Wonky Love

Love is not always a humped crimson orb tapering to a perfect point.  Sometimes it’s a little asymmetrical, dirty and rounded. 

Or life has taken a big hunk out of it.  

Occasionally it’s cracked, misshapen, and poorly sprinkled – yet still delectable.  

Sometimes it’s fuzzy and a bit standoffish.

Unexpectedly its feathery alien aspects will push you to new limits.  

Yet pure glimpses into its soft irregular perfection will overwhelm you.

Whatever the shape, size, or consistency of your love today embrace it.  Happy Valentine’s Day from my afthead (and forehead) to yours.img_1238

Afthead Takes Pictures

More Afthead upgrades came with the new year!  Can you believe it?  I mentioned in my last post that I started list of books I’m reading because I “can’t handle another social media time sucker like Goodreads.”  Well, I snubbed Goodreads because I had already started another social media time sucker.  Yes, dear readers, Afthead is now on Twitter and Instagram!  (Instagram is the new one.)  So exciting!

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Snow Chicken – Instagram Post

I picked Instagram because the past year I found myself taking pictures with the thought “I’m going to write a blog post about this.”  However, life and time move on and I don’t always write the post.  Instagram gives me a platform for writing microstories about little things that tickle my Afthead.

Threek – Instagram Post

So if you want to follow my Instagram feed you can either check it out on my blog – I added the Instagram widget – or you can click the Instagram button in my “Socially Inept” section or you can just look for “Aftheaded” on Instagram.  (This is all if you just didn’t click the links in the post already.)  Already there are sixteen pictures ranging from a snowchicken, bird poop, a threek, and inappropriate rocks: note only two of my pictures actually made it into blog posts, so my experiment is working.  (I mean, if you ignore this post…)  Join my 16 followers for a peek into the visual Afthead world.

 


Oh, and if anyone else has ever wanted to add the Instagram widget to their blog and ended up weeping in frustration, let me direct you to this support post.  I had to add the widget from the WordPress Admin, not from the page where you customize your theme.  Ah, the work I do to keep things fresh and interesting around here.  

 

 

Afthead Reads (and does math too)

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A new year means new blogging features, or at least it does around the afthead parts.  Today, I’d like to introduce you to “Afthead Reads.”  This is a totally self serving new feature, because I’ve always wanted to keep track of how many books I read in a year, but can’t handle another social media time sucker like Goodreads.  So, I made a new page on my site to keep track of my annual reading.  You can access it by clicking “Reading” on the top navigation.  Inside you’ll find a low tech list displaying the name of the book, the date I finished the book, and a rating from one to five asterisks, where five is good and one is bad. If there is no date and no rating then I’m still reading the book.

My reading is categorized into:

  • Read – these are books I actually read in my head all by myself.
  • Listen – these are audiobooks I’ve listened to in their entirety.
  • Read Aloud – these are books that I read to my daughter.

I count all of the above methods as legitimate book reading, but if you disagree with me there are subtotals on each category to make adjusting my reading totals easier.  Now, the caveats:

  • First, any book I finished this year is counted, so even things I started back in December count toward 2017.  I do this because unquestionably I will start a book in December, which I won’t finish so things will mostly even out.
  • Second, I only include entire books I read.  If I don’t finish it, or just page through it, it doesn’t count.
  • Finally, the books I read my daughter which are completed in a single session also aren’t included.  The kid books have to be at least a three night activity.

How am I doing so far?  In January I read 11 books.  Wondering if that’s a lot or a little I turned to my friends at Pew Research Center to learn more.  There I learned that:

“Americans read an average (mean) of 12 books per year, while the typical (median) American has read 4 books in the last 12 months. Each of these figures is largely unchanged since 2011, when Pew Research Center first began conducting surveys of Americans’ book reading habits….”

This was eventually fascinating to me, after I did some web searching to remind myself what mean and median are.  The mean is just all the books read divided by the number of people who read the books, while the median is the middle number in the range of books read by people.  So say five people read 1, 2, 4, 11 and 42 books in January.  The median would be 4 (just like above) and the mean would be 12 (just like above).  I don’t really get medians, unless I think hard about them.  For this study, I’m assuming they present the median because it shows that there are big outliers in the data, like the 42 above.  More about that later.  For now I’m sticking with the tried and true mean or average for my next analysis.  On average Americans read 12 books a year?  I had no idea the number was so low.  Because I’m a super dork I dug into my specific demographics from the study and found:

Women: 15 books in 12 months

White: 14 books in 12 months

30-49:  14 books in 12 months

College +: 17 books in 12 months

So if I continue at my current pace I will have read 132 books this year.  Even compared to the average college educated person that’s a crazy ton of books.  Now maybe January was a fluke for me, and maybe I’m reading dumb young adult books (I am) so that pace might slow down during the year, but the truth of the matter is that I have already read more books this year than the annual average for a person, white person, or 30-49 year old person, and by the end of the week I will have tied the annual woman number.

Now I’m annoyed.  Really, why can’t there be a reading Olympics?  Maybe I could medal, or at least make the national team, or get an invite to try out?  If I was able to participate in a sport at this level, I imagine I’d be pretty good, but no one other that Pew seems to be evaluating all us readers.

Back to the super interesting math.  Considering I’m one of those outlier readers that made the Pew folks present a median value, now I’m more interested in the median.  For grins, let’s take my range from before and throw in my estimated 132 books in as the top value, so now we have 1, 2, 4, 11, 132 as our range of numbers.  Now the mean (average) jumps from 12 to 30, but the median (middle number) is still 4.  What?!?  Isn’t that amazing?  So knowing the median really helps you know that there are some big numbers at the top of this range, even if you didn’t know the numbers in the range.  For the Pew study, I don’t know how many books each of the 1,520 readers read, but I do know that 625 of the people interviewed only read 0, 1, 2, 3, or 4 books, because of the median value.  That’s a lot of people who didn’t read much.  It also makes me wonder if within the Pew range of 1,520 interviewees I might not even be an Olympic caliber reader because they have a pretty large sample size.  I bet there are some big numbers at the top of the range to bring up 625 not-readers and to a mean of 12.  The more values you have in a range the harder it is to increase the mean.  But I wonder.  Are those big estimates really accurate?  How many super readers are keeping a detailed tally of their annual book consumption?

Uh, wait… have I lost you?  Are you shaking your head and saying “Johanna, this is a reading blog post!  What the heck is up with all these numbers?!?!  You tricked me!”  Sorry about that.  Anywhoo, if you are looking for good book recommendations you can always check out my new page and find the five asterisk books.  (And if anyone hears about a secret reading Olympics, please let me know.  I think I’ve got a shot.  If you are a big reader too also let me know.  Maybe we can train together in a book club.)


Thanks to Unsplash for the image!

 

 

Make your Blog Beautiful

I’m waiting for my first ever guest blogger to wrap up her first ever blog post, but while she dawdles with things like school and birthday parties and spelling tests I wanted to share an amazing photo resource I just found.  Occasionally my day job helps my early morning, late night and weekend avocation, and last week a 5-8:00 p.m. “day job” meeting led me to a remarkable site.  Blogging friends you have to check out Unsplash.

Personally, I love using my own photos in my blog, but sometimes I want to write about something and I don’t have an appropriate photo.  Oftentimes I end up with a blog post that has no picture because I get tired of trying to negotiate all the license terms and general ethics of using pictures I find on the Internet.  I find blog posts with no pictures less interesting, less read, and less liked on Twitter.  Well now there is a replacement for those boring posts: adding images from Unsplash.

Let’s say you have a blog post about how every February you yearn for spring, or even summer’s heat and flowers.  You may not have a recent picture of summer flowers, but Unsplash does.

fafgqxdj2t8-dan-goldhttps://unsplash.com/search/flower?photo=fAFgqxDJ2t8

Let’s say you are full of angst about politics. You want an image to convey how you feel inside, but you aren’t a professional photographer, so you don’t have a good storm picture.  That’s okay.  Unsplash has you covered.

jh2ktqhlmje-jeremy-thomashttps://unsplash.com/collections/341590/dark-and-stormy?photo=jh2KTqHLMjE

Let’s say one of your favorite bloggers just shared an awesome photo site with you.  One that provides “Free (do whatever you want) high-resolution photos” under a Creative Commons Zero license.  You might want a picture that shows how you feel about your blogging friend, this new resource, and life in general. Oh yeah, you guessed it, Unsplash has you covered.

yimy3erbc3o-josh-felise https://unsplash.com/search/happy-book?photo=yIMy3ERBc3o

So go forth my friends.  Write whatever blog post you want about any topic that interests you.  Then head over to Unsplash, and add an image or two.  Make your blogs a little more beautiful, and please, if you use Unsplash I’d love to check out your post, so leave me a comment or pingback.

tznbaktucti-tran-mau-tri-tamhttps://unsplash.com/search/write?photo=tZnbakTUcTI

Oh yeah, check that out.  A picture of a woman working on her WordPress site.  Unsplash has something for every occasion!


Thanks to Unsplash for the amazing resource, the artists on Unsplash for the images above, and to the Daily Prompt for the theme: Replacement

Knit-auguration 

At last the big day is here, the dawning of a new administration for the toys.  Crowds of historic proportions were expected and arrived this morning: extra Lego sheets had to be added to accommodate everyone.  Tiny Knit Zombie Trump and Tiny Knit Hillary are sitting together and enjoying the pre-inauguration entertainment.  The gathering has a festive celebratory air.  Every toy feels like they have representation in this new government.  Every toy feels like their voices were heard.  Every toy is excited about the changes that are coming, and has confidence in their new leaders.  Let’s go to our on the ground reporter, George Snuffleupagus,  for an up close perspective.

Thanks!  Well before we go to the ground, let’s check out the birds-eye-view.  Crowds stretch from the stage all the way back to the Lego Washington Monument.  The future president and vice president took a risk – there is no security – but so far even the toys that showed up with weapons are peacefully gathering.  It’s as if they just want to express their right to bear arms, but not hurt anyone.  Wow!  Look at the size of that sword down there!

The media is here and busy interviewing toys.  Several polite discussions have broken out when toys nearby had a perspective different from the toy being interviewed.  There’s just so much respect and tolerance, even here in the far back where you can barely make out the swooping hair of Tiny Knit Zombie Trump and sunglasses of Tiny Knit Hillary.   Everyone seems so happy to just be part of this day.

Thankfully with the money this team saved on security they were able to install large video screens so the crowd can see from anywhere on the Lego sheets.  This incoming administration really understands how to make investments where they are needed the most.

Sorry George!  Gotta interrupt you.  It looks like the entertainment part of the festivities is over and Tiny Knit Zombie Trump is going to take his oath of office.  Let’s listen in.  Oh, wait.  He doesn’t have a mouth.  Well, he’s looking very vice-presidential as he moans and nods… and there, he’s done.  The crowd’s reaction is deafening.  There is a palpable excitement from the trolls, vikings, mad scientists, and conservatives.  Oh, now it’s Tiny Knit Hillary’s turn.  The crowd has quieted.  Let’s hear what she has to say.  Ah, again no mouth.  Well she holds herself with a very presidential posture as she puts her hand on the toy plastic book she chose for today.  George, do you think the color of the book has any significance?  George… are you there?

Sorry, I can’t seem to get my emotions under control… *sniff*  This is just such a momentous day.  Two parties putting aside their differences for the good of all toys.  I just….I can’t….

Ah, and we’ve lost George due to the roar of the crowd.  Well, let’s leave him with his emotions, and watch as President Tiny Knit Hillary and Vice President Tiny Knit Zombie Trump hug each other, and then address the crowd with inclusive gesticulations.  I can’t imagine what they must be feeling looking over all their constituents. Oh, look, spontaneous hugs are breaking out all over.  Knits are hugging Legos.  Evil doers are hugging kids, but in a good way, not a creepy way.  Such solidarity.

Well there is nothing more to add.  Today is a day of peace, cooperation, and tranquility and our toy nation is a model that other nations can only hope to emulate.  Let’s pan out to enjoy one last look at the crowd on this momentous day.


 

An unexpected, and tinge late, additional post in a series of tiny knit presidential dilemmas.  See the sixth post here, fifth post here, fourth post here, third post here, second post here, and the first post here.

Thank you to Anna Hrachovec for the amazing tiny knit patterns!  Please visit her site at http://mochimochiland.com/.

Presidential Equality

February 3, 1870.  That’s when the fifteenth amendment stipulated that
“The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.”

To be clear, all men regardless of race or color had the right to vote.  It would be over 50 years before women of any race or color could vote.

August 18, 1920. That’s when women received the right to vote in this country. My grandmother-in-law, who turned 100 this year, was born when women couldn’t vote. A woman with whom I spend my holidays had a mother who could not vote in the first election of her daughter’s life.  I find this unfathomable.

Never in my life have I questioned my worth when compared to my male counterparts, and I am grateful for that.  Along the way key points of the women’s intelligence dogma missed me.   Somehow I managed to excel in reading and writing AND math and science.  Girls are bad at math and science?  Who knew?  In 3rd or 4th grade I made the gifted and talented program in English, but not in math, which I found unacceptable.  Whatever stipulation the school set I must have accomplished, because I was in both the math and English G&T program from then on.  I scored a perfectly even 650 math and 650 English score on my SAT.  After high school I received scholarship offers for acting and engineering programs, and went the engineering route. My class ratio started at 8 men to every woman, but I never thought I shouldn’t be in an engineering college; I just found it really easy to find a date on Saturday nights.  After getting my degree I went to work for a big management consulting shop and picked the most challenging technical track I could find, without ever thinking if a girl belonged in that role.  Now, 20 years into my career I lead a team that is half women and half men and not a day goes by when I question if one of my male colleagues is better at his job than I am, because they are not.  We may have different skills and strengths, but they are not better.  My husband, as I have mentioned before, has had the same career duration as me and we make exactly the same amount of money.  My life is a symbol of the equality between men and women, and until recently I believed with all my heart and soul that gender equality was a reachable goal for this country.

In 2008 I held my baby girl and marveled that Barack Obama, a black man I voted for after caucusing for Hillary Clinton, was elected as president.  So much social change has been catalyzed during his 8 years in office.  Why shouldn’t the barrier of a female commander in chief be the next to fall?  In my mind it was a foregone conclusion, so I sobbed on Election Day when my dream of celebrating President Hillary Clinton’s win with my little girl evaporated.  How did a highly qualified woman lose to a man who has never served a day in office?  I don’t want my daughter live in a world where boys are just assumed to be better leaders than girls, because I have never lived in that world.  How dare this election destroy my 42 years of proof that men and women can be equal in this country?

Misogynist is being thrown around everywhere and peppers casual conversation in my circles.  Misogyny, according to the old hardback Merriam Webster Dictionary on my desk,  means the hatred of, contempt for, or prejudice against women or girls.  Filled with vitriol the word is spat meaning the first two words, but my fear is that it’s really the third.  Hatred and contempt could be focused on a single candidate or person.  It could mean that Hillary Clinton and her actions kept her from becoming elected.  However, I am terrified that the real problem is that the 48% of voters are actually prejudiced against my gender.  That is a much bigger wall separating women from the presidency, because that isn’t a candidate problem it’s a cultural issue.  My fear is that somehow outside of my bubble lives a country that still thinks women should be seen and not heard, honor their husband and father, and stay barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen.

We still have a chance to have our first woman president before the centennial anniversary of women’s suffrage, but on the eve of this inauguration day that historical occurrence seems unlikely.  Friday I will watch Hillary attend the inauguration as the wife of our former president and worry that I live in a country that doesn’t think a woman can take the oath of office.  I will wonder if my father’s adoration and pride in me over the years would have been enhanced if only I’d been a boy, even though that thought seems impossible: he always seemed so proud of me. But he voted for our new misogynist president and I believe he is excited about the direction our country is going.  Is my own bubble more fragile than I ever imagined?  I will worry that my daughter will have to overcome obstacles that I was lucky enough to avoid through pure dumb luck.  And I will hope that the pace of change has accelerated from the late 1800s and we don’t have to wait 50 more years – the duration between black’s right to vote and women’s right to vote – before this country’s prejudice of women ends.  Will my daughter’s granddaughter be the first woman in my family to have a presidential female role model?  Will that far off progeny finally live in a world that I falsely believed I inhabited; a world where men and women are equally respected and valued?  Time will tell.

‘Twas the week before Inauguration 

‘Twas the week before inauguration and all through the city 

Porta potties were in place, in case things got shitty.


The streets were all lined with barricades and bleachers

In anticipation of crowds and sign carrying preachers. 


Inaugural gowns filled the ritziest store,

Bright red is the color attendees adore.


When in front of Old Abe there arose such a clatter

I quickened my pace to see what was the matter.

The memorial front was flooded with workers 

And the sounds that they made was like hordes of berserkers.  


The seating appeared to be quietly weeping 

As worries and fear inside me were creeping. 


Wiping my eyes and turning around 

I glimpsed the Trump Tower and started to frown.


When what to my wondering eyes should appear,

But a small group of children so tiny and dear.


Their eyes, how they twinkled!  Their footsteps were merry.

(One had the diminutive air of a fairy.)

Small tiny steps and one happy turn of a head

Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread. 

I spoke not word, but resolved to do right.  

As for you, D.C.  Please fight the good fight.

Acknowledgement to Clement Clarke Moore and his poem A Visit from St. Nicholas, otherwise known as the beloved The Night Before Christmas.  I hope my version proves entertaining to you readers. 

Living Nightmare

Public speaking.  I know it’s something that gives some people chills, makes them sick to their stomach and causes dread to course through their body.  Personally, I’ve always enjoyed public speaking.  I like standing in front of a crowd, any size, and delivering prepared remarks, unprepared remarks, or off-the-cuff thoughts.  I don’t know if my ease is due to my years in high school drama, or a genetic predisposition, but public speaking is fun.

Today I had a presentation at 8:00a.m.  Before I got settled at the speaker table at the room’s front I ran to the bathroom, because we were going to be there for two hours between the presentations and time for questions.  My section went really well.  There were some laughs, lots of head nods, and good eye contact.  The other presentations were interesting, and the question and answer sessions provided insight.  It was a really good experience.

I finished and hurried out to get on a conference call with a colleague.  We sat on the floor, because all the chairs we could see were taken, and shared her Apple earbuds to talk and listen.  Then I confidently strode around the exhibit hall learning all about the wide variety of things you find in any conference exhibit hall.  Famished, I texted a friend, and we met up for a crappy lunch at the convention center food court.  After lunch I wandered trying to find the speaker ready room to complete my last speaker task:  making sure they had the right version of my presentation to distribute with the conference materials.

Cue the nightmare.

While I was inspecting a map of the conference facilities a strange man came up to me and softly said, “Your pants are unzipped.”

“Oh, thank you!” I exclaimed and reached down to zip.  The zipper didn’t go all the way up, I could feel the gap, but rather than mess around with my crotch in a busy hallway I decided to duck into somewhere private to fix the issue.  There was a restroom close by, so I pushed through the door, looked up and saw three men.  Crap.  I was in the men’s restroom.

My fly forgotten I bolted out and headed for the exit of the convention center doing math in my head.  Five hours.   I’d had my pants unzipped for five hours.  For most of the presentation I was behind a lectern or a table which was skirted, so probably no one saw my underwear.  The rest of the time?  Ugh.

End nightmare

Whenever someone afraid of public speaking asks me “How do you do it?  How do you get up there and talk in front of everyone?”  I always reply, “What’s the worst thing that can happen?”  Now, I’ll have a real world example to share with them.  Once I got back to my hotel room and appropriately dressed myself I grabbed for my phone and started texting my friends and family.  Really the story is hysterical.  I hope I never see any of those three bathroom men again, but thank goodness for the one stranger who was brave enough to tell me about my grooming lapse.  So…uh…yay public speaking!

Sewing Knew Year

Oh, I have knit, I have painted, surely that’s all I accomplished this New Year, right?  Wrong!  On New Year’s day I completed a project to ensure my chickens stay warm through subzero winter temperatures.  I made window blankets for our chicken coop.  What is a window blanket?  It is Mr. Afthead’s brainchild, which I executed.  (Okay, he helped with the grommet hammering part.)  Window blankets are insulated pieces of fabric created with hanging mechanisms at the top, which can be placed over the windows of the chicken coop to provide insulation and protection from our chilly winter days and nights.  They also keep snow from blowing into the coop.  Let me show you some pictures.

 

I think the window blankets provide a nice pop of color in the chicken run too.  Thankfully these got finished before the snow and subzero temperatures arrived this week.

What!?!  No!  These are not just curtains!  Curtains go on the inside of structures and these are on the outside.  Also, curtains must be ironed and sewn with matchy matchy thread, and these do not.  Finally, these might get chicken poop on them, and that’s probably not a concern with your curtains, right?  Totally different.  The only similarities are that they are made of fabric, cover a window, and must be measured with a smidgen of accuracy.

Let me tell you, we may have to patent these wonderful window blankets, because this past week the chicken coop was eleven degrees warmer than the outside when we had the heat lamp on and the window blankets attached.  Without the window blankets the difference was 4 degrees.  So the chickens are staying toastier thanks to my handiwork and my husband’s invention.

It’s the least we can do for these feathery gals who keep giving us eggs and provide us so much joy.

Oh!  You want to make your own window blankets?  Instructions are coming soon…

Painting Knew Year

Lest you think knitting was my only New Year’s accomplishment let me show you my second completed project.  July 3rd I had a cockamamie idea to change the color of our basement bathroom from light Grimace to radioactive sea foam.  The old color was bad but the green was so bright it literally changed the color of other objects in the bathroom.  

Unfortunately, there is nothing like making a bad paint color choice to hamper the ability to make a new color choice.  “What if I pick something worse?”  (Like that’s possible.)  So the paint stayed, but I never took off the blue painters’ tape as an acknowledgement of my terrible mistake.

Then as part of our post holiday stuff-purge Mr. Afthead happened upon an almost full half gallon of paint we had from long ago: a color we both loved, but replaced when our daughter asked for a blue room.   It was eggshell finish, not my preferred semigloss for bathrooms, but I wasn’t going to be picky.  Thus it came to pass that I was sick on New Years Eve – too sick to party but not too sick to take to bed – and upon that night where an old year changes to new I did paint the dreaded bathroom.  It was glorious.  Note the toilet is again white!  A New Year’s miracle.  

If anyone needs most of a half gallon of paint for something that really needs to be seen, even in the darkest night, you let me know.  I probably won’t get to the paint store to recycle it for a bit.

Wow!  So productive!  What else could an Afthead accomplish in the new year?  Just you wait and see…