Sunday, August 28, 2016

Two unrelated topics

Extra short episode recap, because I was really "meh" about this week's episode:

The Mane Six are sent off to do something in Yakyakistan. Fluttershy is shown packing earmuffs which I at first thought were noise cancelling headphones because I think Fluts would be all about the noise-cancelling headphones while traveling.

Well, Discord shows up, and is upset about Fluttershy going away because he assumed she was planning a vacation with him (?)

Discord.....I vacillate on him. Sometimes I feel sorry for him, sometimes I really dislike him as a character. He is TOTALLY self-centered ("How many Discords does it take to change a light bulb? Only one, he holds it up and waits for the universe to revolve around him") But on the other hand, he's got a serious case of Rocket the Raccoon Syndrome: "Ain't no thing like me BUT me" and I can only imagine that's awfully isolating.

But he is like that annoying little brother who can't quite understand that his sister sometimes wants - no, sometimes needs - to hang out only with her own-age friends. So he pulls various stunts, including the Epic Opposite Day effect...

"Well, guess what, Sassafras! I'm Opposite Fluttershy....." And apparently Opposite Fluttershy persists for a few minutes after that when she snarks at Discord about "Maybe you're afraid they won't like you?" Yipes, that's really out of character for Fluts so I can only explain it as a hangover of the negative-effect that Discord briefly wrought.

(That said, I can totally imagine myself thinking, "Guess what, Sassafras!" in response to someone's rather entitled request of me. Oh, I'd never SAY it but....)

It just seems strange to me how maternal/big-sister Fluttershy is with Discord. It's like the one area of her life she can be somewhat assertive. Then again - maybe she got some practice from growing up with Zephyr Breeze, so she's used to dealing with manbabies.

The rest of the Mane 6 assembles, and they take off (apparently the trains in Equestria run on time better than Amtrak does)

Fluttershy has suggested Discord hang with Spike and Big Mac, who are having a "guy's weekend" (And I guess we get another guy's weekend eventually; there is supposed to be a "hoofball" episode coming up). There's a funny but awkward scene at the train station....well, more awkward than funny for me because I'm one of those people who worries about "are my friends inviting me on this thing just because they pity me and don't want me to be alone, but they don't REALLY want me along?" and there's a whole reverse-psychology dynamic going on.

As it turns out, this "guy's weekend" is playing Ogres and Oubliettes (Crossover shout-out to the comic series, though as I remember it was teenage Shining Armor and his cohort who played there). Yeah. Ponyworld Dungeons and Dragons.

An aside: I never played it. My friends (the few I had) weren't into it, and also, it was the height of the "is it Satanic or not" controversy, and I admit I didn't want to deal with the possible confusion on the part of teachers and parents and whatnot. (Also I guess it takes a lot of time? I don't know)

So anyway, then Spike - as Dungeonmaster (or is it Oubliettemaster?) starts up the game.

(Squizard, heh. That was kind of funny. I am also wondering if Captain Was is a reference to something I am not getting?)

Anyway. Discord is turned off by such a nerdy way to spend time, and instead tries to interest Spike and Big Mac in a Jazz Age guy's night out, complete with Discord in a zoot suit and some interesting background ponies: There's a Ponified Betty Boop, and a trio I thought at first was supposed to be the Ritz Brothers but maybe not and then HER:

IT'S JOSEPHINE BAKER, GUYS. JOSEPHINE BAKER IN PONY FORM. And they even gave her bananas as a cutie mark! (here is a not-quite-safe-for-work photo of her in her infamous banana skirt). She was an African-American woman (from St. Louis, IIRC) who moved to Paris, found greater fame and acceptance there, and became somewhat of a chanteuse even thought she was perhaps better known for going out on stage not wearing very much at all. She's probably best known here for the song J'ai Deux Amours, which was actually about the US and Paris and not about two men....)

This is another reason why I love this show. A tiny little nerdy thing I know shows up in it. Oh, probably none of the children and few of the adult fans caught it, but it made me smile....actually, it was my favorite part of what wasn't a very-favorite episode.

Part of the reason it's not-my-favorite is that it's mostly Discord being whiny and childish and wanting to make everything about him, and as someone who secretly would like to sometimes make things all about her, but who most of the time just smiles wanly and goes, "oh, of course we can go eat at a Japanese restaurant," and then I wind up eating only fruit out of concern I might get something with miso in it.

And I get it's an important lesson for the child-fans of the show: don't whine and talk about how much you'd RATHER be at Chuck E Cheese's when it's your mother's birthday and she's asked for a nice meal out at the local Mexican place....but honestly, Discord is less interesting when he's being a manbaby than when he's being actually kind of evil.

So anyway, Discord gets really cranky when Spike points out that he and Big Mac don't want the nightclub thing, they want to play their game.....so he makes the game "real."

And then it gets a little TOO real....I admit I lost interest here a little bit....Discord being a spoiled brat, making it un-fun for poor Spike and Big Mac, yada yada yada.

And Spike reveals that they felt sorry for Discord....and this is where Discord's personality gets confusing. On the one hand, he thinks he's all that and a bag of chips....on the other he does seem so desperate for the companionship of Spike and Big Mac. He's egotistical, and yet self-loathing. But of course Spike and Big Mac continue to feel bad for him, and invite him back. And Discord does the whole "Fonzie can't say he was wr-wr-wr-wr-wrong" thing. And Spike and Big Mac persuade him to make the game "real" but not, like, "you might die" real.......and then the Mane Six comes back, and of course Pinkie and Rainbow Dash want to join in. Dash as some kind of rogue/ninja thing, Pinkie as a bard? Fits, I guess.

(The pacing on this episode seemed a little odd to me. And also, I do prefer the ones with most or all of the Mane Six present for most of the episode...)

 ****

I spent a couple hours this afternoon ripping junk out of the back garden. It had gotten bad. And it amazes me - some of these places I weeded and clipped a month or so ago, and already there are dumb little trees getting started again. You'd think we'd be the breadbasket of the nation based on how well weeds grow here, and yet my food-gardening is not all that successful. (Mainly because of weeds). I THINK the best strategy for the blackberries is maybe just going to be cut and cut and cut and when it dies back, fish out all the bits and try to find where it's rooted and either paint the cut stems with herbicide or just try to dig them out....

I do want, later this fall, to bring in  some soil (maybe I try to find someone who sells topsoil, though that's risky here, because you could get a free fire ant colony included with your soil) or just buy a lot of bagged stuff. And then, right before the end of the fall, plant a lot of seeds of stuff that will be butterfly/bee plants next year.....and hope we have a rainy but not-too rainy winter. I don't know. I want more butterfly attracting plants and I want to get enough perennials established so I don't have to go in on a regular basis and rip stuff out like crazy....I want something that will outcompete all the junk, if there are things that will do that.

I am thinking of ordering a d-pak of the butterfly mix, and one of the shade-mix for pollinators to put in in the back....I used to like to leave spaces open for annuals but more and more I am becoming of the opinion that (a) perennials mean less work long-term and are less expensive once established and (b) the less weeding I have to do the better.



Saturday, August 27, 2016

One other thing

Confession time: I did buy a totally frivolous thing today. I had heard that Tuesday Morning sometimes had some rather unusual dolls for sale (specifically, Pullip dolls - a line of "ball jointed," very fancy, very well made dolls).

I don't particularly love the Tuesday Morning here - it's in a sad strip mall that used to house a K-Mart and the store always seems a little dim and grungy. But maybe that's the better to find cool stuff. (I never find any cool yarn there though. I know some people do but maybe we don't get the cool yarn).

Anyway....they had one of the full-sized line of Pullip dolls. I kept taking it off the shelf and putting it back on and couldn't decide....it was a bit over $30 which is cheap for a fancy doll but which is kind of a lot given the fact that I'm still on "short rations" after the summer of low-paid teaching. And I admit, the purchase was partly a sop to my "I couldn't work out the problem at JoAnn's and also there are Too Many People and people are rude and awful" hurt feelings.

In the end I bought it.

It's amazing.

I said on Twitter that Pullip dolls are perhaps the modern equivalent of the old Brus or Jumeaux dolls - very fancy French dolls of the late 1800s that had elaborate outfits. They were porcelain so I doubt little girls actually "played" with them much, other than maybe looking at them or maybe sitting them up or lying them down (so their eyes would close; some had the weighted "sleepy" eyes). They are the dolls many, many "serious" collectors go for. I have, I think, only seen a few "in person" and those only behind the glass of a museum case.

The doll I got is in a skirted sailor outfit (with what look like bloomers under it) so I assumed she was a girl. The doll's given name is Isul. Which I decided (for somewhat obvious reasons) to lengthen to Isolde.

Turns out, Isul is a boy....his card said "Pullip's brother" (the only English on the card) and looking online, yes, he is supposed to be a boy. I don't care. I have already named this doll Isolde and decided she's a girl with short hair so she's going to be Isolde.

some quick and dirty webcam photos:








There are little buttons on the back of her head so you can make her wink, or close her eyes. And there's a lever so they can look right or left - again, a feature seen in some of the really old "fancy" dolls but rarely seen in play dolls in modern times.




It was the little striped stockings and tall boots that really made me fall in love with her. Those little boots are SO perfect. (And you maybe can see why I assumed she was a girl, not knowing any better.

She is jointed at the hips, the knees, the ankles (can't really tell with the boots on but she is) the shoulders, the waist, elbows, and wrists, and the neck. I go crazy over this kind of articulation because when I was a kid, so few of the dolls had much in the way of jointing, the assumption was "rotating joints at the hips and shoulders is all kids need" and maybe that's true for some kids but....


I didn't play with dolls much as a kid. As a VERY small child, I guess I had a couple baby dolls I dragged around but I don't really remember that. When I was older, I preferred stuffed animals (I often preferred animals over people as a kid. Still kind of do....). Part of it, though, was when I was a kid most of the "choice" in dolls was baby dolls or Barbie. Well, baby dolls were uninteresting to me - having had a baby brother I knew that babies didn't really do all that much other than eat and excrete and scream and sleep. And Barbie, I just couldn't relate to her. She cared about clothes. All I cared about as far as clothes were concerned was that I got yelled at when I went and played in the mud in "good" clothes.

Later on, I got interested in the whole history of it. I collected dolls and had (still HAVE, really, but it's all packed away) a sizable collection I acquired. (I keep thinking I need to go through them some time when I'm up at my parents' and select the 10-20% of the collection I REALLY want to keep, bring them down here, and then arrange to have the rest sold off or donated or whatever). I still buy the occasional doll, even though I don't really call myself a collector any more. Though I guess I kind of am.....

(They also had some of the Aurora seated MLPs at Tuesday Morning, they had Twilight and Pinkie and Rainbow Dash and I think there was one Rarity. Before I decided finally to buy Isolde I had thought of getting a Pinkie, but decided against it. But apparently the "Toy Reset" that some people are talking about is happening and some of the unsold stuff from other stores is going to the resellers like Tuesday Morning)






A random thought

Maybe the reason so many of us (and I include myself in at least one of the following categories) are so crazy, angry, or needy, is that our credit cards get validated more often than we do.

(Yeah. There was a little sign at the JoAnn's about "please hand credit card to cashier for validation" and I was like I WISH I COULD HAND MYSELF TO SOMEONE FOR VALIDATION).

And no, I didn't get to use my "store credit" - the place was slammed, there were literally two (2) women working the entire giant store, and by the time I got to the cash register, there were ten people behind me. I MENTIONED the store credit in case the cashier said, "Oh, that's easy! It's in my system, just show me some ID" but it wasn't, she just grunted at me, and so I figured...


well, I figured either:

a. I use it when I come back on some random Thursday (I am not shopping on Saturdays any more)

or

b. they get to keep my crummy $21, I never shop there again, and I just mail order all my craft supplies. And I admit, I had a bit of an angry/ugly cry in my car afterward because I am SO fed up with having to drive 45 minutes (at least) for anything beyond a wal-mart and why is everything so hard and there are too many people and no one ever listens to me and and and. And how much I wish we had a real craft store in my town still, instead of a pathetic half-aisle of Red Heart and a few bolts of fabric at the wal-mart. And how much I miss the quilt shop. And how tired I get of this place some times, where most people see nothing wrong with driving to freaking DALLAS for stuff and I can't even bear the drive to Sherman....

well, it was partly being "hangry" (though I don't get angry when hungry, I get weepy), so after a smoked turkey sandwich at the good barbecue place (and maybe now smoked turkey is the favorite thing of mine that they do....with pulled pork RIGHT behind it and the ribs RIGHT behind them. Seriously, I've never had a bad meal there, and I eat there a lot). The owner wasn't there today so I didn't get high fived but at least the people working there were friendly.

But the rest of the day was effortful because everything was crowded. It had been a long time since I shopped on a Saturday afternoon (I had been doing Fridays in the summer. And I STILL could, I just wouldn't get off very early....). At least the natural-foods store now carries the little turkey sausages I like, so I bought a couple packages (they are frozen so they keep well).

AND THEN, I found that Kroger's has them too! They have a separate little frozen case with the veggie/gluten-free/all natural stuff in it, over by the produce. And while they were currently out of turkey sausage, they had some pork ones....so I looked, and they are equally low in sodium. So I bought a box.












But these are the perfect "I need protein" (or "I need a quick meal") "but I don't know what to fix" foods - they are fully cooked so you just have to zap them for a bit in the microwave or heat them in a pan.

So yeah. And I got what I needed to cook the meatballs for church tomorrow. (We are having a potluck and the secretary was concerned about there being no set main dish, so I decided to make the raspberry-sauced turkey meatballs I do - and do a double batch). I didn't get the chicken I need for feeding the college kids Tuesday night but I can pick that up here in town at the Green Spray, so they get a little business.

But yeah. Too many people, and too many loud people, and too many demanding people (The checkout line got stacked up partly because the people a few folks ahead of me were arguing with the cashier over something). But I do sometimes wind up feeling kind of ignored and tired and sick of it all after shopping at those big stores when they are busy. I'd shop exclusively at small businesses EXCEPT we don't really have any.

That said: the people at the Green Market are nice. I like shopping there even though they are crazy expensive on stuff and don't have quite everything I use. But they do have some things - like the canned pureed sweet potatoes - I cannot get anywhere else.

****

All of that said - my most recent small Webs order came. This was a specialty order of some washable-but-100%-wool yarn (luckily they had a closeout that was perfect: Schachenmeyer Wool 85). Someone posted on Ravelry about Hats for Sailors and upon thinking about it - I want to knit a few hats for that. For a couple reasons: first, a young woman my mom was the "baptismal sponsor" for is now in the Coast Guard (my parents' church was doing a thing for a while where mature members could sign up to talk with and listen to the concerns of a candidate for baptism). And secondly, this is how my imagination works: I may not be able to travel to faraway places, but I like the thought that one of the little hats I knit might. Whether it's keeping someone warm on a Coast Guard cutter in the Great Lakes, or going with someone in the Navy into the North Pacific, or whereever.

Hats I can manage. I admit I still have a Red Scarf on the needles I never finished. I suppose I could pull it out and figure out where I am and try to finish it but I don't even know if that project is still going on - Hats for Sailors is still active on Ravelry so I know they are still going.

(They remind that both men and women are sailors....some of the yarn I bought was a nice unisex blue, some was a softer mango color, some was more of a blaze orange).  Maybe these even become my invigilating knitting, and if anyone asks, I can tell them. I have enough for three hats, or maybe four if I do one in stripes of the two blues.

I wish Woolease were acceptable, I have tons of that I could use, but they specified washable 100% wool and I presume that is for warmth as I bet most places it gets really cold out at sea, especially at night....

Friday, August 26, 2016

"please understand me"

I find the personality-descriptor things pretty fascinating. I know I'm an introvert (though I am one of the can-talk-to-people introverts, and even one of the "I want to talk to people, at least some times" introverts). And I'm also definitely Guess Culture even though I know some people think that's a super passive-aggressive way to be it really is not and I could go into an exhaustive explanation to you as to why it isn't.....

but here's a new one: Rounds vs. Pointies. NB to my gentle readers: some strong four letter words in there, in my summary/commentary I will be more euphemistic.

The writer describes it (well, I'm paraphrasing a bit): Rounds are self-contained. They don't care too much about what other people think. Pointies care deeply and passionately what other people think, perhaps to the point of it not being good for them and maybe annoying their friends a little.

Pointies are not good with "uncomfortable silences"

Rounds can go to a party and have fun, pointies worry on the way home about what other people thought of them or about the guy throwing up over in the corner.

Pointies are not good at being "in the moment." (I assume this means Pointies don't do "mindfulness," something I so cannot do). Pointies often wish they were rounder and Rounds are amused by that because they don't think that way.

I am definitely a Pointy. Pointies are easily embarrassed. I blush less than I did when I was younger but if I walk in a room and a couple people are talking and then immediately shut up, or if I walk in and someone starts giggling I immediately start to check myself to be sure there isn't a strap hanging out somewhere or that my skirt isn't all rucked up in the back or that there isn't tp stuck to my shoe, or or or....

The author lists a lot of famous people that I mostly don't know enough about to really say for sure if they're Round or Pointy and anyway to be honest I was so blown away by the "hey this is another way to understand what is going on in my head" that I didn't pay too much attention. But yeah. Super-pointy. And I'm sure my periodic whining about how I wish I were more "fun" and were less uptight about things like deadlines and what impression I leave on people is evidence of that.

And I know I can be exhausting to be around when my pointiness is in full overdrive - I tweet too much, I blog too much, because trying to get the words out of my head usually shuts them up for a little bit. And I am sure I can be exhausting to be around in person though ironically in person I am quieter because sometimes I get tongue-tied easily, or I feel like more forceful/louder/more popular people just talk over me.

(I'm also laughing because Steven Universe - I haven't watched it recently but from my early impressions of the early episodes, Amethyst was DEFINITELY a round - totally chill with everything - whereas Pearl is completely pointy. They're even DRAWN that way!)

I spotted the link to this whole thing over on Metafilter but didn't read the comments (GENERALLY MeFi comments are a bit more helpful than the typical online site comments). Someone said this:

"How can I know if I am round or pointy without a quiz?

if you need a quiz you're a pointy

that's the quiz"

I am laughing my fool head off because when I read the original article, I was all, "Wait, where's the quiz that will Sort me? How do I know for SURE I'm a Pointy?" I guess that comment answers it.

(Also someone else suggested "Bert or Ernie" and I know I'm totally a Bert, even down to liking oatmeal and thinking that collecting paper clips might be fun. And someone else suggested "kitty or puppy" (which seems a little nicer than "pointy or round") and I know I'm a kitty....)

Also, from something I said on Twitter, this is sort of a bit of an explanation of who I am, and I think it fits:

Me at my birthday party
A friend hands me a wrapped package.
I open it up.
There is a slip of paper in it that says "Your existence is validated, now and forever"
I start sobbing, and say "It's the thing I wanted most IN THE WHOLE WORLD."

(Really, that's probably behind a lot of my talking-too-much stuff: a need for feeling validated. That's one thing that's hard about living alone and not having friends I see daily; some days I don't feel like I get a lot of validation and I vacillate between being "You jellyfish, you need to grow a spine and learn to live without being told that you're good at whatever; most adults live that way" and "I wish I had someone  to prop ME up; I spend an awful lot of time propping others up....")

I used to be better at being self-contained. I don't know if it's age or living alone for so long or some kind of mind-poison from being on the internet too much but I've lost some of that ability over the years. And I wish I could get it back.

I also wonder if "Pointiness" and anxiety can be related; I know in some ways I am more anxious now than when I was younger - largely because I've been more battered by life and more cognizant of the fact that if you don't take care of stuff, no one is going to take care of that stuff for you, so I wind up doing stuff like, for example, if I have a hotel reservation somewhere, I bring a printout of the reservation and the confirmation number and an extra credit card in case the one I put the reservation on was declined and everything...I never want to be in the situation of being in a strange town overnight and be told, "No, we do not have a reservation for you, we are sorry." Granted, I think MOST hotels (at least, most decent chain ones) would do something to accommodate a person but that's like one of my big fears, being totally 'abandoned' somewhere and not having a place to stay or a way to eat or a way to get home or something....so I tend to over plan and over prepare. (Again, that may be a side effect of being a long-term single; I suspect I'd be more chill if I had a husband who was a responsible person AND ALSO in some cases people seem more willing to listen to a man saying something like "Your loss of our room reservation is unacceptable" than they are to a woman saying it - sad but true, even in 2016.)

Friday morning photos

A couple of works in progress.

I'm about 2/3 of the way through the stitchwork on the back of Raven. Once this is done, the sleeves are the next part:

raven back

It's kind of dark, so the traveling stitches don't show up all that well. Also, it takes longer than I thought to work this stuff - it's just increases, decreases, knit, and purls, but that kind of ribbing (the alternating knits and purls) tends to take longer because you're moving the yarn from front to back with every second stitch here.

And the Hagrid scarf:

Gamekeeper scarf

 This is fun and restful to work on. It's kind of a "sampler" type pattern with different stitch patterns that make it up. I'm almost done with the first set, then there will be four more repeats of each of these to make up the scarf. (Or three, if it looks like it would be too long with four).

Last night I also grabbed a quick photo of one of the new dresses I bought. This is an M. Mac dress and is one of those rare pieces of clothing actually made in the US. I bought an extra-large because I had read somewhere they run small. Well, I could probably have gotten away with a large as it fits rather loosely, but at least it's comfortable and is a good hot-weather dress:

new dress

They have another style sold through Vermont Country Store that has fish on it. (The sort of big-block-printing style seems to be this company's thing). At some point, if I need another dress like this one, I might get one of those but in a dark blue or the green.

And finally, some smol horses. You've already seen Baby Sparkle Gusty, but she pretty much hits all my "want" in one of those things: yellow body, pink hair, cute flank insignia, embedded glitter. (I like the glitter ponies). The only way she could be more perfect would to be a pegasus (Pegasus are my favorite type) but a unicorn is good, too.

The other one is an earlier-in-the-summer purchase (I think from Ogreberry Cottage) of one of the ballet ponies, Baby Softsteps. She is articulated so you can move her legs and head.

smol horses

I think the  idea of ballet ponies is pretty funny but I suppose they thought it was something little girls would relate to. And yes, I know it looks like she's wearing old-fashioned "combinations" but I think that's supposed to be like the horse version of a leotard. (I don't know if these ever came with tutus, and anyway, if Baby Softsteps did, hers is long gone).

There are several ballet ponies; I've seen at least one other baby pony like this and one of the "Big Sister" or whatever they are called, the taller slimmer "adult" ponies.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Thursday morning things

* Some mornings as I am putting on my make-up, I ask myself questions.

Like, "Am I too old to be wearing pale-pink lip gloss?"

Lately, I find that I think of what's going on geopolitically and then decide that asking myself if I'm too old for pale-pink lip gloss is kind of a pointless question.

* Related, someone posted this on Twitter:

"adulthood is realizing nobody has it together, entire countries are winging it, every perfect thing is just broken w/ a piece of tape on it"

And you know what? I realized some part of me refuses to accept that. I still actually kind of believe that there's a "magic spell" (as I described it on Twitter for brevity) that I will eventually figure out. And when I do, things won't be broken, I will figure my life out, and my hair will actually stay in place.

The thing is, I don't know if it's worse for my psyche to keep hoping that that "magic spell" that makes me figure it all out is out there, or if it's worse to accept that everything is kind of broken.

(I don't want things to be broken. I don't like it when things are broken. I can mend some things but they are never the same again.)

I guess I also kind of want to believe that there are people out there who don't always feel (as I do) that they're having to make it up as they go along.

So maybe that means I never become an adult. Well, since I "failed" to marry and have children there is already a sizable minority of people who believe I'm not an adult, so....*blows raspberry*

* HOWEVER, I did realize yesterday I need to start economizing NOW to be prepared for No Income Next Summer. (I have already declared that I am Not Teaching, because summer teaching is too much work for adjunct pay, and also, there's a whole issue of "don't voluntarily do something you don't want to have to be forced to do" and I fear future budget crunches might lead to the suggestion of, "Well, some of your people taught a summer for adjunct pay so why not just do that for a full semester?"). So that means avoiding looking at smol horses on Etsy (because I want ALL the G1 ponies, or at least ALL the yellow ponies with pink hair) and not visiting Amazon and things like that. And "shopping the stash," which I have already kind of started with doing the Hagrid scarf out of long-stashed yarn.

(It doesn't help that my homeowner's insurance bill comes due early in September. I paid it yesterday and while I won't have to do a transfer-from-savings to cover it, if I want to pay my credit card bill well before its due date I will. The bill is higher this month as I bought my tickets for Thanksgiving on it already...)

* That said....the Native American Seeds catalog came yesterday. It's their "wildflower issue" and they have several gorgeous two-page spreads devoted to "native species to attract pollinators." They also have shade tolerant species, and to my surprise, they list Turk's Cap Hibiscus as one. (Mine gets a lot of late-afternoon sun and does fine.). I confess I am thinking about figuring out some way to totally "nuke" the weeds in the north-facing garden area (as much as I hate using herbicide, maybe this is a case for it, to get rid of all the darned blackberry) and then getting a large volume of soil for the area, and then buying a quantity of the shade-tolerants seed mix and seeding it with that.

Or, alternatively - look into getting a few larger (already grown) shade-tolerant shrub type of things and plant them in there, and kind of work out from those. I do want more pollinator plants around my house because I've realized that one of the things that "keeps me going" is being able to see bumblebees and butterflies and even hummingbirds.

Maybe I also "nuke" most of the area that used to be brushpile, re-soil that area, and get more of the shade-tolerant stuff in. I already have a little stand of inland sea-oats that I planted in an earlier attempt to make the area prettier. I could probably get away with what they call a "dpak" of seed; it is supposedly enough to cover 500 square feet and that area is perhaps about 20' by 10' at the most. A dpak of the shade mix is $19.....Or maybe I buy the shade-loving grasses AND the shade mix, and combine them, and just overseed the area super heavily? I don't know. At any rate, that's an idea for October, when it's cooler - lots of new perennial stuff needs to be done in the fall when it's cooler and stuff will have the winter to settle in. (Also some native species require chilling in order for seed germination to happen)

* I'm currently reading Death in the Tunnel by Miles Burton. (This is considerably better than the "A Scream in Soho" from the same collection, which I have totally given up on). I will say with a little pride I figured out one of the plot points before the detectives did. (I don't usually do that). Though I will say it was kind of a Chekov's gun moment....they stumble across something and I was "Yes, that's going to be important, that was going to be partly how the deed was done).

The question of the motive still remains. I'm thinking this story is as much a "why done it?" as a "who done it?" but then again, in most murder mysteries, the "why" doesn't become clear until you have a "who."

And it seems again slightly odd to me that I like (and can read without feeling discomfort) murder mysteries. Because real-world murders are by and large pretty awful. (There's a case a few towns over where apparently the murder was committed about a dispute over beer and a store's gift card. And yes, I get all of the socioeconomic and sociological stuff that's going on, and how sometimes some people who have had a particular kind of life maybe aren't as capable of seeing long-term consequences or things.....but I look at some of the rather violent crimes committed around here that seem to be over really rather silly stuff and I just kind of despair. I mean, I don't drink beer, but by comparison....if I had a housemate who, I don't know, chronically ate all the ice cream probably the MOST I'd do would be to yell at him about it, and maybe put a lock on the freezer that only I had a key to. )

* My state is getting new license plates. This would not be such a big deal (though it seems we just got new ones not very long ago) EXCEPT there was no citizen input I heard of, AND they are jacking up the price by $5. Oh, I get it: the state is in dire financial straits and they have to find another way to get money out of us, but I'd like it better if they were a bit more honest about it. Why not just send everyone an "existence bill"? "You currently exist in the state of Oklahoma and we need money so please remit $10 to us." (Ten dollars, because of course administering something like that would cost money).

Also the new design is not great. A stylized bird that is supposed to be a scissortailed flycatcher, except its tail is too short, and it's just in silhouette so it looks weird.

(And I just thought: if vanity plates didn't cost more, I'd really, really want to request one with some variant of BIRB on mine, or even better SMOLBIRB.)

But yeah. This plus the 1-cent sales tax increase we are most likely getting just makes me feel kind of nickled and dimed, or more, one-dollared and five-dollared. (And the average of that is not quite tree-fitty).

Other people are a little put off by it....the best reaction I've seen is Ginnie Graham's in Tulsa World. She likens the appearance of the bird to the Mockingjay of "The Hunger Games," and considering the fact that state agencies (including higher ed) have kind of been through a version of that this past spring with all the budget cuts, it feels creepily apropos. (WARNING: autoplay video on that site.)

Maybe the new state motto should be, "May the odds ever be in your favor." (Which is also creepily apropos here as I think the only businesses making a profit are the "Indian" casinos)

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

nevermind

Apparently the guy came back. (Maybe he needed to go take a wee?) My phone is apparently fixed now.

But, gah. Trying to get anything fixed in a small rural area can be a challenge.

"Water in the lines" I am told. Okay then. "Not the lines leading up to your house." Okay, fine, whatever.

And within about five minutes of the phone being fixed, a telemarketer called up...

Oh, yes, again

This is my "disappointed and aggravated" face:





I came home to the sight of an A T and T truck in the alley. Oh, I thought, someone checked up on it and it's all good.

Walked in my house.

NO LINE says my phone.

And yup, no dial tone.

So I went back out, hoping to catch the guy.

He was GONE. GONE GONE GONE.

There's a new box on the back of my house. So I figured: either this is one of those "wait 20 minutes and everything will come back bits" or it's "there is something more going on"

Called A T and T, and did that (because, of course, I am on mein Handy, there being no actual landline service in my house) while walking back around to the alley to see if I could see him further down the line or something.

Nope. But the - I don't even know what you call it, the post-thing with all the connections in it? That hooks up to the underground lines? It's open, with wires spilling out of it, and some kind of little device hooked up to it. So I guess the guy either had to go for parts or he just took a scarper, I don't know. (they were SUPPOSED to call on my cell phone).

Also, it took about five minutes of my repeatedly telling the automated thing "I want an agent. I want a person. I want a human agent. I want to talk to a person" for it to finally decide to connect me to an actual person. Who couldn't tell me anything other than that there was an "open ticket" and he should be back.

I damn well hope he is. I can't imagine A T and T is going to pro-rate the better part of 2 days of being phoneless for me.

Supposedly this is supposed to be resolved no later than 6 pm tomorrow but I had high hopes when my phone service came back last night. (If it's not resolved by tomorrow, I WILL be spending my Friday afternoon on the phone harassing A T and T)\\


So to recap: my phone came back long enough for a telemarketer to call me and that's it. There's a metaphor for my life in there somewhere.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

I'm done adulting

So the phone is back after too much time on A T and T's phone tree.
The homework for this week is written.
AAUW yearbook is at the printer's.
Piano has been practiced despite an off and on headache.

And so now I'm sitting here, watching "The Amazing World of Gumball" (I swan I have seen every episode about eight times, but it's still better than news or "commentary" programming) and wearing a hotpad around my neck (headache) and knitting on a new project:





It's the Gamekeeper's Scarf which is a free pattern on Ravelry. Like many of Erica Leuder's patterns, it's Harry Potter inspired - the Gamekeeper in question here is Hagrid. There are three patterns: "Maze" (a knit-purl pattern), "Aragog" (the big spider thing? it's a lace pattern) and "Shaggy Beard," a cable pattern done entirely on a stockinette background (rather than a reverse-stockinette, as many cables are, so it looks more like wavy locks of hair). The yarn is an Imperial Stock Ranch (Oregon-grown, US processed) yarn - I forget the name of it (Columbia, maybe? it's a 2-ply worsted). It was a purchase a while back (and I know that, the store is now closed forever :( ) from the yarn shop that was here in town.

It's a nice yarn, very "rustic" feeling and I can tell the lanolin is still at least partially in it. It's a good yarn for a Hagrid-inspired scarf even if the color is maybe a little soft for him.

I'll take a better picture when it's lighter and when I have the energy to drag my camera out rather than "cheating" and just using the webcam.

curiouser and curiouser

So I'm practicing piano (and this week's exercise-book work is equally hateful: requiring a whole-octave stretch for 20+ bars. This will either make my hands stronger or it will give me arthritis; which remains to be seen).

Anyway. My phone rang. At first I was like "meh, let it ring" and then I was "WAIT MY PHONE IS RINGING THAT MEANS IT HAS TO BE WORKING AGAIN."

I got up to see who it was. Womp womp: that A T and T-inspired or -funded telemarketer from an alleged 918 area code (though everyone I've ever heard from that number doesn't exactly sound Tulsan, if you know what I mean). I picked up ANYWAY to see if I could hear anything. Could, immediately hung back up.

Tried calling myself from the cell phone (or, in the delightful German word for it: das Handy, possibly from the equally-delightful Handfunktelefon). Yup, that came through. Dialed "the number I know best*" to see if I can call out - I can. Connection still a little crackly, but I am at least connected to the world again.

(*My parents. Sadly, Nero Wolfe, if he ever had existed, would have long since gone on to his reward)

I am now wondering if the torrential rain we got yesterday (Seriously, we got like a month's worth of rain in about 15 minutes) screwed something up in either the outdoor box or the underground line (I have NO idea how well protected the line is; I'm betting it's pretty old, this house was built in the late '40s and it's entirely possible the phone line was put in then). But at least that tells me the wiring in the house is not shot, and it won't need to be rewired if I want a landline.

No, I haven't cancelled the A T and T service appointment; it's Their Job to take care of the outside equipment and I want the guy to have a look at the junction box (or whatever you call it). One of the connections in there looked rusty and even if it's working again it may need to be replaced.

but it's a relief to no longer be wondering if I'd need to get guys up in the attic to try to drop some fresh wiring. (If I had known, I would have had the house rewired - also for cable outlets - before I moved in. Now there's too much stuff in it for me to have that done easily)

So I dunno

I wish my headache would go away. The tea didn't do much. I need to go back to school and work on stuff.

I probably also need to go get more construction paper for the simulation lab tomorrow (it makes the little organisms we use). DO NOT want to run to wal-mart, not in their "reorg." Wonder if the Walgreens would have what I need....


I called A T and T. That made my headache worse. I was trying to talk to a person.

First go 'round: "We are experiencing an unusually high volume of calls....so here, talk to our automated assistant."

Second go 'round: Got a person, then got send back to the automated system.

Third time: Talked to someone. Got asked my name, rank, and serial number*. Was told I'd be sent to a tech. The operator, while signing off, exclaimed "And don't text and drive!"

Oh honey
Oh honey
Oh honey.

If only you knew. If you had stayed on the line long enough to hear me snarl. For one thing, I never text and drive, never would - I don't even text. I nearly was in a serious accident because the other driver was texting when she pulled out into traffic.  For another - this is SO not the time for that kind of nannying. That's like me going in to the ER with my hand cut off and the ER doctor saying, "My, a little fat, aren't we? Why not try laying off the donuts?"

(*Not actually)

Then I got the tech. Went through the whole name, rank, serial number, shoe size, hat size, everything bit again. Explained to him, "I was told there'd maybe be an appointment but I work full time teaching college and an 8 am to 6 pm window is not something I could do because I teach mornings." Was told, "Oh, we'll probably send someone out before noon."






I guess he didn't hear that I said "college teacher who teaches mornings."

Anyway, I explained again. Finally got it down to, "The problem is most likely in the service box on the outside of the house" (yes, I opened it up and looked and one of the connections looked rusty) and that the tech would most likely not need to go in the house and did I have a locked gate or a dog and I said no and that I gave blanket permission to the tech to go in my backyard but DARN it should not be that hard to talk to a person at what I thought was a giant and profitable company but it seems like they have about five dudes doing all the work.

But yeah. If that doesn't fix it, bye-bye landline. Who ever buys this house after I have it can arrange for the re-wiring. I will need to get a new cellie if I do that, though - this one barely holds a charge any more. (I guess I need to get a new one anyway before I do any more fieldwork - I rely on the phone in the field in case I need help)

and bad dreams

Update: at least I can receive voice mail at my home number, but it doesn't seem to be working as when I called it just now, it rang once and went to voicemail (the "busy" set-up) rather than four times (the "no one is answering" set-up). They are telling me my line is fine and everything is fixed. Siiiiiiiiiigh. I will check when I go home at lunchtime but I do not feel sanguine about this.

I suppose a possible answer is to just periodically check my voice mail using my cellie; except for my parents calling me a couple times a week (and I know when, and I can give them my cell number) the only calls I get are telemarketers, so. But this stinks, if the lines in the house are shot and they'd have to pull new ones, forget it: I'm not going to go to that trouble, I'll just rely on having a cell and cancel my landline and maybe save some money. (And then I'd probably get a smartphone because my current cell phone doesn't hold a charge all that well; it's old)

Further update: our dewpoint is currently 75 F. No wonder I feel like I've been dragged through heck. I have a sinus headache but because of my recent (as in January) stomach issues I'm afraid to take ibuprofen lest I mess my stomach up again, so I guess I just have to tough it out until lunchtime and then go make a cup of strong tea and hope that helps. But I am SO OVER it being this humid.


I think part of my distress is I'm just, what I call "nonspecifically sad" - there's really nothing too big but lots of little things to deal with. All of the tsuris involved with getting my grant money spent and the research set up. Things like remembering to change addresses (the university closed its post office branch - cost savings - so our "new" address is, of course, different)

And I had an unpleasant dream as the last dream of the night, which always adversely affects my mood. I don't remember much of it other than that there was a rose-breasted grosbeak I had been watching and the bird died, and the last thing before I woke up was looking at the pitiful bird lying on its back in the flowerpot where it had wound up, with a little blood around its bill. (I can't remember enough of the dream to remember if I knew how it died). The unsettling thing is that in a lot of cases I can chalk those kinds of images up to "my brain is sorting its recycling" but I can't remember having looked at any pictures of rose-breasted grosbeaks (they haven't migrated yet so I wouldn't see one on the wing). Unless my brain somehow transposed "ruby throated hummingbird" (which I have been seeing) to "rose breasted grosbeak." I don't know. Brains are weird.

And once again it's super, super humid and warm - it feels like south Florida out there this morning and all the windows of my building are fogged because the AC is up (which is a good thing right now) and it's so humid out.

And someone brought up a study on ITFF about "friendship" and especially "unequal friendship" and the stress people feel when they are friends with someone but that person isn't friends back (and yes, it's using the debased definition of "friendship" as Facebook et al. use it but still). And this brings up a lot of my Issues about "am I weird because I don't have a Best Friend?" and also the whole thing about my not being willing to declare myself someone's Best Friend because I'd be afraid they'd turn around and be all "oh. That's nice. But you aren't MY best friend...." and yeah, I know, that's a little Discord At The Grand Galloping Gala to feel bad about that, but....yeah. Have had "friend issues" since I was 13 and the whole Popular Table issue came up. (And yeah, I know: a lot of people are "broken" in that way but as I see my "insides" all the time and only pretty much see the "outsides" of other people it's easy for me to assume I'm "broken" in weird ways that no one else is).

Things are so much easier in cartoons. Sometimes I wish I lived in a cartoon. But a nice cartoon, like Ponies, not like one of the Seth McFarland cartoons.

And, just, everything. The fact that I have to click through on about eight different things just to post something on the BlackBoard page for my classes. And it's humid and gross out and I hurt and I'm wheezing a little bit from the humidity.


And I don't know, maybe I'm a petty person for this, but I feel whatever the opposite of bad is about Lochte losing his endorsement deals. Actions have consequences and I've spent too much time on too many college campuses where athletes doing both little and big bad things (or just being unpleasant humans) faced no consequences for what they did, and I knew that as a non-athlete, if I acted like they did, TPTB would be down on me like a duck on a Junebug.

That said, even talking about it gets the individual more attention than they currently deserve....

Tuesday morning problems

Well, one is more a *gripe* than a problem....

First, pettier, thing, more of a gripe: a couple times a week a "transportation company" tries to leave a comment on here that is merely (apparently; I won't click 'em) links to their webpages. I object to this. This blog does not accept free services nor does it provide free advertising. I am assuming there's some stupid "constant contact" like service that this company has bought that spams blogs and tries to post comments on them - and perhaps has sold the companies on "this will raise your profile."

This is why we can't have nice things.

And this is why I moderate comments.

And it's fricking DEPRESSING to get more spam than real comments. I know I'm not that interesting but still.


Second: I have no landline phone services. Happened to walk by the phone shortly after 5 this morning and found NO LINE ominously showing on the screen. OF COURSE there's no easy way to deal with this online - you are supposed to be "registered" with A T and T but if you register, you have to get an eight-digit code. Which you have to accept FROM YOUR PHONE NUMBER (which is impossible at the moment) or by postal mail, which can take more than a week. (Perhaps if I had their internet service, they'd be willing to send to my e-mail, I don't know. But to not have an "e-mail me this" option is annoying).

I tried calling but of course to reach a person it has to be after 8 am, at which point I will be in the classroom. But hey, they have an automated assistant that tells you it "understands full sentences!"

And then asks you to key everything in from your phone keypad. I've registered the outage and have been told that someone will call me - and they need to reach and ADULT - between 8 am and 6 pm Thursday. Womp womp. So now I have the unpleasant question: do I carry a turned-on cell phone into the classroom, something I generally forbid my students from doing, or do I perhaps miss the technician's call?  Does this rise to the level of an emergency? If cell phones didn't exist, it would (I need some way to call 911 if something bad happens) but then again if cell phones didn't exist, I wouldn't be able to carry one into the classroom with me.

It makes my head hurt.

And yes. I checked the other phone jack in the house (the one in my bedroom, which I don't keep a phone plugged into because it's right next to my bed and if I'm sleeping, I don't want a phone ringing in my ear). It's out too and I wonder if maybe a tree branch came down somewhere and took out a phone line but I don't know my neighbors well enough (if any of them have landlines) to ask them if their phone is out. Bah. (I had several neighbors move away in the past few months, and one house is being renovated and is currently unoccupied).

Monday, August 22, 2016

Monday's not over

Ugh, so I don't have an original idea in my head. (It's possible I saw the Franklin Habit thing in passing somewhere and forgot I had seen it, and then thought I came up with something clever. I've also had, more catastrophically, research ideas that then turned out to be EXACTLY the thing someone already did in the first article I turn up)

I need to regain some energy and volition; piano lesson is in about an hour. I need to practice about 20 more minutes but all of a sudden I am TIRED. I don't know if it's just an accumulation of day-stuff (I had to make some cold-calls to places today in re: my grant stuff, and that kind of stuff takes my energy like nothing else. I hate asking people to do stuff for me even if it's their job to). We also had about 10 minutes of extremely heavy rain and now it's super humid and I'm wheezing a bit.

And my elbow - not the one I broke 20-odd years ago, the right one - is bothering me. I THINK it's stress from one of the exercise-book pieces I have to do this week; it involves an uncomfortably long reach for me. It feels a little like tennis elbow. (And of course, like an idiot, yesterday afternoon I was all OH HAI IT IS NICE OUT SO MAYBE I WILL GO AND TRIM BACK THE BRUSH AND CUT OUT ALL THE CRUD THAT HAS GROWN IN so that probably didn't help).

It's also possible that the tiredness is the result of already having been awake for more than 12 hours today....exercise is good, doing it first thing in the morning is good, but getting up early enough to do it kind of sucks rocks.

I had to



I can't quite explain it but when I get an idea like this in my head I have to execute it. And actually, it was a LOT easier than I anticipated. It may not scan perfectly in places but it's pretty dang good, if I do say so myself.... A few links and one footnote provided for clarity.




All about that Lace. Being a parody with apologies to Megan Trainor.


Because you know I'm all about that lace
'Bout that lace, no cable
I'm all about that lace
'Bout that lace, no cable
I'm all about that lace
'Bout that lace, no cable
I'm all about that lace
'Bout that lace... lace... lace... lace
Yeah, it's pretty clear, I knit with size two’s
And I can slip slip knit, slip slip knit, like I'm supposed to do
'Cause I got that hap shawl that all the traddies* chase
And all the right holes in all the right places
I see the magazine workin' that arm knittin’,
We know that fad ain't real, come on now, make it stop
If you got laceweight, laceweight, just raise it up
'Cause every inch of shawl is perfect from the bottom to the top
Yeah, my mama she told me "don't worry about your gauge"
(Shoo wop wop, sha-ooh wop wop)
She says, "Good blocking can save you any day "

(That wet-block, uh, that wet blocking)
You know I won't be no Wil Wheaton colorwork clown
(Shoo wop wop, sha-ooh wop wop)
So if that's what you're into, then go 'head and move along

Because you know I'm all about that lace
'Bout that lace, no cable
I'm all about that lace
'Bout that lace, no cable
I'm all about that lace
'Bout that lace, no cable
I'm all about that lace
'Bout that lace... Hey!

I'm bringing Shetland back
Go 'head and tell them modern knitters that.
No, I'm just playing, I know you like yarn that’s fat
But I'm here to tell you...
Every inch of shawl is perfect from the bottom to the top

Because you know I'm all about that lace
'Bout that lace, no cable
I'm all about that lace
'Bout that lace, no cable
I'm all about that lace
'Bout that lace, no cable
I'm all about that lace
'Bout that lace... Hey!
I'm all about that lace
'Bout that lace... Hey!
I'm all about that lace
Bout that lace...
Hey!
Yeah yeah... ohh... You know you like this lace... Hey..


(*Traditional knitters, or in general, people interested in "heritage" clothing)

Someone stop me

So maybe I had Megan Trainor on the brain because of this but in an unguarded* moment this morning I saw an ad for Interweave's lace collection from Piecework and immediately my brain started singing:

"'Cos I'm all about that lace, about that lace...."


(* When unguarded, my brain free-associates like crazy)

And dangit, now it's added:

"Well, now, it's pretty clear, I knit on size 2's...."

I'm....gonna have to take part of my afternoon and carry this out to its logical conclusion, no? This is like an earworm where you have to hear the whole song to get rid of it.

So far, good

* I have only one person across my four classes who has thus far failed to show up (or to notify me of a reason for their absence). We'll see. I don't have any objection to ratting out people who try to get Financial Aid and then take a runner (it's happened in the past and I was actually helpful in busting one guy who was apparently sucking down state resources but failing to do the classwork he was supposed to). Attendance counts are due Friday but if I don't see that person by today I think I'm going to go ahead and put my attendance in and mark them as a "never attended."

* Seems  like I have a critical mass of engaged people, at least in the two upper-division classes, and that makes my life easier and much better. I am a lot better at tuning out That Guy who is sitting texting during class or That Girl who gossips and doesn't pull her weight during lab when there are a group of people on the front row who are working and are interested.

One of my friends on ITFF is fond of commenting on how the "student as consumer" mentality breaks down - it's not like we're fixing a burger for them at the Braum's; it's much more we're like their personal trainer at the gym: they have to actually SHOW UP and do the work if they want some benefit; it's not just "we give you money you give us product." I haven't yet been brave enough to pull that analogy on the rare "I pay your salary!" person who wants a grade for showing up and warming a seat occasionally, but eventually I'll run out enough of darns to give that I will.

* Did some research reading over the weekend. I need to try to keep up with this because it makes me feel less dull and stupid. I do think the "keep 'em busy all the time" model - where there isn't time to read or contemplate or think - is bad for people who are expected to do things that are, at their base, creative (coming up with research questions and especially here, figuring out how to do that research with limited equipment and funds).

One paper I read was about carpenter bees, and specifically male bee behavior. I learned a few things:

- male carpenter bees cannot sting. I may have known this and forgotten it but the researchers in one paper kept talking about how they captured and paint-marked male bees and I was all "wow, we got some bad-@sses here" because really, who grabs a bee and sticks paint on it? Well, if they can't sting it's not a big deal, and carpenter bee males are a pretty good sized target...

- The bees I've seen hovering are probably "guarding" female bees near the nest sites and just biding their time to get in for a mating. It looks like the big male bees kind of harass the females into mating whereas the smaller male bees hang out at the food sources and apparently try to persuade the females to mate with them. I am being heavily anthropomorphic here but yeah....frat-boy bees and nerd bees, maybe.

- also the holes I saw on a cedar tree that I blamed on sapsuckers was probably carpenter bees. It seemed weird to me that a sapsucker would want to drill into a cedar because I think cedar sap would taste gross. Then again, I'm not a bird.

- The authors noted that the aggressive bees would often collide in mid-air, sometimes hard enough that it was "audible." Of course I immediately thought of this old Far Side cartoon and now I imagine a sound like tiny coconuts colliding when the bees run into each other.

And yeah, I would probably be "secretly delighted" if I was out in the field and I got to hear a couple of aggressive male carpenter bees collide. Then again, a lot of weird biology stuff secretly delights me.

* Also on Saturday I MAY have seen a pipevine swallowtail at my Malvaviscus arboreus (this is commonly known, among other things, as Turk's cap hibiscus). This is one of the BEST plants I've ever had for getting cool pollinator-type things to visit - I have also seen a hummingbird at it every day (it's either a female, or it's late enough in the season that the male's breeding plumage has gone away - all we have are ruby throats, and this one doesn't have the red patch on its throat). It could have been a dark-form female tiger swallowtail (the color patterning in tiger swallowtails are weird and I think that the color dimorphism is actually sex-linked, in that if you see a dark-form one, it will be a female...yes, a quick check reveals I'm remembering right; males are always the yellow and black, but females can either be yellow or dark).

Once in a while I've seen giant swallowtails, which are super, super impressive butterflies (almost as big as my hand) at the Abelia bush (which, even though it's not native, is also a super plant for pollinators and it does not seem to be invasive) but haven't seen any this year.

The Turk's cap was a housewarming gift from the husband of my then-grad-student. Fifteen years later it's still growing, still comes up every spring, and still has tons of flowers. It never seems to suffer much from bugs and it tolerates our dry weather without my having to water it. I highly recommend it as a perennial shrubby thing if you live in my part of the world and like seeing hummingbirds and butterflies.

One thing I am vaguely contemplating this fall is ripping some more crud out of bad places and seeing if I can replace it with plants that would be good butterfly plants. It gives me so much pleasure to see butterflies and bumblebees and the like hanging around my yard and I want to provide more for them. I'm wondering if there's a part of my yard that would be damp enough to support buttonbush - I don't even know if you can buy it commercially but I remember when I went to that butterfly identification workshop up at Tishomingo, the buttonbushes up there were just COVERED with butterflies. I probably need to talk to our horticulturalist; she is into those kinds of things and I bet she could suggest some good plants. I might even hire someone to do the planting for me instead of me having to dig big divots in my garden to hold shrubs.

I wish I could figure out some good spready shade-tolerant but butterfly-attracting plants to go in the little passageway on the north side of my house. Every year I rip "crud" out of there - mulberries and ashes (no idea where those come from) and tons and tons of that horrible creeping blackberry type thing (I have a few spines in my hands right now from what I tried to do yesterday afternoon) and I'd love to get something in there that would just outcompete all the stuff I don't want.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Another episode wrapup

Upfront confessions and tl:dr:

1. I had some problems with this episode
2. This may be partly "my stuff" and the fact that I have trust issues.

So, this week's episode is The Return of (a) Changeling. (Was it Kevin that the fans dubbed the changeling who showed up to Cranky and Matilda's wedding? However, I'm headcanoning that this week's changeling - named Thorax* - is that very same changeling)

(* "I'm Thorax. This is my brother Cephalo, and my other brother Abdomen.")

The set-up is that Twilight can't stay away long from seeing her niece, and because she is a Professor of One (namely, GlimGlam), she can pick up and take off whenever she wants. So the episode opens on the train.

Joke sequence with Spike having disguised himself because he "doesn't want to be mobbed" by his adoring fans in the Crystal Empire. (Really, Spike? Really?)

We also see that if Starlight Glimmer ascends to Alicorn status, she will be the Princess of Snark.

But when they arrive....no one is there.

As it turns out, there's fear in the Crystal Empire. A Changeling has been sighted, and so no one is quite willing to believe anypony is who he or she says he or she is. (Wouldn't there be a unicorn spell that would reveal a changeling? I mean, they can travel through TIME using a spell, for Celestia's sake....).

But Cadence (standard disclaimer: I cannot bring myself to use the Hasbro-trademarked misspelling of the word there) has a secret weapon.....like any good spy movie, she offers up the first part of a code (No, not "The alpaca flies at midnight") and Twilight is able to complete it. I guess this means changelings can only mimic the outer form and cannot access thoughts or memories of those they impersonate....

Anyway, it proves Twilight and friends are who they say they are.

We also see Sunburst again. He's essentially a glorified stroller here, as he is magically levitating Flurry Heart's carry-cot here. I'm hoping as she matures he at least gets to be her tutor....

Another observation: my, but the palace guard are rather....thick, aren't they? You'd think they'd want the best and brightest for that job, not guys that are essentially the Equestrian version of Paul Blart, Mall Cop. Then again, Shining Armor, even in his new-father-sleep-deprived state, looks like Einstein next to them.

(I kept expecting a "the only good Changeling is a dead Changeling" line somewhere, but then again, this is a kids' show that doesn't promote violence....)

Through a series of machinations, Spike winds off alone. And he winds up finding the Changeling. Who in fact, saves his life and claims to be a "good" changeling: he wants to share love rather than merely consume it, but because of what he is, all of the Ponies are Changelingphobic and won't give him the time of day.

So, okay. Here's the set up for (one of) the morals. It's a "don't be racist" episode effectively. I will say I think "Bridle Gossip" did it better, but then again I have very fond feelings for that episode: it was one of the first I saw (the first summer of re-runs of the show - I was doing field research but not teaching so I'd get home around noon, take a shower, and sit down and watch something while eating my peanut-butter sandwich. I happened to hit on the show one day and was at first like, "Let's see how blatant a half-hour commercial this is" but by the end of Bridle Gossip I was hooked.) Also, I think the moral there was *clearer* - Zecora was just different, nopony knew for SURE whether any of her kind were evil. It was mostly Applejack's xenophobia that got the other ponies scared....

With changelings....well, this was an invading army, a species that tried to destroy. And granted, I know, we're not supposed to be xenophobic and we have a long history of those kinds of things (I knew someone when I was growing up who grew up Japanese-American on the West Coast in the 1940s....and he was in an internment camp for a time. He was less-bitter about it than some accounts I've read, but still). But I do think it complicates the message for children to have the one you should not be prejudiced against as being a former member of an enemy army....even if he explained himself.)

Anyway. Thorax just wants to be loved, but nopony is willing to give him the time of day, because his kin pretty much tried to destroy Canterlot and ruin the royal wedding.

(And changeling larva.....ew.)

Anyway. Spike decides to give him a chance, and tells him that because he, Spike, is ponyfamous in the Crystal Empire, he can convince them to accept Thorax. But first, maybe Thorax needs to disguise his true form?

And so he does....Does he mimic an actual pony somewhere in the Crystal Empire, or make up his own OC? It seems the second.....and Spike has to do the standard cartoon "look at two unrelated things and make up an implausible name" but because this is Equestria, "Crystal Hoof" is actually an entirely plausible name for a pony, so....(And Crystal Hoof is a really cute character design, with a mock-ancient-Greek urn as his cutie mark). Crystal Hoof is passed off as an "old" friend of Spike's that nopony else had ever happened to meet....

However, Thorax has a little problem. He can't quite control himself when he gets close to love and does this freaky tongue thing that freaks out the other ponies. (I'd make a joke that I once dated a guy like that, except I actually didn't....). And so when he approaches Flurry Heart, there's so much love surrounding her, he can't control himself and winds up revealing his true form. And the other ponies freak out and assume that Spike was fooled by the changeling in the form of his pony friend.

And Spike....well, here's the secondary moral of the story. Spike doesn't stand up for Thorax, and as a result is a bad friend at that point in time. So Thorax takes off to save his own life (Presumably? I wonder what the punishment would be for something like a changeling showing up? I don't like to imagine there's anything like "death to enemies" in Equestria, though. Maybe banishment?)

Spike realizes what he did - that he lied in order to protect his pony-famous status and....

Okay. This is where "my stuff" comes in, though it's probably not JUST "my stuff," based on discussions with other former kids. I had experience as a kid growing up where a friend would not back me up on something....or where they joined in on the teasing that others were handing out....because they saw it as a way to be more popular (And okay, on a couple of occasions, I did it myself, to a kid below me in the pecking order. Kids are AWFUL.)

Another "my stuff" thing that makes the whole "make friends with the changeling" thing a little bit less clear-cut for me than the "make friends with the zebra" of "Bridle Gossip" - if my first experience with someone is negative, if they are mean to me or make some dismissive joke about me (it's happened), it's VERY hard for me to trust them, like, ever. That's the fastest way to not become my friend: on our first meeting, play a humiliating joke on me or make me feel like I'm weird. And yes, I know: we are supposed to be fast to forgive but this is one area where I really struggle with it. Oh, I can forgive someone snapping at me or even teasing me if we are ALREADY friends, because I can do the "oh, they're having an off day" thing. But if my FIRST experience with someone is "they're being a jerk to me," they've lost my trust and it's very hard for them to get that back. (That may be a strategy unpopular kids learn to protect themselves. I once had a girl pretend to be my friend solely so she could learn stuff about me she and her friends could use to tease me over later on....)

And I felt the same discomfort with "Keep Calm and Flutter On" where Fluttershy was asked to reform Discord. And I really do think it's related to the fact that I had enough experiences in my younger life that told me when someone is unpleasant on first meeting it won't get much better....fortunately Equestria is better than the human world in that aspect.

Anyway. Spike goes to apologize. Thorax is, understandably, angry, but he saves Spike's life again (I suppose that's the proof that Thorax is actually an OK guy and is not like other changelings). So eventually, after a Spike-song (his only one of the series? I don't remember another) the conclusion is that Thorax will be accepted. And that maybe, someday, he will take this knowledge to all the Changelings and reform them. And both Twilight and Starlight realize that they were kinda wrong, and that maybe even Twilight still has some stuff to learn about friendship.

(And no, I don't think this is going to come back to bite the ponies later. I don't think the universe the writers has created is that cruel....Thorax won't "turn" on them. Oh, maybe he'll mistakenly lead the changelings back and we'll have another Epic Changeling Battle (which I am assuming, based on some of the "Heroes of Equestria" toys coming out, will be a thing). But I can't see Thorax turning out to be a spy or a mole, not after he was given trust.)



(Okay. I just read the EqD followup to see if there was anything I missed I wanted to mention. "Can I Thorax you a question?" LOL. LOL. LOL.)

Also: how soon before we see Thorax plushies? Not long, I am betting.

(No, I'm not gonna make one. I already made one Critter chock full of holes and that's not something I want to do again. That said: the voice-actor gave Thorax a cute voice, and one that seems appropriate to the character.)





some future plans

So, today in church, the person who has been filling the pulpit came up to me and asked: I'm going to be away on September 11, could you fill the pulpit?

I didn't have any thing that is pulling me away at that time, and it's a few weeks' lead-time, so I said yes. And I said I'd check the lectionary, or that I had a few ideas.

(Yes, it is September 11. I don't want to do anything on "The Christian response to that day" or anything like because it's all been said before by people more articulate than I, and I just don't want to do it. I will probably make some oblique reference in the "pastoral" prayer (I'm not ordained so I don't think it can really be called a "pastoral" prayer) but that will be it).

I did have one idea that had been knocking around in my head since doing a Sunday school lesson on it: another look at the parable of the Prodigal Son, from the standpoint that there we actually see TWO ways people get "lost" in there. There's the obvious one - the son who begs for his inheritance early and then goes and spends it on, as some translations say, "riotous living" but then comes back and begs forgiveness. But there is the older son....and he gets lost too, and the way the story ends, it sounds like he could STILL be lost. Because he came to resent his brother and feel taken for granted - "Why did you kill the fatted calf for that slacker? I've been here, working all the time...helpin' out the way I can, nothin' special...." And that's arguably a more-dangerous way a person can get "lost" because it's less "obvious" - and it's a lost they bring emotionally upon themselves.

and also it's a kind of "lost" I risk getting sometimes; it's very easy for me to feel taken-for-granted and ignored and frustrated because I'm ALWAYS the "responsible" one who puts in extra work (or so it seems) and mops up for the people who "forget" or "are tired" or "something else came up" for.

So I'm going to be as much talking to myself as to anyone else, and sometimes it seems that's a making for a good sermon.

Anyway. I had thought of that (because I had been warned that at some point I might be asked to fill in). But I thought: better to check the lectionary for that day.

I just did. Guess what the Gospel reading for that day is? Luke 15:1-10, which is the passage immediately before the parable of the prodigal son (it's the lost sheep and the lost coin, and I can easily riff on the lost coin one, as someone who is good at misplacing things). And I'll just continue on into the Prodigal Son from there; twenty or so verses is not too much for a scripture reading.

They say coincidence is sometimes God winking at you.....

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Braving the wal-mart

I realized I was almost out of eggs, which doesn't work if you're planning to make a crustless quiche later on in the week. (I found a recipe for one made with salmon rather than bacon, and I am going to modify it to stick a little spinach in there because I think that might be good, too. Oh, and use Emmethaler cheese instead of the cheddar they listed because cheddar and salmon just sound like an odd combination to me). I DEFINITELY did not feel like driving all the way to Sherman (also, we're supposed to get heavy rain today), so I decided to try the wal-mart even though I swore I wouldn't go back there until the re-do was finished.

Our local wal-mart is being "reorganized." I do not know the purpose of this. I am HOPING it means they will be able to carry more diversity of stuff, but as I've read the long-term trend is more of their store branded stuff (which, in my experience, is not that great), I'm not hopeful.

What it is right now, though, is a big mess. No one can find anything. About 10 days ago I made the mistake of going in the afternoon and dealing with crowds plus confusion was more than I could bear.

It was okay this morning. Confusing, still, but there was almost no one there other than the workers scurrying around moving things, so it was better than dealing with people with shrieking children or people blocking aisles.

Some aisles were pretty barren. The canned fruit aisle, I guess they are not restocking it until they move it....so I couldn't get some of the things I wanted. And other things are in bizarre places. The aisle with bread, which is backed with the vinegar/tea/peanut butter aisle (yeah, my wal-mart is weird) is now over in the girls' clothing section. (At first I wondered: are they doing this to make people move around more in the store, on the assumption they will see more they want to buy? But the woman working there told someone else that it was "temporary," so).

I keep hoping they will start carrying the little Applegate Farms sausages again but so far no dice. (They were also out of the turkey sausage I had got once as a replacement. This is a problem with the local wal-mart: they don't always restock in a very timely way. I am sure it is a staffing issue, that they are at the bare minimum of staff to save money).

I also think I'm going to continue trying to ONLY do early-morning runs there if I have to go. First, because of avoiding the annoyance of crowds (it is the only large grocery in the county, or the counties to the east of it, so it get really slammed certain times). But also, because there was a Bloomberg Business article out that brought up something I had noticed and was wondering about: crime seems to be higher at wal-marts than comparable stores. (And not just "weird crimes" like someone loosing a monkey in the parking lot that attacks people).  I think a BIG part of this is the low-staffing issue, coupled with the fact that they don't do security guards: practically every time I have been in the Target in Sherman, I have seen a couple security guards walking around. And yeah, I know, in a Big Bad situation, a security guard won't be a lot of help, but I think they do serve as a deterrent. And it was also mentioned about how a lot of wal-marts kind of defer maintenance and cleaning, and the stores are grubby and ugly (I've noticed this) and there's some kind of weird tragedy-of-the-commons thing going on where people respect a place less that's not kept up. And for a while, allegedly they had a policy of not prosecuting/confronting shoplifting of less than about $50, which just encourages petty criminals to go there, I think. (And it raises prices for the rest of us.)

It was also claimed in the article that crooks would roam the parking lot, looking for dropped receipts, which they use to go and accumulate items to try to return for cash. I dunno, that seems like a lot of work for a crook to go to, but what do I know? Just another reason not to drop receipts in the lot (not that I would anyway because Litter). 

But yeah. We've had armed robberies in parking lots, a near-rape, lots of theft, car vandalism, fights....not all at the local store but in the area. And granted, some of those happened late at night when crime is just generally more likely, but the near-rape was in the middle of the day, which is seriously creepy.

So yeah. As I've joked other places, "Conversion to hermit 85% complete" except we don't have grocery delivery locally (which I would be all over if it were a thing: e-mail in my order at the end of the day, meet the guy at my door when I got home).

Then again, there's less chance of finding serendipitous things. I wandered over to the toy section with the vague hope of finding the DJ PON-3 Equestria Girls mini (I kind of want one, but I don't want one at the prices third-party sellers on Amazon charge; the wal-mart has these dolls for at least $4 less than the sellers on Amazon want).

No luck there, but I found another one. (They have all the Wondercoltified versions of the Mane Six, and I think they maybe had one of the Fall Dance ones). But this one was all by herself up on a higher shelf, a little away from the rest of the pony toys and if a local pony fan was hiding it there until s/he came back with more money, I'm sorry:

But not that sorry (I'm more sorry if it was a kid than if it was an adult collector; I remember being a kid with a tiny allowance and having to hope whatever I wanted was still in stock by the time I managed to scrape together enough money. This is Sunset Shimmer, the "mean girl" who got reformed at the end of the first Equestria Girls movie and was a pretty good friend in the second one. I'm not CRAZY about the concept of Equestria Girls but the "mini" dolls are certainly cute. And admittedly, Sunset's character design is pretty cool. (It's hard to see in the photo but she has a "leather" jacket with studs on over her tank top and skirt. And what are ALMOST biker boots)

She doesn't exist as a Pony in Equestria: the mythology is that the human world is an alternate world where there are doppelgängers in human form of everypony in Equestria. Except Sunset Shimmer, because she's a Bad Pony who ran away and self-banished to the human world.

And yeah, that seems symbolic to me: that the human world, compared to the Pony world, is a place of banishment.

Some have speculated that maybe she'd be allowed to return and you know? I think that would maybe be a nice series-ending episode: Sunset Shimmer comes back as a pony, she's welcomed back with open...um....forelegs?....and she declares she is going to strive to be a good friend like she learned to be in the human world. At least, it would satisfy me - I am a big sucker for redemption stories.

Friday, August 19, 2016

quick comment response

Gabriel, I don't have easily-accessible contact info for you, so I'm going to publicly say I am fine with you linking my "if I were born 100 years ago" post. (ITFF, for those unfamiliar, is a board - Ivory Tower Fiber Freaks - of academicians on the knitting/weaving/crochet site Ravelry).

Reading on WWI

I'm still working (back) through "The War that Ended Peace" (Margaret MacMillan). I didn't quite finish it the first time I read it a couple years ago so I decided to re-read and finish it this time.

One thing that strikes me on this reading is the whole issue of the personalities of the world leaders involved. As many issues as we sometimes have with representative government there are more with hereditary leaders (and I would note that we get what we vote for, but also, we can only vote for those who run, and in some cases recently it's been a case of either "hold my nose and vote" or, in some cases, literally leave that ballot line blank because there's neither one I want. I have a friend who talks about her family having to choose between a white-supremacist and a guy under indictment for embezzlement in one district (they voted for the embezzler....)).

Anyway. As of the 2 decades before WWI, France and Britain had more-or-less representative governments, but Germany (which formed as a modern state about 1870), Austria-Hungary, and especially Russia were still strongly monarchic. (Germany had some representatives, but it seems Wilhelm wasn't too interested in listening to them, and Austria-Hungary had its "Compromise," but it was drowning in red tape - or rather, in the multicolored cords used to tie up files for the different committees/subgroups).

One of the big issues with Austria-Hungary was that it was an empire that probably shouldn't have been; it was composed of too many different populations (Kind of like the old Soviet Union, in a way). Austrians, of course, and also Hungarians, but in addition several other places that are now countries in their own right (the Czech Republic, Slovakia....) and a few ethnic groups that I guess have been subsumed into existing countries now (Ruthenians?)

And this tottering, crumbling empire was ruled over (at least nominally) by an aging Emperor/King (he was called different things in the Austria part and in the Hungary part): Franz Joseph. And Franz Joseph had a number of tragedies in his life: his son and heir killed himself; his brother, who could have been next in line, was killed in Mexico (the ill-fated Maximilian). His wife disliked court protocol and was apparently somewhat vain, and she was assassinated shortly before Franz Joseph's death. And the remaining heir, Franz Ferdinand, was impulsive and had some strong prejudices against some of the ethnic groups that made up the Empire. (And of course, Franz Ferdinand himself was assassinated).

In some things I've read, Franz Ferdinand was presented as "It was unfortunate he was killed as he might have been someone who could have helped prevent war" but I don't know: he seems, from MacMillan's description, to be hot-headed, impulsive, not prone to listen to advisors (If I remember rightly, he's the one who had the "morganatic" marriage: he married "below" himself sufficiently far that his family refused to let her children inherit or have the throne.)

(I admit, one of the things I feel while reading this book is a slight frisson that history is getting ready to drop a big rhyme on us)

I confess based on the account in the book, I feel a bit sorry for the old Emperor. He lost several family members, he seems to have been a quiet person who maybe was a little ill-suited for trying to deal with everything at court and also all the competing interests of such a huge territory. He married, but his wife (who was about 10 years younger than he was) disliked court life. He did have a "relationship" (I'm not sure how far it went but I am assuming) with an actress who actually was more of a confidant than his wife...Elisabeth seems to have tolerated that.

Elisabeth interests me. She apparently grew up "freer" than many aristocratic women, and that's perhaps why she hated the strictures of the court. She's described as "shy," but she was also fairly vain - she dieted obsessively, wore EXTREMELY tight corsets (her death, by stabbing, was slowed, because the tightness of her underpinnings slowed the rate of bleeding. And now I wonder, if they had had modern emergency medicine back then, maybe they would have saved her life....). She was apparently very worried about her appearance and concerned about her looks. (Maybe if ol' Franz Joseph didn't have that actress friend, Elisabeth would have been less worried? I don't know)

This struck me. She was a very attractive woman (and was, in fact, seen as a great beauty at the time). There's a picture of her in the book and I've looked up more online, and yes, by the standards of the day, I see it: today she'd probably be pressured to pluck her eyebrows and people would probably say her face was too round, but yes, I do think she was a beautiful woman.

And it's an amazing thing....she was insecure about her looks. I guess most women, or at least most Western women (where in traditional Western European culture - and US culture is an outgrowth of that) do, because for so very long, that was our main "tool" for getting what we wanted. Certainly among the aristocracy, coming from the "right" family or having a large fortune would enhance your attractiveness, but for many women, the security of a marriage was the best security they could hope for (so they had a roof over their heads and food....)

And that's come down to us in modern times. Even I, as a woman who earns her own bread and who (it could be argued) should not worry about such things - well, I can point out to you exactly how I think my mouth is a little too small and my nose is a little too long, and how I have a "fivehead" instead of a forehead (which is why I still wear bangs in my late 40s), and how my jaw is too heavy....

(And yet, at the same time, I feel secret glee in looking at Elisabeth and going, "I have eyebrows kind of like that....and my face is a similar shape". Women are kind of stupid sometimes, and I say that as a woman.)

But it does seem, with the old monarchical style of government, you get a bad or shallow or immature leader, and you're going to have a bad time, because you can't vote him or her out - probably all the assassinations in the past were the fact that that was the only way that a leader could be "voted out." As troubled as our system is, I think I like it better....

Thursday, August 18, 2016

My many talents

* This morning in class (I have a nearly 100% full intro bio class, despite enrollments university wide being down), I had a student come up at the end of class and make a comment along the line of why they took my section especially: "You explain stuff good."

that kind of made me smile, despite the slight grammar hangup. (Yes, I notice those things)

But I wonder if I should put "Good stuff-explainer" somewhere on my CV. It's a useful skill to have.

* This afternoon, dealing with an e-mail exchange. Long story short: I bought a bunch of stuff on my foray to JoAnn's including a yard of a print fabric. When they rang up my bill, I thought, "That's a bit high, isn't it?" but thought maybe the book I was getting was more expensive or something, or I miscalculated the total price of all the notions I was getting in my head.

I had agreed to accept e-mailed receipts, so I didn't have one in-hand to check.

Got home, checked it. Yup. I was charged for four yards of that fabric, not one, so I was overcharged about $30. (Not $40, as I originally thought, but still).

So I e-mailed the customer service: I couldn't very well drive back there, it's 45 minutes to get to Sherman now with the back-road detour I am taking and anyway with classes in session things have been busy.

I didn't hear anything back and kept thinking, "I need to check with them again" but when I thought about it I was away from the computer, and when I was at the computer I was doing other stuff and forgot.

Well, I finally got two e-mails today. One from a person, asking for the store address and phone so she could follow up: apparently any refund has to go through the actual store.

The second one, shortly after, was very short and said, "We have reopened your ticket. We thought this was a matter that was resolved." Which kind of ticked me off: I wait four days, no response, and then you say "we thought this was resolved" What? You'd think I'd forget and go away?

So I responded to THAT e-mail saying, "No, I was hoping for either a credit card refund or a store credit."

Then I got another e-mail, just like it.

Then another.

Then the penny dropped: they have a human person working on the case but there is also a robot working on it. And apparently by responding to the e-mail, I managed to trigger some kind of cascade.

Yeah. I ticked off the JoAnn's Robot. Which I think maybe takes some kind of special talent to do.

(What would a cutie mark in robot-ticking-off look like?)

Also, I am now imagining the JoAnn's Robots look like Rosey:





Except they're all Bedazzled and they have silk flowers hot-glued to them, and maybe they trail marabou trim....


ETA: I wound up with a store credit. The local person (Tabitha) did her best, I read off all the information I had, but their computer was not yielding up the transaction so they couldn't refund my card. (Tabitha said she was going to 'get to the bottom of this' because she said that should not happen). But store credit is fine; I shop there often enough and it's really easier than the "corporate check" or the "I'll put the refund in cash in the safe and you can pick it up next time you're in here" that were the alternate offers, and I hated to keep her on the phone any longer when it sounded like it was a corporate-level mess-up rather than a local one.

oh well.

I wasn't planning on going to Sherman this weekend but maybe next one?