Sunday, March 24, 2019

It's always something

Working away on cleaning up the house (I mowed the front yard - or, more honestly, flattened down the bedstraw with my mower - the mower doesn't readily cut it - earlier). Luckily I had mowed earlier and was indoors, got a call from my mother:

My niece took a fall off a swing. At first my sister-in-law thought it was simply a dislocated shoulder (apparently she grabbed onto the chain of the swing as she fell and twisted around) but it sounds like it's broken. (The humerus, I guess; all my brother said was "upper arm bone")

I am HOPING it's a nondisplaced fracture (I figure since my sister in law thought it was dislocated at first, it's not a *compound* fracture, which would be way worse) so all they have to do is cast it. Hoping she won't have to have surgery to set it. Hoping it's not a "spiral fracture," though given what I heard about what happened it could be. (Those are harder to set and have more difficult recoveries than a simple nondisplaced fracture)

I haven't heard anything more; probably won't before tonight or tomorrow.

I mean, I guess this is not unexpected for kids (though I think the only bone I broke as a "kid" was my nose, at 13 - the elbow fracture, I was already over 21 when that happened, but luckily that one was nondisplaced and all they needed to do was cast it). My brother had a rather horrific wrist injury at 15 or so when he went over the handlebars of his bike and he had to have a pin and a plate put in his arm. (The pin removal was simple and was done without anesthetic in the doctor's office. My mom fainted but apparently my brother was unfazed by it. The plate removal was much, much worse, it was surgical)

My brother also had stitches as a kid when he tried climbing a file cabinet and wound up pulling a metal file-card box down on his forehead, and I had stitches as an adult when I was very, very ill (probably a gallstone, though I've had no problems since) and fainted and fell and split my nose open. I probably broke my nose at the same time but the ENT guy who looked at the x-ray said if it was, it wasn't displaced, and didn't need to be set, and just to be careful for six weeks. (Getting stitches is not as bad as it seems; they numb you and on your face you don't even really see what they are doing. I have a very tiny scar but you have to look really hard for it)

But yeah. I need to wash down the kitchen floor (I think the bathroom cleaning will be a Wednesday evening thing, before the piano teacher comes) and then I can relax a little before having to go back and get at it hard tomorrow (first up: evaluating the applicants for the position; second up, dealing with a student who was AWOL most of the semester and then e-mailed me - on Spring Break, no less - wanting to "make up the missed material." He is an athlete and I am guessing his coach finally got on him after I had e-mailed several times noting the nonattendance. I'm going to have to ask him for a "when were you okayed to return to class" notice, because we have policies about that and it's gonna be kind of a mess, I may have to loop my department chair in on it)

But here's hoping I get a call this evening that my niece is home, with a cast, no need for surgery...


UPDATE: Not a spiral fracture, but the break is close to the shoulder joint, so there's still a chance she might need surgery; they are going to see a pediatric orthopedist tomorrow or the next day to know for sure. She's in a splint now and says it feels a lot better, but that doesn't mean a whole lot other than that she's in less pain.

It's her right arm (dominant arm) too. And she was all excited to start soccer in another week or so and that's not gonna happen.

Hopefully it will still just be a simple matter of "slap a cast on it and wait"


Saturday, March 23, 2019

Long strange trip

I guess the best things I can say about my return trip are:

1. I am now safely at home (finally)

2. It was a train, and not a bus (a real concern of mine given the Midwest flooding but apparently it hadn't seeped far enough south to affect St. Louis and southward. I expect that will change in a few more days)

But, yeah....not the most-fun vacation ever (my dad is still having ankle issues, requiring a lot of care from my mom, the procedure he was supposed to have to FIX those issues, well, the "groundbreaking, new" procedure, apparently the doctor felt it was not as advertised....and so later on, he will have the older and more invasive procedure. Which hopefully will fix it, but). I wound up not doing very much; it was kind of gray and rainy a couple days. I did do some catch-up housecleaning my mom hadn't got to because Monday one of my uncles is supposed to come for a visit....but anyway. At least I mostly didn't break my "no frivolous spending" pledge (bought a little yarn at Michael's, but that was it. And honestly, being ascetic in this way? Is not great for my mood. I'm not sure what I'm learning from this Lenten discipline other than that I really can't break away happily from the occasional frivolity)

But coming back....wow. First, the train was late. Considering it originates in Chicago and my stop is like the fourth stop on the line....that's saying something. When it finally arrived, the engineer either came in "too hot," or wasn't expecting there to be sleeper passengers, or was being crabby for some reason - he pulled ALL THE WAY forward, meaning the three of us (me and a couple getting on the same place) had to run for it, and finally walk out into the street, duck under the crossing gate. And then there was no "step box," and the entry to the train is like 2 1/2 feet off the ground. Luckily I am still fairly agile, and luckily the car attendant was a good guy and grabbed my luggage (there is no bag check through to Mineola or I'd have checked my suitcase) so I could jump up.

They probably would have saved time by making two stops, given how long it took for us to get on the sleeper. But whatever.

My dinner reservation was for 6:45. Not ideal; the car attendant offered to get me my meal on my schedule but I told him no (I didn't want to make work for him and I could wait a bit longer to eat). When I got in, the car was packed....I was at first seated with a nice woman and her 7 or so year old daughter, then one of the dining car attendants told me I had to move, they needed that space for two people (well, true, I was a solo passenger but I'd hope they'd have the whole Tetris game figured out). I wound up - womp womp - with a mom and two squabbling teenagers (at one point the boy flipped the bird at his sister. The mom didn't see, but I did, and I don't know....if my brother and I had known that gesture as kids, and done it to each other? Well, it would have taken a LOT for my dad to give one of us "a hiding," but that would have done it. But maybe some families have different attitudes...)

But, whatever. I got my meal. My car attendant (I guess he was the other good thing about the trip) made up my bed as I had asked, so I was able to lie down and read.

I finished Brian Fagan's "Cro-Magnon" (I liked it, though I wonder if Fagan went a bit far in some of his speculations....though he did make the interesting suggestion that maybe the various so-called Venus figures (the very....voluptuous....female forms) were not so much fertility images or goddess images.....but maybe they were just some guy who was good at cutting stone fooling around, kind of like how some teenaged boys today draw scantily-clad women, and....yeah....I could see that. Or that they filled the same role that "Playboy" used to fill (I think it's gone now? I think I heard it stopped printing?)

I started "Black Ships Before Troy" but couldn't get into it because there was too much slaughter, and also, unlike the Roman Britain novels, Sutcliff tries very much to get the "ancient Greek poetry" style, and so it's all very....surface....I guess you'd say. So you don't learn about characters or hear much of inner thoughts, and that was partly what endeared the character of Justin (in "The Silver Branch") to me - the fact that he was worried about disappointing his father, and he was claustrophobic, and was shy around women....

So I put that one aside, and luckily, I had another non-fiction book. Which I wound up reading in its entirety, all 250-some pages, because we wound up four hours late getting in to Mineola. I knew things were bad when I went down to breakfast at 6:30 and we hadn't been through Texarkana yet (turns out we hadn't been through Malvern yet). Most of the delays were waiting on freights.

Then, a freight broke down (they said the engine broke down, I later on heard it ran out of fuel, which, I don't know. I presume those things have fuel gauges like cars? And that it would be really kind of dumb not to fuel up at a fueling point?*)

(*Memories of the few times I took jaunts into far-western Oklahoma: you stop for gas and for a bathroom when they become available, whether or not you need them at that moment, because you don't know when the next opportunity will be)

So we had to wait, apparently, on them getting a new engine in and hauling the freight out of the way (this was not a location where there were two side-by-side tracks and an opportunity to pass....and anyway, those freights might be longer than the "passing lane" anyway).

So I read all of "Never Home Alone," a fairly new book by Rob Dunn about the small creatures (mostly microbes and arthropods) that share our homes with us. And I feel somewhat justified in being a not-very-assiduous housekeeper, now: he argues that letting the spiders stay (I usually do, except for venomous ones, and the wolf spiders get rehomed outside where they have a better chance of finding enough food). He also hints (though again, like a lot of these "layperson" books, I have no idea how much actual research back-up there is to it) that having TOO "sterile" of a house may actually contribute to autoimmune problems.....kind of like, I suppose, the fact that I wind up being anxious over stupid little things when there are no big things I am having to deal with.

He also has a neat chapter (at the end) about sourdough, and I never really thought about it but I guess I should have realized that SOURdough starter isn't just wild yeast, it's also Lactobacillus (hence the SOUR). And that different individuals wind up with different starters, which have different flavors, and when people work with them a lot....well, they wind up with Lactobacillus living on their hands, but that's a good thing...he also talks about kimchi and how it's long been known (apparently) by Korean women that different people make different-tasting kimchi, and it actually comes down to the microbiome on people's hands.

(And also, antibacterial soap is a really bad idea, but I already kind of knew that. Plain soap and water is better because it just removes the surface - likely pathogenic- bacteria without disrupting the existing "carpet" of bacteria on the skin, which are almost entirely neutral-to-beneficial).

One thing he does, which most people writing "pop science" do, and that annoys me - he embeds jokes in the text and sometimes I can't tell (because I am both literal minded and given to being suspicious) if some of the more outlandish claims are jokes or true. (And you have to be careful about joking about things - my old systematic botany  prof once noted with dismay he had joked about wild ginger (Asarum) being pollinated by box turtles, because he later heard some Garden Club-type excitedly telling her friends, "And Dr. Warren H. Wagner of the University of Michigan says they are pollinated by box turtles" and he said there was no gracious way to correct her....)

But generally, I enjoyed the book. (I'll return to the Homeric re-tellings at some point, it's just, I find some times - when news of the world is getting to me or I am stressed - anything with any amount of violence is too much)

But yeah. We were four hours late getting in to Mineola. It was 5 pm by the time I got home here. I did cancel Sunday school for tomorrow - I am just too wiped out to write a lesson now. I've washed my hair and in a few minutes I will put away my (clean) clothes (one good thing about visiting family is that you can do laundry before leaving for home) and just make an early night.

Tomorrow I have to clean my house, I guess. Piano lessons start Thursday and I expect this week to be packed - I have to evaluate two sets of scholarship applicants and also the applicants for the job.

Thursday, March 21, 2019

The big thoughts

I am writing this (it's a time-embargoed post) on March 15 - the day after/of (I forget how the International Date Line works) the terrible mosque shootings in New Zealand.

And I admit, at times I have grimdark thoughts about "what if something happened to you, suddenly" (I admit: I will probably wind up drawing up a will of sorts before going in for the colonoscopy this summer. I know 99.9% of the time absolutely nothing goes wrong, but already my brain is going "it's been 30 years since you even had anything like general anesthesia, what if you have a massive allergic reaction and DIE") or I think about being in a train crash when I travel by train (safer, though, than driving, probably slightly less-safe than flying, though flying FEELS much more risky).

And beyond all the "how do I make it easier on the people who will have to deal with all the junk I own," I think about: what would I want to leave behind as thoughts for the people who loved me....or even just the people who kinda liked me (See Tuesday's post...)

And so, I am thinking. What is important to me, I mean, what WORDS are important to me?

A couple:

Choose to be loving towards others.

Be kind, for everyone is fighting a hard battle.

Don't punch down. (I would also argue "don't punch up," because I dislike punching of any kind, and I think dealing with people in positions of power is better done by planting your feet firmly and quietly, politely, but firmly telling them what they need to hear)

Listen to people. You don't have to agree. But sometimes listening is just good.

And of course, this:

"Hold fast to that which is good; give no one back evil for evil" (A paraphrase of a bit from I Thessalonians 5, I think verse 21).

And similarly, this is apparently from the Book of Common Prayer: "Go forth into the world in peace; be of good courage; hold fast that which is good; render to no man evil for evil; strengthen the fainthearted ; support the weak; help the afflicted; honour all men; love and serve the Lord..."

And Micah, 6:8 - I even have a ring I wear fairly regularly with just the scripture reference stamped on it, it's enough to remind me: "And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God."

(Heh - I remember once joking that if I were asked the Conan the Barbarian question ("What is best in life?") that would be my answer, rather than the one given in the movie)

But anyway...Barring some terrible, terrible, and highly unlikely thing, I should be back here posting regularly, either Saturday or Sunday or, if there's some kind of hiccup in travel, Monday or Tuesday. Be well.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

On making friends

(Okay. So maybe I have a couple things to say as embargoed posts)

Something I was thinking about the other day - someone I know here, who doesn't, shall we say, always have the highest opinion of themselves (certainly not as high as what I think they would be entitled to have*)

(*Though I'm one to talk)

And they were in a fit of unhappiness one day, and I had mentioned I cared about them,  and they sighed and asked me why I did: what did they have that made them so outstanding I should care about them?

And that kind of shocked me. Because I realized maybe people have different "default levels" for thinking of someone as a friend? I admit I am not someone to get super-chummy super-fast (got burned a few times as a teen by someone who seemed friendly, got some information out of me, later used it against me). But my default really is: I like the person unless they have been demonstrably cruel to me or to someone else weaker/lower-status than them.

I mean, yes, given my tendency towards a "Golden Retriever" sort of personality, that is very on-brand for me. But for me to actively DISLIKE you, you do have to have been mean to me, or regularly be rude to people who are below you in the pecking order*

(*I am thinking of one former admin here)

And I think I kind of flailed my hands and said "I like you because you've never been mean to me" and it sounds like a pathetically low bar when you say it out loud, but: people don't have to earn my friendship, I guess. I think favorably of people unless they give me reason not to.

(Though again, I've been burned by that once or twice, even as an adult: there is someone I thought of as a friend who....used me a little bit. Oh, not the way you might be thinking, it was more along the lines of my doing work and their taking credit, and that gave me a weird unhappy oogy feeling about them, but)

But yeah. I like most people...heck, I would even say, coming from my background as a Christian - I love all people. Some of them I may want to spend less time with because of who they are. But people don't have to earn my love, that's maybe a nicer way of saying it than "I like people when they are people who have never been mean to me."

But now I do wonder, if that's part of my past frustrations, and some of the difficulty I've had making close friends: maybe for some people, "liking" someone isn't the default position? Maybe some people dislike someone until they've proven themselves worthy of friendship? That seems to me a strange way to operate, but maybe that is why in some cases I've felt rebuffed by people it seemed like I'd been perfectly friendly to....and maybe why on some occasions I've tied myself in knots doing stuff to try to "make" people like me.

Heh:






















But yes, I do find it frustrating when I am perfectly nice to someone and they seem to dislike me. (So: maybe more like Pinkie Pie in that one episode with Cranky Doodle). Because I tend to feel like rejection of someone's friendship is a punishment of that person...one I reserve, as I said, for people who are openly cruel in some way.

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Happy St. Paddy's

I don't know, maybe some of the Very Irish Heritage would dislike this and find it stereotypical, but then: I dislike all the green-beer and snarling-leprechauns stuff that this day seems to bring out in the US, but here's Leroy Anderson (American "pop classics" composer, probably best known for "Sleigh Ride," but also for that thing about the typewriter) and his take on "Irish tradition"



And I will say, it has some nice photos in it.

And a similar take on "Irishness" and Irish music, from (I guess) Richard Hayman, though in some ways it sounds fairly similar to the Anderson:


Friday, March 15, 2019

Here I go

My train is now slightly delayed (1/2 hour) but it might pick up some time (or might get later, who knows).

I need to leave shortly - have to gas up the car first. I think I've done everything and packed everything I need....turned off the range from the breaker (in an excess of caution) made sure stuff like the toaster are unplugged. Have a light set on a timer. Have the plants on an automatic waterer, took out the trash, including a few food-items that won't make it the rest of the week. Mail is being held (I did the online form for the first time ever, and to my delight, it worked, this will save me a lot of trouble in the future).

As I said in the previous post....I have the things I need (really, what I NEED to travel: my ticket, my medication, a change of clothes, a toothbrush) and the things I want (books to read, knitting to do, extra clothes, my make-up, and the stuffed animals. Oh, and a little blanket that folds up in case it is cold on the train)

I hope to be back on Saturday the 23rd, but in the spring there are, at times, hiccups in travel....I remember one year we got bused because of flooding, and I am hoping the weather clears out so that is not a risk again.

Be well, all. I feel like I need to offer that little prayer these days; far far too many funerals at church recently. I hope I come back to everyone being fine and happy.

news of today

So another person with hate in their heart has decided to kill a bunch of people who were doing absolutely nothing to him and were just leading their lives. (This time in New Zealand; the victims were Muslim, I presume identified by the killer because they were at a mosque).

I don't know. I can't think of too much else to say.  I think of the church shootings (one that probably had a racist motive, the other one, I don't even know) that happened here, and the synagogue shooting that was doubtless anti-Semitism driven; in a way they are similar but this is also overlaid with xenophobia. (Though really, one some level, you have to "other" another person quite a bit to be able to commit violence against them; I once opined that any violent crime had to be a "hate" crime because you'd have to have hate in your heart, at least for that particular person, in order to intentionally harm them)

(I have known not that many Muslims in my life, but the ones I have known....just ordinary folks, just trying to get through life like the rest of us. All groups of people have individuals who do wrong or have bad motivations in them but in all groups most of the people are...okay. Not saints, not terrible people, just people trying to get through life who love their kids and worry about their jobs and laugh at dumb stuff and all of that.  The people I think I knew best ran a restaurant...I remember my father once asking the father if it was okay to wish them a Merry Christmas - because without thinking, he just had - and the man kind of shrugged and said "We accept all good wishes as good" which is like an echo to me of "the prayers of all good people are good" from "My Antonia" - though there the "anti" sentiment was, I guess, anti-Catholic, as Mr. Burden was "accepting" the prayers of an Eastern European family...)

***

One selfish brighter piece of news: the train I am to be on is not so terribly delayed after all. I was remembering this as the day that the Texas Eagle was actually the continuation of the Sunset Limited....and the Sunset was running some four hours late, which would mean that the EARLIEST I'd be getting on my train was 9 pm, and I was groaning inwardly and trying to calculate the best time to leave town so I'm not sitting in the station for hours upon hours, but also getting there before it's dark (I don't like driving in the dark)

Well, when I just checked, the Eagle was running. It left San Antonio some 20 minutes late, but the Sunset has not reached San Antonio yet, so....I don't know. I'm wondering if they pulled the "continuation" people off at some point and bused them to San Antonio and put them on a "turned" train (the train that was southbound from Chicago yesterday). Whatever. I'm just grateful things are a little closer to schedule and (knock wood) barring any other delays, it's likely I will be getting on on time, at about quarter past 5. Which means I get dinner on the train which is easier and nicer (and doesn't cost me extra, as it's included in the price of the roomette).  And there's also not the endless hanging-around at the train station, which gets worse the later it gets.

(I don't know if I ever told this story on here before, but one time - I think it was a Christmas break - I was the only person waiting, and some old, ratty-looking guy shambled in. And yes, I know you shouldn't judge books by their covers, except in this case, when he started talking, you totally could. He was looking for a place in town to "party" and wanted to know if I wanted to go "party" with him because all the women he had met recently were "b*tches" and I was getting increasingly apprehensive and was actually starting to wonder - the closer he edged to me - if I was best to just abandon my luggage (well, the suitcase was locked, and there was nothing so valuable to a rando off the street in my carry-on) and run for it, that was how uncomfortable I was. Before I did that, a young college kid came in, also to wait for the train, and I figured, "Well, at least there's a witness here if this guy tries anything and I have to deck him*" and also after trying to see if the college kid knew anywhere to "party" (he didn't; like me he just wanted to get on the train and be gone from there) the guy shambled off, but, yeah...not wild about waiting in train stations alone, but waiting in my car isn't really an option either.

Though perhaps that's an argument for carrying a Bible or other religious literature with oneself and very pointedly having it out and be reading it if you're worried about being chatted up in a way you don't want to be chatted up. Though that might attract another form of unwanted attention...)

(*I probably could have, too. I have no training in fighting but the guy seemed kind of three sheets to the wind already)

I am, as far as I can determine/imagine completely packed: my tickets are stuck in one of the (probably too many) books in my carry-on; I've got Harvest plus its extra yarn plus the shorter circular I will need for the sleeves plus the pattern (And dare I hope I get far enough? The two buttons I bought and will have to decide between once it's finished), and the Socks for the Deputy Headmistress plus their pattern plus the row-counter I need for that pattern. And the little Northern Lights shawl with its pattern and row-counter. And the four cakes of yarn (in suitcase) plus patterns, and my needlecase, and the stuff needed for that monster toy I was talking about. And I have the two Sutcliff novels I talked about, and a couple mystery novels, and the book on the Cro-Magnons....I am not taking "Pere Goriot," have decided to give that a re-try later on when I'm a bit cheerier, because Vautrin and also Eugene's desires are annoying me....And I have my stuffed Fluttershy and Derpy and also, yes, Clawhauser (again, because he would make a fine "emergency" pillow if, for example, something weird happened and I got busted down to coach because of a bad-ordered sleeper or something). And I have both "it's cold" pajamas and "it's warm" pajamas, because you never quite know for sure what the sleeper car's temperature will be....oh, and I have enough clothes for a week as well. And my makeup, mouthguard, and medication (the three Ms I need to put in my carry-on after getting up in the morning).

I've also concluded that if my friend Laura, who gave up Twitter for Lent, can still take 10 minutes a day to check in with her mutuals on it, it's OK for me - having given up frivolous spending for Lent - to take advantage of shopping opportunities (like Michaels, and also, if Von Maur has any cute outfits) while I am up at my parents....I'm still not ordering stuff online which is a big change from how I normally operate.

***

And yeah, this morning I feel in more of a vacation mood. It will be good to get away even if I do wind up doing some "handyman" type tasks for my parents, or if I wind up doing the marketing a few times and maybe even some of the cooking to save my mom some time. (There are some things I like that I just don't cook for myself, because it makes too much). And also, just uninterrupted time to knit and read and relax....I'm mostly recovered from the time-change but still this is the time of the semester when I just get TIRED and everything gets on my nerves.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

waiting on laundry

Yeah, I did need to do laundry before I can pack. So a few random thoughts here:

* In a chain of clicking, I came across this NPR story (yes, warning: I have more thoughts on the scandal du jour).

Pull quote: "But the colleges that most excel in promoting social mobility, according to an analysis by economist Raj Chetty, aren't the Ivies — they are excellent, open-access public institutions and community colleges with large numbers of working-class students, like the City University of New York."

Hm. I teach at....well, it's not exactly open-access, but we are not highly selective, and while we're not free, we're less expensive than many schools (roughly $6K a year for in-state or Texas (we have an agreement), closer to $13K for out of state for tuition and fees). So....maybe.....maybe we're not one of the "baddies," after all?

And yeah, reading that quote made me sit up a bit straighter in my desk chair: maybe by striving to be the best teacher I can be, and to instill the skills I consider important for people going into biology/conservation/fish and wildlife type careers, maybe, maybe I am making things a little better.

Though I will also note this story is probably making a far bigger splash than it really should, partly because of class-envy but also partly because of the lurid allure of famous people being involved. As a college prof, I will tell you that for a good 90% of careers (outside of wanting to be an extremely high-powered attorney, or a politician, or a Supreme Court Judge, or the CEO of certain firms)....the school you go do doesn't matter nearly as much as the experience you get there. (Certainly in STEM, where if you do research with a faculty member, or an internship somewhere - both things smaller schools may be better at providing; I know we are). But yeah, I think maybe envy of "the elite" is part of this, and being able to hate on them. And maybe on some level being able to hate on higher ed, because there are segments of our culture that like to do that.

But anyway. I probably just need to keep on keepin' on with it, and take some satisfaction that maybe I AM (and HAVE, in the past) helped some first-gen college students wind up in careers that, if not fabulous and super-wealth-generating, are fairly secure and fairly comfortable and are maybe better than what they would have wound up with just a high school diploma.

* Though a less-positive thing found in a chain of clicking: the idea of the 'happiness pump' (warning: Good Place spoiler).

Fundamentally, a happiness pump is someone who seeks to increase happiness all around them, even if they make themselves miserable. (In the context of "The Good Place," it's someone who has figured out the "point system" and is trying to game it for eternal happiness by, well, making himself miserable on earth.... He takes it so much to the extreme as to become a walking guilt trip, with worrying over animal welfare and carbon footprints).

But, as a lifelong people-pleaser: I wonder, do I border at times on trying to be a "happiness pump." Not because I think I'm buying my way into the Good Place; in my faith system that's not a thing that can be done. But I HATE dissension enough, I hate people around me being "mad at me" (or my feeling like they are) that....yeah. I will tie myself into knots to try to prevent that.

And I wonder maybe if my periodic whining about feeling like I don't get "fussed over" enough* is that I do spend a lot of time trying to ensure other people are happy (or, at least aren't angry in my vicinity).

(*Though I also wonder if deep down I really am just kind of high-maintenance, but I'm too much of a wimp to demand "maintenance," so I walk around slightly disappointed a lot of the time)


I don't know. Being a human is difficult.

* And it's time to consider winding off some yarn. I have a from-deep-in-the-stash Round Table Yarns' "Merlin" in the colorway "Windows of the Knights" (Black background with hot pink, teal, and purple). I want it for just plain socks, but I might also look through my Ravelry library and print of a sock pattern or two and find a yarn I want to use with them. I'm also taking the Harvest cardigan to try to finish it, and the yarn and pattern for the Toft monster. And at least one of the two pair of socks in progress, and the shawl that's been my knit-and-invigilate project.

(I printed off a cabled sock pattern and a leaf-lace one, may just dig in the stash and see if I find anything cool for those. Yes, I am taking more projects than I will have time for but I find that kind of thing a comfort. And I may be stuck at my parents' house a lot if the weather turns bad)


That....might be enough. (I might take the sloth pattern, though, and decide to break my Lent "no frivolous purchases" fast and get yarn for it at Michaels, I don't know. I miss being able to shop at a Michaels, that's one chain I would like to see come here.)

And here is sockyarn, newly wound:

sockyarn no flash

Top left: Stroopwaffel socks yarn (Stroop Stroop socks on Ravelry - a free pattern). top right: yarn for leaf-lace socks. Bottom left: the Merlin yarn I mentioned, for just plain socks. And on the lower right is one of the skeins of local-to-him dyed sockyarn my brother sent me for my birthday, probably for cabled socks.

I have my packing list printed out, once the stuff in the dryer now is dry, I can go ahead and start throwing clothes in my suitcase.

I think I'll take the two shorter Sutcliff novels; they'll be easy to carry (mass-market paperbacks) and maybe a couple mysteries, and the book about the Cro-Magnons (yet another Brian Fagan book, but I kind of like his writing).

And yes, Comfort Ponies will be coming along, and probably my Clawhauser, as he also makes a good emergency pillow.

* I didn't get any embargoed posts written; it's been a very busy couple of weeks. I might, if I think of something, schedule one for midweek of spring break but I will be mostly silent from Friday afternoon until Saturday the 23rd.

Looking for good

One last thought (maybe; I never seem to have a last-last thought on ANYTHING) about the admissions scandal:

Isn't this just symptomatic of the deep insecurity and need-to-live-vicariously-through-their-kids some parents have? Being able to boast your kid got into a top school? I don't remember that being a thing with my parents and their friends, but then again, my parents' friends when I was a teen were either (a) fellow academics (who knew how universities worked, and knew things like "for people going into STEM, the quality of the department means more than the university name") and (b) people from church who wouldn't much have cared anyway.

And really, that's a larger thing in our culture, and has been for a while - the whole Alpha Mom thing was slowly wheezing to life when I was a kid, and my mom thought it was kind of stupid: she was more interested in whether we were happy and learning stuff in school than in what our athletic prowess or awards were. Oh, there was pressure to do well academically, but that was more "because we want you to learn well so you will do well in life and have an interesting career" instead of "your earning academic awards makes US look good!"

And I wonder if it's just a short line from that way of thinking, through "promposals" and parents who scream at Little League coaches to parents feeling entitled to bribe their kid's way into college. I also suspect there was a strong strain of "We won't get caught" or "We'll be able to get out of this if we do" because of who the people involved were.

I suspect the people who do stuff like that are deeply insecure. And that their acting out on that insecurity is damaging society. Already I feel like we're moving (or have moved) from a high-trust society to a low-trust one....and that's a very scary thing; low-trust societies are scary places to live.

The irony is: I'm pretty insecure about myself and I KNOW that. But I'm also too much of a coward to act out in ways other than desperately Tweeting and hoping one of my "mutuals" responds or notices me.

Though really. I don't do things that are wrong, not just because they're wrong, but I know how the world works: the rich and connected tend to slide through when they do something wrong (though more and more, maybe not: I saw someone connect this to "Me Too," with the idea of "This is something that's gone on for a long time and finally people are speaking out against it") but that people like me, we get caught, and we get the full penalties. Even stupid crap like parking tickets: I park a little "wrong" (or, as once happened, I park in desperation in a "not really a spot" but that is a spot some people use, and I get the full ticket; other people more important than I do it, nobody says anything. Or it's like that Bad Admin I talked about, who was horrible to many people and was a known misogynist, but no one did anything because he was Important. Until, apparently, the day he ticked off someone more Important than he was...)

So, I mean, I kinda KNOW this. And also, while I'm definitely not in the "elite" that can skate by on good looks and money, I'm in that broad middle group that isn't actively harassed (because of my complexion, my gender, my age, I don't take some of the crud that some people have to; the one time a cop stopped me out on the highway, after his first moment of gruffness, he was polite, and I kind of wonder if I were someone other than I am, would he have been?)  Then why does it distress me? I think it's the getting-it-shoved-in-my-face aspect, and also my concerns that (a) this is just going to damage the reputation of higher ed (all higher ed, because our culture is not good at nuance, and so many people see little difference between my small, low-status school, and some of the more-elite schools in this scandal) and (b) there may well be calls for faculty to "do more" to fix this, and at least at some schools, we are already doing too many different things and "more" is just going to break some of us.

I don't know. It does frustrate me (despite reminding myself again and again of both Richard Cory and of that girl from my high school whose mom "bribed" her with Guess! jeans so she wouldn't go home for a visit one weekend) as I struggle with things like students who need to arrange a make-up exam because their terrible boss called them in to work on short notice, and they really NEED that gig, and where I work and work and it seems my reward is an "oh, by the way: we need to decide scholarships for the department next week, I just now was given the information" and I either have to decide to half-ass (sorry) that or push aside more important-to-me work.

Even as I know Jay Gatsby wound up dead at the end of the novel (and it was a pretty depressing novel anyway), still, it's hard not to look at the glitter and the parties and go, "That might be better than putting in 13 hour days some times and rarely hearing a thanks for the stuff I do"

I don't know. I also have a sinking fear that this whole scandal will trickle down and that people who were otherwise innocent parties (people at universities in no way affiliated with the scandal) will find themselves with more onerous paperwork to fill out or more requirements or more limitations or there will be some requirement of taking faculty from OTHER campuses and putting them on the admissions panels of schools and....the people who had nothing to do with the wrong being done wind up with more work. Because that's how it seems to go.

And I could TOTALLY see us all being required to sit through many hours of "Don't Do This" training, just like we did when a couple people (probably) violated Title VII and then retired (with golden parachutes) and all the rest of us are subject to "additional training" to be sure we don't, even though none of us were the offenders.

Life is not only unfair in that undeserving people get benefits; it is unfair in that often the innocent are punished.

But yeah. Spring Break looms. I have to pack this evening. I don't even know for sure what projects to take yet but I guess I'll figure that out.

I did manage to get one load of laundry done this morning - underwear and bras (so the bras will have a chance to dry before I have to pack them tonight, I was worrying about that). More laundry awaits though I think if I didn't get the next two loads done it would be OK, I could find enough things to pack.

I have a meeting at 3 to get the taxes finished up, so at least hopefully that will be done (I got the last bit of paperwork off the internet on Tuesday via the brokerage-house's website).

I also got up early - the first time I felt able to this week - and did my workout this morning, so at least I won't have to find time for it in the afternoon.

I'll have to think about projects....maybe take Harvest with a mind to finishing it up, or at least getting up to the sleeves. And I think the yarn and pattern for that Toft Alpaca monster I was planning on doing (mine will be of a cheap-o acrylic, though). And one or both of the pairs of socks in progress. And I dug out a skein of a self-striping yarn (to wind off, and take with me, for "plain" socks).

And books. I finished "The Silver Branch" last night (which is good, it's a huge hardback I'd not have wanted to carry with me). It was good, I recommend Sutcliff's "Roman" novels (I have one more in the trilogy yet to read). I *might* take her retellings of The Iliad and The Odyssey with me to read on the trip - the copies I got are both the small-format paperbacks (not trade paperbacks, but....what are they called? Mass-market?). And probably take Scarweather to finish it, even though I'm nearly done there....and I don't know what else.

Middle-semester vacations - like Spring Break, and also like Thanksgiving - always catch me unready. It's hard to make time to pack, I'm not really in a "vacation" mood (Oh, there is SO much I have to do; if I were staying here I could evaluate the candidates for the job and the AAUW scholarship forms and work with my data more....I could technically take some of those along to work on but I really don't WANT to, and also, with some of the things, if something were to happen and I lost the only copy....)

But yeah. I am feeling very worn this morning and very not-vacation-y and am also worried about the weather (flooding anywhere along the Amtrak route could wind up in me being moved onto a bus for part of the trip....which wouldn't be so terrible on the trip up, when I can sleep once I get there, but would be bad given the trip back).

I also am not anticipating much excitement this trip; my father is still having leg issues (he was supposed to have an appointment to treat the underlying issue, the doctor said he didn't like the new procedure that was supposed to be a "miracle procedure" so it's back to square one) and so that means a lot more involvement on my mom's part.....so I presume maybe I will just take over some of the marketing and maybe some of the chores while up there and....I don't know. I just feel like these days, I have no one with the time or energy to 'fuss over' me the way I would like to be once in a while, and instead I have to make do with the crumbs of attention people have leftover from the actually important people in their lives....and yes, I know that's greedy and jealous of me to want that, but....well, everyone is terrible in some way and this is how I am terrible; I really want more attention than I probably deserve. At least I recognize that I'm terrible. And at least I only have that *feeling* and don't actually act on it, shoving myself in between a person and their More Important Person to demand something....

but yeah. I would just like to be the center of someone's attention instead of the periphery, even though I realize that because I made a big deal when younger of being Independent, it's now my fate to be on the periphery of everyone's life....I kind of made my bed and now must lie in it. (Down to still not knowing who on earth I could ask to drive me - the half hour down, and the wait of however long it takes, and the half-hour back - when I have to have the colonoscopy this summer and that is contributing to some of the distress I feel. I don't like asking people for help like that because I don't want them to turn around at home and roll their eyes at their spouse and go "can you BELIEVE she asked me to do that? I guess I have to, though, poor dear, she's all alone otherwise." and I still don't know for sure who I could ask who would even be free, and I don't want to ask a dozen people and hear eleven "No"s because I HATE asking for stuff and being rejected - even kindly - in my requests makes it harder for me to ask someone else.)

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

And more ugh

Disclaimer: I'm overtired, my allergies are in overdrive, I probably won't be home for any amount of time (other than maybe to inhale dinner, but that might also be a 'grab something on the way' thing) until after 8 pm tonight, so I'm already in a bad mood.

I am reading more about the admissions scandal. Apparently it was mostly getting people spots on teams (despite lack of athletic credentials) so they'd have a "lock" on admission, is that right?

I don't know. This is where one of my Inner Children, the one that is like a blend of Linus van Pelt (in the sense of believing in fairness and ethics) and Louise Belcher (who also wants fairness, but mostly in the sense of things needing to be fair to HER, but also RAGE) is stomping around and yelling.

I mean, yeah yeah yeah, I know: rich kids have always had the way smoothed for them. Kids whose parents have "influence" get extra perks. That's how it's always been, and it was that way back when I was being teased by those rich kids for wearing Sears-brand jeans instead of Jordache, and was being ostracized to eat my lunch alone. (Which may actually be why this bothers me so far out of proportion to its actual effect on me: it's pretty darn clear that I got into the several universities I applied to on my own merits (Well, I was technically a "legacy" at Michigan, given my parents were graduates, but so were thousands of other kids). And my own school, given it's comparative low-status, we won't be involved in this thing)

But yeah, it does bother me.

Early this morning, dragging myself out of bed as the thunderstorms we're now having began, I thought again of something I heard NEARLY EVERY DARN WEEK when I was in junior high, and which I hated:

"Well, actually.....you know Einstein was a C student."

This was invariably said to me by (a) a boy (the girls had other ways of "othering" me) and (b) someone who was himself earning Cs - not because he was a brilliant lateral thinker who didn't fit in, but because he just didn't do a lot of the work. But usually, he fancied himself a brilliant lateral thinker who didn't fit in. And I was, by opposition, the boring little swot who wanted to please the teachers. And so, in the mythology of the schoolyard, Mr. Imma-remind-you-about-Einstein would have some kind of glorious and brilliant career where he made a lot of money, and I would wind up AT BEST as some kind of low-level civil-servant type position. Because OF COURSE the people who earn good grades are uncreative sheep who are best suited for those kinds of jobs where the brilliant lateral thinkers get to scream at them when the "sheep" can't break the rules for them.

But yeah. That's....not something I need inhabiting my mind this morning, but it popped back up in the wake of all this.

Because I expect the meme is going to be now "Look, if getting in to college is corrupt, we can't trust anything academic; the only measure of a person's worth is how 'cool' they are or how much money they make" and of course then I fail on both counts, at least by American standards. (Yes, I know: by global standards I am incredibly wealthy and I should probably sell all I own and give the money to the poor in sub-Saharan Africa or something)

And I'm going through another bout of that feeling that literally the only thing I've ever been good at is taking tests and doing schoolwork, and if that's now called in to question....

(And from what I've read, "Einstein was  a C student" isn't even literally true).

But yeah. One thing the late 2010s has done is make me question all my life choices when it's too late to go back and change them.

And yet, weirdly, at the same time, it makes me Donald-Duck-splutter at "The World," because really? Wealth and "importance" are not the things that matter, but it seems like increasingly our culture is drifting towards them being the only things that matter. I regularly experience some kind of weird disconnect where in church and in my own devotional reading, everything is all about how everyone matters, everyone is precious, that yes, some behaviors are bad and should be rejected and repented of....and then I go out into the world and either see people being lionized and held up as "more important" for some really rather silly things, or people making small missteps that they repent of, and yet people are unwilling to forgive and I don't know. Yes, I know we never lived in a "Christian nation" regardless of what some say, but I think increasingly the world is....I won't even say post-Christian; I will say "post-eternal-belief-systems" because I think someone who is a genuine Buddhist or neo-pagan or whatever group they belong to, where there's a strong ethical core....most faith or philosophical systems seem to share the idea of "everyone has value" and also "treat the other person the way you would like to be treated" (or, "That which is abhorrent to you, do not do to your neighbor" or "Love your neighbor as yourself") but more and more it seems like the Golden Rule is really "he who has the gold makes the rules" and yes, perhaps it has always been thus, but....more and more it seems like everyone is just out for what he or she can grab, even if it means throwing an elbow in their nearest-and-dearests' guts to do so. And that money and "bling" and power are what matter, and knowledge or study is pointless, and in some cases, people who are willing to put in hard work are chumps, and....I don't know. For me, there is that conflict: the set of "eternal values" I was taught from childhood on, where the sub-lesson was "if you abide by these rules you will do okay....you may not be rich but you will be okay, and you will have the satisfaction of having dealt fairly with others" but on the other side so often we see people who just....grab what they want...getting ahead, and often the people who DID do fair-dealing wind up losing their business, or getting shut out of good things, or whatever. And while some people might say "Just wait, Karma is merely lacing up her butt-kicking boots" (which isn't even the correct interpretation of the concept of Karma), it is....well, one of those "When, Lord, when?" moments in our history, I think.

I don't know. I can only do what I can do. I can't bring myself to depart from the ethical system I was taught growing up. (partly because I KNOW, the one time I decide to break a rule, I get caught, that's just how life works: other people can get away with it but for some reason I can't). But it's still frustrating as heck, and it doesn't help to have the old specters of self-doubt from my junior-high years cropping up in my memory.


And yeah, also: I guess I have to recognize that I had an easier path than some kids did. For one thing, I'm white....and I had parents who valued education so I got the support I needed, I had things like a mom who saw to it that I was up, fed, dressed, and had a packed lunch well before the school bus was due. (Not all kids have that; I remember some years ago when a woman in my book club who was a minister was doing her stint at....I think it was a v. small Methodist congregation in town....she talked about buying *alarm clocks* for some of the kids at one of the local schools that tended to serve (because of its location) the lower-income population; she said in many of the households the parents either figured the kids were on their own to get up and get ready, or the parents didn't have parenting skills, or the parents themselves were exhausted from working the night shift and couldn't be relied upon to be awake to get the kid up at 7 am). And so, yeah, there are people who would make me feel guilty for the advantages, such as they are, that my background gave me - caring parents, library access, people willing to help when I needed it*

And I had the money to pay my way through school....money from grandparents' estate. It was earmarked for education; I could not have burned through it partying if I had wanted to. But I was also the kind of kid who was raised to take VERY seriously the admonition of "this money was left to you for...." 

(*When I struggled in college physics, the son of a friend of my dad's - who was a Naval Academy graduate home, I think, on leave for that summer - arranged to tutor me until I "got it")

Though I don't know. In a way those advantages feel different to someone arranging a water-polo career for a kid who can't even really swim all that much.  I guess part of my frustration is that come a Cultural Revolution, I'd be as much up against that wall (because of my background and such) as the people who bought their kid a slot on the tennis team or something, or who falsified a friendship with a trainer that didn't actually exist...

So not only am I frustrated when I see our students trying hard and struggling because the deck is stacked against them in a lot of ways, I feel guilty that the deck wasn't stacked *more* against me, in some kind of weird way. I mean, I'm grateful for the advantages I had, don't get me wrong - but I also feel like I can't decry this scandal as much as someone else might....because what if I DID get into Michigan mainly because I was a "legacy" and they thought my parents would give more money (They thought wrong, then, and my parents were never much in the way of donors to begin with).


But yeah, this also cements another decision I'd been leaning toward. I won't give money to political campaigns/causes because I feel like too often that money is used unwisely, and doesn't actually benefit anyone buy those who ALREADY have money. But now, I'm beginning to think: don't give money to schools. I haven't re-upped my donation to my grad school this year, partly out of frugality. But maybe I don't at all, just because. (I do still give to a group that provides scholarships to students with Native heritage, but that's not tied to a university).

But yeah, it just makes me mad. All of it. Mad at the world today.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Ugh, just, ugh

I need to stop reading the news about this "admissions scandal" where some Important people made donations (and apparently did crimes) to get their not-that-great kids into schools where kids with more potential might have got shoved out of the way.

Part of the way it is rage-inducing is I look at our students: by and large the first of their families (or first generation, or second generation) to go to college. Lots of them work. Lots of them have tough life circumstances. I have to be SUPER flexible. Like SUPER flexible about due dates and make ups and missed labs and everything because what are you gonna do when someone who has an unreliable car but can't afford a better one can't get to class?

And I am happy a lot of the times to help them, and a lot of them thank me for being flexible, but it DOES make more work and more effort for me. (And I totally blanked that someone had arranged a make-up at 2 pm today, totally forgot, and I feel terrible. We've rescheduled, but....I should not be forgetting stuff like that, something is wrong if I am starting to forget stuff like that)

And also, because I've had a few rather - entitled - students down through the years. Mostly as a TA at the school I attended for grad work, that attracted a lot of rich Chicago-burb kids who had been handed stuff all their life, and who got mad when they earned (or, as they thought: you GAVE them) a C or D in a class.

And also, just....today, because of a string of things, I am feeling very small and very sad and very unimportant, and like all the hard work I do is for really nothing, and I'm a chump because I follow the rules, and....I don't know.

I was really hoping my Doki Doki crate might come today to cheer me up, but it did not.

I am trying to motivate myself to do a workout in a few minutes because then I would not have to rise at the buttcrack of dawn tomorrow to do one, but I am failing in motivation. Maybe I just go to bed tonight at 8 pm and count on getting up early again....

I need a hug and am sad. And this is not one of the things that hugging a stuffed animal really fixes.

I mean, on some level I have always known there have always been double standards out there, but...this feels so egregious.

***
Edited to add:

Forced myself to do a workout, on the grounds that (a) it might make me feel better (it did, though these days I don't know if it's endorphin release, or instead satisfying that howling sense of duty within me) and (b) now I don't have to get up at the crack of dawn, seeing as I am going to be facing down pretty much a 13 hour day with almost no breaks.And also, while I was doing it (I have run the dvd so many times I can do the workout on autopilot and think about other things) this popped into my head:

Whenever Richard Cory went down town,
We people on the pavement looked at him:

He was a gentleman from sole to crown,

Clean favored and imperially slim.

And he was always quietly arrayed,

And he was always human when he talked,

But still he fluttered pulses when he said,

“Good-morning," and he glittered when he walked.

And he was rich--yes, richer than a king-
And admirably schooled in every grace:

In fine, we thought that he was everything

To make us wish that we were in his place.

So on we worked, and waited for the light,

And went without the meat and cursed the bread;

And Richard Cory, one calm summer night,
Went home and put a bullet through his head.
Edward Arlington Robinson, of course, and yes, the cleverest trick the devil ever came up with was getting us to compare ourselves with others and find ourselves wanting somehow, or hard-done-by somehow.

then again, the cynical and burnt-out part of me adds this coda to the lesson of the poem:


Tuesday morning things

* Still feeling tired and jetlaggy from the time change. Doesn't help that I was out at a people-heavy meeting until nearly 9 last night....it takes me a very long time to relax after having to be around people (it's like being in a brightly-lit room for sleep).

I also *nearly* finished "The Silver Branch" and got through probably the most-exciting part of the novel (some spoilers but: Constantius' forces arrive, the rag-tag "legion" that Justin and Flavius have assembled from deserters of Allectus' legions, countrymen, and others are marching towards Londinum, they come upon Calleva - Flavius' ancestral hometown - as the mercenaries are getting there, they wind up participating in fundamentally saving the vulnerable parts of the populace (the old, the sick, the young, the women) and rallying the young men to help them fight off the mercenaries. Several members of the band are gravely wounded or killed....I kept reading because I was very much, "Please let Justin survive" as he was my favorite character and the book is largely told from his limited-third-person perspective. Yes, he does. But I was still keyed up after I put the book down (I assume only the denouement remains, as Allectus has been captured) and it took me a very long time to fall asleep)

And no, unlike other normal adults, I can't do coffee. I don't like the taste, and even if I doctored it with a metric boatload of sugar and milk....the one time in my life I tried drinking coffee it upset my stomach badly. (And increasingly, I find I have to be careful about how much strongly acidic stuff I consume, especially early in the day. Part of the reason I cut out orange juice was that it was giving me indigestion, though also I admit the science-reporting "OMGeeeee  OrAnGe JuIcE hAs So MuCh SuGaR aNd DiAbeeeeeTus!" put me off it, too)

* And so, I am feeling HARD the old Darwin quotation about "But I am very poorly today and very stupid and hate everybody and everything." I need to get some work on the data-digestion done today - this afternoon, I guess - but I also would just like to run all the errands I need to run and then go home.

And tomorrow, I am meeting with my student, but she can't meet until like 4, and I have Elders' meeting at 6 so I am wondering if I need to pack a lunch AND a dinner to campus with me. (And also....it's Board Meeting, and after last month, I am super apprehensive, because once again dissension reared its ugly head. And yet: no new PPR meeting has been called, so I don't even know. Though if the head of it tries to call one for tomorrow afternoon BEFORE Elders' meeting, I am going to just have to not be there)

I have some things I have to do, though:

- Biggest thing is get a sympathy card for Modra and get it out in the mail (She lost her mother recently, like in the last year, too, and I remember sending a card for that, and to me, this seems "bigger")

- I will also be faced with the first real test of my "buy no frivolous things" mandate because of where I will probably go to get the card....though I think I can hold firm. But yeah, it is wearing on me. Probably not as much as a "no chocolate" or "no foods with added sugars" would - which I have done in the past - but maaaaan I've had a couple days (and it's not even been a week) when I just wanted to browse some of the yarn shops online I normally buy from, but haven't, to avoid temptation.

- And I need to think about where to make the donation I intend to make. My denomination's Week of Compassion (mostly: disaster relief) would be an obvious choice but there are some other opportunities; there is a Regional mission-trip of kids going to help with some rebuilding after the hurricane last year in South Texas and they are looking for people to "sponsor a seat on the bus" and I might do that - some to that, some to WOC.

- Go to the bank. I have a check I found from my partner-in-feeding-the-college kids from last month that I forgot to cash, and also I need to get cash for tips, etc. while traveling the end of this week

- At some point arrange for a mail-hold, but I think I am going to wait until Thursday to do that, because in the past, when I've done it early....my mail just stopped early and I admit I'm hoping the Doki Doki crate comes in the next day or two, seeing as it's the only "fun stuff" I will be getting until the end of Lent (already paid for; the subscription renewed last month).

- And I need to do a bit more house clean-up....but when? Thursday evening I will need to pack. And probably do some laundry. Argh.

- There's probably something else I am forgetting.

* We also have a search committee that has ground to life, because one of our number has been "kicked upstairs" (we tend to lose people that way; they get promoted to Admin, which is more money for them, and I suppose an advocating voice for us, but....we're down two full faculty lines, have been so for >10 years, and we feel it, and it's hard to advocate for a new line when you're having to replace someone every 5-7 years).

I am hopeful it goes as well as it did last time: we were very fortunate, as it turns out, in the person we hired. He turned out to be a good colleague and I guess (from what the students say) he is a good, if somewhat demanding, teacher. (He is the person on my hall who actually says "Good morning" to me when he comes in - I am usually in already - and YES those little courtesies mean something to me)

* I may need to clarify given Brickmuppet's comment on the post below; I don't know the full story and I may actually be conflating two events, but: Woman who runs a yarn-dying business gets the chance to go to India. Because she is....I would say, perhaps a bit naive?....she expresses her enthusiasm in a way that makes it seem like India is another planet, and understandably, people of East Indian heritage are not happy about that. Calls for her to apologize and recant come, there's a big kerfuffle, and on and on. And it leads to a Vox thinkpiece about "Is Knitting Too 'White'" and implying....oh, I don't know. I read part of it and gave up.

Look, were people of non-European heritage badly treated in the past in America (and presumably, Europe, though I am less familiar with there)? Yes, of course. Are they still badly treated sometimes today? Yes. But I don't see how....shaming someone like me for enjoying knitting....fixes past and current discrimination. (To paraphrase an old, old saying, allegedly said by a blues musician: "The knitting needles don't care what color your hands are"). And yes, maybe publishers (If there are any publishers LEFT that publish knitting content, F and W - which bought lots of things up - is now declaring bankruptcy) need to use more diverse models for knitwear (though I would also note that diversity includes other things than gender or skin color)....again, I don't know. A lot of this stuff makes me feel called out and like I'm weirdly in the wrong, even as I'm just a knitting blogger barely anyone reads, and the only humans whose photos you see here are me....so yeah, not very diverse, I don't know.)

I don't know. This is the kind of thing that makes me throw up my hands a little and want to become a hermit. People are awful, yes, but not forgiving people for making missteps and then apologizing (because they maybe don't know, or are awkward, or are naive or are ignorant) is also kind of awful because people then will just double down, on the grounds that "if I can't win, why should I even try?"

And I don't even know. I knit to get away from the horrors of this world and so the whole thing just frustrates me and makes me sad.

You know what *else* is awfully "white"? Ecology. I know very few people of non-European heritage who are academic ecologists (and the few I do know, they are mostly people of part- Native or part-Hispanic heritage). Why? I don't know. I can guess a couple reasons but I suspect there are many. Some perhaps "nefarious" historically, some probably not so much (I once had a student who noted that the med schools and some of the pharma-research schools are eager to 'throw money at' anyone who shows promise and will diversify them and, yes....if you like or can even tolerate that kind of work, it's probably worth going into it for all the incentives. Ecology tends to be poorly-paid and in some endeavors (agency work) can be kind of precarious)

I don't know. This is one of those problems that people seem to be pressuring other people to "fix," when those other people may not have the power or expertise to "fix" it. (And, pessimistically - I suspect "people being awful to people not-like-them" is a problem that canNOT be fixed, short of the extinction of the human race)

(And yeah, there was some polarizing discussion on ITFF about this, and I kind of held my breath and also thanked God I was no longer a moderator on there, in case the discussion got acrimonious. I don't like arguing. I don't like dissension. And I get the people who say "but we need to stop being 'nice'" but I am not good at being not-nice in ways that are productive because I just start crying when people are yelling at each other. And it takes literally every emotional spoon I have to even express a strong opinion verbally. And I might delete all of this later, I don't even know.)

* And another dissention-source/argumentative thing. There was an article I ran across yesterday in The Guardian (no link, because I suspect now it was meant as clickbait, and you're free to google if you want), where a man in extreme-decluttering mode, apparently invoking The Sacred Name of Marie Kondo (though she would not approve of his methods, I think), rails against his kids having too much stuff, and:

" I’ve stolen cuddly toys from them as they’ve slept; will he notice his Kevin the Carrot family from Aldi is being picked off, one by one, at night? And then there were none."

And, oh my gosh, what a nightmare parent. What a terrible thing to do to your kids. You know what my guess would be in 20-odd years: that former-child will be buying up his or her long-lost Kevin the Carrot family off of eBay (or whatever it is we have in 2040) to replace the dimly-remembered ones that disappeared.

Kids remember.

I remember when I saw a Gumby - as a teen, mark you - I had a deep, visceral memory of the feel of that weird, semi-triangular-shaped top of his head in my mouth. And I asked my mom about it. And she laughed - yes, when I was very small, someone gave me one of those rubber Gumby toys. And I chewed on it, and the wires popped out, and so they decided it was best to take it away and replace it with something safer for me. But the fact that I didn't remember it until the very *moment* of seeing a Gumby t-shirt at, like, 14 - kids remember stuff. (I will also note that "I'm GUMBY, dammit" - the old SNL sketch - was another thing that brought Gumby back to the fore about that time).

But yeah. My parents never took toys from me EXCEPT in the rare case of safety concerns. My mother deplored my messy room but most of the time she was content to just close the door and ignore it. We never did the thing of " for every gift you get you must winnow out one existing thing." If toys were to be discarded or donated, we were consulted - in fact, nothing was pushed for donation unless we chose to dispose of it.

(The parent in that article also hints that when his kids go away for a vacation, he's going full "purgeageddon" and getting rid of most? all? It wasn't clear of their stuff, which is what leads me to wonder about clickbait).

But yeah. I think my mom remembered HER mother giving away some of her toys (times were different then; my mom's family had a lot less money to spend on things like toys, and my grandmother had grandchildren already when my mom was like 8 or 9.) And the memory of that kept her from ever being so draconian with my brother and me.

A related issue, mentioned on Twitter by Charles Hill, I suspect in response to my posting about the Guardian article and my comment that if someone tried to take MY stuffies while I was asleep, I would hunt them down and hurt them: How do I make my 14 year old daughter stop buying and sleeping with stuffed toys. MOST of the responses on that are from young adults (or not-so-young adults: one or two people about my age chimed in) basically saying "She's not hurting anyone, leave her alone." A few more brought in the (possibly judgey) issue of "Would you rather she slept with 14 year old boys?" (Though I would make the argument that almost no people under 21 are mature enough to handle sexual relationships appropriately; for that matter, there are plenty of over-21s who seem not to).

But yeah. A few others expanded and pointed out that having the stuffed toys around, for them, helped with their anxiety, and....you know, there's something to that. I made the comment a while back (in reference to that wonderful video about "A Den of Kittens") that having my stuffies around - particularly now that I've acquired a couple largish ones (Pfred, and Riesige, and Polaris) that I sleep better and more soundly - that somehow, the anxious-lizard part of my brain stops signalling "you are alone and have been cut from the pack and you are in danger of being eaten while you sleep" and I do wonder if there's something to that.

and even more than just the low-level contact of feeling (say) one of Pfred's hooves against my shoulder when I roll over, or something, when I'm having a bad night, or wake up from a bad dream, I can reach out and grab one of the smaller ones, and press it to my chest, and it is somewhat....calming.

And it seems, frankly, cruel to me to tell someone that because of their chronological age, they should be denied that comfort. And instead try to take comfort from "grown up" things - I don't know what that would be - diamond rings? a car? electronic gadgets?

And yes, I get that "normal" people have a partner or others to comfort them; some of us are denied that by circumstance and again, it seems cruel to take even the substitute for that from us. I don't even have a pet because (a) allergies to both cat dander and dog fur and (b) I am not home enough to care for one, and my house is not pet-proofed by any stretch of the imagination.

I've not become less-apologetic about much as I've aged, but I HAVE become less-apologetic about my toy-collecting (especially stuffies) habit, because I recognized something: it's a source of happiness and comfort to me, and it costs relatively little money (especially like now, when I'm holding off on buying anything new), and it doesn't hurt anyone. And it doesn't really have side effects, though maybe I need to at least run a few of the furry critters through the air-fluff cycle on the dryer to try to knock some of the dust mites out of them? (Yes, I am sure that is an issue, though dust mites seem to be the ONE thing I am not allergic to).

Though also: I will say I am cheered to see that I'm not the only one. I'm not the only person over the age of "majority" who still likes and feels a benefit from having a teddy bear or a bunny rabbit or (in my case, mostly Ponies) on the bed when they sleep.

Something we talked about at CWF last night came 'round to the "you see everyone else's highlight reel and only your own blooper reel" and that's something I keep telling myself. (I mentioned that I looked around at other adults, and I saw them managing in the world, and I saw myself going home some afternoons feeling defeated and getting into my pajamas at 5 pm and watching cartoons while I ate Nutella straight from the jar, and one woman laughed and said that if that was the *worst* thing I did, I was "in the rowboat to Heaven already" and while it's not the WORST thing I do, by far, it is one of those things where I look at myself and go "You are such a fraud, you aren't a real grown-up at all, you are not tough enough to handle being an adult" And yeah, I don't know.

Sunday, March 10, 2019

I still knit

I don't just break (or nearly-break) stuff.

Much of the rest of the weekend (well, the part where I wasn't trying to digest down 20 year old data over at work, or the part where I was digging crusts of citric acid out of a vital bathroom fixture), I worked on the fluffy blanket.

It's not *quite* half-done yet, though I'm not convinced I'll have enough yarn for the full 14 repeats of the cable pattern (We'll see). I may have to pare it down by a repeat or two depending on how things go:

Blanket, 3/10/19

The yarn is actually...pretty nice...it's fluffy and warm and being all-synthetic I won't have to worry *nearly* so much about storing it. (It's Red Heart Hygge in the color Wisteria. I am using the free pattern that comes on the ball-band).

And yeah, there's a lot of Red Heart hate out there, I know...but honestly? The technology for making synthetic yarns has improved vastly in the past 10-15 years. (I suppose you could make the environmental argument, but maybe turning oil into yarn is preferable to turning it into carbon dioxide in a car's engine? And at any rate: I'm gonna be hanging on to this for years once I finish it. And I probably won't wash it *that* often, and most likely will do it by hand when it happens....to protect the fuzziness of the yarn).

(Sometimes I wonder if some of the repulsion some people express at brands like Red Heart is simply class-snobbery - not all of us have fancy yarn stores nearby, and not everyone can afford wool for projects like this. And people like me, who live in old houses in the south....sometimes, natural-fiber blankets get munched by the various critters that are hard to keep out, no matter how hard you try).

***

Already thinking about over-break projects (Spring Break is next week). I'll probably take the stalled-out "Socks for the Deputy Headmistress" and try to finish them, and maybe just a cake of a simple self-patterning yarn for plain socks. And maybe Harvest, with an aim of partly/mostly finishing it. And probably a toy pattern or two but I'm trying to decide if I can somehow lawyerball my "no craft supply* purchases during Lent" to let myself get new yarn for one of them, or if I should take the Toft book of monster patterns and make up the "teenaged monster" (tentative name April, after April Ludgate) because I have a funny speckle-print yarn for her body and hair, and sparkly yarn for her horns....

(*As part of the "no unnecessary buying" thing during Lent, because I do tend to use shopping too much as either an amusement or a way of soothing hurt feelings. And I'm going to, at some point (probably before the end of Lent) tally up what I *might* have spent, and send that amount to either my denomination's Week of Compassion offering, or perhaps a charity that fights hunger....)

Saturday, March 09, 2019

Saving a thread

(Bear with me; I am not good at figuring out how to screenshot stuff, so this will be kind of blocky)

Anyway, here's evidence that sometimes fundamentally smart people do remarkably stupid things. This was part of my morning (before going over to work) and more of my afternoon (ended just a few moments ago):












































And yeah, after I turned the water back on and let the tank fill up, it flushed normally, so I assume I got all the citric acid out of there. But yeah. A little knowledge is a dangerous thing. "Oh, citric acid will break down calcium carbonate ---> more citric acid will be better at it" without making a stop at "wait, how well does citric acid dissolve in water again?" (I should have remembered; I've had it clump up in the teakettle before).

The heck of it is? It didn't even take that much limescale out. Yes, the toilet is much cleaner (And I did pour the boiling water in after it, just in case there was any residual stuff stuck along the way), but there's still a big patch of the tan-colored limescale (fundamentally, it is travertine - or more correctly, I guess, tufa - a calcium carbonate precipitate. In Chickasaw National Recreation Area north of me, there is a creek known as Travertine Creek because of the deposits it has laid down, and our drinking water comes, in part, from the same aquifer that the creek springs from).

But yeah. Sometimes it takes someone kind of smart to actually be really stupid.

I'm just glad I got it out without breaking the toilet OR entrapping my hand in the p-trap.

Edited to add: photographic evidence. This is the vast majority of the plug (you can see how it's curved to match the bottom of the outlet of the toilet). Pinkie Pie for scale. (She is about 1 1/2" tall).





I am very glad I was able to get this thing out of the drain of the toilet without pushing it all the way into the p-trap out of my reach. I would either have had to called the plumber then, or taken the toilet up and try to reach it from the other side.

(I'm also amazed I didn't wind up a sobbing mess on the floor when I first saw it, but sometimes, with true emergencies in my life - and not having a functional toilet is a true emergency - I am good at just gritting my teeth and going "I must fix this somehow" and doing it without any drama. I've also been told I'm frighteningly cool-headed in *genuine* emergencies (like the incident when our building was filling with smoke and I had to call the fire department) but that may be long training of going solo. I will say the "emergency" that freaked me out the most in recent years was that time last year when the guy tried to break down my back door, and before that, trying to find out what had happened to my parents when my dad wound up in the ER after a medication misdosage....but I guess in both those cases I was able to keep a sufficiently cool head until the thing was actually over. In the first case, I cried a little bit and couldn't go back to sleep; in the second one I just sat and shook for like an hour)


And something different

So one of my "mutuals" on twitter reposted a tweet from Cher, where apparently she was doing some kind of "modest proposal" thing about cancelling men's access to (among other things) Rogaine, and...well, I get it was a "modest proposal" but Cher is one of these people who tweets IN ALL CAPS and so it sort of has that "old person yells at clouds" sense to it, and my response was

"We are living in the Age of Hyperbole" and of course a neuron fired in my brain, and so I had to rewrite the first part of the song...


When the tweets are in the Hot-take House
And celebrity aligns with politics
Then WTH will drive the planets
And weird will steer the stars
This is the dawning of the age of hyperbole
Age of Hyperbole
Hyperbole
Hyperbole
angst and misunderstanding
confusion and mistrust abounding
plenty of falsehoods or derisions
crappy nightmare realization
Dumpster fire revelation
And the id's true liberation
Hyperbole
Hyperbole
 


Not sure what to do with the second part, the "Let the Sunshine In" part, but....maybe someone else can think of that.

But yeah. I also said earlier today that I thought "talking past each other" would spell our doom almost as much as outright malice, and I also stand by that.