Old Lady Shoes

Yeah, you’ve seen them: old ladies wearing Old-Lady Shoes.
Dowdy footwear that inextricably time-travelled from some economically-depressed post-war period.
Or low-heeled, lace-up shoes resembling dull leather sneakers, that shuffled in from the land that fashion forgot.
Practical shoes. Hopefully, comfortable shoes, given the tired way those old ladies are getting around. But damn, I mean dayam, if not quite ugly shoes, then definitely shoes without style.
And, as you may have guessed, suddenly, here I am, too. 
Last fall I broke my foot. The displacement fractures in the metatarsals (the long bones over the arch) mended, albeit crookedly, with offset mends that make them look like rivers with meanders. (Don’t fall over in shock when I say that my hypermobility includes rather low arches, too.)
This past spring my foot started hurting again, as my second job stocking groceries involved walking around concrete floors and stocking heavy cases — not good for the osteoarthritis or the broken bones. So I got orthotics to provide more support for my poor ravaged feet.
But now my foot is constantly aching, and I’m limping, and am getting what I’m assuming are referred pains in my knee and hip. And when I saw the orthopedist earlier last week for chronic foot pain, he disapproved of my buckled Mary Janes I’d worn to my first job, and told me I need to wear shoes that lace up.
I’m not much of a fashionista, but I can’t picture wearing either hiking boots or my rumpled black sneakers with skirts, suits or dresses. So that means I need to get a new pair of shoes. Or maybe a pair of knee-high boots.) But, I can’t wear polyurethane (PU), PVC or silicone, which limits me to fabric or leather footwear, which is of course, more expensive.
Great! I need to find:

  • slightly-dressy,
  • low-heeled (no more than 1.25″ / 5 cm),
  • lace-up,
  • leather shoes,
  • with removable insoles (so I can replace them with my orthotics),
  • in a size US womens 10.5  (UK 8, EUR 42),
  • wide toe ( C ),
  • preferably brown.

If you’re laughing and/or groaning, you probably have some idea of the magnitude of that request. I mean, that is pretty specific! Not being fond of shopping, I did some quick noodling around online, and discovered that the lower-end department stores don’t carry leather shoes (boo!), and that many of the online sites don’t mention whether or not the insoles can be removed. (I’e also become quite the connoisseur of Web sites with numerous lists of ways to filter search requests.)
I also noticed a general lack of lace-up shoes, aside from “granny boots” with 2.5″ heels. So I looked up the current addresses to the store with a huge, self-serve selection of shoes, and stopped by there en route home one day.
They had nifty boots full of brass buttons, sharp-looking tweedy spectator pumps [court shoes], loafers and flats with all kinds of fun hardware … but an absolute dearth of lace-up shoes. (Since I have wide feet anyway, I checked out the men’s section, but was dismayed to find walking shoes with heavy lug soles, or stiff wingtips so stylishly long that it seemed my feet would look like aircraft carriers, down to the brogues resembling rows of rivets.)
I finally asked a sales clerk for assistance, just in case I’d missed something. She was understanding of my requirements, even letting me slip out some insoles to test my orthotics on a couple of pairs — only to find that the toe boxes were too low-profiled. She too, was surprised to realise that there were so few lace-up shoes. What few they had were made with the insoles sewn down, or were fashioned of (sweat-inducing) imitation leather. And, apparently this year’s crop of sneakers [trainers] comes in neon colors. Naturally, chef’s or medic’s clogs won’t work either.
Le sigh. And this is why I hate shopping for wardrobe items (in addition to the noisy lighting fixtures that drill into my head.); it seems that no matter what I’m looking for, it’s not to be had. The year I wanted khaki shorts, I couldn’t find khaki shorts — yes, khaki shorts! Ditto denim overalls. Or a long-sleeve white blouse with sleeves to fit my arms, and tails long enough to stay tucked in. Or, good grief, cufflinks to go with a French-cuff blouse I found at the thrift store.
And so it goes.
I already have a pair of black sneakers that I wear (with black trousers) at my grocery job. Sorry, but unless I’m evacuating in an emergency, I can’t imagine wearing either hiking boots or my rumpled black sneakers with skirts, suits or nice dresses.
All I need to find is a pair of slightly-dressy, low-heeled, lace-up leather shoes, with removable insoles, in a size 10.5 wide, preferably brown. No, I’m not being picky, I’m being particular.
The “slightly-dressy” and “preferably brown” are what I want, but the rest are what I need. (And unlike a coworker who has diabetes, neither my orthotics nor my footwear are covered as a necessary medical expense. Those orthotic insoles I had to get cost me half of what I pay for my monthly mortgage!)
Even worse, a lot of those “comfort” shoes don’t lace up or come in 10.5 wide.
Or, I can find lace-up “granny” ankle boots or knee-high boots, but the heels are too high, or they are made of some sweat-inducing synthetic.
Or, I can find oxfords with the right heel height and made of leather, but not in a 10.5 wide.
Or, I can find cute, low-heeled, leather lace-up shoes, but either the insoles are sewn in so I can’t use my orthotics, or else they’re so cheaply made there isn’t any arch support.
And so on, and so on.
So now I have joined the ranks of older women looking for supportive, sensible shoes that don’t look too dowdy. Don’t laugh at us gimping along in our leather sneakers; those specialty shoes are DAMN hard to find!

Weather's here, wish you were fine

Summer sucks.  I hate the heat, the humidity, the sizzling sun boring into my head, unpeeling my limbs from each other, the restless nights spent searching futilely for a cool spot on the sheets and being sleepless for the lack of the comforting weight of blankets, the lack of appetite, the omnipresent glare, the complete lack of energy … it’s depressing, and won’t get better until fall weather arrives in late September.  I don’t even have the respite of an alpine vacation to look forward to.
Raynaud’s is weird; my toes and thumbs can still go numb, even when I’m hot.  WTF?!
Plus, now I have a head cold, the whole sniffly-scratchy throat-more aches-feel crappy routine.
“How can you have a cold?” asked my coworker yesterday, “It’s summer!”
“Back in the 20th century, they discovered that cold are caused by viruses, not by cold weather,” I sniffed.  (OMG, now I’m officially Old, I’m saying, “back in the 20th century”.)
“I’m just kidding,” he grinned.
Oh, right.  I realised that about the time he said it.  Nothing new there, either.  (File under: Aspergers, misses jokes.)
My sunglasses broke.  Things around the house keep breaking (kitchen drawer track, drawer pull, cabinet front, bathroom ceiling paint, tub’s chipped, towel rack needs to be masticked back on, kitchen needs painting, bedroom needs painting, kitchen flooring’s gouged, back patio’s settling, double pane-windows are fogged up, ad nauseam).  And the thermostat is broken and won’t set the air conditioning below 83°F.
The cats keep fighting.  My son can’t find a job.  And my daughter is nine months pregnant and belly-aching, as is every pregnant woman’s right.  But the house is hot and none of us are sleeping well.
::bleh::
But, a good distraction is the latest Circus of the Spineless, over at Bug Girl’s blog!

A Luxury

Being bored is a luxury I do not have.
Not the boredom that is the enforced tedium from being exhausted by illness, or from waiting and waiting for indeterminate periods of time without diversions. But rather, the boredom that comes from choosing to be disinterested at work.
Sure, some jobs are seriously duller than others, such as data entry or assembly.  But retail is considerably more interesting than such rote perfectionism.
And yet, the other week one of my coworkers was complaining that he found the work at the garden center to be so BORING.  It wasn’t related to his chosen degree program or career.
Certainly, I don’t expect everyone else to be as entertained as I am by “facing” the plant stock, meaning filling more pots into the gaps shoppers have left in the flats.  I really like lining up four-packs or pots, or bringing forwards pots from the back of the benches up to the front so they are more accessible to the buyers.  The quick detail makes everything neat and tidy and complete.  Even shuffling pots from a nearly-empty flat (tray) to fill another is satisfying, because then we have that flat available for a shopper to use as they are selecting their plants.  (Not only does handing out flats free up people’s over-burdened hands, but there’s also a bit of sales psychology, where buyers are more likely to buy a few extra pots to complete the flat.)
And to be sure, there are a number of people who find “grooming” the plants (removing old flowers and dying leaves) to be just too utterly nit-picky and grubby a past-time.  But I enjoy this because I know that removing the dead material will help ensure that the plants keep blooming, will lesson the chance of disease and insect problems, and simply makes everything look better.  (A lot of novice gardeners will mistake the natural “senescence” or shedding of yellowing old leaves as a symptom of disease.)
And of course, most of the garden center cashiers are not horticulturalists; they are cashiers with some basic training in how to water and what the difference is between annuals and perennials.  But that’s what I’m there for, to provide the expertise in answering questions, and helping customers select plants for different sites.
So despite the varying levels of intrinsic reward in some of the activities, and the vast differences in personal expertise, all of the cashiers can still gain the same kinds of satisfaction in their work.  There’s still the basic premise of serving others, even if we’re just loading bags of mulch into someone’s car.
Because that’s what we’re there for.
So when my coworker complains of being bored, and spends most of his time hidden behind the cash register (checking something on his mobile phone) or wandering around aimlessly listening to his music or chatting with a girlfriend, well, I am mystified.  And a bit annoyed.
Because like, dude, “fun” is something you make, not something that happens to you.
If you’re bored, then get involved.  Help me come up with better ways of displaying the new stock that is more aesthetically appealling and more accessible, like the other evening cashier does.  Go out and actively assist the customers, like the other cashiers do.
If the custom is slow during that lull before people get off work, then make a point to do some of the things that are on the To Do list.  That’s why I’m not bored — I not only do when I have been asked to do as an employee, but I also look for other things to do.
If I’m knee-deep in cleaning the spent blossoms from the hanging baskets and watering the stock, then don’t hide out behind the register.  I shouldn’t have to mention, “Hey, that lady over there has her hands full — go get her a shopping cart.” [buggy, trolley]
It’s awkward when your coworker is slacking off, but you’re not a supervisor.  I’ve tried stating, “X, Y and Z need doing,” but that cue was apparently too subtle.  I’ve tried offering, “I’ll do W and X if you don’t mind doing Y and Z,” but that produced nothing more than a half-hearted attempt at Y and Z disappeared somewhere along the way.
There’s no reason to be bored at a job like this.  There are too many different things to do, whether it’s tending the plant stock or chit-chatting with the customers while you ring up their purchases.
And you know what?  Working in a half-assed way and complaining of being “bored” does not help ensure employability, especially in these economic times.
I’m not working two jobs just for the fun of it; I work because I need the income.  But despite that, despite that some days I’m cold and wet and stiff and sore due to the exertion and the weather and my health issues, despite that, I still find ways of enjoying my work.
I can’t afford to be bored.

Oh, sheet!

Doggone, I’ve done it again.  I even washed my bed linens earlier in the day so they would be promptly dried, but it is 1 a.m. and I realise that I have neglected to make my bed.
Well, one benefit to having to climb all over my queen-size bed (it’s up against a wall, so I can’t walk around it) is getting myself a bit worn out.
A sign of spring:  I can finally remove the heavy wool blanket from the layers!  Oh  bother — I really felt better with the weight on me.  Having nothing but a top sheet and quilt is unsettling until I get used to it again.

Don't scream.

It’s only Thursday.  Screaming isn’t allowed until Friday afternoon after all the students have left.  (Please don’t scare the custodians, without whom we would all be in dire straits.)
We passed our “Code Red” practice drill with flying colors this week.  A “Code Red” is an “OMG there’s a terrorist” lockdown, the 21st-century version of the old “duck and cover” drills we did decades ago during the Cold War.  I suppose it’s actually more useful — locking the doors and being quiet is definitely better than pretending that a rickety school desk will protect one from nuclear radiation.
On the other hand, in the past three weeks we’ve had as many pre-teen perverts scurrilous knaves who thought they could get away with trying to Google up p*rn from the school computers.  As if we’re not going to catch them?!  Well, that’s three students who won’t be using computers except for absolutely required functions, with a staff member at their elbow the whole time.  A “required function” would be something like a math-practice program or standardized test that is required by the school district.
Right now we’re administering a reading assessment, and already we’re tired of reciting the standardized instructions, for all I do a decent imitation of a Star Trek computer.
If you want more stories of academia, the latest Carnival of Education is going on over at The Core Knowledge blog.  I guarantee “they’re a scream” (hilarious).  Or, enlightening.  Probably both.
Otherwise, here’s a great sign that will be appreciated by anyone who has either sat one of those long standardized tests, or proctored one:

Sign taped to table, in poorly-translated English:  Check every think before go into the grading room.  Avoid to get screaming
Sign taped to table, in poorly-translated English: "Check every think before go into the grading room. Avoid to get screaming"

Accessibility Fail (and Win)

We have a shiny new building on our campus.  It’s gorgeous, with several conference rooms named for money donors, and a huge glassed-in meeting room.  (Other faculty have pointed out that alas, said building isn’t a “LEED-building” meaning that the design lacks certain green/energy-efficient factors.)
What I find annoying about the new building are its access issues.  Oh sure, there are the nominal “handicap” bathroom stalls, and brailled room-number plates.  But the doors to the regular bathroom stalls swing inward, making one do-si-do around the toilet, and the seating areas in the floor lobbies don’t have any electrical outlets nearby for people to plug in their laptops.
Yet these are minor kvetches; what drives me nuts are Continue reading Accessibility Fail (and Win)

Let me spell this out for you,

I’ve been absent from bloggery due to the work load as we near the end of the semester; this past weekend I graded five exams and a bunch of extra-credit assignments.  So far I have two students who have BLATANTLY just copied-pasted stuff from Web sites. This despite my having told them in the assignment handout,

All of the text should be in your own words, a synthesis of the information you have gathered, put into complete sentences.

The Student Code of Conduct explains the kind of misrepresentation that qualifies as plagiarism:  [URL link]

What, like they think I can’t tell this isn’t student writing, or won’t bother to type in a URL they listed in their bibliography?  One student just “re-gifted” an assignment obviously written for another class, which is just tacky as well — it’s one thing to recycle some information you’ve already researched and edit it to fit the requirements of a new report, but this stuff wasn’t even changed to fit what I’d asked for.
So I discussed the issue with the dept dean, and was given the suggestion of explaining the problem with the student, and offering them the opportunity to re-do the assignment correctly, or else take a 10% reduction on the Final Exam grade.  I like this option, because there are still significant consequences, but the student gets to decide what they’re doing.
One student left class before I could talk to him.  The other one I talked to, and his point of view was that:
(1) He didn’t see why using the same assignment for two classes was a problem. (“It needs to match the requirements of what I asked for.  Go back and re-read the assignment page.”)
(2) He didn’t see why copy-pasting information was a problem (“The course syllabus AND the assignment page both describe what plagiarizing is, and the assignment page specifically says it needs to be In Your Own Words.  When you quote something, it has to be offset, or in quote marks or otherwise marked.”)
I had to reiterate that I had talked with the Dean who had seen his paper, and agreed to this plan.
And golly gee if he didn’t go and do what I suspected he would!  He outright said that he’d submitted this same paper to his other prof, and that prof had no problems with the paper. (Somehow in his mind, this was supposed to be a strong argument; because you know, if you get by with cheating once, then it shouldn’t be a problem if you do it again.)  I explained that was between the other prof and him.  I knew this was plagiarism, and I wasn’t going to accept the paper.
GAH.

Things that mystify me

Not big, cosmic questions. Little stupid piddly-ass stuff. Like:

People who wedge open the flaps to trash cans by sticking their drink cups partway in. Why not simply push the flap just a bit further in and drop your rubbish into the can? Why leave it wedged open?  This makes the OCD-ish part of my brain hurt.

When someone asks, “Why is it always in the last place you look?”
“Because,” I finally replied to my clueless coworker, “once you find it, you quit looking!”
“Oh! I never thought of that.”
(I regret that I am not making this up.)

This was a rant from last week, by one of the secondary teachers: Continue reading Things that mystify me

Excuses, excuses

WARNING: THIS POST CONTAINS CUSSING.

If such righteous indignation will damage your precious shell-like ears,
then ye’d best hie off somewhere else.

“Who they hell are you to complain?”

“Everyone else is thrilled to have such crap circumstances.”

“But that’s the way we’ve always done it.”

“We’re treating everyone ‘fairly’ by giving everyone the same crappy environment.”

“Everyone else just sucks up and copes with the crappy environment, or doesn’t use it. You’re just being whiny and asking for special favors if you don’t, too.”

“If you try to modify your crappy environment to make it more usable, then everyone else will want to do that, too, and we can’t have that kind of thing going on.”

Okay, in real life the stupid excuses we get are not phrased so blatantly.  There’s usually some kind of artificially-flavoured-and-colored fluffy nonsense-phrasing hiding the real meaning.  That, or the excuses aren’t even given directly, but phrased indirectly with dismissive facial expressions, gestures, trite homilies, or vague references to (sometimes nonexistent) business regulations.
Amazing, isn’t it?
Or, perhaps not.  Not amazing, because Continue reading Excuses, excuses