Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Summers gone by

(Doing a few time-embargoed posts in my absence. I will be back in early June)

Summers were different when I was a kid. I suspect part of it was the lack of expectations that existed for me. I was a kid. My raisons d'etre were to go to school during the school year, and to have fun when I was out of school. My whole life stretched in front of me; I didn't have a "legacy" to worry about, or responsibilities heavier than the few chores I did.

And so summer was really a vacation. It was all about having fun.

Several years running, the last day of school (which was also often a half-day, and just a "clean out your lockers/return your textbooks" day, and the school already felt empty and smelled like summer), the bus driver would take the route in the opposite way - going to what had been the last stop first, and as a result, we got to see areas of the route we normally never saw.

And then, that getting off the bus on the last day of school, the summer stretching before me like a clean sheet of paper waiting to be drawn on. And there were things to do:

- The library book club
- Running around and "exploring" the neighborhood (including an area laid out for, but never built to when we were kids, a housing development) with the kids across the street
- Climbing trees
- Trying to catch frogs with my friend Elizabeth
- Playing with my stuffed animals. Or my little plastic animals. Or with Lego. Or coloring/drawing/writing stories

A couple of years there was day camp for a few weeks, where I got to swim and play tennis and do crafts and hang around with other kids (and several of them were my relatively-few school friends, and even at that....I don't remember the mean girls from school being there, so I don't know, maybe there were kids from other districts? Or maybe the "rules" that held during school were in abeyance?)

I do remember going out early in the morning and it being cool and slightly damp (it got cold enough overnight for there to be dew nearly every night) and the world looked and especially smelled fresh and new.

And that's something I miss in our hot summers as an adult - many mornings now I walk out and the world smells just as stale and old as it did the night before. I do not think it is just being a disillusioned adult, because there are a few days - usually in May, here, now - that I do get a sense of that memory, of walking out into a cool morning that is like a blessing even if the day is going to be hot, and getting that sense of things seeming new...

Monday, May 20, 2019

Guess I'm ready

I don't like leaving with potentially heavy weather moving in. Oh, it's not likely to be bad where I am going, but I have people I care about in this region and I will be concerned about them.

I'm all packed. I did the various Things I must do before leaving home for a time (setting a lamp on a timer, putting automatic waterers on my plants, unplugging the various devices that generate heat, raising the temperature on the thermostat so the air conditioning doesn't run quite so much). The mail is being held, the last couple bills that came in have been paid.

I've got a bunch of books, including the huge "The Three Musketeers" and I have the two pairs of socks-in-progress and Harvest (I decided against starting a new sweater). I have a bunch of sockyarn and patterns, and the yarn for "Wingspan" and the pattern and needle needed for that. And the dress pattern and the fabric and pattern for the nightshirt.

And other things. I joked on Twitter that Ocellus is getting her trial run at being a "comfort stuffie" - I tucked her in my carry on. But I also took Fluttershy, "in case Ocellus needs some tutoring." I dunno. The little whimsy of that appeals to me. (I could see Ocellus wanting to serve a comforter role, but also be nervous about doing it "right"). I also stuck the squishmallow sloth in there - I call her Slothilda, after the cute sloth in the online comics - because she can serve as a pillow in an emergency.

My parents tend to stick closer to home these days (my dad is not very mobile) so I have to be sure to have enough to do. I can go out and go do things myself but....that's not that much different then than being down here.

I don't know whether to leave a little early or not, in case of running into heavy rain on the way. On the one hand, I hate sitting forever in the station, but on the other - it's awfully stressful to worry if you're going to make it (currently my train is on time, but that usually changes between Fort Worth and Dallas, unless the freight companies aren't running as many freights right now with the concern about bad weather).


I have a bunch of time-embargoed posts - one every other day or so - and depending, I may be able to throw up a real time post or two. I may try to check once I get in to Illinois to be sure that my mutuals in Oklahoma made it through the bad weather OK. Though now it's looking like it might be AFTER drive time, and it might actually be more Stillwater than Oklahoma City, so....I don't know.

hoping very hard

This is gonna be a bad day for weather in the Central Plains.

I have friends scattered around Oklahoma and some in North Texas, and I hope they all come through this okay. I hope if any tornadoes form, they do so out in rangeland where nobody gets hurt and nothing gets destroyed. (Or, at most, someone loses a shed).

Moore closed its schools for the day, out of an excess of caution, but it has me scratching my head ever so slightly because all the schools, I thought, were rebuilt with storm shelters, and I suspect not every family in Moore has a family shelter...it's gonna be chaos if bad weather comes in and people have to GET to shelters. (I hope they open the school shelters for people!)

I know I don't have a storm shelter, though I admit I've contemplated the idea. Maybe before I get the back fence replaced, I see how expensive it would be to have a smallish one put in the backyard. Or one of the aboveground ones put in in place of the useless potting shed on the back of my garage. Because in a bad tornado, hiding out in my bathtub under pillows would not do it. (And sometimes going to a public shelter is not a viable idea, not if you have only short notice, and to be quite honest? The one time I did go to a public shelter it was...unpleasant. I wound up being talked at by someone who wanted to tell people about a botched surgery she had. I mean, I'm already stressed if a tornado is threatening, I don't need the added stress of trying to interact with some stranger.

But also: I have to drive to Mineola this afternoon to catch a train. Yes, that will be east of the area of "most likely extreme severe weather" but still: it may be storming while I drive, and I do not like driving in storms. And if there are tornado warnings in the area the train is supposed to go through, they stop it and hold it....and delays tend to add up.

(Interestingly, The Weather Channel is sounding a LOT more Armageddon-y about the weather than the National Weather Service or Accuweather are, at least for central and north-central Oklahoma. I hope it's just The Weather Channel being The Weather Channel and wanting people to freak out a little. I hope no tornadoes form)

Also, I will probably be traveling through an area the heavy weather moves INTO overnight (Arkansas and Missouri). I hope everything goes OK.

I have to change out of my exercise gear, and put the last few things (make up, toothbrush, etc.) in my carry on, and I have a few things I need to do over at school....and I need to do stuff like put the lamps on a timer and all.

I've written a few time-embargoed posts; I will most likely be back around the 5th of June.

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Ocellus is done

So in between packing (I'm still not done but can finish tomorrow) and doing some last-minute brush trimming (around the air conditioner so it doesn't work so hard, and around the front yaupon hollies so it looks less messy and is easier when AJ comes to mow), I did finish the "fiddly bits" on Ocellus.

(Thank goodness for DuckTales marathons. Even though I'd seen every episode shown today I still enjoyed having it as background noise. It really is one of the most excellent reboots)

So anyway. Lots of fiddly bits and I guess I appreciate the designer's commitment to doing EVERYTHING in yarn without using felt....though I admit, had I been designing her? The eyes would have been felt and embroidery and the elytra would also be felt. As would maybe the tail and mane...

Ocellus side

The eyes are maybe a *bit* large, though on the actual cartoon Ocellus they are large, because she is fundamentally a bug:

(I hope that uploaded OK; the filename was as a "WebP image" and it only saves as a "chrome symbol" on my laptop).

I also added a little embroidered mouth because I think she needed it

Ocellus 1


Here's a shot of her "elytra":






And the standard "webcam with me" shot (no makeup, hair still damp, pajamas):

I like Ocellus as a character: she is portrayed as kind of shy (she tries to blend in, frequently by shape-shifting into a yellow pony with an overbite and a ladybug cutie mark) and it's implied she's the most book-smart of the Young Six (or at least the most studious) but she is also somewhat literal-minded (though perhaps all the Changelings are). And I admit those are all traits I tend to share with her. (Well, I am maybe not as shy, though I do like to kind of blend in with the group instead of sticking out).

Saturday, May 18, 2019

working on Ocellus

Well, I got what I thought was her second back leg done, and then I looked at the first one (which I had not stuffed or attached yet) and realized I'd made a third front leg, so....poot. I decided rather than trying to fix it, I'd just start the leg over. So I did.

The big parts of her crocheting are done. She still lacks the snout, ears, "horn,"* eyes, mane, tail, and elytra (that's what I'm calling the decorations that go on her back; that's what you call them on a beetle.

(Ocellus is a Changeling from My Little Pony. Originally these were kind of unattractive things - basically wasplike and creatures full of holes. They (mostly) got a redemption story where one of them figured out that they didn't need to be like they had been...and they transformed into pretty pastel bug horse things. Ocellus is one of the students at Twilight's school. She is sweet but very literal-minded, which is partly why I like her)


(*As these are buglike creatures, maybe it's an antenna?)

Anyway, here she is thus far. I may add other photos as I continue to work; my goal is to finish her this weekend if not tonight:

Even though she fundamentally resembles a beetle mashed up with a horse, she does have hymenopteran-like stripes around her middle.

The "snout" comes next...

She has a snoot:


Eyes and ears. (Still lacking horn, mane, tail, and elytra)


Friday, May 17, 2019

Friday afternoon things

* Slowly approaching "escape velocity." I have the Mary-Quant-inspired dress pattern and the nightshirt pattern (and stitch fabric) already tucked in my suitcase (and my mom's birthday card - I ordered a gift for her, to be sent to her, but I bought a separate card).

I have to think about other projects. Am tempted to just bring some new things to start but I also feel like I should be disciplined and finish the couple pairs of socks I have going, and try to finish Harvest.

* Mowed the lawn this afternoon - supposed to storm all weekend. I do have the son of a friend from church lined up to do it once or twice while I am gone (I will pay him of course). It was VERY humid - dewpoint in the upper 60s. I forget that I have asthma because it is normally so well controlled UNTIL I have to mow the lawn on a humid day and then I am gasping for air. I'm okay now, though, and in a few minutes will wash my hair. (I also set the mower - I use a reel-type mower, so no gas, just my own muscle power - to a lower cut so AJ won't need to come quite so soon).

* I got a fair amount done on the paper. I think it will be just a Note because I am now doubting slightly some of the identifications we did 18 years ago (as in: was it REALLY Lespedeza violacea or could we have confused Lespedeza cuneata - the invasive one that's out there now - with it). I'm still gonna try even though it might get rejected. I'm telling myself I can still count a "try" on my productivity for next year, and who knows, it might be good enough.

I have a hard time with this sort of thing. I do not like working on something and having it come to nothing, and I hate submitting what feels like less than my best possible work because I imagine reviewers/editors thinking "why on EARTH did she think something like THAT was publishable" but then I know lots and lots of people submit stuff that gets rejected (and maybe this is another one of those situations where women academics joke about "God grant me the confidence of a mediocre man" because I have seen some people...not just men...who were Not Great but who had a very high degree of confidence, and I kinda wish I had that kind of confidence.

* I'll have to try to decide whether to take it and work on it. I have all the stuff on a flash drive and I *could* work on it if I get bored.

*  I think I want to work on Ocellus this weekend. Really there's not that much more to do on her, just the various fiddly bits. If she turns out super cute she might be one of my "comfort critters" for when I travel. She is SMOL compared to most of the Ponies I have made, but then, she's canonically smaller.

* Reading away on "The Three Musketeers." I'm getting more into it now, and even though it's a truly huge hardback, I might drag it with me on vacation to read on it. It is funny how some of the basic tropes seep into our culture, but the main storyline (the idea that the King's Musketeers and the Cardinal's are kind of at loggerheads, and they fight....and even kill each other) has been lost. I suppose "court intrigue" is the thing. (And yeah. It surprised me how coldly and baldly they talked about D'Artagnan killing a man, though I guess in his defense, the guy did attack the Musketeers but....I tend to forget how violent life used to (? maybe still is in some quarters) be. I've talked about how I could probably ONLY ever kill someone if I felt my life was directly threatened, and I'm not even sure I could then....if I could disable the person enough that I could safely get away, that would be enough for me (Knee to the groin, not sure how effective that is, but that's what we women were always told in college. Or go for the eyes....)

* I should photograph the incredibly cute tiny treadle sewing machine I got out of a blindbox. I gambled and bought the last few "Modern Girl" blindboxes that Superbuzzy had....I really, really wanted the sewing machine. (I got four boxes. One was shoes, hats, a hat box, and something like a photograph album; another was an old-style (1920s) phone with a phone stand and a purse, another was a small dressing table and some cosmetics, and the very last one was the sewing machine). It's a bit smaller than dollhouse sized (usually 1:12 scale) but it's super cute. (No, Wilbur does not sew, and I think it's a bit small for him, but I might put the phone in his house.)

I guess the "story" behind these was that they were things a Japanese teen/early 20s woman would have had in the 1920s....it's kind of cool to see, from a historical/cultural perspective.

If I ever get more time (and make more space in my house!) I'd like to get into dollhouses again; I had a very detailed roughly-1920s era one when I was a teen and I loved researching what the right accessories and furniture would be. And yes, in a way...it's kind of an imaginary-friends thing (I *always* had inhabitants in my dollhouses, either actual dolls or small teddy bears or toy mice) but also a "this is a thing I have complete control over" and I admit as a tween and teen I took a weird comfort from setting up the house and trying to make sure that the family that lived there was "comfortable" - that there were nice linens on the beds, and they had little books, and a tiny checkers board with beads as the "men" so they wouldn't be bored....sort of a care-taking thing, I guess.

Another thing I did recently: I got to thinking of a book I got out from the (Hudson, this was when I was a kid) public library a lot to look at - called Colleen Moore's Doll House. This is a thing at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago, I guess (It may be stored away now and not out on display). It was a Fairy Castle and because Moore was essentially Hollywood royalty in the 1920s, there was nothing held back in the construction of the house (but also, as I remember, it was taken on tour to raise money for a children's charity, too). It had tiny pipes that ran distilled water (to avoid corrosion) and had tiny grain-of-wheat light bulbs....and jewelled furniture, and fascinating fairy-tale themed things. And it was all very beautiful and nice to look at. (But she never had dolls made of the Prince and Princess who lived there....preferring for each person to imagine them).

And I hunted around, and found a used copy for not too much money....it came the other day. And it's as lovely as I remember, and there are some things I had forgotten about the castle.

(Someday I want to see it. I mean, if it's still possible to).

One thing I find I do as an adult is seek out things I loved as a kid (so: this book, and a couple of others I've bought used, perhaps even ex-library) but also things I wanted but didn't have (some of the re-issued Strawberry Shortcake dolls, especially the vintage-style Orange Blossom, and the My Little Ponies that I thought I was too old for when I was a tween....)

There are few enough consolations of adulthood, I think. And anyway, this book was a lot cheaper than shoes or a purse or even a couple of fancy cocktails....

* Edited to add, about 9 pm: I also forgot to note that my laptop now has a NEW BATTERY to replace the old one that failed (I don't know whether it just got old - the laptop is about five years old now - or if I let it drain out to nothing one too many times, or what, but Tuesday it started telling me "something's wrong with the battery" and even though it claimed a full charge, the laptop would shut off immediately I unplugged it from the power cord).

Called a new-ish local repair place and asked. The young man I spoke to said "We're not busy, if you have a moment, bring the laptop in and I can look at it, to be honest, you could probably order a battery off of Amazon..." but I felt like (a) I want to support a local business and (b) I want someone who knows what they are doing to change out the battery.

So he looked at it, snapped a cell-phone photo of the model number of the battery, told me he'd call.

Turns out he called minutes after I left the shop - I didn't notice the message until the next morning but no harm, no foul. For about $40, I could have a new battery with 1 1/2 times the hours-of-charge of the old one. So I called him back, said "Yeah, I'd like that, go ahead and order it." He said it should be in on Friday.

It was. He called midmorning today to say it was in, I ran down there at lunch. Five minutes and it was fixed, he had me power up to be sure everything was copacetic. Nice guy, good service. The place is called Computer Techs though I doubt anyone in my town reads this blog - I'd recommend them. They seem to do most of their business in cell phone repair. (I'm sure if I had a smart phone I'd be getting the screen replaced on the regular; I tend to be clumsy about things like that and drop them. And you can bet I clutched my laptop HARD on the way out of the house, out of the car, and back into the house....I had a mental image of it slipping and smashing on the sidewalk. But I got it back in safely and am happy to be able to operate on battery alone again)

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Made a decision

So, that Mary Quant style dress I talked about.

I am printing out (on my home printer, and yes, I'll have to tape 43 pages together, but I will have a lot of time while up at my parents') the pattern and instructions for it.

I decided to do this even though I MAY not get to the JoAnn's here to look for fabric...I had thought of going Saturday but it's supposed to storm pretty badly (And tomorrow I need to go back in and work on the manuscript; I was felled by an early afternoon headache and I have piano in like two hours so I'm not going back now.)

But my parents have a (smaller) JoAnn's near them. And a couple of quilt-fabric shops. I'm not 100% in love with the idea of using a crisp quilting cotton for it, but whatever - that might be the only way to get a print I like.

(the Sewing Studio closed/moved. They moved to another town and I'm not sure if they still exist, anyway, it sounded like they were going more to a "sewing for kids" model, and, sigh)

However - when I called my mom to ask about fabric sources - and also if she had any more of the "pattern tracing cloth" (a non-woven, very thin fabric sort of thing - kind of like see-through synthetic felt, really, that you can use to make patterns from) she did mention that she might have something in her stash I could use.

(My mom has LOTS of fabric, some of it going back - still - to the 1970s. I know she had some of the old Jessica McClintock prints, but I may have used those up on other things AND also the ones I remember were smaller pieces than the perhaps-five-yards I am estimating it would take. (It might take less than that, to be honest: they seem to propose about 2 3/4 yards for a 56" wide fabric, and while MOST dressmaker fabrics range from 40" to 45" of usable width....I know there's a conversion somewhere but 5 yards would EASILY be safe, even if I made it longer AND made the sleeves, and I definitely want sleeves)

Okay, their layout DOES include sleeves....and this conversion chart seems to suggest a 3 1/2 yard comparison to the 2 3/4 of the wider one....which is a LOT more manageable, but of course, if I get something with a directional print or nap* I'd need more.

(*I am honestly envisioning this in some kind of lightweight cotton or cotton/linen blend, so it shouldn't have a nap. I want this as a warmish weather dress)

It would probably even be cute out of one of those "batiks" sold for quilting, and if nothing else, I think the Boline's Quilt Warehouse near my parents sells those....though often their fabrics have a slightly coarser "hand" because they do discount sales. (Then again, even the smallish JoAnn's near them would probably have those).

But man, now I'm dreaming about my mom unearthing some literal vintage-70s dressweight in a slightly mod pattern (she was kind of stylish, years back) and my being able to use it. (She mostly sews for her grandchild these days and I know in the past she's pressed me to use fabric I liked out of her stash for things)

I am not "setting my cap" for a particular color or print (though I admit that turquoise-with-geometrics shown on the V and A page is super cute) because there's less chance of disappointment if I go into the dress planning with a totally open mind. I just don't want anything too pale; too much of a light background on dresses is bad for me as I am somewhat of a messy eater (And just messy-liver in general) and they tend to get stained.

But now I am excited for this again; I really do hope my mom has something cool in her stash I could use.

Finished another thing

This was mostly knit while invigilating exams this semester. I think the only bits I did at home was a little knitting at the very end to finish it off.

This was also the thing where I was wondering whether I should play Yarn Chicken and risk if I had enough for a couple more repeats - finally, I weighed the yarn (I have a little digital kitchen scale) at the start of the last repeat I did, had 42 g. Weighed it at the end, had 20-some grams, so I decided not to risk it, even given the inaccuracies of those little kitchen scales (also, you increase by 8 stitches per side each repeat, and that would eat up more yarn)

So I bound it off late last evening (I had spent much of the evening crunching numbers for this manuscript; did more this morning and while it's a pain, I will say I'm seeing some patterns so maybe, just maybe, this can be written up as a Note)

The ball band says to "block" it by pinning it out and laying damp towels over it. Given the current level of humidity, I don't know about that. Also, this is an acrylic yarn, so I'm not sure how much "blocking" would do for it - acrylic, in my experience, does not stretch/settle the way wool does when you wet it and lay it out.

Anyway, I think it looks fine as it is:

James C Brett shawl 3

It came out prettier than I thought it would, both because I wasn't wild about the pattern (it's got kind of weird jaggedy edges) and also this is the yarn where the yarn cake utterly collapsed, I had to rewind it into a ball partway through, and it wound up getting kind of rough and tangly (and I ultimately had to cut the shawl free from the yarn so I could work on it, and  then rejoin the yarn later on.

But yeah, I am a good bit happier with how it looks than I thought I would be.

James C Brett shawl 2

And a front view of it. It goes pretty well with this dress but I also think it would work over jeans and a slightly-dressier t-shirt.

James C brett shawl 1

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

a last straw.

Not THE last straw. But one of them. The one that made me feel "done" for the day even though I am Persisting and re-doing the messed up calculations (long story, that) for the article I'm trying to write.

But I had to run to the Green Spray quickly - I wanted more grapes and I knew if I was going to make picadillo for dinner I needed sour cream.

I also bought a pint of ice cream. (some new flavor from Blue Bell - chocolate-chip-cake or somesuch).

Got in line. There was only one line open, the store was not busy. There had been an arguing couple when I walked in; now I got behind a mom, her three sons, and their argument.

Each of the sons had one of those minicarts. Fine, cool, cool, it looked like she'd distributed most of the stuff (other than the carton of eggs she was carrying) among the carts. But. Instead of efficiently getting through the checkout they were arguing. One of the boys still wanted the Icee they had apparently been promised after the shopping trip; the other two wanted candy. The mom told them if they got candy, then no Icee*. The two boys were unwilling to accept that. And they argued. And one changed his mind three times about what candy he wanted.

And they kept arguing, and I stood there...

And I admit, I thought, "Do I really NEED this ice cream or sour cream or grapes? Should I just put them back and leave?" Of course that might have taken longer than waiting would have but I felt despair descending on me.


(*When I was a child....well, it would have most likely been neither candy nor Icee, on the grounds that Icees are not that good for you and we had dried fruit or more-healthful candy at home, but whatever)

It was just a long day. Hot in my office. I discovered my research student made some kind of error I can't quite suss out in the calculations so I'm having to redo them, which sets me back a few days on this manuscript. And I'm seriously doubting now if it will even be publishable, and I never know whether to sink time and effort into something that will never come to anything, or to just plow ahead and hope.

(How you do anything is how you do everything: this is why I rarely do any designing of knitting or crochet stuff any more; I hate ripping back when something is unsuccessful and I feel like I wasted all that time)

So anyway. And I also know someone who wrote an article that came out in a sort-of- popular-press magazine, and he is going around showing everyone and....well, it's implied that "more people will ever read this than your silly research papers" (which are also more effort, I think), and....I just feel very sad and invisible and meaningless and tired. I know I should be happy for the person and on some level I am, it's just....every time they have a success we hear about it for weeks and it really is kind of a "my efforts are better than your efforts" thing, and while I diagnose this person with Insecurity.....well, it doesn't help my own sense of Insecurity to know that.

It's humid, too, and I have a low-grade headache, and all my arthritic points (the elbow I broke some 30 years ago, my bad big toe that I probably broke, my collarbone, my hip) are hurting. And that doesn't help. (Maybe I should turn the AC a bit cooler, I don't know).

But yeah. That moment in the grocery just did it to me. I mean, I know I'm supposed to sympathize with the mom, and I kind of do, it sucks having tired crabby demanding kids but....I think of my own parents and how "but we have food at home" was a common line we were told, and we learned early on not to expect treats when we went out shopping, and....I don't know. I also feel like my standing there in line was prolonged by the fact that she just didn't tell them "step back, step away from the candy counter or you're not getting *anything,* we need to get checked out" and also a mild irritation that the store didn't bother to open another checkout line. I mean, they weren't *that* busy and I had no entitlement to get checked out fast but...it would have made things a little better.

It seems very often in my life that's what happens to me, though - I wind up next to the arguing couple or family, and things move more slowly as a result of the argument.

And I don't know. I don't know if the Universe is sending me the message that "look, you feel bad because you're Alone but there are worse things than that" but some days it feels like there are exactly two options in life:

1. Be Extremely Alone And Maybe Have No Help When You Need It
2. Be Part Of A Large Family That Always Fights And Probably Isn't Very Supportive, Really

And I realize those aren't the only two choices, but some days it seems like that's all you see.

But yeah. You know how nutrition experts tell you not to shop when you're hungry? (because you buy junk food). You also shouldn't shop - or go out into public places where there are people - when you're already sad, because all of the abrasiveness of humanity will just wear on you more.


Wednesday morning things

* Except for binding off, I have finished the "Northern Lights" (A James C. Brett yarn) shawl. This was a free-from-the-ballband pattern; yarn was purchased at the late-lamented Balanced Skein.

(Why can't we keep nice stores? Why does my town have virtually 20 CBD shops and not a single bookstore? Why do I have to drive a half-hour each way for decent craft supplies other than quilt fabric?)

Anyway. When I started this last repeat of the pattern I had 42 grams of yarn left and when I finished it I had about 20 so I am not going to play yarn chicken and try to do one more repeat. I've had too many shawls where I ran short of yarn because of "one more repeat" (or the pattern lied a bit about how much yarn was required, or the ballband lied about how many yards were in a skein) so I'd rather have a little yarn left over.

* I did a bunch of cleaning/sorting in my guest room while waiting on the piano tuner. Mainly to be able to unearth one of my 'springtime" quilts (probably the shabby-chic-roses one) to put on my bed in place of the flannel sheet-blanket and vellux blanket (and smaller quilt) that it's now too warm for.

I also found a bunch of yarn I had bought and half-forgotten: a bulky weight brown tweet for the Groot cardigan; a nice blue Eco Wool for Knitty's "Chalcedony," which may well be the next sweater I knit (I really, really need to finish Harvest first, though).

* My laptop is officially old; it gave me the "something is wrong with your battery and the computer may unexpectedly shut down warning" yesterday. I tried running it off the cord and yup, it shut down, despite claiming the battery was 100% charged. Okay, fine. I dug the power cord out from under the stuff on my desk that had buried it and now I can use the laptop in my recliner (where I usually use it) by plugging it into the power strip I use for my modem, router, etc. in the living room.

I did call a local computer repair place and brought the laptop down and the guy promised me they could order me a battery for $50 or less, they might even be able to get one with a larger capacity so I can "roam" for longer. They haven't called back though maybe they don't open until 10. (Or they called my home phone). I'm hopeful, though. I like the laptop; it's served me well, and I'm not quite ready to pick out something new and do all the configuring mess to get it set up and talking to my printer and the home network and deal with a new version of Word and everything.

UPDATE: they called. It will be $38. Totally worth it. Even better, they might have the battery in as soon as Friday.

* I'm working on this manuscript but my self-confidence is not great right now (the data set is kind of borked; we have a lot of species we never could identify, and I'm too honest to pretend they never existed). Doesn't help that someone who has a tendency to humblebrag/outright brag a bit was talking up their latest 'successes' and I feel very small and old and invisible and frustrated with my life-choices because it seems the things I pour most of my effort into (teaching, and also to a lesser extent, the sort of service-things like editing manuscripts to help people) is mostly invisible and evanescent and not something I can point to and go "I did that" and I'm actually wondering if that's another gendered difference we tend to see, at least in the particular culture I am a part of: that women do a lot of the behind-the-scenes work, or the "people" work, and it's the stuff that isn't a book or something concrete that can get pointed to, and while it's important work in its way, it's "fleeting" (when you get done teaching for the day, you don't really have anything to show for it) and so it doesn't always get recognized like papers or books or whatever do....

and yeah, I know: I should not care about recognition but the problem is that in what higher ed is becoming, where everything has to exist in easily-measured aliquots that can be used as bullet points in a post-tenure-review document, and yes, again: a lot of the things I value, and a lot of the things I think I am good at, are not easily quantifiable in that way, and so I worry I will look like I am "underperforming" in these things.

I know I also worry way too much about what people think of me, but the problem is, again, in this world, with work turning into what it is, you kind of HAVE to. Gone are the days of being grumpy old Professor Kingsfield (and I suspect those days may never have existed outside of Yale and Harvard and maybe places like University of Michigan, and they may only have existed for a certain demographic subset of professors) and being able to get away with it. Many days I feel more like a mother confessor than a professor....

I suspect given my personality and my pathological desire to be "liked," I would not be a Kingsfield type at any rate, but I would like to maybe....I don't know, jump less when people ask me for something, or feel less guilty about saying "no" when someone asks me for something unreasonable.

* I off and on wonder if I could be "on the spectrum" (or perhaps ADHD, or perhaps a little from column A, a little from column B - I have read that girls, because they are 'socialized' to follow rules and the like, don't present the same as boys) and this article is interesting to me because I do have some of those traits to a certain extent:

1 (which just falls into the category of "being very literal-minded"), kind of 4, kind of 6 (I like organizing and arranging things and I do sometimes think about the "taxonomy" or family-tree of non-living things), 10, sometimes 12 (literal-minded, again), definitely 13 (I think that is why I like certain yarns, and why I like stuffed animals, etc.), 14 (I have a real problem if someone stops me short and asks me something I am not expecting), 15 (oh my gosh, yes, I do the "fingers form an L for left" to remind myself), 16, 18 (I warn my students about my face-blindness so they won't be upset if I don't recognize them), 19, 20 sort of,  sort of 21 (if the rule makes no sense to me: I wait to start eating until everyone is served because I know that's courteous, but the sort of "on Wednesdays we wear pink" rules, no), sort of 24, sort of 25, 26, 27, 29, sort of 31 (also maybe why I like certain cartoons), I used to be 37 but have trained myself to mostly tolerate eye contact (I still don't do it if I'm thinking hard about something else), 38, 41 but in other ways (my habit of running a knuckle down the painted mortar of the brick wall here), 42, and 44.

I dunno. Some of the "classic" things (the not understanding other people's motivation, the hyperfocus, the meltdowns) are not things I have (though if I let myself, if I cared less about what others thought of me, there are situations where I could totally melt down) but yeah, I do wonder.

Or it could be I am just an extreme introvert with a side of being overly literal-minded, I don't know.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

RIP Tim Conway

Just heard on the news that Tim Conway had died. (I guess he had been unwell for a while? Normal Pressure Hydrocephaly?)

This is kind of sad; he featured in a number of things I remember ("The Carol Burnett Show," of course, but he also did a lot of guest appearances - I think he was on at least one episode of "Murder She Wrote," along with Harvey Korman) and I think he was also in some movies? He often played a character not too unlike the characters Don Knotts played a generation or so earlier....

Anyway, as tribute, I present the (in)famous Elephant Sketch. Which was actually an outtake from the show, I'm not sure whether because they all cracked up (Dick Van Dyke actually fell off the arm of the sofa) or more likely for Vicki Lawrence's "spicy sentence enhancer" in her last line:



And yeah, I confess: I have one or two people in my life in the habit of telling interminable, rambling stories, and I find myself sometimes thinking like "Mama" there, as they slowly meander towards the conclusion, "Do ya figure that little a-hole's through?" (But I only ever THINK it)

Piano tuning day

the piano tuner comes today so I'm quickly cleaning up the house (especially: removing everything from the vicinity of the piano so it's easier for him to work.

Am trying to deal with some other things - I found out last night from someone at CWF that apparently there's no more regular brush pick-up; you have to call and request it. (They used to do it once or twice a month on Wednesdays, but at least 3 Wednesdays have elapsed, including a first Wednesday, which used to be the day in my neighborhood, and nothing).

I am not surprised; my city has gone through some turmoil with lots of people quitting and people on the Council threatening to sue each other and our infrastructure crumbling. (There are several horrendous potholes - like, big enough to damage your rims, or perhaps even an axle, if you hit them just wrong - on the route I take to work). The city's response to potholes is usually to dump a load of gravel in it and/or put some pylons up around it. There's one pothole near my building that's pretty clearly the result of a leaking water main (as it is always filling with water, even on dry days) but the city has made no effort to investigate further than to either block off the lane or dump gravel in it.

So yeah, I can see Solid Waste not doing its regular hauling runs.

But the city's webpage says this:

"In order to keep our city as clean as possible, and operate as efficiently as possible, this service will be offered free of charge on a scheduled basis only.  Residential customers will be allowed to place bulky waste, yard waste, or excess refuse curbside every other Wednesday in accordance with the [my city] Code of Ordinances.

Requests for pick-up of bulky waste outside the scheduled routes will incur a fee on the utility account."

So I don't even know. (I tried calling, got voice-mail.) So either I leave the stuff there, or I risk incurring an extra fee, or I find someone with a pickup truck I can borrow, load it up, take it to the dump myself, and pay to dump it.

I suspect if I leave the brush long enough the city will come after me. And if I left it untrimmed (so no cut brush was generated), they'd come after me. You can't win.

And this doesn't get rid of the broken microwave which I wanted to ask about too. Maybe I call the Choctaw recycling and see what they say.

But yeah. All of this makes extra steps and extra effort and they never exactly OFFICIALLY told us they wouldn't pick up yard waste (and the website seems to claim they still do, but I've got some brush - as does a neighbor- that's sat for a month with no pick up.)

It also bugs me to keep trying calling and just getting sent to voice mail. I know the Solid Waste guys are busy but....maybe re-route the call to the main city desk so people can actually talk to a person? I don't know, maybe I go down there myself if the piano tuner gets done early enough....


**

ETA: He's here, he's been working for A WHILE (I guess a year is too long to go between tunings in this climate). Bulky waste called back and said they'd "get me on the list" and 15 minutes later someone came and took the stuff away. (Hm.)

And an Etsy order (well, partial order, they forgot the manatees but I've e-mailed them about it and I expect they'll make it right) with this little dude came

Yes, I know I have a ton of these little things but I just love this fat little guy.

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Finished a thing

I finished the quilt top - I am calling it "Nine and Four Patch" but I know the book I got it out of ("Charm School") used a different name for it.

It's made with three charm packs (not all the pieces were used). I think the line was called Twig and Leaf, I bought them last August and finally used them....I had originally planned on a pink as the background fabric but I am very glad I went with white instead, I like it a lot better.

The black fabric is the "additional fabric" you use as an alternator; it's a William Morris-inspired print:

nine and four patch quilt

It's a very large quilt (89" square) so I tried hanging it up on the fence instead of pinning it on the clothesline (which needs to be restretched somehow anyway: it's wire, and when I let a guy working on my neighbor's plumbing in her back yard take down a section of the fence (long story) to be able to move his Bobcat around more easily, he knocked some of the wires down and never redid them, and I didn't notice until he was long gone. I can probably figure it out myself, I just need to grab some of my tools and do it.

Even with having trimmed some branches back it's hard to get a good photo late in the day, but here are a couple of close ups showing some of the charm-pack fabrics and the black "alternator" fabric.

close up pink

close up feathers

The backing, which I bought Friday, is the fabric in the back. The colors go....pretty well. You're limited in choices of the wide backing fabrics and this was the best one (I didn't really want just plain white)

fabric


Other than that, I mowed the lawn and did some more trimming (just branches this time, I'm not sure I can add much more to the giant pile of brush that has grown around my mailbox. They were SUPPOSED to pick it up on the 1st but they did not.)

I have to wash my hair now, and figure out something for dinner.

I did call my mom earlier; she liked the gift I sent her (an assortment of fancy pencils, notepads, post-it notes, and a small pouch to hold them - my mother is very practical so practical gifts are best). But now, the late-Sunday-afternoon lonelies have set in. (This often happens to me. It's not so much a "back to work tomorrow, ugh" thing as just a....sort of let down feeling. I'm sure it's being out of a schedule for a couple days; I do not do well with being idle for any length of time).

What I probably *should* do once I figure out dinner (maybe it will be sauteed spinach; I need to use up some of the baby spinach I have) and wash my hair is to just set up with "The Three Musketeers" and do a bunch of reading, I don't know. When I was in grad school one of the ways I dealt with that Sunday afternoon feeling* was to read something "for fun"

(*Though it was less then because I lived with my parents at the time and so there was someone around. I think the problem for me is that this is typically the point where I've been alone for the longest, being at church notwithstanding)

In re: Sunday Night Lonelies....this helps, but only a little.




Saturday, May 11, 2019

Saturday afternoon things

*Today was graduation (Or, as they really prefer to call it: Commencement). Long. Very long. Even though the speaker this year (the chief of the Choctaw Nation) was a better speaker than most AND he up-front said he was limiting his talk to 8 minutes (which *every* graduation speaker should do; IMHO, graduation is NOT about the speaker, it is about the graduates). But our B-school has expanded in recent years, especially the MBA program, and so it's us, Business, and the graduate school and OH MAN was it long.

Also, I will note in passing: the family and friends (mostly close-in-age people to the graduate, based on the voices I heard) of B-school people are a *lot* louder than Arts and Sciences. I think in A and S we had *one* person with a cowbell (which I have no problem with; they are an excellent cheering noisemaker because they don't hurt your ears) but with the B-School there were several instances of air horns (which I definitely do NOT like, and I bet the people sitting close by like it even less than I do down on the floor). There were also a couple instances of people cheering for so long that the next graduate's name was drowned out, and that feels unfair to me.

I will say I wonder if there's a sociology Master's Thesis (or at least Senior Project) in the differences in cheering patterns for different disciplines and maybe at different universities.

* I always feel at loose ends after this. Part of it is it's a big chunk right in the productive middle of the day, part of it is being in a place with Too Many People, part of it is that it is an ending of sorts. Next week I will have no set schedule other than "Try to get the manuscript written" and many people will be gone and I'll be largely alone for most of the summer.

I also have a headache, which doesn't help. It's chilly and damp here again (I put the heat on, I don't care that it's May). I drank a large cup of caffeinated tea and took a Tylenol with lunch (pretty much the only things I can do for headaches any more with my iffy stomach) and hopefully it will get better.

* Because hopefully I can Finish a Thing today - I either want to finish the Northern Lights shawl (I am either within 12 or 24 rows of finishing; I'm going to do the one more repeat and see how much yarn I have left; if it's 30 grams or more I will do the one additional repeat) or I could sew together the modified-nine-patch quilt top.

I do also have to finish my day's piano practice.

* If I do Finish a Thing (or maybe Two Things), then I can start something new. I don't know what yet but I want to start something new.

* I trimmed the front hedges back a lot more again yesterday (They grew a lot from the time I did them before; I guess they were still dormant when I trimmed them earlier). It lets more light in the house but also my porch is more visible now which is good and bad. I suspect it's easier for packages to be stolen when they can be seen from the street.

* Today was a better mail day than some. I was talking with people on Twitter earlier about ordering things, and I confessed that I often mail-order stuff I don't strictly need because otherwise, the mail is often kind of depressing. Most days, the mail I get consists of:

- bills
- charity solicitations
- ads, ranging from blah (some local cheap furniture place) to unsettling (the local funeral home pushing pre-planning; I presume they have a database of  "people who are getting old" that they mail to)

And, as someone else bemoaned: few people write letters or postcards any more, so fun "personal" mail is not so much a thing. (Heck, most days I don't even get personal e-mail, at least not at my personal address - I get lots of "personal" e-mail at my work address but it's people asking me to do stuff)

So anyway. I talked about Butterscotch earlier. Because of Smart Post I wasn't expecting her until Monday but she came today (Fortunately, I was home to get the mail...both so she was less-likely to be stolen, but another piece of mail came postage due and I had to pay the guy a couple bucks).


Anyway. Butterscotch is here. A couple photos to show the hugaciousness of Build-a-Bear animals, if you were unfamiliar:

There is something sort of nice about having a childhood imaginary friend made flesh (sort of). Butterscotch doesn't look EXACTLY like the horse I imagined, but she's close enough.

I still might try to make her a "stable blanket" with a piece of quilted fabric. Maybe put blanket binding around the outside edges.


Friday, May 10, 2019

trip to Whitesboro

I went, after all, because they couldn't muster enough people for the party; we're going to do a lunch some time in June instead.

So I got off a bit later than would normally be ideal - a bit after 10 am. Which put me down there just after 11 am, and I was hungry*

(*Breakfast was something I had bought on impulse at Kroger's a while back - a "microwaveable" french toast cup. It was not good. Do not recommend. Most of their house-brand stuff is good but this was not. I mean, it wasn't terrible...but oatmeal would have been better, and I *always* eat oatmeal and get a little tired of it)

So I went to Lovejoy's first off, which was smart, because they filled up shortly after I sat down and one of the waitresses - I suspect the head one - ran out and sort of desperately said to the person working the checkout counter (they are also a shop) "No more! We don't have any more room!"

I got a cup of hot tea - it was remarkably chilly for May here, in the 50s. The flavor of the day was "lemon velvet" - a black tea with lemon and maybe? vanilla? It was good, and I got a free refill when I had drunk most of it.

And I ordered the quiche of the day: chicken pesto. I am not a very adventurous eater but I figured that could not contain anything I disliked. I did have to wait a while; they weren't quite out of the oven yet (!) I got to see one of the cooks take them out....so yes, a wait, but I also knew my food was super fresh.

At any rate: Chicken pesto is a good flavor for a quiche. I might even try to figure something similar out for myself using the basil from my garden. It was just cooked chicken, and the pesto mixed in, and probably mozzarella cheese, and a little bit of sun-dried tomatoes on top.

I also got a half-slice of German chocolate cake for dessert (Having half-servings of dessert at a restaurant is, IMHO, a brilliant idea: you can have a little indulgence but if you've had a big meal, you don't struggle to choke down a whole piece of cake - or have to take it home or leave it - and of course it's less calories and sugar and all of that. And their cakes are good; they seem to be from-scratch rather than from-mix; all too many restaurants either use a boxed mix or buy from a food supplier that does and yes I can tell a difference.

And then, on to the yarn shop. I particularly wanted yarn for a Wingspan shawl, and I knew I wanted just a simple variegated or self-striper (so I didn't have to buy lots of skeins of lots of colors, and also, I confess: there is something I find aesthetically appealing about not having ANY joins in a project - be they socks or (more rarely) a shawl.) Most shawls take a longer amount of yarn so you have to join balls.

I considered some of the hand-dyed yarns, but in my experience, a lot of those, you have to *alternate skeins* for a bigger project (this one calls for 400 meters of yarn, which is very very close to a standard sized sockyarn skein, and I've been burned far too many times by running short for the bind-off) and I considered getting two skeins but meh, I really dislike alternating skeins.

Then I saw the "Cheshire Cat" yarn - 514 yards, so easily over the required meterage. (437 yards is roughly 400 meters). And the colorway is...fine....especially given what I often wear in the summer. (I was envisioning a dark background with lighter colors, but I will come to like this as I work on it). I didn't see anything I liked better in the hand-dyed yarns, and as I said: not having to alternate skeins will outweigh it not being the absolute perfect color combo in my mind.

It's the yarn on the left; the colorway is called "Curtsey":

yarn

The other yarn is for socks, which pattern yet, I'm not sure. Maybe I even make them for my mom for Christmas or something. And I bought some more stitch markers because you always need more stitch markers and I like the closed-ring kind, which these are.

I had  a $20 gift card (because I spent a lot at my birthday trip) and so the shawl yarn was virtually free to me.  

I also went to the quilt shop, specifically seeking a wide backing, which I found:

fabric

The one at the back is the backing. The bright colors and rather whimsical "ripples" design should go nicely with the designs on the front of the top - which I hope to finish and photograph this weekend. And it pleases me to have a wide enough back without seaming.

I also got the typographic piece to insert in the back of the Cipher quilt, which is going to be the next one I undertake - I might even consider ironing off the fabrics for it tonight.

The other fabric is a jelly roll of Sweet Pea and Lily and I really love the colors in it. I'm going to do the pattern shown there - with just a white background (I have white fabric on hand) and the yardage of the sweet pea fabric is for the binding. (I will probably either use a plain back, or try to find something in my stash - this will be a smaller quilt.)

I also drove back through Pottsboro and went to the Brookshire's (for a change in grocery shopping). I didn't need a whole lot - I reorganized my "pantry" (such as it is; I don't have a dedicated pantry space which is part of the problem) when I was getting ready for the dishwasher guy and I need to work down on the canned goods this summer.

I also noticed that Pottsboro now apparently has a quilt shop - I didn't stop, though, because I'd already spent enough money, and I had frozen food in the car, but that might be worth exploring at a different time.

(Yup. I will  just have to keep in mind they're not open Mondays)




Thursday, May 09, 2019

At loose ends

This often happens to me at the end of the semester. I kind of hit a wall where I wind up just tired and sad. This year is worse, I think, because there were so many unsettled things going on:

- Trying to hire a new person and the search committee eating a lot of our time (We are still waiting for the official offer to be extended, things have to wend their way through offices. Hopefully our first pick says yes. Failing that, hopefully the second pick is still interested.)

- Wondering whether my chair was going to get kicked upstairs (she was) and then who was going to take over being chair (thankfully, not me, and at least that's settled)

- The health issue with my mom (fortunately resolved now; a second test showed no evidence of infection after the antibiotics)

- Lots of students with lots of problems. Some of them beyond their control; others probably largely of their own making. And I had to discern, and be merciful to the ones who got dealt a bad hand (the person whose sister is ill and they are having to help with her kids) and maybe be a little tough with the people who would rather play than go to class.

- Worrying about the dishwasher install, having to call Lowe's again when they were slow to schedule, and the added labor of handwashing my own dishes for a couple weeks. Also had to deal with a dead microwave.

- Lots of other nagging little things....lots of meetings, lots of extra little work things to do.

And now, I don't know: Maybe I push the Whitesboro trip off until Monday. Because my research student from last fall is having one last meeting with me (before heading off to dental school) in the morning tomorrow, but more importantly, something is trying to be arranged on short notice in the way of  a party....and that would be in the evening, and there are few things that steal my ability to enjoy a day out than worrying "Okay, I have to be leaving here no later than 3 pm in order to get back home in time to change and brush my hair again and be at the place by 5...."

We'll see. I don't LIKE pushing it off because it seems I always push off stuff for me.

But it may also not happen tomorrow night: several people have conflicts and it IS very short notice. I might know more in the morning and I guess I could decide then.

And the weather would be nicer on Monday. And I might have that one top done and a better idea of just how much backing I need....And I could leave earlier in the day, because I wouldn't have wait for a meeting with someone, I could just leave right at 9 to get down there when the shops open for the day.

But yes. I am just very tired.

Back to crafting

I'm almost done with the current quilt top (sort of a nine-patch-with-alternating blocks, using a cutesy set of fabrics from some charm packs I bought a while back). I just need to press off the rows and then sew them together.

I have decided the Vignère Cipher code-themed quilt is next - dug out the fabrics, found I easily have 26 different typographic half-yard pieces (even discarding a couple that were stretching the idea of "typography"). I also found I have a *giant* piece - like seven yards or so - of a pale green with script on it that can become the back (or can become the back with a little add-on, if the quilt comes out too large - my current plan will result in a 91" square quilt and that might be pushing it a little - I could maybe make a central strip using some of the leftover fabrics, and then I could make it big enough.....for the longarmer I need width plus (I think) 16"....and usually those fabrics have a 40" usable width, so that would mean adding 27" in the middle. (Or: when I run to Kaleidoscope Fabrics on Friday, if they have a nice typographic fabric that would go, I could get, what....a couple yards and cut and piece a strip for in the center....

The fun thing about this one will be NO LAYING OUT. Once I figure out the best arrangement of the fabrics (can do that sitting at my cutting table), I can just sew.

Eventually I will get my small pink quilt back when the quilting person gets done with it. I think the nine-patch I'm working on now will be the next quilt I take out there, especially if I can find a 108" wide backing I like at Kaledioscope. (The quilt's finished size is 81" square, so that will be  about 2 3/4 yards of it BUT NO SEAMING)

I've also been picking away at the "Socks for the Deputy Headmistress" (am almost done with the cuff of the second sock and wow, do these take a long time) and also Harvest (am almost to the point of doing the bottom hem, and then it's time for the sleeves. I think I'll take it with me and try to finish it over break, but also maybe take a new thing....maybe the Plasma shawl from the new Knitscene, I don't know. (I bought some "plasma colored" - pale blue green - sparkly yarn. Maybe a Dream in Color yarn? I forget. I know I looked around A LOT before finding the one I liked best and the fact that it had that glittery thread sealed the deal for me).

I also want to finish Ocellus, I kind of stalled out on that because of all the little bits. She has her front legs and I have one of the back legs done....but then I have to do the snout and the "ears" and the various decorative things (the funny ridge she has, and the tail, and the elytra....). I *might* make her eyes of felt instead, going to try crocheting one and see how it looks but often, because I crochet tightly, I have to downsize features a bit for the critters I make.

I also admit I want to get more of the good (but fairly expensive!) organic topsoil from Twin Oaks, now that I've cleared more of that side garden....more room for more plants, and I'll have to decide: do I get more herbs, or do I pick out one or two more smallish shrubs/woody perennials that are good for attracting pollinators, or what? Because I know what I want is a pollinator-dedicated garden back there. It's a little too hot in the summers now for a lot of the vegetables I *like* (the leafy greens, green beans, and corn takes way too much space). Not a fan of okra, somewhat allergic to squash (and I also dislike zucchini), not a fan of peppers. And I've had bad luck with watermelon, in addition to being mildly sensitive to it (oral allergy syndrome). Not sure about sweet potatoes or "Irish" potatoes; I know a lot of people who found they either grew badly in our soil or our abundant soil critters ate them before they got a crack at them.

Maybe I get more basil, though - I could make my own homemade pesto and freeze it. And I could eat many Pizzas Margheritas this summer. Or put it on tomato sandwiches if my tomato plants produce....

But yeah. I am very ready to spend a lot of time doing what I want to do and less of what other people want me to do.

Wednesday, May 08, 2019

Hopefully, quiet day

The only thing I "have" to do during business hours is meet with the instructor who is going to be teaching Ecology this summer in my stead. I promised him I'd give him copies of the lab manual and loan him my textbook and let him have whatever PowerPoints or past tests I have...I'm just glad not to be doing this so I'm happy to share, and at this point I feel like I've "amortized out" a lot of the effort on the PowerPoints and the lab packet (by using them again and again with just minor tweaks here and there) so I don't feel like I'm giving work away for free.

I'd feel differently, of course, if I were told to hand over my materials to an incoming adjunct who was replacing me after I was let go for reasons of "financial exigency" but at this point that's not happening, so...

***

I got a few more plants yesterday. Lowe's was having a big sale on "slightly neglected herb plants" so I got four basil and two regular sage and two Greek oregano (I also bought a couple more lavender which were not on sale, but were still a decent price). Planted them last night, and since we're getting a fair amount of rain today, they will probably not look so very neglected in short order. (They already looked better last night after I planted them - they were badly potbound - and watered them)

I also got some marigolds and planted them around the tomatoes; an old folk-remedy thing is to do that because the marigolds confuse nematodes (the chemicals they give off mess with the nematodes' chemical-detection mechanisms) and the nematodes can't find the tomato roots.

EVERY old-timer gardener I've ever mentioned planting tomatoes has told me to put marigolds around them. I don't know if the tomato-eating nematodes are extra bad here, or if it's just Lore, but I do it....because maybe it is Lore, but it's kind of nice Lore, and I like marigolds anyway.

***
The basil are already probably big enough to spare a few leaves; maybe one day this week or next I should make pizza margherita. I almost never have fresh basil for it but now I will.

***

Awaiting yet another package even though this has already been kind of a spendy spring....last Saturday Build-a-Bear was doing a sale on some of their stuffed horses. (Not My Little Pony, but still: cute horses).

They had a Palomino. With big blue eyes and long lashes. And looking at it, it triggered a memory for me:

when I was a kid (school-aged, but still fairly young) one of my "imaginary friends*" was a horse. Actually, several horses, they were a pack. (The names, as you will see, are somewhat embarrassing to adult me) - The mother was Piecrust (because of her color, like well-cooked pie crust); her youngest daughter was Meringue, and the older daughter was Butterscotch. Butterscotch was pretty much a true Palomino color; Piecrust (in my imagination) was darker and Meringue was lighter-colored, almost white.

(*I knew they were imaginary but I still liked making up stories about them. I had a LOT of imaginary friends as a kid, far more than real friends)

I remember riding the bus to elementary school and looking out the window and imagining them running - not really running *alongside* the bus (so: not going to school with me) but running wild and free, somewhere out in the meadows, and having adventures and doing things like going swimming in lakes.

And so, when I saw that stuffed pony (priced at $19 on sale, though it was ultimately more with shipping and sales tax), I thought "That looks like Butterscotch!" and suddenly I needed to have her. (Butterscotch, as a more-grown-up one, was more independent, so I don't feel "sad" having just her, like I might with Meringue).

Anyway. I don't need another giant horse stuffie (and yes, Build-a-Bear's animals are LORGE) but I really wanted her and immediately knew what I'd name her...

I'm also wondering if I can braid her mane; the Build-a-Bear horses have those "dollyhair" manes that are brushable but that also tend to tangle over time, and maybe in braids it would stay better. I'm also wondering if I could figure out how to make her one of those "field blankets" or whatever you call them that people put on their horses when it's chilly or raining out....I might even be able to find a small scrap of pre-quilted fabric (or snag one out of my mom's stash when I'm up there at home) for it...

***

One of the things making the rounds (and predictably getting dumped on both by people to the right of me and people to the left of me) is this infographic USA Today put out talking about "what all people spend money 'unnecessarily' on" and they claim the "average" American spends about $1500 a month "unnecessarily." (the story is herebut because they want you to either pay for a subscription (heh) or allow whatever ads their adserver serves up, I haven't read the full story)

Um, yeah. I don't keep track too closely but my "frivolous" spending is probably closer to $300 a month. (I budgeted $350 as the donation for Lent - gave $100 to a local effort to build a new senior center, and $250 to my denomination's Week of Compassion, which is largely disaster relief). Yes, I have spent upwards of $150 on my garden so far this year but....it's not *entirely* unnecessary because the city can come after you if you have an unkempt garden *and* if my tomato plants produce I at least get some tomatoes (and some basil, now) out of it. And it's Good Works, too, because a lot of the plants I bought were specifically pollinator plants (and specifically ones grown without the neonictinioid pesticides that are such a problem now)

Also, I'm sure someone could argue that piano lessons ($150 for about 2 month's worth, and I consider that cheap) are "unnecessary."

(Also they included "grooming" on that list, and I have some questions....there is a minimum level of grooming you must do if you are going out in the world. Yes, I COULD buy cheaper shampoo than I do but some of the cheaper ones I've tried don't work as well).

And at any rate - $1500 a month? Unless people are in debt up to their eyeballs, I'm guessing that there are some people making a huge amount of money (and can afford to spend a lot) that are influencing that; $1500 approaches half my take-home pay in a month. (Granted: my "take home" is reduced by the fact that I chunk $700 or so in a retirement account every month, before I ever see it. So I don't count it as part of take-home pay, though hopefully - barring a catastrophic economic crash or some kind of governmental "publicization" of all privately-held retirement dollars* - it will fund my retirement in the future. I hope. Because I sure as heck don't count on Social Security (even though, oddly, I would be eligible - most universities, their profs are not, but we are) and I don't even really count that much on my state's teacher retirement system)

(*It would take a lot to get me to march on Washington with a pitchfork, but being told, "Oh, that money you didn't use out of your paycheck, that you set aside for your future retirement? We need that. Enjoy working until you're 80" would do it)

But at any rate: I dislike scolds, and there was an undercurrent really of "Look, if you gave up every small pleasure in life and washed your entire body and hair and clothes with Super-Cheap-Industrial-Strength- Trust-Us-It's-Walmart brand soap, you could have some more money for retirement!" and I get that underfunded retirements are a big problem but...I've been in a place (a few times) where I had to give up all "nonessential" spending, and it's a miserable way to live.

(Also, the whole "$1500 a month" thing does make me think it's strongly influenced by people far wealthier than I am, and that somehow USA Today is using that to shame us ordinary schlubs about "OMG, you bought MOVIE TICKETS for your family last month? How terrible!")

But really: suggesting people give up the little things that make life in the here-and-now better is...not good. Yes, I hear the standard "blame poor people" argument of "if they only ate beans and rice every single day instead of getting fast food all the time" (presupposing the time, energy, and kitchen facilities to cook dry beans....I don't make beans "from scratch" very often myself despite having a good kitchen, because of the time factor) or yelling at people for buying some new toy....or paying for Netflix or engaging in some form of not-free entertainment...

I admit I do a little of it myself, when a student comes and complains about the price of the textbook and then whips out a brand-new smartphone to look something up, but....yeah.

Also, ride-shares are on there but not regular car maintenance, so I am assuming either (a) these are people who live in a city where normally the average schmoes are "expected" to take buses or the subway** or (b) they assume a car is just a "natural and necessary" expense and ride-shares are over-and-above, but I would argue: if you've been out for the evening and been served more alcohol than you can handle, a ride-share is absolutely a necessary expense (or a taxi, whatever).

(** My limited experience with public transport: it can be fine, or it can be very bad, depending on your fellow riders. I've never had it happen to me but have heard of women being groped on buses and the like and I admit knowing that would put me off it in a hurry.)


Though I also think a person should decide for themselves. My "buying lunch out" (at least on workdays) budget is nil, because on busy days I pack a Sad Desk Lunch (no restaurants close that are fast enough, and also, restaurant portions tend to be bigger than what I can comfortably eat) and on not-busy days, I go home, because then I can make a Proper Cup of Tea and can relax a bit in the quiet. So that's $174 a month (on average) not-spent. And I never use rideshares, by virtue of them not existing here and me owning my own car...but I do get subscription boxes (Doki Doki and gachapon) and while I admit they are the height of frivolous spending (as in things I literally do not need and sometimes cannot use*) But they make my life better and happier, and maybe when I share some of the items they make other people's lives better and happier (I have given some of the more juvenile-themed accessories to my niece)

And I do a lot of online shopping, but in some cases that's stuff I need that I cannot buy locally...

My mom points out to me regularly when I bemoan spending lots of money on craft supplies that I don't buy expensive shoes, and I don't go out to bars, and I really don't even go to restaurants very often. So again: as long as you're not sending yourself into eternal debt, you're probably fine, and what does USA Today get to say about how you spend your money? (And like I said: I am already saving for retirement so even that is not something that can be pointed out to me. Oh, I am sure I could save *more* than I do, but I'm at the point where....cutting out more small pleasures would not be desirable)

(*Purlewe, if I have a minute this afternoon I'll get the sauce dish in the mail)

***

I suppose some scolds might argue a dishwasher is unnecessary. (Though I've also read it uses less water, total, than handwashing a comparable amount of dishes.

No, I haven't run it yet - not enough dirty dishes - but the guy did test it to make sure it worked before he left.

I should celebrate having a new dishwasher by doing some more elaborate cooking again. I bought panko crumbs this weekend so I could make those black-bean burgers I like.

And definitely am going to make homemade pizza some time.



Tuesday, May 07, 2019

hooray, it's done

Dishwasher is in. Floor is fixed - he put a galvanized metal panel over the wood floor to block critters and to prevent the holes from being a problem. I hopefully can look forward to a mouse-free fall next fall.

He only charged me $40 for the floor fix. I had told him I would pay what it took and I figured it would be materials plus time, and I was mentally budgeting at least $100, so $40 - which I am guessing is about what the metal cost - is good.

I might bake something this evening to take over for Feast of Finger Foods to celebrate having a new dishwasher and a clean kitchen.

dishwasher-in-progress

So the guy called about 8:30 - he had to come into town from Madill or whereever he lives. Had to get the dishwasher and supplies. He also asked me to empty out under the sink, which I had already done.

So he came in, I pointed out the issue of the tight fit and he agreed - "There was probably linoleum in this kitchen originally; they just stuck ceramic tile on top of it." He was also concerned about the slightly buckled floor area in front of the dishwasher about which someone else had told me "Oh, old houses just flex and settle and ceramic tile over linoleum is a dumb idea anyway"

(This is, my friends, what you call a Chekhov's gun)

So, some "Hmms" from him, and a few grating sounds later, he stepped out of the kitchen: "Ma'am, did you know you had a hole in the floor under the dishwasher?"

No. No I did not but in retrospect, where the mice (and one packrat I trapped) got in, that makes sense...

He also noted...the rubber drain hose had been all chewed up (%#$&^*@$ mice) and that when the dishwasher drained, it just drained onto the floor....and presumably up under the tile, hence the buckling. ($()*$#). So I will probably have to have the floor taken up and repaired at some point, but right now that is a problem for future me.

I looked at the holes with dismay. "Is there anyway we could block them up? I'd pay you whatever it took on top of the install"

He said that it would take a piece of galvanized metal - wood is too thick for the space, and also, they could just chew through wood again. Smart guy. He also said, "Well, I don't live here so I don't know places that I could get any....but wait, let me call a buddy."

He went out and called, I heard the call end with a happy, "Thanks, buddy, I owe you one" so I presumed it was good news.

He came back in - "I'm running to the lumberyard [one just a few blocks from me it turns out], they can supply it"

So he's there now. If this works, this will solve one big giant problem for me - mice coming in in the fall (and yeah....the occasional packrat, and he pointed to the pecan shells under the old dishwasher; mice can't chew through those). And it will probably solve a future problem of the hose getting chewed through and further spoiling the floor.

Yes, I will need to have the floor redone at some point I presume but like I said, problem for future me.

I'm just glad this guy was pretty good and honest; another dude would have likely slapped the dishwasher in without telling me. And yes, he'll get paid more for the extra work (I told him I'd pay him for the fix as that's over and above the basic install, and at a minimum I'd need to pay for the metal) but if this solves some problems....well, that's good.

But yipes. That must have happened in the 11 or so years I had the other dishwasher; the previous installers were good and I stood in the kitchen and worked and there was no evidence of mice and/or rats....


***

Yup, he came back with a big piece of galvanized metal. Screwed it in. Sounds like he's getting the new dishwasher now - the old one is already out at his trailer. This may wind up going a lot more smoothly than I thought it might.

Waiting on dishwasher

Installer guy is supposed to be here at 8.

We will see. I have very rarely had any kind of "worker" in who came when they said they would. I have a promise from the secretary that if they're not done by 11, she will start my exam for me but I don't want that to happen.

The student did e-mail me back. Pleaded extended illness, but you know? I'm not a mind-reader. I can't tell "silence because sick" from "silence because not trying anything" from "silence because problem got fixed." I don't know what to do and I'm out of ideas and out of energy. They are begging me to make it work for them again 'for partial credit' though really? Given what they've revealed to me they probably should have taken a medical leave of absence.

And yeah yeah, I get that some of our students don't know how to negotiate the university system yet, and their families don't know, and some of the campus offices are....not always as up-front about the services they provide as they could be....but I get tired, as a faculty member, so tired, of being expected to MANAGE so many things.

As I've said before: some weeks I can barely manage my own life.

So I don't know. Maybe I just let them contest their grade, whatever, and I just let Future Me deal with that fight.

I'm TIRED.

I keep thinking about how nice it would be to be tooling down the highway, headed towards....oh, whatever. Antiquing, maybe. I wish there were some nice small *country town* near me that had a lot of antique shops - sometimes going into Sherman or even Denison is not so fun because parking can be a mess and there are bad drivers and sometimes you have to deal with Too Many People. (I am also not a huge fan of the "antiques fair" model, where things are set up for a weekend and you have a crush of people, and also you often have elevated prices - I heard some tv ad for an antiques weekend thing somewhere in the general vicinity and the comment was made that it was "one of Country Living's antique-shows-not-to-miss" and I thought "Yeah, and it'd have prices I'd not want to pay."

Little country sleepy town antique shops, though, often have treasures you can find for a reasonable price.

Or, I'd like to go somewhere where there were several craft-related shops (Whitesboro, if I get there Friday, will be close to this) where I can just sort of float through the shops and look at stuff and talk to people with the same interests as I have and buy myself stuff and go "oh, pretty!" about some fabric line or a hand-dyed skein of yarn or a shawl the yarn-shop proprietor knit and has on display....

Or I was thinking again about "The Land of Make Believe" - a shop that existed when I was a kid (they were the place that sold Smurfs, as well as some other little toys) and how shops like that seem not to exist any more, or at least maybe don't exist outside of big cities. Everything is "mainstream name brand" at places like Target, and you tend not to find the little bitty things like Smurfs (too easily shoplifted, I presume). Small toys are all blister-packed instead of sold loose. There was also "The Attic," which sold small toys (when I was very young, when they were in their first location, they sold little animal magnets - made by a company called Peaceable Kingdom, I remember that - they were made of pompoms that were kind of like ball-fringe in texture. Or like they were made out of embroidery floss. I had a couple dozen of those. It was little things like that; stuff a kid could spend their allowance on. (I've searched for images of these things online but either they weren't widely known, or have gone down the Gen X memory hole). At least the internet remembers Diener rubber eraser animals, which were another favorite (and cheap! and available at the office-supply store, where my parents went regularly anyway!).

Part of it with these was not the having, but the getting - hunting through the bin of Itty Bitties to find one you didn't have, or to find the particular color you wanted. But also, yes, I did play with them when I was a kid. And I played with my little Peaceable Kingdom magnet animals.

I collected a lot of things as a kid. I liked having my magnet animals on the metal shade of the old pink floor lamp that was in my bedroom; I liked having my rubber eraser animals lined up on a shelf. I still collect things as an adult - Ponies, and blindbag toys and Re-Ment and stuffed animals and I really do think that collecting urge in me is a desire to recapture some of the good parts of my childhood and hang on to those happy childhood feelings, when I was building Lego brick houses for the little eraser animals, or when I climbed trees carrying Ziggy the hedgehog (one of my Peaceable Kingdom magnet animals and my favorite one) in my pocket.

Eventually, I got older. Shops changed, and moved around. Smurfs became popular and for a while when I was in junior high they were the big hot thing....then I suppose something else took over, but I still liked the little animal toys, and yes, the Smurfs. I hung on to that stuff long after it ceased to be "cool." And I kept liking little things and collecting them as I got older...

And there was another shop, I don't even remember its name now, that was in downtown Ann Arbor when I lived there, and the center of the shop was a giant table with glass dividers to make it a bunch of small bins - maybe 15 or 18 different bins? - and they sold tiny toys and import things (like those Chinese silk pincushions with the little dolls on them) and it was just fun to go and browse and see what they had. I miss that kind of shopping,

Too much here, it's all very "functional" shopping. I don't know if that's a result of history/economics of this part of the world, or if people don't generally do that kind of "go out and browse" shopping any more, or what. But I do miss it - where you *might* spend $15 in a day, on some little thing, something you don't really need, but something that is nice to have.

I also need some new places to go. I get tired of the antique shops in Sherman and Denison; I keep seeing the same stuff at them all the time. But I don't know of very many places; it seems I kind of live in an empty area. Maybe that was so in Illinois when I lived there, but then again - it seemed a lot of the little towns had an old downtown with shops, and places to go. I think this area is more "Western US" in the sense that people seem not to mind driving an hour for stuff (based on people I've talked to who talk about going to Dallas for groceries or clothes-shopping or something) and that's just not my thing.

But yeah. I suppose everyone is looking for a rock to tie a piece of string around, and for me, that is the little toys - yes, even still. I just wish I had better ways of finding them and more fun places to go and shop for them

Monday, May 06, 2019

rough night, better day

Ugh. A night of vivid dreams last night. Not sure why:

- I was driving along 70, on my way to the usual field site I've used for research. My eyes would not stay open (allergies) and I kept driving with my eyes closed but my brain was screaming at me I was going to get in a wreck. Or that the cops would pull me over. Also, I was worried about going out to the field alone; I knew my cell phone was almost out of charge (this is an actual fact from real life; I forgot to charge it up over the weekend) and I was afraid if I got hurt or had something wrong with my car I'd not be able to get help.

The "I can't see the road ahead" dream is a very common stress-dream with me. I don't tend to have the stereotypical "nightmare" of being chased by monsters or something; it seems my brain is more a fan of the psychological horror genre, where things seem totally normal except for one thing that is off and wrong.

Also, the "can't see the road ahead" dream is one reason why I don't write stories much: obviously I am very bad at couching symbolism in a non-obvious way. Usually these dreams come when I am concerned about the future in some way. My brain is very literal and sometimes the symbolism it comes up with is baldly obvious.

(I wish I could learn to be less literal-minded. I have taken people seriously when they were joking and that leads to awkwardness, and also, I tend to over-interpret things people say, so, like, for example, someone posting "Oh, I'm dying" as an update somewhere makes me worry that they are LITERALLY dying as in call-an-ambulance-somebody and not "it's so hot I feel like I'm going to die" or "my baseball team's poor performance is figuratively killing me.")

- I was working in a library. The head librarian was a petty and vindictive person, though generally not to the other people's faces. (Though I guess I was pretty much the only other employee? I didn't seem to have other co-workers). Anyway, I posted a story of something that happened in the library online, on some site where I was at least pseudonymized, but somehow she tracked it down and was very rude to me about it, telling me I shouldn't "air the library's dirty laundry" online (it was just one of those "people are funny" stories about something that happened, as far as I can remember). She kept threatening to fire me unless I "made it right" and I kept asking her what she wanted, I would take the story down, I would publicly apologize but she then said if I paid for her lunch every day - to the tune of $25 - it would be okay. (And dream-me accepted that! I'm sure if I worked in a library $25 would be a big chunk of each day's salary).

But anyway.

As it turns out, one big worry is off my mind this morning: someone else in my department has stepped up and offered to serve as chair in the place of our chair who is departing for a higher-level admin job. And the person who is stepping up will do a good job and I can get behind them as chair.

The best part means that I'm not going to be pressured to take it on. I know I don't want it. I want to finish out my career - 10-15 more years depending - without having to take a higher administrative position. I like teaching. I think I am good at teaching. I don't like the kind of higher-level people-wrangling and the constant having to say "no" and deal with grownups who can't quite act like them that you get with those kind of admin positions. (Reference: my dad was a department chair for 20 some years, at two different universities. I have *stories* that he told....)

So that's one thing settled for the future. I dislike things being unsettled. (It is perhaps a linked trait to my literal-mindedness. Or both of those are linked to the particular way in which I am less-neurotypical than many people).

Also, we meet today to discuss the new hire. Not too many details, but I will be content regardless of what choice we make (because all the candidates we are considering seem good to me), as long as the person accepts the position (and so: it's not a "failed search," which is what happens when either (a) no qualified candidate can be found or (b) none of the qualified want the job. (And yes, B happens, even in this weird-bad academic hiring market. We had one person withdraw, apparently, because they had another offer they wanted more, and I've also heard of people "going on the market" with no intention of taking a new job because they want leverage to request a raise. Here, we are on a "salary card" so that's not a thing - which may be a contributing factor to the relative stability of my department)

Edited to add: and another thing I was fretting about: a student who had had some ongoing problems during the semester, whom I last e-mailed at the start of April with the "try this, and if that doesn't work, please come in and talk to me" and who never had, so I assumed they had gotten the problem sorted? They hadn't. In over a month. And I found this out by making the mistake of checking my work e-mail (which I shouldn't do on weekends and generally don't, except that I was wanting to see if my research  student had e-mailed me back about a meeting) and it just hit me at a bad time...Sunday afternoon, I was feeling a little lonely and at-loose-ends (I often feel that way on Sundays) and it just made me feel like maybe I care a little bit much but I don't know how to walk that back. And also that I have been, as I've said in recent days, a "self-rescuing princess" for so long that really no one around me recognizes when I need rescuing, and I am not good AT ALL about asking for help. (I was just thinking the other day that I wish I had someone to talk to about stuff, and I realized there are probably people at church who would listen, but....part of it is I feel like I've built up this "tough and can handle everything" persona and I'm not sure I am ready to deconstruct that before someone else's eyes, and another part of it is I go "but they have bigger problems than I do" (Ill spouses, aging and very unwell parents, juggling a couple jobs, problems with young adult kids, very challenging career...) and I don't feel like I can impose on their time with my comparatively petty problems ("Some of my students ask for more than what I can give them and it makes me uncomfortable to say 'no'" seems awfully petty compared to someone who is coping with a mom who has Alzheimer's or a sibling who is a drug addict).

But anyway. I fretted about it on a low level - I even went out and cut a large amount more of brush, cleaning up the fenceline on one side and venturing well into the overgrown patch that used to be a dumping ground for my leaves - because I find that kind of physical work helps to de-track my mind from what is bothering me, while also allowing me to work on the thing on a subconscious level.

My conclusion was: I can't say "yes" to this student and mop up for them, not now. For one thing: It's not fair to the students who were diligent and came in to address problems they had. For another: it's not fair to ME, I have exam week to deal with and also some important meeting things. And finally: this student maybe needs the little bit of tough-love of "you need to confront your problems when they are small rather than expecting someone else to snap their fingers and solve it all at the last minute."

So I consulted with my chair (outgoing as of June 1, but at least there is someone I trust taking over for her after that) and she agreed it wasn't fair to the other students and to emphasize that in my e-mail. So I did, and hopefully that's off  my plate. (Though those things have a way of boomeranging. Though I will say if the student goes to my chair to complain, my chair knows what's up and will tell the student that it's too bad they didn't work with me earlier, but it is too late now.)

Anyway, here's hoping other people who have low-level worrisome things hanging over their heads see good outcomes as well. I feel considerably more hopeful for this week now.