Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Ar ar ar ar ar ar

You know, I always thought those commercials where they asked "Is your ARM about to adjust" sounded funny.

Now I know why. To me, it sounds like something Popeye might say:

"Me arm is gonna adjust until me fisk bashkes yer nose! Ar ar ar ar ar ar ar ar!"

I love Popeye. I wish I could still find the cartoons on some cable channel I got. (Boomerang may run them but I don't get that one.)

I love it when

You analyze some research data that you're afraid is going to show NOTHING, and it turns out not just to show something, but to show something interesting. Something worth writing up and submitting.

So all the swine-flu freakout folks can kiss my can. I have DATA. Data that shows something INTERESTING.

(No, it's not about swine flu.)

Don't make me hurt someone.

Stop it, people. Stop it NOW.

Stop using the swine flu outbreak as a step ladder onto your own personal soapbox. Stop politicizing every crap event that happens in our world as evidence of "ZOMG THE WORLD IS GOING TO END IF EVERYONE DOESN'T IMMEDIATELY CONFORM TO MY SUPERIOR WAY OF LIFE"

Because it's making me STABBY, people. It's infuriating.

Here follows a sampling of what I have seen/heard suggested:

1. Swine flu is happening because evil humans enslave animals to eat. If we didn't have farms, we wouldn't have swine flu. (And if we didn't have industrialized food production, we'd probably have far fewer people, because lots more folks would be dead of famine).

2. "It's them damn Mexi-CANS." We don't know for sure where it originated. And even if it originated in Mexico, it looks like it got here by Americans traveling to Mexico, getting sick, and bringing the virus back here. Not every bad thing that happens is the fault of illegal immigrants or porous borders.

3. "This outbreak wouldn't have happened if the Congress had just rubber stamped Obama's appointments to HHS instead of actually checking them out first." No, that's not true, and you KNOW it's not true. Stop being stupid.

4. "Evil employers FORCE sick people to come to work or lose their jobs!" I have no way of knowing if this might not be true in some cases or not. (I will admit to having worked sick. But not CONTAGIOUS sick.) I think if you have an employer who is forcing sick people to come to work, there are a couple of recourses:
a. Find a new job if possible. With a non-evil employer.
b. Cough on your boss.
c. Band together and everyone act REAL sick, like pass-out-on-the-floor sick.
d. Call the EEOC or whatever damn federal agency is supposed to limit the power of evil bosses. I know such an agency exists.

5. "Yaaaaah, Rick Perry, you're not so tough with your secession talk now." Huh? If something this non-sequiter was given as an answer on an exam, I'd write a big red question mark next to it and then take away ALL the points for the question. Likewise for the people blaming it on "alien DNA" or "government conspiracy to 'cull the herd'" (hint: if an evil genius wanted to unleash a deadly virus, it would NOT be swine flu), or anyone who mentions the Illuminati.

6. "OMG I ate pork now I'm going to get sick." Step this way, my friend, and join the line for the rocket going to the sun. Oh, don't worry, we're going to leave at night so you won't get too hot. (Because seriously: how many times do they have to say EATING COOKED PORK DOES NOT CAUSE SWINE FLU before people will believe it? I'm willing to forgive people who were worried on the first day or so this came out, but anyone saying that NOW...forget it). Oh, and the nations congratulating themselves on "saving" their populaces by banning pork from the US: I will SO laugh when the disease shows up on your shores.

7. The people saying "we need to rename this because people are getting confused by it being called 'swine flu'" Great. Let's just allow the idiots to win. They want to call it "North American Flu." Though I would suggest we rename it ManDuckPig flu, because apparently that's how the virus started - by combining strains from three different influenzas from different critters.

Actually, you know? I kind of like ManDuckPig Flu as a name. Maybe I should call up the CDC and suggest it.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Connecting the dots...

Okay, let's see:

We had an energy crisis in the 1970s. Check.
We had a recession in the 1970s. Check.
We had an inexperienced president in the 1970s. Check.
We had a swine flu outbreak in the 1970s. Check and double check.

I really hope this doesn't mean that disco is staging to make a comeback. Or leisure suits.

I already lived through the 1970s once, thank you very much.

Monday, April 27, 2009

oinky oink

So the latest madness is Swine Flu.

(Good ol' Sandy Szwarc, over at Junk Food Science, has an even better debunking of the flu fears than I have here. Her conclusion: It's not gonna be that bad, people. So, stay calm and carry on, to use a phrase from WWII that has been terribly co-opted of late.)

I really do not know how bad this is going to be. It could be BAD. Some scientists have suggested we're overdue for a deadly pandemic a la the 1918 flu.

But somehow, I get the feeling, having seen the news stories I've seen today, this is not it. This is just the next "Now you will run in circles and scream - dance puppets dance" news story out there.

I think the fact that it came up fast - over the weekend - either means it is not that major (something the networks have ginned up) or it is actually very bad (it hit all of a sudden and they weren't prepared for it). I can't quite get a read on it and that concerns me, but my gut tells me that while it will be a tragedy for those who lose loved ones, it will not be a major problem affecting most of the nation. (The deaths in Mexico? No one is saying much about the details of those so I wonder if perhaps those were folks in rural areas with little access to health care - in other words, any bad respiratory thing would have been serious for them).

The one wild card in this, I think, is the idea of the "cytokine storm." Apparently the reason some flus (like the Spanish flu of 1918) kill a lot of young otherwise-healthy folks is that their immune response is overwhelmingly great - more and faster, apparently, than it needs to be, the lungs start to leak, and the person sort of drowns in their own tissue fluid. (I do not know enough about this phenomenon to know whether a good hospital could treat the condition - I don't know, suctioning the lungs? - to prevent death).

I also think the fact that we know a lot more about flu, and about public health, than we did in 1918, will limit problems.

However, on the bad side - I think IF it becomes a major problem, we will be in some trouble, because of Special Snowflake syndrome:

"I don't care if I'm sick! I still need to go to work!"
"Sure, sure, I was exposed. I don't care, I have tickets to fly to Florida and I AM GETTING ON THAT PLANE"
"Contagious? Surely they mean some other person."
"What do they MEAN, don't go out to the movies? It's my GOD-GIVEN right to see first-run movies in a theater"

You get the picture.

I'm a wee bit concerned because I teach on a college campus - where we have students who travel a lot (some to Mexico; we do have some students who are (legal) immigrants), students with kids in day-care, students who work in various capacities (in health care, in the Indian casinos, in other places where they come into contact with lots of other people) and then they come onto campus with all the funky germs and they get spread all around. And in two more weeks it's exam week, so a lot of people are already kind of run-down. (And damn, if this got worse fast? Cancelling exam week? Nightmare, logistically speaking. Though I'd welcome it if the disease actually became a really-real problem).

I have no problem - if the disease got really bad and they did stuff like have us shut down the school - with just staying at home. That's exactly what I'd do - not go out, hole up, because I live alone and as long as I'm not exposed at work (or at church, which would also probably shut down if things got REAL bad), I could stay safe. (I always keep a couple weeks' "normal" meals worth of non perishable food on hand - which could in a real emergency be stretched out to a month and a half or so of reduced-ration meals if I was really worried. I even keep a fair amount of water on hand, because we have an OOLLDD water-treatment plant that can shut itself down unexpectedly).

I'd stay home. I have my books and my embroidery and my quilts and I could be fairly happy.

As for "precautions" for the nonce - not really anything other than what I normally do:

1. wash hands well before eating, and if I'm gonna touch my face (like to put on makeup). I use just plain soap. I don't think antibacterial is necessarily a good idea; lots of studies have shown that proper handwashing with plain soap removes just as many germs. And for people with sensitive skin like me, the antibacterial stuff can actually weaken the skin and lead to cracks or sores - and healthy skin is a good barrier. (And also, you have commensal bacteria on your skin that may just crowd out some of the pathogenic stuff. So I like to let my commensals live.)

2. Taking vitamins. I take a B complex because I've found it helps my mood (there's some evidence that some people absorb the various B vitamins, like B6, poorly, and if you don't have enough, it affects mood). And C, which I started after my last cold. Not sure it helps but I have the bottle to finish out. And I take calcium and D, not that that boosts the immune system or anything, but I have such a history of osteoporosis in my family that I feel like it's a good idea.

3. Eating healthfully. Lots of spinach, lots of fruit, getting enough lean protein. Keeping myself from getting run down.

4. Keeping up with exercise. Again, keeping myself from getting run down, and there's some evidence that moderate (but NOT excessive) exercise boosts the immune system. (I'm not sure of the mechanism - perhaps it revs up the lymphatic circulation. Or maybe it's just general good health)

5. Getting enough sleep as much as possible. Sometimes, I don't sleep well. I have a history of insomnia. But I try. I've also been told (no idea if it's actually TRUE) that even just lying in a dark room and being quiet, even if you don't actually sleep, helps the body some. (Not as much as sleep. But it's better than running around bouncing off walls or watching endless re-runs of old sitcoms because you can't sleep).

and finally, 6: Not watching lots of stupid news coverage designed to make me freak out. Because freaking out too much is bad for the immune system. (Even if there aren't any hard studies "proving" that, I'm quite sure it is).

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Ants part II

I still have ants and it still sucks. I really do not want to break down and hire an exterminator, because that would probably necessitate (a) hauling stuff out of closets and (b) my evacuating the house until the fumes were gone (I am very sensitive to that sort of thing).

But I am so ready to be done with these damn ants.

It drives me up the wall that they are here, but are apparently not seeking food - they are just wandering aimlessly about (in my living room, too, now). I hope we get the gullywasher storms they are predicting, maybe the ants will stay out once they have a water source.

I am really sick of having to scrub my tub every time I want a shower because of the dead ants in it. They go in there, seeking water I think, and then they can't get out and they die. And it's gross and horrible.

There are two things I hate about living in the South: Hot summers and insects. Insects everywhere. I got ants once when I lived in Ann Arbor and I almost melted turned out one of my neighbors in the apartment next door was a slob and caused the ants to come (on the sixth floor of a concrete apartment block!). But we managed to get rid of them without calling in an exterminator, but I was really freaked out and sad for a few days.

Now, I guess I tolerate them more, even though they tick me off...especially when I find them walking across my foot or something. I don't freak out like I did years ago but I am really ready to be done with them.

Friday, April 24, 2009

good news, bad news

First, the good news:

I know what my FFOT contribution is going to be this week*

Then, the bad news:

my house has been entirely overtaken by ants. I think they are seeking water as it has been very dry here and they tend to mostly be in the bathroom - especially the sink and tub- and are avoiding the "usual culprits" like the kitchen trash can and even the not-quite-sealed-up box of cereal I had sitting on the counter.

I have about $20 worth of ant baits sitting out; I hope they start to thin the population soon (they are a borax-based bait - the ant sucks up the sweet fluid, eventually dies from the borax. Though one would hope not before returning to deliver a fatal meal to the queen)

(*hey, you take what good you can find in life)

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

something that struck me funny

Maybe it's not, I don't know. But this just reminds me of how sheltered and square my life is.

This week is nutrient-cycling week in my soils class. So I thought: hey, I could look up some photos on line showing the deficiency symptoms for the major plant nutrients, and add them in to my presentation. So I used Google Image Search.

I figured the first types of plants to show up would be corn, wheat, maybe know, the big crop plants.

Nuh-uh. Some of the first pictures came up from something called "420 magazine" (yes, THAT 420), and something like "ganjaworld" and places like that.

Apparently ganja growers are VERY concerned about nutrient deficiency in their plants.

Oh, and I kept searching. And I did eventually find corn and clover photos to use. Though maybe the other ones, first thing in the morning, might have opened the eyes of a few students. (Then again, I'm getting evaluations done in a couple days)

Tuesday, April 21, 2009


Recently, there's been a lot of bad, weird, and bad-weird news out there. Every day I see or hear something that makes me kind of panicky and worried about what's becoming of us.

Times like these, it helps me to retreat into something that's kind of a fantasy world, kind of home-centered.

So I look at my cookbook collection. I do not think it is too pompous to call it that. I have a LOT of cookbooks. Most of them are older - I tend to scour used-book stores when I get to them, or antiques shops, or I've ordered a lot through various online sellers (I love how Powell's does the whole used-book thing - one order, through one seller, coming in one box. As much as I love Amazon, I have to admit I love Powell's even more, at least for how they handle used books)

Looking at them makes me feel happy. Now, I don't cook a WHOLE lot (at least these days, when I'm so crazy busy - most nights a big salad and maybe a couple little pieces of some good cheese serve for dinner) but I do like to cook. And I enjoy reading recipes.

I particularly love cookbooks where the author has injected some of his or her personality - where there are little short commentaries or introductions before each dish, like "this is my great-grandmother's recipe for barbecued lamb" or "this recipe never fails to impress guests, yet it is so simple."

I have cookbooks spanning from the 1930s up to modern day. Most of my collection - of the "vintage" books at least - comes from the late 50s and early 60s. I know that it because a lot of the books I went out in search of, when I was finally out on my own and finally had enough space to store a sizable number of cookbooks, were ones my mom had. My parents were married in that era, and I'm guessing my mom got some cookbooks as wedding gifts, and they probably bought others as they moved out from grad-school life into "full fledged" adulthood.

I have a lot of the Farm Journal cookbooks. I don't know if anyone else is familiar with these - Farm Journal is (was?) a magazine, and for years Nell Nichols was the food editor. And she developed a line of cookbooks. And they are, by and large, fantastic cookbooks - nothing fancy, just basic good food (as you might guess from a farming magazine). I've bought most of the ones I know about; I think I even have one or two my mom doesn't have. (It's my goal, someday, to find a copy of every one they put out in the 1960s. I still lack the bread book, I know that much, and the canning and freezing one. I have a reprint of the bread book, but it is "updated," and has some of the good old recipes removed, and other newer ones substituted in their place. So I want a copy of the original).

I also have "Dinner for Two" - one of the Betty Crocker cookbooks. My mom actually had two copies of this - I think she said she got duplicates as a wedding present, and she KEPT THE SECOND ONE ALL THOSE YEARS. And then let me take it when I moved out. It's a good book, especially because the recipes make small quantities. Some of the recipes rely more on mixes or pre-prepared foods than I like, but they have a very good basic brownie recipe (no mix) and some other good "basics."

One thing I like about these cookbooks is the food photography. Some of the more modern cookbooks have gone very minimalist and streamlined - maybe the food is plated, but it is on a plain white tablecloth in a rather unadorned room.

Not my older cookbooks. The pictures in some are almost lurid. And I love that - all of the colors, the fact that they set them on backdrops with checkered tablecloths, or an Early American Revival background, or a fishing pole (for fish dishes, of course).

The BEST one of all of these - and one I like to look at for sheer nostalgia - is "The New Joy of Jell-o." Copyright date 1973. The men all have sideburns, they all have that sort of goofy middle-class 1970s look to them - and I find that oddly comforting. It is the time when I was a child. My parents' house was decorated in that sort of mock Early American style popular then. We had big giant ugly wallpaper in the dining room like some of the rooms shown in the book have.

I've never made anything out of the book (I got it for a buck at a used-book shop), but I still love to look at it because it is so much of its time - of my time, when I was a little kid.

Oh, I do use some of the cookbooks I own. My go-to for good "basic" recipes, or "I have this food and I want to cook it in some different way, what other ways are there" is my 1953 copy of the Settlement House cookbook. It is my favorite cookbook and if I could only have one, it would be the one I choose - it's huge, it's detailed, it tells how to cook eggs in every imaginable way, it tells how to fix vegetables, how to braise meat, how long to cook roasts of different sorts. It has great bread recipes. It has many complex and interesting desserts (none of which I have tried to make, but I would like to). It even tells how to make soap and pasteurize milk, which I tend to think are useful things to know, even in this day and age.

But I also love my Farm Journal Country Fair cookbook - all different types of breads, cakes, pies, and so forth - every one a ribbon winner at a fair somewhere. The corn muffin recipe in that book is my favorite one (and it's not that complicated to make). There are a lot of good simple 'coffee cake' type cakes that I can make when I need to take a treat to church or in to my department. (And it also has the wonderful whimsical photography).

I make a special effort to seek out "cooking for one" or "cooking for two" books.

(A favorite, among more recent books, is Jane Doerfer's "Going Solo in the Kitchen" - many, many good recipes, including some unusual ones. And an attitude of "single people have as much right as families to eat good food and to enjoy their meals" - there is no suggestion of resorting to things out of boxes or from the deli)

There are a few of them out there. Along with the Betty Crocker book, I also have one from the 50s called "Quick and Easy Meals for Two." This book comes divided into interesting sections - they have a "seasonal" section, to take advantage of foods that come abundantly or cheaply at certain times of the year (but it does have an East-Coast centric philosophy: there are dishes made with shad roe, for example. I don't think I've ever even SEEN shad roe). There's also "The Little End of the Horn" - meals for times when the budget is stretched (and actually, some of the recipes in that section are not just economical, but pretty healthful and good, too). There's even a section providing suggestions to people who find themselves in tiny apartments with a two-burner set up in place of a "real" kitchen. I use this book a fair amount, too - it has some interesting ideas for salads and vegetables in it.

Among newer books, I really love Jane and Michael Stern's "Square Meals" (which, sadly, is out of print) - a collection of historical recipes from the first half of the 20th century in America. Some of the recipes are mainly there for historical interest (or for laughs) but there are also some good ones that I make again and again. (I use their gingerbread recipe, for example, when I want gingerbread).

I also have Mark Bittman's huge "How to Cook" (or whatever it's called). But you know, I don't use it that much - Bittman has a certain, shall we say, attitude, that comes through in the book. An attitude of UR DOIN IT WRONG! if you like certain foods or prefer to cook things a certain way. I mean, it's a good book and all, but I almost don't get the same sense of LOVE for the recipes and for those who developed them as I do from Nell Nichols' books, or from the Sterns' tome.

I also have some of the other Betty Crocker books - I have the one on Mexican cooking and the one called something like "The New Chinese Cookbook." I'd like to track down more of these - I know there is a Southwestern Cooking one, because my mother has it - and again, these have wonderful food-photography that's lots of fun to look at. And they have some really neat recipes in them.

If I had the time, I'd cook something fairly elaborate every night. I love to cook and I enjoy using my cookbooks.

"Green Week"

Okay, NBC.

If you REALLY want to "go green" this week, here's a suggestion: shut down your transmitters. Stop burning the energy they doubtless burn. Tell all your celebs that instead of jetting off to where ever they go, they have the choice of walking, taking the Amtrak, or riding a horse.

Because I'm sorry: I do not appreciate being nannied at. Especially not when I was turning off lights and conserving energy during the "first" energy crisis, back in the 1970s. So, either put your money where your mouth is or shut the heck up and just let me enjoy some sweet, sweet escapism courtesy of the tube.

(I don't watch NBC, but apparently they also own or are affiliated with the Discovery networks and maybe USA. So two of the channels I DO watch are doing this "green week" stuff)

(And what is it with "everything old is new again" of the 1970s - we now have a hostage in Iran, people are talking about inflation, the Mariel boatlift was being discussed the other day, George Will talking about the darned hippies and their blue jeans. Look. I lived through the 70s. Granted, I was a kid, but I was there. (And perhaps more clear-headed than some who were teenagers/early 20s back then). I really don't want to live through the 1970s again. Because the 1970s pretty much sucked in a lot of ways. And not just because I got teased at school every day and my mom bought red and blue plaid slacks for me to wear.)

Friday, April 17, 2009

Something for the weekend.

This is "God stuff" so if you're not into that, feel free to skip.

I am not generally fond of "contemporary Christian" music. I recognize that my failure to be moved by it is often a failure in me, rather than a failing of the music. (Though I do think there are some "praise songs" that are theologically or artistically weak, but that's not the topic here).

But last Christmas, a young woman who sings in the church choir with my parents sang a song called "Breath of Heaven." I had never heard it before, didn't know it was an Amy Grant was the first time I had ever heard it.

And it was all I could do not to put my head down on the back of the pew in front of me and sob. For some reason the song hits me in a very vulnerable place.

I think part of it is the chorus, which I find haunting and beautiful:

"Breath of heaven, hold me together. Be forever near me, breath of heaven.
Breath of heaven, lighten my darkness, pour over me your holiness..."

Even though the song is specifically about Mary - it imagines some of her thoughts on the way to Bethlehem - I still think that prayer, asking to be "held together" is something so universal among believers. I think that's why it got to me - there are literally days when I have prayed something like that: "God, just let me get through this day. Just let me manage until I can go home at the end of the day. Please keep me from falling apart"

It's funny - at times it seems like such a small prayer compared to some things some people ask for (or some things I have prayed for in the past). But at the times I've prayed it, when I really was in some kind of extreme situation, it was literally the only prayer I could squeak out, and the ONLY thing in the world I wanted.

And you know, it's always come through. I've managed...maybe I didn't totally avoid tears, or maybe the day didn't get any EASIER, but I still managed to make it through.

Oh, and the part where she sings, "Help me be strong ....Help me me" gets me too.

Like most things out there, there's a version on YouTube. (I think it's Amy Grant singing on this one). (And amazingly, it's one of the few things I've seen on YouTube that has mostly positive and supportive comments).

So, in case the song is unfamiliar to you (or if it's familiar, and you just want to hear it again):

Thursday, April 16, 2009

oh, wow

this post (it's from waiter-rant, which I didn't know had started up again) made me cry today.

Especially the part about the guy from the pizza place giving him a bottle of water.

And it also should serve as a reminder to all of us: we may, whether we want to or not, wind up being the last face someone sees. That's a pretty heavy thing to think about.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

It's all about MEME

Saw this over at Cullen's

1. What color is your toothbrush?

Whatever color the dentist gives me (he gives free toothbrushes) or whatever I can quickly buy at the store. (I try to go for something bright like fuchsia or electric blue, but you can't always find that, and I don't want to be THAT WOMAN pawing through the entire toothbrush rack at the Target)

2. Name one person who made you smile today.

I saw one of my former students in the Wal Mart and she smiled and waved at me, seemed really happy to see me (we were in checkout lines sort of across the store from each other so we didn't stop to talk)

3. What were you doing at 8 am this morning?

Teaching my first class of the day.

Hey, where's #4?

5. What is your favorite candy bar?

Kit-Kat. And those little Ghiardelli squares, if they count as candy bars. I actually eat those more often.

6. Have you ever been to a strip club?

Uh, no. I'm a hetero woman, and honestly? I'm not that into watching random guys' wangs flopping about.

7. What is the last thing you said aloud

"Bye, I'll talk to you Saturday

8. What is your favorite ice cream?

You know, not that big of an ice cream freak. I guess I like the cookies and cream kind, or the kind that has pieces of peanut butter cups in it.

9. What was the last thing you had to drink?

Water. Yes, I am THAT exciting.

10, Do you like your wallet?

Not particularly but I'm kind of cheap that way and I can't be bothered to buy a new one while the old one is still functional

11, What was the last thing you ate?

some of those crisp little "Miss Meringue" cookies. Mmm. Love those things.

12, Have you bought any new clothing items this week?

No, I haven't

13, The last sporting event you watched?

I think I watched one of the bowl games with my Dad back in January. I sometimes listen to baseball on the radio, but I don't really actively follow it.

14. What is your favorite flavor of popcorn?

Either "triple mix" (which is impossible to find outside of the Greater Chicago Region - it's buttered, cheese, and caramel popcorn all mixed together and it's a lot better than it sounds) or just plain buttered.

15. Who is the last person you sent a text message to?

Uh, I don't text.

16. Ever go camping?

To paraphrase Jackie Mason, my ancestors were Scots and Irish sheepherders. They slept out in the rain a lot. Why would I p*ss off my ancestors by refusing to sleep in the nice warm bed I paid for?

I really don't like camping. Don't like peeing in the woods, don't like being where there are bugs, don't like breathing campfire smoke. I am excessively prissy that way.

17, Do you take vitamins daily?

Yes, a B-complex, which has done wonders for my mood, a C, and a calcium plus D.

18, Do you go to church every Sunday?

Unless I'm sick or traveling. So, pretty much always yes.

19, Do you have a tan?

There is at least one way in which I resemble Abby Sciuto, and it is not my taste in footwear.

20,Do you prefer Chinese food over pizza?

Not really. But then again, there really aren't any good Chinese places here and there IS a good pizza place

21, Do you drink your soda with a straw?

sometimes, not always. I know it's supposed to be better for your tooth enamel to do so. I don't drink much pop. (Which is what we call soda on this side of the country. Though actually, where I live, lots of people refer to it as coke in "do you want an orange coke or a lemon-lime coke?"

22, What did your last text message say?

see 15 above

23, What are you doing tomorrow?

Giving an exam, grading said exam, and hopefully, working on a manuscript of a research paper. And doing my laundry tomorrow night.

25, Look to your left, what do you see?
My "history" book shelf

26, What color is your watch?

It has Eeyore on it

27, What do you think of when you hear Australia?

Koalas and kangaroos and all the other cool animals that live there

29, Do you go in at a fast food place or just hit the drive thru?

It depends. Sometimes drive through, sometimes walk in. I don't go to fast food places that often.

30. What is your favorite number?

Huh? I don't think I have one. I could say "8675309" but that really isn't a FAVORITE, it's just one that comes to mind

31. Who’s the last person you talked to on the phone?

My parents

32. Any plans today?

Actually, I need to get off of here, because it sounds like Mythbusters is on. My remaining plans for today are to watch Mythbusters and then go to sleep.

33. How many states have you lived in?


34. Biggest annoyance right now?

People who NEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEED me to do stuff for them. Especially people who could do the durn stuff themselves.

35, Last song listened to?

Some dumb little learner's piece I'm trying to play on the piano - "Dancin' to the CD" or some such

36.Can you say the alphabet backwards?

Yeah, I probably could. Not that I'm gonna.

37. Do you have a maid service clean your house?

I have privacy issues and frugality issues. So no. (The privacy issues are the bigger thing. I cannot stand the thought of someone pawing through my silverware drawer or judging me by the number of books I own)

38. Favorite pair of shoes you wear all the time?
I don't really have one. I like Birkenstocks despite their uglitude, but I don't wear them all the time

39. Are you jealous of anyone?

I can't say that I am. I have a good life. I like my life. Other people may seem to have it better in some areas, but they often have worse problems than I do in other areas.

40. Is anyone jealous of you?

Not that I know of.

41. Do you love anyone?

Yes, I do. And there are different kinds of of family, love of friends...

42. Do any of your friends have children?

Yes, of course they do. Some of my friends have GRANDCHILDREN.

43. What do you usually do during the day?

I teach, do research, advise students, serve on committees....

44, Do you hate anyone that you know right now?

No. Hating is, for me, a pretty useless emotion. Someone once said that hating a person was like holding a hot coal in your hand waiting for the right opportunity to throw it at someone. I have people I'd rather AVOID but there's no one I would say I hated.

45. Do you use the word ‘hello’ daily?

Yes, I say it numerous times - to my classes, to people in the hall, to people at the store....

46. What color is your car?

white, but the paint is flaking off the hood. I need to do something about that.

47. Do you like cats?

Yes, I do. But I don't own one - I have allergies and I'm also rarely home.

48. Are you thinking about someone right now

A good friend of mine who is having serious back issues and may be facing surgery.

49, Have you ever been to Six Flags?
Not Six Flags per se, but I did once take the Youth Group to a water park that was supposedly affiliated. Not something I would E.V.E.R. do again.

50. How did you get your worst scar?
I really don't have that many. I guess the biggest one is a scar on my nose - I had really, really bad food poisoning one time, and while trying to get to the bathroom because I thought I was going to throw up again (I didn't), I passed out and cut my nose on the bathroom scale. Luckily I did not break it, and also luckily I was at my parents' house at the time so they were able to drive me to the ER because I was too weak from the throwing up and from the shock of all the blood to drive myself. I had to get stitches. You can barely see the scar, but it's probably the largest one I have.

I also still have some chicken-pox scars that I've had for 30 years now.

I think I need

For years, I resisted Caller ID as an additional expense. Also, I have to admit I felt a little funny about "screening" calls.

(My brother and sister in law do, but then she has a Crazy Relative who makes her crazy, and they have to be mentally prepared to talk to this person).

But I'm thinking it's time to look into it. I will have to see if it (a) will work with my crummy old phone or if I have to get a new one and (b) how detailed the information it gives is. Because if it's like the ID we have on the campus phones (which I HAVE to answer; I can't not take calls from students), long-distance calls just show an "out of range" number. And if that were the case, it wouldn't be that useful to me, because a lot of the meaningful calls I get are long distance.

And I'll have to see about the "blocked number" deal - I know that a lot of telemarketing sites do that, and it just says "blocked number." But I don't know if other calls will do that too. (Though I will say if someone intentionally blocks their number, because they don't like caller ID, then they deserve to have me not answer the phone when it rings).

'Cos my dang phone has been ringing off the hook this week. Most of the calls are trivial at best and a few have been downright annoying - things I could attend to (or not) based on a message. But then again, a few calls - like from my friend, who is doing better, thank God - HAVE been calls I've wanted to get.

I tend to resist spending money on stuff like this because of my inborn frugality, but now I'm beginning to thing that if it makes my life easier, it would totally be worth it. And I'm enough of a worrier that having caller ID would give me a momentary heads-up of "Oh, it's Anne" or "Oh, it's Ronnie" so I don't have that moment of fearful, "oh crap what is it now?"

What I'd really love? Some kind of wireless receiver for caller ID that I could carry with me throughout the house - so I could have it sitting next to me when I'm in my back room, sewing, and when the phone rings, I could look at the little receiver and go, "Oh, hey, it's Ronnie calling...I want to talk to him" or "Oh, it's some telemarketer. Forget them" and let it ring. I don't know if such a thing exists but it probably SHOULD.

So I suppose the next step is looking into what's available in my local area. (Crikey, I hope this doesn't require a service call from the phone company).

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Why I hate the $#$*(&#$ phone

Maybe some of you get calls telling you "You overpaid at the dentist's, come pick up a check for what's left over." Or "The story you submitted to our publication has been accepted, good work!" or you get calls from friends who want to make plans for lunch.

Me, I get calls asking me to do stuff. Or long rambling phone messages from lonely people I have in my life who don't quite twig to the fact that if it's between 8 am and 4 pm, I am unlikely to be home...and they end their messages with a "you really don't need to call me back." (So I don't. Yeah, it's evil, but I have a couple people in my life who would spend my hour and a half of daily free-time filling my ear with their troubles). Or I get those execrable pre-recorded calls telling me my
car warranty is expiring (No **** Sherlock, I bought my car IN THE LAST MILLENNIUM.)

Today, my flippin' phone was ringing off the hook:

1. prospective student's mom (hopefully not a helicopter mom) calling to set up an appointment
2. a very short-notice call requesting a letter of recommendation (you call this afternoon, and you need it by 8 tomorrow? Sorry.)
3. Someone calling my home phone from church and leaving a long message about "you already know this but" a mutual friend who is having health issues. (yes. I did.)
4. One of those $(%*#$# "your car warranty is expiring" (this one at 5:30 pm, just as I had got in the shower. And I jumped out to answer it, because I was afraid it might be call about my friend with health issues. I don't swear often in the privacy of my home, but the air around the phone was just a little blue after I hung up on the recording.
5. A reminder from the dentist.
6. Someone calling me from AAUW, wanting me to help them with the horrid tax forms for non-profit groups that we get sent every year - with the promise every year that "this is a 'blanket' form and you will be covered from here on out; you will never need to fill anything more out." Yeah, sure. And you probably have some nice Montana oceanfront resort property to sell.

So it's not been a good phone day. And I'm seriously tempted (were it not for my friend with the health problems) to refuse to answer if it rings again tonight.

I never get "fun" calls or just-because calls or nice calls. Oh, my parents call me, but the times are usually pre-planned so I'm expecting it. But among unexpected phone calls, they tend to be unpleasant or ugly.

And people think it's odd I hate the phone and hate talking on it...

(I will say in my friends' defense, my local friends are more prone to want to talk face to face, and my distant friends are more likely to use e-mail. And heck, I LIKE e-mail as a way of communication. I just wish my heart didn't sink every time my phone rings, because I'm expecting something not-fun on the other end.)

Monday, April 13, 2009

the most wrong of wrong things

...on many levels.

And yet it still has the power to make me howl with laughter. I surf over to it periodically just because it is so wonderfully twisted.

(I think I have either Ken or Emily to thank for this; I believe one of them originally posted the link on the late-lamented It Comes In Pints).

Behold the wonder that is Baby Got Back, Gilbert and Sullivan style:

Two things:

1. I hate getting an e-mail from someone who just MIGHT be sending me very bad news that has no subject heading. Immediately I assume the worst possible - that the person was too distraught to write in a heading. And then when the e-mail turns out to be an informational tidbit about someone I know who retired from my university a while back, it causes a lot of cognitive dissonance. (" this maybe an obituary?" But I could find no reference to the individual's death, so it must be just an informational tidbit.).

2. I had to fill out a survey on 'civic engagement by professors.' I feel kind of violated now - they made us give an estimate of how much time in the past year we put in (and they didn't make it clear - did they mean "time in comparison to your working time" or "time out of your life, total"? I figured they meant in terms of working hours...I hope that's what they meant). They then wanted a DESCRIPTION of each project, AND our names so they could "credit" us for it. I really don't like that; it creeps me out. It makes me wonder if in the future there is going to be pressure to do more (Dammit, I should have included my AAUW service. Because it's not directly tied to my "work work" in the sense of being science related, I tend to over look it. That would have upped my measley 5% of my time estimate).

I HOPE this isn't going to be some starting point for a rah-rah campaign to force encourage us to "donate" some set percentage of our time to volunteer work. Because dang it - I'm the secretary for the local AAUW chapter. And I do Youth Group at church. And I teach Sunday School. And I pick up trash. And I belong to a committee that tries to encourage people not to litter and not to blacktop their yards and not to park old nonfunctional clunker cars in their yard. And I help judge science fairs. And I do many other things for which I am neither compensated nor thanked, and it irritates me to think I may be told, "That hour and a half of free time you have every day? That's TOO MUCH. You need to give some of that away." Kind of like being told the $56K I earn is "too much" and I need to give away more of it in taxes...

I suppose the other possibility - less insidious - of requiring us to give our names is so that people can't claim wild crazy stuff that they never took part in, so they can check up on it if it looks hinky. (It is my natural bent to downplay what I do - as I said, I forgot my service to AAUW though I could have counted that, and I didn't even mention the stuff I do at church)

I don't know. I find as I get older I need to be even more protective of my limited free time. I wear out faster, I lose patience with humanity faster, and it would not be good to tell me I need to spend MORE Saturdays doing thankless tasks for some obscure amorphous "good of the community."

Sunday, April 12, 2009

I tend to

refrain from swearing on this blog, so I'll just say:

OH YEAH!!!!!

Apparently whoever it was that was holding them back from doing what they do so well "found a pair" and gave them the go-ahead - or perhaps it was that the ideal opportunity finally presented itself - but those brave men helped free Capt. Phillips.

When I flipped over to Fox News this afternoon, saw the "alert," and then realized what had happened, I jumped up out of my chair and pumped my fist in the air.

Now, we just need to CONTINUE picking off the pirate scum.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Something for Easter

One of my favorite books by Madeleine L'Engle is "The Rock that is Higher." I've found a great deal to comfort me when afflicted (and also, at times, to afflict me a bit when comfortable). It's complex and challenging and has a lot to say to modern Christians.

(One of the particular points she makes again and again that people need to cease trying to place themselves at the center of the universe - to stop seeing the little junk that happens in daily life as something specifically orchestrated by the universe to thwart your happiness).

Anyway, it's a book I turn to again and again. It also has lots of wonderful anecdotes, things that cheer and comfort and challenge in a few pages.

One of my favorites is an account of something that happened in Soviet Russia.

"I remember a story about an event in Red Square in Moscow that took place not long after the terrible days of the Russian Revolution and the establishment of the atheist Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. The people of Moscow were called to a gathering in Red Square. There they were addressed by one of the new leaders, who spent well over a half an hour proving to the populace that there is no God. His factual arguments about the nonexistence of God were incontrovertible, and the mob of people standing in Red Square was silent and subdued.

Then a priest who was standing with the people asked permission to say three words. Permission was granted, and he stood in front of the packed square, raised his arms, and cried out:


And the entire mob responded joyfully, "He is risen indeed!"

To all who celebrate: have a blessed Easter.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Friday is still too far away...

And it's Good Friday this week, which means I should probably be doing deep spiritual stuff instead of telling people to flip off.

But I've got one for the week, so I'll share it now:

Idiots who call 911 because the restaurant screwed up their order.

I'm sorry but WHAT? In what universe is it OK to call the cops out for that?

There have been several. The most recent happened (apparently) near Dallas, where some woman called the cops because her shrimp fried rice lacked shrimp.

But before that, some woman called the cops on her local McDonald's because they screwed up her McNugget order.

I am officially embarrassed on behalf of my gender. (Can we revoke those two's "woman" cards, please?)

I seem to remember hearing of another one - a complaint over coffee, maybe?

But seriously, people, you need to get some freakin' priorities here.

911: the number you call if your house is on fire, your neighbor's house is on fire, if you or someone in your household is having a heart attack, if you are being robbed or kidnapped, if there has been a bad auto accident.


You do NOT call 911 when the fast food place mucks up your order. As I said before: in what universe does that constitute an emergency?

(No, wait, don't tell me: In the Special Snowflake Universe that Revolves Around YOU. That's where it constitutes an emergency.)

I shudder to think that these stupid 911 calls may be symptomatic of a bigger problem: people either coming to believe that the government should step in and save them every time something goes even a little wrong. (because seriously: McDonald's being out of McNuggets is NOT the worst thing that will ever happen to you. If it's the worst thing that happened to you all day, then you've actually had not that bad of a day by global standards. Though I will say - the McDonald's refusing to refund her money is messed up).

Or else it's symptomatic of the fact that we now have a critical mass of people who believe that they are SO important, that their wants and desires are SO much the center of everything, that a problem like a McNuggets shortage rises to the level of someone's house being broken into.

And neither one of those makes me feel very good about the future. I don't WANT the government "solving" my minor problems for me - because in my experience, they create more in the solving. (And also, they seem to more and more have a desire to control things in my life "for my own good." I could see five years down the road the cops showing up to a McNuggets call and telling the woman that McNuggets had too much fat for her and too many calories and she damn well better shut up and eat a salad and diet Coke instead).

And I definitely don't want more ME MY MINE vortexes out there - people who can't see past their own nose, whose own wants are the only things that matter. Because as I speculated on in an earlier post, people who think they are ENTITLED to things and thing they have been VICTIMIZED because they do not get those things can become very dangerous.

You know, I've been in situations like either of those women. On rare cases, I've "sent back" a restaurant meal (in one case, my supposedly medium-rare steak was practically charred all through. The waiter kind of gasped when I showed him where I had cut through the steak, so I figured I was justified. Another time a steak was still nearly raw inside; the waitress - this was in an Amtrak dining car - agreed it needed to be cooked longer. In both cases the steak I got back was just fine.). But I did it by asking politely, by saying, "I'm sorry but I ordered medium rare..." In a few cases I've gotten a medium rare steak that was either closer to medium or closer to rare than I might like, but I just figured people judge these things differently - and said nothing, and ate it anyway.

In other cases, I've been at restaurants where they had to "86" some menu item right before I ordered it. It's always a disappointment, and on more than one occasion I had to say, "I'm sorry, but I'll need another minute or two to figure out what I want instead." But it's a these-things-happen moment - yeah, it stinks, but people are not doing it to me specifically to thwart my happiness.

So I totally do not GET calling 911 over those kind of disappointments. Seriously, what are the cops supposed to do? Arrest Ronald McDonald?

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

fans of House: huge spoiler awaits thee....







this if

you didn't see

the April 6 episode.



Kutner killed himself? Crap, he was the only one of the new doctors I actually LIKED. I suppose it had to happen - to give House something 'without meaning' to obsess over.

My first thought was "Damn, I wonder if this is because they're making another Harold and Kumar Wankfest movie. If he shows up in some stupid movie and that's why they killed off Kutner, I'll be pissed."

But it's not that: apparently he's working for Obama. WTF?

Some of you may know more about the actor than I do - does he really have qualifications to do this? (Has he not been paying taxes? I joked over spring break that I HAD to get my taxes finished because I didn't want the White House calling me up offering me a position).

But I'm not sure I like the turn the show has taken this season - it seems a lot more dark, a lot more melodramatic. There seems to be more "soap opera" and less "medical mystery," and the medical mysteries are why I started watching it.

Oh, and an online memorial to a dead character - tacky? I think so. (And all of the wankers who keep changing Wikipedia to claim that the actor, not the character, is dead - you are wankers.)

So I don't know. There may be one less television show I watch very soon. That will take it down to what, three? (If you count Mythbusters, which seems to be on permanent hiatus)

Monday, April 06, 2009

Scary, and I think true to some extent

This past week was a horrible week for people killing other people in horrific and frightening ways - first Binghamton, then Pittsburg. (And North Carolina before that).

I don't know what it is about April - but it does seem that often when these things happen (Columbine, Virgina Tech) they are in April. Is it something about the month? Or is it a school-year thing, for the school shooting? Or is there just something about April that brings out the evil?

I know the commentators and the pundits will be out soon about these. (And, I know this is horribly flip and I strain at saying it: but the guy in Pittsburg apparently went on his rampage in part because he was concerned that the Obama administration was going to impose more gun control - way to go, guy, give the gun-control folks even more grounds).

And I am bracing for another round of "oh, those EVIL loners! We must pressure everyone who spends time alone to join the herd so their minds don't turn!" Because **I** am a loner. I like spending time alone. I like the quiet. That doesn't make me evil or dangerous.

Or they'll find out that what these guys had in common was the Internet, and there will be people clamoring for Internet controls. (or even some nutbags, I suppose, who will suggest shutting it down).

Or they'll target video games. Or Marylin Manson music. Or goodness knows what other thing. ("Could it be.....they all ate HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP!?!?!")

But Dr. Helen has a perspective that, while a scary thought, makes a lot of sense to me.

She is arguing that these sorts of people are narcissists - with a strong sense of entitlement and an equally strong streak of victimhood:

"I do wonder how much a sense of entitlement (these types of killers often display a sense of narcissism) combined with continued coverage of how bad America is played a part in contributing to this killer's distorted thinking process?"....

She also quotes someone who described Jiverly Wong (the Binghamton shooter) as someone with a strong sense of victimhood - how he felt "America sucks," how he was upset at being picked on for his difficulties learning English.

Later, the good Doctor quotes an article about narcissism, and how it's becoming dangerously pervasive:

"Freud explained narcissism as a failure to grow up. All infants are narcissists, he pointed out, but as we grow, we ought to learn that other people have lives independent of our own. It's not their job to please us, applaud for us or even notice us--let alone die because we're unhappy...

A generation ago, the social critic Christopher Lasch diagnosed narcissism as the signal disorder of contemporary American culture. The cult of celebrity, the marketing of instant gratification, skepticism toward moral codes and the politics of victimhood were signs of a society regressing toward the infant stage."

In a personal observation: there have only been two or three people in my life that I have been genuinely afraid of. As in, afraid enough that if they hadn't gotten out of my life when they did, I would have contemplated something like a restraining order. All of these people had that combination of traits - they felt very self-important, that the world "owed" them in some vague way. And yet, at the same time, NOTHING bad that ever happened to them was in any way their fault or their doing - that there were "people" (again vague) out to get them, and that their happiness was continually being thwarted, and it was NOT FAIR.

The one time I was afraid for my dad's life when he was on campus was when there was a student like that running through the building where he taught - the student had failed chemistry for the second time. He went into the chem office and told them that they were wrong for failing him, they were just trying to prevent him getting ahead in life. Then he threatened the life of his chem prof (and pretty specifically, too, from what I heard). As the campus police were escorting him off, he put his fist through a plate-glass display case. (Fortunately, the campus was smart enough to have him declared an "unwelcome individual" after he got out of lock-up).

I do worry about the things that Christopher Lasch listed - every day, I see people who consider themselves to be victims in all the things that go wrong in their lives. Or people who feel like they're owed special treatment because they've been told they're a "special" person. Or people who are unwilling to work and follow the rules to get what they want.

I don't know what causes that combination of factors - narcissism, entitlement, and victimhood. I do know things that work against them - having achieved through hard work. Having overcome difficulties. A recognition that others are important. Being able to stop and "see the person" - to listen to someone, to what they are saying, to put yourself in their shoes for a moment.

In many cases, I think religious faith of some kind helps to work against that deadly combination - I know in my life my faith helps to keep me humble (works against narcissism), grateful (works against sense-of-entitlement), and cognizant of the fact that often the things I do that are wrong come with consequences AND that there are others suffering more than I ever have (works against the sense of victimhood). I'm certainly not saying faith is ESSENTIAL to avoiding those problems, but I do think it helps.

I think in some respects a strong upbringing may help. My parents (especially my father) taught me that I was NEVER a victim - that even in bad circumstances I could do something to make things better. And they taught me to "see the other person," as I said above - to be compassionate.

I do also think having some success in your life helps. I've been pretty successful, at least by my own definitions: to work at an interesting career that has the potential to help other people, and while doing so, to make enough money to support myself in reasonable comfort. And to make an effort to do something that helps someone in some way every day. And to have enough time for things outside of work.

I suppose I don't know what motivates the violent shooter type because their reality is so different from my own. But I do wonder if perhaps Dr. Helen hasn't figured out a common factor between many of those.

And if she's right, we probably need to begin teaching people to avoid victimhood, and a sense of entitlement. And to do what we can to instill compassion in our kids.

Perhaps even that's not enough. Perhaps there are some people who are either just broken or evil, I don't know. But I know that I once knew someone who was one of those victimized narcissists - and how much that person scared me; it was almost a visceral thing, like the hair standing up on the back of my neck when I was around that person. And so I wonder if my own sense of "something is not right here" would be true in a more general sense.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

yet another thing to which I am allergic, I guess

My yard was totally infested with a plant called bedstraw (Galium species, for you botanists. I think it's probably Galium aparine but I don't feel like checking the books right now).

I knew if I tried to mow - especially with my hippy-dippy reel mower (which actually works really well on my lawn, except for the bedstraw), it would just mat down and then spring back up. Bedstraw had these little curved hairs on it, it's kind of like Velcro, it sticks to itself and to everything else.

I didn't want to poison it - for one thing, I have wild orchids and windflower and a few other nifty things that have naturalized in my lawn that I'd rather not kill. And besides, one of the tiny ways I can "be green" is by not using chemicals on my lawn - I have a tiny little lawn and if I stay on top of it, I don't need to do chemicals. (And honestly, come August - when we've had six weeks of drought - my lawn looks better than those of my neighbors).

It struck me that my lawn is two, 10' by about 20' segments. Small enough to PULL the darn stuff out of it. (After all, that's how I'd control it if it got into my flower garden). So after lunch today, I went out with a bucket and started pulling.

Pulling works REALLY well. The bedstraw is all gone now. My lawn looks super better. I won't even have to mow for a little while yet - the only tall thing was the bedstraw. And I got rid of a few juniper seedlings that had come in (juniper is a terrible weed tree here).

Then I went in. And I realized my hands were itching and burning. And that my eye itched.

I checked out the eye in the mirror - it was kind of windy and I was concerned something had blown into it.

And I found I (once again) had something that looks scary (and disgusting) but really isn't that serious - an allergic corneal blister. (I think my eye doctor referred to it as a "vesicle"). It's swelling on the surface of the eye - sort of like eczema on the eyeball.

It's uncomfortable (and freaky looking - if you really want to see an example, go here but don't say I didn't warn you) but I've been assured by more than one doctor that it's not dangerous and that it will just go away on its own. (not dangerous because it only occurs after known exposure to allergens, and it has always gone away on its own before)

Luckily, I had one tablet of Claritin left (I guess I need to run to the drugstore sometime) and I put some jewelweed cream I had on my hands, which helped.

But it really is not fair - my career is in botany and it seems that every year I find yet another plant that makes my immune system freak out.

Friday, April 03, 2009

sometimes it pays

...not to be a total hard-ass.

I gave a test this morning in one of my more advanced classes. Before the test - about 1/2 hour before - one of my students showed up.

"I'm going to ask a big favor of you," he said. "I'll understand if you say no but I want to explain first."

He went on to explain that he had been putting his life back together (and he was doing pretty well) after a drug addiction. And that this spring he had been having some difficulties - he had been diagnosed with OCD (given some of the things he did and said in class, this makes complete sense) and they still didn't have his meds calibrated right (and I know from other people that psych meds can be a tricky thing). He said he'd had a really rough week (I could tell) and that he was suffering some of the bad - like, self-harming ideation - side effects from the meds.

So the favor he wanted was, could he take the test on Monday? He was going to see his doctor this afternoon.

You know, for all the students who tick me off with their "I overslept" or "My cousin's brother's baby momma was in the hospital and he wanted me to go with him to see her" type of excuses I get, once in a while I get one where saying "yes" will make an actual difference to the person, rather than just enabling them to continue in a pattern of irresponsible behavior.

I had not known this guy had been an addict (though he had kind appeared out of nowhere a year or so ago). He got good grades in the previous class of mine he took and he seems to have put his life together (like I said: I would not have guessed at his past from knowing him).

So I told him, yeah, I had done similar things in the past for people with similar issues (and I have). I told him to come in Monday morning and I'd let him take the test then.

His shoulders dropped about four inches. He breathed out. "Thank you." he said "You have no idea how much you have made my day."

I PROBABLY should have told him, "And if you have self-harming thoughts again CALL SOMEONE" but I figure because he's going to the doctor this afternoon it will be addressed.

But, sometimes I don't like to feel like I'm prying, so I just told him he was welcome and that I'd see him Monday.

Stuff like that - especially his response (and the fact that he framed the request as "I know you have the final say and it is your right to say no") makes up for all the people who come in all belligerent because they "deserve" special treatment because they're a Snowflake and they broke a fingernail. Or their favorite show was on last night and they didn't have time to finish the homework. Or they wanted to go fishing instead.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

thought of the day

The PBS channel in my area runs those "college on the air" or whatever they're called programs first thing in the morning. (I think you know what I mean - it's like basic survey classes in things like business, English composition, and so on).

Right now they're running a series on philosophy. I happened to flip by it and heard a snippet about Kantian ethics.

According to the person speaking, Kant believed that ethics stemmed from principles we all could adhere to (they were using the example of someone asking for a loan and claiming he would repay it, knowing he never would. The Kantian argument against doing that is, if everyone did that, it would undermine loan-giving, and soon no one would be willing to loan money).

The narrator said: In Kantian ethics, the height of immorality is making yourself an exception from the rules others are bound to.

Mmmm-hmmmm. I guess that makes me a Kantian, at least in one little way, considering the blinding rage that Special Snowflake behavior puts me in to.

(And you could extend that to other, oh, larger things. But I'm thinking about the person who tosses litter out their car window, or who parks in a handicapped spot when they're not actually handicapped or transporting someone who is, or the person who gets into the 20-items-or-less lane with 45 items because "I'm in a real hurry")

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

moment of foolishness

SUPPOSEDLY this is an early Mike Rowe voice-over (no one has been able to confirm for sure). And SUPPOSEDLY this is a real product (though I have my doubts, but if it's real, the ad writers sure had fun with the copy...check out the line at about second 37.)