Friday, April 16, 2021

Drawing ever closer....

 I realized today it's just over a month now before I go to see my mom.

I admit that even though we've both been vaccinated, and at least here, case counts are way down, I'm still apprehensive. I probably will be apprehensive out in public for at least a while.

I do have a roomette, which is nice, so I can be alone and can close the door. And Amtrak has made a big deal about upgrading their ventilation and supposedly the fresh air turnover is every 5 minutes or so. And it looks like they are currently bringing meals to the rooms instead of having people eat in the diner. And masks are required in the public areas.

It will be....something....to see my mom in person again after almost 18 months. 

I don't know that there will be the ability to get out and do much, but that's okay. I'm already thinking bout what books I will take and what projects I might do. 

Also just the idea of GOING somewhere, of being able to look out the train window and see different scenery, to be able to read a book as the countryside goes by - that's something I have missed a lot. 

***

I stayed over late after my early afternoon class and did as much prep work as I could for next week (updating a couple exams, writing a quiz, updating all the class webpages, grading). All I really *have* to do this weekend is grab some soil for the Monday afternoon lab. Next week will be a bit easier because one class is finished so they won't meet, and the biostats class is doing non parametric tests, which are more familiar to me and are less complex. 

I *had* thought of driving up most of the way to Coalgate - there is an "Amish store" there larger than the small one south of me, but it's 40 minutes away, and it was raining when I got out of class, so I figured it was preferable to get ahead on work. Not sure I want to go tomorrow morning but I could.

Anyway, I "bought" myself time off this weekend by doing the urgent things, which means maybe I can even write a little on my manuscript in the afternoons next week. 

I do want to do some knitting this weekend; I think not doing handcrafts as much has been bad for me.

Thursday, April 15, 2021

Few more things

 * Again sort of a hard day, I think I've hit a wall, but at least I got the tech-editing that was hanging over my head done, and that makes me feel a *little* better. At some point I will have to try to finish my own manuscript and also pull out the data a student and I collected in 2018 (hope I can find the originals of it again, if not, I think I have it digested in the computer) and start planning my summer sampling.

* One thing that made me happier even though Board Meeting last night was super, super long: the head of the Bell Choir said she thought we could safely start up again late summer and I really missed that. I think it's because it was one "semi social" activity I had where I wasn't playing a major "working" role - yes, we all work at it, but it's together. It's not like me being Head Elder or a recording secretary or something where I have to DO things and people look to me for guidance on stuff. (WHYYY do people look to me for guidance? I don't know what I'm doing a solid 85% of the time! I have no wisdom!)

* I think I need retail therapy. Yes, I know that people scoff, and people talk about "needless consumption" but the point isn't necessarily BUYING things, it is being out somewhere LOOKING AT things. I'm hoping that (a) lab gets done at a decent hour this afternoon and (b) it's not pouring down rain because I do want to go to the little downtown gourmet shop, even if I don't buy anything at all. (Though I could use a new scrubby sponge for dishwashing, or something similar). 

I think perhaps part of my distress is a lack of "different places" to go - pretty much now my life is shuffling between home/office/church once a week/grocery store once a week and because of all the construction around me I've not been out of town in a while and it reminds me of how small my town is, and how few opportunities there actually are for me outside of working stuff.

(I don't think it's just me; I commented to my counselor last meeting that "in the before times I didn't even really socialize but now it's even less" and she commented "there really AREN'T a lot of options for socializing here" - like, there aren't clubs, and I bet it's worse for people who don't have a religious affiliation (or like me aren't part of a family). I have no interest in going to the casino because that would be just another "me out doing an activity alone" thing and frankly I'd rather spend my money on other stuff.)

* I think also just Tuesday - when I reviewed MANOVA to be prepared for Friday - and yesterday - when I taught all day and then had a very long evening meeting - just wiped me out. I find I have less flexibility? tolerance? something for just long go-go-go days where I'm not getting a lot of helpful input and not getting a chance to "restore," though I'm not even sure now how I would "restore" or what that would look like.

Again: I wonder if I just need some kind of a "guide" in the after-times to help me figure out how to have fun/find enjoyment in things again. I don't even know what kind of person that would be? Maybe it will be a whole new career area for people. Maybe I ask my counselor? It seems like a dumb question though: "Help, I've forgotten what 'fun' is"

*I got a notice of a "Zoom link for X's celebration-of-retirement!" and I admit, it makes me sad. No, I likely would not have gone to an in-person one for X, even in the Alternate Universe version where there was never a pandemic. But the idea of us still trying to celebrate things all online (a problem with Zoom: the loudest speaker silences all the others; natural conversation is impossible) bothers me and frankly? I'd rather just not try to celebrate stuff that way. I mean, yes, okay, for people far away that's a thing, but.....having everyone having to dial in makes me sad.

 If we are still doing things this way when I retire (eight more years if I make it the full 30), I will just say I don't want ANY recognition of retirement, the Zoom celebrations really aren't.

Some days I bleakly wonder if the pandemic will kill a lot of the small celebrations we used to have. Like I said, I really feel like I haven't celebrated a holiday in over a year at this point.

* I think another thing I need it just to go home tonight, take a shower/wash my hair, get into pajamas early, eat a simple dinner (I made okonomiyaki on Tuesday and I have half of it leftover, which means all I have to do is heat it up) and maybe FINALLY put on the Ghibli movie I was talking about watching as a way to try to cheer myself up/calm myself down. And maybe knit on the Tailfeather scarf; I sure would like to finish something that I could point to and say "I made this." 

* I have work to do (I always do) but I feel like I need to take this weekend off; I am really beat 


* I feel like I've achieved nothing this year. I probably should force myself to work this weekend. 

* I'm also still thinking about a couple recent unpleasant interactions. In some cases, I think it was a "kick the dog" situation (where I was the dog) - not really my fault, not really something I control, but I was a convenient target. The thing is, I am constitutionally not able to pass that pain along by going to the person who is the closest to being "at fault" (though the "fault" really is the pandemic and the broken system in which we work). So I wind up carrying it and....I'm having a hard time putting it down. I think part of the problem is that because I get *so few* human interactions these days, a bad one seems much worse because it might be the major interaction I have in a day. And I hate that. And yet, at the same time, I absolutely refuse to pass the pain along by going and yelling at the person who might be slightly more responsible for the bad situation. 

Where does it go? I wonder. Where does that kind of bad-feeling and anger and everything go? Am I carrying it around in me, is it going to turn into some kind of ulcer or cancer or whatever and just take me down, shorten my life? I can't get it out in any effective way so it just sits there and makes me sad. 

* I wore the big heavy Dansko clogs I bought from Zappo's for the first full-day time today. Verdict: ironically, because they are very heavy, I like them. I feel more grounded in heavy shoes and I think sometimes the problems I have with my ankle rolling (due to foot pronation) it's in softer, more flexible-soled shoes. And they make me taller. Not that that seems to help much though I also know a lot of people who wore either heels (if women) or some kind of lift in their shoe (if men) to be taller because they felt like they got respected more.

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

another busy day

 Full day of teaching followed by in-person-but-distanced board meeting at church. The people presenting things talked seven minutes too long, by the time I walked out a thunderstorm had started up and I got soaked with cold rain.

I've also been having some low-level anxiety issues; I think I am going to try putting the weighted blanket on the bed again tonight. I had taken it off in the supposition that it was causing me to be too still in my sleep, and that was adversely affecting my back (as opposed to moving about a bit) but I've had some pretty stressful dreams and one night where I could not settle and sleep, so I'll try it again, but try sleeping on my side this time. 

(Part of it is just a couple of difficult human interactions, I suspect, which loom larger when I have few total interactions. I may have to just plan to leave campus when I get out of lab tomorrow - at 3 or a little earlier - and take a trip to the gourmet store downtown or something for just something *different.* I read an article today about how we have spent so much of the past year "withdrawing" and how much of just navigating the world became difficult, and at the same time we were not getting BACK the fun and relaxing things we used to do (well, if we were being extremely cautious, or lived in an area with actual lockdown), and I think I feel that hard. Even if I *didn't* do things often like go downtown or the like, maybe I need to now, to try to regain some sense of normalcy. 

But yeah. This has been a tiring week

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

one small interaction

 This semester, I had the added labor (minor, but still added, because it meant maintaining a separate BlackBoard page and remembering to post the assignments/do the grading on there) of a 'special studies' version of my ecology lab - someone who was a transfer student apparently took the lecture part at their former school, but there was no lab. So I've been doing that.

They saw me in the hall and stopped me today because I hadn't posted a lab for this week (this is the last lab, we are doing tree identification because it's likely going to be raining and we might not be able to get outdoors; I can do tree ID from herbarium sheets). They asked me if we had a lab, and I said yes, and explained what it was, and added that it was the last lab for the semester for them (next week is the students working on their independent project, which is part of the lecture material).

And they thanked me, and said "you're the best."

And yeah, I get that may have been a casual throw-away comment, but it reminded me of how I missed that kind of easy, casual interaction. Most of my classes in recent weeks have been almost "empty" - with people joining online instead (and in one class, I'm down more than half the class, I think a lot of people just gave up). 

And it makes me sad. I miss the before-times. I miss a lot of things, some of which are things I didn't get very often even then:


- walking into a diner-type restaurant at breakfast time, and smelling coffee/bacon/toast and having a big menu to order from, being able to get exotic stuff I'd never fix like Belgian waffles

- traveling on the train

- going out shopping without worry, without HAVING to distance from people (though I usually did, really, and now I realize I really disliked crowded stores and did my best to shop at low-density times)

- stopping at Pruett's just casually on the way home to pick up something "different" for dinner instead of having the week's meals planned out like the Normandy invasion so I'm sure I've bought everything

- antiquing. I suppose I could do that NOW but also, driving to Sherman is way less appealing with all the construction

- just being able to talk to people without masks or a screen in the way, or being able to go grab lunch somewhere with someone. It does seem all of this has reduced our ability to just make small talk and I miss that.

- celebrating holidays the way I used to. I really missed having Christmas with  my mother in 2020, that one still hurts.

- not having all the added labor related to doing stuff half online for teaching, and feeling like there are so much higher expectations of me at the moment, like if I forget to post a recording of a lecture someone is going to resent it. 

- going to a restaurant for lunch occasionally on my "no afternoon classes" day. Getting carry out is not the same, and also, most of the places that do carry out don't have as healthful of food.

Everything seems to require more effort now, and just doing a casual "hey maybe I should run to the gourmet shop downtown" now has become a major production. And people seem to drive worse, and people seem to act worse in public now. 

I hope things eventually stop seeming so effortful. Even going down to the drinking fountain to fill my water bottle - well, I have to put my mask on, and that's a tiny added hurdle that makes me go 'eh, I can wait until later to get water'


***

I had promised myself, "Well, if you review MANOVA enough for Friday this morning maybe you can go to the gourmet shop in town for a few minutes this afternoon" but oh no, I did not get it done. I find I have a harder time buckling down and working and I don't know if it's just pandemic tiredness or if I've burned out. Or if I've developed something like ADHD where my concentration and executive function are just trashed. The thing is, I can't just go "I can't" and not do the thing, I have to do the thing - so I throw out the "fun things" I had planned as "I don't have time now" and that probably makes the lack of volition to work worse.

Currently, the "stick" of "you will be underprepared and look like an idiot and you will fail" works a little better than the "carrot" of 'get this done early and you can go do something fun"

though I will say I did get allllllllll the updating on my BlackBoard pages done for the next few days, that's something. (Well, other than posting the recordings of the lectures for tomorrow and Thursday, it never ends)

Monday, April 12, 2021

this and that

 * Biggest "project" type work I've been working on is the slow process of handsewing down a quilt binding:


 This is a simple sort of Alpine-style quilt using fabrics from the old (maybe as old as 15 years) "Folklore" line: 


This is also the one where I used the last few scraps of fabric left from a dress I had when I was 3 or 4; my mother saved the leftovers. I had to piece it for this block:

* There's just a lot of bad stuff going on in the world; too much violence, too many people "othering" other people. I'm aware of it but I have no deep insights, only sadness. (One of the weird things about some corners of the internet is if you are not talking with outrage about the horrible thing of the day that must me you APPROVE of the horrible thing, and....that's just not true. I'm not wise enough or clever enough to come up with solutions, so I just look at the things with wordless dismay).

 

I've really changed my opinion on humanity. Even as a bullied kid I thought most people were basically good, but sometimes gave in to selfish impulses. Now I feel like most people are basically selfish and mean, but sometimes manage to overcome those impulses. Just deeply disappointed.

* On a related topic - often the articles on Medium are not that good, and some are ones I find openly annoying, but this one - about Weltschmerz - hit a nerve, and I mean in a good way. I found myself nodding along. First of all, the idea that there is suffering and pain in the world, and "why is that so" (in a religious context this whole thing is called theodicy: "if there is a loving God, then why do children die of painful disease" is one phrasing of the argument) but also the author's comment that sometimes what I have heard called "radical acceptance" (of one's limitations, mostly) is necessary to live in this world: 

"Don’t expect perfection — from the world, others, even yourself. It doesn’t exist. Life is always going to fall short of our needs, wants, and desires. While having core values, moral conviction, and high standards is a great thing, having impossible ones for everyone to live up to will only lead to ongoing anger, bitterness, and disappointment. It’s better to engage in what I call “sensible striving” — that is, a clear-eyed, open-minded, heart-full approach to life that endeavors for the best, knowing full-well that it’s not attainable."

 Also the comment on there that disillusion is kind of a natural thing, but that it does make us feel that safety and comfort in the world are not possible. 

The author also quotes Leonard Cohen, about how the cracks in everything are how the light gets in, and I find I so think about that a lot. 

* Today was a little bit of a down day for me. I had a lot of muscle aches (and did not get up early to work out as a result, but I caught it up when I got home this afternoon). I may have pushed a bit hard working out yesterday, or maybe I tensed up while sleeping - for some reason I was anxious when I got in bed and tossed and turned a lot and was unable to find a comfortable position, and I also had difficult dreams.

The worst one, that woke me up at 12:30 am and made me ALMOST get out of bed, was that I had dreamed I was at my parents' house. It was present day, but there was NO pandemic, and my father was not only still alive, he was in pretty good health....they were discussing getting rid of the hospital-style bed (which he slept in, in what used to be the dining room, because he could no longer do stairs, for the last however many years of his life) because he no longer needed it.

And suddenly, like some kind of quantum function collapsing, my brain remembered that my mom and I had been talking on the phone about her getting rid of the hospital bed (in real life) not because he was better and could climb the stairs again, but because he's....passed....and I woke up and was briefly discombobulated and then sad. 

I'm ready to be done with these. It's been a year and a half.

I also had a dream where I had bought a house and there was a basement under the garage but it was build into a hill so you could see into it (dimly) through a window, and the basement was all full of stuff from the prior owner, and I was going to have to go in there and clear it out, but I was weirdly excited, partly because there might be something good in there, but also partly because it was something *different*.  

I used to have dreams similar to that - a lot around the time I was buying this house - about finding a "surprise" room that was really cool, or finding out that the garden had some special feature (like a little rock waterfall) and I took them as fundamentally hopeful dreams, but now I don't know, I think it's just I'm longing to be out of the stagnation that began a bit more than a year ago, but I feel like it's not safe yet. (I am also still questioning if it was too early to plan travel in May, given some things I've heard, but I don't even know any more.)

* I had thought earlier this afternoon of coming home and rewatching a Ghibli movie (maybe Kiki's Delivery Service) but time got away from me - I had to work out, and then finish piano practice, and then wash my hair, and I wanted to change the sheets on the bed, and it got too late. But I need things that are pleasant and nice and comforting, even if real life can't be that way.

Some time back I read of the concept if Iyashikei - which literally means "healing anime" - apparently characters living out quiet, peaceful lives where nothing too bad happens, and I think that's something a lot of us desperately need (once in a while Western animation does something similar - some of the episodes of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic approached that, and "Summer Camp Island" show (or whatever it was called, it came and went off Cartoon Network pretty fast) did.) Shows with quiet plots and low conflict and pretty colors and cute and sweet characters. I don't know, maybe it's not very profitable (though the Ponies certainly were) but I think some of us need it. 

Ghibli movies probably aren't quite it, though some of them - like My Neighbor Totoro and Kiki's Delivery Service - either have very little conflict, or it's more "internal" conflict (like when Kiki is unsure about her ability to fly). And the end happily enough, and I think that's an important factor.

I also think a feature of Ghibli movies is that often kindness and goodness are what prevail, and they are the traits the heroes have - Sophie literally saves Howl by loving him, and Kiki gets ahead in life by being kind. And I still want to believe there's a place for that in this world, that somehow kindness can, if not prevail, at least allow one to carve out a small but good life for oneself, even if the rest of the world is going to blazes.

And no, I don't mean we shouldn't try to make things better, it's just....the world IS going to blazes, and there's almost nothing I can do to make anything better. So it's preferable to me to try to make my tiny corner of it nicer than to just sit down and reflect on the evil that's elsewhere.


Friday, April 09, 2021

Looking for fun

 I still kinda got nothing. After the stressful meeting last night I did a bit of crocheting on the never ending blanket of doom but I was mostly too tired to do much.

I think a lot of us are just tired. I feel like I've hit a wall yet again. I know I *should* come in here and work on my manuscript this weekend, and grade, but oh, I so don't want to. 

***

I was thinking of something on Monday. They did, on campus, an Easter egg hunt aimed at the students - plastic eggs literally scattered everywhere (even around my building, which is distant from main campus). And yes, good on them for trying to inject a little fun and "enrichment" for the students, many of whom are kind of stuck here right now. But. I would like something that is just pure fun and *not more work* aimed at faculty.

Like, we have "mindfulness webinars" but that feels like extra work? Or socially-distanced yoga classes? It's like everything offered for us is "self improvement" - get in shape, or somehow tweak your mental health, things like that. Just nothing that's just....simple fun?

Is it assumed that adults don't want that? Or don't need that? I would have liked to have been invited to hunt eggs and I suppose I could have just gone out and grabbed a couple but my stupid Lawful Good tendencies told me, "No. That is Not For You" 

I don't even need the candy, just having....well, a little rat-cage enrichment....is what I want. 

Making your own fun is hard sometimes and it's hard for me to think of things, the stuff I do come up with either costs a lot, or can't be done just yet, or would involve me driving somewhere with woeful construction on the roads. 

So I don't know? I guess I "hibernate" for a while longer and watch more endless re-runs of cartoons? 

I don't know why they don't offer just plain FUN for adults, why it always has to be "this is being presented as fun but it's really self-improvement." It feels like a cheat. 

***

That said, I don't KNOW what I would want to do. Go to a petting zoo? play with clay? Punch a punching bag (I was thinking yesterday, tamping down my annoyance at how that student treated me, that if I had infinite money and infinite patience with work-people, I'd hire someone to clear out and tear down the little shed on the back of my garage and rebuild it just big enough to hang a punching bag in, and get one, and whale on it (wale? I'm not sure how that verb is spelled, I have only heard it) when I've had a bad day.)

I guess it's just going to take time? I watched a short YouTube video called "What's New," and while I didn't react in the visceral way some of the commentators said they did (I didn't cry, though I admit I kind of nodded along at parts of it), yeah, the idea of maybe not yet being ready to go back out is a thing. 

I don't know. I want fun, but right now I almost feel like it's too much of an effort to go seeking it out. That's why I'd like somebody to set something up and say to me "here, come and do this, it's fun"

But I don't have that kind of thing in my life.

I think that is the crux of it, though; I feel like I have 100% been on my own this past... well, it's over a year now, really.... I've had to be all my own companionship for like seven months of it, and I've had to mostly provide my own food, and I've had to work around shortages or not-being-able-to-get-things-because-they're-not-sold-in-town and I've not gone into a stinking restaurant and paid someone else to bring me food and take away the plates and wash them. I've had to do all my own self-care and I'm tired.

no one is willing to admit, I think, that self-care is exhausting when you're alone. Yes, you have no one leaning on you to care for them but you know? Sometimes taking care of someone else who appreciates it helps give you back the energy to keep going. Caring for myself, just myself, it gets to a point where aspects of it feel almost not worth it - like, cooking an elaborate meal, what's the point, when you could just melt down a couple kinds of frozen vegetables and choke those down? It's nutrients and calories, it keeps you going, doesn't matter if you enjoy it or not because preparing it is not as much work as something you might enjoy. 

I've been getting carry out food occasionally, probably more than is ideal for me (given my weight, given the fact that I really need to restrict sodium) because.....well, because someone else fixed it. I can either call up a place (or even better, order online) and drive up to a window, and there is my food, hot and ready and I don't have to think about it or do the complicated logistics to get everything cooked at the same point in time. And food does seem more delicious when someone else fixes it some times. 

But yes: I am asking myself: "What would be fun?" and I am, kind of like Ralphie in A Christmas Story, when he's frightened and baffled by the department store Santa says to himself "Football? What's a football," I find myself asking "Fun? What's fun?"

I mean, I remember what I used to do for fun, but going into a tight-quarters antique store doesn't feel quite comfortable yet, and my allergies are a little bad for going out hiking, and I have too much yarn and fabric already, and I don't know of any interesting museums within a close drive...


I dunno. Maybe after all this is over we're all going to need - what did they call the people on cruise ships who planned out activities? Activity directors? Anyway, I'm going to need someone to teach me how to have fun again because I fear I have forgotten.

Thursday, April 08, 2021

I got nothing...

 Oh, nothing is *terrible* or even bad, I am just tired. It's allergy season, the end of the semester is approaching. I have things I need to do but not a lot of motivation to do them. And it's Thursday, which is always a hard day, because you've had the Tired from all the previous workdays build up, but it's not Friday yet. 

Also mail has been uninspiring. I am wondering if it's slowed down yet again (and the card from my mom that was supposed to have that check in it *never* showed up; her bank will cancel checks for free so I think I will tell her it's time to). I get junk mail (charity solicitations and ads from local loan-shark places) but nothing that interests me. 

And I dunno, getting nice mail is important to me, it's disappointing to come home to either an empty mailbox or one with just crummy ads in it. 

My doki doki crate for April FINALLY shipped but it could be six weeks before that shows up. And I checked and the next Asterix omnibus (I pre-ordered the next few from Bookshop) won't ship until April 20. (And yet: Amazon seems to have them in stock, which, trying to do things the 'responsible consumer' way sometimes hurts you - then AGAIN, Bookshop has them for $6 less than Amazon.)

Am debating about this weekend: yes, going to Sherman is a little woeful now with all the road construction but ALSO I get cabin feverish and sad and I've sat at home almost entirely for a whole entire year. I don't know. I wish Atoka had something attractive for me to drive up there for but really, the best shopping is in Sherman (with road construction and a narrow-laned bridge between me and them) and Ardmore is maybe the next most attractive shopping but there's a bad bridge with bad construction (or a v. long detour) between them and me, and they're also twice as far. 

And I'm tired of walking around Pruett's longing for some kind of *different* food that they might sell. I might just go INTO the dang wal-mart again on Saturday, but go very early when it's hopefully almost empty. I have been wracking my brain for other places but: the little new grocery south of town was disappointing, Madill only has a wal-mart as far as I know, Caddo has nothing....it's three hours to Texarkana and that's across a state line. There's another road into Texas but it runs across the top of a dam and I think my mild fear of heights and driving near deep water would make that uncomfortable. Supposedly there's another bridge somewhere east of here but I have no idea where it is or how to get there....and how I'd get to Sherman FROM there.

I think a lot of this is just restlessness brought on by a year plus of mostly doing nothing. I want to do something but the 'somethings' that are easily possible don't really appeal.

***

and it got a little worse. I was already not super enthused because this evening I have a Zoom meeting* of a group I am part of, and there's going to be discussion of a Thing, and there are a couple people who are very vocally in favor of Thing and have probably not thought through all the potential consequences of Thing, one of which is that it will generate considerable extra work for those of us who are volunteer workers in this group. I get the sense the rest of the membership either really doesn't care or is not in favor of Thing, and I suspect the vocal voices will win out, and that will mean more work drops at my feet and.....maybe I just don't re-up with this group in the fall, after years of being a part of it? I don't know. 

But I am tired of how a few very loud people who are willing to complain and also slightly inflate information get their way, and the rest of us just have to live in the world they make.

There are a number of things I do in that group that if I didn't re-up, they'd have to find someone else to do it. I'll just note that.

 

* I think part of my dislike of Zoom-from-home for things like meetings and work is that it feels like people are invading my house that I would not let into my living room in person. But because pandemic, they have to be there. And I can't get away from it. And it does low-level discomfit me; I find I sleep worse on nights after I've had from-home-Zoom meetings that were at all stressful.

Knit-group is the ONE exception, and I think part of that is it's low key (no decisions to make, no work to do, you don't even have to talk if you don't want to) and the people in that I'd let in to my living room in person.

***

Also lab this afternoon did not go well. I had a student become very angry because they did not like how the TA graded their lab, they thought they deserved more points and also that it had been misgraded. Well, one thing had, and I said, calmly, "I'll take it back to them for a regrade" and the student kept going: I didn't do extensive enough pre-labs, that I should know their lecture section was only on chapter x and they hadn't seen this material yet, and they couldn't learn it in the 15 minute talk I give and I commented that no, I didn't know that, because my lecture section was a different section and we are actually on chapter x+3 right now and my students had had all the stuff, and also, I did not have time in lab to teach an entire chapter and still give the students time to complete lab but YES I would have the TA look at it again.

TA did, gave back the points for the one misgraded question. I took the lab back, thinking that was the end of it, but no - the student was still unhappy and still yelled at me and finally I said - getting as close to angry as I ever do, "Fine, I will take it back and ask the TA again"


And I did, and of course there were no other misgraded questions. 


And then for the rest of the lab, that student and their team, every time I answered some other team's question, wanted to know EXACTLY what I said because God forbid they might lose an advantage, I guess. And at the end, the person who was so difficult about their lab, handing in THIS week's lab, glared at me and slammed it down on the pile.


But I'm tired and sad now. And I find myself reflecting on how, pretty much since middle school, I've absorbed the anger/meanness/impoliteness of others - first, peers and sometimes teachers or other adults in  my life (my first experience in a "real" yarn shop was not a positive one; the owner was a snob), and then later bosses of various stripes and still peers, and now sometimes students. And because of who I am - wholly conflict avoidant and also loath to add to the balance of rudeness in the world - I just....absorb it...

And I wonder: what becomes of all that vitriol I absorb? Is it slowly poisoning me, so it shortens my life, or some day I get full up and I just explode into cursing and anger because I can't deal with it any more? Or what? Would people do this to me less if I were a scarier person?


I don't know. But of course this interaction is now coloring my day. And yes, I know: students are worried and stressed out but guess what? SO AM I. I have lived through what I sincerely hope is the worst and hardest year of my life and I am tired and lonesome and sad and some days I STILL feel like I will die before it is safe to be hugged by friends or go out freely and shop in comfort again. 

I get tired of cutting infinite slack and not getting slack back myself :(


and it's only bills to look forward to in the mail today - can tell that from the informed delivery digest.

Tuesday, April 06, 2021

Tuesday evening things

 * I am a little sore from the fall yesterday; I think I must have tensed up. I don't think I'm actually *hurt,* I think I just tensed up and made my muscles sore. 

I also tensed up a lot over the sink thing

* Which is fixed (enough for now) - the plumber did what I was expecting and removed the offending hose and plugged where it went. I will still need a new dishwasher BUT first I need an exterminator; apparently it WAS a rodent that cause the damage even though I have seen absolutely no sign and there's no evidence of them coming out and going after the (not very well sealed up eve) crackers and things I had out. So I don't know. Apparently they're coming up through the space behind the dishwasher from under the house, so it will have to be someone with the ability to go under there. (I admit I briefly contemplated getting an RC car, and rigging a little camera to it, so I could run it under there and see what's going on, and maybe even use it to carry traps under there, but....yeah, I think I need a professional for this) But I will have to find a good one - someone who will JUST deal with the rodent issue without trying to force me into contracts for spraying for ants and all that; I don't really have much in the way of ant issues and frankly would rather deal with ants myself than deal with toxic sprays.

So I decided since handwashing dishes for just one person is not so bad, I'll just do that until the summer, and then look into getting a new dishwasher. (I may also have to have some floorboards looked at first). 

I will admit that there's half a temptation to just have the dishwasher removed and a cabinet built in there instead, I don't have enough cabinet space. But I think I would eventually regret not having a dishwasher, and if I ever want to sell the place it would be a lot harder without one. (It would be hard enough as it is; it's a small house with just one bathroom and I know that's unpopular now)

The plumber said they DID install dishwashers; I may just go with them, was not real happy with the guy Lowe's sent last time. 

* I am trying to get back into doing my various hobbies again (this was something that came up in counseling today; that I hadn't really been doing them. The counselor's opinion was that it was simply that we are all so tired because otherwise I do not seem to be showing symptoms of depression - well, other than what is "normal" given we've lived through a pandemic). So I'm hoping maybe to get my knitting mojo back and finish a few things.

I pulled the Tailfeather scarf back out. I had to print off a new pattern because I'd lost the charts, but I was able to figure out where I was. (I did have a row counter on it but I was just counting rows in the pattern, not which of the patterns - there are four - I was on


I'm not quite halfway. 

* I also used the Herrschner's gift certificate my mom sent me for Christmas - I ordered some Berroco "Vintage" yarn in "Smoke" (a light gray) for The Wind Sweater (link is to the designer's Etsy page). I wanted another gray cardigan (I only have one, though I have a complex one on the needles I need to get back to) and this one will be nice and simple.

* I also had ordered myself a little Easter treat, since I didn't get myself candy or really anything. I had wanted this for a while and then I saw it was out:

Peggy Mane. A Hasbro-produced mashup of My Little Ponies (Gen 3 style) and Lite-Brite. They've done a couple of these - one with Twister and one with Transformers are the other two I know of, but by far this one is my favorite, because her translucent hair is pretty (it's molded instead of dollyhair)



Another fun feature: she has two different cutie marks, one on each side, which look like Lite Brite designs. She's about the size of the G3 ponies (and stylistically is similar) but might be a tiny bit smaller.

Monday, April 05, 2021

a new project

 Saturday was the biweekly Zoom knitting meetup, and I decided to start something new - I'd had this yarn wound off for a while and the pattern with it, so I decided it was time


the pattern is by Joji Locatelli and is called "Storm." It's a fingering-weight yarn shawl. So far, that's just the very first section - 26 rows of garter stitch (with some increases) and then four rows incorporating a dropped- stitch pattern. The yarn is Leading Men Fiber Arts in the colorway "Country Roads"

I do not have the energy to go into the next section, which involves short rows and seems like it would require more attention. 

Because a couple bad things happened today

Bad thing #1:

The perspective of that photo looks really weird (my leg looks huge) and that's right below the knee, but when I was walking back from my car to get the mail when I came home, my ankle turned (that happens: I pronate and it's not perfectly corrected by orthotics). Usually I notice it before I trip but I was carrying a couple of things and didn't realize I was falling until I almost was on the ground. Luckily I did not stiffen up or I might have really hurt myself.

It does look better now after cleaning it up


Also taken with a more-normal perspective.

2. The worse thing? I have a leak under the kitchen sink again. This time it is the drain hose from the dishwasher, I guess it was kinked up long enough that it got weakened and a hole broke in it. So even though I'm not using the dishwasher (No, I still have not looked into repair/replacement though I might be doing that sooner than planned depending on what the plumber says), water leaks into it and was running out under the sink. 

I admit I was just kind of defeated by it at first - I was going to make myself a pizza from scratch for dinner and gave up because when you can't really wash dishes, how do you cook? (I got a pizza from out even though those are less good for you). I did rig a bucket under the hose so I can do a little minimal dishwashing until the plumber comes tomorrow.

I fear this is going to be an extended issue; would not be surprised if this leak and a previous leak rotted some of the boards that will need to be replaced, so first I will have to get some kind of construction guy (please God let the plumber know of a good one 'cos I don't) in to replace them, THEN I can get a new dishwasher and get it installed. And this time I might see if the plumbers I normally use will pick it up from the appliance place and install it for me instead of Lowe's sending a semi-qualified dude (who may have messed up the hose that's now leaking when he installed the currently-defunct dishwasher). 

I had just been handwashing dishes which is not at all terrible (though I would like to eventually replace the dishwasher) but I can't unless the hose is fixed. I think the easiest fix would be to remove it from the main sink drain and just temporarily cap that off but I'll see what the plumber suggests.

It may also suggest a rodent problem? I hope not, I've not seen any sign, but I can't tell if the plastic just fatigued and broke or if it was gnawed. 

So anyway: I am beat and kind of emotionally wiped out. This would have been hard in the before-times, it's worse now. (And I anticipate it being a while on the dishwasher, even if I felt financially and logistically ready to deal with it: I have read that appliances are in somewhat short supply because of shipping delays due to COVID)

If the plumber can't deal with it satisfactorily tomorrow, I may just buy paper plates and plastic forks and be wasteful for a while until it can be dealt with. I don't fancy having to empty a bucket every time I wash a few dishes.


Friday, April 02, 2021

Friday evening things

 * The service last night was good. It focused more on the Last Supper, which I guess really is the focus of Maundy Thursday - many years we also did something like a Good Friday/Tenebraes service as part of it and that was what made it more difficult (and longer). It was mostly readings from the Gospel of John, I did about half of them and the pastor did the other half. 

He ended with a piano arrangement (yes, he plays the piano) of Via Dolorosa which is...I think Sandi Patti was known for it? But the odd thing is that if I had not known what the song was, I'd have thought "oh that's a Joe Hisaishi composition for one of the Ghibli movies"

Though I also admit I thought about how this year was different. Many previous years we walked out into a threatening thunderstorm - into the gathering dusk, which seemed appropriate. But I also thought about how D. - who had been at these things and I think even led one one year - was not here for it. And last year's didn't happen, of course, that was the week after we stopped doing in-person church and it was before virtual church was set up, so the last time I was at one of these things, it was before my dad died. 

The passage of time is a strange thing.

* Today was mostly tech-editing and I also wrote an exam. And I traveled to a "new" grocery to me. I am not going into Texas for a little while; there is construction on the bridge over the Red River and they've narrowed the lanes over the bridges, and it's uncomfortable to drive over them. But in one of the towns south of me, a new small grocery opened up and on their Facebook page they featured meats, so I thought, "Eh, it's less than 15 minutes away, worth a try." 

If the steak I bought is good, I might go back, though just for that - their produce was very limited and brands of things like cheese are not the brand I prefer. So I did wind up going to Pruett's for the other things. 

* But also my new athletic shoes came last night, and I tried them out in a workout today and yeah, part of my back issues might be having used worn-out athletic shoes for a while, it felt much better. Also I slept on my side (instead of my stomach) again last night - and again, no back pain upon getting up. 

So it's fixable. And it's an easy enough fix. (Yes, I still probably need to replace my mattress but I can do that this summer when I have more time).

But I can't quite describe the relief I feel - not just the relief of standing up out of bed and not having my back twinge, but relief from the worry of "what is wrong? do I need to go to the doctor? do I have something really bad going on?" or  "what if this gets a lot worse, what if some morning I cannot get out of bed to get to work?" (I don't keep my phone in my room - no convenient outlet for charging that already isn't in use, and also I don't want to get all the alerts and things - I understand that Amber alerts are important to people who might be out and about, but not for someone trying to sleep in their bed at home. So anyway: I could not easily call for help if I were unable to move out of bed, I'd have to flop myself out and crawl on the floor to my phone - not a far crawl, but still)

But yeah, not having to worry about "what if it gets worse" is really good. And I just generally FEEL better, I think the pain stayed with me a little (it may have been muscle cramps? It felt like a muscle spasm). Also I was worrying about "holy cow how will I do my fieldwork with this kind of pain this summer?"

* The most recent gachapon crate came, and I only opened one of the capsules in it so far, but I got this


LOL it's Cheems. (there are a few slightly offensive things over there; seems to be the nature with explanations/examples of memes)

Unfortunately I don't have a "Swole Doge" to contrast him with. (Actually the documentation that came with the box says it's a Pomeranian, and Cheems is a Shiba, but he looks enough like it.)


Thursday, April 01, 2021

a busy week

 At least it's almost over, as I get Good Friday off.

* I am "serving" tonight at Maundy Thursday. None of the other elders wanted it. But I have a history of crying at these things, and I hope after the past 20 months it doesn't all hit me during this. I have a lot of readings to do from the Last Supper and similar. I like these services and feel they are important but I remember a couple years where it just did me in to have to pray at them. And I'm gonna have to have something thought out before hand; usually the prayers-at-table are fine to do off the cuff but I feel kind of like this is the "Big Dance," so to speak.

* I thought about doing something special for Easter dinner but I am unsure as to what. I don't think I want to go grocery shopping in Sherman - there is construction on the bridge I take over the Red River that has narrowed it and I dislike driving over bridges enough as it is. So I've got Pruett's and maybe wal-mart (I figure: I'm fully vaxxed, if I go VERY early in the morning before the annoying people are out it might be OK). There's nothing I know of in Atoka that's different (they have a Pruett's and a wal-mart) or I'd go up there. 

That's one of the things I find frustrating about here. Anything much that's more "special" than sort of a minimal level, you have to drive far for, and usually go to another state. 

I already had chicken this week (still have one thigh in the fridge to eat today or tomorrow) so that's kind of out, steak doesn't seem "right" for Easter, I generally don't eat ham, and the only way to get decent lamb would be to go to Sherman for it so I don't know. We used to have a meat market but it closed up shop. 

* Though also, I have that bit of tech-editing to do, and some grading, so I would rather not "waste" part of my weekend having to drive back and forth to another place.  Would much rather get the work done AND have time to put the bindings on my quilts.

* Two nights in a row of forcing myself to sleep on my side, two mornings in a row of not having back pain so I may have figured the issue out? The confounding factor is both Tuesday and yesterday I was on my feet a lot more, and usually I fare better, ache-wise, if I don't sit too much. But I'm hoping this is it - or that maybe I pulled a muscle in my back at some point and I just have to keep sleeping this way for a while until it fixes itself. There have been a few times I worked myself too hard recently and while I don't specifically remember tweaking my back, I have a history of lifting things too heavy for me, or almost-falling and twisting funny rather than just letting myself go limp and fall. 

I have been putting a small pillow (well, actually, one of the small Squishmallow toys I have, they are about the right size) between my knees because I've read that forces your hips into a more comfortable alignment and also it seems to force me not to flop over onto my stomach, which is my preferred sleeping position.

 Still, I do want to plan on getting a new mattress this summer; it's time. But I will need to clear things up in my room and make a good enough path for the delivery/removal people. (I am planning on getting another innerspring, I don't care what the foamcore fans say - I have heard those things outgass like whoa, and I have too many chemical sensitivities already. And I will definitely choose a place that will remove the old one for me over a place that does not; too much logistical effort to get rid of an old mattress these days.)

And I definitely want to go somewhere and spend a lot of time TESTING THEM OUT. A mattress is too big of an investment to just go "yeah I'll mail order something." And I'm going to one of the "legacy" furniture stores in town rather than one of the mushroom-like "outlet" places, because I want a good brand with a good history behind it. Even if I pay more. I feel like mattresses are one thing it's a good idea not to cheap out on.

* That tells me maybe I can dial back a little on the extreme calorie restriction? That while I still should drop the pandemic weight I put on, I don't need to do it NAOW by really depriving myself? I eat pretty healthfully (though I could work in more vegetables) 

* Though I can't tell you - if you haven't dealt with pain of this kind, or chronic pain - how nice it is to be able to move without pain. The back thing wasn't constant, and it mostly went away after a few minutes of being up and moving around, but it was like, if I bent to just the wrong angle (and literally, it was like 5 degrees of the total range that I can bend, so a very small fraction of it), I'd get an intense twinge where I suddenly felt like if I were carrying something I'd have to drop it. Not only is chronic pain distracting and annoying because it hurts, but for someone like me, someone who is fundamentally healthy, it's worrisome - I found myself wondering, "Could I already be getting osteoporosis? Is my spine collapsing?" or "could I have some undiagnosed cancer somewhere that's now eating into my bones, and this is how I will learn of it" (Unlikely, I think, given that getting up and moving around mostly eliminated the pain - much more likely it's either arthritis or simple muscle stiffness/cramp)


Tuesday, March 30, 2021

back to projects

 (Long day today filming - or attempting to, we are 2 for 2 on equipment failure - another lab)

I'm trying to work back into having knitting mojo. I think this past 18? 20? whatever it's been months (since July 2019) kind of broke me from being able to just relax and work on stuff.

I did pull out the newest vest (another version of Pocketses, this time in a pinkish-purple yarn with the colorway name Jam) and started on the right front (the back and left front are done already). I'm also picking away at the crocheted blanket - that's what I worked on tonight, because I needed something simple to work on, being tired. 

***

I went ahead and used the Amtrak voucher I'd been hanging on since last year - I cancelled my trip in March 2020, and had remade it for May, and then finally in April decided May 2020 wouldn't be safe - so I took a voucher. Which would have expired this April (but Amtrak extended that deadline). But I figure I've been fully vaccinated, so has my mom, there's evidence that vaccinated people cannot spread the virus (as well as not getting it), so I figure mid-May will be safe enough. 

So I have a roomette, and will be spending about 2 1/2 weeks up there in May. 

So I guess I can start thinking ahead about what projects to bring, and what books I want to read. It'll be my first trip more than about an hour away from me since....well, since January 2020, I guess. 

***

I'm getting close to the end of Whisky Galore, and will have to consider what I want to read next. I have Monarch of the Glen by the same author but I might save that. (I have no shortage of books). I did also start a new mystery novel - The Case of the Constant Suicides, a Gideon Fell mystery. (So far Fell has yet to show up; this is a lot of introductory stuff at a Scottish manor house that is supposedly cursed by the owners falling off the turret at the top). 

***

Gonna see if being on my feet more helps my back. I've had on and off back problems when I first get up - as soon as I sit up, it's like something seizes up. Usually it gets better after walking for a few minutes, and keeping up with exercise seems to help. I think there are possible factors, though maybe in combination (from simplest solved to longest to solve):

1. Bad shoes, I'm not wearing supportive-enough shoes or my shoes are worn out. I did order a new pair of athletic shoes from Zappos; I'll see how those go with the workouts. (I find it easier to fit those than dress shoes, though; I may have to try to find a place that is allowing try-ons in person)

2. Sitting too much. This is hard when I have to work at my desk and I'm not ready to try to rig a standing desk in my office - maybe just getting up and walking some more will help, though also the fact that I can be unmasked when alone in my office but need to mask to go out in the hall (university rules)  means walking down the hall feels more arduous now. I might be able to rig up something so I could stand and read, at least.

3. Worn-out mattress. This is possible; my mattress is pretty old. I suppose I can see when I go up to visit my mom; the mattress in my room is newer and has had a lot less use than mine - if the back problems go away up there, that will tell me. (If I were really motivated, I could clear off the bed in the guest room and try sleeping there a few nights, but meh, that's on the side of the house with the periodically loud neighbors),

4. I'm too heavy and my abdominal muscles are too out of tone. Probably true, though losing weight is a long and arduous process for me. I have been trying to remember to suck in my gut periodically the past few days, thinking maybe that will tone it a little. And trying to do more exercise. Right now my hip is bothering me so getting down on the floor to do crunches is not so good - but if I can make myself do the exercise dvd more, there are "core" exercises in there. 

5. I'm just getting old, and maybe have arthritis or osteoporosis even, and there's really nothing to be done for this other than exercise, and get out of bed carefully in the mornings. I don't like that possibility; I want this to be something fixable. 

(It's also remotely possible I pulled a muscle and just have to give it a little time, but I think that would hurt more than just when I get up). 

It was better for a while - I had problems with it a few days over Christmas break when I was pretty immobile and I think also after I lifted some things that were too heavy for me - but then the past couple weeks it started bugging me again. Which gives me hope that maybe it's too much sitting, or bad shoes, and I can fix it with some minor changes. 


Monday, March 29, 2021

A childhood memory

 I saw this - about the Wieliczka salt mine in Poland - on a website today and I suddenly remembered a book I read as a kid - intrepid mice, venturing down to a mine where salt had been carved into fantastic dollhouse-like structures, to rescue Teddy-aged-Eight.

I'm talking about one of Margery Sharp's "Rescuers" books - there were I think eight or nine in total; five of which I had as a child, and read many, many times. I *think* I got the books for Christmas the year the Disney movie came out.


Yes, the movie is good and fun, but the books are a lot more complex. And they're *scarier* - there is real danger involved, and real horribleness in the villains (the woman who kidnaps the girl in "Miss Bianca" only does so because she wants an orphan to be mean to, not because a child with small hands can retrieve a giant diamond from a pirate's skull, like in the movie). 

Also, a bit of false advertising there - they use a movie still as the cover image on "The Rescuers," but I remember being disappointed when I read the book that it was NOTHING like the movie. ("Miss Bianca" is a lot closer, but it has its differences from the movie as well). But I liked them - I liked her use of language, and I liked the characters of the mice. And I loved Garth Williams' drawings; somehow his Bianca and Bernard are more distinctive and yet more mouselike than the Disney creations. 

(The last book - which I suspect has aged worse than the others - "Miss Bianca in the Orient" - I don't really remember it and also, it has drawings by Erik Bleglavd; I don't know if Willaims had passed on, or was busy, or just didn't want to illustrate it. I don't like those drawings nearly as well as Williams'). 

My favorite is probably "Miss Bianca in the Salt Mines," partly because of the unusual setting (and now I really do wonder if that Polish salt mine was the inspiration - surely Sharp at least knew of it, if she had not actually traveled there). And the two grumpy professorial mice - the unnamed (?) math professor, and Caerphilly - a geologist - who, as the math professor notes, "Grandmother, Welsh" - a joke I didn't get until I was a bit older. 

I hunted around a bit for any confirmation of my new hypothesis (that the setting was indeed the Wieliczka salt mine) and didn't find a lot - you have to dig way past the first few pages of ads for copies of the book on an online search - but I did find this nice appreciation for the series by Aussiemoose. And Mari Ness, at Tor, gives a bit more background - and makes me think maybe I should re-read them as an adult, given my greater historical knowledge (I was thinking earlier, before reading that article "Maybe the "Norwegian poet" was actually someone historical, just fictionalized a good bit" but maybe it was more generally a reference to Stalin's tendency to imprison (if not outright kill) anyone whose art didn't toe the party line). 

One of the reasons I remembered liking the books was the elaborate language - I always loved new vocabulary as a kid - and the fact that the author put in asides and things that seemed slightly conspiratorial - not so much talking down to the reader but talking *aside* to them, so to speak.

And of course: talking mice. And what's more, heroic talking mice. Miss Bianca is yes, very feminine (Leaves and Pages described her as "Miss Bianca is a very “feminine” character, in the most awfully stereotyped way possible, but there are enough little asides by the author that we can see that this is not a recommendation for behaviour to be copied but rather a portrait of a personality who uses the resources at hand (her charm, her beauty, her effect on others) to get things done." and I don't know about the "awful" part of it so much; we are all different, and some of us just kind of ARE that way. And she's found a way to use it to her advantage, in dangerous situations. I was rather charmed by her as a child; the idea that someone could be girly AND brave; love comfort but be resourceful in situations of little comfort)


And yes, the Disney movie is different - considerably bowdlerized in regards to violence and danger. I suppose things that are less scary on the page are more scary put up on the screen.  Or, as I opined once before - children are more resilient to that kind of thing in stories than adults are. I remember that when I read "The Hobbit" (because I saw the Rankin-Bass adaptation and wanted to read the novel), my dad asked me if I found it "scary," and I remember being baffled - it's not scary, it's exciting - but when I re-read it as an adult, I found the "underground" parts kind of scary. (And re-reading it as a "comfort read" late last summer - well, I had to stop at the point where Thorin Oakenshield - well, you'll know what happened if you read the book). I do think children - at least children like me, in a safe and loving family, who had not seen the horrors the world can dish up - can vicariously enjoy things an adult, who has lived with death and seen bad news and violence, might find a bit much. 

But the movie (at least the original; I never saw the sequels) is an enjoyable movie in its own right. I might not have chosen the Gabor sisters for the voice of Bianca (I think of her more as a Mid-Atlantic accent; if they were going to reboot the movie they could do worse than getting Tabitha St. Germain to do a Rarity-style voice for her). I will say that Bob Newhart was a good choice for Bernard; his self-effacing quality worked well (though I might have liked for Bernard to have been a bit sterner in the clutch, so to speak). 

But still. It's a fun movie, and one I remember fondly from childhood - and I liked it how a "feminine" character like Miss Bianca could also be canny and fairly tough and go out and have Adventures - you didn't see as much of that in children's entertainment then.

And I laugh, now, thinking about the Rescue Aid Society, and how the meetings of it are.....not all that unlike the AAUW and Christian Women's Fellowship and other do-gooder type groups I belonged to and went to meetings of (in the before-times; if we meet at all now it is virtually). But yes, the same busy-body types, the same people who pooh-pooh ideas, the same "you know what we should do"-ers who will nominate anyone but themselves to do some arduous task....



Friday, March 26, 2021

Friday afternoon things

 * Both my graduate students had medical issues (well, one is getting her second COVID vaccine dose), so no class this week, which is a relief. I am waiting to hear if the oral exam for the graduate student is still on or not; I have not received the Zoom invitation and if I have not by 3 pm (the scheduled start time), I am going to assume something went wrong and just go home. (Update: the person in charge is just very last minute about it, it will come shortly before the exam. Sigh. I am not used to only knowing things 15 minutes in advance)

* I did finish the binding on the newest quilt last night: 


Those are supposed to be lanterns though I know they kind of look like spools. This is not the greatest photo but it was after 8 pm last night when I finished it, so no outdoor shot.

I have another quilt to handsew the binding on, and a third one I need to PUT a binding on (make the binding and do the initial, machine-sewing step. And I have two more in at the quilter. I guess my quilt productivity is still pretty good, though in truth, most of these are the backlog of tops I made during the several years when I had no access to a long arm quilter. 

(I still want someday to get my own longarm machine and learn to use it, though I suspect I don't really have room in my house for one. I WISH there were studios where you could rent time on one, and such a studio was nearby, but for now I will take paying someone else to do it for me). 

* I also crocheted a bit on the endless ripple afghan last night; maybe I make a bit more of a dent in this before considering starting a new blanket. 

* A card from my mom (with a check in it for her share of our joint birthday gift to my brother) has gone missing. I reported it from the Informed Delivery page but I don't know what more I can do. My brother also told me his card arrived torn open - fortunately the gift was something delivered as an electronic gift certificate but this is unsettling. Some years back someone was arrested from our local PO for mail tampering - many, many cards I sent out never made their destination, and I received ones that had been slit open and re-taped. So I don't know - I guess next time I go down there I report it? I told my mom to wait a few days, and then, if she wants to spend the money, cancel the check - I know it's an expensive thing, and that should not be so, but it does seem as if someone unsavory got my check, seeing as it showed up in Informed Delivery for Monday and then just....never arrived. 

I hate this. I hate not being able to TRUST.

 

I called the PO. "Cheerful but useless" would be my most charitable description. I have no faith the check is going to show up and I heartily hope my mom isn't going to have to deal with identity theft. 

at least they know that at least one postal customer is losing mail, just in case they suspect another thief in the PO like they had before.

* And another thought about the low-stress news story of the week: I Like that the Big Boat is Stuck, by Sarah Gailey. They point out that it's not a debatable story; no one is conspiracy-theorizing that the boat is actually fake, or it's a mocked-up photo. No one has died or even been hurt. Yes, it is bad for commerce, and we may see an impact in short order in terms of higher prices or things being unavailable. But for now....it's a story a five-year-old can understand, and for some of us, with pandemic-brain, it's kind of nice to have a story that is simple and easily grasped: it's a big boat. Something bad happened and it got stuck. They are going to have to figure out how to unstick it.

And the other thing Gailey comments in their essay: "Unsticking the boat will require making the boat not be stuck. It won't take a year or more of isolation, or new heights of handwashing, or phone calls to legislators. It won't require the courage to face down militarized police forces or the gumption to get a shot that I know will make me feel a little bad before it makes me a lot safe. Nobody can tell me that if I just work a little harder or stop spending money on avocados or get a side hustle, the boat will get unstuck. If I did all of those things, perfectly right, right now, on tiptoes, there would still be a big stuck boat!"

 And yes, I feel that hard. It's not me being told "well, here's how you use a belt to hold a classroom door shut when there's an active shooter." or "Well, you need to wear a mask when you go out in public, and wash or sanitize your hands every time you've been outside your house, and only shop for groceries every 2 weeks if you can go that long." or "If you just worked a little harder, if you just applied yourself, you could write a whole BUNCH of manuscripts and submit them and if you were just a little tougher the eventual rejections of them would not hurt you, get over it!"

It's not something I have to take responsibility for.

 For me, that's the most freeing thing about it: there is literally nothing I can do to make the boat less stuck. And there is no way I can screw up that will make it more stuck. Its stuck-ness has nothing to do with anything I do. And to me....I can't explain it if you've never been an anxious perfectionist with maybe a tiny touch of compulsiveness, but....after a year of scurrying into the washroom after every lecture to wash my hands yet again, and after coming down with food poisoning, thinking it was COVID, and then blaming myself (until I got a negative test result) for having had the audacity to shop at a fabric store during a pandemic....it's a giant relief. 

 I can just watch, and laugh at the memes, and wait for the inevitable cheering when it IS unstuck.

Thursday, March 25, 2021

Made me LOL


 Someone elsewhere opined that this is a "fun" news story for a lot of us - no one died and while it's bad for snarling up commerce and that company is losing money, also, we're seeing a mess-up in real time, and seeing all of the scrambling to fix it.

(I saw a video on Twitter and reposted it with the question "How many civil engineers does it take to unstick a ship?")

And it's so memeable. I know a lot of people think this is stupid and I openly admit that one way in which I am annoying is that I tend to carry a joke far farther than normal people do. But I do find it kind of amusing in a way that I have not been amused by a news story in a long time.

Also it taught me of the existence of Vessel Finder, which monitors the position of many (most?) sea going vessels, and some of the larger ones on river, and I find that kind of thing just sort of interesting - I have a subscription to FlightRadar 24, for example. (I wish there were one for freight trains, but I haven't been able to find one. I'd love to know what train it is I hear around 4:15 am some mornings)

Kind of flat

 This is partly, I am sure, allergies. My allergies are *awful* right now, which is ironic, as we've had a lot of rain, which supposedly washes pollen (tree pollen is one of my worst allergens) out of the air.

But everything is just kind of hitting me today. I am tired and sad and can tell I'm grumpy. 


First up: low attendance (both in-person and on Zoom) in my classes this week. Yes, it's the week after spring break. Yes, there have been storms in the area that have messed with people's wifi. But I am also noticing that more and more, people seem not to want to do the "synchronous" work and instead are going "meh, I'll watch the video later" (narrator voice: many of them actually do not watch the video). And I get people doing things like going "but you never ANNOUNCED there was an exam coming up!!!" when in fact I did announce that like every darn day in class for a week and a half, and also there was an online notification, and I am so tired of it all.

I have decided, if we are still "expected" to do an online component in the fall? I will be very, very, very insistent about "I am NOT posting recordings, recordings will only be made available with a clear and reasonable advance excuse" like if someone has to take their kid to the doctor. Kind of like in the before times that if you had to miss class, you just had to miss class. I am tired of enabling people to put off doing work to a point where it's not tenable to get it all done. And I am frankly tired of dragging my butt out of bed every morning just so other people don't have to.

Also it takes an extra fifteen minutes or so per day just dealing with Zoom - I have to go to class earlier to get all the tech to talk to each other, and then after they've processed I have to rename the recordings, and turn off the "passcode protection" (easier than posting the code and making students deal with it) and copy the link and add it in to Blackboard and some days that DOES feel like a lot. I want to stop doing that. 

I also want to go back to doing in person exams; it's too hard to prevent the sort of simpleminded (and therefore: no one learns from it) sort of cheating that goes on on online exams. If I allow more sophisticated "cheating" (like: "you may bring a 3 x 5 card with any notes or formulas on it you would like to use on the exam") that isn't really cheating - well, I remember when I was able to do that in college, and how many times I went through my notes to figure out what I would especially want and - well, they could have taken the card away from me at the door when I walked into the exam and I'd still have done fine; I turned out not to need it because it forced me to focus and study more.


Also, it's isolating and awful to teach to only three people out of a sixteen person class - and two of them are joining online. I read this article this morning and nodded a lot at it. A pull quote: "my Zoom sessions always leave me more drained, and feeling more alone, then when I entered them."

YES. I am often slightly reluctant walking IN to class, but a good day's teaching, with good interactions, energizes me. Teaching over Zoom, with its "shouting into the void" component, is just draining. It's hard to keep your energy up when there are no other people to reinforce you. Apparently some of my colleagues love it? I don't. I need to see that I'm getting through to people, I need students' questions and reactions and their contributions for it to "work."

 

And there are little annoyances: I do my office hours over Zoom (and if things are better in the fall? That's gonna be the first thing to change back to normal). There's no where to put the "obligatory" window that opens that doesn't block some other part of my desktop while I am working, so I have to see at least a corner of my stupid face the whole time my office hours are "open." And I have to move it sometimes when I've put it over some "button" I turn out to need.


I also confess I am getting to the point in the whole "masking in public" thing where I'd rather not leave the house than put it on. Or rather not leave my office if I can avoid it while on campus. Because it's just a whole thing. And I am tired. I mean, yes, I get it, NPIs are still our best defense and even those of us vaxxed probably should still wear them when around other people (and I need to obey the rules of my campus) because we're not 100% the vaccine shuts down transmission. But I am tired of wearing one. And I am tired of circumscribing where I go and what I do; things feel like more of an effort. (I had to get a mailing box yesterday and it felt like exploring the Arctic, going ALL THE WAY across town to the chain drugstore that I know sells them. (Part of it is just all the extra effort involved in course work; I seem to be extra tired and unmotivated come the end of the day)


I think I'm also feeling hard the losses - both recent and past. I've been dreaming every night about taking Amtrak somewhere; every dream ends with me either missing my train or somehow being prohibited from traveling. And I was thinking again this morning about my friend D. and some of the things he enjoyed and did and how those are gone now. And I get into these moods - and I suppose I bring this up in the next counseling session - where I feel very much like "we're all gonna die eventually, and what's more, eventually the universe is going to collapse in on itself, so why bother doing anything?" and yet, eventually, I can cycle into a "but I'm alive NOW" and enjoy the moment or whatever; it's just, Sunday afternoons when I'm alone, or that dark middle of the night when I wake up after an unsettling dream, or that afternoon when I get home at 5 pm and have to fix dinner but don't have the energy to nor the inspiration to make anything good, that those thoughts kind of haunt me. Maybe this is just an aftereffect of the interrupted mourning (interrupted by the pandemic) and the stress from the pandemic, and burnout from trying to be all things to all people in my teaching?


Gah. I probably need to either finish the binding on that one quilt tonight (so I feel like I've accomplished something) or give up temporarily and start the blanket I was talking about (so I have the fun of novelty). This is going to have to be a work-end; I have departmental scholarship applications to evaluate and three papers to technical edit for the journal I am a tech editor for....

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Tuesday grab bag

 * In case you thought you were having a bad day, you didn't have as bad a day as the guy who got his ship stuck in the Suez Canal. (Granted, it is probably not the captain's fault? It sounds like whoever dispatched the ship looked at the size limits and went "eh, those are just advisory" and sent too big of a ship)

The real problem with this is that shipping and importing has been badly messed up for a while, and this is just going to make it worse - a lot of things travel through the canal. I just hope this doesn't lead to food shortages in some nation that can ill-tolerate them. Me getting one of my Doki Doki crates a couple months late is an annoyance, but it's not like not having enough rice available in the grocery or something.

* I finished the Mystery Project, and have to get a box the right size for the various items and send them off. I am HOPING Priority Mail has recovered somewhat and it arrives in good time (And intact. My brother got his birthday card but it was opened and a bit torn and he was afraid I had included a gift card, but I had not - there was just the card in there. But I'm unhappy if that means someone is rifling through the mail again, like happened here a few years ago.)

* So now I'm trying to apply the binding to one of the quilts I have stacked up.

It's a slow process.


* I do want to start something new soon. Louise Tilbrook (whom I follow on Twitter) posted a "recipe" for a very simple corner-to-corner knitted blanket - sort of like those dishcloths, but knitted a LOT bigger. She designed it for dk weight yarn, which the color-shifting Lion Brand Mandala that I am such a sucker for is. My last trip to JoAnn's (my birthday) they had Lion Brand on 25% off (and they seem to be closing out Mandala anyway, probably time for the Next Big Thing) and I bought 750 or so yards (Tilbrook's pattern called for 600 yards). I also think I'll use a bigger needle than she used so that it's a looser weave, like a thermal blanket. I like the idea of it because it's super simple - requiring almost no thought. Although this is starting to be the wrong time of year for working on blankets. 

* I'm trying to slowly increase piano practice time. I would like, this summer, to see if my teacher might still be available and start doing lessons again. At first I didn't want to do them because we are both working in different places, and both would have been at risk of contracting COVID and passing it the other (and doing piano masked would not be fun) but I expect she'll have been vaccinated soon (as a primary school teacher) if she isn't now. But I'm not ready yet, this is a HARD semester and I don't know that I have time. But I'm trying to increase the 20 minutes some days to 40 or 50. And I started on Elgar's "Salut d'Amour," which is a more difficult piece than you'd think (lots of chords where you are using several fingers of both hands, and I can't quite get the fingering right in a few places). But it's a favorite piece of mine, and I'd like to be able to play it.

Monday, March 22, 2021

"Working from home....

 ....or living at work?"


That's actually a question I've seen a few people pose in essays recently, with the whole WFH thing.

And yet, I also see lots of people praising WFH - for one thing, it's certainly accommodating to disabilities in the way going in to work isn't (especially things like noise sensitivity, or difficulty interacting face to face, or certain mobility disabilities where you have your house set up to work for you). And some people say they love being able to have more leisurely lunches, or attend to chores on downtimes. 

I will say: I don't love it. I was glad to get back to my office when it was possible. I was glad to get back to the classroom. EVEN on the days when no one shows up in person and I'm talking to a computer. 

Part of this is simple practicality: I have a small house. It's like 1250 square feet. Yes, I have a spare bedroom but it is currently used as a storage room and there is NO space. I don't have a home office. The two "candidates" for home office would be the spare bedroom, which would mean my either renting a storage unit (an outlay of more money each month) or divesting myself of MANY books and much accumulated yarn. And even then, I'd have a small space because that's where a spare bed is, and where my cross-country ski exerciser is. The other "candidate" would be my sewing room - and again, to cut down on "temptations" not to work, I'd have to divest myself of fabric and craft books. AND the Wi-fi doesn't reach there as well - Oh, I still get it, but it's down a semicircle or two. 

So when we were forced to wfh, I wound up buying a desk for the corner of my living room. My original plan had been to get a writing desk (I thought that back in late 2019) but then I thought of rearranging my bedroom and putting the writing desk in my back window, that looks over the backyard. Well, because of Reasons I did not want to broadcast classes from my bedroom, so my living room became my office.

There is not a lot of open space there - it's a sizable room, but I also have a 7' baby grand piano in it, and a futon couch, and bookshelves.

For much of the wfh period last spring, I was "teaching" with my computer on the closed lid of my piano - the only place of sufficient height with me standing - and I had a *tiny* bit of pacing-space in the room. And yes, I need to pace when I teach. It helps me think. But it just wasn't a practical space, and that space got VERY messy as I printed things out, and stacked up textbooks, and everything. 

If I were going to have to wfh forever, I'd either have to rent a storage locker and clear out the guest room to the point where I could set up in there, or just give up my sewing room to it - or, more likely, petition the city to get a variance to put an insulated and climate-controlled shed (with electricity and a connection to the cable modem - wifi doesn't reach that far) in my backyard to teach from. And hang up a whiteboard in there, and have it be long enough in one dimension at least so I could pace.

But also, for me, there's a psychological cost to wfh. I tend to over-identify with my job, to the point where, if things are going badly at work, I feel like my whole life is going badly. And I do tend to feel guilty when I take time off from working. So I need separation between home and work. I suspect a small part of my sleeping badly last spring was not JUST being freaked out by the pandemic, but the lack of a psychological separation between "work time" and "home time," and I did feel a bit as if work had invaded my house. 

I find that wfh makes it hard for me to relax.

So that's why I cringe at the people who go "LONG LIVE WORK FROM HOME! EVERYONE SHOULD DO IT **FOREVER**!!!"

Okay, fine: maybe you should do it forever if you want.

But please don't force me to. (And it would be miserable to be the lone "I want to go in to the office" person in a workplace - you'd probably be forced into WFH, because the company would sell off their facilities. And that's another thing: fundamentally, the cost of electricity, heating, cooling, extra water, etc., are being offloaded onto the individual worker. I mean, there's a gross old rhyme about "boss makes a dollar, I make a dime..." that could be taken as "the company pays for the water in the washroom, so you don't have to" and while that's only a tiny bit of the cost of doing business from home....well, I am sure I wasn't alone in turning the heat down (in the winter) or the AC warmer (in the summer) when I left the house for the day because not heating an empty house saves money)

I just found that I felt very "constrained" in teaching from home (not enough space, not enough 'difference' from where I lived) and also, I felt I could not relax happily "off the clock" because work worries penetrated my living space (more than they do, normally).

Granted: I am very lucky. I have an extremely short commute to work - about five minutes on a good day. If I forget something at home, I can run home and get it. If I have a couple hours between classes, I can go home for lunch if I want. 

But I don't want an even shorter commute! Like, from my bedroom to my living room. 

If some bizarre thing happened - like, suddenly, there was a 100% vaccine-escape mutant, and we were informed we'd be working solely from home for the next five years, I WOULD get a shed built in the backyard (or somehow upgrade/convert my garage, which might be simpler than a new build) and use that as an "office" because I could not stand having the 10 or so square feet of my living room around the desk be my "office" forever. 


That's a problem with one-size-fits-all solutions: they really don't. Yes, some people are served really well by working from home, and in as much as it's possible, they should be able to continue. But the rest of us should not be forced into that because suddenly it's more "profitable" (or "cost-saving," if you're technically a non-profit) to require people to use their own wifi and their own climate control and their own space to do their jobs....

Sunday, March 21, 2021

Some Sunday things

Last Saturday, when I went to the natural-foods store, I found rye flour (Bob's Red Mill "dark rye" flour). It's hard to find here, and I remembered liking Limpa break (Swedish rye, though other Scandinavian cultures have their version) and had wanted to make one.

Hunting around in my Finnish-American cookbook (long story but: my mom grew up in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, and while she is not of Finnish heritage, many people there are, and especially one of her friends from there was, Joyce wound up as the editor of the cookbook in question). It's a pretty good cookbook though most of the recipes are not specifically Finnish.

But a few are, like this one. The "real" name of it is Pääsiäisleipä (Finnish is, IIRC, closer to Estonian and some of those languages than to the other Scandinavian languages).

The main virtues of the bread is that it was seasoned the way I wanted (cardamom and orange peel) and also it was a small batch (1 cup of rye, 2 of plain flour, so it only makes one loaf- ideal for someone who lives alone. I will still have to slice and freeze or at least refrigerate most of the loaf; break without the typical preservatives goes moldy fast in this climate)

I think it's "Easter," because it has 2 eggs and 1/4 cup of butter and 1/2 cup milk - I don't remember if the Finns did an egg-and-butter fast during Lent but that might be what makes it "Easter" bread.

So what you do is this:

combine 1 packet yeast (2 1/4 teaspoons) with 1/4 cup of warm water and a tiny pinch of sugar to feed the yeast, put that aside.

Heat 1/2 cup milk with 1/4 cup of butter in it so the butter at least softens. (canned evaporated milk works fine for this; my mom usually uses that - she said her grandmother ALWAYS used that, I suspect because of lack of a refrigerator or even icebox, and canned milk keeps better)

Put the milk and butter in a large mixing bowl and add 1/4 cup sugar,  2 teaspoons of ground cardamom, and 1 teaspoon of dried orange peel (could probably use a smaller quantity of fresh, or dried lemon peel). Add 1 cup rye flour and stir.

Then add 2 beaten eggs and the yeast mixture to the batter.

Add the plain flour gradually - the recipe calls for 2 cups but I needed a tiny bit more. Then you turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead (I did 7 minutes. Most breads you do 10, but that's a little much for breads with eggs - typically for an all-white-flour bread with an egg you only do 5 minutes, but I think rye is slower to develop gluten? Anyway, 7 minutes worked for me). 

Then you put it in a greased bowl, cover, let rise for about 90 minutes (they gave no instructions on this so I checked elsewhere - it seems like 90 minutes to 2 hours depending on the warmth in your house). Then I punched it down, shaped it, and put it in a greased loaf pan (standard sized, I use the Pyrex ones) for about an hour. (I think I did an hour and 15 minutes). Then I heated the oven to 350 (do 375 if you are using a metal pan) and brushed the top with a beaten eggwhite. (Traditionally they sprinkle slivered almonds on top and the egg is to make them stick, but I didn't have any)

It needs to bake a while - I baked it about 30 minutes and put an aluminum foil over the top (it browns fast) and then did it for 15 minutes more. It sounds hollow when tapped.

Be SURE to grease the pan well, it wanted to stick in mine. 

But it turned out well, and it makes a very nice textured bread:

You can see how the egg wash makes it browner.

It's a slightly-sweet bread but not SWEET like danish. It would probably work for some sandwiches, or would be good with jam on it.


While the bread was rising, I went out and pulled some of the weeds (mostly what I think is Himalayan blackberry, an invasive species) out of the garden. I'm happy to see that the marjoram and sage and oregano survived our extreme cold snap. 

I also saw what was either a bee or a bee mimic fly. I couldn't get a good picture of it and it was never still enough for me to count wings (bees have four, though the front and the rear wings hook to each other so it looks like a single set in flight; flies have two) but it had a really distinctive orange face:


I kind of think from the body shape it was actually a bee-mimic rather than a true bee, but I can't find anything online that quite matches it.