Wednesday, August 31, 2011

I know my statement "if you want to kill someone, do it with your car" is just an anecdotal assertion, but there is always so much evidence that it is true. I agree with the club member they quoted in this article, this is an outrage, not an "accident." 

The doctor didn't say? That's also just an assertion. I can barely buy aspirin without the pharmacist giving me a counseling session about side effects. In this case, the guidance on these three psychotropics reads, as follows: 

Xanax can cause side effects that may impair your thinking or reactions. Be careful if you drive or do anything that requires you to be awake and alert. 

Wellbutrin may impair your thinking or reactions. Be careful if you drive or do anything that requires you to be alert. 

Quetiapine may impair your thinking or reactions. Be careful if you drive or do anything that requires you to be alert.

I'd say wearing your spouse's flip flops that are so loose they become wedged under the gas pedal and hurtling your enormous SUV down the road out of control is not being careful. Finally, what is the speed limit in that area? That is never mentioned.
My first day back on campus yesterday went fine. I was so tired last night though - it is a long day and it will take me time to get used to it. My foundations classes are small - the result of Irene?

I found this story pretty funny.

I'm feeling distracted, preoccupied by all the people who are in survival mode from Irene as others elsewhere carry along as if nothing happened. Here in Castleton our cable was restored (it came back at first without sound, which was weird). We are still under a boil water advisory. Bob was going to try to work in Troy today, I am not sure how that worked out. We've been avoiding traveling to Albany through Rensselaer. Aside from this, all is well here.

But I hate to be without electricity and other services, and I do not have a generator in Samsonville. We'd planned to spend Labor Day Weekend there, the last glimmer of summer, before closing the pool the weekend of my birthday. Now I want to be there to make sure all is fine, even though I do know, via limited communication with my sister and nephew, that everyone is indeed OK.

I feel like I should be doing something to help with the clean up, although being off the grid might make my presence more of a burden. The water also doesn't work when there is no power and dry ice is not in abundance for keeping food cold. Luckily we emptied the fridge and freezer before we went home on Saturday but we would need supplies to stay there.

Central Hudson is reporting 90 percent of service should be restored by 11 pm Sunday, I assume that is the prediction for my house, but I cannot be sure. Parts of West Shokan are probably in the 10 percent that will remain off the grid since the damage was so extreme.

Facebook continues to be the best source of information. That might be true even if the story was not being mostly ignored outside of the local area. The rural northeast is not all that important, I guess. Luckily, we already knew that, and are resilient. But here is a story about Phoenicia that did make major MSM.

Added: I discovered another storm casualty, my oregano. It didn't kill it completely, but almost.

As I was doing my annual surveying, I could hear the sound of chainsaws, either in the cemetery or beyond. Today the sound didn't irritate me as it usually does.

I know I mentioned dry ice above, but I believe dry ice is one of the biggest needs; it is very hard to get.

Finally...I just found out my aunt and uncle (ages 85 and 94) in Shokan got power back today. A bright spot.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Hail last week, stream bed for driveway this week! My sister sent me this picture of the aftermath of Irene, looking toward my Samsonville house. It could be worse, of course. Good thing we didn't fix last weekend's damage yet!

Something very sad: the covered bridges that were destroyed. I know at least one in Vermont was, and the Blenheim Bridge in Schoharie County is gone. They can never be replaced!
The best source of news during and in the wake of Irene has not been television, radio or newspapers, but facebook - people with smartphones and cameras making posts. This morning I surveyed the damage in my yard, which is minimal. A tree branch came down from across the street, and missed my garden fence by inches. A couple of cucumber vines didn't survive, but the zinnias are fine! The container impatiens and coleus even needed to be watered today! Are you kidding me, plants? Our television cable is out, but other services all work. I think the branch that came down may be the culprit that took out the cable, but I am not sure since the wire is still connected. I hear campus is OK too, although classes were delayed for a few hours. One student has emailed me, saying she can't get back from Florida until Sunday, earliest. This afternoon I took a stroll down to the Hudson to see what was up with the river.

 The Hudson River at Castleton, 2 pm today
 I saw no evidence of flooding on Main Street (although I did hear some pumps running, so I assume basements have flooded), but we do have a boil water advisory in the village
 This is unrelated to Irene, but I love these signs the village painted last week - this one is in the road right in front of my house
This is Watson Hollow Road in West Shokan, taken by my sister. The Bushkill took the road and the power lines.

The Hedley building in Troy, taken by Bob this morning.

I understand (from others, as my cable is out) that the national media is saying the storm wasn't that bad and are suggesting that the evacuations, etc. were an overreaction. I predicted yesterday when I briefly saw coverage that this was the pre-planned set-up: hysteria over the hurricane, followed by finger pointing that the government reaction was inappropriate. I can't speak for downstate (and actually there is little word from friends and in-laws on Long Island, I assume the power is out), or the coastal areas in the south, but many  parts of upstate New York and Vermont got hammered and the dismissive attitude is offensive.

One more rant: The political leadership in the town of Olive needs to get its act together, or retire and step out of the way. I used to consider the lack of cell service in Samsonville an irritating inconvenience, but today I consider it an outrage. Of course my parents are fine...but that they have no way to communicate with the outside world is unacceptable.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Irene is really hammering us -- good thing we came back to Castleton from Samsonville yesterday. It's quite bad here too but our house is better located. The fire siren just rang, I assume that means there is flooding on Main Street but no way am I going down there to check. Water is running down the ravine behind the house, on its way to the Hudson. That is a sight I have rarely seen. We have not lost power, at least not yet, but I know down in Olive the electricity will be out for days.

I'm loving facebook right now! Getting so many pictures from around the area, because even with no electricity smartphones still work. The above pictures are all of Boiceville. The Esopus must have jumped its banks.

Later: talked to my sister - her cell works. West Shokan has a lot of damage, will be weeks or months to make it right. No word from my parents yet, I assume the phone, cable and electric are down.

Still later: my sister made it to Samsonville -- my parents are OK. My cable went out here, so far that is the only impact...

Photo credits: Eric Matteson and Hudson Valley Weather

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Home safe and sound! Left not a moment too soon, as it was raining very, very hard. Secured outdoor furniture etc. at both houses. Sam scored two basketballs from last weekend's hail storm, wonder what will come down the mountain tomorrow?

Friday, August 26, 2011

What a lovely swimming day! Hard to believe a hurricane is on the way. I think I may take a night swim, first time this summer. We will return home tomorrow, before the storm hits.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

So much work so little time! Irene is not even on my radar screen, I am so preoccupied by the semester starting. But, I am accomplishing a lot, and doing OK. Always feels good to be super productive, even if it makes my head numb! Many details for the semester are finished, and my study is really coming along! I wanted to write an ethnography for my dissertation, but stayed with a practical program evaluation, since I was quite far along when my interest in it waned. (Because a wise mentor told me, "the only good dissertation is a done dissertation.") So now I am writing a program evaluation that is an ethnography and loving it!

My five-year-old grandniece is starting kindergarten. She's beyond excited. She's a little miracle, and not only because all kids are precious, but because of the circumstances of her birth. It's not my story to share, and so I won't. But that she is vibrant in every way is something for which we are all very thankful. She's bright - surely she will be the smartest kid in her class, healthy (the true miracle), well-behaved and good natured - and this isn't just her doting great aunt opinion's. Everyone who perceives her "mesmerizing" eyes notices. (That was the word used by a friend who has never met her, trying to describe her while gazing into her picture.)

I will see her Labor Day weekend and cannot wait to discuss it with her. My own memories of starting school are swirling around in my brain. I met my lifelong best friend the first day of kindergarten. It's true, we've been friends for 50 years, and have stayed in touch all that time. Our friendship has never wavered or died out, despite our lives being very different (but we were not that similar back then either) and we have lived about 5 hours away from each other since age 14. I'm thinking of her today because she is bringing her daughter to college for her sophomore year tomorrow, and we had toyed with the idea of getting together. But we've not confirmed it, and so I am thinking it won't happen. Her life is in the "it's complicated" category right now so a rain check might be necessary, due to Irene and other factors.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

From Elwyn's diary, dated April 18, 1963:

O for the Good Old School Days of the 70's in Olive

In view of the current interest in school costs a comparison between the present and the school costs in Olive Township in 1879 (sic) may make you hold your hat.

Through the kindness of "Squire" Elwyn Davis of West Shokan we have an annual report submitted to the then Commissioner Horace W. Montross by the lone trustee of the West Shokan school of that time, Martin S. Crispell. Incidentally, Mr. Crispell was Elwyn's maternal grandfather. His address was Shokan postoffice.

For the school term ending Sept. 30, 1871, according to the report, the costs of the school, which had 90 pupils, was $365.33 with $2.30 left on hand. Receipts were $365.33 and payments balanced out for the same amount. In fact, it looks as if in those days they trimmed school costs to the amount of money available.

It may surprise many readers (as it did us) to learn that in those days the cost of the school depended largely on funds received from the state. In this case it was $109.98 from the state while the amount raised in local taxes was only $95.35. The balance for the costs of the school was raised in ways that we do not understand from the report.

Teacher salaries for the year were $335.33. They boarded around for the 40 weeks the school was in session. Their wages (they did not call them salaries in those days) ranged around $8.50 per week including "the expense of board." Apparently they didn't always get paid on time, either. The two teachers employed in this particular year (1870-71) were William A. Reading for 18 weeks and Mary C. Hill for 22 weeks.

Location of the school was not of the best. The site was one end of Main St. in old West Shokan, all of which is now, of course, under the reservoir. It was affectionately called "Swamp Academy" because of the swampy nature of the site. Value of the building and land was $450.00.

We hear a lot of talk nowadays about double sessions but the West Shokan school of those days was open nearly all year, with a winter term and a summer term. The winter term began Nov. 7 and continued until March 10 of the next year. The summer term commenced on April 3 and ended Sept. 28.

Cost of fuel and preparing for use (wood) was $23, and maintenance for the year was $3.20. The cost of repairing and insuring the schoolhouse for the year was $1.50. Transportation? Cost was zero. You walked, or sometimes got a lift on a wagon -- or in winter you might get aboard a bob-sled drawn by a team of horses.

A budget of $365.33 for 90 students is $4.06 per pupil. Admittedly, many things in school finance have changed since 1870-71 and 1962-63, so much so that it's hard to make an exact comparison. But I won't let that stop me! A reasonable estimate is that $4.06 in 1870-71 would have been about $28.50 in 1963 dollars or $71 today.

According to NYSED, the district of which Swamp Academy would now be a member had enrollment of 2,065, general education per student expenditures of $13,869 and per pupil special education costs of $36,699 in the most recent year of data, 2008-09. (For similar schools, costs were $9,645 and $25,558 per student, respectively; for all schools in NYS, expenditures were $10,874 and $26,551 per pupil in 2008-09.)

I wonder why the writer was surprised by the state contribution in 1870-71? It was only 30 percent. In 1962-63, according to Analysis of  School Finances in New York State School Districts 2006-07 (NYSED, 2009, January) the state contributed about 44 percent of school expenditures state-wise. Was the surprise that the state contributed at all? Or that local taxes did not make up a larger portion of the funding? The local share in 1870-71 was 26 percent.

Changing focus...Added to today's to-do list: Something that I forgot I have to do when I ticked off the items on the agenda before the three-day weekend and then semester beginning is one more round of negotiation with a company (and likely will need to devolve into borderline nutjob to get results). Stay tuned.

Last night we watched a movie that didn't impress me at all: Limitless. The premise sounded good and it was interesting at first, there was some suspense throughout - but I started to get skeptical after about 15 minutes, really lost interest after 30 minutes, tried to give it a chance but struggled to keep watching for an hour, then tuned it out. There were some elements that really irritated me, or required too much suspension of belief. It was too amoral for my liking, and too derivative. I didn't leave the room, I just played with my smart phone and laptop and stopped paying close attention. Bob thought it was fairly enjoyable. Not for going to the theatre, but as a rental. So it gets a paw two-thirds down, and a paw two-thirds up.

Speaking of limitless: I am childfree, but all three of my siblings have children ~ they are grown, the youngest is 21 and a senior in college. (And all three of my siblings have one or more grandchildren too.) They are all stunning, a bouquet of bright lights,  a next -- and next -- generation to be proud of. In the latest achievement, my oldest nephew reached the top of Kilimanjaro yesterday! Way to go Dean!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

This warms my heart: Oliver joins the Pack.

Strange day! At first I thought the movement of my chair was being caused by me -- was I shaking? Then I looked from my chair to Mimmie's dresser and saw that the mirror was shaking too. I surely wasn't doing that. Was it a big truck going by? But there was no noise. As I went downstairs, I heard the Woodstock Chimes tinkling. Out on the porch, the water jugs were sloshing around. On the sidewalk, I saw several of my neighbors also standing outside, looking around. An earthquake! The animals all slept though it.

This morning, I already found the day to be odd. Ever have one of those dreams that is so real it seems like it happened, even after you awaken? That was it. I had a too-real dream. I was having a dinner party, with lots of people, many of whom were older than me. They were familiar, but no-one I know "IRL" (or for that matter, in the e-world). I asked one man to help me do something, and he refused. I asked another, and he took charge and crowded me out completely -- took over making alla olio.

The problem was that he ignored the ingredients I had assembled, and put a couple cups of water and some corn oil in a pot. I was horrified, and didn't let him continue. This caused a big argument at the table, with some folks saying I was rude and had no right to not let him make it that way, as that was proper alla olio, and others supporting me, saying who doesn't know it should be made with olive oil, and besides, it was my party. I hid in the kitchen (which wasn't mine or any other I know) while everyone else ate.

I still felt uncomfortable after I woke up, although discovering it wasn't true was a big relief. It isn't unusual for me to have an anxiety dream shortly before the semester starts. This was true both when I was a student (when it usually would take two forms; either I arrive at school with no or inappropriate clothes on but no-one notices, or I realize halfway through the semester that I have forgotten to attend any classes) and has been true some semesters as an instructor as well (when the most common form of it is that I am at class on the first day totally unprepared, with no syllabus or handouts, sorting through papers on the classroom desk in a frenzy, hunting for materials while students watch and eventually leave). But the dinner party from h-ll? That was a first.

Actually, I'm in pretty good shape in terms of preparation; all the syllabi are done and I am starting to build the content for the Blackboard upgrade in all my classes. I should have time to weed whack today or tomorrow, I will be able to attend the faculty retreat on Thursday, I have some time tomorrow to devote to my research, and still take a three-day weekend in Samsonville. So I'm not sure what could be the source of the anxiety in my "other life" (as I call dreams). Maybe it is just something meaningless out of left field.

I volunteered to teach during Wintersession, and will find out if I was selected in October. Now that will be high pressure, but I only decided to offer today, so that wasn't it.

Monday, August 22, 2011

It was quite a weekend. The animals are exhausted, and I am not far behind. The crescent cut (that's what it looks like) on my forehead is itchy. The most common question: "did you fall?" (LOL. My ankle has created a reputation.) No, just accident prone. Hope it heals up a lot by the time my classes start or I think I am going to need to mention it on the first day. If so, I'll have to spin an entertaining tale.

I picked a lot of veggies this morning -- I ran out to check the plants and do my usual fussing before immersing myself in getting ready for the semester. It's going well but...the lovely summer draws to a close.

A while ago, I had to facebook "friend" a local radio station to be entered into a contest for concert tix. I haven't hidden the feed (as I often do for very active posters who write things that don't interest me) and today it said this:
Kim Kardashian had her $20 MILLION plus wedding on Saturday and everyone here has been talking about it! Your thoughts? I given them a year tops!!!
I was struck by "everyone here has been talking about it!" Imagine how dreadful it would be to be a member of that workplace? The conversations with colleagues must be mind-numbing.

On the subject of being trite, I've been researching Kindles. Is it wrong, shallow, whatever~zilla to dictate your own gift? Dictate is too strong a word. Make it send out vibes about instead. Anyway, I've always thought so. But I really want a Kindle...and it seems frivilous to buy it myself. So conflicted.

Back to work!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

The water has receded. The driveway is passable, thanks to a backhoe and some rocks, although we are going to need a load of gravel to finish the job. But today is a swimming day!

Much later: Watched Unusual Suspects on my laptop, streamed from Amazon. I didn't bring my extra speakers so the sound wasn't great, and the bugs were having a field day since we were out on the deck, but otherwise it worked well. It's an Investigation Discovery show. I don't have television at all in Samsonville, and I only have a few channels in Castleton, so I don't even get regular Discovery there. I really wanted to watch this episode, which was the first one of the second season. It aired last Sunday. The case is local, only a few miles from my house, a 1996 murder that was unsolved until 2008.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Bob took a trip to visit his folks, so I had planned a nice leisurely day in Samsonville. I thought I would work on my Fall syllabi, with maybe a break to swim. The weather was just like yesterday's, so I wasn't surprised when I heard thunder. No biggie. Yesterday we had a downpour (which was handy since I didn't have to water the garden), and then the sun came out again.

Just as the storm was starting -- luckily I had gotten the animals in, rolled up the awning and unplugged the filter -- the phone range. I was making my lunch on the stove, and needed a pot lid. We have the lids stored on a pot rack, and above that is a high shelf with decorative stuff hanging from it. One item is an antique enamel dipper. So as I scrambled to cover the pot and hold the phone, I knocked the dipper with the lid, it fell, and hit me in the forehead. Hurt like h-ll. After a few minutes, I realized I was bleeding. Great. An inch-long gash on my forehead, and since I bruise easily, it will undoubtedly turn black and blue.

Then the hail started coming. I just had to get pictures. I was so preoccupied with the hail that I didn't notice the yard was turning into a lake! The stream jumped its banks -- and with it, took out the driveway. Luckily, we have not (yet?) lost our power.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

What a beautiful night it was for the food festival, and Eddie Money was great! One thing that was funny, though - he said he grew up in Greene County, in a town called Phoenicia! LOL! If it was Phoenicia, that doesn't speak well of my alma mater's teaching of local geography. (But if we blame elementary school rather than junior or senior high, at least it wasn't the one I attended.) If it was Greene County...not my district.

I actually do remember learning geography in school, but nothing local; it was only the capital cities of other countries. I don't remember what grade that was, but I do remember the teacher was male. It was a memorization exercise in social studies, and he used one of those wonderful visualization tricks for remembering things: one example, he said picture a turkey with an anchor around its neck, and so I still remember Ankara, Turkey.


Added: Really good column this week! 

And: I've written here that the container tomatoes are huge, but a picture is worth a thousand words in this case.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The old cliche is right: the squeaky wheel gets the grease! I just had another interaction with a major company that went in my favor. What a relief.

Working away on my research, alternating with preparing the syllabi for my fall classes (and tours of the yard, to inspect and harvest). Also (tentatively) landed another interesting consulting project for early in '12. If only I could clone myself!

Cloning has been on my mind recently for a reason I can't elaborate. Too bad, because it would make a colorful post...maybe it can make a fiction story instead, of the names have been changed to protect the guilty variety.

On tonight's agenda: the Empire State Plaza Food Festival.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The power was out from 9:45 to 10:15 this morning. There was no storm or wind at that point so I wonder why. Glad it wasn't a long outage...but now I have to reset the many blinking clocks! Does every appliance need to have a digital clock?

Happy to see CSEA voted "yes." It may be a crummy deal but layoffs are worse. This is one of those cases where there are no good choices, but Yes was better. The TU, naturally, was pushing the idea yesterday that state workers would vote "no."

The Times Union gathered a small group of state workers last week to discuss the contract. The paper extended invitations to those who have frequently commented on contract issues in the paper's popular blog, Capitol Confidential.

As it turned out, those who responded to the invitations all belonged to PEF, although they worked at a variety of jobs in different state agencies and in different locations of the state; the majority said they were likely to vote against the offer. All were in middle-aged, although their years of service ranged from a handful of years to several decades.

The Times Union agreed not to name them due to their concern that speaking out could anger their bosses or even co-workers.
The bold was added by me. Granted, it is a "sample" of PEF; maybe that union will vote the contract down, I'm not sure. But could a sample be more biased, untransparent, unethical, and unscientific? And it's OK to hide identities because the workers are afraid of their colleagues?

Full disclosure before I get to the next part of this rant: Bob likes to listen to WAMC. I like Prairie Home Companion, Mountain Stage, and the puzzle show with Will Shorts but a lot of the other programming drives me up the wall. I am not crazy about hearing people chattering on the radio (or TV) and I really hate it when the show is pushing a POV.

Sometimes in Samsonville he listens to shows I don't like very much, but I tolerate it. On Sunday the Media Project was on. This is one of the programs I can't stand - so smug! The TU editor wasn't on this past week, so it was a tiny bit better than usual. But I would love to know how he would justify the sourcing of this story. I've no doubt he would defend it.

Changing subjects but not mood: It's only an anecdotal study at this point, but here's the latest example of my hypothesis: if you want to get away with killing someone, do it with your car. As long as you're not drunk, that is. Drunk = unforgivable moral failing that should be harshly punished. Splattering someone (or a crowd) because you are a reckless moron = perfectly fine and even expected in society. The mantra goes something like this: the perpetrator is a victim too, guilt is enough of a burden, and even a minor repercussion such as a ding on the driver's license (or, heaven forbid, license suspension) would be unfair since it was simply a terrible accident that could happen to anyone and not driving is a terrible, terrible hardship.

Finally, OK as far as it goes - no complaint here, but what is stopping him from opening his checkbook and paying? This seems extremely disingenuous to me. Why should what others pay have anything to do with his behavior if he's truly sincere? Why did he take all those tax breaks if it offends him? I don't get it. So pony it up, Warren. Actions speak louder than words.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Saturday was a beautiful day, and the trumpet vines get prettier every weekend:

The first two pictures with my new b'berry.

Added: What an amazing story.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

The network extender works like a charm! YAY.

I am still figuring out the Blackberry Bold, however. May need to take a trip to the Verizon store.

Friday, August 12, 2011

What a beautiful day! I was just out making rounds, thinking about watering. The yard looks so good. Lately we've been letting TB/TC be loose in the yard. He can't get out of the fence at either house, whether due to the lack of claws or his huge size, I can't tell.

He loves it! So much that he doesn't want to come in. It makes me happy to see him so content. So I've been allowing him to stay out there sometimes unsupervised, even when the dogs are in the house (as they are now, snoozing in the livingroom, the vital job of barking at the mail carrier and fed x guy done for the day). He's out there right now. I go and (nervously) check on him every so often, and when I want to really be immersed in something, I make him come inside.

I keep the yard manicured, but naturalish. Even the fenced area is something of a jungle, because of all the container plants. The tomatoes are huge! So while the yard is small, it can be hard to locate TB/TC. Here he is just now:
And with that, I hereby retire the b'berry curve.
This morning a FB friend posted that she has an emergency - her coffee maker is broken. That got me thinking about coffee and coffee makers. I remember in the '70s there was so much negative press on caffeine being bad for your health, the price of coffee crept up while the economic times were scary, Corningware and Pyrex percolators were considered dangerous (because you could get burned when the handle fell off, I think) and people were drinking Taster's Choice (decaf). That's what I drank when I was in college, although it was the caffeinated version. I believed brewed coffee was a thing of the past, and I don't think I was alone in that belief.

Then, Mr. Coffee was invented. My brother got one, and we marveled at this modern invention. Everyone ran out and purchased one. Taster's Choice went by the wayside, as all returned to brewed coffee- not perked but dripped. Over the years, people fell so much (back) in love with coffee that Dunkin' Donuts (which as I recall was on life support) was resurrected and Starbucks was born. Five bucks a cup? A bargain! Or at least no biggie, a necessity.

This all got me thinking about technology generally, especially given my recent negotiations with Verizon and brand new Blackberry Bold. Another invention I thought was dying was the telephone. It had been embraced in the early 20th Century, but by the '80s we had hooked up answering machines to them so that we could screen calls and not have to answer the d-mn things. Then cell phones came out and were embraced as quickly as the original invention had been - even by me (but only after texting became routine and smart phones entered the market. I still hate the telephone, and I really don't use my cell for talking or texting, it is for email and Internet).

Who would have thought, back when the phone company did that annoying break up of the monopoly, and speaking on it became even more of a chore because of talk overs...that this would lead to the cell, and people would be on the phone all the time. Amazing (and even more annoying). But of course a device that increased communication would be embraced! Look at what the one-way of the television did to society (mostly bad, IMO); naturally two-way would have an impact. 

Some did "see" this future (the quotes are because such statements always remind me of Carlos Castaneda and his "vision"). For example, a book I read years ago, In The Age of the Smart Machine: The Future of Work and Power (Zuboff, 1988) was very astute. Like all such books (the even older The Greening of America, etc.) it is charmingly dated today -- but it also still contains a lot of truth and insight in its analysis. I'm intrigued by the author's idea that manual labor has no value because we reject things that are physical in nature.* That does seem true, what with our deodorant loving society - and it is possibly even more true today than it was in '88 (demonstrated by the media-promoted hair removal obsession).

On the other hand, physical labor does have some status in certain sectors of society -- for instance, to country folks. Not, of course, if we're talking about coal mining, but in some places, the idea of the independent contractor or small business owner has higher status than being a "wage slave" for a big corporation. (Zuboff's writing hints of Marxism and reminds me of those wonderfully descriptive terms.) Even professionals, for example civil engineers, may prize field work that gives them some contact with the outdoors over being trapped inside behind a desk.  

Now, I can't imagine re-joining the 9-5 world (I mean, I would if I had to, I am resilient - but I certainly don't want to, at least not at present moment). But even so, I say about myself that I have always been more about the mind than the body - one reason why I struggle so with formal exercise (the other is the gym teacher from h-ll). I'm happiest with my nose in a book or with pen and paper (fast forward to Kindle and keyboard). That makes me sound like a white-pants wearing, sedentary, obese, couch-potato TV addict, which isn't close to being true, but I think even among active folks, the trend toward the smart machines ruling zips along. We hike mountains, whip out the cell, snap a picture and post it to facebook. Or cry out in despair in our status update when our espresso machine refuses to dispense the morning cappuccino. It's all very ironic, this love / hate relationship with technology and modernism. But one can still be an early adopter and ask questions -- let's call it being a cautious proponent.

*Added: When we discuss educational technology and the impact of computer techology on us at the end of my foundations class, something I throw out there is whether we are like workers in the industrial revolution, harnessed to our machines.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

I picked the first cuke yesterday and second today! So far, I am beating the squash bugs and cucumber beetles, but every day I cast a wary eye over the vines.

Also: Stayed up late tinkering with blogger, playing with new features. Not sure whether I will keep them, seems cluttered and "community" isn't necessarily what this site is about -- but I'm glad they are adding options and flexibility, regardless.

And: There is something in the news (not bothering to link) that makes me think "and NYS refused to give me a license?" But then I suppose menaces like the driver are the reason I am too nervous to pass the road test. Who doesn't know wearing flip flops while driving is a really bad idea? Detective in me says there may be more to this story than meets the eye.
Lindenwald was great! I'd been there before, years ago. This tour was better. First, at that earlier time, some renovations were taking place. The servants' quarters were being worked on; in fact, I think they were in the process of being added to the tour after not being a part of it. It must have been the transition all social history went though in the past 30 years: inclusion of the poor and working class.

Then, the tour guide this time was outstanding. I'm not saying the one from last time wasn't good, but let's just say he or she wasn't memorable. The man today was extremely knowledgeable. Also laid back, didn't go through that long list of instructions about what can and cannot be done in the house. And for the most part it was a well-behaved group; no-one violated any of the usual rules, at least not that I noticed. One woman was texting which was rude but if she didn't want to pay attention, that was her loss.

Finally, the house was purchased by the Parks Service in the '70s after falling out of the family's hands when Van Buren's son owned it, so much of the furnishings were no longer on premises. They have acquired more original artifacts that belonged to Van Buren than they had when I visited before. They've also done a lot of research on how things were when he lived at the house, and reproduced that look.

I was surprised by how many people were on the tour: nine. There seemed to be about that many in the group that followed us too. I was pleased to see that the site is busy. Many of the roped-off spaces can't handle any more than that.

It was my mother's and sister's first visit, and they enjoyed it. Another visitor asked whether it is worth it to visit FDR's place in Hyde Park. The tour guide said yes, definitely. (I agree, and actually I was wearing a Fala tee-shirt today that I bought last time I was there.) He added that they consider the Van Buren site to be the "poor cousin" of FDR's house. Funny, and I suppose true. Personally, I think I like it just as much, even if the site isn't as "rich." I highly recommend it, in fact. The 19th Century is fascinating, and isn't as crowded. The sea of faces can wait until August 30 thank you very much!

Afterwards we visited Ocean State Job Lot. A worthwhile place. I like that they moved into the vacant Grand Union, rather than wasting resources, ruining a field and building a new box. I don't like to shop (understatement, add --at all--), and aside from the supermarket, farm stand and (of course) Stewarts' routinely, and the garden center, liquor store and beverage distributor occasionally, I get by (almost) exclusively with three online vendors (Vitamin Shoppe, LL Bean, Amazon) and three brick & mortar (Ocean State, Tractor Supply, True Value). I don't "do" malls, Target, Walmart, Burlington Coat Factory, Petsmart, Home Depot, etc.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

I think that I have solved the various technical issues in Samsonville. The first, extending the range of my wireless router, took buying this new adapter. There are still only two bars, but that is enough to make a satisfactory experience and eliminate the cable lightening rod. This wonderful N router helped, but that adapter may have worked even with my old G router.

The second, getting home phone connect to find a signal inside the house so I don't have to emulate Green Acres* and have it cradled in a tree with a long cord to a phone on the deck (thereby creating a new lightening attractor) took a visit to the store, and a bunch of aggravating telephone calls to tech support. But the result is that on Thursday FedX will be bringing me a wireless extender to plug into my router (it will make a mini cell phone tower in my house) and a new blackberry bold telephone. The phone isn't much different than the curve I already have, but it is over two years newer so naturally it's more modern. I re-upped my cell contract at the same time, and so they were willing to give me the range extender for free. My, and other people's regular cell phones should work there now too, but we'll see. I'll be hooking it all up on Saturday.

This all makes it sound so easy! The first, getting the Internet wireless signal extended took years. Really. I worked on it so many times, installing everything, and then after all the equipment got fried by lightening. Hours on the phone, lots of money in replacement equipment, endless brainstorming, and more than hours working on the machines.

The second didn't take quite as much time but it did take some tinkering, as well as numerous phone calls to tech support, which eventually devolved into me threatening and becoming, as I say, "borderline nutjob." Why should it have to come to that? But the problem is resolved so now we're back to a lovefest. Or will be, after Saturday when I set it up and it works like a charm!

The only apprehension (and I guess I've made peace with it given that I am actively seeking to be surrounded at all times) is that who knows what all these wireless signals are doing to us. The mountains tried to block us...but we will have them at our peril.


A completely different subject: the clock is ticking, as the semester approaches. If I had a break of a week or even a couple days during the semester, it seems long and is welcome. But during the summer, being away from campus for nearly 4 months...when there are three weeks left it is almost enough to generate a panic attack! I get into major procrastination mode, and the preparation for the semester seems almost insurmountable.

Then, I devolve into owl, which is my natural tendency. How will I ever get up and be ready to go in the morning? What will I wear? I have to get dressed up? Dressed up is used in a relative way here, probably should just be "dressed." I have to wear respectable long pants that are not full of wrinkles and a decent shirt that is age appropriate, fits, isn't (too) weird, and is free of stains. I haven't really "dressed up" for work since 1998 (except for a short-lived spell in 2001). Bob teases me, says "Oh no! You'll have to wear clothes" when the semester is approaching, as he pantomimes getting dressed and the horror of it. I've worn nothing but shorts and comfy tee shirts since May. A while ago I linked this funny video. My litany of woe here should be added since it is equally pathetic! Even worse, I only have to go to campus two days per week. The rest of the time I can loll around in my winter attire - sweat pants and comfy tee shirts.

Of course, there is that bittersweet emotion, the end of the growing season approaching, the long winter looming. I like the four seasons, love Fall, don't mind winter or adore the heat as much as most people. But still I feel a little blue over the march of time, the end of the garden, the closing of the pool. And, there is always that unpleasant, gnawing sensation that not enough was accomplished, that things on the wish list are left undone.

Finally, I have a touch of (self-diagnosed) agoraphobia, and while the long, quiet, idyllic, peaceful summer may be good for self-reflection, it really whips my anxieties into overdrive. That first day back on campus is hectic even within my nearly student-free isolated enclave on the third floor; the campus center "mall area" is like an out-of-body experience. And of course all those faces get younger and younger every year :-). Say what? It's me? No way! How dare you?


We've been watching a lot of DVDs. The latest was Country Strong. Not a bad movie at all, interesting with good acting and pleasant music, but very, very sad. Don't watch it if you are not up to a downer!


*One of those cultural references that can never be made to students.

Added: saving this link about the Grades 3-8 NYSED assessments for use in my class and research.

Monday, August 08, 2011

The trumpet vines are even more amazing and the pool is finally blue! I swam both days of the weekend. Despite the difficulties of getting it clear this summer, I've been swimming more than usual. It's such a hot one!

My brother celebrated his birthday on Saturday. Since Elwyn owned the house, while we were having cake, my mother talked about the diaries and mentioned this announcement she noticed that he had clipped and inserted in the 1961 diary: 

 By Jean Henderson
    Mr and Mrs Joe Massimo, now living in Boston, became parents of a baby boy Sept. 15, this is their first child.
     Florence Giuliano surprised all by having her baby weeks ahead of time. She was born Sept. 18, 5a.m. weighing 6lbs. 7 oz. And named Dina. Florence and Dino now have two boys and two girls.
    Seven year old Janette Giuliano stated emphatically that if they couldn’t have a girl then she would rather have a raccoon. Thank heaven for small favors! The raccoon notion came because she has seen so many of them at the home of her grandparents, Mr & Mrs Mart Eckert.

Aunt Jean wrote a column for the local newspaper (as Elwyn did before her). I was going to save that birth announcement for the actual day of my 50th, but it couldn't keep.

This issue is creating quite a stir. My father said yesterday, "We haven't had a town controversy in a while. It's good to have them every so often."

Finally: we watched Another Year, a wonderful British movie, Mike Leigh's latest. Really reminded me of...someone in my own life. Enough said.

Friday, August 05, 2011

Last night on the Tonight Show, Roseanne was the first guest. She announced that she was running for president, and said she had chosen to do it while on the show because Arnold had announced his run for governor when he was a guest. I couldn't tell whether she was joking or serious, and if it's a lark, whether it was a one-shot for her guest appearance or will be a running joke like when Howard Stern said he was running for governor. She had buttons and posters which she gave to Jay.

She said her party is the "Green Tea Party." She didn't say this, so I don't know whether the party choice was inspired by him, but that is the same one as John Nemjo, the write in candidate for governor last fall. His slogan was "I can't do any worse." She didn't mention that specifically, but it seemed to sum up her platform too. Some of the items she mentioned are the legalization of marijuana, and having the American people as vice president. She also said some stuff about global warming, in the context of growing your own vegetables, avoiding factory farming and eating healthy proteins like nuts and legumes instead of meat. (Apparently she bought a macadamia nut farm on Hawaii.) I agree with her on that, but I can't stand it when celebrities lecture and pass judgment and act all superior about their lifestyle and carbon footprint and how green they are, then hop on a jet and fly to the next gig. Yeah, right!

Her hair is salt and pepper, which surprised me, given that she transformed herself into someone barely recognizable via surgery, liposuction (and bariatric surgery?) in the later years of her series. But it does make her look less ridiculous and more normal and down to earth.

Which reminds me, we saw two DVDs recently. One was Source Code. There were a few things that didn't add up, even given the science fiction genre, but it was basically an exciting and enjoyable movie. The other was the Lincoln Lawyer, and it was really good! Very suspenseful and unpredictable.

The reason Roseanne's appearance reminded me is because the latter was a rare movie where the "love interest" stars were age appropriate, rather than having a veteran middle aged / senior citizen male actor hooked up with the latest young female flavor of the week. Another yeah, right!
This is an interesting chart about returns to education to use in my class; saving it here because that works better for me than a bookmark.

Another link for my class: Online education now required in NYS schools.

Thursday, August 04, 2011

My sister has painted the old place for our brother's birthday, at our SIL's request. How bittersweet to see it again.
This is my own recipe and it is always a big, big hit. I prefer the eggplant variant, but with zucchini so abundant this time of year...

Appetizer or Main Dish
Zucchini, Tomato, Mozzarella and Basil Caprese “Sandwiches” (vegetarian)

1 cup fresh basil leaves, 1 big clove garlic, 1 tablespoon parmesan cheese, 1/4 cup olive oil, 1/3 cup pine nuts (walnuts also work fine). Combine all in mini-food processor, grind up. You can use a blender instead. Slivers of nuts and small pieces of basil should still be visible in the finished product.

Select large zucchini, but not baseball bat sized. Slice into rounds ~1/4 inch thick. Alternatively, if the zucchini is small (so the rounds would be tiny) or huge (so the seeds must be removed), you can slice the zucchini lengthwise instead. Dredge in beaten egg, then in breadcrumbs. Place in single layer on greased cookie sheet, bake in 350 degree oven until brown on both sides (flip once). You can drizzle a small amount of olive oil on them before baking, if you wish. Or, you could fry the rounds instead (which admittedly is more yummy), but this way is much easier, healthier and less messy - and they still come out great.

Assembling Sandwiches
Spread pesto on one side of each zucchini round. Place half of zucchini in single layer on cookie sheet. Top each zucchini round with a slice of mozzarella (can also use shredded mozzarella if you prefer), a slice of tomato, and sprinkle with parmesan cheese. Top each with a “pestoed” zucchini round. Bake in 350 degree oven until hot.

You can leave out the mozzarella and just use parmesan, you can spread 1 can of canned chopped tomatoes (ie, the flavored type, such as those made by Delmonte) in a baking pan (rather than a cookie sheet) and place the zucchini rounds on top (you can also spill a little on top of each sandwich after assembling), and/or you can serve the “sandwiches” with a side of tomato sauce or canned chopped tomatoes. Finally - you can use eggplant instead of zucchini - if you do, peel the eggplant before breading.
For dinner tonight (considering the time, I guess it was last night) I had what my mother calls "Irish pizza." This is something we all loved as kids, and to this day, two sandwiches - tomato with mayonaise on toast and Irish pizza are favorite lunches in the summer. Irish pizza is an open-faced sandwich: toast, sliced tomato, cheese, sprinkled with oregano, garlic powder, salt, melted in the toaster oven. My cheese was sliced provolone (thank you Stewart's for carrying it) and considering that and the oregano sprinkles, the "Irish" nature of it is dubious. But it's still a good recipe name for a delicious treat.

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Today I spent two hours watering, weeding, weed whacking, picking produce and taking pictures. Just so I'm not only about happy flower and veggie snaps:

Uh-oh! This is what squash bugs do to curcurbits! And right on the verge of the cucumbers being ready. I will be spending some time among my vines, crouched down like a cat ready to pounce on a critter. I don't know whether squash bugs are in the category of love me or hate me, probably they are indifferent. Regardless, I have zero affection for them. The vermin will not win.

This reminded me of something I forgot to mention when I wrote about the concert. We lingered until the last encore, allowed the mob to rush out ahead, and play demolition derby in the parking lot. As we were walking out, I noticed the lawn was littered with all sorts of crap. The audience was mostly not college students, not that being 20-something is an excuse. The majority were 30-something and 40-something. Why are people such slobs? Yes, staff will clean it up, but so what?

Aside from the racino part (it's no secret how I feel about that) this was LOL-funny!

Back to happy gardening pics:

 The eggplant grows very slowly...but it's a-comin'
 Today's harvest
 Coleus always does well...its neighbor in the left corner is oregano

Almost forgot! A picture of General Joe's BBQ is on page B2 of the TU today.

Added: I wondered if anyone in this list shared my birthday...James Gandolfini!?

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Paying the price for procrastination. (How I love alliteration.)

Added @ 7:30: Finished with summer session grades! Beat the deadline even given the procrastination (and partying, and feeling prickly, perturbed and peevish). Hehehe.

Garden, here I come (tomorrow that is, barring rain. What's the forecast, anyway?).

Monday, August 01, 2011

Nice long weekend! The concert at SPAC was great. Of course my favorite was BNL. I could have gone just to hear them, but it is long ride and it would have wasted the tickets, which I would not do. It lasted over 4 1/2 hours! Beautiful night, if a tad hot. I got some bug bites on my ankles, although we sat inside. The lawn smelled strongly of "Off" so it must have been brutal out there. 

The bands mostly played their older stuff, much of it songs that had received radio play, I guess because they had to appeal to a broad range. I was very surprised to see that the entire balcony, plus both left and right sides of the rear orchestra section were empty! A sign of the bad economic times? Lots of boarded up and for sale stuff in Saratoga in general. I am somewhat despairing about when it will get better. Feels so much like the late '70s.

There is a long list of rules for attending SPAC. There always has been, but it used to be very lightly enforced. I suspected it would be tight security now, but as it turns out, there were many folks taking pictures and doing other things that are supposedly not permitted. It was more orderly than it was the last time I was there, and there have been many good improvements and renovations. One rule is that you can bring in one factory sealed bottle of water per person, so I brought a pomegranate seltzer. For some reason, I forgot this always happens - and when I opened sprayed all over me, Bob and the woman in front of me! Luckily it was a mellow crowd, and it wasn't soda!