Saturday, April 29, 2017

still not storming (with MLP content)

In, grading the lab books that arrived after about 10:30 am yesterday (a few people handed then in very early, and I graded them before the migraine hit).

It's incredibly sticky (84F and dewpoint of 70F) out there. Looks like OKC and environs got some scary weather last night/early this morning. We've had nothing - no rain, no relief from the humidity. It's supposed to rain but it's not clear just WHEN.....we were supposed to get it already. I don't know if the cold front slowed down or (I hope not) it stalled out and we're just going to be stuck with Early Summer.

I am also concerned about all the flooding throughout the whole Mississippi/Ohio River valley - I know a few people who live scattered around there, including some who will probably have to evacuate if it gets bad. And in just about 2 weeks, I'm supposed to take Amtrak to visit family - and already there's gonna be trackwork so I'm going to be riding a bus from St. Louis to Bloomington but I really DO NOT WANT a bus trip the whole way, like in 2010. (If it comes to that? I'll just cancel and do the travel later in my non-teaching summer. Oooh, maybe escape here late July when it's been 110 for a month and I can't deal any more)

My sense of time is all screwed up from the migraine yesterday....I slept for about two hours midday when it was so bad (the pain in my sinuses and neck was bad enough that moving was undesirable). I normally can't nap during the day EXCEPT when incapacitated in some way (migraine or getting over a bad virus). It was harder to fall asleep last night and my meal-timing is off (I am not hungry for lunch yet, for example).

If it's still not storming when I finish these last couple lab books, I MIGHT run to Lulu and Hazel's and at least see if they have a price list for longarming....failing that, I might take Monday afternoon as a "hurray you survived the semester" day and go there and maybe even run to Sherman afterward.

I do need to finish these books because I want to get home and do some relaxing this weekend. I'm still tired and a little sinus/headachy, and I'm hoping that's just the weather or allergies now. (I'm also hived up unbelievably, worse than it's been for a while, and often I can correlate other pain to having the hives....)

(I probably need to come up with a "slice of life" tag for my increasingly-frequent boreblogging on "what's going on in my life" so people can mostly avoid it. And maybe a "pony obsession" tag so people can avoid THAT).


This morning's MLP episode was fairly cute. I liked it much better than the "babysitting" one of last week, which, on rewatching, makes me twitch, because if the MLP writers wanted to take a VERY dark turn, they could go all "Midwich Cuckoo" with Flurry Heart - she is obviously powerful, and being a baby - well, my general thought on babies and small children is that they often think the universe revolves around them, and the point of child-rearing is to teach that small person that in fact, other people matter as well. So I could see her zapping a pony who upsets her (she very nearly did, in this episode) or similar. Of course, they WON'T go there, because of the outrage (and because Equestria is supposed to be nicer than the human world).

Also if they wanted to go semi-dark, they could have had Cadence mutter "but really for babysitting" after she assured Twilight "next Tuesday" was "just for dinner, not babysitting"

(I have known parents desperate to pawn their kids off on any relative they can entice into watching them.)

Yeah. not that comfortable around babies or small children. Not even really my niece, I confess.

Anyway. This week's episode was about Maud getting her Rocktorate! Apparently she is in a class by herself (literally). And Pinkie - bless her heart, but she doesn't know how to behave at a graduation. (If any of the writers had actually been in academia in the US, I don't doubt they would have had Pinkie pull out the Ponyville version of an air horn and start blowing it. And yes, our graduation is next week....)

Maud is moving on - she's done all she can in re: rock studies at the rock farm, so she needs somewhere new to go. (Apparently she has some kind of very generous grant to....just study rocks? Is there some version of the NSF in Equestria? Or maybe her family is a LOT richer than they let on, and they are happily funding their oldest's obsession? - or is Maud even the oldest?)

There's a chance she might move to Ponyville, which of course makes Pinkie vibrate with anticipation and plot and scheme to get Maud to LOVE Ponyville so she will stay there.

Attempt #1: Amazing rocks.

Doesn't work. Turns out the gems in Ponyville are "very common." (I can imagine Rarity now sobbing in her boudoir - "But I thought I was doing something spe-heh-heh-hesial!!!!")

Attempt #2: Make Maud an amazing friend (sisters don't count).

As it turns out, they run into (literally) Starlight Glimmer. And she and Maud have a past. (I said to the tv: "Oh, no, Maud, you were an accessory in what she did!" Unwitting, but still - I think a more-typical pony would ask, "Why do you want to know that?" I probably would.)

But Pinkie is Queen Shipper in this episode, and she wants Maud and GlimGlam to fall into friendship with one another....and long story short, she tries WAY too hard.

There's a bit with the gem cave, and Maud finding this amazing cavern area, but then Pinkie trying to trap them in the cave so they HAVE to "bond" and....

And at one point, GlimGlam comments that Maud is "weird, but in a good way" (not to her face, though I doubt Maud's expression would change one iota.) Makes me wonder (and hope not) that Maud is set up as the "Formal Representative of Some Non-Neurotypical Group." (We don't need "very special episodes" of this, I think). I'm okay if people with Asperger's or who have extremely narrow focus of interest or are slow-talkers or whatever want to see themselves in Maud; I just don't want to see it formalized and made A Big Thing because then instead of "This is my sister Maud" it's "This is my 'special' sister Maud" me it seems to work against exclusion when you try too hard to show how "tolerant" you are by emphasizing the person's "specialness."

But anyway. Both GlimGlam and Maud are made uncomfortable by Pinkie's pressure to friend-ship them.

And so Maud decides she has to move on to Ghastly Gorge (and, nice: this is a callback to an earlier season, remember, this is where Rainbow Dash had her "potential pet" race?)

Maud winds up in danger because she's way too focused on rocks, but there's a Pinkie Ex Machina to save her...and ultimately, Maud decides to move to "Ponyville-adjacent" and live in the cavern she discovered. (Convenient, because she can be around if needed in future episodes, but the fact that she's not living WITH Pinkie means there are no questions about "hey, where's Maud" in later episodes).

And yeah, she and Starlight Glimmer wind up as friends. (GlimGlam has a thing for kites. Who knew?) Makes me wonder where Trixie is in this whole thing, and if we're going to see another jealousy-centered episode a la the Grand Galloping Gala one with Discord. Because I could see Trixie going there. (Maybe she needs to make friends with Discord....)

As I said on Twitter: I think I would be more inclined, to be honest, to have Maud as a Pie-sister friend than Pinkie; Pinkie is lovely in her own way but when she goes over the top, she goes scarily over the top....I would find that exhausting.

Friday, April 28, 2017

Good mail day

Well, at least one good thing for today - it was a good mail day. I got a "congratulations" card from my parents (on the research award) and one from a friend at church - who knows I don't take the local paper and so cut out the article on it and sent it to me. And a postcard in the latest round of the ITFF card swap (which apparently is going "on sabbatical" for now, more's the pity).

And these:

Two more "smol beans!" This is baby Whirly Twirl (left) and baby Ribbs (right). They are both Little Brother Ponies (apparently the main sexual dimorphism in Gen 1 is the "unshorn fetlocks" on the males - the Big Brothers and I think the "Daddy" ponies from the family sets also have it).

These are "peekaboo" ponies with jointed necks.

Whirly Twirl was one I had wanted for a while after seeing him on someone else's pony blog (and seeing fanart of him). I love his color scheme and his "cutie mark" makes me smile (it is a helicopter).

Ribbs - well, Ribbs is cute too. And he was for sale at the same time from the same seller and of course Whirly Twirl needed a friend to travel across country with him so he wouldn't be scared.

His cutie mark is hard to see but it's a purple dragon - hm, a G1 inspiration for Spike? I don't know

And yes, because I always headcanon little family/friend relationships for these ponies: Whirly Twirl and Ribbs are from neighboring pony families, and they are best friends who always play together. (And I think Paws, another Baby Brother Pony, will have to be the third friend in the group).

Again, yeah - my pony world is very gentle and very safe, and I think that's something I kind of need. (When I was a kid I also figured out elaborate family-and-friend relationships for my dolls and animal toys, and I don't remember there being any really "antagonistic" relationships, like "this character bullies this other character" and I suspect that might have been a reaction to what I experienced a lot in school....that I wanted an imaginary world that was kinder and safer than the real one.)

Three Pony Amigos. (You can't tell, but Paws' head mold is slightly different from Ribbs' or Whirly Twirls' - he has a narrower snout and a closed mouth)

That was bad

Yeah, it was a migraine. Probably started last night with the tooth pain. We're supposed to get storms - the weather channel is sounding ever so slightly Biblical about the situation - and I suppose that was the trigger.

I made it, barely, through the last five student presentations in class today. (Five. Why did there have to be five? Why couldn't there have been two, like on Monday, when we had a no-show and someone who had to move to Wednesday afternoon for logistical reasons*)

I did have them take a short break midway (these are 7-10 minute presentations and the first couple didn't quite hit the seven minute mark - I say "minimum of 5" though really 7 is better). Went and got some water and went and stood in the restroom to decide if the nausea I was suffering was enough to justify trying to vomit. (It wasn't, and I wound up not-vomiting at all, but it's rare that I do - usually I'm just nauseated)

I made it home (driving with a migraine is scary but I couldn't figure out any way to get both ME and MY CAR home without a lot of fuss - and I wanted my car home instead of in the lot up at school because we're supposed to get hail, or else I would have just had a colleague drive me home and then walked back up there at some point to retrieve my car).

I slept for about two hours. I feel better but not great. I didn't eat lunch so I am now having some applesauce and a cup of tea and some "einkorn" cookies (shortbread cookies using an ancient wheat, bought at the natural foods store)

I'm hoping the stronger quality and higher caffeine content of the Lifeboat tea helps. (This is a British brand - supposedly a small bit of the purchase price goes to support the Royal National Lifeboat Institute, which is kind of like our Coast Guard). It's a strong tea - mostly Kenyan leaves, I think - and seems to be fairly high in caffeine, and I find it works better than anything else when I'm feeling poorly in a way a little caffeine will help.

I can't take NSAIDs any more (stomach) so those are off the table - when I get a migraine like this really the only thing I can do is go to bed and hope I can fall asleep.

If I can get myself back together I might run out and see if the pharmacy actually called for the refill of my metoprolol like I asked them to. (I'm almost out, so if they didn't, it is a bit of a problem).

But I think I will leave grading the soils lab books for tomorrow.... I might stop by and check to see if any more showed up after I left campus. (They were due at noon, I got out of class at around 11:45, and I just couldn't sit around that extra 15 minutes)

(*She had her grandfather bring one of their mini horses so she could demonstrate how she made the biometric - girth and shoulder-to-hip length - as a way of testing a formula derived for estimating their body mass. And yes, that was perhaps a blatant ploy to impress the professor but: don't care, I got to pet a mini horse)

and almost done

Today is the last class day of the semester. I have students doing presentations in my one class, and I still have a load of grading. (One set of exams, papers for another class, lab books).

I didn't get as much done yesterday afternoon as I hoped - midday, one of my teeth (one of the crowned ones) started to hurt. The pain carried with it the worry of "Oh crud, is the tooth inside the crown (it was just a big old filling that needed to be fixed, not a root canal) dying, and I will need a root canal or worse?"

Then the pain spread to the other teeth on that side and migrated up into my cheekbone. So: sinus, I guess. This morning the joint of my jaw (on both sides) is sore, like back before I had all the dental work and would chew gum obsessively when I was stressed and then got a sore jaw the next day. I don't THINK I have been clenching my jaw (and anyway, the nightguard is supposed to prevent that when I sleep). I also feel very congested now and woke up with a sore throat.

I'm not going to go to the doctor right away; apparently the new consensus is that many "sinus infections" are viral in nature (so you just wait them out) or even fungal in nature (so then you have to wait them out, sometimes for months). And even at that I understand that because the sinuses aren't well-perfused with blood or something, it's harder to get antibiotics to them, so antibiotics that might clear up, say, bacterial bronchitis in a jiffy don't always work so hot on a sinus infection.

Oh well. (This might just be bad allergies though; we've had more leaking in the building with the recent rain and it could be my body reacting to the soup of mold spores that's probably in the air).

I will say I'm relieved to find out it's sinus and not bad tooth.


We're supposed to get enormous storms starting tonight and going through tomorrow. This displeases me: I need to do some grocery shopping and I don't like driving to Sherman in bad weather. So I guess I go with the Mart of Wal for another week, or at least until I can steal a little time during exam week to run to Sherman (I also need a couple things from the Ulta.)

(The enormous storms a-comin' may be linked to my sinus pain).


This is a favorite "standard" of mine, and it's interesting to hear Willie Nelson do it.

I like Willie Nelson. I'm not a country fan by any stretch of the imagination, but I think he's a fine musician and he has an understanding and appreciation of a lot of different songs in a lot of styles - I also like his version of "Always on my Mind" and also "Hallelujah"

He doesn't have a beautiful singing voice, but you know, a number of greatly loved vocalists did not - Louis Armstrong did not, really, Billie Holiday did not. (Nor did Leonard Cohen).  And yet, their understanding of the song and its emotions transcends singing "beauty"

Oh, he did another standard I love and also find kind of heartbreaking: "What'll I Do":

(If you're like me, you probably should not listen to that if you are not somewhere where you can quietly shed a few tears).

My gift obligations for the next couple weeks are taken care of. (My sister in law's birthday on the 3rd, and then Mother's Day). I used my $20 "sorry we donked up your order so bad" credit from Isabella and ordered a "berry colander" (this is a hand-thrown pottery thing that looks like a mug, but is a colander for washing small quantities of fruits or veggies. I got one for my mom a while back and she loves it and says it's super useful). I also ordered some beeswax-impregnated muslin wraps for food for her - my sister-in-law is an organic chemist and she tends to like not to use plastics for things that touch food (and also, these are reusable).

For my mom, I got a butterfly puddler she can put in her garden. This supposedly will retain trace minerals from rainfall, and then butterflies can come and land on it and get the minerals. In the wild, butterflies will "puddle" on bare soil that is damp (or even on scat). I have also occasionally had them land on my arms when I'm out in the field; I think they want the minerals from the perspiration.

I still have to think of something for my mom's birthday but I have part of a gift already and can probably come up with something else.


I dunno. Feeling rather poorly and tired and burned out today. Part of it could be the sinus crud but I think part of it is I've done virtually nothing this week BUT grade, and I still have grading to do. (I am cursing giving my students a few extra days to complete stuff, now - instead of having the grading all spread out, it's as a giant lump that I have to deal with all at once. I told people "Don't expect stuff to be graded as fast because I have so much" but I hate that feeling of grading hanging over my head.)


At least Baby Ribbs and Baby Whirly Twirly are supposed to arrive in the mail today. (I ordered them from "Picky Pony Vintage" and one thing she does that is kind of special and I like - she includes sketches of the ponies you bought with the invoice. I have kept several of the ones from past ponies I've ordered from her. I hope she still does it...)

Thursday, April 27, 2017

More clothes signalling

This has not been a good week to be a clothing manufacturer.

Or perhaps, more likely, it's not been a good week to be an advertiser working for a clothing manufacturer.

First up where the pre-dirtied jeans from Nordstrom, which I have already written about.

(And yes: I think my annoyance is a combo platter of people signalling a virtue - "I work hard!" - that they might actually not have, and the fact that the people who think those jeans would be "cool" would be very similar to the people who harassed me in school for wearing "cheap" clothes because my family didn't believe in spending lots of money on clothes, especially not for a growing child who might be too tall for them in four months)

And I do still think the manufacturer deserves a bit of mockery for thinking it's a good idea, and the people who happily drop that kind of money on a pair of jeans that frankly, to me, look like the ones I have where I'd go, "Okay, those are for doing the really muddy chores in the yard, next step then is they get thrown out."

But now there's another ad that seems to extol "we know how people who work dress" - a Gap ad, featuring looks for "the start-up partner," "the small businessperson," "the financial advisor," and, best known to me, "the tenure-track professor."

I am actually wondering now if Gap intended this as parody and people are taking it earnestly, but I'm going to assume they meant it seriously.

For one thing: they're all young, thin, attractive women who look like they spend a lot of time every morning thinking about what they're going to wear and how it looks.

And okay, I do spend some time thinking about what I am going to wear, but most of the time that thought is: am I teaching in the classroom with the crazy (i.e., stuck on high) air-conditioning in it?

A secondary thought, that informed my choice today: Am I invigilating an exam, and therefore will really need a pocket so I can carry the row-counter I need for knitting while invigilating.

Inside Higher Ed, which I read more or less daily, commented a bit on it: one of the big things being: "Tenure-track jobs still exist?" (They do, but they're a LOT harder to come by than even 15 years ago).

But the other thing is: I don't dress like that. I don't know too many tenured or tenure-track people who do.

(I don't like blazers, for one thing: I've never had one that was tailored quite right for me; they all bind across the shoulders. I like cardigans, which are softer and stretchier. And also, I can knit my own while I invigilate exams...)

And the tagline: "Get respect for your ideas AND your blazer choices." That seems....kind of emsmallening to me. If students are noticing what I'm wearing rather than what I'm teaching, that suggests to me that I'm doing it wrong.

There was also a gag on Twitter about how you could have the adjunct professor version for a couple bucks at the Goodwill: "And the lining is made of crushed dreams." (Sad, but probably true, though I will note that I have a few dreams that are currently in a crushed state)

I'm not AS bugged by this as I am by the $425 jeans (though I will note the blazer is $98 and the full outfit the model is in - well, without shoes and "accessory" glasses - is about $220). But still, it just seems weird to me. Are there people out there who really want to masquerade as a tenure-track professor?

I'm also thinking of the old line about "Don't dress for the job you have, dress for the job you want" (though taken to its illogical extreme, that means I should show up in full Princess Celestia cosplay every day).

For one thing: hiring in academia has some pretty specific rules and at an ideal, we're not supposed to consider appearance, only experience and "fit" for the position (We have had, for example, to dump MANY application packets - most recently, for the anatomist position, where people who were, like, field mycologists were applying as a long-shot. Well, maybe not quite that ridiculously, but we've had a lot of people apply for positions where I went, "Did they actually read the ad past where it said "tenure-track"?"

But yeah. I don't think I've ever dressed like the woman in that ad. Typically how I dress:

average teaching day: dress or skirt and top, selected on the basis of (1) "how hot/cold is it likely to be outside vs. the rooms where I will be," (2) "Do I particularly need pockets or will the little "sporran" I made to wear on days when I am pocketless suffice, and does it match with what I'm wearing? (3) "What color do I feel like wearing today?" (Monday I wore a bright turquoise-blue top, because I suspected I was going to be photographed, and I wanted something that wouldn't make me look like a ghost on film) and sometimes (4) "Do I have any 'weird starers' in my class today, where that slightly more fitted knit dress would be a bad idea" (One semester, when I had a couple of the "new boys" from the "old boys club" major, I took a couple dresses out of the rotation because I suspected I was getting looked at differently in them. It sucks but that's how it is sometimes when you're a woman, especially a woman with, as they say in French, il y a du monde au balcon.)

Messy teaching day (e.g., the soils lab with the reagent that will permanently stain everything it touches, including my hands) - old skirt and t-shirt that is either white cotton (can be bleached) or is one I care little enough about/am close enough to replacing that it doesn't matter.

Field day: Khaki pants (the better to see if you have a tick walking up your trouser leg, and less-hot than jeans) and a cartoon-character t-shirt, with optional XXL cotton long-sleeve shirt over it, to protect my Irish/Northern German skin from the sun, and also to protect against biting plants. When in the field: pants legs tucked into the tops of tall socks. It looks goony but it keeps ticks from walking up INSIDE your trouser legs.

And a second IHE story, also about clothes, also about "signalling": Southwest Theological Baptist Seminary apologizes for professors dressed as rappers. I'm not even going to talk about the racial aspect here, because I'm white myself, other than to note that this is an unfortunate use of imagery. (And also, as someone argued in the comments: it could be "youth culture" in general, not just "Black youth culture" - I've seen white or Native kids who dressed kinda that way)

The bigger thing is: I dislike the idea, which is sometimes floated out there, that professors and other older-types should "strive to be hip and young." Because when there's that pressure, this is the kind of thing you get. It does look like the profs chose to do this themselves and weren't pressured by some silly "recruitment" (or other) initiative, but still. (And yes, it is rather tone-deaf).

Though all too often, you do hear that on college campuses: Keep up with youth culture! Consider doing office hours via text or Snapchat! (no. Dear God, no. Not via Snapchat.). Kids today don't like to e-mail, they like to text! (Too dang bad. I'm the 'authority' here: my house, my rules. I prefer e-mail because it's more permanent and also I don't have to try to peck out a message with my thumbs).

The thing is: we're trying (at least in some cases) to socialize late-teens into behaving like responsible adults, so why should we be pressured to drop some of the trappings of being "adult" to "come to their level" or some such?

Also, the bigger issue: it pretty much never works. As I said on twitter: trying to be cool automatically makes you uncool. And you can trust that coming from me as I have been uncool pretty much my entire life.

Also, coolness is such a slippery concept. I do think what is "cool" is more in the mind of the beholder than of the beheld, and everyone has a different opinion of what makes someone cool. I know I had profs I thought were cool because of their passion for their subject or that particular dry humor that people in academia sometimes develop, and my friends were like "OMG, you like HER? Why?" And there were also professors people loved and thought were "so cool" that I gave a wide berth to because....I don't know, I'm suspicious of someone who seems TOO facile, too smooth. And I was suspicious of the people who handed out extra credit like candy at hallowe'en.

I've said before I cling to whatever dignity I have about as jealously as a cat. Yes, there are a few times I'm willing to look slightly ridiculous: knitting while I invigilate, waving my arms around to mimic the movement of cilia and flagella on single-celled organisms, telling the story about how I freaked out over having scarlet fever as a child because of a book I read....but I don't like being TOLD "do this thing that makes you look undignified because it's cool, or because it advances the university somehow." - hence my discomfort with the idea of the Ice Bucket Challenge (which I didn't have to take part in; I think there were a number of our students willing to do it), and my cringing over the video skits some of the departments did to promote the Get Fit challenge (I hate the way I look and sound on video anyway).

So I don't know. Yes, I dressed up as Beatrix Potter on Hallowe'en, but that seems different somehow. (And a couple years prior to that, I did Gothic Spider Lolita, even if I'm a little old for Gothic Lolita). But there's no photographic evidence (other than the ones I took, as far as I know), so....

But yeah. This has been a weird week for clothing and what it signals.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Wednesday morning things

* One little "treat" to myself for winning the award - one of the Etsy sellers I've used a lot (you know where this is going, don't you?) had a G1 pony I had sort of wanted for a while: Baby Brother Whirly-Twirl (his cutie mark is a helicopter....). So he, and another Baby Brother pony (Ribbs, who has a dragon (?) as his cutie mark) are on their way to me.

I really need to get a proper shelf, ideally in my bedroom, for these. I'd love to find a more open bookcase type shelf, not too deep, there's a place I could put it, and then I could see my ponies every morning when I wake up.

* ALL THE GRADING is coming: I collect the ecology papers today (I gave the students two extra days this year in the hopes that people may have more time to revise before they hand them in). Then tomorrow I give the last two in-class exams (in my other classes) and collect a short paper in one of them. And Friday the soils lab books come in.

It's not going to be a terribly fun weekend....

* Working more on the various socks, swapping out between them as I get bored. I am really liking how the "Red Cabbage" color patterning is working up.

* This has been making the rounds of the pony-collector blogs:

I am "Glitterwisp," which is actually one of the less-unfortunate names, at least given what some of my friends got. (I'm guessing Glitterwisp would have to be one of the Summer Wing or fairy-type ponies)

* Ironic that this article comes out a couple days after I win an award.. On my campus, the faculty vote on these (I recused myself this year as I was up for one). I think that's a reasonably fair system, and the year I was nominated (for a teaching award) but didn't win, my reaction was "The guy who got it was more deserving of it than I was" - which is the proper reaction to not-winning an award, I think, if the process of it being chosen is fair. (And the person who won it was, objectively, the better teacher who did more for his students).

I dunno. I've received a lot of praise and congratulations from a lot of people around here for it, and don't get a hint of I'm going to assume most people feel like I deserved it.

And also: perhaps the fact that the award is just a framed certificate and a nice thing to put on a CV (no bonus, no raise attached to it) helps.

Also, what morale problems we have are not related to awards and how they're given out, at least I don't think so - there are far bigger problems and as I said, the new way they decide on awards seems pretty fair.

(The nominations process: a colleague or a student can nominate you. I don't think they accept self-nominations, and anyway, that feels a little slimy to me. As I said: I think it was my research student who nominated me.)

But anyway: as someone who's been not-nominated a lot of years, who's been up for awards she didn't win, and who now finally did win one: I do think getting very bent out of shape over that sort of thing is kind of useless. I suppose on some campuses it is such an unfair system, where friends-of-the-committee always win, but on mine it seems pretty fair. (And anyway: there are bigger unfairnesses on most campuses to worry about)

In other words: I don't think giving awards in and of themselves is the problem - I think if people have problems and feel backstabby when someone gets one that is indicative of deeper problems on the campus or in the department. (Or else the mark of a really envious person). 

* My final exams are written, so that's done. (I had to do that before ALL THE GRADING hit)

* Our secretary was back in today. Her dad is critical but stable - she said she was coming in for a bit today here because she needed some "normal life" and I said I totally understood that. (I do. I also understand why our former chair came in the day after her husband died - people talked about that, but I totally understood why: she probably felt she needed to be somewhere where she had a modicum of control).

I hope there's better news on our secretary's dad.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

tone-deaf jeans

By now, you've likely heard of the $425 "pre-dirtied" jeans that Nordstrom is selling.

I don't know guys, I just....don't know.

Part of me wants to shrug and go "Fools and their money are soon parted" and "If some trust-fund kid wants to look like he actually works as a landscaper, then WHATEVER."

But part of me is annoyed by this (screencap grabbed from Consumerist, which is where the story I linked is):

Those frankly look pretty authentic compared to what happens to me when I work in the yard, or when I have to slither up and down embankments to get to the sampling site.

I think my frustration with it is this: "You didn't earn this." or maybe, "You didn't make that." (Heh.).

I've mentioned before my mom comes from a more-or-less working-class background. Her dad did basic accounting in lumber camps (he was not college-educated but he had a decent head for numbers and he got along well with a lot of people, including the fairly-crusty lumber camp guys). Her mom was a lunch-lady at the public schools to help make ends meet. And I remember hearing more times than I can remember from my mom how she worked for "thirty-seven and a half cents per hour, plus tips" as a waitress to help pay her way through college (This would have been the mid to late 50s, no idea what that would equate to in 2017 dollars*).

(*Looked it up: $3.41 an hour. Not sure what waiters make in the "tip is part of your basic wage" states these days but I bet it's not that far off. Then again - she worked a cafe on a bus route and so often people didn't leave tips)

And growing up - we lived in a wealthy town but were really not, ourselves.. At least not outwardly so. (I think we were better off than I believed; it was just that my parents were frugal and didn't spend conspicuously - which was probably part of a virtuous cycle, because it was probably BY being frugal that they remained fairly comfortably well-off). Anyway. Unlike some of my friends we didn't have a cleaning person or a lawn service (part of it was my mom objected to all the chemicals they wanted to use). So we did our own work around the house.

There was a strong sense of "your mess is YOUR mess" when I was growing up, as in, "It's not right to make someone else clean it up." And yes, I realize it's not quite that simple, given that if you hire a cleaning person you are providing wages to someone who might not have as good a job (or a job at all) otherwise - I know some people clean houses while their children are at school, and they can work their work-schedule around stuff like that more easily than with a more-formal desk job.

And we did our own yardwork. I mowed my parents' lawn (nearly an acre) with a gas-powered mower (not a lawn tractor, not even a "walk behind" - those hadn't been invented yet, this was one you had to push to propel it). I got paid $2.50. For mowing a near-acre. (My regular allowance was $2. So mowing the lawn was the ONLY way to have decent spending money in the summers).

So anyway, I kind of grew up with the idea of "you don't make someone else do your dirty work."

I still mow my own lawn, and do most of the yardwork, even with my bad allergies and admittedly no time. And I frequently get grubby. (I have two pairs of khakis that are now ONLY good for fieldwork or lawn mowing, because of stains I can't get out).

And I do fieldwork. And yes, granted, fieldwork is different from working in the fields. But you get hot and grubby and the amount of energy expended is similar, even if the pay is probably better for being a professor teaching field techniques (or doing research) than it is for an actual farmer.

(Then again: I have no paycheck for this summer but will still be doing fieldwork)

And, I don't know. I seems really bizarre to me, when I feel bad that I "spoiled" a pair of khakis for everything but "grubby chores" wear that people are paying what I would pay for 10 pairs of khakis to get pre-muddied jeans - jeans that look like they'd be in a state where I wouldn't wear them for anything other than yardwork.

Somewhere I remember reading - maybe it was in Alison Lurie's book on the semiotics of clothing - that the higher your social standing (at least at one time), the less difference there was between your "work" clothes and your "best" clothes - as in, the banker would probably wear the same suit to church as he did to his office on Monday, but the dirt-farmer might have a carefully-preserved "good" shirt and suitjacket and maybe a cleaner pair of jeans or even, if he was lucky, a pair of pants for Sundays only.

And perhaps on some level I still think that....I dress "well" to teach and often wear the same outfits I'd wear to church or out for a nice dinner.

But like so much else in our culture, that maybe has been changed and that old rule I internalized from my parents (that you've "made it" in life if you can wear "for nice" the same clothes you would go to work in) has gone topsy turvy.

I do wonder: who spends $425 on pre-muddied jeans, but then again, I remember teasing some of my dorm-mates in college about buying jeans with holes in them already - or in one case, a young woman who took a new pair of jeans, carefully slashed them with a razor blade, and then washed them so they'd fray. To me, that seemed strange - having grown up being warned to keep my clothes "nice" and my mom sighing and saying, "Well, this is play clothes now" if I stained or badly tore something.

But there's something, if that's not too strong a word, the image of people who actually DO work outdoors when you don't? It's.....I don't know, it's like the trust-fund kids who live in a van because it seems "cool" vs. the homeless family who does because they HAVE to. There's something that feels very odd to me about spending a lot of money to intentionally look "downmarket." Maybe it's that I'm still just a striver, like when I was in seventh grade and somehow wound up with a pair of Lee jeans (not Jordaches, but still: on the fringes of acceptability) and by some miracle, an Izod shirt, and how I tried to wear those as frequently as I could, because it felt to me like maybe I looked a little more like I fit in.....I don't know. (I'm really no better than the people buying the pre-muddied jeans in that respect; just in the opposite direction - trying to dress "above my station" rather than below it. And I know the kids saw right through it, because some other days I wore Wranglers or some weird store-brand, and they teased me for that)

There's something though that I can't quite pin down....something about the pre-muddied jeans that bothers me. It's like the person wearing them is claiming to have done hard work, or perhaps worse, is mimicking or even mocking people who work hard for a living without actually doing that work.

Maybe it's because I come from a background where people had to work hard, I don't know.

One last story: I don't remember all the details but one of the jobs my dad had in the summers as a college student was working in a foundry. (He also spent one summer working for the USPS and talks about how he got disillusioned by the attitudes of some of the "lifers" there). He worked overnight or the graveyard shift - I think the foundry only did the heavy work at night because of the heat. He talked about having to carry a (glass, plastic was less common in those days) gallon jug of water to drink with him and he'd go through every bit of it, and how he had to take salt tablets to avoid screwing up his electrolytes - that's how hard you sweated there.

At this time, his parents ran a "resort." I don't want to make that grander than it was - it was a few summer cottages on Lake Michigan, and they pretty much ran the place with the help of one or two locals (a woman who helped my grandma clean the cottages; a man who did some of the gardening work). Anyway, my dad talks about coming home one morning around 10 am, just dead-beat from pouring molten metal all night, and as he's walking up to his parents' house so he can bathe and grab some sleep, he overheard one of the insufferable preppy guys that tended to stay there comment "OH, I'm so exHAUSted; I've been playing tennis since 9 this morning!"

My dad said he wanted to punch the guy in his foppish* nose but of course didn't, knowing the guy was a Paying Guest.

(*My dad may have used a less-polite word there, I don't remember)

That may be part of my frustration with the pre-muddied jeans. I don't know. I don't have to work physically hard most days of my life (but I do some somewhat-taxing fieldwork - I've had students complain at me "How do you move so fast?" or "But we have to walk SO FAR" and I do my own yardwork). I'm grateful I don't have to do the hard physical work and that most days of teaching I can show up in a dress, hose, and lipstick and that's not going to be "too much" for what I'm doing. But I also would never pretend to be more hard-working than I am....

Mostly, I don't quite get spending $425 for a pair of jeans, let alone a pair that looks like I've already spent a season digging the blackberry out of my garden in them....


Edited to add: on further reflection, I think I figured out the two things about this that bothers me the most about the whole "jeans thing":

1. I can't help but think that the sort of people now who think this is clever and cool are the same sort of people who would have teased and excluded me for wearing store-brand jeans back in 1981, Simulated poverty/frugality/whatever is cool; the real thing is not.

Also, I remember feeling a similar discomfort or annoyance during the Madonna Era (well, the late 80s one) where crosses-as-jewelry were everywhere, and often worn by people not giving any consideration to the fact that they were a religious symbol to something like 2 and a quarter billion people.

And while co-opting a religious symbol that is deeply important to at least some of the practitioners is not QUITE the same thing as co-opting the symbology of hard work, there is something similar there.

2. Related: it does feel like they're almost making a "mascot" of people who work in careers where their clothes get dirty: it's some kind of a cartoonish thing, almost. That they're seeing the person as an image ("Oh, those people are so hard working and I respect them so much") rather than as a person.

And yeah, maybe I'm stereotyping in my own way, but having grown up around people who had "help" and who treated that "help" very much as "help" - I'm a little prejudiced there.

(And honestly, part of me is secretly irritated I didn't come up with the expensive-pre-muddied-jeans idea; I could have handily funded my retirement...)

and the laundry

There's a book (which I confess I have not really read yet, other than to dip into) called After the Ecstasy, the Laundry, which is founded on the idea that after "mountaintop experiences" (the example given in the book being religious enlightenment of some sort), one has to go back to one's everyday life and deal with the mundane.

And while I don't consider winning this silly thing to be on a par with understanding the mind of God, still, it's something different and something I had much hoped for in my life. (And maybe I do need to make a little bit of a bigger deal about it than I originally was going to...I had lots of people congratulating me, my Best Frolleague Forever came over and did that weird little 'don't read anything funny into this' side-arm hug that some men do when they want to hug someone but don't want it to be misconstrued, my parents promised some kind of celebration when I came up there in May). It really is kind of a little thing, I think, but it is a recognition that I'm not just chopped liver, and that's nice.

And it's nice to have the little voice in my head going, "You know, you might be good enough, after all" for a change.

(But yes, that tiny bit of my psyche that is maybe a little bit non-Asian-Tiger-Mother said, "Work really hard on your teaching and maybe you could win a teaching award to go with it." That would be NICE, but....I don't know. I'm not going to kill myself to get that)

But today, there's work to do: last class section of one class to teach, some grading to do, the big grading of tomorrow to prepare for. And thinking ahead to summer research.

And our secretary is out - her father, who was having some medical issues, had a massive heart attack. Right now he's in ICU but things don't look great. So I decided: there's something here I can do. I sent around a message telling people if they need copying done for tomorrow, to get it to me by 2 pm today and I will take it over to print shop (this is normally one of the things the secretary does daily). It's a little thing but I know there have been times that getting over to Print Shop was just a Hard Thing because of all the time pressures I had, and right now I have slightly fewer pressures, so if I can make it easier for someone else....

I'm contemplating getting myself some kind of a "treat" as a reward for winning the award. At the moment, I have no "oh, my gosh, WANT" items in mind (Build-a-Bear came out with New Pony but it was Big Mac, and I already have the nice crocheted one I made - had it been Sapphire Shores or Sunburst, I would have bought it, but I don't need a Big Mac).

Possible thoughts:

- in a couple weeks (maybe during exam week, one of the "off" days), going to Whitesboro for a day off at the yarn shop

- arranging for a "professional" wash and blow out and maybe hair advice at the Ulta or a local salon if I can find one recommended. I'm still not totally married to the idea of growing out my bangs but I'm not sure I want to go back to bangs.

- some kind of nice display shelf (a floor unit) to hold my Ponies in my bedroom

- buy a couple more vintage ponies, and maybe even go up a tick in price to get rarer/fancier/still-have-their-accessories ones

- Some kind of fancy collector doll.

- New set of plates to replace the 15 year old plain Corelle I use and have broken a few pieces of down through the years.

I'll have to think about it. (If I get new plates, I'll box up the remains of the old set and perhaps donate it somewhere. I suppose there are places where they'd take an incomplete set)

Monday, April 24, 2017

My "major award"

(Because I can't resist an "A Christmas Story" reference)

That award I was up for ("Outstanding research and scholarly activity")?

I won it. I'm kind of shocked even though my chair stopped me in the hall the other day and said, "I got this e-mail telling me to specifically encourage you to be there." I'm enough of a pessimist to have thought "yeah, they just want a good crowd and want all the nominees there." And I suffer from enough of what is sometimes termed "impostor syndrome" (which is totally a thing and is supposedly something that's super common among women in science or academia) that I figured I wouldn't win.

Also, I was up against another person in my department, and someone in the physical-sciences department who does research, and I am assuming people in Math and Safety and Computer Sciences (who I don't know as well) because they are all in our division (They do four of these awards: one in the sciences, one in arts/humanities, one for the ed school, one for the business school).

So I was kinda shocked when they called my name. (And yes, I got my picture taken, multiple times, with the other winners). I'm guessing part of it is that I've striven to involve students in research, and I do have a recent publication (and another one that I am co-author on that's in press). And I've kept doing research even though I don't have any more promotions coming up, and I teach a pretty full schedule. And I expect my ecology students to do research (And in fact, one of the people who presented today did an EXCELLENT job on her project, and I'm going to recommend to her that if she's still here come fall, that she go and present at the OK Academy of Science technical meeting in November.)

I have a nice framed certificate (which contains a lot of identifying information I'd rather not casually put out there, even though many of you know who I am and where I teach). And I can put it on my CV.

It does feel a bit like Allie Brosh's "Adulthood Trophy" (warning, some strong language).

I dunno. I called my parents to tell them (they knew I had been nominated) and my dad asked me what I was going to do to celebrate and I was like "Uhhhhh...." Because right now I'm extremely tired (bad allergy day) and really all I want to do is eat something for dinner and then go to bed.

Maybe I'll figure something out later.

Tarring one's boat

I follow Eugene Peterson on Twitter (a theologian who did an interesting "modern English" translation of the Bible, called The Message - I used to use that with the youth group kids because I found the kids who didn't know the Bible related better to it, and the kids who did often saw something new in his translation)

He posted something interesting the other day: "All the water in the oceans cannot sink a ship unless it gets inside. Nor can all the trouble in the world harm us unless it gets within us."

And yes, I think that's true. But I have a lot of problems with not letting the world's troubles get "inside" me. Part of it is I think I take on other people's emotions or emotional work too much; part of it is I want other people to think highly of me and so "troubles" get to me.

I need to really work on re-tarring my own boat, so to speak. (As I understand it: some people used tar or something like creosote on small wooden boats to make them watertight, so water wouldn't get in through the seams. I might be wrong on this; I have little experience with boats).

I find that time alone, doing what I want, helps - I was happy and content this weekend working on my quilts, or knitting, or playing the piano. But I came in this morning and *BANG*:

phone call from the scholarship office, apparently I gave the wrong person as the contact person in the letter I sent out. I haven't called them back but I am bracing for someone to be upset with me because that's often how these things work

e-mail from a student asking for a change in their presentation time which isn't easily doable

e-mail from another student about an "emergency."

e-mail from the campus budget dude saying we might see a 20% cut in state appropriations next year - which I can't see how we can weather that without RIFfing some tenured profs; we are running as lean as we can without either pay cuts or laying off essential people. 

And of course, all the workday stuff: meetings and recommendation letters to write and the Tetris-figuring-out of when I get grading done and all of that. 

And I get home later than normal today (not even going to try working out; I did yesterday, I will the rest of this week) because it's the Faculty Appreciation Hour (!) and this is when awards are given out, and I've been nominated for one. I still suspect I won't win it, but you have to go anyway so it looks better if you do.  

But that Peterson quotation has me thinking: how do I learn to do that, to be more buoyant and to get better at being less-permeable? I think that's the only way I can survive. I seem to have been less-permeable at one time....I don't know what has changed. Maybe I need to take more time to myself to do things like quilt, to get my head out of my job more? I don't know. 

Maybe the "not letting the world's troubles inside you" is the real secret - maybe that's how Dr. Pryce managed to whistle and swing his briefcase as he walked to work every day. 

I wish I could learn that.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Sunday evening things

* I pulled out the quilt that was in the frame (I hadn't worked on it in a long time) and did some quilting on it. I feel inspired to work on quilts again.

* I also looked up Lulu and Hazel's (the new quilt shop in town).

They offer a longarming service. No idea if one of the owners does it there or they have a home longarmer - some people do that for extra money or as a retirement career.

I'm going to go down there sometime very soon and see if they have example pieces to look at (most places do so you can see the quality of the work) and get a price list. But I'm excited by this: I have a bunch of tops that would probably do better with allover machine quilting than hand quilting - so if they are a not-too-high price and the work looks good, I will be taking some tops in for them.

I also got excited about working on tops again; I started sewing the "sashing" on the last half of the blocks.

And I dug around and found a big piece of 1930s reprint in pink that should work as a backing - I want to concentrate more on trying to work down the stash and one way to do that is to use pieces I already have for sashings and backings.

And anyway, it's nice to dig around in the stash; I find stuff I had set aside and then forgot about.

* Sometime soon - maybe the next quilt, maybe not - I'm going to do a quilt with just two fabrics - a star and square pattern using plain white as the background and a pale peach with outline birds on it. So it will be my "birb" quilt. (I like giving secret twee names to the quilts I make).

I also have a charm pack of bee-themed fabrics I want to use for a quilt; I have the two other fabrics (a golden yellow and white) to use with it. And I have another charm pack of  Kaffe Fasset fabrics that I want to use for the same pattern but with pink and some other strong color that matches (Again, I want to look in the stash to see what I have that could work.)

* To be honest, one of the things I think about more and more - as a potential "retirement career" or even as just an adjunct to my salary at some point - would be to get a longarm machine, learn to use it, and do quilts, both my own and other people's. I don't really have room for one, but they have been making smaller ones recently, and possibly, if I found a new place for some of the bookshelves in my bedroom, I could put it in the back of the bedroom, right over by the windows. Or perhaps even with some re-adjustment, I could fit a smaller one in my sewing room.

Because I can see so much good in it: I could do my own quilts. And I could make quilts for Project Linus and similar. And I could maybe do quilts for friends or even do them for money (Many longarmers do that to help pay off the machine - a good one is about as much as a small cheap car - and pay for supplies). I could totally see that as a retirement career for me. I would probably be more suited for it than one I've also considered (going to seminary for a few years and doing a chaplaincy: I have said before I can do the "God part" of the job but doing the "people part" I find hard - I don't like having to get between people who are arguing, or try to get people who are estranged to reconcile, or try to explain to someone about a loved one who is doing self-destructive things)

* But for now, it's nice to be able to take the tops to someone and pay them to do them - and then I can pick them up, put a binding on, and have another quilt to use.

* I've been reading "The Stranger in the Woods" - this is the story of the "last hermit" - I linked to an online article about this guy a couple years ago. Fundamentally, the story is this: Christopher Knight, for some reason apparently known only to him, decided to leave modern society and live in the woods. (Since 1986 - since I was in high school). He survived by stealing items - never anything of great worth, mostly practical stuff - from camps around the area. He had a deeply secluded camping spot. He survived by cooking over propane, by sleeping only short periods in the winter (sleep too long, you freeze.)

He also stole books to read - he wound up with mostly potboilers but it seems he would have preferred more intellectual stuff.

A couple of random thoughts:

- some people speculate he made it all up; that he lived indoors at least part of the time and had help. My inclination is no; Knight seems too dedicated to telling the truth and also there is no "helper" to have come forward. But yes, it does seem hard to believe he survived 20-odd years (he was arrested in 2013 after being caught burglarizing a camp) all by himself and that he managed to survive.

- There's some commentary in the book about how "noise" (in the sense of actual noise, but also "noise" in the form of distractions like tv and the internet) might be making us stupid, or at least harms our ability to speculate and concentrate. I....think there might be some truth to that. (There's also commentary on how getting out in nature does seem to have some health benefits, and I can see that too. The argument is that we evolved in the woods and the plains, and it's what our psyches are suited to, and I can see that.)

- There's also some discussion of "Does this guy have something 'wrong' with his brain" - some posit either he's on the Autism spectrum, or that he has something called schizoid personality (fundamentally: a tendency not to form close relationships; it is not the same thing as schizophrenia).

I don't know. Again, I worry about the pathologization of all oddness; of the "let's give this person a pill to make then 'normal'" when the person in question isn't exactly suffering. (Yes, if the person suffers - someone who is depressed and benefits from anti-depressants, or someone who has intrusive thoughts that are reduced on a medication, definitely that is important and they should be able to do that). But I somewhat dislike the push to "normalize" every odd person, even those who are untroubled by their oddness, and can function reasonably well in life,  and don't seem to hurt others. But after having had people armchair-psychologize me ("You'd benefit from being on an anti-anxiety med," said by someone who is not my doctor nor is a psychologist. Frankly, some days I feel like what anxiety I have is what allows me to get stuff done...)

But I can also see the autism-spectrum argument. (Heck, we're all probably on a spectrum somewhere; I know that even though the online tests I've taken - which may not be worth the electrons they're printed on - I come up "neurotypical," but I seem to have a greater love of schedule and structure than many other people I know, and I am more bothered by noise and confusion and crowds than many....)

- Mainly, I find the "Robinson Crusoe" aspect of it most interesting: How did he do it? How did he keep warm? What food was the best thing to choose? How did he make a latrine out there in the woods? How did he pass the time?

Saturday, April 22, 2017

the quilt show

I had almost forgotten it was this weekend, or else I might have gone yesterday (Then again: probably good I didn't venture out and risk getting caught in storms....though ours didn't really start up until late in the day).

I saw the signs for it driving out to Mart of Wal this morning, and I admit I debated: do I really want to go? I'm tired, it's $3 to get in for a fairly small show. And as the day wore on a bit I was like, "I have my feet up and am in my flannel pajama pants" but then I decided: "But you always gripe that there's nothing to do; you have to do things when they happen and not when you want them to happen."

But I'm glad I went. Yes, it's a small show. A goodly number of the quilts are not really to my taste: lots of bargello, lots of stack-n-whack, lots of really dark backgrounds. I tend to prefer bright/clear pastels or slightly muted-down primary colors (think the 1930s feedsacks, if you know quilts).

Also, I admit, the viewing parts of a quilt show are less fun when you're by yourself. I remember when I was in grad school, and my mom was in the quilt guild up there, and we'd go to the show every year (well, IIRC, she had to work the ticket table part of the time, but then she got in for free).

We'd walk around and play a game: either, "Which quilt do you wish you had made?" or "If you could have one quilt out of this show, which one would you want and why?"

(Some quilters also play: "Which quilt could no one give you enough money to take," but that's not a very nice game, especially if the person who MADE that quilt is standing nearby when you decide to 'drag' it)

Our taste was pretty similar: most of the time we picked the same "favorite" or "if I could have any quilt here, that's the one I would want" quilt.

And yeah, I miss her a little bit and it's not quite as fun to go to a quilt show by myself. (I don't know anyone right in town who quilts who was in town this weekend)

But I'm still glad I went. For one thing - I got a lead on a place in Savoy that does sewing machine cleaning and repair. That is a lot closer than the McKinney address I got for a guy, and these folks also run a quilt shop - so I tentatively have plans some Saturday to drop my machine there and then get it either the following Saturday, or maybe earlier, depending on how fast the guy works. (Hm. Maybe I think about dropping it off on my way to catch the train in May? And tell them that they can have a long time to clean on it - meaning, they could take an "emergency" first - and get it when I come back)

Also, the guy there said they could renovate a treadle machine so if my mom sometime soon decides to devolve hers onto me - I can get the belt replaced and the timing checked and get it cleaned and actually have a functional treadle machine.

I also found out a new quilt shop has opened up in town. (This is what comes of not getting a local newspaper - you miss these things. But I got so fed up with our "Daily Disappointment*" that I just never renewed when the subscription ran out.

The new shop is inside an auto dealer. So I am guessing it is small. I also suppose this is the future of niche businesses: they have to "partner" with a more-profitable business to stay afloat. (I am guessing, though I do not know for sure, that the husband of one of the women - or maybe her father - runs the dealership).

At any rate: it will be worth checking out some time.

(*And yes, I know, some people call The Daily Oklahoman that. Well, maybe ours is "Daily Disappointment, jr.")

I voted for the "people's choice" quilt. I chose one that would normally be very different from my style but it was technically so well-done I felt it deserved it - it was black and flame-orange (!) and it was called St. George and Friends - it had embroidered dragons on it and was quilted in a pattern of other mythical creatures. (Okay, maybe the unicorns slightly influenced my choice).

And yes, I went to the "Merchant's Alley" (which is where I found out about Savvy Quilters - the place I can take my machine for it to have a spa day - and the new local quilt shop).

There's also a cool sounding place in Denison ("Home a la Mode") I didn't know about because it's in an old house and I may very well have driven buy it and NOT EVEN REALIZED it was a quilt/gift business (they also have a tearoom, and apparently do retreats. If a quilting friend of mine ever comes for an extended visit, we will have to go there - at the very least for shopping and tea).

So it was worth going for that information.

It really can be hard, when you live in a small area that doesn't have a lot of prominent businesses, to find out information about places - I discovered Quixotic Fibers at the BPAFF (which apparently isn't happening any more, at least there doesn't seem to have been a 2016 one, more's the pity). I suppose the answer is "Facebook" but ugh, I don't want another time suck just so I can find out that a little shop opened up somewhere. (I am on Quixotic's e-mail list, and I signed up to be on Savvy Quilter's because they will send reminders about sewing machine repair days).

And yes, I bought some stuff. I worried on Twitter that I didn't really have a lot of cash on hand, but of course, these days, if you are a merchant with a smartphone, you have some kind of an app that will accept credit cards. (And yes, I don't totally trust those; I only used my "semi-disposable" low-limit credit card to buy stuff, because if the merchant gets hacked, I'm not in deep doo-doo like I would be with the card I use for essential stuff).

One of the shops was selling BIG pieces (6 yards) for $36. That is about half what fabric runs per yard these days. I am guessing these were maybe bolt-ends: things that didn't sell and are a couple years old. Don't care: I liked one of them and it will make an economical backing on a quilt:

backing piece

I don't have a top in mind, but I have lots of pink fabric and lots of plans. So it will be a backing eventually.

I also had to get a half-yard piece of this. It has tiny monarch butterflies in it; it will eventually wind up in some kind of scrappy floral quilt I do:

monarch fabric

And then at the shop based in Denison, this:

jelly roll and mammoth

The roll of fabric is a "Jelly Roll." Yes, I have too many of these ahead but the fabrics are not printed in great quantities, and usually a "run" only lasts 3 months, so if you see one you really like, it's worth buying it right then. (And yes: more novelty fabric. I love novelty fabric. Inasmuch as I have a "thing" in my quilting, it is probably novelty fabrics). This one is a sewing-implement theme, and it's in the sort of 30s-inspired colors I like.

And the mammoth: Yes, I have too many stuffed animals already. But this one was so cute and I made the mistake of picking him up and then that made me decide I wanted him. The "official" name (given by Jellycat, the manufacturer) is "Winston the Wooly Mammoth" but I'm going to have to think if I can find a name for him I like better.

And this is apparently another one of my "things" now, so:

(In this photo I have removed the "hangtag" attached to his ear. When I was a kid and got a stuffed toy, I felt like it was "really mine" after I cut the little plastic doodad that was holding the sales tag in its ear or fin or whatever). 

Update: mammoth has tentatively been renamed Hannibal, after he-of-the-war-elephants but really more for the leader of the A-Team. (I never watched "Silence of the Lambs" so when I hear "Hannibal" I think either "crossing the Alps" or "I love it when a plan comes together")

Bonus: my newest t-shirt, featuring a Dumbo Octopus (shirt is from Sharptooth Snail):

Friday, April 21, 2017

Friday night chores

Big storms in the area but so far here just thunder and rain. I hope it stays that way. (The only tornadoes I've heard about have been in rural areas, so hopefully the most they did was rip up someone's pasture a little).

I'm doing my laundry - was too tired last night after the yardwork. Towels are done, medium-colored clothes are done, whites are drying along with darks (both of those were small loads), sheets are in the wash right now. (I figured since I had pulled the pillows and the quilt and, ahem, some of the stuffed animals off the bed in case I had to hunker down in the tub during a tornado, I might as well pull everything off and put on new sheets - it's time to change anyway.

I also got the new filter for my air filter installed - the old one was filthy so hopefully this will help my allergies (I sleep with it running; it also contributes white noise)

I fixed a steak tonight - my last trip to Sherman I bought a (v. expensive, but I don't eat it often) grass-fed-beef ribeye steak. It was very thick, and even though I like my steak just this side of rare, I didn't know if it would cook well being panfried like I do with thinner steaks.

I had read about the reverse-sear method (you cook the steak very nearly to desired doneness in a 275 F oven, then do a quick sear in a v. hot pan to get the outside done just right).

It works very well for thick steaks. It's time-consuming - 45 minutes to an hour to just cook the thing in the oven (my steak was just about an inch, so 45 minutes was just right for medium rare), but you get a MUCH better finish - no hard crusty outsides, the juices seem better distributed. Or maybe I just got a good steak this time (I should have - I paid for it, almost $20, but I can probably get three meals out of it, so). It came out tender and just done enough.

I am guessing if you are devotee of overcooked well-done steak, it might not work so very well, but if you like it still nice and red (or even pink) on the inside, you can play around with the method. You do need a good, reliable, and preferably instant-read thermometer to test the steak to your desired degree of doneness, but those are fairly cheap and I think most people who cook a lot have them anyway.

Teeth have been brushed, hair combed and put up for the night.... (I braid my hair so it does not tangle)

And I'm using a mud masque:

"Silly! This is called a mud mask. It's to refresh and rejuvenate your complexion."

That is "charcoal and black sugar" - supposedly detoxifying. I'm doing it because (sing-songy) someTHING might happen MONday that will result in my getting my PICture taken. (Those of you who follow me on Twitter, I alluded to it. Not sure I want to risk jinxing it now, though it seems the decision has already been made, but since I don't know the outcome, it's kind of a Schroedinger's Box feeling...anyway, if the thing happens the way my Chair thinks it will, it will be a Good Thing)

So anyway, I want my complexion to be as good as it can be and I know the summer oil-production has already ramped up. (I usually do these things once a week in the summer - and ooh, with the Ulta now, I will have a bigger choice of masques than the "Queen Helene" stuff the Walgreen's carries). (I think this one is Freeman brand?)

Tomorrow is going to be just a quick run to Mart of Wal - I still have leftover lamb loaf to eat up, and the leftover steak, and I have canned salmon on the shelf so if I feel like I need to fix some kind of meaty meal midweek I could make a salmon loaf; I just need milk and maybe some kind of fruit and more of the little cans of smoked trout I like so much....and then I am taking the weekend OFF as this is the last weekend before I have to Grade All The Things.

All the yardwork

Well, not quite, but it felt like it.

We had several pretty rainy days recently, and it's been hot, so that means everything grows like crazy. My backyard looked bad and I kept thinking, "You have to find time to mow."

I budgeted that time yesterday afternoon, but also, when I came home, there was a "missed call" from the city. My heart sank: are they going to start harassing people by phone, now?

No message, though. So I called them back, figuring maybe I'd get someone who could either go, "Oh, it was a misdial" or who could actually tell me what was up.

(I was also slightly concerned it was a robo-call about some issue that never came through: before, when we were under a boil order, they robo-called us).

The woman on the other end - when I finally got through - had no idea. Slightly annoyed, I said, Well, I'm going out to mow my lawn NOW, so if they were calling to tell me my grass is too high, I know and I've been busy.

(I have begun operating under the idea that perhaps if they think I am slightly crazy maybe they will leave me alone)

So then I went out and mowed the backyard. I did as much of the former leaf-pile area with the mower as I could, but as there's an underlayment of sticks and uneven ground, the reel mower tends to hang up. And it was heavy going because everything had gotten so thick.

After that, I pulled out the weed-eater and ran it through the area....until I spotted poison ivy. Frack. Maybe THAT was what the call was going to be about, "noxious weeds."

I'm fearful I hit a couple plants with the weed-eater before I saw them - the grass was tall over them. I'm hoping I didn't spray myself with a fine mist of urushiol. (At any rate: I'm still alive this morning so I presume that means if there was a fine mist of urushiol, I didn't breathe it in. That's my big fear - being downwind of someone burning brush with  poison ivy on it; I know people who have had to go into the hospital after getting exposed to the chemical in smoke)

I took care of as much of the area as I could and then mowed the front yard, with plans to spray the poison ivy after I was all done with the other stuff. I don't LIKE using poison, but I can't cut or pull poison ivy without getting it, and I don't know of any service in the area you can hire to pull or cut it.

 I mowed the front, and cut a bunch of the leggy stuff on the bushes (including scratching myself up on the holly). Then I ran out  to the Lowe's, seeing as the sprayer was kaput on the old bottle of poison (these are battery-operated things. Hm. Built-in obsolescence; they don't last past a season. And now I have the problem of how to dispose of the leftover RoundUp in the non-functional sprayer)

I sprayed the poison ivy and the pokeweed coming in next to where it was.

And yeah, the brush in the alleyway has started back up and I suppose it's possible the call - if it wasn't just a misdial - could have been about that but you know? For that I think I'm gonna hire someone this time; I lack the energy to deal with that. (The city really should; they own the alleyway, not me)

It took me just a bit over 2 hours to do all that (I have a small lawn but mowing this time was an effort, especially in the backyard, because everything was so tall). I think I can count that as my "exercise time" for yesterday...


Also, I was just generally a "good adult" yesterday: I also went and had my annual mammogram. This is not so terrible, though maybe the fact that I've never gotten a result other than "nothing indicative of cancer" (which is their CYA for "There's nothing here to worry about"). Also, it's not an "invasive" test in the way that a regular gyn exam is, or it's not like lying in a dental chair having metal stuff poked in your mouth. (The dentist is the worst check-up for me, followed by an internal exam at the gyn...). Also, mammograms are kind of - perhaps "cosmically funny" is the best descriptor:

- here, they send a mobile unit - basically, an RV kitted out to do the process. It's nice because it comes to campus so it's incredibly convenient for us. (And our insurance pays 100% of it). But - they often send the older unit here, which doesn't have a big pink mural on the side, just a small logo near the entry door. So it totally looks "sketchy van!" which is kind of funny to contemplate - oh, yes, I'm going to go into an unmarked windowless RV and let someone look at my naked chest! Except when you go in you know it's a medical lab and it's the right place to be.

- Also, I don't know if there's some service that sells artwork to "women's clinics" but I swear they all have the same vaguely-impressionistic-style paintings of women, or women with small children, walking along a beach. I suppose it's meant to be soothing or something. (Back at her old office, my gyn used to have kitten and puppy posters on the ceilings of her exam rooms, which I think is kind of a nice touch. But her office also has the "woman on the beach" paintings....)

- They give you a paper top to wear (with the "opening in the front") but usually I wind up just taking it off because really? The important parts I want a top to cover up are going to be exposed anyway - getting them radiographed is the whole reason I'm there. (Also, the techs are all women, and they are all of an age to have gone through the procedure themselves, so it's like....there are no secrets here)

- Still, it is weird and awkward and strange to have another woman moving your boobs around so she can get them in optimal position for imaging. It's kind of hard not to crack up because it is so weird. Or maybe I find it weird because I tend to be naturally modest and touch-averse and it really does seem strange to me.

- Also, at least some places (here they do), they *tape bbs to your nipples* as an orienting device on the x-rays. That will never not be strange and funny to me. And once, I was in a hurry to get somewhere else and I forgot to remove them and when I undressed that night, I found them again.

I really don't find the process painful. I have heard that some women with, let's just say, less tissue there, have more discomfort but I've never found it anything other than slightly strange and awkward.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

all the feels

This week is teaching evaluations.

I dislike these. I get that they're necessary (you want to be able to shoehorn out that guy who is verbally abusive to the student, or the senile mumbler lecturing from 25 year old notes, or the woman who does nothing but talk about her kids in class) and mine are never all that bad, but still: I dislike being judged because I'm too good at seeing the ways that I think I come up wanting.

Part of me was thinking today: wow, I could really just totally take the gloves off after evals. I could stop trying to be ingratiating, stop trying to be accommodating. I won't, because it's not in my nature, but I could.

(I sometimes think I am too much of a people pleaser, that I am too concerned with others' happiness and not enough with my own, and since I have no one nearby who cares that much about whether I'm happy or not....)

Anyway. In my second class of the day I had a pair of gigglers. I can't tell if:

a. it's a "mating pair" (I've had that before)
b. it's something I said/did (I know my Northern accent means I talk funny to some people here. And also I talk with my hands which is sometimes kind of awkward and I hate seeing myself on video because of it)
c. something totally unrelated to me or the topic I was covering.

(It's probably c, of course, but my inner critic can't help but review to see what I said that was weird or awkward in class)

And yeah. I just let them go. They were a row behind everyone else, back in the back, and no one seemed too bothered.

And something struck me - I wonder how my past as a teased kid plays into this. I was the kid where other kids would be snickering or laughing and then straighten up when I walked in (Or, worse, they'd laugh HARDER). And I wondered:

Does having been teased as a kid make me more tolerant of this, in the sense of, "Oh this is par for the course for me and saying something will only make it worse" (because when I was a kid, saying something ALWAYS made it worse. The only way to go was to keep your head up and keep walking like you WEREN'T actually dying inside - Never look back, walk tall, act fine.). That my ability to be incensed about it has kind of gotten burnt out and maybe I don't notice it as much as someone without my history would

Or did it make me more sensitive to it, where I now expect every time people are laughing over some stupid thing, that that stupid thing is me? I mean, intellectually, I know "What do people think of you? They don't" but emotionally I go back to being that sad 13-year-old in the dark corner of the lunchroom, eating alone AGAIN because everyone else is higher in the popularity chain and won't want her at their table.

Ugh, I don't know. Part of this is being tired at the end of the semester and allergied-out. Part of this is that it's wickedly humid today and I feel kind of cruddy but I still have to make myself mow the lawn this afternoon so the city doesn't get on my case (People pleasing, though with a side of conflict avoidance there).

I would love to have a chance to replay my life, only this time being a somewhat-popular kid, and see how I would turn out differently. Would I be basically me, but more confident and less willing to take crap off of people? Or would I turn out a monster of ego because I was POPULAR? I don't know, though some days I think it's a risk I'd be willing to take.

Thursday morning things

* Colleague of mine ran by to borrow my keys to get into the lab room: he said he'd forgotten his at home (Not sure how he got into the building; I thought it was not unlocked until 7:30?). Anyway, he commented "This is the first time I've done this; middle age must be approaching."

I laughed to myself because he's a year younger than I am, so, by my accounting, he's DEFINITELY middle aged. (In two years I will be eligible for AARP)

But yeah, "middle age is approaching." Keep telling yourself that, man.

* Unfortunate news story of the day - a couple towns to the north, a woman is on trial for (I guess) statutory rape. She was a schoolteacher; he was her student (high school). Super-squicky.

They gave her age on the news: same age as I am. That made it even more squicky though I admit to looking at the footage of her in the courtroom and going "So, do I look older or younger than her?" (she had obviously-dyed blonde hair, so I don't know)

Anyway: my students are of age, and I wouldn't remotely want to date one of them. Even if there WAS a non-trad guy who was close to me in age and shared some of the same interests and actually asked me out, I would politely demur until he had graduated. (Not that that's ever even seemed a remote possibility, and I look at my traditional-aged students and go, "Wow, these guys are SO YOUNG and they have NO IDEA.")

and yeah, I get that my 'relationship goal' is probably different from this teacher's (if I'm going to the trouble of forging a relationship, I want it to be with someone I can talk to and where there is mutual emotional support, and that kind of thing. The physical stuff even is kind of secondary at this point....and I assume she was looking for purely physical).

We....seem to have a lot of problems with that in my area. Lots of cases of teachers "dating" their high school students. I don't know why, I don't know if there's just an epidemic of bad judgement or what. You're throwing your career (and possibly your freedom) away for "a bit of fun," to use the old British euphemism....

* Speaking of young students: one of the guys in one of my classes this week showed up wearing a Coachella entry wristband (heigh-ho, status signalling!). That's in CALIFORNIA. I can't imagine driving that far for a weekend. (Or maybe he flew, I don't know. Shoot, maybe he even knows someone in our aviation program and it was a chartered plane trip, for all I know).

But yeah. Reminds me of the kids who would go to Mardi Gras when I was a student at Illinois State and how I was gobsmacked at the whole "drive 18 hours (or whatever it was) for one day some place" but I don't know....there might be things I'd be willing to drive that ridiculous an amount for, I just can't think of any right now.

* There was an interesting article in the new American Scientist (the publication of Sigma Xi, it's not to be confused with Scientific American, which used to be pretty solid but recently seems to have veered over into "sensationalistic" territory). Anyway, the article was about Internet trolling, written from a more psychological perspective.

I skimmed the article, will read it more in-depth later, but one take home lesson the authors proposed: anyone can be a troll. It's not just some small band of 4-chan rejects that roam the internet, looting and pillaging.

I'm not QUITE sure I buy the ANYONE can be a troll argument. I may have snarked about things on occasion where I felt a little bad when I thought about it in the cold light of day, but I've tried very hard not to say hurtful things to other people. (And not issue threats. Not even really silly ones, like, "May you eat a lot of beets one night, forget the next morning you had, and then wind up going to the ER for an emergency scoping...")

But another thing they said struck me: there's a time pattern to this thing. Most trolling happens late in the evening/late at night, and it often happens at the very start of the workweek - at times when people are already feeling bad and discontented (and, it's implied, in the late-night stuff that sometimes "alcohol may have been involved," like they say on the news). And I can see that. People's inhibitions are reduced, they're more prone to lash out. (The old H-A-L-T acronym, which someone who had been through a recovery program told me about: be very careful when you are hungry, angry, lonely, or tired)

I will say I know most of my dumb online impulse purchases tend to come late in the evening, especially after a hard day. (Hm. Maybe I am trolling myself. That would be about par for the course).

But yeah: anyone can troll, and I guess anyone can BE trolled. (Though my tendency, when a discussion is getting heated, is to kinda nope out of there). I don't remember any direct rudeness of a person directing it at me, specifically, but I have read too many online comments sections about stuff and I regularly feel dismay over the attitudes of some towards, say higher ed, or Christians, or people who like cartoons, or women who aren't married and staying quietly in the background of their home.

Ah well. "Haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate" and you just have to shake it off, I guess. And the only person's behavior you control is your own.

* Though another, more positive online thing I see, is commiseration: every time I see a tweet referencing what a shame it is that most women's clothing doesn't come with pockets, it usually has a couple thousand retweets. (So: lots of people feel that way. And yeah, it's frustrating not to have pockets)

I suspect a lot of the trolling/not-trolling thing comes down to seeing people as people: perhaps what often stays my hand, as much as "this person might retaliate verbally if you're rude to them" is "what if this person were a friend? Would you say that to them then?"

Once again: I think what will destroy us is ceasing to see the other person as a person.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Spring is here

Yup. There's a Jonathan Coulton song that is rather....NSFW (and definitely NSFchildren in the room) about a particular outdoor activity that starts up on "First of May" (the song's title)

(No link, because of NSFWness, but some of you are doubtless familiar, and I assume the rest of you know how to search YouTube if you're really curious).

But yeah. The other big activity that starts up here in spring is NOISE.

Yesterday afternoon, driving home, I got in front of someone with boomy bass music. I was sort of tempted to turn the Brahms on Sirius XM up to "11" and roll down my windows just to show him what it's like to have to hear someone else's music that you might not want, but I figured that wouldn't solve anything.

But yeah: do not want boom cars.

Especially not late at night in my neighborhood. But spring tends to bring them out.

And motorcycles. I don't have a problem with MOST of these, but there are one or two people in town who apparently have got muffler cut-outs or some such installed and they are SUPER LOUD. Like, car-wreck loud. One drove by me last afternoon as I was walking into the Green Spray (to buy lettuce for feeding the college students - I had bought sandwich makings but wanted fresh lettuce). My immediate reaction to something that loud is to freeze in fear: What is the immediate danger to me? What do I need to do, where do I need to run? I don't like my fight-or-flight response being triggered that way (which is why I would never, ever live in a big city again: too much of that noise). But it was just some dude doing the "Hey, look at me" on his bike. Ugh.

(Again: this is a specific way in which we have gotten very crazy in 21st century America: we need people to notice us, so we make loud noises or do other outrageous things that impose on other people's brains, in order to get noticed)

But yeah. I don't care if you want to do some....lovin' outdoors (to make the Coulton reference as gentle as possible) as long as you're not doing it on my front lawn, but I'd prefer you not drive your loud motorbike or boom car during my study time or sleep time or in such a way that it scares me when I'm going about my life....