Friday, April 10, 2015

It's the weekend

Well, almost.

Both Wednesday and Thursday had evening things - Wednesday was Elder's and Board meetings, Thursday was when I helped collect money for tickets for the Children's Play (this is how our AAUW group earns the money for scholarships). So I was away from home a lot this week.

I had also rushed to grade an exam earlier yesterday - today is the last drop day so students need to know - and that made me tired. (Though people generally did pretty well on this one, or maybe I graded more generously....)

I do need to do work this weekend. I have an exam to write for another class. (It never ends. I give an exam in some class once a week all semester.) And I do need to work some on research.

I think what I'm going to do is run out and do the necessary grocery stuff early tomorrow morning (before Ponies), and then watch New Pony (It's on at 10:30 here, which is not ideal if you're planning on going in to work - it's too early to go in before, unless you set an alarm and go in at like 6 am, but it's kind of late to go in after. I guess what I'll do is eat lunch and then go in, having written my exam and done most to all of the piano practice for the day before New Pony). And no, I don't have a dvr and don't feel like shelling out EVEN MORE to my cable company (seriously, they find a way to raise prices every month it seems). So I use it as "appointment tv." Heh. The only things I plan ahead to watch any more are Ponies and NCIS. That's a strange combination but there you are. Those are pretty much the only two shows I watch regularly - all my other watching is "opportunistic," as in, "I'm tired, I want to sit and knit and watch tv....oh, a repeat of Gravity Falls is on, guess I'll watch that." Once in a while if I know there's a movie I want to see coming on TCM I will plan to watch it but again, a lot of the time, it's "Oh, okay. I've got a couple hours to relax, there's some old Cary Grant movie on, so..."

What I'd *like* is to take the weekend off but I can't quite justify it. (There was also a conference on campus I COULD have gone to for free, but didn't sign up for, thinking, "I need that time to work" so I can't justify deciding to take the weekend off now). But I find, the older I get, the more downtime I need.

Also time away from people. As I said yesterday, I'm in one of my periodic "people frustrate me so much" funks, where it seems to me like people are sniping at each other either because they can snipe at each other, or they're being offensive because they themselves feel like they've been offended, or they're getting upset over little things that don't really matter while ignoring what seem to me to be big things that need to be taken care of.

And I get that in a lot of cases when people lash out (or lash back) at someone it's that they themselves are hurting....but "an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind" as the old saying goes and in my experience, being nasty to someone who's been nasty to you (or worse: being nasty to an innocent third party because you're hurting) doesn't really make me feel better.

(Also, an odd little thought on all the police issues lately....I wonder perhaps if power, which, yes, a certain amount of power comes with the uniform, is a temptation and an intoxicant like alcohol is. Most people can handle alcohol, most people never develop a problem with it. But some do - some can't have just one or two glasses of wine with dinner and go, "Okay, I'm good now," they keep drinking to oblivion and will ultimately kill themselves if allowed to. And I wonder if for some people power is the same thing - that people get sucked into it and it changes them, it makes them act in ways they would not otherwise act. And if some of that's what we're seeing. Oh, I get the whole thing about "cops don't know what they're walking into in any given situation" but some of these cases, it does look like someone who likes their power too much and uses it in a very destructive way. And don't get me wrong - I've known cops, good cops. But just like some people can be the chair of an academic department (like my chair) and be wonderful at it, and make everyone work better, and smooth the path for both faculty and students, and have everyone's best interest in mind, there are other people who become chairs and either become petty tyrants or else don't do ANYTHING and play favorites and make everyone miserable. And I wonder if the whole "power can corrupt" thing is part of what's going on here.

The sad thing is, I don't know how that can be fixed. I think it's just human nature for some humans to love their power and want to wield it in ways that are bad for those around them and that destroy community. But, I don't know - maybe that would allow good sergeants or chiefs to look a bit at Officer Overbearing and go, "He needs further training on how to interact with people " or "She needs to be on a desk for a while" before Officer Overbearing does something that hurts a lot of people and leads to further fraying of community.)

I don't know. I see a lot of community fraying around me and I wonder if we're going to have some kind of a case where people go, "You know? Being a jerk to other people is unproductive and stupid" and they decide to try not to be a jerk to other people in the future, or if it's just going to get worse. (Small example: how some fandoms seem to eat themselves, how they shun or exclude people who are a little different, or how they have certain 'tests" to determine if someone is a "true fan" or a "poseur." And that's just stupid because you know, some of the people who are fans of things like Star Trek or comic books or Dr. Who or whatever? They were the kids sitting in the dark corner of the lunchroom, excluded by the "popular" kids. I get that there's a certain strain in human nature that makes a group that was once the bottom of the pecking order, once they create a new pecking order or move to one where they are near the top, decide to "peck" people below them and I confess I did it myself as a tween (and I still feel regret over that). But it seems so STUPID. People excluded you once for not being "cool enough," why are you now excluding someone from your group for not being "cool enough"? You know how it feels....)

I don't know. As much as I hated some of the stuff I experienced as a kid I do think it made me more thoughtful and perhaps compassionate as an adult, but also I see stuff like this and go "Why?"

When I was a teen, I once mentioned to someone that "nerds" were great because "nerds have your back" and that was my experience - the kids who were somewhat excluded otherwise because they were socially awkward or cared about grades more than was the norm or had esoteric interests were often the kids who would stick up for another outsider, or would help them. (I got tutoring in something I needed help with from a "nerd.") And I suppose given my early stereotype of "nerds have your back" that's partly why I get annoyed when I see a fandom collapsing on itself because the alpha nerds go after the omega nerds, and I want to say "No, that's not how it should work, you remember how it felt in high school?"

I dunno. I just want to like what I like, and leave other people free to like what they like. And I don't want someone snarking on someone because they don't quite know "enough" about ST: ToS or whatever. Because driving away "newbies" is how groups die.

Actually, this is getting long, but I just thought of something related - looking around a bit yesterday about Quilty ceasing publication, I came across this from Mary Fons, one of the magazine's founders, about why they attempted a magazine aimed at more-beginner quilters*

we have a culture that still values quilts and we have great numbers of people who want to make them, but we have now and will have forever more a culture that does not teach sewing. We are a service industry. We are not manufacturers. For all intents and purposes, manufacturing and fabrication in America is over. We’re not going to start sewing our own clothes again and that means there aren’t sewing machines in the home.

That's true. Most of the people I know who sew or knit or do other "craft" type stuff learned either from a parent/grandparent figure, or they specifically sought out classes in it as an adult. It's not generally expected in our culture that people know how to "do stuff." And that's kind of sad. And yes, I get that "the world has changed" but I do think having some competence in sewing and cooking and maybe getting to try out other hobbies is important - not for getting an eventual career, but important to being a person. Kind of like reading Shakespeare won't help you in your career unless you're a lit prof, but it makes you a more interesting and perhaps in some ways a better person. And I do worry about us boiling things down so much to the "essentials" that we lose some of the old skills (though I think there are a lot of people still interested in those). But yeah - cooking and sewing and woods shop and similar things are among the first things to go in schools. And you could argue that those are "inessential" compared to "reading, writing, and arithmetic," (though I will note in passing, that writing, in the sense of being able to look up sources of information, evaluate them, synthesize their information in your own words, and write a cogent argument, is a dying skill)

But you know? Having a background where I sewed, cooked, knitted, crocheted, all of that, taught me a couple of things:

1. Read directions carefully first and evaluate them. I have students who can't/won't pay attention to directions, who mess stuff up in class (I have almost dived across lab benches and knocked pipettes out of people's hands, as they were going to dip the pipette from Solution A into Solution B, which would mess up the lab and also necessitate me mixing up a fresh batch of Solution B for the next people....) Directions are important and I think doing crafts where there are step by step directions helps a person develop an attention to detail and an appreciation for such a thing.

2. Evaluate those directions to see if they make sense. There have been times I've gone, "Wait, what?" with instructions. (In this modern age, I often go to the Internet then, and type in something like "Interweave Knits Fall 2014 errata" to see what's out there). Or I ask someone knowledgeable - I still remember, when I first knit a pair of socks, I looked at the heel-turn instructions and boggled. So I asked my mom, who had knit socks in the past. She looked at them, counted a bit, and said, "Yeah. Trust the instructions, they will work." And they did. And now I can almost turn a heel without looking at it....

I think it also maybe builds a little trust in your own ability. I sometimes get students in lab who are a little afraid of it - afraid of the glassware, afraid of pipetting. Because they've never done it before.

And getting back to the whole "newbie" thing - if there aren't people willing to welcome newbies, and to help them learn (and also to help them learn the "culture" - there used to be a thing, back on the old Usenet days, that when you joined a group you lurked for a month before posting. So you could learn the tone of the group and not say something that was wildly out of culture for the group. So it does go both ways - "oldbies" can be unpleasant to the "newbies, but some "newbies" got demanding fast, or acted like they were entitled to be arbiters of what happened in a group that had existed for several years before they joined....)

And it does alarm me a little that we might see a further decline in people who know how to sew (or knit, or embroider, or do woodworking, whatever). I don't know that this is actually the case (and I might be totally wrong) but all of us who have a particular hobby we love where we need for supplies to continue to be readily available, it's actually in our best interest to encourage others who want to learn, and to be willing to teach.

(I haven't ever really taught sewing or knitting. I would, if I were asked and if I had time. And I'd happily encourage newbies even if what they were doing wasn't quite how I'd do it or to my aesthetic taste....)

(*Though as a long-time quilter with some level of expertise, I have to say I enjoyed it immensely too)

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