Monday, September 01, 2014

a weekend break

I took Sunday afternoon and all of today off from work. (Part of the reason I took today off? I woke up with a horribly hived-up and puffy eyelid. It happens. It's ragweed season here. The eyelid is better now, I hope it doesn't re-hive up during my period of horizontalness tonight (It seems that being upright helps it go away. But I cannot sleep sitting upright no matter how I try)

I did get back to crocheting on the Chrysalis pony (is she a pony? Is a Changeling a pony? Or are they something else altogether? I guess I think of them as being kind of ponies that went bad, sort of like the whole fallen-angel thing in Christian scriptures and legend....)

Anyway. This is a HUGE amigurumi, the biggest I've ever made, so it takes a long time to do. And it's complex - the holes in the legs take a lot of time. (But I couldn't NOT do them. There is an alternate set of directions in the pattern if you want legs without holes, or are a less-confident crocheter, but....I really wanted the legs with the holes).

Here she is, with the front legs sewn on. I put a page of the pattern beside her for scale. (Yes, that is printed on standard US letter-sized paper, 8 1/2 by 11):

partially done Chrysalis
This is a close up of the legs, showing the holes. Yes, they go all the way through, you're seeing the paper on the other side:

The next step is to make the saddle-thing she wears (it has to go on before the back legs). So, yay: something that's not legs. And yay, a different color. (Crocheting on black yarn: phoo. I have to have the light ALL THE WAY UP and take my glasses off to see it properly to work on it. Also it's a very harsh yarn and is hard on the hands.) At least I'm half-done with the legs, which I think are going to be the least fun part.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Because I'm TACKY!

Because I'm TACKY

So, I went to Lowe's this afternoon to get some topsoil and look at the ground cover/perennials as part of my attempt to begin "desirable plant domination" of my gardens (get lots of good competitive stuff in there so I have to weed less in the future).

I wound up buying some lysimachia nummularia (not shown; it's on the north side of the house) which is a shade-tolerant, perennial groundcover. (They had no liriope. Maybe it's the wrong time of year and I just need to wait). And here are a couple of gaura and three anemones. (The gaura were probably a good choice; butterflies were visiting them even before I had them in the ground).

And the flamingos. They were on an end-of-season sale. First I thought, "Nah" then I decided "yes." And they are the made-in-the-USA kind - I don't think the Famous Flamingo Factory of Leominster, Massachusetts is still in operation but I read about a nearby factory (Pennsylvania, maybe?) that now makes them.

And I thought: They're cheap enough. And they make me laugh. And yes, if someone from the city comes snooping over my back fence again this fall they will see two pink plastic flamingos. And if they think that's bad, well, they might just be tacky too.

"I put pink flamingos on my lawn/ after the city griped at me."

(And really, one reason I love Weird Al's "Tacky" so much? The narrator of the song is completely unapologetic about the ways in which he is tacky. He owns his tackiness, admits to it, and even revels in it. And I spend way too much time worrying about whether what I am doing is "proper" (essentially the opposite of tacky))

Heh. They do amuse me pretty deeply. (I'll probably take them in and put them in the garage over winter, so they don't get all sad and cracked in the cold). Hm. Maybe I do have my own brand of slight silliness and even happy-go-luckiness, just one that's less public and a lot quieter than some people's...

For future self-reference: Several sites said October is the best time to plant lilyturf. In fact, a couple sites that sell it won't even ship it until mid-September. So I just need to be patient. Maybe if the weather is good over mid-fall break, one day of that could be a planting blitz of perennial groundcovers in my yard. The more and more I think of it, the more I really like the idea of the north side of my house just being a groundcover garden that's a mass of things like lilyturf and lysimachia and, if I can find it, partridgeberry. And maybe in the slightly sunnier edges, stick a few aquilegia in there. All perennials, all stuff that spreads well.  Lots of the ground covers I'm seeing suggested are described as "tolerate foot traffic," which they will need to do a little bit back there.

The little things

(A nod in the direction of Charles Hill,, whose morning post prompted me to think about this):

There are some little things that turn out to be big things in my career. I think I once ruefully tweeted that I never realized how much alphabetization was going to feature in my career as a professor. But it does. The way our online gradebooks (well, any gradebook) are set up, it's much faster and more accurate to enter grades from a stack of papers that have been alphabetized by last name. While this is not a big deal in the smaller, upper-division classes (especially the ones where I know everyone), the large intro classes, it becomes kind of a task.

It's made a bit more annoying by the fact that once in a while you get a student who INSISTS on writing their name as "Sarah M." or "Jacob S.," as if they were in grade school. (I will cut the people with surnames longer than seven letters a break, but will also note that often "Sarah M." is "Sarah Moss" or something similar.) It's not a BIG thing but until I have all the names absolutely memorized it causes a moment or two of, "Okay, where in the Ms do I stick this one?" (Even worse: the person who just puts a first name on a paper. I get that once in a while. I only make a stink about it if, for example, I have two Tiffanys in class and they don't use at least a last initial to differentiate themselves.

Also, there's the occasional person who forgets to put a name on a paper. Once in a while, in small classes toward the end of the term, I can figure out who it is by handwriting (or can do so by elimination, providing everyone has done that assignment) but sometimes it means I have to delay entering that grade until I track down the person.

(There are some professors, people more confident of their status and giving fewer darns than I, who simply refuse to grade anonymous papers. I don't know. That seems excessive to me. I also know people who refuse to grade multi-page papers that are not stapled. Again, I can't quite bring myself to do that, but having unstapled papers is a giant pet peeve. And even gianter one is the student who comes up in class and says "Do you have a stapler?" Does it LOOK like I have a stapler? There is not one on the teaching desk. I do not carry a briefcase or bag into class. Do you expect I am going to reach into my brassiere and fish one out of there?)

The thing is, a lot of that stuff feels like small potatoes to harass the students over. I'd much rather they have their papers done and in on time than have their full and complete name on them. (Though I wish the university were faster at changing maiden names to married names on rosters when students marry...)

Another thing that is one of those little things that you just have to do, but sometimes which rankles a bit, is making up and dealing with alternate exam forms. This is an anti-cheating measure. In most classes (all but the very smallest ones - which are ones where I can decree people sit in alternate seats for the exams) I make up Form A and Form B, which have scrambled questions/scrambled responses for multiple choice/possibly variant questions if I can make different ones that feel roughly equivalent.

So once I write the exam, then I have to do the scrambling. (If I used the official "test bank," there's an auto-scramble function. If I used the test bank, which I won't, because the questions don't always reflect how I teach, and also, I worry about there being the publishers' "test banks" floating around out there). And then once the exams are copied, I have to interleave them so that students sitting next to each other get different forms.

(One semester - and again this semester, because I have an enormous class one class - I made forms A, B, and C. The first time I did it it was because I caught a couple students doing the quick exam-shuffle when I handed them out so they got the same form, and I strongly suspected one student of peeking at the other's exam. They wound up both failing the class any way, so my not yanking the exams then and there - with minimal proof - made little difference.)

Again, it's a little thing, but it's just another thing you have to do. (And I have one set of students where I have 65 students - interleaving that many exams does take a while).

One thing that doesn't bug me, but apparently does some, is dealing with student e-mails. To the point where at least one professor has "banned" them, except for ones asking to make an appointment.

Okay. I will say I can see the logic of that, especially if you're a prof with a 700 student mass lecture section. (Though in that case, there are usually labs and recitations with a TA, who kind of serves as a buffer between students and profs).

But I like e-mail. If I didn't do e-mail, I think more of my students would call me on the phone (lots of our students are commuters and are not on campus every day). I don't like the phone. I am awkward over the phone. I wind up saying things either too harshly, or not being forceful enough. And a few of our students have quiet voices/strong accents/cheap cell phones in bad cells and it's hard for me to understand what they're saying sometimes. (I do much better with speech if I can see expression and see their mouths moving. No I do not think I am slightly deaf; it seems my hearing is just fine for music and such. It's probably a weird-brain-wiring thing).

I also like e-mail because I can sit and think and craft a response. On more than one occasion when I've received an e-mail (not always from a student) that made me angry for some reason, I could take a breath, and go, "I will wait 20 minutes before trying to answer that" so I can write my response when I'm not going to say something I might regret. That's not as easy over the phone. (And having had a few bad phone interactions, both with students and with an admin working on behalf of a student, I extra-special don't like the phone)

Anyway. Yes, I get the illiterate/text-speech e-mails sometimes. And yes, they bug me. Not enough to sink e-mail as a communication tool. Sometimes I get what I call "needy" e-mails (the person sending me a detailed memorandum of all the problems in their lives at that point in time as either a reason why they missed class or as part of pleading for an extension on something) but even those are tolerable. And in some cases you just have to read between the lines: sometimes the "needy" person is not saying "I am demanding extra special treatment" but they are saying "help, I'm overwhelmed" and a few encouraging words (or a reference to the campus counselor or another help group, in some cases) can do a lot.

I don't often get what Dr. Duvall complained most about, the "Read the syllabus" e-mails. Very, very rarely do I get an e-mail asking about something I've covered in the syllabus. I do not know if that is because I have the syllabus up on the class webpage, and people consult that first, or if most of my students pay attention to the syllabus, or what. When I do get those kinds of questions, it's someone buttonholing me after class ends (often when I am trying to rush off to eat lunch before my next class).

And in a lot of cases, I find people who ask questions like that aren't really asking because they don't know; they're asking because they're insecure and need reassurance. Like the person who asks, "Is it really true you don't accept late papers?" And I can say, "Yes, I have that in the syllabus. If it's a major emergency, e-mail me, in some cases I grant extensions." Or if they say, "So our first exam is on Sept. 5?" I can just say, "Yes, it is."

I also like e-mail because for the students who are shy enough that coming up and talking to me scares them, often they can e-mail comfortably. And yeah, I know, people need to get over that kind of fear, but baby steps.

Honestly, I don't get THAT many student e-mails. Maybe five or six a week, and some of those may be simple to deal with. (E.g., "I am sick today and won't make it to class, but I know this assignment is due, so here it is as an attachment" and all that takes is to e-mail back, "Thanks, I got it. Feel better."). Perhaps if I were at a much larger school and were teaching 700-person mass lectures, e-mail would soon become a burden, but as I said, in those cases there's usually a whole mini-bureaucracy to serve as a bit of a buffer. The other thing: with bigger student numbers, there are just going to BE more problems. Something I've noticed: about 5% of people in any group are going to have huge problems. Sometimes those problems are beyond their control (family breakup, major illness), sometimes the problems are partly of their own doing (working an extra job so they can afford a shiny new car instead of working just one job and sticking with a boring used car). But still: problems, whatever the source, create ripples, and on some level the faculty member winds up having to deal with the problem in some form. (Or at least hear about it). With 100 students, that means you have five students with major problems. Of those five, two will probably suffer in silence or ask for minimal extensions, etc. Two will ask for more and will keep you updated more than you want. And one, if you're really unlucky, that one will park themselves outside your office and give you running commentary on how awful their life is and how they always get the shaft and how NO ONE ever does anything to fix things for them (even though you are trying to do what you can, within the confines of the class), and you're in the unfortunate position of not wanting to look totally unsympathetic yet not wanting to encourage that behavior further (both for your own sanity, and because you know that many potential employers will show someone like that the door in a hurry). Again, in some cases, a reference to the campus counselor helps (though in some cases, you get back angry: "I'm not CRAZY. My life just SUCKS.")

But with 700 students - well, you then have 35 people (a whole class, for me!) who have major problems. And maybe seven people who think you're their personal substitute parent/counselor/father confessor. And yeah, in that case, I can see discouraging people from constantly e-mailing as being a good thing. (Then again: I've found the people really determined to find a "trouble tree" will come to office hours rather than e-mailing. And I find tales of woe easier to take in e-mail format).

I do tell students that if they e-mail me in the evening they won't get a reply before the next morning when I come in. Most of them accept that; the ones who don't, I think if they complained to my chair, she'd  tell them to learn some patience. (I heard of a case - not on this campus - of a student who filed a formal complaint with the Dean because the faculty member they e-mailed didn't respond until four hours later. Yes, four hours - during which the faculty member was in class. The dean told the faculty member, but also told them that they had deemed the complaint 'unreasonable.'")

I will draw the line, however, if they start expecting us to text our students. Or whatever the next new technology is. (Office Hours by Snapchat? Mercy, I hope not.)

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Thursday morning random

* Hives have been unusually bad this week; not sure why. (Perhaps it's grass pollen - it's been too long since we had rain.)

* My neighbor-to-the-south STILL has not mowed, so their grass is shedding a great lot of pollen close to me. No, I'm not going to call the city on them, for several reasons:
     - I feel like I live in a bit of a glass house, yardwise, right now
     - If it's that they're busy or are dealing with some tragedy in their lives (I don't know them at all well, and it seems there's been less activity over there of late), I don't want to add to it.
     - Not my circus, not my monkeys.
     - There's another neighbor who has almost certainly called them in.

* I had a really odd dream last night: I was reading an MLP fanfiction that someone had written as a strict allegory of the Gospels and some of the Epistles. Celestia was the Christ-figure. (Well, CS Lewis did that with a lion....). Twilight Sparkle was Paul, which kind of makes sense, because none of the other Mane Six would work (Rainbow Dash doesn't speak literarily enough, nor does Applejack, Pinkie Pie is too distractable, Fluttershy too scared, Rarity is too, well, Rarity.) Scootaloo was there, she was playing the role of Timothy.

Yeah, I don't understand my brain either sometimes.

* I need to figure out something "fun" to do over the (short) break I get coming up. (We get Labor Day off.) Not sure whether to go somewhere Saturday, or whether to try to get ground-cover for the recently de-weeded areas, or whether to start back up on the quilt top that's been sitting on my sewing machine untouched for several months, or what. (Monday is not a particularly good day to go do stuff; many small businesses in this part of the world close BOTH Sunday and Monday, presumably because Monday is a slow day anyway and if you're a sole proprietor or close to it, you need some days off each week to get caught up on stuff and also relax, and Saturday's too lucrative to give it up).

* I've been picking away at different stuff. I have a linen-stitch scarf I'm working on - I think I photographed it back at its beginning stages. Linen stitch takes a while and while it's soothing to do, it's outside of the realm of how I normally knit enough that I find myself making mistakes and having to stop and go back. Especially with the slipped stitches; on the "right" side I find myself wanting to purl them.

* The annual cicadas are out. Big ugly bugs and often wind up sitting in a "surprise!" place. I'm not afraid of insects but I admit I really don't like cicadas. (The first frost can come any time now.)

* Something circling in social media: Apparently Hello Kitty's creator has declared that Hello Kitty is not a cat but rather a small girl (?) My response to this:

"One morning, upon awakening from agitated dreams, Kitty White found herself, in her bed, transformed into a small, mouthless cat."

Also: "It's as if I heard a million Gen-X girls cry out in terror."


"I don't know. Therefore: Japanese vs. American cultural differences."

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

yes, this thing.

I like Awkward Yeti, especially the conversations he has with his various body parts:

Yeah, that seems about right. (And for me, the answer to, "Do you want to go watch cartoons," when I have free time, almost always is "yes.")

(More Awkward Yeti.)

(Cartoons right now: Gravity Falls. Dang, Mabel is just ADORABLE. And in some ways I was kind of a Mabel when I was a pre-teen. Slightly immature, in love with cute things...But she also has that sort of not-giving-too-much-of-a-darn-what-others-think that I wish I had.)

Edited to add: here's another. And, ouch. (Maybe I need to listen to my "heart" more. Even though my brain is telling me, "Don't be silly, hearts can't think.")

the biggest thing

I had to set a boundary yesterday.

I kind of hate having to do this; part of it is I fear being perceived as "mean" or "inaccessible" (which brings up all kinds of bad memories from May 2012). But I had to do it.

I had a student e-mail me at 8:43 pm (that was the timestamp, at any rate) Monday asking me for a 2:30 pm Tuesday appointment.

I do not hold Tuesday afternoon office hours, for the simple reason that that's when piano lessons fall, and also it's the day I do the few little errands I can't do on the weekend because there are some places that truly do hold banker's hours.

Also, I had already mentally planned out Tuesday afternoon: run home around 2 pm, clean up my house (because of piano lesson - the teacher comes to my house so I feel I have to, at a minimum, have the floors swept and the accumulated mail gone and the bathroom in tolerable condition), run to the post office, run to the bank (that didn't happen but whatever), do the rest of my day's practice....and I knew holding a 2:30 pm appointment would get me out of here around 3 pm, too late to do all of those things, or at least, to do them with any kind of comfort.

And I really debated: Am I being a monster for telling the student no? (This is how much the "student centered' modern campus has altered my way of thinking). Should I just suck it up and either have my piano teacher come to a pit of a house, or not be appropriately ready for the lesson (granted, I've been practicing an hour or close to it every day, but still - I'm obsessive enough that not practicing "enough" on the day of the lesson has a reverse Dumbo's Feather effect on me and I tend to play badly).

(ETA: And I admit, I blamed myself: "Look. If you had taken Sunday afternoon and cleaned house LIKE YOU WERE SUPPOSED TO instead of going all 'oh, I'm too TIRED to, I can do it Tuesday' you wouldn't be in this mess.")

And then I thought: You know, I had less than 24 hours to plan on fitting this into my schedule. I have a rule about paperwork/administrative tasks: no one is allowed to hand me something that has sat on their desk for three weeks and then tell me "You have to complete this in the next five hours" and I also generally say I require 24 hours at least for that kind of thing. And for things like letters of recommendation, you better give me at least five business days, preferably more.

So I decided my time was still my time, even if the university has technically bought 173 hours of it per month (according to my pay stub) and if I had plans, I already had plans.

So I took a deep breath, and even though it made me feel slightly ill to do so, I announced to both my classes that I needed a 24 hour minimum time to schedule "outside of office hours" appointments.

(For what it's worth: I hold 10 hours of office hours per week, a minimum of one per day. That's what's mandated. I'm also here every day from 7 am to 8 am, which is unofficial, because we're "not allowed" to have office hours that early in the day)

And the person in question came up and scheduled a new appointment with me for a time I could meet.
(I had e-mailed them back saying, "Sorry, I can't do that time" but they had not read their e-mail).

But yeah. I have a hard time with that. I have a hard time reclaiming my time when it's "just" my time. I wouldn't have had a problem with it if I had had a dentist appointment or a Library Committee meeting or somewhere I "had" to be.

I don't know why it's hard for me to say "No, I can't do that then" when I'm asked on short notice to do something and I have plans - granted, plans I could alter, but still, plans. I don't know why I put myself out sometimes and then feel vaguely resentful about it. There have been evenings when meetings have been called where the ONE thing I wanted more than anything was to go home and just read a book, but instead of saying, "No, I really can't meet then," I suck it up and go to the darn meeting, even if it's the third fourteen-hour day I've had that week and the second meeting in the day.

(Part of the problem, I am sure, is the fact that because of how I think I tend to assume requests made of me are requests made because the person making them thinks they are reasonable and expects me to say yes; I don't seem to have a possible setting in my brain that goes, "Go ahead and ask for a pony, you probably won't get it but you might." Instead, I might ask for an ice-cream cone, but only if we are going by a shop that sells ice cream and there's a lot of time in the schedule and I haven't had a treat in a while). Perhaps part of my feeling of "I seldom really get what I want" is that I'm not good at ASKING.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Tactical hair clip

Two comment responses first:

* I don't know what the deal with the challenge is. It was just presented as "Department X has challenged us to do this Friday." I'm really hoping that it's going to be a "Hey, let's get students who want to do this!" thing and leave us off the hook. (And I might approach my friend to see if he's of similar mind to me). I think we have faculty meeting later this week where we can find out more. I really want to just go Bartleby the Scrivener on this and say "I would prefer not to," full stop, no need to explain.

* It's not so much that I'm self-critical (though I am, I guess), it's that I'm just not as light-hearted as some and I admit I look on them with some envy. I guess part of it is I do take my responsibilities too seriously. And I don't know how to do otherwise (and, to be brutally honest, I'm not sure I really want to - one of my outstanding qualities is that I Can Be Counted On To Get Stuff Done and so few people these days seem to do that.) I guess I was serious even as a kid, which is what makes me wonder if this isn't somehow hardwired into me and therefore more of a challenge to change.

Anyway. Something I ordered finally came in the mail. I was grumbling about how long it took until I picked up the package and saw it came all the way from Israel. (I didn't notice the address of the website, though it was animacausausa, which probably should have told me it wasn't a USA based place). Rishon Le Zion, Israel, to be exact. I'm not up on modern Israeli geography so I don't know exactly where that is.

This was something I saw somewhere - online, or maybe linked on Twitter - and it caught my imagination so much I wanted one. At the time, I referred to the old caper-movie trope where the lady hands a hairpin over to her male companion (with the line, "Maybe this will help.") as he's trying to pick a lock or something. And that this item was the apotheosis of that:

closed hair clip

It's a tactical hair clip. I LOVE this idea. The packaging shows all the things it can do - it has a couple of screwdriver blades, and a "trolley coin" (which looks kind of like an allen-wrench-in-negative) and a little cutting blade, and a short ruler (in cm, of course - this is from an Israeli company)

At first, when I tried to put it in my hair, I couldn't get it to go - it's very tight and the first couple times I tried I cut a few hair strands with the cutting blade. (I have lots, so it doesn't really matter).

Then, playing around with it, I found out it opened:

open hair clip

This way, you can easily slide it in and clamp it back so it's secure.

I originally ordered two, with half a thought of  "one for my office" (you never know when you need a small cutting blade) and "one for home/wearing in the field." But I might save the second one as a gift for my sister-in-law, this is the kind of thing she'd find both useful and kind of amusing.

Oh, and here it is on. Forgive the slightly manic expression; it's been a long day with lots of bad human interactions.

slightly more dangerous than Amy Farrah Fowler

I call this "Slightly more dangerous than Amy Farrah Fowler [she is known for that one oddly placed hair clip] but considerably less dangerous than Ziva David." (I had to get Ziva in there, knowing where the clip came from. And yeah, I could see her with one of these secreted away in her 'do, just in case.)

More detail, and a picture showing all the uses: multi-tool hair clip

it's peer pressure

So. This ice bucket challenge thing going around.

Apparently another department on campus challenged my department to it.

It's not clear yet if it's faculty thing, or (I hope, please God, I hope) a "let's ask for student volunteers" thing.

Because I don't want to do the ice bucket challenge.

I'm sorry. I don't. I'd happily give money to the charity in question (but not the $100 that allegedly you are supposed to give as a non-participant; after this summer's expenses, that's a bit steep for me at the moment). But I don't want a bucket of ice water dumped over my head.

Three reasons:

1. I still occasionally get migraine headaches. Extreme cold on my sinuses can still trigger them. While I don't know for SURE it will cause a migraine (the only thing I know FOR SURE causes migraines, every time, is miso), still. And I have that tetchy neck muscle that spasms when it gets too cold, and then I hurt for the rest of the day.

2. It's....well, it's kind of humiliating. And if you're a woman, wearing a t-shirt or any kind of thin top, and you get cold stuff dumped on you - well, that can lead to photographs you DO NOT WANT getting out. And I'm a professor. I think I should be allowed to hold on to a few shreds of dignity and not having a wet cold t-shirt photo of me on the campus webpage is one of  those shreds.

3. It just feels really icky and coercive. "What kind of an awful person are you, do you hate people with ALS?" No, I don't, not in the least. "It's just a few minutes out of your day, and then you're done!" "You're a party pooper!" (Yes, okay, maybe I am.) I don't like anything where choosing not to participate leads others to think less of you. And I'm DONE with being coerced to do things: last weekend and the weekend before (and the blisters still haven't healed totally) are Exhibits A and B for this.

And it's hard for me to explain #3 to people, especially people more extroverted than I am. It takes a lot of energy for me to say "no" to something "everyone else" is doing, at least when it's something just kind of dumb. (I was good at saying no to the typical bad peer pressure stuff as a kid, though really, most of my friends were goody-goody introverts like me so I never got offered a doobie or pushed to shoplift). But the other thing is that there's always THAT person. You know the one - the one who hounds you on "WHY" you don't want to do something. And for someone like me, having to craft a good explanation beyond "I would rather not" is painful - sometimes to the point where I just sigh and go, "FINE. I'll do it then" and resent it the whole time.

This is partly a Guess Culture vs. Ask Culture thing again. A guess culture person would say, "Hey, I'm going to do this ice bucket challenge for ALS" and then wait to see if the other person said, "Oh, cool! I want to do it too!" An ask culture person asks other people to do it with them, without considering if it's something they want to do or not.

I don't know. I really don't want to do this, but if I'm the only holdout I probably WILL do it, despite the risk of discomfort, because it's harder to explain to people why I didn't do something like this than it is to just do it.

And I hate that. It's just another way I feel not-listened-to.

(I'm really hoping that my Best Frolleague Forever, who tends to be of a like mind with me on these things, is this time, and goes, "You know? I'm not doing this, sorry" and I can say "Yeah, me too.")

The three Hs

Hot (supposed to be around 100 today without the heat index), Humid (the dewpoint is currently 70, and will probably go up a degree or two by sunrise), High pressure (30.01 inches).

I hurt. That's probably partly where the "soreness" yesterday came from - my bursitis is reminding me it exists this morning. Not enough to make me cut out the workout (and paradoxically, working out usually helps a bit).

Also, something is setting off my allergies. I guess ragweed season has started. (Here's hoping for an early frost. Probably impossible, but still, I hope).

This is our typical summer weather that we mostly missed out on this year. And yeah, perhaps that's partly why I can hear the vague snufflings of a black dog somewhere behind me, and I think of educators past who seemed so much happier (or at least more outwardly happy) in their lives than I am...

Other than that, I don't have much. I'm still working on the vest back, which is taking a long time, seeing as it's sportweight yarn. (And I'm already starting to worry if I will have enough, despite having bought slightly more yardage than what it claims my size takes.)

I hope I can get done early this afternoon; I have piano lesson at 5 and I need to tidy the house up more. I did some on Sunday afternoon but kind of burned out on energy.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Off the agenda

So, after my office hours ended (and I finished a bit of grading I had to do), I drove home to check if there was an update on my yard. No notice taped to the mailbox (the standard MO), nothing on my door, no phone message.

So I used up one of my "emotional spoons" for the day and called down there. Asked the person (the "big boss" was not in; I asked for her first) if she knew the status of my yard.

She asked my address, and when I told her said, "You're clear, don't worry about it."

Ugh. What have I been doing for the past week? What this does mean is I just need to make sure to make time to mow my lawn weekly whether it looks like it needs it or not. Once the grass gets taller it gets harder to mow. (I could buy an electric mower but I feel kind of broke right now, and as long as I do keep up with it, the rotary mower does fine. Also unless I got one of the rechargables, it would be a pain, because I have no outdoor sockets - just one in the garage. What we really need is an affordable solar mower, maybe one that works on the "roomba" principle, where you put "boundaries" down and then turn the thing loose while you sit in the shade and drink an iced tea.)

On you lose some front:

I opened my mailbox to check for mail. There was....well, in the interest of keeping things PG, I'll say there was a gentleman's birth control device sitting in there. Not used, apparently, though I did not inspect it very closely. The wrapper was in there too.

I stood there a moment, completely and utterly gobsmacked: "What the....?" "Is that a.....?" and then when the right synapse fired, I went "OH GROSS."

Then I was horrified: what if my mail delivery person came by and saw it? And refused to leave my mail?

I rushed in the house and grabbed a large number of paper towels (Like I said, I think it was unused but didn't look that closely) and removed it and stuffed it in the trash.

And then thought: Someone needs to know about this, in case it happens again or in case I am being targeted. (I don't think I am, I can't think of anyone I might have ticked off or spurned romantically, at least not anyone who would think this was remotely a good idea). First thought of the cops but meh, this would be impossibly small potatoes to them. And anyway, the post office might need a record of it. So I called the local post office.

(An aside: it is increasingly hard, in today's stripped down yellow pages, to even find the governmental numbers. Yeah, I could have gone online but I'm just old enough to think "yellow pages" first and not Google when I need a phone number)

I'm glad I called them. The guy was reassuring and was appropriately horrified on my behalf. And then he said, "Don't worry about it too much; we've had other reports of this happening and apparently it's just people picking a mailbox at random to be an idiot about."

But seriously. Maybe I just need to be done with it and get a box down at the PO and remove my mailbox forever; this is the third mailbox since I've lived here (the first two were vandalized; one of them someone tried to blow up with firecrackers).

I know it's a small thing but to me it's a mark of an increasingly uncaring and uncivil society, when someone thinks it's a laugh to do that to a person.

I don't know. Maybe I'm being totally humorless about this and need to lighten up but I don't find it all that funny, I find it kind of gross and offensive.

Hm. I wonder if the local high school did their STD-prevention health class this week or last week. (I last opened my mail box Saturday afternoon). I could see high schoolers thinking that was a dandy prank with the "samples" they were given. (Except I think our local high school uses an abstinence-based curriculum). Could also be college kids; I think they have bowls of the things out in the nurse's office, take what you want, no questions asked, in the name of preventing the spread of disease and unexpected pregnancy. But still: putting them in people's mailboxes is not what they're there for.

I dunno. I'm ready for the weird stuff to stop. Some days I find myself stopping and going, "If I didn't know I was awake I'd swear I was dreaming this."

Monday morning random

* I don't know for sure but I may have mistakenly taken a double dose of my hypertension meds last night. I kind of remember taking the pill when I first got my beverage for dinner out, and then taking it when I sat down to dinner. (I hadn't turned the bottle over, which is usually my signal for "you took the pill already," so maybe I didn't).

* At any rate, I haven't died and my heart rate hasn't slowed to a dangerous point. (There was some medical show, maybe Untold Stories from the ER, that featured someone who way OD'd on beta blockers and they had a deathly low heart rate, apparently that's the main problem. And anyway, a double dose probably isn't approaching OD)

* I was really sore this morning from mowing when I got up. Partly because I was extra OCD about it (going over and over areas again) but partly because it was hot out. Didn't work out, which may have been a mistake, because:

* I have this foreboding feeling of "there will be tears before the day is out." My mood is usually not as good on days when I don't work out before work.

* I was thinking about my old high school French teacher again this morning as I trudged up the stairs to my office. Specifically, how I remember seeing him on his way to work (the prep school I attended had a few houses that they used to provide housing for some faculty. He and his wife had a house close to campus). He was frequently whistling and swinging his briefcase. And thinking about that makes me sad because while I value my work deeply, I never quite feel like whistling and swinging whatever I am carrying (I don't carry a briefcase) as I head in to work. And I wonder, how does someone learn to be that happy-go-lucky? By all rights I should be like that - I have an extremely good life, unbelievably good by global standards - and yet I'm so serious all the time. And stuff, little stuff, gets to me and sucks out the joy I might feel. Maybe it's an issue of age - he was a good fifteen years older (at least) when I knew him as a teacher than I am now - but I'd think at some point before now I'd have learned to go all Bugs Bunny and say "eeeeeeeeh, forget it" to the stuff that bothered me.

When I go into work in the morning, my head is full of a list of what I need to be sure to do in the coming day. I'm mentally clicking through "What is the best time to get this done, and what do I have to do before I can do this other thing, and when can I get over to Print Shop" and all of that.

* Maybe he never watched the news. That could be part of it.

* I suppose my perceptions today are colored by the worry over the outcome of the Yard Boss Lady's visit to my property today. As I said, part of my brain says that no reasonable person could find fault right now - but then again, the other part of my brain says, you so often find that people do not fit your definition of "reasonable." But still, I never do have a day when I whistle and swing my arms as I head in to work. And that makes me a little sad.

* How do you learn not to be bugged by the stupid little stuff in life? Is that even possible to learn at 45, or is that something that has to be coded into your genes or learned as a child? (And yet: by being bugged by the stupid little stuff of life more than most people, I do have the reputation of being extremely diligent and the one who can get stuff done. I'd hate to lose that but sometimes I think the tendency to get bugged by stupid stuff in life is killing me.)

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Hope I'm good

Tomorrow is the day the "big boss" of code compliance or whatever it is comes to look at my yard and decide if I'm off the agenda.

I decided, even though it was hot and even though I had little "free" time this weekend, to go out and mow again. And even do some picky stuff like hand trim (with clippers) around the birdbath and stuff.

My lawn qua lawn looks really good, but there is a big bare patch at the back of the yard where the brush pile was. And catkins still on the roof. And and and. The rational part of my brain is telling me, "A reasonable person could not find fault with the state of your lawn; it's not perfect but it's far better than it was and it's better than many in this town." And "The neighbor to your south has actually had citizen complaints [though about things that aren't in the laws] AND their front lawn is really tall." And "The person told you she had tons of people going on the agenda, she will be looking for people who can be removed in order to shorten the meeting." And "They can't legally put you on the agenda for something you didn't know about; you dealt with the two things they listed and it would be unfair and possibly illegal for them to get you for something you didn't know and weren't given time to abate."

(How I hate that word: "abatement.")

But the irrational part of my brain is going "They are looking for something else to ding you on, they will find something." and "You probably have violated some rule you don't know about and that will trip you up." (That's the biggest thing. I feel, at my most paranoid about this, like I've fallen into some malevolent fairy-tale world where things that make sense to me are actually violations of some super-secret rule, and I'm going to hear "OFF WITH HER HEAD!" at some point and not even really know WHY.)

And yeah, having to go before the board and either pinkie-promise that I will find someone to blow the catkins off my roof (or whatever new violation I seem to have) or fall down weeping on the floor and beg forgiveness or argue that no, the fennel they are calling a "tall weedy grass*" is in fact a desirable garden plant that feeds pollinators and can theoretically feed humans is, in the grand scheme of things, a bee sting and not an amputated limb, but it feels far worse to me than it really is, probably because (a) I've never really broken any big rules and (b) I thought being 'transgressive' was supposed to be way more fun than this.

(*I'm fearful of this because I still can't figure out where the "grass taller than 12"" was in my yard the last time. I had some that was approaching 6 or 7 inches, and unless they were just giving me a kind warning - in which case they should have been more clear - I find myself wondering if one of my less-familiar garden plants, to whit, the fennel, was interpreted as "tall grass" by whoever checked it out. Even though the fennel was obviously in ONE patch of a garden, and it's pretty darn clearly Not A Grass.)

The other frustrating thing is I have no idea if my "offness" of the agenda is going to be communicated to me. The person I spoke to last week said I was "probably good" if I did what I said I did. My dad counseled me that, unless I received a request to appear I treat it as being off the agenda, but the rule-following part of me says, "It would be so much worse NOT to show up and to be on the agenda than it would be to go down there and check."

The thing is....this is another bite from the day and presumably another human interaction I really don't want to have. What I'd *like* would be a phone call or note on my door saying, "You're good, you're off the agenda" but I have no way of knowing if I will get that.

(And I wonder: what about people with bad work schedules and really horrific bosses who might face the undesirable choice of angering The Powers That Be In The City or losing their jobs.)

Saturday, August 23, 2014

and Friday's work

So, unless I decide I HAVE to mow again, I'm done with necessary yard work for a while.

Friday afternoon I cut all the crud (including sucker sprouts) that were growing around the base of the yaupon hollies in my front yard:


No, that was not commented upon, but it looks a lot tidier and was something I kept meaning to get to. I also trimmed back some of the front hedgy things.

After that I took a break and drove my 10 bags of cut brush and weeds to the dump. The Solid Waste guys are all very nice (and I've worked with some of them, back when I was doing the trash-offs). They were amused that my load was "eight cents" over the bare minimum cost. (it cost me $14.58 to drop it off). The receipt they gave me said the load weight was "0.06" which I am presuming is "of a ton," so that would make it 120 pounds, which seems about right.

I took all those stuffed in my car. Four bags in the way-back, three in the backseat, three stuffed in the front seat. (I need to acquire myself an easily accessible friend with a pickup truck. The people I know who might have been willing to drive the stuff with me were busy)

And this is no longer an "area of concern":

Contrast that with last week:

area of concern

I have four more bags of leaves and junk now but that's going to wait for Bulky Waste the first week of the month. I have the bags stowed in an unobtrusive place.

What I really need to do is get a bunch of soil to add in there, and some kind of spreading and strongly competitive shade-tolerant perennial to put in there. I'm thinking my Labor Day efforts may be aimed in that direction. And maybe in seeing if I can find some lilyturf locally for back by the elm tree.

ETA: For future reference for myself: a few shade-tolerant species for Oklahoma. Oooh. I like partridgeberry; that would be nice. I had some inland sea-oats, I think they are still where I planted them, maybe could get more. And fogfruit is nice; I see the native species out in the wild a lot.And more: another list. I particularly like natives (so double yes to partridgeberry and inland sea oats) because my experience with non natives is that some of them become surprisingly pesky and invasive. (Well, natives can do that too: see red cedar, see Virginia creeper, which is actually one of my "hate" plants. But natives are less likely to become invasive). Oooh, coralberry is on the list too. I like coralberry.

Now, just to find a good source for Liriope muscaria and the partridgeberry and some other things. I may wind up having to mail order but that would be okay.

Yeah, I'm kind of sore now, and I didn't get any school-work done yesterday, so I'm going to have to go in today.

And yes. Fourteen lawn and leaf bags, including for some areas that had been cleared out a month ago. That's why I would caution anyone thinking of moving here "for the gardening" to decide if they want that as a full-time job (or to hire a guy, and pay him accordingly.)

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...