Monday, July 30, 2007

Peoria PlayHouse Update

So I can't remember if I posted this or not, but this year I'm serving on the Peoria PlayHouse Committee. In the past when I shilled for them it was because I thought they were awesome, but now I'm actually the official shill because I'm in charge of PR. But still because I think they're awesome or I wouldn't be devoting hours upon hours of my life to it.

We've had a couple press releases go out in the last two weeks and I just wanted to highlight them really quickly. The first, which you can read in full here on the website, summarizes the progress of the project:

July 16, 2007, Peoria, IL – Working with partners from the Peoria Park District to the Peoria Chamber of Commerce Community Leadership School, the Junior League of Peoria is bringing The Peoria PlayHouse Children’s Museum, to be located in the Glen Oak Pavilion, ever closer to reality.

Programming at the Shoppes at Grand Prairie and Prairie Air Show provide education and fun for area children.

Fundraising on track with 30% of funds raised; a gift from Jackie and Curtis White establishes The Peoria PlayHouse Endowment Fund; area children participate in Pennies for the PlayHouse.

Facilities plans preserve historic Glen Oak Park pavilion while providing space for five permanent and one temporary exhibit, as well as educational and administrative spaces.
The other press release, which is on its way out, is for this Saturday's PlayHouse Jr. programming at the Shoppes at Grand Prairie. It starts with storytime at Borders (10:30 a.m.) and then there are activities (11 a.m.) indoors when the weather is bad and outdoors at the PlayHouse gazebo when it's nice out. This month's theme is "In the Trees" with three books about trees and then tree activities. I don't have kids, but I've volunteered at a couple of these PlayHouse Jr. events and they're a hoot. Last one I did was vegetables, and I spent a good 45 minutes making potato-stamp pictures with the kiddies (SO FUN!) and we had unusual veggies for the kids to sample. This one kid ended up taking home like all our jicama because he was so crazy about it. (I myself am not that big on jicama but I would be surprised if this 7 year old at anything else for the rest of the week.)

It's a fun free Saturday morning activity, and the kids range in age from "barely old enough to sit still through one book while sucking thumb" to about 10 years old.

Lunchtime Conversations

Eyebrows is sitting in a squeaky chair that keeps letting out little kitten-like mews when she moves.

Mr. McGee, noticing the squeaks: "That's my soul crying."

Eyebrows: "Your soul cries like a wuss."

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Make Mr. McGee Happy: Adopt a Cat

A specific cat. Take a look at Buster at the Tazewell shelter. Buster's a handsome & unusual-looking Siamese/marmalade mix who has diabetes. Like Orange Cat, Buster has diabetes and requires two shots a day. Mr. McGee, who is a serious soft touch where animals are concerned, is worried that nobody will adopt Buster because he's diabetic and now he's worrying about what would have happened to Orange Cat if nobody had adopted Orange Cat.

So if you are looking for a feline buddy, go take a look at Buster. Orange Cat's diabetes is super-easy to manage and even I, who am terrified of needles, can do the shots. As can three of my neighbors and all of my nearest relatives. Super-easy, I promise. If somebody doesn't step up and adopt Buster, Mr. McGee may never sleep again for worrying. And we seriously do not have room for a third cat! (Also Buster is not big enough to roll with the 20-lb. Godzilla-cats at this house. He might get smushed.)

Monday, July 23, 2007

July Garden Virtual Tour, & TV Appearance

Hi Bloggerinos! I'm back to WHOI tonight and I'll be on the 5 p.m. news, so tune in and check me out. I have lots and lots to blog about this week, too -- I'm tempted to post everything all at once!

I've finally uploaded my gardening pictures from earlier this month. They're a little out of date -- a few more things are blooming, and the squash has gotten farther on its world domination attempt -- but still pretty accurate. The sun has gotten far enough past the solstice that we now have shade on the patio by about 5:30 p.m. so it's lovely to sit out in the evening after work.

When you garden, you learn all kinds of fascinating things, like that this is what lettuce looks like when it grows up. Way up. Also it tastes like crap once it's done this. It's flowering out at the top there, you can just see, and by now, a couple weeks later, it has lots of seeds and looks real broomy up top.

Below you can watch a second Mapwing tour of my garden. Don't forget you can "turn around" on some of the points if you go through the tour manually. My first Mapwing tour is here. You can click here to visit the current one at Mapwing, or watch it embedded below!

Best. Spam. Ever.

Today I got spam (that slipped through my filters) entitled:

Release Helen or Troy Will Burn!

(It was for a fake drug that would help my alleged male genitalia grow to astonishing lengths.)

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Harry Potter (No Spoilers)

No Spoilers because the FedEx man hasn't brought the book yet, though I am already anxiously awaiting! I think being the FedEx man on Harry Potter release day must be the closest thing to being Santa Claus in this mortal world, both because they're delivering books to millions of children all over the world all in one day, and because everybody is DYING to see him and get the package he brings and he is the man bringing The Joy for today. The magic of online tracking tells me my book arrived at 10:11 a.m. yesterday at the East Peoria distribution center, but not when to expect my FedEx man today! Maybe I should put out cookies for him and carrots for his truck.

I read that the Vegas bookmakers' odds were running 90/10 in favor of Harry dying, which sort of makes me wish I was a betting woman, because I think that's ridiculous. It wouldn't fit the structure of the other six books at all if Harry died. I think it's most likely to be Neville, Hagrid, and/or an auxiliary Weasley (i.e., not Ginny or Ron).

As for Ron or Hermione dying, that seems highly unlikely to me as well, since they've been set up for romance since Book I. And for the people who were shocked -- SHOCKED! -- when they starting showing interest in each other about Book IV, I suggest a refresher course in English-language romantic literature: In English, we expect our romantic heroes and heroines to bicker first before they fall in love. Adds to the tension, sexual and otherwise. Try, oh, Pride and Prejudice (and Emma, to a lesser degree); any Shakespeare comedy but particularly Taming of the Shrew; the entire genre of trashy romance novels; When Harry Met Sally; and so forth. Straight-ahead romance is for continental-language literatures; English has always liked its romances sassier, and Ron and Hermione right from the first were clearly being set up to fall in love as well.

I hope FedEx man gets here early because I don't know how long I can avoid possible spoilers on the internet and TV!


DONE: And the only thing I have to say is, I always knew Mrs. Weasley & Neville kicked ass.

Monday, July 16, 2007

I Was Refused Care

Today I called a gynecological practice to make an appointment with a new gynecologist. I haven't had a gynecologist in quite some time (well, I haven't had a gynecologist EVER, but I got gynecological care through student health in grad school). I was referred to this practice by my family doctor as being best able to care for certain special medical needs I have, and it was specifically recommended by female friends when I asked around.

When I called, they told me I needed records from my last gynecologists. Well, I'd never had one, I told them. Pap smear? Not in quite a while, and Duke (for whatever stupid (and incidentally illegal) reason) keeps refusing to release my medical records to me.

Well in that case, I was told, we can't see you.


We can't see you.

They absolutely and categorically refused to provide gynecological care because I don't have a gynecologist! I asked if they were seriously refusing to provide care because of a lack of paperwork. Yes. I asked if they refused to see all new patients without prior gynecological care. Yes. So despite the fact that I am in need of medical care you refuse to see me because I haven't already HAD the medical care which I am in need of? YES.

I was almost literally speechless. I'm currently teaching medical ethics, as you know, and I was flabbergasted that a doctor would refuse to provide necessary care to a patient WITH insurance who CAN pay who was REFERRED by a primary care physician in the same hospital network ... !

What if I was actively pregnant and in need of prenatal care? What if I was ill and in need of urgent care rather than routine care? Apparently it makes no difference. Unless I have a CURRENT gynecologist, I can't see THIS gynecologist.

I made Mr. McGee call over, I was too upset, and the nurse HE spoke with said lack of prior records are NOT a bar to being seen and apologized for the way I was treated. So perhaps I just got one really mean and uncaring and hidebound nurse. This nurse suggested I have my primary care physician call over so we can bypass the problem person and get me a faster appointment, so I'm doing that now and hopefully can get this problem solved.

At least I have something for my medical ethics class to talk about tonight. I am seriously appalled.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Well, It IS from Peoria ....

The other day I started eating a pita and I was like, "This smells a little funny," but I have a notoriously bad sense of smell so it took a few bites before I looked and realized --



I spent the next several hours saying to the now-trashed pita, "Please have been penicillin! Please have been penicillin!"

I was none the worse for wear, so it must have been. Penicillin was, after all, synthesized in quantity in Peoria during WWII, and -- grossest thing I have ever learned -- a worldwide search revealed the preferred and most prolific strain of penicillin was found on a moldy cantaloupe found at a Peoria market in 1941.

If you were the market, is this the kind of thing you advertise or not?

Friday, July 13, 2007

Groceries of the Beast?

It's Friday the 13th ... and my grocery bill was $66.66 ...



(I do have a bunch of garden pics to put up but I haven't had time to get them off my camera yet!)

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Pretirement Is Hard (and Random Roommate Anecdotes)

Eyebrows's family has been doing all the exciting things this past couple weeks. My youngest brother got his AP scores back, which he rocked out; my sister continues living in Ireland (which continues to be exciting merely by virtue of hello, it's IRELAND); my uncle, who's a Washington lobbyist, appeared on page A5 of the Journal-Star, and I was like, "Hey, I totally know that guy!" and it was a nice change from my other recent experiences of seeing people I know in the newspaper.

But mostly the excitement has been my parents, who have officially entered pretirement. They've got a townhouse in North Carolina (for complicated reasons, my parents are currently employed in two entirely different states, but my mom teaches so she has the summer off) which I have dubbed their "pretirement home" because as of August when my youngest brother starts college, they're officially empty nesters after nearly 30 years of parenthood.

My dad is apparently dealing with pretirement by exercising 24/7. He has always been an exercise nerd, but now he has all this free time that's not being devoured by four children and their extracurricular events, so he can go trail biking in the mountains and golf and jog and then walk downtown to dinner for good measure all in one day. My mother is not an exercise nerd, but my dad is sucking her into his exercise mania.

I think my parents need more hobbies or when actual retirement kicks in and all their time is free, they're going to either stare at each other for hours on end or both end up looking like Arnold.

On a totally unrelated small world note, one of the very first people my dad met at work in Mt. Airy told him she went to the Methodist church in Harmony (what church you go to is a typical opening conversational gambit in North Carolina). And my dad was like, "Who's the pastor again?" And the woman told him and my dad was like, "Dude, my daughter totally roomed with your pastor's wife in divinity school." Except my dad doesn't say dude. Or totally. And the conversation took longer than that. But my grad school roommate, who co-celebrated my wedding, and her husband are pastoring it up in rural North Carolina and randomly ended up 40 miles from my dad. She and I were among the only Midwesterners at Duke and our accents and voices sounded SO MUCH THE SAME that neither our mothers nor our fiances could tell us apart on the phone.

After she got married I roomed with a Maori from New Zealand so we were spending a lot of time with other international students, and we had this huge ice storm that resulted in a massive power outage that lasted 10 days in some places, and these two Israeli girls we knew stayed with us, because we lived next to the mall so our power was turned back on first. (God bless capitalism.) And they were totally appalled that power actually goes out in America. "But it is the United States! There should not be power outages here! It is the most powerful country in the world!" they kept saying.

"Yes," I replied. "And that gives us power over the weather."

But I sort-of felt for them because most foreign students who come to the U.S. are expecting New York City or L.A. When they go to schools like Notre Dame or Duke, particularly when they're from little bitty countries you can drive across in a couple hours, I think the whole thing is a little appalling when they discover they're in the back ass of beyond and it takes a good 12 hours to drive to New York City from beyond's ass and that the vast majority of the landmass of America is a lot more like South Bend or Durham or Peoria than it is like New York City. That, or covered with corn.

Which takes me back to my Midwestern roommate. We both had major car problems when we first moved to Durham and we could not figure out what it was. (My Maori roommate just kept trying to kill herself making left turns into oncoming traffic; they drive on the other side of the road in New Zealand.) One night we were sitting watching TV and talking about our cars and I said, "My engine has been making the most terrible noises."

"Mine too," she said. "But I think I finally figured out what it is."

"Oh yeah?"


Long pause.

"Yeah, I guess they don't really have those where we're from."

Thursday, July 05, 2007

As It Turns Out, Cats Dislike Jackhammers

We are having some concrete work done, consisting at this moment of having the old concrete removed so the new concrete can be poured. I have one cat freaking out and standing on my lap, periodically launching onto my desk to look out the window for the horrible, horrible noise, and the other cat huddled miserably at my feet, curling up against the CPU and snuggling it for comfort. (Orange Cat believes the CPU is his friend because it is warm and purrs at him. Whenever the drive spins up, he head-butts it or snuggles it and purrs back. I shudder to think what the inside of the CPU looks like at this point.)

Grey Cat was unusually glad to see us when we got back from the wedding, and ever since he has been head-butting and kneading us like crazy. This is cute, except that he weighs 20 lbs and likes to knead on our ribs, with the result that I'm not sure either of us has an unbruised rib left. His head-butts, as I'm sure I've mentioned before, are not just head-butts but ATOMIC head-butts wherein you periodically fear he just rammed you hard enough to break your nose. This is his preferred method of waking us up lately: walking up my ribs, purring madly, and then headbutting me like a pro-wrestler. He gets ecstatic when I shove him off me ("She's petting me!") and then goes and does it to Mr. McGee. And then me again. And then him again. Until one of us either gets up for real, or locks him in the bathroom so he'll quit it.

Turning on my side doesn't help, because it actually hurts a lot more to have 20-lbs. of cat in the soft part of your side than on your stomach. Turning on my stomach makes it feel like the best Swedish massage EVER as he trots up my spine, but the perverse feline will only rarely walk up me when I turn on my stomach. No exposed facial features to headbutt, I suppose.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Office Supply Discombobulation

My stapler spontaneously disassembled yesterday while I was in the midst of stapling. This was problematic because, well, I needed to staple things and it turns out that I do not, in fact, own a back-up stapler. But I have never seen an office supply spontaneously disassemble before, so I'm still kinda being impressed by that.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Grading Papers, Grading Businesses, and Grade II Suzuki

Today I am engaging in one of the less-tasteful tasks of a professor, which is grading two dozen of the same paper. Typically for daily assignments and for essay portions of exams, I give my students options to choose from, so I'm only grading a handful of matching essays, but this essay is a five-pager and they're all on the same topic.

This is for a medical ethics class, and one of the things I think is most important for students to learn in an ethics class (any ethics class) is to see the other side of the issue. People always have reasons for the things they believe. Sometimes stupid, insane reasons, but reasons. You can't function as a mature adult in society (notice I said mature) if you're incapable of understanding the fact that other people don't think differently from you because they're a) morons or b) doing it to spite you. (This also removes virtually every cable TV pundit from maturity.)

So after canvassing their opinions on abortion to know which side each student was on, I assigned them to write a paper supporting the other side of the abortion issue, presenting at least three arguments in sufficient depth that I could tell they understood the arguments and the underlying logic for them. I also had them write a short "response" to the assignment saying what they thought about doing the assignment. About half my students think I am the meanest person on the face of the planet, and about half were gratifyingly challenged and said they really learned something.

The part I didn't really think about when I assigned the paper, though, is that I now have two dozen papers on abortion to read and grade. Doh!


Since one of the things I like to do on this blog is compliment local businesses that Do Not Suck, I'm thinking of creating a page where I list those out that I've particularly recommended and link back to that post. I thought of this because Fred once again repaired my shoes (some of my favorite shoes, these adorable brown leather sandals with 2.5" heels that are like walking on air) for free. Do my local readers think that's a good/useful idea?


I am attempting to learn to play violin. I played for a couple years starting when I was 7ish, but I sucked fairly comprehensively and switched to bass, mostly because they told me I was too short to play bass. If there's one way to ensure Eyebrows does something, it's to tell her she can't. One of my music directors in high school knew this and used to announce in front of the entire jazz band, "Eyebrows will never be able to play this bassline," because he knew I'd be so eager to prove him wrong I'd practice the crap out of that thing, and it absolutely infuriated me because I knew he was doing it on purpose to manipulate me but I still couldn't help my driving need to prove him wrong.

Anyway, when I switched to bass, I was suddenly good. The violin never sang for me, but the bass sang like a bird (like a whale? It's much lower-voiced than a bird) the minute I picked it up. Played bass all the way up through college, before law school took away my organized performing groups and free time. Bass isn't much of a solo instrument so it's not much fun without an ensemble. Bass is also not an easy instrument to store. My Fender (1994 P-Bass in sunburst coloring, for the guitar nerds) always moved with me but my upright bass (blond viol-bodied with a very clean voice and surprising upward projection for a narrow-shouldered bass, for the string nerds) was a sticky wicket. (Yes, it's taller than me. Yes, I've heard every possible joke on that theme.)

I had always sort-of wanted to play violin again after I got more musically-educated (most music nerds end up dilletantes on several instruments -- I can also play French horn, piano, guitar, and a few other things, all fairly badly) but my calluses were so thick I couldn't actually feel the violin strings. They were much too small. (When I was playing the most, I could hold the fingertips of my left hand in a candle flame and not feel it because they were nothing but callus. This is a great party trick.) Well, now I have no calluses left at all -- my fingers bleed if I try to play bass too long -- so I dragged out an old student violin whose pegs are super-lazy about holding their tuning and found my Suzuki books from when I was seven and I'm working my way through book 2. I still suck pretty comprehensively, and it's frustrating because my musicality is the musicality of someone who's been playing for 23 years now and my skills are the skills of a fumble-fingered 7-year-old. But I'm learning!