Thursday, October 30, 2014

Learned two things

I learned two things today.

First of all: a new word to me. This is rare enough that I have to make note of it. Last night, I re-started reading (well, where I left off: essentially with the assassination of the Archduke) that big book on WWI I was reading.

The author referred to the archduke and his "morganatic" wife. I assumed, from context, this was some kind of physical descriptor (in the photos, she looks like a fairly typical, slightly-zaftig-by-our-standards Edwardian-era woman). Turns out that's not it.

"Morganatic" describes their marriage. In short, it was something aristocratic or wealthy families could do to effectively say "This is how much we disapprove of your choice of a life-partner" - usually it was applied in cases of an aristocratic man marrying "beneath" him. The woman could not inherit, and in some cases, the children of the couple could not inherit. (In the case of world rulers: a child could not succeed his father on the throne or use any of the titles he held). Sort of a way of both disapproving and saying "forget you" by the family. Sort of like a prenup on steroids.

And I learned something much more practical. I was cold when I got home (and it's supposed to get into the 40s here tonight) and it was down in the 60s in my house when I got home, so I decided to turn the heat on for a bit. With the snazzy new programmable thermostat, that meant first redoing all the programming (to reflect the lower temperatures I want the house to be at when running the heat as compared to the air conditioning) and then telling it to switch over to heat.

Well, the fan system dutifully came on, but I thought, "I didn't really hear the furnace kick on." But then I thought that it being "high efficiency," maybe I wouldn't. So I waited a bit, and then felt next to one of the vents, and realized that the air blowing out of it was at best, lukewarm. But then again, I thought, "maybe that's the way with high efficiency furnaces, and I just have to wait."

(Funny how so many of us have been programmed to think "efficient" and "environmentally friendly" means "less comfort less quickly")

Then the temperature on the thermostat actually DROPPED a degree, and I knew that couldn't be right. So I sighed, called the furnace people in the vain hope someone would still be there (no, they weren't). Left a message asking for a call at my work number in the morning and dug out a pair of thermals to wear to bed tonight.

Then I thought, when all else fails, read the instructions again. So I went and looked at the big sticker plastered on the front of the furnace (which is, effectively, all the instructions). They referred to a gas on/off switch so I decided to take the panel off and look.

(This was using a flashlight, as I shut down all the power to that system, which also shut down the power to the light in that room).

Yup. The switch was turned to "off." I don't know if the installer forgot to switch it over, or if he told me about it and I forgot that he did (I was pretty much engrossed in the idea that my house would soon be below 82 degrees inside, so I wasn't really listening).

I turned it to "on," powered everything back up, reset the thermostat (it's hard-wired, so turning the power off means all the "saved" information is lost), and tried it again.

This time, the furnace came on. And warm air started coming out of the vent. So that's good.

I'll just have to remember that switch; it probably makes sense to shut it off at the end of the heating season in the spring, just as a safety feature.

And yeah, I called back and left another message saying I had figured it out. Saves me the cost of a service call.

Feeling beaten down

I just get days like this occasionally. Can't think of anything likely to happen in the day I can look forward to*, just a long slog that isn't over until too late in the day.

I'm still unhappy over the bad interaction of yesterday even though I had a decent lab meeting with my lab class. And last night I had a dream that I was teaching a large lecture of introductory material and people from the class just kept randomly getting up, coming up to me, stopping me, and NEEDING stuff. ("I broke my pencil. Do you have another?" for example). And I find my mood for any coming day is far too strongly affected by what I dream at night: dreaming about someone I cared about who's now gone from my life can make me melancholy for the rest of the day regardless of other things that happen. Or having a funny and entertaining dream (like the one I had some years ago about having a pet alpaca that was about the size of a German shepherd and that would follow me around) makes me bounce out of bed, expecting something good from the day. 

(*Embarrassing admission: I sometimes order yarn and books I don't really need just so that I have something to look forward to in the mail other than the rare issues of magazines and, the rest of the time, bills, spammy ads, and right now, campaign ads)

Part of this is that it's Thursday, and I'm usually kind of flattened by the time the end of the work week rolls around. Part of it is that it looks likely the Krav Maga class next week is going to be cancelled for lack of people signing up. (They have some minimum they must make). I hope I get my $75 back; I hope they don't go, "We'll apply it as a credit when you drive up here and take a class from us" because that probably won't ever happen.

I'm still going to dress up tomorrow. I couldn't find small spiders, just some large (like, 3" across) "glitter spiders" but I also bought some side-combs and I can wire them on to the side combs and I think they will stay in my hair. I might also pin one to the hem of my skirt. But I feel less enthusiastic about it than I did when I first came up with the idea. (I also hope there won't be consternation about SPIDERS! because in lab yesterday, as we were heading out to the field, one of the students expressed a very strong horror of both snakes and spiders. (This is someone who's a pre-med, so it's not like they're going into a career where dealing with either on a regular basis will be likely). You never know what a phobia trigger is and I don't want to be accused of making my class a "hostile" place. (but then again - you never KNOW. I once had a student who was afraid of birds. Any and all birds.)

I'm also slightly concerned I will get glitter in my eyes; when I tried hooking one of the spiders in my hair I was brushing glitter off my cheek on that side for the rest of the evening. Maybe I need to put the spiders in a paper bag first and give it a good shake to knock off the excess glitter.

(As someone on CPAAG says: "Glitter is the herpes of crafting" because it's so hard to get rid of)

Ugh. My plans for this weekend are "work," which doesn't help.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Getting it out

In the interest of making my class more "interesting" for the students, I did a class activity today.

My "too cool for school" student showed up, but the full time I was introducing the activity, this person stood with their back to me.

I feel kind of disrespected by that. Not enough to bring it up, and also I suspect a reaction is what this student wants, but this individual is sucking a lot of the joy of teaching this class for me. They're currently earning an F, which means I will probably see them a THIRD time in my class. (No. I don't give pity-passes. Not even out of pity for myself).

I just don't get this person. No, there isn't any underlying issue that I can see; they interact fine with their classmates so I don't think it's an Asperger's thing or anything. (If anything, they are that annoying bro-dude type, TOO into socializing.) This is someone who is employed at a job where if they graduate with a degree, they move up the ladder, but if they don't, they get to keep the job they have now. In other words, little motivation to do well with their degree; not like our pre-meds or grad-school-bound people who either want to earn the highest grades possible or soak up all the knowledge they can now.

I think that's fundamentally what bothers me the most - this is not a stupid person, they can learn and do well. But they don't want to. They don't want to put forth the effort. And I wish they would just drop out and give that place to someone who DOES want to learn.

But the turning-the-back-on-me thing was just kind of the last straw today.

(I also admit I wonder if there's some kind of gender thing going on. My first semester ever here I had two men in my class who didn't think they could learn anything from a WOMAN and they were very open about that fact and it was one of the things that had me sending off applications EVERYWHERE wanting to leave here (none of them panned out; I didn't even get an interview). I haven't dealt with that for a goodly number of years now but this person may be another one. And I admit, if that's true, I can kind of go, "It's not me, then, it's who I am and this person's attitude towards women" but it's still kind of maddening.)

I know, I know: Illegitimi non carborundum and all that but it's just, I wish the microaggressions in this case weren't so aggression-y.

In most cases, I can happily interpret what some would term a "microaggression" (and I openly admit I hate that word) as "this person is just a sourpuss" or "they are being awkward" rather than "they are doing this specifically to hurt me" but in this case, it feels to me like this student is, for whatever reason, choosing to quietly disrespect me. I suppose I should be grateful it's QUIET; I have heard of some professors who had students stand up and challenge them on minutiae on a regular basis, or even just stand up and start talking over the class discussion.

a happier thing

I saw this in my Twitter stream and I ganked it. Because it's so full of win. Because Mr. T.

Have a halcyon day, everybody.

Some work stuff

I am being aggressively advertised to by a "content provider/content management" company. This sort of thing annoys me greatly - they even sent me an e-mail stating:

"We have created an account for you to access your [redacted] instructor and student eResources from a single location. Almost everything you need to teach your courses can be found on a single website and accessed using one single sign-on.

To complete the account creation process, click the link below and follow the instructions: (also redacted)

Please note: the link is only active for 14 days from the receipt of this email. Should the link expire, please contact your Sales Representative."

This bothers me because I tend to be honest and earnest about things, and if I get an e-mail like that my first reaction is, "I missed some meeting somewhere and I'm now expected to use this." But apparently no: apparently it's a marketing tactic. And that makes me all kinds of angry. (There was also a phone message from one of their reps, wanting me to "talk" about my spring 2015 classes with him. NO.)

I don't know. The way I teach now works for me and seems to work for the students, incorporating more online stuff is not something I want to do. I don't WANT something that enables the people who want justification to skip class to skip. I don't want to create more work for myself just to have fewer people show up for my classes, and then have them wonder why their grades are tanking.


EVERYBODY is sick. I think I had six people (about 10% of the two classes combined) out yesterday, and there may be one or two more I've not heard from. It's kind of exhausting to keep up with. (Yes, I know: six people. But still, that's six different times for them to come in and make up the exam, and six different reasons to remember, and all that. I also have one person in another class who has not taken the second exam yet (they have been out sick for a good half of the class and still persist, despite being counseled to drop). I wrote a make-up for them so I'm going to be unhappy if they never take it. (This is why I generally do not do make ups more than a day after the fact. I got burned too many times after writing essay exams for people and then having them never show. People are too darned irresponsible.)

This is one of my dissatisfactions with how the Financial Aid system works: it's actually in your best interest to accept an F in a class rather than drop and try again next semester. So this has repercussions: for one thing, if you're a faculty member who gives even half a fig, it is distressing to see no-shows and Fs on exams. And it leads to your "DFW" (D, F, Withdraw) percentage being higher: and that's something they're looking at now. Fail "too many" students, and some places, you're "relieved" of teaching that class again. So far, that's not really happened here (though a Temporary person's contract was not-renewed partly based on the fact of their DFW being MUCH higher than that of the other faculty teaching the class. Well, there were other issues as well, but the high DFW provided a good justification).

And yeah, yeah, I know: the standard commentary going these days is college is too expensive and it's not worth it, bla bla bla. I always respond to that with "And if we shut down the colleges and universities, 20 years hence, where will we get the doctors? The engineers?" I mean, yeah, with the economic downturn it's no longer possible to earn Gentleperson's C's in whatever major you consider to be following your bliss, and then you still can get a job in a cubicle, but there's still value in a college degree, ESPECIALLY for kids coming from a lower-income, rural background. Like some of our students.

But Financial Aid is kind of a mess, and I don't know how you'd reform it. (And I don't know that we can cut any I've said before, salaries here are in the 10th percentile or less of comparable institutions, so faculty are not being overpaid, and support staff salaries are a joke....part of it is just how higher education is supported is changing from how it was 20 years ago, and part of it is unfunded mandates, and part of it is that students and parents demand stuff like brand-spanking-new computer centers, and you can't always find an "angel" willing to pay for those....)

But anyway. I do the best job I can, I try to prepare the students the best I can, I try to be flexible in the cases of emergencies (I have a student who had a major life-upheaval; they referenced "having to find a new place to live" and I don't even want to ask as I think they were having some marital issues, so I told them to come in tomorrow on my office hours to make up the exam).

And yeah, it's possible a certain percentage of the people are playing me. Though most of the students who were sick, like seriously sick, bring in a doctor's note. (Hand, foot, and mouth disease is apparently making the rounds). And I tend to feel like it's on THEM if they are playing me - as I once told a colleague about cheating, "I do what I can to look out for it but I figure if they do it so stealthily I can't detect it, I'm just gonna throw up my hands and go "It's THEIR souls," and yes, if a person doesn't believe in the soul or if they don't believe there's some underlying moral code beyond "I wanna get mine using whatever means possible," that doesn't have much impact on a person, but I do like to think that if someone is playing me for a fool, they will either feel guilty about it later on, or they will pay for it somehow later on (Pulling a move like that on the job and getting fired. And yeah, I may be wrong about that ever happening, too).

But I don't know. Kind of like the old saying, "Better a guilty person go free than an innocent one be wrongly imprisoned," I tend to feel like, "better that one student manages to "play" me than I come down really harshly on someone genuinely having problems, but problems not easily documented, and I wind up discouraging them." The reaction of the student who had to find a new place to live, when I told them they could have a day's grace on the exam, told me I made the right choice in that case - the look of genuine relief in their face.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

A Halloween thought

I don't ordinarily do a costume for Halloween. When it falls on a lab day, costumes are impractical and can even be dangerous. And I admit, I don't always like the attention-drawing aspect of a costume - I get weirded out enough by my students looking at me while I'm teaching.

But I also kind of like the fun aspect of doing something different.

Last year, I work the pumpkin hat I made (well, until it got too warm). I was thinking about this year.

First, I thought of the Grumpy Cat idea I had last year, but meh, Grumpy Cat is kind of played out now.

Then I thought: if I had a pair of sufficiently-skinny pants, I could go as a Portlandian/hipster girl, and do all my teaching in 'creaky voice' (bringing a level of "performance" to the costume). But again, meh - I don't own any truly skinny pants (and anyway, I'm too zaftig to truly wear "skinny" pants) and I'm afraid a day of vocal fry would hurt my throat.

I contemplated trying to find a yellow and black striped shirt (or just put black duct tape stripes on a yellow t-shirt) and do a bumblebee with a headband with pipe-cleaner antenna, but also meh. Without going to a lot more trouble and building a third set of legs and making an abdomen with a stinger, that feels like phoning it in.

I do still have a piece of lace fabric (left over from the Angry Goth Chick costume of nearly 10 years ago now) with spiderwebs worked into it. So I think I'm going to pull out a black skirt I never wear otherwise, and wear a white blouse (the better for the lace to show up) and wear the lace like a shawl. And then I thought, you could wear your hair down and if you can find some little plastic spiders at the Wal-Mart, you could attach them to bobby pins and have spiders in your hair.

And I like that idea. I'm going to run out this afternoon to see if I can get some spiders, and I'll tie them onto the bobby pins with black thread. (I could hot glue them on, but I bet tying them will be easier and more secure).

And yeah, then I realized: that's essentially Zecora's Nightmare Night costume, but I don't really care. I like the idea, it won't obstruct my movement or vision, but it's something a little different.

(I wonder: might I have a spider pin in with my costume jewelry? I'll have to look.)

If I were really ambitious, I'd do some kind of more-dramatic than normal make up. But I suspect that trying to do a "smoky eye," first thing in the morning and without any real practice would probably come to grief, so, no.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Couple quick things

* Charlotte, I have always used polyester fiberfill as toy stuffing. I find I can get a pretty good-quality one at JoAnn's; even the Wal-Mart here sells a decent one.

I like it, especially for something like these frogs, because it's washable. (I made sure to buy machine washable yarn for the frogs. I don't remember my mother ever washing any of my stuffed animals when I was a kid but then again I tended to be extremely careful about those kinds of things, even as a child).

I've also heard of using clean, carded wool, which I think would make a lovely toy stuffing but I've never really seen it for sale anywhere.

* I'm midway through with the second frog. These work up gratifyingly quickly - one of the reasons I like knitting toys.

* Tomorrow I give exams (I have two sections of the same class and give the exams on the same day so as to avoid confusing myself too much). So I have to bring invigiliating knitting, it will probably be the vest that I've mostly not-worked-on lately (At home, I've mostly worked on the Christmas gifts).

* Exam-proctoring Dalek says "INVIGILIATE!"

* (That was something I thought of while sorting soil for soil invertebrates. Part of my brain can kind of go on autopilot when I am doing this so I think all kinds of interesting things. Another thing -)

* I was thinking about how if some crazy rich person gave me something like $100,000 with the stipulation that I needed to SPEND it (rather than, you know, sticking it in investments for my retirement), I'd plan an epic cross-country yarn crawl (and try to arrange to meet Ravelry and blog-friends while doing it) - I'd go to all the shops I've mail-ordered from but never got to visit - WEBS, and Loopy Ewe, and Simply Sock Yarn (which advertises on their website, something like, "Come and visit our five tons of sock yarn!" which sounds like a fun trip to me). And just buy yarn, and maybe take my newly-met friends to the nearest yarn shop and ask them, "Okay, what's the ONE YARN you really want for a project?" and buy it for them. Or buy yarn and needles for kids/spouses/others in their family who want to learn.

* My brother and sister-in-law took my niece to a Halloween party at the Air and Space Museum. (They go there a lot; she seems to really like the Air and Space Museum). They sent me photos - Sarah-Jane standing next to someone dressed as a Dalek, and her with Darth Vader and some Stormtroopers. Apparently her reaction to Darth Vader was to call him "funny man."

I don't know if that means she's a super-confident little kid who doesn't scare easily, or if she has a poorly-developed sense of danger.

(I was 10 before Darth Vader made the scene but I think I'd have been afraid of him. I WASN'T afraid of Santa though many kids are when they go for Pictures with Santa but I think the Darth Vader mask would have creeped me out)

Sunday, October 26, 2014

First frog done

This was yesterday afternoon's work:

Flapjack Frog #1

The first of the Flapjack Frogs (pattern by Anna Hrachovec - it's from MochiMochiLand). Eventually there will be three of these, in different shades of green, plus a lily pad. It's part of my Christmas gift to my niece. I'm also going to see if there's a nice Dorling Kindersley or similar book about pond life; she seems pretty interested in that kind of stuff.

The only modification I made to the pattern was to embroider the eyes with perle cotton instead of using the lock-washer eyes, which are not 100% safe for small children, especially on knitted things.

I hope she likes them. I find the relative simplicity of the shape (and the expression) appealing, I hope she does too.

I also worked some on the quilt top in progress, I got a few blocks sewn:

blocks 2


Eventually these will be framed with two of the colors in the blocks (the pale turquoise and the coral) and there will be 35 of them. I'm already thinking if I have something in my stash that would work as a backing.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Back in groove

And suddenly, I start feeling like myself again.

My brain has clicked back into its usual mode of working; I keep coming up with clever things to say. I figured out a big thing that was hanging me (and a colleague also using it) up in using SPSS for data analysis. I got 40 minutes of piano practice in this morning (by virtue of getting up a bit earlier for the workout, and not having to pack a lunch today). And I got my two soil samples of the day taken care of already (because prep for my 9 am class was minimal - teaching the students the basics of using SPSS).

It's funny. I get those periods of not feeling like myself, and I don't really notice that that's the problem - I just feel kind of off and blah and maybe tired. And then something happens, maybe something finally stops flowering or maybe the Vitamin D finally kicks in or something, and my brain snaps back to where it's supposed to be.

This afternoon, depending on when roof guy finishes, I may go to Sherman for grocery shopping and to obtain a skein of cream colored inexpensive yarn (for the frog bellies). And this weekend, more soil stuff but also hopefully a lot of knitting.

(The fact that I have no grading hanging over my head right now may be part of this, but I don't think it's all of it)

Also, class this morning was good. (We're not supposed to have "favorite" classes, but of my regular classes this one is my favorite one to teach and I have a good group of people in it this semester, so.)

And it's Friday

And I'm still feeling better. I suspect the thing I had wasn't so much horrible allergies as some kind of viral thing that did a good job of LOOKING like horrible allergies. Because I think if this were genuine allergies, I wouldn't be feeling this better this quickly, especially since the weather trends are more "BACK TO SUMMER!" than "FREEZE TIME!"

I will say I'm pretty much a nasal-irrigation convert now. I don't LOVE how it feels while I'm doing it, but it does do a good job of clearing the congestion and making me feel better later on. (And my sense of taste came back - I lost it for a day or two, which is not unusual for me with respiratory viruses). The nice thing about the nasal irrigation is that it's cheap (the premix packets don't cost much, and if you use boiled water rather than distilled water, it's also cheap) and it has no real side effects, so I can just keep using it.

I never did have a fever with this that I could detect, though it could be that when I was in the worst of it, I was taking regular doses of ibuprofen to stop the pain in my teeth, so that may have masked any fever.  This also started a lot differently from most respiratory viruses I've had, so that may be why I was like "something really big is wrong" (I thought sinus infection) rather than "oh, this is a cold."

I did go through a shocking number of tissues (three boxes, and that was just at home) this past week. Normally my allergies don't do that to me. (And now, I'm glad I turned down the steroid shot. That would have just made me feel worse, might have made the virus worse [steroid shots depress the immune system] and it wouldn't have helped as much)


The guy is coming out midday today to put sealant on my roof. This will cost less than $100 to do so I figure it's a good first thing to try. If it works, great; if it doesn't, it was still worth trying. (He seems to think it will take care of the problem.)

If it doesn't work, I suppose it will mean tearing off the roof covering and working up from the base, which will be more expensive and annoying.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Some food things

* I broke down and ordered a box of the raspberry herbal tea from Harney and Sons. (I had been holding off, waiting until I ordered the tea that's for part of a Christmas gift). But I decided I wanted it NOW, because I'm increasingly using herbal tea in the evening. (Especially during this last sinus/cold/respiratory thing). Caffeine upsets my sleep too much but a nice herbal tea (one without chamomile, which I am probably seriously allergic to, I know that safflower affects me unfavorably) doesn't, and it's just nice to have something warm and soothing to drink.

* I find since I started drinking tea, I don't care for hot chocolate nearly so much any more. It seems too thick and goopy and too sweet. Interesting how a person's tastes change; now when I want a hot drink my default is tea.

* The Green Spray has added a few more things. They now carry little pre-packaged cheesecake slices and I approve of this. Once in a while I like a "treat" and it's nice to be able to get a single serving of something so I don't have to freeze what's left or feel bad about eating something more calorific than I normally would over the coming days.

* I need to make skillet mac and cheese again. Maybe this weekend. Mac and cheese appeals to me right now but I don't have time to do it today (it's my evening class). Also I think I have to get more cheddar cheese, I think I used the last of what I had up in scrambled eggs the other day.

* Lynn linked to this: 10 British flavors Americans will never widely appreciate. I haven't tried most of those. I have tried Earl Grey (I am okay with it, it's just, not my favorite tea ever; I'd rather have something like All India or Scottish Breakfast). I've had Vegemite, which is like Marmite - years ago when I was at an "international" botanical meeting (in Chicago) a publisher from Australia had their booth-lady handing out crackers with Vegemite as a way to pull people in. I didn't care that much for it; I found it extremely salty. (And of course, today, I would never eat it because of that).

I've had real Turkish Delight (not the Fry's chocolate-bar kind they describe). I'm okay with it, except for the rose flavor - I just can't eat stuff that smells like soap to me. (And anyway, I prefer the Americanized "Aplets and Cotlets version - especially the Cotlets one, which has apricots in it).

I've also eaten vinegar on "chips" (what we would call fries). It's pretty good that way and I like it better than I like ketchup on fries. (Vinegar, especially malt vinegar, is also good on fried fish). I learned this from my mom; apparently someone in her family did it that way (her family is part British but they've been here for over 150 years so it's not like it's a behavior someone  brought over and taught her; it must have been passed down or something. Also, years back, before ketchup and salsa became so popular, lots of people used vinegar as a condiment on stuff)

They don't list Golden Syrup but that might be because most Americans who taste it like it, it's just hard to find in some groceries. (I either mail order it, or I pick up a bottle when I'm up visiting family - no where around here that I have been sells it). Golden syrup is kind of essential for some recipes (I can't imagine doing the West Country Flapjack with corn syrup as a substitute) and it's wonderful on oatmeal. (And in tea, if you want a sweetener in tea).

Maybe they need to do a companion piece about British flavors that Americans like.

* Speaking of Marmite/Vegemite, I have heard a few people of British extraction opine that Marmite is to them as peanut butter is to us - they say "it's something you have to grow up eating." (These were people who did not like peanut butter). I wonder if that's true, if people who didn't grow up with peanut butter dislike it upon trying it as an adult. (I grew up eating the stuff - it was the fallback meal if I didn't like what my mom fixed for dinner; we had the option to make ourselves a peanut butter sandwich if we didn't like what was on offer.) I still like peanut butter and eat it from time to time; when I was in the thick of having bad hives it was one of the things that worried me, that maybe I'd become allergic to it, but some experimentation with avoiding vs. eating it seemed to demonstrate that it had no effect, so I will keep eating it.

weekend almost here

This weekend, I think I need to start on the frog project (the Flapjack Frogs for my niece). I'm still working on the gift socks but if I don't get those TOTALLY done that's less of a problem then not having my niece's Christmas gift done.

I mowed and did a little edging yesterday. I am ready to be done with this for the fall. But seeing as it's supposed to be 87 (!) degrees out this weekend, I suspect I'll have to mow at least once more, especially if we get rain. (I'm very paranoid now about letting my lawn get even a little tall, given what happened this summer. Yes, the now-vacant house south of me has a tall lawn but I don't know that that would draw attention away from me).

I have an appointment this afternoon with a roof guy. This is someone the husband of my church's secretary uses; he called him on my behalf. (And obviously told the guy I was a Ph.D., the man called me "Doctor" when he called up. This amuses me slightly; most workpeople call me "Ms." or, if they know I'm not married and they're a slightly older person, "Miss." I don't correct them because I don't really care that much; I am not the kind of person who feels a need for everyone to know I have a Ph.D.) Hopefully he can deal with the issue and stop the leak.

They caught the escaped guy. He had made it to Hot Springs, apparently after having been helped by a former girlfriend (who has herself been arrested). The claim now is that he "hopped a train." I didn't realize that still happened - that people got on moving freights and traveled around the country. (There is no Amtrak service originating here - I wish there was - so I assume it meant hopping a freight. Also, Amtrak often checks ID, and he'd be caught if they did)

I will say I don't understand helping someone who is pretty clearly guilty of what they're charged with. (And this is not like assisting someone who is a "criminal" because they continue to feed the homeless despite the city telling them not to, or a "criminal" because they participated in a protest I would agree with....) And anyway, like so many things: you're going to get found out eventually. Much better, I think, to 'fess up and accept whatever consequences. (And heck, better off not to hurt other people in the first place...)

I guess in a lot of ways I have led, and continue to lead, a really sheltered life.

And, I don't know. Watched what happened in Canada yesterday. It made me sad and also kind of angry. And I'm also angry at some of the things said in the wake of it, and the fact that this seems, weirdly, to be bringing out some of the darker parts of human nature. There's actually been some sniping back and forth, and some of the old "Tragedy? You don't KNOW tragedy!" commentary.

And in all of this, I remain so puzzled about how something that purports to represent a religion advocates killing people and spreading horror. 

ALL the things going on in the news right now. I wonder if we're hitting a tipping point where a critical mass of people are, I don't know, doing some kind of twisted Descartes thing where they go, "I know I think, therefore I am human. But I can't really tell what you are thinking if you think, and therefore I'm not convinced you're human."

How awful, though, to be an honor guard standing before a memorial, and to just be gunned down. How awful for that soldier's family. And I admit, I saw the photo of the people in Canada's Parliament barring the door with chairs and tables, and I shuddered a little, because that's what we've been told to do in the case of an on-campus shooter situation. I've rehearsed in my head telling my class, "I need five or six good strong people to help me block the door with the tables and chairs." I hope and pray I never actually have to say that.

I tell myself that "IT*" can't win, that what is good and loving and right will win and in fact has already won....but it seems like we have to go through so much to get there.

(*I've started thinking of these things, these attitudes, as being like that dark cloud in "A Wrinkle in Time" that stars would give up their "lives" to combat....)

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Wednesday morning random

* I think this is allergies/sinus rather than a cold. With a cold, when I try to sleep, it gets progressively worse overnight until I wake up because I'm so congested I can't breathe properly. With this, in the middle of the night, my sinuses wake me up and go, "Uh, we've been hanging on to a bunch of stuff? And we want to get rid of it, like, NOW?" and I have to get up and blow my nose a lot. ("Better out than in, I always say.")

* The onslaught of Christmas catalogs is slowly beginning. I got two in the past 10 days from Victorian Trading Company. I love the products they sell, I love looking at the catalogs, but sometimes their descriptions are way too precious or even outright wrong. But sometimes they make me laugh. Like this one. Here's the relevant sentence: "A number of years ago we aligned ourselves with an avid naturist who meticulously retrieves intricate web and preserves them under glass"

Yes. Naturist. (NB: very small photo of naked people - it's a wikipedia page). And yes, I know, there is the alternate definition of the term that means "naturalist," but if they MEAN "naturalist," they should say it.  I daresay a lot of us, when we hear "naturist," we think of what that wikipedia page is about, first. If I am talking about someone who studies nature, I always say "naturalist."

(I wouldn't be around spiders naked on a bet. I'm not an arachnophobe but if I'm about to get in the shower and I see one in the tub, it has to go before I will get in)

* Also, the holiday-buying season must be starting up, I saw the first "Wait, what?" perfume ad since last December. (Lots of perfume ads are like that, I've noticed, like they're trying to be little Buñuel movies or something. Does that imply luxury? That no one can make sense of the images in your ad?)

 * They still haven't caught the escaped prisoner. They did arrest a former girlfriend of his and her daughter, because they were apparently "aiding and abetting." I still walk fast from my car to the building here (it is dark when I come in) and only feel better after I'm in the building with the door locked behind me. I don't KNOW that the guy would take a hostage or anything, but apparently he's facing life in prison, so he might do really stupid stuff out of desperation. I hope they catch him soon. 

* Apparently air-purifier season ends in October. Or so the Lowe's thinks so. My one here on campus needs a filter change, so I ran out there SPECIAL after piano last night - I had seen boxes of the filters on the shelf the last time I was there just a couple weeks ago. Nope, nothing. Everything replaced with humidifiers. (Humidifiers? It's like a dewpoint of 68 this morning. The last thing we need is more humid). I asked a guy and he essentially shrugged and said, "We have them on the website, I think." Yeah? So does Amazon, and I have their free two-day shipping, so....

Sometimes it annoys me living in a fairly small town. There's really nowhere else in town that would have this (Walmart doesn't). Lowe's disappoints me from time to time - they don't carry the size of furnace filters I need, but the Walmart does. (Which reminds me, next time I'm out there, I need to stock up). 

At least I was able to get the "pre filter," which is what needs to be changed more often. And I got some birdseed in case we ever get cooler weather - the birds have begun hanging around in the shrubs in front of my house, so it's probably time to start filling the feeder again.

* It's supposed to be 87 here on Saturday. I disapprove of this.  

* At least someone came over and fixed the heat in the room where I teach at 9 am and it is no longer DEATH HOT in there. It's actually a little chilly, but I can tolerate that far better. I guess they actually listened to my complaint of  "I cannot teach in a room that is that hot." 

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

I can't tell...

I can't tell for sure, but it's possible the sinus issues I had last week were the stealthy start of an atypical cold. Yesterday, my nose ran like a faucet - I went down to the ladies' loo and appropriated what was left of one of the big rolls of tp and now have it in my office. And I have a scratchy throat, which could suggest cold (or could be a side effect of the steroid nasal spray, or could be post-nasal drip).

The good news in all of this? My teeth feel a lot better and the feeling of doom about that one front tooth that has a "calcified channel" is going away. (Also good news: apparently that tooth is NOT dead, based on the amount of pain it gave me in the past week)


I am going to do something scary in a couple of weeks. A Krav Maga (a form of self-defense, sort of like martial arts but not) trainer is coming to campus and doing a workshop. And I figured, heck, given the stuff that can go on on a campus, it's probably worth knowing the right way to drop someone who comes at you and also some possible techniques for someone who has come on campus with a gun. (Yes, I know. But if someone walks into a classroom bent on shooting people including me, I'd rather go down fighting than just get slaughtered. And we're a fair piece from Campus Police, so the "good guys with guns" wouldn't get here too fast)

Well, I got the instructions last night. I am to buy a mouthguard (eeep). And they want to know about medical conditions. And I am to bring a gallon of water, and "an extra shirt for the drive home might be a good idea." This sounds very physical and I hope I'm up for it. I did e-mail the guy back, emphasizing my age (maybe they meant this for students?) and the fact that I have high blood pressure and somewhat dodgy teeth and some arthritis issues. And he e-mailed me back, all very reassuring, but it will still be kind of scary.

I do work out, and I can do stuff like lift and carry fifty-pound bags of sand, and I can pull myself up onto my roof using mostly the strength in my shoulders and chest, so maybe I'm okay. (He said the oldest student was 67, so at least I won't be the oldest).

And anyway - there's some dude accused of murder who escaped from the (sadly fairly porous, it seems) county jail, and they think he's still in the area (Apparently, they suspect a friend or relative is helping him). And while I probably couldn't drop HIM without my having a weapon (he's almost a foot taller than I am and leaner), still, knowing self-defense might make me less worried about that stuff because I know what I could do. And apparently the training contains aspects of learning situational awareness and avoiding bad situations as much as being able to fight your way out of one.

(Actually, I suspect my situational awareness is pretty good, or at least good compared to many today - I don't walk and text, which just seems incredibly foolhardy to me. And I had all that training back in the day as a college student about "look around yourself when you're walking alone; if something feels hinky it probably is so get to a place where there are other people you can trust, don't feel bad about turning around and loudly confronting someone you think is following you, etc." I've never had to DO any of that other than the looking-around part (and, okay, there's been a time or two when I detoured into a store or campus building when something felt hinky) and I tend to walk fast and with my head up. But still.)

Monday, October 20, 2014

"Bullied" geeky kid

I ran across this article: Six lessons I learned from being bullied as a geeky kid. (NB: Some harsh language)

While I don't necessarily claim any more to have been TRULY bullied (what I experienced does not seem to have been as bad as what I hear about today in cases of bullying; I think I was more neglected by my peers except when they happened to light on me as someone they could make cry easily), still, there are some things I agree with (and some I disagree with) in the article.

And the author left out what I think, personally, was the biggest most important lesson for me. But I'll put that at the end.

Here are the six things the author listed, with my comments:

1. Ignore Insults and Keep Going

I'm still not so good at this one. I mean, I can keep going, but an insult - or these days, it's more likely an attack on my competence from someone who really doesn't have the right to question it - breaks my stride. And I do tend to obsess about awful things that people say. Having a higher-up accuse me of not knowing my job threw me into a funk for a week, even though a colleague sat me down and said, "You KNOW this person. You KNOW that that is how they operate. You KNOW that what they are saying is so untrue it's laughable." 

2. Everybody Is Probably Laughing at You, But It's Not Really A Big Deal

Actually, what adulthood has taught me? Everyone is probably NOT laughing at you; they are probably laughing about something stupid a friend of theirs did, or a cat video they saw on the internet, or something said on a late-night comedy show. "What do most people think of you?" "They don't."

That doesn't mean that when I'm feeling insecure or anxious, I don't look at the people giggling over something in class and wonder if I have a button open somewhere, or if I said something that seemed innocent to me but has taken on a Whole New Meaning thanks to Urban Dictionary.

(A story: a colleague, years ago, asked me, "Do you know of any other meaning of the term 'shot his wad'?" I said no - I knew it as a shooting term, from the days when you had to use packing in the barrel of the gun. Or perhaps as a gambling term, where the 'wad' in question was cash. Well, it turns out the "new" meaning of the phrase has to do with ejaculation. The really funny thing? The colleague was using it in the context of reproductive allocation in annual plants, where they channel all their resources into flowering and making seed, and therefore, do not live past seed maturation....)

But most of the time, no, people are not really laughing at you. And if they are, that's really pretty insensitive of them.

3. There Is Nothing More Important than Friendship

Yeah, yeah, yeah. My Little Ponies and all. I just don't have that many in-person friends, at least not friends I feel comfortable calling up and asking to come over and "spot" me when I go up on the ladder (see previous post). I admit I do miss having a few close in-person friends, ideally close to my own age and with similar interests. But I'm at that stage of life where MOST people my age are very involved with raising children and I can understand that. So I have my rare get-togethers with Ravelry friends, or I do stuff like eat lunch after church with some of the retired ladies. 

4. Fantasies Are More Powerful Than Pain

I would argue that retreating into a fantasy world is not always necessarily healthy, but that's where my head was a LOT of the time in junior high school. I made up elaborate stories, I had ongoing worlds with characters that I could visit.

I've gotten less good at this as time has worn on. However, some of my other hobbies, like knitting, quilting, and reading, play that role now. I find when I'm really extra-special upset or worried, a good, concentration-requiring novel helps me forget what I'm  worrying about for a while. And there have been times when I felt especially wounded by the world where going into my sewing room (which, being at the back of the house, also feels psychologically like more of a sanctum - I am the only one who ever goes there, it can't be seen from the street - so if someone drives past my house in the evening and I have the other lights off and just the one in my sewing room on, they don't know I'm home. It feels like a place I can hide. And also, when I am sewing, I am competent. I know what I'm doing. I trust my materials and I can make good things.

5. Always Distrust Popularity   

No quibbles here. I'm immediately suspicious of the person who seems "too" popular. Though that's more from my later experience; the one person I knew that I would attribute sociopathic tendencies to was someone who was very popular and very good at "working a room." The whole "Be a rockstar!" thing gets my hackles up very easily. Why do we need to be rockstars? The world doesn't need more rockstars; it needs more decent human beings.

And I will admit some bafflement when something I happen to like becomes popular - because so much of the stuff I've cared about down through the years was nixed as decidedly "uncool" by the popular kids at school.

6. Give Up On Revenge 

I don't know that I ever had traditional revenge fantasies as a kid. I certainly never daydreamed about my enemies being hurt physically, and especially not my doing it. My fantasies were more along the lines of something happening and them realizing how WRONG they had been to shun me, and that they either stopped teasing me or even, outright, courted my friendship (though, given #5 above, I might have reacted badly to that - and I did have an instance, once, of someone pretending to be my friend for a while so they could get me to confide stuff to them they could later use against me). Or that I'd do something really "great" (Like winning the spelling bee, though now, I realize that wouldn't have cut any ice with the kids who teased me) and gain respect that way.

One thing I learned as an adult: the only person whose behavior you control is your own. And you can rise above all the mire that small-minded people generate by being a moral and good person, by being kind to people, by sticking by your own values and being true to yourself.

And I'd add a #7:

7. Being bullied taught me to be a more compassionate person

There's nothing like being on the wrong end of teasing to teach you how much it hurts. (And yet, I didn't always live that as a kid: I remember picking on a kid even lower in the pecking order than I was, and to this day, that's one of the things I regret most, that I didn't reach out to her and be her friend).

But as an adult, one thing   I have learned is that even some difficult people tend to open up and/or calm down if you show them a little compassion. Not all of them, but some. And I've learned that in the long run, being honest but kind with people gets you farther than being abrasive can. And it feels like an easier path in the world, to try to look at people with something like understanding than it is to look at them as obstacles or something that makes you angry. And of course, I strongly believe in the call to "love our neighbors as ourselves," even though those neighbors sometimes make themselves blasted hard to love.


Sunday, October 19, 2014

Break winds down

I did get some useful stuff done during this break.

First off - I cleared out my sewing room and sorted and bagged up the fabric that was sitting around (in big blanket-storage bags bought for the purpose).

This was, unfortunately, precipitated by the fact that there is a small roof leak that I discovered during our last heavy rainstorm. (Nothing got ruined; the few pieces of water-spotted fabric washed up fine). But I wanted to move everything away from there, and also organize stuff (more or less). So I have a couple different idiosyncratic categories:

- big pieces (larger than 2 yards) and pieces set aside for backings
- traditional florals
- "modern" florals and geometrics
- scraps
- big pieces of solid colors (for sashing, etc.)
- novelty prints

One good thing is I know the fabric is all okay. And it's not in a giant pile. And I got rid of the old dehumidifier box that has sat there for some 10 years with fabric stacked on it. And I found a few pieces that I can put together for future quilts.

The other good thing is that the cleaned-up room will help me get my quilting mojo back - I started back up on the top that's sat in a partially-finished state for months without me touching it:

postage stamp blocks

It's going to eventually be a postage-stamp quilt (sets of 16 of the small squares, and then framed with alternating colors of turquoise and peach).

I also went out and scraped all the old leaves and crud off the roof to look for the leak (and also, in preparation for getting a guy out to do it, as soon as I find someone who comes recommended). Yeah, I went up on the roof, even though I said I'm not doing that any more. The back roof is only about 6 1/2 feet off the ground at its lowest point, so it's easy enough for me to muscle myself up there off the ladder, and the roof is practically flat (which is probably partly why it leaks), so it's safe to walk around up there. (In the end, I wound up getting my snow shovel and using it, because that was the only way to get the decomposed crud). I did spot a couple seams that are almost certainly the source of the leaks, so it may be a simple job for the roof guy - maybe slap some mastic on the seams or something. Again, if I knew better what product would work and how to use, it, I could probably do it. But as with the garbage disposer, I'm probably better off hiring a guy who knows what he's doing.

And yeah, I wore a mask (one of those N-95 ones they recommend for dusty work) to hopefully keep some of the allergens out. At least my teeth are feeling better after a couple days of using the Flonase (or, rather, generic equivalent) and my sinuses have been draining like crazy, which probably means they weren't able to before, and that's why I hurt.

I also did some knitting - more on the first pair of giftsocks (I'm up to the heel) and I also started the second pair. Here are two different views, trying to show the cables:

new giftsock

giftsock 2

The yarn is one of Phydeaux Designs' (the colorway is called Verdigris), and the pattern is Jane Brocket's cabled sock from "The Gentle Art of Knitting." This is a nice pattern because it's not that complicated, and it knits fairly fast, but it looks good, too. 

Friday, October 17, 2014

Friday of break

I had a few goals for today:

1. go over to school and grade the leftover grading
2. Watch "Rainbow Rocks"

Well, #1 was dispatched handily in the morning. However, when I came home and was fixing lunch (and, as part of that, clearing a few things from the refrigerator - tomato sauce, some leftover pumpkin puree - that were past their prime.) Dumped them down the sink, turned on the garbage disposal. It kind of ground a bit and halted. So I sighed, unplugged it, hit the reset button, and tried again.

The thing made a "pop" and a tiny bit of smoke curled out of it (I had the cabinet doors open). There was a smell like burning insulation. I unplugged the thing in a hurry and looked at it with concern - would I need to grab the fire extinguisher? Wait, would my fire extinguisher even WORK on a fire in an electrical motor?

So I called the plumber I use. The receptionist reassured me that if it was unplugged and wasn't actively burning at the moment, it could not start a fire, and also told me the plumber who specialized in this (they are big enough to have plumbers with specialties) would call me back.

And yeah, I know, this is a fix a homeowner can do, but I'd rather pay someone who does this on a regular basis and has it down....because he will do it right and will less frustration than I would have.

Then I thought: Oh, I won't be able to watch Rainbow Rocks. (Yeah, I know: I shouldn't care what a plumber thinks of me, and of course it's also possible he would be a Brony. But I get shy about such things). But he didn't call, so I sat down to watch it. But only with half my attention, waiting on the phone.

(I'm going to watch it when it's on again tomorrow morning. I liked it OK, I think the idea of villains that sow dissent and then feed off the "bad vibes" when people argue is an interesting idea. Though thing of how strong they'd grow on a diet of campaign ads....)

Anyway, he called as the end credits were rolling. Asked what brand of thing I had. I looked at it and all I could see was a sticker labeled BADGER 5 (Badger?!?!) But apparently that's a model, he said, "Yeah, that's the kind we sell, I'll grab one and be over there soon." He quoted me a price of $180 or $185, depending on how things turned out. I said I was okay with that (And I am, as I said, I'd rather pay someone who absolutely knows how to do it instead of my flailing around with it)

I had scrambled around and cleaned the kitchen earlier. Pulled all the junk out from under the sink. Found evidence of a past mouse in one corner, so I kind of freaked out and washed the whole area down with bleach. (Mice can carry some nasty diseases but bleach kills most of them).

I did poke my head back in the kitchen for a last check. And then realized I had all my brassieres still hanging up on the drying rack. I am a prude about those kinds of things, so I grabbed them and took them in my bedroom. (In a normal week, when no one goes in my kitchen but me, I just leave them there, and grab one each morning as I need it)

Anyway, it didn't take him long. He also checked all the pipes under the sink and declared them leak-free, which is good. (Old house with slightly younger plumbing....)

In the end, he charged $175 - he said the removal was easier than anticipated. (I don't know if the removal of the dead unit was easier, or if that was the "homeowner cleared junk out from under sink first" discount). He also hauled off the broken unit for disposal, which was good. (They probably have arrangements with a recycler)

So I was distracted throughout the movie. But I can watch it again tomorrow.

I will also say it raises the interesting question: If there are parallel human and sentient-pony worlds, would that mean there was a pony version of me running around somewhere? And what would she be like? (I actually kind of like the idea of there being parallel universes, where we all exist in each one, but are slightly different in some way. As I said, I've sometimes taken a little odd comfort that perhaps there exists a parallel universe where I'm a wife and mother, or one where I'm some kind of world leader, or one where I'm a greatly loved and respected singer or musician....)

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Visiting Spiro Mounds

It was a good day, and a good day to go do this - it was just beautiful out, sunny, neither too warm nor too chilly. (There are a lot of walking paths at the site, so it was good to be able to get out in good weather).

It's pretty far from me. It took just about three hours (a bit longer going up because I pulled off once or twice to consult the map - yes, I still use paper maps). It's a pretty direct route; up 69/75 to McAlester, over on 31 until it ends, and then up 271. And then there are signs. It's not actually IN Spiro, it's north of it. And it's very near to the Arkansas border. (If I had been in the mood for an overnight trip, I probably could have pressed on afterward to Eureka Springs or somewhere).

Spiro Mounds is the site of an old Caddoan Mississippian city complex - most of the information they have is from the 800 AD to 1450 AD (which is apparently when the site was abandoned) time period, but the museum displayed suggested people might have been living there much farther back in time.

There's a small museum with displays and some artifacts (most of which are recreations, more about that later). There's also a lot of history about the people - how they lived, what they ate, what their religious life was like. There are also the walking paths - there are four different ones. Two of them are paved and pretty accessible, the other two were described as "gravel paths" but are more mowed paths and while they're not a DIFFICULT walk, for some one on crutches or in a wheelchair they probably wouldn't be doable (And that's noted on the trail guide).

The walking trails are interesting and are worth doing. There's a trail guide they loan out, and there are numbered stops along the way that explain different things. There's a re-creation of the type of house the people would have used. It's a pretty sturdy and nice house - baked-clay walls (they would light fires inside and out the unfinished structure to harden the clay) and then the roof is held up by cedar timbers (cedar is pretty impervious to rot) and the roofs were sort of thatched. They had either sleeping platforms, or some houses apparently had evidence of sleeping lofts up under the roof.

One interesting fact: Even though men did all of the ritual type stuff and were the only ones allowed in to the temples for the major religious ceremonies, the women apparently owned the houses and there may have been somewhat of a matrilineal structure to the society.

Both sexes worked. Women did most of the farming and food preparation (they had a re-creation of the "manos" or "metate" that was used for grinding corn and other grains, with an invitation to try it out - the stones are VERY heavy and I daresay you'd have well-toned arms if you did that every day of your life to prepare food). They also gathered some wild plants as food. The men hunted but also did some of the heavy labor like homebuilding. Apparently some people were artisans and made things out of clay. They also showed re-creations of  "twillwork" baskets, probably made by the women. And they had some cloth, though there wasn't much information on that - they had what was probably part of a drop spindle among the artifacts, and a drawing of a piece of woven cloth. Somewhere else they noted that bison fiber was spun, but I suspect they may also have had some kind of bast-type plant fiber or something - bison would have been AWFULLY warm to wear in the summers.

They also played. Two games - which I already knew of from my other reading - were stickball (a form of which is still played; I have a Choctaw student who is on a stickball team. It is something like lacrosse) and chunkey, which is where a spool-shaped stone or fired clay piece is rolled and the competitors threw pointed sticks where they predicted the chunkey stone would stop. The person who got the closest to the stone's final destination won. An interesting thing: the games were sometimes used to settle disputes - the winner was deemed the winner of the land (or whatever) dispute. (According to Tim Pauketat, chunkey was also a "symbolic" game - that apparently the round stone was symbolic of the female sex organs, and the spear was "male" and it sometimes featured in fertility rites....)

The main religious activity seemed to be worship of a sun god, though apparently there was also a sort of sin-cleansing ceremony the men took part in, where they took a purgative and then fasted and at the end, the chief forgave them and told them, effectively, "Go and sin no more."

(I'm guessing a lot of this came from later accounts of the remaining peoples that were taken down by French priests or someone like that; I don't know how they'd get such detailed information otherwise from the artifacts alone)

There were different classes, kind of like at Cahokia, but less so - there was an elite class, but according to the information at the site, the main difference was that they had bigger houses set up on mounds and got buried with more stuff. (Shell beads and the like). Ordinary workmen were sometimes buried with their tools, which is an interesting thought. (I guess new ones were just made for the next generation? Maybe there were taboos against inheriting something from the deceased?)

The paths wound around the various mounds. Not a lot to see at the mounds, other than to know they are there - several of them are unexcavated; they were examined with ground-penetrating radar but the decision was made to leave them intact, either for future archaeologists with even better methods, or perhaps, as attitudes change, the idea of leaving them that way as "sacred" to the memory of those who lived there (and out of respect to their distant descendants). There was a note on the trail guide observing that the mounds may be still sacred to some people, and so to be respectful. (It makes me a little sad that people have to be reminded to be respectful of an archaeological site where part of it IS a burial ground of the dead. We wouldn't want people behaving badly in our cemeteries.)

This is one of the places where having a vivid imagination is good: at one point, they have you looking out over an open plain area and briefly describe the town that once was there. And I could almost see it. I think part of the reason these kinds of things fascinate me is that I try to imagine what it would be like to live in that setting - if I were dropped down there with few tools, how would I get food and make shelter? If I had been a woman during that era, what would I have done? (I would hope I'd have been the wife of an ordinary guy; the wife of the ceremonial head of the group was sacrificed when he died. And it seems like the ordinary people had decent lives - lots of hard work, yes, but it seemed like they also had time to make art, and they had decent lifespans and seemed to be fairly healthy, based on the bones recovered. And that area seemed to suffer less warfare than some areas further east.)

There was also an active trading network. I kind of knew that, but was surprised by things like the fact that they apparently had an "ambassador" in South Florida who managed to procure conch shells (which were highly prized) and get them back to the people in Spiro. 

Oh, and the reason why most of the artifacts were re-creations? Most of the actual ones are owned by the Noble Museum. And a lot of the earliest-removed artifacts are just gone; the site was originally opened up in the 1930s by a couple of people who plundered the mounds for stuff they could sell. (They weren't the land owners, as far as I could tell)

The area was apparently abandoned around 1450 AD. According to the information from the museum, a prolonged drought (lasting some 150 years) started around 1250 AD, which led to a decline in resources (I'm guessing it would be too hard to carry water for the farm plots from the Arkansas River, which really isn't that far away). And of course, after that would have been the Little Ice Age, though I don't know how much that would have affected the southern US - I mostly know of its effects from northern Europe, from my reading.

But it was definitely worth a trip.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

a tiny brag

I've said in the past I have a really hard time saying "Dang, I'm good!"

But today, I'm going to, just a  little. My annual review is back, my overall rating is "Outstanding." That's the top rating possible. (the ratings are based on teaching skill, scholarly activity, and service. Service includes things like committeework but also stuff like advising students)

So yeah. That's good. I just need to keep up the good work. (Well, I don't NEED to for any external reason - I'd have to do something monumentally dumb and criminal to lose my job at this point - but I kind of need to keep up my standards, for ME and how I feel about myself.). But it's nice to have a little external validation.

Something for me

* If I feel as good tomorrow as I feel this morning, I am still going to Spiro Mounds. (I think one of the worries that was eating at me was, "Am I too sick to go do this? Am I better off just staying home during one of my few chances to go do something interesting?" But hopefully, the steroid spray was what I needed - I only took a half-dose last night (and maybe got less than that because I didn't prime the sprayer enough). But I took a full adult dose this morning and the pain has abated considerably, and I feel like I can breathe better. If this continues to work I think I'm really glad I pushed for something that was NOT a steroid shot. (That seems to be a GP sort of thing; I've never been to an allergist who advocated for them. Allergists seem more into removing the cause of the allergy, if possible, or starting with the mildest possible treatment for symptoms. But then again, I know a lot of people who talk about just going and getting a steroid shot every allergy season so maybe the GPs are used to it.)

Also the tooth pain is abating a lot and that was a HUGE worry of mine - that that "calcified channel" front tooth was fixing to split or die or had gone abscessy or something. Of course, the LOGICAL explanation is that when the inflammation started in my sinuses, it affected that tooth, because they happened at the same time, but I have a hard time being fully logical about dental stuff. 

* So I have that planned for tomorrow - trip to Spiro and most likely a stop at Pete's Place for lunch. I'm toying with the idea, if I continue to feel fine on Saturday, to go antiquing in Sherman or Denison. (McKinney, right now, has LOTS of construction, and I just don't feel like braving the traffic)

* And Friday the Hub Discovery Family (and a rant about that later) is showing Rainbow Rocks. Even though I am still on record of preferring my Ponies to be actual Ponies and not teen girls, I'll probably watch it.

* Also, last night, I decided to work on a project of my own rather than the ongoing Christmas gifts. So I continued with Queen Chrysalis' hair. The "loose hair strand" is done and I've started the main part of the mane, but didn't get that far because crocheting, for me at least, is a lot slower than knitting. (Especially in-the-round small-diameter things where you have to count on every row and place decreases and increases for shaping).

If I had seen the "alternate universe" version of her (where she is Queen of Giving Love, rather than of taking it) earlier, I might have slightly altered the pattern to be that (I probably still could....I'll have to think about that. The main difference, as I remember, is the expression and a tiny pair of pince-nez, though it's also possible Alternate Chrysalis didn't have the holes in her, I can't remember). This is from the comics, which I still continue to enjoy - I order each issue as it comes out (I really need to find a place that has a subscription service for these).

* I was thinking of something when I got into bed last night. I vaguely remember from Great Books (that was 25-odd years ago now) that some Greek philosopher or other described pleasure as being the absence of pain, and one of the thoughts I had in the class (can't remember if I brought it up now) is that so often in the modern world, we now define "pain" as the "absence of pleasure" - that is, if you're not actively enjoying yourself, you consider it painful. ("Math is hard," said Barbie). And a lot of people do seem to have forgotten that there's a joy in good old hard work and that even stuff that isn't *fun* at the time can teach you something.

But, last night, as I got into bed, I thought, yeah, when you've been in pain for a while and that pain goes away, it IS pleasure. And it's something to be grateful for, and I was. I kind of forget how awful and distracted and unable to work effectively I am when my sinuses are bothering me, and when I get them tamed down it's like "Wow, life is suddenly so much better, why did I not notice how good life was before?"

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Womaning-up time

Because I don't like going in to the doctor or dentist at the best of times.

But I decided that I just couldn't keep treating the symptoms of this thing. It was really bad midday today (though now, after taking a couple ibuprofen and doing the saline rinse, the pain is almost gone again). I debated whether to go to my doctor or the dentist - I THINK this is sinus, based on the symptoms, but I FEAR it's that screwed-up front tooth going bad.

I decided to go with the doctor, on the grounds that it's usually easier to get in to see her on short notice, and if this is any kind of a bacterial infection, even if it's dental, the underlying infection will need to be eliminated first before any work can be done. And my dentist might just push on my cheekbones to see if I wince and send me to the doctor for a prescription, anyway - that happened once before. And I can press on my own cheekbones, and yeah, it kind of hurts.

The saline rinse was a lot harder to do today, it seems like the water doesn't move as smoothly, and I did notice that the mucus (sorry) is beginning to look faintly infected. (You learn these kinds of things when you have sinus problems).

Hopefully, I can get a simple prescription (that I tolerate okay: no sulfa drugs!) and start feeling better quickly. I was really hopeful when I got up this morning and felt so much better but I suspect I'm best not waiting on getting it checked out since the pain isn't totally gone, it's just that it's responsive to treatment.


Well, the diagnosis is badly inflamed nasal passages from allergies, doubtless also inflamed sinuses that aren't draining right. I have a steroid nasal spray to use and see if that works. (Originally she wanted to give me a steroid *shot*, but I talked her down from that on the grounds that I wouldn't sleep and would be grumpy.) If this doesn't work, then I have to take Prednisone tablets for a few days.

Well, that probably explains why a dose of ibuprofen pretty much removes the pain. She didn't think the tooth was involved other than that its roots are touching the sinus cavity nearest where the problem is.

I cancelled my piano lesson today out of an excess of caution - the doctor was fitting me in, and while she wasn't busy today, there was a time in the past where I had to wait nearly to the end of the day because there were a few emergencies before me. And anyway, I wasn't feeling good AT ALL around 1 pm today (when I made the appointment), so.

I think I've had this nasal spray before; it's a generic but it smells like roses and I KNOW I've had one in the past that smelled like this. (It's the generic form of Flonase). She did say if this helps I can just take it daily during allergy season.

I got nothing

Yesterday evening was CWF, and after that, I just went home and mostly went to bed, because I had slept poorly the night before, partly because of the pain in my sinuses/worry it was something really bad, partly because I had stayed up too late. "The Hunger Games" had come on ABC Family, and while I told myself, "You hate dystopian-future stories because you're too good at seeing elements of how the culture currently works in them, and you tend to see them as predictions rather than fiction," still, I got sucked in.

A couple of thoughts:

I found the last scene with Rue (not to give too many spoilers away though I suppose most people who care about this kind of thing have seen it/read the book already) was far more affecting to me than any of the Katniss-Peeta scenes. FAR more affecting. Katniss did something that could have put herself in grave danger, that really, made no difference to anyone (other than, perhaps, herself), but she did it anyway. Because on some level Rue was a friend, even if she was a fellow competitor.

I also found the whole "I volunteer as Tribute" thing affecting - you are effectively saying, "I am going to probably lay down my life for my sister, because she is younger and smaller than I am, and is less likely to survive." Taking on a huge risk on the part of a family member. 

The whole concept of "fight to the death" - I'm sure the past "winners" wound up with something like PTSD as a result. Can you imagine? Being released in a forest that isn't REALLY a forest (apparently those in charge can conjure up things like short-faced bears and send them after you) and told, "There are 23 other people of your age in here; the way you come out is to out-survive all of them, even if that means you have to kill some of them yourself. (I suppose that is why their "mentor" was a burned-out alcoholic - he was a former winner)

I remember reading somewhere that a make-up line was coming out based on the make up worn in Capitol City. That just weirds me out all kinds of ways - you WANT to look like an amoral, decadent jerk who plans things like slaughter-fests in order to keep the people you lord it over pacified and too fearful to rise up against you? Really? That's an image you want to project? People WANT to be Effie Trinket? That's messed up.

The whole idea of "bread and circuses," with the side note of "We're going to keep the people too scared to revolt" is creepy but not unlike things that have gone on in the world in the past, and are still going on in some places.

But still, as I said, dystopian futures make me sad and twitchy because it seems like most countries of the world are a few elections-gone-wrong or a few-people-deciding-a-dictator-is-a-good-idea away from becoming dystopian. (Look at North Korea....) As I commented on Twitter, I find it hella creepy and should not have bothered watching. (Still, as recent movies go - it's actually not badly done.)

The pain pretty much abated overnight and while it's back a little this morning (more when I'm actively moving around), it's better than it was, and I think the mucinex is working.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Still some pain

I was hopeful when the storms moved through at 3 am that that would be the end of the sinus stuff, but it started up again this morning and got progressively worse until about 10:30, when I decided to take a couple ibuprofen. (Standard disclaimer: I don't like putting any extra pharmaceuticals in my body, given the to-me shocking number of meds I HAVE to take in order to avoid big problems (hives or abnormally high blood pressure).

Twenty minutes later, the pain had gone from nearly unbearable to nearly not there. I can still feel a dulness in my forehead (well, it's an improvement to have moved from my teeth, because any pain around my teeth worries me that I have a stealth crack or decay - despite having had a clean checkup a month ago - or an abscess, which was the first thing I worried about, which is really NOT logical, given the clean checkup of a month ago).

I'm hoping that means it's just inflammation from allergies/pressure changes and that there's no actual bacteria or anything involved. (Sinus infections can be bacterial, which are the kind antibiotics can treat, but sometimes they are viral and you just have to wait for them go away, and sometimes they're fungal, and then you're really in trouble unless your immune system figures out how to kick it to the curb). I don't have a fever - I checked this morning - so hopefully it's just my sinuses being annoying.

But yeah. Definitely taking another dose of ibuprofen before bed. I find I can cope with pain, especially tooth or head pain, lots better when I'm trying to be awake and doing things than I can when trying to sleep. I may start taking Mucinex again for a few days to see if I can urge anything that may be in my sinuses to leave....and drink more water, I need to do that.

ETA: I probably need to continue with the irrigation for a few days, maybe do it when I get home today:

The most effective first-line intervention, said Dr. Palmer, is nasal irrigation using a neti pot or saline irrigation bottle, which helps flush out mucus and any inflammatory bacteria or allergens in it. “If you took all the people who say they have chronic sinusitis in the world, and you put them all on nasal saline irrigations, a big proportion would not have any symptoms anymore,” he said.
(from this article)

That probably explains why I felt SO MUCH BETTER right after doing the irrigation yesterday afternoon. I'll have to get onto boiling more water as soon as I get home....

Sunday, October 12, 2014

First gift finished

I finished the mitts this weekend, and I began the first of two pairs of gift socks:

finished mitts, started sock

The mitts are of that bison-wool blend yarn I got at the BPAFF. The socks are a String Theory Continuum self-striping yarn - the colorway is called Dopamine (All of her colorways have some kind of astronomical or biochemical reference. I have some called Strontium-20 that is pink, yellow, and black, and when I get around to knitting it up (for me), it's going to be either my Electric Fluttershy socks, or Goth Fluttershy, or maybe Punk Fluttershy. I haven't decided yet)

I also re-did my pedicure. I had bought some pale orangey polish (Essie's color called "Tart Deco") a while back with the thought of, "I'll have to put this on when deer season starts and if anyone comments on it, I can say it's the closest I get to blaze orange." (I guess bow season has already started, so I missed that one). Well, anyway, it's orange for fall and Halloween.

new pedicure - autumn

Except in some lights it looks more peach than orange. And this is about as "wild" as I will ever get with nail polish.

When I went to Sherman on Friday, I went to the natural-foods store. One of the things I bought was a purple-fleshed sweet potato and I cooked it up for dinner last night.

Holy anthocyanins, Batman!

Yeah. That's purple. (That's the color AFTER cooking). It kind of tripped my "I'm not sure if I want to eat this" sensors at first, because of the odd color. But when I smelled of it, it smelled like a normal sweet potato, so that was okay. I didn't like it quite as well as the regular kind; it's actually less strongly flavored and it has a heavier, pastier texture than the orange-fleshed sweet potatoes I'm familiar with.


In other news, I'm having bad sinus/upper teeth problems. (I am pretty sure it's sinus and not a bad tooth, because the pain jumps around in my mouth and is worse at some times and better than others. It gets better upon exposure to heat, for example - if I drink hot tea or take a shower). There's a retired dentist who attends my church and I asked him today if the desensitizing toothpaste would do anything for that. He said that it couldn't hurt, but what might be better would be to use saline nasal irrigation. I've had other doctors suggest this to me, but when I tried it in the past it freaked me out too badly (I felt like I was drowning) but I decided to try it again. (I didn't get a neti pot; I got one of those squeeze bottles that comes with a lot of little sachets of pre-measured salt and sodium bicarbonate.) It's kind of involved; with the first use you have to boil up water (even city tap water, apparently, needs to be really sure it's free of any critters) and wash it out, and then you use boiled water to mix the solution.

It's a weird sensation. I understand enough cranial anatomy to know why squirting water up into one nostril makes it come out the other one (instead of your mouth), but still, it's a weird experience. It did help a little, and I supposed I'll do it every couple days for a while (apparently some of the studies suggest doing it every day can be a little much) and see if it helps.

Hopefully when this next front comes through my sinuses will hurt less. And during cold and flu season it might not be a bad idea to do it periodically and flush the stuff out of my sinuses.

I also took the window unit air conditioner out of the window today and stored it. There were a couple little gaps (it doesn't fit perfectly) and I figured allergens could get in more readily than would with a closed and locked window.  I didn't put the screen back on; I didn't have the energy do and anyway, I think if I would need to get out a back window in a hurry - like a house fire at night - it would be a LOT faster to do if there were no screen to have to punch out. (A design flaw, I think, on these screens - they can only be removed from the outside, so if you were having to bug out of the house, you'd have to kick the screen out of the way or cut it.)

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Finding the light

I posted that quotation from Adventure Time a few days ago..."Sometimes life is dark and scary, you must find the light."

Despite the bad interaction with what were probably a couple of tired-out shopclerks who behaved less graciously than they might, it was a pretty good trip:

1. At the JoAnn Fabrics, while waiting in line to get a piece of fabric cut, I saw a family - a baby a bit younger than my niece, her mom, and a woman who was probably the mom's mom. They were waiting in line too, and the grandma  and the mom were playing patty-cake with the baby. And the baby was laughing that joyful infectious baby laugh, the kind little kids do when they're just happy because someone is playing with them. And it made me smile. I've seen my share of fussy kids out in public and I will say sometimes it seems that if their parent or caretaker just put the cell phone away for a few moments and interacted with the kid, it might turn that fussiness around. So it was nice to see that moment of three generations laughing together.

2. The lady at the barbecue place I go to there always calls people "Darling" and "honey" and stuff like that. Coming from "up north," that's less common, but I've got used to it. (It does always strike me funny, a little bit, when someone who is probably younger than I am does it to me, but whatever:  I'm happy to accept it as a gesture of goodwill.)

3. And yeah, I eat the occasional restaurant meal now. I'm not going to go and get bacon and sausage and stuff like that, but I've found the very occasional higher-sodium meal (like a normal restaurant meal) has minor effects on my blood pressure. So it probably really IS the "what you do 85% of the time is what has the biggest effect on your health."

4. Ghirardelli now makes mini baking chips. I plan to make another batch (or probably, to have enough, double batch) of pumpkin chocolate chip muffins and bring them in for the department some day this fall. I think the mini chips will work much better - less likely to sink to the bottom.

5. I picked up a sign to put on my office door once it gets closer to Halloween. It says "Eat Locals" and has a silhouette of a zombie chasing a farmer on a tractor. It made me laugh, given the whole "eat local" movement. And yeah, I'm putting it on my office door, more people will see it and so far there are no rules against such things. And if it gives a student or two a laugh, all the better.

6. It's finally a lot cooler. I approve of this, it's beginning to actually feel like fall.

7. I have food for weeks ahead now - got more of the canned sweet potatoes I like so much, and a big tri-tip steak (you have to shop opportunistically here and get what's available and looks good; I was thinking of short ribs but none were on offer). I'll have to figure out the best way to do the steak, probably as what they call "baked steak" (do it a bit slower so it's not overdone on the outside by the time the inside is medium rare). Also got more ground bison but both it and the steak are in those vacuum-sealed packages so their sell-by date is more than a week away, so I can think on what I want to do with each. (I might do meatballs with the bison; there's a lot you can do with meatballs.)

8. I'm now working on "Dream a Little Dream of Me" on the piano. (Yes, the song most of us know from Mama Cass' version, but it's actually a lot older than that, and I think the arrangement I have is an older arrangement). It's fun to play. It's just fun to play some of the old standards; it's a different style from classical music and while I still love playing Bach or Beethoven, it's also nice to play more popular tunes. And "Dream a Little Dream" is easier than "Blue Skies" was; I think I'll master it quicker.

9. This: ("The Carlton" comes to Dancing With The Stars. And I have to say, it takes SKILL to take what is supposed to be a somewhat awkward dance and make it look so good.)

That cracks me up every time I see it, when he breaks into "The Carlton" after she kisses him.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Online vs. store

I went to Sherman this afternoon. One thing I needed was more of the Clinique powder I use.

So, I tried going to the Belk - one of two stores I know of that sells Clinique. (The other is the Dillards' at the dying mall, and there's nothing else there I want, so I prefer not to go there).

Anyway, I don't know if it was a bad day at Belk or if they've recently reduced their staff, but the four different make up counters they have (Lancome, Clinique, L'Oreal, and there's another I forget) had two workers - two women at L'Oreal.

So I waited. And I waited. And I walked around the counter multiple times. I waited about seven minutes, I would guess. Finally, I asked one of the women at the L'Oreal counter if there was someone available to help me.

"We're both with customers! Just wait, we'll get to you eventually." Said a little snappishly. (And I don't know how busy one of the ladies was, I thought she was finishing up with her person.) And I get that it was a Friday and close to the end of the day, but I was tired too and I HAD been waiting quite a while. And there was no sign or anything on the Clinique counter explaining where to go for assistance or that someone would be with you shortly or not even a bell to ring for assistance.

So I waited a another couple minutes. Then I thought, "You know, I used the Clinique website before. They were pretty easy to navigate and my stuff came fast." And I decided to cut my losses, leave, finish my shopping, and order the stuff later online. (And I just did. And it was easy to navigate the site and they even gave me a free sample of lipstick, plus there's free shipping this week).

How sad is it that you get better "customer service" from a self-serve website than from a couple store employees? And Belk, if you fired most of your cosmetics staff, shame on you. You lost a sale, in fact, you've lost future sales - I'll just order my stuff from the website in the future.

But it frustrates me. I went to the barbecue place in town and got very friendly and nice service. Got good service at the JoAnn's. Got good service, if rushed, at the Kroger. I get that working retail stinks sometimes, but to drive away a customer because you don't seem to care about helping them, that's not good. (And yeah, it was probably that my hair was a bit of a mess and I was in khakis and a t-shirt and sometimes people assume I'm a lot younger than I am from a cursory glance, and therefore that I wasn't going to spend much money, but still.)

Oh yes, plans

I just figured out that Pete's Place (a well-known and loved Italian restaurant; I've been there a few times) is not very far from Spiro Mounds - or at least, it's kind of on the way - it's three hours to Spiro - and they are open for lunch.

I tried e-mailing the director at Spiro Mounds to verify they will be open; I may still call on Wednesday to be sure they'll be open Thursday, but I think I have a plan for a day out this mid-fall break: see some archaeological stuff and get a good lunch out.

In earlier times

I have a small table (Well, it's really a barstool, and it's the thing I have my ballwinder anchored to for when I wind yarn). I also keep magazines or books I've not reshelved yet on it. I noticed this morning I had stuck a Patternworks catalog - it came when I was busy and I guess I didn't do the glance-and-throw-out that I often do with catalogs.

I haven't ordered from Patternworks in YEARS. (They have changed a little bit since the earlier days; one big change being they have different owners now). But they were my go-to place in my early days back at knitting.

I started knitting again (after having learned as a child) in 1996 or 1997, while I was working on my doctoral dissertation. I had been doing a lot of quilting but felt like I wanted something easier to pick up and put down (hand quilting is that way, but piecing is not, especially if you don't have a dedicated space for your sewing machine). I got interested in knitting again after learning how to knit in the round on double pointed needles (I've never liked the seaming part of finishing off) and also after trying some yarns that were at least part-wool. (When I learned, all that was widely available was acrylic: it was the Great Crafting Slump of the late 70s, also a time when quilting fabric was thin on the ground).

But anyway. I got one of those Catalog of Catalogs things (I don't even know if those still exist) and a couple of the catalogs listed you could get for free (I was a "broke" grad student and I never really liked paying for a catalog that I would likely be ordering something - therefore, spending money - out of) were for Patternworks and for Lion Brand.

Lion Brand catalogs have changed a lot. I don't get them often any more; they used to come about once a month, it seemed. (They also used to have larger photographs of the yarns in them, and sometimes free patterns using the yarn they sold). It was sort of a long narrow format, and often printed on non-glossy (or low-gloss) paper, and often the cover had some kind of a cartoon featuring their lion mascot. (One I remember is a recreation of Grant Wood's "American Gothic" with the lion and his lioness)

Patternworks, though - Patternworks was the really fun catalog. They carried a lot of different yarn lines, so they had a huge diversity of stuff. The first time I ever realized that sock weight yarn existed, it was through Patternworks. (Those were the days of Stahl "Socka" - remember those? I still have some vintage Socka in my stash, from before the company merged with another one). And they had books. (I have a couple of the Socka sock books - I have not looked at them in quite a while; I should look at them again sometime for inspiration when my sock needles are "empty") I would scrape together a little money, what I felt I could spare from my RA or TA paycheck, and send off an order. Or I'd call it in, using the credit card that was still somewhat of a novelty to me. (I was in grad school before I got my first credit card).

And then the waiting. Eventually the box would come in the mail, and there'd be the joy of opening it and seeing the yarn I ordered, or the books, or the knitting needles. (I still have lots of the Brittany wooden dpns I ordered during that time).

Once, when someone on the Knitlist, misunderstanding some tariff changes, claimed that the price of imported wool was going to at least double, I believed them, and ordered all the Socka I felt I could afford. The change never happened, or the person misunderstood badly, and the price of yarn didn't jump, it just continued the slow upward creep that everything has. (I remember tracking the price of Koigu. I think it was something like $7.50 a skein - yes - when I first started knitting. Now it runs somewhere around $14)

There weren't many online sources of yarn, and I don't think there were any online-only ones back then. The Web was still kind of in its infancy as a mechanism of commerce. (I remember placing my first online order with Amazon and worrying hard my credit card number was going to be stolen. Hah. Now, I regard credit card numbers as somewhat disposable; I've had the card I use for buying gas and online purchases replaced three times over the years).

Now, things have changed so much. There are hundreds (maybe thousands, if you include places worldwide that will ship to the US) of places that will sell me yarn or books or needles or "accessories" like stitch markers. There's Etsy. There's the wonderful ability to buy patterns as a .pdf file online and get them automatically sent to your e-mail mailbox or to your "library" on Ravelry.

And yet, sometimes, I think maybe those early days were a little more exciting for me; it felt like there was more to discover, more to track down and find.