Monday, July 31, 2006

This sympathetic front page article in yesterday's Middletown Record really irritated me. Hey, I am more compassionate than a lot of people about those less fortunate, but this pair has been collecting disability (for back injuries! Yeah, right) for 14 years (starting when they were 50!), they have four grown kids, live in a subsidized apartment, collect food stamps, and get the Cadillac of insurace, Medicaid, and they are complaining because they haven't been to the movies since 1998? Why doesn't the Record focus on some people with real problems? As my brother said, why not ask the homeless guy who is living under a sheet of plywood whether he would like to watch TV all day in their comfy apartment? If I was the betting type (which I am not), I'd wager that this couple both worked under the table for many of those years, and collected disability in addition to their unrecorded earnings. Now they probably are too ill to do it any longer and so they somehow managed to get the ear of a journalist to complain.

Friday, July 28, 2006

My book came today! They changed the title slightly from the previous two editions I worked on, now it's called Education: Meeting America's Needs? It looks good overall.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Two posts in one day! I thought I would try this again.

Thursday Threesome

You Can't Always Get What You Want

Onesome: You can't always get what you want- Have you ever wanted something really badly and had it fall through, only to look back later and realize that things ended up better for it?

I had a hard time thinking of something! I must lead a charmed life. Either that, or I don't want very many things. But then it hit me; my story being published in Chicken Soup. I can't say that I wanted it badly - I didn't, until they accepted it, and then I couldn't wait to see it in print. But they blew me off without even a courtesy email. I was very upset. Later I didn't care as much because I am glad I didn't sell them all rights. I would never sell all rights to my work at this point. And now it was published by the Freeman, which I much prefer! So things wound up better all around.

While I was writing this, I realized that there was something else. It was the promotion at my job as an administrator in 1998. I didn't even get an interview, even though I had worked there almost a decade, was the best qualified candidate, and had done the job on an interim basis for no extra salary for a year! And I was asked to interview one of the candidates! Wow! I guess I don't lead a charmed life after all. But since that awful experience wound up shoving me out the door (with a near "F you" to my nemesis-boss who will remain anonymous) and into school full-time; two short years later I had the PhD in hand; eight years later I have published more than I could have imagined, and have six years experience as a faculty member under my belt...well, I guess you could say, yes, things ended up better for it that time too.

Twosome: But if you try sometimes- Is there anything you you've ever wanted so badly that you were willing to give up on other things while you tried to get/save up for the one big thing?

Sure, but it wasn't a material possession. I wanted to be published, so I gave up a lot of wasted TV watching time to pursue that goal. I wanted my education, so I gave up all sorts of things: literally years of social events, TV, pleasure reading, sleep, money...

Threesome: Well you just might find you get what you need- Most of us have been at spots in our lives where what we want and what we need are not always the same thing. Money's tight and that new toy you want isn't going to happen because you need to get the brakes on the car repaired or you need textbooks for school. What have you really, really wanted, but you had to give up because of practicality? And did you ever figure out how to have both the want and the need?

You know, I really can't think of anything. I just don't have a lot of interest in material things; I am able to get pretty much anything I want. And other things I want, say an achievement of some sort, I go after and don't give up. Sure, there are things that I have really wanted that didn't happen, but it wasn't in my control, and that's the way life is. For instance, I really wanted Rudy to live longer. I did everything I could - but it was not meant to be. "If love could have saved him, he would still be alive." Sniff.
Blogger seems to be cooperationg, at least so far, so here are the pictures I wanted to post:

Here's Sam, with Sophie on the stairs.

A better than usual one of Sam-Sam, who is so much cuter in person. (I mean, in canine.)

"The chair matches me perfectly, and don't I look lovely?"

Not bad for 14, with her pretty green eyes! But Edna isn't crazy about having her picture taken.

This doesn't change much from one year to the next - but we went with red geraniums this year with petunias and traditional vinca, rather than the fancy stuff that was a disappointment last year.

My garden, shortly after planting (it has grown a lot, I'll have to take some more shots of it).

Ever wonder what happens the next year, if you plant one of those bulbs from the supermarket Easter Lillies?

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Opening day of the Saratoga Race Track. For the next month, all the media will be focused on that disgusting spectacle, pretending it is important, and everyone around will babble nonstop about going to the track. "When are you going to track? Have you gone to the track yet? Wha-??? You've got to be kidding. You don't like horse racing? Huh? Why?"

Ugh. Spare me.

I finally downloaded my recent pictures. I thought I was going to post some here...but blogger isn't cooperating. Oh well, maybe another time.

Monday, July 24, 2006

The weekend was quiet. We stayed in Castleton. The weather was rainy, and we had a vet appointment for the dogs that took about half of Saturday, so it was easier to not go to Samsonville. Friday night I washed every blanket, throw rug, linen and pet bed in the house, because I noticed a few fleas on the animals. We also gave both dogs baths, I flea combed Edna, and vacuumed the livingroom and kitchen. We never have a major flea infestation, I think because of the homemade diet, combined with beneficial nematode broadcasting in the yard. Rudy hadn't had them in years. In the Fall, Sam had fleas when we adopted him, and I eliminated them with about two months of diligent laundering, vacuuming, bathing, and combing. It is quite a task to beat them without chemicals, so I hope I am successful this time around, too, but I know I haven't won yet.

Good reports all around from the vet visit. Sophie was good about everything except inspecting her teeth, but Sam was terrified. He is such a baby, I have never seen a dog be so scared over the Friday night bath, or at the vet. He had to be muzzled for the blood test, since she had the vibe he might bite out of fear. Still, she thought he was good, smart, and nice-looking. And now we know he is healthy too, both dogs' blood test came back negative for heartworm, lyme and erlichia. That's a relief, since who knows how much negative impact Rudy's positive lyme, and treatment for that, had on him.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

I have taught the same course online since Spring 2000, during summer session since 2001, on campus during the evening since 2002 and daytime since 2003.

The class is half over, and I just sent out feedback to all students to give them a pat on the back - or a wake up call. Honestly, the round of emailing that usually follows the feedback can be frustrating. Do students think they can do nothing and get a good grade? Or even pass the course? I just yelled at my screen, "how about this for an idea? Put in some (censored) effort!"

Online learning is not everyone's cup of tea. Independent, self-directed learners prefer it, it makes life easier for those with difficult schedules or who live a distance from campus, and students who are shy about speaking in front of others often find their voice via electronic discussion. Discussion is always very good in the online class; on campus, the quality varies. A lot. On the other hand, students who like the immediacy of the classroom, the nuances of body language, the reminders, pointers and reassurances about assignments, miss the classroom.

In my experience, the range of students in the online version of the class is very wide. During summer session, the students tend to be very strong, for the most part. I speculate that students who attend classes in the summer are among the best students in the university - whether on campus or online. However, during both the academic year and in the summer (when I always get a few students who are taking the class solely because they failed something in their college career, and need something, anything, to graduate - they are always either extremely motivated because they have learned a hard lesson, or more often just plain awful because they simply want to be done) it is in the online class where I have found both the strongest, and the weakest students. The strongest students make my job very easy, they bring so much insight and energy to every topic. I wonder about the weak students, if perhaps they expected the class to be a piece of cake, for some reason do not drop it when the unpleasant reality sets in, and instead are not making much effort, or if they are just in over their heads with the online format - or if they are weak students in general, and are aiming for a D-.

One other drawback that I have found over the years is that plagiarism has been more common in the online section. It isn't completely absent on campus either, sadly. Whether cheating is something that has always existed to the degree I have encountered it, or if it has been facilitated by the Internet, or a lack of absolutes in terms of morality and ethics in modern society, or the focus on getting a piece of paper and a job rather than learning, or careless professors who do not check or let offending students get away with a light penalty, I do not know. But in the 15 or so times I have discovered plagiarized essays, 75% of them have been in the online class. There was one incident in the online class last semester, in fact. Perhaps the anonymous nature makes it more tempting, perhaps the stern nature of my remarks to the class in the opening lecture on campus are taken more seriously, perhaps being online so much with the seductive and other such vendors just a few clicks away makes it easier?

I'll end with something positive. I have not detected any cheating during summer session this year (yet?).

Monday, July 17, 2006

Friday, July 14, 2006

I finally was able to mulch the garden and stake the tomato plants. I was quite a sight, wearing a filthy baseball cap to shield my face from the sun, long sweatpants to guard against mosquitos (which were pretty bad, but not as bad as they have been), and the 90 degree heat resulted in sweat running down from my scalp, down my face and into my eyes. But I got it done and it looks great. I had to use ribbon to tie the tomato plants because I couldn't find twine. Tonight we're off to Samsonville unless Bob is too exhausted for the drive. I'm hoping to get in a swim before bed!

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

We spent vacation last week in Samsonville, and I had my first real swim of the season. This weekend it is supposed to be very hot and humid, definitely pool weather.

Here's an article from today's Times Union on the unveiling of a historical marker about Grace Brown's murder.

Last night, we were watching The Producers on DVD (it was great!) when the dogs jumped up and started barking because someone was knocking on the door. It really startled me since we don't get many unannounced visitors in Castleton. It was two men canvassing for the Independence Party. I am an Independent, so I went outside to talk to them. They were collecting signatures for Kirsten Gillibrand to appear on the ballot for Congress. So I told them that the incumbent, John Sweeney is not my representative. A few years ago, we were redistricted, and now I live in Mike McNulty's district. They insisted I was wrong, Castleton is in the 20th district, not the 21st. I was rather shocked that her campaign wouldn't know that is incorrect. I was sure I was right, so I tried to explain about redistricting and that their list must be out of date, but they were very forceful.

It has been a nightmare outside here lately because of the mosquitos (so much so that I haven't even been able to mulch my vegetable garden), The Producers was on pause, I had a glass of wine waiting, the dogs were still barking, and I didn't feel like continuing the conversation (even though they were perfectly nice), so I signed the petition. They gave me some literature, and remarked, "I guess you must not like John Sweeney." I responded, "actually that's not true. I have great respect for him over one issue - animal welfare. He sponsored an anti-slaughter bill for horses that is very important to me." They were surprised, and said that Kirsten would call me to assure me that she also supports horses. So I said, "well, I can't promise my vote (which is a major understatement since I don't live in the 20th district, although I didn't bother to add that at this point), but I am not necessarily opposed to anyone trying to get on the ballot, this is a democracy after all," and they left with the petition and a bunch of mosquito bites for their troubles.

After the DVD was finished, I checked the website of Congress, and discovered that I was, in fact, correct - I live in the 21st district. They were the uninformed ones. So they wasted their time last night, not exactly a salve for all those mosquito bites (and they were foolishly wearing shorts, a big no-no in the evening in Castleton unless you are saturated with 'Off.' [Note: I prefer long pants over chemicals.] But somehow I doubt they had any Deet handy).