Not least because when I left my family yesterday, I knew I'd be getting to see them again in just over two weeks.
Those are going to be a busy two weeks - I am almost afraid to tally up how many research papers I will have to grade next week - but I can make it through. I've done it before, I have good time-management skills, I can tolerate a couple of late nights/days with no "personal time" if I have to to get things done.
And it is my favorite time of the year. Oh, I realize, not everyone loves this time - I've dealt with people with "family issues" who find the holidays difficult or depressing, I've dealt with people who didn't celebrate Christmas for whatever reason and who had decided that the rest of us celebrating it was somehow a personal insult to them, I've dealt with people who took the anti-materialism environmentalist thing to the extreme of trying to make people feel guilty for exchanging gifts...I can generally ignore most things (and I have a lot of sympathy for the "family issues" people). I can ignore the materialism because most of my gift-obtaining is done out of catalogs, or while I'm on vacation, and in my family the intent is to find something small and nice and that the person will use and enjoy rather than to buy something expensive and impressive. And I tend to avoid the malls this time of year (and even the wal-mart as much as I can, but even that's not so bad if you go the right time of day).
And several of the groups I belong to - the local AAUW chapter, the church women's group - also have the focus of providing gifts for the less fortunate. In AAUW we do things for a local toy drive (I already have mine; the limit we are "allowed" to spend is $5, though most of us bend that rule a trifle; I found a re-issue of the old "Flatsy" doll (I had one as a kid) and so I got that - I figure some little girl who likes to play with and style hair will enjoy the doll (it comes with a comb and several "hair accessories"). And in my CWF group we buy things for women and kids at the local "crisis" shelter (read: women and children leaving abusive situations. And yes, I know: there are many abused men out there and you don't hear about them). So I think I'm going to get a nice adult woman's sized sweatshirt (I'm guessing that pajamas are a common gift, and perhaps some of the folks there actually showed UP in their pajamas) and maybe some kind of small nice toy - some blocks or a couple of cars or a small stuffed toy - for a kid.
I enjoy doing that kind of thing; I can envision someone being able to use the gift and it makes me happy. It makes me happy that I can share some of what I have in that way.
This is the time of year, I think, where nice people become even nicer, and sometimes people who maybe aren't so nice sometimes sort of wake up and make an effort to be nice. (Yes, I believe the old Grinch story does have a kernel of truth to it).
Sunday, November 30, 2008
Not least because when I left my family yesterday, I knew I'd be getting to see them again in just over two weeks.
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
A few hours from now, I leave to meet my train (according to the Amtrak website, it is supposedly on time, but I have no idea how regularly they update that).
Tomorrow, this time, I will hopefully be almost to my parents' town.
And the day after, is Thanksgiving. I love Thanksgiving. It is such a great holiday. There is very little run-up to it, almost no commercialization. The only "Thanksgiving special" I am aware of is the perennial Charlie Brown special, which I enjoy anyway.
(I have issues with new "specials" that either claim "destined to become a classic" - which I consider a marker of FAIL right there - or which seem more interested in promoting the company's toy line than in conveying a message or entertaining.)
You don't have to buy gifts. You're not invited to "black tie optional" parties (the very phrase, "black tie optional" almost makes me come out in hives). It's a simpler day, and as much as I love Christmas, I also love the simplicity of Thanksgiving.
A commentator - it might have been Michael Medved - once remarked that Thanksgiving was the most Jewish of American holidays: the idea of giving thanks to God* for the gifts of the harvest, of having a ritualized meal, of getting together with family.
(*And yes, I realize that's not obligatory, but it's something my family, like many, does).
I do think it's important for us to have Thanksgiving. It's good to take at least one day out of the year and kind of breathe a sigh of relief, and go, "How good I have it!"
I've said before, and I firmly believe it is true, that gratitude is the antidote for a sense of entitlement: you can look at things and say, "I deserve all this and more!" or you can look at things and feel a bit of wonderment and say, "I am so lucky!" or "I am so blessed!" And I generally prefer to look at things and marvel at how blessed I am, rather than look around and wonder why there isn't more.
A lot has been made of the big meal - how expensive it is, how much effort it takes to cook, how many calories, yadda yadda yadda.
And yes, I know, it takes a lot of work to cook - my mother does it every year. I could do it if I had to, and I help her out - by making the dressing or peeling potatoes or doing the washing-up - but I really don't think she feels put upon for doing it. She seems to enjoy cooking (as do I) and so the meal is more a labor of love. (And having someone to do the washing-up, I think that's probably a good thing. I know I'd appreciate it if I could get it).
(One year, my father tentatively suggested that he could make reservations for all of us at a good restaurant in town, and "save" my mother the effort. She vetoed that idea right away, and said "A restaurant Thanksgiving would not be the same." So I take that to mean she enjoys cooking it enough that she will go to the effort willingly.)
But I like that it's a simple day: you get up, you maybe sit around in your pajamas for a while and watch the Macy's parade (and I still love it, bloated as it's become). You maybe do some of the basic "starting" type things for the meal: boil and peel the chestnuts, tear up the dried bread for the dressing, make the cranberry sauce, maybe set the sponge for the rolls if you didn't make those the day before, make sure the turkey's thawed....
Then the meal gradually builds, the preparation: making the dressing. Getting the turkey ready and in the oven. Making the corn pudding. Peeling the potatoes and preparing them to mash. Getting out the good plates and making sure they are ready to go.
Our Thanksgivings have been pretty small these recent years: my mother's family, other than the cousins, are mostly all gone (and those that remain are far away: Albuquerque, northern Michigan, California). We had gotten together with one or the other of my dad's brothers in past years, but once all the kids grew up and scattered (and some married), it seems easier for each family to stay home.
So this year, it will be me, my parents, and a friend of theirs (a retired British geographer who lost her husband some years back and who has no family in this country). My brother and sister-in-law are going to be at her brother's, as her brother and his wife have a new baby this year. (They will come by to visit on Friday though).
I like the simplicity of it. I actually find traveling and spending time with distant family, ESPECIALLY on a holiday, a little stressful: I can't quite relax the same way as I do in my parents' house; I feel like I have to have my 'company manners' on. And there's always the problem of there not being enough bathrooms when you are staying at someone's house. Or that you forgot your shampoo and there's no Walgreen's nearby and anyway, your car is blocked in by five others. And often, in my extended family, when they all get together, there's a little friction (especially now with some of the cousins' spouses coming from different backgrounds...) And it's never quite as comfortable as being in my parents' house, with just them, or with just them and my brother and sister-in-law. (My sister-in-law is very very cool. No friction from her). And there's the added challenge of planning to DO anything when you have eighteen people with eighteen different ideas and preferences....even sending someone out to the store to pick up a couple of half-gallons of ice cream is fraught with danger; the person may never leave the house for all the conflicting suggestions as to flavors or brands (and there's always the person who claims that Brand X is the ONLY brand they will eat, and the purchaser can only buy another one at his or her own peril).
So I prefer the quietness of my immediate family, where we will start finishing each others' sentences within an hour of being back together, and where my mom's already bought the brand and flavor of ice cream that is preferred, and where no one will groan and roll their eyes because there's mince pie instead of apple.
I need a break, anyway. Even if I'm only going to be there for 3 days or so.
Monday, November 24, 2008
It's Monday, of a short week, and one of my colleagues already dropped an f-bomb out in the hall (apparently someone (NOT ME thank goodness) did not give him a form he needed).
I got up very quietly and closed my door most of the way. I'm trying to grade exams and I really don't want to get sucked into someone else's anger-storm. (Which this person is good at doing; coming to me and talking loudly about all the injustices which he is dealt, when he gets in a mood like this. Fortunately these sort of moods are rare).
Sunday, November 23, 2008
Since Joel tagged me.
Seven weird reading facts about me. I don't know how "weird" all of these are, some of you may do these also:
1. I always have more than one book going at a time. I like to trade off what I am reading on based on how I feel any given day. I always have a novel and a non-fiction book going at once, often I also have a mystery novel and a second non-fiction book as well.
2. When I am planning travel, even before I start thinking about clothing, I think about what books I am going to take to read while traveling. Because you have to be very careful about this: you do not want to take a total unknown quantity on vacation with you, and find you are stuck on a train or in an airport with a book you loathe and want to throw across the room. I usually take multiple books with me, usually 2 more than I actually realistically can finish.
3. I actually read kind of slowly. I'm not one of those people who can blow through a novel in a weekend. It can take me six months or more to read a thick novel, especially if the language is a bit archaic. I can tell I read much more slowly if I'm reading Dickens or Austen than if I'm reading some recent novel that's written in today's vernacular.
4. I have weak muscles around my eyes (I forget what the eye doctor said they were called) and I find if I get too close to a page of print, the words kind of "jump around" because the focus-muscles are twitchy. I've never had a problem with reading because of the weak muscles, though, I just have to be careful not to get the book too close to my nose. (Except I am pretty near-sighted, so I can't have the book too far away).
5. I wear eyeglasses to correct nearsightedness and astigmatism; I nearly always take them off if I'm reading something for any length of time. It seems more comfortable for my eyes to do it that way (and I secretly believe that maybe doing that will help stave off my needing bifocals for a few more years).
6. I can remember where a particular passage is in a book - if it's on a right or left hand side page, and roughly how far down the page it is. However, I'm terrible at actually REMEMBERING the passage so if I want to quote something, I have to go and look it up. I'm also often really bad at remembering author's names, so if there's a book in a series I like and I want to buy more by the same author, I have to write down the name and take it to the bookstore with me.
7. I rarely get rid of books, even if it's very unlikely I will read that particular one again. Even the cheap paperback mysteries. Even though I really DON'T re-read (except for a few beloved books/stories and, of course, the Bible), I still like to have all my books around me.
And I'm going to cheat and give a couple more:
8. I will use any flat object at hand as a book mark. I've used receipts, ticket stubs from the train, envelopes, even cancelled checks (not so smart if you take the book out of the house). I sometimes will dog-ear a page but only on books I paid less than $10 for.
9. I read cookbooks while I eat, sometimes. I like to read cookbooks, especially those that are "historical" in nature (like the Little House cookbook) or those that have a lot of "commentary" from the author.
I'm not going to tag anyone, but if you've not done this and would like to, consider yourself tagged.
And I'll also mention the two books I'm reading right now:
The Pickwick Papers (which yes, has a longer name, but this is what I know it as) by Dickens, of course. I love this book. It makes me chuckle. I would love to be sister to Mr. Pickwick or Mr. Snodgrass (or perhaps Mr. Snodgrass' sweetheart). There's such a humor to this book. I love rambling books like this - where there might be a whole chapter devoted to a story that one character tells, or where there are funny little side-plots.
This seems to me (though I could be wrong), the sunniest book Dickens wrote. I'm about half way and haven't seen any of the classic Dickens downtrodden folk or outrage at injustices yet.
And the story about the Sexton and the goblin reads like an early draft of "A Christmas Carol" in some ways.
I'm also reading a book called The Spartans by...hold on, have to go check (again: bad at remembering author's names)
It's by Paul Cartledge.
I started this a while back, put it aside when I got distracted by another book*, and just recently re-started it. Ancient Greece fascinates me because although it's supposed to be the model for our democracy, it is SO different. The culture is totally different - and there are a lot of differences between the different city-states.
I admit that I'm still weak on the different "ages" of Greece - Classical, Hellenic, etc.
I read a lot of history about ancient cultures because - I can't quite explain why - they interest me a lot. I suppose it's that distance, that wondering about "How did they think? How did they live?"
I can say from what I've read I'm fairly glad I don't live in Sparta or in a culture like it. Not as a female (even though they were apparently better treated than they were in Athens) and not as a male, either. It's this culture that is almost monofocal: training up an army to fight. Young men are sent away to military school. They spend their teen years training and their young adult years serving in the military. To not serve is a deep dishonor. Apparently they don't even marry until later on in life.
Still, it's fascinating to learn about, especially when I'm tucked up comfortably in my nice bed. There's something oddly appealing - perhaps a bit of schadenfreude involved - about reading about historical hardships others have faced when you're safe at home.
I had begun a biography of Alan Turing but put it aside because the author's intense focus on Turing's "gheyness" kind of put me off. Perhaps it really was that important to the man; perhaps it really did shape his life (and lead to his premature ending of his life). But I'm more curious about how the man came up with his theories than I am about all of the supposed buggery he was involved with in school. (Or perhaps I just need to blip over the first few chapters).
It's like the guy writing the book is salivating over all the "lascivious" stuff he can write about Turing. And while the fact that the man was gay, and was gay at a time when it was dangerous in Britain to be gay, it's like that information isn't presented in a matter of fact way, it's presented more like "hee hee hee, look what I know." And that bugs me.
I don't know. I get frustrated with books that are supposedly about the "great ideas" (which is how this one was marketed) and they turn out to seem to have been written to titillate. I mean, it's unfortunate that Turing was persecuted for his orientation...but that's really not what matters to me about the man; what I want to know is how he thought and what he did.
(*This is another odd reading habit of mine - I will "throw over" books I'm partway through if another book on a different topic grabs my interest. I almost always come back to the original book though.)
Saturday, November 22, 2008
So much for not buying frivolous stuff. (But I contend that, if you can afford it, perhaps sometimes it's an OK thing).
I went to the Hallmark store today. I had a coupon for a free ornament if I bought two. And I knew there was at least one I wanted, having seen it in a magazine: a tiny replica of the Fisher-Price farm toy, which was one of my favorites as a small child. (In fact, I am quite certain I got it for Christmas one year, perhaps somewhere about Christmas 1975.)
And it moos when you open the door. (AND it has replaceable batteries, which is a big selling point to me. I don't like those things that will stop working eventually and cannot be made to work again.)
I also found a Snoopy ornament I wanted...so I got my free ornament too.
(Eventually I will have to spring for a larger tree, I suppose. The one I have is a 10 year old Hobby Lobby purchase and is only about 3 1/2 feet tall. It was great in my apartment but now I find I have to set it up on a table to make sure it's even noticeable. I would like a bigger tree...though perhaps not just yet. Maybe I'll see if there's something good at the after-Christmas sales. I do get an artificial tree, because I set it up early and leave it up when I'm out of town and not around to water it - and besides, my allergies are bad enough that a real evergreen with real molds and real pollen remnants would bother me).
I also got my cards for this year. I bought a box of Thomas Kinkade designed cards. Mainly for two reasons:
1. They explicitly wish a Merry Christmas. (Friends of mine who don't celebrate, get a card specially bought for what they DO celebrate, or they get a New Year's card. But I like my Christmas cards to say "Christmas"). And it has a fairly un-stupid greeting inside. I dislike the cards with the sappy poems in them; I'd rather just have one that says something like, "Thinking of you this Christmas, wishing you joy and peace" or something like that.
2. They had glitter. Christmas has to have a little glitter. Glitter is a good thing. Glitter makes me happy. The cards are very glittery because it's a snow scene, and all the snow has a little layer of glitter on it. Yes, I know, some people roll their eyes when they open a card and a little glitter sifts out of it, but honestly, I think that's kind of a curmudgeonly reaction. It's not that hard to vacuum or sweep up a few glitter crumbs. And then you have a pretty glittery card.
In some respects, I've hung on pretty well to my inner seven-year-old.
I also bought an extremely frivolous item, and I had to think kind of a while before doing it. But I decided I wanted it, it amused me, and of course I can put it out every successive Christmas.
It was a Pepe Le Pew doll. Lying on his stomach, propping his face in his hands. Big fluffy tail draped over his back with a little felt bundle of mistletoe tied to it. And if you push a button on him, he talks. (And again: replaceable batteries. I approve of this trend of not making things "disposable" when the batteries run out).
Yes, I know. I'm closing in on 40. And Pepe Le Pew probably shares the honors with Speedy Gonzales for the most inappropriate and politically-incorrect Looney Tunes character. I mean, in the age of sexual harassment suits, I wonder what happened to him? Did he have to spend many many hours in 'sensitivity training'? Did he get sent off to the same ward that they shipped Cookie Monster off to to try to detox him from cookies and get him onto a veggie-based diet? Did they ship poor ol' Pepe off to some all-male employment so there's no one there he'd be interested in harassing?
But I have to admit I've always had a bit of a soft spot for M. Le Pew. He reminds me a bit of a guy I knew years ago - he'd say some rather inappropriate things, but you never felt really threatened, you rather more pitied the guy because he was so inept.
And besides, really, this doll of Pepe Le Pew has such adoring eyes; you can almost imagine him looking at you in ardent admiration. And if you're like me, and can decouple the weird remarks from the look of admiration (and the fact that it is, in fact, a stuffed toy looking at you that way), it's actually kind of fun.
(I really should get a dog or a cat. I need something that will look at me with a certain admiration on a regular basis.)
So anyway. M. Le Pew is now sitting perched on the back of my couch, where I can see him from anywhere in the living room. Which is all decorated for Christmas. And I don't care if it's "too early," I'm going to be gone part of next week, and when I get back, the metaphorical S hits the fan because that's when all the grading comes and finals need to be written. So having the decorating done means I can come home and bask in the little multicolored lights of my Christmas tree, and the snowman figures lined up on the mantel, and the droopy-eyed admiration of M. Le Pew.
Friday, November 21, 2008
I need to remember this when I feel bad and crappy about myself.
We voted on tenure and promotion for someone today. We granted tenure, but not promotion (a strong message in this department) with a couple of "strong warnings" about things this person needs to improve.
And at one point, I kind of quietly said, "When I got tenure, I didn't get any notes about things I needed to improve. Is this new?"
One of the other committee members, who's been here longer than I have, quietly said to me, "There wasn't anything for us to tell you."
And another committee member later remarked he "almost didn't come" to my tenure meeting, apparently because he thought that people were only supposed to show up if they had concerns to address and they wanted to say anything other than "Give this person promotion and tenure without reservations."
So as much as I get down on myself for not getting more papers published, and as much as I berate myself for not being the "cool teacher," I guess I'm actually pretty good after all.
I have so many things (most of them not, literally, THINGS) to be thankful for.
Not the least of which is that the recent familial health-concern turned out to be something exceptionally minor and treatable and that will go away after treatment.
But there are other things, and I think it's good at times to stop and enumerate them.
I have an interesting career. It may have its frustrations but I can't think of any other career that would have fewer frustrations and annoyances. Some of the students I get are the best anywhere, even the students I have who AREN'T the best are more inclined to be polite to me than otherwise, and the few turkeys that show up I can generally laugh about.
I feel more close to God than I have in years. I think that's because of increased responsibility at church, more time spent learning and working on faith. And ironically, the increased responsibility came about because of a terrible thing: five years ago, the congregation split. A group of (mostly) Baby-Boomers felt they weren't getting their way enough (and there were other issues, largely related to how we used our resources), and so they left and formed a new congregation. Those of us who remain have struggled, and money is always a concern, but I think we are a more cohesive group. And people have shown talents we didn't know they had.
I have a nice house. A house that I own. I don't have to worry about ballooning mortgage payments. I have a roof over my head and a safe place to sleep every night.
I'm generally pretty healthy. I don't have chronic pain or chronic problems. I'm pretty strong and I have good endurance. I could walk 10+ miles in a day if I needed to.
I have hobbies I enjoy that enrich my life. I'm never bored. (Or if I am, that's a sign that I'm either really tired or getting sick and should probably go to bed instead).
My parents taught me to be a moral person. I know right from wrong. I have avoided most forms of bad trouble as a result of this. I have also avoided many of the "soap opera" forms of trouble as a result of what I learned growing up. My life is calm and I appreciate that.
My father taught me to be frugal. I am doing better than most (I suspect) in this economic downturn because I grew up avoiding debt. True, I don't spend money on some things others choose to spend money on - I get my hair cut at a barber's every couple months for $12, so it doesn't have a whole lot of style other than what I can give it, but I think I'd rather have the money in the bank than have a stylin' hairdo. And I'm a tightwad about electronics. But I'm pretty happy, so I don't feel like my frugality is hurting me.
I drive safely. I have avoided accidents and my car insurance is comparatively cheap as a result.
I live in a country and in a culture where indoor plumbing is the norm and the water is safe to drink. I do not think we as Americans value enough the blessing that it is to be able to turn on the tap and get clean, safe, good-tasting water out of it.
I can afford to keep the lights on in my house. Electricity exists and the electric system is reliable. It's a surprise if I flip the switch and the lights DON'T come on.
The same with central heating and air conditioning - the fact that we have it, most of us take for granted, but I would prefer not to live without it. It makes life easier (no having to keep putting wood in a stove) and more comfortable (you're not restricted to the ten-foot radius around the fireplace where there's a comfortable temperature.
I have more freedoms than most people in this world. I can worship where I want and not face governmental oppression for that. Or I can choose not to worship, and face no governmental consequences for that, either. I can be relatively secure that I will not be stopped and searched. If I don't like what the government is doing, I can (within reason) protest it.
Likewise, in this country, I face no penalties for being female. I don't have to get my father or my brother to sign off on things for me. I am not in danger because I didn't marry. I can leave my house when I want, dressed how I want, and no one can legally attack me for it.
I get along well with my family. We don't get together often enough but when we do, we laugh a lot. The good kind of laughter. I even love my sister-in-law, I think my brother was very smart to ask her to marry him.
I have other people who care about me - people at church, people at work.
My colleagues are mostly sane and the worst characteristics some of them have are still tolerable to me.
I have enough money put aside to survive the various minor emergencies that come up in life without having to resort to loans or similar things.
I'm smart, and I have the motivation to work hard on things. I think my success in life is part being blessed, but also part my own hard work. I can work very hard when I want to, and I take considerable satisfaction from working hard at something.
I get along well with most people. Generally I only need to be in a new group for a little while before I've found a friend, or at least a friendly acquaintance.
I'm sure there are other things I'm overlooking. These are just some of the big ones.
Thursday, November 20, 2008
If you read my post below this, it will make more sense.
My e-mail client has a bad habit of "embargoing" e-mail so I don't get it until several to many hours after it's sent.
I just got one - with a time-stamp of mid-morning - from my dad.
Entitled "Good News." So I already knew what it was about.
it is NOT cancer. NOT. Yay. I am super super relieved. Apparently it was some kind of funky little infection that will clear up with antibiotics.
Cancer, you lose this one, you bastard!
So I'm guessing they're out enjoying a late lunch to celebrate.
Today was the day my dad was supposed to check on the biopsy results.
I called a few minutes ago - about an unrelated matter; we do a Thanksgiving lunch in my department and I had begged a recipe off my mom and I had a question about it. But they're not home.
So immediately my mind went to the scary place: that the biopsy was bad and he's immediately been scheduled for some kind of scary surgery or procedure or something. That he let the skin cancer go too long and now he's gonna have to have a chunk of his face removed.
I hope it's that they're just out shopping, or maybe even (better yet) having a late lunch out to celebrate a good report.
But still: CCFOAD. Very muchly so.
So, it looks like the bailout of Ford/Chrysler/GM is goin' down. All of a sudden, Congress seems to have decided to spend less like drunken sailors for a while.
Wonder why that might be. Is it that their constituents are calling them up and giving them holy heck, or could it be that they and/or their cronies have no friends currently highly placed in the auto industry, and therefore in line to benefit from any kind of a bailout?
Me? I don't know. I can kind of see both sides of the issue. I worry a bit what might happen if the Big Three went away - already we make so few things in this country (though it seems increasingly that Honda and Toyota want to). But then again, the bailouts must stop, and I'm glad the slippery slope doesn't seem to being greased at the moment.
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
I'm grading student research papers. The good news is that this is a team-taught class, so I have someone sympathetic to share the misery with. (I think it's not so much that the students in the class were BAD, as it was that they put their papers off literally until the last minute, and in no universe can you write a good research paper by doing that).
There are awkward places (which I indicate as a big red AWK on the paper) a-plenty. And lots of "don't leave me hangin', bro!" sentences that start out one way, get lost in the middle, and then end up differently than what you expect.
It makes me sad because these folks are seniors. And by and large, they're smart people. But they just procrastinated/were over-confident on how much they could get done in a short time. And it's going to come back to hurt them.
In other news, I read a journal article yesterday (I actually read it while Helicopter Mom was trying to break into the exam room where her daughter was, so she could be SURE to tell the doctors that they needed to go out and find the dog, like those nice doctors would on "House, MD*" but not that mean sarcastic doctor, no more like the Black guy and the girl who always looks like she's going to cry....)
(*I originally typed that as "House, MF" HAH hahahahahaha.)
Anyway, this journal article. It was so bad it literally made me hurt inside. And made me almost violently angry: why did that mofo get his article published, but my MUCH BETTER AND MORE COMPLETE article get denied?
Here's what the turd did: he gave a Likert-scale survey to his class to assess whether they felt the goals of General Education had been met. Then, the next semester, he gave the same survey, except after lecturing at them about why the Gen Ed goals are important*. Then he did an ANOVA on the data.** And SHAZAM! the scores went up.
Headdesk. And a journal saw fit to publish that.
(*Total stats FAIL #1: the classes are not going to be strictly comparable. He gives no description of the characteristics of the classes, how they might have differed, how he tried to control to make them kinda-sorta the same)
(**Total stats FAIL #2: I do not think you can actually do a parametric test on ordinal-scale data. *I* certainly never would. He should have done some other test, like Kruskal-Wallis. Or, for that matter, his experimental design sucked so hard that NO stats test could rescue it)
So I'm a bit irritated. I hate it when crap work gets rewarded by publication. Perhaps I'm in the wrong field, one where we actually expect rigor and a proper understanding of how stats work....
....probably actually almost as well as some of my "real life" friends know me.
So I have a question for you. I've been seeing lots 'o' folks referring to the novel "Atlas Shrugged," and apparently, it's going to be a new cultural wave (if what I'm reading is correct), and perhaps it would be good to know more about it. (I understand the basic idea: John Galt gets pissed off at the "parasites" and goes counter-culture).
So here's the question: Should I read "Atlas Shrugged"? Is it something I really need in my knowledge store? Or is it something, like Gulliver's Travels, that I will get depressed by and give up on when bad stuff goes on in my life concomitant with reading the novel?
Also, is it really really dense? Like, fruitcake-dense? I can hack 1000 pages, but not easily if it's a really dense read - I read right before bed and if it's a slow slog, I probably won't stick with it.
I'm curious, because I finished the current mystery novel, I'm getting close to the end of Pickwick Papers (which I love and which makes me chuckle on a regular basis. I so would like to inhabit that world. Well, maybe that world but with better hygiene and antibiotics, but you know what I mean...) So I'm kind of looking around and contemplating which book to read next. I have several lined up*, but could always buy a copy of Atlas Shrugged** and read that first.
So, comments: yes/no? Will I hate it? Will it be "good for me"? Is there something better I should read instead?
(* The Red and the Black, Slammerkin, Georges (a novel by Dumas that I had never heard of but which sounds interesting), the rest of the Thursday Next books...)
(**And if I'm buying it, it will have to be before any rumored "credit card bailout" comes. 'Cause if that happens, I am still, as I said, going Laura Ingalls and stopping my consumption of other than the bare necessities. Just as a little protest. And I might cut up my Kohl's credit card and send it back to them as well).
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
Had my share of dealing with "P.w.P." today (Persons with Problems, which is sort of similar to what one blogger...I think it was Suzette? referred to as Problem People. But I do try to be forgiving, and am willing to accept that these people may be lovely people in their own right and when things are going well. But when they have Problems, all heck breaks loose, and they make the world difficult for all around them).
First: weekly trip to Student Health Services. I think it will be an interesting but sad experiment, if we do in fact get Canadian/U.K./socialist-style health care here, when people with the Giant Entitlement Mentality run up against a bureaucracy that vaguely patterns itself on the old Soviet system. Which will crack first?
Anyway. I say this because Student Health Services is kinda sorta a little outpost of somewhat socialist-style medicine: because it's covered by those mysterious 'student fees,' it's seen as "free" and people tend to abuse it a little bit.
(Long-term readers may remember an interesting but sad situation observed a couple years ago).
Well, today, there was a young woman in there with a dog bite. I know this, despite the fact that HIPAA law says I shouldn't, because her mother showed up while the young woman was in for her appointment, and proceeded to loudly tell the student worker what happened to her daughter and what the doctor and nurse "needed" to do for her. Oh, and that someone "needed" to go out and catch the dog, and she seemed to be nominating the nurse for that job.
She then proceeded to tell the student worker that she was going in to the exam room to "sit with" her daughter. The student worker - good for her - informed the mom that "Your daughter is over 18 so we can't allow you in the exam room unless she gives her OK."
Of course, you can imagine that set the mom off. (Oh, and she had the young woman's much younger sister with her as well. So Moms is carrying around a squalling toddler in the tiny tiny waiting area, where there are already several of us).
THEN she pulls out her cell phone. And CALLS HER DAUGHTER in the exam room to tell her that she is there and she wants in.
Well, Daughter comes out to tell mom that they had given her "a shot" and were going to do more. The mom counseled her to ask for extra wound dressings and all that, and reminded her to tell them that "someone needs to go catch that dog." (Which I think is technically Animal Control's job, and not the campus health service, but whatever).
So Daughter goes back in.
(Oh, and in the middle of all this? Still waiting on my allergy shot. At one point, while the Mom is in mid-rant, the receptionist comes in and quietly asks me, "Have you been taken care of?" I just shake my head no - not wanting to add to the decibel load in the room that already exists - and the receptionist kind of rolled her eyes at the ranting mom and grizzling 3-year-old.)
Daughter comes out.
"Did they clean the wound? Did they clean out where that dog bit you? If they didn't, you need to go back in there and sit down and tell them you're not leaving until they clean it. And get extra bandages! And ask them for antibiotic cream to take home!"
Finally, they got them all fixed up - Daughter showed the wound to her mom, it was small (though I do agree that someone - most likely Animal Control - probably does need to catch and quarantine the dog if it was a stray. But it's not the nurse's job!) The mom said a few more things and they finally left.
Then I got my shot. It took about 25 minutes extra than it normally does.
Next stop, the post office - home, in my experience, of Persons with Problems. At least the Amazon reseller dude wasn't there today - there's a little old man who apparently has a booming used-book business via Amazon, and it seems at least half the times I go to the post office, he's there in line ahead of me, with his eighty-five little puffy envelopes, all of which need to be weighed, all of which need to be stamped and metered, and usually this is at a time when one window is open.
(Teeny tiny post office gripe: Could they not have a special, separate window for home-based business people who need to send out a buttload of packages? And bleed those folks off from the rest of us who really just want to pick up a package, or need to buy an unusual stamp denomination, or need to send a registered letter or something? Could they perhaps hire another person or two to work the windows?)
Anyway. Mr. Amazon wasn't there, but there was a dude ahead of me who was sending some bedspreads back to his native country. (I know they were bedspreads because they were just in clear plastic bags. And I know he was sending them to another country because he was having issues with the customs forms). But here was his big FAIL: he hoists these bedspreads, in their little plastic bags, up on the counter, smiles at the lady behind it, and says, "I have the customs forms filled out now. Can you stamp these for me?"
And I'm standing there going, dude, you are WAY too trusting. I have had letters get shredded that were sent from less than 500 miles away. And here you have an apparently-fairly-expensive item in the equivalent of a Wal-mart sack, and you think it will make it to Singapore or wherever the heck you're sending it OK?
The woman gently told him, "No, I'm sorry. They will need to be in a box to send them." Of course, he wasn't willing to accept that answer right off- but she held her ground and finally he slouched off to look at the Box Display.
Fortunately, the woman took that as an opening to help me quickly (I just needed to pick up a package). I don't know what happened with Mr. Slumpy because he was still staring sullenly at the boxes as I walked out the door.
So that was my day. Two people, who I am SURE are delightful people at other times, but all I saw was their with Problems face.
Saturday, November 15, 2008
Yeah, I'm going in today and trying to do some rewriting on the rejected paper. I have the name of another journal I could submit it to, and a number of people have counseled me to "rewrite and resubmit until there aren't any journals left to submit to."
Meh. I really wanted to take a day and relax. But I figured that since I walked around for a couple days under the Fog of Suckiness and also had some of those horrible, heart-pounding "what now? what if I never think of a research project to do again? What if I have nothing to try submitting to a journal this year?" moments (I try to at least submit one paper every year even if they're not accepted; I hope that at least trying gets me some credit).
The thing that frustrates me - and ironically, the Sunday School lesson I should be prepping right now touches on - is that a lot of the things important to me, a lot of the things that I value and would point to as evidence that I'm doing things the "right way," are not things that "count" on those annual-development-plan things.
The fact that I do volunteer work, for instance. Unless it's directly campus-related, like recruiting students, it doesn't count.
Some of the intangible things about teaching, for instance - I had another student tell me yesterday afternoon how interesting the research project was for her, how it was something she'd never had the opportunity to try before. There's no way to quantify that, short of asking the student to write it down and give me a record of it (and somehow, I don't feel right doing that). Helping people and hearing them thank me.
But it comes down to numbers on a print out (teaching evaluation scores, which don't always reflect those moments of the dedicated students thanking you - if you get a small core of malcontents, your averages can get dragged down fast). And it comes down to number of successful publications. And it comes down to things that have some kind of official record on paper. I finally learned that the reason campus offices send official thank-you letters out after you did something for them, is that you are supposed to save those and submit them with your packet of stuff.
I'm really not good at self-promotion. I suppose it was because I was raised with the whole mentality of "if you do good work, people will notice. You don't need to talk about it." And I'm not really sure that's true any more.
A lot of the other things that are important to me, that make me who I am, are things that count for absolutely zero in the "world." Working with the Youth Group (whatever good I may do there; some weeks it feels like not much). Helping clean up the local Youth Camp. Doing the prep for, and teaching, Sunday School - that can take an hour or more every week I do it. Even my knitting and quilting - they help keep me sane and give me a feeling that there's at least one thing I'm competent at.
But some days, when I'm really down on myself about research or "not doing more" with teaching, I wonder if maybe I should push them aside, either give away my supplies and not do them any more, or lock all the stuff up in a metaphorical box labeled "Retirement" and not do them again until then. Because I almost feel some days that every moment I spend relaxing is a moment I COULD be perfecting a research paper, and that's what "the world" values, and sometimes, you know? You kind of have to go along to get along a little, if you want to keep your job and stuff.
(It's probably really not that bad, but I'm really scared about what this new college president may institute. I don't THINK he'd abolish tenure and make us all "interview for our jobs" (or whatever the line in Office Space was) every couple years, but then one never knows).
So I don't know. It's one of the more frustrating conflicts in my life - on the one hand, having been told all my growing up years, "You are brilliant, you will do great things" which can almost translate to "You owe it to the world to do things that help" and seeing journal articles rejected, having a hard time actually DOING research because of the heavy teaching load and because we don't have much in the way of facilities/equipment/support. And also my personal desire to do things that AREN'T part of the rat-race, of doing things that are sort of quiet and interior and that aren't judged by anyone but me.
(I think the judging is part of it. Both the big areas of my life that contribute to my job are judged by "outside" forces - how I "look" to the higher ups is not entirely under my control. For teaching, what "counts" are the evaluations, and while good teaching generally leads to good evaluations, once in a while you get a student who either has a personality conflict with you, or who has some kind of a vendetta against the class (I once had a student who did nothing but gripe that he was required to take a class that met at 8 am). And with grant proposals and journal articles, it's the reviewers. And they may not always be fair.
One of the things I fight against is my need for approval - I am very much a people-pleaser, I don't know if that's just some kind of funky neurotransmitter thing or if it was established by my childhood of being rejected by my peers and unpopular - I really do want people to like me and approve of me. And so I tend to give far too much credence to other people's opinions and judgment of me. If someone judges me harshly on something *I* thought was pretty good, my immediate default is, "Wow, I really can't judge things well." I've had journal articles I thought were pretty good rejected, and so I immediately think, "Not only am I a bad writer, I'm a bad judge of my own writing." The other person never can be wrong.
And I have known people who were just the opposite - no matter what they did, it was RIGHT and GOOD and PERFECT and those other people didn't know anything. Even if the thing the person had done wasn't that great, in my opinion. Still, the person would continue to insist on the quality of their work or whatever.
And I wonder...how do you learn to be a little bit like that? I mean, I'd never want to be one of those super-confident incompetents who do something totally wrong and insist that they're right. But I'd like to get a little better at looking at the manuscript I worked on for months, had rejected from a journal, and NOT go, "This project was no good. I should just give up on it." Apparently common practice is NOT to trash-can a paper just because it's rejected, but that's my immediate reaction. )
I don't know. Some days I wonder if there was maybe an easier path in life I could have taken, one where I didn't spend so much time questioning if anything I do is any good.
Thursday, November 13, 2008
I'll probably say this tomorrow on the FFOT, but I have to get it out, first, now:
If 2008 where a man, I'd totally be kicking him in the [choose your favorite euphemism] right now.
With my field boots on.
2008 is the new high-water mark for suck years. Too many people (and animals) I love have died. Too many people I care about have lost people they love. Too many changes in the "roster" around me - too many people I care about moving away, quitting their job, leaving my life. Too many people are scared by the economy, wondering if their retirements will hold out, are telling their children not to expect much in the way of Christmas presents. Too much suckage. Too many vague threats about Pres. Obama being "tested" in the year to come. Too much noise from Russia.
I thought 2004- the year my cousin killed himself and my dad was diagnosed with cancer (which, God be praised, he beat) was the worst year, but 2008 has pretty much edged it out.
I sincerely hope 2009 is better.
I do wish I could believe more of what Dave said right now, but I just feel like a big giant FAIL at everything...because it's the time of year when the students start stressing, and that comes out sometimes as disrespectful behavior. And Rude Boy has come back to the youth group after a hiatus and has made it very hard to keep teaching effectively. I feel like the kids aren't learning a thing and I'm seriously tempted, next time, to pull a fiver out of my wallet and say that I will give it to the first person who can tell me what the lesson was about the week before. (And then sit back and wait for the crickets.)
So I'm not having a whole lot of success. I'm glad that the little knitting mishap I had last night on a gift I'm making happened then and not tonight, or I probably would have wound up either ripping the whole thing out or throwing it across the room.
I am not so good at being patient with myself.
I think I'm also messed up because my immune system is jacked up and on high alert - I had the Norovirus earlier this week (trust me, you do not want it). I just got over feeling like I was going to hurl every 20 minutes this morning. I'm still kind of fatigued.
I've cried a whole lot today. Not in front of anyone - in my office with the door closed, in my car in the parking lot, and now at home. I'm sure part of that is the fatigue and the after effects of the virus, but I'm still upset.
I actually said to myself: "If you were to disappear tomorrow, people would only notice when the crap tasks that only you are willing to do didn't get done." And I said, "You should just give away your yarn and quilting supplies, and spend all your waking hours working on making your teaching and research better because obviously you are not working hard enough at it."
The problem is I'm very bad at looking at a situation where things didn't go my way, and evaluating intelligently how much of it is "ricki screwed up" vs. how much is "the time wasn't right" vs. "the other people involved are mistaken/wrong/a-hats"
I tend to go to that first option and stick with it. Every "failure" that's happened in my life, I tend to blame myself for, and take it as evidence that I'm not good enough.
I think I mentioned this before, but I was "asked to leave" the first graduate program I tried. I know now that it was because they had an overlarge crop of new grad students and had been looking for ones to dump, and because I switched my area of interest between applying and starting the program, so I wound up with a new adviser who didn't really advise me very much.
But at the time, I took it as evidence that I was stupid and incapable and would probably be best seeking a career in the Food Services (i.e., flipping burgers).
Well, obviously that didn't happen. But it took me years to get over the perception that I "flunked out of grad school" because of my own personal suckage and for no other reason.
Every failure since then, I guess I kind of flash back to that. I know, I need to lay down some other mental patterns - like about how I went on to another grad school later on and succeeded. And how I got my dissertation research published after 4 tries.
(Actually, I do feel a little better now, thinking about that).
But I hate that I have few enough frames of reference in which I measure 'success.' Being a "nice person" isn't good enough, because I feel like the default condition should be to be a "nice person" or to be polite to others or any of that stuff that I do. And it's hard for me to look at something I knitted or a quilt I made and consider it a "success" in the same way that I would consider a teaching award or a successfully published paper a "success" because...well, it has no bearing on my job.
That's the rub. I wouldn't care about it nearly so much but there are all those markers of success you need to hit in order to be considered a success at your job.
The sad thing is, at least in some departments, you can be a real a-hole to your students (and even your colleagues), but if you crank out the papers, you're golden. But on the other hand, if you're friendly and nice but don't win awards or don't get lots of publications - you're seen as ineffective at best.
(And I worry about the new university president...what changes he may make. How he may want to up the profile of the school by pushing for more publications. And I don't want to be "ineffective" under a new administration.)
So I don't know. Maybe the demon on my shoulder is right and I do need to get quit of all my hobbies, maybe even dump some of the volunteer work I do, because they're not what matters when promotion time comes around.
(You know what's sad? I think that's part of why it's so hard to get people to do volunteer work. I was just at a committee meeting this afternoon when they were bemoaning how few volunteers they had. And I think it's because people don't want to do anything that doesn't directly advance them, that doesn't get them ahead. And in this economy, I can't quite blame people for wanting to put in more hours at the office to look good).
So I don't know. I think part of it comes down to an old - and ironically, perhaps religiously-related argument: Do you do what the world values, and emphasize that? Or do you recognize that the world is just "the world" and that you need to emphasize the really important things? And where does rendering unto Caesar come into the equation, work-wise?
I have a hard time knowing how to balance work and relaxation. I go too far in one direction or the other and then I feel bad, and then I go the other direction. I feel like I should be allowed SOME down-time and SOME hobby-time, especially as I have no children and other folks go home at the end of the day and read their kids stories and coach their soccer teams and stuff. But I don't know.
I hate that I am always making this grown-up thing up as I go along. I wish there were some kind of instruction manual that we were given at 18 that explained the expectations and such.
I hate academic publishing. Hate hate hate it. I would never even bother to do it if promotion and "post tenure review" didn't demand it.
It's one of the most soul-sucking, potentially self-confidence destroying SCAMS out there.
If you get an article accepted: you sign away your copyright to it (for most journals, that's still the case). That means, if you want to legally copy your article for a coursepack or for your class to read, you have to pay the publisher - for something YOU wrote. You also have to pay anywhere from $300 to $1000 a year for a journal subscription/society membership. You also may be levied "page charges" (which are generally paid by the university, but still). Oh, and libraries get even more screwed - their subscriptions are often at least twice what an individual's is. I suppose because so many people use the journal.
But that's if you get an article accepted.
If you get one rejected, like I did today, you get a couple terse letters with contradictory information in them, where one tells you that YOU SUCK AND GO AWAY NOW and the other says, well, it's not so bad but you were kind of sloppy on your citations here, oh, and you never referred to Big Famous Guy's work and that could piss off Big Famous Guy (even though Big Famous Guy's work is totally peripheral to what you're doing). And you look at the rejection letters (which now come via E-mail, which is somehow even worse) and you just feel awful.
I literally can hear the sound of a toilet flushing away that eight month's worth of work.
No, I can't resubmit. There are two journals I know of in this field, and this is the "lesser" of them. So I'm screwed. I have an unpublishable article.
And I was really depending on this article to break my string of journal rejections.
I don't know. Maybe I just totally suck. Maybe nothing I do is worth it and I should just hang up the research thing and be grateful that I even got tenure and pray like mad that they never make publishing a requirement to retain tenure, because I'm really afraid I'm never going to publish successfully again.
All around me, my colleagues are getting articles accepted and published, and that just adds to my belief that I suck as a researcher and a writer (and I also think some days that I suck as a teacher). I should just quit and do something else, except I don't know anything else. My skill-set is pitifully small.
I read the rejection letters. I admit, I didn't read them word for word because at this moment it's still too painful (I got the rejection this afternoon).
What's wrong with me? Why can't I write a good article that gets accepted? How the HELL did I manage to get a job and get tenure? How will I manage to hold on to my job and tenure with zero scholarly productivity (I don't think "I tried" counts).
I have no new projects planned - I have one that will be a couple years off, I have one I could revive and redo but I kind of suspect it will get ash-canned too. I have one other article in review and I sincerely hope it gets accepted or I will really lose whatever shaky self-esteem I have.
I love doing research, but I hate the whole publishing game. I hate that there is zero institutional support for this short of them paying page charges once you get an article published - there's no release time, we've been told research is "on our own time," if we need supplies and don't get a grant we either need to buy them ourselves or (hopefully) there's a bit left in the department budget. It just sucks. It's like we're expected to do this thing, but there's nothing under us - like they're poking us to go out onto the high wire, but they haven't bothered to put in a net. (Writing grants is even worse. Most people I know have given up on grant-writing, at least for large external grants, because there's no help and no support).
I'm just really sad and fed-up right now. I wish some days that all I had to do was come in, teach, and go home. I was even all excited to gear back up for that research project I referred to, but now that I look at it through eyes jaded by an article rejection, I feel like it's just sh*t too, like everything I write is sh*t and I don't even know why I bother to try.
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
Monday, November 10, 2008
Thank you for the sacrifice you made. Whether you served wartime, peacetime, stateside, or overseas, thank you. Thank you for defending our country. Thank you for helping to ensure that I, and millions of people just like me, enjoy the freedom and safety we have in this nation.
Thank you for putting yourself in harm's way, when it was necessary, to defend the principles, interests, and allies of this nation. Thank you for the humanitarian work you have done, which all too often gets ignored on the evening news. Thank you for being a representative of democracy and of the best place in the world to live.
...telemarketers (and spammers) would be the first up against the metaphorical wall.
(No, no. I wouldn't really SHOOT them. Their phones, maybe. Their robo-dialers, certainly. The people, no. I'd probably have them go work on the communal rutabaga farm and see that they were clothed and fed.)
I went home at lunchtime, seeing as I teach all morning, then have a break until 4 pm, after which I teach until 6. And tonight, I have the added joy of the Church Women's meeting - a group of which I am pretty well the only non-retired member who has to be somewhere before 8 the next morning (which means that the others "pick a little, talk a little" until I stand up and say, "I have class at 8" very bluntly, and leave).
Also, last night was a bad night. ()$*&%ing perimenopause (which is what I am CONVINCED this is) wouldn't let me sleep. So I'm tired on top of it.
So I decided to try to grab a short nap, hoping that might help.
I'm lying down and the phone rings. (I wasn't asleep or I really would have to hurt someone). My first thought: oh crap, the only person who knows I'm at home is my co-teacher for the night class; something really must have gone pear-shaped and he needs me.
So I got up and answered.
And there was that telltale pause. That damnable pause. That pause that tells you you have just been tele-punk'd, that you have fallen prey to some telemarketer who somehow manages to slime through the net cast by the Do Not Call list.
And then the recording started:
"Do not be alarmed!" a falsely chipper female voice exclaimed, "But your warranty is nearly up!"
I really should listen to the damn thing all through, copy down the callback number, and report it to the FCC or somewhere. But rage gets the better of me and I slam the phone down after those first two sentences.
I know, some businesses can claim exemption based on "having done prior business." But this is a business talking about selling me an extended warranty on my car (if I remember from the one time I let it play nearly through). My car is 9 years old. There ain't no reputable company gonna sell me an extended warranty on it.
I think that telemarketers are the worst. Spam is next in line. And then junk mail - at least junk mail doesn't rouse you from sleep or pull you off the couch when the game's just getting good
Sunday, November 09, 2008
Today, on Fox News (yes, I watch Evil Fox News. Hahahahaha. Or maybe, MUHahahahaa) they were talking about "what bailout is next?"
And someone raised the idea of a bailout of credit card debt.
No. Wrong. Fail. Bad. Do Not Want.
How much more could the Bush administration, in its waning days, and the Congress, piss off the American people? Because seriously - I didn't like the bank bailout, I won't like an automaker bailout, but I can kind of see the arguments for them.
But bailing people out because they bought things they could not afford?
And yes, I realize: some people put medical and other "emergency" expenses on credit cards. I know someone who has done it because, "No one would give me a loan in time for this." And I sympathize with that situation. But by and large, I suspect the excessive credit card debt lots of people have is simple bad planning, and simple greed (gotta have that new purse NOW).
So what I "hear" with "credit card bailout" is: "AH HA HA HA HA! You CHUMPS who scrimped and saved to buy stuff! You fools who paid off your cards in full each month! You IDIOTS who believed it's better not to be in debt, even if it means not having things you want....You will eat it now! You will eat a big fat helping of Bad Debt Pie, because we want YOU to bail out the people who tanned their fannies on the beach in the Bahamas when you stayed home because you didn't think you could "afford" a fancy vacation. You will pay for the new boat of some guy who'd never even think to invite you out for a ride! You'll pay for the clothes of the woman who sneers at you because you wear a wardrobe that's not up-to-the-minute. And you'll LIKE it!"
So, as I passed through various stages of rage, I thought: what can I do to protest this?
My first thought was to cut up all my credit cards (if this came to pass), write a very strongly worded and to-the-point letter explaining why I was now opting out of the consumer credit system in this country, and send the shredded cards plus letter to each of the originating agencies.
Only problem with that? If there's a real emergency, like I'm traveling to meetings and get stranded somewhere, I'd be screwed. I'd probably wind up sleeping in my car without a credit card to pay for a hotel room.
So instead, I came up with another plan.
You know how some people have threatened to protest the (supposed) massive Obama tax increase by "going John Galt" - by quitting their job and trying to take part in a barter economy as much as possible?
Well, I could never "go John Galt" because I love my job and a lot of its value to me is far beyond what's deposited in my bank account the end of each month.
But I can "go Laura Ingalls." You remember the Little House books? How the family in there lived by making do as much as possible? By taking rare trips to the general store for the necessities? How they were pretty self-sufficient and rarely (as far as I remember) bought anything on credit? (In fact, I've read that Laura Ingalls Wilder actually grew up to be somewhat of a proponent of Randian philosophy, so perhaps there's a link to 'going John Galt.')
Anyway. If I am required to bail out people who spent unwisely with my tax dollars - especially people who had lots of "fun" with money they didn't have, where I constrained myself to having "fun" within the boundaries of my budget, I will "go Laura Ingalls."
I will stop buying. Oh, of course, I will still have to buy groceries - I live in town, so I can't get myself a milch cow and some chickens, and I'm far to busy with my paid job to raise enough beans and corn to feed myself over the winter. But I will stop buying clothing, shoes (other than to replace those that wear out), books (I already have something like 8500, so I should be good there), fabric and yarn (again, I have what is sometimes referred to as SABLE - stash acquired beyond life expectancy, so again, I should be good there). Everything beyond food, medicine, cleaning supplies, and toiletries - gone. As little spending as possible. And the savings chunked into the safest but highest-interest account I can find.
I won't go shopping - no more trips to Boutiqueville, as much as that may pain me.
In other words: I will pull out as much as possible from the consumer system in this country. (I do reserve the right to support a few small businesspeople with the occasional purchase. And I will still buy gifts for the people I love; I can't quite not do that).
I also won't eat out. Instead, I'll prepare food at home, which is cheaper and probably more healthful.
And I realize no one will care about my little protest. Or they'll think I'm a total crank and lunatic. But that doesn't matter. I am so disgusted by the idea that the money I am trying to put aside for my retirement - money I am trying to save up against, say, the day I need to put new windows in my house - money I might give to my church or the Salvation Army or Heifer Project or Smile Train - money that I MIGHT want to use for something FUN for myself - that some of that is going to go to pay down the debt of people who spent irresponsibly, who, as I said, had "fun" beyond their budget, while I, like a chump, budgeted carefully and avoided debt like my dad taught me to.
So if Congress tells me to bend over and take this new "bailout," I'm gonna opt out. I'll find as many cheap or free sources of entertainment as I can. I might even buy clothes (when I need to replace clothes) at resale shops instead of giving my money to the department stores, who, with their advertising, indirectly affected the culture of excessive and unwise spending. I might even figure out how to barter for stuff I want - like offer to knit mittens for someone who spins yarn in return for enough yarn for a pair for me.
This is my "I'm mad as hell, and I'm not gonna take it any more" moment.
(I should probably copy this to a letter and send it to all my Congresscritters.)
Saturday, November 08, 2008
1. If a person cannot parallel park right, I wish they would not.
There is an auction down the street from me today. I had to go to the post office. I wound up having to "thread the needle" between cars sticking out far more into the lane of traffic than SHOULD.
Also, cars should not park on both sides of a narrow residential street - auction or no auction.
I try to be forgiving about things but having to negotiate around cars sticking 18" to 24" out into traffic MORE THAN THEY SHOULD ticks me off. (Especially as I have to deal with it every morning driving in to work; I go past an apartment complex where the parking lots are apparently not close enough to some people's units for them. So people park every darn way and I have to be careful every morning not to mess up my paint job by scraping someone's car that's sticking out farther than it should.
And I say this as someone who SUCKS at parallel parking. It is one skill I KNOW I do not have. I will walk many blocks farther if it means I can get an angle-place, or a place in a lot.
2. I think I offered up one of the weirder prayers I've ever said at the post office this morning.
It was, as it always is when I need to go, packed. I wound up in a LONG line (and they opened a second window JUST as I got up to the window). I was behind a person with the worst B.O. that I've noticed in a long time.
And of course, because my stomach is not happy right now, it immediately started to threaten me.
And so I said, in my mind: "Lord, if I'm going to hurl, please at least help me hold off until I get this business done and get home."
Of course, as soon as B.O. Plenty moved up to the window I got a little relief. (And just my luck - I have NO IDEA what transaction the person was doing but it seemed to involve the post office employee having to check and "frank" (run through a machine) about 18 separate pieces of paper. I have no idea if the person was trying to get a money order using lots of different checks or what, or if they were the treasurer for a group that was buying lots of stamps or what, but it took literally 10 minutes to conduct the whole transaction.
At least I didn't hurl, and now that I'm back in my neutral-smelling house, I don't feel like I have to any more.
This is sad and horrifying, if it's true.
I don't know how true or widespread it is, but I have noticed in my Youth Group, a number of the girls - and even a few of the boys - refuse to take the dessert, or won't eat chips, or sometimes won't even eat ANY of the dinner on offer. Their explanation being, "I'm on a diet" or "I don't want to get fat."
(Sometimes it's that they've already eaten. And I admit, I gnash my teeth a little over the kids who walk in with Burger King bags and eat their "separate" food "separately" because one of the goals we are currently failing at is to be cohesive as a group, and when kids don't even EAT together...well, that's a problem).
These are not fat kids. These are normal-sized and even skinny kids.
I also remember my youngest cousin going through phases of that - she was in sports and I suspect the pressure came from her coach. When she was 9 and 10, she was so skinny I was afraid to hug her - afraid I'd break one of her bones. She was a naturally slender kid but I'm afraid she was also restricting her eating to stay even slimmer. (Fortunately puberty redistributed things, her parents stressed to her that some flesh is necessary to health, and she looks more within the normal range of variation now, and she eats reasonably).
I'm kind of fat myself, which is why stories like this make me shudder. I've been in that self-hating place for my body looking the way it does. I've done (in the past) things like writing down EVERY food I ate and not "allowing" myself any food another person might not "approve" of on the list. I've gone through my house and thrown out all the cookies, crackers, butter, everything that was high calorie, and tried to live with only skim milk, lowfat cheese, and salad makings in the fridge.
And it's a miserable way to be. It is the worst kind of tyranny to live under, the tyranny of your own mind.
I can still unfortunately slip into the old self-hating patterns if I let myself - if I listen to too many "Fat Peoplez Gonna Die and It's a Good Thing Because Theyz So UGGGGLYYYY" stories on the news. Or if I even read some of the online health forums, where everything gets turned into a "Bash the typical American diet" or "Bash people who are not in the Underweight range of the BMI scale," or "Bash people who don't devote 8 hours a day to exercise and eat nothing but raw foods" topic.
So I worry a little bit that the coming Administration, in a misguided goal of "making everyone healthy" will buy into the idea that extreme slimness = good health, and no other combinations are possible. I hope we don't see more girls (and boys) going into disordered behavior, more people whose bodies just are prone to being larger demonized (and my big fear, being closed out of health-insurance plans), people being taught that food is something to fear and not to enjoy...
I suspect more teen girls have died from complications of anorexia and bulimia than have died from complications of being too fat. (And yes: I understand that eating disorders are a mental disorder, that they are related to OCD, that they can be helped by medications, and so, are not purely the fault of a screwed-up society telling people to be thin at any cost. But I know if I get "triggered" into feeling bad about my body by news stories, could it not affect someone who is more susceptible to that sort of behavior and attitude?)
I had a friend in high school who was bulimic. It was a horrible thing to see, it was horrible to hear her talk about herself that way. She has since recovered, and I'm glad. But I hate to think of other little girls going down that path when their bodies begin to change - when their God-given fertility starts up, along with the attendant deposition of fat - especially in a culture that tells women that their value is largely tied to their being skinny and pretty.
(And bringing God into it again....to tell young women that their "value" is in their outward appearance is, literally, a wicked thing... one thing I try to instill in my youth group kids is that we ALL have value, we are ALL children of God. What we look like, how much money our families have, what we do for a living - it doesn't matter. We are still important and valuable. But it's so hard working against the cultural influences that would deny the inherent value of some individuals).
Friday, November 07, 2008
If you read The Anchoress, you know she's brilliant. And she often looks at things from a perspective "above" what a lot of others take. ("Above," I am sure, because she is so informed by her faith. She wrote a wonderful "Don't worry" post before the election, reminding us that everything is in God's time.)
Well, she has another great post today where she precisely delineates why I have been so uncomfortable with the descent into name-calling that politics has become.
"Dehumanizing people begins with baby-steps like name-calling, or the sort of intellectual dishonesty that delights in deliberately twisting the meaning of others in negative and misrepresentative ways. Those are the little gateways to the great evils that come once you’ve managed to thoroughly de-humanize others."
That is why, though I may disagree with President Obama on matters of policy, while I may question the advisability of his choices of some advisors, while I may find some of the things his wife has said distinctly off-putting, I refuse to descend to name calling. I am a better person than that. And even though I realize if I chose to call our new President by some offensive name - or make some kind of bad pun on his name - he would never know it, he would never be hurt by it - still, I spent enough years on the playground being taunted and called names to know that that's not something I want to do to someone else.
I think also I'm a bit haunted by this passage, from Matthew 5:22:
""But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever says to his brother, 'You good-for-nothing,' shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever says, 'You fool,' shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell."
Because honestly, that's something I have problems with. I don't suffer fools lightly, as the old saying goes. I don't like it when people behave in ways that seem to me not to be fitting to their intellect. I am one of those people who screamed at the television every time some commentator made what I interpreted as a snide remark about Bush or Palin.
And I guess I'm just scared enough by that Bible passage above to not want to have to spend time in the Beyond answering for stuff I said to or about another person in the head of anger.
One of the things I actively work on is "seeing the other person" - even when someone is being a "Problem Person," even when someone isn't using their God-given intellect, when when one side of my brain is screaming at them to "get to the point already" or "how on Earth could you do that" the other side of my brain is quietly reminding me that that person is a child of God, even if he or she doesn't know it, even if he or she would actively deny it, and as a result, it is my duty to treat that person with some measure of respect, not to go off on them and tell them they're stupid or a turkey or any of the other names the angry side of my brain is taunting me to say.
And so I try. Really really hard. I am, at times, perhaps more patient and tolerant of people than I need be. But I see it as part of my duty.
So being patient and tolerant and not hurling insults is going to be my pose for the next four years. Because honestly? Obama's been dealt a bad hand. He has an ugly economy to try to deal with. He has a divided populace that deeply distrusts (and with good reason) the government. He has a war going on against an enemy that is slippery and hard to pin down - it's not the same as fighting Nazis in WWII.
So though I may disagree with the man, though I will vote R in 2010 and do what I can to change the balance of Congress, I'm not going to say rude things.
So, even if there's a general piling-on to our new President, either because he's not as prepared for the office as people assumed he was, or because his ideas don't work in practice (and honestly, how many of us have ideas that look great to us, until we try to put them into practice), I'm not going to throw stones. Oh, I reserve the right for reasoned criticism of policy; that's different. I reserve the right to advise him "in absentia" about what I think he should do.
But I like to think that I'm a more compassionate person - thanks to my childhood experience of being the butt of every playground joke - than those who spent the past eight years comparing our President unfavorably to a chimp, or a weasel, or to whatever.
I do think healing whatever rift in our country will begin with people realizing that animal comparisons, potty mouthed jokes and the sort of juvenile humor that seems to pass for political humor these days just doesn't help any.
Thursday, November 06, 2008
I really hope that if I'm ever given one of those "truth serum-esque" anesthetics for anything, this fact isn't one of the ones that comes tumbling out of my mouth as I'm coming out of it:
I am as tall as a gray whale penis is long.
That's frankly the most disturbing thing I've learned in a long time.
(For the record, I was checking the old claim that "dork" derived from the word for "whale penis." I still haven't been able to get a definitive answer but I remember a high school teacher who would NOT let people call each other "dork" because of her belief in that "fact")
...thank goodness tomorrow is Friday.
It's been a brutal week, both out in the greater world and inside my own internal organs. (I'm feeling some better, thanks. Applesauce, plain yogurt, plain toast, and tea help. And thank goodness so far the P.M. symptoms seem to be isolated to "that week" and they seem to be solely physical with a slight, and easily recognizable by me, increase in ease with which I am irritated. No brain-fog yet, and I hope I don't get it. My mother never complained of same so maybe I'll be spared.)
I cleaned my office some this afternoon. (The mess that is my office is a running joke in the department. No one rides me too hard for it because (a) I can always be counted on to get everything done and (b) I never lose anything - well, for very long, anyway.)
I did this because my research student is coming tomorrow to get all the accumulated data and what journal articles I have on her topic, take them away, and hopefully write a stellar paper for me that will earn her an A.
I also gathered up some accumulated journals I had not taken time to look through - I don't read them cover-to-cover, at least not the heavy-duty ones (the more "current topics in ecology" type ones, I'm more inclined to - the articles are shorter and easier and often it's something I can incorporate into my teaching. And there are few things that bring me more joy than coming into a class and going, "You know that thing you learned about last week? Here's a study that looked at it and this is what they found.")
I'm going to spend a big chunk of the weekend, I think, reading and knitting.
This is one of the skills I've acquired in the past six years or so and it brings me great joy to have it. For one thing, having knitting to keep my hands occupied tends to keep my butt in the seat (and me reading) longer. Also, it seems to enhance my retention of information. (My brother, who has had classes in this sort of thing as part of his training to be a campus minister, claims it's a hallmark of "kinesthetic learning." I'm not totally convinced of those "different learning modes" but knitting while I read does seem to work for me).
And I enjoy reading, at least if the article isn't too dense or annoyingly written. (And yes, some scientists write in a way that annoys me. I can't quite pin it down but there seems to be an underlying humorless need to show everyone how smart they are). It's a way of tuning out from all the crap going on around me and training my mind on something else.
And, I don't know, I think it's good for my brain. You know how you feel really good when you eat some kind of nutritious meal? I feel that way after spending time reading stuff that challenges my mind and makes me think.
I have a journal article that is kind of in limbo - it's a big, ambitious, data-mining type project - that I really should pull out and work on again, seeing as the field season here is over.
I apologize in advance to the chaps for this.
I hate perimenopause.
At least, that's what I assume this is....my mom experienced the same thing at about this age (she was maybe a little bit later than I was, but then I've had some hormonal issues that could suggest I'm going to Change earlier than she did).
I feel like I'm going to puke. At first I thought that was because I ate bacon Tuesday night, and one of the ugly tricks my body has begun playing on me is an intolerance to fatty foods - or even just to foods I haven't eaten in a while (it had been about 6 months since I last had bacon).
But I think this is more than that, or at least deduced the same from a quick check of the calendar.
The one thing I remember about my mom going through this? We went to Disneyworld one Spring Break...and she couldn't ride any of the rides. She was sick to her stomach much of the time. At the time, I was worried - I thought she was really sick, like with something really bad - but she reassured me that it wasn't something for me to worry about (without giving me details).
And I'm not in the most stellar of moods. I can tell that because of yesterday afternoon, with the screaming child...I wanted to pull out my hair by the roots and stuff it in my ears, and I don't normally react that way. And when I drove by the little local quilt shop (because I needed a particular thing for my next project) and saw that the "Closed" sign was up even though it was technically their business hours, I immediately panicked and thought:
1. This stupid town. People can't even support a nice local business. They've closed up shop because people are so damn cheap about that kind of thing. And yet, people will spend hundreds of dollars a month on stupid text messaging and their stupid fancy coffees. I never get to have the nice things *I* like, yet there's a cell-phone store on every corner and there are four or five frou-frou coffee shops. In a town of 12,000.
2. Oh crap. Businesspeople are already doing a "John Galt." In a few months I'll have Wal-Mart to shop at and that will be it.
Normally I am not so paranoid. (After I got home - just a few blocks from the shop - a call to them ascertained that they were, in fact, open, the sign had probably just swung the wrong way in the wind.)
Wednesday, November 05, 2008
Is it horrible of me to bail on "extra office hours" I added on (after cancelling a field lab because of bad weather) because someone has brought their LOUD SCREAMING TODDLER to a colleague's office and seems to want to persist in staying and chatting with the person as their child screams bloody murder?
My head hurts. I'm premenstrual. The air pressure is changing rapidly thanks to a cold front and I hurt all over. And the child is screaming and shrieking. I don't want to hear it. I already have my door all but closed and I can still hear it and it's majorly upsetting my equilibrium.
Yes, I understand the whole "I need adult conversation" bit with new moms, but honestly, I'm trying to write an exam review and prep for tomorrow. And it's making me hurt.
I know I'm a grinch for this, but I really hate it when a parent shows up all apologetic with a baby or toddler in tow and goes, "Sorry, the babysitter cancelled, is it OK for me to bring him to class?" No, it really ISN'T OK but I know I'll be branded a bitter, childless she-ogre if I say no.
I once had a student bring a child under the claim of "cancelled babysitter" and I later found out it was because the daycare wouldn't take him because he had pinkeye. Thank goodness I didn't catch it or else I would have been sorely tempted to fail her ass.
Listening to one of Dvorak's piano quintets on the internet radio, I thought, "Dang, that sounds familiar, but from some other context."
So I turned the sound down, hummed the main motif for a few moments, waiting for the lyrics I knew existed to it to come.
Shazam. It's "Nature Boy". They lifted the tune for "Nature Boy" from a Dvorak piano quintet.
Oh, and the new Pumpernickel Pretzel Sticks from Target? Taste like ugh.
Yeah, yeah. I promise. Last politically related thing because I'm about ready to puke about it myself. But here's a question for those of you more knowledgeable in such things than I: If the "New Fairness Doctrine" goes through, satellite radio will be exempt, no? I mean, Howard Stern can already say filthy foul things filthily on it, so they're exempt from the FCC?
So I may have a reason for a Sirius (or whatever; I don't know what the status of the XM/Sirus merger is) subscription after all.
And I swear it will be the end of politics on here for a long time.
To the bloggers on the left of the aisle, who are saying things like: "Thank God the American people aren't as stupid as I thought" or "My fellow Americans, I underestimated you!"
Thanks. Thanks a lot. Thanks for not admitting any possibility of principled disagreement. Thanks for assuming that people who opposed the D candidate are bad, evil, and stupid. Thanks for not being able to possibly believe that good and principled people might see the world differently than you do.
Something like 80% of the craft blogs are left of center. Thank goodness it's only a small few who are doing the gloat thing; I'd hate to have to give up reading most of the craft blogs.
I just hope the gloaty ones get it out of their system soon.
I meant to sleep in this morning but I guess the time-change has affected me (my first class is at 9; my office hours start at 7:30).
The election outcome was, for me, like Schroedinger's Cat until I got up and turned on the tv. I didn't watch the coverage (except for one tiny peek at Fox mid-evening). I didn't want to. I have overloaded on talking heads.
I will admit to quoting Ralphie Parker when I turned the tv on and saw 349 to 149 or whatever they're quoting now. (Except I really DID say, "Ohhhhh fffffffffuuuuuuudddddgggeeee" and not that other thing.)
Ah well. At least it's not a 296-269 split, and at least we're not going to be subject to weeks of recounting. (And absent clear evidence of voter fraud and such, I'm not goin' down that path. I know some will, but I'm not.)
And another little contrarian opinion for today: in opposition to many of my colleagues on the right end of center, I actually hope Obama does a decent job. I hope the people claiming he's more centrist then we've been lead to believe are right. Because I love my country and I wouldn't wish a bad rotten president on her just to spite one party or the other.
And I do think the people of America are good enough and decent enough that if, say, Obama picks a really, really bad adviser, who suggests doing something that's really, really bad for the country, we will stand up and say "NO" and we will be listened to.
And I have to say: even though the new President is not the one who was my choice, one remarkable thing?
We have elected a man that most people, if asked, would qualify as "Black" (I'm not gonna split the mixed-race hair here) as president. To the highest office in the nation. And this, just 50 or so years after the Supreme Court intervened to forcibly desegregate schools.
I really don't think we're a racist nation, regardless of what some say. There may be racist individuals. It may be harder for someone from the economic underclass to achieve their dreams (but that's economic, not necessarily racial).
And yeah, I do hope he does a good job. I hope my worst fears are just that - fears, and unfounded. (And I'd rather have him than Pelosi as president.)
One little fear? That we're going to get a lot more nannying laws in these next four years.
I guess I should at least be happy I won't have to deal with exploding heads on the part of my colleagues today. Though I may come down with an acute case of Gloat Poisoning. Or Second-Hand Gloat. Or whatever you want to call it.
Damn, I'm just ready for people to shut up about this.
How many days until Christmas? Is it time to roll out the Rankin-Bass specials yet?
(I may not "go John Galt," but I'm very good at "going ostrich.")
Tuesday, November 04, 2008
So it comes down to today. Thank goodness, at least we will be shut of campaign ads (if not commentary) after today.
So, go out and vote. If you haven't made up your mind, make an effort to find some kind of unbiased source (or a couple of opposing, if biased, sources), read up, and choose the person that you think will do best for the country. (And not just for you. One of my concerns is that as a populace we're becoming more of a "gimme gimme gimme and screw the other guy" group, who want our leaders to be Santa Claus.)
I will express two little, possibly-contrarian (and I hate it when people are contrarian merely for the sake of stirring the pot) opinions:
1. If you really are poorly-informed, if you are voting based on who is better-looking, who is more charismatic, who seems more "exciting" to you - in other words, if you gave the issues zero consideration - DON'T FRICKING VOTE.
Seriously. I have enough experience with "charismatic" people who turned out to be jerks and charlatans - perhaps not in politics, but in my daily life. I know some people who are smiling glad handers, very slick and charming, but I've learned to count my fingers and check to be sure my wallet's still in my purse after shaking hands with them.
Likewise, if you're like the woman I heard calling in to a radio program who claimed she was going to go into a voting booth and flip a coin - DON'T FRICKING VOTE. Seriously. It is people like that women who lead some commentators to opine that perhaps the vote should be removed from women. Don't give my gender a bad name by being an idiot about voting.
If you are voting one way solely because your family, your co-workers, or your friends told you to - you should also probably not be voting. Learn to understand the issues. Stand on your own feet. Don't be a minion of people who may not have your, or the country's, best interests at heart. My experience is, among my friends and co-workers, at least 50% are more poorly-informed than I am on matters like this. It's like cheating off someone stupider than you on a test - it can only hurt you.
And 2. A commentator this morning observed that this was one of the most "emotional" campaigns of recent years. And that is what I think is so wrong with it. Emotion should not enter into it to the degree that it has. When people get ruled by their emotions, they tend to get stupid. Stupid enough to go along with something that's not right for the country. Perhaps even stupid enough to go along with something that is evil. (Remember the footage from Nazi Germany? Hitler was GREAT at playing on people's emotions)
Don't get me wrong - I don't believe either candidate is evil or wants to DO evil. But I worry that we are heading down a dangerous path by letting ourselves be ruled more by our hearts than our heads in a matter like this. Already you see what happens with some of the more unhinged supporters on either side: threatening to kill people, threatening to do things like "go John Galt" (a/k/a "cutting off your nose to spite your face" by resigning from an interesting, well-paid career out of fear that an Obama presidency will tax them into oblivion, and working some damn menial job).
And I think a lot of the current unpleasantness - the fact that I don't DARE talk politics around certain people - is due to the fact that people have become excessively personally emotionally invested in the process. (I think it's fine to be proud to be voting AS AN AMERICAN. Or to be excited that a candidate may bring change or improvement. But when people invest themselves personally so much in the outcome of a race - to the point where, as in every election, certain individuals are threatening to "move to Canada" if a particular candidate wins - it just doesn't lead to anything good).
I tend to be suspicious of an overage of emotion; perhaps that's a personal failing I have. I don't like being in the grips of strong emotion; it feels like being out of control. Perhaps I'm projecting onto other people but it does seem to me that some of the more emotionally-invested sorts seem to sometimes be a bit out of control.
Part of the problem is the news media benefits from whipping up emotion - in any way, shape, or form that they can. And I've learned for me, it's best to opt out of that - I don't like the fear or the anger or any of that.
I try to make a reasoned choice. I voted early; I voted my conscience. I voted for who I thought would do the best job based on what I had read from a variety of sources. This individual may be "your" candidate; he may not. I hope if he wins that he does a good job. I hope that at least a few of the things he plans to do come to pass. I (mainly) hope we're not worse off four years from now.
And I hope that this election can end in a classy way. I hope there aren't people screaming at each other tomorrow. I hope there aren't people going around making dark allusions to plots and complicity and fraud (though I suspect if a particular candidate wins, I will have colleagues doing just that).
And I hope we can somehow begin to work together again. To stop deciding whether someone gets to remain a friend or not based on how they choose to vote. To stop talking about what goes on in damn Washington when there's stuff that can be done right here in our own backyards - rather than sitting around and waiting for Santa President to shower goodness on us. For us to go out and pick up trash, or drive for Meals on Wheels, or tutor a kid - to do all the stuff that we've always done, that makes us good people as Americans, instead of sitting around talking about politics (which really, honestly, beyond voting, we do not control) and to deal with the stuff we DO have some control over.