Friday, April 28, 2006

I couldn't wait, so Wednesday night we drove down to Hudson, which is the closest place to Albany that the Freeman is sold. I got three copies of the paper. It came out good! Something funny, they didn't alter it or cut it at all, except they changed the title to "Christmas Papers." When I sold it to Chicken Soup for the Veteran's Soul, they made the same change. But they made a few other changes too, including adding junk such as "a big barrel-chested burly man" as a description of the major, or maybe it was the superior officer. That irritated me, although the change from singular to plural in the title didn't, and still doesn't. That much. The end of the Chicken Soup episode is that I got the rights back, because they cut seven stories at the last minute, including mine, to make room for celebrity-written stories. I'm glad now, because I'd rather it was published by the Freeman, and also because it would have been a mistake to sell all rights, as Chicken Soup requires.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

My story is in the Freeman! I'm linking to the newspaper's website, but the story is in a special section, and it doesn't seem to be online. I haven't seen it yet, because I can't get the Freeman in Castleton, and after calling around to some newsstands I have determined that the closest place to get it is quite a drive. So I will have to wait until I go to Samsonville to see it.

I thought I had a PDF of the story, but I can't find it. So here it is:

Christmas Paper

Drafted into the army at eighteen during World War II, Dino had never been away from his brothers and sisters before. He did his basic training in Stark, Florida, a place as alien to a kid from Brooklyn as Mars. He was terribly homesick.

Thanksgiving came, but he did not get papers to go home. Impulsively, he went AWOL. For three days on the train ride north he hid in the bathrooms from the MPs. When he arrived in New York, his brother Joe and brother in law Richie were horrified and urged him to return to Florida. But he was stubborn, and instead, he spent the holiday with his family and then resumed hiding in bathrooms on the long train ride south.

When he slipped back on base, his friend, a gentle guy from Newburgh, New York told him he was in big trouble. At roll call the next morning, his superior yelled at him for his absence and told him that he was fortunate he'd returned. If he had been gone just a bit longer, he'd have been considered a deserter and when caught, would have gone to prison. Out on bivouac later that day, the major pulled up in a Jeep and called Dino over. He had his file on a clipboard and as he flipped through the papers, he sternly asked Dino how he had avoided being caught by the MPs. "I hid in the bathroom on the train, sir," Dino replied. Then he was asked why he'd gone AWOL. He said he was homesick and had to see his family. The major studied the clipboard and said, "so you're an orphan?" "Yes, sir." "And you live with your older brother in Brooklyn?" "Yes, sir." "You realize this means you won't be getting papers to go home for Christmas?" "Yes, sir." Dino knew he was lucky to have drawn such a light punishment.

A few weeks passed and the young privates were assembled to receive their papers to go home for Christmas. Each name was called in alphabetical order by the sergeant and then the major handed the magic documents to the eager soldiers. Dino was doing O.K. even though he knew his name wouldn't be called. They got to the Gs. "Corrado Giuliano," hollered his superior officer. And with a smile the major handed Daddy his papers to go home.


Yesterday, I showed excerpts of Country Boys in my classes. I have a "smart room" for my day class, and unfortunately the DVD player is in the PC. It is not very efficient to operate; to get back to scene selection I had to stop it, eject the DVD, and start over. So that took up a lot of time. Then, the day class is so interactive that I never get through as much material as I plan. I'm not complaining, that class is filled with bright lights and I will be sorry to see the semester end. But as a result of the clunky DVD and the interruptions, I still have about 25 minutes of scenes to show on Thursday. I can't wait to hear what they think of the film. There is only time to show about 1/4 of it, since the full program is over five hours long in its entirety, but it is still powerful, and I could tell from the way they reacted at certain points that the discussion is going to be good. In the night class, we watched the entire 85 minutes that I had selected. The room has a regular TV and DVD player, so it was a lot easier to manage all the scene skipping. The discussion went better than usual. You'd have to be totally disinterested to not have some thoughts on the program.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

The officer called who was here on Thursday. He said they arrested a guy for DWI who said he has information about the car robberies. Also, it is a felony because it involved stealing credit cards and checkbooks. He said that we may never get our stuff back, but that they might be able the catch the crooks. So that is good. Bob is very pleased with the treatment we have gotten from the town police. You always hear how unprofessional local cops are, and that hasn't been the case at all. He plans to make a donation to them.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Yesterday morning before work Bob came inside and said that someone had stolen his briefcase from the car. I could hardly believe it, I figured he had put it somewhere in the house, but it turns out that the night before he forgot to lock the car, left his briefcase on the backseat, and it was obvious that someone had been in there, because they went through the glove compartment & left the contents on the front passenger's seat, also rifled through the pocket behind the driver's seat, moved his coat and messed up a blanket that we have protecting the backseat from dog hair. In addition to the briefcase, they stole 3 or 4 CDs that we had in the glove compartment (one was 1776 the musical).

So, the police came right away. I thought that it was probably some juvenile delinquent teenagers - the kids are on Easter break and they always get into trouble, but the cop said that there have been 50-60 car robberies in the past few weeks in Castleton and Schodack, and that there were 6 on our street - in fact, there were three on Green Avenue, including our car, the same night. So he said it is likely to be professional criminals, not some kids. Which of course is worse, because that means Bob has to be concerned about identity theft.

So yesterday after the police left, we spent almost all day calling banks, credit card companies, and the credit bureaus. Bob also had to go to two banks to close accounts and and open new ones. His major credit cards were in his wallet, which was in the house, but his checkbook, the Samsonville home equity checkbook, a joint checkbook that we rarely use, our savings account number & information, his social security card, his credit union ATM card (which has a Visa logo, the cop said that was the most likely thing to be used), and three store cards were in there. Also a pair of his eyeglasses, a photo CD of our nephew's graduation pictures, the voucher he got from Southwest airlines for being bumped, a souvenir and photo he bought in Florida, a bunch of paperwork (including his colonoscopy report) and my Margaret Atwood book were in there (between Atwood and the 1776 CD, these must be educated crooks)! There may be other things, but of course we will probably notice as we go along. The most expensive things were the briefcase (it was a leather LL Bean), the voucher for air miles, and the glasses. But our homeowner's deductible is $1000, so there is no point in putting in a claim.

Anyway, we took care of everything, so there shouldn't be a problem, but he will have to watch his credit report and statements for a while to be sure. Since there have been so many thefts, the police want video tapes from the banks in case they try to use the ATM visa, withdraw from the savings account, or forge the checks, so all of the accounts have teller alerts on them now. They took the contents of the glove compartment that were on the seat to see if they can get finger prints (it was mostly maps).

The cops checked the school and the fire department to see if maybe the briefcase had been thrown in the weeds or a dumpster after being emptied, and we checked the cemetery, but no luck. So I guess I will get him a new one for our anniversary. You'd think there would be something in the paper or on the news about this to warn people since there have been so many wouldn't you? But there hasn't been a word about it yet. Anyway, I was glad it wasn't me who forgot to lock the car (also that my pocketbook wasn't in there!).

I am shocked that the dogs didn't hear something. But then Sophie's main purpose in life is sleeping on the couch, and Sam is still such a baby that he doesn't spend time monitoring the street. I know for sure that if Mr. Wuj was alive, even when he was very sick at the end, he would have noticed, alerted us and scared off the creeps with his piercing wooooo.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

I'm finally caught up with grading. Just in time for all the end of semester papers! I've been struggling this semester with one of my classes. They really don't seem at all engaged, no matter what I do. The goal seems to be to contribute as little as possible, so that I will end the class early. In past semesters, when this happened, I let it go and it just got worse. At that time I resolved to be more diligent in the future. So, this semester, I decided that "freedom" wasn't working - so maybe "structure" was needed. I have brought copies of multiple choice pop quizzes on the reading to class for the past few weeks, and I figured, if they aren't participating, I will spring a quiz on them. I haven't had to resort to doing it yet, because I also designed very structured exercises for them to complete, and I have made sure that every minute of time was taken up until the end of class - no opportunity for getting out early. It is working OK, but I can see they don't like the class any more now than they did before, when the atmosphere was more free. It isn't everyone in class, but the idea of a work culture group - where no one will work harder than peers - does seem true. Contrast that with another of my classes, who thrive under the freedom approach. I guess the engaged students have the same influence on their peers, just in the opposite direction.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Finished the taxes! The most annoying part this year is that NYS has added a new required form - you have to copy the information from your W-2 to it, and include that instead of the W-2. I'm sure the reason is to make the document scannable - but really, how irritating.

So that is how I wrapped up my Spring break. There are still some essays to grade, and maybe I will get to them on Monday.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Here's a story about a local farm. Something about this really resonates with me. I find the recent controversies surrounding this issue so upsetting. It is so sad to think of the risks that people to take to get here, and to stay here. What a debt we owe them. And to think many descendants, like me, grow such deep roots that we don't want to stray too far from where we were born. I feel so lucky. I say, let them come, and let them stay. Maybe someday their grandchildren will be as blessed as I am.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Bob is off to Florida for a few days and I am holding down the fort. I have accomplished a lot already. Spring break will be a heavy duty working break for me, but it feels good to catch up on so many details. I am feeling a little sad though, because last time Bob went south to visit his folks Rudy was here with me, and that's when I created his website "Howling Hound." I never imagined that he would not be here 14 months later. So in his and all the other shelter pets' honor, go orange on Monday, April 10 - the 140th anniversary of the ASPCA.

Monday, April 03, 2006

My classes are all so different this semester. In the Fall, they were all fairly good. This Spring, it is a different story. The day class is awesome, but one of the evening classes is especially troublesome. Actually, both of the night classes (kind of) are, but for very different reasons. Anyway, I have been thinking a lot today about what to do tomorrow evening. I think I may resort to a threat I put on the syllabus the last time I had a class that was this unengaged...a pop multiple choice test on the reading. I haven't had to take this drastic measure before. But we'll see.