Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Nectar of the Gods

No, this post is not about Ambrosia, but for some reason I thought Ambrosia was the favorite drink of Greek gods.  After some brief research, I read that ambrosia was food eaten by the gods and they drank nectar.  Ambrosia and nectar were supposed to be honey-flavored.  Eating ambrosia is what made the gods immortal.  Humans who ate ambrosia became stronger and more beautiful.  It’s no surprise to me that the Gods would be feasting on something sweet; they were really much like children and children love their sweets.  (So do old people…I’ve noticed that when folks get into their 80s, they choose sweets over vegetables when given options).

It’s highly doubtful that my nectar, in this case, hot tea, makes me more beautiful or stronger.  Indeed, that any drink or food might improve my looks in any noticeable way is entirely ludicrous.  Tea has a tiny bit of caffeine - and trust me, I need all the kick I can get my hands on, especially when sitting at a desk...which is about all I do these days.  Some people are very sensitive to caffeine; sadly, I am not.  If not the caffeine, then what is it about hot tea that enhances my life?
Drinking a cup of hot tea produces some sort of mental change, for me anyway.  It’s like some kind of assurance that all is right and normal in the world.  Does that make it a comfort food?  Hot tea might just be my true comfort food.  Better tea than chocolate or macaroni and cheese (these are common comforts to some people).
I’m not picky about my tea either.  Whether the water is boiled on the stove or zapped in a microwave doesn’t matter.  Styrofoam cup, ceramic mug, porcelain cup – I don’t care.  Whether the tea bag is a Wal-Mart el-cheapo brand or Bigelow foil-wrapped doesn’t matter as much, although fancy tea can be fun, interesting, or disappointing (which is usually my experience with exotic tea).  Somebody brought in a box of tea bags and set them in the kitchen at work last week – it must be something he or she tried and didn’t particularly like.  The box has a big, colorful tiger and jungle plants on it.  I haven’t tried it, but the bags smell a bit like cinnamon, not unpleasant, but unusual.  The last time I tried weird tea bags left in the kitchen, they were delightful to smell but the tea was completely nasty.  Caramel vanilla tea: like drinking a strongly scented candle.

Old KyLady likes her tea.  She’s not one to lounge around in pajamas.  I can’t count how  many times I’ve heard people say that if they didn’t have to get up and go to work, they’d never get dressed…meaning they imagine if they worked from home (like I intend to be doing here within the next few months), they’d live in their slippers and PJs.  Not this lady!  I know me well enough to know that I can’t function until I’ve showered and dressed in real clothes.  Even the times I’ve gone camping, if shower facilities are not available, I am not myself after the first 24 hours.  No shower, no me, and no amount of hot tea can fix that.  And now a word of gratitude…thank you God for electricity and water so that we can have hot showers and hot tea.  

Monday, January 25, 2016

teeth of winter

We are now, sadly, fully in the teeth of Old Man Winter…at least here in Kentucky, it’s hard-core winter now.  We got our first troublesome snow early last week, and then come Friday - all hell broke loose.  By the accumulation on our deck railing, I’m guessing nearly a foot of snow dropped on us in 24 hours’ time.  Universities and schools called off Friday and weekend classes.  I left my office at 10 AM on Friday and drove home to work from there for the rest of the day.  Fortunately, my job is one that can be done from anywhere that has Internet access, and fortunately, my supervisor is agreeable to let me work from home when weather becomes an issue.

Snow is melting today.  Bring spring, please.  

We refer to winter as Old Man Winter, but no other seasons are personified (as far as I know).  If spring were a person, I’m certain she would be female – a beautiful, youngish, energetic, motherly sort with long, flowing hair.  Spring is a time of rebirth – green grass, flowers, new leaves, and baby birds.  Mother Spring is happy and hums to herself while she stays busy tending to growing things and bringing life back to the world.  Old Man Winter is sour and cranky.  I’m pretty sure he has a nagging cough, squinty eyes, and the stench of something rotten on his breath.  Instead of singing, he grumbles to himself (much like one of my co-workers, years ago).  In defense of this man I used to work with, I honestly believe he had no awareness that he was talking to himself as much as he did.   A few times when we were sitting across from each other and his mumbling got on my nerves, I’d ask him if he was talking to me, knowing full well he was entirely at work in his own world.  He’d look up at me with a look of total surprise, or perhaps he thought I was hearing things.
Old Man Winter bared his nasty fangs with this last snowstorm.   After the snow, the temperature became bitterly cold.  It was so cold Saturday, in fact, that I got up in the wee hours to get another blanket.  Someone can’t sleep with anything covering him other than he always puts a pillow over his head.  If I’m the least little bit chilly, I can’t sleep at all.  So while he laid there on top of the comforter, dead to the world  in a short-sleeved tee-shirt and shorts, I slid out from my cocoon (sheet, blanket, and heavy comforter) wearing fleecy warm pajamas to retrieve another blanket to put overtop my side of the bed.  Once, settled back into my place, Molly curled up on one side of me and Gracie on the other (between me and Someone).  It was very cozy with my furry bed warmers and the extra blanket.
Here I sit at work writing a blog post…again.  It’s not like I’m doing nothing productive though.  A conference call is droning on (and on) and probably will go on for another hour.  Young people (all men, of course) insist I listen in on their debate regarding what to do about a particular situation.  As the subject matter expert (SME) on the topic, I gave them six options: two options are not great but the other four are decent.  The best option is going to cost money but will be easy and fast to deploy (that’s why it’s best).  But no, they want to DISCUSS the options (even the bad ones) in agonizing detail.  While they are dragging their feet with meetings and discussions and endless emails, the people in the field are suffering.  Productivity is suffering, and the consequences could be dire if we get some bad circumstances before this is resolved.  But I am only the old SME with a dead career; they each hope to distinguish themselves at all costs and at the expense of the poor workers in the trenches of this company. 

Not only this lovely conference call, but also I’ve written and kicked off a massive batch script this afternoon.  The script is doing work in one afternoon that would take me a month to do with my hands and eyeballs.  In a nutshell, it’s crawling through folders of a massive shared drive looking to see if any of 365,000+ specific files are missing.  It’s a QA effort that needs to be done.  I’m productive as hell today; they’re f***ing lucky I haven’t retired yet. 
Speaking of leaving, I’ve made time to apply to a few more universities this month.  There are several more I want to apply to as soon as I can make time.  If I could just pick up that third adjunct job, I would plan a precise date for my exit.  As it is now, I’m just going to work until my vacation runs out (perhaps mid-July???).
Teaching is going well this session (at least so far).  The face-to-face classes (at University #1) are different this session as compared to the last (which was my first face-to-face teaching experience).  It just seems easier now and it’s even fun, believe it or not.  Perhaps it’s having more experience that is making the difference.  Class time goes by very quickly.  It’s nothing like my real job…thank heavens!!


My classes at University #2 are all online.  The current session ends in seven days.   If there is a break before the next session starts (I may get one if enrollment is low), that’ll give me time to get more applications out.  Rust never sleeps, and neither should I, but I’m tired of working all the time.  Too much work and not enough play gets tiresome.     

Friday, January 15, 2016

funny money

Someone bought two lottery tickets for the drawing this week…seeing’s how the amount got up to over a billion dollars…even Erin bought a ticket.  At least Someone came out ahead – one of his tickets had three numbers which makes it worth $7 (net gain for him = $3).
I can remember well when three dollars was a lot of money.  That’s one of the sad things about the lottery.  People who really can’t afford to spend $2 on a ticket will go buy tickets just for that one in a gazillion chance that they might win.  They buy a chance on a new life while their kids go hungry or go without medicine they need.  You could say they are buying hope.  Hope is a good thing, but perhaps I’m just too much of a realist to see hope in buying a lottery ticket.  I used to buy them regularly in my younger days…perhaps hope meant more to me then, or perhaps it’s more likely that repeated losing finally convinced me that instant wealth is not in my cards.
But, I do remember once the joy of instant wealth.  As an undergraduate college student living in little Nowheresville, Kentucky, money was a constant worry.  I managed to find enough low paying waitress jobs to keep myself in school, but a very lean lifestyle is stressful for anyone.  The campus in Nowheresville was mostly deserted on weekends and holidays…it was known as a suitcase college because most students went home when they had no classes.  It’s still a suitcase college, but perhaps not as much now as then.  In the 90s, the county finally voted wet so the town now has some restaurants that serve alcohol and even a Wal-Mart.  That’s major progress!

campus in Nowheresville

It was early evening, cold and windy.  Walking back to my dorm after work, few were out on the town streets – it was as quiet and deserted as campus that evening.  I was trudging up the last hill, looking down, and feeling sorry for myself – alone for the Thanksgiving holiday, broke with payday not for another week, and my food supply was very low.  As I stepped off the curb to cross the street – Behold!!   A wad of bills rolling along the curb, being blown by the wind...I could not believe my eyes.  I scooped them up and looked around to see who had dropped them.  Nobody.  Not a soul in sight.  I stood there for a minute, just waiting for somebody to come and claim the cash, like surely somebody would be searching for his dropped money.  I unrolled the wad and found six one–dollar bills.  Wow.  I looked around again and there was nobody.  The magic money was completely unattended.  I pushed the cash into my pocket and went home feeling guilty and elated.  

The money wasn’t mine.  I suppose there is still some residual guilt from when I kept it and spent it, but in defense of myself, I did watch the lost and found boards in dorm lobbies in my area for the rest of the semester.  Nobody reported lost money.

Six dollars was instant wealth in those days.  It was a windfall and completely changed the holiday for me.  It’s not that I went right out next day and spent it (that was not my style), but just having extra cash made me hopeful and even cheerful.  Having money gives a person some amount of control, or maybe it’s just a feeling of control, or maybe that’s what it does for me and nobody else gets that from having money in his pocket. 

I know it’s ridiculous to associate money with control.  None of us can control anything in this world, that’s the real bottom line.  All of us who are breathing at this instant are alive because nothing bad has happened yet.  In time, it will.  The most valuable commodity in this life should be time, not money.  Then again, time without money is stressful.  I prefer time and money.   


Friday, January 8, 2016

tasting the future

Today is Friday.  Sadly, the week is coming to a close.  I don’t even want to think about next week.  This week, I was off on vacation for 5 straight days following the 3-day holiday with New Years’ Day last Friday.  That’s ten days off in a row counting the rest of this weekend – HALLELUJAH!!  It has been fantastic not to go into the office.  Instead, I’ve been working 14 hours a day (except for one day, which was more like 10 hours) getting ready to open classes next week.  The online courses are now built and ready to open for business Sunday night.  What’s left is for me is to prepare activities for the first week, like notes for what we’re going to talk about and plans for what we’re going to actually do.  That will be taken care of Saturday and Sunday.

This week has been a taste of what I can imagine might be my life as a full-time online adjunct instructor.  First thing every morning (after the shower and morning routine…which must happen before KYLady can function in this world), I got up and filled the bird feeder outside my window.  As I sat at my desk, there was a steady stream of woodpeckers, blue jays, cardinals, nuthatches, and even a few robins.  My favorite visitors, though, were the squirrels.  As many as six at a time fighting for access to the birdfeeder, all the while the birds scolding them for being so greedy.  Once I retire, I will miss the view overlooking the lake from my office, but the bird feeder which is much more up-close and lively, will be plenty nice.

It might be that I’ve become a plant hoarder.  We really don’t have space for all that are growing now, and I want to bring home the plants in my office before leaving it for good.  The kitchen is the only room in the house that gets sun.  Where will I put them all?  My Christmas cactus has beautiful blooms right now – it’s been such a pleasant thing to look at for about a month now.  But most exciting, today I noticed that my yucca has new sprouts!!  Take a look at the photos.  This plant (which is now two plants and used to be just one) has exceeded all my expectations. 

Check out these new shoots.
Some plants in the kitchen

More plants in the kitchen.

Come Monday morning, I have to stand in front of two classes of students and "teach".  These courses are hybrid; we meet F2F one day per week and the rest is online.  Honestly, I’d prefer just online, but these particular students are not self-motivated enough to succeed on their own, so I was told.  Perhaps, it’s more that they are not confident with technology and they want the comfort of a living/breathing/in-their-face human to help them should they begin to struggle.  Some will struggle, no doubt.  I’ve had some of them before in my classes.  Professor KYLady will take on the role of cheerleader and coach Monday morning…unfortunately for them and me, an 8 AM class.  Then it’s a 9:15 class, then it’s back to the office (the real world) for me.  Monday is going to be hell.