Saturday, March 28, 2009

Hypothermia (almost) in the name of education

Something I didn't know this morning: while it is unpleasant to be heavily rained on while bicycling, it is physically knock-your-breath-out painful to be heavily rained on while trying to ride into the wind, especially when the wind chill is below freezing. I'm still not totally sure whether my fingers have thawed.

Before you start thinking I'm that much of an idiot or masochist, I have to say in my defense that it was dry, if a little gray, when I originally set out. I headed out to check out one of the new exhibits at the local historical museum and to pick up a few groceries on the way back (in what may or not be coincidence, the exhibit was all about food preparation and eating, and how it's changed over the years from settlement to modern times). Getting almost blown off my bike was unexpected, as were the sudden gusts that felt like hammer blows once I was soaked.

As for the exhibit, while they could only fit in four kitchens, they crammed a lot of information into those four exhibited time periods. What we think of as "American" food was by and large brought in by the immigrant population. The actual diet that most Americans ate was top-heavy with meat and bread or other baked goods, made mostly with corn due to wheat being so expensive. Settlers didn't care much about vegetables and ate as few as humanly possible when they had the choice, from what I gathered.

Oh, and a lot of women died from being burned. Childbirth was the primary cause of death, but death from a cooking-related accident, particularly from the open fire they had to work over, was a close second. And, given this, people wonder why I nearly fall over laughing when they start talking about the good old days.

Things got a little better with the advent of indoor plumbing or a close approximation, but not by much. The post-World War 1 period just looked sterile to me, with white enameled everything - I understand what drove it, but that doesn't mean I have to like it.

And then came the "modern" kitchen that was supposed to be set in the '50s or '60s but looked alarmingly like the kitchen at home, even down to the fridge that abruptly went kaput when I was nine or so. (I finally learned that that color was supposed to be avocado.) That was in conjunction with a lot of the appliances that we think of as kitchen staples (although I am still personally baffled by automatic dishwashers) and the auto boom.

One interesting little point I learned was that I am apparently in a county known for having the most fast-food joints and restaurants per capita. No wonder this is a car town - cars and restaurants apparently exist in a feedback loop of their own beyond the usual urban sprawl.

Then I had to make my way back through the aforementioned rain with a quick stop for beans and rice. It was still worth the adventure, even if my legs are only now thawing out from my jeans nearly freezing on.

Monday, March 23, 2009

So when do I get the broomstick?

Ethnology was...interesting this afternoon. I really don't want to analyze the results too deeply, because I'm paranoid enough as it is, but this really is interesting.

At the start of the class, the prof announced that she knew someone in the class was a witch (in this context, it could have been male or female). We had to guess who it was by a silent write-in election.

If you want to know, I wrote in that it was the prof. I was being a smart-ass more than anything else, since nobody I knew of claimed to have been involved in anything remotely paranormal.

Come the end of the class (during which everyone sort of nodded off), she announced that the class had elected yours truly as the witch. Apparently I violate the social norms of the class by asking questions, volunteering information, and being the first with my hand up as opposed to sitting silently and only waking up long enough to ask if something will be on the test. The other person who's nominated the most often is the prof, who's capable of doing the most harm to another. It just happened to be me this time.

Hmm. I wonder if that means I have to have a cat now. I'm allergic to cats, too. Can you substitute a dog or another animal for a familiar, or is there a hypoallergenic cat I can adopt? And when do I get to start making things happen like ensuring my garden gets past the seedling stage or getting those stupid extra thirty pounds off my waist?

Friday, March 20, 2009

Klotho: Spinner of Life

...As opposed to me. I just figured out the whole "turning rough, cobwebby strands of wool I think are about to disintegrate in my hands into useable yarn" two or three days ago, and there's no way I could manage anything as complicated as the raw makings of a life.

As of now I have a respectable lump of electric green wool I'm still turning alternately into chunky single-ply and something that could be used for dental floss, a big bag of odds and ends (they came free with the class), a blob of brown wool the size of a child's head (that wasn't free, but it's cheap enough for practice material), and a couple of weird-looking spindles I think I could more easily bonk someone over the head with than use for their intended purpose. And I still keep bursting out laughing at the look of the larger one - a giant "My First Pencil" for the shaft and a wooden toy wheel as the weight. Is there anything on this earth or elsewhere that screams "beginner" quite like that?

The dogs won't have to worry about our family affording their kibble if I can get the hang of this, though. Their fur is long enough, I can convince them to hold still long enough for a bath and brush time, and they shed enough to make another dog between the two of them in a week. Now, if I could just convince my neighbors to let me brush out their long-haired dogs....

Wednesday, March 11, 2009


Will the weather make up its gods-be-damned mind already? I'm sick of freezing in the morning under a pile of three blankets and two dogs! Especially when their idea of waking me up for their walk is to sit on my chest and breathe in my face. It's always too early for dog breath.

But the ground did thaw enough for me to get the first seeds planted in the house garden, even though the only crop worth sowing this early is peas. Maybe I'll be lucky enough to get a double crop this year. Hell, maybe I'll be lucky and the plants won't be eaten by the squirrels and rabbits.

And I'm glad I don't have anything too serious to think about right now. Two big research projects, two book reviews, and class registration - that's pretty much it, although I'm fretting over which classes to get out of the way in the upcoming semester and whether a summer in a field school would be worth the splurge. It blew my mind when I heard a few of my classmates chatting about their upcoming weddings instead of school. None of us is over twenty-two, and these people want to spend the rest of their life with one person. I couldn't make a decision like that. I don't even know what I want to have for dinner today, and I'm nowhere near certain if my sweetheart is someone I'd be willing to go through the rest of my life with. How on earth could they get engaged before college freshmen year? I'd have run away screaming.

I wonder how the weddings are going. I think at least one was supposed to take place over Spring Break.

Edit: I hate these spacing snafus.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Oy vey and ouch.

Poorly Executed Good Idea: attempting to break off a sugar addiction (I'm sorry, but when thumping withdrawal headaches set in a day and a half after the last candy bar, it's an addiction) by going cold turkey in the middle of midterms. I am now past the headache stage, but I've gone into a crash that apparently hasn't stopped since Saturday afternoon. I'm terrified of how my blood sugar must look now, and I don't even want to think about what my weight is doing.

Bad Idea: mentioning graduate school and field schools to an academic advisor, even in passing, when your desire to attend is uncertain at best, you have no clue what you would study in graduate school, you're tired of being a student, and you're already wondering where your next month's rent will come from, let alone any savings and "oh, SHIT" funds. I understand the desire to get more archaeologists with Master's degrees and field experience out into the world, but dismissing my wish to leave school debt-free with "get some loans" does not count as financial advisement.

Very Bad Idea: hoping against hope that the business majors actually give a damn about their grades for once and did well on the test, rather than blowing it off and apparently trying to get the lowest grades possible. This is right up there with hoping that at least half the class or more will show up, and that half of the attendees will not do the crossword/Sudoku, text in class, fall asleep, do homework from other classes (barring a serious time crunch - I've been there), or talk and completely ignore the subject matter. And people wonder why I don't want to teach unless I get a dart/squirt gun to use on those students.

Good Idea: finding fiber craft projects to work on, grabbing some of the bargain-bin balls of yarn, and hoping that some manic knitting time over Spring Break will smooth out any internal rough patches. (Reciting the Litany Against Fear gets old after a while, and people don't bug you when you're doing something with your hands and thinking.)

I'm going to finish some of the rougher outlines of some big projects, study for my language midterm, and crash. I hope whoever might be reading this is having a slightly better day.