Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Thinking about teaching

So I have this class. Let's call this class E, to avoid giving too much identifying information.

I have been teaching E for sixteen years now. Pretty much every semester, and I include summers in that. I have taken two summers off in the time I've been here but other than that I teach E every year.

And it's starting to get stale. I've used the same textbook, though in different editions, since 2006. I like the textbook in some ways (it uses a lot of case studies, it doesn't shy away from the mathematical aspects of the field, it doesn't dumb-down) but there are other things I'm finding I don't love so much (it spends a LOT of time on a topic that could be more compellingly presented and which tends to take up a lot of time).

And I"m also getting a little fed up with E. Part of that is that a couple semesters recently, I've had classes with difficult people in them - either people who very clearly telegraph "I don't want to be here. You have nothing you can teach me" (I have one right now) or people who just have this ongoing string of PROBLEMS that lead to them begging me to let them make up multiple labs, even though, logistically, making up labs in this class is very difficult (and in some cases, impossible, unless I can recruit a few students to help the student making up).

Part of me would like to give the class to someone else for a few semesters. But, two three big buts:

1. This is kind of what I was hired for.
2. It would mean trading out with them and therefore doing a whole new prep, and so two people would be doing a whole new prep one semester. And new preps are kind of challenging.
3. There's also one person who might consider taking it on but I don't want to give it to them because of Reasons I don't want to go into here.

So I don't know. I talked to my Best Frolleague Forever about an unrelated topic (a class we team teach) and then brought up the issue. He agreed sixteen years is a darn long time to teach a class, but stopped short of offering to take it (I'd trade classes with him, at least for one I could teach). But he did suggest three things:

1. Taking time this coming summer and restructuring the class, maybe going to a whole new textbook (that's a thought)
2. Applying for a sabbatical sometime to revamp classes (that's a very, very long shot, and he's applying soon, so I don't want to poach on his territory). I'm not sure I'd deal well with a sabbatical, anyway: I get more done when I'm tightly scheduled than when I'm free. There's some kind of weird "I have all the time in the world!" attitude that kicks in, and I don't get nearly as much done as I plan on.
3. Talking with a couple of the people who teach the classes above it in the sequence, finding out what they want incoming students to know, what they don't care about so much, and retailoring my syllabus to more or less fit with that. (I am NOT, however, going to turn this into an ISSUES class, which I know one person would like. Issues are important and can provide useful case studies, but too many Issues-based classes are taught so that actual background knowledge is thin on the ground and you wind up with people who can opine a lot but not back it up, and I don't play that way)

I actually kind of like idea 1. There's a reasonable chance that because of staffing changes and financial aid changes, we will not have summer classes next year, and while I have the germ of an idea for a bigger research project I could do, I'd also have time to revamp a class. I could request sample textbooks from a bunch of different publishers (I am not ready to write my own, though some do that).

I also talked to him about my Problem Person. This is the one who acts too cool for school and who spent class the other day texting - and I let them, because it was preferable to the snarky comments and chitter chatter with seatmates they do otherwise. BFF said he did the same thing - so I'm not the only one who's given up on this person. I also asked BFF if he knew who the person's advisor was and he somewhat shamefacedly said that he was. I said, "Next time you meet with this person, could you have a Come to Jesus meeting with them?" (for non-southern-USers: a Come to Jesus meeting is essentially telling someone they really need to shape up and that their behavior is unacceptable. Or that's how I mean it.). He laughed and said he'd had several with the person already.

So it's not just me.

BFF also agreed, sadly, that this is someone (student in question is an XY person) who would listen more to stern input from another XY person rather than an XX person like me. Sad but true.

So, I don't know. Maybe cross off each day on the calendar until the end of the semester? BFF did say student in question is perilously close to being gone due to Academic Probation, so at least I'm not trapped in the Groundhog Day scenario of this person eternally repeating my class.

But I can tell it's souring me on the class, and that's bad. I have several people in there who are enthusiastic and who care and who are earning As and I guess I need to look at them while teaching instead of looking at this student.

And it's payday

Apparently I've hit the limit of my retirement contributions for the year (the system I pay into, there's a percentage limit, I guess. At any rate, I'm putting aside ~15% of what I make, that's outside of the annual IRA contribution and other stuff).

But anyway, the nicest of First World Problems: my checking account is well replenished (not that I was in danger of going into debt) and I have a decision: do I chunk some of the money over into Savings (not that I make much interest at all, but having money in savings I don't think about having it because I don't see the balance but once a month, and so I'm not tempted to spend it) OR do I buy something I've been wanting but put off because I had other expenses?

I do the savings-account thing In Case Of Emergencies, which was why the furnace replacement this summer was more an "oh dang" than a real freak-out of "how am I going to swing this?"

But I really want a new digital camera of some kind (No, not a smart phone with a camera, I really am not ready to shift to - and pay for the plan for - a smart phone just yet). Not sure whether to go and spend the couple hundred dollars a good Canon or something would cost, or to just put that money into savings. (I could do both - buy a new camera AND put a smaller amount into savings).

(I will have to look into how one uploads photos from a newer camera. As clunky and awful as the old Mavica is, it had the virtue of using floppies, and I have an external floppy drive at home. I presume most of the new ones use some kind of USB connection?)

I do live frugally, so I have savings. And I also recognize that I make a good bit over the median income in this nation. And I come from a background where attitudes about money and such were those that enable me to see the importance of saving money. (Sometimes I may actually be a bit TOO frugal, I think, considering that inflation is essentially eating my savings slowly, while I dither about spending $300 on a camera)

However, if you look up the average salary of a Full Professor? Well, I make somewhere on the order of 1/3 to 1/2 of that depending on the numbers you use. A lot of those salaries are artificially inflated by people in research posts who have large incomes from grants, royalties from patents and the like - and also from B-schools and Law Schools that pay more. Though it is....interesting.... I have been told here we are in the 6th percentile for salaries for our full professors, as compared to similar institutions.

(Which is why I tend to give a bit of the stink-eye to people who make comments about "overpaid, underworked professors" and seem to be implying I'm one of them)

Of course, our cost of living is also a lot lower than MANY places. I was able to afford to buy my house outright. Granted, it was a bit of a fixer-upper, but not having a mortgage made a big difference.
 (But I do think my frugality and the fact that I started out here with a cushion of savings - yes, even as a "broke" graduate student I was able to save money, mainly because I lived with my parents and instead of charging room and board, they said they'd be happy to see me put away money - made a difference there, too.)

 I will admit, about the 6th percentile thing....one of my colleagues claims that means we "should" be making $10,000 more a year. What would I do with that? Well, when I sit down and think that perhaps $3000 to $3500 of that would wind up going to taxes, it sounds less grand. I don't know if I'd have more electronic gadgets or not if my paycheck amount was higher each month. Maybe I'd be more cavalier about ordering expensive books from Folio Society (the one true luxury I indulge in). I don't think I'd buy more yarn or fabric than I do now; I don't use up what I already have and that makes me sad. I wouldn't eat more meals out; my restaurant activity is by necessity circumscribed by health concerns. I don't know that I'd travel more: I work all the time, and honestly? I prefer short-term trips, ideally ones where I can sleep in my own bed at night.

I'd probably give more to charity (I'm fairly generous right now, though when I feel skint I back off on some of the "they probably don't need it as much" ones, like some of the scholarship funds I give to). I'd probably put more away for retirement. But I don't see living any more lavishly than I do....because I'm fundamentally pretty comfortable. There might be a few creature comforts I could add, I'd worry less about cranking up the thermostat in the winter when it's really cold out, or I might buy some slightly-more-luxurious food items than I do now....but I admit I kind of lack imagination and draw a blank when someone starts up the "what would you do if you won the lottery" game.

A scary world

* Apparently they now think that college student who disappeared in Virginia may have been the victim of a serial killer, who may or may not have been caught. (Apparently there were five missing-persons cases from that area in the past however many years)

* Apparently a real estate agent in Arkansas got killed as she was going to show a house (Which I think was also an episode of Criminal Minds once). I don't know if they have anyone in custody yet.

* And of course, the biggie locally: someone beheaded someone else at a Moore, OK food-processing plant, and was apparently going to do it again but an off-duty sheriff's deputy stopped him using force.  And the suspect is originally from Idabel. (And yes, there may be more issues involved here)

I don't know. Stuff like that, heard on the radio first thing in the morning, kind of make me not want to leave the house. (Oh, my neighborhood is FAIRLY safe, despite random people-who-are-probably-burglary-perps running through my yard). But it does make me rather paranoid and overcautious:

- a woman showed up at my door Sunday with a small dog in tow, looking for "Missy" who had lost the dog. I kept my glass storm door locked and informed her that I did not really know Missy and didn't know where she was. While in this case it was almost entirely likely that her story was true (there was, I think, a Missy who lived in the house south of me - until they abruptly moved out a couple days ago*)

(* I can suspect part of the story behind that based on some gossip conveyed my by my air conditioning dude earlier in the summer. And if it's correct, it's not a happy story).

Then again, the "lost dog ploy" is a common way people gain entry to a house, by abusing someone else's trust and desire to help.

- I always, always keep both my big front door and my storm door locked when I am at home. As I've said before: if someone's gonna burgle my house, I prefer they do it while I am OUT to while I am AT HOME. (Of course, I vastly prefer my house NOT be burgled, but we live in a fallen world, so you can't count on that).

(I do leave the storm door unlocked when I'm away, because the postal people and UPS can then place small packages between the storm door and front door, where they are protected from rain and also from prying eyes of would-be package thieves. Though I'm guessing someone who boosted a package from my doorstep would be deeply disappointed; my most recent purchase I'm waiting on is a book of Handel's keyboard pieces.)

- When I come in here early in the morning, if I'm the only one, I don't unlock the exterior door, preferring to be the person alone in a locked building (especially since this building is somewhat distant from the rest of campus).

But I see stories like that and I think: Well, maybe going to Spiro Mounds all alone over mid-fall break isn't such a hot idea. Or I twitch every time a student gets a bit angry in class, remembering all the times in recent years that's broken bad. (I've told the story about the student who was escorted off my dad's campus - and served with a restraining order - after making death threats on the chem prof whose class he failed).

But the thing is, I hate feeling like that. Not helping someone trying to return a lost dog, just because they MIGHT have an accomplice who forces themself into my house when I open the door. We're called to love and trust our neighbors, and I have a really hard time figuring out the compromise between my own self-protection and helping other people. And I admit, I tend to fall on the side of being overly cautious most of the time - but you hear such bizarre awful stories, and while they may only happen one time out of a thousand, still, how are you to know you're not going to become that one?

I don't know. That's one of the kind of awful things about paying attention to the news - you do get kind of paranoid and instead of stepping outside your house to talk to the lady with the dog, you stay behind the glass pane of your storm door. And it feels very unwelcoming and rude to me - but at the same time, I'm a single woman who lives alone, I don't have anyone I could easily call on for help. And I admit, this is the kind of stuff that I wonder if I'll be called on to explain at the entryway to The Great Beyond - why DIDN'T you step out onto your porch to talk to that woman, instead of acting like you were a gas-station cashier in a high-crime area and staying hidden behind plate glass? Why DIDN'T you stop and help that person on the highway? And I don't know how you balance it, your own safety vs. helping people who genuinely need it. I can't always go by "feels hinky to me," there have been situations that didn't set off my radar that wound up being dangerous, and others, where every fiber in me was saying "RUN! Run away NOW" that turned out to be innocuous.

Monday, September 29, 2014

juggling my projects

Later yesterday evening, I put aside the mitts and worked on the tail for Queen Chrysalis again.

She now has a completed tail (and it's attached) and I just barely began on the hair.

But wow, this amugurumi takes a LONG time. I might not have embarked on it if I realized then how involved it was, but now, since I'm at least half-done with it, I feel like I need to finish.

(After this one? Not sure if I'm going to do the Mabel Pines I bought a pattern for over the summer- that looks like a nice, straightforward, doll-type ami) or if I'm going to do Maud Pie. (And I'm also thinking now - I have leftover pale blue yarn from Colgate, and I have some fuzzy pale blue and white variegated yarn that was a "maybe this will work for Lyra's hair" purchase, I could do a Trixie with no further outlay of money. And since in some of the fanon (and also, the recent comic series, which may not be canon but is at least endorsed by Hasbro), Trixie is somewhat rehabilitated. And I like my headcanon idea that she turned out to be a "mean girl" because she didn't get enough love as a filly - and maybe, even, she was kind of unpopular in school* and remained a blank flank for longer than her classmates, and so as an adult she's overcompensating.)

(*I know. I was kind of unpopular in school and I hope it can be said of me that I turned out the opposite of a "mean girl" but I've also known people who rejected by their peers who, instead of going into golden retriever mode and deciding, "I will MAKE YOU love me," they decide they have no use for other people)

And yes, I know: I don't need more Ponies. Except I kind of do. 

But I have to balance all of that with my Christmas knitting. (And also, with teaching an overload this fall.)

I will say, I find for me, simple knitting (even something like ribbing, which isn't totally "autopilot" knitting) is a lot easier for me and a lot less requiring of my attention than crochet is. Maybe part of that is doing worsted-weight crochet with a smallish hook (kind of SOP for toys - so the stuffing doesn't show through) but it does take a while and it's kind of fatiguing because it feels more like I'm fighting the fabric than knitting does.

At least my allergies are better today. No eye hives, which are truly the awfullest kind, just a few on my torso, which is kind of standard for pollen season. (I did also buy a new air purifier for my house and ran it overnight Saturday and Sunday nights. I had had one, but it crapped out - something went wrong with the fan and it made a hideous noise and also wasn't pushing air. At some point I have to make an 'e-waste" run to the recycling place and I'll see if they'll take the dead air purifier.)

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Not so super

I'm working on the gift-mitts. They look really nice; I hope my sister in law will like them. (I'm up to the thumb gusset on the first one).'

I did a ton of grading yesterday afternoon (all the papers) and also ran out to the local yarn/quilt shop, where I found four different shades of green (three in Berroco's "Vintage," which is just a nice yarn to work with, and one in "Comfort") for the frogs. The woman who sold me the yarn asked me to photograph them when they were done and either bring in or e-mail the photo.

In other news: my eyes started getting puffy again (the ragweed here is truly, amazingly awful right now) and in an excess of caution (I had to Elder today, so I didn't want my eyes to be swollen shut) I took a dose of Benadryl (the largest "child" dose, and the generic liquid children's Benadryl I bought has a truly barf-tastic "bubblegum" flavor) before bed.

Turns out I have a "paradoxical reaction." You hear about people getting sedated from diphenhydramine, so much that parents used to sometimes try to "drug" their kids with it to get them to sleep (a bad idea, anyway) and they also sell it in sleep aids.

Well, it turns out it makes me hyper and wired. I was still sitting up at 10:30 last night, watching re-runs of "The Amazing Dr. Pol" and I realized something wasn't right. I went to bed but tossed and turned for a LONG time.

Actually, this may indicate something interesting but not particularly useful to me about my genetic make-up: I may be a "CYP2D6 ultrarapid metabolizer."  (According to Wikipedia, that tendency is less common in the ethnic background I come from than some others, so maybe not). Not sure what it means other than that apparently people like that metabolize certain medications faster.

I do know I'm super-sensitive to lots of stuff: I have never tried drinking more than a half-glass of wine, because after that I could already slightly feel its effects; the one time I took Sudafed I was wired for three days (and wound up wondering why in the heck people would take recreational drugs in order to feel that way - I was truly miserable). Caffeine also affects me strongly so I try avoiding it. No idea if this has anything to do with the particular cytochrome involved, but I do seem to be sensitive to lots of stuff.

Codeine just makes me throw up, but that may be unrelated to the possibility I have a weird genetic combo: this guy seems to think it works better for him than morphine does Apparently "supermetabolizers" are better off avoiding most opioids. Which is good to know. I hope I never have a situation where something like oxycodone is the best mode of dealing with pain because apparently it can lead to problems, like respiratory depression, in someone who is a supermetabolizer. (I honestly prefer some pain to being drugged up, so I try to avoid pain medication. As I said, ibuprofen seems to work really well for me)

If it's true and I'm a supermetabolizer - well, it's not so super. I hate being so dang sensitive to so much stuff. (Thank goodness low doses of ibuprofen actually work, and work really well for me - I made it through a broken elbow and through wisdom tooth removal and both times I chose not to fill the pain-pill prescription "Unless ibuprofen doesn't work" and I never had to.)

I will say I may have found a very low-chemical way of getting my eyes through this allergy season: last night, one of the Dr. Pol episodes featured a woman who brought in the dog she and her husband "inherited" from his brother, and she noted that the dog was "the last tangible link with the brother." Well, the dog had an inoperable cancer, and Dr. Pol, the woman, and her husband agreed that euthanasia was the kindest option....and they kind of went through the process. And stuff like that *affects* me. And I started crying. And dangit, the tears BURNED. I don't know why, whether it was the irritated tissue around my eyes or what but I immediately stumbled to the bathroom and found the Collyrium eyewash (thank goodness I still had some on hand) and used that. My eyes were a lot better this morning. And I used it after mowing the lawn today (I know - but it needed it and I wore a P-95 mask, long sleeves and pants, and gloves)

I suspect a big part of the future of medicine, if it doesn't become prohibitively expensive to do so, is figuring out individuals' genetic weirdnesses and compensating for them with changing doses or whatever. I've long thought  "what diet is best" is probably a function of one's own genetics, so the whole "low fat!" "No, low carb!" argument probably is far more complex than what the adherents of either would care to accept.

Friday, September 26, 2014

And it's Friday

Some random stuff:

* As much as I love some of Adagio Tea's blends, I'm coming to the conclusion that Harney and Sons teas are better quality.  (they have a website, and I also now get catalogs from them since I've mail-ordered from them)

My dad is very fussy about tea and I gave him a tin of their English Breakfast loose tea for Father's Day, and his conclusion was it was better than the one he was ordering from some British importer. I think I'm going to order him some more for Christmas; I think he might like All India, which is one of my favorites of the "plain" blends. Or maybe just their plain orange pekoe; I know my dad doesn't care for the flavored teas.

* I tend to be one of those people true tea-snobs roll their eyes about because I like the flavored teas. My current Harney favorite is their Vanilla Comoro Decaf. It's just a good tea, and the fact that it's decaf means it works even better for me. I also really like their raspberry herbal tea (I got a sample of it), and the next time I place an order I'm going to order a larger amount to use.

I also like their chocolate mint black tea.

* I just have to remind myself I'm teaching for the people who give a dang. I looked out over my class today and saw a few bored faces (and one person texting on their phone, and no, I'm not saying anything to them, because when they're not texting they talk, and that's worse). But I also saw a few people who were paying attention and who looked interested.

But it just makes me sad. I remember my own college days - how quaint that era seems now - and how so much stuff excited me (and as I said, I was still sufficiently terrified of having a Permanent Record somewhere that I really did not want to fail).

* I also remember enjoying a lot of my classes. A few I was puzzled or worried in. But I don't remember being bored. I don't know if my tolerance for "boring" is higher than some people's, or if students today have become more jaded. I've had a few BAD teachers over the years - mostly people who were nasty to the students (there was one chem prof at Michigan who was infamous for chewing out people who came to his office hours with a question he deemed insufficiently insightful) or who confused me because they were disorganized. But I didn't mind the droners or the slow-movers if they presented stuff in a way that made sense to me, and most topics were interesting to me.

Or this could just be a case of "the farther away you get from a time in your life, the better it looks"

* I'm trying to find a good, more written-for-the-reader type review of basic (or perhaps, not so basic) algebra. I admit I've forgotten a lot of it and some of my attempts to relearn calculus are probably hampered by my not immediately remembering some of the algebra stuff. I have the Manga Guide to Linear Algebra, but that's a bit farther along than what I want at the moment. (Yes, embarrassing: I need to review quadratics and factoring and stuff like that). I'd prefer an applied-type book where the author talks about how and why you use the stuff. And not so much a textbook....

(I'm still going to read the Linear Algebra one. It talks about eigenvectors which I sometimes use, or, rather the computer calculates for me and I know kind of what conclusions to draw from what they say, but I don't really know how you get to having the eigenvector).

* One of my colleagues is learning French because his daughter's fiance is French and he wants to communicate. Periodically he comes and asks me something or composes a sentence for me. I'm actually surprised and pleased at how much French I remember. (And my accent is pretty good, I guess: I was correcting his pronunciation on some things one day).

I think one good thing in high school; we memorized poetry in French. By having something memorized, we could really work on pronunciation. (And yeah, how you pronounce in poetry is a bit different, because of the scansion: you usually pronounce final "e"s that you wouldn't normally. but still.

I just generally tend to be pro- things like memorizing poetry. I enjoyed it, and I can still dredge up bits of it 30 years later.

* I wonder if he will want me to teach him how to swear in French. I only know a few of the slightly milder ones (Heh, I just looked up one I thought meant "a-hole" and it turns out it means a slang term for another bodily orifice that women have, and it translates to a word I'd really, really never use*. So I guess I do know at least one of the really bad ones. Holy cow, so that's what Dr. Pryce was trying so hard to explain without really explaining when we ran across it in a book in class.). There's also "le mot du cinq lettres which is the strong French word for solid excreta.

(*The way the expression is used in French, it is roughly equivalent to "Well, you've got some nerve!" but with a side of "and you're being a jerk about it") (Interestingly, this site translates the word, in isolation, as "ass" or "the milder term, idiot." I don't know. I still wouldn't use it given what it apparently can mean in some contexts. But wait, there's more: over here they do give the genital explanation of the word. I guess you have to be VERY careful speaking a language that is not your native one.)

There is a similar word (cul) that is a rude word for butt. Hence, PQ or "Papier cul" for toilet paper. (I guess Cul, though it translates into English as a ruder word than Butt, isn't seen as so rude in French....)

Of course, in Canadian French (and perhaps still in the rural European French), the way you swear is by literally blaspheming - blaspheming a saint or the Virgin Mary or something. (I admit, if I were going to go "harsh"? I'd rather use "le mot du cinq lettres" than that)

Languages are interesting. Sometime I want to take time and go back and learn more German. Some of the people on ITFF use an app called Duolingo which is sort of a language-learning game. I don't know if you can download it for a laptop or if it's mobile-only, but I should check; I could download it at home and when I felt like faffing around with a computer game I could play it.

I also still have a vague quixotic dream of trying to learn Latin some day. Just because. (And anyway, learning stuff stretches your neurons and is supposed to prevent brain loss). I don't have time now but someday I want to.

* While talking about "you could put these data into a pie chart" in class today, it popped in my mind: "I wonder if there's a Pinkie Pie Chart." (It's a good thing I have a strong "filter" or all kinds of WTH stuff would pop out of my mouth in the middle of class.)

And yes, there is. I don't have a good attribution because this comes via Google Image Search from some discussion board, but if you know who did this, I'll happily give attribution:

I still think Fluttershy is Best Pony! but I also have to admit very strong love for Pinkie Pie.

Last night's dream

(Yeah, I know, it's a common bore-blogging trope to talk about your dreams. But sometimes I think mine reveal some kind of psychological insight to me and I like to remember them).

I don't know if last night's remembered dream was wish-fulfillment or if it was stress leaving my brain. I was in the classroom, teaching one of my classes. I had a student in my class (as is typical in my dreams, not a person that exists in my real life). He was sort of the stereotypical surfer dudebro - bleached blond hair, slightly muscled physique. He was wearing jeans shorts and a white sweatshirt with some kind of green faux-university logo on it (like the shirts places like Urban Outfitters sell to wannabe hipsters so they look 'smart' or like they've been somewhere cool).

Anyway. I was lecturing about cellular respiration to the class (a topic I taught in one of my classes this week). He started talking. Not whispering, not that little tiny snarky aside to a friend students sometimes do and which most faculty pretend not to see. But talking at conversational volume to the person next to him.

The young women behind him got pained looks on their faces and in my dream, I thought, "Tap him on the shoulder and tell him to shut his yap." (In real life, when a student tells another student that they are being annoying, it often "sticks" better than when **I** ask the student to stop doing whatever it is. Sad but true).

Well, they didn't. So I stopped, walked over to face him, and said, "Excuse me?"

He kept talking, totally ignoring me. I said, "Excuse me, you're annoying the people behind you with your talking."

Again he ignored me.

And then I did something I'd never have the guts to do in real life- I got in his face. I leaned over the desk, put my hands on the desk and got my face about six inches from his:

"Your. Talking. Is. Annoying. People. Be. Quiet. Now. Or. Leave. Class."

And he looked at me and said, "Sha. I'm a sports physiologist, I already know all this, I don't need to learn it." (In the narrative of the dream, I knew that he worked at one of those sports-injury-rehab places, but he was essentially a glorified go-fer: he washed towels and cleaned the sweat off the machines when someone was done using it and manned the phones).

"No," I said, "Even if you were, you still need to learn this. You got the lowest grade on the exam we took*"

(*in real life I would SO not be allowed to say this. It's actually technically violating Federal law to reveal a student's grade to another student without the first student's written permission)

And then he got up. And stormed out. But not before throwing a little plastic ring at me. (In the world of the dream, the little plastic ring was something you plugged into the computers - kind of like a verification key - that allowed access to all the class materials. So throwing away your key was kind of like dropping the mike as you stormed out of class.)

I woke up right after that. But yeah, I have one student who's a particular thorn in my side because of their attitude (they seem to think they don't need to learn the material, despite the fact that they're repeating the class and currently have a failing grade in their retake of it*)

(*And I don't get this, I guess this is how some folks operate so differently from I do. I'd be utterly humiliated if I failed a class (or even got a D, which is technically passing but which I don't really think of as passing) and if I were retaking it, I'd work my BUTT off to earn the best grade possible.)

I also have a few people who are just being followed around by Winnie-the-Pooh's little black storm cloud this semester - problem upon problem and it bleeds over into them needing extensions or missing class and then not understanding the material. And I have a few people who seem already to have given up. 

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Begun the knitting...

My Christmas gift-knitting commences, with a pair of blue fingerless mitts.

Not very far yet:

The second picture is more true to color. These are quick-and-dirty webcam photos.

It's just a simple ribbed pattern which also eliminates some of the worry about sizing.  Pattern was a freebee off of Ravelry but I am sure there are lots of ribbed mitt patterns out there.

(Also, my eye is better. Usually the eye-hives last less than 24 hours. But no more cashews for me!)

My niece's birthday

She turns 2 the end of next week. (Wow, time moves fast. I guess her first Christmas, they stayed home, and it was just last Christmas they came to see us).

Her gift is ready to go. She's getting an "R is for R2D2" t-shirt (which is also blue, her current favorite color) and six Beatrix Potter books, in the traditional little Frederick Warne format: Peter Rabbit, Squirrel Nutkin, Tale of Two Bad Mice, Jeremy Fisher, Jemima Puddleduck, and Tom Kitten. Those are the ones that either were my favorites (Squirrel Nutkin, Two Bad Mice, and Jeremy Fisher) or the best-known ones.

I ran out to one of the local chain drugstores to get wrapping paper and a shipping box after lunch today. It's funny how although I barely know her, I try to do things I think will amuse or please her - she is currently starting to learn her letters (which makes me feel like a relative sluggard; I learned to read at 4 and I remember when people were impressed by that. Now, having learned to read by 4 seems to get a "wow, that late?" from the alpha-parenting community). But anyway. I found wrapping paper with HAPPY BIRTHDAY written on it in big, block, primary-colored letters. And the card I got her is the kind I would have loved as a kid: a drawing of a pink kitten with "real" flocked fur on it. (The only way it could have been better would have been if it had had glow-in-the-dark on it, but it didn't)

It looks like some of the local places are bracing for the "holiday season" to start up. This one doesn't normally carry much in the way of toys, but today they had, along all the tops of the aisles various toy items. Including those MLP stuffed animals that some of the Bronies call the "spaghetti hair" ones - these are the bigger ones (I've seen the little "spaghetti hairs" for a couple years). They only had Applejack and Rainbow Dash and Pinkie. And I know some of the collectors kind of hate the spaghetti hair but I will say these toys had nicely done eyes, and I'd much rather see a Pony with properly done eyes, that are pretty and look friendly but have spaghetti hair, than have one whose hair is show-perfect but the eyes aren't right.

I admit, I was tempted by the Pinkie Pie. (Of the three, she looked most like "herself.") But I told myself: you don't need another Pinkie Pie. You have the little figurines and a beanie baby one and the one you made. (And no, I didn't get the Pinkie Pie - I got my mailer and my wrapping paper and just that).

But I admit, I did think, "But if you had another Pinkie, you could keep Pinkies stashed all around your house, in case of a Pinkie emergency."

(Heck, if I have an especially bad day one of these days soon, I may still go back and get her. I have no idea what they were charging.)

Another distressing thing

A quick photo, before I head over to work and see if any of this mess works on my work-box.

I guess I have to never eat cashews again. I kind of suspected cashews and pistachios gave me hives (they are in the same botanical family as poison ivy), and it had been multiple months since I tried them.

But Wednesday evening I needed a snack, and there had been a pack containing cashews in my last Graze box, and so I was all, "Oh, what can the harm be?


Can you see how my left eye (on the right in the photo) is kind of puffy and jacked up?

Yeah, I felt something that seemed like a hive starting late last evening; it got worse overnight. The good news, I guess, is I don't have respiratory symptoms with these but I know it looks awful (it's less than when I first got up; I exercised, figuring that encouraging blood flow might remove the edema, and then I sat with an icepack on my face for a little while)

(Not flattering pictures from this webcam....)

ETA: Apparently comment notifications go to the .netcommander address, which I can still access, so it's all cool. (Thanks, Roger)

That may have worked

So my new gmail address, in case I can never, ever access the old one again, is ecorbettbiologist@gmail.com. Yeah, it's long and clunky and ugly but what I wanted was already taken and at least now I won't be getting e-mails for people who seem like me, but aren't me.

 But GAH. Google, why you gotta change stuff?

It apparently added this e-mail address to my Blogger account, which is every so slightly creepy.

DANGIT. It won't let me import from my old netcommander.com address; it says I don't have the right POP address, but I'm pretty sure it's the one I set up with. Gee, if it would let me SEE my old netcommander.com account maybe I could look stuff up?

Google, you are stupid. Apparently you dropped the "don't" part of "don't be evil" a few years back.

ETA: Well, I added my "new" gmail address, so I should still be able to post here.

And this is surpassingly weird: after "changing" my supposed old e-mail address "after which you will no longer be able to log in with this e-mail address," now I can get to the old netcommander.com address after all.

Hm. I wonder where my comment notifications will be sent. Someone want to test that?

Well, everything works at work. And apparently, Google's comment of "once you 'upgrade' to a .gmail account, you will not be able to log in under your old address" didn't mean, "We're throwing that address into a fiery furnace and you will never be able to see it, or any of the email you had saved in it, again." It just means it's a tab on my Google account, and it's just a couple extra clicks to get to it. So I can live with that, I guess, and anyway, I have a backup address now in case Vyve decides to pull the plug on the old .netcommander accounts. 

And yeah, that was a surprise to me because it seemed illogical: if I were doing it, I'd set it up as more of a "hey, do you want to create a secondary .gmail account so that we can link your blogger account to it, but keep your main e-mail as your primary account?" Except then I guess Google gets less chance to slap ads in the sidebar (the new gmail account I created has ads; my old netcommander one doesn't. But then, I PAY (partly, though most of the cost is the access) to have the netcommander account so I'd hope it wouldn't have ads)

But I did genuinely believe I'd lose access to my old account forever (or, forever unless I got a computer whiz's help) and maybe lose access to THIS account by doing the "hey, it only takes a minute!" bit. I dunno. I still think google is being stupid about this.

Just in case

Google is being stupid to me. So this is a just in case, in case I try to access my e-mail and something blows up and I lose Blogger access somehow - I'm not dead.

This could be my cable company being stupid; for years I've had a .netcommander.com address that was administered these past few years on a .gmail platform. Now it's telling me to create a .gmail account. I can't access my .netcommander.com address, that I've had for fifteen years.

I'm angry. Just leave me the hell alone, Google. You don't necessarily need to track EVERYTHING I'm doing on a single platform, single account. What about people who NEED anonymity, say, for example, a woman who has left an abusive relationship? Oh, she doesn't get Internet access because you need to have her real name and location linked?

Gah. So I can have blogger or I can have e-mail. At this point, I might just keep Blogger and use my campus account for everything. But this is megastupid, google.

So, just in case, there may be a fillyjonk2@blogspot.com as a new backup. Stupid, stupid google.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

The back's done

No picture, because I'm not at home, but I finished the back on the "High Street Vest" (this is a simple, all-stockinette pattern) that I'm making out of KnitPick's "Galileo." (Galileo, Figaro....)

Good news: it looks like I WILL have enough yarn. It took 2 1/2 balls for the back and I have six, and the front has the deep v-neck, so that occupies less yarn. (I was worrying if I'd have enough for the arm ribbing and neck ribbing at the end, but I think I'll be okay).

Not much else to add. I'm still reading away on Adam Bede and really enjoying it a LOT. I find I actually sleep better and more soundly on nights when I read something like this, that is rich in description and amusing characters and fairly low on distressing drama* or people being ugly to one another.

(I really like Rev. Irwine. But then I also really like Adam and Seth Bede. And Dinah Morris. Even Hetty I-forget-her-last-name, though she's silly and vain and and selfish and apparently doesn't like children, even she's not so awful). 

(* I know, it may still come. Flipping ahead I saw a reference to a trial so I'm a tiny bit apprehensive).

I'm thinking about "next novel." Maybe I'll read Emma next (and after that, I'll have to sit down and watch Clueless all the way through, for once). Or maybe the big fat translation of The Three Musketeers I have. It's supposed to be a good translation and one that brings out a lot of the humor in the original book.

I didn't mention that I picked up the new Interweave "specialty" publication last weekend - this one is called Enchanted Knits or summat like. It's all patterns drawing inspiration from fairy tales (earlier specialty publications were all Jane Austen influenced designs, and there was Harry Potter Knits, which I guess has been reissued as Wizard Knits, and there was the Downton Abbey one, which I bought, despite never having seen more than a few moments of the show).

I don't KNOW that there's anything in there I would knit (though there are socks, and there's a lovely Merlin-inspired cabled sweater) but I just like having these to look at and consider the inspirations and the allusions the designers make.

I wonder what they're going to do next. (I hope they keep doing these). I don't know if they're out of Jane Austen-inspired ideas. They could do a mythology-themed one, or actually, several issues: Greek mythology, Norse, maybe Asian.....I could also see a Golden Age Mystery knits - including a What Would Miss Marple knit project, and maybe a sweater vest like Peter Davison Albert Campion would wear, perhaps a nightcap and mustache-protector for Poirot? (In one of the Poirot movies, I think we are shown him wearing something rather like a little bandeau at night to keep his mustaches in place). Maybe a cabled sweater for Inspector Alleyn when he is out in the countryside? Or Agatha Troy's "artistic" sweater design? (Perhaps the problem with Golden Age mystery is there are not enough females to design for).

I suppose they could do a Dr. Who-themed one (I'm not a fan. I don't DISLIKE the series in any way, it's just something I've never really watched). That is, if the BBC doesn't bring down the heavy hand of copyright, which apparently they sometimes do.

(I'd love to see a Ponies themed one but I suspect that would, even given the huge fandom, have a limited appeal: I'm not sure how much overlap there is on the Venn diagram of "Pony Fans" and "knitters")

Even with the Golden Age mysteries one: I'd totally wear a sweater vest like one Albert Campion would wear.

They could also do a sciency-knits one, maybe with an article on those emission spectra scarves (I STILL want to do one of those), and knits incorporating botanical designs, and the Klein bottle hat....there are lots of science people out there who knit, actually.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

maybe he's caught

The local news just showed a mugshot of a guy arrested and charged with burglary and home invasion. He very likely could be one of the guys I saw running across my yard on Saturday.

They named the street the home he invaded was on - it's not far from me. It was said he burglarized another home but didn't name where, so he could be the guy. (Maybe not: the home invasion was over a week ago)

If it is him, and if he's guilty....well, I hope he's off the streets for a while. While burglary is a relatively minor crime (compared to something like a violent crime against a person), still: people should not be doing it. It hurts people emotionally, it's wrong, it's something that shouldn't happen.

My city is the 4th most dangerous (as far as crime stats go) in the state and that displeases me. Probably a lot of those crimes are petty theft (a college campus has a lot of small thefts; people get stuff stolen out of their cars) and drug violations, but still....there is the occasional violent crime or thing like a home invasion and I don't like that.

ETA: Apparently they caught the guy (who is now claiming he was high on pain pills at the time) because he vandalized a place with latex paint, and apparently the cops just followed his footprints.

Like my mom always says, the smart people don't become criminals. (Or at least they don't become the petty type of criminals, but rather the mastermind type who does stuff like cybertheft)

This is great

I'll have to add more later as I'm off to class, but I was noodling around with my invertebrate data, trying a couple other ways of looking at them.

And bam, there's a pattern.

A pattern I didn't expect but now that I look at it, it makes sense. It can be explained by something reasonable - something not entirely expected across invertebrate groups, but known for some.

I'm excited about this paper again because now I think it's actually publishable, that there are meaningful results instead of just "ho-hum, the numbers went down after a drought."

It *will* mean rewriting much of it because it's a reframing to include another issue, but that's fine. I can rewrite with the best of 'em.

Monday, September 22, 2014

In the dark

This is, apparently, a bad ragweed season. I've had what borders on being either a light migraine or a really bad sinus headache for about three days now (it's worse today than it was over the weekend). Along with it, the sensitivity to smell, the chills - which make it like a migraine.

One thing that helped, and I should have thought of earlier, was turning off the overhead light in my office. When my head hurts, my eyes get really sensitive to light and it's actually easier to deal with the glowing computer screen in a surround of dimness.

What I SHOULD do, now that my office hours are concluded and I finished the bit of data entry I wanted to do today, is go home and just relax. Take a good long warm shower and wash my hair (that helps sometimes), maybe make a nice cup of tea, put my feet up (Oh, how brilliant it is having a recliner. I always said I'd never buy one because recliners are by and large kind of clunky and ugly, but it's SO NICE to be able to lean back and have my feet up to read or knit or even just watch tv.)

Hopefully my head will clear up enough to make piano practice possible later on. The headache makes sound less pleasant and also it makes me a little clumsy. (I make a lot of typos typing this, for example).

(Heh. Maybe Derpy Hooves' problem is migraines? Some people supposedly get unequally dilated pupils with them though I've never noticed that in me.)

I did do a bit of knitting over the weekend - I'm almost done with the back of the vest I have on the needles, and I'm working away at the tiger-striped socks. I want to finish those soon to have my good sock needles free to start my Christmas knitting. (I found a second skein of yarn in my stash that will make good momsocks so I'm set on that). I do still need to get "froggy yarn" some time for the project for my niece but I'm thinking the local quilt/yarn shop probably will have what I need, or at least most of what I need, for that. And I like to support them when possible.

I think I'll start my sister-in-law's mitts first - I'm just using a simple stretchy pattern; she does not like fussy clothing but she likes things that are comfortable, and using an all-ribbed pattern keeps me from having to guess, "Are her hands about the same size as mine? Bigger? Smaller?" If I have TONS of time, I might use the rest of the skein of yarn for a little matching watchcap. (Anyway, simple hats are FAST).

And thinking ahead for AAUW gift exchange: I might do a simple lacy or fancy-stitch hat out of fingering, again something culled from the stash. We're not supposed to spend more than $10 but I figure if it's something that's been sitting in the stash for a while, it's kind of amortized away its original price. I might even do a hat and then get some other small thing - I don't know, maybe a couple packets of fancy hot cocoa? - to go along with it.

It is nice to have a week with no evening commitments so I can go home, and provided my grading and prep for the next day is done, just put my feet up and knit. (Oh, I'm still slowly crocheting on Queen Chrysalis but I've decided I have to take that in small doses; I get tired of it and also crocheting too much at once makes my shoulder hurt)

And yes, I know, I'll get busy again and may be struggling to finish all these things (then again, maybe not - the simple stuff I could use as invigilating knitting). But it's exciting to think of knitting for other people, to be able to knit and not go, "Man, I have so many pairs of socks that I never wear because it's too hot here."

Maybe I'll actually circle around to doing more charity knitting. I do have a half-finished Red Scarf on the needles that, if I'm very ambitious, I could finish and send off this fall.

Well, it happened.

But not to me, thank goodness.

I drive in to work on a residential street that has a large apartment complex. There are other ways I could drive in but they are less direct and take longer, and still require me to "thread the needle" between parked cars occasionally.

This residential street, the one with the apartment complex, is NOT a good street for people to park in the street on. It is not wide and it has several hills and bends where you can't exactly see what's coming. But because the apartment complex was built at a time when they expected couples or families to live there, they put in too few parking spaces in lots - assuming that each apartment would have only one, or at most, two cars associated with it. But then, things changed, and instead of mostly living in dorms, students wanted to live in apartments. And to save money, they'd rent a two-bedroom and put four or sometimes six people in there - and now, each of those people has a car.

(I didn't have a car when I was in college. But then again, I lived in Ann Arbor where most everything I wanted (with the exception of a supermarket; there were small groceries but the large supermarkets were outside of town) was within fairly easy walking distance. And anyway, walking was my exercise and also a way to decompress. But here, it's hard to walk very many places, especially from campus: there are not sidewalks, things are more spread out (there's no campus town), and much of the year the weather is not pleasant to walk in).

Anyway, there are more cars than there are spaces, so people park out on the street. Which effectively reduces the residential street to one lane, and every morning I drive into work I do so slowly and carefully and hoping that no one comes barrelling down the hill coming the opposite direction without time for them to stop or me to slide over into a gap between parked cars (if there even is one).

I've had a couple of close calls, mostly coming DOWN the street from work and meeting up with someone driving into my lane.I fully expect some day there will be a head on collision, if there hasn't been already.

Well, this morning, driving in, I saw people clustered around a car, and another car stopped (blocking the street, but they got out of the way). Apparently the car people were looking at had been BADLY sideswiped; the driver's door was all bashed in. (There was a car parked right in front of it with its lights still on, so I wonder if that was the car that did it).

I feel bad for the people whose car got damaged, but....that's a risk of parking in the street. (I used to live in those apartments, my first two years here. I always managed to find a spot in the lot but then again I almost always got home for the day before 9 pm and I get the feeling it's the late-return people who get stuck with parking in the street). The ideal thing would be for the apartment owners to build another lot but I don't see that happening....

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Events of Saturday

I DID go to BPAFF and it was good.

But first....

I woke up my usual "sleep in" time (about 6:30), dressed, ate, decided to practice some piano.

As I was working on it, I saw movement out of the corner of my eye (My piano, you might remember, is near a window; I can turn my head and look out while sitting at it).

Two young-ish men, running through my yard, very close to the front windows. One of them looked over his shoulder. "Almost as if he expected someone to come running after him" I thought.

Then I was like, "Wait, it's too early in the day for the vote-for-my-guy pamphleteers to be out. And they don't look like workmen. And joggers stay in the street"

And I thought: That's really hinky.

So I called the non-emergency police number. I gave the best description I could, given I just got a glance: two thirtysomething white guys, at least one with a navy blue shirt and wearing a ballcap, running north. It looked like they came from my southern neighbors.

A bit later, two cops showed up. I'm guessing my neighbors across the street saw more and reported it as well; the cops talked to them. I stuck around in case they wanted to talk to me but apparently they got all the information they needed. But still, creepy.

I figured it was okay to go, because (a) the police were aware of stuff going on and also the crooks were probably long gone and (b) anyway, if I'm gonna get my house broken into, I prefer it be when I'm not home.

So I set off.

Sadly, the herding dog club wasn't there this year, and I missed them. But I still got to watch people spin on a wheel and do bobbin lace (I kind of see how that works even though I've never tried it myself). And I watched someone throw a pot on a wheel, which I did ages ago in high school but never got very good at. (If I had all the time and all the money in the world.....well, I'd have all the different tools and toys for all kinds of arts and crafts - and would learn how to use them. Throwing pots took a certain level of concentration but it was also fun. And seemed kind of magic).

And I just walked around and looked at the booths and displays. And wondered, where do all these folks hide during the rest of the time? Why do I know so few people right in this area that do fiber arts? (Yeah, I know: if I went to Knit Night at the quilt shop I might meet more, but Knit Night is the same time as I have piano lesson).

I did see the person from Chemistry who knits, and briefly met her daughter. And as I was leaving, one of my friends from Ravelry called to me - she recognized my face and wanted to say hi.

I also spent what was for me a shocking amount of money on yarn.

New yarn!

Top row, from left to right: probably socks (Haven't decided just yet) for me, worsted-weight shawlette from a book I have, fingerless mitts for my sister in law (I know, I said I had yarn in stash. But this is yarn that has bison fiber spun into it! Which makes it warmer and more durable! But it's still washable, so it's all good. It's also one of her favorite colors, so).

Bottom row: Probably mitts for me or possibly socks for a gift, socks for me, and then bison yarn for socks for me.

That middle yarn is a striping yarn but I felt like I had to have it because the colorway is named "The Professor"  and so I felt that it was meant to be mine.

And I really wanted a bison yarn for socks for me. Even though they may be too warm for much of the year. The color is also called lichen green, which is a color I've always liked. (I'm thinking of doing ones with a simple cable pattern out of it).

The Buffalo Wool Company (where I bought my sockyarn - yes, there were two dealers selling bison yarn) has a neat way of traveling to shows - they have a truck roughly the size of a typical UPS truck that is outfitted to be like a mini store (hanging hooks on either side for merchandise). So you can walk up into the truck and see everything on display. Apparently they go all over the place - the woman running it told me that at some show on the east coast, she really wished she could have got a photo, because she was selling a bison-bone handled hunting knife to a woman and yarn to a (male) US Navy sailor. (She said actually a surprising number of sailors knit; I suppose it's something very easily portable that will take up downtime. And anyway, didn't a lot of sailors years ago - I mean, like in the tall-ship days - knit?).

They also sell ready-made bison wool items, but the socks at least are prohibitively expensive. (I briefly considered getting a pair for someone as a gift, but it's more than I know they would want me to spend on them). (Yeah, one case where the yarn to make something is still less expensive than the finished item!)

I also got my grocery shopping done - a run to the natural foods store (and yes! they had my favorite brand of canned sweet potato puree in stock - this one is JUST sweet potatoes, no sugar or salt, and it's really good enough that I could eat it straight from the can). I also got some different wholegrain flours - after cleaning my fridge out (and keeping it clean), I have space to keep small amounts of wholegrain flour in there (so it won't go rancid), and I do plan to bake more bread this fall - I've enjoyed doing it so much and enjoyed having good bread to eat.

I know, I know: I have more yarn than I will ever knit up. I need to work down on what I have. I don't know what happens at places like fiber fests - it's like what sometimes happens in the bookstore - hope outpaces logic and you start to think, "Oh, of COURSE I will have time to knit/sew/read that, I will MAKE time, I want to." (At least with the Christmas gift things, they will have to get made up on a deadline....)

I also went to the Brookshire's (after getting lost - I thought I knew the way to get out onto FM 120 from Texoma Parkway, but it turns out I didn't, but eventually I found the way there, and learned that Morton Street eventually BECOMES FM 120). Tomorrow's dinner is going to most likely be beef stew - they had chuck on a good price (their meat is better than most I can get) and I got a bag of Yukon Gold potatoes. If I want to bake bread, the stew can probably cook at the same temperature.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Thinking well ahead

An idea kicking around in my head, which, if I start it very soon, should work:

Knitting some of my Christmas gifts this year.

I think my mom needs a couple more pairs of handknit socks. And I see at least one yarn in my stash that would be ideal for her, and I am quite sure I have others. I'm thinking one plain pair (I have a Continuum Striping yarn in colors that are ones she likes and wears a lot, and I have so many striped socks already) and one with a knit/purl pattern (maybe one of the Erica Leuder patterns, those always seem to turn out well for me - and a lot of them work with variegated yarns).

My sister in law would probably like a pair of fingerless mitts. I have something else for her already, and I may see yet another thing somewhere. And again, I have a yarn that is colors she likes and is easy-care (someone with a toddler at home doesn't need to be handwashing gloves).

The bonus: I get a few things out of my stash.

No plans yet for my dad or brother, but they don't wear knitwear as much. And no real plans for my niece unless I go a little crazy and decide to knit her a sweater. (She wears a 3 T right now, no idea how long it would take to make a sweater that large or slightly bigger - she is tall but a bit slender for her age). Though I now also kind of want to get her some kind of little-kid-appropriate book on nature or animals, seeing as she is interested in (toy) slugs and frogs. (Or, oh....make her a set of the "flapjack frogs" from Mochimochiland and find a book that would go with them.)

(Update: The more I think about that the more I like that idea. The pattern has been obtained. I'm thinking, make the lily pad and three frogs and then get one of those DK books on animals or pond life or something like that, and give her the set. Yes, she's going to have a lot of books. That's part of the plan.)

(Her birthday gift is already set: an R is for R2D2 t-shirt and a miniset of Beatrix Potter books, the most famous ones/my favorite ones - there's Jeremy Fisher and Peter Rabbit and Squirrel Nutkin and several others)

I've already got part of my dad's.

A lot of all of this is that I shop opportunistically - when I see something that makes me think, "Hey, I know someone who would like that" I buy it and put it aside until the next gift-giving situation.

Kids are funny

I do kind of wish I lived closer to my brother, sister-in-law, and niece. They keep me updated with e-mails and photos and video, but it's not the same.

My brother told me something funny/cute that happened recently: he found an old "sticky slug" toy I had got him years back. This is one of those things - like Willie the Wall-Walking Octopus - that is made of a tacky plastic that will stick to a wall and then gradually peel off and fall, if you throw it at the wall.

Well, he showed it to my niece. At first she was a little afraid of it, how it would fall down suddenly, but then she decided she really liked it. And now it's one of her toys.

Well, my brother found smaller versions of the slug on sale so he bought her a package of them.

She now says she has a mama slug and baby slugs. My brother sent me a picture of her looking up at all of them stuck to the ceiling.

She also has reached the stage where she "feeds" pretend food (she has those wooden fruits and vegetables that you can "slice" with a toy knife, they come apart with Velcro) to her stuffed animals.

I just barely remember stuff like that from my childhood. (Sometimes I wish I could go back.)


In other news, I'm guardedly optimistic about the vitamin D3. Almost no hives this week, and that was even with going out into the field one afternoon when the pollen was very high. I know they say it can take months for the detectable levels in the blood to change, but maybe, just maybe, it's helping.

And I haven't noticed any (noticeable) side effect. I mean, it could still be eating my liver or something but I haven't noticed any problems.

One of the other things upping D3 intake should do is help keep my bones strong; I have a pretty strong family history of osteoporosis, so that's something I am concerned about. I do other things (like weight bearing exercise) to try to help prevent it, but hopefully the D3 will help too.

Also these past couple days my mood has been better. But it's hard to say on that; my moods are so influenced by what's going on in my life that I can't tell for sure if this is a blip or a long-term improvement. I know I was in a really awful mood Monday/Tuesday because of events involving one class. (If I could just learn to be less reactive. And if I could REALLY learn "not my circus, not my monkeys." Someone on ITFF commented, apostrophizing to her students, "Get your act together, or you will be sad pandas." and I was thinking about how in my world, I find myself more commonly thinking, "I am a sad panda because my students don't seem to have their act together." I need to learn not to care more about their education than they do. But I do. And that's why it sometimes stinks to be me.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

A whole range

It occurs to me I could make a whole range of those Flutterrage images.

Here's today's:

Yeah, kind of not a fan of grading other people's writing. (And I get that the "affect"/"effect" thing can be confusing, except in the case I'm looking at, it should not be. Things affect other things. They only "effect" other things in very specific neurological type contexts. Things have an effect on other things.)

Thursday morning stuff

* Well, the toughest lab (in terms of logistics for me) this semester is now over. No one got hurt, so I guess there's that. (One semester - this was not my lab - but a student in another lab refused/forgot to wear safety glasses, a pipette shattered, and the student wound up with a piece of glass in their eye. So I always get twitchy about labs where we use glassware or chemicals, and I tend to nag people about safety glasses).

* I still boggle at how some students can achieve Junior status in a science major and still be able to confuse a beaker with a graduated cylinder. I don't know if it's sheer sloppiness (not reading the directions or listening to my verbal directions at the start of lab), or compartmentalization of knowledge ("Welp, I'm done with Chemistry forever. Time to forget all that stuff"), or if they just genuinely never had to know. I can understand it in my intro bio students, some of whom have never had a lab science before, but someone who has presumably had the intro-bio sequence, plus intro chemistry, plus Cellular and Molecular....

* Maybe this is how I was a strange student; I always liked it when something in one class linked up to something I had learned somewhere else, it was like, "Oh, I already *know* part of this."

* Though I also know I have a freakish memory and maybe I need to expect less in terms of memory from other people. I don't know, though, you would think remembering the identifications of basic lab glassware would stick with a person.

* In crafting news (as much as I get done these days, she says bitterly), I'm still working on the tail for Queen Chrysalis. This pattern takes a looooooooooong time. If I had known how long it would take me to crochet all those dumb little holes I might not have been so eager to do it.

I will say that the amigurumi is as large as a small dog - in its unfinished state, it is standing next to my big chair and the head comes up almost to the armrest. Also, it does stand up on its own - I find that when I make amigurumi of acrylic yarn and stuff them properly, they do stand up on their own without any kind of stabilizer needed (lots of patterns tell you to wrap dowels with stuffing and insert them into the legs or neck, stuff like that. Generally I don't have to do that.)

* I guess the referendum vote for whether Scotland breaks from the UK is going on now. I have to admit, this is a position I don't take a strong stand on - I can see interesting things and bad things resulting from either outcome. And it's something that's not all that likely to affect me (at least directly), so it's something I can kind of sit back and watch. I hope everything goes okay, though I suspect that if a country exists where this kind of vote can happen peacefully, it's someplace like Scotland. (And no, I'm not exactly looking for commenters to give me strong reasons why I should feel one way or the other on this. It's actually nice to have an issue where I can go, "You know, I see benefits and drawbacks of both sides so I'm not going to come down strongly for one.")

* That said, if Texas were to try something like that, I'd be agin' it. For very personal reasons: I wouldn't want to have to show a freaking passport to go to the JoAnn Fabrics. (Okay, maybe that's an exaggeration, but considering that nearly all my 'good' shopping is in Texas, and the next city of any real size that has decent shopping is much, much farther away than Sherman is....)

* Also in Texas: This weekend is the Blackland Prairie Arts and Fiber Festival. At this point, I plan on going. But it's possible I might not; there's enough unsureness about if and when the remnants of Odile are going to dump on us and if it's raining cats and dogs Saturday morning.....well, nope. I don't like driving in heavy rain and I'm sure that even though most of the event is indoors, it just won't be as fun in heavy rain. (And I've had a few near-misses of late on 75 - people cutting me off, people tailgating me when I then had to slow down or nearly brake for something, and I don't relish driving in Saturday morning traffic in heavy rain). I hope the traffic on 75 isn't getting progressively worse (more like the near-Dallas traffic) but I fear it is. There also seem to be more people who are forgetting to "drive friendly."

I don't really have any plans to get anything; there is nothing I need in the way of yarn save for the time and motivation to knit up what I already have. Already I'm thinking that I will be "providing" for the bulk of my yarn in my will. (What to do with it? I don't, at the moment, know anyone else who's a committed knitter who is a lot younger than I am. I suppose what I could do was see if there was an arts center or something like a halfway house that had a knitting-therapy program and leave it there. Though who knows? By the time I wind up checking out of the hotel of life, maybe I'll already have found some way to give it away. My grandma gave away a lot of her things while she was still living because she said she wanted to know for sure that the person she wanted to have it got it, and I think she also wanted to have the feeling that the person was getting to enjoy the thing. )

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Little pet peeve

Presented (mostly) without comment

It's "dirt" if it's on your carpet. If it's in an ecosystem, it's "soil." If we're studying it in class, it's "soil."

Stuff read recently

Some nights, I mostly only have the energy to read. But at least I'm reading, I guess.

I re-started "Adam Bede" a while back after not getting very far into it and then losing the thread of the story. (It's actually a couple different stories - the Bede family, Dinah Morris' story, the Poyser's story, Rev. Irwine's story - that interweave in each other).  So far, Adam Bede seems to be the hero of the piece. (I say "seems to," because there are too many books - most of them more modern than this one - where a character who seems promising turns out to be a scoundrel. (Or, heh, a "rascal" - some movie I was watching in dubbed form on one of the networks had a character apparently calling another character an "a**hole" and they overdubbed it as "rascal," which is now what I think of someone when they really irritate me in a jerky way - "Oh, he's being a 'rascal'")

Anyway. Adam is a good, steady, hardworking young man. His father, who is a drunkard, gives him a certain amount of trouble because Adam often winds up doing both his work and his father's.

Relatively early in the novel (so it's not REALLY a spoiler), the troublesome father drowns in the flooded stream when he is coming home from the pub. Of course that upsets the family, even though the father has been somewhat of a wastrel and a problem.

But now, after Adam has had a chance to sleep (after a sleepless night when he had to finish some of his father's work, and then the day after the discovery of his father's body) and he heads back to work, and makes the comment:

"There's nothing but what's bearable as long as a man can work," he said to himself; "the natur o' things doesn't change, though it seems as if one's own life was nothing but change. The square o' four is sixteen, and you must lengthen your lever in proportion to your weight, is as true when a man's miserable as when he's happy; and the best o' working is, it gives you a grip hold o' things outside your own lot."

Yes, that seems true to me. How many times have I said I like knitting or making quilts because I understand how the materials work, and they don't change? And as a kid in school, one of the reasons I like math was, as Adam notes, the square of four is always sixteen (unless you change the rules in some way, like a different base system). What I find so frustrating about human interaction some times is that people behave in unpredictable and sometimes (to me at least) baffling ways.

Another truth in that statement: that having something to work on, does take you out of yourself (or "give you a grip hold o' things outside your own lot.") I know someone who, very shortly after suddenly losing their spouse, went right back to work. Lots of people who knew this person were aghast: how could they do it? But I understood: working is not sitting at home thinking about what happened. It is some semblance of normality in a world that's had its bottom drop out of it. I would probably do the same as this person were I in their place.

I also read a short article in "Real Simple." As I commented on Twitter, I'm slightly embarrassed to admit to reading this magazine, for two reasons - first, because it seems aimed at people whose lives are FAR more together than mine is and who actually have it figured out. And second, it's such a bizarre mix of conspicuous consumption (clothes that are close to half my take-home pay for a month) and mild environmental exhortations (the ubiquitous comments about recycling bins, which assumes every community has recycling with easy access to it*)  that it does give one a bit of cognitive dissonance.

(*We have recycling but you have to take your recyclables either to campus or to the main location in order to do it. I don't recycle *everything* I could because my house would quickly assume the appearance of the Collier brothers' apartment, but I do recycle some things. I'd be more prone to do more if we had curbside pickup, but I don't see that coming any time soon.)

But anyway. The article is by Andrew Doerr and is called "Costume Drama." In short, he recounts the story of a childhood Halloween where he was invited to a party with costume contest. Coming from a family not all that unlike mine (but much more so, apparently), where everything possible was home-made, young Andrew attempted a knight's costume. He had a grand vision of how scary and cool he would look as "the black knight." But of course, it doesn't live up to his vision (and it gets ruined because a rainstorm comes up on the way to the party). And he realizes, while at the party (and oh, how I remember that feeling - of having had an idea that seemed great, and it still seemed great while I was doing whatever it was, and it was only when someone else looked at it that I realized it was terrible) that his costume was terrible and a mess (and he winds up winning some kind of pity-prize like "most original.")

And in the last part, he brings it forward to adult life - his adult life, as a writer, and notes: "Even on my best days, I just manage to cobble together the failures of many other days and assemble an imitation of the original vision." And he later notes that "every songwriter, architect, actress, painter, chef, choreographer, teacher, and dreamer has been afraid her project would cave in" and also notes that most people who create "has wondered if the gods are snickering at her from somewhere just above the rims of the clouds."

And, I don't know. How do you go back - can you go back - and recapture that childhood feeling of "This is good!" (the knight's costume before the rainstorm and the judgmental eyes of the other kids, in their store-bought costumes). Because that's what's necessary to be able to create: not being afraid to fail. (I think I've ALWAYS been afraid to fail. Now, as much as ever, because I see "failing" at something being as much about "but I wasted so much time now on something that didn't pan out" as it is about the perceived humiliation of having failed at something).

I don't know. I'm struggling with a manuscript right now that all of my inner critics say isn't possibly good enough and doesn't possibly have enough meaningful results to be worth submitting. And most of the pattern-ideas I've had over the past few years have been forgotten or pushed aside as impractical, and "if it doesn't turn out and you have to rip it back, you'll have wasted all that time"

But yeah. The whole feeling-on-the-brink-of-failing thing is familiar, and the not being able to make whatever you do be as good as you envisioned it in your head is a familiar feeling.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Strength from weakness

If MLP: FiM has taught me anything, it's that sometimes a person's character strengths can turn out to be weaknesses (Applejack's sense of duty and "not askin' for help" leading her to work herself into a sleep deprived state) but that also weaknesses can sometimes become strengths, at least temporarily. (Rarity using whining and drama-queening to upset the Diamond Dogs to the point where they don't just let her go, they tell her to leave.)

Well, one of my weaknesses, one of the things I have excoriated myself for, served me well today.

As I said, standing there in my lab prep room: "Thank the good Lord that I'm a slob."

Yeah. I hadn't thrown out the soil leftovers from this past spring's Soils class (I asked the students to but many of them didn't). I had four bags that contained enough sievable soil that I was able to get what I needed for four lab groups (this is a small class). So that part is done and I just have minimal setting-up tomorrow morning. And feh to all those people who got all excited to get their soil analyzed but then never bothered to bring it. (If they do this afternoon, it will be too late - one part of the lab requires the soil to sit in a drying oven for at least 24 hours).

The bad thing is that the events of today are "training" me in two things:

1. "Don't ever expect anyone to do anything they say they will; therefore, don't delegate any important task." I have a really hard time asking for help ALREADY, partly because it seems so often when I do, that help never comes.

2. "Never throw away anything you could use again. And anyway, your prep room is out of sight, out of mind, so you don't need to clean it."

But boy darn am I glad I had that soil - saves me digging the wet stuff out of my backyard or trying to find a couple places on campus that differ in their soil association. (There's no WAY I'd have time to go out to one of our field sites to get soil.)

Ugh, it's Tuesday

Tuesdays are ninja Mondays: just as bad, but you never see them coming.

So far this morning, I've:

1. Dropped the box of cereal and then had to sweep bits up off the floor
2. Found a flea (????) on my ankle.(I do not have pets)
3. Knocked over the shampoo bottle and had to wipe up shampoo
4. Stepped outside and gone, "It smells like an armpit out here." Well, it does. It's super, super humid, and it's that kind of stale, no-breeze humidity that traps every bad smell and holds it in.
5. Found out the battery in my garage-door opener remote is dead (Note to self: go get new one after you get out of class)
6. While trying to deal with that (punching it repeatedly to try to make the door close), I ran up on the side of my lawn and probably have a tire track there now.
7. None of the promised soil for tomorrow's lab has shown up (sigh), so I will have to go and dig some out of my backyard and from campus and hope there are a few bags left behind in the prep room. (I'm just HALF tempted to change the lab and make them do a different lab, and shrug and go, "But no one brought me soil and three or four of you said you would.")
8. Got an upset, "YOU ARE BEING UNFAIR" e-mail from someone who misinterpreted how I entered the number of absences they had into BlackBoard. Granted, a big part of that is that BlackBoard is megastupid in how it allows you to do that and it's open to misinterpretation, but still, having someone immediately assume I'm trying to sink their college career on the basis of one tiny thing is not a good way to start the workday.
9. Got an e-mail alleging to have a (late) assignment attached, but nothing was attached. I am very suspicious of this because it seems like a plausible way someone could buy themselves some time and yet just look like an innocent mistake.

Ugh. I don't know. I think this overload - which is not even that great of an overload, two classes (one of which I merely co-teach) is doing me in. I saw a story in the new Mary Jane's Farm about a woman who works as an architect by day and makes incredible art quilts by night. And that makes me enormously sad; I count it as a good night when I have a half-hour to work on anything. I haven't "designed" anything in a long time (as much as I ever "designed" anything - mostly just plugging a fancy stitch into a standard 64 or 72 stitch sock pattern). I don't know what's wrong with me that I never seem to do anything meaningful. I feel like when I'm gone I'll be totally forgotten because there's nothing I'm leaving behind that matters. I'm not even doing that much research because it seems so much of my teaching life is running from crisis to crisis and just trying to keep the plates spinning.

I really wish when I was a kid growing up that people had said to me, instead of saying, "You're going to do great things!" they had either said nothing or have told me I'd never make anything of myself. That would have been more realistic and would have set me up for far less disappointment in life. 

Monday, September 15, 2014

Making a schedule

Trying to take the advice of my colleague (Though I am not sure of his claim that "once I leave here for the day/week, I am done. I don't take work home, I don't come in on my days off" because he still publishes more than I do).

I'm trying to remind myself to do more stuff for myself. Both mundane stuff (doing the laundry more regularly so I don't have the Thursday-night freakout when I count brassieres and realize that I really, really need to do laundry) and slightly-fun stuff.

The bread turned out well (or at least the rolls did; I have not cut the loaf yet). I do think I'm going to work a Sunday (or every-other-Sunday) bread-baking into my routine. Because having bread I can eat (and not having to hope that Voldemart has actually restocked either of the two breads they carry that I can eat when I go there) is a nice thing. And making the bread is fun and satisfying.

I've also been better about weekly changing of the sheets. This started when I was having the really-bad-hives day a bit back (which was probably due to undeclared celery in food, but whatever) and I thought maybe I dragged in pollen or whatever and got it in my bed.....so strip the sheets off, wash them, put them back on. In the past I'd go two weeks or even three if I got REALLY busy....but I think it's nicer to have them cleaner more often. And probably better for my allergies, even though I do shower most nights before bed.

I also changed out my nail polish (I do toes only) tonight. I had used some free sample Clinique color I got - sort of a weird hot pink - and it began to wear on me, so now my toes have Essie's "Wrapped in Rubies" (a dark, slightly metallic, burgundy). Again, this is one of things things I COULD let slide as a "frivolity" but really, if I can't take 20 minutes to do my toes, that's just sad.

This weekend is the BPAFF - the fiber festival I went to last year. I am most likely going this year. (I won't if the weather is horrible - we might get storms - or if something just totally blows up at work, which seems unlikely)

I did get my big exam for later this week written Saturday (because there was no internet connectivity up at school, there were limitations on what I could do, but that was one thing I could). And my post-tenure review is in and I actually had my name on TWO presentations last year (I remembered the one but forgot about the second). And my faculty evaluations are still in the 80-90% range, if I were being graded, so I guess I'm okay. And the earburns (which is how I think of them - they are called early alert report or EAR) of all my students - days missed and grade earned to this point. It's a new thing to encourage student accountability but also in a way protect the profs, so someone cannot go "But I didn't KNOW I was failing! That professor is UNFAIR! They GAVE me a failing grade I didn't earn!" and also to protect us from people who would come down on us for assigning Fs in cases where the student never actually did any work in the class, and so there is no grounds to grade them.  (Really, we need two additional Fs, I think: an F-Dis (for dishonesty) for someone who failed because of cheating or plagiarism, and an F-wtf* for a student who never showed up to class once, but was still on the roster at the end of the semester.

(*there's probably a better, more campus-friendly term that would work, but I know that is kind of my reaction every semester when the person I have been e-mailing the registrar about ("THEY HAVE NEVER COME TO CLASS") since the first week is still on the roster and requiring a grade be assigned.)

(Some Canadian university proposed the F-Dis a few years back but I don't know if it ever got anywhere. And yes, I acknowledge there are problems with the concept of different "styles" of Fs, but some days, I think of how satisfying it would be to assign an F-Dis to someone. They usually wind up earning an F anyway, but....I tend to think academic dishonesty undermines it for all the people - the vast majority of the students - who are actually working to earn their grades.)

I've also tentatively contemplated coming home after class and office hours tomorrow and just doing a little clean up and being able to leisurely prepare for piano lesson for once. Last week was all kinds of crazy and it feels a little weird to be able to relax now that it's let up, but that's how my life is: weeks of all kinds of crazy interspersed with quieter weeks that make me feel guilty I'm not doing more.

Sighing. Just, sighing.

So, I had a paper due in one of my classes today.

This is a paper that was announced on the first day of class (18 August). It was discussed in some detail in the first lab meeting of the class. I reminded the students of its due date last week, and I reminded them again on Friday.

There are 19 people in the class. I received 10 papers and one "oops, it's at home, I forgot to print it out."

HOW? Just, how? I had NIGHTMARES (I still sometimes do) about being a student and totally derping on something I needed to get done. But how? I nagged these people endlessly about the due date of the paper. I know all of them were there on at least three of the days I remarked about the due date.

I hate being nagged at but maybe to some people it's not nagging? I don't know. I don't know how to deal with this. Maybe they thought because I allowed an "optional rewrite" that the paper wasn't REALLY due today? I don't know.

I set due dates based on when I can schedule time for grading. I always SAY I won't accept late papers, I think this time I will actually do that.

Because, seriously? A month is not enough for a lightly-researched 3-5 page paper? I've done last-minute small-grant applications ("They don't have enough people competing for money, your chances are good") in like three days and been successful. I don't RECOMMEND writing stuff at the last minute, but.

Seriously, this is one of those things that makes me wonder if I need to find a new line of work. What, I don't know; as I've said my set of "real" skills is pretty limited and unless I'd be willing to take a couple years of low to no pay while I apprenticed at doing something else (my latest crazy work-in-retirement scheme: learn how to tune pianos and become a piano tuner, because that seems like fairly low-stress work and I know the man who tunes my piano is in HIGH demand and he must be approaching retirement age....)

But really. If this is indicative of the coming generations....I don't know. Maybe I throw up my hands and stop having papers as a requirement. (And then the 'errorists' win).

I also had to call out a student for talking in class. Not whispering, talking at conversation volume. And this is someone who is taking the class for a second time.

I may be approaching the point where I just can't, anymore. Like I said, I don't know what else I'd do but I wonder how much longer it will be before I either start screaming at students in class or wind up just walking away and keep on walking and never come back.

Edited to add: I find myself thinking of Rev. Bretz, now. He was the one who always used to jocularly tell me to "teach 'em good!" (Oh, he knew the correct, grammatical way to say it; he was being funny) and how he told me to "keep fighting against ignorance." But some days, it feels like a fight that's very hard to win. And that it's maybe not so much ignorance I'm fighting, but laziness. (My biggest "problem" with some students: I know they're smart, but they seem to want to do the bare minimum of work possible. That's not how you get a good career, especially in today's climate. )

Sunday, September 14, 2014

I made bread

This time, I used the "quick light wholemeal bread" recipe - it's half white and half "wholemeal" (well, I used KAF's "white whole wheat" which has the texture but not the appearance of white flour). I also added some of the "fruitcake mix" (raisins, currants, pineapple, cranberries, and dates) and a bit of cake spice. And I used milk rather than water, and added a bit more sweetener (golden syrup).

The bread didn't rise as high as I was expecting in the pan. I'm wondering if using a glass loaf pan is the problem; maybe I would be better off getting a proper metal one.

fruity bread

Hopefully the bread will still taste good. (Sometimes when they don't rise as much they are kind of dense and not that good.)

The pink and white striped towel (I have two) are what I used to cover bread when it's cooling so it doesn't dry out. They came from my maternal grandmother; she used them for the same purpose. I guess my mom got a bunch of these when they broke up Grandma's possessions, so she gave me a couple. I like using them because again, there's that feeling of an unbroken chain of transmission. (My grandmother was a great bread baker; she used to always to bread for church bake sales and it was usually spoken for even before she made it). I'm still not as accomplished (sometimes my bread comes out dry or heavy) but maybe I can make up for lost time if I keep working at it.

I also made a pan of rolls. They rose better but aren't as photogenic as I'm still getting used to how you shape rolls:

fruity buns

I'm thinking I might freeze part of the bread. Or maybe I'll use it for cream-cheese sandwiches and take cream-cheese sandwiches instead of yogurt a couple days this week. (I also bet the bread will make good French toast).

I also worked some on the quilt in the frame (and may go back to that after I get done here).

And Queen Chrysalis is now a quadruped:

Chrysalis quadruped

I suspect I'm done with the hardest part of the crocheting though I still have a fair bit (the mane, especially, looks fairly complex) to do. But at least the bulk of the crocheting with black is done. (I do still have to do the horn and the ears).

I also mowed the lawn. It didn't really need it but it's supposed to storm/rain the times during the week when I might be free, and I didn't want it to get away from me. (I've talked to a few other people about that letter from the city last month; the consensus is that while it was OK for them to warn me "the grass in the back really needs cutting," it was done in a heavy-handed way better suited for someone who had previous infractions. But whatever. One thing I've learned, and this irritates me, is that many organizations have the default setting that People Are Irresponsible and Won't Listen, and so people like me wind up feeling inappropriate shame over things that maybe we should be reminded more gently about.)