Wednesday, April 27, 2005

It really burns me that the tax deduction is only for K-12 teachers, I spend a fortune on my classes and rarely ask for reimbursement. The paperwork is such a hassle, and the dept. is always wringing its collective hands over the budget. I know that's mostly BS but for some reason I don't care about anything like that any more. Plus, this way the haul is mine - to take elsewhere, or just to admire as they collect dust on a shelf, if need be.

Not caring has been so good for my outlook. Maybe I am crazy. I really do get such a rush out of teaching, despite all its aggravations. Last night's class was especially good, it would be nice if I could manage to get them so engaged at the beginning of the semester instead of the gradual run up to the end. But I guess it takes a while to create a comfortable atmosphere. I'm afraid with a few exceptions, in most undergraduate classes outside of the school of ed the classroom isn't very pleasant. (Not to give myself too much credit, it helps that last night's discussion didn't involve a lot of reading.)

Monday, April 25, 2005

Two good news stories in today's TU; here's one on the now-dead proposal for the cement plant, and here's one on a new rescue farm for horses.

Over the weekend, we saw the Upside of Anger. Good movie, I recommend it.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Blogger wouldn't work yesterday, so I just posted yesterday's, below. We went to see Arcadia. Since Rudy's illness, Bob has been coming home after work to feed the animals and let them outside on the days when I spend a long day on campus. So, we had to alter our usual plan, which is to eat out at a nice restaurant between work and the evening's entertainment. Instead, we went to the cafeteria on campus, which (despite what students say) has decent food, much better than college fare when I was a student.

But we were pressed for time even at that, the wait times at every food window took forever, and we both would up throwing away most of our soup. Then, the play got started very late because there was a long line of people still buying tickets. It was a very long play, the seats in the theatre are worn and not comfortable, and for the first half, we sat in front of some students who clearly didn't want to be there, and they had no clue about the plot, so they made rude remarks. They were whispering, but it was distracting. We moved after intermission.

I'm assuming the students had been somehow prepared in class beforehand, but I could be wrong. Or maybe they didn't go to class the day when the play was explained. I don't think forcing students to go to something like that as a course requirement is a great idea. They don't get anything positive out of it, and their behavior is irritating to those unfortunate enough to be sitting nearby. I believe a menu of choices is a better idea. I do that with a book review in my class, and being able to select from a list engages many students in a way I rarely witness for other assignments among any but the most serious students. It says a lot about the benefits of the progressive approach, even if sometimes I wish the idea of learning was exciting enough, without having to be dressed up with powerpoint, video and sitting around cross-legged in a circle. (I was going to write "theatrics" but last night made it obvious that falls short too.)

Anyway, even under those annoying circumstances, the performance was excellent, one of the finest I've seen at the university. It was well-acted, the costumes were great, and the writing was thought-provoking. I am not sure how the actors remembered all the complicated lines! The last play, the student-written one, had a terrible script, so I'm glad this is how the season ended.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Killing time on campus before going to see this play, so I
thought I would try a Thursday Threesome again.

Domain Name Renewal

Onesome: Domain--Hypothetically, if you could own any domain name you
wanted, what would it be and why?

Gully Brook Press. It isn't hypothetical, I already own it. (I think.)

Twosome: Name-- Are you called by something other than your legal name? If
not, have you ever had a nickname? Or done something weird with your name,
to try and stand out? Like an odd spelling or a slightly different
pronunciation? Or just flat out wanted to change your name? To what?

Gina is my full name, and that's what I am called by most people (although a
lot of students call me Dr. or Professor or rarely, Ms.; most amusing to me
is when they call me Mrs. since I don't use Bob's last name. I cannot
remember the last time it was Miss. Hmmm. Must be that growing sprinkle of
grey in my hair.) I've always been happy with the name, because it is simple but
not plain, it was even more uncommon when I was in school, and because of
the alliteration with my last name. Occasionally I am called just "G" and
that is how I sign email and notes. As a kid, I acquired the nick name "Fer,"
short for "Ferry" and sometimes, family members still call me that.

Threesome: Renewal--Do you have any magazine or other subscription that is
an absolute 'must renew' whenever you get the notice?

Yes: American Heritage, Organic Gardening, The
Chronicle of Higher Education
, Preservation, and Kaatskill
. The Times Union renews automatically, or I would include
that one too.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

The news is so predictable, Michael Jackson, who won on American Idol or Survivor, and the new Pope is a creep. Yawn. The biggest surprise would be if anti-Catholicism was not the standard company line any more. Ha, ha, fundamentalist nation. In my experience, secularism rules. In modern life, law is religion, science is religion, consumption is religion. Most of my students have never been inside a church or temple ("their parents believed they should decide for themselves as adults about religion," like that ever happens for anyone except criminals in jail or recovering addicts) and ignorance on the subject is the prevailing theology. A very tiny minority are religious, or know something about religion. The essays I get on the separation of church and state either make me laugh or cry. Not because of the opinions - not even because of the typos - but because some don't even know the difference between being Jewish, an atheist, a Methodist, a Wiccan, or a Canadian.

But - from the TU, here is some good news for the Hudson River and those of us on its waterfront. Here's the story in the Freeman.

It is actually hot today -- and I am going to spend at least some time outside before it rains, even with the crush of end of semester work.

Monday, April 18, 2005

When the spring weather is this nice, I don't feel like sitting in front of the computer. But I have three end-of-semester assignments to write: two finals and an essay, so today I don't have a choice. Hard to believe that in a week, the urban ed stuff is over. I witnessed the last of the forums (big debates), and since that was the part of those classes that I most enjoyed, I'll admit it was bittersweet.

The latest cheater sobbed in my side chair -- and then, after my speech about the importance of learning the lesson, she went away. I did report her to the undergraduate dean's office. Whenever this subject comes up, I'm amazed at the plagiarism stories from others. Two students caught cheating in a class this semester handed in identical essays - to the same professor - with only one word changed. The assignment was writing about a life-changing event. The professor was especially upset because of the nature of the assignment. Not only did the students obviously think the professor doesn't bother to read the work - but fabricating a story seems even more of an insult. It's really a shame that these incidents sometimes overshadow the majority of students - who are serious, diligent, a joy to teach, ask for very little, and as a result, probably don't get the attention from faculty and administrators that they deserve.

A few weeks ago, I bought a new printer, and took my old one to S'ville. I took the Lexmark inkjet I had there back to Castleton, and connected it locally to my old computer, rather than printing through the network, which often causes problems. My old network printer (HP Officejet 1170cse) had been giving me trouble off and on for almost a year. I had tried to print on paper with a curved top, and ever since then, I have been getting an intermittent error message "Cartridge Carrier Blocked" whenever I print more than a page or so.

It could be corrected by turning it on and off, and reaching inside to push the cartridges, but it was annoying, and lots of paper was wasted. I tried everything on the HP website several times, but had no luck. It is seven years old, and doesn't owe me a dime, so I got a new one (HP 6110). It's nice, but I know it won't be a match for the old one. Anyway, I scoured the Internet for suggestions on what to do about the 1170's problem, because occasionally in S'ville I want to print more than a page or two, and yesterday I finally tried it -- oiling the cartridge rod. I used 3-in-1 oil, and was not at all optimistic, it seemed way too easy - but it worked like a charm!!

Monday, April 11, 2005

I'm working on taxes today -- and I'm happy to say, I am almost done. It may seem last minute, but not for me!

I am also dealing with yet another plagiarism case. This one is more run of the mill than last semester's problem, but the student has contacted the Dean's office for both the School of Education, and the School of Business (that is her major). I'm not sure why students do stupid things like that, when involving the chain of command usually results in more penalties for students than if they left it alone at the instructor's level. I am going to fail her, but I have been undecided about reporting her to the university, because although it is a serious case (much of the essay is copied verbatim from the Internet without attribution), it isn't quite as egregious as many of the cases I've found in the past.

Now I have been asked to notify the Undergraduate Dean, and although this isn't quite as severe as referring the case to Judicial Affairs, she will now have a record of her infraction at university level. That probably isn't a bad idea.

This has happened with enough frequency that now I am hardly upset any longer when I discover cheating. Sad.

Saturday, April 09, 2005

This infuriates me. How can he, the Trustees, the spokesperson sleep at night? I probably shouldn't have read past the headline, it brought back a flood of negative memories. I am so glad I summoned the nerve to exit that place in 1998, it was one of the best decisions I've ever made.

Friday, April 08, 2005

I read in the paper today that Dale Messick, the creator of the comic strip "Brenda Starr," died at age 98.

I read the comic strips in whatever newspaper I have (most of the time either the Albany Times Union or the Kingston Daily Freeman, or less often, the Troy Record or East Greenbush Independent). Brenda Starr doesn't run in any of those papers, and I understand that others took over writing the strips some years ago. When I was a teenager, it was in the paper I read, and at that time Dale Messick was drawing it. I can't say I was a big fan of the comic, I read them all, but I have my favorites and less than favorites ("For Better of for Worse" has been my favorite for a while, and more recently, I like "Get Fuzzy" a lot too).

In those days I preferred "Blondie," "Peanuts" and "Lil' Abner" to Brenda Starr, but Brenda finally took the plunge in 1976, and after over 30 years at age 23, it seemed like a momentous occasion. My mother often saved newspapers that had historic significance, I remember her keeping copies that had the headlines "Nixon Quits" and a "Ford in Our Future." I kept a scrapbook, and so I cut out the news coverage of Brenda's wedding in the New York Daily News.

This morning I dug out the clippings, from 1976:

On and off, I write a newspaper for the fictitious town of Nileston (I resurrected it for a while as the newsletter for GBP). When I was a teenager, I was especially prolific, and the paper included many illustrations and spoofs. While I was retrieving my scrapbook I also pulled out the folder with my old efforts, and was delighted to discover my 1977 send-up of Brenda Starr:

Here is an interesting link that details Dale Messick's life as an illustrator, as well as her struggle to be accepted in the male world of comics.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

This topic comes up occasionally in my class. Students feel one of two ways, that: a) we should stop babying kids, the real world is competitive and often not tolerant of mistakes, and making a big issue of correcting in red and its impact on self-esteem is silly or b) red marks on papers are upsetting (and not appropriate at the college level, either). I sometimes see similar sentiments expressed over games such as dodgeball, played in school gym class.

When I first started teaching online, I used colored text for corrections - not red, but blue. It took an enormous amount of time to format my comments, and once I took on more teaching responsibilities - I discovered that using all caps instead is much more efficient. I'm not sure why that didn't occur to me sooner! When I evaluate paper, rather than electronic documents, I use pencil, not because of a concern for the impact of red pen - but because I can erase if necessary.

I have heard complaints from teachers and faculty, that students are accustomed to being praised for effort, rather than quality of work - and so are not comfortable with criticism. This is sometimes blamed on parents, who celebrate everything their kids do, regardless of how well they do it. Other times school is faulted, for its emphasis on self-esteem rather than skill building.

I'm not sure what is the big deal with red - it is a color I like, and the stigma seems unfair. But I still think pencil is better for grading. About dodgeball, I think it is a horrible game and I always am pleased when I read in the newspaper about a school that does not play it.

The Olive Press updated the website; my letter and Bob's, as well as a reference from another letter writer are here. And, they continue the streak of cluelessness, in this editorial. The print edition has an ad for Mr. Thayer's landscaping endeavors. I guess that explains why he reads the paper.

This is restaurant week in Albany; many downtown places participate by offering a price-fixed menu at $16.09 (the year Henry Hudson landed). Always up to a good excuse for eating out - last night, we went to Le Serre; tomorrow night, we are going to Nicole's Bistro. Last restaurant week, we went here. We wanted to go here this time, but they have no reservations!

Monday, April 04, 2005

I had two very bad dreams this morning, in succession. The details are sketchy, but the first was a graphic horror dream, very disturbing, about a psycho or band of psychos. The second was an anxiety dream, with a bunch of somewhat true elements mixed together to make an unpleasant soup. When I awakened, my first thought was "Christopher Hitchens." Neither dream had anything at all to do with him, but I attribute the awareness to his nasty writings, the most recent example being his trashing of the Pope. I think he must be a very ugly person inside. There will be no linking from GBP to his column, it is easy enough to find if you are interested.

I have been rather blue. I don't usually describe myself as depressed - that's a serious clinical term, but instead sad or blue, or maybe melancholy. A bunch of things, some big, some small: The Pope, Terri Schiavo, the anniversaries of several deaths (including Mimmie's 12 years ago tomorrow), a terribly sad recent death in my hometown in a family that has had too many tragedies, the cold, rainy, grey weather, the mountain of papers to grade when juggling graduate student registration is capturing center stage, all combine to deflate my mood. The work stuff doesn't matter so much really, but the can be so sad.

As for the weather, my mother described a bright, beautiful, clear day to me once; she said something that we say in church, "this is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad." How true that is, how appropriate. Today I was looking at the bland, bone-chilling drizzle outside, and decided that considering the alternatives, we probably should all feel that way, no matter the weather. Sometimes I have heard that verse as a song, and so in my head today I have been playing it, as a reminder.

Saturday, April 02, 2005

I feel bad for my students. I guess the on time budget was too good to be true.

Friday, April 01, 2005

Registration for summer and fall started at the university this week. This is a very hectic time for me, and it is very stressful for students. I remember the aggravation of getting into classes when I was a student, and having an online system hasn't improved things very much.

My letter is in the print Olive Press this week, but they have not updated the letters on the website. It is appearing here in the online Phoenicia Times, though. Bob's is there too.