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. 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 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!

Monday, September 23, 2002

In recent years, I have decided to complain when I don't get treated right. By this I don't mean that I whine and make a scene when I have to wait a long time on line in a store, or anything like that. I mean when customer service is really bad at a company, or I am treated very rudely by a store's or a bank's representative, I do something about it. The growing use of email has made it a lot easier to be heard soon after the event, before the memory dims.

Most recently I had to complain about the way a teller in my credit union treated me while I was depositing a check. Her behavior was so awful, I thought I would have to crawl out of the branch. My emailed note did get results, a phone call from the manager, a conference for the employee, and a refund of some fees that were unrelated to the incident. So today I wrote to Organic Gardening magazine - great read, but atrocious customer service practices - and McGraw Hill, the company that published a book I use in my class. The McGraw Hill letter was sparked by a segment yesterday on CNN, profiling the CEO and how great he is, how the future of the company is in the education division, just like the CEO's grandpa's vision or something along those lines. I almost couldn't stop laughing! For months I have been trying to pry loose PBS's "Only A Teacher," because the company claims that I am entitled to a complimentary copy to show my class as a result of using the book I have been requiring for several semesters. Now the fall semester is ticking away, and I continue to just get referred, or more often no answer at all to my numerous requests, and still no video.

Organic Gardening has been sending me dunning notices, and has suspended my subscription, despite having my credit card on file. As a last resort I paid by check last month, and still the notices arrive, but no magazine. This is not the first time I have had problems with my subscription. They send the magazine wrapped in plastic - a practice that strikes me as strange, if not downright contradictory. When I contacted them about it, I was told the only way to avoid the unnecessary packaging was to automatically renew via credit card. I have no clue why this would be policy, but I agreed.

Then late last summer, suddenly and without warning, a spin-off, Organic Style, was in my mailbox instead of Organic Gardening. At first I thought it was a complimentary issue, trying to get subscribers to order the new publication. The letter that was attached was unclear. Then, when no issue of Organic Gardening arrived, I contacted them and was told that it was not complimentary - I had been switched to Organic Style. I asked what about me made them think I would want to be switched? No answer was offered. I asked why would they do such a thing without asking first? Again, no answer; the customer service rep was not exactly rude, but not really courteous either. I said I wished to be switched back, as I found Organic Style distasteful. I am a subscriber because I like to garden organically, not because I want to read profiles of snobby celebrities and how they prepare ritzy organic meals using stuff they buy at urban markets, or look at silly ads for trendy hemp clothes. (I was told I would not miss an issue of Organic Gardening because of the switch - but this wound up not being true, although I didn't bother to complain.)

So now the latest problem, no magazine, many threatening cancellation notices - and I am not at all sure my subscription had ever expired! I may have paid twice. I do like the magazine, but they are a very, very difficult company with which to do business. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, September 18, 2002

Happy Birthday to me! And yesterday was Rudy's 7th birthday. I can't believe that Howie died seven years ago, or that it is nearly seven years since we brought "Mister Wuja" home from the pound.

Not a lot of time for making posts - teaching is keeping me hopping - so I revert to my original goal of making one journal entry per week. I should be able to manage that.

Tuesday Too

1.) Are you willing to remain silent on something you strongly believe in, in order to avoid confrontation with your friends or family. Why would you, or wouldn't you do this?

Well - I guess that depends on the issue. I do avoid certain subjects, depending on the "audience." With my students, I am careful, because it isn't fair to show too much bias, and to abuse my position. With everyone (friends, family, colleagues, acquaintances), and in this journal, mostly I am careful, and I don't ask or offer opinions about some things. I don't wish to hurt people's feelings, to have my views be easily labeled, or to incite controversy. I also don't display bumper stickers. I think it is silly to be judged by, or to judge others, based on political views. On the other hand, occasionally I will write a personal essay on a topic that really has sparked me, and there are some absolute rights and wrongs - for example, unethical or cruel behavior, or in some instances when my opinion has been directly solicited - where I may choose to intervene or respond.

2.) Do you think trust is necessary for a "real relationship?" Do you trust easily? Do you find your faith in others is usually justified, or have you been betrayed one too many times?

Yes, except in rare instances, I do have faith in others.

3.) Have you bought something on ebay, or another auction site? Tell us about your experience. Was it positive or negative? What did you get? Would you do it again?

Yes - among other things, I have purchased collectables on ebay (including the Peanuts pinbacks at my Virtual Museum), carnival glass, and most recently, a violin. I have never had a negative experience, and I would certainly do it again.

Wednesday, September 11, 2002

Today, I hung my flag, spent some time listening to the memorial services, observed the moments of silence, and went outside to hear the church bells. Yesterday morning I visited the new World Trade Center exhibit at the New York State museum. There are actually three separate exhibits that commemorate 9/11. There is a collection of pictures by Magnum Photographers that I had seen before, since they were published in a book last year. They are in color, but many appear black and white. Hanging on the wall is a large white sheet that has been fashioned into a flag, its red stripes and white stars on a blue background all created with paint hand prints, signatures and messages everywhere.

There is a permanent exhibit, cobbled together from a piece of the New York City floor space combined with a piece of what once was the gift shop. There are objects, pictures, videos, and the typical museum interpretation. The centerpiece is a badly damaged fire truck, and some tattered mementos of the lost police and firefighters. Although this area contains several large objects, in addition to Engine 6, including a piece of the steel exterior support structure, a sphere that once graced an antenna at the top of one tower, several segments of chain link fence covered with ribbons, flyers, flags and flowers, and the doors to a Salvation Army canteen for rescue workers, sprinkled around are ordinary symbols of office life that were sifted from the Freshkills Landfill: a mangled computer motherboard, half a handset of a telephone, a set of melted-together diskettes, a charred and twisted sign that directed employees to the exit. Striking is that most are remnants; shards of broken glass and small hunks of bent metal, mere fragments of a place that was gigantic.

Upstairs, there is a new gallery, complete with café, that has been built in an area of the building that not long ago was nearly empty. Each section showcases an exhibit that appears in the main part of the museum. The World Trade Center piece of this space contains an artistic image of the two towers, with each square representing a victim.

I can't say that the collective exhibits captured the magnitude of that day. Maybe nothing can. As I left the new gallery, I passed the teaser for a new exhibit on carnivals. It is a restored, and fully functional, carousel, manufactured in 1895, and retired in 1971. Taken by surprise, I paused to watch a handful of people ride the splendid wooden horses, "God Bless America" playing in tones reminiscent of a summer ice cream vendor's truck. I blinked back tears. Then again, I can't say that the collective exhibits failed to capture the magnitude of that day. The photographs, the objects, the interpretation. And innocense.

Last night, I voted in a primary, for the first time. I always vote in the general November election, and also in our local election (for our village, that's March), but only recently I discovered that I am a member of the Independence Party, rather than being my usual "NE." It was a confusing process, because two districts were assigned to my usual polling place, but there were separate records, and separate machines. Then, it seemed a multitude of parties were holding primaries, and a number of books had to be checked. The difficulty of spelling my name doesn't help. Whenever I start, "G-I-U...," the person automatically flips to "J." Correcting that, they invariably try to find "G-U..." Ever since Rudy Giuliani was mayor of New York City, I find that people can finally pronounce my name (though they change my final "o" to his "i"), but they still can't spell it. But I understand that Florida is brewing another nightmare, and so I refuse to fault the good folks in Castleton.

Speaking of the former mayor, I have done some thinking on the subject, and although a year ago I believed lower Manhattan should be rebuilt into offices, now I agree with him and the victims' families, in thinking that the entire 16 acre site that once was the World Trade Center should be a memorial park. To do otherwise would be like paving a cemetery, or allowing Disney to construct a theme park at Manassas. I often lament that what I perceived as minimal digs were done near the Hudson River in Albany when new buildings and parking garages went up, covering a wealth of Dutch artifacts. As Ma said recently, there will always be a need for office space, and the 16 acres won't make a bit of difference. So make something green there, and I don't mean money.

I will close this entry with some links and a photo; a year ago I wrote this story about Sirius, the only dog to die in the attacks. It is also posted here, at the Port Authority memorial site. Here is another lovely tribute to Sirius, and another. Finally, a puppy that will be a future guide dog has been named in his honor. The snapshot below was taken on my 36th birthday, September 18, 1997, when Bob, my sister, Daddy and I visited the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island.

Monday, September 09, 2002

Back to work Monday and I am forcing myself to stay focused because I have a lot of work to do. I'm assuming it will be easier to manage as the semester progresses. I did do a little work over the weekend, not a lot or as much as I hoped. But sunny temperatures lured me out to swim, and since the pool will be closed soon - some people have closed theirs already - how could I resist?

My sister, her poodle Ginger, my mother and I visited St. Ann's cemetery in Sawkill on Sunday. This is where my grandmother's maternal grandparents are buried, as well as her brother and sister who died as babies. My sister is going to Ireland in November, and these GG grandparents (that's genealogical researcher shorthand :-) were immigrants. The setting is a lovely hillside, and the graveyard is not big. Probably 90% or more of the folks resting there were Irish, with a sprinkling of Italian and Polish people. The church is closed, although it is maintained, and special services are occasionally held there.

We were disappointed, though, because we could not find any stones or markers with the name Donnelly. Perhaps that says something even more poignant about Mimmie's relatives. In my mind's eye I see wooden crosses marking their graves, now erased by time and the elements. But Mimmie's notebook documents that they existed. The three of us, in our quest on Sunday, document that they existed. I think I am going to try to find out more information from the diocese.

Aside from having my second class, tommorow is significant because I found out that I can vote in a primary. It will be tight, as my class is held in the evening, and the polls are not open in the morning, but I'll do my best to get there before 9. I have always been "NE" (election shorthand for not enrolled in a political party) because I did not feel that any of the parties reflected my views and I refused to be labeled; the downside of this is that it means no primaries or caucuses. But this year, I have been getting a ton of mail related to the Independence Party. My recycle bin is overflowing! So I called the Board of Elections and asked, and they told me that I was indeed registered in that party.

The only thing I can figure is that in 2000, I voted absentee, and went to the election board to fill out the ballot. Although I can't remember, it is possible that I enrolled at that time. I'm not sure if I will stay enrolled - because I perceive myself as independent, not necessarily the same as the Independence Party - but I sure do plan to use my vote tomorrow.

On a somber note, I am going to visit the 9/11 exhibit at the New York State museum tomorrow morning before heading to campus. So it will be a day of reflection, teaching, and voting. And that reminds me, I am going to replace my flower-themed flag with the American flag right now.

Wednesday, September 04, 2002

I probably will start a private journal that details the teaching experience of this semester, because my guess is that it is best to not have enrolled students stumble here and maybe be offended if I have not been careful enough. The responsibility is enormous! But on occasion I might post something here. So here goes.

The first night went OK, I guess. I was not nervous once I got started - I had 31 students in class (at the moment there are 39 in the online one, but I expect some to drop). I think I am a weird combination of organized and scattered in the classroom. It was interesting to be a part of the "real" world again; to remember that it is hard to accomplish as much in a block of time as in the same time at home; even getting lunch takes forever.

As an evening class, there is some diversity, although I think less than the usual online mix (although there it is hard to determine, and that is one nice aspect of the online environment). There are 2 or 3 graduate students in the class, and one or two undergraduates who are my age or older. Quite a few have attended a community college before transferring to the university. I learned a few things already - all have to do with participation - students do not speak up at all and so this is probably why some professors just randomly call on students. I always thought it was because hardly anyone did the reading, but it may be that people are just reluctant to volunteer, not glib, and inhibited, since the things I asked last night had nothing to do with knowing anything about the course (like, who is planning to be a teacher? A bunch of blank stares in response).

I am used to self-disciplined students in the online world, and this adjustment will take some doing on my part. I learned that some are disrespectful of each other - at the end of class, I had them go around the class and say their name, their major, why they took the class, and if they had a mentor or role model from school or college - and although the students sat attentively through everything I said, during the course of this go around ten students got up (mostly young men, and a couple of young women, but then the females outnumber the males in class by quite a lot), before it was their turn, and left. That's 1/3 of class! It is not like it was even close to being near the end of class. As a result, I took attendance at the end. I dislike being so heavy handed and juvenile, and I know it is a turn off for the majority of serious folks in the class. So, today, I sent an email message to all, summarizing what happened last night, and letting them know that I expect them to be courteous and respectful to their peers. I would so much rather be a facilitator in a group of learners, than a nasty school marm with a ruler. But I will muddle through I suppose.

Not a lot of activity in the online section yet. I will have to start prodding there, soon. I can de-register students who do not "appear" by next week, and for the first time, I think I am going to pursue that option, as it will be especially hard for me to manage such a large group this semester, and that will be worsened if some fall behind.
Tuesday Too # 28

1.) What, is it Tuesday again?

My thoughts exactly...except that I am doing this on Wednesday!

2.) Now here's a real question for you. What is the most important/significant thing that you have on your plate today? And no I don't mean spinach or potatoes; I mean nuts and bolts.

Answering for yesterday - the first class of the semester! One down, fourteen more to go. Going from virtual to virtual plus reality - well, there's a lot to digest.

3.) Ask me anything you'd like to know, and I just might tell you, or I might not.

Any updates on the time table for posting more of your thesis? (Can you tell I'm in academic mode?)

4.) Is the Tuesday Too person losing her mind?

Oh, I seriously doubt it.

5.) Is this the end of the Tuesday Too?

We must be on the same wave length or something...since I will be on campus on Tuesdays, and also have taken quite a lot on my plate this semester - 70 students between the two classes, and some administrative duties - well, I have my doubts that I will be able to get to the TT before Wednesdays, and maybe not then. We'll see.