Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Bad Blogger! Bad!

I was firmly reprimanded this evening at blogger bash for my recent laziness with regard to my blog. I have, in fact, been a terrible blogger lately. Things have been really busy lately, with the state budget issues affecting the Extension, the end of the Junior League year, finals at ICC, and Orange Cat having troubles. I haven't had time for much of anything lately!

Incidentally, one thing we were talking about at blogger bash this evening was what people like about Peoria, a topic that's been generating a lot of chatter in the local blogosphere lately. One of the things I like? Everywhere I've gone lately, everyone I know, even people I only know very slightly, have been asking me how Orange Cat is since they've read about his problems on my blog, and I appreciate that so much. I'm so stressed about the poor thing, and it's just really nice to know other people are worrying with me.

I was asked specifically about our garden at the bash too, and that's coming along. Not too much excitement so far, other than the bulbs, but Mr. McGee planted 7 fruit trees (2 paw paws, 5 more normals ones) and 6 grape vines, and I just started the spring greens and other early spring veggies (lettuce, kale, spinach, broccoli, radishes, and carrots) in the veggie garden. The potatoes are in too. One of my friends lent me her kids as manual labor to help me with the potatoes (and learn a little botany). My favorite thing about this friend is that not only does she have them do my manual labor, she makes her kids thank me afterwards for letting them do it! (I feel like Tom Sawyer, trading my work for fun.)

Anyway, finals start in about a week, and all my classes have written finals, term papers, or (gulp) both. I'll be buried under those for quite a while. Finals makes students get punchy too; last year in my medical ethics class we were making a point about credentialing as we were heading into finals, and I asked one student, "What do you call the guy who graduates last in his class from Harvard Med?"

"... a lawyer?"

I still haven't decided if that was cluelessness or a dig!

Monday, April 28, 2008

Dude, What the Hell?

It's April 28 and I just got HAILED ON trying to walk to class. Without a coat because, um, it's APRIL 28 AND I WASN'T EXPECTING SNOW.

Tiny hail, but MAN that stuff stings when its blowing into your BARE SKIN.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Forsythia

The forsythia have been in bloom this past week, which is such a joyful/sorrowful thing. They're the first ecstatic burst of spring, and so beautiful, but at the same time you know they won't last more than two weeks, and then be gone until next year.

Forsythia are among my favorite flowers, maybe just because they're the first brightly-colored harbinger of spring, but I think also because they're so cheerful. They're so bright and gaudy and at the same time so ephemeral and delicate.

When I was in junior high, we read the following acrostic poem, and for some reason it stuck with me, I guess because I think it's such a good description of forsythia:

Forsythia:
Out
Race
Spring's
Yellow
Telegram:
Hope
Insists
Action.

After years of looking for it, it's finally turned up online (everything eventually does), so you can go see the graphic version here and learn that it's by Mary Ellen Solt.

Enjoy your forsythia while it lasts!

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Why Did the Melon Get Married?

... Because he cantaloupe.

I feel the urge to tell this joke every time I serve cantaloupe, which is possibly why we don't eat it very often.

At any rate, switching Orange Cat's food did nothing to convince him to eat anything, and he'd basically stopped eating entirely, so I went to the supermarket in search of Orange Cat's favorite human foods (really, the only human foods he eats, other than a little chicken): Cantaloupe and Hot Wings. Really. Grey Cat is uninterested in hot wings since you've spoiled otherwise lovely chicken with hot sauce all over it, but Orange Cat goes nuts for hot wings, climbs all over you. Similarly, he'll climb right up you to get at your cantaloupe, very uncharacteristically aggressive.

So I was quite jubilant when he chowed down a good hunk of cantaloupe with quite a bit of enthusiasm. It's a little ridiculous that I'm spending the time and effort to cut cantaloupe into little tiny pieces for a cat's consumption, but I just can't bear seeing him not eat.

He'll also eat a little of his regular food if there's cantaloupe on top of it, and he's been eating at least some Fancy Feast, as long as it's stinky fish flavored that smells so strong it makes me want to vomit. So I'll be back on the phone with the vet on Monday, finding out how to adjust his diet and insulin now that we've found at least a couple things he'll eat, since his diet has to be fairly carefully managed.

Mr. McGee and I ended up eating the hot wings. Tasty!

Friday, April 18, 2008

Earthquake!

So at 4:36 a.m. we had a 5.2 magnitude earthquake centered on West Salem, Ill., (which is near Vincennes, Ind.) that lasted about 20 seconds. If you're from Illinois you already know this because it's all the entire state's been talking about all morning.

I woke up a little bit right at about 4:30 (checked the clock) because my cats were being kinda weird, and I was rousing to either shove them off the bed or tell them to sit down. I started dozing back off, then the bed started shaking and shaking and shaking. First I thought it was Grey Cat, but he jumped and ran and the bed kept shaking, so I knew it was in fact my husband twitching in his sleep and rattling the entire bed.

So I started kicking him to make him stop.

Now I feel bad.

Anyway, it woke me up pretty completely, so I got up at five and went about my day. It wasn't until I got to school and my students were all talking about the earthquake that I realized it wasn't my husband, it was the planet! So sorry, sweetie, about that whole repeated kicking thing. (He didn't wake up, though, so I don't think he remembers.)

Edit: OMG, aftershock! Right as I was posting!

Edit2: The aftershock I felt was a 4.5. It shook the floor and my monitor was bouncing back and forth, and then everyone's heads popped out of offices to go, "Did you feel that?"

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Celeb Sighting!

Okay, so it was in Dublin, not Peoria, but my sister, who lives in Dublin, totally ran into the guy from "Once"* at the ATM! She said he was totally nice, if slightly pickled.

*guy from Once=Glen Hansard

Saturday, April 12, 2008

And Two More Kinds of People in the World

1) People who own a house.

and

2) People for whom getting a new outdoor garbage can is NOT an exciting moment and is NOT something worth calling the spouse at work to relate. ("I was at the Menard's clearance? And I totally got a new trash can!" "Oh, sweet!")

There Are Two Kinds of People in the World

Upon my saying that I couldn't make dinner because I discovered to my chagrin that I did not own a pie plate after already starting the recipe:

1) People who say, "Wow, how DID you get to age 30 without owning a pie plate? That's just bizarre."

and

2) People who say, "Um ... why would you own a pie plate?"

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Blago Targets State's Most Useful Programs

Dear Asshole in the Governor's Mansion (or more probably in Chicago kissing ass) for Whom I Did Not Vote and Certainly Will Not Vote in the Future,

STOP FRIGGIN' UNFUNDING ALL THE USEFUL THINGS IN THE STATE SO YOU CAN PROVE YOUR BALLS ARE BIGGER THAN MIKE MADIGAN'S. First of all, Mike Madigan was playing politics when you were in diapers. Second, he's just better at it than you, okay? We all get it by now.

Blagojevich is threatening to cut 450 jobs from the University of Illinois County Extensions, which are a major part of being a LAND GRANT UNIVERSITY and the home of crucial programs that serve farmers, gardeners, the elderly, and our state's most vulnerable youth. Blago wants to cut these May 1, so that he can twist the screws on lawmakers to try to force them to give him money for things the state can't possibly fund in a recession and most voters probably don't want that badly.

"The Extension serves an estimated 2.5 million residents each year, including nearly 300,000 youths who take part in 4-H programs. It has 77 offices located throughout the state," reports the Decatur Herald & Review:

Faced with what he claims is a $750 million shortfall in funds, the governor has begun threatening to financially squeeze a number of state programs in hopes of convincing the Illinois House to give him more money.

He earlier said June payments to state universities may cut. Soil and water conservation districts also could lose $11 million. Some vehicles used by the Illinois Department of Corrections aren't being repaired.

Lawmakers have been reluctant to give the governor more money, fearing he will use the extra cash to expand health care programs, rather than pay off a growing backlog of existing bills to hospitals, nursing homes and other state vendors.

The Gov has already been playing politics with 4H programs and youth educators (discussed on this blog before). He's bound and determined to cut programs in Illinois that serve vulnerable youth in order to provide them with health care, apparently. Perhaps he's unaware that the Extensions run the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program, one of the most successful health education programs in the state, particularly with respect to helping educate kids at high risk for obesity about educational choices.

(And I'm all for universal single-payer health care, but I don't think that cutting successful programs is the way to fund it, and I frankly don't think that this governor is remotely capable of putting anything nearly so complicated into practice without a) botching the job completely and b) attempting to sell contracts related to it under the table and getting caught. You can be corrupt and efficient or honest and inefficient in Illinois, but you can't be corrupt and inefficient, and apparently Blago missed that memo.)

What makes me extra-angry is that the County Extension program is one of the most brilliant innovations in U.S. education and has been copied around the world. For those who are unaware, Land Grant Universities, such as the University of Illinois, were given federal land under the 1862 and 1890 Morrill Acts (Lincoln signed the 1862 Act, just to put the patron saint of Illinois on my side here). The universities sold that land to fund programs that would help the working class get a "practical education." The Smith-Lever Act of 1914 mandated the foundation of County Extensions, whose purpose was the provide research-based information on agriculture and home economics to citizens throughout the state, extending the research and scholarship of the Land Grant Universities to ALL citizens of the state. The USDA provides funding that states are required to match, and the enterprise is a cooperative one between the USDA and the state's Land Grant school.

The County Extension is one of the ways that the University of Illinois truly serves the entire citizenry of Illinois, not just the privileged few who have the time and means to attend college. Those tax dollars funding scholarship at the University? That scholarship gets put to use by citizens around the state through the County Extension. Why is the Midwest the world's most productive farming region? It's due in no small part to the speedy adoption of scientific research on farming disseminated to the region's farmers for nearly a century through the County Extension system.

Today the Extension system is not only at the forefront of agricultural research, but also runs leading programs on nutrition, health, obesity prevention, natural resource conservation; does major outreach programs to high-risk youth; and provides a variety of services for the elderly. (You can learn more about what's available in Peoria here.)

So please contact your legislators and the governor's office (though you might want to call HIM from a borrowed cell phone with a 312 area code so he'll pay attention -- God knows he has enough trouble finding Springfield; he might not even be aware of the existence of the rest of the state south of I-80) and beg them to stop eviscerating a program that has done perhaps more for the state of Illinois than any other.

**Full disclosure: My husband and I have participated in a variety of County Extension programs; I did the Master Gardener training and now volunteer through that program, Mr. McGee took a class on salsa-making, etc. I now serve on the Board for the Peoria Extension. I'm speaking for myself here, not the Extension, because I saw the Decatur story and I was flaming pissed.

Governor's office: 217-782-0244 or 312-814-2121

When you call, tell the person answer the phone that you oppose cutting the budget for county extension programs. They basically make tally marks for and against; and any single phone call is assumed to stand for 10 or so other people who feel strongly but didn't call and 100 other people who feel semi-strongly and will consider the issue when voting.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Internet-Age Catastrophe!

I slammed my clicking finger in a door! It's all purple! The humanity!

No, but seriously: OW.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Pedagogy

"So if all our answers are wrong, what's the right answer?"

"Oh, I have no idea. I was hoping one of you knew."

"Is there a right answer?"

"Is this a philosophy class?"

"Yes."

"Then no."

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Orange Cat Continues to Worry Me

Orange Cat managed to get himself a huge cut under his chin, probably from some cat-on-cat violence, and then of course he scratched at the healing scab and tore it off, so we ended up back at the vet for the second time in a month with what amounts to a big HOLE in my cat.

Luckily, the vet said it would probably heal fine and gave us care instructions. Unluckily, he's lost a pound and there's nothing obviously wrong with him. Since we're not entirely sure how old he is, we don't know if he's just eating less because he's old, or if there's something wrong. But since he's had his blood and urine already tested this month and all systems seem go, the vet doesn't think there's much we could do anyway except put him on a more calorie-dense food (which involves separating the cats at meal time, which will go over like a lead zepplin).

Meanwhile, Orange Cat was fairly peeved about the entire vet experience (three times in a year, I would be too), so uncharacteristically put holes in me with his claws. I guess we match now. Neosporin for everyone!