Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Idea Holder: Unessay

I've been reading a bit about "unessay"s and am listing a couple of links so that I can find them again when next fall comes around.

The Junto re unessay (American History)

Emily Clark on unessay

Ryan Cordell on unessay

Reading Deja Vu

I started reading Karen Joy Fowler's We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves the other day, and I had the weird feeling that I've read or seen representations of some of the action before.  For example, there's a cafeteria scene where the narrator gets arrested because, basically, she reacted when someone else started trashing the place.

It feels like I've seen that in a movie or something.  I wonder if someone told me about it, or I heard something from it on NPR or something?

I don't remember reading the novel.  It's not that old, so it's not something I read 20 years ago and don't quite remember.


Monday, June 25, 2018

Week 6/66: Conversations

I went to a "town hall" meeting held by the Republican senator from my state, and it was literally held in a town hall of a town that's got maybe 800 people.  The senator's "people" had communicated only (as they later said) with local(ish) people who had called or written the senator's office, and told only those people about the meeting.

So one of my friends was told, and spread the news.  But then someone else told her it was a different time.  So there was much confusion and denial from his staffers that 1) there was any meeting at all, 2) that they couldn't give any information, and 3) yes, there's a meeting, but it's an hour earlier than had been announced.

I called the local TV channel news office and they hadn't heard anything.

But my friend drove, and someone else came, too, and I went, and we drove for an hour.

We were all (as we talked about later) expecting this to be a meeting with lots of MAGA hats and much conservative cheering.  My friend had been told that Republican politicians holding town meetings weren't allowing anyone to record them, and their staffers were temporarily confiscating phones and such, so she had three devices to record, one of which you couldn't tell was recording because it looked like it's off.  Just in case.

She's also heard that Republican politicians were holding town halls that were mostly just talking points and pre-screened questions.

Anyway, we got there early, and sat in the second row.  And gradually, before the senator arrived, the room filled.  There were folks wearing dairy cooperative shirts, and one MAGA hat worn by a very young man, there was a Native American veteran, and some other men in veteran's gear (like hats saying "Navy Vet" or whatever).  And there were some folks wearing shirts with the name of a local Democratic politician.  And the Democratic politician himself.

Introductions happened, and the local town council folks were introduced, a couple politicians at different levels, and then the senator.  And if he thought this was going to be a really friendly crowd, he was wrong.  And since we thought that, so were we.

The questions started at the immigration problem (as in, children being incarcerated and people seeking asylum being treated badly), and went from there to Social Security, health care, the farm bill (with a heavy dose of "don't mess with people who need SNAP, just help dairy farmers make a living"), and to NRA funding (he pretended to be unaware that the NRA ever donated money to him, but also refused to refrain from accepting further NRA money.  It was interesting, and plenty of people called him out quite forcefully when he BSed (about how people come to be undocumented in the US, mostly NOT by crossing the border illegally as he asserted).

The senator answered questions for over an hour, and there was ONE that seemed sympathetic, and I was surprised at that one.  (The man who identified as a Native American veteran wanted to use gambling casino tax revenues to build the wall.)

My take aways: a lot of folks came from my small city.  And we had a lot in common with the folks who came from the dairy cooperative and who seemed to come from local small communities.  We're all concerned about Social Security.  We're all concerned about children being incarcerated when their parents seek asylum or try to enter the country without documentation (or overstay visas).  We all want farmers to be able to make a living.

No one recited any slogans, and everyone listened respectfully to each other.

I was impressed that the senator seemed smart and knowledgeable, though we're very opposed ideologically.

I read somewhere that most people really do think what they're doing is right and reasonable.  (The context was about spies.)  And that seemed pretty true of this crowd.  We disagreed on some fundamental solutions to problems, and on the sorts of things we see as problems, but I got the feeling that people were reasonably well informed (and some more than that, and most more than me) and really did want to solve the problems they think are important.

And yet, look at how my state votes.  It's hard to reconcile the two: what I saw at the meeting, and the way this state votes.


I had coffee and a long conversation with a new colleague.  I'm sorry to say, they seem very young and not very interesting.  (Those two don't necessarily go together, of course.)  I'm feeling a little "old guard" about them, I'm afraid.  I hope they end up being wonderful, though.


I did more biking this week and no hiking.  There was weather, and there was not feeling well, and there was keeping busy.

So much to do, and the time is rushing by!

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!