Tuesday, June 27, 2017

online and offline

So, I saw this headline this morning. It could have been misinterpreted, it could have been overstated, but that doesn't really matter given how I'm going to riff off of it.

Fundamentally, it claimed that Mark Zuckerberg said that he wanted Facebook to fill the role the churches and civic groups (Little League given as an example) once filled.

Okay. First up. I love the Internet, but only for some things.

It's easier to find special-interest communities online. I doubt I would be as avid a knitter as I am (and might not even be a knitter at all) if it weren't for the internet. And there are lots of people I "know" (and a couple I have even met in real life) that I only "know" through the internet. And it is nice for sort of shy, contact-averse people like me: there's almost always someone on somewhere, so if a person needs someone to virtually "sit with" them (while a loved one is in surgery, or when a difficult career decision needs to be made, or one is facing the anniversary of a difficult event), there is usually someone there.

And I know a lot has been said about the cruelty and unkindness of some on the internet, and I don't deny that there are the "edgelords" out there who seem to derive joy from belittling others or stomping on people. I've MOSTLY not run into that because I'm careful where I hang out, and my default way of treating people is with kindness, and if someone starts to be unpleasant to me and it's not a case of "they're having a bad day" or "it's a misunderstanding that can be cleared up," I back out of the interaction pretty fast.

And I love online shopping. I think I would find it hard to live where I do - in a town where basically, wal-mart is the source of your "needs," without the ability to order stuff online. Stuff like wool sock yarn and Golden Syrup and reprints of 1930s mystery novels and Monster High dolls and, and, and....

And yes, catalogs. But you have to know about the catalog, and request it, and it's a longer wait to get whatever it is you've ordered than if you do the ordering online. And catalogs are more limited in what they can display.

But there are other things about the Internet I think we need to be careful about. And Zuckerberg's comment is one of them. My immediate reaction to "Facebook can replaces churches!" (or sub in "temples, mosques, synagogues, meeting-houses" or whatever term you prefer) was "Oh, and does Facebook feed the poor, sir?"

Even my little, struggling church tries to help out the local food bank. And we do quarterly driving for Meals on Wheels. I'm probably gonna do it (for the first time ever) this July because we're having a hard time getting people, and with not teaching, I will be available over the noon hour.

And that's part of the problem, right there. There's often a shortage of people to do volunteer work. The work isn't photogenic or cool, necessarily. But it's important.

And that's my big gripe about the whole slick side of online-life: it's the photogenic stuff that gets paid attention to, and the stuff that's less "sexy," no matter how important it may be, gets ignored.

I find myself thinking of an early lesson in how advertising lies to you, sometimes: Fourth grade. There was "student council," which was a series of elected positions (kind of like a mock government). Of COURSE the "cool" kids got all the student-council slots.

Then, some weeks later, they came 'round asking for "student leaders." No, this wasn't going to be an election, they said. We're just looking for volunteers.

And I admit, I kind of envied the council kids. I thought it would be cool to be a "decisionmaker," even if the decisions they made really weren't that significant. So, even though no other detail was given us, I put my hand up.

You want to know what "student leaders" were?

They were the kids who, one day a week, gave up their recess time to give the custodians a break by washing down the tables after lunch and helping to fold them up and roll them away. (We ate lunch in the "multipurpose room," which was also the gym and was also where we had assemblies). So for one day a week, I had my hands in water that smelled somewhat of Pepto-Bismol (I wonder now what the detergent was they used, and what we were exposed to, but it was the 1970s and people cared less about kids' safety than they do now).

Anyway. I felt VERY cheated. For one thing, they were kind of like, "Yeah....Student Leaders....yeah....that's the ticket" without explaining to us what it meant. And secondly: like a lot of those things? I just got teased even more. Because the stupid, snobby rich kids at my school thought we were there to be their servants (and yes, they sometimes left the tables extra messy for us). And I think we got a pizza party at the end of the year, but it was school-cafeteria pizza, so.

It was an early lesson for me in (a) be careful what you volunteer for, (b) people will lie or withhold information to get what they want and (c) some tasks are really super thankless.

But anyway: I don't know how necessary "student leaders" were other than that it lessened the burden on the custodians one day a week. But there are a lot of tasks out there that are not fun but are necessary.

And one of the things I worry about is that there is a certain subset of people who pick what they're willing to do - if anything - on a volunteer basis based on what's likely to get them "liked" online for doing it.

It's really hard to get people to do some stuff. There was a minor crisis in the local AAUW chapter last year because NO ONE wanted to be president. I said I'd do it, but that would mean me being president AND recording secretary (which I had already agreed to do) and I didn't think that was a good thing. (And no one volunteered to take secretary from me, either). We were even talking about the possibility of disbanding and FINALLY someone who had already done it a number of times grudgingly agreed to. (And it's not that HARD of a job - treasurer is probably the worst job)

And you see that everywhere. I've talked about how I'm probably Head Elder for Life because I'm the one who's always there for the meetings, and I'm the one who's usually in church, so I can fill in if someone who is scheduled is absent.*

(*At the church my parents belong to, they've largely abandoned schedules and just rely on "at least two elders and two deacons will show up every service" which I think is a super dangerous way of doing it and it likely means there will be some three-day holiday weekend where there aren't enough of whatever group to serve)

And I admit it, it's not a very nice thing about me but: I get tired of filling in all the time. I mean, it's worse for me to have to shanghai another elder who is present but was not scheduled to serve and go "Fred's not here again, will you take his place?" so I just do it, but I will admit, and God forgive me for it, but: sometimes I slightly resent having to fill in again and again and again.

And I do think we're seeing a shift in our society, where some "boring but valuable" jobs go unfilled because people want the stuff where they can take selfies and post them on Facebook and have people tell them how great they are for helping clean up that beach, or for volunteering at that kids' field day, or whatever.

We're becoming narcissists. I see it in myself sometimes, when I feel "jealous" of someone who gets a lot of adoring comments on their posts (while I am deleting 9 spam comments for every real one) and who seems to have a prettier, happier, easier life.

And that's another part of it: the editing of life to make it pretty. The fact that everyone is showing their highlight roll online and for someone like me - literal-minded, honest, and who mostly just works - well, I don't have that much of a highlight roll. I don't go on fancy vacations. I don't have adorable pets or children. I don't do things that are Meaningful with a capital M. Which means, in the weird life-inflation world of the internet, I'm boring. (Which is why I get 9 or more spambot comments for every real one).

And the whole "superstar" or "rockstar" mindset: I know I've railed against it before but it does seem to be increasing in the era of social media everything.

There's an ad on right now, I can't quickly find it online, but it's a car ad. Essentially, the voice-over implies that the goals of being a good husband and father and a decent person are not good enough - that you have to be Outstanding! and Excellent! and all of that.

And that ad makes me profoundly tired.

As I've said before: we don't NEED more flippin' rockstars in this culture. We DO need more decent people - and yes, good husbands and fathers and wives and mothers and parents and children and workers and everything else. But because of that weird inflation of expectations that seems to be encouraged by many social-media sites, it's now apparently not ENOUGH to be merely a decent person. (And it makes me wonder: if you're a rockstar but a right jerk, does that make you more worthwhile than a decent person who is kind of boring?)

Some years back I wrote about the woman who was, for many years, the organist at my church. She was somewhere in her mid-90s when she died. She was never a "rockstar" by modern standards: I don't think she ever traveled more than 200 miles from where she was born. Her life mostly revolved around her family and church. And yet - she made so many people's lives better by her being there, by her doing what she did.

And to me, that's the fundamental cognitive dissonance of the Facebook-world Zuckerberg seem to be selling, versus the real world I know: it's the people who work behind the scenes, who don't have a million "followers," who aren't minor celebrities, who actually make a difference in the world. The people who care more about their work than they care about peoples' reaction to it.

And it's easy to forget that your work is what's important, rather than how people react to it. And going down that path - caring about the "likes" or the comments or God forbid, "going viral," is a sure road to dissatisfaction. Because who KNOWS what people will like? People are irrational and they will also turn on a dime in their sentiment about something. People will run a fad into the ground and sap any goodness it may have had at the beginning.

The other problem I have with some social media is how people see it as a substitute for actually keeping people in their life informed of stuff. There's a lot of stuff going on among friends and relatives I never hear about because it's all on Facebook, and I just don't have the time or energy to venture into Facebook. And when I hear about something, for example, and I ask a person, sometimes I get almost a huffy reaction - well, I put it up on Facebook, just go read it there.

Really? You had a kid/got married/whatever and you want me to go read about it when I'm standing here in front of you after not having seen you for a year?

It's like....I don't know, it's like instead of having conversations any more everyone just has their stereotypical Christmas-card letter (you know - the list of brags of what they did over the year, maybe even with photos from their luxurious vacation somewhere) that they hand you and walk away. (I....generally don't read people's photocopied Christmas-card letters.)

Again, I suppose it's the narcissism and the life-editing and all that. Maybe people are losing the skill of knowing what they need to tell different people so they just make a one-size-fits-all version.

And yes, I know, it's my "fault" because I don't want to wade into Facebook but really? I have a job to do. And already I find I need to stop spending time online in the evenings so I can actually get some work done on my real hobbies.

the other thing, I confess, is to me, Facebook feels kinda like the "tables" in the school lunchroom. Like, there are popular-kid tables, and B-lister tables.....and I don't really fit in at any of the tables and by now I'm way too old to be that awkward nerdy kid who walks up to a table of kids way out of my league, popularity-wise, and go "Hi, fellow kids! What is up?" and have all of them kind of look at one another in disbelief, and maybe one of them kind of give me a pitying look and say something that's an insult designed to drive me away, but I'm too awkward to recognize it as such....

And yeah, I know it really isn't like that, but there does seem a cliquish element of it that I just don't want. And also, to be honest? I don't WANT the people who tormented me when I was 13 to be able to look me up again. (And because I haven't married, I have the same name now as I had then, and while there are other people in the US with my same name, I'd be easy enough to find). And I don't want to know that some dude who knocked my textbooks out of my hands in 1982 is now single again and he always really had a little crush on me and UGH. Yeah.

(I also don't want the blow-by-blow details of people's medical stuff, which it seems that some people do. It's enough for me to hear "Oh, Maisie went into the hospital for gallbladder problems" without having to hear about the anesthesia and how long it was before she was out of Recovery and everything else).

So I don't know. I think my decision to assiduously avoid Facebook was a solid one for a lot of reasons. (I'm not even considering the privacy issues here, or the "hive of scum and villany" issues where it becomes an echo chamber for certain opinions...) That said? I would appreciate it if certain relatives thought to e-mail me occasionally to let me know about their lives instead of just going "UGH. Just go on Facebook."

And I do worry about the increasing tendency in our culture for us to avoid being "meatspace" social - I really do not thing Facebook could take the place of religious/civic groups (as I said on Twitter: will Facebook drive me to the endodontist if I need a root canal requiring sedation? I don't think so.) For those of us without family nearby, we need IRL people to have contact with, if for nothing else than having someone to call when you've got food poisoning and are out of Pepto and don't trust yourself to be well long enough to get to the CVS, or to have someone to drive you to the doctor for some kind of procedure....

Monday, June 26, 2017

Bringing up "feels"

I read The Chronicle of Higher Education and Inside Higher Ed most, if not all days. (I've been looking at them less this summer, with a different schedule, and with working on my new class.

But I ran across this article this morning. Fundamentally, this prof did the opposite of what I did last summer. I don't know all his circumstances or his details. I don't really agree with the tone of his letter; I was taught not to drag innocent third parties (the students, here) into your fight or to try to make people be on your side by using emotional language, but whatever. Maybe it was a heat-of-the-moment thing; I know I said stuff that was probably ungracious during our budget cuts.

What he did may have been right for him and for his situation, but I think I did what was right given my situation.

Last summer, the situation here was this: we had weathered I-don't-even-remember-the-percentage budget cuts, which came very suddenly (it was like the Legislature didn't know that the oil market was crashing and that they had also put some tax cuts into place) and higher ed really wound up scrambling. Honestly? Being paid less in the summer was far less painful to me than:
- seeing someone who had taught here longer than I had being let go "not for cause" simply because she had never petitioned for the protection of tenure (her position was "TFT" - temporary full time. It wasn't that we didn't still NEED her, it was that there had to be money cut somewhere. And it was not a departmental decision - it came from above us)

- having to take "furlough days" - essentially, being "laid off" two days a month because that was the only legal way they could cut our pay to make up some of the shortfall. It was uncomfortable to me because it caused a lot of cognitive dissonance in my poor, too-literal-for-its-own-good mind:

1. "You cannot do work during furlough time"
2. "However, all the work you need to do must still get done."

I am quite sure MOST people worked during their furlough time. I tried not to, because I genuinely felt I was breaking a rule if I did and I was somehow, deep in my lizard-brain, afraid someone was going to find out, and it was going to go on my "permanent record." I did try to do research-reading, on the justification that "I don't actually get paid for research, I am supposed to do that "on my own time," so it's not the same as grading would be.

Given my choice? I would rather have had a "We need to cut your pay by 9% this spring" without the polite fiction of furlough days, but I understand they can't do that for legal reasons.

The thing with summer teaching is this: our classes here are supposed to have 10 students. In recent years, because of changes in how financial aid is administered, it's harder to get aid for summer classes - even if it means a student graduates a semester or even a year early and then starts paying back whatever loans they have early. When those changes started, we saw our summer enrollment drop. (Before them, I usually had 12-15 students per course). For a few years, we managed, on the grounds that it "evened out" in a department - that demand for Anatomy and Physiology were so high (often having 30 students per class) that it balanced my lower-enrollment ecology classes. It was a bit of a fiddle, but being an intradepartmental fiddle, no one really cared.

Until last summer.

Then, someone somewhere found out about that, and decreed that "All classes must 'pay their own way,' and if they do not, the faculty member will be paid at the adjunct rate." This was probably partly a "gee, we need to do this for budget reasons" but also probably with a hint of "we really want people to cancel those low-enrollment classes."

The problem was, because the budget emergency seemed to take everyone unawares, classes were already on the books for the summer - people had already signed up. I knew I had at least one student counting on the class so they would be able to graduate in December.

My chair told me: "There is no requirement that you teach. If you do not want to be paid at the lower rate if your classes don't fill, go ahead and cancel."

But you know? I couldn't quite do that. I knew that one student "needed" it and it would alter his plans. And I also know a lot of our students operate pretty close to the bone, financially speaking: one of the reasons I SO object to my gen-ed class requiring some "web only" content (not my choice, not my idea, but because it's Gen Ed, I have to) is that for some people, the extra $100 or whatever to buy six months of access to the publisher's stupid website IS a burden, and I completely understand that. (I was better off than many of our students and shelling out $100 on top of tuition and textbooks so I could do homework online would have been a burden to me)

So I felt like: this sucks, but it's not the students' fault. I'm not going to screw over the students in this bad situation. Yes, it means I deal with something that is perhaps somewhat unfair to me, but whatever, this is kind of what I signed up for and I can deal with it.

The one thing I did do was kind of "beat the bushes" - ask my colleagues to encourage others to sign up, ask the students already signed up to ask around among their friends. But I didn't want to cancel the class.

So I taught. I told my chair I would teach summer 2016, but that unless we could have a promise in the future that (a) our enrollments would be high enough (e.g., financial aid rules would have to change back and there be demonstrable demand) or (b) they'd let us put the "fiddle" back where I could "ride" on Dr. W's high enrollment, I wasn't going to teach again in the summer, and to start telling students NOW not to count on there being a summer 2017 ecology class.

(And yeah, one of the commenters - and you know? Don't read the comments - one of the commenters notes that "no online summer class ever goes begging for enrollment" except that's not 100% true at small schools and also converting my ecology class to be "online" somehow would be far, far more effort than it was worth. And how would I do the labs? And also, the whole "don't volunteer to do something you don't want to be forced to do in the future" is reason enough for me to choose not to try doing it online)

A couple of other random thoughts though:

- I have no idea how essential the "pay profs of low enrollment courses at the adjunct rate" was here. I assume it was, because I prefer to assume honorable motives on the part of my higher-ups. And if they were trying to send a message to the Legislature, it didn't really work.

- The commenters bring up the old "overpaid professors" trope. This makes me angry because it is a fundamental lack of understanding. Yes, some profs are paid a lot for doing relatively little work - there are PIs on grants, I am sure, who can still manage to make a decent salary and have most of the "grunt work" done by grad students or post-docs. (Then again: if you're a PI, your job is not pipetting or measuring, it is people-wrangling, and I would far, far rather spend my days pipetting or measuring or digging in the soil or any of the "grunt work" tasks than have to call someone in to my office and ask them why they have not been doing the work they are contracted to). Also, and yes, I'm revealing private information here but: my 2016 W2, at least for the Social Security calculations* has me making just a few bucks over $63,000. And that included summer teaching. Which is good money, yes, but I would hardly argue it's "overpaid." Certainly not by the mindset of the "They're making six figures for 12 hours a week of work" (I am in the classroom maybe 15 hours a week, including prep and cleanup time (I generally do not have TAs), I hold 10 hours of office hours, I have several hours of grading, several hours of research, I need to read to keep up, I have meetings....I am not as idle as some outside of academia would believe I am)

(*My "actual" income looks smaller because I have a 457B plan and have pre-tax dollars taken out, on the hope that I can save enough to fund an eventual retirement, even if Social Security totally collapses and our state pension plan totally collapses)

Yes, the "average" full-prof salary is somewhere north of six figures, but you have to understand - that includes people on the expensive coasts, that includes people in law schools and the like where money is thrown at "superstars" to keep them happy and from departing to private practice. I am neither a superstar nor in a field that private industry/private practice could draw me away to, so teaching is a pretty good gig. But I bristle at the implication that I'm somehow overpaid.

- I still think it's...."petulant" is maybe the right word....to e-mail your students and tell them "I am cancelling class because the big bad administration is bringing down rules on my head and I can't make good money for teaching this summer." Simply saying "circumstances have forced me to cancel" is good enough, with a verbal explanation to those who come and ask. Most students have even less power over administrative decisions than profs do, so (to use a phrase I hate) this just feels like "punching down." Or be up front: "Low enrollment in this class means I will be paid half (or whatever) of what I would normally make, so I choose not to teach."

And yes, when students asked me about furlough days in the spring of 2016, I did explain it. But I tried to do so unemotionally and I did say something like, "Yeah, it stinks, but I'm going to try to take mine so it has minimal impact on you all. The worst that might happen is you might get papers back a day or two later than normal."

But anyway. Last summer I taught for adjunct pay. It wasn't fun; one thing the prof in that article notes is that "it is as much effort to teach eight students as it is 15.” and there is some truth to that: grading is easier for a small class, you can maybe do things you wouldn't otherwise do, some of the logistical issues (lab space, space in field vehicles) are not so bad, but you still are there and expending the energy to teach and the level of prep work is pretty much the same.

I did learn how hard it would be to try to live teaching adjunct. (The worst thing with being full-time adjunct: most places don't offer benefits, so you'd be on your own for finding health insurance, unless you have a spouse who has it and it's not too awful for them to pay to have you covered as well). I admit it did sour me for a little while: "If I'm only being paid $17.50 an hour, and that's for only about 40 hours a week, why should I do (whatever extra thing I'm being asked to do)." I need to break out of that mindset and I mostly have.

- I do think it is a bit rich to expect a full professor, one doing research and service and all that, to willingly teach for adjunct pay. (Adjuncts do not need to do research or service, and generally their office-hour expectations are far less than the 10 a week (which is also true of summers) for us). I did it that one summer because it felt like an exigency, and to me, it seemed to be the right thing to do for the students. But this year, I said no going in.

I don't regret not teaching this summer, at least not so far. I've gotten an article that was accepted revised and in, I got a second one written and submitted, I've prepped at least a month of my new class so far, and I've relaxed and caught up on my sleep and had time to meet up with a friend who was passing through town, and I've had a bunch of medical appointments without having to worry about when I schedule them.

Also, I've noticed, my resting blood pressure has been consistently lower, and I suspect the biggest factor there is not having to people-wrangle during the days and also being on my own schedule. (Also, I am perhaps eating slightly more healthfully, given that I can go home for lunch and also have more time to cook)

I don't know. I suspect more and more of us, in the future, are going to have to make these kinds of decisions, like "I am offered adjunct pay for this low-enrollment class that is important to the students; is it important enough for me to accept the low pay?" or maybe "there are pay cuts coming, do I get out now and take a job elsewhere?" or "The job market is awful right now so do I keep this suboptimal job I have right now, or do I take my chances that something else is better." A lot of it comes down to, I think, "how much 'suck' can I tolerate, and what is the dealbreaker?" I accept a lot of the financial challenges we have here because I get along well with most of my colleagues and I genuinely like a lot of my students, and also, I feel like maybe I'm doing a little good for some people (I think we clearly have had students who have moved to a higher socio-economic stratum than they would have been able to achieve without the education we provided). If I had a big turnover in colleagues and the amiable people I have now got replaced by ego-heads or backstabbers, I might not be so willing to stick it out.

(I will say, as sad as it makes me, that I wouldn't counsel a young person to go into academia these days, other than maybe a case where you can teach part time because you have a spouse with good employment and benefits, or as some kind of a "side hustle*" in retirement. I have joked if I were eligible for the early retirement plan they did out of desperation last year here - to shoe horn out some high-experience, high-pay people - I'd take it, wait out the six month "dead" period, and then come back to my chair and say "Hire me as an adjunct; I'll teach two classes a semester as long as I don't have to publish, write grant proposals, or serve on committees")

(*And oh, oh, oh how I hate the concept that it's now seen as desirable/necessary in this world to have a "side hustle." That's why things like hobbies and religious institutions and clubs are dying: people are too tired from hustlin' everyday to do anything "extra." I'd rather at this point have less money and more time, though again, as I said, given my salary, I don't really know 'want' so maybe I'd feel differently about the "side hustle" if I were only making $23,000 at my main gig)

Saturday, June 24, 2017

More Elinor photos.

First of all, maybe I have to explain: why make a ponified Elinor Dashwood? She isn't even necessarily my favorite Austen character (though she is of the ones from Sense and Sensibility).

Well, it was one of those weird things my brain did....quite a while ago now I dreamed that I was traveling, and I had with me a crocheted pony I had made that was supposed to be Elinor Dashwood. Because I remember colors from my dreams (however dreams may work, however your brain deals with those random neuronal firings), I remembered her as being pale peach with a turquoise mane and tail. Yes, oddly specific, and not colors widely worn in the Regency era I suspect, but whatever.

Eventually, I bought yarn - Big Twist Premium, a rather tightly spun yet soft acrylic - in the colors for her. (And fortunately, as I blogged about last week, I bought two of the peach color - this is a thicker yarn so there's slightly less yardage per skein, and I needed just a bit more from the second skein for the fourth leg).

So I don't know. I decided a little while back I wanted to make her and I started, and then I crocheted faster and harder when I realized I was running short, just in case I'd have to make a run to the JoAnn's for more - not sure if I'd get the same dyelot because it was about a year ago I bought the yarn - and then I couldn't get down there because it was nasty hot and I didn't want to drive in it.

I finished her last night:

Elinor sitting

It took a long time to do the mane; it is a pretty complicated style (and is perhaps more Early Victorian than truly Regency, but it's cute, so I don't really care).

I had to think hard about her eye color. My first thought was green, but that didn't work. And I tried gray and lavender and even some "weird" colors sometimes seen on Ponies (like pink) but finally decided that brown was the only one that really worked.

Elinor face

I like it. I think it was a good choice.

And yes, I see know, her eyes are slightly wonky (the position of the eyeshine is off). In person it's not so egregious and it took a lot of work to get these eyes as right as they are, so I'm not going to change it.

Her "cutie mark" is a sheet of drawing paper being sketched on. I didn't try to make a representational sketch, just had a "line" drawn on it by the "pencil":

Elinor cutie mark

It's mentioned in the novel that Elinor draws as a hobby, and it's implied that she's a better artist than many young women who sketched merely to show off their graceful hands.

And no, I don't think at this point I have plans to make a Marianne pony (though you never know) but her mark would have to be either a piano or a music book, since she played.

(If I *did*, I think I'd get two other colors of the Big Twist. Part of it is that it's a fairly nice amigurumi yarn - I also made Keroberos out of it - but also so they'd match more in size)

One thing I have noticed that "worsted weight" acrylics differ a lot from brand to brand, and how big the ponies come out (and how fat) varies a little. Also how tight the stitches are - the Big Twist is a slightly fatter yarn so there are fewer gaps between the stitches and I think it looks better. So I did a line up of some of the ponies I've made. I *think* I remember what yarn I used for each one:

 pony lineup

Okay. Let's see:

Fluttershy was some kind of Bernat yarn, maybe Super Value. She came out a little smaller and thinner than some, but she was also the first one I made.

Spitfire was made of Vanna's Choice, which is another good amigurumi yarn because it's a little fatter. Her head is a little wider than some other ponies'.

Elinor is probably the fattest of the ponies; she is made of Big Twist but I think I also stuffed her more fully.

Folio is made of Heartland, a fairly basic worsted-weight acrylic, except it's slightly heathered.

Horsey McHorseface is of  Wool-ease Correction: Red Heart Soft.; again, he's a little smaller and skinnier than some of the ponies.

Colgate/Minuette is made of Red Heart (Super Saver, I think); she came out a little bigger and rounder.

I also like that that line up shows some of the facial differences. In some cases (like Fluttershy and Spitfire) I was trying to capture an expression like the pony would have on the show - the others (Horsey and Folio and Elinor) I didn't have to worry and could just kind of take my own way with the face. (I admit Minuette doesn't much look like herself on the show, but I made her back before "Amending Fences" when Minuette was just a barely-glimpsed background pony).

first the tmi

this is more for me than you. I don't tend to save calendars and I am bad at keeping a paper journal so:

I have to reset the time-to-menopause clock as of today. (Sigh. I really thought I was on the way to 'done')

I wonder if working out in the heat for an extended period of time Wednesday messed with things? I thought the aches and pains (and stomach issues, and vaguely-lower-back pain) were just either "I worked too hard" or "I ate something that my body didn't like." Nope.

(At least I still have supplies on hand)

eta: this probably also explained why the cupcakes at the natural foods store looked so good to me. (And the all-natural marshmallows. and the maple-cream-top yogurt....)

My cupcake. You can't have any.

Friday, June 23, 2017

and another pony

Better photos will come tomorrow when I have more energy and time, but I finally finished the Elinor Dashwood-themed pony.

The manestyle took a bit of figuring out: in the end I did long stitches to make the "flat" (pulled-back) part of the hair, and then braided a bun and attached it, and crocheted six corkscrew curls for the side curls. And I made rooted-in bangs, because I decided she needed bangs.

The manestyle might be a bit more early-Victorian than Regency, but oh well. I still like it:

She also has three thicker corkscrews for her tail. (I would have used that method had I decided to crochet my own Rarity rather than buying a pre-made one; I think that would have worked well. The corkscrews take a while to do but there is something pleasing about them.

I wound up using brown for her eyes. Green seemed not to work, gray didn't work, I didn't want blue, and even the "odd" colors (some ponies have lavender or even pinkish eyes) didn't work, but the brown seems okay.

It is hard to tell the true colors in webcam shots - she is a peach color with turquoise mane and tail - hopefully that will show better in the photos I take tomorrow.

that's a nope

Decided to postpone the Sherman trip after coming over here and watering my research plots. It's currently (not quite 10 am) 82 F (28 C) and a 73 F (23 C) dewpoint. The "feels like" temperature is 87 F but it sure feels hotter out.

It was oppressive. Oppressive is the best way to describe any dewpoint above about 65 F. It wasn't so bad while I was watering, but getting the hose out and putting it back was bad, because:

a. It's inside a locked fence with a heavy gate where you have to do a bit of manipulation to open and lock.

b. It's 200' of hose that has to be fed out through a gap in the fence (the gate, of course, is on the other side)

c. The hose has to be unrolled, and then rolled back up

d. And even if I weren't the sort of person who puts away stuff they are borrowing, I'd do it here, because my colleague whose hose it is warned me that stuff that's not inside the fence has a way of "walking away." (which is awful but that is kinda life here: there are places where there are just permanent "garage sales" and the assumption is that at least some of them is stuff that's been picked up via five-finger discount. That's what people told me when I had a $10 sprinkler stolen from my yard and I just thought it was silly that someone would steal a sprinkler - but I guess a free sprinkler you could sell for maybe $3 is $3 profit).

I said many unladylike words while rolling up the hose.

So I'm going to just go home, do my piano practice (changing clothes first; I now have a pair of "fieldwork pants" and a couple of "fieldwork t-shirts" I can just wear a few times to do this between washings). If I feel up to it later I'll do a workout but now I'm wondering how much of that half-hour or so of wrestling a hose in the heat I could count as exercise.

I never did finish the Elinor pony - she lacks one side curl and I need to do her face and cutie mark, so that's probably my activity for part of today.

Tomorrow is supposed to be cooler and it might even rain in the morning (please God because then I won't need to water) so I think I'll go shopping THEN. It's Pony Hiatus so I won't really miss anything by not watching, and if it DOES rain so I don't have to take the 45 minutes or whatever to water (and then change out of grubby clothes) I can leave all the earlier.

Maybe changing plans...

So, earlier this week, they were all "STARTING FRIDAY IT IS GOING TO BE LIKE 10 DEGREES COOLER" and I was all "Awesome, that means I'll go to Sherman Friday and shop."


So, ugh. If I were having to go to the doctor or something, I'd push on, but for something "nonessential," I don't want to risk it - if my car broke down (highly unlikely, especially given I've had it checked out and I keep up with maintenance on it) it would be miserable and it would also just be a pain to have to walk around outside (the places I am going are all separate stores or are that "modern strip-mall concept" so you have to either walk outside between the stores, or walk back out to your car and drive.

I don't know, though. The heat index is for North Texas only, I think it's been hotter here before this year (the local weather station is very Sherman-centric). But, it's supposed to be cooler tomorrow (but it's also likely to be raining.

I can't decide; I might wait until after I go over and do the watering and see how it feels - if I'm back home here from shopping by noon or shortly after I should miss the worst of the heat. But it's hard to know.

I have a coupon in my e-mail from Ulta; I suppose if it expires today that will decide it.

(The coupon is good through July 1)

But I don't know. I kind of wanted to go today - smaller crowds (it is not a payday Friday, Saturdays tend to be busy). Saturday is open because I guess - sigh - the Season 7 Pony Hiatus has begun for the US (even though Canada and Australia apparently continue to get new episodes? What?) Yeah, they are doing a "marathon" but two of the big parts of it are Equestria Girls things.

I don't know. I still kind of WANT to go today...

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Thursday morning random

* First up, a couple photos of the experimental site, courtesy of my research student (she used her phone-camera):



(Yipes. Edited to give smaller size. sorry for the huge if you saw it earlier)

* I'm not as sore this morning as I feared I might be. I'm *slightly* sore, but no worse than after a day of unusually hard yardwork. I do have a fair number of hives, though.

* I started the mane/hair on the new Pony last night. The tail is done, but wow, I forgot how long each corkscrew curl takes to make... I still have one or two small ones to do for each side of the "mane-do" and then I have to decide whether I go with my original plan of "rooting" and then styling the mane (like I have done on most of the others of this I've made) or the possibility of stitching down long lengths of yarn to make a very flat manestyle, and then making a separate bun (and maybe a separate braid for across the top; some Regency hair was sort of elaborate in an understated way) and attaching those over the stitched-down hair. That idea pleases me because it feels like it should be faster than the "root then style" and also may be less likely to get messy over time.

I also now have to consider eye color. I don't think I want to do blue, given that the mane and tail are a turquoise color. Green was my first thought but I might see if I have some light brown felt (or some in almost a hazel color) and try those. (I don't think violet would work).

* I'm looking forward to getting out tomorrow to do some shopping - it's been a little while. For one thing, there are a few things I need from the Ulta and the like. (I doubt they will ever get these. I wish they would: what a fun idea, a bath fizzy with a toy inside of it. Probably intended for kids who won't take baths( but honestly I think there are a lot of kid-aimed things that old tired adults need, too.)

(*I wonder how common that is, or if it is still common any more. I don't remember ever having to be nagged to take a bath (or shower, once I was older), but then again: I'm a girl, and also, I was also the kind of kid who never needed to be nagged about bedtime)

I also need to go to the natural-foods store for some stuff. One problem I have in the summer is I kind of burn out on knowing what to fix as food, so I wind up eating a lot of quick-fix stuff, or weird combinations, or things that are suboptimal nutritionally.

* I finished "The Z Murders" the other night. Once again, I say: J. Jefferson Farjeon is an unfairly neglected Golden Era mystery writer. This book wound up being more suspenseful/more a thriller and less of a true mystery (about 2/3 of the way through we know "whodunnit" but the real question is, "are the Good Guy and the Damsel in Distress going to survive this?" and "Will the police track the bad guy down in time?"

Also, it's kind of creepy and uncanny, given how the murderer is described. And the person who wrote the introduction (for the British Library Crime Classics edition I read) noted how "serial killers" aren't strictly a modern phenomenon - he also referenced Christie's "ABC Murders" as an example of this. (Interestingly, the "ABC" - a railway time table in alphabetical order - plays a minor role in advancing the plot in this novel as well). But it's still creepy and I suspect we - I mean, those of us who are more or less psychologically normal - tend to be a bit interested in reading about people like this (though I'd rather read about fictional serial killers than actual ones) because we literally cannot understand the motivation behind them. There's sort of an "as the twig is bent" thing going on: maybe you were bullied as a child. Or maybe one of your parents told you you were a "mistake." Or maybe your first love spectacularly humiliated and abandoned you. Or maybe you failed terribly at your first job. But 99% of the human population kind of grows a shell over that hurt and moves on....and then there are a very few people who, probably because of some existing predisposition, maybe even a genetic one, cannot get past that, and decide that others must pay for the way they were treated. Or they decide those people are obstacles to something they want, and so rather than recalibrating "what I want," they decide to remove the "obstacles" ("Kind Hearts and Coronets" plays on this idea).

I think this is also why I was so horrified by, and yet found myself reading stories about, the Amy Bishop case. (Biology professor who shot and killed several colleagues after she was denied tenure). For one reason: among "serial killers" (though in her case she's not quite that), she's in some ways closest to me - woman, biologist, professor. But yet, so very different - had I been denied tenure here? Unless there was a clear reason for an appeal (which I would then have attempted), my answer would have been to "go home and cry a lot, and then try to find a new job somewhere else."

(I was also a bullied kid in school, which is why I find the "bullied kid" explanation for school shooters unsatisfying and difficult. Because that seems to imply, "Let's round up all the loners and geeks and do something with them before they turn bad" and it's not that.....there's something already going on in the person, and maybe it's that thing that leads to them being bullied, but there's something there that maybe makes compassion difficult? I don't know).

I will say in this novel it seems to imply an event in the murderer's life - a pretty big and horrific one - was the trigger factor that led him to start doing it. But again, I'm not sure I buy the concept of someone "being driven to murder" if they don't already have something in their personal make-up that would allow that.

* I decided to (temporarily, at least) abandon "Tom Jones" (it is very slow to get started, and something about Fielding's tone is currently annoying to me) and decided instead to go back and re-start "Moby-Dick." I got up to about page 700 (I can't remember how many pages the edition I have is, I think it's the Everyman's Library paperback one? Anyway, it reproduces some of the Rockwell Kent engravings from an earlier edition...) and then for some reason put it aside.

There is a webstie called Genius that gives even more detailed annotations than the edition I have, and I've been using that a bit to follow along and catch things I don't catch. (Though I will note, some of the Genius annotations link to pop-cultural things I don't get either - I mean, modern stuff - and some are things that just make me roll my eyes in a "Yeah, I'm 12 years old inside and I still don't find that that funny" way. And I do suppose it's one of those Sparknotes/Cliff's Notes thing perhaps for people who don't want to actually READ the book, but I don't think it matters once you're an adult and are reading on your own. (And anyway: I read the chapters first and then go back and look at the annotations.)

I still maintain that in a modern "reboot" of this story, Ishmael would be a disaffected hipster - maybe a former Barista instead of a former schoolteacher. Not sure what dangerous job he'd sign on for - a little while back I opined "oil exploration" but the oil bust has taken the wind out of that a little bit.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

and that's done (II)

Today was summer research setup day: my student and I did outdoor plantings of the different prairie species, half of the blocks as controls, half with cedar litter on top of them, to see if red cedar has an effect in field conditions (and with a thicker litter layer than what I could manage in lab). We have an area a short distance from the biology building we can use.

We planned to start at 7:15 and I said to myself, "We'll probably be done by 11."

That was a mistake.

For one thing: we didn't account for how heavily the grass would regrow on the prepared plots. She had mowed and tilled back in May, while I was gone, but everything came roaring back. So first we had to re-prepare the plots.

First up, mowing.

She had brought her little reel-type mower - like mine, but wimpier, and in worse need of sharpening. That didn't seem to work very well so she called over to the physical plant - she works there, so she has an "in" - and asked to borrow a gas mower. So while she went to get that, I fought with the mower and the manual "tiller" (a four-pronged tool you jab in the ground and turn to tear up the surface vegetation. I may have to get one for my own garden).

Then, she tilled while I mowed. And we realized: the manual tiller, while it works well for small spaces, makes a person very sore very fast to do a large area. (This is eight blocks, four meters by two meters).

So she arranged to borrow a generator - because she had brought her little electric tiller, but of course that space is nowhere near a plug. So while she was getting the generator, I ran home and got my big extension cord, because borrowing an extension cord would mind going to YET ANOTHER group on campus.

Then, I kept working the manual tiller (I don't like being idle) and she followed in my wake with the electric one.

Finally, we were able to plant....we divided off the area, I marked out the rows for the different species (taking care to sort-of randomize them so position on the block shouldn't be a confounding factor).

It was at least 11 by when we started this.

And it was HOT. I mean, it wasn't as hot as it's been, but the dewpoint was in the mid-60s and it was in the low 80s and sunny.

The "bright golden haze on the meadow" Rodgers and Hammerstein wrote about isn't nearly so wonderful when you're working out in it (that "haze" is water rising in to the atmosphere off of the ground).

I started to feel kind of crummy. I kept pushing because I just wanted to get done, but I can tell my heat tolerance is about gone. I'm not sure if that's "the change" or if it's taking a beta blocker or what, but I kept feeling like I was going to bonk out (it probably didn't help that all I had for breakfast was a bowl of oatmeal and a small glass of milk)

We did have to keep running up to the building for stuff - more water, to water the seeds in, more of the bagged-up cedar litter, etc. At least it gave me a chance to cool off a little.

I admit, the last 20 minutes or so was her laying out the rest of the litter and watering while I sat in the shade. I think part of it was I was bordering on something like either hypoglycemia* or perhaps hyponatremia (I avoid sodium in my diet but I was perspiring heavily and I know you lose salt in sweat)

(*My blood sugar readings have always been normal when medically tested, but I suspect having gone too long without eating and working hard out in the heat could have done something)

We did find out there's a tap we can use on a metal building (we have a couple of storage buildings - Butler buildings - that are used for various things; this one is mostly used for storing the small boats for the ichthyology classes and the like). And there are hoses. So for future watering we won't have to drag the big (3 gallon?) carboys back and forth from the building. (I can BARELY carry both of them full, and especially not on a hot humid day).

I'm glad it's done but I'm FRIED. I came home and showered and ate (a fatty salty fast-food sandwich and a shake, but I figured (a) I needed something quick and requiring minimal thought and (b) that is a bit higher in sodium just in case I had depleted my levels - I know someone on a diuretic who got hyponatremic and wound up in the hospital). I feel a bit better but I don't feel great - I do feel like I spent six hours working hard out in the sun. I do think I managed to avoid getting sunburned: I wore spf 55 and also had a big hat and a long-sleeved cotton shirt over my t-shirt (which may have contributed to my overheating, but probably in the long run avoiding sunburn was better)

I'm hoping I perk back up enough a bit later to try to do the manestyle on the new Pony (all the crocheting is done and she's assembled, but I think to get the Regency look, I will need to crochet a bunch of those "inchworm" curls (those of you who were girls in the 1970s might remember the inchworm bookmarks with these) for the tail, and also as sort of "sidelocks" to the manestyle. (I think the rest, I may just use long hair and tie it into a bun for her).

I've also decided I'm taking most of Friday off (I do have to go in and water the plants; the campus is closed Fridays so my student wouldn't have access to things) and going to Sherman for some shopping.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

and that's done

Dental checkup. I hate those far more than I should. Part of it is bad memories from childhood of having bad teeth (apparently: not entirely my fault, though I didn't have the best dental hygiene; my niece also has some serious tooth issues and the dentist said that her weak enamel was v. likely hereditary. And her problems, though a good bit worse than mine, were similar). Part of it just my own personal sensory/brain-wiring issues: I don't like comparative strangers being all up in my face, and I don't like metal things in my mouth, and I don't like strange sounds in my mouth, and I have very sensitive hearing and also sinuses that transfer every weird mouth-sound to my ears, so my jaw clicking a little sounds like me breaking a tooth some times.

Also, doesn't help that a few years ago, I literally DID break a tooth, to the point where (sorry, dental phobes) I could feel the "flap" that was broken and just barely attached. (Shudder).

Also, last time, the hygienist was someone who wanted to BECOME a dentist, and so had a little bit of that insecurity-complex thing going on, and also liked using her position to lecture at me ("Why are your gums so sensitive?" she asked, while jamming floss into them, right after I told her my allergies had been bad and I was getting over a cold. Also I guess my gums bled a little which led her to tell me I wasn't flossing "hard" enough and I needed to toughen up my gums (???))

So that was part of the reason I was apprehensive. Because it's bad enough lying helpless in a chair with pointy metal things in your mouth without someone telling you "I don't understand why you are unhappy. This isn't hurting you."

Fortunately, I got someone different this time, someone who was quite cheerful and once I admitted I had a strong gag reflex (it's true) was extra careful with the bitewings and also was careful while doing the work on me. And she didn't Sonicate me, instead, she used a manual pick, which I actually prefer, because the sound of the Sonicator is like the Devil's "REEEEEEEEEE!"

She also kept telling me periodically I was doing "great" and kept me posted on how much longer a process was going to take.

The other piece of good news: my teeth are sound (and I have x-rays this appointment to prove it) and need no further work. Barring emergencies, I don't need to go back until December.

I did have one odd stray thought during the whole thing: I wonder where teeth fall on Moh's scale of hardness. (This is a geology thing for determining properties of rocks and minerals).

Turns out, it's known: tooth enamel is similar enough to apatite, which has a hardness of five.

Of course, the problems with that are (a) enamel is a pretty thin layer and can be subject to wear and acid attack that weaken it, (b) that doesn't consider the structural soundness of the shape of the tooth (I know lots of people who have managed to shear off a bit of a molar on something) and (c) if you've had any work done, that's gonna weaken the whole tooth (which is why I had that tooth break several years ago: it was a large, old filling, and it had probably gotten weak, and I hit just the wrong spot on it with an over-roasted dry roasted peanut)

Also, scratch-resistance doesn't mean something isn't brittle, and I think that's the real problem with tooth damage, more than scratching them.

That said, our enamel apparently has the same hardnessas glass and knife blades, meaning neither should scratch your teeth. (But a steel file will - ouch)


ETA: I made it through the appointment (mentally, I mean) using three things: thinking about getting in bed tonight and NOT having any checkups hanging over my head (I've had three in the past month). And I took one of my spare blindbag figurines of Fluttershy in my pocket, and also I looked out the window at the sky and clouds. One small bit of good design the dentists thought of when having this office built - all of the examination chairs, and most of the "operatory" chairs (the ones where they do fillings and crown preps and the like) look out big windows. The regular exam chairs are the best because they look out the back of the building, and there's nothing there but trees and sky (the front of the building fronts on the access road for 75). There ARE a few operatories (where they do bigger things, I assume) that are just a chair in a private room with no windows - I was in one of those for the emergency treatment of my broken tooth, but I think that was because all the other chairs were booked (I was fit in on v. short notice), the other crowns I've had done have been in the normal chairs. That room may have been for the sedation dentistry part of the practice, I don't know.

And people do ask me: why not do sedation if you hate it so much, or at least take a Xanax or something before going in? Well, for one thing - I am more afraid of being "out of it" and not being able to manage if, for example, I suddenly have a lot of post-nasal drip choking me. And I react strangely to some medications, and never having taken Xanax, it might be a bit of a gamble to see how I react. (Benadryl, for example, makes me hyperalert and anxious instead of sleepy).

But the other thing is, the logistics would be such a pain: I'd have to find someone with the time to drive me out there, and then wait, and then drive me home. Most of my friends either work and aren't free when I would make the appointment, or they are caring for elderly/disabled parents or spouses, or have small children at home. So I find it just easier to white-knuckle it through the appointment - and really, it's less stressful in the long run, because I'm worst right before the appointment and a little bit during, and figuring out the logistics would be days of stress for me.

Monday, June 19, 2017

So I dunno

I tend to see symbolism in things where it doesn't actually exist, but that's kind of my way of relating to the world.

Today is trash pick-up day in my neighborhood. I had my cart out - they usually come through before I come in to the office these days. I did my workout and got dressed and was getting ready to come over here, and I decided to drag my cart back up to the back of the house.

And I noticed some stray trash. A run-over Dr. Pepper can at the base of my drive. (Some people apparently don't use trash bags, and if there's a wind at all when they're dumping the cart, stuff gets blown out of it). I picked it up and dropped it in the empty can. (I know, I know, recycling, but I don't use aluminum cans and it would mean hanging on to a filthy can until I had time to drop it off somewhere).

And then I noticed a take-out food box in my neighbor's yard. And I sighed.

And at first, I thought, "It's not in my yard. It's their responsibility. Getting it would mean walking up there and getting my feet wet" (It rained here last night, and I am wearing sandals - barefoot*)

(*I'm wearing a skirt because it's hot but elected for no hose today because it's hot. I normally wear them even when it's warm because I get hives super easily and that tiny barrier of fabric seems to prevent some contact between allergens and my legs. But I also wear them because of something that is kind of this big secret a lot of women experience, and because "fat" is seen as "unattractive" and probably "you deserve any unpleasantness you experience" you don't hear a lot about it but - it's sometimes known by the not-lovely term, "chub-rub." Where your thighs come into contact when you walk and the skin gets irritated. And if you're prone to hives like I am, it's just that much worse. I do have a substance - it's sold to runners to prevent chafing - called "Body Glide" that goes on like antiperspirant and supposedly prevents the issue, but it's not 100%).

Anyway. I looked at it. And then I thought about my neighbors' weird schedules (I rarely see them during the day; they seem to leave for work v. early in the morning or v. late in the evening) and thought, "It could be days before that gets picked up."

So I picked it up. It was kind of gross, because I didn't realize (it was flipped over) there was a piece of wax paper in it smeared with what was probably hot sauce. But I picked it up and dropped it in the trash. And yeah, my feet got wet and I probably got pollen on my feet and I will probably pay for it with itchiness later.

And I don't know. It did seem symbolic to me, in a way: doing a tiny thing that fixed a problem that maybe someone else would eventually fix but maybe not, that led to me putting myself out a little bit, and no one will notice, and anyway, there's far worse litter elsewhere in town.

It does feel like whatever good I can do....it's like one drop of rosewater in a sea of the smell of rotting cabbages. I do it, because it's how I was raised, but increasingly, I feel like it's utterly useless.

Also, I don't know. I never know what is my responsibility and what is not. If I hate litter and want my neighborhood to look nice, is it my responsibility to pick up trash from my neighbor's lawns? I mean, if I knew I had that cranky person neighbor who yelled at me for going on their lawn I wouldn't - but if my neighbors were even home, they were probably asleep, given their late work schedules, so.

And I do think this is one of my problems: I make things my responsibility that probably shouldn't be. The downsides to that are that I feel taken for granted a lot because I am not the sort of person to do stuff, like, say, cleaning something up at church and then go around and telling everyone I'm the one who did it because it annoys me when people do that, where they do some little thing and then can't let anyone else forget that they did. And the other downside is if I DON'T do it at some point, it sometimes winds up un-done, and then people gripe about "it didn't get done" and I feel vaguely guilty, even if it was that circumstances prevented me.

(One of the men in my Sunday school class talks about how a problem in our society is "Let 'George' do it" with the side observation that I often seem to be 'George.' He's probably right, but I'm the kind of person who can't see something that needs to be fixed or put away or cleaned up or whatever where I could do it, and NOT do it, because of how I was raised). 

It's cooler today but still humid. I got within 9 minutes of being done with my 45 minute workout, and my body was just like "nope." I stopped for a bit and rested and then did the rest but it makes me sad because not very many years ago I was able to do an hour much of the time without too much difficulty. It does seem since I went on the beta blocker my stamina has dropped, but I don't know if that's it or if it's just age.

On world events

The only thing I have to say is: An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.

I hope we're not headed for a violent dystopia but some days I wonder. 

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Winning "yarn chicken"

Yarn Chicken is what knitters/crocheters call it when they are close to running out of yarn for a project.

I was worried about this with the Elinor Dashwood pony. So much so that I had half-planned on going to Sherman this weekend (except then it was too hot) to see if I could find another skein of the yarn (and hope it was the same dyelot).

Got the head, ears, body done. Got the first three legs done.

Realized I had only a small amount of yarn - probably not enough - left. Grumbled to myself about "why didn't you buy a second skein? You ALWAYS overbuy for amigurumi and wind up with acrylic yarn left over, so much so that some day you'll have to do a scrap afghan."

Decided half-heartedly to check the bag where I had stored the yarn again just in case, but figured I would have to stop work until I could get to Sherman (and hope they still had that color in stock).


Yup, there was a second skein buried down there in the bag. So I have the same dyelot, no need for a trip out, no need to hope I can find more of the yarn.

It's not winning the way I hoped to win, but it's still winning.


I'd do the Success Kid pose, but I need a hand to hit the "shutter" button on the webcam, and I can't quite make my face do that expression.

So I might finish her legs tonight. Still not sure what to do for the manestyle - I might look up Regency style hairstyles but I'm thinking some kind of a bun,  maybe with even little crocheted "sidelock" curls. And I'm not sure how best to render a sketchbook cutie mark. But even if it doesn't look perfect, it's not like I'm trying to replicate an in-show pony, so it doesn't really matter.

Happy Father's Day

(And yes, I am going to call my own father after church).

I never fully understood my dad's job when I was a kid - oh, I understood what teaching college classes was like, and I saw a little bit of the research he did (for one thing: he had a light table at home and did some of his mapwork on it - that was sort of a proto-version of GIS, I now realize: you get several different maps at the same scale and layer them together and look for what you need, like the overlap of certain soil associations and the locations of wells where you want to collect water). But I didn't fully understand what working with grad students was like, or the administrative stuff my dad did - for a number of years when I was young he was Coordinator of Research at his university.

As an adult, I realize what kind of people-wrangling some of that stuff required. Being coordinator of research means working with people disappointed they didn't get a grant, or who kept sloppy records and had cost over-runs, or pushing people to wind up projects because the granting agency requires a report soon.

And grad students - I have worked with a few, including two "unsuccessful" ones (one never wrote up her research, despite my "reminders" and timed out of the program; the other had lots of ideas but couldn't quite build the foundation under them, and also had life-circumstances (a high-risk pregnancy means you don't collect soil samples from a Superfund site) that prevented her from going ahead). And sometimes you have to ride people to get them to work. (My advisor had to poke me a few times to get me to write or rewrite, and I think I was more diligent than many).

I remember once my dad talking about a grad student who had shown promise, but sort-of-abruptly became "flakey" about coming in to lab or working. "I wonder what her name is," my dad speculated, assuming (perhaps correctly) that this fellow had a new girlfriend. And yeah. You don't just wind up working with students: you wind up sometimes working with students' families, significant others, friends. (Sometimes that's good: some of my students have brought in their tween/teen children to "show them how research works" and it's been positive, but in other cases, it's been a case of family-drama-leading-to-extensions-and-complications)

I wonder how my dad felt about all the people-wrangling. I know I hate it and consider it the most taxing part of my job.

In fact, I don't really KNOW that much about how my dad felt about his work: he and my mom, true to their "Silent Generation" designation, tend to be fairly stoic about such things. It was only a couple of years ago that I learned that maybe my mom was slightly unpopular in school (because her family had less money) and faced some of the same unpleasantnesses I did (Oh, we had more money than her family had, but we were also living in a wealthier milieu, so I was still "poor" in the eyes of the girls with multiple pairs of designer jeans and add-a-bead necklaces)

Anyway. I can assume my dad liked his work OK because he took early retirement from one position (in Ohio) and then applied for other positions (one quirk of the system when he was in it: he could not be employed in another Ohio state position, either teaching or agency. So they wound up moving). He was then hired for another position, they moved, and he worked for close to 20 more years there, retiring a second time in his 70s. He was brought in, on that position, to be a department chair (many departments - mine does this - try to promote-from-within, on the grounds that in a harmonious department, someone who's worked there will better know the department and its needs, but sometimes when there are factions, you have to bring in an outsider.) And there were factions in his new department he had to try to reconcile. (Again, I heard a little complaining about behaviors/attitudes of some colleagues, but never any sort of "Ugh, my job is awful" like I might say)

I suppose he figured the good parts outweighed the bad, as I feel on good days. (I vacillate on retirement plans. On good days I think "I can't imagine not going to work every morning and I'd miss the students, so if my health holds up I might keep doing this until 72 or so" but on bad days - or on days when it looks like our funding's going to be cut again - or on those "robots are gonna take our jerbs" days - I say to myself, "60 and out"  - I can retire with full benefits at 60, because of age+years of experience = 90. We are under the "rule of 90," or at least we were when I came in.)

I don't know. Maybe there was a seismic shift in attitudes between his generation and mine - it does seem Silent Generation folks were more prone to just stay closed-mouths about work - that what mattered was family and maybe what you did on your time off, and if work wasn't great, well, work was what adults DID, and it didn't matter as much if you were happy or not, as long as you were useful and were supporting your family.

He did do things on his time off. He didn't golf, like some dads. Or sail, like one of my uncles did for a while. He built stuff - in the house in Ohio we had lots of big shelves in the basement, half to hold rarely-used kitchen appliances and spare canned goods, the other half to hold my mom's fabric collection. And there were big shelves in the garage to hold car stuff and also general "junk" - especially after he and his brothers had to break up their parents' household. He and some friends built an excellent "fort" (with a sandbox on the ground floor, and two other "floors," both of which were open to the sky). For a while, he did most of the minor car repairs and changed the oil. (He put a manual choke in a balky van he used for fieldwork)

He DID work a lot - brought grading home, or worked on research, all of that. In fact, I think I inherited some of that. I know one rare complaint my mom made was that she thought he worked too much and too hard. And I see that in myself: I see my work-life (and also, I guess, the stuff I do at church) as "What matters" and everything I WANT to do as "it doesn't matter so you only get to do it when you have time" and that's probably not good for me. (And also perhaps is why I "can't imagine a time when I DON'T go to work")

He also has a temper, which I inherited, but I've managed to put a chokehold on that and mostly control it. I do sigh a lot and rub the bridge of my nose when someone is being particularly difficult.

And sometimes, I hear his voice - not so much timbre and tone, but the way of saying something - coming out of my mouth. (One of his grad students - a woman with kids coming back to finish a degree, and whose family wound up becoming family friends - used to chide him about using his "professor voice" on people, and I hear myself doing that sometimes)

A couple of other things about him I seem to have inherited:

1. A tendency to do messy jobs in inappropriate clothing - my mom used to get after him for doing fix-it jobs while still in a dress shirt and tie after teaching. (She says "His dad used to change the oil in his car while wearing a white dress shirt, so...."). I find myself sometimes doing gardening in my work clothes, and I have to remind myself to change clothes before doing heavy cleaning.

2. Frugality in some things. He always gave fairly nice gifts but then wore the same shoes until they were falling apart. I am like that in some ways. (And again, it was said of my grandfather: "Cy will wear the same old beat-up winter coat, and spend all his money on books"). Also a certain degree of paralysis before "big" purchases, because of the imagined need to get the best value-for-money and trying to figure out which brand will be most reliable. (He has has a subscription to "Consumers Reports" for as long as I can remember - so, at least 40 years)

3. A certain degree of stubbornness. Though I don't think that's all bad. It keeps you going even when things are difficult.

And, one thing I did - I got my dad hooked on "The Simpsons," especially the earlier seasons (which I find funnier and often more heartfelt). And here's a Homer Simpson image that I think shows one of the (rare?) good-dad sides of Homer, where he took Mr. Burns' mocking "Don't forget: you're here forever" sign and turned it into something else:

Friday, June 16, 2017

It was corrosion

Well, that's the Teal Deer right there. Turns out the reason the tech didn't check the amps on the battery earlier was that the terminals were corroded. So he just indicated it as being in the red zone without any other information.

I waited about an hour (they were still busy) but the mechanic (a woman - they have a woman mechanic there now) came in and told me that it was just corrosion, they cleaned the terminals, and when they did, the battery tested fine. And they installed some anti-corrosion pads.

The entire bill was about $30, which was way better than the $150 or so for a new battery I was expecting.

Still, it's too late and I'm too tired to go to Sherman this afternoon (and anyway, the ribs will be done soon). Maybe tomorrow, but most likely not - it really is beastly hot out there and I wouldn't want to leave until after New Pony (and also I have communion prep tomorrow, and a Sunday school lesson to write). And who knows: maybe this is an "omen" that the peach colored yarn I have will be sufficient to crochet the whole pony.

ETA: communion prep is off my schedule, the lovely new person I am partnered with called me and said, "You've done it the first two Sundays this month so let me get it this week and next week." Don't have to ask me twice.

Still, I think this is going to be an at-home weekend, given all the heat warnings they are doing, and also I just need a day at home. If I run short on yarn I can put the Pony aside until I can either get to JoAnn's or mail order yarn (it's an acrylic, but it does have dye lots, so it might not match PERFECTLY, but whatever.)

Comedy of errors

So, I had my meeting with the student. It was short, but fairly productive - Monday we should have a manuscript to send in (she is doing a bit more writing on it this afternoon). And Wednesday we will (finally) set up the summer experiment.

And then. I decided I wanted to go to Sherman, but first, I thought, I better talk to the mechanic about my car's battery - it's supposed to be a heat index of 103 today and while being "stranded" in Sherman wouldn't be as deadly as being "stranded" in the field on that hot of a day (because I could go into an air conditioned store while waiting for help), I figured I'd rather avoid it by either getting a new battery, or if the guy reassured me it was OK, I could just go.

But it was busy out there. (Yeah, bad on me for trying to get my car looked at before a summer weekend). The head mechanic was all "Why didn't they write down the cold-cranking amps? They're supposed to write down the cold-cranking amps!" and said he'd get someone to check.

It was about 11 am at that point and I was starting to get hungry. I had planned on running down to Sherman and maybe going to the barbecue place.

Anyway. The underling came back - "The battery terminals are all corroded, I'll have to clean it before I can check."

I groaned, and said I really needed to grab lunch (I don't get hungry often these days, but when I do, it comes on fast and it can get BAD if I don't eat something nutritious) and I didn't fancy the thought of sitting for an hour while they processed the cars in before me.

Also, I had noticed my watch had stopped - the battery had been running down. And because one of the little ways in which I am compulsive is that having a stopped watch bugs me - and bugs me, like, a LOT - I wanted to go and attend to that. So I said I'd come back later.

I ran to the Walgreen's, because it was close. But I couldn't read the battery size on the back of the watch. And none of the tools I had in the car worked to open it. I asked the woman at the checkstand if I could borrow a small screwdriver

(At this point, I was bordering on "hangry," with a side of "it's way, way too hot out" with a side of worry about what the stuff is going to cost in re: my car)

"We don't have one. And we don't sell watch batteries."

"I'm pretty sure I bought the last one here" I said, while looking at the wall of small button-type batteries arranged RIGHT BEHIND WHERE SHE WAS STANDING.

The young guy in the photo department waved me over and said, "Let me try to open it." He was very nice about it, worked for maybe 10 minutes, finally said, "I'm just scratching the heck out of the back, I'm sorry, I don't want to try any more"

I thanked him for his efforts. (Even though I could feel the vague "urge to kill, rising, rising" in me, I was still polite to people. Because it's not their fault it's 103 degrees out and I haven't had lunch and my car is on the fritz)

I thought I'd go home and try myself. (The dude suggested I go to wal-mart, and I was like "I really don't want to go to wal-mart" and he laughed and said "I hear you")

On a whim, I turned down main street and went to one of the FEW businesses still open there - a jeweler's. I asked the young woman behind the counter if she could help. She looked at the watch (which probably cost about 10% - maybe even 1% - of the watches they sold) and kind of shot me a despairing glance. "I'll TRY" she said, and disappeared into the back room.

And I stood there, very still, trying hard not to look like riff raff with my $25 Eeyore watch and the fact that I was wearing no jewelry other than my old, old high school class ring* and my Medic-alert bracelet**

(*I got into the habit back in high school and don't feel right now without it, even as I think I maybe should replace it with something less outdated for me)

(**warning of my sulfa allergy)

She was gone a little while but then came back out - "I fixed it!" I was elated, because I'm attached to this watch. She did say it was hard to get the back off (no fake).

Upside: it was only $10.

So now I'm home. I'm eating up the last of the five-cup salad I made for Monday's CWF salad supper and I've made some smoked-salmon-on-rye open-faced sandwiches. Not QUITE Cackle and Oink's barbecue, but at least it's reasonably nutritious.

(The smoked salmon I get comes in little foil packets from the natural-foods store. It's lower in sodium than most but has the unfortunate appearance - and smell, when you first open it - that reminds you a bit of cat food. But low-sodium beggars can't be choosers).

So, the trip to Sherman is scrubbed for today - I have to go back out to the monkey-fighting mechanic's after I eat and find out how bad things are. I'm less upset with this than I was a few minutes ago - driving home I was thinking about how I had PLANNED to pick up a spare skein of the salmon-colored yarn for that pony I'm working on. And then I thought, "Well, between this and the near-miss accident this morning*, this is an omen you shouldn't go. You could either, if you run out of yarn, just ABANDON the project, or you could make striped legs, which would look super stupid and would annoy you forever and you wouldn't love the finished project then because it would always remind you of this bad day" but now I'm more like, "Eh, maybe I can get the yarn next week, if I even need it." (It's possible I will still have enough, and that would be a win.)

(*Someone pulled right out in front of me, from a gas station, as I was driving in this morning. They would have side-swiped my front passenger side had I not hit the brakes (no one was behind me, fortunately) and laid on the horn. I don't know WHAT was up with the person - fairly late-model luxo-boat car, windows so deeply tinted I couldn't see the driver, and they were going about 15 in a zone posted for 30. I don't know if it was someone just at the very limit of "shouldn't be driving any more," someone who was drunk or stoned (at 8:30 am?), someone on a cell phone, or what. But I wasn't happy).

One other consolation: since I can't have barbecue for lunch, I decided to put the pork I bought yesterday in the crockpot to see how it cooks up. I am hoping that Pruett's meat is as good as people are telling me.

I might also just get an ice cream cone or a small milkshake from the Braum's that's next door to the car place. I don't know.

being an adult

I know the other day I talked about some of the good things of childhood and how it's nice to be able to, for example, buy a doll as an adult without endless weeks of saving my tiny allowance (and doing extra chores) AND THEN having to wait until one of my parents can take me to a store where that doll MIGHT be sold. (And once or twice as a kid: the disappointment of something being sold out when I had finally saved up the money for it).

But really, liking cartoons and My Little Ponies and stuffies and dolls is about the extent of how I am a "child."

I've talked before about how people praise me for being diligent, and how that's kind of a frustrating thing to be known for, because it's not *fun*.

But this is something I experienced in recent weeks, in re: a group I am part of that does volunteer-type work. We were having our annual planning meeting and were trying to allocate duties. Because it's June, I guess, and because lots of people are on vacation, I guess, relatively few of us were there. And so we had to try to suss out, "Would so-and-so be willing/able to do this task?"

And at one point, one member of the group noted, "Don't assign that duty to Francie*, she won't do it, and it will just fall on one of the rest of us."

(*Not the person's actual name)

And.....I don't get that. I really don't get that. If you're part of a group that does volunteer work, and you're asked to do something, and you don't have a good, clear excuse (like: your spouse is now in long-term care and you need to assist them. Or, like: you are in the middle of a high-risk pregnancy. Or like: you have a chronic illness like MS that means you have good days and bad days and you can't predict what days will be good or bad), you DO THE THING YOU ARE ASKED TO DO. It is called "pulling your weight."

And that's what makes me so irritated about some groups I am a part of: there are the people who do the majority of the work, and then there are free-riders. And no one ever says anything much to the free-riders, EVEN AS THEY ARE HASSLING THE WORKERS TO DO MORE. (And yes, I've been in the position, of people telling me, "Well, you could take on that task" and I am like "but I am already doing five or six things and also don't forget that I work full-time and I am single so I have to do all my own marketing and laundry and everything"

I try to be sympathetic, because I know, "be kind, for everyone is fighting a hard battle" but sometimes I want to say to some of these groups, "Maybe, maybe if it's the same five people who have to do everything, and we have lots of people just riding on what they do, maybe we need to disband and if people express shock or horror over that, then they need to step up and carry some of the load." Or those people need to quit the group. Or something.

I don't know. But I'm too hot, I'm sort of tired, I'm achy this morning (our weather is - I can only describe it as BEASTLY. They're running constant news stories on local news about not leaving kids or dogs in cars and about how you should just risk misdemeanor charges, being sued and possibly beat up by the car owner, and break out a window in a car if you see a kid or an animal in there, and they're giving the warning signs of heat exhaustion).

And I have changed my plans; my research student can meet today so I decided to go in to work at least this morning. I MIGHT go over to the dealership this afternoon and see about getting a new battery in my car - they warned me the old one was starting to go bad at the last maintenance check-up, and I can tell it's been harder to crank it these past few days, and in this heat, I do NOT want to get stranded somewhere with a car that won't start.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

the "new" store

So, after burning my brain out on legalese/details of various Acts involving environmental protection, I decided to knock off early and check out the "new" Pruett's Foods.

Pruett's is, apparently, a small independent-grocery chain (they describe themselves as being affiliated with Associated Wholesale Grocers, which I guess allows them to negotiate on price for things). The women at church praised their produce and meat departments - two that are important to me - so I am hopeful and decided to check out the store.

Well, they haven't renovated, though they have lots of signs noting that a remodeling is coming this fall - they have just now hung a banner saying "Pruett's Foods" over the old Nichol's Dollar Saver sign. And they have mylar balloons at each checkstand saying "Welcome to Pruett's" but pretty much everything else looks like the old Dollar Saver (that used to be a Winn-Dixie).


The store was noticeably cleaner when I was in this time - it looked like they had stripped and rewaxed the tile floors, for example. And yes, how clean a grocery store is MATTERS to me and I don't want to shop at one that looks dirty or dingy because it makes me wonder how they take care of the fresh food.

Otherwise, the layout was the same as it used to be (though that might change). There did seem to be a lot of restocking going on, which may mean more new things coming.

The produce section was bigger and nicer. It's bigger than the Green Spray's and I suspect it's nicer (though not bigger) than the Wal-Mart's. One new thing: they have little bottles of different "varietal" (like Granny Smith and Honeycrisp) apple juice. And yeah, I know, apple juice is loaded with sugar and all that, but once in a while I like a GOOD apple juice as a treat. (And it's probably better for you than soda, and if you don't drink it more than a couple times a month, I can't imagine it being v. harmful).

The young woman who checked me out said "OH, that's SO good!" and said that the Honeycrisp one (the one I was getting) was the best. So I'm hopeful.

I also bought a package of country style ribs to do in the crockpot this weekend - they already have their own branded meat out, and as I said, one of the things people said they did well was meat.

They don't have EVERYTHING I buy - there was no organic milk (other than that filtered Fairlife stuff, and I'm not entirely sure I want to pay the premium for that, though if I have to start strictly watching sugars I might, because it's lower in sugar than regular milk). But again, that might change with the remodel.

They do have one thing I couldn't otherwise get locally - they had listed in their online circular "Alexia sweet potato fries" and while the wal-mart carries the FRIES, it is the "puffs" (think tater tots, just with sweet potato) that I like - and they had them. They also had the five-cheese Italian blend I like for pizza.

They also have a small bakery. There was a case with fancy cupcakes, but no one in the bakery to ask about them at the moment (and I didn't need a cupcake). That may also expand with the remodel, I don't know. They also carry The Father's Table cheesecake (in two-slice packs), which is a nice thing to have available when a real treat is needed.

And next to the deli, they now have a grab-and-go section with a few pre-made sandwiches and things like hummus and fancier cheese.

So I am holding out hope as they slowly transition into being more like a "regular" Pruett's, they will have more and more of the things I want, and they will be a nice place to shop. (Honestly? If they get organic milk I may be able to mostly quit using the wal-mart, which would make me happy, because that place is a zoo some times during the week. And also to be honest: I'd rather my money go to a smaller, regional, chain. Apparently it is still owned by the son and daughter-in-law of the founders...)

The photos of the stores the company has on its website look very nice - and again, the appearance of a grocery store MATTERS to me more than it probably should - and I'm hoping the remodel makes the store look like them.

So, hopefully, I will have a nice new place to shop now.

"Hard to identify"

I read something yesterday in the new issue of the ONPS newsletter that surprised me a little.

I was familiar with the term birders use - "LBJ," which stands for "Little brown job," meaning one of the small brownish birds (often sparrows but also some of the warblers) that are hard to tell apart, especially if they are flitting around in a tree where you don't get a full view of them. (Some people use the acronym "LBB" for "little brown bird")

Well, there's a comparable one for plants. Members of the Asteraceae (the daisy family), which used to be known as the Compositae*

(*Plant taxonomy is kind of weird. There were a lot of "old" family names that didn't fit the official pattern, so Compositae and Umbelliferae and Labiatae and Cruciferae are now Asteraceae and Apiaceae and Menthaceae and Brassicaceae but a lot of us know the old names....I think the new names came into common use about the time I was in college, though it might have been earlier and my botany profs were just all old-school)

Anyway, a lot of the composites (the old general name for things in the Asteraceae) are hard to tell apart, especially the fall-flowering yellow ones. I have to think hard about the names of even some of the common ones and I kind of groan if I run across a goldenrod other than a few of the ones with really distinctive leaves because the flowers are all so similar, and identifying them usually means going into the lab and working with a dissecting microscope on the flowers and using a key.

So, there is a 'grouping name' for the yellow-flowered Asteraceae like Little Brown Jobs.

(I tend to just refer to them as "it's another yellow Asteraceae").

But apparently the "official" acronym is DYC. Which is short for "Damned yellow composite."

The thing that surprised me is that phrase is attributed to Lady Bird Johnson, the wife of President Johnson. (I'm not surprised about the wildflower thing; there is a whole wildflower center in Austin dedicated to her and she was known for that sort of thing. I'm surprised about the "Damned")

Would she have said that?

Scanning my memory banks, I realize I don't know that much about her. I do know that President Johnson could be a rather....earthy.....talker (there is an infamous tape of a phone call he had with his tailor, describing in detail to the man how NOT to make his pants fit too tightly and why). But I dunno, I pictured Lady Bird as being more, well, ladylike. And also it was the 1960s, I don't know how common openly saying something like "damned" was - there are certain words that have only become common/accepted on network tv since the late 1980s.

And I admit, I think my mental picture of a "mid 20th century former First Lady" is strongly influenced by the story about Bess Truman, where a group of women came to her and said "Can't you encourage your husband, on his garden tours, to call it 'fertilizer' instead of 'manure,' because 'manure' is such a coarse word," and Bess' response was "It took me 20 years to encourage him to call it 'manure.'"

I'm also cognizant of the differences in attitudes of my students - some coming from very conservatively-religious backgrounds, some coming from different cultures than my own - so I'd never say "damned" about something in front of the class. I *might* say "darned yellow composite" though, as I noted, I'd probably be more prone to sort of sigh and go "it's a yellow Asteraceae."

I'm good at plant identification but some groups are difficult - yellow Asteraceae are kind of a pain if you don't work with them on a regular basis, and some grasses can be hard if they don't have flowering/fruiting heads on them. And anything in rosette form is gonna be tough.

ETA: I guess I should be glad the acronym isn't FYC. (Like Fine Young Cannibals, which I was once told was actually supposed to stand for something ELSE but that which the FCC wouldn't allow....)