Tuesday, December 24, 2002

Tuesday, December 17, 2002

Already Tuesday Too?
What do you think about the US government giving money to family members of 9/11 victims?

Oh, jf, these are great questions but also hard questions. It is not easy to address 9/11. I have done some thinking about this aspect over the past few months, but as I am drowning in end-of-the-semester work, I don't have time to give this the attention it deserves.

1.) Is a firemen's life worth less than a stock broker?


2.) What about family members of victims who died from circumstances not related to 9/11?


3.) It is likely that 9/11 will not be the last terrorist attack. Should the same "compensation" be provided for future victims families?

I don't know the answer to this. I don't know about the whole idea of "compensation." How can we boil down someone's life to two inches in the newspaper's obituary section and a cost-benefit analysis? On the other hand, what is compassionate? What is fair, if anything about this can be called fair? What is realistic?

Instead of more posting, here's this from 2001 (written pre-ejournal):

It's Christmas time and I hunt for my cookie cutters. I have seventeen of them in a Toy Story plastic bucket that I got at the movies, full of popcorn. I remember buying two of them at the Great American supermarket when I was a college student and lived in Oneonta. Ten of them I acquired when I worked in New York City; they were a gift from my boss. But those ten are cheap, tinny imitations of the four which were Mimmie's. These four are old and sturdy and still perfectly symmetrical -- a heart, a star, a diamond and a crescent moon. These same shapes were traced as decoration on some of the pages in the Watson Hollow Inn cookbook. They were used to cut bread for tea sandwiches.

Actually, there are five which belonged to Mimmie, but the fifth isn't really a cookie cutter at all. It cuts a hole in the center of a larger circle; Mimmie used it to make donuts. It has a big wooden handle and doesn't match the timeless design of the other four. I use it to make wreath-shaped cookies.

At home, Mimmie made sugar cookies, and she used food-coloring tinted sugar as trim. In my mind's eye I see four little plastic bottles of food coloring with pointy tops. A slight squeeze, and a tiny drop of green, or blue, or red, or yellow would fall into the baggy of granulated sugar.

I don't have any food coloring, and these cookies are spice, not sugar, but I am using Mimmie's spice cookie recipe, along with those magic shapes that are taking a Christmas break from their promotional popcorn pail in the pantry.

Monday, December 16, 2002

In the aftermath of last weekend's flood, Bob decided that it was time to do a project he's thought about for years. So soon there will be a clothes closet in the bedroom. Until then, some of the contents of the bedroom are in the living room. We really maximize on the 900 square feet in this little house.

There was a smaller version of the flood on Saturday. Water was dripping through the foundation, this time caused not by the water pipe, but because it rained so much on Saturday that water was streaming down the street - and into the square hole in the asphalt of the sidewalk in front of our house, soaking through the new gravel, and forming a puddle near the furnace. So the village made an asphalt dam near the hole, which directs the water back down the street. I have a feeling there will be some major road work in the Spring.

The tree is up. It is a fresh cut scotch pine. We got it from the boy scouts. It isn't very big. I've decided my virtual museum will be about Christmas trees, but I have no idea when I will fit in getting it done. I have cookies to bake. But the priority is getting the grades done. This is the worst thing about teaching, or for that matter, being a student. I tried to rearrange the assignment schedule to lighten the pressure, but as usual, still there is a lot of end-of-semester work at the deadline.

I really want to make Mimmie's blonde fudge to send to Black Dome Press. It has been long enough to contact them again, I think. I have a few things planned for the break, too. There are writing ideas, and the research on online v. classroom learning.

But first, do those evaluations!!!!

Here's a photo instead of more posting:


One of Bob's many wreaths. Obviously not taken this year (seems like it has been snowing everyday - and there is a big hole in the asphalt almost in front of the door).

Thursday, December 12, 2002

Since there is so much snow already and I live on the side of a hill, a bunch of kids have been sleigh riding (or "riding downhill" as we always called it) in between my house and the neighbor's for much of today. It's a great hill for sledding. Rudy barked (really howled, he throws his head back and really gets into it) at them on and off, but he doesn't have the stamina or desire to do it all day, the way Sophie did at the backhoe over the weekend. I watched them for a while, considering the idea of buying a cheap sled and giving it a try myself. We have lived here for more than 15 years and I have yet to take a winter ride down the hill.

In today's Ann Landers column, the subject was telling kids the truth about Santa, and "Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus" was reprinted. How magical it was to believe in Santa, to run downstairs on Christmas morning and see that he had been there. I faked believing for years after I knew the truth, because I was the youngest, and I didn't wanted to disappoint my family. They so enjoyed playing Santa. When I turned 40 last year, my sister told me that having a sister who was still in the 30s made her young, too, and I guess the Santa thing is the same idea. I remember a big cartoon-ish charcoal footprint drawn on the hearth of our fireplace, with some ashes scattered around it. And I recall asking for some toy and getting a harmonica instead. There was a note tucked inside. It said Santa knew it wasn't what I had requested, but he felt I might like learning to play the harmonica better. I did try to play it, although I never became very good. I still have that harmonica. I even have the box it came in. But I can't remember for which toy it substituted.

Tuesday, December 10, 2002

Tuesday Too

1.) Do you have the google toolbar?

You're right, it is cool, but no, I don't have it.

2.) You may be surprised when you test yourself for hidden bias at Tolerance.org

I visited the site - it is interesting. I don't have time right at the moment to take the test(s), but I will definitely try them. I do know that most people do have a certain amount of hidden bias. Even those who struggle with the idea and are very reflective and open minded; this is something we all should think about, especially an educator like me. Teaching the online section of my class, I always find it fascinating to observe how this impacts bias in the class, because although some names indicate gender, and others may reveal race or ethnicity, many other things (age, appearance, social status, disabilities) can be hinted at but are not obvious and even gender and race/ethnicity cannot necessarily be assumed. The whole "on the Internet, no one knows you're a dog" thing.

3.) What's floating your boat today?

Not sure what this questions means? I guess I am ignorant of this cliche, not that I haven't heard it before...Last day of class! My feet hurt! It's quite cold, though warmer than yesterday, luckily. Do any of those statements apply?

Monday, December 09, 2002

I like snow, and I don't mind it being cold, but this level of cold makes it hard to remember what warm feels like. On the other hand, in the summer when it is boiling it's difficult to imagine this temperature.

On the bright side, we have water again. Saturday morning, a puddle started to appear on the utility room floor. Bob said he thought, "d-mn dog(s) must have peed on the floor." In about 30 seconds it was apparent the canines were not at fault. He shut off the water in our house, but that served no purpose. So he ran upstairs and threw me out of bed (it is an understatement to say that I am not a morning person) so I could join him in being frantic.

The furnace and hot water heater happen to be at the lowest point of the floor, but the washer, dryer, refrigerator and freezer are in there too (along with a lot of other stuff like the bin for paper to be recycled, the hamper, and, since this is a closet-less house, racks of clothing). We moved as much as we could to the kitchen, yielding a mud mess on the floor. We used almost every towel in an effort at mopping, and building a fabric dike around the furnace, but the flow was about the strength of a garden hose. It was coming in from a hole in the concrete step in the storage area under our front porch. After a call to the village, the mayor and then the superintendent arrived. They shut off the main water supply from the village pipes to our house and the flood stopped, but that meant no sinks, no shower, no toilet.

As long as there is a heat source, I can tolerate having no electricity, and there have been a few times when this has happened. In terms of water, we went without the bathroom for a week while we were renovating, but we did have water in the kitchen sink. In Samsonville, there is a stream near the house and so buckets can be retrieved for emergencies, but in Castleton, this isn't an option. I should have drawn water in the tub or at least a few pails worth, but in the frenzy to save the utility room there wasn't time. There is a big difference in having a little water v. having not a drop of water. (Meaning not a drop coming out of the faucet; there was plenty of water on the floor.)

The hope was that the culprit would be the pipe between our house and the village water pipe, which is under the sidewalk in front of the porch. There was the potential that the leak could be in the part of the pipe that runs through the concrete foundation, and we'd have to have it jack hammered inside. In that case, all sorts of things that are stored under the porch would have to be moved. Saturday evening, the asphalt was cut to prepare for digging with a backhoe on Sunday morning. Sunday morning while this was taking place, Sophie watched from the window near the couch and barked continuously. I thought she would drop from exhaustion, but instead she just drove the rest of us (me, Bob, Rudy, Edna) crazy for over 4 hours, and today she is catching up on her sleep. The equipment was loud so luckily her woofing didn't seem to have any impact on the work outside.

By noon we had the good news that the break was in the pipe and not in the foundation, and in no time our water was reconnected. Now the only signs of the problem are missing asphalt, an orange cone on the spot, and a bunch of symbols in fluorescent spray paint on the road, indicating the presence of gas lines and other underground utilities. Oh, and quite a few things are cluttering the kitchen, and are not back in their respective places in the utility room. So that was the weekend.

Friday, December 06, 2002

I much prefer historical place names to ones that commemorate those who lived more recently. Or maybe a person doesn't seem significant until 50 years have past, kind of like the value of an antique or collectible.

There was some commentary and letters in the papers recently about the naming of the new veteran's cemetery in Stillwater to honor former Congressman Jerry Solomon. I guess it shouldn't be a controversy, as he was a big supporter of veteran's rights. On the other hand, it does seem a little inappropriate to me. I'm not trying to dishonor the dead; I recognize the importance of the rituals we associate with life events; I am an advocate for traditional memorials. In fact, I like cemeteries. Gettysburg should stay Gettysburg and I'm not sure what was wrong with calling this one Saratoga. Certainly it is a more honorable thing to be known for than horse racing.

Perhaps the fact that I was the recipient of a very nasty response letter from Mr. Solomon when I wrote to him colors my perspective. On the other hand, in years since I have come to appreciate any response at all, for when I more recently wrote in support of Amtrak, I heard nothing back from Senators Schumer and Clinton. Jerry's staff may have been mean, but they sure weren't lax.

This makes me think of some place names in Albany. Of course, prominently, there's Rockefeller's name; Empire State Plaza, with its modern utopian design, and its controversial beginnings, seems, somehow, a fitting tribute to his vision. Then there's the Pepsi, although I stubbornly still call it the Knick. A can of soda or Washington Irving's wit. Now what's a more appropriate moniker for an arena?

In the Town of Olive they have built a pricey and beautiful new swimming pool. There is talk, and maybe it is already a done deal, of naming it for a late councilperson. He was active in the community, and I suppose it is a nice honor. Maybe he liked swimming, I'm not sure. I worked at this pool's predecessor as a teenager and I don't remember him coming there. This naming strikes me as inappropriate, too.

I believe the funds for this pool came from the NYC Watershed Agreement. My sister sent me this link from the Ulster County Archives to a list of people who were paid for lands when the Ashokan Reservoir was built. It got me thinking about those folks. If someone is to be honored, why not Lillie Jamieson? I don't know anything about this person, except that she was displaced. But that displacement makes her more worthy than any politician.

Better yet, honor one of the lost places. Ashton is such a pretty name. But it wasn't part of Olive township and so I guess we must leave the commemorating - or neglecting - to the Town of Hurley. So how about Bishop's Falls? There's a beautiful place that was among the first to be sacrificed. Erased from history, resurrected as a swimming pool, built with NYC's money. Let's have the courage to tell the story.

Today's snow is the kind that sparkles. It is dark outside and still snowing a little but I can see the ground shimmer. Earlier I watched the dogs from the screen door. They were in the yard, dashing around, Rudy diving and rolling, Sophie charging him and barking. She has a cute fleece coat to wear to protect that hairless hotdog body from the elements. Rudy is an artic dog, and needs no such protection.

What is it about snow after Thanksgiving that makes me dream of Christmas? Lots of years I complain that it just doesn't feel like Christmas, but I can tell already that this is going to be one of those magic years, the kind I remember from childhood, warm rosy memories of shimmering golden white. I want to put on festive music, bake Mimmie's cookies, and go get a tree from the scouts. Last weekend in Samsonville, Bob put up lights on the front of the house, and I hung up the nativity scene I made a few years ago (photo below).

But the end of the semester is upon me and I have lots of evaluating to do. I am almost through the last of the essays, but reading term papers and journals, and calculating discussions, group projects and final grades are lurking just around the corner. I guess the sugar plums will have to wait.

Wednesday, December 04, 2002

I have been doing some thinking about the whole Consume Nothing Day, or whatever it is that those so inclined were calling it. I'll start with the way I live my life: I have never been one to participate in the rush to the stores on the day after Thanksgiving. I really don't like shopping, especially in malls. I so rarely go to a mall that I have to really work my brain to remember the last time I was at one. Big box discount stores are only a little better. I don't mind Main Street type shops but at that, going to them isn't my favorite past-time. I especially don't like shopping when it is crowded in the store and there are lots of cars in the parking lot.

I am a recycling fanatic. Not one bottle cap or scrap of paper lands in the trash that can be recycled. We both reuse whatever we can. Bob is particularly good at fashioning what some might consider unusable garbage into something great, like a trellis, a lamp or a bedside end table. His ultimate project was repairing a big retaining wall in our yard. Some of the railroad ties needed replacing, but the old ones created a new terraced garden in the back of the house. I make craft items - for example, a wall display of the Nativity - out of corrugated cardboard, fabric scraps, and buttons from old clothes. Add a glue gun, and there you go.

I try not to consume things I don't need. When we do work on our houses, we never rip things out and get rid of them, just because we want a different style. Our bathroom plumbing was shot, so we removed the fixtures, replaced the pipes and rotted floor boards, and put the old fixtures back. In our new house, our kitchen sink is an old one that came out of a friend's renovated kitchen, and our bathroom fixtures came out of my sister's renovated bathroom. The cabinets and counter tops were purchased used from Want Ad Digest. For a lot of reasons that I won't go into right now (and I admit not all of them relate to conservation), I don't drive. I wash dishes by hand, using a basin for the water. I have water and energy saver appliances. In the summer, we collected water for our plants rather than constantly running the hose.

I buy a few good clothes, and wear them out. Whenever I can, I purchase things I do need, and also sell them when possible, at yard sales or on ebay. I never throw something out if it is still good - I save it (which is why I have to walk sideways through most rooms of this house :-) or I donate it. When I buy over the Internet, if the company uses wasteful packaging, I never order from them again. I compost organics, and use the dirt that is generated to grow vegetables, herbs and spices.

Recently I have been much agitated about the destruction of the Defreest-Church House to make way for a Target store. I intend to never shop at Target. I also agree that there is no question we consume too much. No question the holiday shopping thing is totally out of control. No question many people have no belief in the true meaning of Christmas, so what are they celebrating? We should encourage manufacturers to make quality product, that won't break in a year and wind up in a landfill. We should fix what can be repaired instead of buying a replacement. At the same time, the Buy Nothing Day movement disturbs me. What is the message being sent? To hurt retail in general? (The numbers seem to indicate that sales were strong.)

I'll close with how I spent my Friday. I took the day off from work, and Consume Nothing exhortations aside, I did buy a few things. I was in Samsonville, very far from the malls, big boxes, and even Main Street. We went to Creative Spirit and bought an anniversary gift. It was a lovely pottery bowl, made by an artist. We presented it at a wonderful dinner out that evening with Bob's brother and sister-in-law, who we didn't see on Thanksgiving day. We also went to a gallery open house, where my niece was showing her jewelry. Bob committed to buying me a beautiful amethyst necklace that she had on display. I also contacted Consilvio's, a vendor we met at the Pride of New York wine and food festival in Albany. I wanted to order some delicious tomato sauce that they make. And in the mail, the great used Ameribag that I bought on ebay was delivered.

I don't feel guilty about these purchases. Actually, I felt rather pleased, and even a bit defiant. Like there were probably a good number of smug people who were so proud to consume nothing on Friday, but their automobiles will be in the Target parking lot before long. Oh, it's easy for the affluent to sniff about consumption, and to dismiss with an earthy wave the fate of clerks who work for wages in stores. I think the message might be more persuasive if a long term commitment was involved, and if there were some specific guidelines for what, how, when and how much to consume. Let's call it appropriate consumption: this involves choice, use, and disposal. For example, McDonald's food would never be in this category. Neither would styrofoam packaging peanuts. Buying a new toaster to replace the old one simply because the old one is the wrong color - inappropriate. Throwing glass, metal and plastic into the trash - no way. That sweater with the hole can be mended. Those pants that are new but too small can be sold at a yard sale, offered to a friend, or donated to Goodwill. And you simply don't need another, bigger, newer television.

However, consuming artist-made pottery or jewelry from a small shop, or a delicious local food, or some Annie McSpirit Handmade Soap is always a good thing!

Not the greatest picture (one of the wise men and the camel are cut off) but you get the idea.
Tuesday Too

1) Have you, a friend or relative ever been without health insurance? For how long? Did you/they suffer any consequences?

Yes, I have been without health insurance, years ago, for months at a time, here and there. Almost everyone I know has been in that situation at one time or another, usually during their 20s when they were working in marginal jobs of some sort. But no, I didn't suffer any really terrible consequences (aside from a couple of dunning notices for emergency room visits and a somewhat uncomfortable teeth cleaning episode when I finally got dental insurance), and don't know anyone who has. It is an important issue, though, and the related biggie, the general cost of health care, is as well. (Bob's career is in health policy and this is the subject of many dinner time conversations.)

2.) Tell us what's really "under your bed"?

Ha! Well, I have a few beds. The common element is dust. Under my old iron and brass bed, which is quite high, are several old blankets and pillows, an old rug, and most significantly, a tri-color beagle/collie. It serves as Rudy's "den;" it's a place where he goes when he wants to get away from the other animals, or the humans, or it is late and he knows better than foolish humans who are still up watching Jay Leno. When was a puppy, there were boxes of papers from college stored under there. We noticed he would slink out from under there all the time. So we checked, and he had torn up some of the papers into a sort of nest, and he would sleep there, or go in there and chew on a rawhide, or pretend to dig and hide his toys in the mess. Finally we gave in, moved the boxes, and made a private space for him. Every so often, it has to be cleaned out (he is always mad at us for a day or so when we do this), and we discover all sorts of treasures he has tucked away, including missing socks and underwear, empty cookie boxes and various other pieces of food-related trash, and many long-forgotten plush squeaky toys.

3.) What's the message in your fortune cookie?

I don't like fortune cookies! Not the paper really but the cookie itself. But how about instead of thinking something up, because even the real fortunes that are (repetitiously) in there escape me right now - here's this: I remember a boss from years ago telling me to get a funny result, add "between the sheets" at the end of the fortune...it always (kind of) makes sense! I have found that it does. Try it!

Monday, December 02, 2002

Nice holiday, though I had a lingering cold/sinus problem all week, and it seems worse today. The work piled up, too. On the bright side, I'm making a big pot of pea soup.

Wednesday, November 27, 2002

Put the finishing touches on developing the last two weeks of class (there was more to do than I figured). Next on the agenda: pumpkin and sweet potato pies!

Tuesday, November 26, 2002

Tuesday Too

1.) What's the longest time you've gone without posting an entry in your blog/journal? What was or is the reason behind your dry spell?

One week. When I got started, I knew I would be pressed for time on occasion, so I figured I would try to post at least once per week. I have generally exceeded that. If there is a dry spell, it is because I am too busy with other work; semester end and semester beginning are typically hectic. Also, when I am away and computer access (or more accurately, cable modem access) is difficult, then I don't post much.

2.) Are you "going over the river and through the woods" for thanksgiving, or is the gang coming to your place? Perhaps you have something to be particularly thankful for this year. What is it?

Yes - over the river and through the woods is an apt description. We are going to my sister's for Thanksgiving (she lives on the other side of the Hudson River, and in the Catskill Mountains). I am thankful for many important things (like health and family), but in the array of less important things, my increased teaching and advisement responsibilities are among them. I like my job, and I feel at home on campus.

3.) All those bumper stickers that say, "I'd rather be...", what does yours say?

I don't think much of bumper stickers, but at the moment mine would say, "...be sleeping!" I guess because I had a bad night, my sinuses are driving me crazy (it seems that although I am rarely sick, if I do catch something, it is near a holiday!).

Monday, November 25, 2002

I made two apple pies over the weekend. I can bake fairly well, and I was (relatively) pleased with the outcome. Apple pie is one of my signatures; family and friends now expect me to produce at least one for all holidays. I always feel connected to my grandmother when I bake. Mixing the pie crust, rolling it out, sensing if it needs a bit more water or flour, getting the end result to be perfect...these tasks call images of Mimmie, and the remarks she made, to mind. When I asked her to describe her occupation, as part of an interview for my college class on aging, she responded with a laugh, "I don't want to say jack of all trades and master of none," before settling on "cook."

Mimmie was especially fond of sweets. As a newlywed in 1926, she started writing recipes in a spiral-bound notebook. On the cover is taped an illustration of a kitchen by Maxwell Mays that looks much like Mimmie's at the old house, where she lived before moving to a small mobile home next door to my brother's house, during the later years of her life. Assembling my pies on Saturday, I realize that my kitchen is also reminiscent of hers; although there is no wringer washing machine, and my range uses natural gas instead of propane and wood, the 1940s are still visible in my enamel-topped table, chrome hardware, tile walls, and lack of automatic dishwasher.

Mimmie was precise in everything. Just today I received a note in the mail from my aunt, Mimmie's oldest daughter, about a dinner she hosted a few weekends ago. She writes that it was great to have us over, and she would like to do it again. "I'll try to make something better, I think the mashed potatoes were dry." This makes me smile, because the meal was delicious, and her words remind me of Mimmie. Then, I see she added: "I sound like Mimmie, but it's true," and my smile becomes a chuckle.

The stained pages inside Mimmie's old cookbook are written in fountain pen and long ago started to crumble. That notebook begins with a recipe for Irish Wedding Cake. My sister recently returned from a trip to Ireland. All of Mimmie's grandparents immigrated to the U.S. in the 1840s or '50s. She never visited there; in fact, she rarely strayed from the Catskill Mountain region of upstate New York, and she even preferred staying at home to going out locally. But that didn't prevent her from being fiercely proud of her heritage. My sister brought back some stones from Counties Cork and Kerry. After Thanksgiving we plan to go to the cemetery, to share with Mimmie those mementos from her ancestral place.

Friday, November 22, 2002

I noticed on AOL's welcome screen, one of the changing main photos/headlines reads "On This Day in 1963...where were you?" The story is about President Kennedy's assassination. I can't remember where I was, since I was only a little more than two years old at that time. Sometimes we kind of remember things from when we were tiny not from the actual experience, but because someone has told us the story and it becomes familiar. I don't recall my mother or father telling me what I was doing, either.

What is a coincidence is that last night I was thinking of JFK. He was really only the subject of a passing thought, and it wasn't because I remembered the anniversary of his death was today. I had straightened up the porch once again, in an effort to make a renewed commitment to using the treadmill. I started thinking about physical education class, or as we called it, "gym." I hated gym in school. That hatred resulted in a lifelong disdain for most sports, whether as a participant or spectator, live or televised. (I don't like other types of games, either.) I don't read that section of the paper or listen to that part of the news. I'm ignorant on the subject, and I'm fine with that. More troublesome is a distaste for exercise, which I now struggle to overcome. Oh, I don't mind swimming, but I don't want to go to some sort of facility with others to do it. And I like walking, but it has to be productive in some other way than simply improving health. It has to be alternative transportation, in other words. Even the treadmill in the semi-privacy of the front porch is an adversary.

I think given the chance, I might have been an OK athlete; some members of my family have considerable talent, and I respect them for that. My hatred started early, and it isn't one of those memories that someone else told me. I don't think I told my parents about the things that happened in gym, anyway. Those were still the days when school authority was respected. My first grade gym teacher treated me all right. I mean, I wasn't singled out as an athlete or a wimp. Average is often a good place to be. She was extremely mean to some of the boys, though. She even hit a few with a whiffle ball bat, right in front of the class. I don't know if corporal punishment was allowed then, or if she was breaking the rules. I don't remember why she did this, I'm sure they were being brats, but I know it wasn't an isolated instance and it was awful. She only lasted a year.

Because I wasn't the target, though, I think that experience isn't really to blame for my aversion to athletics. It may have set the stage, but it took root during Grades 2 - 6, when I had the same teacher every year. He hated me. Or at least that's what I believed, I doubt he gave our relationship that much energy. But he did single me out for public abuse regularly. Unlike Ms. Whiffle Ball Bat, he never raised a hand to a kid, at least not when I was a witness. He may not have had to resort to such tactics, since he was especially good at verbal humiliation. He seemed to like the competitive, athletically skilled kids, which were many of the boys and some of the girls.

I vaguely remember, the first year in his class, that another girl and I didn't participate very much in whatever game the class was playing. In elementary school, that usually meant dodgeball, or the equally vicious war. I don't know why this happened, if we claimed we didn't feel well, or were tagged out almost immediately by our more aggressive classmates and so sat out much of the game or what. I'm sure I wasn't a really good player; I've always been careful and tried to avoid injury, so I wasn't the type to slide into home or jump really high to get the ball. I didn't care that much about winning. So that could be what started it.

Already I had been labeled a loser, which meant never being chosen as team captain by the teacher, and being picked last, or second to last, or on a really good day, third to last for a team, even by kids who acted nice to me at other times. I wasn't exactly a popular kid at any time, but I did have a couple of friends, and as a top performing, quiet and well-behaved student I was generally liked by the teacher. That year my new gym teacher threatened to send us both to the nurse's office for gym class because he insisted there was something wrong with us, and he said he was going to give us the grade "M" for "medical" on our report cards instead of real grades. He never carried through on either, and instead we passed the class. Could they retain a straight A second grader for failing phys ed, I wonder?

When I was older, we occasionally did something other than play dodgeball in the gymnasium. I remember being outside on the athletic field, and when the class was nearly over, the teacher telling us to run as fast as we could back to the school. I think it was getting near to one of the holiday breaks, and he said he was going to give us each a lollipop when we got there. I liked candy as much as any kid (still do), and I tried to run fast. True to his word, he handed lollipops out to all of my classmates. When he got to me, he said I couldn't have one because I ran too slowly. You know, it has been over thirty years, and I still feel the sting as I write that.

Just two years ago, I was at a luncheon meeting of school counselors, and I was seated at a table with a man who was recently retired from the high school I attended. I was not one of his students, and he didn't remember me, but he knew my elementary school, and he mentioned that he still socializes with my long-retired nemesis. I nearly choked on the spring mix salad with mandarin oranges and raspberry viniagrette dressing (a conference standard) at the mention of the name.

When I finally got to high school, for the most part I had more competent physical education teachers, and we played much better sports, but the wimp label was not easily shed, my hatred for gym remained, and I certainly didn't transform into the teacher's pet. I remember the annual physical fitness test, which I think had something to do with national or State standards. There were timed squat thrusts and push ups and jumping jacks, and the gym teacher marching around like a drill sergeant. I learned that President Kennedy was to blame for my torture. (Did you wonder when I was going to get to the part about JFK?)

Sometimes changes in physical education curriculum are discussed in academe, or the media, although probably less than reforms in other subjects. The focus is usually the cruelty of the games played, the unfair methods of choosing teams, and the damage to self-esteem. I've had students who believe such changes to be ludicrous, arguing that learning to deal with competition is healthy or a fact of life. Whenever I mention the dreaded dodgeball game, or my gym aversion to my classes I am sure to get a laugh. A lot of people do identify with it, it seems. I don't tell it like a tear-jerker, and I omit the medical and lollipop days. Leaving aside the being labeled a loser problem, I argue that gym class could have taught me something valuable about physical fitness and a healthy lifestyle, but it didn't. Nor do I see much impact now; there are too many kids laying on couches, plugged into television programs or game systems, eating fast food and drinking soda.

However, there is something important I did gain. I was lucky to like, and achieve, in the academic and creative parts of learning. Whatever social difficulties there were in school (and there were many, but they will keep for another time), I felt comfortable in math, social studies, English, art, etc. That feeling of being at home in education is one reason people pursue advanced degrees, and a career somewhere in the academy. The gym experience was unacceptable, but at least it was isolated. Now, when I am teaching classes full of future teachers, I try to impart that there are kids who feel that way about all classes, and at all times in school. I want to make sure the losers get an occasional lollipop, too.

Thursday, November 21, 2002

The Troy Record has a columnist, John Gray, who is a really excellent writer. Yesterday he wrote a touching piece about the recent death of his mother from ALS. Unfortunately, the newspaper's website isn't great, and John Gray's columns aren't online. A couple of years ago we were subscribers, but we cancelled due to commuting; there was little time, so the papers built up, unread. I may subscribe to the Record again, if only because of his columns, and also because of a really funny feature they have called "Sound Off." It is a phone number, where readers can call in and leave a thirty-second message that might get in the paper. The results are often hysterical. Sound Off is one thing that they do post online.

On another local newspaper front, my letter was in the Independent. Unfortunately, the letters to the editor are not online. They titled it, "Has questions about our stories." It reads well. They put the "Dr." in front of my name. I always feel a little funny about that, but I have to admit it felt good to see it there. In a lot of ways, the novelty will never wear off. Sometimes I think it is pretentious or tacky to wave around the PhD, but then I remember the years and years it took to get it. I call it by the euphimism "a pleasant memory," because that's the way so much of life, when it works out, is. (When it doesn't, that's another story.)

How could I forget the many nights I was in class until after 10 p.m., then walking on campus after dark, with my trusty pepper spray in hand? Or how tired I was on so many of those days, working full-time and being a student? Rushing to leave the office on time so I could catch the bus from downtown to the campus, and walking, often in the snow or rain, the long distance from the road to the academic buildings, dodging cars, mud, and patches of ice, wearing a suit, dragging my heavy bookbag, my feet wet and freezing, trying not to be late to class again. Struggling to budget enough money to buy the books. Spending endless nights in the PC lab, before I had my own computer, wishing I had the money for a second-hand 286. "If wishes were horses, beggars would ride, and if watches were turnips, I would wear one by my side."

Resisting the urge every semester to fill out paperwork for a leave of absence. Missing important events, dinners out, entire television seasons, movies, pleasure reading, creative writing, other hobbies, and beloved sleep to finish a paper. The day, after a night with minimal sleep and a morning spent frantically switching between putting the finishing touches on my final project for class and on a slideshow for work, when I was staffing an academic conference for my job that was being held at a hotel across the street from campus. I had to slip out and run to class to deliver my project in time to make the deadline, and then return to the hotel to resume my duties and all-important dinner-time shmoozing. Realizing that the only way to avoid "ABD" was to take the risk of resigning from my job and returning to full-time school. And I could never forget the endless re-writing and re-analysis involved in completing a dissertation. Yes, I most definitely earned that salutation. Sometimes I just need to remind myself.

I had a little time, so I tinkered a bit with the Annie McSpirit Handmade Soap webpage, and with the Gully Brook Press website.

Wednesday, November 20, 2002

Plagiarism is the topic in this Chronicle of Higher Education article. And for a change, no subscription is needed to read this one.

Fourteen percent. That seems about right, I think. The vast majority of college students that I encounter are wonderful; they are bright, interested and interesting, and they make genuine effort. Sure, not every single one is brilliant (though certainly some are), there are skill issues and, of course, a lot of time spent having non-academic fun. But that's an important part of the process; guiding students in improving their skills, helping them to think, assess, interact, organize and present.

On the other hand, for that 14%, I suspect they do not share the idea that learning is important, that the process should be respected and what is discovered is intrinsically valuable. Getting the degree, a perceived ticket to lucrative employment, is the only goal pursued regardless of the cost, unless that involves making an honest effort to learn the material. The rules don't matter. Not all of these students cheat, I guess. Some go through the motions to do the work, but they refuse to be impacted by the experience. And I suppose some cheaters probably do respect learning in a way, but feel pressured to go for the highest grade in the easiest way possible. There is also a tiny minority of students who question the rules and the process. They challange the values of academe. Some are cunning and some are in earnest. These are in separate categories all together. Finally, the bright, serious, majority of students often do have a degree, and employment, as their goal; but they also appreciate that the path that leads the way contains many charms.

This is Picabo when she was a foal (or is that Peekaboo? Not sure. She was born shortly after those Olympics). But isn't this one of the cutest things you've ever seen?

This is a day when my writing met my dreams.

Officer David Lim wrote me a note today, thanking me for my story about his partner Sirius, the only dog to die 9/11, and letting me know that I captured his thoughts on that day. Here is an April post on the subject, and here is another. Here is the Port Authority website with tributes to Sirius. Wow! It was so nice to hear from him, and it is such a wonderful compliment about one of my most heartfelt, and saddest, essays. So, thank you, Officer Lim.

I forgot to pick up a copy of the Independent today, to see if my letter to the editor is in the latest issue.

On the teaching front - just three more classes to go - I felt like my head would explode after tonight's content. It was on policy and assessment - two of my specialties. Sometimes I feel like I need to decompress. Luckily, an hour or so of television draining my brain, coupled with adding leftover Halloween candy to my waist, and I returned to normal.

Tuesday, November 19, 2002

Tuesday Too

1.) Chad has been writing/talking about alternative forms of government. What's your take on a "new government?"

I think it would take someone much more astute than me, or for that matter than anyone currently on the scene, to think up something better than the form of government we have now.

2.) The last Harry Potter film ignited a "whirlwind of controversy." What's your opinion; is Harry Potter dangerous to children?

Honestly, I have never been a bit interested in stories like Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, etc. Magic, wizardry and all that's related leaves me bored. I don't think you could have paid me when I was a kid to read something on the subject, regardless of popularity or acclaim. And a movie made from such a book would be nothing short of torture. But do I think they are dangerous? No, I think it is dangerous to censor literature. Do I think they should be required reading? No, I think it is wrong to force feed content.

3.) What do you think of this ("What would Jesus drive?")?

I think Jesus would probably still walk. And I think a more important question could be, "HOW would Jesus drive?" But I think it is a worthy idea anyway. I believe having a personal commitment to being environmentally responsible is important. We should be caring guardians of this place we temporarily inhabit. I know organic gardening is pretty close to a religious experience! Of course, I don't drive. And sadly, when I ride in a car, I feel much, much safer in a bigger vehicle because of (1) the abundance of self-righteous road ragers and (2) the preponderance of SUVs, vans, and trucks on the road.

Monday, November 18, 2002

We got a significant (for November) snowfall. Very heavy and icy, and it did accumulate a couple of inches. I kind of forget exactly what winter is like during the rest of the year! It is a winter wonderland outside, all bright and crisp and clean. Rudy loves snow. He bolts out the kitchen door, dives and rolls on his back in the yard. Since the yard is sloped, he slides quite a distance that way. It looks like he is swimming upside down!

Today I received a call from the Editor of the Independent, a newspaper in East Greenbush. They are going to publish a note I wrote to them about boycotting Target as a result of the Defreest-Church House demolition. I didn't write much besides the idea in the letter to the editor, so here are a few more thoughts. While it's true the town government and the developer need wake-up calls, it's great to be an activist, and it's nice to feel sad and all, the only way other debacles like this will be avoided is if good folks who care about preserving history vote with their wallets.

I do not believe another big box store full of plastic pre-garbage is worth the sacrifice of the Defreest-Church House or its trees. Nobody needs to shop there. Not far away, K-Mart is struggling to keep its doors open. I know, it's kind of hard to cry over the demise of an older chain that destroyed Main Streets everywhere, but let's not create one more boarded up, decaying big box in our quest to buy things destined for landfills. So if you must have that sort of stuff, go to K-Mart instead! You could throw a stone from where the Defreest-Church House once stood and hit the vacant box that was Grand Union. If a Target store is so vital to the economy of East Greenbush, why couldn't they renovate that space?

I also mentioned an article about increasing library services for the Town of Schodack. I thought the reporter was out-of-line for describing the Castleton Library Director's demeanor when she made comments in support of increasing services within our town (rather than funding another town's library so that we can use it) at a recent town board meeting. The presentation skills and glibness of other quoted speakers (all of whom happened to be on the opposite side from the director) were not mentioned. Then, an informal poll was conducted on election day about this issue, which the town supervisor said had been "intentionally derailed" and was "of no value to the town." I took the time to participate, the ballot box was jammed with ballots...seems to me some elaboration on just what this means is required. An interesting note is that the outside library being supported is in East Greenbush. I didn't make this connection in my letter, but I certainly don't want my Schodack tax money going into the coffers of a town that favors a throw-away big box culture over brick and mortar history!

And by the way, I don't mean just avoiding the future East Greenbush Target. I mean all Target stores.

Saturday, November 16, 2002

Thursday, November 14, 2002

I am pleased to announce the launching of the Annie McSpirit Handmade Soap website. Why not stop in and browse, maybe do a little holiday shopping? You won't be disappointed (in the soap; my webpage design will not win awards).

Wednesday, November 13, 2002

Tuesday Too (on Wednesday)

1.) Is there something you find fascinating/interesting that you'd like to share (oh so 70's)?

Fascinating? Interesting? How about outrageous? Don't shop at Target. See this post and this one, below. Everytime I hear their annoying commercial play on the television, I get mad all over again. A bunch of plastic crap that will eventually wind up in a landfill (and sooner rather than later). Makes me want to puke.

2.) What's your latest accomplishment/achievement? I know, I know you got up this morning, but what else?

I am so busy keeping up with my classes and student advisement that I can't get to this 'til Wednesday. Hmmm...I have been making tiny, but incremental progress on an article idea I developed a while ago.

3.) What do you see yourself doing 10 years from now?

How about: I'll have...at least two? more books published, and they will not be about educational issues. I'll have lots...several...at least a few more articles and essays published also. I'll still be teaching, but I'll be writing much more, teaching a bit less.

Thursday, November 07, 2002

A bittersweet day for me. An immaculate historic Greek Revival house wasn't worth saving. And my oldest (met the first day of kindergarten) and still dearest friend Anne - moved from our hometown of West Shokan to the Buffalo suburbs the summer before we entered high school - finally gets email.

Here's a link to the Defreest family home page, where there is more information about the house. It was demolished today. I will never shop at Target. (Not that I ever have, but now I have a really good reason).

Stacks of journals and many bytes of essays, from my in-person and online classes, respectively, await.

Tuesday, November 05, 2002

Tuesday Too

1.) When was the last time you really had fun? What were you doing? Are you someone who can have fun alone?

I'm having a hard time answering the first question. My initial reaction is that I have fun a lot, but when pressed to select the last time I am drawing a blank! Some possibilities: on Sunday we worked out in the yard, putting dead plants in the composter. The air was clean and crisp, and it was fun. Friday night I went to the movies with Bob & nephew Tom; we saw "Punch Drunk Love." The movie was very good, not at all a comedy; going to the movies is usually fun. Saturday we took the dogs for a long walk around the village; that was fun. Sunday night I read a book, Henry and Clara, until the wee hours; that was fun. Yes, of course, I can have fun alone, and often do.

2.) Are you going to vote today, and do you know the major differences between the candidates? Does the balance in the senate and the house figure into your choice?

I always vote, and I certainly will today. I am reasonably well-informed, and I know the differences between most of the candidates, I think; of course, many have tried to do their best to package their image to such a degree that it can be hard to tell what, if anything, they represent. No, the balance of Congress does not figure into my choices; it never does. In the first place, I always vote for individuals, not parties. I also think third parties are perfectly OK, and I believe the only throw-away vote is not voting at all. Second, in New York we are not having a Senate contest, and in the House race, my representative is a long-time incumbent, and the race is not considered competitive.

3.) Is there something extraordinary going on that you've failed to notice?

Hmm! Well, this is a strange question. I think "I don't know" is the only possible choice here. How can the answer be yes or no? Because a yes answer means you have noticed - and a no answer means you haven't...?

Monday, November 04, 2002

There were two interesting articles in this week's Chronicle of Higher Education. I won't bother linking to the individual articles because it is a subscription site and the two articles aren't part of the free content. One focused on adjuncts at Western Michigan University getting the right to earn tenure, and the other on students' fighting college academic and disciplinary actions with litigation.

I think I must be part fish. Now that the heat has been on for a couple of weeks, I am beginning to have trouble with my sinuses. I have a huge 5 gallon per day humidifier, as well as two smaller ones in other places in the house, and gas/hot water baseboard heat - and still I feel pressure in my face. The crisp outside air helps, when I remember to take a break from the PC. I can't imagine what it would be like without the humidifiers, and with forced hot air heat.

Friday, November 01, 2002

Well, we had only 25 kids come for Halloween this year. That's a lot of leftover candy.

Thanks to David for this wonderful photo!!:

Bob is calling it "Rudy and his friends go out trick-or-treating."

Thursday, October 31, 2002

Things that go bump in the night

I can't remember my costume from Halloween 1966, the year I was in kindergarten. I don't have any pictures either. But I do have a very clear memory of at least a part of that night. I think it might be one of the reasons - even the major reason - that I am not completely comfortable in a car.

A magical thing I remember, or at least I think I remember, is that we collected a lot of candy that Halloween. In my mind's eye I see paper bags brimming with candy. The kind of bags that supermarkets always gave, before the better stores started to parrot "plastic or paper?," crummy stores just shoved your groceries in plastic without bothering to ask, and the really eco-sensitive began to carry around re-usable canvas. A couple of years later, when we moved to West Shokan, we'd walk around, from house to house, on Halloween night. But when we lived in Boiceville, Route 28 made walking too dangerous, even in the 1960s. So we drove around, going to the more densely populated areas of our town. In Shokan, there were some developments, or what I thought were developments until I visited Bob's family in Long Island, years later. But for the Town of Olive, they are developments, built when IBM had a big presence in Kingston [see my essay Ghosts of the Past].

It was the end of the night, and we headed home; we were leaving Aunt Dot's house, going around a turn from Black Road to Bostock Road. My father was driving some sort of a Jeep. It had a button on each door that you pressed to open it, the kind of design that Ralph Nader might agitate against. That Jeep had bucket seats, and my brother was sitting on something like an upside down spackle pail in the middle. I was sitting on my mother's lap in the passenger's side. As I recall, there were no handles or armrests. The days before "paper or plastic?" were also a time when children did not have to be strapped in the backseat until they were old enough to drive, when seatbelts were optional, when bicycles and helmets were not found in the same sentence. (It's just my impression, but I think road rage may have been less common, though.)

We rounded the turn, pressed against the door, the button did its job, the door flew open, and my mother and I fell out. There was nothing to grab on the way out but my brother, and doing that would have made him tumble out, too. My biggest problem was being scared; it happened so fast, a moment of horror, and then I stood up and cried. Afterwards, I refused to sit on anyone's lap in the car. My mother took the brunt of the fall and was quite banged up from landing in the gravel stones, but considering other potential, very serious outcomes, she was very lucky. Last weekend, I was thinking, I guess our numbers just weren't up.

I think the big bags of candy were unharmed.

Fast forward to 2002, we made 80 packets of candy last night.

Wednesday, October 30, 2002

My workload has increased; registration for the Spring semester just started, and my advisement duties are keeping me hopping. Plus, it is about the midpoint of the semester, so there is always a lot of student assessment/feedback. I do like working directly with students, though. Next week, after my sister is back from a trip to Ireland, I am going to finish, post and link to a page about Annie McSpirit Handmade Soap.

Tuesday Too (on Wednesday, again)

1.) What did you think was on the "other side" as a little kid, and how is it different from what you think is "there" today? (Thank you Leah and Gina [me!] :-)

I don't remember focusing on it that much as a kid. Certainly the concept was there in the readings at Mass, and of course I knew people, and animals, that died, but it wasn't until I was a teenager that the question really captured my attention. At that time, I read a lot on the subject: Elisabeth Kubler-Ross books (On Death and Dying), and some popular works, for instance Life After Life and The Evidence for Life After Death. I found a lot of comfort in that reading.

My grandmother and I talked a great deal about the topic. She promised she would let me know someday, as it was likely I would outlive her. The summer after she died nine years ago, I felt the world was different; somehow less colorful. Oh, the grass was green and the sky was blue, but it wasn't the same shade or brightness or something. Then one night I had a dream. She was sitting there, as always, at the little table in her kitchen, but her mobile home had been transported to a stunning hillside, surrounded by hay and Christmas-tree sized spruce trees. We had tea. She was OK. I felt better afterwards, though I still think of her, and miss her, a lot.

A few years ago a friend gave me a book called Embraced by the Light. I hope it is like that account. I have written something a bit more elaborate on the topic, and it is posted on my website. It is a short personal essay, called "Compost Pile" (it is a PDF file).

2.) What's your mood today? Do you believe in the power of mood rings?

I am busy, a little tired (we went to a Herbie Hancock concert last night), but generally in a good mood today. I had a mood ring in the seventies (and I still have it in my old ballerina jewelry box that plays Around the World in Eighty Days) but I was never much impressed with them. So they are back in again? Has the technology improved?

3.) Describe your absolute favorite Halloween costume? Did you play tricks on people, even when they gave you a treat?

About the costume, I rarely get dressed up any more, and when I do, it is pretty last minute and lame; last year, I was "taping is hell" and Bob was "painting is hell," or maybe that was vice-versa. We wore spackling knives and paint brushes on rope around our necks and headbands of plush devil horns. I am not sure about a favorite, but I am going to post some old pictures here and those will suffice for an answer. About playing tricks, generally I just collected as much candy as possible, but there were a couple of halloweens when I went out with a pack of kids, including one of my brothers, and we did throw stuff like tomatoes and toilet paper some bushes, etc. I wasn't really the lead participant, I was more of a witness to others in the pack. We didn't do anything super destructive, although if someone toilet papered my trees now, I would probably be mad.

I am saving my story about Halloween 1966 for tomorrow, but here are the pics:

This is halloween 1971. My mother sewed the dress and hat for me; the basket was from being flower girl in my brother's wedding.

This is halloween 1978. We won second place in our dorm's party! (Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs won first.)

This must be about halloween 1987, although I am not 100% sure. This could be Bob's favorite costume.

This is also about 1978. I am not certain this was taken precisely at halloween, but it is a great costume photo anyway. (No, these aren't the tomatoes we threw.)

Monday, October 28, 2002

Here is a photo of a small pumpkin I grew 15 years ago.

Coming soon...halloween photos.

Sunday, October 27, 2002

Well I'm not disappointed, the leaves are beautiful here in the Catskills, even on a rainy day! Soon we will fall behind - unlike most I do not mourn daylight savings time, but relish the extra hour we get back in the best part of the "evening." The early darkness is cozy, all snug in my house, and it makes summer more precious. (I was going to write "summer is overrated," but that isn't completely true.)

I believe I will take up the suggestion from my comments, and when I post the pictures here I will write about Halloween 1966 or '67. I don't remember which it was either, and I'm not sure what costume I wore, but I will never forget the events of that night (and I have a feeling my anonymous commenter remembers it even better than I do). In another strange coincidence, we were coming from my Aunt Dot's house that night. Tonight we had dinner at Aunt Dot's!

Saturday, October 26, 2002

Late late late at night and I have just finished what I call "mid-point updates" for my online students. I've stopped giving midterm exams, but I still let students know how they are doing on their journals, discussion participation and if they are missing any essays or the term paper topic. Doing high-quality, meaningful assessment, and giving appropriate feedback, is not easy. And it is time consuming, even with tools like spreadsheets and merge letters. Next week I will have to figure out a similar process for the classroom students. I am trying to design equivalent experiences for both cohorts, whether it is a group assignment, or feedback on their performance in some aspect of the course.

Off to Samsonville tomorrow; we are planting garlic that we got from the Saugerties garlic festival a few weeks ago. I am really looking forward to seeing those beautiful leaves and the mountains surrounding the reservoir. Maybe I will take some pictures if the weather is nice and I remember. I'm not sure whether I am more eagerly anticipating the leaves or Ma's promise of eggplant parmesan! I hoped to bake a pie tonight, but the evaluations took forever. So maybe I'll take the apples along and do it tomorrow.

Something coincidental: in Jeneane's survey, she asked about readers for your ejournal. One of the things I wrote in response was that my comments are few, and they come more often in the form of an email message. Also that people I know tended to react to my writing more in the past, when I emailed essays and short stories out to a small group, rather than now that I have a web presence. Now, I hear most often from people I do not know in person. Then suddenly, I get comments from two people I do know! So in honor of Halloween, and also in response to their comments, after the weekend I am going to post some photos of Halloween from many moons ago. But just now it is time to go to bed.

Wednesday, October 23, 2002

I completed an interesting survey on ejournaling that Jeneane posted over at blogsisters. It takes some time but I found it a worthwhile effort, and she is hoping to use the results for a book, series of articles, or written pieces of some sort.

We got all sorts of things for Halloween. Some years we have 100 kids come to our house. That's what happens in a safe village, just up the street from the firehouse where a party is held. The kids who go to that party hit every house nearby. And I think people who live in places that are not as conducive to trick-or-treating bring their kids here. Last year, probably because of the atmosphere after 9/11, I think we only got about 40, but I know that exceeds what many people expect. Anyhow, I like to make it fun, because it was always fun for me, and I hope some carefree things about being a kid can be preserved in today's world. So we have an electronic windsock pumpkin on the porch, and a gumby-like skeleton. We got pumpkins and corn from the farm stand. Last night I added a creepy electronic candy bowl - they are selling them everywhere - and Bob insisted on a fog machine. We got an assortment of candy and some decorative bags. I think I will bring candy in for my students next week, too. Tsk, tsk. Am I trying to gain brownie points for the end-of-semester course evaluations or something?

Tuesday, October 22, 2002

Tuesday Too

1.) What would you like the world to spend research money on (inner space, outer space, stem cell, you name it research), and why do you give it top priority?

Education, of course. It is my field, after all. And I do believe learning, and everything associated with it, are top priorities. We may never live forever, but we certainly can expand our minds in whatever time we do have.

2.) Where's the beef, Carmine Miranda, or what's bugging you lately?

Although I am miles away, and I know "routine" violence (as if there could be such a thing) never receives as much media attention, the sniper in Washington DC/Maryland/Virginia is bothering me.

3.) Elliott would like to know, do you type without looking at the keyboard; in other words, are you a hunt and peek (in his case that would be hunt and claw), or a "true typist?"

I guess I am a true typist. I am fast enough, and I get better the more I type, although I do a slightly modified version of "real typing." I fare best on a full-size IBM PC keyboard; on other brands I tend to have to "hunt" for del, shift, etc. a lot more. I took typing in high school - on an IBM Selectric. Before that, my Aunt Jean showed me how to type on on her IBM Selectric and I used to do a little work for her in a home business. As an undergraduate, I earned $1 per page typing term papers on my Smith Corona. But I didn't really learn to keyboard until much later, when I had my own computer and started to do a lot of typing: term papers, short stories, then email, etc. And of course there were the days and weeks and months of data entry at work, when I became a numeric keypad pro.

Saturday, October 19, 2002

Well - I did all of the things on the 17 page list (I'm only exaggerating a little) that AOL Tech Support recommended - it took the better part of a day - and still I have to delete the file and reselect the cable modem every time I sign on to AOL 8.0 or it freezes. I'm sure the things I did were worth it, in terms of servicing this old machine. But yes, I am reminded why I don't upgrade so soon after release. Naturally, if I contact them again, I will be directed to about 100 more things to try, because I'm sure no one has a clue yet what will fix the problem. Too bad I don't want to pay for the privilege of performing testing for the company; my time is too precious and too valuable. So I'm throwing in the towel at the moment - I have to get back to my real work - and deleting and re-creating that file is no big deal for now.

A quick search on the Internet on the subject turns up (besides my own remarks!) nothing very helpful - a few reviews of the software, and then the usual comments/discussion areas where an assortment of nutjobs trash AOL and anyone who is willing to use it; of course a few reasonable people are sucked in to these "conversations," but aside from a little temporary amusement over the extreme remarks of the nutjobs, I gain nothing valuable. I've always been on the fringe; a long time computer user, not exactly a techie but quite literate, thank you. To me, technology is a tool. I don't care very much for TV, video games, cell phones (or any phone really, although I do have both). I don't care for "IM" for the same reasons I don't like talking on the phone very much. Computer & etc.-wise, I like IBM, I like HP, I like Netscape, I like Corel WordPerfect, I like Adobe PageMill, I like Lotus 1-2-3 and Notes. I like AOL, and I don't care to change my simple email address. I don't like things Microsoft at all, and never have. Of course what with monopoly and all, I have to use the operating system and many applications, or at least convert to .rtf when sharing. Oh, I really can't stand Outlook, which I use for the university. And my disdain extends to "his" wretched book, which I had to read in graduate school.

Anyway, I have to admit that so far the AOL upgrade is very nice. And the good news is, I finished my Virtual Museum for October/November; the subject: Apples. Improvement noted: Uploading the files was very fast!

On a different note, soon I am going to establish a password protected area here in my journal so that I can take notes about my online v. classroom impressions. Regarding the group work assignment, I have been making some interesting observations.

Thursday, October 17, 2002

Spent too much of the day tinkering with AOL 8.0. As it turns out, the problem wasn't solved yesterday and I had three chats with Tech Support. I can use it, but each time I exit I have to delete a file called global.org and then re-select the cable modem connection every time I sign on. I now have a list of things to try to rectify this problem that will take a lot of time, energy and patience. So for the moment I am satisfied with the deleting global.org thing. I hope this isn't the first indicator that I need a new machine. What an unpleasant thought, but I know it is coming, and probably soon. This one is rather old, although still above the supposed system requirements. And since I must have another IBM (I'm thinking NetVista) because I can't abide any other kind, I'd rather not replace it immediately...I've long thought that this single fact - that fairly computer literate, yet not very techie veteran users like me haven't found an application that forced us to upgrade the hardware - is the reason for the sagging tech sector. I believe it is all thanks to Microsoft, which having gobbled up market share, fails to produce anything even remotely innovative (or even as good as its gasping for air competitors). The beauty of advertising, eh? But will AOL be it for me? Time will tell, although I really don't have the time to re-install and migrate all the files that will be needed for complete system upgrade. It makes me tired to think of it. January break would be the soonest, I guess. So I hope to sort it out without needing to resort to that.

This weekend, October 19 and 20, is the Ulster County Artisan Path. My sister makes Annie McSpirit Handmade Soap, and she will be demonstrating soap making at Creative Spirit Gifts in Olivebridge, NY. Sure is pretty this time of year, so if you want to do a little leaf peeping, enjoy arts and crafts, and maybe some early holiday shopping, this sounds like the event!

Wednesday, October 16, 2002

Rainy again. The leaves are finally changing. In Samsonville it was pretty this past weekend, at least as far as I could tell through the rain. Monday was a clear and cobalt-blue sky day, though. Monday night we had a killing frost. I didn't cover anything, although I was a little sad to see the coleus, impatiens and cherry tomato go, but I figured October 14 is pretty late so whatever. Today we had to have the a few minor parts replaced in the furnace, because the pilot wouldn't stay lit. I made baked apples to warm up the house. Good thing I washed all the blankets recently!

I spent much of today installing AOL 8. At first I was a little nervous because I thought it had screwed up my machine. I was kind of distracted when the furnace was being repaired, what with trying to keep the dogs entertained. I had to coax Sophie upstairs, as she is nervous around strangers and she kept barking. It takes a long time for her to haul that hotdog body up those steep stairs! Luckily Rudy stayed with her and she calmed down. (He is such a good dog.) So it was probably a stupid idea to start the download at that time. I really should have been working on my classes, but I'm in OK shape for a day or so. Generally I don't upgrade right away, instead waiting for the bugs to be worked out before bothering. But this version has been receiving so much hype that I was tempted. The result was that it froze up several times and I figured it would never let me sign on. Anyway, I wound up deleting all the files and starting from scratch with the upgrade after the heat was working and things had calmed down here. All's well that ends well, because this time it worked fine. Next on the agenda is completing my virtual museum on apples at the GBP website.

Another Tuesday Too (on Wednesday)

1.) I know we've been here before, but perhaps you got a different one now. What's your "must see" movie, and why should I see it?

How about My Big Fat Greek Wedding? It's funny, it's heartwarming, it's independent, and it's breaking records. I think it is still at the movies in most places. Go see it! (For a rental movie, I really, really like Sya's suggestion of The Red Violin. What a beautiful, imaginative story.)

2.) What have you been procrastinating on, that you've just got to do, or finish up?

Three things come to mind. First, putting my button collection back up. I cleaned the dust off them, organized them, made .jpg images of them, posted them at my website, and they have been sitting here, waiting to be re-displayed. (Today I made some progress on this; I put the sheets on which they are fastened into archival sheet protectors; now I have to hang them up). Second, finishing the curtains on the porch. I have had four panels done for months; there are four to go. (A few days ago I bought a cheap little sewing machine to make this job easier). Third, really making a commitment to the treadmill, which is a struggle for me. Sometimes I am good about exercising, sometimes I am not. (I have just started to use it again.)

3.) Are you wondering, what in the world is happening? Are you afraid to pump gas? Do you think the US media has focused too much on the Maryland sniper? Why, or why not?

I don't drive, so I don't pump gas! But seriously, yes, I do wonder about what is happening. It is scary. I don't believe coverage in standard media (newspapers, radio, network television) is excessive, but all the cable news channels always obsess too much about all sensational issues. When programming is 24/7, that is to be expected.

Friday, October 11, 2002

Rainy day today, and the forecast says rain most of the weekend. Although I probably should grade essays or something, I am considering doing a little work to update my Gully Brook Press website. I need to post a new virtual museum, and I already know the topic will be apples. I might make an apple pie for my father, who I know must be feeling blue. Uncle Joe died yesterday morning. He was 88, but looked and seemed much younger. It's good that he wasn't ill for very long. His picture, when he was a boy in 1919, is in my Immigrant Roots virtual museum. He lived in Florida all of my life, having moved there from New York in the 1950s. We visited every winter for a couple of weeks, and after us kids were grown, my father continued to make an annual trip to Miami, most recently last June. Uncle Joe loved dogs as much as I do, and always had at least a couple. He also had other animals when I was a kid, including a precocious Myna bird. In recent years he cared for his wife, who died from Alzheimer's disease in 1997. I am remembering a Florida trip years ago, a bright, orange-tinged memory, and Uncle Joe giving me several pads and pencils to use for drawing, as the year before I had spent many hours doodling during our visit.

Wednesday, October 09, 2002

Fall cleaning. That's how I spent last weekend. It's basically the same idea as Spring cleaning, it's just the season that is different. Cleaning the dust, Rudy and Edna hair tumbleweeds (after months of supplements - Omega 3 and 6, B vitamins, and something called 'Nzymes, Sophie has managed to grow a strip of sparse hair on her back but still doesn't shed), and washing what seems like an endless number of blankets. We sure need them. Today I turned the fan off, and decided it was time for the furnace. The animals were curled up in tight balls, reminiscent of a wooly bear caterpillar's reaction when it perceives a threat. One eye opens and they watch me when I enter the room; I am hit with a powerful message: we're cold. Do something.

Of course the pilot light is out, and despite my best efforts I can't get it to stay lit. So I added my pink sweatshirt top to the working-at-home ensemble. My hands are cold as I type. Don, a college friend in Oneonta, used to wear gloves inside. He hardly ever turned on the heat in his railroad apartment, preferring to tough it out. It would have cost a fortune with such high ceilings. I remember him now, fully outfitted for winter, leaning against the cheap paneling in his dark living room, a textbook open nearby, writing with a pen in a spiral bound notebook. He actually seemed to relish the cold. Strange to think he has been dead for twenty years. The image is literally frozen in time.

The leaves are about two weeks behind schedule, and it is far from peak right now. Behind this house, against the tree-covered slope on the other side of the ravine that goes up to the Mountain View Cemetery there is one small oak tree, a pioneer among its mostly still green neighbors, that has fully changed color to a deep reddish orange. I watch it from the back windows of the house, a symbol of the approaching winter.

Another strategy for coping with a chilly house, and one I much prefer to typing with gloves, is baking. We got apples over the weekend; a peck of Mutsus beckons from the porch. (The treadmill is nearby, but that is strangely silent.)

Friday, October 04, 2002

For the first time in months, today I felt cold. The cold of leaves swirling, wooly blankets and LL Bean sweaters. I swapped my usual summer working-at-home garb, denim shorts, for my winter working-at-home garb, bright pink sweatpants. I've always liked fall, relished the colorful leaves and crisp air. Apples, apple cider, apple cider donuts. And apple pie. Summer has been hanging around this year in the weather, and now that it finally seems to be leaving it is bittersweet. Why?

Why this year? Because I am back on the academic calendar, with less time to myself? Because we got our pool late in the summer, and Bob closed it (I confess to doing only a little to help) last weekend? Because my garden's tomato yield was on the disappointing side? Because the cucumbers, which were abundant and especially delicious this year, are now done? My Uncle Joe and Bob's Uncle Bill are both quite ill and that probably is the biggest reason. In general, I am finding that being 41 is fabulous, and aging is awesome. That's explained more in the paragraphs about my risk-taking, below. But there's a rub, and it is a big one. It's the sadness of having to say goodbye. Yes, it exists for your entire life, but it becomes a much more frequent occurrence as you get older.

At some point in the Fall, Mimmie used to begin a sentence with, "Next Spring, If I'm Alive," before she told of the flowers she planned to plant or new garden implement she wanted to buy. A remnant of life on a farm, I guess, and probably passed on from older times when the foreboding Catskill Mountain winter was seen as a predator. Today we have flu shots and the mosquito- and tick- born diseases of summer loom larger.

Four years ago, I took a risk. I left my job as an academic administrator to finish my PhD full time. I had only two courses and the dissertation to go. I was having a spell of burnout that had been going on for a couple of years. In 1996, as the comprehensive exams approached, I considered leaving the program. I wanted - no, needed to find time to write, an on and off passion ever since I can remember, and I didn't see how I could keep working, finish my degree, maintain all the other aspects of life, and pursue my dream at the same time. But I hung in there as long as I could. I took and passed the comps in 1997 and started taking week-long vacations from work to write. I had a lot of time saved up since I rarely had taken more than an occasional day or two off in a row before that.

Then, in 1998, I decided that while I would probably finish the course work, I could never write a dissertation while working full time. Why sacrifice the nearly achieved PhD for a job? So I resigned, and in 2000 I had the PhD in hand. I resolved while I was working on my dissertation that when I finished I was not going to return to administration hastily. My interest in teaching and research had grown. Also, I had some success in getting a few of my freelance pieces published in 1998 and 1999, and I made a lot of progress on my manuscript, A Visit With Mimmie: Catskill Mountain Recipes.

Right before graduation I was pursued, and received a tempting job offer that wasn't exactly the package I wanted. I was proud of myself for holding my ground and turning it down, but for some reason the experience sparked panic, and I began to apply for some positions. Very quickly I was offered one that interested me and I accepted. For a bit more than a year I worked in vocational secondary school administration. It was a good experience, given my background. It exposed me to an environment that had been unfamiliar. However, it wasn't long before the fog of dissertation writing cleared and I remembered that the 9-5 world was not part of my plan. So, a year ago I took another risk; once again I left my job, this time to go completely freelance. For the past year I have been doing contract work, freelance writing and adjunct teaching. Spells of working like crazy, and then scrambling for work.

Today I unsubcribed to the Freelance Job Exchange. It is a good service, and I recommend it. I was a member for several months, and although I could not have supported myself solely on income generated from the membership, I did get two interesting and rewarding projects from it. I am unsubscribing because I no longer need to "hunt" for work. I have enough contacts, my cash flow is secure enough, and my time is appropriately filled, with teaching, advising, mentoring, research, and writing. It took a year. A year. I suspected it would take that long, and for the first time, I allowed myself to wait. Not always easy, but hindsight says it was. In 1996, I could only imagine it.

I took the money I saved, $20 per month, and subscribed to Blogger Pro and Blog Spot Plus. Spell check, no ads, the ability to have drafts, and host graphics. The "close" was that I can make a private journal if I want. Even at that I still have a few dollars a month to spare. Now if only it could be slipped into a little spiral bound notebook that could be taken to the benches where I wait for the bus.

I received an email recently from a woman who asked me if I knew of any Castleton pictures on the web (hi DZ). I did a quick search, and I didn't come up with anything. I'll have to give it some more thought. Although I have no photos of the village in general (and Main St. has some decay, but the Hudson River is pretty), I do have individual house pictures in my booklet, Castleton's Bungalow Houses, and here is a sample:
After class on Tuesday I noticed that my knees were very itchy. When I got home I discovered that I had bites all over them - and a couple at other places on my legs. They have been driving me crazy ever since - they are red, extremely itchy and hot to the touch. More serious than ordinary bug bites, but not as bad as when I was bit by a poison spider years ago...at least not yet. It doesn't help matters that when I have a bite, or contact dermatitis, or a blemish of any kind I have to remove it. I don't care how many times I've read that it's a bad idea to pick at zits and such, I must scratch 'til it bleeds. End of story. We haven't had a frost, and maybe some weird insect got me? I've always thought that one of the best things about winter is that all the bugs are dead. We went swimming and hot tubbing at the YMCA tonight and even the skin burning levels of chlorine didn't help a bit.

It must have happened on campus. Something living in my office maybe? It is dark and dusty there. The janitors empty the trash but that's about it. When you share a space with others who aren't there when you are - kind of a transient situation - no one really feels much like cleaning it up. So I sublimated my need to make that one day per week habitat better, and today I freaked out and washed every blanket at home; the ones on the bed, the ones on the couch, the ones in the dogs' and cat's baskets. Tomorrow I am going to launder anything that's left that isn't nailed down. I don't know if the linens were harboring vermin (the image of Edna and her prey is unwelcome) but it made me feel better to do it. And this place certainly needs it.

Tuesday, October 01, 2002

Tuesday Too

1.) What would make you just give it all up, or if there isn't anything that bad, how come?

No question there are really, really bad things. I've known a few people who have given up, for various reasons, no reason at all, or no reason they shared. Living through that experience is convincing, if I ever had any doubt: there can be nothing bad enough to justify giving it all up. And on the other hand, there are really, really good things, often just around the corner. Why miss out? Finally, that choice hurts others so much. What would justify doing that to loved ones?

2.) What in your life gives you the most satisfaction, or a sense of purpose? Can you explain why?

Oh, how about answering the Tuesday Too! :-)
I guess accomplishing things - writing a story, teaching a class, planting a garden, reading a book, even cleaning the house. I have a need to see tangible results of my efforts. Also, my relationships with family, friends, and pets are rewarding.

3.) What is it you don't have, that you've absolutely got to have?

I'm fairly satisfied, but having a real published copy of my "Mimmie" book in hand sure would be nice.

Saturday, September 28, 2002

I should be sleeping. But I thought I'd slip in a post first. I finally finished evaluating some essays for my class and I intend to (pretty much) take the weekend off. Only pretty much because I am doing my volunteering at the museum tomorrow, and so I guess I will review the week's reading as I sit there, waiting for the one or two visitors to drop by. I write from Samsonville. We are closing the pool; we didn't want to miss out on any swimming this month, which turned out to be rather warm overall for upstate New York, but it does mean there will be a lot of pine needles and leaves to deal with, and a chilly swim, before putting the cover on.

The morning was unpleasant. We went to the Indigo Girls concert last night. It was great, but it made for a late night, and we have been doing a lot of going out the past couple of weeks, so I am very burnt out. I am reminded of Elwyn, an old timer I knew as a kid, and how he always celebrated not just his birthday, but his birthday month. Not a bad idea, I guess, but even at twice my current age Elwyn must have had more stamina than I do or something.

Anyway, I dragged myself downstairs to the newspaper and my daily cup of re-warmed in the microwave coffee topped off with skim milk. I managed to throw in a load of laundry, and was feeling proud of myself for that - knowing we would be going to Samsonville in the evening, I wanted to get a couple of important chores done. Considering the stack of essays calling to me from my office, there was not a lot of time for laundry, or the paper, or even stale coffee. I heard "squeak, squeak, squeak," and didn't think much of it. The washer was on its last legs six years ago, when Bob was in grad school, and my father fixed it for us. But this has been borrowed time, and for several months it has been developing an ominous squeak. Every time I transfer yet another load of wet clothes to the dryer I give that old washing machine a little pat of thanks.

The squeaking continued, intermittently, and it was somewhat faint. Suddenly Edna captured my attention, she was being playful, near my feet. I wonder what that is, I thought, not really giving it much of a look. Then I realized she had a cute little mouse, and this was the source of the squeak. The tepid coffee seemed even less palatable than usual. I wondered what to do. Make her stop? The mouse was not dead, but was surely wounded. What would I do with it? Kill it myself? Throw it outside, in the rain of Isidore, to be dealt with later? And even if it had not been wounded, I decided I really don't want mice in the kitchen. I decided not to intervene. Edna was pleased that I noticed. She was proud of her accomplishment. She kept up playing, torturing it really. Cats can be mean, maybe unintentionally. The dogs watched warily from the stairs; between the two they may be a hound and a half, but whatever instinct was passed on by their ancestors has been long overtaken by warm wooly blankets, dentabone chew toys, and Freihoffer's cookies (a Capital Distict staple). Ripping up plush squeaky toys are about as close as either gets to prey.

Finally, mercifully, she ate it. Ugh. I am having a hard time erasing the image from my mind. Microwaved breakfast coffee will never be quite the same. Then she rubbed my legs and purred. That's her second rodent in two weeks, although she didn't consume the last one. Lately, I thought she was too old for such antics, but now I am feeling guilty, suspicious that her lethargy stemmed from matted hair and not aging. After her injury in the spring, she became very matted, and protested my efforts at removing the tangles. I finally gave up trying to brush them out and instead cut them out of her fur. She looks a little choppy, but it has given her a new lease on life, with the opposite result for the mice. Way to go Edna.

Wednesday, September 25, 2002

Precious day today, one of those where you know you should spend the time to wrap your arms around it, take a deep breath, skip around, smile and say, "it's great to be alive." My on campus class went well, the online one is experimenting with a new group exercise, my voice mail is working and a computer was delivered to my office, my new level of pay started to roll in, and Bob and I had dinner at Lombardo's with Tom. Yum.

Oh, I had lunch with Elaine! She's a lovely and interesting person. Our conversation was wide ranging, including the marvels, and potential (& realized?) downsides, of certain aspects of the technological world. The weather was wonderful early fall - and so I decided to make a small effort at fitness, and I walked some of the way back to campus.

Tuesday Too # 31 Takes a Powder

1.) In this fast paced world we live in, is stress keeping you from realizing your full potential? Good God!, who wrote that? It sounds like an advertisement for a weekend workshop on inner peace.

Hmmm...no. I'm not all that stressed at the moment.

2.) Due to the nature of question number one, it is suggested that you answer it anyway you can, and then leave your own question for the next person, or persons to answer in the comment. On the other hand, you could just hit the back button.

This is going to make more than three questions...but what great questions...here goes:

Shawn asks, Mario, Mega Man, or your video game character of choice? I'm not much of a video game player - the only one that comes to mind is Ms. PacMan. I actually used to play that now and then in the lobby of a supermarket during college days in Oneonta, and I sometimes even managed to not get killed immediately.

Sya asks, What little thing are you doing for amusement this week? This isn't really little, but on Thursday we are going to see the Indigo Girls at Proctor's Theatre in Schenectady. (What a great week!)

Eden asks, When's the last time you were deliberately mean? This might sound untrue, but I can't remember. How about a long time ago, when I had a very bad argument with my boss a few days after I had politely resigned my position, and he had graciously accepted. But afterwards, he kept prodding me over various issues, things grew tense, and despite my best efforts, I eventually lost it. I can't recall everything I said - but I suppose "deliberately mean" could be used as one descriptor. "F-word" could be another (a true rarity for me).

Leah asks, What motivates you? Imagination, inspiration, fascination, challenge, financial need, and a few other things that elude me right now.

Julie asks, When was the last time you really ROFL'ed instead of just typing it as an acronym? I'm stumped here, and I thought I had been indoctrinated with the universe of acronyms by public service. Does this mean puke or is that rolfed? Anyway - if so, I can't remember - probably a few months ago. If not - I have no clue.

Here are mine:

A. Is # 1 a reference to Everybody Loves Raymond?

B. Do you feel happy or sad about the advent of Fall?

3.) What's really on your mind?

Well - it's very late and sleeping is way up there. More generally, a few mundane things: time management, getting organized, getting more exercise, figuring out when I can steal time to bake zucchini bread with the last of the garden...

Banned Book Week September 20 - 28! So go and read some Mark Twain!