Saturday, July 23, 2016

three wishes question

One of the odd random things I sometimes think about - partly as a way of judging my mental state - is "If you were granted three wishes right now, what would you wish?"

(And no, you can't ask for more wishes or "infinity money" or something stupid like that)

I admit, most of the time, I kind of inwardly sigh and think "I'd probably make unselfish wishes."

So, right now, my three unselfish (in the sense of, being good for someone other than myself) wishes would be:

1. Better health/mood/whatever for the people around me who are suffering various ailments. Relief from the chronic long-term things some people deal with

2. Greater peace in the world and people not committing violence against each other

3. An end to hunger and need

Of course, other than the fact that I would feel safer in a world where people were less prone to randomly shoot/stab/blow up one another, and the fact that some people I care about would enjoy relief from their pains, I don't directly benefit. So three selfish wishes:

1. To be more carefree than I am. (I don't know how to achieve this in my real life, so I think short of a genie-wish, I won't get it). Maybe I was moreso when I was younger and felt like I had fewer people depending on me, maybe I never really was, I can't tell. I seem to remember feeling more carefree when I was younger but that could be a false memory.

2. For a quilting/knitting store to re-open in my town, or at the very least, for us to get a few more "fun shopping" things. We've had so many stores close down in recent months (and now the Hastings in Sherman is going, too. In my bleaker moods I wonder if five years hence we will be left with Amazon for online stuff and Wal-Mart for in person stuff - and even then, Wal-Mart increasingly seems to want you to order online and then drive to their place to pick it up. And heck, maybe UPS and USPS will sit down and refuse to deliver the online-ordered packages, and we're all stuck driving to somewhere to pick them up, and in my little town that will mean a long drive because we won't get a distribution center....)

3. For where I live to have a more moderate (or actually: more Northern) climate. It's terribly hot here and even with air conditioning in the house it still feels oppressive and miserable and although I would LIKE to go antiquing or something, it's just too hot to. I also would like it to snow a little more here in winter. Odd thing: one evening up at my parents', I was watching some home-restoration show about a guy who goes around to really old, old houses (on the east coast - I think he is based in Pennsylvania) and he was doing a reno and they were showing the snow and showing people working in the snow, and I got SO HOMESICK for that. I kind of love snow. I don't love driving in it or even really walking very much in slush (though I love walking in the snow more than I love walking in 100 degree temperatures) but I LOVE the sight of it and I miss it in the middle of summer when it feels like it will be hot forever.

Friday, July 22, 2016

As threatened/promised



MOST of these things did not happen at this year's conference. I have seen a few of them (food running out, "dominance mounting" of grad students, flashdrive won't read, skipping of breaks, theft from display tables) happen at different conferences down through the years. Some of the more ridiculous ones (drunk speaker, vomiting grad student) are plausible but I have never seen them.


Let’s play…..

CONFERENCE PROBLEM BINGO!!!!!!!!!!



Food runs out at banquet or mixer

Big famous guy doesn’t show up to give plenary talk


Power outage

Pages in proceedings inserted upside-down


Projector bulb burns out during plenary


Someone with an incomprehensible accent giving a talk


Someone’s abstract left out of proceedings


Conference room is 20 degrees too hot


Not enough chairs in room


“We ran over time with the last few talks so let’s just skip the break”

Semi-famous bitter person asks “dominance mount” question of grad student

Theft from university-press vendor’s table
FREE




SPACE


Speaker is drunk or high

Overzealous “parking control” tickets people with conference tags on their cars


Heated argument breaks out during “question” session of a talk


Band at evening mixer too loud; no one can talk


Remote control breaks


Conference room is 20 degrees too cold


Computer won’t read presenter’s flashdrive


Moderator fails to moderate and session becomes extremely out-of-synch with others


Really tall people in front row of audience; no one else can see slides


No refreshments provided at break/refreshments greatly delayed


Grad student giving first conference talk ever faints or throws up


Poster room has lighting too dim for anyone to read the posters

Back home again

As is typical, just some disjointed thoughts until I have put away stuff and rested up a little.

When we last left our "heroine" (I make no claims to being such; I once claimed to a person poking at me about something to do with my single state, "I'm not even a priority in MY OWN LIFE"), she was suffering the gift of the conference snafu fairy: her abstract had not made it in the proceedings for the conference.

Fortunately, she heavily redacted the e-mail (which originally contained the words "I am deeply hurt...") before sending it to the conference bigwig, who was, incidentally, her graduate advisor all those years ago.

Yeah, as it turned out, a combination of a water leak in the building he had been shunted to with the other still-somewhat-active retirees, a new e-mail client, and possibly negligence on someone else's part, and mine got left out even though it was approved.

(Another issue I have: I tend to never think my work is quite good enough. While that serves me well in some aspects - I keep pushing and striving until things are as nearly perfect as I can make them - it is not good for my emotional well-being).

But anyway, I was assured that yes, my poster was in, and in fact, someone had cancelled at the last minute, so my poster would be on their easel.

(Easel? ruh-roh. My poster was a big sheet of paper, the better to be rolled up and transported in a tube. But as it turned out, there were slightly-too-thin foamcore boards to thumbtack the posters to).

And the train was not as late as I was originally warned...only about an hour.

When I arrived, though, and my mom picked me up, she said, "I didn't want to tell you yesterday because you were already upset..."

Oh, what now. What now? Which of my few remaining relatives has died? What fresh horror has befallen someone I knew from up there? What?

Well, it wasn't good news, of course, but it wasn't unexpected and it was one of the lesser things it could have been: my brother and sister-in-law's 15 year old Maine Coon Cat, who had been poorly for a while (kidney disease) went into kidney failure and had to be put to sleep. I think my brother was equally disturbed by the fact that my niece didn't seem to react much to it, but she's not yet four, and maybe doesn't understand yet. (My first experience with death was with a family pet. And I reacted pretty strongly to it, but I was six, and was old enough to understand what it meant and to be very sad. I actually still remember it pretty vividly and how I reacted....actually pretending that a Siamese cat hand puppet I had was the cat, and even as I sobbed over it and said "I'm so glad you're here, I'm so glad you're still here" I knew it didn't work, that I couldn't pretend. Yes, at six. Maybe I'm such a serious adult because I shed the childhood ability to live in a fantasy too soon)

But still: Blooming HECK, 2016.

The conference was fine. Not outstanding, not terrible. Most of the bad conference stuff (I should make a "conference problem bingo card" up some time) that I've seen didn't happen. Most of the technical issues were minor and were things like people hitting the wrong button on the remote and advancing their slides when they wanted the laser pointer.

I was disappointed in that none of my old grad-school cohort was there. Last I knew, most of them were still working in Illinois but maybe they couldn't get off work, or maybe they're no longer in the field, or maybe they moved on to another career. (It HAS been nearly 20 years, which seems unthinkable to me.)

I did see the three remaining (still alive; the fourth has died) committee members from that campus. One is retired; two are still active and still have grad students. One of the committee members came and sat next to me several times during the mass meetings and talked with me, and at first that struck me as slightly unusual: I am an absolute nobody with nothing to offer in the way of networking for him. But then it dawned on me that, like me, he knew almost nobody at the conference - I was one person he knew. And as my mother remarked (she knows him slightly from campus) that he might be somewhat shy, and that talking to someone who is "known" is less of an effort than trying to break into a new group. And as someone who is somewhat shy myself (despite my ability to generally talk with people I don't know), it does take a lot of activation energy to walk up to a group and try to break in.

Not very many people stopped by my poster. The upside is I didn't get the semi-famous semi-somebody doing a "dominance mount" question (though that is more common in talks, where they have an audience, than at a poster). The downside is that it does get a bit lonely standing by a poster and not talking to anyone. (My poster was one of the more technical ones at the meeting - I really shouldn't have worried about it "not being enough")

A couple other thoughts:

- The student center on campus (it was my grad school) still SMELLS the same as it did 20 years ago. And yes, I remember what it smelled like.

- The field trip was to a site I had done a little research project for a class some 20 years ago, and yes, the same place looked much the same as it did then.

- I picked up a few pieces of conference swag. Scientific conference swag is generally a poor comparison to comics-convention or sci-fi-convention swag. I have a poster of the life cycle of the monarch butterfly to put up in my poster gallery next to my office, and a little booklet on how to identify the seedlings of prairie plants, which will come in handy. There were people giving out seed packets of "butterfly mixes" and I encouraged my mom to take some, but they were all Illinois region seeds and would not do well here (and there's also the question of outbreeding depression with local populations) so I didn't take any. I did get a little stress ball with the name of one of the seed-sellers on it, and a mock-carabiner ("mock" because it has "DO NOT USE FOR CLIMBING" stamped on it.) But no posters of Twilight Sparkle and no limited-edition figurines or fun stuff like that.

- Two booksellers (university presses) there. One didn't have anything I needed (it was mostly upper-Midwest identification books, that have limited utility here), but I did buy a couple books from the other and they are being shipped to me.

- This conference skews VERY much older-career people. Lots of grey heads there. (Lots of aging hippies, too, I think). I don't know if the mid-career people like me either are going to the "bigger" conferences in the hope of self-promotion, or if they aren't doing conferences right now, or what. (There were some grad students and early-career folks there; a lot of the Nature Conservancy types tend to be 20-somethings with few encumbrances and a willingness to live on $500 a month and the experience.)

Then again, I'm going a little grey myself these days. Not much as yet, but I can see more white hairs on my head than a few years ago. (And no, as I've said before: I'm not going to bother to dye; that takes more energy for maintenance than I have)

- Most of the people there are site managers or agency folks or people who are very much on-the-ground doing fieldwork day after day and I admit at a couple points I felt I didn't quite fit in, as someone who spends maybe 85% of her working time teaching rather than doing research. I don't know. On the one hand: I love teaching and I think I'm pretty good at it but on the other I can see I don't have the quick-to-hand field knowledge as much any more as I once did. And it's harder for me to talk with agency people, I spent a lot of the time on the field trip not saying anything.

I will also say I felt homesick again leaving out of there last night. That's odd, as I have lived here (Oklahoma) now for 17 years, and I lived there for only 9 - so I have lived here almost twice as long, and lived here nearly as long as I lived in Ohio growing up. I THINK the homesickness is partly memories of grad school, which in retrospect was really a relatively carefree and happy time in my adult life: perhaps the most carefree and happy time. I was teaching, but I wasn't the ultimate authority: if a student resisted my enforcement of the class rules and went to the professor, the professor told them "straighten up, fly right, respect your TA." I wasn't making much money but didn't have much in the way of bills: I lived with my parents and they didn't make me pay rent or chip in for utilities. I was surrounded by people who were pretty much on campus from 8 am until 6 or 7 pm, and someone was always around. Also, my friends were, by and large, like me: single and childless and able to make plans on the spur of the moment. And we did things as a group: going to movies, playing bocce ball, having cookouts. And there was a campustown: it was easy to say to a labmate, "Hey, you want to go over to the Pizza Hut tomorrow for lunch?" or "I'm going to run down to Babbitt's and see if they got any new books in, want to come?" Here, any kind of plans to eat lunch together off campus require a lot of juggling: who is going to drive, where is going to be quick enough for those of us with afternoon labs....and so we mostly don't. And I admit, I kind of miss the camaraderie of being part of a group that weren't the "big dogs" but were one step below them - so we could razz on our major professors when they were out of earshot, but at the same time if there was some logistical hangup, those professors by and large helped us deal with them. Now, so much of it is on US to fix problems, and we are the "authorities" that the underlings (our students) razz on (MOSTLY out of our earshot). And it's not the same. And of course,most of my colleagues are married, many have kids, and so there's that other layer of responsibilities to be dealt with.

Also, they have something like eight grocery stories in that town, and I have wal-mart and the little Green Spray. (And it's even harder now to get to Sherman: they are having to repair part of the highway down near Denison; it buckled in the heat this week). I think that "if I can't get it in town, I probably can't get it" kind of thing gets to me a little.


Friday, July 15, 2016

one last thought

And then I really need to run to the bank and figure out how to eat lunch when there's essentially no food in the house and no carry-out food I can really eat:

It's a good thing I am a relatively boring, staid, stable person. Because upsets like this morning don't drive me to do crazy things. If I were more of a manic pixie dream girl and less of an Edwardian battleship, I'd have done something like shaved half my head in response to the various upsets of this morning.

I didn't even cancel my train reservations and swear I'd eat the cost of the registration, and just not go, even though I threatened to.

The problem is, it's the staid, boring people who keep the world running, and it runs us down a lot of the time. I'm tired. I'm SO tired.

***

I think all of the stuff that happened played a lot on several issues I have:

1. the feeling of being rejected coupled with not being good enough. I am sure this traces back to childhood when I experienced a lifetime's worth of rejection (or so it seemed) at the hands of my peers, and because how my brain's wired, instead of my going "They're stupid and they need to be better" I would go "there must be something wrong with me, how can I change myself so people will love me?"

2. My difficulty delegating and the fact that it seems all so often when I trust someone else to take care of things stuff goes wrong. ("You had one job") People are telling me conference abstracts go missing all the time and it's not a big deal, but this is the first time it happened to me and it feels like a big deal, and I also am blaming myself for not e-mailing back at some point and saying, "Hey, I never got an acceptance letter, is there some problem?"

I dunno. I'm tired and sad right now. I have too many books in my bag - a couple of mystery novels (I am almost done with 13 Guests and darn it, I want to know how it ends), a copy of the book the "Call the Midwife" series was based on, one called something like "the everyday life of prehistoric people" and one of Brian Fagan's climate books (on El Nino). Yeah, I will probably get ONE read on the train up and ONE read on the train back, but somehow it makes me feel better to have a stash of books in case of a book-related emergency.

And I probably have too much knitting: the current simple socks, the yarn and pattern for a hat, for mitts, yarn for a second pair of simple socks (the Hufflepuff colorway I bought some time back because despite what some online tests have suggested, I would SO be in Hufflepuff). And then today I added in the eye-searingly neon pink yarn I bought from KnitPicks a while back and a copy of Knitty's "Spring Ahead" sock pattern in case I decide I want something more complicated than plain socks but less complicated than the cabled mitts.

Yes, it's like this. I remember relating TOTALLY to Ernie in this sketch when it was on Sesame Street when I was a child:



Yeah, I'm one of those people who annoys other people because I can't pack quite light enough. But you have to be prepared for every contingency!

And now this:

From the "Never assume everything is going smoothly" files.

The proceedings of the conference were posted. I am not sure when they were but I checked first for them today.

Guess what? My poster abstract is not in them.

My first assumption: Oh. It wasn't good enough. It got rejected and no one bothered to send me a letter, either because SOP now is you only hear back if you're in, and I didn't know that, because I don't go to enough conferences. Or that it was so monumentally bad that the people who read it were like "LOL does she really expect us to tell her she's not in?"

(Yeah. I may take the examples of the Dunning-Kruger effect I've seen too much to heart, and project that kind of confidence-with-utter-lack-of-ability on myself).

Other possibility: it got lost in the shuffle. So I e-mailed the organizer (e-mail is all I have for him). My mom knows his wife slightly and so when I called her up, upset, threatening to cancel my train tickets and just eat the cost of the registration of the skipped conference, she sighed, and said, "I'll call Becky."

Turns out there's at least one other person whose abstract failed to make it in. I've been asked to resend my abstract but dang. It's not going to be in the proceedings so why bother? I won't be able to "prove" I presented when post-tenure review rolls around. I am slightly paranoid about dealings with people where I claim something, because years back there was an exchange with an admin - for some reason, he needed copies of all our transcripts, and my grad institution was slow in sending them, and so I offered to bring in my diploma from my Ph.D. to "prove" I graduated, and his response was "Yeah, those can be faked." (I WISH I was kidding)

So I just figure NO ONE trusts me. (And I return the "favor")

So unless I get some kind of official letter, or even a "dang, I'm sorry it missed getting in the proceedings, of course it's accepted" letter, I'm not putting it on the CV. So in a way this trip is an utter waste and yes I know I was bemoaning the other day doing only things "profitable" but that was for things enjoyable and pleasing and this isn't going to be particularly fun.

I wish I could be done with conferences and research forever but I'm expected to do at least a little as a tenured prof. I don't get PAID for it (unless I can get a grant that includes a salary for me) but I'm expected to do it.

Lesson learned: never assume things are going smoothly. Always be that person who has to nag everyone. MONITOR EVERYTHING!!!!

But yeah. This was not a happy or fun morning and the rest of the day looks to be the same. It's nearly 9 am and I have not eaten breakfast yet which tells you the level of upset I've had to work through. (I do need to eat something; I took my medications and you can get shaky with one of them if you take it and don't eat)


Edited to add, at about 20 to 11:

Over at school. Have sent abstract again, have saved it to flashdrive (with emergency backup copy of poster in case mine gets destroyed or some officious Amtrak guy tells me either the poster stays behind or both I and the poster stay behind).

And I"m tired. Something I said was apparently taken the wrong way.

And I ask myself: when do I run out of darns to give (would use another word in  more common parlance but I like to keep the blog g-rated). When do I hit that wall where I stop caring? Because caring wears me out.

I cared way too much that maybe my poster was left out; I immediately assumed that it meant it wasn't good enough when probably it was an oversight. Having to adjust my plans for the train being late - and then adjust them back when it turns out it may well be on time (they "turned" that train jolly quick, I tell you). Having just to deal with everything. Having a couple of big upsets and shocks early in the day means I'm less capable of dealing later on. ("Laughter before breakfast means tears before lunch" is an old saying, but in my case, it's more: "having lots of things go wrong before breakfast means tears before lunch.")

I wish I were better at not being permeable to this kind of stuff. I wish I were better at not putting the blame for stuff on to myself (the whole "my poster wasn't good enough" thing). I wish I were better at having fun.

I'm sitting at my desk crying and I can't even give a good explanation as to why other than having to call Amtrak before 7 am to find out what on earth was up with my train, and then going, "okay, I guess I eat dinner at home and leave out of here around 5 pm" and then finding out my abstract wasn't in the proceedings and the multiple phone calls to try to get that sorted out and then finding out that the train WAS on time after all and then realizing I would have to scramble to cover everything. I THINK I'm all packed and I'm really hoping I don't wind up forgetting something semi-vital but hard to replace (sunglasses, I have. Hat I will put in my suitcase. Medications are in my carry on as is my mouthguard for at night. Knitting is in but am contemplating figuring out another project - maybe looking up a lace or knit/purl pattern sock and throwing in yarn for those, too, just in case something else goes to heck and I wind up stuck for somewhere longer than what a pair of socks, a hat, and a pair of mitts will take to knit.)

I'd be a lot happier about this trip if it was a fun trip but it's almost 100% a work trip - there will be little time for anything like shopping or hanging out, the days will be pretty much 8 to 5 talks - and I'm already tired, so....and when I come back, it's right BACK to work. And then it's fall semester....

requesting traveling mercies

1. Nice. Yet another outrage against civilians. (I have a colleague right now who is visiting new in-laws in Strasbourg. I know Strasbourg =/= Nice but I am hoping they did not decide to hop a TGV and do some touring).

And I admit, in my own utterly self-centered way, every time something like this happens, part of my psyche goes, "See? Crowds bad. Crowds dangerous. Don't leave your house unless you have to." So again I'm a bit uncomfortable about being in large groups of people this trip.

2. Woke to an Amtrak e-mail: your train is seriously delayed, call this number for details. My first dialing of it, either I misdialed or the system derped because it tried to connect me with an online, for-profit university. Then when I called what I "know" to be the "true" Amtrak number (different from the one in the e-mail), I kept having to yell at their automated voice I wanted an AGENT, which is the only way to talk to someone really real.

Finally got through to one. Was told, "Oh, there was a bridge fire ahead of them* and they are being bused. Everything is about five hours late."

(*That may be old news; I think the Amtrak Unlimited board has been talking about that detour for a while)

I hung on and kept asking questions until I got verification that no, I will NOT be on a bus, they will "turn" last night's "down" train at San Antonio when the bused passengers get there and it will become an "up" train (Do Americans use the "down train" and "up train" designations for southbound and northbound? I know I've seen it somewhere but it may have been in a British book**). Still, it will be at least four hours late....meaning no dinner on the train for me and I will be getting on perilously close to what is normally my bedtime.

(**Looking it up online, i see I had it slightly wrong: "Up" trains are going to a major location, "down" trains are going away from it. Well, in this case it still works, as Chicago - what I think of as "up" - is a major rail hub, and San Antonio is not.)

I guess I keep monitoring the online updates and just leave out of here once it's left Cleburne, because that leaves me about a four-hour cushion in case they are able to "highball" it and make up some time. (unlikely in that corridor, however).

It's a minor thing but it is an irritant.

I did finish the Party Cannon socks and once I've gotten things a bit more ready for the day I will photograph them and put them up here.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

I'm essentially done...

I guess I feel a little more anticipatory towards next week's meetings, I don't know.

I finished virtually all the material for my classes today. I COULD have banked on those two days of the last week of classes to conclude the stuff but instead I posted it and told them to look at it and study it, thus fulfilling the "arrangements are made to cover class" stuff that is technically part of the gig. (If we are absent for reason other than "emergency" (illness being an example of an emergency), we are told we should arrange to have the class covered in some way. Even if that absence is at the behest of someone more highly placed, deciding to send us to a meeting....I have had to promise reciprocity-in-kind to colleagues to get them to cover some of my classes)

I will confess that I am a little bit less discombobulated* about being absent next week than I might be, because:

a. Adjunct pay. If they decided to dock me a week's pay for being gone....eh, meh, I can earn it back by reviewing a chapter for the publisher I'm working with

b. More importantly: everything promised in the syllabus has been delivered, and in fact, in one class I covered some extra topics I normally NEVER get to. So they got more than they paid for and I suppose that means I definitely gave more than I got paid for.

(*but still am, some, because I possess a Twilight Sparkle nature where I must follow "the rules" lest I be sent back to Magical Kindergarten)

One thing off the docket: Apparently as there are no formal orders in place for my bloodwork, I "need to wait" until after my checkup of August 1. Fine with me. Gives me a few more days to work on a super healthy diet and now if I want to get something for dessert for tonight I can (I joked on Twitter, when I was in a dark mindset, "I picked the wrong week to give up sugar" riffing off the old joke from Airplane). And that makes my life easier tomorrow morning with having to plan for travel.

I do have to pack but laundry has been done. And I will get to see my parents, however briefly, while I'm at the meetings: they are being held in their town (so I get free room and board). And I do have Sunday before the meetings and Thursday morning before I get back on the train when I don't have to do anything, so maybe I get a chance to do a LITTLE knitting or run to a bookstore better than the ones around here.

And it's supposed to be at least 10 degrees cooler up there, and less humid. We are entering the Death March phase of the summer here so it's probably good to leave for a little while.

Sorry there will be no embargoed posts in my absence; summer teaching eats my life and also I think I had a bad bout of PMS-A this month, was very down and twitchy earlier this week and the calendar tells me that's not entirely unexpected. But it made me unable to do very much positive outside of the things I HAD to do.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

searching for better

Well, no progress on someone permanent but it sounds like we may have at least a few more months of stability, so that's a relief.

I will say I *almost* started to tear up reading the little piece on Mr. Rogers and his "look for the helpers" thing, but managed to keep it together. (Hm. Must look at the calendar, I seem to remember feeling very much on the edge of tears about this time last month and that might mean it's predictable and not me losing my stuff).

And I did do a lot of necessary things today, especially that paperwork, and it turns out except for lacking one signature from my chair (which she can do when she is over at that office next), it was done correctly. So in August I should be able to start my next big research thing.

And despite my feeling I kind of phoned it in a little, the stuff for next week is ready.

And looking for more good things....neighbors of my parents lost their indoor cat, he ran out when something happened and the door was opened and he got scared. They canvassed the neighborhood looking for him (my mom said the woman had her tween son with her and he seemed really sad the cat was missing) and it turns out when they went to the nursing home near them to show a photo of the cat and ask people to BOLO for him, there he was! Apparently he was either wandering the grounds or perhaps even walked in an open door, and they were keeping him at the front desk, figuring he had to be someone's pet. So that story had a happy ending.

I dunno. I'm a sucker for a "lost pet reunited with its family" story.

I may wind off the skein of yarn Purlewe (hiiii!) sent me and take it with the hat pattern I printed off and the right-sized circular needle as an alternate project in case I finish the simple socks and the mitts. (I may take the socks with me to the meeting for break times. I won't knit when someone is speaking because that can be construed as disrespectful, but at scientific conferences there is an awful lot of sitting around doing nothing between sessions and such).

I do need to finish the Party Cannon socks; I am within about 12 rows of finishing the toe.


the coalescence of worry

I think I figured out some of my unhappiness these past few days. It's something that's lurked in the back of my head for a while, and comes out every month about this time.

Tonight is board meeting at church. We are small. We cannot seem to keep a pastor to save our lives. Our funds are limited. We've been trying to get a formal interim (we have an informal person filling the pulpit but that will only be a few more weeks) but it seems the Regional is slow to help. And I keep worrying: is this going to be the month the bomb drops? Is this going to be when the moderator declares, "Regional has decided that maybe it's time for us to think about shutting down?"

I know I've expressed this worry before. All I can do about it is pray. I'm carrying as heavy a load of responsibility there as I can short of being the person filling the pulpit each week. And I can't do that. I can't and I hope I don't get asked. I hope tonight we have word that we have an interim at least through Christmas but I also have a hard time hoping as we keep seeming to have to go "back to the well" for more help.

So that concern is nagging at the back of my head - something very important, vitally important, to my life may end soon and I may be cast adrift to try to find a new place.

I've picked at the other things I must do today: I filled out the paperwork for my small grant but I feel like I've been groping in the dark on it as this is the first time I've had to do it myself and I seem to be infamous* for donking something up on this kind of office paperwork and getting it sent back multiple times for redoing.

(*Maybe I'm too hard on myself there. When I took it in to my chair to sign and I expressed my concern I'd messed something up, she kind of laughed and said, "I know. They love to send paperwork back to be redone")

I got a sort of cursory (I want to use a rude term here, the best polite translation I can give is mono-buttockular) assignment for each class posted for the students to do in my absence, and posted what material remains - all of it is the "this is stuff I usually never get around to during the regular semester" stuff so I don't feel QUITE so bad, um, mono-butting it.

I still have to do laundry but maybe I can toss in a load between getting home after office hours and going out to my meeting.

I usually like to do some kind of short devotional at the elder's meeting and I admit some months I am scrambling at the last minute to find something. But this month I put together a bit of information from an older PBS site about Mr. Rogers, and about his "look to the helpers" comment - that in bad times, when everything seems to be going wrong, you should look for the people who are making things better. (I first heard the comment in the context of first responders at September 11, 2011, but I think it more generally applies). And I think that's some of my frustration, maybe. I tend to be a very quiet person in some ways. My modus operandi is to be kind and loving and really frankly rather soft and in cases of real injustice to either passively resist or to be the person on the sidelines praying for a favorable outcome.....and yet, I hear people in the news telling me that not only is that response wrong, and that I should be angry and, I don't know, out there screaming at people, but also, because of who I am, my help and goodwill are not welcome. And that's what makes that part of me go, "Fine. I'm closing my front door and locking it. Come back when you're done being nonselectively angry at everything."

What it does is it causes cognitive dissonance. So much about this year has made me go "what the what?**: some days it seems like everything I learned as a younger person, everything that worked for me in the past, either no longer works or I am being told I am wrong and a bad person for doing it that way. And yeah, I know: I need to be more SELECTIVELY permeable but when I hear someone who doesn't know me from Eve telling me I'm a bad person because of who I am, I kind of shut down a little. (It's the kid-who-really-wants-to-be-liked syndrome. I'm tired of sitting in the dark corner of the lunchroom all alone).

I keep telling myself the meetings should make me happier, because I will be around people who are interested in the same stuff as I am, but I also admit I'm still failing to feel it. But another thing I've learned is that about 60% of adult life is either fake-it-til-you-make-it or pretend-you're-feeling-enthusiasm-when-you-aren't.

(**My new favorite euphemism for a stronger phrase, thanks to "The Amazing World of Gumball)

Looking for motivation

I dunno. As I said, I'm really not feeling going out to these meetings next week. Part of it is I get the sense from other places I hang out online that everyone is just giant raw emotions running around and I'm afraid if I say the "wrong" thing (unintentionally, of course: I never set out to hurt someone's feelings) I will have someone ticked off at me who will just retaliate. Verbally, only, but even then, it hurts to sometimes be an awkward person.

It also seems to me that there are a lot of folks yelling at their neighbors as retaliation for something some guy on the other side of town did to them. Kicking the dog because you had a bad day at work is never a good thing - it doesn't make you feel better and only makes the dog feel worse and in some cases, question his whole existence - but it's also human nature.

I dunno. I just don't want to go out into the world today. I have to; I have teaching and I have things I have to do in my office (paperwork) and I have meetings tonight but I'm tired and my allergies are terrible (having a hard time getting my eyes to focus this morning and that's why there are typos if there are any typos in here). There are lots of people calling for people to go out and "make the world a better place" but I'm so small and there's so little I can do and it doesn't seem to help much any way, so I would just rather back away, stay in my house, and only engage with people through screens.

Part of this is just how I get some summers. This year seems worse I think because (a) the meetings scheduled at a totally inopportune time and (b) it's an unusually bad year for grass pollen and I know a big part of this is my allergies. Part of this is that it does seem like everyone is upset about everything out there. Don't get me wrong: some of the upset is entirely justified. But I'd just rather not go into it. (And yeah, yeah: WWJD? But I'm very far from being J and I'm TIRED.)

I dunno. I tend to think it's a bad day ahead if, upon waking, you think, "What do I have to look forward to today?" and the only pleasant thing you can think of is getting back into bed at the end of it.

I totally can't justify a sick day but I kind of wish I could. (And if I took one, I'd feel guilty, not being GENUINELY sick, so I'd just feel worse emotionally.)

***

Sometimes I wonder if the sound track of 2016 is that horrible, derisive, excluding laughter that you hear after a "gotcha" question or comment. Sometimes it feels rather like the seventh graders are in charge.

I *hated* seventh grade.

***

It also occurs to me that humans are excessively good at pointing out the failings of others (and I include myself in this) but tend to be very poor at either acknowledging their own failings, or doing something to help the person who is "failing" correct it.

Neighbor: "You know, the city isn't going to pick up that brush pile. You need to arrange to get it removed."
Me (utterly exhausted and overwhelmed): "I'm working on it. I'm sorry." (goes off and cries a little bit because she feels like a failure).

never mind that Neighbor has a friend with a pickup truck who could remove the brush in less than five minutes.

And yeah. I get tired of being told to go out and make the world a better place when I get lots of sniping over the little things that go unfixed because they are less-critical than the big things I am trying to fix.

***

Someone I follow on twitter posted a photograph from one of those truly beautiful European libraries and made a comment about how he could "carry around more books on my phone" and it seems to me that that's a big part of the malaise of our times - or at least, the malaise I am feeling. That the beautiful and the aesthetic are slowly being replaced by the functional but ugly, and no one seems to think that losing those aesthetics don't in some way impoverish us. I once referred to it as "the gradual crappification of everything" - how some nice groceries close up and are replaced by wal-marts with bad management and surly employees and tvs at the end of every aisle blaring ads, how it's no longer "profitable" for students to do anything outside of technical or STEM degrees, so the humanities are in decline or are derided, that instead of lovely places being appreciated people complain about how the space could be "better used more efficiently" or something like that.

And I admit, sometimes I feel like we will someday be surrounded by nothing but concrete-box buildings, noise, and greyness, and very few people will ask, "Why are we here? Isn't this an unpleasant state of being?" because everyone will have been convinced that this is The New Normal and it is all we merit, because anything else is "unprofitable" and therefore not worth it. Or that it's somehow all we deserve because we are awful. And I don't know, yeah, humans are awful but having an awful world around us doesn't exactly encourage us to be better

I don't know.

***

I need to pack. Not sure when, maybe I can make time Thursday afternoon after my second long day of the week. I also need to do laundry first. Not sure what projects to take. I have a pair of just-simple socks I began and I printed out a fingerless mitt pattern to take yarn for, but part of me is going "You're going to be in meetings the whole time so don't take any other projects because you won't have time to work on them" and that makes me sad.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

"O Brave New...."

The world today is a strange place, you know?

The whole Pokemon Go thing. When it first came out, I thought, "Huh. Sounds like kind of a fun concept." You walk around in the real world and on your phone it shows you Pokemon characters you can capture.

But....yeah, it does share a lot of your information with someone, for what purposes we don't necessarily know. And I admit, in this day and age, one probably needs to ask cui bono? when there is something free on the internet. (Thus: I would be less inclined to want to do it even IF I had a smartphone and a boatload of free time).

And anyway: the boatload of free time issue. I do spend too much time online, that's why I have too many projects in various stages of being stalled out, and instead I need to work on them. And my free time tends to fall late in the evening when I'm not sure I want to be out wandering the neighborhood looking for imaginary beasts.

And a couple of news stories about it have been slightly off-putting, though again, in this day and age, when you see a news story you have to ask yourself, "How blown out of proportion is this likely to be?" or with internet news stories: "Is this from  a fake news site?" (I dunno. I don't find sites like Clickhole all that funny. The Onion, at least, is sufficiently over the top and "everyone" knows it's a parody site. But there are fake-news sites that spring up like mushrooms after a rain, and I've occasionally seen a story presented as "real" that actually came from one of those sites).

Anyway: a young woman found a dead body while hunting Pokemon. (That one at least seems to be true). That's really unfortunate. There's another one being hyped about "gangs of teens" luring other teens to some area to rob them....again, not sure if it's real, though given human depravity these days it seems plausible.

So there's the predictable backlash.

And then there's the back-backlash, for lack of a better term: Breathless news story this morning on local news about "OH MY DID YOU HEAR POKEMON GO IS ACTUALLY PERSUADING PEOPLE TO EXERCISE!" Like no one would ever do it without the chance to catch imaginary monsters.

And this is pretty much my reaction:


Yeah. My irritation is palpable. I have been exercising since roughly 1994, giving up an hour of sleep most days - an hour I could probably dearly use - so I can keep my health up. (And I originally started after having some gall bladder trouble, and my doctor intimated that if I didn't change my diet and activity level, I might need it out - and thus far, have managed to avoid same).

I complained months back about "gamification" of things: about the silly lingots on Duolingo (which don't buy ANYTHING useful), about the suggestion of offering "digital badges" for online college-level coursework.






Yeah.

So I have considerable irritation - my reaction was, "I've been exercising for 22 years, where's MY news story?" But yeah. And I admit, I think the gamification of things irritates that little part of me that's still a petulant 12-year-old, arguing with my dad over grades. See, some of my colleagues at school got paid for good grades: many of them got $10 for every A (and this was in 1980 money). One person I knew even got $20! And here I was earning good grades and getting NOTHING.

(and yeah, I know, I know. But it felt like a cheat when I was 12 and it does still kinda feel like a cheat today).

There was some joke an interim pastor we had a while back used to make, about how in some faith systems people are good to get benefits in the next life or whatever, but that Christians are pushed to be "good for nothing" (meaning, of course, good-with-no-expectation-of-return but of course there's the pun there). And I admit several times this week I've muttered about being tired of being "good for nothing."

And I'm gonna be particularly irritated if we're pushed in the future to do some kind of goofy gamification thing. Already BlackBoard has "digital badges" you can enable for online classes, though I don't know anyone who uses them.

As much as I'd like to get perks for doing what I am supposed to do anyway (which was the crux of my dad's argument, with a side of "you are gaining intangible benefits"*) I also admit irritation at having to do it for someone else. (The whole: "I get tired of reassuring other people everything will be OK when I really need reassurance myself" thing). It makes more work for the people having to gamify things, and I admit, as a Gen-Xer, it does make me want to throw up my hands and go, "See? This is another way my generation gets it stuck to them! We never got any of these goodies but now we have to take the time to provide them to the youngsters!"

(No, I did not have to walk five miles in the snow to get to school, uphill both ways, but some days it feels like that)

(* Now I think, had I wanted to be really offensive, I could have said, "Yeah, that and $50 will get me a pair of designer jeans" but I wouldn't have actually said that)

Anyway. This morning I discovered one of my colleagues - someone I had branded in my mind as More Serious Than Me is playing it - his TA was teasing him about "wandering all over town looking for Pokemon" and I admit I was surprised. (This is someone I would definitely peg as "more mature" than me).

And, I don't know. Part of me is delighted: "why, maybe there's nothing at all wrong with me watching cartoons if Dr. W. is playing Pokemon Go!" but part of me is also slightly sad: "I wish I weren't so buttoned up and so careful about not appearing "ridiculous" in class that I can't be more open about what my life outside of class is." (Seriously: most of the students don't know me at all, to the point where some call me Mrs. Lastname, assuming someone of my age MUST be married.) I dunno. It's  a hard balance to strike and I admit part of it is being very put off by a sad situation in grad school - we had a probie professor (an assistant prof without tenure yet) who was let go because of his drinking habits. (He persisted despite warnings; he probably had a problem and perhaps it could have been dealt with more productively, I don't know). Anyway, I remember one of my undergrad students exclaiming "Wow. Dr. X. is great! I love a professor who will go out and get drunk with his students!" I don't THINK the student was being sarcastic (sometimes I have a hard time with tone of voice and take sarcastic statements literally, but from what I knew of this student...) and I cringed for Dr. X. And I decided from then on that I would present a super-professional persona to the world. (To the point where, if I'm working on something "odd" - like a crocheted pony - I don't bring it along as "exam invigilating work," even) I mean, I get nervous buying things like feminine hygiene supplies locally in case one of my students is the checkout person (Awkward, super awkward).

And I don't know. Again, I think this is for me, partly a Dr.-Pryce-whistling-as-he-swings-his-briefcase-on-the-way-to-school** issue for me: I am asking myself, why cannot I be more "fun" in certain senses, why am I so all-fired SERIOUS about so many things. I don't know.

(**A former high school teacher of mine - now gone on to his reward - who used to walk to campus in the morning whistling and swinging his briefcase and who seemed far more carefree than I ever can be)

But yeah. This is a difficult week for me, this week - at the end of it I have to go off to the meetings, I have a lot of things to do before then, my allergies are bad, and I'm kind of frustrated by some things in daily life.