The Professor

Hello everyone. I was going to give you all a break from my working life, and write a biting but intuitive article about why you will never be as good a cook as my mom even if you are so fortunate as to receive her recipes. Don’t worry, I will write that one for you next week, because I’m sure you want to know. In fact, I’m fairly certain you’ve struggled with this question for most of your life.

I’ve had to change my plans, because I finally met him. A somewhat rotund, gray-haired, balding man. Ordinary, yes? No.

This particular rotund, gray-haired, balding man is one I’ve been waiting to meet for a couple months now. He’s the rather infamous professor I mentioned in my last post. Remember? Yes? No? Never mind.

I starting hearing stories about him almost as soon as I started working at the University of Joy and Happiness. I’m going to call him Professor Chef, which is not even remotely related to his real name. At all.

This is the man who ran off one research assistant maybe a week into the semester, and has only just now begun to use D2L (his current, very brave, assistant somehow managed to bring this about).

He assigns a rather ridiculous quantity of extra required reading for his courses. I’m talking five to ten books, and this is not even English Lit. we’re talking about. We in the library know this very well. We have to process all of these texts when we put them on reserve in the library*.

We’ve been trying to get people to use the online form for this, but Professor Chef is the only one whose been able to get past this even though we’ve stopped giving the paper forms out. The librarians believe he has a secret stash of them.

One year he asked the library staff to look up how many times students had used these books. Those of you who are familiar with how students handle extra reading may anticipate the results. Naturally, the books had all been checked out many, many times.

Not.

He was so mad, the next semester he didn’t put up any books at all on reserve. The library staff were delighted.

This is also the man who posts inflammatory political articles on the staff message boards. Most people use it like kijiji. Not Professor Chef, he uses it to advance his views. He’s like that unreasonable relative everyone has. I imagine he is someone’s unreasonable relative.

I’ve considered telling him how much I enjoy reading his posts, but I’m worried he would realize what I actually mean by that. If you happen to be conservative, the posts would either make you mad or make you laugh, they’re that bad.

Anyway, like I said, I met him today. I found him, a random old dude, poking around by the books on reserve, behind the front desk where random people aren’t supposed to be. Specifically he was looking at his own books, though I didn’t know that yet. He basically has his own bookcase full. Like I said, I didn’t know who he was. But I realized who he was as soon as he answered my question.

I asked, “Is there anything I can help you with?” Meaning roughly: can I politely get you to leave this area where you aren’t supposed to be?

He said, “No.”

It wasn’t what he said, so much as how he said it.

At that point my colleague came back and they chatted about another book he wanted put on reserve.  In a lull in the conversation, he put a book on the counter with his card and left it there for me to check in for him. (No one does this.)

The arrogance of this man. He knows exactly how (in)famous he is around here. He soon finished the conversation and came to collect the book and his card.

All he said before leaving was, “Now you know me.”

Like he knew I must have heard about him and was waiting see what he was actually like. You may recall from earlier posts or my disclaimer that I’ve given myself license to be creative in these posts. Aside from changing names, this is all completely true. Honestly, I don’t think I could make this stuff up.

 

 

*”On reserve at the library” is librarian-speak for books that professors have loaned to the library, so that students can borrow them for set amounts of time. Some use this service in case they forgot their textbook at their dorm, or at home. Some use this to avoid actually having to purchase the textbook. People who use this latter option should realize the risk and not blame the library technician at the desk (me) when the text they need to study for their midterm is checked out and the bookstore has sold out of copies.

 

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My New Playground

playgroundThe social dynamic of the playground has always interested me. Maybe because I have virtually no social life of my own, and was home schooled (these two things are not connected. My sisters have lots of friends.) But I’m gonna say it’s because I’m analytical.

It’s not true, but I’ll say it.

So I like to look at how people behave in the settings around me, and compare it to my memories of childhood social settings. In certain ways, not much has changed. It’s not more professional, it’s just that the childishness is more sophisticated.

I’ve had jobs before, of course, but the dynamic of a professional work environment is different. It’s not always obvious on the outside, but I’m finding a lot of work environment stereotypes tend to be true in real life, oddly enough. Even in a library. Somehow I thought library people were inherently more sensible than most people who work in offices. Apparently it’s just me.

For instance, trying to use other people to cause trouble, or at least make a case that they themselves don’t want to make. To make a sort of medium-sized story as short as possible, somebody who has been fussy about getting vacation they were due, tried to get me to do the same thing, knowing the new supervisor doesn’t like that.

I just thought it was a matter of making sure the supervisor knew about a vacation day I was entitled to with enough time in advance to make the schedule. Fortunately my supervisor likes me and told me what was going on.

The thing that mainly annoys me about this is that I didn’t see through it to begin with. And I don’t even remember who it was. My supervisor knew immediately who it was, so I suppose I’ll figure it out.

I don’t see what difference getting a day off here or there matters anyway. If it doesn’t work, deal with it. Nobody’s owed a three-day weekend.

I got off easy, I think. We have a wonderful Librarian at the University of Joy and Happiness. She’s one of the most cheerful, genuinely likeable people employed here. But she finds it difficult to gain support because she went straight from Library Clerk to Librarian, instead of becoming a Library Tech, like me, in between*. The Library Technicians who knew her first as a Library Clerk don’t respect her.

How stupid is that?

But then I’ve noticed people tend to get amazingly fussy about the most peculiar things. Like whether or not they use an ergonomic mouse. If you actually have a wrist problem, I get it. However, some people are known to get extremely annoyed if they have to even temporarily use to a mouse that is not to their liking.

Again, I don’t know who. I’ve just heard, indirectly. Because if I’m using someone else’s desk temporarily, and they have an ergonomic mouse, they are very careful to assure me that there is a normal mouse I can use if I want to. Who cares? My wrists are fine.

(Or maybe they actually just don’t want me using their special mouse.)

Or when students are known to have repeatedly broken library rules, not returning books or laptops, and are granted access to the library again by Student Services. This drives some of the senior librarians batty.

I can see how people could get annoyed about this. But in the end, it’s not personal. It’s not a lack of respect for the library. Student success is objectively more important than the library’s rules. Sure, we have to make sure rules are followed for the good of all students. But none of this is personal.

I think all this is a product of one’s work becoming too much a part of one’s identity. If work is all there is, I suppose then even really trivial things become important. Or maybe we’re all just bored.

But some things are the same as other social environments I’ve been in. Camp mostly, I suppose. I would say school, but I was home schooled, and this didn’t happen for the most part in post-secondary.

You know, when the people you think are cool more or less ignore you and the people you wish would ignore you won’t leave you alone.

In the first category, there’s this one student I would like to get to know. Not only does she have cool hair, but she’s also brave enough to be the research assistant for a certain somewhat infamous professor. He hired her when his previous research assistant quit,  after a very short time. And she knows how to sharpen blades.

But do I say anything to her other than the professional stuff I say to every student when I see her? Nope. I’m not good at friends. Like Mr. Darcy.

The racist creep, however, seems to need no encouragement to come and say hi to me whenever he sees me. How do you tell someone you’re only being nice because you’re being paid to?

And then there’s the complainers that I work with, who I try very hard to be Christ-like to. I listen, and I care. As far as in me lies, I care.

I would care more if I didn’t suspect their problems were at least partially of their own making.

There is an upside, though. If something bad happens, and my journal isn’t handy, these people are perfectly safe to complain to without being branded a complainer. Because they don’t listen to anyone else anyway. Or rarely, I should say.

For instance, I told this one co-worker about the fact that my shower curtain pole fell down while I was showering the day before, and I couldn’t get it back up, and my landlord was going to have to come fix it. He would have to come get my key, and I was terrified that he wouldn’t remember to give it back and I’d be locked out of my apartment.

This delightful Tweety Bird co-worker waited until I finished talking, and then launched into a story about how she’d come home and, calamity of calamities, found that her roommate had changed the light bulbs. (She really did tell the story as if it was somehow unbelievable that light bulbs should be changed without her permission.) They were now the obnoxious white-blue ones.

The point of this story was that her roommate is inconsiderate, and that her landlord is irresponsible and probably short on money (because presumably he should have changed the light bulbs, and not her roommate). This is the point of all her stories.

Except for the stories about her dog, which I enjoy. Or the ones in which she repeats for the umpteenth time that her mother now texts her too much after learning to text. I don’t know what the point of that story is.

You might have guessed, this sort of thing frustrates me a little. I go through minor crises too, and I try very hard not to complain about them. To see them as challenges, and that I am better off for adapting, and figuring out way to make things work. And then everyone around me seems to obsess over the most trivial things.

It is slightly ridiculous, and I try to be merely amused by them. And yes, I lovingly mock them on my blog. It is loving, though. I do genuinely feel affection for these silly people in my life who are very silly but lovely in their own way.

That being said, I don’t really trust any of them and they will never, ever know that I write a blog.

 

*The difference between a Library Clerk, a Library Technician, and a Librarian is education. (Also pay and responsibility.) Clerks have no education, or a one-course certificate. Library Technicians have a two-year diploma, (in an academic library, they usually have a Bachelor’s Degree too). Librarians have a Master’s Degree.

Why Bugs? Why?

BugI used to like bugs.

In fact, I was once called the Bug Lady. I was the one called upon to evict from our home critters that exceeded the recommended number of legs. I was the one who argued that they all have their place in creation, and do valuable work.

Not anymore.

Just today, I stared down a Box Elder Bug (the one in the picture) and his friends, and declared them to be the physical embodiment of evil.

Which isn’t fair. They don’t bite. They don’t infest (can’t breed indoors, apparently). They were specially created for a purpose. But unfortunately they also really, really like my warm, south-facing patio.

I’ve changed. I mean, I still don’t kill bugs (except for that one silverfish in the bathtub I thought my pet fish Amazon would enjoy. So technically, he killed it.) But I now know how the bug-haters feel. I’m not proud of it.

But Smallville bugs are different.

(It must be the kryptonite.)

The whole thing started with the Box Elder Bugs. I put out a strawberry for the birds I’d seen in the trees nearby. When I returned, however, the strawberry was covered in Box Elder Bugs.

I made a noise then, that I’d never heard myself make before. (Kind of like, Eeeeuuggh! I didn’t scream, I’ll have you know.) And then I nabbed my dustpan and knocked the bug-covered strawberry off of my patio.

It wasn’t over yet, because the Box Elder Bugs stuck around. As if to spite me, a large horsefly landed on my patio and died, so that it too could get covered in Box Elder Bugs. And then the bugs took up residence in my mint plant.

There was always at least a dozen of them on the patio at any given moment. They left after a few weeks, until today, and they’ve come back in droves. Apparently they’re back now because they’re looking for a place to spend the winter. And they’re all big red and black adults now. They’re crawling all over everything, and more keep flying in. It looks like the beginnings of a Biblical plague, which is probably what prompted the impression that they were evil.

If it had been part of a sci-fi movie though, they would have symbolized evil.

Of course, Box Elder Bugs, though fairly large for a North American insect, are not the biggest things out here. There’s also the really big beetles with giant antennae that I thought were called June Bugs. Apparently they’re not, according to google. Those guys I generally think are kind of neat, in part because they’re so big. But anything that’s dead gets creepier, including bugs.

So when I was sitting at the bus stop, and I noticed a rather large spider crawling on top of the big beetle, honestly I could not decide which was worse. The spiders here, the ones I have seen, are great. They look an awful lot like black widow spiders, except they’re about the size of a loonie. A big freaky thing eating a big freaky thing is not what you want to see on your way to church.

There are a few just random bugs, too, that don’t really seem to fit my established Metropolis ideas of what bugs are supposed to look like. There’s the medium-small brown flies, for example. Not tiny, like fruit flies, but not as big as any other fly I’ve ever seen. Just medium-small, which was not a category of fly I’ve ever seen before. And the teeny-tiny brown ants. I’ve only seen two, and both of them were in my apartment. One of them was drowned in Gary’s bathwater. (Gary is my air plant, for those who don’t know.)

I don’t mind those, really. But I really don’t like the ones that want my food. The wasps, for instance, that live on campus at the Institution of Joy and Happiness, where I work. I tried to eat outside once. It was a beautiful day.

I’m usually not bothered about bees or wasps, either. I’ve never been stung, I know they won’t bother me if I don’t bother them. These wasps didn’t read that e-mail apparently.

It would hover around me. Behind me, just to be super creepy, so I would see it chasing me when I turned around. So I left for a bit, walked quickly away. Best thing to do. Can’t swat at it, it might get mad.

And then it was gone. Everything was fine. I went back. And then it came back.

So I did it again, with the same results, and then I started freaking out a little. So I swatted at it a little, which freaked me out more, because I was sure it was getting mad.

After, a few repetitions of this nonsense, and having likely convinced several students I had gone nuts, I came to my senses and speed-walked to the nearest building to eat in peace.

But food is not always safe indoors. Sometimes you bring the bugs with you.

I knew, in theory, that fruit with holes in it could have a worm. I’d never seen it happen. Then I saw, on a pear I had, little black specks in some webbing. Mice?

No, I know what that is. It’s caterpillar poop. I’ve seen it in leaves when I collected caterpillars from their nests so I could raise them.

This was alarming. An actual wormy thing, inside my food!? But I wanted pears with cottage cheese and chocolate sauce. And I was eating those pears. That wasn’t negotiable. I got them for free. You don’t not eat free food.

So I cut it open, and that noise happened again. (Eeeeuuggh!) I thought one of the seeds was a little slug-like worm. It wasn’t, as I discovered when I got up the nerve to return to the kitchen.

There was more caterpillar poop inside. I cut out everything that had contact with the tunnel or the poop. Washed everything. It all looked like proper, eatable fruit. I wondered where the “worm” was, but everything was fine so why worry.

(As a side note, I may never eat whole fruit again. I’m cutting up everything.)

The real drama came later, after I’d enjoyed my pear and chocolate sauce, and went to put the bowl back in the kitchen.

There was a reddish thing lowering itself down from the cupboard into my fruit bowl (which is actually a colander). There was that noise again.

I didn’t even know that something like that could happen. Worms in apples, sure, I’ve heard of that. But caterpillars that go in, munch on your fruit, leave, and then come back in the creepiest way possible?

ARE YOU FLIPPING KIDDING ME!?

They do this to me on purpose, I’m sure. The bugs succeed in creeping me out, then they do something even worse just to see me freak out more. I mean, it’s happened three times.

Bugs swarming over something, look, let’s do it again only worse cause it’s on a dead bug.

Big creepy bug, look, here’s a big creepy spider too.

Caterpillars in the fruit, tada, here I go again.

And don’t even get me started about the fruit flies that drown themselves in my tea. I mean, that happened in Metropolis too, but come on I was gone for like five minutes. I’m sure Amazon the fish appreciates their sacrifice but I don’t.

I used to like bugs. If I can get a little intellectual here, I think the reason I’ve started disliking bugs has to do with the basic reasons we bother getting upset about mostly harmless bugs in the first place. It comes back to disease. Bugs congregate around filth, so we associate them with filth and disease.

Now that it is my sole responsibility to make sure that I do not die of food poisoning or accidentally ingest something toxic, bugs bother me. Because now they are my problem. Plus, I don’t know these bugs. I grew up around Metropolis bugs, but these Smallville bugs could be dangerous. You never know.

This is Not the Dough You’re Looking For

This is the story of when I made sourdough bread for the first time. Sourdough is a tricky beast. Most breads are really. But I was running out of regular store-bought bread. Wasn’t going to buy more, the cost to make it at home generally runs under a dollar. For some reason I have an aversion to buying yeast, when I can just recruit some for free.

So I  popped on pinterest and spent about a week setting up a sourdough starter. The results were encouraging (I thought at the time), and I enjoyed several mornings of sourdough pancakes into the bargain.

The process of making a sourdough starter seemed wasteful to me, except when I realized that “discard most of the starter” really means “use half of the starter to make pancakes. Therefore, not wasteful, and very tasty. Especially with a big mound of whipped cream and chocolate berry compote. Lovely, filling breakfast.

But as for the bread, I removed the starter from the fridge on day 0, fed it, and left it out to get active and bubbly. I was a bit worried about it at first, because it wasn’t fizzing up right away, but by the time I wanted to use it the starter was bubbling. Maybe not as much as it had before, but I wasn’t worried. It smelled right, and the foam you see in the picture below was bubbling. Although in retrospect I should probably have looked at pictures of what other “active” starters look like. (Hint, that’s not it.)

Starter

So, on day 1, I made the dough (although frankly I didn’t do it very, um … precisely) , and it turned into a proper ball of dough. Rather sticky. This is what it looked like.

RealPreKneadedDough

Then came several steps of knead and rest, knead and rest, until it is “smooth and soft.” Do I know how to knead bread? No. We used a breadmaker for that sort of thing back in Metropolis. But I did like I’d seen Paul Hollywood do on BBC, and I think it worked fairly well.

KneadedDough

Then I left it to ferment overnight. On day 2, I woke to find that the dough had apparently melted into an unmanageable sticky mess. I don’t think that’s what it’s actually supposed to do.

MeltedDough

So then I kneaded about a half a cup of flour into it until it became something I could shape. Because you’re supposed to shape it at this stage. And then I left it to rise.

NotRisenDough

And then it didn’t rise. At all. I had to bake it of course, because I wasn’t going to waste all that and I held onto a slim hope that maybe it would rise in the oven. Of course I know bread doesn’t work like that.

BakedBread

And it didn’t. The texture, as you might imagine, is excessively dense and it’s hard to cut. But it is edible, and has a very nice sourdough flavor. I mainly wanted it as an olive oil/vinegar delivery system. It does a fair job of that. Had it developed any air pockets whatsoever it would have done better. It’s not very absorbent.

Am I happy with the results? I suppose. It would have been better if it had risen, but for a first attempt at making sourdough bread edibility is a win, I would say. I didn’t under bake it or burn it, anyway.

Next time I will follow the directions more closely, and make sure the starter is really active before I use it. I may put it in a warmer spot to get going next time. It just happened that we had a brief bout of fall-like weather when I made this first attempt. I’ll try again once I buy more flour, and if it works I’ll post a picture of the result. Or I’ll give you another picture of a bread-pancake to laugh at.

I Think This, You Think This … We Don’t Agree.

Floopin
Your debate partner

“Take away, O ass! those panniers of airy nothingness; and speak, if you can, three words that have an affinity to common sense; if it be possible for the tumid pumpkin of your skull to discover for a moment any thing like the reality of intellect” – Milton

You may have noticed that things in general in the Western World have gotten a little more political. A little more polarized.

It may well be that the only thing we all agree on is that we can’t agree on anything. Nevertheless, I have noticed that even though we think very differently about things, the way we think about these things is remarkably similar.

Let us explore some things that we all seem to believe, although our beliefs could not be more divergent.

1. The Other Side believes things that are demonstrably false.

I mean, haven’t they read the experts you’ve read? To any thinking person, the truth just has to be obvious. I mean, sure, the Other Side has experts too, but …

2. The Other Side is motivated by ideology, not facts.

Which is obvious from their weak arguments and poor logic. Obviously their “experts” are just spouting off things that they’re basically just making up that support what they believe. And yet …

3. The Other Side knows perfectly well that they are wrong.

The truth is just so obvious. They know what they’re arguing for is wrong, they just don’t want to admit it, because (they want to redistribute wealth to other countries, they hate God, they’re just racists, all they want is money.) But honestly …

4. Most people are just dumb.

I mean, how else can you explain so many people that believe things that are so obviously wrong? But at the same time …

5. We are the majority.

We may be the silent majority. Or we may be the majority leading the world towards a more tolerant future. But either way, we are the majority. Certainly we are the sane ones, unlike some people, because …

6. The Other Side are all extremists

Although we can’t deny that major changes are needed, possibly revolutionary changes. But of course it will be a revolution of sanity and kindness. Even though we don’t really care if the changes that are needed will make some people uncomfortable, because let’s face it …

7. The Other Side are mostly intolerant jerks.

This may be especially ironic, because they claim to be so tolerant. Or it may just be an obvious fact because the Other Side are -ists or -phobes or some sort or other. I mean, not everyone on our side is perfectly either, but …

8. The Other Side makes us out to be jerks when we’re not.

And this is just so that they can avoid thinking what we think. It’s not our fault, or even the result of our own behavior, for the most part. Even though …

9. We wish some people on Our Side would shush.

Because they’re kind of wackos, and make the rest of us look bad. Which does not in any way negate point numbers 7 or 8.

 

 

 

 

Ta-Da Everybody

This is not the post I thought I’d be writing. Originally, I planned to call this blog Half-Baked, with a tag-line: “Adventures in Adulting.” And I planned on this post being a proper introduction to the blog I intended to write, and telling the story of how I ended up living on my own. But then I realized that this was all rather short-sighted (although I might eventually tell that story).

Did I plan on being new at living on my own forever? Certainly not.

I also wanted to have a blog to post my creative doings on, and Half-Baked really wasn’t the place to put it. Alexis’ World, however, has enough shades of meaning to encompass everything from my attempts to make sourdough, to my views on random topics, to what the characters from my latest creative attempts are up to.

The tagline “Watch Your Step,” too, means everything from “I haven’t picked up all the clothes on my floor yet,” to “Be careful because the fantasy worlds I’ve created are flipping creepy,” to “Take care of yourself, because many people in this world are complete and utter doorknobs.”

So yes, this is still a blog written primarily so that my friends and family can keep up with what’s going on with me even though I’m “all grown up and miles away,” to quote one of my new favorite musical artists.  But it’s also a blog that can grow with me, and does not require me to take the trouble of maintaining two different blogs.

There’s another thing, too. I am Alexis Czechelski (pronounced check-el-ski). Who is that?

Even those of you who know me may well be wondering that, because as far you know, you don’t know anyone by that name. Which is true, even though you know me, and Alexis Czechelski is my name.

Impossible? No. Not if you accept that I’m being slightly facetious.

For those of you who don’t know. Alexis is my middle name, and Czechelski was my family’s ancestral name before they changed it after moving from Prussia (because Prussia was a thing back then), to Germany. So technically (not really), it is my name.

For those of you who don’t know me at all, I’m writing under a pen name. And now you know how I picked it. Lucky you.

But then since you don’t know me, you may still be asking the question: who is Alexis Czechelski?

I am a fantasy (maybe sci-fi eventually) novelist. My taste in music has confused youtube to the point where it does not know whether the ads it shows me should be in English or French. I took a BA in English literature, then a Library Tech Diploma, and then moved from Metropolis to Smallville, where I work in the library of the Institution of Higher Learning.

I’m being vague because I like telling stories. And I don’t like getting in trouble because I like to tell stories. I don’t have any yet that I think are blog-worthy. But hey, I’ve only been here a month.