Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Now here's someone who could identify with my stories about poop patrol. These rates strike me as too cheap. I wonder what he gets for the annual Spring cleanup?

On another note, but still yard-related, a crew is here working on our bathroom foundation. It is beyond needing to be replaced, and I am so happy we are finally having it done. The dogs have pretty much calmed down, at first I thought the barking would make me insane.

Update: I may be immune to barking, but the jackhammering might push me over the edge. The dogs are numb, they seem to realize that barking is no use, the machine wins. The foundation is mostly gone now, the bathroom is held up by a series of jacks. Strange, to see it floating.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

One of my students from the Spring semester wrote in her journal about not having a television. She said people look at her incredulously when they find out and then ask her, "are you a vegetarian? Do you home school your kids?" She said someone she knew from work was talking about "Ally" and for a long time she thought they were referring to a friend, until she learned there was a TV program called Ally McBeal. She wonders if not being familiar with this part of popular culture will harm her kids.

I think the opposite is true. I didn't have a TV for years, and now I don't have cable. Arguments about quality television fall on deaf ears. Even the better stuff is mostly crap, and watching it is such a passive activity. Better to read, to develop one's imagination through play, to do crafts and art, to go outside in the fresh air with your dog.

When I was a kid, our TV was black and white (which wasn't all that unusual, but color was becoming common). We got one channel, CBS 3 from Hartford, CT. As a result, I never became an addict. Maybe I wouldn't have anyway. I believe my generation is the first that was weaned on the television, and that wasn't a good thing. Today it is even worse.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Strange day. For the second time in two weeks, I am nervous. Two weeks ago I surprised myself by being nervous over the awards ceremony. I'm not sure why, I didn't have to do anything except go up to the podium and shake the dean's hand when my name was called. Today it is the interview.

I am not normally a nervous person, and in fact I have been accused of not having a pulse, or having only one speed (reverse). But that is only a partial picture. As a student I was always nervous when I had to give presentations. I would drop a class that required public speaking. Eventually I forced myself to do them, there really is no way to avoid it in graduate school, but I was never glib. I remember blushing, or at least feeling like I was blushing. Practice does make perfect (either that or it is the comforting status differential) and that fear is long gone - I could wing it and BS my way through any class, if I am not careful it can take the hook (or the gong, I like that image) to shut me up.

But I notice I don't get nervous in the same way any longer. It manifests itself physically - and there is nothing I can do about it. My hand or leg shakes. I feel dizzy. My vision is blurry. I become obsessive-compulsive, and endlessly check and re-check my paperwork and all the details. Why do I put myself through this? I wonder. Nothing is making me do it. But it is probably a good idea to get practice, to force myself to stare it down, to win. Wish me luck!

Here was a jolt. As I killed time on campus this morning, another faculty member and I were discussing whether to give special consideration to a student (who doesn't really deserve it, but I am probably too rule oriented, bureaucracy lover that I am). "She is an older person," he says, by way of explanation. I nod, and fidget. I have access to the records system, and had just finished looking up her grades. I had noted her date of birth, and it is about one year later than mine. I'm not all hung up on age or anything. I don't wear make up, or dye my hair. When everyone in the room except you is 20 - and new ones come in every year to replace the ones who have aged, there is no point in clinging to denial. I don't know how old the other faculty member is - my guess is that he is probably younger than I am, though he looks considerably older (of course that is just my admittedly biased opinion). "Older person." Hmmm. I guess it happens to all of us, try as we might to run away from the truth.

Monday, May 23, 2005

I'm in one of those moments where my to do list is growing, but none of it is urgent, so I accomplish nothing productive, and the inevitable result will be all kinds of pressure in a few weeks. In my dreams I am organized, the kind of person who does a little bit here and there along the way and is done in plenty of time. In reality, I am driven by deadlines. This is the good advice I dispense to students: don't procrastinate. But I guess it should be followed by the tired cliche "do as I say, not as I do." On the flip side, I never miss a deadline, the product comes out fine, even (at times) spectacular, and most people don't guess that I got there by burning the midnight oil. So I surf, write email, go outside and watch the flowers grow, all the while feeling a little guilty (just not enough to get moving).

Friday, May 20, 2005

I couldn't resist...I sent this note to the board of directors. (The link to the speech and her original explanation have now been removed from the Pepsi website, and replaced with a brief note of apology.)

Recently I have noticed some criticism of Pepsi's President's remarks at the Columbia School of Business commencement speech. I would like to thank you for making the text of the speech available on the Internet. I have now read both the speech and the explanation.

I am sure you are getting a lot of feedback from both reasonable folks and nutjobs, so I don't really expect a response. But thank you to whomever is reading this, anyway. I hope I am in the former, not latter, category.

I have sat through several commencements, a few of my own, most recently this past weekend, when my nephew received his bachelor's degree. Some are boring, or just too long. Some speakers are too caught up in politics, and they fail to realize that commencement addresses are occasions filled with pride for the graduates and their loved ones – speakers should be brief, funny, and most important – inspiring. Reproaching the audience about being ugly Americans is not exactly inspiring.

The president’s middle finger analogy for the United States is just plain offensive, and it shocks me that she would think otherwise. Giving someone the middle finger is a crude and inappropriate gesture. Too often people who suffer from road rage resort to it. Her explanation is not convincing – yes, there is no doubt that she meant the U.S. is important as the middle finger is to the hand, but it is also clear that her intention was to caution the graduates about the U.S. being the other meaning of middle finger – flipping the bird.

Over 20 years ago, I worked at one of the Pepsi flashcubes, along the platinum mile in Purchase, New York. I was a nobody, a temp. It was an OK job, not a bad place to work for a few weeks. Young as I was, I was amused by the backstabbing among those who were vying for management promotions. I am now a professor of education. Sometimes students who are in the school of business take my courses as electives. In my experience, plagiarism is a growing problem – and I am sad to report that when I have encountered academic dishonesty in my classes, it is often school of business students who are the perpetrators.

If she wanted to give advice – particularly in light of the recent business scandals that have plagued major corporations - she might have referenced the importance of being an ethical business person. Or considering the enormous salaries that are paid to individuals such as Pepsi’s president, she might have spoken of caring about the less fortunate, of giving back to society, of making a difference through service to others. Certainly she could have spoken about the importance of cultural sensitivity – but using the middle finger analogy was pathetic, particularly for someone in her high position, and for someone who has reaped enormous rewards from the U.S.

The true irony is that about the only worthy product Pepsi sells is oatmeal. If giving good advice was the point, what about some reflection on the evils of junk food? How do soda and potato chips benefit the United States – or for that matter, the globe?
The latest on the school budget vote.

With the adoption of the large-parcel bill, district property owners in Woodstock and Lexington saw 2004-05 school tax rates reduced by 77 cents per $1,000 of assessed value; Shandaken saw rates go down by $2.49 per $1,000; Hurley saw a 51-cent increase per $1,000; Woodstock saw a 77-cent reduction; Marbletown saw a reduction of $1.10 per $1,000; and Olive, which has yet to complete a townwide property revaluation, saw an increase of $310.97 per $1,000.

Hmmm, $310.97 per $1,000 increase v. .77 per $1,000 decrease...duh, it failed. (And in whose twisted mind was that "equity?")

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Now that I am free of the heavy workload generated by the end of the semester, you'd think I would have lots of fascinating things to write...but I don't. I have not been able to catch up on sleep yet, since every morning I have been awakened by the telephone. Today it was a wrong number. Twice.

I have a fair amount to do this summer. I already started to get my work space organized. Now, I have to send all of my students the promised email memo with a breakdown of their grades (it doesn't seem urgent this time around, since only two students have emailed me to complain, one B+ wanted something higher, and one A- wanted A. That may be a record). There is the Gale Group book on education to update. Also, I am reviewing a few chapters of a new textbook on the history and sociology of education. Then there is the summer course to teach during Session II, and designing the new course I will be teaching in the Fall. And there is always student advisement to do.

This spring, I have not done much of my favorite summer activity, yard work. Soon I will get busy. I am one of the volunteer gardeners at Historic Cherry Hill, and on Saturday I am going to put a couple of hours in there. I have lots of plans for Castleton, and this year, if I can figure out the watering-from-a-distance dilemma, I am hoping to grow zucchini in Samsonville, since my Castleton yield has been disappointing for two years. Not enough sun for squash, I guess, and since space is at a premium, I am going to put in a more prolific crop.

Several weeks ago, the weather reporters on the news starting talking about how things can be planted after May 1, and I laughed at their ignorance. Since then we have had several nights that were below freezing. I think people used to observe the rule that there can be no outside planting in this zone until after Memorial Day. I think this is the best practice. I have never had my tomato plants killed by late spring frost.

On the home gardening front, I don't think I mentioned it here, but for the first time ever, I did not have to do my usual disgusting spring task. If you are curious, here is my report on this task in 2004 and here it is in 2003. (I guess I had better things to write about in 2002, when this journal was new.) Last fall I vowed I would go outside all winter and clean up after the dogs immediately, no matter the weather, time of day or what else I had to do. I kept my promise, and waded out in the yard in the deepest snow, shivering in the dark in my night clothes, dodging thunderbolts. I was motivated by horrible past memories.

As it turned out, due to Rudy's long illness this winter, I had to check regularly to see his status anyway, and sometimes to try to "catch" his urine (eventually he grew to hate this, and would hide behind the shed or in a bush so I couldn't catch him, what with having to wade through deep snow in night clothes in the dark while dodging thunderbolts). I don't think I have ever been so involved with dog excretions. It was part of my daily activities and many of my conversations. I always hoped to report that "Rudy peed, and it looked good."

Anyway - deep snow, freezing temperatures, and thunderbolts aside (yeah, I know there is almost never lightening in the winter, it is possible my imagination is embellishing just a little), I was rewarded when the thaw came, and the yard looked and smelled great. No need to spend hours in a bad mood scraping the top layer of soil into a muck bucket, and wondering why it is I love dogs so much.

Ha, I guess I did have something to write about, but "fascinating" isn't the best word to describe it.

Back to my task list, I have an interview for a job in administration (not at the university) next week. Any more information on that will have to keep.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Goodbye large parcel. Well, not quite. But now everyone (except the worthless board president, it seems) has to admit that "Olive Matters!!!"

From the district, here is a tally of the unofficial results. Read it and weep, reservoir coveters!

Monday, May 16, 2005

I submitted grades (with 44 minutes to spare). What a relief. I have been working nonstop with only minimal sleep since May 4 (well, except for going to Vermont, spending the day on campus for the awards ceremony, and attending my nephew's graduation from the College of St. Rose) and I am tired.

In a few days, I will be starting the 2006 update of the education book that I wrote for Gale Group in 2002 and revised in 2004, but tomorrow I am going to sleep! (Unless angry student emails demand a lot of time, that is. The grades are not supposed to be available for students to view on the online system until May 18, but if the past is any indicator, they are probably accessible already.)

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Spent yesterday on campus, that will be my last day for the spring semester. We had a faculty luncheon at the new library, and from the nice conference room all the chairs set up for the undergraduate commencement on Sunday were visible. I guess they are not limiting tickets for guests, and so must have it outside. I hope the weather holds!

Afterwards, there was the awards ceremony, which was very festive. Mine was first, and I got a really cute engraved gold apple paperweight, much better than a plaque. Three faculty got awards, and then the Dean awarded student scholarships. Three of the donors were there, and I thought that was especially nice. I tried to find a link on the internet to a picture of the paperweight, but all the ones I found were tacky versions with clocks or made of some other material (usually brass or crystal).

Then Bob and I celebrated at the Arlington House. It was great!

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Unbelievable. Hurray for Marianne. Stop meddlin' with Castleton, ACLU.

This is going to be an interesting election. What jerks are on the board. Unfortunately, being subject to (extreme) taxation without representation, I am not allowed to vote in it.

Monday, May 09, 2005

It was freezing, and the ride is very long, but we had fun in Vermont. On the way up, we took Route 7. Very scenic, also very, very, very long. We stopped in Manchester, and Bob went to the Polo Outlet.

Once in Burlington, we stayed at the Clarion (the room was actually a suite, complete with kitchenette and jacuzzi) and our niece showed us her college, St. Michael's. We then ate at the New England Culinary Institute Commons (very impressive and delicious).

On Sunday, we visited the Shelburne Museum. We were pressed for time - and it was very cold - so we went to three of the sites: the Collector's House (very interesting and different), the Lighthouse (very cool, and it reminded me a bit of our Castleton house), and the Ticonderoga (where we took a guided tour). You could easily spend a couple of days there, there was much more to see, even this early in the Spring.

On the way back, we took the ferry from Charlotte to Essex, and picked up "our" (NYS) Northway. That made the trip home somewhat faster, but it still is very long. The ferry was quite an experience, though - I'd never been in a car on a ferry! It was very rough! Almost scary. The animals stayed in Samsonville - so Bob took a brief nap there when we picked them up before we headed back north to Castleton.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Thursday Threesome

Onesome: This--is the one thing you need to get finished today! What would that be?

It doesn't have to be finished today (my deadline is May 16) but I need to make some progress on end-of-semester grades.

Twosome: and a-- project you'd like to get started on this weekend would be?

I am not planning to accomplish a lot this weekend. Going to Burlington, VT this weekend to visit my niece.

Threesome: Day--Scenario: tomorrow is suddenly 'your day'--school is out, the kids are covered; you're shift is handled at work; you have no obligations! ...and you have gas and spending money. What are you going to do with your time?

If it isn't raining, work in the yard! If it is raining, work on my Mimmie book.

I really don't understand this. How can someone be convicted, but allowed to keep the victims? The judge must be a real jerk.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Well, it is official - on May 11 I will be awarded the 2005 Excellence in Teaching Award of the School of Education. I found out yesterday. I am pretty happy, this has been a good semester.

Monday, May 02, 2005

Rumor has it that I am up for an end-of-semester teaching award; one of the faculty congratulated me, and when I asked "why?" he told me. A while ago I suspected I was nominated, because the secretary, a terrible liar, asked me some questions that made me suspicious. But then I forgot about it. I have been nominated for a few things before, including a distinguished dissertation, and not won, so it is better to not focus on such things. Oh, I know, just being nominated is flattering, and all that. Anyway, the faculty member said I have won, so we'll see. I laughed, "I guess it would be a good idea for me to come to campus that day, eh?" And maybe dress up a little? Black jeans instead of blue?

On Thursday one of my students appeared with a BIG box of Godiva chocolates and a thank you note. It isn't totally being an AK, either, as the course she is in is S/U graded, not A or B or C. (Not that the brand and size of the box wouldn't make it OK if she was :-). She's a wonderful person, first-generation college student, 30 family members are traveling to her graduation, and her future is very bright. She has already been accepted to graduate school, and she is going to be a social studies teacher. She makes it easy to teach. I have all my thank you notes pinned to a bulletin board in my office, but this is my first box of chocolates. That's my award, I think. (Recently I read in the Chronicle of a young, handsome male professor who has a bulletin board of thank you notes too - but he is being accused of inappriopriate behavior with female advisees, so his display has a special, creepy significance. Ew.)

Our latest Netflix was Road to Perdition. It looked cool - very stylish, old cars, grey-ish and old fashioned, and the violence was done in such a way that it was not too horrifying, for the most part. But that is all I can say on a positive note. I hated the story, there were so many obvious, stupid plot holes. Even an all-star cast couldn't save it.