Friday, July 31, 2009

Ripped from the headlines...

Two things overheard on Stupid Local News this morning:

1. "The Health-Care Reform bill is back from the dead, they may vote on it before their recess"

Back from the dead? Zombie bills are the worst kind. They lurch around and moan "taaaaaaax dooooooolllllllars, taaaaaaaaax doooooooolllllllars." And you can't kill them; you have to dismember them.

2. More talk about how tanning beds are dangerous and can give you Teh Cancer.

Okay, how long before we see the class-action suit television ads:

"Have you or a loved one been killed, injured, damaged in some way, or had your self-esteem dinged by a TANNING BED? You should know that TANNING BEDS are dangerous and can be known to cause skin cancer, wrinkles, leathery-skin, and other disorders. If you believe you or a loved one have been injured, call Cheatem, Screwem, and Howe, attorneys at law, to join a SPECIAL CLASS-ACTION SUIT!!! Time may be running out!"

(Incidentally, I also expect a class-action suit about Tylenol to be coming sometime soon.)

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Oh crikey

Apparently the newest "holier than thou" fad is eschewing air conditioning, because it is "more natural", and it's better for the environment, and it saves you money.

But mainly it allows you to look down your nose at the fools who still do use it. Or that's the tone I get.

Look, if you hate air conditioning (and I know people even here in the sticky South who do), if you don't want to use it, fine, whatever. If you feel it's more natural, fine. Just don't imply that I'm UNNATURAL because I love my A/C.

And don't tell me I'm a bad person because I choose to use it. Don't act like you're partial to some secret Gnostic revelation because you rely on open windows and a fan.

(I would never sleep with open windows and a fan. Reason #1: my neighbors are now fostering a dog that was apparently beaten by its previous owners as it whines most of the night. Reason #2: my bedroom is on the ground floor and every sound I heard, I would imagine was a rapist or burglar cutting the screen on my window to get in and do harm to me).

Don't blame me for destroying the earth. Don't (and this is another one I've heard, though not from this article) tell me I'd "lose weight" if I were subjected to sleeping in an 85 degree room at night, because I'd "eat less" because my body would be "in tune with the seasons."

I got your body being "in tune" right here, buddy.

From the article:

"“In our social circle, use of the air-conditioner is extremely limited,” said Martin Focazio, who lives in Upper Black Eddy, Pa., and commutes into Manhattan four days a week to his job as a digital media strategist. “It’s not like we’re health-nut crazies or a bunch of dirty hippies dancing naked around the fire. We’re all white-collar geeks living an exurban lifestyle. We just all share the philosophy of rolling with the seasons if you can.”

Look, Mr. Focazio, I CAN'T roll with the feckin' season, OK? I spend the summer in a dysphoric haze, hiding out in my dim house (keeping the blinds drawn reduces the amount of heat creeping in). Doing anything wipes me out. I have to work in the summer, have to be productive, so I need to have A/C

And I know, he's probably just sharing it as a point of conversation. But I've seen enough "social circles" where failure to conform in whatever way the conformity goes will get you shunned and proselytized at.

I suspect some of these folks are the same people who respond with arched brow and vaguely condescending tone when I admit to buying my veggies at the grocery store, rather than taking part in a CSA or driving many miles to the nearest farmer's market.

I suspect the folks who go without air conditioning are, by and large, people who don't have to work that hard in the summers. I'm teaching, and teaching at a rate twice as fast as the regular year. I need my sleep, and without air conditioning in the summer, I don't sleep.

And I know that for a fact: a couple years ago my AC system went out and it was a week before I could get it seen to. A week of trying to sleep with sweat running off my body and a big huge box fan blowing next to my bed, making me dream of being attacked by flocks of birds and living in a construction zone. I was miserable and dysphoric and unable to function. I honestly considered, one night, going over to my office and sacking out on the floor - because there was at least air conditioning there.

It would be great if we could all do the "Fermeture Annuelle" thing like they do in France: lock up the doors, stop working, go to the woods or the beach. (After all, Congress does it - probably a throwback to the days when Washington really was swamplike in the summer. I mean in terms of climate, not morals).

But for the vast majority of us, that is not realistic. We can't go off to the Hamptons or the Adirondacks or wherever the privileged people go.

(I do think a lot of this craziness - this making-of-odd-rules and judging people based on choices that SHOULD be seen as morally neutral - comes from the privileged group. If you're a construction worker, you're gonna welcome coming home to AC. If you're teaching summer school like me, being able to come home and sprawl out in a chair with cool air blowing on you after being on your feet for multiple hours is a very welcome thing)

I will say the later part of the article is a bit more balanced: they observe that going ac-free is not for everyone: guests tend to avoid non-air-conditioned houses, and one woman had to take her cat to the vet because it got sick from the excessive heat.

So it's not always smart to shun air conditioning. (What if people were shunning indoor plumbing...)

Why do we do this to ourselves? Why do some groups of us choose to avoid modern conveniences and then try to make the rest of us feel like pikers, or slobs, or greed-heads for wanting to take advantage of stuff?

Sunday, July 26, 2009

What Sandy said...

If you're not reading "Junkfood Science" (link is in the sidebar over there), Sandy Swarcz has had a great run-down of the whole health-care-change debacle (which, thanks to the CBO, may be dead for now - thank goodness).

Her latest post. I have to say, as one of those supposedly-fat-Americans that this is supposedly being sold to, I have been afraid - very afraid.

I trust my doctor FAR FAR FAR more than I trust some politician to know what's right for me. True, there are bad doctors out there (I quit going to a particular internist after I realized that EVERY STINKING TIME I went in she was pushing weight-loss drugs at me - even when I went in for a flu shot, even after I had told her I was not excessively troubled by my weight, that it didn't seem to handicap me, and that I was exercising and eating healthfully). But I think there are a lot more politicians who don't have the patients' interests at heart - because they don't KNOW the patients the way the doctors do.

The problem with politicians, is that they tend to do one-size-fits-all solutions. If you love Zero Tolerance, you'll love politician-run health care. (Which would probably work out to: Zero Tolerance for people over 75 with cancer. Zero Tolerance for fat people. Zero tolerance for people with Type II diabetes, COPD, heart disease, and other arguably "lifestyle caused" diseases)

I tend to feel that most any time a politician gets his or her nose in something, there are going to be two things that happen: it's going to get more expensive, and it's going to get more restrictive.

So I'm glad and relieved to see that this looks like it's not going to be a reality, at least right now. (As a commentator I heard somewhere said: "The President took six months to pick out a puppy for his family, but he's insisting on health-care reform in 4 weeks or less?!?!")

Saturday, July 25, 2009

"It's people!!!!"

Watched "Soylent Green" this afternoon.

Really, really wishing that I had not, now.

Those kind of "modern grubby city dystopia" movies always make me feel bad - twitchy and unhappy and wondering if our future will be something like that. (Why do they always set them in CITIES? If civilization was dying out, I'd be making a break for the countryside, where I might at least have a chance of being able to grow or gather food.)

The saddest part was Sol (oh, has anyone NOT seen this? where this is going to be a spoiler?)

Anyway, he decides he needs to "go home" at the end, after learning the big secret of the movie.

And in this dystopia, there are "death centers" where people can go, lie down, drink some wine (hemlock? I don't know), listen to music, and watch a movie of (now-vanished) nature. And then at the end of the "ceremony," they expire.

And you know? I'm not at all sure that that (well, without the "recycling" at the end) isn't too far off in our own society.

I have really mixed feelings about physician-assisted suicide. On the one hand, I can see people who are in great pain and great suffering not wanting heroic measures done to save their lives - and that's fine; that's what I'd want myself. On the other hand, the idea of deliberately making someone die because they are old, or very sick, or are tired of life...I think that's somewhere we don't want to go as a society. I know if I were a physician, I would not do it. I would talk about DNR orders, and "no heroic measures" and all that, but I would not make the offer of, say, giving an overdose of morphine.

Because I fear that brings on a slippery slope. The option to die could become an obligation to die, and I worry about that. (Especially with the idea of "health care" being seen as a scarce resource)

And no matter how pretty or restful they make it - with colored lights and music and restful movies and all - it's still something that is wrong to me, and something I hope we never go to as a society.

So now I need to go watch something funny and light - maybe pull out my Animaniacs dvds or the Wallace and Gromit videos - so I have something nicer in my head before I go to sleep.

Oh, and it's going to be a while before I can listen to Beethoven's "Pastoral" Symphony without bad associations. Thanks a lot, "Soylent Green."

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Three things...

I received a piece of spam (at my work e-mail address, boo!) that said:


Oh please, I can list those without even thinking very hard. So you won't need to click on any link if you get this spam.

They are:

Cleaning your aquarium
Setting up your potter's wheel and throwing pots
Taking apart and cleaning your lawnmower engine.

You're welcome.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Who knew...

Cookie Monster was a metalhead?

But you know, it kind of fits.


funny pictures of cats with captions
see more Lolcats and funny pictures

You know it's not going to be a bang-up wonderful day if, within the first half-hour of it, someone shows up at your office, claims that it is NOT their goal in life to make your life difficult, and then proceeds to take up your time until you have to go to your first scheduled task of the day.

I mean, I'm really sorry people have problems and I try to sympathize, but I have work I need to get done, too.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

I love this stuff...

To counteract some of my bile of recent days, here is a happy post.

One of the things I love is that there are people out there interested in keeping alive/recreating past musical traditions. I happened - via a chain of YouTube searching - to stumble across the Bratislava (!) Hot Serenaders, doing a song most of us know better from Tiny Tim (or, perhaps, SpongeBob SquarePants):

Hah! I love the monocle on the singer. (I have to admit, though I still love Tiny Tim's version, I like this one better. I could never quite get used to the falsetto).

I LIKE that semi-corny old dance band stuff. It sounds kind of Jeeves-and-Wooster to me, or perhaps like something that Albert Campion would listen to. (From the "classical" world - I love Shostakovich's Jazz Suites, which are somewhat in the same style, but more complex)

Here's more (an unknown, 1920s ("pre Nazi" as they are clear to point out) German tune):

And from a bit later in time (or in "recreated time"), there are the awesome Puppini Sisters, which Ken posted about a while back:

They also do Mr. Sandman:

(If I have any quibbles, it is that they sing just a bit too fast. But otherwise: that kind of close harmony stuff blows me away, partly because I cannot do it.)

Hah - they even do "I Will Survive":

(I don't like this version as well, but that might be partly because it's a live version and the audio is not so good, and they're obviously hamming for the audience).

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Thrift and profligacy

I know I've snarked here before about the breathless "Did you know you can save $425 a year by asking your friends to drive you around instead of driving your own car" type thrift-stories.

But it's actually kind of interesting to read about and think about what some people think are good ways to save money. And about what they're willing to spend on (Though there seem to be far fewer stories about how people treat themselves in a civilized manner during this recession).

I get "Real Simple" magazine. (You may laugh at me if you want; I am really not part of the DINK or alpha-mom crowd which seem to be the main demographic base of the magazine. Still, there is something about it that I like).

They featured a story this month featuring ways to "Do It Yourself and Save Big!"

So, here are their ideas, plus my comments:

1. "repair" (actually, unjam) a garbage disposal. They claim a savings of $100 for doing it yourself (it involves pushing the reset button, unplugging it and trying to pull whatever is jammed out with tongs if possible).

I've done this very thing myself. But it is not to save money: it is to save time. Where I live, getting a workman out can be a several-days-long ordeal, even for something as simple as this. So I do it myself, not because of the money issue, but because I'd rather not take a day off, or cancel office hours, or something, to wait on some guy to show up.

2. Groom your dog yourself.

Not applicable; I don't own a dog. Though if I did, I think I'd go for one of the lower-maintenance (all around) mixed breeds, or something like a black lab, that you can pretty easily bathe yourself and that doesn't really need trimming or frou-frou cuts. (And I'd let the vet deal with its nails. Too much chance of hurting the dog if you don't know how to do it right yourself). Besides, black labs, all the ones I've ever known, have been pretty cool dogs.

I don't think I'd want to have a dog that had to go to the hairdresser more often than I do. (Just as I'd never date a man who was prettier than I was.)

3. Rescue jewelry that has fallen down the drain.

Again, done this myself. And again, done it to avoid the agonizing wait on a plumber.

(I have also changed the wax seal on a toilet, and replaced the entire interior "flapper and handle" mechanism myself for the same reasons).

4. Repair a small crack in drywall. Actually, I've repaired a larger-than-small crack. It just takes different supplies: drywall mud and that fiberglass stuff that looks like gauze and provides a sort of base for the mud. It's not that hard.

5. Replace a dead spot on the lawn. Never had to, but I'd rather do it myself. And I'd be more likely to do it by cutting a patch of turf from somewhere inconspicuous and replacing it that way. (I have a St. Augustine grass lawn, which is actually pretty much self-healing. Which makes it awesome. I've never had bare patches in this lawn.)

6. Fix a faucet that spits. Actually, I've used an even easier fix than what they recommend: if you live in hard-water country, you can tie a baggie full of full-strength vinegar over the faucet (or take it apart and soak the aerator in it) and let it dissolve the scale for you. This also works very well on showerheads that don't seem to be giving as much water flow as they should.

7. Replace a doorknob. Never had to do this but if it were an exterior (i.e., security) door, I'd hire someone. I suppose it's not hard but I think I'd rather have a locksmith do that.

8. Secure a window that slides down. Never had to do this, though I'd probably go for an even lower-tech, cheaper solution: get a block of wood the right size to prop the window open to the extent I want it propped open.

9. Brighten stained tile grout (they warn that you will have to do the whole dang room): This is something I'd hire someone for if I wanted it done. I lack the patience necessary to crawl along the floor of my 15' x 10' kitchen scrubbing grout with a toothbrush full of bleach. Or, more likely, I'd just leave the stains be. (I have tan-ish grout in the kitchen; it doesn't show stains too badly).

10. Replace a torn window screen: Done it, don't enjoy it, but would probably do it myself again if I had to.

11. Change a burned-out headlight bulb: Done it, burned my hand badly doing it. From now on, I will let the nice man at my mechanic's do it and pay him.

12. Install new windshield wipers: This is not that hard. I do it myself. Don't most people?

13. Replace a worn-down heel tip: It shows a pair of spike heels the like which I have never owned. I have had "heel taps" replaced on oxfords but as it costs $15 or less to have it done, I take my shoes to the shoe repair shop for that.

14. Repair a broken necklace or bracelet clasp: Yes, but only on costume jewelry. Jewelry with actual value (I own only a few pieces) I would take to a jewelry shop and pay a pro to do it. And if my string of pearls broke, I'd take it to a pro for re-stringing (they are the traditional "knot between each pearl" so restringing would be a major pain)

15. Style your hair in an updo: I don't generally "style" my hair. If I had somewhere REAL fancy to go, that needed a good style, I'd probably pay someone to do an updo for me. Because I'm kind of cack-handed at it.

16. Trim your bangs. I do this, but I prefer to pay someone to, because a few times the result of my doing it myself has been "six-year-old playing with the scissors"

17. Get a reflexology treatment: If I wanted one, I'd have to do it myself. No practitioners in town.

18. Do your own pedicure: More or less, yes. I don't always put polish on, though. But I do it myself not to save the bucks, but because I've heard scary stories of people contracting foot-fungus from poorly cleaned tools. And I don't like strange people touching me.

A couple things they don't list:

changing your own oil - I know how to do this, but I'd rather pay the nice man at my mechanic's the $25 or so to do it for me. Because they can easily safely dispose of the oil. And because the nice man at my mechanic's also checks the other fluids for me while he's at it, and lets me know whether everything looks OK or not.

cooking at home - I do this most all the time. But not because it's cheaper; because I like home cooked food better, and you know that the food you're eating hasn't been spit in, or cooked up by someone with Hep A, or made with some kind of cheap-trust-us mystery oil from China.

cleaning house - lots of my friends hire cleaning people. It is not something I can do. I don't think less of them for it; it's that I personally have privacy issues and the thought of someone else touching and arranging my stuff makes me twitch

yardwork: I could see hiring someone, except I have a super tiny yard, and it just seems easier to take the half-hour or so each week and do it myself.

And then there are the things I choose to spend money on:

1. Fresh fruit and vegetables: If there is something I like, I will buy it. Even if it's expensive. This week sweet cherries are in at the store. I've eaten a pound and a half of them in less than 2 days. I figure, the food is good for me, and I enjoy it, and frankly, it's a treat to have fresh fruits and veggies after having often to depend on stuff in cans or frozen (when things are out of season and either aren't available or are not very good).

2. Packaged salad greens: So I don't have the unpleasant experience of biting down on spinach that I washed and realizing I didn't get every last bit of sand out of it. I wash the supposedly "pre washed" greens but I don't have to do sand and grit patrol on them.

3. Good chocolate. Well, I don't buy Valhrona or Scharffen Berger, partly because I can't find them for sale here in town. But I do buy good dark chocolate and enjoy it.

4. Good tea: I mostly mail order this, but tea is one of the pleasurable things in my life, so I'm willing to spend the money on it. (I'd rather mow my own lawn and be able to afford good tea.)

5. Good soap: I often buy the "artisanal" soaps that some of the frou frou gift shops sell. Because they smell nice. And because they feel nicer than plain old Ivory from the drugstore.

6. Craft supplies: Truly, making stuff is one of the great joys of my life. I think if I didn't do crafts I would be a much less happy and content person. So purchasing quilting fabric when I want to, or buying yarn for a new project - I let myself do it. I have a (slightly flexible) budget I don't go above, but I do buy supplies when I need something or see something I want.

7. Books: Yeah, I know: the library is free. But I have sometimes-somewhat-esoteric taste in books (want to read all of Marjorie Allingham's mysteries? Good luck at finding them in a typical strapped-for-space small town library; most of them probably went out in a book sale 15 years ago). And I sometimes can take a couple months to read a longer book, and the whole "yeah, I'm not done yet, I need to renew" process is a drag.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

daily moment of anger

Yeah, yeah, I know. But it's hot, and I'm tired, and I have some very demanding people in my life right now.

This morning's "WTF" came from the news: they were talking about how the Congresscritters wanted to ram home the new healthcare plan before the August recess, so they could go on vacation and not be delayed.

Seeing as there have been times I've delayed vacations - or even a time when a family vacation was CANCELED because my dad was needed to do something at work - this irritates me. Or at least the wording of it and the assumption.

Look, I'm not in favor of any kind of government tinkering with health care, but it looks like we're gonna get it. So I would like AT LEAST for the frickin' Congresscritters to spend ENOUGH FRICKIN' TIME studying the damn thing (which they have apparently exempted themselves from being covered by: lovely) and not just phone it in because the DAMN BEACH IS CALLING.

NO NO NO NO. This is not what you idiots were elected for.

2010 can't come soon enough for me, and 2012 can't come soon enough for me.

What ARROGANCE: "We need to go on vacation so we're just going to push whatever the hell it is through as fast as we can. No matter that it's going to majorly affect the lives of our constituents, our voters, and the people who pay our salaries. Someone break out the Cuervo! It's party time!"


Seriously, I bet most working people out here have stories of vacations delayed or denied because of some project or emergency. Shouldn't we expect the same of our elected officials.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

I know this makes...... a bad person, but I am really really effing sick and tired of the Sotomayor confirmation hearings.

sad and angry news

You've probably heard about the creeps (the most g-rated word I can come up with, and it's not strong enough) arrested in Florida for killing a couple that adopted special-needs kids.

Emily said it once before about another situation, but I think it applies here:

The wrong people died.

Seriously. These creeps went into the house of this couple, and in front of several of the kids, murdered the parents in cold blood. A couple of the creeps had apparently worked for the couple. The couple was known to be wealthy, which I suppose ignited the greed and sense of entitlement in the creeps: "Hey, why don't we have that? We want that. Hell, we deserve it, let's go get it."

This just makes me splutter with rage - this couple, from everything I've heard, was doing something to help. To make a positive difference in this world. They were doing the kind of thing I only wish I had the resources, the stamina, and the personal fortitude to do.

And now they're gone. And their 16 kids will have to find new caretakers.

I effin' hate the human race some days.

Mark Steyn

Sums up some of the attitudes that are making me sad, twitchy, and borderline hopeless:

"Now get back to being peasants, peasants, and leave the electricity for your betters".

I admit it. I have a lurking fear that in a few years, there will be new Sumptuary Laws affecting how often ordinary folks can eat meat, drive, have children, turn on the heating or air conditioning, buy new clothes, and on, and on - that our freedom to be the owners of our own lives will be slowly drained away, in the name of Saving The Planet.

While our "betters" still get to have mansions and use all the electricity they want and travel to exotic places and tell the natives there living in poverty how much better off they are living in poverty.

I don't know. What's happening to my country? Some days I wonder if I will recognize it in a few years.

I suppose I could think of an underground movement - of a group of people devoted to still trying to have SOME comfort, driven to barter what skills and goods they have. I suppose in that kind of economy, I'd do pretty well, seeing as I know how to make bread from scratch (I can even make my own starter culture of wild yeast if I had to), and I can sew and knit and crochet and kind-of spin yarn. And I know what wild plants are edible and what ones are poisonous. And I can play music, if we were living high enough on Maslow's hierarchy for music to even matter.

And I theoretically know how to make yogurt (never have done it but know the basic process). And I can make quilts given the supplies. And I know how to make candles. And in theory, soap. (Soap would be one thing that would be very important to me in a post-apocalyptic world: If I can't wash, I don't want to live).

So I don't know. On the one hand, I realize intellectually that I'm doing the same stuff the Bush Fear people were doing a few years ago. On the other hand, I look at Cap and Trade and wonder and worry: how many old folks are going to die because they feel they can't afford to put the heat on in the winter? How many poor families will have to decide between feeding their kids and keeping the house cool in the summer (no, wait: they will probably both be eligible for relief programs, whereas I will not).

I don't know. Maybe I need to learn to make yogurt (and cheese) for real. And learn more useful skills. And get my CPR registration renewed. And just kind of be prepared.

I don't know. I need someone to kind of talk me down from this but I really do have this vision that in a few summers, I won't be able to afford to air condition my house, or I won't be able to afford food at the new cap-and-trade-prices, or that things are just going to go very bad.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Oh ho ho ho

It's been a sad few days - just the heat, and being tired from it, and thinking about stuff, and the stuff in the news.

But this literally made me LOL..

And I don't even like jello shots. (Standard disclaimer: I do not drink, it gives me the migraine. And even if I did, jello shots seem like one of the more unappealing ways to imbibe. But whatever. It's still funny.)

I wonder if he'll do one out of pudding pops next. Mmmm, pudding pops.


I was reading a friend's description of the end of her cat's happened over the weekend.

And now I'm crying again, because of my parents' cat who died last year.

DAMMIT. It has been a year. This should not still upset me. And I should not still be getting sad, some days in church, when I feel that empty spot next to me where my friend Dorothy used to sit.

I think it's partly because I'm distressed from the heat - I get something very like SAD, only in the summers - and because I'm not sleeping well because even running the A/C as cold as I feel I possibly can afford to isn't cool enough for me - that I'm weepy and susceptible to being made sad.

Hot weather sucks. Being alone most of the day (as I am because very few of my colleagues are on campus this summer) sucks. I get inside my head and it's hard to come back out.

Thursday, July 09, 2009


Yeah, I know, I sometimes get quiet in the summer. There are a couple reasons for that.

First of all, it's hot. It's actually been a bit hotter this summer than some recent summers. And the heat kind of saps my energy - when I come home I just want to do my self-mandated hour of piano practice and then read until it's time for bed.

And second, the summer classes take a lot of my energy. But in a good way. The students are a lot better and more involved (by and large) than they are in the regular semester (especially the Gen Bio non-majors students), and they ask a lot of tough questions and kind of require me to stay on my toes a little more. And it takes a little more energy teaching. But as I said, in a good way. I'd rather have students who ask questions and challenge me and want to know more about stuff and want to know the "why" of stuff instead of people who sit there like passive receivers.

I don't really have any "foolish student stories" either for the summer - aside from that one lazy instance of people thinking they could get away with plagiarized reports (and two of the three came and apologized to me for it later), I don't really have a lot of problems. Which is good. (knocking wood right now, thinking of last summer's debacle with the guy who wanted to claim that he deserved a better grade because "other people" cheated).

So I go in every morning and kind of pour myself out, then go home in the evenings and try to renew for the next day. It's good, just very tiring.

Sunday, July 05, 2009


And so we begin year 234 in this great experiment.

I admit I felt (and still feel from time to time) some pessimism about the path our country is on; it seems that in government, more and more, people are more interested in what perks they can get for themselves than they are in doing what is really and truly right for the nation (or even their own constituents, sometimes).

But then, I look at the people around me, and my optimism is restored. We are a good people. We may have our faults and our downfallings, but we by and large want to do what is right.

I live in a fairly small town. When a family without insurance gets burned out of their house, word goes around - the churches, in particular, mobilize. Lodgings are found for them. People search in their closets for "gently used" clothes in the sizes that the family need. Toys are provided to occupy the children. It is almost like the old story of the Stone Soup - no one initially seems to have much, but they come together and in the end, the family finds themselves with what they need, provided by their neighbors.

Or when someone has massive medical bills, someone will organize a taco sale, or a benefit concert, or an auction of donated try to raise money to help the person.

From time to time, our little local paper will have a grateful letter from someone who had been passing through and whose car broke down. Or who left their wallet at the Chili's. Or who had some medical emergency - and people stepped forward to help. Someone turns in the wallet, a waiter remembers the people commenting on where they were going, hotels are called, the man is reunited with his wallet. Or good Samaritans come to the aid of the person with the broken-down car. Or something.

I think part of it is that in my town at least, people still have somewhat of what I call the "frontier attitude" - the understanding that the government either can't help or can't help soon enough, so people better pull together and help each other out. The whole "grassroots" thing is alive and well here.

There also seems to be an attitude of increasing understanding of the need to take personal responsibility among people. A lot of my friends have been talking about it. A lot of my colleagues - even those that self-identify pretty far to the left end of the political spectrum - they all understand that you should not count on the government for what you can do yourself. (And by the same token: a pretty hearty distaste for excessive government interference in people's lives.)

And there's a certain amount of pride among a couple of my friends, people who fought their way out of welfare and other forms of dependence on the government. There's a pride in being able to support oneself, and a gratitude - a lot of the folks I know who came "from not much" are also big supporters of their churches and other charities - because, as they said, "They were the ones who really stood by me when I was down and out" - there's the idea of paying it back, paying it forward, paying it however - but doing something to help others out.

And so I look around at the people in my town - the people I work with, the people I go to church with, the people in my AAUW group or the beautification council or other groups - and I don't see the sort of clamoring for more supervision, more assistance from the government, that is sometimes claimed of the American people. I also don't see the supposed slack-jawed blankness, the willingness to accept whatever they're told by the media or the politicians or the pundits: even people I know who don't have very advanced "traditional" educations are pretty much critical-thinkers when it comes to stuff like that. ("You have to ask yourself: 'what are they wanting us to believe here?' when you see stuff on the news," as one of the women in my Sunday School class put it one day).

So while I may not have a lot of hope about our current crop of politicians (or CEOs, for that matter), I have enormous hope about the American people - that there will be a groundswell of wanting to get back to work, of avoiding undue interference, of wanting to help on their own terms, without requiring the government to get involved. And may that come to pass. May we have good people, with the best interests of democracy and the nation at heart, who are less interested in being served than in serving, step forward and help us to course-correct.

Happy birthday, America. May we never forget why you were founded and the great freedoms we enjoy because we live here.

Friday, July 03, 2009

No, no, please, no.

I always wind up being some kind of de facto moderator in lots of situations. I think that's because I tend to like most people, and I tend to be a problem solver, and I don't tend to get angry and yell.

Well, I may be getting sucked into another one. I want to resist it but I can't, seeing as one of the parties involved is someone I share a workspace with.

This individual - let's call him X - isn't sharing the workspace totally equally. Some of his stuff is on "my" side, but I've never said anything, because I probably don't use that workspace to the degree he does.

However, he's now decided - since, he is Mr. Important Wrote-Two-Books - that he "deserves" space in one of the other faculty's workspaces as well.

And he moved stuff over there, without asking the faculty member. And talked about "throwing away" stuff that isn't being used - which is stuff that is actually University property, and therefore is illegal to throw away.

Well, when my other colleague - let's call him Y - found out, he got very angry. He called me and a third person (Z) in for a meeting (X is on vacation this week, that's why X wasn't in on the meeting.)

The phrase, "pissy little bitch" may or may not have been used to apply to X. Which makes me both cringe and giggle. Because yeah, some of X's behavior of late could perhaps, at the outside, be described in those terms.

Well, anyway, Y sent an e-mail to X about it. One thing he said? "IF you have issues about how ricki is sharing the space with you, take it up with her."

Sorry, WTF? That wasn't something that came out in our previous meeting. In fact, I had told Y that I had 1/3 of the workspace and X had 2/3 - AND I HAD SHOWN HIM.

So now I'm going to have to deal with X wanting even more of my space. And I'm going to have to deal with the fallout of X being irritated - X can be kind of passive aggressive and take stuff out on people who do NOT deserve it - because he's pissed off at Y, so instead of going and talking to Y he's going to bitch and scream to ME, because that means that he won't have to confront Y.

And you know? I'm done. I'm done with being his "trouble tree." I'm done with listening to all the crap that goes wrong in his life. I'm done with listening to him whine about how he should be entitled to something more than the rest of the faculty get, or to release time from teaching, or some other frakkin' thing because he believes he is more important than us.

(He actually said something along those lines to our secretary - who he has really rubbed the wrong way, as well. I hope she doesn't get fed up and ask for a transfer, or decide she's got enough years in to retire, because I doubt we'd ever get anyone as good as her again).

So if X gets all pissy when he comes back, and starts venting to me about something that does not DIRECTLY concern me, I am going to simply say, "I am busy. You need to go take it up with Y (or Z or whomever)." I am done with this. I am done with having my good moods destroyed, my time sucked away. I am done with being a free therapist for this guy.

Now I just need to stand strong and have the guts to say to him, "I don't want to hear this, this does not concern me, please do not drag me into it" when he starts.

X DID send a rather contrite e-mail in reply, but I'm fearful - because it was so short - that it was him barely controlling anger that will then come out - and be directed at me - when he comes back.

What is the best way to deflect the anger of someone who is angry because they feel they are entitled to something and aren't getting it, and they are taking it out on a person because they are just ANGRY?

I am not good at dealing with that kind of anger - when I get really angry over something, it is usually some injustice, and I try to use that anger as, "This is something that needs to be fixed and you can be the person to try to fix it" and then I calm myself down and call whatever office is screwing over the student (often times I get angry at Financial Aid) and try to discuss it with them and work something out.

When I just get the "free floating" anger - like when someone cuts me off on the road - I tell myself to calm down. I don't go to someone unrelated to the situation and "kick the dog" by screaming at them.

So I don't know how to deal with someone who feels thwarted and is yelling at me to deal with it - do I just sit there and listen and nod and in my head imagine myself walking through a huge sunny quilt shop full of fabric I want to buy, or do I say, "Stop. This is not my fault, do not take it out on me." or do I say, "I'm sorry, I have to be somewhere now" and leave the room (doesn't work if I'm working on research) or do I yell back or do I try to talk soothingly like you would to a snarling dog or do I burst into tears and say, "What do you WANT me to do about this? I have so many things going on in my life right now I can't keep track of all them" or what?

I hate human interaction some times.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

It's a day early....

...but Cancer can FOAD.

My mom called last night. One of her best friends has been diagnosed with ovarian cancer. My mom's friend is in her early to mid 80s and has had other health issues (she had heart surgery about 10 years ago), and the cancer's started to spread, so she's decided not to have surgery, but rather to use chemo and radiation to try to prolong quality of life for however long it may last.

I respect her decision - I probably would have done the same thing in her place - but it still makes me sad and angry at Cancer.

She did say her doctor was pretty hopeful that some of the newer treatments could help her have good quality of life for a couple more years. And she has a daughter in Houston who is going to set up appointments for her at M.D. Anderson, to see if they have any different advice.

But still, it sucks. I know far too many people who've had cancer, who died of cancer, or who are fighting it now.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009


It speaks the truth, sometimes:

This happens to me. Or, worse, when I approach a line something will happen to make it suddenly go 10x slower than it was before.