Tuesday, May 22, 2018

On summer break

This is...the fourth year I think I haven't taught summers? In 2004, sign-ups were low, and I elected to cancel the classes a month or so before summer session. Later, I found out there were people who MIGHT have signed up at the last minute (one guy came to my office and yelled at me about it, I told him that even if he didn't sign up right away - to avoid the tuition bill - it would have helped to have had an e-mail. Because I literally would have had 4 in one class and 5 in another).

In 2011, I chose not to teach - it had been a couple years since I published anything and even though I had successfully been promoted to Full Professor, I felt like I needed to get some research done. And I needed a break. (that was the summer I started watching MLP: FiM - they re-ran it around noon, and I'd come home from the field, shower, make lunch, and watch an episode or two).

Last year I didn't teach after 2016 being the year of being paid at adjunct rates because I had *slightly* below 10 students (in previous years, we had been able to "support" lower enrollment classes with the ones that were over 10; in 2016 they changed it to "in order to be paid at your standard rate, you must have 10 in all your classes). And I just decided it wasn't worth it. I have had to budget more carefully, but it is nice having the time off.

I doubt I'll teach summers again unless demand becomes so high, I can be guaranteed I have 10 people per class. And even then, I don't know: teaching all year round may be a younger person's game. It's kind of nice having summers off, and if the post-tenure review thing grinds on (and we have to make ourselves seem ever more indispensable), it's probably wise not to teach, to take that pay hit, and instead do research and revamp my classes and do a little continuing-ed type stuff.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

And more ends

I got the rest of my packing done this morning, and printed out one last pattern I MIGHT want to make while up there.

I managed to buttonhole the teenaged kid at church (a newly-licensed driver, so doubtless he needs money) and more importantly, his mom (who will remind him) and get his agreement that he'll mow my lawn once or twice. I offered $25 per mowing, which I have no idea whether that's fair or not, but my lawn is small (less than an eighth acre, considering the encroaching brush I' trying to get rid of) but it's worth it to me not to come home to grass too high for my reel mower to manage (he will bring his own gas powered mower to do it, which also avoids the "how do I get into your garage" issue.)

(I think I paid a pro $25 a mowing a couple years ago. And I think back 35 years, to mowing my parents' nearly 1-acre lot: I got paid $2.50. Yes, it was a simpler time but also my parents were kind of cheap, I think. Nowadays, I wouldn't mow an acre for less than $20.)

I still have to eat lunch and change clothes and put a lamp on a timer and make sure the trash is out and unplug a few things, but I'm pretty much ready to go.

I have a stack of books to take with me - I plan to finish the second Mordecai Tremaine mystery ("Murder has a Motive") and I am dragging along a book of short mystery stories set on trains, and I have my Moundbuilders book and also a copy of "I Contain Multitudes," which is about gut flora. And an Elizabeth Bowen novel ("The Heat of the Day") because it's probably been too long since I read a "serious" work of fiction.

I have my knitting projects to take along (and remembered to grab the buttons for Augusta, in case I finish it), but I do also want to make a couple t-shirt dresses and some pajama shorts for summer wear. And I would like to find a replacement pair of capri-style or long-shorts jeans: the pair I wore for years is about shot (thanks to my thunder thighs; that's where pants USUALLY wear out).

My train is currently *slightly* late (like: fifteen minutes) but that hopefully won't get worse. (I don't want to have to try to figure out dinner, on a Sunday evening, in a small town where most things will be closed). My bus is supposedly leaving at 7:55 tomorrow morning so HOPEFULLY I will be able to get breakfast on the train, but I have a couple of small snacky items just in case.

I dunno. I have NEVER depended on the kindness of strangers, and I confess at times it gets a little exhausting. I sometimes wish I were the kind of person who could just assume others would take care of her in minor emergencies....but stuff in my life has taught me I can't expect that. So instead I do the multi-dimensional chess of "what could go wrong" and "what can I do in advance that could mitigate stuff going wrong"

At any rate: hopefully nothing goes at all wrong.

And I should be back around June 6 or so. As I said: there are a *few* embargoed posts between now and then.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Tying up ends

* I didn't come up with as many "embargoed post" topics as I'd like. There will be a few while I'm gone (I get back around the 6th), but not as many as I'd have liked to have had.

* I am almost totally packed. The "morning things" (e.g., makeup and the like) still have to go in tomorrow, and I need to finalize which shoes, but other than that I think I'm ready. I wound off some yarn, and I will be taking a couple of ongoing projects (the biggest being the Augusta cardigan) with the hopes of finishing them.

* Fortunately a couple of the bills that I pay with checks came in the mail today so I can get those sent off.

* I mowed the lawn yesterday and cut some brush; I cut more today and edged. I discovered the poison ivy was back so I put herbicide on it (that's the ONLY place I use herbicide, but I can't very well pull it or cut it - I get it badly enough).

Other than that, I have that odd loose-ends feeling I often get before traveling: not worth starting a new book, especially not a "big" book that would be hard to carry along. No point in going grocery shopping (though I do not know at this point what I'll eat for dinner, and I hate the kind of catch-as-catch-can leftovers-and-single-serving pick up meals that you do). I'm also sort of tired; that could be the result of having spent the past couple afternoons working outside.

Also, just, traveling, meh. The being-on-the-train part is OK (though this year I have to ride a bus from St. Louis to Bloomington, trackwork again). But the whole "everything has to fall into place and there are numerous things that could go wrong" part is not my favorite:

- I could have car trouble on the way there, or run into construction so bad that I miss my train
- My train is so late I miss dinner on it, and of course because it's a sleepy East Texas town on a Sunday, there may well be no option for food other than the Dairy Queen
- Something is wrong with my reservation or the sleeper car or whatever and I wind up in coach, which is loud and has no privacy and you can't sleep properly
- There's some problem on the way, ranging from a delay, to the train hitting a car (which is very bad for the car and sometimes bad for the train) to some other misadventure....
- Problems getting to or getting on the bus - missing the bus in St. Louis would be bad, though I suppose I could catch one of the Lincoln Service trains later in the day....

But yeah. I know I worry excessively but for me, having a list in my head of "these are the things that could go wrong" either (a) allows me to have a plan in mind for what to do, if there is anything that can be done or (b) a little bit of magical thinking: if I know it can happen then it won't (I call this the "stick you don't see" hypothesis: when I mow the lawn, I go and I pick up all the sticks and fallen branches I can find so they won't jam the mower. But there is ALWAYS that stupid tiny stick, like an inch long and a half-inch thick, that I don't see, and I roll over it, and the mower handle winds up thumping me in the gut because the blades jam and it stops.)

(And I do need to run out, I guess, and figure out some kind of packaged thing I can tote along to eat just in case I don't get breakfast (e.g., the train is early in to St. Louis, it's not breakfast time yet, and they're chivvying us all off to get on the bus). I have to have some food in the morning as one of the medications I take can both mess up your stomach and tank your blood sugar if you take it without food....)

Confession: often right before a break I think "OH, I wish I weren't traveling" though that's mainly because of the effort that travel involves. (Also, things are ....different.....now. It's hard having aging parents. It's hard having the cats I knew during my grad-school years gone, and no cats there to replace them. It's hard seeing the town so changed.)

Friday, May 18, 2018

A little nonsense

Part of the fun of having toys is being able to play with them. For me, that usually takes the form (at least with dolls) of changing their clothes and posing them. I was looking at my Re-Ment stuff the other day and realized it's *almost* Barbie-scale.

So, of course, my four "girls" needed to have a snack break:

all four

Some close ups:

Gabby with icecream (with mochi balls on the cone!)

Gabby ice cream

Rapunzel has a donut, Cinnamon coffee and a bagel:

Rapunzel and Cinnamon

But my favorite one is this:
Wonder Woman bear claw

Wonder Woman with a bear claw (and a cup of either coffee or tea). Because even defenders of humanity need a coffee break. (It cracks me up because the Gal Godot sculpt looks so serious, even stern, and putting the silly pastry in her hand is a funny juxtaposition. Well, funny to me...)

I do also play with my Ponies (mostly: arranging them in family groups and carefully combing their hair) and also the stuffed toys stay on my bed with me.

It's really a pity that adults are expected to give up these kinds of toys; I'd argue in some ways we need them more than the kids do.

another "new friend"

A while back, one of the pony blogs I read (it might have been Ariana's blog) featured a plush Webbigail Vanderquack from the new Ducktales, and....

I was like *grabby hands*

I really really like the new Webby. Of all the character updates, she's the best one. The old Webby - from the 80s series - I remember as being sort of a prissy, "I'm gonna tell" girl - probably intended to be the voice of reason to the boys' schemes, but she was never much fun. And she seemed kind of babyish, especially given her appearance:

In the 2017 update, they made her more of a tween/young teen, gave her a sort of a pageboy:

They also changed her personality: now she's the weird kid, the one with a very specific set of knowledge and skills, full partner to the boys in their adventuring (and in fact, as prone as they are to trouble - in fact, Junior Woodchuck Huey tends to be more the voice of reason in the new series, which is a fun change-up). 

(It also helps that they have Kate Micucci voicing her; she is a good choice)

And I admit it: the weird geeky girl, the one who wants to run with the boys and share their adventures - in a lot of way that was me, circa age 11. (I had a few boys who were good friends; I probably got bullied less by the "mean boys" because of them. I don't think they could do anything against the "mean girls" though)

But anyway, I really liked Webby in the new series and was excited to learn there was a plush of her.  And so I wanted one. My usual go-to for this sort of thing (Amazon, because I have Prime) had them, but at a highish price (third-party seller) and they may have been out of stock? So I tried the Disney Store online and yup: about $10 less, and in stock. 

So I ordered one, and kept my fingers crossed that (a) it would either come before I leave Sunday or (b) would be via USPS so it would be held for me.

Well, both happened as it turned out. (For ONCE, "SmartPost" actually worked pretty fast - I think this took four days?)

And here she is!

One thing about a lot of the recent Disney plush - Judy Hopps has the same oddity - is the "giant head, tiny body" arrangement. It's....okay? I guess? I would prefer a more proportional toy but whatever, I have a stuffed Webby now.

Don't know what

So, last night, I went to bed more or less at the normal time, was asleep for a while. I woke up just about midnight, and was pretty sure I heard a "BO-BOOM!"

Sometimes I wake up THINKING I heard something but don't know for sure. This time I was pretty sure.

And here's how I'm still not over that thing that happened in January with the guy (who was apparently the perp in a domestic-abuse case) pounding on my back door: in the past I probably would have gone "car door" and sort of shrugged and went back to sleep.

But now, I thought "wait, what is someone is breaking in, or trying to?"

And I thought: "What would I do? I have no way to defend myself...I have books, could throwing books at an intruder buy me time?" (probably not). I listened hard. No other sounds.

But I got up anyway. Turned on the kitchen light, didn't hear anything. Looked around, everything seemed secure.

No idea what the sound was. There were thunderstorms off to the west of Ardmore so perhaps it could be a stray clap of thunder, I don't know.

But I'll be glad when I get over that dude to the point where I can sleep past noises without having to get up and check again.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

my day today

I was planning on going in to the office for a bit after the piano tuner finished, but nope

I mostly stayed home and faffed online. Oh, I did my piano practice and a little more cleaning and ran a couple of errands, but I mostly faffed. (And I did a workout, but that was early, before the tuner came).

(The tuner didn't get done until shortly after 11; it had been a while since I had the piano tuned and he had to "raise it a half step" - apparently when my piano goes out, it goes flat, this happened once before. By the time he was done it was lunchtime, and then the day was almost over....so)

He did remark that my piano was "a joy" to tune, he commented that the older instruments (mine is 90 years old) are so much better made. (And honestly: after my house, the piano is the single most valuable thing I own. It's probably worth four times, at least, what my car is worth right now). And yes, he verified the age for me: he has an app on his phone where he can type in the manufacturer and the serial number and it tells you when it was made.

I DID write a couple of time-embargoed posts for my just-slightly-over-two-weeks vacation that is coming up. (I leave on the 20th, get back around June 6th. Just so you don't worry if I seem uncharacteristically silent or absent).

My house still has a funky stink to it. I suspect this may be an early summer thing; I remember it from last year. Wet soil under the house, maybe, or just the humidity, or something. I did run out and buy a fresh filter for a mini air "purifier" I have that seemed to work in my bedroom last year. (My bedroom is the worst; perhaps because it's close to the end of the ductwork. I probably need to get the ducts cleaned, also).

I opened some windows for a while before the tuner came but that doesn't work so well once it gets hot, and overnight in a first-floor-only house, it makes me nervous to have windows open (and also you get noise from the street. It would be one thing if I were out in the country where I heard crickets and frogs, but here I get diesel duallies, and my neighbor with the loud motorcycle, and the random idiots who thing everyone else needs to hear their music....)

I have to go in for a bit tomorrow. My piano lesson is tomorrow afternoon but I think I will go in in the morning. (And sometime I need to mow the lawn before I go, and I probably need to call my friend Emily from church: she has teenaged sons -  one has his driver's license now which amazes me because I went to the BABY SHOWER for him - and he wants to earn some money, and I need to get my lawn mown while I'm gone, so....)

One bit of news, something I was concerned about: My mom had to take a driving test this year (they make over-80s do it every 2 years in Illinois) and I was worried about

a. if she got a bad tester and failed
b,. if she got nervous and failed (I am projecting my anxieties here: I failed the road test twice at 16 because I had performance anxiety)
c. she failed the vision test (she has one tiny cataract but apparently it's not that bad)
d. the smashed mirror, which she never got replaced (and yes I ride her about that) led to the car failing.

And my dad doesn't drive any more: he has bad vision and also his knees are bad. So if my mom failed they'd be up a creek, and I live too far away to be able to help and I don't know what they'd do. There is a ride service in their town, and I suspect their neighbors (they have several good neighbors) would be more than happy to help, but....

It just makes it easier that she passed. The examiner didn't see the smashed mirror until the very end, and my mom dissembled like "yeah, we're in the process of trying to get that fixed" and the examiner said, "If I had known, I'd not have let you take it out" so....whew.

(The complicating factor: this is an adjustable mirror, it's a 2001 Toyota, but apparently the mirror used was either a year earlier or year later because the one the place got in to replace it didn't fit. I TOLD her to just have the place cut a mirror and slap it on there - *I* don't have automatically adjustable mirrors on my car and it is fine. I'm hoping I can work on her a little with that when I am up there this break....)

Other things planned for this summer: some dressmaking (up at my parents) and maybe also making another pair or two of "pajama shorts" - I have a lot of t-shirts I wear as summer pajamas, but the shorts I wear with them are wearing out.

And when I get back: update my ecology lectures, update my Policy and Law stuff, do some re-reading of the more advanced biostats stuff....

Laura and I have tentative plans to go to Canton for one of their "Trades Days" which seems like an excellent idea to me. 

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

a good day

As I said on Twitter: "More days like this, please." (Edited to add Laura's photo; now I'm glad I stayed up a bit later)

Laura and I had plans to meet up in Grand Saline. I had a map, though I wound up taking a different route (69 to Emory, get on 19, take it to 80, which takes you right to the Salt Palace - which was the destination.

Like me, Laura seems to like these little unusual roadside attractions - I think she had been there before but I had not. (And now I can check it off on Atlas Obscura from my "list of places I want to go")

The Salt Palace is a monument to the history of Grand Saline - a big salt deposit (a salt dome with brine, and I know just enough geology to expect that some of the nearby oil deposits are probably associated with it). Apparently there was even a salt marsh sort of thing years and years back - the ancestors of the Caddo tribe would boil the water to get the salt. (I suspect salt was a valuable trade item with people living in areas not near an ocean or salt deposits).

The Salt Palace itself was made out of rock salt. I guess they have it under a pretty deep roof to protect it from starting to melt in the rain). They say people try to lick it but of course they discourage that, so there was an irresistible photo op)

(At some later point, if she gets the picture she took of me posted, there will be a photo of me pretending to prepare to lick the Salt Palace that Laura took. Think Flick getting ready to stick his tongue to the flagpole in "A Christmas Story" and you've pretty much got it)

And here it is. I don't know whether to day "BREAKIN' THE LAW! BREAKIN' THE LAW!" (they supposedly ask you not to lick the salt palace but it's not REALLY against any law I know) or "Bad girls, bad girls, what'chu gonna do?"

This just cracks me up because I am normally 100% the rule-follower and it amuses me to contemplate breaking a rule. (Not that I would....licking a salt wall that has air pollution on it and probably bacteria, ew.)

There was a short video showing how the salt was mined - the Grand Saline plant is still active but I guess they mostly do kosher salt and ice-cream-maker salt. (I was early and drove on down 110 - South Main - to see what else was there and I saw where the plant was)

They had souvenirs. And one of the consolations of being a grown-up adult with an income: no parents telling you not to spend your money on that stuff. So, souvenirs were had:


Because how could you NOT? (Spoiler alert: I did not actually lick the Salt Palace.)

There was also one that declared the area "SALTY. since 800 AD" which it funny given the current slang meaning of "Salty" (Laura bought that one but I liked this t-shirt even better).

They also had one of those penny machines, which was the sort of thing I loved as a kid but never got to use because I was told not to spend my money on it. But they had one, it was 51 cents to use it (50 cents plus the penny that gets squished), and really, what can you get for 51 cents any more? (And it's possible some of that 50 cents goes to the museum, anyway).

I had to tweak the photo a little (lightening it and making the contrast more...contrasty) but here is my squished penny:


Yeah, I kind of like the "I licked the Salt Palace" trope.

From there, we went on to Mineola. Got burgers at the East Texas Burger Company (I got a cheese-garlic burger). We walked around and looked in some of the antique shops, then ran over to Stitchin' Heaven, which is a large and excellent quilt shop. I got some fabric:


The top two are "I just liked them" fabrics (though they might factor into the pink/green/brown quilt I am planning) and the lower two are for the tiled-garden quilt I am planning to do.

Laura got some fabric, too, including a piece to go in an ongoing "travel crazy quilt" she's making.

We ran back into Mineola, went to another, large, antique shop (I bought a souvenir plate, which I forgot to photograph featuring the North Rim of the Grand Canyon.

Then, it was time to part ways - Laura had a last-minute gig, and anyway, I needed to get on home. But it was a good day and we have tentative plans to try to meet up for one of the big sales in Canton later this summer.

On the way home, the temptation to go to a SECOND out-of-the-way quilt shop (well, coupled with the need to stop for a bathroom break) was too great, and I stopped at Quilt Mercantile in Celeste. And bought some more fabric:


The butterfly fabric is to go with a layer cake of similar fabrics I have, and the other fabric is for my pink-and-green quilt. And the scissors are because I have five or six pairs of little scissors for my knitting kit and I CANNOT CURRENTLY FIND ANY OF THEM. And the pattern is for a quilt that looks like the old granny-square afghans. I'm not sure if I'd ever make it (those are awfully tiny pieces) but it looks cool and I might give it a try.

The drive home was long, in part because at one point I got trapped behind a crew spraying oil on the gravel berms of the road and it was a v. long several miles before they pulled off to the side and we could all pass them. 

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

The first practice

I admit I was apprehensive.

I tend to assume that expertise in one area of a subfield doesn't necessarily carry over to others (in other words: "Good with animals, good with children" is  a lie). And also, I am really not that sure of my own abilities at the piano; my teacher seems encouraging and I know other people have told me stuff like "yeah, you might not think you're that good, but how many people can actually play with both hands and follow a written score?"

But I decided to give it a try. Several other people had said they would, and I figured it would be good to at least seem game. There were six of us plus the director: me, an older couple, a retired librarian, my retired colleague Judy, a woman originally from Germany. Two others have said they'll be a part but couldn't make this practice.

The director has a lot of experience; she's done handbell choirs before. I hope she wasn't just being encouraging when she said at the end it was the best beginner session she'd seen. And this was a diverse group of people, about 2/3 of whom said they could not read music (though I think if you've had a creditable education - especially in years past - you probably learned a little. I know we had enough music class in school to learn the basic rhythm of the different notes, and time signatures (at least the most common ones) and I remember learning the scales. I know the bass clef a lot better now from piano, but I think I knew the basics of it even then)

Anyway. First up was how to ring the bells and already I am afraid my left side may be a problem - I sometimes have a little weakness there because of that old injury to my collarbone. But I took the bell with fewer notes for my part in that hand and did OK.

First up after learning to actually get a sound out of the bells (and to ring them in an aesthetically appealing way; she said "It is not a hammer (and pantomimed), it is not a saw (and pantomimed)" and said it was basically an "egg shaped" motion. It's a little hard to visualize but I managed to get it.

Then she had us do a timing exercise. Because I'm used to playing music it was pretty familiar for me but it took a few run throughs for some of the people - but they all got it, too. And we don't do faster than eighth notes (the really fast notes on the piano are my bane, so I am happy for that). We did that a few times, then she handed out an arrangement she had written of "Jesus Loves Me" that would work for a small number of ringers.

It took us a few tries, but by the last one - yes, you could hear the tune. (This is with maybe 15 minutes of going through it).  It wasn't perfect but it was recognizable.

She remarked how well we did as we were putting away the bells. I confess, I was kind of concerned some people might get frustrated with it - I know I sometimes do if I try to do something and am not perfect at it at first - but everyone seemed really enthusiastic and they all signed up for future practices, so that's good. (I may miss one or two, being out of town these next couple weeks, but this is not one of those musical things where the director expects you to make the music your #1 priority in life before family, job, and everything else...)

We laughed a lot, and that felt good. And it felt good to be doing something as part of a group where I shared responsibility equally - all too often when I do things, it's a case where I have the lion's share of the responsibility, and so failure or success comes down to me, and that's sometimes tiring. It's nicer to be an equal part of a team.

I also think maybe - and I hope this happens - if the rehearsals continue this summer, this will help soothe a little bit of the loneliness and feeling-at-loose-ends I get in the summer: I do need to be a part of something, and if we have regular rehearsals that will do that.

As we put everything up and were leaving, she commented it was the best first rehearsal she had seen, which is kind of interesting - especially given the lack of experience with music many had, and the total lack of experience with bells. Maybe it's because none of us are the "diva" type, and we were able to laugh when we messed up and nobody felt the need to be a "star"?

She also remarked as we were leaving - and this is probably boilerplate bell-choir humor, but still: "Y'all are gonna be my favorite group of ding-a-lings!"

Tuesday afternoon things

* Got the house nearly all cleaned. This was partly a pre-piano-tuner coming thing (he is scheduled for Thursday morning) but also partly a pre-going-away-on-break thing: I tend to feel the house runs less risk of bugs (or mice) if it's really clean.

* I tried to buy drierite (or whatever the commercial name is). The Lowe's claimed they had it, they did not. I wound up with some kind of volcanic-rock thing that claims it absorbs musty odors. I REALLY need the thing that absorbs humidity. (The product I bought is called "gonzo odor absorber" and it does not claim to absorb moisture. But at least it might take care of the musty smell in my bedroom). They had lots of "gel bead" things that had perfume but I DON'T WANT PERFUME. I just want something to absorb the odor. Oh well.

(Wait, on their website they say it absorbs moisture. And you recharge it by putting it out in the sun....so I presume it lasts more than a couple of months)

They are zeolite, which I think IS sold as a moisture absorber. They claim theirs is "natural volcanic rock" but a lot of zeolite is industrially made by heating an aluminum-silicon slurry with a base, so....

*  We're under a severe thunderstorm warning and it looks bad out there. I garaged my car even though it's the first handbell practice tonight; I can get it back out when it gets closer to time OR if it's so bad they have to cancel, I don't have to worry about hail hitting my car.

* Tomorrow is my day out with Laura. We are going to the Salt Palace in Grand Saline. I admit it: I love those weird roadside attractions (well, this one is also historical). I was talking on Twitter today about the Mystery Spot in St. Ignace, Michigan.

And this is one way that I'm different from my parents: If I were driving through that area now? I'd totally stop and spend the $9 to see it. Just to be able to say I had. I know my parents were a lot more frugal in some ways than I am but...I dunno. I think seeing those goofy things before they disappear forever (which I suspect will happen as we live ever-more-virtual lives). And to me, those kind of roadside things feel like a link with my childhood (even though we never really stopped at any of them) because I remember all the trips we took where we saw those things advertised.

We might also go to Mineola, to the big quilt shop and unless there's a more exciting place for lunch, maybe the burger place.

* Newest-old pony is here. I ordered a Milky Way a little while back. She is yet another Twice-as-Fancy and yet another unicorn with a silver glitter mark (Powder is another one I have that is very similar, maybe when I have more time I should photo them together).

(That's also a no-makeup photo. I didn't put on any today though I might before going out to do the bells. My complexion is not as even as it looks in the photo....)

Milky Way came from "Ponies in the Sun," one of my favorite Etsy shops for these....she ships fast and everything has always been as described (actually, her marks are in better shape than I thought they would be - the shopowner noted "some glitter loss" but really there is not much)

* I also need to take time and do a few little repairs - sew a button back on a skirt, repair a hole in a sweater and some socks....it's less fun doing that than making something "new" so it takes me a while to get around to it.

Nature blessed me

A new friend in my front garden:

tortoise 1

I was taking some stuff out to the trash and there he (? I didn't pick it up to check; you can tell male or female by plastron shape) was.

I am pretty sure that's an ornate box turtle (Cue Fluttershy sighing and saying "Tortoise!" because these are land dwellers - genus Terrapene -and I think of turtles as aquatic. Though I guess there ARE terrestrial turtles)

Here's a better photo of the shell:

tortoise 2

I occasionally have these wandering through my yard. I wonder if the sandy soil around here provides hibernacula for them (I presume like many tortoises, they dig down into the soil over winter to hibernate). I don't mind them especially this year because I have no tomatoes that they will munch on, and no things like strawberries they might eat. And anyway - I would be less annoyed about losing a tomato to one of these guys as opposed to losing ALL of them (as has happened some years) to possums or raccoons. 

Woke to storms

Yeah, around 3:30 this morning, thunderstorms rolled through. This is the first nighttime storm for a while. The power went off, at my count, three separate times (I can hear it because the air filter and the white-noise machine shut off). It was only brief, but enough to undo the digital clock.

I guess it's cleared out now so I probably need to consider going over and trying to do a little work.

I do need to clean the house a little some time....tomorrow is a meet-up with Laura so I expect the whole day will be taken up with that. Thursday morning the piano tuner comes, and I like to have the house at least a *little* picked up for him. I often don't "see" the things (like the fact that I still have the umbrella swift clamped to one of the sofa arms) that other people notice.

I'm not a very good housekeeper. Part of this is that I rarely have people over, I tend to see my house as sort of my fortress, and I have to like and trust a person a lot to let them in (This is why having workers in - like the plumber and even the piano tuner - whom I know fairly well and like - is somewhat fraught)

Also, I'm busy. I read somewhere that one of the hallmarks of being an adult is spending a half-hour a day cleaning house to keep up with everything and I guess by that measure I'm not really an adult. I don't spend a half-hour a day. I might spend ten minutes doing stuff like dishes or sweeping the floor if it's bad or taking out the trash, but it's only rarer that I spend as long as a half-hour.

Well, some days, I'm tired. And some days taking a half-hour would mean some other thing that seemed more urgent didn't get done. (Last night, for example: I had CWF. So I was out of the house for a couple hours in the evening, and I'll be out again this evening because it's the first rehearsal of the new bell choir).

And yeah, people say "Just hire a cleaner" but 90% of my cleaning issues is "where do I put this thing" - storage related issues. And a cleaner can't really help with that. The stuff like sweeping and scrubbing and cleaning the bathroom is not so hard for me once I have the stuff put away. (Also, the whole  "not comfortable with people in my house" thing).

In fact - I think I will stay home at least this morning and clean house a little. And also, I have to sort my acrylic yarn, I just remembered I promised Laura I'd destash and bring her some of my leftovers for her scrap afghans.

Also, it might storm again this morning, and meh, why should I drive over in the wet when I don't absolutely HAVE to?


Have decided to make today "Clean all the things" day, because things need cleaning, and I will feel better for having done it, and I am getting a weird "old cardboard box smell" in part of my house and I need to figure out - and ideally, get rid of - whatever is causing it. (I also might need to run out and get one of those "non electric dehumidifiers" (those zeolite-filled things) for my bedroom; it seems v. humid in there but I don't want to put the dehumidifier in there because there isn't an appropriate plug (that's not already in use) and also I don't want to tote full containers of water out of there and risk spilling it.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Monday morning things

* I don't mind if people refer to my quilts as "simple." Simplicity is often a good thing, and a lot of times what I am going for is a simpler pattern that highlights the fabric or the colors. And I find the simpler designs more restful to look at.

I briefly contemplated - and might still do - handquilting that newest top using perle cotton and the "utility quilting" style, where you use a larger needle and take bigger stitches and the quilting shows more, kind of like was done on some of the older "farmhouse" quilts.

* I did pull out the fabric for the next quilt - a mostly-pastels Jelly Roll in vaguely French-fabric/upholstery inspired designs (lots of florals, one or two pastoral scenes that don't look like much cut down into strips) and a big piece of plain pink for the background. I ironed off the pink and pulled out the couple of strips I *won't* use (it takes 36 of the 42, and there were a couple of solid strips in there that were easily disposed of).

* I was feeling really at loose ends and sad on Saturday, and it continued a little bit into Sunday. I think I figured out the cause: not being busy enough. Sunday afternoon, after finishing the top, I went out and spent about an hour cutting out brush and weeds in the backyard and I felt much better. I think part of it is I just need exercise (I had taken Friday as a rest day, and Saturday was so broken up I couldn't get a work out in. I did do the dvd workout on Sunday before working on the quilt...)

I don't deal well with being idle. That's one reason why I used to teach in summers in the past. I suspect when retirement rolls around I'll either have to find some other way to structure my days, or maybe actually see a counselor about strategies to cope with big blocks of idleness. (I am hoping that by the time my retirement rolls around, there will be more stuff in town - groups I can join, maybe some idea of a second career. That's also why, even though there's no space in the current configuration of my house, I am contemplating buying a longarm quilting machine and learning to use it - I could either quilt for people as a second career, or I could join up with some charity that distributes quilted things and work for them (I would do the charity work for free))

I suppose that's a problem some people who have worked hard "all" their life face....I was always an overachiever in school and I also wound up doing "enrichment" things in the summer or off-times because my parents pushed me to.

* I also want to pull out the various stalled projects and try to finish them. I am currently working on a pair of Weasley Homestead socks - the first sock is done and the leg of the second is not quite half-done. And I need to get Celestarium out and get back to work on it.

* Well, no phone messages or e-mail messages about grades, so I'm going to assume no one is upset. The one person who hinted about "will there be extra credit" earlier wound up earning a C on their own merits, and I assume they are satisfied with that.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Another quilt top

This one really only took a couple days' worth of work, but it was a super-simple pattern ("Donut Holes" - it's designed for a Layer Cake but of course you could use 10" squares of any fabric. There's also a charm-square version, but you either need 2 packs or it's a VERY small quilt).

I like this one. It's big - about 6' on a side, which means it's wide enough (if a little short) to use on my bed.

Mes Amis quilt

The fabrics are a Moda line, either called Les Amis or Mes Amis (I forget which and am not going to jump up and go to my sewing room to check. At any rate: it's almost certainly out of print, this was a Birthday 2016 purchase from Kaleidoscope fabrics).

I like how it came out. I was initially put off by the pattern because the photo on it had a solid black as the "framing" fabric (and sort-of Civil-War reproduction styles as the focus fabrics) and to my taste, the frames stood out too much. I like the more subdued color palette I used here.

The grey fabric with swirls on it is going to be for the back; it's one of those 108" wide backs so NO PIECING AND NO REAL IRONING.

Here's a close up:

Mes Amis close-up

It's hard to see but the "framing" fabric is tulips with bicycles (with a black cat perched on the seat!) on it. And another fabric is crowded old city houses. (This line could ALMOST have been called "Mijn vrienden" instead, given the tulips and bikes and vaguely Dutch-style houses.

One challenge of photographing quilts alone, on warm early summer days:


billowing 2

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Sorry not sorry

Yes, my Photoshop skills are nonexistent (I do not own a personal copy and I am at home, and anyway, I never learned to use the version my campus licenses - this was done in bad ol' Powerpoint) but I got to thinking about two memes I've seen recently, and the idea of smashing them up was too irresistible:


I'm NOT sorry.

(This is the kind of thing that amuses me THE MOST. I am that kid who laughed at stuff long after the cool kids ceased to find it funny. Memes are MADE for someone with my sense of humor)

Graduation is over

Walking up (too early, I am always too early for things and I stand around and wait), I heard a family getting out of a car arguing about who was going to sit where and what they were going to do after, and I admit....in that moment I just wanted to turn around and go back home and go back to bed.

(My allergies have been VERY bad, in the sense of making me tired and feel sort of "meh." And I dealt with too many arguing/"I'm gonna make my problems all of you innocent bystanders' problems now, because I can" people this week)

But I kept going. (I *always* keep going). Yes, I was too early. Eventually my chair arrived and a few other people. It was a little chaotic - a lot of the marshals this year were new and they were not as strict about dividing up the faculty (there are supposed to be two lines of us almost the same length) and so we wound up with five of us on one side and a lot on the other, and they had to divide the longer line up *as we were processing in* and send some of them over to our side and....well, I guess it worked out but those kinds of things just make me tenser than they should.

A rumor ran through the faculty as we were waiting - "Hey, I heard the invited speaker isn't here, I heard she wound up in the hospital."

While I admit I tend to be in favor of shorter graduations (and have heard a few real stinkers of speeches in my time, though some have been good) I hope she's OK.

They also inexplicably cut out the "message from the Regent" thought the Regent present is the oldest one and I think he had a stroke a while back and maybe he wasn't up to it? Or maybe people just got discombobulated with the speaker absent.


There weren't many faculty present. We are SUPPOSED to be there (and anyway, it's good to support the students) and I wonder if all the people missing (based on empty chairs) requested absences (You have to fill out a form; I did it one year when I derped and made my travel plans a week earlier than I should have). I will say with one exception (and I am quite sure he filled out the form), everyone from my department was present.

Lots of people graduated. I forgot that one of the guys I used to have as a TA was graduating, he came through ahead of time (while we were waiting out in the hall) and high-fived us. (And after graduation, a woman I had had in a couple classes came up. She hugged her advisor and the woman she had had a lot of classes with, and I was prepared to shake her hand (I tend to anticipate I am not the kind of person who inspires that level of affection) but she grabbed me too and exclaimed "I'm a hugger" so...okay.)

There was one sort-of-emotional moment: a young woman walked through to accept the diploma on behalf of her sister, who had passed away (I think that happened a little while back and they just now arranged it? It wasn't something that happened this semester as I remember).

There were a minimal amount of air horns this year (then again: that seemed to be a more B-school thing, and we were in a separate graduation from them this year) and there were no podium selfies, thankfully. (Maybe the students were warned against that. It did slow down an earlier graduation and anyway there are copious "official" pictures taken).

But now it's done. I'm not sure what to do with the rest of the day - part of me is thinking, "You could probably run up the backing for the birb quilt fast enough to get it out to the shop before they close at 3" but part of me wants to take off my dress and hose (I wore a dress today, because it was hot: normally I wear slacks and a button-front shirt (you need something to anchor the academic hood to so it doesn't ride up in the front and choke you. This time, I fastened a bit brooch on the front of my dress, which looked goofy, but it provided that anchor point).

I mean, shoot, if I wanted to there'd even be time to go to Sherman - but, meh, it's hot, and I FEEL kind of meh. I might just find some stupid tv to watch and knit, or go and work on the new quilt top instead.

I also need to figure out lunch but along with the heat and humidity I've got my annual loss-of-appetite. (This would be okay if it weren't coupled with an emotional desire to Eat All The Sweet Things; if I could just force myself to eat enough vegetables to stay nourished, I'd be good).

what I really want, again, is someone to fix me nutritious and at-least-marginally-tasty food, and set it before me, so I can eat it without having to decide first what I want and then fixing it.

I also am kind of bordering on having a headache; I suspect we ARE going to get the storms tomorrow that they keep waffling about. (It doesn't help that both the dewpoint and the barometric pressure are very high right now).

Probably I need to DO something (working on the current quilt top might be best), but I also don't feel terribly motivated....

Edited to add: they played Pomp and Circumstance #1 as the processional; I have almost a Pavlovian response to that now ("Start walking, not too fast, not to slow, try to exude dignity and gravitas, but don't get too far behind the guy with doubtless-longer-legs-than-you who is in front of you, then match your pace to the person who winds up next to you when the two streams combine").

It seems funny to me that an Elgar celebrating-the-Empire song is now SO wedded to commencement ceremonies in American's minds; I've even seen ones where they didn't have a symphonic band so they played it from a record player (or later, a CD player)

(I also just realized: Isn't the Elgar also known as "Land of Hope and Glory," a patriotic British song? Again, doubly weird we Yanks use it at graduations. I suppose it's the right length and the right speed and it sort of telegraphs a mild seriousness. I'm now thinking - and giggling over - the sheer inappropriateness of something like a disco number being used)

As the recessional, they played "The Liberty Bell March," which people of a certain age and/or level of geekiness will forever associate with "Monty Python's Flying Circus." (they did that one year before I remember; on the way out the door a colleague whispered to me "I was waiting for the giant foot to come down" because he knew I'd get it)

Some years they play "The Thunderer," which is a less-familiar Sousa march. 

Friday, May 11, 2018

Octopus t-shirt

Jay, the t-shirt was designed by Sugarhai but I'm not sure which of the shops she works through (if any, it's a couple years old) currently offer it.

(Wait - apparently her Esty shop still has it. So maybe that's where I got it from? I have bought lots of t-shirts from different online places)

one small blessing

They apparently either fixed the AC in the faculty part of the building, or threw a switch to channel the cooler air over here from the classrooms (now that exams are over). So it's actually comfortable in my office today. (Well, also: I am wearing a thin loose cotton dress instead of the jeans and t-shirt I wore yesterday. And more and more, I think for hot climates a loose dress-like garment is the best: look at the tunics worn by Bedouins, look at the Kaftans of Morocco....)

I like loose-fitting clothing and I do prefer dresses, except for "messy" work (And even then, for cleaning stuff, if I had an old smock-type dress, I might wear that). I do think I need to replace some of the older ones I have. Folkwear has some lovely patterns but in my limited experience they often run a bit small and tight in places like the armscye and if you're a sort-of-beefy woman who works out (like me) where you have muscles, you have to do a lot of altering of even the bigger sizes. (Also, I suppose for some of those, people might raise concerns of "cultural appropriation" but I do have a French Cheesemaker's Smock and NO ONE is allowed to tell me I can't wear it, because I have French antecedents. Except I made it of a too-tightly-woven fabric and it's really too warm to wear.

Shoot, for all I know, given my weird mutt family on my mom's side, I might have some Croatian heritage* - I kind of like that Croatian smock-dress)

(*I am pretty sure I have Hungarian heritage on her side, remembering from a family tree I saw. It's a very small amount and it's one of the things that makes me go "how the heck did that person intermarry into the family?" given that her mom's side is almost entirely British Isles and her dad's side, as far as we can determine, is French and later French-Canadian)

I also find the worst for me - worse than it being merely warm and humid, is the air being still. I think the feeling of "no moving air," especially in a warm room, maybe plays a bit on my claustrophobic tendencies. It makes me feel as if I cannot breathe, like the oxygen is going out of the air.

Then again: I don't sleep well at all in a warm room, moving air or no moving air, and that's one of my eternal issues with summer. I also don't sleep well without at least a sheet over me at night, so on extra hot nights, the choices are:

a. sleep badly because I feel 'exposed'
b. turn down the air conditioner and spend more money and use more power
c. be hot, and not sleep well.

I dunno. I think another of my frustrations with summer is that it's always pushed as such a "fun exciting time" - you go to the beach, you go to parties, you have a romance, you play sports, you go camping - and I do NONE of those things.

(Well, I did have the closest thing I've ever had to a real relationship one summer, but....yeah)

And again, it's one of those things I find hard, where I feel like I'm on the outside looking in: I live my life differently from the "model" we are presented, and it's hard to know what to do and how to do it....In the past, part of the reason I taught in the summer was that it seemed working dealt with any of those "what are you doing with your life?" concerns, but now that (a) it's not financially pleasant to teach summers and (b) I find I need the downtime of summers to revamp teaching and just recover....well, I don't know.

But at least my office isn't stifling any more.

People frustrate me

Yeah, I do go back and forth. When I'm in a good headspace, I talk about how I try to love everyone* and how I recognize that everyone is fighting a hard battle, things people do do frustrate me.

(*Though "loving" someone doesn't necessarily mean you like them or want to spend time with them)

And granted: disclaimer: a lot of this is from the news, and of course the  people reporting the news have their own agendas and reasons for bringing things to the fore when they do bring them, and this is probably stuff that's been going on forever and we just never heard about, but:

- An employee at Duke calls for the firing of a couple student baristas because they played music he found offensive (Other option, sir: say, "I find your choice of music offensive, would you consider changing it" and if no, going somewhere else for coffee. Or maybe, just thinking, "Okay, fine. I won't stay here after I get my coffee 'cos I don't like the music." I've done that.)

- Bob Marley's granddaughter (I think that's the relationship I heard) and a couple of her friends who were renting an Air BnB together got the cops called on them, presumably because their complexions were different from what was typical in that neighborhood (though I would also argue: if you're going to be renting a property you own out as an Air BnB, it's probably good form to notify your neighbors so they know)

- A young woman, working on a paper in a lounge at Yale, gets the cops called on her because she looks like a "stranger," because again, she looks a little different from the "typical" Yalie. (The one year I lived in the dorm? People used to nap in the lounges all the time and no one thought anything of it. Then again, our hall was small enough that we knew everyone and we mostly knew their friends from other dorms and their boyfriends....)

And, I don't know, but I think what these actually have in common here (besides the perhaps-obvious) is the entitled attitude on the part of the person doing the calling.

(And yes, there are probably deeper things going on in the stories, it sounds like the Yale thing may have been an intentional jerk move on the caller's part, but...I don't know. I guess I was raised with a desire not to risk giving offense even if I disagreed with a person, so it kind of breaks my brain. If I saw a stranger in my building on campus - if it were a regular class day I'd probably walk up to them and say, "Are you looking for someone's office, can I help you?" Granted, if it were late in the evening or on a weekend when the building shouldn't be open, I might consider calling campus police...but then again I might not. I know I once asked the secretary to review our security cam footage when I heard someone in the building on a Saturday when I was working with my office door closed, and it turned out to be the horticulturalist watering the plants in the building. But then again: I know her, I know her employees, and if I had seen them I would have recognized them. Perhaps part of it is knowing the people who are "supposed" to be around you and accepting them?)

Someone asked on Twitter: when have you called the police?

I can think of three times I called my local PD:

1. I saw a collision in the intersection near my house and was concerned there were injuries, and asked them to send the EMTs.

2. When that guy was trying to get into my house back in January.

3. Noise complaint, but that was called in to the non-emergency number (then again, so was #2). The noise complaint didn't do much - this was when I had the house-ful of partying 20-somethings to the north of me and they were loud EVERY NIGHT and I called the complaint in when they had moved their stereo OUTDOORS and were blasting it at 2 am and were wrestling on the lawn.

I also called the police once "on the road" (I pulled over) when an elderly driver was going the wrong way (I was told the police were already en route to intercept him)

And I called the police in my parents' town back in January 2016 when we couldn't find my parents :(

Also, about #3 - I was fairly suspicious the group of 20-somethings was selling something out of their house - lots of cars would come, stop, the driver or passenger would be in the house for five minutes, and then they'd leave. I didn't call the cops though because I felt I had insufficient evidence. I did keep a list of makes and models of cars (some of them repeated) and as much of the tags as I could see from my window, just in case. (The people in that house were later evicted. I don't know why, for sure - nonpayment of rent? Massive rodent problem (which then moved out into the neighborhood and that was the fall I got a rat in my house, probably from their place))

But yeah. If I see someone in the neighborhood I don't recognize, I don't call the cops. Oh, I might, if I saw them trying doors on several houses to see if any where unlocked. I might if they were harassing someone.

But I was raised with "You don't bother the cops unless someone's life is clearly in danger, there's been an accident, or someone is stealing from/damaging someone else's house or car. Or someone is harming an animal," though I've never seen that

The problem with this behavior - calling the cops on every little thing - is there's already suspicion and mistrust of cops in many quarters, and this isn't going to help. (And it doesn't help racial politics that it's mostly white people calling the cops on black or brown people)

(And now I remember, a couple years ago, there was a rash of people calling the cops when a restaurant was out of some food, or their chicken nuggets were cold, or some other ridiculous thing)

I dunno. This is one of those "Has this always happened and we're just now hearing about it because it's the hip current news story" things, maybe with a side of "there are cell phone cameras now to document this thing" (as I suspect) or is it a "this has gotten worse recently" thing.

But again, as I said: someone who was raised to only call the police if lives or property were clearly in danger, it seems really wrong and hinky to call them about "oh, there's a strange person in my neighborhood."

Hm. Maybe THIS is the logical conclusion of all the "if you see something, say something" post Sept.-11 propaganda, and the whole idea (I remember this from some years back) that you should fundamentally spy on your neighbors to be sure they're not terrorists....though it seems an awful lot of the people who do violence are "quiet" types who "mostly kept to themselves" and the neighbors "never knew."

But it does seem some people's behavior is getting worse. I heard someone talking the other day about how they loved to "stir the pot" and "trigger" people (using it in a joking but not really way, like bringing up someone's phobia to unsettle them). And my reaction to that is a giant "WHY?" Why would you make someone else's day worse? I mean, I get disagreeing with someone - though my usual MO when I disagree with someone is to sigh and say, "I don't see it that way" or else to just absent myself from whatever discussion.

(And I don't REALLY believe in karma but I really do think that God or the Universe or something notices when you're being a butt to other people, and it will come back to haunt you)

I just don't understand the joy in making other people upset. Maybe it's just me? But what makes me happy is either:

a. Someone is having a bad day and I either sympathize or send them a cat picture or try to do something to make it better, and it does, a little bit

b. I do or say something funny and people laugh. I LOVE that. I love being able to make people laugh at something funny. I wonder sometimes if it's because I spent so much of my childhood being laughed AT by my peers that having people laugh WITH me is a giant relief. But also, I just like making people happy.

c. Making food for people, or sharing my hobbies with people, that kind of thing. I like finding some common ground with a person. One of the things that makes me happiest is when I reveal some interest or bit of knowledge to a relatively-new acquaintance and they chuckle and say something like "I KNEW I had a reason for liking you."

I don't know. I wonder if the "stir the pot" people had a different childhood experience than I did - if they felt they were on the "top" of the pecking order instead of near the bottom. Or if other people's comfort (and also approval) doesn't matter to them. (Other people's approval probably matters too much to me; I sometimes try to win the approval of people I probably do NOT and should NOT be looking for approval from)

I spent so much time as a kid feeling weird and isolated and like no one understood me that it's a real joy now, as an adult, when I find someone who does understand me (or at least wants to try to). I've kind of been lonely all my life and on the outside looking in, and it's nice once in a while to feel a little bit like I'm on the inside, too. And I want to welcome other "outsiders" as much as I can.

But I do wonder if there's a common thread: people thinking they are the be-all and end-all and are the most important ones, and their attitudes matter more than those of other people. (The belief that one is always right...)

I don't know. I think again about how when I was a kid there was this little series of cartoons called "The Most Important Person in the World" which I guess was a sort of proto-self-esteem thing (though, this being the 1970s, there was also, as I remember, a heaping helping of understanding diversity, and putting yourself in the other guy's shoes). I know I didn't dream that up because Tina Fey wrote about it in her book (she and I are about the same age, i guess). She makes the point: "The Most Important Person In The World is a horrible lesson to teach small children, because most of them already kind of believe that they are" and yes, I think there's some truth to that, and part of the parents' job is to civilize those kids into understanding that other people matter, too. (My own parents probably did that job TOO well - as I said, the whole "let the other people go through the buffet line first" thing where I wind up not getting any deviled eggs...). Though it does seem to me more and more that I see people who act as though they believe the universe revolves around them ("I don't like their choice of music; the only option is to have them fired" when, yes, if the music featured a lot of profanity and maybe the n-word, yeah, maybe those students needed to tone it down - but a letter from the owner of the coffee shop explaining what are and are not appropriate lyrics would suffice). Or the person who pushes to the front of the line. Or who is loud in a public place where other people are waiting (like a doctor's waiting room). Or airing a grievance loudly in a mass meeting, where it would probably serve equally well (if not better) to go to the person you are aggrieved against and talking to them privately.

A lot of it, I think, comes down to making "your stuff" become "everyone else's stuff," even the innocent bystanders who don't want to be involved. And as someone who's been an innocent bystander on far too many of these things, I speak on behalf of my fellow innocent bystanders: we're sick of it, and please be a little more grown-up in the future and don't involve us in your drama.


Either the wind has brought in far more pollen, or the sudden high heat and humidity have done something, or something started flowering I'm allergic to: once again I'm tired and sort of on my last nerve. At least I finished one big task I need to do today.

Tomorrow is graduation and I confess I am unenthused. One of our best students who is graduating is apparently not planning to go as he has a job starting on Monday and he wanted to "rest up."* I don't know of anyone else I'm particularly close to who is graduating.

(*At least it's a job in his degree field, so we can count that as a win)

Graduation is long and loud and even in the air-conditioned arena it's hot...and I confess in this day and age I always twitch a little at the thought of SO MANY people massed in a place, and how symbolic it is - that you have essentially the entire higher-ed community in a town in one room, and while our campus police will be there, and some state troopers, there's only so much they could do if someone wanted to do something bad.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Trying not to

I'm still kind of sad and bummed out over different things.

(At least my mom's Mother's Day gift didn't get lost in the mail: it didn't get delivered when I expected it would, but she called me today to say it had arrived. Because what do you do when a gift you send someone gets lost in the mail? I mean, for a kid, I'd probably buy a new one, even if it was an *expensive* thing, but for an adult....is it better to just tell them or is it better to scramble and hope Amazon two-day delivery can make it? I don't know. I wouldn't want someone on a fixed income to expend even MORE money on me, but I confess I would also be disappointed inside at a gift lost in the mail)

I'm just...I think I'm over tired and also had to deal with too many difficult human interactions (And I am being plagued with "Unknown Caller" calls from 208-918-8360, which is apparently a known robocaller though no one who has picked up has been able to determine just what it is, so maybe it's a malfunctioning robocaller? I got a call at 9:25 last night which made me angry, because I thought even the scammy robocallers abided by the "no calls between 9 pm and 8 am" thing)

I dunno. I have been trying hard to be very conscious of the "wanting to eat my feelings" thing because that's something I sometimes do (and I also have candy in the house right now, because I bought some Swedish Fish and also some of those "Smashmallow" marshmallows when I was out shopping).

And I also have to be careful not to "buy my feelings" because I'm prone to do that too - I admit I browsed Amazon for a bit after having to make that concerning phone call this afternoon but I didn't order anything. So right now, I'm sitting here hugging a toy I've had for a couple years, my Pigasus, and trying to feel better:

(Yes, Pigasus is what you guessed - a stuffed pig with tiny little wings. Another creation by Aurora, the company that made - at least for a while, I don't know if they still do - excellent plush versions of the Ponies. Pigasus even has an appliqued heart in the same location where ponies have their cutie marks)

But yeah. Part of it is a big family holiday coming up and my being far from family and also not being someone who has a family of her own, and so again I wonder just where I DO fit in. Or maybe I don't, I don't know. Part of it is finding out a few other things left undone that I'm now expected to do (the latest: review a potential new textbook for the gen-ed course, and of course if it's adopted, that means totally changing the slides I use with my lectures to sub in the new book's diagrams and charts, and that's always a giant pain because of how the textbook companies do.)

I intended to come home today and work on quilts but my day got eaten up with interpersonal stuff and then I had to work out and practice piano when I finally did get home.

And Thursday afternoon

Between yesterday evening and today, I have met (and perhaps exceeded) my quota of saying "no" to people for the month.

(The latest: someone who missed an exam, was absolutely incommunicado during that last week of classes, took the final, and then called up - AFTER I had posted grades - left a message asking to take the missed exam. I have a stated syllabus policy of "I need to know the day of the exam at the latest if you need a make-up" and yes, I did allow for some make-up exams BUT EVERY SINGLE PERSON ASKED BEFORE HAND AND HAD A REASON.

yes, this person was out sick but they could have called or have asked someone to call on their behalf. Or e-mailed or texted, seeing as it came from a cell phone. Whatever)

I called them back. I hate doing that because about 80% of the time when I tell someone "no" these days, I get a protest:

1. "It's not fair" (Oh honey. Life isn't fair. If life were fair I'd have a salary that kept pace with inflation)

2. "But you let this other person...." (Yes, but - they came to me in office hours and said "I have this really hairy exam in another class that's worth like 40% of my grade and it's on the same day as yours, is there any way I can take yours during your office hours the next day)

3. "You've ruined my life" (No, I did not cause you to violate the stated rules in the syllabus. I didn't skip or plagiarize or any of the other things that you did that lowered your grade)

4. "I'll go over your head on this" (That one gives me pause, I admit, after having had that student with their own pocket-administrator back in 2012, so I tend to cc my chair in on things that might be kind of sticky)

5. Tears (I am a reflexive crier so this one is bad)

6. Anger (I don't like anger; anger scares me. Confession: I am more likely to cave if someone is screaming at me. Don't tell my students that.)

7. Bargaining. "I'll do this if you..." (It makes me tired. Sometimes, maybe 1 time out of 10 someone tries this, they have a valid reason, but mostly not)

So anyway. I called up. Got voice mail. Left a message basically saying "No. It's in the syllabus why. I've already submitted grades. You didn't give me any advance warning and it is now too late."

The horrible thing is I'm expecting a call back with maybe bargaining. Yes, the guy this morning accepted when I said "No" but I've been trained by past interactions to treat that as the rare outcome.

But yeah. I am absolutely worn out. In retrospect, I probably should have saved the Whitesboro trip for FRIDAY, because I really need something restorative now - again, yes, this soon. It doesn't help that it's suddenly eleven billion degrees outside and they've turned the AC to a hotter temperature in the faculty side of the building, because hey, faculty can cope just fine with it being 85 in their offices.

Thursday morning mood

Pretty much sums it up.

I'm still cranky over the bad interactions of last night, was annoyed by a tv ad that essentially was telling parents "buy this product so your children can learn just how SPECIAL they are"

(I was taught, growing up, that I was NOT special; that considering others' feelings was important, to let other people go first in the buffet line, etc., etc. and so as a result, when, as an adult, I run up against someone who believes they are special I always lose out, because I think people think like I do and I assume if someone pushes ahead of me in line, they have a better reason than they just think they're entitled to....)

I have to go in and enter grades. I haven't checked my e-mail (from work) since Tuesday and I'm kind of dreading the "can I have extra credit" requests (I get these every semester and even though I have a "don't ask" clause in the syllabus, people STILL ask).

And I'm tired. It took me a long time to fall asleep last night what with being peopled-out and mildly upset. If I didn't feel I had to get something done at work today I'd just lock myself in my sewing room and work on quilts but I can't do that.

Edited to add: I checked my work e-mail from home.

I shouldn't have done that :(

Edited to add:

Grades have been submitted. E-mails three have been dealt with:

1. Student who missed three exams, who had scheduled make ups for two of them but skipped those, wanted to 'still' make them up if possible (there is a time limit given in the syllabus, and they were past it). I said no, and bcc'd my chair just in case of repercussions. (The student later e-mailed me back, fundamentally conveying this in their e-mail:

So at least I know they won't grieve the grade (most likely). My chair did say she liked being cc'd on things like that just so she KNEW in case.

2. Student with a grade at x9.8 wanting the next higher grade. The "ask" was kind of strange ("I would like the opportunity to earn the higher grade") but my general policy in those cases is that unless someone's a flaming jerk in class (to me and/or to the other students), I do the bump-up. Later conversation with a colleague proved my instincts correct: he said "This is a promising student and we want to keep them"

3. A student who (for medical reasons) had to make up exams in my class, which I know they did, and I know they graded, and I thought I had entered the grades BUT I HAD NOT and I could not find the exams (which I don't think I handed back) in my office - I spent about the first 40 minutes of my being here looking for them and now I wonder if maybe I sent them to recycling inadvertently. Not knowing what to do, I extended the offer of averaging their grades on the other three exams in the class and subbing that in. They were agreeable to that, it earned them the grade they would most likely have earned (based on all their other performance in the class) but it's a little bit spooky that I didn't get the grades entered (though it's also entirely possible that Blackboard was back on its BS the day I entered them and it never recorded them though it initially accepted the numbers)

 So anyway. Grades are in which means my obligations until graduation are over.

I do need to find some motivation and cheerfulness and stuff. I pulled out the recent "examination copies" of ecology texts with the idea of reading up on some of the areas (like predator-prey relationships) I'm less familiar with to (a) see if there's been any new research/models/ideas recently or (b) if there's some better way to teach it. But it's just kind of hot and humid here and I'm tired and feeling a little burnt out and the AC isn't up as high in the building as I'd like....I'll probably work for an hour or an hour and a half (using pomodoros) and then go home for the afternoon.

Wednesday, May 09, 2018

It happened again.

So, about two weeks ago, this happened.

Late in the afternoon - shortly before going off to my meeting - my phone rang. And it was "P*rtfolio R3covery" again (though, I don't know, maybe I WANT them to be able to find me if they search).

I was prepared to explain again, and I did:

1. I bought this house from his mother NEARLY 20 YEARS AGO
2. He has not lived here in that time
3. He is dead, and such-and-such is the date.

And I told the guy: when someone called a while back and I told her this, she said they were removing this number from the database

(This wasn't even the phone number associated with her or with him - it is the number I got when I moved into the old apartment on Wilson here. So I am guessing they go by what phone number is associated with a given address, regardless of the name of the person or the actual number)

And he kind of hemmed and hawed. No apology, no "Yes, ma'am, we'll do that," no "Sorry it wasn't done earlier."

Then he said: "Uhhhh, you'll have to wait for me to talk to my manager."

I told him they were GHOULS and that I didn't have time to hang on the line while he got a manager. Then I hung up. And yes, I know the answer is to ignore the phone forever when that number comes up again but seriously? Not apologize, not say "Oh, I'll take care of that?"

I was kind of rude to him - rude and loud - and now, dammit, I feel really bad about that. Because my inner moralist is telling me "He was probably someone working for minimum wage and in danger of getting fired if he didn't stick to the script, and you didn't need to yell at him," and so now I feel even worse about it. I hate being rude to people even when many might say they deserve it; I feel like I should be better than that.

I don't know if it's possible to block a number but maybe next time they call I try to figure out how to. (But I think the numbers keep changing).

But yeah. Maybe I just eventually drop the land line and deal with the crummy, staticky cell service I get in the house (someone else I know complains that this neighborhood is a "dead zone" - when she's walking through here and talking on her phone, the call often drops.

Also, the meeting was somewhat contentious tonight (there is some miscommunication and also, I think, a few people who get insulted over things a little easily). I may have wound up on a committee I really don't want to serve on, and don't have time to serve on, because the person previously appointed got upset (over that or maybe something else) and resigned in a bit of a huff, and I kind of sighed and said, "If we can do the thing that needs to be figured out over the summer, I'll do it." I hate doing that and I should not but it's my peacemaker tendency: I take on tasks that someone else gets upset about because....I don't know, I guess it feels like pouring oil on troubled water.

(I don't know for sure because in the confusion someone else may have said "I'll do it in her place" after it was realized I had - voluntarily - joined a different committee earlier in the evening)

But yeah. I want to eat something now but I also realize that would be 100% "eating my feelings," something I am trying to avoid, because I don't feel hungry.

It makes me sad because the earlier part of the day was so positive, but most of the interactions I had after about 5 pm weren't.

(And I don't even know if one of the people involved realized they upset me, and will apologize. I tend to be very non-vocal about when someone's behavior upsets me so I rarely get apologized to. Someone who was VERY cued in to my body language would know; I took my glasses off - I only take my glasses off when I'm trying to block out what's around me (making my eyes go out of focus). But I don't think anyone noticed, or would think of it as anything more than "she's tired or has a headache."

I don't know. Part of me prides myself in being a non-drama, non-tantrum person, but another part of me sometimes wishes her feelings were listened to a little more....)

But ugh. Now I have a great big box full of bad feelings, and nowhere to shove it.

There and back again

It was a good day. (I cut it a little shorter than I might have, both to save money and because it's monthly Board meeting tonight, so I had to be back in good time)

First stop was at Quixotic Fibers, partly to spend the $20 gift certificate I got last trip there (they do a loyalty program):

May yarn

Thus, one of those skeins was very nearly free.

The middle one is their own "house yarn" - it's American raised wool and is dyed right there, and that pleases me a lot. (I will have to keep that in mind if I ever need a "unique" gift for a knitter in another part of the world)

The colorway is "Botanica" which could either be flowers of some sort, or I think the traditional-medicine shops (mostly herbal medicines) in some Hispanic communities are called botanicas.

The purple yarn - I just like that color, and it really is intense. It's from Urth yarns (it is their Uneek Fingering line). It just has a number (3003). (And I admit it: I prefer when colorways have a NAME).

The third one is Yarn Rehab's "Silk Traveler" in Malachite. This is a very fine fingering, it looks almost laceweight (and there's more yardage than many fingering weight yarns have). I intend to use it for a small shawl of some kind; the other two yarns are for socks.

I also bought these:

meeting socks

The shop also has the Blue Q line of things. I wanted these socks to wear under slacks to some of the meetings I have to go to because, well, of that thing worked into the sock up at its top.

(And these were FAR from the rudest socks they had! There was another one with the "secret message" worked in near the cuff that said "This Meeting is B***s***" but they spelled it out....though I admit "STOP TALKING" is the thing I'm more commonly screaming in my head when I'm at the sort of meeting where I would wear these, so they seemed appropriate)

I went to Kaleidoscope Quilts next. Found the backing I will need soon (it's the grey, it's a 108" wide backing so NO SEAMING). The other fabric is for sashing on a quilt that will have bright florals (and maybe a few butterfly fabrics) as its focus fabrics. (Another pattern from "Modern One-Block Quilts"). I had originally thought of a dark brown like soil, but this print that looks kind of like travertine tile appealed to me, so maybe it will be more like a rock garden or a very-well-ordered series of planters.

backing and sashing

I also bought a few pieces of just-cute fabrics (and another newsprint - this one in French - for the Vigenère cipher-inspired quilt I want to do some time). I don't know where I'll use the novelty fabrics for sure but I just like them:

novelty fabrics

Then I went and got lunch at Lovejoy's. I didn't get the quiche; the quiche of the day was Southwestern and while I was promised it "wasn't hot and spicy" it also contained bell pepper, which sometimes plays badly with my digestion (especially when my allergies are bad, like now), so I got the ham sandwich* instead - ham, Swiss cheese, a poppyseed spread, and on a croissant

(*I know, I know: sodium. But it seems the occasional saltier meal doesn't that adversely affect my blood pressure)

I even ate a few of the potato chips that came with the sandwich and that is huge for me - no, not because of the salt, but because of the crunchiness. I've been mostly off crunchy foods since the combination of cracking that second tooth (and having to have it crowned) and having a bad sinus thing that made chewing super loud, and it's almost like I developed a little phobia about it. I'm trying to slowly overcome it - one of the recent AAUW meetings, they had popcorn as a snack and I ate a little bit of it (carefully, kernel by kernel, though) and that seemed okay, and I ate a few chips today (just a few, though: I have never been fond of potato chips). I'm thinking now maybe I could add back in Goldfish crackers; they are not VERY crunchy. (I might ask my mom to buy some when I'm up there and then if I just can't manage them, they can eat them instead). I doubt I'll ever go back to eating corn-nuts and hard-roasted almonds and tortilla chips, but being able to be a LITTLE less careful is nice.

I went to all three of the "antique and stuff" shops in town. Found a tea towel at one of them:

tea towel

I have a bunch of these, mostly acquired in this way. Yes, I use them. (I doubt I'll try making clootie dumpling from that recipe, though).

I always look hard for vintage Ponies but never find any. Either they get bought up fast by the collector community or maybe the shops don't take them, thinking they have no value? My piano teacher asked me last week if I ever went to yard sales looking for them and I know people have found Ponies at places like that but....I don't really have time, and it gets tiresome going to sale after sale and not finding anything. I think I'd rather go through Etsy and pay what is fundamentally the "finder's fee" to the person who is selling them...

From there, I drove back to Sherman. Went to the natural-foods store and the Kroger. (I had contemplated going to JoAnn's and the Ulta, but by then I was getting tired and didn't want to and also wanted to get home at a decent hour).

And I forgot what a great luxury it was to be able to grocery-shop at a time when the stores are not busy, when there aren't the various "minions" hired to do the "gather things for people coming to pick up" running down the aisles with their giant carts, when I had time to consider and to look around to see if they maybe DID have golden syrup, just not where I would expect it (they didn't). But I was able to shop without having to dodge too many people and that was nice. (Plans this summer for "big shopping" will be to do it on a non-Friday weekday as much as possible...)

I also wound up buying myself one last little treat of the day at the Kroger's: 

Yes, it's a Beanie Baby. It's "Destiny" the whale-shark from "Finding Dory." (No, I have not seen the movie, but I think the character is cute, and I kind of like whale sharks). I still have "Darwin," the great big crocheted one I made back in 2016 - this one is a lot smaller.

Tuesday, May 08, 2018

Anticipating day out

* I do still need to do 20 more minutes of piano practice but the (not quite end of the season, as it turns out) NCIS led to a lot of feelings...though not as many bad ones as I'd feared (I'm not going to spoil it any further). But yeah, way to jerk the fans around, and a lot of shows do that, and it annoys me. It's almost like an Ur-version of clickbait, when you think of it: you have to watch having seen the teaser.

They did go to a lot of trouble, I will say, to construct an 'apartment' scene for Abby just to show it for only a few shots in this one episode...

* I did get a lot of necessary things wrapped up today: calculated grades for the two classes that I could, entered the lab grades for the gen-ed class, typed up and sent off the minutes for the Wesley Center Board (with the added complication that first I just sent them to the minister in charge, because he had to extend an offer to extend the interim person's contract, and I didn't want her to see our discussion of potential salary and hours until he had....so after he had and after she said yes, then I sent them around to everyone. I'm glad I was smart enough to think of that....I think I make a pretty good recording secretary, for whatever that is worth. Now I just need to find a wealthy and not too annoying person who wants someone to deal with their correspondence, and I'm set for life*

(*Or I might wind up suspected of murder; often in those Golden Era mystery novels it was the "confidential secretary" - in those novels, usually, but not exclusively, a man working for another man)

And I got the scholarship letters out. I had e-mailed the students in question first and told them official letters would be coming so I figured I better do it sooner rather than later.

* Heh. Maybe Raven Inkwell is the pony I'd be in the Ponyverse, seeing as she is a sort of confidential secretary, first to Ponyville's mayor, and then (at least in one of the comics) to Celestia herself.

(And double heh: my surname supposedly shares a linguistic link to the Latin name for raven; the story goes that somewhere back in the history, someone was either very dark of hair and was named after the raven for that, or, was very very fair, and got the name ironically)

* I did run to the bank and withdrew some cash, so I can buy yarn and fabric tomorrow (and I also found my $20 gift certificate from the yarn shop and put it on top of my purse so I would not forget it).

And I filled up with gas. But that took a while - the first place I went (the Love's a couple blocks from me) had plastic baggies over EVERY gas nozzle (but not the diesel ones). I drove round and wound up going back to, I think it was, a Quik Trip near my credit union. And there, several of the nozzles (but not all of them) had baggies on them too.

And yeah, I admit, I got a creepy vibe off that - were all the stations running low on gas and why? (I didn't look at the one near the now-Pruett's: I still have bad feelings about them even though they've likely changed hands - they were the place that, right after Sept. 11, 2001, jacked the gas up to something like $6 a gallon and left it there for a few days, and that seemed like pure gougery, and I swore I'd never buy gas there again).

I'm wondering now if it was everyone leaving town after exams, and they just ran low before a gas delivery. (As far as I know, we don't do the "summer blend" thing, which I know has led to some shortages in places like Illinois during the changeover).

So I don't know. I admit, I wondered, "Should I even BE driving to Whitesboro tomorrow?" but I've heard no news of a looming gas shortage so I'm going to assume it was a momentary blip in the supply chain, possibly made worse by a large volume of students leaving town.

* I also forced myself to do the dvd workout (despite not really having felt up to it earlier - my allergies were REALLY bad this morning, I don't know why). I feel better after having done it. That's usually the case.

* I got the first leg of Heartthrob done. I'm hoping I can maybe take part of the day off both Thursday and Friday and do more on her or one of my many other ongoing projects. 

* No plans on what I want to get in Whitesboro other than maybe a big piece of some kind of good "sashing" type fabric for one of the several quilts I have planned, and maybe a few fill in pink-and-green type prints for that same quilt. Or maybe a big piece of brown, if there's a pretty (maybe batik) brown to use as the "ground" in a quilt made with small squares of floral prints. I don't know.

As for yarn - probably more sockyarn; that's what the place specializes in.

* The best Duolingo sentence I've seen in ages. (German, "Animals 2") - "The turtles are eating pizza." (I wasn't quite a child of the 80s but I certainly remember them, so it made me smile)

(Die Schildkröten fressen Pizza)

And yes, there are different verbs for "eat like a person" (Essen) and "eat like an animal" (Fressen). I knew that even before learning German; the only German I ever heard from my (granted, several generations removed from having immigrated) German relatives was Essen, essen, nicht fressen which was told to children - fundamentally, "Eat like a person, not like an animal"

(I guess also in more-formal English, we speak of people eating and animals feeding, so maybe there's some small echo of that in our language)

(My dad once mentioned hearing something that was like Himmel, Kreutz, Donner und Blitzen and he said, "Then the kid got a smack upside the head" so I presume it was a disciplinary thing? It translates to "Heaven, the cross, thunder, and lightning" so I don't know, maybe it's like a mild curse?)

I'm surprised and pleased how much I'm picking up - today, giving my exam, I was looking at the tags on the emergency shower (the room was a lab room) and I could read some of the German instructions (the instructions for use and checking are in English, French, and German, which is interesting and makes me wonder where the markets for these things are). Also in English it says "This unit must be checked weekly" which made me giggle given the whole thing where the Museum of English Rural Life tweeted out a picture of a large ram with the caption "Absolute unit" on it and it became one of those Internet nine-days'-wonders....