Tuesday, July 22, 2014

And then this

I have started a few new projects, with the thought that, "If you can't think about ordering new yarn, at least you can begin new projects."

I started a pair of "simple socks" using the hot pink tiger-striping yarn I bought a while back. I am doing a spiral rib on them (which means if I take them over break, I'll photocopy the directions for that from Folk Socks so I don't have to carry the whole book just for that). They're not "tigering" as much as I had hoped they might.

I also pulled out the skein of Verdant Gryphon "Traveler" I bought almost a year ago for the Lakkos Cloche from Knit.Wear. I had put off doing this pattern because (a) it's done on very short circular needles and that sometimes bugs me (though I'm finding it not that bad, on 16" needles) and (b) it has shortrowing, which always looks harder in the pattern than it actually is to do. Here, the shortrowing allows for the back and "ears" of the hat to be longer, and the part over the forehead to be shorter, so you don't have to wear the hat tilted back on your head (or bagging off, like a Rasta hat) so it's not down in your eyes. I can kind of see the way that shortrowing works here.

I still have dreams of designing, I mean really designing, not just fitting a lace stitch pattern into a standard 64-stitch sock, some day. And I like to think that each time I use an "unusual" technique, I'm learning a little more about how that technique works and maybe some day I will suddenly be able to design. (Yeah, and maybe someday I'll see the light and suddenly be able to play by ear or improvise on the piano). I know that's unlikely but I still hope.

I don't know. I might start something else. I was looking at a couple of skeins of Swan Island yarn I bought a while back for a shawl. I cannot, for the life of me, remember what pattern I was going to use. I even flipped through the issues of KnitScene I had sitting out because I thought it was for one in there, but I'm not finding the one that made me go, "You want this yarn for that." I might have to try searching my library on Ravelry....I'm quite sure that I bought the yarn FOR a particular pattern, rather than just "oh, that's pretty, I want to knit with it, two skeins would make a shawl."

I suppose that's the mark of having too much yarn, just like when you buy a book and realize you already own a copy is the mark of having too many books.

I'm just done.

I'm ALMOST done with classes for the summer: finish a tiny bit in one class and do an exam review today, other class is not meeting. Tomorrow I give an hourly exam in one and do final review in the other; Thursday is final exam day in both. I have the grades nearly calculated.

But I'm just getting DONE. The dude I'm trying to hire didn't call me back despite my call and message requesting a call. I don't know whether to call back AGAIN and say something like, "I'm going to try another service, thanks" or what.

Because now someone who has lived here longer than I have is telling me "They can't be complaining about your back alleyway, you don't own that. Are you SURE they didn't mean the north side of your house? (Which is as narrow as an alley, and which I have cleared out, in fact, I did that Tuesday afternoon). So I don't know whether to be "that woman" and go down to the city hall (because I get sick of playing phone tag with people) and ask them point blank, "Do you mean the paved alley on the East side which is just outside my fence, or did you mean the narrow area on the North side of the house" and get them to draw it out for me. And then tell them the guy THEY recommended is flaking out.

Then again, everyone else on my alleyway has theirs largely cleared out, so maybe that's an expectation, I don't know. And I'm unwilling to fight the city over "you own it, it's your responsibility" because I know they'll find some way to make my life miserable over it.

I wouldn't be so stressed about this except I'm leaving for a short break in about a week and I don't want the "deadbeat" tag applied to me, and further penalties levied. (They couldn't cut off my water over this, could they?)

In the past couple years, every interaction I've had with the city has been negative. Last year there was the month when they lost (or rather, the post office lost) a bunch of people's water payments, and rather than doing anything like giving a benefit of the doubt or even a second notice, they send letters to arrive on the day the payment would have been due, that said, in big red letters, "YOU DID NOT PAY YOUR BILL THIS MONTH. IF YOU DO NOT FIX THIS WITHIN FIVE DAYS, YOUR WATER WILL BE CUT OFF AND IT WILL COST $100 TO RESTART IT" Never mind that I've paid early or on time for the twelve years I've been a city water customer. Never mind that apparently 100 or more people were in that boat. Nope. Banhammer. And yeah, I get that some people are deadbeats but this is apparently how the world works: the rule-followers get slapped and have more rules to follow and the deadbeats go on their merry way.

(This is also partly why I don't do the trash-off days any more. Well, that, and walking multiple miles over rough terrain on a mid-November Saturday is not so good for my bum hip)

You know? Maybe I WILL be "that woman" and go down there and talk at them and let them know I'm doing my danged level best but that a lot of us work full time and then sometimes some, and the work-people you can hire in this town are often unreliable. And also, this is practically the freaking TROPICS, when it rains in the summer you can HEAR the weeds growing.

I also have to call my health insurer. I got the statement for my bloodwork. I had blood drawn, and a CBC, CMP, and fasting lipid panel done. All routine. Not a rush job. I didn't even go in on a weekend for it. According to the accounting my insurer got, that's over $2000 right there. (I am apparently liable for $160 or so of that, but that's not really the issue here). Does bloodwork really cost that much? I'm wondering if someone entered the wrong code somewhere and if that needs to be investigated. (I'm not saying it's fraud on anyone's part, but rather a mistake. But still, I don't want my insurer to be out some $1800 if the bloodwork actually cost $500....)

I'm just TIRED. Really, a person needs a personal secretary to deal with all the paperwork stuff. (I tried calling the insurer last night but their chipper automated voice told me they closed at 6 pm (it was 6:02) and that if it was an emergency, I was to call my primary care doctor.).

All the logistics, all the stupid little stuff you have to take care of as an adult is what gets me down. I can deal with my job just fine. I can deal with some of the big things in life. But little stuff, like a bill that's in error or something breaking that it's not my responsibility to fix, and all the calling and the waiting on hold and the fighting through phone-trees and the having-to-call-back-because-the-person-you-need-to-talk-to-is-on-another-line is what makes me want to run screaming into the night.

And that's why, when stuff happens like the transfer student coming in on short notice yesterday, and wanting advisement into the program my chair is less familiar with, and when the chair sent her to me, I sat down with her and advised her and even called a couple of offices to get a problem fixed. Because I know I hate ping-ponging around and not being able to get help, so if I can use whatever tiny bit of pull I have to make it so a new transfer student can enroll in classes the day she's up on campus to do other paperwork - rather than having to wait until something gets fixed on the office's own schedule - I'm gonna do it.

I just wish that courtesy would get extended to me sometimes.

(And yes, again, this is partly a broom-on-the-roof issue.)

Monday, July 21, 2014

the right thing?

I hope I did the right thing here. I tend to be really committed to my "job," even stuff that's auxiliary to it, so I never know:

I came in this morning to several e-mails. Two of them were questions about things, easy enough. The third was from a student who lost a scholarship (I won't go into details). I don't remember the student all that well but I could go spelunking in my files to see how they did in my class. The thing is, they want me to write a letter of recommendation for them for the appeal, which is apparently tomorrow evening.

Okay. It's the last week of the summer semester. I collect the "big" ecology papers today and I need to grade them. The students do their oral presentations today. I need to go over my ecology final to be sure it all makes sense before sending it to the printer. I have another exam to give in the intro class (It's written, but still, I will have to grade it).

I told the student "no" because of time pressures. In truth, I possibly could have made the time to do the letter, either by delaying my grading a bit or by staying up here later this evening. But asking a prof to do something with essentially a 2-day turnaround seems a bit much (the students know, I have told them many times, it is in my syllabus and has been for years, that I don't generally check campus e-mail on weekends and NEVER on Sundays).

I dunno. I feel a bit like I'm flaking but then again, at least I said, "No, I can't do that" up-front. (I called the guy who's supposed to come and clear out the alley again....still haven't heard back from him and if I don't by tomorrow morning I'm calling another service because I just want this DONE and I get tired of wrestling with logistical issues that are far more complex than they should be.)

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Another Sweater Back

I finished the back on Hagrid yesterday:

hagrid back

I started the front, too, but am not very far along. I find I get faster at patterns like this with experience, because I know what I'm doing.

I did make this a few inches shorter - this back is 24" rather than the 27 1/2" the pattern calls for. (It's a man-tailored sweater, and obviously for a tall, long-waisted man, because 24" is going to be long on me; 27 1/2" would practically be a minidress. (I am not unusually short for a woman - 5' 7" but my legs are proportionally longer than my waist)

A couple other things:

* I went to see "As You Like It" today. More about that later but this is going to be my next Shakespeare read. It takes me a while to get into the stories of the ones I've not read because I start off going "Okay, who's that?" when a new character comes on stage. I did get the plot but I'm sure a few of the jokes sailed over my head. (But not one that, I think it was Oliver? made, after he caught Ganymede/Rosalind in drag when she fainted....his comment about how s/he "had not a man's heart" while making a bit of a cupping motion (like a breast) over his own chest. Yeah, I'm 12, but a lot of the jokes in Shakespeare are ones that the 12-year-old in us can appreciate)

* I also mowed and edged the lawn. That was a hard job. It's very humid here right now and at the very end, when I was mowing the front lawn, I kept having to stop and "take a knee" for a few moments to get my breath back. (Also, the stupid edger, the line kept breaking, and ultimately the cartridge ran out, and I had old line but not a full cartridge, so I rewound line into the old one....ugh. Didn't work well).

* Current dewpoint is 72 and it "feels like" 92 out there, so that's why I was having such difficulty working. My body doesn't like humidity.

* I've been enjoying Weird Al's resurgence - he's introducing a video a day for eight days. One of my favorites so far has been "Tacky," a parody of Pharrell's "Happy." Part of it is that it's one of the few current pop songs I'm actually somewhat familiar with, but the other reason, it just feels like a "classic" Weird Al video: loud, silly, goofy, good wordplay. (I also liked "Word Crimes," but I admit I love "Tacky" just a little bit more.)

* I also really liked Sports Song, even if some of the online commentators aren't giving it much love. Rather than being an actual parody of an actual song, it's a parody of a STYLE: the college fight song. And oh, it's just chord perfect. As someone who's spent really her entire life in some way affiliated with a university (from being a kid going to University of Akron football games because my dad could get cheap/free tickets as faculty, from being a student at Michigan and then Illinois State, and now a prof where I am now) - well, it just makes me laugh because it does kind of both skewer and celebrate the silly bombasticness of sports-combat.

I also fully expect "We're great and you suck!" to become a rallying cry in the student section of many university stadia. Even if, as I said, the song is a giant parody of the attitude (And a few moments later, there's "Okay, full disclosure: We're not that great. But nevertheless, you suck")

Also, marching in time and drum-leading is not easy and I'm supposing Weird Al was either never in a marching band or hasn't been involved with one for years.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Locally, it's good

I need to remind myself that even if the world looks like it's falling apart (and really, there's nothing material I can do to fix that), things in my own little circle are pretty good:

* I got some more done on the manuscript the other day. I guess I had more done than I was remembering; I might actually have something submittable by the start of fall semester, if I work really hard on it.

* Had my six-month checkup with the internist this morning. Everything is good. Blood numbers are good (she didn't give me a copy of the bloodwork this time but I'm going to trust that everything is good - in fact, she didn't even discuss them with me beyond saying that everything looked good, so I figure that means everything is where it should be). My blood pressure readings have been the lowest they've been since I started this whole mess. (I don't quite know why. It could be being more active this summer, it could be more sunlight exposure. Or it could just be the medication finally really started working well). Heart and lungs sound good, carotid arteries sound good. AND I was down five pounds from the last time I was weighed, back in May.

* My weight seems to bounce around a little within a ten to fifteen pound window. I don't worry about it too much; it's not like I'm yo-yo dieting (which I've read is even harder on the body than staying a steady higher weight). My weight goes down when I'm more active and goes up a little when I'm less active. I was even whining earlier this week that I felt "fat" (based on a photo of myself where I was seated and could see a love handle) but I guess I'm not doing TOO badly. And my doctor seems monumentally unconcerned about my weight, even though if you calculate out my bmi, it's a little scary. I think she realizes that I work out (and I am fairly solidly muscled, just not around the midsection) and that I'm careful about what I eat. And except for blood pressure, all the other health markers I have point to general good health. (Also, I almost never get sick, and she's remarked on that too). I'm thinking that as much as it hurts some mornings to drag myself out of bed early to work out, in the long run, it's doing a tremendous lot of good for me.

* I have leftover mac and cheese in the fridge to heat up for a meal today (and probably, for a meal each day this coming week....) I wonder if macaroni and cheese is related to, or derived in some way from, Alfredo. I suppose it would take tracking down the history of each. I know macaroni and cheese has been around a long time; I seem to remember seeing a recipe for it that Thomas Jefferson liked. And I think Alfredo is a more recent development. So maybe pasta Alfredo is a development (a sophistication of) macaroni and cheese.

* Mostly knitting on the Hermione's Everyday Socks (in fact, I took them to the doctor's with me and knit on them while I waited for her to come into the room). After these, the next small project might be a pair of mitts out of similarly colored yarn (except this yarn is a sport weight and is a Louisa Harding yarn. I've had it in-stash for a while. (And she commented on the "skill" it must take to knit on such small needles. And we talked about crocheting a little. She doesn't knit, apparently, but she does crochet.)

* Because of this having been an expensive summer, and also because I do have a giant yarn stash, I'm trying to work on working down the stash a little (I know, I say that a lot. "Oh, Erica says she's going to work down her stash, LOL"). But I also want to start something new so I think I'll just go ahead and start a few new things, at least until I run out of row counters for projects or run out of appropriately-sized needles.  This cooler weather we've had the last couple days makes me feel like summer isn't this unbreakable grip on us and that sometime soon again it will make sense to wear fingerless mitts and wool sweaters.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

A little cooking

I finally got around to making the Skillet Macaroni and Cheese I had talked about the other day. Because it was rainy and cool for July, and I was tired, and following the news this afternoon made me sad and distressed (and my thoughts and prayers are with the families of the people on Malaysian Air flight 17.)

I pretty much followed the recipe as written, just used much less salt. (I put a little in the cooking liquid for the macaroni; macaroni aren't much good totally salt-free.)

I was skeptical the macaroni would cook up right; I was always raised to cook pasta in a very large amount of water at a rolling boil, and this is a much smaller amount of water mixed with canned milk that you just barely boil.

I should have known: I've never made an America's Test Kitchen recipe that wasn't good. This one is no exception. The macaroni and cheese is lovely and creamy and cheesy. It's not much harder to make than the box kind from the grocery store but is WAY better (and you can use whatever ingredients you want - you could sub other cheeses as long as they'd melt. And I think it would also be good with either chopped fresh tomatoes or well-drained canned tomatoes added to it. Or bacon. Or cooked and drained ground beef.)

There are different kinds of mac and cheese. When I was a kid, my mom most often made the baked kind: you boil up the macaroni, then combine it, a sort of custard base with eggs and milk, and the cheese, in a casserole dish and bake it. (My mom also used to add a little bit of onion, and I think the next time I make the skillet mac and cheese, I'll saute a little bit of onion before adding the liquid to the pan; I think a little onion would add good flavor). I've only rarely made that kind because it takes longer and is more involved.

Then there's the stovetop kind, which, if you're doing the box mixes is super simple (back when I was not worrying about sodium, I used to buy the Annie's white cheddar kind, and it really wasn't bad, for a nearly-instant meal). Or you can make a white sauce and add cheese and then mix in the macaroni. This recipe works on that principle but to save on dirtying pans, you start by heating the liquid (including canned milk, which is a nice touch: skim milk, which is what I usually have on hand would be too lean, fattier milk would curdle, something like half-and-half would be too rich) and then cooking the macaroni in it. THEN you thicken the sauce, not with a roux, but with cornstarch (and the cheese thickens it some, too).

The hot sauce called for is fairly important to the flavor. I used Cholula brand chipotle sauce, which is my favorite hot sauce. (An earlier iteration of the recipe - the one in my Cook's Country cookbook - calls for less hot sauce but also some dry mustard, which would be good too. Or dry mustard and paprika and maybe a little cayenne.)

It does make a really large amount, it looked like maybe 8-10 servings to me (but I tend to eat smaller servings of stuff than the usual recommended serving, it seems). I hope it heats up well. In the future, I may see if I can reasonably cut the recipe down to 1/2 or so of the amount. (I suppose the stuff might freeze....)

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

then there's this

As a result of a chain of Google searching (what I was looking for was the old Steve Allen bit where he read lyrics of rather insipid 1950s rock songs like they were poetry), I ran across this again.

Seeing as I read Richard III earlier this summer, it seems apropos.

Peter Sellers was nuts but he was also brilliant.

(On YouTube, they say he's mocking Olivier's King Lear, but I clearly see a boar applique on his hat, and the boar was the symbol of Richard III... Also Richard III, as portrayed by Shakespeare, was somewhat of a creeper (he wanted to marry his niece), so it seems appropriate)

Back to reading

(I don't have an estimate for the de-brushing yet, but I went back there this afternoon. If I had a buddy with half a day to kill, access to a pickup truck and/or trailer, and somewhere I could dump the torn out vegetation legally, I could do it myself. Most of the stuff is small stuff and also a crapton of that #*%#$&#(*$&% Cynanchum vine. It also looks like someone else in the recent past may well have dumped a small load of their OWN torn-out brush there, leaving it for me to pick up. If that's true: well, Bad Show, Very Bad Show, person, and I hope karma delivers some kind of dope slap to you for that.

The biggest hurdle is where to dump the stuff. I could rent a pickup, in a pinch I could do it without a buddy....but I think the city dump only allows one load to be dropped off per month, and also, they're not open on Saturdays, which would be the most likely day I could do it. If the estimate for the work is reasonable, I'll have the guy do it, but if it feels like more money that what my time and effort would be worth, I will do it myself.)


I tend to cycle back and forth between books. I'll read pretty solidly on one for a while and either get bored with it, or get interested in something else, or something in the book will become distressing to me (I never finished Gulliver's Travels during a particularly difficult period; it seemed SO negative in places and like there was NO race of beings that wasn't venal, stupid, or selfish. No, I didn't quite get to the horse-beings, but they were also purely rational and had rather Peter Singer-like ethics, from what I've read, and that would bug me too)

I've been trading off between "The War That Ended Peace" (an account of the states and attitudes of various countries and their leaders in the run-up to World War I; mainly it reminds me of how much the European aristocracy of the past annoys me), one of the early Poirot novels ("The Death of Roger Ackroyd"), and, recently, I restarted "Pietr the Latvian" by Simenon. I had kind of buried it under some other books and forgot about it, so I just restarted it. Also, the story has some weird twists and turns (there's a doppelganger in there, and there's some question as to whether the man the police are seeking is actually the one who was murdered at the very start of the book in a train washroom)

"Pietr the Latvian" is the first Maigret story ever. Apparently it was first published serially in a magazine (Few magazines, I think, do that any more. Or at least, the kind of "general" magazine that lots of people read, as opposed to specialty magazines (Does "The Strand" still exist? It used to be known for its quality short stories; I have several compilations of stories from it). Penguin is putting out a nice series of new translations of the Maigret novels and I'm taking advantage of that to get the ones I've not read yet. (Well, had I money enough and space enough, I'd buy the whole set to have a complete MATCHING SET of Maigrets, but that's not gonna happen.)

One minor quibble: like so many reprints that seem to have been scans-without-proofreading, there are a distressingly great number of typos. Oh, not one per page, or even one every five or ten pages, but they are frequent enough to annoy me. The Campion novels that Felony and Mayhem put out suffer from the same problem.

I like detective novels, especially those from the Golden Era.  I suppose Maigret qualifies, even if Golden Era is mostly thought of as a UK and US phenomenon. But Simenon did a lot of his writing at the same time as the Golden Era authors were active, so....

I like Maigret. He's very unflappable and solid. He's actually pretty unemotional; some BIG stuff happens in this novel and he barely reacts to it. For him, getting the job done is the whole thing and he just keeps going, fairly relentlessly. (At one point, I think he goes 48 hours without sleeping or even eating much, if I understand the timeline). I like Maigret because he's very low drama, and yet at the same time, he has Mrs. Maigret waiting at home for him. She loves him and he loves her, there are occasionally nice little domestic scenes between the two of them, mostly involving them eating a meal she has prepared.

In fact, there's even a Madame Maigret's Cookbook out there. I have a copy. I don't think I've ever made anything from it but it's fun to look at.

There's such a businesslike quality to Maigret. And yet, there's also the whole Paris-as-a-character-in-the-novel aspect to the books: Simenon describes the locations so well you can picture them easily in your head, even if the only "Paris" you've seen has been photographs.

Someone, I can't remember who, also noted that the books have a strong existentialist streak, or there's this sort of underlying despair as Maigret philosophizes about the criminal mind. I don't really find that depressing, though some might. For me, it's a look inside a mind that operates differently from mine, and that's interesting. Also, I think Maigret does have his pleasures in life: Dinner with the Madame, a beer and sandwich (or several) from the Brasserie Dauphin, the good hot potbelly stove in his office in a cold Paris late-winter.

As I said, I like Maigret because he's so low-drama. (Yes, sometimes I choose the characters I read about based on whether I'd like them as a person). I think I'd like Maigret if he were "real" and if I worked with him. Other series-detectives: I think I'd like Inspector Alleyn; he also tends to be low-drama but he's also sort of aristocratic-in-a-good way (cultured and with the sense to behave in a classy way).

As much as I like Poirot and Albert Campion on the page, I might not like them so much in real life. Campion's upper-middle-class twit act would probably get profoundly on my nerves after a while, although maybe he'd have the sense to tone it down a bit around me. And Poirot is so fussy and vain - especially in the earlier novels, like the one I'm reading - that I'd find that annoying too. Even though Poirot does seem to be a fan of intelligent women and not overly swayed by mere youth and what we would today term "hotness."

The mystery novels from this side of the Atlantic that I've read the most are the Nero Wolfe series. When I was younger, I loved Archie. Now that I've gotten older, I like to imagine that while I'd be out of Archie's age range (he likes them young and slim and pretty, and isn't above critiquing a woman who isn't), I may be drifting into the range Wolfe would like (he does, on occasion, seat a woman so he can have a view of her legs, so he is not immune to females). And I can converse intelligently on a number of subjects, I don't use "imply" and "infer" interchangeably (heavens, no). And I'd be smart enough to know not to pull my knitting out of my purse while sitting in his office. The food thing might be an issue because I'd be a bit of a food-crank in his estimation, with my sodium restriction and my inability to eat carrots or celery.

(Perhaps it's a bit odd to think of fictional detectives and wonder how they'd react to you, the reader. I don't know. With series novels, though, you get to know the character more or less.)

Another interesting thing about most of these novels: the series tend to span a very long time, longer than the career of a typical detective. And in some cases, the characters do not age over time; things are adjusted in the later books (I believe in the sci-fi universe this is called retconning?) For example, Fritz Brenner is no longer a veteran of atrocities from WWI in the later books; he would have been too old to have worked as Wolfe's chef. And Archie doesn't age, so he can still be the late-20s/early-30s ogler of young women without it getting creepy. And there's also some subtle retconning of Poirot, also: initially he's a Belgian WWI refugee, and in some of the early books he is presented as being a retired police detective, with the assumption that he's already fairly old. But Christie kept him going up into the 1970s (I will never read the "last" Poirot novel, because of Reasons. I prefer to think of my detectives as kind of living in a time warp where they don't age and don't die....). As I remember, something also is true of Maigret: in this first novel, he reminisces about The War (Pietr the Latvian was written in 1930, so The War would have been WWI), whereas in later novels, of course, that would be too early for him.

Oddly, that kind of thing doesn't bother me; I can kind of over look it. (Another odd retconning thing: if Bart Simpson had aged normally? He'd be 34 this year. That's actually kind of scary, though I can see Bart as sort of a grown-but-not-grown brodude type.)

Except I do

No, I'm not out of darns to give. I never probably will be, until I either finally snap or until I die. And that's part of the problem. I care about junk too much. I get to the point where I say I'm "done," except I really am not; I still care, it's just that I'm overwhelmed and don't know how to easily make the problem go away.

I try hard to be a responsible grown-up citizen, so stuff like the citation push ALL my buttons because to me it feels like someone's pointing a big finger at me and either saying "FAILURE!" or "FAKE GROWN-UP! WE GOT A FAKE GROWN-UP HERE!" and that I'm going to be dragged back, not to Magical Kindergarten, but to seventh grade (the very closest thing to a circle of Hell I have experienced here on earth) and be forced to relive all of that so I get it "right" next time.

And yeah, I know. A lot of people have a harder time managing adult life than I do. But I'm not trying to raise a kid on my own, I'm not caring for a disabled family member, I'm not working three jobs, I feel like I don't have an excuse.

At the same time, I feel like people don't tend to see the eighteen balls I'm successfully juggling, they only see - and point out - the one I happened to drop.

I glanced down the alleyway as I drove by this morning (I might go back there this afternoon to look). I could see more of the danged grapevine that is starting to take over in the neighborhood; that may be a big source of the problem, which means it will be fairly easy for the guy to take care of.

The thing is, I don't want him to cut down all the trees back there (and I hope that's not his plan; I just want the brush removed and the vines). I like having a little privacy - the fence on the alleyway is a chain link fence so people can see in my yard. And for a while, I had horrible across-the-alley neighbors who would fight with each other out in their yard and yell horrible words at each other (You can imagine what kinds of words). The man once cat-called me while I was working in my garden, which felt really horrible and icky and creepy and like "can't I be left alone on my own darn property?" and it was extra icky knowing he had a wife/girlfriend/female companion that he had been yelling at not so very long ago. So I admit, maybe letting the brush grow up was something I thought of as more a feature than a bug. But whatever. I'll see what the estimate is, if it's like $1000 or something, I'll just go back there myself and try to rip the grapevine down and maybe spray some stuff (I hate using herbicide but in this case I may have no choice) and try to deal with it myself. It's just, I don't have a manuscript written and that was one of my summer goals and part of the reason that didn't happen is too much of my mental real estate got taken up by just DEALING with stuff that broke.

I didn't have any fun this summer, either. And I won't now, can't afford it. So: Didn't get anything useful done; didn't have any fun. I wasted a lot of this summer. Or at least that's how I feel right now. And I'm teaching an overload this fall (including a 2-hour class I get no credit for doing because of the idiotic way they assign hours in team-taught classes here) so I don't anticipate getting much done then. My chair has already told me the overload will not be "used against me" in any way if my scholarly productivity lags, but there are people above her who don't always pay attention to that stuff. (At one time there was talk of post-tenure review requiring publication of an article a year. At a teaching-heavy school with almost no institutional support for research, that's pretty much impossible if you're going to be any kind of a decent teacher. If they instituted that, and if somehow it became a condition of keeping tenure - well, they'd wind up firing a lot of us, and I dare say they'd probably wind up firing the more committed teachers rather than the people who tend to phone it in in the classroom. No, I don't see that happening, but stranger things have happened on campuses.)

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

How I feel

This pretty much sums up how I am beginning to feel now about all the stupid little stuff going on.

Yeah, I'm approaching "MAYBE I'LL RENT SIX HORROR MOVIES" territory, to use another Internet meme.

An expensive summer

Yeah, this is what it's shaping up to be.

So, I come home from work and find a green tag on my porch. Okay, I think, that means ONG has been in the neighborhood or something and is letting me know the gas was off for a while.

Nope. It's from the city. "Tall weeds or brush." I don't know if someone reported me or if a city guy just saw it. And I admit, it stung my pride: I used to be on the Beautification Committee, before it was subsumed into another committee that meets while I'm in class. But the thing is: when you're allergic to contact with many, many plants, and you're busy, you tend to forget things like clearing out brush in the alley.

Of course, they don't tell you where. (My lawn is mown. Yes, the yaupon hollies in the front haven't been trimmed recently but they're not BAD. Yes, I need to edge but again that's not BAD. There's some stuff in the backyard, but it's all fenced in and I figure most people can't see it).

So I have to call. (I'm sure that's part of the deal: make you supplicate before the City "Authoritehs")

It's the alleyway. Out behind my house where I never look because of the fence and because I mostly worry about the street-view from the street I'm on. Um, okay. I thought the city owned that. But I guess it's my responsibility to de-brush it?

I felt a certain sadness: what do I do now? Do I risk massive hive attack or getting killed by a falling branch or fall off a ladder or give myself a heart attack trying to use my little handsaw to cut things? (Or destroy my hands and elbows for days afterwards and not be able to play piano or knit or write) Or do I call a "guy" and have him do it, and shell out more money?

I decided to call a guy, figuring that the time, frustration, and possible injury probably weren't worth it. I got a recommendation and called him. He called back fairly fast, too, and is doing an estimate for me. He's also going to try to take out the poison ivy infestation in the back end of my back yard, which I'm sure will cost more, but it's not worth it to me to risk hospital time. (For all I know, that could be the source of the complaint; the city is not exactly forthcoming with information).

The first he can get out is a week from Saturday, which tells me he's probably a decent guy (someone who could come out tomorrow, maybe not so much). City tells me that's OK. (I suppose people who fail to comply get a yellow tag, and then a red one, and a fine somewhere in there).

I will just pause to observe: dog that barks all night long, perfectly okay in the eyes of the city. Teenaged kids shooting off fireworks past the supposed noise curfew, perfectly okay. Homeowner gets a little behind the game in shrub maintenance? Oh, we can't have that. (And I will note that there are many yards that are worse than mine. Not in THIS neighborhood, perhaps, but in town)

But whatever.

Then I thought: wait. Could "alley" maybe mean the area to the north of my house, the narrow passage from front yard to back? I had let that get bad, too - the dang grapevines that the birds poop out had taken over. And some kind of Apocynaceae (I looked it up once but don't remember the name, I think it's a Cynanchum): a horrible, climbing, twining vine with nasty milky sap. And it smells. Oh, how it smells. It reminds me of when I had all the teen boys in Youth Group and they'd come to church after sports practice and take their sweat socks off. The smell gets on you and you can't easily get rid of it. And the stupid mulberries and the stupid winged elms. And it had all gotten tall and jungly and I kept looking at it and going, "I need to take care of that" but never got around to it.

And then something snapped. And although I should have been in practicing piano, I just grabbed my clippers and the wheelbarrow and started rage-gardening, ripping EVERYTHING out.

Rage-gardening is like rage-cleaning: you're angry, you're out of darns to give, you just want the project DONE, you don't care if you damage stuff or if it's an imperfect job. I cut and stacked stuff in the wheelbarrow and swatted mosquitoes and mumbled like Yosemite Sam under my breath.

I had a half-hour I could spend and still get the piano practice in. I actually got the area pretty darn well cleared out - or at least, stuff is short enough that I don't think a reasonable person could complain - in that time. Yes, my hands and arms are a little hivey, and my legs got cut up (I didn't bother to change clothes, just barged out there and started working. That's a family trait; my grand-dad changed oil in a white dress shirt, my dad has been known to mow the lawn without changing from his suit pants.) I may have ruined the skirt I had on with sap. (Then again, it's a Deva Lifewear skirt, and they're pretty tough and pretty washable)

But, gah. It's like I get one fire put out and another one crops up.

(I think the nasty plant is Cynanchum laeve, also known as honeyvine. Honeyvine? I don't THINK so. Though it could be C. louisae, they don't mention a horrible smell for the honeyvine, and the smell is the most distinctive thing about this dang plant)

Apparently this is what  my yard is, according to someone somewhere:

(Warning: loud and screechy)

"lame" blogging, too

Lynn did the so-called "famous Proust questionnaire" and remarked that "these are the kinds of things that make lame blog posts." But I admit, I also love these things, so if it's lameblogging to do them, then I'm lameblogging this morning:

What is your idea of perfect happiness? – working on something, making progress on it, having it go well. It matters not if it's data analysis or teaching prep or knitting a sweater or working in the garden. Being busy and seeing progress.

What is your most marked characteristic? –Lots of people talk about how diligent and dependable I am. Kind of a lame thing to have as your best characteristic, but whatever.

What do you consider your greatest achievement? – It's either remaining a kind person and trying to treat others well, or coming back from failing out of grad school (well, not really) the first time and earning my Ph.D. and having a job offer even before I had defended
What is your greatest fear? – Rejection. Or that everyone secretly thinks I'm boring or lame and talks about it behind my back.

What historical figure do you most identify with? – Beatrix Potter.

Which living person do you most admire? – Oh gee, I don't know. I find lots of the people I used to admire tend to wind up having, if not feet of clay, toes of clay.

Who are your heroes in real life? – The people who do stuff like step in and defend kids who are being abused. Doing anything that helps another but makes you vulnerable to being attacked. Military men and women. Good cops. Firefighters. ER doctors.

What is the trait you most deplore in yourself? – I tend to let everyone's opinion into my head, even those of people who are unfairly criticizing me.

What is the trait you most deplore in others? –  big giant senses of entitlement, where they see all others as their servants.

What is your favorite journey? – Riding home to see my parents in a sleeper on the train.

What do you consider the most overrated virtue? – I think most virtues these days are underrated. Being too diligent, perhaps? Because it winds up hurting you?

Which word or phrases do you most overuse? – "Anyway." "I mean." "I don't know, but"

What is your greatest regret? – That I wasn't more social when I was younger, that I didn't date more. It's kind of late now.

What is your current state of mind? – Working on a couple things at the same time

If you could change one thing about your family, what would it be? – Health stuff. That everyone would enjoy good/better health than they now do. And that we were all closer to each other.

What is your most treasured possession? – I have a toy leftover from my childhood. It's very beat-up and kind of unsightly, so I keep it under a pillow on my bed. But it's very valuable to me.

What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery? – Believing no one loves you.

Where would you like to live? – I'm pretty happy where I am, can I suggest changes to the place where I am? I'd like it to be where I am but with less-hot summers, more rain in the summer, a better big grocery store close by, a real bookstore close by...

What is your favorite occupation? – Knitting, sewing, reading, playing piano

What is the quality you most like in a man? – Compassion, having a kind heart. Being interested in something besides making money or making the next "conquest."

What is the quality you most like in a woman? – The same as in a man.

What are your favorite names? – Never really thought about it. I used to give weird, overly-elaborate names to my stuffed animals when I was a kid, like Ermentrude or Theophrastus. I would never saddle a kid with that name, though.

What is your motto? – See post below. Or: "Give no one back evil for evil; hold fast to that which is good."

Monday, July 14, 2014

Into my head

In the course of putting out the minor fires that sometimes an online board moderator has to, a Bible verse popped into my head. The general wording is in a couple places (Romans and 1 Peter for example), but the one I thought of was this:

"See that no one repays another with evil for evil, but always seek after that which is good for one another and for all people." (1 Thess. 5:15). Later on in the chapter, Paul also exhorts the people to 'hold fast to that which is good.'

Those two verses have long been a touchstone of mine, something I carry around and think about from time to time. The "do not give back evil for evil" (which is how I first learned it) is how I try to live my life. I don't always succeed at it, but one thing I've learned is that when someone lashes out at you, you have three choices:

1. You can lash right back at them. This is often very counterproductive and usually makes you feel worse.

2. You can ignore them or leave the situation. That's what I tend to prefer to do with most Internet kerfuffles; just not responding. I don't think of it as being a wimp so much as I think of it as a form of passive resistance; I am not going to stoop to the person's level and I am not going to rise to their bait. Because so very often on the Internet, when someone says something insulting or outrageous, what they WANT is outrage back at them.

3. If it's a friend or a family member (including internet friends), I try to decide if there is something I can say to make things better. Or if there is a way I can refute the hurtful thing the person said without inflaming the situation more. (If I don't see a way, I tend to default to #2 above). Or I try to move on to some point of agreement.

I don't know. As I said, maybe that's a wimpy way to do it. I'm really NOT a pacifist in the classical Quaker sense; I do believe one should defend oneself when physically attacked, and defend someone weaker than yourself if they face physical attack. And I'd probably move to defend a weaker brother or sister against a verbal attack. (For example, if someone in my class called a student who either wasn't doing as well, grade-wise, or even had a learning disability, a "retard" (and yes, I wince to type that word, but people do still use it, and saying "the r-word" might be confusing to some). And maybe I'd respond to someone using a harsh word with me with "Hey, that's really not cool" or "That's not an appropriate word to use when talking with a colleague/professor/whatever" and then let it drop. 

However, I've seen too many situations where snark and snipiness was met with more snark and snipiness, and stuff just escalates. And it gets ugly fast, and there's hurt feelings everywhere, and sometimes people who are innocent third parties wind up getting sucked in to the controversy. (I find myself sometimes having that happen, one of the wronged parties going, essentially, "Hey. You. Be the peacemaker here," or more commonly "Hey. You. I'm going to tell you my side of things and I expect you to agree with me that the other person is wrong.")

And I don't know, maybe I'm just getting old, but I don't have the energy for that. I've found that perhaps 8.5 times out of 10, when someone who is normally not prone to saying hurtful things says something that is, either they are making a joke that came out really badly, or perhaps they're hurting in some other way and they lashed out at you. ("Small input, big reaction, something else is going on in the reactor.") And it's really hard, when it's someone you love who said the hurtful thing, to take a deep breath and go, "They are having some other trouble right now* and they aren't themselves"

(*In my case: it's really humid and my asthma is acting up. Or my hip bursitis is acting up and I hurt. Or I'm worried about someone else I care about because they are ill or in trouble. Or I have something else going on in my life that is worrying me.)

I will say: as much as I love the Internet for a lot of things (there are lots of people I'd never have gotten to communicate with otherwise; it's lovely to be able to order books and yarn when you live in a town with limited buying options for each), it does seem to do strange things to some people. Anonymity (or, really, pseudonymity: you can almost always find out for sure who someone is if you really want) emboldens people to say things they probably wouldn't say in person to someone. It causes, I think, a lessening of tact and "filtering" in some cases. I don't know. Some might argue that it allows people to be more "real" but frankly, it seems to be that being really "real" would be a kind of Rousseau-gone-bad un-civilization. And when you live in a world where weapons of both mass and minor destruction are a part of the technology (and the human population is far denser than it was in the caveman days), we probably NEED that "artificiality" of civilization to keep from killing each other.

But the internet, or some corners of it, there is ugliness that crops up. Even in areas that are usually fairly civilized.

But, as I said, I lack the energy any more (not that I had very much of it to begin with) for going head-to-head with someone and trading barbs. I know the few times I've got in an argument with someone where I said stuff "in self defense" (or really, more, because I was stung and I hurt right in that moment and was lashing out) and I really regretted it later on. Much better, I think, to either walk away from the situation, or to say something neutral, not respond to what's been said with the HURT and ANGER that is the first inclination of every person.

Incidentally, here's the verse from 1 Peter, I like it too:

"Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing."

I read these things and I kind of take a deep breath and my shoulders drop back down to the position they're supposed to be in: "Yes. Yes. I don't HAVE to respond to that person in kind, there is a different way and that works better for me."

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Weekend in pictures

I decided that since that new bottle of nail polish felt so hard-won (it was the one I bought right before my car's battery died), that it was time to change the color on my toes.


Not a perfect job; I wasn't very flexible Friday night after putting a day in leaning over a microscope and then standing out in the heat.

The color is "Plumberry" from Essie. Yeah, I pretty much stick to the pink/red/maybe  slightly purplish spectrum. I can't quite get used to the idea of orange, green, or blue nails for me.

And I got the tomato sandwich made for lunch Saturday:

'mater sammich

Toasted the bread, spread a thin layer of mayonnaise (Duke's, which I DO think I prefer to Hellman's), the whole tomato (I dipped it in boiling water first so I could easily peel it....I don't like the skin on tomatoes). I also added a sprinkle of garlic powder, which is not canon, but which adds a lot to the sandwich (IMHO).

And yes, it made kind of a big sloppy sandwich, using an entire tomato, but I wanted to use it all up (it was a beefsteak type, I think the varietal name was German Johnson) and anyway, the tomato is both the point of the sandwich and the most nutritious thing in the sandwich, so.....

I suppose if you were making fancy little tea-type sandwiches, you would use a single layer of tomato and one big tomato would make several sandwiches.

I decided I really like tomato sandwiches and the next good-sized tomato I get will probably become one.

And it was hot. Granted, this is perhaps an exaggeration because the sensor for my outdoor thermostat gets the afternoon sun, but:

yeah, it's hot

I will say 77 was what I had the a/c set on, so so far the new set-up is doing a fine job.

I also finished the back of the Belvedere cardigan:

back of Belvedere

I wanted to do this partly so I could start one of the fronts to have for invigilating knitting tomorrow. (Front has been started and the ribbing done; I just began the lace section).

This will probably require aggressive blocking before I sew it up; the edges want to curl a lot.

Also, the Zecora I ordered from Build-a-Bear came. I ordered this even before the giant a/c repair, or else maybe I wouldn't have. (This has been an EXPENSIVE week - getting the new furnace at the start of it, and a new car battery at the end, and even before the furnace, buying a window-unit air conditioner)

I'm glad I bought her, though. Build-a-Bear did a good job on this design. And she's HUGE. I put the clothes on her that I ordered along with (it was a way of getting free shipping, which in the long run was cheaper):

Zecora dressed

"I find myself with a very great wish/
to go and see this band called Phish."

Well, maybe not. I thought she'd look kind of hippieish in the clothes but frankly she looks more like a Bangles fan than a Phish fan in them.

(She is smiling but there's something about her eyes that makes her look vaguely annoyed to me, about being dressed in that get-up)

Anyway, I think I like her better in just her fur, so probably another critter will get the clothes at some point.

Zecora hug

Like I said: as stuffed animals go, she's big. And very squishy and huggable.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

And Saturday morning

* I guess I better call the car place Monday. Best I can recollect, I had the battery replaced about 2 1/2 years ago and that might well still be under warranty. I wonder if they'd refund me the cost of the battery if it was? I'd hope so. (I'd also hope they'd have their system set up so it would flag when an under-warranty thing failed). Of course, THAT battery was itself a replacement for a failing under-warranty battery, so I don't know if you can "stack" warranty replacements like that or if the warranty replacement doesn't "reset the clock" and so, for warranty purposes, that's a four-year-old battery in there. If that makes sense.

* I have no idea how long a car battery is supposed to last but it seems my past experience was that they lasted longer than 2 years? That's what I seem to be averaging right now. (Then again, like a great many other things, car batteries are probably made worse now and don't last as long as they once did.)

* And yeah, our climate is hard on car batteries. And we had a cold winter and it got really hot really suddenly. But I can't remember leaving anything on - not the dome light, not the radio (in fact, you CAN'T mistakenly leave that on and get out of the car; if the car is off, the radio shuts off when you open a door). Not the a/c, and I am not one of those people who leaves their car running with the a/c on in a parking lot.

* I wonder if some Fords just have electrical issues that eat batteries. My parents' Escape does the same thing.

*I wish they'd hurry up and get a Honda or Toyota dealership in town; I might be inclined to go with one of those for my next car. (I don't fancy an hour's round trip any time some "official" service is required, and anyway, as I said, I don't know of a reliable in-town indie shop)

* Technology is great when it works but it sure does stink when it doesn't.

* On the other hand from all of that: It was probably a real blessing the battery died where it did, if it was going to die totally. I could have been out at a field site. I could have been in Sherman or somewhere else where I don't know where to go to get car help. It was close to the dealer, the guy didn't charge me for coming out, and I had a promise of a ride home had I needed it.

* At least it started up fine this morning, I got my groceries, and am planning shortly on going over and doing a bit of research work before it gets too hot.

* Groceries acquired include a loaf of English Toasting Bread (a decentish white bread that is low enough in sodium) so I can make a tomato sandwich, now that I have another ripe tomato and most of the makings for Cook's Country's skillet mac and cheese.. It's been a long time since I had mac and cheese so it will taste good to me.

I can also now make egg salad when I want it. (In my mildly ocd-eating-world, types of bread matter. For a cold-meat sandwich or for peanut butter, you want a whole-grain bread. But for a cheese sandwich, it has to be white bread. Egg salad requires white bread, toasted. And I think a tomato sandwich would taste better on toasted white bread, so that's what I'm going to use. And yes, there are very occasionally things about food prepared by some Other that get to me to the point I can't eat it: I was once served a grilled cheese sandwich that was not actually grilled (it was heated, but not grilled) and that contained MAYONNAISE. I like mayonnaise on some things and even eat it with pimiento cheese, but for some reason it seemed a total abomination on a grilled cheese. And I couldn't really eat it. The fact that I was overtired and had been crammed in the back of a car for six hours, with the folded-up walker of the person who had recently had knee surgery banging ME in MY knee every time we took a left turn might have been part of that.)

Friday, July 11, 2014

And more stuff

So I took my car out early this morning for an oil and filter change. And I asked them to check the other fluids and the battery, etc. And they pronounced everything good. (This is at the dealer. I take my car there, even though stuff is more expensive, because I have not heard of a trustworthy independent mechanic in this town - or at least, everyone I know who has cars from this dealer take them THERE for service rather than to an indie guy).

Went over to school, worked a while. Leaving to go to lunch, it took a bit more effort than normal to start the car - it didn't turn over IMMEDIATELY and so far that has been the case, except for one fluke time shortly after I got the car when the battery was defective (but under warranty, so free to me to get it replaced).

I thought, "Meh, it's hot out" and didn't think too much of it. The rest of the day, the same - harder than normal to crank it.

Then I ran to one of the local pharmacy establishments for a few things (including a new nail polish) and went back out to my car.

And: click click click click click click click. Nothing. Wouldn't turn over. I wondered: could something they did this morning have screwed it up?

So I called the dealer, thinking they'd slap their forehead and go "My bad!" and take care of it. Instead, the response was more on the order of "I don't know WHAT went wrong." But they said they'd send a guy out with a "battery box" and if that didn't do it, I'd have to arrange for a tow. (Incidentally, this is all going down at 3:30 on a Friday, which added to my unhappiness.)

I waited. And waited. And waited. The dealership is NOT far from where I was, I could have walked there and back (well, if it wasn't 96 degrees out and humid) in the time I waited.

I will say an interesting sociological observation: people were coming in and out of the parking lot the whole time. Two of them offered to help me or at least asked what was up: The widow of our beloved former dean (I sent her on her way but she gave me her number and told me if they couldn't get it sorted, to call her, she'd come and drive me home) and a lady in an older-model van with a number of pre-teen girls. I don't like to judge but from their dress I do not think they were among the richer folks in town. However, lots of other people in nicer cars just kind of gawped at me and drove on. (I thanked the lady for her concern, told her help was on the way, and thanked her again and told her to have a nice day.)

So at least I knew one person was willing to be a Good Samaritan even though she didn't know me, and that I had a firm promise of a ride if I needed it.

Anyway, the guy finally got there. I was hot and agitated and tired. (I had thought of going back into the pharmacy and waiting, but I was afraid of not seeing him). He told me I could wait in his truck (which he left running with the a/c on) so I could cool down. So I did, and decided this was an experiment in relinquishing control over a situation - normally I'd hang close to the car and watch what was being done and silently worry it wouldn't work - but I was hot and tired and agitated and just wanted to sit down. I assumed he had one of those jumper boxes that allow you to start a car without having to use another car (where I was parked, there would be no easy way to get a car close to the hood of mine; I was pointing in and what was in front of me was a grassy slope. And there were cars of other patrons of the pharmacy close on either side)

It took a while, and I began to despair of it working. Then he came back and said, "It's all fixed. Sometimes these batteries short out unexpectedly" which in retrospect, I should have realized what he did. He said, "Did you settle up over the phone or will you need to go back to the dealer?" and also didn't seem to understand my question of "Do you think I should take it in and have them look at it again?"

Well, grumbling to myself - "They probably messed up the battery somehow this morning and now I have to pay for a jump"

So I went to pay.


Holy horse apples, $140?!?!

I grumbled to myself that that was awfully expensive, but didn't push the issue - what do I know, I've never had to had an emergency jump start before. Well, in the future I'll make sure to park where someone can get at me. (And dangit, now I remember: I had a set of cables in the car. I never use them so I forget they're there.)

I didn't really look at the receipt, which will become important later on. (As I said: hot, tired, agitated, and kind of over a barrel - I had no other real choice if I wanted to get home with my car)

Well, anyway, I paid it and counted it as "learning money" (There's a word, larpengar, maybe? In Swedish that means "learning money"  - that is, the money you wind up paying out when you do something idiotic and you learn not to do that thing again as a result).

Grumbled all afternoon. And worried about my battery: would I be able to get out to get groceries tomorrow morning (I was only going here in town, but still, even the Green Spray is too far when it's this hot out and you need a few heavy things). And what about Monday morning? I need to bring soil to campus for lab! I decided then that if my car just died on me, I'd walk to campus (it's early so I probably wouldn't die) and see if someone would be willing to run me home at lunch so I could get the soil. (I can walk to church if I need to, it's really close)

I also ran out and periodically started the car to check on it. And I decided that after dinner (a baked potato with cheese on it, a salad, some peaches), I'd go across town to the Braum's and get a cone. Because I have to test out the car, right? And doesn't driving a car you had to jump help charge up the battery? (Or is that just one of those things dimly remembered from when I was a kid in the 1970s that no longer applies?)

Every time it started fine,  just like before I had the trouble. Started fine when I went to get the cone.

Anyway, I drove out, trepidatiously, expecting the car to die at every stoplight. (Of course, it didn't.)

Got my cone. ("Birthday cake," which is one of the weirder flavors Braum's does - it's blue with bits of cake in it, and it tastes like either cake batter or frosting. I will try many weird ice cream flavors at least once. I have never had green tea or sweet corn, but have had Japanese sweet red bean (it's actually really good))

Drove home. Decided to leave the car out overnight, on the assumption that it's easier to tow a car from a drive than a garage. And also assuming that the kids who had been shooting out car windows with bee-bees a couple years ago had been caught or had moved on to other things.

Then I grabbed the receipt, to see how they broke it down to justify the cost of a $140 jump.


$109 of that was a NEW BATTERY.

Okay. That makes sense. "Battery box" is apparently Southern Oklahoman for "car battery." (Even though I thought a "battery box" was where you MOUNT the battery in the car) And his comment about "I know we told you it looked fine this morning but sometimes these things short out unpredictably" makes more sense (and now I know not to worry about the battery dying again, at least as long as it's not a wiring issue). And the way he brushed off my "Do I need to take it in and have them look at it again?"

He didn't jump start the car, he put in a whole new battery. I didn't watch what he was getting out of the back of his truck but it did sound and feel like he lifted something heavy out and then put something heavy back in. I guess I assumed that was the "battery box" (I pictured it as being like a quick charger), but it was actually him changing out the battery. 

So yeah. I didn't pay attention and got irritated at my dealer for nothing. (They charged $20 for his labor, nothing for his coming out to do it, and then there was sales tax.)

If I really wanted to be untrusting, I could go and open the hood and look at the battery - I got a good look at the old one while waiting on the guy. But meh, I trust these guys and anyway, I put the car away in my garage after figuring out that it will almost certainly start tomorrow morning.

Also: the clock lost the time setting and all my station pre-sets (and I had a bunch, as I have Sirius XM) were lost. I found most of the stations again and reset it, but the "search" feature now only gives me the Canadian channels for some reason. Oh well, whatever.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Putting on makeup

Except, really not.

(I do want to give my gentle readers a warning: there are a couple of f-bombs in here*. Also I will issue a Vocal Fry Alert in case vocal fry really bugs you).

(*I tend to feel they're unnecessary where they're used, but whatever. Not my video.)

Two thoughts:

1. I am probably way more in touch with my emotional side than is good. (I wish I could be more stoic)

2. I wear way too much blush "kindness" on many days and I have had people take advantage of me for that.

3. The crack about "I'm going to give myself a little bit of a cat eye because I have four cats and if you see that and you like cats you are instantly my best friend" made me chuckle. (I admit, I kind of like the cat-eye look. It's probably not for me - I don't do eye make up - but on some women it looks really good.)

But I do think that's an interesting idea, of what we put on to face the day beyond our makeup. I've talked before about how certain pieces of clothing (or even jewelry) feel protective to me because I have good associations with them (a gift from someone I care about, for example) or because they just make me feel protected (a big boxy purple jacket I have). I do think sometimes I let myself go out into the world "too vulnerable" or "too WYSIWIG" and I'm not always good at letting that figurative knight's-helmet visor drop down to protect me from the slings and arrows of life.

ETA: I knew this video reminded me of a song. It won't let you embed (probably for copyright reasons), but it's here.

it's my Friday

And thank goodness for that.

* Here's hoping for a totally uneventful weekend. It's supposed to be hot, but now that I have A/C again, I can cope with that. I do need to take my car out tomorrow for an oil and filter change, and do some basic grocery shopping. And I'll probably come in here to do some work.

* I finished the head and started the body of Queen Chrysalis. I have to limit how long I crochet on it because it's tight (I'm using a smaller hook than recommended to avoid stuffing show-through) and it hurts my hands after a while.

* I did wind up having to open up the Duke's mayo last night. I wanted to make horseradish sauce for the steak I cooked and had only a drop of the regular mayo I use (Hellman's) left. From what I could taste through everything else, Duke's seems less sweet and more vinegary, so I will probably like it very well. I may have to just plan occasional trips to the Brookshire's when I need mayo. (I don't use it often but I do for making horseradish sauce, for egg salad, and for one or two other things).

* And I confess, and this is where I perhaps fit in with that group described in the book "Twee," that part of the attraction of Duke's for me is that (a) it's different from what I've seen and used before and (b) it does have a certain cachet of being "regional" or something that people "in the know" go for. (As I once commented to the Sunday school class: the reason so many things we call "heresies" now - like Gnosticism, especially - got a foothold is that there's something very attractive about feeling like you have knowledge the ordinary shlub on the street isn't privy to. That's probably also partly why conspiracy theories tend to attract people, even sometimes people that you otherwise thought had more common sense/critical thinking skills.)

* Depending on when I get out of lab, I might run to the local quilt shop to get the new Quilty, it's supposed to be out now. I've gotten really fond of this magazine even if the first issue I looked at I thought it was just a little bit "precious" in its editorial tone, but the patterns are fun and solid and it shows different ways of doing things. And I like some of the columns in it, I always look forward to Ebony Love's columns. (I will do my best to resist looking at the fabric and the yarn when I am at the shop. Though I might have a filled out loyalty card that I think gets me $20 off when I spend at least $20...)

* I probably will come in and sort soil and work on the manuscript this weekend but what I really want to do is stay home and either work on the hexie quilt or knit....

* I would very much like my weekend to feel like this:

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

wanting to hide

There's been another meeting tacked on to tonight's regular monthly meeting. This is the group that had the acrimonious meeting (people yelling at each other) last time.

Guess when I found out about this meeting? Yeah, about 20 minutes ago. Oh, I don't think that was intentional, it was just one of those things where one person thinks another person is going to notify me and the other person thinks the first person will, so I wind up in the dark to the last moment.


Edited to add: Okay, I take it all back. The meeting was actually productive and calm and it wasn't a bad-news type of meeting, it wasn't a "this person is upset about this thing" meeting, it was a "we need to make some plans for the future" meeting and actually we may have a solution to a problem that will come up at some future time.

And people parted in a good mood and feeling happy towards one another.

I remember reading somewhere that the most fervently delivered prayers are either "Help me" or "Thank You." I have to say I can attest to that second one, I just said it over and over again while driving home. (I really, really hate conflict, especially when it seems to be over things that could be fixed by talking calmly.)

And yeah, I know: I'm way too good at dreading things. (Heh. That would make a particularly unfortunate cutie mark: "My special talent is feeling worried about what might happen in the future.")


I just....I get to points where I'm so DONE with dealing with other people and their issues. I know we're called to love our neighbors but I wish some people weren't so good at making that difficult.

I find myself thinking of a scene from the slightly-older Cartoon Network series "Chowder" (they re-run it on Boomerang). One of the characters - he's supposed to be kind of a Bob Fosse knockoff, maybe crossed with a little bit of Alex from "A Clockwork Orange" - says, at the end of an episode, "All y'alls CRAZY" and stalks off. (But he does it with style: a staircase comes out of the sky and dancer-style, he ascends it. (I think the character's name was Paté but that doesn't really matter). But yeah, sometimes I just want to look at people, go "All y'alls CRAZY" and walk away, go in my house, and close the door.)


Two unconnected thoughts

While waiting for my next soil sample to soak up:

What, what? Duke's mayonnaise is favored for tomato sandwiches?

I may have to try this the next ripe tomato I get (danged slugs have got to a few of them before I did).

I've actually never had a tomato sandwich. Apparently they are a thing around here, maybe in the rest of the southern-influenced areas: you take bread (I presume standard white bread), spread it with mayo, put sliced tomato on it. The ladies at church were talking about it when we worked the most recent funeral lunch.

(I tend to prefer my tomatoes cooked but I would try a tomato sandwich with them raw.)

Second: I wonder of Pinkie Pie and Maud have a cousin on their dad's side who is a "soilologist" (like Maud is a Rocktologist*) who is named Mud Pie.

If I were part of their family I would definitely be Mud Pie given my research interests.

(*And they described her as "working on a degree in Rockology." I guess coming out and calling her a Rocktologist....well, that sounds like something else that is definitely not involving rocks and definitely not something you want on a kids' show.)

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

It's all good

* Well, the temperature in the house just dropped below 80, for the first time in four days. I am guessing it will finally achieve the desired temperature (76) once 9 pm rolls around and the air conditioner doesn't have to fight the effects of Ol' Sol any more.

* I paid for my next set of 10 piano lessons today. My teacher has two other students so that makes it more reasonable for her to come into town. (She really doesn't charge enough for her lessons but I'm not sure how to broach that suggestion with her.)

* I was able to actually consider cooking dinner again so I made a celebratory pan of Cheesy Tomatoes. (Heh. Celebratory. The prep school I went to, when we had things like the Academic Awards Dinners, they would give us programs listing all the awards to be given out and before the awards, it would list "Celebratory Repast." I made fun of it back then but now I think I'd feel like that was all Harry Potter-ish and kind of nice. In some ways I'm less cynical now than when I was a teenager.)

* One thing I bought at the Brookshire's  was a bottle of Duke's Mayonnaise. I get Southern Living and they frequently write in there about how great Duke's is, how it is THE Southern mayonnaise to use....and I'd never seen it before, so I bought a jar out of curiosity. (I haven't opened it yet). So later this week I might have to make egg salad or something to test out the Duke's.

(Sometimes I like to play at being a Southern Lady. Oh, I know I never actually WILL be in a lot of people's minds, I have too much of a Northern Bray to my voice and I whine too much about the heat, but still. And I wouldn't so much be the Fancy Southern Lady, who is always coordinated and whose purse and shoes match, and who has yardmen to make sure her garden looks good; I'd more be the Eccentric kind, who talks to birds and wears big floppy unattractive hats, or maybe the Cowgirl kind (if it's possible to be a Cowgirl and a Southern Lady), who can take care of stuff herself and finds playing the wilting flower to get attention a bit distasteful.)

* Anyway, Brookshires' is a fun alternative shopping place. Some of the brands they carry are different, their meat (from my one prior experience with it) is good-quality, the one nearest me has a lovely produce section. And the people working there, again from just a couple of experiences, are very nice. And they're not that much farther than the Sherman/Denison stuff, it's just harder to also pop into the JoAnn's or something when going there. (Then again: they are doing lots of roadwork - to widen a bridge - near the JoAnn's and the Target and such, and the bridge is closed, which is going to make getting around there a lot more difficult, so maybe I should do Brookshires' for my next few "big" shopping trips.)

* And finally, and as promised, the hexie quilt As She Is So Far at this point in time:

hexie quilt, July 2014

Taken without flash which shows the colors more true. I hope it's not too dark on your monitor, it's okay on mine. It's maybe a sixth done, maybe not quite, in terms of area.

Hoping for cool

Update: they're done. Everything should be fine. I went and programmed the thermostat. Funny, it kept wanting me to set it to 85 for the times I was out of the house. Oh, nuh-uh. I know how long it takes to cool this place down and I'm guessing the "return time" is actually the time it kicks back to the lower temperature.

 The hottest I would go when I'm out of the house is 80. We'll see how that works.

I will say I learned that long hair isn't fun when you're hot...scalp sweat, and it accumulates in the hair and it's just ICKY POO. Or at least to me, raised with late-20th-century hygiene expectations, it's icky poo. I wonder  if this is why, in Victorian novels, women who developed serious fevers got their heads shaved, like Esther Summerson in "Bleak House." Because when you're deadly sick, you can't have your hair washed, and if you're feverish, you're going to be perspiring.

I also now see the wisdom of women in my great-grandma's day having a "summer kitchen" to cook and can in, so it didn't heat up the rest of the house. (And: canning over a wood stove wearing a long full dress, petticoat, and I suppose, corset - or did women take those off when they  were just among other women? I know I would.)

But wow, this has been a long four days. Both the worry and having to stay in my room if I wanted to stay cool.

Well, I would say "I have cool" except the job isn't 100% done...the new furnace is in, the new thermostat is wired up (more about that in a moment), the blower is working....but they still need to do the gas line hookup and all that so the furnace will work as a FURNACE.

(My house is a bit cooler now. But I'm waiting for the a/c to come back on; that's part of the new thermostat thing).

So anyway. I come rushing home at 12 minutes to 11 and find the guys out on my lawn, with the new furnace unboxed and various bits of ductwork laid out around it. They were ready to go. (I'm glad I used the restroom up on campus; right where they were working is very close to my bathroom and I have issues about micturating when other people can hear....)

It was Glenn, the older guy who had worked with me before (apparently he's the expert and is also the on-call guy on the weekends - so they have their experienced guys be the on-call people for emergencies. That's a good policy as far as the customers are concerned but not so happy for the dudes who wind up on-call). There were also two younger guys who did most of the moving and cutting and stuff under Glenn's supervision. 

They got started right away. It's actually surprising how fast everything moved. There was some consternation over finding the right breaker to shut off the power to the furnace (ten years ago, when I had the first bad old furnace guy, the one I fired, he had the same problem and declared the house "entirely miswired" and that I had to hire an electrician of his recommending. Yeah, no. That was actually the time that I first used these guys, after I fired him.) Eventually we found the right circuit; it wasn't clearly marked. (it is now)

Anyway, they got the new furnace in and the blower wired up.

And the new thermostat. When he walked in, Glenn handed me a box with one of those new programmable ones. (This one is even wi-fi compatible). I admit I'd resisted getting one because I have known people who had trouble with them, like the heat not coming on when they wanted it to. But oh well. (He said, "I'm giving you this as thanks for saving my folder of receipts" which may have been a nice way of doing it so I couldn't refuse it).

I will say it looks simple enough to program and it is kind of nice to be able to have the heating or a/c run less when I'm not home, and have the heat (for example) go down at night when I want a colder house anyway. I will say there's a five minute "you have to wait" period before the a/c comes back on after you mess with the thermostat, and I'm not totally on board with that, EXCEPT one of the young guys did note that it would help preserve the compressor on my a/c unit, by not setting it up  for short cycling. So okay, I guess. If I can go at least a couple more years before I need a new a/c unit I will be happy. And it may save me some money on my power bills. (I am NOT, however, going to hew to the "set it to 80 for the hours of 2 to 7 pm" like some power companies recommend. When I come home, hot and tired, from doing fieldwork or teaching in a hot building, I don't want to have to wait several hours to be able to cool myself off again.)

I don't know that I will set it up for wi-fi, to be able to program it remotely. Because my schedule is generally pretty consistent, (so I wouldn't need to change it on the fly) and also I admit I'm just paranoid enough of someone thinking they could prank me by hacking in and, I don't know, turning the heat off in the middle of winter).

It's gone from just under 87 to 84 in the house in about a half hour so I guess that's good. (That's the whole entire house that it's having to cool).

The two guys said they had to go grab lunch (I understand and used the opportunity to put together a salad myself) and they also needed to get a few bits and pieces to hook up the gas part of the furnace. And then they'll be done. And then I'll have a/c again, hopefully not to go away again this summer....

I will say ceiling fans make a huge difference; I could sit comfortably in my living room and write an exam (I wanted to be close by in case the guys had a question) under the fan, but here in my dining room where there is no fan it's kind of uncomfortable still.

I paid Glenn already, once most of the work had been done (and anyway, I trust these guys; they've been my "guys" for ten years and they are also the people about whom people say, "They're not the cheapest but you can count on them."). It cost exactly what he quoted me it would, which isn't always the case with workmen and stuff, I've found. (And I don't remember a time when it ever cost LESS than what I was quoted.)

I'm really hoping

HVAC guys are due at 11 am. I'm really hoping for:

a. The fix goes quickly and smoothly, and is completed in good time


b. It works, and I'm able to get my house to cool down this afternoon.

Because, this:

They don't add, "limit indoor activities where air conditioning is nonexistent or turned way warm" (which is what my office and the entire "faculty" part of the building is right now. Yay for energy saving. Not.).

Yeah. It's supposed to be 99 here today, with a considerably higher heat index because it's been so humid. I've managed to remain mostly cheerful because I have the window air conditioner, but I admit, exile in my bedroom when I'm home gets old fairly fast. ("What are you supposed to pack when you go into exile? Are you supposed to pack *warm*?")

I will say I got my bedroom mostly cleaned up (mostly, because I couldn't do anything with the laundry basket that's taking up a big part of the floor) last night while I hung out in there - put away all the woolen clothes I still had out, hung the little jackets back up in the closet, rearranged the books, swept the floor.

Monday, July 07, 2014

It's still hot

It's still hot. And I discovered that my camera's battery had run down, and also, it's hard for me to get in to it because the room where it is is where I stuck the box of all the stuff I moved out of the phone nook in my hall so the guys wouldn't have to worry about knocking out the bunches of phone books places send me, and the church directory, and a box of tissues and other assorted stuff.
So here's a picture of me working on the current sock ("Hermione's Everyday Socks") in a Phydeaux Designs yarn.

One thing I did this afternoon was bag up most of the projects I had spread out all over the living room and put them in here, again sort of to clean up before the guys come tomorrow.

They said they'd be here at 11. The guy I worked with before called at 7:45 am this morning to remind me of my appointment and to tell me he was ordering the furnace but of course I had already left for work. (I did call the service number back and tell them that I was pleased the furnace had been ordered, and would be here at the specified time tomorrow.)

It was very hot today. It was about 86 in my living room this evening, though that's surely partly because it gets the afternoon sun, even with the blinds closed. I'd do a little bit in the house (cleaning, putting dishes away, working towards making dinner) and then have to sit down because I felt light-headed. (Or go into my bedroom where it was cooler). That may have been partly because of earlier heat exposure: I took my ecology class out to do herbaceous sampling. Fortunately it did not take long and nobody died. (I was concerned; one guy in the class a non-trad - former military - and he had referred to having to go to the doctor for an EKG recently. But he was fine.)
What am I wearing? Another Pony shirt - this is a fan-done design from one of those one-day-per-design places. It's a mock cereal box: Luna Pops. Unfortunately I couldn't get the whole design in the shot.  (Also with bonus Prince Turveydrop in the shot). 

Webcams are weird. At least the way Blogger sets it up, it's like watching a movie of yourself (or watching yourself in the mirror) until you hit the button. I actually kind of like it, though it's hard to photograph yourself knitting, because there's no timer. (And I'm not quite flexible enough to hit the button with my big toe, at least not without my knee blocking the shot

Sunday, July 06, 2014

In my room

That's where I've spent most of my home-time yesterday and today. Cool in here, something like 81 or 82 in the rest of the house. Not fatal but not comfortable. (Apparently OSHA or someone has declared that 78 F is the maximum room temperature for comfort)

I mostly worked on the hexagon quilt - it's all handsewing, so I can do it where ever. Yes, I recognize that it's probably not entirely wise to sew - with a tiny quilting needle that COULD get lost - sitting on my bed, but I really don't have space in the room right now for a chair. My laundry basket is in here, as part of the frantic clean-up before the HVAC dude came - normally it lives in the hallway where the furnace closet is.

I made a bunch more hexagons and added some more to the top itself. (I might take a picture tomorrow afternoon and post it. Right now, the computer is in here with me but the camera and the cables necessary to upload photos are in my home office where it's hot, and meh, I don't want to leave my comfortable room again - I had to do fix and eat dinner (don't want to eat pasta with tomato sauce sitting on my bed!) so it's a relief to be back in here.)

After I shut this down I might switch over to crocheting on the Chrysalis. I've got the head mostly done and the body looks equally simple.

I'm still tired. It was very loud until very late at night Friday night (well, actually, Saturday morning, by the clock.). I referred to the semi-delinquent teens down the street? Apparently they bought out a fireworks stand, I saw them out in the street shooting stuff off. They may also have been the people in the alleyway behind our houses that were shooting off really loud - like M-80s - firecrackers. There was some noise last night but a lot less. There was also a great deal of fireworks trash out around Saturday morning. I picked up what had strayed into my yard and the front of my street. I don't know if the teens were made to pick theirs up or if the yardman who came later on Saturday did it (if so, I hope he charged extra) but at least it's gone.

(Incidentally, are M-80s still even legal? I vaguely remember one of my cousins whooping with joy when he found the place they were staying for the summer was near Indian property (I don't know that there are "reservations," proper, in Michigan), and he could buy M-80s there; they were illegal in the rest of Michigan.)

And then finally, this - I think I'm going to include it in at least one Powerpoint for one of my classes. In fact, I might print it out and put it on my office door:

The funny thing is, I tend to remember the Latin names for most plants I work with BEFORE I can remember the common names. Especially if it's something I don't run into very often. (Poison ivy I think of as poison ivy; some of the other more-obscure stuff I find myself going, "Oh, that's Gnaphalium before I think of the common name ("cudweed")

Saturday, July 05, 2014

Well, dang it

The good news: the air conditioning unit itself is fine. And the problem can be fixed.

The bad news: whatever I choose, it's going to be expensive. And will have to wait until Tuesday to be fixed.

(Boy darn, even though I'm spending money hand over fist here, am I glad I bought the window unit air conditioner. Because otherwise, I don't know how I'd manage between now and then. I suppose I could find someone from church who would have let me stay with them, but I hate to ask and I also get uncomfortable dealing with people I don't know WELL well on a semi-intimate (like, sharing a bathroom) basis.)

The blower and circuit board are both broken. Fixing just those would run close to $1000, and the guy warned me, it sometimes takes a while to get Carrier parts here. ("Ain't this place a geographical oddity...")

I will say that now that I think about it, I'd been worried about the blower for a while; towards the end of the winter, there were days when it sounded like it was "whistling" or making other strange noises. And the other night I felt by the vent in the bathroom and thought, "This thing doesn't seem to be pushing air like it should."

The other two options, which he did not push, were to replace the WHOLE DANG SYSTEM (including the AC unit, which is currently fine, but will be a bit of an effort to replace when its time comes, as it is one of the old - gasp - Freon units and will require a larger coil). That's like $8000.

The third option, and the one I chose, costs about two and a half times the blower replacement, but that's to change out the entire furnace unit - new blower, new board, new pilot, new filter assembly, some new ducting. They could do that Tuesday and the unit they install has a 5 year warranty. (The blower by itself would have one year).

Well. I haven't spent MOST of my federal tax refund yet (I ordered the chair but most of the refund is still intact....had thought of getting a new digital camera and maybe some new cookware, but not now). So that's going to partly cover the new unit.  I wanted to do something I could just write a check for, not having to wrangle with 'financing.' I could do the whole shebang with either financing or depleting my savings account to a scary-low level, or I could more comfortably do the furnace. (This is why I am generally pretty frugal - I don't have an iPhone, I don't have a lot of the electronic gadgets people have, I don't buy expensive clothes or shoes....)

The old furnace IS 20 years old - he showed me the code that indicated it was a 1994 model. He said the new one would be more efficient (not that natural gas is horrifically expensive at the moment) but would also be more reliable. (No code lockouts, I presume).

He told me that I could call him when I decided. (I didn't want to commit just then, though I was leaning to the mid-price option of the new furnace). He assured me the new furnace would have "minimal changes for code" which sounds like Famous Last Words to me but I'm going to be hopeful.

I wound up calling him back sooner than I planned (I planned on waiting til this afternoon) but when I went out to run to the bank and take the recycling to the center, I found the little leather folder that he kept all his receipts and stuff in - he had put it on top of his truck and it had fallen off into the street.

So I used that as an opening and called him and told him I had it, and that I decided I wanted the furnace option. They can come out after I get out of class Tuesday morning and install it, should take half a day.

But, ouch. So no antiquing for me today, or for a while - I'm still going to do "big" grocery shopping and also see if the new Simply Knit UK is in, but otherwise keep the purchasing minimal for a while.

I am very grateful I'm blessed to have a career where these kinds of things wind up being more annoyances that lead me to curtail my "discretionary" spending for a while, rather than being an issue of "Okay, I won't have air conditioning this summer and I'll have to save up money before the fall comes and I need a working blower on the furnace." Or having to do financing where I pay interest on the thing I am buying instead of just paying for the thing itself.