Wednesday, March 29, 2017

And today's done

Well, kind of. I still need to return the van and go home and probably do the Kenn Kihiu workout and then wash my hair and practice piano a little more, but the interacting-with-people part is done.

And I feel better. I really enjoy this class of students; they're interesting people and fun to have in lab. One of the women commented "today was fun" and again people express amazement at my plant knowledge, which is something I so totally take for granted that maybe it's good for me to be reminded from time to time it's a little unusual.

Perhaps that's one of the secrets to happiness: have people around you who either don't do exactly what you do, or are in a still-learning phase of it, who will express a certain amazement at what is so familiar to you it's almost like breathing and you don't remember the effort you put in to learn it.

(Though I also cringe when I hear the transhumanists talk about how in ten to fifteen years, you'll be able to "plug" a "knowledge module" into a "port" in your brain - so people like me will be utterly obsolete and useless. If that comes to pass? I really AM buying a plot of land, building an as-off-the-grid-as-possible cottage on it, and maybe founding a settlement of people who are AI/transhumanism refuseniks. We'd probably all be killed in the first pogrom, but at least we'd take a stand)

(I'm really hoping it's FIFTEEN years and not ten, because by then I'll be retired and I can tell the rest of the world to go pound sand and I will work in my garden instead)

Hopefully I will have an early night tonight and will catch up on some of the interrupted sleep I've had.

hope for future

When things look bad to me, I probably need to look up and read some "medical innovations" papers.

Like this one.

For years, I've seen it posited that we could stop having to deal with embryonic stem cells (and all the associated ethical concerns) with a few key innovations in working with adult stem cells (which can come from a living donor who can consent to donation).

I particularly like this article because it proposes a potential cure for age-related macular degeneration. Yeah, it's probably an uncomfortable procedure, I don't know, but having a grandmother and an aunt who went blind from this (though my aunt also had glaucoma), and with my mother being in the earliest stages of it (though she is taking an AREDS vitamin, and gets it monitored, and they've seen no further progression since she's been on the vitamins) I pay attention to these things.

(I have one or two "drusen" in my eyes, apparently - not enough for my eye doctor to be concerned, and he said they could have other causes, but I may wind up developing AMD some day. Here's hoping there's a good procedure to correct it if I do. I know I once said that given the choice between going blind and going deaf, I'd personally pick blindness because I think not being able to hear people's voices (after having heard them all my life) or music would make me feel more isolated than not being able to see....well, I'd like to be able to see, too.)

And yes, I get annual eye checkups with the extra screenings and stuff because of the family history of bad eye things. But apparently my insistence on sunglasses and my healthful diet have paid off - I have been told by two separate eye doctors that they would guess I was 10-15 years younger than I am based on the state of my corneas, so that makes me feel good. (Then again: maybe they see a lot of current and former smokers; I think smoking can also mess with your corneas)

I try to be hopeful for the future, that maybe finances in my state will somehow get better. Or somehow people will start opening small businesses again AND people will decide they'd rather shop in-person than online. (or that the businesses have enough of an online presence to help themselves: the used bookseller in my parents' town, before he retired and sold his business, said about 60% of his sales were online - and I know, I bought books through him online after I'd moved down here).

bad night's sleep

Yeah, another one.

First, I stayed up "too late" (for me: 10 pm) waiting to see what was happening with the storms we were supposed to get. Then I got into bed and tossed and turned a lot, partly because I was concerned about whether I'd hear my little weather radio if it went off.

I should not have been concerned. It woke me up - or at least startled me, if I wasn't asleep - about five times during the night. (And the chirpy weather-person claimed "We only had two warnings in our area last night!" Uh-huh.)

I probably need to get a new one of those; I've been told the newer ones can be set to a greater level of sensitivity, so I won't be alerted for (say) flood warnings in Denton County, Texas. I'm not sure how that works or if it even does. (Yes, I know there are smartphone apps that do that sort of thing, but I'd be d....d before I'd sleep with a turned-on smartphone under my pillow.)

Also, I was kind of brooding. The news dropped last night that the rainy-day fund in my state has been "drained" to cover current bills. (I *think* the way it works is we can't do deficit spending as a state? So if there's no money, bills don't get paid? I don't know). We're in what's called a "revenue failure" - not enough sales taxes or income taxes or things like oil and gas revenues to cover our bills. I admit to being a little confused by all of this because I can only look at it from the perspective of an individual who has X dollars in take-home pay each month, and therefore I can spend N dollars, where N has to be less than or equal to X. (Well, not STRICTLY speaking: I have a savings account for if, for example, something breaks that would go over and above what I had left of X for that month). But: if it looks like X is going to be smaller, then N has to be smaller. So I start cutting.

And so that's immediately what I assume, and my mind immediately went to, "When do those of us at regional unis expect our pink slips?" I guess it's not that simple (And yes, the state probably has SOME obligation to us, but they can lay us off in "financial exigency," though an HR person also tells me I would qualify for unemployment during that time and....I don't know.) Because, to be honest? We're one of the less-necessary things in the state. It pains me to say that but it's true: if it comes down to paying for K-12 education, paying for corrections system, paying for higher ed, and one has to go - well, you can't let hardened criminals back out on the streets*, and you can't just tell schoolkids they're on their own....

(*Though there are some questions about our incarceration rates for "smaller" offenses, like certain nonviolent misdemeanors)

I guess this has happened before - I am told it happened in 2009 but I don't remember hearing about it, but then again, that may have been the year we had the uni president who did all kinds of fiddles and wasn't exactly *transparent* about things, so maybe I was less aware of the state of the finances.

Or, more likely, I hadn't been scarred by what happened last year: seeing someone who had been here longer than I had let go "not for cause" simply because she hadn't pushed to get the protection of tenure, having to take furlough days where I wasn't paid and technically wasn't supposed to work but my workload was not lightened any, and seeing dozens of people close to retirement jump ship, leaving the rest of us to scramble (and have to wait longer for things like paperwork processing, because those who remain are having to do three jobs instead of one).

Actually, 2016 scarred me (and scared me) in a lot of ways; I will probably look back on it and think of it as "the year when I really began to get old":
- the budget woes at work, which made me realize that yes, I could, in fact, lose my job for reasons in no way tied to my performance

- my dad's ER trip, which brought home in a far more tangible way than I'd let myself believe before that my parents are mortal and are closer to the end of their lives than I was previously letting myself believe

-my extended stomach issues, which led me to suspect, on different occasions and without any grounds: failing gallbladder, pancreatic cancer, ovarian cancer, hiatal hernia, ulcer. (Well, I COULD have had a small ulcer that healed up on its own; I dragged my feet on getting endoscopy even though that would have answered the question because I'm afraid of general anesthesia). So I got it handed to me that *I'M* mortal and something will eventually take me out. (Though if I have my choice, I would like for it to be - many years in the future - something like a massive heart attack while out in the field, so I'm standing in front of St. Peter before I really realize what happened. (I am presuming that St. Peter would forgive one for saying either "Dangit!" or "D'Oh!" in that moment of realization).

My stomach is totally better now so I know it was none of the big scaries I was worried about (and anyway, I'd hope the blood testing I had done, both at the beginning of this process and then a couple weeks ago, would turn up anything really abnormal. I know when I went to the ER they took blood and the NP who saw me told me all my liver and pancreatic enzymes they could test for came back normal, so....

- Lots of friends with worrisome health issues. I once said I was less afraid of my own death than I was of being left here all alone. And I still kind of stand by that. (I am more afraid of the pain and worry that would lead up to death: for example, dealing with a cancer diagnosis where the outcome is something other than "Yeah, you have an 85% or better chance of a cure or remission"). And yes, I know, it's possible to make new friends....but that's hard and takes time and effort and I'd rather keep the ones I have now, thanks.

- Some small businesses I used here in town closing up for good; our little downtown is now more or less back to the pathetic state it was in when I moved down here in 1999. And I know these things are cyclical but I almost feel like I can't see things getting better.

So anyway. I did sleep SOME, I know because I remember having dreamt. (That is one of the sad things about being a periodic insomnia sufferer: when you get up in the morning, you try to scan your mind: do I remember having had a dream? Because if you remember dreaming, that means you at least slept SOME).

It was a very typical theme for me.

In the specific detail: I was somewhere, it turned out it was a building set up on the v. low hill that was out behind the house I grew up in. (We had a LARGE yard. The backyard in full was probably 75 yards by 50 yards....the hill was more than 50 yards from the house). I had to go and walk back to the house alone. (My mother was there, but she wasn't coming back with me). It was dark out. I mean DARK - like, new moon, no stars visible. Can't see five feet in front of your face. And then I realized, as I set out: hey, I'm going to be walking through the equivalent of an abandoned pasture. There might be holes I could step in and break an ankle. There might even be dangerous animals I could step on! I pulled out my keychain - I have a tiny LED flashlight on it, it's not very powerful but it's enough to navigate the hallways here when the power is out.

The flashlight, in my dream, wasn't working - so I had to set off, feeling my way through the tussocks of grass with my feet. Then I woke up.

But you know? That's a very, very common theme of dreams with me - I have to go somewhere, it's dark and I can't see, and the source of illumination I have has failed - another common dream is driving out on a dark highway where there are no streetlamps, and my headlights have gone out.

I am sure there is something about my psychological make-up (How often do I complain that I feel like I'm making it up as I go along?) in that.


Another thought: last night there was being promoted on the news a "Kid's Fest!"

And I asked myself: "Why isn't there ever an 'Adult's Fest'?"

And then I realized: there are. You just don't want to go to them.

"Adult's Fest" #1: workshops on life insurance and financial security, stuff that makes my eyes glaze over (and I don't need supplemental life insurance beyond what my employer provides: I have no dependents). So in other words: something I'd find boring

"Adult's Fest" #2:  those health-workshop things, where they do some basic screening tests and do things like give nutrition advice. Which I find kind of depressing, to be honest. (I know what good nutrition and sufficient exercise is, and I strive to get it, but I don't always succeed as perfectly as I might want to).

And, I suppose, for some values of "adult" you also could get the kind of "fest" featuring what used to be called "Hard R" videos (or even beyond) which would gross me out and embarrass me and in which I have no interest.

(Is it any WONDER the Millennials and their following generation seem not to want to grow up?)

I guess what I want is an Adult's Fest that features Kid's Fest type things but at which you don't have to bring a kid for cover (Most of the "family friendly" activities in my area, really should be called "families with children only" because a lone adult gets serious side-eye if they try to attend).

I dunno. Suffering from a deficit of fun right now, but when the nearest "fun" is a sizable drive away, it's hard to work it in to your life.

(I wish the quilt shop was still open. I wish there was a quilting group in town that didn't meet only while I was in class. I wish there was something fun for people who neither want to gamble nor fish)

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

I'm getting old

A couple weeks ago the big news story was how the tokens in Monopoly were being changed to be more "up to date" (someone made a comment about how "kids today" don't recognize what a thimble is. Well, that's their problem and not ours, and the more cranky Tinfoil Hattie side of me says they'll be crying when civilization collapses and they prick their fingers trying to sew coyote hides into cloaks).

So they now have a t-rex, a rubber duckie, a cat, a couple other things I forget....and they're losing the thimble and the old shoe and the wheelbarrow.....not that any of those had all THAT much to do with Monopoly or what it was all about (then again, neither does a t-rex).

(Random childhood memory: stealing the the little "iron" token out of the family Monopoly game for my doll house)

I will say I guess I'm relieved for our culture that the "poo" emoji didn't win a place on the board (apparently it was in the running).

Anyway, cynical me says that they will now be able to market BOTH "classic" and "new" Monopoly, with different token sets. Or maybe even sell sets of the tokens as add-ons.

(And I seem to remember a newer version of the game where, instead of handling paper money, you have an "atm card" and there's some kind of battery gizmo that keeps track of how much money you have. That feels....wrong, somehow. And what happens if the gizmo's batteries run out mid-game? Monopoly games can go on FOREVER)

There's also a version I saw advertised a while back where it was less about getting and holding property as an "investment" and more about bling and (apparently) impressing your fellow players by how much you spent, which....I don't know, I guess that does seem like Monopoly For The 21st Century.

(Cue the ad from another source, with the guy commenting: "I'm in debt up to my eyeballs!")

Monopoly was a weird game anyway. We had some house rules when I was a kid (no auctioning unwanted properties, for example) that were different but I don't remember that we ever finished a game....we just played until everyone got bored and then decided who had the most money and they were the winner. Or, when my brother and I were younger, someone got mad and upset the board (the old "whoopsie!" maneuver) and that ended the game.

Monopoly. And Life - another game that is kind of interminable and depressing and probably isn't a good way to prep kids for adulthood.

We liked Mille Bornes better in my household - a card-based "road rally" game, that, once I hit 11 or so and started taking "baby French" in school, had the added attraction that the cards were bilingual. And it was just FUN to say "Panne d'Essence, oh ho ho ho ho" (mimicking the stereotypical "French laugh") when you played that card on an opponent.

And Sorry. Sorry was also fun.

But anyway. I thought of that today because now Crayola is on the "Hey, you know what would be fun? Changing something Gen-Xers remember from their childhood:

We are altering our 24-count box. Pray we do not alter it further.

Yeah, they're apparently voting one color "off the island"

This kind of thing....I don't know, I get updating. (oooh. I know - they're taking out Peach, which used to be called "Flesh," until someone pointed out that there are very few people for whom that was actually an accurate "flesh" color). But this does seem calculated to generate drama (Well, **I'm** talking about it).

But crayons were weird, anyway. I remember in school, some grades, there was a limit set on how big a box you could have in your schoolkit - in fact, it may very well have been the 24 count box. An early experiment in trying to force equality on the kids? If so, a weird one, because crayons were cheap and what we actually got harassed for was clothing and toys. But it was an early lesson for me in "work vs. home" - at school, I had my mingy 24-color set, but at home, my parents got me the 96-crayon box - the biggest one available then, with the little sharpener (that never really worked) on the back.

(Actually, I think a few years, we were told to get the 8-count box, which is really useless for pretty much ANYTHING other than coloring in maps, where supposedly four colors are all you need)

But yeah.

And I wonder: could my recent burst of purchasing various toys (vintage Ponies, the "reproduction 80s" Strawberry Shortcake and Blueberry Muffin dolls, the Care Bears that Build-a-Bear did) somehow part of the "I'm getting old" thing - the desire to cling to things that were vaguely familiar back then, back just before I entered high school, when I was on that cusp between kid-dom and adolescence?

I mean: there were a lot of things about grade school I disliked (and I actively loathed junior high).

But I do miss that whole childhood thing where you could create an entire world out of some blocks and your imagination, or where you could almost believe fairies lived in a hollow log, or where you could draw whatever you wanted at it was "good" because you hadn't developed that snarky Inner Critic yet.

High school was in some ways better- I was more challenged at school (tougher academic standards and the teachers treated us more like adults) and socially things were better (I made more friends), but I still struggled to negotiate the more obscure social details and I wasn't really ready to be a full-fledged grown-up.

(In some ways, I still am not. One of the women at church Sunday commented that the lipstick I was wearing lit up my whole face and made me look prettier, and then she teased me: "She's out looking for a man" and I laughed ruefully and said, "I wouldn't have time for one if I found one" but also to a certain extent I could have said: "I wouldn't know what to do with one if I found one")

But yeah. The world has changed so vastly and is changing so vastly that really? I would like my crayons unchanged, thanks so much.

(And "Flesh" as a color name was gone by the time I was a kid - I am pretty sure "peach" replaced it, though it was the color we all used to indicate Euro-American flesh.)

Monday, March 27, 2017

cheesy grits recipe

So I mentioned making cheesy grits (well, really, a cheese grits casserole) for the church lunch on Sunday.

This is, I think, the best way to eat cheesy grits. I had been making them on the stovetop, which has the virtue of being fast, but the grits are a bit runnier, then.

And yes. I really love cheesy grits. GB Shaw said "There is no love sincerer than the love of food" and while there are relatively few foods I would straight-up say I "loved," cheesy grits fall into that category.

(There's also a bad old dieting line that claims "nothing tastes as good as thin feels." Nuh-uh. Not at the end of the day when you've been running around all day and are tired and hungry and you finally get some nutritious food to refresh yourself with.)

And yeah, cheese grits might not be the MOST nutritious food ever, but they're *pretty* nutritious by comparison to many things. And they're just darn good.

And this is now my favorite cheese grits recipe ever. It's from "Noted Cookery," that DSO fundraiser book I found in an antique store over break. I'm going to give it as written and then add my changes:

Cheese grits casserole

3 eggs
3 teaspoons of salt
1 1/2 teaspoons hot sauce
1 teaspoon paprika
6 cups boiling water
1 1/2 cups quick cooking grits
1 pound grated cheese (they specify "Wisconsin" cheese; cheddar, I presume)
3/4 cup butter.

You beat the eggs with the spices and set that aside. Following package directions, cook the grits in the boiling water. Then add the butter, cheese (they don't say to, but I think you had better take the pan of the grits off the heat first) and then the eggs (either let the grits cool or "temper" the eggs by slowly adding hot grits to them before you dump them in. You don't want a lump of scrambled eggs in your grits!). Mix well and pour into a 2-quart casserole (an 8" square pan should work here). Cook at 350 for an hour or until firm

They say "serves 16" but that seems like tiny servings.

Okay, my changes: The biggest one is I did 1 2/3 worth of the recipe (fractions, yay! Because there are three eggs, right? And a simple doubling would overwhelm the 9 x 13 pan I intended to use).

Also, I left out the hot sauce but put maybe about 1/4 tsp of garlic powder in (a "dash" would be enough for the smaller recipe). I cut waaaaaaay back on the salt and even if I weren't restricting sodium I think the salt as written would be too much: cheese is salty.

I used colby-jack cheese, which I like and which also melts well. I did add a bit of leftover cheddar I had, also. I guess these are often traditionally done with Velveeta or American-style cheese, but I do not think they would be as good as with "natural" cheese.

I also think I mistakenly added more paprika than necessary but I like paprika and it gave a good flavor, so.

The resulting casserole is very pretty when it first comes out (it puffs like a souffle) but it does collapse as it cools. But it's excellent reheated - I had leftover nearly half the 9 x 13 pan (which barely held the 1 2/3 batch I made).

I greased the pan but that is probably not necessary.

I think I'm going to use this recipe in the future (at least, when I have time to bake it for an hour). The stovetop version is good but this is something special. And it's just a good thing to be able to make: it's good for vegetarians-that-eat-eggs-and-cheese, it's good for picky little kids, it's good for people who want some kind of side dish alongside the meat, it's good for people (like me) who just like cheese and carbohydrates together....

It's essentially macaroni and cheese but with grits instead of the pasta. (And apparently you can find, some places, grits processed in a gluten-free facility, so they are safe for many people who have to do GF....I did not know that; I thought corn had gluten!)

it would also make a dandy breakfast casserole, ESPECIALLY with some cooked crumbled up bulk sausage mixed in.

There are numerous "southern" foods I am not fond of (chicken-fried steak, fried catfish, okra....) but I certainly do like cheese grits.

A new rule

I don't have many commenting rules on this blog, but here's one:

If you are commenting anonymously, and you do not "sign" your comment, I will feel no obligation to post it.

Apparently someone is spamming blogs - or maybe just mine - with anonymous "call your representative over this and that" comments, and, faugh, I don't like non-sequitur comments on posts, so they have gone where the goblins go, yo-ho, yo-ho.

(Sorry. Still cranky because my allergies are bad and I now realize that whatever joint pain I seem to have - mostly in knees - is noticeable on days when my allergies are bad. I had to run up and down the stairs a couple times for various supplies for lab today and now my knees aren't happy)

Speaking of cranky, this picture ran through my Twitter feed yesterday:

It had the caption, "Poor li'l cranky wrinkle goblin" which makes me laugh, but also:

that cat's expression.

it's perfect.

It's like, one of the best summings-up of "Current Mood" when I am really angry and lashy-out-at-the-world and I just want to hiss at everything.

But: if I'm in that mood, saying "poor cranky li'l goblin" to me (I omit "wrinkle," because I really don't have that many yet) would get you hurt.

(Also, this is one reason why I don't want a Sphinx cat even if people tell me they are less allergenic. The other two reasons are:

a. they don't feel like a proper cat
b. the males, at least.....there's stuff there my eyes don't want to see when they walk away from you. If I had a male Sphinx cat in my vicinity, I'd make him wear pants)


Also, in the annals of my (not) exciting life....a student stopped me after lab today (it was a short lab, thank goodness, seeing as I have a meeting at 3:30)

"You know my lab partner [let's call him Jeff Spicoli]? Have you noticed how he seems to miss every week?"

Me, rubbing my forehead, "Yes, I have" (and not adding that Mr. Spicoli has also failed to hand in a moderately-important assignment, and that Mr. Spicoli was also the one with the audacity to e-mail me seeking a topic less than 24 hours before said assignment was due)

Student: "Well, I don't know what to do, and I don't know if you'd be okay with this....but Jeff lives right here in town and I commute an hour to get here...."

Oh man. Yes, bring up all your hardships, why not, even though I'm already going to the place you want me to. (And immediately my super-ego reminds me to be kind, because everyone is fighting some kind of hard battle)

I reminded him that I told the class at the start of the semester if someone chronically skipped lab, and it wasn't like an illness issue, their lab partner was perfectly justified in refusing to give them data. I told him I noticed Mr. Spicoli's skippage, and I was aware of it.

And of course, he had to add: "I talked to your colleague [Let's call *him* Big Mac] last semester because he was my partner in Big Mac's class and he always skipped then."

Me, rubbing my forehead again: "Yes, okay, as I said, you don't have to give Mr. Spicoli the data." (And I'm thinking: you don't have to bring Big Mac into this, though I know his opinion is the same as mine on class-skippers.

But anyway: this is why professors have gray hair. And this is why I'm so tired at the end of the week, because I'm fundamentally having to manage a bunch of other people's emotions in various ways, and yet, I have no one (other than this little blog) that I can really dump MY emotions on.

But yeah, I'm wise to Mr. Spicoli and I'm about done with him, after having had him in other classes where he pulled this kind of a stunt. (And anyway, Mr. Spicoli, at this point, will be repeating this class if he needs it to graduate)

And Monday morning

I had a rough night of it after the storms - was too keyed up from rushing around making my "safe space*" safe, too keyed up from worrying about the sirens, and I didn't sleep well. I went to bed around 10 but I know for a fact I was still awake at midnight, and I woke up shortly after 5 am.

(*"safe spaces" means something v. different in tornado country. And if I were having a house built brand-new from scratch? I'd have one of those reinforced safe rooms put in, right in the middle of the house. And I'd keep an old sturdy pair of shoes, and a change of clothes, and a battery radio, and a couple flashlights in there. And maybe photocopies of all my important documents. Would save on racing around to gather stuff up every emergency. Oh, and bottled water, too.)

We got what sounded like maybe pinpoint hail, but nothing worse, later on.

Tuesday into Wednesday is going to be another round. Not gonna lie; I won't be heartbroken if I have to cancel the field lab. This is going to be an unpleasantly busy week otherwise.

Today, it's faculty meeting to decide on the departmental scholarships, which will probably be long (though I have to leave at 1 pm: lab). Then at 3:30 is the AAUW meeting to decide on THOSE scholarships, immediately followed by an emergency meeting to deal with some required changes to the by-laws. (The changes, federally, to what constitutes being tax-exempt and how you keep that status has caused us a great deal of woe. The biggest thing? We are going to no longer be permitted to offer a "we pay half your dues in return for you helping out with the play" thing, because that's not enough "work." I predict we lose several members, which means the rest of us get stuck doing more...I think I will still get half my dues paid because I'm recording secretary (therefore: donating time and effort every month) and I keep up the yearbook and am head of the scholarship committee.)

Tomorrow is a normal day (whatever a normal day looks like now; or at least there's nothing different happening at this point). Same for Wednesday EXCEPT I have to arrange to get the food for the AAUW meeting and dip for the chips and dip I'm supposed to bring down to church...

Thursday is Curriculum Contest, which means I cancel my 11 am class, because the room we use is Needed and I can't be bothered to find an alternative room. And also - noon or so is the "family time" for the former-congregant's son, and I really want to get down to church to get to see her. This is what I have to bring chips and dip for. (I got the chips at my Saturday wal-mart run, but I figured Braum's probably has better dip, so I'll get that right before....). And Thursday evening is AAUW.

And Friday is the state Science Fair. I've already arranged for that: gave my one class something to work on in my absence (cancelling classes for some kind of service or research thing without providing some kind of alternative is frowned upon, but I can't complain too much: some universities they expect you to get someone to sub for you! I would kind of resent having to do lots of subbing for colleagues....)

I think this weekend I am calling "Time Out" (I have nothing exceptionally pressing) and taking the weekend off. I do have two exams next week but maybe I can write them during in-between times this week, I don't know. Or even at that: sitting at home writing an exam is different than crunching numbers  at my desk. (I can watch Ponies while I write exams....)


I can feel that today is going to be a bit of a challenge.

Earlier, I was trying to comfort someone online (facing the loss of a loved one) and it brought up my cousin's death last fall and I admit I cried a little over it again. I suppose grief is something you're never really done with - it's not like a healed wound, it's more like a scar, where most of the time you don't really think about it, but then something bumps that scar and it hurts all over again.

And one thing I've found: every new loss tends to bring up old ones. (I'm still not totally done mourning the grandmother who died more than 20 years ago).


today would be an excellent day for my Doki Doki box for April to come, but it's probably not time yet. (And it is still March).

It's funny, people talk about how fast the year seems to be moving, but for me it feels like every month so far has been interminable....January was forever, February was kind of like winter in Narnia only with my birthday instead of Christmas ("It's always February but never my birthday yet"). March has felt forever-long and especially Lent has felt forever-long. I used the Lent loophole yesterday ("Sundays don't count; every Sunday is a small feast) and I had a piece of "sopapilla cheesecake" at the church lunch yesterday. It was good and I probably needed it, and one thing that's shocked me about this Lenten thing is, as it wears on, realizing how much I depended on the small treat of a cookie or a bit of cake at the end of the day or as an enticement to get me to eat all the vegetables I'm supposed to eat.

(And it's what? Three weeks still until Easter?)

(And I'm gonna confess: if I had someone in my life who loved me very, very much? What would fill me with joy Easter morning would be an Easter basket - not one filled with candy, but one with a few small toys, like blindbag type toys or maybe one of those Equestria Girls Minis I don't have, or maybe a few knitting nick-nacks (stitch markers or a new retractable measuring tape, or something). Easter baskets were a big thing in my family when my brother and I were kids....and it's one of those things I kind of miss as an adult. Oh, I could buy myself a bunch of stuff for Easter but it's not the same so I probably won't do it (instead I will bake some kind of a small cake for myself, maybe a lemon pound cake). But if I had someone in my life that I loved, I'd probably make an Easter basket for them, unless they were the sort of person who'd be weird about it and not seem to want to accept it...)

Part of my distress is allergies yet again. I mowed the lawn for the first time this year yesterday (it seems awfully early, but the weeds, especially bedstraw, were up a lot). I also hauled out the weed whacker and tried to cut down alllllll the bedstraw that had invaded the uneven ground at the back of my backyard (where I can't mow, because of all the "stumps" of privet and stuff that I can't see). I normally wouldn't bother, but I worry that the city is going to be looking extra hard at me because (a) they caught me last fall for brush and (b) they know I hop to it and comply - and I kind of wonder now if people who try to follow the rules are the ones the rules-enforcers go after the most, kind of like the old gag about the guy who is pulled over for going 80 mph on an interstate while people are blowing by him at 90 and 95, and he asks the cop why, and the cop responds, "You? I could catch you."

So yeah, my eyes feel kind of puffy and awful right now. I couldn't quickly find a face mask so I didn't wear one. (I did wear eye protection while using the weed whacker; I worry about a stone or a stick being kicked up by it.)

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Better part of valor...

I am writing this sitting on the bathroom floor.

(No, I am not trying to evoke echoes of "I Capture the Castle" here)

There's a tornado warning for Marshall county and they are hinting that Kingston (right across the lake from me) may be next. So I grabbed all my kit:
Sturdy shoes and socks
Bra (I am in "relaxation clothes)
stack of pillows and blankets in case I need to get in the bathtub for protection (No basements, it's probably not advisable to take the time to drive over to my building, even if I weren't creeped out being up there, likely alone, late in the evening - it's a designated shelter but still.)
Pillowcase (oh hey it's my new Paddington one) filled with the most irreplaceable stuffies. Yes, I know, but.

And I have my knitting, and about an hour and 45 minutes of battery life on this so I should be good until the most concerning time is over.

So, some cruddy webcam photos:

Hermione's Everyday Sock. Easier to knit on when you're alarmed than Celestarium would be.

Not to great photo of lumpy Paddington Bear pillowcase stuffed full of things important to me (mostly the ponies I have crocheted)

Yeah, they just listed Madill, which is pretty darn close to me, so it's good I'm in here.

Say hi, Pfred:

I can't physically lift a mattress (what they usually recommend you cover yourself with in the bathtub - to protect injury from flying debris. So I have a stack of quilts and pillows, and then I figured, well, I can lay Pfred on top of me (under the quilts) and that might provide a bit more safety, I don't know.

I am not sure if I dislike the unrelenting heat more, or the risk of late- evening tornadoes in the spring more, as my least-favorite feature of Oklahoma weather.

ETA at about 10 minutes of 9: they downgraded everything to Severe Thunderstorm Warnings. We still might get hail but that looks like the worst we will get.

"Shot, and chaser"

Someone I know posts stuff on twitter with the captions, "Shot..." "....and chaser" for two items that either contradict each other, are in some way related, or if the "chaser" makes the "shot" funny.

But anyway. Someone ELSE (Diann) posted the article I'm linking to on Twitter, and I think it's a reasonable "chaser" for the article I linked to the other day about "what if I want a 'mediocre' life":

Be encouraged, you're doing better than you think

(Two notes: there is one harsh word in the article. And the comments perhaps go a bit off the rails - this is apparently a faith-related site and there is discussion of how God was viewed in Old Testament times that winds up pretty much bashing the "backwoods southern Christian" and I find that kind of thing distasteful, even if I do disagree with the denominations that seem to over-emphasize the Old Testament God over the New Testament teachings)

Anyway. In short, the writer makes the point that everyone feels like they don't have it together - and that everyone is hurting in some way you can't see (And I know that).

Actually, one of the more useful comments on the piece noted: you are comparing your own blooper reel to everyone else's highlight reel, and I think that's true. I don't see what my colleagues do at the end of the day; I only see myself coming home and putting on flannel pajama pants with cartoon cats on them, and maybe eating Nutella straight from the jar with a spoon while I watch We Bare Bears and then I look at myself and go, "Mercy, this is NOT how a grown-up should be acting."

But how is a grown-up supposed to act? I only have my parents to judge from. They didn't wear juvenile-themed pajamas in the late afternoon, or watch cartoons, or eat Nutella. So I don't know. And maybe they were better at hiding their weaknesses from me so I got the idea that "real" grown-ups didn't seem to have any.

A sample quotation from the article: "All this to say that we’re all a mess and no one is as together, happy, or confident as we want ourselves to appear, so go easy on yourself when you feel you’re not measuring up."

I dunno. On one level I find that a relief. But on the other it makes me sad - so everyone else is as messed up and self-doubting and worried about how they look to the world as I am? That there's really no one who has it together?  I dunno....I guess I always kind of held out the hope that I would somehow finally "for real" grow up and actually have it together. 

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Being an adult

I really would rather spend this weekend watching cartoons and knitting, or going shopping and buying succor-to-my-sad-feels things. But instead, I have Stuff to do so as soon as I pay a couple bills and do a bit of piano practice, I'm in to work.

I had an instance yesterday of "When someone is a jerk to you, it's more a reflection on them than it is on you." (If one person is the jerk, they are most likely the jerk; if everyone seems like a jerk, it's most likely YOU that is the jerk. In this case, it was one person totally blindsiding me with something they said).

But if I know that, why are my feelings still hurt?

Next week is going to be effortful: two meetings Monday (one during the time I'd normally be working out and I don't know, maybe I do have to go back to setting my alarm for 4:30 am and just being sleep-starved so I don't have to worry about getting the workout in). Thursday is the funeral for my friend's son and that is not good because that's my busiest teaching day EXCEPT it is also Curriculum Contest and they need one of my classrooms so I figure my 11 am class won't meet, so I can go and see the family for a little while, maybe. Also it's AAUW, and I'm tasked with providing food, and since I'm still trying to abstain from dessert-like things, it's going to be stuff like cheese and fruit and anyone who doesn't like that can go pound sand. (Though I might buy a box of those mini quiche things because I like those and am kind of craving those right now).

Friday is the state Science Fair.

The following week I give two exams, so next weekend will likely be spent writing those.

I dunno. I ran to the Mart of Wal this morning. The one good thing is my groceries and stuff were mostly paid for by the $50 "gift card" that Jackson-Hewitt gave me for getting my taxes done there (though honestly, I'd really rather, I don't know, pay $25 less or something to have them done. But I suppose promotions don't work that way). The bad thing: even when the wal-mart isn't crowded, I find it somewhat depressing to shop at.

SOME of this is just bad allergies. Some of it is probably the time of the semester - this is when everyone is tired of everyone else and it just seems like forever until it's over.


Driving in to the office - I went a different way to swing past one of the "blue box" public mail drop-offs (I am sending out a sympathy card, a birthday card, and an ITFF card-exchange card, and I am again in the mode of not trusting to put stuff in my home mailbox).

On the next street over, there is a house that has a yard sign out that says "Love More" on it, and has a picture of the earth and the peace symbol.

And it's a nice sentiment, made me slightly sad. "Love more"? That's what I've been trying to do all my life. ("...the stars, I know quite well/ That, for all they care, I can go to hell..."). That's what a lot of people I know have been trying to do lately. And it's not enough. Things just keep getting worse, it seems like people get ruder and more self-centered and all that. And I get some of that may be fear - fear that we're all going to lose our jobs to robots, or fear about what's going to happen in the coming weeks, or fear that there are nations in the world run by people who probably have no qualms whatsoever about killing someone who disagrees with them.

But it's sort of underscores the whole feeling of "I'm not enough" that I've had for a while. I don't know. I do my best and things never get any better, so either things are so screwed up they won't get better, or I'm so utterly ineffectual at doing anything to make stuff better.

And it also underscores my big fear: that the world is getting progressively worse, that the rest of my adulthood is going to be an increasingly miserable slog with fewer and fewer of the little comforts I took for granted. (All the "brick and mortar stores are doomed" stories - I actually like going for "fun shopping" (like in antique shops or bookstores) and if those are gone, if all I'm left with is browsing eBay or Amazon at home.....the point of "fun shopping" is to get me out of my house and out of my own head.)

I wonder: what are our "third places" going to be in the future? That is, places that are not home and not work? For me, church is one, but many weeks I'm only there once a week....and for a lot of people that's not even an option. There's no yarn/quilt shop here any more so there are no knit nights. There are a few groups but most of them meet WHILE I am at work and I've tried joining a few and felt too "outsider" to want to keep going.....and I don't know. I also read stories about how "getting a place to live in the future is going to be so much harder" (economics and things and increasingly restrictive rules on mortgage lending) and I think "I may not even have the retirement option I thought about of moving to Eureka Springs or somewhere" and I just feel sad....I don't want to live my retirement years in a town that has a wal-mart and a few fast-food places and that's pretty much it. 

I don't know. I'm in here trying to analyze data and I see all the ways I designed this study suboptimally. (WHY WHY WHY did I use a sample size of 9 and not 10, when I'm going to be dealing with percent data?!?!)

I also got super frustrated with myself while trying to practice piano - dangit, I had a string of days a couple weeks ago when I thought I was making progress, but now, I don't know, I can barely play even some of the Anna Magdalene pieces I had mastered. And I wound up screaming at myself for being a (redacted) idiot and not being able to play right, and yelling at my brain "HAVE YOU HAD A STROKE OR SOMETHING? BE BETTER"

I don't know. I wouldn't yell at another person that way, but, that's how it's always been with me: I'm harder on myself than I can ever be with anyone else.

As I said on Twitter, this is probably brought to you by the letters P, M, and S, but still. I should have gone somewhere for Spring Break. I'm just....really worn and frayed right now.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Thoughts and feelings

I haven't tagged blogposts in a long time (because I forget to) but maybe I need to revive the "random maunderings" tag for this one.

This was spurred by an ITFF discussion. One person linked to an article: What if All I want is a Mediocre Life?.

My first reactions to it were mostly positive: sort of a Heck Yes! Why should I be pushed to constantly do more, more, more? Why can't it just be accepted that what I'm doing is ENOUGH.

But then, I admit, I was somewhat uncomfortable:

1. With mediocre as a word used here. Frankly, the woman writing has a pretty good life - she's doing a lot (she has kids, for example, which I don't). I wish I could be happier being a "mediocre at best" pianist - I came to it too late in life, I don't have the sufficient time to practice as much as it would take to be really good, I lack the kind of confidence it probably requires - but I can't be happy saying, "I'm just mediocre at that." I want to be GOOD. And it frustrates me when I can't, and often it makes me less wanting to keep up with the thing.

2. She is in some ways luckier than I am: she has a loving spouse, she isn't totally dependent on the sweat of her own brow (figuratively speaking) to keep herself housed and fed. She probably has people who are happy to see her when she comes home*

(*This has once again become an issue for me. I'd get a dog, but based on how badly my allergies responded to paying the homebound visit to the couple with the dog - which didn't even get all that close to me - I don't think I can)

Also, on ITFF, a lot of people "unpacked" it more critically than I could - a lot excoriated her from coming from a place of "privilege" (married well-off woman in a culture that generally treats women well) or for the idea that she was setting herself up as some kind of self-help guru.

So I don't know.

I don't like the idea of "being happy with being mediocre" because that's something our culture has kind of turned into a pejorative. Mediocre MIGHT have once meant "average" or "median," now it's kind of gone the way of the "gentleman's C" - where it used to be OK for a student to earn Cs because that was an average grade, and frankly, more people are close to the average than above it. But now, a C is seen by some as a mortal assault. ("Why did you give me a C?" "I didn't give it to you, you earned it"). And while I don't want to dig into the sociological reasons behind C now being a "bad"'s sort of related to the whole issue of expectations-inflation.

And why people like me, who objectively are doing very well, are sort of dissatisfied a lot of the time, because we're not doing MORE.

No, I don't mean it in a keeping-up-with-the-Joneses way, at least not materially speaking. I don't give a flip if one of my neighbors has a big-butt Cadillac SUV in their drive. I like my Ford Edge just fine; it gets me where I need to go, it doesn't need a lot of maintenance, it's easy to drive.

But in terms of CONTRIBUTION to the world....if my neighbors are, I don't know, digging wells for impoverished Central American towns, okay, then I feel a little bit like, "Wow, why am I not doing, I should be doing that or something like that."

And yeah yeah, I've harped several times these past weeks in Sunday school on the "works-vs.-faith" thing and it's NOT a "trying to buy myself a spot in Heaven" thing at all, it's more a....I guess it's more a "I want my life to have meant something" thing.

I don't know. The author of the piece I linked remarks:

What if I never build an orphanage in Africa but send bags of groceries to people here and there and support a couple of kids through sponsorship? What if I just offer the small gifts I have to the world and let that be enough?

And yes. Why can't I accept that giving money to Mercy Corps and Heifer Project and buying peanut butter and tuna and stuff for the local food banks is more than a lot of people do, and be happy that I'm doing that? Why do I look at my contributions and go "I should be doing more?"

I don't know. It's probably linked to the "I want my life to feel like it means something."

And also, the whole post-tenure review thing (and YES I am still salty about it, but): the feeling that nothing I do will ever quite be "enough" to get a "you're fine, keep on keepin' on," that there's always going to have to be some area in which I will be found lacking, because apparently that's how this process works and oh it seems so INSIDIOUS to me, that you can't ever just relax and say "This is good. What I did was good." but instead you must say "That could have been better, next time I will do it better by x,y,z..." or "Yes, that was good, but I could have done these three other things as well as that thing..." and it feels like endless escalation - kind of like that bit from Modern Times where the machinery keeps speeding up until the point where the Little Tramp can't physically keep up with it any more and winds up crushed between the cogs. (I may be misremembering  that part)

I don't know.

Someone else on ITFF brought up the point that you need to measure yourself by your own yardstick. And yes, yes, that's very nice - but again, that's a privilege that apparently the lesson-writer has that not all of us do. I mentioned post-tenure review? A very unlikely but not impossible outcome for someone who fails to conform to expectations is they get tenure revoked and are let go. Like I said, it's unlikely (especially given the budget constraints and how hard hiring a proper replacement would be), but it's possible, and that's enough to scare me.

And so I keep planning new research. Or keeping up with teaching. Or not saying things to students I might want to say and they might need to hear, but that would cause Upset and I don't want to risk upsetting the wrong person. Or taking on extra committee work and maybe dropping other "service" that I realized didn't count towards my post-tenure review. So not so much cutting my coat according to the cloth, but according to what the powers-that-be say should be the cut of the coat.

And it all makes me sad. Because again it does come down to "what the world values" and "what I value" (and by extension: what all my religious training taught me was valuable) being different things some of the time. And I can't just say "forget the world's yardstick" because I have to live in the world, and it's just me* between me and starvation, so I have to take note of it.

(*Well, not quite: if something went spectacularly wrong, at this point in time, my parents would take me back in. I don't know about the distant future when they're gone; possibly my brother and sister in law would help out, but then again, they face fiscal challenges of their own)

I don't know. I was thinking yesterday about how HAPPY I was those few hours over break that I was in my sewing room, and I think I realize why: that is one place where the only way I have to measure up is to my own requirements or interests. I don't have to make, for example, a quilt top big enough to cover a California King if all I really want to do is a lap robe. And I don't have anyone telling me that what I'm enjoying doing is unimportant and I really need to devote my energies to this thing over there that I don't want to do nearly so much.

I remarked later on ITFF that perhaps the ultimate marker of privilege in today's world is being able to 100% go by your own yardstick and be able to tell anyone else who's trying to make you measure up to some other scale to go pound sand. Maybe when I retire I will be able to do that, I don't know.

(Several women in my AAUW group retired last year. They flatly refused to take on any new responsibilities, on the grounds that they were told, "Don't take anything new on in the first year you retire" which seems odd advice to me and I can guar-an-damn-tee you that when I retire, "they" (whoever makes these guidelines) will have changed them, and it will be "The new retiree should carry ALL of the burdens" And yes, I do think retired people sometimes forget a bit about what it's like to work full-time. ESPECIALLY work full-time as a single person, where the laundry, marketing, bill-paying, life-maintenance stuff is 100% on you.... and that's why I'm exhausted so much of the time and feel like I'm grabbing at straws)

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Now more pony!

Okay, I'm in a better mood. I ate something, I graded the exams I gave today (It's a small class and one person was out sick -a makeup has already been scheduled - so it went fast). The grades were pretty good; I think the review session I did on Tuesday helped.

Also, ponies. My new ponies sat and watched me while I graded.

This is Twist:

Twist is a deflocked (not to be confused with defrocked) So Soft Pony - so she's extra-brilliantly colored, so some color would show through the flocking.

As I said before, I'm not crazy about the idea of "flocked" toys that get dragged around and played with outside and that are not washable and on which the flocking would wear off....but in their flock-free form, they're delightful, and I might acquire more of these. (Or, if I ever run across one that's a sad, partly-worn-off flocked one in the wild, I might have a try at deflocking her.)

I needed more unicorns for my herd. And I just like Twist's colors and her cutie mark makes me smile because pretzels are such a random thing to have as a cutie mark.

And then there's Powder, who came at the same time: I'd wanted a Powder for a while but before now didn't see one in a condition acceptable to me or that was a decent price.

Ultra cutie-mark close up- it's snowflakes. Silver glitter snowflakes. (I saw entirely too little snow this past year. I don't like driving it but it is nice to sit at home on a quiet day when you don't have to be anywhere and just watch the snow.

And of course, this makes me think that Powder is the Elsa of ponies....or rather, she fancies herself to be. (One of the fun things about G1: I never watched the old cartoon so I am completely ignorant of their backstories, so I get to make them up myself). Powder LOVES showtunes and those kind of super-dramatic songs, and she's prone to break randomly into song.

Twist is her best friend and is a bit older and a bit more sensible, and tries to get her friend to tone it down just a little so she doesn't look ridiculous....

Like this:

"Let it GOOOOOO"


"Oh honey, no"

"Oh honey, no. Not here."

Wanting blanket fort

Today was not a particularly great day.

The biggest thing: My friend, Jean, from church had moved to Tulsa to be near her family. (Jean is in her 80s and is in not the greatest health; she has bad neuropathy among other things). One of her sons had some chronic illnesses (he was in his early 60s so you can guess at Jean's age). He died yesterday.

Apparently the burial is going to be here, despite all the family being up there (I guess it was his wishes to come back to where he grew up). They're going to try to arrange a "Family Time" at church - Jean is apparently coming down here for the funeral (Like I said, her health isn't great but apparently it's good enough for travel).

I will like seeing her again but not under these circumstances. (I need to get a sympathy card and send it out. I should send her a card anyway; I've periodically been writing to her because I know she gets lonesome - she worked until about a year and a half ago when she moved, and she's not very mobile right now, and that must be hard for someone who's been active).

Also, I'm just tired. I think I figured out why I feel such malaise on Thursdays, aside from it being my hardest teaching day: I hit a point where I have maxed out on human interaction for the week and need a break, but I still have Friday ahead of me, so Thursday doesn't even feel like "you're almost there." (Wednesday is also a hard teaching day)

Yesterday I did field lab and it was mostly good - once again, I had a student remark on "You know the trees SO WELL, how do you do that?" (Well - the person is a pre-med. I suppose I could have compared it to, for example, a physical therapist knowing the muscles or an orthopedist knowing the bones, but I just kind of shrugged and said I'd been doing it for a long time).

But coming back - I dislike the parking lot for the vans, it is extremely small (it was supposed to be larger but apparently one of the teams needed their practice area to be located where part of the lot was supposed to be....). It's very hard to park the fifteen-passenger vans because there's no room to turn a van properly (you have to do a three-point or, in my case, more like a six-point, turn). I got the van MOSTLY parked and realized I had it on a bad angle and I couldn't move it any more without worrying I was going to hit another I went to hop out to try to suss out how I needed to move it, and I hit the ground hard, pronated, and turned my ankle. (I do that very easily; my feet naturally pronate and while I have orthotics they aren't perfect).

So then I gave up, limped back to the office, handed in the keys and told the Motor Pool Lady someone ELSE would have to move the van. (I was frustrated and near tears at that point). My ankle is better enough today (I don't think I actually damaged it) but it still wasn't fun wearing dress shoes.

Also, today was the photosynthesis lab, which involves bright lights (unfrosted, 150 watt bulbs, and dear only knows where they still find incandescents like that....maybe there's a secret lab-supply store that still sells them). There was literally nowhere in the lab I could go that didn't mean a light was shining hard in my eyes. (I have sensitive eyes; most of my lamps around the house are low-wattage because I prefer that).

Also, that lab is just a pig to break down, and because I teach the last lab of the week.....I have to break it down. The TA I had previously was really good about that, he would start doing it as I was helping the last few teams finish and usually he'd pretty much have it done by the time the last group was finished. But the new TA.....well, she "let" me do most of it. I wound up just leaving the glassware because I was tired and cranky and if the lab coordinator doesn't want to do it, he can tell me and I'll do it tomorrow but....ugh. Three pm on a Thursday is just the nadir of my week.

I dunno. I'm also kind of surrounded by some low-level bickering about stuff and that drags me down like nothing else. If it weren't so hot out I'd burrito-roll myself in a blanket and read a cozy mystery, but, I don't know....I had to put the air conditioning on because breathing was getting woeful.

My ponies did come; photos maybe tomorrow when I'm in a better mood.

Why professors have...

...grey hair.

Less than half my class showed up this morning. This was a class where a paper was due. A paper I assigned a month ago. A paper that is to be 3-5 pages, typed, double-spaced.

I had one person not get a topic approved, then they e-mailed me midafternoon YESTERDAY to ask for their topic; the ones they wanted had all been taken so I e-mailed them back the list of what remained.

I dunno. I'm getting mightily tired of carrying my own responsibilities plus other people's (things like the "Okay, here are the topics STILL available" but that was easier than saying "no, you can't do any of those" and having to get negotiations back about "well, can I do this one then")

Also, this paper was over a topic I would have regarded as "fun" when I was a student. I get that students here have jobs and families and all that other stuff....but that's why I gave them a month to do the paper. And, I don't know: if there's nothing in your field you regard as fun or engaging maybe you need to find a different field. (I sometimes ask students who are planning a research project, "What in biology really interests you?" and am met with a shrug, which makes me kind of sad. I mean, some of my interests might not translate to easily-performable research, but at least I could tell what they were)

I also still don't know if I have a TA for my lab this afternoon, after the other one got better employment and can't TA for me any more. (As I said on Twitter: "Mongo only pawn in game of life" It often feels like that. I don't think it SHOULD, but it does). Gonna be really unhappy if I have no TA for the hardest lab of the semester AND THEN have to turn around and grade the labs instead of having someone who's paid to do it.


That said: I'm supposed to have New (old) Ponies arrive today. I bought my first-ever de-flocked So Soft Pony. So Soft Ponies were a pony fad back in the day - the standard pony with sprayed-on flocking. Cute when new but you can bet many of them aged v. badly - so much that I decided I didn't want to even consider one for my collection because ew. And you can't even wash them, I think, without wrecking the flocking.

BUT. there are some people who take the ones with spoiled flocking and clean it all off, and underneath it is a nice (and rather brilliantly colored) pony. This has become a thing. And while I'm not sure I'd want to go to the trouble of deflocking myself, Ponies in the Sun started recently offering a few of these - one of them being Twist (in her 1980s form: a unicorn with a pretzel cutie mark). Twist is now on her way to me and is supposed to arrive today. Which should make the day a little better. 

Thursday morning things

* Woke early today after a rare event (a pleasant dream I remember: I was in something kind of like a small amusement park, only it was devoted to gashopon/blindbag type toys. There were all kinds of vending machines everywhere....I woke immediately after buying from one that would give you a (randomly-dressed) small stuffed toy , of Paddington Bear. My dreams are sometimes oddly specific but I will take one that's simply about doing something I would find fun)

* One of those frustrating news stories: a young woman a couple towns over claimed she'd been kidnapped and raped but there were some questions about what she said (I don't know what happened with the so-called "rape kit" - whether it was refused or whether it didn't turn up anything). But yesterday she confessed she made the story up completely - no kidnapping, no rape.

This is bad. This kind of thing is bad. For one thing, apparently lots of people were spreading the rumor that there was a "criminal gang" doing this, which made my BS detector go off, because, if that's the case, where are all the victims? Yes, I get that some women are afraid to report rape, but....there were no reports of disappearances. And frankly, a bunch of random kidnappings? That would be big news here.

The other bad thing about it is that it's damaged community relations in the town - the fake victim is white and claimed her attackers were black.

This kind of thing boggles my mind a little bit: did you really think you'd get away with it? (I still wonder about the so-called "rape kit"). And why do it? I suppose it maybe could have been an attention-seeking thing and that frustrates me because to be honest? I want attention some times but I'd never dream of doing something like that to get it....

Also, makes me wonder how many actual crimes got short shrift because the cops were having to investigate this one.

And the woman had a fiancé, who is now her ex-. (I don't blame him).

And add to this: still, in some places, when a woman comes forward saying she's been raped, she gets put through the mill - some people don't believe her, some people pull out the old "how were you dressed, did you 'ask' for it," that kind of junk. So someone making a false claim doesn't help her "sisters" out one bit. 

I dunno. File this one under "people frustrate me"

* Having bad tinnitus this morning. I don't know if it's because I MIGHT have forgot to take my blood-pressure medication last night (I could not remember for sure and didn't want to risk taking a second dose) or if it's allergies or if I need to go in and have my ears looked at. It's unpleasant.

* Random thought, related to a Tweet I read (from "Academic Pain") referencing the "gig economy," the idea of "working oneself to death," and similar:

Could the meme, in academia, of "I work an 80 hour week," be a knee-jerk reaction to the image some folks out in the rest of the world have of us as slackers? I STILL hear of legislators talking about how our workloads need to be increased again by half and the like, because we're not "earning our pay." And I wonder if the "I worked 80 hours last week" is a circling-the-wagons measure designed to make us look busier than we actually are, to combat the image some have that we're way LESS busy than we actually are."

(I doubt I've ever worked an 80 hour week. There have been a few weeks where I pulled 3, 14-hour days in a row, but that was highly unusual and resulted because I was serving on a search committee that had to have a very short turnaround time. And I've put in long strings of 10-hour days - excepting Sundays; I will not work Sundays - and that gets woeful after a while. I think in an average week I probably work about 50 hours; in an extreme week I have worked 60)

But yeah. All of it needs to stop. It won't, though - some pundits and politicians will continue to harp that we're "lazy," some professors will continue with the 80-hour-week tales of woe.

(And yes: there are also people who want to "Uberize" education, which I think is a terrible idea, not so much because of the "death from overwork" but because you'll get a lower quality product from people who have no job security, which is essentially what uberizing means here. It will emphasize "customer satisfaction" at all costs, so even if it means telling someone who has NO grasp of a topic that they're doing fine, that will happen)

* also this A short film called Professor
(It's on Vimeo so I am not sure how, if I can, to embed).
I found that viscerally uncomfortable.

On the one hand: I've never quite been there, not that burned out.
On the other hand: I've had students like the woman in the video. I never know what to do. In some cases I can kind of shrug it off - the person who claimed I had "ruined their life" and now they wouldn't get into pharmacy school because I didn't "give" them an A (when it turned out they skipped five of the labs). In other cases, where there's genuine distress, I don't know what to do. I've never had anyone say "I will have to leave school, I will lose my financial aid" but wow, is that a load of guilt to lay on a prof. (Then again: my field is more objective than literature and I can point to exam performances and say, "No, I'm sorry, but you aren't showing mastery of the subject, you are still earning a D" or "No, you have done precisely none of the labs, that's an F")

But yeah. That's one of the "invisible" things about my job that the people calling me "lazy" don't understand - the sheer agony of dealing with people with those kinds of problems, the whole thing that you're supposedly an authority but really what you have is a lot of responsibility and you do tend to get people asking all the time for rules to be bent....

That said: I'd never just change an F to a C. I don't know what I'd do in that woman's case. Perhaps try to work out some plan for her to make up the work? Though if it's two days from the day grades are due in, that wouldn't work. This is why I tell students to come in AS SOON AS there is a problem. They don't always do that....

(I did give a student an extension on the paper due today - he's normally a pretty responsible student but caught the flu earlier and was out for a week, and he was complaining in lab how his English prof was being completely hardnosed about the assignments and wasn't allowing him any sort of extension even though he was sick....and then he asked me how many points a late paper in MY class would lose, so I just sighed and offered an extension until Monday. I figure if nothing else, I'll get a better paper and I don't have the discomfort of having to take points off.)

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Depressing firsts time

TMI alert for anyone who wants to believe I am a perfect fairy princess who always looks sooooper-feminine. 

I had been scrutinizing my upper lip the past few weeks in the mirror, asking myself, "Does it look a shade...darker....than it should, or is it my imagination?"

(The lights in my bathroom are v. unforgiving, but I like it that way).

I peered closer at it and yeah, dangit - the hairs always there have come in a bit darker of late. 

Finally, the other day I decided: yeah, the very fine hair that's there (nearly all women have it, guys, it just usually doesn't show) had darkened enough that I could notice it, and maybe other people could too. So it had to go.

I debated one of three paths:

1. bleach
2. going to Ulta and having one of the women there do it (which would make maintenance more tricky, or I'd have to find a salon here in town)
3. waxing it myself.

I opted for 3 even though a previous experiment with using hot wax on my legs (I was tempted with the idea of not having to shave every day in the summer) led to burns and unpleasantness. (I didn't heat the wax so much this time).

And yeah, I'm probably being perfectionistic and overzealous. It's not like I looked like Mario the Nintendo Plumber or something, but it was enough to bug me, and I don't need ANYTHING extra to make me self-conscious.

And also, if I weren't so pale that I'm practically phosphorescent it probably wouldn't show. (Maybe this summer, when I get a little sun, I won't have to worry about it as much. But then, ironically, I won't be teaching so I won't be around people as much)

So I did it. It's not fun, it doesn't feel good, it's like ripping off a really big Band-Aid, and I slapped some aloe on there immediately and I am really, REALLY, really hoping my super-irritable skin doesn't decide this is a good thing to hive up in response to. (I had to mostly give up plucking my brows to shape them because on a bad-skin day I'd get hives from it). But I did have success in the sense that the darker hair is now gone.

But yeah, it does look better. Well, right now it looks pinker, but it will eventually look better.

here's hoping I only have to do this once a month or so, and that maybe the hair comes back paler next time.

I said it before, I'll say it again: getting old is a heck of a trip. I'm sure this is related to hormonal shifts caused by being within a stone's throw of 50.

German song dump

So, I've been trying to learn some German using Duolingo, but I also decided maybe I need to listen to bigger "bits" of it to help my comprehension. (I'm not QUITE to the point of trying to find movies or tv shows on YouTube or elsewhere that are in German. Hm....I wonder if there are dubbed versions of Ponies out there)

Anyway, I started looking at songs. I find the easiest ones are the more "old style" ones.

I've already expressed my love for Mein Kleiner Gruener Kaktus:

(Though Raabe leaves out an entire verse, about women resembling the flowers they like, so "what would people say about me then" because presumably the singer is fond of her (?) cactus):

Also fun fact: "Bösewicht" translates literally as "villain" but I don't think that's really what's meant here....böse can mean evil, but it can also mean naughty. Or it can mean angry. And I guess "wicht" is kind of like a it's sort of an insult but perhaps here doesn't really mean villain in the sense of a truly evil person. (essentially: when a mean person says something naughty, I go get my cactus and it sticks them)

I dunno. It's just a silly song. (At the end: Herr Krause, "vom Nachtbarhause" comes over at 4 am to tell the singer her (again: ?) cactus fell on his face and it pricked him)

But I also looked around for other things. And I found there seems to be a cottage industry in translating American pop songs into German for fun.
Well, this isn't a translation, because it's in English, but it's done slightly polka style, and partway through, the horn section does Shunkeln (that's where people either link arms or put their arms around each other's shoulders and sway in time with the music) and I find it deeply amusing given that this song is generally considered a bad, mad, and dangerous-to-know song:
(And yes, the first time I watched it, I burst out laughing at about 51 seconds in)
That group does some other songs, some in German:
Yeah, my German is NOT THAT GOOD - I can only catch a few words here and there from that. (I mean, I know the song it's based on, but I'm sure the words aren't a strict translation, because translations of songs don't work that way).
I also find myself thinking: the woman in those videos looks to me like the person you'd get if you mixed up Rhea Perlman's and Cyndi Lauper's DNA and made a person out of it. 
And I also find myself thinking: if they didn't look so danged costumey in our culture, I could totally rock a dirndl. 
And then I found this, watched it, and felt my brain break a little:
I can get about five words out of that whole thing, and one of those is "Skinny-jeans." (I'm also guessing Osch is a slang term for the backside.... rather like Arsch or in British-English, arse)
Turns out the video is in a strong southern-German dialect called Bayerisch and wow, is it DIFFERENT from the standard German I am trying to learn. (They list the lyrics and I can't even get much out of the printed lyrics, though now I do know that in Bayerisch you can say "diarra Hakl" to describe a very thin person)
I'm even trying to think of a dialect of English that would be that different from the Midwestern American English I speak - maybe extreme Highland Scots, or something like "Geordie" in the UK. 
I knew southern German and standard German were different, but I didn't realize HOW different. (I presume most people, at least in cities, know standard German and can tone down the dialect for non-Bayerisch, kind of like how some speakers of rural American English can code-switch into something that sounds more "standard" when they need to)

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

cancer is awful

I found out this morning that a former fellow-congregant- he and his wife were friends of mine because we both taught at the university - has lung cancer.

A couple years ago they moved up north to be closer to grandkids (they both retired during the time I knew them, this was in the cards). And then Ken was diagnosed just recently.

I feel sad about this: as I said, I liked both of them and we had stuff in common. And Ken was the "on-campus external" (i.e.: faculty member not in my department) on my promotions committee for Full Professor. Also, they had reassured me about a lot of stuff, that either a lot of the stuff I saw and wondered "Is this crazy or am I" was that "this is crazy" or they also told me there had been even WORSE budget times than 2016, and just to hang on, things would get better.

He's always had lung issues (was a smoker when younger) but this is really not good.

I feel sad over this. And it was hard today to do review in class - this was the majors-intro-bio and the exam they have later this week covers the section on the development and spread of cancer (on a cellular/tissue level). I managed to hold it together okay in class but if I had thought much harder about it, I wouldn't have.

(I also think of the times when my close family member was undergoing treatment, how hard that spring it was to go through the whole cancer section and more than once I had to just stop and take a breath - for a while I was carrying a glass of water to class with me, not because I needed a drink, but because being able to stop and pause when the feels got to be a little much helped me. And I think of how it was kind of difficult to talk about translocations and the Philadelphia chromosome when I knew someone - who has since died - who was undergoing treatment for CML).

Ugh. Cancer sucks.

(I was worried for a bit last week when my dad, who is 82, told me the new GI doc he was going to had prescribed a colonoscopy. I didn't SAY anything, but I thought, "Wow, they must think something is wrong, because normally in someone my dad's age they don't do screening ones." Turns out the doc was being overzealous and after my dad consulted with his GP, the conclusion was there was no need for one, and that a less-invasive screening test should be done first. I had an aunt who had colon cancer and had to do the whole round of extensive surgery and chemo, but she was on the other side of the family... and she was having symptoms before she was diagnosed)

Tuesday morning things

*Suzette, it's the 1956 edition of Joy of Cooking. I suspect "Stuffed Brussels Sprouts" are in there and I just didn't spot the recipe (not being a fan of sprouts....)

* There's a potluck Sunday and I think I'm going to do that cheesy-grits-souffle thing for it, unless I decide to do sweet potatoes and apples. (Wrong season, but I think I can still find decent sweet potatoes).

* I think I caught a student using voice-to-text software in class today. I've softened my ban on laptops because I have a couple people with accommodations where laptops are helpful, and it's just kind of woeful to go "No, you can't have a laptop but Bob can. No, I can't tell you why he can have one and you can't" but I do ask people using them to sit in the back (so the screens are less distracting to others).

Anyway, near the end of class I hear a disembodied voice saying, "I'm sorry. I don't understand what you just said" and I stopped for a moment and boggled, and then stared in the direction of the voice (I have pretty good directional hearing). The student whose laptop it was ducked her head and said "sorry!" but really? I'm kind of gobsmacked. I mean, I get that it's a shortcut. And I get that I do sometimes get talking kind of fast but I try to repeat things and stop to write stuff on the board and all that kind of stuff (and I sometimes insert totally extraneous stories to slow things down - which would make auto-transcribed notes a weird jumble).

I don't know what to do. For fall, do I note I ban those in the syllabus? I'll be honest: it creeps me right out that someone might be transcribing my notes verbatim (Yes, I know: I allow recording of class if the student asks first and agrees to destroy the recording after the semester is over).

Three other things:

- I have somewhat non-standard pronunciations of things - I draw out some vowels a bit more, I truncate some of the "short u's", and I know I say "oo" for "ou" a lot of the time. So they're gonna get some weird spellings in there.

- For goodness sake, this was the start of the section on clays, where I was talking about clay mineralogy, which has a lot of very specific, very unusual terms, and if the thing is just transcribing them phonetically, they're gonna make NO sense at all.

- There are studies (! STUDIES !) that demonstrate retention is better when you hand-write notes, and I completely believe this because I know it is true of me - to the point where, if I am in a meeting where I need to pay attention and not let my mind wander, I will take notes even if I never use them later on, because the mere action of taking notes forces one not to "check out." (And honestly? I think that's part of the issue we see in some underperforming college students: they never got the habit of taking notes, some of them I've questioned have been actively hostile to the idea of having to do that). So letting a computer do your

(I also think of the old comic - might have been in the New Yorker, might have been in the Chronicle of Higher Ed - where one day in class, students show up with tape recorders. Then, later on, the students only come and leave the tape recorders while the professor lectures. Final panel: the professor has left his own tape recorder with the recording of his lecture while the students left THEIR tape recorders to record it. You want robots to take all of our jobs? Because that's how you get robots taking all of our jobs.)

I've also found of late asking questions or trying to start discussion in classes is met with a surprised silence....guys, I expect you to talk sometimes, okay?

* Another thought: I guess it's a good thing I don't curse in class if what I'm saying gets transcribed verbatim. (Some profs do. I don't, I don't really roll that way and I'm also sensitive that there are some students who might be bothered by it)

No, wait.....I did once hiss "dammit!" under my breath in class, but it was in a day where (a) my paying-attention-challenged student had just asked me the same question for the fourth time that day and (b) when I went to write something on the board, the chalk snapped in my hand and I dropped both pieces. And yes, A and B were related.

But that's a pretty mild swear as swears go.

* And yet another thought: if people are gonna do speech-to-text, now I want to redo some of my lecture comments to be kind of like that old "shaving cream" song - where it sounds like the person is setting up to say something really bad, but it turns out to be innocuous. Not that I'd probably have the presence of mind to do it right in class.

I just....wish people wouldn't. I do find the idea of everything I say being transcribed verbatim on a computer kind of creepy. Panopticon-like, almost. I'm not sure I can be forceful enough to say "Don't do that," though, other than to persuasively suggest when someone using that software comes in seeking extra credit that perhaps, just perhaps, their note-taking in class isn't quite what it could be.

* I would like to get a peek at an alternative universe in which I am a less meek and accommodating figure. In that alternative universe probably would have stopped class dead, swooped down on the back row of class, and declared "Are. You. Using. Speech. To. Text. Software?!?!" and then if the student admitted it, I would have said "DON'T DO THAT" and swept back up to the front of the class and then either immediately picked back up with lecture, or else gone off on a tear about how people are getting lazy because of technology....I could probably be quite terrifying if I were less meek. But I'm not sure how to go about that transformation. (I imagine it as being something like a lighter-haired, feminine version of Severus Snape, but I can't quite get there from here)

Monday, March 20, 2017

Loving old books

A friend of mine on Twitter was talking about wanting to read Conrad Richter's "Awakening Land" trilogy (The Trees, The Fields, and The Town) but that they were hard to find. (I guess they are out of print). I said I THOUGHT I had one of those....turns out I have all three.

(But no, I'm not going to entrust them to the US mail as a loan to her - they are old editions, one may even be a first edition I lucked into finding. They have nice old burlappy bindings - one is blue, one is gold, the other one is red (and I even have the dustjacket for that one!)

This is what I mean
(That one is the first edition. I guess I was going for completism - I had got The Trees and The Fields and I went online - this was back when I lived in Illinois - for The Town. There is still the card from Mountain Laurel Books, where I ordered it from, in there).

KatieBea was bemoaning their unavailability so I hunted around a bit (I haven't bought many used books online recently, but I used to have a few contacts) and.....holy cow, some hardcover editions are going for $70 a go. (So yeah, REALLY not loaning those out, especially not since I'd have to entrust them to the USPS to get them to her)

So between that and the other two (The Lady, which I've never read, and The Light in the Forest, the re-reading of which started me on the Richter collecting kick), I could have $200 or more worth of books on that little shelf....

(Yes, I have a rider on my homeowner's policy for my books. And I have a separate policy for my piano, which is probably the second-most-valuable thing I own, after my house).

I dunno. I just like these editions and a few years back (Well, 20 years, now), you could sometimes find them for a decent price. Mine are probably a bit more beat-up than some of the collector's editions so maybe they're not quite $200 all together, but still...

The Light in the Forest is one of those books that used to be (at least in the part of the world where I grew up) a super-common middle or junior high school book. I suppose because it was Historical, and also because I grew up in northeastern Ohio, not too terribly far from the action where the book takes place. (IIRC, the Tuscarawas* River makes an appearance there). Also, Native Americans - the Lenni Lenape, who are sometimes called the Delawares. (I *think,* but could be wrong, that Lenni Lenape is what they want to be called and Delaware is what settlers started calling them, kind of like Dineh and Navajo).

(*In case you're curious, we always pronounced it like Tusk-a-roar-as. I THINK that's correct, at least that's how I always heard it)

I remember reading The Light in the Forest in sixth or seventh grade and HATING it. HATING it. (We also read Walkabout, which I similarly disliked). I am assuming the books were chosen on the grounds that it was young teens doing Exciting things, and also there was no sex or swears or blasphemy to upset parents.

(Years later, they had swapped out The Cay for A Light in the Forest - my brother read The Cay. And yes, you can imagine just exactly what the 13 year old boys in his class altered the title on the cover of the cheap paperbacks they had to buy to.... I think The Cay was set in the Caribbean....)

Anyway - many years later, 1998 to be exact, I was stuck home one weekend after getting spectacularly entangled in a hornet's nest doing fieldwork. I sustained somewhere over a dozen stings, my arm swelled up and I had to keep it elevated, I had a slight fever from the reaction to the stings, so I didn't want to do much other than lie around - and I found the old copy of The Light in the Forest that I had had in public school. And I re-read it. And darn it, but if it isn't a pretty good story - sad ending, of course, but still, a good story. (And I wound up finding and buying the 50s-era early edition Borzoi book of it - Babbit's had one for less than $10, and I decided I liked the design of the book - it was of a piece with The Trees pictured above - and I wanted to have my own "permanent" copy. And I still do.) I should re-read it sometime, and read the other Richter books I've acquired (I read part of The Awakening Land but got busy and put it aside).

(I suppose I "hated" The Light in the Forest because I "had" to read it, along with the other 20-or-so kids in my class. Generally I think you don't like the stuff you MUST read for class as well as the stuff you choose to read on your own. I absolutely loved Middlemarch when I read it a dozen or so years ago; I might not have felt that way if I was having to write analytical essays on it for a Brit Lit class)

I was also talking about the cook books I bought last week.

I really like the Dallas Symphony fundraiser one - there are quite a few "exotic" dishes in it (and also Danny Kay and Mstislav Rostropovich have recipes in there).

And I found another name for a recipe I've seen floating around! I kind of "collect" variant names of recipes. I knew this one first as either Marzetti or Johnny Marzetti - a mock-Italian dish* of pasta and ground beef (One recipe is here). But there are weird variant names, I suppose as it gets passed around it's like a game of telephone. I've seen Johnny Masetti, Tommy Marzetti, John Bon Getti, and now, in this book Johnny Bozzini.

I dunno, I take a certain delight in that and would love to find other names. Apparently Johnny Marzetti is the "correct" name, as it originated at a Columbus, Ohio restaurant of that name, but....

(*Kind of like chop suey is mock-Chinese)

I also looked through "The Joy of Cooking." One thing I like about this book is that the author (Irma Rombauer, though on this edition apparently her daughter Marion helped) makes the occasional little arch comment before giving a recipe (something about how people thought it was "heresy" to include apples with red cabbage, but she liked it, so she was doing it - and that's how my mom always made red cabbage, anyway).

It's an incredibly extensive book and has some unusual recipes, or some oddly named ones (No Johnny Marzetti, though, that I could find).

There's one called Woodchuck. No, not made WITH - it's a cheese dish with tomatoes, kind of like an ale-less Welsh Rarebit with tomatoes added, and I'm wondering if it's a play on words because rarebit is sometimes rendered as "rabbit" (so often that some cook book authors hypothesize that it was invented after a bad day's replacement for the game that never materialized) and so "it's not rabbit, it's woodchuck" or something like.

There are also a lot of older recipes in there - there are a number for croquettes, which in Rombauer's version are deep-fried, but my mother often made croquettes (especially chicken croquettes, a big favorite in my family when I was growing up) and she baked them - less messy, and I suspect you taste the food rather than the oil with baked croquettes.

She also has recipes for timbales, which seem to have been quite a common thing back in the 1950s that we have forgot about. Perhaps the cholesterol-phobia of the 1970s scared them away, because they are rich in eggs. But they seem something that would be ripe to be brought back: a good way to use up small amounts of leftovers. (Have a bit of leftover salmon, shrimp, and veggies? Stick them in a timbale and you can stretch the expensive protein in the custard). Actually, they're not that far off from being very small versions of the crustless quiche I made....perhaps the idea now is "Men don't like them" because they seem daintier or something, but really, I tend to think it's silly to reject a food because it's somehow nonconforming to your idea of what your gender "should" eat. (I would never just order a salad on a date. If we were going Dutch so I didn't feel bad about spending his money, and the place had good steaks, I'd get a nice rare steak.).

She also shows how to clean and draw a chicken, which I suppose is useful knowledge in the day and age of backyard chickens (though many of the chicken-keepers I know seem to prefer to let their superannuated birds die of old age).

There are also many interesting "luncheon" dishes (small plates, often things made with eggs or cheese or leftover meat - the sort of smaller meal I am more prone to eat). And lots of vegetable recipes. Including a few rather horrifying things:

"Turnips filled with left-over food"

which sounds like a part of the Four Yorkshiremen sketch ("Yaaaah? Well, we only had turnips, no leftover food, and we were HAPPY with them!")

There's also a recipe for Lentils and Prunes, which simply breaks my brain. (Rombauer describes it as "Highly caloric but relished by both young and old" I can't....quite).

If I wanted to do a slightly stunt-y show in the mold of Mythbusters or something, I think I'd want to do one where I dug up old recipes, cooked them, and then served them to people (including myself, provided the recipe didn't include celery or cashews or one of the other things that disturbs my allergies). Lentils and prunes,, I don't know.

(My paternal grandmother used to speak fondly of noodles and prunes as a dessert from her childhood, but that seems somewhat different, especially as I have had noodle kugel and liked it).