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servant_of_clio
18 September 2010 @ 09:51 am
My eldest niece announced to us this week that she is engaged.

Those of you who attended our wedding may remember the photogenic blond 7-year-old flower girl in the pink dress. That kid is the one who will be getting married.

We had a moment's thought along the lines of "Isn't she a little young?" Then we recalled that I was just about her age when we became engaged, and were overcome by the hypocrisy. I'm glad she's found someone who makes her happy. I'm a little relieved, though, that she plans to finish college before they tie the knot, so it should still be a couple of years.
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servant_of_clio
29 March 2010 @ 04:03 pm
Today’s the first day of my spring break, which I plan to spend on a domestic vacation: sewing, relaxing, doing stuff around the house and yard that I don't seem to get to while I'm teaching.

I can do this because I'm not teaching in our April term, so I'll have the four weeks of that term to plan the class I'm teaching in May, and research and write the paper I'm giving at a conference in mid-May.

So far today I:
--made a trip to the hardware store for some tools and supplies
--spent about an hour setting up the indoor Germination Station (assembled table-top plant light, planted tomato, herb, and flower seeds
--raked leaves and other dead plant matter out of the veggie garden plot, fertilized garden plot, watered garden plot, planted lettuce, radishes, carrots, a few herbs, and peas. There were more steps involved, kind of like this: find a footstool so I can turn on the outdoor water supply, haul hose up from basement, water plot, haul hose back downstairs in case it freezes, turn outdoor water supply off. (Now I look at the weather forecast and find that it shouldn't freeze for a week. oh well...) The outdoor stuff took about an hour, also.

I still need to rake up a bunch of leaves and debris from the various flower beds. I'm hoping that if I work on it for an hour or so a day I'll have the yard in pretty good shape. I also see another trip to the hardware store in my future. I need a hoe to dig out some stubborn weeds.
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servant_of_clio
25 February 2010 @ 12:22 pm
To be honest, I was dreading the biometric screening. I didn't sleep well the night before, and I was steeling myself for a heaping dose of fat-shaming. (If you haven't seen me for some time, like since college, well--I've put on a lot of weight.)

So I was pleasantly surprised. All of the people working in the screening were pleasant and professional. From their nametags, at least one was an RN, and another was an EMT. Screens were put up for privacy, and there was a TV showing cartoons, which had the effect of drowning out conversations taking place behind the screens.

They checked height, weight, and waist circumference. I am not convinced the staffer took the waist measurement quite right--I sew clothing, so I check my own measurements pretty frequently, and the number she got was a bit off from what I got just a week or so ago. It was only about an inch different, though, so not a big deal.

They also took a small blood sample and analyzed it for cholesterol, blood sugar, and triglycerides. They ran the tests right on the spot, which I hadn't expected. I talked it over with a couple of coworkers, who wondered about the accuracy of the machine testing, and also noted that the "normal" ranges on the paperwork we got were not the same as the ones their regular doctors use. So that's something I should take note of the next time I visit my regular doctor.

My results were actually a touch high in several areas. The nurse telling me my results didn't give a lot more information, just "we'd like to see this lower, and here's a flyer for more info." She asked if I walked a lot, and I replied no--I mentioned that I'd had a lingering respiratory infection all winter. She expressed sympathy, told me I should walk more, drink lots of water, and "keep up the good work!" And that was all.

So on the whole the appointment was inoffensive, and I suppose I'm grateful for that, but it also wasn't very useful. I had to sign a couple of waivers--there seemed to be a reluctance on their part to give any specific health advice lest they get sued later. I usually have a physical in April or so, at which I imagine they'll do exactly the same tests over again.

I am supposed to get a Personal Wellness Profile in the mail later, so we'll see if that says much of anything.
 
 
servant_of_clio
23 February 2010 @ 09:43 am
My employer announced a new wellness initiative at the end of last year. If we signed up for an exciting! new! wellness! screening opportunity, our insurance premiums would stay the same. Otherwise they would go up $300.

Though I am highly skeptical of the merits of this wellness initiative--and suspicious of what my employer might eventually do with the aggregated data from the screening--I decided it wasn't worth $300 to me to protest. There are a lot of things I can do with $300, and I can object to any later developments as they come up.

The first part of the screening was an online questionnaire that I completed yesterday. I wish now that I'd written down all the questions, because they did offer an interesting snapshot of what the trendy issues in "wellness" are, and what the underlying assumptions to this screening are.

The most striking assumption was that the people being screened are not disabled. There was, for example, a question about how easy it is for you to climb stairs. The multiple-choice answer options included "Yes, I have had some difficulty with stairs" and "No, I have no difficulty with stairs," but not "No, I use a wheelchair." There was also no place in the questionnaire to put any portion of one's health history, mention any existing chronic conditions, etc. There were no questions about what medications one regularly uses, prescription or otherwise (except there was one about whether you use sleeping pills regularly). Many medications are known to cause weight gain, for example, but this screening will not find out whether a heavier person is using any of those medications.

So what does matter for "wellness," according to this questionnaire? The majority of the questions focused on exercise and eating habits, how you've felt in the last 4 weeks, and mood and anxiety issues. The exercise questions assume that you need to, and are able to, devote sustained time to exercise per day, not that your regular daily activities are physical. Some questions dealt with whether you see a doctor and dentist regularly. Even these were selective. It is important that you get your colon and your ladybits screened for cancer, for example, but no other portions of your body. Nothing on screening for skin cancer, for example, which probably more people should do. There is, overall, a rather limited definition of "wellness" here which fails to take individual variation into account.

The last set of questions asked how willing you were to make lifestyle changes. Appropriate lifestyle changes, per the questionnaire, include an exercise program, dieting, stopping smoking, and "living an overall healthy lifestyle." What does that last even mean? Note, again, that the questions did not ask whether you are ABLE to make changes. If your work schedule does not permit you to add an hour of exercise to your day, or some aspect of your health means that you simply can't, there's no way for you to tell them that here. You can only say whether you plan a change in the future, recently made a change, or don't plan any changes.

The second part of the initiative is a "biometric screening." Mine is scheduled for tomorrow morning. We'll see how this goes.
 
 
servant_of_clio
14 February 2010 @ 10:52 am
I recently read Kim Stanley Robinson's new novel, Galileo's Dream, and I think it might be his best that I've read. I really enjoyed The Years of Rice and Salt, so when I read about the new novel I figured I would enjoy Robinson working in a historical mode.

Some of my friends have mentioned to me they find his stuff deficient in memorable characters. This novel, on the other hand, is very strongly centered on the character of Galileo and his personal choices and development. It's a very vivid depiction that, so far as I can tell, fits in seamlessly with the historical record. I also enjoyed the lovingly detailed world of 17th-century Italy. It would be easy for a novel about Galileo to treat The Church as the enemy (or maybe I just think that because I have to teach this period to undergraduates), but there is no monolithic Church here, rather a complex, ever-changing collection of individuals belonging to different factions and interest groups. Add in a plot involving far-future settlement on the moons of Jupiter, and I found the whole very satisfying.
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servant_of_clio
31 December 2009 @ 10:35 pm
2009 has been a momentous year personally.

The good:
I got the tenure-track job I've been hoping for for 6 years. In other professional accomplishments, I had two articles appear, and did a lot of teaching.

We bought our first house, a house which is just about everything we wanted in a house.

We're already on the road to developing new friendships in our new home.

The bad:
My father died two weeks ago. I'm now without both my parents.
C's grandmother died a few months back.

We moved over 1000 miles, which was stressful, and made us more distant from a lot of good friends (though closer to others).

I'm hoping that in 2010 we'll be able to settle into our new lives, and have greater periods of calm. I experienced a lot of changes in fairly short order in 2009, and I'd like some time to catch my breath.

Here's to a good new year for all of you, too.
 
 
servant_of_clio
25 September 2009 @ 04:12 pm
Boy, I have not posted here in a long time. Sorry about that. I think most of you will have seen my somewhat more regular facebook updates. The quick synopsis:

We moved.
We're mostly but not entirely unpacked.
We started our new jobs.

I've just finished my first block course on my new employer's block schedule. In brief: classes meet every day, for three and a half weeks; it's the only class the students are taking, and the only class I'm teaching. Then everyone moves onto a new class.

It's an interesting adjustment. The block has its own rhythms, which are both like and not like those of the standard semester. My personal experience was:
week 1: high energy and enthusiasm for me, high to moderate from the students. Exploring what this new class is like is intriguing for everyone.
week 2: student energy drops precipitously; I get tired from trying to keep them going
week 3: everyone is sort of treading water; students miss class without explanation
week 4: vanished students re-appear; collective energy seems to rise as we all make the push to finish up
I really enjoyed my students, fortunately, and most of them told me they liked the class. I hope the evaluations will be both useful and positive.

On Monday I'll start teaching a totally new class. The first class I taught was a 300-level course for majors with 15 students; the new one is going to be a 100-level course with about 25 students. It should be an interesting change. I'll have a non-teaching term after the coming course, and by then I'll be good and ready for it, I think.
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servant_of_clio
17 August 2009 @ 01:22 pm
(I meant to post this shortly after we moved, but got distracted.)

Dear now-former neighbors,

I really feel obligated to thank you for livening up our spring and summer. In spite of all the stuff we had to do, we would have been significantly more bored without hearing your conversations and arguments. I still haven't figured out how all of you are related to each other, if at all, but piecing together your stories proved an interesting puzzle. So I have a few things to say to some of you individually.

To the very angry young woman:
You're right, you do have a lot of problems. They appear to include drinking, depression, pregnancy, and that guy you are involved with (married to?). I wish you the best, and I'd like to respectfully suggest that it may not be the worst thing in the world if the guy does leave you. And if you're avoiding hospital care because you fear he will, I'd also like to suggest that may not be a good trade.
PS. You're right, your relatives probably should not be calling your therapist to ask questions about your meds. That's not cool.

To the guy:
Ragging on your wife/girlfriend is not going to fix her depression. Also, have you noticed she's visibly pregnant? She probably has good reasons for wanting to rest.
On another note, I do appreciate your making sure that your kid doesn't run into our car on his bike. You seem to yell at him an awful lot while he's riding his bike around the driveway, though. Have you realized that he is just imitating you when he rides around in circles making "vroom vroom" noises? It is actually a lot noisier and more annoying when you ride around on that motorcycle you are constantly fixing up.

To the kids:
I am sorry all the adults in your lives spend so much time yelling at you and telling you not to do things, although they're of course right that you need to stay away from the street. You might consider being nicer to your kitten, instead of yelling at it, too. I hope someday you'll move somewhere you actually have a yard to play in instead of just a big driveway. I also hope at some point you encounter adults who model healthier gender relationships.

To the kitten:
We really wanted to take you with us, you friendly adorable little thing, although I do think the kids would have missed you. You would have hated being cooped up in our car for a couple of days with strange cats and humans you didn't know very well. I hear you have made friends with everyone on the block; I hope one of them succumbs to your charms and gives you a permanent home. That way the adults in your household will stop trying to give you away to everyone who shows an interest.

Sincerely,
your former neighbor
 
 
servant_of_clio
16 July 2009 @ 05:13 pm
The movers came today and took our stuff away. Everything from here on out should be more fun.

C's parents, sister, and uncle visited on Tuesday to say farewells. They also did us immense service by helping to pack up the kitchen and, even more importantly, to clear out the massive accumulation of boxes in the basement. Now, these were not boxes useful for moving. Most of them were too small to hold much, and those that were bigger were too mildewed to use. We had already cleared out usable boxes from the basement, but a tremendous amount of junk remained. To our relief, the trash collectors dutifully took away all the boxes on Wednesday morning.

So yesterday was our last packing day, and we did get everything packed. We had a couple of bad moments late at night, when we realized that we had forgotten certain things too large to go in any boxes but the ones we had already packed and sealed. We fell into bed around 1 am, expecting the moving truck by 8 am.

Today we didn't have to do much but sign paperwork, answer questions, and point the moving team in the right direction. What we ended up doing mostly was cat-wrangling. Our own cats were stuck in their crates and put on our apartment's little side porch, out of everyone's way. There is, however, a neighborhood cat that really really wants to adopt us. He is a gangly adolescent cat who, I believe, technically belongs to our next-door neighbors, but is rather neglected. He bounces around the neighborhood seeking attention from everyone. Today, our door was open and people kept going in and out! Whee! We removed that cat from our apartment probably a couple dozen times. He also dashed into the moving van several times. Keeping track of him kept us pretty busy.
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servant_of_clio
15 June 2009 @ 12:21 pm
I am become The Undecorator. Stuff is coming off of walls and shelves and out of cabinets. Brown Cardboard Box is the new decorative scheme. Walkways through the house have narrowed to barely viable passages, cluttered by boxes or stuff waiting to be packed. On the plus side, most of the books and board games have been packed. I think we're making good progress.
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