Saturday, February 27, 2021

Miser family update: Doin' like grandpa

Life continues to be rich and full in the Miser Family Household.  This week, we're particularly rich in celebratory remembrance and imitation.  In particular, we're celebrating my Dad's birthday.   Happy birthday dad!  

So the theme for this week is . . . doin' like grandpa. 

My sisters joined in this week a bit:  middle sister sent two pictures showing that youngest sister is standing like grandpa. (It's kinda uncanny).  My sister-in-law sent along her husband to be like Grandpa (oh-my-gosh, he even has a hat like my Dad!)  My husband says he's loving well-educated women, like Grandpa.  L1 is "Traveling like grandpa". (She's got my sister-in-law and her husband with her . . . my dad loves traveling with family, too!)

Which is a bit of a theme. K-daughter says she's "Traveling- like grandpa! Our (spontaneous) trip to Niagara falls three weeks ago."  I-daughter offers, "Here we have [her cousin] doing something *with* grandpa" And she herself is "Reading like grandpa!"

In the next line down, N-son does circular saws like Grandpa (and under his supervision); they were breaking down an old fiberglass pool that had seen better days as a turtle tank.  I have my own contribution:  "fixing things around the home like Grandpa! . . . (True story: my guy called me for help, because the basement toilet was making a terrible whining noise. It wasn't the toilet; it was the water pipes behind the toilet. I went outside and turned off the outside faucet, which was running for some reason I don't know. "Fixed" it!)"  And Y (who hasn't actually met my dad), says she's "Enjoying La Boheme by Puccini, like grandpa, or so they tell me :)"

In the fourth row, I-daughter says, "I'm dancing like grandpa . . . I'm the one in red and white (maybe even with him? Hard to tell in this crowd) . . ."   And L1 is "Cooking like grandpa"  (mmm . . . waffles). 

Oh, man, I have so many pictures that I realized I forgot to stick this one in the collage, so I'll add it now: my niece is doin' her thumb like Grandpa.   

Happy birthday, Dad!  

I continue to plug away at my teaching and also to re-sanguinate slowly, hoping that my hemoglobin levels will return to adequate by the time the snow melts, my classes end, and I can throw myself into training again.  I got to tell my students a very groan-worthy calculus joke (What's the antiderivative of 1 over cabin, d cabin?  It's "houseboat"!  Because it's log cabin + C . . . ).   I love that joke because it's so goofy, but it does remind my students about the "+C" that they so often otherwise forget.   I didn't give any quizzes this week, so I didn't have any cheating.  So, yay?!?

N-son is still down with L1, and my guy is still riding his bike all over the place, and so life is chugging along here.  Our campus has changed its Covid Alert level from "High" to "Moderate", so I brought Prewash to campus to say hello to a few students in m class who are actually on campus, and it was nice for everyone involved to meet (outdoors, masked) in person, although I guess technically Prewash was "on line".  

And that's the news from our family, which continues to be wealthy in our adventures.  May you and yours be similarly prosperous. 

Thursday, February 25, 2021

Three thoughts on . . . zippers

 Three thoughts on . . . zippers.

1.  Teeth aren't shaped like teeth.

Despite their name, the teeth of zippers aren't really shaped like teeth. Each one is more like a spoon or a ladle, and they sit, one inside the other, like spoons whose handles alternate left and right.  

It's as though you're making those Matryoshka dolls, those nested Russian dolls, but instead of stacking the different sizes inside each other, they're all the same size and you stack them like a totem pole: each one sitting on,  and fitting into, the head of the one below it.

2.  Knitting with zippers.

A few years ago during Sock Madness, my daughter learned how to add zippers to knitted socks with no sewing involved. The technique is to make loops with yarn in the fabric of the zipper, carefully matching your stitch size (so I guess actually that part is like sewing), . . . so then when you're knitting the socks, you just knit the zippers right in, using the loops. I think that this is so clever, that it almost makes me want to pick up my knitting again.

3.  I love my saved zipper stash.

New zippers can be pricey, but old conference bags and cheapo backpacks often have really decent zippers that are perfectly usable for other good projects.  And the cheapness of the construction means that it's usually really easy to get that zipper out with 5 minutes and a good seam ripper. For some reason, this reminds me about old jokes about the "Yugo" brand cars; you can double the value of the car by filling the gas tank. When it comes to those cheap conference bags, the zipper off of the bag is often worth more than the bag with a zipper still in.

Saturday, February 20, 2021

Miser family update -- Sandwich generation

Life continues to be rich and full in the Miser family household.  This week, we're particularly rich in sandwiches!  In generating sandwiches!  In sandwich generation!

Let's start with the second row:  
  • I-daughter shares, "The sandwich talk made me hungry... So I'm "generating" some grilled cheese! . . .Also pb&j (because it's traditional and I'm hungry right now))"
  • My guy says, "Very proud of my beet salad 🥗 so here is my beet salad sandwich 🥪 with Miser Mom's homemade bread 🍞"  (See the bread on either side of the bowl?  yeah).
  • N-son says, "Decided to make early morning waffle sandwich"
  • Y's picture, sandwiched in here, shows, "My roommate and I made marbled patterned cookies last night- the main step involved "sandwiching" the 2 colors of dough together!"
  • L2  loves her Shrimp po boy,
  • and me:  I  offer my generated sandwich -- eaten at my desk. (See the soup cozy my sister made me?)
In the top row, 
  • I-daughter was the middle daughter, but had a hard time coming up with a picture of her sandwiched between L1 and L2.  
  • K-daughter offers:  "It's an A-child sandwich! Comes with rainbow colored extras"
  • L1 shares her recipe for "Lab Sandwich"
  • my sister-in-law's contribution comes with a story: " There is a restaurant in Vegas called Heart Attack Grill. Here I am holding a “quadruple bypass”. ***Allow me to explain. A good friend of ours had a heart attack a few months ago and a quadruple bypass. When he recovered he wanted a picture of himself holding the quad and enlisted Frank and I to make it happen. . . . After a couple of photo ops we gave the burger away. Viva Las Vegas!"

I-daughter also had a sandwich story:  

Message by Iolanthe Good: Every morning I take one out before school and it's defrosted by lunch 👍, Friday, February 19 2021, 7:46 PM

Somewhat related to sandwiches, about midweek, my guy very happily told me he'd learned something new and life-changing this week.  Whoop!  What was it?  That he can use our Instant Pot to peel beets.  If he steams the beets, and then chills them, the skins peel off just rubbing them with his fingers.  This newfound knowledge has made us all kinds of happy, and hence his beet-salad (sandwich?) photo.  

I had the dubious honor this week of having our Dean of Students-Who-Get-In-Trouble write to our Faculty Center director saying, "I would love to present some of [Miser Mom]'s cases as case studies for other faculty. Oh, how I would rejoice if other instructors adopted these practices."   Because, dang it, yes, another round of cheating.   Ugh, this is exhausting.

And meanwhile, the reason that I have so much more cheating this year (that is, pandemic constraints moving my quizzes online instead of in person) is one that we hope hope hope will go away.   I know more and more people who are getting vaccinated:  my sister in New York (a middle school teacher) has had round 1, as has a 70+ year-old friend in a retirement community.  And my running buddy, who does pediatric physical therapy has had BOTH rounds.  My guy (65+) and N-son are theoretically eligible, and are only waiting for vaccine availability.   

I tell you, mass vaccination can't come fast enough.   We're all crossing fingers and saying our prayers for David (K-daughter's husband), who has a (thankfully mild) case, and for K-daughter, who has tested negative on multiple tests, but who is nonetheless recovering from something that had her feeling pretty yucky.  

So, we're still sitting tight.  Prewash and I pretty much stay at home, or occasionally go to a largely vacant office building where she can chase tennis balls up and down the corridors, with her ears flopping up and down like she's using them to fly.   And then we come home where I can eat sandwiches.

And that's the news from our family, which continues to be wealthy in our adventures.  May you and yours be similarly or prosperous.

Thursday, February 18, 2021

Three thoughts on envelopes

Me, I am some kind of a lucky person, in that I keep getting showered with riches of envelopes. People . . . . well, actually, companies  . . . send me all sorts of mail with return envelopes inside, even though I mostly pay my bill online. Not one to let these riches go to waste, I offer up three thoughts on envelope use.

Thought 1.
"Back of the envelope calculations" are famous for a reason.  Envelopes are really perfect for making lists: they are not too wide, so they force me into the column format, and they don't distract me with vast swaths of blank space or make you feel like a failure for not filling that space.  I use envelopes to keep track of attendance at office hours (my students get credit for visiting me early in the semester).  Apparently, sometimes I use them to jot down ideas for blog posts, too.

Thought 2.
Return envelopes are lovely for sorting smaller pieces of paper.  Historically, people have used them for budgeting; me, I use them to store receipts by month (for example, February 2021).   I don't need to go back and find receipts often --- in fact I can only think of, like, three times in the past three years when I needed to --- but those few times I've needed to find a receipt, it's been super easy to find them.

Thought 3.
Envelopes have this over phones or computers: they don't distract me by pinging me with texts or pointing me towards websites. I never look up from writing something down on an envelope and say to myself,  "Wait! where did that last hour go???"   Better yet, when I put an envelope down someplace, unlike emails or texts, they don't move around to make way for the next incoming envelope; so it's easy to go back and find them later.

Saturday, February 13, 2021

Miser Family Update: lotsa love edition

 Life continues to be rich and full in the Miser Family household.  We've been rich in snow and ice, and yet this is the time of year that our decorations try to remind us that it's time to think of warmer things . . . 

Out with the snow-beast TP decorations,
and in with the Valen-rolls

And so we are reminded of how we're rich in love.  

I love those Valen-feet from several years ago -- at the very base of us, you can't tell me apart from N-son or from J-son.  Whose feet are whose?  L1 contributed the next two photos (of her dad and godfather together): "Another moment of love....laughter with family".   And guess what?!?  L1 also sent along photos of N-son with dogs, swapping valen-glasses.  My sister-in-law is ready with kisses (virtual, but of course).  

During the pandemic, the fact that I love being with my husband is like double blessing: so, heart hands!  Dawww!  and B-child smiles, because when she's as old as A-child, she too will get to play with "Valentine sensory play!".  I-daughter displays "My favorite Valentine earrings (because I don't have the right outfit for wearing my heart on my sleeve)", and L2 shared a video clip showing that "My Valentine is driving, does that count? 😃"  (in response to questions from her sisters:  "Motorcycle from Orlando to Tampa right now. . . Tampa is just for dinner. Going down the coast to Naples and Key west for the weekend 😂 . . . All on the 🏍 don't tell my mother 😂".  yeah, that.

And we conclude the Valen-collage with love from the kids, either as an I-daughter-gif or as a blast from N-son and J-son's adorable past.    


As you can see from the above pictures, L2 is on yet another travel adventure.  (What happened to Minnesota and Chicago?  I can't keep up!).  And in a somewhat less dramatic voyage, my guy took N-son down to hang out with L1 (and dogs) for a few weeks.  My guy returned safely despite threats of even more snow, and we're preparing for waffles in the morning and shrimp alfredo in the evening on Valentines day.  Ymmmm.

Aside from that, I'm still teaching, and taking iron pills as I re-sanguinate so I can lean back into training when the snow melts.  

Oooh, and the other thing we're doing is reading aloud!  I've been reading Kathryn Schulz's Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error, a book I feel will become extremely relevant as I transition into being an Associate Dean.  (If I'm going to be wrong, I want to do it right!).  We're really enjoying the book together, partly because Schulz is an incredibly engaging and bitingly funny writer, but also because the book opens up error and humility (and lack thereof) in an incredibly rigorous-yet-compassionate way.  

Right in time for Valentine's day, we got to the chapter on "Heartbreak" (being wrong about love), and of course the chapter reminded me a gazillion times over and over again about what a fluke of luck it was for me to wind up in the marriage (and family) I'm in now.  (It certainly wasn't because I was calculatingly clever, as my previous relationships pointedly demonstrate).   Schulz winds up the chapter by arguing that, rather than thinking of a "soulmate" love, we'd be better served by a "storybook love":  "It is not about living idyllically in our similarities, but about living peacefully and pleasurably in our differences.  . . . it is not about unchanging love.  It is about letting love change us."  Out with the icy cold, and in with what warms the heart.  Yeah.  

And, friends, that's the news from our family, which continues to be wealthy in our lovely adventures.  May you and yours be similarly prosperous.  

Saturday, February 6, 2021

Miser Family update: 32 version

Life continues to be rich and full in the Miser Family household.  This week, we're celebrating 32 years of L1: someone who seems to always have a huge smile on her face, who loves to play hard and get dirty, who cleans up real nice, and who is ferociously loyal to family and friends.   

In binary, L1 ticks over a new digit: she's 100000 (base 2) which makes her seem really, really old.  And yet, as someone who's really really older than her, I can assure her that amazing surprises will continue to delight her for years yet to come.   So happy birthday, and many more, L1!

Here was one of my surprised delights this week:  soy-sauce hummus.  I was making my homemade no-tahini hummus recipe, and realized we were completely out of garlic.  I tossed in a splash of soy sauce instead on a whim and yummmm.   Score one for improvisation!

Here's another first for me.  I happen to have a lot of cows . . . and by "a lot", I mean "no really, a lot".  I have cow toothbrushes and cow staplers; I have cow mugs that moo; I have cow Christmas ornaments, cows made from leather, folded from paper by origami masters, fired in ceramic and cuddly plush toys.  I keep thinking I'm reaching the limit of cow creativity,  . . . and then along comes a new-to-me cow creation.  

This latest one is a cow that a student of mine 3D-printed as a thank you gift for me.  He dropped it off at my home.  He said he'd remembered that I said I live on [such and such] street, and that my front porch had a lot of cows.  He said he drove along the street looking at the porches to see if he could figure out which was mine, and "Professor MiserMom, you weren't kidding!".  Well, now I have a lot of cows plus one!

What else is going on?  I forgot last week to update you on recent political sock gossip; I-daughter just finished a pair that she modeled for me in a color called "Im-peach-ment"; she is particularly pleased with the timing of finishing these. 

I don't have pictures of this, but N-son and my guy have been bonding at protests; my husband says they were the two youngest protesters outside of Scott Perry's offices in Harrisburg yesterday.   Sock it to 'em, family!

At another extreme, one of N-son's friends very helpfully removed all his hair and poked holes in his ears.  The earrings lasted something like 14 hours; I think both the ears and the hair will return to the way they were before, but who knows?  Here's a bald hole-y N-son for your viewing pleasure.

And on the topic of hair removal,  K-daughter reports,

"A-child got a super cool hair cut! (See pictured) she picked it out herself- it's a side shave. Lookin fly! . . . A-child has mastered making scrambled eggs by herself. She is now helping me tonight in making the Indian dish, Chicken Masala (last pictured) "

And I'm sure you're all wondering how my half-marathon training is going.   Actually, I'm pretty sure you're not wondering about that, which is part of why I decided --- when the giant snow blew through our city this past week --- to go ahead and give blood.  I knew I wouldn't be able to get out on the roads to run, so might as well save a life.  Last Saturday, before giving blood, I'd had a delightful and strong 8-mile run.  Today, mildly de-sanguinated, I headed out for an easy 10-mile run that ended after 5.4 very slow miles.   Eh, N-son's ears will come back and so will my hemoglobin.  

And that's the news from our family, which continues to be 100000 wealthy in our adventures.  May you and yours be similarly prosperous.  

Thursday, February 4, 2021

Four paradoxes of snow

Four paradoxes of snow . . . musings arising from this week's weather.  

Light and Heavy.
Snowflakes are so tiny.  So tiny and and so light.  But when they fall like they did earlier this week, they make so much, heavy work.  It's a bit of what I teach my students in calculus class: there are these tiny things we study that are so small that we call them "infinitesimals" (epsilon, dx, dy), but when you add them all up, they make ups something really big.

Dark and Light.
The storms that bring in the snow roll in on huge clouds that block the sun, and at night they block the stars and moon, and yet the nighttimes are brighter than ever because of all the reflected light off the snow.  I often wake up in the middle of the night after a snowfall, thinking it must be morning already, because the nights just luminesce with the snow on the ground.

Cold and warm.
Snow comes in because of cold weather storms, but it traps air to become one of the best insulators around.  I grew up loving to see the snow on my roof: it meant the attic insulation was working (so heat from the house wasn't melting the snow away), and the house underneath was staying cozier than ever.  And snow piles, with their amazing insulating abilities, can last months into warmer weather.  

Rigid and Free.
Snowflake Bentley was the most prolific early photographer of snow, and his fascinating pictures have always made me marvel.   It's amazing to me that a snowflake, starting with a grain of who-knows-what, picking up random water molecules as it falls through the air, remains so incredibly six-fold symmetric.  How do the water molecules on the north side of the flake know to match the ones on the south side?  There's so much variation from the center outward, that it makes the symmetry along the edges that much more stunning.

And yet, if you remove the freedom of falling through the air, and if you force snow to form under constraints (like frost on a windowpane), then you get structures that look almost alive: like ferns, or feathers, of things that can blow and move.  Snow that falls freely forms rigid shapes; snow that forms under conformity seems to finally have a will of its own.  

It makes me feel like there ought to be a metaphor in here somewhere, but I can't pull it together quite.  Mostly, I just love how snow up-ends the world (and my thinking) for a little while, until it melts away again.