Friday, October 20, 2017

There & Back Again

I left the house shortly after 7 am. The sun wasn't quite up yet, but it was on the way, which made driving then tolerable. Also traffic was very low, so I got onto the interstate with no problems, and from there onto 69. (To get from my house to Longview, you get onto 69/75  - which I call "the interstate," because it is, eventually 69 peels off and becomes effectively a 2-lane; 75 continues on south to Dallas).

I did wind up getting slowed down because I got trapped behind some random "OVERSIZE LOAD" - looked like a piece of heavy road equipment and I kept expecting it to leave at every point of road-construction but it didn't. So I was a tiny bit late getting to Stitches N Stuff, but that was okay.

It was good to see Laura. I don't get to see friends like her nearly enough because we live too far apart. We spent a long time talking, and also talking with Sue and Francis (the owners of the shop).

I found a nice rose-pink yarn for a vest I am planning to make eventually Poet's Vest, a free pattern from Lorna Miser. The yarn I bought is darker than the one shown there, and it's a Berroco merino wool.  I also bought a skein of sockyarn and some size 0 needles - I have been looking at Nancy Bush's patterns again and some of hers require size 0s, or else they're men's patterns that could be made to fit me by dropping down a needle size. And I got some grey dk weight with tinsel in it, because I'm a sucker for sparkly yarn, and I wanted it for fingerless mitts.

From there, we went to Barron's for lunch....and shopping. I had plans to do a lot of Christmas shopping, and I got a lot of it done (stuff for my dad, who is hard to buy for, stuff for my brother, my niece's gift, and a couple small things for my mom and sister in law, both of which can be added to....I might give my sister in law an Amazon gift certificate in addition, I think she uses her Kindle a lot)

Some of that was from Books A Million....

We talked the WHOLE TIME we were shopping. I think once before someone at Books A Million assumed we were sisters (thinking we lived at the same location). I guess our coloring and build is similar, so it wouldn't be unimaginable....(Then again: in adoptive families, siblings could look very different, for that matter). Anyway, we can talk A LOT.

We also went to Michael's, she had heard that the Caron Cakes (variegated yarn) were on sale and wanted one. I had bought the Floppy Little Pony pattern (almost a beanie-baby style My Little Pony) and wanted to look for yarn for one....I didn't really have one in mind, had a vague thought of doing a Lyra or maybe even a Berry Punch....but I found orange yarn and the right shade of "not quite hot pink, not quite purple" in Red Heart Soft....so I'm going to make myself a second Scootaloo, and have this one be a sleepy pony.

(I couldn't think off the top of my head of any recent "background ponies" I wanted a version of....body shape is wrong for Bulk Biceps....and I didn't have any "OCs" brewing in my head I wanted to make up that way).

It was a good day. We split up around 3:30 and I just had to make tracks for home - I had plans to stop at Kroger on the way. That got truncated a bit - it became VERY overcast and it gets night FAST here in the evenings....and it's a new moon. And I see badly in the dark, and I really really hate driving in the dark. In fact, when I got off onto 82 (how you get to the Kroger), I got turned around because of construction, wound up on the wrong road, hit a couple potholes hard (doesn't seem to have damaged my car but I was scared at a time). Somehow, by the grace of God, I managed to retrace my steps (making a big box shape - none of those "access roads" are two-way, so if you get going on one the wrong way, you have to find an overpass to cross over to the other one). Finally got to the Kroger.

I had stopped previously at a Brookshire's in Emory or somewhere because I had to gas up and also I had drunk an extra-large iced tea to wake myself back up and also to stave off an incipient headache and....well, I had to get rid of that iced tea. I also quick bought four cans of apple pie filling ("to be polite" since I used their restroom, but also I needed it - I help feed the college-kids ministry Tuesday and I am making apple crisp as the dessert)

Anyway, I grabbed what I needed most (milk, some fruit, and a fresh jar of Duke's mayonnaise - which is my preferred brand these days and which can be hard to find) and paid and scrammed. By then it was very night out. I did my best, but I admit it scares me a lot driving in the dark - no familiar landmarks are visible, I don't judge distances well, oncoming drivers' headlights hurt my eyes. I tried doing the "Every minute you are safely on the road is a minute closer to being safely home" and I tried the old "anti-fear mantra" from "Dune" but finally the only thing that worked was praying a lot. I don't like driving at night because I don't judge distances well and I feel like the only thing I can see are the white lines - which, really, are probably all you need to see, but, fellow drivers aren't fun - there was one idiot weaving in and out of traffic, going about 15 miles above the speed limit (If there was any justice, I'd have seen him pulled over by a cop, but that didn't happen). There were also a couple of either overtired or impaired people - there was an 18-wheeler that kept slewing over onto the shoulder. I could have passed them but stayed behind on the grounds that I wanted to be able to see them, so I could take some kind of evasive action if I needed to. There was also someone who nearly sideswiped me, and then nearly sideswiped the 18-wheeler in front of me. Drunk? I don't know. But it reminds me why I dislike driving at night, especially on weekend nights.

I'm glad I went, and glad I got to see Laura, but also glad I made it back home.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

three quick photos

I didn't get as much cleaning done as I intended (haven't picked up my bedroom yet, nor have I wetmopped the wood floors, but I could do either this evening...)

But, I did put one thing I bought last week up:

spiderlights

I don't decorate much for Halloween but I saw these spider lights (that's what they're supposed to be) and kind of liked them, so...I decided to put them up. When they're done, it's probably not TOO early to do the fairy lights again....it stays dark later in the mornings and soon will get dark earlier in the evenings, so it's nice to have some lights.

("Spiderlights, spiderlights. Does whatever an...LED does?" I think they're LED, at least)

B. Sharp

And a recent blindbag acquisition, which makes me laugh (if you can't read that, his name is "B. Sharp" which of course makes me think of "Baby on board, something something Burt Ward....")

The eyes are generally a lot larger on this wave of blindbags than the earlier waves.

And finally - a photo of the progress on the Owl sweater. You can see the first band of eyeglasses and beyond that is just the veriest beginning of the tails of the larger of the owls....

owls continued


And tomorrow is my Longview trip. I especially don't feel guilty taking a whole day with no piano practice as my teacher is out of town next week, so I don't have a lesson - so I can take the day off practicing, I think. 

Slight holding pattern

It's mid-fall break. Today is (was?) deep-clean the house day. I deep-cleaned the bathroom and I did a lot of sorting but I'm fast running out of steam. (At least I dusted down the cobwebs from the walls where they had formed). I'm taking a few minutes to digest lunch (and maybe do a little more piano practice) and then I will attack things again.

Tomorrow I am going to Longview and meeting up with Laura and getting lunch and shopping for Christmas presents for people and probably breaking my yarn fast. Saturday, thus far, I am leaving totally open to stay home and relax (perhaps putting the binding on the quilt that's sat for nearly two weeks unbound).

The house was BAD. Part of the problem is: small older house with very limited storage and person with probably too much stuff - so I tend to pile stuff, and it is hard to clean around it some times.

And also, I think just being busy, and also I think all of the shocks and problems of last year (the budget cuts, the furlough days) kind of took away my motivation for some of that kind of stuff. (I won't go so far as to say I was "depressed," but my reaction was, on a low level, similar to what people experience - a lack of motivation to do stuff and less enjoyment of things you used to enjoy).

Also I wonder if the beta blocker just screws things up. I mean, I suppose it's good that I'm not blowing out little blood vessels and overtaxing my heart, but I can notice that when it comes to Getting (Stuff) Done, I am not quite so able to put in as full of full days as I once was, and I find a lot of the time when I get home I really just want to sit down for a while before I try to do anything else.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Lots of thoughts

* Something occurred to me this morning. I was reading an article on MetaFilter (I know, I know, but...) where people were complaining how the "skeptic" (I presume: "Agnostic and atheist") movement had been taken over by the "mansplainer" type - the person who seems to know it all, who (stereotypically) responds to something someone says with "Well, actually....*"

(*one of the funnier jokes I remember from Twitter: "Where does a mansplainer get his water? From a well, actually....")

And they were kind of bemoaning the whole thing. And I realized something: this is something that happens in a LOT of communities. Fandoms. Discussion groups. Other places. And I realized it boils down to a couple of things:

1. Humility. This is, I think, the biggest thing. If you're not willing to allow the possibility that you might be wrong, you tend to fossilize in your opinions and then want to make everyone else AT LEAST aware of them, but also try to convince others of them. If you have humility, you're willing to go "Okay, maybe I'm wrong" or "Maybe my experience isn't universal" and I think that opens the door for being more willing to listen to other people.

I know some of the most annoying (to me at least) people I've had to deal with in recent years were ones who would not allow the possibility that either they were mistaken (sometimes even when the proof was staring them in the face) or that their experience wasn't universal. (Also known as the This Diet Worked For Me So It Will Work For You mindset)

Another thing, and I've not talked about this annoyance but it is one: the whole "Science: it works, b*tches" mindset irks me. I am (at least nominally) a scientist. I do research. I crunch numbers. One of the things I've had handed to me again and again is that it's entirely possible to be WRONG about stuff. And also, an ongoing theme in ecology at least - what is the case in one system may not be in another system.

The people who talk about how much they "love" science....well, in a lot of cases, it seems to me that "science" as an amorphous concept is a replacement for whatever religious structure the person has rejected. Science is....in my mind, it's more of a tool. It's a way of relating to the natural world. The problem is, a lot of the "I ****ing Love Science" crowd seem also bent on sucking any of the mystery and wonder out of things, or at least that's how some of them talk about it. And that makes me sad. Yes, I kind of understand what is known about monarch butterfly migration but STILL I look at them and am AMAZED that something that looks so fragile and is so tiny flies thousands of miles to a place in Mexico that they've never seen, to hang out over winter....and that they are phenologically different from the other generations of butterflies in that they hold off reproducing for MONTHS until they come back into the US in the spring....and it does amaze me and make me wonder at it.

Maybe I'm different from some folks in that I kind of have a "foot in both camps" - I do science for a living but Sunday mornings I'm in church, so I can still kind of look at stuff in nature and, while I'm not a creationist, it's like....I don't know, the phrase "fingerprints of God" would not be too far away from it.

And again, as I said, science is a tool, really. Or at least that's how I see it. (And I admit: just as some days the dude who makes shoes for a living probably really hates his last and awl, there are days I just get tired of science. Where I'd rather go do something else)

2. The whole gatekeeping thing, the "you must be this enthusiastic (or cool, or knowledgeable, or whatever) to join." This seems more common in fandoms, but on some level it exists everywhere.

(I STILL remember someone on my Master's committee commenting how my research - something I spent two and a half years of my life on - was a "nice little project" and yeah, someone later told me, "Don't mind what he said, he's just a butt" but still...it stung, and it still stings when someone dismisses something I put a lot of effort into).

I mean, yeah, I get it: the way some people feel big is by making others feel small, but it's not nice. And I doubt the "big feeling" lasts very long.

Also, as I've said before, especially about craft gatekeeping, where you're unwilling to let people make mistakes at first, or unwilling to pass on tips and hints - that's how a craft dies; we need new people getting interested in stuff to sustain it.

3. Nitpicking every darn little thing. Again, this is a bigger deal with fandom, and perhaps in some areas (like writing manuscripts) you HAVE to nitpick your work. But the whole, "Oh, they used an OFF color palette for Lyra Heartstrings in S2E6 she was THIS PARTICULAR SHADE OF GREEN (giving the HTML color code) instead of THIS SHADE (giving the different code) and that's evidence of how sloppy the animators were at first" (or worse, going into some big fanmade conspiracy about how the ORIGINAL Lyra is dead and the one we have now is a replacement....)

And again, it's part of gatekeeping - and part of not being humble; it's wanting to show everyone how involved (or how smart) you are by going into EXHAUSTIVE detail about stuff. And I admit, while I love geeking out on some things (I once waved my hands and said "it's parasitoids inside parasitoids" in class when I was talking about how some gall wasps take over the galls that other gall wasps use), the nitpicky type of geeking out seems designed to build walls and set the person up as an authority, rather than (what I hope I am conveying) the feeling of "Look, this thing is really cool, look what I learned about it!"

And yeah, there is kind of the micturational combat of "I'm a bigger fan than you are!" that seems to be inherent in these things. I saw something on tumblr (I am heavily paraphrasing here) that a pony collector wrote:

"Me, to a guy I'm chatting up on a date: "So I have this toy left over from childhood, her name is Sparklewishes and she's a pony with hair you can comb. Oh, and she has a star on her butt" 
Him: "This is nuts but tell me more about it"


Me, to a guy I met in 2013: "So I have this toy named Sparklewishes and she's a pony...."
Him: "Yes, I know VERY WELL what she is, but do you have the ORIGINAL pose or the remake that was issued six months later? And do you still have her original ribbon? And anyway, I have turned her into an OC and she is now featured in my eighteen fanfictions where I describe in detail her various fetishes...." "

And yeah, that's extreme, but.....the whole "Let me cut you off and tell you how I'm better than you" thing doesn't exactly....predispose me to want to be your friend (or, anything MORE than "friend" for that matter)

I dunno. Being human is difficult and I don't like it when people make it MORE difficult.

*I said "I know, I know" about MetaFilter and one thing I'm learning about reading that place is: wow, there are a lot of people who like to talk about how THEIR way is the BEST way. There was one thread recently about....I forget what, cord-cutting maybe? Where of course the "TV rots your brain and I haven't had once since 1978" crowd had to weigh in.

And a more recent one was about something called FIRE (Financial Independence; Retire Early). And yeah, for some people, that's an admirable goal, and if you want to try for that, God be with you. But. Apparently some of the gurus of this think people who choose to live otherwise are "foolish" and it's almost like the bad old line "Nothing tastes better than thin feels" (which is a dirty lie: when you've been working out in the mud and heat for five hours, and you come home and fix yourself, say, a roast-beef sandwich, there is NOTHING that could feel better than that refueling.) The idea is you deny yourself a lot of the little treats of life in order to pile up that money so you can leave your job early....

And yeah, no. Okay, I get being frugal. I am frugal in some ways. I carry my lunch to work (though that is as much out of a "Ugh, there are no restaurants nearby, and anyway, restaurant food has too much salt and the portions are generally bigger than what I can eat" as anything). I'm not a gadgeteer. But I like comfort. I like having nice tea and good soap and keeping my house at a comfortable temperature (That's another thing: the people who hold out FOREVER before putting the heat or air conditioning on depending on season. I'm sorry: if I'm shivering in  my house (like I was yesterday at lunch - it was down to 67 F) I'm putting the heat on, even if just for a bit, even if I just heat it up 2 or 3 degrees....) I feel like, I work hard, I should have some little enjoyments NOW, especially since I know how to budget and I am not breaking the bank. But apparently some of these gurus would tell me to use the cheapest possible brand of soap* from the wal-mart or that tea is too expensive and I should drink water instead....there's almost an aggressiveness about some of the programs, like if you aren't following the most extreme model, you're weak and a worm and all of that, and....life is hard enough already.

(*Or make my own. That's another big thing in the frugality movement. And it's great, I suppose, if you enjoy it and have time.....but I do not have time to make laundry soap out of lye and fat, and it wouldn't "spark joy" for me....and a lot of the frugality people seem to elide the fact that being super frugal often means doing the equivalent of another full-time job, and you know what? I'm so tired these days when I get home that having to go out and, I don't know, grind grain for flour, would make me want to weep. If we have to put up with some of the awfulnesses of the 21st century, I feel, we should also take advantage of some of the good things)

And part of it is, "What am I living for, then" - yes, I know, "deferred gratification" but there's a point where you need SOME gratification. Being able to sit down with a nice cup of tea or buy new sheets just because is a pleasure.

And the other thing is this: life is uncertain. I know too many people who were struck down younger than they wanted to be from cancer, or a heart attack, or a car wreck. And, for all we know, we could wind up "all going together" at some point. (What is the Doomsday Clock at now? Two minutes to midnight?) And I don't know, I feel like saving every single darned penny for some future that may never actually happen, to the point where you are kind of low-grade miserable now, seems not a good strategy.

(One thing we were discussing in Policy and Law is how "people are bad at moderation." And I think that's true: I often fall victim to all-or-nothing thinking, and I am more self-aware of that tendency than some. And I think some of the more extreme frugality programs are almost the reverse of the hoarder psychology - instead of buying and keeping everything, you are buying and owning nothing, and neither one of those strategies works to fill whatever hole one might have in their soul. I'd rather budget and maybe forego some things (lots of restaurant meals) but be able to buy a nice book now and then, or have slightly better-grade groceries, or go antiquing once in a while with the plan of "if I see something I really like, I can buy it")

* My allergies are v. bad this morning. I guess ragweed pollen is high. We need rain, badly. (We might get some this weekend. I sincerely hope we do - would also save me having to water the field plots this weekend.

I'm also sore. My knees and hips hurt and I don't know why. I wonder if allergies can make you hurt like that. (I had what was maybe a cramp in one of my shins earlier, but it's gone away - I was afraid, based on the pain, that I had "tweaked" my knee and damaged it - because of the way the female pelvis is, apparently, it's easier for us to "blow" a knee by turning badly, and I know I turned sharply in my office yesterday and felt a tiny "pop" in my knee (like cracking a knuckle) but it didn't hurt....but the pain has gone down now (it was bad enough it made concentrating on piano practice hard) so I don't know. It could be I overtaxed a muscle slightly in the workout this morning.

* I'm making some progress on the owl sweater; I have started the first band of "big" owls. I guess I'm not TOO terribly far off of the "divide for armholes (which, thank goodness, will be steeks: I would hate doing colorwork where I had to do PURL rows and think about it "backwards")

I also worked a bit more on the new socks last night. I may need to intersperse some simpler projects with the owl thing. 


Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Coming up soon

One more day of classes, and it's my mid-fall break.

(Right now, I am trying to write a Policy and Law exam. I can wait a TINY bit on the bio exam, because I have no one in there - currently - who has accommodations where I need to get the exam over early. I also want to see how far I get on Tuesday).

Oh man, I need a break. Badly. Part of it is just the ongoing pressure of keeping up with Policy and Law, part of it is teaching four classes, part of it is I forget just how IMMATURE first-year students can be. Sometimes the immaturity works in my favor, when they're super-deferential and a little scared, I can use that to encourage them to study hard and stuff, and sometimes they surprise themselves by how well they do. But this semester, there are a few people where....well, I'm just kind of worn-out and demoralized when I walk out of class. It doesn't help that it's my second 75-minuter of the day, right after Policy and Law.

I'm telling myself, "get this exam done, then you just have tomorrow, then Thursday you can attack your messy house, then Friday you get to have fun, and Saturday you get to relax" but it's kind of hard to see that far right now.

I do need to:
a. get some cash so I can pay cash for many/most/all of my purchases
b. look over a few of my patterns to see if there's anything in particular I want to look for yarn for
c. think a little about possible Christmas gifts for family; part of my plan is to knock out at least a little of the shopping then. (I take the gifts up at Thanksgiving because that's the only time I see my brother and his family, and anyway, I have a LOT more suitcase room then)

It will be good to get out, and good to spend the day with a friend AND doing things that have nothing to do with work.

I also might consider, if the Books A Million has stuffed Jiji's, getting one, and making Kiki (from Kiki's Delivery Service) my halloween costume. I have a long, black dress, and I have a silk scarf (orange, not red, but that's okay) that can be her hair bow, and I could get an old-fashioned broom to carry, and have Jiji. (Or, failing finding one in the store, Amazon has a few you can get with the 2-day delivery)

I still don't know, though - Halloween falls on the day I have my class with the gigglers and while I loathe the idea of the "heckler's veto" preventing me from doing something I enjoy, still....that class just wears me out.

My other thought was to get a grey hoodie and pants, and go as Fiona the hippo - I bought a super cheap gray mouse-ears headband at the Five Below that I could either wear, or take the ears off and put on the hoodie, and I'd make a big "Hello my name is" tag and put "FIONA" on it.

But again: as a fattish woman in a class with gigglers, I wonder about the wisdom of going as a hippo for halloween. (Ugh. I hate this. I look at Fiona and see "cute baby hippo that beat the odds" but I know other people would look at her as something else)

I can't think of any historical figure I'd want to do, not without a lot of initial work/buying. There aren't that many recognizable women naturalists of the past, and I went as Beatrix Potter last year. There aren't any recognizable women statisticians, and no one knows the well-known women botanists (and I think Agnes Chase was a tiny little thing, so I have the wrong body type there).

I also got a pair of black-cat paw-gloves and clip-on ears in the most recent Doki Doki box, but the whole "catgirl" thing, in otaku culture, has some strong sexy overtones, and I don't want to go there. If I could just innocently go as a cat, I would, but given the 18-22 demographic I know there are some who wouldn't JUST see a cute cat. (And I'm really too old to be a catgirl, anyway).

Ugh. Maybe I won't dress up at all, I don't know. That makes me sad because that's one of the things about being on a college campus, that you can get away with a costume at work on Halloween, but I can't think of anything particularly good that won't set people off.

(I still might go as Kiki if I happen to see a Jiji for sale in the stores.

The other thought I had, if I had a plain green dress of the right color, was to get a pink rabbit-ears hat and go as Louise Belcher, but (a) I don't have the right kind of dress (and have no time to make one, and no desire to scour the stores for one) and (b) my personality isn't quite ruthless enough to be Louise. (I am more of a Tina, but again - not gonna dress as her, because of my gigglers.)And anyway, I don't have anyone I feel comfortable recruiting to be other characters - if I had a couple like-minded colleagues I could get to be Tina and Gene, that would be awesome, but more or less I'm the only one who dresses up.

(Yeah, I'm still feeling unconfident after some stuff that happened this week. I hate mean people.)

I don't know

So, thinking I'd have an earlier night than usual, I went to bed.

I wasn't asleep yet when I heard beeping. Like an alarm. At first I thought, "wait, I just emptied the dehumidifier" but then I realized it had to be something else. I got up and at first thought maybe it was the CO2 alarm, but no. I realized (directional hearing) that it was the smoke detector.

It wasn't the "feed me new batteries" chirp, it was the alarm. I stood there for a moment, looking around: there was no smoke, there was no smell of burning. I haven't put the furnace on for the fall yet so the only "combusting" appliance going is the hot water heater, and that seems fine. No evidence of an electrical fire (that is a big worry of mine...I try not to overload the circuits).

I took the thing down and pulled the batteries. A malfunction, maybe? I didn't know what to do.

Of course, by now, I was fully awake again.

I put the batteries back in and tested it. It seemed to be okay, and I stood and stared at it for a few minutes to watch the "one blink a minute" of the LED that says "it's functional and everything is okay).

At first I was just going to set it on the bathroom counter rather than trying to reach up and screw it back in to its mounting, but then I thought (late-night thoughts): what if there really were a fire tonight? You wouldn't be alerted to the smoke until it's really bad. So I reached up (I was NOT getting the stepladder out at that hour) and managed finally to fumble it back into place (It is about 6 1/2 feet off the floor, maybe a bit more, the absolute limit of my reach)

Then I took it back down. What if it went off again? What if something really WAS wrong? I know you're supposed to clean these regularly but I don't keep canned air on hand (you can blow the dust out of them). I sort of shook it gently.

At that point, a tiny (like 1/8") wasp-like insect fell out of it. I didn't think much of it then, but later wondered if THAT could be the cause of the alarm triggering - obviously, it was nothing, because my house is still intact and fine this morning, and the alarm didn't go back off in the night.

And I remember, shortly before they moved away from the house in Ohio, my parents had a problem with the (hard-wired) alarm system - they spent one night trading off time in the basement, where the control panel was. The fire alarm would periodically go off and it was LOUD - in fact, it was audible outside the house (it was set up to automatically call the fire department, but I guess the idea was an alarm going off might alert the neighbors that help was needed?) They knew nothing was burning in the house, but the alarm kept going off....and then my mom figured out if you sat near the control panel, you heard a tiny "click" right before the alarm went off, and you could hit the "reset" button and stop it - so, as I said, they spent the night (and part of the next morning, until the tech got there) doing that. (Apparently my suggestion of "tape down the reset button" didn't work)

Anyway, when the tech got there, he was like, "Yeah, we see this from time to time" and took the housing of the sensor off, cleaned out a spider and its web, and left a bill. The spider moving around in there somehow made the thing sense "smoke" and go off. So I'm wondering if the tiny wasp in mine did the same thing.

I will say - I should change the batteries when the time changes. Even though mine does a chirp when the batteries are out it's probably good to change them once a year anyway. (And I need to get a new one for in my bedroom; the one in there is over 10 years old and I don't even know if it would go off, and with all the white-noise machines I run, if I were hard asleep, I might not hear the one out in the hall)

But it took me a while to relax again and go to sleep.

Monday, October 16, 2017

drop in confidence

Argh, why does this still happen to me? I wish I could get to the point of not giving a flying flip what people thought of me.

Part of it was something my student said to me while we were working. She is closer to my age than the age of the "traditional" college student (I don't know exactly but I think she must be in her early 40s based on what she's said). And she commented: "A lot of the traditional-aged students, they're so mean. They talk behind each other's backs, they say terrible things about some of the professors."

(I didn't ask if they said anything about me. I don't want to know; I don't need THAT in my head tormenting me. The mere idea they might be talking smack about me is enough).

She was raised, it seems, somewhat like I was: to be kind, to consider the other person's feelings, and, in the good old line from Bambi, "If you can't say somethin' nice, don't say nothin' at all."

And granted, there are times when you have to be firm. Or have to say the hard things someone needs to hear - but in the long run, that IS being kind, because you are helping the person grow. (It makes me sick to my stomach when I have to do it, but I do it).

But just being mean and rude because you can? Oh, nuh-uh. I've said before I'd rather talk about what I love or what makes me happy because once in a while, when you're doing that, someone else goes, "Oh, I love that too!" and maybe you find yourself with a new friend.

(And now I'm also thinking about the Scripture passage from two Sundays ago, which I got to hear three times - once in church and then the minister read it at each place we visited. The relevant line is this - "Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things" (Philippians 4:8). That is one of my favorite verses, along with the good old "hold fast to what is good and pay no one back evil for evil" (I Thessalonians 5:21, though I've added a bit, I think, from the previous verse) And yeah, that's true. And it's one of those things - the first time I heard it that day it did catch me a little, because that's one of the things I love and it does me good to hear it).

But anyway. That was working on my mind today. And I walked down the hall to meet my student so she could pick up the mini generator (long story, but - she was able to borrow an electric tiller to work up the soil, but we had to borrow a generator from the Grounds Crew for that - so we stowed it over the weekend in a storage building I have a key to). And I passed a few students. And they looked at me, and then giggled. 

Why? I have no idea. Maybe it wasn't me, I don't know. Yes, I know I dress a little strangely - I am the only one who regularly wears dresses or skirts, and my hair is a little different from a lot of the women professors, but honestly, I'm not SO far out of the norm (it is not like my hair is fuchsia and this wasn't even a short or tight dress - and yes, I get self conscious about that after that bad crew I had a couple years ago). 


I remember when I was a kid, my mom would say, when I complained about kids "smiling at" me, "Maybe they're just happy to see you, or they think you're pretty." No, I didn't buy that, even as a kid, because there's a difference between a happy smile and a "we're plotting against you" smile. 

And I know. I shouldn't give a flip what students think because most 18-20 year olds are ignorant (I was) and can be tactless (because they themselves are insecure: laughing at someone else is a way to banish the fear that people may be laughing at you, perhaps). 

And, in a bigger sense, my faith tells me the only being whose opinion I should care about is God's, and I trust that God loves me and anyway he knows that I try (oh, how hard I try) to do the right and good thing in my life. 

But it would be nice, I think, to either (a) never have to deal with people who seemed to think I'm strange or laughable or whatever or (b) more likely, to be able to quit CARING about it and just be me. But I still don't know how to do that.

And yeah, yeah, the people who matter seem to have a high enough opinion of me. But because I'm too good at concentrating on the one little bad thing, it's the people who seem not to that get in my head.

This is worse when I'm tired or things are otherwise not going well. Today I was tired - I wrote (well, modified from existing ones, really, by changing up the data) three take home exams and one in class exam, but I still have two more exams to write for next week...And I'm tired because I slept less than I should (was wide awake at 4 am so just got up and worked out). I think I'm going to let myself sleep in tomorrow; I can get in a short workout in the afternoon.

I dunno. This is why I tend to be a little bit of a hermit - I'm happier when I'm at home working on a quilt or even just tucked up in bed with a book, because I don't feel like I'm being judged.

And it's Monday

Saturday was pretty much a blur of work, both in the field and at home.

Sunday I did pick a little bit on the Owls sweater (this is going faster than I thought; oddly, I think things that have numbered rows, where I can go "hey, I did five rows today" instead of the "knit five inches plain" tend to go faster for me). I should photograph it again at some point but I JUST started the tail on the big owl so I want to get a little farther first.

I also started a new pair of "simple" socks - one of the "ribbed sock" patterns (I forget which one, it's the 63-stitch one) from Nancy Bush's "Knitting Vintage Socks" book. I am using a Biscotte and Cie. yarn in a colorway called "Apple's Heart." (Am surprised the name on the site is in English; this is a Quebecois company and many of the names are in French). As you might guess, there's red in there, but also white (well, of course: the heart of the apple) and a green stripe with black flecks (seeds). I bought the yarn partly because I liked the colors but also partly because I liked the name.

I worked on that (just got a couple rounds done) while watching (on DailyMotion) the MLP episode I missed on Saturday because I was in the field. (I like that. I like that I can miss something I really want to watch and I don't have to wait and plot for the re-run to come on, or wait until it's out on DVD - and of course, when I was a kid, none of that existed, so if you missed something, you missed it, and being 'grounded from tv' for bad-behavior right before a show you REALLY wanted to see was a serious threat).

The episode was cute. ("Secrets and Pies")- Pinkie Pie keeps foisting pies on Rainbow Dash. It turns out Rainbow doesn't actually like pie* but, not wanting to hurt Pinkie's feelings, she doesn't tell her, and then it just keeps going, and at some point, it's gone on so long, RD CAN'T tell Pinkie, but then she has to and....yes, the "be honest with your friends" message is one that's been done before, but it was a cute episode. (And a little call back to the HILARIOUS AJ "I learned nothin'! I already knew!" lesson from the Super Speedy Cider Squeezy episode)

It felt to me, in a way, like a throwback to the earlier seasons of the show, and I mean that in the best possible way - simple and cute and relaxing to watch, no heavy "grown up" moral and no tension building for future weeks.

(*Confession: I was afraid that this was going to turn out to be a "message" episode in the Very Special sense, and it would turn out that either RD had to "stay slim" to be able to fly, or else she had Pony Diabetes but didn't want to tell Pinkie. Fortunately they didn't go either of those places, it was simple dislike)

This week is a short week. Today, tomorrow, and Wednesday will still be busy, but then I get a long weekend. Tentative plans are to deep-clean (mostly decluttering, really) the house on Thursday, I meet up with Laura in Longview on Friday, and Saturday, my plans are mostly to stay home and either knit or sew. (I still have to get the binding on the latest quilt.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

and once again

Back where I was last week. (in "Fort Too Many Stuffed Animals") working on grading, and hopefully later, taking notes on the land uses stuff - not quite done with that.

Have tentatively named the new barn owl "Sophia," because Sophia was, in early Christian writing, the personification of wisdom, and owls are supposed to be wise. (But also because of Golden Girls.)

My student and I got the research plots set up today. Remarkably, my bum shoulder got better as we worked. (Arthritis? Maybe. Maybe it was not having used it the right way recently coupled with carrying my too-heavy purse on that side yesterday. I'm just glad it got better - it was very hard to take my dress off over my head last night, and I almost couldn't braid my hair (it was painful to lift my arm that high) and turning over in bed *hurt* and I also laid there and worried it was tendonitis or something and I'd have to give up knitting and piano, at least for a while, and how would I write on the board in Biostats Monday when I can't lift my arm higher than my shoulder?

But it got better overnight, and it is still better now.

Oh, and the little blue glow you see off to my right is this:






I left the goofy little string of LEDs up after Christmas. I don't put them on often, but they do lend a LITTLE more light for working (I still have never replaced the ceiling fan/light fixture; it's mostly that I never have the nexus of "bedroom clean enough for worker to come in + enough spare cash to buy a new one + time to go shopping for one." I need to sometime, though.)

And back to grading...


Friday, October 13, 2017

a little relaxation

I did get all the marketing done; hopefully I have at least the makings of food for a good while, and I have a few "treats" (the pre-prepared refrigerated flavored beets: they are more expensive but they are so EASY that I am more prone to eat them, and some better cheese, and the makings (for next week) of bolognese sauce....).

I finished my Sunday School lesson and the piano practice, the two big OTHER essentials of the day.

One thing I have noticed: for me, these days, stress comes in the form of  "oh my pizza, I have fifteen things to do, when will I get them done" and I can deal with that stress effectively by just sitting down and starting on the first thing.... once I get a few things done and it doesn't look like I have a giant tipping-over pile of stuff I have to do, I feel better.

I did also buy two dresses. Well, Kohl's had a sale. I originally went in there to see if they had pantyhose (long story, but: I find I suffer less from hives-on-the-legs when I wear them. I don't know either.) I buy the most dead-cheap kind I can wear (L'Eggs "Everyday" or whatever they call the multipack boxes). But, of course, even most Southern Ladies (let alone Southern Women) have given up on pantyhose so they can be hard to find.

The wal-mart reliably has them, but, ugh - making a special trip for that? No.

So I thought I'd try Kohl's, not wanting to fight the Friday-afternoon Target crowds.

Nope - they carry Hanes, which cost perhaps 3 times as much and have no guarantee (I have never worn them) if they will last any better. (I am hard on pantyhose - I go outside sometimes where there are snaggy plants, and I tend to bump into the corners of filing cabinets, and I stretch in ungainly ways, and I'm a little bit fat even though I DO buy the Q size.)

I didn't feel like buying one pair for the cost of 4-5 of the cheaper kind, so I didn't. BUT I found two knit dresses, ON SALE (and there was an extra 15% off). They had them both in my size. And they are super cute, especially this one (it's sort of a taupe, with tiny "squares" made of lines in pink and cream. And it has bell sleeves, which I kind of love.

this is the other one.  (They call it "confetti blue" but the color really looks more teal to me)

Both of these are kind of at the absolute limit of "short" for me. (They are longer on me - like, mid to bottom of the kneecap - than they are on the model).

I needed some "transitional" clothes for when it's not 80 degrees out but also not 40 degrees, and some of the dresses I've had are like 20 years old, and even with careful washing, they are wearing out.

(And as it turned out, Kroger's had the L'Eggs on their "women's stuff" aisle - with the shampoo and tampons and that kind of stuff)

So anyway. I got what I needed. I got most of what I needed to do done - I did the piano practice and the Sunday school lesson and I thought, "You know, there's still time before bed, I COULD try to grade those exams" but then I decided: I already work too damnably hard for my continued health, and if I happen to wake up extra early tomorrow (my student and I are meeting at 8) I could start them then.

I also have a sore shoulder which concerns me a little. I'm hoping I either slept funny on it or I carried something in a "bad" way - it's my right arm and earlier I had just a tiny bit of weakness in the hand, but I think it was from the pain. I did worry a little because that's the arm where I got the flu vaccine last week - but I think a serious problem would have developed before now. (And heat seems to help). It does feel more like I slept funny on it.

Also, I do need to stop buying myself "treats" when the week is hard - because every week pretty much is, right now, and I do need to remember to save money for next summer. But this came:

Yes, it's a round bird. A borb. It's supposed to be a barn owl; it's one of those "Squishable" toys. No name as of yet, I will have to think about that.

I have a few of these - they are very soft and have a nice shape and





They also make good small throw pillows on the sofa.

I did finish the first sleeve on Grasse Matinee and started the second; it will be good to have that done. I have a few exams coming up so I need to have it set aside as an invigilating project. (I also want to get back to Augusta, though I've mostly been working on the owl vest - on that, I am up past the first band with spectacles on it)

I finished "Greenwitch" the other night and immediately started "The Grey King" which is the next in the series. I'm enjoying these a lot - more so than some books, they are "immersive" to the point where I forget the stuff that's bothering me when I read them and they are that kind of writing that, for me, comes alive when I read it - I can imagine the places and what the people look and sound like.

The Grey King is interesting in that it is set in Wales - Will Stanton is sent to recuperate (after a bout of hepatitis - I presume Type A, as Will is an innocent pre-teen) with his Welsh relatives, and, in the mysterious way these things work out, the next thing he will have to do to prevent the Dark from gaining a foothold.

(The books are not explicitly, or even outwardly, Christian: in fact, the imagery seems to be older and more Druidic, but there is still the idea of Dark and Light and that the Light will win yet needs to fight against the Dark)

There are some bits of Welsh in the book - a language I know little of, and it doesn't really match to the Irish Gaelic I am trying to learn (they are more different, I think, than are, say, French and Italian - I can suss out some Italian from knowing French, but I can't even guess at what some of the Welsh is, other than from context - I now know diolch is "thanks" but I may run some of the other bits through Google translate (or pester my Welsh-speaking Twitter buddy with them) because I'm curious.

These are "kids'" books but again, like many "kids'" movies, I find them a more enjoyable entertainment and perhaps even being able to teach me more than many adult-oriented things. And Susan Cooper assumes her readers are curious and intelligent; she does not speak down to them, and I like that.

needing time off

I can tell. I'm tired and borderline headachey and lots of things are getting to me - not annoying me so much as just making me sad.

Right now, a lot of women are boycotting Twitter today over the perception that it's unfair to women (someone got an account suspended because she posted a personal phone number, and allegedly men who have done similar doxxing haven't had that happen.) I can't speak to the accuracy of the facts behind the boycott because I don't know them, but:

1. Something like this isn't going to fix whatever inherent unfairness there is
2. People who have a low opinion of women online are not going to change it, especially not over a day of silence.

3. Sometimes Twitter is the only thing approaching "water cooler" talk I get in a day.....and so it's going to be a lonely day when a lot of my XX mutuals are off.

And I hope my decision not to join the boycott doesn't set some people off. This is what I hate about making the personal political: there is always going to be someone who questions your reasons for your choice. And to me, I admit, it feels a little like the arbitrary rules girls used to set up for other girls in school: "On Wednesdays, we wear pink." or "I don't CARE if you're having your period, we don't wear jeans on Fridays!" and how they police one another and can be almost as abusive as some of the boys are towards other girls.

I am tipped just ENOUGH to the non-neurotypical end of the spectrum that I could never understand the rules or their purpose, which was probably why the tween/early teen years were so awful for me. (Or maybe the point was: unless you were making the rules, they were not something to "understand." I just remember they changed capriciously and I could never keep up)

Gah, humanity stinks. And my sad, lonely 12-year-old, eating her cream-cheese-and-jelly sandwich in a dark corner of the lunchroom, by herself, has risen to the fore yet again.

Part of this is, no matter what choice you make, you wind up disappointing someone. And I don't like disappointing people. (I'd rather disappoint myself, which is probably the root of a lot of my unhappiness these days). I also found myself thinking of the time in....what was it, fifth grade? When two friends of mine, who, for some reason, strongly disliked each other, told me I had to choose between them and when I refused to, they "boycotted" me for an entire week.

Given the pain I suffered over stuff as a child, why am I not a better artist?

I almost started crying while trying to practice piano this morning. Granted, it's partly that I'm frustrated it's taking me so long to master this Bach piece (the Prelude in D Major from Well-Tempered Clavier) but also.....just everything else. The fact that I arrive on campus 3 hours before someone else and yet they still feel free to shunt a pile of work to me at 3 pm as they're walking out the door, and expect I will make the time to do it before the next day. Even though I've told them multiple times how close I am to the end of my rope given this new prep. Just all of the rumblings in the news. (I see Wisconsin is hatching a plan to merge 2-year and 4-year colleges, and I could see Oklahoma doing that, and it being a giant cage match: two professors of a subject enter, one leaves, and I don't want to have to fight for my job, and I especially don't want to think about having to go back on the job market at nearly 50.)

And my house is still a mess. I cleaned a little (mostly putting stuff away and sweeping floors in the "public" rooms) before piano, but my bedroom and guest room and sewing room are still nightmares.


I'm still going to Sherman today. I don't WANT to, I don't feel like driving an hour's round trip and I have other things I have to do, but I also can't bear going to the wal-mart this afternoon (and won't have time tomorrow morning).

I know I need to get happier, but the problem is: when finding time to buy groceries becomes a problem, that means you're too busy, and right now I can't quite envision how I would manage to become less busy. I will be VERY happy when this semester is over - even though I have three afternoon labs next semester, all my classes are existing preps, AND I am only teaching three classes instead of four. Hopefully then I will be able to get back to having a neater house and a better cared-for yard and maybe more time to knit. 

Thursday, October 12, 2017

My oxygen mask

I give an exam tomorrow. Saturday morning my student and I set up the fall run of the experiment.

Normally, I would take Friday afternoon and push to grade the exam but you know what? I think I'm going to hold it back - if I get home early enough on Saturday and am not too wiped out, I can do it then.

Because it's been about a month since I've been to Sherman, I'm getting a little low on food items I cannot obtain locally, and *I cannot take another Saturday morning of looking at the un-restocked Wal-Mart shelves*

So, tomorrow afternoon, after I walk out of the exam, I think I am going to Sherman. The biggest plan is to get to the natural-foods store and the Kroger, but I *might* also get a barbecue lunch out and I *might* also either duck into the JoAnn's to see if they have the new issues of magazines I buy off the newsstand, and just generally be somewhere that isn't here and that has more things relevant to my interest than what the shops here do. (I might also run quickly into the Ulta - which is practically next door - and see if there's any small, nice, indulgent thing I need. It's been a hard week.)

I feel *slightly* guilty about that but then again, I have one person who is leaving for a sports thing and will have to take the exam first thing Monday, so I perhaps couldn't hand them back Monday any way.

And maybe I do need to back off a tiny bit from my "have stuff graded for the next meeting of the class" practice - some weeks it about kills me to do that, or I wind up not attending to other things (I have not scrubbed my kitchen floor in....well, I don't want to admit)

Next week I DO get a bit of a breather - it's mid-fall break and while I have Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday classes (the local kids are, I think, out all week*)

(*I boggle at how many days schoolkids get off now. We'd get some of the Federal holidays, and maybe one teacher in-service day in the fall and one in the spring, but we didn't get a week at Thanksgiving or a mid-fall break or some Fridays off....and of course my industrious mother would look ahead at the calendar and plan our doctor and dental checkups for the days-off, so not only did I not get to enjoy my day out of school, but I never got to get excused to go to the doctor.)

I have plans Friday for a meet up with Laura which I need SO BADLY. You have no idea. You have no idea how I need to have someone to talk to about stuff that is not work or church business or something where I have responsibility. And I need SO BADLY to just go to nice stores and look at nice yarn and books and frou-frou things and indulge myself a little bit. This semester has been a heck of a hard slog, mainly because of the new prep. (I will say the class seems to be going better than I thought it might, and so far no one seems to have figured out I really don't know much about this stuff....)

But I also have Thursday and Friday and while I WILL need to have exams prepped for the following week, if I make that my Tuesday-afternoon push, I could take Friday and Saturday (and Sunday after church) off. My tentative plan is a deep-cleaning of the house (oh dear Lord it needs it) on Thursday and then spend Saturday either sewing or knitting.

But even a week feels long to wait, so I think I'm going to Sherman tomorrow. The upside is if I buy carefully, I won't have to do much of a grocery run while on my break. (I am kind of growing to dislike grocery shopping and see it as a necessary evil. I might feel differently if there were a super-nice store* less than a half-hour's drive away, but there is not)

(*No word yet on when Pruett's is going to remodel, but even there they don't seem to carry everything I need)

thinking about stuff.

Thinking about the news of the week, and, because I'm probably too good at seeing patterns where there might be none, thinking about how they intersect....

Specifically, thinking about the mess over "Szechuan sauce" at McDonald's. And thinking about the stories we hear *every* "Black Friday" now, about people getting stepped on or crushed or otherwise injured in a mad rush to get one of a small number of expensive and coveted items for a lower than normal price. And also thinking about people (men, mostly, but not exclusively) in positions of power who use that power to get things they want....and to abuse people in the process (I am thinking in particular of a now-disgraced Hollywood figure, whom I will not name here).

And I was also thinking about the news about one of the few tv shows I watch regularly ("NCIS") - I heard this week that after this season, the actress who plays Abby is leaving the show. And in this week's show (sorry, spoiler alert): Ducky is taking a sabbatical of sorts; he is going to be in New York teaching and writing a book.

The character isn't totally written out and I bet they line up "consults" and the like with him. But still. Ducky and Abby were two big reasons why I stuck with the show all these years.

My reaction to Ducky's change in status was: "Oh. Bummer. Well, I know the actor who plays him is older even than my dad, and while he seems to be in good health, I bet it's a gruelling schedule and he wants to cut back"

I mean, I'm sad, but I get it.

And the same with Pauley Perrette, who plays Abby: she's a couple years younger than I am. Maybe she wants to do something else. Maybe she's got some kind of a family thing going on (ill parents, or a partner who needs more help....)

I'm sad, again, and my reaction was along the lines of, "If the cast changes too much, maybe I just wander away and find some new scripted show to watch"

(I *like* NCIS: New Orleans but it is on far too late for someone who gets up at 4:30 am to watch, and I am old-skool, I do not dvr.)

But I'm not angry. Stuff changes; the writers go the direction they want to. (I AM glad that they may write Ducky out as a retirement, rather than having him wind up dead on that beach several years ago when the character had that heart attack). They don't really owe me, as a single viewer, anything. (Also: I don't think I've exactly supported most of the advertisers on the show).

But that seems to not always be the reaction people have - it seems to be more common to throw a tantrum when you don't get what you want.

Another thing - some years back, when I returned home after a trip, I went to the post office to pick up the mail they were holding. The person at the counter (she knew me: she used to be my mail carrier) jokingly said, "Oh, no, we only do mail pick ups on Tuesdays and Thursdays now." Because I am not always good at picking up on tone of voice, I thought she meant it and that the rules had capriciously changed*  and I kind of sadly said, "Okay, I'll come back tomorrow" and gathered up my bags and was going to go when she stopped me and laughed and said she was kidding, she was going to go get my mail for me.

(*I work in a bureaucracy so I am perhaps a bit more....Stockholm syndromed....to capriciously changing rules than normal people)

But, when I think of it: a lot of people she might have done that to would have suddenly gotten angry. Might have said, "I pay your salary with my taxes!" or something similar. Screamed at the person.

And it makes me wonder: what's the difference between me and that hypothetical person?

Part of it's personality: I'm inclined to be meek. I'm inclined to accept capricious rule-changes because I've been through so many. I don't like upsetting other people and I don't like putting other people out (like service workers).

Part of it is upbringing: that I was taught to treat those who serve you graciously and kindly, because they work hard. (Well, some of them do)

But part of it is, I think, I never developed a sense of entitlement. I think that's what connects the Gross Hollywood Mogul to the 20-something dude screaming at a McDonald's worker over nugget sauce: they both think somehow they're *owed* something, and while the Gross Hollywood Mogul apparently more often than not got it (because he could make or break careers, and now I wonder if there isn't a cadre of talented women out there who would have been actresses, who looked him in the eye and said, "I'd rather waitress FOREVER" and that's what they wound up doing), they both think they're entitled to it.

And not just men: The middle-class white woman who throws a fit in a store because the service is slow or they don't have exactly what she wants is common enough to be a punchline to a joke.

I dunno. I've had my share of people who have done those kinds of "I pay your salary!" things to me, or the "But you're keeping me out of pharma school because you didn't give me an A!" thing. (Oh, man, on that last: No, YOU are keeping yourself out of pharma school. You failed to EARN an A because you apparently regarded the lab exercises in my class as unimportant and you failed to hand in four of them, and in fact, that loss of points IS enough to drop you from an A to a B. Live and learn, kiddo.)

But I do think I find one of the more wearying things about modern life is the sheer volume of people who seem to be willing to scream (or, in internet-birb-slang, SCREM) if they don't get what they want. And yes, in some cases you MAY need to be firm and unresisting when you are due something and you are not getting it. But it is possible to be firm yet polite, and to not alienate the bystanders with your behavior.

But also, there's wisdom in knowing....knowing in which situations it is appropriate to plant your feet and say, "No, I'm sorry, I was told that fee does not apply to me, here is the piece of paper that says so" and to continue to calmly repeat that until the unjust fee is waived, versus the situations of where some thing you want is out of stock, in which case you say, "Oh, too bad. Any idea when it will be available?" and you thank the person whether or not they can tell you.

And the problem is: I think we're increasingly becoming a culture without that kind of wisdom.

(Really, it's just the good old Serenity Prayer:
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

Though maybe more like:

God, grant me the serenity not to go off on some poorly-paid worker when they're out of something I want, the courage to stand in resistance against wrong and unfair bureaucratic rules, and the wisdom to keep my mouth shut when it's a genuinely minor matter.)

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

A book list

Lynn did this, so I guess I will, too. There's a big list of 200 books everyone should read at least once. Like all these lists, there are some I have read, some I want to read, and some you probably couldn't pay me to read.

So, here goes:

Some of the have-read:

A

I had the big  Martin Gardner "Annotated Alice" when I was a teen, learned a lot about metaphysics and the jokes Carroll made. Of course now the fad is to think of him as "squicky" because he idolized small girls, but I think Victorian attitudes were different (i.e.:"Presentism" causes problems)
Read it in high school. One of the many pieces of literature that came out of the first World War that is a pretty good condemnation of war.
I remember the tropes ("Some animals are more equal than others") better than the story.

B
Alternately amusing and depressing. I remember this mainly for the discussion of whether it's better to totally discard your past (I think the symbol was a large stuffed toy panda?) or if you need to carry a little of your past with  you
Read it as a child; one of the early books written to make children aware of animal cruelty, I think. I still shudder a bit at the idea of check-reins, even though I know they have their place in some instances. (Nothing is ever as simple - all good or all bad - as it looks on the surface)
Took me a long time. I really detested Mr. Skimpole and kept hoping Ester would find happiness
Read in high school for a class. The dystopia we will probably get, and perhaps the one we deserve
I know I read it because of the teddy bear, but I think I was FAR too young to understand the full implications of the story (again, I was in high school)
C
Loved it as a 14 year old; probably couldn't stand it now. Phonies are everywhere and you just have to learn to put up with them.
Read it many times as a child. Pretty much a wish-fulfillment novel.
Also read several times as a child; I still reference Charlotte's children in one of my classes when I talk about unusual dispersal mechanisms: they ballooned out of there on silk threads. (Also, I always thought it unfair that Charlotte did all the work but Wilbur got all the credit)

I love this novel and try to re-read it every year. 
I loved this: it was very funny. I probably need to re-read it some time soon.
Read it in high school, don't remember much of it.
D
I thought this was a better book than "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory," though that's the well-known one
Creepy and wonderful - a genuinely scary story. 

E
Probably a good book to have read; I didn't particularly enjoy it. There are some unsettling characters in it.

G
I read it in junior high. Found it somewhat tedious. 
Probably my favorite Dickens - has lots of interesting characters and settings and you can genuinely cheer for Pip.
Arguably the greatest American novel but one I found kind of depressing each of the three times I read it. That is perhaps the point - the characters' lives are all hollow.
H
I think I once said this was like being beaten over the head with a feminism stick and I stand by that. I didn't like it and I suspect if we get a dystopia, it won't be a Christan-like one as the book posits. 
I like the Harry Potter books. Have not yet read the last three - I know they get progressively darker and more of an allegory for fighting a totalitarian regime; I admit I prefer the more carefree depictions of feats and Quidditch. 
  • Heidi by Johanna Spyri
Another childhood favorite; I still talk about "running away to the side of a mountain and raising goats" because of this book. It has great wonderful cozy descriptions.
Read it as a young teen, don't remember it all that well.

J
Read this one a number of times as a kid. I liked it, too. My copy was a gift from one of my aunt and uncles. 
Liked it as a young teen, probably would find it tedious now.
Read this VERY young (like, 8), probably didn't get what it was really about.

L
Another huge childhood favorite. (Most of the books I seem to really love were children's books). I re-read this on a regular basis.
Have read this in both French and English. I have a nice new Folio Society copy and I want to re-read it soon.

M
Couldn't get into it, even with a gloss for all the maritime terms.
Somewhat interesting, not that memorable
One of my all-time favorite novels and I should probably re-read it soon. Largely about learning to live with the choices you make in life rather than running from them, and how you can find happiness even after a "bad" choice.
I don't know if it counts if I'm not done with it - I enjoyed parts and didn't enjoy others.

Read it as a teen, found it somewhat tedious.


P
Funny and good. My second-favorite Dickens novel. 
Read it for book club, found that it left me kind of cold. (Many modern novels d0)
Also tedious. I've read most of Irving's stuff (mostly while in my 20s); I enjoyed it then but I think I'd find it tedious now. Owen Meany was one of the more unlikeable characters to have an entire book written about him.
Liked this a lot, but I think I liked Sense and Sensibility a bit better. Jane Austen is one of the few authors I know who does "snarky" well. 

S
A book I had a hard time putting down. I guess I liked it despite the subject matter, perhaps because of the prep-school-like atmosphere.
 
 
T
I enjoyed it. Suspenseful but not horrific, as I remember.
A favorite book when I was a teen, I still remember big chunks of the prose from it. Pity that Harper Lee apparently had only one real book in her.


W
One of the few fantasy novels I was able to get through. Also, there is some actual ecology in there
Another favorite book of my childhood; I often think of Mole being "called back" to his home.
I think I mainly had this read to me, but I think I read it myself when I was a bit older.
Oh, I loved this one! Creepy and wonderful and the first novel I ever read that raised the question of the unreliable narrator in an explicit way. I recommend it.  It's both mystery and mild horror.
I know I read it but don't really remember it.
Read it after I was 30 which maybe was too late. I got really annoyed at all the people mooning about over other people who weren't "right" for them.
1-9
  • 1984 by George Orwell
Read it in high school. We had to read a lot of dystopia in high school. I think that's why I won't read dystopian fiction as an adult - burned out on it back then, and am also too good at imagining it coming true.


Of the ones I want to read?

Anna Karenina
Emma
Count of Monte Cristo (and The Three Musketeers)
maybe some of the Pratchett
Day of the Triffids
Diary of a Nobody (I've heard it's very funny)
Gormenghast (I have a copy somewhere...)
I Capture the Castle (have a copy, never yet have read it)
Les Miserables
Lorna Doone
Perhaps some of the other Dickens I have not read....

I admit, I lean very heavily towards "older" novels, but too often I have been disappointed by modern "literary" novels - either they are cavalcades of human dysfunction, or there's a lot of violence, and they are generally not good pre-bedtime reading....

Thought for today

I heard this quotation ages and ages ago in English, but I now understand enough German to see it in the original:

"Mit der Dummheit kämpfen Götter selbst vergebens."

Schiller, of course, from his play "The Maid of Orleans," and apparently the quotation is not something that means something different "taken out of context*"

A simpler American translation is "You can't fix stupid."

I need to remember that. Because these days it seems we're trapped in a lot of stupid things: bureaucratic rules that seem like Joseph Heller wrote at his most sadistically ironic, people who double down on bad behavior when someone calls them out, people who talk about how everyone needs to be "better" while misbehaving terribly themselves. 

(*And yes, that's another bit of my frustration: someone saying something that is really rather unhelpful to a situation, and then later, when "called" on it, complains, "But you took what I said OUT OF CONTEXT")

There is a.....I see it as a millwheel of sorts, you know, those big heavy sandstone wheels that used to be used to grind wheat or corn?...a millwheel of stupid in our culture right now grinding away. The trick is not to be crushed by it.

Some days I am. When I have someone drop a pile of collaborative work on my desk at 3 pm and say "See if you can do something with this" and then they walk out the door to go home (and I have been there since 7 am, when they rolled in around 10). Or when a student skips class multiple times and then complains they didn't know a particular topic was going to be on the exam (I announced it and...oh, you weren't there. And you weren't there the other time I announced it. And I guess you didn't read the review sheet I posted?). Or someone gets annoyed/hurt at something someone else did, but instead of confronting the person, they dump on everyone else and then flounce.

Again: "People are illogical, unreasonable, and self-centered: love them anyway"

But yeah. I ran across this essay on the Schiller quotation. I liked it. I especially liked the Tina Fey advice about trying to ignore the people who are irritating you unless they are directly in your way (though I suppose, you could argue: if you are in a position where you can put a stop to whatever harmful -ism they are doing, it's your duty to, for those younger and more vulnerable than you. Though I admit I am getting old and tired and I have fewer "spoons" for that sort of thing than I did in the past, and most days the best I can manage is a sort of passive resistance - not rising to bait, not laughing at unfunny jokes, excusing myself from some conversations, and generally just keeping on keeping on at whatever I'm doing. I don't know).

The thing is, though: there is a lot in day to day life that just is stupid. Because stupid rules get made because rule-makers are lazy or petty or think that ever-more-restrictive rules will rein in the rule-breakers, when all it really does is antagonize the rule-keepers. And there are an awful, awful lot of people who seem to be stuck on stupid, or really more, I think, stuck on selfish (as the news this week has shown us).

And as much as I'd like to fix it, I can't. I can't fix much in this life. I need to get better at accepting that, and seeing when something is, as I said "stuck on stupid," not to get out a metaphorical rubber mallet and bang away at it, trying to unstick it, until I exhaust myself.

I need to get better at just walking away from some situations and not feeling obligated to try to do something to fix it. I have always had a bad habit of taking responsibility for things that aren't my responsibility.

(Example: this Sunday at church, one of the elders was absent. Not the one who was SUPPOSED to read the announcements, but the other elder is fairly new and I guess he didn't know it was his job....I ALMOST jumped up and did it, but then thought, "No, you don't want to step on his toes if he's going up..." but then no one got up and the minister had to read them. And I ALMOST apologized to the minister after the service for not doing it....and then I realized: it wasn't my job this week. I wasn't the one who forgot. And I did have to fill in for the absent person. (And I'm on this week, and next week, and probably the last week as one of the people I've slotted in there seems to be someone who can never make it their week. I am just hoping I keep having the right words to say and don't run out.)


But yeah. There seem to be a lot of things that are just stuck on stupid, and I suppose the "New Normal*" is that I just try to tolerate it instead of wearing myself out trying to fix it.

(*I still hate that phrase.)

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

the little things

I got to come home today for lunch. I don't get to do that OFTEN, but it's always good when I do.

I didn't get a cup of tea on Sunday (too busy) or Monday (got home past my self-imposed "no caffeine after..." window). So I made myself one now. I admit, I look forward to the tea as much as the food these days.

(I made "Chocolate Treat," an Adagio blend - chocolate and coconut and black tea and it really does taste like a cupcake or a truffle. I know tea snobs might sniff, but I like a lot of the flavored teas - and these are echt: actual coconut and chocolate nibs rather than (purely) "flavoring" in it. I will have to buy more when I run through this sample).

Anyway. I really looked forward to that cup of tea. And I had to laugh because I thought of something my mom told me after their trip to London (back in 2004 or so) - they had met up with a few other geologists (it was international meetings they were at; I think that was the year my dad was president of one of the societies he belonged to). One was from Belgium. (My mom described him as "a great, big guy: very tall and also very wide"). And how they went out one night to a pub for dinner, and the Belgian ordered a pint of beer, and when it arrived, he licked his lips and said, "Oh!  I have been waiting all day for this!"

At the time, I thought I'd never quite feel that way about something, but yea, I can see it now with me and tea. (I have never liked beer, and anyway, I think my personality/particular neurotransmitter weirdness probably benefits more from the slight stimulant/mood elevator in tea than it would the slight depressant of alcohol...)