Saturday, November 18, 2006

A "stealth" vacation

I've been a full-time employee of this university for fourteen years (and six days. My anniversary was last Sunday), and I have never gotten used to how cool the concept of a paid vacation is. You tell your boss, "Hey, I'm not coming in at all next week. Not only do I expect to have a job here when I come back, I want you to pay me for the time I'm gone." And (s)he says, "Okay. See you in a week."

This is a "stealth" vacation. I haven't told any of my family or friends about it. I am hugging the week to me and whispering, "Mine. All mine." I don't really have much planned, just some Christmas shopping. I'll also try to finish the Christmas stocking I'm embroidering for my brother-in-law. Other than a trip to my parents' house Thanksgiving weekend and dance class tomorrow, I have no obligations this week.

I quit the choir. I know that in last post I said it was fun. And it was fun, when my voice would behave. I've had a series of colds and bouts with allergies this autumn (more so than usual) and they've left me with a now-you-hear-it-now-you-don't kind of singing voice. One of the pieces we were doing is the Hallelujah Chorus. They need first sopranos who can consistently hit the high A's. Sometimes I could, and sometimes all that came out of my mouth was "squeak." Frustrating, and not a help to the rest of the choir.

Also, my friend is feeling a bit of pressure regarding her dissertation. If she doesn't get it finished by the end of this term, she'll have to pay for another semester's tuition. She's running short of funds and getting a bit frantic, so she really doesn't have the time for this choir that she did last year. The whole time she's there, I think she's making mental lists of What She Should Be Doing. The relief in her reply to my "I'm quitting" email was palpable. I think she was trying to find a graceful exit. I'm happy to oblige.

I'll probably post later this week, if anything remotely interesting happens. Maybe I'll take a laptop-camera shot of my parents' place at Thanksgiving.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

In the basement of Irving's

Lately, I've been calling Sunday "song-and-dance day." Practice for the Bellefonte Victorian Christmas choir started up about a month ago, Sundays 2 to 4. Then I have dance class in the evening.

I joined the choir last year with a friend of mine. It was her idea. She wanted to do something that had nothing to do with writing her dissertation, and asked me if I wanted to come along. This choir is a volunteer, unpaid, single-purpose choir. We practice for 2 months' worth of Sundays, perform twice during Bellefonte's Christmas celebration in early December, and then disband for the year. It's a lot of fun. One of the few opportunities I get to sing that isn't in the shower or along with the radio, since I don't belong to a church and therefore can't join the choir. I made the mistake of saying that a fellow choir-member last year, and she tried to get me involved in her church. I finally had to tell her gently but firmly that I didn't miss being in a choir quite that much.

I should be there right now, but my friend's mother needed to be driven upstate somewhere. I have no other way to get there -- buses don't run to Bellefonte on Sunday. Instead, I've dragged my laptop downtown to Irving's, a sandwich shop/café with free wifi. Bought myself lunch, and now I'm blogging in their basement.

I've moved up to Belly Dance II, by the way. First class was last week, and it blew my mind. We've thrown zills into the mix, as well as doing things faster and in odd rhythms. Remember the whole steps-on-the-down ("that butt-clench thing") I went on about last March? Well, now we're doing something called a three-quarter shimmy. Instead of 1 squeeze each step, it's squeeze-left-squeeze-right-squeeze-left each step. Yeah. That's gonna take a bit of practice.

And on top of this, we add zills. Now I know why I've been holding my fingers like I'm holding a coin between thumb and middle finger. That's where the finger cymbals go! I bought a pair and was given some rhythms to practice. Here's what a zill looks like:

The safety pin is there at the suggestion of my teacher. When I bought them, I got 4 zills and long piece of elastic. You cut the elastic into 4 pieces, thread a piece through each zill, and then fit it to your finger. After a few weeks with them, once I'm sure of the fit (tight enough to keep them from falling off my fingers, yet loose enough to keep my fingers from turning purple. It's a delicate balance), I'm supposed to sew the elastic at the pin mark and trim the ends.

They make a nice, bright, loud "dinnggggg!" The cat hates them. She doesn't run from me when I practice though. She just sit there and stares at me, wide-eyed, ears back flat, wondering what this is in aid of. The way she tells me she's had enough? She starts to sharpen her claws on my rocking chair. That backfired on her, because the last time she did that I chased her away, hissing and clanging the bells.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

I'm not staring at you, I'm just reading your T-shirt.

I've been collecting sayings from T-shirts lately. Here are my favorites:

"Subtle..." -- on the front. Continued on the back: " a brick in the small of my back."

"Respect my peeps." -- The "peeps" in question were three little cartoon drawings of those yellow marshmallow chicks that get sold around Easter time here in the US. I don't know why I'm surprised at this, but they have their own website. These peeps were drawn with little baseball caps on backwards, wearing jewelry.

"Blondes really are more fun." -- worn by a very stern-looking brunette.

"Stop plate tectonics!" -- this one belongs to a friend of mine, and I laugh every time I see it. But then, I'm a little nerdy that way.

I don't tend to wear things with text on them, mainly because I don't hold the same opinion or thought long enough to want it emblazoned across my chest all day. Though if I did, I think it would be the sentence I used for the title of this post. Either that, or something I said to one of our newer part-time employees last week: "I'm not nearly as enthusiastic as I appear." That would work for all moods -- chirpy to grumpy to apathetic.

What would yours say?

Monday, November 06, 2006

I think my 15 minutes just started...

A few weeks ago, one of my co-workers called me from the reference desk and asked if she could borrow the back of my head. The fellow who takes the pictures for our public relations department was doing a photo shoot of our library, and he needed someone to sit and pretend to read a paper. So I came downstairs and held the New York Times in front of me for a little bit, did the same thing with USA Today, was thanked, went upstairs, and forgot about the whole thing.

Until this morning, that is, when I passed a framed poster of myself in the exhibit area on the library's first floor. This shoot (I just found out today) was for a display about my department, what we have to offer, what researchers can do with our resources, etc., etc. The area where I'm sitting is a place with comfy seats and three plasma screen TVs. The TVs run news feeds all the time. The one in the center is news non-English language news (with the sound on), and the two outer ones are US domestic news. These two have the sound turned off and closed-captioning running. We've had complaints from people who want to hear the English-language news, so recently we installed little radio transmitters. Anyone with a walkman or an MP3-player/radio can tune in and listen. We've also ordered radio headsets that people can borrow from the desk, for those folks who don't have either of those things.

This exhibit area is part of the normal route I take while crossing back and forth between my office (which is on the second floor of one end of the building) and the reference desk where I work (on the ground floor of the other end of the building). I get to pass by the back of my head a few times a day every day between now and the end of January. It's an odd feeling. It's also very hard not to look up at myself as I walk by.