Saturday, July 30, 2011

Such a gorgeous day. The trumpet vines are blooming! I will post a picture eventually.

I'm getting excited for the concert tomorrow but it's hard for me to think about Saratoga without remembering this. Disgusting, cruel "sport" enjoyed by vile, wretched people.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Class ends tomorrow and grades are due late Tuesday. I have everything that I can evaluated, pending the assignments that are due tomorrow. I think it was a hard class for some students. That's always true, especially in the intensive summer online class, but the upgrade in blackboard made it more so.

So my thoughts are turning to the weekend. Bob is taking his vacation in several long weekends, either Monday or Friday or both. That works for us, since we want to go to the weekend house, but neither of us likes long breaks in our jobs, and we also don't like to leave our garden and flowers without tending for too long. This is one of those four "dayers," split between both houses and regions. Tomorrow we'll be swimming and Sunday we'll be seeing BNL at SPAC.

We both like to go to concerts and theater prepared - being familiar with the music. Once I had the course details (mostly) taken care of (there is always a loose end in teaching, it seems; students are sometimes unpredictable even to a veteran like me) I decided to download some MP3 songs. I very rarely download music, I find it easier to buy CDs.

The concert is kind of strange, there are four bands. I suppose it is because some would say BNL, Goo Goo Dolls and Michelle Branch never really achieved the pinnacle for very long, and now are past their prime. (The other band, Parachute, is new and not that well-known.) So a bunch of bands are needed to sell a lot of tickets.

I am a major BNL fan, one who came somewhat late to the party (about 10 years ago). They were popular in the '90s with folks a few years younger than me. I don't need to buy anything of theirs, I own every album (in some cases more than one copy), know every lyric for every variant of every song. Of course I was aware of Goo Goo Dolls and Michelle Branch, but I can't say I could identify anything specific. Parachute I'd never heard of.

We'd casually discussed listening to some of their music, but didn't make much effort beyond paying attention on the radio and maybe catching one song. So today I searched Amazon for their latest albums, figuring that would be better than greatest hits for being ready for the concert. (Die hard fans are debating the merits of the new stuff in the reviews; some are overjoyed to have new work, others are mourning the days gone by.) I don't listen to music on my cell or an ipod (and honestly, I often prefer silence so that is why this is such an ordeal), so I found three old writable CDs and managed to get it all to work!

This is one area where I am definitely not an early adopter of technology. I am way behind the curve, with no interest in catching up. I mean, I want to be able to do it, but I don't care to do it often, or to listen to music with ear buds while I work, etc. I'd say it is my age showing, except that I know a lot of people who are not young who are very interested and adept. I think it must be that silence preference, it makes me not interested - or else it is that I am enough of a jack of all trades, I can't fit in one more activity.

It did make me more excited about the concert, though. I played a bit of all three downloaded albums to test them, and they all sound right up my alley. (Yet still I am sitting here in silence.)

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

On Sunday when we were crossing the reservoir on the way back home to Castleton, the sunset was so pretty. This isn't the picture I took (it was late and I only had my cell phone camera handy) but the view looked very similar to this one. I don't remember taking this picture or two others that day, I found them in an album on photoworks when they transitioned to shutterfly recently. I think I took this picture circa '03.

Another find, but this was from the filing cabinet:

Fate of the Esopus Valley
by Clarence Wager, resident of Olive, moved to WA in 1907

Where is the Esopus Valley? Yes, tis with us today.
But a few short years, and a few sad tears, and its gone, yes swept away.
Its orchards of apples and cherries: its hickory and maple trees.
Even the stony pastures and hives of honey bees
Are dear to the heart of the people and dearer they will grow,
As the years go by, and sad hearts sigh for the homes of long ago.
Friends and brothers and sisters and fathers and mothers with silvery hair,
Must soon leave the old home, and wander, we know not where.
Some families will still be families when they reach their new abode
But others will part forever, as each takes a different road.
Dear old Esopus Valley, we cannot part with you...
For a hundred years you have shared our tears, our joys and sorrows knew.
And oft in the evening twilight, by our firelight ruddy glow,
We will stand once more on the pebbly shore, where we played in the long ago.
And many a time we'll hear the chime of the old church bell
On the far away hill in the Valley where we were born.

Here's (some of) what was taken:

The "Simpler Living" blog in the TU fascinates me. I have mentioned before that I disdain materialism, and yet I am attached to things. I am not sure how to part with heirlooms and even special ephemera, or why anyone would want to do so. Her most recent post was about downsizing from 900 to 400 square feet. Both my houses are tiny (about 900 square feet each) by most people's standards and as a result, they are what she would consider cluttered. But if I disposed of my treasures, I wouldn't have a copy of the above poem, or the note from my sister that inspired the part of my post that follows:

Aunt Jean died 14 years ago today. In the same file as the poem, there is an email from my sister, dated February 1997. She wrote that a woman she knew from church told her she pictures the Virgin Mary putting her arms around her (grown) kids when they get in the car to leave for a trip. So my sister told me that she pictured those arms around Aunt Jean.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Long day of working on evaluations within my class (last day is July 29). The sun came back out after some rain and I went outside to admire the zinnias. Page Seed Company rules! (Now that it is sunny, all I hear is the drone of a lawn mower.) On the menu for tonight, zucchini and green beans with horseradish yogurt dip, sweet corn, and salad caprese. I'm headed downstairs to whip it all up!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Back to the main abode late last night. I was worried about the plants, but they weathered it just fine - and greeted me this morning with an abundance when I went out to water and inspect! Tomatoes, three kinds of beans, zinnias. (The zinnias have replaced the petunias as my favorite annual this summer.) Cucumbers and eggplant are coming, but it will be a while longer. In Samsonville, we ate zucchini all weekend: raw with dip, grilled, parmesan (also on the grill!), and I brought back some for the week. There will surely be a shopping bag full when I return. Picked up local corn, peaches and cherries at Davenport's farm stand in Stone Ridge.

I got a new N router and hooked it up, in spite of the heat. It works great, although I am still not satisfied with the range. I also need to do something about the home phone connect - the (poor) signal can only be found in the yard. I feel like I am on Green Acres, when they had to climb the pole to talk on the phone.

I swam and sweated and got chewed on by bugs. I think I have never been so hot in my life! I could never live in a really hot climate. But that didn't keep us from the Rosendale Street Festival, which was great. Here's the story about the short flix fest. Twelve selections out of forty! Not too shabby.

Just now I heard a little thunder and we had a downpour! (This is why there are no zinnia pictures today, as planned.) The plants are celebrating. I am too, because certain parts of the lawn need weed whacking, but others are crispy - and without rain I don't want to cut it. So maybe this week, if there is a dry day.

Here's a subject that's dear to me. LOL! Not really, what I mean is that it is something I often write about here. I am amazed by this story. Not by the professor's discovery that a lot of students cheated in his computer science classes. What amazes me is that he was this naive. Or was he not paying attention?

Just two examples of why this is a "hello?," a Duke University study found that 75 percent of college students admit to cheating at some point. In 2005, the Stanford Center on Ethics found that two thirds of students in an introductory programming course at MIT were found to have cheated. Apparently, it is rampant in computer science, even more than in other disciplines. I understand that it is fairly common in schools of business, too. Unfortunately it is not completely absent in any field of study.

The conclusions he decided to implement, to change his methods so that it is much more difficult to cheat, are a big Duh. His evaluations went down? So overlooking cheating = good evaluations? The classroom dynamic became nasty? So overlooking cheating = engaged class? What's wrong with this picture?

I think there is something more going on here. I don't know if NYU frowns on professors going after academic dishonesty. I can only speak from my own experience, and trust me, administrators do not discourage it being rooted out. They do not glory in it, of course. Nor do I, but that doesn't mean I look the other way, and whine. These are teachable moments. I think maybe they frowned on how he presented it on the Internet. I am not sure what he wrote, since the post has been taken down. But if he only revealed what the Chronicle reports, I doubt there is a legal problem. Again, my instinct is that there is more to this story.

I think it is likely this guy has some other issues. Whenever someone spouts off and claims they now thought it was safe to do so because they have tenure, I get suspicious of their motives. I don't like people who cower in fear of reprisal. People of good judgment don't have these kinds of problems and don't need tenure to protect their speech. Don't get me wrong, I am not attacking tenure or suggesting it doesn't protect academic freedom. It's just that I am not tenured, and things like this don't worry me an iota. Maybe it is a set-up, so down the road he can sue and say his rights were violated.

Finally, something else amazing: This from Dear Abby. I am not sure whether the problem could be this extreme or if the writer is exaggerating or perhaps has a serious case of death denial? I completely agree that it is not acceptable to throw trash around or damage property, but to act as if a cemetery cannot be a place of joy is absurd! I am trustee for a cemetery - while purposeful vandalism can be a problem (thankfully, rarely), visitors are not. Visitors are encouraged! Go! Say "Hello in There, Hello." :-)

I also live in front of another cemetery and often walk my dogs there. A lot of other people do too. It is the absolutely favorite place on the planet for any dog I've ever had, including the current two. Better than the yard, better than the park, better than the street or sidewalk. I've never seen anyone blasting music or being rowdy there. Nor is it desolate or depressing; it's a beautiful, serene place, truly a selling point for the village.

While it is true that a few slobs don't clean up after their dog and (again, rarely) a beer bottle turns up, it is not a larger proportion than are rude in this respect anywhere - the park, along the sidewalk, etc. Regarding cleaning up after a dog: if I saw someone do, or rather not do this task I would not hesitate to call them out, but considering the number of dog walkers in the cemetery it is not a major problem; the vast majority of visitors are respectful.

I look at the wonderful stones in the older sections as Sophie sniffs around (her favorite graves are the Hills, who were born in England and have been dead long over 100 years; I imagine them to have liked hounds and to be pleased to see me and my Basset lingering nearby). It makes me smile and reflect - those people are not forgotten.

Added: Speaking of flix, we watched two DVDs late at night over the weekend. Too hot to sleep! Neither was awful, but they also were not great: The Adjustment Bureau and Unknown. I'd wanted to see the former in the theatre, now I am glad we waited for the small screen.

And: It's official!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

In S'ville since Thursday night. No A/C! Took my first swim of the season yesterday. The water is 88 degrees!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Class is humming along (lots of work to do), figured out the (latest) blackboard problem, green beans are just on the cusp of being ready! This weekend will be Samsonville (yay! The pool!), but next weekend we are "splitting" the weekend because we are going to SPAC to see Bare Naked Ladies on Sunday. It's on my mind because when I bought the tickets I didn't think about it being "in season" (which lamentably is getting earlier and earlier every year). Ugh. Oh sure, the primary concern is the health of the horses and jockeys. Here's my post from this time last year, here's my post for Travers weekend last year (if you really do like horses, there are a couple of gorgeous pictures in the latter) and here's the story I mentioned from 1998:

Saratoga Summer

A horse died at Saratoga yesterday.  During a commercial break on television I heard of the story on a preview for Fox news at 10.  At 11, we watched the local CBS news, and there was no mention of it.  Today, I read the whole newspaper -- even the Sports section, which generally I reserve for immediate recycling, and could find not a word.  Oh, there was an article about pests at the race track -- bees, skunks, Canada geese -- upsetting the gamblers, and another about race announcing being a true art form, but nothing about the death of a horse.  A page of results, and odds, and payoffs, but no obituary.

Then again, it isn't really about the horses, is it?  Even in that annoying orange mini-page that the Times Union comes wrapped in every day during the month of August.  The speed of the horses and whether they are likely to win are discussed, but the important part is not the animal; it's being fast, and the outcome -- money invested, wagered, won or lost -- is the point.  The result for the slow, the lame, the "losers," auction and perhaps the slaughterhouse, is not mentioned.  And the paper doesn't refer to the people at the track as gamblers, as I did, does it?  They are called by the euphemisms "spectators" and "visitors."  They gush about how classy, how elite, how special it all is.

I think of the majestic horse, dying while the Capital Region thrills in the collective insanity which happens every August around here.  I think of my mother's eight horses who roam through the fields at the farm, their manes flying in the wind, a testament to the beauty and power of this magnificent animal.  I think of thirty-five-year old Olive, the great lady of that small herd, still going strong under a true horse lover's care.  And so I must reflect on that more famous horse, cut down in the prime of life, by a spectacle too cruel to be called a sport.
Here is the schedule for the Hudson Valley Short Flix Festival. Tom's film is the second one in Program A, and will show at 3, 5 and 7 on Saturday and at 3 and 5 on Sunday.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

When I pass a bookshelf, I like to pick out a book from it and thumb through it. When I see a newspaper on the couch, I like to sit down with it. When the mail arrives, I like to rip it open. Reading is one of the main things I do. Reading is everything. Reading makes me feel I’ve accomplished something, learned something, become a better person. Reading makes me smarter. Reading gives me something to talk about later on. Reading is the unbelievably healthy way my attention deficit disorder medicates itself. Reading is escape, and the opposite of escape; it’s a way to make contact with reality after a day of making things up, and it’s a way of making contact with someone else’s imagination after a day that’s all too real. Reading is grist. Reading is bliss. But my ability to pick something up and read it—which has gone unchecked all my life up until now—is now entirely dependent on the whereabouts of my reading glasses. ~ Nora Ephron

I went looking for this quote because a few months ago, when I was complaining about having to wear glasses, a colleague said he had little sympathy, since he'd had to wear thick glasses since childhood. For about the past 4-5 years, I have a slight problem with distance, and (of course) a need to wear them to read. I can't get used to wearing them all the time, and I hate my bifocals. I have pairs of reading glasses all over the place - some prescription, some drug store cheapies. I wonder if it is worse for those of us who have not had to wear them until middle age.

So I responded, having to wear glasses has taken away some of my joy in reading. I love(d) to read, and now it is a struggle, a hassle. He replied that well, that changed things somewhat, he did feel a little sorry about that and he told me that Nora Ephron had poignantly written about having to wear glasses and its impact on reading. I don't have the book, and probably won't bother to read it (I haven't read much by her, although I suspect she writes well, but have seen a few movies -- one or two were OK but I hate "chick flix" [hate that term too] such as Sleepless... or ...Mail), but I assume the above paragraph leads to more reflection on aging, glasses, and reading.

I want a Kindle. I think that would help to restore some of my ability without glasses. I'll just make the font bigger. Since I am approaching 50, I thought I would tell "people" that's what I want, and maybe I'd get it. If not, I will buy one for myself after my birthday. But now I find that I don't want to wait. I want it now, while it is summer and I have more time for pleasure reading. I am debating every day about what to do, looking longingly at my Mark Twain book with the teeny font that is only half finished after seven months.
General Joe's BBQ champ to filmmaker without missing a beat: My nephew Tom's short film will be shown at the Rosendale Film Fest this weekend!

Monday, July 18, 2011

The weekend was great! Very tiring though, and of course I didn't get a lick of work done. Even Oneonta was too hot yesterday, so that meant no hike although I decided not to wait, and got my new shoes on Saturday. (They are SAS, my second pair, just awesome. I'd like something besides leather but it is (more than) nearly impossible to find anything I can wear even in leather. Custom made don't work either. So, I buck it up.) Class has two weeks left! Today is cleaning day so off I go (reluctantly, I hate to clean). But Sophie's groomer is making a house call, so no choice!

Stray thought: Ever wonder about a past post that didn't and still doesn't seem like any big deal but contiues to get a lot of hits?

Sunday, July 17, 2011

General Joe's BBQ took second place in the people's choice competition! Awesome, especially for a first-time try. Buzz in the crowd was that their product was great. Everyone was asking where their restaurant or catering business is, but for all on their team, it is purely a hobby. They were one of the teams featured in yesterday's Schenectady Gazette (not sure if it is online). Congratulations to them and good luck today!

Friday, July 15, 2011

 Sophie is sending good vibes to the eggplant
 TB/TC wishes the mean person had left his nails alone so he didn't have to wear this stupid leash
Sam thinks he might have heard something up at street level

And...for something completely different: I've been meaning to share this hilarious video that has been making the rounds of email and facebook. Whenever Bob or I starts grousing about something trivial, the other says "that sounds like it could be a line in the first world rap."
I'm impressed by the Governor. I say that, even as a state employee whose livelihood is under fire. (Not exactly, since I am behind the university firewall, but as an adjunct I don't have ironclad job security. Not that I'm worried. My professional life is going well.) Anyway, you know what I mean. Public sector is taking hits in private sector fashion and it's hard not to be sensitive to it, especially in the Capital District. Still, I can see why he has such a high approval rating. We are so desperate for leadership, and he has really taken charge, in almost a charismatic way - but more a rational way, not in the nasty manner of Spitzer.

OK, fine. But this issue right here is a heart breaker that rises to the level of deal-breaker.  It's what struck me during the debate, besides the hilarious line up (or have you forgotten rent being too d-mn high et al?). He was going to push fracking! Exempting the NYC watershed of course (and now Syracuse too? What gives? The mayor is a friend or the area is dear to the Lt. Gov's heart? OMG - just now I went to see if I'd written about the debate, and I had - can it be he made a deal with the Green Party and that's the reason?).

I saw the new head of DEC on a show I won't name interviewed by a reporter I don't like (wouldn't want to add to the "fame of the name" by being specific) and he has industry guy written all over him. He said the reason for those two being exempt is that they are the only unfiltered systems in the state and it would be cost prohibitive to filter them. (That was the reason given for restrictions on development in the MOU on the watershed in the past as well.) I wonder if that could be true? The only two? Or how about private wells? The good of the few or the one doesn't matter, ala Star Trek?

I'm thrilled the watershed is exempt - NIMBY and all that - but it is annoying that you just know the exemption is not because of our pristine Catskill towns being precious, but because of NYC. As always. Brings up all those prickly feelings about the loss of our town that have been passed down though the generations.

This reminds me, right now, near the reservoir, the road is a debacle. No one even talks about it, though. So used to it. As a kid, my bus was diverted during a bridge repair and it took a lawsuit to get them moving. After 9/11 the road across the dam was closed - and it has never re-opened. The detour is even more twisty and turny than other roads in that area - it was built more to service the reservoir itself than intended as an option for lots of "thru" traffic. A few tourists have wrapped themselves around trees while riding their donorcycles over the years, and it is a hassle for people going to and from work, especially in the winter. So after nearly ten years the road is being straightened. It is a project that is taking forever, years! and resulted in all sorts of destruction. Currently it is almost impassable. One wonders if it will take another lawsuit for it to be finished.

This weekend is going to be another busy one - that's one of the attributes of summer I suppose. Tomorrow there is the Troy competition - going to support General Joe's BBQ! It's a team of my two nephews plus two friends. (General Joe is my one-year-old grandnephew.) A 12 person van and caravan of cars (if needed) are heading up the Thruway to cast their votes as well.

Vernooykill Falls Mother's Day hike. These folks and more will be in the (cara)van.

Then on Sunday heading to my beautiful central New York - Oneonta! I have been exercising my ankle, hoping to hike Table Rock. The last time I hiked there was during undergraduate days, when I did it many times. I haven't been able to hike since before I sprained my ankle - two years! Bob hasn't either, since his surgery nightmare. I'm "hoping" not because of my ankle, but because of my usual metatarsal arch / foot problem, which is acting up because I need to get a new pair of shoes and maybe an orthotics adjustment. (It is on the agenda for next week.) Bob's been having a RA flare in his knees but he is looking forward to (maybe) doing it too, so we'll see. If we can't hike, it will be a disappointment, but that's OK, a walk on Main Street and campus will suffice.

Watkins Glen State Park

It is looking like I will miss haying again this year, at least the first half of the field. Right now is the longest stretch of no rain in a while, and so hayin' is on the agenda (for those in the 12 person van and caravan of cars) for Sunday.

Anyway! This was a stream of consciousness! Join me in telling the governor no fracking! (That word! So tempting! I can hardly keep from writing various puns and vulgarities but it would be too easy.) I know the financial circumstances are difficult right now, but land and water are precious and cannot be replaced.

The view from Overlook
As I was picking basil (for insalata caprese) last night, I noticed one of my tomato plants was toppled over! I have them all staked and tied up, but this branch must have been especially heavy with fruit. Oh no! So I risked burning the empanadas and plantains I was making (I know, mixed ethnicity dinner), ran inside, and grabbed my spool of string. As I was saving the branch, one of the large tomatoes fell off, but my rescue worked out fine otherwise. I took the errant tomato and with the caprese, plantains and cheese empanadas - we had fried green tomatoes! What a treat, and so easy to make. Just drench them in flour and fry! I rarely make them, because usually I don't want to pick any tomatoes before they are ripe. (Maybe this year I will reconsider that policy.) Sorry, no picture. They didn't last long enough.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

This book looks like it would be good: ‘Mindset Lists’ a mesmerizing look at history. I'm always mindful of making obscure cultural references when teaching. A movie I consider sort of "new" may have been popular when they were too young to be permitted to watch it. And with how splintered viewing habits are now, one cannot assume they will have watched it on television.

This isn't related: I am bad at "collection" and back in my clerical worker days, avoided jobs where it was an expectation. I now find it can be a problem with consulting. Is that just the way it is always, or is it a sign of the current financial difficulties in society? Couple this with a tendency to allow myself to be taken advantage of (something I probably have elaborated on before, but I don't feel like looking for the post and anyway the less said, the better) and I get myself into unpleasant situations. Right now I am torn between sad and pissed.

Then there is the blackboard problem. Still not resolved. Just pissed over that one.

Added: I figured it out! So now the only irritant is accounts receivable.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

I'm kind of interested in true crime stories. I'm not sure why, but I always have been. A television example, last night there was (finally) a 48 Hours about the Oak Beach cases (it is very clear how careless the initial investigations were); print examples, I was riveted by the books about Martha Moxley, Chester Gillette/Grace Brown, and Mary Beth Tinning. I also like television dramas such as Criminal Minds and CSI. At the same time, I am not the sort of person who feels a strong emotional reaction to current crime news. In fact, I barely follow it. That's a lot easier without 24/7 cable news.

So it is surprising me how relieved I feel about a recent (cold) case's verdict and sentence in Rensselaer County. I am not going to link any stories or write any names. Too weird. If you don't know, you can figure it out in a few seconds on Google. Dude (especially) and his family seriously creep me out. I am sure he is guilty. Beyond a reasonable doubt does not go far enough. It it amazing how advances in technology: forensics and record keeping (the latter due to changes in law) discovered the evidence! Grapevine says he is very disturbed and scary. Pictures from trial speak that too, I think.
Remember to vote for General Joe's BBQ on Saturday!
I forced myself to finish the essays yesterday, one day before the deadline I had set for myself, and one day later than they would have been done had blackboard been cooperative. I finally posted the grades at 8 last night. Long day, and big relief to have it over.

I wanted to be finished because the yard was calling! Things needed watering and I had to weed whack. I wanted to do it first thing in the morning to avoid the heat, so got up earlier than usual and did it, without having essays to grade hanging over my head.

I picked tomatoes today! And not just the usual early varieties such as cherry or grape. I think this may be the earliest ever. Who would think I'd have tomatoes before green beans?

The green beans are coming, though.

My favorite annuals this year are white wave petunias.

The tiger lillies have arrived! Mine are always later than other people's, not sure why.

Today is the one year anniversary of "Little" Ande's death. So very sad. I remember a few years ago my cousin's dog died suddenly at about age 6. He was a small dog, and not a breed that is usually short-lived. Shortly afterwards she adopted an adult dog around the same age, to live out the years her late dog didn't get to experience, she said. That struck me, and I did the same thing. It seemed as if Little was cheated, dying so young. So now Teddy Bear -- or Theo Cat -- is living out the rest of his adulthood and hopefully senior years here with us. (He doesn't really respond to his name.) Of course there was also the name coincidence, as TB or TC was called Andy. (He doesn't know that name either. He also doesn't know "Kitty.") He's not very much like Ande, and even though he looks similar to Edna, he's not very much like her in personality, either. Thankfully he's a voracious eater - like a dog, since my poor Little could hardly eat. Here's Little in Samsonville doing something TB/TC could never do (because mean people took away his front claws), anyway, what a cutie pie:

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Still grading essays (it's a big class). Still no resolution to my problems with assessing discussion and uploading from a spreadsheet. (I did get a response yesterday, but it wasn't helpful.)

Today I was working in my class and thinking how I am amazed by the number of students who write "Ms." or even "Mrs." when they email me. Occasionally one even risks "Gina." When a student calls me Gina to my face, I assume it is for one of three reasons: 1) I seem nice and not hung up on status; 2) they are nontraditional students in age 3) my last name is hard to pronounce and they are more nervous about screwing it up than they are about being presumptuous (although I believe this last one has become less common, since the former mayor of NYC became a household name - now everyone, students and others, proudly attempt my name but invariably append "i" rather than "o").*

The reason they call me "Ms." (or "Mrs.") confounds me, however. I don't believe they intend to be disrespectful, or to attack the power imbalance (except on rare occasions, when that was definitely true). They are used to it from high school? They mostly have graduate students as instructors? I don't seem as if I could possibly have a doctorate? (But using "Professor" avoids that issue.) They philosophically believe that only MDs should be called "Dr."? (I know there are people in society for whom that is true, but I find it doubtful in an undergraduate at a public university.) They read the Chronicle and have noticed the convention in that paper? (Again, doubtful.)

I don't (usually) correct them, even though I think they should know enough to call me "Dr." or "Professor." The "PhD" is after my name on the syllabus, after all. In class on the first day, I write my name with the "Dr." in front of it on the board and I tell them about my qualifications in the go-around. In the online class, I have a bio that details my education and experience.

"Mrs." makes a lot of assumptions -- and besides, my surname is my patronym! "Ms." was what I used before finishing my doctorate. (I can't remember the last time someone wrote "Miss" but I never used it, came of age in the Ms. decade. Occasionally, an international student will say "Miss," and this I understand to be cultural.)

Even though I don't embarrass them by calling attention to their mistake, sometimes I will use a discussion of a theory as an opportunity -- say, Domain Theory -- to use students calling me by my first name without asking first or making assumptions about my marital status or level of education as examples of violations of social convention; although there are no intrinsic consequences from the action, as there are for breaches in the moral domain (where intrinsic harm is caused), it is a rule that is socially agreed upon. Another example I use is when we discuss returns to education, and are covering what is a learning society (credentials determine income and status): I tell them a story that always gets some laughs about people treating me differently, when they discover I am not an associate at Stewarts (as they assumed), but am instead college faculty.

Does it seem petty to care about such things? Or is it status "monging?" My parents think everyone everywhere should call me "Dr." because it was a significant accomplishment. I was a first generation college student and it took 22 long years to walk across the stage and be hooded and they are very proud.

Back to grading, doc. (A few of the clever ones who want to be cute call me that and it warms my heart...charming without being disrpespectful, no "tor," no pronounciation issues, no too-familiar first name but it isn't distant either.)

*Added: My name is also hard to spell (even my maternal grandmother couldn't remember) so that might be a reason for writing my first name instead of my last. You wouldn't believe the spellings I see. Long ago, I mentioned it in a story about succumbing to mail order offers that I wrote when I was a kid: "the personalized pencils which proclaimed I BELONG TO GINS GINLCANO."

Monday, July 11, 2011

It's like a sauna outside! So no stove. Tonight's dinner (plus lentils, hummus, Chobani plain yogurt dip and Food That Tastes Good multigrain chips). I bought the big tomatoes on the left, but that will be the last tomato purchase for a while. After this past weekend, I have plenty of cherry and grape tomatoes like the ones on the right, and other larger varieties coming very soon. This must be close to the earliest I've ever been picking tomatoes. My sister grew the lettuce, and I grew everything else (besides the tomatoes, Italian and curly parsley, spinach, basil, chives, cilantro).

I was looking for these jpegs to post for July 4 - couldn't find them, gave up. I found them today! It's OK, like Elwyn's birthday month we can have an Independence month. Someday I will restore the collecting virtual museum, but until then, here are the flag / statue / patriotic ones. (I may have others now, I made these scans a few years ago.)
We call this "have basil will travel" because I take this plant back and forth between Castleton and Samsonville, sort of like Sam, Sophie and Theo Cat. Salad Caprese is a must!

Weekend was unbelievably busy. Visited Long Island on Saturday.

Headed to Bridgeport from Port Jefferson on the ferry.

Spent Sunday in Samsonville, where the lillies and bee balm are blooming. The pool is improving. Met our new grandnephew, yay!

Back in Castleton, the tomatoes have really arrived! And the aggravation with blackboard patiently waited for my return (not to worry).

Finally, calling all Capital District and thereabouts carnivores: go to the Troy barbecue competition on Saturday and vote for General Joe's BBQ for the people's choice award!

Friday, July 08, 2011

So. Is it unreasonable to expect more than an automated response after two days? To then follow up and hear nothing? Even if it is only "you've really found a glitch, don't worry, we're working on it?" Hello?

There are things I don't write about here. Some personal things, some professional things. I'd like to write a lot more about this. Suffice to say, I believe instructional support has to be 24/7, 7 days per week. Or at least 12/7, 7 days per week. It was that way "back in the day," in the infancy of online delivery. Faculty really had a partner. Part of the job description was that time was flexible, people worked from home a lot and were often available, or at least the turn around was fast and not dependent on time of day or day of the week. It was necessary to break the outdated concept of "seat time." For the level of commitment required, there was a lot of freedom.

Sadly, my experience since our campus absorbed this function has been we follow a 9-5 model, 5 days per week...with generous vacations that are often ill-timed. Imagine if the instructor worked that way!

Seventeen essays done, twenty to go. (A few students didn't submit one.) The first writing assignment is often a rude awakening for some students that she really expects us to buy the books and read them. I'm burnt. Time for a break.
This week's harvest! :-) 

I always say bugs hate me -- but maybe that should be bugs love me? They love chasing me, swarming me, stinging me, biting me, sucking my blood, injecting me with toxins, giving me diseases. And I won't even kill them (unless they are eating my eggplant or cucumbers, but even at that, my methods of control are relatively benign). Fine -- hate me, love me, but they will not keep me inside.

Thursday, July 07, 2011

I couldn't wait any longer for an answer to what is wrong with the reporting tool, so I manually went through and corrected the data! I felt like I was back in the early days of online delivery. I won't be doing a midpoint report to students if I have to use this method, so I hope they find a work around soon. This has delayed my essay grading, but I still managed to get seven done. Only about 30 to go!
The hoe out the office project came to a screeching halt as soon as I got sinusitis. I believe the dental visit was the cause, but exposing myself to all the dust contributed. It's too bad, as I was on my way to completely transforming the space. As it is, I made a big improvement, more than I have done with all my "paper" etc. in years. I was thinking a minimalist, or even that woman who writes (or used to write?) the getting organized blog for the TU would probably have to be hospitalized if they visited my home office. Or at least they'd think I should be hospitalized. It's funny, because when we discuss philosophy in my classes, I use my disdain for materialism as an example of something I must tolerate in others in our society. Yet, here I am, attached to "stuff." I suppose I see a difference in being a saver v. being a consumer.

Anyway, before my teeth and sinuses decided to rebel (reading the above, I wonder if that was psychological?), I had intended to scan and post something wonderful here for Independence Day. Occasionally when doing extreme paper sorting and organization, one scores a find that's like meeting up with a long-lost friend. When I found this newspaper article again, I was delighted, in particular because the electronic version is on my lamented Iomega drive. Scanning it using OCR isn't really possible (at least as a fast job) since it is in columns. A PDF would have to be on my (Verizon-hosted) website, and that is where it will go eventually, but in the interest of speed and simplicity, I will share it here as a series of JPEGs instead. I decided to take the time today while Blackboard is not cooperating. Can't just allow paralysis to set in!

This was published in the Kingston Freeman on 20 March 1929, and was a reprint of an article about Benjamin Turner's July 4, 1876 speech at Crispell's Grove in West Shokan.

Still waiting on a solution to my troubles with blackboard. Anxiously's only a six-week course and it will be half over this weekend.

The plants love this heat...but I do not. However - I picked tomatoes! "Only" grape tomatoes, but still. I picked two last week, today there was a handful. I also picked wild blackberries. I am enthralled by wild fruit! I will brave thunderstorms, Lyme disease, heat exhaustion for a half cup. Remember bugs hate me! So far I have gotten two bee stings this summer. Luckily I am not allergic to them.

Wednesday, July 06, 2011


shouted the e-mail message to someone else
copy to me
it continued
no doubt her is me
the sender was at a full rolling boil
I don't want to discuss this with anyone
too bad
the ice cubes I drop in have no effect
but the oil the recipient drizzles in
Doing the early assessments - something that should be a snap - has turned into a nightmare with the Blackboard upgrade. AAAAAARRRRRRGGGGGGHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!  (But there should be some symbols in there too, to really capture the sentiment.) I am glad I volunteered for the pilot so I can upgrade when I only have one class to worry about, though.

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

I'm glad I said screw it over the weekend and didn't bother working on hardware installation in the Samsonville computer, because then I would have ruined an otherwise lovely day. I didn't bother switching the CD drive from one machine to another because I was afraid it would be time consuming and aggravating. Well, I'll bet it would have been a snap, but that hardly matters. Uploading the usual feedback for early in the class was a nightmare on its own! OMG. I finally did it about an hour ago -- I think. I can't see what students see in Blackboard 9.1, so who knows. My head is numb!
Wow. This post says it all: Vick Again.

Monday, July 04, 2011

Happy Independence Day!

Great weekend, even with the continuous downpour yesterday. What does rain matter, when eggplant parm is on the menu?

The pool is one shade lighter...

About the technology, I said "screw it!" That means a long day tomorrow...oh, well.

My lacecap hydrangea

Saturday, July 02, 2011

The pool is still green! But it's getting there. This is the first summer in two years that Bob can actually work on it the way he wants, so that's good. It will clear up eventually. It is trickier with a Baquacil pool than it is for a chlorine pool, but it's worth it. Fun, beautiful day anyway. I didn't go in, wouldn't even if it had been crystal clear. The water needs to be really warm to entice me and that generally doesn't happen this early in the season.

Technology here is irritating, though. Our home phone connect is not working now that the leaves are on. I have to put the device out in the yard near a tree to get even minimal service. So, we have to get out of that contract and get another phone provider. Then, I had hoped to do some work on my class - cannot have 42 students in an intensive six-week long class and expect to take weekends off, even holiday weekends. But my various machines are not cooperating. I think I will have to cannibalize a couple tomorrow, take the CD Rom from one and put in in another - or maybe just say screw it. That will make next week really difficult, though. What a hassle!

Friday, July 01, 2011

I agree with Matilda. "Cottage cheese and tomato soup might be low on calories, but it's not Italian lasagna." Yuck. Tomato soup and cottage cheese! Reminds me of my brother's childhood (non-Italian) friend. This was the days before pasta was part of common lingo. In fact, we called it macaroni. The word "noodles" meant egg noodles to us. Once my mother was making lasagne for dinner and this friend said to her: "I don't like those flat noodles with that pasty cheese." We thought that was so funny. Probably did not like the "sprinkle on" cheese either (another family joke). Meanwhile, I put grated parmesan on ice cream and cereal. Well, not really, but just about.

A comment on the blog (articles don't permit comments) said this fluff piece is an effort to humanize the governor at a difficult time in the Capital District. True. I guess the TU is always willing to step up.
My Second Lesson in Leadership

During college I worked full-time at a funky plant and gift shop called "What's Upstairs?"  Owned by Joe and managed by his small harem, his son Joey and I were the only employees. Joey worked Thursday nights 5-9 and I did the Monday to Saturday shift, 10-5:30 daily. Oversight was light and I basically ran the place, paying myself $3 per hour out of the register.

Joe was a charismatic hippie who drove his microbus or ancient Caddy to craft shows all over the middle-north east. When he stopped in he would discuss his business and life philosophy with me, while sporting his signature leather cap on frizzy salt-and-pepper hair.  He had creative ideas for business names, such as "Gifterrarium" and "Sincerely Yours."

Young as I was, I took him with a grain of salt.  It was a good gig for me, a place where I could study for my full-time schedule of night classes and visit with friends, while being quasi-in charge. I never questioned that the owners were rarely around, came in at night and only left me brief notes with boxes of merchandise to unpack. I guess I did think having the manufacturer's tags cut off of everything was odd. I couldn't figure it out, so I forgot about it. I figured it was better than my other option, waitressing in a pizzeria.

One day I arrived at the shop and the door was broken in. Four plainclothes BCI agents were inside. "Do you have identification?" I demanded, remembering what I had learned from cop shows on TV. They most certainly did, I was cooperative, and I made friends for life.  They had a warrant for Joe for eleven counts of grand larceny and fraud, and so I helped them to pack up the products they planned to confiscate. Apparently, Joe had made up wholesalers to give himself credit references so he could order merchandise for a variety of phony gift shops, and then sold the merchandise without tags for less than suggested retail price, never paying any of the bills. Any junk which remained was dumped at "What's Upstairs?" This went on for years and years.

The cops advised me to work there no more, and even tried to convince me to become a State Trooper instead, going so far as to drop off a copy of the exam application at my apartment.  I was intrigued by the idea. The troopers assured me the beat cop aspect of the job would be short-lived for me; I would be a detective in no time. But I demurred due to my fear of guns, loathing of athletics and that pesky driver's license!

My friends urged me to steal everything that I could before I left the store, but I didn't. It was hard to leave that place, because I didn't want to abandon the plants which had not been confiscated, since I knew no-one else would water them. They had done nothing wrong. I went back a few times to take care of them, but eventually I had no choice. I said a sad goodbye to the huge corn plant, umbrella tree and cacti, nailed the door shut, and left a note with my keys inside. And then I went home. Later I learned that Joe hired an expensive attorney, and because his harem members had signed for all of the stolen products, the charges were pinned on them, and they were left with the public defender.