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.