Saturday, December 27, 2008

Bits & Pieces

So they say by this age (18 weeks), Flippy can loosely hear things outside the womb, and that songs the fetus is exposed to a lot in the womb are calming and soothing after the fetus is born.

This led me to the slightly uneasy conclusion that Flippy will probably go down for all his or her naps to the driving strains of trance music (such as this), since that's what I always like to have on when I'm working.

-----

NOBODY likes ANY name I pick out for the Oscar-Cat. I'm tempted to call him Stubby Cat now, no matter what anybody thinks, because his legs are about three sizes too short for his body.

Anyway, last night we learned that Oscar Cat DOES NOT like thunderstorms. There was piteous crying and wailing every time it thundered. I patted the bed up near me so he could come get petted and maybe calm down, but this just resulted in him attacking my hand with all available teeth and claws. Uncool, dude.

-----

I had a slightly less-merry-than-expected Christmas, as I came down with a stomach flu (RIGHT when I'd finished with morning sickness! So unfair!) and I wasn't able to travel to the family Christmas. But my family came down through the fog and ice to see me on the 26th, so that was cheery at least. And at least I have plenty of video games and books to keep me entertained.

My mother pointed out if I keep this up, I'll be a size 2 after I give birth, since apparently I'm not going to actually digest anything I attempt to eat until spring. :P

(Grey Cat's latest trick, incidentally, was an attempt to comfort me with headbutting while I was attempting to worship the porcelain goddess. This almost ended EXTREMELY BADLY.)

Monday, December 22, 2008

Christmas Cat Blogging

Okay, now I've gone and gotten all self-conscious about my "cat-blogging." But the cats have fans who want to know why I'm not blogging about them! So here's your update.

Beige Cat -- That's the new one. My mom said she'd disown me if I called him "Weird Cat" or "Photoshopped Cat" on my blog. Maybe Striped Cat? Still working on it. Anyway, Beige Cat is settling in nicely, though he only likes Mr. McGee and me when we're sleeping. Standing-up humans scare him.

But Beige Cat LOVES Grey Cat. There was an initial period of skepticism, and of course there's still plenty of wrestling, but Beige Cat ADORES Grey Cat. Beige Cat follows him around the house, insists on sleeping curled up against him, wants to eat the food Grey Cat drops instead of the perfectly good food in Beige Cat's bowl ... it's insane. Beige Cat does a lot of kneading of Grey Cat's belly, which is what kittens to do their moms. Grey Cat constantly has this look on his face like, "Whiskey. Tango. Foxtrot." But he's being pretty tolerant about the whole thing.

Beige Cat's most disconcerting habit, to Grey Cat's mind, is attack snuggling. Beige Cat will be racing around the house being crazy and kittenish, spot Grey Cat, and go racing over, purr motor already running, to LEAP upon Grey Cat and snuggle on top of him (falling immediately asleep as kittens and babies do). I sort-of feel like this is payback, as Grey Cat weighs 20 lbs. and frequently leaps upon ME unexpectedly to look for snuggles, and it's very funny to watch Grey Cat get startled awake (yet again) by the bundle of Beigeness that is DETERMINED to love him to pieces.

On the plus side, Grey Cat has regained his waistline since we got Beige Cat. Grey Cat had gotten a little tubby as Orange Cat slowed down and the two spent most of their time sleeping ... and then as Orange Cat quit eating and Grey Cat started some opportunistic food theft. In just a month or so, Grey Cat has slimmed down considerably, which makes him look much less like a cuddly fluffball and much more like a linebacker/professional mafia kneecapper. I'd forgotten quite what a bruiser he is under all that fur!

Friday, December 19, 2008

And the Bun Keeps Cookin' ...

Latest checkup shows fetal heart rate at 155 bpm, everything moving along normally!

I have a twitter stream where I'm twittering minor baby updates (at first it was mostly complaints about barfing, now it's cheerier). It's a private stream; if you'd like in, e-mail me via the link in the upper left there. :)

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

... and Baby Makes Three. McGees.

Because we've come to the point where people start to awkwardly wonder if I had a giant burrito for lunch or if something else is going on, it's time to confess, blogosphere, that something else is going on. Specifically, I am pregnant.

We're thrilled, of course. We've seen Flippy on ultrasound, and we've named him/her/it Flippy because it was so frantically paddling its then-flippers at the 8 weeks ultrasound that the tech had to chase Flippy down to get a heartbeat -- and warned us we were in for it, as they're never this active that early. (Where d'you think you're going there, Chief?)

I am 15 weeks along, and I've had a fairly epic battle with morning sickness, so it hasn't been a fun first trimester. Other than class, I've been basically house-bound since the end of October. It seems to be tapering off, knock on wood, so hopefully I'll get to this magical part of pregnancy everyone keeps telling me about where it's "fun" soon.

So the answer to basically every question you've had for me for the last three months is, "pregnant."

Eyebrows, why were you so tired and boring the last time I saw you out? Pregnant.
Eyebrows, why haven't I seen you out among people since Halloween? Pregnant.
Eyebrows, why haven't you blogged in like forever? Pregnant, and it was hard to think of other things to blog about when one topic was totally consuming my mind and I couldn't say anything!
Eyebrows, how did you manage to sprain your wrist? I was racing for the bathroom and Grey Cat thought I was going somewhere fun and played the underfoot game, resulting in me tripping on him and falling really hard, spraining my wrist. Or, short version: Pregnant.

Flippy is due to arrive May 29, although fetuses are notoriously bad at observing calendar dates.

And now I have to tell the story I've been dying to tell since I found out I was pregnant, because it was hilarious and I had to keep it all to myself. I went in to get the blood drawn to confirm the pregnancy, and the first thing that had happened to me as soon as I got pregnant was that my fingers swelled up so huge I couldn't get my wedding ring on (they remain huge), and the second thing was that I got really emotional, especially right at first. The day of the blood draw I'm all bloaty so I'm wearing my loose jeans and a grubby T-shirt. Meanwhile, we just switched textbooks for intro philo this semester, so I'm sitting in the waiting room highlighting away as I prep for class.

One nurse comes out and asks the other, "Is Eyebrows here?"

Nurse Two replies, "I think she's the student with the textbook there."

I'm just like, "Whatever," and the nurse comes to get me and I follow her back to get the blood drawn. The nurse leaves, and sitting there I start to feel kinda-of emotional as the enormity of "Holy crap, I'm pregnant!" hits me. The nurse comes back a minute later, and asks in a somewhat concerned tone, "Now, who is this Mr. McGee who's on your chart, is he the father?" (Because recall, my husband and I have different last names.)

At this, I just BURST into tears, mostly because I'm overwhelmed and full of hormones. But the nurse has now decided I'm a pregnant unwed college student.

"Is this a good thing? Are you unhappy about the pregnancy?" she asks, in a very concerned and sympathetic tone.

"I'm married *sob* and he's my *sob* husband but *sob* I just can't *sob* get my wedding ring *sob* on," I wailed. "I'm really *sob* excited *sob, hiccup*."

It still makes me giggle.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Why I'm Running

As you may have heard or seen, I am running for District 150 School Board, for the 3rd District seat that Mary Spangler is vacating. I don't promise this post will be elegant, but I wanted to lay out some of the reasons that I've chosen to make a run for school board.

On a personal level, there are probably two driving factors: First, I really like this community. I like living here. I like Peorians. Second, I believe in service to the community. I liked what Bob Manning said recently: "Step up to the plate when it’s your turn, do the job to the best of your abilities, remember who you represent, and don’t stay too long."

The most crucial thing that I would like to focus on, if elected to the school board, is student achievement. That's a broad topic, and an easy thing to say, but it's clearly at the heart of what we all want for the students of District 150, and it's the purpose of the system. It's why we pay the taxes into the system. The District isn't a babysitting service. It isn't a jobs program for administrative cronies. It isn't a feeding trough for consultants. Its purpose is to educate, and District 150 should be a first choice, not a last resort. We have excellent students -- I teach some of them at ICC. We have excellent teachers. These students can achieve if we can only create the environment for them to do it.

I am talking and listening to everyone who's got something to say about this and is willing to talk to me about it -- local teachers, District 150 students and grads, 150 retirees, support staff, parents, local professors, board members in 150 and in other districts, even my mother, a junior high teacher in Des Plaines (District 62). Some of the policies I would pursue include:

Free teachers to teach, as much as possible. Miring teachers down in red tape or forcing them to spend more time administering discipline than teaching is not a recipe for achievement. Obviously, there are constraints that neither the schools nor the district can change -- NCLB, for example. But within those constraints, the Board should do everything possible to create an environment where teachers can teach with a minimum of interruption and distraction and a maximum of support from principals, administration, and the Board.

Create an alternative school for disruptive students. I was frankly somewhat appalled when I discovered Peoria doesn't have one. The small number of students who create real disruptions and discipline problems should not be allowed to continue disrupting the learning of those around them. At the same time, explusion is an unattractive option, as it leaves students who are most in need of education and direction without resources to improve their lives. An alternative school -- a good alternative school, whose focus is to reintegrate the student into the mainstream and provide an excellent education until that's possible -- is necessary. Removing these seriously problematic students from the classroom will allow them to get the focused attention they need, and the other students to focus on their studies in a safe environment conducive to learning.

Focus on "the next step" after high school. I've heard a lot of enthusiasm from current and retired teachers about improving both college prep and vocational education opportunities. A lot of these programs sound very interesting, and very workable.

However, we need to commit to programs and stick with them -- District 150 has done quite a bit of "we'll try this, no wait, now that," picking up programs and discarding them before they have a chance to work. There is no perfect program, and there are probably a variety of methods that will work to improve student achievement. But none of them will work if they're implemented for a year and then dropped; this creates confusion and waste.

A second set of issues, and ones that the Board is probably able to influence more directly, revolve around governance and communication. In recent years, there hasn't been a great deal of openness and communication from the School Board or the administration about various decisions. Stories change constantly -- "A longer school day is good for students, except when it isn't." I don't think anyone in Peoria is under any illusions about the financial status of the District, and that that constrains the District's options. It's up to the School Board to be open and honest about that, to set priorities, and to say, "Yes, that would be nice, but we can't afford it." It's up to the Board to be a voice for taxpayers and to demand accountability from the administration -- and that includes justification for expenses such as four superintendants and various consulting fees.

This closed culture has created an atmosphere of distrust. (I've written about it previously, here. And there is no situation in which taxpayers should have to FOIA obviously public documents.) There are issues where the Board and District are legitimately constrained from public discussion -- issues that fall under FERPA, or various personnel matters that are legally private -- but this constant refusal to openly discuss issues that are open has created a situation where Peorians are no longer willing to believe the District when it says, "Trust us."

While one vote on the School Board can't change District policy alone, one person on the Board CAN communicate directly and honestly with constituents, and that would be one of my primary aims.

If you're interested in helping out my campaign, or if you want to talk to me about your concerns, you can contact me at the link on the top left. I look forward to hearing from you.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

I Can See the Light!

... at the end of the tunnel. This semester has been brutal on me, but I'm over my biggest hump of grading until finals, and I can finally see finals up ahead, so I just have to sprint to the finish.

I'm not sure I've ever been so eager for Thanksgiving in my life! Teaching six days a week, with other obligations as well, I haven't had a day off since October. I've also had nothing interesting to blog about, since I go to school, teach, come home, sleep. Eat absolute crap. Lose weight from stress anyway. Gaze at kitchen counters in despair but decide if I ignore them, they'll go away. Discover to my disappointment that's not true. Continue ignoring them anyway. Find self standing in shower motionless suddenly wondering how long I've been in there, and am I already late for class? (With this low-flow showerhead, we never run out of hot water, so I really could be in there for eternity and not get an icy wake-up-and-get-out!) And so forth.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Oscar Arrives from Atlanta


We think we're going to name him "Oscar" and call him "Ozzy" for short. He sheds white, which is irritating because now all my black clothes look awful. It's not a great picture, but he's basically a Siamese with a tabby overlay -- it looks like someone Photoshopped him together. He's beige on the body with cream tabby stripes; and then black on his Siamese color points (tail, legs, head) with grey/silver stripes. He is a weird-looking cat. (Perhaps I shall call him Weird Cat. Or Photoshopped Cat, but that takes a long time to type.)

He's getting along well so far -- he and Grey Cat are alternately tolerating and ignoring one another, and alternately playing and fighting (but nothing too serious). He has good cat manners -- uses his litterbox, doesn't use his claws -- and he sometimes likes to snuggle, but he's still very skittish around people and he's only a year old, so he's got a lot of youthful energy. (A LOT of youthful energy. It's exhausting watching him!)

Oscar has a strange backstory. My aunt in Atlanta is a cat vet, and a client came in with a one-eyed cat she'd found stray, and was saying, "Boy, it's too bad he just has one eye; he's sweet-tempered, but nobody's going to adopt a one-eyed cat." (Client already having more than enough cats herself.)

My aunt said, "You know, I have a niece who adopts nothing BUT one-eyed cats; it's too bad she's in Illinois."

And the client said, "I'm a flight attendant and I'm flying to Chicago next week! I can drop him off!"

Even crazier, she had a doctor's appointment in the suburb next to my parents', so she flew with Oscar to Chicago, dropped him with my mom, and mom drove him downstate, whereupon Oscar, who had had no idea there were so many methods of conveyance with which to torture a cat, decided hiding behind the toilet for 16 hours was probably his best strategy.

(He even arrived with his own little pair of wings, like they give little kids on airplanes.)

So despite all the mocking about "What, did they run out of strays in Peoria?" Oscar was clearly sent by God or something. It was foreordained. One of my students said, in awe at the story of how he ended up here, "Wow, that cat's going to save your life or something!"

Thursday, November 13, 2008

New Cat!

So, a bright spot in an otherwise difficult week, our new cat has arrived. He is as yet nameless, but one-eyed and sweet tempered. He came all the way from Atlanta and is curled up on Mr. McGee's lap sleeping. He and Grey Cat are interested in each other but no hostility so far. Full story to follow, perhaps after we come up with a name!

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Whoever Has My Voodoo Doll, Stop Sticking Pins in It

All right, so this hasn't been my easiest semester ever, and I've been pretty swamped with work, extra work, some family stuff, dying cats, the basement renovations, and a couple other things. In short, my life's been out of control, and minor catastrophes keep happening.

Well on Saturday I stepped up to larger catastrophe: My wallet got stolen. Fortunately I carry basically my drivers' license and a couple credit cards, so it only took an hour to get everything canceled (except the Blockbuster card, which you apparently do have to cancel if it gets stolen, but can only cancel on weekdays). This also rendered it the least successful wallet-stealing EVER, as I carry no money in my wallet and all the cards were canceled before the idiot managed to charge anything, and he got no juicy personal data.

As everyone who's ever had their wallet stolen knows, this is ENORMOUSLY upsetting. (I had it happen to me once before, in high school.) Even though being slightly organized (being able to immediately put your hands on the credit card details to start canceling) makes it not actually that big a deal, it's just horrible. There's the first heart-stopping moment when you realize it's gone, followed by the panicked rummaging, the dumping out of the purse on a table, and then the frantic searching of everywhere it might have fallen out/gotten left. And then, really, the sense of violation that someone has your wallet. The bits of your life. Ick.

(And then there's the special extra trip to the DMV, which is just salt in the wound.)

One thing the experience reaffirmed for me is how much better AmEx is than other credit cards. There's a minimum of phone-tree hassle, someone picks up in seconds, and they canceled quickly and efficiently. They express the new card at no extra cost, and when you have two people on the account, THEY HAVE DIFFERENT NUMBERS, so Mr. McGee can still use his AmEx because his number wasn't compromised.

My Bank of America MasterCard, on the other hand, took FOREVER to get to a live person. They canceled it okay, but told me it would take 7-10 days to get the new card and there was no possible way to speed that up. (What am I supposed to do for money????? This is the 21st century! Who carries cash???) But then, this is the kicker, THE FRAUD PREVENTION GUY STARTS TRYING TO UPSELL ME ON MORE PRODUCTS AND SERVICES FROM BofA. I am almost never rude to phone people, but I said in total disbelief (and in a pretty pissed-off tone of voice), "Are you serious? I have to call and cancel all my other cards! I don't want your crap!"

I realize he was on a script, but OH MY LORD, how inappropriate. Proving for the five billionth time that AmEx is a vastly superior company to do business with in ALL POSSIBLE WAYS. Every time we deal with either card we're reminded of this.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Some of Us Don't Understand How Stupid Jokes Work

"How many vampires does it take to change a light bulb?

"........"

"It's REALLY ANNOYING how you THINK ABOUT THE ANSWER."

"Fine, how many?"

"None, vampires like the dark."

"I was going to SAY none, but then I wasn't sure ...."

Yay!

I got weepy. But so did Oprah, so I feel okay about it.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

VOTE!

Don't forget to vote!

Mr. McGee went right at 6 a.m. when the polls opened. I went a little later. Make sure you go get your sticker too!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

21st Century Mom Worries

My mom called yesterday to make sure I had assigned her a "good" ringtone after reading about the latest round of ringtone assignments on my blog. Does it GET any more 21st century than that for mom worries?

She hoped it was upbeat. She got "1985" by Bowling for Soup, which I think is definitely upbeat! But she made skeptical noises as she's unfamiliar with the song.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Headless Chicken

I am entirely unsure if I am coming or going. I am working 6 days a week now, and I gave up my one day off this week to (wo)man a booth at the Women's Lifestyle Show.

I feel like I've been down a deep hole for two weeks between the bronchitis (cleared up now!), the doubled work schedule, and the 8 billion other major life events all landing on me at once.

We did finally manage to get new phones, which we've needed for ages (Mr. McGee's wouldn't even hold a charge anymore), so I spent part of my afternoon assigning ring tones to my relatives, which gave me great joy. We haven't managed to make it to PAWS yet and I haven't started laundry, despite my laundry room being all beautifully finished now.

I feel like I haven't seen any of my friends in forever, which bums me out a little.

My primary life goals right now are a) get past the election (soooooo tired of attack ads!) and then b) get to Thanksgiving. I need four days off!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Academic Haiku

Some of my friends and I began, a few years ago, to put frustrations with idiotic situations into haiku. It's amazing how therapeutic it is.

While most of my students remain great, there's a minority this semester who are driving me CRAZY. To that end, I give you Academic Haiku. (They're only haikus because they're 5-7-5; they bear no real resemblance to the other formal structures of haiku.) My favorite is the second-to-last one.

Academic Haiku:

E-mail handle tip:
"sexyboy69" is
inappropriate.

Complete text: "dude, what
is that paper for that class?"
No name. You got me!

"I could not do work:
Blackboard broken." "Blackboard fine:
Upgrade your browser."

"You did not post work."
It's right there. Life tip: Before
lie, check evidence.

Screams echo in night:
"Answer my 3 a.m. e-
mail!" I'm sleeping, jerk.

One-hour response on
all e-mail? Your premise is
unreasonable.

I cannot answer
your e-mail when I am in
class. I suck that way.

Students cannot seem
to locate staplers, ever.
They need red Swinglines.

Life tip: Do not claim
hospital stay after you
pass me in the hall.

Loving Jesus nice,
but your grade is based on works,
not faith in Yahweh.

Theme threatening prof
with eternal damnation:
Not best strategy.

Friday, October 17, 2008

General Update, Things Have Been Hectic

I have been hassled all week for not blogging, to which I plead guilty. I didn't feel much like it for a couple days after Orange Cat went to the great snugglefest in the sky, and then I promptly came down with a cold, which has now turned itself into a ridiculous case of bronchitis that is making me a very sad girlie. Poor Mr. McGee has not has a wife this week, but an ugly bag of mostly water that keeps him awake with coughing.

So, things that require updating:
Grey Cat is lonely. He gets especially worked up at bedtime, as Orange Cat never missed the overnight nap and its attendant sunggles, so Grey Cat keeps looking around the bedroom and upstairs bathroom to try to find him. He's also been very demanding about attention. I think sooner rather than later we'll have to find him a new feline companion at PAWS (though they totally don't have any one-eyed strays in stock right now).

We received a lot of kindness and support after Orange Cat's death, and I haven't had a chance to respond to a lot of it (what with all the coughing I'm busy with), but we do appreciate it, very much.

I am picking up a few extra classes, to help out a colleague who's off for a little while, so my blogging time will probably be even more scarce for the next little while.

Mr. McGee has finished painted the floor and walls of half the basement. The plumber comes Monday to hook back up my washer and dryer (it is not, sadly, Troy the Cat-Loving Plumber, because he's booked through the end of next week and I am running out of underwear too fast to wait that long, but rather one of his colleagues). So the unfinished, "service" side of the basement can finally be put back together. The upstairs of my house can't go quite back to normal yet, but it can get a lot closer now that I'll have my storage space back!

I also got a very nice shout-out on Consumerist; I'm pretty sure getting a Gawker-network shout-out makes me at least as famous as some minor wannabe celebutantes.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Orange Cat is gone

We had Orange Cat put down this afternoon. He'd been getting weaker since the beginning of the week, and had declined precipitously in the last day and a half. We knew it was time.

It's hard, of course, but he had a good life and it was time to let him go.

The staff at Meadowbrook Vet and Dr. Wulfkuhle in particular have been fantastic through Orange Cat's whole diabetes/kidney failure/etc., and we were glad Dr. W was able to do the euthanasia. It was very peaceful and painless.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

In the Adjunct Office

Adjunct One, muttering: "And grade THAT ... and class NOTES ... and this goes BACK ...."

Adjunct Two: "Your interior monologue is leaking!"

Adjunct One: Brief Silence. Hysterical giggling.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Calling All Gamers

As regular readers probably know, my husband plays a table-top RPG. Due to the normal moving, changing job schedules, etc., his table's a little thin right now, so he's looking for a couple players to fill it out. It's a group of married, gainfully-employed guys (there's one woman who sometimes plays, but it's not me). They play on Saturday afternoons and it's pretty flexible when someone can't make it.

I know I've seen other local bloggers talking about gaming, so I thought I'd give him a little plug in case anybody's looking for a game. Shoot me an e-mail (top left there) if you're interested!

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Gravity Broken: Cat May Not Land on Feet

As if Orange Cat didn't have enough troubles, last night I woke up around 4 a.m. as he is FALLING OFF THE BED. And then can't manage to stand up. I have no idea how he managed to fall off the bed, since nobody was rolling over and accidentally shoving him or anything, but he fell, and our bed is pretty tall, and the floor is wood, so it was a pretty big fall.

He eventually got himself up and is now extremely gimpy in his back right leg, poor thing. We've been carrying him to his usually napping places this morning so he doesn't have to walk far (I even got out of bed to put him back up on the bed), but he is moving himself around to where he wants to be, so I think he'll be okay.

He sat on my lap for a while this morning while I read the paper and I tried a cold pack very gently on his gimpy leg. At first he seemed suspicious of this and kept looking at it and sniffing it, but then he decided he liked the cold and kept leaning into it. Now he's sitting ON it with it under him, which does nothing for his leg but apparently he just likes the cold. He is a weird cat.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Anti-Darwinian Warnings

We finally just installed a CO detector. The instructions with the detector note in BIG BOLD TYPE:

Warning! Silencing the CO alarm does not eliminate the source of carbon monoxide!

While Lord knows I've made incredibly stupid use of common household tools and/or failed to understand the use of common appliances ... this seems like one of those warnings that maybe is preventing the gene pool from some self-chlorination.

Men Need Sheltering

Mr. McGee was there for part of my book club last night. It's possible he's scarred for life, as topics of discussion ranged from the gynecological to ones that just provoked hysterical, gasping laughter from the women and a look of wide-eyed puzzlement from him. Men really shouldn't be exposed to women in groups. It's not good for them.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Orange Update

When Orange Cat was first diagnosed with kidney failure, they didn't think he'd make it to August. It's almost October now. He's still pretty happy, but he's moving somewhat gingerly now, and he's starting to have some more bladder problems. When he went to the vet this week, his kidneys were deteriorating faster than they had been. He looks so sadly thin.

But he's still doing his Orange thing and finding people to snuggle up against and sunbeams to sit in.

By my count, he's cheated death four times now: being abandoned, being left in the shelter past his "euthanize" date -- they only kept them 30 days at that shelter, but he was so sweet tempered they kept him well past that even with his one eye and stubby tail -- getting his diabetes under control, and now outliving his kidney diagnosis by two months and counting. So he's a pretty lucky cat any way you look at it.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Blogger Bash

It's time for another Blogger Bash, bloggerinos.

For those who've never been, we all get together on the fifth Tuesday in months when there are a fifth Tuesday (because City Council doesn't meet when there's a fifth Tuesday), and drink, chat, shout, etc. It's a good time and it is, as my mother says, a real slice. (Which means a slice of life. Which means there are some characters there.)

You don't need to be a blogger to show up; we've had commenters, random students, local pols, city employees, MSM folks, the people working on the new city logo, etc.

And you do not, contrary to popular belief, need to buy Billy drinks.

This month's bash begins at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 30, at Richard’s On Main, 311 Main Street in downtown Peoria.

It's slightly tricky to find, but you know that place on Main Street across from the courthouse where it looks like there's a subway entrance, which doesn't totally register because many cities have subways so it's a normal city-looking thing, and then you remember Peoria doesn't have a subway, and you go, "What the heck is that about?" That's the entrance to Richard's on Main, down the subway-looking stairs to the lower level. I guess you can get in from inside the building too.

I'll be arriving a little later, probably between 7 and 8 p.m., but I'll be there!

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Ah, The Young Padawans

They're catching on to me too quickly. I asked, "What color are carrots?"

About half the class uncertainly mumbled, "Orange?"

About a quarter of the class cried out, almost simultaneously, "Every color but orange!"

And about a quarter of the class flatly refused to answer on the grounds it was a trick question.

I said, "Okay, guys, if this WEREN'T a philosophy class and you WEREN'T assuming I was asking a trick question, what color are carrots?"

Only then would they all agree, arguendo, that carrots are orange.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Fall Music Festival: Venue Change

Live Music Peoria forwards on this information about tomorrow's Fall Music Festival:

Well, because of the beautiful weather we are changing the Live Music Peoria, Fall Festival to the Opera House at Expo Gardens. We will still have a beer tent, and we will have shelter!!!

See my original post for full info!

Student Behavior

This semester I've had an unusual number of student bad behavior issues, and it's only the third week. Most of them have revolved around e-mail. Without getting specific, I've gotten winners like the student who uses an e-mail address like "sexyboy69@yahoo" which is not only relatively inappropriate to send from when you're sending to a prof, but means I can't see his name. The subject line is "yo" and the body is something like, "What's that paper for class?"

I e-mailed this student back, saying, "Who are you? Which class? What paper?" and got back angry invective from the student for my failure to answer his question. (If he has so much faith in my psychic abilities, shouldn't he fear sending anonymous invective?)

I had a student contact my dean complaining that I hadn't resolved her non-emergency non-problem fast enough when I had assured her I had to working down a list (with actual emergencies and actual problems ranking above her) and I would get to her long before her issue became a problem. She e-mailed me five times and left two frantic voice mails in the space of 24 hours (on a weekend!) demanding I fix her non-emergency non-problem immediately.

I keep having students e-mail me at 10 p.m. on a Wednesday night saying, "can u email me back plz right away what is the reading for tomorrow? so i can get it done b4 class. this is important so respond quick. thx." Then they become incensed when I don't respond until Thursday morning, an hour or two before they have to be in class. As if it's somehow my fault they didn't write down the reading and didn't think to e-mail me about it until late Wednesday night.

I've even had a student complain very sarcastically that I was somehow directly responsible for a campus-wide e-mail outage.

It's a minority of students behaving this way, and there's always a mannerless minority of students, but it's an unusually large minority this semester. I had a come-to-Jesus with my classes yesterday about appropriate e-mail etiquette and descriptive subject lines and response times and things that are and are not within my God-like powers, which made me feel surprisingly better. I was slightly anxious that they'd all turn on my like hyenas, but in fact most of them were appalled by the bad behavior and sympathetic -- and just as glad to know *exactly* what I wanted.

I'm experimenting with a few technology-based ways to cut down on the number of questions that students can answer for each other instead of turning to me. I'm hopeful!

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Fall Music Festival

Next Saturday, make sure you check out the Fall Music Festival in Glen Oak Park. Starting at 2 p.m. and running until late, at the Ampitheater, the fest honors Dan Fogelberg (Fogelberg is fun to say) and features:

* 2pm Doors open / children's activities begin
* 3pm Ralph's World performance
* 4pm Ralph's World autograph session
* 4:30pm Dave McDonald
* 5pm Lollester Rocket / beer garden opens
* 6pm The Peoria Acoustic All Stars: A Tribute to Dan Fogelberg
* 8pm John Sebastian

Cover: Children 12 and under $7; Adults: $20/advance, $25/door

The Peoria PlayHouse will be on hand providing children's programming throughout the festival. Moreover, the Peoria PlayHouse will receive $4 for each adult ticket and $2 for each child's ticket sold by the Junior League of Peoria. Tickets are available at www.livemusicpeoria.org. Please select JLPADULT or JLPCHILD when purchasing your tickets online (and use JLPADULT or JLPCHILD as the password) to ensure your tickets are tracked with those sold by the JLP. (Direct link to tickets.)

Lots more info at Live Music Peoria, which is doing a fantastic job promoting live shows in the area. Check them out!

UPDATE: Venue change, due to weather: Well, because of the beautiful weather we are changing the Live Music Peoria, Fall Festival to the Opera House at Expo Gardens. We will still have a beer tent, and we will have shelter!!!

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Reading: Dorian Grey

I just finished The Picture of Dorian Gray, which for whatever reason I had never read before. Never read any Oscar Wilde before, I don't think. Anyway, I really enjoyed it, and only had one complaint: Wilde hints about the horrible debauchery that Dorian gets up to, but only actually tells us about murders and opium. How is that fair?

Monday, August 25, 2008

My Teeth Are Naked

After 17 years, my bottom retainer finally snapped off at dinner tonight. My tongue is FREAKING OUT, man.

(Interesting sociology experiment: How much will my hits go up because of the phrase "naked teeth"?)

Back to School

I'm back to school as of last week, and so far, so good. The first week or two always exhausts me so I've been sleeping a LOT. Wish I had something interesting to blog about, but mostly I'm thinking about lectures and timing and trying to remember how to arrange for AV to deliver stuff to my classroom.

I have two days of 4 1/2 straight hours of lecture; a third day of 3 hours. I'm going to have to be extremely careful of my voice this semester. (That probably means cutting back alcohol and caffeine to levels my bloodstream may find unacceptably low.)

One of the worst first-day worries is that your fly will be unzipped or you'll have something on your face or in your teeth or whatever. After a week or two I generally feel good that my students would let me know, but I'm always kind-of freaking out on the first day that my hair's all standing up in back or something and they're all morbidly staring at it instead of listening to me. I also started the semester with two giant zits and trust me, starting the first day of school as a student with a giant zit is NOTHING compared to standing in front of 35 students with a giant zit. (Although at 30 I realize that probably nobody cares about my zits but me; at 16 I suffered under the common teenaged delusion that other people had nothing better to do than worry about my pimples.)

Classroom-wise, I have one smart room and three "dumb" rooms with no computer technology -- so irritating when I go to all the trouble of creating computer-enabled curricular materials, then get stuck in a dumb room. Of my dumb rooms, one has a chalkboard and no TVs! The other (which I use twice) is whiteboard and does have TVs at least. I'm always torn on the chalkboard/whiteboard question -- chalk gets ALL OVER your clothes. Whiteboard residue just takes up residence under your fingernails and refuses to be budged. It's also somewhat more likely to end up smudged across your cheek. It being the beginning of the semester, all the whiteboard rooms have good pens, but by the end of the semester, they'll all be crap and everyone will be hoarding their secret supply. I noticed the other day that I now carry a whiteboard marker in my purse, which is a little sad.

On the exhaustion, I'm not sure that people who don't public speak regularly understand what a level of emotional energy goes into a lecture. Other professors and people who public speak regularly are horrified to hear I have a 4 1/2-hour lecture block without a break between classes; people who don't public speak for a living, when I mention I'm a little worn out from the first week, tend to respond with puzzlement, "I work 10-hour days," because my paltry 4.5 isn't adequate hours for exhaustion. Which, right, I know; it's not that that's a "long day," it's just that it's a long damned time to lecture and lecture well. I've got office hours right after my 4.5-hour block, and it's all I can do not to fall asleep as soon as I sit down in the quiet (and I'm not a daytime napper!).

Monday, August 18, 2008

Six Years and Counting

Mr. McGee and I celebrated our 6th wedding anniversary last week, and you can tell it's been six years because we celebrated primarily by NOT DOING ANYTHING, given that we're both exhausted from our fairly hectic and stressful summer. I think we had bacon and eggs for breakfast instead of his usual cereal and my usual, "What happens to be on the shelf of the fridge that I don't have to do anything to before I can eat it with my fingers?"

Anyway, in honor of the occasion, I present another edition of Mr. McGee Unplugged, because I love him and he cracks me up.

---

While we're having a long argument about something that's really annoying me:

Him: ... for several reasons. A, blah blah blah. Second, blah blah blah. And three, blah --

Me: I'm sorry, a, second, three?

Him: ...

Me: A, second, three????

Him: Okay, but I'm still right.

(Probably true or I wouldn't have been objecting to his lack of parallelism.)

---

Rousing me from a sound sleep with frantic motion in the closet.

Me: What? What's the matter?

Him: Have you seen my belt?

Me: (groggily, sitting up, looking around) What?

Him: My belt! I can't find it!

Me: (confused, half-asleep) The one around your waist?

Him: (looks down, touches belt to confirm its existence, starts to blush)

Me: Really? REALLY?

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Oscar Wao

I just finished reading The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao for my book club, and upon reflection, I have to say I don't think I liked it.

Now, for starters, we did JUST READ a coming-of-age novel about a multigenerational immigrant family suffering from a curse (Middlesex), but that wasn't really my problem with it. (However, ladies, no more multigenerational immigrant curse stories for a while, 'kay?)

The writing itself was wonderful -- sprightly, vivid, entertaining. The writing itself kept me engaged in the book. I also was proud of my ability to pick up on the more obscure nerdy references (And here I thought I was the only one who ever referenced "All Summer In a Day" to make a random point). But I came away from it feeling dissatisfied and emotionally unmoved, and after reflection I realized this is because I don't actually believe in the character of Oscar.

Oscar is spectacularly nerdy. He suffers under the dual burden of his minority status and of his obesity, but what isolates him most, the author wants us to know, is his nerdtasticness. And that's true, to a point, and everyone who's nerdy has felt that at some point, but the narrative hinges on Oscar being totally isolated from everyone but his sister and his sister's sometime boyfriend Yunior, and that I just don't buy.

First, Oscar is good-natured and kind-hearted. He's not malicious or angry, he's just weird. Follows girls around like a puppy, fumbles inappropriate approaches. But even obese, bad-looking, talks-like-a-dictionary nerds have friends if they're basically good people on the inside. I have spent my entire life related to and surrounded by nerds. I'm familiar with their taxonomy. And a nerd like Oscar might sometimes be lonely or have self-esteem issues, but he wouldn't be totally isolated and friendless unless there were something drastically wrong with his personality. There are even nerd girls (hello!) to be found at colleges across America who would have shared his interests and spoken Sindarin with him.

Second, Oscar plays D&D. And D&D is simply not a solo pursuit. He goes off to college at Rutgers and, the narrator tells us, has no friends but his sister and the narrator (and at one point a hot girl in the dorm). Rutgers is, apparently, the only college in America without a D&D club.

Third, the novel runs to 1995. By 1995 there was this series of tubes called "the internet" that someone as nerdy as Oscar would certainly have been aware of and plugged in to (as he is in college and then teaching high school at the internet-era parts of the narrative, he would certainly have had access). The internet is where even the epically socially awkward can make friends and find a tribe. Oscar probably would have been wandering a MUD slaying orcs and using his tragically sesquipidalian pick-up lines to good effect on chain-mail-bikini-clad lawful good half-elves.

So while I enjoyed the more historical parts of the narrative relating to his family, I just wasn't emotionally invested in the main character, since he seemed like a puppet on a stick to me and the narrative surrounding him depended on such an artificial construction of his reality.

The one way in which I do sort-of feel for Oscar is that I find myself thinking, "Come on, man, couldn't you have given him just a little dimensionality as a character? Just a little?"

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Cookbooks

As I've probably mentioned before, I made it to about 25 before I learned to cook. I lived in the dorms in college, so ate at the dining hall, and went off to law school basically able to make pasta and nuke frozen food. I would TRY to cook and I kept scorching things, which is a problem when you're on a student budget. (To this day, I have no idea why I kept scorching things, except that lack of experience in cooking makes things not turn out even when you follow directions.)

My mother sort-of tried to teach me to cook, but I had no interest and she's lefty and couldn't stand to watch me wield a knife wrong-handed. Frankly, nobody can stand to watch me wield one right-handed ... I am klutzy. (Got a band-aid on right now.)

So around 25, after I got married, it occurred to me that I could not go my entire life eating food that came in frozen boxes. Mr. McGee is actually a very good cook, but he had a pair of problematic beliefs: 1) if you don't use every pot and utensil in the kitchen, you're doing it wrong; and 2) he who cooks shall not clean. I realized very quickly I was getting the raw end of this deal since all I could make were one-pot meals AND I clean as I go. So I started learning to cook in self-defense.

Now I'm a pretty competent cook, and I even enjoy cooking for people (I'm still pretty lazy when it's just me). A friend was asking me what cookbooks I learned from, and we got off on a cookbooky tangent, so I present the cookbooks I learned from and cook from:

My very first cookbook was The Good Housekeeping Illustrated Cookbook. I actually own the edition that link goes to -- I got it free with my bedspread -- but I vastly prefer the one my mom got me when I was in junior high that has all the pictures at the front and is just much, much better. My new edition never gets used; my old edition opens directly to the pages with the cakes I make the most often. (Like many non-cooks, I was actually a pretty good baker, since baking is just following directions. However, due to my clumsy, my frosting jobs always look like crap.) Part of what makes this a fun cookbook is all the instructions on how to set a table for, like, a state dinner, and fold your napkins into swans. It's not a "how to boil water" basic text, but it's a good all-rounder.

One that DOES start with how to boil water is The Seventeen Cookbook, from 1964, from Seventeen Magazine. It starts with boiling water and "what is a sauce pan?"* and works up to cooking for the prom. There's some good recipes in here, and very clear instructions for beginners, but really the fun of it is the cultural glimpse into the past: What to make for the boy who carries your books, what to cook for your sock hop, all that.

One of the things that perplexed me when I started to cook was that the cookbooks were very helpful for making Beef Wellington, but how did people cook every single night without turning to prepackaged crap or spending hours at it? How to Cook Without a Book to the rescue. She explains principles and how to vary recipes to taste and what you can change and what you can't -- all those things good cooks just KNOW and so can't explain to you. She gives you little poems you can memorize to cook various dishes to, but what was really useful to me was the how and why of cooking by ear. (I look up the recipes I want. In the book. It's a lie!)

Seeing how much knowing the "how and why" helped me, I moved on to the James Beard Award-winning On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen (and learned what a James Beard Award was!). It's a hefty, but it basically explains the science (and some history and mythology for good measure) of everything you do in the kitchen. It is one of my favorite books ever and I tortured Mr. McGee with tidbits from it for MONTHS as I read it. For some people this will be dull, but if your brain works like mine and you like the how and why, this made me a better cook than anything else I read.

Far and away the cookbooks we cook out of the MOST, however, are the More-With-Less Cookbook and its companion volume, Extending the Table: A World Community Cookbook. (Spring for the spiral bound, trust me.) I pimp these books so much the Mennonites should pay me royalties; I give them as wedding presents all the time. More with Less is full of simple, healthy, tasty recipes of basic, everyday foods. The cookbook has a philosophy of simple eating and eating low on the food chain. Extending the Table is collected recipes from all over the world -- not what you'd get at an Ethiopian restaurant, but what you'd eat at someone's home in Ethiopia. We cook almost exclusively out of these two and highlight and annotate the crap out of them. (When we give them as a gift to someone we know really well, we like to write in some of our annotations and highlights to make it more personal.) I absolutely ADORE these books and you MUST own them.

Finally, I recently acquired the epic How To Cook Everything. Lots of explanations of basics, lots of recipe variations. Good for going, "Now what the heck am I going to do with 8 turnips?" Far too much reliance on the food processor (meh), but really good for meat dishes and things like that -- I can think, "I have two frozen chicken breasts and a spice rack -- what can I do with that?" and find the answer in here. It's too new for me to say it's a must-have, but I think it'll turn out that way in the end.

What cookbooks can't you live without?

---

*True story: It took me like a decade to figure out what a saucepan was. Stove-top cooking vessels came in two categories, as far as I knew: Pot and Pan. A PAN was obviously something flat, like a frying pan, but the instructions in the recipes obviously were not contemplating a skillet or frying pan (and the recipes ended badly when thusly attempted) so I was stumped. They really should call it a sauce POT. The secondary question is why I never used a dictionary but I guess it mostly occurred to me to wonder when covered in sauce.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

IM: Unintentionally Deep Philosophical Commentary

me: are you going to come see me before you start school?

bro: gah!

bro: you minimized civilization!

me: I am always emphasizing how man is a solo creature with no need for culture, it's true

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Some Storm!

Most of my Illinois readers were aware of the storm last night, which treated Wrigley to 60-80 mph gusts during a night game (night games -- boo!), but didn't reach us until about 4 a.m. due to the diagonal nature of the storm system. The wind alone was so loud it woke me up and I was honestly somewhat scared. (The cats, being intelligent creatures, decamped to the basement.)

Around 4:45 a.m., I heard a horrific snapping and cracking and smashing sound, and I was absolutely convinced it was my roof. (So I waited, quiet, to hear the water pour in ....) Turns out it was my neighbor's sycamore, snapping right in half:



I also heard this bang into the side of my house; lucky it didn't break a window!



The mystery of this is where did this half-of-a-maple-tree COME from? I looked up and down the block, and up and down the alley behind, and I have not been able to identify anybody missing half of a maple tree.

I'm a little stumped as to how to get it out of there -- it's heavy enough for two people, and it's complicated by being entangled in the bushes and there aren't too many places to step.

... and the nice men from the city picking up big branches just came and were kind enough to carry it out of there for me. Yay!

Anyway, I still have no idea where that half-a-tree came from!

Friday, August 01, 2008

Orange Cat Is an Absurdly Good Cat

Orange Cat is getting fluids every night, subcutaneous fluids that require him being poked with a fairly large needle and then 100 mL of fluids being pumped into him from one of those IV bags. (Which, if you've never had it done, feels weeeeeeeird. I had fluids when I had mono, and it feels cold and creepy.)

So Orange Cat is SUCH A GOOD CAT that when we get out the IV bag, he COMES OVER TO THE COUCH AND LEAPS UP ON IT TO SIT BETWEEN US so that we can give him the fluids. Normal cats HIDE from medical procedures. Orange Cat comes over, sits in the right spot, and then gets himself all tensed up with his tiny stub of a tail poking up anxious readiness so he can get his fluids.

It's really ridiculous. We get out the IV bag and he comes rushing over to the couch to assume the position. It would not be possible to have a better-behaved, sweeter cat.

---

Orange Cat goes back to the vet next week for another checkup and set of tests. I am bemused by Orange Cat's quasi-celebrity status; he is such a sweet boy, and so locally famous from my blog, that everyone in the neighborhood, from my allergic-to-cats neighbor who takes care of him when we're out of town to the 3-year-old down the street who calls me "the girl wif the cats wif one EYES, mom!" is dropping by to give him some love, and the entire local blogosphere is concerned for his wellbeing.

Orange Cat's also well-known and well-beloved at the vet; it's been a while, so let me once again toot the horn of Dr. Bryan Wulfekuhle at Meadowbrook Vet, who has been spectacularly awesome through this entire ordeal with Orange Cat, from the beginning of the diabetes to this kidney failure. I really, seriously, can't recommend him and Meadowbrook Vet enough.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Bash Rehash

Blogger Bash was a hoot; half the universe was there, and we had a rollicking good time. We did have an ongoing battle with the other half of the bar: We kept asking them to turn the music down; the other side kept demanding it be turned back up. My throat's sore from shouting.

Billy says he'll link to photos so I'll be lazy and just link to Billy.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Blogger Bash

Been busy with finals, in-law visit, etc., but tonight I'll be at the Recovery Room on Pioneer Parkway, round about 6 p.m., for Blogger Bash! Come on out!

Monday, July 21, 2008

Everyone Is Willing to Believe Your Life Is a Sitcom

... Or, A Break From the Cat Posts

I have this strategy I use when confronted with aggressive salesmen who appear to think that my lack of Y chromosome makes me an incompetent purchaser, typically in electronics and appliances, but it also works when car shopping.

"Where are your UberTech IIs?" I ask.

"No, no," says aggressive salesman, "you want the UberTech IV! It has a million more features that you'll never use and only costs three times as much!"

"No, I want the UberTech II."

"Oh, but the UberTech IV comes with a high speed diagnostic Turing engine!"

(Here comes the technique:) "Oh, but my husband told me to buy the UberTech II, he knows just what he wants, and I think he'd be mad if I got something else."

"But the UberTech IV is better, I'm sure he'd like it much better. You could surprise him!"

"No," I say, sounding very concerned and now opening my eyes wide and dumb, "he doesn't like it when I don't buy the right computery thing. He gave me the exact name and specs, and I have to get that."

(Which is all particularly amusing because I do more of the tech management stuff in this household.)

Typically at this point the salesman gives in in frustration and sells me what I've been trying to buy for the last fifteen minutes. But a few times the salesman, sensing that I'm too damned dumb to know he's ripping me off, but frustrated by his inability to sell to me without passing the absent gatekeeper of "the husband," will suggest we CALL my husband to get "permission." At this point I cease to feel bad about messing with them, put on my emptiest possible expression and say, "Oh ... no, I don't think he'd like it if I disturbed him at work."

What kills me every single time is that these jerks are perfectly willing to believe that a) I know nothing about technology and b) I live in a TV marriage from 1950 where I can't buy anything without my husband's permission (and I specify TV marriage because, hello, I know most of your grandmothers kicked ass and took names in the 1950s like mine did; those were never real marriages). I mean, seriously, it's 2008 and the world is still stocked with pre-feminist electronics salesmen who fail to recognize 50% of their market!

(And I hasten to specify, I never do this until the salesman starts his, "well, little lady, this computer comes with a lipstick mirror for you to look your prettiest!" schtick. If he talks to me like a person, we don't need to go to sitcom world.)

My husband was so amused by this technique that he's tried it himself once or twice, only he goes for "henpecked husband sitcom." If he's buying a shirt, say, and gets an aggressive salesperson insisting, "Oh, you really should get that in green, it would look so nice with your eyes" or whatever, he'll say, somewhat conspiratorially, "My wife said I needed a blue shirt, and she gets really picky about the whole thing," in a sort of, "you know how women are!" tone.

Last week I accidentally stumbled on the king of the sitcom scenarios, the one that makes service people come to your house in a timely fashion. I was talking to the window guy, still trying to get this broken window fixed, and I said, somewhat exasperated, "Look, my mother-in-law is coming to visit next Thursday, and I'd really prefer for my window not to be broken when she gets here."

"Mother-in-law?" Window guy says in a suddenly chummy fashion. "I know how that is. I'll squeeze you in special Thursday morning."

Yes, I start thinking to myself, the picky mother-in-law sitcom ... I wonder how many contractors I can call between now and Thursday ...

Because my window having been broken for four months is not remotely an issue worth hurrying for, but, because everyone is totally willing to believe your life is a sitcom, my mother-in-law coming to visit is worth a special trip and they feel like they're doing me a favor!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Back to the Vet: Good News

Just to keep everyone updated, Orange Cat was back to the vet this morning, and his kidney function, while still not within the healthy range, is MUCH improved by the fluids. And, as I said, his energy levels and alertness and purringness are up on the fluids. The goal now is to get him to eat something -- anything. He's got three weeks before he goes back to the vet, and the vet was very encouraged by his results.

Now, we're still probably looking at basically palliative care that's keeping him comfortable and as healthy/happy as possible while his kidneys continue to decline, but we've probably got at least a little longer with him than we'd first hoped, and he's a much happier kitty.

So assume no news is good news, bloggerinos, and I'll definitely post when something changes. It's been absolutely wonderful to have so many people out there rooting for Orange Cat and being so kind to me.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Orange Update

Super-quick Orange Cat update -- I want to post the pictures of my new stream but I've misplaced my camera cable --

He's doing really, really well on the fluid treatment. He still won't eat a darn thing, but there's a marked improvement in his energy levels and alertness with the fluids. (Also in his purring levels.) We'll find out later this week if there's been any improvement in his kidneys -- I'm not hopeful -- but at least his quality of life is much better.

I am coping okay with the fluid treatments. I can do it alone if I have to, but Mr. McGee's been doing the part with the needles and I've just been holding the bag. Orange Cat struggled the first couple nights but now that he's used to it, he hangs out pretty calmly for 100 to 125 mL, and we only need to get 150 into him. (The fluid is a little cold and, if you've ever had fluids, feels a little weird, so around 100 he starts to feel a little weird and get fussy.)

I'm off for some cheering up with Trailerhood, so catch you later!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

That Wasn't On the Menu

Orange Cat came trotting into the living room this morning with a toy in his mouth, and I thought this was a little odd, since Orange Cat's usual method of playing with toys is to sit on them.

What was even odder was that Grey Cat came racing over and wanted to get the toy away from Orange Cat, and Orange Cat was determined not to let him have it. They NEVER fight over toys. So I stand up and start going over to separate them and Orange Cat starts eating the toy. And that's when I realized it was DEAD BIRD.

I started making a "NNNNNNNNNNUH!" sound of disgust, terror, and upset, and got Orange Cat to drop it, whereupon Grey Cat came racing over to get it. So I shoo Grey Cat away and Orange Cat races back to reclaim it. So I shoo Orange Cat away (still going "NNNNNNNNNNUH!") and Grey Cat leaps up on the kitchen counter and starts eat Orange Cat's special food (that Grey Cat is not allowed to have because Grey Cat is on a reducing diet because he looks like a football coach: no neck) while I collect the bird carcass with the litter scoop and throw it outside.

So:

a) I have no idea how the bird got in the house in the first place (and the cats don't go outside), and inspection revealed no possibilities. It must have gotten trapped between the doors or flown in or something; and

b) When I said Orange Cat could eat anything he wanted, I DID NOT MEAN DEAD BIRD, unless it has been properly processed and packaged at a USDA-inspected facility!!!!

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Orange Cat Is Not Well

So back at the vet today with Orange Cat, and his kidneys are failing. There's a slim possibility it's reversible, but he's getting pretty old, and he's diabetic, so I'm not getting my hopes up.

I kind-of want to blog about this and I kind-of don't, in the same way I kind-of want to talk about it and kind-of want to go hide under my covers, and I kind-of want to laugh about it and kind-of want to cry.

On the laughing side, I now have to give him fluids at home, subcutaneously, to keep him hydrated. Because we all know I cope so well with needles. I swear, I might as well just get EMT certified after all this. Anyway, I managed not to have hysterics, though I almost threw up when the tech demonstrated MOVING IT AROUND UNDER THE SKIN, and it was good they left me alone after because I had to shake for 10 minutes. The vet has absolutely zero confidence I'm going to manage to actually do this at home without fainting (I don't faint, I just have hysterics, I keep telling him), but since it has to be done, I'll manage to do it.

I have what in my family we call loose tear ducts, which means that I cry at just about anything. (Come visit me during the Olympics -- triumphs of human spirit and displays of good sportsmanship always do me in. I cry for two straight weeks.) I got pretty teary discussing Orange Cat's condition, and I felt really bad because I could tell that the fact that I was getting teary was upsetting the vet, who felt bad for making me cry. I wanted to explain to him that it hardly even qualified as crying, since -- this is absolutely true -- I cried so hard coming down the aisle at my wedding that the priest asked me if we needed to stop the wedding, since he'd never seen a bride cry that hard.* But I was afraid if I said more words than necessary I really WOULD start to cry.

Anyway, Orange Cat now has insulin, potassium supplements, sub-Q fluids, antibiotics, special food ... it's a little out of control. But he is happy and not in any pain, and he now gets to eat whatever he wants, so I think that's about as much as I can ask for. And I really do appreciate everyone who's been asking after him. Makes me feel loved.

---

*This always raises a question for me, since my mom doesn't remember this, and didn't remember me crying at the wedding until she saw the video (and was appalled that I was crying), and that question is: "WHAT WEDDING WAS SHE AT?" I cried so hard nobody could hear my vows!

Monday, July 07, 2008

Thunder and Lightning, Very Very Frightning

Woke up at 2:51 a.m. for the start of an hour-long electrical storm, a true one with no rain, just thunder and lightning, non-stop, for over an hour. Well, I think for over an hour, because the power went out around 3:40, which ensured we overslept this a.m.

The rain actually didn't arrive until around 8:20, with a bang and a crash and a deluge, which was what woke me up instead of the alarm clock.

All different kinds of thunder: rolling, hiccupy, crackling, gun crack, booming. It was actually pretty fascinating to listen to. And once again I marveled at my husband's ability to sleep through Armageddon (and earthquakes) as a gun-crack thunderclap banged right overhead, scaring me into sitting up with an adrenaline rush and both the cats into racing for the basement ... and Mr. McGee didn't even roll over.

Mr. McGee spent the weekend building me a stream in the backyard (it's not quite done, but I'll post pictures), the purpose of which is to carry water away from the house and into a low spot planted with plants that like wet feet, as part of my whole "no more water in the basement" thing. It got its first test this morning, unexpectedly soon, and I was SOOOO glad we'd re-attached the outputs for the gutter and the sump-pump and directed them into the stream, because yesterday they were just naked against the house with NO outlet pipes to carry water away from the foundation! (Works like a charm so far!)

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Best Compliment Ever

(Also the reason I don't get in trouble for not erasing my board.)

I'm teaching a night class in comparative religions, and the woman who cleans my part of the building in the evening always hangs out outside my class, and tonight she told me that she cleans outside my classroom when class is in session so she can listen to me, and that she's always eager to read what's on the board when I leave.

This seriously may be the best compliment I receive in my entire life.

This Church Is Full of LIES!



From KnowledgeUp

Thursday, June 26, 2008

But They're the Stuff of Dreams ....

I had a nightmare about Legos.

It saddens me that my brain could take something so good and pure and holy and make it nightmarish. Bad brain! Bad! Legos are our friend!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Success!

Mr. McGee ate his bratwurst with JUST MUSTARD, NO KETCHUP!!!

I have turned him into a civilized person!

Friday, June 20, 2008

Student Evaluations

Like most schools, ICC has students anonymously evaluate the professors, and I just got back my set from last semester. As per usual, it's a mix of the useful and thoughtful and the hurried and useless, but I got some pretty funny ones this semester.

One student offers:

What aspect of the instructor's teaching did you like the least?

"Easily offended by talking during lecture, even whispers."


Next eval in pile:

What aspect of this course did you like the least?

"I didn't like the guys behind me that never shut up."


I'm not totally sure what THIS means:

What aspect of the instructor's teaching did you like the most?

"Knows what she's talking about."

What aspect of the instructor's teaching did you like the least?

"KNOWS that she knows what she's talking about."


And my absolute favorite from this semester:

What aspect of the instructor's teaching did you like the least?

"Being pro-marijuana when she's never smoked it."


I'm not sure if the objection is to my stance on decriminalization of pot, or to the fact that I've never smoked it!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Aggressively Inattentive

I have an attendance policy most of my students like: I don't differentiate excused and unexcused absences; you just get 1 or 2 freebies (depending on the class) and I don't care if it's because you have the flu or you have a great tee time, you're an adult, it's up to you. (There is a bonus for perfect attendance; after missing 2 you start to lose points, but you can do extra credit.) It drove me absolutely mad in college when I'd have strep throat or something and have to get a doctor's note to be allowed to miss class. I was pretty sure that at age 20, I knew whether or not it was a) appropriate and b) necessary for me to be in class. And some of those classes I skipped, I was much better served academically by studying during that time. And one in particular, well, it was just much too sunny to be in class. (Longest South Bend winter ever, most perfectly beautiful spring day in the history of the world.)

My students' lives are quite a bit more complicated than mine was. I was an on-campus traditional student; they're all commuters, more than half of them have kids, nearly all of them have jobs. They're not just contending with the possibility of a nasty flu knocking them out of commission, but with sick kids, work demands, divorce court dates, car breakdowns, even sick pets. (If you have a pet, you know a veterinary emergency can take way more time than you'd think!)

Contrary to what some of my colleagues suggested, the world did not come to an end, nor did I have entirely empty classrooms due to this policy. They pretty much attend class and skip class for exactly the same reasons as they do in other classes, and at exactly the same rate. The difference is that the bad eggs feel far less obligated to invent sick and/or dead relatives, and the good eggs don't have to call me with panicked dread when their kid has to go to the ER.

(Side note: Do students invent dead relatives? Yes. Apparently it's pandemic to academia. And Peoria is such a small town that I already had a situation where I knew the allegedly dead relative. (Reports of his death were greatly exaggerated.) It's terribly awkward. I give them my condolences and bounce them to student services; student services can make all the arrangements for make-ups for students. I have yet to have a student who misses two or three weeks of class and several assignments, shows up, claims a dead relative, and gets bounced to student services with my condolences actually get back to me through student services to arrange make-ups. Because student services wants proof. The ones with actual dead relatives miss two days, e-mail their papers, and come back looking haggard and awful and like they should be anywhere but in my classroom. The ones with fake dead relatives who skipped two weeks of class usually look tan. I'm 30, I'm not stupid.)

At any rate, my other policy is that I don't care if you don't pay attention, as long as you do it quietly and undistractingly. If you want to sit in the back row and do a crossword puzzle because you want to put a butt in the seat for the attendance grade, that's fine. It comes out in the final grade, because I test on lecture, and God knows I sat in the back of classes and ignored professors on occasion. (Honestly I'd prefer a somewhat more European model of attendance: You get the syllabus, you show up for the final, and whether you come to lecture in between is up to you. If students don't want to be there, forcing them just makes for a bad atmosphere in the classroom. Some students can go through some classes without ever showing up, especially Gen Ed requirements or really bad teachers where you learn it all from the book anyway; other students probably should learn the lesson of "get your ass in gear if you want to pass, nobody's going to babysit you" quite a bit earlier in their collegiate careers and general life. But we babysit them, so they really don't.) I can't abide people who sit there and whisper all class; that's maddening for me, and for the paying-attention students. I also keep an eye on laptop-using ignorers, because, yes, some students take this opportunity to look at porn, and that's ridiculously distracting for the students behind them. But as long as they're not bothering anybody, I generally ignore them too.

Anyway, to the point: I have one student this semester who comes in every night, sits in the front row, puts his head down on the desk, and promptly goes to sleep. Every night. I stand by everything I said above, but he's doing it in the front row. Not only is this just aggressively, obnoxiously inattentive, but it's really hard to restrain my whiteboard-marker-throwing impulses when he's sitting right there. It's driving me mad.

He's probably working third shift or 12-hour days or has some other excellent my-life-is-crazy excuse, but, seriously dude, front row?

Sunday, June 15, 2008

zzzzzzzz .....

Sorry I haven't posted this week. I've been having an absolutely rotten bout of insomnia that I just can't kick. I'm only semi-functional and actually resorted to Mountain Dew yesterday! I managed to sleep last night, but I've got quite a bit more sleep deficit to catch up on before I'm coherent again.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Sidewalks, Again

We're all pretty "The evil that government does lives after it, while the good is oft interred with its bones. So let it be with Peoria"* about, well, most everything government does at every level. So I just wanted to mention how RIDICULOUSLY WELL RUN the sidewalk project on my block is and give props where props are due.

A couple weeks before the project started, we all received a little three-page newsletter with all kinds of information about the project that answers just about any question I had been going to ask. Gives all the names and numbers of everyone involved. Tells us how we'll be inconvenienced (two weeks without our driveways, ugh), and who to contact if you have a medical problem so you can't really be without your driveway.

The project started right on time and has been continuing on schedule despite the fact that they have been poured on routinely since they began the last week of May. They've been out there in the rain every day, only dashing into the cabs of the trucks when the rain gets really bad. Work starts at 7 a.m., and they've been working on Saturdays too. Everyone has been extremely helpful and accommodating, moving the backhoe so I can back out of my driveway (and helping direct me around the giant holes in the ground on either side of my driveway from the water main on one side and gas line on the other, both dug out), coming around and knocking on every door when they're cutting off the water for a couple hours, etc.

Peoria's resident engineer for the project, Jim Lancaster, and the project superintendent, Darin Horowitz of Horowitz Concrete, have both been on site and answering questions from residents (I haven't talked to them, but my next door neighbor gets all kinds of intel from them while out on her afternoon walks). Of course the whole process is fascinating to kids, and most of the workmen have been nice about talking to them while they come to gawk at the earth movers. The newsletter even welcomes kids to come by and take a look as long as they're supervised.

So while this whole process is a gigantic pain in my ass, I really couldn't imagine a better-run pain in my ass, and I'm very impressed that Peoria's running such an efficient, well-communicated, citizen-friendly project.

*bastardized from Shakespeare, Julius Caesar (III, ii), Antony's eulogy for Caesar

Monday, June 09, 2008

Disorder All Around

I feel a little spazzed out right now, because my life is drowning in disorder. I've started on my massive summer project of deep cleaning as much of the house as possible -- as in, taking everything out of the drawer/closet/cabinet/shelf, cleaning the storage space, sorting all the stuff, and putting it back neater (and sometimes elsewhere). This is great when it's done, but the mess gets worse before it gets better. I've finished the upstairs hallway (gotta start somewhere!) and I'm halfway done with the master bedroom. I figure since I've been married for five years and with Mr. McGee for seven, anything he's never seen me wear is getting donated.

Meanwhile, they're tearing up the sidewalks on my block to get us new sidewalks and shiny street lights. I'm a little ambivalent on the street lights, since the block is reasonably well-lit from people's porch lights and street lights tend to light-pollute, but they look very nice on the next block over and I'll just cross my fingers they don't put one right in my bedroom window. I appreciate the new sidewalks -- ours were a catastrophe -- but the process of getting there is a nightmare. (Also, while I really do appreciate the new sidewalks and Lord knows we're paying a hefty special assessment for them, I do wonder if they'd have been better putting the city's part of the money towards sidewalks on Sheridan and other main streets -- our neighborhood is quiet, half the time people walk in the street anyway.)

My car is still in the shop, and Orange Cat is still not eating that much. Grey Cat keeps sneaking Orange Cat's meals, so Grey Cat has gotten downright FAT, and he was not a thin cat to begin with. He's on a reducing diet and we've started separating them at meals, which typically leads to one of them pooping or puking for spite. (I wished I had my camera the other day when I was standing over them getting food and they were standing head-to-tail, Grey Cat convex and Orange Cat concave, like some sort of bizarre yin and yang.)

I do have pictures of the garden to post, but that requires me to find my camera at the same time as I find my computer under the pile of crap on my desk; it's been a tough year for vegetables so far, but our prairie plants have done nicely in this rotten weather and Mr. McGee's new trees are thriving. Our sedums/stonecrop/sempervivum also came back really well this spring.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Public Service Announcement

Just a reminder, Peoria, to make sure you have your preferred towing company (and taxi company) on your cell phone. My car broke down today in the (stinking hot) parking lot of Target, and there is just no worse feeling than being by yourself with a broken car away from home.

Fortunately at some point in the past I had remembered to put the towing company we use into my cell phone, so I was able to get towed in 15 minutes, without having to call my husband in tears. In fact, I was able to call him and say, "My car broke down, the tow truck is on the way," which is probably a nice change for him from my usual method of coping with car-related crises.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

I'm Just Too Popular

This summer I'm teaching a M/W class and a T/R class, both evening classes, and one student told me last night (my first night) that she's in BOTH my classes.

I was super-annoyed about this because it means I can't repeat outfits -- it's not like I'm getting dressed to lecture until right before I go, and I was TOTALLY planning on repeats.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Our Friendship Can Get Its Own Drivers License

I was putting together a document for my best friend today, and I realized my best friend and I have been friends for SIXTEEN YEARS in August. Which I know is not a lot for some of you people who've had best friends since kindergarten, but the Illinois school district people unfortunately did not draw the district boundaries to put us in the same school until we went to high school, where we met on the VERY first day of school, on the bus, because we both loved the song "American Pie." And I mean, that was pretty much it, instant best friends. Like the way you are in kindergarten when you're both wearing purple shoes.

It something of a mismatch of opposites -- she's a fairly secular Jew, I'm a fairly devout Catholic; she's an only child, I'm one of four; one of us is big on the bottom and one is big on the top so we could NEVER share clothes; I was a band geek, she was a cheerleader (the least perky cheerleader EVER; she's generally a happy person and it was like she put on the uniform and started hating humanity, like it was an evil magic uniform or something); and despite four years of trying, she could NEVER teach me to shimmy. I mean, seriously, how hard can it be???? But I can't do it. At all.

I went on my first date with Mr. McGee on a Saturday, and she was the one I e-mailed on Sunday to tell her I was going to marry him, because only crazy people decide to marry someone after one date, so I certainly wasn't going to tell HIM that, or anyone ELSE that, but if you can't show your crazy to your best friend, who can you show it to?

So I IMed her to tell her our friendship would be 16 in August and old enough to get its own drivers license. (When we were 16, we were busy driving around town in my grey Olds Cutlass Ciera we'd nicknamed the "mirthmobile" and asking random motorists at stoplights if they had Grey Poupon. Why? Because we were idiots, like all teenagers, that's why.)

"I hope our friendship doesn't crash the car," quoth she.

I think it'll be okay, because it's been pretty responsible so far. But we probably shouldn't let it sing any more karaoke, because only bad things came of that.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Nerd Girls: Go Read Now

I have spent much of the afternoon reading "Fine Lines," a feature at Jezebel where the author reviews/reminisces about/analyzes the must-read novels for any chick bookworm growing up in the 80s. All afternoon I've been laughing out loud and going, "OMG, I totally thought that too!"

I love YA fiction generally, so this has been fantastic fun for me. Among my favorites as a child was The Girl with the Silver Eyes; one of my favorites still is Alanna: The First Adventure. Yes, I go buy every Tamora Pierce novel as it comes out, you wanna make something of it? (In fact, one of my friends who just finished a Ph.D. in children's lit went to an academic conference where Pierce was speaking and she's so super-cool she took my favorite book by Pierce (Squire, from the "Protector of the Small" series) and got it autographed for me. Tamora Pierce autographed it in purple ink, which is also super-cool.)

But one important question reading these Fine Lines raised for me, and for half the commentors on the post, and I expect for all my female readers of about my age, is: WHY THE HELL WERE OUR MOTHERS LETTING US READ V.C. ANDREWS AT AGE 12? That shit's DISTURBING. Of course nobody much over the age of 12 is interested in reading V.C. Andrews because it's absolute trash -- entertaining, fast-reading, titillating trash, but still trash, and of course adults have access to higher-quality trash. (And reading V.C. Andrews in junior high doesn't seem to have done me any lasting harm, other than a continuing dislike of codicils since they lead to children being locked up in attics and poisoning people with arsenic-topped doughnuts.)

Mr. McGee's comment upon my questioning why everyone reads V.C. Andrews at age 12 given its disturbing content was something to the effect of, "There's plenty of disturbing content in things children read, like the Iliad and the Odyssey."

Which makes me think I didn't adequately explain how V.C. Andrews works, because there's not really a universe in which V.C. Andrews should be mentioned in the same sentence as Homer. Aw, crap, now I went and did it too.

I'm slightly tempted to go read Flowers in the Attic now, but I think The Witch of Blackbird Pond is calling my name. (Did anyone else read that other colonial young adult novel, the one where she lives in this Puritan settlement and gets kidnapped by Indians and escapes to Quebec or somewhere and becomes a dressmaker and gets all interesting and lively and is going to marry this wealthy French-speaking guy and then her Puritan boyfriend shows up to take her home and turn her into a dull-ass, black-wearing, fun-hating Puritan, and in the most disappointing YA novel ending EVER, she totally goes with him? What was that book?)

(Oh, wait, the internet says it's Calico Captive and it's by Elizabeth George Spears too, which is probably why I thought of it. So don't read that one.)

Friday, May 23, 2008

Like a Girl

"Wednesday morning?" says I.

*Hysterical laughter*

"....."

"I'm sorry, we're having a terrible thunderstorm." *Giggles*

"Right, I'm having it too."

"Well, we just had a lightning strike right outside the garage bay. One of the technicians screamed like a girl." *Hysterical laughter*

"AWESOME."

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Mr. McGee in PJ Star

There's a nice interview with my husband in the Lawn & Garden section of the Peoria Journal-Star today, talking about our reel mower. Jenny Davis did a great job, as usual! It doesn't appear to be up on the PJS's website, or I'd link to it.

Oh, PS -- we'd appreciate a couple of extra copies so we can mail one to his mom if anyone has the section lying around. :)

Update: Thanks Dewayne -- he caught it online so you can check it out if you want!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

District 150 Needs to Change

As every single one of my Peoria readers knows, District 150 wants to cut 45 minutes out of the elementary school day to save $645,000ish, or 1/2 of 1% of their budget. Not a big impact on the budget, but obviously a huge impact on the children of Peoria. (See Diane Vespa's ongoing coverage.)

District 150 is wickedly difficult to run. I get that. It's operating under catastrophic budget issues left to it by Kay Royster and the Aaron Schock-led school board. (Seriously, people, do not give him power over federal taxing and spending. SERIOUSLY.) There's a shortage of qualified superintendents in Illinois, and nationwide. (If Paul Vallas is available, Peoria, GRAB THAT MAN WITH BOTH HANDS AND DON'T LET GO.) Almost 3/4 of District 150 students -- 69.3% in 2007 -- are low-income. A third of them (30.1%) move every year. Out of 14,000ish students, 686 are reported as chronically-truant, but I don't think that number tells even half the story: You talk to teachers in the district, and you hear kindergarten teachers talking about KINDERGARTENERS who are truant because they're at home caring for even younger children! These are problems the district can't do much about, other than the legacy budget issues.

But District 150 is making a botch of it left, right, and center. It would help immeasurably if the School Board and administration of District 150 would address the following issues:

OPENNESS: Operate under an openness policy. It seems to me that the District leadership has developed a defensive posture, which appears to be a combination of 1) a desire to discuss sensitive (but public) matters behind closed doors to avoid controversy; 2) a sense that, because sensitive issues are kept private, citizens "don't understand" the issues and so should accept the leadership at its word; and 3) a dislike of coming under criticism. There's also a history of crap PR-driven "justifications" for decisions the District leadership has made. As many have cited, the District in the past claimed we needed to spend more to expand the elementary school day to achieve educational excellence. Now the District claims we need to contract the elementary school day to achieve educational excellence. And that whole Glen Oak Primary debacle was full of misdirection and confusion.

Solutions: Bring it all out into the open, kiddos. District 150 is a public body and the public has the right to run it. LET US. Be honest. Don't feed us a bullshit line about shorter school days leading to educational excellence. Tell us the budget is in dire straits and we have to make tough choices -- whether that choice is a tax referendum, closing certain schools, jettisoning administrators, shortening the school day, or just fiddling while Rome burns. That choice is OURS, not yours, and you might be shocked how many District 150 parents and taxpayers understand the concept of "tough choices."

Understand that your history of closed-doors and misdirection and PR-babble is going to take time to overcome, and only openness, forthrightness, and honesty will do that -- and that includes making a SHOW of honesty as well as actually being honest. You must avoid even the appearance of half-truths or secret knowledge or generalized obfuscation.

(Also, if criticism makes you publicly defensive, neither school administration or public office is the proper place for you to be. Be defensive at home to your spouse or dedicated sounding board. You answer to the public at work, and the public is critical. Which brings us to:)

ANSWER THE PUBLIC: There's enormous frustration in Peoria about the refusal of the School Board and administration to address issues of public concern, instead focusing on the leadership's latest concern -- which has come to mean, in the public mind, the leadership's latest harebrained scheme. Administrator top-heaviness is one notable issue; the entire Glen Oak debacle was another.

Solutions: Answer public concerns. If that means you have to hold an extra school board meeting, or Hinton sits down at a "listening session" every month for a year, then that's what it means. We employ you. We have a right to answers to OUR concerns. Hinton made $202,390 for 2006-2007; the median household salary in Peoria is $40,276. We have two associate and one assistant superintendents. ALL of our high schools have failed NCLB's Adequate Yearly Progress measures. ONE THIRD of our schools are in school improvement status under NCLB (9 of 30: Manual High School; Sterling, Trewyn, and Lincoln Middle Schools; Loucks-Edison, Tyng, Harrison, and Garfield Primary Schools; and Roosevelt Magnet). It's not unfair for parents and taxpayers to demand justification for the administrative salaries and the number of administrators in District 150 when our district is failing so badly. Are all those administrators worth their feed? I realize school administration, particularly in a district with the challenges District 150 faces, is a complex and difficult job. However, it's up to the administration to make its case persuasively to parents and to answer their concerns. When we're down to cutting 45 minutes from the elementary school day to save a paltry $645,000, when we've come to the point where we can't even afford educational TIME, I think whether we can afford our present administration is a totally legitimate question, particularly when the administration has failed to deliver important objectives.

CONSULTANTS AND OTHER ODD EXPENSES: How many do we need, seriously? Isn't making educational decisions what we pay four superintendents for? Haven't the past several basically told us things that were either common sense or that we already knew?

Solutions: Consulting itself is an issue, but it also stands in for a larger issue of non-instructional expenses not directly related to running the school's physical plant, and the need for those expenses to be justified to taxpayers.

If the consultants are adding value that justifies what we're paying them, the district needs to make that case persuasively to parents and taxpayers. And for the consulting that's necessary, couldn't some of it be provided pro-bono locally? We have multiple colleges locally with education departments with talented professors with a lot of expertise in these problems. We have the Great Yellow God (I say that affectionately), Caterpillar, which has Six Sigma experts out the wazoo and has shown willingness in the past to work with local governmental bodies and lend its expertise and/or snowplows. Heck, we have at-home moms with kids in the district who were high-powered attorneys, PR professionals, consultants, corporate planners, accountants, etc., before opting to stay home. Why aren't we drawing on that resource? We have retired professionals invested in the community. What about them? And for consulting that must be outsourced to specialists, how much of the work (data gathering, etc.) can we do in-house? Will they work with us to cut those costs to the bone?

BOTTOM LINE: The bottom line is this: I don't want to move. I like living in Peoria. I like living south of War Memorial, where there are sidewalks (in questionable repair, but sidewalks) and neighborhoods and I can walk to most things, instead of up north in car-focused subdivisions (not neighborhoods) where you must drive everywhere. I believe in public schools; I don't want to have to opt out of the public system or move to get my hypothetical children an adequate education.

There are great teachers in District 150; I serve with some in the Junior League, I know others socially. There are great students in District 150, too: I get them in my classroom at ICC, so I feel uniquely well-suited to say, "Heck yes, District 150 can provide a great college-prep education." But what we don't have is a great District, and I'm so afraid that the failing District will drive out the great teachers and take the great students down with it. It's time to stop rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. It has to change. It's time to change.

And if they won't change?

Throw the bums out.