Tuesday, November 30, 2021

A Festival of Holidays

It’s been a busy week for holidays around these parts, even if you exclude Thanksgiving.

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Today Kim and I went out to celebrate our anniversary. It is not, in fact our anniversary. Our anniversary was the 25th, except that the 25th was Thanksgiving and we were already celebrating a holiday that day so trying to squeeze in our anniversary would have just been overkill. Plus we normally celebrate our anniversary on the Saturday after Thanksgiving because it usually works out simpler that way, given Thanksgiving, and that’s the day we got married on originally way back when and it’s just easier to remember the Saturday after Thanksgiving than the actual date.

Except that the Saturday after Thanksgiving we were celebrating Kim’s birthday, which wasn’t actually that day either except that both Oliver and Lauren were still home from college that night and you should always celebrate holidays when you have the people there to celebrate with, so we had a lovely dinner and a homemade carrot cake (which was not intentionally meant to honor the Great British Bake Off final but we can just say it was anyway because it sounds good and we did stick a little Welsh flag on top of it somewhere just because we could) and there was a generally good time had by all.

Kim’s birthday is actually today but as noted we were celebrating our anniversary today, which was last week. But our anniversary is the sort of holiday we can celebrate just the two of us, so we had the birthday when the kids were home and moved the anniversary today.

And thus the circle of life comes careening around to where it started, tires smoking and radio blaring.

The net result of all of this is that we have had several good meals, at least one homemade cake (to go with the leftover pies and pizzelles from Thanskgiving), and a few nice cards.

I did actually order a birthday present for Kim before her birthday, which is kind of a victory for me, but it did not arrive on Saturday or today but is expected to show up tomorrow which isn’t any of the aforementioned holidays at all but we’ll have a good time anyway because there will be a gift and that’s always a reason to celebrate. We’ve decided more or less what we want to get for ourselves for our anniversary, but we haven’t even gotten around to ordering it let alone having it show up. It will get here when it gets here, assuming we don’t change our minds first, and then we’ll celebrate all over again.


Sometimes having a Moveable Feast Tradition is more entertaining than just trying to get it all done on the exact days.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Thursday, November 25, 2021

Happy Thanksgiving

I’ve always liked the idea of a holiday set aside for us to be thankful for what we have in this world – one that doesn’t ask us to get more, but simply to acknowledge what already is and be glad of it. The world owes us nothing, after all. It was here first, and it will be here long after we are gone. It’s up to us to be better than that.

We are all four together now, with Oliver home from Small Liberal Arts College and Lauren back from Main Campus University. Those moments don’t come as often as they used to these days and I’m glad for them. Oliver and I have been watching hockey games together – the Flyers put up a valiant effort over the last two games with only a point to show for it all, but we did spot Oliver’s friend Connor in the stands at the Avalanche game yesterday. Lauren got home last night and, true to form, immediately headed out again for dinner with the Squad, who are all back on break and together for the first time in months. Things are back to what they were, however briefly – a small semblance of normal in a world that has been anything but for a long time – and I’m thankful for it.

We’re heading up to my in-laws for Thanksgiving dinner today, as has become our tradition the last few years. There will be feasting and conversation and noise and kids and that’s what these holidays are for in some ways. It will be a grand time.

I spent last night making pizzelles to bring with us when we go, as “desserts” is our brief for today’s meal. In between dinner and hanging out Lauren and Hannah stopped by and grabbed a few to share with the Squad, which made me happy – the whole point of these things is to share them. Kim made ricotta pie from my grandmother’s recipe. There are two Costco-sized pumpkin pies chilling in the back of the minivan, and before we head out there will be two more apple-cranberry pies and a pile of cheddar biscuits. Anyone who goes hungry has nobody to blame but themselves.

It will be a strange holiday in that it is the first “family gathering” sort of holiday since my mom passed away. I will miss her today, as every day, but I will be thankful for the time I got to have with her. I’ll call the various other branches of the family where they are gathering and we’ll be good that way.

I have watched the WKRP in Cincinnati “turkey drop” clip and listened to Alice’s Restaurant – two repeating motifs of the holiday that exist to remind us that joyful absurdity is a lovely thing.

I am employed. I am surrounded by books and tea. I have good friends and a wonderful family that extends out in many directions on all sides.

I am happily married to Kim. I’m not sure how I managed to convince her to spend a life with me, but I’m glad for it.

Life is good.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Sunday, November 21, 2021

Stray Thoughts on the Current State of the Pandemic

1. As an educator I am on the list of people who can get their COVID vaccine booster shots, though I think that list has now expanded to include every adult in the US so while I no longer feel special about it I do welcome the fact that it’s now pretty much openly available for most Americans. This isn’t really something one should feel hipsterish and exclusive about. I got mine on Thursday evening and felt fine until Friday afternoon, whereupon – BAM! – flu season was upon me. But by Saturday morning I was fine again.

2. I may still get COVID, of course – no vaccine is perfect, and breakthrough infections do happen – but the odds are well over 98% that it will be a nuisance rather than a life-threatening event if I do. I’m good with those odds.

3. This of course means that dying of COVID is now essentially a voluntary choice – a far cry from where it was just a year ago. Why so many people feel a need to do that, as if by choking to death on their own lungs they will have scored political points and I will somehow feel “owned,” is a mystery that frankly I don’t care enough about to try to resolve. If I have learned anything during this pandemic it is that I am not a good person, and at this point I am perfectly willing to let those who want to do so die of this. Play stupid games, win stupid prizes. Maybe once the deniers thin out a bit the rest of us can go back to normal life again. It certainly won’t happen while they’re out there screwing things up for everyone else, anyway.

4. Hello, Florida! You suddenly came to mind for some reason. Not sure why!

5. This is, of course, a partisan thing because of course it is. A recent Kaiser Family Foundation study noted that while the percentage of the unvaccinated was roughly split evenly between Republicans and Democrats as late as April 2021 (36% of the unvaccinated were Democrats while 42% were Republicans) that has widened significantly. As of October, only 17% of the unvaccinated were Democrats while 60% were Republicans. Party affiliation is a stronger predictor of who is unvaccinated than age, gender, education, socioeconomic class, or religion. I suppose the fact that the same party that actively rejects the whole idea of Darwinian evolution is the one also actively rejecting vaccination against the worst pandemic in a century isn’t all that much of a surprise, but you do sometimes want people to stop confirming your stereotypes now and then.

6. I am continually astonished at the toxic levels of egocentricity and narcissism that it must take for antivaxxers and Covidiots to believe that Mysterious Powers have spent billions of dollars and diverted entire industries researching vaccines, that millions of people have died of this pandemic across the globe, that economic leaders have made decisions that have cost them trillions of dollars in profits, and that entire political systems have launched themselves into action in order to develop tracking devices all in order to keep track of … them? Seriously? Big Brother doesn’t have time or interest enough to care about such fools. Get over yourselves.

7. Should I be worried that my spell-checker no longer flags “Covidiot” as an error? Or should I be happy? Enquiring minds want to know.

8. The fourth wave of COVID is now sweeping through Europe, which means that in about 4-6 weeks it will be sweeping through the US. Apparently there are Covidiots there engaging in violent protests against trying to prevent the resurgence of the pandemic from getting worse – because Reasons – and I suspect those nutjob protests will be coming here too. But we do violence pretty well here in the US – as the recent Kenosha jury verdict amply demonstrated, we’re okay with jumped up wannabe vigilantes slaughtering people in the streets on whim as long as the murderers are right-wing white men – so it’s going to be an interesting time of things no doubt.

9. It still feels strange to go to a restaurant, even now that I am fully vaccinated. I’ve only done that a couple of times in the last twenty months, and it never feels quite right. Take out is where it’s at, I suppose.

10. Forty-eight hours after my booster and still no 5G service. I feel cheated.

Sunday, November 14, 2021

News and Updates

1. Yeah, these lists are about as good as it’s going to get around here for a while, I suspect.

2. I spent the last week home on my own, which had its good side. Kim was away at a conference. Lauren and Oliver are off at college. It was just me and the cats, and nothing really to do but go to work, come home, grade assignments, and go to sleep. Sometimes a boring week is just what you need.

3. I spent some of that time plinking around on the piano at odd hours, which is fun to do when you know that nobody is going to be disturbed by it. I nearly have “This Year” by the Mountain Goats figured out now.

4. Fortunately for me Lauren’s sneakers died a valiant death on the hills of a sprawling campus, so I went up one evening with a new pair for her and we had a lovely dinner together. It’s a grand thing to share a meal and a conversation that way.

5. I have a new pair of sneakers as well, not that anyone else would know. One small silver lining of the current Plague is that my annual sneaker purchase got delayed by a year because for most of 2020 I didn’t bother wearing shoes at all. But all good shoes must come to an end and so last month I went out and bought another copy of my standard black “it looks like a work shoe from a distance” pair of sneakers from our local shoe shop. They’re still here in their box, next to me as I type. Eventually they will come out. And won’t that be a time?

6. I finished a book on Monday. The next one was already picked out, but to be honest I didn’t even open it until Friday. It’s a good book by one of my favorite authors, but the thought of starting it was more than I wished to contemplate. It’s just been like that of late. Now that I’ve started I’m enjoying it, though.

7. If you’re not terrified about the future of the American republic in its struggle against right-wing extremism, you’re not paying attention. The lamps are going out all over the United States. Whether they will be lit again in my lifetime, I don’t know.

8. We’ve had our first snowfall already, here in Our Little Town. It wasn’t technically snow, though – it was “graupel,” which is a word I had never heard before. Graupel is apparently an opaque sort of round sleet balls that look like snow from a distance. Eventually it turned into normal snow and now it’s all pretty much melted away though it’s still fairly cold for November. I am enjoying this very much.

9. It’s World Cup Qualifying time, so I’ve been grading exams by the light of heroic fixtures such as Finland v Bosnia, Norway v Latvia, Netherlands v Montenegro, Belgium v Estonia, and Iceland v N. Macedonia – all of which have been entertaining enough to pass the time but not so much that I couldn’t grade exams.  Throw in the occasional NHL game and it’s been a fine weekend of sports, is what I’m saying.

10. This is especially welcome since Dr. Quackencrock, QB, and his Traveling Cloud of Entitlement has made me even less likely to watch American football than I’d been prior to him publicly doubling down on his bullshit antivax propaganda and getting essentially zero punishment from the NFL for violating any number of their stated policies while putting other people (do they count?  apparently not) at unnecessary risk for their safety and health. Every day I get less interested in American football, and every day the NFL reassures me that I’m correct to do so. World Cup here I come.

Monday, November 8, 2021

An Anise-Flavored Victory

So I managed to fix my pizzelle iron.

I’m going to celebrate that fact for a number of reasons, not the least of which being that the physical world and I have issues and fixing things is something I generally leave to others, particularly when there is electricity involved.

The fact that I spent nearly a quarter of a century doing theatrical lighting is just one of those ironies.

I didn’t think it was possible to fix a pizzelle iron, to be honest. It’s basically a heating element with a hinge, and there didn’t seem to be a way to access anything inside of it. But a friend pointed out that it was indeed possible – even easy, once you knew where to look – and several days of researching new pizzelle irons convinced me that I should try to fix the old one before I did anything else.

Apparently the one I have is considered the God King of Pizzelle Irons – used ones can go for up to $300 on eBay, which is a lot more than they sold for when I got it in 1989 or so – and it is a sad commentary on the moral depravity of late-stage capitalism that the company that made them got dismantled by some corporate takeover artist back in the late 90s. You didn’t know there was a God King of Pizzelle Irons, did you? Or that such a thing was enough of a target to come to the attention of corporate lowlifes like that? Well, now you do.

So I fished the box out of the trash can where I had dumped it in a low moment and brought it back inside, where it sat for the better part of a week while I avoided the issue. It’s been a long year. Avoiding issues is a luxury that I seldom get these days and I wanted to take advantage of it while I could. Eventually I found the ratchet set in the basement and brought that upstairs so it would be near the pizzelle iron whenever action might be forthcoming.

Preparing the ground for action, I think they call that. It gives the illusion of progress without the actual investment of time or energy and that has to count for something.

But eventually there comes a point where something else needs to be avoided even more than the original project and that leads to “procrastiworking,” an absolutely priceless word that I found online somewhere and am working to bring into common use. I have reached the point in my life where I can be fully productive and still actively avoiding something important that I don’t want to do, and when it came to a choice between grading yet another online discussion assignment or trying to fix the pizzelle iron there really wasn’t much choice at all.

So out came the ratchet set and – after doing my best to remove three decades of baked on butter residue in order to get to the bolts – I soon had the thing opened up.

It turned out to be a loose wire.

So I reattached the wire and then spent a puzzling quarter of an hour trying to reassemble everything – there were only half a dozen tiny bolts to remove and then replace so the fact that it took me that long to get it resolved (including a complete redo after discovering something outside that should have been inside) is a pretty good sign that I should keep my day job, which does not involve the use of tools of any kind.

I plugged it in, and it worked. The indicator lens turned red as the heating element hit baking temperature. The iron got hot. It cycled off and then on again.


Tonight was the test, though.

Four dozen pizzelles later, I think it was a success.

There haven’t been too many of those in recent memory, so I’m going to savor it along with the pizzelles.

Wednesday, November 3, 2021


Way back in the pre-pandemic times – a century or more ago, it seems some days – the Mother Ship Campus decided that they would welcome us newly merged Home Campus denizens with some spirit wear. So they let us know the location of the online portal that had shirts and other items of clothing with the Mother Ship logo – indeed, with the new Home Campus / Mother Ship combined logo as well – and gave us each a small allowance with which to purchase such things.

On the one hand, this was a way to get us to wear their logos and rebrand ourselves without them having to do any work. And given the fact that every single employee of Home Campus – faculty, adjuncts, maintenance staff, advisors, administrative people, and all of the various deans – could be comfortably seated in either of the two lecture halls on campus with room to spare, it was fairly inexpensive.

On the other hand, this was free clothing – and rather good quality clothing at that.

So I can’t say I blame them, nor will I complain about it. It was a definite win/win all around, and there just haven’t been too many of those in recent American history. Three cheers for the Mother Ship, I say.

I ended up getting a couple of shirts and a nice fleece jacket, all with the new combined logo neatly stitched in the upper left corner. They’re really comfortable, and that’s enough of a bribe to make me wear them pretty much all the time.

They got me!

When I put in my order Kim doubted whether I would actually wear the fleece jacket, and she had precedent on her side. I had a fall-weight jacket that I wore all the time, after all. I figured I could wear the new one inside though – I’d hang it on my office chair at work for when it might be useful, since sometimes the heating at Home Campus can be idiosyncratic.

Kim especially doubted when the order actually arrived and somehow I ended up with two of these fleece jackets – the grey one I actually asked for and a black one that got tossed into the bargain. I was told to keep the extra one – it was easier than trying to return it – but now there were two jackets with no precedent for me wearing them.

And then the pandemic hit and I spent the next year and a half hanging around at home, where I have to pay for my own heat.

I have to say that while the shirts are good the jackets are just the best. They’re a bit oversized – a quality that I deeply love in clothing of any kind – and they’re soft and comfortable. I can wear them around the house all day. They have multiple deep pockets for storing things such as masks for when I venture outside in them. And since my professional wardrobe was reduced to “Zoom formal” (i.e. nice-looking from the waist up) for much of that time, they instantly transformed any outfit into something work-appropriate. Now that we’re back face to face I keep one at home and one in my office, and it’s getting back toward jacket season once again.

All in all, they were a capital acquisition.

I have no idea what will ultimately become of the union between Home Campus and the Mother Ship – the problem with higher education these days is that every halfwit politician has yet another scheme to reorganize everything in accordance with their own ideological fantasies (there have been at least two separate proposals directly involving my campus floated in the last eighteen months that I’m aware of) but at least the jackets are nice and that has to count for something.