Wednesday, April 30, 2008

that's why they call it a stash

One thing I've discovered in the process of moving from Pittsburgh to State College is that I have entirely too much "stuff." Some of it I wouldn't part with, like my quadrillion books, many of which I have not and probably will never read...but they sure make it look like I'm intelligent all sitting there pretty on the bookshelves. I have a living room full of chairs, which is sort of silly because generally it's me, myself, and I in the apartment along with Joelle, but she's not allowed on the furniture. A butt can only be in one seat at a unless I become more hospitable (which I ought to do) it seems rather ridiculous to have so many places to select from to sit down (...or throw extra junk, as the case may be). Nevertheless, the books and the furniture and all the other things I have way too much of (...including cleaning supplies...) have lots of potential for use without too much of a time or effort investment.

However. There is one Thing that I'm not going to run out of anytime soon - partly because it will take time and effort. But mostly because there's so much of it: YARN.

I got a little embarrassed as some folks were helping me move in when I said out loud, "Wow, I have a lot of boxes labeled 'yarn,'" and one of them replied, "Yeah - I see lots of yarn, but not many things made out of yarn." In my defense, I have indeed made a lot of things out of yarn, many of which were packed in the boxes labeled "clothes" and many of which have been given away to various people. But it's true...there is a lot of yarn that isn't used.

I remember realizing this the last time I moved, in June/July of 2006. Back then I had a Big Trunk, a Little Red Trunk, a few bags, and a couple boxes of yarn or projects on needles. ...Now I fear...I have more!

Some people have a yarn closet. Due to the fact that I don't have an entire closet to spare for yarn, I have to "hide" it in multiple places. And thus far in my unpacking, that has included the following locations...
on the shelves of the coffee table
in one corner of the bedroom closet
in the other corner of the bedroom closetsmushed into the big, black trunk
in this little cabinet
in the bottom of this shelf...and just in case i run out, there's the drop spindle and pencil roving so i can make more yarn...
It kind of reminds me of what my Mom always told me when I went on a long trip: put a little money in a number of different places (purse, backpack, suitcase, pants, etc.) so if one of those gets ripped off, at least you'll still have some. ...Right, like someone's going to bust into my apartment and steal the coffee table so they can get that pretty German sock wool, eh?

I feel like trying to find places to enclose the yarn is sort of like trying to hide an addiction. And I think that's how a "yarn collection" turns into a "stash."

So, I guess the question now is...what to do about it? Do I just try to do more knitting? Do I sell it? Do I bring it with me on my mission trip to Honduras in a couple weeks where we're helping ladies start a knitting business? I don't know. All I DO know is that I ought not to buy any more yarn!!!!

And I've also concluded that, despite my yearning to learn how to quilt and the fact that there's a quilting shop a couple miles from my apartment, I really ought not to do that either. There are so many pretty, pretty fabrics that it would be lovely to quilt with...and you know those will just end up thrown in a drawer or cubby somewhere, too!!

Yuck - I feel disgusted with my more-more-more attitude!! Perhaps it's time to down-size. Or at least stabilize!! Or even better: utilize.

Monday, April 28, 2008

having fun after new work day one

No incredibly huge disasters occurred while at my first day of work, so that was good. It did, however, rain all day. I still managed to force myself to walk to and from work, although I wised up on the way home and went and bought myself some bus tokens, which were useful because my trip home was actually just so I could pick up my Social Security card, which I did not know I would need but in fact did, and I had to then go back and forth to work one more time...which I did on the bus.

Anyhow, the day wasn't awful, but I was certainly motivated at its conclusion to stop by the corner grocery store and buy a gigantic bag of Reese's pieces and some Dove dark chocolate promises. New jobs will do that, I guess.

My friend Sarah recently did this, and since I'm feeling like vegging and know that the first thing on my to-do list is to pay bills, here is an insert-your-name-into-Google-and-report-the-first-hit game:

Q: Type in "[your name] needs" in the Google search:
A: Perhaps it was a reminder that God's power is what Ruth needs to heed, not man's shallow disdain, as Mr. Benson taught her.
(Nevertheless, the next hit is "Ruth needs a husband.")

Q: Type in "[your name] looks like" in Google search
A: Ruth looks like she might have some to spare!

Q: Type in "[your name] likes" in Google search:
A: Ruth likes a partner who is mentally alive and keeps her guessing.

Q: Type in "[your name] says" in Google search:
A: Ruth says update your blog!
(The next line is "And when Ruth tells you to do something...")

Q: Type in "[your name] wants" in Google search:

Q: Type in "[your name] does" in Google search:
A: Ruth does not come to the Lord because He is the Lord.

Q: Type in "[your name] hates" in Google search:
A: Ruth hates studying.

Q: Type in "[your name] goes" in Google search:
A: Ruth goes with Naomi.

Q: Type in "[your name]" in Google search:
A: The first hit is Ruth's Chris Steak House. Why in the world is it called that, anyhow?? Couldn't they just have one first name??

Q: Type in “origin of [your name]” in Google search:
A: Ruth is of Hebrew origin, and its meaning is "friend, companion."

Sunday, April 27, 2008


I have moved.

It took nearly 20 days to get everything out of the Pittsburgh apartment and into the State College, PA, apartment 3 hours away, but it has now officially been accomplished and I no longer live in Pittsburgh and I don't have keys for anything in Pittsburgh and I am a real, live State College resident (although now I have to change my voting registration thing again, I guess...grr...).


I am far from being "settled in" to the new place - there are boxes that will provide me with a pseudo-Christmas for the next month or so as I explore what is inside of them all. Incidentally, I do know where my fake Christmas tree is AND even the location of all the decorations...maybe I'll put it up just for kicks.

And then there's Joelle.

Poor gal. Over the past few weeks her favorite hiding/resting spots have been taken away one after another. First it was the bookshelves...then the pink chair...then the bed...then the silver chair... One day I found her stolidly laying in the past home of the silver chair. You can still see the imprints of its legs in the carpet.
maybe if i wait here long enough, it will come back...?
I drove her to the new place on Wednesday after having set up the living room and half of the bedroom.
i can sit!
i can sleep!
...what i'm not showing you is what these places look like now a week later...with boxes filled with clothes stuffed under the bed and 6 of the 7 available seating locations piled high with miscellaneous stuff i don't know what to do with yet
After she moved in and her house was rebuilt and put into is new location...I promptly locked Joelle in the cage and left for 36 hours...! I returned Friday with all the rest of the stuff from the old apartment crammed in my car (I really ought to have taken a picture of that - it was pretty funny...but not something to be proud of), including all of the cleaning supplies I had used the night before to leave the old place spic and span. For someone who doesn't clean much, I sure have a heck of a lot of cleaning solutions - why??? - I filled three 1'x1'x2' boxes with it all!

And so now...the Jo and I are home here in Happy Valley, the cute little name given to the region containing and surrounding State College...centered around the Pennsylvania State University, which will be my new workplace starting tomorrow!, and extending via beautiful, rolling farm fields to the bases of the Appalachian Mountains.I like.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

more renewable energy

Do you like cats? Do you like engineering? Do you like You Tube? If so, or if not, please see the following short documentary:

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

primary primary

I voted in my first primary election today, having finally joined a party! Wahoo!

I realized today as I was voting that there is a very interesting phenomenon occurring in the voting machine situation these days. Yes, there is a lot of controversy over the electronic voting, but that's not what I'm talking about. What I find most intriguing is how people are instructed to vote.

When I walked into my first voting booth about a decade ago, everything was on those manual machines where one got to slide over little tabs and then when all finished making selections push some magic button or pull some lever. I recall being entirely freaked out by the whole thing. To this day I still am uncomfortable with the whole deal. I'm never quite sure if I'm sliding over the correct tab and if I've gone through all of the different categories. It totally stresses me out, and it actually makes me very less inclined to go out and vote if I know the monster machine is waiting for me.

On the other hand, I find the electronic, touch-screen voting machines in my current district to be entirely simple to use. It tells me exactly what to do: touch where I when I'm done...push "VOTE"...poof, it's over! I've never had any doubt about how to use the thing.

However, it's astounding to me how uncomfortable so many people are with this option. Not in the anonymity or the accuracy of tabulation - just the very fact of using a computerized method for making selections. I was in and out of the voting place in about 30 seconds today, whereas the lady who had started before me was still laboring over the thing when I left. Perhaps she was having trouble deciding between various candidates, but from what I've gathered it seems like most people are more affected not by indecision but by incompetence in utilizing the voting apparatus.

What is most striking to me is that when I get to the voting place these days, a nice man tells me exactly how to go through the voting process. He tells me exactly what to do with the touch scree. There's even a tutorial if I don't get it. I totally ignore everything he says to me as well as the tutorial, because to me it's like "DUH...this is not rocket science, people!"

As I was daydreaming through the nice man's spiel today it struck me that I would have really appreciated such instruction on the manual machines. Why didn't anyone ever include that as standard voting protocol?? And then I realized that all the people I see having issue getting through the touch screen are at least 20 years older than I am and are entirely used to the manual system. They did not spend the majority of their lives doing everyday tasks with computers. By the time I reached voting age, they had been using the manual machines for years and years, and just as I think it's ridiculous to tell people how to push buttons on a self-explanatory screen, nobody apparently thought that it might be necessary to inform new voters of how to use to presumably idiot-proof manual voting system. Well...they, IMHO, were wrong.

I got a call (okay...a recorded message) yesterday from Barack Obama, and I was impressed that he said, "If you need a ride or want to learn how to use a voting machine, call blah-blah-blah." It made me realize that there are a LOT of people out there who face many impediments to being able to vote. Whether is unfamiliarity with computers, fear of big huge tab-filled machines, a family full of under-five-year-old kids, no car to get you to the school where voting occurs that is located up the gigantic (and I do mean GIGANTIC) hill that no bus system would ever route a line, or something else, it's no wonder that so few Americans who have the opportunity and liberty to participate in a democratic government actually exercise their right to vote. I feel that the Obama campaign, despite all the criticism it's gotten as being "elitist," has been extraordinarily aware of many of these hindrances, which often affect the most non-elite in the country. I'm glad that somebody has finally made some effort to bridge this gap in "equal voting rights."

Monday, April 21, 2008


(in which Ruth learns the value of cleanliness and the danger of multi-tasking...)

As if writing a PhD dissertation, finding a new job, and moving weren't enough to try to balance all at once, I apparently thought it would be good to have a Real Emergency throw into the mix for the fun of it. On Easter Sunday I woke up and wanted to have a hard-boiled egg because I needed something hearty for breakfast to sustain me through several hours at church. To save some time, I turned on the burner to start heating the pot of water+egg and figured I could jump in the shower really quick - by the time I got out the pot would be boiling and ready to take off for the hard-cooking.

When I got out of the shower a very few minutes later, I had a sense that something wasn't quite right, so I dashed to the kitchen dressed in a towel and without my glasses on (aka I was pretty darn blind). What I found was a scene sort of like I've seen in movies with the entire apartment FILLED with smoke. However, it was still quite apparent that there was something aflame on the stove. Based on the location of the flame, I realized immediately what had happened: I had turned on the wrong burner and something sitting on that burner had caught fire. Because, after all, a stovetop is a great place to set random flammable things, right? Of course not, but in the midst of the dissertation writing and other such things I had been quite remiss in actually cleaning up anything. Thus, the kitchen counter was filled with dishes, and that meant "stuff" was now being piled on the stove.

I didn't want to sit and ponder the stupidity of what had led up to this dangerous situation, but I did realize it was important to think clearly and not freak out. I immediately thought, "I don't know what's on fire, so I should not put water on it. There is a fire extinguisher just outside my apartment in the building's entry hall. I should go get that." I then immediately thought, "I don't have any clothes on, and I really ought not to go running out into the hall naked."

So I dashed into the bedroom and found my robe, then found my glasses, then grabbed the fire extinguisher, then put out the fire, turned off the burner (which was not so bright, because since the fire had just been occurring in front of the burner control knob, it was really hot, so I burned my thumb), and then stood back and surveyed the mess.

I would love to show you a picture of what had happened, but I was entirely in NO MOOD to take a photo to document the disaster. I was too overwhelmed by the stove and counter full of dishes which were now blanketed in the yellow fire extinguisher stuff...and the fact that without a doubt I would have to clean up this whole mess, which would not be fun. It didn't get much better when I went wandering into the other rooms of the apartment and found EVERYTHING (and I mean EVERY room - living room, dining room, bedroom, bathroom) sprinkled with ash that had evolved from the whatever-it-was that had burned up on the stove. And that was another troubling thing...I had NO idea what had burned. I could tell from the remains and the smell that it was plastic, but I couldn't recall anything plastic that I had had that would be the size that the large mass of goonk now carbon-fused to the burner element and stovetop represented.
ashes, ashes...
And Joelle...! Fortunately, she was fine and didn't seem too fazed by any of this. I found her and picked her up, and then she started freaking out. I realized that when she was on the ground the smoke was too high for her to smell, but when I lifted her up into the smoke, she was quite aware that something was wrong. So I decided she was probably in the best spot by just being on the floor. She did, however, get a little bit dirty from hopping around on the floor that was covered in ash.
the bunny feet are notsupposed to be black!
Next I opened the windows and door and turned on the central fan and the bathroom fan and stove exhaust fan. Oh, and after the fire had been extinguished the smoke detector finally started going off (...not very safe, eh?), so I had to deal with making that shut up. I put on some clothes and called some friends and everyone was at church because it was Easter so I left messages and so I started cleaning, beginning with Joelle's cage because I wasn't too keen on her eating the ash.

Fortunately, one friend called me back and came over to help clean the stove and kitchen. She really likes cleaning, so she was the perfect person to have over. By the time she left a couple hours later, the kitchen looked fairly normal except for the huge chunk of plastic melted onto the stove.
it's what's for dinner
By this time I was REALLY hungry since my breakfast had been long forgotten about (I think the egg actually was cooked, having been sitting next to a fire...but I didn't quite feel like investigating), so I hauled myself out to my favorite little diner where they made me some lovely eggs over hard with ham and a yummy Belgian waffle with grapefruit juice. No fires occurred. On the way home I picked up a huge supply of cleaning equipment and set to work little by little.

In the weeks that have followed I have restored the stove to its normal appearance. With the help of a razor blade and a lot of determination, I was able to scrape off the melted plastic, which I eventually realized had come from an empty Simply Orange container. This removal fortunately occurred before my landlord came over to assess the damage, so he wasn't too mad and only made me pay to get a new burner element - that was not something I was even going to attempt to clean. The fire helped me jump-start my leaving-this-apartment cleaning, so that was nice. It also helped me identify a number of spiderwebs that I had not been aware of.
All's well that ends well, and I'm thankful that I, Joelle, and all my stuff are safe. In the future I'll attempt to be more clean and only do one thing at a time...

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

introducing...dr. ruth!

Woo hoo! I did it!!

Friday was my dissertation defense and "final examination." I don't know why they call it a final exam, because it's not really an exam. It just has the feeling of a final exam because it's such a big thing, it's the last thing before you're officially a recipient of your PhD, it's the last thing that happens before the committee signs the forms that magically transform you from being a bachelor or master to a doctor. The final exam is a question and answer session, an "oral exam" of sorts, but the questions (at least for me) were much more of a "what's your opinion" sort than a "what's the absolutely correct answer." Probably because in reality science has very few absolutes, so best-guesses are as good as it gets.

Anyhow...that is over, and it was very amazing to wake up on Saturday and realize...hey...I don't have to work on polishing my dissertation or practice my defense presentation or review the literature to have potential final-exam answers fresh in my mind...EVER AGAIN!!!!!! That was really the best part: it's over.

Just so you know, the correct abbreviation for Doctor of Philosophy is Ph.D. (or just PhD). Big P, little H, big D. The cake decorator did indeed write big and little letters as instructed. However, the end result wasn't quite what we had anticipated.Just goes to show how underwhelming it probably is to most of the general public that I have earned my PhD: they don't even know what it means!! Oh well.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008


I am in the final stages of preparation for my PhD dissertation defense on Friday. My main concerns are that
  • I won't be able to come up with decent answers to questions people, especially my committee members, ask
  • My committee will not pass me and will make me do more work
  • There will not be enough room in the room in which I'll be presenting for everyone to fit. A lot of people have been saying they'll come, and I couldn't get the larger room that I had hoped for. But at least it's bigger than the one that the one administrative assistant kept telling me would be fine -- it seats about 30 people and contains a seating area with comfortable couches as well as a kitchen area. Apparently she's never been to a dissertation defense, because at least twice that many people generally seem to show and it's entirely unprofessional to give the biggest talk of my life in a room that looks like a living room and includes a food-preparation station!
I'll try to let you all know how it turns out. I have other news, too (it's not too exciting, just amusing), but I am rather focused on something else right now. Thanks for bearing with me!