Saturday, December 16, 2017

And that's better

I was low-level concerned my Doki Doki box for December might not show up before I left. The BIGGEST issue would be arranging for a replacement if it had got lost (at the point I'd be contacting them, it would probably be a refund/extension of my subscription, I think the boxes are actually sold out).

I was also wondering if I'd get mail today - I handed in the hold card yesterday morning, and sometimes, they just start holding the mail the minute they get it. But nope! I saw my mail person coming down the street (it was the usual woman) and so I ran down to get my mail. And I saw the pink box, and I knew my Doki Doki crate was there. So that was good.

What was in it? Some Christmas stuff:

crate stuff

A "Christmas plush" (well, FSVO "plush" - it is VERY tiny) gingerbread man which serves better as a tree ornament than anything, and the promised blind-box themed Gutedama Christmas charm.

Gutedama is....weird. He is a "lazy and depressed egg," what you are seeing there is the egg yolk which forms his body (the white is more often the bed he won't get out of). Yeah, it's a little peculiar but I admit I was kind of excited to get a Gutedama tree ornament.

So here they both are, fulfilling their destinies:

Gutedama fulfills his destiny

Gingerbread man on tree

There were other things in the crate:

more stuff

A Hello Kitty pocket mirror, which I really like - it has a cover that folds down to protect the mirror, and it's a good size to keep in a purse. And Hello Kitty makes everything better. And there's the little Hoppe Chan, this time a pin. And a Sumikko Gurashi pen, and some My Melody stationary. (Which looks a LITTLE juvenile, but whatever. I might still use it. My niece is a little young for such things and I'm not even sure she likes the kind of cutesie-poo stuff like this (some little kids don't) or I'd consider passing it on to her.

The single biggest item was this:

dolphin pillow

A dolphin-shaped neck pillow for traveling. (I am considering taking her along, as much for psychological as for physical comfort. I might be able to quickly sew a loop on to her so I could carabiner her to my carry on if I couldn't fit her inside.

(No, no name as yet. Serena? Marina? Maybe. Sylvia. I like that better. (Yes, it's silly and twee, but I feel like stuffed things need names)

And here she is, on.

Edited to add - after wearing her for a bit, I find it's a very nice comfy thing. I think I WILL take her along, even though I also plan to tote a couple of Emotional Support (stuffed) Ponies in my carry on.

this is me

I ran across this captioned screengrab from Sailor Moon (I think that's Minako Aino, also known as Sailor Venus, there? Artemis, her cat?)

Anyway, this is so me:

One little thing that is more OK: my December Doki Doki box came today, so later there may be photos of the contents. (Right now, meatballs for tomorrow are cooking, and after that I need to wash the too-much pomade out of my hair).

But yeah. I just want everything to be okay, or at least FEEL okay.

semester is over

I got the couple "leftover" exams midafternoon yesterday. (The teal deer: had a student with extra-time accommodations, students with those accommodations need to take their exams in a separate office, the student in question put it off until the last possible time even though they're supposed to take the exam at the same general time as the rest of the class).

So my grades are done and in. I don't need to go in Monday and I don't think I will. All that will happen is I'll probably have e-mails begging for extra credit even though it's too late.

I'm tired. Part of me is quietly going "yay, you survived that tough new prep and it went better than you hoped" but I'm kind of just worn out and at loose ends.

Today was graduation. The speech was better than many, but it was one of those "you need to serve more" speeches and while intellectually I get that it's aimed at the new grads who are hoping for a posh first job where they can buy all the toys, emotionally I hear it - yet again - as a "you're not doing enough" and the speaker said something like that if you feel like something is lacking in your life, it means you're not serving hard enough and that seems wrong to me.

I do feel like something is lacking at times but I don't think it's more service. I don't know.

I'm telling myself it's that I'm tired, I'm out of a normal schedule, I have the low-level worry of making sure all my pre-travel plans are finalized (need to pack, need to get gas in the car, need to make sure the plants are on the automatic waterers, need to shut down the breakers to certain things in the house (just out of an excess of caution), need to leave the kitchen sink on a VERY slow drip just in case things go bad and my heat stops working and it gets extremely cold - wasting a few bucks' worth of water is better than frozen pipes)

And I think also, I'm suffering a little bit from memories. Last week was the fifth anniversary of Sandy Hook, and while in no way did I know anyone who was lost in that, was one of the more-unsettling things that has happened in recent years. And yes, I was thinking about it at graduation today, and (as always) I knew which three exits were nearest me, and how I could quickly get out if I had to....

And I'm thinking about last Christmas, when my mom fell on the ice, and how worried I was she had really really hurt herself badly, and that worry was on top of me needing to then take care of all the logistics of a proper Christmas (and it's different in a family than by yourself: if it were just me I could make a pot of soup for Christmas dinner and call it good).

I am really, really hoping no one gets hurt or sick this year, and things all go smoothly.

I think also on some level I've realized that the childhood Christmases are gone forever - with all their attendant things, all the days upon days of cookie baking (not as many people to give them to, and none of us, save perhaps my mom, should be eating very many cookies these days). And going out at night to drive around and look at lights (no one likes to drive at night any more, and I am sufficiently unfamiliar with the place, not having lived there for nearly 20 years, that I'd be uncomfortable doing it myself - never mind you can't look while you're driving). And getting toys for Christmas, or similar frivolous things - it's harder for my parents to shop now, and I mostly ask for practical stuff. I figure, the frivolous stuff, I buy for myself. (But it's not quite the same).

I dunno. I guess a lot of adulthood is learning to accept that a lot of the things you enjoyed as a kid are gone, and to try to find new things to enjoy. I haven't been quite so good at that; some of the paths most people take (spouses, kids) that make them happy haven't happened for me. And I admit, as good as my job is compared to many, it's not a source of JOY in the way I had hoped it would be. I mean, it's important to me: I am lucky to have a career in which I do not have to compromise my ethics to get along, I get to use my brain, the sort of stupid hoop-jumping rules are at a minimum, and on good days I feel like maybe I'm making a little difference in the world. But I don't walk into work like my old high school French teacher, whistling and swinging my (figurative) briefcase. I guess I feel my responsibilities too heavily or something - my usual thought is "What e-mails have come in overnight that I will have to deal with?" (Maybe the secret was that in his day, there WAS no e-mail)

And I think these past two years HAVE just changed things. I worry a LOT more about my continued employment - in the past, I felt like, "Unless I screw up really big, I have a secure job until retirement" but now I feel more like "Unless things change in my state, or unless the general societal attitudes toward higher ed become less negative, I might find myself out of a job in a few years through no fault of my own" (and then all the worries about: do I plan on moving and maybe never owning a house again and fight with people who are, honestly, more "superstars" than I will ever be over the tiny handful of academic jobs, or do I retrain and retool and accept maybe living for a much smaller paycheck, but be able to stay here and as long as I can pay for my car insurance and property tax and the electric bill, I can maybe kind of manage?)

And I don't know how much of that is me being a pessimist vs. accurate reality. I wish I could shake that worry.

(Honestly, what I would want the very most in my life, if there were a for-real Santa Claus? A piece of paper promising - an absolutely unbreakable promise - that things with my career would continue to be OK, and that I would have enough money to survive when it came time to retire. That would probably go a long way to getting me out from under the concern I feel daily).

I dunno. There are lots of speeches made and lots of ink spilled that make me feel like I'm doing enough, like I need to be "better," but a lot of the time I feel like I wish the rest of the world would try to be better for a little while.


Edited to add: I ran out to Lowe's and got another ornament bag and a tree storage bag. But I don't think I will feel like taking it down before I leave (even though it's supposedly bad luck to leave a tree up after Epiphany, oh well, 2016 and 2017 have been bad-luck years enough with me taking the tree down on Epiphany).

I got solicited by a salesperson in the parking lot. THE FRICKING LOWE'S PARKING LOT. Someone selling make up - he had little gift bag type things made up. I glanced in it, saw all the eye shadow palettes and said "I don't really wear make up, sorry" (Not true, totally, but: I don't wear eye make-up, and I don't wear random make-up because of allergies: it pretty much has to be Clinique). He asked me if I did my own hair. I said "No, not really" which wasn't a total like (I don't "do" my hair. I comb it and hope it lies flat). I wanted to say "Does it LOOK like I do my hair?" because I knew it was a mess (I got too much pomade in it last night after washing it, it feels greasy, will have to wash it again tonight and use less pomade this time)

I should have just driven away without rolling my window down but I was raised to be too polite. (Vague thought in my head: that will get me killed some day; dude could have been a robber using the sales tactic as a cover....)

I hate being solicited. I won't open my front door to a knock unless it's someone I know or the USPS/UPS person. It seems a bit much to have to cope with it in a store's parking lot. Maybe I need a "NO SOLICITING" t-shirt made up...

Friday, December 15, 2017

some happier stuff

I'm already planning on break-books and projects.

I have a stack of the vintage British mystery reprints I've been saving up, and also a new-ish biography of Churchill (longtime readers may remember: I am a somewhat-distant relative on my mom's side, something like a fifth cousin). I may dig around and see if there's another "more serious" novel I want to take and read - I think I bought a copy of "Felix Holt, the Radical" some time back (I love George Eliot) and I might carry that along and start it.

For projects, I think I'm going to take Celestarium and try to make some good progress on it (it has been in a stall for months). If there's room, Augusta cardigan, too. And I have two socks ongoing - a pair of Rosa Rubiginosa socks that won't take long to finish (this is from one of the Hunter Hammersen books) and a pair of just-simple socks from a self-striping yarn ("Coeur de Pomme" - heart of the apple, a Biscotte and Cie. colorway). Probably will take some additional sock yarn "in case" - I certainly have a great deal ahead.

And some new things to start (these are all Ravelry links but I THINK non-members can see the patterns without signing up).

Fun new mitt pattern from a fairly-new designer: Matane. I was tickled by the suggestion of a crochet hook as a "facultative" tool; this amuses me both because it's a very Francophone phrasing (in fact, the designer commented - when I e-mailed her congratulating her on the pattern - that she had quickly translated from French Candian) but also because it works, in a biological sense: "Facultative" is something that is not necessary but helpful. (e.g., in some contexts, mycorrhizal fungi are facultative: the plant won't die without them, but it might grow better if they were present). I am leaning towards using some self-striping (I have two, actually: a KnitPicks one and a String Theory Colorworks one, I will have to pick) inspired by the Fourth Doctor's impossibly-long scarf. (Gonna go with the String Theory on this one; the colors are more pleasing to me and are truer to the scarf. Maybe I also drag along my copy of the "Scraptastic Hat" pattern in case I have enough left over... I bet I would)

Mmmmmaybe another pair of Weasley Homestead socks. I just like this pattern and it works well with many yarns. (Also, it's been republished in one of the free-extra fliers that came with one of my Brit-Knit magazines, so I have a more-permanent copy.

Edited to add: I might use the green-and-pink, "Marian and Robin" I bought on a good sale at Quixotic Fibers for this. Or maybe a purple Hedgehog Fibers yarn I have....will probably skein up both.

And a tiny crochet unicorn - I found the kit and pattern yesterday, I was going to make it over the summer but never did.

And an crocheted okapi. I had wanted a toy okapi for a while, to the point of contemplating the plush ones on Amazon, but I think it will be more fun to make my own.

And another pattern by the same author, but more fanciful: Hippocampus. But maybe in different colors? (algae greens, perhaps?) And I plan to do My Little Pony style big-applique eyes instead of the little lock-washer ones. (More expressive, and sometimes the lock-washer eyes fall out of crocheted or knitted toys....)

I might dig around in my library/books and see if there are any other toys I really want to make; Christmas is a good time to do it (I have time, it feels "right" to be making toys then, and the yarn can be gotten local-to-where-I-will-be (there is a Michael's not too far from my parents and of the big-box craft stores, they seem to be superior in yarn selection))

That might be quite enough, I don't know, though I also bought Paddington's Garden some months back and recently bought a skein of Wollmeise Pure (574 yards, so it will be enough) in the color "suß" (which means "sweet," both in the sense of "tastes sweet like sugar" and "is sweet in the metaphorical sense" but can also mean "cute"), which is a v. pale pink. I need to wind that yarn off some time and also any of the sock yarn I want to take that's not already skeined up....Again, a lot of it will come down to "do I have room" (which is why the Augusta cardigan might get left as a next-semester project).

I do also have a long cream-colored glittery scarf I could drag along and finish....

Clothes? Yeah, I'll get around to that after I do the laundry...

I don't know...

I remarked somewhere else, in the context of someone being exhausted because they were dealing with a particularly entitled-behaving and rude student, that it just seemed to me people were getting meaner and ruder.

And someone else shot back: "Yeah, well, that's 'cos we women have decided we're not going to do the emotional labor of covering up for rude people any more, so it's actually a good thing" and I just boggled.

I didn't want to see a firefight start (this is someone who has expressed similar opinions before so I assume I cannot bring her around to my way of viewing things) so I just let it drop.

But yeah, no. What I was referring to was not women "making nice" over things other people did (or some men "making nice," I know men who can be very gentle and conciliatory and it seems prejudicial to me to assume all men are rude boors who don't care and all women get drafted to smooth over whatever ruffled feelings exist afterwards....)

What I was referring to, by and large, was something I've seen referred to as "punching down." In particular, there was a student being verbally abusive to staff people. Now, staff people on college campuses: they are NOT well-paid, they are the ones who do a lot of the scut work, you want to be nice to staff people because of that.

But I think I have seen more "punching down" in recent years: people being extremely rude to shopclerks (I have on more than one occasion whispered "I'm so sorry" to the checkout person after the person in line ahead of me raged at them over some perceived injustice). Or parents telling their kids, "Oh, it's okay to leave a mess, it's their job to clean it up" or any number of other things that, had I done it as a snotty child or bratty, self-centered teen, I would have gotten a Stern Talking-To from my parents. (And thus: I internalized the idea of "be polite to those who are working for you" before I was old enough to realize that it should be done simply for reasons of tact and humanity).

I've also seen more rude behavior in traffic. Just this morning, I had someone without the right-of-way scoot in front of me - even though they saw me coming - even though I had to almost stop in the middle of an intersection to avoid them hitting me. I've been flipped off more in this past year for "only" driving 10 miles over the speed limit on an interstate.

And, I fail to see how women (If we're going to accept the particulars) accepting additional "emotional labor" would stop any of those things. In all the cases, it didn't seem like the woman with the guy (if there was one) did anything, and in some cases (esp. with shopclerks) the rude party WAS a woman.

(And yes, maybe my whispered "I'm so sorry" or trying to be extra-nice to the clerk after a jerk is "emotional labor" but one thing I've learned in this vale of tears? Sometimes if you put in a little effort to trying to make someone else's day better, it makes YOUR day better too)

But I don't know. Also, part of me despairs a little: isn't it kind of cutting off all our noses to spite our faces to say "Well, SOME PEOPLE are rude so I'm not going to go to any extra effort to be not-rude"?

I dunno. I was taught to see people as people....and if someone around me is a jerk, and maybe I can make the person they were a jerk to feel a little better, I'm going to do it. (The jerks can go pound sand; my SOP for dealing with a jerk is to have as little dealing with them as I possibly can).

The other thing is: I don't think "covering up" for other people - that is, letting them persist in their pathology - is in any way the same as going to someone the person has hurt and commiserating with them. And it does seem unfair to the victims of bad behavior to say "Well, I don't FEEL like going to any extra trouble because that guy is a jerk, so you can just hang out to dry." I know there have been a number of times in my life when I've been hurt in some way by how someone asked, and even just feeling "heard" by another person helps.

(I think of the time back in 2012 when I had the horrible student who was so unpleasant to me, and I finally one day broke down crying in my chair's office, because I couldn't any more. And she told me she understood, and then kind of chuckled and said, "You know, you held out longer about coming to me than ANYONE else who had him in class" which made me feel way tougher than I actually was* and actually made me feel a lot better. It was a simple thing but it made me feel better)

(*I don't think it was that I was so very tough, I think it's that I'm so used to going it alone that I don't think of going to someone for help until I'm at the very end of my rope. Which I was in that moment, I was on the point of telling her "If I have to have this person in class again, I will resign")

But yeah. Everyone is fighting a hard battle, and it seems needlessly cold to me to say "Well, because some people aren't as good as they should be, I am going to withhold succor from those who are hurting, and be less civil when out in public."

You want me to become a hermit? 'Cos that's how you get me to become a hermit....

Edited to add: No, I have more.

This past year, I feel almost like we've come to a hinge point. Perhaps I see this more being on a campus (granted, one that has a more-mature student body with less time to concern itself with the niceties of things like shades of meaning) but it does seem three paths diverge ahead of us: One, where free speech winds up being limited in some way, in the name of either protecting people or silencing the unpopular. (This is a bad path. Because if you silence the unpopular now, perhaps next month, YOU are the unpopular. And I think offering overwhelming evidence to the contrary of "bad opinions" is preferable to silencing them and maybe allowing them to spread underground). Or we go to a path where it's red-in-tooth-and-claw, and people don't care about anyone's sensibilities, and people just spiral down and get ruder and ruder....and I also think this is a bad path, because there are enough people who become violent when sufficiently offended that we wind up with more shootings in the streets. Or, perhaps, we realize "I may not agree with the dude next to me but the dude next to me is at least human so I owe him civility as a bare minimum" and also maybe a recognition that "Not every one of my innermost thoughts requires it be expressed in any and all company." I mean, there's stuff we say when we're shooting the bull late at night with our buddies that we'd never say in class or at work....or at least that used to be the idea. And yeah, I know some people say "self-censorship is bad" but letting it all hang out to the point where you're figuratively rolling in filth and leaving a trail of broken friendships behind you is also not great....I tend to come down on the side, in that case, of a little intelligent self-censorship. (Oh, I censor myself ALL THE TIME. I would not have earned tenure if I did not...)

But I don't know what path we're heading down. I greatly fear the first, I suspect the second is the most likely while a deeply unpleasant one, and I'd hope for the third but it does seem like lots of people are kind of like 18 year olds out from under their parents' thumbs for the first time, so there is likely to be a lot of (figuratively speaking) drinking and ugly graffiti, and ill-advised sexual relationships, and keeping the neighbors up all night with loud music....and I don't like that future either. (By the time I was an 18 year old out from under my parents' thumbs, I was pretty much sufficiently under my own adult-mind's thumb that I avoided most of the "trouble" 18 year olds got up to.)


And yet another thought: I once had someone tell me that my extra effort to be a polite and pleasant person (esp. to people like waiters and shopclerks), when many people are rude and unkind, made who I was "shine more brightly." But you know what? I'm tired, and being (what feels like) one of the few out there "shining brightly" is discouraging. (And also, all too often, then, your civility is met with incivility...).

I don't know. My inner fairness-obsessed kid (think: Linus van Pelt but with Louise Belcher's attitude) is screaming that people need to be better....

Thursday, December 14, 2017

It's decompression time

Yup, done at the dentist. Nothing is wrong. And it was a new hygienist - I hope she stays there a while, she was good.

Also, for the first time, someone (the hygienist) acknowledged to my face the existence of something I've read about: that some people are tartar super-accumulators. Their saliva apparently contains more minerals (calcium) and so they build up more tartar. When she was scraping my teeth, she kind of sighed and said "I bet you're a super-accumulator."

In the past, I had hygienists just say either "You don't brush hard enough" or "you're not flossing RIGHT" and I kind of doubted that.

So yeah. She did say an anti-tartar toothpaste might help. (If I can find one that's not "whitening" because that junk makes my teeth super sensitive and I'd rather endure the semi-yearly scraping)

But yeah: what a lousy super-power to have: "I can fossilize people by spitting on them for a few years!"


I also got my last exam graded. Am trying to decide if I'm up to going back to enter the grades. I still have to wait - my "extra time" accommodation person has to take their exam in a special office, and I've not received it back yet (here's hoping it comes either this afternoon or tomorrow, so I can get my grades done).

The other alternative is to write my short Christmas letter and get the cards ready to go out to a couple family friends and a couple relatives....


I think I'm going to do the black-bean burgers again for dinner. They appeal to me, and they will be soft (I always have a little bit of soreness, even after just a checkup - holding my jaw open for any length of time hurts a little, and the scaling makes my gums hurt a little.) And I have time to do it where I have to go, nothing I have to do, which is nice. Monday and Wednesday this week were evening meetings, last Thursday was the AAUW party....I've had lots of grading recently, so it's nice to decompress a little.

Going to go to bed EARLY tonight, I think. And not set my alarm for tomorrow morning.

The only things I have left that I HAVE to do (other than packing) are graduation Saturday, the church stuff Sunday, and entering my grades some time....

exams are given

* I gave my last (of four) exams this morning. Am trying to grade it now. I do not recommend teaching four different classes with one being a new prep.

* I have a dental check up this afternoon. I am alternately trying to distract myself so I won't think about it, and telling myself it will be all over by 2 pm and I can go home and relax (in my clean house). I don't expect anything is wrong but I still don't like these - the noise of the various instruments, the smell of the opertory, having people's hands stuck in my mouth, essentially giving up my personal autonomy and personal space for a while.

I'm also telling myself if I do need further work done, it surely won't be an EMERGENCY (I have no tooth pain) and I can put it off until after I come back. (And anyway, at this point: it would have to be a pretty darn big emergency for them to fit me in Friday or Monday morning. I leave Monday afternoon....)

*annnnnd the first e-mail from a student in my intro class. Give me strength. (I just posted the grades and this is someone who surely did not earn what they were hoping for).

They wanted me to re-open the homework JUST FOR THEM. I was CRYSTAL clear about the due dates on these. CRYSTAL. I am not going back now and re-calculating a grade because someone couldn't be arsed to do the work when they were supposed to (Sorry, harsh word there, but).

I get so tired of being asked for infinite slack, but I know that if I didn't get to something in good time because of a good reason, everyone would be furious with me. I am tired of the double standards, where I am expected to magically get everything done super fast but then let someone else put stuff off forever.

Just sent a "sorry, no" e-mail to them. I WARNED THEM. I TOLD THEM.

Argh. "Ask Culture."

(I'm not being unreasonable by saying no. I'm not being unreasonable by saying no....

that's actually a big issue with being a Guess Culture person confronted with Ask Culture: you second guess yourself and say "Wait, if they're asking, they expect a yes, right? SO if I say "no" there's some reason I'm being unfair or unreasonable" when in reality it's just someone who expects something they don't really deserve.... but I still feel uncomfortable about it)

* Not everything you learn in a class necessarily has to do with the subject of that class. Respecting deadlines is one of those things.

We had a former admin who told us we needed to teach them "soft skills" (her particular hobby horse being, "They don't know how to shake hands properly" and I was like "you seriously don't want us to shake hands with all our students during the height of cold and flu season just to show them how to do it?") but I would argue that respecting your co-workers/bosses/stakeholders/etc. by not letting deadlines fly by and then ask them for extensions after the fact is a similarly important skill.

* I really want to get myself some kind of a tangible treat after the dental check-up (as a "fluster") but there is NOTHING good to be had locally so I don't know. (I have to come in tomorrow here to post final grades and do a little clean-up, and Saturday is graduation, so....)

*Board meeting was last night. It was fairly short (which is good: not much business and no drama). The biggest question was figuring out the Christmas bonuses for the various employees and they always make a big deal about sending them out in the hall so they don't hear and all that stuff. And tease them gently when they come back.

The other piece of business: the campus Wesley Center has undergone some big changes (Yes, Wesley is Methodists but on a small campus all the mainliners work through them). One big issue being we lost contact with them, then our board member moved away....and so we needed a new board member.

And I realized: shoot, I'm probably the logical person to do this, seeing as I am on campus and know campus culture. So I volunteered. Hopefully the meetings will not be at a bad time for me but if they are I guess I just hand it off to someone else. I do think we need a presence with the Wesley Center, especially given our college-student ministry....So we'll see.

At least this will probably buy me my way out of some other volunteer task that I'd less like to do.

* I'm still having weird, borderline-unpleasant dreams. Last night it was another "I can't make Christmas right" type of dream: I was at home, my parents were there, my brother and sister in law and niece were there. Two big problems:

1. Someone had got/made a huge cake for my niece, and my mom, deciding to be pro-actively helpful (normally she is not pushy like this, not in real life), cut part of the cake and froze it so it wouldn't spoil. And that made my niece extremely angry and she was throwing an enormous tantrum about her cake being "damaged" was just loud and unpleasant and it was one of those "person was trying to be helpful but other person doesn't understand" things.

2. The tree we was a live tree, and yet, it behaved strangely. It went all floppy, like some kind of an herbaceous plant that hasn't been watered in forever and is all wilted. I walked into the room and the tree was all flopped over onto the floor and I was like "this will never do, how will we put the ornaments on it?" and I was trying to fix it and make it work and I couldn't and it was so frustrating.

I suspect that my mom falling last year - and me having to do nearly all the Christmas prep, such as we had, as a result - affected me more deeply than I thought. I mean, symbolically: the realization that my parents are older now and can't do all of the things they once did, and I kind of have to take over, and I'm honestly not ready for that.

Though ironically, I think I'd find having Christmas alone in my house easier: I'd spend a few days of break deep cleaning the places I didn't clean, and I'd probably go to Whitesboro and a few other semi-local areas with interesting shopping for a couple days of break, and Christmas itself I'd just sit at home and knit and watch Christmas tv and figure out some kind of little thing to fix for dinner....but at my parents', I almost feel like the childhood Christmases need to be reconstituted in some form, and they can't be (you can't go home again) and maybe that's what's frustrating me about it....

She did mention when we talked last night that she'd bought a tree (and managed to wrestle it out of the car and into a bucket in the garage, so her back must be better than it was last year) and she was also pushing to finish the cards before I got there so she would have more free hopefully there's some stuff we can do together.

I do want to bake some cookies and maybe even make candy. (I want to try doing marshmallows this year, after us having said "let's do that" the past three years or so and then not getting to it). And I kind of want to try making the little British-style mince pies, or maybe mince-pie cookies.

But yeah. A little Christmas melancholy has attacked me this week, after my feeling happier about stuff last weekend....I think it doesn't help that I remember my childhood (at least, the part of it at home with my  parents, and things like Christmas) happily, and also that the further you get from it, the more you remember the good stuff and forget the bad stuff, but....especially at Christmas I wish I could go back and be a kid again, believe in a literal Santa, be excited over getting toys, bake roll out cookies and not worry about the kitchen mess....

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

the invigilating sweater

Which is what I will think of this version of  Grasse Matinée as, seeing that at least 85% of the knitting on it was done over the past year while invigilating exams.

I finished the last bits on the second sleeve last night, and wove the ends in this afternoon:

grasse matinee

This was an "initial attempt" with less-expensive yarn to try out fit (it's a little floppy but I'm not sure going down a size would work) and make sure there were no infelicities in the pattern. I have some tweedy yarn for a second one - this is just a self-striping yarn (Deborah Norville's "Serenity sock yarn" bought on a super-closeout - I think I paid less than $30 for the yarn for the sweater, and I have at least one skein left over).

Only problem with striping yarns: increases and decreases SHOW in where the stripes fall. That pale stripe falls in when you're built like I am.

g matinee 3

(Or maybe not-unfortunate, I don't know, it's just I never intend to draw attention to that area).

I'm pretty happy with it, on balance - it is a nice lighter weight sweater and on really cold days, will work UNDER other things.

Wednesday morning random

* I don't know if it's my brain decompressing, or hormones, or what, but I've been having very intense dreams. Not nightmares per se, but lots of stuff crammed into the dream, lots of stuff to process, and sometimes a real feeling of claustrophobia or not-quite-panic (e.g.: almost missing an important flight somewhere)

I don't like it. It frequently happens during exam week which makes me wonder if it's some kind of decompression after the semester.

* Monday night was the CWF Christmas party. It was...subdued. That's the best word for it. We've lost a couple people in the past few years (deaths or moving away) and this year, a couple of people who might have been there, weren't (illness, or in one case, a woman was with her husband in OKC because he was getting chemo). There weren't many of us. And ironically? We do it as a potluck where one person volunteers to bring a main dish (something kind of like ropa vieja this year) and everyone else brings sides or desserts. We had no desserts this year - I brought Harvard beets, a couple people brought corn dishes, there were green beans, there were a couple of starches (potato dishes and a rice dish) and there were rolls.

(Confession: I was slightly disappointed. I don't get "different" desserts often and I look forward to it. Even though the last time I had banana pudding it made me a little sick because apparently I am allergic to bananas now).

It was quiet. I remember the years when one of our older members was well enough and she had it at her house and there were maybe 20 of us, and we sang and laughed and ate and also did a white-elephant gift exchange, which, while it was time-consuming and you often went home with a fairly useless item, was good for some laughs.

This year we just had a short business meeting, wrote our checks for the Crisis Center (we decided instead of exchanging gifts to give money to the local "women's and children's shelter" (meaning: women escaping abuse, sometimes with their kids) so they could provide Christmas for the people staying there. And sadly, we've been told the use of the shelter goes up during December....I guess for a lot of people the holidays are stressful and it comes out in a bad way. They're always very grateful for the help we give, and one of our members is on the board, so she knows the work they do.

Also, we talked about the local homeless population (this was also something we talked about at AAUW). There is not a homeless shelter in our county, and there really needs to be. But until a few years ago, the city leadership denied there even WERE homeless people in town, something most of the residents raised their eyebrows at.

On cold nights, the local library - which has a large atrium type area where cots can be set up - opens its doors to anyone needing a place to be in out of the cold. They also apparently have someone who distributes donated food (and there are a couple microwaves people can use to heat stuff up). And another person who has arranged to collect and distribute donated winter wear. While this is a good first step, really, we need a dedicated shelter here, preferably one with separate wings where families can stay together, and places for solo women and solo men. And that provides some kind of support in the form of counseling when needed or help so maybe some people can find work and, hopefully, eventually stop being homeless.

But yeah, like so many other things in my area: it will take a core of dedicated volunteers who can raise money either from people or corporations or maybe some of the big charities. And I don't know of a building that would work....I do know there are code-issues when you start to talk about things like homeless shelters and a lot of the empty buildings in town are empty because they're not up to code.

Also, a shelter would probably have to be near the downtown somewhere - if you put it too far out of the center of town (where the people who do have some kind of work are working) or where it's hard to get to if you don't have a vehicle, people won't use it. Though again, I'm not sure some people want the problem to be that "visible," though I will say, as someone who is often out early in the morning, right after sunup: it's visible to me, because I see people walking along with their sleeping bags and big rucksacks and you kind of have to guess they're not camping voluntarily....

But yeah. It's just one of those things that kind of stinks about how things go. I suppose the city is perhaps a bit unwilling to face the problem because (a) they'd really rather see the homeless people move on to somewhere else and (b) they want to try to make us look more prosperous than we really are.

* I finished the knitting on Grasse Matinee last night but I still need to weave in the ends, and I also need to block it, most likely: it looks like the hems want to roll. Since this IS sock yarn, I might try a short cold machine wash on gentle, followed by drying/blocking flat.

I still haven't fully decided on which, if any, sweater will be my over-break project. Yes, I need to pick up the owls sweater again some time, but that's an awful lot of yarn to haul. It might be better to dig Celestarium back out and focus on that (more portable) and also some of the other smaller projects. Probably I need to dig out a lot of the stalled projects (I have a couple scarves going, too) and take the smaller ones and try to finish them up.

Or maybe I take the Augusta cardigan, seeing as it's worsted weight and might knit up fairly fast. I don't know.

* Am surprised at how tired I am this week. I am not doing any extra, I am sleeping about the same amount. Maybe just the end of the semester? I don't know.

* I finally got around to watching "Paddington" (after buying the dvd over a month ago). I liked it. It's a bit different from the books. I remember the books as being MUCH more slice-of-life, as in "Paddington goes to school with Jonathan and things do not go as planned" or "Paddington unwittingly foils a counterfeiting scheme and winds up unknowingly delivering its ringleader to the police." The movie version injected a good bit more Peril (in the form of a taxidermist who wanted to taxidermy Paddington) and also had a sort of hand-waving backstory as to how Paddington had a link to England and also how he managed to learn English....I think in the books he just kind of appeared, and it was just assumed that Of Course Bears Can Speak English, Even Bears from Darkest Peru.

I would have liked more of the slice-of-life comedy that existed in the books - there were a couple scenes of it (Paddington foiling the pickpocket).

Also, I remember Mr. Gruber playing a larger role, and being a friend of Paddington more than of Mrs. Brown, but that might be misremembering. I do remember Paddington going to visit Mr. Gruber frequently, sometimes to get advice, sometimes to just share elevenses. (As in the movie, the book's Mr. Gruber was implied to have been a refugee of sorts - in the books, I assumed it was from Nazi Germany; the movie, I am not sure about - could have been Hungary, and he fled when the Soviets took over.)

And I remember Mr. Curry in the books as being less creepy and sinister and more just that annoyed neighbor with no sense of humor (I think in the books it was also implied he was East Indian? Or maybe that was just one of the cartoons made?)

But, the need to inject Peril because of Excitement aside, I liked the movie. I thought Paddington's voice actor was particularly well-chosen. I guess there's a second movie, playing now in the UK, probably will come here. While I don't go OUT to the movies, I might get the dvd when it comes out.

* I am also reading "The Box of Delights" by John Masefield. I started this last year and got side-tracked so picked it up again this year. Because of the Christmas theme, in part. A couple of thoughts:
 - apparently this is a continuation of "The Midnight Folk," which I also have, and now I wonder if I should have read first, because some of the things referenced in this book feel very like you've been dropped in the middle of the story and you kind of have to figure it out.

- This is the kind of "fantasy" I like. I could never get really that into the traditional "high fantasy" (like Lord of the Rings) because it was so divorced from our world. But in this novel - it's set sometime in the mid 1930s, I guess - it's England, but it's England with some possibility of magic, and with some talking animals (the Mouse, apparently). And there's a good v. evil conflict. But there's that grounding in reality: the humans are human, the adults don't totally understand what the children are up to (and, I suppose, some degree of the "magic" could be in the imaginations of the children), and there are solid real things like meals and Christmas trees and snow to help ground the story.

- I have a bad habit often of imagining cartoon characters I know (because that is most of the tv I watch these days) in the roles of some book characters. I can't help picturing Maria Jones as a sort of British Louise Belcher, and honestly, I think Louise would like the pistol-packing, villain-biting, Maria. (How old IS Maria supposed to be? I assumed she was a quite small child, but her level of toughness and bloodthirstiness suggests a minimum age of 8 or 9, at least based on my memories of my own childhood). I know Kay is about 13, and that children in past years seemed younger than they do now (they were innocent for longer).

At any rate: I am enjoying the novel. Part of me feels a bit guilty for not reading something "harder;" this fall I have read a lot of mystery novels and fantasy stories (I need to get back to finishing "The Grey King" some time, and then the last novel in "The Dark is Rising" sequence).

I suspect part of it is that I like these novels - and perhaps, on some level, need them - because they show a world with a clear division between good and evil, and that good wins, and that sympathetic characters choose the side of the good. And there have been sufficient horrors in the news this fall, and in some cases the good/evil divide is not as clear as I'd like it, and there have been cases of people whose work I perhaps once enjoyed turning out to be really rather unpleasant human beings, and....I don't know. It's an escape, I'm sure, but I'm not sure it's any less-healthy of an escape than what many people do.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

In a teacup?

I don't know if this is one of those tempest-in-a-teacup things, or if it's indicative of the fact that "we own all your personal data and will use it as we see fit" and also that people, in general, seem to be getting meaner, but it was all over Twitter last night that Netflix jokingly "shamed" an anonymous subscriber for watching "Lord of the Rings" 361 times last year.

Okay, on one hand: that kind of data is interesting, in a "hm. People are different from one another" sort of way. (Considering that my own television watching these days is about 50% cartoons, 20% weather channel/local news, and 20% sappy movies). But hinting that there's something wrong with the person - which is what the post seemed to do - isn't fair or nice.

(Coal in Netflix' stocking!)

For one thing, walking in another person's shoes: what if the "viewer" is actually the parent of an autistic child, and that child is deeply comforted by repetition, and Lord of the Rings (I think is was specifically "The Two Towers," as the installment) is something they love, and it makes their life better and easier? That was my first thought, having known people with autistic kids. Sometimes the only way to get the child to sit down so you can comb his or her hair (or even wash their hair) is to have something they love on the screen.

I suppose there are other explanations. But that was the most charitable one and the first one I came up with.

But yeah. That kind of thing, what Netflix did (and I guess Spotify did something similar?) smacks of bullying to me. One form of bullying - one form I experienced a lot as a kid - is for people to find something about you that is DIFFERENT, and to harp on that difference. And it gets to the point where even if you liked being different in that way at the outset, you come to hate it, because the fact that you don't fit in, that this other person sees you as weird, is being shoved in your face day in and day out. Few adults are strong enough to stand up to that, and even fewer kids.

(I will present as an exhibit: how in 7th grade I forced myself to listen to "top 40 radio" even though I hated it, because I felt like I needed to know what songs and artists were popular, and I knew that the kids thought I was weird because I listened to WCLV instead, and that I liked classical music. Yeah, I did something I hated in the name of seeming more "normal." Spoiler alert: it didn't work.)

But yeah. On the same day when a news story came out from social media about a kid suddenly being lionized (and then his mom being outed as a Milkshake Duck, I guess, and 2017 is just an awful year in general) because he was bullied, and suddenly he gets special treatment and all....shouldn't businesses learn that being rude to their customers isn't funny or cool?

Or at least, from my perspective, it isn't. (I know of at least one person who cancelled a Netflix subscription over this.)

I dunno. As an eternal outsider, I see behavior like that and I think, "If this were a person I knew in seventh grade, they'd be one of the borderline-unpopular kids, trying to curry favor with the popular kids by trashing on kids even less popular than them." Yeah, pecking orders aren't just for chickens.

And yes, people might argue: but all Netflix subscribers are (supposed to be) over 18, so they're adults, and adults can just suck up whatever bad things happen, no?

I would argue adults are as vulnerable in some ways as kids. I've had people say stuff to me as an adult, say stuff ABOUT me, that hurt every bit as much as when one of the snobby popular girls teased me for wearing knee socks with a skirt when they had all "graduated" to pantyhose. The only difference being, as an adult I've learned that showing ANY reaction to that kind of thing is EXACTLY what the person wants, and so I try hard not to dignify their unpleasant remark with a reaction. But it's still corrosive INSIDE - just because I don't run away crying like I did at 12 doesn't mean I don't feel it.

Adults have feelings too. And adults often put up with a lot more in their everyday lives than kids do - work, bills, taxes, laundry, budgeting, having ill relatives, etc. And it does feel like another unnecessary cinder block added to their load.

Plato probably didn't actually say "Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle" but the statement is still a good and a true one. And it seems that as the world becomes harder and colder (or appears to have), more and more people are forgetting to be kind - or are deciding not to, in the interest of getting ahead/getting someone to notice them/throwing a punch before someone throws it at THEM.....and, it just doesn't HELP.

(I joked that I was glad Etsy did not do the same; would hate to see a social-media post where they drag an "anonymous" 48 year old woman for having ordered 30+ vintage My Little Ponies in the past two years, and "wow, what is she lacking in her life?" or some such)

Monday, December 11, 2017

that is better

So, yes, I ordered a couple more Ponies last week. Because it seems I need More Pone in my life. (That's one of the ways I try to distract myself from the discouragement that gnaws at the edges of my soul. And yes, when I look at it with a very cold, hard eye: I know that my heirs, whoever they may be (either my niece at this point, or perhaps the children of my cousins) are going to have an awful lot of stuff they won't know what to do with - I suspect once the current generations have died off (including mine), the generations that grew up with virtual everything will not be so motivated to collect anything: already I have read that the sort of vintage mid-century furniture (not antique but well made and real wood) and older are hard to sell, apparently millennials want a more-mobile lifestyle, or perhaps because many of them despair of ever owning a house, they don't invest in furniture....)

But I'm here now, and I hope to be here for at least 40 more years (maybe 50. I come from long-lived stock and barring some kind of individual accident or wholesale destruction, I suspect I'll be around a while). And I don't show any sign of outgrowing these. And anyway, they're cheaper than shoes and they don't make my bum hip hurt. So.

Two new ponies.

First, Toe Dancer. Yes, another ballerina. No, I don't know that I plan to collect all that were made (I know there is at least one more "adult" pony ballerina, maybe more). This is a baby pony, which as I've said ad nauseum are my favorites.

Yellow Pony (my favorite pony color) with purple hair, and the hair is good and thick, and has what I think what collectors call "factory curl" still in it (i.e., it has not been combed out).

These are just so silly and so cute. A real horse ballerina would be kind of a horrorshow (even though there are horses trained to do something like dancing, as a fancy type of dressage.)

And then the second one: Yo-yo, a newborn-sized pegasus. I didn't have a tiny baby pegasus before, so I'm extra happy about this one. She has the "fading" hair, but it's still pink, so I will have to be careful where I display her. (She also still has her comb and bottle; little accessories often lost):

You can see in that second photo how tiny she is.

And the reason I said this is "better"? At first, my package didn't show up. It was supposed to come today, there was no package on my porch or mailbox....I checked the tracking and said it had been delivered today. Went back and checked.

There was no good way on the USPS site to report it. I ALMOST e-mailed the seller a "what do I do now" message, but the USPS claimed they wouldn't investigate until a week's delay....and of course, a week from now I leave for Christmas.

And I stomped around a little and grumbled, muttering imprecations against lazy substitute USPS drivers ("My regular person, she knows me, she'd see my car and know I was home and bring it up" "Probably the person just marked it delivered but didn't because they're lazy"). Then I worried: what if it got misdelivered? Would the person put it back in the mail? Or, considering the fact that I've just come to assume lots of people are dishonest (low faith in humanity these days), what if they open it to see what it is, and then just chuck it, because it's of no value to them? (Or, keep it....)

So I felt bad. I thought, "Well, maybe it will show up tomorrow."

But then, after making my food for the CWF Christmas dinner tonight (Harvard beets - well, I like 'em, and they're a vegetable, and there's often a shortage of those), I heard a little noise at the door. "Oh glory be," I thought, "The delivery person came back."

Nope. It was someone - I don't know them, haven't seen them before, but a man and a young woman in a car, she had come up to the porch and was setting a box on it.

"OH!" I said "Did this get misdelivered to your place?"
She said yes, it had.

"Thank you for bringing it by! I appreciate it!" (And as I said on Twitter: Santa, they deserve an extra present this year).

So now I have my ponies and I guess there's at least one set of honest people in this world.

And Advent thoughts

Traditionally, at least in my denomination, each week of Advent is given a theme, and the idea is you reflect on that theme, you think about how you can either work for that thing, or inject more of it into your own life (on the presumption, for example, that if you are living as a more-loving individual, that will increase the balance of love in the world, and make it better for others, at least those around you).

The themes are Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love. In that order. So the first week (December 3) was Hope; this week is Peace. Next week is Joy (we, like many congregations, have a special pink candle for this week - the other weeks get purple, the color of Advent).

And I was thinking about that yesterday after church. Of all four of those things, I have the hardest time, I think, with Joy. (Of late, at times I've had a hard time with Hope, as well). I mean, having a hard time feeling it. I am not a naturally joyful person, despite my sometimes outward appearance. A lot of the things I do, I do because I'm frantically trying to cheer myself up or stave off feelings of worry or doubt or pessimism. I think I have always been thus: I was probably too serious as a child. I think now, as an adult, that there were so many things I could have done as a kid/tween/teen/even a twenty-something that I can't do now, and why didn't I do them when I could? Things like dotting my I's with little hearts or flowers, or adopting a cutesy nickname (I guess I always felt as a kid that a nickname was something you had to be given, not something you could bestow on yourself. And I guess I'm not the kind of person who tends to attract nicknames; at least, no one ever called me by one). Or wearing funny clothes, like the animal-hats that some of my students wear.

I want to wear a hat with ears and panda eyes on it. But I'm afraid that I'd look ridiculous or like mutton dressing as lamb, so I don't. I could have when I was 24, but back then I was so bent on seeming grown-up and like someone who could HANDLE doing a Ph.D. that I probably wouldn't have.

And anyway. All of those outward things - the hearts to dot i's, the silly hats,the nicknames - would have not matched with the inner tendency towards seriousness and anxiety. And I know, I know: that's not in keeping with my faith, but I think it's also part of my "hardwiring" so I don't know where the two intersect. And I suppose on some level the world needs its share of more-serious people.

And I don't know why I worry about it. I suppose it's the whole "blondes have more fun" idea - that somehow, people who are less serious than I am are, on balance, happier. I would like to be happier. I would like not to walk around with a list running in my head of what I have to get done in the next week and feel like I must always put duty before pleasure.

And yes, on some level I am content, and when I get out of my own head enough to realize how good I have it, even happy. But "Joyful" in the sense of shouting for joy and running around hugging people is not me.


I am better at Peace and Love, even if Peace, as I practice it, is very often Me Keeping My Darn Mouth Shut When I Really Want To Say Something Because I Know The Other Person Will Get Upset Or Will Challenge Me, and that's not real peace.

(I remember reading somewhere that there are different kinds of peace. The one most Christians want - the true Peace on Earth, the peace of God, because all people are doing right and are avoiding doing things that harm others - is something we won't get in this lifetime. But that there is a second, more-illusory peace, a peace that is really no peace at all because it's the peace of a boot standing on a neck to keep it down. It's why some of the former Soviet satellites plunged into civil war once the empire crumbled - during Soviet occupation, there was apparent peace because there was oppression. And yes, sometimes a desire for peace can lead to a sort of oppression - my own self-censorship in some cases to avoid rocking the boat. And that's not a kind of peace we want, because peace without freedom is not really peace).

And love. I am pretty good at philios type love and even (I would boast) better than many at agape love. (But of course: we live in a culture that privileges Eros over all).

Hope....I have become less good at. Perhaps it's a factor of age: when I was in my 20s, my life was still almost entirely before me. Who knew what I would do? I might be a great researcher! I might head up some NGO that did great good.....and then, I wound up teaching at a small, little-known university, doing very limited publishing. Realizing that I'm neither as smart as I once believed myself to be nor as motivated as I once thought. And also realizing that sometimes circumstances are a little against you, and that maybe 0.025% of people are actually superstars, and the ones that are are waaaaaaay better at self-promotion than I am.

And also: I wound up with most things I wanted, in one form or another. I am teaching. I have a job where I (pretty much) never have to violate even the most minor points of my ethical code, where I have some degree of time-flexibility, where there isn't an insane level of kissing-up to bosses expected. I own a smallish house and an older car. I have enough money to pay my bills on time and to keep reasonably nutritious food on the table. I have things that most people 100 years ago could only dream about: running water in my house, hot water without having to heat it on the stove (and for that matter: a stove that runs on quiet, fumeless electricity, rather than wood or coal). I have entertainment options that didn't exist 100 years ago, some that didn't really exist even 30 years ago....

and as a result, I've sort of run out of things to dream about. In some cases (job, home ownership), I've achieved that dream. In others (having a love of my life), I've concluded that dream is highly unlikely and probably unrealistic for me.

I'm....not sure what to PERSONALLY hope for. Oh, it's easy to hold out vague general hopes: my biggest one being they find treatments for things like cancer and Alzheimer's disease and the other big-bads that make a person's retirement years not what they had expected. But personally? In my own life? I don't know. "Getting more papers published" seems like an awfully small thing to hope for. Some of the big things I thought about at 24 - like doing Great Research - are not gonna happen, not given my circumstances (it's a bad funding time, I don't have time with teaching 3 or 4 classes a semester, and I really don't have the energy or ambition, as it turns out. And I'm at a small school with little equipment and resources and the logistics would be 100% on me). I have vague thoughts of what I might do in retirement - when I have more time - I know I've talked about somehow getting a long arm quilting machine and doing lots of quilts, either for Project Linus or just as a service to people who have tops they want finished....or I've thought in the past about going to seminary, though I've concluded that while I can do the "God part" of that just fine, the "people part" would get me down - it would be even harder, in some ways, than some of the human interactions I have in teaching, and I don't know. (My denomination doesn't do ANYTHING like nuns - the Episcopal church does, I guess, still, but something like that might work better for me than being a university or hospital chaplain, or leading a church....)

But yeah. "What do you want in 2018?" only brings up for me vague hand-waving like "less bad news" or "maybe a treatment for Specific Disease X" and not "I want to do this with my life" or "I want that to happen for me"

And yes, I know all four of the things - Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love - are meant to remind us of what comes After this life. But the thing is, we're all mired in the here and now and we have to try to make the best of what we have. And sometimes it feels like....I don't know, I'm not doing the best I can.

(Sorry for tmi)

This is for me, much more than for you, because this seems to be the best way of me keeping a reliable record.

but: time to reset the "time to menopause" clock. (Sigh. I was just thinking the other day "Maybe I'm finally done") Glad I still have supplies on hand.

Exam week Monday

My hip still hurts.

My bursitis flared back up LAST weekend after driving the 6 1/2 hours. I had just got it back mostly gone, then came the 90-minute Title VII presentation. Sitting on hard plastic chairs (why do I have fat all over my body EXCEPT on my butt? I could do with a slightly smaller chest in return for a little padding there....) that are molded in such a way that if your hips are wider than the average 8 year old boy's, you're going to wind up uncomfortable.

And I did. In retrospect: I should have sat in the back, where I could have stood up every 15 minutes or so without it seeming disruptive, instead of in the middle of the room (I picked the spot because it was nearest to two exits: sometimes I get a bit paranoid when all the faculty are massed somewhere, thinking, "If some disgruntled-former-whatever wanted to do harm to the lot of us, this would be the time....")

Also, I will note: there were a couple places where I wanted to stand up and say "Ninety percent of the women and perhaps thirty percent of the men in this room have experienced what is being discussed, please move on." I hope no one had PTSD brought up by some of the stuff.

And yes. We found out that we did it because, indeed,  some now-retired people in positions of power did what they ought not, and so the rest of us get punished. (Kind of like: you get coal in your stocking because your brother was disobedient all year, but he still gets candy).  I know life isn't fair, but it just seems like this is unnecessarily unfair.

And they warned us that more is coming. Great. Next time I'll sit in the back and stand up and if anyone says anything, I will point out I have a chronic condition that makes sitting in crappy chairs for longer than 20 minutes a bad idea. Surely I'm not the only one with back/hip/knee problems who finds being forced to sit for 90 minutes burdensome?


And I came in this morning to all the e-mails. One person who needed something of me, never showed during the scheduled times, showed up while I was in the meeting and is now unhappy.

Another person wants extra credit.

Other people want permission to hand stuff in late.

This kind of thing is the thing that wears on me most about teaching: all the asks. All the assumptions that I'm perfectly happy to write make-up exams on short notice, that I will allow re-dos, that I offer extra credit to make up for the many assignments skipped.

(That last isn't so hard for me: I just reiterate the syllabus policy of "No extra credit." I have several reasons for this:

1. "In fairness to all students": offering extra credit AFTER the class is over means not everyone gets a shot at it, and that's not fair or ethical. In fact, once I told a student that that kind of thing went against my code of ethics (that is: I do not offer points to people that not everyone can earn) and their response was "Don't worry; I won't tell anyone" and I was like LET ME EXPLAIN TO YOU AGAIN WHAT 'ETHICS' MEANS BECAUSE YOU HAVE CLEARLY FAILED TO GROK IT.

2. It makes more work for me, at a time when I'm busy and tired and just want to be done and think about relaxing and also think about scramming out of here for a little while. I think there is a disconnect that people don't believe or understand that faculty experience exam week stress too. (On Ivory Tower Fiber Freaks, someone reported how trained "therapy dogs" were brought in for a session where students could go and pet them - as an exam-week destressing thing - and when a couple faculty showed up, the people running it were like NOT YOU and that just seems so....needless.) And yes, I get it: we're more mature so we are supposed to have better coping strategies. And we get paid to do this. And it's not our future careers on the line (except it kind of can be: too many students earn Fs and you're getting talked to after your post-tenure review). But the assumption that we are either inhuman  or's false.

and a lot of us would just like the chance to pet friendly doggos during exam week.

3. I have copious opportunities to earn points during the regular semester. In fact, in two of my classes, I do a "drop homework" or "drop lab" where people who complete ALL the work get the "drop points" as bonus points: so it doesn't penalize people with that one week they're out sick, but it rewards the people in a v. tiny way who made it to every lab. And I find in about 80% of the cases someone comes to me requesting extra credit, it is that they have not done all the assigned work for the class, and again I ask: why should I make extra work for myself, then?

But yeah. It kind of sucks having to e-mail people back a "no" because there are a small number of people who will e-mail back "but why" or "my other profs do this" (Oh, and if your other profs jumped off a bridge, would you expect me to?) someone firmly in Guess Culture (where I don't ask for stuff unless it seems eminently reasonable AND I am fairly certain I will hear a "yes" and the other person won't feel put out) dealing with Ask Culture people - who ask for the moon, and when you go "Wharrrgarrrblll what makes you think I can do that?" they go "Well, it never hurts to ask" (And I think, always: but maybe sometimes it should)

I also had someone accuse me of taking class materials down off the course webpage. Of course I did not do that. I leave the stuff up there until the page "expires," usually some time a year from now when the people who administer the CMS purge old pages.

But, I figured: IT did an update this weekend (which briefly messed up my ability to get campus webmail from home; trying to get in led Malwarebytes to warn me of "malicious scripts" in the page, and I didn't want to risk it in case someone had altered something to hurt us). I figured it was possible the update could have broke something.

So I went and checked.

Of course everything was still there and in exactly the place where it's been all semester long, and I e-mailed the student reminding them of the location of the stuff, just in case it's been so long since they looked at it they forgot but....

Yeah, a lot of this is my personality coming out here. I was super-independent as a student. If there had been CMS webpages when I was a student, and I couldn't find something on it, I'd have clicked every button and link I could find on the page before e-mailing the professor about it. I find a certain number of our students will try ONE thing and then give up and ask for help. Same thing with getting articles online: I once had someone get v. belligerent with me (and my co-teacher, fortunately this was a co-taught class) because he just handed in an abstract and we said, "No, you need to read and write about the ENTIRE paper" and his response was "I can't FIND it" and darn it but we had a copy of that paper in less than three seconds. 

And yes, I know, I've always been "too" independent (see: One Reason Why I am Not Married) but it's frustrating to have to field requests vaguely accusing me of doing stuff I didn't do just because the person in question apparently couldn't be bothered to look a little harder.

(It's possible, I suppose, the IT update messed up the CMS for a while, and they tried accessing it then, and I did reference the IT update....but seeing as the stuff is where it's always been....)

But yeah. When I get those students, who will spend ten seconds looking for something and then give up and demand help (or worse: not do anything until the last minute and THEN demand help), I wonder how they're going to fare in the working world. I know I once had a TA I non-recommended for further employment because I literally had to hang over him and tell him every five minutes what to do - most of the TAs I've had, I could give a list of what needed to be done to, and they'd go do it and only MAYBE come find me if someone had moved something and it wasn't where I told them it would be. But this person would complete one part of one task and then be like, "Okay what do I do now" and it got so of the reasons I don't generally push to have a TA in my upper level classes is I often find it's easier to do the work myself than it is to supervise someone in doing it.

So anyway. I am really really really hoping that my dad is a bit better over break, and that no one else gets hurt, because it would be nice to give up a little responsibility for a little while, and maybe have someone to fuss over me a little. (That doesn't happen enough, I think. I get fussed over a LITTLE bit at church, and that's nice, but....I feel like I would like to be fussed over a little more).

Because on top of all the work-stuff like usual, and the additional requests for help and other stuff, I also have laundry and marketing and cooking and dishes and cleaning house and all the other life-tasks that a person needs to do to remain hygienic and healthy.....and it's just me, I have no one to help me. And so it gets to feel like too much when someone is asking me "hey can you print all this stuff out for me and wait around until I get there and then give it to me?" or whatever the unreasonable-seeming-to-me request of the day is.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

a favorite movie

This is gonna be about "It's a Wonderful Life," which I know is somewhat polarizing in our culture. If you loathe the movie, just don't read.

(I don't have the emotional energy to say "fight me" about this, but really, it is one of my favorite movies of all time. Not just for Christmas, of all movies I've ever seen.)

I like it, in large part, because it presents a world, a reality, better than our own. Especially in 2017, which seems to have been the year of getting "people do terrible things to one another" smashed in your face again and again (like Jimmy Cagney smashing a grapefruit into Mae Clark's face), it's a nice bit of idealism.

And yeah, even as I've said I've had the idealism beat out of me by 2016 and 2017, I think it's still in there, somewhere, deep down. Maybe cowering in a fetal position, but it's still there.

And yeah, there are terrible people - or at least one terrible person  - in It's A Wonderful Life. But the majority of people are at least shown as decent people. People who care about one another.

The bit at the beginning, where different people - Mr. Gower the pharmacist, and Mr. Martini, and Bert the cop, and Ernie the taxi driver, and his own family - all pray for him. That part ALWAYS gets me. Especially the people who are not Bailey's family. (Even as I know I have prayed for people I was not related to).

It's always a striking movie to watch through (I watched it on USA last night, and though they stick in ads - I wish they wouldn't, but I get that they feel they have to). You remember the parts with Clarence, but really, he doesn't show up until more than halfway through the movie. The first part is all scene-setting - all showing first, why George Bailey is a man worthy of saving, and second, what the events were that led up to his near-downfall. (spoiler alert: not his fault, beyond maybe, "what would have been different if he'd taken money to the bank instead of Uncle Billy")

George is a good guy - I think the complaint some people have against the movie is that he's TOO good, that he's given up all his big dreams in order to help others. But it seems to me that there are an awful lot of people I've known in my life who have, like George, sighed, and figuratively cancelled their trips around the world, because somehow they were needed at home.

But there's other stuff George has done all his life - the whole reason Mr. Gower is praying for him is that George, as a kid, working in the pharmacy, caught that a distressed (and drunk) Gower put poison rather than medicine in some pills. (Mr. Gower was distraught over the death of his son). George, despite being yelled at to "just deliver them," does not, and gets slapped around for his trouble - until Gower sobers up enough to realize what he almost did.

And of course, upon the sudden death of his father, he takes over the "building and loan." (I admit I'm not totally familiar with these. I assume they are similar to the Savings and Loans that became infamous in the 1980s, because so many of them failed because of problems with interest rates - I guess they had loaned out at a low rate, and then the Feds raised the interbank rates, and....things got bad. I just remember it being another Bad Thing in the news when I was young).  And Bailey does keep the place afloat, in one case sacrificing the money collected for his honeymoon.

(And yeah, I know: "No one is that good." But I want to believe it).

The idea presented is that Bailey is for the "little guy" and Potter was the "greedy banker." And yeah, I know some people argue it's an anti-capitalist movie, except I don't think it really is. I think it's more anti-greed, or pro-trying-not-to-have-it-be-so-unfair-to-the-little-guy.

One thing I did notice in the movie this year - at one point Potter almost says something along the lines of "but he eats and drinks with sinners" and I realized, even more on this viewing: perhaps Capra was intending to show that George, even though he doesn't really do much "God talk,' learned his Sunday School lessons well....the whole being willing to be self-sacrificing for the good of others.

And yet, and the title of the movie points out, George wound up with a better life than he might have otherwise. He has a loving family, he has a purpose, he has the respect of many other people in town.

But, like a lot of us, George isn't that happy....when things go badly, they go really badly. And it's capped with Uncle Billy being Uncle Billy, and the unfortunate fact that Potter wound up with the $8000 by mistake - and you get the feeling that literally ANY OTHER person in town, upon opening that newspaper, would have gone "Oh, no, Uncle Billy!" and tracked him down to return the cash....

And so George melts down, because he feels responsible. He shakes Uncle Billy, he blows up at his family (making at least two of his kids cry), and he storms out of the house, the words of Potter (who knows very well what is happening) "You're worth more dead than alive" echoing in his ears....

and enter Clarence. And the part of the story everyone remembers happens: what would be the case if George Bailey never existed?

(And yeah, yeah, I admit discomfort at the "What if Mary Hatch had never married" bit because, as I speculated this year:"maybe we're in the timeline where my soulmate actually never existed" but then again the 1940s are not today - thank God - and I suspect Mary Hatch was paid almost nothing and had to live in a rooming house and was miserable.)

And as I've said many times: George Bailey was lucky. The rest of us rabble, out here working and paying and living and dying just have to assume that what we're doing with our lives has some good effect. And while I doubt any of us could be linked to saving the lives of a whole destroyer full of men (because George saved his kid brother, who went on - as a war hero - to save all those lives), I suppose we do SOME good, it's just hard to see.

And the ending. Yeah, I know, some people have argued the ending is unrealistic. But honestly, in this world now of Go Fund Me and Kiva and similar - aren't there are lot of people out there, figuratively, running around with laundry baskets asking people to throw in a buck or two, and the "missing $8000" is made up that way? (And yes....the bank examiner even throws in his own buck - proving he's not such a bad guy. And the person with the warrant for Bailey's arrest tears it up).

And I know a lot of people have talked about wanting to see Potter get his (and I guess there was a Saturday Night Live sketch that involved the townspeople banding together to go beat the tar out of Potter?) But. For one thing, no one really knows that Potter found and kept the money. And second, I like that the movie ends on a purely loving note - that all the "rabble" George helped have come to his aid (quite the opposite of what Potter speculated would happen) and things are made right, though made right by the sacrifices of people who have little (but then again: all those times George sacrificed for them).

I also think of the words (that I quote from time to time here) of my grad-school buddy Craig, who, when I was talking about a terrible boss I had at the time, someone who literally made me cry (and I was tougher in some ways as a 20-something than I am now): "You just have to work with her. She has to live with herself." And while I suspect the Mr. Potters of the world don't feel the same kind of horror and guilt that a decent person would over having done wrong, still....if Mr. Potter found himself in some difficulty, who would come to his aid? Would people as readily pray for him as they did for George Bailey? Would Mr. Martini, or Bert, or Annie throw a few dollars (hard-earned dollars) towards helping him out? And perhaps that's the real punishment of Mr. Potter: that he's alone, that he doesn't have people who care about him.

Saturday, December 09, 2017

A couple finds

I wound up only going to one antique store; I had other places I needed to go.

First, the Target - going there at 10 am on a Saturday was surprising. I expected it to be slammed, especially a couple weeks before Christmas. It was not. (In fact, walking back to my car, a woman walking up to the store asked, "So, is it crazy in there?" and I said "No, I didn't even have to wait in line to pay" and she cheered).

Got a few staples (more chili sauce, for example) and also picked up my Toys for Tots gifts. This is a thing I do every year: I buy a toy that either my brother or I: (a) would have wanted had it existed when we were kids or (b) is one that still exists from when we were kids that we enjoyed.

This year, I did both:

Toys for Tots gifts

I would have been ALL OVER Littlest Pet Shop if it had existed when I was seven or so. Small (pocket-sized, most of them), super-cute, animal toys that you can collect: pretty much hits all the points of what I wanted in a toy. And Uno, a game my family spent MANY hours playing when my brother and I were growing up. It's a simple game but it's fun.

I also ran to the bookstore (they had the Christmas edition of Simply Knitting, which will probably be this evening's perusing, and also another big book of British Christmas-themed patterns including a plum pudding tea cozy, so I could not resist buying that. (I don't have a tea cozy and am not sure I need one as I usually make tea by the cup....)

And to JoAnn's, and found on sale two big collapsable (fabric, so sturdy) boxes for holding tree ornaments - so I bought them. I am toying with the idea of using Monday morning on the 18th, before I drive off, to take my tree down (if I can bear to). But I also need to get a bag to hold the tree parts, that might be a Lowe's run. I also got a new pair of small sharp scissors after all the trouble I had last night cutting the felt for Scootaloo's eyes. (I need to find someone who does scissor-sharpening locally).

And to the Ulta - got a hair masque (my hair is dry and brittle this fall, and I am worried I might be developing a bit of a thin spot on top) and also some keratin-infused shampoo. (I know, I know: hope in a bottle but it probably won't hurt. Might not help, but won't hurt)

(And before you ask: I had my thyroid levels tested last go round of blood work and they are fine; I think this is purely environmental. And at any rate, I have no other symptoms of a thyroid problem)

And then to the antique mall. I wound up spending $15 - $5 on two small ornaments:

little flocked Santa

A wee tiny (like 1" tall) flocked Santa. These kinds of things were super common when I was a kid (we had some fairy skaters like that) and I kind of like having ornaments representative of what we had during my childhood. They had a whole basket of these - some looked older, some were in worse condition, there were a couple of Mrs. Clauses too, but this was my favorite.

And then this:

Dalmatian tree ornament

One of the 101 Dalmations, in a Santa hat. A McDonald's tie-in from 1996 or so when the movie was re-released. (I don't know for sure if this was an official McDonald's thing or of someone just glued a Santa hat onto one of the Happy Meal toys; the fact that you hang it from a hook hooked under the collar (rather than a separate hanging loop) and the fact it hangs unevenly makes me wonder. But at any rate: it's cute, it was two bucks, I like it.

And then there's this.

A fifty-year-old stuffed toy horse. Not in great shape, but I might be able to fix her up:

vintage toy horse

The tag says "1967 KAMAR Made in Japan" so I know how old it is (older than I am). These "glamour" animals were popular in the late 60s and early 70s - older sisters of some of my friends had them on their dressing tables. They are not cuddly (stuffed with excelsior?) but are still kind of interesting. Sort of a precursor to My Little Pony in a way?

The eyes are kind of trashed - they are flannel, glued on, and they've worn off. I admit, I picked this up - it was $10 - and thought about it, put it back down, and went to the next floor of the mall. I kept telling myself, "You don't need it" and darn it, but by the time I had walked around that upper floor, I had convinced myself, "But maybe IT needs YOU." (I am too good at anthropomorphizing inanimate objects). I am thinking after Christmas, when I have a little time at the start of next semester, I will try cleaning it up (and detangling the long fake-fur mane and tail). I am considering maybe using upholstery cleaner (but testing first, to be sure - I bet that body color might fade). And I'm thinking of tracing the eyes and making new ones out of felt, and gently tacking them on with little stitches over the existing eyes (rather than ripping the old eyes off altogether: the first rule of intelligent tinkering is to keep all the parts)

here are a couple screengrabs (just from Pinterest; it's gotten increasingly hard to do good sourced image searches with that thing out there) showing the horse in two different colors but more-original conditions (mine is missing her nostrils). So I can use these for reference:

I think I've got a lot of work to put in on that mane and tail first...but I like the eyes on these, they look much more "1960s" than I would have guessed from what remained on mine.

Another finished thing

I WAS going to take a hot bath last night (the teal deer: ninety minutes of sitting, in a non-ergonomic molded plastic chair, made my backside and my bum hip hurt).

But I got involved with finishing Sleepy Scootaloo, and once I got the hair on, I wanted to do the face.

I might have been better off waiting for morning. I'm not 100% satisfied - I think the eyes are maybe a little too oval and too small and they make her look more mature than she is. But I don't know if I want to change it (a lot of unpicking and maybe damaging the crochet) at this point. (though I could try making larger eyes and putting them on OVER these; that might be worth a try, I don't know).

Then again, things don't have to be (and won't be) show accurate, at least not in this medium:

sleepy scootalooo

I do like the pattern - it's not too long to make up, it's not involved, and it makes a nice-sized toy.

Here's the face. Like I said, I can't decide. I might live with it a couple days before I consider doing a different one:

sleepy scootaloo 2

I might also need to trim her bangs, I don't know. Scootaloo's forelock is shorter than that.

sleepy scootaloo face

Friday, December 08, 2017

Procrasti-grading thoughts

* I have grading to do (yet again) but don't want to do it right now. (I am done until 2:30 pm, which is our Title VII thing). I do have to wait for my research student to unlock the area with the hose (if it didn't freeze up overnight) at 11, then I can go home and eat lunch and relax a bit before I have to come back.

* I will say the "Polaris" bear I bought - I talked about her some weeks back - was a good purchase. She is very squishy and nice to hold, and good to hug to your chest when you're sad or having a hard time sleeping. I don't know if it's special stuffing in her or the combination of a very soft and pliable fleece type fabric for her body and the stuffing. It feels like polyfill, but nicer and finer polyfill than what I can generally buy.

I find this year I have relied on hugging stuffed animals as a self-soothing strategy more than in recent years. Me finally breaking down? The horror that is 2017? I don't know. (Or maybe it's just me letting go of the 'this means I'm a fake grown-up' thing and realizing if it brings me comfort, it's a good thing)

* Am ALMOST done with the sleepy Scootaloo. The front legs are on; am planning on attaching the other bits and maybe the hair during my pre-Title VII -presentation break. And plan to do the face tonight. She will not have a cutie mark: she's a little small, and also, the CMC cutie marks would be really hard to render - complex, and lots of colors. And anyway, so much of the Pony History had them as "blank flanks" that I prefer to imagine her being in that part of the timeline.

Yes, I overthink these things.

* I do have to remember to get to the bank. I depleted the cash reserve in my wallet because it was time to chip in for the annual gifts to the departmental support people. I do this because they're good people (our custodian, in particular, goes above and beyond) but also because they're not paid all that well and it seems like a nice thing to do.

* Tomorrow is antiquing day. I'm already mentally planning my route - I should check online when the places I want to go to open. (Or maybe I do the Target stuff first, on the grounds that Target is more likely to be overcrowded than an antique shop. My tentative plan is to do the "non perishable" shopping, go get a good barbecue lunch, and then run to the Green Market and the Kroger's, and then go home.

(The Sherman one opens at 9; most of the Denison ones, at 10. Okay. So maybe I run to the Target first, then the antique mall in Sherman THEN backtrack for the other places, then decide if I want to go to the one in Denison....I don't know. Or maybe I just leave home a little later, avoid backtracking, and just deal with the crowds I imagine will be at the Target....)

* And yeah, like magic, my stomach got better yesterday afternoon. Am beginning to wonder if maybe it's pineapple I'm sensitive to, because it does seem to correlate with the slight gastritis I've got lately. I may have to do a challenge test over break. (Or it could be stress. Or weird hormones. Or any number of things, I don't know). At least I didn't have to worry over the slightly weird food (spinach dip, mini quiches) at the party last night. And so far nothing set me off, so.

Alternative possibility: I ate a couple "hipster marshmallows" (Smashmallow, an all-natural-ingredients brand: it has gelatin in it and tapioca starch but no sorbitol. And I wonder if maybe tapioca tends to settle slightly upset stomachs? I don't know.). Anyway, I want to get more (the strawberry is my favorite flavor with root beer float a close second) if the natural-foods store has them when I go.

* And yeah. I like those mini quiches and am thinking for the Family Christmas at church I do just a normal sized batch of the meatballs (so less chance of having to take leftovers home and maybe freeze them - I leave on Monday after the party) and also buy a box of mini quiches and heat them up. They will probably get eaten.

I like full sized quiche, too. I make it once in a while - usually in crustless form because it's easier and anyway, I don't need the extra fat and carbohydrates in the crust.

* A feature on Ravelry on "how to get hearts" (that is: how to get stuff you've made favorited) and I admit, it makes me slightly sad: we shouldn't be striving for that, should we? We should be sharing stuff for the sake of sharing it, and maybe if someone favorites it it's because they like it or it's something they want to make, and not because we keep shoving it in their face.

(I am hearing Jon Lovitz as The Critic in my head now: "Buy my book! Buy my book!")

I dunno. I get favorites on some of my projects but they are mostly from people who are friends of mine online. I get that my projects will never be as beautifully photographed as those of someone who has the proper set-up, a really good camera, and lots of time for "styling," when my photos are usually quick late-evening shots of something moments after I finished it, because I'm just so glad to have blogfodder that's not just me rambling about what's going on in my life.

I don't know. One of the things that slightly disgusts me about social media and what it's done to us is the need for "likes" or "hearts" or whatever. And I see it in  myself, and get mad at myself for doing it: I log on to Twitter and none of the people that I mutually follow are on, so I feel lonely. Or I post what I am SURE is a "bon mot" and no one favorites it. And dangit, that's not why we do it. But it's what social media makes us in to.

And so I waffle. Part of me goes, "You should just delete your Twitter account; you will get all that time back to knit and you won't feel so dependent on the little jolts of approval you imagine others are giving you when they like something you say or reply to you." But part of me knows I'd be awfully lonely, especially those long empty office hours when all my grading's done. And also, there are a few people I keep track of on Twitter - if I don't see them for a few days, I worry slightly, and am relieved when they come back. I tend to be a little hands-off about contacting people, but I do worry when someone seems absent from their usual online hangouts. (It is possible, sadly, for people you know from online to pass away, and you only find out when some third party who is closer to them confirms it).

(And yeah, that may also be part of my persistence of being on: feeling like, if people think I "should" be around (not like when I'm on break) and I'm not, maybe they will worry a little about me? Because sometimes it does feel like my connection to this world is a little tenuous - my parents call me regularly and of course I have work and church, but during some of the long summer weeks, if something happened to me, no one might know for a little while.....and you know, I would want someone to worry and maybe try to check up on me....)

But yeah. Maybe in 15 years things will settle down and we'll get used to social media like we got used to (wired) telephones and radio and television, but right now it does seem like we're trying to figure out not just the etiquette of the thing, but how it's altering our brain-wiring (which I'm sure it is, and that thought is a little scary).