Days like this

Posted by Avrila

There are a variety of reasons, like Thomas is out of town for work, and gardening isn't going how I meant for it to (I accidentally broke some of the bean vine seedlings putting them in yesterday, partly because they were overgrown for the space they had been kept in), and I didn't get half of what I needed to do done over break (couldn't get into a rhythm with stuff changing every couple days) so it's all still sitting there waiting for me...but those things, or things like them, are not unique; situational stuff piles up on me all the time and I don't always feel like...this.  Run down, but that doesn't really describe it, not all of it.  Mentally bruised is a more comprehensive description: it's only so bad, as long as I don't poke it, but if I poke it to make sure it hasn't gone numb, it's pretty bad.  I'm having trouble deciding what I prefer, between numbness and feeling like crying would be appropriate but too much work.  Everything seems like too much work -- I popped earbuds in, because I'm at the library and the person at the next table is doing something with sound effects turned way up in his earbuds, but I can't be bothered to tap the screen as needed to pull up Spotify.  Also, I stopped and took a break from typing in the middle of that sentence.  And that one too.

I wish things were different, but then I realize, it's not really things.  I wish I were different.

Not actually my problem

Posted by Avrila

Got a student who made a slightly ratty grade on the first test. Not even that bad. Within the range where it will be not too difficult to pull up the average to something acceptable...if I were giving final grades today, homework would pull it up over the passing line by a healthy margin.
First test is a great time to get a slightly ratty grade because you know you need to dig down deep and there's still time to do it.
Student wants me to change the grade on an application problem where directions in bold were not followed. No.
"But I got the right answer!" I've lost points for things like that. In Undergrad Abstract Algebra, a couple summers ago, I gave the definition I was used to from Math Ed for the greatest common factor of two numbers, instead of the technical one with formulas. It's all about knowing the expectations. Mine were, as I said, in bold. So still no.
Student is threatening to drop the class. For purposes of my own ego I would rather inspire the kid to dig down deep and pass, since that's still easily within the range of possibility at this point in the semester. However, I don't get paid on a per student basis, so in practical terms, if anyone wants to hurt themselves by giving up too soon...I can't let myself care about that more than they do.

In which my forehead meets my hand

Posted by Avrila

The same relative, who will remain nameless, reposted both of these on Facebook today.

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What I see when they come up together in my news feed:

LISTEN TO ME ABOUT SCIENCE BECAUSE I DON'T UNDERSTAND THE PREREQS!!!!!

And so I stand with Charles Babbage in my inability to comprehend such a tortured tangle of thinking.

Stereotypical Update Post

Posted by Avrila

Once again I realize that I haven't been blogging lately.  Either life needs to get easier or I need to get better at it...and that first one is seeming less and less likely, seeing as I'm already the first scary age ending in 9 and I thought it would have happened by now if it were going to.  I may possibly get more writing done, both blog-wise and story-wise, as well as more work on setting up online course content, since Thomas got me a Bluetooth keyboard for my tablet (it also works with my laptop, which lost function in its L key a while ago) for Christmas; now it'll be that much easier to work on stuff from wherever I happen to be.  I got him a book and stuck it in the middle of a pack of socks so it wouldn't be totally obvious; the socks were harder to find since apparently all of Lufkin agrees with him that no-show socks cost too many Man Points to be worth considering (by the time I went shopping, crew socks were almost sold out, as in it's possible, from what I saw, that I got the last pack).

Work-wise, teaching for AC is going OK.  About half of my students passed; if I recall correctly, I had achieved percentages like that in a summer semester, when the students are supposed to be somewhat better than usual, but nothing close to that during a regular semester at SFA.  The upcoming semester is going to be a challenge in a way because I'll have a one-night-a-week intermediate algebra class; just keeping the time from dragging is going to take some heavy lifting because I don't even do that well when I try to spend three hours at a stretch on the same math, let alone on spending three hours watching someone else do math.

I miss the health insurance, and am going to miss it even more when Obamacare makes me a criminal, but having work that isn't as enmeshed with school has distinct advantages, like not having to take three classes and feel like crawling into a corner and pray for oblivion all the time.  I exaggerate a little but the fact that leaving campus by around 10:00, during second semester, was setting a boundary (during first semester, staying past midnight was normal) speaks for itself, I tend to think.  This past semester, I only had to take one class, Topology, and I got an A in it, partially because I had the capacity to do crazy things like process information.  Taking three classes at a time last year, I barely scraped a B average in the first semester, and only a little better second semester, so this was an improvement.  Trying not to let it get me down that, unless I manage to take more than three credits at a time at some point, I'll graduate after the current first-years; that's the only down side.  But it's not like I need the degree at any specific time anyway.

I already started on school so let's finish that topic.  Next semester I'm planning to take Complex Variables (think calculus but in the number system where -1 has a square root).  I have a list of topics from the professor to study in advance and I'm also reading ahead a little in alternate resources, something that wasn't allowed for topology (the one thing that drove me batty about that class), and I've already found a Thing That Bugs Me...can't seem to visualize what a complex derivative would mean.  I see how to run through the formulas but it bothers me to Just Trust The Formulas without getting some intuition for the thing as well.

Most other things are a bit harder to encapsulate.  One thing that's been on my mind is that I really want to have Independent Studies Academy up and running, with students, this coming fall.  That means getting a lot of content ready and it means a lot of behind-the-scenes structure needs to be in place, but it's been on my mind a lot as something that needs to happen.

The housekeeping dimension of things has been two steps forward, one step back, on the good days.  One of the steps forward was that I came up with a game where Thomas and I race to fill a shopping bag with stuff to toss; it works best in rooms that desperately need decluttered, which is still most rooms, so that works out OK as far as it goes.

As far as New Year's resolutions, I'm thinking it'll be another year where on about the 5th I think of something I might be able to stick to, like "I will only blow up stuff that deserves it," then decide it's too late to be worth making it official.  If I resolve anything, it will be to get this keyboard remapped to Dvorak, because even looking at the keys to remind myself of what I'm typing on, there are a certain amount of typos happening based on muscle memory of a keyboard that's not designed for inefficiency.

To whom it may concern...

Posted by Avrila

If you're not sure how to act around a depressed person, go with something like this:

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Not spouting platitudes.

And especially not spouting anything equivalent to "snap out of it," since that is the category of phrases most likely to cause us to spend spoons on not punching people in the neck. If you can notice that there's anything to snap out of, we're low on spoons and might not feel like spending them on that right now and we would probably feel bad about punching you in the neck but that would happen afterward.

I'm ready to be made fun of for this, now

Posted by Avrila

Yesterday while doing data entry before giving exams back, I noticed an empty spot in my gradebook spreadsheet. Of course I did the completely rational thing under the circumstances: I panicked.  My inner voice was like "omg omg holy crap I lost a test, I'll have to buy her off with an A so I don't get fired just when they offered me another section for next semester and if she doesn't actually know the stuff I might get caught for that argh yikes" (for the record I would never actually buy a student off with an A, I would let them take a shortened version of the test to get a reasonable estimate of what they would have made, that never occurs to me in the initial panic phase though!).

I actually had put a student in my gradebook twice because she used her maiden name on one thing and married name on another in the first week while I was getting organization systems set up. So, no actually lost test after all. Whew, and, facepalm.

Economizing Lunch

Posted by Avrila

Instead of Tasty Turkey and chips from the cafe, even though I have a ten dollar bill in my purse, I had a turkey and swiss on a whole wheat bagel, an apple, and a handful of crinkle cut carrots, from home. I'll admit I bought a Coke Zero on the way in.

This might be blasphemy, but...although I don't feel totally deprived, it's not as good as Tasty Turkey. However, I do get to be Awesome Economical Type Creature this way.

Possible explanation

Posted by Avrila

This is my response to Homemade Living Frugally's question about our plans for the week.

Work approx. 6 hours two days (today was one of them); go to one class, teach another, and then work out two days; work at a farm for free vegetables, possibly meet up with friends to do crafts, and work out, on Friday; evenings and Saturday, homework, continue working on cutting up two old pairs of pants and piecing them into a patchwork mini-curtain type window treatment for upstairs bathroom, and try to find a piece of fabric that was put to use as a blanket when last winter was colder than expected but I really meant it for a robe that I still want to make. Also, continue to make baby things for my niece whose firstborn is due early next year, and make a list and get started on Christmas gifts. And usual cooking, straightening up, laundry, etc. Possibly also breathe.

Maybe this explains why I quite often feel a little frazzled. But I don't see what I could cut -- there are just so many things that need done, and so many things I want to do that I already have a waiting list (and have to manually stop myself from throwing the long knitting loom set in the cart every time I'm in Walmart because I have an idea for a really neat scarf).

"A place for everything, and everything in its place"

Posted by Avrila

I have to admit something: I hate that phrase.  I don't mean hate it just a little, either.  The intensity of a thousand raging suns would look at my hatred for that phrase and say "wow, that's a lot."

It was one of the flashpoints that my mom and I fought over, as I was growing up.  My room was always a mess and I knew it was because I didn't have storage space, so when my mom would chant "A place for everything and everything in its place" like a magic spell that was supposed to make me suddenly her perfect little organizedcreature, I would argue back (until I learned to just shut up), "But there's not a place for everything."  And then the yelling about how I was "smarting off."  And even after I learned to just shut up, I still thought it.

The thing is, I was right.  My closet was full of my mom's stuff and my dresser was behind school desks we only used half a dozen times.  There wasn't a place for everything.  So I'm trying to see the phrase for what it's actually worth, not for the chant my mom tried to make of it to give me an identity as a worthless slob.

Before you can put something away, you have to have a place that constitutes "away" for that object.  And you can't just say that some general location (my standbys were under the bed or the closet floor) is "away" for everything because eventually it won't all fit.  What it comes down to is, unless you have the ability to define otherwise, the heap (out of sight or otherwise) with everything else is as good a place as any to put anything.  So how do you "define otherwise"?

On the assumption that we're talking about cleaning up one room, or going room-by-room through many rooms to make it possible to talk about one room at a time, here's my series of questions.  (If this assumption doesn't fit and you're trying to do a whole house at once, seek professional help because you're too far gone for my blog to save you.)

  • Does it belong in this room?  If not, toss it in the room it belongs in and worry about it when you get to that room.
    • Usually the answer to this question is fairly obvious.  If it's not so obvious, use these questions to guide you: Do I, or others, use this object in this room?  Is this room the closest place to an outdoor location where this object would be wanted?  Is this an out-of-season item that will belong somewhere eventually but for now needs to be tossed in some kind of attic-equivalent storage?
    • If the object doesn't seem to belong in any other room either, chuck it in a Miscellaneous Box and move on.
    • If you don't want to waste Miscellaneous Box space on it, consider whether the object is still worth owning...if you can't find a place you use it, and you can't fit it into a reasonably amount of space for random stuff, why exactly do you want to keep it?
  • Where in this room is the logical location of use for this item?
    • For many things this is even more obvious than the previous.  Soap goes by the sink, pens and pencils go on or in the desk, knives go near the cutting board, toilet paper should be within easy reach of the throne, etc.
    • For some things this might be less obvious.  Take your best guess and go on -- you can change your mind later.
  • Do you need to add storage capacity to the room in order to have a place for this object?
    • If it has a handle with a hole in it, consider sticking up a hook.
    • If you need shelves or storage boxes, buy them.  No one can be organized in a room where the only place to put anything is In The Heap With Everything Else.  If you have kids, give them a budget for this.
    • If your storage boxes aren't clear, label them.  If your storage boxes are clear but the stuff in them is mixed or otherwise hard to see all of, label them.  If your storage boxes are clear and you can easily see what everything is, label them if you feel like it.

That's what I've figured out so far about what having "a place for everything" means.  If I'd had this growing up, I can see how it would have been a lot easier to put "everything in its place."

Pieced Washcloths

Posted by Avrila

In a day and age where we can buy most things instantly ready, sewing seems like it takes too long. However, although people today can get by without sewing if they want to, it's a good idea for Accidental Home Economists to learn a certain amount of sewing skills, because a lot of money can be saved by making your own of many things or especially by repairing what you already have.

However, that doesn't mean that you should do a bunch of useless projects just to learn how to sew. You're probably a very busy person -- most people are, these days -- so you don't need to spend time making things you don't want or need. (This is not meant to say anything against charitable projects that someone else wants or needs, if that's how you like to spend your extra time. I just mean that your time is valuable, so any craft project you invest your time in should be of value to someone.)

Since it is possible to buy ready made washcloths, and in fact the usual way I make these involves cutting ready made washcloths in half, you're right to wonder why I would spend time on this. So here are the advantages, as far as I've figured out as yet, of pieced washcloths as compared to off-the-shelf purchased washcloths.

  • Can be made from towels that are worn out in spots -- smaller pieces to cut reduce waste fabric
  • Can be made from other washcloths that are worn or stained in spots
  • Can be taken apart and repaired by replacing pieces that get holes or stains, letting you get the rest of the use of the other pieces
  • Can be color-coordinated with handtowels that are made in the same way, even if the manufacturer does not offer coordinated handtowels, which makes the room where they are used look nicer (maybe nicer than your budget for bathroom or kitchen linens would otherwise allow)
  • Can remind you to take care of them because you made them

Making two-piece washcloths is very easy.

  1. Cut two washcloths (preferably different colors--look for value packs of cheap washcloths in many stores) in half OR cut pieces of about half washcloth size from old towels or similar material.
  2. Overlap the cut edges by about one inch and pin in place, using different colors if possible.
  3. Optional: baste (sew with long stitches that are not secured at either end) down the middle of the overlapping part and remove pins.
  4. Zigzag over the raw edge on both sides.
  5. Remove pins if you didn't baste, or remove basting stitches if you did.
  6. If your edges are already finished, you're done! If your edges are not already finished, for example because you cut less worn pieces from old towels, zigzag over the edges or bind them with bias tape or ribbon if you want to be fancier.

Matching handtowels can be made by practically the same process. A handtowel takes as much material as two washcloths.

  1. Cut one washcloth in half OR cut two half-washcloth size pieces of material.
  2. Cut two edges across from each other off of the other washcloth OR cut one washcloth size piece of material.
  3. Overlap each cut edge of the full washcloth with the cut edge of a half washcloth and pin in place.
  4. Continue according to above steps starting at step 3 (which is optional, so for most of you, really step 4).

You can make a full sized bath towel or beach towel this way if you want to, but it would probably take too long for most people to bother with if you start with washcloth sized material. However, if you have two towels with one hole each (which can be gotten very cheaply at outlet or as-is stores, especially those operated by thrift store chains, where cloth goods are usually sold by the pound), you could cut both in half and use this method to get one good towel, then make washcloths and hand towels out of the rest.