Friday, August 22, 2014

HAVE to share

Because not everyone who reads here is on Twitter. Purlewe linked to this and it is something that made my day better. (And my day wasn't too bad to begin with).

It's Popsonnets. A Tumblr dedicated to rewriting pop songs in the sonnet form.

I love this so much. This kind of thing is the thing that makes me laugh the hardest. And I give crazy mad props to whoever does these, because sonnets are DIFFICULT to write. Also, these actually go slightly for a Shakespearean or Spenserian or otherwise "old style" way of using syntax and grammar, and that makes them extra wonderful to me.

My favorite one on that site, Because of Reasons:

(Actually, that one sounds a bit Elizabeth Barret Browning to me. Or perhaps Edna St. Vincent Millay.)

Many of the songs on there are very recent pop songs and I really don't listen to current pop so they're kind of lost on me, but they do have some older ones like "YMCA" (which is also very funny in sonnet form) and "Stayin' Alive" (Which also is also very funny in sonnet form).

Yes, I know, I'm easily amused. But blessed are the easily amused for they shall have no shortage of things to laugh at.

First week done

* Oh my goodness this week has felt long. Well, both weeks since I've been back have felt LONG, last week because of the meetings and the end-of-the-week freakout from the city. But this week was just long because of it being the "shakedown cruise" for this semester. Fortunately, still no major problems. I did have one person (a freshperson) who was slightly freaked out about their lab schedule ("What day of the week is 'R'?") but luckily that's an easy question to answer. (Lots of universities use R to designate Thursday, if they have to use a one-letter abbreviation. Or maybe R is for Ruh-Roh, because Thursday is my longest teaching day of the week)

* I feel like I need to do something relaxing and slightly celebratory this weekend. Depending on how things go this afternoon/evening, I might either make Skillet Mac and Cheese again (yes, it was that good, it's going in the regular rotation) or something like onion soup. I did my big grocery shopping (at Voldemart) the other day and they had bags of sweet onions on a decent price. (Yes, I know most people like stronger onions for things like soup but sometimes the harsher onions don't agree with me). That also means I don't have to grocery shop this weekend - I have just over a gallon and a half of milk in the fridge and that should keep me for a while. (Milk is often the biggest problem because Green Spray resists carrying organic milk, which I really prefer, so that's one thing I have to hit the wal-mart for.)

* I do want to trim around the yaupon hollies in the front yard, and at least make a stab at the north garden. If it's not too hot when I get done for the day today....I'm also going to take all my bags full of yardwaste to the dump. I'll have to pay for it but I just want them gone and I'd rather pay the $14 than get told, "No, you're back on the agenda, there are GARBAGE BAGS in your backyard." Also, with as hot as it's been, I really don't want that stuff to turn into silage.

ETA: the city landfill is open until noon on Saturdays. Awesome. (Most everything else city shuts down on Saturday). I can take my stuff then AND if I get some trimming done this afternoon that can go.

*Yeah, I'm really going to have to toe the line yardwise for a while, there's a nasty little clause in the letter from the city saying that if your yard is in violation again in the coming six months (and I presume that means it gets extra scrutiny), you HAVE to appear before the board. Bunch o' busybodies. And also, I suspect this stuff is very unfairly applied; it seems some people skate through with various violations (There is one street which is really too narrow and curvy for safe on-street parking, but because the person who owns the apartments on that street is Big and Important, nobody says boo. I'm just waiting for the inevitable horrible head-on collison when someone who is trying to thread past the parked cars can't get out of the way of someone who is barreling along in the opposite direction....)

Also I will just note in passing that the neighbors to the south of me have grass in their front yard that is a foot tall. I thought maybe my mowing Monday would set off  the chain of neighborhood peer-pressure, but it seems not to have worked. (And yes, the neighbors are in town; I've *heard* them - they have a teen who likes loud bassy music)

* I have poison ivy on my arms (not bad) and a hurty/itchy spot close to one eye that I suspect might be poison ivy. Oh well. It'll go away eventually. The blisters are slowly healing up; it seems that keeping them covered and keeping antibiotic cream on them speeds healing. (I have a Hello Kitty bandage on each index finger this morning. I wore SpongeBob bandages yesterday because they matched what I was wearing better. No, I don't own any allegedly-flesh-colored bandages at the moment. I figure if I'm going to have an injury, I'd rather cover it up with a piece of pink plastic with Hello Kitty on it than a piece of pinkish brown plastic that's still obvious that I have a bandage on. Perhaps that leads people to look at me a bit strangely but I don't care too much at this point.)

* I want to get back to working on the Queen Chrysalis but seeing as it's crocheted, tightly, out of slightly scratchy and hard acrylic yarn, I think I better wait for the blisters to be 100% healed, because they are right where I would carry the yarn to tension it. I've even had to be kind of careful about knitting when the blisters were at their worst.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

for future reference

I need to think on it more, but there's a statement (well, more than one) in The Shadow Syllabus that struck me, and I want to think more about it and see what it means to me:

"Our flaws make us human; steer toward yours. I steer toward mine. That won’t always be rewarded in “the real world.”"

I spend so much time trying to run from (at least some of) my flaws that....I don't know. This might also be tied up with the fear of failure or fear of "looking stupid" that prevents me from taking more chances in life, like submitting a manuscript to a "long shot" journal.

I'll have to think on it more.

Back to knitting

Two ongoing projects.

First, the High Street Vest from helloknitty:

start of High Street

I'm using KnitPicks Galileo in the color "firefly" for this one. It's a very yellowish green that is one of my favorite colors.

This is just a simple vest but it will be a nice layering piece because it's not too heavy a fabric. (Galileo is a sportweight).

And second, the Aestlight shawl from Gudrun Johnson:

Start of aestlight

This one is being knit of a Phydeaux Designs yarn (one of the sockweight ones, I forget exactly which) in the colorway called "alchemy."

Again, it's nice to have the time again to knit, after a week of crazy meetings and then a weekend of all yardwork.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Back in schedule

I'm much happier and work better with a schedule. And when there isn't anything bad-unusual going on in my life.

It was a relief yesterday to go home at the end of the day and not feel like I had to rush out and mow or weed or cut brush or something. (There is still some trimming I want to do, but it's not urgent. I might do it Friday afternoon if it's not death-hot like they're predicting. Or, failing that, first thing Saturday before it gets hot).

All but one of my classes have met; no major problems. One student got bad advisement and wasn't put in a lab section but I was able to fix that for her. I'm back to sorting soil invertebrates again. We have a new edition of a textbook for Principles I so my "prep" for teaching will be done a little earlier than normal because I have to put new diagrams and maybe add new information in to the lecture material.

But the thing is, all of these things make me happy, because they are all things I feel like I have control over. I think a lot of misery in the world comes when people feel (rightly or wrongly) situations are out of their control, that some human other than them has the say over how things are done. And humans are notoriously fickle and prone to things like tit-for-tat. I think that's partly what was going on with all my agony over the yard: while yes, I do control when I get the flowerbeds weeded and stuff, I felt like I had NO control over what the city was saying and that I wasn't being given very good information and like the rules were changing on the fly.

It's very different when I'm sitting in my office revising lecture material - I have more or less the final say on how I present it, it's all up to me to get it done, I don't have to wait on anyone.

Having some sense of "local control" is especially helpful when I find watching the news for more than five minutes makes me frustrated and sad because it seems like so much of the rest of the world has spun out of control. (My prayers lately are not that far different from what I asked my father when I was six and accidentally stepped on a piece of dollhouse furniture: "Daddy, it's broken. Can you fix it, please?"). Oh, I know part of being a sane adult is knowing what you do and do not have control over, and I do know that, it's just, it frustrates me when it seems most things going on around me are things I have no control over.

Back to that student who needed to be advised into a lab. I occasionally get students with some kind of problem like that. Sometimes it happens because someone in an office somewhere just had a brain cramp and forgot to do something. Sometimes there's a bit of red tape that needs to be unsnarled. I once commented that I didn't like having power, but I guess this is a tiny bit of power I do have that I enjoy using. It feels good to be able to call up the registrar, give my name and affiliation, say, "I have a student here in my office and it says they're not cleared for online enrollment but it looks to me like all their paperwork is fine" and have the person on the other end of the line say "Okay, we're fixing it now, you should be able to enroll them in thirty seconds" and have it be done. I do this mainly for what I would call Golden Rule reasons: I remember having been an undergraduate student (on a campus much larger than this one, and in times that were less "student-centered") and having some horrible red-tape problem, and getting ping-ponged between different offices to try to resolve it. (And on that campus, the offices were open from 8 am to noon and again from 1 to 4. Good luck if you were a science student with a lot of long afternoon labs....)

One thing I learned, slightly to my surprise, when I became faculty, was that nine times out of ten, when a faculty member called an office on a student's behalf, and it genuinely was a red-tape issue, the red-tape issue got miraculously resolved over the phone - no making the student run from office to office, no bucks being passed, minimal frustration on the student's part. And it makes me go "hmmmm" a little, remembering all the times I was handed a paper and told to go to Office A to get it stamped, and then turn it in for a receipt at Office B, which then had to be taken to Office C.

And so being able to cut through all that is a kind of power. Not necessarily a power that benefits me, but it benefits somebody, so I use it. (And I admit, at times, I wish there was someone who would do that for me in some cases). Now, granted, if the problem isn't just of the red-tape variety, if it's something the student brought upon themselves, I expect them to do the clearing-up themselves. I'm not going to call and petition an office on behalf of someone who got on Academic Probation because they skipped so many classes and didn't hand in work. And if someone comes in with an advisement hold because of parking tickets, I'm going to tell them to go pay off the darn tickets, or at least make a payment PLAN. (We occasionally get students who rack up multiple hundreds of dollars of unpaid tickets). But yeah. Being able to call up an office and say, "I know this student is 'legal' to enroll in classes via the online interface, but it's saying she can't. Is this something you can fix?" and having it be fixed, that feels like something I have control over, and it feels good.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Really too bad

It's really too bad this summer was so expensive for me and I have to scale back on spending for a while, because I found the Design Toscano site and am now laughing over the statuary I could buy for my backyard, if only I weren't so skint.

The one that made me laugh the hardest (but which I might not buy, considering that people might get strange ideas about me) is one of a replica of a very famous fountain from Brussels.

(Actually, my paternal grandparents had a statue - they had a bunch of lawn statuary - of that very boy. My dad talks about how at some point when he was a kid he was mildly scandalized by the statue and *tried to blow it up with firecrackers*.)

My grandparents also had an American eagle (which my parents inherited) and a fountain with one of those weird ancient-Greek-esque interpretations of what they thought a dolphin looked like (it looked more like a big eel). And they had a St. Francis.

I'm not Catholic (my grandparents were), but actually, if I were going for any kind of religious themed statuary, St. Francis is a pretty nice choice. (Bonus: this one can work as a birdfeeder)

One of my neighbors up the street from me has one that is like this dragon (theirs is painted, and looks more like a sea serpent) and I always thought it was kind of cool.

They also have a life-sized sheep (And other life sized animals). I'd want to put that in the middle of the yard, though, and then it would be a real pain to mow and edge around.

Like I said, I feel too broke to consider buying statuary for my yard but I admit it's fun to look at the site and envision something like a giant silverback gorilla statue sitting there to greet anyone who might happen to look over my fence.

 Or, I could just get a few pink flamingos. I could probably afford those. Heh. I wonder what the historical-preservation types would say: my house was built in 1946 and the first flamingos came out only about 10 years later. So it could be argued it was in keeping with the era of the house...

I've also seen statues of mooning garden gnomes.

Oh, and Lynn: One of the things my dad found in his office clear-out was a little plaque that someone gave him once that said, "A messy desk is a sign of genius." I really wanted to steal it and put it in my office but he didn't seem ready to give it up yet. (And I come by my messy desk-ness honestly, it seems.)

Monday, August 18, 2014

And it's done

* The tree guy showed up as I was gearing up to mow the lawn. Very apologetic. He lives a couple towns north of here (I knew that) and left all his paperwork at home, so when he got here, he figured, "Let's just do it and then negotiate a fair price"(so we did). And I now see he also took some of the extra lower limbs off the trees that remained, so it's really very clear back there.

* The tree guy calls me "girl" which just amuses me. I mean, I feel like the little tiny feminist part of me should be offended, but the thing is, people around here do say "girl" sometimes as a sort of nickname. And it's said affectionately. And also, it amuses me because I think my tree guy is younger than I am (though I perhaps look younger because I don't work outdoors most of the day). People tend to assume I'm younger than I actually am. Most of the time that is okay and is actually kind of funny but in a few cases (like with certain admins, or with the attorney who was involved with helping me do the paperwork to buy my house) it becomes patronization, and that makes me mad.

* My piano teacher also calls me "girl" but women, especially women who are old enough to be an older sister or aunt kind of get a pass on stuff like that. I'd be a little squicked if certain men called me "honey" but a couple of the older ladies at church call me that and it just makes me happy.

* The tree guy also said if I could find a landscaper willing to go up on a roof, they could remove all the catkins, or, failing that, when he comes back to trim my trees in the fall he could do it. So for now I'm not going to worry but this means....say it with me....I may finally get the broom off my roof.

* I even more want to get lilyturf to put back there. (Not the spreading kind - I want to get L. muscari, which is the "nice" kind that does not spread aggressively. It's in the asparagus family, I didn't know that.)

* Lawn is mowed and edged. Someone the other day (Nicole, maybe, or Chris) commented that getting someone makes sense if I don't like the work but the thing is, when I can find the time for it, I kind of do. It's meditative and I have to admit edging feels like officially sanctioned destruction, and sometimes it feels good to be able to destroy something but for a good reason.

*The lawn looks darn near perfect now. I will perhaps mow it again Sunday if we get much rain or it seems to be growing so it looks really good when the abatement boss-lady comes to check. I mean, I bet I'm probably 100% in the clear but I just want to be sure. This is a weird unfortunate little thing in my personality: the "I'll show you!" trait. Coupled with perfectionism. Oh, in some cases it's a good thing (I earned an A in Physics II because the professor was so rude and terrible and essentially said that summer students were wastrels who couldn't pass the class in the regular semester and wouldn't in the summer, and I was all "oh yeah? Watch me")

*As I was finishing up, one of the AAUW ladies came by to drop off some material I need for the yearbook (I type it up every year - I have it as a file on the computer and it only takes minimal changing). And she kind of sighed and said, "I just love your hair. It has just that little bit of a natural curl." So, okay. Maybe my gripe about my hair always being a mess is something I see that other people don't necessarily see. (And having had a friend with thinning hair, I suppose I should be grateful for messy but thick hair.)

* I have a couple of ripe tomatoes so I might make a tomato sandwich for dinner. They don't look wonderful (it's been hot then cold here, and I think that negatively affects their growth) but hopefully they are still edible enough to make a decent sandwich.

* And then there's this: Calming Manatee. I think it's actually linked to a manatee-conservation site (occasionally one will pop up suggesting an adopt-a-manatee program) but it's essentially manatee macros. But these manatees seem to use better grammar than some of the LOLcats out there.

There's this one, which I should probably print out and put up in my office:

And this one, which just kind of makes me laugh. (The "SpongeBob SquarePants Paradox" - how do they have campfires under the sea?) But of course a calming manatee would make tea.

Guy has been

I'm surprised he didn't call me with an estimate. But when I got home, the brush pile in front was gone, and there was this:

holy Moses no more brushpile

You have to understand: there was a  huge ugly pile of brush there. It started out as a leaf pile (and bless the guy, he left most of the leaves there because I had commented I wanted to keep part of them as I used the humus in my garden) but all the horrible cut brush and clippings from earlier tree trimmings and everything is gone.

I can't believe the guy would do all that for free but I also can't believe he'd do it without checking with me first about the cost. (I left a message for him saying I'd be home the rest of the day and would be ready to pay him, so he can call back and tell me if he intended it to be free. And if it is free, two things:

1. he is my forever tree guy and I am telling everyone who mentions needing tree work about how awesome he is.
2. I am going to write a check, probably to my church, in the amount that I am guessing it would have cost me. Pay it forward a little bit.

I almost cried when I saw everything was gone because I was so relieved.

I called the city. This time I talked to the "big boss" of this department and also very carefully modulated my voice "down" so it was softer and sweeter than it normally is. (Not quite Fluttershy voice but you get the idea). She was amenable to the idea of taking me off the agenda and said she'd come back on Monday and check to be sure (she had to) but that she's "sure" I'm good. She also sympathized about how people are having to mow more because of the rain.

She then asked me if I had had any trouble with the neighbors to the south. Not really, I said, I do notice their front yard grass is a little tall, I said, but maybe they're out of town right now. She said ANOTHER neighbor (and I know just who it was based on her description of how the properties are related, and I'm not surprised) was complaining many times to her because these folks don't take their trash can back up after garbage day. I don't think it's mandated you do but I always bring mine up just because I think it looks tidier and also when we get high winds I don't want it blowing over and cracking.

She also said she couldn't see into their backyard to check on stuff that has been complained about. Hm. Makes me think maybe if I need to replace the chainlink fence some time a high paling fence would make sense.

Also, secretly? Now that my garden is a lot nuder I kind of want to get some kind of big crazy garden statue for out there. Maybe a big ugly toad or a foo dog or something. (I've seen zombies-emerging-from-the-ground but that's not quite my style). Or maybe just get a few nice big hopefully-slightly-allelopathic perennials to put in there. (Allelopathic, because that might keep down the weeds.) Or a couple of those concrete deer that people used to have.

I might get some liriope (I used to hate it but I now see its utility) and plant it around the naked base of my elm tree to try to keep down the weeds. I don't know much about this stuff (also known as lily turf) Anyone familiar? What's the best time of year to plant it?

the human condition

This is making the rounds of the internet this morning. It might just be a cute funny dog video, or it might be a metaphor for all of us:

Two thoughts: See how he seems to give up for a moment when the ball rolls out of his reach? I've been there. (And yeah, he goes back and keeps trying).

But then, when he seems totally frustrated....well, realize that his human is there filming him. And they just let him struggle and reach and never get the ball. And they don't help. And yeah, helping too fast is a problem and people need to be able to do stuff for themselves....but there comes a point where you're just never gonna reach the ball with your short little legs, or it's too far away to clamp your mouth down on it. And I don't know but it seems a little heartless of the human not to help. (Maybe he did after the camera stopped rolling, I don't know).

I dunno. I feel tired and kind of down this morning. (And the tree guy hasn't called with the estimate yet. I'm telling myself that something probably came up and he'll call later, but oh how I want this just over with.) Some of it is allergies, I always feel kind of "broken" when my allergies are bad, but also part of it is that last week was just such a bad news week all around in the world that I'm almost afraid to think what a coming week could throw at us to top it. (Also, locally: my church owns some small apartments that we rent out for a reasonable price. Well, we had to evict someone for multiple months' nonpayment of rent. They ripped the door off its hinges and punched holes in the drywall and someone (could have been someone else, because the door no longer locked) stole the nearly-new refrigerator out of the place. We have NO money so repairing this is going to be awful. (I fully expect the congregation will be closing down in the next few years short of more members joining. Money is always an issue even with the rental income, and it's going to be taken up now to do these repairs, which are necessary, because the building is currently condemned because of the state it's in. No, taking the person to court is not really an option here).

Everything just feels broken in the world right now.

ETA: well, my piano teacher e-mailed me to start setting up fall lessons, so there's THAT. But still, the bigger world feels very broken and screwed up.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Good faith effort

ETA: My tree guy just called. He has some time tomorrow morning so he and his worker will come out, check out the brushpiles, call with an estimate, and if everything is agreeable, the brushpiles will be GONE by midday. My tree guy is *awesome*.

Hopefully that means this is almost sorted and I can go down to the city Tuesday afternoon with photos of the cleaned-up areas and ask (respectfully of course) to have my property taken off the agenda.

(I'm thinking the city may use what is, for a person like me, needlessly draconian language because there are a few people who would ignore a notice from the city to cut their lawn or something without the threat of fines. But for a rule-follower like me, it makes me feel all squidgy and bad and like that "permanent record" that we worried about in school still exists but is now part of the city bureaucracy. Still, the employees COULD be nicer when you talk to them on the phone, IMHO...)

I sincerely hope. I didn't take "before" pictures as I just wanted to get into it, and I am going to assume the city has them if they really want to prove my yard was a pit. But. This is what I did this weekend:

brushpile 1

That brushpile is almost as tall as I am. I started hauling it out to the street when I thought that maybe bulky waste would take it (forgetting that we only get bulky waste once a month, unlike my parents' town, where it's weekly). But it will be easy for my tree guy to haul off this way.

Brushpile 2, handsaw boogaloo

This is a second, smaller brushpile by my back fence. I'm assuming that the lock on the fence is still workable so that when the tree guy comes, I can just unlock the gate for him. If not, they can probably throw it over the fence into the trailer.

But this means that there is now NOTHING leaning on the back edge of my fence, or on the fences shared with neighbors. (It was unclear where the "leaning sapling" was so I just went for destruction:)

bare fence 2

bare fence 1

Nothing touching the fence. ("Can't touch this....fence"?)

I also got rid of the one patch of grass that could have been construed as "tall." Its tallest height was about 6" and it's at 12" we're supposed to get in trouble over. (It makes me think about the raunchy old joke about why women are bad at estimating lengths, based on the lengths have claimed.)

no more tall grass

And I ripped stuff out. Oh, did I rip stuff out. All the gardens in the backyard have been weeded.

garden with tomatoes

(That tall stuff is fennel and I'll be hanged if I cut that down. Considering that people have bahia grass and even cane that gets taller than this.)

another nude garden

nude gardens

They look kind of sad and crummy right now. If I had more energy and didn't fear I was going to have to spend a lot of money in the near future on whatever (I'm guessing the next complaint will be that my garage needs to be painted), I'd get some plants and put them in.

Also, yeah, I need to get the pecan catkins off my roof but I think I need to hire someone for that (No idea what the job title is for someone who goes up on a roof and clears it off). I'm not so steady on ladders any more.


And that's what came out of those gardens (plus some from the back of the lot). Six and a half lawn-sized bags. No, I don't have room in my roll cart for them; not sure what I'm going to do. Maybe beg the use of a pickup for an hour and drive them down to the dump myself. (It's mostly dayflower.)

I'm filthy and I smell and I have a bite or sting on my neck (I thought it was a fire ant but looking at it in the mirror I think it's actually an halictid bee; it doesn't have the characteristic fire-ant blister and it hurt way out of proportion to its size)

I couldn't bring myself to hit the one last area I wanted to hit, the narrow garden on the north side of the house. And this is why I tell people who think of moving to the South for gardening to think very, very hard: I had this area pretty well cleared a MONTH ago.  The tall stuff in the far background are my rosemary bushes, so this is kind of looking the opposite way from the sixth photo in the series.

area of concern

I'm hoping the city will allow a little leniency on that for a while. Because my Monday task (sigh) is going to be to mow the lawn again; it's starting to get taller then the 3-4" I prefer.

Also, I really want the burst blisters to heal a little before I mess with pulling stuff again. (No photos as it's really gross and I don't want to squick people out.)

I estimate that between Friday, yesterday, and today, I probably put in close to 10 hours working on this.

and something different

I finally wore something that worked with the Belvedere cardigan, so here are photos.

(They are truly hideous photos of me. My allergies are bad and one eye is partially hived up. I hate the way I look in this photo but I don't have the energy to try to take another one.)


I liked the pattern and it knit up quickly. On break, I finished the second front in a bout a day and each of the sleeves in about a day.

I will say I don't think I'll use "Sweater" (Spud and Chloe) again. It's a high-cotton content yarn and I"m just not that great a fan of cotton. And blocking it took a lot of effort because it wanted to stretch all over the place - one of the big faults of cotton, in my mind.

I wish I could think of more happy things to say about this but right now I'm so mired in worrying about my yard and everything that I can't. (It's raining right now and if it doesn't stop after church I won't be able to finish today)

Here are the buttons, which I picked out at the dressmaker shop up in Illinois:


(Dangit, why did I ever leave Illinois? At least there yards were controllable, not full of weedy monsters that grew three inches overnight)

(Long time readers might notice that I changed the little title card a while back, it used to have an "obsessed with cleaning" line in it - because the literary fillyjonks are - I've decided I just have to accept the fact that I am a SLOB and own that. I'm a slob about my office; I get written up by Safety for having too many papers stacked up on my desk. I'm a slob about my yard; I can't keep the flowerbeds weeded. And my house is a mess now too.  And my hair is usually a mess and my makeup is never quite right and my shirts come untucked and and and. So I'm a quadruple slob and I feel like I fail at being an adult. Fat loser messy slob who probably should be sent to re-education to try to learn how not to be such a slob. Really, what it would take is giving up all my hobbies and  staying over an extra hour per day in my office to sort and file, and taking an hour at home to clean or do yardwork. And devoting my entire weekends to cleaning and yardwork. I think the hair is a lost cause short of having a regular hairdresser.)

Saturday, August 16, 2014

And still more

So, I get a flyer in the mail. From a new local "Restore and Preserve" organization. That is aimed at helping the elderly, disadvantaged, and disabled to keep up their properties BUT ALSO apparently to make all the rest of us living in even marginally "historical" districts toe the line.

Aha. So I can look forward to further harassment. Greeeeeeat. I grew up in a town with "historical districts" and in some of them, it was like people exercised their chances to be petty tyrants - that species of flower isn't on the list? Too bad. Want a new mailbox? Here, fill out an application packet and here are the two styles we consider acceptable. I don't expect it to be that crazypants right away, but I've learned that some people love to tell other people what to do, and it could get that crazypants.

And the founder lives a block south of me. Crap. So this neighborhood will get extra scrutiny. I don't know. I may wind up having to consider moving. (oh and on their website? They're asking for money and volunteers. Sorry, I won't have any extra money or time because I now have to have a showplace backyard. If someone hits me up I'm gonna tell them that.)

I spent several more hours this afternoon in the back garden cutting and hauling limbs and ripping out dayflower from the flower beds. I think what I may have to do in the future is just hire a landscaper and be done with it. Or maybe put down a bunch of gravel everywhere there aren't plants so nothing can grow.

 I'll have to cut something else out if I hire a landscaper - maybe cut back on contributions to charity, or eat one fewer meal a day, or never buy another book.

It drives me bonkers that the city can harass me about my backyard even though the only people who see it would be the few pedestrians in the alleyway or the OG and E guys when they have to come through to fix something back there.

Also, it looks like I will have to go and plead my case before the Board, even though I'm working hard on "abatement." Screw my life.

Saturday morning stuff

* I spent almost an hour and a half this morning (instead of finishing my piano practice for the day and watching the re-run of the Twilight's Kingdom episodes, both of which I kind of wanted to do) weeding and ripping junk out in the garden. I'm going to just work an hour a day now until it's done to the point where the yard looks "perfect" and there isn't a scrap of grass in any of the flower beds and every dang seedling of winged elm has been cut out. I need this to be right because if the city decides to come in and deal with it they will just herbicide everything, including the 12 year old rosemary bushes I have.

* My worry is they'll come after me for the leaf pile where I compost leaves next. A fussy person could say it was an eyesore. Or they could say, "But snakes might live in it" (And they do - at least, rough earth snakes, the only snakes I've ever seen in my yard, and I defy anyone to claim a rough earth snake could be dangerous). I don't know. I'm torn between leaving it and letting them send me ANOTHER letter, and I will then say, "I was not told of that problem before, therefore you cannot make me go before the board for it" and just hiring my tree guy again and having him haul off all the additional brush I've cut plus the leaf pile. The bad thing is, I use the humus from the decomposing leaves as a soil amendment, and I also use a corner of that pile as a source of soil invertebrates for a lab I do, and if the pile were gone, getting a good source of soil invertebrates would be much harder. (They tend to congregate where there is labile organic matter, like decomposing leaves).

* I think I need to ask if there's some kind of guidelines about what the city can and cannot complain about in a yard. Surely people are permitted to compost on a limited scale? Surely people are allowed to have things like sunflowers and fennel (both of which I have) that get kind of tall?

* What worries me so much is that this feels like a moving target. Like nothing I do will be good enough or right because they'll find something else wrong with my yard.

* Feh. I hate how something like this takes over my brain and I worry endlessly about it. I had put the alley stuff out of my mind because the guys did such a good job and I thought that was the end of it. I didn't think the city could come after me for my backyard having some winged elm seedlings I hadn't cut out yet or some grass invading the flower beds. I suppose next they'll say "Your garage needs to be painted again." I could make myself broke prettying up the backyard no one ever sees (unless they are walking in the alleyway). This is why I let the brush get high in the alley - I liked the privacy of a backyard no one could see into. Maybe I need to look into getting a paling fence along that back lot line. (I do eventually have plans to get vinyl siding or something put on the garage - it's too much of a pain to have to paint it every few years - but I was saving up my money so I wouldn't have to take out a loan or something to do it.)

* I'm still going to Sherman today. I decided to compromise on the "doing work" stuff: I read in a book on soil inverts for a couple hours last night and I am going to set up my BlackBoard pages this morning.

*I did make myself feel a little better; started my Christmas shopping today. (I was ordering my Christmas cards....Monastery Greetings has a small sale on them this weekend and they had a nice Celtic-themed one that I liked, so I ordered them and then also added a couple small things as gifts for family. Oh, and some tea and whipped honey for myself....)

Friday, August 15, 2014

Perhaps better idea...

Perhaps better than a scarecrow flipping the bird is this, from Backyard Chickens (And hm, wonder what the city would say about backyard chickens...)

There are many versions of this out there. (I've also seen a version with a female scarecrow, and yes, the pumpkins are where you'd expect them to be). Maybe a whole row of these, right along the fenceline....

It's partially done

It was the backyard.

"There is grass taller than 12 inches and there are small saplings, like 1 1/2 inches in diameter, leaning against the fence."


Oh, I get it: The guy was irritated he had to go out and check that the alleyway was clear, so he looked for something else to write me up on.

The grass has mostly been removed. I suppose the complaint was the timothy that had invaded the tomato garden but just to be sure I weed-whacked everything I could reasonably get to that wasn't mowed when I mowed last.

I cut a few saplings and hauled them to the curb (And dangit, the next bulky pick up isn't until Sept. 3. Oh well. I might ask around and see if someone with a pickup truck wants to make a quick $50)

I now have a blister- the trimmer line wrapped hard around the inner workings and I spent quite a bit of time gently pulling and unwinding to get it out. (Luckily, the motor hadn't burned out. At one point I thought, "Forget this; the motor's probably shot, just go get a new one." I probably saved $70 by keeping on going even though it took a long time and I got the blisters)

My fear is that now, every time they send their guy out to check I fixed the previous thing, he'll find something new, until I either burn my house down and run far, far away or hire a lawn service or nuke ALL the plants in my yard and put down big stones and tell them to suck it.

(Maybe I need to make a scarecrow and put it in my backyard? And have it displaying one finger of its gloved hand?)

What gets me is the assumption that people have endless time and resources to deal. Are they this short with the 90-year-old disabled widow on a small pension? The single dad whose wife just left him and is trying to care for three kids? The new immigrant who is working on earning citizenship and learning English and adapting to a new culture?

I don't know. I have more "spoons" than a lot of people and dealing with this kind of thing used up all the spoons I had left for today.

(The Spoon Theory is usually used as a metaphor for those with a chronic illness or disability to explain how they have limited energy and once it's used up, it's used up, but I think everyone has a certain limitation on the number of "spoons" they have. I may have more than many people but that doesn't mean I have infinite spoons. Mine tend to be more emotional than physical energy, but you get the idea).

But yeah, I also used up my physical energy: the dewpoint is currently 70 and the heat index is 101 and as I was hauling brush I noticed I was starting to feel slightly chilled, which is a bad sign. I kept powering through though because I wanted to hit the poison ivy with another dose of herbicide. I wasn't very effective at that because I kept having to "take a knee" because I was getting dizzy. I wound up showering and washing my hair sitting in the tub because I was afraid enough that I might pass out. I feel some better now but I guess I was close to heat exhaustion.

So, once again the manuscript I was GOING to write on didn't get worked on. It's almost 4 pm, I'm tired, my hair is wet, and I'm in a bathrobe so I don't know that I can force myself to go back today. I WAS going to go to Sherman tomorrow but maybe I just need to shop at the local Voldemart (which of course provides lovely sales tax revenue for my town; we have a tax on groceries and our total sales tax, including a couple of local measures for stuff, is close to 10%. Texas has no sales tax on groceries, and also has better stores...

Really city, really?

So I come home from lunch. See something taped to the pole of my mailbox (which my dad informs me technically violates some federal law, and he used to work for the USPS as a college student....)

Yup. A letter from the city. Well, two. One informs me a complaint has been levied because of "grass and weeds" (The heck? My grass is shorter than the neighbor one house south of me. And yes, there are some weeds, my lawns is not a golf course, but they are all shorter than 6") and another about "trees and shrubs." (Oh hells no. If cutting the shrubs out of the alleyway wasn't enough, if they want my other trees gone - that is SO wrong).

It's possible, and I'm strongly hoping, this is just leftover red tape from the "you have to clear the alleyway" incident and when I call I will be told everything is OK.

(I can't just yet. Everyone is at lunch. Yeah. They get a one-hour lunch break. Longer than I do some days.)

If not, my dad counseled me to tell them they had to send someone out to meet with me and specifically show me the areas of concern. Because obviously I have some kind of a blind spot.

(Yes, the poison ivy still exists and I need to spray it again but I can't imagine a city so heartless as to tell a poison-ivy allergic person, "go out and pull it all up now.")

I'm also going to ask them - if it's not just a "Whoops, that letter got sent before we realized you'd dealt with it" situation - for the MAXIMUM ALLOWABLE HEIGHT for grass. Because I think mine would conform at the moment to even the most draconian regulations. (It wasn't even all that high Monday afternoon when I mowed it after break).

The phrase "A complaint has been lodged" worries me and makes me wonder if there's someone I've unintentionally ticked off or who wants to harass me.

If my lawn really is UNACCEPTABLE! I guess that means it's time to hire a lawn service (sigh) because obviously I'm not good enough to take care of it on my own.

I wish I didn't feel such shame over this. But I really do. I feel like a failure and a borderline criminal. I know, I care way too much about this but I try so hard to be a good citizen and it feels like I'm being set up to fail no matter what I do.

I'm enough of a perfectionist that I look at the letter and go, "Oh, there's some taller grass along the fenceline where it's hard to mow, that must be it, better get out there with some scissors." or "There are some weeds that I didn't pull out of that one garden, that must be it."

But that CAN'T be it, can it? My yard is not that awful, is it?

 Yes, I admit, I could do some edging. But I assure you, the grass is not taller than 3"

It's just, there's always something. I feel like I get to the point where I can relax and NOPE, there's some other darn thing that comes up that has to be dealt with. I don't like running from crisis to crisis but that feels like how it is.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Little finished thing

One thing I did finish over break was a pair of Hermione's Everyday Socks, from the pattern by Erica Lueder. I used a Phydeaux yarn for these, the colorway is called "Corazon"

finshed everyday socks

You can also see that my chair reclines in that shot. It's very comfortable reclined and is a nice place to sit and knit or read.

Here's a close up showing the stitch detail. It's just a "dotted purl" pattern but it works up nicely and works fairly well with busy variegated yarns:

close up of everyday sock

One of the other reasons I like this pattern is the author's description of it and the character the socks were designed for: "While she can dress up with the best of them, these socks remind me of something [Hermione] might wear while practicing charms or transfiguration or reading up on Arithromancy in the Gryffindor Common Room." That makes me smile because I can picture it. 

The pattern (non-ravelry link for those not on Rav) is here.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Wednesday afternoon random

* Probably the best way to describe how I feel after two days of meetings is "jetlagged." It's almost as if time didn't really exist, sitting in that dim, windowless room. Walking out into the bright sunlight after I felt like we'd touched down in some strange place different from where we had been before.

Then a grasshopper jumped onto my bare leg (I was wearing a skirt) and I realized we were still in the same place.

* It's a little annoying to hear the morning weather-guy go, "It's gonna be a lovely day, go out and enjoy it!" when (a) you are mandated to be indoors all day long and (b) when you will have some free time, it's supposed to be Death Hot again.

* I did wake up with a migraine middle of the night last night. Took medication, the headache was gone this morning, but I still don't feel GREAT. I might just make oatmeal or something that doesn't take too much work to fix, eat, OR digest tonight.

* About what I said the other day: It's not that I never revise or adjust my teaching. What I don't do is give my teaching the equivalent of a radical facelift. Because for me, how I teach is an extension of my personality, and it's very hard (I think) for a person to change their personality. (And also, I have issues with being expected to change fundamentally who you are, when who you are is basically okay, just because Change Is Good.)

*If I never hear the "sage on the stage vs. guide on the side" motto again, I will live a happy life. (One person subverted it a bit and added "the ass in the class." I am going to presume they meant the donkey kind....)

* About the events (one big event, mainly) of the past days: I'm dismayed (though not entirely surprised) at how ghoulish the American newsmedia can be. And I'm even more dismayed (based on stuff I heard second-hand that went on on Twitter)  at how thoughtless just random individuals can be. I'm guessing giving St. Peter an "I did it for the lulz" explanation for whatever it is you're questioned upon will earn you a ticket for the "down" elevator. I don't know. How some people act at least some of the time, it makes me sad. Maybe those people are perfectly lovely people otherwise who just had a brief and stupid lapse. But I don't know, it seems to me how you treat those who are hurting (or, from the famous old saying, those who can't do anything to advance your career) is pretty indicative of what you have inside your heart.

* Reading: I never finished (never got that far in it, actually) "Adam Bede." I want to correct that now. (The main reason I stalled out: I was traveling, and this is an old and slightly fragile book I didn't want to carry along with me, and then I got involved in other things). I think that will be the ticket for tonight because it's restful and is distant from any any all discussions of Gaza, Ebola, police-involved shootings, and other distressing things currently going on in the world.

* I started a new sweater (a vest, actually) out of KnitPicks "Galileo" in the color they call Firefly, which is sort of a green with a goldish cast to it. (I'd call it "peridot," if I were looking for a fancy name to it). I really like knitting with Galileo - nice stitch definition, it's a sportweight that is part bamboo so the finished item won't be too heavy to wear. And the color is pretty. (And I can sing "Galileo, Galileo, Galileo, Figaro" in my head when I knit on it. Heh. Now I think of rewriting Bohemian Rhapsody to be about knitting: "Mama, I frogged the coat, pulled the yarn off the size eight, now the yarn's all kinky, not straight." Yeah, it would need some work.)

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Brain is full

 (Far Side, by the great Gary Larson)

So, we have this thing. We have two days - and I MEAN two days, 9 am to 4 pm with a lunch break - of meetings. Sitting in a room being talked at. (Ironically, often some of the talks are lectures on how the lecturer thinks lecture is a bad communication tool or teaching technique)

First day's was today. So no projects photos, sorry, I just don't have the motivation to get up, change, put on the sweater I finished, and photograph it. Maybe later this week.

Anyway. It's exhausting to sit in a room, be on your best behavior (or at least I am, I'm too afraid of getting called-out by a higher-up. A more confident colleague than I in another department had her knitting along and was working on it), and listen to stuff, much of which is marginally related to your experience or what you do.

I don't even feel motivated to take notes. At scientific conferences, I do, because I remember the stuff better, and I feel like there's always the off chance some random talk I hear will have an application as a case-study in one of my classes, so it's good to have notes.

I will say I'm either becoming more cynical or less "permeable." In past years, all of the Be Moar Better Naow! talks got to me because I felt like a finger was being pointed at me. Or that because I was "mostly" lecturing (something I am good at, and I have the evaluation scores and student comments to prove it) I was somehow doing it wrong. But now, I'm looking at the talks and going either:

A. "Wait....I do that already." (A best-practices talk about things like having a syllabus that outlines what your objectives are and when you cover certain topics_


B. "This really doesn't apply to me," or "Wait, that contradicts other things I've read about teaching, that doesn't fit with my experience." and I can kind of ignore from there on out. (It did help that my Best Frolleague* Forever sat next to me for part of the talks and when something that made me go "what?" was said, I could look at him and could see that he was going "What?" also. And also sharing snarky comments at breaks....)

(*Frolleague: a colleague you also consider a friend. A little neologism from Ivory Tower Fiber Freaks)

There was the usual "OMG the upcoming generation are all such digital natives that they will REBEL if you want to use an actual, dead-tree textbook!" but the funny thing is, in my department, we have at least anecdotal information (from informally polling students) that many of them HATE e-books, and hate them more strongly than the e-book users dislike paper books. And the idea that we have to totally overturn models of teaching that have worked for generations because these new kids have shorter attention spans, and like to be entertained, and bla bla bla. And part of me is going, "But the good students in my department would consider that slander, and they're in that age group" and part of me is also going, "But why should we cater to someone's desire always to be entertained? Isn't part of becoming a functional adult learning to accept that some things are valuable to do even though they have zero entertainment value?"

(Also, given my experience trying to find the new-textbook-edition chapter art for my PowerPoints online, I really hate e-books. I couldn't find them after a good long time of looking and finally fetched up on a screen that seemed to imply that even though I was an Educator, and even though my university had adopted their textbook, I was still to pay $110 for the privilege of having access to the newest, most updated chapter art. Fine, fine, I'll keep using the previous edition's stuff from the CD-ROM the publisher sent us for free back in 2011.)

We have another day of meetings tomorrow.

Full disclosure: some of the talks were fine. The ones on cross-disciplinary collaboration were pretty interesting. The one on Bloom's Taxonomy was a good review, and it was heartening to hear the guy say, "just because these students are college-aged doesn't mean you can totally assume the lower levels are too low for them; they still need to be tested on Knowledge." One of the assumptions I've seen some make about the Taxonomy is that if you are teaching college students, 100% of your exam questions must deal with the top two levels only....and in some of our classes, that SO does not work.)

I think there are two things about the talks (and the ones in the past) that bugged me: first, the whole One Size Fits All philosophy: Lecture might not work well for you, so fine, don't use lecture. But that doesn't mean there aren't people for whom it works very well.

And secondly, and this is something that I see as sort of a blind spot among many in education and academia: the idea of change for change's sake. Not so much this year, but some of the previous years' talks were all about how We Must Change How We Do Everything Because. But no real reasons were given as to why. To me, change is useful in three situations:

1. When stuff is so bad that anything will be an improvement
2. When you're seriously in danger of burning out due to boredom, and the change you make will not have a major impact on quality
3. When it can clearly be shown ahead of time that the change is likely to be an improvement.

Other than that, meh. I played around a bit in previous years with more "active learning" type stuff (lots of in-class activities, doing stuff as "games," and the like) and it didn't work nearly as well as the lecture-and-question format I use now. Student scores on tests were generally poorer, when I did spot-checks on concepts they didn't seem to be getting them as well. AND my evaluation scores were poorer.  And I don't know. I can't figure out a good reason for changing something that works for my students, works for me, and doesn't bug me to do it. But there are some people in academia who essentially say that if you don't totally change your teaching every five years (or every year, in extreme cases), you're somehow doing things wrong. And again, I want to ask "Why?"

And I found out that on top of everything else, we're being asked/told to make time to view a 1-hour presentation (video, it seems) on How Not To Be A Sexual Harasser. I'm guessing this is because someone, very likely not even someone at my school, screwed up big-time and therefore we all must be "punished."

(I have a fairly strict definition of "sexual harassment," I have to admit: someone who is in a position of power over you making unwanted advances or repeatedly asking you out or making lewd and rude comments to you. An equal doing that I tend to classify as That Person Is Being A Creep and while they need a higher up to tell them to cut it out or else, it's not quite as skeevy as a boss doing it. And a subordinate doing it I classify as Wow That Person Is An Idiot because you don't want to insult the person signing your checks or writing you a letter of recommendation. I'm guessing though that the video covers all manner of Creep behavior and frankly, I'm smart enough to figure out what would be being a creep to someone, and compassionate enough not to want to do that to them. But I'm guessing 90% of the people are that way, the remaining 10% have 5% who are just kind of clueless and might be helped by the video and 5% are hardcore creeps who won't change their behavior unless threatened seriously...)

We had to do this 10 years ago. I hope it's not the same exact video and they're just casting a wide net to account for new hires.

Ah, the joys (not) of bureaucracy.

Monday, August 11, 2014

my new chair

Way back in June, after saying repeatedly that I needed to replace the old, worn "chair and a half" that I had used for 12 years, I ordered one (the upholstery on the old one was shredding, the support was gone - it was kind of a cheaply made one to begin with)

I went with La-Z-Boy, figuring that it's an established brand that tends to get high marks. And also, you can order what upholstery you want on the chair model you want. (And they're still made here, I mean, in the US, which does count for something with me)

I ordered it and paid half, the other half to be paid upon delivery.

I got it delivered today (It came while I was out of town):

new chair

I am really happy. It's not that different in color scheme or style than the old one but I tend to be a bit conservative about home-dec, in the sense that if I'm replacing something, I often want the new one to be rather like the old one. The new chair is narrower (it fits in a smaller footprint). And it has no "skirt," so it will be less likely that magazines "disappear" underneath it (and it will be easier to clean under). And it's a recliner, which is nice. (A recliner that doesn't scream "RECLINER! GO TEAM!" like some of the ones I've seen).

Here's a close up of the upholstery. I spent a long time looking at the swatches and this one was my favorite. It's sort of a chenille but it's one of the higher-grade ones that's supposed to last longer:


It's similar, but slightly more muted, colors to the old one.

The delivery guys also hauled off the old broken-down chair for me. I tried to tip them but they wouldn't let me.

The chair does smell a little "new furniture" and I hope that dissipates soon because I don't like that solventy smell. But it is a good replacement, I can tell the support it gives (especially back and hips) is much better than my old chair had. (And really, this didn't cost much more than the old chair-and-a-half did, back in the day - of course, that one also came with an ottoman (which I did keep) - but this chair is clearly better made than that one was)

death of blogs?

I see that Jane Brocket, at Yarnstorm, is apparently giving up blogging (or at least taking an extended break). Sad, because her blog was one I really enjoyed.

I guess blogs have been fading these past years. Facebook put some out to pasture - I suppose Facebook is more immediate, and shorter-format, and seems more visual. I just never got into Facebook because the people I knew on it mainly used it as a way of sharing family news and kid pictures and stuff like that, sort of a virtual "brag book," and I don't really have any of that going on in my life (Outside of the constant internal monologue in my head, my life is really pretty boring). Also Facebook is less pseudonymous (nothing online is actually really anonymous) than blogging. and I like the fact that students are less likely to find (or to recognize) me here.

(I did sign up for Facebook, mainly so I could monitor the town's "disaster preparedness" page to find out when a boil order was lifted. Yup, they hid that kind of information behind a loginwall on their Facebook page. I suppose I should be happy that the boil order's start was actually officially announced, but seeing as the town has a reverse-911 system they use for stuff like notifying us of holidays when trash is not being picked up, you'd think they could use that for the "boil order is now lifted" notification...)

I started blogging back in 2002, at the height of knitting blogs. It was an exciting time. Even "big" bloggers were still small enough that they would respond to your comments or even comment on your blog. Eventually, for a few, they got so big (in terms of readership or things like publishing deals) that they didn't seem as personal. It was like there were knitblogging celebrities and then everyone else was hoi polloi. (I suppose that's the way with everything).

Even before Facebook became the behemoth it is, some people gave up blogging. Some, I suppose, got bored with it. Some had changes in their lives, babies being a big one. And I will admit, shamefully, a tiny bit of frustration when what had been a knitting blog morphed into an all-baby-pictures, nothing-but-pictures-no-writing, all-the-time blog. And there were a few I gave up on because of the focus changing. (Probably I've lost readers as my focus has shifted from "mostly knitting" to "talking about knitting mainly when I finish something or have some specific insight, but also a lot of talking about reading and work stuff"). I suppose some people quit upon changing careers; I have heard of work places having very limiting policies on what you can do in terms of "social media." And really, if someone starts writing for their bread and butter, I can see blogging going by the wayside: you're not going to give away free slices of bread if you're trying to keep a bakery in business. (Well, Great Harvest Bread Company does, but the metaphor still works)

And then Ravelry. A lot of people shifted over to curating their projects and project discussion there instead. And I will say for free pattern giveaways, making them available on Ravelry (where you can "store" them in your "library") is a pretty cool functionality. But still, there are people not on Ravelry...

And I think Twitter maybe drew some people away. And Tumblr, though that seems to be an almost-purely visual medium. I have to admit I still prefer having a longer-format platform where I can write out what I want without having to resort to ampersands or annoying abbreviations like "ppl" for "people" in order to get my point across. (Also, sometimes I wonder if Tumblr is actually just eight or 10 blogs with original content, and all the other Tumblrs are just endlessly linked resharing of that content). And the short-form stuff often leads to stuff like soundbites, and soundbites about complex situations...well, I think of the old Mencken quotation. And there are some people, on some of the platforms, who get so OUTRAGED about stuff so easily. (Yeah, yeah, I know blogs do too. But it's different, somehow. A shouty blog is kind of like a newspaper on a newsstand you don't have to read. A shouty poster on a social's like going to a coffeehouse to talk to friends and there's that one guy over in the corner screaming about fluoridated water.)

(And yeah, sometimes I express frustration on Twitter, but it's less commonly geopolitical and more commonly  something like "Why can't the stupid textbook website make it easy for profs to access content?")

Some people do still blog but write less frequently. That seems a reasonable compromise and if my life truly got so complex I didn't have time (or didn't feel like I could make time) to write once or twice a day, that's what I would do. But I admit I wait and long for the infrequent bloggers to post something. And I'm enough of a worrier that when someone alludes to health or family problems, and then doesn't blog for six months....well, I do worry.

I miss knitblogs. I think of some of the ones I used to link to, who now no longer blog or who only blog maybe once a month. And yeah, I get that it's kind of complaining that the free ice cream machine isn't more liberal with its largesse. But a lot of the bloggers I read had really interesting lives and it was fun to read about their projects or their travels or their gardens or whatever.

Sometimes I wonder (And okay, sometimes I fantasize about) being able to claim the title of "Last Knitblogger Standing" by still writing a blog while all the others have either gone over to Facebook or given up blogging or whatever. Perhaps not a desirable title, and probably being the Last Knitblogger Standing means you don't get many readers who are knitters (and fewer commenters). But, I don't know. I like the blog format. Maybe that makes me a Luddite. Maybe the way to get pageviews is to do something else. Though thank goodness, I've never been tempted by the drumbeat of "monetization" like some have. (In the most recent issue of Grit, a farmblogger was talking about "monetizing" his blog as a way of majorly supplementing income, and I thought "Good luck with that" because from what I've heard from people who use things like the advertising add-ons, the amount of income you make is truly minimal). I suppose if anything, the blogging, few comments, some days of few readers, have helped me get past my envy of the "popular" knitbloggers and be more content with doing my own thing even if people don't read me that much or comment that much. Because sometimes stuff happens to the popular knitbloggers (getting trolls, fights starting in the comments) that I prefer not to deal with. Or they become uncomfortably public. As much as I fantasize about it being nice to walk into a bookstore and have an audience waiting to hear me speak and cheering for me (like Yarn Harlot gets, for example), I also know I'm enough of an introvert uncomfortable in the spotlight that I'd come to hate it after a while.

But I admit, especially after a long day of meetings at work or a "bad connection" day of teaching or a day of getting a manuscript or grant proposal rejected, the grass still does look a wee bit greener on that side of the fence, and it would be kind of nice to have legions of adoring fans. (How many is a legion? One of the online history cites suggests a full-strength Roman legion was 6000. So "legions" of fans would be a lot indeed.) And yeah, I suppose I have fans, just not as many or as vocal as some have.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

A little unicorn

A chibicorn. Or a unichibi. I don't know which. (In anime, "chibi" is sometimes used to described junior or small and cute versions of something. I first noticed it in the mid-90s US run of the dubbed-and-edited "Sailor Moon" cartoons).

Anyway. I made the unicorn from Issue 18 of "Simply Crochet". You can see a very tiny photo of it (upper right corner of the magazine) here for comparison. I made mine a lot differently; I did the mane fuller and did a different face.

Originally I had threatened to do a chibi version of Trixie from MLP, but when I got to Michael's I saw the yarn I ultimately used for the hair and decided just to go my own way and make up a unique unicorn using my own color scheme.

I played around with potential names in the My Little Pony mode, basing some of them on the yarn (I think it was called Aurora) and the colorscheme (Midnight) but none of them worked.

Then when I put the face on, as sometimes happens with toys, a name popped into my head.

Audrey piano

Audrey. I know, that's not an MLP-esque name. And I know most people will relate "Audrey" as the human-eating plant from Little Shop of Horrors. (But actually I think first of the old Little Audrey cartoons - which were a staple of the indie tv channels when I was a kid. Little Audrey was kind of a Little Lulu knockoff. There were also rather ghoulish Little Audrey jokes (where something horrible happens to a person and "Little Audrey laughed and laughed..." because of some factor she thinks, in her twisted logic, is a mitigating factor). Audrey is also the name of Benson's girlfriend (I assume she's being developed as a girlfriend character on Regular Show...

And of course there's Audrey Hepburn, though I didn't think of that until just now.

Anyway. I went with a more-detailed face than the just-two-lock-washer-eyes-and-nostrils the original pattern had. The eyes are similar to, but simpler than (no pupils and simpler highlights) the eyes I've done on the other MLP styled amigurumi.

And the mane and tail are a lot fuller; I thought the original unicorn looked a little bald.


As you could see from the previous photo (perhaps better than this one - this one being taken in my phone nook), she's very small, perhaps about 6" tall. The mane and tail yarn have subtle silver highlights that just show up in that first picture. (one of the fun things about making toys: you can use whatever crazy novelty yarn you want, even one you might never consider for clothing).

The pattern itself is very basic; it only becomes recognizably a unicorn after the ears, horn, and mane and tail are applied. Before that, it could be pretty much any tetrapod.

Saturday, August 09, 2014

Yeah, I'm back

One thing about central Illinois' summer weather: it's less monotonous than southern Oklahoma's. (Though this year hasn't been TOO bad here, but it looks like I got back in time for the onslaught of heat). But up in Illinois, we got a couple of rainy overcast days, a thunderstorm, some nice bright days, a couple of hot days....monotonous weather gets me down, I think that's why I don't like summer here most years.

As is typical, pictures of finished items will come later on, when my camera charges back up. (Next week is also going to be a mess; it's the Week of All Meetings and so I will probably be involved from 8 am until 3 or later, and exhausted outside of those times).

I guess I'm looking forward to fall semester. My schedule is not as awful as I had anticipated (no PI labs) but I am doing the team-teaching of GIS for zero load and therefore consider myself as not getting paid for it. (We are salaried, so really, we do what we need to do until the work is done...but if I were the instructor of record I'd get two credit hours for it and therefore adjunct pay on top of my regular pay, but). I have already decided that I am permitting myself to pull out the old "Crying? There's no crying in GIS!" line if someone gets upset. (We have, several years going, had someone come in who was inexperienced/computer phobic, or else someone who needed their hand held for every little thing, and yes, there have been tears in the past (Not mine.)

Also, it's a 5 to 7 pm class, which, while I understand that is useful for people in the workforce, if it were up to me? I'd ban evening classes. Or at least ban the expectation that faculty teach them unless they are DYING to. Once I month I will have to eat my dinner at 4:30 pm. (Early bird special!) as I have AAUW and that can go until 9 pm....and as it is, I will have to leave GIS early for it.


I finished the book on Cahokia and read most of the Brian Fagan book ("The First North Americans"). Fagan seems to hypothesize more (which I thought was dangerous in archaeology) about motivations of the people and stuff. But one thing....the idea that many have of Native American life being some kind of Edenic perfection of peace and being in "harmony" with the land isn't entirely (or even mostly, for some groups) true. (Fagan also suggests that in some of the later tribes, once they got horses and therefore were more mobile, they became very warlike and essentially raided their agricultural neighbors). But one thing Fagan kept bringing up for many of the different groups (especially the Pacific Northwest peoples), and which Pauketat hints at, is that "rank and status" were incredibly important.

Perhaps one of the side effects of reading pop-archaeology as a novice is that it does make you side-eye your own culture a bit. In the tribes Fagan studied, he hypothesizes that the people who had "rank and status" were either:

1. Charismatic individuals who could convince others that they 'deserved' to be the leaders
2. Good peacemakers, people who could listen and use wisdom and do things like negotiate how resources would be used
3. People who were particularly gifted in some skill deemed important

Hm. I don't see so very many of #2 gaining "rank and status" in our culture, but #1  could be either your average politician or your average celebrity, and #3 would clearly be the pop singers and athletes - though in the peoples Fagan wrote about, being a shaman/healer or a craftsperson or perhaps someone very gifted at figuring out when the seals were migrating were the kinds of skills that actually mattered.

(Then again - would people in the #2 group necessarily WANT "rank and status?" I've known a lot of wise people who have gifts in getting arguing parties to shut up and actually listen to each other, and most of them seem happier unrecognized in the background).

Also, Pauketat, in his discussion of the ancient city of Cahokia seems to imply that it almost might have been sort of a despotic system....there are remains of "peasant farmers" from outlying areas who didn't seem to get enough of the right things to eat, and who may have been there essentially as slaves. Pauketat also notes that the whole Cahokia system collapsed (or seemed to; at least, people moved away from the city and seemed to abandon it) after a couple of centuries. (Despotic systems may be inherently unstable. And also, that perhaps explains the human sacrifice...a despot could want to exercise control by either a "look what I can do if you step out of line" or by getting rid of all the "pretenders to the throne")

I don't know. I get somewhat the same feeling reading this as I get (oddly enough) from reading the Pauline letters....a mixture of relief and frustration. Relief in the sense that we're not, perhaps, seeing some rough beast slouching towards Bethlehem as the dismaying news comes out in the world. But also frustration, in that some not-quite-2000 years have passed (in the case of Paul), or about 1000 years have passed (in the case of Cahokia), and we've still not figured out how not to screw up living in community with one another...

Thursday, August 07, 2014

Sick of summer

I remember childhood summers. The first day, how big, how exciting, how many things you were going to do, how much fun you would have.

And there were things to do. My brother and I would play with the kids across the street or with friends down the street. We'd go and try to catch frogs or raise Monarch caterpillars or watch birds' nests (but never touch them, out of fear that the parents wouldn't come back). And there was the public library book club to join (I took part in that, even long after it ceased to be cool for the age group I was in. Later on, I worked as a volunteer handing out stickers and hearing kids talk about the books they'd read). And there were crafts to do. And trees to climb. And books to read. And elaborate games with stuffed animals or little animal figures to be acted out with my friends.

But eventually, summer got to be too much. Too long, everything we wanted to do had been done, we got bored. It was hot. And secretly, I wanted to go back to school. Oh, I'd drag my feet, especially as the day approached. Complain about having to go and get school clothes and shoes. Worry about whether I'd get the "mean" teacher that year.

But secretly, I loved back to school. I loved having new supplies: un-written-in notebooks, new pencils, fresh-smelling folders. I liked the excitement of new textbooks (I remember taking the books home - we were allowed to carry our textbooks home - and reading through them, especially the reading or language-arts one, looking for stories or poems I particularly liked). I liked the idea of fall coming on, of the changes in the weather and the leaves taking on color, of different fruits and vegetables in the store, of the whole idea of harvest-time.

I still feel that way. Granted, "fall" here doesn't come until early to mid October (in Ohio, sometimes you could get the first hints of it in early September). But I like the feeling of a new purpose, of things starting up again, of the promise that it will be cool again sometime. (And that our grasshoppers will go away. So sick of the grasshoppers.)

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Living in airconditioning

I grew up without air conditioning in the house.

Now, granted, it was the 1970s in northeastern Ohio: an historically-cool decade in a cooler part of the country. Most of the time it got down into the 60s overnight, so by opening the house windows, the house would cool enough to be comfortable for sleep. And the house we lived in, it was well set up for airflow. And my parents had a big window box-fan that they put in one of the windows of the "office" (a spare bedroom that my dad mostly stored his journals and geology books in, but also that was where he kept his light table and a desk for when he needed to work at home). The fan was good at drawing air through the house, so if you opened the other bedrooms' windows and put the fan on, it drew cooler air through the whole upper floor. (The fan was also great for yelling through because it distorted your voice. I bet there's not a kid who grew up with a fan in the house that hasn't done that.)

There were a few days when it would get really hot, like 85 or above. Usually this was a few days late in August, shortly before school started back up, and we were already sick of summer. Sometimes we escaped it by going to the local library, which was air conditioned. Or we'd go down to the basement, which was 10 to 15 degrees cooler by virtue of being underground. (There wasn't a lot to DO in the basement. Sometimes I took a sewing project down there but mostly I sat around and looked at the old issues of magazines (Good Housekeeping, Women's Day) that my mom had stored down there.

There were a few nights that got hot. Or some nights when we had to close the windows because of the mosquito trucks. (I don't know what they sprayed - DDT had been banned by then - but my dad didn't want us breathing it in, whatever it was (he started out his career planning to be an industrial chemist, so I trust his concern)). And then it would get hot. And you'd lie there and perspire and not sleep.

On the worst nights, my parents would have my brother and me camp out in their room. They had a window airconditioner (my dad got it to help relieve his migraines). It's funny, now - I remember when I got a bit older not enjoying the family-reunion type things were we had to all share rooms because it seemed so NOISY (my dad snores, or at least he used to back in those days), but it didn't bother me as a kid sleeping on a camp-mattress on the floor.

I also don't remember doing the run-through-the-sprinkler thing - supposedly a typical gen-x pastime - very often. That may have been because my parents were worried about the grass being damaged. Or it might have been that it's really not that great (the water is icy cold, and if there's at all a cool breeze you get chilled pretty fast).  And I don't remember ice cream trucks; they seemed to largely be absent when I was a kid. If we wanted ice cream, we either went down to Saywell's (a drug store that had a soda fountain) or we had some kind of thing out of the freezer (my mom usually kept Popsicles on hand but I remember not liking them all that well).

Saturday, August 02, 2014

School supplies II

And then there was back-to-school clothing and shoe shopping. I've spoken of this before. But I wonder now, do families still do it this way? When I was a kid, clothes buying was a major production (we had to drive to the mall, which, I don't remember how far Chapel Hill Mall was from where we lived, but it was more than 15 or 20 minutes, as I remember). Clothes were pretty much something you got before school started and maybe at Christmas (and when you got older and cared about clothes more, maybe for your birthday. Though I never really cared about clothes all that much until I was an adult).

We'd trek around to each store, going first to one department (maybe boys', for my brother) and then to Girls or Juniors or later on Misses for me. (Though I think when I got older, and there were underwear-type things, and underwear-type things more delicate than pants and undershirts to be bought, I kind of think my mom and I went alone to do that). I guess my parents had a list they went buy, how many pairs of jeans and how many shirts, that kind of thing. Often a jumper or skirt or dress for me, because particularly when I was younger, I liked those kinds of things. (I guess I've come back 'round to that now; I mostly wear dresses or skirts to work unless I'm going in the field or it's really messy weather out)

There was sometimes some arguing. I remember when OP (Ocean Pacific) stuff was first popular. I remember when designer jeans came out. My parents were frugal and didn't want (understandably) to spend large sums on clothes we would soon grow out of. And maybe, in a way, they were equipping us for a life where we were more concerned about what was on the inside than what was the outside package.

But I also remember it was kind of miserable. When I was in seventh grade, I had three pairs of jeans and one of khakis. One pair of jeans was Lee brand, which was perceived as normal and acceptable. (Levis were also normal and acceptable). One pair was an unmarked store brand (maybe from JC Penney's; back in the day a lot of my clothes came from there). And one pair was Wranglers.

Oh gads. The Wranglers. I got teased for those. Got called "Wrangler."

Had I lived where I live now? Wearing Wrangler jeans would at worst have marked me as a "cowgirl" or "rancher chick" and no one would have said boo. But in the snobby town where I grew up, they were "day laborer" jeans. "Poor-people jeans." And I caught heck for it.

And it's funny. As an adult I can look back and go, "Dang. That was a stupid thing for the kids to judge me on and a stupid thing for them to make fun of me for." And I can say "Dang, it was crazy of me to get upset about that, I should have just rolled my eyes at them and kept on moving." But at the same time I remember the pain and, yes, the SHAME that I was wearing "poor-people jeans" and the feeling that nothing I ever did would allow me to fit in. And while on some level I didn't WANT to fit in with the stupid snobby kids who would judge someone for non-designer jeans, I also felt AWFUL that they didn't even want to consider being friends with me because of the clothes I wore.

(Heh. Then again, I remember with the few friends I did have - who were kids from families that were frugal like mine - whispering furtively "lard-ass jeans" about the Jordache jeans (I think that may have been a joke on SNL?). Whispering furtively because "ass" was a bad bad bad word and we could have got in SO MUCH TROUBLE had a teacher overheard. Heh.)

I suppose in the long run having parents who didn't indulge my every whim made me a better person as an adult, but dang, when I was 12 and 13, it did mean a certain amount of discomfort in school. And I'm sure my parents would have been horrified to learn how I felt but I never really told them. I just....I didn't know where to start with it and I felt like nothing would have changed my status as an unpopular anyway, so why bother?

And then, last of all, there were shoes. I've spoken before of Miller's Stride Rite (I think there is still a Stride Rite in Chapel Hill Mall, if the online yellow pages are to be believed, but apparently they've dropped the "Miller's." I liked this store because in the middle of it there was a scale model of a tugboat - like playground-equipment sized. (I suppose that was to entice reluctant children to 'walk around and try out the shoes'). They also used to give small inexpensive lollipops after your purchase was completed. Usually I wound up with "oxfords" of some kind; I don't know if that was just more typical in my childhood (rather than wearing tennis shoes everywhere) or if that was suggested by one of the pediatricians (I had flat feet. And my brother, in fact, had that thing as a baby where he had to wear shoes with a bar across the soles for a time - to make his feet turn outward properly, I think? I don't know, it looked like a torture device to me but as he wasn't really mobile yet it didn't seem to bug him, and he didn't have to wear it all the time). We did get separate 'tennis shoes' (as we called them) for gym class, but were expected to wear our regular shoes most of the time.

Usually when we went clothes shopping, there was some kind of a treat after. Either we went out for lunch, or maybe even to a movie (Chapel Hill has a cinema, at least in those days) or ice cream, something.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

School supplies I

(Yeah, I decided to try to put together a few embargoed posts, after realizing I did have some ideas of what to write about).

Back to school time. Some of the local stores have had stuff out since the beginning of July, which just seems way too early (and I know if I were a kid, I'd feel like it was too early). But I have to admit, as an adult, I like the time when the back to school stuff is out (and often on sale).

I know that many districts now have extremely specific lists, even down to brand in some cases. When I was a kid, it was much more general - a certain number of pencils, a certain count of crayons (it was usually not the biggest box, and specifying the "32 count box" or whatever may have been to avoid crayons serving as a marker of status).

One of the big things I remember from junior high was Trapper Keepers. I had a plain red one but now I can't remember for the life of me if I chose that one (on the grounds that kittens or Lisa Frank designs were "babyish") or if the plain ones were cheaper and that was what my parents were willing to buy. But I do remember people being somewhat stereotyped by what was on their Trapper Keeper (that may have been why I chose a plain one; I figured it was better to be stereotyped as businesslike and a little boring rather than childish or horse-crazy or something).

We also had plain folders. I favored the relatively inexpensive matte-finish ones over the shiny ones. Because you could draw with a pencil on the matte-finish ones and it wouldn't rub off. (And okay, maybe this was where I got marked as babyish, at least in the slightly earlier grades: I had various animal "characters" that I made up stories about - Mimi the rabbit, Fifi the poodle - and I drew them in various outfits (yes, they were like animal paper dolls) on my folders). I liked decorating my own folders; it seemed more distinctive to me.

I also remember the great pen vs. pencil divide, and how you had to be in a particular grade (fifth, maybe?) in order to be allowed to use pens. And even then they recommended the "erasable" pens, which, back then at least, were just pants. They smeared all over the place, the ink had a weird smell (almost like artificial blueberry scent), and often the tips got gloppy well before the pen ran out. But they were "grown up" so you used them.

The same thing with "wide rule" vs. "college rule" paper. Ah, the mysterious "college ruled" it beckoned of adulthood and sophistication, and how we were not allowed to use it until 7th grade or so. (And like a lot of the other trappings of adulthood: a massive disappointment, leading to early expressions of "Is this all there is?")

Art supplies were more fun. There were the aforementioned crayons but I also remember one year having to buy charcoal pencils and a sketchpad and bring an old shirt of my dad's to school, and get colored pencils, and all that impedimentia. I still kind of love art supplies like those even though I don't really do much drawing at all (and really no drawing not in the service of my work, which is sad and which I really should rectify - I should get myself a sketch pad and some colored pencils and just let myself draw, and not worry too much about "not being any good")

As an adult, though, I get to buy the supplies I want. Currently, I favor legal pads (not the legal-length ones, which fit badly in a backpack or totebag but the standard  8 1/2" by 11" ones. And I generally prefer white paper, though if I can find the pink and blue ones, I will buy them). And I always like to keep pencils on hand because they are necessary for a lot of labwork, and also, if you're doing fieldwork in the rain, a pencil is a lot less likely to get smeary and nasty than a pen. And for pens, definitely gel pens. (I tend to buy Pilot G-2 if I can find them, and not in the finest width, in a medium width).  And I still like 3 x 5 cards for lots of things - taking reading notes, keeping track of budgets, writing out recipes for people. Even somewhere I have a few OC Ponies sketched out on 3 x 5 cards that I did one day when I was bored in the office. But those are really the only school supply type things I buy any more.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

the flip side

Which is where I will catch you all. I have a few "embargoed" posts lined up (the typical thing, sort of nostalgia-fests, because I seem to think more about my past when I am ready to go on vacation).

I've got everything packed (well, I hope I do. I know I have the most essential things: tickets and driver's license and money and medications and books to read on the train.)

I may leave just a bit early this go-round; because of trackwork the train I get on is originating in Fort Worth, two stops ahead of where I get on, rather than in San Antonio, which is like six or seven. So it's more likely to be on time. AND it's raining, and there might be heavy rain on the way. I can't complain about the rain, we need it, but I do not like driving in heavy rain, especially when it's been long since we had rain and people forget how to drive in it.

I did have to drag out a belt again after putting on a pair of jeans I'd not worn in a while. I've been more active this summer (mostly yardwork stuff) and I guess it's having an effect. Will have to figure out some way to continue it into the fall and winter.


And a spot of good news: The local AAUW branch I belong to had lost their tax-exempt status (long story, but what it looks like is the national leadership claimed they'd send in the paperwork in a big batch if we sent it to them first, and then a lot of branches' paperwork got lost - we were not the only ones in this boat). Thanks to some incredible pro-bono work by a local CPA, and lots of work on the part of one of our members doing all the paperwork and calling IRS many times and lots of other stuff, our tax-exempt status has been REINSTATED.

Considering that when we did the full accounting, we made a profit of $77 in the past five years, I would hope it would. (Nearly all the money we take in either goes to pay our dues with state/national, or is distributed in local scholarships).