Monday, December 31, 2007

Garbage Dropping

Somebody left a (dead) Christmas tree in front of our house, where our garbage goes for pick-up, in the dead of night. (That's really the best part, the dead-of-night part.)

We've had something similar happen a couple of times, most notably when someone left a broken computer monitor (on our property, not near the trash pick-up) for us to throw away, which you're supposed to PAY to have taken away, which I assume is why they dumped it in our yard, but fortunately the city didn't hassle us about it. So not often, but a few times over a few years.

I'm not particularly worried about it because I assume the city picks up trees (we have a fake one, so I wouldn't know), but I'm getting a little annoyed by the person or people who are using our garbage for their dumping ground. It doesn't hurt me, and I don't really care if someone walking on trash day picks up some litter and adds it to our cans. Whatever. (Really my only concern is that my neighbors might think I left a Christmas tree out for a week and a half for pickup instead of putting it out on actual trash day! And I certainly don't have an appropriate vehicle to haul it away.)

But the reason I mention it on my blog is I want to know: Is this a common problem in Peoria?
Is this teenaged prankery? Are there people who don't pay for garbage service, or don't get garbage service, and it's somehow easier to haul an entire Christmas tree to MY house instead of the dump?

Generally the worst problem we have in my neighborhood is a handful of teenaged hooligan wannabes who do a little petty vandalism, throw their trash on the ground, and think repeated New Year's Eve ding-dong ditching is hilarious. (Note to wannabe hooligans: This year, I am going to call the cops, not your parents.) So I can't imagine who this secret garbage dumper is or why he's doing it.

Luckily, we just got a neighborhood association going, so I'm going to mention it to my association and find out if it's common in the neighborhood -- and let the neighborhood watch know to keep an eye out for some jerk in a Zorro mask leaving random garbage!

Friday, December 28, 2007

Christmastravaganza + Lack of Oxygen

So despite the fact that we've been married five years, this is the first time Mr. McGee and I have had a Christmastravaganza where we visited BOTH families for the same holiday. I love everyone involved, but MAN do I feel for you guys who have to do this every year. It was exhausting. I don't really enjoy the process of traveling (I do like the "being other places" part, but not the getting there), and doing it over the holidays is of course extra difficult. Add to that that Mr. McGee's family is in Santa Fe, which means you have to drive from Peoria to somewhere with a major airport (Chicago), then fly to the nearest major airport to Santa Fe (Albuquerque), then drive to Santa Fe. Christmas travel between two minor cities is way annoying. We did, however, manage to get a direct ORD-ABQ flight, which hasn't happened in the past. A DFW layover would have made it superfantastically annoying. (Downside: the ORD-ABQ direct is on a Super-80, and Mr. McGee is clearly not built for a Super-80.)

Anyway, this is the third time in my life (possibly fourth, but I think third) that I've been above 5,000 feet, and the second time I've gotten altitude sick. (The first time was in Boulder, Colorado, at 5,430 feet.)

So Santa Fe is at about 7,000 feet (6,989 feet according to the USGS), and about 12 hours after arrival, I developed the most textbook case of altitude sickness ever (lack of appetite, extreme fatigue, dizziness, tingling, raging and endless headache). I know I've been much sicker (mono was a winner), but I'm not sure I've ever felt so comprehensively and systemically rotten, probably because I could even feel the headache in my sleep, and basically nothing made any of it feel any better, I guess because the root cause -- lack of oxygen -- remained constant. Luckily I recovered my appetite after a day or so, because my in-laws feed us GOOOOOOOOOD.

The craziest part of altitude sickness is that you can't predict who will get it, and whether you have or haven't had it in the past is absolutely no predictor of whether you'll suffer from it in the future! I could drop by La Paz, Bolivia (11,811 feet, highest capital in the world), tomorrow and be absolutely fine!

Anyway, I finally acclimated just about in time to drive back down the mountain to Albuquerque and fly to blessedly, blessedly low Chicago (586 feet) on Christmas Eve. And now I'm glad to be back in even lower Peoria (486 feet), though I'm staying the hell away from Peoria Heights from now on -- it's 789 feet above sea level, and I'm just not taking any chances!

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

At 5000 Feet ...

... it turns out that Eyebrows breaks. No ski vacations for Eyebrows.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Christmas Curmudgeon

I know this puts me in a tiny and reviled minority, but I really don't like "It's a Wonderful Life."

I just don't think bank failures and suicide attempts are very cheerful Christmas topics. I think it's the most depressing movie in the history of the universe, final redemption aside.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Are You Sure It's Cheating If I Copy Someone Else's Post?

Another semester draws to a close, and this time, I had three cheaters and a plagiarist. Firsts for me, and the whole experience was pretty traumatic. I have discovered there are basically two responses to cheating: "Fail 'em, they knew better," and "Oooooh, that's hard, what's going to happen to them if they fail?"

I, it turns out, am in the second camp. My syllabuses are quite clear that cheating in an ethics class, no matter how trivial the occasion, is an automatic fail, because you have clearly demonstrated a total lack of understanding of the material by cheating. But when faced with actual cheaters (including my plagiarist), I started worrying about what would happen to them if they flunked -- would they flunk out? Could they make up the hours? Would it mess up their program?

I know, I know, it's people like me who perpetuate a system where students think they can get away with it. Except really I don't, because I did fail them, I just felt really agonized about it. And in the end, I felt angry about it. Because, yes, these students did it to themselves. They knew better. They made the choice to cheat knowing the consequences (and of my three "plain" cheaters, all three of them probably would have passed without cheating!), and now they suffer the consequences they chose. (It's almost Kantian.)

But what makes it hard for me (and I suspect some of them realize this, at least intuitively, and this is why they think they can get away with it) is that even though they did it and they made the choice, I am the one who has to put that big fat "F" in the system and the academic misconduct report in their file. They are putting ME in the position of being the executioner, and I absolutely hate it.

I might actually be a little less offended if they'd cheated in a smart way -- do they really think I won't notice when they've been turning in written work all semester and suddenly the final paper is in an entirely different style and tone and about three giant leaps up in writing proficiency? -- but I guess if they were willing to put in that kind of work, they wouldn't have cheated in the first place. It's like, not only did they cheat, but they apparently think I'm too dumb to catch tricks a toddler would use: "Missing cake? What cake? Of course I didn't eat any cake, despite the fact that my breathe reeks of cake and there's cake mashed all over my face. The cake must have spontaneously combusted!"

Thursday, December 13, 2007

The One Thing I Cannot Bake

I dreamed the other night that all future internet programming would no longer be done in html or what have you, but in pastry dough. (What? It was a dream. They're not supposed to make sense.)

I found this extremely upsetting (in the dream), because the one thing I cannot bake to save my life is a decent pie crust.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Santa Drives a Honda, Or at Least His Old Lady Does

I pulled into Kroger today, parked, and as I got out of my car, saw SANTA in the passenger seat of the car next to me -- full white beard (real!), twinkling blue eyes, complete Santa get-up.

He gave me a grin and a wave and I felt about 4 years old and SUPER-excited.

I saw Santa!

Monday, December 10, 2007

Ice

Peoria is iced over once again, and while the main streets are fine, the side streets are a bit scary, and driveways are downright dangerous. I had several students unable to make it to my Sunday final because they simply couldn't leave their driveways. My own driveway is a solid sheet of ice, which I discovered to my woe when I stepped out the back door, slipped, and went down face-first. All the way down. Bloody palms, nose-an-inch-from-the-ice, ouch-my-knees down. (Also, "dammit, why don't I ever zip my messenger bag closed, now it's all over the friggin' driveway" down.)

I can't recall falling that hard since college, when the steps outside South Dining Hall had an unfortunate tendency to ice over completely, and everyone fell at least once. That time I slipped and fell on my ass, which I'm told is preferable because your ass is padded for just such occurrences, while forward-falls tend to result in broken wrists and things.

One thing I could never help laughing hysterically at, even though it's not really funny and it makes me a bad person that I laughed at it, was when a group of people would be walking to the dining hall, one would slip, grab his neighbor's shoulder for support, and end up taking down all five of them. Also amusing was someone stopping to help someone up, and ending up going down on top of them. (First lesson of living in South Bend: When helping someone back up, stand on the SNOW.)

I know pratfalls are a low form of humor, but I just find them hysterical. I can watch "America's Funniest Home Videos" for HOURS, provided said videos don't involve children doing "cute" things but rather feature people being hit in the nads with golf clubs and people slipping off things and people falling down. Not only will I watch it, but I'll laugh until my abs hurt.

Too bad nobody was videotaping me going splat on the driveway. My abs need the exercise!