Friday, September 30, 2011

My alma mater / weekend house school board hired a consultant to tell them what they already knew. From the grapevine I hear that they are still in denial. See here. Enrollment is plummeting, tax rates are skyrocketing. This report only goes back five years but the trends are clear, if you go back ten or twenty or thirty years it is even more dramatic.

I am very sympathetic to issues of community schools and class size. I like small schools. I believe research supports them. However, sometimes you have to face reality. Change is hard, I know. There are a number of cuts that are going to have to be made, but many of them require state-level reform before local areas will benefit. There is one that can be done locally, almost immediately: A building must be closed.

One of the problems with implementation is that the last board came out with that as a strong recommendation, and were promptly voted out. The current board members (well, at least the ones who are left; meaning they didn't resign almost immediately after seeing what they had gotten themselves into) were elected solely because they promised to not close a school.

Whenever there is a touchy issue, one segment of the community rises up and the board turns over. When this happens, it goes from a dominated board to a factional board. It's like a case study taken from McCarty and Ramsey (1971). Often during the factional period, the superintendent is replaced, and for a time it becomes inert: The new superintendent has a lot of influence. The community snoozes, the board relaxes. However, gradually the board becomes dominated again, with the POV of the faction in the super-majority. Power shifts back to the board, and the superintendent has to go. The community starts to get restless. It is only a matter of time before a controversy lights a fire under another faction and a new segment rises up, the board turns over, starting the process again. Something I have never seen happen there is a pluralistic board. Maybe that more representative structure could better navigate the controversies, but it might not be possible.

It's a difficult district, in that it is centralized - four-plus towns consolidated into one. Each town had its own elementary school, back in the days when the baby boomers attended. Several years ago, one building was closed and the community was outraged; the board turned over. The trends in enrollment and costs have continued, and there are still too many buildings. I look into the future and see a time when eventually, it will have to be just one centralized campus. Perhaps that would end the factionalism. The only other solution would be to break up the district, and in a community schools utopia that would be wonderful, but I don't see that happening. I'm no fan of Conant's 1950s vision that ushered in centralized schools but there's no turning back the clock. Economies of scale and all that. Demographics just don't support maintaining what is, and there are state-level incentives for "efficiencies." Yes, it may be a bitter pill but denial is not a solution.

Next hot topic, there is this. Another unpleasant reality! I think it is outrageous that there are no public hearings scheduled for Chenango, Delaware, Otsego or Schoharie Counties.

Finally, a lot on my mind. Turning over an opportunity. It would be a big change. I may need to make one of those decision-making spreadsheets. Haven't done that in years. It's especially appropriate in this case. But first, research.

Added: ever have one of those spells where everything is irritating? Is the answer to that question "wine?"

Thursday, September 29, 2011

West Shokan got hit again! This link has my sister's photos. (An aside, why can't anyone spell our names? That's always been true of the surname, of course, but our first names as well. Maybe back in the '60s it was understandable - they were unusual names in the days of Kathy and Lisa. But today, in the era of Ailaisya and Mehkayhluh?) Anyway, between the rain, flooding and the mosquitos, this is not a nice fall. Sure my plants are all still alive -- and in some cases still producing, but it's hard to appreciate. Winter will be a welcome change.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Lost my driveway in Samsonville again. Sigh.
A Day's Thoughts (1985)

1. I have two little dogs who make it very hard to write. They are unreasonably jealous of two of my favorite pastimes: reading and writing. How can four things so dear to me be so incompatible? Well, at least my dogs don't inhibit another of my priorities -- sleeping. They enjoy it too.

2. I love to sleep late. That's been my attitude for as long as I can remember. I'll always forgo wearing make up or ironing my clothing if only for ten minutes more rest. I'd rather have to rush than awaken just enough earlier to afford me a bit of leisure in the morning. Consciously I agree with all those who have told me how stupid that is, and nearly every day I resolve that tomorrow will be different, but I'm not very rational at 6  a.m.! If I could, I'd stay up late every night and sleep 'til noon every day. Unfortunately, I'm one of those people who needs a lot of sleep, doesn't (and doesn't want to) work second shift, and has to work.

3. Working. True, it does give one some sense of accomplishment. I saw some television documentary the other day about women in the work force and I had to laugh when they talked about how much women love working. I'm as much of a feminist as the next person, but I don't understand how anyone can contend that either men or women actually enjoy laboring for others. I'm not pretending that women would rather stay home while men work, as in the '50s, but it strikes me as stupid to suppose that there are very many of us who prefer working to leisure. Realistically, don't we all work because we need money?

4. Some time ago I would have viciously attacked anyone who suggested that I even liked money. I still don't pretend to be one of the materialistic types whose goals in life revolve around gaining status symbols. I like to be comfortable, but I have a somewhat different view of status than many who live in this area...the affluent northern suburbs of New York City. I think status is a good education; I'm not impressed by a Jaguar. Still, I seem to have an overwhelming need for legal tender -- money to pay the rent and electric bill, a healthy checkbook with which to buy milk and bread and artichoke hearts in olive oil.

5. Why is it that so much of the food found in the supermarket is packaged in disposable containers? Every week I haul out at least one of those green plastic garbage bags to be miraculously carried away and laid to rest in some unknown place. Wouldn't it be better if stores sold food and the consumer had to provide the container? That seems like a good idea, considering the diminishing amount of space available for landfills. "Landfill," now there's a euphemism for you. I remember in my hometown we called it a dump.

6. Judging from the pattern I've established I suppose euphemisms are the next topic. It's true that I dislike them. Now why didn't I substitute the words "hate," "funny" and "write" in that last sentence?

7. Isn't it funny how hypocritical we all are...even me:
  • I say I hate television, yet once we got one I watch it too much.
  • I sneer at money, but I'd love to have a new car and fashionable clothing attracts me.
  • I laughed at "them" when they complained about taxes, but don't I feel resentment when I see all that money deducted from my pay?
Sometimes I wonder if life's experiences make all of us into conformists...into (gasp) conservatives. Then again, life experience has only reinforced my commitment to certain issues.

8. Speaking of movements, I've recently ascribed to the cause of animal rights. I feel strongly that we have no right to exploit those that have no voice of their own. That brings be back to my two dear little dogs.

Added 2011: Yesterday I heard that Andy Rooney is retiring on Sunday (at age 92!). So I was delighted to run across something I wrote more than half my life ago sort of in his style.

#1 is still true - but composing on the structure of a keyboard rather than with a pen in a notebook on the couch really tamps down the interference from the dogs, and with my own house and a fenced yard, I've gradually moved to larger dogs over the years - they are not quite as needy as Howie and Penny were.

#2 -- well, at some point not long after I wrote that paragraph I gave up on make-up entirely, and not because of time restrictions. Then about ten years ago I landed on a profession that didn't require me to groove with the 9-5 world.

About #3 I would say that I hit the nail on the head -- except that with aging, accomplishment and education, has come much more enjoyable work. Leisure is still better, though.

#4 is also still right on, but now I know that in a learning society, it isn't just money and material objects that determine status, but education and credentials. So despite my demeanor and humble external circumstances, people learn I have a PhD, and I am immediately elevated from --- what, I wonder? Stewarts' associate to learned professor? Suddenly I am a more worthy person. The voice in my head shouts "isn't there dignity in all work and in all workers?" (You see, that 24-year-old is still in there somewhere.) I often tell this to students during our discussions of economics of education, and get laughs. Finally, continuing with #4, still love those artichoke hearts!

#5 -- I was into sustainability before it was cool.

What the h-ll did I mean by that last sentence in #6? I can "see" myself smiling as I wrote it, presenting the reader with a puzzle.

#7 is even more true today than it was then (except the new car part. Don't care; probably didn't then, either, just wrote it to make a common connection).

And #8! Well, once again, it's more true now than it was then, if that is even possible.

Unrelated: meeting three friends who are former colleagues from my System days tonight for dinner. Really looking forward to it!

Also: Something to do with #8...I don't live in Albany County but this is awesome. I hope it passes, and other counties copy the law.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

After missing out in May (because we got caught in a downpour, drenched, and had to go home) we finally made it to the Red Lion Inn yesterday! My research* is in Columbia County, so we were nearly there already. Not that Castleton is far from Stockbridge, it isn't at all. It was a great late lunch, and like a summer day. (Including the mosquitos. What's up with that? What a nightmare they are. Another gift from Irene! I want to weed whack, but it is impossible. A frost before this warmth would have zapped them, too bad it also would have ended the growing season.)

Here I am in the gift shop with my jazzy new shirt jacket that my sister made for my birthday

The timing was good, because Bob is having to deal with some BS (personally) and on the professional front, I just heard the PEF vote was no! I won't detail much on either one since it's neither my situation nor job - but the impacts of the latter would be a lot easier if he could target folks who deserve it rather than the newly hired taking the hit. On the former...well, suffice to say he's a lot better at handling it than I would be. So I'm glad we got to go before things on either front worsen for him.

* There was a kid there who distracted me so much -- he was wearing a green #7 Vick jersey! UGH. Are you kidding me? What kind of a lowlife would buy such a thing and send a boy to school wearing it?

And: It's Banned Books Week!  I'm not going to participate in the virtual read-out, but I am going to read lots of Mark Twain on my Kindle. I have one small issue with BBW; it should be "frequently challenged books week." I love alliteration more than the average person, but I find BBW gives students (and others) the wrong idea. They take it literally.
Something I have been meaning to post here but keep forgetting is that shortly before my birthday, I submitted comments to DEC about the fracking report. They were as follows:

I have some general comments on hydrofracking in NYS. I knew during the debate last fall that Cuomo was going to ram through fracking. As a state in a time of economic crisis we need the jobs and money, so it is a straightforward cost / benefit analysis to him. It isn't that the costs are not being factored in, it is that they are devalued through mitigation, and even though there are impacts and risks, when balanced with the benefits, the benefit side wins. I like the governor (a lot) and feel he is (very) competent, but I felt at the time of the debate that it's a deal breaker issue that practically (though not quite) rises to the level of a single issue to me, and not "just" because of the water, but the view, the noise, the traffic, the social changes to rural communities. However, I am realistic. It is very likely going to happen; it feels like a forgone conclusion.

That the NYC watershed is exempt from fracking is all you need to know about the threat to water. I grew up in West Shokan, a town that was displaced in 1909 to make way for the Ashokan Reservoir. It has always been about what is best for the many (NYC metro) rather than the few (town of Olive). This is maybe the only time when having the reservoir has benefited my hometown, because to protect the drinking water of the metropolis - the watershed has to be spared.

But I hate to be NIMBY about this issue. I went to college in Oneonta and am very fond of Central New York as well. I don't find the reports about the Pennsylvania accidents anything but frightening. I can see the same type of incidents in our future. Look at PCBs and General Electric, as well as the sites of other industrial brown fields. It wasn't illegal at the time and now we are left with the mess. I think it is absolutely essential to know -- in advance - what's in the poison soup that is being shot into the rock.

We just suffered the wrath of mother nature with the twin hurricanes/tropical storms of Irene and Lee. This revised report was finished just before the flooding. I believe there needs to be additional analysis - how will you guarantee that whatever is the byproduct of fracking - it is kept safely away from us in the event of another natural disaster? What if fracking was already taking place and the flood waters contained its effluent in addition to the sewage, petroleum, pharmaceuticals, etc. it already contained? What would happen to our farmlands? Streams? Houses? Wildlife? Maybe it is time to take another trip to Pennsylvania to assess in the wake of Lee.

Even if the dangers can be mitigated there is no way you could risk sharing front and center the photo of the (supposedly) more pleasant-looking well site in the mitigation report. That is supposed to be a nice looking site? Why are the buildings red? It is nothing less than an offensive scar on the beautiful landscape.

I confess I am not up on the science of water or engineering and my analysis includes nonquantitative emotions. But that doesn't mean they are not valid in a cost / benefit analysis equation. They may be difficult to quantify, but they are real and should not be casually discounted.

The "long short-term" economic benefits to Central NY may well be persuasive to local folks. I don't know; I am not sure how the residents feel who live where the wells will be nearby, but their opinions are very important to me. I always feel when there are environmental questions that I can't stand the corporate environmental interests as much as I can't stand the industry lobbyists, so I am trying to keep an open mind, and sincerely hope that the public comment period does have a positive impact, and isn't simply superficially crossing the T and dotting the I for administrative law compliance. Thanks for reading.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Yesterday in church there was more information promulgated about the upcoming changes in Mass, which will take place on November 27. Interesting to me that what we say now was written in 1973, a result of changing from Latin to the language of the people (of course in our case, that's English). The planned revisions have been in the works for nine years and are supposed to reflect improvements in translation.

Plus: The media has moved on (although the only major attention was local anyway), but the need for recovery help from Irene and Lee continues.

Consulting this afternoon, and this week, a major focus will be research and writing on the study. And securing a replacement grill for the car!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

I understand from the fb posts of friends that the Giants won. Yay! I don't give a d-mn about sports, especially football, btw. I am just really happy the Eagles were crushed because of that scum Vick.

And: Buckled down and I am caught up! Yahoo!
For the past couple of months, I get about 10 of these spams a day. In my work account, I get several spams of this flavor per day. I can't believe that people fall for stuff like this, but then long ago I knew this guy so it's definitely true that people are gullible. Scum prey upon the desperate and the vain. So why me? :-)

Six years ago today my beloved Rudy died. It was a Sunday that year too. Something I forgot to mention two weeks ago yesterday is that September 10 was the 16th anniversary of Howie's death. Also a Sunday that year. Not that I forgot the anniversary, I just didn't record it here, in my litany of September sadness.

On the subject of the animals, Bob is taking Sophie to the "salon" to get her nails "done" this morning. That's what we call it. She won't allow us anywhere near her with nail clippers, and even barks at Bob when he gets out the clippers to cut his own (mine are long and a file is the only device needed routinely; she doesn't seem to notice). It's their private time, and afterwards he will take her out to breakfast. Sam will stay here with me. He'll freak out, which is why most of the time, I go along and take him too. We wait in the car. This is maybe the second time since Bob's surgeries that he has taken Sophie alone, not so much because of Sam but because he can't lift her into the Mariner (or before that, the truck) but yesterday he got the car serviced so he wants to use it and she can hop into that unassisted. Which reminds me, my next task, now that the computer is fixed and the telephone sorted out, is to get Ford to replace the grill on our Lincoln, which I believe is defective.

But first, I have to get caught up on work. Three days of computer tinkering have put me seriously behind!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Yesterday I wrote about senior pets being abandoned. This has been less adoptable pet week, with many efforts to find homes for the overlooked. That's another reason why it was on my mind. I tend to adopt the less adoptable, but not in terms of extreme age. I can't bear to have my pets die after having them for only a couple of years. My sister-in-law adopts senior dogs. She's their guardian angel. I don't think she could take the dog in the flyer at the salon (because she has two dogs already, one a senior with health issues that she adopted a year ago, and there is also a third dog on premises, since she has my nephew's most of the time). But I'm sure there are others out there like her, and if anyone would know them, it's my hairstylist friend.
It looks like I have conquered the virus. Bob used the machine all last evening with only minor issues. Right now I am doing a defrag and then will create a restore point.

If you have landed here because you have a rootkit virus; are searching because your tcpip.sys (or apparently another .sys file) has been destroyed; you cannot connect to the Internet due to a virus; are getting an error message when you try to repair your network connection (such as "theTCP/IP Protocol Driver service failed to start due to the following error: The system cannot find the file specified"); avast (or your other virus checker) is disabled and will not turn on or repair; icons have vanished on your desktop or various system files are missing from your computer; the result is a freeze or impossibly slow response when you try to open network connections in control panel; the machine won't roll your computer back to a restore point; and/or you are getting low virtual memory error messages, you may be a redneck. No, only kidding. You may have come to the right place!

Read this. It's very helpful, sort of a general overview. There are lots of other fascinating materials at that site that explain the history of malware, various recent exotic threats, etc., if you are interested in reading more on the subject.

I have other computers that I can use to search and download tools; if you do not, take a flash drive somewhere and download all the tools you need. Even if you have one or more of these already installed, download a new version instead of relying on what's already on there. I downloaded the latest version of avast, also the avast removal tool to get rid of the compromised version that was installed [and I then installed the updated avast last, after getting rid of the virus], malwarebytes, kapersky anti virus, cc cleaner, combofix, copied them to a flash drive, booted into safe mode, and ran each one. (I also tried sophos, and what it found was right on, but you will have to google each file it finds that is suspicious but not automatically flagged to be sure it is OK to remove, and I think combofix may take care of that automatically.) A couple of the anti-virus checkers had to reboot and run in regular mode, and I allowed it.

It took me two days to solve -- the first was mostly shots in the dark, since I did not really know what to hunt for, hit a bunch of dead ends, and feared that a reformat/recovery/reinstall was going to be necessary (and naturally I cannot find the recovery disk so would need to buy one and wait for it to come...price with shipping, $50...maybe better to invest those funds in a new cheapie laptop instead? And I noticed lots of scary things in searches suggesting the virus might survive even wiping the machine...not sure if that is true, btw, lots of junk information out there) until I arrived at a partial solution that restored network connectivity (using steps 11-19 posted by hublerb in this thread), but did not remove the virus.

However, once I reinstalled avast in that state, I immediately was alerted that a virus was found, and what it was (although it could not be removed and it disabled avast and network connectivity again). So the second day I had that piece of information to go on, and arrived at the fix. Good luck!

Later: I should add that I decided to switch (on the laptop only) to avg anti-virus from avast, since the virus got through and avast kept getting disabled.

Still Later: The virus, or I think more likely everything that I did to wipe it out also lost the file associations in Bob's log on (not mine). So I used this to restore them.

And still later: Bob tells me that his log on was messed up long before the virus took hold, and he had been using mine. So that might not have been part of this, or might have been the first warning signal. (Although I believe we got it on Tuesday, so maybe not.) Regardless, it is all fixed and working fine now.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Something I have not mentioned is that my mother made a memory box for my birthday with pictures from infancy and childhood, a baby sweater Aunt Ital made me, and a copy of my story: A Cat in a Boat pinned inside. I read the story to my guests after dinner. Also modeled the shirt my sister made for me (which got a ton of compliments when I wore it on Tuesday, among them, "she's so talented." Yes, she is.) Eventually, I will post the pictures here.

In honor of yesterday's flirtation with mass transit, I dug out something that was thus inspired:

Exodus from the Cube Farm (1998)

Like clockwork, at 5:15
The shuttle arrives
A woman wearing a sleeveless demin shirt stops chattering and boards
Still hot even at this after work hour
A middle aged man lugs his gut aboard, perspiring
His thin greyish ponytail denying the bald spot on top of his head
An aging hippie, perhaps?
The door screetches shut behind him
Is the air conditioning broken?
The bus echoes the crowd's groans of disappointment as it lurches away
On facebook, I am a fan of several animal shelters, and recently, I also spent some time on petfinder, since my mother was "in the market" for a dog. I cannot believe the number of OLD animals that need to be re-homed. Who would give away a senior pet? A couple days ago, I got my haircut, and I noticed that my stylist had a flyer posted advertising a nine-year-old dog that was free to good home. I asked him about it. He said he didn't know the people, but a co-worker of his wife's was "downsizing;" the last kid had left for college and they were moving to a condo, and among the things they were shedding were their two dogs. He told me he had made it his mission to find new homes for them, and he'd already successfully placed the seven-year-old. This led to us exchanging how incredulous we are over such behavior, and how despicable such people are. (And people wonder why their adult children move far away from them and rarely visit. No mystery there!)

Speaking of facebook, full disclaimer is that I do appreciate it for the connections it has kept and made. I have a strict policy that I never friend or accept friend requests from current students. But what to do when someone I don't like sends a friend request? This has happened to me twice. Ignore is an option of course, but it still seems rude. It seems I have another moral dilemma, less important than yesterday's spider one.

I am still struggling with the laptop, but I made progress. Discovered what the problem is. It's bad, a rootkit virus. I am not giving up yet!* On a happier note, I solved the phone problem. They are giving me a "dry loop" for DSL, and a credit on the telephone back to February! So with the credit and a la carte DSL I won't have to pay anything for another two months. Yay!

From the "if we were real investors, we'd be trouble" file: about two weeks ago, we sold some collectible silver we had for a really, really, really long time. We knew the price was up, and it seemed like good timing. It had never been worth this much before, and for a significant period, it had been worth less than what we paid. We wound up making money on it, which was awesome. It paid for our Irene storm damage in Samsonville (lots of gravel). Was it ever good timing! Yesterday it went down 9 percent, and today it plummeted another 18 percent!

Finally: I received a link to this from Wooden Horse Publishing, in an email that warned and asked that recipients tell others: "Be careful if you write online and quote other sources, even in comments.  In a recent blog post we highlighted a company called Righthaven LLC - a business founded solely to monitor and sue small websites and blogs."

* Added: I think I fixed it! Cautiously optimistic. I have rebooted, and it's working! Now running another scan and preparing to create a restore point. Fingers crossed...if it's good to go at this point, it "only" took two days. However, no reformat/recovery needed. If I have indeed sorted it out, I will write more details and pointers, for the google searchers who land here in a panic, hoping to solve their terrible virus problem.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Computer Hell: I am in the middle of a computer nightmare with my laptop. It has a really, really bad virus. I have avast (fully up to date), windows firewall, as well as advanced windows care for malware - and still something got through, whether from the Internet or from a student assignment - I can't tell, could be either one. I spent all day yesterday on it and still can't fix it. I am at the point where I might have to reformat. I don't want to, and I will probably have to buy the recovery console CD (because naturally I can't find it)  but I don't have the time to continue with tweaks in the hope that one will work. Time to cut my losses. I can hardly think of anything else (except my final paragraph, that is).

Phone Hell: Landlines in Samsonville were down for 18 days from Irene, and finally got repaired last week. Then they went out again two days ago. So once again my parents had no phone. Tech support said it would be October 1 before they would be fixed! However "someone with juice" intervened and service was restored yesterday. Yay! In Castleton, I use Home Phone Connect - which is from the wireless division. (Actually I use it in Samsonville too, with a network extender.) Works like a charm. But, since I have DSL, I need a landline. So that telephone is exclusively a fax line. Turns out it has never worked - since it was installed in February. DSL works great, but no voice. Technician came out last week and is stumped. Why should I pay for the phone part when it doesn't work? So once the computer issues are solved, that is my next battle.

Alternative Transportation: Bob is traveling and this is a campus day, so that means I have to hitch a ride somehow. CDTA canceled bus service to Castleton about two years ago (except for a senior bus on Wednesdays - now I may be 50 but I have not yet received my AARP solicitation and besides...). So this means taxi to downtown and then bus to campus. This morning I feared I'd have to cancel class since I could not find a cab willing to make the trip to the hinterlands! I finally did - crisis averted. Then the bus ride up Washington Avenue was interesting. To say the least. I used to do some of my best writing on mass transit, and I remembered why.

Arachnophobia: All summer there has been a spider living between the bathroom window and the screen. I don't routinely kill stuff, so I have tolerated its presence and the web behind the glass. I remind myself that they are good bugs for pest control. A couple of weeks ago, when it was getting cold, I thought, that spider will soon freeze once the season changes, and I sadly remembered the story of Charlotte. Well, a couple of days ago, the spider somehow slipped between the window and the molding and relocated itself to the inside of the bathroom window. It hangs out on its web, not too far from the bathtub, towels, and toilet. I can't have a spider right there - somewhat because it is a strange thing to let go in the house but mostly because as a survivor of a Brown Recluse bite, it is hard for me to put the fear out of my mind. I know it is just a common spider, not a poisonous one, but it is quite large and very fast, and besides, I don't want the dogs or cat to get bitten. But, I can't help but think that it is smart, with a strong survival instinct, to slip inside before the frost comes. Bob told me he will squash it one day when I am not around. I know he will, and one part of me can't wait, but another hates to have that happen. I suppose he could catch and release it (he might if I asked him to do that instead) but then, it will just die outside in the cold anyway. Tonight in class we began the discussion of moral questions - and so this is my own personal moral dilemma.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

I think I may be having a slight setback in my cold recovery, from burning the candle at both ends and not getting enough rest. But, I made it to campus today anyway and managed to get through the day with no major incidents. The big news is that yesterday, Ma got her dog!

He's very excited, which is why I couldn't get a great picture. I can tell he will be a great dog. What a cutie!

Their phone is out again, and Verizon says it cannot be repaired until October 1. Isn't that ridiculous?

Monday, September 19, 2011

Since we knew yesterday's festivities would tire us out (we're in our fifties, for pete's sake :-), Bob took the day off and I didn't do my Monday consulting. We are spending an extra day in Samsonville. A truckload of gravel was just delivered to repair our driveway. It was first damaged a month ago during the hail storm, totally destroyed by Irene and then further eroded by Lee. So it is now almost impassable (4WD will make it, but no other vehicles do). My father is spreading it around with his backhoe. Later this afternoon I going with my mother to the shelter so she can fill out paperwork to adopt a dog. Heidi died in early May, I am not sure how she managed to wait this long but now she is very eager to bring home a new friend.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

I'm 50! I had a great day - closed the pool (actually, I did very little in that regard), hosted a big mostly Italian meal for 12, got several wonderful gifts, a bunch of facebook greetings and a lot of laughs! Bob has my cold (which is a bummer) but for me it's on the way out. I am tired!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Today would have been Rudy's 16th birthday. I didn't expect him to live to be 16, of course, although I have had one dog, Penny, who did. I still miss him and think of him often. I love all my dogs (and cats, and other pets) but Rudy was extra special, handsome on the inside and out. I was so proud that he was my dog. Happy Birthday my angel Mr. Wuj.

Today is also the 29th anniversary of Don's death. He was a close friend from college who commited suicide the day before my 21st birthday. Have I said recently that I don't like September?

Switching gears, we're off to Samsonville. Closing the pool - a task that marks the end of summer. My garden is still producing, but the plants are starting to wind down. After the past couple of two dog nights I've nervously checked in the morning to see if there had been a killing frost, and was happily surprised to see my friends all standing. I risked it, didn't want to harvest the basil, eggplant, green tomatoes and still-growing cucumbers yet. Also I still get to enjoy the more delicate flowers. So far, so good. If they make it to tomorrow it looks like they're safe for several days. Fingers crossed!

My cold is somewhat better again and I cooked until late last night. I'd recruited Bob to help earlier in the week and he came through on his promise. So we have big pans of parmesan all ready to serve on pool closing day...which coincidentally is my birthday and will usher in fifty. I think everyone is confounded that this is how I am celebrating! It isn't that I mind aging. Like Elwyn, I don't have a birthday - or week - I have a birth month! Maybe September '11 won't be so bad.

Friday, September 16, 2011

This is what we need for the dead spots in Samsonville: public access femtocell base stations to expand the cell range. I am using a mini version - a residential network extender, and it works like a charm. I may have to find a way to advocate for this solution if I expect it to happen, though. 'Nuff Said.
Still sick, but feeling somewhat better today. Here's something I wrote ~ten years ago, shortly after getting my doctorate, and just before 9/11, turning 40, and breaking free of the 9-5 world. At the time I was commuting via train and used the hour or so each way to write.

Amtrak Summer (2001)

All summer as I sit on a bench on the platform, I have watched the sunflowers on the village side (which means not on the river side). Early in the season, when mine at home were barely more than seeds, there was one high up, close to the overpass - tall, proud and in bloom. How did it grow so fast, and in such an inhospitable place? Now that mine are at peak - almost - there are many blooming at the station also but I think they are past their prime. Who planted them? Or did they sprout from some planted long ago that have now re-seeded? They are down an embankment, at the top of a very high concrete wall, where weeds thrive, mostly.

Lately, the sunflower admiring has been at a minimum. I have been sitting in the terminal as long as possible while I wait for the northbound train to be called, because there are some very annoying bees hovering around on the platform. It is not the flowers that attract them. A few used to circle half-empty soda cans that hurried travelers left behind on the benches, but now the numbers have multiplied. Intoxicated from the spilled cola, they take the opportunity to harass me by buzzing around my briefcase and pocketbook and hair, threatening to land and sting. They are even out in the morning.

Zipping along on the train north to Rensselaer, outside the window there are cattails and other wetland grasses, and some spots where purple loosestrife is ominously mixed in. Generally, in the morning, when traveling south, I am never on board early enough to get a seat on the river side, and usually I am lucky to get a window at all - every so often the seat coincides with wall rather than window and of course those seats stay empty the longest. Most of the time I do get to sit alone, though, at least until Hudson, and so I am spared from having to tolerate these usual seat mate behaviors: coffee-drinking, cellphone talking, snoring.

Exiting at Rhinecliff each morning, nearly everyday the conductor has to tell the people who want to board to wait until I get off. No-one else leaves the train at Rhinecliff. A few weeks ago, a conductor whispered to me as I was preparing to exit, "these are the rudest people in the world." As a regular patron, I am held in higher esteem than the ordinary passenger, and as a result, I am privileged with such confidences. I don't know whether he meant Rhinecliff residents, or commuters headed for New York City, or people on their way to meetings, or occasional Amtrak riders in general. But whichever it was I think they would trample me in their eagerness to board, and find a prized empty seat near a window on the river side. I guess they don't know that the one I just vacated lacks two of those three qualities.

As September approaches, some days I still wait on the platform. Often, there are many folks bound for New York City, Diet Cokes in hand (besides me, if there are one of two others going to Rensselaer in the afternoon, that is a busy day for the northbound run), and the bees are occupied with them. Soon enough it will be fall, then winter and there will be no more sunflowers or problems with bees.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Yesterday afternoon my sinuses started to act up. Could it be allergies due to the weather? No such luck. By last night it was clear I had a cold! This morning I am miserable. But I did not stay home, as I usually do when I am sick. It is only week 3 of the semester, and today is my mostly freshmen class, just can't justify canceling this early. Instead I am wondering how I will make it to 7 pm. Teaching takes a lot of energy and focus even when I am 100 percent.

I guess it figures. This is how my birthday generally plays out. It's the reason why September is not my favorite month. After being isolated from the germs of others for four months, I plunge myself into the campus and elementary school environment, and before you know it, I catch something. Even though I obsessively wash my hands, use paper towels to turn door knobs, refuse to share a phone, and don't collect paper (all assignments are "e") - still, I am susceptible. There are long stretches, even years, where I catch nothing that goes around, and I feel all superior. Then I have spells where I can't avoid it for some reason.

I hope I feel better by Sunday. Not because of my big day -- but because I have a bunch of relatives coming to help close the pool. I ply them with food and drink, and they do the chore, since Bob can't any longer. At first we hired a pool company, then we had a catered event, and this year (silly me) I decided to cook. That's what is on the agenda for tomorrow evening. I am a terrible patient -- but better buck it up!

On a more happy note, Bob got me a Kindle! It isn't a surprise. I'm not a high maintenance person, and even if he got me nothing but dinner out, I would have been OK with that - in fact, that is usually how we celebrate occasions, not with a gift exchange, but by dining out, since we both love fine restaurants. Life isn't about presents. However, he felt that for my 50th he should get me a gift. He knew I wanted a Kindle, he explored other things, and decided that he couldn't go wrong with the choice. So he asked me to order it (since I have amazon prime), he told me when to place the order, and he paid for it. It arrived yesterday. I asked him - do you want me to wait until Sunday to open it? He said no. I'm not the kind of person to open gifts early, search the house for hidden Christmas presents or try to figure out surprises, but when it came, although I tried, I couldn't even wait until he got home from work!

I LOVE IT ALREADY. In fact, I had to force myself to not bring it to work today. I was afraid I couldn't resist playing with it -- in my ill state that would mean zero accomplishment. I can already see it has given me back the joy of reading. Bob says he hasn't seen me so happy with a material possession since he gave me the Complete Works of Mark Twain years ago for Christmas. It's true, and what's funny is that this is the reason I really wanted the Kindle - because I have only managed to get to page 270 of the autobiography, and I've had it since January. I immediately ordered the Kindle version, and as soon as I clear my plate you know what I'll be doing!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Since I spent a long day on campus yesterday, I didn't get to write very much here in honor of Mimmie's birthday, so I thought I would rectify that today.

 Mimmie and Ma in 1933

After Mimmie died, I told myself that I was lucky to have had her in my life for as long as I did, well into my adulthood, especially since I never knew my paternal grandmother at all; lucky to know her so well, not as some holiday and vacation grandma who lives in a distant state, as family relationships are today for so many others.

I reminded myself that she is in me when I bake apple pie, and take such pride in the end result, that my preference for staying home over traveling comes from her, my interest in gardening was shared with her (though she much preferred flowers to veggies), that reading a good book gives me the same pleasure as it did her.  I tried to remember to be thankful that she had lived as she wanted, pretty much independently and in her own place, until she had to stay with my parents so my mother could care for her, only a couple of months before she finally left us.

But still, during the summer of 1993, I looked around the world and it appeared to have changed in some subtle way.  The colors were different, I thought; the blue sky on a sunny day suddenly didn’t seem to be quite so vivid.
Unwrapping the objects my mother selected for me when she packed up the trailer, pausing to find a special place for a well-worn incense burner, a set of tea bag holders, and an elegant vase shaped to look like a dark-haired woman whom Mimmie often said resembled me, I came across the recipe box.  The index cards inside were in groups, rubber banded together, just like a database. Mimmie, whose lifestyle was old-fashioned, who lived without electricity and indoor plumbing long after most of her neighbors, nevertheless was a modern thinker. She believed in the future, and so transforming those neatly-written cards into an electronic database seemed natural.
Later that summer after she died, I dreamed I saw Mimmie again, in the kitchen of her mobile home.  She was tiny as ever, but without the extreme thinness of her last year.  In my dream, the trailer was located in a sloping unmowed field on the side of a mountain with evergreens scattered around.  We had tea and she told me everything was all right. When I awakened the next morning, the sky was robin’s egg blue.

Mimmie in 1980

Mimmie had her own special way of describing things, and she loved old sayings.  One of her favorites was this: Why is the Hudson such a deadly river?  Because it will kill fish (Fishkill) on the east side and it kills cats (Catskills) on the west side.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

107 years ago today, my maternal grandmother was born. Happy Birthday, Mimmie! I miss you and think of you every day.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Spent the day on research and consulting. Very interesting and inspiring. This week begins being back in full swing. Busy, busy, busy! That's not necessarily a bad thing, even if the long leisurely summer was lovely. Right now I have to scramble to find the time for the daily survey of my plants (which are recovering from all that rain) and juggle my many responsibilities. Sadly, pleasure writing takes a hit. So does sleep! Being an owl, it is hard for me to get to bed early enough to get the amount I require, and most days I can't sleep in as much as I'd like. (Although admittedly, I still get more rest than most people I know.)

Added: Another link I'm saving for my class.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Sirius (2001)

It seemed especially cold and rainy, sitting on a bench at the train station. The river was murky and green, foreboding, bone-chilling, its surface a series of whitecaps. I contrasted this to that day, nearly three weeks ago, when the World Trade Center was destroyed. It was such a beautiful early fall day, bright and full of promise. I remember years ago, when a Stony Brook administrator died from AIDS on a crisp, blue-sky February day, and a friend said to me, “it's too nice a day to die.”

But I guess weather has nothing to do with it. I had a memory as I waited on the platform of a report I saw on television two weeks ago. A police officer, who had an office in one of the basement levels of the World Trade Center tearfully spoke about his survival, and his loss. He was in the building when it fell, and he was pulled out of the wreckage and survived. But his dog, they called him his partner, a honey-colored Labrador-looking young dog named Sirius, had been left in a kennel in the cop’s office while the officer went to check things out early in the attack. Sirius was missing, he said.

I hoped for days as they searched the burning, twisted wreckage that maybe when they got to the mall level there would be survivors, tucked away in a part of the basement that didn’t collapse, and that Sirius would be among them. But since that report I have heard nothing, and I’m sure such a find would have been broadcast since it would be nothing less than a miracle. I know they have done all they could to inspect every crevice where a living thing could fit. Under the circumstances, I’m sure they would report Sirius as a survivor, too.

People who don’t love animals, and perhaps even some who do, may think I am crazy or insensitive for writing this, but that dog’s image, wearing a police vest and a smile, sitting alongside his human partner, has become emblazoned in my mind as a symbol for the horror of this tragedy.

This was not a part of the original story, but was gathered from snippets written here over the years: In January 2002, Sirius' remains were finally found, and in April 2002, there was a tribute to him. As part of that effort, I submitted the story I wrote, and in May 2002, I received a very nice email from John Kavanaugh, the man who managed the Port Authority's memorial website, reporting that my story had been selected for posting.

Then in November 2002, Officer David Lim wrote me a note. He was Sirius' person. He thanked me for my story about his partner, the only dog to die 9/11, and let me know that I captured his thoughts on that day. It was so nice to hear from him, and it was such a wonderful compliment about one of my most heartfelt, and saddest, essays. Resonating with the reader is the goal of every writer. So, thank you, Officer Lim.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Rain, rain, go away. Hey! A sunny day!! Yay!!!

Saving this here for later use in class.

Friday, September 09, 2011

Here's the tee shirt photo I promised back here. Funny to remember. We had a bar in the kitchen at that time, and the stairs were badly in need of painting. This photo must be from around ~1989-90. I really liked making silk screens, as you can see. I had seven designs. That is made more impressive when you understand that I only had two screens, so I had to scrub my design off the screen to make a new style. For two color designs (which I only did once), I had to paint both screens. Also, I did not have other equipment, so I had to do the placement of the design on the shirt "by eye."

Clockwise from top, there is the no nutrasweet design from Summer Party II; the yellow shirt was for Summer Party III (1987); then Ceilings and Walls, a shirt for a painting and wallpapering business we had; then the tie dye is Boiceville Tent Sale (1989); followed by the pink shirt, which was my copy of the Woodstock logo; in the middle is Ashokan Reservoir; and then at top under the no nutrasweet shirt was Summer Party IV (1988).

They held up really well, I remember people had the no nutrasweet design from Summer Party II for years. I still have at least one of each, and in several cases I have a bunch left. (Can you hear that? Somewhere the minimalist blogger from the TU is crying out in horror.) Still have the screens and all the other materials too. Maybe I should scrub the screens one more time and make an upstate pride shirt? Not like the tacky one described in the linked post! Something handmade, hippyish and personal. And handed out for free to my friends and family who weathered the recent storms.

After I went to work for System, I switched from being about a lot of things, to being about one thing.* I mostly stopped writing, stopped doing creative projects. I still had a garden in the summer, but nothing like now. I razor focused on analysis, databases, management. Stockings and suits. I'm glad I have gradually rediscovered my creative side in the 13 years since.

*A wake up call my sister said to me years ago. Eternally thankful.
Blackboard has been troublesome all week (slow to the point of unusable) but today it is OK. As a result I was able to work out a solution to a problem I was having with groups and surveys, and not a moment too soon. There definitely is a learning curve with this upgrade. So glad I did the pilot over the summer!

My parents' phone is still down -- and my friend's power is still out. Here is a really interesting article about the storm and here is wonderful compilation of pictures and explanations (although I was the contributor, not the photographer, for the three shots attributed to me).

Added: Picked lots of stuff in the garden. The rain has done some damage, but all in all it has been a good year. And, the Castleton Village Wide Garage Sale is tomorrow, September 10m starting at 9:00 a.m. Looks like it has not been canceled, as so many other activities have been recently.

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Long day. Mostly good. Except, more rain, and more flooding -- people are hurting. Here's another idea for how you can easily help.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

A mixed bag of stuff. First, two unrelated designs I want to comment upon:

I think this is a worthy idea, and I understand why they wanted to include the various elements, but the design is awful! I feel almost guilty saying it, but it is so ugly.

But at least it isn't oddly jarring...

Like this, which has a nice design, aside from the "Upstate American" part. I'm an Upstate New Yorker, capisce? If "American" is to be modified - then I'm a Northeastern American. I guess they chose the label because ignoring the meaning, to the ears it "sounds" better. But I would have either left the slogan off - the design is sufficient - or just used "Upstate." Maybe all lower case. As it is, it doesn't work.

What's worse, it is not at all transparent and seems like someone trying to capitalize on tragedy. How do we know how much is being donated? Who is running this operation? Where is the money going exactly?

I hope it is simply a clumsy mistake by well-intended people. I do like the idea of upstate pride especially in the wake of this tragedy and the logo itself is fine, but it just feels wrong. If it is on the level and they don't intend to profit, why not make this a donation in itself and not try to cover the costs of production? Just give out the tee-shirts as incentives for people to donate to real charities who are helping with the recovery.

That segues to the weather: the fire siren went off today a couple of times. It is becoming a very familiar sound. The Hudson has flooded Main Street again. On facebook, there are reports of flooding, advised evacuations and school closings. Olive Day is canceled in West Shokan - it was scheduled for Saturday. My parents still have no telephone. Stop raining already!

And finally, the semester: Had an unhappy experience in my evening class last night. Very few people had done the reading so discussion was not productive - a variety of excuses including "I don't have the book yet" then when I said both articles are on blackboard "I didn't know" or "I thought it was due next week" and finally when I said I told them about ten times last week: "I wasn't paying attention." But, on the flip side, three students waited for me after class to thank me for calling the slackers out on it, instead of allowing them to take advantage of the few students who were prepared.

That class followed an afternoon class where Blackboard 9.1 wouldn't load the log on page, I called for help, wound up rebooting, was able to log on but it was so slow I couldn't use any document including my powerpoint. I got through class without that crutch, of course, but the dry erase marker I had with me was almost out of ink - made putting anything on the whiteboard a challenge. I told the students, this is a good example for why you have to have alternative strategies in mind when developing a lesson plan. Things don't always go the way you intend!

Then, today, Blackboard was incredibly slow again from home - I rebooted, it gave me an error message when I tried to log on, and I could not hold the real-time chat I had scheduled, or get any of the work done I had planned. Wednesdays are "online class days" so this is not good!

Added: More details here. I'm going with good intentions, but painfully tacky. Donate to something on this list instead.

Still Later: I had a spell where I made silk screened tee-shirts. Eventually, I will dig out a picture of some of my creations, scan and post it here. Gave them out as party favors. Thinking about the clever idea above with bad timing/execution, I came up with a much better phrase: Upstate New York: Resourceful and Resilient.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

My sister's power was finally restored yesterday, yay!

Sophie watched me so sadly as I left today. She hates when the semester resumes and I am not home all the time. Poor Licious.

Added: classes remain smaller than usual. Not complaining - it makes for a better teaching and learning environment, but the analyst in me is saying that we reached the point with tuition where demand was impacted. Of course, Irene may be an issue as well. A student confided in me today that she lost everything in the flood of the Schenectady Stockade and is wearing borrowed clothes.

Monday, September 05, 2011

Terrific thunderstorm last night led to no power again! Also a very restless night of sleeping since it was so hot without a fan. Surprisingly, it came back quickly - it was out for only six hours. This morning I was in a panic because nothing in the livingroom was working. The storm was definitely a computer fryer, in the days when the lightening rod cable was hooked up -- but now that all is wireless, could it have been zapped through the electric wires? (It was off and plugged into a deluxe surge protector.) I know the answer is yes, of course. Turns out it tripped the circuit breaker and all is well. What a relief! Our driveway suffered some damage again, although pretty minor compared to the past two weekends. Hopefully Castleton fared OK too.

Every storm stuff washes down into our yard from the upper road. Over the years, we've found numerous basketballs, footballs, etc. This latest round included two basketballs from the hail storm two weeks ago and most recently, a whiffle ball bat from Irene. Some kid's loss is Sam's gain! He is thrilled.

I believe West Shokan is still without services; most significantly, electricity. My sister's BBQ was great, tons of food, drink and fellowship and the rain held off (wow, it was so humid!). Day eight of no electric is beginning to wear them all down, though. I remember the times when I was without power for days and days, beyond when others have had theirs restored...your life revolves around the lack of electricity, trying to figure out how to wash, how to do dishes, etc. Still, everyone's thoughts are with the folks in communities just to the northwest who have lost everything.

Sunday, September 04, 2011

Finally heard from a friend in Schenectady. He still has no power, and his flooded basement resulted in an estimated 15K damage: hot water heater, washer, dryer, furnace, electrical system total loss.

Saturday, September 03, 2011

Today the boil water advisory in Castleton was lifted. The water smells very strongly of chlorine, though, so I am still not going to drink it (not that I ever do, as we get Crystal Rock bottled water delivered).

On the way to Samsonville, there are a series of signs on Rt. 28 that advise local traffic only. Traveling on the road...a steady stream of National Guard vehicles, Central Hudson, Time Warner and Verizon trucks, and an assortment of dump trucks. Our driveway is a rock pile, and this is true even after my father worked on it for two days. The Mariner made it down no problem, but I wouldn't want to do it for many trips. We'll have to wait until the roads are fixed to get a load of gravel, though.

The happy news is that the Internet and telephone went back in service today so we are officially on the grid again! That is not true for everyone, of course, not by a long shot. My brother and sister still don't have power. (But she is still having the count your blessings BBQ.)

Earlier today I bought dog food, cat food, take out tins, Ziploc bags, cookies and a variety of canned legumes to donate to the shelter in Belleayre. Here is a link that has a spreadsheet with details about drop off points, volunteering and needs.

Had a lovely night swim! And a piece of delicious apple walnut caramel pie from Golden Harvest (where I also got peaches and apples).
Going to Samsonville for a couple of days, so will be off the grid...

Friday, September 02, 2011

Both school tax bills arrived today. Seems to me to be bad timing. It's interesting to compare the two districts. Both are (too) expensive, but Onteora is much more costly than Schodack, even before STAR is factored into the Schodack charges. The most recent year of fiscal data available is two years old: 2008-09. Achievement data are from 2009-10. Enrollments do not match in the two reports, which makes me suspicious about the integrity of the data generally. One wonders why SED does not question this. Or have they left all the analysts positions unfilled after early retirement and other attrition?

One difference between the two districts is size. The Fiscal Accountability report says enrollment was 1,275 at Schodack and 2,065 at Onteora in '08-'09. The "plain" Accountability report says it was 1,093 in '08-'09 (and 1,078 in '09-'10) at Schodack and 1,738 in '08-'09 (and 1,658 in '09-'10) at OCS. Regardless, the trend in both districts is decreasing enrollment.

Both are average need to resource districts. Schodack's graduation rate in '09-'10 was 93 percent; Onteora's was 91 percent. There are not a lot of striking differences, but there are two: per student costs and proportion classified as special education. Schodack's cost per student in '08-'09 was $18,737. Onteora's was $27,797. Both districts come in higher than other average needs to resource districts ($17,709); Schodack is less than all districts in NYS, but Onteora is higher ($19,381). Schodack's special education classification rate is 13.72 percent, and Onteora's is a startling 17.49 percent; both districts are higher than other average needs to resource districts (12.3) and also higher than all districts in NYS (13.2).

I do not believe that there are more special needs kids in my alma mater than in other districts, nor do I believe the district outshines all others in delivering services. That statistic combined with decreasing demographics are what is driving the astronomical per student costs. The classification policy should be investigated.

Switching gears, here is an interesting picture of the stairwell and emergency exit in Bob's building in Troy taken Monday:

I've been trying to fight off is kind of expected, this time of year. September is often a challenge. It isn't because I hate my birthday, or even getting older generally. It's that bad things seem to overshadow my routine more for me in this month, or maybe it is just that I am on alert and notice it more. There were happy things -- Mimmie's birthday, Aunt Jean's birthday, Rudy's birthday, that turned into bittersweet memories once they were gone. Then, there are sad anniversaries...Don's death, Rudy's death, Howie's death, 9/11. Summer starts to wane, school starts up, the page turns, I get a year older. Irene is the icing on the cake this year, I guess.
Here's a place where you can donate money for flood victims in the Hudson Valley.

Here's information about items you can donate and volunteering in Delaware County.

The complete list:

hand sanitizer
ace bandages
Ziploc bags
garbage bags
socks - adult, children
underwear - adult, children
non-perishable high nutrition foods
paper plates
paper cups
other clothes
pet food

I am going to Ocean State job lot tonight to buy stuff on the list, and I'll bring it to my sister's on Sunday so it can be delivered to Belleayre.

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Samsonville got power back, yay! Still no phone or internet, as far as I can tell. My sister is having a "count your blessings" BBQ on Sunday. I don't know whether her power has been restored, I assume so. But, if not she has a generator. Once she had to cook Thanksgiving dinner for 20 on her gas grill when she lost power. As I have mentioned before...resilient. Also, another favorite word, resourceful. She's inviting her family, friends and neighbors who were impacted by Irene. Some have been through a lot the past few days, and it isn't over. We're going to collect items to be donated for others that are even less well off, those in the hardest hit areas who lost everything and are staying in shelters.

Good classes today - still smaller than usual, except for the online class which is larger for some reason.

Another strange dream last night! Our vet worked in Vitamin Shoppe. What's up with that?

Another possible consulting opportunity has presented itself. When it rains, it pours.