I don't do a lot, as an adult, for Hallowe'en. (I can't dress up today, anyway - I have a field lab this afternoon and anything remotely costumey would be uncomfortable or unsafe. I AM wearing a t-shirt with a bat on it, though).
I don't know why. I guess I always took Hallowe'en to be a kids holiday. (Don't get me wrong, here - I'm not saying you're stupid if you celebrate it or go all-out as an adult, it's just not something I do). I think part of it is I'm so busy this time of the semester - it's Midterms and it's also the time when I'm trying to wrap up research - that it just gets away from me.
I do do one thing: hand out candy to any kids who come trick or treating. I enjoy that.
Two really cute/memorable costumes from years past:
1. a very tiny little girl - probably 2 or 3 - in a homemade (really detailed - probably made by Grandma) Tweety Bird costume. So cute.
2. Two little boys, very likely twins, dressed in identical army-fatigue suits. (They were probably 6 or 7). When I gave them their candy, they stood at attention (military style!) and said, in unison, "Thank you, ma'am!" That was so cute it almost killed me.
This year, my coleader and I decided to cancel Youth Group for the week - so the younger kids could go out trick or treating and so the older kids could go to a "teen event" (a chaperoned dance) tonight. (And I have to admit I'm glad to have the chance to hand out candy. I ran out the day after we decided that and bought a big big bag of little Twix bars, and a couple bags of snack-packs of mini oreos, and a big big bag of Kit Kats. I like to give out the "good" candy - I hope these qualify as "good" in the eyes of the kids trick or treating)
One thing that bugs me? All of these places - malls and things and even, I think, the local hospital - are advertising "Come with your kids and trick or treat at our place. It is a 'safe and fun' alternative!"
Um, yeah. I'm kind of insulted by that "safe." It almost seems to imply that people's neighbors are carefully inserting pins into the Snickers bars or injecting peanut butter cups with LSD or something. I suppose in some towns, people really DON'T know their neighbors well enough, but it bugs me. It bugs me that malls and places are playing on the loss-of-trust of other people, and that they're probably figuring, "If we get the moms and dads in with the kids trick-or-treating, we will probably be able to sell them something."
As for "fun" - well, when I was a kid and saw E.T. and saw the kids trick-or-treating in the daylight, and my mom explained to me that in some communities they were worried enough about safety to do that, I thought "what a rip." I suspect there are still enough kids - or at least I hope there are still enough kids, in this bubble-wrapped society we have - who feel like "What a rip" when they go trick or treating at the mall.
Going trick or treating at night to people's houses was FUN. It was fun because it felt a teeny tiny bit naughty - you were ASKING for candy, and you were permitted to do that! And it was at night - my parents would let my brother and me go out to look at the stars, or catch fireflies, or stuff, but the rule is we had to stay in the yard (or, if we were playing flashlight tag with the kids across the street, stay in their yard). We weren't allowed to roam the neighborhood. And with trick or treating, we DID roam - we probably walked well over a mile, all the way up to the part of the neighborhood we normally never went, because it was "too far," and, except for Lisa E., neither of us had friends who lived out that way.
And you were in costume. To be out, at night, in costume, and asking for candy was pretty intoxicating to a normally rule-following child like me. It felt like I was being BAD. But it was a type of BAD I was allowed to get away with.
So, I don't know - but to me, trick or treating at a mall (or in the downtown of a town, like they do here) would feel like a very poor substitute.
And, of course, living where I live, there are people who don't like Hallowe'en. Who say it's a day for the devil. Who talk about the paganism rampant on this day.
And you know? I just shrug. Sure, there are pagan associations to the day - it's Samhain, in the old Celtic calendar - but there are also Christian associations - it's All Hallow's Eve, the day before All Saint's Day.
And the way I look at it? It's a day to laugh at what scares you. And isn't laughing at what might ordinarily scare you (like, death) something you might want to do, as a Christian?
I've also heard a few rumblings from other quarters - that it's a "wasteful" day, because of all the candy bought (all those wrappers, going to the landfill!) and the costumes - far better, they say, to make a costume out of old clothes and give out unwrapped treats (but then, that contradicts the "safe" mantra above).
I've also heard people talk about the caloric impact of this day - all that candy, all that sugar. Let the kids have a piece or two and then take the rest away from them. (But I will say I also heard a nutritionist speaking last week who said: "It's only one day out of the year. Let the kids have the candy. Kids have to have fun, sometimes." Which seems a more sane response, to me.)
I don't know. I wonder sometimes if in the future we will just have amorphous "holiday days" rather than actual, dedicated holidays, because it seems no matter what, someone gets offended by the observances.
When I was a kid in school, we got to bring out costumes to school on Hallowe'en. In the afternoon, after lunch, we changed into them, and had a parade around the school grounds. Lots of mothers would show up to take pictures (my mom has pictures of both me and my brother - I was usually some kind of animal, my brother was, depending on the year, a cowboy or a robot or a sports star or a rock star). Then we had a party - we got Hi-C punch (Hi-C punch seemed to be a fixture of school parties) and orange-frosted chocolate cupcakes and we got to be in the classrooms in our costumes. And then we went home, and after dinner, went out trick-or-treating.
It sounds like kind of a small thing, now, but it was something that loomed large in the school year - a party (we got to have 3 parties: Hallowe'en, a Christmas-but-we're-not-calling-it-that party before the Christmas break, and a Valentine's day party). It WAS a big deal - no classes in the afternoon, Hi-C punch, cupcakes, a chance to talk with your friends instead of learning about fractions or the Civil War.
I hope kids today get the chance to do that kind of stuff. I think having things to look forward to - even small things - is important. And I also think being able to enjoy and appreciate little things like being able to wear a costume in class and have a cup of Hi-C punch is also important.
Wednesday, October 31, 2007
I don't do a lot, as an adult, for Hallowe'en. (I can't dress up today, anyway - I have a field lab this afternoon and anything remotely costumey would be uncomfortable or unsafe. I AM wearing a t-shirt with a bat on it, though).
Sunday, October 28, 2007
A lot of PSAs, I don't care too much for. But there are a series running now that I think make their point effectively. A seedy looking guy walks up to someone in a coffee shop, shows him a rumpled piece of paper, and begins the spiel that he's got ALLLLLLL this money, he just needs a bit of assistance getting it out of his country, and the person who helps him will get a share.
Or, a punk-looking teenager is shown telling people they've won the lottery.
Of course, in both cases, the person is brushed off by their potential victim...because who's foolish enough to fall for such a thing?
But obviously people are, when it comes over the internet. ("If it's on the Internet, it must be true"?)
I've probably gotten 500 of those Nigerian-scam e-mails - some claim to be the widow of a highly-placed military official. Some claim to be some kind of deposed prince. Once, one claimed to be from the illegitimate son of Saddam Hussein. Most recently, I got one from someone claiming to be a former British MP who had money in a big settlement.
Of course they're all bogus. (And these scams existed before the widespread nature of the internet - both my father and my graduate advisor received LETTERS - actual, physical letters on that blue air-mail paper - from someone in Nigeria claiming to have a lot of money for them. (My dad turned his in to the Post Office suggesting they investigate it as mail fraud. My graduate advisor was almost considering responding until those of us in his lab convinced him that it was a scam).
But I guess some people must believe them - or else they'd figure out a new tactic.
One of the things I have to admit I find a little interesting is the evolution of "phishing" or other scam techniques...of course there are the phony bank-notice ones (I get ones from banks I didn't even know existed). I've also received a few claiming to be from the IRS, and either claiming I owed more money and was IN BIG TROUBLE unless I sent them my bank account number post-haste (shyeah) or that I was owed a big refund. (Incidentally - both of these I checked, just to be 100% sure. Seeing as the full-header showed them supposedly originating in France, I figured it wasn't even worth my sending them to the real IRS - they probably get swamped with that stuff).
I will say that although it's kind of fascinating from an academic perspective (there was actually an article published in American Scientist on "how many different ways can spammers spell 'viamagra'" and tracing how it changed and mutated over the months - still, it's an annoyance to have to actually deal with. I have to hit my in-box and my "quarantine" box almost daily just to clear out all the crap I get sent. And that's both my personal e-mail and my work e-mail.
(Some of the really horrifyingly depraved spam - at least in what they are offering - actually come to my work address. And no, I don't surf any dodgy sites...I think .edu addresses are just prone to getting bad spam, because they can't differentiate faculty from students. And a few years ago we had a security breach from a disgruntled former employee and it's entirely possible he sold or gave all our addresses to spamming outlets.)
But at any rate - the PSAs make me chuckle, and I hope they do educate a few people who might otherwise be naive and fall for the scams. Because if no one got scammed, then the scammers might go away. Or at least I hope.
Friday, October 26, 2007
Heard on the news: "Relief agencies are amazed at the outpouring of donations and help in response to the wildfires."
My immediate response: "Well, duh! That's how Americans ARE."
Seriously - there are a lot of societal problems here, there are some problems with the country BUT when bad crap happens, people step up and help and do all kinds of unselfish loving acts.
And I thank God that my countrypeople are, by and large, like that.
Okay, I think this is about the worst - in terms of the mental picture if you take it to mean what they intend it to mean - or the funniest - if you take it in an "innocent" literal reading - spam message ever:
"She will love a massive meat in through her back door."
Somehow, I'm envisioning clandestine deliveries of the giant-size Hickory Farms smoked hams to the kitchen door of a household where most of the folks have gone vegetarian.
I don't think that's what the spammers had in mind, though.
Given all that's going on in the world, this is going to be kind of a petty vent.
But, you've been warned.
First off: I cannot stand it when students call to let me know they need to miss an exam (and request a make up) when they KNOW I am in class. It is as if they are afraid of dealing with me in person and won't call me because they are afraid I will say no.
It's even worse when they leave no contact number, just "I'll try calling you again." I am not planning on sitting my office waiting for your call. It is Friday. I have fieldwork to do. Even if I didn't - it is Friday.
I also cannot stand the students who come to class when there is a quiz or short test - when we are doing something after the test - who come, take the test, and leave. I have made it a point of, as I hand out the test, telling the students what we will be doing after the test so that they have no excuse to say, "But I didn't KNOW we were having class after the test!"
And of course it goes without saying that I cannot stand it when people show up ONLY for the exams, and then wonder why they're failing.
You know, it occurs to me that perhaps some of the problems we have in this nation may be related to a breakdown in the belief or understanding of cause-and-effect. That people don't learn from their mistakes. I've had students repeat my class, where they failed the first time because they partied-hardy and didn't spend time studying. And then they take the class again, and do the SAME DAMN THING.
Look: if it didn't work the first time, why do you think it will work the second time? If I mix up a bunch of ingredients and stick them in a pan and cook it up and it tastes like crap when it's done, I'm not going to do that recipe again - or at least not do it the same way.
Oh, and another thing: DNA fingerprinting has NOTHING AT ALL to do with actual fingerprints.
I just needed to get that off my chest. It drives me up the wall every year - I teach about the process, I show them examples, I explain why it's used, and then on the exam I ask "What is it and where is it used" and at least 20% of the people say "DNA fingerprinting is getting DNA out of the fingerprints left at a crime scene" Durr! Even though I make a BIG POINT that it requires "bodily fluid" - blood, semen, saliva, or something like hair follicles or skin.
I guess these folks don't watch any of the various CSI clones?
And don't even get me started on stem cells. They ask us to 'teach to the controversy.' I'm sorry, but how does one do that when the majority of students don't even know what a stem cell is?
I don't know. I was fairly insulated as a college student but even I watched the news on tv or listened to it on the radio, and read a newspaper, at least on Sundays. (And actually? A good big-city Sunday paper is a lovely way to spend a long quiet Sunday afternoon.)
So I don't know. I don't know where to start with some of the students. I don't want to cover trivial stuff - like one of my colleagues said, "The textbook - as its example on enzymes - says that they're used to make stonewashed jeans. How does that matter?" But I don't know any more. Some of the students, it seems their level of background understanding IS trivial.
What really gets me? We're gearing up for a "major overhaul" of the course - because the students don't do well on assessment tests. This involves a lot of work and a lot of changes. And I have a sinking feeling we'll be doing this again in another 3 years. Sometimes it is not US, sometimes it is THEM. I try to make the topics interesting - I look up all the 'applications,' I try to get discussions going on the different issues. I try to find interesting stories that illustrate the points.
But - you can lead a horse to water, but you cannot make him drink. There is only so much I can do. Don't get me wrong - some of the students ARE doing well and they seem pretty interested based on the questions they ask and the points they bring up. And I get decent evaluations. But it's that 10% or so of people who sit there dead-eyed that drive me up the wall.
Wednesday, October 24, 2007
I'm glad I'm busy and don't have time to watch the self-styled pundits discussing the fires on the news or on chat-shows. Tracey is talking about it a little bit and it's making me angry, attitudes of people like Katie Couric and George Carlin.
Look - yes, you have opinions. But it's not the time, not the place to spew them. And incidentally - it's bad form to ask a firefighter why he isn't doing "more." I KNOW a few firefighters. You won't find a more doing-all-they-can-when-there-is-a-need profession (unless, perhaps, you look at the Marines). They are not magic. They are NOT Dumbledore, people, they can't wave a magic wand (heh...given Rowling's recent comment, that has two meanings) and make the fires go away.
Once again I am amazed at the inability of some people to understand a very simple fact of life, which is:
Sometimes that stuff is bad and there's sometimes nothing to be done about it. It is no one's fault. It is how the world works. What we are called to do (at least, this is what I believe) is to get in there and work, do what we can, to try to ameliorate the effects of that bad stuff. And that DOES NOT include flappin' your gums about people "overbuilding" and crap. We can have that discussion later. Not while people are sleeping in tents and worrying about their dogs.
I have to say it kind of kills me that I'm not closer, that there's not something more concrete I can do other than praying and sending a check to Salvation Army.
That said...my two California cousins are OK, and I am thankful for that. (Actually, my cousin D. - he lives in Bakersfield, and I had forgotten that he had moved there recently, so he's out of any fire area. But still). And it seems like my IIFs are all OK, and I'm grateful for that.
And it sounds like they think the winds may die back tomorrow, and give the firefighters a chance to kick fire butt. I hope that they will.
Tuesday, October 23, 2007
Some of you know I teach a Youth Group every Wednesday night at my church. They are mostly 12-18 year olds, mostly boys.
Well, I began working my way through the Sermon on the Mount with them a month or so ago - I had read someone who said, "Protestants don't pay enough attention to the Sermon on the Mount!" and so I thought that was a good enough reason to use it as my teaching focus for this quarter.
I've been going through Jesus' discussion of each of the commandments each week. This week, I'm up to Matt. 5: 27-31.
Um, yeah. The adultery ones.
I looked at them, and I thought...should I just "blip" over these, go on to the next one (on not saying stuff you don't mean). I mean - the local public schools DO offer abstinence-based sex ed.
And then I thought, no. Yes, it's kind of uncomfortable for me to talk about sex, especially in front of a group of teenaged boys, and I admit I'll probably be euphemism-pa-looza tomorrow night (I've already used in my write up words like "don't run around," and "faithful" and stuff like that).
I'm kind of downplaying Jesus' words on divorce because many - if not most - of the kids are from what used to be called "broken homes." In one case the divorce came because of abuse going on in the household. And I don't want to make them feel worse than they already do (I know they do) about the whole family situation.
But - I'm taking the "no adultery" part of the lesson as a (basically) three-pronged approach:
first - when you marry, you are faithful to your spouse. That means both emotionally faithful as well as the more traditional 'sleeping with' faithful. I've seen couples get into problems because one member of the couple had a "work husband" or "work wife" where they developed a strong emotional attachment to this person at work, and they'd confide in them, and kind of neglect their real spouse emotionally. And although that's perhaps not as shattering as a true affair, it still really sucks to be the spouse of someone who has such a GREAT friend at work that they share EVERYTHING with and they're less willing to share with you.
second- when you're dating, if you think the person you're dating might be "the one," don't run around on them - and (perhaps paradoxically) don't rush into things. (for "things" read sex. I said I was going to be euphemism-pa-looza.). Part of dating is sort of learning what makes the person tick, so you can determine if you can spend an entire lifetime with them, or if they have traits that turn out to be "dealbreakers." I've seen far, far, far too many hasty marriages that wound up either unhappy or divorced because the people involved were drawn in by lust and didn't think about personality or attitudes.
And then, finally - treating people of the opposite sex with respect. Basically - don't objectify people. See them as children of God. And it's hard to do that when you're spending all your time talking about the "tight buns" or "ginormous rack" of the person.
So, hopefully it will work okay. Hopefully the kids will neither fall into derisive laughter at my spinster euphemisms, nor will they be so embarrassed about the idea ("Sex! Mentioned in CHURCH!") that they totally clam up.
Oh, and welcome to Soapbox Diva! And maybe I wasn't clear - I'm not saying that all "childish things" need to be put away when one is an adult - in fact, I have a pretty healthy teddy bear collection myself, and 80% of the dvds I own are cartoon-oriented (several of the Miyazake movies, and the box set of Animaniacs). I think adulthood is more knowing what is appropriate, when.
Another C.S. Lewis quotation: "When I was ten, I read fairy tales in secret and would have been ashamed if I had been found doing so. Now that I am fifty, I read them openly. When I became a man, I put away childish things, including the fear of childishness and the desire to be very grown up."
I think perhaps the desire to look sophisticated - and that desire being so strong that someone can't plop down on the sofa and enjoy, say, "Pinky and the Brain" or a good old Bugs Bunny cartoon - is actually part of the permanent-adolescence problem.
I think nightfly has a good point - the undergrown adults are aping adult behavior because they think it makes them grown-up, when what they are totally missing are the attitudes of respect, responsibility, and appropriateness that are what really make a grown-up.
I remember once commenting to a friend, "Why is it that things that are labeled "adult comedies" are so often extremely juvenile in their attitudes?"
Don't get me wrong - sex and such can be funny in some situations - but so often a lot of the "special unrated editions" of dvds seem so aimed at pushing the envelope of bad taste that I don't see anything "adult" about the comedy.
My prayers (for safety and also for freedom-from-fear) are going out to the people in Southern California who are affected by the fires. I don't just have IIFs (Invisible Internet Friends) out there, I have flesh-and-blood friends and also flesh-and-blood relatives (a cousin - as far as I know he's okay; I haven't heard anything. We don't talk on a regular basis so I'm not worried that I've not heard anything).
I do not live in a fire-prone region (our main natural-disaster threat is tornadoes, which is different from a fire storm in a lot of ways), so I don't know what it's like but it looks very frightening.
And as Emily said on her blog - stay safe, and when they tell you to leave, you pay attention to that, okay? Don't make this another New Orleans.
At any rate - stay safe. Hopefully some of the giant tanker planes the Feds are sending today will help make a dent in the fires.
And more personal prayers, prayers of another sort:
Joel has a beautiful post up about prayers for Lauren (the tiny child with neuroblastoma; the one upon whose behalf a great many FOs have been issued against cancer on the FFOT. And you know...when I think about it, in a kind of twisted way those FOs themselves are a form of prayer...a recognition that something is Not Right and a hope that somehow things can change). He compares the situation to the OT lectionary reading from this past Sunday, how Aaron and Hur held up Moses' hands against the Amelekites (I have to admit this is a passage I am less familiar with than many). And Joel observes that praying for others is like that - that you are helping them to hold up their hands, that you are providing some amount of strength and assistance to them in a difficult time.
It's a nice metaphor and one I will remember. I earlier talked about how I sometimes envisioned prayer as sort of an invisible spiritual net that the pray-ers try to set up under the person being prayed for. And I like that image too, because it reminds me to pray for the FAMILIES of the afflicted person as well. As someone who has had seriously ill relatives, I'm well aware that the family members are almost as much in need of that "net" to hold them up as the ill person is.
One of the things that strikes me - and humbles me again and again - about people of faith is how WILLING - no, how EAGER they are to offer up prayers for assistance or healing for people they have never even met. I think it's perhaps because so many of them see us as being all connected...it's kind of like the bit in one of the early Star Wars movies where (I think it was) Ben Kenobi made the comment that he "felt a great disturbance in the Force" when the evil Empire snuffed out a bunch of innocent lives.
(And I have to say I liked the Old-School Star Wars way of dealing with the Force - leaving it somewhat mysterious, so that you could almost accept that it was their way of describing the Holy Spirit - rather than the New-School "midchlorian" explanation, which seemed clunky and mechanistic and not-full-of-wonder to me. When I was a kid, I loved the idea of the Force.)
At any rate - that kind of plugged-in, everyone-is-my-brother-deep-down feeling - it's a good thing.
One of the memorable scenes from My Antonia - which is one of my favorite novels - is when the Mr. Shimerdas (the father of the recent-immigrant, Bohemian family) starts to pray over something (I don't remember what) in front of Jim Burden and his grandfather. Now, the Shimerdas are foreign (and, presumably, Catholic - and Jim and his grandparents are old frontier Protestant), and there's a moment where you think there might be some rejection there (remembering how badly some Protestants in my country have treated Catholics over the years - and that's one thing I think we as Protestants should be ashamed of), but it doesn't happen - Mr. Shimerdas' prayer is accepted by those being prayed for. And later, Jim's grandfather makes the comment that, "The prayers of all good people are good."
And you know? I believe that.
Monday, October 22, 2007
This is something I've been wondering about.
For years, I've been hearing people (especially mothers of young girls, it seems) talking about the "death of childhood" - where kids are pushed to be "sophisticated" or "grown up" (really - acting old beyond their years). The sort of trampy clothes sold for pre-teens, the fact that lots of girls seem to give up playing with dolls and such at increasingly early ages, the pressure to start dating so young. (I know of ten year olds who "date." While I realize that's not like, say, 18 year olds "dating," still, it sets up certain expectations that are probably kind of heavy for such a young kid.)
Of course this has come to a head with the talk about birth control pills being offered to girls potentially as young as 11. (Which just blows my mind...digression time...
When I was 11, I was still sewing doll clothes and still playing with my Kermit the Frog doll. I knew the facts of life but was in NO rush to put them to the test. In fact, if you'd asked me at 11 about having sex, I probably would have grudgingly said, "Well, when I'm like 28 and married and if I want to have a baby, I suppose I will HAVE to." I still thought the whole idea was incredibly gross.
Now, granted - for me puberty didn't kick in until 13 or 14, but even then, even at 15 and 16 and 17, I still figured I was not ready. Especially not ready if it meant I might have a kid as a result.
But anyway. I realize it was 25 years ago now, but still...even then...I think I was in a lot of ways a sheltered and kind of backwards kid. I was still interested in teddy bears and dolls when my friends were experimenting with makeup and hairstyles. I refer to having had my first "boyfriend" at 10, but really - he was the first boy I didn't think was icky and that I wanted to talk to. It was incredibly innocent - we sat across from each other in homeroom and we used to talk and laugh. We never even held hands or anything like that.
And you know? Thank God I had those experiences. Thank God I had those innocent times to sort of try things out on, instead of being plunged hardcore into the world of "real" boyfriends and dating and worrying about my appearance and stuff.
And I'm glad I played with toys for as long as I did. I have good memories to look back on - years spent sprawled on the floor building stuff out of Lego bricks. [and, okay, maybe when I was perhaps a bit past the age when it was considered acceptable, I still did play with them - but I had the argument that "but I'm just spending time with my little brother." I was, but I was also playing with the bricks...]. Years spent building forts out of blankets and dining room chairs. Years making my own paper dolls. (I made a lot of paper dolls. When I got older, I'd check books on historical or ethnic costume out of the library and do it under the guise of research or "preparing for a possible career as a fashion designer" but the truth was, I just liked drawing paper dolls and making clothes for them).
At any rate - I had a fairly protracted and carefree childhood. And now I'm an adult, and although I don't always LOVE shouldering all the responsibilities and requirements of being an adult, I do - because I'm an adult and I feel it is expected of me.
And I wonder sometimes if the strength of my childhood has something to do with that - that I was a child for long enough that I was able to build up into being an adult.
(Follow me here).
Another thing that I hear people bemoaning these days is how so many young adults seem to be stuck in a protracted adolescence - they can't buckle down and WORK, they think the world owes them a living, they don't commit to things, they don't take on the 'trappings' of adulthood. (Though that last one, I don't know about - I wear a watch with Eeyore on it and I'm still a responsible adult. And I have Snoopy pillowcases on my bed pillows at this very moment. And there's nothing wrong with that. But....when you have a job interview, you know? You wear "business casual" or better. I've seen people go into interviews in wife-beater shirts and old torn jeans and wonder why they didn't get the job. Perhaps it's not so much always having the 'trappings' of adulthood as much as it is knowing what is appropriate, when.)
And I wonder if the two things - the death of childhood, and the failure of many 20- (and even in some cases, 30-) somethings to fully graduate to responsible adulthood are linked.
One of the things I guess I absorbed during my protracted childhood were ideas of appropriateness. How to behave. How not to behave. What was important, and what was silly. (Didn't C.S. Lewis, in one of his Narnia books, talk about how Susan had fallen away from the belief in Narnia, and instead taken on a "silly" belief in things like lipsticks and skirts? Or something to that effect?).
In drawing my paper dolls, and looking at the books of dresses for inspiration, I think I learned a little bit about why short skirts were sometimes not OK. And why sometimes it was better to be more covered than less. I think I also kind of absorbed the difference between how children and adults dressed.
I think also the hundreds of little comedies-of-manners I put my stuffed toy animals (or the little plastic zoo animals - I had dozens of those and they were almost like a miniature acting troop, the way I played with them) were my mimicking what I saw the grown-ups doing and saying, my trying to make sense out of things. Trying to learn why some behavior was accepted and other behavior was seen as foolish. (And I was lucky in that I had good models - "acceptable" behavior was not the kind of narrow-minded, "but they're not OUR kind of people" attitude some of my friends' parents had; and foolish behavior was, well, behavior that could bring pain or shame to you.)
I do think childhood is important - as a learning process, as a process of watching the adults and trying to learn how to be one. (And I suppose, sadly, some kids don't have much to work with in the way of models, and that may be part of the problem.)
But I wonder - if kids don't have that kind of "lag time" - where they can sit and think about what they hear the grown ups say, and how they watch the grown-ups act, and try to synthesize it into some kind of reasonable whole, if maybe they have problems being grown up themselves.
What I'm trying to say is, a kid who takes on some of the behaviors of adulthood too early may fail to develop other (possibly more important) behaviors.
Or maybe more baldly: if a kid gets cheated out of childhood, maybe they have a harder time successfully growing up into an adult? The little girls running around in tight sparkly t-shirts with double-entendre messages on them, or (God forbid) sweatpants with "Juicy" on the backside, who ape the suggestive moves of dancers on MTV - they maybe have less of a chance of understanding fully what it means to be female, and maybe become stuck in a caricature? Or the boys who base their behavior on the coarse, rude, but somehow "cool" guy on television - they don't learn what it really is to be a man?
I don't know. I'm just thinking out loud here. But sometimes I wonder if there's a link between kids growing up too fast, and their not growing up completely. And I worry about the future of a nation of 45-year-old adolescents.
Saturday, October 20, 2007
In the past few days, it's like a switch has been thrown, and it's finally autumn.
We've gone from days where it gets up into the 90s, with high humidity, and little cool-down at night to days where it's cooler, dryer, and it gets sort of chilly at night.
(I have to say for me, the hardest thing to take, living where I live? Nights that don't cool down. When I lived in Ohio, we used to get some hot days - even hot, humid days - in the summer. But at night it would often drop into the fifties (or at least lower sixties) and it would cool off and the mornings would feel nice. Here, in the summer, mornings often feel like getting slapped by a warm, wet towel. And not a clean towel, either.)
The drier air gets rid of a lot of the stink. One of the things I dislike about humidity is that it seems to hold a lot of smells close to the ground- the diesel exhaust from my neighbors' duallie (and please, don't leave the thing idling in your drive; not only is it loud but it smells), the smells of cooking grease from the Dairy Queen a couple blocks away, the smashed skunk out on the main road. I have a very sensitive nose and there are humid days where I feel like I'm constantly being assaulted with new stinks.
It also gets cooler at night, which is wonderful. I am sleeping much more soundly. I always realize in the fall that I spent a lot of the summer kind of bungling along in a sleep-deprived state. Even with air conditioning, it's really not possible to suck enough humidity out of the summer air, or cool it down enough, to make sleeping easy. In the summer, I wake up every couple hours or so. In the fall and winter, I sleep pretty solidly through the night.
Also, it's QUIETER when it's cooler out at night. Just this past week I realized something - I wasn't hearing the boom cars in the neighborhood any more. Either the owners of the cars have decided that they have to keep their windows rolled up - and even for a boom car owner, I suppose there's a volume that's "too loud" - or they've decided that cruising isn't fun when it's chilly. And I welcome that because every night there had been someone driving through the neighborhood around 11:30 pm - just after I had first dropped off to sleep.
And my neighbors with their new bark-and-whine puppy seem to be keeping it indoors now.
And cooking is more fun when it's chilly out. When it's hot, you don't want to eat much other than salads, and the thought of heating up the kitchen by turning on the stove is unappealing. But when it's cold out, soup sounds good, chili sounds good, doing things in the slow-cooker sounds good. (I bought some country-style ribs the other day; I'm going to put them in the slow cooker shortly so they will be done for dinner tonight). It's pleasant to cook, it's pleasant to nourish yourself. Food becomes more than simply fuel.
Reading also takes on an added dimension of pleasure - curling up on the couch with a huge book and a mug of tea and a quilt, or piling up all the pillows in bed and putting on flannel jammies to read.
It's always a huge relief to me when the heat breaks. I begin to feel alive again.
Friday, October 19, 2007
I saw this on someone's blog, but the link seemed to be broken, so I couldn't do it. Then Big Arm Woman had it up on hers - and the link worked:
Your past life diagnosis: I don't know how you feel about it, but you were female in your last earthly incarnation.You were born somewhere in the territory of modern Mexico around the year 1575. Your profession was that of a writer, dramatist or organiser of rituals.
Your brief psychological profile in your past life:
You had the mind of a scientist, always seeking new explanations. Your environment often misunderstood you, but respected your knowledge.
The lesson that your last past life brought to your present incarnation:
Magic is everywhere around you, even in the most usual, most ordinary situations. Your lesson is to understand this magic and to help other people to see it, too. You are a magician! Do you remember now?
Oooooo-kaaaaaaay. So was I Latina or was I of the "oppressor" class? What is this "organizer of rituals" you speak of - that sounds seriously voodoo. Was I using chicken blood to divine the future? Or was I like some kind of proto-magical-realism writer? Like a female Jorge Luis Borges?
I also am amused by how I had the mind of a scientist, and yet learned that magic was all around me.
Oh, and apparently I'm a magician. Didn't Mr. Norrell claim that women COULDN'T be?
(OF COURSE I do not believe this. It's silly. Even if I believed in such things as past lives, there's no way the computer could divine mine based on the information given. But if you want to play, go here)
Thursday, October 18, 2007
....practically every day when I drive to work.
One of my favorite while-driving comments is the sarcastic, "Oh, thanks for the turn signal!" directed at a person who doesn't use it. (One of the turns I have to make to get into campus, if someone doesn't have their turn signal on and they do turn, it means I'm delayed that much more because I expected them to come through straight. I suppose it would be worse if someone had their turn signal on and then DIDN'T turn, but few enough people use their turn signals that I've never seen that happen)
Tuesday, October 16, 2007
My favorite magazine in the whole wide world used to be "Victoria."
Every month when it came, I'd set aside time - an hour at least - to just sit down and look at it. It was gorgeous - landscape photographs that took your breath away, seasonal shots that were the very ESSENCE of fall - or spring - or winter, beautiful collections of antique buttons or lace or stacks of books.
It was like a very tiny vacation, a respite from some of the ugliness that exists in the modern world.
Then they stopped publishing it.
And I was very sad. And I kept looking for a magazine like it - Mary Engelbreit's Home Companion wasn't quite it, Southern Lady came close but wasn't it either.
And then, this summer, I got a postcard in my mailbox - Victoria is coming back! Do you want a trial copy?
(Does Tasha Tudor live in a house without electricity? Of course I wanted a copy!)
So I sent the card in. And for a few weeks, I looked eagerly at my mailbox. No magazine was forthcoming.
And I sort of forgot about it - I think at one point I thought, well, maybe they didn't get enough investors.
But I opened my mailbox this afternoon - in the middle of this rather unpleasant week - and there it was. The pre-Christmas issue.
I hugged it to my chest - yes, standing right out there by my mailbox - a tiny spontaneous expression of joy.
I removed the plastic protective wrap with a bit of trepidation - what if it wasn't the same? What if it had become another everyday-celebrity-obsessed*, plastic-surgery-fied-beauty touting, "low fat/low cal dishes for HER, "real food" for HIM and the kids" type women's magazine.
(*Yes, Victoria featured people who might be called "celebrities." But it wasn't your run of the mill type celebrity - they did features on Golden Age movie stars, and on authors like Tasha Tudor [well, Tasha Tudor is also worthy of celebritydom for her pure eccentricity], and women who had "gracious businesses" like tearooms and such. Not a pop singer or a stripper-turned-actress in the bunch)
I opened the magazine.
It had the same typeface. The same typeface! You might not realize how important that is.
It has the same departments - I almost cried a little when I saw it had a feature on "calling cards" (unusual business cards for small, often woman-owned, businesses).
It has the same wonderful photography - there's a lovely feature on old Christmas memorabilia, and lovely closeups of old buttons. And wonderful, soul-stirring (well, for this displaced Northerner they are) photographs of snow covered landscapes. (I miss snow. Don't miss driving in it but I do miss having it to look at. It doesn't feel like Christmas to me without snow).
It has the same kind of "don't let the cold hard world intrude" features on gracious living and general niceness.
(Victoria used to have as its motto "Because nice matters," which I always liked. I think they even offered it as a cross-stitch kit, and except for the fact that I don't cross-stitch [I always get off-count and wind up cursing], I'd have bought it).
I don't know. Someone with a colder eye for such things than I have could doubtless point out how it's changed, but to me, it's my dear old Victoria back again, and I'm very happy to see it.
(I will say there are some changes I'd welcome - one of the "welcome back" letters suggested that Victoria run a classic poem - like something by Keats or Frost - each issue, and I have to say I think that would be a fantastic addition).
(And I suppose some people would argue it's a sort of "domestic p0rn," that it portrays the same unrealistic, unaccessible-for-all-but-the-fantastically-wealthy-and-idle sort of world that Martha Stewart has created. And you know - they have a right to their opinion, but I don't agree with them. Just as many people read romance novels for an escape - or watch the Travel Channel - or window-shop, for me, Victoria is a tiny little vacation. Oh, it's not a world I could or would inhabit full-time, but it's certainly nice to visit and imagine about)
But what a nice thing, what a good thing to have back. My life is a tiny bit better with this magazine back in it.
Monday, October 15, 2007
It was a difficult day all around.
Part of it was the worry about my aunt, part of it the concern over the nonfunctional drainpipe. ("Invisible drainpipe"? Sounds like a LOLcat). Part of it was just that everyone - at least among the students - was either in a foul or a subdued mood because it was pouring down rain today. (And also - high absenteeism.). And, not to go all TMI, but some problems with what one of my friends refers to as "ladystuff."
So I came home, not sure what to do for dinner. (That's a big issue, some nights. Some nights I don't mind taking an hour to cook something interesting and complex, but more and more, when I get home around 4 or 5 and plan to go to bed before 10 - there's just not enough time to do that, get caught up on grading, and have, you know, time for ME to be ME).
But tonight I lucked out. I remembered that I had made bean soup a couple weeks back and stashed a bunch in the freezer (because, as is typical of bean soup recipes, it made Mass Quantities).
This is actually an exceptionally good bean soup. It's roughly based on a recipe I have, but streamlined - you buy a bag of those "Hambeens" things (which is basically every kind of dry bean that is common, plus split peas and lentils). You soak a cup and a half or so of those in water overnight, rinse. Then you boil them up in water to which you add either a ham bone (if you can get one) or ham hocks (if a real ham bone is notforthcoming). You cut up an onion into it too, and dump in a can of chopped up tomatoes. At the very end of cooking, you dump in a cup or so of small pasta (I used some of the La Moderna alphabet noodles I talked about earlier). I also cut up a kielbasa in there because I didn't feel like pulling the fatty meat off the hocks.
I didn't season it well on the first go - the recipe I had called for just salt and pepper and that was too plain. When I reheated the first batch, I put in some cumin and a tiny bit of cayenne pepper and that made it a lot better.
Actually, it was really exceptionally good with the different seasonings. A "lot better" isn't a good enough descriptor.
It's actually not so much a SOUP as it is a stew - there's very little liquid. It's actually kind of like beans and rice, only with macaroni instead of rice (and, well, with kielbasa)
So for the reheat batch from the freezer, I used the same seasonings (I tend to freeze stuff unseasoned; it seems to keep better that way).
So as soon as that's done, I'm going to eat an early dinner (and I think I'm going to make a cup of hot Ovaltine and have some corn chips with the soup).
And then I'm going to go to bed and read. I started a new book on the Spartans (This! Is! Sparta!) the other night and it's pretty interesting; I'm not so much into military history but there's a fair amount in there about how the people lived - which does interest me a lot.
Ancient history is something that really intrigues me - especially Greece and Rome, because they're essentially the foundations of our culture, and yet, in many ways they were so different from us (in how they defined honor, and civic duty, and family vs. tribe).
I thought more on that Nerd Test thing - and you know, I'm not so surprised I scored high on history and literature. I've always loved both those topics and spend a lot of time learning about them "for fun." At one point in my college career I actually seriously considering majoring in Literature (probably British Literature) but after talking to a couple people who were majoring in it, I concluded that it had become far more political - and, at the school I was attending, far sillier, because there were profs who spouted things like, "Every interpretation, no matter how absurd it sounds, is equally valid" - than what I'd be able to tolerate.
Science was far more cut and dried and was less political. (Oh, science can BECOME politicized - just look at the whole
global warming climate change issue - there is real science that supports that the climate IS changing, but it's far from as dogmatically clear how much, how caused, and what effects it will have as what some would want to believe. Even some of my own colleagues.). Science also isn't prone to the same kind of po-mo silliness that sometimes literature and culture-related things can devolve into.
So I like science for that. Actually, I like statistics even better - that's even MORE cut and dried, in many ways, than, say, ecology is. (But, then again: there's the frequentist paradigm vs. the Bayesian paradigm, so there's statistics' own controversy. I tend to teach more from a frequentist point of view but do introduce things like bootstrapping and jackknifing - not so much on the Bayesian because my grasp on that is at best tenuous - but I do like my students to know that there are different tools you can use).
Seriously, if I had to do it over again? I might become an engineer. (The math-and-materials kind, not the train-driver kind). Because that seems even more comfortingly cut-and-dried (at least to an outsider) than the life sciences do now.
* The weekend is never long enough. I can never either get enough work caught up or relax enough to feel right come Monday.
* (This is less complainey and more of a worry). My 87-year-old aunt is in the hospital. Apparently she had some hallucinations the other day. She's on a variety of meds, including meds that screw with your electrolytes, and she probably doesn't drink enough water. The various symptoms sound to me like dehydration but one of her doctors is making noises like "mild heart attack." She wants to go home, apparently the hospital wants to keep her. (I say: keep her as long as Medicare/Medicaid (she qualifies for either so I'm not sure which takes precedence) will allow). I don't know. Anytime someone over 80 has health problems it's a worry.
* There's another plumbing problem in my house. Had a plumber out already and the simple cheap fix he tried didn't do it...tomorrow (provided it's not bucketing down rain) he's going to try something from outside. He told me that he only ripped open walls as a "total last resort" but I'm kind of scared...this is an old old house and I am just terrified there's a collapsed pipe or something somewhere that's going to cost thousands of dollars to fix. (I guess I better mention the problem - the bathroom sink won't drain. Everything else drains fine. He's afraid of snaking the sink because he's afraid of cracking the old pipe with their power-snake. I don't know. Maybe I can live without a bathroom sink. Do all my washing in the tub, and brush my teeth in the kitchen? Or maybe I could get it plumbed into the toilet tank, and flush with used sink-water, and therefore be a bit environmentally friendly?)
*That said? I love that my town now has a Mr. Rooter franchise. They came out on a weekend (THEY ANSWERED THEIR PHONE ON A WEEKEND, PEOPLE. That is real progress for here) and didn't charge me any more than they would have for a weekday call. Also, they seem committed to making it right, unlike some workmen I've had in who work up to a point and shrug and go, "Sorry, babe, you're on your own now."
* I am deeply bothered when something doesn't function the way it is supposed to. I cannot DEAL with broken stuff on a deep and visceral level. Something in my psyche keeps crying out that it needs to be FIXED and the world WILL NOT BE RIGHT until it is fixed and it needs to be FIXED NOW. I realize that this is totally ridiculous and it's just a dang bathroom sink, but still. I want it fixed. I want to be able to brush my teeth at night while looking at myself in the mirror like a normal human, and not while staring into my neighbor's weird son's tv room (which is the view from my kitchen window)
* Part of my concern is kind of the same concern I feel when I go to the doctor - that the problem I see symptoms of isn't a simple problem and it is merely the tip of the iceberg and there are all sorts of painful, expensive, and life-disrupting things coming up that I will have to gird up my loins for. Like moving out of my house for a month while every pipe is replaced, or something.
* Also, the automatic window roll-downer things on my car quit. So I can't do drive-throughs any more (this is a problem with banking, not so much for food - I'm probably best off not being able to drive through the Dairy Queen). It's another thing that bugs me a tiny bit (plus, what do I do if a cop stops me? I know you're not supposed to get out of the car. Do I just holler through the window, "MY WINDOW WON'T OPEN WHAT DO YOU WANT ME TO DO INSTEAD?") I know they're expensive to fix, and considering the $800 water heater (well, it was a $350 water heater and $450 of labor and code-updating) and the God-knows-how-much the sink unclogging/OMG EVERY PIPE IN THE HOUSE NEEDS REPLACING NOW that I'm facing this week, I just can't see getting them fixed any time soon.
besides, car matters less to me than house. Car can be out of sight, out of mind. House is top-of-mind because it's my HOUSE, you know? If my house is broken something is deeply wrong.
Sunday, October 14, 2007
I talked a little about this earlier
I found a Mexican pasta ("La Moderna") brand that actually makes alphabet noodles. I bought a bag and brought them home and cooked them up.
Wow, noodles need a LOT of butter to taste the way they did when I was little. I felt kind of guilty about how much I put on.
You know? They're not as good as I remember. I think I like the wagon wheel pasta I had been using better - the alphabets are really small and they get kind of starchy just by themselves.
I also have to admit I like the Lipton's chicken noodle soup - the dried kind, that's basically chicken bouillon with noodles in it - it's totally artificial and the kind of thing that makes food snobs recoil in horror. But I'm not a food snob, and there's something comforting about boiling up a couple cups of water, dumping the packet in, and having hot soup in five minutes.
(I also have to admit I like the pre-packaged Swiss Miss pudding cups. I like pudding but never seem to have the energy to actually make it from scratch. Yes, I know how. Yes, it's not that hard. But it takes time, and often time is not what I have).
And I've already mentioned my fondness for Cup O Noodles. Yes, I know. It's loaded with salt. It's a dietary nightmare. But, to me, it means a particular sort of comfort - it's easy, it doesn't require thought, it's warm, it's noodles. I didn't eat these - or Ramen - for years, because of fear of the salt content. But several years ago, over Thanksgiving, I had to make an emergency trip overnight on the train - my father was having an emergency heart catheterization, with the possibility that he would have open heart surgery. So I got (by some miracle) train tickets up and back, and had to ride overnight in coach on a very badly delayed Amtrak (I was supposed to get on around 7 pm; I finally got on around 1 am. That wait in that tiny, crowded, overheated station was the most miserable and lonely six hours of my life.)
Anyway - I was on the train, I was exhausted, I was hungry, it was roughly lunchtime, the snack car was out of most things I'd consider eating. But they had Cup O Noodles. So, with a sigh, I said, yeah, I'll take a Cup O Noodles.
And you know, that was exactly what I needed then - something warm and uncomplicated, something I had eaten as a child. I've started eating them (very sparingly - not more than once or twice a month) again, and you know - there is something comforting about them.
(And my dad turned out to be okay, what showed up on the stress test was nothing major, certainly nothing requiring open heart surgery).
Another thing I like - and you can hardly ever find any more - is good cider. REAL cider. Not "apple juice." Real pressed apple stuff, with pulp and extracts from the peel and all that. (Of course, it's all pasteurized now - which is probably for the best - but I don't like the "clarified" stuff). I found a new brand - it's one of the "Simply Orange" line but it is "Simply Apple" that is close enough to being cider to satisfy me; it's not got that strange pallid cast that "apple juice" has.
(Actually, where I live now, it's hard to get good apples at all. Apples, apparently, don't grow here. Which makes me sad. A fun fall outing, when I was a kid, was to go to an apple orchard and buy a peck or so of good "keeping apples" for eating and applesauce through the winter, and maybe getting cider and donuts.)
It occurs to me now that a lot of the fun, nice, good things I remember from my childhood were fairly simple - and fairly inexpensive for my parents. I remember the apple-orchard trips, and also going to pick strawberries when they were in season. And if we were lucky enough to be visiting my grandmother at the right time, we'd go pick blueberries.
And we went hiking. And there was an inexpensive "revival theater" near my dad's campus that showed old Disney movies (and other "all ages" type movies).
My mom would bake with me - it was a big deal if she'd let me make "cutout cookies." (I still do make them, but only at Christmas - now that I have to do the rolling and the cleanup I realize what a big production it was).
And we kept a garden, and my brother and I were given little plots to plant what we wanted to try (pumpkins - which I always wanted to grow - never worked out that well; we usually went to a "pumpkin patch" to get ours).
It occurs to me that a lot of the good childhood memories revolve around food - cider and donuts, or baking cookies, or popcorn at the movies. I suppose there are some who'd roll their eyes over that, who said our parents raised us wrong, that we're "too attached" to food now, because of it.
I don't know. I get very tired of the "foodists" and the people who would convince their fellow Americans that chocolate cake is a weapon of mass destruction. I don't see food so much as the enemy; the enemy is the wrong attitude towards food.
When I was a kid, no food was "forbidden" - oh, we didn't get cookies BEFORE dinner, and we were expected to eat what was on our plates - but there was nothing that was made more attractive to us by being told it was off-limits. What was more, we were never forced to eat something we hated. (I had a friend who actually was grounded, because she threw up at the table after trying to force down Brussels sprouts. My parents asked us to TRY but if we just couldn't down the food, it was "no harm, no foul.")
I was a pretty picky eater - didn't like most vegetables (and found, in fact, that some of the really disliked ones from my childhood - like celery - I actually have a food intolerance to and should not eat). However, as an adult, I'm slowly adding things. I never liked sweet potatoes or winter squash as a kid - now they are two of my favorite things and I eagerly await for the "new crop" to come into season. And I'd never touch red cabbage when I was younger, but I like it now. Even the kind that comes in a jar, for when I don't have time to make my own. And salad. While I won't claim that salad is my Favorite! Food! Evah! I can and do eat it pretty regularly.
(Still can't do Brussels sprouts though. Not for want of trying. I do think I'm one of those "supertasters" - many of the things they are purported to hate, I hate. (And I can't stand meat that's too fatty, or salted olives unless I rinse them off first, or things that are too sweet).
I do like green tea though (but make it weaker than recommended) and spinach - well, raw it's okay; I can't do it cooked.
But I don't think my parents screwed me up too badly re: food. Yes, I'm kind of fat. But I don't THINK that's because I eat more than most people, based on my observations of colleagues and friends - perhaps I eat more calorically dense stuff, true (I like chocolate. So sue me.). But I do think there's a body-type issue, also - both my grandmothers were heavy like I am, and my dad is. (And, ironically - my mom is tiny and slim, and she's the only one in the family with elevated cholesterol).
I do think that a lot of the food-fear that's being promoted in the name of "protecting children from obesity" or "fighting the obesity war" is misplaced. I just fear we're going to raise a generation of anorectics, or conversely, a generation who binge on "forbidden" foods because they are "forbidden." Or that we'll have foods banned, or taxed out of people's reach, in the name of "protecting people from themselves."
I don't "forbid" myself chocolate; I can buy a bar of Green and Black's or something and eat one or two squares of it and go, "Okay, I'm good" and put the rest away for later. I guess some people literally cannot do that; I have friends who claim they cannot keep cookies in the house because they would eat them all in a couple days (or less). I am not sure what leads to that mindset; I would hope there'd be a way of getting over it.
Food is a great pleasure; it can be a great comfort. It seems wrong to me to scare people so much about what they put between their gums that they either no longer can take comfort from it or are racked by guilt for consuming it. Or to make them so conflicted about it that they cannot have a box of Oreos, or a bag of potato chips, or a pint of ice cream in the house without thinking obsessively about it until they've eaten it all.
(I'm always surprised at how many of my gen bio students don't really understand what a calorie is. When I explain it's a unit of energy content, they're all like, "baroo?" As if, they've heard for so long that calories are BAD, that they can't understand that a certain amount are needed to keep a person alive. And that the calories in, say, watermelon, are basically the same kind of energy as the calories in a cookie. Well, there are more per unit volume in the cookie, but it's the same energy.)
Food is food. It is not medicine, it is not virtue or vice. It is merely food. It cannot condemn us to Hell nor save us from dying. But every day, it seems there are more people trying to convince us that food is far more than what it is.
Saturday, October 13, 2007
And now, so have I
I'm a little surprised I didn't score higher on math/science, but perhaps that comes from openly admitting I would have "run away" when I saw that triple integral symbol. (And yes, I haven't had to do that since Calculus in college). And yes, I can lay my hands on a copy of the Iliad in less than 15 seconds. (It's the newer Fagles translation; I have to admit I've not read it yet but I fully intend to.)
Friday, October 12, 2007
Here's a Letterman-style list (with commentary) of my Top Ten Hated phrases used by students:
10. "I need to leave class early. Is that okay?" (Gather 'round, chilluns. Back when dinosaurs roamed the earth and ricki was a wee child, when it was time for doctor or dentist appointments? Ricki's EVIL parents scheduled them on days-off from school, or at times when ricki wasn't otherwise in class. It's not that hard to do - 'specially when you're a college student taking only Monday Wednesday Friday classes.
That said: I do understand evil HMOS or evil employers who will fire you for taking a day to go get your strep throat cured (except, I kind of think that last one's against the law). But still. Just skip the entire class, don't disrupt us by getting up and leaving fifteen minutes in.
Oh, and if you're leaving early to go have fun - no, it's NOT okay.)
9. "Professor X sucks!!!!" (especially not okay if you're trying to get me to agree. I don't run down my colleagues. I don't want to hear gossip about my colleagues. Sorry. Ricki don't play that game.)
8. "Ewwwww! It's a spider!" (Um. You have dissected a human carcass in Gross Anatomy and you are grossed out by a spider that is smaller than a pencil lead? You have taken a class on Human Disease where you have seen horrific photographs of the effects of smallpox and leprosy, but you can't tolerate a tiny arachnid that's five feet away from you and that has mouthparts too small to pierce even your thin skin?
Yes, I understand arachnophobia but as you had the same exact response to the crickets we used in lab a few weeks ago, I think you're just being a bit too prissy.)
7. "Oh, man, I was SOOOOOO wasted last night...." (Don't want to hear it. Especially don't want to hear what came up in the toilet a couple hours after the "wastage." There is such a thing as TMI.)
6. "You didn't give us enough time to complete the homework!" (A week. A week for a one-page assignment. A week that ENCOMPASSES a week-end, where I would think even the busiest of people can find the thirty minutes it takes to complete the assignment. Here's a hint: the average pro football game on tv has, by my estimation, about 35 minutes of commercials. Do the homework during that time. Sure, it's a crappy way to do homework and I don't recommend it - but that is evidence that you CAN find the time to do homework in a week. Especially don't tell your professor - who on top of teaching 13 contact-hours, holding down 10 hours of office hours, working on several research projects, heading a campus committee, teaching Sunday school, leading a Youth Group and doing numerous other thankless tasks ON TOP OF the basic life-maintenance stuff like laundry and cooking that a certain percentage of the claimants still have their mothers - or their spouses - doing - that you cannot find time for something that is important to your grade.)
5. "Is it okay if I hand this in late?" (Let's ask Mr. Syllabus: oh, gee, I'm so sorry. Mr. Syllabus says no. Guess what? I get to have a life too. And that includes being able to sit down on Friday afternoon and get ALL my grading done for the week so I maybe get a little free time Saturday. It doesn't mean I want to have homework dribbling in all next week.)
4. "This assignment was TOO HARD!" (Um. Considering that it covered material I covered in class - and gee, look, problem 4 is EXACTLY like the example I did on the board on Friday, when you decided there were too many other fun things to do than come to class. And considering that I have ample office hours each week. And considering that about half the class got 100% on the homework - and only two of them were people who came in during my ample office hours to ask if they were doing it right - I think the answer is NO, it wasn't.)
3. "I don't understand this! I never understand stuff until AFTER the exam! You don't explain stuff right!" (Again: considering that more than half the class got it. Considering that several people who didn't get it first off came to my office hours and asked me to explain it again and then got it, and considering that you happened to skip two days of class, I do not accept that complaint. Come to my damn office hours BEFORE the freaking exam if you don't understand.)
2. "Do we get bonus points for being here?" (No. Please do not ask that again.)
and, Ricki's most-ever-hated line?
1. "I missed class Friday. Did we do anything?" (I would really love to refer students to this poem but I fear that the irony would be lost on many of them.)
Thursday, October 11, 2007
...for laughing at this, but: the Bible in LOL cat.
Most famous verse (John 3:16) in LOLcat, as a sample (you may need to know that they refer to God as "Ceiling Cat." As in "Ceiling cat sees you...." (uh, yeah.):
John 3:16. So liek teh Ceiling Cat lieks teh ppl lots and he sez 'Oh hai I givez u my only son and ifs u beleevs in him u wont evr diez no moar, k?'
Oh, and: "Ceiling Cat" creates teh Universe (Genesis 1, natch):
1. Oh hai. In teh beginnin Ceiling Cat waz invisible, & he maded the skiez & da earths, but he did not eated it.
2. The earths wus witout shapez & wus dark & scary & stufs, & he rode invisible bike over teh waterz. (I love the Invisible Bike bit.)
3. & Ceiling Cat sayz, i can has light? & light wuz.
4. & Ceiling Cat sawed teh light, to sees stufs, & speraratered the light form dark & stufs but taht wuz ok cuz cats can seez in teh dark & not tripz ovr nethin.
5. & Ceiling Cat sayed light Day & dark no Day. Teh evning & morning was teh first day.
...it may be time to consider bifocals when you're reading a general bio book to do some teaching prep, and you see a section on homeotic genes and you misread it as "homoerotic genes" and your brain momentarily goes "Whiskey-tango-foxtrot? I have to teach THAT now?"
|How will I die? |
Your Result: You will die in your sleep.
|You will die while saving someone's life.|
|You will die of boredom.|
|You will die while having sex.|
|You will die from a terminal illness.|
|You will die in a nuclear holocaust.|
|You will be murdered.|
|You will die in a car accident.|
|How will I die?|
Create a Quiz
It makes me think of that horrible, sick, old joke:
"I want to die peacefully in my sleep, like my grandfather. Not screaming in terror and fear like the passengers in the car he was driving."
Kate, I have no idea how I got on these mailing lists for the spam I get (I get a lot of watch-spam too though), it's not like I troll websites aimed at "enhancement."
But I got a stupid spam today that made me laugh.
Subject line: "MegaDik is your new weapon!"
THAT leads to a very odd mental picture. Especially since a couple of days ago the Craftzine blog posted a story about Siege Weapons of Love. (inflatable thingies designed to look a bit like a cannon but mainly like....well, you can guess).
On second thought - if somehow the Second Amendment ever got repealed, maybe men really WOULD want to make sure they had that "new weapon." (Brings the concept of "whipping it out" a whole new meaning). And isn't there a tradition of calling that particular body part a "pistol" or a "gun" (long before well-chiseled biceps were given that moniker?)
Or maybe this could lead to the development of a VERY underground-comix type superhero.
I don't know. It just boggles the mind.
Wednesday, October 10, 2007
I'm laughing because both Cullen and Kate have happy memories of Dodge Darts. My parents had one for YEARS...and then they sold it cheaply to the neighbor across the street (my dad needed a reliable car because he had a long commute and I think the Dart had taken to stalling unpredictably) and the neighbor kept it for years. The one my parents had was that deep forest green with the white pleather roof detail.
I remember that car well. It took us on a lot of family trips. I also learned a bad lesson about cigarette lighters in that car...I was waiting in the car one day when my mom had to run into the grocery after picking me up (from day camp, I think, I think it was summer, I would have been 9 or so). I got curious and pulled the cigarette lighter out, and touched my thumb to the tip of it...now that I think of it, it was probably at least a second-degree burn, but because it was so small, it did heal up okay. (My mom's response was, "I'm sorry you're hurt but you should have known that that got hot." Except, no one in my family smoked so I guess I didn't know how hot it got. Anyway. I learned my lesson off of that. And she did help me put Foille and a bandage on it when we got home.)
Still, I sort of miss that car. It was cool in a way a lot of newer cars aren't.
Well, I've decided. My two big issues - the make-or-break issues for my choosing who I vote for in the coming-all-too-soon 2008 elections. Well, two big issues and a third that I'd really like to see.
Big issue #1: Maintain national security. Do what's necessary (within reason) to keep another 9/11 from happening. I think that's pretty self-explanatory. If we're going to continue to let people stream across the border looking for work, by God make sure that Jose-looking-to-send-money-to-his-abuelita really IS Jose and not a terrorist in disguise. Continue to monitor where necessary. Detain and question people making very large purchases of fertilizer and oil at the same time. Work for stability in unstable parts of the world. Don't be squeamish about killing terrorists in combat. Encourage peoples suffering under bad regimes to try to set up a new, better regime.
Big issue #2: Slow down - or better yet, reverse - the expansion of the nanny-state. (I see this morning that some college campuses have banned bake sales to raise money, out of fear that a peanut-allergic 20 year old might wind up ingesting a peanut butter cookie by mistake).
I do not like the nanny state. I do not like the thought that someday I might be told when to go to bed and when to get up "for my own good." Or that I might be prevented from, say, buying a box of Oreos, "for my own good." Or told that my (hypothetical) ten year old daughter MUST get the HPV vaccine "for her own good." (Now, I might choose to get my hypothetical daughter that very vaccine. But HPV isn't the measles or polio, and I think there's a difference between requiring vaccines that are a public health issue in the sense that an epidemic or even large outbreak could cause a great deal of suffering, versus it's a choice people make that might prevent some individual suffering down the road).
Because decisions that SOUND good today - like, "Let's force these fatties to exercise!" or "Let's require everyone over 40 to get a yearly colonoscopy so we can stop colon cancer!" have a way of expanding and mutating. Or they have a way of becoming a "whoops, we thought 10 years ago that was a good idea but now we realize it was a very bad idea" (anyone remember the "fat free food" craze, and how a lot of people interpreted it as license to eat as much fat free food as they wanted? And remember the Atkins craze, where people ate steak and butter and lost like 80 pounds, but the minute they ingested a piece of bread, regained that weight? I don't know about you, but never eating bread, potatoes, or pasta again is too high a price to pay for possibly being a size 6.)
I mean, seriously: there are a few public-health types who were suggesting - not jokingly, I think - that statin drugs should be put in the water supply to help control heart disease. And don't those statin drugs have some pretty nasty side effects in some folks? Or are those folks just "expendable" in the bigger push to end heart disease?
And it also has a way of being the camel's nose under the tent - if the government can tell people what kind of car they can drive, for instance, several steps down the road might be telling them how MUCH they can drive that car. Or on what days. (And yes, I vaguely remember the gas crisis of the 70s and how people had designated days when they could buy gas. I remember sitting in the back seat of my dad's Dart, stuck in a long line for gas, as my dad shook his head and complained over the situation)
And I don't want a micromanaging government. I don't want someone keeping an eye on where I have my air conditioning set in the summer (and telling me "You need to turn it up to 80* to save energy!" when doing that might very well make me suicidal because I HATE HEAT). I don't want to feel like someone's leaning over my shoulder and watching what I do - not because I'm some risk to national security (if I were checking "The Anarchist's Cookbook" and books on armed resistance out of the library, and wrote letters to the editor of my local paper urging overthrow of our government, that might be a different matter), but because they think I'm a risk to myself.
I don't like some faceless person who doesn't know me deciding what's "good" for me. I have to admit I even bristle at some of my own doctor's suggestions. (Thankfully, now that SHE'S aging a bit and had the metabolic slowdown, she's not exhorting me quite so hard to lose weight. Not as easy as you thought it was, eh doc?)
So anyway. Those are my two big issues.
The third issue - which I guess is also kind of a big issue, but I tend to feel that if I vote for someone who's strong on 1 and 2, they will probably also carry along 3 - is that I don't want someone who's going to spend like crazy, and raise my taxes. I've not sat down and done the math, but a ballpark figure is that 40% of what I make goes to SOME government or other - federal, state, local, sales taxes, user fees. (maybe even MORE than 40%, considering the ridiculous sales taxes here.)
And I have to admit - a lot of days, the #2 issue moves into the #1 slot - because it's closer to home, because I get so tired of the constant stream of bad-science news reports saying "Coffee's good for you! No it's not!" or "If you don't sit at least 10 feet away from the tv, you will die a horrible death from EYE CANCER! No, wait, that's not true! You'll die of OBESITY first!"
Maybe I'm being a paranoiac, I don't know. But I just have this lingering fear that someday, a federal health-insurance program may require public weigh-ins and if you don't fit the BMI "profile," you have some serious explaining to do...and maybe facing a trip to re-education camp. Or a denial-of-services card. Or something.
Tuesday, October 09, 2007
Kate, I was thinking of it in a "Wicked Witch" type of way. (Or in a "They're coming to take me away, ha ha!" sort of way). What CAN you do with spam, anyway, other than delete it, gripe about it, or laugh at it? Sometimes it's just good to laugh at the stupid stuff that happens.
And the idea of a dog named P*nis is just kind of funny.
There's also an old joke out there about a lady naming her dog something that was kind of racy...maybe it was "Sex"? (Not that that's so racy by today's standards). I just remember the mental image of the woman running down the street saying she was "looking for Sex".
(Didn't Steve Martin, in "The Jerk," also name his dog something unmentionable? It's been a long time since I saw other than the edited-for-tv version, and in that version the dog's called "Stupid." I kind of remember its real name being another word that starts with "S")
Oh, and the title of the post?
I know, I know, I grab and post a lot of these, and it seems like LOLcats are either something you love or you hate (I know people who think they're the stupidest thing ever, or they think the joke was funny MAYBE in January 2007 but has now jumped the shark). But I still think they're funny and this one did, literally, make me LOL when I saw it.
Got one today:
"We are here for you and your p*nis!"
That sets up a rather frightening visual.
Also makes me think that if I ever get a dog or a cat, I should name it P*nis, because then that spam might actually make sense. (That said...I cannot see running around the neighborhood calling, "P*nis! Here, P*nis!" if the dog ever slipped free from his lead...)
(And yeah, I'm still getting MegaDik ads. Which also sets up a frightening visual, sort of a Godzilla-movie thing...surely even the spammers recognize that there's a point at which bigger ISN'T better...)
Monday, October 08, 2007
My pastor describes himself as a "lectionary pastor" (I'm not totally sure which one he follows; there are a couple of slightly different lectionaries - the Catholics have one, and the Anglican one is slightly different, and the Lutheran one is different still).
I like that he does that. Part of it is that it's organized - and I like organization. But part of it is - as he said himself, several weeks ago - that lectionaries can be more challenging. You are confronted with passages that sometimes you might rather "blip" over and go on to something warmer and fuzzier.
Well, his sermon this Sunday wasn't warm and fuzzy. And it was something I wrestle with on a regular basis - something I know intellectually I should deal with, something I know intellectually that is right, but emotionally I find difficult.
The passage he used was this:
(Luke 17: 5-10)
5The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” 6The Lord replied, “If you had faith the size of a mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you. 7“Who among you would say to your slave who has just come in from plowing or tending sheep in the field, ‘Come here at once and take your place at the table’? 8Would you not rather say to him, ‘Prepare supper for me, put on your apron and serve me while I eat and drink; later you may eat and drink’? 9Do you thank the slave for doing what was commanded? 10So you also, when you have done all that you were ordered to do, say, ‘We are worthless slaves; we have done only what we ought to have done!’”
The bolded part is what he concentrated on, and what I found so striking.
Because, see, I'm a person who likes to be thanked. I like recognition for what I've done. And on some level I know, yeah, I'm just doing my job and that should be good enough - and I should (and I do) take a certain pride in doing the job (whatever it is) well FOR THE SAKE OF DOING IT WELL, still, I tend to get cranky when I go too long without hearing positive reinforcement.
Case in point: there was an on-campus duty this weekend. Now, one of us was supposed to be there. I was (apparently) the only one free. So I did it. It was okay - it was not bad or anything, it's just taking a timespan from about 10 am until noon kind of shoots your Saturday from being able to do much else.
And I kind of griped about it to myself ahead of time: "They should be grateful - GRATEFUL - I'm taking this on, that I was a big enough sap to volunteer."
I griped about it to my dad, observing that a record small number of people had signed up for the thing I was doing, and so my department would probably see zero benefit.
"But," my dad pointed out to me, quietly, "you are doing the right thing."
Dang it, he was right.
And you know, Sunday morning, when the pastor talked about how people really shouldn't expect gratitude for doing what they're supposed to do (He updated the "slave" example by pointing out: "Do you expect a letter of thanks when you pay your bills?" making the point that there are a lot of things people do that is expected of them, that is necessary for society to work normally, and we should not expect thanks when we do those things).
And you know...when the shoe is on the other foot, I get irked. How many times have I complained about students who come to class on a day when "no one's" there and ask me for bonus points because they showed up?
Well, my wanting to be thanked for things I should probably be doing anyway is my version of that. And I know it's something I need to work on - I tend to crave recognition, I think because I was at the very beginning of the "self-esteem" generation (But I didn't get it as badly as some) and also because I was a high achiever all through school, and you do kind of get used to getting those gold stars or A plusses.
And that's a hard lesson of adulthood - that sometimes you have to be the one to give yourself a gold star because no one else really cares, because you're just doing your job. Sometimes, on my better weeks, I can tell myself, "If no one's complaining, that means you're doing well." Because in my experience that's when you hear from people - when something's wrong.
I also admit to a certain jealousy...I do craft stuff, I have a flickr page of stuff I've made, I have a few patterns I've written floating around the web...and yet, the people who get interviewed on the Craft blog, some of whom are doing stuff that I tend to think is uglier or sillier than what I do, they get all this love and all this attention (or what I perceive as such). Some of them get book deals. And I have to admit, it's sort of an ugly little part of my personality, I read those things, and I'm jealous. I think, "I wish *I* had a book deal. I wish *I* had thousands of people clamoring to read what I think, who want to know my thoughts and my opinions."
(Hence the blog. I may not be getting paid for it, I may only have a handful of readers, but it does satisfy that basic ego-need to talk about what I think with someone that I can't SEE when their eyes start to glaze over or when they begin checking their cell phone to see if they've got any messages).
And you know? I think that's a fundamental human desire, the desire for recognition. But I do think it's in conflict with the idea of service - you can't serve with a happy heart if you're always needing to be thanked, because people being what they are, they don't always thank others.
And I also think there is something about the desire to be loved and important and popular amongst your peers that tends to go against the idea of doing jobs because they need to be done. Because who is going to volunteer to sweep the floor, if no one sees that it's clean, and if it just gets dirty again?
(One of the things I am doing with the Youth Group is requiring them to help clean up after dinner. Several of the kids have pointed out that a lot of the mess they clean up is from the day care that meets several hours before we do, and I just observe to them that life isn't fair, and sometimes it's necessary to clean up after other people. And yes, I do my share of cleaning up, too. I don't think it's right for the teachers to stand back and make the kids work without pitching in themselves).
One of the things I have to work on with myself is that laboring in obscurity isn't really laboring in obscurity, in the cosmic sense - that everything everyone does to help others, or increase the balance of love in the universe, or serve God, or do good in whatever way they can - does add to the good of the universe, even if no one ever sees it.
Another story about my father - about a year ago, the church he belongs to had a ceremony for "honored servants" - people who have provided lots of service over the years. My father's been on just about every committee the congregation has (and head of several), for a number of years he was the Head Elder (which is not a fun job; it's a lot of responsibility without really any benefits. And you have to make the schedules, which means people come and complain to you for putting them on duty when they want to be out of town). So he was one of the "honored servants."
And my dad was kind of opposed to this. He said: I am just doing what everyone should do.
And yet, at the same time - very few people actually DO what they "should" do, at least in the sense my dad meant it.
He somewhat-embarrassedly accepted the plaque they made up, and stood up at the front of the church with the other honorees, but I don't think he was comfortable with it.
And you know, that's an attitude I need to develop - the attitude of "just doin' my job" when someone comments on how hard I'm working or something.
I mean, I guess I'll still feel secretly pleased ("someone noticed!") but I need to work on not trying to seek that out, and especially on not feeling bad when people DON'T notice.
Sunday, October 07, 2007
Back in the summer, I upgraded to digital cable. Even though I don't have a lot of television-time, I think it was worth it, because I watch a lot of Discovery Health (And probably know all the "freak" diseases out there that are uncommon, now, thanks to my fondness for "Mystery Diagnosis"). But I also love the movie channels I get.
I get Fox movies, which usually is 80s stuff but once in a while breaks out with a good old movie, or with something like a Mel Brooks film fest
I get IFC, which can be sort of overly fond of its "highbrow" status but does show some good stuff.
And I get TCM, which is mainly why I got the digital cable. (Say what you will about Ted Turner and his spouse [are they still married?], but TCM is a good channel).
Last night they were showing "The Producers" - the original, 60s version, with Zero Mostel and Gene Wilder. I had never seen it, except for a few clips (mostly the pivotal song of the "musical" they produce). I hadn't seen the newer version either.
It was brilliant. And hilarious. I love Gene Wilder anyway, particularly when he's doing the more outrageous sort of comedy. And I pretty much love Mel Brooks - some of his jokes, at least in his later movies, maybe go a wee bit FAR for me (but then again, they're not as off-putting as a lot of the Farrelly brothers movies; it's because I think in some cases Brooks was first [the infamous bean scene in Blazing Saddles probably ushered in much of today's flatulence humor that is EVERYWHERE and is mostly unfunny], but there's also a sort of sense of glee about "look what we're doing, we're so bawdy! Look what we can get away with!" in Brooks' work that some others don't seem to have. It's like Brooks enjoys himself more, or something).
The Producers isn't quite as full of throw-away lines like, say History of the World Part I or Spaceballs is, but it's still brilliant and wonderful. (And I think it's more character-driven than some of Brooks' other movies).
It's a rare movie that can make me laugh out loud sitting alone in my living room, but this one did.
And a question - did Wilder and Brooks do any other movies together, besides this, Young Frankenstein, and Blazing Saddles? I thought and couldn't come up with any, but if there were, I might want to rent them.
Friday, October 05, 2007
My back-of-the-row sitters in one class?
The ones who bitch about having "only" a week to complete a homework assignment (in lieu of having a two-hour weekly lab plus out-of-class lab write up)?
Did not have their homework done at the start of class. So they did it during class, I'm guessing.
They both got 0's. Of course, it's very likely one copied off of the other, as there were no calculations shown and all the wrong answers were wrong in the same way. But ultimately, they get the same outcome as if I had busted them for cheating.
The thing that frosts me so much, is these are guys who think they're too smart for the room - they carry on whispered conversations (I've completely given up with stopping class till they shut up - I'd never get anywhere. And they act like they don't need to learn this stuff. And then they bitch about "not knowing what to do" on the homeworks.)
I'd really love to go all Dr. Evil on them:
(Okay, except for the being wrong about billions being more than trillions bit. And I probably wouldn't want to use the "zipple" line. But still...I really really want to tell these guys to shut their freakin pieholes and pay a little attention)
Because it PISSES ME OFF when someone acts as if he doesn't NEED to pay attention to what's going on in class, then moans because he can't do the homework (and, I would add, didn't bother to come to any of my copious office hours this week), and then hands in a piece-o-crap that earns him a big fat 0.
I mean, it's justice. But I'm still pissed off. These guys aren't idiots; they could do this stuff if they put in a little effort and if they paid attention in class.
All I can say is none of 'em better come to me looking for a recommendation.
Here's another little Friday venting:
If you are going to SKIP CLASS on a Friday, and you have VITAL DATA THAT ALL THE MEMBERS OF YOUR GROUP NEED TO COMPLETE THE LAB, be a pal and GIVE SOMEONE IN THE GROUP THE DATA.
Not only did the young lady's absence today screw up her entire group, in this case, it's screwing up the ENTIRE lab for the ENTIRE class because I was going to photocopy each group's data and distribute it so that everyone could compare all groups' results.
And now, everyone is going to have to wait until Wednesday to get the data - because of one person's not showing up. They'll all have to write two lab write-ups in a single week. And you know what? I don't sodding care. If they whine about it, I will simply observe that it was the action of one member of one group that prevented them from having the data in a more timely fashion.
The other group members were all scrambling around - trying to see if anyone had the missing student's phone number, trying to put together what they had. I asked what they were missing - thinking, perhaps, I could just have the class treat that set as incomplete data - but the data were TOO incomplete.
What frosts me is I know I'm going to hear bitching about "We have TWOOOOOO lab reports to write this week?" Sorry. Not my fault. If you had handed in the data AFTER LAB earlier this week (like I asked), we wouldn't be facing this problem.
I predict that 30 years from now, no college will ever have Friday classes, because of the rates of absenteeism. But then, of course, Thursday will become the "new Friday." It pisses me off.
(Yes, I realize she COULD have been sick, but a couple of the students who knew her pretty well said she didn't seem sick at all last night. And even then - could she not have called someone and read off the missing data to them over the phone? When I was a student, I would have crawled over broken glass to see to it that my lab partners (and instructor) had the data necessary.)