Monday, June 30, 2008

WordGirl's meme

So here goes.

1) The correct ratio of milk to cereal is:
a) 1 to 1 -- with exactly the same amount of milk and cereal left at the end of the bowl
b) 2 to 1 -- with a puddle of cereal-flavored milk left to slurp at the end of the bowl
c) [blank stare]

Definitely 1 to 1. I count it as a win if all (or very nearly all) the milk is gone when I have finished the cereal. I don't like having to drink that last bit of gritty, cereal-flavored milk.

2) Bread crumbs in the butter is:
a) nasty
b) normal

I'm taking the middle road on this: it happens, but it's not something I'd choose to happen. Were the world not in its fallen state, there would never be bread crumbs in the butter.

3) Correct toilet paper installation requires that the paper emerge from the roll:
a) over the top -- it's more convenient
b) underneath -- it looks tidier when not in use
c) whichever way it can get to your posterior and/or naughty bits to do the job

I am merely thankful that I live in a time and a place where toilet paper is available. The arrangement of it on the dispenser matters not to me.

4) Is the following an actual DeForest Kelly line?
"Dammit Jim, I'm a doctor, not an escalator!"
a) Yes
b) No

This is a trick question, right? It's not actually DeForest Kelley who says that line, but someone playing him playing Bones?

5) The best name for a dog is:
a) Bruiser
b) Neville
c) Foxy Brown
d) Kevin

Of those, I think I'd pick Foxy Brown. Though if I could pronounce it KEV-eeen, the way they do on the opening of 3-2-1 Penguins, I might be persuaded to go with Kevin.

6) Stick shift or automatic?
a) Manual baby!
b) Automatic, all the way.

I don't even know how to drive a stick.

7) Micheal Bolton is:
a) awesome
b) a hack
c) going to have to work on Saturday because his TPS reports are incorrect

A hack. (and seriously: why didn't that guy just go with "Mike"? If there were some idiot running around with my name, I'd just change it - or go by my middle name instead.)

8) You have ridden public transit in your home town:
a) a couple of times to avoid paying for parking when you party
b) never -- that's why you have a car
c) almost every day since you've had a choice

Moot question - public transit does not exist in my home town.

9) Foods touching each other on your plate is:
b) irrelevant
c) Plate? You typically eat from something Styrofoam/paper that has a lid or handle

Freaky, all the way. I don't LIKE it when the food touches.

10) You read ____ books per month:
a) 0
b) 1-2
c) 3-4

B, aspiring to C. (If you could count scientific journal articles it would actually be a lot more)

11) Pancakes or waffles should:
a) be swimming in syrup -- you like it sweet and sloppy
b) be barely kissed by syrup -- you like it subtle and nuanced
c) naked -- you're a purist
d) be slathered in butter and grape jelly

It depends. If it's a really good pancake or waffle, then b. If it's some kind of indifferent made-from-a-mix low-grade restaurant-cake, then a.

12) You have ____ close friends (with whom you regularly visit/chat) of differing ethnicity:
a) 0
b) 1-2
c) more than 3

If partial Native American ancestry counts, then 2. Of course, of my Invisible Internet Friends, I have no way of knowing. And you know? I kind of like that.

13) "Intelligent alien life has visited and is now visiting our planet," is:
a) true
b) false

If true, then they recoiled in horror and went back home. I don't know. I'm agnostic on extraterrestrial life

14) Your favorite ice cream flavor is:
a) chocolate
b) vanilla
c) other
d) You can't eat ice cream

New favorite: the honey-kissed vanilla Haagen Dasz. Or however it's spelled.

15) Popcorn-flavored jelly beans are:
a) yummy
b) gross

...probably my favorite flavor of jelly bean OF ALL TIME. So, yummy.

16) Camping out in the summertime sounds:
a) awesome! Where's the tent?
b) disgusting! Can't we just hike and then check in to a B&B?

B all the way. I don't camp. If it involves peeing in the woods, I have no interest at all

17) At a weekend dinner party with close friends, you typically consume ___ alcoholic drinks:
a) 0
b) 1-2 -- it doesn't take much for you to get your buzz on and then you're set
c) 3-4 -- you like to have fun but you chill out for awhile until you're ready to drive home
d) more than 4 -- you like to get your party on!

0. Alcohol gives me migraines. Which means I sometimes wind up as designated driver, but that's ok, as long as the guy sharing the front seat with me isn't a "handsy" drunk.

18) At a drive-through burger joint, you order:
a) a combo meal -- sandwich with fries and a drink
b) just a sandwich and a drink
c) an entree salad with a drink
d) a side item with a calorie-free beverage

usually a sandwich and a drink

19) Kissing your sweetheart is:
a) essential -- it's one of the best parts about being in a relationship
b) overrated -- you can take it or leave it
c) something you miss

No sweetheart here but I'd say it's pretty important.

20) You have been convicted of a capital crime (unjustly of course) and the guard has come to take your order for your last meal. You can have anything you want. What do you order?

I would be sobbing so hard I would be unable to eat, and food would have no interest for me. I honestly cannot see how convicted criminals manage to do the last-meal thing.

Things of which I am leery...

Didn't think I'd have a topic for this morning, until I read that Melinda Gates has commented (as part of this new mega-foundation she and her hubby are forming) that every U.S. child should complete college.

Um...I am not pointing out her husband, who is literally richer than God, did not? Oh, ooops, I did.

Anyway. That sort of heads the list of things that make me leery and not want to buy wholesale into the story. People who assume a one-size-fits-all solution. So here's the list:

1. One-size-fits-all solutions. I don't care if you're talking about education, diet, dating, getting rid of ants....I have never seen a case where one thing worked for everybody. I have people tell me, "Oh, you MUST try online dating! You'd find someone in a heartbeat! I did!" But then again, I know people who tried it, found it a complete horrorshow (Items Not As Advertised). Or they got no responses to their posting, which I think would be the most totally heartbreaking thing ever. Or people who talk about how I Lost Weight! You Can Too! when their diet involves eating some insane combination of foods I'd never consume, or they have a personal trainer and a personal chef to serve as a force field between them and Actual Food. Or something.

Or stuff like Mrs. Gates' plan - not all people want to, nor even need to, go to college. And I am saying this as a college prof!

That segues into the next item:

2. People proposing very simple solutions to complex problems.

Complex problems are still problems because they are complex. Eighty percent of the time, a problem goes unsolved NOT because of lack of will or lack of funds, but because it's a COMPLEX PROBLEM. And therefore NOT EASILY SOLVED. And it frustrates the Hell out of me to hear people go, "Well, ALL you need to do is..." No - chances are that's been tried and it didn't work. And in a lot of cases, the solutions proposed are sort of on the line of "beatings will continue until morale improves."

For example: students do poorly in a college class. It must, therefore, be the fault of the people teaching the class (never mind that five different people teach it and always get the same results). We must send those profs for more teaching-training! We must exhort them to be more interesting! We must make them run the class as a fun discussion rather than a boring lecture! (never mind that at this level, discussions tend to be fairly content-free, and lecture seems to be the most logical way of covering the topic. Never mind that the "discussions" generally consist of monosyllabic student responses and blank looks. Never mind that the students don't KNOW what a stem cell is, let alone the controversy surrounding them).

Or: Americans are too fat. Therefore, we must harangue, embarrass, and perhaps even fiscally penalize those who are fat until they lose weight.

3. People who sit and complain about a problem without doing anything about it.

Yes, some problems are too big to be dealt with. That's true. But it's also true there are lots of little problems - like litter in our towns - that are nasty unpleasant things but can be dealt with by people who are willing to give of their time. The problem is, it's a lot more fun to sit and say, "Someone should DO something" than it is to be that someone.

4. People who believe that more tax dollars will solve all our problems.

See #3 above. As well as #2 and #1.

5. Things where there may be unintended consequences.

The whole ethanol mess is part of this. I was on-board with it when it first got started- hey, a way to maybe stick it to the Middle East oil barons! Hey, maybe a way to use renewable energy!

Problem is - it's not that simple. And food prices are rising, it doesn't help with CO2 emissions one bit, land that might have been left to revegetate naturally is being plowed up again. Pretty much the only happy folk are the corn farmers.

6. Stuff sold on infomercials.

(I had to put one lighter one in here). If it's THAT great, why do you have to buy a 1/2 hour tv program to sell it. I've seen an awful lot of stuff that looked wonderful on the telly - of late, some kind of steam-mop thing that claims to solve the problem of cleaning tiled floors, and some kind of weird bra-thing that's supposed to lift up the "girls" and help with posture.

But I can't help but be cynical about it - if it's that great, why do you have to mail-order it from just one company? And why do they do that weird "Only three installments of..." pricing? And why don't they tell you what shipping and handling are?

7. Science reporting in the news.

Because they get it spectacularly wrong jut often enough, and because a lot of it seems aimed at scaring the daylights out of people. ("Lots of studies in the past showed coffee was safe BUT NOW...."). If they actually hired people with degrees in science, or at least a modicum of critical thinking capacity, it would be better done. But with a few exceptions (like John Stossel, who often gets it right), most science reporting is dismal.

8. Anything advertised as "destined to become a classic!"

Um, no. Something becomes a classic because of quality, not destiny. Usually this is applied to second-rate Christmas specials featuring the flavor-of-the-month licensed character.

And a lot of times, the true "classics" were not thought that great at the time - there was a certain amount of criticism of the animation of A Charlie Brown Christmas when it first came out. But it's been shown every year since 1964, and generations of kids can repeat it almost word for word.

The other thing, I tend to think, is stuff that becomes "classic" cannot be coldly engineered. (Like: "We need to sell more Smurfs. Let's make a heartstring-tugging special about them and put it out there). It seems to me that it's more often the vision of a particular person. Again, with A Charlie Brown Christmas - Charles Schulz absolutely INSISTED on the passage from Luke being in there. The special would not be done unless it was done with that present.

And one of the things I wait for every year? To hear Linus recite the passage out of Luke. And I know I'm not the only one.

9. People who are very smiley and glad-handey.

Because I've been burned too many times by grinning extroverts who, it turned out, were just waiting for a chance to stick a knife in my back. I'm a lot more drawn to the quiet, introverted person who doesn't seem to so desperately need to be everyone's friend.

(The funny thing is, I do kind of desperately want everyone to be my friend. I just can't express it very well. I'm shy and afraid of rejection so I kind of sit there inside my shell, silently screaming, "Notice me! Love me! I'm a worthwhile person!")

A special case of these are most politicians. After shaking hands with some of them, I always count my fingers, check my rings, and check to be sure my wallet's still there.

10. Newness for the sake of newness.

People who would throw out all tradition, who would get rid of what the past two millennia (or more) have taught us, in the name of "change" and "different" and "new." I'm not saying some change isn't important - and some change isn't necessary - but I've seen too many people who are bent on totally remaking things, simply because they can.

I tend to be somewhat conservative and traditional because I prefer to learn from the mistakes of the past, rather than start totally fresh and have to make all my own mistakes.

My biggest issue with this are people who would do away with the traditional hymns, music, rituals, and way-of-doing-things in church. And I realize this is a very personal, individual thing, but I LIKE the old hymns. And I am discomfited by things all being all-new all at once. If you want to change things, do it gradually.

I also tend to feel the same way about art and architecture. I am one of those people to whom extreme asymmetry, especially in a building, is almost painful to look at.

Friday, June 27, 2008


Other people are as fed-up with the "ooooh, it's so so so bad" media handwringing as I am:

The Anchoress linked Brutally Honest post where Mr. Brutally Honest discusses his distaste for it, and also links a video of a Harley-Davidson ad that seems to take on the trend to handwringing.

It contains the line: "Fear sucks (and it doesn't last long), so screw it, let's ride."

Now, I'm not a biker (and that's actually a visual that makes me on a Harley), but I can get behind that.

Mr. BH also adds:

"We don't need effeminate, limp-wristed metrosexual hand-wringers, fresh from getting their eyebrows plucked and carrying their man-purses, telling us how bad things are. The reality is that things could be oh so much worse. What we do need is someone to step up and remind us that we've overcome one helluva lot more in our not too distant past and the smart people of Harley Davidson are filling the void."

I don't use certain words on this blog, so you'll have to imagine what I'm saying when I say, "Mr. Brutally Honest, **** yeah!" (Or, to use what we used to use as a term of approbation in high school: "****in' A!")

Because yeah. I'm tired of being told how I'm gonna die soon, how the world's falling to bits, how my money doesn't buy what it used to, how there are ALL THESE PROBLEMS and they're REALLY BIG PROBLEMS and people sit around and whine and moan about them without doing boo to alleviate them.

I'd add to Mr. Brutally Honest's description: We also don't need nagging Picky Aunt Ethel types (apologies to anyone who actually is named Ethel) - the person who sits on the sofa at the party and warns us about how we're going to BREAK stuff and how we're making too much NOISE and how it really isn't GOOD FOR A PERSON to eat so much ice cream at one go. The nanniers. The finger-waggers. The people who seem to be so incapable of having fun that they'd prefer to prevent fun in other people. The But-it's-for-your-own-good-ers.

Yes, yes. I know that you think I should never eat cookies and it's for my own good you're telling me that. I know you think that I should not be sedentary reading a book on an afternoon when I could be out destroying my knees and ankles "enhancing my health" by jogging and it's for my own good you're telling me that. I know you are telling me to turn the air conditioner temperature up to 80 degrees for my own good (and for the earth's).

but you know what Nanny? Shut. Up.

Really, seriously. Most Americans are just enough of an "Up Yours!" mindset that they're going to reach a point with the nannies where - well - it's not going to be pretty. Things are going to get put (or at least there's going to be the implication that they will be put) in places where the sun doesn't shine. Rude gestures will be made. People will eat oooey gooey cupcakes right in front of you, Ms. Nanny, just to prove what they feel about you and your brand of "shouldn't do that!"

Because once in a while, having an oooey gooey cupcake is fun, regardless of what you may say about sugar and fat.

As I said before: Fun is good. I like fun. True, my idea of "fun" may be different (and more sedate) than your idea of fun, but I'm happy to say "God bless you" as you go off and do what you find fun.

you know...

(An aside: I've been quite political this week, haven't I?)

One of the things that ticks me off re: energy policy is the people who, when presented with the idea of offshore drilling or opening ANWR or going to the oil shale or tar sands

(Which, another aside: I wrote a science report on the oil shale when I was in 5th grade. That was like 1980, folks. They knew back then it could have been a viable source of oil).

Anyway, these people - if they don't pooh-pooh it outright because it Hurts Teh Environment, they will say something like,

"Yeah, but it will take like 10 years to develop that, and people are hurting now."

And this is a total headdesk moment for me.

That is not at all unlike my saying, when I walked in the door of the biology building at My Graduate School for the first time, "Well, it might take me as long as 10 years to complete this Ph.D. thing. And during that time I'm going to be making scut wages as a TA and living in a back bedroom of my parents' house. So I might as well not even try and just go wait tables for a living, because I want money now."

It's almost - it's almost as if the inability to delay gratification in other areas of their lives has infected their political and policy thinking.

And the other thing is: well, dammit, if they had tried tapping the offshore oil reserves 10 years ago, it would be better now, no? So why not invest in that with the hope that in 10 years, we won't all be paying $15 a gallon for gas or something? I mean, of course it's bad now. Of course gas is more expensive than I'd like it to be. Of course anything we do short of finding a magical unicorn that will allow us to turn crap into oil will take time. And there aren't any magical unicorns out there that I've seen.

So my opinion is, stop whining and DO something. (But then, that's my general response to a lot of crap in politics, policy, and protests: if you're sitting on your ass complaining, you're not doing anything productive. Get off your ass and do something. You might not feel so much like complaining when you're done.)

Thursday, June 26, 2008

good job, SCOTUS.

we still have a second amendment.

Some of the recent (and not-so-recent) decisions I've disagreed with (notably the one that says a developer can take your house under Eminent Domain if he can prove that there will be a "public good" in the mere sense of more tax revenue). But - even though I don't carry a gun and probably never would - this one is a little relief.

(And SCOTUS....please remember this when someone tries to make laws abridging the First Amendment, ok?)

Yes, I know - a lot of people who should NOT have guns get them (lots of times via means that are illegal anyway, and arguably, if guns were banned, criminals would still be able to get guns). And I do favor the idea of background checks and especially keeping guns out of the hands of felons, people with known "issues," and others who are not safe with a gun.

But I'm *just* survivalist enough - just paranoid enough - to think, "when they make guns illegal, that could open the door for some Mugabe-type to take power - and we wouldn't even be able to raise an army against him. Well, other than an army of pitchfork-and-torch bearing citizens, who'd probably get mowed down pretty fast).

I'm sure there are people who will disagree with me on this - that's fine. But I do think we need to have some kind of statute in place that says "you may make laws limiting who may purchase a gun and where they may carry it, but you may not make laws saying that law-abiding, sane citizens who would only ever use a gun for target practice or self-defense if their family was threatened cannot have one."

Wednesday, June 25, 2008


Well, after yesterday afternoon's advil wore off, there hasn't been any additional pain. Hopefully it was just the whole fitting process bugging that nerve a little. The fact that I got through 2, 75-minute classes without pain is a good sign. The gum is a little sore where I took the Novocaine shot, but that's ALWAYS the case after dental work for me.

And a weird thing - I said to the dentist that after the novocaine shots, my soft palate felt numb, almost like I couldn't swallow right, and when I was tipped back I'd get the sort of panicky feeling like it was closing off (maybe that's like what people with sleep apnea experience?). He said that 'wasn't normal' but didn't seem to want to discuss any further.

I wonder how they "set" the novocaine doses. Is it the same for everyone, or do they kind of size someone up and go, well, she's 5' 7" and weighs 160 if she weighs an ounce, so we better give her more? I'm so sensitive to so many medications that I wonder if maybe I'm getting a bigger dose of the crap than I need. But I tend to be too compliant and too apprehensive to want to approach my dentist about it. I'm just fearful that if I had to have prolonged work, I really would get like sleep apneac and have a hard time breathing....

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

oh, thank goodness

God bless the person who invented ibuprofen. Seriously.

I got the permanent crown on today. It wasn't that bad, but because that tooth still has a living root, the dentist warned me: when the Novocaine wears off, it's probably gonna hurt for a while. (Because he had to keep re-fitting the thing, then taking it off and grinding it down - it was too high). All that messing with the tooth upset the nerve.

Man, he was right. I ran a couple errands, then I got home, and realized the whole left side of my mouth was throbbing like heck. So badly I couldn't even concentrate on the magazine I was trying to read. (The Paula Deen cooking one, which I'm not resubscribing to - none of the recipes are really anything I'd make, a lot of the cakes are doctored-up mixes [horrors!] and the rest is kind of the low-grade-celebrity fluff that turns me off).

So I took a couple of Advil. (Well, really the Target generic form of Advil...way cheaper). It's been not quite a half an hour and the pain is gone.

If I have pain again when I get in bed tonight, I'm going to take a couple more. Yeah, I know, there are limits on how many you're supposed to take, but I'm a good-sized woman. (My brother - well, he weighs more than I do but not VASTLY more - was told by his doctor that once in a while, if he was having REALLY bad pain [this was after he broke his collarbone in a bike accident], he could take three at a go. Not often. Certainly not do it every dose. But I figure if a doctor said that it's probably OK for a largeish woman to take a total of four of the regular-sized tablets over a seven or eight hour span.

I just hope this clears up fast. I don't really "notice" how bad pain is when I'm having it but it kind of clouds everything - I can't work as effectively, I have to concentrate harder while doing things like driving, I can't enjoy relaxation time. I manage, but I'm not happy. The funny thing is, I really don't "notice" it as being painful, what I "notice" is that I don't feel like I'm supposed to.

Not sure what I'm going to eat tonight. I do have some broth in the fridge and maybe I'll try my hand at making spaetzle to go in it. What I'd really LIKE is a milkshake but I fear the cold might not be good for the tooth.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Mmm, heme iron...

(I needed something happier up here at the top).

I made a steak for dinner tonight. I don't to that tremendously often; most of the time I eat more-or-less vegetarian. I do that because it's convenient (when you're dragging in at 7 pm, tired, hungry, it's easier to throw together a salad than it is to choreograph the cooking of a chop or something. And also, especially during the school year, there are weeks when I am not home for more than 1/2 hour or so in the evening EACH NIGHT thanks to evening meetings and such.)

And it's cheaper. And probably in the long run better healthwise to get most of my protein from beans and such.

But, once in a while, I just want a hunk of an animal to eat.

(Apologies to any vegetarians reading this).

But I do. A friend and I were talking about how we eat this weekend (she is divorced but has a teenaged son at home who does much of his own cooking). She agreed with me - veggie a lot of the time, but once in a while, you just need some meat.

She posited that maybe it was the protein, that maybe we get protein deprived. I said I didn't think it was that, so much as it was the heme iron.

There are lots of plant sources of non-heme iron (spinach is one), but I can't think of any of heme iron. Which is slightly different and is more readily absorbed.

Maybe I'm more cued in to iron because I've gone through times in the past when I was anemic. It was just the "uncomplicated" kind - no absorption problems, no other deficiencies, just I wasn't eating enough iron. (It might be a familial thing - both my mom and her mom before her had times when they were on iron pills.)

The worst period of anemia happened to happen at a time when I was otherwise "restricting" food intake, that is, one of my periodic attempts at dieting. My doctor gave me a prescription for iron pills (after I complained that the vitamin kind upset my stomach) and stern instructions to "get enough nutrients."

So since then - because I don't want to feel like that ever again (I was to the point of nearly fainting when I stood up from a stooping position, not good when you are doing botanical fieldwork outdoors in the summer), I've been cautious to make sure I get enough nutrients. Including iron.

And yeah, I eat Cream of Wheat (which is good, and is also iron fortified). And I eat spinach until it's almost coming out of my ears. And I eat other iron containing things.

(And I like irony. Hah. I slay myself sometimes)

But sometimes I just like a piece of beef.

I tend not to be terribly creative; usually I buy steak (well, living alone, roasts don't make a tremendous amount of sense and I don't like meat that's been cooked and then frozen, so making a big roast and then freezing it is out). And I usually buy the same cuts of steak, preferring something that is tender but that still Has a Flavor.

A new little meat market has opened up in my town; I am happy to see that it is here. I like it for two reasons: first, the meat is a cut above what the grocery store sells in terms of quality. (True, it's more expensive. But I tend to feel that if you can afford better quality, why not buy better quality?) And second, like any old-time butcher or grocery-store "real" meat case, you can walk up to it, point to the steak or chop or rack of ribs you want, and they'll pull it out and sell it to you. None of this pre-shrink-wrapped, family-packed, there's-really-only-one-decent-looking-steak-in-there stuff.

(Which is why I don't like most of the groceries around me - they've done away with the meat case in the name of streamlining, forcing us all to buy pre-packaged meat. Which is often packaged in large-ish quantities. Great if you have six kids, but not so great if you live alone, have a tiny freezer, and forget to take stuff out to thaw anyway).

So I love being able to walk in and buy my ONE steak or ONE pork chop and take it home and cook it.

I generally cook steaks by doing them in the grill pan. I've contemplated getting a Hibachi or something (I have a tiny porch off my kitchen where I could grill outdoors) but the grill pan does a good job and a Hibachi would add a level of complexity (having to plan ahead so the coals are the right stage of combustion when I want to cook the steak).

Actually, the grill pan is probably the pan I use the most. It's good for meat but also good for doing certain vegetables. And good for fish, except I almost never make fish because I don't like it that well.

So I grill up the steak. Usually all I do is rub some kind of seasoning - either Montreal steak seasoning or my current favorite, a southwestern style mix that has, among other things, ancho chilis and chipotle in it. No, I'm not a fan of The Hot, but this isn't really hot - it just gives a good added flavor.

And I grill the steak. But not for long. I like steak cooked AT MOST medium rare. (Yes, I am one of those tiresome people who jokingly tells the waiter, "Have the chef cook it just until it stops mooing." Which I know, waiters hate that kind of badinage. Because they probably hear it 25 times a night. But at any rate - I prefer steaks pink or even red on the inside).

And yes, you are free to respectfully disagree with me on this, but I think good beef is at its best cooked medium rare or below. I have had the experience of being out somewhere with people who preferred well-done steak. (In one case, the woman sent hers back **twice** to ask for it cooked more). And then, when their little hockey pucks come back (and I'm already half-done with my nice pink steak), they cut into it, eat a bit, sigh sadly, and say, "The steak here just isn't very good, is it?"

And I'm all "Uh? Buh?" because I was actually thinking: wow, this is a darn good steak. And I think it's the cooking that does it - I think it tastes better and is more succulent the less it's cooked. (of course, it could partly have been the sending-it-back to be flopped back on the grill that contributed to their steaks not being as good).

But yeah, I know, some people have issues with the meat juice because they think it's blood. (Trust me, it isn't).

And that's their free choice but I prefer my steaks still pink in the middle.

Anyway, I made steak tonight for dinner. And I had some corn (sadly, not fresh - it's very hard to find fresh corn on the cob here so I use either frozen or a good canned corn). And some strawberries which were fresh and were pretty good. And a little wheat hard roll. And it was good. (And yes, the steak was RARE. And it was delicious.)

I have some leftover (it was a big steak) so I think I may have a sandwich sometime. (Not tomorrow night - tomorrow is Real Crown Day when I get the final crown put on. So I'm going to have soup tomorrow night as the crown installation is late in the day and I anticipate not feeling like chewing.)

crack is bad for you...

No, I'm not making any kind of snarky plumbers-butt joke here.

Apparently the singer Amy Winehouse has emphysema. At 24. Twenty-friggin'-four.

The doctors are relating it in part to her smoking (uh, tobacco, and then some, uh, other stuff) habits.

On the news this morning apparently someone (one of her doctors?) was quoted as saying something like, "She's going to have to decide what she loves more...being alive and able to sing, or the drugs."

And you know, that just makes me sad. I know, crack is supposed to be highly addictive. I know people have pain in their lives. But I cannot imagine someone at 24 being in that boat...I think of ME at 24, what I was like - still fairly full of hope, still kind of young and silly (I mean silly in the good way). I didn't have whatever demons seem to haunt Ms. Winehouse.

I just can't picture that level of self-destructiveness. Oh, I know people DO it, we have a long line of musicians (especially) who died young. But I still have a hard time accepting it.

I don't know. Self-destructive behavior just in general makes me sad. I can't quite imagine the kind of demons that would drive someone to find solace at the bottom of a crack pipe. (And I don't want to.)

I go back and forth on the whole drug issue, tending to be a bit of a little-l libertarian. But I do think, at times like this, that maybe the death penalty for any dealer who is shown to have gotten someone hooked - especially if that person died as a result of the addiction - might not be too harsh.

(And her family - I presume she has family? What must they be going through.)

I hope this is a wake-up call for her, I hope she can manage to kick it and to continue and to have some sort of happy life. (Somedays I wonder if there isn't something a little ghoulish about the way we treat famous people, the whole "dance monkey dance" always needing them to be "on" and the way they're always in the public eye.) I'd rather see her retire from the scene than die.

Friday, June 20, 2008


I don't know if you all have been exposed to this "movement" or not, but - there are a group of people who refer to themselves as "Locavores." ("Local" + "-vore" like in carnivore, only the fact that these people eat locally produced food).

And this is one of those things I kind of hate about a certain segment of society.

See, I like going to farmer's markets. I like buying honey that was locally made. If there were an egg farm within reasonable driving distance of me, I'd go there for eggs. I like the idea of food production being somewhat decentralized, both because I like the thought of people who WANT to farm (without having to have a soybean field the size of Manhattan) being able to farm, being able to make a living doing what they love. And also because I keep that thought in the back of my head that if something very big, very bad happened (like, God forbid, some kind of attack on the shipping industry), there'd still be things available locally for people to eat.

But I hate the concept of locavory. Because like so many of the Stuff White People Like, it becomes a pissing contest waaaaaaay too fast.

Because it seems people are incapable of making some kind of lifestyle choice without either (a) feeling the masses need to be evangelized or (b) using it as Evidence of How They Are Better Than Everyone Else.

I knew people like that in college. Now, "locavory" didn't exist as such (though there was a big nice farmer's market in my college town, where I often went on Saturdays to buy the few vegetables I willingly ate in those days and also to people-watch). But some of the students - especially the College of Natural Resources students - would do this thing:

"Well, I'm a vegetarian."
"Well, I'm a vegan"
"Oh, I'm not only a vegan, I also only shop at co-ops."
"Yeah, I do all that, plus I have a plot in the community gardens every summer."

And it's like: STOP IT. Okay? You win the Good Person Olympics.

The remarkable thing to me, is some of those same folks would wrinkle up their noses about the kids on campus who were involved with religion: "Those Christians - they think they're BETTER than me."

Mote, meet beam.

So I see this starting up and I kind of roll my eyes - oh please, don't ruin my pleasure in shopping at Farmer's Markets by turning it into one of those things "right thinking" people do. Don't make it some kind of f$&^ing badge of honor. Just let me buy my green beans and beets in peace, without assuming a particular reason for why I do it.

I can't stand how some people get to be such tools about stuff they do.

One of the other things - and this is where the whole extreme-purity-of-purpose runs against the messy real world: on one of the bulletin boards I read, there's a section for people who are into locavory. And one of the topic headings was something like "IT'S FLOODED HERE. HOW DO I EAT?" And it wasn't that - we have no food, we need help. It was - I can no longer buy the exclusively-local food I want because the fields are under water, how do I maintain my locavore cred in this situation?

And see, my response would be: do what most of the rest of the country does and go to the Wal-mart. Or the Publix. Or the Kroger's. Or the Safeway. You're not going to be struck dead by eating a carrot that was trucked in from Maine, I promise.

(The other thing that gets me about extreme locavory - we're told by the Health Powers that Be to eat a hugely diverse diet with some not-in-this-lifetime number of vegetable servings per day. What do you do as a locavore in the dead of winter when the two kinds of local veggies you have are turnips and potatoes? Do you eat turnips until you turn into one? That's the whole thing that people like Laura Ingalls Wilder had to do, and that's why people rejoiced when grocery stores started carrying produce from other regions.

Also - does that mean you never get to have spices? Never cinnamon toast, because cinnamon is grown in Sumatra or somewhere? That seems too much to me.)

Like any kind of extremism, I'm highly suspicious of it. What irritates me is that people with that smug, "I'm better than the human algae that shop at Wal-Mart" attitude becomes something I have to deal with when I go to the natural-foods store or to the farmer's market.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

No words....

I received spam this morning purporting to be from a "Ferdinand Bong."

I know there's a joke in there but I just can't seem to come up with it...

screaming meme-y

Some other folks are doing this, so I thought I would too:

1. If you could choose one career, regardless of your natural-born talents/station in life, what would it be?

I assume this means that when you chose the career, poof, you'd have the necessary talent bestowed upon you?

I would like to be an opera singer. Yes, really. It would be a chance at a mild form of celebrity - and best of all, a celebrity where your size is less of an issue than it is for the typical famous female. And you get to dress up.

The fact that I can't actually, you know, sing, is only one of the reasons that would keep me from trying it "for reals" - any kind of entertainer type job requires horrible hours that I would, in the real world, hate.

2. Do you have a tattoo? If so, what is it? If not, would you get one? What would you get?

No, and I won't get one, for two reasons:

1. Fear of needles.
2. I'm reaching the point in life where skin begins to sag, and I can see how hideous some tattoos will look once their owners reach 60 or so. (Mind blowing thought - all of those 20-something woman with "tramp stamps" hitting 70.)

3. Movie theater or DVD rental?

Rental. My last few theater experiences have convinced me that my fellow man no longer understands the concept of behaving in public in a way different than when you are sitting on your sofa at home.

4. What's your current pet peeve?

Litterbugs and vandals. Put them on the space ship destined for the Sun, please.

5. Fiction or non-fiction?

Both - I have a book of each going at the same time most times.

6. What's your typical breakfast?

Cereal or toast. This morning it was a glass of orange juice and a bowl of "Cinnamon Puffins."

7. Vegetable you hate?

Brussels sprouts and broccoli top the list. It would actually be quicker to list vegetables I LIKE.

8. If you could magically play a musical instrument as well as a professional, what would it be?

Piano all the way, because of the versatility - I could play Bach prologues for myself when alone, I could play for sing-alongs at parties, I could accompany people who sing or play other instruments. Also, there's a huge repertoire of music for piano, from the 1600s to last week.

9. Do you believe in luck?

Sort of, but sort of not. I tend to think that you get back in life what you put out to it - not in any kind of karmic sense, but in the sense that breaks tend to come if you're expecting them, and you tend to overlook the little opportunities if you're convinced, Eeyore-like, that nothing good ever happens to you.

I also would like to observe here that I have been very blessed in my life. Very blessed. I have gotten good things far beyond my desert of them.

10. Are you overly concerned about your physique?

I am an American female who is larger than a size 6. In other words, yes. Probably unhealthily so.

I also hate with a passion the news stories that come out and worry us about what we eat or drink. Did you know there are actually nutritionists who say you should never, ever drink fruit juice because of the calories?

11. Cat or dog?

I don't have either (never home and also have allergies) but in preference cat edges out dog.

12. Do you like manual labor?

Provided it's not 95 degrees out with a dewpoint in the 70s, yes, I do.

13. If you are female, do you wear makeup?

Yes. I am naturally pale and I also have come to regard it as part of my "psychological body armor."

14. (Male or female) Do you pluck or wax your eyebrows?

I do a little "shaping" but I'm not going for the Claudette Colbert look. They're fairly natural, just not Brooke Shields natural.

15. What's your ultimate vacation?

Going to an interesting city somewhere with lots of good museums, lots of interesting shopping, lots of nice restaurants, staying in a nice fancy hotel. Oh, and the city has to be one where you can walk around without being harassed. Not sure if such a place exists.

16. If you could retire to anyplace, regardless of money, where would you spend your twilight years?

No idea. Probably stay closest to the friends/family I have at that time. I don't quite understand the mentality of uprooting yourself totally when you hit 65 or 70 and moving halfway across the country - what if you don't LIKE the people you wind up living near?

17. Who do you envy?

First off, as Nightfly said, that should be "whom." Second off, I will once again quote Plato: We know not what burdens others carry.

The grass may LOOK greener but usually that means there's a broken sewer line or something under the surface.

I'm honestly pretty happy with my life so I have no need to envy others.

18. Do you wish you were filthy rich?

No, not really. While it would be nice to be able to snap my fingers and have someone do my laundry for me or go to the market to pick up the skim milk and eggs and spinach I need, I also think I'd lose something of myself in the process of not having to do those things.

19. Is your house clean and tidy or dirty and disorganized?

What point of the semester are we talking about? Early on, or a few days after exam week it's very nice and clean. But about midsemester - or when I'm actually writing exams - it gets to be a bit of a sty.

20. What do you miss about your twenties?

What do I miss? I know what I don't miss - a lot of the emotional crap, a lot of the worrying about what's going to happen to me, a lot of obsessing about my body size coupled with spending months writing down EVERY DAMN THING I ATE in a note book, a lot of the worrying about why Mr. Right hadn't shown up yet on his white charger and swept me off my feet and carried me away to a life where everything's perfect....

Okay - one thing. My metabolism was a wee bit faster when I was in my 20s. And I could eat fried chicken without getting an upset stomach afterwards. I kind of miss that.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

another little good thing

My tooth (the one with the temporary) hasn't hurt this week. (Well, unless I drink something really really cold, but that sometimes sets off my non-messed-with teeth, so I don't count that as a concern).

And one more week to go (if things go as they should) and I get the real crown put on and can eat more or less normally again. (I've been very cautious about not eating sticky or really hard things - which is kind of a challenge for someone who likes nuts as much as I do.)

This is why...

I love my summer classes so much.

Today I was talking about meiosis, and the human life cycle, and all that.

And I talked about how "all" men needed to contribute to the formation of a baby (well, at least before it comes out of the womb) was some DNA, and the mom needed contribute allllllll the cell organelles, the mitochondrion, the cytoplasm, and all, and THEN she has to carry the baby for 9 months...(yes, I play it up a little, and yes, maybe it's a leeetle bit sexist, but it makes the students laugh and I figure if they're laughing over something they may be more likely to remember it).

And then, at the end of class, when one of the guys - a young-married with two small children at home - talked about how he didn't have to go to work today so he could go home and "relax," one of the women (herself a mother) scolded him gently:

"Rocky, you need to go home and change some diapers or something. Because all you had to do earlier was just contribute some DNA."


Sunday, June 15, 2008

Not so "smart," now, are you?

Some dude swapped out that standard "Smart Car" (those tiny two-seaters promoted as a solution to urban congestion and pollution) for a 13,000 RPM motor (I'm not enough of a gearhead to know what that motor is FROM).

(You might want to turn the sound down unless you're a fan of thrash metal. The soundtrack gives me a wee bit of a headache).

Now, if it weren't for the deafening nature of the motor (I hope that a pair of noisecancelling headphones come with it), I'd think that was pretty damn cool.

I've always wanted a car that I could put into the "James Bond Escape Manoeuvre" and pull straight from that into a parallel park. And being able to do a 360 and make donuts around trees are just another part of the fun.

But yeah, the motor noise would drive me up a wall. And I'm sure none of my colleagues would ever want to bum rides off me again, especially after I pulled that maneuver I described above, turned to them, grinned broadly, and said, "Now...THAT'S how *I* parallel park!"

(I just hope the thing comes with a really good roll cage. And maybe some five-point belts, while we're at it. And maybe some high-grade reinforcement of the metal, especially since those little cars kind of look like the "crumple zone" is also known as "the driver's knees.")

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Stupid Spam: It Liiiiiiives!

I know it's been a long time since I did one of these, but I haven't had any unintentionally-funny spam in a while.

But tonight I got one. Subject line: "How to win craps!"

Um, no thanks. I didn't realize there'd actually be a CONTEST over it. Really, you're welcome to keep it.

Or, perhaps it's something eBay related- lots of people sell a lot of their crap on there, and I know folks talk about how they "win" something on eBay (I don't count it as a "win," exactly - you still have to pay for it, after all).

Friday, June 13, 2008

It's Friday, isn't it?

I've got a bunch of stuff to do, so instead of keeping logging on to It Comes In Pints for the FFOT, I'll list a few things that have got under my skin this week here:

1. Ants. Ants can go to whatever kind of Underworld exists for insects. I hate ants. No, I don't hate ants across the board. I only hate them when they come in my house. I had a small plastic bottle of honey that apparently self-destructed some time Wednesday night. Thursday morning I found a few ants walking across the counter. I cursed, wiped them up with soapy water, and went to work. Came home at lunch. There were approximately 10,000 ants streaming through the tiny crack where the windowsill meets its frame, down the wall, across the counter. I figured it had to be SOMETHING attracting them - so I looked and found the plastic bottle of honey with the crack in it. So I wiped up all the honey (and the ants) and proceeded to clean my entire kitchen. Again.

2. Ortho Home Defense "Max," which should be renamed "Min" or "Zero," can bite the wax tadpole. I went outside after finding the ants and saturated the window frame and the wall the ants were walking up with the stuff. And they did not all die. In fact, many of them did not die. This product claims "4 months ant-free life!" if you use it outside. I STILL HAVE ANTS COMING IN THIS MORNING. (Of course, they are out of luck as there is absolutely no food for them to find - everything is sealed up and put away). I don't like using chemicals that could be toxic to me and I especially don't like using them when it turns out they don't work as promised.

Off to the Lowe's today to see if they still sell those "Terro" baits - which are corn syrup with borate in it. Ants eat it, ants die. It worked last year.

3. Vandals. A few towns over from me a bunch of a-hole d-bags have vandalized the senior center. AGAIN. They destroyed a compressor (didn't steal the copper tubing - just destroyed it to be mean) that served the cold room where food for the Meals on Wheels program was stored.

This kind of thing infuriates me. Not just because it's so pointless - I could even understand it better if they had stolen the copper tubing, which they did not. But because I have had elderly relatives (in other parts of the country) who got Meals on Wheels. And it made a HUGE difference in their lives - not just that they got a hot meal when they were not really capable of cooking one (towards the end of her life, my grandma was blind, and she was afraid of using the stove because she feared she might burn herself. And although she had some of her children and grandchildren near, they couldn't ALWAYS be there to cook for her). The other thing that Meals on Wheels does that is valuable is that they check up on a person - when my grandma fell, not too long before she passed away, the person who first found out she had fallen and got help for her was the Meals on Wheels volunteer. So I guess I feel kind of protective of the program and it makes me very angry that some idiot would compromise its ability to help people. Especially elderly people.

I hope that idiot's grandma wasn't one of the people getting food from Meals on Wheels. And I hope they find that idiot and assign him (or her, I suppose) a GREAT many hours of community service to make up for it.

There has been a lot of vandalism in my region lately; it's always that way in the summer. I don't know if it's the heat making people act stupid, or if it's teenagers with no jobs and no parental supervision going out and getting into trouble. (And if it is a teenager who did it, I hope they throw the book at their parents as well. If my parents caught me even PLANNING something like that, they would have tanned my hide - yes, even as a teenager - and then grounded me for several months.)

4. I'm also getting kind of sick about all the complaining about gas and food prices. Yeah, it's bad. But it is what it is and we can't really do a lot to change it. Listening to people gripe about paying $4 a gallon for milk doesn't make paying it myself any easier. I'd rather just suffer in silence at this point, or try to figure out some kind of ingenious way of saving money. (Lentils. I bought a pound of lentils for 94 cents this morning, and I have a recipe that potentially sounds good. I may be using dried beans a lot this summer because they're a cheap source of protein).

(That said? If OPEC does increase production - which was hinted at in the news this morning - and gas prices drop a little, I hope grocery retailers also lower the prices of food that have been affected by the higher gas prices. I suspect they WON'T, but I'd hope they'd cut us a little break.)

5. I know I said I thought stimulus checks were a bad idea - and I still think they are - but where the hell is mine? It still hasn't come. Maybe they're screwing me out of it because (with capital gains) I made just a bit over $75K last year. But I'd at least appreciate a letter from the government saying "HA-ha! Your investments did too well last year!"

But if I am getting one - well, I've done a 180 on this and I'm NOT going to chunk it into my savings account (where it can earn less interest than what inflation eats up). Hell, I'm spending it. I'm going to go out and buy something FUN. What that is, I don't know yet. I'll figure it out if and when the check comes. Because I'm tired of hearing the constant drumbeat from some sectors of the news of "sit in the dark, turn up your air conditioning to 85, don't eat much, don't drive anywhere, save all of your money, don't have any fun, because it's going to get lots, lots worse before it gets better - if it ever gets better."

No. Fun is good. I like fun. I want some fun. So I'm going to spend that check (if it ever comes) on fun.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

I (heart) my summer classes

I totally wish there were a way to "infect" my regular-semester classes with the sort of enthusiasm and intellectual curiosity my summer classes have.

I'm particularly talking about the non-majors class. Frequently, the Ecology class is pretty good (though I do get difficult people in it from time to time). But the non-majors class tends to be night and day from regular semester to summer.

(An aside - that is one of the reasons why I've stopped a lot of the beating-up-on-myself for student enthusiasm not being higher some regular semesters. It's NOT 100% the part of the teacher to generate enthusiasm! I teach the class much the same in the summer, and I have students asking questions and discussing and sharing stories that relate to the topic and going into the activities with enthusiasm - and during the regular semester, I often get a class that Will. Not. Open. Their. Mouths. And it's very frustrating to try to teach to what feels like a brick wall).

But this group is so much fun. They enjoy the demonstrations (even ones my regular semester classes called "childish"). They do well on the tests. They're interesting and they're interested.

I just wish they did evaluations for summer classes; I'd be willing to bet my evaluations are higher in the summer.

One thing summer teaching does for me is it allows me to refute the little inner critic that grows in my mind during the regular semester, the inner critic that tells me "if you weren't so boring, they'd respond more favorably" or "you just don't have the knack for teaching; that's why the students are so disengaged."

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Dr. Teeth and the non-electric mayhem

WordGirl, thanks for the reassurance. I think you are correct - it's just occasional twingey feelings, it'll bug me for a couple minutes and then by the time I'm able to go find the Advil, in a lot of cases, it's gone away.

I've also developed the bad habit (which I should try to break myself of) of feeling the temporary with my tongue, with "just checking" to make sure nothing's wrong, and that's probably irritating the tooth and gum more.

The fact that I can (gently) chew on that side without pain is a good sign, I think.

I am still taking Advil right at bedtime, if no other time of the day - it's kind of unpleasant to wake up to a hurting mouth in the dead dark of night and have to go into the bathroom and turn on the light (so I can be sure I'm getting Advil and not, say, that little canister of silica they put in the bottles that is labeled DO NOT EAT). And then be wide-awake for the next half-hour or so because I had to put the light on.

Dental problems really suck, y'know that? I really sympathize now with the people who have serious dental issues - the worst I ever had up to this was the occasional filling or a once-or-twice-a-season tooth and sinus sensitivity brought on by crazy weather.

I also really feel for the people who live with chronic pain - I suppose at some point you learn to accept it and maybe even manage to work around it, but as someone who lives a (mostly) pain-free existence, it's like, wow, it really distracts you to have something hurting, even intermittently.

And I think the fact that it's been goshawful hot and humid here (it's about 10 degrees above what it "should" be right now) and the fact that some of the rooms in which I teach have indifferent air conditioning at best (and I think it was OUT in the lab room I taught in this afternoon - or at any rate it was pretty sticky and nasty by the end of the afternoon and a lot of the students were grabbing paper towels to wipe their faces with (and not just the big guy who's always perspiring).

I'm really glad tomorrow is "my" Friday, with no classes the next day (and my research student is out of town, so no running out to field sites, either. I do have work I can do but it's inside-type work that I can even do at home if the a/c isn't running well at school.)

the jokes just write themselves, sometimes

Heard on the radio (while running out to my field site quickly this afternoon) that a group of Clinton supporters - who are apparently disaffected with Obama - have formed a group called PUMA.

PUMA stands for "Party Unity, My A**"

(In other words: they just don't want to give up on Clinton being nominated. They're making insinuations about sexism and such. To which I say: yawn.)

At any rate - they're calling themselves Pumas. Apparently, they're mostly female. Well, there's another group of females that go by the nickname Cougar.

(I don't think they CHOSE that name for themselves, but it has now become a part of slang).

I suspect that some PUMAS are also Cougars. But I also suspect that you don't want to confuse the groups and refer to ALL PUMAS as Cougars.

Oh, it makes me want to make up some kind of funky Venn diagram....

(I also have to admit - and this is kind of how big of a geek I am - last summer I happened to flip past E! while visiting my folks, and the "program identifier" said something like "50 Greatest Cougar Attacks!" and my first thought was "Why is an entertainment network showing a program about mountain lions?" and my next thought was "It's really tasteless for them to promote voyeurism about animal attacks in that way! A lot of the people killed by mountain lions, their deaths are pretty horrible and not for public viewing." I finally figured out what a "cougar" was in that context and felt kind of like Emily Litella....)

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Well, I don't know...

So, two weeks ago tomorrow, I had the prep work done for a crown (a simple crown. Not a root canal. Basically it was the removal of an old filling and the "shaping" of the tooth [and believe you me, that thought makes me shudder] to be able to accept the new crown).

New crown comes in two more weeks. Or at least that's when I can get it put on.

So I've had a temporary. Or rather, temporaries. The first one seemed not to work; it was okay the first couple days (but that might have been because I was assiduously following the "every six hours take either Tylenol or Advil" regime - I have a very small mouth and any kind of work being done in there leads to a lot of pain, simply from my having to prop my jaw open for that long).

Starting on - I guess it was Saturday after the procedure - I started to have pain. Pretty bad pain. Mostly while eating. So I sort of stopped eating, decided to let the thing heal itself (bad idea, ricki) and just kept going.

I taught Sunday school on Sunday but wasn't at the top of my form.

(An aside - I think for me, tooth pain or head pain is the most miserable kind. I think that's because I have a harder time "detaching" it from "me." I broke an elbow about 15 years ago and spent six weeks (in the summer) with one of those crooked-arm casts from my shoulder to my wrist. And I managed. And I even refused the Toradol prescription my orthopedist wrote for me. And I have a bum ankle thanks to years of having one foot that pronates and years of wearing flat flat shoes (Keds sneakers in grade school; those damn flat Chinese cotton shoes when I was a pretentious high-school student). And I can deal with at. But anything around my neck, mouth, or head - forget it.)

I didn't sleep - well, hardly at all - Sunday night before last because of the combo platter of pain, high humidity, my #$&# neighbor's barking dog and my neighbor's $#%(*&$ security light.

So finally, on Monday, I decided I HAD to have it looked at. That even if it meant a root canal, I had to have something done, I couldn't keep going on with the pain and the not-eating and the very-gingerly-drinking of water (water made it hurt too).

So I went in. Turned out that a little piece had broken off of the temporary, exposing part of the "shaped" (shudder) tooth.

So the dentist took the old temporary off (he said it could have been the hygienist who made it didn't do it just right) and replaced it with a new one.

And it's mostly been better. Mostly. My mouth still hurts periodically. It's not the horrible, throbbing, why-is-someone-pushing-an-icepick-into-my-gum pain. It's more like sinus pain - sort of a dull ache. It's worst when I lie down at night or when I get up in the morning. Once in a while during the day - usually as I'm closing up on the end of my classes for the morning - I will get a twinge.

The thing is - one Advil is enough to get rid of it. So - and this may be just denial kicking in - I don't think it can be anything TOO bad. And I'll go for many many hours without taking another dose (like, 20 hours) and be OK. But then it'll come back.

So I don't know. Part of me really doesn't want to have to live on Advil, or at least not to live on it until the permanent crown goes in. But part of me just wants to tough it out until the next appointment - my dentist is very busy and while he's kind enough to 'fit someone in' who's having pain - it often means an hour+ wait in the waiting room.

But part of me is terrified that it's something horribly terribly wrong. Like, I have the world's only case ever of dry-socket-without-having-a-tooth-pulled-first. Or that there's some kind of horrible brain-eating infection getting established in there. Or that he'll pull off the old temporary, recoil in horror, and tell me I need an emergency root canal followed by prep for dental implants. Or that the tooth NEXT to where the crown work is done has a crack in it now, and I'll have to go through the same agony again next month.

Part of the problem is that this is new territory for me. I've never had this process before so I don't know if the occasional bit of pain is just an expected follow-up, or if temporaries are just uniformly unsatisfactory and getting the real crown will clear everything up. And friends who've had experience are little help - one person blinked at me and suggested I ask my dentist for a pain-pill prescription (yeah, great. Then who will drive me to work? And for that matter, who will teach my classes for me when I'm out of it?) And another looked very worried and started muttering about root canals and stuff like that.

So I don't know. But it's one of those minorly life-sucking things that I wind up with sometimes - that aren't really horrible enough to, say, take a sick day over, but which are horrible enough to affect my concentration and focus.

What did I say about panic?

This line, from an article in the New York Times, about "food insecurity":

"At a moment when the country’s corn should be flourishing, one plant in 10 has not even emerged from the ground, the Agriculture Department said Monday."

Now, I SUPPOSE I am possibly reading that wrong, but, from where I sit, it looks like they're saying there's 90% germination of corn thus far.

I realize I'm not a farmer, just a plant ecologist, but if some of my research organisms had 90% germination - well, I'd be doing cartwheels up and down the hall.

(And I am quite sure farmers don't plant TO THE INDIVIDUAL PLANT what they need. Bugs in the soil probably take out more than 10% in a bad year).

(They also have, embedded later in the article, comments from a farmer who has a remarkably good wheat crop this year. But even that's not enough for the OH NOES crowd.)

One thing I will say? If this really IS an issue - if the corn crop is in fact going to be short - we should as a society SERIOUSLY consider if we actually want to be converting food into fuel. (And at any rate: cellulosic ethanol is far more efficient. I don't remember the exact ratio-of-yield but it seems to me that I've seen ratios that are about 2.5 times as efficient for ethanol made of cornstalks, switchgrass, or sugar cane as opposed to ethanol made of corn GRAIN. And we shouldn't be using land on which food crops can be grown to grow ethanol feed stock. Use the marginal land for that.

That is, if you HAVE to have ethanol in fuel. I'm coming more and more to the idea that it was a boondoggle designed to buy votes in places like Iowa than a for-real, for-true attempt at energy independence.

And I'm all for energy independence. I would love for our nation to be able to go to Saudi Arabia and say, "You don't want to boost production so prices drop? You say you can sell all your oil to China? Good luck with that!" and go on our merry ways and power our cars and planes and electrical plants and everything else with homegrown sources. I don't know that it's POSSIBLE but it is something I'd very much like to see. But I don't think using a costly, involved, and low-yielding process to convert food into something that can maybe be mixed with 85% gasoline [for most cars] is the best way to go...)

Monday, June 09, 2008


I LOVE stories like this. They make me into a big old crybaby because they make me so happy:

Soldier in Iraq happens to get leave early - coinciding with his mom's birthday. Doesn't let her know so he can surprise her. So he arranges to have himself wrapped up in a big box (a La-Z-Boy box no less. Nice touch, that). Mom unwraps the box, sees camouflage. Son stands up, mom screams, starts to laugh, cry, and hug her son.

(I also love the stories where the military dad-on-leave comes to his kid's school to surprise the kid and the kid just goes crazy to see his dad again).

Sunday, June 08, 2008


I don't have issues with conservation. I try to do my part - keeping excess lights turned off, taking quick showers most of the time (in the summer, a quick lukewarm shower works pretty well), not driving about aimlessly.

(One of the things that surprises me, where I live - though I guess it shouldn't, we're a small town kind of far from lots of things - is the tendency some folks have just to go out and with no goal in mind, without planning to go anywhere. That's sort of different from what I always knew, from what my family always did. Oh, maybe sometimes we'd take a more circuitous route to the restaurant after church, or we'd decide to go somewhere "new and different." But I'm often a little startled when someone new here - and it seems students especially do it - ask me where I drive to when I'm out 'driving for fun.' And I'm never able to answer that...if I'm driving, I'm going to the next town over that has better shopping, or I'm going to one of my field sites, or something. I'd like to go out and just explore but that's so not a part of my background and upbringing that I don't think of it. And now, with gas closing in on $2 - not so much).

But some people - and I read this on some folks' blogs - really get into the whole conservation/environmentalism issue so much that it makes me twitch a little to read what they're thinking about.

There's this horrible sense of GUILT. Guilt for just living, guilt for needing to consume food and resources and stuff like having to drive to work. People who are racked with guilt every time they spend money on something.

It is almost if they think, "If I were only a better person, I could have zero impact on the environment!"

And here's a truth of life: for things to live, other things must die. The lion has to kill the gazelle to eat it. The bear ripping open a log is going to kill all the grubs in it that he eats. Even the (comparatively) peaceable deer is going to limit the growth and reproduction of the plants it grazes on.

And that's life. You can't have no impact. You can't be so "good" in your behavior that it has no effect. You can't not use resources.

And I kind of feel like feeling guilty just for living is kind of counterproductive. Kind of energy-sucking. Kind of removes the joy from things - if you're so busy feeling guilty that a salmon had to die to feed you, you can't enjoy the fact that it tastes good or is nourishing.

(And I almost think that some of the more "indigenous people" type beliefs - for example, I've read some Native American tribes "thanked" the animal that gave up its life so they could eat it and live - might make more sense here. Or thanking whatever higher power you believe in for the availability of food. Because being wracked with guilt seems so counterproductive to me.)

I also think all of this guilt is a byproduct of a couple of things in our modern lives. First of all, so few things that used to be "wrong" are seen as "wrong" any more - even things like (for example) impregnating a woman and then skipping town, leaving her to have to try to raise the kid alone. Even stuff like that - where it's been shown that in the vast majority of cases it's clearly detrimental for a kid to grow up in a single-parent family - both in terms of the kid's social development and also the fact that the kid tends to grow up under less prosperous conditions. But there's not the stigma attached to it there once was - used to be, the guy would at least CONSIDER "making an honest woman of her" and manning up and taking on the role of father, even though he might not want it at first.

But now - fathers are seen in many circles as basically disposable. A provider of sperm to get the next generation going. So if they skip out- no biggie. And if they do stay and marry the woman and help raise the kid, it's seen as OK to ridicule them or disrespect them. (This is totally off the topic but I HATE the "stupid dad" commercials - where the man is shown as clueless or foolish and has to be put straight by his much-smarter wife or kids. That's no more fair than the "ditsy woman" ads of years ago, or the "woman driver" jokes that used to be a staple of comedy routines).

And so - in the vacuum created by society redefining what used to be "sinful" as "not so bad" or "but there were other circumstances involved..." or even, in some circles, as "OK" - new sins have to be found. And the sin of needing resources to live seems to be one of them.

I think the other part is that we've gotten so far from the sort of subsistence living our ancestors did that many people imagine the pre-Industrial-Revolution times as sort of a golden age - almost a Before the Fall type era.

And, my friends, it was not so.

I have read enough history to know that I am very, very glad to live in the 21st century. I have already talked about my appreciation that vaccines and antibiotics and pasteurization and modern dentistry are a part of my world. (If it were not for antibiotics, I might be dead. Seriously. I had scarletina as a child and in the pre-antibiotic days some did die from it. I also had strep throat numerous times, which could kill as well).

But I am also glad that the water I have to drink comes from a tap and is clear and free of parasites. And that if I cut my hand while working in the yard, I can wash it out with soap and water and be almost 100% sure to avoid infection. I am glad that I can control the climate where I live by using a dial mounted on the wall, and that instead of having to chop wood to keep warm, I pay someone to provide natural gas into my house. I am glad I spend my summers in air-conditioning rather than lying in a perspiring, enervated heap on the sofa. (Another aside: how did women in the Victorian and other earlier eras manage? Where they were supposed to wear corsets and petticoats and floorlength dresses and tall boots even in the summer? I'm actually kind of amazed the South was even settled by people before the advent of air conditioning. I cannot imagine trying to function on a 95 degree day in all the kit that women were formerly expected to wear, indoors, with virtually no air circulation.)

But I think perhaps some of the folk who feel guilty - who would return to an earlier way of living - don't think about that.

(I also don't camp. To paraphrase an old Jackie Mason joke, my people were Irish farmers and herders. They spent enough nights sleeping out in the cold, on rocky hillsides. Why should I PAY to do something like that now, when I have a nice house and a nice bed?)

And there's another issue - just how much pollution do we actually generate, anyway? I've seen recent figures for human-generated CO2 that are considerably lower than most natural sources - and are considerably lower than what most of the guilt-mongers would have you believe. So I don't know. I hate it when people tell me I should turn my thermostat up to 80 degrees in the summer - I might as well sit outside in the shade if I'm going to do that.

The other thing that bugs me is when people start wanting to prescribe what others can or "should" do.

I'm perfectly fine with people making choices for themselves, based on what they believe or want to do. (standard disclaimer: provided it is legal and doesn't disturb the others in their area). If you want to be a vegan, God bless you. Have at it. I might even have a few recipes I could share.

But don't expect me to become one as well. And don't keep hammering at me, don't keep making snide comments about the food I eat, don't keep doing the "poor cows!" or "poor chickens!" thing to me.

Because that's childish. And it also pisses me off.

I've run into this kind of attitude on some of the craft blogs. You'd think craftbloggers would be happy fun tolerant people. And most of them are. But some of them unfortunately give off a little bit of the stink of "I'm better than you because..." because they (a) only use recycled materials or stuff they buy at a thrift shop or (b) only use locally-produced stuff or (c) only buy the barest minimum of what they need to finish a project, and don't buy anything new until that project's done or (d) would never, ever, in a million years buy supplies from a (gasp) evil corporate CHAIN.

And again - if that's how they want to live, fine with me. But then they have to go and diss other people who choose to do differently. Look, I want to tell them, I live in a small small town. Even if I drive (another no-no) a half-hour to the next biggest town, my craft-shop choices are two big evil corporate chains.

It's a particular sort of mania, I think, that some people develop - the idea of "it works for me, therefore, everyone else on Earth should do it." You see it sometimes with people who follow a particular diet. Back when Atkins was in full swing, a lot of my friends were doing it. They'd boast about how much weight they lost, how great they felt, how carbs should be outlawed or treated as a controlled substance. (Seriously - some people actually used the term "addiction."). Then they'd look at me and go, "You know? You should try Atkins! You'd feel so much better." (Never mind that I didn't complain of feeling anything less than fine). I finally had to start telling people that if I had to eat eggs before 10 am, it made me hurl. (Because on Atkins, eggs are the main breakfast choice). Usually that shuts the diet-pushers up - telling them that something central to their "plan" makes you spew.

But I see that too with the low-consumption people. Yes, I think it's wonderful for you that you buy your clothes at thrift stores. Sorry, not something I can do. (especially not for shoes. Ew.) But please- if you want to keep me as a friend, if you don't want me to totally tune you out, don't tell me how I "should" be doing what you're doing.

It's even creeping into the media and that drives me up the wall. It's just another part of the whole "panic" mode that the media seems to want to develop in people. (I suppose it is because it gets ratings.) It's the whole "OH NOES!" phenomenon: "OH NOES GAS PRICES ARE GOING UP!!!" or "OH NOES THEY'RE RATIONING RICE!" or something.

And you know? Even on someone trained in critical thinking, it does have an effect.

I had been thinking earlier this week that I should go to the Target in the next town over. I had one of those "10% off your entire shopping day" coupons that expired the middle of next week. And I wanted an additional bookcase (they have some decent cheap folding bookcases) because I was tired of stacking my recent book purchases next to my bedroom closet door. And I needed a bunch of other "little" stuff like aspirin and leg-razors and laundry soap and all that boring stuff that 10% off of would be a nice perk for. And I had a 40% off coupon for Jo-Ann Fabrics (and even if all I bought was a spool of thread - well, since it's right near Target it's worth going in). And I wanted to go to the natural-foods store and get some nuts and seeds and stuff to make granola again.

So I planned the trip for Saturday.

Then I watched a bunch of news.

Then I got to thinking: but what if the economy gets worse? What if food starts to cost even more? Would the $150 or so I spent this weekend be something I'd live to regret? What about gas prices? Could I afford to spend (by my estimation) $15 to drive down there and back?

And I almost canceled the trip.

Then I thought some more: I really wanted that bookcase. And I needed the other stuff. And I decided that, well, if the cost of food went up more, I'd just have to deal with it. (And I needed aspirin. And I needed laundry soap. And if they were going up too, better to buy them now...)

So I went. But it irks me that there seems to be that attitude out there in the media, of "let's scare the rubes" - sort of like one of the neighbor kids I grew up with who liked to poke holes in anthills and watch the ants run around in a panic.

So I don't know. I think we're all going to have to be kind of careful in the coming months and watch the news and go "What are they telling this, and how does it compare with my reality?" I don't know. I do know I don't like being told, "hole up in your house, turn off the lights and air conditioning, prepare for food rationing or at least impossibly high prices, everything's bad, everyone's going to suffer, pain, misery, horrible stuff..." Because I don't operate like that, and if I begin to get sucked into that mode it makes me angry.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

"I Love the 80s"? I LIVED the 80s, my friend...

Oh, that takes me back. Takes me back to the days, after tennis, sitting in the dormitory common room at my prep school, waiting for my mom to pick me up. Several of my friends were Thundercats fans, and we used to sit and watch it.

And debate whether Lion-O or Panthro kicked more ass.
And make rude comments about Cheetara's costume.

And diss the "kiddie" cats and that inane worrying creature (the Snarf, I think it was?) that were put in for comic relief.

Good times, good times.

You know, given the recent spate of superhero/fantasy movies, I wonder if they'll develop a Thundercats movie. (I'd hope it would be some kind of live-action with awesome special effects, rather than an animated movie - either a CGI* or what now passes for "traditional" animation).

(*I have to admit, I do not like CGI when it is used on humanoids. Fish, yes, fine. Bugs, great. Small furry mammals, OK. But trying to make semi-realistic humans, it seems to fall flat - they look plasticky and "fake" to me. And I can't suspend disbelief any more. I'm sure they'll perfect it in a few years and we will wind up with "new" Bogart movies using a CGI Bogie and a voice-impersonator, or "new" Marilyn Monroe flicks using the same, but for now, I don't like the attempts to make "real" humans.

Oh, and - I think making "new" movies featuring super-realistic versions of dead stars is as much of a travesty as you do.)

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Bizarre and funny

And OK, OK, I get it - it's aimed at the under-five set. But it made me laugh like crazy:

The only bad thing? They never get to the part in the song that goes, "And if the devil doesn't like it, he can sit on a tack OW sit on a tack OW sit on a tack..."

Seriously, it's the "world peace" fantasies that do it...

How evil are you?

Saw this both at Maggie May's and Kate P's. So I had to do it.

I'm kind of surprised yet also not kind of surprised. If I thought pacifism was actually, you know, practical, in this fallen world I probably would be a pacifist.

And the fact that I chose "Habakkuk" over "Michael Palin" (my second choice) probably helped. (I had to go with Habakkuk; spent several weeks teaching about it in Sunday School).

please pray

I have a friend - I think I'll just give her first name here, it's Gail - who had something horrible happen this week.

She lost her husband last year - this week last year - to a sudden blood clot.

Well, almost to the day, the grandson that she and her husband raised committed suicide. And she was the one who found his body.

I'm horrified by this. It makes me so sad - Gail seemed like she was just starting to get back on an even keel after the loss of her husband, and now this.

I got the call from another church member this morning - apparently I was in class when all this happened, and the people who know Gail really well just went over to her house to be with her without taking the time to notify anyone else (which I totally understand and that was the right thing). So now they're slowly getting the word out to everyone.

If you pray, please say one (or more) for Gail. She's going to need a lot of love and strength and support during this time.

And, if you're so inclined, say a prayer for her grandson's soul. I always feel like "such a waste" when I hear something like this - he was only 25 or so. I know, you never know the underlying stuff that's going on in a person's life and sometimes to the person it looks like dying is the only way out of the pain but, still - what a horrible thing for the family.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008


Sleep is very important to me. I consider it so vital to my well-being that few things infuriate me more than feeling that sleep is being "stolen" from me by someone who is being selfish or who is not considering the other people sharing their world.

Sunday night, my neighbors were out of town. They have several dogs. I guess they don't have a doggie-door. So they put the dogs outside. The dogs are, understandably enough, not happy - it is hot, it is sticky, they are outside, their "pack" is partly missing.

So the dogs barked and howled most of the night. (Maybe all of the night; I don't know. About 1 am I got up and went over to the guest room on the other side of the house - threw all the books stacked on the bed onto the floor, found a battery for and reset the little alarm clock I keep in there, and grabbed maybe a couple hours of not-very-good sleep.)

Also, my neighbors have a security light. I've talked to them about this. They know it shines in my bedroom when it turns on. They've tried repositioning it to no avail. (For some reason, they can't be persuaded that, even though we live in a v. small town, even though they have a lightly-sleeping neighbor who WOULD call the cops at any mysterious noise over there, even though the police patrol regularly, they don't need said light). The light is one of those motion-triggered ones.

So: unhappy dogs + motion-activated light = light is on all night long.

In addition to those two things - which, really, I think should be more than any person should have to bear who is trying to sleep - we have entered our "summer weather pattern" here. Meaning: hot (high 90s daytime, maybe dips to 75 at night), humid (it was especially bad Sunday night), and high pressure (which just makes me hurt). So I was miserable on top of everything because sometimes, even with air conditioning, you cannot make a room totally pleasant when it's that miserable outside.

And my tooth - the one I had worked on last week- was hurting. (I'm supposed to go in and get it checked out again today. I'm praying that it's not going to require a root canal - though it does hurt a lot less this morning; maybe it was something related to the weather).

So all of those things combined into a giant swirl of misery. I get irrational when I'm tired, when I feel like I SHOULD be sleeping but can't sleep. So I stomped around my (dark, but not dark enough) room cursing my neighbor, their dogs, the person who invented security lights. I wondered if I bought a bb gun the next day and shot out the light, if they'd be able to trace it to me. (Probably, I decided grimly).

I thought mournfully how the next day was the first day of classes and how nothing was worse than trying to teach when I was sleep-deprived. I felt that sort of existential despair you feel at midnight when you want to sleep, when you know you have to be up in less than 6 hours, but you can't sleep. You start to get the feeling of "it will ever be so" and you wonder how long it takes a person to die from lack of sleep.

As I said, I finally decamped to my guest bedroom - I didn't do that earlier because (a) I held out a vain hope that my neighbors would come home and take their slavering Hell-beasts indoors and (b) there was a lot of crap - books, my academic robe, posters, etc. stacked up on the guest room bed and I'd have to take time - and "rev" myself up, energy-wise - to remove them. And I'd have to find an alternate alarm clock (What I use in my room is a big CD player with an alarm function; too heavy to move, especially in the middle of the night). So I finally did all that - set the alarm clock for the time I needed to get up.

And then, I admit, I did something not very nice. "I need a backup" I thought "In case the little alarm clock isn't working right." And I looked at my CD player - it's set to turn on and play the CD I have in there when the alarm goes off. So I turned the volume all the way up. I figured, "I'll hear it from the guest room if the little alarm clock fails." And, coincidentally, my neighbors would probably hear it in THEIR bedrooms.

But I also have to admit - there was, at that point, a "dose of their own medicine" thing about it - as in, "If they don't care that their dogs are barking at midnight and keeping those of us who must rise early awake, let's see how they feel about a dose of loud Shostakovich at 5 am."

(I did, however, wake up before the alarm went off - and went in and turned it off. Though I still feel perhaps I might have been justified in letting it happen).

So to try to solve at least one of the problems (and not have to move semipermanently into my guest room - which is small and not entirely satisfactory as a regular bedroom - I decided to see what I could purchase in the order of "room darkening" shades.

Now, I wanted to do it quickly and easily - not have to schedule someone to come out to my house and install them, not have to screw with all kinds of new hardware myself.

So I went to Lowe's (there's one in town, now. My choice would have been them or wal-mart - as far as I can tell, we don't have any "just window coverings" type store). Waited about 10 minutes for someone to help me. Found a blind that I knew would work with the existing hardware, but figured it was no better than what I had. Looked at the Levolor blinds. Talked with the guy - would these work with the hardware I have? Oh, yes, he assured me, it's the same. And these are more room-darkening!

So I bought four blinds for my bedroom.

Came home. Problem #1 - one of the blinds had clearly been returned. I hope it was just that it was supernumerary or that it didn't fit the intended window.

Problem #2 - they DIDN'T fit the existing hardware! (Well, that's what you get, accepting the advice of someone who's not an expert, I guess). They almost fit. They would stay - temporarily - in place, until I had the energy to put up the "right" hardware.

But then there was Problem #3 - these were sold as "room darkening" shades, right? They didn't darken the room any more - and in fact, did less - than what I already had up. So I took down the blind I was struggling with and put the old one back up.

And decided I lacked the energy to return them right then. I really didn't want to truck back out to Lowe's, and wait in a giant line again (apparently they are trying some kind of cost-saving program where they only have one person working the customer-service desk - and they are also running the only register open - at this time). I didn't want to be told, "But you took one out of the box! You cannot return a blind you took out of the box." To which my reply would be, in a barely-controlled, Linda-Blair-in-Exorcist voice, "But how are you supposed to know how crappy the supposed 'room darkening' feature is unless you TAKE ONE OUT OF THE BOX?"

So I don't know. They are now sitting in the middle of my dining room floor, a pile of FAIL. I don't know whether to go and get the $64 back or whether to install them in my family room instead - they will fit, I have the right number, and I sort of need new blinds in the family room. But I can't make up my mind on that right now; I just simply lack the energy to deal with it.

I do have to say last night was better - the people were home and I guess they realize that their dogs make a lot of noise (though you'd think they'd realize the dogs would make the noise when they were NOT home, as well). About 10 pm I heard the woman go out and talk to the dogs (yes, that is how close our houses are) and take them indoors. And I guess she turned the security light off at that time because I didn't notice it going on during the night.

So I slept through the night. But still...few things make me more irrationally angry than someone being loud late at night, or someone with a light that shines in other people's bedrooms, or something like that. That's why I think high-density housing - as much as the Greens like it, because it is more energy-efficient - will never work 100%. Because there are far, far too many people in this world who think, "I should be able to play Top Gun on my XBox with the volume turned up to "11" all night long, and anyone who's bothered by that is just a big poopyhead and they will have to suck it up." Or there's the person who thinks that 6 am is just a PEACHY time to run their super-sucker vacuum cleaner that rattles the windows of everyone around them.

If everyone had the same schedule, the same expectation of "Noise goes off at 10 pm and doesn't come back on until 8 am," then it might work. Or if your typical high-density housing was built with Fortress-of-Solitude grade walls.

But seeing as I can live in a house - a SEPARATE house, a house I own - and I can be disturbed by stuff going on in the yard 10 feet from my bedroom window, I don't see all of us living in hive-blocks, and being able to be 100% happy and 100% tolerant of it any time soon.

I know lots of people live in apartment high-rises and love it. Maybe I've just had bad experiences (tending to live in housing in a university town...). But I've said before - and will say again: unless I absolutely cannot afford anything else, I will not live in an apartment again. Not unless I have a good guarantee of the soundproof quality of the walls, ceiling, and floor. (Because sometimes I'd like to be that person running the super-sucker vacuum cleaner at 6 am. I wouldn't - not unless I knew I wasn't disturbing my neighbors - but sometimes I'd like to have the option, you know?)

Sunday, June 01, 2008

T -1

Tomorrow, summer classes start. Last time I checked, I had 11 in one class and 10 in the other. (Sometimes we gain a few the last day of registration or the first day of classes - someone's work schedule changes and they can take classes after all, or they decide they want to get a class out of the way, or something). But if the classes don't grow any, I won't mind. That small of a number - provided everyone is willing to participate - is pretty much ideal for a class.

I re-did the introductory material for one class (I try to re-do stuff a little each semester, to keep fresh and also to discard stuff that doesn't work). I'm eager to start that class because I think it will start things off well, it will get people into the idea of planning the experimental work they are to do as part of the class, and hopefully will get some discussion going. The other class, I've kind of "mentally redone" some of my examples; this is a class that we're getting a new book (and a "forced syllabus," sigh - they want to make all the sections of the class as identical as possible even though multiple people teach it) this fall, and so I'm redoing the lecture material for it this summer.

(I've decided - to force myself to stay on the "forced syllabus" - to allot myself a set number - say 12 to 15 - Powerpoint slides for each class, and force myself to strictly prioritize what I put on them in terms of graphs and figures and terms. Unfortunately this "cram it all in" new syllabus is going to require me to let go some of the weirder and - to me at least - more wonderful stuff I shared with the class in the past, but whatever. The challenge will be to make the basic stuff I have to teach as interesting as possible.)

Summer teaching is good for me. I don't deal well with long periods of idleness - when I'm not teaching, I have a hard time staying disciplined to do things like work on research and write papers and even exercise. (It's ironic - when I'm busy, I can make time to do the things I should be doing, but when I'm not busy, I kind of fall into a maƱana philosophy and don't get much done.) When I'm actively teaching, I plan my schedule pretty tightly - for example, I get out of class at 10:45 Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday. After that, I plan to work on some research papers I have going until lunch, and then after lunch, plan the next day's class material. And then once I get that done - back to research until 3 or 4 when I go home. I have one paper I MUST finish this summer (as I'm submitting it when I go to a conference the end of July) and I have another I would very much like to finish (and will, unless I get lazy). And I have a third project I can kind of poke away at as I make time for it.

It will be nice though to have more evenings open - AAUW does not meet in the summer, Youth Group is on summer hiatus (some of the kids work and some are going to camp), most of my evening responsibilities go away in the summer. Which is just nice. It is nice to have a period of time when I can come home and STAY home, when I can come home at 4 or so and make some kind of more-elaborate dinner preparations instead of washing salad greens, throwing them in a bowl, opening a can of chickpeas, and calling it good (which is what I often do during the school year).

I enjoy the slightly relaxed schedule on campus, as well - a lot of the horsepucky doesn't take place over the summer - no committee meetings, no OH NOES WHAT DO WE DO NOW directives from the administration, much less busywork designed to make some administrator look good. A person can focus on teaching and research, and that is why I took this job - to teach and to do research.

I also like the peace of the campus in the summer - only perhaps 10% of the students are present that are present during the school year. It's a lot quieter, a lot less trafficky. You can walk across campus and be largely alone, even at class-changing time. The quietness is a nice change, and I think for me it's necessary - I get overwhelmed by too many people being around all the time.

I also find the summer teaching restorative because of the students. We tend to get really good students in the summer - usually they're people who are committed to finishing their undergrad degrees in three years, or they're incoming freshmen who want to get a jump on their schoolwork, or sometimes they're advanced high-school students who want to earn college credit early. At any rate, they tend to be more focused, to care more, and that's good. I also think the more relaxed atmosphere of the summer - and the fact that we meet every day (except Fridays) helps the students' personalities to come out more - they're not so much an amorphous mass, they're very clearly individuals with different personalities. And some of them are so funny or so interested. I get a lot of music and theater students in my non-majors class in the summer and they tend to be a lot of fun to have - creative, clever, a lot of them ask good questions. It's almost as if the people who feel so pressured to be "cool" - "cool" in the sense of not letting on they CARE about anything - don't bother to show up in the summer.

And I like that. I like the slight geekiness of a student who will make a joke about Stentor (as one of my students did last summer...and you know, that just totally made my day when he did that, when he made that mythology reference. It was like, "You don't mind that we're seeing your personality and sense of humor! And it makes you interesting to me!"). I suppose it's because I'm a geek myself and I tend to make those funny little references in class (I try to make ones that aren't TOO obscure. I did get a laugh one day by making an offhand comment about "filing TPS reports").

So summer - even though I'm working - kind of restores me. Having classes of good students is better for me than a total rest because it re-energizes me, it gives me hope for the future. (My ecology class this spring was pretty darn good, too, so that helps my enthusiasm).

And I have to admit, the money's not bad, either. The one summer I DIDN'T teach (because my classes didn't "make"), I had to really watch my pennies; summers I do teach my budget is a lot happier.

So, tomorrow at 8 am I will be beginning a new season, a new group of students. New personalities, new interests to learn about. Hopefully good classes with interested (and interesting - and I tend to feel that people who are engaged with life ARE more interesting than people who feel that need to be detached and "cool") people in them, and hopefully I can live up to their expectations in terms of what they want to learn and do this summer.