Thursday, February 24, 2011

I seem to be having a relapse. I heard that was one of the downsides of using zinc. The cold subsides for a while then comes back. I have never been able to really try it before, since the pills make me throw up. This time I used Zicam, which made me nauseous, but not as bad as doxycycline - so I sprayed it four times. Seemed to work like a charm. I think I will never use it again! Better to tough it out immediately, than have it diminish the symptoms so quickly, only to have them linger for longer.

Anyway, I have been trying to do a few non-academic things during this break. That is made easier by being sick, because I feel less guilty. I still have some work that I must do. I have been chipping away at it, and I will continue to do so. But I refuse to spend the entire break on it. I have been reading - yay - and also, inspired by this post of Elaine's, I decided to try working with plarn, something I have wanted to attempt for the past few years.

Besides grocery bags (which for some reason I still collect even though I have mostly used re-usable shopping bags for the past few years), the bags I most often have on hand are from Stewarts' (our local convenient chain) and from the campus food service. Both are high quality, much better than grocery bags. 

I sorted them and made two skeins of plarn:

Then, using the Stewarts' skein (on the left), I crocheted a granny square:

The skein made the above square and about half of another. I haven't used the food service skein yet, because that will become the trim. I am going to make place mats consisting of two granny squares each and trim. Unfortunately, I am out of Stewarts' bags! So the project will have to wait until I have accumulated more.

I'm having fun working with it. It is different than yarn, hard to describe; it can be frustrating at times - mainly because I find it difficult to count the stitches and I always forget how many I have done :-). [Insert favorite old age joke here.] I am getting the hang of it, though. The result is very sturdy. Eventually I will try something with grocery bags. I would like to have more color, but since I rarely go shopping at places that use colorful plastic shopping bags, my options are limited. Bob said, "go and ask if you can have some bags," but I told him that defeats the purpose!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

I have a hard time wrapping my mind around this. Is it alleged that he is receiving communion? Or is this just calling for him to be denied communion? There are a couple reasons I have a hard time understanding the story. I am under the impression that he would have to have his marriage annulled for this even to be an issue that could be raised? Is that not still true? The next reason, in my experience, people who chafe over the rules tend not to attend Mass regularly. I don't know any Catholics who would take communion without going to confession first, even if it's only occasionally, much less go up when they have been divorced. But I've never seen a priest play arbiter during the ceremony. Some people don't go up to communion; they decide, whether following church tradition or for another personal reason.
I'm not going to link it here, if you are wondering you can google it - but if anyone who reads this is a Daily Show fan (I am not, I can barely tolerate most television, including "real" news, so forget Comedy Central, I'd rather stare into space and do nothing than waste my time watching it - on second thought, they are the same thing...) please contact them to express outrage about the camel stunt. What moron thought that would be funny and clever rather than cruel? I also contacted animal advocacy organizations, as I always do when I see something that warrants speaking out.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

We watched the Social Network last night. It felt very tense, almost anxiety-producing. Definitely kept both of our attention. Performances were convincing, dialogue was clever. It's a hatchet job to some degree, like most biopics. They generally take famous people who you admire or respect or at least whose art or works you appreciate, expose all their rumored flaws, and judge them harshly. 

Kind of interesting that the founder of a social network is portrayed as if he has a social disorder or maybe even Asperger's. But I guess it makes sense in a way. I wondered how much of it was true, so did some googling today. Read a lot of different perspectives, and it seems a mishmash of truth, distortion, and lie, which in a weird way winds up seeming kind of fair except maybe in one aspect (gender). I think the take away message probably is pretty close to the truth, though.

He's a painfully socially clumsy whiz kid. The blue blood twins had a great idea, but they could never close the deal. He screwed over his friend, but more from cluelessness than malice. In the end he settles. It wasn't a flattering portrait, but it wasn't unsympathetic, either. (Now the napster guy, that was unsympathetic.)

It is interesting to think of how fast social networking has grown, to consider the implications of technology. (This movie doesn't really address this, but it sparks me to think about it.)

Sunday, February 20, 2011

I dashed off Friday's post and one minute later, came down with a cold! Just the way to start the break.

It's no surprise - the students were coughing and sneezing all over the place on Thursday. I am careful, wash my hands about 50 times per day and use a paper towel when turning doorknobs and turning off the faucet (I always feel a little guilty about this and hope no one sees me - don't want to be labeled a germophobe?). But this time it didn't work. Can't always be on alert, and what to do about the air?

I have managed to fit in some reading. It is such a great book! Hard to tear myself away. I was going to paste an excerpt but I can't find the paragraph I want in any of the PDF samples that are posted by the publisher or Amazon. I don't feel like typing it right now, so it will have to keep.

I also had a comment brewing on a political column I read in today's Times Union, but I don't have the patience to find it online. As I was searching I got distracted by seeing a reporter's name that always stops me in my tracks, because of my obsession with plagiarism. So I gave up on trying to find the article. That will keep too, but in this case, it will probably keep forever.

Which reminds me, I decided to cancel the TU. This is uncharted territory for me. The morning newspaper is one of my pleasures. I have received the TU every day since I have lived in the Capital District. I have always read some local morning paper, even as a kid, and sometimes I have subscribed to more than one newspaper. Now that it is on the Internet, it isn't quite the same as not reading the paper at all, but it still will be a big change in morning routine. I don't see myself reading the news in the morning on an electronic device, while in the kitchen drinking coffee and eating my breakfast yogurt.

There are a lot of reasons for canceling, including:

  1. It often never arrived this winter. I know the weather has been extreme, but it is a hassle to have to contact someone all the time to receive a replacement, which then either comes late in the day and so goes unread, or is delivered the next morning, or isn't delivered at all. Why should I pay for that? Even if it does arrive, I've already read what I wanted on the Internet. Most of the time I do not bother to call and report it, so I am paying for nothing - not even paper to wrap the Christmas ornaments in. (It doesn't help that our carrier stuck a note in a week or so ago with 10 disclaimers about why service has been poor [the snow and ice, his crappy car*] and asking us not to call the TU since his pay gets docked.)
  2. When it did arrive, it was frequently late. It is supposed to be delivered by 7, but when it comes late I mean 8 or later. I am not complaining about 15 minutes! So it goes unread, see #1.
  3. It isn't cheap, and this seems to be an area where we could cut expenses pretty easily, something that we decided to attempt since the price of oil (and a couple of other things) is so high. It is not cheap to heat S'ville! Even when left on 50 degrees. Then, our giant icicles melted. I was relieved! But during the thaw on Friday, the ice on the roof tore down half the gutters on one side of the house. Who knows whether there is damage to the shingles. (No leaks yet, thankfully.) Sure, insurance will pay (and raise our premiums), but there is a deductible. This is unrelated, but in our quest to cut costs, we converted our landlines to cell! We didn't get rid of them and go with our cells alone. We got a device that two regular phones plug into and it picks up the cell signal. It is from Verizon, $20 per month. It included caller ID and voice mail, and unlimited calling - no long distance charges! So now my DSL will no longer be competing with the telephone. Sometimes these cost cutting measures wind up improving services! It goes live on Tuesday. I'll post a review here eventually.
  4. Much of the content is available on the Internet. 
  5. They have gradually eviscerated it over the past several years. Ann Landers dies, cut down to just Abby. Assault the comics regularly. No more Dr. Fox. 
  6. So many stories irritate me, why expose myself to it? Why pay them for annoying me? Bob agrees and he said today, "I'd rather you read me excerpts from Mark Twain in the morning." So that will be the new life's pleasure!

*it isn't. I saw it one day when I was "hunting" the paper and he drove by on his route. It is rather nice and new. But it is a rear wheel drive van. Not a good choice for someone who depends on driving to earn his bread.**

**I am inspired by M. Twain - he used this phrase all the time.

Friday, February 18, 2011

I've been crazy busy this week, so no time for posting. It isn't that I have more work than is typical really, but I generally have a lot of flexibility on MWF, and that wasn't true this week, I had to be away from my home office more than usual. But now I am looking forward to winter break, so I should be able to tie up a lot of loose ends, and maybe even read some Mark Twain..
I completely agree with this post. Should have been done long ago, in fact.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

What a ridiculous post.

The discussion in the newsroom must have gone something like this: "How can we generate high traffic and a guaranteed flame war in the comments on a dead Saturday?" "Oh, I know. Let's pose an inflammatory question based on an unsubstantiated assertion." "And let's make it at the expense of animals." "Just be sure to put it in one of the more active, volatile blogs." "Great idea!"

Then once the comments erupt into nastiness, there will be a follow-up post or comment about the awfulness of the community's commentary and how uncivil the posters are. There will be much hand-wringing and eventual censoring.

I think not liking animals very much is a hiring criteria at the TU. Otherwise why would the alleged discussion have taken place at all? If the story was the subject, wouldn't you instead be talking about how cute the puppies are, how terrible puppy mills and disreputable breeders are, or how important it is to neuter and spay pets?

Friday, February 11, 2011

This is dreadful. Nothing more to say.

This was taken Palm Sunday 2010 at St. Augustine's. When I was a kid, for a couple years there was a man who played guitar and sang during Mass. It was the Godspell-inspired folk music that was a fad in church during the '70s, and he sat in a pew with the congregation, not in the front or back of church. That was the only time in my memory that we had instrumental music at St. Augustine's, which does not have a regular choir or organ player. In the musical aspect it is a big contrast to Sacred Heart, which has a phenomenol director and choir. It's like a weekly concert. So beautiful. At St. Augustine's, currently there are two songs per week, sung a cappella. (Psalm 118:24, God Bless America, and Holy, Holy, Holy are the favorites.)

Palm Sunday 2010 was extra special. St. Augustine's has had the organ from nearby Boiceville (which closed during the Diocese reorganization) for the past few years but still no organist. The mother of a neighbor of ours was visiting from England, and she is a retired music teacher. The neighbor is a professional musician. She does not go to church with us, and neither is Catholic, but they offered to come to Palm Sunday Mass, play the organ and sing. She took this picture of us afterwards, posing inside our beloved little mission church. She sent it last week. It was kind of dark but I lightened it a bit and I'm pleased with how it turned out. A new picture for my compilation!
Isn't this backdrop a little too busy? And wow, is that new logo ugly or what? Looks ridiculous pasted to the front of the podium. So tacky.

I've been with SUNY in some capacity since 1988...RF, System, UA. (1978 if you count my days as a student at SUCO and SUNYA.) I think this is the most awful marketing design in our history.

About the substance of the article, I have mixed feelings. We are between a rock and a hard place in terms of funding. So many competing demands for the State's money. At the same time, I know my students are feeling the pinch, just like everyone else. It is costing a fortune.

This reminds me, related to last night's post: I notice a thread running through all my classes this semester. They're "edgier" than usual. What is driving it? This cold snowy winter? The economy and job market? Talk of budget cuts? Gender mix? These are outspoken times? Luck-of-the-draw sample of students? Classroom setting? Or have I finally arrived in terms of sparking provocative discussion?

It's exciting when it is volatile, but I do have to be careful about the atmosphere. I read a reflection yesterday written by one student I know from the past. It was about the difference in tone between the classes. The one last semester felt warm and fuzzy. It isn't that this spring feels nasty to her; she is afraid she is less knowledgeable compared to her more glib peers. I doubt that is true. It's just that she is sweet and not as assertive. I will have to be sure to work on making everyone confident enough to raise their hands. Frequently the quieter ones do have something great to contribute.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Lively class tonight. Something I have found ever since I started teaching the subject is that the majority of students are subjectivists. For some reason, they aren't comfortable with that label, however. They want to pick and choose moral values they support individually, but basically argue for conventionalism - ie, social norms are morally correct at the societal or cultural level, and outsiders shouldn't judge the cultural practices of other groups. Historically, that does seem appealing, I suppose. I mean, the opposite side of that debate in 1900 tended to be paternalistic, insensitive and judgmental.

When confronted with the ugliness conventionalism can entail (that moral reformers within a society are wrong, or that speaking out about atrocities elsewhere that they care about [rather than ones they do not care about] conflicts with relativism) they are uncomfortable and don't want to own it. Instead they wind up arguing for subjectivism, but realize that could be chaotic or a contradiction, so they won't own that either. Still, they chafe at the idea that there could be ethical universals. This is true for all but a handful of students, who tend to favor objectivism. So tonight I told them not to pick that question on the midterm if they can't defend their position.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

For some reason I am in pretty good shape in terms of workload. (Probably because no essays have been due yet, so there is nothing to grade.) Instead of procrastinating on the low priority tasks as I usually do, today I created my grading spreadsheets and scanned some articles for later in the semester. I was itching to go read Mark Twain, of course, and that is what I would have done in the past...then paid the price in several weeks when there are a lot of other demands on my time. If I play my cards right I may be able to fit in a guilt-free hour or two of reading this afternoon. Hmm. Which is the better approach?

So cold! Our glorious winter of '10-'11 continues.

Monday, February 07, 2011

Not being television sports enthusiasts, some years we go to the movies on Superbowl Sunday. It's a really great day to see a movie, because the theatre is empty. That's what we planned to do yesterday, after we knew that the weather was going to keep us from traveling to Samsonville on Saturday. (Seems like an awful lot of S-word alliteration.) The plan didn't work out, so after getting much-needed cleaning out of the way, instead of going to see The King's Speech, or joining the majority of the country in watching television all day, I started to read Mark Twain's autobiography. I bought it for myself at Christmas. I've been excited to read it, but it is as thick as a dictionary, and the type is very, very small - so I knew starting it would take focus. It's great - especially once I finished all the front matter (a lot) and got to Twain himself. I've read the earlier versions so I expect some of it will be duplicative (not that I mind), but there is new material - such anticipation! Now the challenge will be resisting reading it constantly, and ignoring myriad other demands.

Saturday, February 05, 2011

She talked during the victim impact statement so that her client wouldn't have to listen? How rude -- has she no shame? And did she really reference Matthew 19:23-24, Mark 10:24-25, and Luke 18:24-25 to describe his life's chances, substituting "elephant" for "camel?" Does she think it is an apt analogy? Is she aware that it is about a rich man's chances of getting into heaven?

I was so tired after class, more than I should have been considering the snow meant plenty of time at home this week. This contributed. I received two emails about it yesterday. This time around she wasn't in my class, but we were encouraged to give students contact information for counseling and religious services, regardless of whether they knew the young woman. So I brought it up in the night class, since it is half freshman. Very sad!

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Just as I was about to start shoveling today, four teenage boys appeared, shovels in hand, and asked me if I wanted to hire them. "You got a deal!" I responded, and they completed what probably would have been a two-hour job for me in about 20 minutes. They did a great job. I paid them twice what they asked.

Today (actually yesterday, but I haven't been to bed yet) was Sophie's "made up" birthday. She is 12. I don't know the exact date she was born, but we adopted her in early December 1999 and we were told she was 10 months old. So Groundhog Day seemed to be as good as any other date. Since her surgery, she's doing absolutely great. She had been seeming very old to me, but she has a new lease on life now, and that's wonderful. Happy Birthday Licious!

Funny, we had a little party for her. We had carrot cake and ice cream. I took pictures. A little while later, in his monologue, Jay Leno talked about the increasing trend to celebrate dogs' birthdays. He joked that dogs don't know it is their birthday. We often celebrate the dogs' birthdays. I think they do know, at least that it is something special that has to do with them. They definitely know when the Christmas tree is brought into the house that something special is happening. They seem to remember year to year. I think Jay is a cat person! (Not that there's anything wrong with that.)

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

I have to go out soon and shovel...before tomorrow's installment arrives. No need for a gym membership this winter.

On another note, I watched the second half of the governor's budget speech. Very impressive. Not happy times certainly, but he really seems to have a team assembled that gets right to the point, which I appreciate.

Something funny, he seems to have coopted S.O.S. Except that instead of meaning Save Our SUNY it means Save Our State.