Saturday, December 31, 2016

Looking back...

It has been a long, long year.  It started--and ended--with death, with a fuck-ton of discomfort along the way.


It's over.

Thanks be unto God, it's over.

I've learned that it wasn't just my thyroid gland messing me up (though that was the root of a good part of the problem).  I've learned that there's no real treatment for me, that I'll never "get over" my physiological problems.  However, I know what they are, now, and I have a better idea of how to manage them then my doctor does, mostly because I have a lot more time to research the issue, the underlying causes, and how to deal with them to prevent them from getting worse.  If I can get the right combo of enough rest when I need it, the right diet, meds dosage, and herbals going together, I might be able to get to 80% of normal function, rather than the 40% I've been living with. 

I've found that I didn't have as good of an idea for changing my composition class as I thought I did.  I'm not entirely certain if it's just because it takes more energy, physical and mental, than I have access to, if it's student preparedness (more on that later), or if it just doesn't work, but it didn't.  Not in the spring semester (when I was off my thryoid meds through February), and not in the fall semester (when I was trying to finish recovering from surgery, and trying to get my blood thyroid levels set where they need to be to feel better when that wasn't the problem at all).  I'll be going back to what I had been doing: 3-4 short papers, and 1-2 slightly longer, researched papers.

I've found that I need to talk about writing conventions--capitalization, paragraph indentation, putting their damn names on the papers--that they should have already learned before they never learned punctuation, how to not do either sentence fragments or run-on sentences, picking the right homophone, or even the major parts of speech (no, they typically can't tell a noun from a verb, thanks).

I've found that Hillary Clinton is hated badly enough by enough people that she can't win an election rigged in her favor by both parties.  And that an orange lizard wearing a Tribble as a toupee is more electable than an honest-to-God decent man who comes across on TV like he might be on the very high function end of the Autism spectrum. 

I've learned that my vote doesn't matter, except in local issues...and then, only sometimes. 

2016 was actually worse than 2015.  I'm praying that 2017 doesn't prove more of the same.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Friday, December 23, 2016

Ink review

Just got my ink samples from The Goulet Pen Company. I've been waiting for them--there was one in particular I wanted to try. For the most part, the Parker Quink inks are good about not feathering in notebook paper, but I ordered a bottle of Parker Quink blue-black from Amazon, and got two very small bottles of blue, both of which smelled like paint, not ink. Shipped from India. Cannot return. I'll be emptying the bottles and refilling with other inks eventually.

However. That rather soured me on Parker bottled inks, and a little on the filled cartridges.

Once my current bottles are gone, that's going to be the last Parker ink I order through Amazon.* But I still need a good, non-feathering ink that doesn't bleed through on cheap paper (which is what I mostly use). 

I ordered a sample of Noodler's X-Feather black through Goulet Pens. As I said, it (and Noodler's Q-E'ternity, and scented inks sandalwood, frankincense, and myrrh from De Atramentis) arrived today. I've loaded one of my wetter-writing medium nib pens (a Hero 901) with the X-Feather, and tested it out.

Little feathering on Walmart brand notecards, but none on legal pads, comp books, loose notebook paper, printer paper, or recycled paper legal pads. It doesn't seem to bleed through on any of it, and only sort of shows through on the recycled paper.  

It's also a much darker black than my Parker Quink black.  I like that.  I like it a lot.  I just need to see if it does what Bulletproof Black does, and leaves solid residue clogging up the works before I use it in anything other than a cheap Jinhao knockoff of a Lamy Safari, or my just-as-inexpensive Hero 901.** 

Needless to say, I've got a new favorite black ink.  And one that's just over $12.50 for a 3 oz bottle (as opposed to $10 for 2 oz, like the Quink).  

*I may order any more Quink from The Goulet Pen Company, when I've run out of the plain blue.  It's my other half's preferred ink for color and behavior.  
**I bought my Hero 901 three or four years ago, for just under $3.  

Monday, December 19, 2016

AAR for the semester

I've come to a few conclusions:

1. Until I can get my brain with a working de-fogger, I need to go back to the routine I can teach in my sleep.  This past semester was no better than the one before.  I mean, yeah, there is call for teaching more than MLA style, but I'm not sure I can do it.  Not right now, at least.

2. Three classes per semester is too hard on me right now.  I've got too many balls in the air as it is.  Yes, the extra income was nice, but I just can't handle the extra workload right now.  Maybe in a few years if I can get this mess to clear up. 

3. It seems like this semester's classes were far less prepared for hard deadlines than any of the other classes I've had the past few years.  I've had a lot of people simply not turning in stuff, or not participating in workshop.  Zeros are not good.  I had a lot of people simply not paying attention to directions, and a lot more that just...didn't do the work.  I've had more of the bottom half of the grades continuum this semester per class than I've had even in dumb classes.  And these weren't dumb classes.

4. I've also had a lot more NAGGING this semester.  "But...can't I do this to improve my grades?" "No."  "How about that?"  "How about we wouldn't be having this discussion if you'd been paying attention to the deadlines, and/or your grades, and/or instructions on how to turn shit in all fucking semester, shitbird?"  "Can I...?" "No." 

Just thinking about this is exhausting.  Think I'm going to go make a pot of coffee. 

Saturday, December 17, 2016

New favorite pen

Last month, I ordered a new pen from Amazon: the Conklin Mark Twain.

This is it:

I love this pen.  It's a reproduction of the first self-fill type: the crescent fill.  It predates the lever fill by several years, even though Sheaffer wound up cornering the market with a better advertising department.

In my opinion, the crescent fill was a far better system.  There's a rotating ring with a slot that prevents the crescent from being depressed, squashing the presser bar against the ink sac, thereby expelling the ink.  There's nothing preventing you from accidentally raising the lever and expelling all the ink.

The pen is substantial, hefty without being too heavy.  Comfortably broad for larger hands, or small hands that don't like skinny pens anymore.  Filling is simple: line up the slot in the ring below the crescent, depress the crescent, and stick the nib in the ink up to the feed, and let go.  Repeat a few times with the pen in the ink, and you're good.  Wipe the excess, and start writing. 

I bought this in a fine nib.  It's a butter-smooth nib in stainless steel, and lays down a line finer than my Lamy EF.  The nib is fairly soft, which means if you want, you can achieve a bit of line variation, but it is not a flex nib, so you need to be careful not to spring it. 

It isn't a pen for beginners.  I've seen in reviews that some people have gotten their hands on one with a misaligned nib (scratchy), which needs a careful eye and careful fingers to fix.  It is easily fixable, but it takes a pen owner that understands what's going on.  I've seen complaints that it doesn't like to start writing when they set it down for a few minutes (cap it, you idiots), or that it's a hard starter in general (not my experience, but probably just needs cleaned).  I've seen complaints that it leaks--that leads me to a suspicion that they're inexperienced with self-fill systems, which can burp ink when they're near empty, from a little bit of air expansion when it warms from your hands while you're using it. 

My personal experience of using it, in the (slightly less than a) month I've had it in my possession is nothing like any of that.  It is, honestly, the best writer in my stable, beating out my favorite nameless antique lever fill by quite a bit in smoothness of nib, in the feel of the pen, and in the filling mechanism.

And that leaves aside the entire question of cool: this is a reproduction of Mark Twain's favorite pen.  The one he endorsed in ad copy in 1902.  And his signature is engraved on the back of the cap's trim ring (something not visible in the picture from Amazon).  As brilliant of a writer as this pen is, it's the other features that prompted me to buy it: the fact that it was the first self-fill mechanism type on the market, and the fact that it was one of the first celebrity endorsements in the history of advertising for pens. 

I am very, very glad I spent the money I did, even if I had my doubts about it as soon as I'd hit the order button. 

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Catching up

So, this week is finals week.  I have just a bit more to do, checking to see if I have any papers for any students whose work I didn't grade, and I'll have everything done (but for turning in grades) for one of my classes.  And grades?  Planning on getting that done and turned in tonight, after the kids go to bed, and hopefully before my colleagues bog down the system at the last possible second.*

Odysseus helped me a bit, over the weekend.  We've got about half the summer clothes packed away, the dishes half done, and the laundry about a third of the way done, if you count clean put away as part of "laundry."  And Odysseus spent a couple hours cleaning up the back room, and sweeping.  One corner that got emptied will hold the off season clothes, once we finish packing them away...

Unfortunately, that is all that got done.  I overdid it on Saturday, and am still paying for it with pain in my legs and back, and weakness in all of my muscles.  And then, I got sick, yesterday...which is why I'm not quite finished with the class whose final exam time was yesterday.  

I've got another class's last chance** block coming up tomorrow, then the third will be on Friday.  After I get grades turned in for all three classes, I'm done.

I'm hoping to get some mental work (i.e., writing or editing a friend's work) done today, sometime.  I just keep fogging over, and can't really think through it well. 

*Nobody's worse about procrastinating than PhDs.  Nobody.  

**Since I am required by the head of the university to do something graded during final exam time, I figured they could use that last two hour block of time to turn in stuff they missed the initial deadline on.  Instead of having to think of something that could stand in for a final exam for a composition class.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016


I am way behind--like, three weeks behind--on grading blogs.  I'm even further behind on the other things that need to be done. 

Thank God Friday is the last day of class, for me.  And I have a two hour block of time on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, that I will accept any late work: one block of scheduled final exam time per class taught.  After those times, I will be turning in the grades for that class's final grades. 

Other than that, the kids are in school, and I am not.

No, I likely won't catch up on housework then, either.  Not at the rate of speed (the speed of the mighty sloth) I am able to work.  But I may be able to catch up on my writing, if I can get the brain fog to clear enough.

That is the question, isn't it, though?  Because that is the reason I'm so freakin' far behind in my grading.