Wednesday, February 24, 2010

"Mary's like we're in elementary school again!"

I've noticed lately that a lot of big businesses are failing or are having problems with recalls. This is rather interesting to me mostly because instead of seeing the recession as one of the worst obstacles to my generation (which it rightfully is, since it's affecting my generation and those younger than me more than anyone else, at least in the job market) I'm viewing it as a giant restructuring. And really, isn't that what this country needs? Obviously, the system we had in place failed or we wouldn't be in this mess. So, in the short term the loss of jobs is rather catastrophic. But in the long run, if we manage to pull out of this in such a way that we actually learn something (not that people, as a group, are good at that) and we take this opportunity to fix what's wrong or even just not good enough, then in the long run we'll be much better off. I hope that people are seeing what's happening with the big businesses and are doing more local shopping. Small, local businesses have always been the backbone of this country and they are, unfortunately, the ones that get hurt the worst in times like these. But they also give back more to the communities they're in than any showy big business charity ever could, whether it's through buying other local products and industries or through little things, like supporting a little league team. I thought about it, and other than the grocery stores and fast food chains, it's kind of hard in Fairbanks to avoid shopping local. Almost all of the restaurants in town are locally owned and run, as are the bars, craft stores, salons, etc. My favorite bookstore is no longer Barnes and Noble, it's Gulliver's. B&N may be larger and glossier, but I find I actually love the cramped, small feel in Gulliver's. Not only that, but many of the people working there are college students and I know them. They bend over backwards to get the items that people want and even accept B&N gift cards, at a loss to them. I'm very impressed.
Speaking of restructuring, there's been a lot of stuff lately about the UA staff organizing and unionizing. There are two unions that are vying for this coveted spot: one is the Alaska state employees' union, and the other is the UA faculty union. Two union organizers came in today to speak with Katherine and me about what it would mean for us. Which, as far as we can see, is not much. They spoke about re-establishing the cost of living upgrade every year that the legislature got rid of a couple of years ago, which would be great except that pretty much whatever we made out of that would go straight to union dues. We already get plenty of leave time (15 vacation and 15 sick days per year), and it's hard to argue with the benefits. (Free tuition for both me and Shane? Yup, gotta love it.) Even my health care is way less expensive than it would be just about anywhere else, although apparently just a few years ago staff didn't have to pay anything for health care.
The other thing that I didn't like about the pitch was who they sent: Outsiders whose only job is to be union organizers. They couldn't even get people from within Alaska to pitch this to us! I would have felt much better if they'd sent actual union members, who would then have to be living in Alaska. Instead of just giving a glowing report about all these great theoretical benefits they say we'll get, I'd rather have heard from someone who knows both the upside and the downside of the union, or is at least part of it rather than working for it. That irritated me.
So I'm not sure how I'm going to vote. Katherine says no, in part because she's only planning to be in this job until she finishes her degree. But I'm not sure. When I talked to Brad he brought up the point that UA HR isn't the most trustworthy entity, and it might be worthwhile to have a group fighting for jobs rather than just individuals. (He brought up a specific case of someone who worked in the Wood Center--the campus organizing place/student hangout/info center--who interviewed for a job that he'd been working in as a student, then as a temp, and when the first picked candidate declined the position, instead of hiring him [the second choice] they declared it a failed first search and started looking for someone else, despite his excellent record and for no apparent reason. And according to the University rules, this was legitimate. He resigned pretty soon thereafter.) On the other hand, it's already tough to fire someone, and I know quite a few people who have their jobs only because it's already so hard to fire them, when based on performance they should have been fired long ago.
So really, I just don't know how I'm going to vote.
We went to a superheroes vs. supervillains costume party on Saturday, and I dyed my hair red. It's pretty fun and I've gotten lots of compliments on it.
Tied our soccer game on Sunday, 1-1.
Woke up Monday morning with a really bad sore throat and called in sick to work both Monday and Tuesday. Shane wasn't feeling well either, but escaped the sore throat and still went to classes, but not to work.
Last night, after having spent the better part of two days in the house, we decided to go to Pub Trivia. Our team wiped the floor with everyone else, getting the top place by about 20 points. I got four Capri Suns and Shane got Rice-a-Roni. : )
It's Fiona's birthday today, and since her family's out of town I'm making her dinner and a birthday apple pie. I'm not sure what I'm going to make, though, because we don't have much left in the house and Shane's taking the truck (D&D night). The apple pie will be great because we've had some apples for a while now that wouldn't be so great to eat straight, but they're just fine for cooking. But for dinner? I'm thinking spaghetti and veggie-meatballs. (Turkey meatballs with grated carrots and zucchini in them.) Makes me wonder, though, how do we run out of food so fast?
Oh! And I found out today that my grandfather will be honored in a ceremony celebrating some of Maine's elderly, for their life contributions. It will be April 16th, and I'm kind of wondering if I could go. I doubt it, but it would be wonderful. And really, how many opportunities do I have left to see Poppa? He'll be 89 in August. We'll see. I'm just excited for him, though. He deserves it.

Friday, February 19, 2010

"Skool rocs!"

Everyone has to deal with stupid people on a regular basis, but I've been involved in a couple of incidents of supreme stupidity this week that need to be shared. It's frustrating to have--yes, I'll say it--retarded people around you, and the only thing to do is laugh. If possible, publicly.
Shane's taking a course on neurobiology this semester which he said is his favorite class because the professor is so fantastic--and this is a course he dreaded when he first signed up for it. The only problem with it is there is that one student who a) thinks her every opinion/thought is invaluable and needs to be voiced and b) isn't ashamed to interrupt the professor to get these mental wanderings out there. Shane said that they never, ever have anything to do with what the professor is teaching. (One of her recent gems was, "Did you know the brain is a muscle?" Professor: "No, it's not." Her: "It isn't?" Professor ignores her as she continues talking, and continues his lecture over her.) I feel his pain, having taken several different classes with that kind of person. (Most notably, the White Whale.)
Well, I got to meet her yesterday. I knew her right away, based on Shane's descriptions. (I hate to say it like this, but it's a fact that we don't get many black women in the biology library. Especially not ones with key chains that are roughly the same size and weight as my dog.) The first question out of her mouth? "So how does this work?" When I looked at her blankly she continued, "Is this, like, a normal library?" Kind of wondering what other kind of library there is, I said yes. Then she asked for help finding a couple of books. I knew they'd be on reserve, so I asked for the titles, which she didn't know. "Um, something that's, like, about invertebrates?" Yeah, not helpful when we have several books on reserve about invertebrates, for different classes. So she had to look up the title, which took about two minutes, and then the next title. Because I could have looked it up, but she couldn't tell me the courses. It takes brilliance to not even know what courses you're enrolled in. Then, when checking out the books, we require people's student IDs. It ensures that they really do belong to the University, and it's easier than looking them up in the system. Well, she handed me the whole friggin' lanyard full of her key chains! I understand having collections, but who needs to cart the whole thing around every day? When complaining about it, Shane said that she takes up an entire chair with it in class. After all of this, she asked me about buying books. "Why can't I buy these?" "We're not a bookstore." "But, I mean, like, online." "We're not a bookstore. We don't have anything to do with a bookstore." "But, like, on, like, Amazon?" "Well, there's absolutely no reason you shouldn't be able to buy these on Amazon, but we're not affiliated with Amazon, so you'll have to look that up yourself." "Oh."
There's more to the story, but due to privacy laws I can't say it. Rest assured, though, not my favorite patron to deal with.
The other story, which is funnier and less aggravating, has to do with a mistaken text. At Pub Trivia the other night, our friend Keegan received this text: "In 2011 the guverment will be sending all the ritards to a iland. Be shur to bring youre crans." He had absolutely no idea who the sender could be. We spent a few minutes laughing about the spelling, and wondering what to do in response. So Shane replied and said, "Oh, good. Can I borrow your crayons?" The anonymous texter responded, "Yes." "So you have extras?" "I tink I can spar sum." Shane then asked, "Are you drunk, stupid, or illiterate? And do you know that this is a wrong number?" Then came the text, "no, no, yes." I told Shane he should have said, "You still didn't answer my question about the wrong number." But he decided to leave it at that. I don't blame him. Getting texts from a confirmed illiterate just gets kinda sad after a bit. ; )
And at that Pub Trivia, I got the entire first category correct. "Sci-fi/fantasy characters under four feet tall." We took second place, and I won a loaf of bread.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Dear Sarah Palin

I would like to ask, what good has she done by becoming a prominent political figure? The answer, honestly, is none. All she's done is to further hate and fear-mongering in this country, and I'm sick of it. I'm sick of hearing about her, and her divergent opinions on who's right and who's wrong. (Emanuel is wrong, but Rush is right? Huh?) I'm sick of her hypocrisy and blatant lying. She'll never be labeled a "flip-flopper", it's true, because she doesn't change her opinions or message no matter how many times she's proven wrong. And while sticking to your principles is often admirable, spouting self-righteous and patently wrong, hateful ideas is not. We, as a country, should not give these people the soapboxes and attention they so clearly do not deserve.
But of course, we just can't help but look at disasters.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

"It's kind of a race to the bottom between me and my brother."

This past weekend was so much fun. Friday night, of course, I had Sweeny Todd rehearsal. Three hours this time. When I got home, I was surprised that Shane was still there. The Pub was having a burlesque show, which some of our friends were going to and he'd expressed interest in it. But it was $10, and he wasn't sure he wanted to spend that much money. So he waited for me, thinking we'd go after I got home, when the show would be over and entrance would be free. But I was so tired from work and rehearsal that I ended up crashing out at around 11:30.
Saturday was spent lazily, with lots of reading and only a few chores. Lucy and I went to Barnes and Noble in the afternoon, and I managed to only buy one book. It's a real-life medical mystery about these things called prions, which cause diseases that manifest themselves in different ways. In one family in Italy the disease expressed itself through severe insomnia, and then the insomniac would die within a few months. In one tribe--I can't remember where--it was expressed through uncontrollable laughter and the same fatal timeline. Sounds interesting. Lucy bought "Stiff" and "Bonk". One's about what happens to your corpse after you die (embalming, stuff like that) and the other is about the science of sex. I'm going to borrow both of them after she's done.
Did I mention that I made a list of the books I want to read this year? Obviously the ones mentioned above are on it, but also:
Slaughterhouse Five
Animal Farm
The Help
The Girl Who Chased the Moon
Sizzling Sixteen
Dead in the Family
In Defense of Food
The Omnivore's Dilemma
The End of Food
The End of Oil
I think that's a pretty decent mix of thought-provoking and just fun. And of course, there will be others. (My reading list each year usually has about 75-100 books on it.) Currently I'm reading "The Pickwick Papers" by Dickens. Very amusing. I keep reading little sections out to Shane because I just can't help it. Especially the chapter about hunting, I knew he'd like that. He said, "Oh, God, it's like hunting with Mark."
Anyway, Saturday evening we were just hanging out with James and Lucy when our friend George called to ask if anyone wanted to go sledding. Everyone but me said no (lame!), so I went. Of course, the first run down, we ended up having to call James and Shane to bring a flashlight because George had lost his glasses. So they showed up, and did a couple of runs after we found the glasses. (George left them with some stuff at the top of the hill after that.) Actually, James only did one run because apparently his pants weren't great for sledding (sweats) and he ended up with snow all the way up to his butt. Ha! Shane went down with me a couple of times before leaving. It was so much fun, but I wish there was a fresh layer of powder down. The sledding hill on campus isn't maintained at all, so once it gets packed down it forms bumps and waves that are rather jarring. Still, it was fun. Also, the girl's basketball team from Western was there. They'd beaten our team earlier that night and wanted a chance to enjoy the snow. I had almost as much fun watching them as I did with the actual sledding. All in all, a good evening.
Shane was still hanging out with James and Lucy when we were done sledding, so I went back there and had some yummy hot chocolate to warm up. We played a Mario game for Wii, then Shane and I went home.
Sunday was Valentine's Day, of course. Shane (I'm kind of ashamed to admit this) plays D&D on Sundays with Dustin and a bunch of other friends, so he got up in the morning, started dinner (he made moose roast! <3 style="font-style: italic;">before putting in the pudding. So I had to bake the whole thing. I sprinkled some milk chocolate chips over the top in the hope that those would help it from turning out to badly. It was fine, and the chocolate chips were excellent.
Shane took a nap when he got home, so I got a bit more schoolwork done and then woke him up when dinner was ready. After we ate, we watched the movie "Fanboys". Nothing more romantic than watching a bunch of Star Wars nerds trying to break into the Skywalker Ranch. I love that movie, though, and it was perfect. We were going to watch another movie, too, but our friend Mark called. I asked him when he was going to get a job in Fairbanks and move back up here, because we miss him!, but he said he intends to stay in his current job in Juneau for at least a couple of years. He's talking about buying a boat. At some point, we'll have to go down there and visit him. But it's either a day-long trip, or it's about $500 to fly. So we'll see. His dog, about four or five months old, is now about as big as I am. It's a mastiff, so he'll be about 250 lbs. when fully grown. That's a big dog.
I've kept up with my running, and it helps that every time I go out I can feel how much I'm improving. I'm less out of breath, or I can get up the hills easier, things like that. The last couple of times the only reason I've paused at all was so that Pepper could pee. I still don't like running, but it's good for me. And Pepper LOVES it.
She's getting a badly needed haircut tomorrow. I'll have to start putting her vest on her again when we go out, but she'll be so much more comfortable. I'll have my dog back, rather than a ball of hair.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

"Baby hit me one more time."

This past weekend was so much fun. Honestly, it's been a while since I had so much pure, unabashed fun in one weekend. Of course, I didn't get many chores done but I can't even be upset about that.
On Friday night, Shane and I couldn't figure out what we wanted to do for dinner, so we decided to go out for Thai food and celebrate our anniversary that night, since I had class the evening of the 8th. We ended up going over to James and Lucy's, first, and inviting them and James's sister Ruth to go out with us. It was really fun. Shane tends to get really quiet on dates (in the car he'll be chatty like normal, but as soon as we get out to dinner he clams up and I have to try to keep the conversation going) so this made the evening more lively. James was really sweet and got dinner for all of us. But we went to Wolf Run to get dessert (best desserts in town) and Shane got that. (I think I owe him a movie, at least, for that.) It was pretty funny, too, because I ordered a chocolate raspberry cake and everyone else got creme brulee. Of course, my dessert was about eight times bigger than theirs. Lucy helped me a bit, and I took over half of it home. Yum...leftover chocolate cake. The rest of the evening was spent playing a Mario Bros. game on James's Wii. So fun.
Saturday night was karaoke at the Pub. So much fun. The evening passed by really quickly. I only sang two songs, "Don't Stop Believin'" with Mitch and a Britney Spears song with a few other girls (not my choice). At one point I was dancing with my friend Dustin and Shane ran up to him and tore his shirt open. Buttons went flying and Dustin kept dancing. I laughed so hard, but found the buttons. Unfortunately, the shirt actually ripped in several places, so it was beyond repair. We'll get him a new shirt this weekend to replace it. Luckily, it wasn't a shirt he was totally attached to so he said it was no big deal. It was really, really funny.
Also, apparently the guys decided to rag on our friend Shanti all night by telling him how gay he is. (He's not gay, and they weren't making fun of gay people. This just seems to be how guys up here, and guys in general, show their affection: making fun of each other relentlessly.) At one point I turned to Shanti and said, "Are you giving off some kind of gay vibe tonight? Because that's all they're talking about." Shanti rolled his eyes and right then, Adam showed up. Only, he came in behind Shanti and started rubbing his chest and saying, "Hey, sexy, how's it going?" It was so perfect. Shanti and I cracked up. I think in part they were doing this to cheer him up (as odd as it sounds) because Shanti and his girlfriend broke up a couple of weeks ago. They also sang "Gay Bar" to him, much to the delight of the other Pub patrons. Actually, that song got the most people dancing.
I even dragged Shane up for a dance. He made some teasing comment to me, so I made him dance. It was fun. Mitch ran up to us like he was going to cut in, but Shane pushed him away. I told him, "Nice defense." "I know, right?"
Spencer leaves for Scotland today, and I know Shane is both excited and unhappy. He already misses Spencer, and with Chris having moved out he's getting bored pretty easily. Luckily, we haven't been spending that much time at home.
We went to the Pub again on Sunday to watch the Superbowl, but there was no one there that we know, so it was just ok. I randomly picked the right team to cheer for. (They were down at the half when we showed up, so I decided to cheer for the Saints. Always root for the underdog.) We were both really tired from the night before, and I'd lost my voice. It was starting to come back, but it's still not great. I must have cheered more than I thought I had at karaoke.
We also had soccer Sunday evening. This is the first game I've gone to since joining the team, and the first time I'd played in about ten years. It was fun, despite everything. I twisted my ankle within the first minute of play. Then, later on, a guy on the other team didn't notice me and kicked me in the back of the leg. I have a nice big bruise on my thigh now. Actually, it might be the second biggest bruise I've ever had. He also managed to make me punch myself in the jaw, due to poor hand placement on both our parts. Then, he tripped me later! Not on purpose, of course, but I really got beaten up during that game. It hurt! If pictures of bruises turned out well I'd totally post one up, but they don't so I won't.
I've also started running a little bit. I hate running.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

"You weaponized my cocker spaniel?"

I joined a program called WIN Alaska that's a health and fitness thing for state employees. Really, I'll just be earning points for things that I do normally, like eating lots of fruit and veg, exercising, and even practicing my violin. (For mental health and wellness.) It gives out prizes at two and then at four months, depending on how many points you've earned. At the very least I want the tier three prizes (a yoga mat at two months and $100 at four months), but the tier four prizes would be even better (a steel water bottle at two months, and both an Ipod touch and $200 at four months). I'm not betting I'll get those, though. You'd have to do a lot of stuff for those, like marathons. There aren't exactly a lot of marathons in Fairbanks in Feb. However, I am thinking of doing the Beat Beethoven 5k in April. (There, I've said it on my blog. I have to do it.) And I renewed my gym membership, even though the cost hurts right now.
I've been really stressed about money, because our roommate just moved out and I'm paying a lot more in rent. With his student job, Shane can't cover half, so I'm taking over the bulk and he'll reciprocate after he finds a decent job. (This summer.) So that's not so worrying, but our electric bills have been over the top. As in, there's absolutely no way we used that much electricity. I need to look at the bills tonight and figure out what's going on. I had a sort of crazy idea last night about what might be wrong. There was a lot of activity with our neighbors at about 5:00, then nothing. I went upstairs to ask Helen about something around 8:30, but no one was home. Oddly, the lights in the front hallway didn't turn on, so I went to the back stairs, but those lights didn't turn on, either. Could the electric company have mixed up our bills, and someone's didn't get paid so their electric was turned off? I don't know. I'll have to see what's going on this evening. But it's all very frustrating. I hate our electric company.
So I've been very stressed lately, and tired. Apparently in situations like these, bread is my tipping point. I made bread last night, but the loaves came out almost flat and they stuck in the pans. I managed to bang them out (literally, it took about five minutes of cutting around the edges and smacking the pans down to get each loaf out). Shane came into the kitchen a few minutes later to ask me something, saw that I'd been crying, and came right over to hug me. I know I sounded incredibly pathetic sobbing out, "My bread sucks!" All of my bread has been fairly flat for a little while now, and the last loaves (before last night's) were not only flat they burned. I blame Shane for that one, he distracted me and then held me back when I went to get them out of the oven. Anyway, I need new bread pans, and I think I need to turn the temperature of the oven down. At least in the winter. I didn't think of this before today, but I'm betting my loaves being flattened has something to do with the weather, because they weren't doing this over the summer. Air pressure, or the dryness, or something. It's been pretty cold this week (-28 when I got to work this morning) and it gets very dry when it's this cold. So we'll see. I'll have to mess with it.
My classes are going well, though. Actually, class. I still have two, but I don't yet have the book for the online course so I haven't been able to actually start doing the work yet. It should be here next week and then I'm going to try to get as many assignments and quizzes over with as quickly as possible.
In my paralegal class, I got a chance to impress my teacher. She divided us into groups and gave each group a sort of case scenario to discuss and look up info about in the legal journals in the law library. I just found something relating to our case that even she hadn't. (Apparently it's not only illegal in Indiana to homeschool your kids, but parents can be criminally prosecuted for it. Hamilton v. State, 1998.) It's interesting, and so far I'm really enjoying it.
No "Sweeney Todd" rehearsal this Friday, which is nice. It's very fun, but in my head it's become just one more thing that I have to do. It doesn't feel like my weekend has started until after rehearsal, and since I get home after 9:30 on Friday, that takes away a significant portion of the time I mentally have reserved for fun things. (Sundays are also mainly a loss, because that's my get things done day. Laundry, homework, baking, shopping, etc.)
The most fun thing I've done recently was that we went to Chena Hot Springs last weekend. I wish I could go out there every weekend. But it's about an hour out of town, and $10 each. Still, it was totally worth it. We went with James, Lucy and Devin and we all spent well over an hour in the geothermal pool. Usually we go when it's about -30, but this time it was right around zero and I actually like that better. It's cold enough that you don't really overheat in the pool, but warm enough that your ears and face don't freeze. Plus, there wasn't as much steam as there usually is so you could actually see the people you were talking to. So nice, and incredibly relaxing.
Shane and I realized that--oh crap!--Valentine's Day is coming up. It took even me about half an hour to remember that that means our anniversary is coming up. The 8th, to be exact. (Such an arbitrary date, that of our first real date together. We'd been "dating" for a few weeks before--a.k.a. hanging out in the dorms--but neither of us had a car, so no way to get off campus. We borrowed one to go to Thai food for an actual, real date. And then our second date was Valentine's Day, which was awkward until we both realized that neither of us had any grand, romantic ideas or expectations.) We're going out to dinner this weekend to celebrate our three years, and then Shane volunteered to make dinner for Valentine's Day. I haven't told him, but I'm going to make dessert. Now I just need to come up with something to make. He doesn't have much of a sweet tooth, so chocolate cake (what I would choose) is out, but he loves pie. I'll look up some pie recipes. Maybe tarts? If nothing else, I can always just go with a pathetically easy favorite of his, chocolate pudding pie.