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?

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Burned a little midnight oil (this is late for me now, how pathetic) and finished the article. Now I have to figure out where to send it. I have four journals in mind.

Back to grading tomorrow.
This comment gave me an idea. So I took a break from evaluating and article writing (ie, procrastinated) and found some photos to post. Sort of an early Spring 2008 Virtual Museum.

Howie was a champion bed sleeper. Here he is in the dorm in 1980 as a six-week-old puppy (yes, it was against the rules).

Here he is, with Penny and Bob, in Brewster, in ~1984 (I remember we got that comforter as a wedding present). Penny liked sleeping on the bed, too. Mostly because she wanted to be near Howie.

Here he is, once again with Penny and Bob, but this time Edna has joined them. This is Castleton, circa 1994. The iron bed has been mine since I was a kid. It came from Watson Hollow Inn, where Mimmie worked. That blanket has become a "dog heirloom."

Not exactly a bed picture, here he is with me, under the covers on the couch. I think I was battling an illness at the time, if memory serves. This was about 1995, shortly before he died.

Rudy was more of a "floor" dog, but sometimes he would get on the bed. Here he is in Samsonville in about 2000. I know I have shared this picture here before. How handsome he was. Also always immaculate.

Here he is with Edna, around the same time. I think this says that Edna is pretty EEO about dogs, eh?

Sam is more likely to sleep in the bed than Rudy was, but he also likes chairs.

The next three are a series of shots I couldn't resist a few days ago. I didn't know I would be posting them here at the time, I just thought he looked cute. Especially since he is so active, it is rare to catch him snoozing.

Sophie is happy to get on a bed, when she can reach it. In Samsonville, she gets on the bed, but in Castleton, the iron day bed in the living room is too high, and she can't do the stairs to the bedroom. Her legs are too short and her body is too long! So she spends most of her time on a couch or chair.

She usually is covered, or as we call it, "wrapped." (Note that I did not cover her. I took the picture because I thought the way she had covered herself was so funny. She often wiggles under blankets, slipcovers or throws and barely disturbs them.)

Can you tell she's here?

Here's the close-up.

I don't have any bed pictures of Ande yet. But he likes the iron day bed too.

I think the moral of the story is that animal lovers think everything beloved cutie pie does is worthy of a picture.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

My Easter was lovely. Now it's spring break. I am up to my eyeballs in evaluations. Making progress, but I doubt I will finish everything I planned. I really, really want to finish an article I am writing but it just isn't my top priority. But maybe it can be before the end of the week.

Two Times Union stories: this one, about some creep who put an adorable Jack Russell terrier out with the trash. What is the matter with people?

Then, this one, about blogging, which irritated me. First, because it is so last week. Maybe it would have been Earth shattering back in Y2K, but come on. Most readers probably know more about blogging than this journalist. Second, because it has that tired, smug tone that "print" people lord over "online" folks. Third, because it spends the majority of its words trumpeting the TU blogs. How great they are, how many hits they get, how often they post, blah, blah, blah. As if being linked by the newspaper, and being employed there as writers, have no impact!

Friday, March 21, 2008

Spring break! So early this year. Still, I need the days "off" to catch up on grading and do some writing, I have an article almost finished. It isn't looking much like Spring here yet, aside from the longer days.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

I have a long list of things to do today for all my classes - write a midterm, grade essays, make updates to the blackboard sites. But I, like everyone else in the Capital District, as well (I suspect) as the rest of the state has had something else competing with the To Do list for the past few days...that would be refreshing various Internet webpages to see the latest news on the governor's scandals!

I am not given to write much about politics here. In fact, the only time I have written anything about the governor was here, in January 2007, and here, in July 2007. However, I have been thinking for the past almost-year that, being no fan of the prior governor, and even less of some of his appointees (I had a major run-in with one shortly after he was elected), that it is important to be careful what you wish for. In other words, I didn't think the governor and his appointees could get any worse, but then the latest jerk was elected, and "worse" got redefined in short order.

Two things come to mind that make that especially true. First, that he has been the pinnacle of hypocrisy, and that is something I can't stand. Second, that his enthusiastic supporters were always mouthing stupid lines such as "we're very energized" by his election, as if somehow having him in the Capitol was going to usher in utopia.

It's a shame that his downfall was a sex scandal, because the most ardent of his supporters will transform the "we're very energized" into statements about how prudish a country we are and allusions to Bill Clinton's troubles, when I haven't a shred of doubt that there are tons of non-prostitution related skeletons in the creep's closet. I admit sex scandals sell, and policy wonk ones don't. On Charlie Rose's show last night, Alan Dershowitz was saying what I have heard from others, that having private character flaws does not translate to being a bad public official and if we use such litmus tests we will eliminate everyone from the candidate pool. I've also read comments that it was just a "mistake," no biggie. How dumb and how naive can supposedly smart people be?

I call BS on those statements. In fact, I was so mad as I listened to Dershowitz on Charlie Rose that I wished someone like me had been there to tell him he is part of the problem. Maybe if once he stood in front of his law students and gave the testy lecture I give students about ethics, cheating and personal responsibility we would have a higher calibre of people in important positions in government and elsewhere. Because private character most certainly does impact public decisions. It has a role in every decision - personal, political, private, public, great and small. But no, I'm sure all Dershowitz does is teach students how to screw people and get away with it. It seems getting caught is the only problem for people with zero moral compass.

You know something? I could not care less about his sex life and wish I did not have the image of that ugly (inside and out, it seems) man not wanting to use a condom with a prostitute. (Bob laments, here the Health Department spends enormous sums on public education efforts aimed at getting people to practice safe sex and the governor clearly doesn't believe in the message.) I did feel bad seeing his wife looking so humiliated, but I also wondered why the h-ll she was standing beside him at the press conference rather than throwing his expensive suits out of the window of their Fifth Avenue apartment.

Regardless, I care very much that he is a person of bad judgment. I don't for one minute believe that this scandal is the only time Spitzer has done something unethical. I'm sure he has more often than not acted unethically, in fact. It was a part of the routine of his life, and until now, he got away with it. And gloried in it too. I'm also sure he surrounds himself with people who have similar values. In a word, "bad." People like that make my job as an instructor and mentor to students so much harder. How many times (12, actually) have I caught a student cheating and had to suffer through excuses, tears, insistence that is was only a mistake and the sole offense (and then caught the same student again)? Yeah right. Mistake, my a-s.

And speaking of a-ses, don't let the screen door hit you in it on the way out, Elliot. Not that I care one way or the other whether he stays or goes. I don't. He's history, regardless. A joke. Which reminds me...he has certainly given the comedians a lot of new material.

In completely unrelated news, I met with my evening/hybrid class again last night. The first thing I did was hand out slips of paper with three choices: Discontinue Hybrid, Continue Hybrid, No preference. I was expecting discontinue to win, or at least that it would be close, and I had planned to divide students up by preference to have a debate on the subject, with the no preference students serving as the jury. But something completely unexpected happened! Continue won by a landslide, so no debate was needed. It seems the experience of the past two weeks was much better than it was during the first session.

Monday, March 10, 2008

A sign of spring! The blackbirds are back. They pause here on their way north. Their numbers are huge, and the racket they make is incredible. They are quite skittish too. I hope they stay a few days.

Friday, March 07, 2008

More cruelty involving an athlete, this time from a golfer, proving that stupidity is not limited to any particular sport. I'm not sure why I didn't notice this when it happened (probably because it got little or no coverage until he was charged?), but I hope he gets the maximum. Jerk.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

We are finishing up philosophy of education in one section of my class, and in the day class yesterday we talked a bit about why students in the evening hybrid version is not loving the experience. One student knows someone who is in the hybrid class, and several others chimed in as well. They believe that students prefer structure, that they learn better when hearing material in person, and also that online delivery may give students the feeling that they are not getting feedback. I responded that it is interesting because many students will profess a preference for "freedom" over "structure," that they almost always say they find lecture boring, and that I give the same amount of feedback to online, hybrid and on campus students. But perception is everything, I guess.

This is unrelated, but recently I have been doing some reflecting on my own struggles with an inferiority complex. I can't say that it is an overwhelming burden or anything, but consistently in my professional life especially, I have trouble in this area. I marvel at others who do not have this problem. Or at least they do not seem to have this problem, it may be that they do, but they hide it. What does it take, I wonder, for someone to overcome this? Or is it futile, because they never had the problem in the first place?

Saturday, March 01, 2008

After days of brutal cold, more snow! What a winter.

Today is the sixth anniversary of Gully Brook Press. I suppose I should have something insightful to write about doing an online journal for six years - it is the most sustained journal effort ever for me, throughout my life I have kept some sort of journal, on and off - but I really don't.

Last Sunday, in my continuing quest to change my diet, I made a quiche using a buckwheat pie crust. The sites I read about substituting buckwheat for regular flour all cautioned that the taste is too strong for most people's liking. I didn't find that to be an issue, but wow, rolling it out was hard!

Since the weather means another weekend in Castleton rather than Samsonville, I think we will put the finishing touches on the livingroom rehab - the border! It sure is looking good. Makes the rest of the house seem shabby.