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.