Monday, December 10, 2018

Two good things

1. Dental check-up was easy. The dentist was free right at the start of it so he decided to check over my teeth (I had x-rays in June and they only do one set a year on adults) first, so I knew right off that nothing was wrong, there was nothing they had to "watch"

(Even though I have bad teeth, apparently, like my dad, I do tend to develop cavities slowly....)

I didn't even have all that much tartar but I don't know what I did differently this fall to prevent it - maybe I brushed a little longer at a time? I didn't change toothpaste or style of toothbrush or anything like that. Anyway, the tartar scraping is one of the worst parts so I was glad it was short.

2. ALLLLL the stitches are picked up on Augusta. I had to fudge a little to get the right amount but I think it will be okay. And the good news is the buttonholes are worked into the rib pattern so I won't have to measure - I can just work up to that row, then do the buttonholes, then keep working.

the cheese grits are in the oven (they're supposed to cook for an hour) and in a few minutes I should contemplate what I'm wearing. What I'm in right now - jeans and a heavy turtleneck (my office is cold these days) is not too festive; I might put on a long skirt and dig out one of my green or red vests or sweaters and wear that.

Tomorrow I give an exam but it's machine-graded, then I can come home and hopefully finish Augusta.

I joked on Twitter that if I do, that means the Yule Cat won't be allowed to eat me.

that was weird

 ETA: Barn Owl, if you want it, my leftover Camelino is yours. If I get the bands done on Augusta this week I'll package it up and send it out when I arrange to have my mail held at the end of this week - always nice to be able to "batch" trips. (I assume your mailing address for your card is the best address?). I am assuming it will either be eight or nine balls, depending on how much the bands take - I will save back the partial ball in case I ever need to do repairs, but I don't need all those full balls and would like to see them go to good use.

Some of you, if you checked earlier, may have seen what I described as a "time-embargoed post." I wrote that yesterday for Tuesday the 18th and I guess I clicked on the wrong day to save it to.

Anyway, I moved it to the right place. (No, I am not on the road now! I have four exams to give this week and a graduation to attend!)

Cleaning my office today. I have five copier boxes full of old student work to be shredded. The deal is here, if we don't hand stuff back (or if students don't show to collect it, which is how I inherit a lot of random papers), we're supposed to hang on to it for a calendar year in case the student grieves their grade.

(I have never had a grade-grievance. I had one case of a "Will you let this WF revert to a W" for someone who literally never showed, so I had nothing to grade him on. I was kinda sorta "it was his responsibility to drop unless there were serious mitigating factors but eh, not the hill I'm gonna die on" and I think I actually said something similar in the e-mail to the admin who asked. I had someone *threaten* to grieve their grade, or rather, to bring up evidence of "other students cheating" as a sort of blackmail if I didn't raise his project grade from the low C it earned. I felt kind of sick about it but told the student "If you have evidence of cheating it is your obligation to come forward to me or my chair without expecting quid pro quo." This was a student with a stated goal of getting into and going to law school (!) and I ALMOST said, "This is Ethics 101, this is something you will need to know as a baby lawyer" but I decided that was going too far.

I worried about it for weeks. Nothing came of it. Then, a semester later? Another colleague of mine reported the same exact scam (because a scam was what it was, apparently) happened in her class.

I kinda hope that guy never got into law school.)

Am in a better mood today than I was Friday and Saturday, despite being a little nervous about the dental appointment this afternoon. (A big part of it is I just don't like stuff stuck in my mouth, I don't like the noises, and no, I can't take an anti-anxiety pill or similar 'cos then I'd need a driver and finding a driver would be almost more stressful to me than just white-knuckling the appointment was).

I've made my peace with the new stats class. I asked who the one student signed up for it was, turns out it's someone I know, I think they will be amenable to my idea of "give a basic introduction to the method but concentrate on papers that use it as case studies" instead of me trying to lecture for one student, that seems kind of silly. I'm going to do it seminar style and while I'll do some explaining, a lot of it will be using the stats package (provided I can learn the advanced techniques on it) and then case studies from published work. (I need to read more papers anyway. I *think* the person in question is in conservation so her interests should somewhat overlap with mine and it won't be like I'm trying to learn genetic terminology along with reviewing some stats techniques I haven't used in 20 years....

Also, I can ask her what she already knows about stats and if she needs review, we can start out with the basics like 2-sample t tests.

I found the advanced biostats book (mercifully, it's a trade-paperback) and I can take it with me over break and re-read it, hopefully. (I may need to set myself a goal of "work on this for one hour a day except maybe on Christmas Eve and Christmas"). (Too bad I can't read while getting my walks in.)

And heck, it can only look good on my performance evaluation for next year to have "Agreed to take on a class on short notice to serve a grad student." Even if I'm not perfect at it. I'll have to remember that, because I tend to get on myself for not being perfect at things.

Tonight, after the dentist, is the CWF party. It's really just a big dinner, there aren't any gifts or really much of a meeting. If I get out of the dentist early enough I'm going to try to pick up the stitches for Augusta's bands. (I also need to make a batch of cheese-grits casserole, and possibly some kind of simple snacking cake or bar cookies to take over to my department - or maybe I do those tomorrow afternoon, when I have a big open time, because the exam I give tomorrow is (saints be praised) machine-graded.

I also want to make time one of these days to clean up my Sunshine Family dolls a little (and fix their hair a little) so I can put them on display and take some photos.

Sunday, December 09, 2018

small-town Christmas

Tonight was the Christmas party at church. The bell-choir played (I made a couple mistakes in my part, but not bad ones - not ringing when I should have rung, but it was all points where I was part of a chord, so it probably was not missed.

Then the kids did their program. It was a re-enactment of the manger scene. The women who run the kids' program organized it and they got someone from the theater department to narrate, so there were very few lines the kids had to remember (and also very few to say if they were shy).

It was cute, and there are few things that make you happier to be living in a small town than seeing a church pageant put on by the kids. The little Mary and Joseph were especially cute: they held hands the whole time, and she (even though she couldn't have been much more than six) very clearly said "But Joseph, the baby is coming soon" when they were getting turned away from the inn.

And given the unequal gender balance in the group, the three Wise Men were actually all girls, but it worked. (One of the Wise, um, Men also played the announcing angel - we need more kids)

We sang first-lines of carols at points in the program. It was really quite nicely done even though I understand it was put together on short notice. And even though I'm not a "kid person," there really is something sweet and nice about the kids we have at church - I kind of know most of them, and know two of them quite well from Bell Choir.

And, I don't know. There's something that just feels so good and so right going to church one evening close to Christmas and seeing the kids put on the pageant. It's something that's gone on for probably over a hundred years here in the US, and maybe even longer in some locations. And I just like things that are....continuous and traditional and things that I would have recognized and participated in as a kid (Though I don't remember doing it as a v. small kid, but I was extremely shy- but when I was in my early 20s, I was a fill-in Mary at the "Las Posadas" the church I belonged to did. [And odd to think: at that point I was older than the historical Mary probably would have been])

I don't know. I can't articulate it well but there's just something that feels right and good about it. That in a world where there's so much ugliness, getting to see a little girl and a little boy hold hands as they play Mary and Joseph, and an older girl with a good clear voice be the angel, and the innkeeper look genuinely chagrined when she had to tell them there were no rooms...and in a world where so much has changed, that this is a thing that still happens, that kids still do this, and they seem happy and proud to have those parts.

We didn't really have a *service,* per se, but this was the one "liturgy" type thing we did. And that reading just caught me (and yes, I nearly cried YET AGAIN). But you know? It's something that I do feel hard, and in a way it's comforting to me to read that I don't necessarily have to do BIG things to try to make the world a better place - that doing my "best" and also trying to see the love in others' hearts, I am in my way serving.

(Honestly, among the things-I-want-for-Christmas-that-aren't-things, near the top of the list would be "the sense that what I'm doing is enough and is good enough.")

I dunno. I go back and forth between "what I am doing is fine; I am not an outwardly terrible person and the fact that I worry about 'am I doing enough to make others' lives better?' shows that I'm not terrible" and "but there is so much more I could - and therefore should - be doing"

Anyway. After that, there was a short prayer (including a blessing of the food, and I wonder if people have gotten on the minister about that; he usually doesn't do that when we have an after-church potluck and either we wind up standing around until he gets down there or I, as Head Elder, get deputized to ask the blessing). And then we ate - mostly appetizer type things, sadly no fruit or vegetables (I was expecting that and ate mine for lunch). Cake for "Jesus' birthday" and yes I took a piece even though most adults didn't. (We really get it for the kids but it was a good-sized cake and not all the kids stayed).  There was cake leftover at the end of the night so it's not I snatched a piece out of anyone's mouth, though.

There was supposed to be a Santa but either the person I thought was going to do it was unexpectedly taken ill (he left early) or there was some missed communication, but I don't think the kids missed him too much...

Attitude is everything

Yeah, I guess.

Friday didn't go all that well. I was burnt out on grading (and yet, I did all the additional grading I had), I was tired, I felt pulled too many directions by requests ("Can I still hand this in?" "Can I take the final exam a couple days early?" "Can you help me with this?") and I was also feeling a little...irritated, I guess, when a colleague who had just published a book remarked, "You know, it doesn't really matter if this paper we co-authored and submitted [and which seemed to have been in review a long time] doesn't get published, as I used a snippet of the information in my book" and I was like "and how does that help me for post-tenure review?" (and yes: said colleague is retiring in something like four years, and I have ten at a minimum to go, which means they have maybe one more round of PTR and I will have three)

And I also just felt very sad about the whole book thing. Oh, I know I don't have a book in me but it makes me sad that so little of what I do seems to have any lasting quality - I have papers but I really don't know that many people read them, and all my teaching feels like it evaporates into the air and is gone.

And I also found out the new class I agreed to take on, thinking it would start in the fall? Starts in the spring.

So yeah. I was really grumpy and cranky and sad.

Saturday, I stayed home. Started out fuming because it was the ONE Saturday I could have blithely gone off and gone antiquing for a long time, and OF COURSE the weather is lovely when I'm in class and terrible when I'm free because OF COURSE. And my house smelled bad (I think something died up under the house; seems to happen periodically. There are raccoons and opossums in the neighborhood and no excluder I've ever been able to bash up for the entrance to the crawl space works for long, partly because that's where the hoses and things that connect up to the air conditioning unit go. (The critters pull whatever I try to come up with off, and go under the house anyway).

So, in a rage, I started cleaning, on the grounds that if something bad happened over break and a person had to go in my house, at least they'd not see what a horrific housekeeper I usually am. (I dunno. I suppose I could be all scheduled about it and force myself to do things like sweep the floors daily, but....when you're as busy as I am that kind of thing means some days you get zero time to do what you want)

That helped a little.

(I was also cranky because the wal-mart failed yet again: they no longer carry non-instant grits, and I needed grits for the cheese grits I want to make for tomorrow evening's potluck. "Enjoy your new all-stoner customer base" I snapped on Twitter, because they have snack foods out the wazoo now and much less of what I call "the raw materials of food" - from now on if I want King Arthur flour, for example, I'll have to remember to replenish my supply when in Sherman, or mail order and pay the hefty shipping fee. The wal-mart here now carries their own brand of flour and maybe one other, and I don't think they even have whole-grain ones any more)

I also have a dental check up tomorrow and I'm trying not to think about it. I have no tooth pain so surely there's nothing emergency-level wrong, and even if I do need a filling replaced (I think I still have one or two that haven't been crowned) or need a new filling, it can wait until January.

But yeah. I was in a slightly better mood after cleaning the house, just because a clean house is nicer. And I made the meatballs for tonight. (Sometimes I think I get cranky when I have too many things queued up in my mind that I HAVE TO do).

I also got to thinking, on the new class: I will be teaching it for, it looks like, one person. As an arranged class. So maybe instead of trying to do very much like lecturing instead I give readings - maybe even find papers using the stats tests the person needs to learn about and we analyze the papers and discuss them for the class meetings? And also, during slack times in the coming week I can re-read the chapters in my advanced stats book from years past about MANOVA (which I have used and will just have to re-learn) and ANCOVA (which I don't think I ever used). But yeah, I hope someday soon to be done with having semi-surprise new preps.

Church today was nice. They got the tree fixed so it was lit up. Someone joined (I think it's someone who used to live here years ago and moved back) which is rare enough these days that it merits mention.

There were two moments of "what random thing will nearly make Erica cry because it's Advent" at church today.

First, when we sang "O Little Town of Bethlehem," the last bit of the third verse:

"But in this world of sin
Where meek souls will receive him still
The dear Christ enters in"

And yeah, I don't know why the phrase "this world of sin" hit me so hard (that was what did it), but it did.

The second was the choir piece. It was, oddly enough, a mash-up of "Lo How a Rose E'er Blooming" and the old Bette Midler song "The Rose." (And no, I doubt the author of the lyrics - not Midler - intended it to refer to Christ, though I suppose one could take some of them as being that).

But the lines:
"It's the heart afraid of breaking, that never learns to dance
It's the dream afraid of waking, that never takes the chance
It's the one who won't be taking, who cannot seem to give
And the soul afraid of dying, that never learns to live"
Yeah, no. I feel called out now. One of the reasons I am still single is the whole fear-of-heartbreak and fear-of-rejection thing. And yeah yeah, I know all too well (because people have TOLD me) I'm gonna look back on my life and regret not having tried to be more "social," but, I don't know.
(The other thing is, to my mind, that's another case of "privilegeing" romantic love over all others. I don't think I "cannot seem to give," at least not in terms of what I do for other people. It's just, I don't have a "special somepony" and....I don't know. But I will say it jarred slightly and when I was already reflecting on "this world of sin" it didn't totally help)
But whatever.

The Christmas party is tonight. I was able to get grits at the Pruett's and I also bought a box of "Annies" brand "cheese pizza bites" to also heat up for the thing. I had WANTED to get mini quiches but Pruett's doesn't sell them and I wasn't driving out to the wal-mart again (And who knows, maybe they don't sell THOSE any more either). And also these are vegetarian, so if nothing else, that's something our minister can eat.

The best thing? Apparently no pastor-parish committee this month. (This would be the day for it and I held my breath when the person who runs it came in, expecting him to come up to me or have it generally announced it would happen but no). Hopefully that means board meeting will be quiet and the biggest thing we'll have to do is figure out Christmas bonuses.

Got my hair washed and I'm slowly sewing up the Augusta cardigan. Not sure if I'll get the bands done today but maybe I can at least pick up the stitches for them. I have Tuesday evening pretty much off (that day's exam is a machine-graded one) so maybe I can get it finished then.

I figured out my where-to-donate-to: gonna be the local Ministerial Alliance on the grounds that (a) it's local so it helps locally, (b) I know several of the members (the minister at the Methodist church, the Episcopalian rector, the minister at my church, and (c) I trust the money will be used properly - to help people in need. Because I don't think ANY of the ministers get any money for their work with it, so no overhead costs.

Still not sure on the "indulgent thing for me" but that might wait until January at this point.

But yeah. Hopefully I can stay in a better mood for the rest of the week.

Edited to add: Ugly Christmas Sweaters are encouraged at the party, and while I don't have one, I have a Slightly-Overdone Christmas Vest (patchworked from Christmas fabrics, and then with all kinds of tat sewn onto it):

Also - no button bands yet (I will have to do those later, no time right now, I have to leave shortly) but I finished sewing up Augusta):

The sleeves are a hair too long (they often are; I have proportionally-short arms and tend to forget to scale down accordingly) but the good news is the body isn't too large (or too small) and I should be able to comfortably and flatteringly button it when I get the button-bands worked.

(I'm not even sure I swatched for this; I may have just knit part of the back and swatched-without-blocking to be sure I was CLOSE).

Also, once I get this done, I will probably have 800 to 900 yards of Camelino in this sort of caramel color leftover (I waaaaaaay overbought). Even keeping back part of a ball for future repairs, that's a lot. I might put it up as a "for swap" thing on Ravelry (but after Christmas!) or if one of you, my readers, would want it, I'd be willing to pass it on: I have enough other yarn I'd be unlikely to want to make something else of it. (It is handwash, so perhaps not ideal for charity knitting, but....)

Saturday, December 08, 2018

A tiny epiphany

Headed out (again, after an early wal-mart run before the PO was open) to the post office to mail my international cards.

And as I got in the car, I realized: hey, the one I wrote out this morning, I didn't put stickers on it. (One of my "things," at least for peer-friends, is to put random stickers - cute animals, or My Little Ponies, or Disney characters - on cards). And I almost went back in the house, opened it up (which would have ruined the envelope and required me finding another one that fit the card) to put stickers on it. Because I didn't want to "disappoint" the person.

And then I wondered: is the reason I'm such a people-pleaser and that I worry so much about "not disappointing" other people (to the point where I sometimes go to ridiculous extremes) because I tend to feel even the minor disappointments in my life so acutely some times? I mean, for example: when someone in my family that I send a birthday present to, doesn't even send me a card recognizing my birthday, I'm disappointed. I don't SAY anything because sometimes that seems petty and churlish and I don't know what challenges they might be facing in their life that could have prevented them from doing it. But I am still disappointed.

I have frequently opined that the worst thing about adulthood for me is the level of disappointment that it seems "grown ups" are expected to just simply swallow and not say anything: plans we've made being upset, something we wanted becoming unavailable when we have the money for it, people not living up to our standards, lack of reciprocity in relationships, etc., etc.

I don't know. Maybe the fact that I do feel with a certain level of pain some of the petty disappointments of life is a signal that I'm not really grown up, I don't know.

But ultimately I did decide that getting the cards out without stickers was preferable to my going back in the house, opening the card, realizing I had no envelope that would work, and then waiting more days to get it off in the mail until I could FIND I just went and sent it off.

I also spotted, on the way to the post office, a brand new shop that has opened up: it advertises "coffee and bubble tea" and I admit I went "what?!?" when I drove by because a place to get bubble tea is one of the things that's been nonexistent here.

No, I didn't stop, it wasn't convenient to at that time (and the weather has gotten really cold and cruddy and I would not be surprised if we got a bit of ice mixed in with the rain we're having, so I just wanted to get home on the return trip). I will admit I thought bitterly, "If you don't stop now, you'll probably not get there before it closes down" because businesses like that have a way of not-surviving in my town.

(We have something like eight or ten medical-marijuana or CBD oil stores that have opened in the past few months. I am expecting a very big sort to come soon for them; I don't think we're big enough to support that many. Especially not when we have only two grocery stores and a wal-mart, and no bookstore, and-not-lots-of-other-things. But people think it's a fast way to make money, maybe, or they're so committed to the idea of full legalization that they just want to jump in, I don't know. I admit I find it a little annoying when so many of the businesses in town (there are still a lot of vape shops, too) are places I wouldn't use, and yet, lots of things I WOULD shop at are nonexistent here and require a long drive)

But yeah; I can tell that the rather numerous disappointments in the past 3 years have soured me a little and I don't quite know how to sweeten up. I try to look for things that delight me but that doesn't always work...

(I'm still kind of crabby after the various disappointments of yesterday, and too much grading, and now apparently a mouse has gone and died in the wall somewhere and my whole house stinks but it's too cold and wet for me to go out anywhere, so I'm just stuck with it, and Lysol doesn't help and scented candles just seem to make it worse.)

Friday, December 07, 2018

I found 'em

So, Sunday night (provided the weather isn't bad, though it looks now like it will be a lot better than what was predicted earlier this week), it's "Family Christmas" (also known as Jesus' Birthday Party) at church. I am doing Round II of the turkey meatballs (a fresh batch; the few that are left from last night sat out for more than 2 hours and so I don't think I'll keep them).

The bell choir is playing. The director kept suggesting we "dress festive" (which was partly why I was looking for an "ugly Christmas sweater" or a sweatshirt made to look like such a couple weeks back - didn't find one though). I do have my Hello Kitty shirt but if it's cold it will be too cold to wear, and also it is a wee bit tight on me and...yeah, sometimes I get a little self-conscious in it (and wearing a sweater over it isn't so great with having to have arm-movement).

But then I remembered I had bout a pair of reindeer antlers on a headband years ago and hadn't worn them in forever, and I thought, "If I can find them, I could wear those" (I also have a Christmas patchwork vest I could wear over a turtleneck)

I dug around a bit in my bedroom (and maybe my evening task for today is to clean that room and put stuff away, and also my floors need to be swept again). But I found them:

And they're biologically correct: I've read that in northern hemisphere winter, only the female reindeer keep their antlers. (And yes, they have 'em in the first place, apparently. And yeah, some wags have suggested that means Santa's reindeer - including Rudolph - are all girls. Though also castrated male reindeer keep their antlers in the winter (oh no, Rudolph))

I also found an accounting error I made in my favor: back in mid-November when we got the "pay bump to make up for the COLAs you missed in past years and to reimburse for some of the dungshow of 2016," there were actually TWO - I got the bigger one recorded but overlooked the smaller one (like, I didn't even see it in the list, because it was two separate "paycheck advices" on the same day. (And at the time, I thought, Huh, my pay bump is smaller than I was thinking, but I just assumed, okay, they are right and I was wrong).

(And yeah, I think this shows the generally-good ethics of our current uni president: when our finances got a good bit better, instead of hiring another admin or prettying up some part of campus or pouring it into Athletics, he said, "I know many of the faculty suffered through the reverses of 2016 and stayed the course; let's reward them for their loyalty")

Well, I rectified my checkbook today (I am a dinosaur who doesn't do online banking). And I saw a THIRD deposit entry there (other than regular pay and the pay bump I knew about). So I went back and checked the website - yup, turns out I am richer by about $1000 than I thought.

(Yes, I recognize the level of privilege here; I have a sufficient cushion in my checking account to cover most things without approaching overdraft, and I have savings for real emergencies).

So, I don't know. My initial thought was, what do I buy for myself with this? With another thought right on its heels: no, better to put it into savings or take out a CD so you have that money in the future when you might really need it. And yet another thought: No, make a larger donation somewhere, this is not money you were counting on and you don't need it.

Probably the best answer is to do a smaller version of each: make a donation somewhere (I will have to think where would be best - maybe the local Ministerial Alliance, which provides emergency aid to cover heating bills for people in need, or they provide traveler's aid to people who get stranded. They do good work and seem to use the vast majority of what comes in to actually help people). And put some in savings. And, I don't know what it is I might especially want to purchase for myself, but maybe I hold that in reserve in case I either find something up at my parents' (and pay for it with credit card) or consider getting something in January after the holidays are over.

Today I learned...

I saw a reference made to "hopepunk," and I had to look it up. (I am not down on the various names of different genres of things*)

In the simplest form, it's the opposite of grimdark.

So. As I said on Twitter: "If hopepunk is the opposite of grimdark, that's my thing." I've said before I'm a giant sucker for redemption stories, and I love things where there's a happy reunion at the end, or the bad thing is overcome, or the unpleasant person changes.

Here's a bit more on it, more referencing movies. I'm more of a reader than a watcher-of-movies (have never seen LOTR all the way through...but then again, I've never read the trilogy all the way through, so).

I suspect "The Good Place" qualifies as hopepunk. (And I need to watch the second season. Have the dvds, don't have time right now). I suspect anything I can watch or read where I go, "Wow, I feel better after experiencing that" maybe qualifies as hopepunk.

I like the idea of a world that is better than our own, or perhaps that our world is flawed but worth working to save.

(*Heh. I think now of the bit from "The Amazing World of Gumball," the Sluzzletag episode:

"Rocky: And what kind of music do you play on Sluzzle Tag? 
Gumball: Grindcore. 
Banana Joe: What's grindcore? 
Rocky: Grindcore goes a bit like this. [Gruff voice] Raah! Raah rah-rah raah! Rah-rah-rah-rah-rah-rah! It's important not to mix it up with black metal, which is more like... Raaaaaaah! Another common mistake is to confuse it with Viking metal, which sounds more like banging a trash can with an axe.")

And here's a list, mostly books in the sci-fi/fantasy genres (which I don't tend to read a lot of) that have been classified as hopepunk. (And that webpage writer suggests that it also consists of bad people choosing to do good things, or ordinary people striving to overcome what's bad in the world. (So maybe I'm misinterpreting it a little, in my sense of wanting to believe people have a good core that comes out in hard times. Or maybe that's the "ordinary people striving to overcome the bad")

And here's a longer article about it, where the writer (writing mainly, I guess, about working through mental illness using their blog) relates it to bigger things.

And yeah, the whole "Jesus and Buddha and Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr." quotation, not only does it sound a bit like Madeline L'Engle (who wrote a lot of what probably could be called hopepunk) but also suggests it's NOT just "ordinary" or even "bad" people. Yes, Gandhi and King had their imperfections (And I don't know much about the Buddha), but they TRIED.

And yeah. Maybe I'm too hard on myself because (a) I can't do much even though I try to do what I can and (b) I'm far from perfect as a person: I'm acquisitive, and can be petty, and can get into one of those "no one loves me so I might as well go eat worms" cycles which I know is unfair to my friends who DO love me but maybe don't do as much propping-up of me as I feel like I need - not through any fault of their own, I AM pretty needy, and all my friends have complicated lives with kids or aging parents or their own health issues or or or....

But I like the idea of "Yeah, there's bad stuff in the world, but instead of either making it worse or just sitting down and giving up, maybe we resist the bad stuff in whatever way we can." Maybe for some people that means running for elected office to try to make things better. (And good luck and Godspeed to them; I don't think politics is terribly friendly to most idealists). For some people that might mean something like training your dog as a therapy dog and going to hospitals or nursing homes to try to make people's lives better. For some people that might mean working to help ease food insecurity in their community. Maybe for some people, it's trying to be kind and helpful. Maybe that's enough? I hope that's enough, because a lot of days that's all I can manage.

(I think also one of the insidious things that does work against hope in our society right now is the idea that if you're not doing big giant things, if you're not, I don't know, chaining yourself to the front gates of some factory doing Bad Things or marching on Washington or all those things....that you're not doing Enough and you might as well not do anything. It's kind of like the parable of the Rich Young Man, at least in some interpretations - where Jesus tells him fundamentally to give up everything that makes life worth living, and then maybe he'll earn his way into Heaven, and of course, one of the Christian interpretations of this is that none of us is really good enough on our own, even if we DO sell everything we have and give all the money to the poor. (And I would argue: that means then we join the poor, as well, and I'm not sure plunging oneself into abject poverty solves much)

But also maybe the idea of holding on and telling yourself "things will get better" or "there are good things going on in the world" is part of this.

And it is still Hope week of Advent (until Sunday, and then the next week is...Love, I think? Or maybe Peace. I know the third week is Joy....). A couple years ago I reflected on that, riffing on a theologian's quote about hope being "ridiculous." And I suppose it is if you look at the world coldly and cynically: there's a lot of bad stuff going on, people have always treated one another badly (And despite how bad it looks now? There were times in the past when people were *worse* to one another).

I also think of something the minister mentioned last week: that Advent, at least taken seriously, is counter-cultural. (Heck, I think there's perhaps a lot about faith that, if you take it seriously - at least, my particular faith, and how I interpret what we are guided to do - that is kind of counter-cultural. And yes, I do believe if Jesus had walked the earth in the 1980s he would have sat at the bedsides of AIDS patients, no matter what some other Christians might have said....and that where ever people are rejected or marginalized, He'd be there, eating with them and talking with them. Even perhaps people like Jeff Bezos or Elon Musk....don't forget that tax collectors were hated in those days not just because they allied with Rome but because they also figured out ways to 'skim off the top,' taking advantage of the other citizens. Granted, at least one tax collector changed his ways, or so the Gospel recounts, but....I suspect that whatever category of people you despise, He'd be there, either expressing sympathy and care (like with the AIDS patients) or maybe doing a stern-but-gentle talking to (the businessman who isn't quite as fair with his employees as he might be).

And Anne Lamott once said: "You can be pretty sure you've created God in your own image if He hates all the same people you do."  I think that's kind of a damning sentiment because I have known many, many Christians all across the spectrum of politics/social attitudes who were CONVINCED that they had the Received Wisdom that God hated (fill in the blanks: gay people, rich people, certain politicians, Muslims, atheists, 'uppity' women...). And really, while I think God (if I may be very anthropomorphic here) feels DISMAY at the stuff humans get up to, I do not think "hate" - at least not of a person - is in God's make-up. I've even known ministers who deeply deplored certain politician's policies and attitudes but *still prayed for them* and that's kind of a breathtaking thing and yes, maybe they're praying that their hearts and minds will be changed but I think that's OK, that's suggesting the person isn't totally lost, isn't totally damned, and there's still hope for them.)

But yes. Hope is kind of ridiculous and some people would say you're deluding yourself to hope for things getting better. But living as if there's no hope is no way to live. And so maybe people like me need "hopepunk" stories, or those redemption narratives (where Clarence gets his wings, or the other reindeer decide to become Rudolph's friend after all, and Rudolph forgives then, or Buddy's biological dad winds up with a better nicer job than what he had before, and gets a best-selling kid's book out of it, or Bishop Henry Brogham and his wife wind up closer than ever, and he decides to stay with the small struggling church because it needs him....and and and). And a lot of Christmas stories ARE redemption narratives on some level, and that does seem good and right, because Christmas is - in the Christian worldview at least - the setting-in-motion of the biggest redemption ever.

And maybe that's part of why I love Christmas: there seems to be more open hope and less cynicism than other times of the year, and it helps wash away some of the cynicism and sadness that encrust my heart like barnacles.

Edited to add: a longer article, apparently from the person who can take credit for the term. It gets more political. (And I am really not that political, other than noting that simple solutions to big problems are often bad solutions). I dunno. I can't be that kind of hopepunk; I can only be the one who strives to be kind, sometimes perhaps a bit sacrificially kind.

I will say I'm feeling uncommonly worn right now: worn from all the grading, worn from all the requests on the part of students: "Can I take the final early?" "Can I take the final late?" "Can I hand this late work in?"

also worn because the advanced stats class I thought was for this fall? Is for this spring, and has one student in it. I won't get paid extra for the extra work. I told my chair with that limited of lead time it would be "bad," and if the student was okay with it being "bad," I would do it, but dear God I would rather not. Prepping a new class while teaching others is a very particular Hell and I thought it was one I was done with.

And now the last: someone scheduled to present in class today has e-mailed me their presentation and I don't know if that means they expect me to download it to a flashdrive for them and bring it to class (I did download it) or if they aren't going to be here and are hoping I'll give them credit anyway and I just don't even know any more and I want to sit down and cry for a very long time because I am just tired and not a lot of things have gone my way recently.

I feel like I have given and given and given some more, and yet, there are still hands stretched out to me wanting more. And when I ask for a little, it's not exactly forthcoming.

Thursday, December 06, 2018

Ugh, anxiety day

I think I've been doing too much grading; I can tell when I get my head in my work too much that I get sadder and more anxious. The problem is, the work has to be done, and I have too little time to take time off right now, so.

I pushed through and graded what Policy and Law papers I had early this morning; I'm still waiting on one (oversight - it was someone who was going to a conference as part of an internship she's doing and she just forgot to hand it in, I'll overlook that). I have a stack of exams on my desk that must be done this afternoon.

There's also a faculty meeting in a quarter-hour which is going to be to discuss a big change (which I can't really talk about here yet) in the department, but, it may mean that unless we hire just the right person I will wind up on the 7-week-online-course-from-the-outside-partnership treadmill, because one of the courses is one that's right in my area of expertise. And this displeases me deeply. Because the 7 week cycle means your Christmas break is shorter, you don't get summers off - and apparently the expectation is once you jump in, you can't leave or take a break without damn good reason.

The upside is I may be able to give up Policy and Law as there's someone who's probably more qualified to teach it who would be willing to. I don't know. I'd rather teach P and L and not teach online, but then again: I always wanted a pony and never got one, so why should my work life be any different?

Two racing-brain anxiety thoughts while proctoring the exam:

Might the really large bulldog-type clips be good for blanket forts? So you could more firmly attach the blankets to chairs - or run stout cords between chairs, or, heck, if you don't mind marring up the walls, put some cuphooks in to hold the cords at good blanket-fort height. (I was thinking about blanket forts last night when I was making my bed and putting the new fleece blanket on top, up by the shoulders - because my neck and shoulders get cold at night.

Could anthropomorphic sloths knit with their claws? I thought about that then realized they couldn't "turn" the work like you have to - but maybe there's a way to work backwards? And damme but I didn't almost try it there on the sweater I was knitting, until I realized I'd probably mess it up, but maybe something to experiment with with scrapyarn and a short pair of straight needles some times.

Unfortunately, that kind of stuff is the limit of my creativity these days :(

Edited to add: well, once again the thing I worried about didn't happen. The online classes apparently will be taught by a new hire, and the class that might fall in my lap is either a graduate-level face-to-face, can be done as an arranged early-evening time stats class (which I can totally do, ESPECIALLY with a summer's lead time) or the intro-level zoo/bot/ecology/evolution survey class, which I can also do, especially with a summer's lead time.

I still feel jittery, which tells me it's something else (allergies have been bad the past few days) rather than just situational. Hopefully it goes away soon but I do think part of it is "too much stuff to think about and schedule"

Up very early

* Didn't sleep well. Woke up around 4:20, debated even getting up to work out (I hurt my lower back a little bit, or it may just be stupid arthritis) and decided maybe a shorter workout would help. So I did a half-hour.

* The weather looks worrisome. Worse to people north of me, with ice being a feature. I have friends who live north of me, but also next week is exam week and I don't know what we'd do with commuter students who can't commute. (I know some people would say "this is why you need to be all online" but no, no, no)

At least it looks like it will get above freezing by Monday.

My biggest worry (other than people's safety out on the roads) is power outages. I weathered one (with no apparent cause) a couple months ago and it was a slightly-tense 3 hours. I suppose if we get one Saturday and it's cold, I just get into pajamas and read by flashlight in bed, I don't know. 

* Charles, I drive what's called a "crossover" - it's like a small SUV. The original tires were 44 as the max (as the door sticker states), and this set - they are Michelins - say "44 psi max" right on the tire, so...I know the sensors aren't trustworthy but the tires were slightly below 30 when I tested them.

* There's going to be chilly rain today and I hope it's not bad enough that turnout for the AAUW party is low because I have 40-some meatballs, and I already have food in the fridge to eat up this weekend.

* I'm just tired. I pushed to do what grading I had (short papers for one class) last evening; there are two more waiting for me in my e-mail inbox but something in me just rebelled at the idea of using my own (bought with my own money) ink and paper to print those out even though it means I need to do them over at work today. (Then again: that's two late papers and one other late paper for another class and a quiz taken by someone who was at the doctor's for the previous one....)

* And yeah, I'm showing mercy even though it wears me out a lot. There were computer-lab issues so people couldn't get things printed, and the one late-late paper belongs to a student with (documented) a parent in the hospital, and the student who was at the doctor's is apparently going through a process of getting a diagnosis that might be scary and....there's always just so much misery. It made me wonder in my early years of teaching if the university here was built on cursed ground, because it seemed so many of our students had truly horrific problems, but then, maybe it's always like this for people who teach and I just never saw my classmates' horrific problems because I didn't have to deal with them.

I remember back when I was a TA in Illinois, a student in my lab once quietly told me, "If I don't show up to class and I haven't called you to tell you specifically I will be absent, please call the police; it might mean my ex violated the order of protection I have out against him"

I hope I never have that situation again but there have been a few times that came close. (That said: given some of the changes to how Title IX is done, there's someone on campus I could call to take care of the student with an abusive relationship. In fact, I have to call that person if a student reveals it to me)

I dunno. Dealing with people makes me so tired and sad because there are so many bad things that happen to people that are out of their control, but then there are also bad things that happen (like: "I lost my license because I got too many DUIs") that are under their control at some level and they do the thing anyway and we ALL wind up dealing with the consequences (like: me having to arrange to do things at different times)

* "There's a dog problem in a local town and police say they are powerless to stop it" - apparently someone lets her dogs run, and they chase people, and...apparently they've fined the owner but the dogs can't be confiscated because "they haven't bitten anyone yet"

Honestly? WHY CAN'T THEY DO SOMETHING? I am afraid of mean dogs. If a dog chased me as I was leaving home for the day, I'd call in sick to work. I don't CARE that no one's been bitten "yet."

I know some people who would - uh, "take care of" the problem themselves, if the dogs were on their property. I wouldn't do that but this is the problem of living in community: some people don't want to abide by the rules and the rest of us suffer. I don't even know what my rights are if someone's dog is on my property and behaving in a threatening way for me. I guess the answer would be: go indoors, lock the doors, call Animal Control, and pray they actually decide to do something for once. I don't know.

I have (had? Haven't seen or heard from them for a couple weeks so maybe they moved away) some terrible neighbors down the street - this was the couple that had a screaming fight out in the street one day where I almost called the police because I was concerned the woman was going to physically attack the man, but he walked away down the street first....but they had a horrible dog that chased and snarled at me one day and scared me badly, and didn't seem to do much to try to contain it.

And, I don't know. I was raised so hard to consider the needs and feelings of other people, and I have TOLD the neighbor that I had bad experiences as a child with mean dogs, and they don't give a crap about that, and it makes me so tired....I mean, I understand that most people don't care about my *feelings* but it's discombobulating when I tell someone "Because of childhood experiences I have this very specific fear that makes it hard for me to leave the house when Thing is happening, and you have the power to control Thing" and the person doesn't care even enough to control Thing.

(And yet: I'm expected to care about everyone else's feelings)

Anyway. The woman in the news story claims she'll surrender the dogs on Saturday. I will believe that when it happens. Lots of times people with mean dogs don't believe they're mean, or feel like their right to have dogs overwhelms their neighbor's right to be able to go out into their own yards without being harassed. (I really do think some people with "mean" dogs don't understand that some people are actually afraid of dogs. People get funny blind spots.)

* Ugh, I can tell I'm in a mood this morning. One of those moods where if something goes just the right amount of wrong, or someone is rude to me in some way, I'm going to start tearing up.

Edited to add:

So yeah, something is going on locally with the power. When I got up, my cable box was flashing red (not a good sign) and I wondered if we'd have had a brief power outage in the night (not enough to affect my clock-radio, which seems to have a slight "memory"). Unplugging it and plugging it back in fixed it, and then later I realized the dishwasher's "hey I'm done" light had shut itself off in the night.

Then, driving up First - so, maybe six blocks or so from home - I noticed NO lights on at the Sonic, which is usually open at 7. (Very briefly, I thought: Huh, did they close down suddenly? That's happened with stuff before here, the franchisees or owners just went broke and locked the doors with no fanfare). But then I noticed there were no lights on at the Love's next door, and the sign advertising the price of gas was off.

Funny, though - lights were on in businesses in the very next block (a former drive-in that is now some kind of "healthy foods" restaurant. I've never been there).

So I don't know.O G and E shows nothing, but they say very small outages aren't shown, and also we have a second power company (Southern Co-op) that some people are on.

But still, feeling not very happy and the crop of e-mails I've had to deal with this morning hasn't helped any. Still have three catch-up papers to deal with. 

* Today is also the anniversary of the École Polytechnique massacre in Montreal. I remember this, because when it happened (1989) I was (a) a college student who was a woman in STEM and (b) I lived in Ann Arbor, Michigan, close enough to get the CBC on my tv, and see their news. It was horrific but you know? There have since been other attacks against women and I think sadly that's just a thing in our culture: that there are a few men who can't just live and let live the idea that women are going to go out and have careers and lives, and they express that with varying degrees of violence. I don't know what the answer is; frankly, I think for these individual incidents of someone using horrific violence there ISN'T an answer, or the "answer" is more repressive of the people who would never do that thing, than we would like (One way to stop hateful speech is to ban everyone from speaking at all, for example, and one of the reason violence erupted in some of the former Soviet states when it had not been before under Soviet rule is that I presume the Party was sufficiently repressive that people didn't express their long-held ethnic hatreds, and those came out when that pressure was released, whereas if it had never been applied, maybe something more peaceable would have been worked out).

And while I've never been in a situation where I feared for my life, I have had a few situations where I felt distinctly dismissed for my gender (usually by students, once by a now-former admin), like "nothing smart can come out of her mouth because she's a woman"

* I dunno. Right now I can tell I'm just worn and tired: too much grading, too many things being asked of me, I am probably being too accommodating of late work, and there's on campus I can't really talk about. (It may ultimately turn out to be fine to even good for us, but, like Garth Elgar, we fear change....)

* And it's St. Nicolas' day, and once again I will state my wish to live in the AU where there is a literal, magical Santa Claus, and, as I opined last year, and everyone who has been sufficiently "good" will get some small token gift - a box of cookies, or an amaryllis to force, or some small craft item, or even just an extra-nice pen....but the idea is you'd get that thing and you'd *know.* You'd know you'd been good enough.

Someone I follow on Twitter posted the St. Nicolas thing their family did (candy in the shoes, as is tradition) and I very nearly retweeted it with the comment "I guess I wasn't good enough this year" even though I really know that what it takes to get a St. Nicolas gift in this hard cold world is to have a significant other who wants to do it and cares enough to get stuff for you. (And no, buying myself a St. Nicolas gift isn't the same; and I've spent too much money this year already)

Wednesday, December 05, 2018

And thinking ahead

(Though I find myself wondering this morning: how is it that this semester is not over, yet? I am so unmotivated. I have a batch of quizzes and a bit of late catch-up grading but I just want to relax and do fun things. And it's cold in my office this morning)

I started sewing up Augusta last night. Got the shoulders done, the first sleeve in, and part of the second sleeve. I've decided that Saturday - when I am staying home, because it's supposed to be a nasty cold rain - will be the day to work on this. Once it's sewn, all that remains is knitting on the neckband and button bands.

I still haven't fully decided on "over break projects" though the new socks I started (a simple garter-rib pattern in a weird KnitPicks "Sock Lab" yarn - black yarn with sparkles* and a little bit of pastel rainbow in it) will be one, and probably the big Midsummer Unicorn if I can fit the yarn into my suitcase....And maybe Celestarium.

(*I will never learn. Black yarn is a pain to knit with, and yet I love black + pastel or black + bright jewel tones for socks)

The Sunshine Family dolls and case came yesterday. I do have to clean them up a bit before display; they're dusty and have that slightly oily schmutz that sometimes comes from stuff in a house with oil heat. (No, it's not plasticizer or anything leaking out. Trying experimentally with a damp thumb I was able to rub some of it off, so I think a damp cloth with a tiny bit of soap on it will work). The case is a little damaged and I don't remember if that was noted? It looks like a mouse chewed one corner. BUT it does have the original Sears price tag from the 1970s, which to me is a plus. (It cost $3.99, which, according to this calculator would be about $17 today. Don't know if the dolls came with the case, but $17 seems pretty steep for just an empty case with a picture on the front...)

The dolls do seem to be a later issue than the set I have. (This is *probably* the 1976 issue, based on the copyright dates on things. I'm pretty sure I got mine in 1973 or 74). The clothes are different on the parents, the baby's hair is darker (more reddish, and it's curly). The plastic also has a different feel from what I remember - lighter weight.

It also came with a plastic kitten that I *think* was part of the farm set, and a rooster and a hen (one of those "lays eggs" ones with a mechanism - there was one thing in the box that I thought at first was an old Tic-Tac but that might have been a remaining egg). There's also a plastic shovel similar to one I remember having for my dolls.

And the booklets. Oh yeah, the booklets. They take me back: telling you how to repurpose a lid from an aerosol can (turn it over, fill with stuffing, tie a piece of fabric over the top) into a padded seat. And they show (from the Farm set) how to make paper "plants" for the garden that I presume are supposed to be corn....but I had to laugh because they look a bit more, superficially, like another (ahem) big cash crop that just became partially legal here.

There was also a "craft brochure" with a recipe for that salt-dough clay and instructions on how to make a basket by weaving yarn around a form you cut out from cardboard...

And I wonder, are there kids' toys now that come with stuff like that? Where it talks about how you can make stuff for your toys out of household things? I suppose maybe the expectation that households have scrap fabric and stuffing on hand is probably not such a likely expectation now, I don't know. Or maybe the idea of consuming over all has pushed out making? And so instead you buy kits for your kids that have all the stuff in them, and when the stuff is used up, well, it's used up?

One thing I noticed out and about yesterday: those LOL dolls are *everywhere*. Target has gone all-in on them - displays literally all over the store. (And the displays were mostly full, it seemed, though maybe those were the smaller cheaper sets). And yeah, the whole "blind bag" thing is huge right now and I admit I kind of enjoy it - but as a kid, if I had wanted a doll or stuffed animal, I would have wanted the exact one I wanted, not some random one, and definitely not getting a couple of blind-packs where they were maybe all the same. (And I wonder: will there be Christmas-morning meltdowns when kids get blind-packed things that are identical to things they already have, so once the surprise is over, it's just the same toy?)

I also heard the teaser line for - but didn't stick around for the story - something about "empty toy shelves in stores" and speculating that the death of Toys R Us might make toys harder to find, and I don't know. I guess Amazon still sells them, though I also know some of the popular things, third-party sellers seem to buy them up and then jack up the prices (then again: people did that thirty years ago with Cabbage Patch Dolls, they just didn't have the internet to do it on).

I don't know. I always thought the phenomenon of the "gotta have it" toy was interesting - how much of that was the kid genuinely wanting it, and how much was peer pressure? Most of the toys I remember wanting were sort of unusual things that not everyone else had. And I wonder if it's increased now in the era of Instagram and YouTube (even though I thought there were age limits on having channels or accounts on there). I will say I always felt a certain dismay over the shoving, fist-fights, and sometimes outright theft that broke out over this. (This is really not what was intended for the commemoration of Jesus' birth, I thought, even as a fairly  young person). And also, now, as an adult - well, I wonder if maybe there isn't a little heuristic value in sometimes NOT getting what you want, in learning to deal graciously with disappointment (or even: not-so-graciously) as a kid? I've seen too many adults who seemed incapable of dealing with things not going their way that it makes me wonder if they were *always* indulged as children. (And as much as I complain about "we only got toys at Christmas and our birthdays unless we saved up our allowances - which was tiny - for months on end or did extra chores for money," it was probably in the long run better for us* than getting a toy every time we went out - I've talked before about how discombobulated I was seeing kids in the Target whine or even throw a tantrum about "I want a toy" shortly before Christmas and their parents just capitulated** instead of invoking "But Christmas is coming, do you want to add it to your list?" or "but you're already getting stuff for Hanukkah" or whatever)

(* And yes, I admit one thing - I probably spend too much of my money on stuff like that NOW because I didn't get it as a kid)

(** I suppose it's possible some of those families don't celebrate, but even non-observant "cultural" Christians - and some agnostics and even atheists - do Christmas. And Jewish families usually do Hanukkah and most of the people I've seen throwing fits over "I want a toy" were people of European descent, so...I'm gonna assume 'spoiled kid' here before I assume 'they don't celebrate a December holiday where gifts are given")

But yeah. It does seems strange to me, when I look at it through a more sociological or deep-thinker lens, what we have done to what started out as a religious holiday.

Tuesday, December 04, 2018

Glad I'm home

Yeah, I still feel guilty for having gone out on a workday but there's nothing in my campus e-mail suggesting I was missed.

Traffic was less than your typical Friday or Saturday, but the stores couldn't be any hooter hotter than they were*

(*Yes, I watched part of "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation" the other night and as cringeworthy as some of the bits are, they are still kind of mentally indelible)

Five Below was full of probably-moms, or perhaps-classroom-volunteers going through the shelves and just sweeping All The Things into their carts. (I would've guessed it was closer to Christmas from that sight, but maybe if they're classroom-moms getting trinkets for holiday parties....)

I did get the cards I went to get.

And two little treats for me.

From Ulta:

A new lipstick (One of the Burt's Bees ones that's semi liquid. At first, when I tried it on (here at home), I thought "oh man, I'm channeling my inner Goth" because it goes on very dark but once you blot it, it's not so bad.

I like the semi-liquid ones; they seem to stay on better for me.

And then this:

Yes, a pink unicorn blanket, but as I've said before: I don't think you can have too many of these little fleece blankets. (I do want to prewash it, I'll see if I have some similar colored things that can go in with it. I am leery of too much close contact with things that may have sizings or other not-so-good chemicals in it.

But yeah. I'm glad I'm home. It was bright and sunny when I drove down, but walking out of the bookstore (almost done at that point) it was clouding up and getting gloomier and colder. And now the OKC weather guys are predicting mild doom, at least north of me, for this weekend.

But yeah, being down there....wasn't great. I had one eye on the sky and the clock (do not like driving in the dark, and it gets dark early right now). And driving down, my "low tire pressure" light went on. Yes, these are untrustworthy, and often they do a false-positive when it's cold and you go out on the interstate, but I remember when that tire went flat on me back in 2015, so I figured I had better check it. Anyway, it had been over a month since I did (It's an easy thing to forget. Sometimes I think I need a minder, or maybe a husband, for things like that)

They were down some, perhaps not dangerously so, but since I'd found a safe place to pull off ("The Peanut Shack" - a former gas station that now sells, well, you can guess - I decided to haul out my little pump and bring them back up to 40 psi (max inflation is 44, but I thought "given the changeability of our temperature, maybe it's best not to go to the very max on a chilly day" and also it's hard to read the marks-between-the-tens on the little gauge). So that took maybe 10 minutes to make sure all four tires were up to the right level, but it shut off the light, so that was good.

I also will admit to having muttered, "You're so very special, I wish I were special" (a slight euphemism of the Radiohead bit) at people doing selfish things; for example, one person pulling straight across a lane of the parking lot to grab the space I was aiming for) and similar stuff. At least I didn't see any kids having meltdowns (school was still in session).

I wound up ditching going to the natural-foods store: I got a few food-type items at Target (some grapes and some cottage cheese) but I don't really need a whole lot (I have chili in the fridge, and some other "raw materials for food" things). Did buy a carton of "reduced fat" eggnog. Yes, I like eggnog and was thinking about how I wanted some. Yes, full of sugar and also fat even in the low-fat kind, but....sometimes it's just nice to have the old traditional foods.

But yeah. They are predicting cold, heavy rain Friday and Saturday and so it perhaps makes more sense to stick at home. If I don't get the short final papers from Policy and Law graded before the weekend I can do them then.

And next week is finals. Monday I don't give one BUT Sunday evening is "family night" at church (food will need to be made for that, and the bell choir is playing) and Monday night is CWF party, so I will need to consider food for that.


Tuesday I give an 11 am final (so I am thinking: don't set the alarm, get up when I get up, work out, come in some time before the exam). Wednesday I collect a take -home due at 10 but I said I'd be there starting at 7, and I give an 11-1 final.

Thursday, I give an 8-10 am final, my last one, and at 1 pm we have the annual departmental lunch.

Friday - well, if I get all my exams graded and the grades in (I might even come back late in the day Thursday to ensure that) - I have that day off. (Could be my antiquing day if I want it, or I could just relax at home, or I could write my syllabi for next semester....)

Saturday (a week from this coming Saturday) is graduation which means the day is mostly gone, but maybe Saturday afternoon I clean the house up a bit and do laundry and start packing, and then Monday I leave for break...

Tuesday morning things

* Well, change in plans. The weather Saturday is supposed to be miserable - 40s and rainy, possibly even with some snow and ice mixed in - and I don't fancy going out in that, even if I trusted my fellow-drivers more. So I've decided to take this afternoon, call it "comp time" for the Saturday I spent up here last week, and go to Sherman.

Yes, I feel slightly guilty about that but: all my finals have been written and are ready do go. I did the first-pass grading of the big paper last night, and will start doing the final grading (mostly: determining point values) this morning and finish it tomorrow if I have to).

I never know what's "okay" and "not okay" in re: taking time "off" during "business hours" during the week any more. I remember years and years ago* and I didn't have classes on Tuesdays, the year I bought my house, I spent many Tuesdays that fall in the house, painting and scraping and everything else.

(*Before the budget snafus of 2016, now I think of it, when I felt my job was more secure than it is now)

But I think perhaps with the "extra time" I put in some weekends - last weekend, for example, and also the couple of weekend working with my research student, and of course all the grading and prepwork - maybe it's OK to occasionally take an afternoon "off," when there are no office hours I'm supposed to be holding or grading to do. I don't know.

I suppose other people take time off to do stuff with their kids. Or they take time off for doctor's appointments.

This is running errands, but the difficult level is a couple of them are things I either have to go to Sherman for or mail-order and wait on. Nothing is *exactly* life-or-death, though there are one or two regularly-used cosmetic type items I need to get more of.

* Then again, I remind myself: the reason we're now asked to have "at least one office hour each day of the workweek" is that SOME departments apparently had people either requesting "no Friday classes" or just regularly cancelling Friday classes and not coming in to campus.

* "Never work with children or with animals" - someone in the bell choir had the idea of giving their grandson (5 or 6) a small set of jingle bells to play along with us during "Jingle Bells."

It....slowed stuff down. Because at first we had to adjust to do that FIRST, and then, he decided he didn't want to, and then he pouted a little, and then finally he did it....and doing another run-through later, we had to stand around and wait for him to be cajoled away from the game he was playing and yeah, I forgot what that was like. Though I guess I should have remembered from my niece, but she was a little better about minding the "you need to come here now" thing, it was just occasionally she got the idea in her head she didn't want to do something then.

And I also admit, and I feel stupid and immature for feeling it, but: when a kid does some little thing and gets praised heaped upon them for it, and I, a tired old adult, am standing there having done a great deal more and no one notices....yeah, I feel a little sad. (And also the kid got bribed with a dollar for doing, and a couple of the other women joked, "I want a dollar for ringing bells!" so at least I know I'm not the only one who feels like that)

I know I shouldn't feel that way, that I should do everything I do with no expectation of praise or thanks, because that's the right thing, does get tiring some times.

(I had a LOT of people yesterday coming to me with late work. I have to be flexible about this particular kind of work because it requires a computer package only available on campus, and if you're out sick or something, you can't do the work on your own at home, but still. I get lots of people handing me something and going, "Can you grade it *right now* so I see how I did?" and I look in despair at the stack of grading for another class I am *already* doing...)

I dunno. Yes, "No matter how miserable it was, the farther you get from it, the better childhood looks" (as Jane and Michael Stern once commented in one of their food-history books) but I look at my niece getting a bunch of Build-a-Bears (a concept that didn't even EXIST when I was a kid) a couple weeks before Christmas, presumably because her family was driving by one and they wanted to get them for her and I just....I don't know. I mean, yeah, I can buy my own stuff (After all, I ordered a "Toothless" from them earlier this fall...) but it just feels like sometimes there's very little special about being an adult. (An yes: trying to "make your own specialness" sometimes fails. I'm not sure I'd feel comfortable walking up to a Build-A-Bear store alone, even if there one remotely near me, and buying a toy and going through the stuffing process.)

I dunno. I guess yes, when I was writing out allllllll my cards Sunday afternoon, that felt fun and special and nice (and one of my errands this afternoon is to get a few more - there are a couple more people to send to, and also my parents' friends Debbie and Jo need cards, and my relatives around the country need cards...) But there are some things available for kids now that I look at and go "I wish those were around when I was a kid" (Though I'm not sure I'd ever have gotten to go to a Build-a-Bear if they had existed. Oh, maybe ONCE, maybe for a birthday or something. But my parents didn't do the "just because" type of toy buying that parents now seem to do).

I dunno. Then again, I never had to experience cyberbullying as a kid, because the internet as a commercial product didn't exist.

but still. Someday I would like to get together with a group of like-minded friends and go to a Build-a-Bear and us all buy stuffed animals and get to have fun stuffing and picking out clothes to buy for them. Probably that will never happen.

* I had a session of very bad intercostal was probably a spasm, now that I look back at it. Serious pain, that feeling of tightness around my whole upper body. I probably overdid it a little working out yesterday (worked out longer and harder than I had) and also going out in the cold didn't help it. I still feel kind of sore today; I have pain right between my shoulder blades.

(I've never had a doctor check me out *while I was having one* because they are rare, but all tests of my heart have come back perfectly healthy and normal, so I do not think they are anything like "mini heart attacks" and anyway, I have none of the other symptoms: no cold sweat, no nausea, no passing out, no arm pain. I once described one to a doctor and he was like "it's probably either asthma or something muscular going on" and the pain seems to tally with intercostal muscle cramping anyway...usually if I sit calmly for a while it goes away, and it goes away faster if I can put heat on it - I was at work yesterday, so I couldn't. )

I also have been coughing more because it's been dry here, and it's also been dusty (windy). I know coughing makes my chest hurt, and I probably overdid something.

I know there is something similar that's also a sign of MS, but I have no other symptoms and there is nothing in my medical workup that suggests anything wrong with me other than allergies or mild hypertension, so.

I do seem to be prone to upper-body muscle cramps or spasms; from time to time I will get one on one side of my neck - an old, old injury, probably a torn muscle, from a swim class years and years ago when it was probably really too cold for us to be swimming outside, even in a heated pool.

* My Christmas present to myself is supposed to arrive today. (It was supposed to arrive yesterday, but something happened. I even checked my front porch at 8 pm, which was when they said it was supposed to arrive by). I hope it does. I also worry a bit about "porch pirates" even though it's hard to see my porch easily from the street (and most of what I order anyway is small cheap stuff - yarn, books, toys...)

* I need to unpin my sweater (now that it's dry, finally) and sew it up but I admit it takes working up some motivation for that task. (Maybe if I get home from Sherman early enough. I am hoping to be home by 4; I don't really need to go to the big grocery store, so I can buy a few things at the natural-foods store. My plan is bookstore - maybe Target - Ulta - maybe JoAnn's - FiveBelow (if I can't find the cards I want at the bookstore) and then the natural-foods store.

I'm also telling myself that (yes) if there is some small treat I want, I can get it. Either some kind of nice bathing thing (at the Ulta) or some little toy (either at Target or Five Below).

* I do also need to remember to do:

- pay my property taxes for the year (I like to do this in person, just to be sure I have handed the check off, and also I get a receipt right away)

- drop off my Toys for Tots toy (the semi-local TV station FINALLY posted a list of places for us, after having everywhere else up for like two weeks, and yes, our Chamber of Commerce is doing it yet again so I can do that when I pay my taxes at the city hall next door)

- Order a gift certificate as part of my brother's Christmas gift to the stained-glass place he likes (he does glasswork as a hobby, and he's sold a few pieces and also done a few commissions.)

- Order a gift certificate either from Amazon or King Arthur Flour for my sister-in-law as part of HER present. Right now I'm leaning towards Amazon because that way she could use it 100% "selfishly" if she wanted, whereas the flour place, it would be something to be shared with the whole family even if she particularly likes baking and the like.

- Next week, arrange to have my mail held (I will have to do that Friday. Saturday is graduation, Monday the following week I leave...)

* I know I said I disliked gift cards some years back but I admit I wouldn't mind a gift certificate to somewhere like King Arthur Flour or Zingerman's or one of the other fancy-food places that I either never or rarely order from because of the expense. (Useful gifts but ones that are higher quality/expensive compared to what you normally buy are nice). Yes, I usually buy King Arthur Flour (though these days I have to be sure to get it at either Kroger's or Target when I'm in Sherman because the stupid local Wal-Mart has concluded no one cooks from scratch any more and has largely eliminated those kinds of things in favor of pre-prepared foods, and also moved stuff around to make room for beer or wine. Pruett's, I haven't checked there, but they don't tend to carry the most expensive brands of stuff, and King Arthur is one of the more-expensive ones).

Heck, I should have asked for a bunch of the SeaBear salmon packets - my parents ordered this as a trial for "emergency shelf food*" and I tried one over break - just plain salmon, but it was excellent, and made good salmon salad sandwiches. I think it was better than the kind I buy - for more money - at the natural foods store.

(*Emergency shelf, both in the sense of "this is something you could eat without cooking or refrigeration in a genuine emergency" and in the sense of "here is something good and shelf-stable for when you can't get out to the store." In my life, the second type of emergency is far, far more common, but an emergency shelf allows you to prepare for both.)

Heh: salmon packets as a stocking stuffer. Am I a woman or a cat?

Monday, December 03, 2018

A good wisdom

I was thinking about this yesterday, as a result of a yard-long Snickers bar being posted on Twitter. I joked, "Is this the American version of 'you deserve the big Toblerone'?*"

And then I commented: "Just as I wish senpai would notice me, I wish someone would give me a big Toblerone with a note saying 'you deserve the big Toblerone'" (That was when I thought the biggest one was the 12-ounce one I sometimes see for sale; actually the big Toblerone is almost 10 pounds, which is more chocolate than I could eat in any reasonable length of time.

(*apparently a thing from an anime I've never seen, but I've seen many references to the joke.)

But yeah, I do feel like senpai never notices me ("senpai" = an older scholar in the Japanese school system; sometimes the kid who is the source of innocent crushes and who is looked up to). And then I thought of the old "Dog of Wisdom" bit from YouTube and so I then realized this:

("If senpai doesn't notice you, then maybe you are the senpai who needs to notice others")

And yeah, that's a good wisdom.

(But I still wish senpai would notice me.)

(And yes, I know, I do have strange chains-of-thought.)

Nice little surprise

I knew this was coming out some time but didn't know when. I came in this morning to a note that "you had eight new readers of your paper" but it wasn't the ResearchGate site, it was an ISU site...and so I thought, "wait, could my latest Prairie Conference paper be up?"

and yes, it is. (You SHOULD be able to download that .pdf for free; I am quite sure they did it the way they did it to avoid any paywalls).

I'm glad. I don't feel tons of ecstatic joy any more (part of it is publishing is now largely routine, and also there is a lot of work involved in getting a paper there, and you get tired of it - even the proofs were a bit of a fight with this one). But I am glad it's out.

Sunday, December 02, 2018

quick card note:

All the cards I'm planning on up to this point (my CPAAG cards and the couple folks who additionally requested cards, and a few other friends I've sent cards to before) are ready to go; if you still want a card I plan on getting more, because I like sending these out. Overseas is fine; I need to get some of the special stamps for "less than one ounce" things because I have one CPAAG recipient who is on the other side of the world (across the International Date Line) from me...

So if you want a card, e-mail me your address; the second wave of cards will go out early the week of Dec. 9th. (I have to get cards for family members and back-home friends still, so I need to send more out)

Wishing happy Hanukkah any and all of my friends and readers who celebrate.

Hopefully this is not disrespectful (though a Jewish friend once told me that Hanukkah was really a "minor" holiday and more for fun for kids than anything, so...) but here is a throwback many years to LOLcats:

First Sunday: Hope

And Advent begins.

I love Advent, both in the more-secular sense of "the run-up to the Christmas season" but also in the, as I said earlier, "Lent-lite" idea - that we are to make our hearts and minds ready once again for the birth of the Babe.

A big part of the reason I love it is the feeling of continuity. The world's in a mess (but it's always been in a mess), but look, here's the Advent wreath again, and we light the first purple candle. And there are the familiar readings. And the familiar songs. (We actually sing Christmas carols - we sang "Joy to the World" this morning - I know some congregations save those until right at Christmas).

And I admit, also, I feel a sense of....relief is perhaps the best word. Relief that I am getting to do this again, relief at the very tangible reminder that yes, love will win out over hate, love has already won out over hate. That things will be set right some day, and that even if the world is going to Hell, we don't have to go with it. (That we can resist: we can resist the ugliness and the meanness and the venality and the greed).

The minister referred to how Advent was really "counter-cultural" and yes, I can see that: instead of the avaricious run-up where you're told to buy your lover a car, or expensive jewelry, or the latest electronics, Advent instead focuses us elsewhere, reminds us the presents aren't really the POINT here.

(Heh. The large Christmas tree was not lit - as it turns out, there's something wrong with the lights and the one guy with technical knowledge of how to fix it is working on it - but I saw it and thought, "Aha, they're doing the Real Advent thing by not lighting the tree" until the minister made a joke about it)

But anyway. I do admit the older I get I like the more counter-cultural idea of it: that it's more about making ready, and maybe, really, Christmas is more about having a breather, being able to sit down and not DO for a day, but just BE. (Maybe that is the difference about Christmas when you're a kid vs. a mature adult: when you're a kid, it's more about the excitement and the presents and all that, because a lot of the time when you're a kid you're kind of doing fun stuff and maybe don't have too many responsibilities, but as an adult, being able to stop for a day and not really have to do stuff - other than maybe cook a big meal, but at last you don't have to go to work/meetings/commute/whatever, and that's nice)

But there is also a sense of relief. After the lighting of the Advent candle (a different family does it every week), we sang the first verse of this:

(This may be a very Disciples-specific thing; it's in the Chalice Hymnal that was compiled for us, and it has the "feel" of being a Disciples song: the emphasis on justice, for example)

But anyway. We sang the first verse and I felt myself tearing up a little. I do not like crying publicly when I can avoid it and I managed to dry up quickly, but yeah. And I realized: I wasn't sad, it wasn't specifically tears of *happiness* - it was really more tears of *relief.*

Relief that here we are in Advent again. Relief that all the good dear things I love every Advent and Christmas are here again. (And perhaps also: Relief that I can feel happy about things again. There was a period this fall - I don't know if I was too mired in my work or my allergies were really bad or what, but it did feel like, as Ron Weasley once said of the Dementors, "It was as if I'd never be cheerful again")

And I've said before: I can imagine the sense of relief earlier Christians had, especially in harder uglier worse times than these: times of high infant mortality and rampant infectious disease and food shortages and war to remember that there was a life beyond this one, and that there was Someone out there bigger and smarter than we are, and maybe we really don't have to figure it all out on our own.

And yet, there are other, perhaps more personal and more secular reasons for my relief:

A big one is that the semester is nearly over. Last week was a long, long week (I can't quite believe it was only last Sunday that we decorated the church, but it was). Next week I only have a bit more teaching: most of my classes are listening to student final-project presentations. The week after that is finals....and then I get to go to my parents' again, this time for a longer time.

And yes, relief over having two and a half weeks coming up (when I am in Illinois) of really no big expectations on me; mostly what I will be doing will be knitting and crocheting, and hanging out with my parents, and doing Christmas stuff. (If the weather holds, I do plan to take a long walk every day to keep up my fitness but also to air out my mind a little).

And other relief: almost everyone I love and care about is mostly OK after this year. Yes, in the past two years my dad's been in the hospital twice, and late this summer - mid-August - things looked briefly dire with the pneumonia. But he's still here, he's doing better (and as long as he keeps his PT up...) and so he's still here. Other people I care about are mostly OK. (My mom is fine; she goes in for her second cataract-removal tomorrow and I expect that to go as smoothly as the last one. I think of December 2016 when she fell on the ice and I do still shudder a little; how grateful I am she got better). Really, with the exception of a few people from church (the biggest being Steve, because his death was so sudden and unexpected), most of the people I care about are at least doing OK this December, and that's something to be grateful for.

(I suspect some of my distress was a feeling - it started really in 2016 with all the bad budgetary stuff at work, but carried through this year with Steve's sudden death and my dad going into the hospital suddenly, that everything was precarious and that everyone I loved - and everything I loved - could change in an instant, or be taken from me in an instant, and I think that does affect a person badly; my sense of security and that the world was a fundamentally friendly place was badly shaken.)

And just relief in that most of my worries (and I know, I know: many people tell me that if my faith were strong enough I *wouldn't* worry, though I am not sure about that) never came to pass: my university is doing better financially, we're still here, I had mostly-positive interactions with people recently. Maybe I'm doing some good in the world.

And other silly little reliefs: most people who know me seem to like me. Even kids seem to like me - my niece wanted to hang out with me and talk to me and hug me and stuff, and there's a little boy at church who runs up and hugs my leg when he sees me. And as someone who grew up feeling largely unliked by people outside her family (which may have been untrue, but it felt that way to me), it's amazing and sort of humbling to realize there's something about me that people *like.*

And even as Advent is a time to sit back and examine your heart, and maybe do a little spiritual housecleaning, perhaps also, there's nothing wrong with looking at your life and seeing the good things, and feeling grateful for them - and also seeing reasons for hope.

Saturday, December 01, 2018

Behold, some progress!

The biggest knitting news from me recently:

Augusta blocking

I finished knitting all the parts of Augusta (the sleeves are stacked, partly because I ran out of room, partly because that made it easier to block them to the same size). Wove in all the ends. (ALL THE ENDS!)

Yeah, weave in all the ends.

And then, soak it in water with a little hair conditioner in it (wool is, after all, chemically the same as our hair), take it out, wrap it in big towels to squeeze out as much water as possible, look up the schematics so you can get it approximately the size it's supposed to be, lay it out, and pin the devil out of it.

Then it has to sit for a day or so (probably not so very long; it's kind of dry right now and I decided to leave my little humidifier off to help with that) and then I can take it up and sew it up and knit on the front bands and neckband (which also get the buttonholes, and I will have to find the nice buttons I bought for this, if they're not still in the knitting bag it was in).

But it's nearly done, so, yay. (Maybe I can find the motivation to finish this in the evenings this coming week, so then in good conscience I can start a new sweater over break - maybe I do a vest, either the new version of Pocketses out of the jam-colored KnitPicks tweed, or maybe the British School Slipover from "Folk Vests" (I have a dark brown tweed for that one).

(Oh, who am I kidding? It's gonna be Pocketses, because I love that jam-colored yarn so much, that is, if I have room for it....)

I also finished some simple socks, knit from that oddball Meilenweit yarn I picked up at the yarn shop in Shreveport. Because the repeat was so long, I didn't even try to make these matchy-matchy like I usually do with striping sock yarns:

new striped socks

The colors are maybe a little odd, but I like it. And I like that it would go with either brown or black clothing - double purpose socks.

new striped socks 2

It feels good to finish a couple of debating either starting something new, or trying to finish either the Honey Cowl or do the second of my pair of Soccer Mitts.

Yeah, I guess

I guess I'm glad I did the recruitment thing. We did have someone who drove 6 hours to learn about our program, so I guess I can give up a few hours of my Saturday for it.

The planning was better than I hoped; it wasn't so chaos-y. But then again, we had a v. small crowd. My particular program (fish and wildlife, né Conservation) had five students who showed up to hear our talk. They did seem pretty interested, though, so hopefully we get them coming to us.

I am home briefly for lunch; as I said before I am NOT eating the greasy salty chain pizza when I have bean patties at home (better for me and I like them better). I do have to go back around tour-time to see if anyone wants a tour of the department as I'm apparently the only one who can be free (one of my colleagues is leading a field trip; the other one has a guest from halfway around the world coming in).

So okay. I could still go to Sherman if we wrap up before 1 or so. Or I could try Pruett's for the few groceries I might need. (I am NOT counting on Tuesday afternoon being free for a Sherman run, much as I'd like it...)

I will say I heard one good thing, and I guess "every good thing you do comes back to you": one of my long-ago former students is now employed in the admissions department and leads tours. I didn't remember her until she mentioned her name, now I kind of do. Anyway, she said "Back when I took intro bio from you" (this would have been prior to 2011 or so, I think that's when I last taught it), "I was afraid I wasn't going to pass but you told me to come to your office hours and you'd help me, and you spent all this time with me before every test, and I tell students I take on tours about that."

You know what? I don't even *remember* doing that. I mean, yeah, I do it with some degree of frequency, telling a student to come into my office for "help" (which is really more: enforced time spent studying). I'm a little surprised that she remembers it but then again, maybe when you are the recipient of help you remember it better.

We also got the chance to talk up our program, which I really think is one of the best ones on campus in terms of getting students where they need to be and placing them in careers that they want.

But yeah, I would also really like a day antiquing in Sherman, so I don't know...

I get a little tired of how often in my life duty, even important duty, squeezes out pleasure.


Edited to add:

I came back. I'm glad I did. The student who came from the farthest away (he won a t-shirt for that) is one of our potential majors, and he and his dad were looking for a tour of the building. They were the only ones, but I did the tour anyway, showed them the different classrooms, talked a bit about the labs, showed them the places where people can do independent research. They thanked me.

He seemed fairly committed to coming when we talked in the breakout session; I'm hoping my willingness to do a personal tour helped with that; he seemed like a good and interested student, and we need people with a deep interest in this stuff (that said: a lot of our Fish and Wildlife people go into it because they're really interested in it. Part of it is it's a field where you're unlikely to get rich, so you better enjoy what you're doing).

Though all in all, this day has made me feel a little better about my path in life - maybe I am having a positive impact on people's lives after all (based on what the woman said about telling her tour students about my help - and she said she named me as the person who had helped her)

Not going to Sherman. At this point it'd be 2:30 when I get there. I'm going to try to put together an exam for next week (I can hoover information out of some old, old exams I have from that class - past experience has told me exam files don't seem to be floating around from that far back) and that will save me a little agony next week.

I *might* run to mart of Wal and see if they have ground turkey (and the dishwasher detergent I need - I don't think Pruett's has that). Yes, Saturday afternoon, but it's also OU/Texas round II and I know a lot of folks will be home watching...but first, the exam.