready to be done with this semester and all the frustrations and bad-silliness that happened and take a break and sit in my nicely decorated house and listen to music and make stuff. (Well, I do get a few days after the semester is over before I go "home" for Christmas....)

I should photograph the rest of my decorations. I put the ornaments up on the tree Monday evening, and I also got out my long-neglected Gene dolls and dressed them in the most Christmassy dresses they had, and set them up next to the tree. And put out the rest of the "critters" (I can't really sit on my sofa, now, without moving some of them). And it makes my living room feel very happy and cozy to me - I have all kinds of things around me that I love and can look at.

And knitting away

Over the weekend, I realized just how soon the "gift exchange" party I am going to is coming up (Dec. 4) and realized that IF I was going to follow my earlier plan and knit a pair of ribbed armwarmers like what I made for my sister-in-law, I'd have to get on it.

So that's what I've been doing. I'm almost past the thumb-gusset on the first armwarmer, which is good, because the wrist part is the longest part. I'm using a Paton's sockyarn for this - I think it's called FX or something like that? It's one of the ombre-colored ones that shifts slowly from one color to another, because of how the yarns are plied. I find ombre yarns interesting because of those changes, and they do spur me to keep knitting "just until the next color change."

One thing about this yarn, though: it's a heavy fingering, almost a sport weight. These are going to be pretty dense mitts, which I guess is good, but it does make the knitting slightly slower going as I find it harder to manipulate a yarn that's just a bit thick for the needles. (Also, this yarn is kind of splitty if you're not careful).

The color I'm using is (I *think*) called "Cadet Colors" - deep blue shading into a lighter blue with hints of buff and grey. I always try to pick "less idiosyncratic" colors when it's a gift for someone I don't know well (or in this case, don't know at all - we do the gift exchange as a "draw numbers and pick a gift" thing).

I've already decided that if I can get my two upcoming exams (one for Monday that HAS to be done, one for the week after Thanksgiving) completed, I will take Saturday off and stay home and knit. (Anyway, it's supposed to rain buckets, and I'd rather stay home if it's doing that.)

Tonight, I do have to make the sweet-potato casserole (the one I woke up all worried about the other day). I found the recipe for it, I have all the ingredients on hand, so I'm ready to go. I also need to go to the post office as I have several International items to mail and also I need to arrange to have my mail held....because this time next week I will be in Illinois.


Two ponified versions of a thing that went around a while back. ("In the future, if something exists, there will be a Pony form of it"):

While the AJ/Applebloom one is perhaps more true to the original (and has the joke in there that we never actually SEE their mom, and the general fan conclusion is that they're orphans being raised by Granny Smith), I think I like the Octavia/DJ PON-3 one better.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

New quiz thingie

A number of people I know are doing this. It's a "brain quiz": who are you the brainchild of

I got

You are the #brainchild of

Abraham da Vinci

You're a true optimist who believes anyone can achieve anything, yourself included. You get this trait from both Leonardo da Vinci, the genius artist, inventor and mathematician, and Abraham Lincoln, the revered, 16th President of the United States who led the U.S. through the Civil War and ultimately abolished slavery.

Success is in your blood, with an openness to new experiences and curiosity that often puts you in the right place at the right time; you get these traits from Da Vinci. You also exert optimism and positive energy, which means other people love being around you and always seem to open up to you; that's your Abraham Lincoln side. 
I don't know about that. I think I answered some of the questions more "optimistically" than my natural reaction might be. (For example: the one about a friend wanting to switch the restaurant you all were going to for your birthday. While I wouldn't QUITE feel "why is my friend trying to ruin my birthday" and I'd probably be somewhat agreeable (to go along with my friends) I admit I'd also feel, "Why are they springing this on me at the last minute, when it's MY birthday? They should have consulted before the plans were made."
At my BEST I am an optimist but I'm not always at my best. If I take it, imagining I am not at my best, I get:

Wilde da Vinci

You have an inner free spirit that seeks new experiences, and an unwavering curiosity that will help you be a lifelong learner. You get these traits from Leonardo da Vinci, the genius artist, inventor and mathematician.

Your curiosity, intelligence and focus mean you hold yourself and others to very high standards, and you're not afraid to express yourself when you feel your expectations aren't met; you get these traits from Oscar WIlde, the prolific writer, poet and playwright. This might make you seem moody or intimidating to other people, but they also make you a great leader. 
That's actually probably a bit more realistic, especially the part about the high standards. 

Tuesday morning random

* I woke up about 2:30 this morning, and immediately the scumbag part of my brain went, "Wait! Isn't TODAY the Thanksgiving lunch in your department, for which you agreed to make sweet potatoes?"

The more-rational part of my brain went, "Shut up, scumbag, that's Thursday."

Scumbag: "No, no, I think it said the 18th and today is the 18th and you were just thinking that the 18th was Thursday. YOU'RE GOING TO HAVE TO GET UP NOW AND MAKE THEM NOW!!"

Rational: "No, I'm really really sure it is Thursday."

Scumbag: "I'm going to keep you awake worrying about this until you know for sure."

So, yeah. I got up and turned on my computer and found the e-mail. And it is the TWENTIETH. THURSDAY. Like the rational part of my brain thought.

That doesn't happen to me often but it's annoying when it does. I also had an instance Friday where I was afraid my Crofter's Cowl had fallen out of the car in the JoAnn's parking lot (because I couldn't see it in the car and suddenly became unsure of whether I took it off and left it at home before I left). So much so I drove BACK there before getting back on 75 to go home and drove around the lot. No sign of the cowl, so I planned that if I got home and it wasn't home, I'd call the store to see if anyone had brought it in for their lost and found.

Of course, what was sitting on my big chair, where I had taken it off, when I got home?

I hope this is just being stressed over the end of the semester coming and not some new increase in my tendency to get weirdly anxious about things that aren't such a big deal.(I could always MAKE another cowl if I lost this one; I might even be able to get the same yarn as I used).

* I didn't get up to work out after that because interrupted sleep at 2:30 am makes getting up 2 hours later unfavorable. I might do it this afternoon if I get home early enough.

* It seems hardly possible, but could just over a week of the "Dance X Fitness" workout be having an effect? I wore slacks both yesterday and today (because: cold) and both times I had to dig out a belt to wear with them, because they'd either gap more at the waist than I like, or they felt like they were sliding down my hips. Yesterday's pair I could chalk up to "cut-funny pair of corduroys I haven't worn in six months" but today's slacks are ones I last wore just a couple weeks ago. (Also: I need to get a new black belt. I'm having to wear a dark-brown braided one with these; my "old" black belts are either really old (and too short, still) or had a broken buckle. 

* I finished decorating last night. More on that later on.

* I'm still having a few tooth issues, I think related to sinus problems. Sometimes they get sensitive enough (all my front top teeth, so I don't think it's a cavity or anything) that biting down on anything is unappealing and especially hard crunchy stuff is unappealing. It makes eating more complicated, I've been doing a lot of soup and stuff like that. I would have hoped that with the hard freeze my allergies would be over, but I don't know. I hope this isn't the "new normal" for me. (I see those ads for dental implants and just cringe over the pain getting those done must involve, but honestly, if I have many more teeth fail like the one last summer? I may have to go down that road.). "Sensitive" toothpaste doesn't help; apparently it's the roots in the sinuses and not anything to do with the dentin and nerves.

* I wonder if a familial risk for osteoporosis (which I have) is also tied to tooth issues as you mature. My mom has ALWAYS had tooth issues; my grandma had false teeth the whole time I knew her. I wonder if there's some kind of faulty calcium-laying-down metabolic thing that affects both teeth and bones.

I really am not looking forward to having to have more dental work but it may be unavoidable, given my family history.

* The skiier issue may finally be fixed! My print shop here on campus agreed to take delivery of it for me in my absence, and so I called the place today. Was on hold FOREVER but it turns out the woman helping me walked down to the shipping department to talk directly with the guys during that time (or so I am told). The skiier is apparently "in process" of being shipped, d'oh, it may yet come this week. (Oh well. If it comes Friday I can pick it up from Print Shop after class). I'm relieved that this is maybe finally fixed.

But I will say they could have kept me better updated by e-mail during this, instead of me having to call. 

Sunday, November 16, 2014

And it begins

Yes, it's too early (especially by Southern standards; it seems in my experience Southerners are more resistant to jumping the gun to decorate for Christmas before Thanksgiving than Northerners are), but as my time during the week is so often not my own, and next Sunday is going to be totally taken up with helping decorate the church and then probably attending the community Thanksgiving service, I decided to get a start today.

I did things differently this year, mainly because doing the dance-type workout means I'm bouncing around early in the morning in very close vicinity to where I had been putting my tree. So I had to find an alternate location. (And this is a window into my mind: when I was overwhelmed and just kind of sad over the cross-country skiier situation and frustrated because Everything Changes Just When I'm Least Prepared For It To, I was actually thinking, snitfully, "Maybe I WON'T decorate this year" but of course that thought made me too sad).

I tried a couple different arrangements - my first idea was "tree in front of the fireplace, on the little coffee table I normally stand it on." But that made it too tall and it blocked my view of my ponies. So then I tried off the table - and moved the table out to my sewing room for the nonce. But that wasn't ideal either. I was thinking of just living with it, but then thought, "Why not put the table right at the window, and set the tree up there?" Years ago, before I had the piano, that was where the tree went, but I was afraid I'd not be able to see it well with the piano in the way. But then I decided no, it would be okay. So I got the little table back out and put the tree there. Two bonuses: it can be seen from my front window, and it's even farther from where I will be bouncing around during the workout, so it's even less likely for ornaments to fall off.

That solved another problem - I could move the larger coffee table and its decorations in front of the fireplace, and then I can easily sit on my sofa again.

coffee table

In fact, I may just leave it there AFTER Christmas, and decorate it periodically. (If I can keep it from becoming a catchall for mail, like it usually does). That's a singing snowman. One of the sillier things I own but it makes me smile - the snowman sings Jingle Bells and the dog barks his part. And they both dance a little and shake to make their bells jingle. As I said, it's silly and some might find it tacky, but it makes me smile and it's fun to periodically make it go during the season. (I bought it, maybe 10 years ago, at the Hallmark).

And I tend to feel like, if you can't enjoy kitsch a little bit at Christmas, when CAN you enjoy it? 

And here's the tree. I also put the lighted garland that I had put up on the mantel previous years over the big window. This pleases me, and I confess I wish I had two shorter lengths of garland for the other windows (except I don't have a handy outlet, and it would be harder to put it up on those). Anyway, I like the garland where it is.

tree and lights

That photo's a little shaky, it was taken with the long-exposure night view.

Here's one taken to show the lights.

lights nigh

I'm going to put the tree decorations up maybe tomorrow night. I also have a few more "critters" to put out but most of the decorating is done....the Nativity set is up, I've got the bigger things (the Christmas-themed stuffed toys, the tree, the garland) out. I refreshed the batteries in my little window candles - they have built-in timers and will stay flickering from about 4:30 until about 10:30 in the evening.

I might still see if there's somewhere I could hang my older wreath, the one I used to put up on the door, here in the house. I see lots of decorating magazines where they hang wreaths up on a wall or in a window.

It makes me happy to do this; it reminds me that there's more to life than just work work work and grading and writing exams and all that. 

Saturday, November 15, 2014

First little thing

I spent most of today grading the "big" research paper for my senior/graduate level class. This has been a pretty good class and by and large I was pleased with how people did on their papers. (This is the class that brings me back to "yeah, I do want to keep teaching" after having a bad week with some of my other classes. I hope I get a few of these folks in one of my spring classes.)

I also cleaned up the living room some, put away a bunch of projects in long-stall (sigh. The Rosy-Fingered Dawn stole. When I get some good big free time, I am going to have to look hard at it and figure out where I left off, and restart it. I mislaid my row-counter for it so it will take carefully "reading" the knitting and the charts.

I also found a Red Scarf Project scarf I started a long time back and never finished. I MIGHT be able to finish it by the Dec. 15 deadline IF I re-start this right after finishing my (more urgent) Christmas knitting. So I might work on that again, it will be nice to get it done and also get it out for someone to benefit from it. (This is a project that gives former foster-kids in college small Valentine's Day "care packages" including handknit scarves among other things. It's more a psychological comfort than a "this person is in deep need and the scarf is necessary for warmth" but it's still a nice thing, I think - remembering the Valentine's Day boxes my parents' church sent me when I was in college)

I moved the now-cleared-off ottoman to under the piano, cleared off the little table that had stood next to the piano and moved it in front of the (nonfunctional) fireplace in preparation for putting the tree up there. I also cleared off my main coffee table and will either put my Nativity scene there, or, put some of the snowmen that normally wind up on my mantel there. (And put the Nativity scene in its usual place on the piano).

Because I did this:

"Ponyville" Christmas

I DID find some of the little "bottlebrush" trees (at JoAnn's) and moved a few ponies around and added them in. (I briefly considered taking everything off the mantel and laying down a layer of quilt batting, for "snow," but meh on two fronts: that's a lot of work, and second, I'd just have ponies falling all over the place. As it is, Octavia and Soarin' don't stand up very well on their own, and it's easy to knock over the other ponies if you bump them.)

I also found a set of tiny, battery operated "rice lights" (like the size that used to be used in dollhouses, except I'm pretty sure these are LED). So I decided to light up my little Eiffel Tower:

"Ponyville" lights

(Yes, Fluttershy and Big Mac are still up on the tower. Heh. In that shot it looks almost like he's getting ready to propose).

Here's an "extreme night shot" taken steadying my camera on the piano to show the lights better. I still have the funny little string of "astro lights" that flash different colors (they all look blue white in the photo because they change so fast the colors sort of blend in a long exposure):

Christmas lights I

It'll be fun to have the extended period of decorating. I have this up, I have the wreath up. Tomorrow I think I'll put up the Nativity scene and maybe get out the tree, maybe Monday evening put the ornaments on the tree....draw out the fun and happiness of it over next week.

I'm traveling later this year for Christmas than I sometimes do. That was partly to catch an open sleeper on the train, partly to leave myself a few days to finish up research (which I will probably need). But that will also mean a few more evenings at home, being able to look at my decorations, and sit and knit or sew.

Oh, Honda, no

Here's The Mary Sue's take on it. (The only ad I've seen "in the wild" so far is the Jem/GI Joe one. And that's not a 'real' Jem doll they used).

I don't know. I'm just a bit older than the age group marketed to (I did have a Strawberry Shortcake doll, but I didn't really play with it; it was purchased more as a desperate attempt to hold on to childhood for a few more months). I don't know. I guess I am kind of a boring adult; when I choose a car it's based on things like the brand's repair and safety record, and how reliable the model is. And gas mileage, though I know I could do better on that. (Side note: I've seen the first little Four-twos zipping around town here. Great for in-town stuff but I SO would not be comfortable taking one of those out on 75). I don't buy a car primarily because it makes me happy. (I wouldn't buy an aggressively ugly car, like the bad old Aztek, even if it was highly rated, but I also don't largely choose based on features or appearance)

Anyway, the theme of the ads seems to be, "You can once again be as happy as a kid at Christmas getting the toy they really wanted, by getting this new car!"

Is that true of anyone? I mean, I was happy when I got my then new (now 4+ years old) car, but it was mostly relief that I once again had something under warranty, and I didn't have the choice any more of  "Are the problems with my old one worth fixing or not?"

I hate to say it, but I think once you pass childhood, that kind of excitement and happiness over getting some material object are gone forever. The last time I felt a joy comparable to getting the very thing I wanted on Christmas morning it was over finding out that the cancer of someone I cared about had gone into remission. Things change when you become a grownup. And even though I'd be happy to, say, buy a random blindbag pony and get Cheese Sandwich (I only saw that "wave" available once, and I didn't get him then), it would not be the same kind of sustained happiness I felt over, say, getting the Fisher-Price castle when I was 7. I suppose in a way that's a good thing that your priorities change as an adult, but it's also a little sad that it's harder sometimes to find that kind of joy. (My recent doll-purchase and plans to sew clothes for her are part of my trying to recapture that feeling.)

Happiness is more complicated, and I think more fleeting, as an adult. And anyone who tells you that buying a new car is the same as getting the toy you Wanted More Than Anything and had written to Santa about and told your parents about and wished for and hoped for, is probably lying to you. Maybe it's because you do the picking-out of it and they paying-for it yourself? (Oh, all the car ads show spouses buying spouses cars for Christmas, but that's not the same, is it? I mean, most couples I know pool their money, or mostly pool it, so buying a car has to be a couple's decision.)

Honestly, these days, I get more fun out of getting presents for OTHER people and thinking about how the thing I'm giving them will hopefully please them,  than in getting presents myself. Though again, maybe that's part of being a grown-up.

(Or I'm totally wrong in this and I'm one of those people who's just hard to make happy. Maybe everyone else is deliriously happy over a new car, I don't know. Then again, I tend to be one of those "Buy a good car and drive it into the ground before getting a new one" type of people.)

I'm just hoping Hasbro doesn't license My Little Ponies (even the first-generation ones, which would be in keeping with the way the ads are done) for this.

Though I do have to say that the Skeletor one is pretty funny.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Friday morning things

* Joan, you're the only one who asked about the Sock Club patterns, so if you e-mail me your address, I can send it out. (I have to go to the post office some time next week anyway).

* I'm getting slightly better at the Dance X workout. A couple things I've noticed:
      - It's definitely easier to do first thing in the morning than after I've been through a day of classes. I don't know if that's because I'm less stiff first thing in the morning, or less tired, or what.

      - I do have coordination issues. Some of the moves where you are doing one thing with your legs and something different with your arms are difficult for me, because I tend to concentrate on coordinating one body part and the other tends to flail a little

      - I don't THINK it's beat deafness, I seem to be okay at finding the beat when I play the piano (well, most of the time. I've been trying to play "Linus and Lucy," and there are times I just canNOT get the rhythm. It's kind of odd. Some times I can get it, others I can't.)

      - I still can't do the full time of the Twist, though I think part of that is a friction issue of my really-grabby-soled trainers on the floor. (I have a wood floor, and they talk about modifying the move for carpet. I tried stocking feet but was afraid that was TOO slippery and I was going to fall). And the Irish Kicks are still hard for me to do the full time of.

      - I did the video three times this week and am keeping the option open of doing it some time tomorrow. I want to eventually work up to four and maybe even five times a week. "They" say you should accumulate 150 minutes of moderate exercise a week, and the video is actually not 50 minutes but closer to 35. (I had been going by the timer on my dvd but for some reason the workout portion starts when the timer reads 10 minutes....). One hundred fifty minutes of moderate exercise is a LOT, I don't care that "they" say "Oh, you can do it in 10-minute bursts!"

* Most of the knitting this week has been while invigilating. I'm actually close to the divide for the front (the v-neck) on the current sweater vest. This one has almost entirely been knitted while invigilating exams. (I will probably have to find something new for finals, as I am really close to being done with this one).

* I will be SO GLAD to be done with teaching the overload when this semester is over. It does make me really tired to deal with an extra whole class of the intro-level group. (Less so for the GIS class, as it is a v. small class and they are pretty mature students and have pretty much taken the information they were given and then ran with it.) Next semester is going to be really different: three days a week my first class is at 11. I think that's the latest "first class" I've ever had. I'll probably still come in early (though I think I will only do 9-11 office hours those days, leaving myself the option of a more leisurely morning or, even - a shot at doing local grocery shopping EARLY on a weekday.  The other two days I do have an 8 am class, though.

* I decided to go do "big" grocery shopping (in Sherman) again this afternoon. Part of it is I do want to go to JoAnn's (for tiny snaps and narrow elastic, among other things, for future doll-clothes-making) but part of it is I'm kind of turned off of shopping at the Wal-Mart. A little while back, I got a bad carton of milk from them - it was still within the sell-by date, but when I opened it, it smelled and an experimental taste told me it had turned. So I don't know if this was one of those "Oh, I don't want it" followed by a several-hours-later of it being put back in the chiller case, or if it was poorly-handled, or what. And also given the leaked memo this week (about the head management pushing Wal-Mart to even more aggressively discount/push stuff close to its sell-by date, even as many stores don't have enough employees to keep up with it), well, I'd rather drive to the Kroger for my milk. (Standard disclaimer: Green Spray does not carry the organic kind I prefer, and also, I really prefer the waxed cartons to the plastic jugs)

* There's a lot of talk about stores opening on Thanksgiving. I would HATE to be told "You will be working on this holiday" if I worked retail (I suppose some places give employees the choice, and I'd hope there was bonus pay for it. I know some people don't "do" a Thanksgiving and some people are sufficiently estranged from family they don't spend time with family. But it would bother me to have to change up my holiday time to go in and work). The world has changed a lot since I was a kid; I remember how on holidays like Thanksgiving, the ONLY places open were things like the  Convenient, where you could run for milk if you absolutely needed milk (and you paid a premium for that) and maybe Denny's. (I remember traveling with family over one Thanksgiving vacation as a kid, and I think we were delayed and still traveling midday Thanksgiving? maybe? And we needed to stop for lunch but place after place was closed....)

I don't know. If I ran the circus? The "shopping season" wouldn't start any early, Thanksgiving would be a day off for everyone (other than, obviously, cops on duty and ER doctors and that kind of person*).

There's also a guy who is apparently ALREADY camping out outside some electronics store so he can be the first one to get one of a small number of large-screen tvs for a good price. I suppose he's free to do that, but wow, that would so not be my choice. (My Christmas shopping is effectively done; I'm still working on a couple of the knitted gifts and I still need to order some tea). I really dislike the whole Black Friday craziness and the crowds, pushing, and people fighting for 'deals.'

(*One of the nicer news stories of a few years ago that made me smile? In my parents' town, the members of the local Jewish synagogue went to the Salvation Army and offered to do the cooking for Christmas dinner for the people at the shelter there, so the usual cooks and servers could have Christmas with their families. I also remember the quote from one of the women from the synagogue: "We had to ask a lot of advice in advance; we don't exactly have experience preparing hams." Heh.)

* I AM going to decorate for Christmas. I'm going to put stuff in slightly different places (move the old ottoman left over from my old chair away from the front of the (nonfunctional) fireplace and put the tree there, maybe leave My Own Private Ponyville up on the mantel but see if I can find some tiny "snowy" trees to add to it, put the usual mantel decorations elsewhere). I bought a new wreath for the front door - I had to run to Lowe's yesterday and they had these tinsel wreaths. I just liked it. Maybe it's a little tacky, I don't know, but it made me smile and it seemed like a little throwback to the tinsel/artificial stuff decorations of the 1950s, so I feel like it's in keeping with the era of my house (I have a whole book of "decade by decade" Christmas decorations, it's been fun to look at).

I'm going to do the decorating bit by bit, over next week, as I have time. That spreads the fun out more and also means I don't have to worry quite so much about having a big block of time to do it.

(I actually had to run back to Lowe's - I wanted ONE wreath, I paid for ONE wreath, but when I got home, I found I had two stuck together. So I returned the second one, and explained I got two by mistake. Yes, it was a $10 wreath and Lowe's is a huge big-box retailer, but returning it mattered to ME.)

 * I need to call them to be sure they'll do it, but I've pretty much decided to ask Print Shop if they will accept the skiier package for me if I'm out of town while it is supposed to come. (Yes, they will be closed a couple days, but I am guessing UPS will know that, and will not attempt delivery.) The people there are pretty nice so I bet they will say yes, and then I can just call Icon Fitness and ask them to change the delivery address for me. (I need to talk to someone at Print Shop TODAY.) I feel better knowing I think I have this sorted in a way that should work. 

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Little regressive activity

I once mentioned how I used to have a doll collection when I was younger. I have a very few dolls here with me (most are in storage at my parents'): a couple of Gene dolls, which I had fantastic plans of sewing fabulous outfits for (Gene was a fashion doll, meant to be a 1940s-era starlet. She was larger and more realistically proportioned and, IMHO, had a more interesting face, than Barbie did). And I have a little Betsy McCall doll (I was at the veriest tail end of the Betsy McCall paper dolls in McCall's when I was little). And a Ginny doll.

But recently, I added to that....I bought a Monster High doll. Yeah, the slightly feminist side of me feels a need to apologize, as does the side of me that loathes the sexualization of everything to do with childhood. (These dolls wear extremely high heels and short skirts. And they are extremely slim. Except, see, they are monsters, so they aren't actually human, and so that makes it kind of okay.)

The one I bought was one of the "multi feeling" ones - you press on their scalp and their eyes change, kind of like the old Blythe dolls (which are fiercely collected; I never had one). I liked the changing-eyes trope. And also, the doll came with CLOTHES! and there were more CLOTHES! available separately (along with another pair of shoes. I am guessing standard Barbie shoes will not fit these as their feet are bigger. I'd love to be able to buy just a package of shoes but Mattel doesn't do that).

And then I found that there are a few free patterns for knitwear on Ravelry. And I kept looking at my doll (whom I named Pandora Peahen, because she has a headpiece like a peacock's head feathers.

And I looked at her, in her little short-skirted haltery dress, and thought "Poor thing, she needs something warm for winter." And Ravelry has a few knitted patterns for these dolls on it (they are about as tall as, but are slimmer and less "developed" than Barbie, so Barbie clothes would not fit). And I have some scrap sockyarn set aside for one of the dresses when I get some time for some "selfish" knitting. And I bought a packet of patterns off of Etsy - I know, I probably could have designed my own but these were v. cute and had lots of dresses and even tights in them. And then I dug out my box of "doll clothes fabric" (which, yes, I moved down here) and found a few pieces that would work. When I get time. (These will have to be hand-sewn as they are so very small, but I don't mind).

There's a shift-type dress that I have a cute 1960s-esque pink print for, and a deep rose that might make a nice full-skirted dress (if I have enough). And a tiny dark blue check for a plain "school" dress. (I foresee that my handmade clothes will be a lot more modest than what she currently wears. I should probably draft up a petticoat pattern to go under the full skirt, and maybe a pair of skivvies, too - she has molded-on ones but that doesn't seem the same)

I miss that kind of thing. It's as close to "play" as I did as an adult. And I have to say, these little dolls are fun for the adult collector - they are jointed at the knees, hips, shoulders AND elbows and wrists, so you can really pose them in expressive ways. (Right now, she is standing with her head slightly cocked, and her hands demurely folded on her chest. And it is fun to pose her).

I'm even thinking of ordering another one, so she has a friend.

Ugh, only Wednesday

Big weather change overnight - it was in the 70s yesterday, this morning it was in the upper 20s. I have a slight headache, probably related to this.

I have a field lab scheduled today - rescheduled from last week, when it was just too wet. I'm still taking it even though it's going to be cold and windy. I can suck it up for an hour and I expect the students will too. (An hour is about all the time we have in the field; it takes a good 25 minutes to get to the field site and the lab is 1 hour and 50 minutes long, which is really too short, but my other option is to have a longer lab but less lecture time and cover less material, and most of my labs are short. So changing up the schedule would mean an entire reworking of the labs.

I don't know. I don't have the energy to contemplate that at the moment. Having more time to do better field labs would be nice, but the disruption the change would cause and the amount of lead-time I'd need to change everything just isn't something I can contemplate right now.

I also have Elder's Meeting and Board Meeting tonight. Currently, these are fraught for me - we're small, we don't have really enough people to do everything, we don't bring in enough in donations, we don't have a permanent pastor and the student pastor who's been serving us for these couple years graduates in December, and if he gets a permanent position somewhere he won't be able to serve us any more. I don't know. Maybe I worry about this too much but I really don't want to contemplate "where will I go if we shut down?"

I also would so, so, so like to give up being Head Elder, I'm not doing a very good job at it because I'm too busy otherwise, but I don't see anyone else being willing to pick it up (and the people who would are already as busy as I am). Mainly what I do is schedule who serves (and then fret Sunday morning if one or both aren't there at the start of church). This is one of the things I do because I know it needs to be done and not because I love doing it.

I also have to bake two pans of brownies tonight; it's our CWF's turn to feed the college students at the Wesley Center. (There are three campus Christian groups: Baptist Student Ministry, Campus Church of Christ, and Wesley Center. Most of the other denominations, even including the Catholics, work through the Wesley Center, that's just been kind of traditional). I have the mixes and everything. I had planned on doing it yesterday but I forgot until after I did my workout in the afternoon and then I was just like "Forget it, I'm too tired, I'll do it tomorrow." I don't have much time today but I will have to MAKE time. 

I'm trying to look forward to Thanksgiving, and later, Christmas, but there's so much to do between now and then. And I was thinking this morning about "when will I make time to decorate for Christmas" immediately followed by "but if I'm doing the dance-aerobics work out (in my livingroom, which is where the dvd player is), I can't set up the little tree in its usual spot, because all the vibration from me bouncing around and doing the little jumps with my too-heavy body will knock stuff off of it" and then I thought Maybe I WON'T decorate this year and that made me all sad.

I don't know, still. I suppose there's somewhere else I could set up the tree in the living room (the room where I spend most of my waking hours) if I think about it a little but I'm just at that point where my problem-solving creativity is at a low ebb.

(And yes, I'm still going to get the new skiier, but it's complicated. Oh, is it complicated. I called the company (after doing an utterly useless online chat with another 'that's not my department' person) and talked to someone in Returns who actually knew what was going on. The thing is either going to be shipped out on the 15th or the 21st. Which means it might come while I'm out of town for Thanksgiving. She offered to cancel the order for me but if I did that and reordered when I got back.....well, it would be another round of Out Of Stock Currently and probably delivery would be while I'm gone for CHRISTMAS.

So I'm going to watch the tracking information when I get it, and I'm wracking my brains to think of someone sufficiently able-bodied to wrangle an 85 pound or so skiier and maybe, I don't know, put it in my garage or something (which would mean leaving the garage-door opener with them). It would have to be someone who is in town and for whom I would feel it wasn't too much of an imposition to ask them to drive up to my house. I have a colleague who could probably do it but he lives out of town and I just don't want to ask.

Or I just leave it on the porch for a couple days and hope it doesn't rain and that the local criminals don't steal it or use it to realize I'm not home and break in. I don't know. Sometimes I hate how hard the logistics of my life are. Or I call UPS and ask them if they can store it at the depot in Hugo and then desperately try to find a 2 hour plus slot when I can drive over there (Hugo is like an hour away) and pick it up.

I SUPPOSE I could see if the campus Print Shop would take delivery of it for me and I pick it up from them; that might be the easiest option. They'd be closed a couple days around Thanksgiving but UPS would know that and not take the thing out for delivery then. )

EVERYTHING feels complicated right now. This is one of those days when I wonder at children wanting so desperately to grow up; being a grown-up seems to have very little to recommend it right now.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Moments in history

Today is Veterans' Day, which used to be called Armistice Day, the commemoration of the end of hostilities in World War I. (I remember several years ago walking into Biostats on this day and having several students mid-argument as to whether it was Veterans' Day or Memorial Day. None of them had hear the old "The eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month" thing, which I remembered learning as a child. But then again, my grandmother had a brother who fought "over there" in the infantry, and who was gassed, and who came back here and then succumbed to pneumonia well before I was born - so I never got to meet him)

In the British Commonwealth countries, much more is made of Remembrance Day (as they call it) and it's a lot more like our Memorial Day - a day devoted to remembering specifically those who died in war. (Veterans' Day, here, much more is now about thanking living vets. I noticed that the local steakhouse place is doing a free dinner for any veteran today, which I consider a good thing). It seems that the UK, especially, commemorates and remembers WWI much more than the US does. I suppose that's because they were in it longer and lost far more men. (And even more so in some small towns in France and Belgium).

As I've said before, World War I seems like such a strange and senseless war to me - it's not like there was a clash of ideologies so much as some people wanting more territory, and another, dying empire wanting to prop itself up, and some paranoia, perhaps, among the rulers of a couple nations, and various ententes and agreements led to other countries getting dragged in....and while it may have been somewhat of a Glorious War for the aristocrats who got to charge around on horses and commandeer chateaux, for the ordinary foot soldier, it seems like it was pretty awful and pointless.

I remember some years ago reading a moderately horrifying story in, I think it was Smithsonian magazine, about early attempts to repair or cover up facial damage caused by war some cases, the men wound up wearing what were effectively tin masks, which looked okay if a little "off" in the black and white photos of the time but up close were perhaps even more unsettling than seeing the scars directly. Apparently this was also the beginnings of plastic surgery, and some men did manage to have many of their wounds repaired - though I'm sure early plastic surgery was harrowing to go through.

Added: Here's an interesting visual story about the things British soldiers carried over the years in different conflicts. I wonder if there's a comparable version for US soldiers, from the Revolutionary War up to today....I know there is a lot done here with Civil War history, perhaps to the American South it is somewhat analogous to what WWI was to parts of France and Belgium, in the sense that every small town sent young men and lots of them were lost....we have a Confederate Memorial statue in front of the courthouse here.


This is also the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. I do not know why I don't remember this better. I was a college student at the time, I had a television. (I remember watching, slightly shocked, the aftermath of the big earthquake in California that happened during the World Series). I guess I remember some of the news footage, of people jumping up and down and dancing because the wall was falling.

I do remember, later on, seeing people carrying chunks of the wall they had bashed off. Can you imagine? The thing that kept your city separated, that maybe kept you from being able to easily visit relatives, the thing that at the worst times would get you shot for trying to cross - just crumbling. And you've got a piece of it. I wonder how many pieces of the wall are still out there, held on to by people who were there, as a memory.

The scars are still there; from what I've read there's still inequality between East and West in a lot of ways, and that what used to be East Germany (and East Berlin) is still materially poorer and in worse condition. But I'm betting the thought of that didn't matter in 1989, when people in East Berlin got a hint that they would soon have more freedom.

And not too much later on, things changed so immensely. What I had learned in school as The Soviet Union fell apart and was replaced by a bunch of new countries (which, in a lot of cases, were actually old countries re-emerging) to learn. And I admit, as a kid who grew up during the tail end of the Cold War and who knew more than she probably should have about "minutes to midnight" and all that as a teen (I was a pretty tense teen, once I started actually paying attention to the news), I kind of breathed a sigh of relief, thinking, "well, at least now we're unlikely to be annihilated by nuclear bombs."

(And sadly, sometimes, it looks like the current leader of Russia really wants to re-assemble the old Soviet Union, and do stuff Soviet-style and all that. And in my bleaker moments of looking at world politics I wonder if we're close to some kind of Archduke Franz Ferdinand moment again, though perhaps not with the same countries involved as 100 years ago. And of course, there's the ugly and horrid re-emergence of anti-Semitism in some European countries, a scant 70 years after the previous inhumanities. I guess a couple generations is all it takes for us to forget the lessons of history?)

Monday, November 10, 2014

Making the rounds

This is making the rounds so I thought I'd do it, too. There's an online widget where you can map the various states and how much time you've spent in each one. The suggested code is:

  • red for states where you've not spent much time or seen very much.
  • amber for states where you've at least slept and seen some sights.
  • blue for states you've spent a lot of time in or seen a fair amount of.
  • green for states you've spent a great deal of time in on multiple visits.
I decided to leave red a few states I've passed through (Connecticut, Rhode Island, New York) on the way to Other Places but did not stay overnight.

Amber is places I stayed at least one night. Some of these are the result of family trips (Virginia - a years-ago trip to Williamsburg when I was a teen, Florida and Georgia were a spring break trip one year). Some are from meeting attendance (Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, and Nebraska - all Prairie Conferences).

I reserve blue for "multiple trips to multiple places in the state" (I have been lucky enough to have been to Hawaii four times, twice as a college-level workshop trip in Natural History of the Hawaiian Volcanoes). Texas gets blue because that's often where I go to shop and I've done fieldwork there.

Green is for states in which I officially lived, even if just for a short time. (Four months for West Virginia - I was born there but shortly after my family moved to Ohio). Longest residence is still Ohio, with Oklahoma drawing up on second (and likely to eventually surpass Ohio), then Illinois, then Michigan.

It seems parts of New England, the Northern Plains, and the Deep South are areas I've missed. Well, in recent years, that's partly the result of lack of conferences in those locations (I don't know many people who'd willingly go to Alabama in mid-summer for an ecology conference. Or Maryland, for that matter. And the Northern Plains states are probably too remote for too may people).

Places I'd really LIKE to go, sometime?

Louisiana, particularly to go see Covington and see if I can track down any record of the distant ancestors who supposedly had a home there. (And to see the Mississippi near its mouth. I'd also like to go to Itasca, Minnesota, someday, just to see the headwaters of it. Yes, my Bucket List is a little odd.)

New York, for similar reasons, apparently some of my mom's ancestors who didn't go to Massachusetts went there.

Maine, just because it seems like an interesting state to visit

Alaska, again because it seems like a really interesting place and a chance to see wildlife (or "wildlife" - I am not sure how wild musk ox still are) that I couldn't see elsewhere.

Honestly, some day I'd love to get a list of the towns that my distant ancestors lived in in Nova Scotia and the Maritimes and go up there and just poke around and see if I might still have any French-Canadian distant relatives left. (Probably would have to brush up on my French for parts of that, especially if I went into eastern Quebec).

I also apparently had some not-so-distant relatives who lived in Kansas (my paternal grandmother's parents originally lived there; my great-grandfather was some kind of high mucky-muck in the Kansas Democratic Party, back in the day)

Sunday, November 09, 2014

To give away

I wanted to give this its own post so it wouldn't get buried.

Most of the British knitting magazines I buy have free gifts that come with them. A recent issue of "Simply Knitting" came with a substitute for the US market - I presume maybe the UK gift was too heavy for shipping. The gift was a copy of "The Best of Sock Club" - ten patterns that were originally published in The Knitter. They are a mix of plain, colorwork, and fancy-stitch (lace or twisted stitch patterns).

I already have a copy of this that came with a copy of The Knitter a while back, so if someone would like my extra, I'd be happy to mail it out - first person who either comments or e-mails me gets it. (if you comment, you will need to e-mail me your address.)

First gift sock

I finished the first of the cabled gift socks this weekend, and got a decent amount done on the second one.

cabled gift sock

It's Jane Brocket's cabled sock pattern (from "The Gentle Art of Knitting"). The yarn is a Phydeaux Designs yarn; the colorway is called "Verdigris."

Here's more of a close up to show the cables:

cable close up

I'm thinking of sometime doing another pair of these for me, but using one of the wide-striping self-striping sock yarns.


I also started quilting again on the quilt in the frame. I turned the third corner on the border. I have one full side left to do and just a couple motifs on the fourth side. I'm already thinking about the next quilt - probably the French General (the second pictured one in this post.) fabrics one in the "plus sign" design. I'm also thinking about the borders. I can't find where I stowed most of my quilting stencils (annoying, because I finally got around to putting up the rack of hooks I got for hanging them) so I might just do a diagonal grid pattern on the wide borders.

I also have the Knickerbocker Glory quilt made out of the trompe-l'oeil insect prints that I want to hand-quilt. (Perhaps I should do that one first, as it's been finished the longest. Also, it will take no marking for the way I want to quilt it....)

I have backings for both these quilts, and I have batts that would work. (For a while, I was buying batting when it was on sale, with the thought - this was in the abyss of the economic downturn - that either it would become hard to find a shop that sold it or inflation would raise the price out of easy reach. I've got a lot of batting ahead....)


I also need to get back to crocheting on the Queen Chrysalis. And I'm thinking about MOAR ponies. I still want to make the Maude Pie (using my standard pattern - the modified fawn pattern). And I found a good name for an "OC"* character that's been batting around in my head - a gray Pegasus pony with a loopy coral-colored mane and tail and an open-book cutie mark. In my imagining of her, she's the librarian in a small Equestrian town called Whinnywood. I originally called her Pageturner in my mind, but I'm pretty sure there's someone else who uses that name for their made-up pony (I think they're also on DeviantArt under that name). And I don't like scooping someone else's name, especially someone kind of well-known. But I realized today I could call her Folio, which I don't think is being used, and also, given my inordinate love and huge collection of Folio Society books, that also pleases me. (She will probably be the next to crochet.)

(*"OC" stands for Original Character but I admit that, even though I never watched it, the first thing I think of was the soap-opera-esque show that used to be on in the early 2000s)

Also, I find myself at odd moments thinking about what I referred to as #weirdponies on Twitter - funny names that relate to an existing Pony, that are allegedly distant relatives.

Like, Pinkie Pie's south-of-the-border cousin, Tamale Pie.
And the secret-spy pony posing as a DJ: DJ PON-007

I came up with a few more:

Pinkie Pie's second cousin from whatever the Equestrian equivalent of Tennessee is: Moon Pie

Of course, Moon Pie has to have a boyfriend whose name is RC. (I can almost picture them: Moon Pie would have a lot of make-up on, and would wear the pony equivalent of cut-offs. And probably chew gum. And RC would wear a trucker cap.)

And Fluttershy has a male cousin who works at fairs in Trottingham. His name is Coconut Shy. (I don't know if coconut shies ever existed in the US; I only remember reading about them in British books. They're a type of carnival game).

And she has a cousin who has never been seen named Camerashy.

Saturday, November 08, 2014

Early Saturday morning

* I woke up earlier than normal for a Saturday and decided to just get up. (I slept better than I normally do, perhaps because....)

* The new exercise dvd came. It's called Dance X Fitness and I tried it out yesterday afternoon. It's quite a workout:

- I'm not in as good shape as I thought, it made me seriously winded and I'm a little sore this morning.
- The workout is just about 50 minutes long, which is a good length - not too short that you have to do it twice if you have greater fitness needs, but not so long it would be hard to fit in in a day
- I liked it pretty well. It's fairly low-impact, though if you had real knee problems, you might want to modify a few of the moves
- It helps that the guy who does the video seems to have a sense of humor about it. He smiles through the whole workout. And he refers to the different moves by slightly silly names ("Light bulb! Light bulb!" for a move where you're sort of twisting your arms over your head, like changing a light bulb). At one point he referred to the "window washing" arm move as "wax on, wax off!" and I actually laughed. (You are on your feet the entire time, either marching in place, or side stepping, or something). The man who leads it is either African or West Indian; he has a very slight accent but he is not hard to understand.
- It's harder than I thought to do the twist for an extended period of time - he said he liked the move because it works "your core" (I assume that means abdominals and back, and my abdominals definitely need work).
- the other move I couldn't do the full time of what what he called "trotting," which is essentially like that weird Gagnam-style move (you can probably visualize it now). It's really hard on the calf muscles and also the quadriceps.
- He seems very big on working "the core" and also the quadriceps. Which are probably muscle groups the skiier doesn't work as well. 
- He also includes a good cool-down period of stretches and moves designed to relax the muscles you just spend 45 minutes stressing.

However, I could see doing the video on a regular basis. There's nothing awful about it, the music isn't dumb or intrusive, and the guy's attitude makes it a lot easier to do.

IF I ever hear back from the cross-country ski place and get my new skiier, maybe I will do that a couple days a week but do this video the other days. It's easy enough to do first thing in the morning. And it definitely is a good workout, it got my heart rate up fast and kept it up.

Maybe if I keep working "my core" I will get a more-hourglassy figure back. I used to have a more extreme hip to waist differential but I've lost that a little with age, and I'd like to get a narrower waist back. And anyway, having strong abdominal muscles means your back is less likely to hurt.

So, I would recommend it. Maybe if you're super-fit, you'd find it not that hard. Or if you have a hard time marching or doing small jumps or other kinds of on-your-feet moves for 50 minutes, it might not be for you. (Or if you have real balance problems - in a couple points of the cool-down, you are standing on one foot, and at that point I had to grab on to the side of the piano for a little support.)


I wound up not going to JoAnn's. For one thing, it's harder to get to both sides of 69/75 right there at the moment - they're rebuilding one of the bridges.

Also, when I went to the bookstore, they had what I mainly would have wanted from JoAnn's: the new Simply Knitting was in.

AND Knit Now. I haven't seen Knit Now there in a LONG time. They must only get it in intermittently. And I bought a crochet magazine that had several very cute patterns for tree ornaments (including four little birds - this was a US magazine, so they were birds we have - a cardinal, a titmouse, a goldfinch, and a bluebird).

AND: there is a new Jane Austen Knits out! I didn't even know they were doing one of these this year. So I got it. There are several pairs of socks I'd like to make and a shrug-type garment I might want to make.

I also got a few "special" Christmas cards for friends: I have a few friends I exchange cards with where we used to exchange gifts, but at some point decided just to do cards, but I like to find special cards. So I got the neat "pop up" cards to send to them.

I also got my silly cards at Target. On CPAAG, we do a silly card exchange at the holidays (not everyone on there celebrates Christmas, so often we just send silly cards. If I get someone I KNOW celebrates Christmas I might send her one of my regular Christmas cards, but usually I just get the funny "thinking of you" cards).  Target has a pretty good selection of silly cards, so I got a bunch there.

That actually went a long way toward cheering me up after some of the difficult/sad things from the past week. (I also bought some packages of silly stickers; I like to include a sheet of stickers in the cards.)

The card exchanges have some of the same elements of the old Secret Santa exchanges that we used to do when I was in grad school (which I enjoyed immensely and kind of miss now). That's why I enjoy them.

I also ran to Brookshires. Their stuff IS more expensive, but a lot of their stuff is better-quality and it's nice to have cheerful checkout people rather than slightly surly ones.

Friday, November 07, 2014

presented without comment

It's just been a day of difficult human interactions. I'm going to quickly try to finish writing this exam and then go have some lunch, and then hit the JoAnn's and the "big" (better than wal-mart) grocery store.

I can do the rest of the work I need to do tomorrow morning.

Thursday, November 06, 2014

Sop to feelings

As a sop to my generally cranky, tired, and sad feelings, I took my short break (1:30 until 4) and ran the two quilt tops and backings down to the quilt shop. They're now in the queue.

However, the woman who took my information on them said it would be mid-March at the earliest. I said I was okay with that. (I am, I mean, I'd LIKE them earlier but there's no deadline on these, they're just for me. And with that many projects stacked up, well, that means that the person who owns the shop and does the quilting is making decent money and has demand for her work, which means the shop is more likely to keep on keepin' on, so I really am okay with it).

She was also kind of apologetic about the estimated costs, but I get that it takes time and skill and really, it's pretty reasonable (just over $100 for a twin-bed sized top with my choice of design and thread color and batting). And if I've put in the time to sew the top, I am willing to put in the money to pay for it to be quilted. (And this is where my "extra pay" as Full Professor - such as it is - goes).

You don't pay until the quilt is done. At one point they were having people do a 25% deposit, but I guess either they don't do that any more, or they waive it for people they know.

All the women at the shop are friendly but the one who helped me today (I don't remember seeing her until recently, she must be a new hire) was more talkative than most. (I suspect a couple of the women who work there are kind of shy). It was nice to be able to talk to someone for a bit about stuff that wasn't work-related; I miss that during the week.

There's a quilt group in town and I'd go, except they meet when I'm in class. But it would be nice to be able to talk to someone about fun crafty stuff on a more regular basis.

Now, I have to grab a snack (I came back home to practice a bit more piano. Lessons are on hiatus until DST starts up again (a scheduling thing; the teacher has to teach late in the day and she doesn't want to have to cross the Roosevelt Bridge in the dark, and I don't blame her) but I want to keep up my chops, such as they are.)

And then it's afternoon class.
And then it's AAUW.

And I am so done with this week. (I'm actually glad now Krav Maga was cancelled; I think I'm going to make a JoAnn's and Target run on Saturday.)

Random for Thursday.

* Had a student ask me if my 8-9 office hours were 8-9 PM. My response was actually kind of like Regular Time's Benson's: "ha ha ha. No."

I was a little nicer than that but seriously? When I'm teaching an 8 am class two days a week, someone thinks I would hold 8 pm office hours? (I think the building is even locked up for the night by then).

* I managed to cut down the Cream of Tomato Soup recipe from Lost Recipes to use an 8-ounce can of sauce and make just enough for two servings. Granted, the sauce is probably less strongly flavored than canned tomatoes would be (the only canned tomatoes I had were big, 28-ounce cans of the Cento brand I buy, and I didn't feel like making 7 cups of soup. And I looked at the Green Spray but they had NO!!! cans of tomatoes that were low-sodium at all. So I just used the "no salt added" sauce I keep on hand)

How you do it:

Melt about a tablespoon of butter. Saute a little bit of onion in it (I used freeze-dried shallots, because I didn't feel like cutting into an onion just to use 1/4 or less of it).

Then add about a tablespoon of flour (this is for thickening). Cook for about a minute, then add a cup of milk (I used a small can of evaporated milk topped up with regular milk). Stir to mix, and add your seasonings now (I added a TINY bit of salt - the tomatoes are unsalted - and basil, you could add whatever you want). The recipe I had called for a little honey, I added about a teaspoon of golden syrup but I might leave it out next time, it made things a little sweet.

Then add the tomatoes. I used an 8-ounce can of sauce but I suspect a blended-up small can of whole tomatoes would be even better. I added a little tomato paste (I get the tubes of Cento, which are very handy to have) to make it more tomatoey.

Another thing I didn't do: the recipe, like many of these, called for adding a little baking soda to the tomatoes. This mellows the acid a little but it also adds more sodium and I've never found canned tomatoes to be too "bitey," so I left it out.

It made enough for a serving plus some to put away for another meal.

* One of the things I like about Folio Society is that they have a blog. (It's open to everyone, not just members, to read). Periodically they do features on someone-or-other's home library. These tend to be Very British, and I mean that in a good way.

This month's is James Howland Beers.

It's a lovely library, one of his interests is the Napoleonic wars, and he also has his small childhood collection of Britains toy soldiers on display. And he bemoaned poorly-made bookcases: "a lot of bookcases on the market are not actually structurally meant to handle books." Elsewhere there's a description of bookcases (maybe not his, I don't remember) collapsing in the middle of the night and spilling their contents. (My "main" bookcases are some I saved my money up for and had custom made, of oak, by people who knew how much books weighed and made them sturdy enough, But I have had cheap bookcases with shelves that got swaybacked after a few years)

He also notes 'I have driven the occasional wife quite crazy.*' Heh. I look at that and almost think "Challenge accepted." (I have a LOT of books. Of course, Mr. Beers is probably currently married and also well out of my age bracket (he refers to having seen the current Queen's coronation, and it's implied he was older than a child during that time)

But yeah. I have a LOT of books. And my books are important to me. And I openly admit it would be a dealbreaker if I started dating a guy, he saw my collection of books and either made fun of me for having so many or started pressuring me to get rid of them.

(*However, he notes that one specifically in the context of "we moved, and I wanted to set up the bookcases before we put together anything resembling a functional kitchen." Mmmmn, I'm not so sure I'd have a lot of trouble with that. Yes, if the bed weren't properly set up. (When you move, the FIRST thing you do is set up and make the bed, the second thing you do is get out the towels and some soap, so that when you're just beat and ready to quit for the night you can shower and go straight to bed)

I always enjoy seeing other people's libraries. His looks particularly comfortable to me.


Well, this has been one of those "14 years and 4 months and I can retire with a full pension" days. Gigglers giggling in my class, people talking I had to stop and glare at.

Faculty meeting full of dire news:
 - there's probably required faculty training coming on "dealing with an active shooter situation" though it sounds like the training basically tells you you're probably gonna die

- some weird bad stuff from the financial officer that suggests I may be in violation of some bookstore statute by having my labs copied and distributing them for free rather than having them bound and sold through the bookstore. The problem with this (other than that others profit from my work) is that I have a few labs that are essentially "creative commons" - their writers gave me permission to use them PROVIDED they are not sold in any way. Which would mean I'd have to come up with new labs.

- Also that maybe we're wrong for having potlucks that aren't catered by the campus cafeteria. I'm sorry, no. Just, no. That's not gonna happen, not in this department. (And I think the cafeteria food has too much salt for me. And besides, it's institutional food, which is almost never very good.)

I have my late-afternoon class followed by AAUW. I've had a headache most of the day and I'm really ticked off at those giggly students still. Giggling is okay when something is actually FUNNY in class, it's not okay when your professor says "basic" to mean "simple" or "fundamental" and you take it in the Urban Dictionary meaning like "basic b*tch" (I think that's what they're laughing at, every time I use the word they giggle. It's freaking annoying. It's like being in Pee-Wee's Playhouse but not being clued into the concept of there being a Secret Word. I admit today I did my best to say "fundamental" instead and it ANNOYS me that they are "training" me to change my behavior.)

Anyway, I just hate the whole concept of "basic b*tch," it feels misogynist and sort of classist to me. And very, very judgey. And when people are judgey it makes me angry.

Sigh. On good days I enjoy what I do. And I even say, on the really good days, "Maybe I'll keep teaching until 70 like my parents did, or even until 75 if my health holds up" (Because I know I get bored and twitchy without something meaningful to do). I COULD retire at 60 (or just a couple months past it; we're on "rule of 90" which means that your age + years of service has to add to 90 for a full pension, and at 60 (or rather, 60 1/2), I will have put in 30 years.