Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Week 5/66: Starting to Write

This week, thanks to Top Left Quadrant, I started writing an essay.  I'd put outlining the essay as one of my goals, and so felt just enough pressure to actually do it.  And then yesterday, I went to the office to work on a different project, but didn't have the information I needed, so decided to just start writing the essay instead.  So I did.  I didn't write much, and it's not very good, but it's actually there, in pixels and everything.

I also found more little research to do, and was able to do that.

The other project's been frustrating.  It's an assessment report, and I need actual assessment numbers and such.  But I didn't really have those.  Now I have significantly more of them, and that's really going to be useful.

I haven't hiked since my big hike.  It's been either really hot (heat index of 112F) or raining.  I'm hoping to get out this afternoon, at least to walk around a local park.  The rains have been really bad in some areas, including where I took my last hike, and it doesn't seem fun to go and slog through mud with a pack, not when I'm mostly trying to get into basic shape.

I finished reading Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's Americanah.  I had high hopes for it, but I was a little disappointed that it ended up being more of a straight "love overcomes" sort of narrative.  I did enjoy the blogging stuff, though.  But the whole thing seemed more dated than a lot of books, perhaps because blogging seems dated these days?  Are there still blogs making loads of money?  No doubt, but I don't seem them mentioned as much.  Anyone else?

I started Helen Wecker's The Golem and the Jinni, which seems fun so far.  I hope it doesn't end up being another "love overcomes" thing with the two of them getting together.

I recently listened to a CD of a book called The Music Shop, by Rachel Joyce.  It seemed oddly familiar.  And then I read a review of The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry (or maybe I read of review of The Music Shop?), which I'd also listened to, and there it was, the same basic "male curmudgeon who runs a small shop devoted to a specialized artistic thing unexpectedly finds true love."  I bet there's a similar novel where the main character runs an art supply shop somewhere and also needs to find true love.  (If anyone recognizes where I probably read this review, please do let me know.)

Friday, June 15, 2018

Doing Math

I wrote before about trying to sort out the union local's books.  I don't know what the previous treasurer was doing, but it apparently wasn't math.  At least not math recognizable to me.

Back when I wrote this post, I thought I'd sorted everything out.  I was wrong.  So very wrong.

We send a certain amount of money per member to the state and to the national organizations.  That's the basics.

So, what you do is multiply the number of members, by some numbers for affiliation, insurance, and so forth, and then you send each a check.  The money comes out of the draw that the union pulls from members' bank, credit card, or whatever account each month (with the member's permission, of course).

Seems easy enough, doesn't it.  So, in May, I had help from the state union person who takes care of us, and got us caught up, I thought.  She was incredibly helpful and walked me through filling out the forms.  So I sent off money to the state office and to the national office.

And then I got back this confusing bundle of paperwork from the national office saying we owed more then $500.  But what they'd sent was copies of what I'd sent to catch up, with no explanation.  I called on Monday, and then called again fairly early this morning.  And the accountant I talked to was sort of helpful (and sort of not) and emailed me more useful paperwork.  And then I spent the morning going over my colleague's (the previous treasurer's) math, and lo and behold, we underpaid each month for about a year, and we do, indeed, owe over $500.  It took me most of a morning to check all his math.  (I wrote up an Excel spread sheet to make it easier, but just figuring out what he was writing on the papers that I had copies of was a struggle for me.)

But now I've written that check to make up, and written the May check (things always run about a month behind, which is probably part of the difficulty he had... maybe?), and will mail them off this afternoon.

I bet it's frustrating for real accountants to deal with people like my colleague and I who are trying to keep books but have no training at all.  I've set up a basic excel spread sheet with places for checks and short notes and the math, so hopefully I'll be able to keep track of everything neatly so that the next person who does it will have an easier time taking over.  AND so that I can easily do it now that I THINK I'm actually up to date with absolutely everything!

I had planned to start writing today, so now I'm going to go into another room with a big desk and start doing that.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Week 4/66: Keep On Keeping On

Today, I went on what's probably the longest hike I've ever been on, 7 miles (according to my Garmin).  42 floors up (46 down, according to the Garmin, which makes no sense, because I hiked a circular trail, and ended up where I started, so I went down as much as up.  I wonder if the Garmin doesn't think it only counts if there's a certain steepness?)

My first 5 miles went really well, I averaged just over 2 miles an hour (with my 15 pound pack).  But I slowed down considerably in the final mile, especially.  I was really tired.  My total time was 3:45.

I pretty much hit all my current Garmin goals and more.  (My current step goal is 7k, but I'll change that to 8k for this coming week.  My floors goal is 10, but since I don't usually hit that unless I go for a hike, I'm not changing it.  And my intensity minutes is 200, which I may move to 250.)

I meant to take a picture during the hike, but by the time I finished, I was really done.

I had a really good violin lesson this past week, and now have even more to practice on!

What I didn't do this past week was pretty much any real work.  And that needs to change this coming week.

A bit about my hike, so I don't forget.  I went on a small part of the Ice Age Trail called the Chippewa Moraine, starting at the Dave Obey Interpretive Center, and did the Circle Loop, with an extra two miles of Ice Age trail (out and back, one mile each way).

Edited to add (on 6/11): I also finished the three level 2 training sessions last week.  So that small project should be done!

Wednesday, June 06, 2018

Week 3/66: Where Does Time Go?

It's week 3, and I've been busy, but not accomplishing much, if that makes sense.  And feeling a bit worried about that.

And then yesterday, I got an email from campus announcing the death of a colleague.  I didn't know D well at all; they were in a different department, doing very different work.  But they, too, were involved in the union, much more than me, so I knew them through that.

And in the campus email, it told when D was born, and they were about a year older than me.

A couple of years ago, my cousin M(2), my age, had a heart attack.  I felt disbelief.  Last year, my friend M had a heart attack.  I felt less disbelief.

And now D.  I still feel like people my age aren't supposed to just die.  Yes, famous people my age die of drug stuff, and lots of people die in car accidents and such.  But not of health stuff.

I just can't quite wrap my mind around it, and at the same time, I feel so trite and self-absorbed feeling that way.

The memorial is this afternoon.  And then I have a violin lesson.

I've done better practicing this week, and feel like I'm making progress on some of the hard stuff.  There's a passage in my current Seitz piece (the second in Suzuki Book 4), where you're supposed to play basically by mostly rotating your wrist to change strings.  But at the same time you have to do fingering, putting fingers down on the A string without touching the E string your fingers are "bridging" over.  It's hard.

I've spent a bit of time just working on the wrist rotation, and then once that's good in a given session, working on the bridging.  Breaking things into small bits helps a lot.

Tomorrow, I'm signed up for the campus professional development day.  If you'll remember, I posted in April about our levels of diversity training.  In May, I got an email saying that my Level 3 project had passed.  That meant I only had to complete my 10 level 2 training sessions to get the campus certificate.  On one level, yay for diversity training, because it's so very important.

And on another level, I'm sort of cynical.  But I really want to finish this certificate because I want to go up for promotion in fall.  This year I went through the Review After Tenure process, which felt a whole lot like going up for tenure again.  And my results were fine.  The thing is, a year on, I need to show that I've been busy, doing important stuff.  So the certificate thing is one small way to show that.  I have three more sessions to complete the certificate, and there are three sessions tomorrow, so I've signed up for all three.  It's going to be a long day!

The more important is getting an article out there for review.  I have one I should have sent out a while back, but didn't.  So now I need to put in a solid week and get that into better shape.  And then send it!

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Week 2, Gone Camping

As I posted back in January, I'm looking for an adventure for my sabbatical.  It turns out, a couple of my cousins do some backpacking, and so they're arranging a short backpacking weekend in Yosemite!

But I'm unsure: unsure if I can be fit enough, unsure if I know what to do, and so on.  But a friend of mine suggested some "backpacking lite" as she called it.  The idea is that we'd take a ferry to an island where you then backpack a short distance to campsites, and then you're done with the carrying a pack, and just hike around.

One place that works really well for this is Rock Island State Park, up in Wisconsin.  So that's where we went.
 We drove and drove and drove, eventually getting on a ferry to Washington Island.  We drove across Washington Island, parked the car, got our gear, and then took a people (and gear) ferry to Rock Island.  And there we were, on Lake Michigan!  It's amazingly clear!

We went on Friday, and got settled and went for a short walk Friday.  We made dinner (dehydrated backpacking food because we wanted to try it).  And then it started raining.  A LOT.

But the next day, we walked to the Lighthouse and went on a tour, and then walked some more, over 8 miles total.  And then there was thunder and lightning.
Before the rain, though, I did have a chance to take a couple pictures, including a selfie in Lake Michigan.  The water IS amazingly clear, but oh so cold!
 Sunset over "Michgan Ave," the main trail from our camping spot to the boathouse.

All in all, we had a great time.  We spent Friday, Saturday, and Sunday nights, walked more than 8 miles both Saturday and Sunday, and about 4 each on Friday and Monday.  I learned that I shouldn't forget hot cocoa!  But my little stove worked great, and one fuel cannister lasted the whole time.

I also learned that I need to get better long pants for camping.

One of the best parts for me was that I got to see a LOT of migrant birds!  The trees weren't as leafed out as they are further down south, and so it was way easier to see birds.  (I usually miss that part of the migration period because I'm grading.)  I got really good views of Red-eyed Vireo, also Chestnut-sided and Blackburnian Warblers, Redstarts, Indigo Buntings, a flying snow goose, and some more common birds (Grey Catbirds, for example, and Ring-billed Gulls, and Double-crested Cormorants).

And now, back in the North Woods, and making a list of the things I want to get accomplished this coming week!

I really, really need to get more exercise to try to be ready to go to Yosemite!

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Out of Grading Jail

I'm now officially on sabbatical!  66 weeks of adventure, work, and not teaching!

I'm going backpacking (lite) this weekend; the campsite is on an island that you get to by ferry, and then walk for a mile or so.  From there, my friend and I will camp, walk around, read, maybe swim, and just relax.

It's the first adventure of the sabbatical!

Friday, May 04, 2018


Two more weeks of school stuff (maybe a tad more for grading) and then 66 weeks of sabbatical!  (Yes, I counted.  Twice.  Using two different methods.)

I have spring fever, but almost no grading this weekend, just sunshine, violin practice, and some reading!

And housework, lots of housework!

In violin news, Strings passed me on the first piece in Book 4, so now I'll focus on the second piece, on shifting practice, vibrato practice, double stop practice, and trying not to hold my hands so tightly!

I'm thrilled to be done with that piece, but also, I was just getting to like it again.  A couple of weeks ago, Strings started me on the second piece, and I was balancing both, and it was just what I needed to deal with my frustrations with the first piece and really work through the hard parts more effectively.  I'm so lucky to have such a good teacher!

Thursday, May 03, 2018


The semester's almost over.  6 teaching days left (for me), plus three finals, and then a lot of grading.

But for this moment, there's no grading to do.  I just turned back two big assignments recently, and will have still to grade:

1.  Writing course: full set of papers, plus short paper, plus revisions.  Some extra credit journals.
2.  Intro to Lit course: final exams.  Maybe some extra credit journals.
3.  Senior Seminar: full set of papers, plus draft day grades (graded on draft plus helpfulness to others group members.)

Meanwhile, there's plenty to do, and spring fever is making me inefficient.

I need to finish rereading a book to teach it.
I need to write a final exam.  (Only one, though!)

And I need to put my house back together after all the painting, put art back up, clean it thoroughly, and get it ready for my Mom to visit.

I need to find a graduation present for my nephew (college, engineering).  Ideas??

In other news: yesterday, I saw a Redpoll at my house, and four Pine Siskins.  I've also had first of year White Throated Sparrows, Common Grackles.  The Robins and American Goldfinches are wildly abundant.

Spring has come!

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Crocus Smile, Year Five

It's time for the annual Crocus Smile art installation picture!  If you recall, just last week, it looked like this.  (Scroll down for picture.)  Now the snow has melted, and you can see the smile.

It's quite a bit later than last year, but also fuller.  (The spring before, I added some bulbs, and they appear to have survived to come up this spring.)

Year Four
Year Three
Year Two
The First Post

And it's way bigger than it was for the first couple of years.

In other exciting news, yesterday, I saw my first ever Purple Finches!  The top picture shows three males (one you can only see a bit of behind the feeder).  Birders always talk about male Purple Finches looking like they've been dipped in raspberry.  They're much redder than House Finches on the back and wings.  And they don't have dark stripes on their flanks as House finches do.  They also have notched tails, which House Finches don't.  (It's not the best picture as a picture, but it shows the important identification features I was looking at.)

 The next picture is a female, which is the same size, also has a notched tail, and has a serious light colored stripe above and below the eye.  It's way more streaky on the body, but the eye stripes are the field marker people point to.

In other birding news, I went to some friends' house for breakfast this morning; they live on a wooded lot next to a lake, and it's their first spring there.  It was glorious weather, and we saw all sorts of great birds.

I saw my first Red-Breasted Nuthatch not in-hand (I'd previously seen one that had been mist netted for banding at bird school last year).

We also saw Yellow-Bellied Sapsuckers, including one that was sucking sap, so to speak.  It was monitoring three holes drilled closely together, and sucking sap from each in turn, all without moving more than it's head.

We may have seen a female Redstart or maybe it was a Yellow-Rumped Warbler (it was very grey, and seemed more grey with no real yellow markings, but...)

Also Mergansers, Buffleheads, Kingfisher, Bald eagle, Downy and Red-Bellied Woodpecker, Jays, Chickadees, Robins.  A very good morning!

I still have some Redpolls feeding on my deck, and a few Juncos, but the American Goldfinches are bright yellow now.  There are also Mourning Doves.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

That Time of the Term . . .

when alliteration hits.  Or not.

I met with a student this morning to talk about a paper that's due tomorrow.  The student had cancelled a meeting last week, when I was doing a second full round of conferences about the paper.  And they hadn't signed up for one the week before, despite my telling them it was required.

The draft they showed me, which they quite obviously thought I should be deeply impressed with, wasn't impressive.  It started in one direction, veered sharply to another direction, and then concluded in a pretty unrelated direction.  Any one of those directions would have been fine, but the veering made clear that the student hadn't paid attention to the assignment from the get go.

And now they've just emailed me that they won't be in class today, when we're discussing the final project, which counts for more than any previous project, because they're working on this paper.

I think they've finally figured out that they need to do more than fart around BSing in this course.

(Fortunately, there are revision opportunities.  Unfortunately, revision takes a good deal of time, and the student hasn't got a history of putting in time in this course.)

I have spring fever.  Badly.  There's no spring in sight here yet, though.

I need to grade.  And read.  And prep.  And what I really want to do is go out and play in some warm sunshine.  Unfortunately, there's no warmth outside anywhere near.

Four and a half more week.  Must end procrastination!