Sunday, September 24, 2017

In case anyone

In case anyone is still reading - comments have now gone back to word verification required because I'm getting lots and lots of anonymous bot comments.

Also, you know - edited to add here - if you post an anonymous comment here and it isn't (a) "signed" or (b) clearly related to the post (I have got a few very vaguely-worded but positive anonymous comments that I suspect is a try-out to see if it gets posted, and then a deluge more comes), it won't get posted. Yes, I'm risking someone getting saddle-sore because "she didna post me comment!" but you know? I'm getting way too old, am way too tired and disappointed for this stuff any more. Anonymous comments are gonna get binned unless you tell me who you are and/or DIRECTLY reference something in the post. Oh, and most comments with weblinks in them will go where the goblins go - this blog does not accept advertising, I don't get paid in cash or in kind for doing it, so why should I let you advertise your scammy site or dodgy YouTube video for free? (YES I AM ANGRY IN CASE YOU COULDN'T FIGURE IT OUT)

It sucks. And I'm in one of those moods where I feel like "I could just turn off comments and it wouldn't matter" or even "I could just delete the blog and it wouldn't matter" because the louder voices in the room - which is pretty much every room I have ever been in - dominate the discourse and what I have to say doesn't matter.

Eventually, life will be just the most aggrieved voices screaming at each other, forever. And then I will go find a hermit cave and live there. And I don't think caves have wifi.


More, added later on:

I'm still tired of all the other louder voices in the room, generally loud voices that assume THEIR problem is the ONLY problem and they are the ONLY one who ever feels sad/angry/put-upon/whatever. 

One of the people I scheduled to elder this morning didn't show up (this is not the first time). This IS someone with work that sometimes randomly calls them out of town but I ask people to find a sub - or at least let me know in advance- if they can't be there, so I don't have to do it myself on short notice. But that doesn't happen much of the time, and I wind up filling in more than I probably should because I do not like point-blank asking someone else who may be there to do it.

I had to dig SO DEEP for appropriate words for a prayer this morning, guys. I didn't know what I was going to say even as I was standing at the back of the church moments before working up there. The words came in time this time, but I live in fear there will be a week when I have to fill in and they don't. I suppose if I just blanked I could probably call up either a bit of Scripture or the Lord's Prayer out of my memory, but I know people would wonder what was going on. And I'd never be brave enough to tell them: I have filled in so many times that I'm just out. I'm done. I've run out of the ability to do this. I'd probably handwave and say I was starting with a migraine and didn't trust my ability to string my own words together, but...

I also had the horrible thought hit me, sitting there in the pew, waiting to have to go and do it: "If you weren't such a responsible and diligent person, who always does this, people wouldn't expect you'd be there to fill in and feel so free to do this."

And that's probably true. But I don't know how to parlay that, with any kind of grace, into a "please don't take advantage of me" statement.

I can't ask to step down as head elder; that's not possible given the way things are right now, there's no one else who would take it, and I have no good reason (besides being tired) for stepping down.

I dunno. Eventually one day I am probably going to fail spectacularly - start crying up at the table, or not be able to say anything, or something, and then maybe I'll be relieved of it or at least people will realize how tired I am (I've been doing this since 2013).

I suppose the answer is I need to make an issue of it at the next elder's meeting. I hate to seem like I'm complaining and I know some people are like "But your job is so easy, you always have weekends off, so you can always be here" so I don't know.

Again, this comes down to the self-care stuff - is it too much for me to ask not to be expected to be on-call all the time for this? I can do and it I know it seems like a not-big thing, but.....I dunno. I couldn't help set up the lunch today (luckily there were enough other people) because of this. I get tired of there being three things I really could be helping out with, and I have to prioritize the most important or urgent one instead of doing the one I might want to do most. (This is also the same way at work: I do the urgent things first and sometimes wind up doing what I want to do last or not at all).

I dunno. I'm just tired and I feel "stuck" and sad. I'm not doing well with my piano stuff right now, I don't feel like I'm making any progress. And I'm not doing anything useful with research - the project that the student and I spent the summer on failed because apparently the seeds had lost viability between January and June. And I feel like I'm just barely keeping my head above water in my classes....Right now I'm just so tired.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

pony episode musing

This refers to the most recent episode of My Little Pony - so if you've not seen it and don't want spoilers, feel free to skip. I'll put the more general observations up front.

The moral of this one was fundamentally the old "put your own oxygen mask on first" metaphor - that if you don't take care of yourself, you can't function effectively to help others. This is something that's pretty well-known and discussed, and yet, a lot of us have a hard time with it, or some aspects of it.

For me, I have hard time with some aspects of it. Sleep, I don't - I know I need as close to 8 hours of sleep as I can manage during the regular week to be able to function. (Given my busy-ness and the fact that I need to make time to exercise and all, some nights I manage 6, but I can't do that for long)

And eating healthful food, getting exercise, taking regular showers: all of that I can pretty much ace. (Though on some nights, when I arrive home at 5 pm, have an evening meeting at 6, and still need to make some time to practice piano - those nights maybe I don't get in all the vegetable servings I "should" have).

What I have a hard time with, sometimes, is taking time for me. I often take on too much stuff, I am often too willing to help out (or things get dumped on me that it's not my job, entirely, to do - the shared room that a colleague and I were supposed to clean out? The colleague has yet to remove the stuff that only they can deal with; I did all the other cleaning because I was around). And the biggest thing for me lately has been taking time for things I dub as "frivolous" - like going to Sherman yesterday afternoon. I almost didn't; I almost said to myself, "You can go to Wal-mart tomorrow morning, most of the things you need can be had there and the things they don't have, you can live without a while longer" All that in the interest of maybe reading an un-usued chapter on one of the topics I have not planned to address in the new class (I am running through the material faster than I anticipated I would, so I am going to have to add on some more at the end - maybe more discussion of land use? Maybe some stuff about the Sagebrush Rebellion and other citizen pushbacks and the controversies? I don't know)

But anyway. I see stuff like that, going to shop at somewhere beyond the "bare minimum" that exists in town as something Frivolous and therefore To Be Cut Out When Responsibilities Demand It.

And, I don't know. When I can't get out of town for at least a little bit each week, I do get kind of uptight and sad, because, as I said, I feel like everyplace is like this, with a dead downtown and essentially no small businesses and having to brave the wal-mart with all its difficult people and deeply unaesthetic qualities for almost any shopping and....yes, I'm spoiled. And I do feel like it's spoiled to demand the occasional Saturday out antiquing, instead of, I don't know, working on research-reading because somehow I was taught that academics are supposed to love their work so much that it becomes their hobby. (I do have a colleague whose hobby is essentially an offshoot of his research interest, so I don't know. My hobbies are extremely unacademic, or at least are completely different from the field I am in)

Even knitting. I will take grading home and do it, even when I'm tired. Granted, part of this is I relax better later on when it's not hanging over my head, part of it is one of the FEW self-congratulatory claims I make about myself is "I get graded feedback back to the students very fast, either the next class day or within a week at the latest"

But I don't know. After taking several weeks of just quick grudging trips to the local wal-mart to restock the necessities, I feel so much better after getting to go to the natural-foods store and the Ulta and the Kroger and all of that. And I don't know. Maybe I AM spoiled. My great-grandmother who lived on a farm - shoot, my grandmother, who raised kids in a tiny town without a car during World War II - would be ashamed of how soft I am in some ways.

But yeah. I need downtime and especially away-time and I find I get kind of crabby and strung-out when I don't allow it for myself.


So anyway. The episode. The MacGuffin of the episode was collecting some kind of moss for oxen going to visit Fluttershy's animal sanctuary (yay again for continuity). Zecora is helping Fluts, but the episode doesn't turn out to feature her ALL that much. (I want a Zecora-centric episode, where maybe we learn more of her backstory and why she moved from wherever it is zebras live to the Everfree forest.)

Anyway. Zecora gets exposed to pollen and gets sick (I know that feel, sis....the ragweed here is bad right now). But this is a singularly horrific disease, because after the weird orange spots, and the coughing bubbles and sneezing lighting.....well, Zecora will turn into a tree of the species that releases the spores....which is terrifyingly like a real fungus that infects insects (and was apparently used in a zombie movie as the thing that zombified humans).

So yeah. I had a brief twinge of "noooo, they are gonna write Zecora out!" but I suspect that on-screen deaths are a no-no in the My Little Pony show-bible. (Yes, Applejack's parents can be dead, but that happened offscreen and out of the time we are seeing).

Fluttershy freaks out, of course - though not as much as I would, I think, if I found I had infected a friend with something that was ultimately going to be deadly. She runs off to Twilight for help....Twilight can't help. So Fluttershy hunts through the library (not sleeping - which is where the whole self-care issue starts: She sends Twilight off to bed and keeps working through the night herself).

Fluts, it turns out, has some mad research skills -she finds a link even Twilight overlooked that reveals where the Mage Meadowbrook might have lived. (In Cajunponyland, as it turns out).

So they travel there. Find Meadowbrook's house. By this time Fluttershy is showing some effects of sleep deprivation but she is bound and determined to push on to save Zecora.

They meet up with a descendant of Meadowbrook (time frame being somewhat elided and also whether he's a direct descendant - meaning she had foals - or just a "general" descendant). Cattail by name. (I fear they may be running out of Pony names by now; maybe they need to hit up that AI list I linked to a while back).

Through a bunch of research work (again), they find out that apparently Flash Bee honey cures the disease.....but Flash Bees are kind of like our "Africanized" honey bees, aggressive and unwilling to give up the honey (and apparently bees are insufficiently sentient that you can't guilt them into "Yeah, but if you don't give me a few grams of your honey, ponies will DIE." Or maybe they are, and just don't care?)

Fluttershy, being good with animals, says she must go get it. By this point in time she herself has become infected - remember, this is thought to be fatal without the cure - so it's taken on a new level of urgency.

Anyway. She falls, spends three days in a coma, when she wakes up she's sick, but she still manages to figure out the secret to getting the honey. (The three-days thing is probably to add drama? I guess? How could someone be in a coma for three days without being hooked up to an IV for fluids and a catheter for removal of those same fluids....).

The denouement comes quickly - Fluttershy is cured, they get back to the Everfree Forest fast enough to cure Zecora (who by now has started sprouting branches, and yes, I am sure this is a slightly-horrific nod to the old "I'd like to be a tree" bit Fluttershy said in Season 1) and Twilight reminds Fluttershy  of the essential moral - that if you don't take care of yourself, you're little use to others. (Though despite being ill and sleep-deprived   - at least until the coma - Fluttershy STILL managed to save the day).

Which actually, though, the "put your own oxygen mask on first" moral - that's pretty grown up. Is that something a kid would even WORRY about? Most kids, at least most kids in non-dysfunctional families, seem to be pretty much taken-care-of and maybe it's their moms or dads who need the oxygen-mask reminder....

But yeah. One of the things I really struggle with for myself is "what is an appropriate level of self-care vs. what is me being lazy or self-indulgent?" I still haven't figured it out and I admit there are times I either push myself too hard, or not hard enough.

Friday, September 22, 2017

the weekend begins

Well, FSVO "weekend" - I need to read that thesis, and I should do a bit of supplemental reading for Policy and Law, and I have a bit of grading.

But I have decided to (a) run home and eat (it will be faster and more healthful than what I can get "out") and then run to Sherman to do my shopping. I have something to make for the potluck Sunday; am thinking of doing cheesy grits because most people seem to like them and **I** like them.

I feel cheerfuller knowing I am going to get out of here for a little bit this afternoon, and that I will be able to replace some of the things I like but cannot find locally.


Edited to add: I guess I'm glad I went. Traffic was pretty horrendous and there were a few people who did some really boneheaded moves on the road. (Also, I had to check - lots and lots of cars with little flags that I thought were OU flags headed south, but it's not OU/Texas weekend, so I don't know).

The stores were less crowded, though, so that was the tradeoff. I was able to get all the necessaries in good time. I also got a couple of "treats" - because a person needs little treats now and then, I think, to keep on going. I got more of the bath fizzies I like, and some rose-scented body lotion on the thought that eventually it WON'T be 80% humidity out there and I'll have to moisturize.

And lots of food that I needed, including a bag of not-too-high-in-sodium frozen french fries, so I plan to make chili cheese fries for dinner tonight.

I spent a fair amount of time in the toy aisles at Target. Part of it is I just needed something like that as relaxation - yes, I find looking at toys I COULD buy relaxing, or just contemplating the new things on the shelf. (No Orange Blossom, but maybe once we get closer to Christmas? I hope?)

I did look all over for her, the whole section.

They did have a few stuffed animals of Songbird Serenade (the character Sia voices in the new Pony movie), but they....weren't that cute (the nose was shaped funny) and also, as I said, the fact that it's an unknown character might mean I wind up disliking her. So I had about given up on that kind of a "treat" and figured I would just consider the bath fizzies as that. Then I saw this:


They had a whole bunch of semi-"flatsy" toys (they are more like small pillows, even though Clawhauser has separate arms) of the various Zootopia characters. I already have a big Judy Hopps and Clawhauser is my second favorite character from the movie. And this is really SUPER cute and nicely designed - and very cuddly, and I can imagine Clawhauser would probably secretly like for people to hug him. (And the toy is such that it could stand in for a pillow in an emergency, or I could tuck him behind my head when I read in bed to prop my head up a little more.

Also, I find that my Folio Society order has arrived, which is surprisingly fast (they come from the UK and on the website they say to allow a month - I am sure this is less than that). 

Usual Friday feeling

Kind of burnt to a crisp. I think this semester is worse because of the stress of the new class and wondering if I'm doing a good-enough job. (I read somewhere that with teaching a new class - "The first time is sheer survival, the second time is getting rid of major problems, the third time is smoothing it out." So great, by fall 2020 I should feel comfortable with this. *throws up hands*)

And I read this on Twitter: "A lot of outreach about women role models paints them as 'fearless' but I want you to know you can be scared and still achieve great things."

Yeah, great. What if you aren't in a position to achieve great things but you are still scared? I am scared every morning I walk into Policy and Law because I feel like maybe I know *even less* about it than some of the students and why are they allowing me to teach this class?

Part of this, I know, is the fact that it's gotten brutally hot again - after a statistically-cooler August, it's now back to the mid 90s and high, high humidity, and I just kind of hurt all over from the humidity. And I've had outbreaks of hives (probably humidity plus ragweed) worse than I've had in many months. And when I hurt, it's harder to be cheerful and upbeat and feel good about the direction my life is going in.

Also, one of those things I don't need, and don't want to think about, happened yesterday: my department ran out of paper. Oh, I have part of a ream squirrelled away in my office (when I got really unhappy with all my colleagues who would USE UP ALL THE PAPER IN THE PRINTER and then NEVER GO AND GET MORE FROM THE STOCKROOM which involves going up and down the stairs) so maybe I can make it until we get more*

but apparently paper supplies are low everywhere on campus

(*And this raises a moral dilemma: if we run out of printer paper before we have more, do I share what I have squirrelled away even though there's a good chance someone will use it up and I won't be able to do all the printing I need, or do I selfishly hang on to it in case I need it before we get more? And how would I explain it to a colleague of "hey, how did you manage to print, there was no paper?" if necessary. I feel a bit like Royal and Almanzo Wilder with the seed wheat nailed up inside their wall as the town began to starve....And yes, that's a false equivalency, because someone could run to the wal-mart and buy paper out of their own's just, I don't want that to have to be me.)

I am trying not to panic a little about what this signifies. I know the new budgeting plan is kind of koo-koo and it doesn't allow people to build up a stockpile. But of course the anxious part of my brain couples this up to the fact that the Legislature is in apparent disarray, and they can't figure out some way to fill the budget hole that's actually legal under our state constitution....and I imagine showing up here some day to find a giant padlock on the door and a sign stating the campus buildings are up for auction, and THEN what would I do?

(I also now feel slightly guilty for not telling them to just put the award money - whatever it may be - from my research award into my department's fund. Not that it would help with the university wide issue though).

But the other thing is just  the whole logistic headache: what if Print Shop can't print my exam for Monday because they're out of paper? I suppose the answer is "Move it to the following Monday" but that raises a lot of other issues. UGH. Again, why do the stupid embezzlers in stupid city governments never have to worry about this kind of stuff, and I'm sitting here wondering if I put out the roughly 200 sheets of paper I have saved back so I wouldn't have to run up and down the stairs if I needed something in a hurry, or if it's OK for me to hang on to it?)

I dunno. I do need to get out of this town for a bit this weekend - I think part of it is that this place is SO small right now (our downtown is largely a ghost town, again) that I start to feel crushed by it and I feel like empty storefronts and blowing dust is what every place on Earth is like right now, and I just feel sad.

I wrote out an EXTENSIVE shopping list for Sherman. I don't know whether to go this afternoon (after my research student and I do the last check of the plots - well, "last" until we set up again with fresh seed in a couple weeks, sigh) and then have Saturday to read the student thesis I need to start reading, or whether to go home this afternoon and read the thesis and go tomorrow after Ponies. (I admit I wish the new episode was shown earlier in the day - getting down to shop at 11:30 am on a Saturday means the crowds have ramped up. But Friday afternoon traffic is also unpleasant, so it's like, pick which bad thing you'd rather tolerate)

I hope I haven't forgotten anything. For one thing, if it's something not available here in town (Wal-mart no longer carries the California Olive Ranch olive oil I like, nor do either of the other stores) it means I do without, or I accept an inferior brand. If it IS something available, though, then I have to brave one of the local stores (Wal-mart is the worst, Green Spray is the best, but Green Spray doesn't have everything)

And I'm tired of doing without, or of taking a brand that is not as good and tastes "wrong" but it's all I can get. And yes, I know that's me being spoiled, but......some days it feels like I have so little else that I want, why can't I just get the "good" kind of olive oil easily?

In my list, I included "fem. hyg. products" (And yes, I call them that, I am THAT Victorian) because you never know and I'm wondering if part of the Hard Distress I started feeling midday yesterday is an early warning. And I also looked back at that list and the "hyg." made me think of "hygge" and even though I loathe how that concept became a fidget spinner and got run into the ground, I admit I could go for a little true hygge right now - time with good friends, somewhere comfortable (where it's not 98 degrees and 70% humidity) and with good food and cheer. But I don't see that happening very soon.

I have promised myself that I can take a quick run through the toy aisle at Target and if they have anything particularly good and small, I will get it for myself, even though I probably need to be economizing more. I did see on Amazon (during a spate of distress-browsing, and no, I didn't order anything) that Bridge Direct is reproducing the "classic" Orange Blossom doll, which I really want - but it's not available on Amazon right at the moment (it's not out yet) but also the third-party seller is asking a price in the $30 range, which, for a small, barely-jointed, simple doll, I just can't see paying. I'm hoping maybe the universe will smile on me and it will turn out Target will have got a stock of them and will have them out and for a good price....but I'm not holding my breath.

But yeah. What I really need is a run of cooler weather, and some rain to get the crud out of the air, so I stop hurting a little and feel better.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

a new cap

I don't wear caps often - mostly just for fieldwork (and this one is kind of nice so maybe I don't use it for fieldwork where it gets grubby and sweaty).

(Sadly, I don't go to many baseball games or other places that you wouldn't get dirty but might want a cap to keep the sun out of your eyes).

But JSTOR - whom I follow on Twitter, because I'm a big nerd - was offering logo caps for sale and I decided I wanted one:

It's a little big on me, even with the velcro in the back adjusted down.

Anyway. Maybe this is my "Make Journal Searching Easy Again" cap?

(JSTOR, for those unfamiliar, is a WONDERFUL database containing .pdf files of articles from a great many - perhaps most - journals. It means I can search the literature without leaving my office and it also means I rarely have to but interlibrary loan for articles any more. It's also amazingly fast, considering when I was first doing journal searches (circa 1990 or so) I had to use the bound, printed Biological Abstracts and essentially devote an entire day or two JUST to article searching - something I can now do in a few minutes. And no dropping the Biological Abstracts books on my toes and breaking them like happened once.)

Today was in a lot of ways kind of a cruddy day (didn't get much done, it was just hot and miserable, there was some bad news locally) but this arriving makes it a little better.

fairness or not

One way in which I never really grew up is that, in my heart, I still hope or wish things were more fair.

And okay, granted, a disclaimer first: I recognize that by and large, things are "unfair in my favor," as that old Calvin and Hobbes strip hinted. I could have been born in the 18th c., which would likely mean I never made it out of childhood. I could have been born in a country where women are openly and actively mistreated. I could live in serious poverty...

But, all that aside, I think we all look at certain other people and ask ourselves, "They do not deserve what they are getting so why are they getting it?"

I am thinking in particular of various individuals - from the Equifax leadership on down to the person in my town who added to others' misery by shredding their water payments and then claiming they had not paid* - who do wrong and wind up either with no punishment, or a slap on the wrist, or, in some Big Corporation examples, a golden parachute out of there.

(*And yes, I cannot quite let go of that yet. WHY DO IT? No one benefited from the action - it's not like the person cashed the checks to their name - and it caused agony for a lot of people.)

And of a different sort: an individual who became a meme, apparently because of slurred exchange on Dr. Phil or somewhere, now has a recording contract or some such. And yeah, I suppose in a way that's maybe cosmic justice for having to BE a meme - something that would be kind of awful and I feel bad for the Chubby Bubbles Girl or the Bad Luck Redhaired Boy or all the random people whose stock photos somehow wound up that way (though apparently Chubby Bubbles Girl is kind of grown-up now, and seems to mostly find the thing amusing).

But it does seem, all too often, that people who in some way don't seem to "deserve" it get lionized, and big checks, and attention, and perhaps even adulation. And it's especially easy for me to think that on a Thursday, when I've driven into work as it's still kind of dark (fall is coming even though it's eleventy-hundred degrees out right now) and behind some guy in an old and ill-tuned pickup truck whose fumes gave me a headache. It's easy to feel like "I labor in obscurity, and no one cares, and the only 'feedback' I get on my work is either, "Hey, I didn't get my lab done can I give it to you tomorrow?" or "The instructions on this assignment were not clear [so instead of coming to your copious office hours and asking, or even e-mailing you, I did it how I wanted to, and you're not allowed to downgrade me for doing it 'wrong']."

And yeah. As much as I can't sing, and even if I could, would probably resent the loss of privacy and stupid petty criticism and stalkers and everything else that come with any kind of fame, it's really, really easy to wish for a life where you had legions of fans, and where people screamed with joy upon your arrival somewhere. And yes, that's very much an emotion-vs.-intellect thing, I know: my intellect tells me, "It would be worse than the life you have now" but my emotion tells me "I want to feel like I matter. I want people to be happy to see me when I show up somewhere. I want to be the one people do things for, rather than the other way around."

And part of this is it's Thursday, and I'm tired, and I'm trying to Tetris together the things I have to do for next week but still have a little time "for myself" and also have time to get to Sherman to buy some better groceries (and also a couple things I canNOT find locally and will need very soon). 

And of course, what "personal" e-mail do I have this morning? a comment notification. But not a real comment, a spam comment, featuring some kind of "enhancement" product for a body part I do not possess. I know I shouldn't take these things personally but just as I get so few "real" phone calls (as opposed to "UNKNOWN CALLER" or someone spoofing a number) I get very little "real" e-mail and that's another way in which I feel sort of invisible, that I'm just an entity to be marketed at or a potential "mark" for ripoffs. 

And yes, again, intellect tells me: you have a good life in most ways, don't knock it. But emotion is a powerful thing.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Wednesday morning things

* I finished the ribbing and did most of the first row (just a knit-plain in one color) on the chart for the Great Horn-Rimmed. Perhaps I will be more motivated to work on this with the whole "pattern appears as you knit" thing - one of the problems I have with "knitting plain," is that too often it's inches upon inches of doing exactly the same thing, and it seems when you measure (to see if you've got far enough), there are still too few inches done.

Still, I will say: this kind of colorwork is not that portable. Though I do like it better than the colorwork I've done in the past with worsted weight, where the fabric was very stiff and the natural "give" of wool was kind of gone. I am reminding myself to keep a loose hand with the yarns so it doesn't contract the knitting.

* Having something like that - concentration requiring and that I want to get a bit done on - is nice. It does help "de track" my mind from whatever it is that was bothering me, whether it's something local or global.

* I never did take out a Netflix subscription but now am having second thoughts about it after reading this and the original article that Friar linked to, there.

I LOVE older movies. I pay $5 extra or something a month for the "movie tier" just so I can have TCM. And it does make me sad that those seem to be increasingly hard to find outside of assembling your own dvd library. (And the comment, made elsewhere, "Are the people who run Netflix all under 30" - ugh, but, I will say, when I was in my 20s? Even then, I preferred the older movies. More interesting, often better made). Maybe if so much of Netflix' content is forgettable recent rom-coms (ugh) or action movies, or their own house-made content, I stick with Amazon Prime (that's the free video I was referring to earlier, Tat - if you have the Prime delivery service, you also get some streaming video for free). I will say one minor annoyance is that all of these services seem to periodically and randomly remove content. I suppose it's some kind of a copyright issue but I admit it feels a bit like the thing my cable provider periodically does, where they send out a letter saying that such-and-such channel or set of channels is being obstinate, and doesn't want to negotiate a new deal, and we will likely lose those channels.....and then a month or so later, we get a note that our cable bill is going up yet again, but HEY, WE SAVED YOUR CHANNELS!

Yeah great.

That said - the Newsweek article alludes to a new TCM-offered streaming service perhaps coming, and while I don't think I can get that over my dvd player (it will hook up to Hulu or Amazon Prime or Netflix), still, it might be worth considering, especially if there is a separate dongle* I can buy to plug in to my tv that would let me watch that way (I kind of hate watching on my little laptop screen, though i suppose I could rig a way to plug the laptop into the tv and project whatever it is on the tv screen...)

(*Yes, my inner 12 year old laughs at that word).

I keep Amazon Prime mainly for the delivery service - free, two-day delivery on many things. And when you live in Beyond Far East (the "Disney" version of the acronym BFE) like I do, where arranging a trip to a bookstore means an hour's travel time IN ADDITION to the time you are there, and you might as well block out time to go to the big grocery store while you're down there, because (a) Hey, Texas doesn't have sales tax on groceries! and (b) there's lots of stuff you can't find locally....well, it gets old fast. A lot of the time if I need or want a book (need is more likely to be an academic need, so it's likely to be a book Books A Million won't have anyway), it's faster to order it on the two-day delivery than it is to drive to Books A Million and hope they have it. (And if they don't, they would order it, but that means another trip back there, so why?)

And yes, I get that part of the reason I have no nice local retail is me doing stuff like this but honestly? We didn't exactly have a bookstore (other than the campus one that is 95% textbooks) to begin with.

And just yesterday I was looking unhappily at my dwindling supply of Golden Syrup (the preferred tea-sweetener these days) and realized there is NOWHERE I know of (that I can easily get to - I am sure the H-E-B or some such in Dallas would have it) that I can buy it in-person. (I did order some off Amazon, but annoyingly, its delivery is apparently delayed to the end of the month).

(Golden Syrup is SO GOOD. Why do not more American groceries carry it? The local wal-mart has about eight kinds of "agave nectar" but no golden syrup. I presume that's because people have bought the hype that it's something that somehow is like sugar without affecting your body like sugar - which isn't true, just as coconut sugar is no better for you than regular sugar, or date sugar, or whatever). 

I will say I spend some time on an interactive "mapping" site and one of their features was things like income level, etc., and I think I now know why this part of the state is pretty much a black hole as far as shopping is concerned - no one really has any money for anything other than Wal-mart or the dollar stores :(

I just get so weary of having to essentially plan a full day for a Sherman trip; I wish I had some of that stuff closer - a better grocery with more diversity (and not Wal-mart's policy of (a) slow restocking and (b) randomly dropping products and brands), a proper bookstore, and something fun like the Ulta or the JoAnn's. But I doubt we get that, not with some big economic improvement....

* I dunno. There still seems to be so much in the world that is distressing - the earthquake in Mexico, now (footage from it is horrifying), and the hurricane hitting Puerto Rico (and the devastation from Irma in much of the Caribbean). And other stuff. Locally an incident of thieves taking about $20,000 of copper wire (crud, that's a LOT of copper. What is it going for per pound now?) from the lamp-posts in a resort area. Oh, I am sure the justification some will make is "those are rich folks and they can afford the loss" but it's still wrong. It still makes someone else's life difficult and unhappy.

(Edited to add: apparently it's $20,000 worth of DAMAGE that must be repaired, the copper stolen was worth far less. But the thieves don't care about that because any amount of copper they get is free money....)

And still news about people in positions of authority abusing that authority. I don't know what it is - does power corrupt, or does the promise of power (and the perks it carries) attract people who are perhaps less scrupulous? Or is it harder for the earnest and awkward and honest to navigate the minefield that is small-town politics? Hard to know. (Though I think some of these are appointed positions...)

Again, I find it frustrating. I know it's because I carry some remnants of the childhood belief that there should be fairness or at least justice in the world, and I get frustrated that if I park a little bit wrong in a space, I face a $20 ticket - which I then feel bad about the rest of the week, and not because I'm out $20 - but other people embezzle or intimidate or whatever and seem to feel no remorse for it. (And in some cases, the people-doing-wrong do it for years, and accumulate a lot of "goodies" before they are found out). And yes, I know, I shouldn't compare my life to other people's and I should be "in it" for service to others, but it does make me frustrated to see so many people working hard and scrabbling and sometimes not getting the things they need, when others break the rule and seemingly get every want fulfilled....

* I found out on Ravelry yesterday that Patternworks is closing forever. Apparently Interweave bought out their pattern rights, so the patterns are still available, but as a catalog store (I never got to either of the shops), they are gone.

This makes me slightly sad though I haven't ordered from them in years. Patternworks - back when it was still the original owners, when it was in New York state - was one of the first places I ordered from when I really got into knitting. Much of my Socka yarn (another vanished brand, I think) came from there. It was always a big day when their fall catalog came, and I would read through it and plot and look at what disposable income I had to see if I could get what I wanted.

I also remember the slightly chilling frontpage they had for a while after Sept. 11, 2001 - asking for information, if any, on the whereabouts of a missing man. Presumably he was one of the ones killed in the Towers but someone kept holding out hope he was either injured in a hospital somewhere or had run away and hadn't been able to contact loved ones....

Eventually, they were sold out to the Keepsake Quilting company. The store moved and the catalog changed - it seemed less-extensive, and especially less sock-weight yarn (my favorite to knit with, even for sweaters). I ordered less and less from them....

and yes, I have too much yarn and am still on a buying-fast (might break that in October if Laura is up for a meet-up) and there are other places (Webs being a big one) I like to order from these days, but it still makes me sad, that one link with the 20-years-ago-now time when I first got back into knitting is gone. (So are a lot of the old free-pattern websites. In some cases people migrated to Ravelry, which is fine and good, but I remember the serendipity of discovering stuff back in those early days...)

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

More strange doings

So, on the news this morning: they've concluded an audit of the local water utility, including its billing practices. "Less than five percent" of the bills were off, due to what are called "rounding errors," amounting to about $400 (what do you want to bet that's in the city's favor, though $400 is not much, even for a small city).

But the bigger news: an employee resigned last week after it was alleged they had been shredding customer checks and then telling the customers they never paid their water bills.

Yeah. Apparently this employee was "overwhelmed" by their job and decided to, I don't know, destroy customer payments?

I don't get it, either. Most of the people I know who get overwhelmed by work just don't do anything, or else take sick days.

Anyway....back in summer 2013, I remember I got a letter from the city. Essentially saying "hey deadbeat, you didn't pay your water bill, we are turning off your water and you will have to pay $100 to get it turned back on."

I was upset and concerned - calling the city and telling them, "Check your records, I've been a customer since fall 2001, and in that time, I've paid on time, in full, every single month" cut no ice. So I went down there and paid AGAIN, in person. (My dad advised me to go to the bank and get the amount of the bill in pennies, and bring that, but I was too tired for that and also afraid they'd look at the pennies and go "Turning your water off ANYWAY." I am not the sort of person to escalate things).

Anyway - what really irritated me in that situation was that the letter telling me I was a deadbeat came ON THE DAY THE PAYMENT WAS DUE. In other words: sent out before the check was officially late, so I don't know. (I complained about the letter and its wording. I also complained that we were given no second notice - something I thought was standard from utilities*. I was told, "Oh, an outside company does those, we have no control over them" and my response was "You are paying them, aren't you? So don't you get to set the conditions?")

(*I don't know, I am not in the habit of paying bills late, but I thought "second notices" were a thing)

Anyway, they were kind of all-around rude to me about it, especially considering that their records showed I'd been a customer for a dozen years who ALWAYS paid on time.

And that check NEVER came through. (I asked them - at the time they were claiming "the post office lost it" - what would happen if it was found and they got it. They said,"Oh, we'd cash it." No word if they'd credit my account). I think that may have been when I stopped payment (and paid $25 for the privilege of doing that, something I didn't know going in - yeah, $25 to stop a $45 check, great). And now it's entirely likely that that check WAS received but got shredded.


I will say, when I called them (and later, went in) they said, "Oh, yeah, lots of people have been complaining about that" (which made me all the more THEN MAYBE YOU CALL OFF YOUR BULLDOG ENFORCER COMPANY?) and I suspected the post office* but maybe my check was one of the shredded ones.

(*and later on - this year - it turns out someone in the local PO was arrested for mail theft)

I will say, I hope they go back through their records and anyone who had to pay $100 for "reinstatement" after a check "got lost" during that employee's tenure gets their $100 back. Probably won't happen, but. (In an ideal world? Each of those $100 would come out of the employee's pocket, but again: it's not an ideal or even a just world).

I dunno. This kind of thing bugs me. It does seem, more and more, there are a lot of people who do wrong and kinda sorta get away with it. (This person has resigned their post, but apparently there was nothing "criminal" done, so they won't be charged). And people like me, when we break some "small" rule, like missing a deadline, we feel guilty and terrible for it - and yet there are people doing things that actually hurt other people (can you imagine being someone on a fixed income and having to cough up $100 to get your water back after your check "got lost" and the city "never received" it?) seem to skate along without consequences or in some cases without even seeming to feel very bad about it.

I'm also aghast at the number of small-town politicians/administrators in this section of the country that are awaiting trial/in jail/have resigned over "wrongdoing" of some sort. As I've said before: I value my gig and don't want to do ANYTHING to jeopardize it (not that I have opportunities to embezzle or the like). If you stay honest you get to keep your job and you have an ongoing source of income. If you're dishonest, yes, you might get a short-term big payoff, and yes, some places the paychecks for public servants are not great, but if you're found out doing wrong it will be even WORSE for you than if you kept your head down and did what you ought to do. I don't know. I suppose it's not that corruption has got worse so much that either it's more widely reported, or people have gotten less competent/more brazen about doing it? But it does dismay me, as someone who was raised to be honest, to see people who SHOULD know right from wrong presumably choosing to do wrong.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Journey of 1000

Well, not quite.

The saying is "A journey of 1000 miles begins with the first step" and I wanted to transform that to "the journey of 1000 stitches begins with casting on" but I realized - and did a quick calculation - that the first five rows of this thing comprised 1470 stitches total (cast on: 294).

I started "The Great-Horn Rimmed" yesterday. Cast on all the stitches (and JUST pulled out enough yarn for the "slingshot" caston - this is one where you have to estimate how much you will need before you start, and woe unto you if you pull out a little too little). I've knit the first five rows of the "corrugated rib." This is ribbing done with two colors, which is more annoying than plain ribbing is to do. (Also, annoyingly, the first seven rows are done flat before you cast on the steek stitches and join to work in the round). I'm doing it as written as this is my first big colorwork project and my first thing with steeks, so I don't want to try to "outthink" the designer and then wind up with a big problem later on.

It will get easier, I think, when (a) I've joined and am working in the round and especially (b) when the ribbing's done and I can switch to all stockinette (that's partly the point of working in the round with steeks you cut later - so you don't have to purl. Especially so you don't have to work backwards from a chart). I think I've figured out a comfortable way to carry two yarns at once without too much switching back and forth (I tension one over my index finger and the other over my thumb - I knit what is sometimes called "English style," carrying the yarns in my right hand, which is actually a little tougher for this kind of work than carrying in the left hand, but I've never been able to keep a consistent gauge with Continental style....)

I'm kind of excited for this now. Oh, I have other projects going and I will probably trade off. But this was a good week to start - no exams to give this week (Well, I have at least one I need to write for next week) and NO evening meetings, so once I'm home and have completed my daily piano practice, I can work on this.

I like working with Palette. For a more-budget type yarn, it's pretty nice. (You do have to be careful; it's a two-ply and kind of loosely plied, so the plies will split if you're not careful). It certainly does come in a big range of colors, and so far, I'm happy with the ones I picked as replacements for the Rauma. (the dark orange, lighter orange, and turquoise. Orange and turquoise is a combination that sounds on paper like it should not work, but it does).

Of course it got hot again so thinking about wearing wooly sweaters is less attractive (but at any rate: I sincerely doubt this will be done for this fall, unless it turns out I'm a wizard at colorwork and somehow knit it faster than other things).

I do have another set of yarn for another colorwork sweater - the Prince of Wales slipover from Folk Vests, because I am somewhat of an Anglophile, and I also love the fashions of that between-the-wars period. (I THINK that was the Prince of Wales who was king only briefly, and then abdicated to marry the American divorcee? Maybe?) At any rate - quite a few years back I bought the yarn (the exact ones called for in the pattern - Jamieson's) and stored it away and never started it. Maybe if I AM a wizard at colorwork (or at least decide I enjoy it), I'll start that one soon.

(No, I didn't gauge swatch; I am living dangerously here but I figure I can give a quick check when I get to the point of the stockinette, and also, carrying loosely and blocking well can fix some problems....)

Saturday, September 16, 2017

a little surprise

A month or so ago, I got an ad from Doki Doki crate offering a Studio Ghilbi themed Bento Box to the first 100 or so people who went from a monthly subscription to a 3-month one. It also saves a little money to do it that way, if you're going to keep up the subscription. (The recent boxes have been so good I want to keep getting them, and anyway, I need that little fun surprise every month).

I heard back about my order being accepted, but forgot about the Bento box. Well, there was a box from Doki Doki in the mail....and there it was. It's Kiki's Delivery Service and it's super-cute, because it's shaped like a house:

It takes apart and there are a couple of trays in there:

I don't carry quite as much of a diversity of stuff in my lunch any more (no hard crunchy things because of my bad teeth) but I could use this to carry a little bit of cheese or some not-too-juicy fruit.

There's also a little triangular box that I couldn't figure out at first (it has a cutout in it you can push through) but I'm guessing it's an onigiri mold because it's shaped like onigiri. I've never made them, Maybe if I could find the right kind of rice some time. That would make a nice addition to my lunches sometimes.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Everybody Loves Friday Night

I wanted to do this as "Everybody (less than 3) Friday Night" (like a heart) but apparently the less-than sign messes things up badly.

I got the species-checking done this afternoon. I didn't think I would, I was planning on going in to finish it tomorrow, but I got it done. (I do NOT, however, have the energy to either grade the exam I gave today or write my Sunday school lesson. That's for tomorrow morning.)

I still think I'll just shop locally for food. I'm tired, and I don't feel like the long haul to Sherman. And it's a payday week, which means the stores will be busier. Instead, I might start the Great Horn-Rimmed sweater - I can see being done fairly soon with the Grasse Matinee (I'm about 1/3 done with the first sleeve).

I also might do an afternoon movie tomorrow - either rewatch something I enjoy (like Zootopia) or look through my Amazon playlist of free stuff.

But yeah. Just tired. I'm sure it's all the species-checking, and rushing to get it done. I also pulled a muscle in my upper back working out the other day and I think the weeding midday today made it worse (it stinks getting old and fragile. I do seem to get injured more easily now). If I hadn't already washed my hair today I'd consider taking a warm bath to relax it. (I might heat up a buckwheat bag instead).

At least I don't feel "peopled out" like I do some weeks, where there have been so many people "needing" me for stuff that I feel like I never want to deal with a person again.

It's weird, though, not to have to rush off somewhere tomorrow.

Friday morning things

* I'm surprised at how....sad....I feel over hearing about Cassini plunging into Saturn's atmosphere and burning up. (I probably anthropomorphize inanimate objects too much, though that's probably why I can still derive comfort from my stuffed animals in the absence of being able to have a "real" pet).

It's too bad David Bowie is gone; I could imagine him writing an elegiac piece about Cassini.

* Did my annual review yesterday. Well, I wrote it up - the meeting comes later. (I presume - I HOPE - I will get "outstanding" on scholarly productivity this year, given two papers in press and a third in review, and the award I won). My teaching evals were not too shabby this year - in the A range, if we were figuring up percentages in the same grading scale I use (and, presuming one can do those kinds of calculations on Likert scale date, which one really cannot). I'm still weak (by university standards) on service, but right now that's kind of out of my hands (I asked to be put on another committee but was not).

I dunno. I still kind of hate doing these things. I don't want to cry after doing them any more but I do see where I could have done better and that irks me. But then again I also look at the yarn I've not knit up or the quilts I've not made because I was pushing to do some work or volunteer thing instead. It's hard to win. I know someone who's gone to a "work smarter not harder" model that kind of demi-butts* everything, and I just can't do that, that's not me. I give too hard a darn about things and about doing things RIGHT.

(* the most polite euphemism for half-*ssed I can come up with this early)

* I'm still sick of the jokey memes about how college is so much easier than high school, and how professors are either stoners/drunks or are so far more committed to their research that they cancel class for it. I realize I probably invest too much of myself in my career, but it annoys me.

It also annoys me because I graded the first batch of exams and they were....not good. College is NOT easier than high school, at least not in STEM. Yes, I didn't have to work OVERLY hard my first year of college, but I went to a rigorous prep school (we learned stuff in intro chem most of my classmates had not had - I remember some of the reaction-rate calculations, I set up a study group to re-teach it to the people who lived in the dorm with me, because I'd had it before and understood it, and a lot of them were confused).

Also, I (once) had a professor who was an alcoholic and it is rare but it's also sad and maddening and everything else, and I confess the humorless part of me is annoyed by the gag.

(I'm also annoyed by the "I'm hungover, class is cancelled" because I remember once teaching with a migraine because class HAD to meet that day and I could think of no other options. I gave a break midway because I seriously thought I was going to have to go to the restroom and vomit - I did not, but still).

I suppose maybe they grew out of R1 schools where profs do tend to take teaching less seriously than research, I don't know. But I find it distinctly annoying and I feel like, "We don't need to give any more fodder to those who would totally defund higher ed in the hopes of making it go away, or making it be only for an exclusive elite who can afford the private schools"

I'm especially annoyed seeing it on a Friday, when I've pushed hard all week (and had two evening meetings, though those were church meetings) and really the only knitting I did was while invigilating an exam.

* Also this (this is an Awkward Yeti comic) is relevant to a lot of things I am feeling right now:

* I need to finish the editing this weekend so I guess it's another week of relying on Mart of Wal or Pruett's for foods rather than going to Sherman. (Sigh). It seems like already this fall has been way busier than others. Probably the fault of the new class, which causes regular minor freakouts over not being prepared "enough" and also having to go back and do a LOT of re-reading.

(This afternoon is weeding, and then I have to decide whether I go straight home to wash my hair - the ragweed pollen is very bad now - and take the exam I am giving TODAY and grade it, or if I wait until evening to wash my hair and stay over here and do the editing. I don't know. I want to wash my hair right away because I can tell my allergies are bad - woke up with a sore throat today - but also I am fearful that some weekends are when the site I need to use goes down for maintenance, it was that way one weekend. Maybe I wash my hair and come back here? I don't know)

* I think I need to start a new project some time, am feeling doldrummy and maybe a new knitting or sewing project would help.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Pony acquisition post

Mostly, the "hard part" of this week is over. Today was a long day, with a full day's teaching, and trying to fit in the various little things (printing an exam, writing a homework) I needed to do in addition. And it was Elder's and Board meeting tonight, though this was a board meeting where we laughed some (there have been some tense ones in the past, when we were between ministers or were in big financial trouble). We are going to (probably) be sending 10 clean up buckets down to Houston, and we're going to donate some money to a church down there that needs funds to rebuild after being flooded.

It's good to be able to laugh, and also to reach out rather than be worried so hard about our future survival.

Anyway. My latest two ponies came today - a G1 and a G3. Yes, I keep buying these, but I figure - it's not a huge expense, it makes me happy, there are a lot of things I don't spend money on.

First, the G3. She's one I've wanted for a while - Kimono. Apparently in some of the comics/picture books she was kind of a serious and studious ponies, and could almost be (if brought into G4) one of the "Pony Elders" like I would imagine some of the ponies of that wave (like Wisteria) would be.

She has a pretty color scheme - a pinkish purple with darker purple hair. And she has tinselly hair. (And yes, the "G3 scent" is a thing - this is from a different seller than my other G3s but she also has that almost-slightly-floral scent. I'm sure it's the plastic but it's not a "plasticky" smell. I can't quite describe it.)

And then a G1 - Whizzer. This is one of the twinkle-eye ponies. The "backstory" from the comics is apparently not so very happy (the G1 comics are very much of a different era - much more fairytale type violence, and much more "perilous" situations. I guess kids in the 80s were made of sterner stuff? I do think there was perhaps a bit less bubble-wrapping of our entertainment than there is for current kids....though then again, there's a lot of stuff aimed at tweens/teens now that I would not let a small child watch, because of rudeness on the part of characters, and I wouldn't want a rude-voiced child).

But anyway. The backstory on these was that they were ponies that were kidnapped by trolls? Dwarves? I forget - and taken underground to work in the mines, where they went blind from lack of light. But when they were rescued (Applejack, in her G1 form, was one of the rescuers) their eyes turned to jewels and they magically regained their sight.

Whizzer is a fun pony - I like her colors, I like her sparkly eyes, and she has a cutie mark that is those goofy beanies with the propellers on the top (Do they even still make those? Do kids today know what those are?). The person I bought her from (Ponies in the Sun on Etsy) said her tail was a replacement but it's the exact colors of the original so it's not even noticeable. (Sometimes the tails got pulled out, and sometimes they got rusty because originally a thing like a washer that was made of metal held them in place, and of course, if you took your ponies "swimming" as a kid, water could get in and cause the rust).

I like her pose, too - looks like she's about ready to take off:

And then finally, my favorite thing from the new Doki Doki box:

It's a duck blanket! Well, a blanket that looks like a duck, not a blanket for ducks. You untie the yellow ribbon and it unrolls into a surprisingly-large lap blanket.

There was also a Hello Kitty toothbrush holder that I am going to use to replace the 25 year old one that I've had since I was a college student....and a Kumamon pitcher and microfiber cloth:

I cannot BELIEVE how cute the artwork is on this.

Kumamon cracks me up because he's so silly looking. He's the mascot for Kumamoto prefecture in Japan, but I know him best from the silly gif that sometimes shows up on Twitter:

There was also one of those silicone tea strainers in there, shaped like a strawberry:

So, lots of useful things, but also cute things, which is the best. (The October crate is supposed to be "creepy cuties" and I'm hoping there's at least one cute plushie in there - I still love those, though I suppose the duckie blanket qualifies for this crate.)

some random things

* First instance of dragging grading home with me for the semester. I had a batch of quizzes from the intro class, and I had to transform the comments on the papers from another class into a numeric grade. I'm proud of myself for sitting down and getting it done, but,ugh.

Also, I forgot them this morning when I came in. Drove all the way in, looked over at the passenger seat (where I set stuff), realized, "Oh, crud, I left the papers at home" and turned around and went back to get them because PART of the reason I pushed to do them last night was so I could enter the grades today.

at least I only live a mile and a half or so from campus, but still. It was also effortful getting in because there was more traffic AND there was a couple walking down Wilson, which, granted, has no sidewalks. BUT they were walking abreast, walking slowly, and made no move to get out of the lane of traffic, so people had to swerve around them (and pray no oncoming car was barreling down the road). I met them again going back home (that's how slowly they were moving) and decided to come back up here the "back" way, which has its own challenges.

I will be very glad when they get the stupid bridge fixed and Wilson is no longer a detour. People drive too fast on it because they're not used to it and are impatient, and I fully expect there to be a wreck before this is all over. I just hope I am not involved in it.

* Also "early alert reports" were due today. This is where we fill in the "estimated" grade and number of absences for each student (because it's now our responsibility, apparently, if a student fails our class, and by pointing out they had 23 absences and knew from September they were failing, it's not so much our fault).

I give my first exam TOMORROW. So in most cases, I just filled in absences and in the comment box noted the date of the first exam as a reminder (these go to the students but also their coaches, advisors, and sometimes others).

And yes. I filled out every dad-gum one even though we're really only required to do it for athletes and students on certain scholarships. I am hoping that if advisors get overwhelmed with enough reports that contain no information, they will complain and the due date will get pushed back a couple weeks so we actually have grounds for grading. I give five exams in one class and four in my others - I can't imagine what the people who ONLY do mid-terms do.

No profession does "petty" better than academia, I think. (And yes, it's cutting off my nose, timewise, to spite my face - but also, having a couple students with **3** unexcused absences just over 3 weeks into the semester....a point needs to be made of that, I think.

* And yeah, that's what I find so exhausting about teaching right now, and if it increases a lot, it will be what drives me from academia: the constant need to monitor and report on things (I also have to do my annual-productivity report by the end of the week; not sure when I am going to get to that). And the idea that we (the faculty) are now responsible for things that, when I was a student, I was responsible for as a student - things like keeping track of my grades and such.

And yes, I get that our demographics are different from those of the Public Ivy I attended, but arguably, with our students being out in the workforce and having families and the like - well, my first impression would be "They are less gormless than the average 18 year old whose 'work' experience was either caddying at a country-club to make movie money, or someone who just learned to use a washer and dryer over the summer, lest they turn their clothes pink." I knew some pretty gormless people when I was an undergrad.

But it's not REALLY for our students; it's for the government. The stuff about reporting attendance? It's for financial aid, because people have ripped off Pell Grants and the like by taking the money and doing a runner. And yes, once again, the one dishonest person makes life a bigger effort for the honest folks (I would normally say the "90% of folks that are honest" but based on the news lately, I really wonder - one of the small towns near me has run through four interim police chiefs in the past year because the seem to keep hiring guys who turn out to have a criminal record or other disqualifying things in their past. So I don't know. I never saw myself as an unusual paragon of virtue but maybe I'm old-fashioned in more ways than my level of formality with people I don't know well)

* Though even as much as I complain about some stuff, I also recognize that this is true:

"I hope you're proud of yourself for the times you've said 'yes' when all it meant was extra work for you and was seemingly helpful only to somebody else"

Because yeah: there have been times in my life where someone did something for me that put them out to a certain amount, but was of benefit to me.

And who knows, if getting one of those warning-reports fundamentally telling the person "I know you've been skipping, and look, your grade is suffering," and they straighten up and actually do okay and graduate and get a good job....

* One happy thing: even though I don't know yet (and don't expect much) what the bonus for the award will be, I spent it already. On this year's new Folio Society books. Because they came out with several I wanted:

 - an edition of "The Little Prince" with color illustrations and a companion commentary volume
- an edition of Saki's short stories, again with illustrations
- a history of the Celts that apparently has input from a favorite history writer of mine
- One of Rosemary Sutcliffe's "Roman Britain" books ("The Horse Lord," I think? I haven't read the Eagle of the Ninth trilogy yet but I think that will be SOON - as soon as I can push through "Moby-Dick")
- Something called "Famous Trials" or somesuch, that contains a lot of the cases that Golden Era mysteries were based on and should be interesting anyway, because the early 20th century interests me.

I also get a free book - a copy of "Spring: an Anthology" (They've been doing one of these a year; so far they have done Autumn and Winter, both of which I have. Of course next year I will do what it takes to get Summer because I am a completist)

* I worked a bit more on the sleeve of the Grasse Matinee last night, and then did a few rows more on the back of Augusta. I THINK I'm going to try using Grasse Matinee as an invigilating sweater even though I will probably have to tuck the bulk of it up under my arm (which is kind of un-ergonomic as it throws my posture off). It's a little less concentration-requiring than the sleeve decreases would be on Augusta, and I'm close to having to do those. I don't know....

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Tuesday midday ugh


I don't get them always.

As I said on Twitter: I'm nearly 50. Why do I still have my inner 13 year old so close to the surface?

A student said something to me today. It's not a student I know well; one of my first-years. They said it in what sounded to me like kind of a snotty voice, and it was one of those things that could be interpreted as "I'm bored, why do I have to be here?"

Someone who gave fewer darns than I would might have issued a bit of an attitude adjustment to that student ("You are free to leave but of course you will be marked absent") but not me. I let it pass - a long, long legacy of being told, "Ignore them and they will stop teasing you" (which mostly doesn't work, but whatever).

But I admit, the wounded 13 year old who still lives in my psyche somewhere kind of curled up into a ball.

(I said once before that when someone overly-teases or is rude to me, I am just like a sea anemone that's been poked with a stick - contracting up and pulling all the tentacles in. I stand by that).

I kept going - I always keep going - but I admit it bothered me.

The irony is, at the same time as my inner teenager was wrapping her arms protectively around herself, the more-adult part of my brain was going, "This person is, like, 18. They are probably scared to death, being a first-year, and that probably came out kind of differently than they intended it" and also I realize that sometimes people don't realize what is coming out of their mouth, like, tone and what they're saying and all (See: the student who says, "I see not many people showed up today, do we get extra credit for being here, ha ha," without knowing that the prof in the class has heard that joke roughly 10 times a semester for the 20 years they've been teaching, and it's so, so, so, so old and not-funny - not that it was the first time)

And so, yeah, a little grace, maybe, instead of taking the student's head off. (Though if the student keeps up with that tone, I will say something to them).

 But that didn't comfort my inner 13 year old any.

Tuesday morning things

* Yesterday was a long day. I finished/reviewed the next two sets of lectures for the new class, wrote an exam for Friday, finished up some grading, and had CWF meeting....I was pretty much going from when I reached campus at 7 am until about 8:45 pm when I finally got home.

* One of the service projects the church has taken on is purchasing supplies for and preparing clean up buckets for people in the aftermath of Harvey. Apparently it's about $60 to equip one bucket with the disinfectants and safety gear (masks and gloves) and trash bags and everything needed (And at that, I wonder if the number of trash bags supplied is enough - I know if my home were totally flooded and everything ruined....well, I can't even imagine how many 55 gallon bags all my sodden books and sad yarn would fill).

But still, $60 seems like a lot for someone to have to pay, especially talking about someone who's lost everything else, and may face limited insurance payouts. And that doesn't even begin to address the logistical nightmare of FINDING all you need.

So the CWF group - already people had purchased supplies for most of two buckets, but then one woman volunteered to do the shopping and those of us who were busy jumped at that. So people opened up their checkbooks and we now have funds for either five or six additional buckets.

(The congregational goal was 10, and given that the little CWF - there were only six of us present last night, though one woman sent a check in absentia - funded either 7 or 8, I'm betting we pass that goal. I think the choir is planning on doing a few. And the college student ministry is going to assemble them for us)

I'm glad. This is the kind of thing, I think, churches exist for in a practical sense. Yes, spiritual formation and communing with God and being with other people who are different from you in many ways (but alike in one important one) is important and valuable, but being able to do things that help just feels like a good reason for being here.

Also, I think I picked the right week to go on a "yarn diet" - there have been abundant opportunities to go "Well, I'm not spending that on yarn, so...."

* I mentioned "the logistical nightmare of finding all you need"? Yeah. Even in my town, with a wal-mart and a Lowe's and some other stores, some of the stuff asked for was not readily attainable. One woman is ordering the stuff needed off of Amazon (who, unfortunately, does gouge a bit when it comes to household products - I had forgotten that but third-party sellers can be pretty awful that way). But to have to run to wal-mart AND Lowe's AND a dollar store to find everything - ugh and no thanks. (I'm just as glad to hand money over to the retired women willing to shop for the stuff). And I can only imagine the distress of people where there are no open stores nearby trying to get that stuff.

Though actually, that is a frustration of living in my town: we are the biggest town in the county; the biggest town in this part of the state (the next larger town IN Oklahoma is an hour away; Sherman, Texas - where I do a lot of shopping - is about a half-hour if it's not bad traffic).

And given wal-mart's horrible restocking policy, a lot of times you CAN'T find what you need. And it frustrates me to have to drive to three or more places to find a particular thing, and more often than not I either do without or I kludge something together. (And I tend to overbuy when I'm somewhere that has what I need.) Part of it is that I'm not as organized as I could be. I am sure people living out on ranches in the sand hills of Nebraska, who have a literal hour's drive to the nearest supermarket, have lists like Eisenhower's plans for D-Day so nothing is forgotten. And they probably have their meals planned out a week or two ahead. Whereas I, having been a city-dweller (more or less) for my entire adult life, has the ability to go "Meh, I don't feel like eating THAT tonight" and can go get something else.

Then again, there are probably things about living on a ranch an hour from a city that makes the long trip for groceries worth it.

* Yesterday was the anniversary of 9/11/2001. Lots of disjointed thoughts - the startling realization, for one, that most of my students were toddlers when it happened, and yet, here I am, sitting at the same desk I sat at back then, with some of the same papers in my file cabinets that were there then. It still feels very immediate and I remember it pretty vividly.

One thing that struck me, reading a few of the accounts, was how, in some ways, 16 years was really very long ago - a number of New Yorkers, fleeing from the scene of destruction, kept trying to find pay phones to call family on to let them know they were okay. Far fewer people had cell phones then, and of course smartphones didn't exist yet. (I had a cell phone - a giant bricky Nokia - but that was because my dad pressed me to get one, with having to drive back and forth from Sherman alone*)

(*In those days, there was even less shopping in town, and so the trips to Sherman were more vital than they are now)

Also, I remember now the agonizing weeks some people spent, hoping their loved one was merely "missing" but was somewhere in a hospital unable to remember themselves, or some such thing. (I remember the old Patternworks - this was before they sold out to Keepsake Quilting - posting a photo of the husband of someone and asking if anyone knew his whereabouts). Sadly, the vast majority of those people who didn't check in on September 11 were people who died (some of whose remains were never found).

(And typing that last sentence, I'm reminded of how unthinkable it was, and how hard to believe, even as it happened)

I dunno. Hurricanes are terrible things - as we saw with Katrina and with Sandy and now with Harvey and Irma - and yet, somehow, to me, they don't seem so terrible as a group of human beings, consciously deciding, for whatever reason, to get up some morning and kill an enormous number of their fellow human beings.

I do think the immediacy of the aftermath of Irma (and still, of Harvey - even though the cameras have moved on, people are still without running water or electricity in some areas, and many people face a terrible task of cleaning up before they can even think of rebuilding) maybe drew off some of the energy from the commemoration this year. (Also, it's not a "big" anniversary, like last year was).

But as one woman mentioned last night: we are seeing some of the same spirit; the same good is coming out. Just like people lined up in New York to donate blood and do other things, there are people now who carried their neighbors (sometimes literally, on their backs) to safety, there are people opening their homes to the displaced. I suppose, just as with Sept. 11, when this has faded from the news we will sadly get back to griping at one another and complaining about petty stuff.

Though then again, in a way: isn't it a blessing to be ABLE to complain about petty stuff? For me to have a life so good that I groan over "crikey, I have to drive the WHOLE SEVEN MILES and STAND IN LINE FOR FIVE MINUTES TO PAY" in order to get the organic milk I prefer from the wal-mart, when some people are boiling their tap water and mixing it with Carnation powdered milk and they will have to do that for weeks....

I read a piece someone wrote somewhere (I don't remember, I read lots of stuff last afternoon while trying to find a devotional for last night). Maybe it was at "Baseball Crank's" place? About a bit from the Lord of the Rings, where one of the hobbits realized that hobbit life was really very small and petty - it largely revolved around food and parties and the sort of stylized manners that a stable society tends to develop. And that there was a lot of one-upmanship and petty snobbery. And this hobbit (it may have been Frodo?) realizes that, and comments to the human man (Aragorn) who is now working with him but who used to more or less defend the Shire, that didn't he get tired of the hobbits and their pettiness? And Aragorn's reaction was something along the lines of "the fact that they are free to be petty tells me that that way of life is worth defending" or something like that.*

And I guess, yes: there is a blessedness in your biggest problems being the imagined slight that someone made to you (when perhaps they were actually just tired or awkward) or, like me, complaining about having to go ALL the way out to the stinking wal-mart for something...but it's when the big bad things happen and we go "I need to stop complaining about petty things" that maybe we realize how good we had it. Or something.

And I've also read that, even though Tolkien wasn't writing strict allegory, he modeled his hobbits a bit on ordinary British citizens - who were food-obsessed and petty and the like, until some big bad evil came, and then they were more or less able to pull together. And while I never got all the way through Lord of the Rings (bogged down in some of the battle scenes), I do like the idea of the hobbitish life, where things are kind of small and peaceful and you're sort of agrarian and your concerns aren't very big....and I would rather not face the existential threats, though perhaps, as we're seeing in the hurricane aftermaths, many of us CAN when it comes to it. (I often wonder: what would it be like now if we were in a WWII situation again, with the full-on rationing and things like people needing to go and work in defense plants? Would we just man-up and woman-up again and do it, or would there be too many people who complained, or refused, or cheated their way around the rationing?)

(*And you know? I see that in academia. Last year a lot of the petty stupid stuff people did went on hiatus while we all worried about whether we were even going to have jobs this year. It's returning, a little, though perhaps some people have been a little scared out of it....or maybe some of the worst perpetrators have left, I don't know. But it does seem odd to me now I think of it, to see a blessing in "the freedom to be petty" but there you are.)

Sunday, September 10, 2017

At last, sleeves

Yesterday was a super busy day - the editing work, and Margaret's memorial, and watering the field plots, and mowing the pretty much all I did were "must do" things rather than "want to do" things (which seems to be a common thread in my life of late).

Today, though, I did manage to do some knitting - finished up the hem of the Grasse Matinee and picked up for the first sleeve:

trying again

It's going to take a while; it's something like 65 rounds before even the decreasing is done, and the sleeve is supposed to work up to 27 cm (about 11 inches; I presume that is from the underarm point - these are supposed to be 3/4 length sleeves).

The stripes came out sort of random (there's one broad one right across the bust; that's where the bulk of the raglan increases fell) but I don't mind too much; this was done as a "proof of concept" of the pattern before I knit the one of the brown tweedy yarn that I originally bought. (This is a Deborah Norville "Serenity" sockyarn, bought super cheap on closeout). It will make a decent knockabout sweater if nothing else, or something to layer under other things on really cold days (and since it's sockyarn, I suppose I can throw it in the washer on gentle, meaning I could occasionally wear it next to the skin as a first layer, rather than over a thin t-shirt as I often do with sweaters I don't want to have to wash EVERY time I wear them)

This MIGHT be my invigilating project (it has been so far) but I will need to remember to grab one of my sets of size 3 dpns for when the diameter gets so small it's uncomfortable to do on the short circular.

This week is going to be busy - tomorrow night is the CWF salad supper (this time - I just went to Pruett's and bought a cheese plate and a bunch of fruit because I doubted I'd feel like fixing anything elaborate after a full day of teaching and other stuff) and Wednesday is the monthly Board meeting, and I give those two exams, AND I have to try to finish the editing and also wrap up my material on the history and structure of the EPA for the new class. So I don't anticipate much knitting :(

Saturday, September 09, 2017

some quiet tears

The memorial service was this afternoon. It was nice, it was well-done. There were points where we laughed, remembering her (the best funerals/memorial services, I think, have points where laughing is appropriate and entirely right - you are remembering the good times or the things that made the person unique).

One thing I realize - I looked up to Margaret (even though she only came up to about my shoulder). In some ways, she reminded me a bit of my maternal grandmother - she could be a bit tart and strict, but once you got to know her, you realized how loving she was.

(I wonder: Am I the only one who keeps on seeking out people who remind me of people I love who are either gone - like my grandmothers - or who are far from me, like my mother? I had one former colleague (who is now a member of the church I belong to) who reminded me a little of my mother and I always felt especially kindly towards her because of that).

But anyway. A couple people did memorials to her (which was good; it sounds like the minister has a bad cold and I am bracing to be asked to maybe do the scripture reading tomorrow). One thing two of them (both family members) emphasized was her strong sense of right and wrong, and her firm belief that you should always do the right thing, even if it's not convenient, even if you're not thanked for it.

One of them mentioned her love of Western movies (like, John Wayne) and opined that it was because there were bad guys and good guys, but that the good guys did the right thing, and they won in the end.

That's probably partly why I liked her: I have kind of a similar sense of the world, even if as late I find myself getting discouraged when I see what seems to be the full weight of people doing wrong and not caring that they are doing wrong, and how often those who try to do right are stymied. (I admit, that "doing right even when not convenient" comment was where I started to cry a little. I don't want us to lose all the people who believe that.)

She was only about 10 years older than my parents and I suspect came from a somewhat similar milieu and had similar ways of looking at the world. Which again, may be why I understood where she was coming from and liked her.

She was also a schoolteacher for many years, and continued to tutor special-needs children after her official retirement. And apparently kids had a special feeling for her - several people talked about how their children had liked her and opened up to her.

One thing her relatives did - apparently they had gone through and packed up her home office and found all her old photos, and they made a big display of them, from photos of her as a small child, and as a schoolkid, and as a teen (a v. funny and wonderful picture of her and one of her young friends, standing on a footbridge over a stream or river, eating a giant slice of watermelon). And her wedding picture and it made me smile because her husband (whom I also know and who died about 10 years ago) really hadn't changed over the years....and photos of her in her classroom, and playing golf, and going camping with her husband, all the things she enjoyed.

I love that kind of thing. I've said before my preferred way of remembering someone I loved who is gone is to have photographs of them taken when they were in good health, and happy, and doing something they enjoyed. I know some people keep urns with cremains around; I don't think I could do that - I don't think I'd want that. I DO want photographs, so I can look at them and smile and remember the happy times.

 So yeah, I feel kind of sad again. But that weird happy-sad that you sometimes feel after things like this - sad that she's gone out of my life (and sad that she suffered so much, and so stoically, in the last year and a half of her life), but happy I knew her.

I have to kind of dry up a little (yes, I'm having a little private cry in the privacy of my house) and change back into jeans and go water the field plots and then probably mow the yard.

it's been kind of a long day. (I started off with three hours of checking plant names; I probably have 5-6 hours left of that, based on the rate I went today. But then I also have the whole Asteraceae to do, and I know that's been overhauled extensively in the past 10 years, so I know that's going to require a LOT of changing.)

Friday, September 08, 2017

Friday afternoon things

* Maybe not having the jam bars to do was a blessing in disguise; I will be able to work more on the editing and while I doubt I will get it DONE, I will get some more of it done.

Still, I do find myself mildly annoyed by the whole situation and am reminding myself when it comes time for me to help plan a funeral for someone, to think really hard: what would THEY have wanted done in their honor? What will help the others who love them remember and grieve?

As much as I complain about having to compromise and not accept what I want, I also recognize it's not about me.

* I realized this morning that I give my first two exams (sigh) at the end of next week, so I must be sure to have a proper invigilating project going. Either I see if I can do more on the back of Augusta, or I do the last little bit on the body of Grasse Matinee and start the sleeves. (Sadly, the Great Horn-Rimmed would be like the worst invigilating project ever: all those different colors to contend with, and a complex chart to follow).

Or maybe I start the simple hats I was planning on doing - one for myself in bright "Pinkie Promise" pink, or one that might be a Christmas gift for my mom in jewel tones. Or I start a pair of fingerless mitts I want to do....

* Am thinking I might put the 'award money' (still no idea of how much it will be) towards this fall's Folio Society order. They are reprinting a v. nice version of "The Little Prince" which even comes with a commentary volume....and "The Little Prince" is one of those books you want on good paper and with the illustrations there. (The copy I currently have is a cheap paperback....)

I have the page set up to greet me as "Miss (lastname)" which I know some people would think is regressive but it makes me smile a little.... because every spinster teacher and librarian was Miss Somebody, and in some ways my life is not that different from theirs. Or there's Miss Pommel in the Pony-World. (Or wasn't there something like "That's Miss Kitt to you" that Eartha Kitt did - essentially warning people off being too familiar and calling her by her first name or some endearment? At least, I THINK it was Eartha Kitt; might have been another standards/jazz singer of her era.)

And yes, there have been times I've wanted to go "That's MISS (lastname) to you" or, better "That's DR. (lastname) to you" to someone being overly familiar and calling me "honey" or suchlike. There are a few people I accept "honey" or "sweetheart" from but they nearly all have to KNOW me. (a lot of people at church get a total pass on calling me either, and I even grin when some of them do, but we have a history together).

I also don't mind it when one of the people at my favorite barbecue place calls me it, but again - there's that bit of a history there, they know me there.

* Also TMI Friday, but put here as a reminder to me: I have to reset the menopause clock. Not quite 28 days later. I'm hoping the stress of the past few days is what did it. (Both my regular-doctor and my gyn checkups this year revealed nothing abnormal, so am not worrying....well, not REALLY, and not YET.)

*I mentioned blocking off the "mouse entry point"? Well, this afternoon I did it even better. There was an old mail slot (the outer entrance of which got covered over when the house was sided). The "dump" part of the slot opens into my entryway closet and I think it wasn't made quite right when whoever it was had it installed, so there's a way mice can either creep up under the siding or maybe come between the walls and get in through the old slot.

So I HAD stuffed steel wool in there, but eventually they pushed it out. So today, I took the first old license plate from the first car I had (which I INSISTED on keeping when I sold the car back to the dealer, not because I was attached to it but because I've heard of cases of people who bought those cars, committed crimes and the like, and the ORIGINAL owner got in trouble because databases are updated slowly. I had to argue quite a bit with the person but finally they let me). And I took my drill with the screwdriver attachment, and I SCREWED that metal sucker to the wall, right over the gap to the slot.I don't know that it will TOTALLY defeat them but based on the evidence of mouse activity I've seen over the years that seems like one entry point, and closing it off my at least stop SOME mice. (I need to get more of the "jaws" type plastic traps, which are the only ones that seem to work - they are easier to set (they are like tiny bear traps) and I am less likely to snap a finger messing with them. (And like the standard snap traps - they kill instantly so at least they seem humane)

I would rather keep the mice out than kill them, though. I don't think going medieval (putting the little mouse heads on pikes in my garden) would serve as a deterrent, though.