Friday, October 09, 2015

more good things

* My brother tells me that my niece really likes the magnetic fishing game I sent her for her birthday.

* Hugely relieved to hear that a nice man I know from church - a retired dentist - who has been having issues with fluid around the lungs does NOT have cancer. They are still trying to figure out the problem but it sounds like it's something a lot more fixable than lung cancer is. And he's put back on some of the shocking amount of weight he lost. (He was a little too thin to begin with)

* I think my teeth are FINALLY better, almost a year after I got what was probably a fungal sinus infection that drove them crazy and made them hurt to the point where I was on soft foods only for a long time. I still don't like crunchy things (I think something has changed in my sinuses; loud sounds around my teeth seem *louder* than they once did) but at least I don't have that feeling of "I'm gonna crack a front tooth"

* Next week is a Grand Day Out. (part of the reason I pushed to get the air compressor was so my tires would be happy for the long trip to Longview). I have money set aside though not any projects really planned, but I know roughly how much yarn I need of different weights for sweaters, vests, shawls, and other accessories for I'll see if anything inspires me when I get there.

* I dug out the Noro vest I was working on. I am almost done with the first front strap (it's a v-necked vest) and so I might get it done this weekend in between doing the revisions (yeah!) on my accepted paper.

It will probably be too hot on Friday of next week to wear it. There's a tradition among Rhinebeck-goers to make a "Rhinebeck sweater" to wear there - I admit I kind of wanted to have "My Own Private Rhinebeck" sweater - because the yarn shop in Longview is as close as I'll get to Rhinebeck, probably ever. (I guess there is also the BPAFF in Sherman on Saturday. If I haven't spent an insane amount of money in Longview I might go to that also).

* Reading over the suggested revisions and reviewer comments: the reviewer REALLY liked my paper. I guess my rather obsessive rewriting on this one served me well. The revisions are pretty minor and are mostly stylistic. It makes me happy to see that I did an objectively good job on this.

Thursday, October 08, 2015

I'm so handy....

Some years back, my dad gave me a little air compressor as a Christmas gift. This was something designed to plug into your car's cigarette lighter, and you could then pump up a low tire with it. (And a few times, I was a hero to the teen boys' youth group, because I could pump flat basketballs back up).

Then it broke. My current car has a low tire pressure light, which I kind of hate (even though I admit I forget to check the pressure monthly, like you should). It's gone on several times at inopportune times and I always worried, "Could I get home without a blowout?" (Yes. Those things seem to be kind of sensitive).

The past few times it's happened, I went to a tire place or my dealership and they took care of it. And they've never charged, but I kind of hate doing that. (Then again, usually the place is NOT busy when I go in, and maybe the guys welcome a chance to do something instead of sitting around).

But this time when it came on, I just couldn't get time to get in to the dealership. So I decided today maybe it was time to replace the compressor. I ran out to one of our several auto parts shop (seriously, for as small a town as we are, we have LOTS of these) and got one - plus a new pressure gauge. The one I had was one of those Slime battery-operated digital ones, and I never trusted it like I did the old-style kind where the air pressure pushes out a little labeled bar.

The compressor was about $45, the gauge $4 more. But I like the convenience of being able to fix stuff like that myself, when I need to, instead of finding a tire place that isn't busy.

And yeah, the tires were down a few psi each. I didn't fill them to the maximum pressure, but I did get within 2 psi or so. (I worry about the absolute max, what it might do if we had a sudden increase in temperature).

And then I got in the car, to put it away for the night. Turned it on, and the "low tire pressure" light turned itself off. Yes! I know it's silly to feel so proud of myself for something like this, but I always feel good about being capable at stuff. (I was the little kid in primary school who would flail her arms and go "I want to do it MYSELF!" when the teacher tried to help me).

And recent reading

Still pushing away on Moby-Dick, but find myself wanting to intersperse it (it's the point where they are butchering whales) with other things. I pulled out a Folio book I had started a while back but not gotten very far in - a little-known (at least this side of the Atlantic) children's fantasy novel called The Box of Delights by John Masefield. (Who also, I guess, was the Poet Laureate of the UK mid-century).

Fantasy novels and I have sort of a checkered history. I like some of them - much of my childhood was spent re-reading both The Hobbit and The Chronicles of Narnia but I find some of the "high fantasy" stuff really bogs me down - could not get through any of Tolkein's other work, for example. And some of the "modern" fantasy that's out there, I admit, the first sex scene (and some fantasy authors seem to love them) bring me to a screeching halt with the novel.

Children's fantasy is a little different. I find the ones that are TOO high-fantasy (as in: world not remotely like our own) often lose me (it's the same with SF, incidentally: if everything takes place upon some bizarre planet or on a space station, I am not that interested. But if it's more-or-less ordinary folk who wind up either tessering or time-traveling or something like that, I can enjoy it. I like Connie Willis' stuff, one of my favorite books read in the past 15 years is The Doomsday Book and of course I like Madeleine L'Engle's work, though I think that's as much for its spiritual theme as it is for the whole time/space travel thing)

I'm enjoying Masefield's book though I now see I should have read his OTHER one (The Midnight Folk) first, because apparently this is a continuation. Oh well.

It's set in England, sometime mid-century but not, apparently, during wartime (maybe the mid 1930s?). Kay Harker, a young man, is on his way home from boarding school for Christmas....he meets up with an old man who eventually entrusts a small magic box (that can make him "go quick" or "go small" if he pushes certain buttons on it).

Part of the fun of the book is the simple country-house-holiday-time coziness. Friends of the family (cousins, maybe?) are staying with them so Kay has playfellows (preteen kids are not nearly so sophisticated in Edwardian England as they are now, and that's a relief). One thing they do, for example, is have a robbers' tea: they make a sort of blanket-fort to serve as their hideout, and then they toast bread and cook eggs over the open fire, and they return to their "cave" to consume them. And they also play at being pirates, though one of the girls propose they be "Christmas pirates" (rather like Robin Hood: they take the things they stole from the rich and leave them in poor people's stockings). But along with this coziness there is a threat from without: men dressed as curates, with strange accents, who are not who they pretend to be.

There's an undercurrent that there's some kind of evil ("The wolves are running") and that there's a good vs. evil showdown coming.

And actually, maybe that's the ingredient that gets me involved in a fantasy or science-fiction type novel: the idea that there are evil forces out there, that good has to fight them, and that even somewhat ordinary folks (Meg Murry, the Pevensie children, Kay Harker) can play a role in fighting evil. It may be that that appeals to something deep in my psyche - not just the idea that we can and should fight evil, but that ORDINARY people (and I am about as ordinary as they come) can play a hand in assisting Good towards its ultimate victory.

I said once before that the reason I like certain "superhero" movies - and maybe a reason why they're generally popular - is that a lot of us have that fantasy of wanting to do something Big and Good and That Helps. And unfortunately, the way modern life is structured, it's very hard to have a chance of doing that unless you are something like involved with Doctors without Borders or are a firefighter or are in certain divisions of the military. And while, yes, you can be a kind person and hardworking at your job and "follow the rules" (well, at least the just rules). But that, I don't know, that feels like doing merely what you are SUPPOSED to do, and you aren't doing anything over and above to help....And while I doubt any of the situations I might be thrust into where I could try to fight against evil would be very good outcomes for me (the most likely evil, these days, being a campus shooter), still, I think a lot of people have that desire to do something that seems big enough to actually make things better....

Wednesday, October 07, 2015

And it's on

Longview trip next week looks like a go!

That makes me very happy. I need a day talking with someone about stuff that is not work or volunteer work related. And a day of yarn and maybe books!

I deposited the check from the publisher the other day, so I can withdraw that and use it as "fun money." This is typically what I do with that kind of income, as it is "over and above" my regular gig and not money I count on to make my budget.

it's good, once in a while, to feel like you can go and enjoy shopping without having to watch the budget so strictly. I get that that's a rare thing for people and it's a privilege, but I'm glad I can do it once in a while.

Back to sweater

I pulled out Starbuck again last night. After a few moments of "????" (I really need to mark on my paper patterns where I leave off on things), I figured out where I was and was able to motor along again.

I'm making the sleeves just a FEW stitches wider (adding more rows) because I have big beefy arms muscular arms and I don't like tight sleeves. Also, I intend to wear this at least over a t-shirt (partly so I don't feel like I have to wash it every single time I wear it, but partly because the classrooms fluctuate wildly in temperature and on any given day I may teach in a room that is 60F and one that is 85F)

It's pleasing, though. I like knitting in the round, I like making fine-gauge things (even though they take longer, to me, they suit my style and body type better). The striping pattern is nice and I think I chose attractive colors (the oyster and ice blue) for it.

I have mid-fall break next week and I am hoping my friend Laura will still be free to meet up in Longview to go shopping. (If she isn't, I probably won't go to Longview - that's awfully far to go just for myself. To meet up with a friend, yes, I am happy to make that drive - but these days, "just for myself," not so much. Also, it seems Whitesboro has quite a few interesting things and I've never been there, so that's the alternate plan if Laura is not free).

If she IS free, I may find myself looking at the fine gauge yarns, again with sweaters on the mind. I wonder how Noro Kureyon Sock would work up into a sweater or sweater vest? (That reminds me: I need to drag out my Silk Garden Sportweight vest and finish it up. I put it aside when it got to the point of not being good invigilating knitting any more and forgot about it. I think I just have to do the divides for the front, knit up the "straps" of the vest, and then do the neckline and arm bands.)

Now if it would just CONSISTENTLY cool down so I could start wearing a few of my sweaters...

Tuesday, October 06, 2015

And that's done

Nothing needing immediate attention; there was a "spot" on "lingual five" (I think that's what he said) that bears watching but is too small to determine if it's a stain or something starting.

Note to self in future (though hopefully this will not apply for too many more years): try to avoid scheduling dental work, even checkups, when premenstrual. I have lower tolerance for discomfort and more anxiety. And yeah, at one point I was wanting to crawl out from under the hygienist's hands and run - just too many sharp metal things close to my gums and tongue.

Also I get tartar like whoa, despite brushing twice daily, flossing daily, and now, using an allegedly anti-tartar mouthwash. (My former dentist, back in Illinois, said that some people are apparently just genetically predisposed to more tartar). The sonication is still not fun. I tolerate the manual scraping better but they have to do SOME sonication. (Also, she claims that's how they get the stains off: drinking tea stains my teeth and now I wonder, "Is it worth giving up tea to avoid ever having to be sonicated again" but I suspect I still would, even if I gave up tea.)

And my students doing soil tests for their research project in my absence didn't blow themselves or the lab up (not that that's likely with the tests they were doing) in my absence.

But yeah, now I'm tired. If I were a drinking woman I'd go home and pop open a cider but I'm not. I might make a cup of hot cocoa before bed though.

This has been a very long day even if it started out with good news.

I do need to try to make a little progress on writing next week's exam though, so I can't blow out of here and go stare at cartoons until I calm down, sadly.

It was also really cold at the dentist's; I don't know if they just had the AC off and the heat not on yet and it got cold in there and stayed cold, or if they cranked the AC extra. I'm sure the hygienists and dentist get warm running around but I admit I was bordering on uncomfortable. (though that is part of being premenstrual for me: I feel cold sometimes.)

I'm glad I have left over chili in the fridge so dinner will be easy tonight.

First of three?

Superstition says that "bad things come in threes."

Well, could maybe GOOD things come in threes? If so, I hope so, and hopefully this morning's event was the first of a three:

I came in today to an e-mail from the editor of the journal I submitted my little soil invertebrate paper to. PROVISIONAL ACCEPTANCE. (that means: acceptance provided I make the suggested changes - there are 10 given but several of them are extremely minor wording issues; the biggest one is that I need to reformat my tables, which will take some effort but is totally doable).

This wasn't EXACTLY a long shot journal (my state's Academy of Sciences proceedings) but as I am not actually an expert on this sort of thing (though there are relatively few true experts out there), I was afraid one of my reviewers would turn out to be Experty McSoilinvertebrates and would sink my paper as having not up-to-date methodology or something I didn't know about.

So I'm relieved.

As I said on Twitter: for those of us who are not superstar researchers, a provisional acceptance - especially one with as few revisions as this one seems to need - is as good as it gets.

If I get the revisions in by the end of the month, it will come out in "this year's" issue (usually comes out in January of the following year, so January 2016).


I also have a dental check up this afternoon and I'll just say now: a clean tooth bill-of-health would make a dandy second good thing. (Not that I'm having any problems, in fact, of late, the sinus-related pain has been less than it was. I think last year I had an extremely persistent sinus infection that messed with the roots of my teeth). Have also been using a mouthwash that alleges anti-tartar and anti-gingivitis properties in addition to brushing and flossing, so hopefully I'm good. 


Edited to add: I probably shouldn't let myself be so swayed by external events, but for serious, this was my mood this morning before I came in and checked my e-mail:

And this was my mood after reading of the paper acceptance:

Monday, October 05, 2015

a little gambling

Well, as much "gambling" as I ever do.

Today was health insurance re-enrollment and they changed up our plans....went from "high" and "low" to "red," "white," and "blue" options. (I wonder if that's some provision buried in the ACA, that you can't call plans "high" and "low" any more).

I WAS going to spring for the red option that would mean an increase something over 60 dollars a month ($800 total per year) but after talking with the HR Woman - and hearing her say that SHE had planned on getting the red plan before she talked with the rep, then decided on the white plan - and after doing a little mental math, I decided to go with the no-increase (white) plan.

The gambling comes in here: if my health stays about the same as it does now, I might pay as much as $100 more out of my own pocket in the next year for health care. Maybe not even that much - my GP is in the "preferred" group so her co-pay won't go up. And the new plan would be $800 more FOR SURE.

If my health gets vastly worse, this may not have been so good a gamble (specialists have higher co-pays under my new plan) but I figure my health will probably mostly remain the same and the few things that are most likely to change are things my GP could probably handle...

And since there is no hope of a pay raise, not even a COLA, in the coming year, I need to economize a little.

I hope I made the right choice. It's hard to know.

(I did stay with the "high" dental plan - for which I only pay about $40 a month - but when something goes wrong with my teeth, it goes catastrophically wrong (like breaking a tooth), so having really good coverage there is important to me)

I will say the people with dependents really get stuck, they pay A LOT more.

And I got a little stuffed-toy Snoopy out of it. Apparently MetLife is (or is now) our life insurance provider and one of the HR people I had to talk with had a big box of stuffed Snoopies next to her desk, and as I was leaving, she asked me if I wanted one.

I suppose they were brought in for the people with kids at home, but I still took one. Well, she offered.

(Back in the day I collected "advertising premium toys" and the Snoopy has a MetLife hat on)

I also ran to the Walgreen's for a couple things and found they had a new and different (or at least new and different to me) wave of Pony blindbags....this one is mostly glittered but this go-round, the glitter is embedded IN the ponies rather than sprayed on, so it looks better. I bought three - figuring my self-imposed "don't buy silly fun things" can be relaxed a little given my choice. I got a Pinkie Pie, a Pinkie clone in darker pink called Cherry Berry, and Meadowsong, a reddish brown (cola-colored, really) boy pony.

Future project thoughts

* I started a few more blocks for the ongoing quilt top yesterday afternoon. The quilt as originally planned is 64" by 80": 20 16" blocks.

Well, I got to thinking: 64" wide is pretty minimal, that's like a twin bed size. And I looked at the "background" fabric I had left, and wondered if I could get more blocks' worth out of it. (I bought extra, and also, I think the pattern intended for you to use it as binding, but I tend to use different things as binding, so....)

I managed to get 16 more blocks' worth out of it, so the quilt will be 6 blocks by 6 blocks - or 96 by 96 inches when done. (That's enough for a double bed with a good deep drape - which you tend to need for a winter quilt)

I may have to forage a bit for a few more fabrics, if I exhaust the floral fabrics I have at home. I want this to be similar to a charm quilt in that each block is made with a different floral.

* Not sure of the NEXT next quilt, but I might use one of the pre-cut sets I have stored up, just to use them up. I have 10" squares of another Moda line of wildflower prints and plans to do a simple squares-with-white-sashing quilt with those.

* I watched "The Secret of Kells" on Saturday. This is an animated movie made by an Irish-Belgian team. It is a fictionalized story of the development of the Book of Kells (an illuminated version of the Gospels). A little Celtic mythology is woven in, as well - recognition that the land used to be pagan, and there is a character who is presumably a fairy.

I will say, for a movie about the Gospels, there was little direct reference made to the faith of the monks. Towards the end, there was the comment about how Brendan (the young man who learned how to do illumination from the old monk Aidan) was one of those who spread "hope through dark times" with a stylized dove flying over the landscape. I suppose the idea was to make it "accessible" for those without that much of a faith background but it did seem a little odd to me.

I will say an interesting theme in the movie: the Abbot was much more concerned with building his wall (which he believed, wrongly, would protect them from the invading Norsemen) than about spreading the Good News - and so he was often at loggerheads with Aidan or with what Brendan (his nephew) wanted. For example: he forbade Brendan from going out into the forest, which provided a source of both inspiration and supplies (oak galls for one of the inks....)

The Abbot lived to regret that: the Norsemen came, they attacked, a few of the monks and the people they were sheltering survived (he believed Brendan to have been killed when the scriptorium was burned, but Brendan and Aidan escaped, and apparently went across Ireland, telling people the Gospel). Eventually Brendan came back and was reunited with his uncle....

but that is an interesting idea, safety vs. going out and helping others.... just, given everything going on in the world. I suppose the idea is that we are called NOT to insist on being safe, but to go out and help where we can.

It's a very interestingly done movie; much more stylized than the "typical" cartoon. I've seen it compared to some of Miyazaki's work but to me it feels more like some of the UPA cartoons of the 40s and 50s, or maybe some of the more-artistic Eastern European work from a little later on.

There is also a cat in it, Aidan's cat (and a remarkably long-lived cat she is, unless it's her offspring that follows the adult Brendan). The cat is named Pangur Ban (there should be a diacritical mark on that second a - the word means "fair")

The character design is interesting; the "fairy" character (her name SOUNDED to me like "Ashley" but it is spelled "Aisling")

*The funny thing is it makes me imagine a design for a "made up" unicorn character in the style of MLP: "Frost Flower," who is white with very, very pale blue-white hair, and pale blue eyes. Her talent is frosting windowpanes in the winter...

I might have to have a go at drawing Frost Flower at some point....

Sunday, October 04, 2015

The newest quilt

I've had this one done for over a week but it seemed like I could never get out to photograph it before today.

This one is made from a "jelly roll." The fabrics might be as much as 10 years old, I know I've had the quilt top in my stack of tops-to-be-quilted for a long time:

Texas wildflowers quilt

It's one of Moda's lines; they seem to do a lot with Texas wildflowers (they are a Texas based company, even if the fabrics are made elsewhere). The borders are another one of theirs, I think.

I had had the quilt top for a long time, and had got a backing for it even, but then I saw the fabric I wound up using at JoAnn's and decided that it HAD to be the backing instead:

backing close up

I really enjoy those vintage-style "travel" prints, so I decided to buy it despite having backing on hand.

The backing was a bandanna print in red; I used it for the binding but of course have a lot left over. (Maybe someday I will do a red-and-white quilt).

You can see the bandanna print binding in this close-up:

texas quilt close up

I had it quilted in a star pattern - for Lone Star State - and I'm happy with how it came out.

Now I need to get the fairy-tale-themed quilt binding sewn down...

Saturday, October 03, 2015

And it's Saturday

* This weekend is Homecoming, and I realized this morning that means random streets will be blocked off, both for the parade and for tailgating, and also there will be more people on campus, so I decided to stay home today. (Also, my neighbors to the south apparently are having a yard sale. This puzzles me ever so slightly: they moved in about 8 months ago, already had one sale. I tend to be anti-doing-yard-sales: it seems a very inefficient way of getting rid of stuff OR raising money; the few I have taken part in wind up with a few people showing up an hour before you're ready and want to buy the few good things you have at a very steep discount from the low price you've marked them at (pickers). And then you sit FOREVER and get very few people coming, and usually wind up with lots of stuff left over and very little money to show for your time.

Honestly, when I want to get rid of stuff, if it's still "good," I will donate it somewhere. If it isn't good enough, I'll just recycle it or throw it out, depending.)

So going out to do stuff is less attractive today.

* I did write next week's exam this morning, and read the next chapter of the textbook in the class where I need to renew the lectures. But I'm not going over to enter data (then again: I have Wednesday morning open this week - testing day - so I can do it then)

* So I have a bit more piano to practice....oh, and my lessons have ended for now (teacher is taking a break and hoping she can get a few more students for srping) but I am going to keep up working on it to try to improve on my own. (I admit I'm slightly sad the lessons are over, and the teacher says unless she can get more students - I was the only one at the end - she's probably not going to continue. I can probably find another teacher but I like this one... I will give it a little time)

* But then I'm free. Not sure what I want to do. If I weren't trying so hard to economize I admit I'd consider going antiquing in Sherman. (Then again, they're having a Fall Fest - so, again, Too Many People.)

I might start Moondancer, I don't know. Or continue on one of my ongoing projects - a couple pairs of socks, a couple of sweaters.

* And this week's Pony: at first I thought I might not relate to this one as much, because the opening showed Big Mac being sad because Apple Bloom was now looking up to Applejack more than she seemed to look up to him. And coming from a family with only one sibling, that's one thing I never rejected: the "you like your sister more than you like me" feeling. (My brother and I, while we weren't close in the way some siblings are, we also were not unusually adversarial. I think we got along better and played more when we were smaller, and I do think he looked up to me more; for example, he wanted a sticker collection when I was making one (I was about 10 so he would have been about 5) and a few years later he had no interest in doing what I did because that was "girl stuff")

But then the very end was, again, kind of right in the feels for me. The whole silly masquerade Big Mac got up to - dressing up as "Orchard Blossom," a southern-belle type who is supposedly a second cousin. (Of course, no one is fooled for an INSTANT, not even the CMC, not even the judge-ponies who might not know Big Mac. Well, except for the one who is necessary for the classic cartoon trope of short-sighted guy falling in love with the "new woman in town" who is actually a guy in a dress....)

This is so Apple Bloom can participate in the Sisterhooves Social (this episode takes place in the same timeframe as last week's - so Chekov's Gun about the Sisterhooves' Social had a delayed firing) because Applejack is out of town.

But really, it's because Big Mac feels neglected, and he wants Apple Bloom to look up to him again - he wants to feel important.

Yeah. I think that's actually a really common feeling. I feel it a lot, I feel taken for granted a lot and admit that if the world were as simple as where playing a different "character" would get me some recognition I might be tempted to. I think the secondary message though - and maybe the message aimed at kids - was "Tell the people you look up to that you look up to them." I think the thing is, some people figure, "They know I respect them" or "They know I value what they do" but sometimes, people just get tired, they forget that people feel that way. And maybe they shouldn't, but they do - and so they need to hear those words. Or they need to hear that they're loved, even as hard as I know it is for some people to say that to someone else. (I have a hard time being demonstrative myself).

So it was a nice little slice-of-life story again, with a nice moral to it. And it got to use some of the "classic" cartoon tropes (guy in a dress, someone in disguise who thinks everyone is fooled but everyone really isn't, someone getting hypercompetitive and then being disqualified)

I will also say, though secondary to the main story, the Rainbow Dash/Scootaloo "honorary sisters" interaction was cute and sweet. I think Rainbow Dash has 'grown up' a little during the series and it's nice to see those changes in characters.

* One of these days I need to photograph the quilt I finished binding, and get the binding sewn down to the second one.

Friday, October 02, 2015

And it's Friday

* News of the world: All I have to say is my prayer upon waking this morning is, "We've screwed things up here really badly; You're the only one who can fix them. Please show me what I can do to make things better...."

I don't know that there is much I CAN do, but whatever.

(And I expect we will face further "Active Shooter" training now.)

* As a result, I think I'm going to go over to the side of posting silly stuff and thinking about silly stuff for a while.

So, it's Friday, Friday!

(Yeah, I think I posted that once before. Bonus points if you make it all the way through to the end. I can't.)

* I made mock-barbecued (rubbed with spice and cooked slowly: not exactly like smoked meat, but similar enough) chicken thighs in the slow cooker yesterday. The slow cooker is my favorite small kitchen appliance and I think this kind of thing is what it does best.

And it's so easy - I got bone-in, skin-on thighs: bone-in because I think the bones add to the flavor, and skin-on because they get a little dry otherwise. I just used Penzey's Northwoods seasoning, rubbed some on each one, and then put them in the slow cooker. I then set it on low and let it go. They cooked for about 10 hours but I think they would have been done in less than that.

They were very good. I ate them with a little barbecue sauce but you could also use different spice combinations - poultry seasoning for chicken that you could then use in chicken salad, Mexican spices for chicken for enchiladas or tostadas...

* I'm just glad it's Friday. Even though I got a surprise day off during the week. I had a meeting last night that was held OUTSIDE (Normally, that would be a safe bet in early October, but not in the late evening). It got dark fast enough I was having a hard time keeping minutes. And it was chilly and my neck on the same side where I got the flu shot started cramping up. I admit I was a little cranky (and refused the food offered because I felt like I just wanted to get on with the meeting) but really, late evening meetings are not fun. And I don't like sitting outside in the dark and having to try to write.

*My father broke a tooth this week and was hoping they could use a bonding agent to fix it. Nope, he's gonna have to have the tooth out. (It's a molar, so at least it won't show). But I admit, hearing stuff like that makes me want to live on soup and applesauce the rest of my life. (I broke a tooth once. The dentist was able to save enough to do a crown. But I don't recommend emergency crown-preps as a way to spend your time).

*Also, I'm thinking. I re-read "A Wrinkle in Time" this week. It's funny how different parts of the book stick with you. One of the biggest things I remember from my childhood readings (other than the horror of IT) was when "Mrs. Whatsit" showed something closer to her true form (the Mrs. Ws are described as stars that gave up their lives to fight evil though it could also, I think, be assumed they are angels) and Calvin (who is apparently fairly devout) drops to his knees, and she says, "Not to me, Calvin. Never to me." (Implying: there is only One worthy of that, and I am not that one.).

I also remember Aunt Beast and the idea that even though they lack one of the senses we value highly, apparently they have other senses that we cannot even fathom.

And this go-round, the whole "Meg, I give you your faults" thing - the implication being that these are what would allow her to fight IT and rescue her father. Her main faults are that she is stubborn and perhaps somewhat rebellious, maybe somewhat rude. (Though ultimately, what saves Charles Wallace, after he has gone over to IT, is her fierce love for him - the one thing IT cannot do, and therefore, cannot break through, is love).

And I think about that. My faults are, perhaps, in some ways a bit the opposite of Meg's: I'm too diligent. And too afraid of failing or looking stupid. And perhaps too concerned that others not fail at some task* And too self-critical. And I admit, I look at those, and go "How could I use THOSE faults to fight against ANYTHING?"

(I admit, I am a *little* uncomfortable with the implied idea that "rebellious, free-thinker who refuses to do schoolwork is better and wiser than the little grind who obeys the teachers" - the whole "Einstein was a C student" thing all over again. Surely it's not just in Equestria that the Twilight Sparkles manage to save the world sometimes?)

(*I'm dealing with this from a student right now. Oh, the learned helplessness! And I get that some of our students are first-gen college students and not used to navigating a university bureaucracy, but it seems this person has done the opposite of some of the advice I have given them thus far)

I don't know. I still love the book, but.... maybe deep down I suspect that the reason I have not done anything "big" or "groundbreaking" in the way of research is that I AM too much of a rule-follower.

* That feeling when you think, "I could go home early this afternoon and watch Pony re-runs" and you find out that they are re-running an Equestria Girls movie instead :(

* There's some talk of this new - I guess it's a website? Called Peeple? Which sounds to me like it's essentially an online slam-book. (if you were ever a 13 year old girl, you know what that is). Yeah, that's gonna end well. And apparently the developers don't want to give people a way to opt out. Eh, meh. As I said on Twitter: If I like you, I will interact with you and talk to you. If I dislike you, I will ignore you. And honestly, there are pretty few people I honestly would say I disliked: most people I know, they have a few traits that rub me the wrong way, but on balance, I'm okay with them And I'm sure I have traits that rub people the wrong way.

But this whole Peeple thing - if it's not a giant troll, which is also entirely possible, I could see the founders come out and claim they pranked everybody - well, it's an example of "just because you can doesn't mean you should." Do we really want - especially in light of what happened yesterday - MORE ways for people to be hateful on the Internet?

Thursday, October 01, 2015

well, that's done....

Handed in my "faculty development" plan today. This is where we account for our activities of the past year - there is a minimum standard we must meet to keep tenure. (Yes, tenure-opponents: it is NOT a sinecure). I know I do considerably more than the minimum, that's just how I am.

The last piece of the puzzle was evaluation scores. I always drag my feet on this - my first year here I got awful evals and so always cringe to look at them. Even though, lately, they have been good.

In my intro, majors class, I earned a 4.5 out of 5....I think I get high evals in there because a lot of our students are scared freshmen, and I think I come across as just-slightly-maternal, and I am also willing to give LOTS of help.

In my upper division majors class, I earned a 4.2 out of 5 - not bad given it's a class 'everyone' in our majors have to take and some of the pre-med people are unenthusiastic about it

In my class-that-people-from-another-major take - this was the section I complained about last spring, that had note-passers and gigglers in it, and I suspected some of the problems were that the problem people were men from a very old-boys'-club discipline and I am a woman who presents very traditionally feminine (long hair, dresses or skirts, jewelry, some makeup but not lots, feminine voice...). Anyway, I earned a 3.7 out of 5 which is the LOWEST eval I've had in years. I'm not happy about that yet at the same time recognize it's partly out of my control - the other-majors' people have different expectations and I know many of them think I expect too much of the class. (I don't think I do, our majors don't think I do, the non-trad (more mature) other-majors students don't think I fact, one once told me he liked my class because I actually covered material in it instead of "goofing off.")

I don't quite know what to do. I don't know if this is a "you don't really need to change, they do" situation or maybe if I need to "dress down" a tiny bit (wear slacks more often than dresses, dial back the bright colors and jewelry). Every fiber of me resists that because this is who I am and I have finally myself come to be happy with it....and it irks me that someone might not respect me because I'm in a skirt. (I don't dress provocatively, I don't wear tight things,  I don't show skin, I don't act like a ditz or a fruit-cup girl....And if you're envisioning someone dressed like Penny Garcia, no, that's not it either. I wear bright colors but not BRIGHT colors.)

My colleague-friend tells me that I should keep on keepin' on because "they will eventually have a woman as their boss and they need to get used to women with authority" but of course he is not having to deal with it.

I don't know. I am also offering this class in the summer so I am hoping the spring section will be less over-filled, I think that was part of the issue.

But yeah. I've never dealt with real gender-related ugliness (some women have gotten death threats online and such), but I've had a little frustration with it in real life. The stupid thing is, every MAN I've ever worked with has recognized I have a brain and know how to use it, and he has respected me for it. And I have worked with a lot of men in my life, both as colleagues and as students.  I'm not quite sure how to approach - even if I need to - BOYS who can't get that fact. I may try talking with the department's chair before the semester, to let him know, "Some of your students, they don't act as very great representatives of your department in other ones" but I don't know what that will do.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Two comment responses

1. No, I didn't see the Charlie Brown pony until I saw the screencap on Equestria Daily. But that kind of thing is what makes the episodes so fun to rewatch. (Right now, they seem to be back to re-running Season 1 in the afternoons. It's interesting to see how the expressions and level of background detail have changed.)

2. The eyes on my ponies....they are cut freehand from felt and then I just build up the layers using applique. I have a whole box of different colored Gutermann threads (it was a good deal at JoAnn's some years back) and I just use the appropriate color for each layer. Then, I sew the whites of the eyes down to the head with something like a whip stitch around the edges....and before I sew down the last bit, I carefully insert a bit of stuffing under the eye so it pops out just a little. (I learned that trick from a Margaret Hutchings toy book - she said it made the toy come more "alive" and I tend to agree). The eyelashes/eyeliner are done with six strands of floss in black, or, what is even better if you have it, perle cotton.

I usually make a drawing first (if it is a made-up pony) or find either "official" or fan-art that I like online (if it's a show-pony) so I have something to go by.

I use the expensive, all-wool felt; several years ago my birthday present to myself was an all-colors pack of this from Amazon. The all-wool felt stretches a bit better and seems to be thicker and less pill-y than the acrylic felt. 

(Treehugger's "eyebrows" are just scraps of the hair yarn stitched on using a big tapestry needle).


Well, today was a different day. Shortly after I got in to campus, a boil order was announced, and it turned out there was NO water pressure at all - so no drinking fountains (not that you should drink from them anyway during a boil order) and worse, no flushing in the bathrooms. (A colleague hung up signs warning people of this. On the men's room doors, he added "#1 is okay" so I don't know if urinals operate differently or if he was preserving the sensibility of us females...)

I taught my first class but then campus closed at 10. (Which is good: I was wondering what I would do if I needed to, ahem, do #1. I tend to be kind of....private....about such things)

Also, the flu shot clinic scheduled for while I was in class was extended and moved to the local Walgreen's (apparently, they brought in shot-givers from one of the larger branches somewhere else). So I decided: meh, even if I don't feel so well after the shot tomorrow, all I have to do is give an exam, so I'll be okay. So I went and got the shot (And yes, our insurance covered it 100%, which is nice).

It wasn't so very bad though the needle itself (or maybe the liquid in it) hurt going in . My arm is slightly sore now but nothing bad.

Then, I decided that I might as well go to Sherman and do the "big" grocery shopping I had thought of doing this weekend - because if I DID need a restroom, easier to use one in a store that has water - and also, I could grab lunch down there and avoid dirtying a couple more plates.

So I got Sachettini Pesto at the Panera (and yes, it is a little salty for me, and yes, I can tell because I'm now thirsty -  but I do have bottled water). And then I ran a few places.

At the Target, I decided that even though I am striving to economize, I deserved a small "fluster" for getting the flu shot.

Waterglobe Rarity! For some reason I really like these things - I also have a Princess Luna. (Rarity has tiny diamond-shaped glitter inside her that moves when you move her around.

And yeah, unlike some doll/toy collectors, I am part of the Unboxer Rebellion. There's a strain of doll collectors that are big into NRFB (never removed from box) because they believe that's how you keep the "investment value" of what you've bought.

My feeling is, if I want to invest (and I do), I'm going to put money aside to buy stocks or bonds. If I'm buying a toy, I want to be able to hold it and put it on my mantel and enjoy it - and not worry about being able to sell it for a lot of money twenty years from now. (And anyway: the Beanie Babies market collapsed suddenly some years back, and now people can't give the things away. So I think these kinds of  "collectibles" should ONLY be bought for the enjoyment of the purchasing owner and not with an eye on selling them in the future, eBay and stuff like that notwithstanding....)

I also picked up some good groceries - I think I'm gonna do chili again this weekend; the good grass-fed ground beef was on sale at the Kroger's. I figure the chili I make is all healthful, good-quality ingredients (lowfat beef, tomatoes, low-sodium pinto beans, spices) and I enjoy it, so there's nothing wrong with having it two weeks in a row. I was also able to get some new-crop sweet potatoes, so that will be a future meal. I also picked up some more cans of an excellent Eden Foods pizza sauce that is low in sodium and contains nothing that sets off my allergies (some sauces have celery), so some time soon I think I'll make a pizza again. And I got a bag of Anasazi beans, which are my favorite dry bean for doing as western-style beans, so once the chili is eaten, my next-weekend big-cooking will be a batch of beans.

It's supposed to finally cool down, so it feels right to be making things like chili and beans and soup....

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

She hugs trees

I finished Treehugger tonight. (I'm glad I didn't push last night to do the face, getting the eyes right is challenging on this one)


I do think she maybe came out looking a little younger or more "fillyish" than how she was depicted on the show but I am okay with that.

I did make one tiny addition to her - a little tree necklace:


It's a charm from JoAnn's strung on hemp cord. Because of course a hippie pony would wear a hemp cord necklace.

Though I admit I've quickly headcanoned her into being the back-to-the-lander, all-natural, healthy-living type of hippie (I think the headscarf does it) rather than the, ahem, "chemically altered" type of hippie:

Back to the lander pony

The idea to make Treehugger originated less, I admit, with a deep and abiding love of the character, but with the realization that I wanted to try making i-cord "dreadlocks" for her:

Treehugger lying down

And of course, continue it onto the tail:

Treehugger butt

I'm pretty happy with how she turned out.

Tuesday morning random

* I got the hair (mane) on Treehugger done last night but didn't get the tail quite done, or the face. But I should get that finished tonight. (I didn't want to stay up late and push and maybe get the face less than perfect). I also have to decide on a fabric for her headscarf because she looks odd without it.

I think Next Pony Up is going to be Moondancer, crocheted off the same pattern.

One of these days - once I finish all the ponies in the Pony Horde that I have planned so far - I should make a big pyramid of them (the stallions can be the bottom of the pyramid, they are larger) and photograph them.

Planned Pony Horde, after Treehugger:

Trixie off of a Nerdy Knitter pattern (Called "Filly Trixie" but she will be bigger than my other ponies)
Cheerilee, also off a Nerdy Knitter pattern
Maud Pie (I keep pushing this one down in the queue because of concerns about how to design her dress - I'm going to use the standard, "Friends Forever Fawn" pattern)
G4-styled Minty, off the Friends Forever Fawn pattern, using the scraps from Cheerilee for her hair. And I'm going to knit some socks for her because Minty was the sock-loving pony back in generation 3.5 or whatever it was. 

SOMEDAY I am going to do Discord but the pattern looks very long and involved, kind of like Chrysalis' pattern, but without holes.

I also admit my mind plays around with the idea of trying to do a Bulk Biceps, but any existing pattern I might use (maybe the Mr. Ed pattern again) would require very heavy modification to capture his....unique....body shape.

I can't be a Crazy Cat Lady because of my allergies, but I CAN be a Crazy Pony Lady.

(I admit, I'm half-considering, if I do a Halloween costume, doing Crazy Cat Lady - I have a floor-dragging skirt, and I can wear a mismatched blouse and cardigan. And I have enough small stuffed-toy cats I could attach to my clothing.... Though I am also considering, if it's not too obscure and I can figure out a way to do a costume simply, going as the Calming Manatee - wear all grey. maybe a grey hooded sweatshirt, and carry around slips of paper with nice affirmations on them I hand out to people. Yes, Halloween is on a Saturday so I don't know if it's odd to dress up on Friday or not.... that Saturday I will almost surely be at home or over here working, so not much point in dressing up)....

more later....

Edited to add, later on:

I gained a couple students in one class. It's a....complicated...situation, they are moving from a section of a colleague's class where things were being done differently and they complained.

(really, really hoping this doesn't mean the people involved are chronic complainers)

My chair told me also, "I think, from what students have told me, is that your teaching style will work better for them." So, yay, I guess? I don't know. I don't think that necessarily means "you have a great teaching style and you are great" but I suppose it also doesn't mean my teaching style is probably means I have more of that elusive quality of "approachability" that is so highly valued (meaning, I reply to student e-mails and am probably too flexible about things like make up work)

I don't know. I seem to wind up taking a lot of ones for the team....I just hope that this translates to something good for me*, and I don't mean (like one of my grad professors used to say when someone did some thankless task) "gold stars in your crown in Heaven." Either something on my post-tenure review relating to my collegiality** or, if the Worst Possible Thing Ever happens, a positive recommendation when I have to apply for jobs elsewhere. (Yeah, I'm still worried about our tenuous financial situation. Not quite enough to actively seek a job elsewhere but enough to start seeing a bit of what's out there. I so don't want to move, and I so don't want to do what has been recommended for job applicants, namely, delete any and all blog/social media and do your best to scrub your internet presence other than papers you've published....)

 (* Yeah, I know. I should do it out of the goodness of my heart but I admit the way work works a lot of places these days....well, I'm leery of doing things purely out of the goodness of my heart. Doing something to be "nice" once may mean later on you are TOLD to do it, always, "because." And I hate having to be that way, be that suspicious, but I've been burned before.)

(** Generally, this translates to 'agreeability.' On some, higher-powered campuses it might mean, "Person is generally not a flaming jerk to others" but here it often means, "is willing to take on extra stuff.")

* I feel slightly guilty because when my parents called over the weekend I worried at them slightly about the coming expenses, including the new sink....and last night my father called me and told me he was sending me a check to cover the cost of the sink. I'm not destitute but I do worry about money, probably worry more than I really should. (I spent too many years as a grad student, on a grad-student salary. In some ways, that's a good thing, because I'm not in debt now because of being so careful, but in other ways it probably does mean I deny myself some comforts of life I could easily afford.)

I suppose I'll put it in savings. Where it will earn a "nice" 0.25% or whatever it is right now until I decide I need it. (I still have to get the fence fixed, and I still need to think about a new ceiling fan)

Monday, September 28, 2015

a little funny

And then I have to get down to taking care of some stuff. But this made me giggle:

The devout cowboy lost his favorite Bible while he was mending fences out on the range. Three weeks later, a turtle walked up to him carrying the Bible in its mouth. The cowboy couldn't believe his eyes. He took the precious book out of the turtle's mouth, raised his eyes heavenward and exclaimed, "It's a miracle!" "Not really," said the turtle. "Your name is written inside the cover."


Well, that was one of the least-stressful thing-fixings I've had - I always worry because this is an old house with wonky plumbing (some of the drain pipes are still lead!) and I am afraid that some needed fix won't be able to be effected because of needing code upgrades or just because things are too old and wonky.

But this one went smoothly:

**sinkness intensifies**

It's so SHINY. Hopefully because this sink is new and unscratched, it won't build up a load of the hard-water scale as fast as the old one did. (I would periodically have to soak paper towels in vinegar and poultice them against the sides of the sink to dissolve the hard water scum). Also, the ugly fake-brass peeling faucet is gone.

The guy did tell me to leave the caulked edge alone at least over night, as anything that touches it before it cures completely will stick in it forever ("FOREVER! FOREVER!")

It wasn't cheap (a bit over $200) but it's done and it's good and the problem is fixed.

Hopefully, it's easy

The plumber JUST pulled back in my drive....he is bringing a new sink to replace the one that was "shot" (Old sink, had been re-sealed at some point before I even bought the house, so it's dead).

He's also replacing the faucet, which was a fake brass finish that peeled off badly- the new one is going to be chrome, which will match the tub fixtures. (Still going to be a two-handle faucet, which is good - I have had bad luck with the single-knob ones - leaking and breaking, and also my parents had trouble with them in their house. Hm. Maybe these guys just know the two-faucets are better, they seem to be knowledgeable about much other plumbing stuff).

Hopefully in a little while, I will have a new sink. Yes, it's going to be expensive, and I twitch at expenses at the moment given the insecurity on campus and also the rising prices of everything else. But then again: if the Worst Possible Thing happens and I have to take a job elsewhere and sell the house, I'd need to replace the sink before I could do that, so.....

(Really hoping that does not happen. I would take on an unpaid overload to get my department over the hump before I did that.)

I did also arrange for my niece's birthday present - another expense but I feel like gifts are unavoidable, and anyway, it makes me happy to think of making HER happy. I ordered a Melissa and Doug magnetic fishing game - wooden poles with magnets and then numbered fish that can either be used to learn numbers or colors (well, she already knows her colors) or the numbers also would work for point values. She's a pretty active little kid and it seemed to me like something she'd enjoy.

I also am sending her a few Little Golden Books I picked up earlier - Richard Scarry's Best Little Word Book Ever (I loved Richard Scarry as a kid and want my niece to experience his stuff, and also, this seems like an ideal "just barely beginning to think about reading" book because it's lots of cute pictures with the words - like "raincoat" or "bus" - next to them.) And I found a copy, in board-book form, of "The Monster at the End of This Book" - a much-loved book of many Gen-Xers, including me. It features Grover, who, upon being told there is a monster at the end of the book, does his level best to sweet-talk, threaten, cajole, and physically prevent ("building a brick wall") the reader from getting to the end. (Also an early lesson in Pinkie Pie-style breaking the fourth wall!)

Of course, at the end, the monster is just good ol' lovable there is no threat, no bad surprise. I loved the book as a kid partly for the fourth-wall-breaking but partly because of the idea that what you thought was going to be a bad surprise turned out to be a good one.

I hope she likes the books as well as I did when I was a kid. (I still have my personal copy of the Grover one but it's a more-traditional Little Golden Book, not a board-book). I also hope she doesn't have copies already, this is always a challenge in a family with lots of books.

My sister-in-law commented about my niece that "right now, books are some of her favorite things." I suspect that part of that is that there's the "magic" of them providing a story - hopefully that magic will continue once my niece learns to read; I remember really loving books a lot as a kid, library trips were a big highlight of my week.

Odd random thought

I got all the body pieces made and attached to Treehugger last night, but the hair and tail....well, that's gonna take a while. I forgot how long I-cord lengths took.

After getting into bed, I thought about a couple things:

1. There are so many more of these kinds of things I'd like to make.
2. Some of the people who do the stuffed ponies that actually get featured on Equestria Daily must have nothing else as demands on their time, and be able to sew very, very fast, as there are the "new" background ponies from each week's episode showing up the day after it airs.
3. Those people must also either have a giant supply closet with every color of fleece there is, or they live near a fabric store that is always well-stocked.

And I got to thinking about 3-D printing then, and how it could be used to do things like make blindbag-figure sized versions of ponies. (I suspect the only way I have a hope of getting a Cheese Sandwich in that size is to go that route; they're now onto the "let's repeat the first wave of figures" wave, and I never managed to find ol' Cheese and now his "wave" is long gone).

And then I thought: how nice it would be if they had a 3-D printer that would make SOFT things, where you could render a three-dimensional version of the stuffed toy you wanted using software, and then the printer would fabricate it.

Then I thought, given the 3-D printers I've seen (they use spools of a thin plastic tube, not unlike thread), that really, crocheting is its own type of "3-D printing," just much, much slower and lower tech, and sometimes you have to use trial and error to get the rendering right. (And rip back, and redo...) It's been a while since I designed anything in crochet and really what I need to do is let go of the desire to write up what I design as a pattern because that's the part that stymies me - the idea of writing down what you did *every single round* so you can tell other people. Maybe it's better, when I want something, to just scrumble it up without trying to remember or note down what I did....maybe letting go of whatever tiny fleeting fame I might gain as a "designer" would allow me better to just make what I wanted *for myself*.

I wonder how designers do it? Do they write down instructions for every row as they do it? Do they make the thing, take it apart, and then re-make it to be sure? (I would hate having to unravel one of my critters and re-do it). Or is there some kind of way of reverse-engineering that they can do and I cannot, by looking at the finished creature and being able to see, "Oh yes, I did three HDCs in that stitch, followed by an inverse-decrease in the next two"?

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Some pony stuff

* Working away on Treehugger. Front legs are done and attached, first of the two hindlegs is mostly done. The nice thing about "earth ponies" is that once the body parts are done there's no fiddling with wings or horns. I do have to do her hair, which is going to be a bunch of i-cord lengths of a tweedy red and orange yarn - to approximate the dreadlocks. I also have to dig in my fabric stash for a bit of calico to make her headscarf - I doubt I can totally match the fabric (yellow with white daisies) but I can come close.

Not sure whether to do Filly Trixie (from the Nerdy Knitter pattern I bought) or to do a Moondancer off of the same standard pattern I used so many times before. (Yeah, I decided I want a Moondancer. I have off-white yarn, and purple of two shades, and picked up a skein of orange Vanna's Choice the last time I was at JoAnn's).

I think the episode she was in - "Amending Fences" - is my absolute favorite of Season 5. It's so sweet, it's a nice story,  it calls back Season 1 (and what's more, the very first episode of Season 1). I've read some commentators suggest that it was the writers' thank-you to Lauren Faust, who rebooted the series and then left the show ("Creative differences," I think - with Hasbro). If so, that's a lovely thank-you for them to have done. There's just something that feels so *special* about the episode.

 It also does, in its own way, hark back to the earlier incarnations of My Little Pony - the character names, but also the sheer sweetness and gentleness of the storyline.

* I liked this weekend's episode. I'm going to have to watch it again in the re-runs to catch all the nuance (which is why I like the show - the tiny little things there for you to notice). Rarity and Applejack are "called" to Manehattan (the map thing is back). They are to help Coco Pommel, who was seen last season (There were sort of "understudies," in a way, of several of the ponies, that reinforced the Mane Six's good characters. I think Coco was the most positive of these - she wasn't an antagonist like Lightning Dust was, she wasn't dishonest-turned-honest like Silver Shill....she was an underling of the antagonist in her episode, but she did what she could to undo the antagonist's harm).

Anyway, Coco is trying to revitalize a theater-in-the-park thing that had been part of the community she lived in in Manehattan, program that Charity Kindheart (got to love those Pony names!) had originated - Charity was a designer for "Bridleway" (Broadway) but she had a community spirit, and gave back to her community through these plays...but when Charity moved away (to be closer to her "grandfillies"), the theater program fell apart.

And once again, Ponies tackles a subject that adult viewers - or at least, this adult viewer - can totally relate to. The whole idea of volunteer work, and how someone who is very strong leadership in a volunteer effort, when they leave (or die, which is sadly what I've seen happen around here), the volunteer effort falls apart, because that strong and valued leader isn't there.

(You also see this sometimes in churches, when a well-loved minister leaves or retires - it's almost like some of the flock give up in the absence of their leader. What REALLY should happen is a new leader coming forward - in a volunteer effort - or the flock rallying and doing the best to support the new minister - in church - but human nature seems to be such that sometimes when a strong leader leaves, the "followers" do kind of give up).

Well, Coco really wants to bring the program back. But she's just one pony, and she also has her career she has to attend to (this is starting to sound very familiar to me).

So Rarity and Applejack offer to help. And they try to recruit volunteers to help. And NOPONY wants to help, delivering increasingly weak excuses. (Again, sounds VERY familiar to me). One Pony even talks about how "exhausting" his job is, and how "very busy" he is - and then he lies down in a raft/boat, pushes off from the shore, and floats downstream - the impression being that he's not that busy, after all. (And I've been there and seen that. One of my friends says, "If you want something done, ask a busy person" and sadly, that's often true).

So Applejack offers to clean up the park "All by herself" (shades of the Little Red Hen in this one). Rarity offers to help with the costumes. And we see Applejack working all by herself - making very little of a dent, exhausting herself, wrecking her hat in the process. (And I admit, it's hard for me not to feel angry at those stupid lazyponies who didn't help her. Projection.)

She doesn't get very far, and when the acting troupe shows up, at first they are unhappy. But they start trying to put the play on, and ponies gradually show up to see it.

One of the great tiny details: the actors have taped "Cutie marks" pertaining to the character they are playing over their existing cutie mark. I suppose somewhat like actors wearing make up or wigs on stage to change their appearance, or like part of the costume. But it's those little details, those things that flesh out the Equestrian world and culture, that make me love the show so much.

And the ponies realize at the end of the play that, why, if they each only did a little bit, they could have their plays in the park back, just like when Charity was here!

And if the pony world is better than the human world, they will - in the human world, there are a lot of people who talk big like that, and then never, ever follow through, and it's the Applejacks of the world that are left trying to pull all the dandelions alone...

A couple other little things:

* The "Mad Men" styled background ponies were in this one again. I love that kind of little detail; to me it says the animators/storyboarders are having fun with this and I like to see people having fun with their work in that way.

* Nice little "Peanuts" shoutout with Rarity having an "advice booth" like Lucy's psychiatry booth.

* Possible "Frogger" reference - the birds'-eye view of the Ponies trying to cross a busy street?

* Applejack doing a Spock eyebrow.

* Literal-minded Coco Pommel:

"Applejack: You bet your boots we will! 
Coco Pommel: Oh, I don't wear boots. I find they chafe my calves when I walk. 
Applejack: It's just an expression."

Of course, it's possible no one in Manehattan has heard a "countryism" before, but I prefer to think of it as Coco being kind of literal-minded like I am.

* Two things that I thought might be Chekov's Guns that didn't go off in this episode: the comment about "missing the Sisterhooves Social" (though a future episode is called Brotherhooves Social, so maybe it's a delayed-action Chekov's Gun) and the construction-pony who showed up in the audience (I thought he'd go, "Whoa, I can rebuild that stage, let me do it!")


I also watch the new Equestria Girls movie. (This is the one with human-world versions of the ponies - teen girls with the voices and mannerisms of the Mane Six).

Eh, meh. I'm not a big fan of these, I prefer my Ponies as ponies. And I think this one was kind of a big mess - though I think I read it was shortened slightly from the dvd release for broadcast, so maybe that's it.

But a couple of thoughts:

* The idea of the evil (or really, just very competitive and heartless and unfriendly) prep school made me twitch as I went to prep school and actually found it much friendlier and less-excluding than the public junior high I attended. So I admit I was already slightly prejudiced against the whole idea.

* And yeah, I get that it was an alternative-universe thing, where "what would happen to Twilight if she hadn't made friends" but having it wind up with human-Twilight becoming a monster (because her desire to acquire knowledge outstripped her sense of humanity and compassion) was also kind of uncomfortable, it could be overinterpreted into a "See, kids, this is what happens to you if you are an egghead, so don't try too hard in school!"

* Really don't like the phrase "Pony Up" for the apparent emergence of friendship-magic because when I talk about "ponying up" I mean "paying money for something I have to pay money for, but would rather not"

* Not enough time devoted to the actual competition, too much time to lead-up and exposition. And yet, oddly very little detail of the prep school kids, I could hardly even relate names to characters outside of Shadethrower (er, Sugarcoat). Lemon Zap or Lemon Twist or whatever her name was probably had the coolest character design (in my opinion) but again, not enough development there.

* "Principal Cinch" which made me wonder if there was another five-letter word, beginning with a B and not a C, that they would have LIKED to have used but which would never had made it past the censors. (The typical big-baddie-schoolmarm character without a single likable characteristic. In reality, those strict schoolmarms MOST OF THE TIME actually have the kids' best interests at heart, but the kids can't see that....not here). And there's "Dean Cadence" which had me going "Dean....and 'Principal'.....not how a prep school works." (it's Headmaster, not least at every prep school I've known)

* In the end, Human Twilight moved over to Canterlot High so she could learn about friendship. And I confess, my reaction was, "Okay. So there's no need for Pony Twilight to come back to the human world. So can we be done with these now?" I don't know if there's another EG movie planned, I suppose if the dolls from this one sell, there will be, but, meh....I think the first EG movie was the best, the second one was OK, I really didn't like this one

*Also, when human-Twilight crossed the streams breached the dimensions, and the humans could see into Equestria - ugh, that was a super uncomfortable moment for me. (And I wonder- were the ponies seeing through to the human world? Did the Ponyville psychiatrists wind up with a bunch of new patients presenting with strange hallucinations? Or were there a couple of Ponies in Black running around frantically with flashy things to try to "clean up?"

I dunno. I just don't like the idea of the two worlds being that closely connected and I REALLY hope Hasbro doesn't eventually decide it's a good idea to link them up and put humans in Equestria and vice versa.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Not quite done

I got 60% of the fieldwork (24 of the 40 total blocks) done. That took just over two and a half hours but I could NOT do more - it's very humid here this afternoon and I could tell my breathing was compromised. Also, I was getting what I would call positional hypotension (if I didn't have high blood pressure) every time I would lean over to look at stuff - I'd straighten up, get dizzy, and then have to "take a knee" in a couple instances.

I MAY have to talk with my doctor in January and see if there's a way we could reduce the dosage of the metoprolol. That is, if the dizziness issue continues. (It could have been humidity; that can do it to me). If I hadn't had good blood work just last week, I'd suspect low iron, because that's what it felt a little like.

The good news if I can get my butt out there at or before 8 tomorrow morning, I can be back in time for the New Pony episode at 10:30. And I've decided that upon completion of the fieldwork, I am declaring the rest of the weekend a Weekend of Slackdom....I got the necessary grading done this morning, the exam I needed for late next week is already written and typed, and I'm ahead enough on everything else.

(Also, first thing in the morning, it won't be so HOT. I am ready to be done with HOT. It was in the low 90s today, which is really too much for late September.)


Also, I started doing some shelf-pulls of books I will probably never re-read (and a few I bought cheap from Daedalus or somewhere and probably won't ever read). I also have, I think, all of the Dark is Rising sequence in paperback, and I bought the nice Folio editions when they were on sale - no need to keep duplicate books.

Still unsure what to do - there are apparently no drop off points in my area for donating books for people in prison, so I'd have to mail them to one of the clearinghouses. At one time they were doing Books for Africa but that was mainly collecting textbooks or things like "classics" and most of my weeds are recent novels.... Maybe I should ask one of the librarians if she has an idea as to a good place to donate the books. The Dark is Rising ones are technically YA books so maybe a school would like them....

This is where I wish all of y'all lived near me, I'd just invite you over and have the books spread out and tell you, "Take the ones you want or know someone who would want them."

(I don't want to do a Little Free Library. For one thing, I have no idea if my city would sneer at the idea and I don't want to come in for more scrutiny, and also, I confess, I am uncomfortable with random strangers coming on my property; my house is awfully close to the street.)

I could post a list of some of them on here, I suppose, and let people e-mail me with requests, but then, there'd be the cost of postage, and with having to economize a bit I'd not be comfortable sending books out.....and we don't have a used-book store here any more or I'd take them in and trade them in for a cookbook or something. (I don't quite have the energy to set up an Amazon marketplace....)

Friday morning random

* Fieldwork this afternoon. I'll probably be happy once I get out there and start working, but I always kind of dread it before hand - making sure I have all the stuff needed (data sheets, clipboard, sampling frame, identification books, enough pencils, water....maybe I take the camp stool with me also, this go-round, as I've been have a few, probably medicine-related, bouts where I just suddenly feel tired and really want to sit down)

* I was thinking sadly this morning, "If I had someone in my life who was handy and who really loved me, he* could say to me, "Okay, here are the measurements for the sink. Let's go out to the Lowe's and pick out a new one and then I will help you install it."

(* It's always a "he" in my imagination, just how I roll).

But that's not how my life works; it will probably be more like the plumber comes in, says the sink needs to be replaced, I flail and ask him to get one because I'm afraid of getting the wrong size and then I get a very blah sink that isn't interesting. (But would be cheaper, and that's a consideration now).

I can't do it myself; I'm not quite handy enough and also, I fear I wouldn't be strong enough to lift the old cast-iron sink.

* I never did replace the ceiling fan in my bedroom; I am limping along using the floor lamp on the side of my bed. The thing with the ceiling fan replacement is that I need to totally clean and clear out my room FIRST and I just never can find time for that. I'm actually considering either buying another cheap floor lamp or maybe just moving the one from my sewing room (until I need it again there) so I can have a little more light.

One big thing i need to do is weed books. Weed heavily. I have some I've read that I'm quite sure I will never need to read again ("The Master Butcher's Singing Club," which I found on the shelf again the other day when looking for a particular devotional book).

I probably will just take all the weeds to the local public library; they do used book sales. Then again, I saw something somewhere about a list of what books would be appropriate to go to prisons and if I have any that are, I'd like to send them there - if I can help someone learn and be rehabilitated, I would like to.

* I also never got the back fence fixed, though that was partly because everyone I asked to recommend a fence company came up dry. Apparently good chain-link fence fixers are thin on the ground here? I have someone else I can ask but I need to get that done some time. Every day I get the mail I worry about getting a nastygram from the city about it. Though given the degree to which they are raising our water and sewer rates, I think a citizen would be justified in going and complaining and saying they need to save their pennies so that it can go to the water bill which is going to fund some city pet projects.

I think all the broken stuff is eating at me and making me sad.

*How do people who work full time and have families manage? I am much less busy than a woman with kids and I can barely get everything done. Or am I just completely incapable right now? (I have a sinking suspicion I may need to go back to my doctor some time; it's entirely possible my "can't be bothered" feelings about some of this stuff could be creeping, low-level depression: two of the too-many meds I am on (the singulair and the metoprolol) list that as possible side effects. Though it's also possible I need the dosage on the metoprolol dialed back some. I'm gonna wait on that and maybe bring it up at my January appointment if I'm still having low energy and a general feeling of can't-be-bothered. Oh, I'm getting all my NECESSARY work done, it just seems that between that and the keep-myself-alive-and-hygienic tasks, that's ALL I do.

Or it could just be it's still a really bad allergy season. I don't know)

Probably what I need to try is (a) make arrangements to replace the leaky sink, (b) find someone to fix the fence and then see how I feel, maybe I will feel a burst of something-like-accomplishment and will have the energy to start mucking out my bedroom and actually get someone in to replace the fan. (I have a day coming up in a couple weeks where there are no morning classes so it would be ideal to get the electrician in then....). Yes, all of that costs money, I guess I will just be doing a combo platter of NO yarn or book buying for a while* plus maybe tapping into savings.

Entropy is a pain in the neck. Well, okay, the stuff that is constantly breaking in an old house and needing repair isn't TRUE entropy in the chemical/physical sense, but it FEELS like entropy.

(I always feel like there should be another draconequus on MLP, named Entropy.

maybe even Discord's auntie?

Heh. I see what I did there. Then again, I think part of Discord's character is that, like Tigger, "he's the only one")

Anyway, I do almost envision entropy, or whatever you call the constant need to fix/clean/change/whatever stuff in the world as like a malevolent force; some days it seems like stuff breaks when I have the least volition to deal with it.

(*With the exception of mid-fall break, my friend Laura and I currently have plans for a Longview meetup and yarn shop trip. And I'm NOT driving 3 1/2 hours and going to one of the few yarn shops I ever get to without taking the option of buying a little yarn. I'm hoping my two-hundred-and-something check from the publisher comes before then....)

ETA: I have an appointment with the plumber for Monday afternoon, so hopefully at least that will get sorted next week. Best case scenario is he goes, "Oh, this just needs re-sealing" and he takes care of it and everything is cool. Likely worst case scenario: I need a new sink and it's more expensive and time consuming. Unlikely worst case scenario: They need to rip open the wall and redo some of the plumbing to bring stuff up to code for the new sink. (In which case, I don't know, I might just keep a bucket under there instead and empty it periodically)

Thursday, September 24, 2015

It's always something

So, this afternoon, I pulled everything out from under the bathroom sink. Threw a ton of stuff (mostly old, mostly-used-up shampoo bottles and a couple boxes of feminine hygiene products that got wet) away. Turned the water on and watched.

It's a weird old sink - there's the main piece, and then there's a separate piece that catches the water from the "overflow" hole and directs it down to the main drain. This piece is apparently welded on with some kind of blackish, caulk-like substance covering the welds. It's leaking along the welded area. (It looks like a much-less-rusty version of this one, you can see where the overflow is attached. I think that's a steel sink and mine is cast iron, which is marginally better)

I have a plastic tub under there for now to catch the leaks but I guess I need to call a plumber in. My dad offered to pay if I need a new sink (I have fretted several times to him about how severely I am going to have to economize) but I admit that I feel like I should cover it myself, and if it comes to it, eat rice and beans for the rest of the month or whatever.

That won't happen tomorrow, though. I need to get out and do some fall fieldwork and I had already scheduled that time. It'll have to be some time late next week. At least this isn't an urgent thing.

I don't know. This kind of stuff, for some reason all the stupid little logistics of arranging one's life, the junk like making time to do laundry when you're busy, is what undoes me the most. I can deal with the big stuff. It's the little stuff on top of the big stuff that makes me break down crying on the kitchen floor on a Thursday night.


Encore is showing "Guardians of the Galaxy" and I'm half watching it. I realize that in my current mindset, the character I am most like is Rocket - I grumble a lot under my breath and complain about "idiots." Not a good mindset to be in. (Groot is probably the character that would be the most desirable to imitate - kind (he gives that little beggar girl a flower) and self-sacrificing and protective of his friends.)


I did finish the body of Treehugger and attached her head. Trying to work up the motivation to do a few rows on the first (of four, the thing that frustrates me about quadruped creatures) leg.


I'm getting hit again with lots of dodgy-link-containing spam comments from 'bots who are clearly non readers. The spam winds up going  where the goblins go but it still annoys me and makes me slightly sad. Again, it's the little things: I also get annoyed that nine times out of ten, when my phone rings, it's UNKNOWN NUMBER or TOLL FREE CALLER so it's some scammer trying to scam me. It makes me unhappy that most of the potential interactions I seem to have these days are people trying to rip me off in some way. Does not give one a good view of humanity and it perhaps reinforces my Rocket Raccoon-like mood.

it does bug me that the ratio of spam comments to real comments on here is like 10:1. Spam is just one of those things that should not be.

On choosing wisely

We got the whole-megillah information on the new health insurance plans today.

It looks like, I can avoid the $70 monthly increase IF I drop back a plan level. But I don't know if I want to do that. Co-pays are higher, especially for specialists, the deductible is higher (I rarely meet it anyway), a few things I don't *currently* use are covered less or not covered.So I don't know. As far as I can tell, medication coverage is the same, and that is now unfortunately important to me.

I hate choices like this where I'm essentially gambling on what the future will be. If my health continues as it is right now, the cheaper plan would be fine. If I develop cancer or a scary autoimmune disease, maybe not.

I feel like I'm in that chamber with the Grail Knight and having to 'choose wisely,' but without complete information.

So, I don't know. There's an "information session" tomorrow but I had plans to go and do the field work I HAVE to get done then, so.....I don't know. It's so hard. They're supposedly going to video it and put it online for the folks at the distant campuses so maybe I watch the online video Monday.

I DO know I'm going with the high-rate ("expensive," but not much more than I already pay) dental plan. The likelihood of my needing another crown some day is good, and I know the co-pay is hairier with the cheaper plan. And there are a few bigger things the cheaper plan doesn't do.

I would like

I would like to temporarily resign from adulthood and not have to worry about things like budgets and scheduling and whether I even have a future in this career. I would like to build a blanket fort and hide in it and watch cartoons. I would like to eat pancakes and cupcakes and things that are not-vegetables*. I would like someone to buy me a stuffed animal or dollhouse furniture or a comic book.

But because I'm an adult and I don't have  a choice, I'm going to go and wash up and get dressed and go to work.

(*And actually, I think I need to dial back on the vegetables for a day or two, my digestion has not been happy)

A couple of things:

1. My bathroom sink drain is leaking. I don't know for sure if this is something I could fix with some putty or something or if the whole darn sink needs replacing. I admit I haven't had the energy to check, and the thought of replacing a sink, right after all the bad budget news, makes me twitch. (Maybe I ask for money for a new bathroom sink for Christmas). I haven't been using the sink which makes things more complicated.

2. One of my cousins is getting downsized in the new and ugly way some people are experiencing: the firm he works for is somehow justifying bringing in a bunch of H1B visa people and firing their long term workers (because they can pay the new workers less, doubtless). Cousin was told that he could quit now and forgo some benefits, or could stay for three months and train his replacement, after which time his job was gone*.

The good news is Cousin has a new job lined up and will be moving to it, but this kind of thing makes me twitch: couldn't they do a version of that to us? What will all these citizens do if they're downsized and can't find work? What happens to the quality of the work when you take people who have experience and familiarity and replace them with people with just three months of training?

it's bad times, people. Bad times. I wonder if we'll look back on this in 70 years and see it as being equally bad to the 1930s Depression.

(*It would be all I could do not to tell them to stick their job where the sun didn't shine, walk out of there, and never go back. I think Cousin is staying on the grounds that if he trains his replacement, maybe the customers of the company won't be hurt so badly)

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Feeling some better

I can figure out how to rebudget. It's just, there's going to be a little pain in doing it.

Also, I feel better now: I made chili for dinner (I make *very good* chili, if I do say so myself. It is NOT hot - I don't like hot things - but it tastes good, mainly flavored with garlic, cumin, and Penzey's chili powder, which is tasty without being burn-your-tastebuds off. And yeah, I put both beans and tomatoes - both sauce and paste*- in my chili, which is not Texas style but I don't care, it's good)

(*Tomato paste makes many savory dishes even better. It is a source of the so-called "Umami" flavor, which is a savory flavor that many proteinaceous things and also cooked mushrooms have)

I really am finding that nine times out of ten, I can make food better (and cheaper, and healthier) at home than I can get at a restaurant. I make rare exceptions for things like true smoked barbecue, which is nearly impossible to make at home without a special appliance.

Also stupid YouTube videos help, like this one

I openly admit to having an extremely unsophisticated sense of humor. Put funny sound effects on something and I will probably laugh. (Also, the Yakety Sax music makes most things funnier.)

I also want to redo my pedicure tonight. I stripped off the pink glitter polish (and ugh, glitter is a pain to remove). I'm going to go with something a bit more traditional - I have not decided yet whether to do "Cherries in the Snow" (a long-time Revlon color, sort of vintagey) or "Wrapped in Rubies" (A dark, almost metallic burgundy-red).

Some ideas need

Some ideas that are floated need this Wonder Woman response:

Yeah, there was an allegedly-budget-cutting idea floated here late yesterday afternoon, I got the e-mail about it this morning, and that was pretty much my response. (Except with less fabulous haircut and tiara).

I dunno. I think there are some folks here in Full Panic Mode and that's bad, because I can't tell if it's just someone panicking, if it's someone being totally disingenuous and trying to get the faculty and staff to give stuff up under the guise of "retrenchment," or if it really is time to panic.

I admit, I looked at the Chronicle job ads this morning. There's one at a SLAC in Wisconsin but it's not exactly the kind of research I do so I have no idea if I'd have a shot at the job, and also, I DO NOT WANT to leave here, not if I don't have to.

I'm also a little unhappy after learning that the 45% increase in our "water" bill is actually a 45% increase in water, sewer, AND trash pick up - meaning my minimum bill (what I usually am billed, I don't use that much water as I rarely water my lawn and am careful otherwise) will go up about $30 in a month. And my health insurance costs are going up $70 a that's $100 I have to find now in the budget, for not-fun things. (And of course the price of food steadily marches upward....)

So, what am I going to do? Scale back on "fun" spending (buying yarn, etc.) and perhaps cut back a little on my charitable giving. I HATE doing that second and I feel like I'm being a bad person for considering it, but....I don't know. I don't want to cut back on contributions to my retirement fund as I might wind up needing it earlier than I originally anticipated. (And I don't want to wind up having to accept charity some day because I gave so much earlier on). I can't cut back much on food; I don't eat at restaurants more than once or twice a month and I rarely eat meat, and I consider buying fresh fruit and vegetables an investment in my health rather than a frippery. Probably cheaper Christmas gifts this year and I will be asking my parents for stuff like new shoes rather than "fun" things. Ugh.

I had dropped back to getting a Graze box monthly (a lot of the things I can't really eat, because hard food), so I cancelled it altogether today. That's $6 a month. (And wow, do they try to guilt people into staying. I wanted a place to say "I broke a tooth once and now am afraid to eat nuts, and also, I need to save every penny I can")

One place I'm going to cut back is scholarship giving at the various institutions I attended. It's sad but it is a place I can cut out without feeling quite as much guilt.

So yeah,  I'm not happy about this proposal of "Do some more work for no more pay" especially because I fear that if we agree to THIS, then something else down the line that is more-work-for-no-more-pay will be added. And on, and on. (And there have been no pay increases, not even the "experience bump" we normally get).

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Not a ponification

There's a movie based on the Peanuts comic strip coming out. (Yes, I admit: I'm apprehensive but I hope Charles Schulz' family wouldn't let Hollywood mess it up or put in flatulence jokes or something similarly ruinous).

There's a fun little website called Peanutize Me where you can make an image of yourself as a Peanuts character (or how you wished you looked, were you a Peanuts character).

Here's the closest I could get to the "real me":

It probably goes without saying I'm the one on the right....

Monday, September 21, 2015

Some wild orchids

I had to mow my lawn today. One of the yaupon hollies decided, for some reason, to do a mess of sucker sprouts off its roots. (I don't know why ONE of them did it and not the other. I can't remember now if yaupons are dioecious or not, and if so, would one sex or the other be more likely to sucker-sprout. I HOPE it doesn't mean that one bush is sick....)

So I wanted to mow down the sprouts, and also get some of the tall straggly cruddy grass that invaded after disturbance (having my yard torn up a few years ago to replace the water line into the house).

But, I held off, because the wild orchids that live in my lawn were getting ready to flower, and I wanted them to get to the point where the flowers were out so I could SEE them clearly and avoid them. Because I don't want to mow down wild orchids.

orchid 1

Here's the single-flowering-stalked one. (It's been a banner year for these; there are more flowering than I've ever seen in my yard). This is Spiranthes cernua also known as "nodding ladies' tresses orchid."

I knew this species from Illinois, where it was pretty much considered a threatened species. It seems to be moderately common in prairies here (it's on one of my field sites). I assume that my yard, way back when (even before it was part of the Dixon Durant farm, in the very early days of the last century), must have been prairie.

And it makes me wonder how many years these things were in hiding, how many summers they tried to send up flowering stalks only to get them mowed down? I don't know how long orchids live but some perennial wild plants can live for a hundred years or more. (It's also possible these things had enough years they set seed to keep the population going - I have no idea how good seed germination is in these). I'm quite sure no one planted them, because of where they're located in the yard.

Orchid 2

This year, a couple of the plants even sent up multiple flowering stalks - this one has three. (All told, there are six or seven stalks I can see in the yard. I mowed carefully around them all)

I know I tend to see things as being more symbolic than they actually are, but way back in September 2001, when I first bought the house, it had also been several weeks since the lawn was mowed and when I came over here after officially taking possession of the house, I saw the orchid flowering stalks. And I took it as a good omen - because I am a prairie ecologist, because I had seen these before but only in a state where they were rare and uncommon, and because I have long been a fan of Nero Wolfe mysteries, and Wolfe famously has an orchid collection (though I think he only went for the very showy varieties, and ladies'-tresses are very small and quiet as orchids go).

Every year, I watch and hope to see if they flower. They don't, always. It seems like years when we have a wet spring followed by a hot, dry summer are the years in which it sends up flowering stalks.

I'm always happy to see them. I want them to continue. I'd like, whenever, for whatever reason, I pass the house to another person that the orchids are still there, and maybe I can point them out - and hopefully, the person will treasure them as I do.