Sunday, September 29, 2013

My Dishwasher: A Song of Hate

You, you --- dishwasher! What sort of inept pygmy designed your cramped interior? And your spinners that do not really spin? Are you a toaster oven with grandiose ambitions? Are you a Robin Hood, attempting to redistribute food from the haves to the have-nots of the kitchen community rather than remove it? Or are you secretly a hoarder, collecting onion bits in the murky fens of drainage-land?

I can understand why my coffee thermoses don't fit; clearly you are just prejudiced against the caffeinated. I can somewhat understand why my frenchpress beaker does not fit and has to be tilted at a crazy angle for maximum gunk-collection: this is an apartment complex full of students and old retired people and they cannot be expected to drink coffee in their home. Such a bizarre activity!

But what I cannot understand --- what I cannot even begin to comprehend --- is what sort of one-eyed fool would install the top dishwasher rack in such a way that none of my water glasses fit! Is this all part of a vast conspiracy to prevent the denizens of The Hot Place from consuming too much water? Is it a sign of the corruption of The Hot Place Power and Water Company, and proof that any moment Jack Nicholson will enter stage left and have his nostril slit with a knife?

I insist at the very least on being Faye Dunaway in this crazy noir extravaganza.

No wait, I take that back; I want the role where I can slap the damnfool silly who designed this, this botch of a dishwasher that can either hold a saucepan or 9 dinner plates but won't really hold any combinations that I use when making dinner. Curse you, maker of cramped, wimpy dishwashers! I shake my fist and dishrag at you as I rewash all my bowls! May your fingernails shrivel up and fall off! May you get the worst case of dishpan hands all over your arse! May everything you touch turn to chipped crockery! You, you mildew, you!

I hope you are never ever lemony fresh ever again.

*(Ok, life is pretty good if this is all you got to hate on, right? That said, the complaint, in many cultures, has been raised to a form of art. I consider myself an artiste.)

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Digging oneself out of a financial hole

Huh. Out of a hole? How does one, literally, dig oneself out of a hole anyway?

I mean, I can see how you can dig someone else out of a hole --- mainly by putting dirt into the hole. But I don't really get the logic of how one can do that when already inside the hole.

Especially if it is a big hole, like this, the first one I found on my google image search:

I'm sure you can already see my biggest problem: distraction. That and being tired of sitting in holes. The good news is I finally have a nice-paying job. (*what follows is totally #firstworldproblems and you might want to look elsewhere if this post is going to annoy you*) I looked at my take-home pay (when I am actually allowed to take it home; see here for story.) and looked at all my credit card debt and after a little gasping and gagging, figured out I could pretty much pay it off in about 10 months.

That totally sucks.

I mean, on the one level it's very easy. On another level, it's just like going on a diet, and usually I gain my most weight immediately after deciding to go on a diet. I know it's weird, but there's something about the mental decision making and planning that makes me feel like eating something, as if all that thinking and effort should equal time passing. It's like I'm thinking I'm living through a sports film montage, when really only 30 seconds of the film have gone by.

I bet I could lose all the weight I need to in 9 or 10 months too ---- but the sheer willpower of choosing not to do something (eat, spend) for almost a year is soooo exhausting! It's not like deciding to take a class or go on a hike --- it's deciding to be good a zillion times a day, starting over again every minute! Ugh.

A few days ago many people on my facebook feed were reposting this article about scarcity mindset and how people slide back in to poverty even when they are given means to get on top of things for a while. Some of those people were relating it to the sad death-of-an-adjunct story that has been trending everywhere, but I had a more blackly humorous view and immediately thought of the last words of the Misfit in Flannery O'Connor's story: "she would have been a good woman if someone was there to shoot her every moment of her life." Wouldn't we all?

Thing is, I am living a new life in a new place, and I really want some new toys to go along with it. I also want to do up my apartment all shiny and fancy, or at least replace the empty boxes that are serving as furniture in some places. (And what about decorating the office with wall art???) I have been intermittently on a "no-buying diet" for most of the three years I was on my postdoc, trying to dig, if not out of my previous debt, at least manage it as much as possible.

Making a game of "how many days can I go without collecting a receipt" helps keep the expenses for a month to an absolute minimum, but the down side of not buying or replacing anything is that stuff gets old and worn out. I killed all my jeans on the way over here. I'm due for new, non-holey underwear (underwear! FFS! Who wants to spend money on that!?!?! Work-appropriate underwear that nobody sees, I mean). I tossed all my scuffed and dying sandals before I moved. Since arriving here my frying pan and a couple spoons have died (the plastic handles are splitting and warping off the silverware set I bought at --- Bed Bath and Beyond? --- back in 1994 as part of my going away to college). If I don't plan for some replacement stuff and at least a couple new toys, I am going to fall right off my budget plan and end up on a binge. If I do plan to let myself replace and add things, my budget plan is going to take a lot longer than 10 months.

And this isn't even taking into account anything like emergency savings or my student loans or extra savings for retirement and whatnot.

Now the bad news. You did see the "good news" phrase come up at the top of the post, right?

One of those old and getting older purchases is my car.

At 11 years old, we are right about due for major expensive repairs or replacing the car. That wouldn't be cheap either. (and what $ do I have for any sort of downpayment?)  I just went in for my oil change and the major inspection thingy is almost due, and when the mechanic looked at everything he found cracked fuel lines and a bunch of other things. He estimated about 1200. Oy. I at least managed to reschedule for a couple weeks after October starts so that I can throw money at the card before loading it up again. I can't wait too long, though, since my cousin is coming out to visit (that is, he will be Way Over There which is as close to here as you'll ever get on a random trip, so we are going to split the difference and meet up in Cool Scenic Park and run up his expense report.) That means I need the car to be working and reliable before then, so, tons of money it is.

Ok, now that hole is feeling like this.

You see where this is going, right? Saving money at the end of the year is as bad as dieting --- a mini-vacation here, then everyone in my family has a birthday, then Thanksgiving and Christmas, and foop! I have been spending all sorts of money and eating all sorts of holiday-themed things! To say nothing of the fact that I have no concept of patience or time and am now ready to be rich and thin, having contemplated the hardships of willpower for a whole thirty minutes!

Yecch. I guess I gotta keep pluggin' away, find some new games to keep me motivated, and ask around about summer teaching work.

You know, if it actually were a literal hole I was stuck in, not spending my money and not overeating would be much easier! I mean, so would starving to death, but who's counting?

Monday, September 23, 2013


No, not 1066. 966.

I don't remember posting about this, but this incident from the beginning of the semester substantially ate up my entire month and distracted me from many things, including posting to this blog. Right now I have a big pile of homework I need to finish up before getting the first of the first batch of essays, so clearly I feel like blogging instead.

You know, of course, that I had no pay over the summer, and a very expensive and rube-goldberg-esqe move across the country. I tapped my accounts down to the bottoms, licked the inside of the bottom of the barrels, and even had to use cash advance off my credit cards to get the first full month's rent payment. When I got here, I looked around and found a credit union and set up a bank account. And I made sure all my paperwork was in at the HR office. Perfect, right?

Except our paychecks are cut on the last day of the month, and no one had explained any of the nitty-gritty process to me, or that I would not get direct deposit for my first pay cycle, or where to pick up a paycheck before the business office closed that Friday. When the oncoming train of bad financial situations came round the bend and barreled right at me, I ran around in little circles yelping like a crazy person.

Wait, trains round the bend? ... maybe it was more like this than running in little circles.

Yeah, that's about right.

To make matters worse 1) my rental co. insists that rent is paid on the first or there is a huge fine per day and 2) it was labor day weekend. Fuck! I waited, and watched, and bit my nails.

Ahhhhh! It's getting closer!!! (look afraid and calamitous, people! Sheesh!)

First thing Monday I zipped down and picked up the check and ran across town to deposit it. I saw a huge line of old people inside the bank (who banks inside these days, really?) and so I did what most normal people do: I used the ATM outside.

Which was a weirdo ATM that didn't use envelopes but had a screen where you could "see" the check after you fed it in and then it prints a copy of the check on the receipt. I had never seen one before. Except, the "image" on the screen was a black blotchy garbled mess and so was the printout, which differed by being a lovely blue garble.

An aside: when I was telling this to my sister, she interrupted to say, "what the hell backwoods have you been living in out in ________ that you have never seen that kind of ATM before???" Oh, honey. I never could get the ATMs in Postdoc City to work, especially since the one on campus was inside the campus center and thus only available during banker's hours and school days anyway. I went old school --- all my interactions were just like how people of that city liked it --- in person. I swear to you it was the weirdest oddest slowest process ever. I didn't like having to make small talk and I didn't like having some lady know the balance of my checking account all the time. But what could you do? Complaining about it made people stare at you like you were against the idea of Jesus as your personal savior ---- an idea I am equally perplexed by. Who knew that Catholicism functioned as a proper metaphor for modern bureaucracy?

Anyway, having deposited everything and assuming I could now fix all my finances, I went back to teach a class. And that night I went online --- to my sweet sweet preferred method of managing money, which is alone, at 11 at night, in my underwear with a drink by my side --- and entered in and set up all my bills and various accounts, including rent, and automated everything to pay out as soon as my paycheck had sat there in the bank long enough to be approved.


All of this babbling about and you might have forgotten the post title up there, at the top. Well, wonder no longer: for some reason when the ATM scanned my paycheck, it only read the last three digits. No, not Nine hundred and sixty-six. Nine dollars and sixty-six cents. Which, when added to the little bit I had scraped together to hold the account open, probably came up to about 39.66.

All of this became very clear to me when the overdraft emails started rolling in. The front office of the apartment complex didn't make much of an impact as she called while i was teaching and I just put the phone in my pocket when it started vibrating. It quickly went from bad to worse. I thought I had felt panicky and trapped over the weekend ---

But this time I was pissed --- at myself, at the bank, at the world. All those charges and overdrafts and SHIT that I shouldn't need to pay that I'm going to have to pay!! 

Yeah, ok, I should have checked the bank receipt more carefully. There are a lotta shouldas in my life.

Unfortunately, my bank is a small credit union. Maybe a large impersonal bank would have been no better. But sending a bunch of emails and calling at 11 pm or so had no effect, and when I went down to the branch late the next afternoon, done with teaching, the manager lady said there was little she could do. I proceeded to lose it and do much ranting and raving and finally she made a bunch of calls down to the state capitol branch where all the ATM takings are sent. We learned that they are behind by several days in cataloging these and it would probably be about 4-5 days before they could verify and fix "my error." I give her a look of apoplexy, and she tried to see what she could do from her end. My expression didn't change --- about 5 minutes into the process I might have blinked once or twice, I grant you --- and eventually she just did an override to put a credit back in my account herself. She promised me that she herself would go back in and undo all the overdraft charges that were accruing. That didn't help with the ever-mounting rent fees or anything on the other end, but I was mollified enough to go home.

So the rest of the month has been taken up in various degrees with constantly checking my bank
website and dealing with all the bounced bills that had to be repaid and the additional bouncing and late fees for my gas and electric and credit card bills and etc.

Oddly enough I managed to pay my student loans on time, twice. They had said they weren't sure if my new direct pay would kick in in time this month, and in the process of logging in and checking I somehow authorized another payment. Thanks guys. This was not a helpful month to do that.

I hope my financial life is settling down a bit at last ---- I have a different money post I was planning on writing, but this story came back to me instead.


Oh, no reason...

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Oy, my Bad News Bears

People, I am tired. It doesn't help that I had to take my cat in to the vet last night, since he had licked himself raw and bloody in one spot, and that I have been getting up so early to be ready for class that I have to go to bed super early like I am an old fart (temperamentally I am a night owl, which makes this schedule worse).

On top of all this, I have finally started my crash course. One of my second-level comp classes didn't fill, so they cancelled it. They have a setup here where they run late starting classes in the middle of the semester to "capture" students who they might have ordinarily lost to waitlists and such, and the class runs on a condensed schedule much like a summer session class would. This means I had a light and enviable start to my first semester here, what with no committee work and only 3 classes, 2 of which are the same prep. But. Oh my, having another class start right about when I get the first batch of essays from all my other classes --- that, my friends, is cruelty.

Suddenly my schedule has gone from awesome to a huge block of empty time followed by a late afternoon class. And going from the end of essay sequence 1 back to introductions and beginnings is just confusing me. To say nothing of the fact that my first semester classes are all on one schedule and the comp/lit intro class is on a different set of days, so suddenly putting another first semester class on the lit days confuses the hell out of me. What day is it? When do we next meet? Did I update that on the powerpoint from the first time I taught this lesson? Beats the fuck out of me.

In addition to the load and the schedule and the confusion ---- look, seriously people, what sort of students do you think you "capture" when you capture all the students who were not able to enroll in time to get the classes they need? (I think it is interesting that they talk all about helping and assisting students in admin, yet they use this phrase which sounds like it is all about capturing revenue.) We will see how many of my students survive to the end of the semester. I found it telling that several of them did not bring any pens or pencil or paper to the first class because they hadn't gotten their financial aid straightened out yet or done their school shopping yet. You have no pens at all in your house? You look about the age of someone who has just gotten out of high school?? What did you write with/on back in the spring???

Besides the people who seem to have very poor life coping skills and/or chaotic home lives ---- I am dealing already with interesting phone calls and absences and people leaving in the middle of class randomly to meet someone for carpooling ---- and in addition to the people who are terrified of school in general or writing in particular and have already told me about it ---- and in addition to the much older students who are not sure this class will have any relevance to them whatsoever ---- I have several people who I am pretty sure are Adaptive Life Skills students who have somehow managed to pass out of, or be passed along through, the developmental writing class below this one. I am not sure how well I will deal with this. I am not a patient person. (How the hell did I get hired at a community college? I don't even know!) I do not deal well with being patient with people who do not have the cognitive ability to learn and improve. Again, back to telling signs: it is significant that almost nobody could follow the directions correctly to make my name cards ---- name cards that my other comp classes were just fine with making ---- but some of these students seemed to have conceptual trouble even grasping the idea of name cards and filling out this form.  I don't have this level of patience. I do not work well with this population.

But on a lighter note, the other really noticeable trait about this class is the sheer number of Celebrity Lookalikes. There's Redhead Carey Elwes and Young Eddie Vedder, Breaking Bad Skinny Dude and Grad School Subject Librarian (who doesn't act at all like my friend from grad school but looks just like her! Although, not a celebrity, I guess), Michael Cera With a Buzz Cut and Kathleen-Turner-in-her-Virgin-Suicides-Phase-Not-Body-Heat-Phase (just looked her up) and, of course, It's Unfortunate That You Look As Much Like Garrison Keillor As You Do. All of them look so much like their lookalikes that I could stumble and stare a bit as  I made the connection, and now, of course, I have their "other" names stuck so firmly in my mind I'm afraid I will call somebody by their descriptor name rather than their actual given name. Although, if they can't write their damn name on the side of the namecard labeled "front," is it really my fault anyway?

Sunday, September 8, 2013


Operation Jewelry Hanger was a partial success, unlike Operation Create Desk Accessories, which failed miserably because they look lumpy and amateurish and the black duct tape I used to edge the little holders has come up unevenly in places. Sigh. I just need to come to terms with the fact that I have very high standards for my crafting and very little patience, which means that stuff turns out shitty and I get super mad.

What you see here is a spool holder from the fabric store. It was on sale for 5.99. The necklace/jewelry holders I saw there were running about 38, so that is good. And most of the other ones I have seen are either pricey (like on etsy) or incredibly cheap and plasticy. If I ever get up off my ass I might find some paint and paint this a cool snazzy color, but for now it is good enough that it is up on the wall.

Most of the necklace holders you see are more horizontal or the pins are set out diagonally, so the necklaces don't cover each other up, and I admit that makes this not as useful as I'd hoped. Also, there are a whole lot of holes in the wall behind that thing, because I can't be arsed to check whether both holes are in a level line with each other. Stupid me.

I hung it above my head, so the bottoms of my necklaces are about eye level. I hope that they are high enough not to interest my cats, who sometimes like jumping for things and destroying them. Also, Timido is an eater of string, so I don't want him to ingest any of my necklace chains.

For shame, you.

It is nice that I can --- mostly --- see them and will probably be wearing some of them more often. I have untangled all the ones that were so hopelessly tangled they just stayed permanently in my jewelry box. Lots of them are very tarnished, too, and I haven't done anything about that. Any suggestions for the best way to polish them if they are a mix of silver and beads?

Funny thing how these are like the equivalent of looking through old photographs --- something else I have been doing. A lot of these I wore constantly in high school and college. I had a friend I went off to college with who liked beading and who made me a bunch of chokers, some out of broken bits of my mom's old costume jewelry. There's also the key I randomly bought at an antique store for a dollar and wore on a long velvet string with my fluffy 90s poet shirts. Some of the more recent ones I might get rid of because I am just tired of looking at them or thinking about them, but, oddly enough, not my totally outdated high school stuff. Do you wear the same cheap jewelry for years upon years?

Friday, September 6, 2013

Three ways my students are weird

On paper, my students aren't all that much different from the ones in Postdoc City, in terms of economics and academics. In fact, the Postdoc State School students were all theoretically going to do actual four-year degrees, whereas I have students in my classes here who are going for certificates in welding or dental hygiene and are not going to transfer. But man, the Hot Place students are regular pistols compared to the ones at Postdoc State! They all have things to say about the readings (even when they haven't done the readings yet) and want to say them. The writing I've seen so far is about the same, but there is so much less of the "I'm just here to get a degree and that will automatically get me a job" attitude here.

- The Hot Place students are so much friendlier. Sure, the area Postdoc City is located in is supposed to be a place known for its friendliness and hospitality, but the students were so much more likely to sit there like lumps. I have a couple dudes in each class who make a point of introducing themselves to people who show up and add my class late --- with handshaking! and introductions! "Politeness" in the other place seemed much more focused on deference and saying "ma'am" and "sir," and on clamming up because disagreeing with anybody or even mentioning an opinion seems somehow rude and wrong. Likewise, I have heard "oh, let me help you with that" and "can I help you?" spontaneously from my students. Granted, there are more people in wheelchairs or with disabilities around here, but I have certainly had to "suggest" that my students help someone back in Postdoc City.

In addition, I have had students come up and tell me thank you and that they liked my teaching style already ---- (???) ---- "I like how you make class interesting," "I'm glad that you want us to make our own opinions in our papers," and today: "our whole group would like to say we are so impressed with how you take everybody's thoughts and put them up on the board and really listen." Uh, ok. I kind of want to say, what kind of crappy teachers did you have that my teaching style seems amazing instead of just average? But I don't want to hear any badmouthing of any teachers, so I won't ask. Like I said, I haven't had people be impressed and complimentary about my teaching, even when I was in my grad school teaching days. I dunno.

- Today I had a student come to my office hours all mad because he had ordered books and the bookstore had lost the order instead of putting anything on hold for him. Hopefully he can bring in a credit card statement and get them to give him the book. However, he still needed today's reading. "Here," I said. "Go photocopy mine over in the library." "Is that free?" he asked. He didn't have any cash on him. Instead, he asks, hey, could I bring in my printer to your office? Um, wut? He says he has it in his car. "Bring it on in," I say, mystified.

So about 10 minutes later he shows up with a big bag with a scanner-printer in it. "I got this for free at a garage sale," he says, setting it up on my office floor, "because they lost the CD with the drivers. Little did they know," he says, plugging it in, "that you can find all the drivers online. I had a sociology paper due right after my biology class, so I finished writing the paper in class ---" I facepalm and shake my head, "and brought the printer in from my car and printed it out right there in the soc lecture hall. So I already had it with me." If my students ever complain again about having printer troubles or not being able to print on campus because of the lines, I'm going to bring up this story.

- Also today we were discussing strategies advertisements use to sell us food products and the way they manipulate our emotions, and I was trying to get them to grasp the concept that food has many symbolic associations and emotional resonances, and one student piped up, "yeah, like how there's this one guru who says if you even so much as drink a glass of water that someone has prepared for you with anger in their heart, it's like drinking poison." The student went on to talk about The Resonance and I can't get any further into that without outing some locations.

But, yeah. Don't get me wrong; I like 'em. But definitely weird.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

"Freeway of the Rising Sun"

I take. this road. in The Hot Place
Into. the Sun.
And it's been. the ruin. of many a poor soul
And God. knows I. am one.

It burns. through your shades. like paper.
And blinds. most every one.
This disk of fire below your visor.
On the Freeway. Of the sun.

Now I know that there. are lane lines.
And a stoplight. I'm sure. I've run.
And I think. that there. were railguards, too
But not. Once I. Am done.

[Organ Solo. Organ bursts into flames. Giant mirrors appear on stage and sear out your eyeballs.]

Oh mother tell your children
Not to do. what I have done
Spend. your lives. in shine and glare
On the Freeway. of the Rising Sun.

Well, I got one. foot on the gas pedal.
As I hope. for the flash. to fade.
And I might. have hit some students
On the way. to that tree's shade.

I take. this road. in The Hot Place
Into. the Sun.
And it's been the ruin. of many a poor soul
And God. I know. I'm one.*