Sunday, January 31, 2010

Learning new things daily

Today, I learned that the library closes at 6pm on Saturdays. I learned this at about 6:27 pm when Tim pulled on the library doors in an attempt to help me enter and select some books for the family for the week. It was a disappointing lesson.

A few minutes later, after having redirected the family outing to the local market for produce, I learned that the Big Rivalry basketball game was happening tonight in my town. I learned this when traffic crawled to a stop on the road heading to the basketball arena/ grocery store.

Not all the lessons I learned today were disappointing. I learned that Jonathan is getting good at riding his bike. We both took our bikes to the church parking lot -- totally empty on a Saturday afternoon -- and rode in circles. He sang while he biked, humming in happiness. And as I followed him in and out of empty parking spaces, I remembered that biking can be done just for the happy feel of movement, not only for transportation.

I loved my son when he was born, but it was the ferocious instinctual love of a mother. I love my son now for all the same reasons, but also because he fills my world with so much light. His honest pleasure at spending time riding a bicycle in circles over the empty asphalt, just happy to be with me in the sunshine in January. The simple things that make him laugh -- and cry. Like Tchaikovsky with the volume cranked.

Today I laughed and told him, "You know what? I love you. I'm so glad you're part of our family."

And he smiled and said, "Me too." And I knew he meant it. And I meant it. And he knew it. And isn't it amazing?

And if that isn't sappy enough for you, then I don't know what to say. Except maybe check the library hours before leaving home. And the local basketball schedule.

That's all.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Worst type of dream

I like it when I dream that I'm flying. It doesn't happen often, but it's always fun. I also like to dream that I'm falling, plummeting off a high cliff or out of an airplane. I always jerk awake at the last minute, and lie in bed smiling at the free adrenaline rush. I like that. In these kinds of dreams, my mind takes over my body and lets it do impossible things.

Sometimes my body takes over my mind and hijacks my dreams.

The worst example of this is when my body's bladder is full, but my body's brain is not ready to wake up and haul the rest of the body's appendages into the cold to empty said bladder. The bladder always takes revenge by inserting itself into the dreams.

We start by having to interrupt the dream sequence to find a public restroom in dreamland. In the dream I go in, do my thing, come out, resume dream activities, only to have to find another public restroom immediately.

After a few trips, the bathrooms begin to change. They get progressively more and more reasty. Urine on the floor. Missing doors on the stalls. Crowds of people staring through missing doors and floors sticky with mess.

And my dream companions, naturally, begin to get more and more annoyed with me. Can't we get on with normal dream activities here? Hello! Surely there's something more interesting in your subconscious than this? And I keep getting more and more annoyed with the dream sequence. Another bathroom? Didn't we just take care of this a minute ago in this dream? What is going on here?

Then my alarm goes off, and I wake up in the cold darkness, and see that it is past 6:00, and realize I have to pee really badly. So I get out of bed and walk across the floor into a tiled public space with a trough along the far wall where I can squat and take care of things, provided the smell doesn't get to me first ---

And then the alarm goes off again and I realize I haven't actually gotten out of bed and my bladder is going to burst if I don't get up, so this time I roll out from under the covers and walk across the hall to the wide room carpeted in green industrial loop carpet where some sort of business meeting is going on, but I make my way to the far corner to the lone toilet standing in its own black stain ---

And then the alarm goes off again and this time I really get out of bed and make my way into the living room where someone is trying to sell me a new micro wireless robot which will follow me around providing internet everywhere, which sounds like a really great idea except I can't pay attention now, I have to find the public bathroom which should be through that door on the left ---

And then the alarm goes off again and this time Jonathan walks in and turns on the light, and I feel Tim roll over and get out of bed and mumble that he's going to go use the bathroom ---

And that is it! I am up and out of bed and fully awake, because if I have to wait to use the bathroom I will pop.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Monotony of the senses

End of January. Is it fair to complain about the winter yet? I try not to complain, because I'm normally such an overwhelmingly positive person. Overwhelmingly so. But I'm really tired of winter.

I am most tired of the monotony of the senses that is winter. Every few days recently, a new snowstorm has blown in to bury all the color, and turn the world into blacks and whites. No oranges or blues on which to rest your weary eyes. Just black and white. And when we get a thaw, there are shades of brown, to be buried again in blacks and whites with the next storm.

And the eyes aren't the only sensory organ that misses summer. Snow has no smell. When you step outside for a breath of fresh air in winter, you don't smell mud or cut grass or crunching leaves. If you are lucky, you don't smell anything. Unlucky, you smell car exhaust, or worse, snowplow exhaust. And that breath of fresh air rushes into your nose and freezes out your sinuses. Ouch.

In winter, there is no wind in your hair or sun on your arm, or even the tickle of a bug crawling up your leg. You feel almost nothing on your skin, because every inch of skin is covered and double covered in layers for warmth and layers for waterproofing and layers to wear in the dry heated buildings. And the bugs are hibernating or frozen.

And there's no sound of snowfall. If anything, snow muffles sound. And the song birds are gone. And the crickets are dead. The sounds of winter are the sounds of traffic driving through slush, or a snowplow scraping the road.

End of January. I can't expect color before April, or even the smell of mud before March. I hate having four seasons.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Movie star

Here is a first for me: I was interviewed for a documentary on Friday.

First they painted my face to remove all the bad colors, and then they painted it again to put back the good colors. Then they put me in the center of a dark room with bright lights shining on my painted face and asked me to talk. Talk talk talk. Talk. I blathered on and on and on, lots of nonsense coming out of my mouth, feeling stupider and stupider until our time was finally up and I left, cringing somewhat over the blather that had come out of my mouth.

Out of an hour long interview, three 15 second clips may be used in the film. Good luck to them with that, I say.

You will have some questions at the end of this story.

1. What is the purpose of the documentary?

To encourage high school students to continue taking math. Specifically because math will make you brilliant, rich, and ultimately it will Save the World. Or at least keep our country ahead of the Chinese. Go Math! These were the sorts of things they were looking for as I blathered for an hour. On and on and on. But by half and hour in, I felt pretty fake. If I really wanted to influence a high school student, I would sit them down and ask them their interests and then explain various opportunities they could look into. Not pretend that I knew anything about what it takes to Save the World. And I'd say that even to a Chinese high school student. So there.

2. Given that attitude, why did they want you to be in the documentary in the first place?

No one told me why. They just told me to sign up for a slot on Friday. Intrigued, I signed up. But in retrospect, I can guess at their reasons. I think they are related to this post.

3. Wasn't that great getting a free makeover?

Yeah. I guess. I didn't actually look at the result until I was getting ready for bed that night, when I noticed that my cheeks ran straight up into my eyes. The makeup artist wanted to cover those dark blue patches under my eyes, you know? And I ended up with my cheeks terminating at the eyeballs. It was a bit of a shock.

I had to scrub my face to clean it off. Then scrub it again to really clean it off, trying to rub it out of my old lady pores. When I was done my face was all red in the nose and blue under the eyes -- back to normal. But worse, my skin felt really dry and tight and raw from the scrubbing, so I coated it in an overnight moisturizer. I conclude that although the makeup job disguised my flaws for the high definition movie, overall it was not a good thing for my skin. So I won't have it done regularly.

4. When can we see this awesome movie?

I have no idea. I don't know if I will want to see it. I mean, it's going to be high definition, right? Which means I'll get a really good view of my pores. Plus all that blather coming out of my mouth was truly embarrassing. And the 15 seconds they keep will sound more embarrassing on film, with a billion people watching. Since undoubtedly billions of people will want to watch a math infomercial for high school students.

5. Are you now considering a career in film making?

No. But now that you mention it, I think it would make a good addition to my list of 100 things to do before I die.
Number 79: Participate in a movie making project.
Status: Done.
I am totally smoking my way through that list. Awesome.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Day off work

Before having children: Ah. Day off work. Sleep in a little in the morning. Get up and do some chores around the house. Spend the afternoon catching up on a little work. Spend the evening reading a good book. Return to work Tuesday rested and rejuvenated and ready to go. Just what a day off is for.

After having children: School is closed. The boy wakes up at 7am anyway. We make a list of chores around the house, and let him fill in the other activities he wants to do. Play shop. Play with marbles. Spend the afternoon at the playground. We fight a little over dinner -- he won't eat his peas even though he once loved them. More chores in the evening. Bedtime comes, and I'm free at last. But although the library book beckons, I have to get ready for work tomorrow.


Monday, January 18, 2010

I've been away

I start with a title like that so that you will notice that I haven't been posting as much as usual. This way even if you didn't notice, we can both start out on the same page.

I have been away. Most recently, I've been at a conference staying in a pricey city in a pricey hotel with a nice view but no free internet. Come on, what am I paying for here? Who really needs a view?

For a couple days, I was suffocating without access even to the most standard bread and butter email. In fact, morning two of the conference I was awake, showered, and dressed in time to walk four blocks to a coffee shop to spend some leisurely time alone with my computer -- all this with sufficient time to make it to the 8am talk. And I don't even drink coffee.

After a few more days, I was doing better, and stopped fishing for free wireless during breaks in the conference center. And by the time I returned home, I was totally weaned of internet. I had absolutely no desire to read any of my email.

Now back to real life.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Resolution report

Well, two days into 2010 I do not yet have six-pack abs. Nor do I yet have laser vision or the ability to fly unassisted. Luckily, I still have 363 days in which to make these new year's resolutions happen.

Last year, I didn't make any resolutions. I only made a non-resolution: no international travel in 2009. And I am pleased to report that in fact, I did not leave the country this last year. I also made a non-goal in late 2008. Again I am happy to report that I have not run any marathons since making that non-goal. So I am 2 for 2 so far. With that success rate, I decided to dream big this year. Hence the abs, laser vision, and ability to fly. I can't wait to report back on those.

While we're looking at goals, let's check out my 100 long term goals and see how things are going. These 100 things to do before I die were originally posted here, last September.
  1. Clean the bathroom.
I am happy to report that the bathroom has, in fact, been cleaned several times since September. But dang. It still needs cleaning.
  1. Hang curtains in the living room.
  2. Hang curtains over the French doors in the kitchen.
Done and done, ordered around the time I bought the living room rug. But did not arrive until November-ish due to [insert long boring story]... But finally done.
  1. Live a year in Australia.
Um... Not done. (Just to remind you of how exciting and exotic the un-done goals also are.)
  1. Make applesauce.
  2. Can applesauce.
Done and done. With all our apples this year, we canned about 35 quarts of applesauce. So far, we haven't opened a single one of those bottles, because we are still eating apples from the two coolers plus a wagon full of apples in the garage. They have gone soft, and some a little wrinkly, but they taste really great. Did you know that red delicious apples actually have flavor if you store them for a while? I didn't either.
  1. Plant a Bramley apple tree.
Not done, but Tim found a place to order Bramley apple trees in the US. He has placed an order. We can't wait until 2015 when we actually get some fruit! Then our applesauce will be so good that we will actually start consuming it, rather than just letting it decorate the shelves under the stairs.
  1. Obtain a piano so I can play the piano again. I've been holding out, hoping that my parents would let me take the one they never use. But I've about given up on my parents.
I had to give up on my parents and get my own. Which is a pity. I was over at my parents' house this evening, and their beautiful grand is out of tune, and sounds a little tinny in the high notes. Tsk tsk tsk. Mom, you should have let me have it and care for it.
  1. Appreciate my parents more.
Obviously still work in progress.
  1. Organize the wood pile in the back yard.
Well I haven't done this, but after we fixed our fireplace fan Tim spent some time hauling wood a little closer to the house. We've burned through some of it. Burning counts as organizing for both wood piles and, eventually, my parents' garage.
  1. Grind my own wheat.
  2. Bake my own bread with my own ground wheat.
I haven't actually done this either, but my mom ground some wheat for me, and I have on at least two occasions substituted a cup of her freshly ground wheat flour for white in the bread machine. And it has turned out very nicely.
  1. Paint the living room.
  1. Get my grant funded.
Would be way cool if that were done, but at least I wrote and submitted the dang thing.
  1. Vacuum the living room rug. The new one.
Totally done. And still needs doing.
  1. Play more with my son. Unstructured play.
This morning, I read in a womens' magazine a suggestion to set a timer for one hour, and to play whatever your kids want to play for that time. If it's torture, the timer gives you a way out. What a good idea! But I think I may need to start with a half hour, because I know what my child will choose, and I don't think I can cram my body into that cardboard box for the full hour.
  1. Publish a novel. Before I lose interest.
Shh! Don't tell -- I have written most of a draft. But it is still many rewritings away from share-able.
  1. Publish more research papers. Before I lose interest.
Well, at least one more has been accepted since September. But I also did spend an entire December break without writing any more, as resolved in November.
  1. Get my bike fixed.
  2. Ride my bike to work.
  3. In the snow.
This one is sweet. Tim actually took my bike in to be fixed for my birthday, soon after the original post was written. And then I rode it into work. And then two days later it had a flat tire. And then Tim took it in to be fixed again. And since then it has worked beautifully, right up until that day in December when I rode it to work in the snow and nearly killed myself.
  1. Make my students laugh.
  2. During the logarithmic differentiation lecture. (Good luck, eh?)
Well, they did laugh. For example, they laughed unexpectedly and uproariously that one time when I told them that although the answer was ugly, it had a sweet spirit. That was not during the logarithmic differentiation lecture, however, so I guess this one has to stay on the list.
  1. Make my primary children laugh.
This one was easier. It could be done simply by calling them all by silly names, for example. Good thing I finished, as I am no longer going to be in the primary.
  1. Read nonfiction. Work-related nonfiction counts.
  2. Take the family to Shakespeare.
I kind of cheated by putting these two on the list, because I knew I'd be able to check them off easily. I can't get away without reading for work, and I already had purchased tickets to a family showing of The Tempest at the time of the original post. I strongly recommend putting goals you are sure to finish on your to do list. Makes you feel productive.
  1. Purchase a loveseat.
Done. Thank you, Ikea.
  1. Spend a winter weekend in Arizona.
Done. Thank you, HJ and Chickadeedee.
  1. Walk often.
  2. Go a week without using the car.
  3. Support public transportation.
I do walk often, and I have definitely supported public transportation in the last three months, although maybe not with actual money since we're pretty isolated from public transit here. I am not sure if we went a whole week without the car. With my bike fixed, I went many weeks without driving it to work, but we still use it for grocery shopping and library visits, which happen about weekly.
  1. Get a haircut.
I finally trimmed my own hair to my shoulders. It is still long enough for a ponytail, but not quite as ratty looking. I consider myself very brave.
  1. Finish drying all those #*!@%$ plums.
Finished the plums in September. We are still eating plum fruit leather, but unlike the applesauce, it is going quickly. If our plum tree ever again produces as much fruit as it did this year, I would like to make even more fruit leather, because our stash won't last through January.
  1. Reorganize my office.
  2. And get new office furniture.
  3. No matter how many people I have to call. Call them.
I submitted a work order for furniture on August 19th. It will finally be delivered on Tuesday. Wow. That's efficiency for you.
  1. Submitted by That one kid's dad: List 23 more things.
Not done.

Wow. Are you still reading? I am amazed at your stamina. Here is a new one you may appreciate:
  1. Write shorter blog posts.