Monday, March 31, 2003

I skipped posting this weekend. We spent the weekend in Samsonville, and I didn't use the computer that much. On Saturday, I did my museum volunteering, and for a change we had quite a few visitors, including several fifth to eighth grade girl scouts who were camping in the library. I tried to read student papers while keeping an eye on the collection. That night, we visited my brother and used his outdoor hot tub (something I never thought I'd like until I tried it). On Sunday, we planned out a deck project for the back door with my father, and then we celebrated my sister's April 1 and brother's April 2 birthdays at my parents' house. As usual, Ma cooked up a storm! In between all this I did manage to fit in getting down some of the floor tiles in the kitchen. The pattern is Morocco Slate. It snowed a bit yesterday, and there is a real nip in the air today. March is definitely not going out like a lamb!

Friday, March 28, 2003

I am sore from yesterday's yard work! Something definitely happens around age 40, a wake up call from your body, and the message is: no, you are not exempt from getting older.

Yesterday, in the Albany Times Union, there was a story about the increasing use of profanity by, well, everyone. I wrote on this subject here, and since I am working on student evaluation so that I can focus on tiling the Samsonville kitchen this weekend, this will serve as today's entry.

Thursday, March 27, 2003

I got psyched and made the yard less disgusting. It took three hours. This is the earliest I have ever done poop patrol, so you know I must have been really eager for spring, to take this pitiful excuse to be outside. The three guilty parties (actually only two are guilty, since Edna has a litter box) wanted to go inside after a little while, refusing to keep me company during the brutal task. Eventually Rudy came back outside, but Sophie stayed in. It was more icky than I remembered, and that's saying something. I am so relieved it is done! Earlier in the winter, I assumed we would have snow on the ground longer, but it is starting to look like it will be gone by April. So maybe the bulbs will come up after all.
I believe spring is really here! Much of the snow has melted and it's fairly warm (too bad the yard is disgusting). I have to order seeds!

Here's an interesting piece (and it is another freebie) from the Chronicle of Higher Education about teaching philosophy. Much of it is common sense, but there were some good tips. I think I am going to make a list of classes I loved and try to remember one activity each that might be adapted to my own teaching. This may have to wait until summer, but it is worth some thought. Also on the summer list, I picked up some useful ideas at the asynchronous learning workshop that I want to incorporate in my online class. It was very well-attended and I think it could have easily lasted all day instead of for just one hour. It's exciting to hear what others are doing, and also to field questions from those interested in giving it a try. There will be another session on April 8 (and that one has the extra perk of including a free lunch).

Wednesday, March 26, 2003

Recent posts over at jf's and sya's sites have intrigued me enough to try out this free trial. I still prefer text, but it was interesting and fun to do, although it sort of reminds me of recording an answering machine message...rushing against the beep and never getting it quite perfect!

This is Strawberry Pickin' by Gina Giuliano.

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Tuesday, March 25, 2003

Tuesday Too

1.) Is the justice system in the US really fair? Why, or why not?

I think overall it is fair, certainly more fair than in a lot of places, but I also believe fairness is relative, and the system can be manipulated at all levels. People with resources - money for the sharpest and sleaziest lawyers, and access to media - tend to get a better deal. And, what is fair is perceived differently by winners v. losers, victims v. perpetrators, those who agree with a decision v. those who do not.

2.) In a crisis are you a leader, or a follower? Why do you take that role?

I'm a leader. Always have been. It just happens automatically. When I consider hypothetical situations, I think I will panic, but the few times I have been tested, for some reason my head stays clear.

3.) Is there some reason for your madness?

Who needs a reason?

Computer scare last night - here I am, tired from the weekend, planning to get some early rest for a change, and suddenly - when dialed in, AOL kicks me off and makes me call in to fix the problem. Turns out it was a Terms of Service violation. In a space of a couple of minutes, eight emails were sent to 120 people using Bob's screen name! "What time was that?" I demanded. "10:24 p.m." said AOL-phone support man. "But that can't be!" I protested, "I was online and he was asleep in the recliner." So, they fixed the problem with the account, gave me a lecture about being safe online, and sent a whole batch of emails instructing about what may have caused the problem.

I downloaded the suggested virus checker on both machines, and it caused the old machine to hang at the Windows 98 screen. The clock was ticking on getting early rest - early for me being any time before 11:15 p.m.-ish, but I managed to locate the various manuals and CDs that came with the machine (this is a miracle) and get old faithful going again. During this time I had awakened Bob, and before he grumbled off to bed, I told him that his days of opening Spam were over. I can't say he clicks on the links or downloads suspect files, but he generally does open it, all 700 items he receives per week. We checked his account, and saw the eight violation messages in his sent mailbox. Half were mortgage schemes, half were about increasing size... "Now people will think I am sending Spam!" he said, which convinced him better than I ever could to mend his ways and hit "report and delete" rather than "read."

While working on the problem, I got the cable Internet going, too. Maybe I'll get that extra sleep tonight instead?

Monday, March 24, 2003

My cable Internet connection is down and I haven't been able to fix it, so I've decided to try waiting it out by using the old machine to dial in. Since upgrading to AOL 8 (install problems from months ago have been fixed) the dial up connection seems faster. But that might be just a fluke since I haven't dialed in from here in a long time and I don't do it enough any more to be certain. Regardless, roadrunner is too expensive to be down!

Missed another entry, but that's OK. I am very, very sore and tired. We worked on the kitchen all weekend. (Still too much ice for poop patrol.) It didn't seem like there was a lot left undone in the kitchen but even after doing some on Saturday and a lot on Sunday, I estimate that there is another weekend of work to do. Bob stripped wallpaper from the stairwell. I finished tiling the pantry, and the doorway area from the kitchen to the utility room, which includes a wooden platform that goes to the kitchen crawl space (jjk: this is probably the source of the spiders. I had to electrolux a few). It is such a hassle to get the supplies out and then put them all away every time work is done, but I can't tolerate living around the mess all week. I stayed up really late again to finish up as much as I could. Now the only area left to tile is an under the stairs closet, which will be a big project.

Tomorrow I am participating in a presentation/workshop on online learning. I am doing my best to be prepared, which is a challenge considering the labors of the weekend left me less than alert. I've abandoned any thoughts of a "Powerpoint" and instead will have to rely on my charm. I find that since I have been teaching, I get a lot less worked up about presentations. I'm not sure if that is a good thing or a bad thing!

A few things I have come across as I get ready: the Chronicle of Higher Education is full of interesting tidbits; here is an article (and it's free !) about the Technology Education and Copyright Harmonization Act (or Teach Act). I am a supporter of copyright law, and unlike many who write online, I don't believe in opposing something that protects freelance writers because it also benefits Disney. This Act sounds very common sense to me, and these are basically the guidelines I follow in my online course.

Print is really more my concern. I don't use clips, but not because of the copyright issue. I'm not big on television in the first place, but I do have an excellent video I show in class, it is the PBS three hour special Only A Teacher. Fortunately, PBS has an great website devoted to the special, and so rather than seeing the film, the online variant gets a link to the site.

Then, the New York Times has a story, New Online Guides Rate Professors. This is something the Chronicle covers from time to time, and I wrote about it here.

The play on Saturday was wonderful! See, the weekend wasn't 100% work. We had a casual dinner before the show. This was the second performance we've seen since I became a subscriber to Cap Rep. Neither had intermission; Driving Miss Daisy was 90 minutes long.

We both enjoyed the play a lot, and this only diminished the experience a little, but sitting that long in a cramped seat was hard on Bob, as rheumatoid arthritis means he needs to stretch or he gets stiff. He said he looked at his watch when he noticed the discomfort and it was 65 minutes into the show. My less troublesome problem is that I generally have to use the bathroom. If we could have taken a break after 45 minutes, both of us would have been more comfortable.

In the past, I have been to performances there where they did have intermission, so I am hoping this is not a new policy or something, and the next show we see (The Blue Room in May) will have a break between acts. If not, I will give them some subscriber feedback and maybe they will take it into consideration for the next season. I can't see why the choice should be to disturb those around us and miss some of the play, or sit there and suffer.

Saturday, March 22, 2003

This morning, I got the idea that today would be good to start the annual Spring "poop patrol." What this means is even more disgusting than it sounds, and you know we must really love dogs to tolerate having to do it. But there would be no gardening and no barbecues otherwise. After a winter with two large hound dogs and a small yard, it is so gross, we have to scrape off almost the entire top layer of dirt. It's an awful task.

Anyway, there is still quite a lot of snow in most places, but the day was warm, and I thought, what if I get a shovel, and jump the gun a bit - I'll scoop up frozen turds and the surrounding snow, and it will be so much easier to do than waiting for a total melt and having to hunt around in the grass.

Guess again. In some places the snow is frozen into solid ice, meaning it must be chopped at with the shovel. In others it is soft enough so that I broke through when walking - but not immediately - so walking around is a hazard. Oh, I'll try again tomorrow, I guess.

Inside, we worked on finishing up the details in the kitchen, and unfortunately, all the tasks that are left are very hard jobs. I was scraping off some duct tape from many moons ago, that was intended to keep out drafts et al around a plywood platform that goes to the crawl space. It took so much elbow grease that I have revised my thoughts on whether duct tape could protect from terrorist attack. It is quite possible it could.

Now we are off to see Driving Miss Daisy, a play at Capital Repertory.

Friday, March 21, 2003

I guess it must be spring. I watched some little birds hopping around on the yew. It does look a little tattered, but since some of the snow melted its branches are beginning to stand up.

On the downside, I saw two bugs in the kitchen. One was a spider, which I left alone. The other was some kind of weird beetle, black with red markings. I threw it outside.
The Gully Brook Press website updates for March/April 2003 are complete. This issue of The Nileston News is available in pdf (for ease of viewing) or wpd (to preserve the hyperlinks) and the focus is on saving historic houses (the PDF version is linked here); the latest Virtual Museum is about bungalow houses; and I added a page about a new publication, my 1998 reprint of West Shokan: Eden of the Catskills (1930) by Elwyn Davis.

I have been doing a little more digging about Myrtle McSpirit. I have not had a lot of success yet, but in some ways the lack of information says a lot, too. I am going to keep at it when I have time. Stay tuned.

Thursday, March 20, 2003

Working on the Gully Brook Press updates for March-April. I came across this site which advocates boycotting Target, and links to a journal entry of mine on the Defreest-Church House. Also, the story made Preservation's Best and Worst of 2002 (an aside to East Greenbush and Target: no, this is not something to be proud of).

Wednesday, March 19, 2003

I wasn't going to cross-post this (it's on blogsisters) but then decided if I want to reference it in a teaching reflections summary or something like that it will be easier to find here.

My classes are focused on sociology of education at the moment, and one area we talk about that generates a lot of interest is gender and education. From literature, including 1991's Failing at Fairness: How Schools Cheat Girls and the more recent AAUW's Gender Gaps, we know that girls' learning problems are not identified, boys get more attention in classrooms, and girls start school testing higher in academic subjects but wind up achieving 50 points less on SATs. Finally, middle school is particularly troublesome.

At the same time, U.S. Department of Education data indicates that more girls than boys graduate high school, more women than men receive a bachelor's degree, and women now outnumber men in master's degree programs.

There is a dynamic in education, that achievement is impacted by social group, because while the returns to education are measurable across class, race, ethnicity and gender, as the outcome some groups benefit less than others, and as a result, are not as motivated to complete and excel. But this dynamic does not hold up between men and women. For example, compensation is not equitable between the genders. Yet females are high achievers. So why do women do so well when they receive fewer rewards? Some hypotheses are that women:

-are aware of the discrepancy but don't care
-are focused on the gains of feminism and so ignore the discrepancy
-have a traditionally dependent role which means economic returns are not the motivating factor (i.e. making a "good match")
-are socialized into specific roles in the early years
-value a private motivation (domestic life/home and family/community) more than a public one (economic/polity)

A complicating factor is that boys are disproportionately labeled as having special needs, perhaps because boys more often exhibit developmental delays, or are more likely to have their problems get attention, or because girls are more likely to display rewarded classroom behaviors (sitting quietly, raising her hand in turn).

Personally, I guess I do value private motivation, but at the same time, I see a lot of women in their 30s and 40s returning to college, and many are motived by economic reasons.
Good news on the historic preservation front! A threatened 19th century house in Hurley, New York will be saved rather than demolished, according to this story in the Daily Freeman. Thanks for the tip, J.!
I heard through the grapevine that a former friend of mine is in the hospital for alcoholism, taking the cure because of a "stop drinking or die" ultimatum from a doctor. I'm not sure whether it is true not because the vine is unreliable, but because like many alcoholics, the former friend is adept at telling lies.

I can hope that something so awful is true only because the alternative, that she is still drinking, is worse.

Tuesday, March 18, 2003

Tuesday Too

1.) Where do you stand on the eve of war, and why?

Here's where I stand: I believe this is a complicated topic, and my feelings cannot be characterized as "for" or "against." I don't feel compelled to choose a team and feel all righteous and judgmental or something. I do have thoughts on the subject - it is impossible not to - but I prefer to keep them to myself. I think war is always a bad thing, but at the same time I think removing Saddam is a good thing. I am tired of being bombarded with this subject in the media and here in ejournals (when I see it is the subject, I hit "back" as fast as I can). If I get an email related to this, I hit delete. In fact, I almost skipped the meme today. I rarely read blogsisters any more because it has evolved to continuous, homogenous, narrow-minded views on the subject, and practically nothing else.

I believe "this too shall pass." Mostly I am an optimistic person, believe very much in having a positive outlook, and see the cup as half-full. I prefer to focus on what some call the "little" picture: my family, my routine, my plans for Spring gardening, how to lead a simple life and help people I deal with on a daily basis, which I believe is really the true big, ultimately more profound and important picture.

2.) Has your position caused arguments with friends or family?

No, because I don't believe in wasting precious time, or risking hurt feelings, arguing about politics, religion, etc. Life is too short to sour relationships.

3.) Is there some other issue that has you grinding your teeth? What is it?

Not grinding my teeth exactly, but three things come to mind: animal abuse, loss of historic buildings, and cheating among students, in that order.

Monday, March 17, 2003

Blogger is acting up. Again. That's one downside of posting more often, one notices how annoying and unreliable this tool can be.

This morning there were two deer attacking the yew in the yard. I watched them from the bathroom window, only about six feet away. It will be a miracle if the bush survives, what with the winter and now this. A bit down the hill, there was another deer grazing on a newly defrosted patch of grass. Soon there will be fawns. My plans for an expanded vegetable garden are evaporating. I live with this in Samsonville, but here in Castleton? They can have the yew, even some of the hosta, but I am not willing to share the green beans. (Or maybe I would be, but experience tells me the deer are not.) So another project is on the horizon: a garden fence. Assuming the ten feet of snow melt in time, that is (I am only exaggerating a little).

Happy St. Patrick's Day! The weather yesterday was picture perfect for a parade.

Sunday, March 16, 2003

I may have to revise my goal of writing here every day, since I have not been able to do it so far. The original goal of once per week was easy to exceed, but daily posting may be reaching. I don't know. I guess I won't abandon it yet, though sometimes this may lead to less than riveting entries...

I write from Samsonville. After a hard working week, what with the kitchen rehab, and mid-semester assessments of students, it is nice to be here, away, and put a physical distance, that forces a mental distance from those projects. But I forget how frustrating a dial-up connection can be! So did I manage?

Occasionally I check, and it is interesting to see how folks find there way here. Recently a lot navigate from typing "Trafficmaster vinyl tiles" in a search engine. (Yes, they are great in terms of installation, I have not had them down long enough to see how they hold up.) My historic preservation stuff yields visitors, too, both the Wynkoop House (which still stands, keep your fingers crossed) and the Defreest-Church House (which does not, and is rapidly being replaced by a Target, ugh, boycott them). As soon as I clear my plate, I am going to work on a new virtual museum and newsletter, and historic preservation will be the focus of the newsletter. I'm considering architecture - maybe bungalows - for the virtual museum, but it's still brewing.

Today I walked the dogs without wearing my coat. I think it must have been nearly 60 degrees outside! Sophie was vacuuming the exposed ground, it has been so long since there was any without snow cover. Plus, with her hair and low to the ground issues, it is hard for her when it is cold and snowy. (Or, for that matter, because of her allergy issues, when it is hot with vegetation.) The dogs play a tug of war, with me as the object that gets pulled in two directions. Rudy wants to trot off, covering lots of territory. Sophie wants to sniff every inch, as slowly as this dial-up connection, usually in the opposite direction. Obedience training, you say? Ha!

Tonight we had a corned beef, cabbage, potatoes and carrots dinner at Aunt Dot's (with cappuccino cheesecake and chocolate chip cookies). Yum! Tomorrow is the St. Patrick's Day parade.

Thursday, March 13, 2003

It is snowing again, to Rudy's delight.
Worked all day on the kitchen floor tile job. I do mean all day, from 8:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. I did take a couple of check my voice mail and email. Summer registration is coming soon and so students are starting to contact me for advisement. Also, the third group projects started today in the online class so I had to spend a little while on that. But the majority of the day was like a show on HGTV, except on that channel projects look so easy, quick, clean...and there is a TV crew on site to help!

Anyway, it's almost done, but unfortunately what's left are quite a few tiles at the edges here and there that need to be cut, and a few will be difficult to trim and fit. So I guess I missed another entry! Home improvement and writing in the ejournal everyday conflict.

Now I'm off to ebay to try to get a hanging lamp for over the table.

Tuesday, March 11, 2003

Tuesday Too

1.) What's your take on this article from the New York Times today?

I have several reactions:

(I) I remember this subject was extensively discussed when I was a student in the MPA program. There are a lot of issues raised by being able to connect discrete databases because of innovations in technology (for example social services with criminal justice with health with etc.) and thereby make access to information so much easier. I've heard questions like, will employers not offer jobs to individuals with health conditions that might cause excessive time off or increased health insurance premiums? Will the State use EZ-Pass (New York's automated system for paying tolls on the NYS Thruway) to track speeders by calculating how long it should take a driver to get from Exit A to Exit B? (And I privately think, tell me again, how is that second question a bad thing?)

(II) Now because of our current political situation people outside of grad schools are thinking about the nuances of this. It is complicated. I think to a very large degree this is already going on; not just in government, but in industry, here on the Internet, you name it. That Spam is coming from somewhere. If technology can do it, then someone will implement it, scary or not. Do I think there could be a problem, maybe in some cases already is a problem? Yes. Am I concerned or upset at the moment? No. I think I have written here before (and I really write very little on this topic, and I will not start now) a lot of things changed for me on 09/11/2001. Call me naive for this answer, but before that date I think I really was clueless.

(III) I applaud individuals who stand up for what they believe in by "putting their money where their mouth is." I once left a job because I didn't agree with the agenda of the new management. It was a big risk, but I landed on my feet. I have no tolerance for hypocrites who keep putting in time and collecting a paycheck, then bad mouth the organization, damage morale, all the while whining that they have no options, pretending that they somehow are above it all, and are not endorsing the company line.

2.) Network television is swimming in "reality" shows. You are the creator of the latest show to hit the circuit. Give a brief description of your show. Sarcasm welcomed.

"Survivor, No Joke." Contestants fight until death, and the last person left alive is the winner. Loosely based on The Lottery.

3.) What do you really wish you were doing today?

Home, in the company of my animals, finishing the install of the kitchen floor tiles. (I worked at it until 2 a.m. last night!) But instead this is my day on campus.

Monday, March 10, 2003

I have a gorgeous antique bookcase that was Mimmie's. In my lifetime she used it to store utility items on the back porch. It was painted green and sat next to the springy wooden screen door that creaked when you opened it. The porch at the old place had the fragrance of mildew mingled with cats. It may seem strange to choose the word "fragrance" to describe the odor but in my memory it wasn't unpleasant. My front porch here in Castleton smells much the same way, which could be another reason I like this funny little house. But open my front door and the scent "hound" may knock you down; this wasn't the case at Mimmie's.

Ma remembers that Mimmie cut the bookcase in half during the 1940s, so that it would fit in the living room at the house where they lived at that time. The woodstove may be what happened to its other half, sacrificed for an apple pie and a pot of baked beans. In the 1970s, a couple of years before Mimmie moved from the old place to her trailer, my mother stripped the green paint away and revealed solid oak. My growing collection of novels replaced the paint cans on its four shelves.

It sits now in my living room, and holds my finest books. The top two shelves are devoted to Mark Twain, and should he need more space, the others will be gradually evicted. There is one shelf for a set of his complete works, and one shelf for miscellaneous copies of his books. Just some examples of my collection: I have The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn from 1948, A Horse's Tale from 1907, A five volume set of his more popular works from 1917, A 2001 copy of A Murder, a Mystery and A Marriage, and two versions of his two volume set autobiography from 1925. I have six copies of various editions of Life on the Mississippi and four copies of Huck Finn. I've never formally studied Mark Twain. His books were not assigned in high school, and I never took a college class that included his work either. Regardless, you might say I'm enamored with the subject.

The bottom shelf houses The International Cyclopaedia (1892); the third shelf contains various hardcover books, including Lincoln by Gore Vidal, The Complete Works of William Shakespeare, some Georgette Heyer novels that were gifts from Aunt Jean and have been worthy of a place in the oak bookcase since it became mine in high school, several dictionaries, and books about Mark Twain written by different scholars.

From my later studies I know this handsome furniture is Federal-style. Sometimes I notice the still-rough end and I lament that Mimmie sawed this piece in two. Then I assess the size of the room and realize that it wouldn't fit anywhere if it was still intact.
One week into my goal of posting every day and I missed a day. Well, that will happen. I was thinking of writing, and so I have some pent up ideas.

The kitchen is getting there. The tiles are coming out great, and actually are kind of fun to install. Bob finished the wallpaper and border on the wall near the stove so we can cook. Still, there is complete chaos in the room. We are doing half the room at a time, which is the only way home improvement projects can be managed in a house this small.

We had to call it a day on the early side yesterday, since we had tickets to see Mary Black. What a voice! I agree with the reviewer, except I don't have even a tiny criticism. It was a relaxing way to end the weekend, and it was good to be forced to stop working for a while.

We saw the concert at the Egg. Bob is a member and we had front row seats! The centerpiece of Albany's skyline is Governor Nelson E. Rockefeller Empire State Plaza, and the Egg is one of GNARESP's (what an acronym) many interesting features. It's hard to go to the Egg, even when captivated by Irish folk and contemporary music, and not have a thought of Rockefeller. His vision, his wealth, his power, his lasting impact on New York. The circumventing of the State constitution. The multi-campus State university. The construction of Empire Plaza was controversial during his time. The tragic displacement, the huge expense. When I walk around the plaza I feel as if I have transported to some utopian novel.

Saturday, March 08, 2003

Now that the crows have been chased away, they are going after the pigeons. Sigh. Oh horrors, wouldn't want those darn birds to soil the shoes of sports fans.

Taking a break from stripping the wallpaper in the kitchen, but I'd better get back to it. I don't want to live with disruption. I have an idea that will have to keep. So, more later.

Friday, March 07, 2003

I finished the taxes, what a relief. As it turns out, itemizing was worth it.

Today in the Times Union, there was a letter to the editor about the crow problem in Albany. I've been following the story for a several weeks. (Unfortunately the other columns, stories and letters are no longer accessible for free.) It seems some people have complained about the large number of crows gathering in their neighborhoods. So those responsible for such things have been using "fireworks, laser, and alarming sounds" to chase them away, which is much better than an alternative, recreational shoots, but it still rubs me the wrong way.

A couple of months ago, I was on campus in the evening during intercession, and all was quiet except for the crows. There were a lot of them in the trees near the education building. Yeah, it was kind of reminiscent of The Birds, but that is more a testament to Alfred Hitchcock's skill in etching his movies into our memories than an indictment of the crows that were gathered there. Poor maligned birds!

Today's story made me remember last weekend, when my parents were telling me about a raven at the farm who was at risk of becoming a hawk's dinner. My mother calls the ravens John Henry, and considers them her friends. She watched as this John Henry did some fancy flying to avoid the hawk. She was rooting for him to fly under the eaves of the barn, but he didn't. She wasn't sure if he got away.

I always get so mad when I hear that people want to accommodate human sprawl by interfering with animals. It isn't that I don't feel bad when an alligator rips off someone's arm at a golf course, or a bear kills a baby. But we should remember that the people were invading the alligator's and bear's spaces. Wild animals are not the cute and cuddly images that Disney promotes. They are a part of nature and should be respected, simple as that. Why must we always insist on trying to transform nature, when the truth is we can never win?

Sort of related are the occasions when someone from a new housing development tries to get zoning passed to eliminate a nearby farm, because they believe the odors of chicken or cow manure (notice I'm not including horse because we all accept that it smells good) are offensive. So move!

There's a webring devoted to crows and ravens. And no post would be complete without mentioning Edgar Allen Poe's The Raven. I wonder if this poem, and not Hitchcock, is responsible for human dislike of a bird? True, they scavenge, and are often seen near dead stuff. But eating up roadkill strikes me as useful, rather than evil. The circle of nature at work. It also helps out the highway crews, saving us tax money.

See, I managed to bring it back to my opening...

Thursday, March 06, 2003

It is snowing again today. One day of hovering just above the freezing mark, a glimmer of spring (I am dreaming of using the terraced garden Bob created last year for rows of zucchini, although the seven deer I saw last week - in Castleton! - mean a fence must be erected first), and then the winter of 2003 continues.
We need a new kitchen floor. We’ve replaced it once since we moved in, and it is now that black and white checkerboard pattern so popular in the 80s. It’s very beat up, due to our poor installation job (sheet vinyl requires more than average do-it-yourselfer skills it seems) and Rudy’s puppyhood. I patched the places where Rudy tore big holes; only some came out good. Others lasted a while and are now fraying.

The original floor was old-fashioned grey tile. That was beat up too, and also dull. The sheet vinyl is still shiny, on those rare occasions when it is clean. I’ve learned that “easy to maintain” is a more important criteria than color and design when choosing floor covering.

Last year we decided to update the floor and ventured to the little store (no big boxes for us) where we bought the current Mannington, in search of the perfect vinyl. This time we’ll pay for installation, we resolved. We looked at every brand and every quality level. Three sets of laminate swatches graced the kitchen for several days each. We compared them to the counter top and table. We stepped on them with dirty shoes and splashed water on them. We dripped tomato sauce and soda. We considered them in natural and electric light. Rudy obliged us by sprawling across his favorites.

We made so many trips over the course of a couple of weeks that we started to develop a friendly relationship with the salesperson. Finally we made our decision, one of the more expensive Armstrongs. The salesperson stopped by one evening to measure and give us a definitive price. When she finished, her quote was so much higher than the rough estimate in the store that we both were shocked. One disdainful sniff (my memory may be embellishing a little) and she quickly left, making no effort to close the deal. I think she didn’t like dogs, didn’t like this crooked little house, and maybe even changed her mind about me. She started to act funny after I told her that I work at home most of the time. But I guess a pair of hounds howling in the yard and the obviously difficult install didn’t help. Was she expecting a houseplant-free track house?

Years ago we did some contract painting and wallpapering to make extra money. I remember we gave an overpriced estimate any time we didn’t want the job. That’s kind of a polite way of getting away. There is always the risk that it will backfire and the person will accept your fee, but then the price is generous so it (sort of) compensates.

If that is what she was doing, it almost backfired, because we wanted a new floor so much. It was way, way past the time to replace it. But cheapness prevailed, and we’ve lived with the worn black and white checkerboard for another year. It’s a great kitchen even with the battered floor, but not in the granite counter tops and stainless steel appliances sense of kitchens circa Y2K. It’s homey, in the 1940s birch cabinets, built-in pantries and ceramic tile walls way, with a pot of soup bubbling on the stove and a batch of chocolate chip cookies in the oven. When the water main in front of our house snapped in December, the man who fixed it smiled as he walked through the kitchen. The house had belonged to his grandparents when he was a kid. “I had a lot of Sunday dinners in this room,” he remarked.

At the same time as our quest to fix the Castleton kitchen, the floors in Samsonville are a question. They are completely unfinished, a few area rugs over a concrete slab. We go ‘round and ‘round on what to do with them. Wood? Slate? Ceramic Tile? Carpet? Vinyl? Pergo? Which one where? What color? What can we do ourselves without too much aggravation? What will it cost to have someone else do it? And here I really don’t like shopping, become paralyzed by too many choices.

Enter a brand new product in this land of consumer wonders, Trafficmaster solid vinyl floor tile. Of course Bob, and not I, discovered it. It can go on top of concrete or sheet vinyl. It is self-stick, but commercial grade. The best part is there are only four patterns. Actually, the website lists 11 - but four are available at the store right now. (Yes, unfortunately it's from a big box.) Get it now before more come out and complicate things! He tested this one on the pristine cement floor of the bedroom closet in Samsonville last weekend. Eureka! Where can we put this color? And how about this one for the bathroom?

This weekend is the real challenge, when the Castleton kitchen becomes Verdestone. Bob observes that it most likely will take us longer to clean the floor than to lay the tiles.

Wednesday, March 05, 2003

Working on the taxes! Brave soul, I always do them myself. My systems are a lot better than they used to be - so it involves less paper "hunting," but the headache inducing part is all those extra forms that must be filled out - seeing daylight until - on no, I don't answer "no" to enough categories...must add Schedule C, and form 8829, and Schedule D...ah, luckily I don't need D-1. Then I never learn my lesson about itemizing deductions, go through all the hassle and it only equals the standard deduction anyway. Is it me or do taxes become more irritating as you age?

Tuesday, March 04, 2003

Welcome back Tuesday Too!

1.) Do you know about GeoURL? Check it out to find your neighbor's blog, or the web page of a restaurant near you. Find your house with a satellite photo map, and put your self in the database if you're so inclined.

Interesting site! Thanks for the link.

2.) How many times have you redesigned, or chosen a new template for your blog/journal, and are you content with your current look?

I've used the same standard template from Blogger since I started my online journal a year ago. I like purple!

When I got a new computer in January, I noticed the fonts looked really tiny on the new machine. I had always thought the point size was on the too small side, although I never did anything about it, but this was ridiculous. Anyway, I tweaked the sizes a little - now I think they look a tad too large on my old machine (the link for soap in particular) but in terms of being easy on the eyes, larger font sizes are usually better. I've added a graphic now and then to the box on the right side, but that's the extent of my personal influence on the page's design.

I can manage a bit of html, and make simple pages in Adobe PageMill, but my efforts here are about writing - not web design.

3.) From The New York Times February 11, 2003: "...The federal appeals court in St. Louis ruled yesterday that officials in Arkansas can force a prisoner on death row to take antipsychotic medication to make him sane enough to execute. Without the drugs, the prisoner, Charles Laverne Singleton, could not be put to death under a United States Supreme Court decision that prohibits the execution of the insane." The prisoner referred to was convicted of murder, and sentenced to death for in 1979. You've probably already heard about this, but what do you think/feel about it?

Ugh. I am not a supporter of the death penalty. And there is something even more creepy about making someone sane with medication simply so they can be legally executed. On the other hand, I must admit to having a hard time whipping up a bunch of sympathy for a murderer.
Here's something about animal abuse from the Albany Times Union. I skipped the original story - the headline was enough to upset me. I usually can't read anything on this subject at all, but I couldn't resist this column. I'm glad the penalties were more severe than usual, but it still isn't nearly enough.

Monday, March 03, 2003

This kind of thing gets lots of professors worked up, at least according to the Chronicle of Higher Education. Although I really don't like the idea that students sign up for a class solely to get off easily, or that someone is taking advantage of students by selling them this kind of information, I'm not bothered by rating services. I say so what? I expect a lot of work, and at the same time, I am happy to give students good grades who complete that work. I don't try to hide that. I believe all students have the potential to be "A" students, and should have the opportunity to resubmit work that is poor. I also believe "B" is a perfectly fine grade. Also, I take feedback and evaluations very seriously, and try to collect such data myself.

Sunday, March 02, 2003

The Samsonville house is log, and log houses have gaps that must be caulked to keep out drafts and vermin. We haven't been here much when the temperature is below zero, because the Castleton house cannot be left unattended when it is that cold, so I really haven't minded the draftiness. But vermin - namely big ants that chew the wood and leave piles of sawdust everywhere - I can do without. So this weekend I caulked in the bathroom and the bedroom, while Bob worked on finishing the closet. Small progress, but progress nonetheless.

Saturday, March 01, 2003

I'm in Samsonville, after not being here for several weekends in a row. I think it was the longest stretch we've had of not coming here since we've had this house. The pool is taking a beating. I hope the cover holds up under the weight of the ice and snow, although there is less snow on the ground here than in the Capital District.

Happy One Year Anniversary to Gully Brook Press!