Tuesday, January 29, 2008

It's Okay, We're All Nerds Here

When I teach a topic on "What is a person?" in my intro philosophy class, I like to show the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "Measure of a Man" (season 2), where there's a trial to decide whether Data (the android) is a person under the law with the right to make his own decisions, or whether Data is a thing that belongs to somebody and must therefore submit to the scientist who wants to take him apart. Now since I am not quite so nerdy as to OWN Star Trek, it's a bit tricky making sure it's on hand when I want it. I contacted the A/V folks at the library to find out if they had it, and they're going to look in to getting it for me and just adding it to their permanent collection since only a couple libraries in the system have it (which makes ILL chancy). Which makes me feel sort-of awesome that I just added Star Trek to an academic library.

We got a new table last week. Since we got married we've been using my parents' 33-year-old first table (from Sears, natch), which is not a bad table, but only had two chairs left (both of which had a puppy teethe on them) and the leaf was long gone. It was also oval, which means that it looks like it should seat six but really only fits four. So I saw one I liked at American and we snagged it.

I was talking to some friends of my husband about the new and better table that would be arriving shortly, and one of them said, "Sweet! The table leveled!"

(When the new table arrived they all admired it and said that indeed, the table leveled quite well and must have rolled a natural 20.)

Monday, January 28, 2008

Public Conversation

So maybe it's the influence of cell phones, but people seem really willing to talk about private issues in public (as per the loud women at dinner last week). I'm sitting in a fairly quiet public place listening to someone discuss what I'm pretty sure are confidential personnel issues. I get that she's really snarked off about, well, everything, but I'm pretty sure this is the kind of thing to be discussed a) in a closed office or at the very least b) in an undertone in a very loud restaurant.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

I Just Plain Feel Stupid

One of the best perks of my job at ICC is that every semester I teach, I get to take a free class. I finally figured out that my hobby is actually learning things. For a long time I worried that I was just really fickle, because I'd take a class in some new (usually crafty) skill, learn to do it, and then never do it again once the class was over (after, of course, giving my mother lopsided vases/knitted goods/stained glass projects for Christmas, because apparently four children going through kindergarten wasn't enough when it came to lopsided handcrafts). Eventually it dawned on me that it wasn't so much the skills that were my hobby, it's the learning new things that's my hobby. So now I try to focus that on things that don't cost a billion dollars in tools for basic set-up.

Anyway, since I get free classes, I'm working my way through the science curriculum and through useful life skills I never learned, which this semester means I am taking:

Residential Wiring.

Yep, I'm learning electriciany things. Or trying to. I have to read five chapters (FIVE CHAPTERS! This is excessive.) for next week, and I understand about one paragraph in ten. There are lots of digressions about trade names and things like that, where I at least understand that I don't know what they're talking about because I don't know the trade names for things, but other parts I just don't get at all and this makes me feel downright stupid.

This may be exacerbated by the fact that I truly have no idea whatsoever how electricity works. In my head, there's a bunch of electrons lined up in a tube waiting for someone at the utility to flip the switch. I KNOW this isn't true because electrons are (usually) attached to atoms, but I seem really deeply incapable of coming up with a mental model to help me understand electricity, and I don't do well without mental models. (I do know how alternative current is generated, but that might be from listening to so many "So-and-so is spinning in his grave, we should wrap him in wire and hook up magnets" jokes.)

What I have learned from the first two chapters is that there are a wide variety of horrible ways you can die (chapter one) or set things on fire (chapter two) by merely being in the remote vicinity of electricity. And that's without even interacting with the electricity. You start messing with it, and it actually takes out hits on your entire family. Kerosene looks better and better by the second.

Probably this is good for me as a teacher, making me more sympathetic to my students' struggles when it's their first exposure to philosophy and I seem to be speaking gibberish. But mostly right now I am concerned with the amount of gibberish I have to learn by next week, and how many flashcards I'm going to need to survive.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Epic Fail: Grey Cat

Grey Cat, who thinks he is people, made a break for freedom this morning. The hydraulic spring on the screen/storm door wasn't working, because it was just too cold -- 6*F at noon.

So when Mr. McGee took the trash out at noon, Grey Cat thought he'd take his chance to escape. Grey Cat thinks he wants to be an outdoor cat because he's not aware of the actual outdoors. (Recall that he tried his hardest to fall out a second-floor window.) The actual outdoors offend him.

Anyway, Grey Cat goes dashing out the mostly-but-not-entirely closed back door. His paws his the frozen concrete, and he COMPETELEY PANICS. Because it is FRIGGIN' COLD outside, and his little bare paws are not really ready for 6*F concrete. He's all, "WHY GOD WHY??!?!?!?!?!?" about it. He frantically tries to get inside, but coming out (pushing the door) is much easier than going IN (pulling the door open), and Mr. McGee has to come rescue him.

Not that this, you will note, prevents him from attempting to escape a second time when I go out to the grocery store. Because maybe God is merciful and has warmed the concrete up to 65*F. It could happen!

Thursday, January 17, 2008

You Talk Too Loud

Mr. McGee and I went out to dinner last night and sat behind a group of women who were TALKING AT THE TOPS OF THEIR LUNGS, so loud that I expect people four tables away were having trouble hearing one another.

Which was annoying. And annoying that they were 3/4 done with their meal when we got there, but ended up staying until AFTER we left.

But what was really annoying -- and somewhat amusing -- was when their absent friend called, they put her on speakerphone, and they proceeded to discuss AT THE TOPS OF THEIR LUNGS her sexual escapades and pregnancy status.

Dude. Just ... dude.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Left foot! Left! MILITARY Left!

The semester has begun, which means my life gets crazy-busy all at once, which means I'm running around like a chicken with my head cut off.

So how busy am I?

I put my shoes on the wrong feet yesterday.

And I'm walking around getting ready to leave the house going, "Boy, I don't remember these shoes being this uncomfortable!" I looked down to ensure they were on the right feet and STILL DIDN'T NOTICE THEY WERE ON THE WRONG FEET.

Took me a good five minutes to figure it out.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Need Food

Okay, Peoria, I've run through my last giant sack of rice and I'm getting sick of buying rice in 2-lb. increments, so I need a new ethnic foods mart, ideally one that carries the brown basmati rice in burlap sacks. Where do you shop?

Monday, January 07, 2008

It's Still Christmas in the McGee House

Our tree is still up, our lights are still out, even the nativity scenes are still gracing available surfaces.

As you may or may not know, Eyebrows has a masters in theology (MTS), focusing on liturgy, so stuff like liturgical seasons are important to her. Contrary to popular belief, the Christmas season doesn't actually start until Christmas and runs thereafter, in various forms, to February 2. (Which is why, incidentally and in a roundabout way, we use groundhogs to predict spring on February 2.)

So, just like the Pope, our Christmas decorations stay up until February 2, which is fine with Mr. McGee, since one of his primary goals in life is to extend Christmas decor as long as humanly possible; I'm told once in his childhood he managed to get his parents to keep the Christmas theme until April.

All that time BEFORE Christmas is actual Advent, and you ought to have your Advent decorations up -- but luckily they're mostly the same as Christmas decorations. I grumble when stores play Christmas carols too early, but not for the same reason as most people -- religious Christmas carols go after Christmas; there are Advent songs for before Christmas. Jesus hasn't arrived yet in mid-December; you don't get to sing about him until he's here.

Christmastide, the 12 days of it as per the song, begins on Christmas and runs until Epiphany (January 6). Thereafter the general Christmas season runs to February 2 (Feast of the Presentation), although this usage is pretty old-fashioned and is typically only applied to decorations in Catholic usage.

(Your fascinating fact for the day is that Epiphany is the older feast; Christmas was broken out from Epiphany in the 2nd or 3rd century, due largely to some pretty fascinating thinking by 2nd- and 3rd-century celibates on the length of pregnancy and date of the crucifixion. Almost anything involving 2nd- and 3rd-century celibates thinking about Jesus and/or Mary has a reasonable dose of crazy; these are the same people who decided if Mary actually gave birth to Jesus, it would destroy her hymen (how did they know about hymens?) and devirginize her, so Jesus therefore was clearly extruded from her bellybutton in a beam of light. Clearly. This is a useless fact in and of itself, because everyone else thought they were pretty insane so it didn't catch on, but you sometimes see the beam of light coming out of Mary's bellybutton in Christian art, more often in Eastern art than Western. Now you know why.)

Anyway, this year I'm a tiny bit sorry I taught Mr. McGee about liturgical seasons, because I'm ready to take the tree down and have my living room back (the rest of it can stay up), but he's going to be all holier-than-thou about it if I try. Thus does our book-learnin' bite us in the ass.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Why You Need Cats

It is at this frigid time of the year that I am most grateful for all the men in my life, to wit: Mr. McGee, who sleeps curled up against my back, Orange Cat, who sleeps curled up against my tummy, and Grey Cat, who sleeps curled up on my feet.

(In August I'm not nearly so fond of them all.)