Monday, August 31, 2015

And looking ahead

Just realized next Monday is Labor Day, which is our one Federal Holiday Off for Fall Semester.

Also, because of (a) absences and (b) the new minister (and yeah, it still makes me smile to type that) not being here quite yet, we're having a shorter earlier church service - so no Sunday School, so no Sunday School prep.

So less to do to get ready for next week. Unless the weather is truly, truly unfavorable or something goes wrong with my car, I think I am going to take Saturday and go antiquing and also do "big" grocery shopping in Sherman. (If I were more ambitious I'd go to McKinney but meh, the construction is still ongoing).

And I MIGHT take Monday off, or partly off. I don't know. But it's good to have something to look forward to.

Also, I want to cook something good and big and fun. Maybe get some ribs and do them as faux-smoked ribs in the crockpot (rub them with the right spice blend and cook slow and low) or maybe do a whole chicken and then make enchiladas with the leftovers.

Also, I know i will need lots of "mental health days" as the pressure on this wellness program (pogrom?) stuff is ramping up ever more. Beginning to wonder if I could manage on one less meal a day or if I'd just wind up making up the calories at other meals.

"Miserable snobby joy-sucker"

That's how a friend of mine on Twitter characterized the attitude of the author or this article, in which he essentially says all of us hardworking adults out there should read Gunter Grass or Gabriel Garcia Marquez instead of Terry Pratchett, because "Ars longa, vita brevis" or something like that.

The thing that the twitterverse at least is picking up on, is that the author of the article, even though he criticizes Prachett, never read any of his books and in fact, sneers at  the idea. But yet, he presumes to tell the "proles" what they "should" read.

And yes, I get that he's saying "Pratchett is not 'great' literature in the sense that Marquez is 'great' literature" and I would be okay with it if he stopped there. But he goes on to essentially say, "So you should read Marquez and Grass and not Pratchett, and you should always make an extra effort to do the 'hard' stuff." (I'm guessing the writer is also someone who does not own a television because television is too diverting and too easy)

This is an issue with me.

Life is short. But it's also unpleasant sometimes and an escape is often a nice thing. I've read my share of "literary" novels (I read One Hundred Years of Solitude years ago as part of a book club. I tried reading Grass' "The Tin Drum" but couldn't get into it very far). A lot of the modern literary novels - at least, the ones that seem to win awards - that I've tried have disappointed me; they seem mainly to be Cavalcades of Dysfunction where no one seems to be trying to be better. I get that they're great art but in a lot of cases when I read, I am looking for diversion or entertainment.

And for that matter: can't people read BOTH? Can't I read Moby-Dick (which actually may be too funny to be viewed as "literary" by the arbiters, I don't know) and "potboiler" mysteries? Can't a person have a taste for both Boeuf en Daube and greasy cheesebugers?

And I admit, maybe it's shallow of me, but I want at least a few book characters that are, in some ways, *better* than I am, or are at least working to overcome their flaws. Sort of an encouragement, sort of a "we don't have to stay stuck down here in the mud, we can still reach for the stars"idea.

One of the reasons, as I said, I liked "A Rule Against Murder" so much was that at the end, several characters who had been deeply wounded by earlier events in their lives came to realize that their perception had so colored things, that a lot of the pain they experienced was actually self imposed....and they realized that they had the power to step outside of that "box" and begin to heal. And that wasn't presented in a preachy or a self-help way....and it resonated with me.

And I admit, I haven't read much Prachett. I tend to start fantasy novels and not finish them, I don't know why. I know that a lot of people LOVE Prachett and that his prose is entertaining. (I think I'm just more a fan of mysteries than I am of fantasies). I should get The Hogfather back out and read further in to it.

The thing is - as my friend said about the "joy sucking" part, is why should anyone CARE what books another person prefers? I think it's great that a lot of people love Pratchett. Maybe if my brain were wired ever so slightly differently from how it was, I'd have read every single book he wrote by now.

I think one of the things I found slightly distasteful in the article was the attitude of "If you don't spend every waking moment improving yourself, you are wasting your life. Reading books for entertainment is wasting your life." That you're not putting in enough effort, somehow. And why should this guy tell us what we can and cannot like, or should and should not do in cases that are not morality-involved. (Yes, I think it is very good for a writer to say:"Murdering other people is wrong and you should not do it." It seems ridiculous and overly involved to me to say "Reading series fantasy novels is wrong and you should not do it.")

And yes, this is one of my "issues" - I don't like someone pointing at me and going, "I don't think you're good enough by my standards" because dangit, I have extremely high standards for myself and who are you to say I am not meeting sufficiently high standards? That if I'm not going around tragically sad because life is so awful because the literary novel I am currently reading shows how awful it is, I'm shallow - that's the implication I get from some people who sneer at, for example, the reading of mystery novels.

(And also being told what I should and should not eat. Or how much I should exercise. Or any of the other million and one "shoulds" that it's very easy for someone who is not-me to determine is "good" for me, without actually living my life or being me. The sort of one-size-fits-all advice that is so commonly given out now. Oh, yes, very well and good to say, "You should do 20 hours of volunteer work per week" but dear would-be-director-of-my-life, WHEN? When I leave the house at 7 am and return most days around 4 pm, with work in tow for the next day, and when my weekends are often devoted to more work. Mostly I just want to be LEFT ALONE. I'm forty-six. I'm old enough to make my own decisions and ALSO old enough to realize that if I make a crummy decision, I will have to deal with its consequences. I wonder if maybe the attempt by some in our culture to make consequences for poor decision-making lighter for some has led to this idea that no one is smart enough to look at a choice and go, "the path through the dark cave with monsters, or the path with the peace and the butterflies" and be able to decide the best one for them?)

You know what? A lot of life IS awful. Turn on the news any day of the week. People choosing to do awful things to other people. But why should I focus on that? Why should I go around beating my chest and saying "Woe is me, humanity is so terrible?" or refuse to ever be happy? That isn't going to bring back the person who was shot dead, it's not going to improve conditions for the Iraqi Christians fleeing from ISIS. (And yes, there are things that one can do. But going around being miserable all the time is not one of them).  I see nothing wrong with reading fun and escapist novels - and perhaps even some escapist novels can teach us something, how to be happy, how to be better people, how to laugh....something.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

some good news.

We have had an interim pastor for the past better part of a year. We knew he couldn't stay permanently, and he had set a fixed deadline (today) to urge us to find someone permanent.

I knew the committee whose job this was had been working on it. Well, today, the Board Moderator got up in church to announce that they had extended an offer and it had been accepted - so in a couple more weeks, we will have a new permanent pastor.

I am very happy about this. One of the things that had been eating at me these past weeks was, "What if no one is willing to come for what we can afford to pay? What if all the candidates look at how small we are and go, 'No, I can't.'"

There's been a lot of discussion about "What would we do in the future?" We can't limp along on calling in favors or tapping retired ministers in the area. There was even some discussion of "where would we go if we had to close down?"

There are other Disciples churches in the area but I think the nearest is a half-hour away, and I admit driving an hour's round trip every week is something that would be unappealing to me. There was also talk of a group of us joining another congregation in town - maybe the Methodists - but I know there are doctrinal differences, and also, most Protestant denominations don't do one thing we do that's very important to me and I would miss: doing the Lord's Supper weekly.

So it's nice, from a stability-in-my-life standpoint, to know this. And it's hopeful for the future. The congregation here is very important to me - perhaps moreso to me because I'm single and live alone. They are really kind of a second family to me and are the ones I call on in emergencies for help. And yes, a new congregation would present those same sort of things, but the whole idea of having to go to a new place and make new friends and fit in all over again and all of that....

I don't deal well with instability. There's some at work - heck, if you're employed in higher ed anywhere in the US, there's instability, with all the talk of a higher-ed bubble. I have some days when I wonder if I will still have a job in a few years because of all the stuff that's going on. So having instability in two big areas of my life is difficult.

We had a lunch (hence the cupcakes). I think the interim had some "parting words of wisdom" for a number of me, he did that funny hug-from-the-side men will do to non-related females (to avoid any appearance of inappropriateness) and told me that I was "quiet but strong."

It's funny, I wouldn't use those words to describe myself if I had been asked, but now that he said it, I can kind of see it. Not to brag on myself, but yeah, I do tend to kind of keep my mouth shut about a lot and just keep working. And I've learned, I think, how to guide people without being very verbose or pushy about it.

I don't think of myself as particularly strong, but maybe I am. Or even if I'm not all the time, thinking of myself as such may push me to be stronger....

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Well, that's better

So last night* I came home to a phone message from the piano tuner. He can come out Monday morning. I'll have to arrange for a key handoff as I won't be home but that's okay, we've done it that way before.

(*Well, late afternoon for me - 4:30. I had to go pick up my anti-hive pills and one of the two roads that connects the east and west sides of town - we are split by an interstate - had a big accident on it, so I had to recalibrate and take evasive action to get down to Main Street and go that way)

Of course, that means the house needs to be a bit more clean. Well, I didn't get it all cleaned, my bedroom is still bad, but I am just going to close the door and figure he's enough of a gentleman not to peek behind closed doors, and if he isn't, his reaction doesn't matter.

But I did deep-clean the bathroom and kitchen. I may have found where the "waterbugs" are coming in and blocked it off, and I also used rosemary soap ("Mrs. Meyer's") thinking maybe it would have a slightly repulsive effect toward critters. So my tile floors have been scrubbed now, and I got rid of a lot of accumulated junk. It had been a good long time since I deep-cleaned, and it was BAD but it is better now. I also swept a lot in the family room and hope I maybe chased the fleas away. If they still seem to be here when the piano tuner gets done (and after my lesson Tuesday) maybe I'll get some DE and put it down. (Diatomaceous earth, which is a relatively low-toxicity-to-humans thing that can get rid of bugs)

I also baked the cupcakes for the lunch at church. I still have to frost them but want to be sure they are totally cool. I also get to use my big cupcake carrier again (I think this is the third time. It's a useful thing when you need it but it does take up a lot of space)

My back is better, I think I must have pulled something. It does seem that in the high humidity weather I am more prone to those kinds of little musculoskeletal injuries.

I'm almost done with another "warm up kids" project hat, maybe I finish that tonight. Then I think I'm going to work a bit on the Hagrid sweater for me. Or maybe the couple pairs of socks I have going. I want to finish a couple things before starting anything new.

Because I really want to start the Treehugger stuffie sometime soon.

Or Oh. Yeah, I broke down and bought the pattern for Oh that "Screen to Stitch" was offering - it's a very cute representation of him and I have the right colors of yarn already.

Friday, August 28, 2015

one more chapter

Well, I finished prepping Chapter 6 ("Metabolic reactions and cellular respiration") out of the new book. This one wasn't so very different from my old one* so I could mostly just recycle the slides I had before and put in some new artwork

(*One thing I've noticed is that some textbooks go "Cellular respiration has four stages, Glycolysis, Pyruvate Reduction, Krebs Cycle, and Oxidative Phosphorylation" were others combine 2 and 3 and then split Oxidative Phosphorylation into Electron Transport Chain and Chemiosmosis and still others insist there are only THREE's frustrating because it seems like every time we switch textbooks, that author does it a different way. It's not a matter of "new knowledge," it's a matter of "How does this particular author perceive it." But it confuses some of the students.)

I have a little research stuff I should do - one of my colleagues was wringing his hands about "What if the guy bonds out of jail, might he come back to the building" which I think is exceptionally unlikely (and would be exceptionally foolish, but then, as my mom says, "The smart people don't become criminals") but still, I don't think I want to come in here tomorrow; I want to give it one more weekend for things to settle down.

And I need some relaxation time. I think I pushed a little too hard this week with stuff. I might take the book home and read Chapter 7, and I have some grading to do (which can be as well done at home as over here) but at least there's nothing URGENT right now.

I think I'm gonna do the cupcakes. They have the virtue of being easy to mix up and easy for whoever is tasked with putting the desserts out (I am eldering so I cannot help set the meal up) AND the recipe I have does not have egg in it so that means I can lick the bowl with impunity (not having to worry about salmonella) and I don't care what anyone says, being able to lick the bowl after making some kind of batter or sweet dough is one of the simple pleasures of life.

It's an older Hershey's recipe. I can't find the exact one online but I have it at home. I know I do; it's the one I used for the cupcakes I brought in when my niece was born. All I'll have to do is get a small container of buttermilk. (I know you can make soured milk yourself but I think these things are better made with buttermilk.)

I also just need some relaxation time because I think I've hunched over my work too much or been too tense this week; my upper back is hurting. If I were the kind of person who went and got massages I would get one but I think maybe a warm bath with Epsom salt will suffice.

ALSO: gonna watch nothing but cartoons and Waltons and weird medical shows this weekend because it's the Katrina anniversary and I am so not happy with the disaster porn the news has already been playing - one channel re-showed footage of a man who was crying because his wife had drowned and I am like what purpose does dredging his pain out again serve? This next couple weeks are gonna be bad, between Katrina and the remembrances of 9/11.

I think having tasteful memorials is good. I think having moments of silence is important. I think saying, "We are going to have more resolve when it comes to things like hurricanes so this doesn't happen again and also we need to help those who are the most impoverished and vulnerable" is good. I don't think that showing ten year old footage of people who just lost everything is helpful. There's enough pain in the world, take your pick, without replaying old footage. (That may related to my, "Transform your sadness" post of the other day...)

Not the hill...

I'd complain about the wellness stuff, but I fear it would lead to repercussions from whoever heard the complaint, it seems the higher-ups are invested in this, perhaps because it means they get a better deal from our health insurer. I don't know. So not the hill I want my accumulated political capital to die on.

I know I take a distinctly "You can't fight city hall" attitude on these, but a few times in the past - not just here - when a small group of people tried to take on an idea someone with some power was really wedded to, the result was kind of, "Your opinion doesn't matter" so. (I am also thinking of an anti-litter initiative I was involved with at one point). I don't try to fight things or voice my opinion as much as I maybe should but so often in my life when I did it was totally ignored.

Our newest colleague, an MD who teaches the health sciences classes, thinks they're fairly ridiculous. (He laughed and said, "Don't tell anyone but I am going to a buffet this weekend.")

Another colleague says, "Give him credit for using humor" but it's the kind of humor that pushes my buttons, so I don't know. Maybe if I hadn't fired a doctor for trying to prescribe me weight loss medications when I was actually in for a flu shot, I'd feel differently.

I think my best plan is to ignore and delete the messages unread. My doctor knows I'm fairly healthy, save for one probably-hereditary issue and allergies, and being fat doesn't make your allergies worse. I just need to ignore them.

That's what being part of a modern bureaucracy is like and I understand it's even worse in some corporate settings, with weigh-ins and people very strongly coerced to do things like join weight-loss clubs. I suppose he who pays the piper calls the tune, and if the employer is paying for even part of the health insurance they have an interest in coercing people to do healthful things.

but I still admit the implication I'm not smart enough to make good decisions bugs me.

Whatever. I also realize that in six more weeks, something else will come along and this will be forgotten, just as the "assess them out the wazoo" push was, just as the "we need eight new distance sites and we need our local faculty to travel to them and teach" was forgotten, just as the "We need to start up MOOCs" was forgotten. I just need to wait it out.

Or at least wait until they start with the videos pushing for people to get more sleep. Getting more sleep is something I could get behind.


Part of this is that I haven't been knitting enough.

Or watching Pony re-runs, or even very many cartoons, or really anything other than the news and a few minutes of a re-run of The Waltons to try to relax before I take my blood pressure.

I need to take some time off this weekend and NOT read textbook chapters, or worry about getting my lectures updated, or spend excessive amounts of time online (and therefore, not do more active things). These past few days all I've really gotten done, outside the usual round is practice piano and read a textbook chapter and do the textbook chapter evaluation.

I did finish the textbook review and send it in this morning. (And got back an out-of-office message. Apparently all the textbook company people are on vacation right now; I got an OOO message when I sent an e-mail asking about a replacement for my stolen textbook)

I suppose it's a time that makes sense (the big pre-semester push is over, it's not time for spring adoptions yet) but it seems weird to me because I'm in the middle of it at work and people are on vacation elsewhere.

"A little list"

In "The Mikado," the Lord High Executioner has a song he sings, about a "little list" he keeps of people (or things) that "would never be missed" and proposes they be used as a "victim" when one is needed.

Well, I do not like the idea of putting people on my own personal little list (because: don't like violence against people), but I am happy to put THINGS on it and oh, my friends, today I have a THING for my list:

Video e-mails.

This is apparently a thing now. You get an e-mail from someone, all it is is a short you tube type video. To get the content you have to watch it, though generally there's a somewhat descriptive title.

My campus does these now. They drive me mad. Because they seem the height of inefficiency to me: spend maybe a half hour videoing something. Then spend some time (maybe) editing it. Then expect people to each spend five minutes watching the video. All of this when a conventional e-mail could have been written in perhaps two minutes, and people could read it in thirty seconds or less.

So far, all of the video e-mails have pertained to this new Fitness Initiative, where apparently they are going to annoy us into: (a) exercising, (b) going on a diet, or (c) disordered eating.

(Seriously: we have gotten videos where places have been declared donut-free zones, now apparently the football team has declared a pizza-free zone (??????*). And today it was a video titled "Just Say No to All you can Eat Buffets."

Can we not? Can we PLEASE not? I had some times in college, as an undergrad, when I was living alone and was immature and was worried about being "fat" (and I was slimmer then than I was now) and I did things like trying to eat no more than 1000 calories a day and keeping a record of all of the food I ate. I did that for maybe a month. And when it comes to the point where you're hungry and are looking at a hardboiled egg and wondering if you can "afford" the calories, something has gone wrong with your thinker.....fortunately I was wise enough and strong enough to say "forget that noise" and go back to concerning myself more with "am I getting enough nutrients in the right combinations, and enough protein, for good health?" rather than "CAN I MAKE MYSELF A SIZE 6 IF I EXERCISE ENOUGH FORCE OF WILL"

So I have some serious issues with the food-shaming aspect of the campaign, but I'm guessing it will keep going until someone with a nutritionist's or counselor's degree really puts their oar in and points out telling people to "ban" increasing numbers of foods is a dumb idea....

(*prepared properly, and eaten in moderation, pizza is healthful food. It has vegetables - at a minimum, tomatoes, and you can also load it up with all kinds of other stuff. You don't have to put a ton of cheese on it. And the way I make it at home, it's not high in salt or fat.)

But I really, really loathe getting 2 or 3 video e-mails a day and being expected to watch them. (I don't. I have work to do. I already know what I need to do to eat healthfully and I already exercise. I just want to be left the (insert your favorite intensifier here) alone.)


I have a similar strong dislike bordering on hate of news sites that put up a news story, but only have it as a video you must sit and watch, rather than a summary that you could read. Part of it is that I feel like they're doing it so they can advertise at me, part of it is that it feels awfully like an "Idiocracy" future where many people can't read any more....

And I admit: yes, I have issues with the whole food-shaming, fat-shaming thing. But also, I am still enough of a rule-follower, I still have enough fear I have a "permanent record" somewhere that I will get in trouble for, and that maybe if I delete these e-mails unread unwatched, I will miss something essential and will be in big trouble and will fail in the round of Post Tenure Review....I admit I have an irrational fear that there's going to be some tiny, secret rule I totally mess up and then it destroys my whole life.

I think it's because there are two big issues that drive me bonkers here:

1. Feeling like people are pointing a finger at me and going, "FATTY FATTY FATTY FAT FAT YOU NEED TO LOSE WEIGHT FATTY" which is just a stupid retread of the teasing I got (for other things) as a kid in school

2. The implication that I'm not smart enough to make "good life choices." (In the interest of science, I watched the most recent video. It was literally a photograph of a buffet followed by the words JUST SAY NO. I....I just can't. There needs to be more freaking nuance. Aren't salad bars a type of buffet? And what about one with boiled shrimp or salmon or similar healthful choices on it? I get "don't overeat" but it's been YEARS since I ate to the point of discomfort and I know how to handle myself at a buffet.)

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Glad tomorrow's Friday

Because I'm tired. And I hurt - my shoulder is almost totally better but now my back is griping me. I THINK it's a combo platter of standing for too long in dress shoes on our tile-over-concrete floors, and doing a more rigorous workout than I had been doing. In a few minutes I'm going to take a warm shower and see if that helps, and if it does, I'll heat up one of my several buckwheat bags* when I get into bed

(*These things are a GENIUS invention. Like a hot water bottle but without worries about it leaking. I have used them so many times for so many things - bursitis, pulled muscles, cramps, headaches, chills, just-generally-feeling-bad-and-sad)

At least my shoulder is better so it means I don't have frozen shoulder or a shoulder separation or that I broke it in that fall back in 2013 and should have got it set....


I think we're all kind of upset and freaked out about the whole burglar thing. Faculty meeting today was a little tenser than it normally is, and some of us said things maybe we shouldn't have (and I include myself in the we).

My colleague who lost the most stuff (important documents and a bunch of money) said he's still "processing" it. The biggest thing is that it was someone who had worked with us in the past, that we trusted, but who proved himself untrustworthy. And I think that's the most upsetting part.

(On the good end: the campus police officer thinks there's still an outside chance they may turn up some of my colleague's missing stuff. I hope so. He doesn't care about the money at this point but there were other things important to him)


I got out my fake Leatherman tool (it was a freebee from a publisher) and used it to screw the panel in the bottom of my office door back in place. I also taped the upper edge down with something like duct tape; it's on the inside of the door so it will serve as an indicator just IF someone else is getting into these rooms, it will show it. I don't expect anything but maybe it's nice to have a little indicator just in case anything else goes missing.

People told me I could ask the custodian to do it for me, but really, it's not part of his job and I had the tool handy, so I figured why not do it?


I've not done much knitting lately because of my sore shoulder and also I am trying to complete the chapter reviews for a textbook publisher - I reviewed the table of contents back in June, never got my little check, and when all this stuff blew up with missing items I decided to e-mail the publisher, just to be sure it didn't come while I was out of town and get stolen. Turns out they had not cut the check yet because I hadn't sent them a W-9.....and the guy in charge of this project then asked me if I wanted to review chapters for him. The payment for the chapters is a lot nicer than that for the TOC, but it is more reading and more work.

I'm thinking when I get this check it will be converted into some kind of nice yarn for a sweater. There are some pretty ones in the new fall Interweave, lots of cabled ones....


I do think I need a little treat tomorrow afternoon or evening. I'm torn between getting carryout from the good Italian place for dinner (that would also simplify the "what do I want to eat" issue, which sometimes actually boils down to "What do I feel like fixing?") or maybe running to the local kitchen shop and finally replacing my big 4-quart Dutch Oven that I burned rice in the bottom of and have never been able to get clean. (There's also a restaurant-supply house in Sherman, and I want to go some time, but meh, it's a pain driving to Sherman on a Friday afternoon). Or something.

I think I need to stick at home on Saturday; we are having a lunch at church on Sunday and I need to fix something. I'm probably going to do a cake - I have a few good from-scratch recipes. I might do the good old Hot Milk Sponge and make a good chocolate frosting ("Chocolate Satin Frosting") I have a recipe for.

Or I might do cupcakes; that means no one has to worry about cutting and dishing up the cake and kids always like cupcakes. I probably have a recipe that would work well.


I mentioned "stickermarking" some of my textbooks (like the digital watermarks some online artists use to make it less likely someone will appropriate their work unattributed). Thinking about it - maybe I don't JUST put them on the cover, those can be peeled off, but maybe I have specific pages I put a little pony on, just as a marker - Twilight Sparkle on page 42, of course, and Rainbow Dash on page 20 (percent cooler). I don't know of any other numbers I could associate with ponies, other than maybe four for Applejack (as in, "One, Two, Three, Four, raise this barn....")

(I think a reason I love the Ponies so much is that I can see how I have a few characteristics of each one - I can be very stubborn and "I'll do it MYSELF" and Applejack does that sometimes. And I'm super self-critical and rule-following like Twilight. And I can be a fussbudget like Rarity, and I admit I secretly wish I could give in to Drama Queening when it all goes to heck. And of course, Fluttershy - I try to be kind but also I find people often talk over me. Pinkie Pie and Rainbow Dash, maybe less so, but I wish I had Pinkie's metabolism and level of sugar tolerance. And her cheerfulness and the fact that she never met a pony she didn't like.  And I guess really, I am sort of competitive and "hate to lose" like Rainbow Dash.

Of course, I also love that each one fundamentally represents a virtue - sometimes I feel like virtues get short shrift in our culture: Applejack is honest and hardworking, Fluttershy is kind and gentle, Twilight is both smart and self-controlled, Pinkie is joyful and friendly, Rainbow Dash is loyal and a good encourager, and Rarity is generous and creative.

And yes, I will confess to trying to map The Fruits of the Spirit onto those Ponies plus a few others. One example I get is:

Love: Princess Cadence
Joy: Pinkie
Peace: Luna (princess of the night, and of sleep, and also protects ponies from bad dreams)
Patience: Applejack
Kindness: Rarity, because it is like generosity
Goodness: Celestia, because she is a generally benificent ruler
Faithfulness: Rainbow Dash, because it is like loyalty
Gentleness: Fluttershy
Self-control: Twilight

I dunno. It doesn't map perfectly and of course some would say I was wrong to take something not explicitly Christian and map it onto Christian themes, but then again CS Lewis talked about how a lot of things in our world pointed in a Certain Direction, even if they weren't explicitly about the Direction in which they pointed, so.)

Eventually, when I get one or two of my ongoing projects finished, I need to start Treehugger.

I got another little Apple Family member - a greenish pony with a bonnet named "Apple Munchies," which makes me laugh and also wonder if she's a friend of Treehugger's.....(because "munchies," heh)

(EDITED TO ADD: The *pony* is named "Apple Munchies." I don't know if her bonnet has a name.... :)

["I met a man with a wooden leg named Smith." "Oh, what was his other leg named?"])

If they come out with a Fluttershy's cottage playset I am totally buying it. I have managed to resist the Apple Family barn but I think Fluttershy's Cottage I could not. (They won't do a Golden Oak Library, because it got destroyed at the end of Season Four, but if they did, I'd want it too)

needing mood kitty

I wrote the previous post last night.

This has not been a good day so far.

My house has been invaded by "critters" - there are fleas that hasten to bite me when I am near a certain window. I've been killing "waterbugs" (which is just a nice name for the American cockroach, Periplanata americana) and am wondering what about my loose housekeeping is allowing them to enter and apparently proliferate and how soon it is before my house is condemned. And I have slugs.

Not in the garden. They come up the pipe chase and I find them slowly crawling across the kitchen tile. They are Limax maximus, I think - humongous and leopard spotted. I can't quite bring myself to kill them as they are kind of pretty in a strange way, and also, I don't want to get slug slime everywhere, which is what most fatal methods would cause.

And backing out this morning, I scraped my front bumper on a tree. (It's complicated). I don't think I dented it but I think it did scrape the paint. I will have to take my car to the car wash and see for sure when it's clean.

And, worst - I could not find my Principles I book, which I need badly to update my teaching stuff (it's a new book this fall). Nowhere in my office. Not in the classroom where I taught last. I even ran back home and looked, it is in none of the likely places I would have had it to work from.

So: either I dumbly forgot it in the classroom and someone was like, "Whoo! Free textbook!" (a lot of the students don't have their financial aid money yet) OR - there were more scratches inside my office door when I came in Wednesday and I wondered if the thief had been in my office again, so it's possible HE stole the book with a thought to selling it at the bookstore. (The book costs maybe $200, so that would net maybe $20 in a sell-back).

(If that happened, either he ditched the book somewhere or it's squirrelled away in a hidey hole he had, because it would have been stolen most likely after the bookstore was closed, and he was arrested before they re-opened. I know I had the book in class on Tuesday)

But still: I'm mad at myself for maybe being irresponsible and forgetful and forgetting the book in the classroom where it's then seen as common property. (And I know: the onus is on the person who stole it, but you do have to be careful about stuff here. I've lost calculators by forgetting them in rooms).

I have a loaner copy from my chair but I'm still peeved and unhappy. (And secretly hoping that it turns out the thief had my book, because then I will feel less like an idiot. And I'll get my book back)

I think if I do get my own personal copy back I will plaster it with Hello Kitty or MLP stickers (in fact, I do have some MLP stickers at home) to make it recognizably mine and unappealing as a theft-item to a good percentage of the population.

My ecology and biostats books are still here but they are older and more beat up and also there were papers on top of them so I don't know.

happiness transforming sadness

This is something I started thinking about since finishing "A Rule Against Murder."

As I said, one of the big themes of the novel seems to be the idea of taking the sadness or dysfunction of the past and either moving past it, or seeing how what you saw as dysfunction was maybe flawed people doing their best. And also, the idea that we're all broken somehow, and that with good fortune and maybe some work, we can try to transform that brokenness.

And the question rises: is it better to get rid of the sadness, or pretend it never happened, or try to move past it, or is it better to try to transform it into something somehow useful?

I've seen people who seemed to have moved past or forgotten the sadnesses of their past. Maybe they're stronger people than I am. Maybe they're in denial, I don't know.

I also found myself listening to the Hem song "Half an Acre" the other day. It contains the lyric:

"Do you carry every sadness with you
Every hour your heart was broken
Every night the fear and darkness
Lay down with you"

And I do tend to think, at least for some of us, we do still carry the past sadnesses with us. And I'm not sure, but the idea of telling people to "move past it" or "forget it" is not always all that helpful. I think I tend to prefer the "transformation" type thing, or the "use it as an energy" sort of thing. (Anger is also an energy. I have a friend who says, "Anger is an energy," meaning that you can use it to get things done - for example, if you are angry over an injustice, you can use that anger to propel you to try to get that taken care of.)

I also tend to think that plastering on a happy face and pretending you never had unhappiness in your life is not healthy.

But the idea of transforming that sadness somehow, or using it to teach yourself something - compassion, or the capacity for solitude, or an understanding of life. Using it as a way to grow. Because everyone has sadness, everyone has difficult times. And I don't know, I'm not the kind of person who can just lay past sadnesses down and walk away from them - but I can change them into something useful.

I don't know. I was thinking about this today. Another awful news story out there, another person who takes their anger and sense of being wronged by the world* and decided to turn it into violence and ruin a few other people's lives.

And I admit, it frustrates me, because I've known a bunch of people who went through some seriously awful times in their lives.....and yet they found a way to transform that awfulness into something beneficial and useful, or used it as a way to teach themselves something about life or the world.

(*And yeah, we don't know the full story; it's likely there were other issues there)

And I admit, my usual reaction in the face of something like this is something like, "Start knitting a hat or a pair of gloves to send to a group that distributes them to those in need." I don't know why. I suppose it's because I want to try to erase some of the pain by maybe doing a kind act, I don't know.  That sounds kind of stupid but there you are - my response to someone lashing out and doing something terrible that ruins other lives is to do something, however tiny, that might help someone else.

I also think of the line from one of the KnitLit books, from an essay by Molly Wolf, about how somehow our mistakes and our brokenness could maybe be transformed:

"I wonder sometimes if, after death, God frogs us - holds us firm, undoes the
years of pain and wrong and suffering, reknits us together in eternity's womb,
so that we emerge in glory, just as we should have been if this life weren't
so broken and bloody imperfect."
I like that. I like the idea. Originally, I liked it better than her next idea, that is that somehow God transforms the brokenness we have developed (or caused in ourselves) into something more whole (more holy?). But you know, now that I'm a bit older, I think I like that second idea better - that our mistakes and our sadness and our brokenness can somehow be transformed into something better and fuller than what we would have been without those things to begin with. (That the one who isn't broken in some way hasn't experienced much)

I don't know. For me, the idea of growing past, or somehow transforming, the sadness of our life is more appealing to me now than just simply getting rid of it would be. Maybe it makes us understand others better? Maybe we're more open to helping others? 

I don't know where I'm going with this, so I'll close with a little cartoon, shared from Chibird:

I like that. I like the idea of a being that can radiate happiness like a warm glow, even as it has absorbed others' sadness.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

And it's over

I probably shouldn't give out too much detail, but someone was apprehended in my building last night. Like 2 am last night.

It was someone who had a key and apparently at least some of the minor thefts can clearly be traced to them. (Not a fellow faculty member or a staff member, I'll say that much).

I'm relieved yet at the same time kind of freaked out. I am going to take this to mean that it's probably okay for me to come up during the day on Saturdays (guys trying to charge their cell phones notwithstanding - if I see someone outside the building I don't know when I'm getting ready to leave, I will just call campus police and let them know, and let them decide if I need an escort to my car)

We're still getting cameras, and I think we need them, but this arrest was apparently just a lucky instance of someone checking the building and happening to spot the person.

Here's hoping the person still had some of the stuff (papers and important letters in a box) stolen from a colleague. (There was also money in the box and we assume that's gone, but maybe my colleague can at least get the letters from his dad - now deceased - back)

And more reading

I finished "A Rule Against Murder" (Louise Penny) last night. I highly recommend it, especially if you enjoy mystery novels. But even if you don't - there's as much of a story about family there, and a story about trying to wrench some kind of redemption from what you saw as dysfunctional situations of the past.

There are a lot of themes or allusions in the book - Greek myths, especially the ones of Pandora and Pegasus, poetry (Gamache quotes several poems, most extensively High Flight), John Milton....

Without giving too much of the detail away: Armand Gamache and his wife, Reine-Marie, travel to an inn not too far from their home in Quebec. They are a happy couple, they have two adult children, they are celebrating their 35th wedding anniversary. For them, the inn represents happy times in the past - I believe it is where they spent their honeymoon. They are looking forward to a week of swimming and sleeping late and good food and peace. (Gamache is the head of Homicide in the Montreal police department, so having some peace with his wife is essential)

I LIKE both Gamache and his wife. They are good people, decent people. They're not perfect - Gamache has an argument with his son but eventually reconciles, he is perhaps more protective of Reine-Marie than he needs to be. But Gamache is also a wise man - towards the end of the book, where he is quoting Milton at the assembled family involved with the murder, he makes the point that one's attitude makes any place a Heaven or a Hell - to him and Reine-Marie, the inn is a heaven, because it is where they go to get away from the sadness of his work, and it's somewhere where they have had good times. But to a younger homicide detective from the city, it is a Hell, because he can only see the bugs, the "oppressive" quiet, and the lack of internet or cell phone connectivity.

This is actually kind of a theme throughout - the family involved in the murder, the Morrow/Finneys (Morrow was the "old" father's name; Finney is the name of the matriarch's second husband, married after her first one died). They were tremendously wealthy, but none of the children are very happy - all they can feel is that things they "could have had" were withheld from them because, they believed, their father was afraid of them squandering his fortune ("Fear the third" generation, he often said - that the first generation (his parents) make the money, the second generation benefit from it, but the third generation, because they have always known wealth, will spend it foolishly on themselves. There may be some truth in that....). Instead, he was trying to show them that "things" don't make you happy.

This is something that bears more considering: How many of us, I wonder, have had a situation where we said something meant either innocently or as a joke - or where we DIDN'T say something - and the other person took it as a direct slight against them? I've had one or two people in my life that were just exhausting to work with because to them, it was as if everything that happened was done specifically to hurt or demean them.

I guess I tend more often to take the "naive" viewpoint and assume if someone says something that maybe sounds a little off to me, it's because the person is having an "off day" or they said it awkwardly. Though I admit in the real depths of unhappiness over something I do find myself doing a bit of the "making Hell of Heaven" thing - where I catch myself thinking things like, "The people who are my friends really don't like me that well; they merely tolerate me because they pity me and know I'd have no one without them" Which is really quite unfair to my friends as well as not being true.

The whole "looking to be slighted" characteristic in the book is most pronounced in Sandra - Thomas' wife - who is always looking to see, did she get a smaller slice of cake than anyone else? Did someone get seated in a 'better' spot. Apparently she was also a holy terror to some of the workers at the inn, demanding a bigger nicer room and then hinting that they weren't given a "good" room because of, well....because. (Surely you've known people like that. I have).

There are some other undercurrents, some of those things where patrician-type families that don't share information sometimes lead to a kind of brokenness - the matriarch, it turns out, suffers from a kind of neuralgia, and has all her life, and physical contact is almost excruciatingly painful. But because no one explained to the children, they see her as a cold mother who never held them on her lap or hugged them...

At the end, however, some of the hidden information comes out, and each of the children (Well, maybe not Thomas and his wife) come to somewhat of a reconciliation with their past. And the children maybe get a bit past their childhood competitiveness and meanness to one another. (Marianna had the ugly nickname Magilla - like the cartoon gorilla; they called Peter, who was an artist, Spot because he always had spots of paint on him. These nicknames were designed to be demeaning)

Another thing I was thinking of last night, something I realized: Gamache is good at seeing the brokenness in people and understanding it, and essentially forgiving it and trying to work productively with them. And I realized: that's one of my mother's best characteristics. SHE can do that - she's very, very good at looking at someone who is being difficult and understanding the very specific ways in which they are "broken," and she is able to both forgive them for the difficult way they are behaving, and also figure out some way to track them onto a different train of thought so they shut up about whatever petty slight they believe they have suffered. (And more importantly: so they stop picking at that psychic scab and hurting themselves more.)

When I am at my best, I can do this too - I can see where people are hurting and why they behave in that way when they are - but I'm not nearly as good at is as my mother is and I'm not nearly as consistently able to do it; I am too likely to get mired in my OWN hurt and forget that other people are hurting, too.

Maybe my mother would have made a good homicide detective.

There's a lot more to the novel that I'm skipping over, but that's what struck me.

Another character - Bert Finney - the stepfather of the family - he was a prisoner during WWII in Burma. And he comments, towards the end, to Gamache, that he was "never really" in a prison camp, because he saw men die of despair (not dysentery, not the backbreaking work) and concluded that if he kept a constant, running total of his "blessings" (he called it "doing his sums"), he would be free and he would survive. (And that continues the whole theme of "life is attitude").

There's some interesting French Quebecois vs. British Quebecois interactions there - I knew there was tension between the two cultures but did not realize just how much there had been. And there's Gamache having to reconcile what everyone saw his father as having been (a coward - his father was a conscientious objector during WWII and encouraged many of the French Quebecois to resist signing up to fight) and what he knew of his father later on (his father went with the Red Cross to help after the liberation of Bergen-Belsen and his father was *horrified* - and regretted the rest of his life having encouraged people to resist and delay, because he then saw how Canada getting involved earlier might have prevented some of the suffering and death). Only Bert Finney, who had been friends with Gamache's father, was aware of this; the rest of the Morrow/Finneys seemed to like to throw the elder Gamache's "cowardice" in the son's teeth.

One other odd aspect of the book, and I confess I stayed up a little late last night to get to the end because I wanted to see if we'd find out, is that the youngest Morrow daughter (Marianna) has a child (she has never married and does not even say who the father was). She named the child Bean and has refused to reveal the gender of the child to her family. Bean was probably under ten; Bean was obsessed with Greek myths (it is because of the child that the whole Pegasus idea comes into the story). Alas, Bean's gender is never revealed....

it's funny, at first I was figuring Bean had to be a girl, now, at the end of the book, I think maybe Bean was a boy. It doesn't matter, I suppose, but I wanted to find out.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

"100 'best' novels"

Lynn linked to this, and mentioned the ones she's read (and ones she wants to read). I guess I'll do it too:

Robinson Crusoe: Had to read this for "Senior Seminar" in high school. I actually enjoyed it even though it has really in depth detail. I liked the detail on how Crusoe lived. (We also read, I think it was called "Friday," by a French author (in translation)  which was a re-telling, and I didn't like it as well because it fell into the modern trap of "we have to put some sex in there so people will read it" and it was WEIRD sex (at least to me as an innocent highschooler.) Let's just say the island became Crusoe's girlfriend and leave it at that)

I started Gulliver's Travels but something about it depressed me, or I was going through a rough time and I got depressed about it and gave up on it.

Jane Eyre: read it a couple times as a teen. Loved it as a teen. Tried to re-read it recently, found it somewhat overwrought.

Wuthering Heights: Read it in Book Club. I found it also a bit overwrought and the whole "I'm going to waste away for the one I love" thing isn't for me. I think I actually enjoyed the movie more, even though I know lots of people say the movie is flawed.

David Copperfield: read it as summer reading in high school, don't remember too much of it.

Moby-Dick - got most of the way through earlier, I need to pick this one back up.

Alice's Adventures: read both this and Through The Looking Glass several times. I had the annotated version by Martin Gardner and really enjoyed it and felt I learned a lot. They're not just funny strange books for children; there's a lot of metaphysics in them.

Middlemarch: I maintain that this is one of the best books I've ever read. I should re-read it sometime. It's probably my favorite novel ever. Much of that is because it shows people making bad choices in life but then learning how to ameliorate those choices, rather than doing the "modern" thing and totally walking away from them.

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn: read in high school. We also read a lot of the then-current criticism of it for the "n word" and also some information pointing out Twain was really an anti-racist. (And anyway, he put the n-word in the mouth of a dislikable and ignorant person)

Dracula: Read it in high school. I liked it, re-read it after that class was done. It's creepy and well-written, it's suspenseful without awfulness and gore.

The Wind in the Willows: I probably read this eight or ten times as a kid. I LOVED this book. I used to act out scenes from it with some of my stuffed toys. I felt sorry for Mr. Toad when he went to "gaol."

The Thirty-Nine Steps: I enjoyed it but admit to being a bit surprised it made the list.

The Great Gatsby: I understand why this is seen as a great book but I always found it depressing because all the characters seemed pretty much useless in it. No one DID anything with their life.

Brave New World: Creepy as heck, and I think it's probably the dystopian future we will get, if we get a dystopian future, and it may be the one we DESERVE.

Cold Comfort Farm: I loved this one. Very, very funny. I should re-read it. I loved the cows named Feckless and similar. I loved the girl who thought she was an elf.

Nineteen-Eighty-Four: Yeah, I read a lot of dystopian stuff as a teen. This one I also found creepy as everything.

The Catcher in the Rye: I loved this as a teen, do not think I would still love it today, I would probably roll my eyes at Holden and all his concern about "phonies"

The Lord of the Flies: Was made to both read this and watch the black and white movie of it in high school. Also a creepy book. (They made us read an awful lot of creepy and depressing stuff) I didn't like it because I feared in that situation I'd be the Piggy.

 To Kill a Mockingbird: A book I'm very fond of for how it captures an era and how evocative it is.

The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie: Uncomfortable in places, one of those books where you look at one of the characters and go "Why on earth are you doing that, don't you know you're screwing up your life" (about her affairs)

A Clockwork Orange: Also read in high school. How do you say "Creepy as hell" in Droogish? (Again: there's an awful lot of dystopian futures on this list)

The Bell Jar: Made me sad, but I suppose that was the aim. I didn't feel like it changed my life in the way that some people seem to say it had. I was already an adult (in my 20s) when I read it, so that might be why.

Breathing Lessons: I read most of Anne Tyler's stuff back in the day. I don't remember this one all that well, but as I remember she was really great at capturing dialog, and especially those sort of hypocritical loops that some people get mired in. I think "The Accidental Tourist" was my favorite of hers.

(Hah. I guess I find a lot of "great" books creepy, but maybe the subject matter is what makes them seen as great? I don't like "creepy" all that well, I like "people who face problems and overcome them" better)

There are a number of "I want to read" on that list:

Tom Jones, because I've heard it's extremely funny.

Tristram Shandy, for similar reasons

Emma, which will probably be the next "classic" novel I read.

Vanity Fair - I have a nice Heritage Press copy of this, really should read it some time.

The Moonstone - I read "The Woman in White" and really enjoyed it. I also think I have a nice older edition of this somewhere.

Little Women - yes, I confess, I never have read this all the way through.

The Way We Live Now - I enjoyed the other Trollope I've read and this is usually considered to be his "best."

Three Men in a Boat - after reading "To Say Nothing of the Dog," I think I want to read this, some references were made to it.

The History of Mr Polly - because it is one of the few on this list I'd never heard of before.

Gentlemen Prefer Blondes - which is also supposed to be very funny.

The Heat of the Day: WWII era London is fascinating to me and I think I would find a novel written about the Blitz interesting.

Mrs Palfrey and the Claremont: Because I just like British "domestic" novels.

some endangered skills?

A little while back, Jen X67  referred to a British Ordnance (they were the people who mapped the UK, back in the day) survey about skills that were being lost:

20 Skills Facing Extinction

According to the survey, younger generations have a lack of interest in things like reading maps, tying knots and remembering phone numbers. They don’t know how to knit, use a compass, darn a sock or write in cursive. Here are the following 20 skills face extinction.
1. Reading a map
2. Using a compass
3. Tie a specific knot
4. Darn socks
5. Looking something up in a book using an index rather than ‘Googling it’
6. Correct letter-writing technique
7. Understanding pounds and ounces
8. Knowing your spelling and grammar
9. Converting pounds and ounces to grams and kilograms
10. Starting a fire from nothing
11. Handwriting
12. Understanding feet and inches
13. Knitting
14. Remembering a friend or relative’s phone number
15. Remembering a partner’s phone number
16. Identifying trees, insects, flowers
17. Touch typing
18. Baking bread from scratch
19. Taking up trousers
20. Wiring a plug

Okay. So here are my thoughts:

1. Yes, I can do this. Learned as a child. My dad used to hand the map off to me and have me "navigate" because then I could see how much farther it was and I wouldn't ask him. I also learned how to read topographic maps and soils maps from assisting him with research. I still use paper maps to figure out routes; I don't own a GPS.

2. I can do this, haven't used it recently. My dad had a big Brunton compass (can be set to magnetic declination) that I borrowed for some of my fieldwork.

3. I can tie a few knots but I don't know them all. I think I could learn some of the unknown ones pretty quickly if I took up a skill (like sailing) that required them.

4. Yes, I can do this. I can also reknit parts of socks if needed.

5. This was the first 6 or so years of grad school for me, so yes. I have also edited an index for a book my advisor wrote.

6. Haven't written a letter in years but I remember some of the differences between a formal letter, a business letter, and a "friend" letter.

7. Yes, though I use metric more commonly in the lab. I sometimes use ounces in cooking.

8. Yes, not 100% perfect and there are a few words I need to look up, but at least I TRY.

9. I always have to look this up. I'm better at converting lengths, because of knitting.

10. How much from "nothing"? I could manage with wood, kindling, tinder, and a match, or possibly tinder, a magnifying glass, and a sunny day, but I doubt I could make one of those bow-drills and have it work. Or at any rate I've never tried. Points for knowing about bow-drills, though?

11. Yes, but mine is lousy. I mostly print.

12. Yes, though again: I use metric more commonly in research.

13. That's why I started this blog, first of all: to show off my knitting. I also know how to crochet and how to sew - both by hand and on the machine.

14. "The number I know best" as Archie Goodwin used to say, though in this case it's my parents' number.

15. I'm sure I could if I had a partner. (I presume they mean romantic partner, not business partner, but the concept is the same). I also remember the phone number of the office at church, several offices on campus, and a couple people I call regularly.

16. This is a big part of my gig and something I take considerable pride in being able to do. It's one thing I'm extremely good at, and I don't lightly claim to be good at things.

17. Yup, developed this skill in graduate school. (Before, I was a hunt-and-peck typist, I didn't type THAT much)

18. Yes, I can do this. My bread is still not as good as my mom's, though - it tends to be dryer and coarser, maybe I add too much flour?

19. I can do this but I admit if I'm up at my parents and I buy new pants and my mom offers to do it for me, I let her. I think if I had a choice I'd take them to a tailor because taking up trousers is a little tedious.

20. Like replacing the plug on a lamp? I think I could do that with a good guidebook. Rewiring a wall-plug, I admit I would call someone for that.

I would also add: I can change a tire. I can replace the wax seal on a toilet and also fix the "guts" in a standard toilet. I know how to get calcium deposits out of a clogged shower head. I can trim branches off of trees and I know the proper technique for tree-trimming. I can do minor carpentry if I have access to the proper tools. I know how to throw a pot on a potters wheel though it's probably been 30 years since I did. I can make soup stock from scratch, in fact, most of my cooking is largely 'from scratch.' I know how to test to see if a raw egg is still good or has gone off without breaking the shell.

I could probably butcher an animal provided I had a sharp enough knife and an anatomy textbook to remind me. I could probably suture a wound if I had the right tools and a patient who wasn't screaming too loudly or throwing up on me. In theory I can change the oil on my car even though I have never bothered to do it myself.

They also apparently listed "10 essential skills for modern life"

Top 10 skills considered essential in modern day life

The survey also reveals the top 10 skills considered essential in modern day life.
1. Searching the Internet
2. Using/ connecting to WiFi
3. Using a smart phone
4. Online banking
5. Knowing about privacy setting online
6. Searching and applying for jobs inline
7. Being able to turn water off at the mains
8. Using and following a sat-nav
9. Updating and installing computer programs
10. Working a tablet

1. Yes, and actually I'm pretty good at it. Also pretty good at discerning "fact or crap?"

2. Yeah, if I have printed instructions noting any of the weird quirks of the system. My home 'puter is set to automatically find my wifi and log on. I don't do a lot of work away from home that requires wifi.

3. Nope. I could learn.

4. Nope, not really interested in doing that at this point.

5. Yeah, more or less. I don't FB so I can avoid some of the more egregiously bad "privacy."

6. I sort of did this to get this gig. Would rather not have to do it ever again. (I have submitted manuscripts through an online process so I count that.)

7. Yes, and I have the right tool for that now. Also it has an attachment to turn off the gas from the gas meter, which would arguably be more urgent in a real emergency.

8. I could figure it out but really am not interested in having one at this point.

9. Yes, have done this multiple times.

10. I could learn. Surely it's not much different from the newer laptops.

Incidentally, if we suffer an EMP or that solar-flare event that fries all the the technology, you're welcome to come and camp in my yard. I might even make bread or knit socks for you if you are good at telling stories or if you are willing to help defend my "homestead" against  the zombie hordes.

I don't know what those differences mean: I can do nearly all of the "vanishing" skills, and only maybe half of the "new" ones. That's a little scary, but then again, I could probably LEARN many of the new skills if I really needed them - I am slowly adapting to the truly stupid and illogical online interface that "Connect" uses - I have to use the site to make homeworks for my classes.

I'm also thinking now of Heinlein's famous list of things a man should be able to do, which includes conn a ship (I don't think I could, not without training) or diaper a baby (I never have, but I bet I could figure it out fast). I can pitch manure and take and give orders, and if I had enough time and a reminder of the scansion, I could probably write a sonnet.

Good and bad

The good: I got my final rosters for all my classes (add period is over). The person who gave me a pain in a place I can't locate has dropped my class.

The not-so-good: I seem to have tweaked my left shoulder somehow. It hurts considerably, or it did both yesterday morning and this morning when I got up. And it's stiff. Exercising it helps some, and the ibuprofen I gave in and took this morning helped a lot.

I'm guessing it's some kind of arthritis; that's the elbow I broke more than 20 years ago now, and that's also the shoulder that took most of the impact when I stepped off my porch and fell two years ago. At the time I didn't think I had overly damaged anything but I suppose it's possibly I mildly broke my collarbone or something. I'm hoping this pain goes away on its own. It's not intolerable but it's annoying and it makes doing some things more difficult (zipping up my dress - a back zip - yesterday was more of a challenge)

If it doesn't get better on its own in a few days (or when this (expletive deleted) humidity goes down), I'll go to the doctor and see if she can refer me to someone who can teach me exercises for it. I'd MUCH rather do exercises to cope with the pain than take yet another med, and from what I've seen of other people with arthritis, exercises seem to be at least as effective as medication.

It's worst when I get up, I suppose from sleeping with it in one position or something. I can also periodically feel (and kind of hear) the shoulder "pop" or "click," which makes me worry about shoulder separations or dislocations, but I think that would cause a lot more pain and loss of function, no?

(It's possibly bursitis. It feels a bit like the bursitis I got in my hip. The good news is there are simple exercises you can do to fix that kind of bursitis, or, if it's rotator-cuff-associated pain. I don't think it's a BAD injury to the rotator cuff; I can still move my arm through the full range, it just hurts. And the hurt gets less after I've moved it.)

Monday, August 24, 2015

This and that

* Most of the weekend was spent reading textbook chapters, updating my knowledge for the basic bio class (we changed textbooks, this one has added some stuff, and uses some different terminology, so I have to read up on it).

One of the things is that taxonomic classification - which I learned as Kingdom, Phylum, Class, Order, Genus, Species and which I recently learned to amend with a Domain on top of Kingdom ("Dumb King Philip Came Over...."?) now ALSO has a "Supergroup" for some classifications inserted between Domain and Kingdom. ("Dumb Stupid King Philip....")

Yeah. Supergroup. Being a child of the 70s, I got a few giggles out of that, wondering where Little River Band or Emerson, Lake, and Palmer would fit in.

(I'm not convinced how much useful information "Supergroup" adds. Domain is useful, I can see that....)

* Still enjoying Duolingo. Today, I learned a few adjectives, and the useful sentence:

"Nein, du bist toll" ("No, you're awesome".....though "toll" can also translate to "great" and maybe some other things. I guess in the old days it meant "mad" or "crazy"?)

I admit, I now want a poster of someone doing that cheesy smile-point-wink thing and that says, "Wer ist toll? Du, du bist toll!" (Who's awesome? YOU'RE awesome!). Better even if I can find the one of a cat appearing to do a "Who's awesome? YOU'RE awesome" expression.

* I wrote this week's biostats homework. It has a question about means and medians, and my "data source" was (made up) incomes of full professors at a bunch of fictional universities. I thought of this a while back but could only remember Faber College (Animal House), Wossamotta U (Rocky and Bullwinkle) and Greendale Community College (Community).

Like everything else, Wikipedia has a now my list has Miskatonic University (students matriculating there go crazy, I think, and the diplomas are written in the language of the Elder Gods) and Empire State College (Marvel) and Sweet Valley University (ick, but whatever. Apparently when the Sweet Valley High girls grew up, that's where they went). And also the college Daria went to....

I don't KNOW that anyone will notice or get it but I find those kinds of things personally amusing so even if no one does it's okay.

* KnitPicks sent me an e-mail advertising an e-book of patterns.

Patterns for kids. One was for a hat called Eraserhead. It looks like a pencil eraser.

Cute hat, but of course I thought of the movie first. I tried watching it once when it was on TCM or somewhere and only got about 20 minutes in before I got creeped out by it and had to turn it off (It's a Designed to be disturbing). I'm guessing the pattern author never saw the movie.

I don't have the stomach for that kind of designed-to-be-disturbing, surrealist stuff. At least not on film. (I actually liked Kafka's Metamorphosis when I read it in school, though that might be because it felt like a palate-cleanser after Chopin's "The Awakening" which I remember as a privileged woman complaining about her privilege)

* I pulled the Hagrid sweater out and broke the stall on it. I decided I can't start anything new until I finish a few of the ongoing projects. I'm not very far on the front yet but at least the back is all done....

And still more

Apparently someone was loitering outside the building on Saturday (I'm glad I've decided not to come up on weekends....) My chair ran into him, called the police. The man apparently thought he had a warrant against him (I'm surprised he copped to that) but there was nothing the police turned up, so they told him to leave.

Turns out there's an outdoor plug there - the guy was charging his phone and using our free wifi.

And yeah, I get that charging a phone takes almost NO electricity, but still - we can't be the free electric outlet for the entire town; we are already under severe budget cuts as it is.

Also, it's CREEPY to have unknown people loitering around. I don't care if that makes me a misanthrope, it's creepy. I don't want to be up here alone and have J. Random Dude hanging around when I come out. I've been catcalled a few times in my life, I had an incident in a train station once where a guy tried to chat me up and was becoming progressively more pushy, and I was about to abandon my luggage and run when another man came in and the guy immediately shut up and left. I once had to move to the lounge car on the train (and explain to the conductor why) when some guy kept trying to give me his address (he had a strange hair fetish; he told me he wanted me to mail him my ponytail if I ever cut it off). I've been panhandled aggressively in more cities than I care to remember. So I have a lot of bad stranger-experiences.

Those cameras can't get here fast enough, and I hope they put one trained on the front door.

We are also working to either turn off that outlet, or put a lock-box on it. Frankly, I think our wifi hotspot should also be turned off on the weekends, but what do I know?

At least this morning the lot wasn't trashed. But I don't want this to escalate to someone getting mugged or worse.

For the nonce, when I'm up here in the early mornings alone, I made a sign for my door saying, "Please knock. I am in but for security concerns I am keeping my door closed when I think I am in the building alone." And yeah, someone really bent on hurting me would knock and I wouldn't know (maybe we need peepholes in our doors), but at least it keeps anyone roaming away.

This town is way too darn small and has too crummy shopping and too few museums for me to put up with this level of creepiness and crime on campus.

Conversion to hermit: 85% complete. Now I just need to find some way of getting groceries without going to the store, and get myself used to the idea of teaching online.

Edited to add: this is a little extreme (I don't want to stab everyone on Earth; it's more like I want to run home, lock the door, and only open it for the UPS guy bringing me yarn) but this kind of sums up the past two Monday mornings:

Edited to add, again: here's one that's maybe a little more realistic for me.

Added note: why are pictures of Fluttershy crying, especially when linked with "grown up" feelings or responses, so disturbing? I once re-captioned a Fluttercry picture with the old Prof. Farnsworth, "I don't want to live on this planet any more" and wow, that was uncomfortable.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

A little parody

The New Zealander singer Lorde had a popular song a year or so ago, called "Royals," in which she called out the "pop culture lifestyle" where there are all these hollow signifiers (brands of vodka, types of jewelry) that people spend their money on. (And one reason why some pop stars and athletes go broke is trying to keep up that lifestyle, or the idea that there's so much money that it will never run out). It's an interesting song, though I admit I have listened more to the Postmodern Jukebox version (which is sung by "Puddles" - a seven foot tall man dressed as a clown) than to the original.

But I got to thinking about it, and about how there are ALWAYS signifiers of status where-ever you go. Even among those who claim to be frugal, there's the whole, "How long I waited before giving in and turning on the air conditioning" or "how old my car is and it's still running"

But my main experience was in my growing-up years. I grew up in a fairly wealthy town, but my parents (a) had less money and (b) were more frugal than many people's parents were. So a lot of the things that other kids had, I didn't (nor did my brother). It doesn't matter now, of course, and I think the lesson I learned about caring less about the silly status-symbol things was important, but at the time it was really not fun - especially with clothes; I got teased for having "cheap" clothes, which really kind of stunk to have to go through.

As I've also said before, I don't think if I had had more disposable income, or parents more willing to spend frivolously, that I would have had popularity; I was just one of those kids who wouldn't be, no matter what. So really listening to the lyrics of Royals - well, it's kind of a comparable situation, though with different stuff and a lower price.

So, off and on, I was trying to rewrite the song in my head, listing off the various "status items" that were big when I was a kid. This isn't a perfect rewrite (it doesn't scan very well in places) but it does kind of capture the feel...

A parody of “Royals”

We never owned a BMW
I rode around in an old Ford my dad had painted
And my house was ordinary
In a bland development, no historic district
But school was like:
Bermuda bags,
Bonne Bell
Lisa Frank Trapper Keepers
Jordache jeans
new Ataris
Add-a-bead necklaces
I didn’t care; I was set on university
But my peers were like:
Pierced ears
Parties on the weekends
Wine coolers
Ocean Pacific
Brand new Nikes
I didn’t care, I was still into teddy bears
And I’ll never be cool (cool)
I cared too much about my grades
That kind of life just ain't for me, I’m too much of a nerd.
Let me be just myself (myself)
You can call me geeky.
And baby I'll read, I'll math, I'll do science, I'll learn
Let me live my own life.