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.