Sunday, September 30, 2007

An observation

I've commented on here before about my concern about the "ahistoricality" of some of my generation and younger.

Well, I just saw another example: on a bulletin board I read, someone talking about drinking raw milk, and sniffing about how "the Corporations" insist on it being pasteurized, when "we all know" that there are life-giving, immune-enhancing bacteria in fresh raw milk.

Um, yeah. While I don't dispute that VERY CLEAN milk from a VERY CAREFUL dairy is safe to drink raw - at least most of the time, at least as long as the cow is healthy and has no sores on its udder - I would suspect that large-scale milk production going raw would be a nightmare. Lots of people would get sick. (I mean - we can't even seem to sell raw spinach free of potentially pathogenic bacteria, and milk is an even better medium for bacterial growth). And it irks me that there are people who seem to believe that pasteurization is some kind of evil plot to deprive them of the joys of raw milk.

E. coli can grow in milk. Campylobacter can grow in milk. I am pretty sure Listeria can grow in milk (after all, it does in unpasteurized cheeses). I suspect even worse bacteria could make a home in milk.

I'm not saying raw milk should be BANNED - if people want to buy it and drink it, that's their business. But they should realize that not everything that's "natural" is necessarily healthful. (And I sometimes eat raw milk cheese myself - but I buy it from a reputable source and if it gets to looking or smelling iffy, I throw it out.)

I see similar mindsets in the people who refuse to vaccinate their children because they either see vaccines as some kind of product of the "military-medical complex" (and yes, I've heard that phrase used). Or that they're some kind of mind-control thing. Or they cause autism (first: no link was ever established. And second: thimerosol, the preservative popularly blamed for "causing" autism, has been removed from the childhood vaccines). It's probably because no one in my generation has seen a child die of polio - or seen a child made blind and deaf as a (rare, but possible) side-effect of measles - that people are so able to blithely dismiss vaccines.

(I had an aunt who raised her children during the height of the 1950s polio scare. She told stories that were very unsettling to a child of the "vaccine era." Luckily, none of her children contracted the disease - but she remembered summers when she kept her kids home from swimming, and movie theaters closed, and children weren't allowed to have birthday parties - all out of fear of the contagion passing where anyone gathered.)

I've also heard people slam water treatment - chlorination of drinking water. It's unnatural, they say. It makes compounds that can cause cancer in some cases. It pollutes the world. It makes the water taste bad!

And I just kind of shake my head and wonder if they've ever heard of cholera. Or dysentery. Or any of the dozens of diseases that carry off millions of people in less-developed countries every year.

(I would argue that sanitation, and water hygiene, has probably been the "medical" or technological advance that's saved the most lives over the years).

I don't know. On the one hand, I want people to KNOW. I want them to be able to make an informed choice, where they have the science to hand (and where they don't dismiss it with some kind of New Age-y handwaving). On the other hand, I want to protect my own right to clean water and deadly-bacteria-free milk by not permitting the spread of unscientific ideas about what are actually great advances in hygiene and cleanliness. (After all - whenever irradiation is brought up as a possible solution to bacteria-infested food, people are terrified that their food will become radioactive. That is not true. It is really not much different from x-raying food. The main problem that seems to happen is SOME vitamins in food might be reduced - but when the choice is a week of food poisoning vs. a slightly lower vitamin C level, you can bet what side I'd go with.)

I don't know. Perhaps we need to include a "health history" unit in the schools - with films of the polio days and good instruction into all the bacteria that can infest water. Because I don't want some ill-informed future populace voting to take out the chlorine from water treatment (without replacing it with something better). But when you hear some of these fringe-y people speak, it gets kind of worrisome - some of them are VERY persuasive and some of them will shout down anyone who tries to bring up "bad old" science.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Flippin' cool!

Human flip book

(it's a flip book - but made as a series of t-shirts - to advertise a sub shop).

These kind of things make me laugh with delight because they are SO COOL and so much ingenuity went into the making of them.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Two silly things.I

I haven't seen this particular joke on I Can Has Cheezburger? yet, but I suspect someone else will have one up in time.

Yeah, the real situation it refers to is not that funny. Except it kind of IS. If he had phrased it differently it wouldn't be nearly as amusing.

(The hardest thing was finding an appropriate cat-picture that didn't have someone's copyright-watermark on it.)

Second - and I suppose you LOL-fans out there may have seen this, but I'll post the link just in case:

Oh, hai, we has some tribbles..

Yes. Star Trek (the most famous of the "original" series) in LOL-form.

I saw this several months ago and just now thought of it again. I suspect it's something that the true, die-hard Trek fans will consider tantamount to heresy, but I find it fall-down-and-roll-on-the-floor funny. I STILL giggle at it, months after I first saw it. (Be sure to check out the "commercial breaks.")

(And a few of the early commenters on the site - as I remember - pulled the race card and were all "OMG WTF YOU ARE SOOOOO RACIST MAKING UHURU TALK PIDGIN!!!!" Um, guys...EVERYONE is talking pidgin except Spock. In fact, Kirk comes off as the dumbest of the lot. It's not racist. It's just silly. Please to be getting your knickers in a bunch somewhere else, k, thx, bai.)

dang it, YES!

If you teach college or university, this is probably something you should read: Succeeding on Campus.

The good prof boils it down to a very simple, and so-obvious-we-don't-see-it argument:

Work ethic is what gets you success on a college campus.

Preparation helps - but I've seen students who lacked the educational underpinnings (e.g., they went to a small rural school where resources weren't very good) but who managed to pull good grades by virtue of the fact that they were willing to work hard, that they weren't afraid to come and ask questions, that they gave a damn about their education.

Again, the good prof lists some evidence for his concern about the work ethic:

But then, I started thinking about those questions. They’re really not so humorous. Let’s look at a few that are, to put it mildly, extremely common:

My next class is across the campus and I’m going to have to leave five minutes early each day to get to that class on time. Is that all right?

I missed class last time. Did I miss anything important?

Do you give extra credit?

And let me add a few of my own:

Is this going to be on the test?

That’s not fair (referring usually to an exam question over the assigned reading material). You didn’t discuss this in class/put this on the review sheet/tell us this would be on the exam.

I won’t be in class Friday. Can I make up the quiz?

And my personal favorite:

Is there some reason we need to know this?

These questions, all as common as dirt, have little to do with being academically prepared for the university.

(I have to remark that that "did we do anything?" question, or its eviller twin, "I'm going to miss class on Friday. Are we going to do anything?" very nearly make me come out in hives these days).

As the right wing prof notes - all of those questions fit in with the underlying theme of lacking a work ethic. (Oh, I don't mean that people can't EVER flake out...but it seems that those very questions always seem to come out of the same mouths...someone who thinks they can skip class with impunity also tends to question why they need to learn the topic at hand, or complains because my "review sheet" is just a list of topics they need to study and not a sneak preview copy of the upcoming test)

(And another thing - I don't get the "I need to leave for my next class" comments; I either have people just getting up and leaving - before class time is up - or what is almost worse, starting to pack up their stuff and close their books 10 minutes before the end of class. I suspect that the students have successfully "trained" some professors to end class early with that trick; it is most unsettling to listen to when you're trying to get discussion about the lab going or when you're trying to answer a good question from a student.)

The work ethic question is also why I don't have an attendance policy. I have a student in one of my classes right now - a very bright and capable woman but who has a chronic disease she is trying to get under control. She's still gotten the homework in on time, she had to make up one of the tests (but informed me well in advance, brought a doctor's note, and asked me when it was convenient for ME for her to make it up). And she made an 89 or better on both tests she's taken. She has the work ethic, so I do not feel I should penalize her for being ill. However, I also have students who skip, or who walk into class and see the topic for the day and decide it doesn't interest them or something, and so, walk back out, who never hand in the homework (or try to cadge permission to hand it in late, with no good reason). And they invariably wind up with Ds or Fs. (Which is why I don't have an attendance policy: it all works out in the end without my having to do incredible amounts of accounting and badgering students for doctor's notes when they're sick.)

I'm not one of the "moonbatty" profs that right wing prof alludes to in his article (at least, I like to THINK of my goals is to have students walk out of my class without knowing whether I have a D, an R, or an I after my name on my voter registration card). But yeah - pretty much anyone, no matter how much they pay lip service to the indigo-children-happy-rainbows-and-moonbeams-let's-revive-the-1960s ethos, they're gonna be right in there with the hawkish types like me bitching about:

late papers
students who claim they need a "make up" test when it's not at all clear they didn't just sleep through the first one
students who utter the dreaded "Did we do anything yesterday?"
students who cheat
students who plagiarize. (I had a colleague stop assigning papers - which I think was the wrong response; it's like the cheaters won - because one semester so many of the papers in his class were plagiarized)
people asking for extra credit, ESPECIALLY people who haven't been arsed to do the fundamental assignments for the class

All of that.

And a lot of that kind of boils down to work ethic - or, more simply, giving a damn.

And you know - I think that's a source of a lot of frustration for a lot of people. It's probably one of the great unseen, unspoken divides in America - there are people who give a damn, and people who don't. Or people who give a damn about things they need to give a damn about, and people who don't give a damn about the important things.

How many times have I ranted on here about someone who agreed to do something I needed done, and then called me up later and said they couldn't, and not with some good reason for them to bail, either? That's the whole not-giving-a-damn thing.

Unfortunately for me, I was raised by my parents to give a damn. Maybe even more than that - to give a kilodamn, or a damn to the third power, or something like that. So I wind up all knotted up over trying to get the things I feel obligated to do done, and then I get frustrated with people who don't feel that same sense of obligation. (On some level I realize that that's part of understanding humanity, and realizing that not everyone's as anal diligent as I am. But on the other hand: DON'T miss the due date for a paper that I've harped on EVERY CLASS PERIOD and then show up three days later expecting me to accept a late paper just because you couldn't get your s**t together - when everyone else in the class apparently DID, because their papers were in on time.)

I don't really know where I'm going with this, other than that he's uncovered a secret source of my frustration - and a good explanation for the high drop-out rates among some otherwise bright people.

And also - if you have kids at home, try to instill in them a work ethic. That may be easier said than done; I'm not sure how to do it without actually modelling it (which is what my parents did, I guess, and probably how I internalized that you get the work you agreed to do done and in by the deadline, even if it means you get to have ABSOLUTELY NO FUN and ABSOLUTELY NO TIME TO YOURSELF during the time period you need to work on it.)

Wednesday, September 26, 2007


You know, there's something terribly ironic about someone calling you up to tell you they have to bail on something they promised they'd help you with (with no good or earth-shattering reason) and then PRACTICALLY IN THE SAME BREATH asking you to do something for them.

And yes, I said yes.

Because it's a case where saying no really wouldn't hurt the person who bailed on me, it would hurt other people.

But it frustrates me when someone calls me up to bail on something they were going to do, and then them essentially tell me, "I guess you'll need to find someone else to do it, then."

NO NO NO NO. On the planet I come from, when you cannot fulfill an obligation - and it is not because you are in ICU, trapped in a bear trap, imprisoned, or otherwise in a position where your calling other people on the phone and asking them to take over for you is impossible - it is your duty to find a replacement. Especially when I'm busier than you.

(I did manage to twist the person's arm enough so that by the time they hung up, they were saying they'd "try" to find a replacement. I wanted to pull the Yoda line - which I normally hate - "Do, or do not. There is no "try"" on them, because I know for some people "try" is code for "I'll call one person and if they say no I'll give up but you can't be angry with me because I did fulfill the definition of "try."")

This is just getting to be the part of the semester where I have to suck stuff up and try not to be bitter about it. But when you're schedule's so tight you have to make sure to work in 5 minutes in the middle of the day when you don't have to be somewhere (so you're sure to have a time to pee), it's really hard not to get angry at someone for flaking, and then telling you you need to cover for their flakage.

I also received a borderline-illiterate e-mail message from a student asking about handing homework in late. It was "dun," she promised me, but she wasn't going to make it to class.

I try to be nice and cut people slack but I find when I need a little slack - like more time to get grading done or something - I don't get a whole lot from the students. It's just another little double standard in life: I should be eternally happy to accept late homework, but I don't DARE let the fact that I have a life outside school get in the way of getting those homeworks graded and the grades posted on the class website within 24 hours.

(To my credit: most of the time I DO. But sometimes, stuff just comes up. I wish people realized that.)

weird shoes 3

First we had the strange, plasticky, Transformers shoes.
Then we had the cutsiepie bunny-slipper shoes.

Now, we have Backwards shoes.

Does this suggest some sort of desperation on the part of the designers? Sort of a "Oh, no! Women might decide they already HAVE shoes in every style"?

I will grant that these shoes are less ugly than the Transformers shoes, but I think watching someone walk in them would give me a headache, because my brain would tell my eyes "You're doing it wrong!"

Ah, Wednesday

Ah, Wednesday. Also known as "The day I wish my job description was 'Independently Wealthy Layabout' and not Associate Professor/Committee Chair/Student Group Advisor/Youth Group Leader." (And only one of those titles do I see a paycheck, or even thanks, for.)

Trump is apparently starting a new magazine aimed at the uber-rich. It's going to be about "high end goods and celebrities." I'm sorry, but - yawn. If I were uber-rich, I'd want to spend my time, money, and attention on other things - like maybe philanthropy, or learning all the stuff I want to learn but don't have time to. (Okay, I will say - they also said it would include travel, which would be interesting if one were rich enough not to have to put up with the security checks at airports or if one could imperiously stalk out of a hotel and request other accommodations if one discovered, for example, the wrong brand of t.p. in the hotel bathroom. But when you're middle-class these days, travel - at least in the sense of getting where you are going, and even sometimes the place you stay - can be kind of a chamber of horrors.)

I don't know. I know I'd probably be bored eventually with the "Independently Wealthy Layabout" thing, but when you're staring down the barrel of a 15 hour day, it sounds pretty attractive...the whole "sleep 'til nine, have the personal trainer in, then spend an hour in the bath, then eat something, then spend the afternoon doing whatever you want..." thing.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

comfort foods

Michele is talking about the comfort foods you want when you're sick.

I listed some of mine - pancakes, buttered toast, Cap'n Crunch Peanut Butter Crunch...

And I thought of a few more:

buttered noodles. No garlic, no stinky foot cheese, no acidy tomato stuff - just butter and a little salt on noodles, or wagon wheel pasta, or alphabet macaronis (which are VERY VERY HARD to find where I live now - I don't know if there's a nationwide drought of these things, or if it's just my region. But when I was a kid - we used to have them on the shelf all all the time. Mueller's, I think, was the company that made them.)

(Actually, more on pasta - where I grew up, Mueller's (white box with blue and red accents) and Creamettes (green box with red accents) were the two big brands. Neither of those are sold down here. I can get DaVinci (blue plastic bag), which is good, but it is somehow not the same. I remember the first time I went back to visit my parents after I moved down here, going to the grocery to pick some things up for my mother - I saw the Creamettes boxes on the shelf at the store and had to fight tears. And after a brief flirtation with the "healthier" whole wheat pasta, I'm back to good old durum semolina. I don't eat pasta that much - maybe a couple times a month at most - so I don't think I need to eat something with the consistency of sandpaper in the interest of my health)

White bread, with butter and sugar on it. (This would probably be regarded as child abuse in some circles today). That was one of the upset-stomach-can't-eat-real-food treats, or one of the we're-out-at-a-restaurant-and-you-don't-like-anything-on-the-menu-
and-I'm-sorry-about-that palliatives. I didn't get it often but I loved it. (And I made it for myself a couple months ago, just as an experiment. It was as soothing as I remembered. Not that I eat it OFTEN, mind you - but it's nice to know my memory of that wasn't inaccurate.

Lemon-lime soda, although I wasn't a big soda fan as a kid, we got that or Vernor's ginger ale when our stomachs were upset. Funny, that was one thing that I didn't particularly crave when I wasn't sick. I still don't, today.

Cereal. Any kind of cereal, pretty much, except for junk like All-Bran or some kind of flake cereal without any added sweetener. I still eat cereal for dinner sometimes - when I've been at work from 7 until after 5, and then had a hellish meeting right after, and now it's 9 pm and I've neither been home nor had a proper meal all day - cereal works because it's easy, and you don't have to go to much effort to eat it, and you don't have to wait for it like you have to wait even for soup to heat up. I like hot cereal, too, but I never have time to do it in the morning (except maybe on Saturdays), so sometimes I fix that for dinner.

Grilled cheese. Yes. A good grilled cheese, properly made - that is, cooked on a hot grill with butter on the outside of the bread, and preferably it's a restaurant grill that's held onions and hamburgers before the sandwich, so the bread picks up a little extra flavor - that is one of life's joys. From the age of about 4 until the age of perhaps 14, that was my standard, fall-back, restaurant order: a grilled cheese sandwich.

Sadly, grilled cheese can easily be debased, and often in subtle and unexpected ways. I think I talked before about the "grilled cheese florentine" I got one time when I ordered a simple grilled cheese - I'm sorry, but spinach has no place on that sandwich. Even tomatoes - as much as I may like them on other sandwiches - have no place in a grilled cheese, at least in my universe. Nor should the sandwich be made on ANYTHING but lily-white, sponge-type Wonder bread. (One possible exception: my mom used to make an excellent tomato bread that made fine grilled cheese sandwiches. They were not the old-fashioned diner standard type sandwich in many ways, but they were still good). And NEVER mayonnaise. I am adamant on that and am STILL appalled that Culver's thought somehow grilled cheese and mayo were a combination that a human being could ingest.

But your old-fashioned, "golden age" grilled cheese - the simple, classic type: buttered Wonder bread, grilled with a slice of that wrapped American cheese (or Velveeta - call me a Philistine but I do like Velveeta) inside it, cooked until the bread is crisp and slightly brown and the cheese properly melted - that is a wonderful thing.

Tomato soup, I'm kind of agnostic on. I didn't like tomato soup until I was an adult so I never experienced the "dip your grilled cheese in your tomato soup" tradition.

Milkshakes. Milkshakes were another "forbidden" (well, most of the time) food that became permissible when we were sick. We didn't live in an area that had many fast food joints, so my mom usually made them at home in her blender. (Oh, and did you know? Ovaltine makes excellent shakes. Ovaltine, milk, vanilla ice cream - it's like a good chocolate malted. Ovaltine has the DUMBEST radio commercials EVER, but it's a good product.)

And while I'm on Ovaltine: hot Ovaltine. Made with milk. In a big big mug. It makes a lot of the bad things go away. Especially if you have a couple of slightly sweet crisp crackers to eat with it. (I've recently discovered a product called "Milk Lunch" or "New England Milk Crackers." I swear that we had something like this in the Great Lakes region when I was a kid, and I'd just not seen it for years - they are sort of between a Ritz cracker and a butter cookie with a hint of "saltine" about them. They're wonderful, the only place I've seen them for sale is Vermont Country Store, and like a lot of the specialty products from them, they cost the Earth but are worth it to me in terms of the comfort they bring.)

Homemade applesauce. It's different from the stuff in a jar. I don't often make it for myself because it's extra work but it's very good. My mom always used to serve homemade applesauce. (It's cooked, the stuff in the jar seems to be raw ground up apples. It gives a different texture and flavor).

Belgian waffles. These were a rare treat because you had to be at a restaurant, at a time when breakfast was available, and that had Belgian waffles. (My mom had a waffle iron, but it was one of those flat unexciting American-type waffle irons. And her waffles were good, but they weren't Belgian.)

More recently, I've found other comfort foods:

Wonton soup. If you have a good Chinese place near you, this is the best thing for a cold. I think they make the stock with more wings than normal or something - it has a vaguely gelatinous taste and seems smoother and fuller than usual chicken stock.

Hot tea. I hated tea as a kid - couldn't be made to drink it, even when the doctor said it would settle my stomach. (I had lots of stomach issues as a kid). But now, I love it. It's almost as good as Hot Ovaltine for making the bad things go away.

Barbecue. Lots of it, preferably the baby back ribs, and in a setting where you can eat them with your fingers and get the sauce on your face and not feel like a slob for doing it. Barbecue is fairly big where I live now, but it's hard to find a place that's exactly to my liking, because I tend to prefer the sweeter, Kansas-City style sauce to the more vinegary, more hot sauces.

Tapioca pudding. Another hated-it-as-a-kid thing. (Along with rice pudding, which I actually make more frequently than tapioca, because I'm more likely to have the ingredients on hand). It's kind of like cereal or soup - there's something inherently comforting about food you don't have to cut or even really chew.

Those cup-o-noodle things, chicken flavor - I almost never eat these because of the salt content, but sometimes there are times when you just want a salty cup of noodles. (And I like Ramen, too. Even though I ate it a lot as a student.)


I live in a small town, which means our newspaper's generally not much. (Some days it is six pages long, and four of those pages are devoted to the local high school sports teams).

But the police blotter or stories about police actions are sometimes odd and, in their own way, thought-provoking.

One that was in the paper yesterday involved a juvenile who was caught in the act of burglarizing someone's home. I mean, caught in the act - he had apparently been using the bathroom, with the burgled items in his possession, when the homeowner came home. (And one of those items was a bottle of prescription pills - so it was pretty darn clear the stuff DID NOT belong to the kid, and DID belong to the homeowner whose home he was in).

So, as the paper said, the homeowner "detained" the boy, and called the sheriff (This being out in an unincorporated area of the county). The sheriff sent a deputy, who took the kid back to the sheriff's office and called his mom.

Okay, quick quiz: If you are a parent, what would your response be to this situation? Or, if you're not a parent, what would your parent/guardian's response be?

I know what my mom and dad's response would have been had I been picked up for even something as innocuous as jaywalking (which was technically against the law in the town where I grew up and technically you could be ticketed for it, though I never knew anyone who WAS). They would have first thanked the deputy for picking me up, then would have apologized profusely to him for my having caused trouble. Then they would have told him that whatever consequence I faced from the law, they'd see to it that I faced it - a fine, community service, whatever. Then, finally, they'd assure him (especially if he was just releasing me to their custody with no further penalty) that they'd see to it (said in ominous tones while giving me the stink-eye) that I learned never to do that again. (And I would have been scared witless.) Knowing that would have been the general chain of events is probably a big part of why I never got in trouble with the law when I was a kid.

But I'm willing to bet whatever you'd do with your kid - or whatever your parent would have done to you - is not what the mom in the news story did.

No, the mom "chewed out" the deputy (I think that was the phrase the newspaper used) because he had FAILED TO PREVENT HER SON FROM GETTING INVOLVED IN CRIMINAL ACTIVITY.

Now, unless the deputy was the boy's father or uncle or something like that (apparently he was NOT, as it was stated he had not met the mother before), I can't see any good reason why a sheriff's deputy should have the responsibility of preventing all the young teenagers in his jurisdiction from entering a life of crime.

I mean, really: there are probably 40 or 50 kids of that age group in that area. Does she really think the deputy could manage that?

This (and the deputy's response, which I'll give in a moment) says something about the death of responsibility in some sectors of our society. She brought a kid into the world but can't be arsed to ensure that that kid doesn't become a criminal - but she gets angry when the law (which is, incidentally, already overstretched due to budget cuts) doesn't step outside of their normal realm of responsibility and be a parent to her child.

(The deputy's response to her tirade was: "Try being a parent sometime." I hope he doesn't get penalized for that, because that would be my response in that situation.)

But you see it so much - people saying "Someone should DO something!" when often that something - or at least part of it - is within their grasp. But they'd rather have the government step in and do whatever it is - because that means they're absolved from responsibility in the matter. (And, bonus: They can complain then if the thing's not done to their liking.)

I see it a little bit in my students - I've had to get very picky about how much I allow first-drafts of papers, or exactly WHAT I will do in terms of evaluating first drafts. Because I've had people give me what is ALMOST nothing more than a pile of notecards, with the assumption that I will do sufficient detailed critiquing so that they don't have to think about it, just write down what I wrote, and then they'll get an A.

I also see it in students who, when they miss a class, come to the next class and become ANGRY (and yes, I've seen them get angry) because I didn't happen to have a copy of the handout I gave last class with me. I will wearily explain it's up on the class website - but for some people, that's too much work, accessing a website and printing out their own copy. Or I tell them they need to come to my office to get it, and then they complain - my office is no more than 40 paces from the classroom.

I don't know. I guess I'm pretty much true to the GDIs* I belonged to in college (when everyone else was rushing sororities): I take care of things myself and don't like counting on other people. I especially don't like letting the government take responsibility for certain things, because responsibility for something often mutates into permission for them to do other things I'd not like. (Example: "Health care for all, for free!" coming with the "You WILL get an annual checkup, like it or not. And if your cholesterol is even a wee bit high, you WILL take statins. We don't care if you want to try diet and exercise first. We don't care that you're concerned about side effects. We're the government and we know what's best for you." attitude)

(* "Gosh-darned Independents" As opposed to people who were in the Greek system)

I don't know. I often see things as being signs and portents when they're really just dumb things. But it concerns me a little that a woman out in BFE country basically tells the local sheriff's office that it's their responsibility and not hers to see that her son doesn't become a criminal.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Your moment of cat-glee for the day

I love LOLcats. I love that there are people out there searching for pictures to caption just so they can get them on I Can Has Cheezburger. I love that there are people who comment on the pictures...who make Alice in Wonderland and Godzilla references when they see a picture like this.

(And I love how the little dollhouse dolls have their arms up in the Universal "Oh Noes!" Posture.)

The whole thing just makes me happy because of its sheer silliness.

Now, who was it said that the Internet was evil and isolating, and people who spend time on it become slack-jawed, cleverness-free trolls?

Actually, on a more serious note - I think people can and do see what they want in things. Pundits saying that the Internet leads to isolation and anti-social behavior, or narcissism and self-absorption (though I a bit resemble that last remark) are really not that much different from people who say that Christians are dangerous lunatics with their belief in the Magic Guy in the Sky, and they are all bent on either converting or executing anyone who disagrees, or at the very least, are bent on taking away porn and alcohol and permissive marriages and things like that.

And yet - you can always find the exception to prove the rule. I've "met" a lot of wonderful, funny, supportive people through the internet, people I'd probably never meet - probably never meet the likes of, even - in my real life. Because honestly, I'm kind of anti-social to begin with, and typing to people doesn't REPLACE calling friends on the phone - it replaces not interacting with people.

And I've also met a huge number of Christians who are wonderful and funny and centered and who make me want to be a better person. And most of the Christians I know don't care all that much about the presence (or not) of alcohol; not drinking it yourself doesn't necessarily mean others shouldn't. (And as for porn: I've not asked but I suspect many of the folk I know would kind of shrug and go, well, as long as they're not forcing the people to participate in the making of it against their will...)

I don't know. I get kind of tired of the "if you are X, then you must fit stereotype Y" attitude that so many have. Because more often, when I meet someone who is X, they're actually A, B, and sometimes C.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Happy happy

I wonder if the cold I had last week could have been brewing for longer than that - it seems like it's been two weeks or so that I just felt kind of "meh" and without energy. But this weekend I feel a lot better; my energy seems to have been restored.

Part of it is, I suspect, that on some level I feel like the balance in my life has been restored - last Friday, you may remember, I was laboring on a painful rewrite of a paper, which has since gone off to my co-author (I've not heard back yet but I don't mind; he's a busy person too. And not-hearing-back means I can at least temporarily put that in a "box" labeled "don't have to deal with it right now.")

Also, having a working hot water heater makes a big difference. I had worried about the old one, at least in kind of a back-of-the-mind way, for a while - when I first moved in, it made really hot water, and I could hear it when it refilled and heated. I had not been hearing the gurgling of the refill-heat cycle for over a month, and I guess I was noticing (even if I didn't openly admit it to myself) that the water wasn't as hot and there wasn't as much of it.

I'm very good at "burying" things that bother me - so I'm not openly thinking about them - but they still do prey on my mind and take up some of my attention. I don't do well with the feeling that there's something not-right in my immediate vicinity.

(Several years ago, a couple of my colleagues - who had been married - wound up divorcing. One of them had had an office next door to me. Even though I was only a bystander in the situation, I found it uncomfortable and difficult to concentrate when I knew they were both in that office, with the door mostly closed, discussing in hushed tones the situation. The person who was next door to me ultimately moved away and the other colleague re-married).

But now, things seem right again.

And I'm taking today off from working - oh, there's ALWAYS work I could do - but I feel like I really need a day off. And next week will be mostly a light week - no exams to write, and the next batch of grading won't come until Friday - so I can work on research Monday afternoon, and during my copious free time on Tuesday and Thursday.

I'm baking bread in my bread machine (wheat germ with honey and sesame seeds) and I'm going to make a big batch of bean soup for lunch. (It's good to be able to cook again without having to count the number of pots or utensils used and think about how I'll have to hand wash all of them afterwards).

I enjoy cooking. I don't know if it's partly that I do most of the more-elaborate cooking that I do when I'm already happy and relaxed (because I have the time to do it), but cooking for myself makes me happy. It also makes me happy to make something that will have good leftovers I can eat the rest of the week.

I went grocery shopping yesterday afternoon (you must understand: the town I live in has a wal-mart and a - I think it's called Sav-A-Lot? They advertise that they "save you money" because they have "limited selection" and that thought just depresses me so I've never been in there. So when I want to do "real" grocery shopping, I drive the 1/2 hour to a larger town near me and go to the Kroger's that they have. I went to the Kroger's yesterday). It also feels good to have replenished the things I'd run out of, to have planned the week's meals, and have food ahead - so I won't have to go out to the wal-mart for shopping. I don't MIND grocery shopping when I have time to do it - at least not at the Kroger's, where it seems most of the people are of the mind to get in, get what they need, and get out in decent time. One thing about the local wal-mart I don't like is that people treat it like it's an entertainment destination: they meander slowly up and down the aisles, they stop dead in the middle of an aisle, blocking it with their cart, so they can talk to someone they've met. The wal-mart obliges this mind-set on the weekends by having the "sample ladies" set up. So people clump around the sample stations and clog things up even worse.

I suppose I'd feel differently if I didn't have hobbies, or if I were such a lonely person that being able to get out and be in even anonymous humanity made me feel better, but deep down I'm kind of a misanthrope - and a misanthrope who wants to get back home to her sewing or her embroidery or the book she's reading - so I find that kind of slow parade of humanity aggravating. Luckily, the Kroger was not aggravating in the least yesterday. And I remembered to buy everything I needed.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Done, and done.

I'm considerably happier than that cat looks.

Plumber dude came out this afternoon. It took him four (4) hours to do the code upgrades and install the heater. (Part of this was because Lowe's apparently gave him a part that was the wrong size...he said, "I told them 1/2" and they gave me 3/4." Durr. So he had to drive over there and get the right part.)

But - Hot Water. Mine. (And unlike some of the greedy LOLcats, I'll say that I hope Hot Water, Yours. too.)

Oh, I have ALREADY showered and washed my hair. And the hot water was like the hot water I had of old - so hot I had to turn on the cold tap to make it cool enough to tolerate. So hot that it made me turn red. I had forgotten how HOT hot water is supposed to be. Kind of like the frog being boiled, only in reverse, over the past year the hotness of my hot water had slowly declined - and because it was slow, I didn't notice it.

I am looking forward to many hot baths come winter.

And now I am washing up the old "junk" towels (but which are still too useful to throw away) that the plumber-dude used when he had problems draining the old tank. (He did sweep up and mop up after himself, that was good). I'm hoping to at least have time tonight to do one load of "real" laundry before I totally collapse from tiredness.

Stupid Spam Thursday

Just got one

From: Wormiest Q. Ubangi
Subject: The Pharmacy America Trusts

Yeah? If we trust it so much, why did the message wind up in my "Quarantine" box? And Mr. Ubangi...if you really are the Wormiest, perhaps you need to go to that trusted pharmacy and get some medications to take care of your condition...

muttering with Caltechgirl

I intentionally didn't look at any responses, so hopefully I won't have been unduly influenced...As always, saw this at Caltechgirl's

1. Dork :: whale penis (I don't know if that's true or not but I've heard that that's where the term originated.)
2. Refurbished ::not quite renovated (There's a sort of shady place here that offers "refurbished" goods. I wouldn't buy from them, there's this "it fell off a truck, HONEST" vibe about them)
3. Basket ::case
4. Mousse ::chocolate
5. Studio ::apartment
6. 8 ball ::Magic
7. Masking tape ::uhhh...duct tape?
8. Love ::not easy
9. Wilder ::Gene
10. Lindsey ::two students in one of my classes who always sit together are both named this.

12 hours

Barring an alien invasion, the end of the world, the gas company deciding to randomly shut gas off to my neighborhood, or my plumber blowing a cog and winding up sitting on the roof of a Krispy Kreme shop shooting rubberbands at passers-by, I should have hot water in 12 hours, give or take.

I. Am. So. Ready.

I heated water on the stove last night to take a (eeeeww) "sponge bath" (well, I used a washcloth, but you kind of know what I mean). Yeah, I know, people did that years and years ago before hot water heaters were common. My mom (who grew up in a house that didn't have PLUMBING until she was in high school) has told me all about her adventures growing up in washing her hair, washing dishes, etc.

I don't want to sound like some kind of snotty ahistorical brat but...I mean, it's really nice and all that people survived like that...and I suppose when you wash that way all the time, it becomes routine and you don't think about what you're missing (or don't know what you're missing)....but dammit, I want my hot shower!

I would not survive well on one of those PBS "House" programs ("Frontier House," "1900s House"...all of those. Even "1940s House," which was designed to simulate Britain during WWII...because of fuel restrictions, the people in the house were limited to bathing in 5" of water. If I remember right, the father actually PAINTED A LINE in the bathtub to let people know how much water they could have.) Don't get me wrong - I find those programs FASCINATING. And at one time I would have thought participating in something like that was kind of cool. But, now that I've been a homeowner for 6 years, I've spent time living without:

heat (10 days in November 2004, when it turned out my furnace had a bad valve but the first guy I hired turned out to be an idiot and couldn't diagnose it correctly)

air-conditioning (a few days this summer, and a few days a couple summers ago, plus all of the brownout times we've had.)

water (when the city decided to shut our water off for a day - WITHOUT TELLING US - because a fancy-smancy new manufacturing plant ("which will employ lots of townspeople" - yeah, at minimum wage) went on-line. Other times we've had "boil orders" because the archaic water plant shut itself down)

gas (when the gas company screwed up)

electricity (both due to thunderstorms and also due to squirrels thinking transformers were a really cool place to go hang out. I was actually without electricity for well over a day, and that was when I lived in my "all electric" apartment, so I also had no heat - and that was in December 2000)

And now hot water.

And you know, every time I managed. I found workarounds. (Lots of candles in a small enclosed space like a bathroom - especially if you have a big mirror - give enough light to read and also can help keep you warm. Electric space heaters aren't cheap, but they're cheaper than hypothermia. It's possible to heat enough water to wash your hair in a large crock pot and on the stove).

But you know? It's just kind of miserable. You get used to a certain way of living, and finding just feels kind of, I don't know, kind of desperate and sad. And it's more time consuming - I didn't realize how much work and effort washing dishes even took when you have to heat the water on the stove first (and that would be exponentially more so if the water had to be gotten from a well or pump and brought up to the house, first).

Okay, I'll admit it - when it's not really hot out (so the lack of air conditioning becomes noticeable), having the electricity off for a little while is kind of's so quiet, it's kind of like camping but without the bugs and with enough books. But after a while - and especially at night - it gets old fast.

(Incidentally - I don't camp. I realize this is odd for someone who is a field scientist. I have friends who think nothing of going off to Costa Rica or somewhere and peeing in the woods and sleeping in a hammock swaddled in mosquito netting for months on end. Me, not so much: I like to go out and sample my forests and then come back home and have a nice warm shower and make myself a cup of hot tea while I look over the data.

Someone - I can't remember if it was one of the Viorst sisters or if it was Jackie Mason - talked about Jews not camping, and made the joke that, "My people wandered in the wilderness for 40 years. So we don't camp, now." Well, I'm not Jewish (at least, as far back as I can trace my heritage), but I'm inclined to feel the same way - I had ancestors who were "dirt farmers." They probably lived in small dark huts. They didn't have plumbing. They didn't have light other than what came from a peat fire. They were probably never warm enough, except in the height of summer, and then they would get bit by bugs. All of my ancestors worked hard to better life for their children. My parents sacrificed a lot - my dad split what inheritance money he received from the sale of his parents' property between my brother and me (when he could have bought a boat, or a nicer car than ANYONE on our street - and I lived in a wealthy town) for our education, and as it turned out, eventually to help me buy a house.

So, I'm inclined to feel - my forebears went to a lot of trouble so that at this particular point in history, I can have a nice house with most of the modern conveniences (I say "most" because I don't have a snazzy stereo system or an iPod or a Wii...and yes, I know people who think I'm living in the Stone Age because of that). So, why should I voluntarily give those up for a weekend (or longer) to go and live like one of my dirt-farmer ancestors? (And don't give me "because it's fun." Maybe for you. Not for me. I've tried camping; I don't find it "fun.") The only thing I can say about it is that it gives you a new appreciation for what you do have. (but then again, a night in a Motel Six with a cheap bed that's apparently made out of concrete, and a shower with Mystery Stains is enough to make me very very grateful to see my nice house with its good bed and lovely clean shower again)).

And yes - I realize there are billions of people on this planet who don't have hot water, EVER. Who don't even have clean water. And I do feel bad for them. I do make my monthly donation to Mercy Corps and give money in other areas when the need's pointed out to me (and when I have reasonable assurance the money won't go to bureaucrats or corrupt leaders of the country or "overhead" costs). But I can't quite bring myself to feel guilty about desiring hot water when I know much of the rest of the world doesn't have it; man makes himself the measure of all things, or however the old saying goes. And my having hot water here doesn't mean some woman in rural China is being cheated out of hot water - so often that seems to be the assumption of the guiltmongers - that because we have it good here in the West, somehow it's that someone somewhere else gets a smaller slice of the pie. And that's not necessarily true, at least not about a lot of things. (I mean- it's not like they're uprooting some poor African woman's hot water heater and bringing it here to my house).

I know the "politically correct" thing would be to feel terribly guilty about desiring hot water and maybe write an essay about how I am some kind of a "sister in suffering" with the people of the world who lack hot water now (and then shut up about it when the heater's actually installed). But, meh. I guess all I can say is: really sorry that a lot of people do live like this all the time. If I could wave a magic wand and make it not so, I would do that in a heartbeat. And I'm not dumb enough or puerile enough to believe that my having to heat water (clean water, that came out of the tap in my kitchen and didn't have to be hauled miles from the nearest spring) on my (electric and so, easy to operate) stove is in any way comparable to the experience of someone living in a remote village in the Andes.

But I still want my hot shower.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

No, I CAN has hot water...

Part I-don't-care-any-more-and-I'm-sure-you-don't-either, except that this is NEARLY OVER.

"Karen" called me back. I guess it's that the poor guy is just stretched to the limit - they've been sending him almost an hour away to work on a house reno (Dear Lowe's: hire more plumbers.). He had to have his wife bring in the list of what was needed to bring my plumbing up to code. (It was about $200, but frankly at this point I don't flinch at paying it. Well, not too much. It's a damn good thing I'm normally a frugal person - I had enough in my checking account to comfortably cover it without having to eat oatmeal for the rest of the month).

So I went out there, signed the contract, gave them my pound of flesh check, and "Karen" reassured me that he was going to be out "late in the afternoon" tomorrow.

As he told me yesterday. I'm not sure what "late" means, but hell, even if it's 7 pm, I'll take it at this point.

I was supposed to do something at church tomorrow night but I'm totally bailing - if the plumber's not done, I can't just walk off and leave him. And if he IS done, I plan on taking a long hot shower and washing my hair, and then washing my clothes, and then washing my dishes. And at this point, that takes priority.

So close, and yet so far.

I guess I shouldn't have believed the plumber when he said, "Karen will call you tomorrow to arrange everything about my coming Thursday." He had said he'd talk with her when he went into Lowe's today and get the work order drawn up.

It is after noon, and she has not called. She goes home at 3, I know that much.

I don't know what to do. Last time I called her she was kind of churlish with me, and I fear pissing off someone who holds the promise of my future happiness* in her hands.

And yet - if I need to sign something or pay something or whatever, I need to take care of it.

And I don't want to hear that it's going to be Friday (or later) before the heater goes in. I will NOT go over the weekend without hot water - without the ability to wash clothes (incidentally, my washer is DISCONNECTED right now so I can't even do them on cold), bathe in something approaching comfort, or easily wash dishes.

(*Yes, dammit. My prospects of future happiness have shrunk to being able to take a warm shower and wash dishes some other way than by hand with water heated on the stove. I just want hot water - is that too much to ask?)

Of course if it comes to that, maybe I just need to find a nice spa-type hotel somewhere and go there and stay there for the weekend, and have them send the bill to Lowe's. They'd never pay it, of course, but at least they'd know I'm pissed at them.

I don't know whether to just call, or to wait until my lab is done (which could be precariously close to the time Karen leaves for the day) and go out there and plant my formidable, more-than-150-pound self in front of the customer service desk and demand satisfaction. I might even do a few dramatic "Camille" coughs to let them know I'm NOT FEELING WELL (still) and I DO NOT APPRECIATE BEING DINKED AROUND.

If they offer me a gift card as some kind of "apology," I don't think I'm taking it. I think I'll tell them I don't plan on shopping with them again. (That said: that's a dangerous statement to make in a town as small as mine, considering that if my dishwasher goes out, I might be driving 40 miles to find another place that sells them).

(ETA: I just called her. I smiled into the phone [supposedly people can hear that in your voice] and essentially rolled over and showed my pale, vulnerable belly to her. I was nice. I was super, super polite. I framed it in the sense of "If I need to come and sign something, it's quicker for me to get there from my office than from my house..."

Do you know how much it bothers me to be submissive just because I fear the person will screw me over in some way?

She said she'd call the plumber and find out....he had left her a message....and she'd call back. I don't have high hopes at this point)

WHY does this all have to be such a fecking nightmare? Who do I have to pay off, vote for, sleep with, or otherwise bribe in order to get work done on my house? I live in fear of the day my dishwasher goes out...or the furnace...or something else I can't fix myself.

Seriously: it's like they all think it's still the 1950s and we're all June Cleavers, sitting at home, happily vacuuming the living room daily and baking fresh cookies while we wait on the handyman.


My PITA student just called me; he's dropping my class because "it turns out I don't need it after all."

On one hand, I'm kind of relieved - having someone who complains about being asked to do the smallest assignment is very wearing - but this is also someone, as I remember, who begged me on his knees to let him in the class.

Eh, whatever. In the long run it'll probably be more of a relief. I'm just glad he dropped before the first exam; that's one less long exam to grade.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

holy cats

...or rather, holy prairie dog.

Someone likes their "300" just a wee bit too much.

That is one of the more bizarre things I've seen on YouTube. And for YouTube, that's saying a lot.

(To quote the guy at 2:07 minutes in: WTF?....Seriously.)

(Added: Oh, dear Lord, there's another one. I can tell I'm overtired and overwrought; the "Night at the Roxbury" reference made me laugh so hard that tears started coming out of my eyes)

(And here's one Homer style. Alas, no movie: it's just a still with the song played over it. But it's still funny.)

I think I find these kinds of things funny because they were the kind of things (well, less technologically-enhanced) that my friends and I used to do in high school - we'd get an idea and we'd run with it, we'd come up with all the silly-stupid variants that we could, and it would get to the point where it probably really WASN'T funny any more but we had been laughing over stuff so long that we were just kind of punchy and kept on laughing and laughing. Good times, good times.

good news, bad news

The good news first - the plumber just got done evaluating the situation. He seems to be a very competent guy - he reassured me that there wasn't much bringing-up-to-code he'd have to do, and that he could work around the fact that the new heater I bought is a tad bigger than the old one. (One of the things he's going to do is install an emergency cut-off valve, which is good - my heater didn't have one.)

He concurred, after hearing my description of the symptoms, that it was most likely a scale buildup that killed the heater, and said 24 years was a good long lifespan.

(Perhaps it's actually a GOOD sign it took him so long to get to me - suggests he's through and doesn't do a crappy job just to get done.)

The bad news is because he has to get a work order for the bring-it-up-to-code stuff, it will probably be Thursday afternoon. (It could have been Wednesday but I told him I had too many outside commitments to try to be at home).

I will say I'm considerably reassured that

a. He's articulate and seems to know his stuff. (So many plumbers and electricians here mumble and obfuscate, drooling their words down the fronts of their shirts.) This guy actually reminded me a bit of my (20 years older than me) cousin Darryl, which I also find reassuring though I realize that's a totally irrational thing to feel reassured about. (Perhaps I find it reassuring because I've dealt with seriously skeevy plumbers in the past, and I didn't get a skeeve-vibe off this guy. Like I said: reminds me a bit of one of my cousins who is a well-established family man, veteran, and all around good guy.)

b. He didn't look at the old heater and recoil in horror and go "I can't fix it! This it too screwed up! You'll have to get a carpenter and a gas-man in here first!" Because then I really would have melted down and probably gone all Crazy Cat Lady Without The Cats on him. Actually, when I audibly worried about the old pipes, he said, "Oh, I can put on the cut-off and install a flexi-pipe there, it'll fit the new heater just fine." So, yay.

So, two more days.

Patience, as you may have gathered from all this, is not one of the virtues I possess. However, I'm better at being patient when I can see a light at the end of the tunnel.

Only two more mornings of washing my face in cold water. Only two more nights (one, actually, because Wednesday I eat with the Youth Group down at church) of boiling water on the stove to wash dishes. And I think I can hold off - especially since I can't work out with this cough - on washing my hair or taking a "full" shower until Thursday evening.

that's it.

It's now 1:30. I've done all the work I brought home with me.

I am beginning to think I will never have hot water again. Maybe I should go fill that 10 gallon bucket I bought at the Lowe's (in case I needed to drain the dead water heater) and set it out in the sun under a black plastic garbage bag and try to rig my own kind of solar hot water heater. Maybe I need to buy a bunch of those "camp showers" that are basically black rubber bladders you fill with water and hang in the sun, and just use those for washing. That'll be just another one of my chores at 6 am when I'm getting ready to leave the house: time to make the hot water.

And as for eating - I'll just buy paper plates and plastic forks. To hell with the environment. Or maybe I'll just NOT eat - I'd lose some weight that way. Make all the war on obesity people wet their pants with joy.

And as for clothes - well, I'll wash what I can in cold water, and the rest, I'll use my camp shower water on. Or maybe I'll just get a bunch of sheets, wear them toga-style for a week each, and then pitch them when they get too dirty or sweaty.

whimper. Yes, I'm whining. But I don't like sitting around at the mercy of someone else.

Or maybe I'll just burn the place down and start over with the insurance money.

(Oh, the guy just called again: he's running a little late.


I mean, seriously - when the phone rang, I knew it was going to be him. But still - what I need is not, "Oh, it's going to be a few more hours," but "I'm on my way."

He asked if it was okay if he came later - he'd call me when he finished the job he was on. Well, I guess since I've already grabbed my ankles and said "Okay," I'll keep on holding them.

Damnit, Lowe's - if you have too much work for one plumber, HIRE ANOTHER ONE. This is bull crap! I can't take off work tomorrow.)


The guy FINALLY called when he came in to work (what the hell kind of plumber starts his day at 9:30 am? When I was a kid...I know we had plumbers out at 8, some maybe even earlier). He said he'd be here at noon.

The title of this post is the time it was when I started writing it.

This sucks. I hate sitting and waiting on people. If he doesn't show today, I AM going to Lowe's customer service and bitching and asking them for part of the installation fee back. No, I won't accept a "gift card." No, I won't accept an apology and some lame excuse.

Maggie, you didn't infect me with bad customer service. Bad customer service is RAMPANT where I live. I'm actually surprised when someone shows up on time. I'm actually surprised when someone calls me.

Why does it have to be this way? Why can't "professionals" be more so? Is it because they know we're dependent on them and so they can do whatever the hell they want.

The reason I'm getting antsy is I suspect this is not going to be an easy installation, and I fear him turning off water to the whole house (because there is no convenient shut-off valve near the hot water heater) and then leaving for the day - and me having to check into a hotel over night because one of the side-effects of this cold is that I'm peeing like every hour on the hour and I can't go a night "holding it."

In other news: having watched tv while sitting here waiting, I can say now with confidence that I really really really really really really really really do not give a capital F what happens to OJ. He can rot in prison and if we never hear of him again, good. I also think the Goldmans (Goldmines? Golddiggers?) can rot as well; I wonder if they partially orchestrated this to bring publicity for the fact that THEY'RE trotting out OJ's "confession" book to make money off of the name of their dead son.

They should all be sent to a very small island with minimal tools. Sort of like "Survivor," only it wouldn't be on tv.


So, I called Lowe's this morning.

The installation-dispatcher lady was a little snappy with me.

I said: Yesterday, you said the installer would call yesterday afternoon and he didn't call. I wanted to call in early, before he got busy, and see if there was any way he could come out today, because I can't take the whole day to just sit by the phone.

Dispatcher lady: "He has forty-eight hours to call you! It's still within the forty-eight hours!"

Interesting. The customer-service guy, when I first asked about the installation, said, and I quote: "We consider being without hot water to be an emergency, so we make an effort to have hot water heater installations done within forty-eight hours."

Not: you have to sit by the phone with your thumb up your butt for the next forty-eight hours and pray that the installer has some time for you this week.

I told her I could be available today, but not tomorrow, and Thursday and Friday in the afternoon. She made an annoyed grunt and said that he was coming in to pick up a dishwasher this morning (which means there's at least one job ahead of me) and she'd have him call me then.

Uh-huh. I wonder what time he comes in.

I'm just really peeved because it is NOT FUN to have to heat water on the stove every time you need to wash dishes. It is NOT FUN to look at your underwear drawer and wonder when you have to start rationing (because I will NOT go to a laundromat in this town...I'd be afraid of catching something having washed my clothes in those machines). It is really NOT FUN when you have a fever and chills to bathe in tepid water.

This drives me UP THE WALL. Every time, every damn time I need something done by a professional, I wait and wait and wait and when I call after waiting to say, "hey, is there some kind of an ETA on when the job might be started" they act like I've been calling them every fifteen minutes to bug them. I thought it would be better through Lowe's, them being a big chain and all and having an interest in not pissing off their customers, but I guess I was wrong.

I refuse to call up my friends and ask to use their showers or their laundry rooms. But if I have to wait more than a few days I am going to be even more unhappy than I am now. I wonder if I could, in desperation, get a motel room for one night (just so I have a real shower that's not cold) and ask Lowe's to foot the bill for it?

Part of my frustration is that when someone "needs" something from me, I drop everything to do that'd think I'd get a little bit of the karma-love for that, but nooooooooooo.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Hot water: not yours

Well, the guy never called, and it's 4 pm where I am.

"Karen" in the installation-service department goes home at 3 pm. When I called her (midday) she told me the installer was "out on a job" and would call me.

I think "the service person will call you" is the modern variant on "the check's in the mail."

So, I've hauled out my four-quart crockpot and am heating water in it. Once it gets warm, I'll heat water in my 6-quart kettle and my 4-quart dutch oven on the stovetop, and hope that's enough to wash my hair. Because I can't go another day like this.

And then I get to repeat the process to take a bath tonight.

And I'm not sure I want to eat anything requiring a plate or silverware, because boiling water to wash dishes - that's another batch.

Tomorrow morning, I'm calling Lowe's customer service around 8 and bitching at them if the installer hasn't called by then. Because Wednesday is my 8 am until God-knows-when day at work, and I'm danged if I'm cancelling my classes just because the "48 hour installation time" stretches to longer than that.

If they can't install it until next week, by God I'm asking for some of the installation fee back.

You've seen the ugly shoes, now check these out

Bunny slippers for the office?

I think these are less offensive than those "Sportilettos," but not much. Besides, isn't the point of going to work being a grown-up? I might wear silly slippers when I'm at home, but I kind of want to break out the "grown up" shoes when I'm teaching.

Maybe on a 20 year old "Club Kid" they'd work, but not a real adult woman holding down a real job.

"Because I'm sick and feel like crap, that's why."

So I collected the homeworks - which I gave a grace period over the weekend for, which were originally due Friday.

Three people did not have them done and sat in the back of the class and worked on them. I didn't say anything because I feel like crap.

Their homeworks - the highest score is a 60%.

One person BITCHED and GRIPED and MOANED and talked about how much the homework "sucked." I reminded him that I was not requiring them to meet two hours every week for a scheduled lab; the homework takes the place of lab. (And: two hours in class equals a minimum of two hours outside class prep and write-up. So I don't think he has any right to complain.) This is also my "getting on my last nerve" person - the one with a smart remark for every situation. I think he knows I'm irritated with him right now.

I mean, seriously: they were supposed to have this done FRIDAY. I realize that the weekend is social time, but surely, surely they could find an hour or two to work on the damn thing? (That's what really gripes me: almost never to I get a weekend where I'm work-free. These are people planning to go into careers somewhat similar to mine. They should get used to it.)

Oh, and the installers have not yet called. I was under the impression they would call this morning - it is past 10 am and no word. I am not going to be a happy camper if there's some weird codicil that lets them out of their "installed in 48 hours" promise. Maybe it's "installed in 48 hours when the installers have nothing else to do" or "installed in 48 hours provided the Lowe's and your home are located in a Major Metropolitan Area."

Or maybe they just lied all over the place to me, and what the case really is is, "the installers will CALL in 48 hours of your purchase and good luck at getting an installation time."

I don't know. I just want this taken care of.

Because I hurt ALL OVER. My back and chest are just racked from coughing. I want nothing more than to go home and take a hot bath, and I don't know when I will be able to do that.

And if they say they can come out Wednesday, I'm screwed: unless I cancel all my classes, I can't be at home AT ALL on Wednesday. And I have ZERO patience. If someone comes and bitches to me about homework/paper/test/whatever, they're getting an earful.

Because I'm sick and feel like crap, but I'm too responsible to stay home and watch cartoons for a day.

"CNN Envy"?

CNN Envy: Weather Channel has it.

I don't see it on the website, but yesterday they had some promotion on the tv channel saying "First Day of Fall 2007: Live Coverage! September 23, 2007!"


Live coverage of the first day of fall?

Like, anything's actually going to HAPPEN?

What are they going to do? Put up tree-cams to watch for the first leaf turning? Monitor daylength and nightlength? Have NASA simulations showing where the Earth is in its orbit around the Sun?

I'm sorry, but that's ridiculous. I'm so tired of the "OMG WTF Everything Must Be Huge Giant Breaking News" trend that's developed in this country.

Yes, I'm happy that fall is starting. Will it make a difference to my weather? Probably not noticeably, at least not ON the 23rd. It's process, not an event.

I wonder if the Weather Channel realizes how stupid it looks by frothing up the First Day of Fall like it's some kind of news event. Then again - maybe no one really understands what real "news" is like any more, considering the amount of OJ coverage that's been put forth the past couple days. Okay, okay, so he was arrested. Fine. Mention that. But don't spend fourteen hours in an onanistic panoply of lawyers, former judges, former sports stars and people who just want their faces on tv talking about what this "means." I can tell you what it "means" as far as MY life is concerned: nothing at all.

What does the Iraq war or chasing down and routing out Al Quaeda mean, as far as MY life is concerned: actually quite a lot, in the long run. I don't want to see the U.S. travel down the path that many European countries are. I don't want to feel unsafe in my own town because of the possibility of a terror cell setting up shop here. I don't like to think of western culture being subsumed into a caliphate. I CARE about what's going on in the middle east. I CARE about what's happening culturally in Europe. I DON'T CARE about a criminal, washed-up, bad-actor former sports star and what he's done now.

Maybe what I need to do is start up RNN: the Real News Network. Where there's no stupid celebrity news. If a celebrity dies, or is arrested, or does something heroic, it will be mentioned, but not dwelt upon. Instead, coverage will be devoted to things that matter, things that will really truly affect the lives of ordinary folks, folks who don't live in the apparently-insulated-from-reality regions like Hollywood. We'd have experts - not just people who are attractive and pushy - and there'd be an effort to get both sides time to speak. People who were rude or snarky would be dismissed and not invited back. Our tagline: News for Grown-ups.

Of course, it would probably never succeed.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

55 questions

Spotted both at Caltechgirl's and at Ken's. So wotthehell, here are my answers:

1. Is your second toe longer than your first?
No, in fact my first toe is longer.

2. Do you have a favorite type of pen?
Whatever kind is close at hand. Whatever kind my colleagues won't borrow and "forget" to return. (Maybe, seeing as most of my colleagues are male, I need to get Hello Kitty pens or something).

3. Look at your planner for March 14, what are you doing?
Not a clue. That's much to far away for me to plan. Who wrote this thing, a marketing type?

4. What color are your toenails usually?
I used to paint them - color called Vixen - but I haven't in a long time because I've just not felt like putting the time in on upkeep. So now they're just normal toenail color.

5. What was the last thing you highlighted?
Highlighters are tools of the devil. Bite your tongue for even asking that.

6. What color are your bedroom curtains?
Green and pink plaid. Because if there's no other perk to being a single girl, it's that I get to decorate my bedroom the way I want.

7. What color are the seats in your car?

8. Have you ever had a black and white cat?
No. Lived with (but did not actually own) a few Siamese, but never black and white.

9. What is the last thing you put a stamp on?
Oh, gosh, some bill or other.

10. Do you know anyone who lives in Wyoming?

11. Why did you withdraw cash from the ATM the last time?
I don't use an ATM. Too hard to keep track of withdrawals.

12. Whose is the last baby that you held?
No idea. I'm a shockingly unmaternal woman. I don't go all drooly over babies.

13. Unlucky #?
13 and 52. I'm surprisingly superstitious about those for a scientist.

14. Do you like Cinnamon toothpaste?
Sounds kind of nasty but I've never tried it. I can't use any whitening toothpastes as they make my teeth sensitive.

15. What kind of car were you driving 2 years ago?
Ford Windstar.

16. Pick one: Miami Hurricanes or Florida Gators?
Neither. Not really a football fan. (Michigan, as much as anyone, at least when they're not getting their asses handed to them on a regular basis)

17. Last time you went to Six Flags?
Willingly? Never. Supervised a youth group trip to one of the Six Flags family of waterparks once; that is something I will never do again without either a very large bribe or a large dose of tranquilizers first.

18. Do you have any wallpaper in your house?
Both bedrooms and the kitchen. It was there when I bought the place, and a quick check revealed it had been put on over paneling (which probably means the plaster underneath is totally shot), so I've not considered taking it down, even though wallpaper's not my favorite

19. Closest thing to you that is yellow?
Yeah, one of the stripes on the yellow-and-white-with-big-ass-pink-roses wallpaper.

20. Last person to give you a business card?
Some guy who was doing environmental consulting for a highway bypass near me. He found some plants and didn't know what they were and wanted me to identify them. Luckily it was nothing rare.

21. Who is the last person you wrote a check to?
Person? No idea. I wrote one to my church this morning, though.

22. Closest framed picture to you?
A picture of an outdoor cafe.

23. Last time you had someone cook for you?
No idea whatsoever. I mostly wind up having to cook for myself. Probably the last time I visited my folks.

24. Have you ever applied for welfare?
No, never had to, thank God.

25. How many emails do you have?
No idea at all.

26. Last time you received flowers?
It's been too long.

27. Do you think the sanctity of marriage is meant for only a man & woman?
My attitude is this: I don't care what consulting adults do in the privacy of their homes as long as I don't have to hear the details of it. And that goes for mixed-sex as well as single-sex couples.

(Actually, I have to add to this: as for governmentally-sanctioned "unions," I don't give a fig - I've known gay people who really wanted to have some kind of long-term commitment to their partner - I mean, like a formal commitment. However, for church-sanctioned marriage - I think it should be up to the leadership of the individual church or denomination to decide. I don't think priests or ministers or rabbis who have an opposition to marrying a gay couple should be forced to marry them. I admit some considerable conflict here: I've read all the Scriptural arguments, but then again: I also have known gay people. And from what I've read, it seems like "gayness" is at least partly biologically determined. I'd rather see someone accept that they are gay, than marry a person of the opposite sex and wind up cheating on them.

I guess the best thing to say is: I feel conflicted about this issue. Perhaps if our culture weren't so heavily sexualized it wouldn't BE an issue [they used to talk about, for example, "Boston marriages" between women - and it wasn't always clear that they were a lesbian relationship; in some cases it may have been two straight-but-uncoupled-and-uninterested-in-having-children women who banded together. Because, one thing I've learned is this: even today it's easier if you have another person around.))

28. Do you play air guitar?
No. I kind of think that's a Y-chromosome linked thing.

29. Has anyone ever proposed to you?
No. At least not a guy who was sober.

30. Do you take anything in your coffee?
I don't drink coffee. You wouldn't like me when I drink coffee.

31. Do you have any Willow Tree figurines?
No, not a figurine kind of person. I'd rather have a couple of nice vases, even when they're empty.

32. What is/was your high school's rival mascot?
Lord, I don't remember - a cougar, maybe? I went to prep school, we didn't really do rivalries.

33. Last person you spoke to from high school?
One of my old friends and I email back and forth occasionally.

34. Last time you used hand sanitizer?
I think after the last town trash-off, because there was no actual water to wash hands with and I was kind of skeeved about some of the stuff I had picked up. Normally I don't use it because I think it just breeds more resistant bacteria.

35. Would you like to learn to play the drums?
No, would rather learn violin, cello, or piano.

36. What color are the blinds in your living room?

38. Last thing you read in the newspaper?
The tv listings.

39. What was the last pageant you attended?
I don't do pageants.

40. What is the last place you bought pizza from?
I prefer to make my own pizza. In the town where I live we have Pizza-the-Hut and Domino's, and the last Domino's pizza I bought had this weird, steamed-cauliflower smell when I opened the box.

41. Have you ever worn a crown?
"Some people out there in our nation don't have crowns, and, uh, I believe that our beauty pageants such as in, uh, Iraq and South Africa and everywhere like such I believe that they should, our beauty pageants over here in the U.S. should help the U.S. and uh, er, should help South Africa and Iraq get crowns..."

In other words: no.

42. What is the last thing you stapled?
A student paper. ("Dr. Ricki, do you have a stapler?" "Sure, let me go over to the pack-mule I bring to every class with me and get it.")

43. Did you ever drink clear Pepsi?
I don't drink BROWN Pepsi. (Heh: "Don't drink the brown Pepsi. People. Don't drink the brown Pepsi; there is some bad Pepsi out there.")

44. Are you ticklish?
Not any more

45. Last time you saw fireworks?
It's been a while. Last heard them the other night - apparently there was a high school football tourney and they shot the $()%$$ things off after every touchdown. (At 11 pm? WTF?)

46. Last time you had a Krispy Kreme doughnut?
I don't remember. Never had a hot one.

47. Who is the last person that left you a message & you actually returned it?
A student, the other day.

48. Last time you parked under a carport?
I don't think I ever have.

49. Do you have a black dog?
Only in the figurative, Churchillian sense.

50 . Have you had your mid life crisis yet?
I have minor crises a couple times a year. I'm hoping to spread out the midlife crisis amongst those.

51. Are you an aunt or uncle?

52. Who has the prettiest eyes that you know of?
Oh, geez, I don't know.

53. What kind of soap or body wash do you use?
Usually some kind of lavender stuff.

54. Do you remember Ugly Kid Joe?
No clue at all who that is.

55. Do you have a little black dress?
I own a black dress but it's not exactly "little" in the sense that you mean. I don't look so good in black so I reserve other colors for my "date" dresses.


After consulting with my dad (and a couple of the guys I go to church with), the general conclusion is:

the water heater is very likely to be kaput
if it isn't kaput, it's probably going to go in the next year.
Therefore, it's probably money ahead to just get a new one.

As it turns out, Lowe's "guarantees" installation within 2 business days of purchase.

We will see.

I'm $600 poorer (that's the heater plus the installation cost - I flinched at paying it up front, as my experience is that if you pay for work before it's done, it never gets done. But hell, this is Lowe's. Surely they have business principles to uphold. Surely they wouldn't rook a poor college prof out of $250 for an installation that doesn't happen)

They're supposed to call tomorrow. I gave my office number, and I think when I go in early tomorrow morning I'll change the greeting to: "If you're the installers, I'm in class now. But I can be home by 1 pm today! Or I can be home all day tomorrow! [thank goodness I don't have any classes Tuesday] Just tell me when you'll be there!"

And yeah, yeah, I know - Consumer Reports said people were less satisfied with Lowe's-sent people than with the people they chose themselves. But I don't feel like playing plumber-roulette right now, calling dozens of people to see if ANYONE is free within the next several weeks.

And I'm not worrying about "best brands." The Lowe's near me had Whirlpool and some made-in-China brand I didn't recognize. So I went with Whirlpool (besides, the Chinese-made ones may only have been for propane and not natural gas - I didn't look too closely.)

I have to admit this is one of those times I kind of wish I was married - especially to a "handy" sort of guy. Then I could just say, "Honey....there's no hot water. What do we do?" and he'd take care of it.

Still, I WOULD have liked to have had a hot bath tonight. And if the installers can't come out Monday afternoon, I may have to bite the bullet and heat some water up on the stove to wash my hair.

"Just like the 'good old days'" one of the ladies at church said.

The "good old days" can kiss my butt.

water heater curse

Cullen, Tracey...some of you might look out.

It seems that the rolling bloggers' hot water heater curse is on the move.

Maggie May chronicled her troubles last week.

Well, now I have it.

Yesterday afternoon, I guess I used up the last of the hot water out of the dead heater when I took my shower - I had to have the hot water turned on full-blast and it still felt not-warm-enough. (At the time, I was HOPING it was just my perception because I had chills - it turns out I have a $(*%&*$ fall cold and I'm running a fever).

But this morning, when I went to get warm water out of the tap to make a salt-water gargle - nothing. Ran the tap ten minutes and the water never warmed above room temperature.

Dammit. It frustrates me that this kind of stuff seems to happen when I'm in the least mood for tolerating it. I was contemplating taking a hot bath tonight before bed to help me breathe - but I do not have enough large vessels to heat water on the stove to fill a tub.

I'm not even thinking ahead to what I'll do for washing dishes, doing laundry...I guess laundry can mostly be done in cold water (thank goodness I have enough towels ahead and enough sheets) and with the dishes, I suppose I can wash them by hand and then sterilize them with water boiled on the stove.

For washing, I'll just fill the sink with water and use a washcloth. My hair, I'll find a hair place and pay the $10 or whatever it costs for a shampoo. Because I'm just not willing to get into a shower of cold water, and the thought of choreographing the heating of water on the stove and the washing of my hair in the sink is more than I can cope with right now.

I have a plumber who has an "emergency" number. I'm going to try calling it after church today to see if "emergency" extends to Sunday hours, and if he regards a possibly-dead hot water heater as an "emergency."

There's an outside chance that the gas pilot just went out - but the heater is 24 years old so I'm expecting it will need to be replaced. I got down on my hands and knees and tried to see where the pilot was and everything, and couldn't.

And the gas is not off in my neighborhood (though I wouldn't put it past the local gas company to shut off the gas for some reason and not tell anyone); I tried putting on the heat and IT worked.

I guess when I run to wal-mart in a few minutes, I go to the adjacent Lowe's and look at prices and models of water heaters. I've heard of the 'tankless' kind but it's my understanding you need one on every water line where you require hot water, and my house isn't exactly configured to allow that.

Ugh. The only good thing about this is that the newer heaters will be more efficient (cheaper to run). And the old one HAD been declining in its performance - if I wanted a REALLY hot bath last winter, I'd have to heat supplemental water on the stove. I suppose the old heater is all filled up with scale and crap from our hard water.

If I can just get a plumber. That's the issue. Last time I called a plumber, I was given ETAs of over a week, or in one case, 2 weeks. And that is Not Acceptable as far as not having hot water is concerned.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Saturday Surreal Spam

I just got a spam-message (at least I assume it to be such, I delete such things without ever opening for fear of malware)

from: System Adminstrator

subject: 1 unreal message

Is that like imaginary numbers? Are they beginning to send virtual spam? Is this the "etherware" I've heard so much about?

Friday, September 14, 2007


There is just about nothing worse when doing figures for a research paper, or at least nothing I can think of, than getting them exactly perfect (or as perfect as my limited graphic-design skills can make them) and then transferring them from my laptop (which has a particular analysis program on it) to my desktop, so I can e-mail them to my co-author, and finding out the desktop doesn't have the same symbol-set - so all of the nice neat squares and triangles have turned into U's and &'s.

I used a string of words I normally rarely use when I found that out.

Especially since the laptop is old, and the program is buggy, and it was sending me round the bend earlier this afternoon with nonsensical error messages that it had no right to give me.

Fortunately, I realized (as I was gearing up to spend ALL DAMN NIGHT here and redo the $#(*&%#'ing things) that I could save them as .jpeg files and send them that way.

If my co-author doesn't like the figures as .jpegs? He can suck it. Or he can suck them. Whatever. I'm done with this.

(Seriously - I think that's my new not-to-be-voiced-in-public attitude about people or things that are not grateful, don't understand the hard work I put in, want to complain about petty things when I'm the only person making an effort to do certain large things, etc., etc.)

I'm going home. It's cruel and unusual punishment to still be working past 5 pm on a Friday.

It burns! it burns!

Oh, man.

I'm not a drinking woman, but if I were, I'd be heading to the package store after I get done with my grading.

The papers, they are not so good.

These are project-plan papers for one of my classes. I gave a list of guidelines and suggestions. I at least briefly discussed the topics each student chose with them, to let them know if the topic was appropriate or not. At least half of the papers have gone off on their merry way, not following a SINGLE guideline. Several of the projects planned are ones that I specifically told the students wouldn't work for this class when we had our pre-paper consult.

And on top of it, I feel like crap. My allergies are really bad - I feel like I'm coming down with a cold, but the cold NEVER COMES. I think it's going to be like this until the first frost, which could come as late as December here.

I'm just furious at the people who, after I spent time explaining why their project plan didn't fit in with the guidelines of the class, just went ahead and proposed it anyway - because it was easy, because it was what they wanted to do despite the class guidelines, because they didn't want to go searching for a new project.

No. I am bleeding red ink all over your paper. You are merely going to have to re-do the project. This is not like when you were 13 and your mother got so sick of telling you to clean your damn room that she finally gave up and just kept the door closed on your soiled underthings and moldy half-eaten sandwiches.

I have standards, dammit. And I can be even more stubborn than you are. I'm older, and I get a better paycheck. And it's my job to make you do stuff right. You wouldn't walk into your job and go, "Yeah, boss....I know you wanted a white-paper on the effects of hand-sanitizers on the development of antibiotic resistant bacteria, but see, last week I was really, really interested in Dokken, so I wrote a white paper on Dokken instead."

You'd be laughed out of the damn lab.

And college is preparation for the real world, if it isn't actually itself an outpost of the real world. So please take stuff seriously.

I will reiterate Ricki's First Rule for College Students:

Thou shalt not piss off thy professor.

And guys? With your deliberately non-conforming (DEFIANTLY non-conforming - you knew better) papers, you're really pissing me off.

Oh, and: there are 24 people enrolled in the class and I have received 19 papers. Which were due three hours ago. If anyone comes wanting to give me a late paper, I think I'm going to use the same insulting phrase Kathy Griffin used.

(And no, not, "This award is my god now.")

(And that's another rant for another time: short version: I'm not surprised, and I'm not so much offended as I'm just sad. Sad that someone thinks that's a way to get approval and a laugh. Sad that someone apparently has such a dim view of faith and those who practice it...but whatever. I don't find her funny at all, and I'm guessing the remark was frantically blowing on the dying embers of popularity...)


This is particularly for caltechgirl, but if others see this, feel free to chime in:

Is a week TOO SHORT of a period of time for a college student to complete a homework assignment that includes:

Making a frequency table of 120 pieces of data and a graph from those data
Calculating the mean and standard deviation of a couple of smaller, sub-sampled groups from the overall set, plus the 120 points themselves (I told them I wanted "hand calculations" for the small sets, but they could use Excel or a calculator for the big set)
Answering five (5) questions.

I just had someone in here all gripey because he "only had a WEEK" to do this. (And he didn't have it done. And it is due in about 10 minutes).

Now, I know people have busy lives. But - a week? Surely that's enough time.

(On second thought - I'm just going to relent and give them until damn Monday. I have too much stuff to grade anyway this weekend, and I have another project I have to tackle on Saturday. And I don't like having a weekend with no time off for me.)

But I'm really getting tired of the constant complaints from this one fellow about the amount of time involved in doing the homework. They are NOT THAT LONG.

Thursday, September 13, 2007


I admit ahead of time, this is going to be gripe-y and kind of jealousy-motivated and all that. But whatever.

While taking a break between two bouts of grading this morning, I visited one of the yarn-purveyors I've ordered from in the past. And I noted on their "splash page" that they said they'd basically be out-of-office this week - because they're involved with some awards show or other, putting together and giving out "swag bags" of their yarn.

The whole concept of "swag bags" irritates me. Celebrities - people who have people fawning at their feet - get all kinds of free stuff, given them in the vague hope, I suppose that they'll mention the company that gave it in some interview (or maybe, so the company that gave it can claim "as used by Celebrity X!").

And yeah, I know some celebrities give away at least some of the stuff. But I wonder if maybe for a lot of them, there's really not that much joy in accepting a swag bag - "Oh, another bunch of crap that someone's trying to push" or something like that. I mean, when you have more money than God - do free sample sizes of new moisturizers and fluffy slippers really mean that much?

I know an awful lot of people who'd probably appreciate the swag bags more.

Let's see: the ladies who work in nursing homes, helping take care of people who are no longer capable of controlling their bodily functions. Soldiers on the front line (and I know - there's an immense grassroots effort to supply them with good stuff, and I applaud that). 911 dispatchers who work the overnight shift. Special-ed schoolteachers (many of whom buy supplies out of their own pockets). Church secretaries. Bus drivers.

Basically, all of the working stiffs who go do their job every day, who don't often hear a "thank you" or a "you're doing a good job."

And I know - doing the job well should be its own reward. But it's nice to hear a little thanks now and then. I've occasionally done small gift baskets (of nice soap, or fancy cookies and teas, things like that) for people who were particularly helpful to me, or people that I think work really hard and aren't appreciated...and well, the response tells me that it's worth doing.

I do hope the swag-bag-givers get a similar response from celebrities. But I don't know...some of the current crop aren't always known for showing gratitude or for appreciating others.

I just hope that yarn shop is only giving out its swag bags to celebs who actually knit or crochet...I'd hate to think of bags full of that lovely stuff being tossed in the trash by some starlet who rolls her eyes and thinks, "Who do they think I am, a grandma?" as she heads out for her next round of partying.

Another open letter

Dear neighbor,

I know you are the one person on my street who "walks" your dog by not putting a leash on the beast, and walking on the sidewalk while he runs wherever he pleases. So I am going to assume this is your fault.

Your dog crapped in the exact geographic centroid of my front yard.

Now, I wouldn't have so much of a problem if it had been at the edge - or if it had been on that useless strip that exists between the sidewalk and the street (which the city technically "owns," but which I am apparently responsible for mowing, edging, and weeding).

But instead, he went in the middle of my front yard.

You must also understand that I don't own a dog. Nor do I own a cat. Nor, even, a turtle. (I do not have pets partly because - and I am sure you are aware of this because you seem to watch the activity of everyone in the neighborhood - I am rarely home during the daylight hours and it does not seem fair to a pet to spend its days alone in a house or staked out in a back yard). So I do not expect to find random piles of poo in the middle of my yard.

I also might take this moment to remark on the dog's diet. Whatever you are feeding him, I think it contains too much insoluble fiber. You might try using canned food some of the time rather than exclusively dry.

At any rate: dog crap. Middle of my yard. I don't own a dog. I often get home in the evening as or even after the sun is going down. Those things do not make for a happy combination for me.

I was lucky this time - I happened to get home before it got dark and I saw the little cloud of flies that had gathered over the mess.

But now, you see, I am faced with a dilemma. I do not own a "sharpshooter" type shovel, or an appropriately non-stick garden shovel, or other tool that would work for removing the pile from the geographic centroid of my lawn and depositing it - I am not sure where. I do not own a compost pile because (as I am sure you remember) of the Renter Fiasco of 2003, where we all wound up with rat infestations because someone chose to rent a house on this street to a group of individuals with no talent for hygiene. So I really have no place to put the waste. And I do not wish to get close enough to baggy it. And I am not putting it in my trash; the hardworking garbage collectors of this city do not deserve to have to meet stinky dog poo at 8 am when they are doing the pickup on our street.

So, either I have to try to find a place to which I can move it, or I must leave it there until it decomposes. Which means I cannot mow that patch. And I know, because of the many times you have slipped me cards for Eugene n Jorge's Lawn Service, that you don't like the way I keep up my yard, especially the frequency (or rather, the infrequency) of my mowing. (I will observe - have you seen the house at #415 on our street? That is a family that does not mow frequently enough. At its tallest, the grass in my yard is less than 4". That is not a crime. And I will remind you: I often leave the house before dawn and return after dark. And I don't quite trust Eugene and Jorge, even if you use them...there's just something about getting a business card with two phone numbers crossed off and a third written on the back that doesn't inspire confidence in the businessman.)

At any rate: I do not wish to come close enough to your dog's leavings to remove them to my yard, even if the place I could remove them to existed in actual fact and not merely as a theoretical construct. So I will not be mowing that patch, probably for the rest of the year.

The other option, of course, is for you to come and retrieve it. I doubt that will happen, though. I also expect to find future piles because it's my experience that if someone doesn't bag their dog's waste, they never will, unless they're "persuaded" by a law - which we don't have on the books in this town.

So - although you feel you can deliver all kinds of unsolicited advice to me (oh, and I didn't appreciate the recommendation that I cut down my pecan tree; that tree provides shade which helps keep my house cooler in the summer. Just because it drops leaves and twigs on the lawn of the rent-house you own next door doesn't seems like a justification for killing a perfectly healthy tree), you cannot be bothered to either prevent your dog from taking a dump in a place where the unsuspecting homeowner may well step in it, or bag the creature's waste. I think that is extremely unfair and I consider myself justified in ignoring any and all of your future "Martha Stewart-ized" suggestions that I hire "people," or that I remove important landscape elements, or that I use large quantities of toxic chemicals to make my lawn more cosmetically appealing to you.

Because dog poo is, I think most people would agree, even less cosmetically appealing in a yard than some clover is. And as I remember, it was because of the clover in my yard that you thought I should unleash numerous toxic herbicides on my lawn (and, by extension, on the surface water in the area, the air, myself, and all other living things coming into contact with my lawn).

So, bug off. Don't presume to tell me how to clean MY stuff up, if you can't be arsed to clean up your dog's stuff.