Ask a stupid question

I just had to update my account with an airline. This meant selecting and providing answers for a list of security questions.

WTF. Who makes up these questions? And how old are they? The list included “favorite ice cream flavor” and “favorite pizza topping.” I cannot eat either ice cream or pizza. If I make something up, I’ll have to write it down somewhere, because I’ll never remember. I think I made my attitude about “favorite” this and that clear seven years ago: https://dameeleanorhull.wordpress.com/2011/09/28/book-meme/  I have not changed my mind since then!

The answers are also to be selected from a list. I’ll give them credit for this much: there were some pretty creative answers for “favorite musical instrument,” including “didgeridoo,” but I’m pretty sure they didn’t have “crumhorn.”

Others included “month of your best friend’s birthday”: I don’t have a best friend. “Month you met your significant other.” For that, I’d have to ask Sir John; he’s the one who keeps track of such things. Besides, what about people who have gone through an SO or two since the time they provided answers? Do people have to work back through a process like “okay, I think I was dating Dave then, or was it Eric, and I remember when we broke up, but did we meet in summer or late spring? Maybe it was May because I think we went to that picnic for Memorial Day . . . or was it Mike at that picnic?” Are Kids These Days more inclined to stick to one person, or am I the only old broad who went around the block a few times before settling down with my most excellent and well-beloved husband who remembers the actual date we met and not just the season?

Favorite subject in school. Favorite winter activity. Favorite vacation.

I think my favorite winter activity is Ranting About Stupid Shit I Hate Because I Have SAD And Hate Everything.

That was not an option.

How about “Favorite child”? Wouldn’t that cause a few family rumbles when someone’s trying to help Mom update her account! Hey, how about “Favorite Significant Other” or “Best F^*k”? Or something I have an actual opinion about, like Favorite Toilet Paper, Your Usual Shampoo Brand, Preferred Brand of Chocolate, Your Pet’s Preferred Food/Brand, or Your Toothpaste? I’m in favor of a question that would make people learn something: Most Distressing Plague in History, Worst Civil War, Favorite English Monarch, Favorite Roman Deity, Favorite Ruined Temple. The answers could show pictures or link to Wikipedia.

What’s your least favorite security question?

Saturday morning

  • Wake at 0640 because Basement Cat feels yowly; pull on clothes, go down with BC, let him lick out Glendower’s bowl because Glendower finished his food last night. Make tea.
  • Observe that it is snowing. I had thought I might sweep up some leaves today. Never mind.
  • Sit in front of light box working through Dead Languages, then reading a chunk of a less-dead chronicle.
  • Feed cats.
  • Start cooking my favorite breakfast. We’re out of spinach, but have leftover cooked chard. Cut that up and heat it in the microwave, add the rice, beat two eggs and pour the liquid over the rice and chard. This looks odd. Oh! I should have just broken the eggs into the pan. Did chopping the chard remind me of cutting up potatoes, so I thought I was making a tortilla española? Well, it’s a frittata now. MORE TEA.
  • Cut up cotton gauze for brushing cats’ teeth. Brush cat teeth.
  • Head back to study with tea, to tackle the day’s thrashing exercise. Write-grade-plan/book travel-pay bills-write-grade etc. If I Write First, then I can at least try to soothe the deadlinedeadlinedeadline voices with assurances that I’m working on it.
  • So, as exercise in procrastination, write blog post. It’s a good thing I didn’t commit to daily blogging during November. Still, I’m doing more than I usually do, so let that be a lesson in not letting the best be the enemy of the good.
  • More internet procrastination: read the winter weather prediction, for a colder-than-normal winter here.
  • Draw curtains and turn light box back on. La la la not listening to anyone but my friends the iguanas. It’s always the same weather inside this nice iguana tank.

Heidegger is a boozy beggar

On a good day, when I am adequately rested and caffeinated and the brain is properly in gear, I can just about cope with some of the French philosophizers and theorists: Bourdieu, Saussure, even Derrida.

I don’t so much get on with the Germans.

Someone among my colleagues, presumably whoever has taught the theory class in recent years, seems to be playing for the German team in that famous soccer football match (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ur5fGSBsfq8). So my graduate students keep coming up with references to Habermas, Hegel, and Heidegger, and I give them blank looks and ask them to go back to the primary (medieval) texts, and to look, literally just look at a manuscript page and tell me what they see there besides words: describe the layout and the paratextual elements such as headers. They look at me. I look brightly and expectantly back.

It’s nice to be old enough that I really don’t care about the things I don’t know. That is, not that I’m done learning things, but I don’t get the panicked feeling that I really ought to know about Hegel and if I don’t I’m a big fraud and will never get tenure. I know what I know. If the grads are deliberately trying to impress me, well, that’s not the way to go; and if they’re trying to show that they know something I don’t, I’m sure there are loads of things they know that I don’t but my job is to teach them my stuff (and leave someone else to teach them to tell the Germans from the Greeks). If they’re trying to hand-wave their way out of being able to explain an idea, I’m absolutely the wrong audience. Explain it to me in words of one or two syllables, without reference to jargon, and we’ll see how well you understand it.

Basement Cat strikes again

I know They don’t like Me to do it, but I can’t help Myself: I need to chew on plastic. Those covers on magazines, mmm, I perforate them all the way around if I can. Plastic bags. Bubble wrap. Anything, really. It’s just this thing I do. This morning I discovered that They didn’t take off the strip of plastic that binds a bunch of bananas together (disgusting things, bananas, fruit in general, really, hoo-mans will eat the strangest things) so I chewed it off for Them. I got a bit of it caught in My throat so I threw up. Of course it was on the table! That’s where I was! I mean, if I’d already been on the floor, obviously I would have chosen the rug, but why would I jump down just to throw up? That doesn’t make sense. I gather that She was not pleased when she found My puke all over the table, but that’s what She gets if She’s going to sleep late. She should get up when I do, and feed Me, instead of removing Glendower’s leftovers and going back to sleep. It’s not like She needs twenty hours a day. (He seems to need more than She does, but He is clearly part Cat, since He has a furry face.)

Calendars

Paper works better for me than electronic: having to write in recurring appointments makes me think about the other associated work (meet class = prep, grading, finding items I want to take in, posting things to the CMS, etc); when the space for a day fills, I realize I can’t take on anything else; I do not respond well to alarms and electronic reminders, which tend to make me snarl “Piss off, you’re not the boss of me,” even if I set them myself. I like doing the planning. I don’t like acting on it. I may well go off and do something else entirely, whatever I feel like doing, but making the plans at least reminds me of the things that will have to happen sometime. Xykademic recently wrote, “it seems that schedules, lists, and detailed plans relax most people by giving them a sense of control.” That’s not how it works for me. Detailed plans make me very anxious; I know I’m not going to be able to live up to them, and that they’ll probably make me feel like I’ve failed within a couple of days. I’m after a sort of awareness that there are these tasks, and this time available, and these other times that are either right out or unlikely to be useful because I’ll be tired. The lists/plans are a way to help me figure out in the moment what I should really use my energy on.

So I use two calendars. One is an 8.5×11 monthly grid (opens to 11×17) where I can put in all the recurring and one-off appointments, and make a few notes about things coming up that I’ll need to plan for, such as when to book flights for planned travel. It lets me get a big-picture sense of commitments. The other is a small Moleskine blank book. I create a very small monthly calendar at the beginning, to flag things I should look at the big calendar for, and then add goals, lists, day-per-page to-dos and have-dones, or two days per page sometimes, or even a week per page or two pages for a day, depending on what’s going on and what I’m trying to capture.

Finding small ruled or squared Moleskine books is no trouble at all, and I hereby express my gratitude to the company. Truly. Sincerely.

Finding a good monthly calendar is a pain in the patoot. I don’t want pink, flowers, Jesus, or fancy curly script. I want a plain font, big squares, plain cover, or maybe a tame geometric pattern, no optical illusions or cartoons. I definitely do not want wastes of space such as “inspirational” quotations or pre-made checklists including items such as “Make time for family” (I got away from those people, thankyouverymuch, we don’t have a lot of time for each other and that is just fine with all of us), “I am grateful for” (I would be very grateful if you would fuck off with those reminders), and “Drink water” (a reminder that makes me want to drink alcohol in excessive quantities). Yeah, I have a bad attitude, what was your first clue? Ahem. I also want my big calendar to be stapled, not spiral-bound. Spirals always come undone and stab me and other stuff in my bag, and then the cats mess with them, and oh just let’s not start.

Two years ago, I got a really good See It Bigger calendar with a plain navy cover, a two-year calendar, so for two years I haven’t had to worry about this. But now I really need a new one. Recently I looked, hopefully, in local stores for something similar. No dice. You’d think everyone who uses a paper planner is a pinky-winky little girl planning to give her life to Jesus and kittens. In a spiral binding. It took a long time wading through junk online, but I think I have finally tracked down a similar plain navy calendar with big squares, plain font, and no unwanted extras. I hope. There weren’t enough pictures to be truly reassuring. I may update you on the calendar quest in a week or so. Let’s hope it’s with genuine relief instead of more grumpy snark.

“Write first”

It always sounds like such great advice. But there’s a theory/practice problem: the writer is embodied. That is, the physical body has its quirks, and it lives somewhere, and the household also has quirks. Cats. Whatever. Same thing, really.

I am frustrated with not getting more writing done this fall, and so, like Gwinne, I resolved to use the NaNoWriMo energy to spur me to action. Yesterday I wrote on the train, doing some work toward a hunk of close reading to appear in the introduction to the Huge Honking Translation. There were a batch of things I needed to look up, later. Okay. I came home last night, fourteen hours and twenty minutes after I left the house in the morning (but who’s counting?), and resolved to make it easy on myself to Write First this morning. I made tea in my travel mug to leave by my bedside, laid out my clothing for morning, and went to bed at a fairly decent hour. I knew I’d have to go downstairs long enough to check on whether Glendower had finished his food overnight, and if not, take his bowl away from Basement Cat, who sleeps with us so Glendower can graze at his leisure, but I thought then maybe I could get in half an hour of Writing First before the natives (i.e. cats) got restless.

OK. I slept as well as I ever do, and woke up at dawn (which comes late these days). The tea was cold (n.b., get a real thermos, not just the travel mug). Since I had to go down with Basement Cat anyway, I might as well put the tea in a mug and heat it up. My neck hurt, so I also wanted to heat the wrap-around hot/cold pack. There were other bodily needs to take care of. Roughly half an hour later, I made it upstairs with heat pack and hot tea, sat at my desk, and opened up the document from yesterday. Success! I’m Writing First, more or less! Now for looking up words in an etymological dictionary! Oh . . . the internet is down. Call the company that rhymes with Bombast. Recorded voice apologizes for the interruption in service and estimates that it will be restored within four hours.

Well, that’s one way to avoid being distracted by the wonders of the Internet. In the meantime, I fiddle with the edition’s glossary, my Latin dictionary, and what I can pull out of my ass memory about sound changes from Latin into modern Romance tongues. I remember that I have, somewhere, a CD with a most excellent dictionary for the language in question, which I installed some time ago, on the laptop that is now both kaput and permanently wiped (though not yet taken to be recycled, sigh), and on my office computer (do I still have the same office computer? hell if I know), and I start wondering where the CD is: at work? But I didn’t see it recently when I was looking for another CD with Important Images on it, which I couldn’t find either. At home? Not in any of the obvious places. Quite likely packed away in a box marked as “miscellaneous work materials.” I am so tired of living with half my things packed into storage.

OK, the internet is back, three or more hours before Bombast’s estimate. Yay! Look up a word. Stare confusedly at results and hard-copy Latin dictionary. Go to different online Latin dictionary. Write about ten words of notes in my document. Let Glendower into my study. Prevent Glendower and Reina from tussling about who gets to curl up in her bed. The natives are definitely getting restless. Check e-mail before going to feed cats . . . a graduate student has replied to my query about articulating a research question, good, citing Habermas in the first line, bad . . . I am NOT dealing with Habermas before food and more caffeine, so off I go to feed myself and the cats.

Whereupon I discover that there is no more cooked rice, so I have to do some pre-cooking before I can have breakfast.

For roughly another 36 hours, I have no grading to do, so it is reasonably possible that there will be more writing today and tomorrow before I return to the realms of procrastination creating useful and friendly feedback on other people’s writing.

Cross again

Does yoga rot people’s brains? Or is it just my park district? At the yoga class I like(d) this afternoon, during shivasana the teacher lit a stick of incense without asking first whether anyone had allergies, asthma, other lung issues or just a dislike of scents.

I resurrected out of corpse pose so fast my head spun, rolled my mat and slithered out of the room while trying not to inhale. I was still coughing an hour later. In fact, even now I’m getting intermittent coughing fits, though they’ve calmed down considerably.

Who does this sort of thing? There are people way more sensitive than I am out there. (Hi, Fie! I really hope you’re out of that moldy building this year.) This teacher is fifty-something, plenty old enough to have run into people with respiratory problems. I’d go back to the overly-athletic yoga classes at my gym and just spend a lot of time in child’s pose, but they’re all at times that are either impossible for me (while I’m teaching) or completely unlikely (no, I’m not going to get up in time for a 6:00 a.m. class after teaching a night class the night before). Overly Chatty Lady is starting to look a bit better to me, though who knows, maybe she also has a thing for incense and it just didn’t manifest last weekend.

Jesus H. on a raft. Just . . . at least warn people if you’re going to do things that could aggravate medical conditions.

Cross Purposes

I’m consciously trying to live my life, rather than putting it on hold because I think/expect/hope that we might be moving house. So I signed up for yoga classes that meet near my house, three times a week (non-teaching days). It’s a pleasant short walk over there, and the yoga studio looks out into the trees. All three classes are taught by different women. Tuesday, great. Thursday, fine. Saturday . . . wow.

I spent the whole time thinking “Shut up, shut up, shut up, could we get some quiet over here? I’m going to have to go home and do yoga to get over this experience. Should I just leave now? It would be so much easier to get calm and centered if you would shut up. I don’t care that you fixed your husband and kid their breakfast before you left because it was someone’s birthday.”

Let me be clear: this was all the teacher. I’ve been in some generally chatty classes, where people want to catch up with their friends, but that is not what was going on. The (few) other class members today were quiet and apparently focused on their practice. But from the teacher we got a constant flow of “feel the energy” type comments mixed with snippets about her family life and recent experiences, and, occasionally, some actual useful information about what we should be doing with a pose.

I left feeling certain I would not be back, and rather cross about this because the combination of time and place are really good for me. Since I got home, however, I’ve been quite productive. I did more yoga. I did some baking, prepped preserved lemons, paid bills, ordered some things I need online, sent a message to a family member about shipping more Stuff from FamilyLand. I’ve done a little bit of tidying up, though I still need to do much more. When I write it out, it doesn’t seem like that much, but my weekend mornings often start with several hours of drinking tea, reading blogs, and staring into space feeling that I really ought to do something. Anything. Any time now . . .

So maybe I should keep gritting my teeth through this class. Maybe it really does energize me. Or motivate me to be quiet and focused, in order to counter the unwelcome chatter.

It also made me think about the unintended consequences of both good intentions that don’t produce the desired results, and of negative experiences that get one’s attention or inspire a desire to be different/better. Maybe (to pick up TLQ’s gardening metaphor) I need to be hardened, left outside in the cold a bit; or to have some growth pinched back to make me grow bushier; or forced to grow up a trellis.

Filling time

Between extreme heat, and trouble sleeping, and an unhappy gut, I feel like today ought to have been cancelled. It’s one of those non-days, the blanks at the start or end of a month (see the last paragraph here), not a work day, not a holiday, a not-happening day.

I spent six hours reading very old blog posts: Another Damned Medievalist, Medieval Woman, Ancrene Wiseass, New Kid On The Hallway, from c.2004-2006. I guess that’s my “screen time,” not TV. I found some “four things” memes that made me laugh. One of the problems with memes is that they usually go on for too long; what’s funny for a few lines gets tedious when there are 20 or 30 different things you’re supposed to answer.

So here’s my answer to just one: the names of four crushes. David, Eric, Scott, David. Pretty much what you’d expect for a straight woman of my age! I mean, who didn’t know half a dozen Davids?

That Neighbor

For awhile now, it’s been apparent that the people to one side of us were getting ready to sell their house. I’m a little slow . . . they have actually done so.

So when a couple of days ago I went over and bawled out a young man for parking a moving van in the alley, blocking our garage (also a hazard because it blocks emergency vehicles, should one need to come through), that wasn’t the old guy’s son, that was a new young man I’ve never seen before, who was moving in, not the old people moving out.

( I’m not very good at facial recognition. The two men are about the same age, have similar coloring, and appear in the same house: of course I’m going to confuse them.)

This morning I was out early, mowing the lawn (push mower, so not very noisy). It’s going to be hot; I couldn’t sleep; might as well attack some brainless task that needs doing, while it’s cool-ish. But I was (am) pretty brain-dead because I slept terribly last night. Someone across the fence said “Hello, I’m S!” The groggy Dame stared groggily until poor S said, “What’s your name?”

Stilted conversation ensued. She said she hoped they weren’t too obnoxious about the moving vans. I am not sure what I said. They just moved from the city. I said we plan to move soon, ourselves. “Where to?” Further in [direction]. Subtext: don’t waste your time on us, we won’t be here, try the people on your other side, who are more your age anyway. More bright conversation from S, with minimal reaction from me. Maybe she thought she’d met a fellow morning person. I mean, I am a morning person. I just don’t want to talk to anyone before 10:00. Mornings are for being quiet in.

Later, when some caffeine had hit my brain, I realized how very badly I’m coming across to the new neighbors. Maybe I’m setting them up for pleasant relations with the new people, since I’m sure they’ll now be glad to see the last of us.

Better grumpy from the start, I think, than our own experience with the neighbor on the other side. She welcomed us warmly,  with home-baked banana bread, making me think she’d be lovely. Then she spent the next several years calling the town hall to complain about our bird feeders.

Sometime in the next few days or weeks I will no doubt lecture S and/or her husband about bishop’s weed and creeping bellflower. Just to solidify my reputation as the crazy bitch next door.