Thursday, December 18, 2014

Down rabbit hole

While doing a bit of background research for a future "embargoed post," I got sucked into the YouTube rabbit hole of "old television broadcasts from where I grew up"

First, I found some Channel 8 coverage with Dick Goddard (and his Wooly Bear Reporters). Then I thought of Del and Tom (or Tom and Del): Tom Haley and Del Donahoo, who were the morning guys on Channel 3. They did the news but they also did all kinds of silly, wonderful tomfoolery. My family loved the show, I think because the humor - lots of puns, lots of running gags milked far longer than they should have been - was the kind of thing we all found funny. (Also, it was less stressful than "straight" news).

Both Del and Tom have since gone on to their reward, but here's a retrospective. It even includes, at about 1:30 minutes in, the infamous sponge-cake gag that I remember roaring with laughter over as a tween/teen. (I can't remember what year they did it).

Oh, and "Henry." I had forgotten about "Henry" until now:



Oh, and: "You have a good one, filled with lots of love, and some peace, too."

Almost finished Chrysalis

MVC-030S

So, if "every time a bell rings, an angel gets his wings," what does it take for a Changeling to get her wings?

(A lot more crocheting....)

This is as far as I've got on Chrysalis - she still lacks wings, crown, and face (I'm going to do the eyes like the pattern directs but I think also add a mouth with tiny fangs....). The rest of this will be done after break; as I said, she's too huge to carry with me and work on (but I'm glad I got this far).

This is without a doubt the most complex crocheted OR knitted toy I've ever made, and it's taken longer than any other one.

(There will be some time-embargoed posts while I am over break. What ever holiday you are celebrating, have a happy one.)

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

a striped sweater



Some time during exam week, I dug the Fibonacci sweater (long neglected, because it's a little big on me) out of my closet. It was cold in the building that day and I needed a warmer sweater.

Here it is (fingers crossed, dumb flickr changed how we post/link pictures YET AGAIN):

finfib

Yeah, that worked. Anyway, this is an old photo, I think I finished this over Christmas 2005. I hadn't worn it for a while because it is a heavy sweater, and also, I made too big of a size (and I'm just a little smaller now than I was in 2006, at least through the waist).

But it's a comfortable sweater - warm - and I like the striping pattern. Striped things make me happy (see: my love of Continuum self-striping yarn for socks). Ravelry, in this week's "Community eye candy" (the header page for the site) has several striped sweaters. (The middle one - linked to the word "striped" - is my favorite. And nice Jem and the Holograms shout-out there....)

I have a striped sweater kit - several years ago from KnitPicks - that maybe should be my "next" sweater, once I finish the vest (at least) and Hagrid (ideally). It's not that different in design and color from the Jerrica Benton sweater.

Most of my sweaters are solid color, maybe I need to make one or two striped ones. (That would also solve the issue of "Grah, I really like this yarn but they don't have enough balls in a single dye-lot of any of the colors I like"). I guess I don't stripe things because I'm a little concerned about getting the colors "right" (though given my quilt experiences, I'm pretty good at picking colors) and I also have that old, deeply-ingrained prejudice that "horizontal stripes make you look fatter." Maybe so, though it's really my bustline and my hips that make me "look fat," not the sweater, and I just need to own that I am the size I am.

(I also have to say: this was hanging up in my closet and I was afraid that maybe the various critter-outbreaks I've had had led to something getting to it - it's pure wool, and what's more, fairly "rustic" wool with the lanolin in - but nope, not a snag or a hole anywhere, which is a huge win for me.

I think this one is coming with me over break because it will match with a number of the outfits I take)

"'Cos we can"

This was something spotted courtesy of a retweet from someone I follow:

a restaurant in the UK is offering a Christmas dinner this weekend for "anyone who needs one" (and can't afford it - they specifically asked people to encourage the homeless to come).

The retweet was a picture of their signboard, explaining what they were doing. At the bottom, it said, "We're doing this, 'cos we can."

I like that sentiment: not, "We're doing it because it makes us good people" or "we're doing this because we get some kind of tax write-off" but "because we can."

To me, that seems like a simple expression of gratitude. "We've had a good year and we can afford to give back."

I do some of the stuff I do "because I can" - I recognize I've been very blessed in this life with an abundance of good things, enough money coming in that I can have what I need and also a fair amount of what I merely want*. And it feels good to me at times to give back, and yes, in some cases, my motivation is "because I can."

(*And I honestly think it's not GOOD for a person to have EVERYTHING they want.)

(I once knew someone who expressed opposition to the local food bank, claiming it allowed people to "continue to be dependent." I don't know. I volunteered at that food bank and I think most of the people I interacted with would have much preferred to have their OWN money from their OWN job to go to the grocery and buy food. And I, myself, would almost rather starve than have to go and accept food from a food bank. And even beyond how you think about the adults, most of those people had kids....and even if a person might think it's OK for an adult, who, presumably in this person's mindset, "could work," kids can't....so if their parents don't, how are they to be fed? And yes, I know the government is supposed to do a lot of this, there's SNAP and all that....but if it took care of everything, would there be a need for food banks? I don't know, to me it seems very Scrooge to say, essentially, "But isn't there SNAP? Isn't there welfare? Let them use that...." I object to wastage of and fraud involving my tax money as much as anybody, but I still bring canned goods to food bank drives or give to various charities because I see them helping people, and even if there are some areas of government agencies where corruption looms, that doesn't mean the grassroots groups are no better.)

This is also why I do my little tradition of buying some toy that I think my brother or I would have liked when we were kids and donating it to Toys for Tots - because I can, and because I don't have a child myself to have the fun of buying toys for.



Tuesday, December 16, 2014

stuff done today

I stayed home today, partly because I had an on-again, off-again headache and using a microscope with a headache isn't so good.

I worked more on Chrysalis' hair; I'm almost to the point of connecting everything up to make the "wig cap" but I'm pretty sure there's no way I can get her done before break, and I'm not taking her with me to work on (she's much too large to carry).

I also gathered up projects and wound off yarn: the two pairs of complex, twisted-stitch socks (Little Ice Age and Alpine Glow) are coming along with a hope of finishing them. And I have the Electric Fluttershy yarn (actually Continuum self-striping in the color called Strontium-20) for "simple socks." And the Aestlight shawl, which I want to finish. And wound off yarn for a cowl, and a second "Sockhead" hat.  I might take along the nearly-finished vest, but I think I'm going to leave the Hagrid sweater as an after-break project. I also am taking some yarn (KnitPicks Chroma in the color "red velvet") for a pair of long armwarmers.

(Almost all of the yarn I use these days is fingering weight. Part of that is that it's easier to make wearable garments for a warm climate, part of it is that I just like knitting finer yarn, part of it is that there are so many wonderful base yarns and colorways in fingering weight. And it seems to me like fingering weight is less expensive than some other yarns for what you get - a "luxury" yarn might cost $30 for enough for an entire project, and that's rare with worsted-weight yarns - you need fewer skeins total of fingering weight for stuff because each skein has more yards, more yards per unit weight)

I do still have to wind off the pangolin yarn. (And I do have heavier weight yarns for the pink yeti.)

Oh, and I found 2, 50-g skeins of currently-unplanned-for-anything green, blue, and white striped sockyarn for the little Susan Anderson dragon pattern - having 2, 50g balls is better as you use the yarn doubled and that's a lot easier and less tangly than using both ends of a big ball.

That should be more than enough for what I want to do.....I have nearly 3 weeks but I will have other stuff to work on and do while I'm up there. (Baking cookies, making candy, probably attending to a few "handyman" type tasks, getting my hair cut....)

well, that's done

The meeting I was somewhat dreading is over.

Yes, we accepted the resignation (really, there was no choice) BUT we are going to have a "supply pastor" during the transition (in a couple past transitions, it seemed as if the regional wasn't as willing to help out with that - and as a result, we wound up having to lean on local folks).

AND we have what looks like a promising candidate who could probably start fairly soon. (Hope springs eternal: maybe THIS will be the person we need to help get people in the doors*)

(*I know, I know: It's really the congregants' responsibility. But as I've said before, I know three groups of people in re: church attendance: people I already go to church with, people who are firmly ensconced in a different denomination, and people who have expressed a certain disinterest-bordering-on-hostility to the idea. So I don't push it in my circles. If I meet someone new to town and they express an interest in trying places out, I suggest it, but that's about as far as I go with cold-calling type of evangelism).

I know I've maundered on about this a lot, but my church is very, very important to me: after my family, my fellow congregants are the people I care about the most in the whole world (more even than my colleagues, I have to admit) and I would hate to see us dissolve and people scatter and then my having to decide whether I follow the biggest group where ever they go, or if I try more to find somewhere that I suspect will be a theological good-fit rather than, "Well, my mamma was a Methodist so I'll go there" (My mamma was a Congregationalist - the old-school kind - and there aren't any of those churches here (if old-school Congregationalists still exist at all). And my dad's family were very lapsed Catholic.... the Disciples were a compromise of sorts for them, but one that worked out well)

I was even able to shake our now-former pastor's hand and wish him well without tearing up, and believe me, I haven't always managed that in the past.

Getting stuff ready

I'm sending out my Christmas cards today. I got all the ones off to local people that I send, I got the one sent to my old graduate advisor (Yes, I still send him and his wife a card), and a few others. I realized I don't have the addresses of either uncle; I have them over at school and I have to decide if it's easier to drive over there or easier to call my mom and ask her for them. (I could also ask her if the relative undergoing treatment has an address where he is right now and if he'd appreciate a card....not sure if he's going to be with family or in hospital over Christmas)

I still send paper Christmas cards. I know it's an expense but I like doing it. I don't expect cards back, though some people do still send them. For some folks, it's the only time of the year I may have contact with them (which is kind of sad, but it happens)

Often this is one of the last things I get done before leaving on break. I tend to put it off, first, because grading makes me tired of writing, and second, because it does take a chunk of time to do. (I don't send as many cards as my parents - I probably send about 25, they send 75, and I remember a time when they sent over 100 cards - a couple years I was "employed" to type the address labels for them)

I also dug through and found the yarn for the projects I want to take, and probably will wind that off some time today. And I need to fill the car with gas and go to the bank and get money.

I don't know. I still feel a little melancholy about what is going on ("We fear change.") but also recognize that (a) there's nothing I can do about it and (b) I'm going out of town, so there's really nothing I can do in the short term.

***

There's a helicopter going overhead (best guess: medivac flight, that's the most common type we get). Little childhood memory: back in the days of Santa Claus, my parents used to say that a helicopter overhead was "Santa flying over to check on people." My parents were pretty low-key about the Santa surveillance thing (one reason some modern parents give for not doing the whole Santa thing) but it was understood you were expected to be "good," even though it was pretty likely you'd get nice presents even if you weren't "good" ALL the time.

As I've said before, I miss that part of childhood: the unquestioning acceptance of the whole thing, which was also coupled with the ability to have intense and vivid fantasy worlds involving the lives of my stuffed animals or little plastic animal figures. (And oh, the ability to have unbridled and total joy over getting the toy you wanted More Than Anything on Christmas morning. Anyone who claims adults are more "materialistic" than children....I don't know. I can't think of any THING I could open on Christmas morning that would make me that insanely happy as some of the toys I got as a kid. There are EVENTS that would make me that happy - learning, for example, that a total, inexpensive, and accessible cure for cancer were found. Or that my church's money troubles were resolved favorably and we got a bunch of new members. Or that the family member I referred to was found to have a relatively minor and simply corrected health issue....Or world peace, even as I realize that's as unrealistic as me wanting to get a pony when I was 8)

***

I don't do well out of a schedule. I've been working on Chrysalis' hair but it's taking forever and I have to keep taking breaks to rest my hands. I think of how I COULD go antiquing or something but I admit I'm afraid of possibly overtaxing my car (or having some idiot hit my car and render it undriveable) this short before having to make the long trip to the train station. (I cannot think of anyone I would feel comfortable asking to drive me, if it came to that. I'd probably try to rent an Enterprise car, have them take it from the station, and have them meet me again when I returned)

When I get up to Illinois, there will be Christmas preparations to do and cookies to bake and places to go shopping and stuff, but right now I feel kind of at loose ends.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Things will be okay

(Making a rare break from my 3-word-title rule).


I just have to keep going. Things will be okay. Other people will have to step up in my absence and shoulder some of the responsibilities. And it's okay for me, going forward, to say "no" to stuff if I really don't have the time and doing the stuff will cut into my ability to function.



Things will be okay. The bad stuff in the world will somehow get sorted out, hopefully with not-too-tragic outcomes for the people caught in the crossfire.



The family member in my extended family who is having health problems...they are unlikely to be something fatal and are probably something treatable. Things will be okay.




I'm getting my research work done. I'm getting ready for travel. Things will be okay.

If I keep on saying it, maybe I'll start believing it....things will be okay.

(I mean, I believe in a 'cosmic' or eschatological sense, things will be okay....but it's kind of like, I don't know, having some kind of medical or dental issue right now, say, abdominal surgery: you know eventually it will be better but there's a lot of pain and worry to get through before you're there.)


I need to focus on the little things that make me happy: the thought of winding off the yarn for my over-break projects. The fact that a friend (hi, purlewe!) pointed out to me that Sublime Stitching now has the right to produce Moomin-themed embroidery patterns, so I can eventually make those Moomin pillowcases I was talking about years ago.

Reality hits hard

I dunno. Locally and globally, sad and difficult stuff:

* someone took hostages in Sydney. In a Lindt chocolate shop. The newsheads are suggesting that we in the US need to be worried. Ugh, not four days before I travel, I don't need to hear that. (Granted, the chances of someone trying something on a train are small....but then again, there was a case of someone who was seriously disturbed stabbing four people on Amtrak in Michigan....).

* Just, all the other news. Protestors calling for violence as a response to police violence. I've been walking around for quite a while thinking, "An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind." I don't know what it would take to fix things and I confess I'm grateful I'm not the person who has to make that call. Humanity gets me down.

* Locally: the minister we have (who is a seminary student almost finishing up) got hired by a church in  a place he wanted specifically to go to, so he's tendered his resignation. We knew this was coming but just the giant insecurity of "what will we do until we get someone permanent" is unhappy. (I guess they're interviewing someone but I have no idea how settled it is or how close to asking him they are. I specifically asked NOT to be on the search committee because of my overload this fall). Particularly I feel kind of bad this is happening NOW as he may be gone before I get back from Christmas break. As head elder, I feel like I have a special level of responsibility in seeing that services run smoothly....then again, I am NOT cutting my break short just for this and I don't think anyone would expect me to. (Two dates have been floated: either Feb. 1, which I think would be easier logistically, or Dec. 31, which is probably cleaner financially. There's a Board Meeting tomorrow night to work things out)

I knew this was coming but it's still not a particularly happy event locally. Oh, I'm happy for the minister: he's going somewhere they can probably pay him better than we could, he's going to be closer to family...but for us, this makes me worry. We're small. Money is always a problem. Can we attract a minister and keep them? How long before we fold?

Also, the logistics make me nervous: if we don't have a plan in place to fill the pulpit right away after our current guy leaves, they're going to have to lean on members of the congregation or local people. And while there are a few retired ministers willing to step in once in a while....there was also talk, the last time we went down this road, of pressing elders into service. And while I could probably write and deliver a sermon....I just don't want to. I mean, I'll do it if asked, but I still just don't want to. Not because of fear of public speaking or fear people would think it inappropriate for a non-ordained person to speak (or a woman, but people who objected to women serving would have left the congregation LONG ago). I just....well, I find that once I agree do to something, I wind up doing it a lot and I really don't want to risk getting drafted as the go-to fill-in. (I've been serving as fill-in elder almost every week for a while - people with work conflicts). There are so few of us.

Probably what we need to do is see if there's another group we can merge with, but that also carries all kinds of difficulties - both theological and practical differences. I don't know. I've officially been a member of a Disciples congregation since I was baptized at 13, and it's hard for me to think of joining another denomination, but that's probably what would happen if we folded, because the next nearest congregation is an hour's round trip and I just can't do that every week.

I tell myself we've been through this before. (in 2003, in 2006, in 2011) and that we'll make it through this one, somehow, if we're meant to continue as a congregation, but it still is not a good time for the whole thing to happen, when I'm not there to help out.

On the other hand: there is something a bit relieving about being able to say to myself, "I will be OUT OF TOWN and I had planned to be OUT OF TOWN and everyone knows I got OUT OF TOWN for several weeks at Christmas, they will just have to deal without my help."

Being a grown-up human in this world is difficult and it seems to me there's more sad stuff than happy stuff that happens when you're a grown-up. I confess, I wish sometimes I could go back and just be a kid again for a little while. Oh, I know, there were miserable things about being a kid: being unpopular in school, my mom scheduling dental appointments for the ONE day when there was no school in a grading period, not having much autonomy, getting a $2 a week allowance and having to save up to buy some of the things I wanted out of that. But I never had to make some of the hard decisions I have to make as an adult, and the "hardest" things I got called on to do were things like emptying the dishwasher or helping dust the house.

* I'm preparing for a barrage of student e-mails today. About grades. I've already had a few and they've been of the variety to which I have to respond "Yes, I actually did calculate your grade correctly; I recalculated it and what you are overlooking is...." But still, I get tears or anger or requests for extra-credit. And I have to politely deflect all of those: the grades stand; they were calculated according to the method described in the syllabus the first day and I don't depart from that, in fairness to all students.... ("freaking Ask Culture.")

* It occurs to me, again, this is why I like knitting/crocheting/quilting/baking/doing research/all those things. It is easier for me to work with matter than it is for me to work with people. I don't always know or understand what's going on in people's minds, people have their own autonomy and volition and lots of times what they want is not necessarily what I want and some of the time (more of the time than I'd like) I wind up pushing what I want deep down inside me and not saying anything in the name of harmony. (What does the cutie-mark for the element of sense of self-denial look like?)

I don't do well without much human interaction; I begin to dwell on stupid little things and obsess about them. But too much human interaction gets me down.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

What we do

The things committed crafters do.

So yesterday afternoon, after graduation, I pulled out the long-stalled Queen Chrysalis project and re-started the hair. And I realized at some point, hey, this skein of yarn is getting used up fast. Did I not buy enough? So I looked at the instructions. It called for a skein of Red Heart Super Saver and I had bought, partly because I couldn't find the proper color in RHSS at the store I was at (JoAnn's), Red Heart SOFT, which is a smaller skein by some 100+ yards.

Dangit.

So I thought: okay, they're both Red Heart. I'm pretty sure I have a skein of RHSS on hand, I saw it when I was cleaning (It was originally bought, and then deemed too green for, the Perry the Platypus I made). So I dug it out. Nope. Color slightly off and the sheen was all wrong - Red Heart soft has a shine to it that RHSS does not have.

So I was faced with three choices:

1. Go back and start the mane ALLLLLLL OVER (and probably redo the tail, so they'd match) using RHSS, which is harder on the hands than Red Heart Soft is.

2. Hope I had enough yarn. (I weighed what remained and calculated how many yards I should have left. Eighty. Didn't seem remotely enough)

3. Go and buy another skein, either that day or wait until Monday.

Well, I finally decided to buy the new skein. I briefly considered trying the local Wal-Mart (they sell some yarn but not much). But it was Saturday afternoon, a couple weeks before Christmas - and, well, that's kind of the definition of I Just Can't Even for me. So I decided to brave the hour's round trip to JoAnn's, which I knew FOR SURE carried the yarn, as I bought it there.

(Now just watch, my inner pessimist said. You'll get into some kind of minor fender-bender or your transmission will poop out like on your old car and then you'll be STUCK, and not even able to get to Mineola on Thursday....)

But, nope. Got there and back totally safely. Found the yarn. Not the same dyelot but it's close enough. (I can see a slight difference but I'm going to ignore it).

I also found they had Paton's Classic Wool on sale, $5 a skein, and I can make a very simple pullover (which I had been wanting to do - using the pattern for Brick). I wound up buying a sort of loden green (almost a lichen color); it was the ONLY one they had enough skeins of the same dyelot of. (A pox on those big-box craft stores and their tendency to have three skeins only of each dyelot, but have two or three different dyelots in the bin. It's kind of important to match dyelot!) The color is called Moss Heather and while my first choice probably would have been the grey and white ragg, it's still nice. And $30 for a sweater is a good deal, and I like the Paton's yarn pretty well...

So I'm working away on Chrysalis' hair this afternoon. Haven't had to break into the new skein yet but I predict I will - I have two more "segments" yet to do, then I have to join everything and make a sort of wig-cap so it will sit on the top of her head.

(I will be GLAD to be done with this. This is the hugest and most complex ami I've ever done, and all the "holes" in the pieces are a right pain to crochet. But she will be impressive (and oddly* huggable) when done)

(*"oddly," because she is technically a villain on the show, though in fan art and writing, some fans have taken it upon themselves to reform her, at least a little....and that's an interesting thing about (some of) the fanbase, I think - they want to imagine the villains repenting and learning of the magic of friendship....and I like that. Changeling metanoia.)

Another project for the next few days: wind off all the yarn I'm taking with me to start into projects - the yarn for the "circular scarf," and for the Sockhead hat, and for the pangolin, and I think I'm going to take some "just simple socks" yarn along (probably the Electric Fluttershy I've been referring to).

Saturday, December 13, 2014

graduation is done

Two Three quick thoughts:

1. If I were in charge of security at these things? I'd make the announcement that anyone letting off an air horn in the arena would be considered a security risk and be removed. And, as far as practicable, enforce that. It was painful for me sitting down on the floor with the faculty; I can't imagine how awful it was for the  unknowing spectators sitting near the yobbo who set the thing off.

2. I don't need to have kids doing music or ballet lessons: I know the feeling of going to a recital to hear "your kid" (applaud for our 4-5 majors) and then sit through EVERYONE ELSE'S. (Winter graduation is all three schools, plus any Master's students who show up)

3. (Edited to add): the downside to cell phone cameras? People take hundreds of photos at these things. There was one guy right across from me (I was down on the floor in the faculty section, he was in the "audience") who kept taking photos and every time a bright light would shine on his phone, right in my eyes.

Between the air horns and that, I have a headache now.

But that's done. I dug out the stuff and pattern for Queen Chrysalis and once I'm done with lunch, I'm doing to start working on her hair again.....

Friday, December 12, 2014

An old favorite

When you've been blogging for as long as I have, a lot of the stuff you used to link to either goes away or the links decay or something.

Well, I found (at its new home) something I linked to a couple Decembers back in the day*

An little online snowglobe With little animated people in it! And you can shake it, if you're in an evil mood. Or you can just listen to the midcentury-modern music they feature as a background. And look at the goofy little details like the cannibal snowman.

It was once an ad for a sleeping-pill manfacturer, but I think they dropped that campaign.

(*How long ago does it have to be so you can say "back in the day," anyway?)

they're almost done

I'm within a few rows of the toe-decreases on the FINAL gift sock. After this (which will probably be done tonight), I can switch back to trying to finish Queen Chrysalis. Or to the vest. Or to doll clothes. Or any number of things for ME.

I'm glad I decided to do this, but I'll also be glad when they're done. I don't like working to a deadline on knitting (or other crafts). It might be different if I had fewer other demands on my time, I don't know.

Last night was a movie night; ABC Family showed National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation (lightly edited, and it surprised me that they edited out "Wild Turkey" (What Eddie's adult daughter was trying to get off of) but not some of the other words.)

As I said on Twitter: this is a movie I should not like, given the level of crudeness (and the certain degree of family dysfunction), but I do. It's interesting to see a 25 year old movie, too: the execrable yuppies have a state-of-the-art stereo with a CD player. Cell phones and the internet don't really seem to exist....

And I love the crazy, lit-up house. As I've said before, while I would never do that kind of thing myself I can appreciate it when people do it. (I might have a few outdoor lights if I had an outdoor socket, but I don't, so I make do with LED candles in the windows).

(And I wonder why Brian Doyle-Murray seems typecast as terrible bosses? I can think of a couple things he's been in where he's been an awful, self-centered boss)

And I admit I've occasionally thought the line, "If I woke up tomorrow with my head sewn to the carpet, I wouldn't be more surprised than I am right now."

After that was Scrooged. I like Scrooged (which is another late-80s movie where it's startling to see how fast technology has changed and how what was supposed to be Stuff Only Rich People Had is now stuff ordinary people have) but I couldn't stay up until the very end of it. (I stayed through the Carole Kane-as-the-ghost-of-Christmas-present, because I find that bit rather funny....) But again: there were some bits in there that I was surprised at (maybe they had been edited out of earlier versions I saw?)

Also, the ads. Wow, the ads. Stacked seven and eight deep, and seemingly inserted after a very short segment of movie. (Yes, I know, dvr, except I already feel like I pay enough for cable). I wonder if some day we'll have channels that are nothing BUT ads and we won't even really realize any more. (That's another reason why I like TCM, even if they are kind of pooping out on showing Christmas movies this year, or at least showing them at times I can watch: they don't have ads during the movies, and not even really between them)

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Found and liked

While looking for a picture about "extra credit" online, I found this. It made me smile so I'm reposting it here:

I've already had a student ask for "a curve" which is apparently the new extra credit (you don't have to do ANY work for it, just rely on the hope that your prof is willing to let his/her standards slide!)

Yeah, no.

Six big boxes

So, an e-mail came out the other day - "Safety" is going to be coming 'round to inspect the fire extinguishers, emergency lights, and other gew-gaws designed to keep us from dying in the event of an emergency. The e-mail said they'd be coming in next week, as a way of cutting down on the disruption to faculty.

(Thank you, "Safety." I know someone on a campus where they started doing the inspections and stuff and some heavy construction DURING exam week. Noise plus students taking exams doesn't work.)

Anyway, I thought, "Could these be the same 'safety' who in past years deemed my office a "hazard" because I had a few stacks of papers* and some things on the bookshelf that allegedly could "hit a student" if they fell off. (No mention of my getting hit; I presume they figure I don't matter as I'm the one who put the stuff there. Never mind that most of it would require a moderate earthquake to dislodge, and if we're experiencing a 5.0, I'm going to be under the desk, rather than standing next to my bookcase)

So anyway. I decided to take today and clean my office, and sort through and get rid of as much paper as I reasonably could. Also, our print shop now has a large, industrial sized shredder - so I don't have to risk the wrath of colleagues by carrying pounds of paper to the dumpster (instead of recycling) or waste hours of my life feeding the sheets into a shredder prior to recycling**. So I merrily boxed stuff up and then loaded it into my car and drove it over there before lunch.

I filled six boxes. The student workers looked at me in alarm when I unloaded them but I explained it had been over a year since I cleaned my office out. (Well, it has.) Also, I had held on to some old student papers far longer than I needed to: they were in the file cabinet and I just didn't see them there. In fact, I found some papers so old I don't even remember the students whose names are on them.

My office feels a lot better now. All bets are off as to whether I can actually FIND anything I put away when I need it (I remember stuff by "WIWL" - Where It Was Last - and if I move too many things it reboots my memory and I forget where I put stuff).

But at least now I think Safety cannot harass me or my chair. I hope. (I could really use another file cabinet except I really have nowhere to put it.)

(*okay, more than a few. But we have little proper storage space here, and we're asked to keep student papers going back at least a year, in case of a grade challenge)

(** in order to recycle office paper here, it must be shredded, for some reason.)

On finishing books

I often have books I start and stall out on, or that seemed like ideal reading at the time, and then the time passes, and it's hard to finish them. (This especially happens with scholarly books started while traveling: I really need to read the last 80 pages or so of "Bumblebee Economics" but other things seem more attractive when I only have a little time to read and it's late in the evening...)

Two books recently, I kind of stalled out on when I found out the "denoument" of the plot.

One was "Why Shoot a Butler," which is a Georgette Heyer mystery. I really enjoy her mysteries. She only wrote a few, compared to her Regency romances, but they are entertaining and well-written and feature enough upper-middle-class twits to have a laugh at. (There is also often a slightly-poorer relation, usually female, who turns out to be the One Sane Woman (to use a trope) of the piece).

Well, with Why Shoot a Butler, there's some 30-40 pages after you learn who did it, where the story kind of winds down and you find out who will be married to whom (And again: I guess it was different years back? But it seems that women often rapidly change their allegiance of whom they want to marry...I can't imagine suddenly deciding after knowing a chap for, say, two weeks, that I want to hitch my destiny to his (And divorce was harder and much more looked down on, if it turned out your "picker" was broken when you picked him). Maybe I'm just far too cautious and too prone to worry about bad consequences, but it just blows my mind when a woman either decides yes, she wants to marry this guy she knows almost nothing about, or, it turns out her intended wasn't such a great guy any more, but hey! Here's a new guy, why not try marrying HIM? I suppose on the grounds that you can't be so unlucky twice in a row?) Anyway, once I found out WHY the butler got shot (and the young drunkard got drowned), and the murderer was done for, I kind of lost interest. I'm not even sure I actually finished the book....

And now, with Adam Bede. How to talk about this without giving spoilers?


Well, okay. Spoilers there will be. I still think the book is worth reading (if you like early Victorian literature and George Eliot's style).

The book starts off fairly idyllically: here is Adam Bede, good strong young man. Kind to his mother. Hard worker. He weathers the death of his drunkard father. It is time for him to think of being married. Will he pick sweet Mary Burge, who is the daughter of his employer (and therefore, set himself up for Good Things in the future), or will he pick Hetty Sorrel, who is admittedly pretty but who is immature and somewhat spoiled?

Well, the young noble Arthur Donnithorne - who owns the land for miles around (or rather, who will come to own it when his grandfather dies) - also notices how pretty Hetty is. But eventually he leaves to be a soldier, and of course, he COULDN'T marry Hetty, there is far too much difference in their class.

But Adam can. And he asks her, and she consents, all the while thinking of and wishing for Arthur....

And after here, there be spoilers....










Arthur's flirtation with Hetty is more than mere flirtation. It is stated he kisses her, and he gave her jewelry, but later on, and this is what the story hinges on in its last third, it turns out they did far more than kiss.

And it's interesting how a Victorian author, who, even if she's slightly unconventional in her lifestyle like Eliot was, is still bound by certain constrictions, reveals that, yes, in fact, this young woman is pregnant out of wedlock.....And Hetty runs away, first to get to Windsor, where she believes Arthur to be in training (in reality, he has left for Ireland; I suppose it was one of those "putting down a rebellion" things)


And the horror of it, and this is where I really turned on Hetty, I admit, and stopped thinking of her as so much one "more to be pitied than censured," but, after giving birth, rather than leaving her baby on a church steps or somewhere where it would surely be found and cared for, she buries it, alive, in a shallow grave, out in a field. Because she can't imagine not being found out and the shame she will face.

Well, she IS found out, and it goes far, far worse with her than it would have had she left the baby somewhere where it would become a foundling (I don't think we even learn the baby's sex....) There she might have experienced shame and embarrassment, it would have been hard for her to return to her home with her head up. I suspect Adam would still have married her; he seems that kind of man. But of course, like many selfish people, she cannot see beyond her own wants or desires.

And she is found out. Brought to trial, convicted, sentenced to hang for her crime. During her time in prison, Dinah Morris, the good, Godly young Methodist preacher-lady (and Hetty's cousin) comes to her and just sits with her - so she won't be alone. She even gets in the tumbril with Hetty on the morning of her execution (which, in a happier universe, would have been the morning of the day she married Adam)

I admit, at that point I was skipping ahead - did Hetty get the noose? Surely she'd have to.

Nope. Arthur somehow gets a pardon, riding up at a frantic pace (well, okay, he is capable of some sort of decency) but apparently we don't hear from Hetty again. This is the one thing that's making me go through to the end - does she merely drop out of sight as a "ruined woman" or does she return. As far as I've read so far, she doesn't.

In fact, Adam winds up marrying Dinah, apparently. (I'm going to have to read to see how THAT happens; his younger brother Seth proposed to Dinah several times and Dinah said she was not going to marry, that her work was too important to her....)

But, wow. It went very differently in the last third or so of the book than I expected. (Also, a lot of the details of what Hetty did and the birth of her baby were seriously lampshaded....you read right through the straight account of her time at the inn when she had the baby, and there is NO MENTION MADE - merely that she had been "ill" and then was "much better" and then she left. You learn, later on, when she confesses to Dinah, that that was when she had the child.....it's not clear if it's deliberate lampshading (to mislead the reader) or if it is an attempt to show Hetty's state of mind, that she was so mentally divorced from the fact that she was having and had had a baby that she couldn't admit it to herself until after she had been convicted of what she did. (In modern times? Perhaps she'd have been found not guilty by reason of insanity?)

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Some Christmas music

Well, except for one person who was out sick for my machine-graded exam, I'm done with exams for this semester.

(I'm glad I'm done. This was a tough semester, mainly because of the overload).

Some music for Christmas. One of my all-time favorite pop Christmas songs is, in fact "The Christmas Song," and I tend to prefer the Nat King Cole version. (I know, I KNOW I have heard a version of just him singing and playing the piano, and I prefer that over the more sweetened versions ("mit Orchester", you might say - kind of like the old Viennese phrase, mit Schlag. In some cases, the "Schlag" is a bit too much, a bit too sweet)

But I can't find that version on YouTube.

(Okay, I searched some more. This one is CLOSE, but is not quite the arrangement I'm thinking of):



As it turns out, Cole did not write the song. (I always thought he had, when I was younger, because his version is the one everyone knows, and frankly, I think it's the best version). Mel Torme was the one who wrote it. (I cannot think of Mel Torme without thinking of the old sitcom "Night Court," it was a running gag that Harry Anderson's character was a huge Mel Torme fan):



There are lots of other pop Christmas songs I like, but I think that one's my favorite.

I also like "Have yourself a Merry Little Christmas," at least in the slightly-less-cheerified format (where they sing, "someday soon we all will be together, if the Fates allow, until then, we'll have to muddle through somehow") as it was in the earlier versions. I like that version because there's the gentle understanding (or so I interpret it) that Christmas ISN'T always perfectly merry; some years the people you love are away (my understanding is that it was big in the waning years of WWII, because of course many, many families were separated by that war - really, a very large proportion of US families, more than we might realize, had sons or husbands or brothers serving overseas). Or circumstances prevent having a "big" Christmas, so you have to have a "merry little" one.

I will admit that when I'm in a bleaker mood this song can make me cry a little. Especially some years, when I find myself thinking back over the year and the people I knew who departed in that past year.



Among sacred songs or hymns....well, I have too many favorites to count. There are so many I love, some of which you almost never hear outside of specialist recordings. All the old British "Cathedral carols" (like the Essex carol*)

(*I confess, I find the original version of the Coventry carol a little difficult emotionally, as it references (pretty strongly) the Slaughter of the Innocents.)

And the wonderful John Rutter stuff, both the genuinely old pieces, and the new-pieces-written-in-that-tradition.

If I had to choose one, though, it would be Silent Night. I've heard many versions of this - sung accapella by untrained voices, sung by choirs backed with an organ, sung to piano accompaniment, sung with a lone guitar - and it works all those ways. I do prefer it played a bit faster than some churches do it; it has a nice, graceful waltz tempo that playing it just a bit faster brings out.

And I've heard it adapted: made cajunesque, or country, or, as someone I know says, "churched up" (that is: given sort of a southern Gospel style). And it works in all those ways.

I also love it because of the legend (which is probably not true but I still love it): that the first Christmas Franz Gruber played it, he had to arrange it for guitar, because the organ in his church was out of order (some versions of the legend say a mouse chewed the leather bellows of the organ and it sprang a leak). I still think it sounds good sung to guitar.

A story about it that has historical backing: during the Christmas Truce of WWI, one hundred years ago this year, this was a song that the "Tommies" and the "Jerries" sang during their brief truce: the British singing in English and the Germans in German.

Here's a slightly "country" sounding acoustic version of it, by the acoustic rock group The Thorns. I like this version:



I think I like this version because, again, it's simple: just the singers and the guitar, no orchestration, no sweetening, what seems like minimal afterprocessing. I tend to feel like with things like Christmas songs and hymns, the song should be about THE SONG and its lyrics, what it means, than about vocal acrobatics on the part of the singers. (That may be why I generally prefer the Nat Cole or Bing Crosby versions of the popular carols - or at any rate, the slightly older versions, from the days before it was so much about how many high notes the singer could hit or how many strings could be packed onto the tracks.)


And here's a Cajun version, because why not?

Presented without comment





(Grading statistics finals....)

Times have changed

I was thinking about this this morning. I had to carry my Big Book of Soil Lab Recipes back to the teaching lab where it resides (I had used to to order the necessary chemicals for next semester - the class is full, nay, it is oversubscribed, so I need to be sure I have good stocks on hand of everything needed).

There were fliers posted on our bulletin boards. We have these up mainly for things like job and graduate-school postings, and the Wildlife Club and the environmental club and the pre-meds club have sections where they post announcements, but we also get some of the general campus stuff.


There were fliers for "Stress Free Week!" This is stuff that they do here during exam week to, as you might guess, relieve stress among the students. They had, I think a make-your-own-stress-ball experiment, and they had "late-night breakfast" (for which they solicited faculty to come and act as servers. At 11:30 pm. My reaction: "You're kidding, right?" I suppose there were some who offered to do it, but there are two things that would prevent me from it: (1) If I am not asleep already at 11:30 pm, the next day is going to be a Very Bad Day for me. and (2) walking out from the cafeteria to where I would have to park my car at midnight? Even though this is a very low-crime area, that's still not something I would have wanted to do.

But anyway. Times have changed, and just as I feel, when I see some of the toys for sale now, "Why didn't they have those when I was a kid? The 1970s hated kids, I guess" I feel like, "Why didn't my alma mater - to which I paid considerably more in tuition and fees, at least in today's dollars, than the students do here - try to do ANYTHING like that for us?"

And yeah, yeah, I might not have partaken of it and I might have even rolled my eyes a bit back then, but the idea of recognizing that students feel stress about finals might have been a nice thing. (Then again: I generally didn't stress out about finals. In MOST of my classes, I had a sufficiently good grade going in that I just had to not crater on the final to keep it. I do remember one chem class - it was team taught and the first half of the "team" was awful, and confusing, and I earned a D - which darn near broke my heart - on his exam, until he let it slip that rather than following the textbook, he was using Fermi's book on Thermodynamics, so I ran to the old, flagship Borders (may it rest in peace) and found a Dover edition for $4, read it, and finally understood what he was going on about. Anyway, for that class I worked my BUTT off studying for the final because I was desirous of bringing my grade up. In fact, I studied so much for that that I sacrificed the A I had in Genetics (I wound up getting a B+, which was still okay) by not studying so much for it. But I earned the second-highest grade on that chem final* and brought my grade up considerably - better than merely passing; I think I finished with a B or B+ in that class)

(*That was also back in the days when profs posted exam scores. Not by name; they used our student numbers. No idea if that would be considered  FERPA violation now).

Most of the time, though, I saw the exams more as a game or a challenge than something to be really scared of. I tended to study over the entire course of the semester (and in really tricky classes, do things like rewriting and reorganizing my notes) so I was pretty well prepared. And I was good at time management, so I could block out, "Okay. I need to study Chemistry for two hours Saturday morning, and then after lunch, I will study Linguistics for an hour and Genetics for two hours...." (And wow. I don't know if I'd have that kind of concentration now, to work on something like that for two hours at a go. Maybe I could, especially if I did like I did then and go over to the Grad Library and find an unused carroll and sit in there because there were no other distractions.)

But anyway. I don't know if all the exam-week fun (and the welcome-week stuff they do in the fall, we never had much in the way of welcome-week stuff) is modern-day catering to the students (she says while shaking her cane) or if this is the difference between a very small campus (the one I teach on now has some 4000 students) and an enormous one (I don't even know how many Michigan had back in those days. 20,000, maybe?) But still, you'd think the dorms or the majors-groups or something could have organized something. I never felt much of a sense of community as an undergrad and it may be that my university never tried to foster one....

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Tuesday morning things

* CWF party last night was pretty good. It was small, it didn't last that late (it was our normal meeting, except we didn't really have a meeting - little business to conduct).

One thing that was really nice? The woman preparing the main dish made that hot chicken salad (Americans of a certain age probably know what I mean: chicken, mayonnaise with lemon juice, onions, celery, and then almonds on top). I had mentioned to her in passing at the reception for the choir concert on the Sunday after Thanksgiving that celery brought me out in hives (I was asking if one of the appetizers had celery). Well, she REMEMBERED that and made a separate serving of the salad for me with no celery in it. I was really touched by that because outside my family, few people seem to think about my family members' food sensitivities. I mean, I could have made do with side dishes if I had to (one of the other ladies made cheese grits, which could work as a main dish on their own), but I didn't have to.

The lady who did the devotional talked about something I'd never heard of (and apparently is very rarely done) but is an extremely nice idea. You have to understand that in our tradition (Disciples of Christ), the tendency is to baptize people as either young adults (I was baptized at 13) or adults. We recognize infant baptism and don't require rebaptizing - but I also know a few people who have joined a Disciples church who asked to be rebaptized because they wanted to *remember* their baptism, and obviously, you wouldn't remember it if you had been an infant, and generally ministers are happy to do that.

Well, the woman had been baptized as an adult. And the other women of the church threw a "baby shower" for her (the whole idea of "rebirth" through baptism). They made her a baby book with notes from them, little devotional passages, favorite Bible verses....it was clear she really treasured it and it made me think, what a good idea. And if we had anything like an active teen youth group any more, I'd immediately start doing something like that for any teens who did the baptism process.

* My first Christmas present came. My parents decided to have it drop-shipped to me because it's large and heavy. I had asked for one of those wool-filled mattress toppers - I thought when my hip bursitis was flaring up, especially, that might help me sleep better. It came yesterday, in a huge box. (I knew what it was, it had a big "Cuddle Ewe" sticker on the box). I opened it up and it's "relaxing" on the sofa (also if the fabric outgasses at all, I want that to happen before I put it on my bed). I might put it on tonight, I don't know.

They also sent a free wool-filled pillow as part of the deal. This pleases me mightily as down pillows do set off my allergies a little, but wool-filled things are just fine. I might even replace the beginning-to-get-lumpy "anti allergen" pillow I bought a few years back (that I use for my head) with the wooly one.

I don't KNOW that there are any sort of mystical properties to wool, but I know I sleep more soundly when I use one of my quilts (well, in the winter) with wool batting in it. I don't know if it's just the breathability - where you get warmth without being smothered like with some synthetic fills - or if there's some subtle scent to wool that I find relaxing. But I'm hoping this will help when I have aches and pains. (I may take the mattress top off in the summer if it seems too warm. My parents use theirs year-round, but of course it's hotter here than there)

* Wow, exam-week follies:

- one of my intro-majors students who signed up for the non-majors lab and therefore won't get credit for it
- a student, not mine, showing up to take the exam. Turns out they are a non-majors student. When the secretary looked up their "real" exam time, they got belligerent because (a) "That time CAN'T be right" and (b) "But I have to be at work during that time." Conclusion: I graded the exam (it was machine graded so no extra work for me) and passed it off to the person's prof, it's up to the prof whether or not the grade counts.

Again, as I said: I was such a compulsive student that these kinds of things are like nightmare scenarios to me. (And: the exam week schedule here was published in the summer. In fact, I put the final-exam times on my syllabi....)

I don't mind people making mistakes but I do mind them yelling at my secretary when she's trying to help them.

I'm almost afraid to see what comes next.

* Tonight is Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, and I am going to watch it (again).

There was a meme making the rounds, a still of Hermy and Rudolph, and it said something like "It's good we don't fit in. That means we're not [rude word for an unpleasant person]" (The rude word is why I am not reproducing it here).

And it made me laugh a bit ruefully,  and think, "Well, now they tell me" (I have felt much of my life as if I did not quite fit in, at least in many social situations - one of the reasons I am so active in church is that is a place where I DO feel like I fit in, or even if I don't quite, people don't CARE that I don't.)

But again, it does make me wonder, if popularity in school was largely a myth, and while everyone KNEW someone who was "popular," no one ever thought THEY were the popular person - if everyone felt a bit like a misfit.

I don't know. On good days I feel like the things that make me "not fit in" in some ways are the things that make me interesting. Or that make me a good person (my fairly inflexible moral code about certain things). On bad days I just feel weird....

I will say I always liked the "Well, we can 'not fit in' together" line from Rudolph; that's how many of my close friendships have been through the years.

Monday, December 08, 2014

Break planning already

It's still just under 10 days off, but I'm already thinking about what I want to take with me over break to work on. (This is a serious consideration and always seems to get more thought than what I am going to wear.)

I do want to take a couple of in-progress projects - I have a pair of simple socks, and I want to (finally) finish the Little Ice Age socks. And the two shawlettes that are underway. (Well, maybe both of them. Maybe just one.). And maybe the long-stalled Hagrid sweater.

But I also want some "new" stuff. I found a simple knit/purl stitched cowl (well, really, a loop scarf) and I got some pretty variegated yarn for that. And maybe another one of those Sockhead hats; I have a purplish Jitterbug yarn (colorway is named Raphael - after the painter, not the ninja turtle) that I think would make a nice hat.

And toys. As I've said before, there have to be toys. Because I'm a wee bit embarrassed (at 45) to ask my parents for a stuffed toy or similar for Christmas (though I have one or two on my Amazon wishlist), I make my own over break. I bought a couple Mochimochiland patterns, in part, so I could get the free "Deck the Walrus" pattern. (I already know I want to make the one with the watchcap/Jacques Cousteau style cap - and I haven't decided whether to name him Jacques, or Zissou, or perhaps go in a different direction and name him Jamie - in which case he might need a little pair of glasses). And I have a small sock-yarn dragon pattern (a Susan B. Anderson pattern - she seems to do a lot of small, cute, sockyarn animals).  And I have ridiculous pink fur yarn and hot-pink worsted-weight: I have a pattern book with a yeti pattern in it where the original yeti was made from a wild variegated, and I like the idea of a hot-pink yeti.

And I have a bunch of recently-purchased Suncatcher eyes, including the "sleepy" eyes, which would work well on the yeti, I think.

But then today I fond a Crocheted pangolin (Ravelry link). I've written before about my childhood fondness for "unusual animals" and how I had a tiny toy plastic pangolin I liked because it was unusual - so I had to buy the pattern. (And I found uncommitted skeins of light and dark brown sockyarn - I could have gone up a yarn size, toys are flexible, but the pattern as written makes a 35 cm pangolin, which is large enough to begin with, and a worsted weight one would be really large).

I'm guessing the pangolin takes a fair bit of time; its scales are made in something called "crocodile stitch" and apparently each one is made and then joined on to the others....but it should give a really satisfying result.

So I am going to have to think hard, and winnow down, and decide what I really want to take and do...the good news is sock yarn, like for the hat and some of the toys doesn't take up much space in a suitcase. And I plan on getting walrus yarn up there, because I can use craft-store yarn (or yarn already on hand at my parents') for that.

Sunday, December 07, 2014

Some Sunday stuff

* I made fudgy oat bars (known in the cookbook I use as "chocolate revel bars," but because they were called "fudgy oat bars" back when I used to buy them from a seller at the Ann Arbor Farmer's Market (wow, over 20 years ago now...) I think of them as fudgy oat bars). The recipe makes a lot - it's supposed to be done in a 10x15 pan, which of course I don't own. I use a 9x13 and just make them a little thicker.

This time I did a double batch, so I can take one to school and one to the CWF Christmas party. I had the brainwave of doing both at once, but that was a lot of work - a double batch of these winds up with 5 cups of flour and 6 (!) of oats. It barely fit in my mixing bowl.

This time I decided to use a little of the leftover dough and filling - rather than making super thick bars - and made a couple little set-ups for myself.

So I made these:

pah!

The stuff is pretty rich so I should probably cut these in quarters. (Though I might wind up eating half of one at one go. I only make these once a year....) I bet these would be good with a little milk on them....

* I got out my pony scarves and put them on the ponies that I have scarves for:

scarves poni

If I have time, I'd like to make more ponyscarves. They're fast to do, but they are a silly frivolous thing.

(Then again - I got a free 2015 calendar with a crochet magazine that had crochet-themed cartoons in it. One of them had one crochet hook (they all feature animate crochet hooks) saying to another, "Why don't you ever make anything useful?" and the other one responds, "I make happiness and that is very useful.")

I do want to do one for Sweetie Belle. I had been thinking about this and when I was at Jo-Ann's yesterday, I finally gave into the temptation to buy a packet of the little Lion Brand "Bonbons" (small quantities of different colored yarn.)

I think Sweetie Belle needs a pastel striped scarf, in keeping with her somewhat-unique fashion sense:

sweetie scarf

If I have yarn and time leftover, I should make my Lyra a scarf. (Hah. Lyra getting a scarf made form yarn "Bonbons." Pony insider joke.)

* I finished the first (more complex) pair of gift socks the other day:

giftsocks 1

And I'm working on the second pair:

giftsocks 2

I'm not as far as I'd like to be on these, but I am far enough along that I know I'll get them done in time.

* I also cleaned the house up Friday afternoon. I didn't get my bedroom totally done, but the other rooms are pretty good. It feels nice to have a clean house and I hope I can keep it up until break. (It had gotten bad because I was so busy). It's more fun to sit and knit in a clean living room because you don't feel like you need to jump up and clean something or put something away.)

Saturday, December 06, 2014

Something for Christmas

This is too cute not to share. (Even if it is essentially a Brooks Brothers ad):



I know it's all done using video trickery but I admit, if I were in a mood to write to Santa, I'd ask him for my very own scarf-wearing talking sheep. Ideally one that is of a breed that produces nice wool. (I could also let her mow my lawn in the summer....)

Friday, December 05, 2014

The semester's end

This has been a tough one for a lot of reasons. Teaching an overload is most of it.

And it's not even the extra teaching, or the extra grading: it's dealing with THAT MANY MORE people. (Especially with two classes full of first-years on their first semester. That is NO JOKE. Some of the people are scared to death and need lots of reassurance; some freak-out midsemester because they never had to work so hard in high school to pull As as they do to pull Cs in college, some get a bit uppity because "I graduated in the top 10% of my class, how dare you 'give' me a C," some are just lost because of lack of study skills (though I try to do what I can to help)

Some students just don't know how to behave (this is called, my friends, "soft skills." Or at least that's the new name for what my parents "larned" me as "manners.")

I caught a student a couple weeks ago sitting in the back of the classroom taking a selfie. I was aghast and at first couldn't believe what I was seeing. (Then again, I caught a student a few years ago applying make up in class).

Well, the selfie-taking student is not, as you might have guessed, going to pass the class. They didn't earn a good enough grade, averaging about 50% on the exams. And the thing that makes me crazy is that there's a LINK there, I pointed out in the first weeks of class that there is a LINK between how you pay attention in class and how well you do on the exams and....people just don't believe me. And note taking. My A students are the ones I see taking notes in class. The people failing, don't. But people don't see a link between those things in some cases.

What frustrates me about this is twofold: First, I have a student with a seizure disorder in one section of the class. The student has been very up-front about their problems but has not asked for anything beyond a few absences being counted as excused-for-medical-reasons, for which they provided documentation, which I'm happy to grant. This student is going to pass the class despite their difficulties.

Second, I got an e-mail yesterday from another student, followed by one from the dean of students: this student has some kind of chronic condition that is going to require them to leave school RIGHT NOW and get treatment (or else, apparently, it's going to be really bad). Student was requesting an incomplete - student is currently earning close to an A. In other words, textbook guidelines for a person taking an I and then coming back and completing the work when they can (within a year). It's kind of heartbreaking because this was someone who was doing very well, was obviously working hard. And in their e-mail, they seemed to be not at all sure I'd be willing to grant an incomplete - but of course, this is, (as I told them) the absolute kind of situation Incompletes were set up for. I wished them well and I said I hoped their treatment went well (I hope it does, and I hope they stop by sometime this spring to redeem their I and to tell me that they're back in remission...)


So dealing with issues like those, it's really hard for me to have any sympathy for a selfie-taker who is unhappy with their grade. Oh, a certain percentage of the poorly performing students blame me, and I really only mind that if they go over my head and try to get me "in trouble" (though in most cases, the person they go complaining to knows that it's not me). But it's like, when someone with genuine struggles can manage - I don't know.

Incidentally, there's been a push for the faculty to teach "soft skills" to the students. It started with a certain administrator noting "Some of the students don't know how to shake hands properly, you should all teach them to shake hands." (Which led to a lot of hilarity in my department: should we teach them the "standard" method, or the "soul shake" from the 70s?  Or what about fistbumps, as a way to lessen disease spread? Or something more complex, one of those with all kinds of different motions?  And what about cultural differences? Some cultures bow or do a "Namaste" as a gesture of respect rather than shaking hands. (And at the end of all this, I got down on hands and knees, and lifted my right front hand like a dog that has been taught to "shake"- which got some laughs).

I'm guessing the admin's complaint was over "dead fish" handshakes...I have genuinely never seen a student who didn't know how to shake hands at all. But different people are different. (I personally really dislike the "crushing" handshake that some people use, where you can feel your fingers being squeezed together. And for people with arthritis, that can be a big problem. I'd rather shake hands with someone who does the "dead fish" than with someone who is trying to crush my hand)

But yeah - there are a number of our students lacking in social graces. I just wish we weren't being the ones tasked with teaching them to them. (There was also a mention of table manners. I'm serious. When it came up at a faculty meeting, I was like, "Guys, have you ever seen me eat when I'm in a hurry? You don't want me teaching table manners to a student." I also tend to do stuff like lean my elbows on the table if I'm not thinking about it..... though I guess I DO have 'social graces,' I just don't always use them (If I'm at home, eating alone, I don't worry too much about table manners....)

Semester's last Friday

I just have presentations in my classes today and I'm done with classwork. (Well, I have some grading to do, and someone is coming in to check to be sure they have all the courses they need for a minor)

I'm TIRED. I'm glad the weekend is here. Yesterday was long: gave two exams, graded same, had a faculty meeting (nothing big going on, nothing I have to do soon), ran home and baked cheese biscuits for the party, had my afternoon class, and then went to the party.

It was pretty good. I ate some stuff I don't normally eat (someone brought cheese wrapped in prosciutto and I just decided to heck with limiting sodium for one night). My gift was well received. (We play a variant on Dirty Santa, where numbers are drawn. Number 1 chooses her gift and unwraps it. Number 2 can either choose a new gift or "steal" the gift from Number 1. We do put in that if a gift is stolen twice it is "locked" and that you can't immediately steal back what was stolen from you, or else things might go on forever....) I got stolen from twice; the first time it was a light-up tree that played music (I was okay with that, it was a little bit gaudy for my taste) and the second time it was an elf decoration. I would have been fine with keeping the elf, but what I wound up with was better - one of the women had crocheted several small trivet/potholders and a scrubbie for washing dishes, and put them in a tin. I can actually use those and don't have to think about where to store them for 10 months out of the year. And they were handmade. (I exclaimed over them. It seemed like the person who made them was pleased that the "person who always makes things" approved of the gift).

(I will admit I get a little weary when a lot of back-and-forth stealing of gifts goes on....and some people really like to play it up, where they walk around and look at what everyone has and comment on it, and act like they're going to steal it....and then don't)

Plans for this afternoon are to clean house a little, prep my Sunday school lesson, and then sit down and knit on the second pair of gift socks for my mom. Tomorrow I'm going to head out fairly early (to try to avoid more of the crowds) and do what shopping I need/want to do. (I also need to pick up some kind of gift for the CWF's Crisis Center donation for Monday - either something for a child or a woman. Last year I bought a sweatsuit sized for a woman and one of those doll/blanket things for a child. I'll look around but I admit I keep circling back to the idea that underwear would be a good choice - it is NOT a glamorous or even very "fun" gift, but I think if I had had to leave my home in a hurry with little other than the clothes on my back, a few changes of underwear would be the thing I'd want most.... I've also read that a lot of homeless shelters have commented on how good and useful it is for people to donate tube socks, because their clients always need clean new socks.)

I might also bake some cookies for the finger-food feasting next week....

Thursday, December 04, 2014

This is interesting

Supposedly, this is a roughly-one-minute recap of the major hair-and-makeup trends, decade by decade, from the 1910s to today.

I have no idea how accurate this is though I will say I've read people suggesting that what we "remember" a decade for usually was the trends that started mid-decade - for example, 1980 was considerably more like the 1970s than, say, 1985 was.

But still, I find it interesting.

And the one I feel I look "most" like, oddly, is the 1910 one - I don't wear much make up at all (no eye make up) and I don't strive to make my hair straight because I know it doesn't want to be (or else I'd look more like maybe the 1990s one). Also, I don't pluck my brows any more (well, other than removing a few stray hairs); it got to be too much of a hassle to keep up with and when I'm at a hive-prone point, the slight trauma of plucking makes me come out in hives, which is a worse look than the "natural" brows are.

I also LIKE the 1910 one best. The 1940s one is cool, and is reminiscent of photos I've seen from that era, but wow, so much work on the hair. I'd rather just pin my hair up (or pull it back) and let a few curls escape here and there.

My second-favorite is the 1950s one; if I were willing to put a bit more effort into make up and hair I could see myself rocking that look. (I wonder: my mother was a late teenager in the 1950s, and her style still carries a few elements of 1950s style; I wonder if that, plus my love of older movies, makes me think "1950s style = glamorous woman" more than some of those other styles do)



(Also, the 1920s lipstick - yipes. I wonder if that's where they got the inspiration for Effie Trinket in the movie of "The Hunger Games.")

Two more days...

* I'm effectively done with TEACHING (I give an exam today in my two classes, tomorrow is presentations) but the semester's not done yet and I have a lot of grading between now and then.

* My teeth may FINALLY be better. The pain has subsided, I feel like I can bite stuff again without cracking an incisor (not that I really would have, but when they hurt, it felt like that was going to happen). I wonder if this was a long-lasting aftereffect of the weird virus I had this fall - at first, I would have SWORN I was getting a sinus infection. Until the thing turned distinctly coldlike (and I had a very slight fever).

I have also been using sensitive-tooth toothpaste for the past few days and it's just possible that it's helping. I'll continue for a little while but I seem to remember reading somewhere you shouldn't use it for more than a month at a time....

* I got the first pair of gift socks done last night, and added a few rows to the other pair. I do think I'll be able to finish these in time to just carry them with me, without having to secretly work on them while I'm up there. (And oh, it will be nice to be able to shift over and knit stuff for me- or to be able to knit on what I want to work on, without thinking about deadlines.)

* Trying to ignore what's going on in the world. I scrolled through my Twitter feed this morning (I hadn't watched the news last night, so I didn't really know about some things that had happened), and thought idly, "What's the response that would be most befitting a Christian of my stripe to all of this?" and I admit the first thing that popped into my head was "become a hermit." That's probably not the right response but the human race sure gets me down a lot of the time.

* I don't know. I just want to think about Christmas and fun and the candles at church and singing the songs and making homemade candy and giving people I love gifts and all of that. You can't try to help redeem the world by turning inward like that, but then again, I don't think there's anything I personally can do to make stuff much better. I mean, other than what I'm already doing: teaching so my students (some from not the most-advantaged backgrounds out there) can get good jobs, showing mercy when it's required, donating money to groups that do work I believe in....but I admit I sometimes get into my periodic thinking of, "It's a good thing I'm not God, because after [event x], the human race would have been wiped away and I'd be starting over again by giving the kangaroos or the bison or something free will and sentience, and seeing how THAT experiment works out..." People frustrate me.

* I also think I'm bothered by a dream I had last night. I remember my dreams pretty vividly. Some of them are just random mixtures of stuff I saw or read during the previous day (the brain sorting its recycling, I suppose) but sometimes they contain messages from my subconscious (or somewhere). This one took place back in the house where I grew up, and I guess both my brother and I were still kids/ young teens (at least, he was not married and I wasn't out in the working world, so I assume it was when we were older kids). We had gone out and got a Christmas tree but chose it in haste - and when we went to put it up in the living room, it was terribly misshapen and had dropped many of its needles. Our parents were suggesting a couple of alternatives (it was too late to get a new tree) but they were several very small trees (the tallest was about 2' tall). They were encouraging us to choose one, and I said, "But can't we use them all, set them up on a table or something? Look, we can only put like four ornaments on each tree; how can we choose only four ornaments to use." Then I woke up. I have no idea, as I said, what that means.

* Have decided to take this weekend entirely off from working, in accordance with my tradition. I may not do my Sherman run Friday afternoon (it's going to be raining then but clear on Saturday). I'll have to see how I feel....the upside of going Saturday is that it will be earlier, there will be (hopefully) less traffic, and I will be less tired. All I really "need" are to look for the new copies of the BritKnit magazines, and do a little grocery restocking - and maybe that would be a good time to get my Toys for Tots gift. (A small tradition I keep: each year I buy a toy that I think either my brother or I would have liked when we were a kid, and donate it to Toys for Tots. I'm thinking this year I might get one of the smaller Lego sets. (The large ones are nice but they are also very expensive....)

* I also realized that after Christmas, I'm going to leave my family room configured as it is now. There's a coffee table that now sits under my front window and I think I will move My Own Private Ponyville over to there - and then I can begin decorating the mantel again. (I want to do the "icy" theme - all my pressed or cut glass pieces, with tealights in them- for January again).

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

From The Twitters

As a result of a short conversation with Charles (and also, a few offhand comments some of the others I follow have made), I was inspired to create this:

Yeah, I am not a particularly great fan of infographics-for-the-sake-of-being-infographics* or big splashy things with large numbers or images and very little text. I GET that apparently most people have acquired an attention-span-destroying parasite and so they must be catered to (apparently), but the design is really ugly and it took what used to be a fairly useful magazine and now it just makes it so slick. 

And it DOES look like Romper Room to me a bit. It used to seem like the most grown-up of grown-up magazines: I remember when it used to be mostly newsprint, with those little filled-in circles to indicate how good certain aspects of a product were. I guess they still do that but it seems kind of lost to me in all the glossiness.

some things don't need to be glossy, IMHO.

(Also: "The Twitters" makes me think that's how Photo Finish would say it: "We will put your image on The Twitters ALL OVER EQUESTRIA!!!!")

(*there are some good ones, and I use the "in-flu-VENN-za" one with my classes to teach about viral variants, but it seems like so many of them have less content than a couple paragraphs of text - which would take up less space - would)

A free evening

I achieved Grading Zero (well, for today: I give an exam tomorrow) mid-morning. And my students finished their presentations a bit early. So I am going to go home and relax tonight.

This seems appropriate:






I was thinking this morning about how ready I was to take a break, how, to considerably paraphrase Clark Griswald, have the hap, hap, happiest pre-Christmas since Burl Motherlovin' Ives sang Holly Jolly Christmas to an animated reindeer, and when exam week squeezes its bloated carapace onto the scene, it will find me the jolliest crafter this side of the Happy Acres glitter factory. Or something like that.

(I saw the unedited-for-tv version of that movie for the first time last year and was kind of startled at what was actually in there. I mean, some of the lines are funny but they're definitely Not Safe for Sunday School funny.)

Remembering self-care

I dislike the last week of the semester. Everything's crazy, everything seems to take longer than it possibly should. I don't get enough sleep, I can't take enough time to cook proper meals, it feels like all I do is grading. (I managed to achieve Grading Zero - well, for yesterday - at 7 pm last night). Also piano practice suffers, which I justify to myself by saying, "You're not currently doing lessons" but I also know the only way to continue to progress is to keep playing....

Self-care really suffers in this time. Cooking is one of the first things to go. I didn't pack a lunch yesterday, on the grounds that I was done shortly after noon and so, could run home and get lunch. But. I had to go to the library that afternoon (I had been asked to write up a short history of the local AAUW branch...more on that later) and also go pick up my new skiier (and drag the broken one to the curb; today is supposedly Bulky Waste pickup). And I had forty-some student short papers to read and grade.

Because of different things, mainly putting the new skiier together - I had to remove it from its box in the yard because while I could wrestle the box out of the car, it was too much for me to drag up my front steps. (It said it weighed 30 kg, which is about 66 pounds - pretty much the upper limit of what I can lift and carry, but negotiating steps with that is too much), I didn't get to the grading until after 5 pm.

So anyway. Dinner last night was a salad (originally I wasn't even going to have that) and a jelly omelet. (I had had cheese at lunch - it was a rushed lunch - and I feel like eating cheese at more than one meal in a day is too much cheese). I HAD planned to make pickled beets and maybe some other kind of vegetable and I don't know what for a main dish, but it defaulted to salad and omelet, because of time and tiredness pressures.

(I also didn't get up this morning to work out; I remembered I had to send an e-mail late in the evening and got to bed later than I anticipated)

I haven't knit much since getting back. I had hopes of finishing the first pair of the giftsocks, but maybe tonight. I have one more repeat to knit and then the toe (Toes always take longer than you anticipate, though).

I've already decided that as long as I can push myself to get my grading done after class on Friday, I'm going to Sherman - for a few groceries but also to look for the new issues of magazines I buy off the newsstand. And maybe get myself some little treat, I don't know. (And I need to think about my traditional "Buy a toy my brother or I would have liked when we were kids and donate it to Toys for Tots" purchase. I'm thinking of getting some kind of Lego set this year for that....) Saturday I SHOULD come in and start counting my fall sample's inverts, but I might just take the day off, because I'm TIRED and because I have several days during and after exam week when I could get that done, I don't know. I'm at the point where it's really hard for me to work effectively on stuff any more; I find myself procrastinating when I should be grading (putting the skiier together - I could have left it in its box in my car for a couple days.)

But yeah. I'm tired. At this point I'm saying "Three more days" even though I have exams to give (however, my two sections of intro class have a machine-graded common-departmental exam, so that will be fast for me. And my other two exams are Wednesday).

But oh, there are so many fun things I want to do and I just can't find the time. The worst part of being an adult is that you have the freedom, the ability, and (usually) the funds to do a lot of the fun things you want, but if you're at all a responsible person, you wind up snowed under with work and you CAN'T do those things. So as a kid, you spend all your time longing for adulthood when you'll have the freedom to do what you want, only to learn as an adult that you really DON'T...

Oh, the short write-up? There was much more limited information at the library than I anticipated, including conflicting dates for when the chapter might have been founded. THEN I found out after writing it that instead of a paragraph in the paper, we're getting a one-line photo caption. AND when I sent it off to a few people who have been longer members of the group than I, one criticized how it was written without giving any reason why or suggestions for improvement. Why do I even bother?

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

The twelve days

The Twelve Days of Semester's End

On the first day of Semester's End, my student gave to me, One computer that 'won't turn on.'
On the second day of Semester's End, my students gave to me: Two people with an unprinted assignment
On the third day of Semester's End, my students gave to me: Three grandmothers in the hospital
On the fourth day of Semester's End, my students gave to me: Four teary break-ups
On the fifth day of Semester's End, my students gave to me: FIVE PAPERS NOOOOT TURNED INNNN!
On the sixth day of Semester's End, my students gave to me: six "but it's not up on Blackboard yet"'s
On the seventh day of Semester's End, my students gave to me: seven "Have you calculated our grades yet?"
On the eighth day of Semester's End, my students gave to me: eight people with mystery viruses
On the ninth day of Semester's End, my students gave to me: nine "When is our final again?"s
On the tenth day of Semester's End, my students gave to me: ten shufflings of papers ten minutes before class ends
On the eleventh day of Semester's End, my students gave to me: eleven "Is this going to be on the final"'s
On the twelfth day of Semester's End, my students gave to me: twelve people mysteriously absent

A little knitting

These are the gift mitts:

ribbed fingerless mitts

They're knit of Paton's FX, which, as I've said before, is slightly thicker than a standard fingering weight. I'm hoping the ribby pattern (I made the medium size) will allow them to fit anyone who might get them.

I also have the small toy (we're asked to bring a less-than-$10 toy for a local toy drive). I got a small Disney Princess (Rapunzel, from one of the newer movies) thing.

I do still have to make my finger food. This year it's a bit trickier as I have GIS beforehand, so it can't be anything that needs to be heated up or have finishing touches placed on it. I found a recipe for what are called "cheddar pinwheels" (essentially, biscuits with cheese rolled up in the middle) in my big book of reprinted recipes and things from the old Farmer's Wife magazine, so I'm going to try doing those - I can bake them the night before or the afternoon of (before GIS) and they should be good at room temperature.

This is the first sock of the "Copper Penny Socks" that I finished. I'm slightly more than midway done with the leg-part on the second sock.

first copper penny sock

Monday, December 01, 2014

aw, so cute

I love Christmas.

And I love Fluttershy.

Put 'em together and you get something adorable.

This is from Saber-Panda on DeviantArt. She says it's okay to use it if you credit her (here's her page)

I'm now using it as my ravatar on Ravelry.





(And yes, I know, being another reality, the Ponies don't actually have Christmas, they have Hearth's Warming Eve, but still....)

***

I decided to say "heck with it, it's December" and I switched over to the "Classical Christmas" channel I have on Pandora. Because I need some cheer right now.

***

I'm trying to remain cheerful after receiving five fewer papers (on the absolute, don't-have-it-in-late-don't-even-ask, I've-been-telling-you-this-since-September due date) than I have students in my class. The upside is fewer to carry home and grade tonight and tomorrow; the downside is that I did have that "if it's late, it's points off" clause, which I suppose implies they can be turned in late, and I never quite have the intestinal fortitude to say "no" if it's a day or two late. But by golly this year, I'm gonna say, "Well, because of time pressures, it won't be graded before this weekend." (And if any come in after Friday, forget it.)

I never know if this is something I'm being unreasonably inflexible about, but I always learned growing up that due dates and things were Important. (And how does a person function, really, in the work world, if they miss deadlines? Any granting agency in the world would laugh at someone wanting "three more days" to get their proposal in...I don't even KNOW what would happen if I became violently ill the day before grades were due and could not get them in (I always submit them as early as I have them ready, just in case). I suppose some people DO grow up in a milieu where that kind of thing is not taught as important....but I'd hope that was something a person could learn. (Once again, I'm grateful I had the parents I do. I learned so much from them about how to navigate this world successfully that it seems a lot of people don't know. Even if I never received that Manual of How To Be An Adult I was always expecting would show up around my 18th birthday, I still manage pretty well.)

And yeah, it's possible some of them had emergencies....but I had someone show up to my office with the aftereffects of what sounded like anaphylaxis (they were asking to hand in their paper and go home without sitting through the day's talks, and I consented) and I had another person show up late for class and hand me their paper and said they had to run to the hospital afterward because a relative had been taken in by ambulance....so there are things a person can do (And I allow e-mailed papers).

I don't know. It's one of those old, "Every action you do has ripples, good or bad" things. Someone handing stuff in late to me means I don't get it graded as fast, they don't get the feedback as fast. Maybe it means I put off doing something I WAS going to do in order to make time to grade them. And it does wear down on my good will - it seems to be quite one thing to take, say, fifteen papers home to grade over a night and the next day, quite another to get two or three a day over the course of a week. I like to be able to mark stuff off as "done" and having late papers means I don't get to do that as soon.

I also had someone claim they didn't know they had to sign up for a presentation time.





Again, this was something I mentioned MULTIPLE TIMES. I wonder if I need to go to engraved invitations next year...

I admit this is another one of those "don't understand" things where maybe I'm being "too rigid" (I don't know, I really genuinely don't know). I was super-paranoid and super-compulsive as a student (part of the secret of my success) and I listened attentively and wrote down every announcement the prof made, and if I was at ALL unclear, I went and checked with them early on. But a failure to plan means that everyone else winds up having to scramble at the last minute, and I DON'T LIKE SCRAMBLING AT THE LAST MINUTE. I like things planned out and organized and ready to go, and when someone drops something like, "Oh, are there any times left on Friday? I didn't know we had to sign up." I'm left standing there with my mouth kind of hanging open, not knowing how to react, and being kind of in conflict, because on the one hand, part of my brain (perhaps the part influenced by my Prussian ancestry) is going "BUT THERE ARE RULES!!!!" and the other part of my brain, probably more influenced by my Christian background, is going , "But you also need to show mercy sometimes!" And so, I wind up confused. And sometimes not responding as graciously as I might nor as firmly as I could...

I also have one student who's been AWOL for weeks and I don't know what's going on with them. I have some students who "drop without dropping" (i.e., they give up on the class and accept the F, which sometimes is the better strategy for Financial Aid reasons than actually dropping the class - and yes, that makes me crazy that it is that way) but I've also had people disappear for a month, I assume they've dropped, and then SURPRISE! they're back. And needing to take the final that I didn't make enough copies of because I assumed they dropped...