Friday, September 29, 2006

I haven't mentioned my garden much lately, and I do like to keep a yearly chronicle. Overall, it has been a good year, and the plants still looks great. We have not yet had a frost. The green beans are pretty much over, the cucumbers are still producing although not at a high volume any longer, but I am just beginning to pick tomatoes! Unreal, there are a ton of green ones out there, but it is taking forever for them to ripen. They are not as sweet and tasty as usual, either. (Still they are better than ones shipped here from across the country.) I guess it must be the rainy weather this year. Funny, since it is supposed to be a bumper crop of apples. I have gorgeous basil plants, too and my other spices are still growing. So every night I watch the weather, to find out if a killing frost is coming. I will pick all the green tomatoes, and the basil at the last minute. The tomatoes will (I hope) ripen in a paper bag, and the basil will become pesto that I will freeze (keeping my fingers crossed the the frost comes on a day when I am home so the basil doesn't wilt before it is blended). So far, so frost in sight. It is going to get close tonight, but then it gets warmer for several days. The tomatoes may vine ripen yet!

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

On Tuesday, we're going to see The Wedding Singer on Broadway! I can hardly believe it. Adam Sandler movies are a guilty pleasure, and I have probably seen it 100 times. I knew it had been turned into a show, but since it is new, going to see it is not likely until far in the future, if ever. But then Bob's brother invited us! He isn't really into musicals, but he won four tickets in a raffle that was a fundraiser in honor of a 9/11 victim. He knows we love shows, and the movie! I tortured myself for about an hour after the invitation - what to do about my Tuesday classes. Be a martyr and decline the invitation? Try to find someone else to cover (no easy task)? Cancel? I decided on canceling. My students didn't mind a bit (no surprise there). Actually, the day class seemed happy - Monday is a holiday so for those with a light class schedule, this gives them an extra long weekend - but my evening class seemed neither thrilled, nor disturbed. Maybe because I told them about the raffle, and they found the 9/11 connection upsetting. The anniversary has been a topic of discussion in their online board. Anyway, we'll take the train down. Dinner out is included too. Bob bought the CD and we are learning the songs. I'm psyched!

PS The TU is going to print my letter. Not sure when.

Monday, September 25, 2006

My Wuj died one year ago today. It is a hard anniversary. Even though the passing of time makes grief a lot easier to handle, I guess I don't like the idea of his lifetime moving farther back in my life.

Friday, September 22, 2006

This letter appeared in yesterday's Times Union and really annoyed me. So I wrote this response. Not sure if it will be published (the TU likes letters to be 250 words or less) but I felt better writing it.

Whenever something good happens for animals, it seems there are always people who are irritated. I remember this was true with the Buster Law, and now the same whining can be heard from opponents to the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act.

First John Dansereau writes in his September 21 letter "Saving horses shouldn't come before children" that the number of horses affected by the bill's passage was omitted from news articles. Apparently, he considers the U.S. Humane Society's estimate (about 100,000 annually) to be an insignificant number, and he believes failing to include the statistic is an effort by news organizations to promote H.R. 503. What he does not mention is that all sorts of information from the U.S. Humane Society about horse slaughter routinely was not published in newspaper articles, including that horses bound for slaughter are frequently not humanely transported, that many are young horses in good health, and that some are stolen horses that have been purchased by killer buyers at auction.

Next, Mr. Dansereau writes about the importance of turkeys in U.S. history, and their sad fate. As someone who is concerned not just about horses but about the welfare of all animals, I found this interesting, but I'm not sure why the fact that cruelty to turkeys exists means that we should abandon horses.

Finally, he closes with a favorite claim of those who demean the efforts of advocates for animals. He suggests that those who champion animal protection legislation are hurting children. At first I wondered whether he was suggesting that horsemeat be used to feed the hungry, which might be a logical argument, but is a strange one, considering there is no market in the U.S. Again according to the U.S. Humane Society, the largest markets are France, Belgium, Holland, Japan, and Italy, and all the horse slaughter plants in the United States are foreign-owned. But no, instead he is asserting that the time spent on passing horse protection legislation is coming at the expense of starving children, as if caring about children and horses are somehow mutually exclusive!

Mr. Dansereau believes he "neither hates horses nor loves turkeys" since he "gambles on the former and eats the latter." I hesitate to write this, considering the August obsession of most Capital District residents, but leaving aside the poor turkeys, there are a few of us who believe collecting umbrellas and wearing showy hats while betting on horses is not quite the same thing as loving animals.

I say, bravo to the 263 members of the House of Representatives who voted in favor or H.R. 503, and to John Sweeney for co-sponsoring the legislation. And by the way, I am not a resident of the 20th Congressional District.

Monday, September 18, 2006

OK, here it is: I Remember Rudy. Be sure you have a hanky handy. I made it the virtual museum for Fall 2006. The only reason it qualifies is because there are a lot of pictures. (Well, that and the fact that I haven't had a new one since Winter 2005). I also updated the "zoo," catalogue, bio, and home page. I just didn't feel like making the changes before this.
Happy birthday to me.

Today I'm 45. Strange, it isn't a number with which I feel at all connected. That's someone else's number. It isn't that I mind aging - it is surely better than the alternative - but looking back, it really hits me that time goes so fast. It may have been a lifetime ago in some ways, but at other times it seems as if only yesterday I was a kid, riding my bicycle to the general store, or a 20-year-old, chatting with my grandmother about what it was like to be in her 70s. If time continues to breeze by (and by all indications, my perception is that it seems to go faster with aging), in no time at all I will be a senior citizen. Now how can that be?

Bob has a class tonight, so we celebrated on Friday, by having dinner at Villa Valenti, a cozy restaurant that I love, with a great salad bar and homemade pasta. Then yesterday my mother cooked dinner, and made a cake for me. She sent me home with a pan of stuffed shells for tonight, since I am on my own. "Sweet." There! Does that make me young? Or maybe dated?

Later today, over at GPB, I hope to find the time to post my tribute to Rudy (first I have to do a bit of work on my classes), since yesterday he would have been 11, and on September 25, he will be gone for one year already. Yes, time flies, but it has been a long year without him to brighten my days.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

It seems that the district always pursues the stupidest option. In this case, all three options listed are bad ideas. But why bother consulting educational research from the past 30 years? Might just as well get out a dartboard.

Monday, September 11, 2006

I've mentioned before that September isn't my favorite month. It should be, because my birthday is in the middle of it, and it is a beautiful month weather-wise. Plus, there are a lot of other happy events in September. But for some reason, I've experienced a lot of bad things in September, and as a result, my birthday makes me apprehensive. It isn't aging. That's a minor concern.

There was a time when I could list off a bunch of reasons why September has been terrible, but over they years the minor irritations have been outnumbered by, and pale in comparison to, the really, really bad things that have happened. Then there are the good things in the month that have now changed to melancholy memories, including Mimmie's birthday, Aunt Jean's birthday, Rudy's birthday.

So I won't bother with the mundane and trivial September annoyances. And this isn't a comprehensive list, just some random thoughts. In 1982 a friend, Don, died the day before my birthday. Well, that's true to a point, but it wasn't an accident or an illness; he committed suicide. It took about five years for that to sink in and make any kind of sense. Now five years have passed since "the" 9/11. I still clearly remember that day; I suppose almost everyone does. At the time I was commuting to work and sometimes I worked from home. I was at home that day and still asleep when the planes hit. My mother called me after the second plane and said "terrorists have attacked New York City." I tried to get more information from her, but she said, "turn on your TV" and hung up.

I never watch daytime television, but I did turn it on, sat down on my coffee table directly in front of the TV and stayed there for hours, watching in shock. I think the TV was on CBS, and I didn't channel surf. I don't remember going downstairs to make coffee, go to the bathroom or let the dogs out. I know I did, but I came right back upstairs and sat down - again on the coffee table. I didn't move to a chair or couch for hours. I mention that because I never sit on the coffee table, we don't use it that way. Bob was in DC and I was unable to get though to him on the phone. He eventually called, much later in the day. It took him several days to get home because he couldn't find transportation back. I also remember my mother-in-law calling at some point that day to say that someone we knew who worked high up in one of the towers was missing. I thought at the time that of course he would be fine. That wound up not being true.

A week later was my 40th birthday. We went to Villa Valente for dinner and the place was like a morgue. It wasn't busy at all (usually it is packed, regardless of the day of the week) and everyone who was there was talking in whispers. Later, I asked my parents how long it would take to feel normal again?

I didn't have this ejournal at the time (I started it in March 2002) but I was writing in a notebook, and I did write something; true to form, it was a tribute to Sirius, the only dog to die in the WTC. It is posted here and I still get quite a few hits from the Port Authority Memorial Site.

Yesterday, I was thinking of another dog. My Howie. He died eleven years ago, September 10, 1995. He was 15. He died between 8 and 9 pm and that year it was a Sunday, just like in 2006. Murder, She Wrote was on television. Funny the things you remember. Here is the tribute I wrote about him, and there is a picture of Howie (and Penny, "his" poodle) there. He was Howzerdo, if you are wondering.

Next Sunday, Rudy would have been eleven years old. Rudy's birth date - at least the month and day - were the same as Don's death date. The following Monday, it will be a year since Mr. Wuj has been gone. I miss him terribly. In his honor, I have a tribute written to post on the main website. It will be my first update to the main GBP site in a long time.

And now for something unrelated and trite...tomorrow is primary day and the phone has been ringing nonstop with recorded pitches!!

Friday, September 08, 2006

Three posts in one day, I'm on a roll. This must be the year of the automated political phone call. Is that really effective, I wonder? I get them every day, they fill the answering machine when I am not here. At first I listened patiently, because somehow it seemed rude to hang up on Andrew Cuomo even if it was only a recording of his voice! But now I slam the phone down immediately. My lunch was interrupted just now by some guy running for the Assembly - I didn't wait long enough to have the name sink in. Primary day is Tuesday, I'll bet the phone will be ringing off the hook.
I got us tickets to see the Producers at Proctor's on December 8. The tickets went on sale today, and the best choices were either Row R of the Orchestra Center Right, or the front/right of the balcony. So I went with the balcony.
Thank you, John Sweeney! This makes my day, and Ma's too.

Update: Sigh. The Capital District speaks. Between the snark at this site, and the arrogant commenters applauding the snark here, it's no wonder animal advocates have to fight so hard and the victories are so sweet.

On another subject, my classes are awesome so far! Very interactive without too much prompting from me. I'm hoping it keeps up for the entire semester, it will be a pleasure. My Thursday night class is in the Humanities building, in a room with theatre style seating and a stage! It isn't huge - holds maybe 40-50 students (my class is 32). It was a little intimidating at first, but there are interesting and fun possibilities with such a room design.

I remembered something from the book My Freshman Year (written about in this post; Sya responds here) as I was standing in line at the campus coffee shop. The author mentions that there must be a common understanding among young students of what type of backpack is preferred; she didn't know how this was communicated, because clearly all had not purchased them in the same store. She bought one at a big box (her first mistake, in my opinion) and she noticed once she arrived on campus that almost all other students had backpacks that were smaller, with less pockets and zippers, they were Jansport brand, and made out of a different material than hers. So yesterday, I decided to take note. It took my mind off the culture shock I feel when I am in the cafeteria at the beginning of the semester (I am just not used to seeing so many people; the crowds and organized chaos take some time to feel normal). Backpacks are definitely smaller and made from a different material than in "my" day, and Jansport is a popular brand (but there were others, mostly athletic brands such as Puma). However, I saw an equal number of students with briefcase type bags (probably containing a notebook computer?), quite a few women who had large fabric over the shoulder "satchels," and a sprinkling of granola-ish students with tattered canvas bags.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Thursday Threesome: How High is Up?

Onesome: How-- many Apples in your orchard? Didn't we just ask this one? Are you a Mac-o-phile, a Windows user, or one of those penguin people (Linux users)?

I use Windows. I hate Microsoft, but I've always used an IBM compatible computer - currently I have two IBMs (one with XP, one with 98) and one HP (with ME). I also have a retired Thinkpad with OS/2 and 3.1! At work I have a Dell with XP. The majority of people I deal with use Windows.

Twosome: High is-- what in height for your family? Are you a tall group? ...a short stack? ...or a mixed lot?

Bob is tall - 6'2", but his brother is quite a bit taller. On my side, we are average to short. My father is the tallest at 5'10", and I am the shortest (5'4"), though I have a nephew who I think is somewhat taller than my father, and niece who is a lot shorter than me.

Threesome: Up-- ...and down and all around: Labor Day marked the end of Summer for those of us in the US (regardless of how the plants felt what with the temperatures out West and hurricanes in the East). How about you: what signals the change of seasons this time of year for you?

Closing the pool, returning to campus, a leaf turning color here and there.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Yesterday's classes went well. I have a good feeling, especially, about the evening class. With all the anxiety over the start of the semester, I almost forget the many things that are great about teaching. Every semester is a chance to start fresh. It is so new, and full of promise. Then there is the campus environment. (I could do without the crowds in the cafeteria, though. Quite a culture shock after spending four months in solitude.) And students! I really do like (almost all) students, and I love teaching.

Looking over the rosters, there are 3-5 students in every class that have taken a class with me in the past. I always feel good knowing that some students like my classes enough to sign up for another one with me. This is especially true after getting the results of the course evaluations from last semester. They agreed with my own perceptions. The day class and online class were very satisfied, the toleration class and evening class less so. That description is a little overly sensitive on my part; the majority of students in all classes were satisfied, it's just that in toleration, and especially in the evening class, there were a few students who were not impressed (and clearly one student in the evening class who hated it. I'm sure it was this student).

I didn't "score" a smart room for either class. That's a first, and it will be a hassle. Not sure why that happened this semester, usually I get a smart room for at least one class. I'm going to have to order a portable computer and desktop projector for about half the classes. The one bonus is that both are in rooms that are very close to my office, so no schlepping across campus. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that toleration is in a smart room, because I need a computer almost every week for that class.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

The pool is closed. It would be sad, if it wasn't so cold already.

I'm back on campus. Now that I am here, I am liking it again. It isn't quite as hectic as the first day of the semester is usually.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Just in time to begin the semester, today I finished reading My Freshman Year: What a Professor Learned by Becoming a Student. I learned about the book from this post. She asks "how would you feel if that older woman in your classes turned out to be an anthropology professor, studying you...?" I'm not sure. Now, of course, I would like to say that I wouldn't have minded, or that I would have felt it was pretty cool. I don't share a lot of the attitudes of many commenters at the site towards the so-called soft sciences. I think social science methods and studies are valuable, and I find the idea of returning to freshman year through the lens of anthropology fascinating. But to be honest, as an undergraduate, I might have felt violated by the professor, if I had thought she was a friend or classmate rather than a researcher. An area of concern in the comments was about the ethics of the research. I couldn't tell from the article in the New York Times whether she had followed appropriate protocols. There is an entire chapter in the book devoted to the subject, and she did follow the university's guidelines, and get approval for her study (which must have been tricky).

The book reminded me a bit of Nickel and Dimed, in that both authors immerse themselves in unfamiliar situations. In the case of Nickel and Dimed, however, the author admits that she never before in her life had to work at the low level jobs she tries out for the study. So that is one reason why some of her observations seemed to be in the "duh" category to me. In My Freshman Year, the main thing that frustrated me was that the author never shares anything about her own past experiences as an undergraduate (I mean the real ones, from when she was 18). She writes as if the study was actually her first time as a freshman, and her only college experience is as a professor. I found myself wondering why the cramped nature of the dorms surprised her. She comments that most professors have no idea what students go through in terms of housing, or meal plans, or juggling schedules. That may be true, and certainly times have changed. But haven't all professors been undergraduates at one time? And probably very few were commuters or attended a community college. I certainly remember freshman year orientation week and living on campus, and it happened 28 years ago. Is it because she, and perhaps most other faculty, have attended small, elite, private institutions that were very different from a big public university? Then again, aren't dorm rooms too small there too?

Some of her remarks are about things that I have noticed, and wondered about. Students rarely volunteer to speak in class, and when they do, it is about housekeeping (how long should the paper be? How many sources do we need?). Other types of comments earn disapproving glares from their peers. Doing the reading is not a high priority. Most students have part-time jobs in addition to a full-time college schedule and that cuts into time for both academic pursuits, and for social activities. Students don't seem to sit around talking about the interesting things they are learning. Clubs, activities and volunteer work are selected as resume enhancers. Technology has replaced some forms of socializing. Kids of the same race, ethnicity, religion, even gender sit together in the cafeteria; mixed tables are rare. She has written a lot of interesting things about these topics, and the reasons for them, but the book is rather brief, and I would have liked to read even more.

Anyway, I liked the book enough that I have added it to the list for the book analysis in one of my classes. I'm eager to hear what students have to say, assuming any choose it this semester.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Labor Day weekend forecast is for rain, aside from (maybe) Monday. Last weekend was rainy too, and fall temperatures are already in the air, so it looks like we will be closing the pool. That's the earliest ever, but we probably pushed it in the past and then the water was freezing. I have started to investigate pool heaters, but that would be for next season. I think we may be able to extend swimming for a month on either end of the summer with a heater.

As I browse websites for pool heaters, I can't resist looking at the hot tubs and spas. There is an area of the yard in C'ton that is full of weeds because of last year's foundation work, and we haven't done anything with it yet. We dream of a deck there, complete with an outdoor hot tub. It would take the sting out of closing the pool. We'll see.

So aside from the weekend (which will be in S'ville) this is my last day at home before the semester starts. I hate to admit that I am not looking forward to it. It's only two days per week on campus, but still. The agorophobia set in a long time ago. I haven't been on campus since May 8! And, my owl tendencies - sleeping in and staying up late have taken over, too. Oh, I know once I am back into the schedule it will be fine. Good for me, in fact. But even though I love fall as a season (and the fireplace beckons, that is a comfort), the end of summer, of the garden, of swimming, of the flowers, the return to the grind of school...always make me a little blue. And September is always a challenging month for me.