No news is good news?

I feel like I should update the blog, but nothing much is going on. Still grading, still digging up bellflower, still neglecting research to make time to de-clutter/pack up the house, which is still going very slowly (because grading, commuting, exercising, and gardening all take time), still working on getting Reina and Basement Cat to get along again (okay, sort of, in the living room, not okay in “home territory” like the rooms where each sleeps). Nor do I have any interesting thoughts about topics of the day. I am boring.

But at least I can report that everyone in my household is healthy and we have no bad news to deal with. I’ll just be keeping on till the end of the semester comes. Maybe I can find some writing quotes to post for your inspiration, if not for mine.

Friday’s fortunately/unfortunately narration

This is really yesterday’s post, but I was traveling then.

Fortunately, I got to see the dawn. I do this fairly frequently, wherever I am, but it was especially pretty, with a pink glow over the mountains, reflected in the bay.

Unfortunately, it was my last day of that view.

Fortunately, I had time for one more walk on the beach, where I picked up a few pieces of pink quartz and white beach glass to remind me of the place.

Unfortunately, going down to the beach meant toiling up the hill one more time, afterwards.

Fortunately, I was able to recover with brunch on the balcony, watching bright yellow birds (goldfinches?) and bright blue ones (no idea) flashing through the trees, with the occasional dancing orange butterfly adding even more color interest.

Unfortunately, there was a lot of food left over.

Fortunately, that meant the feral cats on the corner got a feast.

Unfortunately, the taxi came earlier than we expected, and I was running up and down stairs communicating with the driver and letting in the rental agent, while Queen Joan was still getting dressed, and I still had lots of things to throw in my suitcase.

Fortunately, my Spanish was adequate to the task, the driver was patient, and everything got done.

Unfortunately, when we were in the taxi and jouncing to the airport, I couldn’t find my passport.

Fortunately, once we got to the airport and I could get to my suitcase, it was in the first place I looked, scooped up along with other to-be-packed items at the last minute.

Unfortunately, that meant I had to get on a plane and leave the tropical paradise.

Fortunately, I was looking forward to seeing Sir John and our cats, and I had a whole book to read that I’d saved for the trip home.

Unfortunately, there was an 80 degree drop in temperature between the place/time I left and the one where I arrived.

Fortunately, Sir John brought my down coat to meet me. I won’t say I was happier to see it than I was to see him, but I would have refused to leave the airport without it.

Unfortunately, in spite of all our added insulation, new windows, new curtains on the old windows, the replaced front door, and whatever other energy-related improvements I’m forgetting, our house still is fairly chilly, especially in the front room downstairs. I hate living in an old house, in this climate.

Fortunately, I was very successful in sticking to my complicated diet while I was gone (Queen Joan helped a lot, and taught me to cook some things I’d never tried before), so I’m feeling very well and tolerably energetic. If I can keep managing the diet, then I hope to have enough energy to sort out this house (file, give away, pack up, throw out, as necessary) and get it on the market this spring. We’ll see what happens, since of course I will also be teaching and I do not handle multiple tasks, or switching among them, especially well.

Unfortunately, my grad class for the spring (on a very cool and most excellent topic, which I was looking forward to teaching) was cancelled due to low enrollment, as I learned when I checked e-mail at the tropical airport.

Fortunately, oh very fortunately, I have been granted a research release in its place.



Eight things plus plans, today

Today I have

talked for over 2 hours with a grad school friend whom I have known for 28 years

skipped a yoga class so we could go on talking

eaten lots of carrot muffins

cooked scrambled eggs with spinach, green beans, and tomatoes for brunch

gone for a short walk (it is very cold here, and the sun was very bright and the sky very blue)

attended a Christmas concert

waved the Fevver Toy for Reina

put together dinner.

And now Reina has dragged the Fevver Toy into the kitchen, so I am going to go wave it around some more. She is addicted to that toy. It no longer has any feathers; I think Basement Cat destroyed them when he was her age. It does have tempting, taunting leather strings, however, and she will chase it till she is panting.

I will probably also read some more of my Spanish novel, and possibly do a bit more coloring.

10 things today

Today I did these things:

went to a yoga class

bought a Christmas present

talked on the phone with a friend I haven’t seen since May

made a phone date with another friend

baked carrot muffins

made vegetable curry

sat with Reina on my lap

sat with Basement Cat on my lap

colored in the Secret Garden coloring book

talked with Sir John about math puzzles


Chaucerian grades: re-post

Since the end of the semester is upon most of us, I offer this grading scale from four years ago:


Right as oure firste lettre is now an A,
In beaute first so stood she, makeles.
Hire goodly lokyng gladed al the prees.
Nas nevere yet seyn thyng to ben preysed derre.


Al that writen is,
To oure doctrine it is ywrite, ywis;
Taketh the fruyt, and lat the chaf be stille.
. . . . . . . . .
Thow hast thee wel yquit
And gentilly.  I preise wel thy wit,


The lyf so short, the craft so long to lerne,
Th’assay so hard, so sharp the conquerynge. . . .
Of usage—what for lust and what for lore—
On bokes rede I ofte, as I yow tolde.
But wherfore that I speke al this?


Namoore of this.
That ye han seyd is right ynough, ywis,
And muchel moore; for litel hevynesse
Is right ynough to muche folk, I gesse.
I seye for me, it is a greet disese.


Thy drasty rymyng is nat worth a toord.
Thou doost noght elles but despendest tyme.


Hang in there. Every pile of papers comes to an end. If there are just too many, send some to me or JaneB and we’ll let our cats shred them for you!

Cats who encourage tidiness

I complained about Glendower awhile back. Now Reina has developed the chewing-on-paper tendency. She used only to chew post-its left sticking out of books that had been re-shelved. She loves to hide on bookshelves, behind the books; we have open-frame shelves that make it easy for the cats to tunnel behind the books, since if we push books to the wall, (a) they fall down since the walls aren’t necessarily plumb, and (b) enormous amounts of clutter accumulate on the space in front of books. I didn’t so much mind the post-its getting chewed. I do mind having to clear my desk every time I leave the room, because now she’ll attack a whole stack of paper and chew all the corners off and fling confetti around the room. I need more drawers or cupboards, closed storage.

She is curled in her bed looking like butter wouldn’t melt, but I need to go do other things, so the current batch of print-outs must be hidden lest they be shredded before my return.

It’s August! Panic stations!

A few years ago, I wrote about oh-shit-it’s-August-syndrome, when the summer hits the fan, as it were, and it’s hard to decide what most urgently needs attention because it all does, but time is limited and yet it’s still so hot that it’s hard to believe that anything really is urgent.

I thought I’d revisit that post to see how much of it can be recycled without updates.

OK, so there’s what I really have to do, and there’s what I really want to do, and there are all those things that I thought I’d like to get done but need to let go of. And then there’s the question of whether some elements of the last group don’t actually belong there.

Check, check, check. That paragraph works.

It’s August. Classes start in two weeks, with faculty meetings beforehand. Besides writing and class prep and having some last bits of summer fun, I have a couple of medical appointments I’m taking care of before classes start, and possibly one or more dentist appointments depending on whether a sensitive spot calms down or gets worse. (If it’s going to get worse, I wish it would just come on and do it already, instead of waiting for the first or second day of classes.) I’m pretty clear on the have-to (syllabi etc, and at least one House Thing) and the most definite want-to (a little more fun reading and a sewing project).

Classes don’t start for three whole weeks! I’m starting early on the panic. Only not so early, because I’ll be away during the faculty-meeting week. So actually I only have about ten days. Wheeeee! Down the panic slide we go! Never mind last bits of summer fun. I’d be thrilled to get the writing and class prep done in the time. The medical stuff happened in July (excellent, pat self on back) and I have only one more dentist appointment to go, which should be a quick and easy one. There are no house have-to’s, though there are a batch of house things for which I need to organize people to come and give estimates. Still, those could happen any time over the next eight weeks or so. Sooner is no doubt better than later, but I’m not going to put those on the must-do-now list. No sewing projects (well, unless visiting a tailor counts, and again, not urgent). There’s no fun reading I’ve been putting off.

But then there are writing-related but not-writing activities, which are desirable but not really essential, like tidying up my home office. . . . There is a heap of paper stuff that needs to get filed.

The home office is fine. I can even see wood on my desk. I tidied it a few weeks ago. It’s true that means there are heaps of paper in the guest room that I need to sort out, but out of sight is out of mind, and at the moment that is A-O.K. I can use sorting them as a procrastination activity when I start getting things to grade! Isn’t that great planning?

Since I got back (not counting writing done on the plane), I’ve produced . . . let’s see . . . Basement Cat, get off my research journal . . . about 2000 words. These are what I might call “focused pre-writing,” rather than true rough-draft writing, because the section presently under construction didn’t get as much pre-writing as the first chunk I wrote. But that’s fine. This stage of writing has to happen sometime, and I might as well do it now, while I’m on a roll.

Since I got back, I’ve produced roughly 3000 new words. Very roughly. It’s hard to be sure. There has also been a lot of editing in which words get tinkered with, cut, re-written, and so on. The current version of the MMP-1 is just shy of 10K words, but I think I’m done with it, except for sorting out its footnotes properly in the style required by the journal to which I plan to send it. I really want to send it and have it be Someone Else’s Problem for awhile. There are plenty of other things to work on.

Nobody sits on my research journal these days. Sometimes Reina sits behind my monitor, but I am in her bad graces at the moment because of unlawful confiscation of licensed weapons cutting her claws. It’s true, when the children grow up you miss the things that used to drive you crazy.

So [should I focus on] writing syllabi . . . and hacking back the horribly overgrown and weedy garden? Actually, I am terribly tempted to abandon the garden until frost kills off some stuff—this seasonal nonsense is good for something!—though I do rather fear What The Neighbors Will Think. . . . I could give up on the sewing and garden instead . . . if we ever get a cool enough day that I want to be outside.

Write syllabi, work on revisions, and hack back the garden. Not that I care what the neighbors think. The front looks all right and the back is nobody’s business. But I’m making progress with the bellflower and I’d like to keep on rather than letting it grow back. The weather is certainly a consideration. We had a pleasant weekend, so I did some more digging.

So, it looks like I’m doing rather well compared to four years ago. That’s a very pleasant discovery. Now to pull a conference paper out of . . . wherever this one comes from.

Children’s book review: Friday’s Tunnel

I sometimes lurk on the Chron fora, and I’ve enjoyed the thread on children’s books. There were a couple of posts this month that caught my eye, both because of the poster’s name, Glendower, and because of the books described. Glendower! It must be a different Glendower. Mine is sweet and handsome but I swear he’s illiterate. He doesn’t even sleep on books very often, though he enjoys the tunnels behind them on the shelves.

Anyway, the forum’s Glendower reported on a book called Friday’s Tunnel, by John Verney, that sounded familiar . . . and yet not. I found it in the library, and I think it is the one I remember, but like Glendower, I remembered it very differently. I think I also later confused it with a children’s book that my father started writing (but never finished, sadly) about a tunnel under the elementary school that my brothers and I all attended.

Reading Verney’s book as an adult, I suffered from feminist outrage as well as the usual odd time-warping sense that happens when I re-visit books I haven’t read in decades. The narrator, a 13-year-old girl named February, describes her mother as “tall and thin and easily the most beautiful woman I know and not very strong because of having so many children [six, and another on the way]. Dr. Henry says they have overtaxed her strength and that’s one reason why Daddy won’t let her drive the car” (26).

If Daddy is so worried about Mummy’s strength, he had better find his way to the drugstore. Chemist. Whatever. He ought to know where babies come from, at his age, and if he doesn’t, I’d be willing to explain to him. With a pair of scissors.

And when February makes breakfast for the gang one morning when Mummy’s back has seized up, she reflects, “Shouldn’t be surprised if I made a jolly good housewife myself—if anyone ever asked me” (212-3). Is this all she can think of to do with herself? Is this all John Verney can think of for a girl to do?

The book was published in 1959. I can put up with quite a lot of outdated reactionary hogwash in an old book if the story, characters, and setting are appealing. But I agree with the forum’s Glendower that the plot was confusing. Worse than that, as February was galloping about on her pony, I realized that she is one of those privileged snobby horsy girls: “I thought . . . of how lucky Friday and I are the others were to be living in the country and to have parents like ours, and of a girl at school called Helen Ponton whom I always tease because she’s so fat and stupid and awful and whose parents were killed last year in an air-crash and who has no brothers and sisters or proper home but spends every hols with a maiden aunt in a bed-sitting-room in Leamington Spa” (46).

Poor Helen. I don’t care that at the end of the book, February urges a rich childless couple to adopt Helen Ponton. I expect if I, or February, were suddenly deprived of parents, we’d also be fat (eating our feelings) and stupid (grief will do that to you) and probably awful (ditto). I want to read about Helen. In particular, I want to read about Helen putting all her weight behind a punch to February’s stuck-up teasing nose.

Sabra update

Awhile back, Basement Cat announced Sabra’s departure. Despite all my efforts (safe space, slow introductions, play therapy/joint military exercises, treats, Feliway, and so on), Sabra really really really wanted to be an only cat, and (a) that is just not happening in this house, and (b) her presence was stressing out BC so that he was attacking our other cats, including the poor old Grammarian who had enough other problems. We took Sabra to a no-kill shelter, hoping she would soon be someone else’s beloved special kitty.

Well, she has finally been adopted. The path there was not smooth, sad to say. I did tell them about her desires, but she was first adopted by people who already had a cat. Sabra’s response to that was to think outside the box, if you get my drift, and so they brought her back to the shelter. Then there were some weeks of re-evaluation. Eventually the shelter people decided she just needed to be an only cat (yes, duh, we know!). Then there was more waiting till there was a suitable spot for her on the adoption floor. Poor girl. I hope she now has great people who appreciate her properly. She is so beautiful and such a charmer, so long as other cats are not involved.

In a weird way, I find all this reassuring. We had no trouble with her over litter-box usage, so clearly we were doing something right despite her inability to settle in with our other cats. And I do have a lot of experience integrating cats into the household, so I rather feel that if it couldn’t happen here, it wouldn’t happen anywhere (although Basement Cat and his anxieties do present a special challenge). We probably did better with her than many people would have been able to. This may even throw some light on why she was out on her own in the first place; she might have been thrown out, or left of her own accord, when a new cat, dog, or infant joined the family.

I never thought I’d have to surrender an animal, but apparently it can happen even to the crazy cat people of the world. Please support your local no-kill shelter. They help all of us.

From the Desk of Basement Cat [with editorial comment]

Now that we have all had a couple of weeks to get used to Me in My new role as Senior Cat, there are a few points I would like to clarify.

First, I hate change. While being Senior Cat is, on the whole, a pleasant change, it is still change, and I hate change. Many of the following points have to do with avoiding change in future.

Regarding feline personnel: there shall be no further changes in the feline residents of this household, either adding or subtracting. I believe I made my feelings on this matter known upon the departure of the Tiny Cat and the arrivals of Glendower and Reina, with further vigorous protests at the addition of Sabra. Although I disliked Sabra, her disappearance alongside that of the old grey guy in the same week was too damned much. I wanted her to submit to me, not to vanish. I can’t be sure that she isn’t going to pop out of a closet and chase me around the house again. At any rate, now that we have achieved an equilibrium of three members of the ninja persuasion, let us remain a triumvirate.

The humans agree whole-heartedly on this matter. Basement Cat’s preferences are indeed well-known, which is why Sabra is now awaiting adoption (at a no-kill shelter) into a home where she can be an only cat. Her desire to be an only or Top Cat created considerable friction in the household, and is indirectly responsible for more than one injury among the other residents, mostly at the paws of Basement Cat making his dissatisfaction known. The humans, who are responsible for the veterinary bills, found this situation unacceptable, though they were reluctant to part with the beautiful and affectionate (to people) Sabra. The humans nonetheless reserve the right to offer temporary shelter to ferals awaiting or recovering from spay/neuter operations, and to foster and socialize kittens in cases of great need.

Regarding hoo-man personnel: there shall be no further changes among the hoo-man residents and associates. He and She shall remain in their current positions as cat servants, and shall not take time off (an occasional afternoon out may be countenanced under certain restricted circumstances). The only visitors shall be those who have already received approval from the entire ninja committee. Under no circumstances shall tradesmen, construction workers, or other creators of loud noises be granted entry to the premises.

The humans agree that a lack of construction workers and other creators of loud noises is a consummation devoutly to be wished. Unfortunately, in the interest of keeping the house from falling down around feline (and other) ears, it may on occasion be necessary to allow such persons to enter it. Further, the humans cannot control the city or the neighbors, such that loud noises may occur outside the house, disturbing the occupants. Rest assured that the humans sympathize deeply with the felines on this matter. Regarding travel, the humans undertake to provide qualified, competent cat servants, most likely recruited from the technicians at the regular vet practice, so that they will be known to the feline residents.

There shall be no travel by the hoo-mans, and most assuredly no use of the barbaric practice known as “boarding.”

See above on the topic of substitute servants. Humans, rather like Glendower, crave novelty from time to time, and like to go exploring outside the house.

Further with regard to feline personnel: Reina shall immediately disabuse herself of any notions regarding “Girl Power” that she may have acquired from that Sabra. This household shall observe strict seniority rights: I am Senior Cat, then Glendower, then Reina is Most Junior Cat. Should I inexplicably fail to live forever (in which case I hope Sabra, Evil Neighbor Catboy, and my other enemies will be rigorously prosecuted), then she may eventually have her chance to be Senior Cat. No female cat shall have any rights save those conferred by (lack of) seniority, while I am Senior Cat.

So long as violence is avoided, the humans will allow the feline residents to work this out for themselves, while reserving the right and obligation to break up fights, with the squirt bottle if necessary. It is felt that sufficient cat-on-cat violence has already occurred in this household.

Effective immediately, Glendower and Reina need to show their submission to Me by becoming messier eaters. One thing that pleased Me about the old grey guy was that he threw a lot of food out of his bowl, which was then available to Me. I am not getting enough to eat since he stopped eating.

That’s up to Glendower and Reina, but the humans would like to take this opportunity to observe that they are aware of this change in Basement Cat’s environment and have increased his rations accordingly. Moreover, not only are they responsible for the vet bills, they would also have to administer tests of blood glucose and shots of insulin should Basement Cat become diabetic, and it is felt that Basement Cat would not cooperate for such treatment. Hence it is desirable, from the human point of view, that Basement Cat should retain his present svelte and elegant figure.

Glendower and Reina shall immediately cede to Me any cushion, patch of sunlight, windowsill, or other desirable resting place should I indicate the slightest interest in it.

The bedroom remains Mine and only on My sufferance are other cats, including the rest of the ninja committee, allowed to rest or engage in other activities there.

So long as violence is avoided . . . .

The hoo-mans shall have no other cat before Me. Glendower and Reina may be tolerated as substitutions for Me when I do not feel like interacting with hoo-mans.

Oh, obviously the humans worship Basement Cat. May you live forever. =^..^=