Wednesday, September 29, 2010

I found out my research proposal is not considered exempt from the IRB, which means either an expedited (I hope) or full review is necessary. Bummer.

But what a wonderful day I had yesterday on campus! When we were brainstorming about philosophy of education, a student in my afternoon class and another in my evening class listed an assignment we had in another of my classes last spring as a time when they learned a lot and it was fun! Then at the end of the day, I ran into a former student, and he told me he misses my classes so much! Could there be a better job?

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Working my you-know-what off, and I should be sleeping! I spent Friday and today doing elementary and middle school visits, with some college students. It's great to get off campus and witness practice. So much stuff to process. Tomorrow it is back to campus for my regular routine. Found out today that somehow the Registrar is unable to schedule two of my classes for next semester. Despite having the same schedule every Spring for years! How can this be?

Friday, September 24, 2010

Very busy but very very very exciting stuff. More to come.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

This semester I knew my other commitments would have an impact on my teaching. The nature of the outside project is that observing it is getting me back in touch with my creative side. That means more writing, but also drawing, as I have posted here. In terms of teaching, it has meant making extensive and small revisions in classroom practice. Every semester I tweak my materials and methods, but major changes don't happen all that often. That isn't true this Fall so far.

The other impact is that it is a real organizational juggle. The outside commitment is time consuming sometimes, but I have to be sure that everything to do with my teaching responsibilities is done first so I can focus. So far, so good.

For the past couple of days, I have been working on IRB approval documents for my research. I haven't submitted anything to IRB since I did my dissertation. It is even more involved now. It is a very exotic bureaucratic and paperwork process. The kind that gives me a numb head! So much so that "OMG" seems appropriate here.

But, "it's all good."

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

I'm tired! These are very long days - trying to juggle priorities and catch up. Seems to be a nearly impossible task. Then, teaching can be very draining. It is a rush - thrilling, rewarding, fun - but it's exhausting, being "on."

So many things to do this week!

Inspired by Elwyn and his birthday month, my birthday weekend entailed dinner at Scarnato's on Friday, a visit to Goold's Orchard and a trip to Lee, MA to go to the Salmon Run Fish House on Saturday, then after church on Sunday, brunch at the Chatham House, and finally Brooks BBQ from the East Greenbush Reformed Church.

I bought myself sketch pads, pencils, an eraser, and a pencil sharpener! Come on, Nileston News...

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Happy birthday to me! The good news, a friend sent me scratch off lottery tickets, and I won $50! Wow. That's the first time I've ever got more than $5 from one of those things. The bad news, I twisted my bad ankle again yesterday. Nothing like last year, but it has set me back. Luckily Bob is almost completely recovered, so he can fetch things for me this time around.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Rudy would be 15 today if he was still here, but on the 25th, he will have been gone five years. Still hard to believe.

Rudy is the only pet I've had where I knew the actual birth date. He was born at the shelter, his mother had been found as a pregnant stray. I always loved that his birthday was the day before mine.

In 1982 a dear friend committed suicide on this date. Having my birthday be the next day after that tragedy exacerbated the feeling for years. Rudy being born made the date stand out in a good way again. I always showered him with attention, gifts, treats. He was so special.

Needless to say, 9/17 has become melancholy again, or maybe that should be bittersweet. Enough time has passed in both cases that the memories have that golden glow, even if it is tinged with sadness.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Another link to remind me to share with class when we are covering gender and education.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

There will never be a Disney movie about this either. It's not pretty, but stories like these should never be censored. It's painful, but don't look away and do nothing.

It is just plain evil, and may this scum burn in h-ll after he finishes his worthless life. Once again, I can't think of something mean enough to write that would capture my feelings. (Oh, Kirsten Gillibrand won't do a freakin' thing about it either.)
Don't want to forget to make note: the garden is winding down (sniff), but it has been a fabulous year. Have not had to buy veggies since June. Almost makes up for last year's non-harvest.
I have had Lyme Disease, been bitten by a Brown Recluse Spider, and been attacked by fire ants. On Sunday, I got swarmed by ground bees. Thankfully, only one sting on the back of my head. It hurt all night, and yesterday and today it is so itchy! Why do bugs hate me so much?

Sam aggravates bees - he thinks snapping at them is a fun game. He gets stung all the time, although usually the bees don't bother retaliating against anyone else. But ground bees hardly need to be provoked to be aggressive! Bob was stung twice last week. Sam is such a baby about pain, carries on terribly when he is stung. Not that it stops him from playing his game! Luckily, unlike Sophie, he is not allergic. On Sunday, Sam ran to the house as I was being swarmed. I did my best to get them off me before opening the door to the kitchen so we could both run inside. The ones that were chasing us didn't get in, but I brought in one under my shirt. I was in a panic until I found it.

So this morning I checked around the yard to see where the nest is, since I am going to have to weed whack sometime this week, also I can't risk Sophie getting stung, because she will have a reaction. Bad news! It is under the composter.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Interesting piece. I link it so I can find it later, when I am covering educational technology in class.
Last night, Pay It Forward was on television. I own the DVD, and show three scenes of it in foundations class to illustrate Level 4, "the action approach" multiculturalism, but we watched it anyway. It's a tear jerker, but the cast is fabulous and it is a nice, heartfelt movie. It also doesn't assault your eardrums - something that I find to be particularly important as time goes by. Damaged my hearing enough when I was in my 20s, thank you. (So happy I wasn't part of the ear bud generation, they will be hearing impaired long before they hit my age.)

Watching the entire movie reminded me of a student who was in class a few years ago. The student I am remembering was in both of my classes. I appreciate it when students take one class with me and then later take another, but I try to discourage them from taking both of my classes at the same time. Sometimes they go ahead anyway. This is especially true for working students, who have to take night classes, since I teach two.

Without going into too many details, this guy was a bit older than traditional college-aged, and was something of an extremist politically. This was even more true of his beliefs several years ago than it is now - at this point some of the positions are more common. He had stickers all over his notebook and laptop, attesting to his various attitudes and affiliations. He also wrote for the college newspaper, espousing much the same message. But his beliefs were not what made him unusual - it was his aura.

In the two group activities he had to complete with peers, he created a lot of dysfunction. Not because of his viewpoints, it was just his rigid personality, I think. He was generally attentive and respectful, but not very vocal in the class, which is something that surprised me. On the first day I was sure he would have a lot to say, and that class was going to be lively. When he did weigh in, sometimes what he said conflicted with the proclamations of the stickers, and the things he wrote for the college newspaper. The guy was an enigma.

I'd say he was labeling me as the stereotypical stifling of dissent professor who relatiates when grading, so was just trying to spout the company line and spit back what he thought I wanted to hear, but that isn't me at all, and this guy did not strike me as the type to exhibit that sort of brown-nosing behavior.

Anyway, as I was preparing to show the clips from Pay It Forward, I asked whether anyone had seen it. Usually a few students have, since it is occasionally shown on TV, as it was yesterday. But often the majority of students have not seen it before. To students for the past several years, it is an "old" movie. (I think this is something faculty, even those younger than me, forget - when you are 20 years old, a cultural reference from more than 5 years ago is ancient.)

So this fringey guy yells out "It was the worst movie I've ever seen!" He did not raise his hand (out of character) and he did not seem to be joking. But I had a hard time reading him, his demeanor was never what I would characterize as open. I couldn't tell if he was hostile or having fun. He did not elaborate, so I just smiled at him, said lightheartedly, "the worst movie you've ever seen?," and moved on.

Later in the semester, other students confided to me how scandalized they were. Not that I think it is wrong to find a movie too sappy for your liking, but I think the students were upset that someone could be so rude and cynical. They found him strange and scary. Since he didn't elaborate, maybe the saccharine nature isn't what offended him. Maybe he thought the acting sucked. Or the direction and sound track were bad. Or he wanted the ending to be happy. Who knows.

Never can predict what is going to happen in the classroom!
September 13 - 106 years ago, Mimmie was born. In 2007, I found Ande, a tiny little stray cat, in the parking lot at Villa Valenti. Since it was her birthday, and she always had (lots of) cats, I took it as a sign, and scooped him up. Two months ago, he passed away.

I wrote this piece several years ago, in April, on the anniversary of Mimmie's death.

Next Spring, If I’m Alive

Outside the living room window, there is a pussy willow tree that is just beginning to bud. It is now encased in a coating of ice, as is everything else. It looks like it might be January out there, except that in January there were two feet of snow.

Ten years can seem like a long time ago, or a moment. On this day in 1993, my maternal grandmother, Mimmie died. When I think of the things that have happened in the past decade: graduate school, job changes, building a weekend house, the growing up of nieces and nephews, adopting pets, getting published for the first, second, third time, it seems like a lifetime.

But when I think of Mimmie, of the other people who have passed on, and the animals who have gone over the trail, it seems like yesterday. "Next spring, if I'm alive," she would say every year, when she talked about gardening plans. So I guess her leaving in the spring was somehow appropriate.

One of my most prized possessions is a gorgeous antique bookcase that was Mimmie's. In my lifetime she used it to store utility items on the back porch. It was painted green and sat next to the springy wooden screen door that creaked when you opened it. The porch at the old place had the fragrance of mildew mingled with cats. It may seem strange to choose the word "fragrance" to describe the odor but in my memory it wasn't unpleasant. My front porch here in Castleton smells much the same way, which could be another reason I like this funny little house. But open my front door and the scent of "hound" may knock you down; this wasn't the case at Mimmie's.

Ma remembers that Mimmie cut the bookcase in half during the 1950s, so that it would fit in the living room at the house in West Shokan where they lived at that time. The woodstove may be what happened to its other half, sacrificed for an apple pie and a pot of baked beans. In the 1970s, a couple of years before Mimmie moved from the old place to her trailer, my mother stripped the green paint away and revealed solid oak. My growing collection of novels replaced the paint cans on its four shelves.

It sits now in my living room, and holds my finest books. The top two shelves are devoted to Mark Twain, and should he need more space, the others will be gradually evicted. There is one shelf for a set of his complete works, and one shelf for miscellaneous copies of his books. I've never formally studied Mark Twain. His books were not assigned in high school, and I never took a college class that included his work either. Regardless, you might say I'm enamored with the subject. Just some examples of my collection: I have six copies of various editions of Life on the Mississippi and four copies of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn; one of those copies of Huck Finn is from 1948. I have A Horse's Tale from 1907, A five volume set of his more popular works from 1917, A 2001 copy of A Murder, a Mystery and A Marriage, and two versions of his two volume set autobiography from 1925.

The bottom shelf houses The International Cyclopaedia (1892); the third shelf contains various hardcover books, including Lincoln by Gore Vidal, Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin, The Complete Works of William Shakespeare, some Georgette Heyer novels that were gifts from my Aunt Jean and have been worthy of a place in the oak bookcase since it became mine in high school, several dictionaries, and books about Mark Twain written by different scholars.

From my later studies I know this handsome furniture is Federal-style. Sometimes I notice the still-rough end and I lament that Mimmie sawed this piece in two. Then I assess the size of the room and realize that it wouldn't fit anywhere if it was still intact.

I suppose the cold weather will be gone soon enough, the pussy willow will thaw, and my thoughts will go from reading and books to outdoor pursuits. Looking ahead to late spring and early summer, I eagerly anticipate strawberry season. Mimmie didn’t like to go many places, but she did enjoy strawberries picking; in fact, she even liked it more than she feared snakes.

In my mind’s eye I can see her, wearing sneakers and a house dress, carefully navigating the rows, carting quarts of perfect berries, making sure that she didn’t step on any plants. She looked frail, but somehow strong at the same time. Mimmie never gave into temptation as the rest of us did, by sampling the berries while out in the field. That was due more to the fact that insects may have been on them at some point, than to a concern about pesticides. And if she discovered later that a bug had gotten into one of her quarts, she’s have to throw the whole thing out.

“Next spring, if I’m alive,” she’d say afterwards, her blue eyes sparkling as she looked off into the distance, as if she could see all the way until the following June, “I’m only going to pick medium sized red-orange ones, instead of ripe ones. They’re rotten by the time you get them home. And the big ones look nice but they’re tasteless.”

No matter what berries she used, Mimmie’s strawberry jam was never tasteless.
I had an irony attack.
Last night I had so many ideas for things I wanted to post - but as often happens, other priorities crop up. (Actually those other priorities are always there, and I can happily procrastinate if the distractions are things such as picking tomatoes or going grocery shopping, but it's hard to allow nonessential writing to take precendence over my academic and administrative duties, sadly.)

Anyway - checked off a bunch of stuff, and I don't want to forget to comment on this. As you can see, the letter I mention here is the first one.

Editor's Note: We had taken the use of the "crowbar slapping" term referred to in a letter in our last issue as a metaphor designed to push the argument to a different level, and applied in a cartoonish manner (the author being a cartoonist by trade). We had not expected the term to be taken literally, and agree that such terminology is less than the civility I see in the overall discourse between these two writers.

A whole lot more defensive than then "good point" response I received via email, eh? It reminded me of this go around from a few years ago. At the time, I puzzled over why Mr. Thayer attacked me personally, and why the OP would print it unedited. A couple of weeks later, when I was in Samsonville and had access to the print edition (at the time they did not post the entire issue online as a PDF file, they only put up excerpts in HTML), I saw that Mr. Thayer regularly advertised his landscaping business in the Olive Press. So that explained why they printed his attack.

The editor's note about Mr. Murphy being a cartoonist struck me. How did they know that about him? I went through the PDF edition and saw that he is credited as the OP's cartoonist! So again, this explains why they ran the letter with the disturbing language.

Am I missing something here? I admit to not being much of a fan of the OP. I believe it is often poorly edited, sloppily researched, and that the bias is almost always anti-Olive. (And the cartoons suck.) The editorials - written by the editor and/or publisher - are truly pathetic. They are invariably stream-of-consciousness pieces, and finger-wagging in tone - admonishing us ignorant, provincial folks to suck it up and embrace whatever agenda the OP is pushing, with exhortations about what is "right." When they know they cannot reasonably push their preferred side of an issue for some reason - they meander around lamely and finally duck the issue.

Maybe that's the reality where such language is only a metaphor, and positively changes the level of discourse. (The editor's note must mean he perceives the level to have been elevated, right?) But how are threats of violence, even metaphorical ones, cartoonish? (I always hated the Road Runner cartoons, btw, and rooted for the coyote.)

I suspect it is because the OP agrees more with Murphy's politics than with Langbert's. As I wrote in my letter, I am not interested because I care a bit about the nuances of their arguments, but I do confess to feeling like snarkily saying to each of them: "hello Murphy? It's the '60s calling. We want our talking points back" and to Langbert "can the tiresome appeal to pride and make your case without the list of great books you believe only the ignorant have not read."

Saturday, September 11, 2010

It is such a beautiful blue sky day, strangely reminiscent of nine years ago.

I have a hard time with September. Not because of my birthday next week, which I don't mind at all. Still one year on the right side of 50! Or is that the left side?

I've written about my ambivalence toward September many times before, and so won't rehash it all now, but instead will link to this. (Have to now add my little Ande to the list.) There are many more things I could add as reasons - but that will keep - for another time, or forever.

A bunch of stuff is keeping right now - again, maybe forever. It's the kind of stuff that makes writing in a private journal appealing. (But I probably won't do that either.)

Two fun things I did recently: the Chatham Fair last weekend (I love the showcasing of agriculture at fairs, and that has become the one I usually get to in the summer), and the Bridgeport - Port Jefferson Ferry yesterday! Wow! Only way to go to LI, wish I knew that long ago.

Today is the Castleton village-wide garage sale! We participated last year - but are too tired from our travels yesterday to bother with trying to sell our junk. Still, it is worth the trip.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Another terrific column! I always look forward to the Wednesday Troy Record just to read John Gray's writing.

Monday, September 06, 2010

As a kid, I loved stuffed animals. They were my favorite toy; I much preferred them to dolls or board games. (I also liked the arts - drawing materials and craft kits especially.) I have had this rabbit, "Trix," for about 45 years. It was my favorite stuffed animal. (Can you tell? :-) My sister won it (used, although it looked like new) at a little carnival our cousins had to raise money for MDA, and she gave it to me. So in honor of Jerry Lewis weekend, I thought I would share it here.

Friday, September 03, 2010

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Ugh. I wonder what happened to him after this? Out to pasture? Life of abuse? Sent to slaughter? Will Disney show his last years? Nah. Of course not. It will be Disney-fied. In Disney's world, horses just love to run races in beastly hot weather, care about winning, and don't seem to mind breaking their legs, and slaughterhouses, abuse, and euthanasia are never the outcome. Or at least they are not common. The Disney equation is horse racing enthusiasts = horse lovers.

I remember July 6, 1975. It is seared into my mind. I was 13. We were at a BBQ at my parents' friends' house. A horse race from Belmont was on television. A promising Thoroughbred named Ruffian was running. My mother was interested because it was a filly - a very young one, and she disapproved of horse racing (still does, maybe more adamantly). Ruffian snapped her leg. Big surprise! Horses that age do not have leg bones that are fully developed.

She was euthanised the following day. Another big surprise! Horses are not good candidates for that sort of repair surgery. There was a movie made about her in 2007, but somehow I doubt it was a Disney project, unless they were able to Hollywood-ize the ending. I'd never watch it, of course.
The semester is off to a good start! Classes seem engaged, and I am having fun. Best part of all: my computer is fixed and back in my office. Really, it is pathetic how dependent we all are on technology, and I am no exception. I didn't know what to do with myself!

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

On Saturday, coming back from Cortland, we stopped in Oneonta. Why experience the new semester at two colleges, and not at our alma mater? They started up a week ago, so students were already settled in. I don't think we've been to Oneonta when classes were in session for quite a while. After visiting the Union, we went downtown and walked around. I'm happy to report Main Street is much more vital than what I wrote here.

We ended our visit with a trip to Brooks - no trip to Oneonta is complete without it!
First day of classes (for me) yesterday. I walk into my office early (for me), snap on my computer, and get ready to get working. Have to print rosters, email students, make changes to documents, print a few other things, and make some copies. The PC had other ideas. After sitting idle for nearly four months, it won't let me log on and go into Windows. Freezes every time I boot, and even Ctrl-Alt-Del doesn't work. It also won't go into Safe Mode. I forlornly (and nervously) watch as it is taken away. Sigh. I hope this isn't a warning, a harbinger of a bad semester looming. If I didn't have to teach, I would have just gone home.

I managed, used the white board rather than handouts for discussion questions, scrambled to print a few things in the GA office and make a bare minumum of copies (which weren't enough, naturally). Hopefully the machine will be fixed and I will be back in business tomorrow. Luckily I had my blackberry with me yesterday, but that is a poor substitute, and I don't get work-related email on it.

Classes were good overall, despite technology's betrayal.
So much to write and no time to do it! This is how the semester always slams me, I go from a nice leisurely pace, to being pulled in every direction. I feel a Nileston News coming on, and I have no "space" to draw it!

This really irritated me: Ulster sheriff, DA will confer over fatal Route 28 crash. I can't tell you how many fatalaties occur along that stretch of road, but let's just say that growing up near 28 probably is some of the cause of my driving phobia. The article itself didn't bother me that much (aside from the obvious impact of thinking about the tragedy), but the comments! Who cares if he is a nice guy? I may not be a licensed driver, but I am a walking manual of driving laws. I've taken the permit test more than anyone - and scored 100 every time.

Rearend collisions are not a grey area at all. Everyone knows who is at fault, you don't have to get a perfect score to know the law - it is a no brainer. He wasn't paying attention, was going too fast, or was following too close - simple as that. That particular spot is uphill and he was driving a big truck - think about that for a minute. It wasn't an accident, it was a crash - that's what they are called now, because accident implies it was not avoidable, and most crashes are due to driver error.

I have often commented that if you want to kill someone and get away with it, do it with your car. As long as you are not drunk, that is. But sober drivers can get away with it with hardly a slap on the wrist. It is disgusting.