Monday, February 28, 2005

Observations on three years of ejournaling:

1. I wondered when I started if I would keep it up. Though I have kept a journal on and off since I was a teenager, this is the longest stretch of continuous journaling I have ever managed. Throughout those three years, my interest in it and time for it have fluctuated a lot, but the smallest number of posts I have ever made is one per week. I don't obsess over how much I post, I do what comes naturally. Sometimes that means the floodgates are open and I can't type fast enough, other times that means I write a couple of sentences occasionally.

2. When I click the "next blog" button, 95% of the sites I get were created in January or February 2005. Maybe because that feature is a new-ish part of the Blogger template, and it is too much of a hassle to add for people with pre-existing designs? (I'm not even sure how long it has been around, because I rarely make changes and only noticed it a few weeks ago.)

3. Also learned from "next blog," there are an enormous amount of ejournals that are just spam disguised as a blog. What a waste.

4. I alternate between thinking, "hey, it's just a diary, so what" to "wow, it really is a modern phenomenon." But then I read all the people over-analyzing and I snap off the machine and go do something else. At that point I remember Elwyn's 70 volumes, and "diary" wins the day. Except it isn't "so what," once again it's the little picture trumps the big picture, because the little picture is the big picture.

The story here is not about whether blogging is journalism. The story here is all the people typing their hearts out. Whether it's high quality or low brow, literary or political, cat pictures or teenage giggling. (I could do without the "F" word addicts, but hey, whatever.) I always used to marvel at email in the "early days," thinking that it had resurrected the art of letter writing. Well, maybe not everyone is as eloquent as the old letters I might feature in my virtual museum, but why should there be elitist gatekeepers? Click on, and don't read it. (I admit spam is a drag.)

5. Something about the online discussion environment enables incivility. This is true to some degree even in moderated arenas, such as my course websites. I'm guessing it is the semi-anonymous nature of it. (Yes, talk radio and cable television talking heads compete with online discussion for the title of most rude.)

6. I regularly read less than 10 blogs. Sometimes I manage to surf around and read others, and probably spend too much time doing it. I also go through long stretches where I am lucky to get to my regular reads, or I simply lose interest entirely. I rarely leave comments. Not sure why I am not as enamored with the "communication" aspect as the "modern phenomenon" folks from #4. I guess it is my anti-social nature (or maybe I am thinking this way because I have been reading essays, and my students invariably argue for the wonders of socialization in the classroom). But since I don't get many comments, I suppose it is good that I feel this way.

7. The A List, B List, C List etc. are high school level cliquey, a geek popularity contest. There is a fascinating article about traffic here. The A, B, C lists are mentioned, and although it's not really on-topic for #7, I thought it was a very interesting analysis (thanks Sya).

8 & a long semi-related tangent. When I started ejournaling I was afraid it might a) require too much self-censoring and b) cut into my "real" writing time. I'll address "b" first. I believe it has been both good and bad in impact. I am definitely writing more, but it is different than before. While "more" is always welcome, I need to get back to working on my book. (This is another reason why I felt relief in "a," below.)

About "a," self-censoring, this is a major focus of writers, when they write anything that will be read by others. And unless you burn that little spiral notebook in the nightstand, that might become "public" also, although not as immediately.

I have chosen not to be anonymous, so I avoid writing as much about students as I probably would if this was private. I doubt many find their way here, or if they did, that it would interest them enough to return. I also am not concerned if they do visit. I am an upfront person and have no problem behaving that way with students. I understand the status differential, and I do my best to neither violate it inappropriately, nor maintain it artificially. In other words, I believe in being real. At the same time, I don't want to write things that might hurt a student reading it. So I write things I am comfortable sharing.

Recently I have not been writing about something. It is not a big deal, but I haven't told the students yet. I have known for a few weeks, but decided to wait until after midterms. I don't want anyone to bail out and leave me with stacks of assessments to complete! Anyway I am hoping if I bury it here in this long, tedious post about ejournaling reflections, stray surfers from campus will not notice (most don't read the required articles, you think they'll bother with this tome?).

The plug is going to be pulled on the urban ed program at the end of the semester. The courses probably will not be offered again, and the undergraduate minor and graduate certificate will be discontinued. It is a bittersweet situation. When I found out, my overwhelming feeling was...relief. This is my third semester and I was beginning to wonder how I would ever shed the responsibility. It has been interesting, and a challenge, and in those classes there is a sense that "something is going on," but it has also been too much work, too much aggravation, and taken too much time, for not enough money.

I'm not the kind of person who can do the same thing forever. I have been teaching for five years, I still like it, it seems new and I am always learning something. Every semester is a fresh start, that is one of its many charms. But I don't want to endlessly do the same course or courses, and teaching can be a burn-out job. It is energizing, and draining, all at the same time.

In addition, urban ed came with a lot of supervisory responsibilities. This isn't humble, I am kind of skilled in that area from my days in administration, and I did miss leading a team. After doing it again I remember that it is a frustrating task. Maybe it is my anti-socialness rearing up again, but I am looking forward to returning to working independently, with complete control. It looks like I am going to get to develop a new smaller course of my own in the fall, instead of doing gigantic, impersonal, complicated urban ed. And of course, I am keeping my other non-urban ed teaching and administrative duties. If I am lucky, I might have some time to get back to my book.

However, this will be the last semester for the students. I have to tell them, this week or next, I think. I hope they don't read it here first! Luckily, two of the five graduate students who are on the team are graduating in May. But that still leaves the others, and the undergrads who aren't seniors. Sorry folks.

OK, back to self-censoring and my ejournaling reflections.

9. I am always amused by how people stumble here. Lately, the journal itself gets lots of hits for some variant of "unfreezing pipes." Now the searchers were probably very disappointed, since I don't think I have provided a how-to, I think I was just describing my morning or something. So maybe I should write up a bunch of tips, I certainly have experience. How is this: Best thing to do is prevent it from happening in the first place. Open closet doors where pipes are when you hear it will be cold. Drip the faucet. If they are already frozen [duh, that's why you're here, right?] it is probably better to call a plumber unless you know what you are doing. Incoming water pipes are under pressure and are much more likely to burst when defrosting than drain pipes. Above all, do not put a blow torch on the pipes. That is how fires start!

The Gully Brook Press website, especially the virtual museum, is one reliable provider of traffic. In particular, people often search for information on bungalow houses, one room schools, and the Battle of Saratoga. Sometimes the search terms make me really uncomfortable. For instance, I saw this: "free summary for the man who corrupted hadleyburg." Luckily, all I have is a quote from that book on my bio page, so this cheater went away empty handed. But that made my anti-plagiarism blood boil. Hey! Instead of plagiarizing, you should read that book, and maybe learn something about bad character, loser.

10. Quite a while ago, Chad wrote about blogging, and how he missed jf cates. It was a good post, and I'm not sure why I didn't comment, but as I mentioned, I hardly ever do. Anyway, I was thinking about the Tuesday Too. I found it in my first few weeks of ejournaling three years ago, before I had any clue what this was about (whatever that means, as if I do now?). That was a "conversation" I enjoyed, and her site helped to introduce me to the world of blogs. (Ugh! When will I get over hating that word!) She deserves a big thank you. I miss her too, and wish her well.

Saturday, February 26, 2005

Maybe because the three-year anniversary of Gully Brook Press is approaching (March 1), but I've been spending more time than usual on ejournaling, both surfing around and tweaking my own. Tomorrow or Monday I'll write some of my reflections on the experience of the past three years (Tuesday is my long day on campus so posting on the actual anniversary is doubtful). Anyway, I have been having some fun today. I've never had a blogroll - that was a good choice as I now know I would never keep it updated - but today I added three "folks" (at right, scroll down, right after the blogger button). Ha. Maybe I have cabin fever or something.
I wanted to know what Molotov at Booker Rising thought about the monument issue, so I forwarded the article.
The Freeman often has good articles that focus on history, if there is a local connection. Today they cover the questions of historical accuracy and artistic integrity raised by adding Sojourner Truth to the Portrait Monument. I have been thinking about that debate and I feel conflicted, in that I can see merits to both sides. The importance of Sojourner Truth to suffrage should not be overlooked, and it is a nice idea to correct this oversight. On the other hand, tampering with the artwork wrongs the artist. Finally, that she was excluded in the 1920s is also a part of history. We cannot erase it. It may be hard to accept that feminists and other progressives of the 1920s did not embrace black women, but Disney World is not a museum.

I think my sympathy is stronger for the idea that we cannot change the past, we instead must focus on now. Sojourner Truth should have her own monument, near the Portrait Monument, to celebrate her achievements. And the interpretive materials at the site should be revised, to explain her contributions to the fight for women's suffrage, as well as the fact that she was not included in the original 1920s commemoration.

I linked to this in the past, but seeing the county historian mentioned reminded me to re-check one of her projects. This site about the poorhouse is coming along.
I read this article by Roger Ebert today in the paper and this clause in the paragraph about the likelihood of Hilary Swank winning best actress so irritated me: "She isn't the most beautiful actress in Hollywood..."

Who is he to judge? How does he define "beautiful?" Just how does he perceive his own looks? Handsome? And what does her beauty or lack of it have to do with winning an Oscar anyway? Does he think the criteria is the same as for the Miss America contest?

Honestly, a lot of the time his columns annoy me, but this was more than usual. That one comment takes the cake. He has been complaining recently that other reviewers have revealed the plot for Million Dollar Baby, and then a couple of weeks ago he did the same thing. I guess since he saw the movie back in December, and he was not the first one to blow the secret, he thought it was OK. (It wasn't.)

Anyway, we saw the movie over the weekend. It was very good, one of those rare movies that is worth the steep price of admission and snacks rather than waiting for the DVD, and it probably deserves to win all it was nominated for, although I have not seen many of the other contenders this year. I'm not going to write much else, except don't go to see it if you are looking for an escape, are already in a sad or bad mood, or prefer to see something light.
I should have been grading papers, but instead I tinkered a bit with the Gully Brook Press website. Nothing major, but after working on it for a while, I remembered why I put this off for so long (the last minor update was a year ago!). It takes forever, even just making small changes.

Some time ago I had installed a counter on most of the pages. That was a mistake, although it was fun to see where visitors came from, I always had to look up the password they assigned me, and I hated the stupid ads that were inserted. Most of the time they were banners for silly emoticons that can be put in email. If anyone clicked on those banners, I figure they probably downloaded spyware or something. Anyway, there are many better counters available now, and I stopped checking that account long ago, but kept putting off deleting the code. So tonight, I finally checked that task off my to do list. I also got started on a new virtual museum for Winter 2005, but didn't get very far with that part of the update.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

This is upsetting. Rudy was on Pet Connection when he was a puppy.
I'm not in the habit of reading the student newspaper, but a few days ago I was killing some time in the campus coffee shop and so I picked up a copy. It was pretty much the usual, lots of articles on movies and music, and numerous editing errors. One column in particular caught my eye, since it mentioned plagiarism, and that is a concern of mine. I wasn't aware of the specific case, but I was struck by the author's comment that students don't get riled up by important issues (such as the student association misusing funds -- this is off topic, but is this a constant problem or what? I remember this happening when I was an undergraduate too. Why do so many bad apples get involved? Is it because others are so apathetic?). However, apparently, students were concerned with the plagiarism article -- in the sense that they were angry the columnist had written about cheating by an athlete. Ah, the joys of Division I!

This made me curious, so I checked the Internet, and sure enough, the paper has a (decent) website. I went back to the archived issue with the original article. I also reviewed the subsequent issues, but could not find any letters from students who were upset by the coverage. Maybe the negative comments were verbal? Frankly, I did not find many letters on any subject, so I guess apathy lives, which I suppose was the point of the column from last week.

Just noticed this site, Carnival of Education.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

In today's Times Union there was a link to a new blog (ejournal :-) they are hosting for soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan.

On a completely different note, there is a great store in Albany, called Huck Finn's Warehouse. That is high praise coming from me because I am an anti-shopper. Anyway, last week, Bob went there and got new livingroom furniture. We'd been considering making an offer on a house that is for sale on our street. It is bigger than our house, in better condition, with a yard that is an acre. In the end we decided against taking on a big mortgage payment and depleting our savings account.

Instead we decided to consume in other household ways, replacement windows being the most significant improvement. Something less important but more fun, our upholstered stuff was very worn out (only partially due to the animals). We tried to donate the loveseat and recliner (the "dog chair" was way past the point of no return) but the woman at the Salvation Army acted insulted, and implied that bums expect to sit on better furniture when they watch their burning barrels in outside camps under the highway overpass. I'm not really exaggerating. So unfortunately it all wound up in the landfill.

Now that we have had the new pieces for a while, it dawned on us that we didn't need a different house, just new furniture! Anyway, Bob done good...

The colorful things in the background are dog toys. (Yeah, they do play with them all, but yeah, they do have too many.)

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

After reading about his remarks during a speech on social security, I wrote the following letter to Congressman Hinchey. (Yeah, despite what I wrote about not being a letter-writing nutjob, lately, I have been writing a lot, haven't I?)

Thank you, or your staff, for reading my letter. I believe in complete disclosure. The above address and phone number are mine, but it is a weekend house. I am actually registered to vote not in Ulster County, but in Castleton, Rensselaer County, where I spend weekdays. (I teach at the University at Albany, SUNY.) I grew up in your district, in West Shokan in the Town of Olive, and most of my family still lives and works there. I don't actually receive mail at 20 Jomar Lane, but since everyone knows who I am, the postmaster will deliver any letters I receive to my parents.

I have been considering changing my voter enrollment to Olivebridge, because I would very much like to vote in the school board and school budget election (due to the large parcel which is devastating to Olive). However, although fighting for Olive's resources is vital to me, I am not sure changing my enrollment would be ethical, so I probably won't. I read on the earlier screen that you do not respond to non-constituents, but I believe as a 22nd district native and Ulster County taxpayer, I am a constituent. What I mean is that I am not some nutjob who is broadcasting letters all over the place.

Recently your name has been in the national news because of some remarks you made in Ithaca about the CBS News/Dan Rather debacle. Maybe I am sensitive because of the way the media and other towns in the school district and County have been victimizing Olive over the large parcel issue, and then the way Kingston and Ulster have been portrayed on TV because of the recent mall shooting, but I feel embarrassed for you, and for the 22nd district.

You are missing the point entirely, that a respectable network like CBS, the news division, one of America's most venerable programs, 60 Minutes, and Dan Rather did such shoddy research. 60 Minutes has always been one of my father's favorite programs, and we watched it since its inception in the 1970s. I hardly ever missed an episode until September, when they imploded.

If, as you suggest, they were fooled by someone (and to be honest the fakes were not very convincing to anyone who has ever used a computer or a typewriter) it shows incredibly poor powers of discernment for what is supposed to be an organization that prides itself on research. How could they be so gullible? Or did they want to believe the memos, and didn't care if they were faked? What else have they reported over the years that was based on faulty evidence, either because they were naive, or unethical? If your suspicion is incorrect, and they manufactured the memos internally the story is even more chilling.

Mr. Hinchey, I wrote above that I am not a nutjob broadcasting letters; I am not. I am concerned primarily with local issues that concern Olivebridge, the Ashokan Reservoir, Ulster County, Castleton, and Albany. My family is a mixture of Democrats and Republicans, and I am an independent. We don't argue politics that much (OK, my grandmother did, she worshipped FDR and was straight-ticket) but we all vote. In Olive, we all get along pretty well, and take pride in the endeavors of everyone in our community; in some ways that may be another legacy of the reservoir.

Whether I agreed or disagreed with you on an issue, over the years I have thought you are a bright person, admired your career through the Assembly to Congress, felt proud of your Saugerties roots, and believed you to be a worthy representative of my beloved hometown.

But right now I am feeling like you have taken leave of your senses. Having our Congressman make irresponsible and paranoid allegations of conspiracy theories does nothing to highlight our region in a positive way. Yes, some among the fringe elements may applaud you (in my mind's eye I see WDST, the Woodstock Times, and Alan Chartock giving you high fives), but I assure you, the plain folks I know will just shake their heads and think you are not the sharpest tool in the shed. Maybe you need a vacation? Why not go spend some time back in the beautiful Catskill Mountains and take pleasure in the beauty of nature. That grounds me when I am uptight. I call this the little picture focus, that is really the big picture. (Washington D.C. surely isn't.) It might bring you back to reality.

Saturday, February 19, 2005

What a one-sided article. No doubt about this supervisor's agenda (theft of the resources of a neighboring town). What's amazing to me is that he labels others - in this case, those who disagree with his perspective - "ignorant." Does he have any clue that his inflammatory and insulting words will serve only to make folks in Olive fight harder?

I wish Olive would investigate every avenue for breaking away from the district, then wave bye-bye and take the Reservoir resources, not just because those resources should stay in Olive, but because educational research literature supports smaller schools, not big districts. Consolidation is an idea from the mid-20th Century, it is not modern, it is not efficient, and it does not produce quality.

But until that happens, it is true that the upcoming school board election is very important...for Olive. Four seats are up? Replace every large parcel supporter with someone pro-Olive. The school board / school budget election is one of the few opportunities to have an impact. Do not for a moment believe the company line that the current board spouts. They are trying to paint large parcel opponents as anti-education; that is a typical diversionary tactic. I have devoted my life to public education. The memory of the Board president's patronizing attitude at the public hearings on the large parcel subject is seared in my memory.

Friday, February 18, 2005

Two opinion columns, here and here, that overlook as much of the absurd Churchill story as the Chronicle. Which, by the way finally noticed the rest of the story today (unfortunately it is a subscription site, but the headline hits the nail on the head).

Monday, February 14, 2005

The Times Union notices the Catskill Animal Sanctuary.

The Freeman is all over the shooting yesterday at the Hudson Valley Mall.

And the Chronicle of Higher Education (it's a subscription site) notices the Ward Churchill thing. They focus almost exclusively on the free speech, academic freedom angle, and pretty much overlook any discussion of his questionable (understatement) academic activities; that's a bit strange, since the Chronicle is usually so...comprehensive.

Friday, February 11, 2005

Ugh. I am sick. I have a head cold, and as always, it is really irritating my sinuses. I must have picked it up on campus, my classes were half empty, and everyone else was not feeling well on Tuesday.

But, unlike my usual miserable self whenever I am ill (I am a horrible patient), today I am very happy. I wrote last month that Rudy had been a little sick. After a week of panic, we had good news yesterday, he has prostatitis (an infection in his prostate), which is the least serious thing he could have.

He had blood in his urine since early January. The first two weeks of antibiotics didn't work, so he was given another two weeks of Clavamoxx and an x-ray. The vet didn't see anything in the x-ray, and although the second round of antibiotics seemed to be working, the vet was uncomfortable. So Rudy had to have an ultrasound yesterday. That meant he would have to be sedated. Due to his age he had to go in for blood tests.

They were looking for kidney stones, prostate cancer (because a simple prostate infection is rare in neutered dogs), or urinary tract cancer (which is pretty rare in dogs). The prognosis for prostate cancer is poor, 4 months is considered a long time to live. Anyway, $750 dollars later, it turns out that although he is neutered - he does just have an infection in his prostate, all his organs are cancer free and he has no stones either.

So they switched his antibiotics to Baytril, which is better for the prostate, and he should be fine. Also, they didn't wind up knocking him out. I'm not sure if they muzzled him, but they said he was good. He had to lay on his back the whole time and have his belly shaved. We could tell he was mad at us last night. But, what a relief!

Something I would like to have added to my comment in the Freeman (but didn't, because I didn't want to be petty):

Q: What is one thing Olive has that Woodstock doesn't?

A: A supermarket rather than a CVS.

Ha ha ha...

Print that in the Woodstock Times and a flame war is sure to ensue.
Here is the Freeman's story about the large parcel protest. I just had to comment!

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Another thought about the Thursday Threesome question on life after death. I am so interested in the past, I feel connected to it. It isn't just an abstract interest in history, as an academic subject (although that is another important part of the connection). Loving antique furniture, volunteering at two museums, doing genealogical research and memoir writing, serving on a cemetery board and living in an old house near another cemetery...these are all a part of my connection.

Once I wrote that genealogy research isn't just about names and dates on a dusty old page, it's more personal. It starts with seeing a baby's name in an old census, and following that name as it ages, through the decades; then it's locating a tintype of that person, all dressed up in Sunday best; next, it's finding a newspaper clipping in a scrapbook, announcing the marriage with great fanfare and exotic descriptions; then seeing the house, where the couple lived; and finally one day it's standing near a gravestone, displaying the name and dates. The person, who lived 150 years ago, is not some distant figure from the past. That experience spoke to me.

This virtual museum from some time ago is about The Battle of Saratoga. Standing in that battlefield is an other-worldy experience, very powerful. This was another experience that spoke to me.

Both times it spoke about life after death.
More on the large parcel, from the Freeman. This makes my blood boil. On one thing I agree with Wilber, it is a black & white issue, but that is where my agreement stops. The coming of the reservoir in 1904 was theft of Olive's resources by NYC, and the 2004 large parcel is theft of Olive resources by the other towns in the school district and county.

As far as taking the school board out of the decision making process, I don't agree with Leifeld (no surprise there) [more another time]. If the large parcel is going to stay on the books - then I say, keep the board in the hot seat. The school budget and the school board elections are just about the only place where Olive residents can have an impact.

There is a rally on this issue today, at the county legislature. I can't go, of course, but I am there in spirit. We may win, or we may not - but if it is the latter, we are going to go down fighting.
Trying this again, since I am home on a Thursday for a change.

The Thursday Threesome

Nothing is certain but death and taxes --Benjamin Franklin

Onesome: Nothing is certain- Have you ever thought you had a "Sure Thing?" Did it pay off or not?

I'm not sure what this means exactly. So I guess the answers are no, and n/a?

Twosome: But death- Do you believe in life after death?

Not that I don't have occasional hopeless doubts, but yes, I really do, for one logical reason (because what is the point otherwise?) and for a host of other reasons (among them, feelings, dreams, miracles, prayers, signs).

Threesome: and taxes- Have you got all your tax documents squared away and ready to work on? Or are you one of the people at the post office on April 15th?

Well - my documents are all squared away (I am still waiting for one 1099, this reminds me to follow up) and in good order, but I generally do wait until the deadline, or close to it. Maybe this year I won't procrastinate. Now there's a thought!

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

On and off, the last post I make does not appear on my journal. I have tried all the suggested things listed on help, but they have no impact. One thing that sometimes works, but isn't mentioned is clicking through the archives and then back to "current." But, that isn't working at the moment. So I am making this post simply to see if it appears.
Today's papers report on another disgusting case of animal abuse, involving horses. Amazing how differently it is presented in the Albany Times Union, v. the Kingston Daily Freeman. Maybe reporters in Albany are less sensitive to the subject (and more influenced by the scum attorney's rhetoric), or it could be that since the Catskill Animal Sanctuary is in Ulster County, the local view is more sympathetic to the animals. How can this horrible woman be allowed to keep 40 other horses? It is outrageous.

Friday, February 04, 2005