Corn?

May 17, 2017

It’s hard to be sure at this size, but I believe this is my first corn sprout peeking up out of the earth.

Hello, sunshine

Conference, conference, conference, garden

April 30, 2017

I’ve been a busy academic lately. A week ago, my university hosted the spring conference for the Historical Association that I’ve been an office of for the past couple of years. As local host, it was my responsibility to coordinate session rooms, catering, meeting spaces, and other practical details. I’ve been working on those practicalities since last summer and it was very gratifying to see everything come together. The conference went off almost without a hitch (there was a little last minute confusion in room booking, but we got it sorted out) and people seemed to be having a good time, so I’ll call that a success.

Also at the conference I was elected vice president of the Association for next year. The vice president’s job is to organize the conference panels. I didn’t have to do that as local host, I just found spaces for the panels to meet in. So, next year, I won’t have to wrangle session rooms and catering, but I’ll be collecting paper submissions and assembling panels for both the fall and spring conferences.

The Association’s custom is that after one year as vice president, you become president for a year, so I have that to look forward to. The president’s job is mostly ceremonial—giving a short address at lunchtime at the conference. I look forward to that. (And it will look nice on a CV.)

In other academic news, I just had a proposal accepted to a conference in Edinburgh this December, so I’ll be making a quick trip across the pond.

Somehow, in the midst of all this academicking, I’ve also fond time to plant my garden. I’m trying corn, green beans, and cucumber this summer. I’ve tried various setups with deer netting to try to keep critters out of the garden in the past, and now that I’m giving corn a shot, I know that I need something a little more serious, so here’s the frame I built for this year.

Congressfolks

April 14, 2017

We’ve been to a couple more “town hall” meetings in the past week, one with our Representative and one with one of our Senators. Both were very well attended, with crowds of several hundred who filled up the spaces. At both events, the crowds were energetic and positive, full of motivation and passion. At the event with our Representative, a couple of hecklers at the back of the room tried to start chants of “USA” and the current president’s name, but the rest of the crowd hushed them up. Our Rep even took a question from one of them (a rambling, incoherent “question” full of Islamophobia and anti-immigrant hate), which he handled seriously and graciously.

It’s still hard living in these times, but I continue to be heartened to know that we have people like them in Washington working for us, and to see how strong the support for them is locally.

Suddenly summer

April 11, 2017

Two days ago we had snow in the back yard and I was wearing long johns, wool socks, a turtleneck, and a sweater.
Today it’s 85 F outside and I had to dig out my shorts and sandals.
We’ve had the windows open letting the warm air in and it’s lovely, but it’s also a bit of a shock to the system.

Glycemic load

March 11, 2017

My doctor has been telling me for a couple of years that my glucose levels are elevated—not dangerously so, but just a little above the normal range. This year I’ve been trying to bring that down by being careful about what I eat. My father has been doing much the same thing in recent years, so, like him, I started tracking the glycemic load of my food, using a spreadsheet and a couple of online guides for reference.

So far, it’s going pretty well. I’m still eating plenty, but I’ve been able to keep my total glycemic load for the day under 100 quite consistently. Some days I get right up to the high nineties, but I’m typically able to keep it around 70-80.

Here are a few of the changes I’ve made to my diet that have helped. Some of these come from my father’s advice, some from recommendations I’ve found online, and some are my own ideas.

  • Tomato juice instead of orange juice in the morning.
  • Almond milk instead of dairy milk. I’ve found an almond-cashew blend in our local grocery store that I quite like.
  • Peanuts sprinkled on top of soup instead of having bread or crackers.
  • Almond meal as a substitute for breadcrumbs in cooking.
  • Thinly sliced eggplant, zucchini, and/or summer squash as a substitute for noodles when making lasagna
  • Shredded zucchini and summer squash, roasted with a little olive oil and salt, as a substitute for pasta.
  • 1 part potato and 1 part cauliflower, boiled, drained, and mashed with buttermilk and herbs; has the taste and texture of mashed potatoes with half the glycemic load. (We call it “caulitato.”)
  • Whole rye bread, 1/3 the glycemic load of white bread.
  • Hapankorppuja—thin, crisp rye wafers sold in the US as “Finn Crisp”—for when I want something crunchy for scooping up hummus or dip.
  • Sashimi instead of sushi.
  • When getting lunch at the faculty cafeteria, I get a big salad and put the day’s meat dish on top of that, skipping the rice, potato, or pasta.
  • Nuts for snacks.

For the most part, I’m quite content. I sometimes miss having a big plate of pasta or a big slice of cake, but I still indulge in my favorite carb-y foods, just in moderation. I’ll see the doctor next month and we’ll find out whether all this is having a measurable effect on my glucose levels. My weight is down seven pounds since the start of the year, though, which I take as a sign that something is working.

Sick

February 20, 2017

I’ve been sick for the past few days. Nothing more than a mild cold with a persistent sore throat. I’m still able to work and function, but I’m getting tired of sucking on cough drops all day long.

Town hall

February 5, 2017

This past week we attended a “town hall” meeting in a nearby city with our Congressional Representative. This was my first time attending a political event of this sort. The room was filled to capacity and beyond. It was incredible to see such a turnout. The crowd was an active one that let their feelings be known, and those feelings were running strongly against the current president. Our Rep was responsive and clear, listening to people’s concerns and answering their questions directly and without a lot of spin.

It’s is good to know that we have at least some people in Washington who are on our side and not afraid to say so. I was heartened by the energy and spirit in the room. People expressed anger and fear, but even more so determination and hope. We need a lot of those right now.

The winter that wasn’t

January 22, 2017

It’s been an odd winter. We keep getting snow, but then it all melts. Three or four times now we’ve had several inches on the ground all vanish in a few days. Yesterday E and I were walking around town doing some errands and it felt like spring. The sun was warm on our faces, the trees were full of fuzzy pussy willow buds, and the air smelled of fresh mud. It was hard to believe that it’s still January.

Maybe February will clobber us with snowstorms and cold. Who knows? For now, it doesn’t feel like much of a winter.

No snow

January 5, 2017

It’s been a warm, dry winter so far. We’ve had a couple of storms drop three or four inches of snow on us, but they’ve both been followed by warm weeks of melting. At the moment we have just a couple crusty patches of ice out back and otherwise the ground is bare. On one hand, I don’t mind not having to clear the driveway. On the other hand, it doesn’t feel right to have winter without snow on the ground. Of course, we still have most of January, February, and March ahead of us, so who knows what’s coming.

I’ve been hunkered down writing for most of the past couple weeks since Christmas. The work goes slowly, but still it goes.

Christmas peace

December 24, 2016

This year has not been a good one for holiday cheer. In addition to stressing out about the news, I’ve been wading through the end-of-semester grading and preparations for the spring while trying to draft another book chapter. It hasn’t felt very Christmasy here. Yesterday I finally decided to call a halt and put myself on vacation, and I’ve been feeling better every since I did. Preparations for our Christmas dinner are well in hand, presents are wrapped under our tree, and I’ve stopped stressing out about things that haven’t gotten done. I’ll get back to work soon enough. Right now, I’m happy to have myself a little break.