Wednesday, March 04, 2015

Working from home

Today was an assessment testing day. (I don't know if other universities do this, or if it's something unique to who we are - the fact that we serve an "underserved" student body and have a lot of people coming from backgrounds who aren't quite as prepared as you might expect a student at a "big" state school to be, but we do this once a semester - select a group of students and have them take standardized tests to assess whether they're learning. (spoiler alert: they are, but they're still not "above average" yet))

So I worked from home. Read a few more mite-based articles. I also reworked my cv - a colleague of mine is writing a big grant and we are all at least nominally involved so he needs "biographical statements" from each one of us. (Oh, if we could write them creatively....)

I feel a little inadequate. I've published less than he has, I've done far, far less collaboration with undergrads, and I don't even know what I've done that counts as "synergistic activities") (However, this colleague is at least 10 years older than I am, judging by the dates when he earned his degrees, so maybe I shouldn't feel so bad. Also, he's in a more medically-oriented field, where there are dozens of small side projects you can easily put a student on). Also, before he came here, he was at research-oriented institutions, so that's part of it. (I usually peg my teaching as "I will devote 60% of my effort to this" leaving 30% for research and 10% for service - that's how we ask to be evaluated, we set up percentages. I think I am better at teaching than anything else (and you can't ask a high percentage of "service," anyway) and I know I put in more time on it than on other things)

On an upside, I was reminded I had a second article in the Journal of The Torrey Botanical society - related to stuff I was a research assistant for. (My first, well, not chronologically because it was in 2006 and this one was in 2001, but I think of it as my first, was my dissertation).

***

They closed the university at 2 pm. So I'm taking that as license to knock off the journal article reading for now. (And I can hear freezing rain. And if we get it as badly as they are saying, morning classes - all my classes tomorrow are morning classes - will be cancelled.)

I may go work on the current quilt top in a few minutes; it's close to done and then I can start a new one.

***

I also blew a lot of money (well, for me) on a silly thing: I saw this last night (trigger warning: stuffed toy version of a creepy-crawly). I immediately loved the idea, and anyway, I do research on cousins of these guys, so I NEEDED one, right?

Well, I wasn't going to send off to Japan for one.....but it turns out Amazon sells them. For more money, but the shipping is accounted for in the price, and since I have Amazon Prime, I will get it very soon. (I am not holding them to two-day delivery during the bad weather - they told me I should have it Friday, but I'm expecting it Monday)

It is big enough to use as a pillow. It almost makes me wish I were flying somewhere so I could take it as my 'travel pillow' - that would mean I'd be much less likely to have a seatmate chatting with me (well, unless they were a malacostrologist, but that would be a fun conversation). Then again, I'd probably get the hairy eyeball from the TSA, so maybe not.

I commented on Twitter last night that I needed to give it a ridiculous, My Little Pony-ish name. Well, I've tentatively settled on Captain Silver Scales unless when it actually arrives I decide it's a girl isopod instead.

Apparently giant isopods are very big in Japan; there's one in a zoo that has gone without eating for a very long time and apparently that fascinates people. (The website I linked gives a brief, almost Pokedex-like description of them:

Name: giant isopod
Scientific name: Bathynomus giganteus
Group: in the same group as woodlouses and sea slaters
Nickname: Gusoku-tan
Home: at 200-1000m deep sea around the Gulf of Mexico and the western Atlantic
Most attractive feature: long and narrow eyes
Specialty: Fasting





I also got to thinking: I could modify the Flapjack Frogs pattern VERY easily (changing the color, making eight i-cord legs) and make myself an oribatid mite stuffie. (Or even more than one). That pleases me and the next time I get to JoAnn's I'm going to see if they still sell the chestnut-colored Wool-Ease, because that would be the PERFECT oribatid mite color. Or maybe get a fatter yarn (bulky or superbulky) and make a BIG mite. (the frogs are fairly small as stuffies go).

Oribatid mites are really fascinating. Some species are parthenogenic and that makes me wonder if the mites I saw that looked like they had "eggs" inside them were actually females making littler baby females inside them? Now I want to learn about the common species in my area....They also apparently are un-drown-able.

This weekend is going to be My Birthday (Observed) seeing as last weekend we were snowed in, today we are iced in.....I'm going to go shopping in Sherman (probably hitting the JoAnn's among other places), maybe going out for lunch, and just generally getting out of town, because it's been a few weeks and I'm getting a little stir crazy.

Have to share

I first saw this over at Hit Coffee but it's making the rounds, so I wanted to share it.



Hah. That made me laugh so hard.

And I have to admit, that's one of the better news stories of recent weeks. We need more news stories that are just silly and funny, rather than ones that are distressing and make you wonder if the world is coming to an end. (A lot of commentary has been made on why so many people just stopped and watched the llama chase. Well, I think it's obvious: it's a news story, but it's a news story that doesn't really involve controversy, that's not going to negatively affect you, and it has animals in it....we all prefer the story with the animals, I think)

Tuesday, March 03, 2015

That's a mystery...

So, leaving the house this morning, I stumbled over an Amazon box that had been left on my porch. (Luckily, the UPS guy put it in a plastic bag, as it's raining here. I don't have a working doorbell so I don't always hear UPS when he comes)

There were two boxes. One was the copy of "The Black Count" (a story about the father of Alexandre Dumas, which "Friar" reviewed and that looked so interesting to me I wanted to read it. (Especially since I read "Georges" - a novel by Dumas - a couple years ago and really enjoyed it, and was actually surprised to learn of Dumas' African heritage...) That will probably be spring-break reading for me, it looks like a good book for a long train trip.

But the other - it was a copy of a book about Beatrix Potter's world, off my Amazon wishlist. And this one had a gift note - it was from my sister-in-law, and presumably also from my brother and niece. So I don't know who sent me the piano music book, slow-cooker book, and fingerless mitts book. It's POSSIBLE they sent it - entirely possible my brother and sister in law didn't coordinate on gifts (esp. since she was away at meetings during the time frame it would have been ordered). But - if you were the one who sent me the mystery gift, thank you, and if you want to do a "big reveal," go ahead and e-mail me.


****

Otherwise, this is apparently The Day of Breaking. When I went to open one of the blinds in my living room this morning, a couple of the thin cords snapped (well, one had been frayed) and I'm going to have to make a Lowe's run to replace it. (I HOPE they still carry that kind. I remember what a fight it was to change out the hardware for those when I put them up and I don't want to change it again. They were Levolor, so if Lowe's doesn't have them maybe I can order some). Also I don't want to replace all four if I can get away with it.

And then, when I came in to the office: no internet connectivity. No ability to check my e-mail (luckily there were no last-minute before-the-exam questions from students). It did finally come back, but it took a while. (And it was probably down overnight, one of my students said she had tried to get in to BlackBoard very early this morning and could not)

And finally: when I could get my e-mail, a note from my chair: the boiler that supplies heat to our offices (the entire older part of this building) failed a state inspection - so we will have no heat until it is replaced. (siiiiiiiiiiiigggggggghhhhhhhhh). Hopefully that will either happen very soon, or tomorrow's weather will be the last gasp of cold weather for the winter. There is cold air blowing down on me right now. I THINK perhaps after my class that lets out at 12:15, I will head back home to do my journal-article-reading THERE, where I can set the heat to be whatever I want, and I can have a nice cup of tea while I read. (She did say that they were apparently relaxing the prohibition on space heaters - as long as we are "safe" about it - for now)

(I guess I should be glad that the failure happened now and not in January. That would have been rough.)

That's three things broken (well, one is fixed, and hopefully, one can be replaced this afternoon - the blind) so hopefully that means it's smooth sailing for a while.

****

Despite all that - the more I think about it, the more I like what I said about myself yesterday: that I am 'just the right amount of serious.' I can be a little silly when it's appropriate (see last night's post) but I get stuff done when it needs getting done.

And also, on a more metaphysical plane: I was probably made this way for a reason. The generally-positive things in one's nature should probably not be fought against, because, as I said, there are probably Reasons for them we cannot fathom. (I would not say, for example, that a tendency to lie is something a person should just roll with, or things like that - I do think we should work against our baser tendencies and strive to be better than we are). But generally taking things seriously that should be taken seriously, like work and responsibilities and treating people with respect, that's a positive thing and I should embrace it fully, rather than wishing I was more "fun." 

Edited to add: I think the guy who draws The Awkward Yeti probably has a fair amount in common with me, a lot of his comics speak to me. Like this one:

non-work reading

I'm also reading things for my own interest. (I need to. I can't just read work stuff).

I recently finished a Poirot mystery, Murder on the Links. This was one of the earlier Poirots and is apparently where Hastings met his wife....it was pretty good but I remain unconvinced that Christie played by the "rules" for Golden Age mystery novelists (one of the big ones being, "don't have 'secret' information the detective is privy to that the readers are not")

Right now I'm reading a non-fiction book - Operation Mincemeat by Ben MacIntyre. This is an account of an espionage operation in WWII Britain - the Allies were preparing for an invasion of Sicily, by which they hoped to break Italy and begin to weaken the Axis. However, Sicily seemed to be a fairly "obvious" target and they guessed the Germans would figure out they were planning to invade - so they wanted to launch a disinformation campaign to convince them that Greece and Sardinia were the actual targets.

Charles Cholmondeley (pronounced "Chumley") dreamed up an idea that was clever but gruesome: take a corpse, dress it in a British military uniform, plant documents on it pointing to an invasion of Greece and Sardinia, drop it off (as an apparent victim of a failed parachute) somewhere the Germans were sure to find it, and hope it worked.

Well, the plan changed and altered over time - it got shifted to having the corpse in the ocean and wash up in a region of Spain known to have strong sympathy for the Germans (logistically, it was easier to drop a corpse in the water, apparently, rather than on land).

I find these kinds of spy operations interesting in an intellectual sense - how do they figure everything out (and there's a lot of discussion of how Cholmondeley (and his colleague, Ewen Montagu) invented a life for this "man who never was" - they pegged him as an upper-middle-class fellow, overdrawn at his bank, with an indulgent but rather Edwardian father, a fiancee, a serious nicotine habit....and how they invented things to give the nonexistent man verisimilitude.

(In fact, MacIntyre notes that novelists often come out of, or are drawn to, spy work - Ian Fleming, the author of the Bond series, was tangentially involved, as was a lesser novelist named Thomson (I actually have a copy of one of his books - The Dartmoor Enigma - on my shelves and may read it after I'm done with this)

One of the things they did was to create a fiancee for the man - they asked the young women working in the various war departments to submit photos. They wound up choosing (And in fact, the married Montagu wound up having something like a platonic love affair with) Jean Leslie - in fact, you can see the picture of her here. (The photo is striking to me. MacIntyre described her as something like "the classic British beauty, with alabaster skin and chestnut hair." The woman in that photo could have been one of my aunts on my mother's side, in her younger days....and as best I can guess from the photo and the description, her coloring was very like mine is. Perhaps that's the part of my heritage from which I get my looks....)

And all this is very romantic, and very interesting (all the unusual personalities at work in MI5 and the various Intelligence departments - and I wonder, does this kind of work attract eccentric people, or were the time and place just more welcoming of people letting their oddities out, or was MacIntyre playing it up for the sake of a good story - I can't imagine a description of a modern workplace focusing on the various eccentricities of the main players).

But at the same time, it doesn't take away the frisson of the awful. On one hand: at that time Britain was still essentially fighting for its life. Perhaps by the time Operation Mincemeat was actually carried out, the tide had turned and there did not seem to be so great a likelihood of Nazi invasion (in 1939 and 1940, people genuinely feared that - in fact, the men working at Oxford on making penicillin a medication that could be produced in large quantities, had plans to break up their equipment, burn their notes, and flee the country upon word of an invasion - "The Mold in Dr. Florey's Coat" is a pretty interesting book that covers that era).

But there was also the awful side of Cholomondeley and Montagu's idea: they'd have to obtain a corpse, have it fitted for clothing, plant the information on it, and have the drop performed. And this is where the whole ethical stickiness comes in - you can't let too many people in on the secret, and anyway, how would you convince the next-of-kin to allow THAT to be done to the remains of their loved one? In the end, they found a way around the family issue - but not really around the ethical issues. One of the medical examiners alerted them to the body of a young man, a man from Wales whose parents were dead, who was estranged from his siblings, and who apparently had no friends. He had come to London and apparently killed himself by eating rat poison. (The author mentioned that suicide rates went up in wartime, and what's more, many people traveled to London to do the deed - he surmised it was the anonymity of a large city that made it somehow "easier"). So there was really no family to object, and the man's body could be "repurposed" into that "man who never was." (One of those involved made the rather distasteful comment that Glyndwr Michael (that was his real name) was "more useful dead than he was alive"). Wartime ethics are different, and the ethics and attitudes of the era were different, but still, there is something slightly distasteful about the idea of taking a body and using it in that way. (Though, I suppose, given the number of lives the operation likely saved....)

It's a pretty interesting book - I'm about a third of the way through, in the middle of the discussion of how Glyndwr Michael was transformed into "William Martin" (and though the non-existent man was described as having been born in Wales, I can't help but note that his name was "de-ethnicized" compared to the name of the man who actually provided the body....).

I find the sort of mental twists and turns required of spy work (and also stuff like cryptanalysis, which is similar). It really does require a sort of literary mindset to come up with the deceptions.

Monday, March 02, 2015

As one does....

Cute Overload used to have a feature called "Cats n Racks" (or maybe it was Cheezburger, I don't remember) - it's what it sounds like, a woman with a cat (usually a kitten, actually) down the front of her shirt.

Well, I don't have cats. But this evening, while reading journal articles, I went and got my Derpy to tuck up under my arm while reading (Yes, I know that's strange, but it helps keep me in the chair and reading, so, whatever works). Eventually it wound up like this:


That's actually a nightgown - I got it for Christmas a year ago. It's from Victorian Trading Company. I have to wear a camisole under it (!) though because it's SO VERY low-cut. Either I have a high bustline or the designer of this nightgown was on something. (It's pink with gray trim - it's hard to tell from the photo (and no, I'm not going to pull a "what color is this dress" on you)

I'm trying to force myself back into the "rule" of working an hour - somehow, either writing, collecting data, or reading articles - in the service of research. It's challenging, because teaching has a way to expand to fill the time available, but I'm trying to do it. I need to come up with some new research ideas and that requires reading.

Added, later in day

You know what?

After dealing with a lot of extremely-not-serious people in a class today, I don't think I'm too serious.

I think I'm just the RIGHT amount of serious.

And those people who were being classclowns need to grow the heck up a little.

this struck me

William Shatner opened up his Twitter feed for people to ask him questions about Leonard Nimoy, or about their friendship, their time on Star Trek. Here's one:

: What life lessons did you learn from each other? ” I learned to be more serious I think he learned to be less.

(Sorry, I don't know how to copy the image of a Tweet and post it here. I know it's possible, I just couldn't quickly figure out how).

But I think that's a definition of a good friendship - you each teach each other the good things you know how to be. The whole is greater than the sum of the parts.

(And I kind of wish I had a friend who could help me be less serious, sometimes....)

Sunday, March 01, 2015

It's a Ponycase!

I finished something today! This the the pillowcase made of MLP fabric I was talking about:

ponycase 2

About a month ago (maybe more now), I was at the JoAnn's. They've recently moved around their quilting fabric department, and it seems like they've started selling more "licensed character" fabric. So I looked to see if they had Pony fabrics.

They did. I bought this one, first because it is so very bright and cheerful, but also, it was one of the only ones to include the WHOLE Mane 6. (Rarity and Applejack often get left off. I don't know if it's assumed they appeal less to children, or they're not as "colorful," or maybe the pink/purple/blue of Pinkie/Twilight/Rainbow is considered more aesthetic, or what).

Here's another photo:

ponycase!

I used the "burrito pillowcase" instructions from the All People Quilt site (it's a .pdf file, and it autodownloads, so I can't give the direct link - if you do a "burrito pillowcase" web search, you'll find it, or you can go to the All People Quilt website ('ware the many ads) and search for it from there. I think they even have a video tutorial).

I did the "cuff" of the case going the opposite direction to make it more interesting. The original pattern suggests using a contrast fabric, which would work as well. The cuff is what makes it "burrito"....you essentially sew the cuff on with the other fabric rolled up inside, and then pull it out one of the open short edges of the cuff. It's a neat trick, and gives a good finished edge.

Really, the only hard part was figuring out the directionality - with a directional fabric like this one, you want it going a certain way, so you have to go, okay, do I cut it with the 41" length parallel to the design, or the 26 1/2" length? (The way this fabric was printed: the 41" length, which meant that rather than just using the width-of-fabric, I had to cut a rectangle specifically). With a non directional fabric, it would be a lot easier.

The sewing itself is quite straightforward. I think it would be a good "advanced beginner" project (it does involve French seaming, and you have to have a little sewing machine expertise to do that first narrow seam). The nice thing though is ALL the seams are enclosed (that's what a French seam is) so there will be no raveling and no yucky threads hanging around. That kind of thing pleases me inordinately much; back when I had more time to sew clothing I sometimes made blouses with French seams (well, as much as practicable - sometimes not every pattern lends itself to all the seams being done that way) and I had a couple pajama patterns I could do with entirely French seams.

And here's a close up of the fabric, just for good measure.

pony fabric

This kind of project reminds me of why I'm glad I learned to sew - it really only took about an hour (and part of that was squinting at the pattern and trying to figure out what direction to cut the fabric in) and it makes a very pleasing product.

There's that point...

About 8:00 last night, I went from being mildly annoyed at being stuck in, to just hoping the power stays on. Cancelling church was a good idea - we got freezing rain that was somewhat unexpected (and really, uncalled-for) last night and everything's iced up.

I estimate there's an eighth of an inch of ice on the tree limbs. Not sure how much is enough to break limbs (I think it's quarter-inch). It's kind of drizzling right now and is right AT 32 F, so hopefully we won't get much more ice. It's supposed to get above freezing this afternoon, I hope it gets there long enough for the ice to melt off stuff. I'd like all of this to be gone by tomorrow morning.

The bad news? We might get another round of this - womp womp - on WEDNESDAY, which is the assessment testing day. This is no bueno for two reasons:

1. If it's bad enough to close school, they'll need to reschedule the testing, which will put all the faculty out for another day

2. I won't be able to get out to the quilt shop like I was planning. (Seriously, I'm beginning to wonder if the universe is telling me YOU HAVE TOO MUCH DANG FABRIC ALREADY.)

I think I'll be doing another grocery run (sigh) Tuesday afternoon. Because of the predicted bad weather.

And now, on my church-less morning, I guess it's time to go practice piano. I don't have any hymns that are currently in the repertoire....but I am playing some Bach, and he wrote a lot of church music....

****

Totally unrelated to the above, but I've been re-watching some of the Ponies episodes (as they've been re-running them). And it strikes me, both the season 2 opener and the season 3 finale include the message that "friends are who remind you of your best self, of who you are." I like that sentiment.

There's even a catchy song about it. (Backstory, for non pony fans: the "cutie marks" are in some way indicative of the pony's role in the world (hah, their niche!). Something happened, as a result of a spell Twilight was trying to complete, switched all the friends' cutie marks around and they're now trying to do jobs they are monumentally unsuited for. And it is only with the help of their friends - Twilight is the one who figures this out - that they are able to realize who they are.)



I think this speaks to me because there are times I've wondered if I'm doing the "wrong" thing. I tend to be monumentally self-critical (probably no surprise to regular blog readers). That maybe there's something out there I'd be better at than teaching or biology or whatever. (Probably not, but of course you never know; that may have been why, when I had more available time I took classes in a bunch of different stuff - yoga and German and most recently the piano lessons - because I secretly believed, as I have for most of my life, that someday I'd try something and I'd INSTANTLY be so good at it and like it so well that I'd go "THIS. This is what I was meant to do." Of course it doesn't work that way, and there's only one person who ever walked this earth who got a dove descending from Heaven to tell him, "This is what you're supposed to be doing" but still I hope).

So I guess in my mind, "This is another way Ponyville is an idealized world" - you know what it is you're meant to do, and you don't wind up wondering after a bad day if you're just a flopper who is spectacularly ill-suited to what you are trying to do.


Saturday, February 28, 2015

It's "unknown precipitation"

No, seriously. That's what the NWS was saying a few moments ago. I assume that means some kind of freezing rain, where some of it's frozen, some of it isn't, the temperature is hovering around freezing, so....also, there is some weird layering of air temperatures going on right now, so that could be having an effect - really cold high up, cold near the surface, warmer in between.

They cancelled church for tomorrow - it's going to be too icy; the precipitation is accumulating on things and making a glaze of ice, and also, the minister can't get in from where he lives. Oh well.

I finished a cowl sort of thing and when I get the volition (and it's a little brighter out) I will photograph it. I'm also working on a quilt top this afternoon - plugged the new iron it. It seems to work well, though I have to be careful not to joggle the base, because there's JUST enough cord to stretch from the wall socket to where I have my ironing board* and I've already joggled it loose once.

(*Using an extension cord with a device that heats up is generally not a good idea. They did say a heavy-duty cord COULD be used - they say higher than 13 amps and I think the one or two I have MUST be smaller than that, most of the "little" cords like the ones I have are - most indoor cords are)

It has a base it sits on, so it's cordless - which makes it easier to navigate but you do need to periodically return it to the base so it can recharge its heat. (They also recommend unplugging the base when you are done using it, which I will do. I don't want to risk wrecking THIS iron, or worse.)

I also have plans for another project, perhaps for tomorrow - I found some PONIES fabric on my last trip to the JoAnn's and I am going to make myself a PONIES! pillowcase. I found a pattern that looks simple enough and all the seams are either encased or are French seams, which means no raveling and it's sturdier. (The pattern is called something like "burrito pillowcase," there are several versions out there - if this one comes out well I'll post a link to the instructions I used). I also think if I find making pillowcases off this pattern easy - well, that could be a future gift-thing; surely there is some kind of cute fabric my niece would like a pillowcase out of. Or even if a friend somewhere is having a rough time and is in need of cheering up....and there are also charities that take pillowcases, both foster-child groups (so the child has something that is "their very own") and groups helping the homeless and also kids facing medical stuff....so maybe some of the fun fabrics I have stockpiled away could become pillowcases.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Well, that's sad

Bigger sad and littler sad:

Bigger sad: Leonard Nimoy has died. I know he was getting up there in years and had recently been unwell, but still, it's sad.

Everything I ever read about him told me he was a decent human being (on top of being famous) and we don't have enough decent human beings out there.

Another thing I read about him, years ago, and this always made me happy to think of it: He based the Vulcan salute (you know, the hand gesture) on an old Jewish priestly blessing.He had seen the blessing in a synagogue as a child and been impressed by it....

Littler sad: it's snowing heavily here. They closed campus at noon and the drive home was the scariest I've had recently - we have NO salt trucks and NO snow removal equipment, so whereever people had driven earlier, the ruts were turning to ice. I drove in low gear the whole way and even then I could feel the car wanting to slide a bit at stop signs. I had to say, "C'mon baby, you can do it!" as the car faltered a bit on an up incline (there is literally no way I could drive home that did not involve at least a slight incline). Luckily I made it and the car is now garaged but there is NO way I am getting out to the quilt store (and for all I know, they closed early today). MAYBE if we don't get the predicted bad weather tomorrow I will go. If not....boo. Maybe I take part of my day-off-Wednesday and go? I suppose I could do that.

Now We Are 46

I don't know how 46 is supposed to feel. (I admit, this morning, it felt a bit like worry - I woke up with a hive on the inside of my lower lip [I think it was a pressure-hive, from how I was sleeping, it's nearly gone now] and frustration [I dropped the carton of milk while going to make my morning porridge and it spilled all over the foam mat thingie I keep in front of the stove - I can't wash the mat so I will probably have to throw it out as it will soon smell of old milk*])

(*Though I suppose another option is, the first warm day of the spring, to hook up my hose and hose it down well in the yard until the water off it runs clear. That might take care of things)

I remember when I was a good deal younger (under 40), I thought, "Someday you will need to cut your hair short like the other middle-aged ladies." And "You will have to stop watching cartoons and start watching stuff like Grey's Anatomy." And "Really, it's ridiculous for a woman in her 40s to still have stuffed animals, let alone having them on her bed"

I don't know, though: If I'm expected to make up as much of adulthood as I go along as I seem to be doing maybe I get to make the rules about what kind of television I watch and how I wear my hair....

Anyway. I did open the couple of gifts I had waiting this morning. The biggest one I had specifically asked for - a new iron. This one is a cordless model (it has a "charging base" that it sits on when you're not using it). This was a good choice, as it turns out, because the last time I unplugged my old iron there was a rather large spark and I am now afraid to use it. (It was more than 15 years old). I guess I can just take the old one down to the recycling center - I think they take small electronic appliances and try to harvest the bits of metal out of them.

I also got some books. The "extra" present from my parents was a copy of Irish Pub Cooking (which I am guessing was bought at the local-to-them gourmet shop, as it wasn't sent direct from Amazon). I flipped through it quickly; there's a recipe for potato cakes (mashed potatoes) that looks really appetizing, and also a fish cake recipe that looks good.

I had an Amazon box. I am assuming it is from my brother and sister-in-law although there was no "gift note" in it. But the gift followed their current pattern: three books, two big ones (one from my brother, one from my sister-in-law) and a little one (ostensibly from my niece). I got a copy of Volume 2 of that American Songwriters series (piano music - well, it also has guitar charts and music for the singer, but I use it for the piano arrangements), and the America's Test Kitchen slow-cooker book, and a small book of fingerless mitt patterns (mostly for dk yarn, which I don't have a whole lot of....but maybe I can substitute sportweight for some of them, sport is very close to dk)

A couple friends on Ravelry bought patterns for me. (As I've said before, this is one of the nicest features of the site: you can buy, either from a "wishlist" people have or just buy randomly, patterns, and have the .pdf delivered to the person's virtual pattern library. It's simple, it allows you to give a gift to someone overseas without having to pay high shipping rates or get to the post-office with enough time so that they will receive it for their birthday or whatever. It's just a nice service and I guess it does help support Ravelry a little because I think pattern designers pay a tiny fee every time a pattern is sold through Ravelry). 

Other than that, I don't know. The local weather guy, who tends not to be overly alarmist, said that "roads are going to be treacherous" tomorrow morning so I guess I will plan to stay home. I MIGHT, if I can get a few things done this morning, go to the local quilt shop for a look-around this afternoon, and maybe go to the local homewares shop (maybe they have a foamy mat that can replace the one that got soaked with milk).


***

Last night I finally made time to watch "Guardians of the Galaxy." I had never seen the movie though I knew a little about it from the Internet.

I liked it. It's more of an action movie than I normally watch, but it was pretty fun. A few disconnected thoughts: (There will be spoilers, but I am guessing anyone who's going to see it probably already has)

* I liked the character of Drax more than I thought I would. Seeing him in the promotional photos, I was all, "Yeah, another wrestler type who's probably going to play it dumb as a post." Instead, Drax was more like an ancient Spartan warrior - or like Lt. Worf on Star Trek. Very concerned with honor and what is "proper" in warfare and with things like avenging the dead. He was also extremely literal-minded, which at times was kind of humorous. (When he finally got - more or less - the concept of "metaphor," that was one of the funny moments). I liked how this little touches - the literal-mindedness, the idea of this Honorable Warrior - kind of allowed you to fill in a whole backstory for his people.

* Rocket Racoon. This was a character who, when first created, could have been made cute-ish and sort of cuddly - but they went the exact opposite way and that's what made it so wonderful. In fact, Rocket - who is snarky and foul-mouthed and supremely selfish - is actually kind of what I imagine a raccoon would be were it given sentience. (In some ways, I see Rocket as the "anti-Reepicheep" - Reepicheep the mouse being a character I loved dearly from the Narnia books. Reepicheep also was not "cute" - he was too deeply concerned with honor and virtue and doing what was right, even when it put him in peril. Lucy once felt herself wanting to pick him up and cuddle him, and yet, at the same time, knew that would be a grave insult to him, and more, would affect his view of the world, and so she resisted that temptation)

* It's generally an exciting/fun/funny movie but there are several poignant moments (I almost turned it off in the first five minutes - those who have seen the film know how it starts out). And the "We are Groot" bit kind of killed me a little. (And the whole idea of a character sacrificing himself to save the others.... and actually, that led to Rocket being "humanized" a little more, you realize he actually CARED about another being other than himself). And also, the bit towards the end, where the four remaining Guardians strove to save the planet from being destroyed by the stone....and how they all, one by one, grabbed on to each other to try to share the pain that Peter was experiencing from holding the stone - to try to make it bearable for him. Well, I tend to read too much into these things but I did see something metaphorical in that, as to why we need other people (and perhaps why I, who tends to be a bit of a loner, sometimes has more problems dealing with the bigger slings and arrows of life) - that having someone around to just figuratively grab on to your hand and give you some support/share the pain when you're suffering, that's important, and that's what allows you to keep going (and in the movie's case: ultimately save the galaxy.)

* Another thing that struck me: these were all characters who were hurt in some way. Drax had his wife and child killed in front of him. Gamora came from a seriously dysfunctional family. Peter lost his mother young and never knew his father. Rocket, for all his bluster, was totally alone in the universe, or so he thought - "Ain't no thing like me, 'cept me" - to feel like you are the ONLY one of your species everywhere, that must be incredibly isolating. And Groot - well, we don't really know what Groot was feeling too much, but I suspect Groot was confused a lot by what was going on around him. And yet, all these strange and at-first-hostile characters somehow bonded and became friends, or like a little family. And towards the end, when they realized they faced Almost Certain Doom, Gamora made a comment something like, "If I'm gonna die, at least I'm gonna die among friends."

* And yeah, I kind of want to make an amigurumi Baby Groot (there are several patterns out there) even more after seeing this. (And if there isn't already, there NEEDS to be a Dancing Baby Groot in the style of those goofy dancing flowers of 25 or so years ago (wow, has it been that long? I remember having one as an undergrad so it must be)

I need to make time more regularly to do things like that - to take an evening and watch a good escapist movie that makes me stop thinking about work-stuff or whatever problems I experienced during the day.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Bizarre but entertaining

At the end of a random-ish string of YouTube searching (I was looking for examples of the Lindy Hop danced by real dancers - not instructional videos*) I stumbled upon "choreographies" for Just Dance 4. This is a video game, apparently it's one of those motion-capture type of things, where you try to mimic the moves of an on-screen dance and score points for doing it well.

(*I so can't dance. I love watching things like the Lindy Hop but I know I could never do it - I'm insufficiently coordinated, too afraid of injuring myself, and also, way too heavy for anyone to lift me [though there's a bit in Swing Kids - just shown in passing - of a heavyset woman dancing with a smaller man, and SHE lifts HIM, which I think is kind of wonderful....and I'm pretty strong, actually, and using momentum and everything probably could, with the right training, flip a smaller partner over my back like she's shown doing])

Anyway, these things are kind of like karaoke but for dance. And they're also kind of like weird little cartoons-qua-music-videos. Some of them are kind of odd, with animal characters:



(And yeah, I wound up looking for older songs, ones I knew. This is They Might Be Giants but "Istanbul" has been around a lot longer as a song)

Some of them try at least to mimic the style of the song:



(And I kind of want the outfit of the girl on the left - the one with the longer hair)

I like this song a lot because of various reasons, and the choreography for it here just makes me laugh. (And there are some moves like the dance-exercise video I do! The zombie does disco rolls!)



(This is the one that made me laugh the hardest, I think. Partly for the "wait, what?" of "I Will Survive" being represented by a zombie who looks a little like Beetlejuice, but also for all the disco moves - I just *barely* remember seeing people disco-dancing on tv)

And the first one I watched: (It's weird, but I really love that old Louis Prima song. And yeah, yeah, I first ever heard the David Lee Roth version of it, but the Prima version is better)



No, I don't know why it's a hippo and someone who looks a little like Jessica Rabbit.


I can't really dance, and I tend to freeze up doing stuff like this in public (I'm very self-conscious and inhibited about stuff like this) but this video game does kind of look like big fun.



And then there's this. Because there HAS to be this:


Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Figurative, not literal

Well, not entirely literal, maybe.

But it occurs to me that the more humane way of dealing with someone who is carrying too heavy a load is not to berate them for the size of the load, or taking on too much, or tell them to do more and faster, but to say, "Hey, can I help out a little with that?"

One thing I've learned is that there are three kinds of people out there - people who, upon seeing someone carrying 'too much stuff' try to pretend they don't see. And others who seem to say, "I see you're carrying a heavy load, here, let me pile more on it." And the third group are the people who try to help you with the load if they at all can.

there aren't enough people out there in the third group.

bad weather again

So now it's snowing out. (At least snow doesn't turn streets into skating rinks). Colleague-the-anatomist (the new guy) came out into the hall and audibly worried about the impact of the weather on the rest of the week - there is no wiggle room for him to miss a lab in one of his classes.

AND they've downgraded the weather to "wintry mix with freezing rain" for Saturday. Crud. So now I probably WON'T be able to go do something fun for my birthday. In fact, I'm worrying about being able to get to the store to get more milk (at a time when it's not like Beyond Thunderdome. I might just go this afternoon and HOPE they have milk....it's wal-mart, so, no, I can't call and ask.)

This stinks. The past few years I've been sick over my birthday and couldn't get out to do something. And this year I'm well, but the weather is sick.

Siiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiggggggggggggggghhhhhhhhhhhh.

I know, I could go NEXT weekend, but that seems kind of late and it's not really my birthday any more. And the week after that, unless we have more horrible weather, I will be in Illinois. (There aren't any good places to go antiquing up there; apparently everyone just buys and sells old stuff on eBay, which seems way less fun to me).

I don't know. I got my hopes up when it looked like it was going to be better this weekend, should not have done that.

I'm trying not to take this as a message of either, "You have too much junk already, you should not be allowed to go out and look for more" or "You are not working hard enough, so you should not be allowed to have fun." But it does feel slightly unfair.

maybe I'll try to get milk this afternoon after class (if the roads are okay) and stop at the Italian place on the way home (if they're open, if the roads are okay) and get carry out for dinner. Because, boo.


Truth and lies

I read a bunch of articles yesterday so I didn't feel like a total slacker. I also went through the newest American Scientist. (This is not to be confused with "Scientific American," which, from what I've seen of it, has slipped in quality in recent years. American Scientist is the publication of Sigma Xi, a scientific society - all sciences - to which I belong. I think membership requires only having given a professional presentation somewhere or having published in a journal. Well, and paying the dues, but they are not bad as far as society dues go)

I like American Scientist; it's a good way to keep up with fields outside my own and often the articles are good syntheses of a couple of different areas (they have had a few good ones on the antibiotic-resistance problem).

Anyway, this month's issue had an article about lying, and especially cognitive development and lying. They listed a few kinds of lies:

The "social" lie (E.g., "Your haircut looks FINE.")
The lie to avoid punishment ("I don't know HOW that lamp got broken.")
The lie-to-self ("No, I really don't want to go out with that person...yes, they turned me down, but you know? they're a jerk")

The lie to harm others ("I saw Joe at this party and he was smoking pot.")

They point out that the lie-to-harm-others is the one generally seen as the most harmful one.

(They leave out one class I've seen: the lie to make the person seem more important than they are. You know, the person who stretches their accomplishments or outright makes stuff up to impress people? I'd say that's worse than a "your haircut looks fine, really" lie but not as bad as a "I saw Joe smoking pot" lie, at least in terms of social damage)

One of the things they mentioned was that girls seemed to learn how to do at least two kinds of social lies earlier than boys do - one of them being the "your haircut looks fine" type of lies, the other one being the "smile and swallow your disappointment" lie.

Two experiments were done with kids. One was called the "rouge" experiment, where an adult comes in a room with a spot of rouge or lipstick on their nose - something obviously not meant to be there. They get their picture taken in view of the children, and then another adult comes in and asks if the first adult looked "OK" to them. (And as an adult, you know? I'd go the opposite direction of these kids and say, "Well, they had a big blotch of something on their nose, I don't know if they knew that.") At a certain age, or perhaps stage of development, the kids start saying "Oh yes, they looked okay" even though they know the person didn't.

The more devious experiment (in my mind) is one where they showed kids three or four toys and asked them to rank them from the one they liked best to the one they liked least. Then, the experimenter gave the child a problem to solve, and promised the child they'd get the "best" toy after solving it. And then, they give the child the toy that the child had said they liked least - and looked at how the children reacted. After a certain age (younger in the girls, apparently), the kids learn how to mask their disappointment.

And, I don't know. I've bitterly commented that adulthood consists a lot of swallowing disappointment and pretending it doesn't matter, and it's interesting how early that ability seems to establish. (Boys are later than girls. I don't know if that's an issue of maturity - supposedly girls mature faster - or socialization, because girls tend to be socialized more, I think, not to disappoint other people, especially "adults."). And I wonder if it's a factor of my own brain wiring that it's harder for me to do the swallowing-disappointment thing, to the point of where some little governor in my brain has to go, "Hey, stupid! Look like you're happy, don't let on that this isn't what you wanted!" but it's a few milliseconds after I've probably registered disappointment on my face.

I also wonder if there isn't something related to the difference in boy vs. girl bullying there. I was reading an article online last night about how girl bullying often takes the form of excluding other girls - which I personally found to be very true as a kid growing up. That is, girls learn early on what kind of things to do to avoid hurting others' feelings....but they also learn how insidiously you can USE hurting others' feelings against them at times. Whereas boys tend to be more direct and more physical. (And maybe, the bully-girls can suck up to adults better, and therefore hide what they're doing. I KNOW there were times I reported some snarky thing a girl said to me and the adult interpreted it as innocent - of course they weren't there to hear the tone of voice, and they didn't know the long pattern of behavior. But it can be very isolating to say "Dawn said X to me" and have the adult say, "I don't see what you are upset about. It sounds like Dawn is just trying to be your friend" when you, as the child, know that is so so not true.)

The "social" lies (acting happy when you get a terrible gift, telling someone that their haircut looks fine, saying that it's "no problem" to do some kind of thing that it does annoy you slightly to have to do) are, I don't know, not "bad" lies necessarily. In a lot of cases they preserve the feelings of the other person. (Though I would hope if someone had a truly terrible haircut, and one that maybe going to a different hairdresser and having more work done would fix, that someone would take them aside and tell them that). The swallowing-disappointment kind of lies probably mainly hurt the person doing the lying, in that they are suppressing a negative emotion (then again, there are some psychologists who say that suppressing certain negative emotions actually makes them go away faster). And it's part of the not-being-a-monster-of-ego thing that adulthood requires, to avoid always complaining or lashing out when you don't get what you wanted.

The lies-to-avoid-punishment, well, I think as a kid you learn at some point that those are really stupid lies - you're probably going to be found out, and then it's going to be way worse. (I suppose there are some people who don't learn that, but in my family, it was standard that if you lied at first about something, the punishment you faced was considerably worse than if you just confessed straight off. Then again, I've seen some on some bureaucracies who continue to pile it on, so maybe some people DON'T learn that confessing straight off is better).

The lies-to-self are sort of stupid but probably only hurt the person doing the lying.

I don't know that I've ever encountered someone who regularly lied to hurt other people, but I think that's part of the definition of a sociopath. Maybe the occasional lie-to-hurt-others falls under the category of 'regular sin,' though someone who did that regularly - well, I'd run the other way from them.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

This and that

* Huh. So now Blogger is going to make blogs with "explicit content" into "private" blogs. They say "explicit nudity and sexual content." I'm hoping I didn't have any photos of Old Masters paintings or anything on here that might have a woman with a bare breast, and the blog gets taken down for that. I don't THINK I do, but it's been a long time I've been doing this blog.

* Trying to make today a reading day so I feel like I'm not a total slacker. Playing with the idea of retrieving old class material from old Blackboard pages and updating it and posting it so the next week's lecture material is up. Except I don't have my textbooks at home. I really wasn't anticipating this to be as bad as it was....last week, I dragged stuff home in case we were closed Monday and then we got no precipitation.

Some places they're talking about "the end of snow days" - where students and teachers are expected to work remotely from home. While there's a huge problem with that for many school systems (it presupposes everyone having a working computer at their disposal and a good Internet connection), it seems to be one of those educational ideas that some people love.

I admit it: I don't love it. The rare snow day (and even when I was a kid in the snowbelt of Ohio, they WERE fairly rare - then again, Ohio was pretty good at dealing with snow) was a treat, a chance to do something different - running around outside making snowmen or sledding or whatever. Sometimes I think that "must keep instructional time high" happens at the expense of a lot of things in childhood that were frankly kind of nice (Valentine's Day parties, Hallowe'en costume parades....) and looking at it from the wrong side of 18, I want to say, "These kids are going to have sixty or more years to be adults....let them have the goofy Valentine's Day party for now, because when they're in their forties, they'll just have to go to work that day and work like normal."

And yeah, I get that when it stretches into weeks rather than days, it begins to become a problem - but in my family we always had books and educational toys and stuff or my mom would teach us some "kitchen chemistry" or something like that.

I don't know. I worry about people wanting to turn kids into little workers too early - seeing as I'm someone who works hard and sometimes finds she has to forgo fun in favor of work. Kids need to "save up" those memories of fun experiences (like Frederick the Mouse, though perhaps I would argue that all the mice could gather up "pretty visions" while they were gathering food, and Frederick could maybe do his share of food gathering...). Because sometimes when you're an adult, the memories of going sledding, or having a party at school, or building a giant fort in the living room on a snow day, are things that are sustaining and important, and I wonder if there are some kids who grow up without memories of fun things....

Again, it comes down to balance. But I think missing maybe one day of school now and then for heavy snow or icy roads isn't going to doom the future of America...

* My birthday is later this week. As is the fashion with some bloggers, I looked up what song was popular the week I was born:

"Everyday People" by Sly and the Family Stone

Mmmmmnnn. Not a HUGE fan of the song, but I suppose it could be worse: a couple weeks earlier "Crimson and Clover" was the big one, and in the summer of '69 "In the Year 2525" and "Sugar, Sugar" were big hits.

1969 was a weird year, that's what I conclude from the range of music popular in that year. Well. Weird kid born in a weird year, I guess.

I share a birthday (day and year) with a few people; the only one I've actually heard of is Willie Banks, who played for the Cubs for a little while.

My birthday also apparently falls on the old Roman holiday of Equerria, which was a day when horses were raced. (Maybe Equestria needs a track-and-field day called Equerria, given their love of incorporating mythology into the world that is being built there)

According to the internet, two things happened on the day of my birth that had some kind of historical import:

- Gen Hafez al-Assad becomes head of Syria via military coup (I'm guessing this was not a positive thing, given that the guy's son is now in power there, and the whole country is in misery)
- President Nixon visits West-Berlin (I don't know anything about this)

Apparently the Grateful Dead also played a concert at the Fillmore West.

Monday, February 23, 2015

What I did

So here's what I did today:

- got up around 6:30, which is two hours later than on a normal day
- dinked around online, ate breakfast, practiced a little piano
- worked a bit on the crocheted pangolin toy
- got most of the head and body done on Mabel Pines
- did the dvd workout I usually do on m, w, f
- practiced more piano
- spent more time online
- heated up cauliflower soup and blueberry muffins for lunch
- watched PONIES reruns, so there's that.

I do need to wash my hair and fix dinner (I cooked shrimp - I can get the wild-caught frozen Gulf of Mexico shrimp for not too much bucks here - on Saturday so I probably better eat the leftovers tonight)

I'm actually hoping they cancel tomorrow, the streets look pretty grim from what I can see. (We don't have salt here, not that I've seen. Some city truck came through and dropped a little sand at the intersection, but a little sand doesn't help much) I've seen the few cars/pickups that came through sliding a little and there have been some bad-sounding accidents reported on the news. The mail-lady (Or, if you're in Simpsons-world, the femail-man) came through with chains on her tires, so she made it okay.

I don't WANT to miss another day but I don't want to brave frozen streets at sparrowfart tomorrow morning (and I teach an 8 am class Tuesdays), so I hope we close. (Or, have a 2- hour delayed start. I'd miss my first class but the second one could meet, and it might be safer to drive in once it was light out)

lots of the local public schools have closed, the community college on the other side of the river is closed....

Channel 9 (OKC) is saying this weekend will be even grimmer, which is kind of sad, because that sinks my plans to go antiquing or whatever for my birthday. I DO have a shrink-wrapped steak that is still well within its sell-by date, so I can make a birthday dinner, and I might make baked custard as a birthday dessert (maybe even coconut custard; I have coconut milk on hand and coconut flavoring)

My parents did tell me they sent an "extra" small gift as it looked unlikely I'd get out for my birthday, so there's that consolation. And I can probably make a fun day later on at some point when the weather is better. And I've got heat and food and things to do at home, so really, I'm okay.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Yup, it's closed

Got a snow day tomorrow.

This is good, and I think a good call on my uni president's part, because my front walk looks like a sheet of ice and I saw someone trying to go uphill on my street (it has a slight incline) but going downhill.

And I know BEFORE bed, so no need to set the alarm clock. Win-win, because I had to get up early Saturday for the recruitment event, and early-ish today to make the salad for church today. (And I'm REALLY glad the sleet held off until after everyone was home from the luncheon)

I started the Mabel Pines amigurumi and will probably work on it more tomorrow. (Mabel Pines would probably really LOVE amigurumi - she knits and also is crazy over cute things)

And I'm also glad that I made the effort to do my grocery shopping Friday afternoon even if it was crowded and a little bit of a pain.

Sunday afternoon stuff

*Hanging out online in the hopes that they will make some decision (well, I'd only know if it were a "closed tomorrow" decision) about my university. It's sleeting heavily out there and there's lots of water on the ground that's just going to freeze overnight. (I confess: I hope I know about any closing BEFORE bed tonight, then I would not have to set my alarm. The little things in life....)

*Baked-potato lunch at church today. We're trying to do last-Sunday lunches to encourage folks to come. Baked potatoes are generally a good choice (I brought salad, as did someone else - we have a few people who can't eat potatoes for various reasons). I like baked potatoes so it was a treat for me. (And they had some leftover, so the person in charge gave me two to take home. Not sure if I'll do like twice-baked with cheese and sour cream, or make soup - but it's nice to have them). It's just nice to have periodic lunches at church. The one I belonged to in Ann Arbor used to do three-weeks-of-the-month lunches (the first week of the month they just did coffee hour). It was always something super simple like soup or spaghetti, and the idea was you tossed a couple bucks in a basket if you could afford to, and whoever bought the food got reimbursed if they wanted to be (and any extra funds went to a local food bank). However, to do that, you need a bigger group than we currently have - the church in Ann Arbor had at least 100 active members when I was there, and several large families with several people who could help cook.

*Worked a bit on the Hagrid sweater this weekend. It grows slowly but will be satisfying to have it finished. The back is all done and I'm maybe halfway to where I bind off for the neckline on the front.

*I want to start another crocheted critter. Am trying to decide between doing Trixie, doing the Maud Pie (That would also take designing a dress for her), doing the Mabel Pines doll, or something totally different...or maybe the OC pegasus book-fan pony I have in mind ("Folio")

With Maud and Trixie I have to think some more as there are commercial patterns I COULD buy for each one, that have less idiosyncratic (more show-accurate) hair than what I could do....but they are larger, and I kind of like the pattern I have been using because all the ponies match then. I will have to think on it more.

I might, while I consider it, start Mabel Pines. I have all the yarn I need for her on hand, and even silver (yes, metallic silver) floss for her braces. (I kind of love Mabel Pines. In a way, she oddly reminds me of myself when I was that age - except she's more confident and more able to NOT imagine people are laughing at her....I was one of those kids who always assumed the other kids were laughing at her. I guess Mabel is kind of like me but more how I wished I was - able to just be my own weird self without worrying whether other people thought I was weird.)

*I also ordered a birthday present for myself. Yes, more yarn. For the Plowman Cardigan (Ravelry link; the Interweave one was pasting a Sprint ad onto the page which makes me suspicious, because Interweave never did that before....my antivirus/antimalware will take care of it if it's a bad thing, but....) I couldn't find the original multicolored yarn so I got similar colors in Cascade 220 (the plain solid) and Dream in Color Classy (the variegated). The bonus with that is I could order from Loopy Ewe, which means I hit one of their "reward" levels (So clever they do this; it does encourage a certain level of loyalty and perhaps spending-more-than-you-might-otherwise. But they have good products and good customer service, so....)

Yes, it has intarsia on it and I kind of dislike doing intarsia but it's not horrible intarsia....just one color. And the back of the sweater looks really cool. (I guess the Ravelry link doesn't show the back, too bad)

It may be slightly delayed as Colorado is one of the places getting hit with bad weather but I don't really care. I'll have it soon enough.

* Well, the local CBS affiliate is scrolling a few closings....all so far in one county to the north and east of me, but at least they're starting to come in. I'll check back a few times either by calling in or checking the uni webpage tonight. (I'm slightly concerned, not so much for me - though I'd welcome a free day - but I have a couple particularly diligent students who live some distance away and I don't want them to take risks coming in if the roads are bad. I tell people that if they judge it unsafe to drive not to try, but some people will try to come in when they shouldn't - just as there are some people who will make excuses not to come in when it's really okay.)

*Heh. That's a childhood memory right there - standing in front of the little black-and-white tv in the kitchen (the one we watched the morning news - Del and Tom - on) and waiting and hoping to see HUDSON PUBLIC SCHOOLS scroll by on the closed list. (Or listening to the radio and hoping to hear the school name).

I guess in some towns, esp. small ones, the tradition was to blow the fire siren at a particular time (like 6:30 am) if the local schools were closed. I didn't have that experience but I remember watching the tv for closings....and getting aggravated when they went to an ad when the list was in the Fs or the Gs.....

(I can't remember WRA ever closing for weather, but then, most of the students actually lived on-campus, as did many of the faculty. And I wouldn't have been as excited for a snow day then - I liked going to school there better, it was more challenging for me intellectually and I had more friends.)

Friday, February 20, 2015

Some simple scones

I planned on heating up some of the cauliflower soup (it either got better after sitting in the fridge overnight, or the tiny, judicious dose of Cholula chipotle sauce I added at the table improved it). Along with that and the orange and the club-soda-with-blackcurrant-squash I was having for dinner, I wanted something breadlike.

Not toast, I had that for breakfast. Not noodles.

So I decided to quick make something. And I hit upon drop scones. I had seen recipes for these various places and filed the idea away for some future time. I decided to do them tonight.

The first recipe I checked called for buttermilk and I didn't have any (and didn't feel like trying to sub yogurt and get the texture right, or acidulate milk with vinegar - I don't even have any "uncommited" lemons* at the moment)


(*I bought lemons this afternoon but need them for the dressing on the salad for Sunday)

But then I found one that just uses plain milk. It's in a book called "A World of Good Cooking" and is by Ethel Hulbert Renwick. This is a late-50s book I found at an antique shop. It's a pretty interesting book and is fun to look at - each section goes through a "main ingredient" (a meat, like lamb, in the meat chapter, or something like cabbage in the vegetable chapter) and then lists several simple recipes from different cultures - the usual ones like the European countries or China or Japan, but there are also a few recipes from various Caribbean islands and African nations.

It seems to me, from looking at my cookbook collection, that there was maybe a minor flowering of cooking in the US in the 50s and 60s. I know my mom talks about how, as a relatively new-married, she and my dad would do cooking together, and they did fun stuff like learn how to do some Indian cooking from a couple they knew from India, and Japanese food from my mom's Japanese labmate. And they had people over for dinner as a way of having fun - it was relatively inexpensive (at least, compared to going out to dinner) and I think it's actually easier to talk when you are in someone's house than at a restaurant, where the servers and people may be wanting you to finish up and leave so they can seat another party.

Anyway, here are the scones:

1 egg
1/2 cup milk
1 1/4 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
pinch salt (I omitted this, figuring the soda had enough sodium)
1 teaspoon sugar

Beat the egg and milk together. Add the dry ingredients and mix until combined. Heat a heavy skillet, frypan, or griddle to medium heat (or slightly less; you need these too cook through before the outside gets too done). Butter the griddle or pan well. Drop the scones from a large spoon (the quantity of batter should make about six). They should be kind of flattish, but not like pancakes. Cook about 4 minutes (maybe a little less) on each side - flip when the side is well-browned.  Split and butter.

These are quite good. They remind me of a cross between an English muffin and a biscuit, but the texture is definitely more like a biscuit (because English muffins are typically yeasted and these are not). But I think the texture is even softer and more tender than the typical baking-powder biscuit. I don't know if that's because of the way they are leavened, or the manner of cooking.

This would also be a good recipe for the summer because you don't have to heat up the oven to cook them.

Most drop scone recipes say they aren't that great leftover. We'll have to see, I had four left and am going to try one with breakfast tomorrow heated up.

I guess these are sort of a high-tea* or farmhouse-tea sort of thing: simple, filling food, quickly made.

(*A lot of Americans assume high tea means "the fancy kind" with all the little sandwiches and the fairy cakes. But high tea is actually a supper substitute and, from what I've read, is more common in Northern or rural Britain, and is sort of a working-man's meal - not elegant but filling. Often my suppers could probably be described as a sort of high tea, except I don't generally drink tea because the caffeine keeps me up)



Getting stuff done

There's a pop-psych phrase that says, "If you can name it, you can tame it" (usually in reference to dealing with negative emotions: for example, am I angry? am I sad? What is going on with me that is making me not be effective?)

Well, maybe there needs to be one for busy people: if you can list it, you can.....well, I can't think of a good rhyme. "If you can list it, you can best it" is the closest I can come ("best it" in the sense of beating it).

So, from yesterday:

exam has been graded

quiz (which is more urgent) has been written and typed; exam is mostly written and will be completed this afternoon

Lab has been figured out and it's not one requiring a great deal of prep work (I combined two short labs earlier, so now I have an open week....so I had to reshuffle)

Grocery shopping will be done today between 1 and 3 pm. (Not right at noon when I get out of class, because noon-1pm is a crazy time here in town. And not after 3 pm because that's when people start picking up kids from school/daycare and decide to make a stop at the grocery on the way home)

Cauliflower soup was made last night. (It was okay. I think when I reheat some of it I will put a little hot sauce in it to see if that makes it better)

I made arrangements to pick the stuff up that I need for the recruitment event

I worked a little on the paper, will work more this morning.

Plans have been made (provided the weather cooperates) to do spring sampling week after next. If it's below 50 F for several days right before, I'll have to put it off, but at least I have it PLANNED.

Decided I can't worry too much about the Anthem breach; I've done what I can do from my end, it's up to them to take some steps to care for their clients.

Decided not to switch textbooks in one class; the class I had so many problems with in an earlier semester was probably an anomaly and it wasn't that my teaching was getting stale because the version of the class this semester is going pretty well and people seem to be enjoying and learning. (Classes are remarkably affected by their populations; you get a critical mass (can be as small as 2 or 3) of people who are resistant to being there, resistant to the particular prof, and they can kind of poison the attitude of the entire class. But similarly, you get a small number of people who are really interested and care about the material, and sometimes they tend to pull the people who don't care as much along with them.....)

And in three weeks I do get a break - Spring Break. And I'm traveling for it this year, because darnit, it's my dad's 80th birthday* and I want to be there with him. (Okay, I don't get in until the day AFTER but still - we're big on delaying celebrations a day or two if necessary in my family). Haircut will also be achieved during that time.

(*That's a little bit of a big deal because he's now lived longer than either of his parents did.)

 ****

So that's most of the stuff on the list that can be handily dealt with in the span of a day or so.

I also managed to get the heel turned on a sock last night. I need NOT to go on the internet and dink around for hours in the evening at home because that eats up all my knitting or reading time and then I am sad because I did not get to knit or read.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

one-inch frame

I think I figured out some of my distress (while doing the workout this morning).

I have a hard time balancing the stuff that is short-term and urgent with the stuff that is long-term and important. Because there's a clear deadline on the short-term stuff (and it's a close deadline), that tends to squeeze out the longer-term stuff. Also, I have a lot of things nagging at the back of my mind that have to be done some time:

Short-term this week:
-grade exam
-write quiz and exam for next week
-figure out lab for next week in case I have to get equipment for it
-write Sunday school lesson
-prepare for Saturday's recruitment event (which will take half of Saturday)
-find time to get salad makings for Sunday's lunch at church (and yes, I have to factor that in - either I get up extra-early Saturday before the recruitment event, or I plan an extra half-an-hour of marketing time because of crowds and lines)
-prep for teaching before each class
-convert the (expensive) head of cauliflower that keeps nagging me from the crisper into the soup I planned to make out of it.

Middle-term:
-Plan a time for spring sampling early or mid March
-Get my stuff together and take it out to the tax lady (I am still waiting on the stock account documents)
-Find another article for my section of the senior seminar class
-Probably something else I am forgetting right now
-The nagging concerns over the Anthem data breach and having to Monitor All The Things! (and now, my campus HR is warning of a tax-information breach on top of the Anthem one). (And I will also note: I have YET to receive any official communication from Anthem letting me know what, if anything, they are going to do to try to make things right. So that's nagging the back of my brain - that some lowlife jerk somewhere may have my social security number and be doing God knows what with it....creating an identity under which they commit crimes? And then I wind up having to defend my life for something I didn't even know was going on?)

Long-term:
-Get the manuscript written and in (this is, ideally, before May, which is the submission deadline for the journal for this year)
-Plan new research (It's too late now for the small-grants cycle, but whatever)
-Figure out some way to "refresh" classes/consider new textbooks. (The way the textbook submission requests work now, that really works against that - the deadline for Fall is middle of this semester, so you have to plan almost a year in advance if you're going to vet new textbooks for a class)

Ongoing:
-reading articles and stuff in my field to keep up (I don't do enough of this)
-house upkeep, marketing, and all that


And on, and on. Work expands to fill the time allotted it. (It can take up to four hours to grade an exam, it can take several hours to write an exam). The big thing right now is the work on the manuscript balanced with class stuff - I'm trying to put in an hour a day on it (Well, not Thursdays, because I'm pretty much in class from 8 am until 3 pm - it's my longest day) and doing that on top of juggling everything else just gets me down.

I did better in grad school when I had a few little short-term things (grade the labs for the lab sections I taught; prepare the article I had to discuss in seminar) and one, big, long-term thing (the dissertation). And house stuff was negligible because I lived with my parents - I never had to go to the grocery store, which, currently, can be a source of stress. (When do I go? And if I go on an afternoon, the stress of trying to get in, buy my stuff, and scram, when it seems like every single other one of my town's 15,000 residents are at the same store, and they've all run across their oldest and bestest friend, and they have to park their carts diagonally across the aisle while they talk...)

(The thing that scares me is: will 15 years hence, I look back on this time and go, "Wow, I had it so easy but I had no idea?")

I think the other thing is I have to make more time to do relaxing stuff - knitting or sewing or reading something not-work-related (and more than a few pages of a Poirot mystery before I go, "You know, I'm too tired to concentrate even on this, I'm going to sleep). The problem is I look at the list of stuff I have and I got "I have to get this all done NAOW because if I don't do it immediately, something will come up that's even more urgent, and I won't get this stuff done because of it." And while that's not true....I do tend to attack work with the perspective of "that open time you're not in class Monday won't exist, so don't try to put off doing something that HAS to be done until then."

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

That was interesting.

So, my class got videoed today. The students were excited about it (this is a class I DON'T have problems with....). In the classroom it was kind of fun; the videographer had his camera on a dolly and trolled around the room filming students doing the experiment.

But then, after that (he said that was "B roll," actually, I hope a lot of it gets in the final production because I think it was more fun), he interviewed me.

It took like an hour for him to set up the lights and boom mike and everything to his satisfaction. He had me come in and sit in a chair while he lit me and everything. It was weird. Maybe that's what being a movie star is like, I don't know. I do know he worked hard to get the lighting optimal so I looked my best. It was a lot more involved than what I imagined it would be.

I don't know how the interview went. Probably parts better than others, maybe he can splice the best parts together. I could feel myself going into "professor mode" and talking more formally and being less physically relaxed than I might have been.  (Part of it was that I was striving not to "talk with my hands," which is something I do and I know it's idiosyncratic and some people find it super annoying and I know students have laughed at me for it in the past)

He did say I looked "good" on camera. He flipped one of the monitors around while he was setting stuff up so I could see myself (the image was too small and I didn't feel like looking like I was peering at it, so I couldn't tell how "good" I looked for sure). I went to adjust a loose hair strand and found that a monitor is NOT a mirror. It was bizarre - I only ever see myself in a mirror, so to see myself from the perspective (I mean, left/right) that others normally see me - it was weird.

He had me talk for a LONG time. I suppose the idea is that the best 2 or 3 minutes will be the final part of the interview (and yes, I will get to see it before it goes live, and anyway, this is NOT someone who would creatively edit for a "gotcha" thing)

But, yeah.I remember when I was a kid wanting to be a "movie star" (I guess I was thinking more in the mode of the old-school glamorous stars in old movies, not the sort of antiheroine stars that were more common in the 70s). But now, if that's what you have to go through just to talk on camera - yeah, not so much.

I may not go to the Ash Wednesday service tonight; I have a bit of a headache and they are serving a dinner which is going to be stew - which I probably won't be able to eat because it will likely contain carrots or celery. I feel slightly bad about skipping but I'm TIRED right now.

Still, I think I'm glad I did it. If for no other reason than working on my fear of being videoed.

Into the breach....

well, the videographer is setting up. I tried to fix my hair but I think I only made it worse. (I kind of need a haircut).

I know, I know: "Einstein had messy hair" but I also know I'm far from being Einstein.

Here goes nothing. I hope I don't cough or have my voice catch or squeak or something.

Wednesday morning stuff

* So, one of my labs is getting filmed (well, videoed, I guess, but I like "filmed" better as a verb) for a marketing video we're making. Of course, guess who winds up with a bad-hair-day today? (I have a section of my bangs that sticks up and won't lie flat. I suppose I will have to try wetting it or something.)

* I'm a little apprehensive about it. I just don't like being filmed, and I hope when this is put on the internet, it's not so very public that there are legions of people out there watching it and laughing at my on-screen awkwardness. (I know, I know: tells you more about them than about me, but this is just one of my "things" - I don't like being a butt of jokes, I spent too much of my childhood doing that).

I'm doing this as one of those "This will probably be good for the department as a whole, and I'm doing it to be one of the team" things rather than a "I really want to do this" things, but sometimes that's just how it is when you're an adult - you do stuff you'd rather not do because it's "good" and you don't do stuff you'd like to do because there's other stuff that takes up your time.

* I'm slowly working on the Electric Fluttershy socks (I think that's what I'm calling them). The yarn is String Theory Colorworks' "Continuum" in Strontium-90. They're just simple socks, but sometimes with striping yarns that's the best thing you can do with them.

I'm almost done with a cowl thingie, and now I realize the yarn I bought for it (sort of an orangey brown) doesn't match either of my coats. Oh well. I'll have to wear it on days when it's cold enough for a heavy sweater but doesn't absolutely need a coat, I guess.

* Sometimes I wonder if my subconscious is telling me I need a pet of some kind. I dreamed about having cats again last night, and I also had a dream in which I was living or staying or working somewhere where there was a pony colt- he was very small, about the size of a medium-sized dog - and when I sat down to do something, he climbed up in my lap like some dogs will. (I don't know if a small pony would want to sit on a person's lap, I mean, if they were small enough to do it safely).

I guess I just want something that gives me affection with relatively few other demands on me. I get that with a pet they have to be fed and walked and taken to the vet and played with and sometimes bathed, but the not-talking-back-to-me thing would be a big thing. (I won't be getting one; my allergies are too bad for any kind of furry animal, and reptilian pets or fish don't really appeal).

(Actually, a lot of the time I feel like stuff I do is kind of one-way: I have a few people around me I'm trying to shore up a little, but when I need shoring up, it's not always available or forthcoming.)

* I probably just need to work hard on the manuscript this week and next, get a good full draft that I can then feel okay about letting sit over the last weekend of the month, and take that weekend and go do something fun -my birthday is on the 27th and I feel the need for something fun and something more and different than just, "Okay, I'll do a quick run to JoAnn's and then go get groceries." Maybe do my grocery shopping Friday afternoon and then go back out Saturday and go antiquing or something. (I wish the construction around McKinney weren't so bad, but I just don't want to brave it, and I'm not sure I want to try to find an alternate route to get there and back).

Though I admit a part of me says, "You don't NEED more fabric or yarn or books or stuff, you don't use what you have now" and that's true. I don't know.

The other option would be to go to some museum or other...I'll have to think about it. But I need a day doing only what **I** want to do.

* I probably drive myself too relentlessly. There was a situation yesterday where one of my colleagues could not do his planned lab because of Reasons, so he just cancelled the lab. I admit, I was a bit startled by that - when that has happened in the past (when the cricket-truck didn't come in at the local pet store, or it was raining when we were to go out in the field), I would pull one of my 'alternate labs' out - I have a bunch I COULD do but there aren't enough weeks in the semester to do them - and do one of those.

One of my colleagues asked me one day if I was "doing too much." At the time, I kind of snarled and said I didn't think I was doing enough. Though sometimes I wonder. What IS "enough"? I often feel like no matter how much I do, it's not enough. And there are some people who would never be satisfied with how much I do. And for me, sometimes it feels like I'm never enough, that what I can do isn't "enough." 

And I admit a certain amount of humorlessness or sighing, eye-rolling resignation when someone can't fulfill a commitment because of some unspecified problem, and I think about all the times I taught slightly sick (or even once, pretty sick, but I was filling in for someone and didn't want to let them down) or that I put off doing something I really wanted to do because of something I felt I needed to do (and never got to the thing I wanted to do). And I don't know. Work-life balance is hard for me. I do fall into the trap of thinking, "Because you don't have a family to care for, you should work that much harder at work" and I think it also plays into my insecurities about people thinking I'm a "fake" grown-up because I'm not married and/or don't have children. (Seriously, there are studies out there that claim people "don't mature fully" unless they do at least one of those things).

I probably spend way too much time online, also, but some days the main positive reinforcement I get are from the folks on Ravelry and places like that, so, I don't know.

* It occurs to me I probably "edit in the wrong direction" for the blog - lots of other bloggers/Pinterist people/Tumblrs/etc. have a sort of conscious editing or curation where they show the best parts of life so they look a lot happier or richer or more creative than they maybe really are. I don't know. A lot of days my life isn't much other than going to work, teaching a few classes, trying to plan research or write a manuscript, dealing with the various administrative tasks I have, coming home, fixing dinner, maybe reading a little or watching a half-hour of tv and trying to knit, and going to bed. I don't have a whole lot else a lot of days to "curate." I don't get out to the thrift stores to find fun and cool stuff (and a lot of it here gets snapped up fast and sold on eBay) or I don't have pets that do cute things or anything like that. Even the cooking I do isn't very photogenic a lot of the time....so yeah. Things are probably going to continue to be kind of boring for a while because I'm not good at invention, and I think sometimes it would take outright lying for me to show an exciting and cool life.

I don't know. I'm just tired right now, don't listen to me*


(*I remember as a kid, a few times when I started crying over something and I didn't understand why I was crying, and someone asked me, I would say, "I'm just tired." Which strikes me as funny now and rather "old" for me to have been saying at five or so. And I wonder: did I hear that from my mom, at some point when she was overwhelmed and upset and didn't feel like talking about it (which was rare - I mean, that she seemed overwhelmed) or whether I overheard her say it about ME as an excuse for my less-than-ideal behavior, and so I just figured when things felt like someone divided by zero and I couldn't explain why, it was that I was just tired....)

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Spring is coming

I can tell you all it is.

Because ALL the boom-car loving Yahoos in my town have got their boom cars out of storage and were driving around inundating all the rest of us with their (poor, IMHO) music choices.

There was one guy in particular who had removed (whether by design or accident, I know not) the hood of the car - so the engine noise was extra- amplified. I suspect it was by design because he seemed to delight in driving down my street, making the house windows rattle and small branches fall off the trees.

(Edited to add: after a bit of online research, I suspect the hoodless car was modified to be so. With special engine/carburetor [it was an older model, I think, Camaro?] modifications to be EXTRA LOUD. Makes me wonder what the guy driving it is lacking personally that makes him need something like that....)

I can't be TOO churlish about boom cars during daylight hours (though I question whether it's legal not to have a hood on your car; that seems dangerous to bystanders, or certainly in an accident situation), but I WILL complain if said Yahoos are still driving around during normal-people's sleeping hours.

It wasn't even all that warm today.

(I wonder how they'd react to a souped-up boom car playing, I don't know, the Flower Duet from Lakmé, or "Je ne regrette rien," or some old piece of Dixieland jazz.)

Well, that's done

First two (of four) tables for the manuscript prepared. And I had tweeted that I "liked" tables because they required little brainwork but were getting useful stuff done. Er. That was before I noticed a mistake in my data entry (for analysis) and had to go back, correct the data, re-analyze (no, nothing changed) and then do ALLLLLLL the conversions needed for a scientific journal (National Climate Data Center, Y U NO USE METRIC?)

fortunately there is an online calculator that does it automatically (I'm better at inches to centimeters than I am Fahrenheit to Celsius, but still). But at one point, I had three windows open: the NCDC page to verify my data, the calculator, and the table I was building.

Ugh, I think that's enough of a day's work for today. I'm going to see if I have the energy to do the workout I didn't want to get up to do this morning. If I can do it, then I can take tomorrow as my "off" day for the week and know I don't have to set the alarm for what is an ungodly time even for me.

leaving this here

I hate it so much when I try to do something to help someone else, and because the timing wasn't ideal according to their lights*, or the person was in a grumpy mood otherwise, instead of them even acknowledging that I was trying to be kind, all they do is bitch at me about the situation.

(*I didn't know the timing wasn't ideal beforehand, which makes it worse)

Now I feel kind of sad and tired but I have to go home and grab lunch and then come back and work on my manuscript. (And my office is cold right now with cold air blowing down out of the vent on me, and I'm not tall enough to be able to get up and block the vent by taping something over it)

a little comparison

Some people I know of: "IT'S MARDI GRAS!!!! TIME TO GO TO NEW ORLEANS AND GET STINKING DRUNK AND CELEBRATE!!!!!!"

Me: "Oh. It's Fat Tuesday. Shame there's nowhere near here I can get a real paczki. Well, I have frozen blueberries, I COULD make pancakes tonight." (And yes, that's being ever-so-slightly naughty for me: having a mostly-carbohydrate dinner without the requisite servings of vegetables (because who eats a salad alongside of pancakes? Not even me.)

I don't generally do the "give stuff up for Lent" thing (though this year I may work harder on not getting angry at "anonymous" people - like the dude in the grocery store who blocks the lane while waiting for a spot to open up), but yeah, having pancakes for dinner is a tiny bit of a celebration for me.


I knew people when I was in grad school - in Illinois - who drove the whole way down to New Orleans on Sunday afternoon before Fat Tuesday, skipped classes Monday and Tuesday, sometimes took Wednesday as a "recovery" day or sometimes had a designated driver* to drive them back.....mostly undergrads, actually, most of the grad students were too busy to do more than grunt in reaction to people saying it was Mardi Gras.

(*And wow, the saddest time ever to be a designated driver - you have to put up with all that noise and chaos. I'd HATE it. Some time, I do want to go to one of the more "family oriented" Mardi Gras celebrations some of the smaller cities do, where it's more "go watch a parade and have people throw candy to you, and little kids are welcome, and let's eat some traditional foods" but the true "Carneval" like in New Orleans would feel like a descent into Hell for me - too many people, too much noise, too much sensory stimulation all at once)

They are doing an Ash Wednesday service at church and I will most likely go. (And we're going to do a Tenebraes service on Maundy Thursday.... I always find those meaningful.)

Watching "kids' stuff"

Everyone who reads here knows of my fondness for My Little Pony (well, at least the current generation; the earlier generations, which didn't seem to try to appeal as much to the kids' intelligence, aren't nearly as entertaining).

But in general, I prefer kids' stuff (or, for that matter, the stuff dubbed "family friendly") to stuff aimed ostensibly at grown-ups. Many of the regular sit-coms today have jokes that make me side eye them and mutter "You can say that on television now?"

And a lot of the movies aimed ostensibly at grown ups just are not that interesting to me (almost every rom-com, ever). But I like kids' movies.

I watched most of "Wreck-It Ralph" last night (Most, because it seems I always come on to these things after they've already started). I knew the basic story so I was able to pick up in the middle (though I guess I missed the scene with Ralph at Bad-Anon). It's an entertaining movie, and like so many of the kids' movies, there's this underlying theme of "be yourself, because that's kind of all you can be" (And yeah, I suppose if "yourself" is really awful, that's a problem. But how many of us who are not "really awful" walk around every day wishing we were different - less nerdy, or more fun, or whatever?) That's a theme some of the episodes of MLP take - that what you are, even though you might sometimes wish to be something else, is valuable, because you have strengths that others don't have....that we all have gifts.

I also have to admit, I like the settings of kids' movies. Some imaginative never-never land is more fun and interesting than a prettied-up version of present-day Manhattan. Or Chicago. Or Ann Arbor, wherever. And yeah, most of the cities in movies (which are rarely the ACTUAL city, more likely it's some section of Toronto), at least in romantic comedies and the like, are nicer and prettier than the real city. A movie set in Ann Arbor, if it were a rom-com, I can guarantee you, would not have the main character getting aggressively panhandled as often as I did when I lived there (Maybe it's changed, I don't know, but that was one thing I found really uncomfortable). Or they wouldn't have leafleteers sticking things in their face as they walked down the street.

Anyway. I find it easier to suspend disbelief in a BIG way than in a little way - I find it easier, somehow, to accept that, sure, there's a deposed princess (slight spoiler alert) living in a soda-bottle volcano inside a video game than I am able to accept that a woman lives alone in an apartment in a city-center and never feels uncomfortable or afraid out walking to places, and that she meets a guy randomly - in the laundromat, at the grocery - and he's the PERFECT guy for her, not some creepy stalker or troubled man looking for someone to mother him.

So I watch mostly kids' movies. (My dvd collection is split - probably 40% British stuff like the Campion mysteries and Call the Midwife and Poirot, 10% silly comedies or "classic" movies, and 50% kids' stuff)

I also like cartoons, as you all know. After Wreck-It Ralph was over, I switched over to the OTHER Disney channel (I get three: regular Disney, Disney XD - which used to be Toon Disney, and the Disney-for-little-tiny-kids) to see the new episode of Gravity Falls.

And you know? I dare say that there's more clever writing these days in cartoons than in many programs for adults. I laughed for several minutes over the fact that Dipper was settling in to watch a "Ghost Harassers" marathon on the "Used to be History Channel" (and they even had a logo that looked kind of like the History Channel logo. As I have big, big issues with channels that used to carry somewhat educational programming shifting and going for the dumbest common denominator, it made me happy that apparently at least some of the Gravity Falls writers feel the same way). Also, I wonder if writers can get away with stuff like that - I mean, the little bit of commentary stuff - in cartoons they might not in a live-action show. I know Jim Henson once said he could have Kermit the Frog say things that he himself would never be able to get away with saying - because people think, "Oh, it's just a funny puppet" and aren't so taken aback by the social commentary coming out of the puppet's mouth.

I think the secret is that a lot of these shows - MLP, and Gravity Falls, and perhaps to a lesser extend Wander over Yonder - are not written SOLELY for children - there's some attempt to keep the parents interested enough to watch with the kids. And also, I suspect, a lot of the writers for the shows are just big geeks, and I mean that in the best way, and that they naturally gravitate to that kind of work. And so there are lots of geeky adults out there - like me - who watch the shows and feel slightly as if we have found our tribe.

I also mentioned "family friendly" shows. Another channel I get is INSP ("Inspiration"), which shows a lot of old westerns and also re-runs things like Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman (though of late, I find myself playing "pick out the historical inaccuracies" when I watch that one, which is sad). And they re-run The Waltons.

I KNOW my family watched that one when I was a kid but I don't remember many of the stories. And I'm struck by a couple things, re-watching the show: first, a lot of episodes attack what are really pretty morally complex problems, and they tend to do it in a way that seems to me to be more intelligent than the way some modern shows go about it....it doesn't come across as as heavy-handed to me, or something. And second, they slipped in a lot of "Ma and Pa are really deeply in love and have a pretty active 'marital' life, if you get my drift (well, otherwise, where would the seven children come from)" but it's done in a way that would have flown totally over my head when I was six....and it's not gross the way I find the sex jokes on, say, Two Broke Girls, gross. (Maybe it's because Ma and Pa are married, but it's not JUST that). And third, the show is very open about the fact that the family is religious (Ma more than Pa, and the funny thing is that in real life, Ralph Waite was a Presbyterian minister) and God things are discussed in a way that might not be in a show made today....and I also like that.

And yeah, I admit, I do a tiny bit of the "wait, that Red Cross advertisement looks too modern for the early days of WWII" type of thing when I watch the show - it's a bad habit from years helping a family member with a side business doing antique auctions and from hanging out in antique shops.

But it's just a nice show. It's soothing to watch, partly because it's set in a time and place different enough from the one I inhabit - and it's one where the main type of love is family love. (That may also be part of my fondness for kids' shows, actually: the main type of love expressed is either friendship-love or family-love; I get tired of shows where chasing after a "relationship" seems to be the sole goal of the protagonists, and they do dumb and sometimes even venial things to obtain that relationship. And honestly? At this point in my life I'd rather have a good, close friendship than a romantic relationship. I realize that in an ideal world one gets both in the same person, but this world is far from ideal.....so I'd take the good friend who will be there for me and is like a family member).