Thursday, January 31, 2008


The forecast is brutal for the next couple of days. We’re supposed to have something like 9-12 inches of snow by tomorrow afternoon. As the snow began to fall around 2pm today, I finally made a snap decision to make a quick run to the grocery store and stock up on supplies before the storm hit. It felt weird going to the store in the middle of a weekday, and as I drove by S.L.’s street, I had a brief wave of paranoia: what if he was working from home and happened to see me go by in my car? He’d think I was irreverently blowing off my dissertation. But I rested assured that there was really no way he’d have been able to see my car from that angle, so I proceeded onward.

Apparently everyone in Urbana also had the same idea to go to Schnucks before the storm got any worse. And the already sub-par driving skills of people in this town plummet even farther when they are in a parking lot rapidly filling in with snow. I pulled into a place and as I was getting out of my car, somebody pulled in right next to me. That looks like S.L’s wife I noted, thinking that I must just be over-paranoid. I rushed into the store, picked up a cart, and zoomed over to the produce. As I was selecting some broccoli, my suspicions were confirmed. It was S.L.’s wife for sure, and she was walking my way. Oh God, I thought, considering for a nano-second that maybe she wouldn’t recognize me. But it was too late, she was already smiling and saying “Hi, Melissa!” I’d been caught red-handed. I’m sure there’s no chance that she’ll forget to mention to S.L. that she saw me at the grocery store today, in the middle of the day, when I should have been doing something productive. I’m in for it.

I tried to comfort myself with the reminder that this is a safety issue… it would have been foolhardy to put off grocery shopping until after the storm hit. Plus it is a health issue. Without a ready supply of fresh leafy green vegetables, I am liable to lose my super-human powers of disease-resistance, and that would surely prolong my dissertation even more. I’ll be ready with these counter-arguments when I see S.L. tomorrow.

That is, if I see him tomorrow. Some campus events are already canceling, and the facilities and services has already issued a statement of caution—warning that even though they will be working at full capacity to clear roads, sidewalks, bike lanes, and parking lots, the sheer volume of snow we are expecting will likely slow them down.

But no matter what, Anth 241 will go on. I’ve got my lecture ready and my snow tires on Iris II, so come what may. Thanks for reading, I've got to get back to work now.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

The Report

Big-name primatologist Franz de Waal was on the Colbert Report tonight. Colbert clearly needs to attend my Anth 241 class (or Cara’s 6th grade reading class) and learn the freaking difference between a monkey and an ape. And also learn what evolution is. The travesty is that the segment was so short (like 2 minutes?) that de Waal couldn't even really do much to correct most of the erroneous statements Colbert made. At any rate, it was really cool to see de Waal on TV. Probably second only to the time I saw Evo Morales on the Daily Show.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The weirdest weather ever

It was almost spring-like this weekend; temperatures were in the mid 50’s on Sunday afternoon. When I went running in the park, there were so many other people there that I was constantly dodging baby strollers, dog walkers, roller-bladers and toddlers on trikes. It was positively balmy; more like April than January. It was still warm today; around 50˚ by mid-morning. Then in the afternoon, the sky turned a very weird combination of green and gray and yellow. It was dark inside even with all the lights on, and I thought it must be getting nighttime. Not so. I looked at the clock and it was just around 3pm. Then the floodgates opened. Rain pummeled down from every direction and the wind was gusting almost 40mph. The temperature started dropping. 40˚… 34˚… 30˚… Once it dropped below freezing, the wet sidewalks and streets turned to ice. According to the UIUC weather page, the temperature is now 9˚ F and the windchill is 13 below. Yikes. That’s about a 40˚ temperature change over the course of 8 hours. Not to mention the 59mph wind gusts. This is truly the weirdest weather ever. A while back I know I said that with the snow tires on my bike, I felt prepared for anything. Now I’m not so sure. I’m wondering if I can cancel class for tomorrow… but I’d probably need to clear that through the head of our department first.

Speaking of my class, its going surprisingly well. These students are out of this world. How did I get so lucky? Last semester was a total drain—with students asking questions like, “Do I have to come to lecture?” and beginning emails with the salutation, “Yo Dawg.” In contrast, the 20-some students in my class this semester are fantastic. They’re asking questions all the time—but really smart questions 1, that shows they are thinking about what they are learning. I hope it stays this great. If so, I might have just chosen the right career path afterall.

Okay, I’ve got to go watch Jon Stewart distill last night’s State of the Union address and get ready for class tomorrow and also hopefully get some sleep. Thanks for reading.

1 Note, there is such a thing as a dumb question.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Slow as molasses in January

My fans (that is, my mother) have been requesting a new post, as it as been some time.

Today as I set out for Day 4 of teaching, I began to coast down the driveway on my bike and realized that I didn’t have my keys with me. Not the end of the world, but that meant I wouldn’t be able to lock up my bike or get into my office once I got to school. Luckily I had my phone with me, and it was near Rob’s lunchtime, so he was able to come home and let me into the house where I quickly retrieved my keys.

It has been treacherously cold out, with a smattering of snow and ice. On the plus side, Rob put the studded tires on my bike and I love them. As much as I am struggling with this winter weather, I feel that I’m prepared for the worst. At least in terms of the bike. Otherwise I am ill-equipped. I am cold all the time. Sometimes I will be working on the computer, then get up to go do something and catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror, and my lips are blue. I generally wear at least 2 layers of pants and 3 layers of shirts at all times when I am in the house. The worst is my feet. I’ll wear a couple of pairs of wool socks plus slippers, and they’re still like blocks of ice.

I’ve found ways to cure just about anything that ails me, but I cannot get rid of the cold feet. Armed with a toolkit that includes raw onions and garlic, honey, lemon, 100% aloe vera gel, blackstrap molasses and plain organic yogurt, I’ve cured ear infections, sore throats, and tick bites just to name a few. When I told my mom about my latest thing (blackstrap molasses—its high in iron and calcium), she said, “You have turned into your great-grandmother!” This was corroborated by the fact that I also had begun using a hot water bottle to try to warm up my feet.

But to no avail. My feet are still cold all the time. Maybe I need a different kind of bottle. I was using a heating pad for a while, until I literally wore it out. I haven’t found a home remedy yet for cold feet, but I read somewhere that soaking your feet in a bucket of hot water with cayenne pepper would improve circulation and your feet would get warmer. Its worth a try. If it doesn’t work, maybe some blackstrap molasses would help. If anyone has a suggestion, let me know.

In other news, Rob is famous. Check out his latest invention (which believe me, cost more than the quoted $15 in supplies when all was said and done). It has been featured on the Make Magazine blog. I’m still not exactly sure how he made it or what it does, but its cool that Rob is now world famous.

Thanks for reading.

Monday, January 14, 2008

La Profesora

Day One. When I set out to make coffee this morning (decaf, but I still need it), my coffee grinder wouldn’t work. The thing is held together with duct tape, but its held out thus far. Today was the day it decided to quit. I was persistent, and with some amount of jiggling and shaking of the device, I managed to grind up enough beans to make a cup of decaf. Problem 1 solved.

I left for school and went to the main office to pick up the LCD projector. After taking it up to my office, I realized I had forgotten to bring the cord necessary to hook up my computer to the projector (Macs of course require a special cord for this). Luckily I had come 2 hours early and live only a 7 minute bike ride from school. So I hopped on my bike and headed home. Mind you the windchill was 11 F and winds were gusting at least 20 mph. I was kind of tired when I got back to school, but I had retrieved the proper cord and Problem 2 had been solved. I went to the classroom and hooked everything up and then just paced around until the students arrived.

They seem like a pretty good bunch. Really, this is a breath of fresh air after the drudgery of last semester. There is a huge difference between dealing with a class of 750 as opposed to a class of 18. When these 18 students filed in today, they really did seem to be fresh-faced and eager to learn. I forgot my intentions to be mean and put the fear of God into them. Everything went okay, but I am a little bit disappointed with myself for being too nice. I’ll have to be more stern on Wednesday.

In other news, I had an email from Eduardo yesterday. Just a few words. He asked me if there was still snow where I lived and he said that he missed me and to give his regards to Rob. The last time I'd heard from him was December 20, so I was really relieved and happy to have a message from him, bless his little heart.

Got to keep trucking tonight. Thanks for reading!

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Birthday Bash

Its been so long since I posted that probably no one is even bothering to check the blog anymore. I didn’t really intend to go so long without writing, but then the days turned into weeks. Plus, nothing overly exciting has been going on. So I decided to wait until something really great came along to make another post.

Today is Logan’s first birthday!! What a dear little boy he is. Rob and I made some time this weekend to go up and celebrate with our littlest nephew. Here are a few photos of the event:

Logan's first taste of cake.

In other news, tomorrow is the first day of the semester, and also my first day on the job as an instructor of a college course. I am trying not to freak out, but I feel like I need a horse tranquilizer to calm myself down. Tomorrow itself won’t be too nerve-wracking. I’m planning on handing out the syllabus and doing a brief introduction to the course. But still. The deluge will begin. I’ll try to keep up with blogging. If I fall behind again, maybe you can get caught up on the life and times of the Ragfields at Rob’s very own new blog!

Thanks for reading.