Thursday, May 24, 2012

They're Not Going to Like You Anyway...

Middle school and high school were hard.  Not academically, but socially.  I wanted to be accepted, but I picked the exact wrong people to want to be accepted by...the "popular" people.  One of the popular students was G who did it by being the stooge.  Always willing to be the butt of  jokes, willing to poke fun at himself in a painful way, he was one of them.  And at the time, I was jealous.    Now I wonder why I could have been so stupid - equating popularity, even at the expense of humiliation, with something desirable.

The best piece of advice that I ever gave to Stubble (other than, "change your underwear regularly") was, "Don't waste your time.  Find people you like, who like you, and concentrate on them."

Trying to fit in, I did things that I am not particularly proud of 40 years later. What I didn't realize at the time was that the acceptance was a shifting thing..even for those who were a part of it.  It varied from year to year, depending on such things as whether or not your dad had been promoted (bad), your grades (good was bad), or your boyfriend/girlfriend.  It took me years (until right now, as I write this) to feel sorry for the girl who was one week a member in good standing of the popular crowd; but after being dumped by her boyfriend of two years, was suddenly 'out of favor'.
It was all based on whim and happenstance and fed by a sense on power on one side and of wistful longing on the other.

And it was enormously destructive.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Applying Pressure

Teachers have historically had a lot of latitude in testing and grading.  I am not referring to standardized, government mandated tests but the ones that they personally control.  Some of them preferr to test a lot, others little.

When I was just a wee college student, it was fashionable to allow the class to have a hand in determining the course testing schedule.  We would generally be allowed to vote on it (the instructor reserving the right to exercise a veto).  Final only?  Mid Term and Final?  Three Hourlies and a Final (non-cumulative)?

In one class we actually chose one test a week - it was a summer term and it meant "no studying over the weekend" if we did a test every Friday. It made the weeks fairly intense, but it turned out to be a wonderful system.  The instructor didn't want to grade over the weekend so after a review and a 45-60 minute test we would exchange papers, grade them, discuss them, and then turn them in for entry in the grade book.  Immediate feedback - everyone in the class wound up doing very well.  Nice.

Now, how about an instructor who does hourly tests, assigns graded homework and does pop quizzes.  His Final Exam is 80% of the grade - all the rest of the work only comprising 20% of the grade....seems like a real dismissal of the majority of the effort that is put forward in his class...

but  maybe that is just me.


When we first moved into our new house we were deluged (yes, I really meant to use that word) with offers.  Landscapers, just-plain-gardeners, tree trimmers, handymen, cleaning services...

Some of the offers came in the mail along with catalogs of (very expensive) outdoor furniture.  Many of the offers were in the form of business cards left under the front mat or in the driveway inside a ziplock of decorative rock.  Some of them were actually in person:  Ring of the doorbell, potential worker there to present in person.

We have had a cleaning service for 15 years.  When Stubble was 5 years old I was in the middle of a period of "when you need something done, ask a busy person".  The house was out of control, my asthma was very active - and The Bearded One said, "Why don't we get someone in to clean the house.  Just for the next 6 weeks."  A friend recommended a service that was willing to take on a "just for right now" job and abracadabra, presto-chango - the house was clean and I stopped wheezing.

At the end of 6 weeks, we had become so enamored of a sparkly clean house that we agreed to give up our big family splurge - breakfast out on the weekends - in return for keeping the cleaning service.  They have become like family.  One of the ladies attempted to neaten up Stubble by tossing everything on the floor of his bedroom into garbage bags - just as she did for her own son of the same age.  And I mean everything.  Homework, text books, Pokemon cards, scrap paper....
It didn't work for either son, but she gave it her all.

I had never met her before, but one day at school, Stubble and I bumped into a woman who took a look at us and said, "Oh, I know you!  I clean your house!"  I immediately said, "Thank you!  I couldn't get along without what you do!"  And I meant every word of it.  If more husbands realized that it isn't chocolate and a bottle of wine but the scent of windex that you didn't have to apply yourself that is the world's best aphrodisiac, we could cut the divorce rate!

We also had a yard service that would come in when a neighbor's tree needed trimming. We had no trees of our own, but the neighbor's trees hung over the yard and created much need for clean up.  We would get permission from the neighbor and call "Mr. Jones" and he would take care of the mess on our side of the fence and after the  neighbor came to "supervise" the job, often finished up in the neighbor's yard doing their side of the tree.  Mr. Jones knows his trees, how and when to trim them, and what we need to do in between his visits to keep the tree healthy.

So when we moved, we brought Mrs. Smith of the cleaning service and Mr. Jones of the lawn service "along with us".  Just like all the best rap stars...
except that we're middle aged, and don't have a recording contract - or our initials in diamonds hanging around our necks.


Saturday, May 19, 2012

Black Hoodie

With all of the commentary regarding black hooded sweatshirts hitting the internet these days, I feel very contemporary and cutting edge.  Fashion Statement?  Political Statement?  How about "Expediency Statement".

I don't really care if Mark Zuckerberg wears a hoodie to exhibit his contempt for Wall Street, his independent Silicon Valley persona, or because he just is a slob with no fashion sense (as some would have it).  I do care very much about Trayvon Martin and his family, but I do not wear a black hoodie in symbolic support.

I have been wearing a black hoodie for about 15 years now.  It all started when my sister asked me what I wanted for Christmas.  "Something warm that I can wear in the lab," I answered.  What I got was a large black hoodie that fit nicely under an extra large lab coat, the lab that I worked in at the time having no heat source except for an autoclave...
The hoodie was comfortable and had the advantage of being supremely washable and non- ruinable...or if it got ruined, I wouldn't cry about it.

Stubble wore a black hoodie because they were only $20 apiece and if he lost one I wouldn't kill him - the jacket that went missing several times and was always (miraculously) recovered cost well over $100 new and that was a source of great stress for me (what WAS his father thinking???).  Each time a black hoodie got too faded for him or developed a broken zipper or a paint splash I took it for my "new" lab hoodie.

Except I only needed one sweatshirt for the lab.

Being thrifty, I took to wearing them as jackets for regular wear: Hoodie under jean jacket = winter coat.  Hoodie unzipped = early summer morning cover up.  Zipped = spring or fall "intermediate wear".   It is an all purpose garment.

I love my black hoodie.  I wear it all the time.  Just don't read anything into it.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Fresh From Our Own Garden

I had a wonderful Mother's Day.  Ms. Flippers made a custom flower arrangement (she is a prize-winning floral arranger).  Stubble (a talented sketch artist) did a floral interp. The Bearded One made my favorite dinner: Garlic Mashed, Asparagus, and Silence of the Leg of Lamb (Alton Brown).
This lamb roast involves a boned leg of lamb (we learned the hard way to just let the butcher do it - it cost almost $200 in various knives and LOTS of practice lamb legs to reach this conclusion).  It is painted with a mixture of dijon mustard, brown sugar, garlic and fresh mint.  Then it is rolled and tied and cooked slowly over charcoal.  A truly yummy feast - but if you follow Alton's recipe, you might want to cut down on the rosemary...we don't use any at all (anymore).
This year, the mint could come right from the herb garden outside the back door.
The Bearded One:  "But is doesn't smell very minty." ( holding a sample of what he had picked under my nose)
Me:  "That would be because it is Catnip."

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Round About and Back...

Once again we begin with backstory.  Friday night I attended a concert.  I went to support four of my comrades who were performing.  Most especially the tall redhead who gave me the flyer and who, unless she is out sick, has the voice that I listen to when I lose pitch in a particularly difficult passage...she never fails me.

The program was one of contatas and was held in a venue that is exceptional:  a modern church with good acoustics -most modern churches being either large halls with MUCH electronic sound reinforcement and AV equipment or full of acoustic tile and hard angles where sound goes to die in corners.

On the way back I chose to take "back roads".  My family asked "why".  I couldn't answer them at the time, but now I know.   I don't see at night as well as I used to and there was some little voice in my head saying, "don't take the freeway".  It said, "stick to slower back roads where you will get lost in the dark, but there won't be much oncoming traffic to blind you with their headlights."  I listened to that little voice and it took me almost an hour and a half to get home from a venue that was 20 minutes away.

I was within a mile of home when I took a wrong turn.  I tried to follow a "short cut" that The Bearded One usually takes - it avoids three busy intersections.  In the middle of an industrial park, confused by the many large containers parked along the roadside, I turned right when I should have turned left.

When I saw a street sign that I recognised I immediately turned left on on the road, not realizing that I was MUCH farther east than I thought.  Taking another (incorrect) turn, I wound up in the middle of a nature preserve that wound around hills and through
marshes with nowhere to turn around.  I was saved from complete panic by the fact that there were occasional lights from widely spaced homes that told me that I was not all that far from civilization.  Much time passed while I watched the gas gauge and wished that I had filled up that evening rather than waiting until my usual Sunday fill up...

Eventually, I saw lights (including a traffic light).  I kept going until I saw a sign for a fire station labelled with its municipality and realized that I had traveled over 20 miles toward the coast.  I eventually found my way home and told my family the story of my harrowing journey.

They were unimpressed.

It was a great concert.