Friday, April 29, 2011

"Big day" went well! Yay.

End of the semester is always a rush. The Thursday night class is over. Well, all except the final and the evaluation, that is.

I've been playing around with prezi. My goal was to make one before the semester ended, and I did: Educational Technology. It's an interesting process. I think simply converting from powerpoint is not a good idea. You need to completely re-think.

For some reason, the second video link (ABC News) doesn't work right, even though the url is correct; it must be a glitch in prezi. Here's the link: Too Much Technology?

Thursday, April 28, 2011

So hot tonight. Winter to Summer, no need to pause!

Machines fried in S'ville again. Sigh.

Big day tomorrow. (Actually I guess it already is tomorrow, but I am burning the midnight oil as usual.) Wish me luck!

Monday, April 25, 2011

This is awesome! I worked across from that building for nearly 10 years. At first the store was in business; every time I went in there (more than you might think considering it was an electrical supply) I would think, "what a charming old space." Then it went out of business and was vacant, and I kept hoping something else would open up. A museum far exceeds my expectations :-). An Irish heritage museum is perfect for downtown Albany.

Friday, April 22, 2011

I'd never been to Holy Thursday service before last night. It was very serious and ritualized. Not that I expected anything else, but for a religion that is already quite ritual intense, that's saying something. The experience lingered on my mind for quite some time afterward. Glad I finally went. Happy Easter.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

I've been working on some qualitative analysis, and have been having fun with wordle. I decided to see what I was writing about in March '11:

And nine years ago, in March '02, when I started this blog:

I know I should crop the images, but I'm pressed for time at the moment and it isn't that important.

Going to triduum service this's a long time coming. Two years, to be exact. In '09, this was the first day of Bob's illness, and although we planned to go to the service that night, we instead spent the night in the emergency room. Last year, there was Bob's fourth surgery.

Finally - this is great news! What an incredible business success story. Go Chobani!

Monday, April 18, 2011

So excited and happy!! Found out today that I am getting a grant!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Next Spring, If I’m Alive
Original draft April 5, 2003; latest revision 2009

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

Ten years can seem like a long time ago, or a moment. On this day in 1993, my maternal grandmother, Mimmie died. When I think of the things that have happened in the past decade: graduate school, job changes, building a weekend house, the growing up of nieces and nephews, adopting pets, getting published for the first, second, tenth time, it seems like a lifetime. But when I think of Mimmie, of the other people who have passed on, and the animals who have gone over the trail, it seems like yesterday. "Next spring, if I'm alive," she would say every year, when she talked about gardening plans. So I guess her leaving in the spring was somehow appropriate.

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

Ma remembers that Mimmie cut the bookcase in half during the 1940s, so that it would fit in the living room at the house in West Shokan where they lived at that time. The woodstove may be what happened to its other half, sacrificed for an apple pie and a pot of baked beans. In the 1970s, a couple of years before Mimmie moved from the old place to her trailer, my mother stripped the green paint away and revealed solid oak. My growing collection of novels replaced the paint cans on its four shelves.

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

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

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

I suppose the cold weather will be gone soon enough, the pussy willow will thaw, and my thoughts will go from reading and books to outdoor pursuits. Looking ahead to late spring and early summer, I eagerly anticipate strawberry season. Mimmie didn’t like to go many places, but she did enjoy strawberries picking; in fact, she even liked it more than she feared snakes. In my mind’s eye I can see her, wearing sneakers and a house dress, carefully navigating the rows, carting quarts of perfect berries, making sure that she didn’t step on any plants. She looked frail, but somehow strong at the same time. Mimmie never gave into temptation as the rest of us did, by sampling the berries while out in the field. That was due more to the fact that insects may have been on them at some point, than to a concern about pesticides. And if she discovered later that a bug had gotten into one of her quarts, she’s have to throw the whole thing out.

“Next spring, if I’m alive,” she’d say afterwards, her blue eyes sparkling as she looked off into the distance, as if she could see all the way until the following June, “I’m only going to pick medium sized red-orange ones, instead of ripe ones. They’re rotten by the time you get them home.  And the big ones look nice but they’re tasteless.” In my memory, no matter what berries she used, Mimmie’s strawberry jam was never tasteless.

Added 2011: Recently my mother acquired a chair of Mimmie's that had been stored in a barn since the 1940s. Nearby items had been damaged by the passing of time and a leaky roof, but this chair is still sturdy. It's also quite plain; my mother and her brother called it "the electric chair," and that's a pretty good description. They would sit in it and act out getting fried. This is probably because Mimmie was fascinated by true crime, and told them about cases where the perpetrator, such as Chester Gillette, got the death penalty. The electric chair is painted the same green that my bookcase was!
While browsing around in some folders I rarely use on my main PC's desktop, I located this document that I assembled when I was doing research on my alma mater's founding. A couple of days ago a FB friend created a private group for alumni from every year, kind of ironic. So many people are popping up in the feed. Anyway, I created this from Elwyn's diary.

1949 JANUARY 12 Wednesday  16/7am 32/12pm Mostly cloudy, wind light.  Cold raw weather.  Moderating at evening, with light snow flurries. Did usual chores, sent Ulster Co News copy to Lewis Bell, Cornelia.  This pm mulched Ollie Burgher's strawberry patch with 3 dray loads pine boughs, also brought home load green firewood. Tonight I took Mort & Mary Roe & Ollie to Parish Hall in Phoenicia for Centralized School meeting vote on the purchase of 34 ¾ acres of land owned by Leonard Colange for Onteora Centralized School site at Boiceville - Big crowd present.  The vote was 272 in favor 87 against.

1950 APRIL 14  Friday  26/7am 32/12pm Arrived snowy and ground white (7 1/2" fall reported in Schnectady)  The ground was white with heavier fall up the valley, continued along rather blizzardy toward noon, then broke away & sunny pm.  Raw cold day northerly wind.  I went to Phoenicia this am with Joe Steinlauf, Lester S. Davis & Joe Winkler as bearers at Catholic Church funeral 11 oco for the late Gene Lohrs sister. Interment in Allaben Catholic Cemetery - only 3 members of the family made trip up from city.  There was about 3" snow on cemetery.  This pm I took load wood up for Ollie. This evng I took Mort & Mary Roe, Ollie to the $1,850,000 bond issue vote at Phoenicia Parish Hall, for the Onteora Central School at Boiceville. Proposition heavily carried - 968 to 231.  After voting we saw the picture, a musical comedy, Nancy Goes to Rio

1953 January 5, Monday — 16 degrees at 7 AM   22 at 12 PM. Pretty cold night and a cold raw day with PM snow flurries & southerly wind. Starlight and later moonlight evening & stilled. Did daily chores & odd jobs. The West Shokan Fire Dept had an early PM call to dangerous chimney fire in the nearing factory room addition at Peter Bitterman's residence, the former Abram B Winchell place. An over heated coal fire cracked the flue entrance to chimney and caused rustic log effect siding to take fire.. This evening Ollie and I went to Phoenicia & saw Stars and Stripes Forever, vividly depicting the musical career of the famous band leader John Philip Sousa. The cafeteria at the Onteora Central School opened in charge of Mrs Lester Barringer.
I am cold today (not complaining). So I was curious about the weather in various years:

1920 April 16, Friday — Cloudy –  threatening, squally this AM & evng. Run the mill, sawed 3304 ft.

1934 April 16, Monday — Another dismal drenching rain nearly all day. While I was writing news this AM Daisy was doing the chores and in throwing hay for the horses in Aunt Cornelia’s barn fell in the hay chute & hurt her side badly under right arm. She had a hard day and night. Rec’d card Mariam, also wrote one. Harlow McLean & Will Jordan called. I wrote another Freeman copy tonight. Rebekah box party evng at Mr & Mrs Ayers at Brodhead.

1941 APRIL 16  Wednesday. Partly cloudy- Continued summer weather - Winds westerly to north.  Gave my car a good washing am - Daisy and I strung fence wire pm.  Mother attended Ladies Aid at church - This evng in company with Arthur Trowbridge and his car, Will Gordon, Frank Booth & Harlowe McLean, attended annual session of I.O.O.F. Ulster District Grand Comm. At William H. Raymond Lodge No59, Saugerties. Ernest Shirmer of Catskill Mtn Lodge No48 named District Deputy. I was re-elected Sec y but salary cut from $50 to $25 annually. Second anniversary of M J Every's funeral

1956 APRIL 16 Monday. Rainy night and continued till 10am. Very dark this am but brightened and warmer - followed by intermittent downpours. Sun broke thru briefly early pm & thermometer went up in early 70.  Thunder shower banged around south east. Did chores & finished splitting & piling up the slab wood under shed.  Rec'd letter from Mariam in Brooklyn - she & Bob had been cleaning out the house basement - with its memories.

1975 April 16, Wednesday   43 at 7 AM   50 at 9 PM. Continued chilly with variable cloudiness. Sun shone warm, continued PM. Hazy starlight & growing crescent moon over south mountain evng. Finished a letter to Mariam. Buddy Eckert came PM & cut up the rest of the hams. Then took Ollie and I to Boiceville to hardware store where I bought parsnip seed and ------?  114 paid,. also got case Town Port at Al Higleys pkg. store $15.00 paid. Later Buddy & Marty Warnes came & fired off my old flint lock rifle, also Marty’s 357 magnum colt revolver. Ollie & I had good supper first & then to bed at 9 o’clock. I also roto tilled in the garden till hands got cold.
Lots of variety in the weather! It's easy to get lost in reading the diaries, something like doing a google search! Before you know it hours have gone by. But I just have to include this wonderful piece that I ran across, written by Elwyn in 1934:
Record Cold

This generation has not experienced such cold as we have seen this winter. The memories of our oldest inhabitants and the records of the United States weather bureau agree that 34 degrees below zero is something worth remembering as no such figures are on the records or in memories of our people. Last week Cooperstown’s official weather bureau thermometer hit 34 below. At the Beatty farm in Hurley it was 33 below and from all sections of the Hudson Valley and Catskill Mountain area figures approximating these reach us. In the effort to heat houses many homes were destroyed by fire. Hospitals in all sections had victims of frost bite and some of these were serious, a few requiring amputations of fingers and toes. Water pipes generally were frozen. Coal men were kept jumping and oil companies busy with fuel oil deliveries as the weather exacted a heavy toll from the fuel supply. At White Lake a large home was destroyed by fire. Many fires occurred in the Catskill mountain region and at Palenville one of the most disastrous fires in its history ravaged a large section. In Delaware and Greene and Sullivan counties fires were numerous. Kingston city’s fire department last week was busy with four or five calls a day although none were sizeable.

This is a winter to remember. It comes after a series of mild and temperate ones during which men worked out doors much of the time and the river has been open with ferries running. This winter has seen a tie up of ferries at Poughkeepsie and Catskill and Kingston and the Newburgh ferries have had the battle of their careers as ice almost 20 inches thick had to be cut through. Yes, we have had a real old fashioned winter such as we can talk about a few years hence.
Using the " tool in a post always screws up the formatting in other ways, but here goes...
Great news for Chenango County! Also for agriculture in upstate New York. Chobani is simply the best yogurt, whether Greek or regular. The trouble right now is that demand is so high that there is a shortage; both Hannaford and Price Chopper often have empty shelves or at most, a limited selection. This is true nationwide. Apparently they are working 24/7 to try to keep up, but they are going to have to expand (which I guess is in the works). You go, Cho!

Friday, April 15, 2011

This is outrageous. Why is this still the plan? This story bothered me when I saw the original report yesterday, so I'm glad the victim is not advocating for euthanasia. Now she should sabotage the trap when she gets home. Here's one place to save money in the DEC budget: Leave the bear alone!
I promised more to come about the Pinocchio and Geppetto picture, but didn't write anything. Those two marionettes belonged to my sister and brother. Geppetto was hers, Pinocchio was his. I loved them, though, possibly more than they did.  Not sure, because they are dear to us all. I'm guessing they are about 45 years old, give or take a year or so.

Pinocchio was my favorite book. My father would work the puppets, acting out the story and other adventures, making up dialogue between them, he even made a wooden puppet stage and other props for them. I remember how I protested when they had to go to sleep in their shoe box home at night, to have their strings untangled the following day.

In this picture they have just had a bath, and are waiting for string detangling. At some point, Pinocchio's nose broke off, and my father repaired it with plastic.

Over the years those two acquired some peers: a pair of puppets my brother got in Mexico, and a space man complete with green light bulb head that my father made as part of a Halloween costume. The puppet who wanted to be a real boy and his woodcarver father expanded their repertoire and came to America. In the company of the new marionettes, they made a few appearances on a cardboard stage that once was a washing machine box, taking part in a parody of a show on the Nashville Network.
I saw this on facebook and just had to post it here. It's great!
Spring break has started for me. It's really ridiculous that we have a week off and then there will be a week and a half of classes, followed by finals. I don't see the point in having it so late this semester. I have a long to do list, and as always I resolve to not be in bad shape with grades when the semester ends. So far, so good,  I have been very much on task, which is why I have not spent a lot of time writing here.

I had to clear my plate so I could do the taxes on Wednesday. I finished, printed them yesterday, and mailed them this morning. As I was addressing the envelopes last night, I discovered we actually have until Monday. It's a good thing I didn't know that Tuesday, or I surely would have procrastinated on doing them until the weekend at the earliest. May even have let it slide until Monday and pushed the deadline. So it's a relief to be done before the 18th.

It is such an unpleasant task every year. I had to clear out the office somewhat to do it, but that actually is a benefit. It was long past due, and so it was good to be forced to get organized. Then, it isn't the math and forms that I find unpleasant. I actually enjoy analytical tasks (provided they don't go on so long that my head is numb and my vision is blurry*); it's the realization of how much is paid in total. It isn't just confronting income taxes (which are extreme). It is also the real estate taxes that you add up to see if itemizing is necessary, the rest of the taxes (such as sales, excise, motor vehicle, utility...) and the fees for Medicare and Social Security (luckily I am getting old enough now that I think I just may see some benefits if I ever get to a younger person I was a little afraid that would not be the case but it looks like us tail-end boomers might just be safe...with the increased retirement age, of course) that aren't a part of the tax calculation but inevitably jump to mind during the process of eating, sleeping, breathing taxes for an entire day. It boggles the mind.

I appreciate many common goods (I'm a product of public education, love the public parks and who doesn't benefit from roads?) and have devoted most of my life to the public sector, so I'm hardly an anti-tax advocate. I know firsthand that there are many good works and hard workers. I'm not much of a materialist, but my running joke is that my job is practically volunteer work. (At the same time, I don't claim to be anything but privileged and I'm grateful.) But it is hard to deny that between all the people getting hand-outs (deserved or undeserved), all the people who cheat on their taxes (understandable or criminal), all the loopholes for some (quasi-legitimate or not), and the various wasteful and unethical things that politicians and government at all levels do (which I have seen), it's such an enormous burden for the rest of us who don't qualify, won't cheat and can take advantage of very few loopholes.

*The actual paperwork has improved a lot with the advent of PDF files that could be filled in and saved. Bravo! But the instructions for each line remain (choose one): A) cryptic B) esoteric C) vindictive D) all of these.

Friday, April 08, 2011

Pinocchio and Geppetto, two beloved marionettes from my favorite story. More to come, stay tuned!

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

In the past week or so I've had inspiration for two terrific fiction story ideas. (Both science fiction, which is odd since I rarely write in that genre.) I also have a nonfiction story brewing, and in fact, the research and pitching will take priority over either of the fiction stories. There is some time pressure involved with the nonfiction piece, and also, it is a sure sale. I might even be able to sell it to a market that is a reach for me (although I am still leaning toward going with the comfortable place that has been good to me over the years). Summer break approaches - that's when I have some time to write. Hopefully I can get in all three stories this year. As well as finish the Mark Twain book! But right now, my other obligations are calling.
Just what we need. I've written a couple times over the years about the posters the vandalism is satirizing, and recently, about Kegs and Eggs. If the vandals had printed up flyers and tacked them on bulletin boards, I would laugh and say "very clever" (even though I understand the reasons for canceling Fountain Day and have never really been a fan of it). But spray painting a bunch of columns on the podium? That just brings more negative publicity to the university (it gave the TU an excuse to link to all the bad articles they published over the past month), and makes students look like disrepectful jerks.

There is a strange vibe on campus this semester. What is driving it? Bad publicity? Cancellation of Fountain Day and that weird student protesting? Long, hard winter? State budget cuts for SUNY? Price of gas? Struggling economy creating fears of entering job market? Japanese earthquake and tsunami? Middle East unrest and Libya?

I mentioned it in class yesterday. I've had some feedback that there are students who are not comfortable sharing in discussion this semester, in both of the upper division on campus sections. The tone is different in each class, but it is kind of a common thread. I changed the online discussion component this semester quite significantly, and I wonder if that has had an impact. It is quite a bit more intense. I generally perceive that as a good thing, but if it inhibits some students then I have to do something to change the atmosphere.

Then, a student committed suicide in a dorm on Saturday, that's the second freshman this semester to take that action. I was giving out numbers to contact for help. (I didn't do this in my upper division classes after the first incident in February, although I did in the lower division class since there are so many freshmen in it, but the feeling right now is that even students who did not know the person may be affected.) I don't know that the unsettled atmosphere I sense had anything to do with it, probably not. The pressure of school work, perhaps grades lower than expected, homesickness, a broken heart or other personal issues are more common causes, I suspect.

Monday, April 04, 2011

I noticed this in today's newspaper. No evidence? Or is the AG not looking very hard? Maybe no one is talking? They sure weren't too careful a couple of years ago, when I was in Empire, browsing the NYS wines. I asked a man who worked there (not one of the young clerks, based on what he said he must have been more involved in the business, perhaps the manager or owner) whether they carried one of my favorite Finger Lakes wines, Fox Run?

He said no, and he wouldn't be carrying it ever because the vintner supported changing the law so that wine can be sold in supermarkets. He said why shouldn't liquor store owners punish them for that position by refusing to sell their wine? The way he said it sounded like he expected me to be sympathetic, which I am not.

I love Fox Run, have even visited the winery. It is extremely hard to find in the Capital District, and maybe that's why. It makes me mad to think that some type of orchestrated effort on the part of store owners is harming Fox Run.

I would also really like the convenience of wine in the grocery store. I'm sure it would generate tax revenue, and be good for the agricultural sector. I think it is a win-win all around.

I said nothing to the guy at Empire, but I was extremely uncomfortable. It seems so inappropriate for a store owner to spout off politically to a customer. I happen to know that liquor stores mostly make a fortune. And while I might be able to gin up some sympathy for a mom and pop operation on Main Street, I feel not a bit of concern for a behemoth like Empire. Sure, it is extremely competitive both in price and selection. Efficient place, hard not to be impressed when you go there.

But it is doing to small local stores what big boxes did to smaller retailers - weakening them, putting some on the verge of going out of business. So why would I feel bad if supermarkets competed with Empire? What goes around comes around, if you ask me. The icing on the cake is that it would benefit the NYS wine industry.

So I don't buy that there was no evidence. Something else is going on, likely something borderline unethical. The liquor store lobby is more powerful than the wineries. That's too bad.

Friday, April 01, 2011

Busy! Very steadily - keeping up with it.

I switched my cumbersome, time consuming, draining assessment process to an online data entry tool. So students will enter a few pieces of data each, saving me from entering it for 100. I'm excited and nervous at the same time - excited to save the time and be more efficient, nervous about whether it will work - and how well.

Some other stuff going on too, teaching-wise. It will keep.