Category Archives: Random information


So this evening, my best friend from college — who is obviously male — asked me an earnest question about the connection between weight gain and women’s bustlines.

I replied with a mathematical function. But I would like the record to show that I did not calculate the first derivative of that function based on my own measurements, because that would have been tacky.

Maybe I should just start having my paycheck direct-deposited in Thinkgeek’s account.


Two random notes

1. I think I’m addicted to Tony Hillerman novels. I’ve read three of them in the past week.

2. I have decided that I need to own a steelpan. I’ve wanted one ever since Sesame Street aired this video when I was about 5:

I spent a good bit of my childhood wishing somebody would leave an empty oil drum in the vacant lot across the street from our house so I could roll it to some guy’s shop and get him to turn it into a steelpan for me. For some reason, it never occurred to me that my small, Midwestern hometown might not have at least one artisan capable of turning found objects into handcrafted Caribbean percussion instruments. I just figured that sort of guy was one of the “people in my neighborhood” that they were always singing about on Sesame Street.

Truth be told, I secretly want to live on Sesame Street. Since I can’t, I’m just going to buy a steelpan. Maybe I can figure out how to play “C Is for Cookie” or “We All Sing with the Same Voice” on it….


Ask the Hippie: Artisanal Honey

Q. I saw an ad for something called “artisanal honey.” What is it, and is it worth an extra $15 to $20 a pound?

A. “Artisanal honey” is a misleading term that a handful of beekeepers with questionable scruples are using to take advantage of ignorant snobs who spend way too much time watching the Food Network and way too little time watching the Discovery Channel.

The term artisanal refers to monofloral honey (that is, honey made from the nectar of a single plant species), which is produced by placing a beehive in an area where a particular plant is blooming, then harvesting the honey as soon as the nectar flow ends.

While this practice gives the beekeeper a measure of control over the flavor of the honey — for instance, tupelo honey is very light and mild-tasting, while buckwheat honey is dark and intense — it does not make the beekeeper in question an “artisan.”

The word artisan refers to someone who is skilled at some type of handicraft: baskteweaving, pottery, metalsmithing, cooking, etc. People who render beeswax and use it to make soap or candles are artisans. People who take honey out of a hive and sell it are not artisans. They are simply beekeepers. There is no “art” involved in picking up a hive, putting it on a truck, and driving somewhere. If moving heavy objects made one an artisan, Mayflower Trucking would set up booths at craft shows and Ren fairs.

I hate it when monofloral honey is labeled as “artisanal,” because the term reinforces the false perception that beekeepers make honey. We don’t. We just give our bees a comfortable place to live, try to protect them from predators and parasites, and swipe a little of their honey now and then in exchange for our services.

I don’t have a problem with beekeepers charging more for better honey. If I end up with a frame or two of unusually flavorful honey, I want it to end up in a good home where it will be savored and enjoyed and not just poured over some toddler’s Chicken McNuggets, so I’ll probably charge an extra dollar a pound for it.

I will not, however, attempt to convince the buyer that I am an “artisan” just so I can overinflate the price. Local honey should cost about $4 to $8 a pound, depending on the kind and quality. Any more than that, and you’re probably getting ripped off, no matter how artistic the beekeeper claims to be.


Home improvement

After six years of service, our $20 discount-store showerhead started leaking like a sieve, so I picked up a replacement at the hardware store down the street. The new model was fairly elaborate and significantly more expensive than the old one, and Ron told me I could have it if and only if I was absolutely sure I could install it myself.

Upon hearing this, the hardware-store owner was incredulous (he said he had some female customers who did their own household repairs, but I didn’t look like “the type”) and wanted to see a picture of my handiwork when I got done, so Ron got out his camera and documented the project for posterity this afternoon.

I’ll go ahead and file this post under “Ask the Hippie,” since it does answer a question.

Q. How do you install a showerhead?

A. Like this:

Step 1: Remove the old one.

Step 2: Peel off the old teflon tape and replace it with new tape to prevent leaks.

Step 3: Install the valve for the new showerhead. If it has flat sides, use a crescent wrench to tighten it. If it has smooth sides, a faucet wrench (shown below) comes in handy.

Step 4: Connect tube for handheld showerhead. (The model we bought has two heads — one handheld and one stationary. On a simple, single-head model, you obviously won’t have to mess with so many steps.)

Step 5: Tape the threads for the wall-mounted showerhead to prevent leaks.

Step 6: Install wall-mounted showerhead.

Step 7: Connect hose to tube for handheld showerhead.

Step 8: Tighten.

Step 9: Tape threads on handheld showerhead and connect to other end of hose.

Step 10: Brandish handheld showerhead menancingly, lest husband get any bright ideas about trying to commandeer the shower before you’ve had a chance to try out your handiwork.

Plumbing is pretty easy. You just have to remember to tape all the threads and get everything good and tight to prevent leaks. If you don’t have a handheld showerhead, I highly recommend getting one. They’re relatively cheap ($15 to $20 for the simplest models) and easy to install, and they come in very handy for bathing pets.

Hope your Saturday afternoon is productive, wherever you are.



Road Advice

Here are three things I know about road trips:

1. You should always stop to take a picture of the World’s Largest Anything. Even if it’s ridiculous. Especially if it’s ridiculous.

2. Regardless of your personal political views, you should never count on a Republican to make decent cappuccino. (Libertarians and Green Party supporters, however, can be trusted implicitly. The reason for this will be obvious if you think about it for a minute.)

3. If the motel has a friendly cat in the lobby, it’s probably safe to check in without inspecting the room.

blogging to you live from Las Cruces, N.M.

Pi Day

I guess we know where my priorities are. I forgot that today was Pi Day until I saw something about it on Facebook. I celebrated by signing up for the intermediate math certification exam and dashing out for pie at the Waffle House.

I did not, however, forget that tomorrow is the Ides of March.

Once an English major, always an English major.


Bits and pieces

1. I went to Fleet Feet to run this evening. I got stuck in traffic and arrived two minutes late, so my pace group had already left. My coach actually runs two training groups — M5 (the slowest marathon group) and P1 (the fastest 10K group) — and was getting ready to leave with P1 when I got there. Rather than run off in the dark to find my pace group, I tagged along with P1 for a 2.5-mile run at a pace two minutes faster than my norm. It was a good run. Short, but good. I think a short, fast run every now and then is good for me.

2. Sometimes it’s hard for a thirtysomething female English teacher to find common ground with teenage boys, but my ever-expanding collection of bizarre interests is beginning to pay dividends: Last week, a boy who seldom says anything in class opened up a little bit after he discovered we have similar tastes in pickup trucks, and today, I bonded with a Mexican kid as he and I attempted to explain the appeal of menudo to one of his classmates. Have I mentioned lately how much I love my kids?

3. I caught up my grading today. I thought about going to the coffeehouse to celebrate, but by the time I finished my run, I wasn’t in the mood, so I just went to Target to pick up groceries and a scrapbook instead. I think I’ll take a shower in a minute and then curl up with my graphing calculator and a TV dinner. (Never let it be said that this girl doesn’t know how to have a good time….)

Hope your day was as good as mine.


Five things

I swiped this meme from Brigid:

Five things you will find if you open my purse:
1. WD40
2. Tape measure
3. Screwdriver
4. Miniature sewing kit
5. Random receipts and scraps of paper with things scribbled on them.

Five things in my bedroom:
1. Bed
2. Fuzzy bee slippers
3. Dogs
4. Cell phone charger
5. Unicycle

Five things I’ve always wanted to do in my life:
1. Fly with Richard Bach
2. Own a cat
3. Write a bestseller
4. Save the world
5. Meet Neil Diamond

Five things that make me very happy:
1. The moment when a student understands something new
2. The moment when I understand something new
3. My niece and nephew
4. Marathon finish lines
5. Imaginary numbers

Five things I’m currently into:
1. Algebra
2. Distance running
3. Teaching
4. InDesign
5. Smoothies

Five things on my to-do list:
1. Finish my math homework
2. Grade grammar papers
3. Update the gradebook
4. Write a detailed course syllabus for each of my classes
5. Update my school Web site

Five things some people may or may not know about you:
1. I love the Green Man.
2. I forget to eat lunch about three times a week.
3. I lived on Reese cups, Dr. Pepper and Jimmy John’s sandwiches in college.
4. Rainy days make me sad, but in a good way.
5. I love sushi.

Five most important moments of 2008:
1. The day I was laid off
2. The day Zaphod recruited me for a job at school
3. The day the Rock Cafe burned
4. The day I walked back into the classroom full-time
5. The day I got my first evaluation from Zaphod

Five things you enjoy doing during your free time:
1. Photography
2. Math
3. Playing with Scout
4. Beekeeping
5. Running (especially in unfamiliar neighborhoods)

Odds and ends

1. Richard Bach says: “There are grand rewards for those who pick the high, hard roads, but those rewards are hidden by years.” Today, I understand this at a tangible level. It seems that I have lost four pounds — not to mention roughly three inches off my waist — since I started teaching full-time. Funny thing about that: Last time I taught, I started the year at something like 125 pounds and ended at 112, which scared me so much that I actually went to a doctor to find out what was going on. Evidently it hadn’t occurred to me that it is perfectly normal to lose weight when you skip breakfast, work through lunch, and spend seven hours a day in almost constant motion. (Obviously this is why I teach English and not biology.)

2. Just for giggles, I clicked a Google ad that went to the infamous “mosquito ringtone.” Apparently I am Wonder Woman, because I can hear it loud and clear. I can’t decide whether to be annoyed (that is one unbelievably obnoxious noise); grateful (my hearing is better than the average 21-year-old’s); or relieved (after hearing that mysterious 1970s-TV-warming-up sound in public places a few times, I was starting to worry that I might be picking up Daniel Manus Pinkwater-style signals from the mother ship).

I think I’m going to take myself to the mall to buy new jeans (thanks to the aforementioned weight loss, the ones I bought a month ago no longer fit) and get my nails done. Unless, y’know, I get sidetracked on the way and end up at the hardware store instead….


Things I have learned

Things I have learned during the past week and a half:

1. A referee’s whistle will silence a noisy classroom instantaneously.
2. If you want active participation in class, Starburst fruit chews are worth more than gold.
3. But not necessarily worth more than miniature Snickers bars.
4. It’s really fun to write notes to parents, telling them how awesome their kids are.
5. It’s not really fun to write notes to parents, telling them that their kids are acting up in class, but it definitely gets the kids’ attention.
6. If your job involves a lot of standing, Crocs are the best shoes ever invented. 
7. Before lunch, the average 15-year-old has an attention span of approximately 15 to 20 minutes.
8. After lunch, the average 15-year-old has an attention span of approximately 15 to 20 seconds.
9. The average 15-year-old is simultaneously the most endearing, entertaining, and maddening creature you will ever care to meet.

(I think I knew that last one, but I’d forgotten.)