Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Something to take care of

What I really need is something to take care of, something that doesn't talk back or make unreasonable demands. One of the problems I have with other people is that they all too often make what I think are unreasonable demands. (I have spoken before about "ask" vs. "guess" culture - I have a mindset where I feel like if someone asks me to do something, they are actually EXPECTING me to do it, and saying "no" isn't really an option, which is maybe why I get to feeling so put-upon)

Anyway. I went home yesterday afternoon. Put my car away. Realized it had been warm and dry so I went out to the garden. I haven't hooked the hose up yet because we've gotten a few late freezes and it's easier just not to take it out, than it is to have to drain it again and put it away again. So I've been using a watering can on my very small garden. (I have beans, tomatoes, and I planted a few flowers. I'm considering planting something else - either trying a fast crop of lettuce (though it might be too late for that already) or some kind of squash). I filled the can and watered everything, checked over the plants for bugs, noticed that the tomatoes are already flowering (no sign of fruit set yet). And it made me feel better. I like having things to take care of that don't make huge demands on me - all the plants require is water, and occasionally some fertilizer, and removal of the weeds that come up. They don't talk back, they don't need things suddenly at the last minute.

I've said before my gardening-fu is not great enough that I could feed myself off of it (even if it was my only occupation; I know I don't keep up with the garden as well as I might but life gets in the way), but I like pretending that I could. I like the idea of telling the rest of the world to take a flying leap and just taking care of myself, without having to depend on anyone else. I don't know why that is; I don't know if it's because when you depend on someone they can turn and make unreasonable demands of you (or withdraw their help at any time). Or if it's just a stubborn, I-want-to-do-it-myself streak. But I've always kind of been this way - I loved the "Little House" books when I was a kid, with all their descriptions of how to smoke meat and dry fruit. And "My Side of the Mountain," which was about a boy who literally ran away from home and lived off the land. And while I realize I couldn't really do that (I'd probably go running back to civilization as soon as the t.p. ran out, or after realizing there was no way I could make my own chocolate or tea from plants I grew), still, the idea of living off the grid as much as possible has appeal. (I couldn't do it here, at least not utility-wise: I NEED air conditioning in the summer as AFAIK, there is no off-the-grid electrical generation that makes enough power to run that).

I think a big part of it is that I would like to tell the rest of the world, "Go soak your head" (or something stronger) and just go hang out in my garden instead.

Monday, April 29, 2013

And the follies continue.

I had someone "threaten" to lose their crap in my office.

(Yes, I understand that some people really genuinely have emotional issues, but from working with this person before, I get the feeling that they have been patted on the head and told "you're having a panic attack" or "You're so upset right now you can't function" or something every time they got upset over something, so now they believe it, and they use it as a strategy to get what they want. Because people don't like to see people get upset.)

And yes, maybe they do genuinely have problems and I'm being an awful person for my interpretation, but you know, I'm tired. I'm tired of always having to suck it up and be the big tough grownup who puts up with everything. This is someone who, literally every time I have dealt with them, has some HUGE PROBLEM that usually can only be fixed by me bending my rules or putting myself out.

I'm just fed up with it. I've had too many people over the years who have been enabled to use "difficult" or unpleasant behavior with others as a way of getting what they want. It's manipulative and unpleasant and I don't like it. I admit, the threatened "losing their stuff" is not as unpleasant and ugly as some student behavior  that I've had to put up with over the years, but still: I told the person in question that the problem they were presenting was fixable, I told them how it could be fixed, I told them it was okay, that they could go and fix it, that they were capable of fixing it....I am at the limit of my sympathy.

(Part of this is when I'm distressed, I have precious few people I feel I can turn to for some shoring-up. I may NEED it but I seldom GET it.)

Why am I doing this? Why did I go into this career? I hate dealing with people. I especially hate dealing with people who have been taught dysfunctional ways of dealing with other people or with the challenges of life. How are you going to make it in the world if every small thing makes you fall apart? I hope you have a strong spouse to shore you up. And yeah,. okay. I'm an awful person for saying that. But in some ways, I AM an awful person. I have certain things I am very intolerant of and people wanting to shove their personal problems on to me is one of them. Part of this is sheer jealousy: I have no one, NO ONE I can shove my problems on to. I have to deal with them all myself. Even logistic crap like getting the gutters fixed, I have to keep harassing the repair guy until he's arsed to show up. I don't have anyone to be my "muscle," I can't walk into the repair guy's office and start crying at him how it's UNFAIR he keeps me waiting. I just have to deal with it. And I'm damn tired of dealing with it. If my car gets a flat, I have to change it myself. If I run out of food at home, even if it's a Friday afternoon on the first of the month, I have to venture out to the gee-dee'd Wal Mart to get food - or go hungry.

I'm NOT a nice person, I am only good at pretending to be one. I know that because I cannot feel loving and gracious towards people who make my life more difficult because they don't have their stuff together. I know I'm supposed to go "Oh, that's OK" but even as I SAY it I am seething inside because, once again, I will have to spend more time doing stuff I'd rather not do.

TL:DR: I'm tired and fed up and have no one to help me but I have seemingly hundreds of people nibbling at my elbow wanting me to help them. And I know the Christian thing IS to help them, but dammit, I don't WANT to.


This is our last week of classes. I collect a major paper in one class today, and lab books in another class today. So far I have had no freaked-out phone calls or e-mails about the paper (but that's my mostly-diligent class), so I'm hopeful there.

But the lab books.....a guy just stopped by wanting copies of all the lab exercises because he "didn't keep" his. I hope he kept a record of the results but I know some of the students in that class just write the results on their lab exercises.

Then he asked me: "So.....when are these due again?"




I swear, I am leaving campus at 3 pm to start grading my humongous papers, if I don't have all the lab books by then, too bad, so sad.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

"Manatee gray"

There's a story making the rounds about two dresses sold online by Target.

The standard-sized one, in a gray color, was described as "charcoal."

The plus-sized one, identical in every way but size, was described as "manatee gray."

People were outraged. Target was attacked online, they took the description down with a mealy-mouthed, "Must have been a mistake; we have some seasonal items sold that are that color"

You know what? I can't be angry about this. Yes, I'm a bigger woman. Maybe not quite plus size these days (I am not sure how Target's sizing on this particular dress runs). But I'm far from being size 6.

And you know? I don't freakin' care if some intern somewhere wants to get his laughs off by referring to the colors of the clothes I would buy using terms to refer to large mammals. It's dumb, and it's juvenile, and it doesn't warrant me being bugged by. The fact that someone, somewhere, may have thought it was funny to refer to a plus-size dress as being the same color as a manatee tells me more about them than it tells me about the women who would wear that dress.

And at any rate: from everything I've read, manatees are pretty nice animals. They're slow moving and peaceable, they take good care of their offspring. They don't attack other animals.

Elephants, also: elephants are smart. They are excellent parents, and even the extended family gets involved. Elephants also appear to mourn their dead - suggesting they might have a higher level of emotional consciousness than the sort of people who think it's funny to compare a fat woman to an elephant.

So, I would just look at someone referring to me as a "manatee" or an "elephant" with a certain amount of pity, and think, "Really? That's the best you've got?"

What bugs me far more are the people who go all concern troll-y about heavy people. Here's a hint: We know we're overweight. You can't go to the doctor even to get a vaccination without them weighing you. And some doctors will deliver a lecture every time. (And it may become mandated that they do, under the new health-care laws: right before the talk about "Yeah, it's really okay for us to arrange to end your life for you if you get too old or too sick").

If weight loss were easy (and physiologically possible, in some cases - like that of people on long-term prednisone therapy), we'd lose weight. Just to shut your sorry asses up.

But it's not that simple.

But I'm not stupid. My carrying around an extra 20-50 pounds (depending on what standards you go by) does not short-circuit my brain. I don't need someone to tell me what I should and should not eat. I do not need someone to pretend to "care" about me when they really just want to control me.

I would allow my family to "concern troll" me, but they don't. They knew I try hard to eat a healthful diet and they know I exercise. And they also know that I come from a long line of heavyset people.

So if my family doesn't, strangers should not.

But anyway: I can't care about the dress I might buy bring "charcoal" or "manatee gray." Actually, "manatee gray" makes me think of the Florida Everglades, and it makes me think of the vacations I've taken there, and that makes me happy. It makes me think of going out for walks on the boardwalk and seeing roseate spoonbills and eating Key lime pie....it doesn't make me think, "Oh, someone is trying to demean me because of my weight." So yeah, whatever snarky little intern thought that might be a funny thing to do - meh, doesn't get my goat.

Monday, April 22, 2013


I know bad crap is always going down in the world, but last week just about did me in.

First, the reminder that the gap since 2001 of terrorist bombings was probably a lull, the realization that now we may be dealing with CHECHEN terrorists (they were the ones who murdered many schoolkids in Beslan, among other things; it seems the radicalized groups in Chechnya are every bit as evil and perhaps even more ruthless than the Saudi terrorists).If this isn't just a one-off, but a first wave, it's going to get horrifically ugly, and we may see even more losses of civil rights in the name of stopping the terrorists.

And the fertilizer plant explosion near Waco. That's been less played up in the media of late because of the arrest of Suspect #2, but it was still a very big, very bad thing. There is film of utterly destroyed apartment complexes. And schools. And there is a nursing home where, although they apparently got everyone out safely, the residents have now had to have been moved to other facilities all over central Texas.

What gets me the most is that a lot of the fatalities were volunteer firefighters. I have students who are volunteer firefighters here. They go out and fight brushfires, which seem to be the main thing that happens around here. And while brushfires can be dangerous....it's not the same as having the factory you are running toward blow up.

And yet, as awful as that is, it was apparently a terrible accident. (Although there are rumors that malfeasance or poor management may have come into play)

But the idea that we may begin facing what Israel is facing and has faced on a regular basis - I don't know if our culture can handle it. (I don't know if I can handle it).

I just feel like the world is going to Hell, fast, and nothing's going to stop it. There are other bits of crappification going on - my piano teacher is having to retire from teaching and take a different job because of changes in the tax laws and the increase in her taxes. So now I get to try to find someone new who is willing to work with a fairly-green 40-something student. And the crappification of college education continues, the push to make us all Universities of Phoenix with all its attendant issues and problems. The congregation I belong to continues to shrink and I am so not emotionally prepared for church-hunting. And it seems like this is all happening at once.

The ironic thing is, I guess what I said at the table on Sunday helped a lot of people - in the prayer I referenced the tragedies but spoke about how when we go out and try to make things better, whether it's by donating blood or by opening our pastures to displaced livestock (as some folks near Waco did for the people in West) or comforting the sorrowing, that we serve God by doing that.

And I want to believe that.

And on some level I do.

It's just, there's so much bad crap in the world that the BEST I can do is like a fragment of a pebble thrown into the ocean. And while I'd never give up and go over to the dark side, neither can I any longer believe that any good undoes bad. Bad looks like it's winning, and maybe it WILL win, at least for now. And I don't want to keep on keepin' on in a world where bad is winning. I don't want to have to wait for the afterlife for things to seem right again, but maybe that's just how it is.

I don't know. It's really hard for me to work up enthusiasm for what I'm teaching when it feels like the world is going to hell.

Friday, April 19, 2013

What the F, world?

Seriously, some weeks make you just say "What the F?"

Two mornings in a row I've woken up to seriously strange news - first, the fertilizer-plant explosion in West, Texas (not west Texas; West is a town near Waco, which is actually sort of central Texas. Yes, it's confusing if you don't live in this part of the world).

Now the fact that the guys who did the Boston Marathon bombing are apparently Chechens. (And one is dead, possibly was injured by his own bomb.) While that was not expected, from what I've read it's not totally confusing - apparently there is some radicalization going on in Chechnya. (At first, when they said they were from a "breakaway republic of the former Soviet Union" on the radio news, I thought: Russian mafia? Why would they want to bomb the Boston Marathon? But I think the "radicalization" hypothesis might fit. Or these just might be two bad guys who wanted to hurt people for no real reason, kind of like the Beltway shooters, who got off on pain and mayhem.)

ETA: The oldest one is dead. And was apparently named Tamerlane, or something similar. That's kind of like a European person naming their kid specifically after one of the major Crusaders. And allegedly, the family was let in to the US because they requested asylum. Ugh. I think of the old story about the scorpion that asked to be carried safely across a river...Maybe we need to think our asylum rules? I just find it really distasteful that people we let in who were allegedly fleeing oppression turned around and essentially oppressed an entire US city. 

And then there were the ricin letters, and some Elvis impersonator apparently being the guy who sent them.

I don't need the world to get any more weird in this way. If the world wants to get more weird, it needs to get more weird in an amusing and non-harmful sense, like, I don't know, marshmallows randomly falling out of the sky or something.

Some days I wonder if maybe we really do live in a "Matrix," and the computer has got a serious virus and is preparing to reboot itself.

I'll also observe, the afternoon after the Boston Marathon bombing, I drove home, and as I pulled my car in the drive (listening to the news), I said aloud, "It's a good thing I'm not God. Because I probably would have totally smote the human race at this point and decided to start over with a different species." (Heh: "Rabbits! You are the new Chosen People!")

Monday, April 15, 2013

My day so far

1. Come in to an e-mail from a student: he's on a sports team, he missed class Friday and today.

I e-mail him back and inform him there was an exam today and he needs to make it up ASAP. I e-mail him my office hours tomorrow.

Get an e-mail back: "I'm in class all during those office hours, can I take it [over the time when I normally would go home for lunch, as Tuesdays are the ONE day I get a civilized lunch]"

I e-mailed him back and told him that he could, only if the secretary was planning on being in.

2. Got an e-mail from Student Support Services. Surprise! One of my struggling students needs SPECIAL TESTING.

Wow, it would have been helpful to let me know about this more than 3 weeks before the end of the semester. (Granted, maybe the student in question just got diagnosed, but)

I feel like crap today, it's nearly 90 degrees in one of my classrooms and my allergies are acting up. I have no tolerance for being told things at the last minute. I fear repercussions for #2, there are People on this campus famous for thinking we profs are all mind-readers. (Dammit, if I was? I would have won the Powerball long before this, and would have retired and lived off the interest of my winnings)

There's also a week or two of symposium sessions going on, and we're expected to attend at least some of them. Yeah, great, schedule them right at crazy nutso time when the profs are trying to get all their grading done AND finals written, and then get complain when we don't drop EVERYTHING to attend.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

That time of the semester

Even with fairly good classes this semester, this is the point where I'm just ready to be DONE.

I have three weeks of classes left, then exams, then I have to quickly embark on some pilot research for what will hopefully develop into a larger project. Then I have summer classes. (The money is too good to pass up, and also, one of the classes is a "service" to the department, as it's one that often fills up during the regular semester.)

But. I have a few people I'm getting tired of dealing with - the person who ALWAYS walks in late, and thus, never gets the announcements I make unless I make them again at the end. The person who is being followed around by Winnie-the-Pooh's little black stormcloud (Seriously - they just come in and flash the doctor's note of the week at me, any more. I have so much back-work for this person - we're supposed to take stuff late with a valid excuse - and I just can't get to grading it because I have the current grading for my classes. And this is the kind of person who goes all trembly-lipped over stuff, and a lot of the time these days, I have no energy for that). One guy who thinks he's God's gift to humor - I can mostly deal with it but sometimes it gets on my nerves.

I've also had a few people come through wanting to drop my Intro class. I am not relishing my DFW percentage for this one....though the people who are sticking with it are mostly passing, which is actually unusual for this class. (And also: I don't think Withdrawals should necessarily be taken as evidence that the professor is a "bad" professor - in a 14 person class, two of my drops were over big medical issues.)

But I'm just ready to be done and move on. I may run out of material in one class which means I'll have to explore and make lectures for a chapter I previously never got to...ugh. I really don't have time to new-prep anything right now but if I cancelled class for a week or more I know it would be a scandal, so I will have to figure something out. I do have a video I COULD show....that would take one class period - I will have to see. I normally don't like using movies as a "professor had no time to prepare" crutch, but this one is pretty relevant and it presents things from a different perspective.

Friday, April 12, 2013

'Nother bumper sticker

I saw this one on campus:

"Gun control laws won't fix stupid."

Heh. I don't think I need comment any more on that.

Tuesday, April 09, 2013


Apparently there's been a  mass stabbing event on a Texas community college campus. (Wasn't this part of the same system - Lone Star College - where there was a shooting a while back?)

On the news they were saying that it was thought it was an "X-acto type knife, like are used in class dissections in biology."

Two thoughts:

1. We use SCALPELS, not "X-acto knives." Those are for graphic design classes, if there still are any where the students actually do physical layouts of things instead of doing it all on the computer. I think I last used an x-acto knife in high school photograph class. (In botany lab, if it needs not be a very detailed dissection, we use single-edged razor blades; a little cheaper though perhaps less easy to hold safely. I don't like dissecting with razor blades but when your supply budget is limited, you do what you have to.)

2. How soon before there's a call to ban dissections because of this?Or require background checks before a student can take biology? (Seriously - I've had a few students in lab who scared me. Not because they were unhinged but because they were so clumsy.  I never had anyone remove part of a finger by mistake but I've had a few people I watched very carefully. I also once had a guy show up to soils lab very likely high - glittery eyes, hyperactive, super-over-cheerful. It wasn't a hazardous lab that week or I would have told him he seemed "unwell" and suggested he go home).

But this kind of thing really makes me wonder: how much of this is a function of the 24-hour news cycle ("If it bleeds, it leads"?) And how much of it is people just....forgetting that other human beings are human and wanting to harm them? I know that mental illness often manifests itself in the late teens and early twenties (we've all had that drilled into our heads, along with ways to 'de-escalate' if things go bad. I hate that it is that way).

I don't know. It seems that the tide of opinion, at least from some quarters, has turned firmly against any kind of higher education, and this kind of thing isn't helping. (I have screamed more than once at some commentator on the tv: "Okay, then. Let's shut 'em down. Shut down ALL the colleges and universities. Good luck at finding a doctor in 15 years. Or good luck finding someone who can design safe bridges. There may be some majors that, in a tough economic climate, don't make a lot of sense to pursue, but good heavens, that doesn't mean that ALL college classes and ALL college degrees are useless. We can't go back to Jefferson's time and all be autodidacts, and we don't all have the brains to be polymaths or the economic freedom to be dilettantes.)

I don't know. I get really sick, really really sick, of working fairly hard as a prof and then hear people totally dismiss what I do as worthless and dismiss me as a lazy parasite.

Thursday, April 04, 2013

I know it's not Friday yet...

But my fellow-shoppers at the local Wal-Mart can flip the flip off.

Do you really behave that way in public? Walking slowly, hand-in-hand with your crush, effectively blocking everyone behind you? Coming to a DEAD STOP in the entryway because that's where the newspapers are? Parking your carts diagonally in an aisle? Yelling halfway across the store to ask a question of a family member? Leaving a frozen-food item you decided you didn't want out on a regular shelf so it can spoil?

Forget Honey Boo Boo or Gator Boys, they need to start a Bad Wal-Mart Behavior reality show.

You are all why I would almost rather go without food for a day than go shopping in the afternoon. I had to today, I forgot how awful it was.

I'd do all my shopping at the tiny family-owned grocery near me, but they don't carry everything I need. But I will say I don't feel like stabbing myself in the eye after I shop there.

I don't know what it is about Wal-Marts but everywhere I've lived, people have just been on their worst behavior in them.

so, now what?

This is one of the things that frustrates me about being a prof.

I had a student sign up for two of my 'arranged' classes - a research class and a readings class last fall. Understand that these classes are ALWAYS unpaid overload; we offer them as a service to students but we see no pay, and no credit hours on our FTE sheets for them, because they aren't "full" classes.

Well, he started off the semester, and then he disappeared. Didn't respond to my e-mails, didn't show when we had scheduled times to meet. I was angry: I had loaned him books, thinking he could be trusted! (Eventually, he did bring the books back, but at a time when he knew I would be off campus, and left them with the secretary).

I also filled out the paper work for site permissions (to do research on a couple local park sites) and then had the embarrassment of having to call the managers up and go, "Yeah....I don't think we're going to be out there; my student has disappeared."

Apparently he came at some point and ranted at my chair about....stuff. She said it wasn't very coherent but apparently he was very "down" on the university. (He has a brother working in North Dakota, in the energy industry, who had been pressuring him to drop out and go work with them.)

Well, he never dropped my classes. At the end of the semester, his name was still on the roster. SOP is that people that you have no basis on which to grade earn an F.

Well, today, I get a letter from an administrator, and a letter forwarded from him, asking for the Fs to become Ws because....apparently the numbers of the classes were printed out wrong when he tried to drop them, or something.

I don't know what to do. (I have a faculty meeting today so I can approach my chair with it). On the one hand, it's no skin off my nose to let the grade be changed, and in the long run it might actually  benefit me, because it shows me assigning fewer Fs. (Yes, that's getting to be an issue now: how many Ds and Fs students in our classes earn.)

On the other hand, it irritates me that he apparently couldn't/wouldn't take the responsibility to check back then (or he didn't try to drop at all and this is a CYA thing). I don't want people who GENUINELY failed my class to be able to pull this stunt.And also, I put myself to a little extra work for this guy, and he just flaked. I admit I'm angry and I feel burned - I'm really reluctant to take research students now because so many of us have had flakey ones.

I'd say "This is what they pay us the big bucks for," but seeing as the alleged average full professor salary is $130,000 and my full-professor salary is less than half that, I'm not so willing to say that.

But, argh. I'm in a crappy mood already and I don't need this kind of thing added on top of stuff.