Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Amazing how when you talk to people about tooth extraction, you discover how many people are missing teeth. It is a humbling experience...kind of puts having only one bad tooth in perspective! I did a lot of reading about implants, researched my insurance, etc. Then I discussed implants with my niece (who has one) and sister-in-law (who has had 2). It seems to have been the right procedure for both of them and they are happy with the outcome. I also talked to Bob and my sister, who have both had the procedure my dentist originally recommended (apicectomy), which the transplant dentist pooh-poohed. Finally, I did a lot of thinking about my options. My tooth feels pretty much fine right now. The antibiotics are done, the infections seems to be cleared up at least temporarily, I have been rinsing with salt water and with a special mouthwash. I decided it is not an emergency, and that I would like to hang on to my own tooth if I can.

So right now I am planning to ask my dentist to refer me for a second opinion - this time not to someone who is slanted toward implants (as the other specialist seemed to be - the practice is huge, lots of partners and staff, glitzy modern office, flat screen televisions in the waiting room hawking Procera implants), but instead to someone who specializes in root canals. (I am going to ask him specifically about the oral surgeon who did Bob's apicectomy.) It isn't that I feel the specialist I saw is incompetent - in fact, if I get an extraction and implant, I think it is probably a good place to go, he is board certified, very well credentialed, etc. But I believe I was referred there not because it is what I need, but because they are participating providers in my insurance. (Which after my research I discovered covers 50 percent - so that means the total cost really is something like 7 grand.) Bob's apicectomy worked fine, but he had to have it for a different reason than I will - but my sister's case was identical to mine, and hers also worked fine. So I am not ready to throw in the towel on that approach. I am going to take the risk - and if it doesn't work out - then I will consider the extraction / implant path.

I called the specialist's office yesterday morning and canceled the extraction. I called my dentist to discuss my thinking with him - and he is on vacation until 1/5 (I will follow up next week). Really hoping my poor tooth hangs in there until then (so far, so good). So that is just taking control of my situation, instead of allowing myself to be pushed into something just because a specialist manipulates me.

This part is more about alternative thinking. I have two root canal / crown teeth at this point. I have never had any other major problems (aside from crooked teeth and fillings in most molars), I even have all four wisdom teeth. My first tooth to act up and need a crown was in 2000, when I was writing my dissertation. It wasn't infected, just sensitive, and my dentist, who I have gone to for 20 years and have a lot of confidence in, and who is on the same page as me (in that he doesn't recommend unnecessary procedures) told me at that time that he felt I would never be happy with crowns, so I should delay as long as possible and just baby it, unless it acted up so badly that I couldn't tolerate it.

He told me the reason I was having a problem was because I bite down hard (not grind) on my teeth when I am sleeping. I know this happens primarily when I am stressed. The problems is due to aging, and having a large filling in the molar that acts as a wedge, which causes fissures in the root and nerve sensitivity. So I did nothing about it until 2003, when I experienced another stressful episode. I believe I was doing the biting down thing again and the pain got to the point where I couldn't tolerate it. I got a crown on that tooth. About the same time, another molar started to be sensitive (this is the one that is bothering me now). I did nothing about the second tooth aside from having the dentist check it, and it mostly went away. In 2005, my beloved dog Rudy got ill, I did the chomping thing again, and the original crowned tooth flared to the point where it needed a root canal, which I had done (no choice, nerve pain was horrible). After that, I decided I would not have any more crowns done until they also needed a root canal. I also had the dentist make me a mouth guard, so that I didn't chomp myself into more crowns and root canals when I experience stress.

The mouth guard worked pretty well, but in September 2007 I had a root canal and crown done on the tooth which is now a problem, because it flared into that intolerable nerve pain. I eventually (January 2008) had to have my first crown replaced, because he had to drill through it to do the root canal, and the crown didn't hold up too well. (Now that tooth is perfect.) But the second root canal / crown tooth that is bothering me now has never been right. I know a piece of nerve must have been left in there. It was a nightmare procedure all around. First, I had a reaction in my optical nerve from the Novocaine - it crossed over and my eye fluttered and heart raced. It was awful having a root canal under those conditions. Then, the assistant gave him the wrong compound to make the impression, and it didn't harden properly - the dentist wound up having a fight with her right in front of me, which was awful. Then, he couldn't find the last root and it took forever - he even had to give me break during the procedure. (This is what happened to my sister too, I guess it is not uncommon for roots to be twisted and hard to find on molars.) Finally, my bite was screwed up and he had to file the crown down many times.

Now that I've had more work done the bite guard really doesn't fit right and I am not crazy about wearing it anyway - what with pre-menopause etc. I have enough trouble sleeping without the added irritation of a mouth full of plastic. So what happened? No electricity, a clogged chimney and pending grading deadline - I was (no doubt) chomping away in my sleep (combined with the aftermath of Lyme disease and many rounds of immunity weakening antibiotics) and that tooth which has never been right flares into an infection.

So in thinking about it, I decided that bite guards, sleeping pills, even crowns / root canals and certainly extractions / implants are "the ambulance at the bottom of the hill" rather than the "fence at the top of the hill." I need to figure out a way to manage stress that actually conquers it. It is part of good health anyway, even if I wasn't ruining my teeth.

The punch line: I have several books on skilled relaxation and I have tried a few approaches that kind of work (tapping being one) but in 2009 I am going to pursue it more formally - I am going to try to locate a practitioner to teach me meditation or some other skilled relaxation practice such as yoga or tai chi. (I do use prayer as a pathway, but I don't believe it gets me into that state of mind required for true SR.) Yoga or Tai Chi will require me to overcome my aversion to athletics (another story), so meditation is probably more my speed. I have told a few others - I won't say they were hostile to the idea, but let's just say they were skeptical, to SR and all things holistic. The medical model's reliance on things like Paxil and mouth guards and surgery is hard to break away from, I guess. And naturally all have great respect for the approaches advocated by conventional doctors.

Friday, December 26, 2008

As an end to a perfect month...I came down with a wicked cold on Christmas Eve. I think it has been over three years since I have had a cold. But considering my current state of mind and overall burned-out-ness, it should not be a surprise.

Monday, December 22, 2008

I am done with grades!! I made the deadline. YAY.

Tooth feels OK. I may cancel the extraction / implant. We'll see, but at the moment I'm feeling that I am not ready to give up on it yet.

Lots of snow here.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Hmmm...the link button in the menu is back.

I am having a Murphy's Law kind of week. Why does this kind of stuff always happen right when the semester ends and grades are due?

2) Friday 12/5 - Wednesday 12/10. I hinted at this in my last post. Hot water heater starts putting out soot. Plumber says it is not the hot water heater or furnace. Instead, the chimney is clogged, and it is very dangerous. (Luckily we have natural gas rather than oil.) Chimney cleaner says blockage is complete, and he is unable to access it. Ceiling in kitchen had to be ripped down to access pipe. No heat, HW for several days during repair. Turns out brick, surrounded by leaves and other crap was completely blocking chimney. Cost: $882; not suffocating = priceless.

3) Tuesday 12/9 - Monday 12/15 (and ongoing). I hinted at this in my last post, too. Molar #18, which had root canal / crown ~18 months ago, develops sudden infection. Referred to oral surgeon who recommends extraction / implant. Cost: $2500 - $3500; not being candidate for Erskine Caldwell novel = priceless.

4) Thursday 12/11 - Monday 12/15 (and ongoing for nephew, friends, neighbors). Ice storm hammers Northeast. No power for 51 hours during cold snap. Saturday night was brutal! I didn't think my old cat Edna would survive it. (Still have no cable, but that's barely worth mentioning). Cost: $300 give or take, for kerosene heater, batteries, candles, lost food, ice, lamp oil, driving around in search of kerosene; not having pipes freeze or (take 2) suffocating = priceless.

This is 1, based on date, but it is so minor in the scheme of things at this point that I am putting it last:

1) Wednesday 12/3 - Tuesday 12/9. Desktop monitor blows. Cost: $150; being able to grade student work = wish I didn't have to. (Sorry, it has a price.)

To think I was a little upset about the expense of the chimney! Silly me. The second night, the power outage was getting me down - and then the power came back and all was well. So now it is the tooth problem. I am feeling blue over it, both because I need the procedure, and because I hate the thought of losing a tooth. I know once the implant is all done (a long time from now!) and I am 3K lighter, it will almost seem like my own tooth.

I know it could be a lot worse, this is not major stuff at all, but the 12/22 grading deadline seems ridiculous to me right now, and during the power outage that was weighing heavily on my mind. So rather than give myself an ulcer, I emailed the students to let them know my litany of woes, and to warn them that I will try to be finished, but I might not make the deadline.

That made me feel a little better. Then I went and took a nap. I'll start fresh tomorrow.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

I got an email solicitation from this student

At first I thought it was spam, then I thought it was kind of clever, and finally, I was irritated by his nerve. (Then I deleted it.) I don't know his financial situation, but if his parents can afford to pay, as the article states, why is he emailing me? It is presumptuous! I have a lot more worthy charities on my list. Plus, I am an adjunct - my position is practically volunteer work. Hey, I completely sympathize with the unfairness of a mid-year tuition increase. I am upset about the economy, and I am more disgusted over Governor Paterson's inept management of the State budget than many people seem to be. When I read the article, I became even more irritated at this obnoxious guy than I was when I received the email. I have a news flash for him: you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar. The faculty are terrible but you still have the audacity to ask them for a handout? Why would someone with that attitude think he was worthy of my support? Now that you've had your 15 minutes of fame: Get lost.

The menu with the ability to link within the text seems to have vanished from blogger. Not sure what is up - but that is the reason for the title with the link, it is the only way I could do it.

In other news, we got a Christmas tree from the boy scouts on Sunday. It is a beautiful scotch pine. And I discovered yesterday that I need oral surgery! Blah. Right now, I am waiting for a guy to come and clean our chimney. I wish he would come, so I could go back to focusing on grading. (And let the dogs out of the bedroom.)

Monday, December 08, 2008

I am reading A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini. I am nearly finished (I would have been done last night but decided not to stay up until 2 am reading, the way I had for the past several nights). A beautiful book, also devastating. I should have waited until after grades were done (12/22) to pick it up, since I have no self-control when I like a book, but oh well!

Classes for the Fall semester were done last week. All in all, it was a good semester, but I am not sorry to see it come to an end.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The first question in this week's Miss Manners column brought back a memory. When I was in college, I was invited to a friend's house for dinner. He was from an "elite" family - or at least upper middle class. Educated parents. Classy neighborhood. The dinner was formal, and the two sons even changed into white shirts for the occasion (both were the jeans and tee-shirt type). When anyone spoke, all around the table put down their utensils and focused on the speaker with rapt attention. I was afraid the food would get cold if I talked too much! It was something I had never experienced before; in my family someone is constantly talking and vying for the floor. I never considered whether dropping everything to pay attention was proper etiquette, but it did seem excessively polite, and to have my conversation be so respected made me feel important. Later, however, sad life events regarding my friend - their son - made me wonder if the reason they did it was because they were unused to dinner time talk - if they sat silently eating through most meals, and having lighthearted chatter was a novelty?

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Nothing much to write, except that is very cold here. I checked the Old Farmer's Almanac, and they said: "Nov 18-22: Sunny, seasonable." In 1953, Elwyn Davis reported the weather today to be "62 at 12 PM. Warm dark murky drizzling rain set in early PM. Strong southerly wind developed evng with showers." For 1934, his weather entry was "Continued foggy, gloomy, warm, misty. Brisk south west winds evng. & partly cloudy." The 1975 entry: "41 at 7:20 AM, 34 at 8 PM. Colder - cloudy AM, clearing - sunny PM. Wind northerly - starlight evng, still" while in 1926 it was "Mostly cloudy, Raw cold air, light winds."

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

I guess the State's situation is so bad...that we needed three more $178,000 / year Governor's office staffers. What a hypocrite. Why do I suspect they will be exempt from "the pain" of forfeiting their raises and lagging a week's pay?

Friday, November 14, 2008

Student presentation week. It's a time of the semester that I like a lot, and not just because for me, it involves less work in terms of preparing for class. (Critical right now because this is also a time when I have a lot of other work to do - both grading and advisement.) I get to see some really stunning student efforts. Most of the presentations are really, really impressive. Many are quite nervous, but they do a good job. Unfortunately, there usually are a handful, especially in my lower-division class, where the lack of effort is glaringly obvious, and this semester was no different. I'm quite irritated at a few of the students in the lower division class, in fact. I require peer assessment, which causes some consternation - both for the slackers and for those who put in serious effort. It even generates some "smart mouth" when I explain the rules. But, most of the good students appreciate the opportunity.

State budget is dreadful. Lots of rumors. I can't worry about it, though. (Easier said than done.)

Monday, November 03, 2008

I managed to download some of my files before it happened, but AOL hometown went away on Friday. I didn't download all of them, unfortunately. I do have them all saved, on an old USB zip drive (which I am keeping my fingers crossed will still work). I had already established space on Verizon to transfer the files over, but my webpage creator (Adobe PageMill) only works on "old faithful" (my Win 98 computer) and I haven't ever purchased anything to use on my XP machines. I can't just FTP the old pages to Verizon, because the links need to be changed to reflect the new address. Plus, the site could use a face lift, and I may as well tackle it with this change. Using something new to develop the site will require a learning curve. Verizon includes one of those easy site builders, but it isn't very flexible and there will be a lot of re-work regardless of what I do. In any event, I am not going to have the time right now to really focus on this - although I may do something quick in the interim. Not sure. This is crunch time in the semester, when there is so much work that I hardly have a minute to type this. So, to all of the folks who arrive here via searches for One Room Schools, or the Battle of Saratoga, or Bungalow Houses (there are others, but those are the popular search terms that come to mind) ~ I'm sorry! I'll restore everything as soon as I am able. It might have to keep until January, though (but I am not sure I will be able to make myself wait until then). Stay tuned.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Today was World Youth Day at church. The teenagers do all the "jobs" (lector, usher, etc.) and the band plays. The music was so beautiful. A cute little boy with super thick glasses was sitting behind me, and during the handshake of peace, he stuck his hand out eagerly to every person surrounding him, while wearing a big smile. It was such a beautiful fall walk home, and all I could think was "it's great to be alive."

Friday, October 24, 2008

Difficult week on campus. I handed out a sheet the university asked us to distribute about safety and also listing the offices where students can go for help if they are depressed. They also asked us to give the students a chance to talk about it if they wanted and when I did this in last night's class (I doubt many other faculty do this, to be honest), I got an earful. The students are scared, and they don't feel as if the university does enough to keep them safe. I have to do it again on Tuesday, and I guess after that I will take the remarks I wrote down to my department's chair for him to report it to the dean or someone else. I doubt it will help, but I promised the students that is what I would do.

Monday, October 20, 2008

It was a beautiful weekend. It is a great year for foliage. Yesterday, we went to Golden Harvest and got apples, we also took a tour of their new distillery, where they make vodka. I made apple crisp! It is so easy, much faster than pie, and it came out delicious. I think I am feeling a lot better re: Lyme Disease, but I still find myself extremely tired at times.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

I think if I was still keeping a paper journal this would probably be one of those dry spells where I could cast it aside for months, if not years. Part of the problem at the moment is that the things that are on my mind are not things I write about here. (Mostly about students, but also about a few other things as well.) So maybe the reality is that a private, paper journal would be more useful to me right now.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

I decided to figure out where I will be hosting my website. I wound up buying space from Verizon, since the 10MB I get with my account won't be nearly enough. It was something of an aggravating process, in that I couldn't remember my user ID, password or even email address, and resetting them meant I had to change my router settings...and guess what? I couldn't remember the password for that either. Finally I got that all working, and then I contacted AOL to determine how much webspace I would need, and they couldn't easily answer that question. So, I wound up simply multiplying the number of AOL screen names by the amount of webspace. I don't know if I am using that much but at least I know I couldn't have been using more than that. Now, to find the time to transfer everything over, which will mean making revisions since the address will have changed, and the links won't work otherwise. It is way past time for a complete overhaul anyway, but spending time on that when grading essays is the priority will be a challenge.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

I got a message yesterday that AOL is closing down hometown and FTP. I guess this means I will have to find a new host for my website! AAAAAHHHHHHHHHH! How irritating. Hopefully either Verizon or Time Warner includes space. But even having to transfer the files is annoying. Not something I have time for!

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

After two days of barking and equipment noise, the crew has moved up the street and the hounds (make that one full-hound and one half-hound) can get some much needed rest. Edna was able to prowl the yard. All is well.

Make that all is almost well! Reading the paper this morning, in Dr. Fox's column a voluntary recall of Mars dry cat and dog food is announced due to possible salmonella contamination. The dogs eat a homemade diet, Edna eats Wellness canned and Fancy Feast dry, but Ande, who eats Wellness dry food (although he is not at all a big eater), adores Natural Temptations. I got a free sample when I bought Wellness, which is the only reason I tried it. So we give him many treats per day, because he expects one when the dogs get a cookie and it is so cute. Natural Temptations are made by Mars! Although I haven't noticed any signs of illness, in the article, "Natural" is one of the brands listed in the recall.

So I went to the website and luckily, "Natural" is a Sam's Club brand; Natural Temptations aren't listed. What a relief!

Two pieces of good news! I think I finally found a decent hosting service for my audio files: Box.net, and I located a few pairs of Supreme Softspot Trek shoes in my size! (Not linking since I don't want anyone else swooping in to buy them :-).

Monday, September 29, 2008

Major work is being done on our street - it is a long time coming, so I'm not complaining...but today, they tore up the part in front of our house to put in new drainage pipes. This is how my day went: Equipment Noise Dog Barking Equipment Noise Two Dogs Barking Construction Worker Yelling Two Dogs Viciously Barking Equipment Noise Two Dogs Barking Equipment Noise Dog Barking Quiet for a Moment Dog Intermittently Barking Equipment Noise Two Dogs Barking. Lunch Break. Repeat.

I have been cooking the last things from the garden. Yesterday I made butternut squash. I don't think I have ever had it before, and didn't know what to expect. It was delicious!! Tonight I am making zucchini parmesan.

Yesterday at church, an adult was baptized. I've never been to an adult baptism before. I know it is common in some churches because they either don't accept baptism from other religions, or because they don't believe in baptizing babies, but neither is true of the Catholic church. Apparently this young woman had never been baptized, and as an adult she has decided to become Catholic. She will make her communion at the Easter vigil. It was an interesting and beautiful ceremony. The woman and her sponsor went up to the altar, the priest read a blessing, the sponsor made the sign of the cross over various parts of the woman's body (forehead, eyes, lips, hands, etc.), and then after each, the choir and congregation sang. We have some really talented people who serve as cantor, and also in the choir. The music often brings tears to my eyes and yesterday's ceremony did too (and I am not much of a crier, so that is saying a lot).

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

All in all, it was a good birthday...went to Franklin's Tower for dinner; that has become one of my favorite restaurants. Got home, and a friend had surprised me by leaving a fall wreath on the door. Once inside, I discovered that on the answering machine, one of my brothers left a message, where he sang happy birthday. Then, over the weekend, my mother made my favorite food, eggplant parmesan and I had a big meal at my parents' house with other family members. I got a watch, a St. Brigid's cross necklace, a box of Krause's candy, a sweater, a pottery vase, a bookmark, a Korean coin necklace, and a few cards. I swam Saturday (the water was 63 degrees, but felt fine), again briefly on Sunday (60 degrees, and it felt very cold) and then we closed the pool. No regrets, I think that is the latest I have ever taken a swim! We got some second cut hay in on Sunday. An unexpected thunderstorm rolled in toward the end of haying and soaked us! I was especially tired when we got home on Sunday night - what with the remnants of Lyme Disease, such an active weekend and the late night.

Friday, September 19, 2008

I've been watching a ten-year-old British documentary called The Nazis that I got from netflix. It's very powerful, and I am learning a lot about WWII that I didn't know.

The last netflix movie I watched before this was Rent. I'd seen the show years ago and liked it a lot, and have the soundtrack which I also really liked, and unfortunately, overplayed. However, I didn't like the movie very much. The show didn't translate very well to film, even though most of the original Broadway cast were in it. The downside of having the original cast was that they almost universally struck me as too old for the parts. It also seemed extremely dated. I wonder why it wasn't made into a movie during its top popularity period of the '90s?

Earlier this week, I removed the plastic from The Chronicle of Higher Education, and a DVD fell on the floor. I don't remember anything free ever being included with the newspaper before. I looked it over and thought it contained a preview for a documentary called Obsession, but it turned out to be an hour-long version. It was pretty scary. It was strange that The Chronicle sent it out.

Just now, I got a robocall pushing a movie called Fireproof that opens next Friday. I don't remember that ever happening before.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Today I am 47. How can that be? My birthday is always kind of odd. Not that I mind getting older necessarily (I mean, I don't love it but it is better than the alternative and the truth is my life has gotten better over the years), but there is that bittersweet end of summer, back to school thing (even though I like fall), and then there have been a lot of bad things that happened in September. I am sure you could say that about any month; maybe I just notice it more because it is my birthday month. Other people's birthdays who are now gone, so their birthdays pass and it is a reminder. Mimmie, Aunt Jean. Rudy and Howie both died in September, and Rudy was born in September. 9/11. Don's death, and some other things I won't mention. This year, there is the resurfacing of that thing from the past that I hinted about already once. I brought in candy for my students to celebrate my birthday. It's the first time I've done that. I have occasionally brought in leftover Halloween candy, but not recently.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Rudy would have been 13 today. I thought I would still have him, instead next week he will be gone 3 years. Sniff. Happy birthday, Mr. Wuj.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Since Lyme Disease, I've been more tired than usual. I have been trying (somewhat successfully) to get more sleep. To some degree, I have no choice because I am SO tired. But I still have to be careful about letting myself stay up to late. I did some reading and was concerned that maybe it was "Post-Lyme Disease Syndrome" (I wasn't overly concerned because what I read says it usually resolves on its own after a while). But after I read more I determined that I don't have that many of the symptoms. My biggie: episodes of extreme tiredness. The syndrome seems to include neurological, memory, mood problems, etc. and I don't notice any of that. Maybe concentration / focus issues a *little,* but that always accompanies tiredness so I haven't really separated it as a symptom. Plus, the problems have to persist for six months after treatment and I haven't even been done with doxy for a month yet. So I guess this is just what is expected with Lyme Disease, and it will go away eventually.

The weather has been so warm that we left the pool open. I swam Friday night, Saturday (in the rain) and Sunday. I think it will have to be closed this weekend though. Although they are kind of shopworn, the gardens continue to produce. Tonight we are having fresh beets! Can't wait!!

Classes are great. I've had a couple of irritations, but nothing serious enough to lessen how good this semester has started out. My enrollment is pretty even so far: in the four classes there are 26, 28, 30, 32.

One thing I note, not just this Fall, but gradually over time, is the number of students who call me by my first name without asking. That's irritating when it is anyone other than a serious, well-meaning student. With wonderful students, I really don't care, even if I do believe they should ask me if it is OK (and I would say yes, even though I am silent on the subject in class - I mean, I don't prompt it).

But there are some who do it to show disrespect. They become overly familiar because they want to decrease the status differential for bad reasons. There is a problem and they claim it is my fault. Cheating. Not doing various assignments. Bad attendance. Missing deadlines. They think by calling me by my first name it will decrease my authority, and increase their control. I only say something when I am really pushed, and once this summer I told the offending student that I preferred to be called Dr. He continued to use my first name anyway. Very passive-aggressive. Would you have done that to the person who has the power to assign grades?

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Second week of classes and it is so hot! Feels like early August. Speaking of classes, so far mine are awesome. The students seem very engaged. Lately - I'd say the past couple of years, I have been lucky with my classes. Either that, or after 8 years, I have gotten to be pretty good at this teaching thing. The Fall semester is always the best.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

I picked vegetables - came inside - thought I had three of the larger tomatoes from the July 4 plants but could only find two - in the process of looking, dropped a few of the small grape tomatoes on the floor - scrambled to get them before Ande (who tried to play with one). Shared a nectarine with the dogs. Went in the bathroom. Heard Sophie's awful barking, she makes a terrible sound when she is trying to protect her dinner from Sam (we generally have to guard for her, since Sam is extremely competitive). Yelled shut up, came out of the bathroom. Saw that she had something, was worried that it was a nectarine pit (though I thought I was careful about throwing it out). She guiltily drops it to bark at me for threatening her, and I see it is a small red ball. Wonder where it came from, realize it is the missing tomato, which she proceeded to eat in between barks (and Sam kept his distance, but begged from me until I gave him a grape tomato).

Classes started yesterday! I am pretty much already back in the groove. Both went well. My online class started Monday and it is too big. Usually a lot of students drop in the beginning once they see what they are getting into, but that hasn't happened so far. Tomorrow I will have the first of my remaining class. On Friday we are going to the Chatham Fair. And then swimming this weekend! It's bittersweet, the end of summer.

Friday, August 22, 2008

I know it has been a while since I signed on, because the blogger dashboard is different tonight.

I got my grades done (I thought I had until 11:59 pm on the 21st...turns out that I was holding up the registrar from doing degree clearance for August graduates! Yikes! I am not sure if Lyme Disease has impacted my brain, or if the registrar was just hassling me). I failed two students and gave three D grades. I already had quite a go around with one of the students who failed. I suspect I will get some complaints, if not from another of those five then from one of the students who got C or B. There were quite a few A grades this summer also. That is the way summer is, students are either completely motivated, or total slackers.

I have three of my syllabi done, and the online class partially updated. I am always pushing deadlines, but this semester is ridiculous.

But I will get everything done tomorrow, and the weekend looks great for swimming. I am also going to plant spinach.

Last night we went to see Neil Diamond at the Times Union Center. (Note: it will always be the Knick Arena to me.) I am not a fan of his at all, in fact the only song that came to mind when I agreed to go was "Coming to America." (Turns out that was the encore.) We got the tickets for free, though, and who can say no to that? They were nosebleed, second row from the top, but even those go for $55 each. Apparently, when shows don't sell out, the unsold tickets are donated to charities, and become tax write-offs for the arena and entertainer. So that's how we got them.

It was a curious experience, watching the concert from so high up. I don't think I have ever sat so far away. It wasn't bad, actually, because it was not nearly as loud up there. And when you aren't a major fan, it is more comfortable to sit away from the groupies who were throwing underwear on the stage. Sometimes it was almost like being an observer, rather than a participant. The one drawback was that it was hot up there! It seemed that many people around me were afraid of heights. Despite my various phobias and neuroses, that isn't a problem of mine.

He played several songs from a new album (the standout was a song called "Pretty Amazing Grace,") and a lot of his old stuff. It turned out that I knew about three-quarters of them, for example "Sweet Caroline," "You Don't Bring Me Flowers" (a song I have never liked, but then I am not a Streisand enthusiast, and most recently she generates memories of my last root canal - when the dentist was playing one of her albums and I thought I would go insane), and "Forever in Blue Jeans."

He spoke about his faith and his Brooklyn childhood. There was a big screen behind the stage with close ups of the band, or sometimes with pictures of his family, from when he was a kid, so binoculars were not necessary. It was somewhat generic (he didn't mention Albany) and he didn't do that much chatting. There was no political commentary, which was a welcome change from most concerts I attend. I can't say it transformed me into a fan who will run out and buy his albums, but it was a surprisingly enjoyable night.

I almost forgot! Ande got his first mouse. He was so proud that he puffed up to twice his size, but even at that, he is still much smaller than Edna. She supervised. It was kind of awful in a way (I can't even kill spiders or ants), but on the other hand, getting rid of (indoor, he will never be allowed to get critters outside) pests is a great thing about cats. Both dogs were either afraid or disgusted, I couldn't tell which. They do not seem to have any instincts.

There are parents who put "my child is an honor student" bumper stickers on their car. And then there's me, recording my cat's first successful hunt.

Finally: some interesting links on Lyme Disease / transmission from insects other than ticks here.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Yesterday, I got my hair cut and while I was waiting I read the least obnoxious magazine I could find. It was Redbook. Two articles really irritated me, so today I went to the website to see if I could post a comment and even though this one seems to have a comment option, I couldn't figure out how to do it.

So here goes: articles like this one on avoiding tickets encourage bad driving, traffic fatalities, corruption, scofflaw behavior, and give the impression that women are airheads. (But maybe Redbook readers are airheads.) You should be ashamed of yourself for publishing this irreponsible garbage, even in a fluffy magazine like Redbook.

This one does not seem to have a comment feature. Although it's another incredibly trite piece of writing, hats off to Kristy for getting at least somewhat healthier, but on what planet is a woman of her height (5'4") a size 10 at 150 pounds and a size 6 at 130 pounds? I call BS. Why wasn't that questioned by an editor? I am the same height as Kristy, and I have worn size 10 clothes since I reached adulthood. I weigh 130 right now, and can fit that size from ~125 (roomy) to ~135 (tight) pounds. I'd say someone at 150 pounds is closer to size 14. To wear a size 6, you would need to be ~110 pounds. This really makes me wonder about the veracity of the entire article.
After a busy weekend (Bob's 30 year HS reunion was Saturday), I finished the doxycycline on Tuesday. I hope it worked! Now begins the countdown to the end of summer session (tomorrow), grades (8/21) and the first day of classes (8/26). Despite the rain (and flooding on Monday), the garden is producing like mad.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

My summer class will be over on 8/15, grades are due 8/21, and then the fall semester starts 8/26. Ugh. I always dread it! But once classes start, I won't mind so much. Lots of work to do by then, though.

Harvesting lots of stuff from the garden. Tomatoes galore. Picked the first cucumber on Monday!

On Sunday we went to Oneonta. I think the last time we visited there was February 2007. Too long. We walked around downtown, drove around the campus, felt sad and old, and ate at Brooks'. On the way out we stopped at the Carrot Barn in Schoharie and got corn and beets.

This weekend is Bob's 30 year high school reunion, so it's another weekend on the road.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

On the way back from the doctor on Monday, we went to Rensselaer Appliance and got a new stove. I'm not the type of person to rip out a kitchen because it looks dated or to replace something just because it is the wrong color or does not have the latest features. I believe such actions to be wasteful and spoiled. And I just don't care about "stuff" that much.

But our Kenmore owes us nothing. It is about 20 years old and the electronic ignition broke long ago, so now all the burners have to be lit with a match. About a week ago one of the front ones stopped working entirely, you can't even turn the knob. So it was time. We got one that is black, with the grey accents. It has a window in the door and self-cleaning which I don't like, but I didn't want to order something and this one was in stock. I'm not fussy. It is a Hotpoint, similar to what we have in Samsonville but maybe one model nicer. Besides the color (Samsonville's is white), the biggest differences are that it doesn't have a tiny burner like we have in Samsonville (which I never use), and it has drip trays under the burners that you can take out and wash. It will be delivered on 8/8. "I've made many a meal on that Kenmore." (And last night it did a dandy job on the zucchini parmesan.)
I wish I had something fascinating to write that wasn't about Lyme Disease.

How about, I have been eating "off the grid." (How Y2K.) I mean out of the garden, if not 100% homegrown then 90% garden + 5% local + 5% not local. I made zucchini parmesan, green beans with garlic, and tomato/mozzarella/basil salad. The zucchini and garlic came from the Samsonville garden. The green beans and tomatoes came from Castleton. The mozzarella, tomato sauce and eggs were local. The olive oil, sea salt and pepper were not. The bread crumbs weren't local either, but I added herbs from the Castleton garden: parsley, basil, oregano, chives. Just typing this is making my mouth water.

Class is going well. I was scrambling for a while. I've just been out of sorts, and I hardly need an excuse to procrastinate, especially in the summer. But...I just got caught up. Unfortunately, about half the class is struggling. Summer is always a challenge, but I am not sure I have ever had so many as this semester. Maybe it is Blackboard's fault.

Speaking of Blackboard, I wish there was some way to give meaningful feedback to IT Services about the courseware. There are so many great tools within it, but there are also pretty significant flaws. The help desk attributes everything to user problems. I have contacted them about the system's instability - crashing, not saving changes, other minor glitches. The answer to that seems to be I have the wrong version of java or maybe it's that I have more than one version of java. However, there doesn't seem to be a place to share concerns not just about whether things work but about the way things work.

For instance, when I evaluate student essays, if the student sent me an attachment, after I grade it, I have to rename it or the system won't attach it because it believes it to be a duplicate. That's no user problem. That's extra work for me. Also when grading essays, if the student did not use an attachment, there is no way for me to write comments within the assignment. There is only a drop down comment box - so I can't correct grammar, sentence structure, etc. as I have always done in the past. The most annoying, extra-work-making so far is something that isn't the fault of the courseware itself, but of IT Services' policies. Already my Spring courses are gone. They archived them, I guess. I would think that they could stay around for one semester, so that I could have easy access to last semester's materials until I am done developing the next semester's work, wouldn't you? I know server space must be premium or something but if they didn't have the infrastructure to support the change, why did they do it? Anyway, there are myriad other issues, but those are just three examples.

(That may not have been fascinating, but at least it was something other than Lyme Disease and how much doxy sucks.)

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

I had another blood test. I'm not sure why, maybe to be sure the doxy is working. He said my initial tests were strong positives, and that the infection was recent, which confirmed to me that the deer fly was the culprit. (I could tell the doctor was skeptical, though.)

Tonight I am making zucchini parmesan. Such a beautiful day...it was hard to stay out of the sun. (I cheated a little and worked in the garden a bit - hopefully not long enough to make my skin blotchy.)

Thursday, July 24, 2008

After my sister sent that link, I decided to search "deer fly" rather than "black fly." It works better, resulting in the following links: from Ohio State University, from yahoo, and finally, this one. There are more, but most of these searches are already overlapping.

In thinking about it, we have never had many classic Adirondack black flies in Samsonville. They are deer flies, as described in the OSU link. That must be what bit me.

Also, I've added a "Lyme Disease" tag to these posts.

A few weeks ago I added another record in the Brown Recluse Spider bite site. I had to create a new one, rather than just adding the incident to the existing record from the 1984 bite. I decided to share it there not because it is due to a BRS this time, but just because that is a great site that people go to for information when they have a weird reaction or rash.

I have to go back to the doctor for a follow up. He asked me when I was there on the 14th whether I consider myself to be at high risk for Lyme Disease. Am I outdoorsy? I said yes, definitely. Not that I am one for camping or tromping through weeds, because I am not. But I am not exactly a couch potato and my surroundings are often rural. I am careful about checking for ticks (I've never found one attached) and wearing long pants etc. in risky areas. But both Samsonville and Castleton are known as places for deer and ticks and I always hear that so-and-so has Lyme Disease. Rudy had Lyme Disease when he was about 7, at that time we used to walk him at Schodack Island State Park (we stopped as soon as we figured out that it is loaded with ticks near the Hudson).

When he asked me, I didn't say yes for this reason, but Castleton has tons of mosquitos (although I think they may have been worse in some past years), and Samsonville is loaded with deer flies (especially this year).
My sister found this link from the New England Journal of Medicine about Lyme Disease being transmitted by a fly.
I tested positive for Lyme Disease! So that means 28 days of Doxycycline. Yuck. I am so nauseous from my morning dose as I write this. But I certainly don't want to get any other symptoms of Lyme, so take it I will. What is scary about my diagnosis is that everything I have read about Lyme says that it takes ~3 days for an attached tick to transmit it, and that there is no evidence that it can be transmitted by other insects. Yet I was standing on my deck and felt the bite. Checked it within five minutes and saw the reaction, and no attached tick.

So to me this means, with my n=1, that I got it either from a flying insect (such as a black fly) that bit me through my jeans (which is what I suspect), or that a tick crawled into my pants, bit me, immediately dropped off, yet gave me Lyme Disease. I know a lot of people who have tested postive without ever finding a tick. The assumption is that they had one attached, didn't see it, and it fell off eventually. Now I say, maybe not. Maybe they were bit by a black fly and didn't think anything of it. Didn't get a rash or major reaction, but then developed Lyme symptoms weeks later.

I did find these websites, here, and here, of people writing about their Lyme experiences. Both mention black flies as the vector. So I make three! I say, why not? In Samsonville, there are lots of deer. Also lots of deer ticks and black flies. A tick can pass Lyme from a deer to a human. Why can't a black fly do the same? I am remembering the Brown Recluse bite in 1984 again, that at that time almost no one had heard of poison spider bites and the trouble I had with a diagnosis. So I am always Case #1, it seems.

Also in my research, although my rash was not the classic bull's eye, I can see that it resembles a Lyme rash. In darker skinned people it can look almost like a bruise, and that is how I would describe my rash in some places.

What a summer!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Back from a long weekend in Samsonville. Swam everyday, it was heavenly. All these weekends away are not doing much for my productivity, in terms of the online class. I do have computers and high speed internet access there - what is lacking is the desire to do that sort of work. I get by, but I really have to buckle down!

I think I will be picking my first green beans today!

Over the weekend we watched Waitress (got it from Netflix). It was OK, but only OK. I doubt it would have gotten much notice if Adrienne Shelly had not been murdered. In fact, I think that was the reason I knew about the movie.

Another movie I saw recently, but this one was awesome! It was The Kite Runner. Personally, I thought it deserved Best Picture; it was definitely better than the nominees I have seen [even admitting Atonement was quite good, as was Hairspray. There Will Be Blood and No Country for Old Men were OK, a significantly better OK than Waitress, but to me, still only OK. Ranking them, There Will Be Blood was not as good as No Country for Old Men. I am correct about the nominees, yes? Or am I including movies that were not nominated? I am not sure]. Anyway, my sister said the book (The Kite Runner) was even better than the movie.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Lyme Disease test results are not back yet. They should be available on Monday.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Something happened today that is one of the things I never write about here. It's a subject about which I could write (and in the past have privately written) many pages. I even have several short stories and a partially finished book (that will probably never be finished) on the topic. (I have never considered trying to have any of it published, although a small group has read some of the short stories).

In 2002 when I first started blogging (or ejournaling, my preferred term and the one that I used back then) there seemed to be a lot of bloggers writing about whether to self-censor. The majority of the ones I encountered who wrote on that subject argued that you should avoid doing it at all costs. They advocated a sort of free-for-all, stream of consciousness, raw emotional, "real," no taboos style in the name of "honesty" and "truth." (And my impression was that even a lie could be the "truth" if it was raw enough, but that is a whole 'nother story.)

By 2002 that debate was nothing new to me (print writers always struggle with it, even in fiction), but the online environment does take it to a new level. Anything can be published, and anyone can Google and find it. Although I do believe that sometimes self-censoring can really, really cut down on creativity, I never agreed completely with the bloggers who believe(d) in "anything goes."

I have self-censored this. I've thought about writing something here many times, but never have. I haven't even written about it off-line or read my old stories in years. I'm not even sure why I am writing this post. I guess because I sometimes use this journal to keep track of things (when we opened the pool, when we picked the first tomato, etc.) and I want a way to have a marker. Those examples are trite, but this is major. Let's just say that something has resurfaced from my past. Unfinished business, you might say. I have no idea how it will turn out, and I dare not even hope. (Yet I do, a tiny flicker.)

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Here are some cute pictures, to make up for the post I just made! This is Ande, the Villa Valente cat.

Remember this?

Taken June 24

Then, there is this:

Taken June 27

I stopped taking pictures after this, because it was so much better:

Taken June 29

I got out the camera again to take these two:

Front of my leg:

Both taken July 14

I am on doxycycline. It is awful! So harsh, it makes me immediately sick to my stomach, dizzy and gives me an unpleasant metallic taste in my mouth. And there are so many rules: stay out of the sun. Take it on an empty stomach. No yogurt, milk, magnesium for hours. But it works fast, my leg already looks a lot better, thankfully. I will know the results of the Lyme test in a few days (although I am sure it isn't Lyme Disease).

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

I have been a satisfied Belkin customer for years. I have bought all sorts of computer accessories. After being plagued with several incidents of fried computer components in Samsonville last summer, I bought three Belkin Surgemaster surge protectors in September 2007. I chose them solely because of the $250,000 connected equipment warranty, and because I've always liked Belkin products. Last month a surge in the cable/ethernet burned out two NIC cards, my router, and the cable modem. Time Warner replaced the modem and after much research and hassle, I filled out the Belkin claim form, documented everything, and sent them the three surge protectors. What was the result? They denied my claim, said there was no evidence of a surge. When I protested, and asked if they thought I was lying about the fried equipment, I was told that it wasn't intended to be an attack on my character. I asked to be transferred to a supervisor, who promised to get back to me in a few days after looking into my claim further. The result? An unsigned letter in the mail, denying my claim.

So save your money, and don't ever buy Belkin. Belkin surge protectors don't work, and you will not see a dime of the warranty from this company. Their surge protectors either show no evidence of surges afterwards, or the incompetent technical staff can't find the evidence, or (most likely) Belkin is just in the business of denying claims. They make it nearly impossible to file one, and finding contact information is also very difficult. Now I just run around at the mere prediction of rain and unplug everything. I will never, ever buy another Belkin product. I went from a 100 percent satisfied customer to a totally dissatisfied customer in ten minutes. I am going to trash them at every opportunity (remember, I still have not set foot in Target and how many years ago did they destroy the Defreest-Church House)? May they go bankrupt!

7/16 update: a day after I emailed them my angry follow up, and almost immediately after I posted this (and trashed them on Amazon), the phone rang and it was the claims department supervisor at Belkin. I could tell from her voice that 1) she was nervous and 2) she thinks I am a nutjob. But they are continuing the tests, and will get back to me. Stay tuned.

And yet another update, later on 7/16: I got another phone call. They are going to honor my claim! Stay tuned.

Update 3, 7/17: I got an email with a settlement offer of $82.99 for my router. On the phone they said they are sending me a new NIC and a new adapter. They already sent the new surge protectors. That isn't the total cost of my router but I am OK with it. My one problem is that some language in the letter is confusing. Not sure if signing it will mean I am forfeiting my warranty, or it it just means that I am waiving my right to make a future claim for the same surge. I have to investigate before agreeing. I hope it is the latter, because I am tired of fighting with them.

Update 4, 7/18: the replacement NIC and USB ethernet adapter arrived. I emailed to find out if signing means I will forfeit my warranty, or it it only means that I cannot file additional claims for the same surge. They are slowly redeeming themselves!

Update 5, 8/21: I almost forgot to post this! I never heard back from my email, so I crossed out the objectionable language on their settlement offer and faxed it back. A few days ago the check came. So they have completely redeemed themselves! You just have to be persistent. A pain, and it shouldn't be necessary - but there you go. I will update my posts on the various places where I wrote complaints to reflect this outcome.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Can someone please tell me what is the problem with audio file hosting sites? I need something for the online class. The university could host them, but the problem is that they need a long lead time for uploading - so I can't record something on Friday and expect to have it there for when the module opens on Monday. So that would be OK for content that doesn't change much, but not for the updates I do every week. I've been burned three times on services I have joined - not that I haven't gotten my money back, but the sites unexpectedly go away and are unreliable even when they stay in business. I have avoided free services because I expect them to be low quality - but you'd think premium services would work better than they do. This is really having a bad impact on my productivity in the online class. It takes way too much time that I should be using to grade essays.

I had a relapse of cellulitis on Saturday. I've been off antibiotics for a week and I guess the course I took wasn't long enough. So it is back to the doctor today. Sigh. Speaking of bug bites, Sam was stung by a bee yesterday! He is such a baby about things like that, he carried on terrible. Poor Sam-Sam.

I'll balance that with some good news: Swimming was wonderful on Saturday. The pool was 81 degrees. And I've been picking tomatoes in Castleton!!

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Long time no post! You'd think in the summer I'd have more time for posting. But until Thursday I had a really terrible chair in my home office and my back was killing me. Add in the bug bite reaction, keflex side effects, summer session class, gardening, and going to Samsonville every weekend (where there are numerous distractions, including the pool) and posting is pretty low on my list.

Anyway, the bite is 95 percent better. Swimming seemed to help it a lot. I finished the keflex on July 4. I have a couple of other pictures of its progression which I will post once I get around to downloading them.

I got a new office chair! Actually it is used, from a business that traded it in at a commercial office furniture place. New it must have been $500-$700 dollars, I got it gently used for $175. It is awesome! I had a cheapie from Staples before. It wasn't any good a week after I bought it. The new chair is heavenly.

I also got a new mattress. It will be delivered on Thursday. Now, if I can find suitable shoes, my orthopedic problems will be totally gone.

I also have this year's gardening pictures. We have eaten lettuce, garlic scapes (both from Samsonville), and tomatoes (from Castleton) so far. It looks like the zucchini in Samsonville will start to be ready this weekend. Bugs in the summer may suck, but the fresh produce is the counterbalance.

Monday, June 30, 2008

It took until Saturday for there to be improvement in the bite site. The keflex has been hard to tolerate - but I didn't want to throw in the towel because I know how hard skin infections are to treat. What a relief to see that it is getting better. I have more pictures to post; I will put them up as soon as I download. I also have flower and garden pictures from both Castleton and Samsonville. The plants are loving this weather. I went swimming three times this weekend; maybe the Baquicil helped the bite too.

Class started on Monday - luckily I had everything all set to go by then, because I really was not up to sitting here at the machine for long periods of time.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

This is the story of my 1984 Brown Recluse Spider bite.

And now for the latest chapter on why I like winter.

I got bit by something on Sunday while I was standing on the deck at our house in Samsonville. I felt a sharp bite on my leg. I think it bit me through my jeans, high up on my right thigh on the outside of my leg. I suspect it was one of those mean flies we have there but I am not sure. There was no blood and the bite is tiny. Bob thought maybe it was a bee since Sam was stung earlier in the day, but it didn't hurt like a bee sting. I went inside and pulled down my pants and it looked terrible within minutes. There was no tick attached or anything like that. I shook my pants out and couldn't find any bugs. By late that night when we were back in Castleton it was just awful, about 4" across and very red. Not a bull's eye, a dark, solid red circle.

It only hurts and itches a little. I had to be on campus Monday and had forgotten my insurance card at home so couldn't go to one of those urgent care places (there is one right next to campus), but I was kind of worried all day. Monday night I put baking soda and cortisone cream on it and thought it looked OK, maybe even a bit better so I stopped worrying. By yesterday afternoon the redness and swelling had traveled to my groin and I freaked.

So I went to the doctor, she said it could be any type of bug but they suspect a spider, although probably not a poisonous one like last time. (She said they do get a growing number of people in recent years who have been bitten by brown recluse spiders, though, which is interesting.) She also said it doesn't have the characteristics of a tick bite. I still think it was a flying insect that bit me through my pants because I'm pretty sure I would have seen a spider inside or outside of my pants.

Anyway, I am on keflex. When I got to Rite Aid to get my prescription, the pharmacist came out and had one of those counseling sessions. I mean a real one, not just one they make you sign off on. He asked me about my penicillin allergy. He said there is a 5% chance I will react to keflex since it is related. I don't think I have ever had keflex before, at least not as far as I can remember. He said if I get a rash I should stop taking it immediately. I laughed because a rash is what I am taking it for!! But a friend of mine told me to take that very seriously, because the 5% is too much of a softball, and the reaction could be delayed, or more serious. (Great, so now I have something else to worry about.)

Too bad there were no digital pictures in 1984! No one would believe me that the Brown Recluse bite was worse.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

I saw The Happening last night. I'd avoided reviews of it because I knew there would be spoilers, but even by just skimming or reading an article or post nearby, I knew that it wasn't getting rave reviews. I think he is currently the director/producer/writer who is trendy to dislike. I wasn't surprised that I really liked it, though. I always like M. Night Shyamalan movies, and not just the Sixth Sense. I've seen them all, except for his first two (before the Sixth Sense). My least favorite was Unbreakable, and even that was OK. This latest one was delightfully creepy. I enjoy his take on nature. It's a lot more imaginatively realistic (assuming that is possible) than something like the Blair Witch Project and that got a lot of fanfare. Sometimes on those nights when it seems especially dark and foreboding outside, I will say "the trees have faces." That's not really too scary, I'd say it's more fantastic. His movies remind me of that feeling.

Monday, June 16, 2008

I went for my first swim of the season yesterday. The water is warm already (76 degrees). I'd like it better if it was a bit warmer, but 76 wasn't bad. The water is clean!

During the week, a thunderstorm caused a power outage and surge which fried my router, cable modem, and two ethernet cards in Samsonville. So I swapped in my cable modem for a new one, and ordered a new router and NICs. Luckily, last fall, I bought three surge protectors that have connected-equipment warrantees. It's a hassle to get reimbursed, but better than all the money I lost last summer due to surges. That's assuming Belkin doesn't give me a hard time about the claim.

If my experience with Canon is any indication, maybe it will work out fine. My camera came back, in good working order - at no cost.

I had taken pictures of my new hanging baskets in Castleton. The baskets lasted a day - they were too heavy, and they bent or ripped out the brackets! So we replaced them with a smaller, lighter version and took the big ones to Samsonville. I'll post pictures soon.

Still no luck finding shoes! The ones I ordered have to be sent back. Thinking of trying Nursemates? Maybe they would have a similar shoe to the Trek (they are made by the same company).

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The heat wave was incredible but today seems more normal.

Friday, June 06, 2008

The garden and all the flowers, except for the window boxes, are now in. (The shelves that hold the window boxes need work, so that project will have to wait.) I am pleased by the accomplishment, since my favorite hobby sort of took my mind off the problem: all week I have been suffering with my feet.

Last Saturday I got a pair of New Balance shoes that are rumored to be an adequate replacement for the Treks, but the jury's still out. It doesn't look promising, however. I also got a pair of crocs, not to wear all the time, but just for occasionally. The result was that by yesterday I was in agony. Not just my feet, but my knee, leg and back - worse on my left side.

So today I am back in my treks and feeling better. I haven't used the treadmill since last Thursday. Complicating things are that I need a new mattress and a new office chair. (I haven't used my upstairs computer since earlier in the week - which means my campus work is kind of building up.) Things to do with my rebate!! But I really need to find a solution to the shoe dilemma. Softspot First Class is another recommendation I received, but I would like to try them on and I cannot find a store that stocks them. I guess I will have to buy them online and take my chances.

It is supposed to get very hot tonight!

Monday, June 02, 2008

The pool is open! It isn't as green as it was last year. Today, I am working on the garden and yard. At this point I am only up to clean up in the yard (so many vines and bamboo grass the remove; mother nature certainly takes back the land quickly), but I have 4 bags of horse manure to rototill into the garden.

Friday, May 30, 2008

I used my rototiller yesterday! I works great. The main garden is done (not planted yet though). It really cuts down on the heavy duty work in gardening. It is making me dream about additional places to till and plant.

I think we will open the pool this weekend.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

This weekend I read The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold. I am not sure how to link it, so here is my review from Goodreads: This book was great! A real page turner. It was sad, even disturbing at times, but very well written. There was one brief section toward the end where I felt it "jumped the shark" a little (in the teacher's notes that follow the story it said this section is the most talked about part of the book), and when I was finished there were a couple of things that happened that frustrated/disappointed me (I won't say what they are because I don't want to ruin the story), but neither of those things make this less than a 5 star book.

I didn't write this on Goodreads, but the paperback copy of the book that I got from Amazon had flaps on the cover that imitate a dust jacket - but they are just folded extension of the cover, they can't be taken off. I loved that! It is like having a built in bookmark.

As long as I am on the subject of books, may as well write about a movie too. I got Sweeney Todd from netflix. I like Broadway musicals a lot, and I also think Johnny Depp is great. I knew what it was about, but I'd never seen the entire production, I had only seen clips on PBS specials of Angela Lansbury (love her :-) singing from the original Broadway production. Although Sondheim's shows aren't usually my favorite, I really liked the movie! It was pretty creepy - but worth seeing.
Yesterday I went to the Memorial Day parade in West Shokan. I go to it almost every year. My father marches with the American Legion and my cousins march with the fire department. I love the parade, and there is something very special about West Shokan. How it is snuggled in the hollow between the mountains. How it seems the wind always gently whips up during formal ceremonies such as funerals, dedications, and parades. How connected you feel to past generations.

On Sunday, I'd read an old West Shokan newspaper obituary that my mother typed up. At the ceremony after the parade, I couldn't help thinking of all the old articles I've read about gatherings in West Shokan.

For the past few years, it has struck me how much the high school band has deteriorated. Not the uniforms, which are truly gorgeous, but talent-wise. It reminds me a bit of the Music Man - minus the enthusiasm. The similarity is in the sense of being beautifully turned out, while having no clue of how to play. In my position, I have a tendency to blame the teacher, to say he's burned out, undisciplined, or uninspired, but some part of it could be that kids aren't really interested, don't care or are spread too thin, that they don't show up at practice and parents enable that behavior.

Yesterday, one kid banged a drum during the march from the post office to the town hall, and then while we stood there, they played the Star Spangled Banner. At least that's what I think it was supposed to be, it could also have been Battle Hymn of the Republic. I'm not really sure. Finally, one kid played Taps. It sounded like they had not practiced at all.

Maybe they just do not know how to play parade music, but are capable at sports games and during concerts, but I doubt it. If they knew how to play anything at all, I think they would play it. I mean, it is hardly worth it to fire up the bus and drag them there for one kid to bang a drum.

It's no secret that my experiences in K-12 were not great, and as a result I have no particularly warm feelings about my high school alma mater, but one thing I can say is that when I was a student there, our band was second to none. They were a sight to behold and made everyone proud. They marched in the Macy's parade on Thanksgiving in NYC. The music teacher who was the band leader was tough yet dedicated, and it came through in the band. The school had both a junior high and a high school band, and the bands took turns going to the parades. One year, your town would get the junior high, the following year, they would get the high school. Besides that, we had an orchestra.

I wasn't in the band, since in elementary school, just when we were poised to leap from the flutofone to a "real" instrument, one day the teacher yelled out, "who's Catholic?" A handful of us raised our hands. We were taken across the street to the church for religious instruction, and so we missed instrumental music. When we got to junior high, those of us who were not in band took general music, which involved reading a primer, listening to snippets of Peter and the Wolf, and having to answer multiple choice questions extemporaneously when the music teacher/band leader barked your last name. It was terrifying.

If I had the opportunity, I had planned to choose the clarinet, since that's what my sister played. I would have rather learned the piano, since I had a toy one that I loved to bang on at home, but it wasn't a choice. I never considered the violin, which is surprising, because today that is the instrument I would most like to know how to play. In fact, a couple of years ago I bought one, I guess it is sort of a "bucket list" for me, even though I think the idea of a "bucket list" is silly.

Besides the beautiful uniforms but corresponding lack of skill, another thing that was noticeable was that the band must be about half as big as it was when I was in school there. The shrinking demographics could not have been more obvious.

I never wanted to be the person who laments about the current generation and then sighs "when I was a kid..." I teach 100 young people per semester and I am optimistic about the future; the majority of my students are great. But I have noted a few times the subtle (and not so subtle) changes over time, and not all of them are positive. So here goes. When I was a kid, the band knew how to play!

Friday, May 23, 2008

My camera started acting up about 2 weeks ago. I thought it had been accidentally switched to an unfamiliar setting (although I've had the camera for over 4 years I only use the most basic functions) but after locating the book and trying everything suggested - I couldn't get it to work. It is taking dark, blurry, distorted images. So I searched the Internet - and discovered that powershot A60 cameras and a few other models have a flaw, and Canon will fix it for free, including aborbing the shipping costs, regardless of warranty status! Wow!

I've occasionally written about the problem with my feet. Well, this solution really worked great: custom orthotics plus Trek shoes. The problem was solved for a long time. Treks were discontinued quite a while ago, but I was able to find them at an outlet and I had stocked up. I go through about 3 pairs per year, wearing them all day, every day. Once they get broken in, they are no good for me. I need them to be nearly brand new to keep my foot stable.

It works great, invasive treatment avoided, I can even hike and use the treadmill. I have already experimented with other styles when I was down to only a few pairs, but none of them were suitable. I am now down to my last pair. They are white, so you know I am desperate! I have been dreading this day. I must find a new source for Treks or a suitable alternative within the next four months or my symptoms will return. I dread that happening. I am practically frantic.

I've spent many hours searching. I have a saved search on ebay, a post on craig's list, I have emailed shoe outlets, the manufacturer, and custom shoe businesses. So far, no luck. If by chance anyone stumbles here that has - or knows were I can get - Softspot Supreme Trek shoes, women's 8W, please let me know! I will take as many pairs as I can find. I prefer black, but I will settle for any color.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

I threw in the towel and got a new printer. It's a HP 6310. I ordered it from Amazon - since I have prime, shipping is free and takes 2 days - but it came in one day! UPS brought it this afternoon. I have it all hooked up already. This is my third all-in-one. The first all-in-one (HP 1170C) still works OK (I had to repair it once and we took it to Samsonville). It cost about $700 in 1998. The second all-in-one (HP 6110) must have been 3-4 years old. It cost about $350. This new one was $159. Aside from the price coming down, the size did too (and I think the flimsiness increased also). They are essentially the same printer, just more modern versions. But I think this steady price decline is why inflation isn't listed as being worse - it is all due to technology.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Grades are done! Very close to the deadline this time around. What with hiking on Mother's Day, Monday being shot because we had problems with the truck's brakes and had to spend an extra day in Samsonville, my printer breaking and spending 1/2 day working on it (the time was wasted, it still isn't working, but now I have several torx screwdrivers), running downstairs with my flashdrive to my old faithful computer and photo printer when I needed to print something, spending Wednesday on campus because of the end of semester faculty luncheon, and finally, my nephew's college graduation on Saturday, it is a miracle I finished them at all.

I was basically done at 9:30 last night (deadline was 11:59 pm). I typed them into the university's grading website at 11 pm, after taking a break from it (to eat and take a shower) so I would have the stamina to look them over one more time before entering them. I don't like pushing it that far at all. I am always a procrastinator and it takes forever to do the grades, but usually I'm done by 5 or 6 on the day of the deadline.

What a relief. The end of semester crush, that extension forever of the schedule of a student, is the worst part of teaching. Especially for an adjunct, because of the heavy teaching load. Everything else about it is great.

The garden is calling! Yippee!

I did something I have never done before, I crafted an out-of-office reply message on my campus email (because there are always a few students who demand immediate explanation for their grade). Besides working on the garden (with my new rototiller :-), I need to give fixing the printer one last try (before biting the bullet and getting a new all-in-one). I also have a (paper) book I want to read, and housecleaning demands some attention. Finally, there are posting here, and catching up on website reading! I decided that I deserve a few days off before I get back to students.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

A group of 15 (that's 13 humans and 2 dogs) hiked to Vernooykill Falls on Mother's Day.

The camera setting must have been accidentally switched to B&W. That is some nice swimming hole behind us! It was a beautiful day on Sunday, but too cold for swimming. Here is some information on Vernooykill, and here is a beautiful picture (that last link is a beautiful site generally).

Thursday, May 08, 2008

This is no surprise. Nor was this, three years ago. The vote for incumbents! Vote for change! message isn't really inconsistent. It is consistently anti-Olive. (Also consistently and ironically status quo.) Well, one thing is for sure. Nothing will guarantee that Town of Olive residents won't vote for you more than an endorsement from the Olive Press!

Monday, May 05, 2008

I am probably kidding myself, but I feel like I am in good shape going into the last day of the semester. Classes end tomorrow, and I have only one day left on campus after that. Grades are due late on the 19th. I'm sure I'll have to work like mad to make the deadline (for one thing, I have to design new ways to assess the students in the hybrid class, I changed/added an assignment in all classes, and the Blackboard switch may or may not make evaluating the online component(s) more difficult).

But I still feel like I am in a good place. So I thought I would sneak in a post. Quite a few things I could write.

I bought a rototiller on Friday. I've wanted one for years and every spring, I tell myself that I'll get one in the Fall when they go on sale. Then I never do, because who cares about rototillers in the Fall? I saw Sears had them on sale, and I decided this is the year. It is a modest one, a small Craftsman. I am psyched!!

I am sick over the Kentucky Derby. Barbaric, disgusting spectacle.

School board election at my alma mater is shaping up to be a real battle of the titans. I had to move away as graciously as possible. It probably made me no friends, but oh well. I have to be true to myself. As is so often the case for me, my viewpoints are very hard to categorize. It's a reason why I rarely join any political effort. I'm usually not comfortable endorsing platforms. I'm a single issue person, and it's not out of the question that my single issues conflict. I don't mean my values are inconsistent; not at all. Consistency is vital, but I find most political platforms are not consistent. A variety of things are extracted from an assortment of interest groups, then tied together and the whole package is unpalatable. Anyone who reads this knows that I find K-8 to be a promising model. I value reseach. Also, I have some important concerns with high per-student costs in the district. Large parcel is another issue that is important to me. Finally, I don't have warm sentiments toward that school district, and I know my personal experience adds bias to my perspective.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Last class is May 6. Grade are due May 19. I doubt I will be posting very much!! Luckily the weather has turned from early summer-like to raining and chilly. That makes it easier to stay inside and work. I caught another cheater! Ho-hum. It was in the hybrid class.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

I took this picture on Saturday. It is High Point Mountain Road in West Shokan, looking toward the Ashokan Reservoir.

The weather is so beautiful...I want to be home! (Not stuck on campus.) But I should stop wishing my life away and get back to grading essays.

Monday, April 21, 2008

I've been very busy personally...and overwhelmed in terms of campus work! I'll get it done but as always, the end of the semester is stressful.

Is it me, I wonder, or are students getting more rude by the semester? Rude may be too strong a term. These are not bad students. But an example would be emailing me (and usually using my first name as the form of address) and then: 1) asking me something in-my-face such as can I reduce the workload? Or 2) claiming a grade is unfair and demanding an explanation for a B+. Or 3) suggesting an assignment is inappropriate? Or 4) attaching high importance and resending the message every few hours (I always answer as quickly as possible, but on a weekend a day [no more] may pass before I respond).

Then there is the constant in-and-out of the classroom, especially during 1)presentations of other students 2) videos 3) groupwork but even during 4) my lectures to some degree. This happens in all classes, but it is especially irritating in the twice a week day class. You can't sit still for 1 hour 20 minutes and not have to 1) pee etc. 2) text 3) chat on phone 4) email 5) get bottled water? It is definitely a growing problem in the past couple of semesters. This semester it is downright ridiculous.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Must be something about this point in the Spring semester. The weather turns warmer, the birds are singing, bulbs are sprouting...and students start to wing out. The end of semester looms, the presentations have arrived, the workload is ratcheted up, and they freak. Without going into too many details, yesterday there was an incident in each of my classes. Groups in a panic because there are several free riders; in-my-face demands that I explain a (fair) grade; obnoxious posting on the online discussion board; and a student who hasn't regularly attended class really throwing in peers in group and complicating the upcoming presentations. So you might say this all has crossed my "line in the sand." Although I am probably too sympathetic to students in general, I do have a line that once crossed, turns me from nice and understanding to stone-faced and exacting. Sadly, I've found that it is necessary. Sometimes there are a couple of students who test the limits because I suspect they misperceive my good nature as weakness. That's a mistake they should not make. Afterwards, though, I am always left feeling uncomfortable because it really isn't in my character to draw that line in the sand. I just don't like being forced to do it and I wish mutual respect was a commonly understood concept. The final thing that makes me uneasy is that you never know what is in a student's mind. Teaching can be a tricky business.

Monday, April 07, 2008

I managed to get the midterms finished last week. I am still working on journals - and hope to have them finished by tomorrow. The grading just seems endless from the middle to the end of the semester.

This has been a rough winter, but now we're having nice, early Spring weather. A lot of birds are back. I don't see many flowers out there yet, but if it stays this way it won't be long. I did a little yard work yesterday, but there is a long way to go.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Make that 16 times. (See here for information on 1-15. This time, I saved the editorial at the link - not getting stuck paying another two bucks!) They are shameless. Just exactly what is the Times Union afraid will be discovered? Here's The Record today - they are asking the same question as I am. (Sadly, they conclude that we will probably never know the answer regarding the TU.)
Finished the midterms!! Now I have journals, and a new batch of essays.

I met again with the hybrid class. They are having a better experience I think, although there are clearly some "lost" students. They aren't putting in much effort. Whether they are weak students generally, or if it is the technology...who knows? Some of the comments the students shared this week:

-add a link ane/or chat, where I will answer their questions on content of the material
-the day class may have been more suitable for turning into the hybrid (meet once per week, online once per week)
-videos are practically not watchable - too slow, audio and picture don't match
-AIM is way better than blackboard chat
-blackboard is often unstable
-uneasy sense that they don't know how they are doing in class
-audios and powerpoint slideshows are helpful

The class becomes mostly an on campus, standard delivery, face-to-face arrangement now - there is only one more online session left. There are four on campus sessions.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Break is over for me - back to campus for the last five weeks of the semester. I accomplished a lot of evaluation/feedback, worked on the article, did the taxes, updated the website for the online class, and chose a new book for next semester. Naturally, I still have a couple of undone tasks (journals for one class and midterms for one class) that I didn't get to. So I will scramble tomorrow to get some journals done (I might be dreaming, it is sure to be hectic) and on Wednesday, I'll try to finish the midterms. So anyway - I probably will be dropping back to my usual one post or so here per week. Time for bed!! I have to curtail the owl tendencies too.

Monday, March 31, 2008

In my continuing theme on the hypocricy of newspapers (no, I don't have a label for that, probably should), today's editorial in the Times Union really irritated me.

I did have to laugh at their championing the "fake but accurate" approach. (You'd think they'd remember that the risk is great of that derailing an eager journalist's career.) I remembered this post where I believed the paper had no credibility on the subject, and that got me thinking about the number of times since last July they have put out essentially the same message.

I can tell you: fifteen. Eleven editorials (7/31, 8/3, 8/9, 8/12, 9/12, 9/20, 9/22, 9/26, 9/9, 10/11, and 3/30), three Fred LeBrun columns (7/27, 9/23, 12/9) and one Rex Smith column (7/7). All with "move along, nothing to see here" as the message (Smith's was his usual patronizing and defensive). Why are they still water-carrying? I mean, the man has resigned. You'd think they would now want to dig, dig, dig. (You would think that they would have wanted to even before this, but that would be expecting too much. Water-carrying is a big, important, time-consuming task that goes on into perpetuity.) Maybe they might even want to ask a question or two about the timing and strange inconsistencies in the DA's report. But no. It's about travel and truth, because they have said so fifteen times.

I believe they have some serious skeletons in the closet and that's why they want this scandal to be over, never to be heard from again. The FOIL request was a fabrication, done after the fact, or at the very least it was submitted because the governor, or Dopp, whispered in the reporter's ear after they ordered up the fake but accurate records and spat "F*** him, he's a piece of sh*t, shove it up his a*s with a red hot poker." (Somehow the TU managed to avoid printing that statement, describing it as expletives and leaving it at that.) But they gobbled up the whisper. It was just what they wanted to hear, regardless of Smith's weak denials. They were so eager for the smear that they were careless. They allowed themselves to be duped. And they have no intention of admitting it. So instead they were printing the truth! And shoving the red hot poker is actually an honorable endeavor!

The fourteen editorials before 3/30's are in the archives, and cost me $2 each! A sacrifice to the altar of blogging. A fool and her money soon parted. So I copied and pasted them to a PDF file, I don't intend to pay more than once. Actually, I already paid twice! I was kind of irritated about that too. I am a loyal print subsriber to the paper. I have had it delivered every day for the past 24 years - ever since I moved to the Capital District. I believe access to the archives should be free for me! You can read all fifteen editorials and columns here, in reverse chronological order.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

I worked all day on evaluating students in the online class. It's midsemester feedback time for discussion and journal. I think it took me longer than it usually does, but that isn't completely blackboard's fault. I am requiring another small assignment for every discussion (students submit their best post). But that isn't solely responsible either; the assessment seemed more rich than usual. It might have taken longer, but I think the results are better. I like the journal commenting feature. I usually respond to journal posts occasionally, but since the switch to blackboard, I have not responded at all. I had not spent any time figuring how to respond, it wasn't a priority. So in addition to compiling my usual tally of points, I went through and commented on many of the entries. It is almost like a blog, and it could be a dialogue. It think there are interesting possibilities for the future; I may have students post an assignment for all class and see if I can get other students to make comments.

Evaluations have taken up pretty much the whole week. There is still more to go. But I did manage to steal a little time to work on the article, as I mentioned. It is about the toleration class, specifically, it is about one assignment in the class that is intended to reduce ignorance of the unfamiliar, stereotyping and prejudice.

Now that I have slept on it for a day and done a little looking into guidelines, I believe I have found a suitable market for it, but I am thinking that it may need to be cut by about 1,000 words and I probably should add more literature. Sigh. I don't think I can get to that until summer. Or maybe I am just being overly critical? It is probably good enough to send with the expectation of getting a revise/resubmit, which how most academic journals respond for the first round anyway.

One thing I am going to do is get permissions from all the students whose self-assessment essays I quote. The quotes aren't very long, and they are anonymous, so that probably isn't really necessary either, but I think it would be a nice courtesy to do it, and I have no doubt every student will be flattered and will say yes. I have good relationships with students and this assignment is one that they all really liked.

I see as the week has gone one, since I haven't had to be on campus, I've slipped back into my preferred owl pattern. Staying up too late. I have to start getting back into the routine, Tuesday will be here in no time!

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Things get more interesting around here by the day. When I heard the report about this on the news, and they came to this quote that Spitzer allegedly said to Dopp about Bruno, “F*** him, he’s a piece of sh*t, shove it up his a*s with a red hot poker,” I had this strange image of the movie Liar, Liar. It's the scene where Swoozie Kurtz is in the courtroom, Jim Carrey is up to all sorts of strange antics in an effort to not lie, and the look on her face is one of increasing horror. I felt that was the way my face must have looked. In the capitol confidential post I linked, it describes Spitzer as being so angry he was red-faced and kind of spitting. I read basically the same description in the New York Times over the weekend; it was an account of a meeting with a representative from the Working Families Party. The WFP rep was hoping to have some influence because the party had supported the ex-gov big time. He basically told them to get lost (but not in such a nice way). What a nutjob. This whole thing is a train wreck. I just can't look away.

I almost forgot! We had a spring snow.

Friday, March 28, 2008

I have been skeptical of middle school as a grade configuration for quite a while. Recently, this issue has heated up a bit more, and since the superintendent and much of the Board are now different, I again made an effort to have input. I heard back from the superintendent, which was a pleasant surprise, even though her response consisted of dismissing or ignoring my concerns. At this point, there is a community group that has organized around the idea.

In this week's Olive Press, this article appears. (I am linking to the Phoenicia Times website instead, because the Olive Press continuation does not go to the rest of the story.) For a lot of reasons, I am quite sympathetic to this group's goal of not restructuring the school district. However, what strikes me about this article is the overt anti-Olive bias. I guess, given the source (Olive Press) that shouldn't be a surprise. (The anti-Olive tone does not become apparent until the second page of the story; interestingly, that is the link that does not work at the Olive Press site.)

I mean, I have in the past lamented that "Olive" is plastered across the masthead. Take a look at this editorial from 2005. Deja vu anyone? Are the unidentified people described in the current article who were at the meeting discussing "how to get people motivated to vote in towns other than Olive. Many blame apathy for low voter turnout. They explored reasons ranging from an influx of weekend homeowners, the mascot issue, the closure of West Hurley, taxes and lack of organization or community feeling" the same ones who wrote this, in the 2005 editorial?: "This has been exacerbated in recent years by the difficult tax issues raised by the Large Parcel issue, by the nostalgic loyalties brought to the forefront during the mascot debacle; by the disparity of the townships brought together under the Onteora roof."

Also interesting, I notice a definite shift in the paper's perspective. In 2005, the tone was pro-middle school (and their assumption, with no evidence, seemed to be that Olive would foolishly oppose it or insist that Bennett School remain open even if there were better ideas). Here's the excerpt that so annoyed me when it was published: "Secondly, the Middle School model — which we could only eschew completely knowing that it would then set our students apart from a shared national and state experience — suggests that mid-grade students learn best when in their own school, yet with access to the sports and classroom facilities of junior and senior high schoolers."

However, now the paper appears to be championing the anti-middle school cause. The group that opposes the middle school has membership from all the towns, but I'm guessing Olive is probably the least represented. So as long as the Olive Press can trumpet a cause they perceive to be anti-Olive, they are happy to change positions and "eschew" the middle school idea. Isn't some explanation necessary? Or is it quite simply that the staff just can't stand our town?