Monday, August 30, 2010

"Spoke" too soon!

I read this local paper (which generally is crap, although it sometimes makes a good effort and I am sympathetic to the difficulties of newspaper publishing), often am alarmed at the articles and letters, and occasionally (rarely recently) write in myself.

There are some letter writers who submit something for almost every issue.

As  I was making the dog food, I couldn't get one of the letters off my mind. I had been shocked when I initially read it, but as I often do, clicked to the next thing on my list and decided to ignore it. Didn't work.

So I came back upstairs and sent a short note to the editor:

It's not my intention to argue the merit (or lack of merit) of either position in Mr. Murphy's or Mr. Langbert's ongoing debate, but to ask the Olive Press a question. In your August 26 editorial, you state: "Look back over the pages preceding this editorial... folks are addressing local issues, occasionally angry over interpretation of facts and reading of signs. But the dialogue always returns to a central civil reality: people enjoy the dialogue."
In whose reality does slapping someone in the face with a crowbar qualify as civil?
I think because I am contemplating the semester's beginning, which means a new section of Toleration class, I couldn't just let it go.

Later: the editor responds: "I guess only when it occurs in print. good point..."

I didn't bother emailing again, but isn't that a distinction without a difference? 
Last post (I think) before I have to weed whack, pick veggies (garden is awesome), make dog food and do laundry - all efforts to be ready for tomorrow's day on campus. Not that any of those necessarily have to do with academic work, but if they are hanging over my head, I have a hard time focusing.

I think you can see how well Sam, Sophie and Teddy are getting along! Easiest adoption ever.

Tidying up my blackberry in advance of the new semester (not that I use my bberry for work, but whatever), I realized that I forgot to write very much about our trip to Philadelphia earlier this month.

We walked around near the Liberty Bell, and ate at the City Tavern. I'd read a few reviews of it before we went, and found them to be mixed. I'm assuming that residents of Philly might find it touristy and not as good as places that are familiar to locals, and that might be true for those in "the know." But we loved it! Definitely worth visiting. Great pot pie! Wonderful atmosphere.

Also, a couple of weeks ago we ate at the Mountain Brauhaus in Gardiner. It was wonderful! Love those potato pancakes.

Finally, in Cortland we went to the Stone Lounge and danced. What a great band they had, it was so much fun.

First day of classes (for me) is tomorrow. I am ready, I guess...
Back from my visit to Cortland (what fun!) and Samsonville (where I swam yesterday!), here is my promised post, in "honor" of Travers weekend (seems I was wrong about the weather).

From 2003-2008, more than 3,000 horses died at race tracks in the United States, with 637 of those deaths happening in New York. Those statistics don't include what happens to horses that have retired, or the ones that are not "winners;" some are sent to slaughter. This doesn't make the news, unless the horse is well-known.

The fleabitten grey is Cinderella, a Thoroughbred who once raced, rescued by my mother from a life of neglect. The Morgan is April, who has enjoyed the loving care of my mother since she was a foal.

This post is really to honor them, and all horses, who deserve better than what a "career" in racing offers.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Worked a long day, about 12 hours. But I finished my syllabi and the online class BLS site so it was worth it. I still have a bunch of stuff to do tomorrow (and hopefully there will be enough breaks in the rain for me to pick the tomatoes, beans, and cucumbers...not to mention weed whack). I'm taking Friday off, going on a short road trip to meet a friend I've known since the first day of kindergarten (44 years!). She's dropping her daughter off for freshman year of college. Fun, but the timing isn't great.

Still, I'm in OK shape. It feels very hurried, though. It's complicated by the consulting project, not only does it take time, but the good impacts I've noted on myself have extended from cartooning to changing a lot of assignments. Injecting them with a shot of creativity. I tweak every semester, but a major overhaul doesn't come around very often. This is partially fueled by a need to make changes in the assignment where I found plagiarism last Spring.

The schedule this semester is strange. My thursday class will only meet 12 times, instead of the usual 14. Two classes to cut. Need an injection of creativity there too! Also there's the need to add in some current issues, among them: more on immigration, the mosque in NYC controversy, and some new examples of ethical lapses. How to do this with two less classes!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Here's a (season inappropriate) horse scene to tide me over until I take one of Cindy.
I am close to freaking out! The semester starts Monday 8/30. One of my classes is fully online, and the others extensively use online materials as supplements to the primary on campus delivery method. On Thursday, the university did maintenance to Blackboard, which is what we use for the online component. Having the courseware unavailable for a day this close to the start of the semester was a hassle, but not that big of a deal. However, since the maintenance, I have been experiencing browser errors when I try to design. It happens on all of my machines, with different set-ups, browsers, IP addresses, and even providers. The "helpdesk" seems to be stumped...they recommended a bunch of time consuming things to try which didn't work and haven't responded since Friday. What compounds it, in my opinion, is that they operate with a 9-5, M-F approach, rather than 24/7, especially this close to the start of the semester. This has been my chief criticism since we switched to a new model back in Spring 2008. I will need to troubleshoot this myself if I don't hear from them with a solution very soon. AAAAHHHHH...

We spent the weekend in Samsonville. Teddy/Theo traveled like a dream! What a good kitty. It was cold on Saturday, and rained all day yesterday, so no swimming :-(. I think the weather forecast is muddied in the Capital District because of Saratoga. They don't want to discourage people from going to the track. I have been "anecdotally" observing this for years. Early in the week, the forecast always predicts the weather will be lovely for the weekend, unless there is a hurricane or something brewing that would make people suspicious that it was wrong. Then late in the week, the forecast mysteriously transforms.

I hoped to take a picture of Cinderella to post here (as promised), but the weather was so crummy I've decided to wait until this weekend. It will then coincide with Travers weekend, which is perfect. But Travers weekend is one where an inaccurate forecast never fails to be in evidence. So I wonder if we will have buckets of rain this weekend?

Yesterday, coming home, the southbound lanes of the Thruway were backed up to Catskill. Those silly folks who believed it would be sunny...

Update: BLS problem is fixed! YAY.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Watched Precious last night. Good movie, strong performances, although very difficult to watch at points.

Took Teddy/Theo out on a leash. He wasn't a bit afraid. He found the flowerpot of catnip and was so excited, rubbing against it - then rolling on the patio. Got his beautiful coat quite dirty :-). Too bad he is declawed, because he can never be loose.
I feel another Nileston News coming on...

Thursday, August 19, 2010

The countdown to the semester is here. I am busy, busy, busy. Juggling the consulting (which revs up during the K-12 academic year) is going to be a challenge. Right now my to do list is long! Going to Samsonville this weekend, and Cortland next weekend, that's not exactly helping. Oh well. I'm sure it will work out.

I spent the past two days with teachers, in workshops, preparing. Lots of interesting things developed, but nothing to write here at the moment. Not enough time, and I still need to parse it - figure it all out, including what I am comfortable sharing here.

Blackboard was down today for maintenance, so making progress on syllabi etc. was not possible. I'll have to get up early tomorrow to make up for it.

Teddy/Theo is adjusting really well, he's such a sweetie. No problems with the dogs at all. He's not thrilled over the switch to canned food, but I notice he is already more perky. He has discovered how to use his own legs!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Meet Theodore! He'll be Teddy or Theo, or maybe both, jury's still out. I tried several times, and this was the best photo of the bunch. He's much more handsome in person! He's a real sweetheart, and his introduction to the dogs was incredibly easy.

We got him Maine Coon Cat rescue, via petfinder. He's five years old, and was still with his owner. We drove all the way to southern NJ to get him, left at 8 am and got home at 2 am! We stopped in Philadelphia on the way, went to the Liberty Bell and ate at City Tavern. It was fun!

The cat's got a couple of issues. The most obvious is that he is obese. I knew from the pictures that he might be overweight, but this is more than I expected. We checked yesterday, and he weighs 17 pounds. (The owner had emailed me 18.) I didn't think much of it because male MC cats can be 15-25 pounds. Edna was 13, and I'd say he is no bigger than Edna (hard to tell) so I'd like to get him to 13 or 14. Even 15 would be a big improvement.

I did some research on the net yesterday about cat obesity. I vaguely remembered some suggestions from when MHRHS took in that 35 pound cat a couple of months ago. I guess it is epidemic, just like with people. It is caused by feeding low quality dry and leaving a bowl out constantly. Not all cats will eat and eat, but some will. And cats need more protein than what is in dry food.

I plan to eventually feed him canned Wellness, like I did Edna, but it will probably take weeks to get him fully switched. I can't start out with Wellness because it isn't as palatable as commercial brands and even a fat cat will starve itself when it is addicted to cheap dry food. But I started the transition, using Fancy Feast canned. Luckily he gave me no problem about eating that, although he will only eat one can a day, so I still have to give him dry food for the other meal. No free feeding, though, I am measuring it (1/3 cup dry per day), not just leaving it out. I have to weigh him every 4 days or so to be sure he isn't losing too rapidly. Since he doesn't have that much to lose compared to morbidly obese cats, and he likes Fancy Feast, just going on canned and having portion control should do the trick, but it will probably take about 6 months to get him to 14 pounds.

Aside from being too fat, he's a beautiful cat. Coat and coloring are gorgeous. His eyes are yellow. Sometimes they seem a little cloudy, at other times we don't notice that. I've never had a cat with yellow eyes so maybe it is just because we are used to green. He sees fine, and they aren't red or runny, but that is something for the vet to check out when we take him. I think it could be caused by being overweight, too. Something about fat lipids collection.

Personality-wise, he's a dream. Uses his litter box, etc. There have been no problems with the dogs at all. Sam would like to play, but that isn't happening, until this cat loses some weight I doubt he will be at all playful. I gave him a ball and he wasn't interested.

He is used to being carried around. He isn't so fat that he can't do things on his own but he expects to be picked up and carried - he meows at you, when you bend to pet him, he jumps up and puts his front paws on your shoulder so you can lift him, and is happy to be carried around that way all the time. It's cute but he's going to learn to use those legs!

When we had him in the car about 5 minutes, were discussing how fat he is and Bob said, "I'm attached to him already." He rode loose in the car, and does not seem to get car sick like Edna did. You just pick him up and put him in, he doesn't struggle at all. Then you just get out and take him out. He didn't know how to go downstairs (he could go up), and would wait, meowing for me to come and carry him down. (He's too heavy for Bob!) That was a hassle, because he kept going upstairs, hasn't wanted to stay in the kitchen and so I'd have to take him down when he wanted to use the litterbox or have water or to eat . But this morning he learned! Yay! Otherwise I would have to block him in a room with a litter box and water when I am not home.

He's declawed, which may be contributing to his problem with the stairs. I would never declaw a cat, can't understand why someone would, but I suppose if I have to carry him a lot, it is safer on my arms.  I do plan to take him out sometimes, but I'll put him on a leash. He needs fresh air and exercise. I tried to get a collar on him today, and he acted like I was crazy. So that will have to wait until Bob is home.

I think he is afraid of thunder and lightening - we had a terrific storm and he hid in the office behind the printer the whole time. When it stopped he came out.

His name was Andy. That kind of freaked me out, although Bob didn't mind. It just didn't seem respectful to my little Ande. But we decided to wait, and see what we thought about keeping his name after getting him. Well, he doesn't seem to know the name Andy at all. So, we figure there is no problem with changing it. We settled on Theodore, will call him Teddy or Theo. Teddy has the "dy" sound, similar to Andy, and he does look like a bear. My father suggested Leo, which would be a good choice also. So maybe Theo. Bob said Teddy while he is fat, and Theo after he slims down!

Friday, August 13, 2010

This morning I was up early (for me, during the summer). I planned to work on the blackboard component of my classes - specifically, for the fully online class, which goes "live" on Monday. I was greeted by a black screen - apparently the machine had re-started at some point during the night. An error message about wininet.dll resulted when it tried to load my desktop, and all I got was the wallpaper and screensaver, no icons. It wouldn't go into safe mode, except for the one with the C prompt. Going back to the last good boot didn't stop the error. I could get the task manager by hitting ctrl-alt-del, but it wouldn't run anything. After trying many things, and the feeling of panic starting to set in that I might need to use the repair CD...or worse, maybe it was a hardware problem...

I found this website, followed the steps, and it worked like a charm! Must have been another virus. I fully scanned the system, but didn't come up with anything obvious except for registry errors. But, so far, so good.

The remainder of the day was spent with graduate student emails. Some sticky situations always arise this close to the start of the semester. So blackboard and the Fall online class will have to keep.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

I don't know how I missed this story. (Probably because I find myself only reading the advice, obituaries, and three or four comic strips since the TU stripped out nearly all other worthwhile content in their last makeover.)

I'd be more likely to have read the story if it had appeared in the Record, so went to their website to check if I'd also missed it there - and the link goes to the TU story! Why is it still exclusive, I wonder? Isn't this public information? I swear, schools operate under such a veil of secrecy when it comes to personnel issues.

Anyway, glad to have stumbled across the details here.

I know students in my classes, especially my toleration class (where it is the focus of one three hour class) wonder why I am such an extremist on this issue. I cite many examples, but this will resonate when I include it in the reading next semester: A piece of recent local evidence, right in the education field.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Got The Lovely Bones from Netflix and watched it a couple of nights ago. I already read and loved the book, and didn't expect it to be as good. I have to admit they did a fine job of adapting it to a movie. It can't have been an easy story to transform into a screenplay. They managed to capture the essence of the book. (I still enjoyed the book more, though, and I am glad I didn't watch it first - after seeing a movie version, I am rarely tempted to read the book it was based on.)

It was borderline too creepy for me to watch, though. I had no trouble with this aspect when reading it. There must be something about the printed word, or about my imagination, that allowed me to handle it. Visually represented, it has been haunting me, especially at night.
I don't get why what this guy did was illegal? He didn't beat someone up. He didn't commit an act of vandalism. I don't see where anyone was placed at risk. He cursed out a passenger, took beer, and slid out of the plane. An offense that he would be fired over? Yes, certainly, but it seems to me as if he was [dramatically] quitting anyway. I suppose people may have been afraid. But this isn't the Minority Report world. I think how he expressed his frustration is way better than the workplace nutjobs who litter the news because they shoot up colleagues.

Monday, August 09, 2010

Yesterday, it wasn't a boiling hot day, but the solar cover had been on, so the water was warm, and I swam. Today, it is so humid and hot - earlier this afternoon I had to water my container tomatoes because they were wilted. I tried to pick string beans, but the sun was just too much. Unfortunately the pool is 65 miles away...:-(

I did manage to go out a little while ago and pick the beans, though. And thankfully the tomato plants have perked up.

Friday, August 06, 2010

So far I have had only one email from a student complaining about summer grades. (The final grade was D.) Now I have a few days before I have to immerse myself in my consulting work, and in the Fall semester. What shall I do?

I have to complete an online training to get approval for research I am doing, so that will be one thing on the list. The other is yard work, I have to weed whack. The garden is bountiful! What a great year for growing things, almost makes up for last year's constant rain and abysmal harvest.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

This strikes me as incredibly disingenuous. You are caught stealing on videotape, resign so that you can escape criminal charges, shoot a bunch of co-workers, and then your family blames it on discrimination? Talk about the ultimate in not taking responsibility, blaming others, and denial.

Unrelated...last night as I was cooking dinner, through the kitchen window I noticed wild turkeys crossing the back yard, a bit down the hill. I had to do a double take, and run from window to window (covering Sam's eyes when necessary) to get a better look. Sure enough, that's what is was! It's a sight that is commonplace in Samsonville, but completely unexpected in Castleton.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

I'm done with summer grades! A day before deadline. Yay!

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Today I walked to church in a better mood. I've been feeling blue lately, mostly associated with the loss of Ande so suddenly, and the end of the semester pressure is always anxiety producing (grades are due Wednesday). But, I started to do some light looking (I expect it to take a while) for a new cat, and just seeing pictures of possibilities made me think about the future in a positive way, instead of dwelling on sadness. Plus, I got a major amount of grading done yesterday.

The weather was beautiful, perfect for walking. My ankle held up well!

I got there pretty early, as I always do when I walk rather than go in a car (the car can be so last minute, a deadline pusher). I was expecting some "news" among the announcements at the beginning, and sure enough, there was. But it was not what I, or probably anyone else (except for those few already in the know) was prepared to hear.

You can imagine that the congregation was so distracted after this thunderbolt that it probably would have been better to cancel Mass (not that this ever would be done, of course). Our band was playing today, and they are so good - but even that didn't help. The music either made you feel like crying, or no one joined in and sang at all.

Back to feeling blue. Even though I made more progress again today on the end of semester stuff!