Tuesday, May 23, 2017

one quick thing

This is one of those weird funny animal behavior things you see.

My parents' yard is overrun with chipmunks. They are more of an annoyance than squirrels, because they dig in my mom's flowerbeds and try to bury seed there, and they make holes everywhere. (By contrast: the squirrels get into the feeders but that's about it)

My mom has a hanging mushroom-shaped sunflower seed feeder (I gave it to her for Christmas year before last) and the chipmunks would climb the pole and eat the seed. Well, my mom wanted ONE feeder for the little birds, so she greased the pole, which seems to discourage the chipmunks. (Next step is mixing cayenne pepper with the seed: allegedly birds cannot taste it and are unaffected, but it repels mammals)

But then she saw something, and called me over to watch: a chipmunk was climbing up a piece of garden statuary and launching itself at the feeder. But, because either its depth perception is poor (can't judge distances) or it can't jump that high (chipmunks are not really adapted for jumping UP), it would sail past the feeder, missing it by about half the distance, and then land on the ground on the other side. And then it went back, climbed the statue again, launched itself in the same shallow parabola, landed on the ground - it kept doing that for quite a while before it gave up. (And we stood there and laughed, because it just looked SO funny).

But yeah. I had two nearly collide with me (I think they are breeding; I think they are permanently in breeding season when they are not hibernating) and a friend of my mom's sprained her ankle nearly tripping over one in HER yard.

(I have threatened to live-trap, mark, release, and re-trap them to try to estimate how big the population is, but I suspect it might be bigger than my limited ability to trap-and-mark).

Monday, May 22, 2017

it's the 1970s

A couple weeks back, this was shared on Metafilter:

It was offered up in the context of the Comey firing, and comparisons made to the (ahem) political events of the early 1970s. But I was a child in the 1970s and knew little of that, but hearing the song - wow, that takes me back. I don't think I ever heard that specific song, but it seems very much of a type of the era:

- vaguely patriotic (the Bicentennial was in 1976, of course, and I remember it)
- vaguely optimistic
- no real solutions but hope is offered up
- sort of folk-rock-y

And yet, even as a cynical and somewhat-embittered 48 year old, I still like it. And yes, it reminds me of the mood (at least, what sense I got of it, as an under-11) in the time: people hoped things were getting better (despite the economic hard times), people remembered there were good things about the country (The Bicentennial, again),

I think the same spirit sort of imbued the early Schoolhouse Rock pieces, especially the historical ones:

I can still recite the Preamble thanks to that (and yes, I know it is really "We the People of the United States...," Schoolhouse Rock took out the "the United States" bit so it would scan better).

I dunno. Maybe I was more innocent then but it does seem that there was oddly more optimism - even in an era before smartphones and the Internet and before cable tv was so widespread. (Hm, though maybe I wonder if the absence of 24-hour-news channels contributed to greater innocence and optimism....)

Oh, I'm probably wrong about that (there were riots, there were lines at gas stations), but....and I can't quite put my finger on it .... but there was a sort of hopefulness that better things were ahead, and I don't get that sense so much today. Even IF there are likely better things ahead (there have been remarkable advances in cancer treatment, we may be close to a treatment for spinal paralysis that will allow people a greater degree of autonomy in their lives....)

But yeah - I hear that song and I can remember being six or eight again, that song is very much the sound of my childhood years.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Back to myself

This is something I've noticed this spring, and I'm happy about it: my resilience seems to be returning.

I think part of it was that 2016 was a series of SO MANY unpleasant shocks (family and friend health issues, budget cuts, uncertainty as to the future of the congregation I belong to) - it seemed at some points like EVERYTHING that really mattered to me (family, church-home, work, even my own health) were under attack and things were just going to get worse and worse.

But things have gradually (mostly) improved: my family's health is mostly stable now; things at work are more stable (we are probably in better shape right now than many of the regionals and I remain confident in the intelligence and good sense of our university president); things are looking up at church (excellent new minister, a few people have joined).

And I find I'm a lot better at bouncing back from the little slings and arrows - which every day brings anyway, even in the best times. I'm interested in quilting again, more interested in knitting again.

I just hope it continues for a while. I know one of my faults is I am strongly affected by "externals" - a friend or loved-one receiving good news can buoy me up for several days, same with something good happening for me. But similarly, someone I care about suffering weighs me down, or if someone is rude or sharp or unpleasant to me, or if there are just bad things happening (like, for example, I had Fun Plans and something beyond my control forced me to not do them).

But I am beginning to find some new fun things. I hope the longarm quilting at Lulu and Hazel's works out, so I have somewhere to take future tops. And I hope that the nice little quilt place in Denison keeps going, and the places in Whitesboro - yes, I have to drive more to get to them but I guess that's OK.

And having a summer off, that will help - I think maybe I WAS getting a bit burned out last year and maybe this time to regroup, refresh, do some different things, and also take time off will be good for me. (And maybe, just maybe, I'm getting a bit old to teach year-round. Intensive teaching is a young person's game, and maybe it's better for me now to just be a bit more frugal during the 10 months for which I am paid, and take June and July off, maybe do research with students, maybe refresh my classes more often, and maybe just do some of the stuff - like trying to learn German and a little Irish Gaelic and the like - will be good for me.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Library reading clubs

This is another childhood memory. The public library in the town where I grew up does these (I think many if not most libraries did). When I was a kid, it was pretty simple, and was more or less on the honor system....you listed the books you read and you got some kind of little token as a result.

Most years when I was a kid you got some kind of a sticker to paste in a folder you had. I remember one year there was a horse theme, for example, and you got paper horses to color in and glue onto a meadow scene. And one year was a monster theme, where you got eyes and horns and stuff and could color them in and then glue them onto an outline to make your monster. I don't know if the librarians/Friends of the Library bought them all ready to go, or as I think was more likely, they photocopied them and then cut them out.

(Horrors. I just realized this was an early example of "gamification," a trend I usually decry. Then again: I always read anyway, and it was kind of fun to make your picture. And if you filled up your horse-meadow or your monster face, you could get another one to do).

There were also McDonald's coupons for small servings of fries or small soft drinks that you got for 20 or 50 books read, something like that. Those weren't much of an attraction because we didn't have a McDonald's in town when I was a kid, so we had to wait until one of our parents felt like driving out to the nearest one (I think it was in Streetsboro). I think a lot of the coupons went unredeemed in my household.

I did the club until embarrassingly late - I think you could stay in until age 12 but most kids refused to do it after about 8 or 9. (I stayed in. I've always been a late bloomer in some ways and slow to give up things I liked, even if they were deemed "babyish" by the other kids). When I was older, I volunteered to help - spent a couple hours a week sitting at a table in the children's section handing out stickers and the coupons.

Part of my loyalty was that I just liked books and reading, part of it was because I knew and liked the librarians - Mr. Vince, the head librarian (I think it was not very many years ago I read he retired - he had a very long tenure there). And Miss Grissom, later Mrs. Origlio, the children's librarian, who was like the PERFECT children's librarian: she was good at encouraging shy and scared kids and good at toning down the more rambunctious ones. And she was one of those adults-outside-my-family who made me feel special, like I mattered, in a world where too often my peers tried to tell me I didn't.

And anyway, summer felt made for reading: the long days with no obligations, days that were sometimes rainy, or other times too hot to want to run around outside. I grew up in a town with five television stations and anyway there was generally nothing on tv nearly as compelling as what was in the books I checked out. And I was allowed to read in the living room, which was usually kept "for good" (the family room was where the tv was and was, well, "for the family.")

It's interesting now to think how my reading changed over the years - from Bill Peet picture books (and before that, Beatrix Potter - those started out being read TO me) to the various chapter books (I owned a set of the Narnia books, but I also remember reading "The 101 Dalmations," and "She Was Nice to Mice," and a series about a bear who was a secret agent, and all of the Beverly Cleary books (the Mouse and the Motorcycle ones were my favorites) and then "Summer of the Swans" and "My Brother Sam is Dead" and "Summer of my German Soldier" and all of the YA type books, some of which were kind of depressing and too issues-oriented for me (I STILL prefer books that are an escape). And then my first foray into the adult section as a young teen, and getting, without realizing it, a book with a fairly explicit sex scene and being very embarrassed by it (you would think they would have a little sticker somewhere indicating it, but whatever) and then moving strictly to "classics" figuring people who wrote before 1920 or so probably wouldn't put "that stuff" in there. (Well, they did - as you learn from Henry Fielding - they just don't DESCRIBE it).

I remember reading Dante's "Inferno" at 13 (and not getting very much of it). I was, in some ways, horribly pretentious as a young teen....

Sometimes I do wish I could go back to the days of Bill Peet and "Our Friends at Maple Hill Farm" and the "chapter books" that were just about funny animals doing funny things....

And I'm here

The trip up was mostly uneventful, though finding the bus was not - this was the first day they were doing the bus thing and there was NO ONE to give directions, and I wound up walking all through the station not knowing where to go. And it was crowded (I am reminded why I don't live in a city). Finally, by being a little loud (I hate that, it embarrasses me) I finally got someone who knew what was going on and told me where the "secret" elevator was I was supposed to take. But still: I could have missed the bus, and it really wouldn't have cost Amtrak anything to post some signs. (And I just got an e-mail saying my trip back is being "modified" so I have to call to find out. If I'm gonna be on a dang bus all the way, forget it, I will just change my reservations and stay here longer - I really don't have any appointments to worry about (I can e-mail my research student) and I'm not teaching, so.

I have something that is not unlike poison ivy on my neck. I suppose I got it brushcutting before I traveled. At first I was worried that I might be developing shingles because it was briefly VERY painful and it doesn't look like typical poison ivy, but now it's less painful, so I'm guessing it's either poison ivy, or I got something like Conium maculatum juice on me, and it photoreacted.

That said: it's good to be here. It's nice to not have to worry about cooking for a while. (My mom is MUCH better than when I left in January. She still has a little trouble with that shoulder but otherwise is back to normal). It's interesting to see what's still the same - Channel 25 still has Garry Moore as an anchor; he was the anchor when I lived here nearly 20 years ago (and he looks much the same as he did then.) There's also a lot that has changed - there is a big new grocery store called Fresh Thyme that is set to open where the Cub Foods used to be. (And the Macy's, which used to be Famous-Barr, is gone, and apparently the JC Penney's is going....)

I'm knitting; I haven't done much so far, but I am going to go out and do some brushcutting for my mom this afternoon (I have more upper body strength, and am more flexible, and I need the activity anyway). I hope to get out later this week to do some clothes shopping at the Von Maur (they have nicer stores here than where I live, and it seems less of a pain to shop here than it does driving all over Sherman).

I finished "Family Matter" on the train/bus trip. Highly recommended if you like dark humor - it really is almost an inversion of the old "Murder on the Orient Express" trope. I will say the ending is *slightly* unsatisfying given that there's no CLEAR evidence for sure who the murderer is, and someone likely got away with murder, and also the people you think will end up together don't. But the book is quite funny and I may seek out more crime novels by this same author.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Summer break time

I remember summer break from when I was a kid. I get that most kids now - heck, probably many when I was a kid - did not have experiences comparable to mine.

For one thing, I was lucky enough to have a stay-at-home parent (my mom), so no kind of "caretaking" had to be arranged for me, nor did I have to stay indoors and not answer the door or the phone (as sometimes happens to "latchkey" kids when they are home and their parent or parents are at work).

The first few days were the best: the change from the routine of school, the feeling that summer was like an entire blank page you could write your own adventure on.

(Later on, it did get a little wearying for me to be out of a schedule - one of the reasons I have taught so many summers is that I understand that I need purposeful things to do in order to be happy).

Also, where and when I grew up, summers were cooler than they are here. I remember those perfect early-summer days: in the low 70s, with low humidity. In the morning, when you got up, the air had almost a crispness to it. It was  a different SORT of crispness from fall air - it was more a feeling that somehow the world had been made new overnight, and you were breathing "new air" for the first time.

(That's one of the biggest things I miss about summers here: it does not cool down at night and often it stays humid, so the air retains all of its stink and funk and it does, in fact, feel kind of vitiated. Once in a while, in late spring, we do get one of those "made-new" mornings and it's glorious, and it makes me wish we had that more often).

The other thing was a big amount of open time to just do nothing with. One thing I am not so good at as an adult is doing "nothing"- I was pretty good at it as a kid, skipping rocks on ponds or poking mud with sticks or running around with my friends. You didn't have to be "productive," you were a kid. Playing was what you did and it didn't matter that you had "nothing" to show for it at the end of the day. (Sometimes I think that's one of the worst things about the working world; the feeling that you need to "have" something for the time you spent. I'm sure part of it is tied up in the "play is fun and work is work" idea, and also part of it is that adults have to somehow "earn" their place on this earth; apparently kids get one just by being kids or something).

When I was smaller (like, 11 and under) summers really were the best. A couple of years I went to day camp with a friend of mine, but that wasn't all summer, and it was only 4 or 5 days (I forget which) a week, and only in the mornings. We played tennis and swam and did crafts and worked on skits and sometimes had huge, campus-spanning games of Capture the Flag, and Capture the Flag really is an excellent game when you have big groups of kids and a really big place (and a place with a lot of hiding places) to play it in.

Day camp took place at "The Academy" (Western Reserve Academy), where I later went to prep school. I don't know now if they ran it or if they rented the gym area (where we had our activities - we used the old pool that was replaced when I was in high school, and the tennis courts where I later played "C Squad Tennis" and a little garage area was for arts and crafts). I wonder now if maybe some of the adults were teachers or wives of teachers, but combing my brain doesn't turn up any memories, and I don't remember any of my high-school teachers going "Hey, didn't you do Arts and Crafts with me in the summers when you were a kid?"

Also, it was an all-girls' camp. I don't know if the boys' session met elsewhere, or if it was an afternoon camp, or if their session was a later time in the summer. I realize now - it never seemed odd to me that it was an all-girls' camp, like "where are the boys and where is their day camp?"

(Now that I think of it - maybe they were on the other side of campus? Maybe once or twice we played a big, camp-wide game of hide-and-seek or something?)

I dunno. In a lot of ways my childhood was pretty idyllic, at least away from school - a couple of my friends went to Day Camp and there were girls from other schools and I seemed pretty able to avoid the "mean girls" who tormented me at public school. Maybe the "mean girls" didn't get to go to Day Camp? Or maybe I was good enough at enough stuff (arts and crafts, especially, and some of the stuff in the skits we did) that I got some of the other kids' respect? Or maybe, because it was summer and we were away from school, there was some kind of weird truce in place, I don't know. I just remember being more happy and more social there. (Then again: day camp was also before things got REALLY bad at school, that is, junior high.)

I was never that good at tennis but none of us were, so that was okay. And I was pretty good at things like hide and seek and Capture the Flag because I was pretty fast as a little kid, and I was also good at being stealthy.

And swimming. At first I wasn't so good because a bad experience in earlier swimming lessons (being thrown in the deep end of the pool by a bad instructor) made me afraid of deep water, but one summer one of the counselors (an older woman, and I wish I remembered her name) said she was going to work with me to try to help me get over the fear. (It was BAD. I wouldn't even swim through the deep end even though I was a competent swimmer and there was no likelihood I would drown, but phobias are illogical by definition). She did work with me and by the end of that session I was able to swim through the deep end and even jump off the edge of the pool into the deep water. (I still am not that comfortable going off diving boards, but that doesn't matter now).

It's one of those things I was afraid of as a kid that I barely remember being afraid of now - I swam JV in high school and the "deep end" didn't matter at all to me.

Outside of summer camp, there was Library Book Club (and it makes me happy to know, even in this age, that some libraries still do them much in the same way). And there were crafts to make and toys to play with and sometimes I helped my mom in her garden and sometimes the King kids across the street arranged a game of H-O-R-S-E or flag football or something and everyone that was around would play. Or sometimes my friend Elizabeth and I would get together and walk down to the stream and try to catch frogs or look for jewelweed where we could pop the fruits....

Monday, May 15, 2017

derp dee doo

Or, I got lucky - this time.

So I was rushing around doing the last items on my list - I had to get over to school and pick up the books for my new class, I had to get some potting mix and a bigger pot because my Christmas cactus was desperate for replanting and I was afraid it wouldn't survive another two weeks on an automatic waterer otherwise, I needed to drop off boxes for recycling, I needed to take the trash cart back up and stow it....

So, I thought, "Okay. I'll set the broken down boxes here, in the living room, get the car out, and then put them in before I go over to school."

But first, I grabbed the trash cart. And that upset my routine JUST enough that I got in the car - I was carrying my purse already - and blithely drove over to school and then to the Lowe's, all while leaving the front door wide open and the screen door just closed, not locked.

I did not remember that until I was walking out of the Lowe's a half-hour later.

And immediately, I thought: oh great. Will I return home to my stuff missing, or worse, an intruder in my house? I drove home very nervously and was extremely unhappy to get behind a glass company's truck that was going 10 mph.

Got home. Prepared to call the cops. Pushed open the screen door.

Nothing. No sound, no "Oh, s...." from a burglar, no sound of shuffling. Everything was still there (I figured the most likely things to go would be the laptop and dvd player - smaller, relatively new. And the jar of change I have sitting out).

Yeah, I got really lucky, but then again: it's midmorning in a quiet neighborhood. And there's no one around except for the retired people who are home.

But yeah. I think I'm trying to do too many things. (All that remains now is to eat something for lunch, drop off the recycling, and unplug all extraneous gadgets - I have a light on a timer, and the automatic waterers set on plants, and the Christmas cactus has been repotted, and I packed the last couple of things - I have my "comfort pony" in my carry on bag (Fluttershy and also Derpy and Treehugger - I don't know, Treehugger has really grown on me) and a couple of little things that could serve as breakfast if we're running early and I have to get off and hop on the bus before the diner opens, and some bottled water, and my ticket....

I have a few embargoed posts while I'm gone; I'll be back the first or second of June.

(I have someone watching my house while I'm gone, but that doesn't extend to me doing fooling things BEFORE I'm gone...)

Sunday, May 14, 2017

making a list

I feel like Twilight Sparkle. I am always like this before traveling: there are so many things one can forget that would cause problems (medications, my mouthguard, the books I plan to read towards my new class, my mom's birthday present)

I decided not to take the hexie quilt. Partly because I had my suitcase all packed when I remembered it, and I didn't feel like pulling out a couple of skeins of sockyarn to make room. Part of it is that I don't want to fold it all up and maybe knock out some of the papers around the working edges - they sort of need to stay in until I sew another hexagon on. I am taking Grasse Matinee and Celestarium - those are both pretty big projects - and some socks to work on. And a couple of little "freebee" toy kits that came with the British knitting/crochet magazines I buy: two unicorns (one knit, one crochet) and a set of three small dogs that I might knit up and set aside as a gift for my niece's birthday in October. And the yarn and eyes and pattern for Kero-chan.

I mowed the lawn again today with the mower set really low - hopefully it will not regrow so tall it's a problem. (I also used the weedwhacker on the taller stuff at the back of the yard. I'm hoping the turmoil at City Hall I've heard rumors about is going to prevent them from being too picky about yards at the moment...) I also set up a sprinkler on a timer for my garden and moved the hanging baskets back there so they benefit as well.

I started a new book to take with me (along with Tom Jones) - a vintage British mystery called Family Matters. It's a comic mystery - so far it's very funny, the intended victim is a very dislikable person and apparently the plot is a comic inversion of the old "Murder on the Orient Express" method - everyone wants to kill the guy but apparently their different methods cancel each other out and he won't die. Or at least that's the thumbnail I got from the introduction.

I really love that so many of these are being republished - they are a lot of fun (Well, some are better-written than others) and it's enjoyable to find new authors. This author wrote under the pen name Anthony Rolls and apparently there is at least one of his other books that has been republished (and I suppose there might be more).

Saturday, May 13, 2017

check it out!

So, I had mockingbirds nesting in my abelia bush. There were four babies, I got to watch the parents fly in with all kinds of bugs, caterpillars, and worms for them.

I got to wondering: when will the babies fledge? Will I go away for break and come back and they'll just be gone? Will I know what became of them?

I ran out quickly to the Green Spray - I needed a couple things for cookies I am making for a reception at church while I am gone* and I came back and surprise! This was sitting in the bush next to the railing of my porch:

baby mockingbird

Here's more of a close up, a little fuzzy, but then the baby mockingbird is a little fuzzy:

baby mockingbird 2

(I was careful to grab the photos fast so as not to upset the parents too much, but I am guessing these little guys are pretty close to being out on their own)

(*Long story but: they wanted it to be "fancier" and I make those little jam-bar cookies. So I offered to make some and freeze them. I had forgot I needed lemon peel for the cookie base....)

Friday, May 12, 2017

And today's trip

I joked on Twitter that if I were a mean girl, I'd say "Get in the car, loser, we're going antiquing."

Except I didn't have anyone to go with
And I wouldn't call someone I was friendly enough to want to go antiquing with a "loser." (I probably wouldn't call anyone that.)

But yeah. I went to a few places I'd been wanting to go to - Home A La Mode, in particular.

Home A La Mode is a quilt/gift shop that also has an attached tearoom. And they do classes and retreats. It's a cute little old-house shop - the retreat rooms (which are kind of like really upscale camp cabins - they have mostly bunk beds but v. nice bathrooms) are upstairs, the shop and tearoom is downstairs.

I bought a couple "charm packs" (5" squares) and also went back there for lunch. I had a grilled brie-and-cranberry sandwich. It was good, and it was especially good that I was able to ask the waitress (who was also one of the cooks) to "grill it lightly, please, I have sensitive teeth" and she did it PERFECTLY. (I gave a bigger tip than I normally do - and I am not a stingy tipper - because of that). I also had a cup of passionfruit tea and banana pudding for dessert.

And it was just nice - I forget, because I mostly have to shop at big-box stores, how much more the small businessperson has invested in his or her business - one of the owners of the shop gave me a "tour" including showing me all the retreat rooms (Oh, if only I had four or five quilting friends locally who would want to do a weekend retreat....). They also do classes. The other owner showed me her newest "toy" - a Bernina* (I think) model called Sashiko that is a dedicated lock-stitch quilting machine. It really does make stitches that look like the Japanese Sashiko stitches. (It's $3000, so I don't see me getting one any time soon, as nice as it might be to have a dedicated machine to do machine quilting that would fit in my house easily: it is the same size as a standard sewing machine).

*Correction: the brand is BabyLock, not Bernina. 

But yeah, they were super friendly and I liked that.

 I also ran to the antique mall there - and found a Bromwell sifter for $8.

Bromwell is about the only brand that is any good - they are one of the few still made in the US and still properly made. My mom has an old, old Bromwell that I think she got when she got married. I had wanted one, and Amazon sells them, but the new ones are like $60 and as casual of a baker as I am, I couldn't justify that cost. (I had some cheap cruddy little Chinese-made sifter; the handle comes off regularly and I have to put it back together.)

So anyway. I bought the sifter. It has a *tiny* bit of rust on the lower rim, I do not know whether to try to clean that off with some steel wool or not. I will have to think about it. It is in at least as good shape as my mom's and it looks really clean, so I don't worry about using it. (I might sift a little flour through it and throw that out, just to be sure it was clean).

But yeah. It makes me very happy to have one of my big "wants" that I couldn't justify buying new at $60.

I think the model I got is the same as my mom's; it makes the exact same sound as hers does.

I also ran to the other antique shop (in Sherman). I bought a couple more of those "bird and fence" vases - once I have a few of a thing, I have a "collection" and I often wind up adding to it. (Maybe I will add pictures tomorrow).

I also bought a goofy thing: they had (new, not vintage) solar powered "hula girls" - they shimmy back and forth in the sun. Yes, it's dumb and tacky and is probably kinda un-PC but there was something about it I liked, and it was $3, so I got one.

Then I ran to the JoAnn's and got my new bottle of Best Press (and a couple new magazines). And then to Target, but I was running down on energy, so I went home after that.

Saw lots of bad driving behavior - had someone pull right out in front of me, not their turn, but because they "wanted" to, I guess (they had done that thing of pulling way far into the intersection on red). And there was a screaming kid in the Target so I bought what I needed and got out.


Also I found something out: remember my frustration with disappearing mail? And how I did a test mailing of about a dozen cards (10 of which reached their destination). And I had mentioned it to my mail carrier and she was unhappy about it.

Well, somehow it came up Monday night at CWF - and the head of the local Chamber of Commerce, who is a member at church, mentioned, "Oh, they very recently indicted someone from the local post office; I don't know what for."

Well, the other day I was coming home as my mail carrier was coming up the street so I walked down and met her. I laughingly told her "I mailed my mom's Mother's Day card on Friday and she got it Monday!" and she kind of laughed and said, "Well, I don't know how much I'm allowed to tell you but your problem with mail going missing should be over" and I mentioned what Janet had said and the mail carrier kind of chuckled and nodded and said she had been pushing her supervisor to look into it and they had.

So yeah. I'm glad that at least for now that's resolved but really, what a slimy thing: to steal greeting cards out of the mail stream hoping they contain money or a gift card. (And how stupid: working for the post office is, by and large, pretty well-paid employment with decent benefits, or at least I thought so, and why risk a job that you can stay in until retirement? But then again, my mom is fond of saying "Smart people don't become criminals," so. I suppose it's a combination of greed and pride - wanting the stuff and thinking you can do it stealthily enough no one will find out).

But I guess I don't need to try what I threatened to do - mail out cards "booby trapped" with a thin piece of card the same size as a gift card, and then a payload of glitter.....

Spitfire is done

I finished another thing! (This is the nice thing about having a little bit of a break).

This is Spitfire, my favorite of the (full-fledged) Wonderbolts. I didn't make her Wonderbolts suit because I'm not sure how one would do that (swimsuit material and lots of carefully placed seams, I suppose). I didn't want to "crochet her into it" (that is: do the part of her body that would be covered by the suit in blue yarn) because everypony deserves time off.

(Interestingly: Spitfire wears more clothes than most ponies; in her official capacity at the Flight Academy, she wears a cap and vaguely Air-Force-looking shirt and jacket. And on one episode she wore something like the Pegasus version of a tracksuit.

And now, I admit, something in me wants to see her in a slinky dress or something similarly "feminine." I don't know that she ever really WOULD wear it, but sometimes there is that tough-seeming woman who has a feminine side....)

spitfire outdoors

I was gonna do a series of photos of her outside, but there was a heavy dew last night (and also there is pollen EVERYWHERE and I didn't want to get pollen on her).

I made her face a little different from some of the other ponies:

spitfire face

She often is shown with a slightly more "jaded" expression, or maybe it's meant to be stern, or maybe she is in permanent side-eye mode, but I tried to capture that "Oh, really?" expression. I think it was fairly successful.

spitfire cutie mark

I had to be a little more impressionistic with her "cutie mark" -  the mark, as drawn, has a lot more intergradation of orange and yellow, so it looks more like a flame. I didn't feel like doing that, so I went simpler.

(I was doing this pretty late yesterday evening. I got her crocheting done and was applying her hair and then my phone started ringing - dang telemarketers - but I would keep jumping up to check the caller ID. I WOULD just ignore it, but with parents in their 80s, and other loved-ones in precarious health, I feel like I don't dare ignore a late-evening call. At least all the ones last night were "UNKNOWN NUMBER" which meant they were easy to ignore. But still, it interrupted me).

spitfire head on

All in all, though, I'm pretty happy with how she came out.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

some quick photos

The sun came back out so I got pictures of the newest quilt top.

Unfortunately (a) my camera was almost out of charge and (b) there was a smudge on the lens that I'll have to attend to.

But here is the newest quilt. It's made from a "Jelly Roll" of strips but I forget which fabric line it was from:

tilted blocks 1

tilted blocks 2

Not sure how I'm gonna quilt this one. Because of all the bias edges I am leery of taking it to a longarmer (the longarm machines stretch stuff like crazy) so I might hold it back to either hand quilt or maybe if I ever learn to quilt on my own machine, I do it with a regular sewing machine....

Photos maybe later

Or maybe I find a spot to hang the new quilt top up indoors and photograph it that way. It's overcast here and threatening rain this morning.

I did finish it yesterday afternoon. The idea of making a grid on paper, sorting the blocks by color, and doing something akin to Sudoku with the colors (so they are as evenly spread as possible across the top) was a good one and maybe I do that with more quilts because the "crawl around on the floor" method of laying them out gets old fast, and it also leads to a lot of dithering, where probably just generally making sure that the colors don't "pool" too much is probably all you need to do.

I also discovered that I am going to buy more of that "Best Press" stuff (sort of like starch, but apparently something that is not-starch, as it boasts being non-yellowing and non-attractive to insects). It works better than just plain steam for getting the wrinkles out of fabric that has been badly stored and it works really well to stabilize bias edges.

I also sewed up the backing for the roll of stamps top and might take it in to the quilt shop today. Yes, this isn't one of my favorite tops, but I admit: I want to try out the new quilter on one I don't love quite as deeply just in case things don't go as I hope. (And if they do go well, I will probably wind up liking the quilt better; I like most of them better after quilting).

I also want to finish Spitfire - I have one ear left to crochet and the wings, and then I just have to put on her hair and tail, and do her face. I found all the necessary colors of felt (and the two shades of yarn for her mane and tail). That will probably be this afternoon...

I did get the house pretty much fully clean (well, except for my home office and the sewing room) yesterday and I feel better about that. I need to try to be more disciplined about cleaning stuff up as it gets messy instead of getting in the cycle of house gets really messy ---> I feel bad because I don't like the mess ----> I start to worry about what people will think if they come over -----> I finally take an entire day and clean the house, and it takes a day because it's gotten so bad.

I also pulled a muscle in my neck/shoulder, I'm not sure how.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

"Look what you...

...made me do!"

Okay. Normally, I am probably the most phone-avoidant person you know. (I like e-mail; I dislike the phone). If I have to cold-call someone it takes an hour of working up my courage first.

But apparently, "anger is an energy" as a friend of mine says.

Something has been happening lately that I find extremely disturbing: phone scammers (either "[RandomWoman'sName] from Cardholder Services" or some kind of a "you stayed at our resort in the past") have been spoofing real numbers. Like, real-real numbers, with the name connected with the number coming up in caller ID.

On Saturday, I got one purporting to be from the local Vision Bank. I picked up, because who knows: some banks have Saturday morning hours and I was afraid maybe someone was trying to claim I had written them a big check or something. (I bank at the local educator's credit union, but it could have been someone trying to cash a check).

Nope. "Valerie from Cardholder Services." I said a few unladylike words, slammed the phone down, and then called Vision Bank - it was someone's voicemail so I left a message saying what had happened, on the grounds that a legitimate bank wants to know that sort of thing.

Well, this morning, the phone rang as I was cleaning* and I ran to check on it - a local number and the name Sheri McCoy. Well, years back, I knew some McCoys, they are since deceased but I thought, "Maybe Sheri is a daughter-in-law or granddaughter" so I picked up.

"Hello!" says a cheery male-bot voice "Our records show you stayed at one of our resorts in the past...."

I said another unladylike word and slammed the phone down. I know this is a scam because I think the last time I stayed in anything that could be deemed a "resort," it was 1995 and I was at an Ecological Society of America meeting, and paying waaaaaaay too much for everything in a ski resort on the off season....

And then I thought: if some bot was spoofing my number, I'd want to know, so I could raise holy heck with the phone company. So, without really thinking, I dialed the number.

I got a man. I politely explained the issue. He wanted to know: do I live in Oklahoma? Oh yes, I said, probably in the same town as you do, I have a 931 exchange also. He thanked me and said he was going to call the phone company and complain, because "this shouldn't happen."

No, it shouldn't. I pay a considerable amount each month for the privilege of a landline, and I don't like this. (Though if this gets worse? I may just end having a landline. Or else never answer it for any reason other than when my parents' or brothers' family's number comes up)

But yeah. We were able to put a man on the moon. We can put hearts from another person into a person's body to replace their failing heart. We have made driverless cars. I can order a book through the ether and have it show up on my doorstep two days later - or better, order a pattern through the ether and have it show up in my inbox SECONDS later - but we cannot stop these scammers?


(* And I can report Pomodoros work excellently for cleaning, as well. I am taking an early "long break" for this but I think two to three more and I should be done with cleaning - living room is done, dining room is mostly done, in the kitchen I just have to wet mop the floor, and then there's the bathroom and some to do in my bedroom....and then I can play, and I can enjoy the next few days in a clean house.

In fact, I was in the middle of "marrying" several bottles of countertop cleaner when the phone rang - somehow I wound up with four partially-used duplicates - and having one bottle under the sink is better than having four.)

Tuesday, May 09, 2017

still not done

No, I didn't finish the quilt. I looked at the forecast, decided that maybe it was better to take care of the lawn, so I first ran out to Lowe's (needed more string trimmer reels and I'll be blessed if I try to hand-wind one from a spool of line when I can buy a pre-made reel for just a couple bucks more. My time and my frustration are worth more than the price difference).

I edged the front yard and then mowed the front yard. Mowed the back and then edged all over the place, including that stupid area at the back where the brushpile used to be that's now full of some kind of invasive brome (no, I didn't key it out). I may see about getting someone to dump a load of topsoil there to cover it up, and then plant it (and maybe break down and get mulch. I dislike mulch, but maybe the only way to prevent weeds is to do that).

I also dug out the herbicide (more poison ivy, and I admit I gave up and sprayed the virginia creeper to, because I'm sick of digging it out).

It was a solid hour's work, and I've decided that counts as at least a half-hour of exercise (this was to be my rest day, but that means I can take tomorrow as a rest day instead).

I'm going to do this once more, right before leaving. The person I used to use as a lawnmower in my absence has moved away, and most of the companies want you to sign a summer-long contract, and I'd rather do it myself most of the time. I might ask one of the women at church who has a teenaged son if he does lawnmowing, and if so, if I could pay him to do my yard once while I'm gone. Normally I don't worry, but the whole "The city is watching you!" thing bugs me.

I've also decided I'm not going in to campus tomorrow: I worked hard yesterday and today, I have two months to prep this class, I can afford one day off. I'm probably going to clean house first, and then sew.
Also, after trying out various names on the stuffed toy bobcat, I decided that (a) she is a girl and (b) Roxanne is the best name I can come up with. I played with "Amber" and "Topaz" (because of eye color) but neither of those worked.

Maybe Roxy for short?

It was the penultimate NCIS of the season (allegedly, it's been picked up for another season). I misjudged from the promo: I thought it was going to be a Massive Cliffhanger Episode with one of the regulars in Mortal Peril.  (Tim and Deliliah were planning their wedding, and in the promo, they show her fainting and falling).

Well, the "mortal peril" fear was short lived and was replaced by a bigger surprise, which Abby couldn't keep the secret of. (And I guessed before the reveal)....and the wedding of the couple was done in a hurry for various reasons. (In some of these, the crime - in this case a murdered sailor on a ship - is largely in the background and the real story is what's going on with the agents.)

(the quickie wedding in their apartment also removed the question, for Quinn and Torres, of "Do you hunt down a 'plus one' or not?" I admit, as a longtime single, that's something that's always bothered me about weddings: if you don't have a date to go with, you risk looking pathetic, or, worse - as Torres alluded to - you get hit on by creepos who figure you're desperate. I'd rather just go by myself; I'm there to support the couple and not as a date. Yes, that can make receptions awkward if there's dancing but I don't really dance either, so....)

But yeah, this was kind of my reaction, even though it was for a series of good reasons:

Though I wonder if Gibbs giving McGee his watch is going to be symbolic of an eventual "changing of the guard." (And I wonder if they're going to slowly allow Ducky to retire. I love the character but I get that the actor is about the same age as my dad, and probably wants to slow down).

six more days

Less than a week and I'm on my short break (that involves traveling).

I think I'm probably going to drag along one or two of the environmental-policy books and try to read on them a bit during the two weeks.

I'm taking the train. It looks like any issues from flooding have resolved but because of trackwork (argh) I have to take a bus from St. Louis to Bloomington. That's not so bad though I will have to carry something that would work as breakfast if we get into St. Louis early and I have to get off and get on the bus before the diner is serving. (For the return trip, it looks like the trackwork should be done).

I want to get back to working on Celestarium - I know where I left off but these past couple weeks I've just been too busy to want to pick it up. And the couple of pairs of socks on the needles. And I might take Grasse Matinee with me and try to finish it up.

And maybe....I'm considering taking the hexie quilt. I want to get back to that, too. And I bet my mom has some cool scraps of fabric I can acquisition for the quilt.


In a minute I'm going to close this up and try to finish the "Crossfire" top. (I am calling it that now because half of the blocks lean right and the other half lean left - it's an homage to the old CNN show that I remember my dad watching every night when I was in grad school).

I also want to finish Spitfire. I am almost done with her last leg, and then it's just ears, wings, and decorations. I printed out drawings of her so I can get the coloring right (her mane and tail are bi-colored: two shades of orange).

I'm trying to decide whether to take tomorrow totally off. I need to mow the lawn and it's supposed to rain in the afternoon, so I will do that in the morning (Unless I make myself do it this afternoon). I also need to clean the house before I go.

I got a good draft of the paper written and even did the figures for it today (yay, pomodoros!) and so if I go in it would be mainly reading additional stuff or working on the new class prep. (One thing I want to do this summer is do more "unfocused" article reading in hopes of developing some new research ideas). Thursday I meet with my student....and I want to take either Friday or Saturday and maybe just go antiquing for fun.

At least I figured out my mom's birthday present - I was going to have to go shopping for something (figuring I might not have time to get out on my own while up there) but then I decided to order her a tiger swallowtail butterfly t-shirt from Sharptooth Snail (I really like the monarch one I bought from there). I'm having it sent directly so I don't even have to worry about packing it.

Monday, May 08, 2017

Day 1, summer

So, I mentioned the Pomodoro method yesterday?

I decided to give it a try. One of the problems I have with no set deadline and no short-term goals is that I don't work effectively. (grading is good because it's a short-term goal: I can finish it and then "put a pin in it"). Instead, I think "Oh, I have time to do this, so I'll do [this other distraction] instead" where the distraction might be spending all day on Ravelry and Twitter, or reading stuff that while edifying and interesting is not related to my current research, or something else.

I checked out Tomato-timer. This is a free online app for doing the Pomodoro method*

(*So named because Francisco Corillo, who developed it, used a tomato-shaped kitchen timer to set his times)

I set my "work period" as 25 minutes each, my "short rest" at 3 minutes, and my "long rest" at 10 minutes. You work solidly for 25 minutes, then you get a short rest - when you have worked four, 25-minute periods, you get a long rest.

For me, the timer thing might have been problematic: I don't like ticking sounds around me and loud noises are bad, especially loud noises I might *anticipate*.

But the tomato-timer allows you to set a quiet "ding," like the sound of an elevator reaching its floor, and that is PERFECT for me. (And I can hear it over the music on Pandora).

This is MAGICAL for me, guys. (Your mileage may vary, of course). It hits several things I need to be able to work:

1. Not having to ask myself "uuuuugggggghhhh, how much longer do I have to work to feel like I did something useful"
2. Feeling like I have to work ENDLESSLY or to the point of exhaustion
3. Tending to not want to take breaks - I think I will use this when grading because I tend to work hard without a break until the grading is done and I burn myself out.
4. Not being able to say, "Oh, I'll take 'just' a minute and go check Ravelry" - instead, I wait until a "short break" for that. So I think I get more work done.

I did two sets of four today - in the morning, reading and starting the introductory lecture material for the new class. Then, as that first Pomodoro set was wrapping up, my research student came in and we did some prep work and discussion. I did one more 25 minute time and then ran home for lunch....when I came back, I did another set of 4 and worked on the paper.

I found I was able to work much more effectively. I think a big part of it is that it's a SET time, not a "work until you feel like you are 'done'" which could effectively be "never" because of the "goldfish" nature of academic work (supposedly, goldfish will grow to fit whatever container you put them in, the more space you give them, the bigger they get).

I also realized that doing this sort of informally, as I had been doing, meant I got more work done than it "felt" like to me. Though I like the pomodoro method because you have a very explicit indication of how much you are getting done, and the breaks do seem to keep you from burning out.


Surprise mail today. Another set of presents. I think it was because I was whinging on ITFF about my Problem Child student (and giving up my "day off"). So someone - this is always done anonymously, apparently - ordered me two things off my wishlist.

I admit, I'm embarrassed by this.

I shouldn't have whinged, it really wasn't THAT bad, and as it turned out I wound up with as much time off on Sunday as I would have taken on Friday....and I get embarrassed when people give me stuff and it's not my birthday or something.

But anyway. This is partly so I can have a webcam photo to post on Rav:

Shades of Kawaii is a coloring book - a little more "open" and less-complex designs, so it will be faster to color. (Hm. Maybe I take it over to my office along with a set of extra colored pencils, and keep it for either Pomodoro breaks or for those times when I'm "stuck" in my office - like doing a make-up exam - and just want something simple and fun). The stuffed bobcat is a Ty "Beanie Boo." It's hard to see but his (? her?) eyes are backed with a glittery thing so they are sparkly.

The bobcat's given name is Buckwheat, which makes me laugh, because I think of the old SNL bit Eddie Murphy used to do. ("O-Tay!!!!") And also my niece, when she first started talking, would say "okay" as "o-tay" and all the adults would look at each other and giggle because we'd think of Buckwheat.

(Okay. I think the bobcat is a girl. Roberta, maybe? I'll have to think about it.)

Sunday, May 07, 2017

And summer begins

My last obligation (to this semester's classes, at least) ended on Saturday. (I already submitted my grades; I remember the semester the system went down on the day they were due and the consternation that caused.)

I do have a meeting with my research student tomorrow, to work on the write up of our initial results, and I am going to push myself to start an "at least one hour on class prep for the new class" project.

I may set up a variant of the Pomodoro Method, which a lot of academics use (because there are distractions, work can expand to fill the time allotted, and you need to stand up and stretch from time to time). However, I KNOW that sitting there to wait for the timer to ring would make me tense (I wonder if there are timers that play something nice, not like a ringing bell, but maybe a little melody? That would be less agonizing). But I will need to be disciplined to get this done.

(There's an online app called TomatoTimer that you can set to different sounds; the gentlest is the "ding" like elevator doors getting ready to open. I wonder if I could hear that over music on Pandora....I might try that out at work.)

As it turned out, I did not have Homebound Visitation today: one person was visiting his son, one couple had their kids in town, and of the third couple, the man has gone back to the rehab center for more PT....so they were all 'good' reasons why they didn't want a visit. But that saved me the afternoon, which was a relief.

Also, an interesting thing, that makes me think differently about service and asking people to do stuff (and makes me wonder if maybe I'm trying to do too much): I was on the Nominating Committee and was charged with calling one of the women (a new-ish member; she was a member years back, moved away for a while, is now back) to ask her to be a deaconess. I kind of dreaded the call: I know she is busy, I hate asking people to do stuff. But when I called her she accepted right away and thanked me. Today in church she came up, crying a little, and hugged me and thanked me for thinking of her and offering her the responsibility. Which was a surprise to me...most things I'd be asked to do, my reaction would be, "Oh man, another thing to fit into my life....but I guess I should say yes because they wouldn't ask me if they didn't think I could do it" and it strikes me that someone was actually WAITING to be asked to do something and was moved to be asked.

I don't know. It was sort of humbling to me because so often I think of my responsibilities as sort of a burden on my time, even as I know it's important to help out....

So anyway, I got some sewing done this afternoon. I have all but the last two rows of the current quilt top done and sewn together. I'm pretty happy with how it's coming out; the idea of sorting the blocks by color (or one could do pattern, I suppose) and then making a grid on paper seems to work just as well as doing the agonizing "lay it out on the floor and move blocks around" process.

It might not work for all quilts but it will work for some and it means I'm a lot more likely to FINISH something than to do the blocks and then tuck them away for when I can get to a big open expanse of floor to lay the quilt out. (And also: no crawling around on the floor)

I also started planning the "birb" quilt - pulled out and ironed off the fabric and measured it.

The pattern, in the size ("throw size" - like about 48" by 56") calls for 2 1/2 yards of the colorful fabric.

Turns out I have 2 yards of the "birb" fabric. Womp womp.

So I dug like mad in the stash, half-hoping this was one of the ones where I bought two chunks at different times. Nope, or if I did, it's not in any of my typical storage places. I did find a piece of it (not quite a half-yard) in a different colorway (black background rather than the dark peach of the fabric I wanted to use). But then I found a totally different fabric, sort of deco-y circles on a plain background and in the colors used in the "birb" fabric. That will work better, and I don't have it designated for anything, so it would be a good fill in.

So I guess I do a quilt with two pattern fabrics instead of just one (The alternate is to make a smaller quilt, but the next size down is a "crib" size, which is small enough to not be that useful to me, and would leave me with a lot of fabric leftover). The original quilt is 17 full blocks and 14 half-blocks; I am hoping if I do three blocks out of the alternate fabric I will have enough of the main fabric to get all the rest. (Most quilt patterns have a little slop-over in the fabric amounts; sometimes as much as a third of a yard).

So it'll be "Birb and Orb" instead of just "birb," I guess.

After that I decided to go and do some brushcutting just because. I got rid of a lot of stuff but there is still more to be cut. (Again: if I can be disciplined this summer and maybe spend an hour a day a couple times a week, I can finally whip the yard into shape).

Saturday, May 06, 2017

Good mail day

A present from a Ravelry friend, from my Amazon wishlist:

It's an LED cat lamp - charges off of a USB port - and then you can set it to change colors or stay a single color. No idea how long these kinds of things last (usually LEDs are pretty sturdy). It's a fun thing and I may just try to keep it fully charged as much as possible because I can see it being a source of comfort during power outages. (Hopefully we don't have many of those).

The changing colors is called "breathing" and it is roughly in the cadence of slow breathing, so it is kind of soothing to watch.

Also the Doki Doki box came. I was concerned because the box was "puffed out" and looked like it had been re-taped. I took photos of the box before opening, fearing the mail-thief somewhere in our system might have hit it,  but it was just that one of the items was too big for the standard box:

Sumikko Gurashi (which actually apparently means "things in the corner," I thought it meant "shy animals" for some reason). This is "Penguin?" usually rendered with the interrogative because his back story is that we don't really know his species for sure. He is a soap/shampoo dispenser but I am tempted to use him for the liquid hand-washing-dish-soap I keep in the kitchen for things I can't just bung in the dishwasher.

I have two other things from this line, try to guess what they are:

Okay, their purpose is "keychain," but what kind of being do they represent?

Stumped? I thought the one on the left was a bird of some kind or else a chicken nugget, and the other one was a mole.

Nope. The "mole" is apparently a "leftover pork cutlet that is mostly fat" and the other, fuzzy thing is the leftover tail of a tempura shrimp.

(Well, the line is called "things in the corner.")

Instead, I call them Nugs and Moley, because first impressions stick. (And I think the idea of Tonkatsu being a mole is cuter than him being a leftover pork cutlet.)

And chicken nuggets are just funny to me because of the internet-meme linkage with "chicken tendies." (Don't google "tendies stories." They're kind of awful)

I might attach Nugs to my keys when I travel, to make them easier to find in my purse.

Also, there was another Petit Lapin stuffie in the Doki Doki box:

He's an eclair in this version. These are all tiny stuffies - I presume, the better to fit in the mailer but also, if these are genuinely representative of Japan, maybe smaller living spaces (as is true in most cities) requires smaller stuffies if you're gonna have anything like a collection.

I have three of these now - as a macaron, as a weird sandwich thing, and now as an eclair.

The last thing....well, I don't know about this. The problem with Doki Doki wearables is they skew a little "young" for me:

It's a deer beret. Yes. A beret with antlers. I joked on Twitter that I don't know if I have the "antlers" to wear it outside the house.

(Though, hm. Maybe at Christmastime, and maybe I sew a couple little jingle bells on the antlers? Anyway, I've put it on now so I don't think I could give it away to someone....)

I can't tell for absolute sure but I do think the beret is wool; it seems slightly felted like a good beret would be.

There were also Aggretsuko (I've talked about her before....the little red panda "salarylady" who gets ragey on her off hours) stickers. Unfortunately they're very small or I'd make a two-sided door-hanger for my office door: sweet Aggretsuko on one side, angry Aggretsuko on the other (And oh, if I could find someone who could write in Kanji and put "come on in" and "go away" on each side for me.)

I really love the Doki Doki boxes; you never know what you're going to get but it's usually fun stuff. (There was also a cat-head-shaped coin purse in this one, too. And the inevitable Hoppe Chan figurine)

"Fluttershy leans in"

I probably have to rewatch the episode, either when they re-run it in the coming week, or on Dailymotion or somewhere, to get what I missed, but here are my early impressions. I found it somewhat uncomfortable.

Understand that I am still cranky because I am feeling taken for granted and slightly overworked.

Anyway. It starts off with Angel Parkour. Okay, the idea of that is kind of cool even if Angel is that jerk who makes Fluttershy's life 20% more complicated because of his wants.

Anyway, the macguffin that sets this whole thing up: Angel gets an owie doing Parkour, and of course Fluttershy is out of "bunny braces," and instead of going to the market (maybe it's not a market day? Maybe Ponyville is like towns of old where there's only one day a week when you can buy most stuff?) she goes to Dr. Fauna*

(*I am now wondering if she has a twin named Dr. Flora who checks trees for disease)

Dr. Fauna is the veterinarian, so that destroys any headcanon that that's how Fluttershy earns her living. (I have decided she MUST be some kind of a trust-fund pony; you never see her working, and yet she has enough money for her needs and to care for a bunch of mooching animals)

Dr. Fauna has a problem: too many of the animals have gotten "too comfortable" and don't want to leave. (Hm. Shades of that SpongeBob episode where Squidward starts mooching off him). Instead of issuing tough love, Dr. Fauna lets them stack up - making her life harder.

(I SAID this was an uncomfortable episode to me. I never know, with certain students, when to say "You failed. You get NOTHING!" and when to say "Oh my yes I understand your life is hard even if some of that difficulty is the result of your own poor choices so I will let you make up that thing even though it puts me out considerably")

Aside #1: Apparently not all ungulates in Equestria are sapient. There's a giraffe there who is essentially in the "pet role" (in fact, he looks like an escapee from The Littlest Pet Shop, even if he is a normal-sized giraffe). I wonder how the decision is made on who is sapient or not. (I am now thinking of the creation of Narnia, and how some of the animals became Talking and some were not....)

Fluttershy has an idea: why not open an animal sanctuary! The animals could recuperate there and leave when they're ready! (Which, knowing the mooching critters of Equestria, will be "never")

So she floats the plan to her friends. Who themselves have friends who are Experts and therefore would love to help!

Uh-oh. I know already where this is heading: the Experts will be flakes in some way and Fluttershy will have to, as the title says, "Lean In," which meant I presumed she'd do all the work herself.

Three experts: an architect/builder ("Hard Hat"), an interior designer ("Dandy Grandeur" - ugh, what a name) and an animal wrangler, called, well, "Wrangler"

Aside #2, a personal aside: I said this was an uncomfortable episode? "Wrangler" is part of it. I've said before that when I was a kid, my parents were very frugal and also I was sometimes kind of bad at reading social cues. I wound up somehow, in junior high, with a pair of Wrangler brand jeans. Had I grown up in Texas or Oklahoma, that would have been no big deal - I would have been assumed to have been a farm girl or a ranch girl or into rodeo. But I grew up in Ohio, and in the Snooty Wannabee New England Village part of Ohio. So Wranglers were infra dig and I got harassed for having them.

Yeah. I acknowledge as an adult that (a) it was stupid for kids to tease me over that (but kids are jerks to other kids and anyone who pulls the "kids are little ANGELS" argument on me gets a hard stare) and (b) I was stupid and immature for letting it bother me, but it did. Bothered me so deeply that I remember the feeling 35 years later. Part of it was it was so exclusionary, and exclusionary in a way I couldn't control - my parents bought my clothes and there is no way on earth they would have paid the premium for Jordaches. Part of it was that "Wrangler" was such an awful nickname to me - to me, it smacked of unfemininity, and I was trying hard to present as someone who might, just, be Interesting To Boys Someday and that nickname....well, it felt like it took that away from me, it labeled me as something I was not. And again: there was NOTHING I could do about it.

And so, rather than rejoicing a little over a pony named Wrangler, I cringe a little. It doesn't help that she's not exactly a sympathetic character.

Anyway. Aside over.

The three "helper" ponies have their own ideas - Hard Hat, in fact, as much as says "She doesn't know what she wants, bless her heart" and plans to proceed to recycle his hospital plans because hospital, animal sanctuary, what's the diff?

And Dandy, he can't BELIEVE the tacky "nature themed" decor scheme Fluttershy wants

Aside #3: "Air quotes" are canon, even if they look weird when you only have hooves to do them with.

And Wrangler, she knows animals. Animals go in cages. A cage is like a warm hug!

Yeah, great.

So Fluttershy gets stallion-splained (and mare-splained, in the case of Wrangler) why she doesn't want want she wants. These ponies are "experts" but their expertise doesn't really transfer to what Fluttershy wants.

Hm. I wonder if there's a tiny echo of the early (can't remember if 1 or 2) season "Good with animals, therefore good with kids" boast Fluttershy made (in Stare Master) and she found out in fact that was not true.

I suppose the "grown-up moral" of this episode is: beware experts stretching beyond their wheelhouse. The thing is, none of these "experts" apparently sees the error of their ways, which would be a dandy lesson in itself: Humility is Magic! Instead, they're just summarily let go, and...

Here comes Dr. Fauna with her animals. But the preserve isn't done!

(And I admit, I felt pain for Fluts right there. I've been in situations like that: where people I was depending on flaked on me, and then faded away when it was clear the project wasn't going to be done, leaving me to take the blame. But Equestria is better than Earth, because Dr. Fauna doesn't excoriate Fluttershy for not being done....though I will say this episode could have had an Epic Fluttercry Scene right there, and if I were playing Fluttershy, there would have been one, because of the Shame of not being done....even if it wasn't strictly my fault)

But Fluttershy has grown: she doesn't cry, and in fact, she has told those Experts just how wrong they are. But she still has the problem of an unfinished Preserve.

So anyway. Because the experts were idiots who didn't want to listen to the real expert, it now falls on the Mane Six (and relatives) to take care of the problem of finishing the preserve. (Hm. Feels a little bit like real life there).

But then, a Real Expert gets called in: special Guest Star from an earlier episode, and who knew he understood animals as well as building? (I didn't).

(Also, I'm now secretly wishing for a ponified Mike Rowe in one of these episodes)

In the end, everything's good: the preserve gets done, the animals are happy, and we now know that giraffes, sloths, and koalas exist in Equestria.

So anyway: uncomfortable (for me at least) start, good finish. And the cute animals that DHX animates are always good. Though I would have liked to have seen more investigation of the so-called experts realizing their egos ran away with them, and they could have actually learned something from Fluttershy's plan and design....

Trying for better

I'm still kind of sad and cranky about my unexpected afternoon over at work. (The biggest thing: I didn't think it through and should have brought knitting; it took the person nearly three hours to make up the exam and the final they needed to make up). I did clean my office, which means I have a bit of a headache this morning from the dust I stirred up.

Sunday school lesson is done, at least, and in a moment I have to dress for the day (it feels gross to me to lie around in pajamas this long but I got involved with the lesson while eating breakfast) and practice piano (which I entirely skipped yesterday, and I need to e-mail my teacher to see if she'd be up for summer lessons and get more disciplined about playing).

Graduation is this afternoon, which means I won't REALLY be able to totally relax until it's over because I'll have one eye on the clock worrying about being late. (That's the downside of being a prompt person: you worry about being late and can't relax until some obligation is over).

I still feel like I want some kind of a treat but have no idea when that might be obtained; right now I'm committed through Monday and maybe Tuesday.

It doesn't help that there are apparently fiber-fests and comic-cons in some parts of the country. Unlike the Puritans, who allegedly feared someone somewhere was having fun, I feel faintly sad and jealous at the idea that someone somewhere is having more fun than I am.

Never mind that most comic-cons would be far more overwhelming and crowded than I could deal with.

I dunno. Part of it is probably a sense of taken-for-grantedness. And disappointment: even though I said these were very amenable classes, I had kind of a record number of "hey, is there any extra credit I could do" or "did you really compute my grade right?" requests and I don't know, but when you're tired at the end of the semester and have just spent eight hours grading, those kind of feel like the worst thing ever. (I also just don't get the people who ask for stuff like after-the-final extra credit: I CAN'T GIVE IT. IT IS NOT FAIR TO THE OTHER STUDENTS TO MAKE EXTRA CREDIT JUST FOR YOU. Even IF I wanted to give extra credit, which I do not want to)

Last night, I finished trimming up the blocks, and just kind of threw together an arrangement - didn't worry too much about "same pattern" being next to each other, just tried to distribute the colors by filling in a grid pattern on paper. (Note to self: do that more often instead of waiting until you can get somewhere with a big expanse of floor to lay out the quilt; there is less deliberation and it probably won't look any worse than you agonizing over it for an hour).

I sewed the first row but then was too tired to do any more. (Had I been able to spend yesterday at home? The top would be done.)

I didn't sleep all that well last night. Kept having dreams where people needed stuff from me, or where there was some complicated situation I had to resolve and I'm sure it's tied to my having been upset about stuff didn't help.

I dunno. This is one of those times where I imagine, even as hard as raising a kid would be, how nice it would be to have a small person in the house who would at least once in a while hug me and tell me they loved me and stuff. Because a lot of the time I feel more taken for granted than loved.....

Friday, May 05, 2017

In a rage

1. I have gotten PILES of spam comments these past few days (I moderate, that's why you never see them). I have temporarily gone to "registered users only (includes Open ID)" for commenting.

I'm sorry if you're not registered or whatever and want to comment. But I'm SICK AND TIRED of getting so many stupid idiots selling pills to "raise" a body part I DON'T EVEN HAVE.

This is why we can't have nice things, folks.

Part of me says "just close the comments altogether" to avoid the issue of spammers, but once in a while I get a nice comment. And another part of me says "Just end the blog, the reason no one comments is you are super boring because all you ever do is work any more" but I don't know.

I know I am upset and unhappy and am not being reasonable.

ETA: I'll change it back eventually (maybe after I return from my short break at the start of June) but I want the bots to leave for now, and it seems the only way to do that is to make commenting more difficult.

2. I didn't think ahead; the student could be here for up to 3 hours taking the exam. I should have brought knitting. It will be AFTER 4 PM when I get home. I just want to cry - I NEVER get to have any time off and this is MY OWN DAMN FAULT because I am (a) too nice of a person and (b) I was worried if I said "wait until Monday" something else would come up and it would be a giant nightmare.

(And Monday I have my research student coming in - so it's back to work).

3. Am rage-cleaning office, I have two boxes full to take to the Print Shop for recycling- IF I get out of here while they are still open today, which is questionable.

I dunno. I am not the tantrum-throwing type but I really kind of want to throw one even as I know it would not make ANYTHING better at all. (what would make things better? Having something fun and productive to do in my office or NOT being stuck here forever. Or having tomorrow off instead of graduation so I could have fun. Or Sunday afternoon not having Homebound Visiting. But I can't back out on either of those things).

I now see why so many people are NOT diligent; when you are, you don't own a single moment of your time, you are always doing for everyone else and when you block out time for yourself it gets eaten as well.

4. Office is now as clean as I can get it given my trashcan is totally full and the custodian isn't around to empty it or give me a larger one. If I weren't so crabby I'd do teaching prep but I AM crabby - crabby and tired and I feel like I've pushed myself really hard and I just feel upset that I let myself get cheated out of my afternoon off. (I did it to myself, but then again, I fear if I had told the student "Wait until Monday," something else would have happened in their life and they wouldn't have been able to come in....)

Tomorrow morning I have to do Sunday School lesson, and tomorrow afternoon is graduation and when I have to go somewhere like that at a certain time I can never relax before it and do what I want.

And this brings up shadows of when I was a kid:
- wanting to go out and play but then it raining so I could not
- having plans for my mom to take me to the library but then something comes up and she couldn't
- having my tiny allowance saved up for weeks and weeks and wanting to go buy something with it at The Attic (a little gift shop in the town where I grew up) but then something coming up so we couldn't get there. Or saving up my money for a specific thing and finding it was sold out, never to return, when I finally had the money.

I think that's why I get so upset by having to change my plans as an adult - I feel like, darnit, I got jerked around like this as a kid by circumstance, now that I'm a full-grown adult with responsibilities, I should get to call the shots once in a while.

hopefully a resolution

Finally heard back from the student with all the problems. That's the good news.

The bad news is I'm giving up my afternoon at home today to take care of this. I feel irritated and yet at the same time I will be glad to be done with this.

I've told myself I can buy myself some kind of a treat - and a "non zero" treat, too, so I don't mean just a blindbag pony or an ice cream cone - but I have to figure out what it is. It will probably have to be mail-ordered as there is NO!!! shopping in town really other than wal-mart. So I don't know.

I'm leaning towards some kind of doll for my re-invigorated* collection but I don't know what.

(*Re-invigorated, because I used to collect dolls when I was in high school, then quit for a while, and now, especially with Monster High, have got back into it again in a small way. I probably need to retrieve the favorites from my old collection from my parents' house and figure out somewhere to put up shelving for them)

Also, just a request: if your life is a mess and you know that other people are having to put themselves out to deal with that mess, DON'T spend a lot of time apologizing for being a "problem." Apologize ONCE, then do your damnedest to be as little of a problem  as possible. I've had the experience of people apologizing up and down and not making ANY effort (or so it seems) to fix the issues that are leading to them inconveniencing me, and I confess: it feels very false to me to have someone apologize for something but not try to fix it.

I dunno. The joke among profs is "I teach for free; they pay me to grade" but I'd amend that to "I teach and grade for free; it's dealing with other people they are paying me for."

This is nifty

I'm dropping this link here partly so I can find it again when I want it (Yes, bookmarks, but they don't always work neatly): Radiooooooooo. It bills itself as The Musical Time Machine - you pick a 20th C. decade, a country (not all countries are available) and a pop music style (fast, slow, "weird") and it will play music for you.

(They also apparently have Hawaii as a separate choice, and they have a "Le Club" which I have not checked out, and "Neverland.")

So far, I've sampled mid-century France and I have 1920s UK playing right now.

It would be fun for setting a mood at a party, or else for if you were writing something set in a particular time.

Apparently it's "crowd-sourced," in that people suggest songs, so I don't know how regularly things repeat, but it might be worth a listen. (Possibly also good for language-learning.)

(Neverland, I correctly guessed before clicking: it's "kid's" music.)

Oh, and they have Guilty Pleasures Island! Music you love but are afraid to admit you do. (Right now they are playing "Funkytown" by Lipps, Inc.)

Thursday, May 04, 2017

Semester's end roadblock

So that student I figured was quietly accepting the F because of life-circumstances?

I came in this morning to an e-mail: "Hello, did you get the item I e-mailed you as an attachment?"

No. No, I did not.

And all of a sudden, like that, my peaceful schedule for the next couple days changes. Student wants to make up ALL THE THINGS. Student wants to meet with me (no suggestion as to WHEN) to hand those things in and also take the final and the last exam they missed.

It is mid-morning on Thursday. Grades are due on Tuesday. In fact, I have submitted grades for my other two classes already. I thought I'd get to submit for this one once the student that I allowed to take the exam a day late (they had a real and documented reason: an in-law died and they needed to help set up the funeral) finishes. (Student is taking the exam right now).

Tomorrow I planned to stay home. Sleep in, sew on quilts, take a day for myself. But that might change if this student can "only" come in tomorrow.

My biggest worry is that this student's e-mail connectivity/ability to send has been spotty: I was afraid they'd not get my e-mail and then, if I were forced to assign the F they have earned largely on the basis of no-work-handed-in, they would protest it and I'd be dragged into a grade change thing over the summer.

I raised the issue with my department chair, who very sensibly suggested I e-mail the student with the time concerns carefully described, and then CC her on it. I have done so. But I'm still concerned because this student has, shall we say, Harold Skimpole-like tendencies: Skimpole believed that the world exists to serve him, and that any problem he may have, other people can take care of it. So I was *extremely* careful in my e-mail to set a hard deadline that gave me enough time to grade the things, if they even come in.

But this is one of the things I find very, very frustrating about a few people I've dealt with in my life: that utterly carefree (or rather: care-less) tendency to expect that the world owes 'em a livin', and what's more, they are due having every mistake they make mopped up by the world. (the sort of situation over which I have muttered the radio-edit version of Radiohead's words: "You're so very special. I wish **I** was special.")

I don't know why people who act like that so rub me the wrong way; with other people who are having problems, I am happy to do things to alleviate their frustration or agony, even if it puts me out a bit. I suspect it is the sense of EXPECTATION in the Skimpole-types that annoys me: in the past, people who have had these kinds of issues, when I scrambled to fix things, didn't even seem to express gratitude, but rather, seemed to take it as their due.

I think there's also perhaps a bit of the "opposites don't always attract; in fact, they often repel" coming in to play, also. I have talked about how I always have to have plans. When I travel and have hotel reservations, I have a printout with the reservation code on it, a spare credit card (in case the one I used to make the reservation is declined), and a list of other hotels in the area in case the one I am booked at has lost my reservation and is full up (that has never happened). In short: I generally expect bad things to happen - either because of the random nature of the universe, or because someone somewhere was either incompetent or malicious. This sort of thing doesn't happen to me often, but it has happened enough, and at crucial times, that I am now gun-shy in the rest of my life. So I overplan, and I never count on anyone helping me if I'm in some kind of serious difficulty, but that I will be thrown onto my own resources.

And I've gotten used to doing that. And I've gotten used to putting obligations before pleasure - my comment about having to give up my day of sewing at home is an example; there have also been times where I left a serious plumbing issue or the like go longer than I might because I didn't want to cancel class (a dozen or so years ago, I went without heat in November for two weeks, partly because getting it fixed according to the schedule of my now-former furnace guy would have required the cancelling of class).

And so, even though I know it's uncharitable of me, I get annoyed with those people who airily seem to expect everyone will fix their mistakes, will adjust their schedules to work with them, will cut them infinite slack, etc., etc.

And yes, I know: I am being uncharitable; this is a person with problems in their life. But also, the lack of communication is maddening - it has been a week since I last heard from this person, when I told them "You need to do this, that, and the other" to complete your grade, and I also added, "If you don't think you can manage it, the other option is to accept an F and try again in another semester" and I assumed radio-silence meant "Yes, I will take that second option."

I have people who e-mail me if I go a whole 20 minutes without responding to their e-mail to ask me if I got their previous one, so it frustrates me to have people who go so long with no response. And yes, I get not everyone has e-mail at home: but this is someone I KNOW has a smartphone with a data plan, so....

I don't know. I get tired sometimes of putting myself out for other people and having some of those people come to expect that it's no effort for me, that OF COURSE I will change my plans to suit them because I don't matter. Argh.

May the Fourth....

Happy Star Wars Day!

And I have to post this again because it's one of the more brilliant parodies of a pop song that I've ever seen:

And even  though I've shared it before, my story about "the Force:"

The movie came out in 1977 (the original one, I mean). I would have been 8; my brother was 3. I remember going to see it (with the entire family) in the theater. Some time later, my brother asked me, as we were playing, "Do you think The Force is with us?" (In those days, in the early movies, The Force was a more mystical sort of thing than the later movies made it seem - I do think as a child I imagined it as being something like that Holy Spirit thing they talked about in church).

My mom overhead his question and years later she told me she was afraid I was going to say, like every snotty older sister anywhere, "Silly, that was just a movie."

But either I was still in the imaginative world of whatever we were playing, or I was thinking of The Force in the way my Sunday-School and VBS-instructed brain was telling me, and I said "Oh, I *hope* so."

I wasn't always nice to my brother when I was a kid but that was one time when I think I got it right.

(Also, as an adult, I have met more than one person who feels as I do, that you feel somewhat compelled to respond "And also with you" when someone says "May the Force be with you.")

Wednesday, May 03, 2017

And rebound time

I realized something the other day:

Once again, I'm happier, more content, less troubled. I don't THINK it's merely that I started taking a B complex again (many days I forget it, anyway, and the fact that I eat oatmeal every morning and eat my share of eggs probably means I already get enough B complex).

It's probably a complex of things. For one thing: I had much more amenable classes this semester. The students were by and large more pleasant people and I didn't have any really major Problem People (well, I had one person, but their problems were external to who they were - bad life circumstances - and while I couldn't fix the problems, the person kind of accepted that they just got dealt a bad hand this semester and that it wasn't my "fault" - I have had students in the past who blamed me for their poor grade that was really due to lack-of-attendance-and-work that was brought about by life circumstances). Several of my students quietly thanked me for the class as they handed in their exams today....I will miss them.

Also, things are looking up here. We are in a better position than MANY of the regional unis thanks to the draconian budget-cutting last year and all the early retirements. (And a lot of that, I credit our fairly-new president for. He took an awful situation and by and large did the best possible thing with it). And we've been told we're well-positioned for the future because in another year, the "bonus" payments for the early retirements cut out - which means a little more money in the coffers. (And also: this president is far more transparent and communicative about what's going on.) I don't fear for my job any more like I did last year. Oh, I'm still nervous about what will happen long-term with higher ed, but hopefully we'll hang on either until I hit retirement, or at least until I reach the point of "forget you money" with my investments and I could just leave that job and take on something less well-paid and sort of slowly run down my retirement money - but have enough to live on.

And, as much as I know I shouldn't let it affect me, honestly? Winning that award did a lot for my self-confidence. One of the problems of being in an excellent department is you do begin to doubt yourself - you begin to feel "ordinary" even though in a random group of people you'd probably be pretty good in terms of your accomplishments - when you're running with the alpha dogs, it's really easy to see yourself as the omega, when really the omega-dog in an alpha-pack probably isn't really any worse than a gamma dog in any other pack. But that framed thing propped up on my desk reminds me that I'm really okay, after all, and people recognize that okayness. (or maybe even: better than okay).

I think also just the passage of time. Last year, 2016, took a lot out of me. LOTS of bad things happened, starting with my dad's emergency room trip that reminded me, in a very visceral way, that my parents are mortal, and someday - someday soon, possibly - there will be a for-real medical thing that one of them is not coming home from. (And my mom's fall in December just bookended that). They're both doing better now, and I'm grateful for that, but yeah, I spent a lot of 2016 scared. And other friends having a host of health problems from cancer to serious surgery to a miscarriage.

And all the budget cuts. And all the changes (I hate and fear change that I don't have any control over - like my colleague being let go). And sometimes it felt like no one understood - I remember crying over my colleague's losing her job in front of someone, and they said to me, I'm not kidding "But it's not YOUR fault." No, of course not BUT THAT IS NOT WHY I AM UPSET.

Anyway. The smaller 2016 gets in my mental rearview mirror - well, the *smaller* it gets. I beat that year. I came out better on the other side. And I'm beginning to bounce back and feel more like myself again.

For a while, I didn't. I don't think what I experienced was clinical depression, but I might cop to it having been "situational" - and there were a heck of a lot of bad situations that just kept coming and didn't stop coming. But so far this year, things have been better.

For a while, I kind of lost my crafting mojo. I spent a lot of time in the evenings, online, obsessively reading (mostly) Pony blogs, as a way of trying to cheer myself up. I still spend too much time online but I'm getting better at breaking away and actually knitting or sewing stuff....which is really what I need to do to stay happy. (Ironic that I didn't have the energy to do the very things that would have made me feel better during much of last year). But now I feel that drive again - the million projects starting in my brain, the "what do I want to make next," the desire to just start sewing or knitting to make stuff. I was thinking this morning while proctoring my exam that instead of going "What quilt do I want to make next" and changing my mind eighteen times, I should just accept that I want to make them all, and then grab the fabric and pattern that are nearest to hand, and do THAT one first. (Which means after I finish the tilted nine-patch, it will be what I have dubbed the "birb" quilt - also, that has the virtue of just being two fabrics, a bit of a departure for me).

And I realized I have a lot to be happy about. It occurred to me the other day that with all the Pony stuff, and all the stuffies, and all the dolls (Monster High, mostly, but a couple of Super Hero Girls and a couple of Ever After Highs)....well, that's kind of something I wanted as a kid, the freedom to be able to buy toys that I wanted without having to save up for literal months to do it. (And they have BETTER toys now. Gen-X suffered by being a statistically-small generation and being kids during an oil embargo). So I buy toys to make my inner child happy. (I still need to get a shelf for all my dolls.)

And this summer, I will need to be disciplined (research, prepping that class, updating a couple other classes), but I think if I can make myself work for 4-5 hours per day, four days a week - I can have the rest of the time to sew and knit and garden and play piano and do all the things I want to do but never feel like I have time to do.

And it's time for a rest and a change, which this summer will definitely be. Yes, less money, but I realized the reason my paychecks have been a bit smaller - because of an office derp, I got put on the "12 month pay plan" instead of the "10 month plan" I was on (and now, darnit, I can't go back: some kind of rule). Anyway, the 12-month plan was set up to "force" people who didn't teach summers to have "enough" money left over at the end of the school year - the last 2 checks are distributed with the May check. So I will have a chunk 'o' change going into my account to cover the summer (And anyway - the tax refund, which was partly due to the fact that I tithe (and then a little bit) and I write that off, and also, I had a capital loss last year - so I have enough of a cushion for a typical summer).

My hope and my plan is to work down both the yarn and fabric stashes, make some stuff, rest up, keep up with exercise, prep my new class, do some research, contemplate new research projects, do some reading....it will almost be like the summers of old, when I was a kid, when you stepped off the bus on the last day of school and there was this glorious couple of months stretching ahead of you with NOTHING YOU HAD TO DO. Well, I have stuff I "have" to do (prepping that class), but I am not tied to a work schedule - if I get a headache, I can go home and lie down, I don't have to soldier on. Or if it's a gorgeous beautiful weekend and there's an Art Walk or something somewhere, I don't need to think twice - I can just go and enjoy it and not say "But when will I do my grading?" I think I will need this summer break.