Friday, May 22, 2015

Some planning ahead

When I get back home, one thing I think I need to do, is make arrangements to replace the old air-conditioning unit. (Again, standard note: comments will be approved at posted at a later date)

I should have done this last summer, when I had to replace the furnace and blower. But. It was a lot more expensive to do the whole thing, and I thought maybe I could get a few more years out of the unit. But it's begun doing stuff like icing up, which I can't tell is a sign it's failing or merely the fact that it's been unbearably humid pretty constantly this spring. And anyway, the unit is at least 15 years old; I've been in this house nearly 14 years and the a/c unit was in place when I moved in.

I suspect part of it is I'm trying to cool "too much" (really, what I'm trying to do is suck some humidity out of the air) when the outdoor temperature is cooler. (I could open a window to cool things down, but: humidity. And also my allergies are bad enough already)

Until leaving for break I did manage to make do - the unit would run fine with a higher temperature (set on 78 or 80, which I suppose is more "environmentally friendly" but it also means my house is awfully humid and a little warmer than what I'd ideally like, especially for sleeping). When it got really bad, I decamped to my bedroom where I had installed the window unit yet again.

(I was smart when I took it out last year. I took the mounting screws and the little brackets and put them in an envelope, so they were all there. I don't always have that kind of foresight, saying "I'll remember where I put them." And yeah, the mounting screws are important because they prevent anyone from outside from opening the window the rest of the way - this is psychologically important to me as I am on a ground floor and while I think it's highly unlikely someone would try to break into my house through a back window, it's also not impossible)

The biggest issue I think is humidity. It's been awfully humid this spring. I don't remember it being so bad before; we had a couple of days with a dewpoint of 70. My body doesn't like that. I have a dehumidifier but it seems like this humidity overwhelms it; it runs constantly (and fills up) and it's still kind of humid in the house. Shortly before going on break I considered buying a second dehumidifier but the ones the Lowe's had were terribly expensive, especially considering I likely will be buying a new whole-house air conditioner this summer.

I admit the logistics of the thing is my biggest hurdle. As I've said before, I'm frugal. And I tried to put a little money aside each month this past year against the possibility of having to buy a new a/c unit some time. But, the guy from the place I use (and trust) warned me they'd have to put the unit on the other side of my pecan tree from where the current one is. And that probably means taking out the privet that's growing there (I don't have any real heartache about losing the privet, it's just, I'll probably have to get the tree guy out to remove it as it's pretty big). And there is something that will be need to be done to the "indoor coil" on the set up. I can deal with being without air conditioning for a couple of days if it comes to that, but if I have to arrange to be home, more or less, while they're working, it will be a challenge. (If they'd work on a Saturday, I could do it over a Friday and a Saturday....)

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Seeing the individual

This is the first embargoed post during break. (Standard  note: any comments will be approved and posted AFTER I return)

There's been a lot of discussion various places about an African-American professor at Boston University who made a declaration about "white masculinity" being a problem at colleges in the US.

Now, this has been discussed to death like everything else like it. And I'm not going to speak to the race angle, because my experience is different and there may be things I'm not seeing. I'm also not going to speak to the academic-freedom aspect of it: some people have argued that the comments fall within the realm of academic freedom

But I will note that to me, it seems perhaps ill-informed to make sweeping statements about an entire group of people, under your own name, on social media or anywhere. (Social media just lets people be awkward to a bigger audience. I knew people when I was growing up who made some shockingly racist or prejudiced-against-various-other-groups comments but the circle of people who found out about their belief was fairly small)

Granted, lots of people (probably everyone) holds prejudices*. And some teachers (or college faculty) are known for theirs - I had several times in my life where people warned me, "Oh, that professor is SO SEXIST" and my response was along the lines of "well, I guess I'll have to work harder in his class then"

(*I have to work hard against some bad experiences I had early in my teaching career with self-identified "sports stars" in my classes. Not all athletes are poor students who are rude to the professor, but when someone comes on the first day and tells me they're important to whatever team they're on, I'm on my guard. Because I had a couple of students who told me just how "important" they were and then proceeded to goof off in class and then demand special treatment because they were special because they were sports stars.)

And yeah. If a prof constantly made nasty remarks about a group I was clearly a part of, I'd be put off and think it was extremely poor manners.  Well, it's also poor manners to make derisive remarks about any group, whether or not members are clearly present, for that matter. If there were another section I could transfer to, I would. I'd warn other potential students. I'd comment on the evaluations. But the thing is: most people in a department know the weaknesses of their colleagues. For contingent faculty, some weaknesses are easily enough to fail to renew a contract (We had that happen once). For tenure-line faculty, it's a little harder to terminate someone for things like being difficult to the students or "non collegial." In a way, that's how it should be. But in another, I tend to feel someone who is regularly verbally abusive to students should find another line of work. (And yeah, I've seen it, once or twice. Not on this campus but on places where I attended. And by "abusive" I don't mean someone who is blunt or who tells students to straighten up and fly right; I mean someone who really was nasty and unpleasant to the point where students would not go to their office hours for help)

When I criticize, I try to criticize individuals' behaviors. When I complain about plagiarists, their gender or complexion or religious affiliation or whatever doesn't matter - they broke one of the rules on campus, one of the big ones, they did something wrong. It has nothing to do with what group or groups they identify with.

Another thing I've learned: if you get to know the person, in some cases, the stuff you see as "problems," you see it more as vulnerabilities or weaknesses the person has. Instead of seeing it as something done to harm YOU, you see it as something the person struggles with.

A case study: I had a student one semester who was always in my office. Always stopping by to ask stuff. This student - let's call him Marlin, not his actual name nor is male necessarily his gender - was always wanting to know what his grade was at that point. He asked me multiple times the guidelines for the projects in class, even though I had handed them out and gone over them.

Marlin was also absent a lot. This annoyed me because here was this guy coming asking for extra help when he didn't seem to be able to be in class. I labeled Marlin in my mind as my "problem person" for the semester.

Until one day. Marlin came in with one of his periodic concerns about his grade, and how could he do better on the exams, and so on, and so forth. And in the course of discussion he mentioned that a very close family member had been in the hospital (he never stated for what but I assumed it was something like cancer) and he had hoped this family member would be able to "see" him graduate, and now it looked unlikely (Marlin was a senior that semester). And suddenly, he was doing that thing some people do, where he was crying a little but trying really hard to make off like he was not.

And then I saw him differently. Here was someone who was carrying this heavy load of a chronically ill family member, who was absent a lot because he was seeing the person in the hospital (that was later confirmed). I also realized as the semester went on a little more that Marlin had some anxiety issues. And then, I saw what he was doing not as "He's pestering me and bugging me to wear me down so I give him a better grade" but as "he's really nervous about doing well in this class and coming to my office every week is one way he can relieve his own anxiety." Again, it comes down to seeing the person, seeing them as someone with fears and hopes and dreams and not someone put there to thwart your own happiness.

Maybe that's harder at a big school where you have classes so large you never really learn all your students' names. Maybe it's harder when you're part of a group that has historically been oppressed and so lots of things make you suspicious people are biased against you. Maybe it's harder when you have had a harder time in life than I did. But I find when I look as students as individuals rather than as part of some homogenous group, it's easier for me to write off the behaviors that bother me and instead to see the person as someone I can maybe help somehow.

A lot of times I sort of throw up my hands here (or on Twitter, or on Ravelry) and declare that I "hate people." That's not really true. To stay in teaching you do, on some level, have to love people and want to help them. When I say I "hate people," that's shorthand for "People behave in ways that are counterproductive and depressing to me and I become really frustrated with them and am tired of dealing with all the nonsense that people put out."

Monday, May 18, 2015

On the road

Called Amtrak, asked to speak to an agent (to be sure). She verified for me that yes, the "bustitution" (Amtrak fans have their own lingo) is ONLY from San Antonio to Fort Worth - so I will be getting on a TRAIN. (I expected that - they hadn't called me - but it's good to know for sure).

I have a roomette, which means I have privacy and quiet and the ability to sleep flat.

So yeah. Everything's packed, money (for tips and possibly shopping) has been obtained, plants have been put on automatic waterers, material has been left where my collaborator can pick it up. I have a couple books in my carry on (Moby-Dick, a biography of Marshall Nirenberg (he figured out the amino acid code), and a short introduction to plate tectonics) Both of the scholarly books are ones that could potentially help me in my teaching....besides looking interesting to me. (I'm a big geek, I like science-of-history books and books about geography and some geologic phenomena). 

and I have my knitting, though I don't generally knit on the train (light is too poor and sometimes it's too bouncy). (And I have my Fluttershy amigurumi.....)

Really relieved to learn I won't be bused, though. This time tomorrow I should be nearly there if not there yet. (Depending on delays)

Think I'm ready

I think I remembered to pack everything. And I have the ongoing socks (the Macaron socks, and the cabled socks I haven't worked on in a while). And the pangolin. And a few things - some socks, the Rickenbacker shawl, a hat - to maybe start. (Heh. I just realized EVERYTHING I am taking yarn for is sockweight yarn. Well, I live in a warm climate and thinner things work better. And I LIKE sockweight yarn).

I did take a pattern for a stuffed-toy gargoyle (A cute, funny one, not a scary one) that calls for worsted weight but if I decide to do that I can get yarn for it up there.

And I have my clothes, and the medication I need, and make-up and stuff like a toothbrush. And the birthday card I got for my mom - I ordered her gifts for her and had them sent up there but got a card down here. I need to run in to my office and leave some material for someone I am going to be collaborating with on research this summer, and I have to run to the bank....

I've been obsessively checking the Amtrak website. So far, all they say is that my train is scheduled to be "on time" but the train tracker doesn't show anything, just the train at a dead stop in San Antonio - then again, it doesn't, when there's some kind of disruption, and it's my understanding that they've been busing people from San Antonio to Fort Worth and putting them on the train there.

I'm really hoping my 5:15 train is a train and not a bus. Or that they AT LEAST would call or e-mail to warn me - I'd reshuffle some of my packing (no need to have pajamas in my carry on, sadly, and I'd also transfer my carry on stuff to a backpack to make it easier to carry). And I'd want to be able to demand a refund for the sleeper.

I'm going to call a little later to find out what's up though I strongly suspect my suspicion - that they are "turning" the train at Fort Worth and I will get on a train this evening - is correct. (And if things go as they should, that means it's more likely to be on time getting me)

Gah, I hate all the logistics of travel. I love being ON the train, I like being on vacation, but all of the arrangements and worry about logistics takes some of the fun away. (Maybe it's easier when you don't travel alone, I don't know. Well, if you were a parent traveling with kids it would probably be worse, because you'd have your own logistics plus the kids' to worry about. But traveling with another adult, a spouse or a friend, that might make it easier.)

I do have a couple of "time embargoed" posts for while I'm gone; it'll be about 10 days and then I'll be back.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

It's the Smooze

This is a recap of the most recent My Little Pony episode.

After here be spoilers, be forewarned. And also, this is an all-pony post, so if you're not into pony, you don't need to read it if you don't want to.

I re-watched it this morning. My opinion on first watching it yesterday was "Did not quite live up to expectations." I like it better upon rewatching; I caught some of the stuff I missed. I will say this is one of the ones that feels like pretty much a giant nod to the adult fans, many of the visual jokes are things a kid wouldn't get - like Discord's various standup-comedy references (first dressed like vintage Eddie Murphy, then doing the Rodney Dangerfield eye-thing, then as Gallagher).

I admit some of my disappointment was over the Smooze. Having seen this clip before:

I was really expecting/hoping him to do some doo-woppy singing, or at least go SMOOZE!  a few times. (Yeah, out of context that clip is WEIRD. I think the big puffy thing is a pair of large ladies' underwear converted into a sail. And the two girls are witches)

Then again, Smooze did make the manga-cute smiley face :3 towards the end. (And he -or rather it, apparently Smooze is genderless -  kissed Discord, which I found funny). In this incarnation the Smooze did gunk stuff up, but it was also acquisitive - it liked to eat shiny things and jewels, and it grew when it did. (I think more can be done with this, maybe in a later episode). It didn't seem to make the ponies sad or anything, just gunked them up.

(And I find myself wondering: how soon before we see fan-made plushies of Smooze? It wouldn't be hard to scrumble one up - some green yarn, an octopus pattern with a ruffle instead of tentacles, and a little embroidered smile. Actually, it might be kind of cute)

I dunno. The plot basically revolved around who got invited to the Gala (which rolls around again - it seems like seasons 1-3 maybe represented a single year of Equestria time, and 4 and 5 are starting another year? Given what we've seen of winter and of holidays and of the Gala).

One thing I really liked was the idea of how they did the "plus ones." Instead of, like in the human world, the unattached female ponies panicking and going "Ohmygosh ohmygosh I have to find a DATE," the Mane Six (mostly) just ask their sisters - AJ and Rarity ask their little sisters, Rainbow has Scootaloo come along with her (Scoots is now sort of her honorary little sister). Pinkie invites Maud, which then allows Maud to deliver the BEST line in the whole episode.

Twilight....well, she doesn't seem to have a plus-one, but maybe as an organizer she wouldn't? (Unless she had Flash Sentry stashed somewhere on the palace grounds).

Fluttershy....well, she provided the impetus for the whole plot. She invited a new friend. Treehugger.
Yeah, a hippie pony. I don't LOVE Treehugger but I don't hate her as much as I initially did. I admit that she's the sort of pony that in person form makes me roll my eyes and try to get away as fast as I possibly can, because of the vocal tone and also all the 'woo' about auras and stuff. (Though I admit I like the excuse of "I have to go align my chakras before I can hug you from a place of authenticity" when putting off someone who wants to hug you that you don't want to hug).

(And yeah, some of the fandom have now adopted her as Stoner Pony. Whatever.)

Fluts apparently met Treehugger when she was off visiting the Breezies, apparently this is Treehugger's thing - not quite a cryptozoologist, not quite an endangered-species activist.

So she decided, when receiving her ticket for the Gala, well, why NOT invite her newest bestie? Not thinking, of course, of Discord, who pretty much regards her as his sole friend. And then Discord finds out that, yes, actually, Fluttershy had asked someone else. (This is a little late for "prom season," but it reminds me a bit of it).

Discord goes kind of nuts. He's a teenager, or perhaps a pre-teenager, in terms of his emotional maturity - Fluttershy has abandoned him! She likes someone else better than she likes him! It's not fair! Anyway the Gala is stupid and he doesn't want to go ANYWAY! (until he gets his own ticket, and then HE is the one with the "Oh, my, can't show up alone, that would look bad" anxiety. Cue the Smooze - which he claims is an old friend of his. (I wonder how many more old MLP creatures are stashed in the Chaos Dimension. Heh. It's kind of like Hammerspace, in that sense)

Well, at the Gala, Fluttershy kind of ignores him, so taken up is she with her new friend. (And that also kinds of rings true in a childish way - so maybe there are some elements directed at the primary audience here - how many of us remember feeling abandoned when one of our little friends made a new friend. And on the other side of things, how many of us shamelessly ignored our old friends for a new one? Or, for that matter, at least in my own little circle's sense, ignoring one's old friends for one's first boyfriend?)

Some commenters have remarked that Fluttershy carries the "idiot ball" a bit in this episode, in how she ignores Discord. On one level I agree: it's a bit out of character for Fluttershy. On another level, there is that element of the sort of giggly crushiness that can come with a new friend (either someone you are expecting as a totally platonic friendship, like your new BFF, or someone you hope to become romantically involved with) and also, I think maybe that bit of it was in keeping with the fact that seven-year-olds are actually the original demographic of this, and it's kind of in keeping with how seven-year-olds often are.

At one point Fluttershy is made to make this face

Okay, that is one of the FUNNIEST expressions I have seen on a pony on that show. (And also, that's my face when a student launches into a totally TMI explanation of why they missed class)

And so Discord flips out a little again, and goes into a comedy-club routine (which he is awful at). At one point, he is trying to involve the ponies in a knock-knock joke, and they don't bite, and he declares, "This is the most basic of jokes!"

Maud Pie: "You're the most basic of jokes." Said in the flat-affect Maud Pie voice. I literally did laugh out loud at it. (Best line in the whole episode, I think.) Also: Maud Pie: classic older sister. (I could see myself having said something like that to my little brother circa 1980 or so)

Then there's a brief Shining reference, and the Smooze busts out and makes a mess of everything, and Treehugger clears it up with some weird whinny-chant (That actually redeems her a bit to me: the whinny-chant was pretty funny). Also, I wonder if a subtheme of this season is going to be "other ponies are the solution to the problem" - we saw it in the two-part season starter where Party Favor et al. were the ones who ultimately rescued the cutie marks. And we saw an inversion, perhaps, of that in the episode with Troubleshoes, where the cutie mark crusaders helped somepony else to learn the value of his cutie mark...

I liked the dresses and the hairstyles given the ponies in this episode (even though Rarity lost her dress, and went through the standard "I'm NAKED in PUBLIC" try-to-cover-all-the-"important"-spots*

(*I wonder at this, plus the occasional shot you see of a pony in a bikini. Ponies are ungulates, and so on female ponies, the ....mammary part....of their anatomy would be an udder, and would be down between her hindlegs. So no bikini top would be necessary. Then again, as a biologist, I may be overthinking this)

Anyway. I guess my short summary is I hope we see the Smooze again, wouldn't mind so much if we don't see Treehugger again.

(And was the sock puppet supposed to be a reference to something, or was it just meant to be confusing?)

Edited to add: Thought of this while mowing, though I suspect I'm not the only fan who did:

(Just in case: for those unfamiliar with the meme)

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Hide your "fundip"!

I finished the Mabel Pines doll today. It's funny, once I broke the stall on the big (back) hair piece, there really was very little crocheting left to be done:

Mabel face

Mabel Pines is one of the siblings on the cartoon "Gravity Falls." I love Mabel. She is, in some ways, a lot like me when I was a tween - but more confident and less-prone to think negatively of herself. In some ways she's kind of a .... nerd isn't quite the right word, but you know that girl from middle school who was maybe a little immature and dressed badly but thought she was stylin' and was SUPER enthusiastic about everything? That's Mabel. And I admit I kind of love her for her not-giving-a-darn attitude, that she seems to do what she wants (and maybe lives in a bit of a fantasy world where she's cooler and more popular than she actually is). I guess in a way she's me but without the self-defeating traits I had that kept me from being as happy as I might have been.

Oh, and fundip is a candy, sort of like Pixie Sticks. In one episode Mabel eats waaaaay too much and has the predictable sugar rush (and sugar crash).

I bought this pattern from either Ravelry or Etsy. On Ravelry right now the author (listed as SweetPeaCove) has it in her Ravelry store, but I'm pretty sure I bought it off of Etsy.  (I'm kind of hoping she works up a pattern for Star Butterfly, from the crazy new Disney cartoon - I could ALMOST see how the Mabel pattern could be altered but I'm not sure how I'd do the hair, that would be the biggest change)

mabel hair

I REALLY like the design of her hair, it came out really well. It's a good design for a crocheted doll, I think. It looks a lot like the hair of Mabel in the cartoon.

I used slightly different colors (couldn't find some of the recommended ones) for the clothes, but that's okay, Mabel wears a variety of outfits. And I bought a commercial applique (a kitten, which is really a little too big, but whatever) instead of making one out of felt.

I was really pleased to be able to find actual SILVER floss (instead of just grey as a stand in) for her "braces" (Mabel wears braces in the cartoon).

Another thing I love about Mabel is that she is a passionate fan of things that are cute and cuddly. She'd be the one carrying the Lisa Frank Trapper Keeper. And she'd love to hug ponies:

Mabel hugging

(Mabel actually WAS ponified, in a dream-sequence in one of the MLP comics. She made a very funny pony named Maybelle.)

(Waiting on bad storms tonight. And my a/c, despite some issues the other day, seems to be hanging in there, provided I don't try to run it "too cold" - so far, having it set on 77 seems to be okay. However, it's SUPER humid here and I'm kind of miserable. We currently have a dewpoint of 70 or slightly above. That makes me hurt - even in an airconditioned house - and also it makes me worried because high humidity means wet air which can mean worse storms.)

Friday, May 15, 2015

some crafting thoughts

All of the current pillowcase-work is sort of slowly working up to doing Moomin pillowcases. I want to finish at least the pony ones before I undertake yet another set. I bought a bunch of the Moomin iron-on transfers from Sublime Stitching and want to use them. (I plan to do mostly backstitch for those; it's my favorite embroidery stitch and I can make things look good with it).

I'm also kind of playing with the idea of getting either a plain denim or chambray button-front shirt and doing embroidery - maybe even a Moomin! - on either the front or back yoke. When I was a little kid I had a few Western-style shirts that had embroidery on them. (My dad did a lot of his research work in Wyoming and New Mexico, and he used to go shopping at the trading posts or Western stores for presents for us. I also have a certain amount of turquoise jewelry - some of it signed by the artist who designed and made it - from "out West.").

(T-shirts, because of the stretch, are not as good for doing embroidery on)

(I also confess I'm thinking of maybe doing a little Pony embroidery - I could probably find line-drawings of characters somewhere and just trace them, or even get a transfer pencil and do it that way. I have a couple sets of plain pillowcases I got on a good sale at the craft store)

I also need to think about traveling projects. I am on the fence about taking the Hagrid sweater - I've dragged it along once and never worked on it. (Maybe after I get the progressives and it's not so hard to read charts). I have a couple pairs of socks on the needles, and the never-did-finish-it pangolin stuffie. And I finally decided on the Rickenbacker shawl - I'm going to use the "desert sunrise" colored yarn , peaches and pinks. So that might go along.

I also have a couple of dress patterns I bought. One is a "vintage 60s" one that has an ever-so-slightly Mad Men feel to it (yeah, I know - just in time for the show to end. But I never really watched it anyway; the few episodes I saw were kind of downers, though maybe that was the point of the show). It's actually easier to do "big sewing" (dresses and such) with my mom to help me fit them, and her machine is better for dressmaking (mine is very basic, it mostly does straight stitch for piecework).

There's a quilt show in town today and tomorrow. If I can push and finish my last sample of stuff in short order, I might go today (they are open until 6). That leaves tomorrow totally open for cartoon-watching and other things.

My Little Pony is "bringing Smooze back" in the upcoming episode. Smooze was a villain in the old MLP movie. I have never really seen more than clips of the old movie - it was made in 1986, and I was a terribly sophisticated high school junior then, so I wouldn't have watched it. And anyway - the earlier generation Pony stuff does tend to be a wee bit saccharine, though I admit I've been reading a tumblr called Heck Yeah, Pony Scans! that delves into a lot of the earlier history of MLP. The author either lives in or grew up in the UK, so things are slightly different from the US. And apparently there was an entire comic book with rather fairy-tailish stories. And apparently in some of the stories there was a bit of fairytalish violence and even implied death (or extinction) of characters. That's interesting, given how sweet and cute and childish the earlier generations seemed to be....and yet, in the current generation, the only implied death is a pony we don't know....we see Mr. Waddle, who has kind of an undertaker/minister role officiating at what must be a funeral (it's not at all clear what, if any, religion exists in Equestria. I confess, I kind of want it to be like Narnia in a way, but we've never seen any actual evidence of that). But other than that, no villain has actually been extinguished - Tirek is sent back to his prison (in Tartarus), Nightmare Moon is reformed, Discord is allegedly reformed, Sombra may or may not have been wiped out, the Changelings did the "team Rocket blasting off again!" thing and presumably were sent to a far end of Equestria.....there's really no death.

I suppose most children's shows now - heck, most even when I was a kid - avoided the topic as "too sad" or "too scary." (I wonder though: will we ever learn the fate of Applejack's parents? Fan consensus is they are dead, therefore AJ, Big Mac, and Apple Bloom are orphans, and that's why they live with Granny, but it's never been more than barely hinted at on the show)

(There are a few fanfictions dealing with death of characters - one of the ones I read recently, linked at Equestria Daily, explored the death of Diamond Tiara, a much-disliked bully character, through the eyes of her three main victims. While not the most polishedly-written fanfic I've ever read, it was interesting in the different perspectives - Apple Bloom felt guilty because she wished ill on Diamond Tiara (but more in the form of "I hope she finds a bug in her lunch!" than any real harm), Scootaloo is angry and can't bring herself to forgive Diamond Tiara (apparently, in the world of the fanfic, Scootaloo got it the worst - being the filly of a broken home, being from a lower SES than the other ponies, and not being able to fly). And Sweetie Belle can't bring herself to think about it, but has nightmares about it, and begins to worry about death. (Sweetie Belle has become my favorite of the CMC, and even in this fan fiction, her character is closest to mine)

I don't know. Some people dismiss the "sad" fanfiction but in a way I think it does play a role, if for no one other than the writer - I know I wrote sad stories myself, as a kid, as a way of trying to explore and work out my feelings about sad stuff. Heck, I still do, to a certain amount.. I think a lot of the fanfiction probably plays some kind of - is it patronizing to say "therapeutic"? - role for the writer. Allowing people to explore their feelings, allowing them to maybe exorcise some of their demons.)

But anyway. Smooze tomorrow morning! Though I admit some of the little clips I've seen as teasers contain a pony (named, apparently Treehugger) who is like, the most stereotypical hippie ever, and who will probably annoy the daylights out of me. (And as I said over on Twitter, it's probably too much to hope that Smooze eats her, given the no-deaths rule)

I confess, sometimes I wonder at how much I have 'regressed' in some ways from my teen years. I will say when I was a late tween/early teen I tried desperately to hold on to things of childhood - I still own one of the first-generation Strawberry Shortcake dolls and I think I was at least 12 when those came out - but once I hit a certain age, I think I gave up a little. Oh, I still had stuffed animals, and I "collected" dolls (thinking that making it seem like I was researching the history made it seem less childish). But as an adult, and as an adult who has a lot of private time, I find it's kind of a relief to go ahead and read pony fan fiction, or watch silly cartoons, or do stuff like read about the early-generation Ponies and people's memories of them. (These would be (mostly) women who are maybe 5 to 10 years my junior). A lot of it is that it's kind of a safe fantasy world or something - it's more fun to spend time looking at the different variant color schemes of some toy, or reading the cutesy stories that were put out in the magazines advertising them  than it is to pay attention to the "hard" news. (And there's been a lot of fairly hard "hard" news in recent days....)

I dunno. Maybe this is not that different from people who get really, really into baseball stats, or who follow every doing of whatever celebrity - it's just a little different, maybe a little nerdier and more childish. (Then again: have you SEEN how some celebrities behave? Even Rarity at her most drama-queenish would never dream of some of those things.)

Edited to add: slightly unrelated, but after seeing this fan drawing, it occurs to me that an excellent "other species" to include in Equestria (along with mules and zebras) would be okapis.

A Friendship is Magic okapi would be a wonderful thing, I think.

Last night's work

I decided to work on the horse-and-foal pillowcases I started a long, long time back. And I ran into one of the rare problems with tucking a project away: I forgot what shade of floss I was using for the horse, and the skein was not in the bag, so I had to hunt and try. In the end, I gave up in frustration and started in with the 'closest' shade I had, then found one closer....but I'm not going to unpick the little region of darker stuff (on the side of her muzzle), it doesn't show that much:

horse pillowcase

This is all backstitched. It's simple but I like backstitch. (The current set - the flower-girl ones - recommend outline stitch for a lot of things, and I'm committed now because I started in with it, but outline stitch is kind of a pain and it's harder to make it look good).

I'm just doing this one with whatever colors I want. There are some sort-of recommended colors on the packaging but I decided to go my own way. (The foal is going to be a lighter shade, with a blond mane, and I might do that little "blaze" in its forehead in the blond color as well. And the foal is going to have a red halter instead of a blue one).

I might do the second pillowcase with intentionally different (as opposed to "I forgot what exact shade I was using" different) just because I get a little bored with doing the second pillowcase exactly the same.

I did a lot of this while watching the very end of "The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe" - it turns out I get the Encore channels as part of my package (The only one I ever watch is the Family one). I admit I was a bit apprehensive about this movie when it came out, I had read the books many, many times as a child and was afraid seeing the movie would "overwrite" the memories of my images from the books. (They did not, I still picture the White Witch as being much more like Pauline Baynes' illustrations than the Tilda Swinton portrayal).

One thing I thought last night, at the very end - Lucy leads the rest of her siblings "back home" (to the country house in wartime England) and I was like, "You know? I wouldn't have gone back. To go from living somewhere where I had intelligent talking animals (and things like fauns) as friends and advisors, and being a queen of a relatively peaceful and self-running country, AND being able to actually speak with that world's manifestation of the Christ, and trade that all for being an ordinary kid in a country at war? Nope."

Of course, I think Lewis was maybe making a bigger point there, or it was something that was necessary for the later stories, but the brief time we see the Pevensies as kings and queens, it looks so much more ideal than the life they left.....

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Maybe knitting tonight

Or maybe embroidery. Or maybe finish the Mabel Pines doll.

Monday and Wednesday nights I had meetings. Also, Wednesday evening was lost for another reason: my hands swelled up.

Tuesday I mowed the lawn. And then, looking over where the brushpile used to be, I realized there were all kinds of weeds that had invaded - most of them something in the carrot family that I am now pretty convinced is poison hemlock*. I wasn't thinking that before because I was remembering poison hemlock as being typical of wet areas (that's actually water hemlock, though, and anyway, we had a wet spring). But looking up in my references, the leaves are closest to that among things that could be found in my state.

Anyway, I pulled tons of it up. With my bare hands. For me,. pulling anything in the Apiaceae (carrot family) is not a good idea given my sensitivity to things like carrots or celery). Also, some things in the carrot family just cause problems - there's something commonly known as poison parsnip where, if you get the juice on your skin and then expose it to UV light (sunlight), you get big ugly water blisters. (I still have a scar on one hand from when I did fieldwork back in grad school and got exposed to the stuff).

But not thinking - or rather, thinking more about wanting to avoid a nastygram from the town over "weeds," I pulled it out barehanded.

Late in the evening, I thought, "Why are my hands itchy?" I tried putting aloe on them - that often stops hives and the like - but I still caught myself scratching them periodically. Which is bad, because that leads to more histamine production, more swelling, and more Wednesday morning, I couldn't get my ring on, couldn't make a fist all the way with my right hand.

And no, I didn't go to the doctor; I had learned if I waited it out in 24-48 hours it was gone. And it is, now. (All my doctor would do would be to want me to get a steroid shot, which I'd rather avoid. I'll take one if I'm ever miserable enough I'm not sleeping or am in danger of not being able to breathe, but for mere discomfort, no.)

Next time (and there will be a next time, this stuff is awfully prolific), I'm gloving up. (And mowing or brushhogging it is a bad idea - if you pull it out by the roots, it's gone, but if you just break the stem not only do you get exposed to the toxic sap but you also just allow it to resprout)

(*Yes, the stuff that allegedly was used to kill Socrates. It's toxic if you eat it, and actually, the sap can be toxic if it's absorbed into the skin, but I was mostly dealing with unbroken stems - the ground is still wet enough I can pull the whole big rosette out of the ground, best way to get rid of it.)

But yeah. My biggest frustration with living in the south is the sheer volume of weeds that will overtake any open area. I now see why some people put gravel down anywhere they don't have plants. I'm not quite there yet, but I'm getting there.

happy simple things

Yeah, the past couple days I've kind of been looking for those, because there are two things (at least two) in my everyday life that are low-level concerns right now. Each one isn't likely something to go bad on an urgent basis; it's more kind of a long slow slide kind of thing. And they're things I have really no control over, in the sense that, there's nothing I as an individual can do to stop or fix them.

So I've been watching Spitfire fly around Equestria to the tune of "Come on Eileen" a lot. And I've been playing Moby Dick: a Destruction Game a certain amount. (This is a little free game where, as they say, "You're a big whale and you are always hungry." It's not entirely biologically accurate because while you do have to surface to breathe air, you also are shown eating fish, squids, and also whalers you knock out of boats. Most whales, at least the baleen whales, eat krill and krill only....) But the Moby Dick game is kind of fun especially if you're in an annoyed mood.

I'm trying to come to terms - again - with one of the fundamental things you learn as an adult, that sometimes no matter how hard you work for something, no matter how much you want something to work out a certain way, it may not. And there's nothing you can do. You can't blame yourself, because you worked as hard as you could. Sometimes there really isn't anyone or thing that can be blamed. But it still stinks.

How do other adults manage this? How do they live with something uncomfortable nibbling at the back of their perception without being totally undone by it? I suppose throwing oneself into one's work is part of it. Or having a hobby.

(No, this is nothing health-related, for me or my family. It's just STUFF. Stuff related to what I see as the slow loss of many good things in our society)

I'm also slightly unsettled because at the eye appointment, in passing, they asked me to give an estimate of my height and weight. I did.....and when they sent me the link to my online records, they'd put it on there, translated into a BMI. I'm really hoping that doesn't mean somewhere down the road I get lectured at at the freakin' EYE DOCTOR. (I am sensitive to this because twice in my life - first, at a podiatrist's I went to because I could not exercise well because of foot pain, and second, at a GP's when I went in for a flu shot - I got long lectures about my weight when I hadn't even brought the issue up. With the podiatrist it was particularly annoying and upsetting because I was seeing him to get help SO I COULD EXERCISE. And he couldn't hear that. YES I AM FAT. Yes I would do well to lose maybe 40 or 50 pounds. But you know? That's not going to happen short of me restricting my eating sharply for well over a year, and I can't do that. I can restrict eating enough to lose weight for maybe 2 weeks tops. I work out, I strive to eat healthful food (I probably eat more healthfully than about 75% of people) but I don't like walking around hungry all the time which is what weight loss takes for me. So I have real issues with the whole, "Hey, did you know you're fat and that's bad for you? Why don't you lose weight?" lecture. (If it were as easy as "why don't you just" I'd be a size 6, I promise you that.)

(And also, in my case, I suspect big weight loss would also mean loss of muscle mass, and I'm not so sure I want that. I'd rather be fat and robust than skinny and weak.)

One of the things I kind of hate about adulthood - I know I've said this before - is how we're all expected to make it up as we go along. (Someone I follow on Twitter posted a link to The Definition of Hell for Each Meyers-Briggs Personality Type and while the one I normally sort out as (INFJ) is pretty accurate:

"You are eternally damned to working for a morally corrupt company that aims to exploit the weak and generally degrade conditions for all of society" (Though I might not word it quite that way, I would word it more as, "You are forced to work at a place that does many things you are deeply morally opposed to. No one will listen to your complaints or suggestions, and what the company does makes things worse for everyone, both the workers and society at large.")

I could equally be horrified by the ones for

"ISFP – You have to listen to rude people criticizing your personal choices, your appearance and your art form all day long. Nobody cares that they’re hurting your feelings." (yeah. Sometimes I'm maybe a little sensitive. I wouldn't SPEAK UP that my feelings were hurt because that just makes it worse when people are rude, but yeah. And really, it would be more like, "You work very hard but never receive a bit of positive feedback; you are only told anything when you have screwed up royally. And other people make fun of your hobbies.")


"ISFJ – Everyone you love is yelling at each other and it’s all your fault." (Been there, except not in a case where it was literally my fault, though I almost felt like "You couldn't corral these people's feelings well enough" so I kind of felt like it was)

 but especially:

"ISTJ – You are expected to complete a highly esteemed project with absolutely no guidance as to what’s expected of you."

That's my definition of adulthood: "Here's an important project you have to do. Don't fail at it. We're not going to tell you what we expect or how to do it. Good luck."

I'm also doing stuff like looking up annotations for the chapters of Moby-Dick I've already read (Reading Sparknotes isn't immoral when you're reading the book too, and especially when you're not being tested or having to write an essay on it). And doing stuff like trying to suss out what exactly Ishamael/Queequeg's relationship is. Ishmael definitely has a man-crush, but it's elided as to whether it goes further. (Though I admit, in the lingo of today, I'm kind of inclined to say "I ship it." Heh. Ship. In a story about whaling).

I also got to thinking yesterday about what a modern "reset" (sort of like the resets of some Shakespeare plays but looser) would be. The best I could come up with is this: Ishmael is a disaffected hipster type who decides he needs some "physical work." So he goes to the South Dakota oilfields (I know, that's already a little dated as the "boom career." But they have a similar level of danger to what whaling did, and perhaps, given the role whale oil played, occupy a similar niche). There he meets Queequeg (likely the name would have to be changed, and other details), a Central American-immigrant roughneck. (Queequeg could be a very devout Catholic, which could be as foreign to a modern hipster type as the original Queequeg's animistic religion was.....the modern Queequeg, for example, could venerate Mary, which modern Ishmael could find unfamiliar given that he grew up in a largely agnostic household). Of course given the housing shortage there Ishmael and Queequeg would wind up sharing a trailer.....I'm not that far into the book yet (they have just shown up at the Pequod), but I suppose Ahab could be the crazy multiply-injured rig boss.....the pursuit of the "big strike" could be the white whale. Maybe.

(Surely someone has done some form of this already? And anyway, I'm really not up for trying to write something like that. I offer it up to anyone wanting to do it, I'd just ask you credit me for the original idea....)

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

And that's done

Good news: my eyes are extremely healthy, the only slightly off thing was one tiny narrowed vein (high blood pressure) that showed up on the retinal scan. And the doctor wasn't at all concerned about that. My corneas are good, which is important to me, considering how much work outside I do (and the fact that both my parents now have small cataracts.)

As I expected, it's time for bifocals. Or "progressives," which is what most people get now, and what I suspect will be a lot less annoying for me than the kind with DISTANCE VISION- LINE - CLOSE VISION like the old bifocals.

I knew I needed 'em when the doctor showed me a card with tiny little hatchmarks on it, and said, "Can you read any of those?" and I was like, "Uh....buh" and he swapped a few lenses around and I was like "Holy cow those are letters!" I think he said 2.50, which is pretty strong, isn't it, for near-vision correction? I guess I was really making do hard. (Maybe I'll feel more motivated to do complex knitting after I get these)

My insurance, despite my being told "it's not that great" paid for a lot of the exam. I did have to pay for the retinal scan as they don't cover it (it's fairly new technology) but it's crazy cheap, less than $30, and I've known people who have had all kinds of weird health issues picked up early by the scan, so I was happy to pay for it. (I wonder if it's so cheap because people have to pay for it out of pocket....)

I also got part of my eyeglasses covered. I decided to splash out and get new sunglasses as well as regular glasses. (Yes, "transitions" lenses are a possibility but I had them once and I hated them - they never went clear as fast as I wanted and indoors they still seemed to have a slight dimness to them. And as they got older that dimness got worse).

And I did pick out new frames. They had a LOT. I get a $150 "frame allowance" on my insurance but of course the nicer frames cost more than that.

I tried about a dozen. When I found the one I wanted, the woman commented I was "easy to work with" which was funny to me because I thought trying that many frames was me being too picky.

The first one I tried was mainly for fun - they had glittery pink sort-of cat's eye frames, and I always wondered how I'd look in cat's eyes.

Sadly, it's a NOPE. Bad look for my face. But we persevered. In the end, I chose something like an updated version of the old 1950s era nerd/tortoiseshell glasses. Actually they are like a much lighter, more feminine version of what Dr. Spencer Reid wore in the early seasons of Criminal  Minds:

Yeah. Mine are smaller and lighter in color than that, more feminine. And the woman helping me did go, "Oh, those are super cute on you!" and I have to admit that when I looked at myself in the mirror, I agreed. (They were actually one of the less-expensive frames I tried, so I didn't suspect her of trying to upsell me.)

(It's probably because my face shape is closer to that of the actor who plays Reid - I have a fairly thin face, for a heavier woman - than it is to the actor who plays Garcia: her face is shorter and more rounded than mine is)

But anyway. I'm probably more Spencer Reid than I am Penny Garcia anyway. (But I still wanted to try the pink glittery ones, because you never know. Then again, I might have wound up terribly self-conscious with them)

I also picked out sunglasses. I was less selective with those because I mainly only wear them for driving or when I'm out in the field, so fewer people see me in them. Also, I wanted something with good coverage....I still think of the person I know whose mother had to have reconstructive surgery after getting skin cancer on her eyelid and I shudder a little.

They do have to send out to a lab, so it'll be after I get back from break. But yeah, not sure I'd want to be adjusting to progressives with a long drive ahead of me. (I will keep my old ones, just in case. I've known people who said they had a hard time adapting to the progressives and they went to distance vision and swapped them out with drugstore "cheaters" when they needed to read or thread a needle)

Being an adult...

I have my eye-doctor checkup today. I fully expect I will at least wind up picking out new frames, and very likely will be told to brace for learning to use progressive lenses. (I've noticed increasing difficulty focusing to thread a needle. I can still read fine print fine with my glasses off, but I do notice I have to move the book a bit farther from my eyes than I'd like with glasses on).

I presume they will also do the standard battery of tests; eye doctors tend to go "Hmmm" at me and pull out more equipment when they hear my family medical history (grandmother with macular degeneration, aunt on that side with glaucoma).

I dropped off what old records I had from my prior doctor yesterday. My previous eye doctor died suddenly, there were some issues with probating the stuff in his office, apparently some records got lost, but finally I was able to get a photocopy of some of them. So I carried those out there yesterday (also so I would know where the place was and wouldn't get stressed about trying to find it tomorrow when I was trying to get to my appointment).

The receptionist called me "DR. Lastname" which surprised me....It's possible, though I didn't directly remember her, she could have been a former student. Or it could have been she called up the file of information I filled out online; I may have put "Dr." as the honorific.

I don't use that often; the bad old stereotype of the college prof who pushes the fact that he (In my experience, it's usually but not exclusively a "he") has a Ph.D. in everyone's face is a stereotype for a reason. And outside of work, it really doesn't matter to me. EXCEPT I find that some medical professionals treat me with a bit less patronization when they find out I have a degree in biology, so I figure it benefits me to let them know up-front. (My regular doctor once commented that she liked having me as a patient because "I can use the terminology with you and you already know it.")

Also, going out there told me a couple other things I needed to know - for one thing, they have an on-site glasses store. And yeah, yeah, I know, it could be cheaper going elsewhere, but for something like progressives I want it to be RIGHT the first time, and I suspect going through my eye doctor means it will be more likely they are right - or if they aren't, they will be made right without my making a stink. (And I have vision insurance, though I've been warned it doesn't pay a lot. Oh well. I haven't spent my tax refund yet, so that may partially go for new glasses).

And honestly? It's kind of fun picking out new frames. I wear glasses and not contacts for a couple reasons: first, my allergies are bad enough that contacts could be irritating (or a problem on the rare days I get a hive near my eyes). And also, I work around enough scary solvents not to want contacts. (My sister-in-law, who is a chemist, prefers contacts at home but wears glasses at work). Also, glasses, in most cases of what I do, can double as "safety glasses" (for really dangerous stuff, and for things like edging my lawn, which can throw up little pebbles, I wear a pair of the goggles that totally block access to the eyes).

Also, frankly, I think I look better - more "myself" - wearing glasses. (The old claim about men, passes, and women who wear glasses notwithstanding). And yes, glasses are an accessory. You can look over their tops at someone if you're annoyed (the Tommy Lee Jones "implied facepalm" look). A classic "flirt" move for the glasses wearer is to pull them off and chew on one stem. I sometimes take them off, close my eyes, and rub the spot on my nose where the nosepiece sits - sort of a "what is this I can't even" reaction to things, or a "I need a moment of quiet" things.

I am going to go with slightly larger frames than I have now; the ones I currently have are a bit "short" in that there's part of my vision that goes uncorrected, and I can tell it affects my ability to simultaneously see the piano keys and the music on the stand, for example.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

"Come on, Spitfire"

This was on Equestria Daily but I watched it a couple times I liked it so well, so I'm sharing it here:

A fan-made animation called "Spitfire's Day Off." I like it because there's nothing complicated about the plot, it's just Spitfire out having fun.

(And also: this is why, if I were picking a type of pony to be, I'd pick Pegasus every time. Because of flight).

I think a big reason why this animation makes me happy is I remember the song in it from my younger days (I think the original version - this one is by a different band - was first out just as I was starting high school). There is just something kind of simple and joyful about it, too - and it's pretty danceable. (I don't dance much but I DO remember going to one school dance, and I think this is the song I actually got out on the floor for).

The animation also makes me wonder: have we seen Spitfire's cutie mark in-canon (on the show). (I suppose we have, and I am just not remembering. Surely the Wonderbolts Academy episode showed it). I will admit I was hoping it would be the symbol on the ORIGINAL Spitfires, the RAF Roundel - a bullseye in red, white, and blue. Though perhaps that's making a bit too much reference to something that exists in the human world. (I haven't decided yet if the Pony Universe is a multiverse universe - as in, it exists alongside the human world but just is on a different dimensional plane, or if it's a total fantasy, or if it's some kind of weird advanced-future where humans got extincted but somehow horses survived and adapted. Oh, I mean, I know in the "real" world which one it is, but I admit I like imagining it as a multiverse sort of thing, and the Power Ponies episode kind of suggests the possibility of it being part of a  multiverse)

In some of the earlier episodes there are a few more references to the "human" world - in one shown today, Applejack shouts "Geronimo," which of course refers to a real human person, which was adopted by paratroopers before jumps for some reason.

And here's another absolutely iconic song/music video from my younger days, ponified. (And yes, I admit I LOVED the song and I still kind of like it, even as an adult):

Tuesday morning things

* I knew my allergies were going to ramp up when I saw all the downed pecan catkins and their spilled load of pollen on the sidewalk. (Tree Onanism?) And yeah, I have an itchy hive under my right eye. I have to consciously remind myself not to touch or scratch it. It'll go down eventually.

* I hope that's soon, as tomorrow is my eye doctor's appointment. It's mainly to check vision, to determine if I need bifocals (spoiler alert: I probably do) but I know doctors like to do stuff like poke things in your eyes to be sure you don't have glaucoma and stuff like that, and with the sticky/itchy feeling from allergies, that's going to be even less pleasant.

* I pulled out a stalled project and re-started it. For some reason I got thinking about embroidery again, and I went and found the "flower girl" pillowcases I was doing. (I also have a set with horses on them). I worked on it again for a while and might work on it some more.

* The local news does a lot with local crime. A couple of alarming ones: a guy was caught setting fires INSIDE the local Lowe's. And a guy a couple towns over was convicted of shoplifting: he stole a set of tools from a Wal-mart and tried to fence them. The reason he gave? He wanted to get money to buy his mother flowers for mother's day. (I can only imagine she is Very Disappointed in him right now. Or at least I'd hope she was)

* I may have to see if I can hire someone short-term to care for the lawn; today is the last non-rainy day forecast between now and when I leave on my short break, and I don't want nasty-grams from the city. (However, I'm not sure how much they can complain about "grass too tall" in situations where people literally cannot get out and mow the yard). I may ask the AA in my department, she and her husband have some rental properties so they may know someone. What I don't want is someone who will insist on a summer-long contract (which seems to be the case here) and someone who wants to do more than just mow, like spray for weeds and stuff.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Aw, guys, tears.

But good ones.

I saw one of my former students graduate this weekend. I'm sorry she's leaving - she was a good student - but I'm happy she's going on to bigger things.

Well, this morning, I found a card had been slipped into my office mailbox, from her.

On the front, it said NICEST PERSON EVER and inside she wrote a note thanking me for the help, both in class and out of class (one summer she needed an apartment on short notice, and one of the apartments my church owns had just become vacant, so I connected her with the person who manages that).

It means a lot to me because a lot of the time it's really hard to know if anything you do as a college prof has much of an effect. (And it also tells me that my motto of "Everyone around you is smart, so distinguish yourself by being kind" is probably good guidance.)

So yeah. That was a good thing to get this morning.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Yet another pony

I finished Folio last night. I have to explain, this is what is sometimes called an "OC" pony (for "Original Character." I admit I kind of hate that designation, but it's pretty standard, so I use it). In other words, she's a non-canonical character that I made up.

Grey pegasus pony with a super curly coral colored mane. She's a book-pony, and in my headcanon she is the pony who runs the library in Whinnywood. (I have also headcanoned that Scholastica, my other OC pony, runs the Whinnywood Historical Museum* and is also Folio's BFF.)

So here she is. (I hope this works, YET AGAIN Flickr changed their interface)


 I decided after doing her eyes that she was an extra-girly pony, and so she needed lipstick. See:

Folio fae

The funny thing is now she reminds me just a tiny bit of Lucille Ball, even if the coloring is considerably different.

But she IS a book-pony, and has done whatever the Equestria variety of an MLIS is, so, she works with books. And her cutie mark is an open book:

Folio butt symbol

Like a lot of these critters, she comes out able to stand on her own, thanks to how tight the crocheting is and how stiff the fabric that results is:

Folio standing

(*And oh, I can come up with so much headcanon so easily. I spent the better part of one day collecting some samples - which take more physical and less mental heavy lifting - coming up with a whole backstory, and with the idea that Whinnywood is near the Hemione Mounds - an Equestrian historical site where there are artifacts from the first ponies to live there....and so on and so forth. It's not all that different from what I did as a kid, which I called "making up stories" and which provided a way to stand in line somewhere patiently, or to spend a rainy afternoon, or even to do after I had climbed up into a tree and was hanging out there.)

Oh, and change of venue. I'm now sitting in my bathroom; there is a tornado warning for us though it's unlikely it will hit us.

And yes. Just as when I was a kid, if I have time, I gather up my most precious stuffies and take them in the safe room with me. I don't just have Chysalis - all the other ponies I made, as well as a few others (Rupert the fawn, Oona, the oribatid mite) are stuffed in a bag and are behind me). Oh, I also have sturdy shoes and a couple of bottles of water and a battery radio and my purse in here - I'm good at being prepared. But really, of the things I own (that are portable, unlike my piano), these are the ones I'd be most upset to lose, so.....

(And I really wish the one local radio station that rebroadcasts the local weather when needed wasn't a country station. Sigh. They're playing music now so I suppose it's not as dire as they thought a few minutes ago.)

Still, I can hear loud thunder so I think I'll stay in here for a bit.

Oh, one other Manitea tea infuser came yesterday:


Heh. I have multiple ways of making loose tea now - a french press sort of thing, a strainer basket that sits in a cup, a tea ball, and now this.

Saturday, May 09, 2015

And graduation follies

Graduation would have been good if it weren't for the weather, and one or two other things.

It began to thunderstorm heavily during the last part. A lot of us just stood around after it was over and waited - in fact, the power went out in the arena, and a couple of cops who had apparently been brought in just in case kind of scrambled to make sure everyone stayed calm.

I had parked five or six blocks away (on the principle that it's better to let people who can't walk distances have the close parking) so I had to bundle my cap and hood and gown up and keep them up under my arm (I had an umbrella). I did wind up dropping my cap in a puddle and the tassel may be ruined....(and it's not an easily-replaceable one).  Also, my nice Klogs shoes may be ruined because a couple places I had no choice but to walk through about six inches of water. (We had flash flooding). Fortunately I knew the streets well enough to know which ones would be safe to drive and which would be flooded, and was able to get home okay.

And yeah, there were air horns. I'm sorry but if I ever become in charge of such things I am banning air horns. I would also make an announcement telling people not to keep whooping and hollering so long that the 2-3 graduates coming after are drowned out. (They had to repeat a couple of names, just because of one person's friends/family who kept it up for several minutes.)

And the most egregious thing I saw? Someone going through the line - here, we're small enough students walk across the stage, shake hands with the university president and dean and any dignitaries who are there, and are handed their fake diploma*.

Anyway, as one woman was crossing the stage, she STOPPED TO TAKE A SELFIE OF HERSELF WITH THE UNIVERSITY PRESIDENT. Now, you must understand: there is already an official photographer who takes an official photo of this moment, as well as another formal photograph moments later. What she did was stop the line for a bit while she did that. And no one said anything or tried to stop her. So I anticipate at least five or six more of these at later graduations.

Maybe I'm an excessively old-fashioned stick-in-the-mud, but I think that's pretty tacky. And, like the people who cheered loud and long enough that the names of the people after their person couldn't be heard, it's kind of selfish. Graduation is a day for ALL graduates, not just the person who happens to be walking across the stage at the moment.

I will note: if someone wants to take a selfie while they're sitting waiting to go up, I have no problem with that. If they want to even do it while standing in line, that's kind of okay. But doing it on stage, it slows up the process and draws undue attention to ONE person, and I tend to feel like graduation is for ALL the graduates. (I'd also be really discombobulated if a student wanted to stop on their walk back and take a selfie with a prof. If I were asked, I'd probably hiss, "I'll be by the east door after graduation, find me then" but then again, I tend not to be the kind of person who inspires that kind of love, so I can't see it ever happening to me)

(My own graduation, there were some 4000 of us, so we didn't get our names read or get to walk across a stage. In retrospect, I might not have gone. But whatever.)

(*Fake, because grades aren't even due until Monday, and there might be some people not-actually graduating, and there's not enough time to prepare the diplomas anyway. And this year everyone was all jumbled up - not in alphabetical order - so it would have been a nightmare to match the right diploma to the right student. The real ones are mailed in the summer.

The fake diploma is a photograph of the one fairly scenic building on campus (the library). I know I once opined that a picture of Rick Astley might also work, or maybe a mushroom-person saying, "Thank you, but your diploma is in another castle." Then again, kids today might not get either of those jokes....)

A quick photo

Graduation is this morning (As of now, there's no bad weather right in the area, so I guess it's still on....I'm just hoping no high winds/hail/tornadoes hit while we're in the basketball arena, that could be BAD).

I mostly finished Folio last night. I still have to do the "fun" parts (the embellishment of the face and making the mane and tail), but the heavy duty crocheting is done. Here's a quick webcam photo:

Yes, she's a Pegasus.

I briefly contemplated last night changing my plans totally, making a little blue dress for her, and turning her into a Maud Pie, but then I have other grey yarn on hand for Maud, so she can come later.

Even though there are other (more show accurate) patterns out there, I really like this one because it works up into a not-very-big pony. After making Chrysalis from a show-accurate pattern and winding up with a two-and-a-half-foot-tall pony who takes up a lot of space, I appreciate these little guys more.

Friday, May 08, 2015

A little quiz

Been a long time since I wanted to do one of these, but this was Moomin-themed, so:

Which Moomin Are You?

"You are Thingummy and Bob!"

"You are a very happy and energetic person! Not all understand you perfectly but you understand well what others are saying.
You are always kind to others but you want to keep some things secret. Your lust for worldly things may sometimes spell trouble for you but you still keep your cool!"

Heh. I think it's funny that I got two characters. (But Thingummy and Bob are tightly linked in the books, they cannot be separated). (Changing just a couple of the ones - questions that I could see either answer being me - got me Moominmamma.)

And it's Friday

The worst of the weather moved through before I went to bed. There was a lot of thunder late but nothing severe. (I didn't even hear any hail).

I don't know that I'm going to go do anything today though, we might get storms again and there's flooding various areas. (I'm already worrying this summer may be a repeat of 2007, when I had to find alternate field sites for my summer class because every of the ones I normally used had flooded).

I MIGHT sew up a backing and take in another quilt to be quilted. I pulled out the Bento Box quilt I finished 2 years ago and decided that I like it, after all, and that maybe a pale blue or pale blue-green thread and some kind of feathery pattern quilting might work for it. I have backing fabric tucked away.

If I had lots of time, space, and money? I'd buy a longarm quilting machine of my own, and learn to use it. I think it would be fun and it would be cool to be able to machine quilt my quilts exactly how I wanted them. I could even do quilts for other people, maybe....but of course I don't have space for a machine, and the really good ones cost about as much as a very basic small car.....and there's a learning curve where it's helpful to have some classes in it.

It IS possible to machine quilt on a home machine, either with a darning foot (and dropped feed dogs - though I'm not sure I can drop the feed dogs on my older machine) or a walking foot (for straight lines, and if I ever quilted a quilt in a grid again, I'd seriously consider doing it that way).

I keep thinking I should pull out some of the many small quilt tops I have hanging around and have a try at machine quilting them. (I could get a darning foot, they're pretty cheap and standard). But it's harder to do really complex "pantograph" type designs on a home machine, and it does tie up your machine until the quilt is done.

I also want to finish up the current Pony this weekend - she has three legs and part of a fourth, so once that's done, it's wings, ears, mane-and-tail, face, and cutie mark.

(I learned something recently I didn't know. There is a horse-grooming practice called Quarter Marks where you comb the hair on the horse's rear flank into a pattern. More can be seen here. I'm guessing Bonnie Zacherle (the person who FIRST came up with My Little Ponies) had to have based cutie marks on that - the name comes from "beauty mark" but I'm sure the concept is that of a quarter mark. (And apparently they weren't called "cutie marks" until a number of years into the franchise).  I had never even SEEN quarter marks until someone brought them up somewhere on Derby Day. I admit I'm not crazy about the name "cutie marks" - it's a little twee - so now I can think of them as "quarter marks" if I want to.)

Thursday, May 07, 2015

Hanging out, waiting.

Well, in North Texas, west and south of where I live, there's really bad weather. The headline on TWC is "Multi-vortex tornado confirmed," apparently for Denton.

It might be headed this way. So I guess I stack up the quilts and pillows. I already made sure I had a pair of sturdy shoes and extra clothes in the bathroom (this is the only potentially safe room in the house, but if it's a big big tornado even that's not safe).

I don't like this. I'm tired, I'd like to go to bed, I'm cranky because I pushed really hard to get something done and then someone else didn't get their end of it done.....and now I have to sit up a while later to be sure the weather here doesn't turn potentially deadly.

I should have known this would happen - at one point today the dewpoint was 68. (Which was also probably why I was so cranky and painful today; my body does not like humidity. And I'm hived up like a monkeyfighter, apparently my mast cells don't like it either.)

I'd be okay with just an uncomplicated thunderstorm but the chance of a tornado after dark is super scary.

I have the local channel on so I can catch the weather when the guy breaks in. They have a new version of the Odd Couple that they are doing. Felix Ungar.....he LARPs in this version. I don't know. In my universe, Felix Ungar doesn't LARP.  I admit that the actor who plays him is kind of adorable, but.....Felix Ungar wouldn't LARP. I associate LARPing with burly guys who want to be in The Lord of the Rings or who want to do Civil War re-enactments,  and I think Felix would get too weirded out by all the mud and unsanitaryness. (And yeah, Felix Ungar in this one comes across slightly like an all-grown-up Sheldon Cooper with different interests, and maybe a little less of the "I'm the smartest guy in the room" superciliousness. But somehow I find Felix easier to take)

I think the new Oscar was on Friends years ago?  (And ugh, they still have the slightly creepy sex jokes that all sit-coms seem to have to have now. Another reason why I like kid's cartoons. You won't catch Rainbow Dash making a foreplay joke. Or at least I'd hope you wouldn't.)

(And who is the character that Yvette Nicole Brown is playing? A friend of both the guys? A fellow inhabitant of their apartment complex? A co-worker of one of them? She seems around an awful lot for just-a-friend.)

It's weird seeing new actors in roles I associate with either Tony Randall and Jack Klugman  or Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau. (I admit I am far more familiar with the TV series; when I was an undergrad one of the indie stations - back when such things existed - used to show re-runs of the show in the midafternoon and I would often watch it when I got home from class. I think part of the reason I liked it was its early-70-ness, how it was kind of different in terms of clothing and decor and appliances to what was around then (the early 90s). Also I just barely remembered some of those things as a kid of the 70s)

Ugh, the alarm just went off.....severe thunderstorm warning for Grayson County.

(I don't think I'm gonna go do anything tomorrow, we're supposed to get more storms.)

The good news is it looks like this might move out in the next hour.

Oh, now it's the Standard Sitcom Tantrum, with two characters (Felix and some woman) yelling at each other and waving their arms in such a way that if someone did it to me, I'd assume they were unhinged and walk quickly away from them.

Oh, now it's Big Bang Theory. Too many characters on that one annoy me too much so I guess I need to find another channel that might break in and show weather.

Some nice things

I like things that are just cute and nice and happy. Here are a few ideas/things:

* A person decides to travel with a stuffed toy Totoro and take pictures of Totoro where he went.

* I found that while doing a search to see if anyone made a garden-gnome (that is, a statue that is durable for the outdoors) version of Totoro because it would be nice to have a Totoro in my garden somewhere. (I couldn't easily find one. There are lots of tiny figurine sets for those "fairy garden" things, but nothing like I had in mind - about a foot tall or so, maybe made of resin or some kind of stone-like composite)

* There exists a silicone, manatee-shaped tea infuser (Yes, I have one on order)

* cat spoons(porcelain spoons with a minimalist cat painted on them, not a spoon FOR a cat.....though that in itself might be cute). I have a teabag-holder cat-dish that is not unlike these.

*Eve and the Palindromes kitten-cam. (They're getting big!!)

* I do think I might institute a Friday or Sunday (depending on my schedule) night movie-night. I have a number of dvds I've bought through the years and never watched, and some I haven't seen for ages. (Most of the movies I own, as I noted before, tend to be what are regarded as "kids'" movies - lots of Miyazaki, Babe the Sheep Pig (I don't have the sequel, it really wasn't as good), Cats Don't Dance (which I want to watch again some time....), The Water Horse, the various Wallace and Gromit movies.....

I also have a few "classics" on film - Sense and Sensibility, a couple of Shakespeare movies (the most recent version of Henry V, which I really need to watch sometime). And a bunch of Poirot and all (heh. all = eight) of the episodes of Campion ever made.

Also my university library has some dvds which I could check out for free if I wanted to, and I think they have lots of Shakespeare.....

I also notice that there are a few things that pop up as "streaming Prime" recommendations on Amazon for me, including The Secret of Kells (an animated movie based on Irish mythology). Those could count, too. And there's lots of them (including Secret of Kells) that are free for me to watch as streaming video.

* This .gif, which is a nicer and more polite version of a common internet saying:

* Carroll Spinney (Big Bird) is interviewed on Reddit. The first story he shares is sad but also touching (sad in a good way). And in response to a commenter's comment, someone says "A soft heart is a good heart" (the commenter complained that he cried too easily and was too soft-hearted). I like that. Sometimes I feel like I am maybe a little too soft-hearted but I suppose it's better than being the opposite, and as long as you're NOT soft-headed in addition to being soft-hearted, you're probably good. (I can be hard-headed when needed, whether it's giving a 0 grade for plagiarism and standing by that grade even when they come and give me a story about how they "didn't know," or giving tough love when needed, that kind of thing)

And yeah, if I let myself, I do sometimes cry easily at stuff. But usually just when I'm at home alone. When I'm out in public, I can cowgirl up and not show the tears.....

Semester winds down

I posted my grades this morning.

Only three sets to do, and I realize that may be why I don't feel so burnt out and "done" as I did fall semester - teaching that one or two extra sections really can do a person in.

The only F was an 'earned' F in the sense of someone who quit coming to class. (Sometimes, because of crazy Financial Aid rules, it's actually preferable for a student to take an F than it is for them to drop the class and maybe drop below some cutoff number of credits. It's frustrating for everyone involved, and probably a waste of resources, but that's bureaucracy for you).

A few people with tenuous Cs, but, meh. I'm glad I won't have people coming in and begging BEGGING me to let them pass*. I still expect the people near a cutoff - like a 78% - to come in and plead their case for the next highest grade. What they don't know is that anyone on the bubble (like, a 79.2%) who had some kind of extenuating circumstances (they started out weak but worked hard and improved, they were always in class and participated, they went the extra mile) already got the bump. And yeah, once in a while I will get someone who did the barest of bare minima, who skipped from time to time, who wasn't exactly courteous to their classmates, and who earned a 67% coming to me going, "But please please please please won't you give me a C? I DESERVE a C, don't I?"

(And I admit, I find myself thinking, "Yeah, and I want a pony" in response to those. Oh, I smile ruefully and say, "Sorry, I can't do that" but I admit some frustration with someone believing they deserve "special consideration" when they have done nothing to suggest that consideration should be forthcoming. And I admit I can see the attraction of 'zero tolerance" policies here - you don't have to explain yourself, you just say "them's the rules." But yeah. The guy at a 79% who was always in class and handed in all the work and asked good questions but maybe derped badly on a test - he gets a bump. Or the woman who failed the first test but came in for help and steadily got better over the semester and wound up with a 79% - she gets it. But the person who fed me a string of excuses about why they couldn't be there, who came in wanting to hand stuff in late, who goofed off in class: nope. And I tend to think that's how it should be.)

I think I'm also less tired the end of this semester because, despite having a crew of gigglers in one class, I didn't have as many difficult personalities as last semester. I didn't *really* have anyone who thought they were Too Cool For School (as I did last semester). And I actually kind of think towards the end I may have won over the gigglers a little bit; they did serious up more towards the end of the term so either (a) someone else spoke to them and told them to knock it off or (b) they developed some (possibly grudging) respect for my knowledge and expertise. (Though one of them did make a horrible, unintended double-entendre about the exam ("It's SO THICK!!!!") when I handed it out, that set the others off.....I pretended not to hear it but I admit my inner 12 year old was laughing. Or it could have been one of the other meanings of "thick," like in terms of consistency, like a thick shake. Or just the way the person said it. But I kind of think it wasn't, I think it was the "urban dictionary" version that got people laughing.)

I do have a meeting in a bit with a few people - not students - that can be somewhat difficult. But once that's over I feel like I'm free for a while. Oh, I have research I want to work on and Stuff To Do (like making my summer syllabi, now that I've seen at least one of my classes "made" - they will let the other one go ahead, I am sure, even if I don't get the magic 10 people in it, because they don't like forcing faculty into part-time schedules for the summer)


Wednesday, May 06, 2015

mid-week music

Lynn does this, so so can I.

This is one of my all-time favorite pieces of music. (And I tend to prefer it played on keyboard - ideally pipe organ but failing that, piano. And I hope someday to find a good piano transcription that I can play).

I got little

I will say getting about an extra hour of sleep a night (I don't get up early to work out this week; I work it in and around my schedule) is better for me. I haven't been having distressing dreams, either.

Of course, that's hard to suss out what factor is causing that. I SUSPECT it's dealing with fewer people (and fewer people who neeeeeeeeeeeed something from me) on a daily basis, but it could be the more flexible schedule, it could be more time to sleep, it could be not having an alarm set every morning, it could be hormonal even....but I welcome it, whatever is causing it. (I just wish I knew so I had a better shot at replicating it).

For serious: I've off and on had dreams the past few weeks involving political intrigue, people I love telling me they had inoperable cancer, dystopias, being chased by animals (and not fun cuddly animals that just want me to pet them).....I guess I also wish I knew what was causing the distressing dreams (though sometimes I wonder if the cocktail of stuff I have to take so neither my allergies nor my autonomic nervous system kill me could be doing it).

Other than that, I'm doing lots of grading. Grading and evaluating scholarship applications. (The whole scholarship thing has been more fraught and effortful than it should be, partly because of some of the personalities involved. I'll just note that part of my decision to take out caller ID was due to a late, late evening phone call from a distressed member of the committee who wanted to unload on me, even though it really wasn't my fault, what they were unloading*)

(*This seems to be a common thing I experience. I know some people say they have a "crazy magnet," I seem to have a magnet for people wanting to tell me all their problems even when I didn't cause them and am powerless to fix them. And of course I'm the kind of person that the problems "stick" to and I have a hard time letting go of the bad feelings, so I'm more affected by it than some would be)

Anyway. I had had tentative plans to go do something fun Thursday but that got washed away by meetings. And Friday morning I have a webinar (Yeah, I know, I said I hoped I could make it to retirement without attending one of these, but this is something being forced upon us because of one gen-ed class I teach. I have no choice in the matter). I MIGHT go do something fun Friday after that, I don't know. I need something fun but I don't quite know what - there are no movies playing I particularly want to see (I never got into the Avengers franchise or I'd go see the new one), I'm kind of bored with what Sherman has to offer for shopping/museums, McKinney still has awful construction going I don't know. Maybe I look up and see if there are any small-town quilt shops within a 40 minute or so drive....I'm starting to collect "dark background floral" fabrics for a quilt I am planning (the color scheme is pretty limited - black or dark grey background and pink, purple, or yellow flowers) and I don't quite have enough in my stash already.

Tuesday, May 05, 2015

Couple other thoughts

Unrelated to Moby-Dick, though I will say I think I'm going to enjoy the book, it's going to stretch my brain with all the allusions to either remember or look up.

I re-watched "My Neighbor Totoro" Sunday evening. (I might make a Sunday-evening Miyazake (or similar) movie night a regular thing).

First of all: Totoro et al. (there are three Totoro? I think they are all Totoro - the big grey guy, a medium-sized blue one, and a tiny white one with chicken feet) would not be at all out of place in the world Tove Jansson created. In fact, they'd fit in really nicely beside the Moomins. (I'm sure there's some kind of a link there as to why Moomin is so very popular in Japan).

It's a more episodic, and I think less plot-driven, movie than some of the other Miyazake movies I've seen - it's more a slice of life. Father and his two girls move into an old house out in the country. The unspoken subtext I get is "so there's a more healthful place for Mom to stay when she gets out of the hospital" - the mother is in a hospital and while it's never mentioned or discussed, I assume it's for tuberculosis - she's not so very sick, but there's talk of how fresh air and vegetables would be good for her, and her trip home is cancelled when she gets a cold.

It also has a happier ending than you might think - if you watch the end credits, there are drawings showing the mother coming home, lying in bed reading to her two girls before bedtime, enjoying the fresh air. (I think there's another Miyazake movie - Grave of the Fireflies, maybe? I've not seen it - that deals with TB but doesn't have such a happy ending).

One thing that struck me about the movie, and about a lot of Miyazake movies - older, not always attractive women are shown as extremely positive characters ("Granny" in this version). They're strong and loving and watch over children. (There's also a character in Kiki's Delivery Service who is somewhat similar). That's....not always so common in Western, or at least, US-made, movies. (In the English dub, Pat Carroll, who is apparently a long-time voice actress, and I also kind of know her from a few movies, I think she was in With Six You Get Eggroll, does Granny). Granny isn't pretty - she has a big wart or mole and is sort of shapeless and  very wrinkly - but she's a lovable character and I like that.

I'm not sure what the acorns symbolize. The Totoro's food? Something precious to them? They give the girls a gift of acorns which the girls then plant. Maybe as forest-spirits the Totoro are concerned with preservation of the forest, and they know if they give these children acorns they will plant them....

I also like all the little cultural touches - the different way of living (you take your shoes off when entering a house, just as a point of courtesy), the different cultural things (the roadside shrines, the fact that the family 'thanks' the camphor tree and asks for its further protection). Oh! And the flowers! I can easily identify what family (if not always what genus; the genera in Japan are different) the wildflowers are in - that's how much attention to detail the animators have. That kind of thing is wonderful to me. (And the backgrounds. The backgrounds in this movie are so beautiful. It's a place I'd like to visit).