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!

Monday, June 25, 2007

I'm off to go strawberry picking! That's the best thing about June. It's been a few years since I've gone, it was too rainy last year and I don't remember why I didn't go the year before that. I can't wait.

Friday, June 22, 2007

I probably say this every year, but my garden and flowers have never looked better.

More pictures. Too cute for words. The bottom one is Edna, unfortunately she does not like to pose and always moves shortly before the picture is snapped. I tried three times and this was the best I could do.

Yesterday, as I was paying my credit card online, I noticed an $84 charge for Hoodia! When I called to dispute it, the customer service representative said they have had many complaints about this company recently. So check your bills!

Somewhat related, a few weeks ago a salesperson called me to hawk identity theft protection. He spoke so fast, I was busy, and somehow I guess I wound up buying it. So I called yesterday to cancel it. Today they sent me a copy of my credit report, and there are only two bad things on it: both wrong! From 2001, they are from a health organization I have never visited, and they are now at a collection agency (that has never contacted me). I don't know whether to say, "so what?" because in one more year they will drop off, or whether to expend the time and energy to have it fixed now.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

To Delight and to Instruct has created a great compendium of posts about the many aspects of going to graduate school.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

The day we went to Springwood (FDR's home in Hyde Park) happened to be the day a statue of Winston Churchill was being unveiled:

Here's the beautiful view from the house, looking toward the Hudson River:

And, in keeping with my interest in all things dog, here is the sundial in the rose garden where Fala is buried (the big monument marks FDR's and Eleanor's graves):

The site is a lot more organized than I remember from my earlier visits. I also don't remember the visitor's center. Our tour guide for the house was a wonderful park ranger. She had the patience of a saint. Our group was very large, maybe too large. Then there was a couple there with two young children whose behavior was just awful. Why would anyone think a baby and a toddler would be interested in a historic house?

It would take much longer than a day to go through the house, visitor's center, and library. Something I noticed, and I can't remember whether this was true in the past, was that there were many exhibits that attempted to address internment during WWII, the conspiracy theories surrounding Pearl Harbor, etc. Although I'm not sure, I suspect this is a reflection of contemporary sensibilities and criticisms, and it was not there on my last visit. I also noted that while they still mention it, they seem to be a little gentler on the subject of FDR's mother and her relationship with Eleanor than they did in the past. Or maybe it was just me and I focused more on that when I was younger.

It's hard to tell where one dog ends and the other begins! That's Sam with the teeth, and the other is Freedom, his pal who is a guide dog:
Rather than flower pictures, here's one of my pre-mulched garden in Castleton (none post-mulch, and none of Samsonville yet):

And here's one of my new shed for garden tools:

Monday, June 18, 2007

I've been busy and not on the computer much. Spent Thursday-Sunday in Samsonville and did a lot of socializing. Yesterday was mulching day for the garden there (it was hot!), and that was today's task in Castleton. I was sore last night and this morning, but seem to have worked it off today.

On Friday we went to FDR's house and library in Hyde Park. I've been there before on elementary and high school field trips, and I also went many times with my mother and grandmother. I took some pictures that I will post once I download them. I also have some new flower pictures.

The pool is not quite as disgusting, but it is still cloudy. I had to order a new part for the filter and I hope that does the trick. Swimming weather approaches!

Sya links to this post, which invites comments here. So I posted this from 2004.

Two things that are constantly in the news that I don't care about: Duke Lacrosse Team and Paris Hilton.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Here is a PDF file that I created based on my October speech on One Room Schools. It is an adapted/expanded version of the One Room Schools virtual museum that is on the Gully Brook Press site. The attachments are not included. I may eventually create a booklet, and offer it for sale on the publications page.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Interesting and kind of creepy, reminds me of AI. It's sort of cute, but Haley Joel Osment was a lot cuter. Put some clothes on that robot!

Thursday, June 07, 2007

This story reminded me of my master's degree graduation ceremony. At that time, the university had commencement at the Knickerbocker Arena - or was it the Pepsi Arena by then? Not sure (it's now called the Times Union Center). Unlike now, it was a combined ceremony, undergraduate and graduate students at the same time. Only the doctoral students got to go on stage when their names were called. I believe the dissertation title was read, also.

The ceremony was already a bit controversial, because some Turkish official was receiving an honorary degree and there were people who were not thrilled. I remember being cornered in the office by a woman who worked with me. She was a strange lady, claimed to have some sort of chronic or terminal disease and she always had a nurse/companion with her who was equally odd. But that is another story! Anyway, she demanded to know if I planned to boycott the ceremony, or at least turn my back and join a protest against the Turkish guy. At the time I was a graduate assistant, so the power differential made her behavior even more inappropriate. But I held my ground and said, "if you think I am going to disappoint my parents who have been waiting for thirty years to attend one of their children's college graduations, you are crazy."

Well, that was a bit of a tangent. Back to the ceremony. There were quite a few doctoral graduates that day; it took quite a long time for the names and dissertation titles to be read, for each student to be hooded on the stage, shake hands, and for the audience to clap. To be perfectly honest, it is a large school, it was a very long ceremony, graduate and undergraduate commencement don't mix that well, and the whole thing did get to be mind numbing. So after quite a few names, the graduating seniors, who were seated in the back and had been batting around beach balls, somehow collectively devised a different response: they all clapped at the same time, but only once. There was this thunderous clap as each doctoral student was hooded. It was hysterical, in an embarrassing sort of way, although if I was getting my PhD rather than my master's degree, I may not have appreciated it. But then again, maybe I wouldn't have minded. It was a happy day. Nothing could spoil the experience. And the undergraduates were just being exuberant.

Later there were lots of letters in the Times Union criticizing the university and the undergraduates. I am not sure that the ceremonies were ever held together again.

About the linked story, I can't believe the school district was this stupid in the first place. But then high school is really mostly about control, rules and authority, isn't it?
Judge Sophie reacts: "how dare she! Lock her up and throw away the key!"

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

At 12 students, my summer class is the smallest I've ever taught. Most years I get enrollment in the low 30s, which is enough for me to get the large course incentive. This year, I changed the schedule from a 6 week intensive to a 12 week all summer, and I knew I wouldn't get that many students because they have to register for it almost as soon as spring classes end. But I thought there would be more than 12! Of the 12 students enrolled this year, two are nonresponsive (which in an online course means they have done no work and do not answer emails but for some reason stay registered).

I had grown dissatisfied with the intensive format; a number of assignments were not possible at all, and the workload was extreme. A lot of students wound up taking incompletes, and some of those students never bothered to finish and get a passing grade.

Unlike my experience with on campus classes, there is always a lot of adding/dropping in an online course, so it is very hard to predict enrollment and arrive at a class size that is "just right." Luckily, the official enrollment stayed above 10 (dropping below that number before the class started would cause it to be canceled). That was a relief. I am not sorry to miss out on the incentive, but I didn't want to lose the course entirely!

I suspect next year I will have to go back to the 6 week intensive schedule, though. Twenty less students is a significant amount of tuition dollars for the university to forfeit due to my experiment in changing pedagogy. So I am going to enjoy what will probably be my only summer of spread out, minimal work.

Now, what will I do with my extra time?

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

We opened the pool on Saturday. That's the earliest we've ever been able to do it. To our dismay, the water was disgusting!! Lots of algae. Green water. Yuck. It has never looked so bad. So Bob dumped in a ton of chemicals and we got the filter going. Unfortunately it has some sort of a problem. It works, but there are leaks. My father will figure it out and let me know if we need to buy new parts. Swimming is fun, but pools are expensive, and a lot of work.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Here's one of the window boxes.
My prediction about being done with planting on Wednesday was optimistic...and inaccurate. I worked Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and until 2 pm today. (As well as Saturday in Samsonville.) I'm done!! Lots of comments from passersby when I was working on the window boxes and flower beds in the front of the house. The sunflowers are a big hit. And the geraniums are something too. I'll put up a few pictures eventually. My mother reports that the cukes and zukes are up in Samsonville. Hopefully the weather will hold and we'll be able to open the pool this weekend.