Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Heat + Humidity: Or Why I am Obsessed with the Weather Here

This is me, every day.
The heat in east Texas is no joke. People sometimes laugh at me when I declare that I would not live long term in Texas because of said heat. After all, we had heat in Delaware and Indiana, too. Heat in east Texas is something like this:

7:30 am: 78 degrees, 90% humidity, 5 mph wind.

This sounds like no big deal, right?

At a humidity-level this high with relatively no wind (5mph is nothing), it actually felt like 85 degrees. At 7:30 in the morning (and I cannot emphasize to people how miserable this feels when there is sun and humidity this high).

By the time we had walked ten minutes to the library, my hair was completely frizzed (it was beyond repair, really, and on ID picture day, too), my glasses were foggy around the edges (because the damp air was reacting with my cooler body temperatures and condensing on my plastic-framed glasses), and we were dripping with sweat.

By the time we walked to another building at noon, the temperature had risen to 93 degrees, the sun had come out, the humidity had dropped a few points (when the heat rises, the humidity drops for sciency reasons that I won’t get into), and it felt like 99 degrees outside. There was still no wind. After a twelve minute walk home, we were very dehydrated.

Now, I hear rumors that the heat is more bearable in west Texas because it is dry there. We live in a very humid, lush (for Texas) zone which gets enough water during the year that it can actually support tall trees. I know from experience that Austin (similar latitude but in the center of the state) is a great deal more tolerable in the summer than Houston (on the east and a little farther south).

I am thankful for the taller trees in Huntsville—a nice outcome from the east Texas moisture—though, because there was a great lack of tall trees in College Station which hurt my soul. The taller trees also provide more shade (yay for shade!).

Next week, the weather websites are forecasting temperatures in the 100s. I am hoping that the humidity drops a bit, since next week we start classes.

Progress Reports:

JVJ: currently hiding behind the washing machine because there is a thunderstorm outside. He’s also not happy about having to relearn not to sharpen his claws on David’s chair.

Katie: I am now in the system at SHSU, which is a relief. I've been reading lots of short stories in preparation for teaching my composition courses soon (classes start on Wednesday next week). Adults on campus keep asking me if I’m a new staff member, and students keep asking me which classes I’m taking this semester which is driving me crazy. I think I need to cut my hair short. I met with the director of the undergraduate program in the English department today (as I said on FB), and he answered all of my questions and gave me some great, insider advice.

David: David is reworking his syllabi after meeting with his department head. He has a really sophisticated plan for his courses, so the reworking is not as intense as it could have been. David had me frame his diplomas (four; for five degrees) so that he can hang them in his new, fancy office on campus. We recently got our campus IDs, so he stocked up on books after his summer library-drought.

Friday, 15 August 2014

Visiting College Station

Today we went back to College Station for a short visit. One of our new, Huntsville acquaintances once said, when we remarked about how much we didn't like the CS area, “The good parts about College Station are the amenities [shopping, coffee shops, bookstores]. Everything else … well … I prefer amenity-poor Huntsville.”

There are several Starbucks in College Station and a great Half Price Books store and the best Indian restaurant that I have ever been to (Taz).
David at Taz. I did not take a picture of the food because I was too busy eating it.
College Station also has the best hair salon (at a non-jaw-dropping price) that I have ever been to. At this hair salon, I used to go it and just say to Quint (co-owner of Sheers), “I want my hair shorter, but I don’t really have anything in mind. Just cut it like you think it would work best.” And he would, and it would be amazing.
This is a mural that one of the owners (Quint) painted inside the waiting area. He painted himself and his wife (the co-owner) into the mural in the center (as they looked when they met in beauty school).
Fun story about College Station:  The first year we moved there, College Station actually had working traffic cameras at lights. People got tickets and had to behave (and complained all the time about the injustice). That year, though, the city allowed College Station residents to vote to shut down these cameras, which, of course, passed. When we first moved here people were much better about going through red lights, but now they do so with abandon. It’s like they’re thinking, “Yeah, like you’re going to plow into my heavy duty pick-up. I want to go through this light, therefore I’m gonna do it.”

College Station also has very few trees, so the sun is always everywhere at once, beating down on you with its heavy fists. The atmosphere makes me feel trapped and hot and overwhelmed. There’s also too much traffic and many of the drivers are college kids in fancy cars who drive very, very badly.

We went back today for a haircut for David and to attend the reception for a former student of his who was just commissioned as an officer in the military. One of the people we met at the reception who had gone to Sam Houston told us to go to this place in Huntsville we've wondered about called Shenanigans. This place advertises itself as a “beach club,” but being that there are no beaches in town, we were royally confused so we asked him about it (Every time we drive by on our way to the gym we play a guessing game and then invent stories about it: Maybe it’s a place with a pool. Maybe it’s one of those sad Tiki bars).

According to this young man, “Shenanigans is a bar, and they have the cool, bar part in front with a dance floor and the beach club in back. The beach club is this place where they do rap and stuff. Don’t go there. Stay in the front.”

My interpretation: The front part of the bar is where white people hang out and the back part is where black people hang out, since white people who don’t know anything about black people use the term “rap” to insinuate racial difference.

I’m still going to think of sad, dingy Tiki bars every time I pass Shenanigans.

Wednesday, 13 August 2014


At SHSU; on the walk between David's building and mine

As promised to various friends and family members, thus begins my blog from Huntsville, Texas.

We've been here since July 28, so I thought that now would be a good time to give some first, overall impressions. There are several ways that I could do this (lists, categories, day-by-day description), but I think that the best way to do this is to describe our first Sunday at an Episcopal church.

David and I arrived in trepidation, as this was our first "real" time in public in Huntsville where we were actually going and intending to talk to people. Our first experiences with meeting people in College Station six years ago (other than meeting people from the university) were pretty negative (David had long hair), so we had very low expectations.

We were immediately welcomed at the door by the rector and various greeters, and after they gave us the usual overview of the church and asked us questions about ourselves. After we sat down, people kept coming over to us an introducing themselves and asking us friendly questions. During the "peace" (the time in Episcopal services where we shake hands with people and say some version of "Peace be with you"), I think that half of the church came over to shake hands with us. It lasted an incredibly long time. In the words of David, "I think that everyone is attempting to greet every other person in the building."

After the service, someone swept us along to a room where they had refreshments and tables. For the next hour, David and I were approached by nearly everyone in the church, and they engaged us in friendly conversation, told us about various projects (church and non-church, when they discovered we were employed at the university), and called in other people who they knew in our various departments to come and talk to us. We were invited to lunch by a bunch of people, invited to all of the extracurricular church activities, and could not even leave the building without being walked out in conversation with others.

The rector called us during the week to invite us to more things and to ask us how things were going with our unpacking venture.

This has been our experience in Huntsville so far. Our experience with university folk (staff and professors and administrators alike) has also been extremely positive. No one anywhere in town has given me an angry look for wearing a Delaware t-shirt or for not saying "Howdy" (there have been no "Howdy"s here, thank goodness).

To conclude, here are some reports:

Cat report: JVJ loves all of the windows and cupboards and closets. I think he's especially happy that he can sit on the floor to look out every window (he's taken to tapping one of the blinds such that it allows him to just peek through).

Katie report: though I was lately in bookshelf purgatory (I am the furniture-assembler), I have now emerged on the other side. There are still a few boxes under my jurisdictions which are only half-unpacked, but we're mostly there. So far I have seen no dangerous insects/spiders. I am far behind on my course planning, but in my defense the person I need to speak with before I can proceed is a phone-only person (who has been away from his phone).

David report: David has cataloged all of the new books and assembled our library. He has been diligently working on his syllabus for weeks (no one should be surprised at this).

Weather report: Hot and humid. No wind.

Overall, our experience here has been four-thumbs and two-paws up.