20.10.19

Too late

I confess that I have far too many email accounts to monitor, but there's one that is kind of special: my shopping email account.  It's one I only check when I've ordered something online and having it keeps my real emails clear from shopping spam.  Because I had to order some new warm tights for the cooler months I've been checking the account and today, I found this:


Seven years ago?  Okay.

It wasn't until the hack that I realized that Zappos was now part of Amazon's encroaching empire. I've ranted here before about the way Amazon can reach into your Kindle and remove books, or how they manipulate pricing and what results you see when you search for an item.  Not to mention the problems it causes for infrastructure when people don't buy from local, bricks-and-mortar vendors (think pollution, fewer local taxes paid, and shuttered storefronts).  Or the way workers are treated.

There are other places to shop, including online.  If I need shoes I can avoid Zappos by going to a shoe store OR I can go to several websites and order there.  It's a definite choice to avoid Amazon and I'll confess to being just a little judgy about those who still use it (sorry, the "but the discount!" excuse doesn't wash).

This 10% "gift" is seven years too late to matter, and many years too late for me to want to support their owners.

19.10.19

Strange Conversations

Last night, because I would be working a little late, the decision was made for Thing One not to wait for his dinner.  When I'm on my way home I usually call and say I'm leaving work - last night, because it was chilly, I asked for a cup of tea (it takes about 20 minutes for me to get home so it's easy to time these things).  When I walked in, it was clear that the previous day's pizza was being reheated for dinner.

Me (sniffing):  Did you put garlic on your pizza?

Thing One: Yes, why?

Me: I can smell it.

Thing One: Lemongrass and cinnamon

Me: On your pizza???

Thing One (laughing hysterically): No! In your tea (continues laughing)

7.10.19

Notable Quotes

"Hmmm." Eleanor sipped her tea. "And perhaps that's why I don't care for social media.  I've found that in the heat of a conversation, people sometimes say things that they may mean but would never utter if given another moment to think.  Social media takes that away... hesitation, I suppose you might call it.  That moment of contemplation.  When I write a letter — any letter, for business or personal, I think about what I want to say. Then I reread the letter to make sure that my meaning is clear.  If I'm upset about something, I'll sit on the letter for a day to make sure I want my feeling on the matter known, and how I want to come across.  Civil society requires civility.  It requires individuals to consider the repercussions of their words as well as their actions.  Today I fear people—not just teenagers, who did not exhibit self-control even in my day—rarely consider the repercussions of anything they do or say."

Poisonous by Alison Brennan

30.9.19

Plus ca change...

It's been something of a difficult year for my father: first my mother, then his best friend died.  This was a man who not only gave my father a professional home but also became a good friend to my family.  Early on, we would all go for walks or drives to the best pizza in the area.  Much later, he checked in on my grandmother when she was in the nursing home and my parents were out of the country.  Of course I had to go to his memorial last weekend, held at his (and his father's, and his brother's, his son's and my) alma mater... and where he and my father taught together for decades.

Like most Small Liberal Arts Colleges, mine has been engaged in building and expanding the campus.  With the exception of the original 1800s quad, I'm not sure I'd have found my way around thanks to all the changes.  Shortly before I started, the school went co-ed.  At that time, the fraternities ruled the school's social life - and the addition of young women didn't change things.  Except at one, an independent, that allowed women to join.  Many of my friends did, as did I.  We had less money than the nationals, but we threw the best parties, where the emphasis was on dancing and enjoying rather than drinking (flipped, obvs, at the other houses).  Years later, the school bought all the fraternity houses and converted them into dorms.  Our house was situated at the entrance to one side of campus, and rather than become a dorm it became the new Student Center.

Last weekend, we parked and were walking to the bookstore, passing buildings that hadn't existed 30+ years ago.  The House I'd known and loved seemed to be a shell, with only the facade retained.  We went in to the bookstore, and at the entrance I turned right, to where the House had been.  And this is what I saw:


Some things haven't changed that much.  Ok, the couches are in better shape, the floor far less scuffed but if I closed my eyes I could hear Thing Three talking, or Thing Two DJ-ing, or any of the others playing Trivial Pursuit or planning the next party or figuring out the theatre production schedule (most of us were theatre people).  Dinner would be served just down the hall.  

Turning left, though, it was a whole new world.  As they say, plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.

9.9.19

Notable Quotes

"I'd like a large regular coffee with space for extra cream, please," said Wil."One Hefty with extra space," replied the teenager, "Would that be a latte?""No, a large regular coffee.  And I don't want a 'Hefty'""But you just said —""I said large. I'm not going to fall victim to Mug O' Joe's corporate vernacular. I just want a large coffee."The teenage blinked, confused.  This was beginning to go in the exact same direction it always went whenever Wil stood up for himself: namely, south."Hefty means big.  So does Bulky.  And so does Outsized.  We've had this conversation before.""No we haven't.  This is my first day.""Well, I've had it with all thirty-five of your predecessors.  I'm not using your terminology because it doesn't make sense." Wil pointed at the overly indulgent chalk-drawn menu just to make it clear he and the teenager were discussing the same issue.  "Just because someone in marketing happens to own a thesaurus, and just because your shareholders insist your drink sizes appear bigger than they are, and just because you are between liberal arts colleges and wish to bring your artists talents to bear on today's menu, it doesn't mean I have to join in.  I would like a large regular coffee with space for extra cream.  Please.""One Heft—""Don't say it.""One large coffee. Regular.  What flavor?" The teenage was beginning to get the hang of this argument.  He wasn't going to go down without a fight.

Curioddity by Paul Jenkins 

2.9.19

The Almost Gone

I read a book recently that talked about the Almost Gone.  Who are they?  They're people who have died yet are not forgotten in living memories.  Not those famous people we all hear about has having Made A Difference or Discovered Something so are part of our cultural memory, but those people we actually knew - family, friends, teachers, enemies, etc..  As long as they live in our memory, they're not completely gone.

Last weekend would have been my parents' 60th Anniversary.  It didn't feel right to let my father be on his own, so I decided to go home.  He balked, saying it was a lot of driving and obviously there were other things for me to do, given the start of the school year.  Tough.  I was coming. 

That first night, after dinner, we talked.  He's gotten through the first eight months, but it's been difficult.  Luckily he's had projects to complete, and many friends to spend time with (he says he's inherited a number of girlfriends, close friends of my mother who go for dinners, lunches and walks with him).  But he's lonely.  He's still at the house we moved into 50 years ago and while we've given away most of Mom's clothing everything else there is a reminder of her.

By the end of the second day, he admitted that having me around and going to museums and dinners and all that was distracting, and he was grateful.  We both frequently mentioned her, as in "Mom and I loved this drive" or "Mom would never have let me wear that outfit".  We partially planned the internment of her ashes and unveiling of her tombstone.  I wrote about half of the thank you notes to people who had written to us and/or donated in her memory.  In three weeks I'll be back because his best friend and colleague (died in early March) will be memorialized and my father will be speaking.  It's going to be difficult for him to give that speech, and I won't let him give it alone. 

I'm reminded of a speech given by a teacher at my high school, remembering the teacher who had inspired me many years ago.  Jack was so memorable that decades later his students remembered him (I was friends with an older woman and one day I said something about my alma mater; she said she knew and loved a teacher there - imagine my shock and pleasure that it was Jack, in year one or two of his teaching career, at another school!), and he couldn't walk across campus without constantly being stopped to say hello and talk with students and colleagues.  Yet a few years after Jack's retirement, on a visit back to campus, no one knew who he was, excepting those colleagues still teaching there. The speaker challenged the current students to think about their brief four years on campus and what impression they could make on the lives of their teachers and the other students: what legacy would they leave behind?

Both my mother and his friend are part of the Almost Gone.  They live on in the memories of friends and family, and in my father's friends' case, in the students whose lives he touched.  Their legacies are secure, for a while at least.   What will people think when I'm Almost Gone?  What will they think about you?

26.8.19

End of Summer

No more lazy days "sleeping in" until at least 5:15 (thanks to The Herd), napping and reading.  As you read this, I'll have started working again, officially.  Unofficially, of course, I've been working all summer.  So what have I been up to?  How has the Massive Summer To Do List™ fared? Let's see...

✔ DVR 0
Clean up efiles in Dropbox and on GDrive
✔ Catch up on blogging
✔ Catch up on book reviews
✔ Get ahead on my 2019 Reading Goal
Inventory books and add to my personal catalog 
✔ Finish the Summer 2019  MPOW Work List
Create donations of clothing and other unnecessary items
✔ Read unread blog posts (I use Feedbin and had nearly 3000 posts to catch up on in June!)

I've also managed to binge on a few tv series and watch a number of movies.  If you're looking for ideas for your next binge, the Lazy Summer Watch List is:

TV Series Movies
The Case Goodbye Christopher Robin
The Crown Happy Death Day
DCI BancroftHome Again
Executive StressLoving Vincent
HiddenMurder on the Orient Express
Keeping Faith My Friend Dahmer
Line of DutyThe Snowman
Loch Ness The Square
MotherfathersonWelcome to Happiness
Murder in Suburbia The Wilde Wedding
Murderland Woodshock
Queens of Murder
Succession
Thorne
Trivia

Oh, and I've read 120 books.

Not bad for a summer of lazy, right?

19.8.19

Notable Quotes

"Does it?" Vikram stretched his toes, revealing a row of claws as black as obsidian. "Once a story leaves the hands of its author, it belongs to the reader.  And the reader may see any number of things, conflicting things, contradictory things.  The author goes silent.  If what he intended mattered so very much, there would be no need for inquisitions and schisms and wars.  But the author of the world is silent.  We are left with no intentions by our own.
The Bird King by G. Willow Wilson 

16.8.19

Sorry, I missed it

One of the problems of being close to Thing One and Thing Four is the age difference.  Thing Four saw The Beatles before they were "The Beatles" (several times, in fact).  And Thing One?  Well...

Several years ago we were at dinner with a few of Thing One's friends.  He'd met one in 6th grade detention (who knew they had such things!) and the other two shortly after.  So basically, they've known each other most of my life.  At one point we got to the "do you remember..." part of the evening and student protests came up.  I was asked whether I'd participated in the Moratorium.  Now, I actually remember that day: it was the day I stopped attending first grade and started attending second (no, I'm not that smart - blame a change in school systems).  So no, I didn't participate.  I had other things on my mind.

And then there's Woodstock.  Thing One and his friends missed because they were hung over and didn't get a ride up early, and then decided it was too late to get anywhere near.  Me?  We were moving from outside Cleveland OH to SmallTown NY.  Plus, I was about to start first grade.  No way would I have been able to go, even if I'd been aware of it.  Which I wasn't. 

I also missed the 1968 Democratic National Convention in 1968 (thanks to my sister's earache).  I did attend the 1963 March on Washington but... let's just say it isn't in my memory banks. 

I do remember where I was at other critical historical moments.  Like when Nixon resigned.  When John Lennon and Ronald Reagan were shot.  When Challenger exploded.  When we landed on the moon.  When the Berlin Wall fell.  And when the Red Sox Reversed the Curse. 

That should count, right? 

30.7.19

Want my vote?

On the eve of the next two Democratic debates, I've been thinking a lot about the whole 2020 election and what the candidates are saying.  Now, I've seen far too many school elections over the years and the one thing that bothers me most is when the candidates promise what they cannot produce because it's not within their ability to do - like "no homework over the weekend" or "froyo every day" or "changing the school mascot".

Virtually every presidential candidate comes out with a 100 Day Plan, talking about all the things they'll accomplish within their first 100 days.  And yet most don't get to do any of that for a few good reasons, like whatever it is requires Congress to vote or there's information they don't have as a candidate that as president they now know would make that idea impractical or take longer.  What if, instead, they talk about how things that we took as being "normal" and that have been regularly challenged by the incumbent need to be turned around and that legislation is needed.  In their first 100 days, they'll propose the following for a Congressional vote:
  • For all positions requiring Senate confirmation, no one can serve as an "acting" Secretary/Director/whatever longer than 60 days without Senate approval 
  • Any business or financial holdings must be put in a blind trust to prevent the appearance of conflict of interest
  • If the statute of limitations would run out on any crime committed, that time frame will freeze until the president is no longer in office
  • No personal phones or accounts for any communications while in office for any elected official or their staff
  • Security clearance and background checks to be handled by the FBI and cannot be overruled by the president without Senate approval.
  • All presidential and vice presidential candidates must release the past ten years of tax returns or they cannot be on the ballot
  • Press briefings must happen on at least a weekly basis 
Working with Congress on these would require bipartisan support, and by forging those relationships a new administration could then tackle the other stuff.  

Of course it won't happen.  But a Lazygal can dream, right?  And maybe if there are enough of us dreaming the same things...

29.7.19

Notable Quotes

"They weren't bad books," Phin countered patiently.  "They were books that you didn't enjoy.  It's not the same thing at all.  The only bad books are books that are so badly written that no one will publish them.  Any book that has been published is going to be a 'good book' for someone."
The Family Upstairs by Lisa Jewell 

23.7.19

Summer discovery

A few years ago I blogged about being a lucky Lazygal regarding tvs and how I've never had to buy one.  I did buy one for Thing One two years ago, but I've never bought one for myself.  Why mention it now?

As I've been wading through the Massive Summer To Do List™ I find it helpful to have something on in the background.  Yes, I could listen to music but I've also got quite the backlog of shows people have insisted I watch because... well, because.  Because the tv in my room is so old (ok, 13 years old) it's not Internet Ready.  It's not even a flat screen (gasp!). But while looking for some series that would take me through a number of those tasks that only require partial attention I found that a few were on Netflix and that somehow I could log in via my cable box. 

Imagine my surprise.  And pleasure.  I do watch my Netflix DVDs on that tv (there are far more DVDs available than there are things to stream, btw) and now, to some extent, I can watch other things.  First up?  The Crown

Suggestions for what's next?  Comment below.

18.7.19

Call me crazy

One of the things that confuse me about others the insistence on air conditioning when it's really not needed.  I've even blogged about itTwice.

That's not to say that I don't see the need for it: MPOW is a concrete box with windows that don't open, and I'm sure the top floor gets up to over 100 during the summer (great for books, right?).  I'm all for removing the humidity and extreme heat from my life.  I mean, really, who wants to sweat from morning to night if you're sitting indoors.  The question that plagues my life is How Low Should You Go?

After several years of arguing this out, The Herd, Thing One and I have reached an agreement.  If the indoor temps reach 81 (or higher) we'll turn on the a/c, which will be set to 78.  If that's still to hot, use a fan.  Personally, I find it's perfect at that temp.  This year, we didn't turn the a/c on until July 5 - although it was an exceptionally cool spring so it wasn't an issue. 

The corollary to that is the winter indoor temp, which is great at MPOW.  At home?  I'd prefer 63-64 indoors, but have been convinced that 65 is perfect for most of the time, with 68 for extremely cold days.

Go ahead.  Call me crazy.

16.7.19

Musical Update

Apparently I posted this music meme in September 2009, (update in 2011) so it feels appropriate to do another update now.  So, what musical groups have I seen? Anything new is marked with a *

Original List
David Bowie
Jethro Tull
Charles Aznavour
Bonnie Raitt (3 times)
Spyro Gyra
Rolling Stones
Eric Clapton
Lou Reed
Clannad
kd lang (3 times)
Li'l Ed & the Imperials / Koko Taylor
Charlie Musselwhite
Mary Chapin Carpenter
Bjork / Sigur Rus
Steely Dan
"Guns & Roses"
Blondie
Kiss / Aerosmith
Cat Power
Marianne Faithfull
2011 List
Eric Clapton (again)
Jeff Beck
Charlotte Gainsburg
AIR
Jessie Baylin
kd lang (again)
Sybarite5
Cima Trio
Blondie (again)
Bruce Daigroponte (left off original list)
David Johansen
Larry Coryell
Rachid Taha

2011-2019
Charlotte Gainsbourg (again)
Coeur du Pirate (3 times)
Alison Moyet
Bryan Ferry
Julia Haltigan
Camille O'Sullivan (3 times)
Duran Duran
Leonard Cohen
Jethro Tull Opera
Rolling Stones
Cyndi Lauper/Boy George
Bruno Mars
Jay Geils Jazz & Blues Review
Tom Petty
Sybarite 5 (3 times)
Steve Winwood
Blondie
Ray Davies

Nothing on the horizon, but who knows what the fall will bring.


9.7.19

Notes from Mt. Bookpile

As part of my goals to catch up, here's the reading from the first half of 2019.  I'm behind by about 17 books as of today, but one of my Massive Summer To Do List™ items is to maybe even get ahead by the time work starts again.

Autobiography/Memoir


Children's/Young Adult Fiction
Children's/Young Adult Non-Fiction
Children's/Young Adult Speculative Fiction
Fiction/Literature
Humor
Mystery/Thriller
Non-Fiction
Speculative Fiction

8.7.19

Notable Quotes

Perhaps I'm just getting old, but I want to swap toxic politics and the anxieties induced by social media for reliability and kindness.  I want to feel more cosy.

5.7.19

2018 Year End Reading Round-Up

305 books read - GOAL MET (goal was 300, so met and surpassed, albeit barely)!  Reviews are over at the reading blog, but there are many that didn't get reviewed because they were either picture books I "read" for MPOW's Mock Caldecott, while others fell into the "you can't talk about this" category for the Book Award Committee. 

So... here's the 2018 reading analysis (2017 numbers in parens):
number of books read in 2018: 305 (378)
best month: December/59 (August/63)
worst month:  January/15 (January/18)
average read per month:  24.4 (31.5)
adult fiction as percentage of total:  14 (59)
children's/YA fiction as percentage of total:  18 (17)

Advance Readers Copies: 163 (112)
e-books: 0 (3)
books read that were published in 2018: 323 (325)
books that will be published in the 2019: 4 (20)
five star reviews (aka "Must Read"):  21 (9)
one star reviews (aka "DNF"): 11 (8)

Mt. Bookpile was 330 in December 2017 and got to 255 by December 2018 (it's way above that right now, sadly).

Goal for 2019?  300 books, and as of today I'm 19 books behind. Sigh.

Notes from Mt. Bookpile

So... apparently I haven't posted one of these since September of last year.  As I've said, I'm a little behind.  Sigh.  Here's what I read for the rest of 2018:

Children's/Young Adult Fiction

Children's/Young Adult Speculative Fiction


Fiction/Literature

  • Perennials; Mandy Berman
  • Long Black Veil; Jennifer Finney Boylan
  • The Last Mrs. Parrish; Liv Constantine
  • The Misfortune of Marion Palm; Emily Culliton
  • Dead Letters; Caite Dolan-Leach
  • The Lake of Dead Languages; Carol Goodman
  • She Rides Shotgun; Jordan Harper
  • Secrets of Southern Girls; Haley Harrigan
  • Relativity; Antonia Hayes
  • The Sisters Chase; Sarah Healy
  • Seven Days of Us; Francesca Hornak
  • Be Frank With Me; Julia Claiborne Johnson
  • The Nanny Diaries; Emma McLaughlin
  • Pretend We Are Lovely; Noley Reid
  • The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo; Taylor Jenkins Reid
  • Follow Me Down; Sherri Smith
  • Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore; Matthew J. Sullivan
  • My Absolute Darling; Gabriel Tallent
  • Demi-Gods; Eliza Robertson
  • Young Jane Young; Gabrielle Zevin
  • The Girls at 17 Swann Street; Yara Zgheib

Mystery/Thriller


Non-Fiction

  • The Man from the Train; Bill James
  • City of Light, City of Poison; Holly Tucker

Picture Books

  • Nothing Stopped Sophie; Cheryl Bardoe
  • Hello Lighthouse; Sophie Blackall
  • The Stuff of Stars; Marion Dane Bauer
  • A Stone for Sascha; Aaron Becker
  • Adrian Simcox Does NOT Have a Horse; Marcy Campbell
  • Imagine! Raoul Colan
  • Islandborn; Junot Diaz
  • Ocean Meets Sky; Terry Fan
  • This Is the Nest That Robin Built; Denise Fleming
  • A House That Once Was; Julie Fogliano
  • Pie is for Sharing; Stephanie Parlsey Ledyard
  • Drawn Together; Minh Le
  • Julian Is a Mermaid; Jessica Love
  • If I Had a Horse; Gianna Marino
  • Night Out; Daniel Miyares
  • Dreamers; Yuyi Morales
  • Love; Matt de la Pena
  • Pignic; Matt Phelan
  • All the Animals Where I Live; Philip C. Stead
  • They Say Blue; Jillian Tamaki
  • Hello Hello; Brendan Wenzel
  • The Day You Begin; Jacqueline Woodson

Speculative Fiction

  • The Clairvoyants; Karen Brown
  • The Motion of Puppets; Keith Donohue
  • Curioddity; Paul Jenkins
  • The Shadow Land; Elizabeth Kostova
  • Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance; Ruth Emmie Lang
  • The Bedlam Stacks; Natasha Pulley
  • The Goblins of Bellwater; Molly Ringle
  • Seance Infernale; Jonathan Skariton
  • The Dreamers; Karen Thompson Walker
  • The Light Between Worlds; Laura E. Weymouth
  • Crosstalk; Connie Willis

3.7.19

Can't even get this right!

Yesterday I saw this tweet:

My response was "behind".  And clearly, since I'm posting this on Day 183 of the year, nothing's changed in 24 hours.  Still very, very behind. 
Note: when queried, I confessed to being "Beto behind" as opposed to "Bernie behind" or "Bill de Blasio behind" - in other words, there's some hope of catching up.  

How did this happen?  This past academic year has been rough, to be honest.  Between my mother's death, work issues and health issues, things have slipped a little out of control.  Taking what a friend referred to as a cocktail of drugs to control my eye problems has had a seriously negative effect on my ability to do anything beyond work, and that was before realizing that my mother's health was in such serious decline that the end wasn't going to be years but months. 
Disclaimer: my grief is no where near my father's level (he's lost his two best friends, one (Mom) he'd been with for over 60 years, and a colleague he'd worked/researched/collaborated and taken an painting class with for nearly 50 years; and my eye issues are nothing compared to what others, including Mrs. T and two good friends from high school are battling.
As I said, there's hope.  My Massive Summer To Do List™ is premised on the fact that I can maybe get through all of it if I put in 2-3 hours of work/day before reading (yes, I'm behind on my 2019 reading goal, too). 

Stay tuned.

   

22.4.19

Flashing back

The past month has been overwhelming for me in many ways.  Work has been incredibly busy, there's some family stuff going on that is just adding to the sadness and angst of the past few months, and then there are two other things that have made me sad/stressed (strassed?).

When I lived in Switzerland in 1973/4 we got our news from The International Herald Tribune, which was a co-production of the Washington Post and The New York Times.  This was perfect for staying abreast of what was going on with Watergate and I would occasionally spend my allowance on a copy (when my parents weren't buying one).  Yes, I was a bit of a geek.  Ok, I still am.

So when this year's Spring Break included a trip to Amsterdam (the one in Europe, not the one in Central NY) at the same time that there were going to be two big developments, the Manafort sentencing and Brexit votes, I was excited to see what the IHT would say.  But there's no IHT, it went defunct in 2013.  But there is an international edition of the NYT so that's just as good, right?

Nope.  Here's the front page of the NYT the day Manafort was sentenced and the day of the big Brexit vote:



The Boeing MAX pane being grounded and Facebook's problems?  WHAT????  I have a friend who works for this edition of the Times, and I do understand the business model.  But still... these are two fairly major news stories and the NYT totally failed.  

Then, last week, the fire at Notre Dame.  During my several trips to Paris it's been a required destination; when I was in Paris for eight weeks I went to Sunday Vespers weekly, and when I was there in 2012 I lit a candle for my uncle (who had died only a day before).  So there was that sense of loss, that a "friend" wasn't going to be there when I next visited.  And totally self-centeredly there was also a feeling that I'd seen this before, in 2007, when the library I worked in burned down.  Now, I'm not comparing the loss of a cultural/religious landmark like Notre Dame to a school library, but the images of the firemen with their hoses and the flames were similar enough to make me want to crawl under all my covers and never come out.   The good news is that as with my library, Notre Dame will rebuild. 


5.3.19

Is this real?

Today, checking the spam folder for the library's account (not my "personal" work account, the library's account) I found this message:


Not only did MPOW point out that this message didn't come from gmail, the address itself says that (see the "via Yahoo" at the top?).  Plus, I'm pretty sure that Mr. Koch wouldn't send out random emails like this, especially not to an "individual" with an email address that's clearly a building.

Still, for a few moments it was nice to dream.

13.2.19

A Valentine's Day cautionary tale

(this was supposed to be published in December, but then life got very complicated... the sentiment still holds, so here it is)

Recently I read this article in WaPo about how The Donald regifted even monogrammed items, even those given to him by his son. Forget who this is about, focus on the idea of "regifting" and the pain (or amusement) it can cause.

There are many moments when we're supposed to give a gift: an engagement, a wedding, a birth, birthdays, Valentine's Day, Christmas/Hanukkah, and many more.  Teachers get gifts before Winter Break and before Summer Break, usually from advisees or grateful students (or parents).

One year, a student at one of my schools gave me a gift.  This student, and a sibling and their mother, had become friends of mine (we're still in touch nearly 20 years later) and it was a lovely gesture.  Or so I thought.  Of course, you don't unwrap the gift right there in front of the student, you smile and say "thank you" and wait until later, right?  Which is what I did. 

And when I unwrapped the gift, there was a gift tag on it.  From this student's uncle to the mother. 

Because we were friends, the next time I saw the mother I mentioned the gift - it was so typical of this student that that's what they'd have done, I was amused more than angry, but also, what if she'd been looking for that gift?  Or worse, if the uncle had asked about it?  Her response was a chuckle, a sigh, and an "Ohhhh, [name]... No, I didn't know about this."  She'd suggested a number of items as a gift and this had been near them, but it wouldn't be a problem if I either wanted to keep it or give it back.  I kept it as a reminder of both this family and the dangers of regifting.

As Valentine's Day approaches, do your due diligence if you're regifting: take off any tags, and make sure you weren't given the gift by the person you're giving it to (or that it wasn't given by someone who will see you've regifted it and be offended).

6.2.19

Maybe it's me

I've been told by some that I can be too sensitive, that I read too much into things. So perhaps this is one of those time, that what I'm seeing isn't really there.  You be the judge.

Let's forget that those heartwarming "do a DNA test with your mother/father and get closer as a family" ads on tv are really painful to those who have lost a parent or who are adopted and would have no biological family with whom to share the results.  And let's forget all the issues around finding out that your family may not, biologically, be your family after all.

What I'm upset about is this recent ad, where a man discovers that his family is not, in fact, Italian.


 Instead it's.... Eastern European.  Not as specific as Italian, just generic "Eastern European".  And the tone in which 'Katherine' says Eastern European is one of disgust.

So here's my problem.  I (and virtually all my family) are "Eastern European" - Ukraine, Hungary, Poland, Lithuania and Russia all count as the Old Country for them.  There's a word after Eastern European that I didn't add, but is added by Ancestry: Jewish.

Ancestry.com is based in Utah.  Owned by Mormons.  Perhaps I'm being overly sensitive (again).  You tell me.

2.2.19

Credulity, strained

There are things we all did in high school or college we look back on with some dismay.  Had I gone immediately from college to graduate school, there probably would be more such things, as I suppose there are for those friends of mine who did make that choice. 

Between from seventh grade through college graduation, I appeared in ten yearbooks (two of which I got to design my page and had responsibility for the photos on those pages).  As a faculty member, I've appeared in a further 23 yearbooks.  And even for those where I had little or no control over where my picture was placed, I looked at the yearbook.  While I might have missed one or two "candid" shots in which I appeared, I know what my "official" picture (or page) looked like. 

It's a rare person who doesn't, no matter how much they might not like what the photo looked like or where it was placed. 

It's an even rarer politician who isn't incredibly aware of anything that might - in this day and age, if not back when the picture was taken and placed - pose a problem.

So when the medical school yearbook photo of the Governor of Virginia showing a person in blackface and a person in a KKK robe appeared, I didn't believe for a second that he didn't know that the photo would some day surface.  And yesterday, on Twitter, came this:


I call BS.

There is no way he wasn't aware that the photo was on his yearbook page.  And if it was, as he claims, put on the page in error, and even if he didn't purchase that yearbook (another claim) surely someone on his campaign staff or a friend from medical school would have told him that the photo was out there.

I'm reminded of another  yearbook recently in the news, that of our newest member of the Supreme Court.  Just as with those explanations, I'm not buying the explanations/excuses.

Are you?

17.1.19

Not my childhood

Growing up, I knew that there were a few food/drink items that the city near SmallTown was known for: Utica Club and Matt's Beer and the half-moon cookie. When I say "growing up" I mean the years between 1969 (when we moved to Central NY) and about ten years ago.  But about fifteen years ago, something changed.

No, it's not that Matt's was superseeded by Saranac (same brewery, more upscale beer). And no, it's not that the original bakery has gone out of business as a retail outlet.  It's the sudden appearance of two new "traditional" items on many menus around town, greens and chicken riggies.

My father, inordinately proud of SmallTown and various institutions and events around it, like the 'Munstitute' and the Boilermaker Race, started talking about these items as though they were around for decades.  And perhaps they were, but not in any restaurant I'd dined in as a child.  My sister confirmed that no, she'd never heard of them until recently, either. Turns out, they weren't part of the dining out experience until at least the late 80s when they moved from grandma's kitchen to restaurants.

That's not to say they are bad or that I wouldn't order them when visiting SmallTown.  But they weren't part of my childhood.  Sorry Dad.


14.1.19

When is an owl not an owl?

Answer: when it's a hedgehog

No, that's not some strange version of a Japanese koan.  Rather, it's a tribute to my mother's love of owls.  Over the years, she collected many owls: figurines, stuffed (not taxidermied!), printed on dishtowels and t-shirts, jewelry, statues, etc..  Here are just two "clusters" of them:


It might actually be more accurate to say she hoarded owls.  She knew the origin and composition of each of them, sometimes organizing the collection by type of owl, where it came from, or which year it got added.  Of course, it made gift buying very, very easy.  On a trip?  Buy an owl.  Mother's Day? Find something with an owl.  Etc..

Sometime in the 90s, my parents visited Prague (they visited a number of times, I just forget the exact date).  When I then went to visit them, Mom - as usual - showed off her most recent owl acquisitions.  The Czech Republic, if you don't already know, is noted for crystal and she was excited to show me a crystal owl she'd obtained.  I took one look and laughed.  Here's why:  


No, you're not missing anything.  It's not an owl.  It's a hedgehog.  Yes, my owl-obsessed mother saw "owl" when everyone else saw "hedgehog".  To me, it epitomizes her collection and her love of that collection.  So when she asked what from the house I wanted written into the will, this was the "owl" I wanted.  That puzzled her, because by then she'd accepted that it was, in fact, not an owl and exiled it to another, non-owl-filled shelf.  

Last week I was showing one of my cousins some of the collection and the hedgehog, and mentioned that this was going to be mine one day.  My father overheard and immediately said, "take it" "Now?" "Go ahead - if you want it."

So here I sit, in my bedroom, looking at this hedgehog and thinking about all the other owls she collected.  I think Mom would approve.