Friday, December 28, 2007

Christmas was wonderful. My mother's cream of mushroom soup outshines the finest chef's. But our holidays continue. Tonight it's back to Samsonville (kind of feel like we are on an elastic band like one of Ande's new toys, being stretched and snapped back on the Thruway). Tomorrow we are off to Long Island to see Bob's family; it's his mother's birthday today. We are going to meet friends and spend the night here. Yay! Indoor pool! Then back to Samsonville on Sunday. My brother is having a New Year's Eve party, and then on New Year's Day, we head back to Castleton. (So I'm not sure whether I will post, although I do have the resources to do it from Samsonville. But I rarely have the inclination.) Then, January is filled with birthdays so celebrations continue.

Monday, December 24, 2007

I probably won't post tomorrow so...

Merry Christmas

Christmas Eve! I have a short list of tasks to do today. Finish making a handmade gift that's almost done, wrap a couple of remaining gifts, bake two apple pies, and cook dinner.

For the first time in the 20 years I have lived in Castleton, I am going to be able to go to mass at Sacred Heart Church on Christmas Eve. The reason is that although we are going to Samsonville tomorrow (and then back here the day after), this year Bob decided to work today and instead of being on the road, we are traveling to Long Island to visit his family over the weekend. Usually, I go to mass for Christmas wherever I am - so that might be a church I have never stepped foot in before, or occasionally, to St. Augustine's, where I went as a kid, and where I go when I am in Samsonville. But since I prefer to go on Christmas Eve, usually I am either in Long Island, or we make a mad dash to be back in Samsonville by midnight, and I scramble to find a midnight mass somewhere (Occasionally, I go to St. Augustine's on Christmas morning - but usually they only have a 6 pm mass on Christmas Eve which I miss).

So I am so excited!! I don't consider myself "devout" exactly - although I do go to church every Sunday and it means a lot to me. I consider religion to be a private matter, and I rarely talk about my faith, or the beliefs of others. I don't judge or disrespect. However, I am turned off by what I consider to be the excessively materialistic focus of this holiday. It's hard to not judge or disrespect consumerism as God. Even movies that people consider Christmas classics such as Miracle on 34th Street have an offensively material message - yet pretend to be reverent.

Full disclosure: I am pretty anti-consumerist as it is. Separate from any religious discussion, I tell my students in Toleration class that a test of my tolerance is materialism. I disapprove of it, but I believe people have a right to that lifestyle if they want and so I must tolerate it. It is a good example for Toleration because students often get stuck by the idea that toleration does not equal celebrating diversity and that idea bothers them. I think this is because toleration has religious roots, and now is viewed as a sort of cultural/social concept. So my anti-material viewpoint is appealing to students and sparks them to consider that there are still many things in society that we may not like but should tolerate, although we do not have to "celebrate" them.

Anyway, back to Christmas Eve. Some years I am worn out, and go into the traveling and gift wrapping exhausted. It all seems like just one more chore. Oh, I still enjoy seeing family and going to church, but overall, the season doesn't do a lot for me. But this year is different. I got some rest. And I am psyched to go to mass here. The snow, the very modest but carefully selected gifts I bought, the lovely trees (I'll put up a picture of both after the holiday - we have a fresh cut one from the local boy scouts in Castleton, and a cedar from our yard in Samsonville), the wonderful cards (not a huge number, just enough for me to be able to exchange without it being an enormous task), the anticipation of seeing family, and most of all - Christmas Eve mass at Sacred Heart Church. It is really making Christmas extra special for me this year.

Those comments from my students helped too. I got two emails, by the way, from an A- student and a C- student, demanding a breakdown (which I always send, but I like to take a few days off, and wait until late in the month or early next month).

Friday, December 21, 2007

I am done with grades!! I finished at 8:30 last night (the deadline was 11:59 pm). Every semester I wonder why I have designed such complicated measures for evaluation. I know it works well, but it takes a lot of effort on my part.

One task at the end of the semester is that I tally up 11 peer assessment spreadsheets in my classes. I had 100 students between my 4 classes. Each student participates in peer assessment three times (for the online class, 19 students, it is twice). A couple of days ago - during a 14 hour stretch as I was power entering, looking up from the student's form to the screen (I am getting to the point in my life where I need reading glasses, after always having 20/20 vision, priding myself on it and considering the wearing of glasses to be a moral failing - I haven't a problem with grey hair, but glasses! I will forget them, lose them, drop them in the garden, sit on them, step on them, the puppy or kitten will get them, ...) I am wearing my glasses, and for paper with small type they are dandy, but they make it difficult to see the screen (my distance vision is still one of those 20s) after hours and hours of entry I am getting dizzy, nauseous, maybe even delirous. I try to not look through the glasses when I enter, but then I have to switch, because I can't see the numbers on the forms I printed out without them. The nauseous delirium turns into a touch of claustrophobia. This room is VERY small and it seems like it gets dark at about 3 in the afternoon.

So I decide to switch to a reading task instead. I don't accept paper from students and I don't print out papers or jounals, I read them off the screen. Don't need glasses for that. I start opening the journals and soon I find I can't see once again. I get to the end of each one, entry #14, and almost every single student has written nearly the same thing. They are gushing about how wonderful the class was, how they would take it over again next semester if they could, how they were sad on the last day, how attending it wasn't a chore, and thanking me in words so profuse and touching I am dumbstruck. Well, I am not talking to anyone at that moment, but you know what I mean. I have to blink away the tears, and I don't often cry. Could there be a better job on this planet? The assessment task got a lot easier after that. I think I will have to compile them in some way to read when I am feeling blue or frustrated in the future. I hope I can work the same magic next semester. With all the changes in the courseware arena, who knows? But I do have some new ideas boiling, so maybe!

Anyway, it looks like I am going to have to get bifocals over the break (with plain glass in the top) or else those tiny half-glasses like Marian the librarian.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Merry Christmas! I am feeling especially inspired this year. Maybe because my faith has been growing recently. Maybe because we are having wintery weather. Who knows?

I got the idea to do this from Elaine.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Well, he should have gotten the maximum (which isn't enough and should be increased), but I'm feeling pretty good about this outcome!

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Two stories from the TU. First, this one is scary! That site always freaks me out when I see it. Then, here's this one, another example of how awful some people are to animals. Luckily, these dogs were rescued. But what's with the order forbidding this jerk from raising animals expiring? Does that make any sense?
Interesting set of coincidences yesterday. This is the last week of classes, and in my social foundations classes, yesterday was focused on educational technology. I spend some time talking about what it is, what are the pros and cons of the approach, and what teaching online is like. In all three sections, I solicit student feedback and thoughts on educational technology. Something I tell students is that afterwards, I remember the faces of on campus students, and the names of online ones. A student called me who took the evening section of the class in 2003, and later in the day he stopped by to talk to me about graduate school. Then, as I was waiting for the elevator, another student came up to me and asked if I was (insert my name here). She explained that she had taken the online section of the class during Summer 2006. I remembered them both. It was especially nice, because both told me how much they liked the class, and asked me if I am teaching any at the graduate level.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

It snowed a little tonight. And it is supposed to be a cold weekend. I spent the day working on the courseware transition. One thing I've been experimenting with is recording audio files of lectures.

I had a nice Thanksgiving. My apple pie came out perfect. I used Honeycrisp apples (usually I use Granny Smith) and it was yummy! I learned something interesting about Honeycrisp apples recently; they were developed by the University of Minnesota (through a long process detailed here); introducted in 1991, and the parents were thought to be McCoun and Honeygold. But the discovered that neither is the parent! One parent is Keepsake, and the other is unknown. Read all about it here.

I took four days off, which was tiring! I think my regular routine is easier to manage than having fun. Now it's the push to the end of the semester. Only three days left on campus. Grades are due 11/20 at 11:59 pm. The semester just flew by!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Three posts in one day! Must be they were pent up or something. Something I have been meaning to remark on: all my life I have had to spell my name for people and tell them how to pronounce it, and still, it is often screwed up. As far as my first name goes, in some ways it is better in recent times, in some ways worse. My first name has become more popular (so people are more familiar with it), but on the other hand, similar names (such as Jenna) have become even more popular, so people often insist on putting an "e" in there as the second letter, rather than an "i," or they think maybe it starts with "j" rather than "g." The pronounciation thing of my last name is a lot better now - ever since the mayor became so famous. (Although one thing that means is that nearly everyone uses his "i" as the last letter of my name rather than my "o.")

But in the written word...I see the same atrociously wrong spellings of Rudy's last name that I have suffered for years on junk mail letters that I receive. As a kid, I once wrote a short story about the mangling of my name, as I recall. The Internet has perpetuated the problem even more, I think. I get a lot of hits on my various websites for people searching for information on "the" Rudy. Sometimes it directs them to something to do with me, more often it is all of my writing about "my" Rudy. (I don't mind that, but I'll probably regret this post, since it is sure to bring in the spelling challenged.)

Gui is the most common, but leaving out the "i" entirely is a close second (Gul). Sometimes there is a double "l" in there (Gull or Giull or Guill). Occasionally the second "i" is ommitted (Giula or Guila or Guli or Giulla or Guilla or Gulla). My fingers itch to correct these mistakes...don't you know that Julie in Italian is spelled Giuli? That Gui is pronounced Gwee? I am tempted...but I resist. My maternal grandmother Mimmie solved the spelling issue by writing the name in cursive - and throwing the dot of the "i" up in the air, so it could be interpreted to be over the "i" or the "u." But then at least she knew there was an "i" or two in there somewhere, and that there was only one "l." (This was before anyone thought our name ended in "i.")

Happy Thanksgiving, BTW. Now it is time for me to go and bake an apple pie.
Since I have grading done for the moment, today I am working on converting my classes to Blackboard. I decided to work on what will be the easiest of the four, and that's Toleration. It has the simpliest web component now, and I won't be making a lot of changes for Spring. There are some things I already like about Blackboard, but the biggest thing I don't like is the same as what I don't like in WebCT: it is slow, unreliable and cumbersome to work on the Internet. So far, that aspect is a draw with WebCT, but in terms of my fully online class: I am going to really miss Lotus Notes for its ability to work offline.

Something I forgot to mention: Maybe because it seems mean spirited? Whatever. The gym teacher from hell died a couple of weeks ago. He was so cruel to me that upon hearing the news, it was hard for me to summon up any emotion other than bad memories of elementary school. His lasting impact on me has been a lifelong aversion to competition, sports, games of all types, and even exercise. I guess it is appropriate that just two months before his passing from this Earth, sparked by the get-healthier lifestyle changes I started in January, I summoned the courage to blow the dust off the treadmill one more time and get on it. And guess what? For the first time, I have been successfully doing it every day!! To the point where the front roller now needs to be replaced (the replacement was delivered today). So take that, Mr. ------, you ---.
You might say I have been overwhelmed with work this semester. Pending changes in the courseware I use for my online and on campus classes is the culprit; that has been taking up a lot of my on campus time and as a result I am behind in assessment. So I really buckled down the last few days and I am officially caught up! Yay! Tomorrow I will focus on the courseware conversion - the clock is ticking, must be completely done by mid-January - and baking an apple pie (which must be done by Thanksgiving).

One bad piece of news though: I found another student plagiarizing. It has been a couple of semesters since the last incident, so I guess it was about time.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Ha. Good news. The cemetery sign post snapped - and the sign was laying in the weeds. I am not sure why the plot owner thought the post had been cut. And I guess the sheriff deputies never went to the driveway to look. The board had to do its own detective work! My mother and I risked tick infestation, but all's well that ends well.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

I am on the trustee board of a cemetery. Two days ago a plot owner noticed that someone cut the post with our sign down and stole the sign. It was one of those beautiful hand carved signs that you see around. We paid for it with donations less than 5 years ago. We got it for $500 because the sign maker gave us a deal. It is a small cemetery with zero money, we sell maybe 1-3 plots per year and have a couple of burials, have no real way to generate income since our volume is so low. Who would do such a thing against a cemetery? Why would someone want our sign?

Friday, October 26, 2007

Something I forgot to mention in my earlier post was that the past two times we've visited the vet, she has said, "you just have to get another Rudy." She's saying that not only because our Rudy was so great, but because it was clever and funny to have a dog named Rudy, given my last name. I think she hoped that we'd give Ande the name Rudy. She probably understood that it was too soon when we got Sam, and also that he'd already been named and we didn't want to change it. But with Ande - why it is two years later, he isn't the same species and we had free choice of names. So why not?

Last time we were there, I just chuckled and didn't respond. But this time, I said, "there will never be another Rudy." That is the simple truth. Yes, back in 1995 when I got Rudy I did name him after "the" Rudy. It was a lot more obscure to everyone except New Yorkers. But I'd watched Rudy's career for a long time. Now, he's running for president. 9/11 happened, and the name recognition is huge. I guess it may seem like even better timing, to give a pet his name, again, given my last name.

None of which matters. I still watch "the" Rudy's career. And I'm still glad I honored him by naming "my" wonderful, handsome Rudy after him. But I don't give pets the same name, even if one could argue that it would be an honor. There never will be another Heidi. Or Howie. Or Penny. Or Hobo. Or Mr. Wuj. Enough said (sniff).
On Sunday I noticed that Edna didn't seem to be herself. She ate, but not as much as usual and although she didn't really throw up, she coughed/gagged occasionally. No major retching. She slept a lot of the day and wasn't interested in going outside, and it was such a beautiful day. Then, on Monday she didn't eat at all. She was interested in food, but when she tried to eat, she would immediately throw it up - before it even got down. We thought it could be a tooth, a hairball, or maybe something more serious, considering her age. She did go outside on Monday, but the occasional gagging continued.

That evening, I decided to put Ande in the bedroom so he couldn't irritate her. Almost immediately, she perked up. She still wouldn't eat but she stopped sleeping, got up, wanted to be petted and was purring like crazy. I kept Ande away from her all night, and in the morning when she still wouldn't eat, we made an appointment with Dr. Tina. I wasn't sure if we were overreacting, but at her age I didn't want to risk her not eating for very long. The vet appointment was in the afternoon. After I made it, she did eat. We really debated whether to take her (vets aren't cheap, our holistic vet is even more expensive, and the car ride could be traumatic, being the kind of roads that usually make Edna car sick). But since we both had already taken the day off, we decided to take her anyway.

It is not serious - turns out all she has is a sore throat! That's it. Dr. Tina cleaned her teeth (without any sedative, believe it or not, and she was an angel), gave her a vitamin shot to boost her appetite, and a shot of antibiotics. I think Ande upsets her, and she made herself sick. So now we are going back to keeping him separate from her at night. We bought another large crate for the living room (we have Sam's old crate set up for Ande in Samsonville) since we can't continue to keep him on the porch once the weather turns cold, and that's where he will spend nights. During the day, when I am not here, he'll be in the bedroom. He has free run at other times, although if Edna seems irritated, I put him in his crate or in the bedroom for a time out. It's working well. He meowed some the first night (and Sophie barked because there is a food dish in that crate!!) but they have both settled into the new routine.

I'm not sure if this is what we will have to do for the rest of Edna's life (maybe) or if she will tolerate him better eventually, facilitated by him learning how to behave around her. He really isn't that active for a kitten. But we think that she wasn't able to sleep at night, that he kept bothering her and she couldn't relax enough. She loves to sleep on the day's newspaper, on the kitchen table and he was making that impossible. They don't really fight or bite each other or even hiss or swat at each other, but I think he just annoys her.

Anyway, she bounced back to even better than her usual self in less than a day. I think she loved the attention, of being the only animal to go with us for the day. We took advantage of the opportunity to do some things in Hudson. It was fun, and Edna was excellent in the car. Of course, the vitamin shot is magical too. They are why Rudy had a good quality of life for longer than the conventional vets predicted. And why, ever since Rudy's cancer, it's holistic all the way for them. Right now, I put Ande in the bedroom with his ball (he has a really cool toy that's just his, although Sam would love to play with it). He had free run this morning after I took him out of his crate. He was full of pep and vinegar, as my mother would say (about a horse). My perception is that mostly he pesters me - but when I was in the bathroom, I felt a presence silently come in, and when I looked down, I saw Edna's huge green eyes imploring me. So I told her, yes, I will put him in the bedroom for a while.

Monday, October 22, 2007

I see that author Peg Bracken has died. I was never very aware of her work, although I have heard of The I Hate to Cook Book. But I see it was published in 1960, so that explains why I really couldn't be among her fans. However, her name was immediately familiar to me. I remembered Mimmie mentioning her in a note to a recipe that I transcribed. Here are Mimmie's unedited words:

"The above recipe for doughnuts or cruellers is a fake. I tried them both ways and they are NO GOOD. The first way I tried them, they spread all through the oil when I fried them. Then I added more flour to make them handable the way the recipe says, and they become tough and tasteless. I should have known, it’s a Peg Bracken recipe which are always lousy.”

Trust me, Mimmie may not have been a published cookbook author, but she knew how to make delicious cruellers. But then she certainly didn't "hate to cook."

Friday, October 19, 2007

Something I haven't posted here: the computer nightmare in Samsonville finally IS over! Last weekend my father ran the heavy duty cable that he made and it works like a charm! It is even longer than recommended (the limit for ethernet cables is supposed to be 327 feel, according to my research) and it still is very, very fast. He estimates the one he made is 375 feet. That gave him enough so he could run it outside of my fence and up in the trees before the swampy area. And he eliminated the coupler.

I was on campus three days in a row this week. That was tough. I have no idea how I used to go "in" five days rather than working at home most of the time. I did accomplish a lot of grading etc. This semester has been quite a bit of work in terms of lesson plans, because I have made so many changes. Every week, I have to extensively revise all lecture notes and slideshows, as well as discussion materials. Usually I do just minor tweaking, and only have to write new essay questions each semester and maybe occasionally create an entirely new lecture and slideshow. It was actually easier to do the grading in my on campus office this week than I usually find it is at home, but revising my teaching materials is impossible on campus, that is an activity that I find I have to do at home.

I've been doing some thinking about writing another academic article. I haven't heard back yet, aside from the acknowledgement, from the one I sent to the toleration magazine. It is supposed to take six to eight weeks and I am pretty hopeful. Anyway, the one I am thinking of now would be about instructional technology. I have quite a bit going on in that area, and really have ever since I was a doctoral student. At present, there are some new developments that bode well for increased involvement for me (although they will require a lot of effort on my part, but this is a subject that really interests me). I think any more I write will about this be off-blog, but we'll see.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

We went to the Finger Lakes this past weekend. Specifically, we went to Watkins Glen, at the southern end of Seneca Lake. It was a beautiful, quiet trip out there, mostly on Route 17. After a major hassle with the crook who owns this dump, the Glen Way, where I had made reservations two months ago, we would up staying at the Seneca Lodge instead. (It was great, and a bargain besides.)

We visited several wineries, including Fox Run, Herman J. Weimer, Villa Bellangelo, Fulkerson and Glenora (the picture above was taken at Fox Run). On Monday, we hiked at the Watkins Glen State Park (the picture that follows was taken there).

Finally, on the way home, we stopped at the Woodlawn cemetery in Elmira to see Mark Twain's grave.

All-in-all, it was a wonderful couple of days - gorgeous scenery, great wine, and the nicest people on the planet.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

I'm so busy that although I have been intending to post, I just haven't found the time. But I didn't want to forget to post this! What a weekend! The one event I wanted to be sure to mention was that on Sunday, I hiked Overlook mountain in Woodstock with a group of eleven humans (plus one dog) that included Bob, my sister, my brother, my sister-in-law, my brother-in-law, my nephew, my two grand nephews, my parents, and my sister's poodle. The oldest was 80, and the youngest was 7. It was a 2.9 mile hike to the summit - so that is a total of 5.8 miles. What a view!! I climbed about 4 platforms on the fire tower, but there was no way I was going all the way up. I could see fine from the fourth platform.

After 2.2 miles, there are ruins of the Overlook Mountain House, which was a vacation destination from the late 19th Century until the early 20th century. They would take visitors up via horse and carriage, and then eventually, automobile. (That makes the trail to get there better than you might expect.) It burned down twice, and the third structure, which was concrete and never opened, was closed up in 1941. Naturally, the batteries in my camera were dead, so I have no pictures to post. Maybe one of the others will send me some.

Quite an accomplishment for an anti-athletics wimp like me!! I was rather tired on Monday, and still a little sore on Tuesday, but by yesterday I was 100% and back on the treadmill.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Unusual lately for me to post twice here in one day -- but I am procrastinating on doing something (write a book review with a deadline of next week)!

Since January, I have made a lifestyle change. It involves switching to a whole foods diet. The philosophy includes limited refined white flour, limited refined white sugar, local, organic, and vegetarian, in that order. So while I am not actually a vegetarian (yet), and I do wind up eating things are that not necessarily organic, or locally produced sometimes, my diet is radically different than it was a year ago. I have always eaten lots of vegetables and fruit, cooked mostly from scratch, favored local products, gardened organically and have not been a major fan of meat, but the realization is amazing when you actually make an effort: how many things you routinely ate that violated those principles.

I've never been much of a bread eater, but I thought sugar would be very difficult. I've always been an addict, and had a several-box-of-Freihoffer-danish-per-week habit. The reality is that it hasn't been all that hard! Oh, I do miss pasta a little - and choosing what to eat takes time. Besides fruit, I satisfy my still-powerful sweet tooth with those individually packaged, expensive chocolates. There are numerous varieties on the market. I favor Ghirardelli dark chocolate caramels and mints. Eating one is satisfying. I have no desire for cake or cookies. And eggplant parmesan, which has always been my favorite dish, is a completely fine substitute for pasta. I find that supermarkets and other stores have come a long way in terms of selection of healthy foods, and the co-op, farm stands and Internet are great places to shop too.

More recently, I added in a missing link: exercise. I have been using the treadmill daily. We've owned it for years, but it sat there unused, a guilt producer, taking up valuable space. I hate formal exercise (remember the gym teacher from hell) and was never successful for more than a few days at a clip in the past. So I made new rules. Use it for warm up and slow down, forget all that stretching crap. Don't set up some arbitrary rules - the goal is, try to do it every day, and when I am sick of it, I get off.

The results have been incredible. I feel a lot better. My lifelong struggle with the curse of constipation is almost resolved. I enjoy the things I choose to eat more. And I have experienced a very slow, but very steady weight loss. I've never been obese or anything, but I'm now down to the weight I was in my 20s.
I got my permanent crown this morning. I'm relieved it's done. No novocaine this time.

Last evening I covered ethics, academic dishonesty and how to cite in my class. It only tangentially relates to tolerance (more of a no tolerance issue, actually) but I think it is an important subject to cover, given my experience with students who cheat. I actually had quite a go-around with a student during the discussion. Finally I said, "have you been listening? It doesn't matter worth a d-mn whether you agree with the sanctions or what your opinion is about whether something constitutes academic dishonesty. And don't be telling me that you cheat!" That pretty much ended anyone else in class wanting to volunteer to say anything that was in opposition to my viewpoint. (Now I'll probably get a bunch of evaluations at the end of the semester that complain that I am not open to students' input.)

I know it is hard for some students to grasp that this subject isn't the same as us discussing whether tolerance is a virtue or whether teachers should be moral agents, there simply is no alternative perspective that is valid. It isn't a debate, it's one of those rare times when there are no shades of grey. I'm trying to save them from making a bad decision that will cost them big time.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Ande is leukemia and AIDS negative!! We have to re-test in 3 months to be 100% sure but it is looking good.

A rodent chewed the wire again in Samsonville! My father is trying to figure out how to make a heavy duty cable that they can't chew. Another possibility is putting it inside a garden hose for the entire length. I'm also wondering if there is any kind of solution I could spray on the wire to deter rodents?

Very warm day here.

Monday, October 01, 2007

The computer nightmare in Samsonville is over! Yay! Saturday I hooked up my "new old" machine. It works fine. I was able to eliminate the router, in terms of it being the source of the problem. On Sunday, after church and before going to my aunt and uncle's 60th wedding anniversary party, I figured out that the problem also isn't the NIC in my mother's machine. So that meant the only weak link was the 315' cable between our two houses. I thought for sure it was the coupler - a $2 item that is under my deck which connects the 300' custom cable to a 14' one I bought at Staples. But that wasn't it. We walked the length of the 300' - through the swampy area - and couldn't find a problem. So I figured it had to be that as an interior cable, after 10 months it succumbed to the weather and failed. It answered the question of why you can't use regular ethernet cable outside. So I put a regular modem in my mother's machine and hooked it up to dial-up until I can find a solution. My father wasn't satisfied with that solution - didn't believe the cable failed for no reason. So today they pulled the wire so he could test it on some kind of device he has that sees if there is a signal - and it turns out a rodent chewed through some of the wire. It wasn't fully severed, which was why we didn't see it with a quick walk through. He repaired the wire, put it back and my mother is back in business.

We took Ande to the vet today. So in a few days we'll know if he is positive for AIDS or Leukemia. Keep your fingers crossed! She thinks he is older than three months. He's grown - weighs 5 pounds.

Friday, September 28, 2007

This is Ande. It isn't a great picture, but it is hard to get him to hold still. Our vet appointment is Monday. He seems healthy, although I'm not sure whether feline leukemia and AIDS have obvious symptoms. At this point, he spends days in the bedroom, and nights on the porch. In the evening, after dinner, I bring him into the living room with us. The dogs are OK with him. They sniff him like crazy, but that's it. He has no relationship with Edna - since she is a kitchen cat his contact with her is minimal. That's OK with me, until we know his health status.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Hooray! Good news for horses.

Chicago was awesome! Better than the Proctor's show last year, and I'm sure better than seeing it on Broadway. The theatre was tiny, the acoustics were amazing, and afterwards for $10 we got dessert and a cabaret show, with some of the actors singing favorite songs from other shows.

Hot again today! More than 80 degrees.

Friday, September 21, 2007

I haven't had the time, nor the inclination to write very much here. This week started out with Rudy's birthday; he would have been 12 if he was still here. (sniff) The next day, the 18th, was mine. Tuesday is a teaching day, and after my night class we had an extravagant meal at Marche. Bob got me tickets to see Chicago at the Cohoes Music Hall for tomorrow. It is hot today, more than 80 degrees! The garden is thriving. The computer remains a problem in Samsonville. I have some things fixed, and some things still pending. I am tired of the hassle. Little Ande (spelling it that way, it is Edna backwards) is doing well, though still isolated from the other animals at this point.

Friday, September 14, 2007

As the kickoff to my birthday week celebration, we ate at one of our favorite restaurants, Villa Valenti last night, great meal but something unexpected happened. There was a little stray kitten hanging around in the parking lot, very friendly, maybe 2 months old more or less. It was still there when we came out after dinner and the restaurant owners wound up convincing us to take it. I guess some people at a house nearby have unspayed and unneutered semi wild cats that constantly have batches of kittens and the owners of Villa Valenti are always convincing patrons to adopt the nicer ones or taking them themselves. There must have been four or five kittens there of the same age but this was the only tame one. I am not sure if it is male or female but it is extremely cute, grey and white. I need another cat like a hole in the head and I joked to Bob that maybe I will take it to Samsonville and let it out at my mother's barn and act like I have no clue where it came from!!

Anyway it is on the porch right now. It ravenously ate the cat food I gave it last night and then it curled up and slept on a blanket. Right now s/he is hiding behind some stuff on the porch. I think the dogs barking at the mailman etc. is pretty scary. This morning after my dentist appointment (I was getting my temporary cap - luckily the novocaine didn't impact me the same as last time with the root canal!). I went to Petsmart (which I hate, but the small privately owned pet store was closed) and bought the necessary supplies.

I wasn't planning to introduce it into the house until I had taken it to the vet, but after reading a bunch of stuff on the Internet about kitten care that left me feeling anxious, I called our vet and she made me feel a lot better. She said that the kitten does need to be tested for Feline Leukemia and AIDS and until then shouldn't really have major contact with Edna. But she said Edna can't get Leukemia at her age, and she is only at risk for AIDS if the cats bite each other. So keeping the kitten in a crate inside the house or traveling with it in a carrier in the same car will not put Edna at risk. She said that it would actually be good to let them sniff each other and they can be in the same room. She wasn't concerned about the dogs at all. She is sending me a wormer, she said that is something to do right away but she doesn't feel we need to bring the kitten to see her for about a month because it is too young to have shots and the Leukemia/AIDS tests are more accurate on a bit older kitten than this one seems to be. She also said food is not a big deal at all, it can eat raw, cooked homemade or high quality canned.

Anway, if it is too traumatic for Edna or too much of a hassle with Sam (I doubt Sophie will be an issue) I will try to find it a home even if I have to pay for the neutering. I thought since yesterday was Mimmie's birthday maybe that was some kind of sign; she was a major cat person (at one time she may have had 40...yes, animal eccentricity is deep in my genes). If we wind up keeping it, and it is a female I will call it Annie after her, if male it will be Andy. I have never raised a kitten before, hope it is easier than a puppy!

The guy from the store Bob took the computer to called. It's the motherboard. That is very hard to fix, and expensive when it can be fixed. Even going with used, it would be $150, he said. So, we worked out a deal. He isn't going to charge me any labor at all. Instead he is going to charge me $150 for a similar machine and put in everything from mine (CD Rom, graphics card, hard drive, plus the most memory he can do using mine and that one together, the modem if it will fit, plus the NIC card). He''ll check all the parts to be sure they work (I am not sure, and neither is he, if anything else was burnt out from the surge until they are in a working machine). But he feels, as I do, that probably only the motherboard, and maybe the NIC card were fried. In which case he'll put in a new NIC card. He'll call when it is ready. I suppose I could have done it all myself with a the new box he is selling me or my mother's old one or a yard sale machine but it wouldn't have come in much cheaper or even if it would have with my mother's old one as I mentioned before I am burnt on repairs.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Booking Through Thursday: Comfort Food

Okay . . . picture this (really) worst-case scenario: It’s cold and raining, your boyfriend/girlfriend has just dumped you, you’ve just been fired, the pile of unpaid bills is sky-high, your beloved pet has recently died, and you think you’re coming down with a cold. All you want to do (other than hiding under the covers) is to curl up with a good book, something warm and comforting that will make you feel better.

What do you read?

(Any bets on how quickly somebody says the Bible or some other religious text? A good choice, to be sure, but to be honest, I was thinking more along the lines of fiction…. Unless I laid it on a little strong in the string of catastrophes? Maybe I should have just stuck to catching a cold on a rainy day….)

Well, to be honest after all those bad things happening, I probably would not feel like reading, I'd feel like drinking several glasses of a cordial such as Frangelico (which works much better than most cold remedies). I'm a miserable patient and when I have a cold reading isn't all that appealing to me. When a beloved pet has recently died, I don't do much besides cry; even Frangelico isn't a salve. Stacks of unpaid bills make me too nervous to concentrate on reading. If I lost my job, I'd probably be frantically looking for another rather than reading. And I've been married a long time, so I can't remember the dumping thing enough to connect.

But in terms of what I read as a comfort book, it isn't generally fiction (although if I was reading a fiction book during a crisis, I could easily see using it as an escape mechanism). My favorite comfort book is one I have read many times: Mark Twain's Autobiography. It is funny, touching, timeless and true to life, all at the same time. (If I could have quickly thought of a substitute word for funny that would have fit with the alliteration...I would have.)

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

I have the rest of the week off because the university has a short break. Classes are going OK, I have 33 students in the Social Foundations day class, 24 in the evening section, 20 in the online section, and 28 in Toleration. Landed smart rooms all around so that makes things easier. So far, I'm very happy with the changes I made this semester. I got a raise! That makes sending back the recent canvass letter I got for a job (a better one, if the criteria is salary; a worse one on all other criteria) a cinch.

Over the weekend while I was at Olive Day for a few hours, there was some sort of brown out or surge that fried my computer and router in Samsonville again! I was especially pissed because I have been unplugging everything since the last lightening episode, but since I was only gone for a few hours and didn't think there would be a storm, I didn't bother. The electricity was on, and the clocks weren't even blinking, so I'm thinking the cable is the culprit.

So, I bought some higher quality surge protectors that can also take cable wires, I am getting a replacement router since it is (still!) on warranty, and Bob took the machine to a repair place. He managed to turn a deaf ear to the technician's suggestion that he buy a new machine instead of bothering to see if the fried one can be fixed again. Well, not exactly a new machine - another crappy machine that is only the equivalent of the crappy broken machine. The tech insisted I can just swap out all the upgraded components into a new crappy box. Yes, Bob agreed, I probably could. But I am as fried on doing that as the machine is. I just want someone else to fix it at this point. And if I have to resort to a crappy replacement, I'm not going to pay the computer store for that type of machine when I can get one at a yard sale. Or use my mother's spare computer instead.

Just because I can do something, doesn't mean I enjoy doing it. At my old job, I was often stuck with tinkering with the computers just because I was good at it. I didn't like that job duty at all and that hasn't changed. I already spend way too much time on those sort of tasks.

Anyway, it was a nice weekend for swimming. We'll probably close the pool this weekend.

Friday, September 07, 2007

I'm making this post just so that in the future when I check back...I will remember that it was 88 degrees and humid today! The garden is thriving. The new mums I put in are starting to bloom. Looks like it will be another swimming weekend.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

What with being back on campus and the hectic weekend, I haven't had a lot of time for posting. On Friday night, we saw the Music Man at the Mac-Haydn theatre in Chatham. It was awesome!! Before the show, we ate dinner at Lippera's Chatham House, and after the show, we had a nightcap at Peint o Gwrw Tafarn, which had live music. On Saturday we went to Samsonville. There was another humid 90 degree day the Thursday before, so the pool has stayed warm. (Two more humid days of near 90 are predicated for Friday and Saturday, so although Bob's plan has been to close the pool on Sunday, if this weather keeps up, he'll wait another week and play it by ear.) We came back on Sunday, and went to a wedding at Birch Hill. The food was great, it is a very nice place for an event. Finally, on Monday I replaced my window box petunias - which had been glorious all summer but were getting pretty ragged - with mums. It looks great!

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

First day of classes went OK. In looking over my roster, eleven students have taken a course with me in the past. I think, sort of egotistically, that it means I must be doing something right - either that or my courses are an easy A - or maybe it is just that there is a shortage of education classes at the university and since I teach two of them I get most students more than once.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Another jerk, Chad Johnson, opens his mouth and removes any doubt that he is a moron, as he spouts off in support of Vick.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Now, it is no secret that I am no fan of sports, especially football. But my disgust with everyone involved in all flavors of games grows daily. Now some jerk who plays for the Knicks named Stephon Marbury comes to Albany and while here, spouts off about how dog fighting is a sport and Vick is a good guy. I guess he thinks he's so cool that he can say whatever vile thing he wants and suffer not at all? Hey, I have an idea. Why don't the feds dig around a little into this guy's activities? Think attending dog fights run by his pal Mike might be one of his past pleasures? And here's another idea. Email Steve & Barry's, his sponsor, at to let them know you will boycott their product if they don't dump him. Hey dude! That's not a's called the market.
Since I haven't been able to post for the past few Thursdays, I thought I'd catch up today. Not sure if this will be my last BTT for a while - classes start next week, and Thursdays are always difficult during the semester.

Booking Through Thursday: Indoctrination

When growing up did your family share your love of books?

The only other avid reader in my immediate family is my sister.

If so, did one person get you into reading?

Besides my sister, there were two others: my maternal grandmother Mimmie and my paternal Aunt Jean. Mimmie didn't have a lot of education - formally it ended after eighth grade at the West Hurley one room school. But she loved to read and we shared many books with each other. Often I, or my sister, or my mother would go to the library to check out books for her since she didn't like to leave home very much. Aunt Jean worked at the library and at a vintage book seller and she also was a voracious reader. Some of my most precious books were gifts from her.

And, do you have any family-oriented memories with books and reading? (Family trips to bookstore, reading the same book as a sibling or parent, etc.)

My father read me a chapter from Pinocchio every night for a while when I was a kid. We read it over and over. He also acted out the story with Pinocchio and Geppetto marionnettes. Sometimes his performances drifted quite far from the Collodi story line!

Booking Through Thursday: Monogamy (from 8/16)

One book at a time? Or more than one? If more, are they different types/genres? Or similar? (We’re talking recreational reading, here—books for work or school don’t really count since they’re not optional.)

I generally read one book at a time and don't start another until I finish it. However, right now I am reading two books at once: Uncle Tom's Cabin and a book about Terri Schiavo. The Stowe book is very heavy reading. The Schiavo one is quite upsetting too, but it is a much faster read.

Booking Through Thursday: Multiples (from 8/9)

Do you have multiple copies of any of your books?

Yes, I have quite a few multiples.

If so, why? Absent-mindedness? You love them that much? First Editions for the shelf, but paperbacks to read?

I collect Mark Twain books, and have numerous copies of a few titles, including Life on the Mississippi, Huck Finn, Roughing It and his autobiography. I got the Complete Works of Mark Twain when it came out again a few years ago, after I already had some of his other books, so probably about a quarter of the complete works made me have duplicates. I also have some very old editions that are sort of investments (as if I could ever part with them)! I may have one or two first editions of the more obscure books, but most of the antique ones are second editions. Sometimes someone gives me a Mark Twain book as a gift, and of course I already have it. Finally, if I see a Mark Twain book at a yard sale, I have to buy it - even if it is a paperback in pathetic condition. I have an entire bookcase devoted to Mark Twain, both paperbacks and hardcovers, some pristine and some battered.

Finally, I bought books I liked as gifts for my grandmother, and after she died, they were given back to me. So that made me have two copies of some things.

If not, why not? Not enough space? Not enough money? Too sensible to do something so foolish?

Root canal is done and the novocaine is worn off. This one was awful!! Not so much the actual procedure - it didn't last as long as the other one I had (that time he had a hard time finding the last root and it took forever) and he didn't hurt me at all, he never does. But after he gave me the second shot of novocaine something happened to my face on the opposite (right side) near my eye - it felt like I was having a stroke, with tics, involuntary movement, etc. Combined with the usual numbness in my mouth it was awful. I didn't say anything, but covered the area with my hand to try to get control of myself. My heart was beating very fast too. I am not all that nervous at the dentist so it was really odd for me. The dentist noticed and said, "are you OK?" I said, "not really. I am having some sort of weird nervous reaction." He asked, "right eye?" I said, "yes." So he told me that is a very common reaction to a shot of novocaine in the location I had it - it crosses over and is nothing to worry about. He told me to close my eyes, but I couldn't. Keeping them open was unpleasant, too. Eventually I got my sunglasses and I wore them for the entire procedure, which helped. But it was all I could do to stay in the chair and not freak out. I have had an episode on one other occasion where I was in such a panic that my leg shakes and no matter what I do I can't make it stop (it happened when I first was learning to drive, the first time I went on a busy road where you have to do 55). That is what happened after I couldn't make the eye thing go away. The dentist didn't seem to notice or care, but it is very upsetting for me. About halfway through he gave me a break, I went to the bathroom, discovered I was still in control of my body, calmed down, and as a result I felt a lot better for the second half. I get my crown on 9/14. Hopefully that will be easier! (But I'm not optimistic.)

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

We saw Hairspray (the movie) last night. It was great!! Worth seeing.

Here's Beloit College's list about what incoming freshmen don't know. I might have added a few things, but some are funny. (Others I don't know, either...)

I've been reading both Uncle Tom's Cabin (which I have always wanted to read) and Silent Witness (about Terri Schiavo). I'm about halfway through with each. I don't usually read two books at the same time, but Stowe's book is very heavy. Not that the other book isn't, but it is a much faster read. I reviewed them both on Goodreads.

One week until my classes start, and I am in good shape. I got my summer class grades done today. Two days until my root canal...popping advil until then.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Two weeks countdown to the start of classes! Bittersweet. As my summer winds down, it is jam packed, not only with work-related stuff, but with "fun." I took a little trip on Amtrak to Western New York to visit a friend, and was away from the PC for a few days. (I paid the price, too - I finally managed today to get through my 100,000 emails - some were second and third follow-ups from students, demanding to know why I had not responded to their original query within the first hour after it was sent. Sigh.) Before that, I swam, and went to the winery I mentioned a few posts ago (too lazy to link), and the Ulster County Fair. I took some pictures while I was out in Buffalo, and I'll post at least one, as well as some flower shots soon. This weekend, we may go to the Grahamsville Fair.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

My fall classes begin on August 28, and I have a long list of things to do, especially because I am changing books in my classes, so that will involve a lot more revisions than usual. Plus, my summer class ends August 17, so very soon there will be some things to do to wrap up that course.

But instead, I was enticed by this Daily Freeman article to do a little data analysis. I'd read about this Forbes magazine article recently, but didn't look at it that carefully. However, when I noticed that it listed Ulster County's schools (home of my alma mater and weekend house) as third worst in the nation (of the 100 counties they ranked), I couldn't resist! I'm not sure why they chose Ulster County as one of the places to include - perhaps because it is a weekend vacation spot for NYC folks, and they resent the high school taxes they pay on their second homes, or because some of them consider abandoning the metro area and making the move north permanently.

So I tossed my to do list aside (temporarily) and visited the NYS Education Department's school report cards website. I don't feel too guilty, because it is sort of work-related!

Now, Forbes is refusing to give any more details on what formula they used than what is already provided in the article. So naturally, that makes it hard. Hiding the methodology isn't the scholarly way. But then Forbes is hardly a scholarly publication. However, valid or not, such articles do get attention, and so I can sympathize with the school representatives quoted in the Freeman article, that it is an unfair analysis. On the other hand, I have written before (here, here, here, and here) about how the numbers simply don't add up in the district that is my alma mater, so I was willing to give Forbes the benefit of the doubt.

In addition to Forbes' stonewalling on how they figured this out, NYSED changed the format of the report card publications from 2005 to 2006, which makes it very difficult to locate the data. But it still is possible to wade through the reports, do a little number crunching, and compare it to the chart in Forbes. They used four measures: per pupil spending for fiscal year 2004, mean SAT or ACT (whichever is the most common in the state) scores for 2005, participation rate on the SAT or ACT for 2005, and graduation rate for 2005.

In New York, the SAT is the college entrance exam usually taken. I'm not sure how Forbes got the details for the SAT down to the county level. Maybe the College Board is willing to share that information, or maybe individual schools are. For Ulster County, Forbes lists 1,032 as the mean score in 2005, with a participation rate of 62.10%. The only data I could easily access was the statewide average score, and for New York, that was 1,008.

Forbes lists per pupil spending in fiscal year 2004 as $12,482 for Ulster County. They note that this has been adjusted for local cost of living, although no additional information is provided. Ulster County is made up of 10 districts. Assuming by fiscal year 2004 they mean 2004-05, the total per pupil expenditures ranged from a high of $18,543 (for Onteora) to a low of $12,336 (for Saugerties), with an average of $15,794. So I am not sure where Forbes' numbers came from. The NYSED data actually makes the county look even more costly.

The graduation rate was 83.6% for the class of 2005, according to Forbes. That would mean a dropout rate of 16.4%. The data from SED does not support this, although the numbers listed are inconsistent from year to year and so it is not very illuminating. When I consulted the report card data published in the 2005 report, it was different than what was listed for the prior year in the 2006 report. The 2005 report has dropouts ranging from 10.9% (for Kingston) to 1.9% (for Walkill), with an average of 5%, which is terrible in my opinion, although better all around than what Forbes claims. The 2006 report lists the dropout rate for 2005 as ranging from 15% (for Rondout Valley) to 1% (for Walkill), with an average of 5.9%; that's even worse, but not as bad as the number Forbes published.

Then, when I do my own calculations based on the 2005 numbers from SED for 12th grade enrollment and graduates rather than accepting the proportions listed for dropout rate, I wind up with graduation rates that range from 94.3% (for Marlboro) to 81.4% (for Saugerties), and a County average of 88.2%; it's not the same as the dropout rates published by SED, and it still doesn't match the data in Forbes!
Booking Through Thursday: Letters! We Get Letters...

Have you ever written an author a fan letter?

No, I can't remember ever writing a fan letter to an author. I considered writing to Gore Vidal over twenty years ago when he was my favorite author, but never did.

Did you get an answer?

Well, since I haven't written to any author - I guess the only answer possible is "no."

Did it spark a conversation? A meeting?

Again, the only possibility here is no.

I have gone to a couple of book readings, but nothing recently. They weren't superstar-level writers, and I don't remember ever waiting to shake the author's hand or get a book signed. Authors often visit my campus, but I rarely go to the events. And William Kennedy teaches there.

Now, if Mark Twain was still alive...I definitely would write to him! And go to see one or more of his lectures. Does seeing Hal Holbrook as Mark Twain count? I also saw an actor perform as Robert Frost. (Can't remember who that was.)

Semi-related note: I did email the researcher and webpage master of some of the i.t.a. material that I wrote about yesterday, he responded, and it did spark a conversation, mostly him promoting how great simplified spelling is an approach, regardless of the individual's experience with the method.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Here's something interesting about an effort of parents to ban the Junie B. Jones books. I thought I had written here on the subject of learning to read a while ago, but perhaps I am remembering some comments I posted elsewhere.

In 1966, when I was learning to read, my school used i.t.a. (the initial teaching alphabet). There were two kindergarten classes. Mine used i.t.a., and the other class used a traditional method to teach reading. I often wondered about i.t.a., especially after I became an educator, so a few years ago I did some research on it.

It was more popular in the UK than it was in the US, and there are still some proponents for using it, or a similar simplified spelling method to teach reading and writing. Apparently, i.t.a. was a response to the difficulties of teaching children to read and write in English, a problem that is not as often seen in cultures that speak a more phonetic language such as Spanish.

I.t.a. didn't harm me at all; it may have helped me (my parents believe it did), or perhaps I would have learned easily no matter the method. I am a voracious reader, I like to write, and never had trouble with spelling, grammar or punctuation (aside from when carelessly writing on the 'net :-).

You can see the influence of i.t.a. on my writing in this story I wrote in February 1969, when I was 7 1/2 years old. This was written during second grade, the transition year from i.t.a. to regular spelling. I didn't write A Cat in a Boat for school; I wrote it at home, to amuse my family. We were definitely not up to writing stories of this length or complexity in school! I would add that the dark theme probably would have gotten me sent to the school psychologist's office...except that in 1969, such things didn't happen, and I don't remember my elementary school having a psychologist. Plus, in second grade I had a wonderful teacher who would not have overreacted. (You can tell even at age seven how much I preferred animals to people, eh?)

However, I do remember that the transition to regular spelling in second grade was very traumatic for a lot of kids in my class. Some struggled for years, and I think some still struggle as adults. Whether that would have been true, regardless, is a good question. Parental resistance is one reason cited for failure of innovative methods by proponents of simplified spelling, but the transition is the most important reason given for failure of this approach. My school abandoned the i.t.a. pilot after just a few years.

I do notice that a lot of students in my classes have trouble with spelling, punctuation, word choice and grammar, and they certainly didn't learn via simplified spelling, but perhaps they were taught with the whole language, rather than phonics approach. I have always chalked my students' weakness in this area up to over reliance on spell checkers, and also to the love affair with text messaging and IM-speak.

I don't have any wisdom regarding the merits of the Junie books, although I think banning books is always misguided. I do believe that reading is better than an activity such as television watching or gaming. But I remain interested in the topic of learning to read, and this is a fascinating debate.
Here's a fun site for book lovers.

On Sunday, we are going to a wine tasting and dinner at this winery.

And, of course, there's the Ulster County Fair this week. I love county fairs, and haven't been to one in a few years. I hope to take in at least one this summer.

Friday, July 27, 2007

I think I have confirmation that Sam is half hound. I really like hounds, but when I go to the shelter to get a dog, I don't look for a specific breed. I just take whatever needy animal is waiting. I have now had three half hounds; Howie (schnauzer/beagle); Rudy (beagle/collie) and Sam (blue tick hound/border collie). Sophie is a full hound (bassett hound) and Penny was a poodle. (Edna is at least partially a Maine Coon Cat, if not a purebred, but she is labeled a domestic long hair). Howie's mix was definite, as was Rudy's half beagle, Sophie's bassett (at least mostly, if not all) and Penny's poodle. The collie part of Rudy was an educated guess.

Sam's previous owner said he was blue tick and lab. Blue tick is an unusual breed and so not likely to be a fabrication, but the shelter staff and my vet both disagree that he is lab. They say that when a black dog is surrendered to the shelter, the owner usually will say it is part lab because that is a popular, good natured breed. They don't want anyone to think it might be a dobie or rottie (not that him being either breed would have caused me to not adopt him. I love dobermans especially). I think border collies may have a negative reputation as well, in terms of being very active. Or it could be that the owner had no clue which male dog that was hanging around fathered the puppies.

Anyway, I think Sam could be a mix of 15 breeds, and very likely blue tick and border collie, but there is undoubtedly some hound in there. This morning Bob went to run errands, and Sam has been nervously pacing (that's the border collie, I suppose). Right now he is sitting near me, being a "scootch." (That means I have to keep one hand on him while typing with the free hand, or he tries to climb on my lap, paw the keyboard, and hit my hand with his head - not sure which breed that characterizes; I call it "scootch."). But the blue tick is displayed by what he does when he is not sitting here being a scootch: he stops pacing, throws his head back, and howls. What a mournful sound.

We're on three day weekends for the next five it's off to Samsonville once I finish watering the garden and plants.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

One more pent up post. Last night the news was doing its usual gushing about the Saratoga racing season opening. You know, the hats, the glamour, the fun of it all. Oh, how wonderful it all is, how classy, how "in!" Then at the end of the broadcast the sports report came on, and this tidbit: a jockey was thrown during one race. Oh goody, he wasn't hurt. The horse had to be euthanized. Bummer. (Actually that part was only a passing mention; "bummer" certainly wasn't the sentiment.) What's that, G? You don't go to Saratoga in August? But aren't the hats so beautiful, wasn't it a great day, didn't nature smile on us with such glorious weather for opening day?
I meant to write this yesterday, but procrastinated. The connections made over the Internet can be quite amazing. I had a nice surprise. The dogs were barking like crazy - a DHL truck was dropping off a package. I didn't remember ordering anything - but you never know, I order a lot of stuff or I thought maybe Bob did. There was a big box on the porch, addressed to me with an address for some company I'd never heard of in Brooklyn. I opened the box - inside was a large box wrapped in beautiful paper and a gift note from the company. It was a thank you from a guy who bought my reprinted booklet West Shokan: Eden of the Catskills a few months ago. At the time, he was searching for information on the location of a summer house that his great-grandfather had owned until the late 1930s. There was nothing really helpful in the booklet, so later I helped him to find out where it might be and sent him directions on how to get there, etc. Inside the wrapped box was a large can, like one of those holiday popcorn buckets but bigger. Also it was very heavy. Inside the can were 6 bottles of wine!! How unbelievably nice and generous.
Booking Through Thursday: Best Moustache Twirling

Who’s the worst fictional villain you can think of? As in, the one you hate the most, find the most evil, are happiest to see defeated? Not the cardboard, two-dimensional variety, but the most deliciously-written, most entertaining, best villain? Not necessarily the most “evil,” so much as the best-conceived on the part of the author…oh, you know what I mean!

I really had to think about this one. Maybe because I don't often read the type of novels that have villians? Now in true crime stories, there would be so many to choose from! But I came up with one: Tom Ripley in Patricia Highsmith's The Talented Mr. Ripley. Wow, was he creepy! And charming at the same time. I know there are several other books in the series, although I haven't read the others. The movie adaptation of the first book was decent, too; it raised my appreciation for Matt Damon's skill at playing the bad guy.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

In Castleton today, I picked the first tomato! Also some green beans. In Samsonville, we've been picking zucchini for almost two weeks.
I don't write much about politics, but as a Capital District resident, MPA holder and long time State employee, it is hard to pass this one up. I'm really shocked, although after seven months of his administration, I am less shocked than I would have been a year ago. I'm linking to The Record rather than the Times Union because after reading the full report, I have a lot of questions about the TU's role, and not a lot of confidence that their reporting is unbiased. I wonder how, or if, they will explain their involvement. Here's a link to the full AG report. It makes interesting reading, even if you are only slightly wonky. This lowers my respect for the governor, and really increases it for the Attorney General. And about Joe, well, I liked him already. It's great to have your Senator be the majority leader.
Here's a link for contacting the Falcons about that lowlife Vick.

Friday, July 20, 2007

HSUS has a link up for sending email to Nike about keeping Vick as their spokesperson.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

I've been trying to ignore the story about the football player arrested over dog fighting - not because there is any love lost between me and football (I didn't even know who Vick, much less the Falcons were before this), but because it upsets me too much.

My mother always says, on animal welfare issues, that you can't have your head in the sand and be in denial. Right now, AOL has a picture of a starving Pitbull on a chain as the headline so there is simply no way to avoid it. Of all the terrible, heartbreaking things in this article, I found this sentence to be the most appalling:

"After a meeting involving NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and the Falcons, the league will let Vick keep playing, the Associated Press reported."

Wouldn't want anything to get in the way of weekend beer sales, I guess.

If I was a Falcon - or even a football - fan, you better believe I would be taking action of some sort so they knew my views, and following it up with a boycott if nothing was done.

Update: I may not be a fan, but I am a consumer. So I did a little searching, and sent off my letters of protest. Here is the HSUS link, with information on how you can email the NFL to demand that they suspend Vick. And here is Nike's website, where you can email them about their sponsorship of Vick.

Update 2: Wow, Nike's spambot already responded. Here's my original letter, borrowed somewhat from the HSUS:

As an animal lover, I had to write to you to demand that you please immediately stop sponsoring Michael Vick for his alleged involvement in dogfighting. Vick's recent indictment by a federal grand jury for crimes related to dogfighting is a certain sign that you must treat this matter seriously. Reports of extreme cruelty to dogs who didn't "perform" to the fighters' satisfaction only add to the disgrace Vick brings to Nike.

Dogfighting is cruel and criminal, and football players must be held accountable like anyone else. Please drop your contract with Vick immediately--anything less would reflect very badly on your judgment, and on the Nike brand.

I was disgusted to read in the paper today that he was going to be allowed to continue to play, and that Nike was continuing to support him. I intend to boycott all of his, and the NFL's sponsors until he is suspended from the NFL, and until the sponsors drop him.
Thank you.

And here's Nike's response:

Response (Caryn) - 07/19/2007 02:33 PM
Thank you for contacting Nike regarding Michael Vick.

Nike is concerned by the serious and highly disturbing allegations made against Michael Vick, and we consider any cruelty to animals inhumane and abhorrent. We do believe that Michael Vick should be afforded the same due process as any citizen; therefore, we have not terminated our relationship. We have, however, made the decision to suspend the release of the Zoom Vick V and related marketing ommunications. Nike will continue to monitor the situation closely and has no further comment at this time.

We appreciate that you took the time to contact us and your feedback will be passed along to the proper department.


They give you the opportunity for more feedback, so I wrote back:

OK then. Plenty of people have had lucrative contracts terminated while waiting for "due process" to play out. Some even spend time in jail, without bail. I (and, I suspect, all other animal lovers) find your position unacceptable, and will simply vote with our feet (not Nike-wearing feet, I might add). What that means is we'll terminate our relationship with you immediately. That's not due process - that's called the market. Thank you Caryn.

And here's Nike's next response (btw, I sent that follow-up by hitting "reply" and typing into a specific area that was designated for my comments):

Your e-mail was submitted to an Internet address that cannot be processed.

Oh wow. Sometimes people at big corporations can be so stupid, PR-wise. Like they are so powerful and we are all clueless drones who worship their brand and will be brainwashed by television commercials into forgetting how much they suck. Newsflash: big mistake to piss off animal advocates, Nike.

So - it looks like the final message is boycott Nike, and all of the NFL sponsors! (And I never slip up. You know I still have not set foot in Target.)
Booking Through Thursday: Just Wild About Harry

1. Okay, love him or loathe him, you’d have to live under a rock not to know that J.K. Rowling’s final Harry Potter book, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, comes out on Saturday… Are you going to read it?


2. If so, right away? Or just, you know, eventually, when you get around to it? Are you attending any of the midnight parties?

No, no, and no.

3. If you’re not going to read it, why not?

Because I haven't read any of the other Harry Potter books (nor have I seen any of the movies). They aren't the type of stories I enjoy. Even as a kid I didn't care for magic, wizards, or that sort of foolishness (borrowing the term from my grandmother). I also almost always avoid anything that is surrounded by so much hype. (The alliteration in that sentence was unintentional.) However, I do think it is good that these books have encouraged kids to read.

4. And, for the record… what do you think? Will Harry survive the series? What are you most looking forward to?

I have no idea, but if I had to guess I'd say why would she kill him off? I know it is supposed to be the the last book, but why would she ruin her gravy train when she could just keep cranking them out, raking it in and the series fans will eat it up? It would probably be much easier to continue after taking a break, than coming up with new ideas and facing the risk that reviewers will compare them unfavorably to her past work. On the other hand, you'd think she'd have pretty much run out of new material at about book two. Of course, having read none of the books, my opinion on the subject isn't worth a lot!

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

I think this is a good year for petunias.

About yesterday's book rant: well, something bad did happen to one of the characters. Unfortunately, it wasn't one of the main characters.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

On Sunday, I was finally able to fix all of my computer problems in Samsonville. I replaced the ethernet card, the graphics card, and the router, and I am officially back in business. (I was able to fix my mother's computer a couple of weeks ago.) It took a lot more time than I anticipated - it always does, so I'm not sure why I expected it to be easier. Netgear sent me a new router since my old one was still under warranty, and yesterday I sent the damaged one back to them. I can't say enough good things about that company!

I am reading The Rescue by Nicholas Sparks. I don't like it very much. It isn't completely awful - I enjoyed it at first. Aside from a few "telling not showing" episodes, and an occasional duplication of the same phrase (ie, "roll in the sack"), the writing is fine - he mostly writes well, so in that respect it is easy to see why his books are often bestsellers - but I don't identify with, or even like, the characters.

I took the book out of a box in my department on campus. When people retire or leave the job for another reason, often when the office is cleaned out some of the books wind up in the common area, free for the taking. I always go through them, and take whatever interests me. Usually they are academic books, or at least education-related, such as something by Kozol. But last time there were quite a few fairly recent popular novels. I took the Sparks book because I'd seen (and liked) The Notebook, and have read good reviews of his writing.

This has nothing to do with my frustration with the book, but it's pretty hard to believe that a man is writing this book, or for that matter, wrote The Notebook. I suppose that is kind of a sexist remark, I mean why can't a man write a romantic story?, but they are not simply romantic, they are the ultimate "chick lit" or "chick flick." (I hate those terms, BTW, and usually I am not thrilled with that genre either, at least not as done by a contemporary author. [Bronte, Austen, etc. are fine.] I also dislike movies such as "You've Got Mail" and "Sleepless in Seattle" so I am probably not the best audience for Sparks' books.)

Anyway, I am about halfway through this book and I'd like to reach into the pages and slap the main character because she is so whiny and "poor me," and then slap her love interest just for good measure. Not that he doesn't deserve a good slap for his own tiresome nature. It seems the reader is supposed to view him as heroic? I don't think so; I think he is a glory hog. I keep hoping something really bad will happen to one of the characters and the book will wind up surprising me and being worth the effort! I don't know if The Notebook read like this, maybe. But even if it did, the looking back through Altzheimer's Disease theme made the story much more charming. With this book I am so annoyed that the so-called hardships these two characters have faced are either 1) self-inflicted, 2) not all that difficult, yet they act like such martyrs or 3) sad, but get over it already.

One other thing that is bothering me is the issue of the little boy. Many of the choices the main female character makes strike me as harmful. And the things they eat, because they don't have a lot of money, would make her fat, not thin. Plus that sort of diet would not help the son's learning disabilities. If his mother is supposed to be making such sacrifices for him, and has researched his disorder so much, you'd think that would be a no brainer. Hey, but why be concerned - a man swoops in and magically the kid improves!

It's too bad this was the first book of his that I read, since it is possible the others are better, and now I am turned off. But at least I know why I found it in a box for free!

OK. Enough said on that. I took some more flower and garden pictures, which I will post eventually. We had wonderful produce this weekend, as I struggled with the machines: fresh zucchini from the garden, and fresh local sweet corn from the Hurley Flats.

That's a nice segue to something I wanted to link, but couldn't find again when I actually started writing: I read a story about how difficult it is to find food that is produced in the USA, and also that it is more expensive when you can get it. The article mentioned that sometimes bad weather means there are not enough California or Florida orange crops, and so citrus fruit has to be imported; there is no choice, regardless of price. I wanted to link to that particular story because the essence of buying local whole foods means that you have to make a lifestyle change. If the produce isn't locally grown in your area, or it is out of season, you just don't buy it. It was strawberry season, so we picked, and ate strawberries nonstop. Now they are done - no more strawberries for a year. It was cherry season, same thing. Now it is sweet corn season, and we are eating our fill. (And I must add that we grow the best around here.) Peaches are coming soon, zucchini is here now, and within the next couple weeks so many other things will be, too. I grow as much as I can, but I also visit farm stands and the co-op. If you want green beans in the winter, it's quite simple: you have to freeze or can them when they are in season!

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Booking Through Thursday: Celluloid

1. In your opinion, what is the best translation of a book to a movie?

I don't know about "best;" I suspect if I thought about this long enough I'd come up with a lot of possibilities. So I'll go with the first thing that popped into my mind, the recent War of the Worlds. Now I know a lot of people hated that movie (I liked it), and there were some important differences between it and H.G. Wells' wonderful story, but I think the spirit of the book was captured in the movie, as well as in the amazing technology.

Another recent example that I remembered: The Freedom Writers Diary. I thought the movie The Freedom Writers did a good job at capturing the book. (And Hilary Swank even resembles Erin Gruwell.)

2. The worst?

Again, I'm not sure about the "worst;" and since I almost always think the book is way better than the movie, there would be even more possibilities for an answer to this one than there are for the "best" if I thought about it for a while. So - the first thing that popped into my mind: The Firm. Oddly, that is also a Tom Cruise movie!! Not that it's a classic novel or anything, but the changed ending in the movie irritated me so much! Why can't Hollywood leave such things alone? Or is it that movie audiences couldn't handle how the book ended?

In the interest of having two and two - another example of "the worst" adaptation that I am thinking of is not books and movies, but plays and movies. I just have to mention it because I think it really was "the worst." I thought Phantom of the Opera as a movie was so bad they should snap every DVD of it in half, and erase the master. What an abomination.

3. Had you read the book before seeing the movie, and did that make a difference? (Personally, all other things being equal, I usually prefer whichever I was introduced to first.)

Yes, in all three cases I'd read the book first, and I saw Phantom on the stage before seeing the movie. I agree that whatever you are exposed to first probably seems best, although I'm trying to think of an example where I saw the movie first and liked it more, and I can't! Maybe because I almost always read the book first, and in most cases, may or may not see the movie. Even in the case of the two movies I listed as "best," I didn't like them more than the books - I simply thought the movie versions were respectable adaptations.

Added 1: OK, I came up with one. I didn't see the movie first, but I think I enjoyed it more than the book: Last of the Mohicans. James Fenimore Cooper's books are great - but they are also kind of difficult reads.

Added 2: Here's another great book to movie adaptation: The Scarlet Pimpernel. Though I still liked the book more, and so much had to be left out, the 1934 movie was very good (the 1982 TV movie wasn't bad, either).

Added 3: For a hilarious take on James Fenimore Cooper's writing, read "Fenimore Cooper's Literary Offences" in How to Tell a Story and Other Essays by Mark Twain (1897).

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Wow, it is hot (and humid) here! I had my first swim of the season on Saturday. I also went swimming on Sunday. The water temperature was in the 80s, the pool is crysal clear, and it was lovely. The flowers and veggies are thriving at both houses.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

I visited the State Museum when the exhibit that this book is based on was on display. Powerful, interesting, sad stuff; good that it will be published.

Friday, July 06, 2007

I've been meaning to link to two stories from the Times Union. First, from July 4, these three essays on what it means to be an American. Impressive writing, especially considering they are kids. I am using the piece in my class, since right now we are discussing the meaning of culture.

Then, this bittersweet essay. Sniff. Reminds me of all the dogs I love (Sophie, Sam), and have loved (there have been so many! Rudy, Penny, Howie, Hobo, Pud, Pepe, Duke, et al) but especially Howie, since he was half-Schnauzer, lived to be 15, and he was the first dog I got after moving away from home.

Unrelated, but something that occupied some time this week: last week we had a terrific thunderstorm that must have struck near my house in Samsonville. It zapped my mother's ethernet card, and she thought it killed her monitor too. She was unhappy with using her old spare, so I got her a "new" one (really it is used, but it is a decent 17" Dell, amazing how cheap they are). When I was there last weekend, I replaced the NIC in her computer, and discovered that her monitor is fine (luckily my nephew needs the used monitor I bought), but that the lightening also burned out my ethernet and on board video, and it ruined two of the ports on my router. It's an old machine, but since I have a wireless laptop and the desktop is for light use only, I didn't want to buy an entirely new computer. So I took the CPU back to Castleton, and earlier this week I replaced the NIC and video card. Luckily, that worked, since I hated the idea of spending too much on that old machine. I also learned that the router is still under warranty, so I will be able to get a replacement. Luckily the wireless and two remaining ports are working, so we are still in business there. We both had surge protectors, but they aren't foolproof, so from now on my mother will unplug everything when there is a storm.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Booking Through Thursday: Great _____ Novel

What, in your opinion, is the (mythical) Great American Novel?

Since he is my favorite author, it just has to be one of Mark Twain's. I know the standard answer is Huck Finn, and that is a great novel for sure, but my vote would be for An Innoncent Abroad. It is laugh out loud funny ("but is he dead?"), and so American.

Tell us where in the world you are!

New York, USA.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Since I have more time this summer, I thought I might try a new meme. But when I Googled to find some to sample, I wound up spending a lot of time reading this at Wikipedia. I finally did get around to checking out a few memes, but never chose one. Instead, via Sya, I'll try this one, at least for today:

Booking Through Thursday: Desperation

What’s the most desperate thing you’ve read because it was the only available reading material?

That would have to be magazines in the waiting room at the dentist's office, or the hair stylist's.

If it was longer than a cereal box or an advertisement, did it turn out to be worth your while?

Any of the popular women's magazines that I've read in those circumstances: Absolutely not. But sometimes Hudson Valley is available, and that is great (I just subscribed yesterday, in fact).
This column in the Sunday Troy Record bothered me. I only read this columnist's writing occasionally. The few times I have read it, the focus has been on being pregnant and having kids, subjects that don't interest me. I'm not sure why I read the column this week, but last time I read it was when she announced the naming contest for her second baby. Readers won't actually be choosing the name; they will be recommending what she should call the baby in her column. I see she is referring to the baby as "Thing 2" in this column, which I guess is only the placeholder until the contest results are in. Still, it strikes me as dehumanizing. But maybe that shouldn't be a surprise. This column is about her anxiety over the baby's health shortly before he was born, since there was a chance he would have a chromosome disorder. You'd think that would be deep, but in what I suppose is an effort to be funny, instead it comes off as trite.

She writes that she'd been sent an article from the New York Times that "claimed that roughly 90 percent of mothers who are given this information early on abort the fetus." I remember reading that article and thinking "how sad." Does everyone in society have to be the same? It is as scary as the movie Gattaca. The Record's columnist writes "It makes sense, but it also does something else. It changes the face of our society. With fewer children born with Down syndrome, there will likely be implications such as fewer services available to those individuals as well as a shrinking social circle." She believes "it makes sense?" (I guess she is living in the plastic, shallow 90 percent world. Once again, I think "how sad.") Her only thought was about the fewer services available to people with special needs since most are now aborted? Faced with the prospect and the article, she must have something more philosophical, more thought-provoking than that to say. She continues "I'm not sure which made me more melancholy: that we could have a special needs child in a few hours or that this child's circle of support would be shrinking from year to year." Melancholy? Is that really an apt description of the emotion? Maybe so, in the land where going to the mall is a good way to spend Sunday, watching TV is a good way to spend every evening, WalMart is a good place to shop, and fast food is a good thing to eat.

Added: One more thing from this column is bugging me. She writes, on the subject of the uncertain health outlook for the baby, and the fact that her new furniture hadn't arrived "...the lack of furniture doesn't rise to the level of "bad" anything. (Unless of course the dresser or bookcase falls on you, and then THAT WOULD be bad.)" That rubbed me the wrong way, so I did a little hunting around. "From 2000 through 2005, CPSC has reports of 36 TV tip-over-related deaths and 65 furniture tip-over deaths. More than 80 percent of all these deaths involved young children. Additionally, CPSC estimates that in 2005 at least 3,000 children younger than 5 were treated in U.S. hospital emergency rooms because of injuries associated with TV tip-overs." I'd say that is more than just "bad." And it certainly is no joke.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

I'm steamed. And not only because it is hot outside. In answer to the question I posed last week about whether it was better to just forget about it - or to expend energy: "just forget about it." I called the collection agency listed - a legal firm. All I can say is this interaction did nothing to reduce my hatred of lawyers. Well, that's not all I can say. The agency is in the most plastic town in the capital district, a northern suburb that I hate. This interaction did nothing to reduce my hatred of plastic 'burbs, or of that particular plastic 'burb. The creditor is a medical group. This interaction did nothing to reduce my hatred for the medical model. The nasty woman I dealt with (and who else but a nasty loser would work for a collection agency run by lawyers? One that probably specializes in collecting medical fees, I'll bet) eventually said there is nothing I can do about it except pay it. She said it goes against me that I have never contacted them before. I protested, you've never sent me a letter! I have never received a bill! She insisted they had sent me numerous letters. What could I do to combat such untruths? Suffice to say the call ended on a very unpleasant note.

I then called the credit reporting bureau (only TransUnion has the items listed) to see what I could do. Essentially, nothing. Oh, they are opening a dispute, but if that no-good collection agency in the plastic town says the charge is true, it's tough luck. He said I should do whatever I could to dispute the charges, but he wasn't willing to tell me exactly what that means. Write to the attorney general? Think bad thoughts about the scum law firm and jerk of a doctor who fabricated the charge? I could tell the guy on the phone at TransUnion wondered why I cared. It is only $153 combined for the two charges, and they will drop off in a year. There is nothing else negative on my report, and it certainly hasn't hurt my ability to get credit. Big deal, right? But it is the principle of the thing!! At the end of the call to TransUnion, he tried to sell me identity theft protection! I said, no thanks. I wish I never received this credit report. Ignorance was bliss!