Saturday, July 31, 2010

Woman neglected 40 dogs, Ulster SPCA says - The Daily Freeman Blotter: Serving the Hudson Valley since 1871(
Beware of "antivir solution pro" which gives popup messages that look very authentic and say you have virus infections. It also interferes with running your own anti-virus check or system utilities. It is actually a spyware scam designed to get you to buy anti-virus software. There are a lot of time consuming ways to get rid of it, but I just went into Safe Mode and restored my system back to a point before the popups mysteriously started to appear and that took care of it.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

I've been meaning to link to my sister's painting site.

Also, over the weekend, we saw Inception. It's an interesting movie, worth seeing. My only complaint: why are movies so loud? Can't theatres turn it down during the action?

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

It's nearly August, time for my annual Saratoga post! I looked back on what I've written here over the years to mark the occasion, and found this from 2002, this from 2003, this from 2006 and this from 2007. I also have an essay from 1998, written in the dark ages (ie, pre-ejournal), I'll have to upload it to GBP before I can link it here. So I guess I can't call it an annual post, some years I do my best to ignore it.

This year opening day passed and I was too preoccupied with other things to focus on it. My class has been competing with consulting. Plus, yardwork and all the heavy lifing are entirely my responsibility now. I'm blue over Ande's death. And of course, Prankstergate trumped opening day in the news coverage (that's no mean feat). I did have a flash of pleasure that it rained, though.

Something that I can't stand about the Capital District is the obsession with horse racing. There isn't one thing about it that charms me, not the hats (and I love fancy hats), not the gambling aspect (I don't even buy scratch-off lottery tickets), not the nightlife (and that's another thing I love, or at least used to, before I got too sleepy), not the pink sheet that the newspapers come wrapped in (it has been handy for housebreaking my various puppies, though), and especially not the gushing over it everywhere (just shut up, OK?).

The only thing I do like are the horses, and that's the reason why I hate every other aspect of it. For the gushers it's about how it is the "summer thing to do." Glamorous, fun, fashionable. Taking vacation days, or absolutely having to be there opening day are considered as legitimate as your doctor appointment or kid's recital or tournament (this is reminding me why I don't miss the 9-5 world).

It certainly isn't about the horses. If it was about the horses, the track would be closed because it is so dangerous. That part doesn't make the headlines, it is a passing mention (if that).

This weekend I will take a picture of Cinderella and post it here. She is my mother's rescued retired thoroughbred. Cindy wasn't her race horse name, that's what my mother calls her, because she was so pitiful, but so beautiful, when she rescued her.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Check out this video:

A Vision of K-12 Students Today.

Strikes me as containing a lot of "truthiness."
This is a great idea! A campaign I can really get behind. Go get a sign at MHRHS!

Another positive thing to do: Vote for Pastor Charlie.

What with Ande's death, I have been remiss about posting some things so here goes...

I saw "Curtains," which was put on by Spotlight Players last night. Good show. Another thing I can get behind, community theatre!

I also saw "Chicago" at Mac Haydn theatre recently - wow. I've seen it many times before, and it has been great every time (the movie is also good), but it really stood out as theatre in the round, with few sets.

Then, recently I finished Atwood's "Year of the Flood." As always, great book by a master contemporary writer. Scary too. "Oryx and Crake," sort of its "pre-quel" was better, though.
DA drops charges. Yay!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Recently I have taken on a consulting project that I believe will be beneficial to the organizations I am consulting for, as well as to me - in that it will inform my own classroom behavior in a positive way, and finally, I think it will benefit the university as well.

One of the essential elements of the project is encouraging teachers to get in touch with that early love of learning that many of us lose touch with the more we are formally educated. In this way they can connect with students, who still have natural curiosity.

I’d say the overall philosophy of this very free approach to learning is constructivism, with the tool of inquiry-based learning being the focus. Although the discovery-learning approach has much in common with progressivism (which falls out of favor any time back-to-basics movements are popular), it is a more abstract approach, while progressivism is concrete. As a result, a few elements of the more structured approaches, such as essentialism, are also in evidence.

As I spend more time working on this project, I already find that it is influencing my thinking. I have evolved my college teaching over the years to be more constructivist, although I also have some essentialist elements. But a big piece is about the students asking questions, and they are used in online and face-to-face discussions. It works well, better than always having me asking - and sometimes answering - the questions.

In this project elementary students are told to ask questions and see where that takes them. The questions are explored, changed, added and subtracted. Eventually they will identify possible sources and try to find answers.

I’ve been doing quite a bit of writing on the subject, so it is often on my mind recently.

A few days ago the story broke of the homeowner who is facing charges because he tackled one of four teenagers who was trespassing and causing mischief in his yard late at night. I was writing an important note to my nephew on my laptop in the livingroom, when the story ran on the Channel 6 news. I was half-listening (as opposed to not listening at all, which is my usual state) because the story was interesting. Then I heard the name Rob Madeo and it caught my attention. I sometimes read his blog that appears on the Times Union website, and also read his now-defunct Albany Eye blog, which he wrote anonymously. Very little of the story was left, and I thought he was the man who had tackled the kid. I thought that was interesting, so I decided to read the details from my desktop, before going to bed.

I found the story was already semi-viral, and that Madeo was the teenager’s father, not the homeowner. I read the original story, and saw that it had run on the front page (remember I am a print subscriber even though I often read stories on the internet instead), with no identity of the kid’s father. Then the next morning, the story with Madeo identified was the top story on the front page. I also noted that an anonymous emailer with the alias “the Delmar tipster” was credited as the source for some allegations from the kid’s side of the story that were not in the police report.

The story jumped out at me for several reasons. I could see that it generated controversy in the blog commenter community even before Madeo’s name was revealed. The parents of the boy were pressing charges against the homeowner, while the teenager was too young to be cited. This raises questions about our rights to private property, a very big issue, and it did not surprise me that there could be national interest in the story. Next, on an emotional level, I think it captured the frustration many feel with people blaming others, taking no responsibility, and using the courts and lawyers to resolve things that used to be between neighbors.

Once Madeo’s name was revealed, the local interest in the story jumped even more. In the days before the Times Union jumped into the blogging scene, when there were Capital District bloggers mostly toiling away with little audience, the Albany Eye was one of the few blogs they routinely trumpeted. It was no secret the author was a media insider, but the question was who. AE clearly had access to information not privy to outsiders, and also had an axe to grind with some media folks and organizations.

The question was answered in 2006 when AE broke the story of Trey Anastasio’s arrest. Turns out the insider was from television: WNYT (which went a long way toward explaining AE’s animosity toward Liz Bishop), and AE had scooped his boss. To keep his job, AE had to be shut down, and it was. I don’t remember whether that was when I first heard his real name, because I vaguely remember reading posts about it on some other Albany-based blog that existed at that time (and maybe still exists, not sure), and also reading a personal blog that did not cover media which was purportedly written by the AE blogger. But my memory about that detail could be wrong. I do know when I heard his name, it wasn’t familiar to me - I think he was never on the air at WNYT and so viewers would not be exposed him. I don’t regularly watch WNYT, so I am not sure about this either.

Fast forward a few years and he surfaces in the Times Union blogger community, not as a paid staffer, as a volunteer. By now his identity is known, and it appears he is no longer connected to the television station. His posting style didn’t change very much. Some of it is funny and interesting, but there are a lot of nasty, offensive posts that are defended as satire. In his FAQ about the Albany Eye fiasco, he blows off the ethical questions.

His fellow bloggers are an assortment. The paid staffers tend to be political (one of them was recently hired by YNN, and she sucks. She brings the same nasty tone to Capital Connection that she did to the TU), write about lifestyle issues such as whether to shave your pubes or paint your fingernails pink or red (which gets a lot of commentary, go figure), or about fine restaurants to try in a quest to become even fatter (I’m mean). Some of the staffers rarely post, and all treat the blogs like 9-5 jobs, which is understandable. But topics die out at night and over the weekend, because all comments are moderated. This may also happen because people are reading and commenting on blogs only while they are at work. (The implications of that alone could be the subject of a study.)

This leaves the volunteers - on a wide variety of topics. There are the super controversial (Animal Rights, Tea Party), the various other causes, the very nice (mostly about pets, animal rescue, eating healthy, etc.), and the town-specific (sometimes these go viral, sometimes these are nice, and other times mundane). It can be a cliquey environment, both between various bloggers, and among the commenters. A couple of male volunteers have been very outspoken in support of Madeo. The females who have posted on the subject are more critical.

I’ve been chronicling my comments on various Times Union blogs so that I have a record. The ethical questions raised by this story are what I find most interesting. I’ve been interested in the issue of plagiarism for a long time, since I sometimes catch cheaters in my classes. It’s an issue about which I am an objectivist - not a constructivist as I usually espouse, when teaching, learning, or in the consulting project. I note the ethical failings in our society (Enron, Jayson Blair, Hevesi, too many to list) and see a connection to the students who cheat.

Parents who intervene for kids who can do no wrong. Taking no responsibility for the consequences of one’s actions. Suing one’s neighbor, rather than having an iced tea or beer with them.

I find it frustrating that the TU is absent self-reflection, as if it does not have a role in shaping perception. This is always the company line at the TU, and I have never seen any of the volunteer bloggers call them on it. In the Troy Record, this story appeared today, far inside, and the father was not named. The TU can say they are withholding the kid’s name, but when the father is so prominent in their front page stories, how can they make this claim with a straight face?

They can try to shush the dissent, all the while glorying in the hits.

I’ve covered so many of the points that disturb me in my comments which I have pasted below, so I won’t re-hash them all here, but I think you would have to be very dull witted to not wonder what Madeo’s role is in the shaping and presenting of this narrative. His defenders can deny it, but his public actions have demonstrated a pattern of deception and low ethics. He hid his identity, threw unsubstantiated mud at others, and betrayed his employer. This time around, that his son is involved does not seem to matter to him at all. He’s going to prosecute, to sue, to get even. And delight in the limelight and the sympathy of fools all the while. I bet I am right, that the Delmar tipster is Madeo. Try not to look at the man behind the curtain!

Interestingly, last night I was thinking about this, and generally, when I am fevered with thoughts, I am inspired to write. Instead, I took paper and pencil and drew a cartoon satire. It is something I do from time to time, all the way back to childhood and it is always called Nileston News. But I have not done it in maybe a decade, and before that, it was decades since I did it routinely. I could instantly see the influence my consulting project has had - I am rediscovering that joy in asking questions and seeing where it leads me.
Despite this sensible editorial, another wagon joins the circle.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Another wagon joins the circle.

Couldn't resist.

This is so much fun to watch. Not the hapless homeowner, but the spin of the TU, Madeo, and his BFFs.

jt: I agree with you 100%.

JES: I resent the generalization that those who disagree are writing under cowardly aliases and that those of us who question the TU's role are stupid. Why was Madeo's kid outed in the TU? Why was this front page news? Who is the "Delmar tipster?" I'll bet it is Madeo. Why did he lawyer up anyway? His kid has not been charged, isn't the district attorney's office enough? Seems to me the TU had a major role in the spin. Shame on Rob Madeo, and shame on you and Kevin Marshall for defending him. Yeah, I get it. He's your friend. Tough. All of you write under the TU masthead and so open yourselves up for scrutiny. You chose to write here. You could have stayed in your own little corner. If you are sure you don’t want to spend your free time writing for this audience then why do it?



I’m not suggesting that there is some sort of concerted effort of TU bloggers to have a conspiracy. However, I think it is silly to just blow off this discussion entirely. There are several things that disturb me about the TU’s, and various “volunteer” bloggers, spin.

-commenters are chastized for things Madeo is proud of in his online persona (anonymous posting, personal attacks)
-sweeping generalizations and lumping together dissenters, anonymous commenters and the truly abusive
-lack of reflection on Times Union role (this is not only true for this story, but often in the TU, and I see nothing but denial and justification whenever the editor addresses it)
-lack of real reflection on motivation for posting (research demontrates that we are more likely to stereotype people unlike us, people we do not know, versus cut slack for those that are like us, and that we know)

1) “Re: The cowardice of anonymous comments: I stand by that. Whatever I say in public, I say under my own name, so I have to take ownership of it…But most of the comments that I read that made my soul hurt were anonymous ones . . . from people who would never speak that way if they were forced to use their real names.”

Actually I agree with you on many of the anonymous comments on TU blogs generally, not just in this viral story. Look at comments on just a couple, the Animal Rights blog or the Tea Party blog, for instance. I imagine there are some that are even worse that do not make it through the moderator’s filter.

However, the reactions of you, Kevin Marshall, and Michael Huber in making generalizations about aliases in an effort to demonize the other side is unfair. Not all dissenters are anonymous, and not all the anonymous vitriol is directed toward Madeo. It also seems disengenuous – if you are so dismayed by the vitriol (who isn’t?), the huge interest in the incident and the dissent from the presented narrative, why was the story on the front page of the print edition for three days, highlighted on the website for days (still is), and the subject of today’s editorial? Why so much posting on it from the bloggers?

2) “Re: Me being protective of Rob Madeo because he’s my friend: I think the total time that we’ve spent speaking to each other in the “real world” runs to about, maybe, 10 minutes…Plus, whatever I felt I need to say to or about Rob, I would say to him directly, in private. Our whole lives don’t have to be lived online, folks…”

Frankly, I don’t care whether you are friends, but I asserted that you were because I could think of no other reason why you would defend him so stridently or be upset by the commentary this has generated. His online persona has not inspired any confidence that he merits loyalty. (You later mentioned that your wife is a lawyer, and that explains it. You are not as repelled as I am by our litigious society. Think it is OK to sue a relative when you hurt yourself at their house, etc.) I guess there must be opportunities to add to that 10 minutes of FTF time between you, since you mention saying something directly to him in private and not living our whole lives online?

3) Re: ggiuliano’s “All of you write under the TU masthead and so open yourselves up for scrutiny.” I do open myself up for scrutiny . . . I live and work in the public domain, both as a paid writer (not for the Times Union), a volunteer blogger, and as an employee at my day job. I work for a nonprofit corporation . . . you can easily go online and find my salary, benefits, all sorts of other stuff. Google my name and you’ll pages and pages and pages of hits about me, because I use my own name online. I don’t really know what additional “scrutiny” you wish me or others to undergo. If I were involved in a controversial community issue, I have no doubt that the TU editorial staff would go after me just as they went after both parties in this case. I hope that never happens…to me OR to you…”

The same is true for me. I am not anonymous online, nor have I ever been. I don’t write things on the internet that I would not say in person. I am not suggesting you should or that I want you to undergo scrutiny. I am saying that you have to be realistic that you will undergo greater scrutiny by writing under the TU’s masthead. That is part of the tradeoff. You must have agreed to blog here for a reason, I assume to get more readers? With readers comes pushback, debate, and opening yourself up to more scrutiny and speculation. This is one reason why some prefer aliases, and even popular bloggers have tried to conceal identity. They want to say things that may have repercussions if they were identified. Rob Madeo tried to do this with Albany Eye. Was he a coward? He wrote a lot of personal attacks about the on air talent of competing networks. Was that unethical? It certainly backfired on him eventually. Why is no commentary offered about that when the viral commenters are ridiculed?

When you were in your own little corner, you could probably write pretty much anything you wanted without worrying about getting a ton of disagreement among commenters. Comments that were rude but would still be acceptable in the TU blog world could be deleted, and the offending commenter would go away and not upset your mom when she read your blog. This is true for me. My identity is not a secret, and I could be scrutinized and called out, but that rarely happens because I am in my own little corner, one step above the paper journal I kept for years before moving to the electronic world.

I am a little uncomfortable with this: If I were involved in a controversial community issue, I have no doubt that the TU editorial staff would go after me just as they went after both parties in this case. I hope that never happens…to me OR to you…”

First, because I am still wondering if the TU unwillingly outed Madeo? Next, because they have not gone after him with nearly the same fervor as the homeowner. And third, certainly I agree that the TU would go after me if I was involved in a controversy. But you wording (all caps OR) makes it sounds like a threat? I assume that wasn’t your intention.

4) Re: ggiuliano’s “If you are sure you don’t want to spend your free time writing for this audience then why do it?” That’s exactly the question that I was asking myself, in public, under my own name, putting it for public scrutiny…”

Well, it is a good question. I can see why this more public forum could be less enjoyable than the little corner. Words have power, and a thick skin is necessary to protect sanity. I’m not sure why you repeat this to me, though. I am not anonymous, nor have I ever been.

I think I touched a nerve (I often do when I jump in, which is why I rarely jump in):

JES: I’m just asking questions and seeing where it takes me. If you don’t like the insinuation, that’s OK. I am not implying it is as orchestrated or top down as you seem to think I do. But I think there are still questions to be asked. I don’t know you (aside from this blog), your wife or your mom. Your mom I mentioned because I would delete insulting comments on my blog that might offend mine. I think that was clear in my next sentence which you didn’t quote. I know the thing about lawyers is touchy, and I apologise for offending you. I added it because you said you hated the phrase “lawyering up” which I used (and I believe it is perfect for this situation). To me it just illustrates a different world view of ethics, morality, law etc. than the one I hold. The example I gave may not capture your feelings at all.
Bravo. I agree with this 100%.

This too. Amen, sister.

Hmm. A gap in the circle.
First wagon in the circle.

Pasting my comment here. Also going to add the plagiarism tag, because I always keep track of things I believe to be influential in producing the ethical erosion I deal with sometimes. [Later: changed to a new tag, ethics]

I am neither an anonymous coward nor a hypocrite. I wonder why you, and your buddy Rob, embrace the son’s version of the story with barely a question while what the homeowner says is “alleged?”

Kids lying is also older than our grandparents and is still fairly common.

1. Ding Dong Ditch is older than your grandparents. It actually dates as far back as the 19th Century and is still fairly common.

How does this matter? It’s an old prank so that makes it charming? Or are you suggesting not having heard of it before makes one ignorant? Kids don’t do it in my village as far as I know, and I didn’t know anyone who did it when I was a kid, either.

2. Madeo is going to punish his son. If you’d read the article, you’d all know that.

I have read every article, before you started wagging your finger, in fact. Frankly, if the TU wanted to out the parent’s identity, and Madeo jumped right in, then why not reveal what that supposed punishment is? I can already hear the cries of MYOB when essentially this story is being milked for all its worth.

It takes a village to raise a child, right? That shouldn’t just mean entitlements. It should also mean that families are accountable to communities, not that you could be sued or arrested for intervening when a kid is misbehaving.

3. This is all still new and raw. We don’t know that these charges are going to be maintained or if/when the Madeos may decide to drop them.

The fact is that they are currently pressing charges. If that’s met with silence it is doubtful they will make the right decision on their own. Perhaps with the community speaking out the Madeos will do the right thing and drop the charges. (They should also make the kid apologise, but I have a feeling that will never happen.)

4. A lot of you are crying “you don’t know what you’d do to protect your children!” while chastising Rob for looking at his bruised and visibly shaken son and deigning to press charges against the man who did it, regardless of the circumstances.

Regardless of the circumstances!! You have to be kidding me. Son was the catalyst, and actions have consequences. He wasn’t hit by a car while riding his bike.

5. I’ll be attacked for saying it (again), but regardless of where it happened, Mr. Van Plew gave chase and was WRONG WRONG WRONG. Not from a moral standpoint, but from a safety one. Under absolutely NO circumstances should you do that, whether the people fleeing were playing ding dong ditch or trying to steal your stereo. That’s not just me saying that, that’s also any police officer. You all cry “you have no idea what they were up to!”, completely disregarding that if this kid did have evil intentions, Mr. Van Slew’s actions would have further put himself and his family in danger. Anybody who knows for certain they would react similarly needs, for their own sake, to re-examine their thought process when it comes to this sort of thing.

Nice of you to throw away the moral angle. Yes, we all know for our own safety we shouldn’t walk alone at night, and we shouldn’t fight with an attacker over our purses. I would not chase someone who was lurking around my house, nor would I hold them for police, but I am a small woman deep in middle age. Wrongdoers depend on good people doing nothing. Where do you draw the line on blaming the victim? If I do walk alone and someone assaults me, is it so much my fault that the attacker should walk?

6. Every single one of you who suggested Rob’s son should have been beaten worse or shot – what the Hell is wrong with you?

No argument there.

7. As someone else pointed out, kids do dumb things. To suggest that parents – whether it be the Madeos or the hosts of the sleepover – maintain constant mental control over all actions their kids take shows a stunning lack of grasp on reality.

I don’t believe parents can do this, and I also know that even good kids do stupid things. But Madeo is responsible for his own actions, and pressing charges is sending the wrong message to his kid.

8. Every single one of you who suggested Rob was a bad father clearly don’t know Rob or his family. More importantly, you should be ashamed of yourself.

You know what? I deal with young people all the time. Most are wonderful, but a handful are unethical and amoral. They would cheat, lie or low level steal if it served their ends. They are used to having their parents intervene and defend every mistake they make. I suspect it is one reason we see so much professional misconduct in the news – everything from Enron to Jayson Blair to Blagojevich. Often I am the first person whose path they cross that does not let them off the hook lightly after catching them. I do blame poor parenting, and frankly, that is more of a stretch than this case because the young people I reference are young adults, not teenagers. I am most sincerely not ashamed of my attitude – I feel I am doing them, and the world, a service by being the wake up call, and holding them accountable.

9. I sincerely regret my initial stance, which was nothing less than a full indictment of Mr. Van Plew’s actions. My reaction was raw and not well thought out, and I need to man up and apologize for it.

Again, no argument.

10. A kid who plays ding dong ditch isn’t a “hoodlum.” Get some perspective.

Maybe not, but based on Madeo’s reaction of placing blame, I am not convinced it is not a pattern, and that his kid isn’t starting down a bad path. Will the next article or blog in the TU go to great lengths to show junior is an honor student, loved by all, and is kind to babies, puppies and kittens?

A later comment: Your defense is evolving to ginning up sympathy for a dad wanting to pursue justice for his poor battered baby.

Since you have admonished us to read the articles, I’m having trouble reconciling this from the 7/22 story “The police report said the Madeo boy suffered a cut on his elbow, bruise over his eye and a bloody lip after being tackled by Van Plew, but the boy refused medical attention” with your statement in the comments above “what’s being reported is that the police reported several lacerations, a bruise above the eye, a swollen lip, and according to their lawyer it’s said he could end up permanently removing teeth.”

Although he refused medical treatment at the scene, his injuries were such that he may lose teeth? And there were multiple lacerations in addition to the cut on his elbow? This is in the police report, or the lawyer asserted it? Where is this being reported?


I actually can understand why you are writing about it, because you quite clearly are friendly with him. And I recall reading a post you made several weeks ago about your desire for fatherhood and fondness for infants. I think that instinct is sparking you to identify with your friend’s situation, and think he is admirably protecting his son.

Babies eventually grow into 14 year olds. They can be a lot more challenging at that age.

DL writes “I don’t see how the TU has any vested interest in him.”

I do. He may not be an employee, but his blog hits, and the traffic generated by this fiasco are revenue generators. Selling newspapers is getting more and more difficult. Plenty of media outlets have folded.

Kevin writes “…it’s people trying to score points on the internet (WHY?) at the expense of Rob and his kid. And I think that’s wrong.”

Just on the internet? The Times Union isn’t capitalizing on the situation? Yesterday’s print story was low on the front page and didn’t include Madeo’s name, but did include this:

Gerstenzang denied that Van Plew threatened the teenager with violence if he tried to escape before police arrived, as the teen allegedly told police in a statement, according to an e-mail from a town insider who calls himself “the Delmar tipster.”

Is the Delmar tipster Madeo?

The story is all “allegedly” about the kid’s behavior, but not the homeowner’s. What happened to innocent until proven guilty? Madeo’s son is not the one facing charges. It also included TMI on the homeowner’s life.

Today’s story was on the front page, above the fold! In fact, it was the top story. Madeo is extensively quoted. The last is “…it’s a very sensitive issue that I’d rather not be discussing.” Than why was he discussing it? Why was he identified in the paper at all?

Madeo may deny it, but he is a public figure. The controversies he has generated are bound to spark discussion and criticism. (He may even be enjoying the attention in a conflicted kind of way.) What I think is wrong is that it is being presented as poor him and his kid, boo hoo, it’s all at his expense, you people are mean.

This is exactly why much of the community is outraged. I am tired of the sense of entitlement, ethical relativism, and lawyering up. This is what I see in his behavior and the justifications for it.

I could not care less about scoring points on the internet – I write for myself, have done so for years, and note this incident to keep track of ethical failings in media, politics and elsewhere because it is a particular interest of mine.
More on this story. I wrote the following comment, but since what I wrote yesterday mysteriously didn't appear on the Bethlehem blog, I guess my instinct to post it here was correct. So here's my take today:

Careful, Teri — better get the disclaimers ready because the TU blogger “community” is already circling the wagons. It must be so hard for the clique to resist posting on this controversy — all those seductive hits and comments! But dissenting from the company line is not allowed. When censoring the commentary isn’t sufficient to extinguish debate (as is happening at the Bethlehem blog), then the next step is dismissing it with remarks such as “But not under any circumstances am I going to allow anybody to cheer on the actions Van Plew took, regardless of his intent.”

The mention of intent is ironic, given this from Madeo’s Albany Eye FAQ: The Question: You worked at one TV station and made fun of other TV stations. Wasn’t that unethical?

His response: That’s a question worthy of a master’s thesis, not a web FAQ. I don’t think you can judge ethics without examining intent —and take my word for it, I did not use the blog as a tool to drive up ratings.

I don’t need to write a master’s thesis to know that his ethics are clearly questionable, as demonstrated by his online persona, both at the TU and in the Albany Eye days, the Trey Anastasio fiasco, and his pressing charges in defense of his troublemaker son for an incident that should be handled between neighbors.

The Times Union’s reporting also raises red flags about “intent.” Why did they report so extensively on the homeowner’s background and neighborhood in the original story? And why did they later out the kid as Madeo’s son, so that his identity is now known? To generate traffic?

BTW, I too have never heard of “ding, dong, ditch.” It would upset me if punks were doing it my neighborhood (luckily better families live in my more humble neck of the woods I guess). Yes, many teenagers pull pranks and use profanity, and much of the time it doesn’t make the paper. Some also shoplift, drink, do drugs, destroy public property, do acts of vandalism, drink and drive, speed and text while driving, and take other foolish risks. They have to learn that there are consequences for their behavior, and this is a teaching moment opportunity. It is a warning sign — a chance to nip it in the bud before the kid’s behaviors escalate into a tragedy. Too bad the Madeos are choosing to convey the wrong lesson.

A later comment:

I think this is a productive suggestion. I do believe that farmwork is a good experience for kids. It has been a big part of life in my extended family, and having real “chores” builds character. This will only work with a dear friend or family member, though. I doubt farmers have time for a stranger’s or acquaintance’s kid with and attitude.

Last month I was picking strawberries and there was a woman nearby with her teenaged daughter and the daughter’s friend. The friend was not unpleasant, but the woman’s daughter was all about copping an attitude. Complained constantly, sighed that is was boring, said strawberries are bigger, better and cheaper in Price Chopper so why bother. Mom’s goal was only three quarts, with each picking one, but eventually the woman gave in after quickly picking a scant quart and promising to make waffles for the daughter.

Although I like the idea of community service, I am not certain of its usefulness as punishment. The stigma may turn people off instead of inspiring them to be lifelong volunteers and better people in the long run. But I am not completely opposed to the idea.

Some ideas for what works:

1) Modeling good behavior yourself.
2) Learning when to say No and sticking to it.
3) Television, game systems, computers, smartphones: beware. I like technology and have mixed feelings about these things, but taking them away for a time, and making the privilege be earned, can be effective. I also believe that television should be very limited for older kids as a general rule, and entirely absent in infancy/early childhood.
4) Being proactive about who are your children’s friends. Also being cognizant of when it is your kid who is the bad influence, instead of always blaming others.
5) Having something to do. It doesn’t have to be a myriad of activities, although activities can be positive, it can also be a job, but it doesn’t have to be that either. Responsibility at home works, caring for pets, the garden, washing dishes, mowing the lawn, doing laundry, otherwise helping out – cheerfully.
A 'ding dong ditch' clickfest -- Page 1 -- Times Union - Albany NY

I sometimes read the father's blog at the Times Union, and read the old Albany Eye years ago. I posted the following comment at the linked blog, but I decided to repost it here.

"We feel he’s being disciplined in an appropriate manner,” Madeo said. What did he do, wipe his son’s tears away, hand him a new ipod and say don’t worry, we’ll get even with that creep who dared to try to hold you accountable? Big surprise, Rob Madeo has no moral compass. His offensive July 20 blog post “The Glenmont Cat Wranger Rides Again” is his idea of funny. The July 19 post “How To Get Fired from TV News Without Really Trying” completely skips the irony – he practically got fired, and had to shut down the Albany Eye blog for stealing the scoop from his employer. His idea of funny at that time was making nasty comments anonymously about the appearance of women who were on air at competing networks, or tossing flip comments about horsemeat as a delicacy. No doubt he is raising a menace. What a loser.

Monday, July 19, 2010

I've started some long-term consulting work, and so I'm busy, busy, busy at the moment. It's good stuff professionally, and personally, it is taking my mind off the loss of Ande somewhat.

We spent the weekend in Samsonville, and did a lot of swimming!

The thought of getting another cat has entered my mind. At this point I know I will, but the question is when. I've never waited very long after one of my dogs has died (the longest was 6 weeks or so, the shortest was one week). I didn't get another cat after Edna died, although I seriously considered it and did some looking. But Bob's recurrence was detected less than 2 weeks after Edna died, and I decided it would be better to wait until he recovered. Getting to the vet etc. was just too difficult while he was convalescing. Little did I know that by the time he was feeling almost 100% better, I would also have lost Ande.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Ancient Buried Ship Hull Found at Ground Zero Site. Fascinating!
I thought it might help to focus a bit on happy, rather than sad, memories. Although his life was far too short - but that's always true, I guess - in his time with us Ande made a big impression on everyone.

He was so cute! His tiny size contributed to that, as did his friendliness. From Edna he learned to slide his front paws down before jumping off a cabinet - this was a trait she developed as an older cat, and even though he could have easily jumped to the floor without this caution, he copied her behavior. Despite this, he did like to jump up on high perches, and would often go up on cabinets, especially in Samsonville.

As a kitten, while we were introducing him to Sam, Sophie and Edna, we kept him in the bedroom sometimes, and I remember we could hear him playing with various toys - batting around a ball with a bell. He wasn't all that playful otherwise, but he would often play with Sam, or bat small objects from the table to the floor. He liked to tip over our full water glasses! And to follow me in the bathroom, where he insisted on sitting on my lap. I could flip him upside down and he let me cut his nails. When a window was open, he would sit on the windowsill and watch the birds and squirrels.

I wanted him to be an indoor cat, but felt bad that he couldn't go with Edna and the dogs when they went outside, so I would put on his collar and a leash, and bring him out with me. He was very docile, and that much exposure made him happy - in fact he loved to go, would calmly lay in a lawn chair while I watered the plants or weed whacked the yard.

He liked to perch on our portable dishwasher, which is on a table near the window, and while up there, he would bat the small Woodstock chimes that are hanging above it. I don't think I will ever be able to hear the tinkle of those bells without thinking of him.

He wasn't a big eater, but he loved Greenies and salmon flavored Natural Temptations. He also liked to drink the water from canned tuna, salmon, chicken or turkey. He was very vocal, communicated with loud meows. Sam was his buddy, more than Edna or Sophie.

He wasn't a hunter, but I think he did get one mouse when he was young.

Some of these cute things may have been indicators of his health condition, I guess - his calmess, his tiny size. (And of course, his poor appetite.) Sniff.

Sometimes I called him "Ando," but our favorite nickname for him was "Little" and he may have thought that was his name. Ande is Edna backwards, and today I am thinking without an Edna maybe there couldn't be an Ande?

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Here is another post from Food is My Porn (this time the author is my nephew).
Trying to articulate some of the ways I feel.

When I was 12, I got a baby goat for my sixth grade graduation present. My mother asked me if I wanted a ten speed bike or a goat, and naturally I chose the goat. I am not sure of the date I got her, but I know it was in the Spring when she was several weeks old. I named her Heidi, and she was a cross between a Nubian and a Toggenburg. We didn’t have a fenced area near the barn for her, she was extremely mischievous, and when she was loose, she would attack the bushes near the house. She could devour an entire large shrub in minutes. So when I couldn’t closely watch her but didn’t want to lock her in her stall, I would tie her in the yard.

One day in August, I had her tied so I could swim with my friend in our pool. During that time, she managed to stretch her collar and the rope so that she could reach some brush at the edge of the yard and the woods. A small branch slipped through her collar. She was very smart, could untangle herself. So she tried to get loose by going ‘round and ‘round. Her collar became a tourniquet, and she strangled. She was still warm when I found her minutes later. I will never forget the sight, or the horror I felt. I yelled for my mother. We rubbed and rubbed her, trying to revive her, but it was too late, she was gone. I was devastated.

One result of that trauma is that since then, I have never felt comfortable with leaving a collar on an animal. I much prefer harnesses for walking, and I never tie my dogs. I take their collars off whenever they are inside, and they don’t wear them at all in the yard (which is fenced). I always took Ande’s collar off, too. He wasn’t free-roaming, and he was always closely supervised when outside. Edna didn’t wear a collar at any time. (I know their collar-less states create risk of them being lost without ID tags, but I am just as neurotic about being sure the animals don’t get lost.) The other outcome of that horrible experience was that at the time, and for 36 years, I blamed myself. I still do today.

My mother said it wasn’t my fault. Whether she said this because she believed it to be an unpreventable accident, or because I was a child and couldn’t be blamed for that reason alone, I am not sure. But I didn’t agree, and still don’t. It most definitely was my fault. I wasn’t paying attention, and I didn’t properly assess the risk.

I’m not saying that it was intentional, or even that I could have been expected to know it could happen. I’m also not arguing that there is a need to place blame for accidents, or for when someone dies.

But I do believe in learning life’s lessons, taking responsibility, and being careful to not repeat mistakes.

I am (not clinically, but self-diagnosed) to some degree OCD. I have to check certain things, and there are triggers: in particular, fire risk or the animals. I lock the doors more to be sure someone doesn’t open one and inadvertently let the dogs out, rather than because I am afraid of burglary. So I have to make extra sure that the door is locked when I leave. I always unplug certain appliances, am sure the oven and stove top are off, and close all windows when there is a thunderstorm. I don’t let my dogs stick their heads out of the car window both to protect their ears, and to be sure they don’t jump or fall out. (They never would, as they take on the beliefs of their owner eventually, and so they always bark at all dogs they see who have their heads out of the car windows – warning them of the dangers, perhaps? This has been true for all of my dogs.)

I worried over every minor health problem that my first dog Howie had, or any tiny change in his behavior. He seemed sickly, always had skin and digestive issues. But he lived to the age of 15 ½ with few major sicknesses and little need for veterinary intervention. The same is true for Sophie, although she has had more illnesses than he had, and as a result has needed more trips to the vet over the years. But despite her various issues, she’s never been seriously ill. She is now 11 ½, which is quite old for a Bassett Hound. Doesn’t matter, though. I worry still.

Howie's start in life was a good one, though. You could tell his mother had a fabulous home. Sophie's is unknown, but I assume she is the product of a puppy mill.

I never worried about Penny. She ties with Edna as the easiest pet I’ve owned. Never sick, no issues, behavioral or otherwise, no need for constant fussing. Both proved there was no reason for concern – Penny lived to be 16 ½, and I had Edna for over 16 years. (I don’t know her age, but she was an adult when I found her.) Penny had been born in a home, although the family clearly didn’t have a lot of money, and were sort of running a backyard breeding operation. But she had no papers, so they weren’t really cashing in. And they did seem to adore her mother, and even cried when I took Penny home. Edna was a stray, so who knows what her life was like before. But she was a Main Coon Cat, and Penny was a Poodle, so maybe the breed had something to do with their robustness.

Similarly, I didn’t worry over Rudy. He, of all my pets, was the picture of health. Shiny, handsome on the inside and out. High energy, and blessed with a winning personality. I was so proud of him. Then he got Lyme Disease at age 7. I am not sure if that was the cause (maybe), or if it was his beginnings – born at the shelter to a stray mother. But he got cancer when he was 9 years old, and died a week after his 10th birthday.

I am not sure why I didn’t worry over Ande. Certainly the pillow paw should have always been in the back of my mind. Although I didn’t make the connection, his eating habits (not good), small size, and docile temperament should have been red flags. And his beginnings were even worse than Rudy’s – Ande was born in a feral cat colony. So why didn’t I worry more?

I don’t worry much over Sam either. So far he seems very healthy. I got him at the shelter, but he was owner-surrendered. I assume his mother was not a stray.

All of these pets have eaten homemade diets. I was doing it before it was “cool,” when people said you were wrong to not feed commercial food. They all drank spring water. Some have taken supplements. The vaccination / flea control history is different with each pet – in some cases, I followed the vet’s recommendations (which have changed over the years), in others I was more cautious. But generally, I have erred on the side of caution. I can't make any generalizations about whether it has had an impact, though, or if I should have made a different decision.

None of these dogs and cats succumbed to accidents – Heidi’s sad death taught me to be mindful. However, the reason I accept blame for Heidi (I wasn’t paying attention, and I didn’t properly assess the risk) is true for Rudy and Ande, also. Of course they did not die from a sudden accident, but there were occasions, before and during their final illnesses, where I should have been as mindful as I am about making sure stoves are turned off and windows are closed. I ask myself, why didn't I notice? Why didn't I do some things differently?

Leaving out Heidi's very different circumstances, my worry over all of my animals' health has been warranted in two cases where I didn’t worry (so I was wrong), unwarranted in two cases where I did worry (so I was wrong again), and unwarranted in two cases where I didn’t worry (I was right for a change). Sam is still young, so the jury’s out, but my track record says that I am neither a good nor a bad judge of risk.

This picture was taken on June 13. Hard to imagine that one month later he would be dead!

I don't usually do this so fast after a pet dies, but yesterday I packed up his food, dishes, beds, litter box, collar and leash, toys, medication, scratching post. I had to get them out of the living room and kitchen, can't look at them every minute. I am tempted to rip out the catnip I am growing for him, but I have resisted. I am not sure what I will do with these things. The food could be donated to the shelter, but could the other items transmit a disease to a new cat? I am not sure. Maybe I will ask Dr. Tina. The dogs have an appointment on August 2.

Bob picked him up while I was at a meeting. It was very upsetting, much more so than if he had died at home, which would have been my preference if I could have seen into the future. But then I may have felt guilty for not taking heroic measures to save him. I had to look into the bag he was in - Bob didn't want to - but since I didn't get a chance to say goodbye it was important for me to see him again. I wasn't able to curl him into a basket as I would have liked, but I wrapped him in a fleece blanket and put him in a box. I put a package of Natural Temptations in with him. Silly, I know, but it was his favorite food, when he felt like eating. Last evening we drove down to Samsonville. Our nephew and my father had dug a grave for him in the afternoon, right next to Edna. Not that she liked him very much, but he loved her.

Today I feel so sad. Also guilty, like it is my fault and I could have saved him somehow. Or should have worried and fussed over him and appreciated him more for the short time I had with him or something. It isn't rational I guess, everyone notes what a good life he had, that he would not have lived this long as a feral cat, how much love and attention we gave him, but I know it is the natural process of grief. All of that is easy to write and say and hard to believe and feel. It is especially hard because he was three. I was blindsided, when I shouldn't have been. The signs were all there that he was gravely ill, and I pushed it out of my mind. For his whole life I knew he had "pillow paw" which is a sign of a terrible immune disorder, but I was in denial. He seemed healthy, until very recently. Even then I thought he was young and it wasn't serious. That was how I felt until Saturday, when serious worry set in. But it wasn't until early Monday that it hit me: he might die, although even when he was at the vet, I chose to believe that he would bounce back.

For the first time in 17 years, I don't have a cat. He might be my last one, and that is a distressing thought, too.

I have so many things to do, and focusing on them would distract me, but I am too distracted to focus on them...

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

RIP "Little."

Here is a post I wasn't expecting to write today. Our sweet little cat Ande died this morning. I am kind of in shock, although since Saturday I feared that this might be the outcome. We don't know exactly what happened, but he had an immune disorder. We knew from his first vet visit as a kitten. It wasn't FIV or FeLV (he tested negative on two separate occasions). He never grew very much, was very docile (not at all like a very young male cat activity wise) and was not a good eater. He didn't have any bouts of illness before this, but he was sort of sick for the past couple of weeks. He got over the kitty cold part just fine with antibiotics, and we thought he would be OK, but his appetite never recovered. He lost weight and was lethargic and declined very quickly over the past few days. Didn't respond to various treatments (steroids, blood transfusion, hydration, syringe feeding) when he should have. I knew he would never be a long lived cat like Edna was, but I didn't expect him to live for only three years! But I know if I didn't take him home he would not have lived even three years. People who have feral cat colonies are criminals!

Thursday, July 08, 2010

From the Times Union, an all too common story:

A 25-year-old woman has been charged with allegedly abusing two German shepherds, city police said.

Her age is important enough to lead?

Later, in the story:

The detectives determined that Paetow faces 92 count counts connected to animal cruelty or neglect in the Syracuse area and has a history of selling and buying dogs.

What? In that case, was it really necessary to put "allegedly" in the lead? And why wasn't this near the beginning of the story?

How does this woman now have two dogs in Troy anyway?

The Troy Record does a better job of highlighting the most important facts in their opener:

A woman already facing dozens of animal cruelty charges elsewhere racked up two more on Wednesday in Troy, where police say she left her two dogs to starve in a fenced-in backyard after she was evicted.

Later, in their story:

Cpt. John Cooney said Troy detectives discovered that Paetow’s criminal history included some 92 animal cruelty-related counts during their investigation and added that she has a history of buying and selling dogs. Felony charges under what is known as “Buster’s Law” were considered, he said, but dismissed due to issues of intent.

“The law is carefully worded to put the felony-level change more at a torture-type behavior,” he said.

Are you kidding me? Starving is not torture? This is an outrage. Thanks to the Record for reporting on it.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Fourth of July in West Shokan. This flag has 48 stars! It was given to the family of a soldier who was killed in the Bataan Death March. First time it was unfolded was on Sunday.

First weekend in Samsonville since Easter. My brothers and father had opened the pool a few days before, and it was still green-ish, but we decided it didn't matter, and swam anyway. Wonderful! I already have gotten more use out of it than all last summer. It should be all clear by the time we go down there next time.

We traded in our Dodge Ram truck for a Mercury Mariner (same as Ford Escape). It's something we have been considering for a couple of years (sparked by gas prices) but I know it was hard for Bob to give up having a pick-up truck. Still, he can't use one any more, and although I am stronger now, I don't need a truck, although we do need 4WD. The truck was just sitting there in front of the house, he was only driving the car. So we knew after his recovery, we had to make a change.

We got a grate to divide the back for the animals (with the seats down) so that he doesn't have to worry about being stepped on by an excited dog. We were both concerned that they would hate being separated from us, but we put their beds in the back and they love it! What a pleasure. The Mariner is working out great overall, it has running boards which help with my lifting Sophie, and it will be better for hauling bags of dirt etc. for the garden than the car is.

When we got back Monday evening, I tested out my strength, and installed the air conditioner in the kitchen. I've wanted to use that one even when it wasn't 95 degrees, because otherwise using the oven or dryer is impossible. I did it!

Yesterday, we broke down and had our nephew come over and install the (much heavier) ones in the livingroom and bedroom. We didn't need them at all last year, and were hoping to tough it out this summer, too. There is something to be said for getting used to the heat. But this level is just too extreme. The animals were suffering!

And using the office was out of the question, which is a problem when I am in the middle of my summer online class. I do have a laptop, and yesterday I spent the whole day in the kitchen - but there are some tasks that are so much easier on the desktop.

Aside from one basil plant biting the dust (and the damage to the coleus and parsley from a critter), the garden and flowers are doing great!! I was a little worried about not being able to water on Sunday, but the deep watering I did before we left on Saturday lasted until yesterday.

Been struggling with various animal illnesses - but they all seem to be on the path to wellness at this point.

Friday, July 02, 2010

I almost forgot! I've been picking tomatoes for a couple of days. And parsley has joined the coleus in being eaten by a critter. What could it be?

Thursday, July 01, 2010

I participated in the Paws in the Park walk for the Mohawk and Hudson River Humane Society on Saturday. Southpaw, the mascot for the Tri-City Valley Cats was there.

I went to Syracuse (on Amtrak) and Cortland on Monday and Tuesday. I visited my niece and nephew, and then went with a friend to her daughter's freshman orientation. I've visited many SUNY campuses over the years, but never Cortland. It was interesting seeing a campus from the "other side."

You can't really see it here, but behind the house is a large cemetery - an interesting feature of campus.
Wow. What kind of a crappy district would it have to be to hire this dude? It doesn't reflect on his character? HELLO! This is one reason why the teaching of ethics is such a challenge. People shrug their shoulders at truly heinous behavior. No biggie. I don't have a "dog in this hunt" but I have seen him interviewed on the TV news and my impression is that he is a weasel. (Except that is an insult to weasels.) OK, so he is an unethical jerk. All he does in the interviews is take no responsibility and blame others for his own incompetence.

The Raucci disgrace isn't the only issue. The recent trampling of a student's rights when the middle school principal suspended the kid for refusing to wear rosary beads under his shirt is another. (Of course the TU has done its best to give that situation limited coverage, what a surprise.) Anyway, what a no brainer. If anyone involved had a shred of competence or integrity they would know they will lose in court. Instead they flush more money down the toilet and make the district a laughing stock. You can't trample on a student's rights to free exercise, regardless of whether some gang or other has adopted a religious symbol as an identifier (and it is very clear this kid was not in a gang anyway). It isn't the same thing as wearing a tee shirt that says "F You" or something. Incredible overreach by the school administration, and you don't have to be a legal scholar to know that.

So good riddance. Sadly, the board enabled the bad behavior and should be turned over by voters, but since apathy is pretty strong they are probably secure. This is like a case study, makes a great example of board and administrator folly for my foundations class - so thanks for that at least.