Friday, March 26, 2004

I think I will need to catch up on the missed week of work during the break (April 2-8). The weather is beautiful today and the last thing I feel like doing is focus on evaluating student work...but this has been a very busy week and this is the first day I have been able to get to the backlog, so oh well, I have no choice. The computer is still working fine, but I have not bothered to reinstall everything. That's something that will have to wait until break, after I am caught up.

I taught my first graduate class last night, as a favor to a colleague who had to go out of town. It was great, and really makes me want to teach at that level.

Friday, March 19, 2004

My Netvista computer crashed on Monday. It was frozen when I went to use it in the morning and then it wouldn't boot. Nothing obvious was wrong when I ran diagnostics, but I didn't want to reformat/reinstall Windows XP because we have a lot of files on that machine. Were they backed up? Of course not.

I borrowed a Windows XP disk from someone (my recovery disk is on the hard drive, and it doesn't allow anything except diagnostics, or reformat/reinstall) and backed up/replaced registry files, then I managed to get the PC into safe mode. That was 3 am, late Tuesday/early Wednesday. The good news was, all the files were there. The bad news was it wasn't seeing the floppy drive or network, it couldn't get on the internet, or write to the CD drive.

After playing around the next day, I got the floppy drive back. However, I figured it would take about 5000 disks and the rest of my life to copy all the data. So, we went to Staples and got a zip drive. {An aside, it is a neat toy.} I installed that, and successfully copied the files.

Then I reformatted and reinstalled Windows. Everything worked, except for three things (audio, ethernet, sm bus). So, now I have the zip drive plugged into Old Faithful (the Aptiva) and I am downloading the drivers. It is a very (!)slow process over a dial-up connection. I can't believe it has taken me 4 days to get this far, and still I cannot use my cable modem.

I am using my dial-up connection to check email etc., but for my university Outlook account, access that way is slow and unreliable. So I am only responding to the most critical email. It will probably take me another week to catch up on all the work I have neglected.

Monday, March 15, 2004

All in the Timing (the play we saw on Saturday) was great, I think it was the best we've seen this season at the campus.

On Sunday we went to see The Passion of the Christ. It was a wonderful, powerful movie. Something I liked a lot was that it was subtitled, which was so appropriate. It was not at all anti-Semitic, I believe that controversy was generated by people who did not see the movie, or maybe they are anti-Christian/anti-Catholic, or perhaps just plain ignorant. It brought tears to my eyes twice. There were some very violent scenes, and for that reason I was hesitant to see it, but I just averted my eyes a few times. It was not gratuitous violence. My sister remarked that it made her want to read the Bible, something she had not done in quite a while, and it had that impact on me, too. Some have asked, for a non-Christian is it worthwhile to see? I am not sure; I think it may be of interest to someone who is of a different religion, but I am not sure whether atheists would appreciate it. I know some reviewers have praised it on technical grounds, but as it is very much a spiritual experience I am not sure whether it would be appealing to non-believers. Something to think about.

Saturday, March 13, 2004

Since I worked so much last weekend, and my classes are in fairly good shape, I managed to fit in some reading for fun: I just finished Margaret Atwood's The Robber Bride. No surprise here - a good read, as usual.

Tonight we are going to the third play of the season at the university.

Saturday, March 06, 2004

Today, after it stopped pouring rain, I looked outside, and most of the snow and ice were gone, even in the fenced area of the yard, where it lasts the longest. The condition of the yard has been really bothering me -- it always does in the spring. Snow is predicted for tomorrow and Monday - so this was a window of opportunity. I love to do yardwork, but with two dogs, the yard really is disgusting after the winter. I keep up with it in good weather, but once it is freezing, there is snow cover and it is dark at 4 pm, I don't bother.

My annual Spring task is so awful, that a new vocabulary would have to be invented to describe it. I gave it a try last year. I am so relieved to be done, breaking my last year's earliest-ever record. I feel quite accomplished. Ha! Should I add the bullet to my CV? Seriously, Rudy is a good dog, and he deserves a nice yard (not that Sophie doesn't, but she cares less about such things. Rudy is very fastidious).

Anyway, as I worked on my words-are-inadequate-to-do-it-justice task, I was thinking, this might be a good punishment for Martha Stewart. She can come to my house annually each Spring, and apply her vast skills to making turd patrol a "good thing."

Friday, March 05, 2004

Yesterday, Preservation magazine arrived in the mail. I love Preservation, but the cover story really irritated me.

For the record, I oppose the new cement plant. My feelings come not because of the various environmental impacts regarding pollution that are being debated. I don't know whose science is best, and it doesn't matter to me. I oppose the plant because of something aesthetic: the impact on the view of the Hudson River and Catskill Mountains from Frederick Church's Olana. (That view is what I use as the logo image on Gully Brook Press - both the actual photograph on the homepage, and the graphic I made from it for this journal). My reason agrees with the viewpoint of the Preservation writer, so why am I irritated?

A few weeks ago Bob and I were talking about another environmental controversy, that in some ways mirrors the tensions generated by the cement plant. In this case, it is the proposed construction of a big resort on a mountainside in Shandaken, Ulster County. We both lean toward being opposed to that project as well. However, I was reading aloud some letters to the editor in the local paper, and Bob commented, "I dislike the corporate opposition as much as a I dislike the corporate support for it," and that really hits the nail on the head for me. The big environmental groups, and outsider opponents to these projects alienate me every bit as much as the big business interests that are pushing for approval.

In the case of Preservation's article, I am not angry that the issue was covered, I believe the publicity is good. I am not against Preservation taking a position opposed to the plant. I think they should be against it. What bothers me is that the article is so slanted - it does not make any effort at all to cover the other side; it is as if the other side was solely the cement company, that no local person or town government official wanted the plant to be built, and that there would be no reason for support. This isn't exactly stated - but supporters are just ignored. I guess Preservation is proud to be elitist.

Yet here are just a few excerpts from other sources that detail the issue is a contentious one, with various and dearly-held beliefs on both sides:

"It is sometimes hard to remember what Columbia County looked like without the red and blue signs now spattered across the landscape, people?s front yards, windows, and storefronts." Joseph A. Brill, Chronogram, 2002.

" through any community near Hudson and you'll see placards in dozens of front yards--red for those against the plant, blue for those in favor." Patrick Smith, Business Week online, July 1, 2002.

"Hundreds of supporters wearing bright blue T-shirts and opponents clad in dusty rose T-shirts, packed into the un-airconditioned gymnasium..." William Tuthill, the Business Review, June 20, 2001

"The petition signature, the bumper sticker, T-shirt or casual comment became shorthand for who you were and what you believed about all sorts of unrelated issues, as if the totality of a person's life could be summarized on a lawn sign. " Editorial from October 26, 2001 Independent.

"Travel any road in the county and you can see red STOP THE PLANT or blue SUPPORT THE PLANT signs on front lawns," Ralph Gardner, Cry them a river, New York Magazine.

The first story, from the Chronogram, is the best of the bunch - it is fair, balanced, covers the issue in appropriate and accessible detail. The Preservation writer could take a lesson from this piece.

On the other hand, I suppose I should be happy that Preservation decided ignoring the alternative viewpoints would be better than using a quote like this one (from Cry Them a River) that characterizes it this way:

"It's really sad," says a local antiques dealer. "Every dilapidated house has a blue sign in front of it. And every beautiful, well-maintained house has a red sign in front of it."

I believe it is ignorant to describe the two sides this way, but I think the perception may hit the nail on the head - Preservation always pays lip service to historic issues that celebrate the lower classes, folks who have been under-represented, and unfairly represented in the past. So how do you champion the romantic Hudson River School, wealthy darlings of the artsy set, without mentioning the less advantaged -- both from those times, and today? Better to hold a hanky over your nose and keep your pinky in the air and pretend to not notice. Ahem.

It was probably better to overlook this view (also from Cry Them a River):

One weekender sees the locals' support for the project as a failure of American public education. "I think we're generally better-educated and more sophisticated than the locals," he says, explaining why they can't see through St. Lawrence's P.R. offensive. "I don't want to discuss the intelligence of the locals; that's terrible. But look at the schools in Columbia County. They're awful.

Now there's a quote that really makes the blood of this here local boil!

Wednesday, March 03, 2004

Two observations; maybe I just see things in a different way (wouldn't be the only time), but...first, the media's reporting about California passing the bond issues by 2/3 majority as a surprise because not long ago the polls were showing low support strikes me as missing the point. To me it says, wake up. Media often is so biased and out of touch, and opinion polls are not very accurate.

Second, we watched the DVD Beijing Bicycle last night (it was very good). The sleeve of the DVD had a sticker with a brief description. It said something about "a 16 year-old-boy learning the value of sharing." Huh. Could've fooled me. I thought it was about a boy (finally!!) taking charge, growing up, becoming an adult.

On the subject of DVDs -- been too busy to watch very many, but we have seen Pirates of the Caribbean (which was great! And that's saying a lot, because it is not at all my type of fact - I'm sure Sean Penn was excellent in Mystic River (I didn't see it yet), but I was rooting for Johnny Depp) and Pirates of Penzance (umm...I love live musicals, but it was hard to sit through on DVD). Elephant Man we had already seen anyway, but the DVD was damaged and would only play half (a serious criticism of this mostly wonderful technology).

And we went to the movies to see 50 First Dates, which was kind of sad, but great.

Do you know, I completely forgot. Monday was the two year anniversary of this online journal!