shrinking

My Things To Do list has lain dormant in my purse all week. Not for having forgotten which Very Safe Place that I stuck it into. Not for having too few things to do to bother writing them down (as if).

Rather, because there is so little I can get done in a day. The effective list of Things To Do is reduced to:
dressing and eating breakfast,
working at job #1,
eating lunch and grading papers for job #2,
working at job #1,
eating dinner and preparing something like a lesson for job #2,
teaching job #2,
doing a bit more preparing something like a lesson,
and crashing in bed.

On Saturdays there are exciting departures from this plan: Read the rest of this entry »

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Manfred would like to comment

We have a new roomer.

Manfred appeared on the front door the other day. He was interested in someplace to stay, perhaps spend the winter.  Well, okay.  I found a room. (Hey, anyone that can do something about these intermittent flies that keep finding their way into the kitchen is certainly welcome in my book).

This evening Manfred the Mantid wanted to post a comment.

Praying mantis on a Macbook screen, tapping on the "New Comment" button of a Word program toolbar.

A large male praying mantis on a Macbook screen, tapping on the

Unlike the cockroach of the Archy and Mehitabel stories, Manfred isn’t much of a typist.  I did get the general drift, though.

“Where are the moths?”

That’s what I was wondering, too.  Flies are dandy, but I’ve not been able to find my insect net in months, so was stocking up on moths for room service.  (There are lots of Monarch butterflies and honeybees on the asters out front, but I’m not about to sacrifice the former or catch the latter.  Call me specist, but the Noctuid moths are hardly endangered.)

Well, I turned on the porch light, and return an hour or two later to snag moths.  Leastwise, that was my plan.  After letting in a cat, I found myself standing out there and wondering, “Where are the moths?”

A moth.  A single, solitary moth.  I finally grabbed it, and popped it into Manfred’s room.

The next morning there were the expected wings littering the ground in the midden corner, as there’s no good eatin’ in wings.  Need more moths.  After a couple minutes of really pathetic tries, I finally grabbed a fat skipper (butterfly) and a bee-fly out near the mailbox.  These were dispatched in due order, and while I was checking the weather forecast, Manfred attended to his toilette, pulling a hind leg up to nibble down the length, and then cleaning off the antennae in a manner that is very reminiscent of cats washing their faces. (Mantids make me look stiff in comparison.)

A mantid grooming its hind leg

A mantid grooming its hind leg

Tomorrow I need to do some better hunting. Meanwhile, Manfred is hanging upside-down, perhaps digesting.

Or maybe still working on interspecific telepathy: “Where are the moths?”

High Wire Act

an peach-colored orb-weaver spider balanced on a few silken threads

an peach-colored orb-weaver spider balanced on a few silken threads

Dark, stormy days

It’s not just the weather.

Christschool’s recent post, “Fleeting Innocence, Captured Before It’s Gone” got me thinking and connecting distant points, much in the manner of the orb-weaver spider that connects a broadening spiral of nodes across our back door each night.

We slide further into a scarier world.  It is not just a world where there is less freedom and diversity plus more violence and hate-crime, but rather a world that not only publicly accepts and condones, but even demands the necessity of violence.

It’s there in the realm of education, where the requirements for instruction and inclusion have created new opportunities for some spiteful people to create long-lasting terror for those forcibly obliged to attend.  When children are harassed and bullied and tormented in school to the point they finally react, their persecutors (and those who allow such events to continue) strike back and complain, “We must be allowed to forcibly control and harm those misbehaving children so we can ‘protect’ everyone.”

It’s there in the realm of employment, where the openness of accommodations and efforts of ordinary people to use them for work, shopping and leisure has provided some people with new bases for the discrimination and harassment of their coworkers, employees, and customers.  “They shouldn’t be there if they don’t want to deal with the problems they’re going to create by existing in the public sphere.  It’s too much money or trouble, or uses up resources that Real People need.  They should just stay at home or be gotten rid of.”

It’s there in the realm of national security, where anyone who is suspected of activity can be detained for years without legal process, and tortured as well.  Even ordinary, law-abiding citizens cannot expect to have the same safeguards for rights and liberties that they used to.  “Freedom isn’t free.”

Whereas violence was previously ignored, or dismissed as unimportant, or officially diminished (downgraded) as being less severe than it was, now we have an increasing number of situations where violence is seen as not only inevitable, but also as excusable, desirable, beneficial and even necessary.

Freedom and safety are obverse and reverse of the same coin; when we seek to increase one, we lose more of the other.

Sadly, as economic and political times get more anxious, groups of people withdraw back to their tribal units in paranoia.  The backward, rigid end of conservatism or tribalism reacts to uncertainty and fear by enforcing greater controls.  To some, eliminating tolerance for the Other and superstitiously making sacrifices to appease divine forces seems to be the only way to ward off Bad Things from happening.  Somebody has to pay.  It must be Somebody’s fault.  If Somebody who isn’t behaving exactly as the codes specify is punished, then divine pleasure might be gained.  If Somebody can be blamed for causing our problems, then swift and great revenge is appropriate and balance will be restored.

But scapegoating and harming the few of the outgroup does nothing to ensure that all are safe.  Hardly anyone in the larger public will even listen, and most don’t even want to hear what’s really happening.  We are sinking in insidious evil that is frosted-over in colourful “truthiness” sugar-coating, and is obscured by galas of newslessness about celebrity foibles and the nonsense over manufactroversies.  The bits that do get reported are so shouted-over with “spin” that great chunks of the public can’t even hear them, much less realise the cognitive dissonance.  Such platitudes are just the 21st-century version of Orwellian Newspeak, where we are being sold the terrifying message that

“PAIN IS SAFETY”

Don’t you believe it.  Be careful when there seems to be a break in the clouds; sometimes it’s just the eye of the hurricane.

Colorblind

A BLUE fabric shopping bag with emblazoned the trendy caption, I'm Green. reduce reuse recycle

A BLUE fabric shopping bag with emblazoned the trendy caption, I

Going Mobile

Here, grab a cuppa and settle down, and I’m going to tell you a story … oh, pass me those scissors; I’m going to work on this quilt, too.

Once Upon A Time,

a long, long time ago (well, 25 years ago, but that’s before some of you were born), there was a bunch of disabled people who were tired of waiting around for some Fairy Godmother to grant them wishes, because you know, like that’s gonna happen! Nowadays we might call them folks, “uppity crips”, and boy howdy were they “uppity”! Why, they wanted crazy stuff, like being able to ride public transit. Yesiree!

So.  This is the story: Those folks got together and started PROTESTING, using civil disobedience.  (You have to admit, it’s pretty dang clever using sit-ins and such, especially for some folks who come with their own chairs!  NO, they didn’t all use chairs all the time; accessibility is about lots of things, not just parking spaces and curb cuts.)  Anyway, these folks created ADAPT, which stood for American Disabled for Accessible Public Transit.

(Moment’s pause to re-thread needle.)

Well, that took a few years, but it worked so well, they weren’t going to stop there! Read the rest of this entry »

21,059

Holy Shit.

(And no, I’m not going to apologise for taking Shit’s name in vain…)

Normally I love technology.  When human beings mystify me in their endless capacity to engage in rudeness and biases and cognitive fallacies, I know that I can trust machinery to perform sensibly.  Sure, things break down, and sometimes they frustrate us because our mental models are incomplete, or the design is too poor to provide the right information for us to build accurate models. But once you understand how a system works, you can rely upon it to be predictable.

But sometimes the hardware is crappy, and sometimes the software is crappy, and sometimes it’s the “wet-ware” (me) that’s introducing errors, and when things get bad, it’s all of those.  And then I spend literally hours trying to get the simplest of tasks done.  Even ordinary things, like … getting messages.

1.

I have voice-mail messages to listen to during my brief lunch not-hour.  I’m sitting in a desk by the window, hoping that the signal doesn’t break up due to Invisible Wireless Velociraptors or whatever the hell makes the signal erratic from one minute to the next.

The first time around I miss half the message because I’m having trouble punching the mobile button and then getting it back to my ear quick enough to catch the beginning of the message.

The second time I dial back into my voice-mail, all I can understand is that there’s an Important Message from someone.

The third time around all I can understand is that someone whose name sounds like “Spencer Wallace” is calling me, and then two people in the room begin chatting and Mr Wallace’s message gets blenderized with their words.

I clap the phone shut in annoyance and go outside to redial my voice-mail a fourth time, and finally hear enough to realise that this is (A) a recorded message and (B) punching “1” will connect me to a live body … hopefully.

(Granted I have a lot of trouble understanding voice-mail messages because of my auditory processing problems, but you would think that a major mobile phone company could at least make sure their automated recordings were clearer.)

Yes, it’s a live body!  She informs me that No, it’s not Spencer Wallace, but Sprint Wireless. Damn, Live Body is mumbly or has an accent or is required to stick to scripts that aren’t helpful for me right now.  Rather than spend the rest of my break time trying to muddle out the situation, I thank her and return inside to bolt down the rest of my lunch before it gets disgustingly congealed. (The sad part is that microwaved fries/chips with leftover chile and cheese is the best lunch I’ve had all week.)

In addition to needing clearer messages, getting phone service inside of the school buildings where I work would also be a good thing — on one campus, I have to leave the building and walk across the open-air plaza and try facing cardinal directions in hopes of securing a signal.  Sometimes I have to pull up the antenna, hold the phone up to the sky, and stroll halfway to the next building to get signal.  Mind you, I am at a college in a heavily-populated area, not the intersection of Cornfield and Bob’s Road in the hinterlands.  [Name that movie reference!]

2.

Another voice mail was from the department secretary.  Plus, apparently I missed some e-mails from her as well.  Oh heavens, that’s right — I have a staff e-mail account in addition to the other e-mail account I use at the college. I had totally forgotten about getting the password set up a couple of weeks ago, because I was starting two jobs at the same time and both jobs required lots of paperwork and setting up user ID’s and passwords for various and sundry programs.

Yes, I have two e-mail accounts provided by the college.  Not just two e-mail addresses, but two separate systems that run on two different programs.  The secretary kindly reminds me of the URL to access my other account program.

Unfortunately, that is just the sign-in page for the second account.  It runs on Microsoft Outlook, and there are no helpful user links to click for “I forgot my password”.  (Insert Mac user’s rant about Microsoftware.)  An hour later, I have finally noodled through enough of the college’s Web site to have found where to set/re-set my password (and received no less than five unwanted pdf’s that automatically downloaded after clicking on an internal search-engine result).  Finally I can go back to that sign-in page.

Polysyllabic Expletive!

I have 21,059 e-mails.

I shit thee not; apparently the account was set up for me back in September of 2003. I had no idea it was there. I assumed that my other account was “the” account, because that was the address that all of the links and documents contained.

Obviously any e-mails before this year can be deleted.  There are so many because 99.9% of them seem to be list-serve messages sent to everyone at the college.

But Techies, GET A CLUE: it would be a good idea to set up a small routine to flag when you have users who have more than a couple hundred unread e-mails AND who have never sent any e-mails, so you can send them an alert by some means other than their e-mail account.

Crap, do I have some housekeeping to do. I have to read through the past month’s e-mails to make sure I’m not missing anything critical.  Anything else that’s critical, because I already missed something.

Then I have to figure out how to set one of the college’s e-mail systems to automatically forward to the other system.

Of course, that’s in addition to other little things this weekend, like teaching my Saturday class, writing the next three exams, figuring out how to use the grade-keeping program, grading the last two exams, and entering the two-week-point attendance (which information the secretary needs to drop anyone who hasn’t shown up).

3.

Now that I’m at home, I also have to listen to the household voice-mails on the land line.

Oh, and I ALSO need to slog through setting up my voice-mail account with the college as well!

  • Voice-mails on my mobile.
  • Voice mails at the house.
  • Voice mails at the college.
  • E-mails at home.
  • E-mails at the school.
  • E-mails at the college.
  • The other e-mails at the college.
  • The e-mails within class-access program for the two classes I teach (Blackboard, which has its own special set of glitches).

My inner child is now whining, “Do I gotta?”

I could just cry. Were I the prayin’ sort, I would be praying.  But I’m not. Were I the drinkin’ sort, I would be drinking.  But I’m not.  I’m the rocking sort. So I am going to sit here and rock, because that’s what I do when I’m stressed.  At this rate, I’m going to be walking around in circles and flapping too, before the night’s out.

Twenty-one thousand and fifty-nine.  Ye gods and little fishes!