Saturday, September 26, 2020

Miser family update: the half-his-life version

Life continues to be rich and full in the Miser Family Household.  In this past week, we were particularly rich with family memories.  J-son turned 22, which means that now I have been his mother for more than half his life, and this family we built up has likewise been his family for more than half his time on earth.  We intended to do a J-son photo collage for our Family Fun Foto Friday, but soooo many photos poured in that I couldn't squeeze them all into one space, so instead I made this 2-minute video, which we e-mailed to him late in the day on his birthday.  Happy birthday, kiddo!

In other family memory news:  When I was kid, my parents used to take me and my sisters to Wolf Trap, an outdoor performing arts place.  We'd have picnic lunches on the lawn, wander through the woods, and then head over to the stage where we'd either sit in chairs up front in the pavilion, or sit on the lawn further back.   Well, the pandemic means that I'm getting more modern/urban versions of this experience.  This time it was my daughter taking me to an open-air performance in a warehouse yard.  See the stage on the truck behind us?

The further-back seats were in the parking lot, where people who drove to the event could watch from their cars (and honk, as applause.  That was a lot of fun!)

Those of us who brought our own lawn chairs found an empty chalk circle, and could set up lawn chairs where we could sit . . . or dance.  

So many new experiences.  

For this academic year, my college has moved to a "module" system, where instead of teaching 14-week classes over two semesters, we teach 6-week classes during 4 modules.   For example, right now I'm teaching integral calculus 4 days a week, 90 minutes each day, plus a research seminar that meets once or twice a week.    The transition from Module 1 to Module 2 is coming up soon (in just under two weeks), and one of my colleagues has had to take a leave of absence, . . . so starting October 12, I'll be taking over his class in addition to my own.  That is, instead of teaching 1 class with 18 students (plus the research seminar), I'll be teaching two classes with a combined 49 students (plus the research seminar).  To add to the complications, the two calculus classes I'll be teaching have different audiences, so they'll have different kind of assignments, different deadlines . . . although there will be a bunch of similar materials and lessons, it's not exactly like teaching two sections of the same class.  So, for about 6 weeks, I'm figuring on being totally swamped.  

That being said, earlier this week I gave blood, and then got to mark in my calendar when I'll be eligible to give blood again: November 17.  And as I marked that down, I realized, "that'll be three days before the end of Module 2, and then my classes will be over."   So I know I'm in for a wild ride, but I also know it's a temporary wild ride.   

What will I do with myself and all my free time in December?  Maybe I'll sand bricks.  We have a four-foot-wide section of an interior brick wall that is crumbling a bit (and by "a bit", I mean "a lot").  We had a mason come over to look at it this week, and he said he could add another layer on top, but maybe first I'd want to try a home remedy:  sanding it myself with a low-grit sandpaper [and a big fan, and the windows open, and masks], and then re-varnishing it with Prosoco/siloxane pd.  To all of my construction-savvy friends and family out there:  any words of wisdom about this potential project?

And that's the way the cookie crumbles in our family, which continues to be wealthy in our adventures and in our photographic memories.   May you and yours be similarly prosperous.

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Plants in paint cans; vegetables on the veranda; basil in bathroom

If I call all of my gardening efforts "experiments" rather than "attempts", then a dead plant is a valuable lesson that informs the future, not a failure that reveals my ineptitude.   I do a lot of gardening experiments, I tell you.

This year was particularly experimental, as I have 0 yard, and so instead of planting my plants in the ground, I planted them in paint cans, a few found pots, and mostly in the shade.   To wit, my outdoors happens to be largely in the shade, as my valuable lessons informed me over the course of the summer and the trees that surround my yard leafed up all around me.

What other valuable lessons that inform the future do I now have to share with you?  

One:  The bigger the pot, the bigger the basil.  
I moved the basil from the back porch to the bathroom to get evening sun, and the above photo shows three pots of basil, plus a tiny air plant.   It's like the three bears and goldilocks, almost!

Two: Cucumbers need sun to become cucumbers that look like cucumbers, but if you don't mind cucumbers that look like little green tennis balls, partial sun works.

This one is particularly funky/tiny.

Three:  For picking tomatoes, timing is everything.

I had this one lone, but fairly impressive tomato growing off the edge of the balcony, reaching for the sun.   I figured it would stay green, because the amount of sunlight was limited.   In fact, to my delight, the tomato started turning a lovely warm shade of red, prompting this question: when to pick it?  Should I pick it shortly before it fell a dozen feet to the concrete patio below, and if so, when would that be?

The answer turned out to be instead, "Pick it before the squirrels steal it".    Well, now I know.  

 And that's the end of my gardening experiments for this year.   Pesto and spherical cucumbers are on the dinner menu this evening!

Saturday, September 19, 2020

ARrrrr! Miser Family update.

Ahoy, mateys!  Life continues to be rich and booty-ful in the Miser family.  Today, we celebrate a toned-down version of Talk Like a Pirate Day.   

Feast yer eyes on our piratical crew, with pirates of yore, pirates grown in stature, pirates marauding, scurvy dogs who do NOT like wearing hats, and pirates at golf courses.   Avast!  Shiver me timbers!

Speaking of shivering, fall arrived with a hearty yo-heave-ho this weekend, and summer seems to have walked the plank.   Earlier in the week, we'd managed to get outside for walks, for runs, and for protests.   My guy went to, I think, three protests in one day.  I'm not as protest-prolific; with I-daughter, I went to a Black Lives Matters march on our campus, with hundreds of students and other masked marchers spread carefully apart, but no less animated.
That's me, in my cat whisker mask on a rock, and below is part of the crowd -- it was hard to take the picture of everyone.  Did I mention we were all spread out?

In these trying times, it's good to think more about peace than piracy.  (Even though pirate costumes are fun for everyone except the dogs).  So I leave you this video. just under 4 minutes).  I-daughter is on the left, in the second row.  

We come together, even in times when it's hard to come together.  And that's a tiny bit of news from our family, which continues to mutiny against tyrants, and which is rich in our adventures.   May you and yours stay safe.

Saturday, September 12, 2020

Miser family update, kitchen windows

 Life continues to be rich and full in the Miser Family household.  These September days are full of pane . . . but it's the good kind of pane, thanks to our kitchen windows.

Early in the week, my husband and N-son took a trip to tour the USS New Jersey.  Along the way they stopped for lunch and snapped the first photo above, serendipitously fitting right into the upcoming Family Fun Foto (although prompting me to remark, "oh yeah! I forgot that sometimes people eat at restaurants!")

K-daughter shows a lovely corner window in her kitchen, with "Dried flowers, mama's wooden bowl and A-child's LOVE sign we made when she was 3 weeks old πŸ’œ"

Y lives in the city, and shows us "Our window that mirrors the neighbors. Sometimes we flag each other down and chat while we're in our respective kitchens."

I-daughter also has nearby neighbors, and shows us "The kitchen window: where my plants live" . . . "(Also where my plants go to die)"   I just want to say, she gets that from me!

Guess who sent the last picture in the top row?  L1's photo reminds me of a Patti Page song my mom used to sing to me, and that I sing to Prewash constantly:  

L2 shows us her amazing thrift scores: "The nearest window to my kitchen, And the mini trampoline I got at a yard sale the other day . . . $2 πŸ™ŒOh, yeah.

My sister-in-law shows us how she is bringing in dinner by her window in NH (nyum!), and how her husband and his bestie hang out at their kitchen window in Las Vegas.  

N-son, like Y, says, "My kitchen window is good for having conversations out of and is a great source of air when I cook".

And me, I show both my kitchen windows. The wide short one is new; we put it in just this summer in the south wall, with an exhaust fan that is useful for cooking (for example, when you use the broiler to make bread, and the the instant pot to make vegetables, and you forget about the bread, and then turn on the exhaust fan to get rid of the smoke). And the last window in this series was the already existing kitchen window . . . in a well behind the sink, because . . . well, who knows WHAT the designers were thinking?

If you look out a kitchen (or other) window around these parts, what might you see?  You might see A-child pedaling along "just like Uncle N-son", she says.  

Or you might see I-daughter sporting a shawl she just knit herself, from yard she spun herself.  

Or you might see me walking on a tightrope that someone strung up between trees in our park.  I used N-son's hand for a while, . . . 

. . . and then I didn't use his hand, at which point I decided to get down, ever so elegantly and dignifiedly. Ever so.   

And that's the news from our family, which continues to be transparent in our adventures.  May you and yours stay safe and find soft landings when the rope that you're on decides it's time for everyone to dismount.  

Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Taking attendance on Zoom

There are about a gazillion reasons why in-person classes are easier and more productive than Zoom classes . . . but I've discovered one (1!) way in which doing something via Zoom is easier.

I've started taking attendance via the Chat tool. At some point during each class, when I feel it's good to see if we're all present (and paying attention), I ask everyone a simple and fun-ish question (favorite breakfast food, a good way to relax, etc). I have the students type their answers (but not submit it) into the chat, and then we ALL submit at the same time. [I think this takes pressure off of worrying that people will judge what you write]. 

After the meeting, I cut-and-paste the chat into a spreadsheet, and  then I sort. All the "From Peter to you", "From Sylvia to you" lines come in one bundle, alphabetized by first name, so it is easy to see who was there and who wasn't.

I also snagged a cool idea from the MAA (Math Association of America) listserve; I've got a template email for students who seem to be missing from class.   It essentially says, "I see you missed class; I hope everything's okay.  If you need technical help, remember you can go here. If you need health or counseling help, you can go here; if you are getting overwhelmed, you can go here.  And as a reminder, here's our class attendance policy with how you ought to catch up on the stuff you missed."

So, there's that. 

Saturday, September 5, 2020

Miser Family update: family footage edition

Life continues to be footloose and fancy free in the Miser Family household.   And just to share with you a bit of the family footage, I include the fun foto collage of the week!

In the top row, we have feet at work and play:

  • I-daughter: These are not my feet. This is a non-representative sample of the feet at a rally/march on Wednesday
  • N-son:  Resting up from a job hanging doors for a shipping transfer station
  • L1: Sneakers at the lake. Just finished working out with these views πŸ₯°
  • Guinness got all feet in the air. He likes to use his feet as catapults

In the second row, we get to bare feet, starting off with bear feet, and wind up with stocking-feet:

  • L1: We also went to a wild refuge today where the bears wouldn't always keep four paws on the floor πŸ˜‰
  • K-daughter: B-child and I usually chill like this because she enjoys sleeping on my lap.
  • L2:  Last time before my toes go into hibernation
  • I-daughter: These are all the socks I've finished this year (minus the 2 pairs I already gave away)
    [a proud mother comments: this week was really tricky for I-daughter. She told me she couldn't decide: show the socks she's currently working on? The socks she made this year? All the socks she's ever made and hung onto? Should she arrange the socks in the shape of a giant sock? This photo was not an easy decision for her!]
  • And finally, my husband and I are having socks.

And in the final row, we trot out our finest and fanciest:

  • My sister-in-law:  These are the fanciest shoes I own in Las Vegas (L) and my New Hampshire fancies (R).
  • K-daughter: A-child's feetsies!
  • Y: This pic is the only use I've gotten out of these shoes because I am walking around the hospital, going hiking on weekends, and playing piano.

I-daughter really grooved to the foot theme.  She writes:

Story time: every once in a while things happen which make me happy that my feet are my main mode of transportation (and I don't need to take care of a needy/expensive vehicle). Notable example: when we had 4 feet of snow and all the cars were stuck.

More recently: twice this week a driver hit the cars parked on my block. No injuries that I know of, but lots of loud noise and damaged vehicles, 

I'm sorry for the people who have to take care of their cars now. My feet are fine πŸ‘, 

What else is happening?  We're very much enjoying the fabulous weather that has been coming our way.  I've harvested three cucumbers (if you can call them that) from my "garden", which is really dirt in a bunch of empty paint cans, sitting on my rather shady porch.
Jealous, anyone?  

I'm also starting to get into the groove of teaching students who are on the other side of the world from me.  At least, I think I'm starting to get the hang of it.  This week they'll have their first midterm, and I know that'll be an interesting feedback loop for all of us.  

My guy went to the Philadelphia rally in memory of/in protest of the death of Jacob Blake.  He said it was one of the most organized, carefully put-together rallies he's seen.  He's also ridden his bike across even more New York City bridges.  Activism, and active leisure.  

And that's the low-down from our family, which continues to put our best foot forward in our adventures.  May you and yours be similarly grounded.

Tuesday, September 1, 2020

Adventures with BedBugs, Episode 5

 Is it time to start collecting the bedbug adventures together?  Maybe it is time.  Here are the previous episodes, gathered.

  1. Discovery and NaivetΓ©
  2. Dracaris, the Heat Gun
  3. Professional Options
  4. The Incinerator
The past few weeks have taught me that bedbugs have two evil superpowers: 
  • One, although it's easy to heat a particular bedbug to death,  they are famously persistent and hard to kill as an entire population, so that a battle of attrition won't work against them.   It's all-or-nothing, baby.  
  • Two, if they bug you (so to speak), they're most likely to do it at night, so that even on the nights they're not (so to speak) bugging you, it's still creepy and hard to sleep.   
Persistence and psychological warfare, that's what they got.

The past few weeks have also taught me that bedbug infestations make excellent topics of conversation.  Everyone has an opinion, or curiosity, and my friends (when I do get to see them, or when we chat via email) ask about them all the time. It's not that I'd recommend that lonely people go out and find some bedbugs, but I will say there are weird up-sides to our past experience.

At any rate, we've been battling bedbugs.  When I last updated this blog, we'd used The Incinerator to heat up---in a very intense and very long weekend---each of our upstairs rooms in turn.  When The Incinerator was finally finished, I used Dracaris-the-Heat-Gun to carefully toast anything I could think of toasting on the first floor.   And then, at 4:23 p.m. on Monday the 24th (approximately), I saw a live bedbug on my bedroom ceiling, freaked and gave up, and called for an exterminator appointment on the first possible date.  And that's where I left off last time.

On the one hand, the Incinerator (aka, "The Cube") was a fairly pricey option compared to other alternatives, costing about $1300, not to mention the cost of the electricity for running it.  (Want your very own?  We got this one.)  On the other hand, once we were done incinerating the upstairs rooms, we posted it on Craigslist for $1000. in a way, we're thinking of this more like renting it for $300+electricity for the weekend, and that is way more cost-effective than any professional service out there . . . so, something to keep in mind for the future.

As an aside, and we got an offer within the day.    If that offer had been legitimate, that would have been great, but instead it was a guy who sent us a cashier's check, for twice what we asked.  Apparently, sending worthless cashier's checks is a standard Craigslist scam, so we reported the dude and will start over. 

Back to the main story:  The bedbug that I saw on Monday at 4:23 didn't have a name tag, but if it had, the name might very well have been "Ozymandius".    Why that name?  Because that bedbug was the last bug I've seen since.  (Not the last bedbug I thought I saw; in the middle of the night, several times, I woke up thinking they were with me, as per the psychological warfare noted above, but my trusty flashlight revealed nothing except maybe a hair or a bead of sweat.)  

I've seen no bedbugs, and believe me, I've searched.  I haven't even seen carcasses.  There have been no bedbugs in my bed, nor in my husband's, nor in the dog's.  There are no carcasses in the carpet, in the bathroom, or in the couch.  Every night I scout around nooks and crannies of the house with my flashlight; every morning I investigate in all our sleeping spaces; I'm coming up empty, here, people.  

Nonetheless, we emptied our closets, heating all clothes in the dryer, giving all shoes the Dracaris treatment, and then depositing everything into well-labeled [shudder] plastic bags.   Likewise for everything in our drawers.  The contents of my filing cabinets, we cooked in the oven at 170 degrees.   (I'm cookin' the financial books, folks: I admit it!)  

Monday morning, I woke at 5:30, threw my bedsheets and the dog bed downstairs for the washing machine to deal with.   I took Prewash to my office, where at 6:30, we taught my faraway students the joys of Riemann sums and sigma notation.  And at 7:02, the exterminators showed up at my home, to be greeted by my husband.   They made their first rounds -- they'll be back in three weeks, and then again three weeks after that.  

And . . . that's all I got for ya.  I don't want to say "we did it!", because I've heard too many stories about the difficulty of eradication.  But I can say it kind of feels like that at this point.  

I'm not sure what I'll have to talk about with people, now.  Ah, well.