Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Class ends on Friday. Considering the large size (35 students), and the dial-up connection on all those three day weekends, it hasn't been bad at all. Of course, there are a couple of students that I expect will email me with requests for an incomplete. That always happens during summer session. I am always inclined to say yes, even though the majority who ask have not done enough work to make it realistic. But, there are occasional exceptions, so I say yes. Problem is, all the students who requested an incomplete last year wound up failing after one extension. I give students with incompletes two chances to finish the class, then I submit whatever grade they had. I would probably give students even more chances than that, if they ever emailed before the deadline to ask for an extension, but that never happens.

My 25th high school reunion is this weekend. Actually, I graduated in 1978 (without looking back), but that was a year early, and the kids I started school with, that I always considered my "cohort," graduated in 1979. I wouldn't go (part of the not looking back sentiment), except that a friend is coming from Buffalo, my "best friend." We met on the first day of kindergarten. We rode bikes together, had tag sales of stuff we pilfered from our mothers, swam, sat on the front porch of the general store, and played with our many pets. We shared a lack of athletic ability. We were sent to different tracks after second grade, but that didn't dampen our friendship. She was there the tragic day my goat Heidi died. We were together the first time we bought Stayfrees. (Or was it Kotex, back then? Can't remember. I moved on...) She didn't graduate from the same high school, but moved to Western New York after eighth grade. That was very traumatic for both of us, especially since we weren't really members of any of the big cliques of friends. But even that move didn't diminish our friendship. Anyway, she really wants to go to the reunion, and I am happy for the excuse to have her visit.

Thursday, July 22, 2004

The Times Union is running an interesting series this week on rudeness.  Today's story contains this:

"A similar narrow view can be engendered by "faceless technology" like e-mail and the Internet, said Deborah Smith, an online college professor who lives in Albany. More than once, Smith has felt the smack of a haughty-seeming, disrespectful e-mail from undergrads who probably just didn't think about how their communique might be received.

"Students can get very demanding online. They'll say, 'Hey, I want this,' " Smith said. "There's a loss of eloquence and respect. I bet you dollars to doughnuts they wouldn't speak like that if they were addressing me in person."

In the online class this summer, I have noticed the disrespectful attitudes of a couple of students in the discussion. These are not bad students, but bright, serious ones. I don't think it is intentional. I believe that some people don't understand the subtle differences between electonic and face-to-face communication.

But nothing matches the recent rudeness I experienced on the phone. Because of the Do Not Call list, I rarely get telemarketers calling any more. Since I work from home a lot, this has been great, because I can screen calls less, and instead I usually answer the phone right way when it rings now.

However, I have noticed that telemarketers have become even more sneaky. They can legally call you if you already do business with them. A few weeks ago, a man called and asked me to do a survey about fire safety. I like surveys and research, so I agreed to participate. He asked me about ten simple questions about smoke detectors, extinguishers, and exits, thanked me, and that was that.

A few days ago, a woman called, saying that I had won a $1,500 security system because my survey had been entered in a contest. I patiently waited for an opening while she rattled off the wonderful prize I would get, which included wireless equipment, stickers for my windows announcing to all that the house is protected, $99 installation fee waiver, all generously sprinked with overuse of my first name, and she ended with the inevitable punchline, that my cost would be only $1 per day for the monitoring service. She then took a breath.

Now, there was a time when I would not have picked up the receiver - because the Caller ID said "Out of Area." (Some cell phones come through that way, but who cares? Email me.) Then there was a time when I would have slammed the phone down while she was speaking. But recently I have not been feeling rude - unlike, if the series is true, most others in society - and I understand that working in a hotroom is a horrible job, one that I am blessed to not have to do. "It ain't so far from the diamonds in the sidewalk to the dirt in the gutter," as John Prine sings. (OK, maybe that's a little extreme for this example. But read on, in this woman's case, maybe not.)

She said something like, "I just have to confirm your address, are you the homeowner at...?" I said, "I'm really not interested in this. Thanks a lot." And I prepared to hang up. She responded, "May I ask why not? Is it the $1 per day" So I said, "well, no, actually, I am not interested in having a security system. I think it is kind of paranoid, especially where I live. Plus, I had one where I worked once and it was a hassle. And, I have my security...two dogs."

She shot back, "then why did you waste my time?" Now, I was already in no mood for this. We were out the door to Samsonville, the air conditioner had already been turned off, and it was getting pretty hot. But I went cold. I said, "why did I waste your time?" "Yes," from her, still indignant. As I slammed down the phone, I said, "I was politely listening to you, even though I suspected it was a come on. So why did you waste MY time?"

I should have asked what company she represented - I don't remember her telling me, and of course Caller ID showed nothing - so I could report them to the Do Not Call registry.

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Hmmm...did blogger change again?  It looks a little different and I can't seem to make paragraphs. Oh well. Anyway...Ugh. I hate dodgeball. It was a favorite of the gym teacher from h-ll. I always hoped to get "out" immediately, so that I could sit on the side for the rest of the game. Unfortunately, there were times when this plan didn't work - I was an easy target and so the good players preferred to get rid of the true competition first. Which was awful, because being left until last, or nearly last, to be eliminated put me under enormous pressure. My teammates would scream from the sidelines, "get" whatever vicious player was left on the opposing side. Yeah right! The result was always the same, taking a blistering hit - sometimes to the face - picked off by the victor, guaranteeing a loss for the team, and reinforcing their disdain. A few semesters ago, one of my students wrote in his journal that he had no patience for people who fight to have dodgeball banned because it hurts kids self-esteem. He listed off all the wonderful things it teaches and fun it represents. I couldn't resist commenting that although I too question the endless self-esteem promoters, and people interfering over every little thing they don't like, I destest the so-called "sport." I wrote that I believe it is simple laziness on the part of physical education teachers, that they could be teaching something valuable about health and nutrition and exercise and instead they rely on cruel, simple, time-wasting games such as dodgeball, that left me with a lifelong disdain for athletics. I ended with "if dodgeball is abolished, I will host the biggest party ever." The student responded, "be sure to invite me!" (Maybe he thought we should round up one last farewell game?)

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

This is a heartbreaking story. There still is a well-maintained shrine near the stone wall in front of the farmhouse. I can't imagine what kind of a person would do such a thing, but I think such people are the reason I don't drive.

Last night on the news, the boy's mother was interviewed, and she was talking about "Christopher's Law." Now, I am not really a proponent of the recent trend toward naming laws after victims, but I do think the law should be changed in this case. She said that there is less penalty for leaving the scene of an accident, and being caught later, than for staying there, if the driver is drunk. I think that may be one unintended consequence of the focus on strictly enforcing DWI laws. No way should this creep get away with less punishment than if he had been arrested at the scene. Yeah, it would have been his second DWI, but hit and run under the influence or not should be even worse than that! Maybe the boy would not have died if the driver got help for him right away.

Wednesday, July 07, 2004

"If there are no dogs in Heaven, then when I die I want to go where they went." --Will Rogers

Tuesday, July 06, 2004

News I hoped would never come. Hobo died on July 3. He was 8 1/2. Diagnosed with bone cancer a year ago, the disease could not diminish his happy nature, or sunny disposition. He liked everyone, and everyone liked him, even people who do not much care for dogs. He often displayed his affection by backing up and sitting on your lap, with his front feet on the floor. He liked to play with toys, especially empty plastic soda and milk jugs, and plush squeaky toys, which he would promptly eviscerate. All dogs are wonderful to dog lovers, and everyone thinks their own dog is special, but some dogs are extra special. Hobo was one of the extra special ones, handsome both inside and out, and he will be very much missed by all who knew him.

There are a thousand stories, and here is just one. Rudy and Hobo were buddies. A few years ago, before we had a good fence, when Rudy was more active, he escaped, and was galloping around the big field. He does not "mind," which is a combination of my fault (I never taught him), life in a village (he never gets a chance to run in Castleton), and his hound ancestors. I was in a panic. Hobo was asleep on the grass nearby. He was a very obedient dog, always minded. Upon hearing the commotion, he stood up, all serious and observant like a soldier, and without waiting to be told, in a second he was off like a shot, running full tilt to Rudy, where he rounded him up and brought him back to safety, job proudly accomplished.

Before he got sick, he would take a two or three mile daily morning walk with my father. When Hobo could no longer go for long walks, my father would instead drive him to my house in the morning, where he would sniff around, go in the stream, and just generally be a dog. On the weekends, when we were there, he would come inside and visit us for a while too. Even before his illness, during their morning walks, they would stop by. We could always tell Hobo was on his way. In the past, my dogs would spot him coming down the road: prancing at the end of his leash, moving along at quite a pace, headed toward our house. More recently, we could hear him announcing his arrival, barking in excitement in the car, from a quarter mile down the road.