Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Depressing firsts time

TMI alert for anyone who wants to believe I am a perfect fairy princess who always looks sooooper-feminine. 

I had been scrutinizing my upper lip the past few weeks in the mirror, asking myself, "Does it look a shade...darker....than it should, or is it my imagination?"

(The lights in my bathroom are v. unforgiving, but I like it that way).

I peered closer at it and yeah, dangit - the hairs always there have come in a bit darker of late. 

Finally, the other day I decided: yeah, the very fine hair that's there (nearly all women have it, guys, it just usually doesn't show) had darkened enough that I could notice it, and maybe other people could too. So it had to go.

I debated one of three paths:

1. bleach
2. going to Ulta and having one of the women there do it (which would make maintenance more tricky, or I'd have to find a salon here in town)
3. waxing it myself.

I opted for 3 even though a previous experiment with using hot wax on my legs (I was tempted with the idea of not having to shave every day in the summer) led to burns and unpleasantness. (I didn't heat the wax so much this time).

And yeah, I'm probably being perfectionistic and overzealous. It's not like I looked like Mario the Nintendo Plumber or something, but it was enough to bug me, and I don't need ANYTHING extra to make me self-conscious.

And also, if I weren't so pale that I'm practically phosphorescent it probably wouldn't show. (Maybe this summer, when I get a little sun, I won't have to worry about it as much. But then, ironically, I won't be teaching so I won't be around people as much)

So I did it. It's not fun, it doesn't feel good, it's like ripping off a really big Band-Aid, and I slapped some aloe on there immediately and I am really, REALLY, really hoping my super-irritable skin doesn't decide this is a good thing to hive up in response to. (I had to mostly give up plucking my brows to shape them because on a bad-skin day I'd get hives from it). But I did have success in the sense that the darker hair is now gone.

But yeah, it does look better. Well, right now it looks pinker, but it will eventually look better.

here's hoping I only have to do this once a month or so, and that maybe the hair comes back paler next time.

I said it before, I'll say it again: getting old is a heck of a trip. I'm sure this is related to hormonal shifts caused by being within a stone's throw of 50.

German song dump

So, I've been trying to learn some German using Duolingo, but I also decided maybe I need to listen to bigger "bits" of it to help my comprehension. (I'm not QUITE to the point of trying to find movies or tv shows on YouTube or elsewhere that are in German. Hm....I wonder if there are dubbed versions of Ponies out there)

Anyway, I started looking at songs. I find the easiest ones are the more "old style" ones.

I've already expressed my love for Mein Kleiner Gruener Kaktus:

(Though Raabe leaves out an entire verse, about women resembling the flowers they like, so "what would people say about me then" because presumably the singer is fond of her (?) cactus):

Also fun fact: "Bösewicht" translates literally as "villain" but I don't think that's really what's meant here....böse can mean evil, but it can also mean naughty. Or it can mean angry. And I guess "wicht" is kind of like a it's sort of an insult but perhaps here doesn't really mean villain in the sense of a truly evil person. (essentially: when a mean person says something naughty, I go get my cactus and it sticks them)

I dunno. It's just a silly song. (At the end: Herr Krause, "vom Nachtbarhause" comes over at 4 am to tell the singer her (again: ?) cactus fell on his face and it pricked him)

But I also looked around for other things. And I found there seems to be a cottage industry in translating American pop songs into German for fun.
Well, this isn't a translation, because it's in English, but it's done slightly polka style, and partway through, the horn section does Shunkeln (that's where people either link arms or put their arms around each other's shoulders and sway in time with the music) and I find it deeply amusing given that this song is generally considered a bad, mad, and dangerous-to-know song:
(And yes, the first time I watched it, I burst out laughing at about 51 seconds in)
That group does some other songs, some in German:
Yeah, my German is NOT THAT GOOD - I can only catch a few words here and there from that. (I mean, I know the song it's based on, but I'm sure the words aren't a strict translation, because translations of songs don't work that way).
I also find myself thinking: the woman in those videos looks to me like the person you'd get if you mixed up Rhea Perlman's and Cyndi Lauper's DNA and made a person out of it. 
And I also find myself thinking: if they didn't look so danged costumey in our culture, I could totally rock a dirndl. 
And then I found this, watched it, and felt my brain break a little:
I can get about five words out of that whole thing, and one of those is "Skinny-jeans." (I'm also guessing Osch is a slang term for the backside.... rather like Arsch or in British-English, arse)
Turns out the video is in a strong southern-German dialect called Bayerisch and wow, is it DIFFERENT from the standard German I am trying to learn. (They list the lyrics and I can't even get much out of the printed lyrics, though now I do know that in Bayerisch you can say "diarra Hakl" to describe a very thin person)
I'm even trying to think of a dialect of English that would be that different from the Midwestern American English I speak - maybe extreme Highland Scots, or something like "Geordie" in the UK. 
I knew southern German and standard German were different, but I didn't realize HOW different. (I presume most people, at least in cities, know standard German and can tone down the dialect for non-Bayerisch, kind of like how some speakers of rural American English can code-switch into something that sounds more "standard" when they need to)

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

cancer is awful

I found out this morning that a former fellow-congregant- he and his wife were friends of mine because we both taught at the university - has lung cancer.

A couple years ago they moved up north to be closer to grandkids (they both retired during the time I knew them, this was in the cards). And then Ken was diagnosed just recently.

I feel sad about this: as I said, I liked both of them and we had stuff in common. And Ken was the "on-campus external" (i.e.: faculty member not in my department) on my promotions committee for Full Professor. Also, they had reassured me about a lot of stuff, that either a lot of the stuff I saw and wondered "Is this crazy or am I" was that "this is crazy" or they also told me there had been even WORSE budget times than 2016, and just to hang on, things would get better.

He's always had lung issues (was a smoker when younger) but this is really not good.

I feel sad over this. And it was hard today to do review in class - this was the majors-intro-bio and the exam they have later this week covers the section on the development and spread of cancer (on a cellular/tissue level). I managed to hold it together okay in class but if I had thought much harder about it, I wouldn't have.

(I also think of the times when my close family member was undergoing treatment, how hard that spring it was to go through the whole cancer section and more than once I had to just stop and take a breath - for a while I was carrying a glass of water to class with me, not because I needed a drink, but because being able to stop and pause when the feels got to be a little much helped me. And I think of how it was kind of difficult to talk about translocations and the Philadelphia chromosome when I knew someone - who has since died - who was undergoing treatment for CML).

Ugh. Cancer sucks.

(I was worried for a bit last week when my dad, who is 82, told me the new GI doc he was going to had prescribed a colonoscopy. I didn't SAY anything, but I thought, "Wow, they must think something is wrong, because normally in someone my dad's age they don't do screening ones." Turns out the doc was being overzealous and after my dad consulted with his GP, the conclusion was there was no need for one, and that a less-invasive screening test should be done first. I had an aunt who had colon cancer and had to do the whole round of extensive surgery and chemo, but she was on the other side of the family... and she was having symptoms before she was diagnosed)

Tuesday morning things

*Suzette, it's the 1956 edition of Joy of Cooking. I suspect "Stuffed Brussels Sprouts" are in there and I just didn't spot the recipe (not being a fan of sprouts....)

* There's a potluck Sunday and I think I'm going to do that cheesy-grits-souffle thing for it, unless I decide to do sweet potatoes and apples. (Wrong season, but I think I can still find decent sweet potatoes).

* I think I caught a student using voice-to-text software in class today. I've softened my ban on laptops because I have a couple people with accommodations where laptops are helpful, and it's just kind of woeful to go "No, you can't have a laptop but Bob can. No, I can't tell you why he can have one and you can't" but I do ask people using them to sit in the back (so the screens are less distracting to others).

Anyway, near the end of class I hear a disembodied voice saying, "I'm sorry. I don't understand what you just said" and I stopped for a moment and boggled, and then stared in the direction of the voice (I have pretty good directional hearing). The student whose laptop it was ducked her head and said "sorry!" but really? I'm kind of gobsmacked. I mean, I get that it's a shortcut. And I get that I do sometimes get talking kind of fast but I try to repeat things and stop to write stuff on the board and all that kind of stuff (and I sometimes insert totally extraneous stories to slow things down - which would make auto-transcribed notes a weird jumble).

I don't know what to do. For fall, do I note I ban those in the syllabus? I'll be honest: it creeps me right out that someone might be transcribing my notes verbatim (Yes, I know: I allow recording of class if the student asks first and agrees to destroy the recording after the semester is over).

Three other things:

- I have somewhat non-standard pronunciations of things - I draw out some vowels a bit more, I truncate some of the "short u's", and I know I say "oo" for "ou" a lot of the time. So they're gonna get some weird spellings in there.

- For goodness sake, this was the start of the section on clays, where I was talking about clay mineralogy, which has a lot of very specific, very unusual terms, and if the thing is just transcribing them phonetically, they're gonna make NO sense at all.

- There are studies (! STUDIES !) that demonstrate retention is better when you hand-write notes, and I completely believe this because I know it is true of me - to the point where, if I am in a meeting where I need to pay attention and not let my mind wander, I will take notes even if I never use them later on, because the mere action of taking notes forces one not to "check out." (And honestly? I think that's part of the issue we see in some underperforming college students: they never got the habit of taking notes, some of them I've questioned have been actively hostile to the idea of having to do that). So letting a computer do your

(I also think of the old comic - might have been in the New Yorker, might have been in the Chronicle of Higher Ed - where one day in class, students show up with tape recorders. Then, later on, the students only come and leave the tape recorders while the professor lectures. Final panel: the professor has left his own tape recorder with the recording of his lecture while the students left THEIR tape recorders to record it. You want robots to take all of our jobs? Because that's how you get robots taking all of our jobs.)

I've also found of late asking questions or trying to start discussion in classes is met with a surprised silence....guys, I expect you to talk sometimes, okay?

* Another thought: I guess it's a good thing I don't curse in class if what I'm saying gets transcribed verbatim. (Some profs do. I don't, I don't really roll that way and I'm also sensitive that there are some students who might be bothered by it)

No, wait.....I did once hiss "dammit!" under my breath in class, but it was in a day where (a) my paying-attention-challenged student had just asked me the same question for the fourth time that day and (b) when I went to write something on the board, the chalk snapped in my hand and I dropped both pieces. And yes, A and B were related.

But that's a pretty mild swear as swears go.

* And yet another thought: if people are gonna do speech-to-text, now I want to redo some of my lecture comments to be kind of like that old "shaving cream" song - where it sounds like the person is setting up to say something really bad, but it turns out to be innocuous. Not that I'd probably have the presence of mind to do it right in class.

I just....wish people wouldn't. I do find the idea of everything I say being transcribed verbatim on a computer kind of creepy. Panopticon-like, almost. I'm not sure I can be forceful enough to say "Don't do that," though, other than to persuasively suggest when someone using that software comes in seeking extra credit that perhaps, just perhaps, their note-taking in class isn't quite what it could be.

* I would like to get a peek at an alternative universe in which I am a less meek and accommodating figure. In that alternative universe probably would have stopped class dead, swooped down on the back row of class, and declared "Are. You. Using. Speech. To. Text. Software?!?!" and then if the student admitted it, I would have said "DON'T DO THAT" and swept back up to the front of the class and then either immediately picked back up with lecture, or else gone off on a tear about how people are getting lazy because of technology....I could probably be quite terrifying if I were less meek. But I'm not sure how to go about that transformation. (I imagine it as being something like a lighter-haired, feminine version of Severus Snape, but I can't quite get there from here)

Monday, March 20, 2017

Loving old books

A friend of mine on Twitter was talking about wanting to read Conrad Richter's "Awakening Land" trilogy (The Trees, The Fields, and The Town) but that they were hard to find. (I guess they are out of print). I said I THOUGHT I had one of those....turns out I have all three.

(But no, I'm not going to entrust them to the US mail as a loan to her - they are old editions, one may even be a first edition I lucked into finding. They have nice old burlappy bindings - one is blue, one is gold, the other one is red (and I even have the dustjacket for that one!)

This is what I mean
(That one is the first edition. I guess I was going for completism - I had got The Trees and The Fields and I went online - this was back when I lived in Illinois - for The Town. There is still the card from Mountain Laurel Books, where I ordered it from, in there).

KatieBea was bemoaning their unavailability so I hunted around a bit (I haven't bought many used books online recently, but I used to have a few contacts) and.....holy cow, some hardcover editions are going for $70 a go. (So yeah, REALLY not loaning those out, especially not since I'd have to entrust them to the USPS to get them to her)

So between that and the other two (The Lady, which I've never read, and The Light in the Forest, the re-reading of which started me on the Richter collecting kick), I could have $200 or more worth of books on that little shelf....

(Yes, I have a rider on my homeowner's policy for my books. And I have a separate policy for my piano, which is probably the second-most-valuable thing I own, after my house).

I dunno. I just like these editions and a few years back (Well, 20 years, now), you could sometimes find them for a decent price. Mine are probably a bit more beat-up than some of the collector's editions so maybe they're not quite $200 all together, but still...

The Light in the Forest is one of those books that used to be (at least in the part of the world where I grew up) a super-common middle or junior high school book. I suppose because it was Historical, and also because I grew up in northeastern Ohio, not too terribly far from the action where the book takes place. (IIRC, the Tuscarawas* River makes an appearance there). Also, Native Americans - the Lenni Lenape, who are sometimes called the Delawares. (I *think,* but could be wrong, that Lenni Lenape is what they want to be called and Delaware is what settlers started calling them, kind of like Dineh and Navajo).

(*In case you're curious, we always pronounced it like Tusk-a-roar-as. I THINK that's correct, at least that's how I always heard it)

I remember reading The Light in the Forest in sixth or seventh grade and HATING it. HATING it. (We also read Walkabout, which I similarly disliked). I am assuming the books were chosen on the grounds that it was young teens doing Exciting things, and also there was no sex or swears or blasphemy to upset parents.

(Years later, they had swapped out The Cay for A Light in the Forest - my brother read The Cay. And yes, you can imagine just exactly what the 13 year old boys in his class altered the title on the cover of the cheap paperbacks they had to buy to.... I think The Cay was set in the Caribbean....)

Anyway - many years later, 1998 to be exact, I was stuck home one weekend after getting spectacularly entangled in a hornet's nest doing fieldwork. I sustained somewhere over a dozen stings, my arm swelled up and I had to keep it elevated, I had a slight fever from the reaction to the stings, so I didn't want to do much other than lie around - and I found the old copy of The Light in the Forest that I had had in public school. And I re-read it. And darn it, but if it isn't a pretty good story - sad ending, of course, but still, a good story. (And I wound up finding and buying the 50s-era early edition Borzoi book of it - Babbit's had one for less than $10, and I decided I liked the design of the book - it was of a piece with The Trees pictured above - and I wanted to have my own "permanent" copy. And I still do.) I should re-read it sometime, and read the other Richter books I've acquired (I read part of The Awakening Land but got busy and put it aside).

(I suppose I "hated" The Light in the Forest because I "had" to read it, along with the other 20-or-so kids in my class. Generally I think you don't like the stuff you MUST read for class as well as the stuff you choose to read on your own. I absolutely loved Middlemarch when I read it a dozen or so years ago; I might not have felt that way if I was having to write analytical essays on it for a Brit Lit class)

I was also talking about the cook books I bought last week.

I really like the Dallas Symphony fundraiser one - there are quite a few "exotic" dishes in it (and also Danny Kay and Mstislav Rostropovich have recipes in there).

And I found another name for a recipe I've seen floating around! I kind of "collect" variant names of recipes. I knew this one first as either Marzetti or Johnny Marzetti - a mock-Italian dish* of pasta and ground beef (One recipe is here). But there are weird variant names, I suppose as it gets passed around it's like a game of telephone. I've seen Johnny Masetti, Tommy Marzetti, John Bon Getti, and now, in this book Johnny Bozzini.

I dunno, I take a certain delight in that and would love to find other names. Apparently Johnny Marzetti is the "correct" name, as it originated at a Columbus, Ohio restaurant of that name, but....

(*Kind of like chop suey is mock-Chinese)

I also looked through "The Joy of Cooking." One thing I like about this book is that the author (Irma Rombauer, though on this edition apparently her daughter Marion helped) makes the occasional little arch comment before giving a recipe (something about how people thought it was "heresy" to include apples with red cabbage, but she liked it, so she was doing it - and that's how my mom always made red cabbage, anyway).

It's an incredibly extensive book and has some unusual recipes, or some oddly named ones (No Johnny Marzetti, though, that I could find).

There's one called Woodchuck. No, not made WITH - it's a cheese dish with tomatoes, kind of like an ale-less Welsh Rarebit with tomatoes added, and I'm wondering if it's a play on words because rarebit is sometimes rendered as "rabbit" (so often that some cook book authors hypothesize that it was invented after a bad day's replacement for the game that never materialized) and so "it's not rabbit, it's woodchuck" or something like.

There are also a lot of older recipes in there - there are a number for croquettes, which in Rombauer's version are deep-fried, but my mother often made croquettes (especially chicken croquettes, a big favorite in my family when I was growing up) and she baked them - less messy, and I suspect you taste the food rather than the oil with baked croquettes.

She also has recipes for timbales, which seem to have been quite a common thing back in the 1950s that we have forgot about. Perhaps the cholesterol-phobia of the 1970s scared them away, because they are rich in eggs. But they seem something that would be ripe to be brought back: a good way to use up small amounts of leftovers. (Have a bit of leftover salmon, shrimp, and veggies? Stick them in a timbale and you can stretch the expensive protein in the custard). Actually, they're not that far off from being very small versions of the crustless quiche I made....perhaps the idea now is "Men don't like them" because they seem daintier or something, but really, I tend to think it's silly to reject a food because it's somehow nonconforming to your idea of what your gender "should" eat. (I would never just order a salad on a date. If we were going Dutch so I didn't feel bad about spending his money, and the place had good steaks, I'd get a nice rare steak.).

She also shows how to clean and draw a chicken, which I suppose is useful knowledge in the day and age of backyard chickens (though many of the chicken-keepers I know seem to prefer to let their superannuated birds die of old age).

There are also many interesting "luncheon" dishes (small plates, often things made with eggs or cheese or leftover meat - the sort of smaller meal I am more prone to eat). And lots of vegetable recipes. Including a few rather horrifying things:

"Turnips filled with left-over food"

which sounds like a part of the Four Yorkshiremen sketch ("Yaaaah? Well, we only had turnips, no leftover food, and we were HAPPY with them!")

There's also a recipe for Lentils and Prunes, which simply breaks my brain. (Rombauer describes it as "Highly caloric but relished by both young and old" I can't....quite).

If I wanted to do a slightly stunt-y show in the mold of Mythbusters or something, I think I'd want to do one where I dug up old recipes, cooked them, and then served them to people (including myself, provided the recipe didn't include celery or cashews or one of the other things that disturbs my allergies). Lentils and prunes,, I don't know.

(My paternal grandmother used to speak fondly of noodles and prunes as a dessert from her childhood, but that seems somewhat different, especially as I have had noodle kugel and liked it).

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Break is over

Well, almost.

As is typical of these things, I never seem to either enjoy myself quite as much as I'd hoped, nor get quite as much work done as I'd hoped. (Then again: I successfully got fasting bloodwork done AND got the results back, I got my taxes done, I changed out the license plate on my car, I wrote an exam).

I did work a bit on Celestarium and might work a bit more on it tonight. And I sewed up all the blocks for "Line Dance" and am slowly applying what amounts to the sashing (and what will then be trimmed so they tilt). I did go antiquing and got some groceries ahead. I made a couple of pillowcases and sewed up a cut-and-sew toy.

I slept in. Tomorrow, 6 am is going to be kind of woeful because I wound up sleeping until nearly 7 much of the week (stupid DST). I should probably go to bed a little early tonight.

I watched cartoons - Oh Ponies, how I missed catching your re-runs more or less regularly.

I obtained yarn ahead for Gabby the Griffin - I think I'm going to do the Shibi Inu girl in a kimono first, then maybe Spitfire, and then Gabby. Or I might do them in different order.

I also started, and read most of, another Louise Penny novel - A Fatal Grace, which is the second in the series. (I think I'm going to read the rest of the series in order, after reading one that is later in the series and learning an Unpleasant Fact about a recurring character). I really do like these novels and I recommend them - someone, commenting on her novels, noted that one of the things that set them apart from some other modern mystery novels is that she seems to believe in the possibility of goodness in this world, and yes, I can see that. (And as I've said before: I just like Armand Gamache and his wife, Reine-Marie - they are good people, they have a good loving marriage, and it's just a relief to see that in entertainment)

Today after church the minister and I went out and did homebound communion, after not doing this for ages and ages (when we were between ministers, it was hard, and as I've said, for some reason I find calling people up on the phone and making the arrangements difficult, even though I know intellectually that the people are surely happy to hear from me and if they don't want a visit, there will be a good reason and they won't be rude about it). Only one couple - the other one we might have visited were down with bronchitis, and the third couple have made it back to church. The couple we visited were people I knew well - the woman used to be an elder, and she and I often went and delivered homebound communion back in the day. (Back surgery - very, very extensive back surgery - has her down, and her husband has other issues. But she's getting better and she hopes in a few more months she'll be even more mobile). We spent a bit over an hour visiting with them and then did communion. It was a good visit and I think if I were stuck in the house I would welcome being able to see someone I knew.

but I confess, I hope I'm not the one doing it EVERY month.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Moment of connection

I ran out to water my little plants, and I also made a run to $ChainDrugstore because I was out of the toothpaste I use (Aquafresh, NON whitening* - which not every place has but I know this place does)

(*I have sensitive teeth and I find whitening toothpastes make them worse. Of course almost every toothpaste out there now is a "whitening" kind)

Anyway, I took a swing by the Easter display, just because. Chuckled at the 2-foot-tall stuffed-toy version of Peeps bunnies (If I had more space, I'd consider buying one as a springtime sofa pillow, but storing it the other 10 months of the year - not so much).

And then I looked at the Easter basket goodies. Not the candy - still avoiding that and I find my willpower to is surprisingly good. But the little toys.

And lo, a new wave of Ponies has appeared! Halloween wave!  (Yeah, I don't get it either, but here in the central US you take the new waves when they come). My inner seven year old squealed and I grabbed several packages.

I got the other stuff I needed - the toothpaste, some hydrocortisone cream, more Claritin, some greeting cards - and went to the checkout.

The young woman checking out exclaimed (taking the blindbag packs out of my basket), "Oh, I love these!" I decided to drop any pretense of "they're for children in my life" and I kind of chuckled and said "So do I. And I've been waiting for a new series to come out where I didn't already have lots of them."

She responded: "You know there's a movie coming out this fall? Are you a fan of the show?"

And I said, yes I did, and yes, I was

And she laughed again: "Oh, this is great! You're my new best friend! What's your name?" and when I told her she laughed again and said "My name is Jerica! We're practically twins!"

It was kind of nice and fun.

And the blind bags were excellent, I got the one I wanted MOST out of that wave:

Raven Inkwell! Princess Celestia's assistant/secretary!

I also got Dental Tech Minuette:

(Maybe she's actually supposed to be a doctor; she's wearing a stethoscope, but given all the fan-lore about her, I think she kind of has to be a dentist)

I also got both of the Cakes in their costumes (I just grabbed the bags in order out of the box, these two were right next to each other
Mrs. Cake looks like she managed to lose her "foal weight" (they used a skinnier mold for her than the playset with the foals...)

And last, this weirdo:

Sprinkle Medley? What are you thinking? (And where did your wings go?)

Friday, March 17, 2017

One completed thing

One of the things I did today was quickly sew up one of those cut-and-sew toys I bought from Spoonflower.

This is Ludovic:


He was designed by Hazel Fisher - you can get him on Spoonflower (or I suppose, yours might be a her) in several different colors but the teal was my favorite.

These kinds of toys were a big thing when I was a kid - every fabric shop had them, and I had a bunch (my favorite was a giraffe named George, but I also had a bear and a cat and a couple of others, and the "freebee" toys that some advertisers sent out were like this - I had a Tony the Tiger that I was deeply fond of when I was about four, and also a Jolly Green Giant).

When I got a little older, I kind of lost my love of these - they were simple, they weren't posable, the limbs weren't even separate! But I've come back around to liking them again, because of the fact that they are kind of like pillows, and I do like the simplicity of the designs.

Also, dragons: when I was a kid, I had a copy of Norman Bridwell's The Witch's Catalog. This was one of those "Scholastic Book Club Books" - how I loved that as a kid, the little newsprint catalogs with the long narrow order forms, and then the day the books arrived...

 Even though I was old enough (I was 8 or so) to know it was all fantasy, oh, how I wanted my own tiny pet dragon like the one shown in the book. I actually made (I could sew, as a kid, and I sometimes even designed my own toys) several dragon toys but of course it wasn't the same as a REAL one would have been....

But yeah. Ludovic is kind of a memory of that. And if nothing else, he'll look cute sitting on my sofa.

Edited to add: Google Image Search can be a great thing. Here are (in panel form) the three ones I remember from childhood:


The cat, which I called Charlie (That may have been his "official" name):

And the bear, which I don't remember as having a name. (I was less fond of him):

I should probably retrieve George from my parents' house some time when I visit; I kind of want to keep him.

Also, here's the update on Celestarium:

celestarium March 17

You can see I moved it to the short circular.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Home Day tomorrow

Yeah, I decided. Because:

a. I think I pulled a muscle in my back working out and driving on our chewed up roads probably won't do it any favors.

b. It's St. Paddy's Day, aka "Amateur Night" if you're talking about beer-drinking, and if I wind up out after about 4 or 5 pm I might have to dodge some happy overindulgers

but mostly

c. I've got stuff here I want to do.

I realized I have a couple large pieces of fabric I bought for pillowcases that I never sewed up. (One has Paddington Bear  on it - I think I have enough for 2 cases - and another is a piece from Spoonflower with tiny little horses of all different breeds on it (I hope the way the piece is printed that they will orient the right way. If not, I might have to either make the edge wider, or use the fabric for something else).

And yes - when you live alone and sleep alone you can totally have juvenile-themed pillowcases and it DOESN'T MATTER.

(I think I also have some Winnie the Pooh fabric I bought for pillowcases. Can't remember if I actually bought it or just thought about it....)

I use the "burrito pillowcase" instructions from All People Quilt. (And I keep thinking I should whip up one or two for donation, if that program is still going - for a while they were collecting happy fun pillowcases for kids in shelters, or for kids in foster care. Because that kind of thing, I think, might make things a little bit better).

I also want to work more on the "Line Dance" quilt top. It would be nice to get all the blocks made up and the sashing started on them. (Not sure if I have the energy to spray-starch and cut the edges so they will do the tilting thing).

It would also be fun to start something else. Maybe the one of the blue-and-yellow fabrics I bought on my birthday trip. Or maybe pop in a movie and do some hand-quilting. 

I also think at some point I'm going to talk to the church secretary about going down there when the kid's daycare isn't in session and use the floor in Fellowship Hall to lay out a couple quilt tops - I know no one would mind but they do have cameras up so it might help for someone to know to expect I was coming down there. I have a very long-stalled "confection" print fabrics top to put together, and the one I finished last fall with all the florals in it. (A Saturday would work for that: rarely are there things there on a Saturday)

I never did call the quilting lady but I can do that some other time.

I also worked a bit more on Celestarium, did the next set of increases, and moved it to the short circular. This is one of those patterns where you do go "I want to do one more row to see where this goes" - I've got Ursa Minor done already and there are a few beads in place to start forming the next constellations in the circle.

It's going to be really pretty. I'm loving the intense blues I chose for the "sky" in it.

Little bit bigger

Here's Celestarium, as of this morning:

Celestarium March 16

I've gotten the hang of applying the beads. It's nice to have a use for those tiny little crochet hooks I bought so many years ago.

It is kind of satisfying to work on - at least right now, when the rows aren't super-long. (I am close to another increase, and every increase is a doubling - this is a pi shawl)

OH OH OH OH I worked on a pi shawl on pi day!!!!!!! Excellent.


Yesterday was a pretty good day. Did not find a lot at the antique shops but I did buy a 1956 edition of "The Joy of Cooking" (I did not have a copy of that one; there are a few good basic recipes in it not in some other books). I also bought a copy of a hardback (! from before the era of spiral bound fundraisers, maybe?) cook book called "Noted Cookery" that was published to raise money for the Dallas Symphony Orchestra. It was published a few months after I was born, so I guess it's almost "vintage."

(I learned: "Antique" is 100 years old or more; "vintage" is 50 years old-100 years old, anything more recent is just "used." So I feel a slight annoyance at hearing about "vintage" toys that were ones I played with at age 10, but then again - it's an easy way to separate the first run of My Little Ponies from the current one, at least among people not familiar with the "generations" designations that collectors use)

Anyway. It's a fun cookbook - it has some different recipes. (If I can ever find a bulk pork sausage that's low enough in sodium, I am trying the German Meat Loaf recipe. It has a number of international recipes (Cornish pasties, something  called Worsten Broodjes that I presume is Dutch...)

Also, because this is a fund-raising cookbook, the names of all the contributors are there (usually as "Mrs. Husband's Name" though there are a few men who contributed and either a few single or widowed woman who get their own names).

There are a couple from "Mrs. H. Ross Perot." Heh. (Crabmeat-aspic salad* and Mocha-Nut tortoni).

(*I always think of a rude joke one of my uncles made about aspic, saying it was enough to make anyone's.....well, you probably get the idea)

There are also a few "famous people" recipes. Not sure if they wrote to the people and got them ("Bob Hope's favorite lemon pie") or if they were out floating around. There's one from Loretta Young called "Bride's Delight," presumably because it is easy: you boil a can (unopened) of condensed milk until it caramelizes, cut it in thin slices, and serve with whipped cream. (Ugh. the thought of that much concentrated sweetness makes my teeth curl up)

There's also a Texas chapter, which has a recipe for something that looks like a hybrid between spoonbread and cheese grits and which may be my next potluck contribution. (I am mindful of the fact that our new minister is a vegetarian, but he does eat cheese). And anyway, cheese grits are just good.

I also went to Tuesday Morning; they had a Lagoona Blue doll (the one with her pet sea turtle - it was one I had contemplated ordering off of Amazon at one point, but of course she was cheaper here) and also a Cleo de Nile from the same line. (I HAVE to get that shelf put together and installed so all the dolls have a place to live....)

I did all the necessary shopping yesterday (it was a full day) so I now have the choice on Friday that if I would prefer to stay home and sew or knit, I can, instead of driving to Whitesboro. At this point I am thinking of "saving" the Whitesboro trip for some Saturday when I really need something more fun. I will have to think about it.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Glad I waited

I was sort of just dinking around here this morning, thinking "you really need to get on the road for your day of antiquing" but I kept wanting to check Twitter again or hear another old Comedian Harmonists recording...

And then the phone rang.

Caller ID was my doctor's office.

My stomach dropped a little but I picked up. It was the nurse:

"I have a message here from Dr. Woodall to call you. Your labs came back. They are all normal."


I will confess to doing a tiny bit of awkward-dancing alone in my living room after that. I know I am a hypochondriac, but:

a. I didn't have ANY recognizable symptoms of high blood pressure before my diagnosis (in retrospect: I did seem to have more tinnitus the summer before I was diagnosed, but that could have been coincidence)

b. A close family member wound up with a diagnosis of very-early-stage (so early they referred to a "cure" rather than a "remission," and he is still with us 10+ years later) after getting a weird lab result (I think it was for ALT) and spending six months in an agonizing round of follow up tests

So yea, I worry. But now I don't need to, and I also know that I'm probably okay in how I'm eating and exercising.

AND this means: Easter (or probably the Saturday evening before) I am baking a cake and I am going to ENJOY that cake on Easter as my way of breaking the Lenten fast. (But I am going to strive to be more careful about sweets and eat them less frequently in the future, so I can help keep my weight under control and hopefully avoid any future issues with blood sugar).

But yes, I am very very relieved right now. (And wow, that was fast on the labs - they just took the blood 2 days ago)

A free day

Today is antiquing day.

I am also going to run to the Target, and perhaps Ulta, and probably get lunch out. And do "big" grocery shopping.

Yesterday, I got a good bit of data analysis done and the rest of the materials and methods written, and even part of the results. (The results are not as clear as I thought they might be, but that's science: you go with what you get). So I feel a bit better about this paper now. Tomorrow I do have to write that exam and perhaps do a bit on the new coursework, but I figure I can take today off to go antiquing, leave the option of Friday open to go to the quilt and yarn shops, and maybe leave Saturday open to stay home and sew or knit. (Sunday afternoon is already spoken for: I am doing homebound communion, which I admit the Elders have been unfortunately lax on of late. I know one couple is expecting us, don't know about the other - someone else is doing the calling because I hate and fear the telephone and I finally came out about that to the elders, and begged someone else to do it. Going to the houses of people I don't know that well is effortful enough for me.)

I also went out to the tax place. My taxes have been submitted which is a good feeling. Yes, it is expensive to have a preparer do it, but it is worth it to me, because (a) someone who knows their stuff is doing it (this year I had a schedule K-1, which I can't even about, so it's good to hand it off to someone who knows*), (b) it saves wear and tear on me, and saves me from having to devote a day or two of Spring Break to working on taxes, and (c) if the IRS has a question, the preparer will back me up, and I assume that the IRS is less likely to question one done by a professional. (And (d): I feel more comfortable doing the itemized deduction thing; back when I was doing them by hand I didn't do a schedule A out of fear of an audit, so I probably paid a good bit more than I legally had to)

I'm getting a decent federal refund (I have a lot of charitable donations - I essentially tithe to my church, and I also give a bit to some disaster-relief agencies and some scholarship funds, and I can write off things like my property tax, and this year I was able to write off what I had to pay for my ER visit in January 2016). There was a small state refund ($40) but Oklahoma has the option of donating that to the regional food banks, and I decided to do that - because last year's state refund was taxed on my federal taxes, and I assume if I give away that $40 I won't be taxed on it (I hope that's right. Not because of the tax savings so much but saving the hassle). And anyway, our food banks need help.

The federal refund will help fund my summer-without-a-paycheck, so that's good. (Not teaching this summer, which is going to be different. I'm actually kind of looking forward to JUST doing research and teaching-prep for the fall.)

(*Yes, I realize the privilege inherent in that statement. I have investments, some of them inherited from my paternal grandfather; he also used to buy stock in our names when I was a kid - I have a little note he wrote when I was about 5 with a sketch of a car on it and the note that he had bought a certain number of shares of Chrysler stock in my name. I don't think that stock is in my portfolio any more, but it's kind of nice to have the note. Small-scale investing was one of my grandfather's hobbies, I guess. Anyway, the stock account is supposed to be part of my retirement - so far, I've only tapped into it to help pay for the house, but I could see in a year with a good gain using it to help buy a new car if needed.... though anymore, I'm going to go with "certified pre-owned" to save the few bucks)

I got a bit more done on Celestarium. Perhaps this is one project I take tons of in-progress photos of because it's big and will be slow and it will be good to me to be able to scan back through here and see the progress I'm making on it. I can already see Ursa Minor starting to emerge in the beading and that's cool.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Happy Pi(e) Day

Today is 3/14, also known as Pi day (3.14, get it)*

So one celebrates by eating pie.

But how does one manage to celebrate pie day and continue to honor one's Lenten pledge to avoid sweets?**

By making a savory pie. I have designated this quiche "egg pie" and therefore it is a pie and therefore I am celebrating pie day.

egg pie

This is a modification of the Mother Rimmy recipe here. I used canned salmon and used six whole eggs (I think I had a bigger pie plate) and canned evaporated milk (good substitute for cream) and I used Swiss cheese instead, thinking that might be better. It is a crustless quiche, because crusts are a pain to make and anyway I tend to think the eggy part is the best part anyway. (I did butter the pan heavily and sprinkle a thin layer of breadcrumbs on the bottom to try to keep the layer of spinach from sticking).

Hopefully it's good. I'm letting it cool briefly while I heat up the cauliflower tots (which really honestly are quite good, especially dipped in marinara sauce) that I am going to eat with it. 

*(October 23 is Mole Day. Because 10/23 - a mole of a substance is 6.022 times 10 raised to the 23 power atoms of it)

** reasons are complicated and not purely spiritual in nature (in the mode of "offering it up" or of reminding myself "this world doesn't have a hold on me" - though that second one applies). I decided after having gone from my lowest adult weight in July to back to a bit less than my heaviest adult weight in January that I needed to change my relationship to sweets, and one way to do that is to go cold turkey for a while and then if everything's cool with my bloodwork, slowly reintroduce after Lent, maybe trying for "once a week" or "once every three days."

Edited to add, after dinner:

Yup, that recipe is going into the regular rotation. Very, very good. And it's simple. And it uses stuff I mostly tend to have on hand anyway, or can pick up quickly (Green Spray pretty much always has green onions and spinach, and I could sub in any cheese though I think the Swiss was a good choice). And it only took about 25 minutes to cook - faster even sometimes than waiting in line at a carry-out place.

Monday, March 13, 2017

New project begun

I decided to start Celestarium. This was the pattern that was bought for me in the recent CPAAG swap, and for which I bought yarn and beads on my birthday weekend trip.

I figured now was a good time to start. It has a very non-standard cast on, and I admit after about eight tries I gave up and used my usual one, and kind of fudged it. I think it will work okay.

I also had to hunt a lot for my jar of crochet hooks (It's a little fancy glass jar; it may have once held salad dressing or something like that, I bought it with the hooks in it.) These are super-tiny hooks which is what are needed to put the beads on.

(There are a couple ways to do knitting with beads. One is to pre-string them, which makes me go "Oh heck no" because not only do you have to sit and string the right number of beads on, you then have to move all of them down the thread - a pain if the inside diameter of the bead is close to the diameter of the yarn. The other way is to put them on as needed using a tiny crochet hook, which seems a lot more reasonable).

Finally, I found an old steel size 9 crochet hook, which is something like 1.4 mm, and it works with the size 6/0 beads I have.

So I got a start:

Celestarium begins

The journey of 10,000 stitches (or whatever) starts with the first few rows....

I've decided as I get to the longer rows (as I increase), I will just put a pencil mark on the chart where I have to set it down so I don't get off count. This is not a symmetrical pattern so I can't easily "read" it like you can the old Shetland laces.

It's designed to be constellations. (I thought it was Southern Hemisphere, but it is actually the Northern Hemisphere. (So if I ever get lost in the wilderness with it, maybe I'll be able to find my way home?)

Anyway - it's a pattern I really like, I think it's a very clever and beautiful design.

And I don't think I'm alone in that.

Also, today was a Pony Mail Day. (As opposed, I guess, to Pone E-mail Day). My latest purchase, Sugarberry, arrived:


This is a pony I've wanted for a while - she's yet another of those "Twice as Fancy" ponies (I already have a couple of others). She's more common than some (Nightglider and Munchy seem to be more highly sought-after) but she's still a favorite with a lot of collectors and she IS quite pretty because of her color scheme.

She's also called the "Strawberry Shortcake Pony" because of her pattern and colors:

strawberry shortcake pony

(Those are "Bridge Direct" reproductions of the original Strawberry and Blueberry Muffin in party dresses. I'm hoping they re-issue more of the old style dolls; I always wanted an Orange Blossom but never got one - again, Strawberry Shortcake was one of those toys I was just on the cusp of being "too old for" as a kid, but that I really kind of liked, secretly. I think with a lot of those things it was the innocence and childlike quality that appealed to me - at 12 and 13 I was really very suspicious of teenagerhood, and as it turns out, I wasn't that good at being a teenager....)

And because this is a thing I do, now, apparently, here's a Pony Selfie, taken with my computer's webcam:

Yes, she has yet another tiny "cutie mark" on her forehead, like where real horses have a "blaze" sometimes. Her colors are more hot pink than what the photo might show.

Monday morning things

* Blood has been drawn. The nurse told me they would call me to let me know when the results were in. Here's hoping everything comes back good, or if it's something slightly iffy (e.g., slightly elevated blood sugar) I can promise to continue the "lifestyle changes" I've been doing and try again later.

* Because really: I know I need to be less credulous about such things but the "prediabetes" PSAs get under my skin because they seem to imply EVERYONE is (apparently 1/3 of people over 18 qualify by the standards, and half over 65). BUT: I have read a couple of articles recently that are by doctors/endocrinologists who are skeptical of the designation and who argue it's not that helpful, and just leads to worry for some people (like me), other people who might actually benefit from lifestyle changes ignoring medical advice,  and perhaps leads to unneeded interventions with medication. (And also, there is a strong streak in the US of "you brought this on yourself" - and if I turn up prediabetic or diabetic I will be FURIOUS because then why am I doing 150+ minutes of exercise a week, and trying to avoid added sugars, and not eating potatoes, and limiting how much bread I eat, and I gave up orange juice and sodas a long time ago....but of course, if you have that unlucky genetics, there you are). I have enough of a perfectionist streak in me to make me miserable and ascetic about things, and I could see how hearing "your blood sugar is a little high" leading me to do something like give up ALL carbohydrates and try to exist on eggs, meat, and vegetables.

(And no: I have no symptoms at all, but I also had no symptoms with the hypertension before I got rejected from giving blood because my blood pressure was too high, so I think I'm a little big gunshy on these things)

*However, I have made myself a promise: if my results all come back good (or if the "bad" result is not sugar-related), when Easter comes, I am baking a cake and eating as much of it as I want after Easter dinner. (Which will probably amount to a generous-sized slice but not half the cake or anything like that).

* Really, though, I suspect the most likely "bad" result will be that my iron is low, and that's easily-enough fixed. More spinach, or buy steak more often.....

* I also decided to run two other errands:

 - my water bill for the month had not shown up, and remembering that time several years ago when my payment got lost in the mail and I almost-immediately got a nastygram from the city warning of imminent water shut-off, plus a $100 fee to reinstate water when I paid up, so I went down to that city office to ask.

Turns out they have a "shortage of meter readers" right now so the bills are delayed and we will have an extra 10 days to pay them. Still, if I don't have it by the end of this week I am going to go down and pay in person if I can.

 - Went to the Tag Office (non-Oklahomans: this is kind of like the DMV but not exactly; I don't think they do driving tests but they do make licenses and the like). We all have to buy a new license plate this year, apparently to fund something in the state. I gave up on my earlier idea of requesting a vanity plate saying either "BIRB" or "SMOLBIRB" (and I have been informed that last is too many letters) because of the extra cost, effort, and I'm not sure I want that recognizable of a plate.

(And that's because our plate now has an outline of the state bird on it.)

It was just about $90. I don't remember what I paid last year for the sticker that verifies my registering but I don't think it was $90. And sometime now I have to (a) put the new plate on and (b) e-mail Motor Pool Lady who also keeps the parking records of my new tag number (and remind her of my parking sticker number) so I don't get a ticket.

* I also found that I had a partial draft of the paper I needed to write this break done. I guess I started it way back in January (or even before) and then forgot I had done that when all the stuff went crazy with the OTHER manuscript I had to write and the Science Olympiad and everything. I've added a bit to it but I think I might close up for the day soon and just plan to come in and work more tomorrow - I have some data analysis I COULD do towards the manuscript but if I get in earlier tomorrow that could be done then.

I also have an exam I want to write so I don't have to do it during the week next week.

But I also want to go home and do my day's exercise, and also have a little fun (probably sewing) time; tonight is CWF meeting (siiiiiiiiigggghhhh) so I am committed for this evening.

* I am still designating Wednesday as a Fun Day. I am thinking of going antiquing, and maybe running a few errand-type things (Big Grocery Shopping, for example). Maybe Friday I even consider going to Whitesboro, I don't know. Getting back into quilting shows me that I need some more big pieces of solid color (or plain white) for sashing/block backgrounds and I'd rather buy the Kona Cotton from a quilt shop if I can, rather than mailordering it.

Also, it might be good to look through my quilt books/magazines and make a few plans as to what I will need sashing for, and in what colors.

Hm. Will have to check; if Lovejoy's is serving a full lunch that day it might be worth going down for their quiche.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Sunday at home

DST has messed me up a little bit; it doesn't feel like 6:30 pm.

But oh well.

After church, I came home and did the dvd workout (I am nothing if not persistent about exercise). Then I went into my sewing room and worked on the blocks for the current (long-stalled) top (called Line Dance - sort of a tilted nine-patch) for a while. I have most of the blocks done and might go back in and try to do the remaining ten before it gets dark out this evening.

(First, I need to finish the hibiscus/rooibos tea - it's Adagio's "Raspberry Patch" and is pretty good - that I'm drinking to try to stay full because I have to fast (except for water or unsweetened steeped beverages) until tomorrow morning because it's Bloodwork Day. I am *slightly* apprehensive though with no really good reason. For the first time in my life I am having a thyroid panel done - not because there's any thought anything's wrong, but my doctor just wants to be sure, and she says it's good to have a baseline reading somewhere before age 50)

It feels good to get back to quilting; I tend to leave it for too long and forget how I miss it when I'm not doing it.

Also, I have a lead on someone the next town over (Mead) who does longarming out of her home and I might call her this week to get some idea of her rates and wait-time and maybe even take a sample top out to her to see what she can do. It would be nice to have someone who I could hire to do longarm quilting again.

I also might pull out the handquilting project and work on it again. (However, there's really nothing worth watching on tv tonight while I quilt; the local PBS channel which normally runs Father Brown on Sunday night is in pledge-drive mode and so is showing programming I consider one step above infomercials - "alternative" medicine programs, and "de-stress your life" programs that presuppose you have unlimited money, time, and spousal support, and programs of old pop music that was old when I was young. And no, I don't mean Lawrence Welk)

I also dug out a few books of knitting and quilting patterns and might just set up in bed with them and flip through and daydream/plan future projects. That's really the most fun part for me: the anticipation, the planning, the putting colors together. Starting the project is fun, finishing the project is fun, but sometimes the long slog in the middle is what gets me down and tends to make me work more slowly. (This is also true of research work).

I also cooked a more complex dinner. I had, on Friday when I decided to avoid the wal-mart, stopped off at the tiny local meat market (I rarely shop there because most of the stuff they sell is BIG roasts) because they advertised "gourmet cheese" and I was hopeful, but - womp womp - all they had were "spicy" or "habanero" varieties of cheddar or a bacon-cheese that was too salty for me. But I did wind up buying a couple of thick butterfly pork chops, thinking it had been a while since I had pork.

The problem with much pork is it's been made so lean that it dries out upon cooking. So I decided to braise these, especially given the minimal amount of fat on them. I modified a "Cider-Braised Pork Pot Roast" recipe from one of my cookbooks - using smaller amounts and different veg/fruits. (The original recipe had carrots and parsnips, neither of which I can eat because of my intolerance/allergy).

So what I did was brown the chops lightly in a little olive oil, and add a teaspoon or so of Penzey's "Bavarian Seasoning." Then I dumped in the two remaining bottles of cider (this is that lightly alcoholic kind, about as alcoholic as beer) that had been hanging around for a couple years (they were still good; I took a sip of the first one after opening it to be sure). I also added a small container (a bit more than a cup) of chicken broth to bring up the liquid level. I let that simmer for about 20 minutes (and anyway, I had to run to the Green Spray: I was out of sweet potatoes) and then I added a cut up and cored Granny Smith apple, a peeled and cut-into-chunks sweet potato, and a quartered onion. I let the whole thing simmer on a slightly higher temperature (so the sweet potatoes would cook through) for about 40 minutes.

It was good. Sweet potatoes braised in cider are particularly delicious. I ate a little horseradish sauce with the pork - I had bought a container of "creamy horseradish spread" thinking it would be eating-ready, but the first bite of it was "WOW THAT'S HOT" and not hot in the good way, so I went and got the bottle of mayonnaise (I use Duke's, which is like THE Southern brand) and glopped a bunch on top of the puddle of horseradish and mixed them. It was still kind of hot but at least it wasn't painfully hot. (I seem to tolerate horseradish-hot better than I do hot-pepper-hot. Different chemicals, I suppose).

I have some leftover so I can make a second meal of it later this week. You could *probably* use apple juice if you don't want to use the alcoholic cider (though I presume nearly all the alcohol cooks out) but I think you'd want to add a little cider vinegar because hard cider is more tart than sweet cider.

I need to figure out more "eintopf" meals like that; it's easy when you're busy and I think some vegetables do get better for being cooked mixed in with things. (But not beets! I don't want a whole red dinner). When I know for sure my body is still dealing okay with blood sugar, I could use white potatoes but I admit I have been slightly avoiding them of late. Perhaps cabbage or bok choy could be prepared in some kind of one-dish meal, maybe with chicken and with different seasonings than what this had....I used to make a dish with kielbasa, potatoes, and sauerkraut but two of those things are now too high in sodium for me.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Grumpy needed friends...

Okay, yeah, disclaimer up front: I do spend a lot of my disposable income on toys.

But I can't wear fancy expensive shoes (impractical in my workplace, and also I have bad ankles, and also I am kind of fat to be tottering around on stilettos). And I don't eat in restaurants more than once a month or so because of my insanely-restrictive (especially right now) toys are a simple comfort and they ARE a comfort to me.

I talked about wanting Build-a-Bear to make a Sapphire Shores? (They probably won't, unless she features big in season 7....). But they do periodically have good deals. And they had one recently: two critters (of a selected pool) for $35. And at $40 (IIRC) you get free shipping.

And I thought: you know, on that short-lived Care Bears reboot show, I really kind of liked Share Bear. She was a sweet character. And she was part of the "2 for $35" pool. So was Cheer Bear, who was the one I probably wanted next most that was in that pool. (I would have got Toothless the dragon had he been, but not this go-round).

So, in a fit of feeling slightly sorry for myself over one of the many slights-that-I-took-as-bigger-than-it-really-was last week, I ordered them. And a jeans jacket to round it up to $40, and because the idea of my Grumpy Bear wearing a jeans jacket like a bad-boy amuses me.

They came today, a few days early.

To riff on a joke the cool kids make: Squad goals:

Yes, I realize the slight pathos of referring to a bunch of stuffed bears as my "squad."

And here's Grumpy in his bad-boy jean jacket:

'Cos the ladies love a bad boy.

(I suspect, pop culture being what it is, and Internet writing being what is is, someone has figured out extensive "shippings" for the Care Bears. In there case there's perhaps a bit more of a gender balance than with My Little Ponies....though I could see someone writing one where Grumpy is the one who has several of the females "on a string," so to speak, and doesn't let any of them know he's dating the others.....)

And yeah, I guess this is my particular midlife crisis: buying either toys from the 80s (allllll the ponies) or reboots of toys from the 80s (these) that I thought I was too old for the first go-round. (That said: as I mentioned before, I really kind of wanted a Grumpy Bear when they first came out, but was afraid it would look too babyish to ask for one for Christmas, so I didn't. But one of the few consolations of adulthood is that sometimes you can buy the things you wanted as a child but didn't get)

"Living in community"

I don't know I was thinking about this when I first got up this morning, but I found myself thinking about the bill proposed here about allowing homeowners to (or, I think actually: holding them harmless if they do) shoot down unauthorized drones on their property.

Drones are a tool. In some cases, they can be a really useful tool (searching a large park area for a lost kid, for example: I suspect in some cases they could save lives). Or they're a really cool tool: I'd love to be able to see my field sites from the air, and there are probably some research questions that could be answered faster or better with one.

But: like any tool, people can misuse them. When I first heard about drones for "civilian" use being equipped with cameras, practically my first thought was, "No woman is ever going to be able to sunbathe in the "privacy" of her backyard any more. (Not that I DO, but I know some people like to). And I don't even mean nude sunbathing, which is perhaps a legal gray area in a densely-populated area - even being ogled from afar while in a modest bathing suit is icky and gross.

But they had a reaction story from someone who owned, I think it was, a business that sold drones. And he was upset: why should homeowners be able to destroy someone else's property?

And that's where I got to thinking about the "living in community" thing: Sir, are you really saying you want your customers to be able to fly their mini-copters over their neighbor's backyards without asking the neighbor's permission first? You really want to be the guy who sells a product that annoys the heck out of people and makes them angry? Because I'd be angry if I were digging around in the garden and spotted a drone hovering around. Angry and creeped out, because why would someone want to be spying on me like that (provided the thing had a camera).

I mean, with permission, carry on then: I have heard of roofing companies that use camera equipped drones for roof inspections, and that's a good use of them. But in that case the homeowner would invite the roofer over, and ask them to use the drone....

My feeling is: if you don't want intrusive laws (and I think most of us don't), don't do behaviors that encourage people to promote those types of laws.

Drones are just the latest one. Flying a drone and especially hovering a drone over someone's property without their prior and explicit permission is kind of a jerk move (and new permission in each case: I might let someone fly a drone over my tree so I could see if there was damage to the top of it, but I wouldn't want that person to feel like they could fly it over my property any time then).

It violates a person's "personal space" in a sense. Yes, we all have to live together in this world no one owns the air, but to hover your loud, buzzy toy that might or might not have a camera running on it in someone's backyard does feel like a violation of their rights.

I have similar feelings about boom cars. I have real issues with that one jerk who decides it's just fine to drive around (or worse, park) in a residential area with their boom car going late at night. Noise pollution is a thing. I've been awakened by boom cars. Not that I think we need more laws but I do think people need to think of their neighbors a little more. (I often cite my rule, in my neighborhood, of not edging or doing any loud lawn tasks before 10 am on the weekends, even though by then in high summer it's darned hot some days and it would be more fun to do those tasks at 7 am when it's a good bit cooler).

And similarly: cell phone use while driving. I know I've reported a couple times here near-misses where I had to use all my defensive-driving prowess to avoid being hit by someone gabbing away or, worse, looking down to text while they drive. And yes, some areas have laws about this because people don't seem to have the common sense God gave a goose on this matter. (Locally, they are banned in school zones). We shouldn't HAVE to have laws about this but people never seem to go "I can't do these two things safely together so I'll set the phone down." (I KNOW I could not drive and talk on the phone at the same time, so my phone stays turned off, or, if I need to make a call, I find a parking lot to pull into).

I don't know. The human-population is ever growing (even though I live in one of the less-dense areas) and we have to be able to live with each other. To me, it seems simple: "Love your neighbor as you love yourself" or "what would be abhorrent to you, do not do to your neighbor" and I know that having someone run loud equipment early in the morning (before I was up) would be abhorrent to me, and I also know that some people sleep a good bit later than I do on weekends. I just wish the 2-am-drivers would realize the same thing. And if everyone followed the Golden Rule, we probably wouldn't wind up with laws like "Homeowners who shoot down unauthorized drones will be held harmless" because there wouldn't BE anyone flying unauthorized drones. Don't like intrusive laws? Then don't behave in ways that encourage people to propose them.

Friday, March 10, 2017

random break thoughts

* Got my exams graded. People will....not be happy, but then I gave a review sheet with several of the topics heavily pointed out they were going to be on the exam, and those were the topics most missed, so, eh.

* My dad's misdirected present came, so I quickly packaged it up (and also wrote out and addressed my most recent ITFF card-swap card, which has to go to Ireland) and ran them down to the post office. The post office person said my dad's gift should arrive there Monday, which would be perfect, because Monday is his birthday. (I am skeptical: I sent it first class and it was less than $3 to mail, and also I thought it took longer than a weekend for packages to get somewhere? But whatever. At least it's on its way and he knows to expect it)

* Thought of running to the wal-mart so I don't have to tomorrow, drove out there, remembered they're resurfacing half the parking lot and it was a ZOO, so I went back home. I will try again first thing tomorrow morning before the crowds.

* But yeah. I don't know what's up with my town:
- major construction on the interstate that leads to huge back-ups and the main onramps to it are currently closed
- construction on the overpasses of that interstate which means that the other route out of town is congested or outright blocked on occassion.
- I really hope we don't have anything happening soon that requires evacuation; people will die if it comes to that. (I know a few back ways that I might try if it came to that)
- And now, the wal-mart lot.

* Build-a-Bear now has a Starlight Glimmer plush for sale. (No, I don't need one, I have the smaller Aurora one). I will note, though: Build-a-Bear, if you made a Sapphire Shores? I would totally buy her. Even though your plush are too huge and take up too much space. I kind of want a squishy Minky Sapphire Shores. (Yes, I could probably crochet one, but I'd never get the hair right)

Actually, a squishy plush Sapphire Shores with several of her outrageous outfits would be a wonderful thing to have.

* One of the things I am really tempted to do this break is just start ALL THE PROJECTS. I should probably finish a few things I have going, but I also want to start Celestarium, but also the stuffed Doge (I got the yarns for her last weekend), and the Spitfire I bought yarn for a while back, and more socks, and....maybe a cabled sweater, I don't know....

Also I do think I'll go antiquing on Wednesday (maybe) and perhaps also think about getting dark blue-grey and light-blue-grey yarn for a Gabby the Griffon who was a one-off character in this season's MLP. Some fans were annoyed by her but I found her kind of endearing - that super-hyper-cheerful girl who wants to be everyone's friend and is always positive.  I bought a generic griffon pattern from an Etsy pattern-seller but using the right colors and doing felt eyes, I could make an acceptable Gabby. 

* I can tell I am getting better at German and that makes me happy. I like learning stuff, and learning stuff and getting better at it fulfills one of my very deep and fundamental needs, which is to feel like I'm making progress on something. Hunting around on YouTube I found the Max Raabe version of "Mein Kleiner Grüner Kaktus" and I realized I understood a decent amount of it:

(Actually, there's a verse he leaves out, that's something about "A woman is judged on the flowers she would I be judged for my cactus" which makes me wonder if the song was originally written for a woman to sing. I am also trying to use my spidey-senses to see if there's anything in the song other than it being a funny song about a cactus, but I'm not getting anything that seems like a double entendre).

(I really kind of love Max Raabe.)

(And if anyone who is a native speaker of German and knows the song is reading this: Is it traditional to make "Mr. Krause's" part in kind of a funny accent? A couple of the other recordings I've heard of that seem to feature that)

And eventually I hope to get good enough to be able to listen to and understand that song on my parents' old record where they say the people say a sentence, and it ends with "Um" or "Am" and everyone laughs because it somehow changes the meaning of the sentence in a comical way.

* I really need to work on sentence structure and work with a BOOK instead of just Duolingo though because I know there's stuff I'm not getting and my understanding of what is and is not proper sentence structure is weak. (And after I run through Duolingo, I might try some other teaching tool - maybe even invest in Rosetta Stone).

Break in 6 hours....

Yes. I'm counting the hours. And I don't even get a "real" break this break:

- I have exams to grade
- I have a quiz and an exam to write
- I need to start playing with the data from the earlier run of the allelopathy experiment, and probably start working on an Introduction and Materials and Methods
- I should do more reading for Environmental Policy and Law.


I don't have to work tomorrow. I don't even have to go to Sherman tomorrow; there's going to be no frantic scrabbling of "this is the ONLY day for a while I have time to do "big" grocery shopping," and I have a lamb loaf in the fridge, and a bit of leftover steak, and the makings for crustless quiche, and enough vegetables (and if I run low, I can run to the Green Spray; their fresh stuff is better anyway).

I mmmmmmight grade the exams this afternoon, I don't know.

And I will say on Policy and Law: I'm less afraid of it now that I've started the reading and looked over some of the info the previous instructor passed to me and realized that a lot of this is stuff that someone who had some solid Civics classes in school should know, and a lot of it is just boning up on stuff again (like the differences between Federal and State court systems). And I have a high tolerance for what other people regard as "boring." (Actually, a lot of the legal arcana is kind of interesting to me. Maybe I missed my calling? I don't know. I have said on many occasions that if this job evaporated I'd look into getting some kind of a law degree and either work with a consulting firm or do something in environmental law. I guess some of the research/searching functions have been taken over by 'bots, which is a pity, because seeking out information is one thing I am truly good at, but maybe there'd be something else. Not that I want to have to, but it's good to have an idea in mind)

I have some tentative fun plans, though:

 - work on the ongoing knitting projects - Hagrid, and the socks that are on the needles, and the neverending sampler-type scarf (the Gamekeeper's Scarf). (I wonder what it says that three of my active projects are all Harry Potter-inspired: a sweater and a scarf inspired by Hagrid; socks inspired by Hermione)

- do some more hand quilting, and also see if I can get more done on the long-stalled quilt top that has half its blocks sewn up.

- Take a day (maybe Wednesday) and go antiquing. Not sure whether to Sherman/Denison, which would be closest, or see what Ardmore has going on these days, or try to figure out some farther destination.

- Rest up. Watch cartoons. Play the piano more. Maybe plant my spring crop of beans if it's not cold rainy and crummy all week.

- ???? I am leaving a wild-card open in case I hear about something fun somewhere within an easy drive - a museum I haven't been to, a small town with an interesting shopping district and a good place to grab lunch (I will still be restricting carbohydrates but might loosen up a bit in the days following bloodwork on the grounds of (a) it can't mess up my numbers now and (b) if I DO have to stay on a strict low carb diet - the most likely "bad outcome" of bloodwork - it would be nice to have one last day of eating without being entirely concerned about everything.)


Also, this flew over my retweet transom this morning:

Yeah, greeeeeattt.

If there's one thing I'm good at, it's that. Or more likely, beating myself up for not getting more done.

But the more I think on that: yeah, it's true. But it's also true that more or less, you have to comfort/support/cheerlead/everything else yourself, because no one else is going to do it. (I don't know. Maybe some people's mileage varies on that. I can see how a supportive spouse/partner could make some difference there). But it's hard and perhaps some of my distress this past few weeks is that I hear the world (or perhaps just my inner demons trying to present themselves as such) saying "Go! Go! Go! More! More! More! Work! Work! Work!" and I look at the state of the world, and I look at how effective some of the things I've tried to do are, or how much they seem to be valued, and I just get tired and sad....and I don't have a lot of energy left for comforting myself. Partly because that energy goes to "First when you get home you need to work out. Then you need to practice piano. Then you need to cook a healthful dinner. Then you need to do that reading for your class." and also because I do expend a lot of energy (probably too much) on comforting other people/managing their feelings. (Oh man. How I wish I didn't have to do so much managing-of-other's-feelings. I probably DON'T, but I also don't like having people yelling at me or crying in my office, so instead I manage their feelings - by not saying what I want to say, or by cutting more slack than I probably should, or by expending my limited energy on being soothing).

So I don't know. That's the thing I find the HARDEST these days: that it's just me, that I have to take care of myself and also take care of other people, and a lot of times it seems that when I finally get around to taking care of myself, I lack the energy for doing such a thing and I don't bother the way I should.

Hopefully I can recover some this break, if for no other reason that I won't be having to soothe very many other people this week, because I won't be seeing that many other people.


I also have one or two things to look forward to in the mail. I found - on Etsy, from one of the sellers I have used a lot - a lightly-restored Sugarberry for a decent price. (Sugarberry is a G1 pony, though you probably didn't need to ask). She is one of the "twice as fancies," a style I particularly love (I have Up, Up, and Away and also Dancing Butterflies already). This one is a white pony with red hair and an allover pattern of strawberries - super cute and decorative and I wanted one for a while but could never find a good-condition one for a price I was willing to pay. Until this week.

I also have a couple things coming from Isabella, though I'm a bit unhappy with them at the moment: I ordered something for my dad's birthday and carefully explained over the phone it needed to go to a different shipping address, and then I placed a SECOND order of a few things for myself.

And then I find out:both orders are going to my address. Even though I paid separate shipping on both. Even though I told the phone rep.

My main annoyance is that I'll have to take my dad's gift - when it comes - and repackage it and go to the post office (which some days is woeful, but maybe over spring break it will be less bad) and send it and pay postage a SECOND time.

So I e-mailed them and essentially said "This happened, and I'm not happy about it, and I think you should know."

And I got back an e-mail. Mixed success: the good - they are giving me a $20 "online gift code" so I can order $20 worth of stuff for free (if I can find something else I want from them). The not so good: they said something like "Oh, this was a valuable learning experience for our new phone person"

Um. Yeah. greeeeeat. Doesn't solve the problem of my having to spend more time and money to take care of the screwup. (Though I'm not sure how that could be fixed. If I had known BEFORE they shipped I could have gone NO NO STOP WAIT but I didn't). I don't know. I mean, I know they're all sensitive and new-agey and anyway I wouldn't want to hear "oh, we fired that person" but it just felt kind of, I don't know, oogy to me - almost a bit Mr. Skimpole-ish - that "Yeah, you suffered an incident that's going to cost you time, effort, and money, but hey! We were able to make that lemon into some lemonade for us!"

Also, I heard from my tax-preparer that apparently because I have a 457B plan for retirement, and apparently because I pay as much into it as I do AND because my pay was cut last year, my employer overpaid into Social Security and I need to talk to HR lest the IRS come after me. (After ME?! because of a mistake my employer made? I know a couple months I was like 'gee, my after-tax pay seems low' but I just chalked it up to budget cuts). I had to drop the scholarship forms for AAUW off yesterday with someone who used to be our HR guru before she retired, so I asked her.

Yup. I need to talk to HR. (Dangit.) And she commented: "It's better they hear it from you" I thought she meant "instead of the IRS" but then she added on: "Because someone else would probably go in and yell at them" And yeah, it's true. I tend very much to do the kindly brontosaurus thing when there's a problem, I say stuff like "Maybe you can help me on this..." and that kind of thing, and I NEVER EXPECT PEOPLE TO HELP ME. (So a lot of times I don't ask)

But yeah. I probably need to call HR. And maybe make an appointment to go in and talk to them.

(Best case scenario: they cut me a check to make up for the over-withholding. That's not gonna happen, but it would be nice if it did)


ETA: how awesome it is to have a CPA friend. I vaguely worried about it on Twitter and Laura DMed me and asked me for the info, and she figured it up for me - and the Jackson-Hewitt person was mistaken, my university did NOT mess up, and I won't get a letter from the IRS over this.

I at least owe Laura lunch the next time I see her :)

Thursday, March 09, 2017

ready for break

Is it spring break yet? No?

Yeah, feeling a little tired/frustrated this morning. Board meeting was LONG - I mean, there was good stuff that happened, and it probably was partly the "shakedown cruise" with a new minister (though maybe he's going to be pressured to be a bit less, um, wordy, in the future). But it was late when I got home and I didn't have time to do much else other than check my e-mail and go to bed.

A couple of things floating around in the world:

1. There's a study out claiming hypertensives, people told to less eat salt, are actually eating more. I find this slightly frustrating because it feels like it's totally ignoring the struggle and agony **I** face because I DO try to cut back on salt. All the time spent reading labels in the grocery (or sticking to a very limited round of things I know are okay). All the times I would have liked to have just gone and got a cup of hot-and-sour soup at the local Asian restaurant but didn't. All the times I came home, tired, and would have liked for nothing more than to phone up for a pizza but instead spent the time, dirtied the pots and pans, and cooked up masses of vegetables instead.

(Though maybe the reason so many people who SHOULD limit salt don't, is because doing that is LIKE HAVING ANOTHER WHOLE FLIPPING HOBBY, and not a fun hobby either)

2. We're being asked to report yet another place on what we've done. It's phrased as "scholarly and creative activity," which I know intellectually it's phrased that way to include the Arts people, but I thought, "I haven't done anything 'creative' in forever" and suddenly felt sad.

not that the "creative" stuff I do counts for anything.

which is why I haven't been doing it.

That's the major frustration of my life right now, in the new post-tenure-review future: a lot of things i value and that are important to me "don't count," and I have to worry about keeping my gig, so the things that "don't count" either don't get done (if it's only me they affect) or get done in a slightly more slapdash way (if it affects other people). That should not be but there you are. 

3. The local weather person was talking about the looming start of DST, and she chipperly remarked, "Well, it's just starting to get light out there now....but of course Daylight Saving is coming, so next week it will be REALLY light at this time."


It will, in fact, be very very very dark at this hour - instead of being like 6:45 am, it will be like 5:45 am. AND YOU SHOULD KNOW THAT, HONEY.

Yes, I get that it was probably a momentary lapse but honestly? A weather person should know that kind of thing.

I'm....not looking forward to DST. The blow will be slightly softened by the first week of it being Spring Break, so I don't have to be up here at 7 am, but still. I can't really use that light hour at the end of the day, but it WOULD be nice not to have to drive in in the dark. (That will happen, oh, mid-April, I guess)

4. There's a story making the rounds about a five-year-old who has qualified for the National Spelling Bee.

This bugs me on several levels.

First, the purely self-absorbed one: I was in the spelling bee. Made it to regionals, but never to national. But I was thirteen at the time, the "normal" age. I remember spending two afternoons a week staying after school to work on learning word roots and stuff with the coach (who, in seventh grade, was my homeroom teacher....Mrs. Turnblacer, if I remember her name right). I enjoyed it. I didn't do as well as I might have hoped, but I suppose in a way knowing all those word roots has helped me throughout school.

But: I was thirteen. I was proud of myself, my parents were, I think Mrs. Turnblacer was. None of the other kids cared (if anything, it was more fodder to tease me with). But, I don't know....the fact that I did that at thirteen now seems kind of unexceptional and meaningless. It's kind of like how I was once talking about how I learned to read at 4 (which was thought to be unusually early when I was a kid) and someone sniffed and commented their little sister could read at 2.

And I know, I shouldn't care. But it's kind of Lisa Simpson syndrome (If there's a rocket taking people away from a doomed Earth, I need to have SOMETHING special about me so I get a seat), and so I do.

A lot of things people thought were unusual or talented about me when I was a kid are now taken for granted in little kids, which makes me think that either the adults were lying to me when I was a kid (and maybe lying to themselves) and that there really was nothing special about me - and add that on the pile that I wasn't popular, was a clumsy kid, didn't have much artistic talent, and cried easily (and wasn't a particularly *pretty* child, either)....and, eh. The narrative I had about myself ("I wasn't popular and tripped over my own feet a lot, but darnit, I was SMART") kind of crumbles.

But the flip side, the less-selfish side: What about that kid? I can't imagine, as a five year old, dealing with that kind of pressure. And I admit, I look at things like the young Olympic champions and think, "Wow, it would be so nice to be good at something and to know what you're 'supposed' to do, and just be able to channel all your attention into that one thing" but then other times I feel sad when I think of, for example, figure skaters who have to get up every morning at 4 am in order to get in a couple hours' practice before school, or perhaps athletes in sports where remaining lithe is very, very important (gymnastics?) who never get to eat birthday cake or things like that.

I admit, though, the whole five-year-old-in-the-spelling-bee bugs me for a couple other reasons:

a. I thought there were age rules. I guess not, or I guess this is a case of "awwww, we're gonna break the rules for her." (As someone who was never adorable enough to get the rules broken for her, and who always assumed never to ask to get the rules bent, it does annoy me to see rules bent or broken)

b. I really hope there's not subtle pressure on the "normal aged" kids to "take a dive" so the five year old wins, because "Five year old wins national spelling bee" is like a news headline everyone wants to report. (Also, her family probably already have a movie or book deal lined up, and I would not be surprised to learn that some university has already offered her a full scholarship when she gets to the point of university....) But I bet there is that pressure, because one thing we love in this Brave New World is a good narrative. (Never mind that some of those boring, "normal-aged" kids probably have their own compelling stories, and even if not, they worked REALLY DARN HARD and I know what kind of work that involves).

Actually, I think there's an intersection between my feelings and opinions about this, and my comments on item #2: Lately, I feel like a lot of the things I value, and the things I am best at, are things that count for absolutely zero in this world, and it leads to a lot of inner conflict: do I keep doing what I believe to be right (and however-many-millions-there-are of thoughtful Christians in the world can't be wrong on that) or do I change myself to be more "marketable"?

Oh, I know the answer to that. But it still makes me sad that the things important to me and that I do well count for so little. And that I will keep doing them but keep on feeling undervalued.