Wednesday, July 31, 2002

Tuesday Too #23

1.) Do you have a friend like Mr. Potatoehead? In other words do you have a friend that trouble seems to follow like a bad penny? Tell us about that friend or one of his/her bad pennies?

I do know a woman who has a really tragic, heartbreaking life - one thing after another, all very serious, life-changing, sorrowful events - something like the trials of Job. Somehow, she manages to keep it together - at least in public anyway. I also have a friend (or she used to be my friend, before the disintegration became too far gone for me to continue enabling) who has a hard life due to alcoholism. That was not the root of her problem, years ago - but now it has blossomed into the most serious of her problems. Both situations are too sad, and private, for me to elaborate more at the moment, although in the future I may write on this subject, or I might post a link to some things I have already written.

2.) Was there something you really meant to accomplish, or really wanted to do that you didn't do last week? How come you didn't do it?

Well, I wanted to go the the Falcon Ridge Folk Festival last weekend, and I also wanted to go to the Greene County Youth Fair. I didn't go to either, but instead worked around the house and in the yard. It is a rare weekend that we spend at the weekday house, and there were so many projects to do. This place really needed some attention. We made a lot of progress - moved a large forsythia bush with the truck and a rope; put in a set of stairs from the side of the house to sidewalk level (something I've wanted for 10 years to improve access to the garden), and started staining the fence. Another reason we stayed home was that Dave Carter, a musician we really wanted to see at the folk festival, died a week or so before, at age 49, from a heart attack. His partner, Tracey Grammer still performed; Bob wasn't really feeling up to a memorial. Then, there are several more fairs nearby in August, and we will be sure to go to at least one. Finally, we had tickets to see the Dave Matthews Band in Saratoga last night, we knew we were definitely going, that it would be a very late night, and honestly there is a limit to the old stamina.

3.) Pretend you're in the market for a therapist. What would be the therapist's most desirable quality? Why that one?

Hmmm...I'm not sure. I'm not really in the market, to tell you the truth, so it is kind of hard to pretend. "Good listener" comes to mind, as does "excellent education and credentials," "philosophy I find palatable," "references," and "takes insurance/realitic fees."

Thursday, July 25, 2002

Posted July/August updates to the Gully Brook Press website. In the newsletter, I decided to share For Sale, the story from my post below.

To the bio page, I added some links to a mixed bag of education sites.

It was fun to scan categories of my pinback button collection and post them here on occasion, and they really need some TLC - they are dusty, the collection has grown and not all can be displayed, and when I started collecting them - I didn't care as much about preserving them. So, as part of the re-organization of my collection, I thought, why not capture the images? The Virtual Museum pays a visit as I begin this process; the number of images will grow as I have time.

The green beans are ready! The cucumbers will be soon. A sunflower is blooming. Yippee and yum. Almost makes hot weather worth it. [See last month's Virtual Museum.]

Wednesday, July 24, 2002

Thunderstorm yesterday leads to beautiful weather today. The power went out for about 2 minutes here - just enough to make digital clocks everywhere start flashing, a couple of alarm clocks, the VCR, even the no-account coffee maker, for pete's sake. This was a technological advance? Here in the office, I have a trusty old analog clock - the kind grandma had hanging in her kitchen. It has a double scalloped edge, and it was white until Bob splatter painted it blue and black when we were decorating the office during renovations of this house. I think I have had it since I was in college in Oneonta. It may be a bit slow now - I didn't have it set to precisely the right time anyway, time is cyclical, so who cares? - but after those two minutes it started up, no resetting necessary.

Today is opening day at Saratoga. Now, there's something to get worked up about: horse racing. I detest it. That's a pretty radical sentiment around here, where fans spend the entire month of August drooling about the "sport" every year. Here are my thoughts on the subject during an August past. As it happens, I am going to Saratoga on Monday, but to see the Dave Matthews Band at the performing arts center. At the moment I'm thinking, what was I thinking when those tickets were purchased? I usually avoid Saratoga during racing season like the plague.

Tuesday, July 23, 2002

Endless grading during summer session - working on essay #4. I have rejected more than half of this batch, and I am making them re-write. What is it about being required to "use citations to literature" that students just don't get?

And now for the Tuesday Too:

1.) Do you think pornography is dangerous? Why, or why not?

Yes and no. I think no in general, when the issue is "run-of-the-mill porno" (although I do wonder who would want to participate in the industry), but I believe when it involves kids or violence, dangerous is far too mild a word.

2.) What do you think about people being held in jail without charges, without access to a lawyer, or a phone call for an indeterminate period of time?

Despite my feelings about there being way too many lawyers and far too much litigation in our society, I am 100% in favor of the protections afforded us in the Constitution, understand why they are important, and feel very wary of shortcuts. On the other hand, when something happens like that little girl in CA being molested and killed, with the (yes, alleged) murderer arrested twice before for improper dealings with young girls, but never convicted (which his mother claims is "never being in trouble before"), I wonder what rights for the accused in our system may have resulted in such an unacceptable outcome.

3.) How do you feel about this US program?

This has to do a bit with Question #2, as well. I know I am probably supposed to be all worked up and alarmed over both these things, but I'm not. My thoughts have a different texture since 9/11; before that I am ashamed to say I was very naive. I have not written a lot here about this subject and its impacts, and for personal reasons I don't plan to start now, but please - I hope my mail carrier etc. is being vigilant. I wish we all were, before, and maybe there wouldn't be a crater in Manhattan.

Monday, July 22, 2002

Feeling a bit under the weather...not sure if it is dehydration, something I ate, or a 24 hour bug. Yesterday we worked, with my incredibly fit parents and a really nice young man, our 15 year old neighbor, on the pool site. All items that may be dangerous to liners are gone (no small task on land where there are more stones than dirt), the sand has been spread, the bottom ring is assembled, and each block, where a post will rest, has been leveled, with the help of my new transit-using skill. Now it waits two weeks, til we return for several days - and it goes up. We may yet swim this summer!

It was hot, tiring work. Last night I slept poorly, had crazy, exhausting dreams, and abdominal pain. Today, only toast with apricot jam was appealing. There is no-one to take the calling in sick phone message when you freelance at home, so I spent the day finishing up evaluations of essays. I hoped to fit in a bit of cleaning - the house surely needs it - but that, and much else, will have to keep. I have been drinking water, and feel a bit better now, but I am thinking of corn flakes with milk and peaches for dinner. The topics were inclusion of students with special needs in the classroom, or the impact of school choice reforms on education in the dawning of the 21st century, and more students chose inclusion.

Enjoyed the first local sweet corn of the season this weekend, as part of an all fruit & vegetable (asparagus, avocado, corn, strawberries, cherries, nectarines) dinner. Yum! I'm sure the discomfort wasn't from that!

Friday, July 19, 2002

I think I may have to make those updates to my website be for July/August. Summer session, plus the pool install and assorted other summer activities take priority.

The only thing I'll add to my defense of the past [see 7/18 below] is that it must have been pretty cool when manure was the environmental hazard from needing transportation faster than your own two feet.

Thursday, July 18, 2002

Finished midpoint evaluations for class, and sent out the good, bad, and mixed news via email. Time to take a break from Big Blue, check the garden, figure out dinner.

Something about transforming journals from print to electronic that maybe isn't always such a great thing: as I surf around I am struck by the in-general negative tone of much of the writing. Journaling has been a venting tool for me in my life at times, and so it is natural that it would serve that purpose in digitland, as well. But in print, well, the volumes slumbered in some drawer or shared a shelf with classic once-read books. People read them on the web - or at least there is that potential. Venting is positive, I'm sure, but I guess what I'm feeling is that I can't abide all the complaining, and I think life is a lot more fun without a chip on your shoulder.

Tapped out for now. Grading is quite tiring. And it is very, very hot today. Oh, read my defense of the past on Blogsisters.

Tuesday, July 16, 2002

Since jf is away, the Tuesday Too was up early this week, but I decided to wait.

1.) What is the most important thing going on in your life this week?

This is a fairly routine week. I guess most significant is evaluating my students' discussion and journal assignments, and giving them a mid-semester idea of how they are doing on those areas of the course. Seems odd to do this after only three weeks! On the trite side, working on the pool this weekend will be the most important fun thing.

2.) Tell us about your quintessential faux pas.

Several years ago, after I got serious about being published, I sent one of my still-favorite (and still unpublished) short-shorts, "For Sale," to House Beautiful. A few weeks later, I received a letter from an editor, saying the story was lovely, but too short for their magazine. A telephone number was listed, and an invitation to call and chat was included. Now, as all writers know, any sort of personal and positive letter, even if it is a rejection, is a big victory for an aspiring author, and I was thrilled.

I gave it some thought, then picked up the phone and called. In my world, higher education administration, that number would have gotten me the editor's secretary, and this is what I expected. But when I asked the person who answered for the editor, it turns out the number was the editor's direct line. I had developed a confidence in my profession as an educator, but as a hungry would-be writer, taken by surprise, I had somewhere around zero self-esteem. I stumbled over what I planned to say, then finally made my pitch, which was to increase the length of "For Sale" to be within House Beautiful's guidelines by adding in some elaboration on - oh, I can't remember exactly what any more, but this was the general idea. She replied, "that story was perfect the way you wrote it; I don't think adding to it would be appropriate. I was thinking maybe you had some ideas for other stories you would like to tell me about." I was speechless; felt like a greenhorn; I had absolutely nothing prepared. I said I didn't have any, I can't remember doing a thing to close any sort of deal or even leave the door open for future exploration, and so -- feeling humiliated and pretty silly, I let a major market opportunity slip through my fingers. But I did learn from that experience.

3.) Why would you most likely be nominated to speak your mind, and what is it you're going to say?

I do speak my mind about educational issues when teaching the Social Foundations of Education, but I try to be fair and as unbiased as possible in my approach, and open to the students' varied perspectives, as I don't believe the lectern should be the bully pulpit. Also, I am interested and experienced in online delivery, the status of adjuncts, and student ethics; these are topics I sometimes share with others.

As an administrator, I made presentations on a regular basis, about mathematics assessment and student preparation level for the study of college mathematics. I continue to be asked, on occasion, to speak on these topics. (In recent years, I don't always agree to do it.)

In terms of personal interests, I have made presentations about various aspects of history: primarily local/regional, and genealogical research, and these are the subjects about which I am most likely to be asked to talk.

What do I say on these subjects? Too much to list here, and some of it is rather dry! I have information on my Gully Brook Press website about history (one room schools), genealogy (here and here), and mathematics assessment (the latter is an excerpt from my dissertation); the July updates that are in the works will focus broadly on education.

Monday, July 15, 2002

Another week begins; the class is half over. I didn't get to make the July updates to the Gully Brook Press website last week, and since there is even more evaluation to be done for class at the moment, it is going to be hard to fit it in this week, too, but I plan to try. I do have some theme ideas brewing, and there are no "days off" in the works, so it may pan out.

We worked on our pool site this weekend. My father showed me how to use a contractor's level, and we determined that there is a ten inch differential in the slope, so this week he will bring his backhoe over and change that. Next weekend, we'll rake the spot, spread the base sand around, and put in the 21 blocks that will support the side rails. Then, a two-week break as we spend a weekend working here, on our summer-long retaining wall project, and go to a nearby bluegrass festival. We are targeting the first weekend in August for actually putting up the pool, and having the water truck come to fill it.

It's good that yardwork is a favorite activity for both of us, and that we don't care about travel-type vacations, or having two houses would be a hassle rather than a pleasure. I worked for most of yesterday on the garden there, staking the tomato plants, watering, weeding, and mulching. It won't be long until the green beans and squash are ready. My legs are a little sore today. I think I will do a little yardwork here, this afternoon. The flowers need watering. I wish we would get some rain; usually August is drought season. This much dryness in July is kind of scary.

Thursday, July 11, 2002

Finished grading essays, yea! Most students chose to write on character education rather than John Dewey. This is what always happens when I give a choice in essays, which is a shame since learning about Dewey is a lot more important (and I pessimistically suspect it means the part of the reading that focused on Dewey's theories was not read by many of the students who chose the character question). It is always a struggle for me, the tension between letting students be self-directed and have lots of leadership opportunities, something that seems so vital to learning, and on the other hand, having to accept that with flexibility students will decide to leave out studying something really vital. Sigh. Anyway, overall they were a good batch of assignments - summer students are a serious bunch.

It is over a month since I started to wear my orthopedic shoes - and a few weeks since I have been using the orthotic inserts. I am happy to report that my feet are doing great; another triumph for alternative therapies, instead of our beloved medical model!! Related to the beloved, in the news this week, lots of attention on the risks to women of hormone replacement therapy. This is something that I had suspected for a long time; I remember whispers of possible problems for years. Now it has been validated. I think the Patti LaBelle commercial, where she is singing about a new attitude, is pretty irritating. Of course, I find most advertisements for prescription drugs to be obnoxious. Such a big industry. As if a pill is always the best approach to wellness! Certainly it is easier than approaches that involve taking responsibility, though, right?

But the hormone ads especially bother me, because of the cruelty to horses involved in the manufacture of Premarin. Some women act like hormone replacement therapy to help with the unpleasant symptoms of menopause is some kind of right in the sacred choice arena, and many doctors seem to think that it would be silly to not embrace it if there is any discomfort. It is the #2 prescribed drug! So the study's findings were good news for horses. Maybe now that increases in strokes, cancer and heart disease have been linked to these hormones, everyone will get a new attitude, the Premarin mares will have a chance, and the doomed foals will never be born. Oh, I hope so.

Tuesday, July 09, 2002

The hay total was 642 bales. Not the biggest year yet, but not the smallest, either, and it is enough to winter the horses. I was assigned to the barn, rather than the field (I prefer the field, but I didn't make a fuss). Sunday we had a much bigger crew, but it was hotter than Saturday, hazy and kind of hard to breathe from the Canadian wildfire smoke that drifted south. The wind has changed now, but the report is that the haze may return later this week.

Here's the Tuesday Too #20 (once done I must return to grading essays...this week's topics: character education and Dewey's theories on learning).

1.) Yes conflicting theories abound, what do you think dreams (nightly adventures) mean, or do you subscribe to a particular theorist and why?

Sometimes I'll have a spell where I remember lots of dreams, and at other times there are long stretches where I don't remember a thing. During the times where I remember them, I tend to think about dreaming more, what it may mean, etc. Sometimes it is obvious, I have been thinking about certain things, and they pop up in my dreams. Other times it is more complicated. But I have always been fond of thinking of dreams, especially when they are fun adventures and not too upsetting or scary, as "my other life." (It will be very interesting to read jf's thesis.)

2.) When you are confronted by a homeless person asking for change, how do you respond? How does it make you feel? If you've never been in this situation, imagine it, and calculate your response.

For years, I always gave money when asked - figuring, if the person is asking, they must really need it, and who cares for what. Then one bright sunny day, at about lunchtime, I was across the street from work, strolling along while daydreaming, and I was assaulted by an (apparently) homeless person. He hadn't said a word to me first, he just stared at me with what I can still remember clearly as extremely red eyes, and grabbed me. It happened so fast, and I managed to get away that day (relatively) unharmed, but for years afterwards I felt a fear whenever I was approached. I was troubled by my behavior, but I didn't want to be at risk, either, so I started to donate to food pantries and shelters, thinking that if a desperate person needed food, they should go there, and when on the street I kept very alert. Rather than refusing to give money, I instead did my best to avoid any sort of encounters. Now the fear has (mostly) subsided, or at least I don't think about it too much, and I have reverted back to my old ways (although I continue to donate to the food banks), but since my worklife is so much different now, it is only on rare occasions that I am walking alone in a place where I might be asked for money.

3.) Do you feel you have been short changed in any way by destiny/fate/god? If so, how?

Absolutely not, I feel very lucky, fortunate, blessed, thankful, etc.

Sunday, July 07, 2002

Technical problems plagued me on Wednesday. Everything was going great - grades were ahead of schedule - but my cable ISP didn't cooperate. And, they have the worst customer service and technical support; I think their training program teaches the following steps: (1) transfer the customer several times, and make them re-explain the problem each time; (2) disconnect a few times; (3) report that there are no problems with the network; (4) insist that any problem is not their responsibility because it must be caused by (a) the user, (b) the user's software, and (c) the user's hardware, (5) repeat steps 1-4 numerous times; (6) as a last resort, own up to the problem, but say it is being worked on, and offer no timetable or solution. A shouting match seems to be the only way to get their attention - and even that means at least a two day wait for a technician. Could satellite be the way to go?

So - I did get the grades posted (by resorting to dial up), but no work on my proposal excerpt, and little preparation for the trip to the other house. That's where I am now. Some of today was spent haying - we got in 141 bales. The bulk of the field will be done tomorrow. I have to fit in curriculum updates for class by Monday, 12 noon. Our pool will be delivered that day! And then it is back to the other house...

Tuesday, July 02, 2002

Now begins a few weeks of "I'm too busy." There are many essays to grade for class. This will probably take me through tomorrow, although this heat means I must fit in watering the plants somewhere! And, if I don't procrastinate too much more, I might be able to work on creating an excerpt of my book proposal, something I really want, and need, to do. We leave tomorrow evening or early Thursday for the other house, where we will be spending several days - so some preparation time for that has to be planned, also. Many activities will be taking place during this holiday: a BBQ, a visit from my in-laws, and (very likely) haying, but it will be nice if I can still get some work done from there. July updates to the Gully Brook Press website will have to wait until next week, I guess (& I can only hope to have time then).

Not sure when I'll get to posting in the ejournal, though, and I don't have the software on my other PC to share these images in honor of Independence Day, so I thought I'd do it today, when I am here answering the Tuesday Too (see below). The first and third were taken in 1997, on a wonderful birthday visit to Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty with my sister, my father and Bob (we are all lifelong New Yorkers - or in my father's case, just about - and none of us had ever gone either place; you can see a few more snapshots of that day at the Gully Brook Press virtual museum for May, "Immigrant Roots"), the second is another peek at my pinback button collection.

Here's the Tuesday Too # 19

1.) What do you find most troubling about your way of life? If your life is carefree please give me a hint, which has nothing to do with winning the lottery.

Carefree - I love and disdain the sound of words and now there's a beautiful word. I try to live according to my beliefs, but not having made the commitment to be a vegetarian is something with which I struggle.

2.) What is your prescription (non psychotropic), or outlet for dealing with stress and anxiety?

I can lose myself in reading or writing. I do like wine, and in moderation it works. The treadmill is a help, as are eating out, or elaborate, creative cooking. Talking to Bob or another family member or friend, fussing over the animals, going to the weekend house to absorb the natural beauty, and prayer, are several more items in the toolbox. Sometimes a simple strategy like playing music I love as a background, and doing a mindless task like washing the dishes, or sorting paper for recycling, while thinking remedies things. I grapple with finding adequate channels for my energy, and recently I have been reading the Relaxation and Stress Reduction Workbook. Unfortunately, I haven't adopted the principles yet, but my plan is to at least try to add skilled relaxation as a coping skill. But my all-time favorite is gardening, and it will probably remain that way.

3.) What's the real reason you get up every morning?

Because I am well-rested (& I have to pee :-).