Thursday, November 30, 2006

Snowmageddon!

Hoping for the snow day!

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Scavenging and Recycling

This is possibly the dumbest question I've ever asked, but I'm hoping someone can explain it to me. I was chatting with a scavenger this morning while he worked my street pulling cans and other metal recyclables from people's trash and recycling bins (it's trash day at Eyebrows' house). It helps him put food on the table, and there are places on the south side of Peoria I've passed many times that advertise for cans and scrap metal and whatnot. They usually pay by the ton, so it's not worth the effort of an individual, but -- and here we get to my question -- why are we asked to pay extra for recycling service when there are companies that want our recyclables and scavengers who are willing to pick it up, sort it, and make money off it?

I mean, it's not exactly the world's greatest job and I'm not so foolish as to think one can make a LIVING at it, but I've read about a lot of folks who do it as a sideline for a little extra cash when their minimum wage jobs don't pay enough. (Although I actually have a friend who guts other people's broken appliances for the copper wiring and piping and splits the proceeds with them -- he got $700 off one pipe-laden thing!) So I'm just curious about the economics -- if it makes sufficient economic sense for individuals to scavenge recyclables, and for some companies to pay for recyclables, why do we pay the garbage guys to take our recyclables away when, in fact, they're a valuable commodity?

(Or at least some of them are. I gather mostly metal and paper products, not plastic.)

Do people just object to scavengers in their neighborhoods, or is it an inadequate way to ensure collection of scrap?

(This would also, I suspect, make an interesting thesis on market economics and supply and demand and government services and all that stuff for some enterprising economics student, since it has all the pieces -- a valuable commodity, a population willing to do the work to make money off it, a government interfering in the market for non-economic reasons.)

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

What Ever Happened to ...?

Plumber man is here and fixing my shower, glorious day. We've had no water pressure for two weeks -- but a constant leak. He's my new favorite contractor because he not only showed up, he came EARLY. (O'Brien Plumbing. Ask for Troy. He likes cats.)

In the meanwhile, I was wondering about a few local stories I seem to have missed the ends of.

Did they ever catch that home invader on Peoria's north side? We were all freaking out, and then suddenly there was just no more news about it.

Aaaaaaand having been called to go look at my new shower, I have totally forgotten my other question. Instead we'll go with, now that my ethnic foods mart has closed, where else can I go for basmati rice in bulk?

Oh, and is there anywhere in Peoria you can rent snowshoes and go snowshoeing?

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Mr. Holland's Opus

Mr. Holland's Opus does me in every time -- I end up bawling. I haven't seen it since it first came out, but my parents have On Demand cable.

What does me in isn't the movie itself, though, but that it's so expressive of MY music teachers in elementary, junior high, and high school. By some miracle I became "musical" -- neither of my parents are -- so I can absolutely understand how horrific it is to listen to beginning students attempt to learn to play musical instruments. It doesn't just hurt your ears -- it hurts your SOUL. The kind of gift it requires to listen to a young musician mangle note after note after note is rare and precious. They ought to be paid more than Jack Welch. He just has to run a company. Elementary music teachers have to listen to children butcher -- and butcher -- and butcher the very words of the soul.

I started on piano, when I was six or so, in private lessons with the organist at the Presbyterian church. In second grade, I started on violin. My district had an excellent band and orchestra program, and in second grade, I started torturing professional musicians with my incompetence. I never got very good at violin. In eighth grade, I switched to bass. Bass knew my hands. Bass wanted me to play it. I knew the bass before I ever met it. The bassist before me had graduated, and they needed a bassist. They told me I was too short to play bass, which was an absolute guarantee that I was going to play bass -- I refuse to be told I can't do something. It was in 8th grade, when I started on bass, that they told me I was going to play jazz. OY! An entire new universe!

In high school I played string ensemble, symphony orchestra, jazz band, jazz ensemble, show choir, pit orchestra -- in my senior year, I played in nine performing groups. The thing is, I'm not particularly musical. I wasn't one of the musicians going to Oberlin. I wasn't majoring in music. I played Tchaikovsky. I played Stravinsky. I played Glenn Miller, Louis Armstrong, and John Coltrane. Gifted, long-suffering musicians taught me. They listened to me. They rebuked me, retrained me, educated me.

At 28, what do I have? I'm not playing with the Chicago Symphony. I'm not playing with the Peoria Symphony. I'm just a lawyer, a lawyer with shelves and shelves of classical and jazz albums, with an iPod stuffed full of the greats.

Most public schools are cutting music. You don't have to play music to learn to read, or add, or find Belgium. It's not "useful." But I have to think that these bureaucrats in Springfield cutting music budgets never marched in high school marching band, or never played in high school symphony. Do they go to the yearly IMEA meetings and concerts? I can't imagine they do. Did they meet Gershwin when they were 13 years old? Did they know that the janitor's favorite piece was "Rhapsody in Blue"? Did they learn to play it to please him? Do they even know there are janitors who love Gershwin?

Cutting music is a mistake. I don't know if I can even list the things it did for me. Perhaps the most important thing it taught me was to work my ASS off, in a variety of styles -- marching band, symphony, jazz band. It taught me to appreciate the past, and be interested in the present, including the Northwestern graduate student's symphonic piece that involved us basses saying, "broccoli broccoli broccoli." (Not so much for me, but he was trying.) I learned leadership. I learned teamwork. I learned -- and this is totally not to be underestimated -- how to put one foot in front of the other in tempo. This is not a skill that comes naturally to me!

Music blew open my brain to a universe of beauty I otherwise wouldn't have access to, and the doormen were brave men and women who loved music so much they were willing to listen to me butcher their great love just so they could open that door to me. Most of us aren't born Mozarts, and it takes the long-suffering music teachers of the world to coax us into the world of notes and rests and fortissimos so we can appreciate the gift they're offering us.

Did music get me into college? I think it's likely. My academic grades kicked ass, but it was music that made me dimensional. But beyond that, music opened my soul to an entire world of beauty and art that, long after my GPA has faded from my memory, continues to feed the very center of my being. Live music, 20 year later, makes me cry -- not because it's so beautiful, although it is, but merely because it's so soul-filling. Once you learn the hunger for music, you're never satisfied without it.

So to me, Mr. Holland's Opus is a love note to the many music teachers who gave me the gift of jazz. Of classical. Of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. Who shuddered in their inner souls as they listened to us butcher the basic tunes that form the stepping stones that will one day lead us to Stravinsky, Mussorgsky, Prokofiev.

Those teachers dug a starving hole in my soul, and I'll be filling it for the rest of my life with the transcendence of music --

And I can never, ever thank them enough for that hunger.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

USC vs. ND

So bummed I can't even type. :(

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

That's Perfesser McGee to You

During my last several weeks of infected misery, one bright spot was that I had an awful lot of reading to do to keep me entertained. In the spring I'm going to be teaching a class on business ethics at ICC as an Adjunct Professor of Philosophy, which means I'll be busting my ass for less money than I made in high school as a minimum wage slave. I am PSYCHED.

I'm ever so slightly bemused that I'm a professor of philosophy, since philosophers and theologians have strong opinions on one another and on one another's disciplines (ah, sibling rivalry), but I'm really pumped for the class. I'm happy with the texts I'm using (a rare thing in intro philosophy classes, I've found) and I just really like to teach. (Possibly because I am quite fond of the sound of my own voice.)

I'll also be teaching a second, totally different class in the spring. Through the Peoria Park District, I'll be teaching a class for kids about 8 to 12 on making clothes for American Girl dolls. One thing I haven't really talked about on my blog is my sewing; I embroider more or less constantly. I like to keep my hands busy, and I find it calming. This year I've been learning to make doll clothes -- I can't afford to keep framing as much stuff as I'm embroidering! -- as a way to improve my real-people-clothes-making skills. Making them in doll scale is faster and a lot less expensive, so I can experiment and make more mistakes. (Also I can do it by hand in a reasonable amount of time -- I prefer hand sewing to machine sewing because I do it for relaxation. Hand-sewing for full-sized people takes too long.)

Anyway, while I started it as a way to learn new techniques and improve my skills, I actually ended up enjoying making these tiny cute little outfits. I was never a doll girl growing up -- I preferred Legos -- so my entire family is amused that I'm outfitting this doll with a complete wardrobe, but hello! fashion!

So in the spring I'll be teaching a four-week class for little girls (or boys, I suppose - sewing is a life skill everyone should have at least minimal comptence at!) where they'll make a basic apron, a nightgown, and then, if they have time, a basic dress for American Girl or other 18" dolls. The nightgown is a great base pattern for all kinds of things, from bathrobes to dresses to sweaters, so they'll be able to head home with the pattern and keep sewing if they want to. Plus, do you know what those American Girl outfits COST? Sheesh! $5 in supplies at Hobby Lobby and you can keep your kid busy for weeks making her own.

So come spring I shall be Eyebrows McGee, Professor of Philosophy and Doll Couturier Extraordinaire.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Not Dead Yet!

This is my third official day out of bed, by which I mean I'm only sleeping 12 to 16 hours, and I think I'm going to live. What's more, I may even be happy about it. There's actual groceries in the house, the kitchen is no longer a model of squalor, and I can sit up for longer than 2 hours at a time. Happy days!

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Update to the Blogroll

I've finally updated my blogroll over on the left there. Adventures in HTML are always a strain for me, although I think I now have the whole "making links" thing down pretty well. I haven't broken my blog and required emergency digital rescue in like 8 months.

Anyway, I've added Knight in Dragonland and Give Me a Bouncy C over to the "In Peoria" blogs (although technically Knight isn't in PEORIA, but let's not be picky).

In the Elsewhere section, I've added a link to a serialized online novel a friend of mine is writing, Warriors of the Sun God. You should check it out.

I've also added links to two blogs from across the pond that actually have a fair amount in common although they're on wildly different topics. Psychology for the Masses is by a friend of mine who's a graduate student in psychology in the Netherlands, who blogs about psychology in the real world in a way accessible to the educated layman. Myth and Magic in Popular Culture comes from a friend in Sweden with a self-taught expertise in mythology so brilliant she's already been plagiarized and that plagiarism published. She also writes about the intersection of an academic field with everyday life, and does it in a very accessible way.

Also take a moment to note that both of these women are writing on arcane, complex topics in ENGLISH THAT IS BETTER THAN MINE when it's a second (or third) language for each. It makes me feel so embarassingly monolingual.

If I was supposed to add your blog and forgot, send me a link so I can do that. I'm feeling HTML brave and may get to it before, you know, Christmas.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

He Has a Point

Eyebrows: "I guess I have to go to the grocery store. Do you want anything?"

Mr. McGee: "I need syrup."

Eyebrows: "Nobody NEEDS syrup."

Mr. McGee: "But how else am I going to stay this sweet?"

Eyebrows: "..........."

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

My Doctor, Unlike the Rest of Peoria, Has No Idea Who I Am

I haven't been blogging much lately because I've been ill, and because it seems like everything in my life has been in the category of "annoying, but not the funny-to-blog-about kind of annoying." Yes, wedding industry, I mean you.

Anyway, I got a sinus infection back in September. September 14, specifically, because I was on vacation and then had to fly transatlantically a couple days later. That's the kind of thing that sears the date into your brain. It's been mostly a low-level sinus infection, the kind that is bad enough to hurt and make me grumpy and miserable, but not bad enough that anyone wants to give me antibiotics for it.

Every time I go to see my doctor, he acts like he has never seen me before in his life. This is a little weird, because he knows who my husband is and remembers, like, every detail about him. In fact, he remembers me when I'm in context with my husband -- we typically go to one another's yearly physicals, primarily because if my husband had an arm entirely cut off and was spurting blood on all available surfaces, when we got to the doctor and they said, "What's your pain level on a scale of 1 to 10?" he'd reply, "Oh, maybe a 2 -- it itches a little bit." In the six years we have been together he has twice required urgent medical care and both times he was an idiot about it, once calling me to say, "I'm gushing blood -- do you think I should call an ambulance? No, I think I'll drive over. It's not that bad." and once refusing ambulance transport from the scene of a car accident and then calling me 20 minutes later to say, "I think I need a doctor." (But when we got to the doctor, he claimed, "Oh, it's not that bad.")

Anyway, every time *I* go to the doctor, he acts like he has never seen me before in his life. I went in for my sinus infection, and he started explaining how sinus infections work to me. This is the FOURTH TIME he's seen me for sinus infections in the two years I've been seeing him. And the FOURTH TIME he's asked me if I've ever had one before. And the FOURTH TIME he's tried to make me go get a CAT scan before he'll diagnose. And the FOURTH TIME he's refused me antibiotics. And the FOURTH TIME he's told me it's probably allergies, not a sinus infection.

This last makes me particularly irritated. I understand how doctors get irate about patients self-diagnosing, so I try to pretend like I'm not self-diagnosing even when I am. However, I've had sinus infections about twice a year since I was 16. I've had allergies for ages. With more than a decade's experience, I'M PRETTY CLEAR ON THE DIFFERENCE IN HOW THEY FEEL IN MY PERSONAL HEAD.

When I was in college, I had a sore throat so swollen I couldn't talk or eat and I felt like crap. When I went to the doctor, he insisted it was strep. I protested (in a whisper) that it didn't feel like strep. He waved off my objection and insisted it was strep, and when the strep test came back negative, said the tests were sometimes wrong, and it was strep. A week later, having not eaten solid food at all in several days, I ended up in the ER for the same thing. The doctor there insisted it was strep. I told him the strep test was negative and the antibiotics obviously were not helping, and IT FELT NOTHING LIKE STREP. He waved off this objection, ran ANOTHER strep test that came back negative, and told me it was strep again.

Well, a week later, I ended up an inpatient in the hospital, semi-conscious for 48 hours and on IV fluids for three days, in the hospital on vicoden and steroids for a week, with a case of advanced, untreated mononucleosis that almost killed me, that the nurse diagnosed as soon as she SAW me, which was GOING AROUND CAMPUS AT THE TIME I GOT SICK!

So you can understand my extra-special suspicion of doctors who refuse to believe me when I say "This doesn't feel like X" or "I've had X 30 times, and this feels like X."

There are basically two kinds of doctors in the world, those who appreciate patients who participate in their own health, and those who find this annoying. My doctor is clearly the 2nd kind. Probably I'm a little more participatory than most people, for two reasons: I refuse to have a repeat of the mono incident, and I'm a lawyer. Someone once told me that the job of being a lawyer is basically to become an expert on a particular area really fast. When I get prescribed a new drug, I go and read all the literature on it. I guess this isn't normal, but I'd do the same if I were working on a case involving the drug, so if I'm putting it in my body, obviously I'm going to do it. I generally ask my doctors to explain the course of treatment and why it's been chosen. Yeah, I'm not a doctor, but I'm accustomed to becoming expert enough on a strange topic to try a case in a very short period of time. If I were trying medical malpractice cases, I'd have to know as much about the particular treatment as the doctors who were doing it.

So the last straw for me was with my doctor this week when he tried to send me for a CAT scan for the fourth time (the man is freakishly in love with unnecessary diagnostics, I swear. I can't tell you how many blood tests I've had in two years with him), looked at my meds and said, "Who prescribed THIS?" in shock and didn't believe me when I said, "YOU, LAST YEAR!" and then attempted to put me on a drug regime contraindicated in the latest literature that I, moreover, personally feel is inappropriate for my situation given my prior reaction to the drugs. It's guaranteed to maximize negative side-effects without adequately treating the condition. He brushed of my concerns (which were carefully couched in "I'm not self-diagnosing" language).

So the upshot of all of this is that I'm in the second month of my sinus infection, which has migrated to my ear and my gums, leaving me with an intermittently swollen right side of my face so I look like a demented, lopsided chipmunk. My doctor won't treat the infection at all unless I get a CAT scan to prove it's my sinuses despite my OBVIOUSLY SWOLLEN FACE, despite my excruciating pain, and despite my objections that it's been a low-level, on-and-off sort of infection (and no longer confined to my sinuses!). In the past I've just waited until a Sunday and gone to urgent care, where they give me antibiotics without CAT scans and can't make me go see my regular doctor because it's a Sunday. But I think we've clearly gotten beyond that point and it's time for me to find a new doctor. Preferably one who believe me when I tell him, "I've lived in this body for 28 years."

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Grey Cat Loves Hallowe'en

Grey Cat could tell something was up by 4 o'clock, before the trick-or-treaters even started coming. This is a cat who ADORES Hallowe'en. All the coming and going of all the short people (Grey Cat loves children -- he's like, "Hrm, it SMELLS like a person but it's so SHORT and it keeps tipping over!"), all the different costumes and smells, he just loves it. Gets totally wound up.

I put a chair for myself near the door so I could sit while waiting for the trick-or-treaters and watching Treehouse of Horror ("and always twirling, twirling, twirling towards freedom!") and, as usual, the first time I stood up to hand out candy, Grey Cat stole my chair and refused to relenquish it. He's a big cat, remember, about 20 lbs., and a total brawler, so when he decides he's willing to bite even ME to keep his chair, he usually gets to keep it. Besides, I had to keep getting up to hand out candy and he kept stealing it if I threw him off. I ended up having to bring myself a second chair so I'd have somewhere to sit.

He watched with his one wide eye, lit with inner insanity, and not once did he make a break for freedom as he usually does when the door opens. Not when he might miss any of a ongoing pageant of short-statured strangers coming to the house. In between callers, he entertained himself by viciously attacking his own tail and generally being so totally hyper the slightest motion made him jump. Hallowe'en is like metaphysical catnip to him.

He was popular with the trick-or-treaters, too, since he was so big and bold and one-eyed and staring right at them. An excellent Hallowe'en doorman.

We only had around 150 trick-or-treaters this year, which was fewer than last year (when it rained). When we finally ran out of trick-or-treaters, Grey Cat had to gallop around the house five or six times to get out his crazy because he was so wound up, then he collapsed and slept like a very tired log for almost 12 hours, not even waking up to bother me for breakfast at some ungodly pre-dawn hour.

"It's a good thing you don't live in the jungle, Grey Cat," we reminded him, as we always do when he wears himself out and sleeps like this, so heavily we can actually pick him up and move him somewhere else without him waking up. "Tigers would eat you."

He did not even twitch.