Tuesday, December 30, 2003

Back from Samsonville yesterday. It was a wonderful Christmas, hard to imagine better. We made it to Samsonville in time for Christmas Eve at my sister's. Bob and I went to midnight mass. Christmas Day was at my parents', and on Saturday we hosted Bob's family at our house.

Getting back into the working groove will not be easy. I didn't use the computer very much, and so I had about 100 emails, and only a (relatively) small proportion were spam. Answer them is all I did today, tomorrow it will be back to the other stuff. Luckily, I made the grading deadline on the 23rd, so there is no student evaluation still pending. Of course, there were two emails from students asking "why did I get this grade, I deserved better?" (Which always makes me think, why didn't I ever think to ask that question of faculty when I was a student?)

I got a nice new digital camera, which probably means I'll be using more pictures here. Eventually, that is...when I figure out how to use it. I didn't take even one picture in Samsonville, and we already took the tree we had there down!

I got many books this year...several novels by Margaret Atwood and Sandra Dallas, and a calendar with William Wegman photographs. And a silly little cat and dog joke book.

Monday, December 22, 2003

The tub drain in our Castleton house refuses to be tamed. Sometime in about 1948 someone got the idea that the house needed indoor plumbing. The kitchen was moved to the basement, and as a part of this renovation, a small addition was built for a bathroom. Problem is, this little separate room has to withstand the elements without much help from the main house. Then, in the 1970s or early 1980s, it suffered the indignity of a car driving down the hill, and crashing into its side. The collision knocked the tub across the room. Maybe as a part of the repair, the old clawfoot tub was replaced by a more modern variety. So now the second problem is, the tub has an under the floor trap and drain, which often freezes.

The tub had heat tape around that difficult pipe when we moved in, which we promptly removed for safety reasons. The bathroom has been extensively renovated in the years we have lived here, and even the tub drain pipe has been replaced, but the under the floor design is the same. We've insulated, fixed cracks, replaced windows, and added new heat. It is better, but still, any time it gets below 10 degrees or so the risk of freezing is there.

Generally, we get one freeze per winter -- then we never forget to leave the fawcet dripping in the tub any time the temperature drops. It is a wasteful solution, that works. On our long to do list, is replacing the tub with one of the antique clawfoot variety (which we have in Samsonville, and we might get new there and use that one). But there are quite a few projects ahead of that one.

We've been lucky this year, for although there has been plenty of snow, the temperature has not been too bad, and there have been no freezes. Unfortunately, we learned this morning that a bit warmer than 10 degrees will freeze it, if a few days pass without the tub being used. We spent Saturday night in Samsonville, and so there were no Sunday showers in Castleton. Bob informed me of the situation this morning, as he left for work. "Will you unfreeze it today?" he asked, for he was probably already late.

I protested. Couldn't it wait until evening, and we could both work on it? "Did you bail the bathtub?" I woke up enough to ask. "No," he said. Ugh. So if I wanted to take a shower, I'd have to bail that water first, or defrost the drain. "I thought maybe the warm water would melt the ice in the trap," he offered on his way out.

I dragged myself down to the bathroom after he left, took the ceramic cube heater from the closet, set it up in the bathroom, and (though I knew it was futile) hoped that would do the trick. After two hours of the cube on full blast in the bathroom, sort of pointed at the tub drain area, the room was like an oven (because it is not all that cold outside today) but it did nothing to the tub ice jam, and the foot of water in there now was ice cold. Even though it was above freezing outside, it needs to be really warm to unfreeze the drain once it has frozen.

Unfreezing the drain involves putting the ceramic cube heater in the crawl space under the bathroom. There is a small door to the crawl space in the foundation, on the other side of the fenced area. I debated my options over coffee. If I waited until evening, it would be dark, and colder outside. So, I hunted, cursed, and finally found (actually with less difficulty than usual, as we have gotten fairly organized) and gathered all the needed elements, suited up, and went out there. Discovered that the gate is snowed shut and cursed some more. Considered going down the stairs near the garden and getting there from the other side - discovered a mountain of waist-deep snow all down the stairs. Cursed some more. Then I chopped the gate out with the snow shovel and got over to the crawl space door.

I opened the crawl space. It wasn't that bad - I mean there were a lot of awful looking dead spiders (and I even saw one live one), there were a few tiny mouse turds in the insulation, but not that much evidence of rodents etc. and it was dry, and not too dark, improved even more by a flashlight. The pipes themselves looked fine. I really couldn't get very far into the crawl space - there is too much snow to kneel in it for very long, laying down was out of the question, and I am not all that limber any more -- although I couldn't remember how far I used to go in, maybe not that far? Anyway, I set it all up, went inside, and fifteen minutes later the tub drained. When I was retrieving all the junk from outside, the phone rang. Why does that always happen? It was Bob, wondering if the warm water in the tub had melted the ice jam? Umm, no.

So I hosed off the dead bugs from my hair, and ran the hot water in the tub for a while, and we're back in business. And I learned that we will absolutely have to shovel the gate at least a little after future snowstorms, also remember to leave the fawcet dripping when we will be away overnight in the winter - even if it isn't that cold. Maybe the tub project should move up a few notches on the to do list?

Saturday, December 20, 2003

A friend sent me this link. Usually I find this sort of site kind of hokey, and I am not that into circulating "FWD" emails (not that this was a FWD, this was sent just to me). But this is a beautiful, thoughtful, well-designed and tasteful site. Happy holidays!

Monday, December 15, 2003

Another nor'easter arrived today. The snow is heavy, almost the consistency of sand!

Here are two charities for animal lovers that are worthy of donation: The Catskill Animal Sanctuary rescues farm animals. The North Shore Animal League is a large no-kill shelter for cats and dogs.

Thursday, December 11, 2003

I found out today that I got the new assignment. Hooray! So this means I'll be teaching 5 classes plus graduate student advisement in the Spring. I don't know why I'm so happy, because I will be so busy! The life of an adjunct...but I do know why I am happy, it is new, and interesting, and a challenge. And I will have 4 graduate students and 20 undergraduate students to help with the two new classes (I'm guessing the enrollment must be fairly large).

Wednesday, December 10, 2003

Monday, December 08, 2003

Yes, the snow came, and the total: somewhere around two feet. Rudy rolled in delight at 6 inches, but once there was more than a foot his enthusiasm waned. He resumed rolling after we cleared the patio a little, once it stopped snowing.

Our teenage neighbor spent all day Saturday shoveling, the storm had mostly tapered off by Sunday afternoon, Troy didn't cancel the event, so we retrieved the truck from off-street parking and went to the Victorian Stroll. The roads had been plowed and weren't terrible, but it still was great to have 4WD.

The Victorian Stroll was great! All that snow made it even better. It was beautiful, it slows everything down, and it brings out the best in everyone. We visited the craft fair at the Atrium, the greens show at the Rensselaer County Historical Society, and the tree lighting at City Hall. There was a silent auction at the Historical Society, and we got a beautiful wreath. Afterwards we ate dinner at Monument Square Cafe, where Santa was playing the sax! His picture is in the Times Union story. I took a few pictures too, and I'll post some eventually.

Friday, December 05, 2003

Snow is coming. We were going to go to Samsonville tonight, and come back early Sunday to go to the Victorian Stroll in Troy, but we'll be staying in Castleton this weekend instead. The Stroll is still a possibility, but at this point, that remains to be seen. I guess we'll clean (it needs it) and get a Christmas tree, and maybe I'll even get totally caught up on work...permissions, student essays, updating my c.v. Well, at least it will make the end of the semester easier.

The first major snow of the season is always exciting. Soon Rudy will be rolling in the snow.

Monday, December 01, 2003

Busy more-than-week. I finished the education book late Wednesday-early Thursday (that means 2 a.m.) after several half-days (that means 12 hour stretches). Late Tuesday's-early Wednesday's ended at 4 a.m. I'm an owl but I'm not as up to all-nighters as in the past. But, I made my deadline. When I emailed Wednesday morning, I got an "out of office" for the holiday (until today!) message back from the editor. So I suppose I could have delayed sending it until today, but I wanted to be done with it, and I didn't want to work on it while in S'ville. (Almost managed it, I did have to revise the invoice, as I had undercharged them by $25 on the original.)

So, I have a bunch of other work that piled up in those days - a batch of essays to grade for the online class, a few letters of recommendation for graduate school for former students, and a booklet from Gully Brook Press (my operation is print-on-demand). The internet access for my university account seems to be down - so on campus duties will have to wait.

I started the work marathon with some fun - we saw Noises Off at the university on 11/22. It was great! Fun set. I am impressed with the theater department's productions. This time, the play was in the larger auditorium at the performing arts center, and that space is more comfortable than the small theater where the last performance we saw was held. Tonight, we are going to see A Christmas Carol at Proctor's.

Thanksgiving was especially nice, and over the weekend we made some progress on finishing the house. (The swimming pool guarantees no work is done in the summer.) We got a fireplace!

Here's an important link (thanks Ma) to a letter-writing campaign to Congress, from the ASPCA. You can email in support of H.R. 857, which will ban the slaughter of horses for human consumption and the domestic and international transport of live horses or horseflesh for human consumption.

Friday, November 21, 2003

I can think of no better thing to write for tomorrow's 40th anniversary of JFK's assassination than this, my thoughts from a year ago. I notice this entry gets a lot of hits from search engines (the search term is usually something like "gym teacher from hell").

All this week the anniversary has been covered, and covered, and covered again in the media (when it isn't distracted by the lurid story of the day). A few days ago, I asked Bob, "I wonder why other past presidential assassinations don't receive coverage? For instance, McKinley's?" (He laughed & laughed.)
I am done teaching until after Thanksgiving, and tomorrow I start a 5 or 6 day marathon of working on the book project (my deadline is Wednesday). And, I'm still pretty sick.

I got some (tentatively) good news today, that I might be taking over an interesting administrative/supervisory education-related project next semester...I plan to agree to it, if it seems I will be able to fit it in the time I used this semester for the book updating, and still have the work-at-home flexibility. So far, it seems promising. Details to follow.

Monday, November 17, 2003

An update to this entry. On average, 117 people per day were killed in traffic accidents in 2002. Seems like that deserves some outrage, occasional front-page coverage, and perhaps a demonstration.
On Saturday, we went to the Pride of New York Harvest Festival at the Desmond Americana Hotel. It was the second year we went, and it was great! Then, yesterday, I broke in my new sewing machine, and made a pair of curtains for the porch. They wouldn't win any county fair blue ribbons, but they serve the purpose.

And I am sick today. I am taking zinc since yesterday to ward off a sore throat and the beginning of a cold (I find it does mitigate symptoms, but it doesn't eradicate them completely). But then today I have been those other types of sick too, I mean "bathroom" sick. Ugh. I probably picked up something at the Desmond. There were big tables with piles of fruit and (NYS cheddar) cheese cubes in the midst of the wine and products tasting tables, and community grazing is a sure fire way to pick up some bug. Anyway, today I couldn't even keep ginger ale down, but my abdomen seems to be settling down now.

Friday, November 14, 2003

My hands are cold as I type! Winter is here.

I am remembering, that back in my Oneonta college days, I had several friends who lived in railroad apartments over the shops on Main Street. They were heated with big old gas stoves that sat in the middle of the living room floor. (I was fortunate, in that most of the old Victorian houses had fancy radiators with steam/hot water heat, or had been converted to forced hot air.) Anyway, the ceilings in those Main Street student apartments were high, those gas stoves really only worked well in one room, and Oneonta was quite cold in the winter. Plus, most of my friends had better things to do with their limited dollars; keeping the heat on wasn't always a priority. In my mind's eye I see one friend wearing gloves and a jacket, working on calculus problems, and another wearing a bulky sweater and baking cookies, while reading Max Weber.

Thursday, November 13, 2003

This & that: Here is the Times Union's review of the BNL concert.

I've worn the blogger sweatshirt a few times, and I think it is nice.

Then, there is this, which makes me sick (literally). The story doesn't mention this, but on last night's news, it said the driver had gotten four prior DWIs, but that because so long lapsed from the accident to the arrest, whether he was drunk this time will probably never be known.

Sure, like there can be any doubt.

But that is beside the point, really. He murdered that boy, whether he was drunk or sober or sleepy doesn't matter. And just because he used a vehicle instead of a knife or a gun or his bare hands makes no difference either. On top of that, he drove away and let that kid bleed. Bob says that someday, the bloodbaths that are our nation's roads and highways will be marveled at, in the way we look back at women not having the vote, or segregation, and shake our heads and wonder.

So often we wring our hands about some situation - say Iraq, or violence in schools, but traffic fatalities are so commonplace we hardly blink. It seems to me that people drive worse and worse all the time, and road rage increases. Yelling "F-You" or giving someone "the finger" is normal. A speeding ticket is a badge of honor. I teach on Tuesday nights, which must be the same schedule as the town court's meetings. Every semester numerous students must miss class to go to the local court because of some violation, often they report it is speeding. They aren't one bit ashamed when they tell me, they are almost proud.

Wednesday, November 12, 2003

Last night we went to a Barenaked Ladies concert at the Palace theatre. The Palace has been recently renovated, and it is beautiful. In terms of the concert, it was awesome. We had much better seats than I expected, and it was a high-energy performance. I'd say the crowd had a mean age of about 33.7 years. Most stood for the entire concert, except for one or two songs. At first I wasn't too happy about that, but then we decided to make the best of it by dancing, rather than just standing there. Afterwards we agreed that we should have been in the front row. Everyone around us was enthusiastic (except for two couples who kept leaving and then coming back a while later - they passed us many times in the row), but I think we topped most.

Thursday, November 06, 2003

I am tired, stayed up too late last night. We picked up a friend at the airport, and her plane got in at 12:30 am. Afterwards we went out for a drink, since it is the only time we had to visit. When we got to the bar, she asked me if I minded, and then she lit up a cigarette. It didn't occur to me that this is now illegal in NYS, as I don't smoke, and also, I very rarely go to a true bar anymore. By that I mean, a place where booze, not food is the primary focus. Anyway, the bartender quickly told her that she couldn't "do that in here." There were Yankee Candles on the bar, for pete's sake. She moved to Virginia before the new legislation was passed and didn't get it, asking, "you mean this isn't the smoking section?" So we both explained the law.

Bob and I accompanied her outside, because we hadn't seen her since March and we all wanted to chat. Before we left, she wanted to smoke again, so we went back outside. On our way out that second time, the bartender asked, rather anxiously, "are you folks all finished?" and we said "yes." I thought he wanted to clear the table, but instead he followed us out the door, and once outside, he lit up a cigarette too. After the night was over, and we were on our way home, Bob had the funniest observation. The bar was empty, not because there were no customers, but because all the smokers were outside, smoking. The nonsmokers were outside, visiting with the smokers. And, the person who was supposed to be helped by the law, the bartender, was outside, also smoking. (Earlier, he had grumbled, "the law is supposed to protect my health, but since the smokers were chased away and business is down, I can't afford health insurance.")

Yes, bars are more pleasant for me without the smoke, but I don't frequent bars, and I think people who do either smoke or don't mind. I don't know a lot of nonsmoking bartenders, actually. Or maybe a compromise, there should be a special rule - ban suspended after midnight, when no-one cares, or should care. Standing on the sidewalk with this group while absorbing secondhand smoke, we were panhandled three times. So it seems the bums are the folks who really benefitted from the smoking ban.

Anyhow, once again, my sleepiness seems to have postively impacted class...discussion was better than usual. Wish I could bottle the demeanor.

Monday, November 03, 2003

I am seeing daylight (or at least I was, because it is already dark out). I finished (at late Friday night/early Saturday morning - 2:30 am) sending midsemester evaluations to my online class. Today, I managed to get the third essays graded for that class, too, and I caught up on various details for my on campus classes, such as entering attendance and other recent grades in my spreadsheet.

In the meantime, there have been lots of things to write about, but I haven't been spending any time on it.

I'll start here. A couple of weekends ago, Ma & I finished planting garlic. We were so pleased with the results this season, which was our first attempt at garlic production, that we greatly increased how much we are growing...we planted more than 100 cloves this time, which is probably five times as much as last time. We used 400 pounds of cow manure. I'm glad we got it done, because it has rained a lot, and been much colder in recent weeks, with the exception of Saturday, when it must have been 75 degrees outside. Anyway, we planted two varieties this year, one softneck (Mother of Pearl) and one hardneck (Romanian Red).

Thursday, October 30, 2003

Wednesday, October 29, 2003

This is such a loss for the university. I'd comment, but I'd probably write something about no-good, low-down System that I'd regret.

Monday, October 27, 2003

Yippee! I worked most of the weekend, and I just met my second book deadline...

Friday, October 24, 2003

We went to see The Private Life of the Master Race at the university last night. It was the first time I'd been inside the Performing Arts Center since I worked there in 1988-89. The office where I worked is now Undergraduate Admissions. A new administration building is under construction, and most offices moved to some former state office buildings near campus. But I guess they wanted to keep admissions closer than that.

Anyway, it was a powerful performance; the student actors have a lot of talent. The story was disturbing, about the rise of the national socialist party in Germany during the 1930s. It focused on how it took place - the seeds in ordinary society that allowed such a thing to happen, not on the Holocaust, World War II, or its aftermath.

An elderly couple was sitting next to Bob. During one scene, "relief" workers/party members were delivering care packages to citizens, and a starving woman eagerly accepts it, goes through the box, eats an apple, encourages her very stoic sister to accept one too, and then chides her for expressing concerns about the government, food shortages, etc. The soldiers wind up taking the sister away for her beliefs. During that scene, the elderly man seated next to Bob started to cry.

This highlights my only objection to how the play was staged. There were two walls of chalked grafitti near the audience, and the actors wrote slogans there before the play and during the intermission. Most of the slogans were political or anti-war and had a much more contemporary flavor than the play. I suppose the point was to encourage activism on the part of the students, and to connect the theme of the play to today. I'm sure this wasn't the intention, but to me, the juxtaposition of messages of this nature (for example, "Yankees Go Home" or "Suck it up Governor") with the stark performance seemed to trivialize the serious script.

My blogger sweatshirt came yesterday. It is pretty nice, a navy blue Hanes with a hood. I think it will fit. I haven't tried it on because the dogs immediately wanted it, they were sniffing around when I opened the box. They believe all packages that are delivered are for them. I always order toys and treats for them from Drs. Foster and Smith, and from the livingroom window they can see the box get delivered on the front porch. So Sophie has been using the sweatshirt for a pillow since last night.

Tuesday, October 21, 2003

Saturday, October 18, 2003

It is a Samsonville weekend. Bob is bleaching the deck, in preparation of staining it tomorrow. It is a strange time to be doing this, I think the martini he had at dinner is making him late night ambitious...

We will spend an extra day here this weekend. My aunt died on Friday morning, and the services will be Sunday/Monday. She was 90. That's a long, full life for sure, but still, it is sad. That's the fundamental truth of life - it is often bittersweet, if not downright sad. Her husband is nearly 96; they were married for 67 years. My grandmother, who died long before I was born, was pregnant with my aunt when she immigrated from Italy. My father told me this morning that his mother had to lie about having a baby or they would have sent her back to the old country when she arrived at Ellis Island. So Aunt Clara was born in America, and thirty years ago she left downstate, and relocated to my hometown in the Catskills. It was a whole new chapter in her life, and I think a happy one. That is the other thing about life - it is often happy, too.

Thursday, October 16, 2003

I don't know how much of this new testing program is based on the same old ideas I once had to work on, but this is an unpleasant memory. I didn't have a public journal at that time, which is probably a good thing.

Before I left my job five years ago, one of the projects I was assigned, with a team of others, was to research the idea of a "rising junior" test for college students. We sharpened our pencils, surveyed the literature, chatted with folks from other states, listened to pitches from the big testing programs, and learned that it is mostly a terrible idea, costly to operate, and generally, a failure. We presented our findings, but it didn't matter. There was an agenda that included comparing campus performance, standardized testing of students for basic skills and Western canon, and what the research said, unless it was positive, was disregarded.

Anyway, I picked up my toys and went home - for this and a whole host of more important reasons, including finishing my PhD. But I figured the stupid testing idea had died out - killed by the faculty union or administrators from various campuses, or maybe because of lack of funding. I guess I was wrong; the idea seems to have been resurrected, and it sounds more powerful and just as insidious as before. Sometimes I must pause, and thank my lucky stars that I took a risk, and quit that job!

Wednesday, October 15, 2003

I met the book deadline - actually I was all ready on Friday, then I checked the contract, and discovered the date to be actually Monday, 10/13. So I was done early, but then my contact asked me to hold off on sending the files until Monday because she was leaving early on Friday, and was afraid the files would fill her account and cause other messages to bounce. So this created a new problem - that day I planned to be in Samsonville, with the dial-up connection, and without the files. So, I emailed them to myself - fingers crossed, hoping they would be there, and not too too slow to transmit. All's well that ends well - it went without a hitch.

Midsemester is almost here so I am still pretty swamped. But, I realize I am really enjoying teaching this semester. Yesterday, I was so tired - Tuesdays are long and draining anyway but this was worse because the weekend knocked me out. I didn't feel prepared or at my best - and yet both classes went beautifully, maybe the best ever. The students were active participants, which was great. I guess I am a better facilitator when I am practically brain dead.

Thursday, October 09, 2003

No, I have not met the deadline yet, but here are some of my sister's newest Halloween items on ebay, including this witch. An applehead, Mimmie would be proud!

Tuesday, October 07, 2003

Busy busy busy time for me. I have the first deadline for the book project on Friday. I am trying to stay on top of evaluations - so far, successfully. And, last Friday, I picked everything that remained in the garden. I made pesto with the basil, and froze it in half-cup containers. We still have not had a killing frost, but it is coming, and it is cold enough that nothing much is growing anyway. (Except for the cucumbers.)

So, when I come up for air, I'll write more.

Wednesday, October 01, 2003

There is a lot of material here in this piece from the Chronicle, but it will have to keep for now.

Unrelated, but I was just realizing -- blogger really is a whole lot more reliable, and just generally better since they upgraded it, or whatever it was they did, recently. Bravo.

Tuesday, September 30, 2003

In honor of Halloween, my sister has been brewing up some witch dolls, complete with the creepy stories of their lives. (She definitely reads too much Stephen King.) Here is a link to the latest one on ebay. I forgot to link to the last one, which has already sold, but here it is anyway, better late than never.

Monday, September 29, 2003

Friday, September 26, 2003

We got a new (to us) truck. It is a 2001 Dodge Ram, which is a bigger truck than either of us wanted, but it is pretty hard to find a good condition used truck, and this one is mint. Someone at his office asked him what color it is, and Bob said, "mid-life crisis blue," which I thought was pretty funny. It's nice, but I don't care about vehicles all that much. Bob didn't want to go another winter without four wheel drive, and I don't blame him. We travel a lot between Samsonville and Castleton.

There were a couple of things in today's paper that really irritated me. A big topic in media in recent months has been whether government is intruding on our rights, specifically because of the Patriot Act and the associated "climate." I don't generally comment on such subjects, either because I have mixed feelings or no informed opinion on the subject. But from time to time I think, I wonder why there ever is a controversy, because people routinely want to intrude on the rights of others, and so willingly surrender all sorts of rights, and it has absolutely nothing to do with federal intrusion. In fact, many of these folks probably question federal intrusion, but happily embrace such local control:

Quick! Call Chem Lawn! Now, I think it is a good idea - part of a social norm - to mow the grass in cities, villages and suburbs (some parts of rural areas have different norms, and of course hayfields are in their own category), and I like mine reasonably tidy, but this is ridiculous. Or how about, yardsales are tacky in the 'burbs, so lock these enterprising people up. If this is all the neighbors have to worry about, they live enviable lives. (One the other hand, I guess if is this is what they care about, then their lives could never be enviable.)

The latest antics of the creeps that tore down the Defreest-Church House. Proud to say, I am still boycotting Target. There was one close call. My niece (who had the twins) was registered there, but I printed the list from the Internet, and took it to Toys R Us.

Thursday, September 25, 2003

Groups, Part III. So, I prepared a little speech to give at the beginning of class - about how process matters as much as outcome, and sometimes groups are dysfunctional, which is a learning experience in itself. I said I have chosen to teach, after working for years as an administrator, and I would not rather be doing something else like research. After that, I told about the group experience in the online class v. their class, and how I intervened in the electronic world. Why didn't I do the same thing in the face-to-face environment? I don't have the answer. I explained that although I am generally easy-going, a few things really piss me off - including cheating, plagiarism, and being disrespectful of peers.

I delivered my scolding to an attentive class. But guess what? The boy and one of the girls didn't show up today. I guess they showed me, eh?

Wednesday, September 24, 2003

I know there has been a lot of discussion on some ejournals about what is OK and not OK to write, whether self-censorship is good or bad, etc. This is nothing new, there was always discussion about these sorts of things in the writing community.

Ever since I have been an adult, I only write things that I don't mind other people reading, whether in the paper world or here, in the electronic one. But regardless of whether self-censorship in any writing is good or bad, there is one area that I more often write about privately. I usually don't write very much in this ejournal about the nuances of my classes because teaching is a big responsibility, and I wouldn't want students to stumble here and be worried.

I'm not anonymous, and don't wish to be. But the power relationship between professor and student is a concern. It would be unfair of me to vent too much, the way I might in a private journal. However, I am going to think outloud - or maybe that should be "outwire" - a bit more about the groups. I am very interested in them as an area of study. Students be warned. I'll be as nice, and discreet, as I can.

Group assignment saga, part II. The deadline for the first online group was today. They pulled it off fine at the wire. My impression is that they were not slacking - they just were not working intensely, or quickly enough. I really, really had to prod -- maybe too much...borderline nasty, given the difficulties of the electronic interface and tone in email communication -- luckily there were two receptive members.

The difference between this and on campus strikes me. On campus, I allowed the immature group to humiliate themselves. I didn't intervene during their group meeting when they were chattering about shoes and sports, and make them get on task. Online, I forced the group to be ready in time, and the other members of class have no clue how disorganized the group preparation process was.

My assumption in the face-to-face class was that they had finished quickly, and the social talk was filling time until the other groups were ready. This happens sometimes on campus, some groups need more time to go through the exercise than others. In the online class, I can see all the work, and I know whether the assignment is going anywhere.

On the one hand, I really don't like to have to intervene as much as I did in the first online group. Group work is supposed to be student, not instructor, directed, but my experience has been, in the online delivery method, sometimes there is no choice. Students like, and perform better in classes where there is a lot of contact. Unfortunately, I am sure some of the first group's members will come away with a bad feeling about groupwork, and probably also be concerned about their evaluation.

On the other hand, I also really don't like to see students humiliated in the classroom. Elementary school gym class is more than a dim memory, but I do wonder whether the students in the immature group are something like the plagiarizers in my online class in Spring 2002. Maybe humiliation is (1) deserved and (2) an important, and much-needed lesson.

Tuesday, September 23, 2003

Elwyn, the diarist, celebrated his birthday in February - not just on the date, but the whole month. So in that spirit, tonight I will give candy out to my night class.

Also in that spirit, over the weekend there was a wonderful dinner for my birthday at Fine 'n' Dandy Farm.

For the first time, the first group in my online class has needed prodding to get busy. That sometimes happens with groups later in the semester, but never this soon. However, once I intervened, they seem to be getting it together now.

But that is nothing compared to what happened in the day class. There is a group that has two girls (and no, they are not women) in it who laugh and giggle all the time. A few weeks ago, I wondered if they were laughing at me, something like "look at the professor, how ugly those pants are, bet she got them at WalMart," or maybe, they are just being class clown, reminiscent of Adam Sandler in Billy Madison (a guilty favorite of mine). Or, it could be that laughter is irresistible when it is forbidden. This I understand. But, then I realized that they are laughing at another young woman (an yes, she is one) who raises her hand all the time, asks a lot of questions, and asks me to repeat things so she can take notes (I tend to talk fast). Now, even if they are geniuses and she is not (and this remains to be seen), I think laughing at her is totally uncool.

OK, so there are two guys in this group too, and one guy didn't come today. The other "boy" also constantly asks questions in class, of the sort that may be intended just to bust my chops, and this is really interesting, his two groupmates don't laugh at him. Anyway, they had 1/2 hour to do the first part of a reading-based exercise. The five other groups diligently did it. Each group, in turn, gets a chance to briefly present their side, and I must say, all did a fine job. This problem group is the second to last group to go. They did nothing. The girls didn't even have paper on their desks. The boy had the hand out I had given them, but it was blank. During the 1/2 hour of prep time, they talked about sports, the dorms they live in, the guy's ex-girlfriend, the schools they transferred from, why short women like platform shoes, how professors could be fired and replaced with computers, and what a money savings that would be. (They guy did the majority of the talking.)

During the first group's turn to present, that woman they always laugh at was group leader, and they giggled and giggled at her. I shot them a dirty look, and they did quiet down. Then, when it was their turn, the boy starts BS-ing, and doing a very bad job of it. So, after a few minutes, I interrupt, and say, "you skipped Question 5." He starts to panic, scramble, and has no response, finally coming up with this: "I'm not going to lie to you, we did Issue 19 instead." (Yeah, right, Issue 19 is not assigned until the last week of class.) So, I said, well, then let's move along then, because this is a waste of time. At the end of class, I told them, "be ready to go first thing on Thursday."

UGGH when did I sign on to teach high school?

After class, the fourth member of the group showed up in my office, and said, "I wasn't in class today, blah blah. What did I miss?" So I said, "well, your group did a terrible job, they did nothing in class except talk about personal things, all the others did well, but yours..." and he said, "...sucked." I said, "yes, sucked. And when put on the spot, they lied. So you should be prepared on Thursday." He said, "I hate to think I am the group motivator." I don't know if he is or not, but if he knows them outside of class I'm sure he'll report back. Stay tuned.

Friday, September 19, 2003

That was one of the best birthdays I've had in years. At Villa Valenti, they sang Happy Birthday to me, in Italian! We have refrigerator full of leftovers from dinner. I got a card from my mother in the mail, and today I got another e-postcard, this time from my brother and sister-in-law.

I have to get busy, updating the education book. I think Fridays will be devoted to that for a while.

Thursday, September 18, 2003

Today is my birthday, and so far, it has been a good day. I was awakened at 6:40 am by the telephone. I am not exactly an early riser, but I jumped out of bed and it was my brother, singing happy birthday. After I got to campus, a florist delivered a beautiful, and very fragrant vase of flowers from Bob. Then, an emailed birthday postcard arrived from my sister, complete with a verse from Shakespeare. Two friends from my former workplace came to campus and treated me to lunch in the fancy dining room. I bought several bags of miniature candy bars, and handed them out to my class (that always helps the end of semester evaluations a lot).

Back in my office, a second delivery person arrived, bearing a tray of organic chocolates. (This confirms my belief that as an old lady, I will be living on tea and toast [I'd starve before I'd eat cat food], because Bob will have spent all our money.) Tonight, we're off to Villa Valenti, my favorite cozy restaurant (heavenly homemade pasta and specialty sauces, and a great salad bar) and this weekend, my mother has promised to make me a lasagne dinner.

Last night, Rudy and Sophie shared a big box of new toys, rawhides and denta-bones from Drs. Foster and Smith, and this weekend, Hobo will be getting a new plush toy too, in honor of Rudy's special day. My first birthday card came in the mail yesterday, and inside it said that my in-laws bought me a three-seat glider for the yard in Samsonville.

As years go, 42 looks promising.

Wednesday, September 17, 2003

Happy Birthday Rudy!

Today is Rudy's birthday. Eight years ago I was very sad, because a week before, my dog Howie had died. Howie was over 15 years old and had been failing for a while. He was a somewhat grumpy dog, very smart, and he worshipped me; the feeling was mutual. He wasn't like sunny-dispositioned Rudy in very many ways except for their shared half-beagle ancestry, and the hanging down ears that are the result of being that breed.

Howie's other half was schnauzer, while Rudy's is probably collie. Rudy, his mother, and his littermates were on television and in several newspapers in 1995. They were used to generate publicity for the shelter, and the pups were given away in a lottery. My number was the final number drawn, and Rudy was the last puppy left. I'll never forget the teary-eyed mood I was in when I went to MHRHS that day, or the surprise and joy I felt when my number was called and the attendant handed me a little tri-color puppy. I think God knew just what I needed.

Since that time, I have been a big supporter of the shelter, and every year on Rudy's birthday I send MHRHS a donation to thank them for my wonderful dog.

Tuesday, September 16, 2003

Cable was down yesterday, I was in a panic because I need to work on my online course and dial-up just won't do. I mean, I can check email and stuff, but some of my development was on the new machine and that has no regular modem. It is back up now, and I am thrilled.

Instead of a post, here's a picture of our trip to Niagara Falls in August - I just picked it randomly, and it turns out to be the long line of people waiting to take the elevator down to ride on Maid of the Mist. I know, I know, I'll trim it and re-upload tomorrow. [I did...now back to real work.]

Friday, September 12, 2003

I got my permanent cap today. I think the soreness will be gone by tomorrow, and then I will be able to really test drive it.

It looks like I am going to update the book I did for Gale Group two years ago. This is going to be a very busy fall!

On Saturday, September 11, 1915, Elwyn wrote: "Hot summer weather, clear fine ev'ng. Not much doing don't feel very good. Pa & Uncle Watson cut & set up buck wheat. Went over Hesley's toward evng & took supper to Jordan's. Went to the dance to night."

Thursday, September 11, 2003


The SoBig emails stopped pouring into my university email account, which is a relief.

I'm thinking, from the email I received, and also the blurb on the homepage, that I will no longer have to pay for blogger? A "free" tee-shirt was offered to those of us who threw money in the till to this point, and so I ordered mine. I'm not much of a sweatshirt wearer, and I am always cautious about message shirts, I hope it isn't too dorky looking or it will never make it out of my dresser.

The weather today is eerily reminiscent of the 9/11. I guess that isn't really that weird, since bright blue cloudless perfect temperature days are a hallmark of September. Elwyn, whose diaries I am transcribing, wrote something everyday about the weather. Later, I will look to see what he wrote on September 11, 1915.

Wednesday, September 10, 2003

A few days ago, I finally called IBM about the problems with the mouse on the new machine. I tried adjusting the speed, I tried cleaning it, I tried running the troubleshooter, but the annoying slight jerkiness continued. I tolerated it until now because I spent much of the summer working at the old machine, in the living room. It was too hot up here most of the time, and I felt too cut off from outside. But this Fall, with all the additional work, I really need to be organized, and to keep my stuff in the office. So, they overnighted a new mouse, I just switched, and I'm back in business. It was a shame to have this practically brand new machine so under utilized. I guess I can't say this minor thing pays for the great warranty...but it is such an improvement that it practically feels that way!

Thursday, September 04, 2003

YACCS comments are down. The latest update says that the problem should be resolved Monday, September 8. Not that it matters much here at Gully Brook Press, of course, but just in case you were wondering...

Speaking of GBP, I have not updated my main website in a while, including the newsletter and virtual museum. How easy it is to fall into the schedule of academe, with its (barely) 10 month year. Well, as soon as I can see daylight on my fall semester duties, I'll whip something up. Stay tuned.

I made fresh pesto last night, with the basil I grew in Castleton, and the garlic Ma & I grew in S'ville. This is the recipe I used: 1 cup fresh basil leaves, 1 big clove garlic, 1 tablespoon parmesan cheese, 1/4 cup olive oil, 1/3 cup walnuts (I know, it is supposed to be pine nuts, but it was a last minute inspiration and it is all I had on hand). Combine all in mini-food processor, grind up. You can use a blender instead, or for the old-fashioned and/or muscular, even a mortar and pestle. Slivers of nuts and small pieces of basil should still be visible in the finished product. Yum!

Wednesday, September 03, 2003

The first day of the semester was hectic, mostly because a lot of students were scrambling at the last minute to register and many came to see me. I also started my classes. So far, enrollment has not changed a lot from the rosters. The day class will wind up with about 30 students, I think. The night class is going to be small, probably less than 20 students, maybe even only 15. That will be nice, it really changes the atmosphere. But for most UA undergrads, even 30 students is a small class. The online class has about 30 registered, but I always have a lot of dropping in the beginning of that class, so it might be smaller than usual, too.

I decided to add in the opportunity for students to attend an occasional real-time chat, and I offered the first one today. I am not making it mandatory, as the course is supposed to be asynchronous, and that is one of the reasons that some students take it, otherwise they would have schedule conflicts. Three students "came," and to tell you the truth, that was probably close to as many as I could handle at once, without having my fingers fall off.

The weather is so-so, overcast, chilly, looking like rain although it is not raining at present. My feet have been flaring up for about the past week, I guess it is time for a new pair of orthopedic shoes. I am on my third pair in 15 months. That's the last pair I had "in stock" so I'll have to make a trip to the Dexter outlet. I have been wearing the new pair for several days but so far they aren't helping much. It takes a while to re-adjust.

But neither the weather or my feet matter much at the moment. The start of the semester is exciting, and I have good vibes about my classes. My niece, who is a fraternal twin, had twins today, a boy and a girl. They are a few weeks early, but everything is fine and they are not too-too tiny (4 lbs. 14 oz. and 4 lbs. 2 oz.). And, miraculously, Hobo is doing well, he is on a stretch of quality days.

So you might say I am having a good day.

Sunday, August 31, 2003

Wow, blogger looks different again. As a result, I lost the post I just made!

Yesterday, I found a pretty red-orange maple leaf on the deck. The nearby tree is still green, but the air feels like fall.

The end of summer is bittersweet. I prefer fall, but I don't like to lose the flowers, the garden, and the pool. The insects, on the other hand, will not be missed.

My semester routine starts Tuesday, which I eagerly anticipate and dread, all at the same time.

We put the solar cover on the pool, in an effort to squeeze out a few more weekends of swimming, weather permitting. This was mostly for my benefit, as Bob would swim when it is icy.

Thursday, August 28, 2003

I have my temporary crown. The numbness has not quite worn off. I hope it doesn't bother me when it does. The worst part was the shot in the roof of my mouth. That, and having to wait to go to the bathroom until the procedure was over. That's a downside of a morning appointment for me! It was all I was thinking about as the dentist was telling me no gum, taffy, or tootsie rolls until I get the permanent. Bob was waiting for me and he overheard that part. He said he had to laugh because I never have any of those things, regardless of my teeth. Gum chewing is a major pet peeve of mine. I absolutely, positively hate it!

I have the online syllabus in final, the evening class syllabus in "final draft" and the day class syllabus in draft, so that is progress. I tried to focus on curriculum while the drill was whirling away, without much success. There was too much competition from the the need to pee. So the drill became the distraction!

Tomorrow we go to see Steely Dan at SPAC. It is a long-ish drive for us - from the slightly southern part of the Capital District to the way northern part, and there is the added annoyance of horse racing season up in those parts, but I am still psyched. That's a wonderful place to see a concert, especially if the weather holds. We have inside seats, so it should be OK regardless. I've liked that band since high school, and the new CD is good (not all critics agree, but I was relieved that it sounds a lot like their older stuff).

I am getting a lot - maybe even hundreds - of emails in my university account from that stupid "Re: Thank You," "Your Application," "Wicked Screensaver," "That Movie," etc. bug. If I could find the kid (because I am going to assume that's what he [and now I am going to gender stereotype] is, either in actual age or at least in maturity) who is responsible for this time wasting irritation, I would slap him upside the head.

Tuesday, August 26, 2003

The introduction documents for my online course had to be ready by today, so that has been my focus. When not answering emails from new graduate students who need advisement, that is. I can't tell you how many I received yesterday. All I did was type responses suggesting courses, explaining how to register online, commiserating about schedule conflicts and closed classes.

I managed to revise the syllabus and tweak the intro. documents. Usually I give access to the first "Module" of the class as soon as the system allows access, even though classes at the university don't actually begin until after Labor Day. In my latest design, the first Module lasts for two weeks.

This semester, because I still have a lot of thinkin' to do, I am keeping Module 1 closed. Maybe it won't open until the semester formally starts, maybe a few days before that. I still have to revise the syllabus for the evening class, and I haven't created the syllabus for the day class yet. Both of those tasks will impact the final syllabus for the online class, too.

Developing, and even just revising, takes a lot of planning, if you want to do a reasonable job. All three books are out in new editions. I am digesting the comments from last year's student evaluations, I am trying to prevent cheating, get students to learn more and be satisfied, and not drive myself crazy with the workload of evaluating assignments for three classes. Right now, the online class has 29 students, the day class has 30, and the evening class has 14. I'm sure more will be added to the night class during the last minute scramble to register.

My evaluations are high, but there are always one or two constructive remarks (to be taken very seriously) and the occasional really mean comment. Those bother me too, because I don't like to think that some student hates learning, college, the class, or - gasp - me - that much. It's a fantasy to think you can reach everyone, no matter how jaded.

Something about teaching education classes, is that the research, and the subject of your teaching, also informs you on student motivation, what is the best way to deliver content, how learning takes place, etc. So I am constantly getting fired up about making changes to my methods. It would be pretty lame to share ideas about self-directed learning and then spend the entire semester doing nothing but old tried and true chalk and talk, no matter how comfortable and familiar that may be to everyone, including most students.

But on the other hand, there are time constraints involved. It takes a lot of energy, and there are deadlines to be respected. You have to draw the line somewhere. There are also the realities of the classroom. Half the time the equipment and various bells and whistles for slideshows etc. aren't available or don't work properly. Group work, presentations, experiments and other hands-on methods are expected by some and hated by others.

This semester, I am a little sorry to be removing two elements of self-direction. One is that I am going to randomly assign students to groups rather than allowing them to choose. The other is a change I made over the summer, and I was pleased with the results. There will be no term paper. I have increased the number of essays, and I provide the topics to students.

The first change is to cut down on group dysfunction. Some students joined groups based on already established friendships, and these cliques of students took advantage of the other members, who did not know anyone else in their group prior to class. In the end, the clique members evaluated their friends as having performed in an outstanding manner, and the others in the group were given mediocre or poor ratings, in spite of reality - which was that the non-clique members did the majority of the work and were the actual leaders.

The second change is to diminish the chance that the written assignments are plagiarized.

On the other hand, I am hoping to decrease the use of the lecture format, by working closely with the groups in discussion. Although I believe I will have to provide a lot of direction for it to work, I think with the the right instructions, and some structured assignments, I can get the groups to address the educational issues in a meaningful way in class, and maybe get some good dialogue going. It find that it is such a challenge to engage students during class. Discussion is much easier in the online world.

Friday, August 22, 2003

Not sure if I will ever get the chance to catch up here, as I am (too) busy with other things. Tomorrow, Bob's family will be visiting us in S'ville, and I invited some of my family too. I have been saving up the zucchini, and today I am going to make a pan of zucchini parmesan in preparation. Most of the other food will be summer, BBQ-type items. I'll get it ready tonight and tomorrow morning, after we are there. But here is Castleton I have the better stocked kitchen to do something more complex than grill foods and salad.

I am going to have to develop my courses next week. The online one has to be "up" by Tuesday. Then, of course, Thursday will probably be shot because of the morning dentist appointment. Oh, maybe that will be fine, and not ruin the rest of my day. (Trying to be optimistic.) A numb face won't stop me from posting a few Niagara Falls pictures!

Wednesday, August 20, 2003

Not catching up but jumping ahead to yesterday...I spent much of the day on campus. The upcoming fall semester is getting to be more than a glimmer, and some activity was starting. I had about 50 emails from that annoying virus, then the firewalls or whatever must have kicked in because most email was delayed until today. What jerks have the time to waste creating these annoying things?

Yesterday morning I went to the dentist for my check up and cleaning. I rarely have problems with my teeth, but over three years ago, when I was working on my dissertation, a few of my right upper molars started to flare up. They hurt when I bit down while eating, it felt like something was caught up there, and there was some in general soreness in that area. I freaked and scheduled an emergency appointment.

The dentist couldn't find anything wrong, and he suggested that I was clenching my teeth a lot. I didn't realize I was doing it, but I thought about it and discovered that I was - awake and asleep. He said I was getting to the age where I have some fissures in the bone, and constantly chomping down when under stress was aggravating them. Eventually, I would probably need to have something more done, but a conservative approach would probably be best until it got more serious. So, he recommended that I simply "stop it."

I really made an effort to stop, and I must have been successful, because it went away. But ever since then, every so often, those teeth bother me again, and I will notice that I have been clenching my teeth. So, I favor that side of my mouth, and try not to clench, and after a few weeks, it goes away.

Until this summer, when it flared up again, but this time a new problem cropped up. That area is cold (especially) and hot sensitive now, and sometimes it hurts when I floss. I have been favoring that side, trying not to clench my teeth, and I switched to toothpaste for sensitive teeth. It isn't bothering me as much when I eat, but it is still wicked cold sensitive. It has been like this since June, and it is driving me crazy.

So, I told the dentist about it again yesterday, and after a little torture (only kidding) he isolated the suspect tooth, which has a large filling in it from when I was a kid, and that filling is acting as a wedge when I bite down. It seems that the future time has arrived, and now I need to have something done. The early approach is to get a crown, and I am scheduled for the first appointment on 8/28. In the slight chance a cap doesn't work, I may also need a root canal at some point, but maybe not.

Monday, August 18, 2003

I'll start with the movie Northfork for my first catch-up post. We started vacation with it, in fact we saw it the same date as this movie review. I agree that the movie is good, worth seeing, even thought-provoking. I think some of the review is on target, but it contains enough inaccuracies and misperceptions that I wonder if he actually watched the film, or just wrote this up from some secondary sources or something.

An obvious inaccuracy, Happy was definitely not mute. And the part about Irwin imagining four angels, then asking "or are they imaginary? They are real for little Irwin, and that should be real enough for us." After watching the movie, I don't see how there can be any doubt the angels were intended to be real, not just existing in the boy's imagination. At the very least this is a misperception, but it still makes me suspect the reviewer did not see the movie.

I think the most irritating "misperception" was this: "one of the subplots involves the need to dig up the bodies in the local cemetery, lest the coffins bob to the surface of the new lake." Yes, it is true there was a subplot having to do with relocating the cemetery, and it was an important part of the story. But I disagree that the significance of this subplot has to do with the macabre idea of coffins emerging on the surface.

Right at the beginning of the movie, there is a frame of a coffin popping up on the water, and later, in one scene of the movie, James Woods' character does make a remark about his late wife being catch of the day if her grave isn't moved. These two moments are overshadowed by the many scenes at the cemetery that have nothing to do with coffins appearing on the water. The reviewer focusing on that as the reason for relocating the cemetery misses the point entirely.

Losing a town is sad. Eminent domain does not create "a burial ground of foolish human dreams" (Ebert, 2003) but instead a watery grave for a special place that existed the past.

The movie made me think of the Ashokan Reservoir. The construction of that water supply happened nearly 100 years ago but you don't have to do much digging to find resentment over the loss of the Esopus Valley among local residents.

At the Mt. Pleasant Rural Cemetery, which was founded at that time, our records indicate that $15 was paid by New York City for disinterment, and an additional $3 for moving a headstone. According to The Last of the Handmade Dams (Steuding, 1985), 2,720 bodies were moved from nearly 40 cemeteries. About 368 remains were unknown or unclaimed, and they were moved to new West Shokan, in what is now called Bushkill Cemetery.

My brother and his family live right next door to the rows of 12-inch by 12-inch bluestone markers, which bear only the initials of the original cemetery and a serial number for identification.

In addition, over 100 bodies could not be located, and so were not removed. They now are under the water of the reservoir, and as far as I know, there have been no reports of coffins bobbing to the surface in the past 86 years.

Wow. That is the longest break I have taken from making posts here since I started this in March 2002. Not that I didn't have ideas, when I did either the Internet wasn't convenient, or I had other priorities.

This summer, the university switched to PeopleSoft, and now faculty can enter grades online. No more handing in bubble forms at the last minute, after the Registrar has closed, at Public Safety! But just as I was about to submit grades on Thursday (the deadline, of course), "Northeast unplugged." Friday morning, power restored, I snap on my network (I have a little two-computer arrangement, could that drain be the straw that broke the camel’s back? But I kept most lights and other unnecessary appliances off, though, just to be a good citizen) and the two machines operate very nicely independently, but there are no network drives, no printing, and no Internet.

Five hours and many iterations of “Restart,” “Skip this step,” “Uninstall,” “Add new hardware” later, it was nothing more serious than corrupt drivers and I was back in business at home. The university, however, was not. I guess that stupid Blaster virus followed by the power failure was too much.

Off to Samsonville (where two recent power outages meant the contents of the refrigerator/freezer hit the garbage) for the weekend. Meaning that back in Castleton this morning, all systems seem to be working everywhere, and I finally submitted the grades!

As the semester draws closer, advisement has started to pick up. I will be teaching three sections of class this Fall, and so soon I will have to get started preparing. But during the next two weeks, there will be a few days just for writing. So I'll start to catch up.

The garden is producing. I think the yield of cucumbers and zucchini will be fine this year, but the beans and tomatoes are off. The plants look good, but too much rain, not enough sun, who knows what else. I am starting to get ripe tomatoes, finally, though.

Tuesday, August 12, 2003

Back from vacation. The only computing I managed was checking email, and since Friday I didn't even do that. Needless to say, I didn't finish the grades! My deadline is the 14th.

Sometimes it's good to take a break.

Friday, August 01, 2003

Today is the last day of class. Summer session, aside from the hectic pace, is so much more enjoyable than the regular semesters. I think I have learned a few things from the past two spring semesters' cheating episodes, also. This was mostly a good section of class. There are always more "incompletes" in the summer, but that is preferable to minimal efforts, failures, disappearances, and plagiarizers.

I have one batch of essays, one discussion, and one round of journals to evaluate, then I can tally end of semester grades. I'm happy I stayed on top of it. Bob is starting his vacation, and we are headed to Samsonville, which means dial-up, so if I wasn't caught up that would be a disaster. The forecast is lots of rain, but he needs the time off, regardless. If we can't swim, we'll work on the house. That's how we spend most vacations anyway.

The garden is just beginning to produce.

The Chronicle of Higher Education asked five faculty members at various colleges what is on their summer reading list. (Unfortunately, the online article is only available to subscribers.) Three of the five listed, among other thing, the latest Harry Potter book. The Chronicle also runs a list of what is being read on college campuses (based on campus bookstore sales) and Harry Potter is there, too. I wonder what it is about those of us who always feel somewhat outside of the "mainstream?" Not that college faculty or people who shop at campus bookstores are the mainstream, probably they aren't. So I guess what I am wondering is, what is it about some of us who feel outside of both the mainstream and the non-mainstream? I don't mean in some weird, fringe kind of way - hey, my life is pretty mainstream in many ways, maybe most ways - but in embracing, appreciating, understanding certain elements of popular culture, like Harry Potter mania (or, even more absurd, reality show obsession), or being surgically attached to cell phones. I don't know. Maybe it's me.

Wednesday, July 30, 2003

I was reminded by a photo on the front page of the Independent (the picture is not online) that last weekend, the new Target store opened nearby. The caption said that there was no fallout at the grand opening from the loss of the Defreest-Church House, and in fact the mascot, "Bullseye," was greeting entering throngs from about the former house's location. So I thought this might be a good time to once again tell everyone not to shop there.

Tuesday, July 29, 2003

From the Daily Freeman, a story about animal cruelty with a happy ending, finally. (Except that 60 days in jail hardly seems enough.)

Monday, July 28, 2003

It was a nice weekend, and I did swim a little, but I was too busy to swim as much as I would have liked.

Today I picked three zucchinis, a cucumber, and some yellow beans, the first of the season. The tomatoes are still a long way off.

Class is over on Friday.

Wednesday, July 23, 2003

Today was opening day at the Saratoga race track. I am already tired of hearing about it on our local news and in the paper, adding to my irritation is all the publicity about the movie Seabiscuit. It seems that every year the media starts gushing about the season earlier and earlier, sort of like the way Christmas shopping has evolved. This year is worse because of Funny Cides. Horse racing is the most unpleasant thing about the Capital District. The phony society people and their stupid hats, pretending to be classy while they "wager" on this so-called sport. I could barf.

Tuesday, July 22, 2003

Here's a piece from the Chronicle, refuting the idea that adjunct faculty don't make the same time commitment to students that full-time faculty do. I know I spend enormous amounts of time on students (but then I only teach two classes).

Monday, July 21, 2003

We had a really bad thunderstorm here at about 8:45 tonight. We were right in the tornado warning area, so we heeded the advice and went down to the kitchen and even spent a little time in the utility room, at the most scary point of the storm. According to TV, the storm has now passed into western Vermont. I haven't gone outside yet, but I don't think we had any major damage. The folks a little southwest of here were not as lucky. My poor garden probably got hammered. I hope all is well in Samsonville, trees sometimes get uprooted there which could put the sheds, the pool or the fence at risk.

Chad emailed me to let me know that something was wrong with the comments, so I checked the YACCS website - something I probably should do on occasion but never do - and it said that the updated blogger doesn't like YACCS code that was installed before Septemeber 2002. So I did what was suggested, and the final step was to make a new post - here's hoping it worked.
Distance education is growing! Here is a report from the NCES (via the Chronicle of Higher Education).

Sunday, July 20, 2003

Yesterday my nephew got married. It was a beautiful day, and a beautiful ceremony, followed by a fun reception.

We had some more pictures developed, and here is a photo of Hobo, taken on July 4. Please keep him in your thoughts!

Here is link to a prayer to St. Francis for healing.

Friday, July 18, 2003

We dropped off a couple of rolls of film, and I scanned a few of the pictures. Here is a photo from this year, of the pink roses near the garden.

And here's one from the past winter, of Sophie watching Rudy roll in the deep snow.

The second roll will include photos on a CD, and it wasn't ready yet. I'll post a few more when that arrives, including one of Hobo, who is doing pretty well!

Wednesday, July 16, 2003

I finished essay evaluations. During summer session, I have the opposite problem from the academic year -- many of the summer students are overachievers, and cannot handle getting "A-." So there is always a little explaining to do once the grades are reviewed, but this is preferable to the email volleys about cheating.

This story, from the Daily Freeman, has a happy ending, but the cruelty makes my blood boil.
I'm not much in the mood, but I am trying to evaluate essays, and complete mid-semester evaluations. It rained this morning so yardwork is out of the question.

Here are two interesting articles, from AltVetMed and b-naturals, respectively, on cancer fighting diets for dogs.

And, this is a comforting website, with beautiful images.

Tuesday, July 15, 2003

This was not a good day. It turns out that Hobo does not have a pulled ligament, but bone cancer. We all love him, and we are devastated.

Please keep him in your thoughts.
My parents' doberman, Hobo, a very good dog, hurt his leg and has been very lame recently. He is having surgery to repair a ruptured cruciate ligament, so please have a good thought for Hobo today.

Monday, July 14, 2003

I am having one more computer problem, this time on the new machine. It's a minor irritant, but an irritant nonetheless. The mouse is acting up, you know, being jerky. I've tried adjusting the various speeds but that doesn't seem to help.

Anyway, here's an insightful paper on leadership and distance education (via the Chronicle of Higher Education.)

The author writes, "Distance education advocates who, in the past, put their energy into debating the virtues of out-of-classroom learning, must now play a more valuable role in facilitating discussions and decisions of much wider scope and more profound consequences for the future of their institutions. There must now be a shift in leaders’ focus from the micro issues around technology and its impact on learners to a more macro view of institutions and the impact of technology in this larger context. Thoughtful attention to issues in this wider arena will contribute to appropriate action that will ultimately impact the teaching-learning process, regardless of what technology is utilized."

I have sensed this too. Although alternatives to "chalk and talk" still are cutting-edge and new to some, as technological delivery methods are become mainstream, the larger context must be the focus, which is not different than in any teaching-learning process.

Friday, July 11, 2003

Well, I followed most of the instructions I found here (I left out one or two that I was afraid to try), and along with everything I tried yesterday (running four different spyware cleaning/blocking programs), I think (hope) the problem is fixed.

The high security due to changed Internet options is a little bit of a hassle (I had to exit and add blogger to the list of trusted sites), but it is better than not being able to use this machine, or having it freeze every two minutes, or getting a constant stream of ads that could care less about those lame pop-up controls.

Spammers, (paper) junk mailers, telemarketers, virus, trojan horse and parasite spreaders - screw you! Take that with a virtual rolled-up Biography Magazine!
Aaaaahhhhhh! The downstairs machine has a parasite.

Maybe I wished it upon myself by writing so much about (real) bugs.

I didn't know computer parasites existed, until now. What a hassle! It has just about ruined the machine. I tried everything - removing it with uninstall, removing it by deleting the folders, removing it from Startup. What with plug and play, and the complexities of networks, I don't know as much about tinkering with computers as I did in the old DOS or Windows 3.1 days, and I was getting frustrated. I tried several different programs that remove "spyware," most free and one commercial. I got better results, but still not 100%.

I think I'm going to have to learn some new things. Go through the various suggestions and remove the traces manually, as I would have in the DOS/3.1 days. Either that, or format the machine, which I really, really, really don't want to do. On the bright side, while I am trying this and that - and the hours slip away - I have been been doing a low priority but overdue task, which is cleaning up that machine, removing files that are outdated and not needed.

Thursday, July 10, 2003

This article from the Boston Globe, He and she: what's the real difference? (via the Chronicle's Arts and Letters Daily) made me think. I remember learning at some point in the past that women more often write, and say, tentative, qualified sentences such as "it seems warm" rather than "it is warm" or "he seems to like it" instead of "he likes it." I started to watch myself, and it seemed true!
Here's an interesting piece from the New York Times, Where have all the Lisas gone? (via Syaffolee).

I visited the Social Security website listed in the article, and what a wealth of information! It is fascinating to see the trends over time. I rarely meet someone with the same name as me, although in the media I notice it gets used, and of course related names such as Jeanne were never uncommon. I encounter not that similar variants (Gianna, Jenna) more often. I think my name is more popular now than it was when I was a kid, but since 1990, according to the Social Security database, it is on the decline, from 162 to 410. I wonder when it peaked?

In my classes, most of the students were born in the 1970s and '80s, and it's true, I get a lot of Jessicas and Jennifers, Michaels and Christophers. Also lots of Amandas and Jasons, and some Alyssas/Elisas/Alicias. But this summer, there are more "nontraditional" students, and so I have two Marys!
I don't like to kill things. Let me revise that, I don't feel all that bad about pulling up bamboo grass and weeds that invade the garden, but I prefer to leave other things alone, if possible. Edna takes care of rodents - and with an old house they can be a significant issue - and I chalk it up to nature and feel relieved. Rudy usually will nail all annoying flies (Sophie watches bugs with a wrinkly forehead as if she isn't quite sure what is required) but lately he has allowed the problem to get out of control. This could be because I have scolded him to prevent him from going after bees, since I don't want him to get stung, so maybe he sees no difference and is just being obedient.

Anyway, there were numerous of those metallic blue/green flies in the kitchen windows, and since they weren't buzzing around much, I ignored them (Bob said he thought I was keeping them as pets). But the population was growing rapidly, and finally, on Tuesday, I couldn't stand it another moment, so I dispatched them with a rolled up Biography Magazine (I subscribed because of a kid's fundraiser, and it was the only publication of interest that I didn't already receive...it's OK, not great, kind of like a slightly elavated version of Entertainment Weekly. It has a few historical biographies thrown in with the Hollywood fawning, and those are the only worthwhile content). Once they were gone, I found the Webster, and knocked down a few webs, just to eliminate the competition. Since then, any time I even just suspect a fly is nearby, I grab the nearest paper, roll it up, and swing wildly. I'm hooked, and I'm good at it.

I like to work in the garden in the morning, because it is cool, shady, and unlike the evening, the mosquitoes aren't out. Today I put up more strings for the pole beans to climb. Slugs are always a problem, especially when there is a lot of rain in the spring, and seedlings are vulnerable. Using organic methods often requires more hands-on intervention than the chemical model's approach of simply whipping out the sprayer, but in the case of slugs, it isn't all that up close and personal. Pans of beer do the trick; the slugs drown themselves, and at arm's length I dump the contents in the weeds across the road. This morning, I checked the cucumbers and zucchini, since both have blossoms, and discovered that nemesis of curcurbits, cucumber beetles! Despite the name, they weren't on the cukes, but on the zukes. I even rotated my planting this year to avoid them, sprinkled beneficial nematodes, and still they are infesting the zucchini. I do have row covers, but at this stage, they would keep the bees from pollinating, also. Often, handpicking bugs is the only solution.

Earlier this year, the tomatoes had flea beetles - a challenge to capture, since they jump, as the name implies. But I put some water in a coffee can, held it under the leaves, and got the beetles to go for a swim. Within a few days, the infestation was gone - and the seedlings had grown enough for it not to matter as much, anyway.

So, I retrieved my handy coffee can, filled it with water and a touch of dishwashing liquid, and got my special tweezers (a pair I use only to remove ticks from the animals), hiked down to one patch of zucchini - and discovered the cucumber beetles had retreated. I'm sure it's temporary, and they'll be back.

So will I.

Wednesday, July 09, 2003

Finished another round of evaluations, I am keeping pace with the course schedule this time around. I have vowed that I am not going to have a ton of work to do when the course is over, and also I am trying to intervene the first moment I notice a problem with a student. The first goal is working out nicely - the module is not even halfway done, and I can turn my attention to other things. However, a couple of the problem students do not seem to be listening to my suggestions for improving their work. Hmmm.

My old Pentium II computer, which since January has been moved to the livingroom, was top of the line. That was necessary because when I got it in 1998 I was starting on my dissertation and I had a lot of statistics to grind. This time around, I went for a more middle of the road Pentium IV. It's a lot faster on the Internet, which is great, the monitor is better, and otherwise it is OK, but one thing I really miss is the superior sound system. If I have on a fan, I can barely hear the speakers. Also, the drives are SO loud, that when the machine accesses the CD, the whirring sound drives me nuts. I investigated upgrades to fix the problem, and decided that it isn't worth $300+. I should have upgraded at the time of purchase, when it would not have been as pricey.

A lot of the time I don't care that much because I prefer silence, but as I was slogging though all those essays, I really wanted some background music. So I decided to stop being frustrated, and to try something, but the real stereo is downstairs, and I didn't feel like resorting to one of my burnt-out boom boxes. Yesterday, I checked out the radio on AOL, and problem solved! I am playing the "bluegrass" choice, and couldn't be happier! WDST, the Woodstock station, is a choice too.

Monday, July 07, 2003

I'm so accustomed to hearing SUNY "dissed" (it is sometimes subtle and other times less so, and yes, despite my (1) having three degrees from two campuses and (2) working for the system or a campus in some capacity since 1988) that I sort of tune it out, I simply don't have the energy to take on the myth and defend public universities any longer. Still, here's a great letter from Saturday's Times Union, way to go President Hitchcock!
Long weekends, BBQs, swimming, and dial-up conspire to keep me from posting here.

Last month on the Mohonk garden tour, I envied the roses. Now, my two rose bushes are in bloom. They are beautiful, an old pink on a trellis next to the garden that was here when we moved in, and a red one that we planted under the kitchen window. Sometimes I wish I had a decent digital camera.

Thursday, July 03, 2003

Finished both the essays and the yardwork. My class roster has dwindled somewhat from way too many to just about enough, I guess when students see the syllabus they realize that online and summer session do not translate to no work at all, they will actually have to read and write to earn three credits. Sure is hot today, and the forecast says it will be even warmer tomorrow. We are having a BBQ for Independence Day.

Tuesday, July 01, 2003

I did a little yard work, and also a little essay grading. I really want to put down some landscape fabric in a few places, in an effort to smother bamboo grass (good luck), and I may procrastinate on the essays a bit and do it.

We finally got the pool to be clear, and there were a few hot days for swimming. The yard in Samsonville is badly in need of a weed wacking, though.

On Thursday, my sister and I went to a garden tour and luncheon that was sponsored by Cornell Cooperative Extension of Ulster County. It is part of the "Master Gardener Program," but to be honest I'm not sure how "master" is defined. I'm not very good at remembering the name of exotic perennials, but I do like to grow things. It was held at Lake Mohonk. What a fabulous place!

I am feeling so melancholy today, because also on Thursday, my uncle died. It wasn't unexpected, but it sure was sad. The services were Sunday and Monday. At the cemetery yesterday, a small boy was playing Taps when the scanners went off and the fire department sounded the alarm in Uncle Bob's honor, since he was a long-time volunteer. It was such a beautiful and poignant tribute.

My brother mentioned at the service that Uncle Bob was the master of nicknames. I remembered that when I was a teenager, he called my friend and me the "cemetery sisters" because we would walk around in the cemetery after school and in the summer.

I don't like the idea of death but I still like cemeteries. The Bushkill Cemetery, where Uncle Bob was buried, and its environs, the towns, the mountains and the Reservoir, are naturally breathtaking. Sometimes I think the landscape becomes almost invisible when you see it on a daily basis, but there are times when the panorama is undeniable. Six years ago when Aunt Jean, his wife, died, those moments at the cemetery were etched in my mind, whispering to be committed to paper, and a short story was the result. Now I have this journal.

They were both such a big part of the community, my hometown, that special place. I have been thinking that people who have never had the privilege to live in a small town, or have never been inclined to stay in one place for any length of time and put down roots, may never find that kind of fellowship. It is traded off for other things, for convenience and change and opportunity and excitement.

I am transcribing an old diary from 1915, that was written by a man who kept a journal every day of his life, from 1906 when he was 16 until 1975, the year before he died. (I hope to do them all, which is a very ambitious project.) He lived in the same community as Uncle Bob, and he wrote a booklet that I have reissued on my website. The title is West Shokan: Eden of the Catskills, and I guess that about says it all.
I spent from Wednesday afternoon until last night in Samsonville. I kept up with my university email and the online course correspondence, but that's it. Dial-up is too much of a challenge, and the pool was calling. The plants here in Castleton look good, but there's weeding and watering to do, plus essays to evaluate. More later.

Tuesday, June 24, 2003

From barely 60 and downpouring to 90 and humid in a snap! The tomato plants are loving it, the rest of us living things are glad to see the sun, but would have preferred 75 and dry for a while, thank you.

Monday, June 23, 2003

Everyone is all worked up about the Math A Regents. I'm still not sure what seniors are doing in Math A. That means there were 4 years to teach to the test, and still the effort was a failure. Sigh. (An update, Commissioner Mills has announced that the seniors can march, but they might not get diplomas.) The math stuff is all water-under-the-bridge to me, the first step was when I left my administrative job, then the final step was when my dissertation was approved (to the point where when asked to come out west and make a pitch on the subject I said "No thanks") but I have big time mixed feelings. I'm not a fan of multiple choice tests, and I know that the changing Regents standards mean a lot of low-resource kids will fail.

But on the other hand, after 5 years of grading math tests (and discovering that 60%+ of students can't do arithmetic), one year plus of BOCES (and discovering that way too many perfectly "normal" students are labeled), 10 semesters of teaching foundations (and discovering that the majority of students can't write, and a sizable number are ethically challenged), I wonder what is going on in K-12, and not just in the cities or rural areas - but in the resource rich suburbs too.
Hooray! Here's a piece of wonderful news concerning animal rights.

Saturday, June 21, 2003

Wow! Blogger suddenly does look different. I know the homepage has been saying this would happen for a while, but I am still surprised.

No time to play with it at the moment -- it is late. I am bothered right now because shortly before we left Castleton to head to Samsonville this evening, I noticed that one of my hanging baskets was missing. I have four nice, identical green planters hanging from the front porch, and every year I "fix" them myself with peat moss and compost. This year, each has a zonal geranium, a petunia, and some vinca.

Two days ago, Bob noticed that some of the marigolds I planted in a box in front of the house had been ripped out, and the plants and dirt were tossed on the ground. We decided it may have been a neighborhood cat, since something like this has never happened before, and I have heard cats will sometimes dig in flowers. The plants seemed OK, so I replanted everything, and forgot about it.

I did hear the dogs barking quite ferociously at one point today, but I didn't pay much attention and I guess that was a mistake. So the marigold mystery is solved, it was not a kitty in search of a litter box, but a vandal. The culprit must not be very tall, because they left the rope hanger, instead detaching just the pot. This makes me think more than one person was involved, someone to support the rather heavy pot, and someone to snap off each hook.

I thought if it was a kid, maybe they just threw the pot away in the nearby trash cans or tossed it in the weeds across the street, but no such luck. I didn't notice any other damage or anything else missing, but on the way out of town we stopped at the local police station and I reported it.

I saw in the newspaper today that the village is considering re-establishing a police force of its own, something which was discontinued in the 1980s. Since then we have relied on the town and state for patrols. The purposes of resuming a village force are to decrease vandalism and speeding, and both seem like worthy causes to me. People drive very recklessly in the village, using our steep one way streets as commuter "thrus."

On Monday, I'll go back to the hardware store to see if I can locate a matching pot, since I bought the four I had three years ago. And, back to the garden center to replace the flowers. Then, next week, I will be on alert!

In the sixteen years we have lived there, we have never had a problem with vandalism or theft. We have wonderful neighbors, and it really is a nice little town. By this I mean not upscale at all, just plain, simple, ordinary, and generally good. I guess we have been lucky. The officer we spoke with said school has had a lot of half days recently, and this means there are too many unsupervised teenagers during the afternoons.

Although to folks who live in areas where crime is commonplace it probably seems like no big deal, this incident makes me both mad and sad! Why would someone want to destroy my flowers?

Thursday, June 19, 2003

There is no Tuesday Too

1. A lot of hubbub has been going on the last two days over remarks Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) made regarding the desire to break personal computers to protect copyrights. We're all copyright holders here -- indeed, it would be exceedingly difficult to not go through life in America without issuing at least one de facto copyright -- and since we're all uniformly qualified to discuss this issue, I'd like to know how important is your right of copyright is to you.

"Lord Thring asked me what I thought would be a fair and just copyright limit. I said a million years - that is, copyright in perpetuity. The answer seemed to outrage him; it quite plainly irritated him" (Mark Twain [1906], The Autobiography of Mark Twain). I agree with Mark Twain! I wrote a little more about copyright (and a bunch of other things, most not related) here.

2. Several posts ago, I commented that I had driven on the beach at Ocean Shores. Where is the oddest/most surreal place you've driven or parked a car? In that particular case, it was one of those things that struck me as, "Of all the things I would expect to find on a beach, a big white van isn't one of them". It could be along those lines for you, or on some other odd/surreal definition of your own.

Well, driving in itself is pretty surreal for me, since I don't routinely drive. But as a passenger, two things come to mind. Most recently it would be two years ago, waiting to make a left turn and hearing, from a good, long distance behind someone's brakes screetching, and those lingering moments of anticipation before bang! The truck was rear-ended. Then several years ago, coming back from Saratoga on the northway (a highway that is always somewhat surreal) at night, seeing a strange car, surrounded by some sort of cloud, that appeared suddenly, and vanished. Like a ghost car. Yes, we were tired and yes that ride is tiresome. But I doubt we would both imagine the same thing unprompted...

3. Have you seen anyone, or have you yourselves used smokeless (& ashless) cigarettes yet? More importantly, do you think that smokers with smokeless cigs should be allowed back in public places they've been banned from?

I'm not sure. This is the first time I've heard of them. Sounds like a good idea, but I think the research focus should be on making less toxic cigarettes generally. All the anti-smoking, anti-couch potato, anti-etc. health nut obsession strikes me as both good and bad. Sure, I'm all for it, we should avoid fat, stretch, walk, not smoke, not drink, you name it, of course fast food and watching TV all day are bad. But at the same time, some of it seems to promote an uptight intolerance and plastic way of living, a-la scary science fiction.

I've been happy about, but also have mixed feelings on the recent smoking ban (also surprised it passed). In terms of offices and schools, it has been so long since people could smoke inside them that I don't even remember what it was like, and I think the ban has been a good thing. The people clustered at the doors chaining away never bothered me, as long as the butts stayed in an ashtray.

In recent years, my experience (and I eat out quite a bit) has been that the majority of restaurants had divided up the sections appropriately or bought enough ventilation so that the smoke wasn't really a problem anyway. OK, that's restaurants; honestly, I rarely go to bars anymore. Last time I was in a true bar was after the Blue Room, we stopped at a nice little place called Savannah's. It was definitely too smoky for my liking, and we didn't stay long, but I'm not sure how much people who frequent bars care, or I guess what I mean is smokefree may wind up driving away business.

Somehow, it reminds me of prohibition, and that is regarded as a public policy disaster, if rather romanticized. One thing for sure, making bars smokefree isn't going to get me out of my house and into a "ginmill!" So although for their own good, I wish everyone would quit, and I do prefer smokefree places, I think it should be a bar owner's decision, and patrons can vote with their feet.

Wednesday, June 18, 2003

I sent the 23 students who have already signed up for the course an email to prompt them to get started. I thought they might need more direction than usual. Online courses always attract a variety of types of students, but summer students are even more diverse than the students who take courses during the year. Their computer skill level may be different, their familiarity with learning over the Internet may not be the same, and they are not necessarily matriculated students at the university, or even anywhere in SUNY.

Something I have been thinking of adding the the course when I teach it in the Fall (summer is too compact to schedule this) are one or more chat sessions. We are not encouraged to do this, since it is supposed to be asynchronous, but I want to try different things to discourage cheating, and increase engagement. I am thinking it may help to keep students "on the same page."

I've had the page count added to Gully Brook Press for a while, and by far the most popular search that gets the site a hit is "bungalow houses."