Friday, September 30, 2005

I have been spending a lot of time - too much time - on petfinder. There are so many adorable faces on there, some happy, some sad. It was a lot easier in the days when you just went to the shelter and chose from the available dogs. Now there is an application procedure. I filled out several applications, some online, some mail-in. I just received a call from the Mohawk and Hudson River Humane Society, where we got both Rudy and Sophie in those pre-application days, and was told that we are approved. They have a puppy they think would be perfect for us, also several other dogs, not quite as young, who may be the one. This is going to be very hard, but we are going to go in tomorrow to take a look.

I will always think back on this month, and link various memories together in my mind. This is how I always so vividly remember when things happened. I'll remember that in late Summer of 2005, the hurricanes in the Gulf Coast happened. I won't forget the timing, because of Rudy's illness and death. In the chaos of those horrible storms, when houses and people were gone in an instant, I'll never forget that Rudy too was swept away.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Getting through my first day of working at home, without my sweetie to keep my company. Today is garbage day, and when the truck stopped and Sophie started barking, I felt a wave of grief. Last week, Rudy joined her in the chorus. And last time I worked here at my computer, on Friday, he was laying under my desk, on a comforter. Sad sad sad. Here is the website I made back in February for him. We buried him in his wicker basket, that had been Penny's, and before that, Pud's, with the toy he was playing with in the top photo. Looking at that picture, who would have ever suspected he had cancer and would be gone in the Fall?

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

I hate September. I should like it, what with my birthday, school starting, and the beautiful weather (in NYS), but whenever trouble is brewing, I know if something bad happens, it will be in September.

Rudy died on Sunday. The positive news is that he had a good quality of life until Saturday morning, he was happy and active. He had a really good week last week. His birthday was last Saturday, the day before mine, and he turned 10. He did not have a lot of appetite, but on that morning he ate a Dentabone, something he had not wanted in weeks. On Tuesday evening, he was even playing with his toys. But he had very bad blood in his urine since Thursday – that was his main symptom since January, but it was not that bad since going to the holistic vet.

Anyway, he really started to bleed Thursday and Friday. He had a stroke Saturday morning. My guess is that a clot broke off from the tumor and went to his brain. It really impacted his left side. We sat a vigil with him all day and all night, taking turns. Then on Sunday he must have had another stroke, and he quickly died at about 5 pm. I’m glad we didn’t have to make the choice to euthanize him, since I really don't believe in it, but I think we may have had to do it if he lingered much longer. We knew it was the end as soon as his mobility was impacted, because going for walks was his main joy in life.

We took him to Samsonville that evening and despite my father having the same cold I do (he said it was a Category 5 and now is a Category 2. Funny. I guess mine is now a tropical storm), he dug a grave with his backhoe and we buried him next to my parents’ dog Hobo, who was Rudy’s best buddy. Before his cancer diagnosis, I always imagined he’d live to be 14 or at least 12. Bob says that he had such vitality, that he wouldn’t have been happy with the slow decline of age, as an old, sensory-deprived dog, the way his predecessors Howie and Penny were. And maybe he is right. He walked on his leash for the last time on Friday. But I am left with this feeling - although I love all animals, especially dogs, I know from experience that Rudys don't come along all that often, and 10 years is way too short of a time to have such a great dog.

Memories of his mischevious ways, of the things he liked to do come in waves. If you looked up "happy" in the dictionary, there should be a picture of Rudy. He loved winter and I will always think of him joyously rolling in the snow after a storm. He liked to hold things "hostage" - dirty underwear, coins, you name it - and extort treats as payment. He always checked the grocery bags for Dentabones. He knew "paw," "sit," and "speak." Oh, there are so many things I could write, but I think I will end this memoir with that, for now.

Two nice pictures are posted here, as well as the tribute I wrote on his eighth birthday. Rest in peace, Mr. Wuj. There can be no doubt that you were welcomed with open arms in heaven.

Friday, September 23, 2005

This is an outrage. Judge Fletcher should be ridden out of town on a rail. What a no-good, worthless, vile waste of a pair of pants. Loser. Who elected this moron? Can I think of any more insulting cliches?

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

My birthday was great, so was Rudy's. Now I have a cold and I feel like crap.

Friday, September 16, 2005

My classes are going well in terms of the students, but on the other hand, there have been a few annoying glitches. Every semester, the bookstore begs faculty to get our orders in early so that the books are available when students arrive. So, I always make an effort to meet the deadline. For this semester, that was back in March. I use the most current editions of the books, but only one was updated since the Spring, so there should have been plenty of used copies floating around, in addition to the new books that the bookstore should have ordered.

I believe the books for one of my classes have sold out twice already, and there is always a delay of several days while the bookstore scrambles to get more copies. In my other class, the books recently sold out, and not every student has them yet. I know this happens because the bookstore doesn't want to be stuck with even one copy to send back, and so they must use some calculation to determine how many enrolled students don't plan to do the reading or buy the books at all, plus how many go to another, probably cheaper, vendor. But it seems to me that they are always wrong, never have enough in stock, and I wind up being inconvenienced. I really burns me up. Why bother to make the deadline if they aren't going to hold up their end of the deal?

In my experience, students perceive not having a personal copy of the book as the ultimate justification for putting in zero effort. Then, another problem is that some students don't have any money, and so they are not unwilling to do the reading, but they simply can't afford to buy the books.

Several semesters ago, I decided to partially fix the problem by putting copies of all the books on reserve in the library. I took older editions of all the books, and I went online and bought one copy each of the latest editions (I have my own review copy that the publisher provides to me for free, but they won't give extras). So there are multiple copies at the library, and one each is the current edition.

I also have a bunch of books on reserve that are for a book review that is due at the end of the semester. Students can buy a copy of one of 15 books for this assignment, or they can read one of my copies. I bought some new and some used books from Amazon so that students who have tight budgets wouldn't have to shell out any more money, since the cost of the three required books is already over $100 and I am trying to be sensitive to the rising cost of college. I didn't bother to ask for reimbursement from the department. It isn't that they wouldn't compensate me after the paperwork hassle, but my sense is that with our endlessly tight budgets, it wouldn't be appreciated at all.

This semester numerous students have reported that they are getting the run around from the reserves desk. It moved over the summer, and I did notice that although it looks much more impressive, it also seems as if the staff is more disorganized. I am not one to bash the staff on campus - as a student they seemed to be unresponsive if not downright hostile, but to faculty members the folks in most offices are quite nice. So I wondered if students were telling a tall tale to get out of the reading.

I decided to test it out. On Tuesday, I visited the library and asked for one of the books. I waited at least 15 minutes before the woman who was helping me came back. There was a whole opera as she kept looking the book up on the computer and getting someone else to help her find it. Finally she came back with an older edition. I told her that wasn't the book I needed, that I wanted the most recent edition. Again at least 15 minutes passed. Finally, another woman came out and reported that they did not have any other copies of the book. So I asked what happened to it? Did a student steal it? Was it misplaced? She didn't know. I could see she wasn't going to be helpful, so I said, "it is listed on the computer as being on reserve. These are not library books, they are personal copies. I have a lot of books on reserve. If they are not here when students need them I have to know what the problem is. Do you have the sheets I filled out when I brought the books over?"

I didn't say this, but obviously my next question would be whether the library intended to reimburse me for the lost book. It is one thing to not get reimbursed by the department for the purchase, but another thing to have the library cost me even more. Another 15 minutes passed while she consulted with someone in the back. When she returned, she told me that the listing in the computer was an error - I had never given them the latest edition. She did not produce the sheets that I brought over when I put the books on reserve.

I am proud to say that resisted losing it, although I felt like it. I would have been a lot less angry if they just admitted they were at fault, instead of blaming me. But I knew it was pointless. They do not give a receipt when you place personal copies of books on reserve. They had no intention of admitting responsibility, because they were not going to risk having to pay me for the lost book.

Later it struck me that when students don't return the reserve books, they get fined, and if they don't pay, a hold is placed on their records. In one case, I remember a student kept one of the books for the review a long time (the book review copies are two day reserves) and I had to ask in class for the student to return it. I know he had to pay at least $40, which is much more than the book cost new. Why does the library get to keep that money? It is my book. If he never returned it, would I get reimbursed? Or would they replace the book once the fine was paid? It seems the answer is no, tough luck. Just deny ever having it and run.

So, I went on Amazon to see if I could find a copy to replace it. The cheapest used copy I could find costs $43. I am simply not willing to spend that much again, so I guess the students will have to settle for the older edition. A student who came to office hours shortly after this fiasco told me that she works in the library and they put things back on the wrong shelf all the time. So that is probably what happened to my book. Maybe it will turn up eventually.

Last night I had my lower division class, the one that is mostly freshmen. It is in a smart classroom in the chemistry building, and I got ready to show a slideshow that I had saved on the class website. The projector wasn't getting a signal from the computer, so I looked around and discovered that someone had unplugged the wire from the wall. I should mention that the others who use the room clearly do not embrace modern technology, because every week the chalkboard has been rolled front and center, the overhead projector is all set up, and tables and chairs are obstructing the smart console.

I plugged in the wire and it still wouldn't work. I fooled around rebooting, etc., only to discover that everything related to the computer and the Internet had been unplugged - and the back of the smart console was locked, meaning not accessible. So, I reordered my plan for the night, and put in a video that I intended to show a bit later. I had borrowed it from the library, and surprise, surprise, it wasn't rewound. The wait was excrutiating (luckily freshmen are so well behaved), but once I finally got it set up, I ran over to AV Services to get a technician. He told me that this problem has been happening in smart rooms across campus. He came over and worked on the console, but after he left and the video was finished, it still couldn't find the Internet. So I gave the students their break early, ran over to my office (the education building is quite a hike from chemistry), managed to find a floppy diskette (not easy in this age of CD ROMs), copied my presentation to a diskette, dashed back, and gave my presentation. There is a lesson here about relying on technology, and having back-up systems in place. At least I am getting some exercise!

The good news (aside from the best news, that Rudy is doing well and will turn 10 tomorrow) this week: I got a new computer on campus, as I mentioned before, and the Dean's office gave all in my department nice tee-shirts, because we were the first department to make our Fall enrollment targets. So, I guess that almost makes up for the incompetent bookstore, the mean librarian, and the revenge of the Luddites.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Bob just called to tell me something really upsetting. He saw a creep speed up and deliberately hit a turtle that was in the road. I seems to me that creep is too gentle a word, but I can't think of anything suitable right now. How about "someone who deserves to be tortured to death by an alligator."
The tax bills came and as always I have no complaints about Castleton. And, since the large parcel was shot down this year, Samsonville wasn't terrible - but it wasn't exactly a bargain either. Then, in today's Freeman, I see this.

It is very frustrating to me. This is a district that spent $26,597 per special education student in 2002-03. That's $9,555 more per pupil than similar districts, or $8,779 more than all public schools in New York State, and I'm sure the amount has not decreased in the past two years. So students with special needs at the Middle School are failing to make adequate yearly progress in math and English and and for the second year running they have landed on the "schools that were in Improvement Status in 2004-05 and will be in Improvement Status under the State Accountability System (SRAP)" list.

Hey, I know middle schools are troublesome; take a look at Turning Points from Carnegie. It is a legacy from the foolish 1950s consolidation movement. But the principal states the "school is working to align its curriculum with state standards and improve coordination among elementary and middle school teachers." Sure, that's the problem. So obvious, it could have been fixed in a year, right?

When I see stories about fiscal malfeasance at school districts I feel really uncomfortable. We all like to think that the folks who work in schools are called to do it, almost as if it is a vocation. Because while it is often a rewarding, comfortable occupation, it can also at times be thankless and undercompensated. I tell my students that it is a vocation, in a way, and in many of their excited faces I see evidence of this calling. But sadly, schools are no different than any place else. Some have jerks working there, and some are not simple jerks, but selfish and corrupt as well. Think back on your own experiences and I'm sure you will remember examples.

Then there are innocent folks who react defensively to being questioned. They have good motives, and believe all who wonder about what is going on must have evil motives. To those well-intentioned but misguided people, I say, that is no way to sell your ideas. Strong cases can withstand careful analysis, and there is almost always room for honest improvement, anyway. Weeding the selfish, corrupt jerks will only improve public education, in the same way that pulling out crabgrass helps my vegetable garden.

Hey, I don't know what is going on at OCS. My last association with the place, aside from paying my annual tax bill and attending school reunions was in 1978 (and trust me, I didn't look back). But if I was on the school board, I would mercilessly step on the toes of the administrators and dig deep to find out whether it is simple incompetence (because surely it is at least that) or something more sinister. I know that superintendents and principals don't like meddling from unqualified board members (though I could hardly be labeled unqualified). Truthfully, there are times when such mucking around is inappropriate. But when 56% more is being spent than in similar schools, and the outcome is landing on the schools in need of improvement list, it is past time to assess, I think.

The people who are truly called wouldn't mind this level of scrutiny at all. In fact, they would welcome it - because those with a vocation have nothing to hide; instead, they should desire feedback, with the goal of having their students make adequate yearly progress, and their school being removed from that shameful list.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

I support

Last week a student came to my campus office to talk about class. I had an open bottle of apple juice that was about two-thirds full on my desk. After a few minutes, she knocked it over, and it ruined my papers - splashing the wall, soaking my desk calendar, and running under my computer.

I was kind of irritated, but I kept it together, because I didn't want to make her feel worse. Years ago, when I was a temp at Pepsi, on my first day of work, I spilled a cup of coffee on my desk and it dripped into the carpet and got all over everything. Of course it was my desk, but I imagine I felt about as bad that day, new and nervous at my low status job, as this student did.

Today I got a new computer. It is nice, and it has a flat screen, which is the only thing it has over my home computer. My old work computer was a relic, on its last legs, the mouse barely tracked. The monitor alone took up about four times as much desk space as the sleek new machine. When the antique was taken away, the guy who installed the new PC said, "you may want to wipe your desk, it is kind of sticky."

Monday, September 12, 2005

Rudy had to go for Vitamin C infusions on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. We dropped him off at the vet in the morning, and picked him up a few hours later. She said he was good, although he doesn't like being left there and so he didn't sleep, and instead spent his time scratching at the cage door and making a screetchy little bark. But now it is done, and we don't have to go back for two weeks.

The office is about an hour away from our house, so we spent the time on a mini-vacation. On Friday, we went to Great Barrington, MA and had lunch out. On Saturday, we went to Taconic State Park, and hiked to Bash Bish Falls. After we picked Rudy up that day, we took him to Lake Taghkanic State Park. On Sunday, we went to Warren Street in Hudson, visited a couple of antique shops, and ate at Mexican Radio.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Classes started this week. I think I am really going to like the lower division class a lot. More than half of the students are freshmen, and they are so polite and attentive. It was a heavy lift to get through the week, though. I came down with a bad tooth ache - apparently I clench my teeth when I sleep if I am stressed, something I discovered five years ago, and the result has been that I had to get a crown two years ago. Well, I guess with Rudy's illness I have been doing it like crazy, all my teeth have been bothering me -- and the crown needed a root canal, which I got today. I made it through the first week back on campus with the help of drugs (I had to tell the students so they would know I am not always so dopey) and I'm glad to report that it's over. It hurts worse now, though, just in a different way. Not as intense, just generally more sore all over. Next week I go in to get impressions for a night guard, that will hopefully break me of the bad habit.

The source of my worry is doing well. One thing Rudy is taking is a controversial anti-cancer drug called hydrazine sulfate that isn't approved for people. There is a whole political opera with the National Cancer Institute and American Cancer Society being very hostile to it. I may write more on this in the future, but in a nutshell: Apparently, cancer uses carbohydrates for fuel. It will find energy somehow if it can't get enough and so it also drains the fat and muscle of the body. Hydrazine sulfate inhibits this process, and so it helps to stop the weight loss end state cancer patients suffer. Anyway - it seems to be working for Rudy. He looks a bit better, and his appetite isn't great but it has improved. The specialist said he would have to be euthanized during the month of August - well it is September 2 and he is still here, happy and energetic. I can't say enough good things about the holistic approach. Something to think about for the skeptics.

The hurricane and aftermath are heartbreaking. It is hard to envision, sitting here in my safe, comfortable house. But speaking of politics, I am really disgusted by the endless talking heads on television. Who is to blame? Oh it is the federal government, the local authorities, the state, poor planning, blah, blah, blah. Maybe it is the throbbing in my face that is sparking my irritation, but I couldn't take it any more. We walk the dogs every day in the beautiful cemetery behind our house (yes, we do bring plastic bags and clean up after them in case you are wondering). There are the monuments honoring the rich and the poor. People who died a year ago, 50 years ago, and 150 years ago. Simple homemade stones and elaborate Victorian pedestals. There is one that says "in honor of all the infants who died here in the epidemic of 1918."

As I listened to the idiots blather on about the failure of the disaster response I was so frustrated by the ignorance that I jumped up and shouted, "I can't take it any more! Why are these people so fake, so plastic? Do they not understand that someday they will be pushing up daisies beneath a tombsone? That tragic things happen? There is no way to avoid it? Life is not always orderly. Why are they in denial? Yes - it can happen here in the USA. Yes - it can happen to anybody. All the planning in the world cannot change that. People get sick, people die. Babies go hungry and they cry. That's life. Get a reality check. When will they accept that?"

My anger isn't intended to minimize the tragedy for the folks who were hurt by the storm. I can only pray for them (and donate to charities). But over time I find journalists and people who play partisan politics more and more revolting.