Monday, February 08, 2016

five minutes' peace

That's what I'm trying to grab right now. I had a meeting at eight, a meeting at noon, I have one tonight at seven. I taught my morning class, my afternoon lab is now in the waiting phase. I put together a review sheet for next week's exam.

The eight am meeting was slightly eye-opening in that I am probably being too hard on myself about this tenure review process thing; I am probably fine and just have a few minor faults that can be corrected. Still, the constantly-being-judged-on-every-aspect-of-what-I-do wears me down.

The noon meeting was the typical concerning things, new ideas being proposed from On High with relatively little scaffolding under them to help the people who must implement them (namely: us) do that. There's gonna be some push back on at least one of the ideas, as well there should be.

Mostly, it's just that these past few days have been tiring. Too much to do, not enough time to sit and think, not enough time to decompress. That's what gets me: for one thing, I'm enough of an introvert that Too Many People stresses me out and I need time to be quiet and alone. The other part is that I just need more downtime from working these days and that seems increasingly hard to come by.

I wish we had a pretty atrium with plants, or a proper greenhouse, or an aviary, or somewhere I could just go that was warm and green and pleasant (I COULD go outdoors, but the grass is all brown and the trees are naked, and right now it's very windy). Maybe somewhere where there's the sound of running water. I think part of the problem is I have no good place to go and refresh myself during the workday - my office is not enough of a sanctuary.

After Wednesday this week things should let up temporarily. If I can make it that far.

Monday morning thoughts

We have a tenure follow-up process that is slowly grinding to life now. The idea is, every three years, you are assessed by a jury of your peers, who write a letter telling you if you are proficient or deficient in the three areas (teaching, scholarship, service) that are important.

One of the goals of the process is to find areas where the person Needs Improvement. And I think, honestly, everyone is going to be told they need to improve something. (We are told "this process is developmental and not punitive" but).

And this plays into a lot of issues I have. I am a perfectionist. I feel terrible shame when I do something less than ideally. So much so, that sometimes if I'm not that great at something, I refuse to do it (see: not participating in any piano recitals after that first one). And also, I feel like, "I'm tired all the time, my house is a messy wreck, I say to myself on a regular basis 'you should give away all your fabric and yarn because you never have the time or energy to do anything with it' and yet I'm NOT GOOD ENOUGH AT WORK?!?!!" And as I've said in the past, I feel like, if I'm working as hard as I should and I'm still "not good enough," why am I still employed?

And yeah, I know. One of my colleagues kind of rolled his eyes at me and told me I "just have to play the game" but it's a painful game for me.

Being told I Need Improvement reminds me of grade school days. In the early days, we didn't get letter grades (I think sixth or seventh grade was the first year for that?). Instead, the categories were Outstanding, Satisfactory, and Needs Improvement. I rarely got Needs Improvement, except on things like penmanship or (rarely) gym type things. But I was given to believe that getting a Needs Improvement was a big bad deal, and that you deserved, at the very least, to be kept in at recess or not go out to play after school while you worked on that thing. So hearing that I "need improvement" in some area makes me feel like, I don't know, I need to give up fifteen more minutes per week of doing what I want to do and work on that thing.

Also, I wonder: if you are told you Need Improvement in one area, what happens the next go-round? Are you found to have slipped in some other area? Or is it a constant treadmill of doing more and more and more and more until you can't any more? (This is why I said the "doing the best you can" is a fool's game: you need to hold something back so you don't have to kill yourself to improve)

And yeah, I know: this is all "my stuff" and like my colleague says, I just have to play the game. But sometimes it feels like the job is all I've got going in my life, I've given up an awful lot for the job, and it pains me to hear that in some way I'm not good enough.

I have three meetings today. First is at 8 am. Last is at 7 pm. This is not going to be a good Monday.


I guess this week is Mardi Gras? Makes me think back to grad school, when we'd have a lot of students absent those couple of days. Yup, many of the (I don't think I'm over-assuming here) more-privileged students from the Chicago 'burbs used to drive down from Illinois to New Orleans to party. They'd come back, bleary, on Thursday, proudly wearing their beads. (Signalling. Always with the status-signalling: "I am wealthy enough to take a short trip like this and I feel I can afford the time to do it, now look at my beads, beadless person")

Someday I would like to go to the parade in one of the smaller towns - I know some Lousiana and even East Texas towns do Mardi Gras, and some of them promote it as a "family friendly" version and that would be a lot more my style than the more-crowded, more-debauched "traditional" version.

(Where I came from, the Fat Tuesday tradition was, depending on your origins, Paczki Day or Pancake Day. Paczkis - a type of donut - if you were Polish/Slavic, pancakes if you were British Isles, especially if your family was still nominally Anglican/Episcopalian.)

Of course, on the following day, you'd see students with either dots or crosses of ash on their foreheads, but I saw that as different from the Mardi Gras kids with their beads. (The two groups did not seem to intersect)


I've been occasionally rewatching some of the older episodes of "The Simpsons" as FXX shows them.

I know a lot has been made about how "the early seasons were better" but really, they are. Some of the storylines are quite poignant, and in some cases raise some philosophical questions. They had one of my favorites - the one about Bart's soul - on the other night. (Bart, claiming to Milhouse that he doesn't believe in souls, is goaded by Milhouse to sell him his. Bart does, and things start going wrong - the cat and dog won't come near him, Marge feels "something is missing" when she hugs Bart goodnight. Gradually Bart suspects that he DID have a soul, and somehow, he managed to sell it to Milhouse. And now he wants it back.

Eventually, Bart has a moment of faith and he actually prays: "Are you there, God? It's me, Bart Simpson. I know I never paid too much attention at church, but I could really use some of that good stuff now. I'm...afraid. I'm afraid some weirdo's got my soul and I don't know what they're doing to it! I just want it back. Please? [starts crying] Oh, I hope you can hear this."

There's just something kind of poignant about that. The whole "I could really use some of that good stuff now" and "Oh, I hope you can hear this."  (I think also Lisa makes some comment about how some faith traditions believe you're not born with a soul; that you earn it by suffering and prayer in this life? Perhaps this is a nod to her (later) adoption of Buddhism?)

For all of the attention it got in its early days (and I remember all of this; I was in my early 20s when it first debuted) for being crude and rude and featuring a dysfunctional family, especially in the early seasons there were a lot of nuggets of heartfelt emotion and actual philosophy - and arguably, religion is at least sometimes portrayed positively. (Ned Flanders, as ridiculous as he is shown as being in some cases, is fundamentally a good guy who understands the concept of loving one's neighbor).

Sunday, February 07, 2016

Finished a thing

I'm taking part in an online swap. There was a nice, detailed questionnaire, and one of the things my swap-recipient liked was a small item that would fit nicely in a small bag. So I found an online dice-bag pattern and knitted one:

finished bag

It's knit of sockyarn. I used the scraps from the cowl I made as the AAUW Christmas gift for the gift exchange. The pattern does have a couple of small errors I had to figure out. It has a little yarn-over design on it.

Here it is filled:

filled bag

(I'm being purposely vague. I don't THINK my swap-partner reads the blog but this way she won't likely guess, even if she sees it, if I don't say what's in it.)

I also baked a cake. This is a maraschino-cherry cake, using my mother's recipe. It's otherwise a simple white cake. I need to frost it yet, I'm going to use a cream-cheese frosting.

cherry cake

I don't bake very often; part of it is that it's hard to use up even an 8" square cake while it's till good. But I admit I sort of miss cake sometimes.

I also found out some good news today - my friend has been moved out of the hospital and to a rehab center where she will hopefully put on some weight and regain her strength.

Friday, February 05, 2016

Friday morning stuff

* This weekend is going to be one of those non-weekends that no one warned me about before I was an adult: important meeting last night, important meeting this afternoon, lots of grading (papers from my biggest class) this afternoon, the volunteer stuff tomorrow, have to bake a cake Sunday, meeting Monday night. Ugh.

* Am really hoping that the streak of "someone from my family in the ER on a Friday" is broken this week. (2 weeks ago: my dad with the medication foul-up, last week: me, with gastritis that freaked me out and made me think it was far worse than what it was.) I suppose at least I can say that both of those ER visits were for things that were ultimately easily resolved and caused no lasting damage to the person. But I will be happier when tomorrow comes with no one I am related to having to go to the ER. (Also, it sounds like one of my uncles went to the ER at some point because HE was having low blood-pressure issues)

* Also, at the meeting last night, in re: our big volunteer effort, one of the people was talking about some problems that arose in one of the groups we were serving (two people in the group we were serving got into an argument IN FRONT OF CHILDREN and also there is another person we work with who uses deviousness to get what she wants). And the thought popped into my head, but I had too much of a filter on to be able to say it: "So many tall people, so few grown-ups." It feels that way to me some times. Especially about the person who used deceit to get something that was only marginally better than what she would have had otherwise.

I dunno. I have had, once or twice, people ask me, "Did you ever think of going into the ministry?" and honestly, I did, when I was 13: the church my family belonged to had a woman minster, and she seemed so learned and so kind, and I thought, "That must be a good life." But I became a biologist instead. However, I often kept in the back of my mind the idea of maybe going to seminary as a retirement project and serving then. Now, I'm not so sure. I can do the "God stuff" just fine, things like delivering prayers or preaching or even sitting by someone's bedside when they are in the hospital. But the "people stuff" - which is a huge part of a minister's job, the counseling - that's a big nope. I'm a conflict avoider of the first water, and sometimes in that kind of counseling role you have to say the hard things that make people turn their anger towards you rather than each other. And there's so much that people do that either frustrates me or makes me despair or that I don't understand.

So I don't know. I will say I am now thinking more on the order of doing something art-related when I retire, either learning REALLY how to throw pottery, or acquiring a longarm quilting machine and just making tons and tons of quilts to donate places. (I wouldn't even do it for pay, because then you risk dealing with demanding people).

* I have already decided I am taking next weekend OFF. I am going to do the semi-regular Sherman run (I need some better groceries) and by then I should be through with worrying about how my gut reacts to things so I can go to the good barbecue place for lunch.

* Also next weekend is Valentine's day. I need to send the cards I got for my parents. I sent off Miniontines to friends, that's kind of the extent of what I do. I'm okay with it, much more okay than I was a few years ago. I honestly think a big part of my discomfort with being a long-term single was the feeling that I didn't have society's "approval" or that people thought I was weird or something. I dunno. I care about that a bit less now, and anyway, I figure if the people around me who have known me for years think I'm weird because I'm single, then they don't know the full depth of my weirdness. (None of them, save you who read here, know how deeply I am a fan of Ponies, for example)

Also, the whole gift giving thing is just so broken. I saw a "Vermont Teddy Bear" V-day ad this morning and I admit those are enough to put me off teddy bears. So much unspoken quid pro quo. Also, I tend to think the "typical" gift (candy, flowers, jewelry, lingerie, teddy bear or other stuffed thing) for a woman doesn't actually work that well for many women. (I don't wear "lingerie," I wear "underwear" and what I wear to bed is most often a t-shirt and pair of elastic-waist shorts. And I'm allergic to some flowers.) On the other hand: a book I didn't own yet, or a skein of sock yarn, or even just a funny card that makes me laugh would be something that would make me happy.

Also, several of the craft-purveyors I use are having Valentine's day sales and it occurred to me that a person could buy themselves a Valentine's day gift, thus ensuring they get exactly what they want. Oh, I probably WON'T as I have so many supplies ahead and really what probably works better is to give myself the gift of sitting down and working on one of my big projects, but it's a thought.

I liked Valentine's Day better when I was a kid, when you got part of the afternoon off from lessons and had a party with cupcakes and red Hi-C* and you brought in funny cartoon valentines to give your friends and usually I gave them to EVERYONE in the class, even the kids I didn't particularly like** because I knew what feeling excluded was like and I didn't want someone to feel excluded. I did save back the ones I thought were nicest to give to my particular friends or whatever little boy I had a proto-crush on that year.

(*Do they still even MAKE Hi-C?)

(** Some years that may also have been the rule. And while I'm generally not in favor of the "everyone gets a trophy" model, I do think in the very early grades, maybe at least ENCOURAGING kids to give everyone a "happy valentine's" card, even kids they don't care for that much - well, that may be a little lesson in Loving Your Neighbor or at least Not Being An Obvious Jerk To Your Neighbor.)

* Thought from the Inspector Gamache novel, though in his case he was talking about someone who had suffered genuine abuse as a child - he notes that when a person is wounded emotionally as a child, there are two directions that person goes: either they develop more empathy than they might and they become a kinder person (perhaps he was referring to the victim, who was a well-loved woman in her community) or else they become an abuser themselves (apparently that was the perpetrator).

And I do think there's some truth to that. And maybe it's the degree of wounding the person experiences. And maybe if there's some kind of mitigating factor. I was in some ways an unhappy and unpopular child at school, and yet, I could ALWAYS fall back on knowing that my parents loved and valued me (and also other adults in my life: and this is perhaps another good reason to belong to a church or other religious group with your children). And maybe having that solid core of comfort allowed me to weather the way school was better. I WILL say the way I was treated by my peers, as much as it stunk and as miserable as I was at the time, probably did lead to me being a more compassionate person than I might be otherwise. Though it's a heck of a way to learn compassion.

Thursday, February 04, 2016

Knitting desire returned

Bur first, my awesome near-typo of the day: when answering a student's e-mail question about how I wanted them to structure a paper, I first typed "Literature Cuted" instead of "Literature Cited."

I did catch it before sending the e-mail, though.

My desire to knit has returned. I don't know if I burned it out over Christmas break with the near-constant knitting, or if being sick and stressed (I was probably sick with the stomach bug longer than I realized, based on how much better I feel right now compared to how I've felt the past 2 weeks) sapped my desire to work, but I've been picking stalled projects back up and wanting to work on them again.

The biggest one is a pair of basketweave knit socks out of a part-bison yarn that I bought at BPAFF this fall. Basketweave takes a really long time to knit because there's a lot of purling, but I think these socks will be worth it when they're done - they look really good so far. I'm a few rows short of starting the heel flap on the first sock.

I also realized I have Starbuck going and want to get back to work on that. I find when I stow a project in a bag (instead of leaving it out on the sofa or a coffee table), I forget about it and don't work on it.

I also started a new project (yes, another): I am participating in the ITFF swap that is going to happen this month, and I realized that one of the gifts I am giving my swapner would fit very nicely (and go well in) a small knit bag. So I found a free "dice bag" pattern on Ravelry (like the bags that role-playing gamers use to carry their multisided dice) and started it the other night. I'm almost done already - nice fast small project, and I might make more in the future as "gift wrapping" for other small gifts (I think what I am planning to give my mom for Mother's Day would fit in one). They can be made out of leftover sock yarn, which is even better.

Also, I may have found something I want to watch online while I knit at some point. One of those "you might learn something" things - I ran across a series of videos by Dr. John Burland, who is (Was? I guess he's emeritus now) engineering professor at Imperial College, London:

That's just one of them, there's apparently a whole series of videos on soil engineering and on soil strength/stress properties. And this is the subfield of soils I know the LEAST about, but conversely, is what Other Major That Takes My Class is most interested in. So this might be a simple way for me to bone up a little. (And the sand castle demonstration is kind of fun)

Wednesday, February 03, 2016

Busy days ahead

So I guess I won't get to Sherman this weekend as planned.

We are hosting a science enrichment event here. To make a long story that I don't know all the details of a bit shorter, another campus not in our system had agreed to host it, then pulled out at the last minute. So we offered to host it, and now we are. But people are always needed for stuff like this, and apparently Former Host was forbidding (?) its faculty from helping out. (Wow. Just, wow. Like I said, I don't know the full story, but that seems kind of strange to me.)

So I volunteered. I figured, heck, this buys me a Get Out Of Volunteering Free card for the event later this month that falls on my birthday. My chair offered two options: I could proctor a written test (sort of boring) or I could host the "informational table" about the department. Almost before the words were out of her mouth about the table, I said, "I could do that." She seemed happy to have me take it.

I dunno. For an introvert, I kind of like doing that thing. It's standing behind a table for a couple hours that is set up with departmental material and talking to students or parents who might be interested in our school. And it's kind of fun to put together the table: I usually borrow a few anatomical models for the medical side of things, and some pickled specimens for the straight biology side. I might haul over the old flower model too if I can wrangle that and everything else.

But that's my Saturday morning right there.

And Friday afternoon, we have a meeting for post-tenure review. This is a new thing. I suppose it's a good idea, but I admit I'm apprehensive for a couple reasons: first, so many of my colleagues are teaching overloads this semester (I am not, by virtue of the fact that the uncovered sections fell during times I was already committed with things only I could do) and it's hard to find a time to meet. So Friday afternoon looks like the meeting time. (The other reason I am apprehensive is that although it's promoted as a "developmental" thing - that is, "Where can you improve," I could see in some departments or some climates it being used as a shoehorn for one individual to agitate for the removal or reprimand of another that they *personally dislike.* I don't see that happening in my department, but I could see it happening somewhere. Also, as I've said before: I am quickly learning that my model of "always do 100% your best" is a fool's game, you should hold something back, because then when you need to improve, it's easy to step up your game. If you're only carrying 15 pounds of rocks, it's easy to pick up five more. But if you're carrying 45 pounds, at the limit of your strength, and you're told you need to carry more rocks, what do you do? I'm guessing my recommendation will be to publish more and to lecture less in class and do more "active learning" and I don't know. Also sometimes I react badly to criticism I am not expecting so I will have to practice being a Big Tough Cowgirl and just nodding in response to whatever I'm told instead of tearing up or trying to justify why I did what I did.)

Also, it's just more committeework, which none of us really need right now. But whatever. I understand the need for us to be evaluated periodically.

Tomorrow night is AAUW. I am hostess, but this go round we're in the library, so complex food is harder, so I just bought a cheese and cracker tray. I might actually be able to eat cheese by then - I have been avoiding it, along with chocolate, to avoid angrying up my stomach, but I put some chocolate chips in the oatmeal this morning and I seem to be okay, so.

And next Monday is CWF, for which I am also hostess (I put all my hostessing in the same month; makes it easier to remember). I think I'm going to make a maraschino cherry cake that was a favorite in my family when I was growing up. Normally my mom put chocolate icing on it (and that is good) but we have one member who cannot eat chocolate, so I guess I'll do cream cheese with almond flavoring. I can't think of any non-chocolate icing that would work better. (I have a very good caramel icing recipe, but that doesn't go with cherries. Also it's cooked like a fudge so it takes more effort)


Am thinking about trying some new recipes again. I saw a pea soup (not split pea: made with frozen green peas) in one of my cookbooks. I don't *love* green peas as a vegetable and never eat them, but maybe pureed up and flavored properly they would be OK. I like split-pea soup all right, or at least I used to eat it before I had to cut out ham from my diet. (Could also try making split pea soup and doctoring the flavor with Worcestershire sauce and liquid smoke to get that ham-like flavor without all the salt)

Also thinking about doing something in the crockpot soon, but what? The only decent meat I can get reliably locally is chicken. (Beef is either disgustingly lean or just poor quality, which is upsetting given that we are in a beef raising area). Pork is hard because most of it is too lean and then shot up with salt brine to "enhance" the tenderness.

If I could get to Sherman I'd consider buying a chunk of chuck and making kind of a pseudo pot roast in the crock pot (just the meat and potatoes and mmmmmaybe turnips - most of the aromatic vegetables that go into those are things I can't eat)


One of my bad book-habits: when a publisher makes books that have a design that pleases me, I want all the books in the series. There's a new "British Crime Series" that has come out - this is the one I currently have (I just started it) and it's just such a nicely made book and seems so stylish. I admit I ordered another by the same author (I never heard of him before I saw the book recommended on Mrs. Miniver's Daughter) and one that is a compilation of short stories.

At any rate: that sort of "Golden Era" (or at least: between the Wars, or shortly post-WWII) British mystery novel is my FAVORITE genre to read. I've speculated before on why I find it enjoyable; I think a big part of my love of mysteries is that there is the idea that I see them as fundamentally stories of the redemption of a community: a sin is committed (usually: someone is murdered, though in a few it's a theft or blackmailing). The Wise Man (or more rarely, Wise Woman) is called in to figure out what happened. He (or she) does, the guilty party is caught and removed from the community (or rarely: they remove themselves; some novels end with the suicide of the murderer), and as much as it can be, order is restored. What was broken has been repaired. And I think that's something I long for in day-to-day life: that when stuff gets broken, that it can be repaired.

I think I also like them because intelligence and problem-solving (and in some sense, patience: the detective, professional or amateur, has to be patient enough to observe and consider what is happening) is essentially celebrated in these novels; it is a trait that is valuable to have. And living in a culture that often seems to celebrate "dumbness" as a virtue, or that privileges outrageous behavior over patient, quiet thoughtfulness, it's nice to see that in those novels.

I finished "Still Life" last night. The murderer was not who I expected it would be and it turned out to be one of those creepy cases of "you think you know a person." These novels do tend to delve more into the psychology of those involved than some mysteries, and again, there's a....perhaps "soulfulness" is the right word? to them that I like. It's definitely not a nihilistic worldview: there is an underlying idea that some things are good and right and proper. And also, there is the idea that even though some people (one character in particular) can do wrong and hateful things in their pasts, they can also repent of those things and seek some kind of redemption.

It's funny. The older I get the more I crave narratives that center around the idea of a redemption, where what is wrong is made right, where what is broken is repaired, and where people see how they hurt others, regret it, and make amends. I don't know why that should be but those are the stories that really speak to me and mean a lot to me. I haven't done a lot in my life that hurt people deeply and I'm not really carrying around some load of guilt from my past I am seeking to redeem, and yet, those stories of people seeking redemption are important to me.

Tuesday, February 02, 2016

Not quite poem

Years back, in the early days of blogging* there was a tradition called "The Blogger's Silent Poetry Reading, in Honor of St. Bridget" and the idea was you shared a favorite poem on February 2, which is (depending on what you observe) Candlemass day, Groundhog day, or the day after St. Brigid's (or Bridget's) day.

* Well, "lifestyle blogging," I guess that's what you would call knitblogs and reading blogs? I don't think the political bloggers or similar did this sort of thing much

I've done this for years and kind of don't want to give up the tradition even though I am probably the only one still doing it. But I'm coming up a little dry. I thought of using the Auden poem that was quoted in the first Inspector Gamache novel ("Still Life") that I am reading, but I don't know that I feel that much affinity for it. (I like SOME Auden)

But instead, I'll offer this. It's very short and is probably not really a poem, but it's one of those sayings that I have taken and tried to remember as a touchstone:

"All shall be well.
And all shall be well.
And all manner of things shall be well."

- St. Julian of Norwich

She was an anchorite (meaning, essentially, she consented to be closed up in a small cell where she prayed constantly). It is thought she chose this after losing her family (and perhaps a husband) to the plague. She was in many ways a mystic, and many of her revelations are about Divine love and are deeply optimistic.

Which is something I think this world needs - optimism - and it's something I need a lot of the time. One of the pieces of jewelry I wear frequently is a pendant that is a tiny silver moebius inscribed with that famous saying and a little cross. It's something I often choose to wear on days where I feel I need strength. (I wore it under my blouse - the chain is too short for it to work with the collar on that blouse - the day I did the message in church).

It is hard to remember that on a cosmic sense, "all shall be well" when you're mired in the business of everyday life. (Perhaps it is easier for one to have divine visions and to contemplate eternity when one is in the same place all the time).

Monday, February 01, 2016

little happy things

* Maud now has a head and ears. I have not attached the ears yet but they are done.

* I decided to take Purlewe's advice and just bind off the sleeve now - if you stretch it a little it makes 20". And what was the old gag from "Are You Being Served"? "It will take up with wear"? Well, I find that sleeves on sweaters often stretch a bit with wear. So one more sleeve on this....

* Waiting expectantly for my first "Doki Doki" kawaii-stuff box, which is supposed to ship out this week. Yes, they're expensive but if it brings me great joy - well, I might stay subscribed, at least for a while. (As my mom often notes: I don't eat restaurant meals, I've never smoked, I don't drink fiscal vices are relatively few). And really, they cost less than a dinner in a relatively expensive restaurant, so....

* DEFINITELY better. So, so, so grateful that this was just bad gastritis. I made a salmon loaf tonight and it tasted really good to me - for the past few days I've eaten mostly with little relish and just knowing I *needed* to eat to stay strong.

* I also made coconut baked custard - I just subbed coconut milk (I can get "culinary coconut milk" in brick-packs kind of like what the coconut water comes in). I also added some coconut flavoring I had. It was good, though it had a slightly more "curdled" or less-smooth texture than custard made with milk. I supposed it was the coconut that did that. It wasn't offensive, it was just different. (I also use whole eggs in my custards. I know some recipes only call for yolks, but I neither feel like having leftover whites hanging around - I don't eat scrambled eggs that often - or messing with making a meringue for the custard)

I should make baked custard more. It's a more nutritious dessert than many things (mostly milk and eggs, and really not much sugar). I am now wondering how it would be subbing brown sugar for the white....

* I don't usually watch "Jeopardy!" but one of the local channels runs a 4 pm afternoon news, which I sometimes do watch, and "Jeopardy!" comes on after it. Today, I was working on the custard and had left the tv on, and walked back in to the sight of Alex Trebek reading quotations from "hard" rock songs (though one was Van Halen's "Jump," I am not sure how truly "hard" that is). It was worth leaving the tv on for that. Alex Trebek is one of the better of the game-show hosts (IMHO) but he still reminds me of that terminally unhip math or chemistry teacher we all had in high it was funny. I mean, it's just funny to hear someone reading song lyrics anyway. (Didn't Steve Allen or someone have a bit where he read the really dumb teenybopper songs like they were poetry?)

Sunday, January 31, 2016

The sleeve progresses

Though I thought I'd be done by now....I measured off and calculated and thought when I completed row 30 of the current repeat, the sleeve would be the 20" I need. (I measured my arms with the body pinned on to me, just to be sure: some of these man-designed sweaters have proportionally long sleeves).

It still lacks 1". Oh well.

sleeve 1

This is the long-going (long-suffering? I seem to neglect it a lot) Hagrid sweater out of that special Harry Potter Knits Interweave publication (which I guess has been reissued and redubbed "Wizard Knits).

I'll be glad to get this one done. I also have another pullover on the needles, "Raven" from Knits of a Feather, but that's my invigilating sweater because it's so simple to knit on.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

One happy thing

Just got word that my friend, who had the emergency surgery last week, is now off the ventilator and may soon be moved out of ICU. I am extremely happy to hear this.

I also decided to start a new project - I began the Maud Pie amigurumi. I'm using the same old Friends Forever Fawn pattern, so she will be about the same size as the Pinkie Pie I made. After I finish typing this exam I am going to go home and work some more on her.

I also did something I thought I wouldn't ever do....I bought a couple Equestria Girls dolls for my collection. But wait - they're not the blah Barbie-sized ones, they're the much cuter "Mini" (more "chibi" style) figures. I got Rarity and Fluttershy - I think they have the nicest character design, and anyway, they are my two favorite ponies. And they are apparently particular friends in the universe: I mean, all the Mane Six are friends, but there are some dyads that seem to have more in common with each other, and Rarity and Fluttershy strike me as BFFs.

I have to say: if Equestria Girls had gone with the cuter, cartoonier, "chibi style" concept for the dolls at first (and maybe make the animated girls, oh, 20% smaller and cuter) I would have been more on board with the concept, even if I STILL say I find Equestria, which is "another country," far more interesting than a pale imitation of a North American high school. (Though I guess lots of little girls aspire to high school attitudes and fashion; that's why Barbie and similar have been so popular. Well, I will say, being on the other end of it? I didn't find it "all that" when I was there. Oh, high school was OK for me, but far from "the best time of your life" as it's often advertised to be)

One slightly weird thing about the EqG minis - they have horse ears. Otherwise entirely humanoid, but with horse ears. Wonder if that was a tiny nod to the whole anime/manga tradition of the catgirl or the foxgirl. They also have giant heads and especially giant (molded) hair. I tried to pose them like they were walking arm in arm, like sometimes teen girls who are close friends do, but their giant hair got in the way....

They are very poseable. One thing about doll technology: they've really stepped up poseability in recent years. I don't remember the dolls around when I was a kid having that kind of poseability. Oh, Barbie had the weird things inside her rubbery legs that clicked into position to let her knees bend (and occasionally, one of my friends' very-played-with Barbies would get a wobbly knee. Heh. Do they do knee replacements for Barbie?). But one thing I really like, especially about the Monster High dolls, is that most of them have knee joints, hip joints, arms that rotate more or less like a human arm at the shoulder, elbow joints, AND wrist joints. So you can put them in very realistic poses and I particularly like the "expressiveness" of the arms and hands. (The hands and sometimes the legs and heads can also be taken off, like to dress them. Which is weird and I'm sure the little hands represent a choking hazard, but...)

When I was a kid I remember dolls being mostly just jointed at the shoulder and hips, and the sockets just rotated in one plane (if that makes sense: the arm will go around in a circle but cannot be lifted out away from the body). Also some dolls looked really odd if you rotated their legs so they could sit down - very splay-legged.  And it was frustrating if you had them in a less-than-full-skirted dress.

I don't think I'll try making clothes for the little EqG dolls; their tops are molded on. It looks like the skirts MIGHT be removable but it would be hard to make anything to fit, because it would have to be designed with a full-back opening; their heads are so enormous in proportion to their body that nothing would go over them.

I'm feeling SOME better this morning. It still feels kind of like my guts are "angry" at me, which is just like the bout of gastritis I am now remembering from some 25 years ago - one of my profs gave a dinner party and served moussaka, which is both incredibly rich and contains eggplant, which I found out I don't tolerate well. Also, she served some kind of dessert that was full of coffee, another thing I don't tolerate well. I got sick at home afterwards and felt unwanting to eat for about a week and a half. I mostly managed with Pepto back then, I don't think there were the OTC PPIs and acid blockers....

Also tight waistbands, even not-tight-but-kind-of-pushy-when-you-bend waistbands are not so good. I have jeans on that are kind of loose but even when I scrunch forward to work I can feel the front of the band pressing, and it's not comfortable. I think I will go home and shower and just put pajamas or a nightgown on. No one is likely to drop by, but even if they do: well, I'm sort of sick, so it's okay.

I tried sleeping in the recliner and could not so I gave up and went to bed, and just resigned myself to feeling worse this morning. I did, but it's now improving. I may try sleeping in the recliner again tonight but actually move my white-noise machine into the living room (I need it to sleep, where I live - too many people driving by late at night in their big loud pickups). I will say I felt ENORMOUSLY better yesterday after lying for an hour or so on that ER bed where they have it inclined up at the head, it was exactly the posture I needed to be in to relieve the reflux.

Friday, January 29, 2016

just fair warning

In case I disappear here for a couple days: I'm still having some abdominal distress. It could be an ulcer, I am not 100% convinced. Not 100% convinced it's not gallbladder either, though the pain isn't as bad as gallbladder pain is supposed to be. And I'll think, "Oh, I'm all better!" for a few hours, and then the pain comes back.

My doctor is out of the office today so the nurse told me if it gets very bad, to go to the ER. So if that happens, I may wind up being admitted for testing or more....I hope it doesn't come to that.

I'm going to try an OTC acid blocker and see if that seems to make things better. Eating something or moving around seems to make the pain less, it gets worse with sitting. But I also don't feel quite "right" somehow, and that concerns me.

Currently, the really painful stuff feels almost exactly like ulcer symptoms. I don't know whether to call the secretary at my church and say, "Hey, just in case....who do you think could go to the ER with me?"

UPDATE: Around noon I started feeling sufficiently awful and being sufficiently worried that I decided to go to the ER (the minister was free so he went and sat with me). I didn't react when they hit the pressure point (I don't know what it's called but it has a name - the nurse practitioner mentione it but I don't remember). She said that meant it was "highly unlikely it was gallbladder, but they would do labs to be sure - apparently the bloodwork will show if liver or pancreas is compromised, and they said my labs all came back perfect.

They THINK it is gastritis brought on by the virus and by stress. I have a proton-pump inhibitor to take for two weeks (and no Cholula sauce for the nonce, I suppose). If it doesn't resolve then, it's probably an ulcer (the NP said that H. pylori is "endemic" here) and I will need to be scoped to be sure, but that's way way less invasive and awful (and requiring of time off work) than having the gallbladder removed is.

I am glad I went now because I am less worried and that actually relieves some of the GI pain. Also the ER beds that incline up at the head? That went a long way to relieving the pain. I probably sit all scrunched up too much and that's not helping my gut.

I also have to say: everyone I encountered in the local ER was super nice and super helpful: the intake person (who also processed my insurance), the two (male) nurses (I think male nurses are more common now than formerly, and it's a good thing: one of them looked like a former football player and if he needed to move or lift someone, he probably could), the Nurse Practitioner, and the woman who drew my blood. Also, it was almost empty when I went in so I got seen pretty much right away - the main wait-time was for them to process my bloodwork. 

Thursday night movie

Last night, hunting around for something to watch, I came on "The Goonies" (already in progress, but it seems this is one of the heavy-rotation current Discovery Family movies).

I remember seeing this when it was out in the theater. I don't think anyone realized the potential cult status of the movie when it first came out - it was one of those summer "kid" movies. I went to see it with a friend from high school; I cannot now remember if my mom and younger brother also saw it with us.

(interestingly, it's rated PG despite, I guess, the original version having the "s word" in it a number of times. I don't remember that. But somewhere I read that Jonathan Ke Huy Quan, the actor who played "Data," at one point yelled out "Holy S-H-I...." spelling the word rather than saying it. Because, he said, he had promised his mom he wouldn't say "bad words." Heh.)

It's a far-fetched story - centered on a group of kids whose homes in the "Goon Docks" are about to be foreclosed upon for a golf course. Through some machinations, they wind up with a "treasure map" that supposedly directs them to One-Eyed Willie's treasure. They decide to go off in search of it, figuring if they find it, they could pay off their homes for their parents and not have to leave....

The special effects are fairly dated but that's actually part of the charm of the whole thing - no CGI, no post-production niceties. A lot of the charm of the movie, I think, centers on the relationship between the kids: quiet introspective Mikey, goofy fat-kid "Chunk," the slighly smarmy and obnoxious "Mouth," and "Data," with all his crazy inventions (he is a wanna-be 007).

In some ways it's almost a fantasy version of "Stand By Me," just set in a different place (and era) and without the "dead kid" bit.

They set off, pursued by Mikey's older brother and two girls - one played by Martha Plimpton, the other who has a crush on Mikey's brother.

They wind up running afoul of a ridiculous crime family (like a lot of kid movies, the "bad guys" are less menacing and more dumb and defeatable). And then there's "Sloth."

I wonder if this movie would be made today. There's a lot some people might find offensive in it - in some ways, both Chunk and Data are stereotypes of their respective groups. And Sloth....well, it's never said what Sloth's medical/developmental problems are, but there are a bunch of them. He is odd looking, to say the least, doesn't really speak (though given that he seems to quickly pick up some language from Chunk, who befriends him, maybe it was just that the rest of his family never spoke much to him).

Mainly, I had forgotten how *fun* this movie is. It's just goofy, escapist fantasy, lots of special effects, lots of danger-that-isn't-so-dangerous. And in the end, yeah, the kids get just enough of One-Eyed Willie's treasure to save their homes. (Nice little touch: when they come upon the treasure, they start grabbing it, but Mikey stops them from taking the coins out of a hanging balance: "No. That's Willie's." Later on it is show that removing those coins triggers a booby trap.)

And now the movie is more than 30 years old...

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Funny little rituals

I notice this. On the phone, some people have interesting little things they do. There is one relative of my dad's who is infamous for being IMPOSSIBLE to get off the phone - this person will say, "Well, I guess I better go" but then think of something else. I know at least once my dad said he has played the game of seeing how long he can keep this relative going, "Wait, there's just one more thing...."

I noticed my mom and I do one when we talk. One of us will say either, "Well, I better let you go" or "Oh, I need to go now" and then the other will say "Okay."

And it proceeds:

"Okay" least four times until one of us hangs up.


I think I'm finally on the mend. I had been worried because I had ongoing acid reflux (though this is apparently the last stage of some stomach virues, it can also herald a going-bad gall bladder). And I kind of had a low point around lunchtime today, when my guts in general were hurting and I was worriedly thinking: (a) do I go to my own personal doctor first and have her refer me, or do I just go to the hospital myself?* and (b) who would I call to sit with me and kind of look out for me while waiting to be admitted? (Probably someone from church could, it would come down to finding the person who would be free enough that I wouldn't feel I was taking them away from things they needed to be doing)

But now I feel better. (I felt better after eating lunch, which tells me I can't be too terribly sick, I think). The reflux seems to be quieting down this afternoon and I feel more "normal" than I've felt in a couple days.

(*Yes, I checked: I would call my doctor first unless it was a terrible horrible emergency).

I eat a pretty low-fat diet (esp. low in saturated fat) and I exercise, so I'd hope that would protect me a little, but I also know being a woman of my age (and being heavy) puts me at greater risk. So it's something I worry about. (Also, am having monthly woes at the moment, and that often messes with my whole GI tract).


So, the first images of "Flurry Hearts" are out. She's an alicorn, sort of pale pink or white with a magenta and teal mane (some are speculating that she is somehow a reincarnation of, or a time-traveled reincarnation of, Starlight Glimmer, which seems a rather fanciful idea to me - seeing as Starlight Glimmer is pretty clearly not-dead, and given what happened the end of last season, she seemed on the path to redemption, and so would be unlikely to do something like, I don't know, try to take over a developing foal....)

She IS an alicorn, which is apparently upsetting some of the fanbase. Actually, I think it's a somewhat amusing idea as I am wondering if we are going to see Jealous Twilight again, in the sense of "I worked really hard to develop my magic, and here my niece is far more magic than I am FROM BIRTH."

And at least they didn't use the creepy iris-less-eye design on her: she has normal eyes instead of the "button" eyes other baby ponies were given.

In other seven-year-old-girl news: apparently they have come out with different Barbie body types: petite, taller, and (interesting to me) "curvier." Also, last year they redid a lot of the faces so the Barbies of different ethnic backgrounds didn't just all have the same turned-up nose. Personally, I think all the different redone faces make Barbie more interesting. Though the cynical side of me says having four different shaped Barbies maybe means the company figures that they can sell that many more outfits - because Curvy Barbie can't share Traditional Barbie's clothes, and stuff is too short on Tall Barbie. (So really, it's pretty genius: pleasing those who want "more diverse bodies" at the same time as probably selling more clothes. I PRESUME the clothes are still the main attraction of Barbie? I know that's how it was with my friends and younger cousins when I was a kid.)

I never particularly cared for Barbie when I was a kid - mostly because her glamorous lifestyle didn't fit in with what I knew, and also, she just didn't seem that interesting. But as a display figure, now, I can see some of the attraction of the new line.

A sad anniversary

Tomorrow is the 30th anniversary of the Challenger explosion.

I think of all the news events in my life, that is the first one where I really, clearly remember where I was. I was a junior in high school - 16, not quite 17 yet. I remember a friend coming up to me in the hall and asking me, "Did you hear that the space shuttle blew up?"

Thinking of all the previous rocket-failures where the fire had been on the ground, I immediately said, "But they got the astronauts out okay, right?" She shook her head sadly.

Later, one of the teachers (it might have been the 3-D Art teacher) had a little black and white tv set up, aluminum foil on the antenna, watching the news. (Ironically, I remember on Sept. 11, 2001, our secretary here had a little black-and-white tv set up with aluminum foil on the antenna. I guess the aluminum foil trick - if it ever worked - went out with the advent of digital tv.)

And at lunch. They announced it, they talked a little about it. We had a moment of silence for the astronauts. And I kept thinking: what a horrible thing. What a horrible thing. So sudden.

Then again, with more maturity, I think: maybe they never knew. One moment here, one moment, on the Other Side, whatever that constituted for each of them. And maybe, just maybe, dying doing something you love and have dreamed about it is preferable to dying in a hospital in pain.

It's weird, isn't it. I've read how big "traumatic" memories mean that sometimes things get cemented more in your mind. I still remember the quality of light in the big old prep-school dining hall that day. (I don't remember what they fed us.) I remember the junky little black and white set Mr. Armbruster (I think it was) was trying to tune in to see the news.

I suppose just HEARING about it was better than actually seeing it as it happened - I have heard stories of kids (most of them were younger than I was) sitting in their school libraries or auditoria, watching the launch, expecting it to be another successful launch with clapping and cheering at the end....and then. How hard it must have been for the teachers to figure out what to say.

I don't remember the Columbia explosion, in 2003, nearly as well. I suppose I was busier, (I remember I was getting ready to go hiking with a couple of then-colleagues; I mostly remember hearing the rangers at the Chickasaw NRA have the exchange about how it was "official now" and they had to move the flag to half-mast.) Also perhaps there had been more sad things happen in the news that I had experienced by then.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Random pony stuff

* Apparently the baby that Cadence* and Shining Armor are having has got a name, according to a German website. The English translation EqD gives is "Flurry Hearts," which, I'm hoping is a slight mistranslation, because it seems awkward.

(* Sorry. I cannot call her Cadance like Hasbro wants me to)

* There's some kerfuffle about a font-copyright-owner wanting to sue Hasbro for allegedly not having all permissions in place to use their font for the "Friendship is Magic" wording. At first it sounded like one of those harassment-cash-grabs to me (because the font-site had something up on their page more or less proudly stating that Hasbro used the font "officially," which sounded to me like an agreement existed). Now, I don't know. In one of the legal documents there was the declaration that "All affected merchandise should be destroyed" which kind of made me go YOU CAN HAVE MY PONIES WHEN YOU TAKE THEM FROM MY COLD DEAD HANDS but of course they wouldn't come after people who had already paid for the stuff.

Best case scenario, I think: it turns out to be mere nuisance and is thrown out.
Middle case scenario: Hasbro has to re-font and put stickers on to cover the old font or new packaging
Worst case: Hasbro decides it's time to shut down this current generation and retool. Unlikely.

I have no idea how big this is or if it's actually a copyright-troll sort of thing or what. Legal stuff is the kind of thing that makes my eyes glaze over a little, so.... I want to believe it's someone trying to shake the Hasbro money tree with a nuisance suit, but I don't know if the font company actually has grounds.

* Even though I'm paying more for it than I should (Amazon's third-party sellers tend to go with a "what the market will bear") I ordered a Maud Pie blindbag-size figure. Now watch, the next time I am at Target they will have them. (I have looked for weeks at the stores I know that have Pony with no luck).

I admit, if I were a little younger (and had more room), I'd want ALL the playsets that they are coming out with. I'm contenting myself with some of the new special figures, though.

* This morning on Duolingo, reviewing "body parts" (some, I just cannot remember), I was asked to translate "Dein Gesicht!" and immediately I thought of Discorded Fluttershy. ("Your face!")

*I'm also wondering now if hunting YouTube for German dub versions of MLP (and other cartoons I watch) might help me improve my understanding. My biggest challenge with German is the cases for nouns, and the whole der-den-dem thing. Well, that and the flexible sentence order, which is actually related to that issue (if you are specifying clearly - by article - what place the noun is playing in the sentence, where it goes is less crucial).

* Random imagined pony that popped into my head: "Ocker Strine," a stallion from Horsetralia. His butt symbol is one of those hats with the corks hanging off the brim (like the "Bruces" in that infamous sketch about the University of Woolamaloo's philosophy department)

Wednesday morning things

* Had my six-month checkup yesterday. Everything is ok, my weight isn't the LOWEST it's been in recent years but it was close to the lowest. BP too high at the doctor's but she looked at my records from taking it at home and said I was okay. (Being around people stresses me out, I'm concluding)

Actually, I can often judge from my heart rate and how my heart beat "feels." - if it feels "fast" or "hard" I know my bp will be high. At home, my heart rate is slow (if I check it) and not really noticeable, same in the office. Sometimes after driving I can feel it, definitely after having a negative interaction with someone I can feel it.

Also, I maintain the disinfectant smell at doctors' is upsetting to me on a subconscious level; I have never really been in a GOOD situation where there was that smell: either I was preparing to get a shot or bloodwork or I was sick, or I was at the dentist, or I was at the hospital visiting someone who was sick or hurt, or at the vet's with an aging cat....maybe, now, if my main hospital experience was having healthy babies in easy deliveries I might be more sanguine about the smell, but no.

* I told her about my weird digestive thing (I had a couple days of stomach cramps and loss of appetite, followed by incredible muscle aches). She said as long as it was resolving she was going to assume as I did, that it was a virus, and "not do further tests." (I confess: I worry every time I find my stomach going troppo, that it's my gall-bladder going bad. Two of my uncles have had theirs out, and when I was much younger - before I was exercising and eating carefully - I had a little trouble with mine. Also, I fit the old formula of "Fair, fat, female, and forty" more or less well). Later I mentioned the events of Friday night, and she kind of cocked her head and said, "Well, also, when you've been under a lot of short-term stress, it can refer to the abdominal region and act like you have food poisoning or something." I don't think I've ever noticed that in me before, but really, worrying about the health and safety of aging parents is probably the worst stress I've had....yes, I have a lot of other stress but it's lower-level and more chronic and manageable. (So I guess the old thing about a student throwing up before a big exam is for real.) My doctor is a D.O. and I think I can sometimes see that more "holistic body" viewpoint coming out. I don't think I've ever had a doctor talk about the effects of stress like that before - mainly they talk about what it does to blood pressure and the like. Things that need to be fixed, I guess, whereas here, she was more explaining and sympathizing.

She also sympathized, noting, "Having aging parents is *hard*"

I feel *mostly* better (my back still hurts some, but that could also just be regular, ahem, female stuff rearing its head) so I'm trying hard not to worry. I still don't have much appetite, though, so I'm just eating lightly. (Also, the pains I've had seem to be - based on the anatomical charts I've examined - too high up and in the wrong part of the abdomen. And as far as I can remember from the time my gallbladder DID bother me, it was in a different place. Well, also, it was the WORST pain I've EVER experienced - worse than the worst of my migraines, worse than when I broke my elbow, worse than when my bursitis is bad.)

Anyway, I'm eating extra low fat for these couple days just to be careful. Probably a good idea even if it's just a low grade gastric-tract inflammation brought on by a virus or stress.

* Yesterday was long. I taught my two classes, had the doctor's appointment, and then had a meeting. This was a meeting for a volunteer group I belong to. We are having to totally overhaul our bylaws because of the IRS becoming stricter about non-profit groups. And wow. There's a lot of detail there that makes my head hurt when I read those bylaws. The meeting took two and a half hours. It wasn't as bad as it could have been, but still, two and a half hours at the end of the day after I've already exhausted most of my "spoons" in re: dealing with other people, is not good. At one point I kind of waved my hands in the air and declared "I am out of cares to give about this" when two people were arguing some arcane point and they asked the rest of us what we thought.

I cannot decide if having all my undesired-human-interaction packed into one day is preferable to having it spread out over different days. At least tonight when I go home, I can stay home.

* I also have to think. My mom called me last night to remind me: "Your birthday is coming up, you need to let us know of gift ideas." Other than my Amazon wishlist, I don't really know. I saw a throw kit in the new Patternworks that I MIGHT like, but then again, given how little time I seem to devote to knitting these days...And I can't think of any kitchen thing I need now.

Honestly, I was thinking more about what I was going to DO on my birthday - probably go down to Whitesboro where there's supposed to be both a quilt shop and a yarn-dyer's studio (Will have to check to be 100% both are open Saturdays; some places have weird hours around here).

Again, it's like Christmas: what I really want are things that can't be bought at a store.

* I am slowly getting the Miniontines ready to go out. Hopefully most will be mailed tomorrow. If you still want one (or a Ponytine), I still have some left, so just drop me your address.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

And still going

Oh hey, it's my blogiversary. (Do people still do that? Or have the cool kids all moved on and it's passé to note the day?)

(I had to check. I knew it was today or tomorrow, couldn't remember. It's today).

This makes, what, 14 years I've done this. That's....that's a long time.  There have been times I've thought of pulling the plug on it, either because I felt like no one was reading, or because I began to twitch, wondering if what I was doing was "kosher" (see this morning's post).

In the early days of this, each new year was exciting and felt like a milestone. And now, it feels more routine - oh, another year has passed?

I dunno. I also admit in the early days of this I thought I would win friends, influence people, and get a book contract. And then I saw other bloggers - some who started after I did - got all the publicity and all the love and all the adoring comments.

And I will admit, I felt a little jealous at first. And then I felt a little despairing: "Welp. Just proof you're not very interesting, you're destined never to have popularity. You were an unpopular little kid, you haven't changed."

And I don't know. I suppose really I wasn't meant to have much exposure - it would be weird having people I had never met (or e-mailed with, or commented back and forth with) come up to me and talk to me. And yeah, I know, the big popular bloggers get their share of truly awful comments and also other bad things going on....maybe better to fly under the radar.

I will say I seem to knit a lot less now. I suppose part of that is other things (finding time to practice piano) but also, I do feel like some of my responsibilities have increased.

Also, the Internet has changed. There are still a few high-profile knitbloggers out there, often using their blog to promote their books or their patterns or their hand-dyed yarn. But I do think a lot of people have moved over to mostly being on Ravelry (if you are mainly cataloguing your projects) or have gone to Twitter or Tumblr.

 But I still like *words* so I still blog. Twitter is too constrained and also, stuff gets buried and lost - oh, it's still out there, but there's no good way to archive and go back and re-read. And as much as there are some Tumblrs I like, many of them seem to have the same stuff on them. And they are very visual, few words - and also, I find the way some of them "thread" posts as new stuff gets added is annoying (you scroll down to see older posts and what you get are the previous eight incarnations of that post before someone else added to it). And Facebook, meh, I just can't get excited about it based on some of the drama I have seen second-hand. 

So I still blog.

One little change

I don't know the full story here, but apparently someone somewhere on my campus encouraged students to visit their personal book-of-faces page, like them, and as it turned out, that page had political opinions on it which at least one student didn't share, they complained to their parent, the parent complained to the university, and so now anyone with a university-branded social-media site (which this is NOT) is expected to register.

I try to anonymize here and I try especially not to name names. But do be aware these are only my opinions and not those of my workplace. In fact, I'm sure sometimes my opinions run counter to the official workplace opinion.

So far, they're asking 'branded' sites on FB, Twitter, Google+, and Pinterest to register. I assume non-branded sites aren't, so for now I'm keeping my Twitter account, but if they get more forceful, that may just go away, because I don't like having to feel like I'm walking on eggshells on Twitter (heh).

No mention of Ravelry, probably as it's under the radar and I only know of one other person here who is on. No mention of blogs, though I suspect logoed blogs have already been registered.

And yeah, I understand their concern: It is actually illegal for a public university to be appearing to endorse a particular political position* or candidate. And they want to protect their image, that is their right.

(*Well, maybe other than, "Reducing funding for state universities leads to big problems in how those universities manage to deliver instruction." Heh)

I mean: We are still allowed, if we choose, to write letters to the editor but we cannot claim to do it on behalf of the entire university (which just seems commonsensical to me). And I didn't realize people were using the logos and stuff other than on official uni websites - I thought that was illegal.

Anyway. I like my gig a lot even if there are problems with higher ed in the US at the moment, and I don't want to do anything that upsets anyone or violates a rule. So I put a tiny clarification up on the header in case anyone who knows where I work is reading this. I mean, I think it's clear I'm not any kind of official spokesperson, but still.

(The world we live in. Offering extra credit for someone "liking" your FB page? Makes me face-palm.)

Sunday, January 24, 2016

And the quilts

First, the finished "Dozen Roses" quilt:

dozen roses finished

The name came from the pattern - it was in one of those "12 Fat Quarters Can Make a Quilt" type books.

it was kind of grey here today, you can see that from the photo. Also, I did wash this quilt last night, on the gentle cycle, cold water, and dry it - I had gotten some blood on it when I pricked my fingers and what might have been a little tea. Most of the stuff came out (there is still one tiny stain on the back). But at least now I know a handquilted quilt, if small enough to go in the machine, will survive a "gentle" cycle. (I was afraid it would pull on, and break, some of the hand stitching)

Here's a closeup. These were random bright pastel prints, mostly bought from Quilt Asylum a number of years back:

closeup 2

Here you can see the mouse border design, which, wow, took a long time to quilt, because there was so much reversing and turning and doing loops. Also you can see the binding - that was bought long after all the fabrics in the quilt, it came from JoAnn's.

Here's the back. It came from (sniff) the now-closed quilt shop in my town.

dozen roses back

 Maybe you can see the squirrels outlined in there. I THINK this was a Tula Pink fabric, she tends to do those kind of trompe l'oeil effects with animals or natural things.

Another close up of two of the fabrics: goofy looking bunnies and deer. That was from a line designed by (IIRC) someone who had been on Project Runway:

closeup 1

And on to the new quilt.


More Tula Pink fabrics. (And what can I say? I like bright colors)

Here's a closer close up, maybe you can see the stitching better:

new quilt

I'm still trying to decide if I want to go full-grid with this (stitching lines from corner to corner both ways) or just do one set of parallel lines like I'm setting up here. The thing is, it's really hard unpicking quilting if you don't like something, so I'm really going to have to think hard about it before putting in that first cross-line. I'm thinking the stitching is unobtrusive enough that the crosslines won't obscure the fabrics too much - it will be more work but generally more heavily quilted quilts last a little better because the filling is less prone to shift.

And that's done

While "preaching a sermon" wasn't on Heinlein's famous list of "things a man [and by extension, an adult] should be able to do," it could be.

I guess it went well. People tell me it did. I got a chuckle out of the congregation at the right place, where I was expecting one, there didn't seem to be much coughing or shuffling. (When I am nervous about something, I often don't remember doing it very way; it was exactly the same back when I played clarinet and had to play a solo).

It's funny. Even though this is most likely the most congenial and receptive audience I will ever have, I was far more nervous doing this than getting up to teach a class. I suppose it is because the setting and the people are such that I felt like I wanted to do a really extra-special good job.

I thought it ran really long but when the service was over, and I got in my car, I saw that we were getting out no later than we normally do.

I also found I slightly fumbled the offertory meditation, I think partly because I didn't think about "You'll just be coming off saying the sermon, you won't have time to think of something" - with the prayers at the table that I normally do as Elder, I have time to put my thoughts quickly in order during the Words of Institution. I should have, in retrospect, written something out, but I guess it went fine.

it's very different presiding at the table (that is, doing the Words of Institution - the whole "this bread is my body, broken for you" and so forth quotation) than it is eldering. I was struck by that.

It went well but I am not sure I want to do it again. I was surprised how scared I was.

Also, some better (hopeful) news about my friend Margaret: she is still in ICU and on a ventilator, but they were apparently able to remove the tumor they found while doing the repair surgery. If she gets through the peritonitis, things may be better than it originally looked like they were. Two other hopeful things: even though she's on a ventilator, she's alert enough to write notes to people. And the minister said that her surgeon commented to him, "She's a tough old bird" which made me laugh because yes, in a way, it's true. I mean, I love her and she is a good and kind person, but there is also a toughness deep down there and hopefully it will serve her well in this instance. And the fact that every one of us at church love her and are praying for her can't hurt.

And finally: I tried the mouth guard again last night. (I didn't Friday night, partly because I was still kind of borderline upset over the whole thing with my father's brief ER trip). I think I'm getting more used to it, at least it didn't seem quite so miserable last night and I am noticing my neck feels less tense when I get up in the morning. So even if I'm not *grinding* my teeth, I may be clenching my jaw in my sleep and making muscle tension that way.

And now, I am going to go back working on the new quilt in the frame. If I can motivate myself, later today I will photograph the newly finished one.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

and next morning

* I was driving out to get groceries this morning and something struck me. Last night I was totally stuck in the headspace of "this is terrifying and awful *for me*" (and okay, also for my brother) but really, how much more awful it must have been for my mother, who tried to wake my dad up from a nap but couldn't, who had to call the ambulance, and who then (apparently this is how it happened) ran home from the hospital to get all his medicine bottles and found the one that had the mistakenly-higher dose in the refill.

I was thinking about "how horrible it would be to lose my dad" but how much more horrible for my mom to lose her husband of 56 years. And really, given that they started dating freshman year of college, they have known each other and been friends for essentially 60 years.

*I'm now wondering if the reason the hospital was so forthcoming with information to me was that several years ago, my parents had me sign paperwork designating me as their "medical proxy" (my brother is their "financial proxy," if ever needed to be). I think they picked me for that because I'm a biologist. I did tell them the condition for my agreeing to it was that they had advance directives in place so there was no chance I'd have to make an end-of-life decision for someone all on my own.

Ah well. I'm glad the whole thing is over now.

* Not gonna lie: the grocery had what they called paczki and I bought myself one for breakfast. It was okay. Not a real paczki, but close enough.

* Still no news on my friend from church. I keep checking my e-mail and praying for her. No news isn't necessarily good news; it could also just be no news.  I did tell the secretary yesterday that if they needed another lunch worker after the funeral today to call me. She said the head of the Bereavement Committee hadn't called me because she knew I was especially busy, but I said I could still be available. Maybe then I will hear something if I get called in.

* I don't like having distressing news over a weekend. During the week, I can teach, I have colleagues around, and being in the day to day schedule of life makes it easier. (Some years back, when someone I know had her husband die suddenly, people questioned why she went almost immediately right back to work but I totally understand: at work you have some sense of control, some sense that life is still going on). It's harder for me to force myself to do stuff (e.g., data entry) when I don't HAVE to be doing it (unlike going in and teaching or something like writing an exam) when my mind is otherwise occupied.

* If I had known I would have saved putting the letter-markings on the little plastic frisbees (for this week's dispersal lab) today, that's a nice mindless task.

* I am putting in a respectful request to The One In Charge that I have at least a few uneventful weeks for a while. Also thinking of the saying (attributed to, but I bet not actually said by, Mother Teresa) about "I know God will never give me more than I can handle. I just wish He did not trust me so much."

* I want to finish putting the binding on my quilt. I was working on it last night when my brother called and all that stuff happened. I also want to start making the Maud Pie amigurumi, I found all the yarn for her and the fabric for her dress. I will probably have to see about getting some wide black grosgrain for the belt on the dress but that will be nearly the last thing I need and I might make a Sherman run next week. Maybe.

Friday, January 22, 2016

The complaint department

A fantasy story.

"Hi...this is Complaints and Returns?"

"Yes, it is."

"Okay." (slaps a large box on the table) "Here is 2016. I want to return it for a refund. I've only used about 1/12 of it and it's clearly defective."

"Defective how?'

"Let me name some names: David Bowie. Alan Rickman. Glenn Frey. The guy who did the voice of the Fox Robin Hood in that cartoon. A couple other musicians I was less familiar with. One of the ladies from my church. And now, tonight, a panicked call from my brother asking if I knew where our parents were, followed by learning that a quite-good-friend from church had to have emergency surgery and is in critical condition. Oh, and ISIS, bad economy, uninspiring choices of future leaders, massive budget cuts at work...."

"I'm going to have're going to have to fill out a lot of paperwork....I'm going to need to get my manager....."

"You do that. Oh, and by the way, there are a couple billion more people in line behind me with the same complaint, so you might want to get more than one manager."


Yeah, today ended on a really bad note. The worst at the moment is that a good friend of mine from church had to have emergency abdominal surgery and from what news I have it looks pretty dire. (And yes, I'm still set to give the sermon on Sunday, and it will be harder with her not there)

The other bad thing that turned out far better than it could: middle of the evening, got a phone call from my brother wanting to know if I knew where our parents were, he'd tried calling several times over the course of a couple hours. As our parents are not in the habit of going out at night, especially not in the winter when it's cold and there is some snow,* I was concerned. I told him I'd try to track something down. (He has a toddler in the house and they are all getting over some virus, so I figured better I try).

(*Not as much as the east coast is getting) 

First I tried calling them, hoping maybe my brother's phone was just wonky or they'd been on the phone or something.


So I called the across-the-street neighbors (Thank goodness, several months back, after I had a hard time reaching my parents when they were actually out at a meeting, I asked for the neighbors' numbers). Had to leave a message. Tried calling the next-door neighbor, forgetting she was traveling.


Took a deep breath. My brain was in the worst possible place: there had been a home invasion. Or a gas leak. Or my dad had fallen and my mom had gotten injured trying to get him back up. Or my mom was badly injured and my dad was unable to get to the phone because of his bad knees. So I looked up the local-to-them cops online (thank God for the internet) and called them for a 'welfare check' (something I hope I never have to ask for again). The dispatcher scanned the logs first and reported an ambulance had been issued, and my mom had followed in the car.

(Horrible thought I had at that moment: well, at least ONE of my parents must still be alive)

She gave me the hospital number. I called, not holding out very much hope because HIPAA. I don't know if they grant waivers for immediate family who say "I know this person is in the hospital" or if one of my parents signed the papers, but I talked to a nurse who said, "Oh yeah, he's pretty much fine, apparently he had a bad reaction to a new medicine." She also told me his labs were fine and that he was wanting to know when he could go home (That was how I really knew he was fine; that is totally my dad)

So I called my brother back to let him know. Then the one neighbor called me back and verified some of the information, and also said she'd talked to my mom when she ran home to get some of my dad's stuff, and "They'll probably want him to stay overnight" (And I figured she would know, her husband is a hospital pharmacist)

So I called my parents' number again, much calmer this time, and left a message essentially saying: Okay, I now know what happened, everything's cool, no need to call me back.

My brother also called back and conveyed some garbled but alarming information from another relative he spoke to who is a doctor, but who is also known to panic considerably over things, so I tried to discount it in my mind.

Then my mom called. They were home. I remarked "BOTH of you?" because the last thing my brother told me was other relative had persuaded my dad to stay over night.

Turns out the last doctor they saw was more sanguine, and sussed the problem out - it was a combination of a pharmacy error (apparently) giving a higher dose of one medication and that reacting badly with the new medication. So it's apparently much less dire than what my relative was saying. (but yeah. If the pharmacy made an error, I expect my dad will be in there next week complaining to them)

But yeah, no. 2016 so far is a big old stinkfest. Part of me is saying "It HAS to be smooth sailing after this" but another part of me is going "What if this is a harbinger of just Everything Going Wrong?"

Two other things

1. Once again, if you want a Miniontine (I still have a number left), send me your mailing address. And I found my leftover Ponytines, so if you'd rather have a pony valentine, you can specify that.

2. I told my chair the other day that "I've been doing this recruitment thing for something like 10 years, I think it's someone else's turn" and she was 100% fine with that. So I'm off the hook on my birthday day and can go do what I want (provided I don't get sick or the weather isn't bad).

I'm glad I did that because now, a meeting I had scheduled has been moved. Precisely to the day where I had asked it not be scheduled because I have several other things going on. I may well be late to this meeting (I have a check-up at the doctor's right before) and I am already working on not stressing out about being late (because worrying "I may be late" will affect my blood pressure and heart rate at the doctor's). But I feel a little put upon. This is something - some committee work - I really do NOT want to be doing, but I am a logical person to be on the committee, so I feel a little disrespected that the meeting was changed at the last minute (with no real reason given) to a time that is very inconvenient for me.

And so I feel a tiny bit less resentful knowing that I was able to gently unload one responsibility, even if that is a month away.

Over on ITFF, they are talking about the topic of "emotional labor" - all the work people do that is unrecognized and unrewarded (and unreimbursed). It ranges from things like the working wife in a family who does all the housework because "women have always done the housework" (rather than sharing with her husband and kids) to being that person who is called upon to pacify the difficult and babyish individual in the group who whines and complains to stuff like the dreadful committee work that just about everyone gets roped into sometimes.

And I don't know. There has to be a balance. A lot of people advocated for the idea of "if it doesn't give you joy, drop it" but the thing is - sometimes you can't. There are awful committee positions that have to be filled by SOMEONE. There are difficult people you have to work with, or have in your family, or serve. (I have had a few real doozies of students, where it got to the point that I would start twitching like Herbert Lom in the old Pink Panther comedies if I heard them coming down the hall to my office hours. Not because they were clumsy and inept Clouseaux, but because I knew I was in for a solid half-hour of hearing how the whole world plus the university was screwing them over, and how it was unfair, and and and.)

And on the other hand, after writing up the sermon for this Sunday, it occurs to me: how would Jesus deal with "Emotional Labor"? He'd probably do it. Granted, we are not Jesus. But I do think  even though being kind (especially when it involves some element of tough love) DOES cost you, it's important.

But also: there are some people who slide through life with doing very little of the hard-and-boring stuff. Most people in academia know "that guy" or "that woman" who manages to avoid committeework or something. Or who absents themselves when there are hard decisions to be made. And part of it is: we have to share the suck. It can't drop onto the same people all the time, though it often does.

My big problem is that so often it feels non-reciprocal. I love, for example, buying gifts for my parents when gift-giving times roll around because I know they will enjoy what I get and they have given me good gifts in the past and it's important to me to show them that they are important to me, and one way I do that is by finding "just the right gift."

but in other cases - like the case of That Person that you are always having to walk on eggshells around and who always needs encouragement and reassurance and all that - well, that kind of stuff just tires me out because I often feel like I'd like a little cheerleading or hand-holding and in my life, the way it's configured, that's not always forthcoming. And I admit it, when I'm kind of worn down emotionally it is unpleasant to have someone sitting there essentially demanding they be told that they are Wonderful and everything else.

There are other things. For example, most of the time when I have a chance to cook (even if it's just making brownies from a mix) for a group or for some people, I jump at it. I like to cook, I enjoy sharing food. Many of the times I have cooked it has been good times - the Youth Group, or potlucks at work or church, or providing cake at a CWF meeting. I don't think I'd feel the same way though if I had a large family to cook for, and they always inhaled the food and scrammed without offering to help with the dishes or even a thank you.

I suspect a lot of the "Emotional Labor" and whether it FEELS like labor or not comes down to what we get out of it. Do I get some pride out of making a cake and having the ladies at church go, "Wow, this is really good, you are a talented baker!" Yes, I do. Do I get something out of making a vat of soup and bringing it in to a potluck at school? Sure - I get the meal, I get the time spent with colleagues that ISN'T just another faculty meeting. But dealing with difficult people, I mainly get discomfort and second-guessing myself ("Did I say anything helpful?") and sometimes the feeling I am being used.

Oh, and a third thing: It looks right now to me like the funeral for the lady from church (which is Saturday) is private for the family. Ah well, that was her wish, I am okay with that.

Not favorite parts

I'm slowly applying the binding to the new quilt. It takes me a long time because this kind of hand sewing - long, long straight whipstitched stuff where you have to take care to make it all invisible - is my least favorite type of handsewing (See also: hand hemming).

In general, I don't love putting bindings on quilts. First you have to make the binding and make sure you've measured right. Then you have to wrestle a whole quilt under the presser foot to do the machine-sewn part. Then there's the seeming miles of hand-stitching.

I also don't love cutting quilt pieces, which is why I've mostly switched over to things I can use the rotary cutter with - that's faster, and more importantly, it doesn't put the same stress on your hands that scissors do.

In knitting, there are similar tasks. I'm not crazy about gauge swatches (in fact, I will often just start a sweater back and then use the first couple inches as a sort-of swatch. I know you are "supposed" to wash and block the swatch to be sure, but I've never had a project where blocking turned something the "right size" into something unwearably large or small). I don't like weaving in ends, but it has to be done.

Seaming doesn't bother me as much as it bothers some knitters; I generally hand-seam my sweaters and things and usually it's not *hard* or boring to do.

One task I dislike and tend to avoid patterns that require lots of it is where you have to pick up tons of stitches and space them evenly - like for edgings on a cardigan. I especially find it frustrating when there is a particular exact NUMBER that must be picked up - it often seems that I'm "forcing" in those few last stitches, or I "run out" of stitches before the end. (When you don't have to be so precise, usually the simple rule of "3 stitches to 4 rows" works well - too many stitches and the band is too loose and floppy, too few and it scrunches up the front).

With crochet, meh, I don't know. I mostly crochet amigurumi these days and the main frustration of that is when you have to make a whole bunch of the "same piece" - like legs. Or if it happens the gauge you're working at is really tight and hurts your hands.


I got the "splint" to keep me from grinding my teeth yesterday. I guess I have to give it a few days. I was really hoping it would be kind of magical, that they would put it in, and it would be instantly comfortable (and as I tweeted, "Like the dental version of a security blanket"). It isn't. It's not painful but it's kind of weird and it pushes a little hard on one of my lower premolars and when I took it off, that tooth ached a bit. Also, my wonky bite - I can't really close my jaw down while I have the thing in (though that might be part of the point).

It's a clear, hard-plastic thing* that fits over my lower teeth. It is very tight and hard to get in - I have to slide it in over my right teeth and then kind of "snap" it down over the left side. That "snap" worries me and I hope it's not going to stress the teeth over time. (The "fitter" told me that was how it was supposed to work, so I suppose it's okay).

I wore it last night. I wound up getting up v. early (like 3 am) to use the bathroom and I took it out then, to have a little bit of sleep without it. I did sleep okay with it in: I was afraid I wouldn't, that it would drive me nuts and I'd wind up getting up at 11:30 pm and taking it out in frustration. But I'm not sure it helps as much as I hoped it would.

I may try NOT sleeping with it tonight. I think I'm going to have to work up to using this all the time. (I did put it in fairly early last evening, just to be sure I could)

(*I suppose it would have made it more expensive but I wish there had been the option of picking a color, or maybe picking embedded glitter. Apparently now dental retainers (for after braces) can be made that way; back when I had mine all they did was that ugly vaguely gum-colored pink. Yet another way that Gen X was kind of not-catered-to and then when the next generation came along, it seemed like everyone was all "Oh, wait, let's make things more fun and less miserable for these kids!" See also: new toys that came out after I was really too old to play with them)

Thursday, January 21, 2016

a few thoughts

* One of the magazines I get had the standard scaremongering article about how stress is, like, really really bad for your heart, you know?

And they proceeded to list a bunch of ways to "cope with stress." All of them sort of expected the person needing to cope had sufficient free time: "Cook and eat healthful 'whole' foods." "Make time to exercise every day! Maybe even exercise MORE, if you already are!" "Take up a new hobby, maybe jewelry making!" Or it assumes that you are coupled and with children: "Recruit your spouse to help out more around the house! Line up chores the kids can do!"

And it occurred to me: in these kinds of "stress bad" articles, there is never the hint of a suggestion that maybe, just maybe, the source of the stress should be addressed. Though I suppose that's a bigger deal than the standard woman's-magazine can attack.

I know where a lot of my stress (Well, the external kind; I also admit some of it is internal) comes from: (a) Having to deal with people that have difficult behaviors (sense of entitlement, rudeness, tendency to interrupt, etc.) that I am not terribly well-equipped constitutionally to deal with (I am not the kind of person who can yell "SHUT IT!" to someone who keeps talking over the person who is SUPPOSED to be talking). and (b) My perception that the economy, and therefore my job, my hobbies, and perhaps even my ability to easily acquire groceries in the future, is circling some drain. (They are closing a number of Wal-Marts. Granted, the ones closing nearest me are the dinky "Neighborhood Markets" they tried as an experiment and so it is more likely failed-experiment than 'we need to retrench'. But Macy's is also closing stores.)

I also was looking at some sockyarn yesterday. Some of the really fancy brands are now up over $30 for enough yarn for ONE pair of socks. I think this is where I turn to my stash for a good long time, though if and when I use it up, probably yarn will be up around $60 for one pair of socks....

again, it makes me slightly sad, as that was one source of comfort and fun, and I feel like I can't really afford it any more. (Then again, there's Webs and its closeouts; maybe that and KnitPicks, which has the virtue of being a bit of an "off-brand," are where I get my yarn from now on.)

* I have to make a decision fast. My birthday is on a Saturday this year, right? And I almost never get the chance to do something "fun" (for whatever I consider fun) on my birthday, like right on the day. BUT: it is also the day of a recruitment program I have helped with for at least 10 years now. And I've got e-mails from both the person running the program and my chair asking me to let them know right away if I can do it again this year.

And I don't know.

This is like one of those cartoon moments where the character has an angel on one shoulder and a devil on the other. Only in my case I am not totally sure who would be which.

One is saying: "Oh, come on. You've said yourself, 'adult birthdays are a cheat.' You've done this thing for 10 years, everyone expects you'll do it again. It's kind of the only big rah-rah thing you do, anyway, and you might regret it when you come up for post-tenure review this fall and there's a hole in your record shaped like this particular piece of service. Anyway, you can ALWAYS find time to go do whatever in, I don't know, March or maybe April. It's not like you're going somewhere with a friend or anything."

The other one is saying: "Geez, you're the one who always volunteers to do stuff. And you really don't take that much time for fun stuff for yourself. You never get to really celebrate your birthday because you are literally always working. Go to Whitesboro that day and check out their quilt shop and that yarn-dyer's studio that's supposed to be there. Go out for lunch. Stop at the Brookshires' on the way back home. Take a day for yourself."

I don't know. I have to decide within an hour or two I think. The added issues are these: (a) the end of February is often an iffy weather time and I'd be frustrated if I refused to do this and then the weather was too bad to go have "fun" and (b) I often get a cold or some kind of respiratory thing right around my birthday and if I'm feeling too unwell to go out I will be unhappy.

So I don't know. I also get that 99% of adults don't do much of anything for their birthdays and they just go and do whatever work is expected of them.

* And no, I'm not going to play the "well, it IS my birthday and I had been thinking of doing something" card to my chair, because word will get out, and the only thing worse (IMHO) than having to work on your birthday at something that is technically optional is to have the other people there decide it's a good idea to single you out and pity-sing the birthday song. 

* There's a story kinda-sorta making the rounds in academia. A president (of a school I am not familiar with: Mount St. Mary's in Maryland) is alleged to have said that, essentially, "underperforming" students should be "culled." But the thing that got me was his giant assumption about faculty - allegedly, he said in an e-mail* to a prof:  “This is hard for you because you think of the students as cuddly bunnies, but you can’t. You just have to drown the bunnies … put a Glock to their heads.”

(*And yeah. Unwise to put something in an e-mail that you don't want for public consumption. Also the whole "put a Glock to their heads" reference is incredibly ill-advised, IMHO.)

Anyway. I deal with my fair share of "struggling" students. I've had a few, down through the years, where I've sighed and thought, "They'd really be better off doing something else other than college." I've even had one or two I counseled to either change majors or "maybe you could go and work for a while, kind of find yourself, and then think about coming back" (when they asked me about whether dropping out carried a "big stigma" - no, it really doesn't)

There's underperforming and there's underperforming. There's the kid who earns Cs and Ds his first semester because college is a big shock or he's working full time and trying to go to school and hasn't figured it out yet. But then there's the kid who earns Cs and Ds because drinking beer and shooting hoops is more important to him than studying is. The first guy, hopefully he will make a course correction. The second guy, eh, meh, I don't really care that much - if someone is unwilling to go "Wow, I need to buckle down" I'm not going to drag them into study hall.

(I will say, I wish we could be more selective. But given our mission, we can't be. So we do the best with the hand we're dealt, and a lot of the time that means doing remediation on people who didn't get the greatest high school education)

But no to "cuddly bunnies." I'm actually kind of insulted by that assumption. My students are not My Little Ponies that I ooh and awww over. They are adults (or maybe almost-adults: I get a few "concurrent" high school students). I get that they sometimes have competing demands on their time. I get that some students may be less-than-ideally prepared. I get that for many people, learning is not as fascinating to them as it is to me, and college is mainly a path to a better career.  I get that some people may be in college to put off becoming a "real" adult for four more years. Or to party. Or to try to find a life-partner. Or whatever.

I don't coddle. I do help people improve. If someone comes to me wanting tutoring or wanting me to explain something I will do it. If someone wants to come in with a draft of a paper early and have me tell them how to improve it, I am happy to do that. But if someone is unwilling to work, I'm not going to "give" them a grade they don't deserve and didn't earn, and I admit  I have looked at my share of students and sadly thought, "Just what ARE you doing here, anyway?"

There's a difference between helping someone pull themselves up by their bootstraps (genuine tutoring, stuff like counseling on paper-writing) and carrying someone (e.g.: our departmental tutor complained some of the students who came in to her didn't so much want help with the topic on their homework, they wanted her to DO the homework for them. She refused, of course).

And yes. I have my share of students I am fond of and that I really want to see succeed. There are plenty I have cheered for when I found out they earned a place in PA school or got a good agency job - but in those cases it was because their work had merit and they were also decent people.

I also admit, my first reaction to seeing the "cuddly bunny" article was to snort to myself and think, "Must be a private school." Part of our mission here is to assist people who are first-generation students, or non-traditional students, or who have life-stuff going on that gives them troubles.

And I admit, at times there are times I rail at the level and degree of help (or information) we are requested to provide: for example, we send out monthly reports on "at risk" students (we can do it for everyone, and I often do in my intro class) with their current grade and number of absences, and if we perceive a problem (e.g., they fall asleep in class), we can note that too. And I admit I think of the antediluvian days when I was a college student and how I was expected to keep track of my own grade and attendance wasn't even taken in most lecture sections because hey, if you missed, you'd just do that much more poorly on the exam. But then again, some might argue I came from a different background: both my parents were college educated (shoot, they both had Ph.Ds and were professors themselves), I had enough scratch that I didn't have to work an overnight shift to cover my living expenses, I didn't have a kid I was raising on my own, etc., etc.

I dunno. I think there's a balance between going overboard (I have had a few students who implied they wanted me to e-mail them personally to remind them of exams) and tying a brick to the "bunny" and throwing him in the river.

I definitely think people who don't want to do the work, who expect As for just showing up and warming a seat should not receive any extra unsolicited help, and in fact, should probably be counseled to maybe put a few years in at a job and THEN think about if they want college. But the kid from the single-parent home who is the first in his family to go to school, who is struggling because he went to a rural school with a poor science program but who really WANTS to learn the stuff and asks to come in for extra help: I will help him. And I will cheer at graduation if he succeeds and earns a degree.

but don't tell me I'm coddling a bunny. I'm not.

(Also, this is allegedly a Christian school? Hm. WWJD with a struggling student?)