Monday, July 29, 2013

Why I haven't been on Facebook

Facebook has made me angry, and I don't have to put up with stuff that makes me angry.  So I'm putting it in Time Out for an indeterminate amount of time.

I was already becoming less happy with their website.  The ads were becoming more and more intrusive and ... blinky.  I found out that some of my friends' status updates weren't showing up in my news feed, in spite of the fact that I had never told Facebook to filter those friends' updates.

Then I went away from the internet for a week.  When I came back, there were about five messages in a row in my inbox from Facebook, telling me that I sure was missing out by not logging in.  Five in a row.  They were mailing me the same spam message every single day.  So I immediately logged in and changed my settings to never get that kind of message again.

And then I posted a cute little comment on Facebook, while I was there.  We were returning from a road trip, and I joked that somewhere outside of a small town in Idaho, we put away the ipad and traveled like the pioneers did:  playing the alphabet game with billboards on the side of the road.

And then I posted the comment and nothing happened.  Nothing.  So I tried to post it again, and I was asked, "Do you really want to post this twice?"  So I asked Tim if he had seen my comment.  And he hadn't.  So I went to my profile page and looked up the comment, and sure enough, there it was hidden on my personal space.  But Facebook had decided not to put it on anyone's news feed.  Not even my own.

"Want to change this?" asked Facebook.  "You can flag this post as important."

But it wasn't important.  It was just cute.  And I was annoyed that Facebook had arbitrarily decided that the first thing I had posted in about a month was just not really worth sharing with my friends.  Then I asked the screen, What Is The Point?  I thought Facebook was a way for me and my friends to share stuff, like cute little status updates.

But as I kept hitting reload, trying to see my own status update, and as I kept getting flashing new ads instead, I remembered the real point.

Selling stuff.  Selling me stuff.  And selling me to other stuff.  And when the selling becomes more visible than me, I'm out.

And I haven't been back.

I decided I was not going to delete my account.  I was just going to let it sit there and maybe glance at it every now and then after a month or so -- long enough for my web browser to forget that I ever used to go there.  

But today, I received two new messages in my email inbox from Facebook.  Even though I told it never to send me messages reminding me to log in, it has decided to send me selected items from my news feed anyway.  Like the fact that Tim has uploaded photos, and the fact that a professor friend of mine recommends an article.  Grrr....

This may be the real end.  The final end.  The sad, bitter end.

Alas.  This means if you want to tell me about the cute stuff happening in your life from now on, you may just have to do it the way the pioneers did: send me an email.  Sorry guys.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

In one week

This week, I have picked 22 cups of black raspberries.  I have picked five buckets of summer apples, and fourteen buckets of apricots.  I have also picked four cups of currants.

I have made five trays of apricot fruit leather, canned seven quarts of apricots, and made fifteen trays of dried apples.  I have washed and taken stems off of eight cups of currants, and cleaned and frozen 20 cups of raspberries.

I have vacuumed twice, run four loads of laundry, cleaned five bathrooms, made eight beds, run three loads of dishes, and cleaned about forty pots.

I have driven hundreds of miles, applied four layers of sunscreen, enforced reading time, math time, piano practice time, cleaning time.  Bed time.  Running practice time.

I have played four board games.  I have endured many episodes of Johnny Test.  I have cooked ten meals, and assembled the cold ingredients for the others that I did not cook.

I have given two haircuts, and then fixed one of those haircuts the next day.  I have cleaned out a clogged drain, with green goo, a plunger, and an old toothbrush.

I have weeded enough mint and bindweed to fill a giant green bin.  I thinned the pink apples.  I cleared the brambles out from around the beehive.

I wrote 41 pages of research writing, and crafted dozens of fine figures.  I met with three students and four faculty.  I sent out exam scores.  I found an error in my paper.  I could not fix it, but I found a way around it.  I became depressed as my collaborator read his reviews, explaining why his grant was not funded (they don't think we'll make progress using our current methods).

I have fallen into bed exhausted, and then lain in bed with my heart beating fast, my mind skimming over all the tasks that needed to be completed, the chores and obligations.  I have looked up at the ceiling in fear and asked, what am I forgetting that is keeping me from sleeping?

I have been driving down the road from swimming lessons, wet boy in the back seat with pink lines around his eyes from goggles, my research results collapsing in the back of my head, thinking, this is what the rest of my life will be like.  And then I contemplated changing jobs.  Made a list in my head of the people I should network with in case I decide to make that happen.  Weighed pros and cons.  All between State Street and 800 East.

I have walked in the early morning beside my boy, while he tells me things that make me laugh and laugh.  I have taken hugs and forehead kisses.  I have shared stories of Sampson (haircuts) and friendship (Jonathan).  We have stared at the ants, crawling all over each other before the sun rises.  He has told of water fights, of choosing souvenirs at camp, of the difficulties of trying to work with a partner when both boys are nine years old.

I have listened to the sprinklers at 4am.  Turned off the fruit dehydrator at 5:30.  Gone running at 6:20.

I have lived.  I have worked.  And overall, it was a good week. And I would do it again.  I could do it again. If I had to.

But wow, I can't believe how much I'm looking forward to Tim coming home in a few days.

Monday, July 15, 2013


July is one of my favorite months, because I love the way it smells.  It smells like a summer thunderstorm -- heavy drops scattering the dust on the hot pavement.  A fresh breeze blowing the smell of cool green out of the canyons.  Chlorine on skin.  Cut grass and garden mint.  Raspberry.  I love the way it feels.  Warm bare feet on the carpet, in the grass.  A trickle of sweat at the hairline.  Sun on elbows and knees.  I love the way it looks.  Deep blue and bright white and dark green.  Purple stained fingers.  The colors are vivid in July.  Here is what our hollyhocks look like in July.

My only problem with July is the amount of yard work we have to do.  Because of all the travel in June, the garden is overgrown and needs serious weeding and trimming.  The black raspberries have been ripening.  We have picked several buckets this year, but many more have dried on the bushes, and many more still lie pale or red, waiting for a few more hot days to turn dark juicy purple.  The currants needed picking, too.  I gave about 8 cups of currants to my brother and his family.  I have at least that many left.  This year I'm going to make jam.  Must it be done in July?  And then there are the sour cherries, which we picked a little too late this year, and the apricots -- six have fallen off the tree, and the summer apples. 

Jonathan was at a robotics camp last week, held at the northern tip of the city five cities north of here.  He loved the camp.  He built a robot that could run around obstacles.  But the commute was a pain.  After two days of driving 40 minutes each way, I found the fifth city's public library, and spent four and a half hours writing research papers there while Jonathan built robots.  I was actually quite productive.  This week Jonathan will be in morning swimming lessons, which aren't long enough for me to accomplish much, but afternoon adventure camps.  I've been shuffling my grad student meetings around, trying to fit them in with Jonathan's schedule.  Apologizing.  Tim is out of town, so timing gets complicated.  Luckily my job is flexible.  I'm trying to write two research paper drafts by August, and although each amounts to hours and hours or work, they can be written in the library, or late at night, or early in the morning.  Only the student meetings, the exam writing, the administrative work needs to be done on campus. 

My dad's birthday is in July.  Jonathan and I drove about 10 cities north to wish him happy birthday yesterday.  Can you figure out how old he is?   (Hint:  the candles are read correctly from his direction, not from the direction of the camera.)

And that's about it.  Sunshine, sprinklers, canyon breezes, raspberries, and commuting around the two-county metropolitan area.  July is wonderful.

Monday, July 8, 2013


This blog has become something of a travel log lately.  That is ok.  It is my blog, it can be whatever it wants to be when I let it.

Over the long weekend that was the 4th of July holiday in this country, we visited my brother at his home in Laramie, Wyoming.  Craig has lived in Wyoming for almost five years, which is as long as we have lived in our own mountain home.  However, it takes about seven hours to drive from our house to his, and that drive ought not to be made in the winter time, or spring or fall when there might be winter weather, which pretty much rules out driving there any time except July and August for us wimps.  Ah, you ask, but why drive when you could fly?  Because when my brother has to travel by plane, he first drives 2.5 hours to Denver, and then leaves from the airport there.  And so if we flew, we would first have to drive one hour to our own airport, fly to Denver, and then drive 2.5 hours to Laramie.  By the time we arrived, we might as well have driven in the first place.  And so we did.

Driving across Wyoming on the interstate highway is a unique experience.  The state of Wyoming is truly lovely, but it is truly empty.  I found that I could only stand looking at the lovely emptiness for so long, and then I became very bored.  And Tim, who was driving, also was bored, and so he wouldn't let me read my book, but wanted to converse.  And there isn't much to converse about, miles and miles and miles across Wyoming.

One can converse about the weather.  Or the indications for potential weather in Wyoming.  About every 50 miles, there is a huge striped gate and a sign informing motorists that when the gate is closed, the interstate is closed.  The end.  Go home.  Apparently, these gates are closed often in the winter during storms, when the snow blows across the emptiness of Wyoming in raging blizzards.  Several of these gates are on the outskirts of towns.  In the event of a blizzard, one returns one's car to town and checks into a hotel room until the highway opens again.  However, there are towns only every 100 miles in Wyoming.  That means that several of these gates are in the middle of nowhere.  We had to ask ourselves what we would do if the road was closed 50 miles out from the nearest town?  Drive back?  Hunker down? Sometimes there was a lonely gas station out there.  Spend the night?

In July, the gates were wide open, allowing three truckers to pass through for every automobile.  But the very existence of the gates makes you wonder about life in Wyoming in February.

Anyway, after driving seven hours across the emptiness that is Wyoming, we finally finally reached Laramie.  Finally.  And to my surprise, after driving past the many trailer parks that pass for settlements in Wyoming, we found that Laramie is a very nice town.  It has a population of about 30,000, which makes the whole city about as big as my university.  It is also a university town.  The University of Wyoming has a very pretty campus, with many buildings constructed out of local stone, and tall pines growing between grassy areas around the buildings.  But the whole city is also nice, and seemed like a pleasant place to live in July.

It was fun to be in a small city on the 4th of July.  Laramie held a kind of town fair in one of the parks.  Many local businesses, churches, and other groups set up booths, and lots of them gave out free stuff.  We got free sandwiches, free water, free snow cones, free ice cream.  Free balloons from the local fire department.  Free crazy hair coloring from a local salon.  The kids stood in line to jump in a bounce house.  We all tried walking on stilts, and listening to local music.  The weather was perfect.  It was sunny and warm, but the temperature was no higher than 80 degrees.  Of course, the city lies at an elevation of over 7000 feet above sea level.  That altitude leads to raging blizzards and closed interstates in the winter.  But apparently it also leads to mild summers, with tall pines and green grass and seeds from the cottonwood trees blowing in the wind in July.

Thursday night we parked our lawn chairs at a nearby school and watched fireworks.  The kids ran around the darkened field while we waited.  The adults watched them until they faded into the darkness, but without any worries -- there were only a handful of families at the school field, and Craig seemed to know most of them.

On Friday we visited a couple of museums, showcasing dinosaur bones found in Wyoming, and native peoples and bison.  That evening, we took my brother's family to dinner at a restaurant that had been the Bucket of Blood Saloon back in Laramie's lawless days.  It is now a very lovely vegetarian restaurant (with a high rating on Trip Advisor).  Just outside, we watched freight trains rumble past.

On Saturday, we spent a couple of hours at the county fair grounds, watching a children's rodeo / horse show, right up until the time that the kids were bored and Tim started sneezing his nose off.  He is allergic to horses, but survived two whole hours before losing his nose.  Later that day, we drove 15 minutes east on the interstate and exited at a place called Vedauwoo.  This place, inside a national forest, consists of massive piles of granite, stacked into the sky.  (Photo from Wikipedia.)

You can hike around the granite and / or climb it.  The climbing was pure joy for the four kids, ages 5 through 10.  We scaled a tall lump of granite and looked out across all of Wyoming and saw ... grass and cows and mountains.  And that is about all there is in Wyoming, apparently.

In any case, we had a very nice time.  I have decided that I really like Laramie.  We will have to try to visit my brother again -- hopefully sometime before the next five years pass.  Hopefully in July or August again.  Because I don't want to know what the interstate looks like when those gates go down.

Monday, July 1, 2013


Since I last wrote, my little brother got married.

Here is a picture of the three of us all dressed up fancy for the event.

Don't we all look old?  I mean, I know I'm getting old.  And you can count Tim's age by skimming back through his photos and counting the ones with short and long hair.  And there are a lot of those interleaved hair lengths, so you know Tim is old.  But Jonathan.  How did he get that old?  He is as tall as my shoulder now.  

After my brother got married, we other siblings celebrated family togetherness by going camping.  No electricity, no plumbing.  Camping.  Yay.  

We were at Flaming Gorge in the top north corner of Utah, bordering Wyoming.  On Friday morning, we went rafting down the river below the dam.  And on Saturday we went on a dam tour.  Did you know you can still go on a dam tour?  We had to go through a metal detector first, and stay right with our guide.  But still, it was a pretty cool tour.  One of the coolest dam tours I have ever taken.  

After that, we ditched the extended family togetherness-with-pit-toilets thing and drove through the corner of Wyoming up to Tim's family's cabin in eastern Idaho.  Our drive took us through mountain passes and canyons and then over potato fields through the amazing spectacularness that is the western United States.  And I was happy.  I was happy partly because the drive did not exceed my daily road trip tolerance level of six hours.  And I was happy because Tim was driving and I could doze off.  And I was happy to be with my little family, just the three of us.  And also happy because I had been in Europe at the first of the month, and I would be in Europe at the end of the month, but we had consciously decided not to take our family vacation in Europe this year between the conferences, but instead to spend it in the western United States again.  And to those of us who live in the western United States, spending a week in Wyoming sounds so boring compared to spending that week in Italy.  But to drive through the Tetons again is to remember how exotic Wyoming can be.  Even if it is lacking somewhat in museums with nude statues.

Once we were at Tim's cabin, we read a lot of books, played a lot of games, and slept a lot until the jet lag finally seeped out of my bones.  We also went into Yellowstone a couple of times.  

And then home.  And then I packed.  And then caught a plane to Paris, then Toulouse, alone again heading to another conference.

The conference was lovely.  And Toulouse was lovely.   Really.  Everyone going to France says they will see Paris, of course, but few people say they will see Toulouse.  But they should.  It really is lovely.  Plus, it's only 40 minutes by train from THE Carcassonne.  Unfortunately, I didn't get to take that train because of the conference.  But next time, I will take Tim with me, and we will start in Spain with the Alhambra, then travel through all our favorite board-game-related towns and places, just because we can, and we will see them all.  

Meanwhile, now I am home, and June is over.  And in yard work news, the green sheds from our backyard are both gone, and we have the skeleton of a lovely patio instead, constructed while I was away by our lovely contractors.  The patio will be very nice, but will not be finished by the 4th of July.  After all.  But when it is finished, I will post pictures here.