Thursday, February 02, 2023

Thursday evening things

 * Classes are cancelled AGAIN tomorrow. That makes a whole week of instruction gone. I e-mailed my class that was to have an exam tomorrow and told them it was Wednesday of next week instead (I do not trust the print shop, given its recent history, to have actually printed the exam I sent to them Monday morning yet, and I'd rather not deal with arguing with them or copying the exams myself on the departmental copier first thing Monday morning.

* My cold is better but not BETTER. I'm at the rattly-cough stage and a couple times this evening I coughed hard enough I was worried about giving myself a migraine or busting a small blood vessel somewhere. I've been trying to keep it at bay by drinking water and running a humidifier and periodically eating a spoon of honey (which actually does work, and it's the only thing I had on hand - even if I could take a lot of the typical cough medicines, honey probably works at least as well)

*I haven't done a lot. I haven't enjoyed this enforced downtime - I've only left the house since midday Monday to carefully walk to the mailbox and get the mail. I finished taking notes on all the magnoliids (the so-called dicots) and started the liliopsids but didn't get all that far in them, but I guess I'm now a week ahead of where I planned on being since I didn't cover the little bit of material (along with the exam) I was going to do this week, and heck, I even have the lab written (I did that last Saturday). 

* I'm having big flashbacks to March/April 2020 and that's not good for my mental state. I'm hoping the roads seem good enough midmorning tomorrow that I can at least go get some fresh food. And maybe go to my PT appointment, but if I'm still coughing periodically I may have to cancel because I get coughing and it's hard to stop. I'm hoping another night's sleep will fix it.

* Other flashbacks: this week was the 20th anniversary of the Columbia space shuttle breaking up on re-entry (I had forgotten it was on re-entry). I had gone up to Chickasaw (it was a Saturday) with a couple who had (briefly) joined my department; we were going hiking. I don't know if we had had the radio on and heard the news, or if someone had seen it before we left, or what, but I do remember when we got up there to the nature center one of the rangers came out, and said to the other ranger standing there, "We got the official word; take the flag down to half-staff" which is kind of a chilling way to find it out.

Heck, I was writing the blog then, and I mentioned it.

It's weird to think of how much stuff I've lived through in the time I have been writing this blog.

* Also, today, there's news that (allegedly) a Chinese-spy balloon is floating around Montana somewhere, presumably, looking at defense installations or at least there to freak people out.

And it made me think of the 1980s all over again, and this

Yeah, I guess this is maybe less ominous than some of the things that happened then but I think I might have been happier if, say, an Air Force plane punctured it and retrieved it when it came down and just took it away without it being a big news thing. 

* I did get out the swift and ball-winder and I wound off two batches of yarn - the first, some DK Berroco for a simple top-down raglan turtleneck from a back issue of Simply Knitting. It's a man-designed sweater but is unisex enough that if I make the right size, it'll work for me. And I also chose a dark reddish purple for the color.

And I decided I needed a simpler knit for my invigilating knit than the linen-stitch raglan (which requires concentration to not knit the stitch pattern too tightly) so I found the yarn for and the pattern I printed out for Chalcedony from a back issue of Knitty. I had the recommended yarn (Eco+) and either the recommended color or one shade darker (it's a medium blue). I plan to start this this weekend because Wednesday and Thursday (now) I will be giving exams - and the following week I give my first soils exam. 

This is a couple things from fairly deep in the stash; one thing I do want to do is start making the projects I planned ages ago, got the yarn and pattern for, and never started. But I have other things I need to finish - A Sweater for John is awfully close, I just need to drag it back out and do the last few raglan decreases, the button bands and pocket, and then the finishing....

The poet's day

 Way back, in the heyday of personal blogs, someone - I forget who - started a tradition of "do a silent poetry reading on February 2 in honor of St. Brigid/Candlemass/Groundhog Day/Imbolc" and a lot of bloggers, across different blog formats, celebrated along.

A lot of the knitting bloggers did it.

I liked that. I liked the idea of us sharing a little tradition, I liked that tiny thread of connection. I still do it even though I think I am now one of very few "personal" long-form bloggers (who is not a substack or a paid blog or a political blog) any more. But I will keep doing it, in memory of what once was, and in hopes that maybe some day there will be a smaller and nicer and more-personal web out there, where friendships can be made and people can share their niche interests without the push to "monetize" or turn them into a side-hustle.

I wasn't sure what to post for this year - I've run through most of my big favorite poems in the close to 20 years I've been posting them, but then I ran across this one a couple days ago on twitter.

it is by Ada Limón, who wrote it for Greenpeace, so I guess it's "really" about what we're doing to the environment, but upon my first reading of it I also read it as "what these past few years have done to me, to my personality" and especially the line "I miss who I was" but also the idea that somewhere, deep underneath the pain and the emotional scars, there is still that person I was.


On the top of Mount Pisgah, on the western
slope of the Mayacamas, there’s a madrone
tree that’s half-burned from the fires, half-alive
from nature’s need to propagate. One side
of her is black ash and at her root is what
looks like a cavity that was hollowed out
by flame. On the other side, silvery green
broadleaf shoots ascend toward the winter
light and her bark is a cross between a bay
horse and a chestnut horse, red and velvety
like the animal’s neck she resembles. I have
been staring at the tree for a long time now.
I am reminded of the righteousness I had
before the scorch of time. I miss who I was.
I miss who we all were, before we were this: half
alive to the brightening sky, half dead already.
I place my hand on the unscarred bark that is cool
and unsullied, and because I cannot apologize
to the tree, to my own self I say, I am sorry.
I am sorry I have been so reckless with your life.

Tuesday, January 31, 2023

still at home

 Today was probably the worst day of the cold; I felt very 'dried out' and I coughed a lot. I finally dragged out my humidifier (it's one of the warm mist ones that boils the water, which seems safer as regards the risk of bacterial contamination) and cleaned it out and set it up and that helps some.

I didn't do a lot; I went through a few more families from my book (I've almost taken notes on all the dicots I want to cover and the monocot group is smaller).  If classes wind up being cancelled Thursday (They might? We're supposed to get freezing rain tomorrow and the university is already closed for then) I will be a week ahead of where I thought I was. 

I didn't leave the house today except to get the mail. And even that was fraught - we had got sleet/graupel last night and I didn't think to scrape away what had accumulated in the afternoon yesterday and I couldn't get the storm door (which opens out) open and I was a bit unsure of what to do - do I go and try the side door, which is hard to get in and out of and is a longer walk in potentially slick conditions? Luckily, the man across the street was out walking his little dog and he saw me trying to force the door and he went and got a shovel and cleared enough stuff for me to be able to open the door, and then I got MY shovel (which I have sitting in the entryway now just in case) and cleared the rest of the porch off. 

If we get sleet tomorrow I need to remember to periodically scrape off the porch

I might not have bothered except (a) I think about "but you need to be able to get out if there were an Emergency" (though maybe I could bash the glass in the storm door out and crawl out) and (b) there was a knitting needle I ordered in the mail and very occasionally we have people prowling the neighborhood opening mailboxes to see what they can find, and the packaging the needle was in could have looked like jewelry or something, you know, actually valuable to a random person. 

But we're supposed to get freezing rain tomorrow, which I do not love - that is what takes down power lines. Also being stuck at home gets old really fast; I am having 2020 flashbacks today and I don't like that, and also flashbacks to "snowmageddon" of 2021. One thing the pandemic REALLY broke me of was being able to sit quietly alone for any length of time.

I really hope it warms up Thursday and we can have classes. Friday is supposed to be better. I hope the milk supply I have in the fridge holds out, AND ALSO I expect it to be hard to get much for a few days after this because of slowed supply chains so I may just have to plan on either doing without milk, or using some sketchier brand because that's all that's available. 

And I hope this is the end of the bad winter weather. I don't mind a little snow so much - especially not if the ground/streets are warm enough it doesn't stick, but the risk of losing power and also me looking at the food supplies I have and going "well, can't make that because I don't have that particular fresh ingredient, can't make chili 'cos I have no meat on hand, don't have enough eggs for an omelet...." it gets a little worrisome.

Monday, January 30, 2023

Going home early

 So, Saturday morning I woke up sneezing (I had coughed a bit on Friday, but I honestly thought it as having worked in the herbarium/one of the PT techs burning popcorn in the microwave when I was there). Nope, it's a cold. First one in three years. (And yes, I took a COVID test Sunday morning before church despite not having a fever or body aches: negative).

Colds stink. I had forgotten how they are, for something that is really rather minor, kind of unpleasant. 

It's also possible this could be allergies but at this point I think it's a cold, because the cold and precipitation should have removed pollen from the air.

Yeah, we got this today:

They sent us all home at noon. I was seriously considering canceling my afternoon lab (it's one that typically runs long, I have a couple students with a sizable commute, and I didn't want people to have a hard time getting home. But then an e-mail came in a bit after 10 saying that classes after noon were cancelled, and the university will be closed tomorrow. 

I did carry home my systematic botany books and the little Leuchtturm notebook I'd been taking reading notes in, but didn't get anything done this afternoon because I really did feel kind of crummy. 

Maybe tomorrow. 

Hopefully, we only get sleet/graupel (that's what you hear in the video - sleet pellets) and not freezing rain. Stuff coming down already frozen won't take down power lines, but freezing rain, which freezes on contact, will weigh down lines and tree branches and lead to power outages.

I would not be surprised to find classes cancelled on Wednesday as well; it doesn't look like it will get any better before then. I assume my PT appointment tomorrow at 3 won't happen but if they've not called by 10 am I might call them, I don't love the idea of driving across town through several four-way stops (not great on good days with other drivers) to get there.

I did start a new project. I realized I start giving exams this week and wanted something new (I forgot the vest I had ongoing, but whatever.) I had downloaded (from Ravelry) a free sweater pattern called Crayon Etching. It was designed for Noro Kureyon but I had enough Aya in stash (similar weight but different fiber composition) and decided to try it. I don't remember why/how I got the Aya, I am wondering if it came from Elann on a closeout.Normally Noro is pretty expensive.

Anyway, I decided to give it a try. I"m not convinced it will WORK, I'm going to work a bit more and check out the gauge (without washing/blocking, but I can always play around with that if it's CLOSE to right unwashed). 

The first bits are tricky - short rowing to start the increases for the raglans (and also maybe make the front and back a little different). I want to get up to the "plain" raglan part before Thursday when I would give my exams.(I am about halfway there).

If it doesn't seem like it's going to work I could still wind of some other yarn I have, for a plain turtleneck from a pattern in Simply Knitting. (I have a *lot* of sweaters-worth of yarn on hand. 

It looks asymmetrical because that's the shortrowing; the front part is at the bottom. Perhaps it's done that way to provide a bit more fabric for over the bustline.

It's knit in linen stitch, which is slow and also tight - I am knitting a worsted weight on US 11s, which is a much larger needle than I'd normally use (the typical size I'd use for stockinette with a yarn of this nature is 7 or 8)

If it doesn't fit when I get a bit more done, I could either find someone to pass it on to, or I could just unravel it and try again. At this point it *seems* like it should fit - the neck line is right, anyway - but it's hard to tell.

Friday, January 27, 2023

PT round two

 Yes, I went back. I felt REMARKABLY better Wednesday, Thursday I was sore and got cramping in one of the front muscles of my thigh, but every exercise person I talked to has told me (and the PT guy confirmed) that the SECOND day after working muscles hard is worse.

Today, we worked more on the hamstrings and the core. I know some of the stretches I can do - one with a towel held behind my knee and stretching my leg up and trying to flex the foot. And I'm learning that the whole "BE AGGRESSIVE! B-E AGGRESSIVE! B-E A-G-G-R-E-S-S-I-V-E!!" thing that every gym teacher I had pushed about things like calisthentics is actually a bad idea about stretching - you don't want to start too hard or you might injure yourself. Some of the stretches felt like nothing much until I sat up and then was like Oh, okay, that does work the core. 

(Actually, I wonder if gym is just generally poorly done in the US. If the goal is to teach kids to be lifelong exercisers, a lot of the embarrassment - like, they used to make fun of fat kids, EVEN THE TEACHERS DID, or uncoordinated kids is actually counterproductive. And the gym suits were uncomfortable and didn't cover enough for some of the comfort of some of the kids. And people being made to do things that are uncomfortable for them rather than having "tracks" kids can select - so maybe some kids would like to do aerobics classes type stuff, others might want to play basketball, still others might want to do cross country or weightlifting or whatever. There's absolutely NO REASON that, for example, you could not run ALL gym classes in a medium sized school at the same time of day, and NO REASON to, for example, have only eighth graders in one class. (And okay, yeah: maybe don't, for example, do contact-y sports where you have the little kids in with the big kids, or things where someone who's not had a growth spurt yet would feel less-than. But that could be worked out).

I hated PE. I developed early and fast and got teased by some of the other girls for needing a bra early. And for having stretch marks, which is something no "your changing body" class talks about - if you grow fast, if you develop fast, you get 'em. I hated the gym clothes; the shorts felt too short and the t-shirt was too tight. And I was chubby and uncoordinated and generally bad at sports, and I took a lot of crap for it. 

I came to exercise later on - in my 20s - after a number of abortive attempts. In high school, my prep school required some kind of either sports participation (freshman and sophomores had to) or some kind of active activity after school (juniors and seniors could do "CS" which was community service where we helped the groundskeepers, or we could build sets for the plays). The "sports" I did were tennis and swimming and in the spring I helped manage lacrosse because at the time I was told not to do things that involved long-distance running (bad ankles). I also tried modern dance one disastrous winter but I was too uncoordinated and also felt fatter than the other girls in the class, and I couldn't keep the choreography in my head, and I cried a lot over it. I also played squash although really we weren't supervised so mostly we smacked the ball around a little and then took long breaks to sit down and shoot the bull. 

In college, I just walked everywhere, which probably actually kept me pretty fit. Some times I tried to use the stairs (six flights) to get up to my apartment but often I just took the elevator. 

Finally, in grad school, I decided I HAD to do regular exercise, and I was living with my parents, and they had a cross country ski exerciser that my dad had bought but quit using - so I took it over. At one point I was doing a whole hour a day! (I can't do that now; 40 minutes is about my maximum). I got a lot fitter but not a lot skinnier, but I did develop a lot of musculature and more than once had someone tell me "ah, I can tell you work out, you have really well developed shoulder muscles"

I kept that up - I actually think I am on cross country ski exerciser number 3 at this point (they wear out after a while with heavy use). I also have a low-impact aerobics dvd that I should get back out, as it works other muscle groups - I am learning with the PT exactly WHAT muscle groups I am not working and I am a weird combination of some *really strong* muscles and others that are *really weak*. Though hopefully, with learning  and doing the stretches, I strengthen those muscles up.

This is partly so I don't *hurt* (and I am realizing that the "mystery pains" I was having that alarmed my hypochondriac nature were just muscles, not something wrong with an *organ* somewhere, even though every time I had a twinge that felt surficial - which all these are - my brain would scream "REFERRED PAIN" at me). But it's also partly for the future: I want my balance to be good, I want to be strong enough that I don't fall. Falls are bad if you're an aging woman with a family history of osteoporosis.

It's expensive though. I'm telling myself it's an investment in my future and it also makes me feel better in the here and now - and heck, it's also a slightly social activity, there were a few older people there today (I think they do stroke rehab, I think that's what one woman was getting) and also I talk to the PT guy and the techs (and one of the techs is a former student of mine). So I'm getting out and having human contact and maybe that's good, too, maybe that's partly worth the cost. Eventually though my insurance will kick in (though I don't know if I'll use this enough to use up my deductible, which is pretty high.)

I have two more appointments next week. I'll see how long he wants me to keep coming; he said the goal was for me to learn these and be able to do them on my own. (Though it would be nice to get out there just to use the other equipment - I warm up on an elliptical, which is similar to the cross country skiier but I can tell it works the inner thighs more, and today I used something they said allowed one to do "controlled squats" to strengthen the front-of-the-thigh muscles). 

Edited to add: and thanks again, Dad. I realized I could take the RMD from one of the accounts he left me and it will be enough to cover most of the co-pays. As he was disabled with osteoarthritis in the last years of his life, even though my issue here is different (muscular), I think he'd approve of my using the money for this.

Thursday, January 26, 2023

Tomorrow's the day!

 Tomorrow is the 21st anniversary of my first tentative posts on this blog.

Yes, my blog will be old enough to drink (In the US, and if it were a person) tomorrow.

I don't know. I admit I have mixed feelings. Sticking with anything for this long says something, I guess. I KNOW though I have been less interesting in the past several years, as my life has increasingly turned inward and also I have felt  (much of the time) less inclined to make stuff. Too much abyss-gazing: the result of suddenly losing a couple friends (starting with Steve's death in 2018) and one parent, and also having a couple health scares that turned out to be nothing. But I know I'm still dealing with the combined shocks of the deaths of several people I was very close to, and the whole upending/eyes-opening/life-changes of the pandemic. As I said: I now trust people less; I am less willing to want to just meet people because there really some folks out there who are absolutely oppositionally-defiant about certain things and while one of the current ideas making the rounds is "it's not good to live in a bubble," I also think we should not be FORCED to spend time in places that feel hostile to us. 

I also find I am MUCH less tolerant of crowded spaces, after several years of feeling like "being within 10' of another person could kill you"

I've also realized how very small my town is, and how it has relatively few things (other than the quilt shop, and I am really not buying fabric these days until I use some of it up) that seem designed to be welcoming to me. 

Another thing that's changed in the past 10-15 years is the general decline in blogs. Oh how I miss the heyday of knitting blogs, where there were dozens of people chatting about their projects online, and there'd be comments back and forth. (These days it's uncommon I get a comment. I get that maybe my writing seems not to encourage them but I was always jealous of the blogs that received like a dozen supportive comments on every post). 

I guess what happened is some of the knitters "grew up" and married/had kids/their lives got busy and they stopped blogging, or they wound up in a work situation where a presence on social media - even a blog that was clearly "off hours" - would be a career detriment. Or others got bored.

And I suppose the "new generation" of knitters coming up mainly use Instagram (or perhaps some still use tumblr). I am not really into the almost-entirely-visual (and especially video-heavy) media: I am not a good photographer, I am not unusually attractive nor do I hang out in photogenic places, I don't do exciting things. My life is mostly my little round of work and church duties and if I can muster up the time and energy at the end of the day, a little knitting. 

But yes, I miss being able to steal a few minutes at work and read about what someone else is making. (You can't do that with video - the sound, for one thing, but the other is that you can't dip in and out like with reading). 

I suspect also the Internet has become more corporatized or something (she says, while writing this on a blogging platform owned by Google). Like there aren't as many little places to hang out and be your weird self any more - and again, that might be partly the supremacy-of-Instagram thing - the idea that you have to be pretty and well put together and do cool/exciting things to seem worthy of posting.

It's kind of how craft has changed. I've talked before about the "Woodstock Craftsman's Manuals," which I have both volumes of: a very 1970s set of books that gave some of the basic skills in various things (I remember needlepoint and quiltmaking and making tipis, but there were other things). The idea was to equip the novice with basic skills but then let them have at it, trusting them to find their own inspiration and to be able to find materials - even the idea of using "used" things (I remember in the quilting chapter, there was some comment about using part of someone's old workshirt, and "the jeans my sister wore to the Stonewall riots" which I read for the first time long, long before I knew the history of what that was). And there were other books where supplies/quantities were listed, but they weren't so *prescriptive*. And there were books about making things from things you already had, or might otherwise have discarded.. But now, a lot of the craft manuals are very prescriptive: "buy this much of THIS yarn" and in some cases they don't describe the qualities of the yarn that make it ideal for that project or sometimes even the yarn WEIGHT or wpi (and yes, you can probably figure it out by looking up in an online database, or from the given gauge). But it does feel more now like (a) craft projects are designed to make you buy and consume more and (b) that the book and its instructions are intended to be ephemeral - because yarn lines get dropped and yes, in some patterns from the 1970s it can be hard to guess what the yarn used was like. (I will say there are some pattern authors, good for them, who list the "recommended' yarn but then describe the weight/drape/properties a substitute yarn would ideally have).

And I don't know. Somehow it seems less individual to me.. And it's.....rather than "okay here's this funky yarn I picked up for pennies at the resale shop, and I'll make my kid a nice warm sweater that will last better and be more economical than one from a store" it's more.....just another form of consumption? Like, it's not fast fashion (of course, because knitting is slow) but it's also not....I can't quite put my finger on it but there IS a certain pleasure about digging in your "stash" for some neglected supply and building a project around it, or getting something someone else didn't want and repurpose it. Or in making something absolutely essential in the way I remember my mom's handknitted mittens were an essential in the cold Ohio winters: they weren't fancy and weren't made off the hottest-and-newest pattern. If they had stripes, it was because she guessed before starting she wouldn't have enough of the main color on hand so she'd work in a few stripes of an alternate color to piece out the yarn.

And yes, I know: I don't want to romanticize need or the sometimes-extreme frugality my parents practiced. was almost like the difference between working at a job you knew MATTERED and made a difference in the world (how I used to feel about mine) to working at one that you seem to mainly do to pay your own bills and maybe you're not meant to care so much about "meaning" (which is how I feel some days - yes, even in my career - now, since the pandemic. Sort of a....not exactly nihilism but a loss of purpose). 

But also, yeah, big chunks of the internet feel less like some weirdo (and I mean that term affectionately) writing about the thing that they get really excited about or care enormously about and more like....I dunno, people trying to sell stuff. Even if that stuff doesn't directly have a price tag and it's something like "outrage for clicks" or something. Maybe less of a connection, maybe that's it.

Because what I want is CONNECTION. I don't want to argue, I want to hear someone else's experience whether it's like mine or not. I want to hear how the tangent of someone else's life and the tangent of mine have, I don't know, a cosine or something in common, and we can relate. (And also, similarly: I don't want "reply people" when I am venting. Sometimes I just want to vent when I've had a bad day without someone stepping in to tell me how I need to change my life to make things better! Because sometimes that change isn't possible, or is too costly in terms of my limited energy OR sometimes I have tried it already and it does not help)

But it seems more and more people don't want connection like "hey I like that too" or "oh, I remember those," they want to fight or they want to pontificate (she says, as she writes a blog). And it feels like it's dividing us when the hope of the internet, I think, at least by some, was to bring us together.

(Though sometimes you do get that: you'll read someone writing about, for example, those little newsprint Scholastic book "catalogs" you would get in grade school, with the long narrow strip you cut off and checked the books you wanted to buy, and you brought in your pocket change - in those days, the books were cheaply produced and probably subsidized somehow and few cost over a dollar - and then a few weeks later, the big box came and you got your books, and oh, it was one thing that made that school day so much better than many others. And almost universally, people who have that experience remember it fondly! I like that kind of thing, where someone shares a memory like that and other people say something like "oh! I had almost forgotten about that! Yes, that was one of the Good Things." I would like there to be more sharing of the simple Good Things - understanding of course that not all things are Good for everyone, I guess, and maybe one of our falls-from-grace is the realization of that coupled with the fact that there are plenty people who are happy to wade into the pools of happy memories and explain combatively how that thing was not Good for them and that it somehow hurts them that other people remember the simple thing with fondness...... I grew up on the line from Bambi about not saying anything at all if you can't say something nice, and sometimes when I read reminiscences of things that I didn't get to experience or didn't care for, I just go "some things are not for me" and wander away)

And actually that may be one of the reasons why I sometimes skip days* lately, or I don't feel like I have much to post: I see other people, their lives seem better than mine or at least more interesting, and I ask myself if it's even worth documenting my little life. Also I admit I have once again become more sensitive to the idea of the "nuffer" - the mean critic whose whole role in life is to make other people feel less than. And I know I SHOULDN'T but I do think in some ways I've regressed mentally/emotionally, back to a place I was in as a tween some days, where I cared really really hard about "fitting in" and was forever sad that I never would - back then, it was because my parents didn't have the money of other families in town, so I had cheaper/less presitigious clothes. And I was a little bit weird. (Some days I wonder if I am maybe slightly neurodivergent, and if the other kids picked up on that even though I had no idea, and they cut me from the pack as a result. I do remember finding the "rules" that girls were supposed to follow, like about what kind of graphics were "cool" on a t-shirt and what were "for babies" sort of incomprehensible and disliked how sometimes we weren't "allowed" to admit we liked what we actually liked)

(*like last night. I literally could think of nothing to say, I had no projects at a stage worth photographing, and yes, I was kind of tired)

But yes, happy birthday once again, little blog. No, I won't buy you a beer, I don't drink it myself.

Tuesday, January 24, 2023

Tuesday afternoon random

 *Home early (for me these days). I had my first PT appointment this afternoon; I had mentioned to my doctor it felt like my hip was getting arthritic and I didn't want that to get to the point where I needed surgery, so she got me a referral.

It was still expensive because it's January and health insurance just rolled over but it's probably worth it, the guy took over an hour to evaluate me and start me on a few exercises.

The very good news? He does not think I have arthritis in my hips. He said there was none of the grinding or clicking that was part of that, and the places I had pain with the various stretches and flexes seem muscular. What that means is that not only will exercises keep it from getting worse, they will actually make it better.

Also, I have very tight hamstrings. But I knew that. I will say some of the exercises definitely made me feel better - I think I need that kind of stretching. He also wants me to do core strengthening, which, totally fair, I NEED that. (That might also make me look slimmer in my clothes, as I tighten those muscles up)

AND ALSO one of the pains I was having, that I thought "could this be some kind of weird ovarian pain" (though it's probably too low) is very likely to be related to the muscle issues. 

I go back on Friday for another round of exercises; he is going to teach me a bunch of exercises and then have me do them at home. Which reminds me, I have to look to see if I kept the yoga ball I ordered at one point to see if it would help the hip issues or if I pitched that in a fit of cleaning.

 The PT I'm working with seems like a nice guy, and one of the helper-techs out there was a student of mine last year. 

* We got snow today. Campus closed early today (at 3:30, I was already home). They say they'll announce tomorrow morning by 7 am. (My office hours start at 8, so I will know before I leave home. Though if the roads seem okay, but they cancel for the safety of the long-distance commuters? I might still go in to work on systematic botany. I did get the lab written already for this week, and I brought my book and notebook home with me so I could do some more reading/note-taking for the future suborders - I'm up to Caryophyllidae at this point but I didn't quite finish taking notes for the later (in Cronquist's system) groups.

* I finished one small knit thing. A dishcloth, which I am going to send to my mother for Valentine's Day:

It's just plain Sugar 'n' Cream cotton, but that works up nicely for dishcloths. 

I'm also working on another project that will take longer, but the recipient does sometimes read here, so I won't post a photo until it's been received. 

* Maybe I take this evening off working? I"m sort of tired (I think I was stressed about the PT evaluation: first off, meeting new people, second off, a situation where strangers would have to touch me (the guy was perfectly respectful but yes, he did have to put his hands on my hip at some points to see where I was having pain or if anything seemed unstable) and also, like bigger women everywhere, I brace to be chastised for being fat. But that didn't happen; in fact he praised the fact that I keep up with regular exercise.

Also yesterday I came home to a cold house; the furnace had locked itself out. That had happened on Friday, and changing the filter fixed it, but right now I knew that that wouldn't help. So I called the guys and then panic-cleaned (the house had gotten BAD and I am embarrassed when the place is messy). They called back about 20 minutes later to tell me they could come by. I felt bad that my house was still a mess but "no heat" was worse so I told them to come on.

It turns out it was a flame sensor with carbon buildup (This can happen if you don't change the filter often enough) so they just had to clean it off and put it back in. Still, the cost of a service call, but at least it's fixed. So yesterday afternoon was kind of lost and also stressful. (I railed at myself for the messy house, and for not getting out of bed early to work out - I had planned on doing it when I got home. But I did eventually get to it after they were done.) 

I probably do need to be kinder to myself; some of my friends tell me that, but sometimes I feel like if I don't yell at myself I'll never do what I need to do.

It would be nice to just sit and knit; I can probably make some time tomorrow to work and anyway,  I'm several weeks ahead.

Monday, January 23, 2023

A finished vest

 The pictures are not *great,* eventually I have to figure out some kind of tripod to use the timer on my camera because my arms are not long enough to take "selfies" with.

But one thing I finished over break - the biggest thing - was the Pocketses vest. I had most of the knitting done - both fronts and the back - and I just had to sew it up, do the button bands and the pockets. So I took it with me with the goal of finishing it up. It didn't take long, I just had to settle down to it.

I did even have the buttons for it, so I didn't have to buy anything more.

The yarn is KnitPicks' "Provincial Tweed" in the color called "Jam." As I remember, I bought four skeins and wound up with the better part of two left over (Or was it five? But then, I didn't have many joins at all in the body, which tells me maybe I got the back from a single skein and both fronts from another)

See? Hard to photograph on because I have short arms.

not a great angle, and it's blurry, but you can see the little pockets there.



 Here's a better view of the pocket.

I think I made this a size smaller than the first one I made - it fits better but the buttons don't come out so widely spaced. (I may have to move the top one of the purely-decorative ones - it looks a little too close to the center line compared to the others.)

Friday, January 20, 2023

Three years gone

 I read something today saying this was the third anniversary of the first COVID case in the US.

So some memories of this....time.

Skip if you want to. I know a lot of people are sick of it. But I feel like I've been forever changed (for the worse) by the experience.

I guess I didn't really pay a LOT of attention early on. I seem to remember in early January or maybe even December 2019 hearing some news reporting (maybe it was even BBC news? Did I have the app already then?) about a new "SARS like" disease in China.

Now, I remembered OG SARS. I remember hearing about them stopping people at the airports and checking them for symptoms, I remember the nurse's office on campus having a sign up that if you had flu-like symptoms, you had to wait in a different waiting room from everyone else. (I was getting allergy shots from her in those days, so I was in every week)

And then it just....went away. So that's what I thought would happen with this: they'd do some stricter surveillance at airports, there'd be a few weeks of uncertainty, and then everything would be fine.

That was the first of several ways I was wrong.

Go forward a few weeks. February 29. That's the last more or less normal day I remember. I had gone out shopping for my birthday celebration; I remember standing in the Target and thinking about how someone I read on tumblr who was in Australia was talking about toilet paper shortages due to COVID (as it turns out: much of their paper was imported from China, and with so many people out sick from the manufacturing plants...) But anyway. I thought "It's close to the time for me to buy my annual mega-pack" (which I do so I don't have to think about it), "maybe I do it a little early." And I also got a few extra cans of black beans; they were on sale. 

A few days after that, the virus had become widespread enough (or so it seemed) in the US at large that my mom and I talked and we decided it was probably wisest for me not to come see her on Amtrak for Spring Break. (In retrospect: it probably would have been OK, but would have been the last OK time for a while). But I got my ticket exchanged for a voucher.

And then. March 13. Which I remember because not only was that the day that would have been my dad's 85th birthday (remember, he had died in July 2019 and in retrospect I was probably still in deep grief as the pandemic started) but it was also the day I would have, in a happier timeline, gotten on a train to go visit my mom for a week. 

I taught Ecology, which, as I remember, was my only class of the day. I subbed in a brief lecture - prepared with the help of someone on ITFF - about disease transmission and epidemiology. Midway through class a couple students' smartphone notifications went off and one of them checked (I can't fault them; we were all on edge, expecting news). 

That was when they "called" it. Gave the students 2 weeks spring break, told us to use the two weeks to prepare to teach remotely. Told the students to take home everything they'd need for "a few weeks" at home. (As it turns out: it was at least June before people were allowed back). I offered what hopefully calming words I could, but I was pretty freaked out.

At that time, the plan was to let faculty remain on campus, to teach from there. In the end, that didn't happen: midway through "spring break" we were told that no, we would have to stay home, for our safety. (Again, in retrospect: that probably was not necessary; they could have had a staggered schedule of when people could be in, and open windows, and ask people to mask). As it was my newest colleague had had to get housing outside of town and he did not have reliable internet, so he recorded his lectures at home and sneaked in after hours to upload them from the camps internet.

Teaching online was.....I don't even know. I can't separate the awfulness of having to do a difficult thing and a very different way of teaching than how I normally would from the sheer horror of trying to pretend on some level that things were normal-ish. (Remember that this was when the "This is Fine" dog became a meme. That was how we all felt). I made it through, more or less. A few of my students disappeared. One sent me a very snippy letter saying he'd gotten a job that paid better than he'd be able to get with a biology degree and so he was not finishing his degree. I realize now that we were all emotionally messed up in some way, but really, the letter was, I think, unnecessarily rude and unpleasant, and yes, it was one of the many things I cried over in that time.

The semester ended with a whimper: no graduation, there was some virtual "salute to graduates" or something that I didn't watch online. 

I spent the summer alone. I didn't go anywhere, I didn't do anything. During that spring and summer I rarely left my property. I did go grocery shopping a few times in March but I remember one day I had gone into Pruett's (without a mask; that was back when they were telling us not to mask because we'd do it wrong and be over-confident; one of the many falsehoods or bad information we were told) and a man in the same aisle as me hacked and coughed and I thought for several days that that was probably it, I probably would get COVID, and maybe die. (I didn't; it was probably allergies he had). You heard rumors of stores or restaurants closing for a few days for deep cleaning after an employee got COVID.

(There was a VERY brief "closure of non essential businesses" but that ended fast, and what was regarded as "essential" was broad, and there were also a LOT of violations of it even though it was my understanding there was money made available to help small businesses through the closure). 

Spring and summer 2020 were the hardest time of my life, ever. There was no church (well, there were recorded things online). There were no meetings, no school, they even asked us to stay off campus. I sat at home and read and tried to figure out how to teach ecology labs in the fall with "distancing" and with the risk of us having to go all online under short notice. I replaced about 2/3 of the labs and rewrote the remaining third. 

It was very lonesome and very sad and most weeks the only person I exchanged more than a few words with was my mother, over the phone. 

One thing I have noticed now, that began during that time: I am far more sensitive to what I perceive as rejection of me or rudeness towards me. I am quite sure it's related to that I had so few interactions that one that was even vaguely unpleasant loomed large. And I think on some level, I felt like "maybe each interaction you have will be your last, if you catch covid" and so, for example, when the guy at Lowe's - who again, was probably overworked and freaked out himself - snapped at me for going in the "wrong" door (which was not labeled as "do not enter here") it affected me very strongly - I did go home and cry after it, and felt bad for a couple days. 

Somehow I made it until fall 2020. I do remember with my summer checkup with my doctor, asking for and being given the paperwork for a DNR order: I felt at that time if I got COVID, and it was bad enough I'd need to be intubated, that just.....let me go. Remember at that time that hospitals were absolutely overloaded and I felt like, if it came down to me and, say, the mom of a couple small children, save the mom, I don't matter, I have no one depending on me. (And I admit there were times during summer 2020 I was really close to the edge when I was at home. I remember a very unpleasant online interaction where someone in a space I hung out who was known for being somewhat difficult and even rude was rude to me without fully comprehending the situation I was describing - and that was it. I basically quietly said "y'all have nice lives but I'm not going to be in this space any more" and I admit that evening, sitting at home, the thought crossed my mind of: do I want to be in ANY space any more? It didn't get more formed than that but I did feel very meaningless and like it wouldn't really matter if I weren't here any more. (Obviously, I made it through). 

At these times, starting in March at least, I listened to BBC a lot on my cell phone. Somehow that seemed easier than *watching* news even if the death counts were equally horrific and there were other terrible news stories (I remember one about a family being told to say their goodbyes to their father - who ultimately did survive - but what do you say to someone in that case? I mean, yeah, I guess I had experienced that that previous July, but somehow this seemed more horrible). I watched more news than was good for me but I felt desperate for information, for some spark of hope, for some understanding of "is it safe to go out or do I once again get up at 4:30 am to try to grab a pick-up spot for Walmart's groceries?" (there were few spots - probably not enough workers, probably they didn't pay enough - and they were hard to come by. And no, groceries are not delivered here). 

Fall semester came. I taught in a mask, full time. It was not pleasant on hot days. The students were masked. I had to police masking; I had one student I constantly had to remind to keep his mask on, it was exhausting and I was scared: what if he had it off one day, and he was infected, and he made someone else sick, would I be liable? We also kept seating charts and every time someone came down with COVID we had to e-mail campus health services the name of the people all around them, and those people had to quarantine. I broadcast all my classes, even the ones I was trying to teach in person, for the people quarantining. It was frankly pretty awful.

I made it through. I taught one class fully online. Everything felt very disconnected and unreal. We went (intentionally; pre-planned) fully remote after Thanksgiving; I think there was concern that people would travel and bring COVID back to campus. I passed Thanksgiving here, alone, eating some not-very-good lobster macaroni and cheese that I ordered with two-day delivery from a gourmet foods place.

I spent Christmas 2020 here, alone. It wasn't AS horrible as I had feared. But it wasn't as good as it might have been if I had been able to be with people.

Around this time, too, we were getting word that yes, in fact, there was a vaccine. And yes, in fact, it was safe - only people with one, very specific, allergy would not be able to take it. And then, yes, it seemed to be effective.

I remember putting on several of my favorite upbeat songs and dancing around my living room the day I got that news.

Again, here was where I was wrong: I thought "maybe by summer 2021, the vaccine will be widely available, and everyone will take it, and this will go away, and we'll be back to like it was before. I think that was because my prior experience with hearing about "new" vaccines was my mom talking about the wonder when the polio vaccine came out and how pretty much everyone her family knew was eager and excited: now our children will be safe! And how happy she was that my brother and I could be vaccinated against measles; she had had a bad case herself as a child, before the vaccine was available. I didn't realize how strong the antivaccination propaganda was, and how easily doubt was sown. I wound up talking to a few people I knew about the vaccine because they came and asked me: "are you going to get it, do you think it's safe?" and my response was that they wouldn't release an unsafe vaccine, and that getting covid was unsafe.

I also didn't count on the mutant forms, and the fact that many many non human mammals (white-tailed deer!) can carry it, so it's NEVER going away at this point, short of them finding a "sterilizing immunity" vaccine, which is basically like winning the Powerball.

At this point I had lost an older cousin to COVID. And shortly thereafter, lose an old family friend. 

February 2021: I was able to get the first dose of the vaccine. I remember for my birthday, I went (masked) to JoAnn fabrics, the first time in months upon months. (I got sonic drive-in to eat that day; because I could eat in my car). 

March 2021: I got the second dose. At that point I thought I was safe, and (WRONG AGAIN) made plans for in the fall to teach unmasked.

Most people in town were taking the masks off at this point; some of the political leadership here was anti-mask and there were a few who leaned anti-vaccination. 

In May, I did finally get to cash in my Amtrak voucher and go see my mom. I had to wear a mask on the train and eat in my compartment, but it was OK.

I was looking forward to a slightly more normal fall.

Then Delta hit. So I groaned, masked back up for the fall, kept doing the seating charts. (We had dropped the requirement that we scrub down the desks after every class with disinfectant like we had in 2020; that had been disproven as a common means of transmission. But I DO remember getting a nasty gram in 2020 that "one of the rooms in which you teach, the disinfectant isn't being used up fast enough. I admit: I had dropped the requirement to scrub the desks earlier, after reading several good studies saying that fomite transmission of the thing was highly unlikely, and I told the students that washing their hands after class was probably far more effective at preventing disease transmission)

I got the first booster over Thanksgiving 2021. A tiny bit of friction with my brother; he was less convinced of the necessity of the vaccines than I was. I did have a mild reaction to the booster, a short lived fever and aches.

Spend Christmas 2021 with my mom. I don't remember it well; in retrospect I think in late 2021 I was still dealing with the trauma of having gone through the early days of the pandemic (and perhaps my brother was, too: at Thanksgiving he and I argued more than we had in years) And at Christmas, that was when I was having mouse problems and damage to the plumbing in the house and I was worried the whole time I was at my mom's that my house would be all but destroyed when I got back.

I still masked in spring 2022. Omicron was starting up, I couldn't quite bring myself to de-mask yet. Yes, I was "fully" vaccinated but I had behaved as a prey animal for so long it was hard for me to drop that. (I still mask in crowded stores, if not on campus). 

Summer 2022 proceeded pretty normally. I barely masked at all: up on campus I was about the only one up there most days. And a lot of the time I was at home, getting the renovations done, including the fix in the kitchen that (knock wood) has blocked out mice (At any rate, there has been zero evidence of them). Fall 2022, I taught unmasked. Some days I was nervous but it was a relief to be able to speak more freely in class (and yes, the mask did have a psychological effect on me).  

And then Christmas, which was better than the previous two had been. And now here we are. 

I will say, the pandemic has left me changed. I am much less trusting of people, much more guarded. I don't expect people will view me in a friendly way; in some ways I have regressed to how I was at 13, when I was basically misanthropic as a defense against the poor treatment from my peers. I also find joy harder to find, and spontaneity. I also felt like....well, I really thought the vaccine was going to turn out as a "happily ever after" when instead it wound up as a "slightly less crappily ever after" - yes, I am now very unlikely to die directly of COVID if I catch it, but I don't have a good handle on whether vaccinated people are equally susceptible to "long covid," which is very bad in its own way (especially for someone as alone as me; it would be very hard to manage if I couldn't do all the things I do now). And also - I really had the scales fall from my eyes about many of my fellow humans. So it wasn't sunshine and flowers after the vaccine. Rather, it was more like "it's not hailing and lightning any more, but it's cold and raining hard" 

I don't know. I know I'm worse now than I was before. I don't know if I will get better or if this has changed my personality forever. I guess time will tell. I also feel the smallness of my town very hard now after having spent the better part of a year and a half barely leaving town for anything. (I think of how I used to drive to Sherman, sometimes every weekend, in the before times; now it feels like a major journey and I groan at the idea of "a whole hour's round trip") 

And at the same time, I feel like some parts of the pandemic are being memory-holed: yes, it really WAS that bad. There were days when thousands of people died. World wide, almost 7 million people have died. (And someone snarked on MetaFilter, basically saying "well that's a drop in the bucket given the Too Many 8 Billion People that exist" but you know? Every single one of those people had someone who loved them and was devastated when they died. Yes, it's one thing to say "we are consuming more of Earth's resources than is ideal" but it's not the right time to say it when people are mourning the gigantic losses of a pandemic. It also makes me wonder if there are folks out there who'd look at my small life and go "eh, if it were up to me, she'd be among the chaff that gets tossed into the fire; she's not helping the earth by existing). I think the pandemic has made us meaner, and less tolerant, and made some of us more fearful. (And this is why I side-eye some of the "religious" explanations about "this was to teach us an important lesson" because whew lad, we DID NOT LEARN IT, at least not from where I sit, and I feel like if a benevolent deity were sending us a lesson, that deity would be very sure we'd take a good lesson from it and not, as I said, become meaner and more selfish and more excluding. 

So I don't know. I sure didn't learn much of value. I learned I don't like my own company much for extended periods, and I learned my patience has hard limits, and I learned we really DON'T get happily ever afters in this life. I don't, at least at this point in time, see any silver linings for me.


Thursday, January 19, 2023

Week's almost over

 * I guess systematic botany went okay today. I realized mid morning I hadn't finished the powerpoint I planned to use so I had to quick stick the details of fruit-types in there (lab was a review of flower structure and fruit types). I also guess it was an OK choice and was not too basic; people seemed somewhat interested to cut the flowers up and to try to figure out the placentation of the seeds (in the fruits that HAD seeds; too many commercial fruits are seedless or all but seedless now). One student had never seen almonds in the shell (they are actually what we call a stone fruit or a drupe, similar to peaches and cherries, but you never see the fleshy outer layer in commercial ones). So I found a hammer in the prep room and cracked one to prove it was an almond.

(It's interesting to learn things that AREN'T universal experiences. In my family and also in families of friends I had growing up, it was a fairly common thing, especially around Christmas, to have a bowl of nuts-in-the-shell and a cracker out on a table somewhere, the idea was they were somewhat decorative but you could also eat them). And of course my mom being a botanist, I think maybe my brother and I learned more of "where your plant food comes from" than some kids - she had a huge garden and one year even grew peanuts (ill-suited to Ohio's climate) so we could the the hypogeous development of the nuts.

* At least tomorrow I have only one class, and the rest of the time I can spend on working. And Monday I don't have lab, so I can use that afternoon, because Tuesday....

* ...I have an evaluation appointment at the local physiotherapy place. I had mentioned to my doctor about how sometimes my right hip hurt, and it seemed like arthritis (worse after standing on hard floors a long time, worse after being immobile for a long time, improves with exercise) and that I wanted to see if there were some additional exercises I could do. I noted that I did NOT want it to progress to needing injections or surgery (but, if it came to it: I'd prefer the injections even though I hate needles). But I was concerned about the cost, and she said "if I refer you, insurance should pay; they would rather pay for physical therapy than for surgery, anyway."

So we'll see. I was told to wear "comfortable" clothes like stretchy pants, so I assume it's not just an evaluation of how I walk and stuff, I might actually get some advice on exercises. 

* But after today's long day, I came home to the sound of my furnace fan running but a 67 degree house (it was set at 72). So something was wrong. It was well after 5, so of course the HVAC place was closed for the day. I left a message, and contemplated if this rose to an emergency, because I DO tense up when I get cold and then I ache. 

So I called it. But didn't raise anyone. And then I remembered I had read that if the filter was dirty, that could mess things up. So I decided to try that even though I thought I had changed it right before leaving for Christmas (so only about a month).

Maybe I forgot? The filter I took out was filthy. So I put the new one in and hoped hard that was it - turned the furnace back on, the fan started, I heard the gas start up, heard it light and catch. Then a few moments later the blower came on. I couldn't tell at first but eventually I felt warmish air coming out of the vents.

It took a LONG time for it to budge off of 67 degrees, to the point where I was worried it WASN'T working and maybe the blower was broken. But then

Haha, nice.

Yes, I am immature.

But at least that was one thing that turned out a lot better than it could have. (And the emergency guy called back even though I didn't bother to leave a message. I told him what had transpired and he agreed, it was probably the filter)

* Sunday is a potluck at church. I'm going to get my mom's "Tex-Mex Torta" recipe (it's like a casserole with corn tortillas and ground beef and beans and corn and salsa). I think most people will like it. These days I find it best to take a main dish to things like this (even if I might WANT to make a dessert) because then I know there's at least one thing I can eat that has none of the stuff I have food intolerances to.

Wednesday, January 18, 2023

So I dunno

 The other day, while hunting around on YouTube, I ran across this:

This is a Carly Simon song; it was apparently the theme song of "Working Girl."

The song is subtitled "A Hymn to New York" (which I admit makes me, a lifelong "Reform Protestant," uncomfortable, given that it's a hymn to an Earthly thing)

But the other thing that is odd to me: the tone of the song, for what I thought of (never having seen the movie in question) as the Ur Rom-Com movie. It's very....triumphalist? "Come, the New Jerusalem"? Uh?

And okay, I admit it - I have a discomfort in, and dislike of, very large cities. 

But when I hear the song now, I also feel a weird sense of loss. Because when I was like 20, and living in Ann Arbor, I think I could have been all about that song - sort of the "heck yes, I am taking on the world, and I am CHANGING it and I am MAKING IT BETTER and I am also going to do big things that I will be REMEMBERED for!" That sort of idealistic excitement.

I felt it when I was first teaching here; I remember walking home from one of the summer graduations (still wearing my robe, because that was easier than taking it off and carrying it) and feeling intensely that I was where I belonged and was doing what I was meant to do.

But that's changed over time, sadly. I think I pinpoint the start of it to the budget failure and other unpleasantness in early 2016 - realizing then that my keeping my job might actually wind up some day being contingent on the whims of the state legislature or the finances of my state, rather than my own performance as a teacher. And it intensified during the pandemic, when we were all so disconnected - and now, when the most recent evaluations I got for the intro class I teach were more negative than in the past ("She doesn't teach how I learn" "this material is boring" "can't she do fun things in class") and while maybe some of that can be chalked up to "two years of virtual high school changed how these students relate to material" there's also a loss of connection - and of some of the joy I once felt in teaching.

But also, I don't feel that sense that I'm making things BETTER any more like I once felt. I've lost that. I don't  know if it's just the past two years and being tired, or if maybe I always was wrong about being able to make things better, or what. But it does more and more feel like "the main reason I am doing this is to keep my own body and soul together, and perhaps in some ways it's a better way of doing it than others I could find" but it doesn't feel like a calling any more, and that's sad. 

Maybe I'm just burned out? Maybe I've been doing this too long and should have quit? 

I mean, in my other classes the evaluations are about the same as they've always been, so I don't think I'm teaching markedly WORSE. But I don't know. 

I also admit I feel like I've seen through a few things I used to believe and trust about teaching and higher education - there really is a lot of it that's kind of a rigged game that's easier to "win" at if you're a certain person (certain complexion, certain gender presentation, etc.). And also, to throw in a Simpsons' metaphor - well, it's like that "rocket to Earth II" where the limited seats on it were given to people who really had something unique to offer (Lisa got on because "New Earth will need a proofreader") but now I look at myself and realize there's nothing that unique about me; there's nothing that would earn me a seat on that rocket, so I'd be left here to die. (At least I don't think they'd put me on the rocket being fired into the sun). But I don't feel special any more.I feel like when I was told as a kid that I had promise, I was either lied to, or I spectacularly failed to live up to it.

I don't know. I have to think on it. I don't want to apply for other jobs; if I leave this gig it will either be leaving academia altogether (but to do what? I don't know) or for retirement. 

I do wish I felt more like something I was doing was having some kind of good impact but a lot of days it's really hard to see that - and I can no longer take it on faith that I do, I've just lost that ability. 

Another thing that makes me sad is when I periodically hear a love song these days (some of 'em, at least). They come across my pandora stream a lot when I work out. One that struck me: "God Only Knows." It makes me sad because I realize at this point of my life no one will ever feel that way about me.

Or maybe? Maybe no one ever really feels like that about their loved-one and I am just over-romanticizing things again? I've never really been in love (well, I thought I was a couple times, but I am alone at this particular moment, so I was probably wrong about it being love). But it would be nice to be that important to someone. (Okay, granted, the whole subtext of "if you ever left me my life would be over even though I'd still breathe and my heart would still beat" is kind of creepy and coercive, but....)

Is this aging? Realizing that a lot of the things you believed in as a younger person were silly over-romanticizations and reality is a lot less nice than what you imagined? And what do you replace those things with when you don't feel them any more? I feel like I need something to replace at least the feeling that my work is making a positive impact, if I can't have something to replace the "maybe someone will love me exactly that much, some day" feeling. 

I suppose part of this is that it's midwinter (though not cold here, which is weird and makes me worry that we're reaching that climate tipping point alarmingly fast) and it's been gray and overcast most days these past few weeks, and I'm still worrying about whether I can actually pull off Systematic Botany or if I'm going to fail at it, and also worrying about getting my summer research planned out while AT THE SAME TIME resenting that I have relatively little time to myself these days. Part of it may just be looking at the pandemic as forever now, and realizing that socialization for me is forever broken now, and that I'm going to have to devote at least a few of the little gray cells to "how bad are case counts where I am right now" as a factor in what I do and do not do. Part of it may be just reaching a point of fed-up-ness with all the extra we were asked to do and the weak "we appreciate you" (not even like the "clap for carers" thing) we heard for it, and that now we're still exhorted to care for student mental health, with little recognition that ours might be suffering as well.

Maybe I'll get better? I hope. If not? Well, I can stick out the job for six more years, when I can then retire with full benefits and then just.....well, I don't know what. Or maybe things will get better? But I also feel like "things getting better' might be over-romanticizing again.

Tuesday, January 17, 2023

Tuesday evening things

 * Just, tired. I spent nearly all day yesterday working on systematic botany lectures; today I worked more on my post-tenure review thing (including tracking down some prior evaluation paperwork I only had paper copies of and was afraid I had lost), and I went to the mart of wal and bought flowers and fruit for Thursday's lab (luckily, with the departmental credit card, because it was closer to $50 than to $20.). I also had a routine (six month checkup) doctor's appointment. (Have gained a little weight, womp womp. I guess I have to watch how I eat and try to exercise more). Got reminded again I need to go in and do the shingles vaccine sequence. Did get a referral for PT for my hip arthritis, even though right now it's better than it was - I am wondering if chilly damp weather makes it worse, or if having the new dress shoes (I got a pair of Danskos) makes it better. 

* I have two gift-projects on the needles. The one I can talk about (the other one, the recipient might read here) is just a simple "grandma's favorite" dishcloth in a red/pink/tan color combination, to send to my mom for Valentine's day. When I was out and about this weekend, I bought a few cards - not sure whether to send her one of the funny cat ones or one of the heartfelt ones but I don't have to decide that right yet. I'm about half done with the dishcloth. After I finish the gifts, I want to finish a couple of the ongoing projects and then maybe start a new sweater - I bought some on-sale (acrylic, but nice acrylic) multicolored yarn from JoAnn's a couple months back and I want to make a simple pullover out of it.I do want to dig in my stash more and try to work it down.

* Over break the main book I read was "Glass Houses," a Louise Penny mystery from a few years back (from the "Before Times" - I think it was 2017). More harrowing at the end than some of them, but I got hooked in and really wanted to see how it came out. There was a theme also of "when is it okay to subvert your own principles for a larger good" (dealing with the drug-smuggling and wanting-to-crush-the-developing-cartel storyline). It was a good story but I also find stories like that kind of sad. All too often in the world today I look around and it feels like the unprincipled people are winning - the ones out only for themselves, for what they can extract that is of value from the rest of the population and I admit some days it's hard to find the motivation to keep on keepin' on the way I always have.

Right now I'm reading The Light Fantastic (Terry Pratchett) that I had been away from long enough that I lost the thread of it (it was somewhere in the Cohen the Barbarian section) so I just restarted it, and now I'm back to where I left off. These are entertaining stories and somehow you do get the sense that things will come out right in the end. Which is something I kind of need these days, even in a fictional universe: somewhere where doing the right thing is rewarded, and perhaps where kindness is seen as worthwhile, and things somehow work out in the end. 

* I read something the other day in a "little list of life advice" sort of thing and it resonated: "Don't trust anything you think after about 8 or 9 pm"

This is me. If I'm going to get into a really low mood, it will be at the end of the day, especially after a long day of work and meetings where I felt like I had relatively little sense and engagement with other people (much more common now than in the before-times). and also I read stuff and I read things like speculation on how COVID is forever, and how other things are changing for the worse, and I get to thinking things like "well, this is it. This is the BEST the rest of my life will be" and especially if I'm tired and it's been a bad day, it makes me really sad to think that maybe there's nothing new and good to look forward to.

But yeah, I try not to trust those thoughts; I am usually better in the morning. But I do wish I felt less used-up at the end of the days.

Monday, January 16, 2023

what I carried

 As I've mentioned before, my mom is in decluttering mode, after years of having to assist my dad (and so: having no time) (and before that, he didn't want to declutter: now I know who the packrat is)

Periodically she will call me up to ask me about something, if I "still want" it (today I told her to recycle the bits left from a poster I gave over my Master's Thesis research somewhere; the paper came out 25 years ago, I don't need it any more) or she sends me random things (I have my childhood vaccine records now, for example).

She offered me a few things (and one I found) while I was up over Christmas:

One  year, my dad bought a bunch of little Sesame Street character needlepoint kits somewhere on a huge closeout. I think the idea is they might serve (when completed) as baby gifts for future family babies, but I think I was the only one ever to make one of them up; either on a break from college or when I was in grad school and bored:

Grover was always my favorite of the exclusively-Sesame Street Muppets.

I never did anything with the canvas (it's SMALL - like maybe about 7" on a side) but I remember it took a lot of work so I don't want to just discard it. I might eventually turn it into a tiny cushion? Or put it in a frame and put it up in my sewing room? I don't know. But I wanted to keep it. 

She had also put this aside for me, saying "you're the only one in the younger generation who would care about it" which is true if a little sad. Her grandfather (her mother's father) carved a crochet hook for my grandmother - she used to do thread crochet for "artwork" (she knitted and sewed for necessity; she had a lot of filet crochet items and bits of lace I assume she made for enjoyment).

I *think* it's hickory but I'm really just guessing - it doesn't feel like pine, and the grain doesn't look like pine, and I think they had hickories on their farm. It's roughly the size of a modern F hook. I may never use it for anything but it is nice to have, and to think of my grandmother using it

And then the last item is something I actually found when we were going through a box in the basement. When I was a kid (in the early-mid 70s), Sears had the Winnie-the-Pooh license through Disney. They had kids' clothing and I seem to remember bedsheets and they may have even sold stuffed animals too. 

I had a pair of Winnie-the-Pooh print overalls. I was probably five or six - the size tag is still in this, it's 6x, which I think is about five or six years old (maybe even up to 7? Like my niece, I was a tallish but skinny child - it was after puberty I chunked up). I loved those things and when I outgrew them my mom kept them and turned them into a tote bag for me. (She grew up in a family that made-over clothes: she talks about how when her older brother was discharged from the Navy after WWII, her mother took his dress blues and remade them into a skirt suit for my mother, who would have been about 10)

I know I carried it to school for a short while - my name is written on the inside. I'm going to use it as a knitting bag now

The back pockets are still there, and the straps are still there (one of the buttons had to be replaced). inside there's a little top with a drawstring so things won't fall out.

Friday, January 13, 2023

Another finished item

 This may have been the thing that took the longest, even though it's the smallest. I always forget how much effort the little crocheted critters are.

A while back (like October or early November), I had ordered a pattern on Etsy (from someone in Estonia! That's the beauty of .pdf patterns - people around the world can sell them and you don't need to wait for the pattern to make it to you through the mail). The shop is here. The pattern I bought was for the mini Paddington Bear.

I've long been fond of Paddington; I read the Michael Bond books when I was a child, and I remember watching the various incarnations of cartoon/stop-motion versions (Back when I got Qubo, they often showed a block of cartoons that had been made in the 90s - I think it was a joint French and Canadian effort? At any rate Paddington sounded more North American than the usual British accent they give him*)

Also, I like the recent movies - they are surprisingly good for movies that go a bit more "slapstick" than I remember the books being, and for having changed the character design very slightly (as compared to the drawings in the books - I think the ones I had had the Peggy Fortnum illustrations?)

(*In the movies, his British accent was explained as "he learned English from an explorer from Britain," because really? A Peruvian bear that could speak English would have a South American Latin accent, you would think. And in the cartoon I referenced, Aunt Lucy did speak accented English - I guess Peru's major language is Spanish?)

Anyway. I always liked, as a child, how he was polite (if rather accident-prone) and wanted to help, and the main way he got his way was with a "hard stare" that he leveled on whoever was doing wrong (he also had a very strong sense of justice and right and wrong: when things he did went wrong it was either because he was over-eager to do a good job, or he was clumsy; he was not mischievous). The "hard stare" was rather effectively portrayed in the recent movies. 

Anyway, as a kid, I related to Paddington. I never really had a stuffed one; they were out there but most of them were imported and were expensive. (About 15 years back I belonged to a shortlived mail-order book club that allowed more choices, and one thing I bought was a bundle of a big hardback collection of the stories and a small plush Paddington - with his duffel coat and tag and yes, even black ears underneath his hat. )

Anyway, the pattern I bought was for a "mini" bear, but it required fingering weight yarn. I prefer to use acrylic for toys (more durable, and for crocheting, easier to work with/more sculptural) but of course it's very hard to find fingering weight in the colors I needed. But one of the nice things about crochet toys is you can use ANY weight yarn as long as you use the right size of crochet hook. So I bought a couple of shades (chocolate brown and a very light cream) of the "Skein Tones" Lion Brand put out for dollmaking (it comes in a wide range of skin tones, though the pale cream is too light for even my pale skin). And then a couple skeins of another of their worsted acrylics in red and blue for the hat and duffel coat.

I don't remember how big the original pattern said the fingering-weight bear would be but this one is just under 8" tall. It was a complex pattern but it worked up well - most of the body is worked all n one piece so there's minimal sewing up at the end.

The coat has a little hood on it, even:

I sewed his hat onto his head so it wouldn't get lost (but if I wanted to, I could clip the couple stitches and make it detachable). The coat will take off but it stays on well, and it has buttons and button loops to hold it on (the buttons are actually tiny vintage buttons from my mom's stash). 

Thursday, January 12, 2023

Working on mitts

 It was a hard week - three evening meetings (M, T, W) and  the usual start-of-semester things (I had someone walk right into my soils class, as I was about 3/4 through the first lecture, and stop me dead and say "IS THIS THE BIOLOGY CLASS" and when I said no, it was soil science, they said "WELL THEN WHERE IS THE BIOLOGY CLASS" and I said - politely, but I was nettled at that point* - "I'm sorry, I don't know. You should be able to look at your schedule online and it will say what classroom" (Never mind that there are about three classes that could be "THE BIOLOGY CLASS" and I didn't know what one))

(*These days, when a random person you don't know walks into your classroom, you tense up. School shootings, you know.)

then this:

That's a backup battery in the ecology prep room - there's a server rack in there that IT had to install to make our wifi stretch. They're supposed to maintain things. I e-mailed them Monday. They said they'd get on it. It was loud enough to be disturbing; I could hear it through the closed door and working in the prep room (which is where I, you know, do the prepwork for my labs) was distracting and uncomfortable.

Wednesday, my next lab time? It was still going. So after setting up lab I e-mailed them again and said "if it's just as simple a matter as hitting the "off" button and unplugging until you can replace it, I can do that" and they e-mailed back "NO THAT WILL LEAD TO SOME PEOPLE LOSING CONNECTIVITY"

so okay.

I came in today and it wasn't screaming any more. And guess how they fixed it?

THEY UNPLUGGED IT AND TURNED IT OFF. The exact thing they told me not to do, so I had to go through two lab-prep periods with that noise. 


Over break I re-started a pair of mitts; I had started these earlier in the fall, made a bad mistake I couldn't figure out how to recover from (it's a lace and cable pattern and I'm having to slowly ease back into more complex knitting, after not having the brain for it, and I think I tried something requiring a lot of concentration too early). So before Christmas, I ripped it back and wound the yarn back up, and I restarted them.

This time I got the hang of the pattern. (Or maybe I wasn't doing it in tiny confetti bits of time when I was already tired)

The pattern is Javajem Knits' "Merletto Fingerless Mitts." The yarn is from Quixotic Fibers, I think it's the new Malabrigo sockyarn. As  you can see, I finished the first mitt. And I did start the second one:

However, carrying them back in a knitting bag didn't go so well, one of my well-loved (and no longer able to be bought, I think) Pony Pearls #2 sized needles broke:


I have four others, but sometimes it's nice to have a set of five needles. (I think I have some #2 sized bamboo needles, but these were nice and smooth to work with). No, I can't fix it, if I could even get it to glue, it would always be rough at the join.

Tuesday, January 10, 2023

And some socks

 I finished the West Yorkshire Spinners' "Gingerbread" colorway socks over Christmas

I really like this brand of yarn. It's affordable, it knits up nicely (and makes a nice feeling fabric) and comes in fun colorways - I think they do a Christmas one more or less every year and I have a couple of them ("Fairy Lights" and "Hollyberry")

I also started new socks over break and got more done on them during Zoom knit time Saturday; this is a KFI sockyarn in a colorway called "Green Bay," it does a very slow ombre effect (the end of the skein is a dark blue-green)

I'm going to knit the leg on these a bit longer than I sometimes do to try to get more of the ombre in the sock.

I also ran out to one of our field areas to grab twigs. I'm doing a winter-twig identification lab as the first plant systematics lab: I am going to ask the students to look at the different twigs I have (there are 10, all from different genera, most from different families - there are two Ulmaceae (winged elm and sugarberry) but I think those are the only from the same family.) I'm going to have them find the differences between them (bud shape, color, glaucousness or hairiness, leaf scar shape, presence or absence of thorns....) and then, depending on if time permits (or not, have them do it as a homework), try to develop a dichotomous key *specifically for those ten species* (which is less overwhelming, but also cuts down on the risk someone will just gank from an existing key and copy it - it won't work without the species in that key). I think it's important to learn how dichotomous keys work and are developed, but also I think slowing down and looking at detail is important - people say "winter twigs are really hard because there are no leaves" but if you know what to look for in things like the bark and leaf scars and buds, you can generally tell them apart. Or at least you can get to the right family or genus. 

The Corps of Engineers land we use is right up against a private parcel, and I was surprised to see how much the owner had cleared that parcel out (this is looking on to it from the trail on the Corps land): 

the person has the right to do what they want with their land but I admit I'll be discomfited if I take a class out there some time and find someone's lake cottage or manufactured home on there, with loose dogs and someone who eyeballs us to make sure we don't step on "their" land - often times people out in the country can be territorial and somewhat unfriendly to things like college classes, even if we try hard to avoid their property. ESPECIALLY if it's some rich person from DFW who is using the cottage as a getaway....

I did see some interesting fungi on a log out there. It's been too long since I had mycology (and I wouldn't know all the species down here) so I don't remember what these are, if I ever knew: