Tuesday, July 31, 2007

some GOOD news

...for a change.

A man I know from church (well, actually, I know his wife better because I've served on committees with her) had been diagnosed with prostate cancer. He had surgery and was undergoing further treatment (radiation, I presume: that's what my dad had).

His year-later checkup yesterday showed that the doctors (and his body) had apparently kicked cancer's ass OUT. There was no sign of cancer at that checkup.

So, for everyone who's issued an F-off to cancer on the FFOT over at Emily's, here's one for the good guys.

Monday, July 30, 2007

I Can Waste Timez!

I couldn't resist it.

So I made a World Leader Macro, better known as LOLworldleaders

It's kinda dumb, but then my sense of humor is kinda dumb.

This is not intended as a slam at Bush or Brown, but rather at a news media that seems to think that what they are having for lunch today is more important than any kind of in-depth analysis of what they may discuss or what this may mean for the world.


So, Ken tagged me as a blog that makes him think. (Which kind of makes me laugh, given that the past few days have been mainly devoted to me whining about the bad customer service that exists in this town).

But the goal is to list five other blogs that make you think. I suppose one of the rules is to list blogs others have not listed, but I'm not about to troll all over the web seeing who-all has been linked before and who has not. So here are my five off-the-cuff choices:

1. Junk Food Science is one that I think's not been named before. I like this blog because the author - who is herself in the health field - takes all of the "OMG WTF BBQ!!!11!!" medical headlines and calmly explains what's going on. It's a good counter-measure to the hyperbolic medical headlines and generally poor science reporting you see in the media. (It also, I have to admit, makes me feel a bit better about myself - after hearing in the media "Any woman who weighs more than 135 pounds is too fat, and is going to die really really soon of heartdiseasediabetescancerstroke, oh, and she's not really a woman any more because she's TOO FAT" drumbeat, Sandy will have some story up about how it's really not that bad to be bigger than the stick-insect ideal, especially if you eat healthfully and exercise)

2. Mental Multivitamin. I do not always agree with everything she says (but then, that's perhaps a prerequisite of someone being a blogger who makes you think; otherwise, it's just heads bobbing like so many Taco Bell dog giveaways). But she's linked to some wonderful essays that I love. And she makes me feel like I really should be reading Shakespeare, or at the very least, renting the dvds.

3. I know it's totally been done before by EVERYONE, but I'm also going to list Sheila. Because she does make me think. And she makes me go back and replay my Dean Martin CDs. Or reminds me of a movie I saw some time back, or a book I read. And I love the "salon" that her comments often becomes. I'd point to her as counter-evidence to people who claim that the Internet is isolating and stultifying - the comments section of any given post can be anything from an ongoing discussion debating the merits of the subject at hand, to a series of reminiscences, to an increasingly over-the-top jokefest. (One of my favorite posts of hers ever involved that Christo installation called "Gates"...and she asked for people to write unhinged, po-mo deconstructionist style criticism of the installation...and the thing was, it WORKED. I mean, the final product was so GOOD that it read almost like one of those pretentious art reviews...but it was a joke.

And then when a friend of hers linked to it, someone who wasn't in on the joke read it, and thought it was genuine. And they got angry!)

4. Haven't "tuned in" in a while (I've been busy) but About Last Night is definitely a blog that makes me think, when I can take the time to read it. (I find it often goes a bit over my head; I'm not nearly as well-read, well-versed in music, or well-traveled as the authors)

5. Also haven't tuned in in a while to this one, but The Anchoress also makes me think. It's another blog where I'd observe I don't always agree with the author (and at times the author is operating on a higher plane than where my brain normally operates), but she does make me think. And the woman seems to be a right polymath, able to write intelligently on the saints, politics, opera, even global climate change. (I feel sometimes compelled, when I read a blog that is a "thinking blog" for me, to drop to the floor in a Wayne Campbell/Garth Algar pose and wail, "I'm not worthy!")

So, that's my five. I'm not tagging them, not requiring them to extend this further, as I said that I think everyone out there's already been tagged multiple times. I guess I kind of have to plead parochialism...I don't read that many esoteric blogs, I don't usually go searching for things specifically aimed at making me think. (Usually when I "surf," I'm looking to be entertained - and yeah, you can be entertained while you think, but there are some blogs that make you think but not laugh, and there are others that make you laugh but not really think.)

Perhaps that should be a NEW meme: "laughing blogs" - blogs or sites that make you laugh but really aren't very intellectual. I nominate the I Can Has Cheezburger site as the first one.

Oh, and incidentally....on the news this morning they gave the menu (WTF?) of what Bush and Brown are eating at Camp David. Today's lunch, they said, is cheeseburgers. Someone SO needs to doctor a photo of Bush and Brown to add the caption, "We can has cheezburgers?"

I mean - I'm far from a Bush hater, and I'd actually consider the comment more of a slap at the news-media's tendency to report inane details, but it's too good of a joke, IMHO, to go undone.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Still online...

Well, I'm glad I can still do dial-up. I've tried everything I know how to do with the cable modem and I've concluded it's one of two things:

1. My LAN port is fried and I'll need to get a PCMCIA card installed to make a new LAN connection. (Or there's some other kind of connectivity/stuff not talking to other stuff issue). I figure I can fix this by first getting a computer dude to check out the LAN port to see if it's fried or not, and then checking all the settings.


2. There's something screwy with the cable modem or the cable connectivity. I talked to a friend last night (she also happens to be the DA in this town...which might be useful someday) and her cable internet's been out. But she's not as incensed by it as I am, but then she said she and her husband had just been too busy to muck with it. I also talked to my brother - who is in a totally different part of the country with a different cable company but he said that when they got the Internet service, they (meaning his wife; my brother is even less good at being forceful and firm than I am) had to raise holy Hell with the cable company to get it to operate...like me, the cable company kept putting them off, claiming either something was broken on their computer or they "weren't doing it right." (My brother is a whiz - in a minor sort of a way - with computers so that was highly unlikely).

If that's the case, I will raise holy Hell until it's fixed. And I have three weeks before the fall semester starts in which I will have sufficient free time to become a real nuisance to the customer-service desk at my cable internet company if necessary. I will request refund of my cable internet fees, I will tell them to change me out to DSL, I will ask them to cancel my contract...if it takes threatening to call the BBB on them, I will. (This is, in case you want to know, one of the divisions of James Cable, LLC.)

Of course it could just be a trashed LAN connection that 10 minutes of geekery from a guy who knows what he's doing will fix. I hope that's it.

It frustrates me when there's bad customer service. Part of it being, for a lot of these type of things, it involves a person taking a day off work, or scheduling time to be home. Far too many service-people seem to assume that everyone else has a totally flexible schedule where it's no hardship for them to sit at home for many hours or even multiple days.

I find myself thinking that if I were looking for a new career, I'd become an electrician or plumber or computer tech or something like that. If I worked alone, I'd hire an answering service (or carry a cell phone that was always on) so people could actually talk to a real person instead of leaving a phone message that may or may not be returned. And I'd try to be realistic in scheduling - not taking on so much work and not underestimating how quickly I can do things.

Right now I'm lying on my living room floor using dial-up after trying for about 1/2 hour to get the cable internet working again. I'm nothing if not stubborn.


That said - I'm pretty happy with the digital cable. It seems that a lot of the "good" channels are on the digital tier and are not offered on basic cable where I live.

I stayed up too late last night watching "A Member of the Wedding" on TCM (I know I read the book as a young teenager but the movie seemed to make more sense to me than the book did.) And this morning I watched "Irma la Douce" (ironically... a movie about a prostitute, watched before I headed out to church.) That one was on "Encore Love" (one of the "premium" channels I get free for a short time, I suppose so they can maybe hook me in and make me buy them).

I think I'm probably going to watch more movies than I did in the past...part of the problem is so many of the basic cable channels show movies I don't care for (like AMC - they used to show good stuff until [I assume] Ted Turner bought up all the rights to it. Now they show 70s monster flicks, and a few bad prints of old Westerns, and some rather horrid movies from the 80s that I would hardly call "classic."). I also don't like commercial interruptions...they are too distracting and make me more prone to turn the tv off and go do something else. It's like they break the "spell" of the movie. But on the non-commercial-showing networks, you get the whole movie, without breaks - more like you'd experience in a theater. And the tension's not broken, or the "spell" isn't broken. In a way, it's more like reading a book. (At least until publishers figure out a way to beam advertisements into the middle of books so that after you've read 40 pages or so, an ad for diet pills or fast food or pintle-raisers shows up before your eyes.)

There's a real pleasure - one I had forgotten - of lying in my couch in my dark living room, just watching a movie before bed. (Yes, I know, I have a dvd player. But I also have to admit there's a certain pleasure in the serendipity of finding a movie I've never seen before, or read about and thought sounded interesting, and just sitting down to watch it. I feel the same way about music on the radio - I have over a hundred CDs, and yet, I still miss having a local channel that plays the kind of music I like. And - now I do get some digital music channels, including a couple of classical channels, and some jazz, and one for "standards.")

Saturday, July 28, 2007


You're an Aphid!

In the grand scheme of things, you are really quite small and
insignificant. In fact, even from a more local view, you have little to offer.
Few have heard of you, and even fewer care to actually look at you if they can
help it. You never seem to get invited to garden parties, or gardens, or parties,
for that matter. Nevertheless, you know deep down that you're part of a huge
society of equally insignificant folks. Together, you have strength in numbers
and can unite to take down almost anything green! Just try not to be such a

Take the Animal Quiz
at the Blue Pyramid.

Seriously, that made me laugh. I needed that after how these past couple days have been. (I guess "sometimes you're the windshield; sometimes you're the bug" seems to be in play here.)

(spinning around, sputtering, and with steam coming out my ears)

That is how you need to imagine me right now. Picture a female (taller, prettier) version of Rumplestiltskin and you've pretty much got it.

In the past two days, I have:

1. Spent an entire day with my thumb up my butt waiting on a scheduled (previously scheduled) cable repair person to come. I was told "They'll call a half hour before they come out." I was later told "They'll come between 8 and 1." And finally, "Oh, my gosh - no one showed up?" (at five pm).

2. Had a leaking toilet - bad wax seal. This has happened before. It's part and parcel of living in an old house where a lot of things have been gerry-rigged over the years and where the floors slope and the foundation shifts. But - I called a plumber. Called 15 plumbers, in fact. Everyone is booked up. (And yet there are those who claim our economy is just short of dying). It's the building boom here - workmen would rather work on taking an empty building up from scratch than go out and help an existing homeowner. (I kind of don't blame them; I'd rather do work not involving people much of the time).

Anyway - the last guy I called, I started to cry. I did not want to but I was at that point where it was either cry or put my fist through a wall. And I didn't want to have to try to get someone out to repair plaster.

He told me "Well, it's possible for a homeowner to do it themselves..." and kind of roughed out the steps. (I think it was probably because I did cry; I was at the end of my rope. I have only one bathroom in my house so if it stops working, I am quite literally up shit creek.)

So I went and bought a wax seal. (And had to call the cable company and give them my cell phone number, in case the tech might call while I was out. )

And changed it.

And you know? I'd rather pay someone to do it. Even though a service call is like $70 and a new wax seal costs like $5. It's a nasty and unpleasant job. And it involves lifting a toilet. And it involves fairly close contemplation of the pipe that everything you really don't want to deal with goes down - everything that you have a flush toilet for - during the process.

I have discovered the limit of my strength; I am strong enough to lift a toilet twice in a day but no more than that.

3. Got someone out to work on my busted garage door opener. Found out that the circuit board had burnt up, and will need to wait until a new one arrives.

4. Had the cable guy (who was about as creepy as the Jim Carrey character) show up today. He told me he wasn't "allowed" to configure my computer; all he could do was set up the cable modem.

I spent five hours trying to get my computer to talk to the modem. That is even before trying to set up the router that will theoretically make the entire setup wireless.

Those five hours were spent sitting in a cramped crouch on my hallway floor (between my office and my living room) trying to get cables and power-cord to stretch.

I spent an hour on the phone with a tech guy. At one point he told me, in exasperation, "You get to the internet by clicking on the "e"" (Meaning: open Internet Explorer, you biddy.)

I do not like being talked down to. I do not like people assuming that because something is not working it is because I am stupid. I coldly remarked: "I have tried opening both Internet Explorer and Firefox, which is the BROWSER I prefer [I wanted to say, but didn't, that I knew what a browser was] and in both cases, the browser could not connect to any of the websites I tried, meaning there is no internet connection."

After an hour of plugging and unplugging, telling him which lights were and were not lit on the modem, he gave up. Told me the LAN connection was probably fried, and that I needed to buy a PC/MCIA adaptor that would allow me to attach the cable to it.

Our local wal-mart, although they carry routers, does not carry that item. I will be d****d if I am driving a half hour to the next largest city for a PC/MCIA adaptor.

What makes me angry, is that I'm at the absolute limit of my powers here. I have done everything I know how to do and I cannot make it work. And I am paying for the new "high speed" internet (allegedly high speed, I will believe it once I get it working.)

My dial-up is still working at home (I was told it was "no longer supported" which I assumed meant disconnected, but maybe they lied to me) So I'm using that now.

I guess - after buying a $60 router, and after buying a $25 PC/MCIA card (that's what the cable helpdesk guy said they cost), I will also have to hire a tech.

Gah. This is like renovating a house. Only you can't live in it.

I hate technology sometimes. And I especially hate people who assume people fall into one of two camps: totally proficient who can do everything for themselves with no help, or so stupid and backward that they probably forgot to turn the computer on. I am not a stupid woman. However, I lack expertise when it comes to wiring, and the different flavors of internet connectivity, and dealing with all the unseen hardware inside the computer. I want help with that. I do not need someone saying "Click. On. The. EEEEEEEE." like I'm four years old or mentally defective.

So, I guess Monday I call for a tech. And spend another lovely thumb-in-the-ass day at home, waiting for someone to show up.

All I can say is: when I have an appointment to help someone, I'm there, come hell or high water. The LEAST I would ask for local workmen would be to call me and let me know they won't make it, instead of leaving me hanging for a whole entire day.

Oh, and now I have to take the 20 pounds of barbecued chicken wings that I spent the day cooking (between cussing at the computer and pulling wires) to a place I've never been to before, where I'm not sure I will have help getting them out of my car. And I'm not sure I'll get the opportunity to eat (Although after making 20 pounds of chicken wings, no matter how delicious they may have turned out, I'm not sure I want to see chicken again for a while.

So it's been a pretty crappy weekend, all around.

Oh, I know - it's all "in the larger scheme of things, this means nothing" stuff, but for some reason I'm a lot better at coping with the big stuff than the little stuff. I think it's because I feel like the little stuff SHOULD go smoothly; I kind of accept that big stuff sometimes goes wrong.

I'm also bugged about the sheer amount of money I've spent trying to solve a problem (connectivity) that's still not solved. I am a deeply cheap person in many ways. I do not mind spending money on a problem if there is clearly a good outcome. But I do not like spending money when the outcome may or may not be good - for all I know, the tech could conclude the cable strength or something here is insufficient to support broadband connectivity.

Thursday, July 26, 2007


My grades are all posted for the semester.

It's a good feeling.

A doubly good feeling is that I have the sense that the grades people earned this semester reflected their effort. Lots of Bs, but a B is a pretty good grade (in my book, at least). The only Fs were a couple people who quit coming and didn't withdraw. A couple Ds, but they were people who really didn't put in much of an effort in the class, or failed to do assignments, or something.

Just a couple of As, but then, an A should be reserved for outstanding work.

Now I get to take a little time off.

It's Friday somewhere, isn't it?

I'm going to be offline probably most of the day tomorrow - I can no longer be a cheapskate on dialup; my ISP is discontinuing dialup service so I am going with a cable modem. (And no, I didn't have many other options, so please don't share the horror stories about sucky cable modems.)

I am also, at the same time, upgrading to digital cable.

Last week, I upgraded my tv - I purchased a new flatscreen LCD tv - a smaller one, it still had to fit in between my bookshelves - to replace the aging Samsung I'd been using for a dozen years or so. (The new tv is a 32" screen, "Measured diagonally" or whatever kind of alchemy they use for measuring screens. The old tv was 13". And here's how technology has advanced in even a short time: the new and old tvs weigh almost the same).

I feel compelled to quote Homer Simpson here: "TV...mother, teacher, secret lover."

(I am SO looking forward to getting TCM and the various Discovery-plexes.)

But I have two little flip-offs for the week.

First: my neighbor's new pet pit bull can flip off. Or my neighbors can, for keeping her outdoors at night.

Now, yeah - pit bull. But I'm not too worried. I'm not convinced in the bad-to-the-boneness that some people propose for this breed - it seems most of the attacky kind of pit-bulls are owned by the sort of person who would have a reason (coughindoormethlabcough) to want to train a dog to attack. And every time I've seen her in their yard, she looks at me and wags her tail and her general body language and expression seem to say that she's the kind of dog that believes:

"Stranger" = "friend I haven't met yet" or "Stranger" = "Might have doggy treats"

rather than

"Stranger" = "threat to my territory"

Not that I'm going to go up to her and pet her or anything - I'm leery of strange dogs.

But. The neighbors keep her outside all night long. And she barks. And she barks loudly. I assume it is, in part, loneliness ("Hey....why's my 'pack' in there and I'm out here?") and, in part, the fact that we have a rich and varied nocturnal fauna around here. (I just hope she doesn't tangle with one of the local skunks).

But she barked much of the night, which is just enough to keep me awake.

Secondly: Microsoft Word's "autonumber" feature can eff the eff off, with knobs AND cheese. I had to redo one of my exams because I wanted to "import" a few questions from an old exam, and Microsoft totally and completely balled the whole thing up, to the extent of jumping from question #52 to question #57 in the numbering at one point.

(Normally I'd just skip over it and add the questions on at the end, but this exam is to be machine-graded, so having the numbers correct and in order is of considerable importance).

Actually, a lot of the "features" that programmers add on (or that are added on to cell phones) aren't that useful, and in some cases really mess things up. (And yes, I know Autonumbering can be turned off, but I didn't think to do it that time.)

Wednesday, July 25, 2007


...which stands for "Sustained Silent Reading." Which is one of the happier memories of my grade-school days.

When I was a grade-schooler, I think up to about 6th grade, they'd do that at the end of the day - the last 15 or 20 minutes of class time, before the buses came, was Sustained Silent Reading time. The idea was - you just sat and read. You weren't expected to write a report on it, you weren't expected to get up and tell the class about it - it was just "free reading." (Which I think was one of the other names it went by.)

In the primary grades in particular - I think it was second grade - the teacher let us sit whereever or however we wanted. You could sit AT your desk, or you could sit ON your desk (we had desks that year that were kind of like little individual tables with four legs and separate chairs. There was a small shelf under the desktop where you could keep your textbooks). Or, as I most often chose, you could sit UNDER your desk. I liked the little cave that the desk formed - the privacy of it. (And the dimness, though perhaps that contributed to my needing glasses later on. I still prefer lower light levels). You could read however you wanted provided you weren't disturbing any of the other students (And you know? That's kind of my political philosophy in a lot of ways, today, figuratively speaking: read however you want as long as you don't disturb any of the other students.)

The books could be pretty much anything, also. I think some of the kids brought comic books (which normally were frowned upon) but the teacher didn't say anything. You could bring a book from home (and, coming from a book-filled house, that's what I normally did). Or you could check one out from the school library. Or you could pick one off the shelves of books the teacher had in the classroom - and the deal was, if you were reading a "classroom book," no one else could cop it for SSR until you were done (which seemed eminently fair to me, as a child - I'd have hated to start a long "chapter book" and then find that someone else grabbed it for the next day.)

"Chapter books." Heh. I hadn't thought of that term in a while.

I'm thinking of some of the things I read during that time. I think I had my mom's old copy of "The Red Fairy Book" and read from that. And I read "No Flying in the House" during SSR. And I think, in later grades, the Chronicles of Narnia, and Harriet the Spy, and some of the Oz books....and Summer of my German Soldier, and Where the Red Fern Grows, and all of the "dog" and "horse" books that girls read...

It was a nice end to the day. (Oh, maybe not all the kids liked it. Probably not all of them did.) But I liked it - it was sort of taking a breath at the end of the day, being able to spend a little time in something quiet and private (even as a child I was an introvert - in fact, I was probably more pronouncedly introverted and withdrawing as a child than I am now). It was a nice transition - in a way, the fact that I usually read before going to sleep at night is a similar type of transition. It's sort of a quietening-down, a being-still, after the activity of the day.

And with a good "chapter book," there was always something to look forward to - the next bit, especially if you were forced to stop (by the arrival of the buses and the ringing of the end-of-the-day bell) at an exciting part. (Of course, if it was a book from home - you took it home with you, and I often continued reading after I got home [the bus was far too chaotic to even try to read on.])

I'm sure schools still do this. (Or at least, I hope they do). I can picture legions of kids, sitting at, on, or under their desks, reading Harry Potter. (I would have loved the Harry Potter books as a child. I also would have loved the "Series of Unfortunate Events" books. And I marvel that no one suggested I read the "Dark is Rising" sequence - the early books were published shortly before I was born, and reading it as an adult, I realize I would have loved that series as well).

Another thing I thought of, that's tangentially related - not quite 150 years ago, crowds were meeting ships bound in from Britain with the question, "Is Little Nell dead?" ("The Old Curiosity Shop" was being serialized, and I guess the latest installment had not made it to the U.S.). Last weekend, hundreds of thousands of people were wondering, "Is Harry Potter alive?" (Although they probably, or many of them at least, would have stopped any potential informant with "No, don't tell me, I want to read it myself!") The power of good stories.

(I just love the mental image of thousands upon thousands of people reading Harry Potter. I'm not a big fan - actually, haven't read beyond the second book - but it makes me happy that so many people are entranced by it.)

Monday, July 23, 2007

Yeah, pretty much

Saw this over at Caltechgirl's:

What Kind of Geek Are You?

You are a bookworm of the bunch; the know-it-all, the brainiac, the evil genius. You know what the longest word in the English language is and can use it in a proper sentence. When you're not busy studying up on the ecology of the coatl you're privately lording your intelligence over those who're less bright than you.
Take this quiz!

Quizilla |

| Make A Quiz | More Quizzes | Grab Code

The Monday Stupid Spam

Oh, it just keeps coming.

(And yes - I get those "you have a postcard from a worshipper." I figure those come with a virus that you need an exorcist, not an IT guy, to get rid of.)

I received one today, it said in the subject line, "I want sale you R*lex. Do you want?"

(Why do those watch-spams always make me think of the guy standing on the corner with watches sewn into his trenchcoat lining, like in the cartoons? Or that guy on Sesame Street who used to try to get Ernie's nickels? Do they even still have that guy on Sesame Street, or has the criminal-American segment objected to him as a stereotype?)

That said: I have one response to the "I want sale you R*lex. Do you want?" guy:

Friday, July 20, 2007

Flying jewels

For the past four summers, I've planted and planned and pulled out and weeded and trimmed and generally tried to carefully choose and shepherd my landscape plantings.

And now it is paying off.

I don't know if it's because it simply took this long for a good crop of nectar plants to develop, or if it's because we've had an unusually wet summer, or what, but there are butterflies all over the place. (And a few of the moths that I consider "honorary butterflies")

Butterflies are one of my favorite groups of creatures. Part of it is that they're so accessible - I will most likely never see a clouded leopard in its natural habitat, but butterflies - they're right there. Anywhere where there's a patch of sun and a plant with sweet-smelling, nectar-producing flowers, they're there.

And where I live we have a huge variety of butterflies - including several species of the large and impressive swallowtails (I have tiger swallowtails around all the time, and black swallowtails, and the other day I saw a giant swallowtail). We also have lots of what would be called "LBJs" (or "Little Brown Jobs") if they were birds - only, in the butterfly realm, they're LBaOJs - little brown-and-orange jobs. There are several species of these and I'm not too good at telling them apart. And there's also a larger brown butterfly with a big white spot that is called a Buckeye.

We also have lots of tiny gray hairstreak butterflies, which are pretty and move fast and almost seem to travel in flocks like birds.

I also like butterflies because they're easy to observe. Unlike most wildlife, you can get within feet of them (sometimes, even, within inches) without disturbing them or putting either you or them at risk. So I've been getting a lot of chances to watch their behavior, how they travel from flower to flower, how they react when they encounter another butterfly (if it's a different species, they generally ignore it; if it's the same species, they either chase it off or chase it to try to mate with it - I can't quite tell what's happening there)

I also get lots of bumblebees, which I'm a bit more cautious about (they can sting, although they're a lot mellower than most bees are). They're interesting to watch, too - I noticed that at least one species, they go up and "feel" the point where the flower attaches to the stem before going into it. I assume they're testing to see if there's nectar in the flower, if it's worth the effort of forcing their way into the bloom. And it's cool to see a bee with full "pollen baskets" - structures on their legs where they carry pollen to take back to the nest to feed their young. Sometimes the baskets are different colors depending on what flowers the bees have been visiting - pale or dark or more yellow or more orange.

Different species seem to come at different times of day. The big butterflies seem most active in the cool of the day (morning and evening), the bees are around most of the time, and the little butterflies seem most active in the afternoons.

Another thing I've seen - for the first time this year - are hawkmoths and sphinx moths. These two species excite me because they're cool to watch - they're large, as far as moths go. And their bodies have a different configuration than your typical clothes-moth or meal-moth: fat furry bodies (I think there are two species of hawkmoths: the larger one has an olive green body and the smaller has a body that is more gold). They fly "flat," like hummingbirds fly (another name for them is hummingbird moth) and they hover in front of the flower while drinking from it, instead of landing and hanging on like the butterflies do.

I've seen LOTS of the hawkmoths this summer - they are out early in the morning in force, and also again at dusk, but I often see one or two working through the flowers in the afternoon.

The other day I also saw a Sphinx moth. These have the same basic configuration as the hawkmoths (fat body, hovering flight style), but they are larger and have pink and white stripes on them. I had never seen one "in real life" (only in photographs), so that was very exciting. (Just as birders have life lists, or people who train-spot look for particular locomotives...bugs can be interesting too, especially the first time you see a "new" one).

There's a certain peace to watching butterflies - it's kind of like watching fish in an aquarium. They're brightly colored, they have sort of a floating movement, they don't require interaction from you (I think it's in part the "neutralness" of the fish tank that makes it soothing - you don't have to do anything but watch the fish).

I also take a certain pride that in my carefully chosen and tended plantings, I am providing nectar - to fuel the continued lives of these butterflies, and hopefully to provide the energy for the production of the next generation. (I sort of "said" [in my mind] to the hawkmoths the other day: "Eat up...and then go find the plant your larvae eat and make lots of babies!" [I think the hawkmoth babies eat honeysuckle, if it's the species I think it is].)

Friday Stupid Spam LIVES!

It's been months since I did this, but it's been a while since I had a laughably-silly subject line of spam. (Lately, I've been getting pounded by those "A schoolmate/friend/family member has sent you a postcard" things. Which - in case anyone out there didn't know - can contain malware. I'm glad I didn't innocently open any of them before I heard about that).

But I received a spam - at my work address, no less, with the subject line:

"Don't get mad; get viamagra." (name of the medication Homer-ized to prevent weird searches).

That made me laugh....I mean, I wouldn't think that getting mad would necessarily be the followup emotion of the occurrence in a chap's life that would require him to purchase the "heavy lifting" sort of medications. Getting worried, maybe. Getting sad. Trying to come up with something to say to the lady so she doesn't get insulted and think it happened (or didn't happen) because of HER. But mad? I wouldn't think so much.

(Of course, there's the old saying, "Don't get mad; get even" which I suppose this is meant to play on. But given the context that just doesn't make sense.)

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

More about my trip

It's been a hectic week, so I've not been as verbose as normal. (Summer semester winding down and all that.)

My trip was pretty good. The presentation went reasonably well - I didn't have any hecklers or "pointed" questions (a "pointed" question is someone asking a question they know the answer to already, either because they want to look intelligent when they ask it, or because they want to trip you up, or, in some rare cases, just because they're an a-hole.). I didn't really get a discussion going but that's okay I guess.

It isn't like I was applying for a new job or anything - this is just one of those things profs are sort of expected to do, to keep feeding the C.V. beast, and so now I've done my bit for the year.

I will say a couple of things - I saw some folks I'd gone to grad school with and spent some time talking with them. One of them was as smarmy as I remembered him - always dropping names and talking about the type of car he drove, crap like that. But I also got the sense he was basically insecure and dissatisfied with his work, so the smarminess somehow didn't bother me as much as it did when we were in offices down the hall from each other.

A couple other people, after talking with them, made me realize a couple of things:

a. I'm pretty lucky where I am. I have a few problem students but apparently everyone has them, and it seems that cheating and dishonesty aren't so rampant (or at least, aren't practiced with the same cavalier disregard for any kind of ethical/moral standard) at the school where I teach. And whatever pressure there is to publish is a lot less than most places. And I'm doing pretty well, in most of the generally-accepted measures of "success."

b. I am good enough. That's a big thing I wrestle with - I beat myself up for not doing more research, or being a more dynamic teacher, or things like that. But from talking to my former colleagues - both in hearing what they said to me, about me, and in hearing their attitudes towards their own work, I'm coming to the conclusion that I'm far more self-critical than I need to be. (The challenge will be to figure out how to throttle back on the intense self-criticism).

People tend to seem to think more highly of me than I think of myself. I don't know if that's because I have such a highly-tuned inner critic that I can usually see all the stuff I've done that's less than perfect, or if EVERYONE walks around thinking that ~80% of the stuff they do is crap (when everyone else thinks it's just fine, or even better than fine) because they're so close to it, where they see all the false starts and screw-ups and all the stuff you DON'T usually mention in a research presentation or article.

As I said before, I'm glad I don't live in or work in a big city. Too many people. I can't remember if it was here I wrote about my "5% hypothesis" (that 5% of the human populace is just not fit to be out in public and will be a major nuisance to everyone else - so if you're somewhere where there are 20 other people, only one will be, on average, a major nuisance, but if you cram 1000 people into an area, then you begin to have problems because you have 50 nuisances). Big cities are also expensive.

And you know? I think the South is - despite what a lot of people say - just more tolerant of the whole range of human eccentricity. It's like...in the big Northern cities at least (I don't have a lot of experience with big Southern cities), there's a lot more emphasis on APPEARANCE and it doesn't matter so much what's really inside you. Whereas where I live - you can be missing teeth, or have bad hair, or be kind of fat - but if you're a decent person who is kind to others, you're accepted, you're a part of the community. My experience in some of the cities I've lived in is that, at least in some sections of the city, it's like there's an invisible version of one of those amusement-park height markers, except in the city, it says, "You must be prettier than this to walk down this street." Or "better dressed than this." Or whatever.

(I am making a distinction between "eccentric" - which I define as "weird but potentially interesting" and "not fit to be out in public" - which I generally define as people who are so rude, obnoxious and demanding that St. Francis himself would be hard-pressed not to be tempted to sock them in the nose. Yeah, maybe I'm not entirely consistent - in that I like one group of deviation-from-the-norm and can't stand another, but whatever.)

I don't know. I'll take the people with dental, skin, or hair challenges but a heart of gold over some botoxed wench with a soul like a Frigidare any day. I'm not saying there aren't good people in the cities - absolutely not. It's just, some of the most challenging interpersonal interactions I've had in my life - the ones where I came out of it feeling lessened, like I wasn't pretty enough or thin enough or wealthy enough or that there was something wrong with me because I had "failed" to marry, came from experiences I had living in the city.

I did spend a little time roaming around and doing a little shopping. I was somewhat frustrated that the really fun, really cool shopping district was just a couple more miles north of where I was - I suppose I could have kept walking but it was kind of hot, and I figured they'd not let me into the fancy department stores anyway seeing as by that point I was all sweaty and my hair had kind of turned into a dandelion pouf from the humidity. I suppose I could have taken a taxi but I was afraid of giving the wrong address to the driver, or having him misunderstand me, and winding up somewhere where I didn't intend to be and didn't know how to get back to where I belonged. Especially because it seemed that the cabbies (at least the ones I had experience with) in that city didn't have the greatest command of English.

Oh, yeah, I'm probably going to some political-correctness hell for that - for admitting I prefer cabbies who speak decent English. But whatever.

On the other hand...the (v. expensive) restaurant I ate in for two evenings (it was convenient to where I was staying) had foreign waiters and they worked out well. The waiter I had (both nights) was a West Indian chap, and he was a good waiter - attentive without being fawning, quick to notice when I needed something, made helpful suggestions. (I tipped him well. The high prices and no-substitutions policy weren't HIS fault).

One thing I noticed about traveling - and I have to say here that I am most definitely not a "go out at night" girl - I'm not a pub-crawler (I've discovered that even small quantities of alcohol give me migraines, and most bars don't like to see that person come in who orders a seven-up or an orange juice when they could be selling Appletinis or something like that. And also - going pub-crawling alone sucks [and it's not safe - even if you're not consuming booze - bad stuff can still happen], and no one I knew invited me; most of my old buds were people who lived right in around that area and they were going back to spouses and kids at the end of the day). I'm not a concert-goer - most music venues are too loud for me. So after dinner, I go back to my hotel room.

And there's a sort of tipping point - I think it's about 8 pm for me - where the hotel room sort of ceases being a place you're trapped and bored with nothing to do, and where it becomes sort of a haven - you don't have to be out, you can put your pajamas on and scroll around the unfamiliar television lineup to see if there's either a program you like, or a channel you don't get, on. Or you can pull out your book and read. And you know? I kind of notice that at home, too - there's a point at which you kind of give up on the day a little, and you welcome whatever distraction you can find - you put down whatever work you brought home, or don't try to do "improving" things any more.

For me, it usually means finding either an episode of "Mythbusters" or something on the Food Network on the telly, or pulling out a book. Or even just going to bed early.

It's funny how travel makes you notice mundane things about yourself.

Yes, I am very much a stay-at-home, old-maidish, Miss-Marple sort of type of person. I'm coming to the point where I'm no longer bugged by people thinking that's either odd or boring - How a person chooses to spend their time, whether it's dancing at a bar or reading a novel - should really be something that's their own personal choice, without someone else's eye-rolling or implication that the person is somehow less because they're not very "social."

Because - and this was particularly true on my last trip - I get enough of people during the day. I don't need to be with them late into the night.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

and another...

Spotted this at Caltechgirl. Maybe I'll be more distinctive here:

1. Situation ::
2. Theme song ::
3. Kelly ::
4. Club ::
5. Swerve ::
6. Couch ::
7. Bigfoot ::
8. Arbitrary ::
9. Inventor ::
10. Blazer ::

And my answers:

1. Situation :: Room
2. Theme song :: annoying. (Well, most ARE. With the exception of "Mission:Impossible" and a few other shows.)
3. Kelly :: green
4. Club :: sandwich
5. Swerve :: to miss a turtle (and yes, I do. Not like those OTHER people who swerve to hit them. Shame on you.)
6. Couch :: potato (Willing to bet everyone else does that one.)
7. Bigfoot :: skunk ape (what some folks around here actuall call 'em.)
8. Arbitrary :: designation
9. Inventor :: Thomas Edison (and surely everyone else will say that, so I'll add Elias Howe.)
10. Blazer :: tight. (When I was in prep school, we had these school blazers we were expected to wear on certain days. They were cut for teenaged boys. So if you were a girl, particularly a girl who had "developed" early and fast, as I did, they were uncomfortably confining. And yeah, we were expected to button them.)

'nother little meme

I've seen this lots of places - Ken's, and Cullen's, and elsewhere. I resisted reading their responses before I had a chance to do it, so my thought processes wouldn't be tainted (well, more than they already are.)

So here goes:

The questions:
1. Happen ::
2. Terribly ::
3. History ::
4. Master ::
5. Petrified ::
6. Moan ::
7. Attack ::
8. Picture ::
9. Students ::
10. Potter ::

My responses:

1. Happen ::stance (I see Cullen has that too, now, but it's the first thing I thought of).
2. Terribly ::horribly
3. History ::Channel (And Ken had that)
4. Master ::and Commander (Ken, again)
5. Petrified ::Forest (Cullen had that one, too. And Ken, now, I see)
6. Moan ::and piss (Yeah, that should be "pissing and moaning" but whatever)
7. Attack ::of the Killer Tomatoes (yet again Ken. Dammit, can't I do anything original?)
8. Picture ::Book
9. Students ::workbook (I guess I'm thinking about the labs they have to hand in.)
10. Potter ::clay (again, Cullen had that.)

Okay, let me try again, trying DELIBERATELY to be "out there."

1. Happen ::ed to meet an old lover on the street last night (no, not actually. I wish. It's from a Paul Simon song)

2. Terribly ::made

3. History ::in the making (which is a phrase I dislike when applied to an event. It's like some television special or movie that's dubbed "destined to become a classic." Um, no. Things become classics because they are well-made and they strike some kind of cultural chord at the time they come out, not because deep-voice announcer-guy says they will. And often, the destined-to-be-classics are horrible drek, like a Christmas special featuring the licensed character-of-the-week)

4. Master ::'s Thesis

5. Petrified ::what some women look like after too much Botox. I earned all the crow's feet and forehead wrinkles I have, so I'm keeping them, thanks.

6. Moan ::Bad ringtone. Did you know there's a ringtone out there that sounds like a woman in the throes of passion? Most disgusting thing ever, and I'd hate having a six-year-old with me asking, "Mummy, why is that lady's phone sounding like that?"

7. Attack ::dog (Probably not original but I'm not scrolling through all the blogs I read to see who else did it)

8. Picture ::if it paints a thousand words, then why can't I paint you? (apologies to those who now have that song stuck in their heads for the rest of the day.)

9. Students ::double secret probation

10. Potter :: poor Fawn, she was killed in a kiln explosion.

(Incidentally, there's a (maybe unintentionally) hilarious study guide about that movie I referenced in my last two comments. Designed for ESL classes.

Considering that my sole experience with ESL learners comes from
a. trying to interview a very traditional woman from the Indian sub-continent for a linguistics calss


b. that one episode of "My Name is Earl" (one of my favorites, btw)

I can't quite imagine a classroom of people from diverse countries (and cultures!) being able to really discuss that epic of debauchery.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Because I missed two Fridays...

Yeah, I'm back. And I have to say I am SO done with the trip-within-a-trip format (go visit family and then have to go somewhere else in the middle of the visit).

In 2005, it was getting suckered into accompanying my parents to Door County for a meeting with one of my dad's old grad-school buddies, but also something like 10 hours straight in a car each day.

In 2006, it was going almost as far to see one of my cousins get married. Don't get me wrong - I love my cousin - but spending approximately 20 hours in a car over a span of 3 days is NOT fun. My next cousin from that family who marries? I'll send a really, really nice gift with my regrets.

And this year - it was meetings.

And I have a few little eff offs related to the meetings and travel and stuff in general. And because I've been gone two Fridays, I'm going to let loose right now:

1. The slimy guy who was hanging out by the train station, who made me and my traveling companion think he was with the taxi company - and then who hustled us for $5 ("Normally when there are two people, they give me $5") for "getting" us a cab that was just sitting there, and insisting on putting our bags in the trunk - eff off. If we hadn't been tired and trying to figure out whether to walk to our hotel or take a cab, we would have heartily told you where to go when you first grabbed our suitcases.

2. The taxi companies that jack up the price going OUT from train, bus stations and airports because they know they have a captive audience - eff off. We paid $8 going out and I paid $5 coming back (They levy a $1 "extra person" fee, but still - the taxi out was $2 more than the one coming back). Yeah, yeah, $8 won't break me but it's the PRINCIPLE of the thing.

3. Oh, and while I'm on the subject of taxis - please have some kind of TEST to see that your drivers can actually speak English. Thanks. It's highly unlikely that the passengers are going to speak Arabic or Eritrean or whatever the native language of the cabbies is - so you need to make sure they speak OUR native language, which, incidentally, is the native (if not "official") language of the country in which they are operating.

4. Panhandlers can eff off. At least the ones I encountered weren't too aggressive - but seeing one every block is not a good advertisement for the city.

5. People who are umbilically connected to their cell phones can eff off. On a day off from the meetings, I went to a museum - and what did I encounter, but boors blocking some of the exhibits I wanted to see as they nattered on endlessly about what sounded like (because I couldn't AVOID hearing them) nothing. It's a feckin' MUSEUM. You elected to go there. If you can't disconnect from your absent friends for two hours to go through a MUSEUM, you have serious issues.

6. Crowds can eff off. I am so not a city person. I hate crowds.

7. The poo-smelling river that ran right through the area where I was staying can eff off. Or the people who used it as a sewer for many years and made it smell like poo can eff off, I don't know which. I just don't like strolling around on a summer day looking for a place to eat lunch and smelling eau de outhouse.

8. The very loud, very obnoxious women who were attending a different conference (one for people involved with a home-based business that sells items through a party format) can eff off. Can you PLEASE stop your loud networking, even on the train, and allow those of us who want to read a little privacy from your screeching harpy-voices? (And why do so many of the women who run those "come to a party where I try to sell you stuff" businesses seem like faded, aged versions of the worst stereotypes of cheerleaders and sorority girls?)

9. Expensive restaurants can eff off. Look, if I'm paying $35 for an effing STEAK, I expect that steak to at least come with potatoes...but noooooo, potatoes are $3 extra if you want them. And salad is $4 extra. Damn. I can buy, like, 10 pounds of potatoes for $3. And if I'm paying $9.50 for chicken fingers, they damn well better be actual pieces of chicken breast that the chef breaded and fried right there in the kitchen, not some nasty frozen Tyson crap, which is what I was served. Oh, and "no substitutes"? If mashed potatoes cost exactly the same as french fries, then why can you not substitute? How hard is it? Where I live, and where my parents live, it's harder and more expensive to truck in most food, but in our GOOD restaurants food is reasonably priced and it's GOOD - not nasty frozen crap. I know you have "overhead" but $35 for a steak with JUST a side of yellow summer squash (and, I'm sorry - but the only vegetable I hate worse than summer squash is Brussels sprouts. And I think I'm not alone in that assessment) is just frickin' crazy.

10. And finally - people who cannot form a reasonable line, who can't wait patiently, who cut in front of people who HAVE been waiting patiently, can eff off. In a just world, not only would you get sent to the back of the line but you'd be asked to walk behind the train instead of riding it. Especially the people who cut in front of the older couple who were using canes! That's just wrong.

All that said: I am always grateful for my nice little house, and my own kitchen, and my own bed, and a shower that I know doesn't have a chance of harboring verruca-virus or athlete's foot when I return from trips. Travel, for me, mainly has the purpose of making me appreciate what I have at home.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Yay! (music questions)

Yes, 'fly, you are correct. He was just a gigolo. (So, did the David Lee Roth ref help?). He also ain't got nobody, because no body cares for him.

And Kate - yes, the lady is a tramp. Lyrics (one version) here. This is one of my favorite songs EVER.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Happy Independence Day

Just a quick additional note: Happy Independence Day to all. (I prefer that designation to "the Fourth of July." It sounds more Founding-Fathers-ish to me.)

My thoughts and prayers are with our troops around the world, for their safety and success. (And also prayers for families of those in the military - it is a sacrifice to have your loved one far away, and possibly in harm's way).

I am very thankful for all of the blessings of liberty that I enjoy, being a citizen of this nation. And I often think of Churchill's comment (which I may be misquoting) that democracy is the worst system of government, except for all the others.

It is true we may have problems in this country - but we also have tons of good things, things we all share in - freedom to choose whatever religion (or none) you consider is right, the freedom to complain about the government if you don't like what they're doing, the responsibility to vote (but also the freedom to slack and not-vote if you want to). And, as a woman, it's not lost on me that I am free in this country to not marry if I choose not to - even to have children "out of wedlock" if I so chose - and the government can't say boo about it. I'm also free to own my own house and hold down a career. And go shopping without an "escort" and read/watch/listen to whatever I choose.

Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Simple ideas - simple rights that Jefferson said we all had - but so powerful. May we always continue to have those rights, and may people in countries where those rights are not currently guaranteed come to know, have, and love those rights.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Music trivia - ricki's favorite songs "edition" updated

(Update: I'm gonna leave this up while I'm out of town next week. I've noted the two that were correctly guessed, and I've added better hints for the ones that weren't.)

Okay, so this is utterly, completely, shamelessly stolen from Ken.

At least one of these is going to be a total giveaway - at least if you read my recent comments over there - because it's what made me think of doing this. (Update: okay, maybe not. Maybe I just have odd, anachronistic taste in music. Think late 40s, early-to-mid 50s.)

And heck, maybe all of these will be giveaways. I have no idea how obscure or mainstream my tastes in music are. (Note that this is NOT a "rock and roll" trivia edition; most of these songs are "standards" or are more in a Rat Pack/Vegas type mode. Most of these - with the possible exception of the first - are songs I like because of the clever lyrics.)

So anyway. Leave the answers in the comments. In most cases it's the song title.

1. There will come a day, when youth will pass away (zzzzzzip). In the end, what will "they" all know about the singer? (Hint: The version of this song that I know and love was performed - mostly in Vegas - in the 1950s by an Italian-American singer. However, circa 1984, it was covered by a former hair-band frontman. Oh, and big hint: the singer talks about being paid for every dance, and selling each romance.)

2. What is the name of the man about whom it is said, "His form, his face, his manly grace/are not the kind/you would find/ in a statue." (The song starts out - at least in the version I know - "I used to think that I would discover, the perfect lover, one day. I knew I'd recognize him, if ever he came 'round my way...." The lyrics were written - in part at least - by P.G. Wodehouse. The song was originally written for a now-forgotten musical; today it is most closely related with "Show Boat." I suspect this is one of the more obscure ones but it's a song I really love, because of the lyrics.)

3. If I don't like crap games with barons and earls, won't go to Harlem in ermine and pearls, and won't dish the dirt with the rest of the girls, what does that say about me? (Many, many versions of this out there, some with slightly different lyrics. I have the Sarah Vaughn version and the Peggy Lee version on tape. Sammy Davis, Jr. did a version too - as did Frank Sinatra - but obviously for those the lyrics were changed to third person, as they were describing the attributes of the "lady" in the song, rather than referring to themselves.

The singer also declares at one point that she "get[s] too hungry for dinner at eight, loves the theater but never comes late, and never bothers with people [she] hate[s]." She also refers - in some versions - to reading "Walt Winchell, and I mean every line" and in other (possibly later) versions "Kilgallen, and I mean every line"

I'll actually be a little sad if no one gets #3 as it's a song that I sort of consider a bit of a personal soundtrack. Because, you know, social circles spin too fast for me.)

4. When an irresistible force, such as you, meets an old immovable object, like me* what can you bet, as sure as you live? (Dave got it. "Something's Gotta Give." I figured that was going to be the quickest one to be gotten, because I think it's been used in a couple fairly recent movies. The version I love best is a Sarah Vaughn version.)

(*it bugs me very much that that sentence isn't "parallel." I feel that that second part should also say "such as me" but the above is how the lyrics have it rendered, at least in the version I'm familiar with).

5. If I've found more clouds of gray than any Russian play could guarantee, and although I can't dismiss the memory of his kiss, what must I conclude? (You may either state the title or the continuation of the lyric here...they are slightly different). (Again, Dave - the correct title is "But not for Me" and the singer I know it best from is Sammy Davis, Jr.)

(Bonus question: in the version of this song that I know -which is actually sung by a male singer, so properly, that would say "memory of her kiss" above, reference is made to Beatrice Fairfax. Who was she, and why would reference to her be appropriate to the song?)

6. If "I say with a shrug I think you're a mug to marry me" what is the singer trying to convince her intended that she is going to be? (later, she promises him, "I'll be living my life in bed, but they always will be twin beds, and I warn you, you'll be living like a monk")
This one is extremely obscure - the version I know best is by Dinah Washington but Ella Fitzgerald also sang it. Apparently a version with different lyrics was used in an Astaire-Rogers film. (The chorus and "key phrase" is the same, but the lyrics are substantially different).

traveling alone

Thanks, guys.

I think part of it was a "HOLY COW I AM GIVING THIS PAPER LIKE NEXT WEEK" freak-out.

And also - it's been really humid here, and I discovered something: high humidity makes me anxious. It makes it hard for me to breathe, and so it mimics that tight-chest anxious feeling, which my brain interprets as "YOU ARE ANXIOUS NOW."

Thanks, brain.

I've got all the odds and ends of paperwork - all the receipts I can show to various people in case something goes wrong and they claim they have no record of me paying or registering or whatever. I tend to over-plan travel. That's because I mostly travel alone. And generally, traveling alone sucks.

Yes, it does. Oh, it's nice not to have to entertain anyone. It's nice not to have someone sitting next to you and rolling their eyes and making borderline-angry comments when the plane is late and all you want to do is just sit and wait quietly and not be upset about the plane being late. But it's also difficult:

you have to haul your luggage with you in the train station/airport/whereever if you need to go to the toilet.

you don't have someone to send to go and get you an orange juice when you're beat and low-blood-sugar-ing and you just NEED something nutritious.

if you miss an announcement, you have to go up to a stranger and go, "Hey - did you hear what they just said?" (the whole Talking To Strangers thing is not a favorite thing for me to do.)

if something goes wrong, it's on you to see that it gets fixed. You don't have a traveling companion to turn to and say, "Honey, I can't deal with this right now." (Then again - my past relationships being what they were - I'd be likely the turned to and have that sentence delivered to me. Or he'd go into Full Freakout Mode and I'd have to both calm him down and try to fix the problem).

eating in restaurants alone can kind of suck sometimes too. I've been in places where it was like I was UNCLEAN because I was a woman traveling alone and eating alone. (And these are places in our country, I'm sad to report - not in some backwards place whose name ends in -stan.)

you have to be a little more on your guard - against pickpockets, against smiling charming people who might have ulterior motives, against even sitting down next to someone who winds up being one of those motormouths who CAN. NOT. SHUT. UP. because you don't have someone to "rescue" you (I've actually traveled with people where we had a "code word" that if we said it to the other person, it meant: "This individual [whether it was someone at a party or on a bus or whatever] is very nearly driving me mad; please do something to extricate me from this situation.")

All that said - one of my colleagues, the one who's taking over my class for me next week, stopped by. I made some vague comment about the presentation and not knowing the "tone" of meetings and he said something like, "Yeah, I could see a situation where the paper went over people's heads." Meaning, he doesn't think I'm going to crash and burn. And I'm reminding myself - the paper I'm giving is actually a bit outside the specialties of many of the people at the meeting; it's looking at things in a different way than most members of the society would. Which can be good because maybe it will make for interesting (rather than hostile) questions. I don't know.

And besides - where I'm going it's supposed to be cooler and less humid than here. That's a plus.

Monday, July 02, 2007


Next week I go off to meetings. Presenting a paper on research at meetings is pretty much an annual event. But this is the first time I've presented at the particular meetings I'm going to, and it's the first time in years I've presented at a Major Research Society.

I'm having a little stress.

My paper is done - or as done as it's going to be, it's preliminary results - and I've practiced it and all, but I'm still stressing. One thing I've learned about the Major Reseach Society meetings is that there are a few people who attend them who are basically big dillweeds.

They are the people who live to tear down other people's research in front of a crowd, because they think it makes them look big. I've never had it happen to me, but I've seen it happen and it's ugly and you just HURT for the poor person standing up at the front of the room (more often than not a grad student, it seems).

Look - I have no problem with letting someone know their research is flawed, or there are things they've not considered. However, I think doing it in a bombastic and public way is kind of unprofessional. My tendency - in the few occasions where I've been the "expert" and someone who is a "non-expert" has sorta messed something up, is for me to catch them on their way out of the session and quietly ask them, "Hey, have you considered x, y, and z?" or "You know, you might want to try doing a different analysis [and give an example] on those data."

It just feels wrong to me to loudly correct someone in front of an audience.

But there are people who do it. Some of them are people who, I think, just have security issues - if they're not the center of attention, why, then, they might just as well be INVISIBLE! Some of them are people who genuinely think they're providing a service - either they're doing the version of rubbing a puppy's nose in its "accident" ("This is so you won't ever make that mistake again!") or they're hoping to so humiliate the person that they never show their face at a meeting again.
Perhaps some of them are just so socially awkward/retarded that they don't understand that calling a grad student an "idiot" in front of his or her peers is a bad thing.

But at any rate...even though it's never happened to me, having seen it happen is enough to keep me up at nights a little bit before the meeting. (This time next week it should be over...my presentation at least, if I'm reading the schedule right).

Oh, I also had the fear I've been dropped from the schedule...they didn't have one up until just now. I received confirmation of my talk and all that, but no communication at all between then and now.

Heh. I see I'm an 8 am, Monday talk. That's good - maybe some of the potential "hecklers" will still be in bed but I'll have lots of shiny-faced grad students and new profs at the talk.

I hope my talk is good enough. I hope it's well-received.

I'm not going to read the abstracts in detail about the other talks...one has the word "heuristic" in the title and a couple others involve rflps. That scares me a little - I hope I'm not trying to run with a crowd smarter than I am. I mean, I don't mind being "just barely" the least-accomplished or stupidest one, but I really really mind it being obvious that all the other talks are so far above mine.

(No, that's never actually happened. But still).

One of the problems is I'm at a small school, where research is totally done "on your own time." We don't have lots of fancy equipment and my paper is largely a literature survey and metanalysis of data that other people have collected, and I'm just worried that people are going to snark at it and I'm going to feel humiliated. (Well, if worse comes to worse, I'll be done by 8:15 on Monday and if I feel too much like an idiot, I can cancel my second and third night hotel stays, change my train tickets, and go home early.)

So anyway. I don't remember being this nervous before a talk before...perhaps that's because this is the first time I have NO co-authors, I'm the only one doing this work - so it's not been bounced off of a particular very critical person and refined to within an inch of its life. Also, as I said, I've never been to these meetings before so I have no idea as to the tone. A colleague of mine who has been to them describes them as "relaxed and supportive," but he's also one of those people who's oblivious to criticism and the subtle, body-language signs that people use to say, "I think you're a dork" when they aren't quite willing to come out and say it.

(I hope he's right and I'm overreacting. I always have a little bit of an inferiority complex coming from a small, low-priority-on-research school.

I'm afraid someone will say the biologist version of Sheila's, "Don't even try, CHiPS!" to me, and that I'll be devastated, and that I won't even be able to control my emotions long enough for me to sit down. [Again - it's never happened, but with harsh enough criticism and bad nerves, I could imagine it happening. And getting upset in front of a bunch of fellow scientists...well, you might as well just hang it up and open the dog grooming parlor the next week, because you'll never work in the science biz again...])

It also involves a certain amount of complex traveling, involving several types of conveyances. (How much does one tip a big-city taxi driver these days? Seriously. It's been, like, at least ten years since I took a cab anywhere.) And it's in a big city, which just makes me a little tense to begin with. (Especially now. I don't THINK the terrorists would try anything on American soil, but you never know - I'm going to be right in the "fancy hotel district" so it's not exactly a non-obvious place).

I'm just not that big on traveling (overnight traveling, traveling where you're at the mercy of others' schedules) anyway. My feeling is: I paid a lot of money for my house. I put in a lot of effort to make my house nice. Why should I abandon my house for a strange hotel room somewhere else? (I like taking day-trips, but I'm serious about this - I really don't like staying in hotels; I'd much rather return to my own nice house at the end of the day.)

So anyway. I've been doing what I can to assuage the horrible feeling in the pit of my stomach that Something Is Going To Go Terribly Wrong. I have printouts of my hotel reservations (just in case they claim they never heard of me and never got my reservation). I have printouts of my receipt of the registration for the meetings (ditto). I'm practicing my talk multiple times each day, even practicing my nonchalant laugh and, "Oh, these are just PRELIMINARY results" casual statement as a hope of staving off someone who might be starting in with snark.

And I'm reminding myself that even if it does go badly, in a week now, it will all be over. Kind of like the way I think about dental appointments.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Not sure whether to be happy about this or not...

Spied this over at Joel's

$5525.00The Cadaver Calculator - Find out how much your body is worth

Mingle2 - Online Dating

$5525? I suppose that would buy a pretty bitchin' hi-def tv...probably a good thing none of my neighbors know.

(I'm guessing that's not just the value of the minerals in one's body; I remember seeing that tallied somewhere and it was considerably less. And considering that they asked a question about hair length...there's something a little gruesome about that quiz. I haven't any problem with organ DONATION after one's dead, but the thought of someone - even next-of-kin - seeing a profit skeeves me a little)