Thursday, October 25, 2012

until--we meet--again

I don't usually reach this point until later in the semester, but I'm buried.  I met with my thesis advisor yesterday and gave him the extended outline I was working on Tuesday night (when I wrote that last post), and he was encouraging.  But he made it clear how much work I have to do between now and about a month from now.  So I need to spend considerably less time online.  Think kindly of me every once in awhile.

See you on the other side.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

grinding it out

You know that stage you hit in any major writing project where you start wondering what the heck it is you're doing, and has anybody ever written anything this boring, and why did I ever think this was a good topic to write about?  Yeah, that stage.  I'm there.  This thesis is the worst thesis anyone has ever written, I'm sure of it.  But I'm doing it.  It's getting there.  It might even get done on time.  I never, ever missed a deadline when I was in school the first time around, but this time my record is not so good.  I've needed extensions on half a dozen of the papers I've written since I've been here.  So that on-time thing isn't as automatic as it used to be.

We got about 4" of snow last night, and we're supposed to get 2-3" more tonight.  It's not at all uncommon for us to have a dusting of snow in October that melts away by 10 o'clock the next morning, but it is unusual to have several inches.  I am not happy about this.  My kids, on the other hand, are thrilled.  MadMax and a couple of his friends got out their skis and skiied down the hill onto his homemade ramp all afternoon.  Nell and Dean went cross-country skiing tonight.  I am the lone grump.

The chickens are on my side, though.  I went down to check on them about 9 this morning, and the clean, untrampled snow inside their area showed that they had no interest in finding out about this mysterious cold white stuff on the ground (usually they are out and about by 7:30 or 8).  I refilled their water and left them alone.  When I went back down this afternoon around 3:30, they were still sitting inside the coop, and about 10% of the insulation inside the coop had been shredded.  They are bored.  Those silly birds.  I managed to coax them out with some scratch, but it didn't last very long. 

Sadie is much improved.  She even scratched (gently) on the door today to go out.  She still has accidents, but they are down to 1-2 per day, instead of 4-6.  And actually, come to think of it, she didn't have any today.  She's still chewing everything in sight, but that's normal.  She'll still be doing that for several months.  Maybe years.  We had black labs when I was growing up and they chewed everything, all the time, until they were about two.

And that's it for me.  Hope it is still warm and sunny where you are.  Send me thesis-writing-vibes if you can.  Here is a picture of Jazz and Sadie in the snow:

Friday, October 19, 2012

RIP Big Tex

I was so sad to see online a few minutes ago that Big Tex burned down, the mascot of the Texas State Fair.  I spent the first twelve years of my life *hating* to go to the fair-- it was always hot and dusty and there were too many cows and tractors and other boring things.

But somewhere around the time I started high school, my attitude started to change.  I have a whole section of my brain devoted to happy times at the fair, including several visits with our kids, and a visit to Big Tex was always part of the occasion.  I haz sad, as they say.

Probably if I dug through my photos I could come up with a pic, but if you google Big Tex, it will be much faster.  He was about 50' tall and had a scratchy audio voice that fired up about every half hour:  "WELCOME... TO... THE... STATE... FAIR... OF... TEXAS" that then went on to other assorted banalities that no one ever listened to. He was so much a part of the fair that the Texas State Fair website is  He was a good man, Big Tex.  I suspect he will be rebuilt, but still it's a sad day.

Ah.  Here's the link to the story in the Dallas News, with pictures. 

In other news....  I can't even believe how much time I've spent with this dang puppy the last two weeks.  Some of it has been priceless, of course, but a lot of it is just me and her-- her wishing I'd pay more attention to her and me wishing she'd pay less attention to me.  She's a sweetheart, and she's pretty easy as puppies go.  But it has been a long week, with not nearly as much accomplished as should be.  (and major shout-out to Nell, who has taken over on the days I'm in UTown).

The sugar fast is going fine.  In fact, I haven't even really had any sugar cravings until today-- the main problem is just remembering that I'm doing it.  Four days down, three to go.  The only thing I've really missed is flavored yogurt.

Y'all have a nice weekend. 

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Sugar, ahh, honey honey

I've been dismayed about the amount of sugar I eat for a couple of months now, but my weight has been pretty stable recently, so I wasn't really worried about it too much.  But then yesterday I bought a vegan raspberry oat bar at the gourmet food store in UTown.  It was about 3" square, and it was delicious.  I ate the whole thing.  And afterward felt practically nauseated.  It may have been vegan and whole-grain and low-fat and lord knows what other healthy things, but it must have been chock full of sugar, too.  Ick.

As I was driving home-- lots of time to think on a two-hour drive-- I decided to revive an old custom of mine that I haven't done in years.  I used to take a week-long break from sugar on a pretty regular basis.  It's not all that hard to do, as long as the week doesn't include Thanksgiving or Christmas or your birthday.  Anything that comes up, you just remind yourself, it's only a week.

So I started today.  I told Nell I was doing it last night, and she immediately agreed to do it with me.  We'll see how it goes.  So far it hasn't been a problem.  This is only processed sugar, so fruit is fine.  So instead of an almond butter and jam sandwich* for lunch, I had almond butter and banana slices, which might actually be better.  The only problem today has been remembering that I'm doing it-- I had a bite of MadMax's snack after school before I even thought about it.  (*on whole grain bread, because you don't have to tell me, white flour is almost as bad as white sugar.)

And one other thing-- I've told you before some of the search phrases people have used when they end up here.  Usually they're pretty boring or obvious, like "back to school" or "Aunt May's bean soup" or something like that.  But this week somebody got here after entering the search phrase "photos of aunt in toilet."  Not kidding.  Who takes pictures of their aunt in the toilet?  Who gets in a toilet?  *shakes head*

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Trouble: that starts with T & that rhymes with P & that stands for Poo

So I probably don't need to tell you much more than that for you to know how house-training is going.  Sadie is still completely adorable (luckily for her), and improvements have been made:  we can go out every half hour instead of every 15 minutes.  But she still definitely does not get the point.

Warning:  TMI about canine scatological function in the next two paragraphs.  Skip if you are uninterested.  You've been warned.

On at least a half dozen occasions we've dutifully taken her outside, let her do her thing, and brought her back in only to find that she wasn't quite DONE.  We've all cleaned up messes.  We've lost count of the number of messes we've cleaned up.  But she can go through the night now, and sometimes through a nap lasting a couple of hours, so she is progressing. 

Sunday night we had friends over for dinner, and we were all standing around the appetizers with glasses of wine in hand.  Sadie snuck in the back and made a big mess right behind one of our guests.  The stink was immediately apparent.  Excuse me, could you move to the other side of the room while I clean this shit up.  *sigh*  We've never had much claim to sophistication, but that pretty much does us in.  If I were feeling especially crude, I would use this moment to segue into a discussion of chicken excrement, but I'm feeling kind tonight.

OK, poo discussion is over.

Here are some photos:
The owl we've been hearing for months, but only just sighted last night.

Our best garden result this year (and there are lots more where those came from)
See it and weep: yup, first mashed potatoes with garden spuds
Miss Sadie
out for a tromp with the doggers

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Reading Report: Studies in Young Adult Lit, Part 1

Here are brief overviews of the six books we've read so far. 

The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros.  This one came out the same year I graduated from college (1983), but even though I'd heard about it for years, I'd never actually read it.  It's a series of vignettes told by Esperanza Cordero, a young Hispanic girl who lives in a low-income neighborhood and longs to live somewhere else.  The (chapters? stories? episodes?) are very brief, sometimes just a page, sometimes 3-4 pages, so it reads very quickly.  Cisneros is a genius at discussing big ideas about adolescence, domestic violence, poverty, race, emerging sexuality, dreams and aspirations in such beautifully crafted prose that you don't really notice what she's doing if you're not paying attention. In fact, you could just race through it, skimming through and getting the high points.  But you'd miss much that way-- the vignettes reward careful reading and even re-reading.  Beautifully done.

How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff.  Set at some vague time in the not-too-distant future, How I Live Now is the story of 15-year-old Daisy, a New Yorker who is sent to England to live with her aunt and four cousins when she can't get along with her new stepmother.   A war with an unspecified enemy breaks out, and she and her cousins must eventually fend for themselves.  It sounds dreary and depressing, but what makes it work is Daisy's sly, cynical humor and her four endearingly nutty cousins.  I loved this book, even though the ending left a bit to be desired-- many unanswered questions and a back-to-the-land idyll that was described too quickly to be believable.  (Trigger alert:  there is underage consensual cousin-to-cousin incest. I didn't find it offensive given the way it is described, but some people in the class did, so I thought I'd let you know.)

Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse.  This is another one that I'd heard about for years but never read (like Mango), and that should be depressing but somehow isn't (like How I Live Now).   It's told in blank verse, but after the first chapter, you don't even notice that-- which I think is a sign of very carefully crafted verse.  It's the story of Billie Jo, a 15-year-old living in Oklahoma in the Dust Bowl in the 1930s.  There is dust everywhere-- they set the table with the dishes turned upside down so they won't get coated with dust before they sit down to eat.  Billie Jo's passion is playing the piano, which she must fit in around school and chores.  Then a horrible accident turns her world upside down and threatens her ability to play the piano ever again.  The story of how Billie Jo fights through the trauma to a new acceptance of herself and her life is just plain old beautifully told.  It's like looking at really good black and white photographs-- stark and plain and piercing.  This is another one that merits a second reading.

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie.  Ditto what I said on the last one-- I'd heard about it but never read it, and it should be depressing but isn't.  It's the story of Arnold (Junior) Spirit, a Native American who lives on the Spokane Indian Reservation but decides to attend school at a white high school 22 miles away.  He must deal with being the only non-white at his new school at the same time that the entire reservation sees him as a traitor.  Junior wants to be a cartoonist, and the book is filled with drawings of his friends and family. He is also a basketball player, and two key basketball games play a major role in helping him understand the tensions between his two worlds.  Like Daisy in Rosoff's book, Junior is a terrific, funny narrator. 

When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead.  This one won the Newbery Award in 2010.  It's the story of Miranda, a 12-year-old New Yorker who starts receiving mysterious notes on crumpled bits of paper and must solve the mystery of who sends them and why.  There is also her mother, who has been accepted to appear on the $20,000 Pyramid with Dick Clark, and her best friend Sal, who suddenly doesn't want to be her friend anymore.  Miranda's favorite book is A Wrinkle In Time, and although you don't have to have read that book to understand the story, many of the themes and ideas carry over.  This might be my favorite one so far--like Daisy and Junior, Miranda is an endearing, precocious narrator with an interesting story to tell.

So after five terrific books, there had to be one that wasn't so great, and that one is Hoot by Carl Hiaasen.  It's not a bad book, but the characters are two-dimensional, and the plot is entirely predictable.  By comparison to the others we've read so far, it fell flat-- not a single student in our class liked it.  It's the story of Roy Eberhardt, who has recently moved to Florida and must deal with all the typical new kid issues:  bullies, who to sit with at lunch, making new friends, learning his way around town.  He soon becomes involved in a plan to stop the construction of a national chain restaurant on a lot that is home to a group of endangered burrowing owls.  The morals espoused are so convoluted that it's difficult to make your way through them, and yet it is clearly moralistic in tone-- this a Book About An Issue.  It might be a fun read for fourth or fifth graders, but otherwise, not recommended.

There you go.  I'll post another one at the end of the semester.

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Monday, October 01, 2012

riffday: well, does she like butter tarts?

1. We got a puppy.

I know.  What were we thinking?  She is adorable.  We were all so impressed that she slept through the night last night, and that she didn't pee inside from the time we got her home about 4:00 yesterday afternoon until this morning around 9:30.  At which point she ambled into Nell's room, hitched herself up over a pile of clothes (picture me running toward her in slow-mo yelling N-O-O-O-O-O) and ... well, you know.  And now she's done it five more times today.  *sigh*

But she is still adorable and we are already in love with her.  She mainly belongs to MadMax, so he named her Sadie.  Sadie will not eat food out of a bowl, or on a plate, she will only eat it if it is dumped out on the floor (or if you hand feed her, but that got old really quick). We only figured that out because Nell got desperate since she had barely eaten a couple of tablespoons of food since we got her home.

I will post a picture as soon as I get a good one, or figure out how to get the one Dean took off his phone.

2. Apparently my mental apparatus is ideally suited for Young Adult literature, because I am loving this class.  We are supposed to write two-page reaction papers for eight of the fourteen books we're reading (our choice), and it turns out that is the perfect length paper for me.  I am the ultimate procrastinator, but with a two-page paper you can do that.  I can start it the night before, get the introduction and a bit written, sleep on it, think about it during the drive down to UTown, and spend an hour or so in the computer lab when I get there finishing it up.  I've done three of them so far and been happy with them all.  I will write book reviews, because several of these are well worth reading-- I'll use YALit in the post title so you can skip them if you're not interested.

3.  A long overdue update on the four-letter word (diet):  I have practically quit using MyFitnessPal and instead am now devoted to Fitocracy.  MyFitnessPal is mainly about calorie counting, and I knew I hated that when I signed up. It's just that the fun factor of being able to log calories online lured me into thinking this time might be different.  But six months later I was sick of thinking about calories all the time.  I haven't deleted my MFP account yet, but I probably will.  Fitocracy, on the other hand, has completely changed my attitude about exercising.  I look forward to it now.  You may remember me griping and whining about how it was oriented toward weight lifting, and it still is.  But that is much less prevalent than it used to be-- the site has exploded with new members this year, and while the lifters are still a big group, they are no longer dominant.  At least in my experience.

My gripe now (because you knew I would have one) is all the flirting that goes on.  I guess I'm just too ancient.  I love the motivation to exercise and the support from other members, but I could do without all the innuendo and the photos that aren't porn but that result in me thinking to myself, hmmm, how exactly do you define porn?  But so far it's easy enough to avoid if I'm careful.  When did I get so old and uptight?

4. I blew out a tire on our fly fishing trip a couple of weeks ago.  It was bad enough that it couldn't be repaired, and I have all-wheel drive which meant all four tires had to be replaced.  Ouch.  Fortunately, they were probably going to have to be replaced sometime in the next year anyway, but still.  The good news, though, is that it made a big improvement in my gas mileage.  I never kept exact records, so I can't give you an exact number, but it used to take just about a full tank of gas to get to UTown and back. Now it I drive down and back and still have more than a quarter tank left. Cool. Plus a quieter ride, and it feels like I'm driving on marshmallows.  What's not to love? 

5.  So some of you caught the post I put up on Sunday and then took down, and as a friend pointed out to me today, if you signed up for e-mailed posts, you still have the e-mail after I delete the post.  I'm so neurotic sometimes.  Honest to pete, I'm 51 years old and I can still lose sleep because if I say that people might not like me.  It's ridiculous.  But I have a question for the e-mail subscribers-- I am very bad about editing a post that I've already put up.  Usually I write them late at night (like tonight), so I figure nobody is up and reading (except Julie)(Hi, Julie!), and so it doesn't matter if I edit it a bajillion times before I'm happy with it.  Does that mean you get an e-mail every time I click on "publish"? If so, I apologize a bajillion times.  I'm not sure I can stop doing it (I've tried unsuccessfully in the past), so if it bugs you, probably best to cancel your e-mail subscription.  Let me know if you have trouble with it and I'll find out how to do it.

6.  The smoke is much better today, and we are finally supposed to get a big wind and rain system  tomorrow, which we are all hoping will put an end to the smoke season 2012.  Good riddance.  I got an e-mail from my sister-in-law in Idaho yesterday where they are actually having the fires, and then I felt bad about whining about the smoke.  At least our forests haven't gone up in flames.

7. Hmmm, I'm running out of things to say here but it seems like I should have seven items.  OK, here's one:  what is your favorite meatless meal?  Nell is vegetarian and I need ideas.  Fortunately she will eat eggs, because I have 45 eggs in my refrigerator right now.  There you go.  Seven items.