Tuesday, December 18, 2012

In the words of Eric Cartman:

"Screw you guys, I'm goin' home."

No, not YOU guys, not you reading this. But lots of other people: the administration for requiring us to have syllabi for next semester in before we are even sure of what we are teaching; students who earn Ds and petition to have that grade raised to a B on no grounds whatsoever, wasting not only MY time but the time of several office workers; people who text and drive (had another near-miss accident with someone looking down at their hands the other day); people who act like they are the ONLY person who matters when they are in line at the post office or the bank or the grocery store and that no one else's time is worth anything.

And more: politicians. Pundits. The people who craft news stories designed to make people cry, when the bare facts of the matter will make you cry. Reality television producers. The people who run A and E, TLC, Discovery, and other networks that used to have interesting and different programming, which are all now clones of each other (The other night, I flipped to Discovery Fit and Health and they were running - well, I forget what, but I said, "This has nothing to do with either Fitness or Health.").

I'm setting out today for a couple weeks making the tour of visiting family and a few remaining friends I have up north. I'm glad to be going. Partly because it means anything I can do work-related is limited. (Grade challenge? I'll deal with it when I get back.) Partly because I won't have to open the refrigerator every evening and go, "What the hell am I going to fix for dinner?" (My mom is a good cook, and she already cooks low-sodium, for my dad). Partly because I won't have to drive anywhere; partly because if it's raining and I'm out of milk I won't have to go to the grocery all by myself and park in BFE and trudge up to the store ALL ALONE in the rain, and watch the smug-marrieds getting dropped off in the fire-lane so THEY can run in while their honey parks and so they don't get wet.....Part of it is having my parents right there to reassure me a little of my worth as a person (No, I'm not one of those tiresome low-self-esteem types who needs constant reassurance, but you know? I get tired and worn out and start questioning myself, and it's good to be around people who care a lot and who know me better than anyone else does and who value me even though they know me better than anyone else does).

So really, it's less of a "screw you guys" and more of an "I'm goin' HOME."

Monday, December 17, 2012

"Hungry all the time"

Okay, I'm going to change gears. I realize this is a very personal and very selfish whine, but if a person can't whine on their blog, where can they?

I've alluded to being diagnosed with (probably familial; my dad has it, his dad had it, my grandma on the other side had it) hypertension. I take a beta blocker for it, and monitor my blood pressure, but my doctor also recommended I cut back on salt. She said "Aim for no more than 1000 mg a day." ("Normal" people get close to 2500).

Do you know how hard that is? It's hard. It's really hard. Especially if you don't have someone to cook for you, or don't have time to cook much. I can't use ANY convenience foods. It's very hard to find even canned beans that are low enough in sodium to be part of my diet. (Yes, you can cook them from scratch, but that takes lots of advance planning to do - and I'm not so good at advance-planning stuff like that, when I'm so busy otherwise). I can't just go grab a pizza if I'm busy, I can't get deli sandwiches.

I try to eat lots of vegetables (which I mostly hate and I am so sick of frozen green beans right now I could scream) because allegedly they can help lower blood pressure.

I've eaten little meat because frankly the meat in my town sucks. The small local grocery store sells tough steaks - they go the "as little fat as possible" route so it's like eating liver. And the wal-mart - well, I didn't trust their meat before, now I see on the packages it says something like "Enhanced with a proprietary solution" which is essentially a brine. Which means salt. Which means some meat cuts have nearly 500 mg of sodium per serving. Which means I cannot eat them. And of course the wal-mart doesn't give a crap. People who limit sodium are such a limited part of their customer base that they don't bother to carry any limited sodium options - for canned goods, I generally have to drive an hour's round-trip, or mail order them from somewhere. Fish is also out because I live a thousand miles from the ocean, and I HATE catfish and I HATE tilapia.

And I just kind of walk around hungry all the time. (Bread is also mostly out; a lot of commercial bread is high in sodium. And most crackers are out). It's not so much a physical hunger - all the damn vegetables and all their damn fiber sees to that (and also means I'm in the bathroom a couple more times a day than I used to be). It's an EMOTIONAL hunger.

And I don't care what all the stupid psychobabble people want to claim. Food IS  a form of comfort, a form of sensual pleasure. I cannot make it be merely a fuel to keep me going - if that were the case, I'd call up the local prison system and have them send me a few cases of Nutriloaf and just exist on that. But I can't DO that.

I HAVE lost some weight but not as much as you might think - cookies are one of the few things that are lower in sodium, low enough for me to be able to eat a few now and then without feeling like I'm going to destroy my arteries.

But I just want something GOOD. I want some kind of main dish food that I don't have to worry about the sodium in. I wish I could still eat pizza, I wish I could still eat macaroni and cheese. I wish I could walk into a restaurant and order just whatever without considering first the sodium content, or having to ask for their "nutritional information" and pick, not based on what I want, but based on what will do the least damage to me.

I had been eating rice cakes until a relative oh-so-helpfully told me, "I read somewhere that those are kind of high in arsenic." Okay, FINE. EVERYTHING is going to kill me. So I can have arsenic poisoning, or my kidneys and brain shutting down from high blood pressure, or starvation. 

And it sucks. It just sucks. I hate having to be that killjoy that has to ask first "Where are you thinking of going?" when a group of people after church are thinking of going out to eat and they invite me along. I hate having to be that person who takes only a few tiny spoons of things at a potluck, and mainly eats the thing I brought, or stuff like salad that I figure is fairly safe. I hate having to avoid snacks at meetings, even if I'm hungry and really want something.

And you know? This is where stuff like nearly being in a car wreck makes me so nutso - that I've been going through all this crap of being hungry all the time, eating stuff I hate, not eating stuff I love, to try to prevent having a stroke, and that I may wind up having done that for NOTHING because random fate might just kill me instead.

I just want something filling. Something I can cram in my mouth and feel like it's FOOD - not like the slimy little frozen green beans, or the grassy salads, or the mushy sweet potatoes I've been trying to live on. But more than that, I just want to be able to eat without having to worry about every damn bite.

You know what?

I don't generally agree with The Onion on much, but this story (language, but I suppose I need not say that, seeing as it's the Onion) kind of sums it up.

Everything's broken. I don't think there's anything that will fix it. Not new laws, not armed guards, not suspending Freedom of Speech of the second amendment. There will be people who want to do harm to others and they will find away, no matter how much the law-abiding people are punished.

We can lock everyone who displays slightly abnormal behavior in a "home." We can take away the guns of the (law abiding) citizens who have them. We can put cameras every damn where and require strip searches to enter a public building. And someone will still find a way to hurt people.

I'm also kind of done with social media, with all the people preaching gun control/mental health awareness/more money to schools for stuff like metal detectors and other proto-prisonlike things/people saying "why are guns a right when marriage isn't a right for everyone" (SO not the time, friend, SO not the time)/etc., etc. 

So I'm saying, "Screw you guys, I'm goin' home."

Yeah, tomorrow I leave for Christmas break to see my family. Damn but I'm glad to be going.

I also came in this morning to about seven grade-grubbing e-mails from my non majors class. THIS is why faculty hate teaching the gen ed classes. People who don't bother to hand in all the work and then are MORTALLY OFFENDED that they earned a C. People demanding I recalculate their grade, which I am going to do right now.

But you know what? Like the Onion said. F it. F it all to hell. It doesn't MATTER. It doesn't MATTER that someone got a C and not a B.

(And okay: I did recalculate the grades. In two or three cases yes, I did make a mistake and the grade was higher. I fixed that and let the person know if they asked. But in the cases of the MOST MORTALLY OFFENDED people, their grade did not change. Look. You passed the class. Based on your attendance and participation, maybe you should not have. So please stop calling me.)

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Sick, sad world

Wow. I suppose in a strange way, the fact that what happened in Connecticut on Friday was literally unthinkable to so many people is a good thing....that we have not yet become inured to this kind of thing.

I will say the politicization of the event - which seems to happen with everything these days - makes me kind of sick. It was one person who decided, for whatever reason, to do an awful thing.

Life isn't safe. There are no guarantees in life. We can do our best to protect the people we love but in the end, horrible stuff can happen. Someone I care about got a diagnosis of cancer this week. While it's still early stages, this is someone who tried to do everything "right." Bad stuff happens.

There's some talk now of posting armed guards at schools. That thought makes me really uncomfortable.

I'm glad I was a kid when I was. We had fire drills and tornado drills, and I admit I had the somewhat-obsessive little-kid fear of both fires and tornadoes. I'm a little young for the duck-and-cover Cold War drills (I guess by the time I made the scene it had been decided that if a bomb was dropped, no amount of ducking and covering would save us). So I was saved that fear. And I am too old to have gone through school after the school shootings - so I have never been through that kind of a drill. Again, knowing the kind of little kid I was, I would have gone around afraid much of the time after that, expecting it to happen eventually.

I don't know. I don't have any answers. If I did, I'd run for Congress or something. (In a strange way, it's almost a relief to be able to admit that I don't have any answers to this - that I don't have to contemplate how I'd fix things. It's not my responsibility).

I don't know what causes someone to take it into their head to kill innocent people. It seems like we're seeing more and more of this; I don't know if it's reported more widely (surely in the 1800s, there were occasionally cases of people who went nuts and did bad stuff?) or if more people are able to depersonalize others in that way, see them as targets.

As I said, I don't know. Sometimes other people irritate me; I hate having to stand in line at the post office with someone who has an unruly child. But I'd never even think of SAYING something rude to that parent, let alone harming them or their child. If I inadvertently say something that hurts someone's feelings, I feel bad for hours - sometimes days - afterward. So I really don't get the psychology (If it's that) behind wanting to "take out" a bunch of other people.

Someone commented that "There's a certain percentage of the population that believes the world is going to end on the 21st; watch out for crazies doing crazy things." I hope with all my heart that they are wrong about that. (No, the world is NOT going to end on the 21st; from all the "serious" stuff I've read about the Maya calender, it essentially means that that's the point where they, to oversimplify things, ran out of paper to write the calender on).

I don't know. I admit, selfishly, all I care about at this point is getting safely back up to my parents' house to see them for Christmas. 

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

So, I don't know

The war on Christmas thing. I tend to see it mostly as something ginned up to give people something to talk about, or else a series of very isolated incidents where someone with a burr up their tailpipe deciding to be Ebeneezer Grinch.

I don't know what it's like elsewhere in the country, but here Christmas is very much in evidence. Granted, we're one of the grommets on the Bible Belt (not QUITE the buckle, but close). But you see lots of public displays of things, the occasional nativity scene, people wish one another Merry Christmas.

Several of my students wished me a Merry Christmas after the exam today. Then again, they've seen me wearing a cross pendant, so they're probably aware I'm Christian and would take no offense to the sentiment (and in fact, wished them one as well).

I don't know. I admit I think sometimes both sides are a little wrong on this. With insisting on "Merry Christmas," for example: I tend to think that shopkeepers and what not should be allowed to say what they wish in the form of a greeting. If someone chooses to wish me a Merry Christmas, great. But if they want to play it a little safer (though in this part of the country, as I said, I think there's even a higher percentage of at-least-nominal Christians than elsewhere) and say "Happy Holidays," I'm not going to snarl at them or tell them to tell me Merry Christmas instead. Heck, if someone assumes I'm Jewish and wishes me a Happy Chanukah, I'll smile and nod and say, "Same to you." Because they're all well-wishes, offered freely and out of the freedom of the giver.

I would object to being told, for example, by my administration: "You are only to wish Happy Holidays to others on campus. No mention of Christmas is to be made." Because that's zero tolerance ridiculousness. I have similar issues with trying to whitewash things, to rename Christmas as "winter holiday" or change the names of things that have long been associated with Christmas. And okay: if the majority in a town want to rename the Christmas tree the Holiday tree, fine, okay. I will still think of it as a Christmas tree. But a few people telling the majority that they must change, because those few are hurt and offended over it not being "more inclusive," ugh. Just, ugh. We need to grow up a little about some of the "I am offended because...." stuff. Not everyone is going to be included in everything. That's just how it is. If you have different traditions, by all means celebrate them. But don't try to make people change their traditions. 

If I know someone isn't Christian, I'll wish them a happy whatever-they-celebrate, or wish them a Happy New Year. I'm smart enough and tactful enough to consider someone's background. If I really don't know, and I suspect they're someone who might object to a Merry Christmas, I'll say Happy Holidays to them. (Though then again: I used to have a co-worker who was Hindi, and one day when I slipped and wished her a Merry Christmas, she just smiled and said that while she celebrated Diwali, she was happy with my good wishes for her.)

In some cases, people are way too sensitive. I do remember once someone taking me to task for wishing them a Merry Christmas. "I celebrate Winter Solstice," she sniffed. "It's more inclusive."

Really? If someone wished me a Happy Solstice I'd probably look at them in puzzlement for a few minutes. I don't celebrate it; I don't know very many who do. Though I get the idea: it doesn't really have a religious link (though I think some of the people who consider themselves Pagan celebrate it) and it does refer to the amount of sunlight starting to get longer again. But I wouldn't say it was "more inclusive." And I don't like being sniffed at when I offer good wishes to someone.

I didn't really have contact with that person the next year. I suppose if I had seen her again I would have remembered to wish her a happy Solstice but I have to admit the memory of that take-down she visited on me would make it stick in my throat a bit.

Is it no longer possible for people to smile, say "thank you" and move on without feeling the need to CORRECT everyone? As I said earlier, if someone wished me a happy Chanukah I'd smile and nod and take it to mean they wished me well, and were doing so in their own way.

But likewise, I think insisting that individuals conform - in anyway - is problematic. (Again, not so very many years ago: I went to school with a number of kids who were Jewish. Around the winter holidays we'd talk in class about our family traditions, and they'd talk about what they did for Chanukah. And I don't think there was anything that got weird or uncomfortable about it. Of course, the fact that I belonged to the majority religion could be coloring my perception, you might argue....but I don't remember anyone coming into the public-school classroom and insisting we shut down discussion of THOSE holidays this minute.....

I guess part of what it is is that it seems to me people have developed more of a tendency to take offense in recent years. If I taught at, say, Brandeis, I wouldn't insist that they made allowances for Christian holidays for me; I wouldn't expect to be able to get a cheeseburger at the cafeteria. I'd just deal with it, and if something about it became too unbearable, I'd go elsewhere.

(I will quickly note that none of the practices mentioned violates anyone's human rights. There's a difference there.)

I do think a lot of what's presented as the War on Christmas is probably the actions of a few power-mad bureaucratic types or people who have some kind of sourpuss vendetta against stuff - the person who reports a couple of Christian kids for exchanging Christmas cards with a nativity scene on it in the halls in school, the person who fights to disallow a business from displaying a "Christ is Born!" banner. I don't think there's anything organized out there; it seems more it really is some sourpusses.

And again, it's the offense thing. I'm not sure what specifically it is about Christmas that offends the few people who take offense to it. I don't know if it's that they get hurt because they're excluded (then, I would argue, we should also ban Valentine's Day, so people who are unattached or who just broke up don't feel bad). I don't know if it's some kind of a control thing. I don't know if it's some kind of I Know Better Than You Do thing, or if it's some kind of weird neo-Puritanism.

(My understanding about the Puritans is that part of their ban on Christmas was related to the fact that they saw it as a "Papist" holiday, in other words, because Catholics were for it, they had to be agin' it.)

I really don't know. Because I so don't get hating Christmas, though occasionally you run into people who profess to do so.

And I don't really have a problem with people choosing not to celebrate, or even "hating" it. What I have a problem with is their trying to suck the enjoyment out of it for everyone else - I know people who go on long eye-rolling tirades about the "waste" of it all. Or talk superiorly about how they 'don't give gifts any more' in their family (Well, hoo-rah and a tiger for you! I personally LIKE getting gifts myself, and I like GIVING 'em, and if that makes me less "evolved" than you, then so be it.). Again: do as you will, but don't tell me you're better than I am because you do differently. And for the sake of the day and he whose birth we commemorate (even if you don't believe in him), don't try to ruin people's innocent enjoyment of the good things about it.

And by the same terms: if you choose to celebrate Solstice instead, and I know it, I will wish you a happy Solstice. Or a Happy New Year. Or a good Yule. Or whatever. I won't insist that you accept my wishes of Christmas for you as long as you allow me to wish them to others I know who believe similarly to me.

Monday, December 10, 2012


Apparently because it's now legal to smoke pot in Colorado, a couple CU students decided it would be funny to bring pot-laced brownies to class.

Okay. If they wanted to do them for a party or something, and let people know, "hey, these are pot brownies," that would be OK. I wouldn't be at that party, or if offered a "special" brownie, I'd turn it down.

But the idea of dosing people without their knowledge or consent is terrible. For one thing: you never know how people will react to something like this. Pot contains proteins and like anything else, there is the rare but real possibility someone could have a massive allergy attack to it. I mean, we now require people to do things like label cookies if they contain nuts.

But even beyond that - impairing people, without their knowledge? That's really stupid. What if one of the students who ate a brownie was pregnant or breast-feeding? What if one of them had a job where they had to regularly get drug-tested? What if someone got behind the wheel of a car, not fully realizing they were impaired?

Even beyond that, the idea - and this is a staple of many sophomoric movies and sitcom episodes - of "let's get the person in a position of authority (the professor) high, it will be funny to take away their dignity in that way"- is an idea I find appalling.

Just because it's funny when you see it on Comedy Central doesn't mean it's a good idea in real life. I would dare say that anything you see on Comedy Central is probably an example of a bad idea in real life.

It shows a huge lack of respect of their fellow students and the professor for the students to do this. To cause people to have bad reactions, to possibly put lives in jeopardy (it doesn't look like any were, but that could be a possibility) for a laugh? Stupid, stupid, stupid. It shows a real lack of judgment and I agree that the students should face severe sanctions - they should, at a minimum, be charge with assault of everyone who consumed the brownies, and probably should be booted from the school as well.

If I worked in the department where these clowns were majoring? My first reaction would be, "Don't come to me for a recommendation for a job or graduate school."

Friday, December 07, 2012

aw crap

I had the meeting this afternoon to discuss the Snowflake student I am to have this spring.

Without going into too much identifying detail, it's grim. It's very, very grim. I will probably wind up playing unpaid/unqualified counselor for someone who likes to buttonhole people during their office hours and complain. I will likely get all kinds of nutso TMI, and if I tell the person to step off, I will be branded a Bad Person in their mind.

And I was essentially told to, how was it put? "This student has one semester left. Don't screw it up so they make the rest of our lives miserable." I guess they've already decided my happiness is to be sacrificed next semester, and the best they can hope for is that the student's bitterness and anger won't spill over into their lives too much.

Once again, I ask: why can't, or why won't, college campuses man up a little and tell students who drive their fellow students and professors to distraction, "GTFO."

I suppose this is an unintended consequence of "college for all."

Stupid dreams

I hope it's just semesters-end stress and not that I'm developing some reaction to the (many, now) medications I'm taking (meds for hypertension, new prescription meds for an ongoing allergy issue). But I'm having weird dreams.

Just weird. Not "sex" weird, which is apparently the drug companies' meaning when they say "vivid" dreams. Just weird. Lots of crap crammed in them and I'm tired when I wake.

Two recent memorable ones:

- For some reason, the Democratic party had cloned Abraham Lincoln and was trying to get him to run on their ticket. And one of their big platform planks was that they wanted to strictly regulate the diet of every American. I believe there were posters that said something like Lincoln Wants You To Stop Eating Sugar! And I remember seeing it, snorting, and saying "Lincoln CHAFEE, maybe. But not the 'real' Lincoln."

- Last night I had a dream that Condi Rice had moved to my town and that I was going to be introduced to her. I was excited about this - how cool is it to meet someone like that - until the person who was going to introduce us told me, "I took the liberty of telling her you play the piano and she wants to hear you play" and I started to freak out, because (in real life)she is an accomplished pianist (I believe she first majored in piano performance, when she was in college, before changing majors) and I am not that accomplished - plus I also get terrible stage fright.

I woke up just as she was walking across the lawn, her right hand extended - so I never "met" her, but also neither did I have to try to play the piano for her.

I know some people complain they never remember their dreams but frankly there are times I would happily trade remembering mine for just being able to sleep peacefully. (It's been very humid here in recent days; that could be what is affecting my sleep. I tolerate humidity badly - that is actually part of the reason for me being on the rx antihistamine)

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

The only thing I have to say...

...on the whole Jovan Belcher sad story:

"The only person's behavior over which you have control is your own."

If Belcher were really bent on harming his girlfriend and himself, and he didn't have a gun, he'd find a way. I know someone who was suicidal and as a result gave away his guns. He wound up hanging himself.

You can't bubble-wrap the world to make it safe for everyone. A "safe" world would be one in which none of us would want to (or perhaps even be able) to live.

Yes, it's sad and it's awful (I mainly feel for their families - and for the child who now has no parents). But I don't think stricter gun laws would have prevented this. I don't think a neo-Prohibition (some are blaming it on heavy drinking) would have prevented this. I don't think some governmental agency being able to pluck people deemed to be a "potential danger to themselves" and forcibly medicate or incarcerate them in hospitals would be a solution. (I really do not want a governmental agency deciding who is a "danger" and who is "safe" to be on the "outside").

One thing I've learned in my 20+ years of adulthood: Sad shit happens in life. Sometimes you can't do anything to prevent it.

If that sounds kind of helpless, it's not meant to be. It's an acknowledgement that, as I said, we can't - we shouldn't - bubble wrap the world. Sometimes bad stuff is going to happen and there's nothing much we can do about it. Sad stuff happens, but there's also lots of happy stuff out there, and I think in some ways we appreciate the happy stuff more, knowing that we all will experience sadness.

I don't know that the suicide of the man I mentioned above could have been prevented or not. I do know he had friends and family around him. Granted, no one stayed with him 24/7 - but he would not have wanted that; to effectively tell him, "We think you are a mental invalid and we need to watch over you to protect you." He probably still would have found a way. (And yes: he was getting counseling. And he was taking medication. And he was found with a Bible open on the table near him. So he had been fighting it, hard, for a long time).

I will say I have also known cases of someone who was (apparently) thinking of killing themselves, but who was stopped, because of something someone said to them, or because they went and talked to a religious leader, or because something happened to shake them up and make them go get help. But again - it's hard to know sometimes when the thing you say will really help, and when it will do little. (And it's wrong for families and friends of a suicide to beat themselves up for not being able to prevent it. I've known one or two people who committed suicide in my life and you cannot always stop it, no matter what you say or do.)

Bad stuff happens. Maybe some of that bad stuff can be prevented, but not all of it can.

Ultimately, the only thing we can do is our best: be kind to the ones you love. Embrace them. Help them when they express a need for help. Give them tough love when that seems necessary. But ultimately remember that the only person whose behavior you control is your own.

That sentence - "The only person whose behavior you control is your own" - is one of the hardest lessons I learned as an adult, but it's also been one of the most valuable, and the most saving of my own sanity. I'm a people-pleaser and also sometimes prone to beat myself up if I feel like I didn't do "enough" to help in a situation. (Thank God, I've never been in a position where I felt "maybe I could have prevented that suicide" - the couple people I know who have done it were distant from me at the time). And I'm also prone to get frustrated at simple everyday boneheaded behavior, like the student who loses their license for driving drunk and then can't get to campus, and that fact has a domino effect on other things. But it does help me to take a breath and remind myself that I didn't cause it, I can't prevent it, and the best thing I can do is roll with the consequences and try to keep innocent bystanders from being too adversely affected.

So yeah, people are going to do horrible sad things. Sometimes we can stop them. Sometimes we can't. One of the unfortunate things about having such a connected and plugged-in culture is that we know about all the bad stuff that happens. (150 years ago, some farmer shooting his wife, then himself, out of desperation over something? Only the immediate family and immediate community would likely know. Now, we have the potential to know everything that happens everywhere, and I think that can get a little suffocating.)