Friday, May 30, 2003

Finally, a nice day -- I am going to do some work outside!

Thursday, May 29, 2003

This, from the Times Union, "A remnant of rural past turned to rubble -- Colonie -- Former Kemp farmhouse on Wolf Road to be replaced by hotel," made me sad when I read it this morning. Hey, just what Wolf Road needs, more sprawl! But then, I suppose better there than some place where the rural is present rather than past. One negative quote about "tree huggers" shocked me. Since when did a respect for history become tree hugging?

Wednesday, May 28, 2003

Just now we were having quite a hail storm! It was really coming down out there. I hope it dries up soon, so that I can start to plant.

In the meantime, I updated the Gully Brook Press website. The latest virtual museum focuses on the Battle of Saratoga. The May/June issue of the Nileston News features a story I wrote in 1985, called A Day's Thoughts. Here is a picture of me at about the time I wrote this piece.

Here are the two dogs I mentioned in the story, on the right, a beagle/schnauzer named Howie (1980-1995), and on the left, a poodle named Penny (1983-1999).

Tuesday, May 27, 2003

Long weekend, rainy, and tiring!

One student continues to dispute his grade - I suppose this is why it is easier to look the other way when there is suspected cheating.

Rudy is a lot better - not 100% but pretty close.

Wednesday, May 21, 2003

Bob is calling him "Stepford dog."

Rudy is improving of course, he is eating fine now (though he does it while laying down), he goes outside and even stays for a little while beyond what is necessary, he has weakly barked once or twice in the past day, he got in the recliner for a little while this morning (he had not been jumping up on anything), and I have been able to get him to take the antibiotics without a problem.

But he does not have his usual spark, he is fairly disinterested on what is going on (his regular state is super aware, and also he is always in the same room as me - but now he is spending most of his time off on his own), he still will not come all the way upstairs, he hasn't been looking out the window at all, he won't play with Sophie, and he doesn't want to go for a walk.

It is very quiet here, as usually he is very alert, woooo-ing over every noise (and today is garbage day, lots of activity), and I guess he is the instigator because while Sophie did bark at the mailman and the garbage truck, it wasn't for very long.

One other thing (and this is really sad), usually, if you say "Rudy" or address him by one of his nicknames, he wags his tail, even if he is laying down nearly asleep. Now, you're lucky to get one wag (the first day he wouldn't wag his tail at all) when he is wide awake!

The students continue to pester me, leaving voice mails at my campus number and sending me email. What part of "you're lucky I did not refer this to Judicial Affairs" don't they understand? But why should this surprise me? Today, in AOL, I read: "Former New York Times reporter Jayson Blair said he ''couldn't stop laughing'' when the newspaper corrected his fraudulent description of an American POW's home in West Virginia, according to excerpts of an interview with the New York Observer." Oh, so making misrepresentations about Jessica Lynch's family is funny! The article continues, "Newsweek has reported that Blair signed with literary agent David Vigliano to market his story for possible book and movie deals." I called this one. I'll bet lots of fools will line up to see it! This makes me even more sick than I said I was yesterday.

Since the weather is not right for yardwork, I think I am going to start working on a new virtual museum and website updates.

Tuesday, May 20, 2003

I'm sure he'll be fine eventually, but Rudy's spirit seems to be broken! The good thing about this is that he is not running around straining himself, which he shouldn't do for 3 or 4 days. But the alarming thing is that he is not at all his usual self. He doesn't care about going outside, he hasn't barked at all, and even today he doesn't want to eat, not even his most favorite treat, dried apricots. He was very thirsty last night, and so I let him have one ounce of water per hour, even though he really wasn't supposed to drink anything until today. I'm not sure how I am going to get the antibiotic into him, usually he happily takes it with food. He's easy to pill but I am not going to put him through that in his current state. Sometimes he sleeps but mostly he just sits or lays around staring into space. I know he had to have it done but I feel kind of guilty since he didn't act sick at all before this and now the treatment has turned him from a bouncy happy dog into a zombie.

I've been meaning to write something about the unethical New York Times reporter, because of my experiences with student cheating and plagiarism. I won't bother to link to any story, because this is kind of old news at this point, and also because a simple search turns up more than enough, choose what you prefer. The New York Times is charging to view its original finger-pointing article, though, which I think is low. I know it is now in their archives but I think this story ought to be accessible at their site for free, they owe that much to the readers. They owe more than that, but that's a start. Most of the other articles out there (at least it appears to me) focus on the race issue, either using the scandal to denounce diversity policies, or, on the other hand, bemoaning the fact that the scandal is being used to criticize such policies.

I think both approaches totally miss the point. I could care less about this from a racial perspective. What I see is one more piece of evidence that there are too many people who have no ethics, no pride in work, no sense of fairness, and that there is a club that promotes and condones these attitudes and behaviors, or at least helps to keep such dirty little secrets hidden. It is deeply in there in many eople, even among those who would not be dishonest themselves, and should know better: the distaste for ratting on others, the belief that everything is relative - there is no right and wrong, only shades of gray, and it is OK to use whatever ammo you can to get ahead. Be kind, cut someone a break, they just made a mistake, why are you so uptight and judgmental? So lessons are not taught, and the situation spins out of control. It's easier to look the other way. Honor means nothing, and someone's word is a joke. And if you are the guilty party and get caught, use charm, claim to be the victim, and if all else fails, litigate. Plus, there just might be a book deal, and a TV movie lurking somewhere, so for 15 minutes of fame it is well worth it. A win-lose-win!

I seem to have at least a few students every spring in my classes who share Jayson Blair's ethics. It really makes me sick.

Monday, May 19, 2003

Rudy is home! He is a bit groggy (for him), but aside from that, he seems fine. He can't eat or drink anything until tomorrow, and that is going to be a challenge.

All university classes use a multiple-choice course evaluation that is machine read - we generally don't get results for a few months and the data is not all that illuminating, although most students do fill it out. For several semesters, I have used an online assessment called the Mt. Royal College FAST. I can design 20 questions myself, and the questions can be open-ended short answer, Yes/No, etc. Usually about half the students participate in any semester.

I get a lot of valuable feedback this way, and I have used student comments to make revisions to the class, but you really have to develop a thick skin! I never review the responses until after the grades are in, because time is limited, but also because I don't want the assessment to color my attitude toward the class. Anyway, this semester, in my on campus section, two students responded that given the choice, they would not take the class again. This may not disturb me so much except that it probably is not related to the expected grade (the lowest grade in the on campus cohort was C-), and one of the students wrote the most nasty comments whenever there was the option! Just an example, one question was "what did you like most about this class?" The answer? "Nothing, aside from the fact that it was once per week."

Why is it that all the other wonderful comments, and the constructive criticism, never have quite the same impact?
Rudy is at the vet right now. I am trying not to freak out, but I am on pins and needles. I have to call at 3 p.m. to see if he is alert enough to come home. Sophie cried for a few minutes and watched out the window for a while after Bob drove away with him this morning. When she went outside I could tell she was looking for him. She seems OK now. Something funny, Bob asked the human resources office if he could take the afternoon off and charge it to family sick leave! He was making a point and a joke at the same time, since his co-workers call in every time one of their kids stubs a toe, someone else has to pick up the slack, and then those absent prance around afterwards with a sense of entitlement. Of course they told him he must use his personal leave instead. Now he says they probably filed his request in the "nutjob" file!

I emailed all the students with the outcome of my evaluations. About two minutes later, one of the worst students in my class - someone who put in zero effort, missed every deadline, and quite obviously did not take the class seriously, emails me, demanding a grade change (I failed him) because he is a graduating senior, all set to go to grad school in the fall - until now. He had accumulated less than 50 points in the class (about half were a gift), and his paper was either plagiarized or if it was his own, it had been written for a different class last semester. I didn't report him to Judicial Affairs, only because I didn't feel like going to the mat this time around, since if it was a plagiarism, it wasn't a carbon copy of a paper already handed to me, like the five cases last year. But his situation is supposed to be compelling to me; "oh yeah, I cheated and did no work, but I understand where you are coming from, and I am supposed to graduate, so why can't you do me a favor? Thank you in advance..."

On the other hand - the many wonderful students in my classes more than outweigh the lazy, unethical jerks - but the jerks sure do keep it interesting (and stressful).

Tuesday, May 13, 2003

Evaluating the groups takes a lot of time. I am chipping away, getting there. I have to be done by Friday, and this semester, I am not going to miss the deadline, or make myself sick.

We both had discussions with the vet, and determined that Rudy's infection will come back once he is finished with the antibiotics. Also, the opinion is that it is indeed his prostate, even though there remains a slight chance that it could be something more serious. So, we made an appointment to have him neutered on May 19. I'm relieved that he won't have to stay overnight. Rudy is still himself, very mischievous, dashing around the house with slippers, laundry, things he snatched from the table, the trash or my pocketbook, daring us to chase him, playing with his toys, wrestling with Sophie, sniffing Edna, wooo-ing at the mail carrier, in every way a seven-year-old puppy. Although the procedure must be done soon, it isn't an emergency, so it was good it could wait until the grades are in. I will be a nervous wreck all day and I know I couldn't focus on spreadsheet analysis. So please have a good thought for my "Mr. Wuja" on Monday.

Monday, May 12, 2003

I spent Saturday, which was so beautiful, working on student grades. I wanted to be outside, digging, getting ready to plant, maybe putting up the deer fence we got for the garden. Anyway, I resisted that treat and instead I was "good." I made a lot of progress, but there still is a big stack, and a smaller virtual stack, to go. Yesterday I took a break from it to work on the kitchen. We still have odds and ends to finish up in there; a little painting here, a piece of border there. The big project that still is in progress in that room is the closet under the stairs, where we tore the floor out down to the joists and are now putting in tongue and groove pine. It seems a luxurious treatment for the floor of a utility closet, but it was in bad shape and something needed to be done. It trumped working on evaluation because of the disruption - I am tired of fishing plastic wrap out of a box, and having to walk around the carpet shampooer to get to the stove.

All the tests Rudy had have not turned up anything, so he was supposed to be dropped off today for an additional test, and then possibly surgery. He's "intact." I don't have any problem with having him neutered, especially if that fixes the problem - and I suspect it would. But for several days his urine has been clear, and in terms of energy, he is a ball of fire, as usual, maybe more than usual. So it seems the second course of antibiotics is working. We have been carefully monitoring him (I think he is getting tired of it) and anxiously considering the options, and today I summoned my courage, called the vet, and told them we are going to hold off for now. If it comes back (and I know that might happen, because urinary tract infections are hard to beat), we will proceed with additional tests and/or treatment. I don't know why it was hard to do, maybe because of the fear of being wrong, thinking that they suspect something they are not saying, but on the other hand feeling like I know Rudy best, and I don't want to subject him to a bunch of unnecessary procedures, not to mention the expense. But I feel good now having made the decision.

Back to work.

Thursday, May 08, 2003

Rudy seems a little better.

Most nights I read for a little while before going to sleep. I am still reading A War to Petrify the Heart, and have finished several other books while working on it. It is fascinating, but not an easy read. I am up to October 1864, about 75 pages left. In one letter he (the soldier) wrote to his future wife, he tells her:

I do believe in view of such task [she was spending time with her young nieces] and a review of old school days you begin to feel old, a natural recurrence to anybody. But don't borrow trouble or think no one else has nothing to look after or think about, for everyone has his or her burden to carry through this world - it may be real or imaginary. A cheerful disposition to throw off fancied ill and not make much trouble when it comes in reality, is everybody's duty to do, if we should enjoy life as [it] is meant for us to do. Hasn't every picture a bright side? Should we continually be looking at the dark side? These "some things which you wish I could know" and which are making you old, if not important to write about, why think about it? Why let every would-be pleasant hour be blasted by the thought so unpleasant. Am I right or am I mistaken. It is the principle I go upon.

I say he was right.

Wednesday, May 07, 2003

I haven't been able to write (time, technical problems, and other priorities). Rudy is still sick, he had to be seen by the vet again on Monday. He continues to eat, drink, eliminate, watch, play, bark, sleep, and be mischievous as always, but the blood in his urine remains. He has had two thorough exams, urinalysis, a blood test, and x-ray. So far, the results only show that he is in outstanding shape for a seven year old dog, and that he has UTI. So he is on a second course of antibiotics. Friday a specialist is going to look at the x-ray to see if it could be a problem with his prostate, although he has no other symptoms. Well, I figure the other Rudy had prostate problems, so maybe this Rudy does too. Anyway, it is a relief that it probably is not too serious, but the blood still preoccupies us both, although the vet said it is not an emergency situation and Rudy seems fine. But we can't bear to have anything at all wrong with the animals, especially Rudy, who has always been the picture of good health and good nature.

Then, I am in the midst of the end-of-semester crush, and I still have to resolve what to do about the potential cheating I detected.

Tuesday Too, late again

1.) Are you trying out, or do you know anything about these new blogger [thingies]?

This link was how I learned about the new "thingies" (after reading the FAQ I have no more precise word either). You know for years, I was considered something of a techie - not a super techie, but at least an early adopter, and technically literate. By having a website and writing this journal, I continue to be considered kind of cutting-edge by people who don't keep online content. But here in the land of blogs (yes, a word I still hate) I don't know nuthin'! I just haven't spent the time to learn more than necessary I guess, and at the moment it isn't in the plan. *But if this means improvements in Blogger's stability and speed, that's great.

2.) Have you tried other weblog systems that you would suggest that blogger folks switch to?

No, only Blogger since March 2002. Not that the thought hasn't crossed my mind. Blogger wouldn't let me log in on Monday and Tuesday of this week. And right now I think I have to do that tiresome no archive/republishing thing. Again. But the one or two times I investigated switching, it seemed the learning curve might involve investing too much time to bother. So see * in #1.

3.) Lately it's been reported there is so much spam filling the inboxs that people are going to stop using email. On average how much junk email do you get every day? Is it so much that you would consider giving up email? You could make up a funny sentence or two just using the email subject lines, if you're really feeling creative today.

Ugh, I hate spam. I get so much, and the amount has grown a lot over time, especially recently. I have five email accounts. My main AOL account gets the most junk mail, yesterday I got 13 junk messages. I have been ignoring/deleting it unopened for ages, and reporting/banning it for several months, but I don't see that doing this cuts down on the amount, which is frustrating. My two secondary AOL accounts get some, not nearly as much. The ones that come into AOL are: Viagra, Porn websites, Mortgage offers, Online drug offers, Incomprehensible "feedback forms" (less of these lately, they were the majority in the past), Various financial schemes, Some product offers, Scams of ebay or paypal, trying to collect passwords or credit card information, and Body part enhancement. Lots with strange letter combinations in the subject line.

My regular university Outlook account gets some, and what it gets is the worst type - the lengthy pleas for money (that are not always obvious from the subject) and generic ones with scary attachments. My learning network Lotus Notes account gets no spam (although once a few years ago a virus came via this account). Although it is very irritating, I will not abandon email over spam, because it is my preferred mode of communication.

I get paper junk mail also, which immediately gets tossed in my paper recycling bin. Spam wastes time and jams up the Internet, junk mail wastes time and natural resources. So I really hope the no spam legislation passes!!! It worked wonders for telemarketing phone calls here in New York. Let your representatives know you support this. I have been on the do not call list for a couple of years and I rarely receive such phone calls any more, when the phone used to ring off the hook with automated dialers and sales pitches waiting on the other end. Here is a link to help in getting rid of spam, junk mail and telemarketers.

Here are the subject lines of the spam I have received so far today:

As Seen On TV Miracle Youth Pill QfXeOL2t

Do You Need Extra Cash? Get It Now! tgbrcyic

~Mortgage Lenders Fight For your Business...ANZXG

kjim,A Chance for Financial Freedom

Online Medications...Shipped Overnight !!...

hey hun

icd,Hi, Grand Opening - Save 10% on all Products

Email Confirmation [krz}hugrCdro1frp11111]

Friday, May 02, 2003

Making great progress on grading, and then I hit a brick wall. I think I have uncovered at least one case of plagiarism. Must be something about Spring, when thoughts turn to cheating. It is such a mistake to risk this in my class.

Thursday, May 01, 2003

I've started to do the grading. I vow I will not procrastinate this semester!

Here's an interesting artistic site from the Catskills! (Thanks, J. for the link.)