Monday, April 30, 2012

My updated Prezi for tomorrow.
This is the letter I am sending to Jerry Golub, President and Chief Operating Officer of Price Chopper Supermarkets.

In 1963, the demolition of Penn Station in New York City began. Today this loss is widely seen as a terrible mistake that serves as a turning point in the contemporary preservation movement. Closer to home, in November 2002, Nigro Construction tore down the Defreest-Church House in Defreestville to make way for a Target Store. In both cases the demolitions took place despite community opposition.

Currently St. Patrick’s Church, rectory and school in Watervliet are the “target” of Nigro and Price Chopper. Full disclosure is that I am not a resident of Watervliet, but I do live in the Capital District, my nephew was married at St. Patrick’s and a friend attended the school. I shop at the Price Chopper in East Greenbush, and I have friends who work for your company. I am a history buff, have a bachelor’s degree in history, love historic sites and am very interested in historic preservation. I have roots in upstate New York that go back to 1790 at minimum. I believe in being a dedicated guardian of the lands and buildings that in reality are only ours temporarily. I beg you to reconsider this plan. Once St. Patrick’s is gone, it can’t be replaced. Please do not destroy a beloved part of the community’s history.

On your website, Mona Golub, Vice President of Public Relations and Consumer Services states: "We've grown up surrounded by this business and it’s been ingrained in us that the company is attached to the community and to non-profits that benefit the community.” How can you make such a statement and then ignore the opposition to replacing St. Patrick’s with a Price Chopper, a parking lot, and a strip plaza?  This plan assumes there is a dearth of derelict buildings in Watervliet on nearby sites that are as good or better that St. Patrick’s. It is hardly community-oriented to leave behind another abandoned big box, which is something Price Chopper does far too often. Why not renovate your existing structure for a change and spread good will instead?

If this plan goes through, the day the wrecking ball hits St. Patrick’s, I will send you my Advantage Card (it is in my husband’s name) and never set foot in a Price Chopper again, no matter the location. I will encourage all my friends and family to do the same; facebook is a very powerful force in this regard. I made a vow to never patronize Target when they erased the Defreest-Church House from the face of the Earth. I've kept my promise for nearly ten years; I have never darkened any of that chain's doors, in any town. So it will be no sweat to go only to Hannaford, Stewarts, and the Honest Weight Food Co-op instead of Price Chopper.

Friday, April 27, 2012

I intended to write something to go along with the picture I posted here yesterday, but didn't find the time. The university is working on the central fountain. This is going to take a long time, and as I recall, the fountain wasn't turned on since last year -- or at least there was no fountain day, I think because of the kegs 'n' eggs fiasco although the pending construction has also played a role. This spring they have finally started the work. Recently they put up sheetrock over the windows facing the fountain area at the lecture center level -- about 6 feet into the hallway. The photo I took shows doors that are still accessible (although there is a sign saying "no exit"), but the other doors where they have finished sheetrocking have been covered over. Isn't this a fire hazard? The LC level looks like a dungeon now, almost like the tunnels but with a high ceiling, very strange and cavernous.

Yesterday morning I received an email from the woman who runs the town shelter where we adopted Rosie. Two woman have been in touch with her. They found Rosie's old listing on petfinder somehow, even though it has been taken down on the shelter's end. One woman claims to be the owner, the other is the alleged owner's neighbor. They said the dog was lost in March, and had an ad in the paper starting March 15 for about three weeks. They also had other information about her, some of which was conflicting.

When told Rosie was found February 11, advertised in the same paper they used for whatever is legally required (I think a few days) and then adopted by me on February 27, they changed their story and said she was lost in February. Dogs without tags only have to be kept for five days; dogs with tags have to be kept for ten, so the animal control officer has no obligation to do anything for these women. She said the owner was nasty, but the neighbor was reasonable, so when asked if she would contact me and let me know there was a $1,000 reward and that all other expenses would be paid (adoption fee etc.), she agreed.

A personal moral dilemma presented itself -- maybe something I will bring up in toleration in the future? Bob and I discussed it, and I also hashed it over with the animal control officer and her partner. There was never any question that we would entertain surrendering her, whether she is this woman's lost dog or not, and the woman from the shelter agrees. In fact, her partner said even if I was willing, they are not sure they would decide to give the dog back to her, since she is not a responsible owner and they believe Rosie is in a much better place now.

 The story isn't compelling. Who would wait over a month before putting an ad in the paper, searching petfinder or contacting shelters? I would go to the ends of the Earth to find her if she was lost -- but such a thing would never happen. We even go out and watch her when she is in a fenced yard! She is so tiny, could have been a coyote's prey if left all alone in the woods. I have had nine pets in my adult life -- all are either still with me, or have died of natural causes / old age, never from being lost, neglected or hit by a car. I told the woman from the shelter to tell the "owner" to donate the reward to an animal welfare organization, if she wants to atone and do something good for animals.

Added: there are four things about Rosie that I would think someone would mention if they knew her. They didn't.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Two links today about my alma mater district. First, this one from an incumbent running for the school board. It includes the same tired and incorrect assertions about the additional transition being good for students. What's funny to me is that prior to her running for the first time in 2008, when the board was considering closing an elementary school and creating a middle school, she contacted me. I'd done some writing on what a bad idea the additional transition would be. This made the faction that was brewing court me, because they were delighted with my credentials and thought I would provide ammunition to justify their agenda. I distinctly recall she thanked me for being "on the side of the angels."

Well, it turns out that her high fives to me over my stance on transitions was just cover and these particular angels were motivated solely by self-interest. The challengers did not care about the district as a whole, educational excellence or fiscal responsibility; they only cared about saving their community school at all costs. Her defensiveness in this letter is ironic. They were quite emotional in 2008 -- seemed to believe the sky was indeed falling.

Then there is this depressing story. Here the superintendent shares something with the faction that hand-picked her to be their rubber stamp; she is on the defensive. How come the changes she implemented that she says addressed this problem took place before the incidents and complaint?

Later: Taking a big risk. Well, not really -- but putting myself "out there" in a way I haven't in a while. Worked on it today...stay tuned.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Finished grading! I almost can't believe it, there were so many assignments. I thought it would take me longer. I try not to end-load my classes too much, but at this point in the semester, it is inevitable.

I've been thinking about the presentations on Thursday night in my lower division class. I believe as a whole it was the strongest batch of presentations in that class -- ever. (I've been teaching it since 2005). They were really good overall - also diverse. That was a relief from last semester, when as I recall, 4/6 were almost identical. This semester, I strongly discouraged choosing addiction of any form as the topic. I would have been OK with one on AA, but I was not sitting through five -- or even two -- with a similar focus (AA, GA, NA, OA, SA). And I've decided also that I am not going to allow any student to choose OA or SA ever again. As a result, no group chose addictions. The six presentations were: two on religion (one on Islam, one on Christianity); LGBT; an after-school program for at-risk K-12 students; pornography; and a nursing home.

Finally: been having some fun messing with telemarketers. Bob picked up the phone over the weekend, and maybe because we had watched the movie Mrs. Doubtfire the night before, he said "hellooo" in an accented falsetto voice and proceeded to lead the salesperson around in circles. My father often does this to unwanted callers, and I've noticed it is a better approach than yelling, citing  the do not call registry, or slamming down the phone, in terms of feeling happy afterwards.

So just now I did it to my almost daily nuisance: One of those pathetic souls with a fake name in a debt consolidation hot room. I politely responded "yes" to his questions in the beginning - this drew him in. Then every so often, when he would take a breath or ask me a question, I said something nonsensical in a spacey, falsetto voice. For instance, I said, "what did you say your name was again?" and he said "Edward" so I said, "Edward... what a lovely name. My grandson's name is Edward, such a wonderful name."

When he said "do you have at least 15 thousand in credit card debt?" I said "credit cards! So convenient." When he said how much do you pay per month?" I said "oh, a lot of money." He asked me over and over, specifying, "400? 500? 600?" and I said, "As I've answered three times already, a lot of money."

By this point he was getting really irritated -- so I interrupted with "you said you could save me 40 percent, just like Progressive!" He repeated the part about savings -- trying not to lose his patience. I said, "yes, just like Progressive! You know, the car insurance ads on TV! With the gecko! You know those ads? I love those ads!"

It was all I could do to keep it together and not laugh hysterically -- but I planned to go the distance and not lose it. Sadly, at this point he hung up and my fun was over.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Had a good day! Good = productive. Not in the grading of all those looming essays an around the house way. Worked outside and inside - and took the dogs to the cemetery for a walk. We didn't get any much-needed rain, just a few sprinkles. Neighbors were all very productive too. We got Brooks BBQ from a local church fundraiser, and when we got home from picking it up, Bob put his Pink Floyd station on Pandora while we cleaned. (Not sure if that was because of Brooks or to drown out the chainsaw noise coming through the open windows.) The first song that played was "Wish You Were Here." Well, yeah! This isn't sparked by any recent events btw; that song reminds me every time I hear it of 30 years ago.

I'm surprised when I search here -- ten years of posts -- to find that I have not written a lot about 1982. I have noted the anniversary, or the circumstances briefly from time to time, but not in any depth. This makes me wonder, when it is OK to write about such things in detail? Publicly, I mean, and not as fiction - those complicated relationships and experiences that lack any sort of funny spin, even after many years?

Friday, April 20, 2012

I too will turn in my Advantage Card and never set foot in a Price Chopper again if this plan goes through. How despicable. As if there is a dearth of derelict buildings on nearby sites that are as good or better. Not to mention leaving behind another abandoned big box is criminal. Renovate for a change, for pete's sake. For many years, I've kept my promise involving Target. Have never darkened any of that chain's doors, in any town. This will be no sweat.
Glad someone is stepping up. The quoted remarks are very kind to the current board, but realistically, how would two new members reverse the decision? The others are a block. Two "dissidents" will just be the beginning of a new faction. It will take more seats to turn over -- and only then can the self-interested and political agenda be corrected. And what a lot of BS from the incumbent. I agree -- "no educational benefits" is not accurate. There are negative educational benefits. Additional transitions are bad for all students, period. What a way to share the pain! So now every student in every grade at every school can be harmed. LOL, if it wasn't so pathetic. I'd like to see a white paper supporting the assertion, and the educational benefits specified and supported. Time to count your pennies and research an alternative school.
I have procrastination syndrome. Lots of work to do, but something else is calling. Surprisingly, it is not the outdoors. What a beautiful day! But I feel like writing, have a scifi story idea that has been kicking around in my head for a while and it is clamoring to see "paper." I couldn't resist so I wrote a paragraph. What to do?

Thursday, April 19, 2012

After two nights of frost (and in some places, freeze) warnings, today is a bright, beautiful day. The cold didn't hurt the plants near my house any -- can't speak about more northerly places, however. But the growing season has not started yet far north, so maybe not there either. I was mostly worried about the apple crop but I think the blossoms are OK.

Yesterday, quite late in the day, I managed to get outside with my fully charged weed whacker and cut the grass. It was very high in many places, really taxed my little machine. I would never have let it go this long if Sophie was alive. She did not like tall grass, since she was so allergic. She would go out after I was done and inspect the job. Sam doesn't care, and Rosie -- despite being tiny (the grass was up to her chest) -- does not seem to mind it either.

I am itching to do some serious yard work. I need it so bad, as an attitude adjustment. Nothing like digging in the dirt to soothe the soul. But it looks like (much needed) rain this weekend, and of course there is my end of semester workload, so the itch will have to wait to be scratched. It's still early anyway, far too soon to plant anything significant.

Unrelated -- the six presentations on Tuesday were terrific. Some students were so nervous. I remember feeling that way myself, many moons ago, but at this point I can't remember why. Today there will be nine more. Looking forward to it.

Added: one group of students brought in pizza and soda for the class! Brings a smile to my face. Not getting free food (always nice, but hardly essential) -- the effort and sentiment. What generous young people.

3:30 PM: just heard that Levon Helm died this afternoon.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Today facebook friends are posting lots of tributes. Mostly links to favorite songs on youtube from my HS friends. "Up On Cripple Creek" is my favorite, but instead I am going to link to the recent Ulster County tourism commercial. (Not that I want more tourists in Ulster County, even though all he says is true.)

Later: the hum or lawn mowers has begun. I wanted to weed whack -- the grass is very tall. But I had to locate and charge the spare battery, and now that it is ready -- no way am I doing it until others go inside.

And, something I learned this weekend that relates to this earlier post. My father told me that last year's selection for Boys' State called him with the news that he has been accepted to Harvard on a full scholarship! Wow.

Finally, the death of another famous New Yorker: It was announced that Dick Clark has died. Here's the Governor's statement. He hadn't looked too good since his stroke a few years ago. I'm amazed he hung in there this long. Also, I thought he was older than 82.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

This is a great week teaching-wise. Students are making presentations! So I get to sit back and watch. They always do a most impressive job.

And: frost advisory for tonight! Unbelievable. But I will say the forsythia has been especially vibrant this year, amazing considering the temperature variation.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Another old Catskills resort consumed by flames. Also, a guy was arrested for arson in the Tamarack Lodge blaze from last week.

What a hazardous spring, fire-wise, this had been. So dry! It rained for a very short time yesterday, and today it is near 90 degrees. I hear the fire siren going off a lot. In Castleton, we are under a boil water advisory due to a water main break.

And -- here's an interesting Titanic story from the Freeman that includes interviews with people I know. (Didn't know they had a relative who was a survivor, though.)

Had a great weekend in Samsonville, celebrated my father's birthday (with manicotti and biscotti). It turned out to be an "Elwyn-style" birthday for him -- three days of celebrations. I didn't check email once!

Added: Now I remember why I don't do the taxes early. Every year it makes me feel like turning into an anti-government nutjob (from just a plain nutjob).

Friday, April 13, 2012

Today is my father's 85th birthday. Friday the 13th this year! Tomorrow we are going to Samsonville. We'll have dinner with him, and on Sunday, we'll bring biscotti from the fabulous Zachary's bakery for the parishioners at St. Augustine's to enjoy after Mass, in celebration of Bob's new found status and my father's birthday.

I'm very interested in historical events such as the sinking of the Titanic - so I have been collecting links as I find them. Here's one from the Freeman 100 years ago, here are some terrific images, and here is a really lovely story in the Times Union (by one of the few worthy writers on the staff, IMO).

And finally, this is unrelated to either of the above paragraphs, but I can't let it slip by without mention. You go, Jim! He is such a tireless champion for animals, he needs no other reason for me to admire him. (The linked post itself drips with snark, and many of the commenters are bitter, vile losers, unfortunately). I, on the other hand, am very single issue when it comes to animal rights.

Pulled a tick off Sam this evening. Yikes.
The mother of one of Bob's high school friends (thoughtfully) sent us a copy of Millie's obituary that appeared in last week's "paper" Babylon Beacon.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

I managed to get both a proposal that I had to write and the midterms done, so I have Friday to work on the taxes. Not really sure how I managed it - but the need to multitask to accomplish the absolute deadlines was almost making me have an anxiety attack. I buckled down, and got it done. Satisfied with the result too. Both tasks were difficult, so that is saying something. I changed the midterms a lot this semester, and that is why they were especially tricky to grade. They are never easy to grade -- the class is always half freshmen, some of whom need help with learning to cite and write in a scholarly fashion, and frequently has a few seniors who do not take it seriously and need to be encouraged to shape up. So I have to spend a lot of time commenting and correcting. The change in format and expectations made that even more difficult.

As far as the proposal goes, that is in the "enough said" category. It is one of those things I do not share here. Let's just say that it has been a process with lots of drama. At this point I've managed to massage it into something workable. I think. 

Yesterday there were two visitors in my afternoon class. A young man and a young woman, both high school students who were visiting campus and were brought to my class by two women who are in the class. I teased the class that we have been the showcase for the university this semester, what with the photographer, videographer, and now the visitors. They laughed. I said I was not sure whether our class will encourage or dissuade a prospective student from choosing UA? But the two visitors were shy, and although they listened politely and read the discussion hand-outs, neither shared their thoughts with class.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

This is a rumination sparked by my facebook feed. Why can't people celebrate their viewpoint without mocking the beliefs of others? I expressed a similar sentiment to this in a comment on what was a very rude post and was viciously attacked by someone I don't know: A "friend of a friend" (be careful about those privacy settings, although in this case that wasn't the issue). Then the friend deleted the thread, although she often is pissed when someone does that to her and she's allegedly a great champion of open dialogue. She even captures shots of her screen when she is mixing it up so she can post it on her own page after it is deleted, and she then calls the site owners out for not being able to handle debate, proudly stating she was respectful and polite, but they couldn't take her superior intellect. Her friends all pile on, congratulating her and dissing the censor, asserting they must only be interested in one perspective and are lying when they claim to want to listen to the views of others. Pot, meet kettle. I suppose she is like Marcuse -- all for speech as long as it is agreeable to her, but those whose opinions differ from hers should be censored. I don't care to document the behavior on facebook for mutual friends to see, though. I don't feel like being involved in a flame war. Better to let it go. (So instead I will complain here, in my little corner. LOL!)

Today she has more snark posted, this time directed at a (very) different group. I don't share the ideology of this particular group, but I am not the type of person who takes pleasure in making fun of others. I ask myself a J.S. Mill-inspired question: How does someone believing in this silly thing harm me? Not at all. But people often write blog comments and posts on facebook that they would not share FTF, I guess. However, perhaps that should be "depending on the audience," because they probably would be unkind in person if they felt the listener was on the same nasty page. I always thought anonymous posting was the enabler, but I think I was mistaken. These folks all use their full names. Her deletion had its desired effect, though. I certainly have no intention of engaging with her or her fellow travelers ever again. Maybe I will just hide what she writes. Everyday I see evidence that being educated about toleration is a necessity. It is such a misunderstood concept. Even given that it is my bread and butter, it makes me sad.

Monday, April 09, 2012

This was either extreme stupidity or arson. Even without the DEC warnings that have been everywhere recently, anyone with an iota of connection to the environment would know better than to burn outdoors right now. It is often windy, and it is especially dry this year. So the detective in me says arson. The story captured my attention, as I knew Olive firefighters would be there. Also, in the 1990s I went to a math conference at the Concord, and while there, wrote the story Sums and Differences. Finally, Bob and I occasionally drive through that area with all the old, mostly defunct hotels, on our way to Western NY when we are starting from Samsonville rather than Castleton.

The linked newspaper story is a combination of kind or silent on this point, but I vaguely remembered a controversy about the place, so I did some searching and found this (sorry you have to register to read the full article). In a nutshell, an alleged descendant of Native Americans* has his application rejected from various legitimate tribes, and formed a tribe of his own that is not recognized by the federal government, but still managed to get the town and investors to buy into a scheme to renovate the defunct structure into a casino. Partial renovation took place, but bankruptcy and various other legal infractions led to the project being abandoned.

As often happens while searching, I wound up meandering from URL to URL. Here's some stunning footage of the fire. Then I stumbled across this fascinating flickr photo set that documented the lodge's recent sad condition. I couldn't stop looking. Finally I found this gem, a collection of vintage postcards and brochures.

*I was going to write "fake Indian." But perhaps there is a family story that just hasn't been documented. I have one myself, and if it could be proven I could claim to be 1/32nd. That's still much less than the 1/8 required to be "real," and I suspect that is the case for this man as well.

Sunday, April 08, 2012

Mass this morning was full of distractions - as packed as last Sunday (though we remembered to get there early enough to get a seat today), much chattering and screaming kids, and during the singing of the psalm, a man collapsed. EMTs were called and were there within minutes, and shortly afterwards, two ambulances arrived. I sure hope the gentleman is OK. The children's choir provided the music, I don't think I have ever been there before when they were in the lead role. Now we're off to Chatham House.

Saturday, April 07, 2012

We started with a wonderful dinner with friends at Scarnato's (I had my usual eggplant -- we have many top-notch Italian restaurants in the Capital District, but they make the best anywhere, rivals Ma's), and then after a two-hour Easter vigil Mass, here's the newest Catholic! What a joyous day this was in what has been a difficult year. Peace be with you!
Picture-perfect weather for Bob's big day. Last night's service was amazing. It consisted of readings alternating with songs. The choir is incredibly talented.
This is pretty awesome.

Friday, April 06, 2012

Millie's detailed obituary is in the Babylon Beacon today. I am not sure whether the link will work for the full life story or if it requires a payment of $2 for the single issue (that's what they charge to non-subscribers). It works for me but maybe that is because it "knows" my machine. I don't begrudge them the two bucks -- I've no doubt keeping the community paper afloat is not easy, and without it the only option would be Newsday or the NYC newspapers.

I wasn't happy with the minuscule notice Newsday ran for $500+ so I worked with the Beacon to write this one. It is basically my work, with a couple of changes from the woman who has the byline (I believe a family member of hers owns the paper). I don't care, there is a "which" that should be a "that!" (Also mention of Millie's membership in in the Hanseaten Club was struck -- the omission might offend some of those folks, the club was important to her.) But overall it came out good. I just didn't want her to get only 1 inch of column space for a life of 79 years.

The picture was taken 13 years ago. I'd have liked to use something more recent but she wasn't crazy about having her picture taken, and also, for the past five years the decline definitely showed. This is how people remember her. I had to crop my father-in-law out, and that meant I had to change the background. Pleased with the result!

On another subject, the soup and bread was OK last night, and the Mass was amazing. The music, the ritual. Beautiful. Bob carried in the oil of catecumens (not Chrism as I'd thought) and didn't drop it! Tonight, there is a special performance by the choir. There are really talented folks in the congregation. It's like a concert every week. Can't wait.

And finally: Really have to buckle down and get a lot of work done! Midterms to grade, a proposal to write, assessment tools to design and the taxes -- all with looming deadlines. Good thing I work well under pressure.

Thursday, April 05, 2012

I am not a generally superstitious person. Oh, I do have a few OCD qualities; some are rational (such as closing windows during thunderstorms); others are neurotic (such as checking to see if the door is locked even though it always is). But I don't put any stock in the "step on a crack break your mother's back" variety. If Bob knocks over a salt shaker, he has to dash it once over one of his shoulder (can't remember which), and if I knock it over - he practically jumps over the table to grab it so he can satisfy his superstition before I put the shaker right side up again (apparently once the shaker is upright it is too late? Not sure). During one of the many meals we shared with family between funeral services for my mother-in-law, our sister-in-law chuckled that Bob's brother has the same trait. It is something they learned from their mother. I'm not sure they believe in the superstition -- but it is still second nature.

However, I love ghost stories. (Not horror stories.) I like to read them, to hear them, to write them. I imagine I see faces on the trees during foggy, moonless nights. I have a friend who grew up in Castleton and shares my fascination. He has told me great stories about Castleton, and some of them have variants that happened in other places. Louis Jones, who was once the New York State historian, wrote a wonderful book called Spooks of the Valley that was a favorite when I was a kid. I didn't know it then, but after I moved here 25 years ago, I re-read it and was delighted to discover that it is set in Castleton. I think Washington Irving and his fantastic tales have had a lasting influence on the Hudson Valley and Catskills.

Years ago, we were driving through Brookview (a little town between Castleton and East Greenbush that no longer has its own post office). There is a handsome, large, old brick house that was once abandoned, but has been renovated for quite a long time now (and has been "flipped" more than once since its renovation). Both of us did a double take! Walking along, in the ditch near the road by the house was a man in some kind of historic uniform. The look on his face was other-worldly. We took to calling him "Civil War Man." It was like a rip in the fabric of time. A few years later, we saw an old tractor from the ~'20s in that same spot. Again, the man driving it was other-wordly; even his clothes were vintage. Is Civil War Man / Tractor Man the reason the house turns over so often, rather than the market or relocation?

The elevator shaft of the building I work in allegedly is haunted, and when I worked downtown, I heard there were several ghosts from different time periods  whom were routinely seen. (By others, I never saw anything.) I always joked at the telling, since I often was there until the wee hours, "if I see them I will put them to work!" I certainly could have used the help.

This is a very long lead-up to my story from today. I was walking back to my office after class, thinking about the crashed computer in the classroom, and about how well I am doing without the ankle brace (stopped wearing it except when walking the dogs). I always think about my ankle when I am climbing stairs, since it is a good gauge for how it feels. A man was walking down the opposite side. He was old-fashioned looking, the kind of guy who might have been in the Blazers singing college drinking songs.* Argyle sweater and penny loafer kind of dude. He also was snobby-seeming. He was complaining in an arrogant voice on a cell phone to someone that "there is no rugby, no polo, no cricket, no croquet...I kid you not."

And I kid you not. Granted he was talking on a cell phone, so unless he ripped the time-space continuum and managed to snag some modern technology along the way, that can't be it. But somehow he transported himself from an Ivy stereotype to UA -- and was sorely disappointed.

* A dear friend LOVED this album, which we own. (Our copy has the Blazers on it instead of the jacket, as the "More" one does above -- that's the reason I linked "More" rather than this one.) Listened to it last time we were in Samsonville, where we still can play vinyl. RIP, Frank -- coincidentally, today is very near to his birthday. (No, Argyle Man was most definitely not Frank.)
It's a beautiful day and I'm in good spirits. Optimistic that my classes will work out OK after all. It is the beginning of four days of church and Bob's "big day." (And the always fabulous Chatham House brunch!)

However, I must sadly note that Sophie left us 2 months ago today. Nothing against little Rosie Posey (or of course, Sam or TB/TC), but I miss her so much! I saw a man walking a Basset Hound this morning and it just about broke my heart. Also 19 years ago this day, Mimmie passed away. I've written here and elsewhere about Mimmie many times. Today I will once again link to the little booklet of vignettes, postcards, recipes and Janette's artwork that I made in Mimmie's honor for my mother's birthday:

Added: This didn't ruin my day or anything, but just now in class, as students were working in groups on their projects -- I decided to use the computer and it was crashed, in rebooting over and over never-never land. Thankfully it wasn't student presentation day. This is why I always tell them, when they are designing lesson plans - to allow for the unexpected. (Another minor glitch in my day: I spilled yogurt down the front of my shirt shortly after I got to campus. I'm not usually a messy eater and wouldn't you know the one time I don't have a napkin in my lap...grrr, but again, not a big enough deal to ruin my day. "The weird lady has a stain on her shirt again. And dog hair." LOL)

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

As promised yesterday: I'm surprised (and pleased) to report, turns out all's well that ends well.

Students rarely come to office hours. Yesterday, right at the end of office hours, I was one second from getting out my debit card and heading over to campus center to grab some lunch, a student in the challenging class came to see me about how poorly her group is performing in class. I've detailed my trials with the class here, here and here.

First thing that bothered me, she shut the door without asking. I don't like the idea of being alone in my office with a student with the door closed. This is probably sexist of me, and it is also (pathetically) being overly influenced by media's constant attention to school, college and workplace shootings, but it would be worse if it was a male. I suppose with a female I am not as concerned that she will do something violent, but there is always the chance she could claim I said something I didn't say. However, I have had students come to my office and share with me that they were pregnant, or had recently had an abortion, or just found out they have cancer, or were having marital troubles, or had a dying family member, or had a spouse who was serving in Iraq or Afghanistan. So I didn't want to immediately call her on it or get up and open the door.

What she shared was nothing like any of the heart-wrenching and tearfully delivered stories I describe above. One issue with some students in this class is that they continuously smart phone. Imagine my shock when, while I am responding to her concerns, she whips out her phone and starts texting! And when I told her to stop it she became huffy and acted like I had a problem.

I stood up, opened the door, and told her to leave. She freaked out, said I was being unreasonable, also "I've never disrespected you." When I said she was being disrespectful by texting during our meeting, she apologized (with an attitude that said she was not sorry at all) and told me several points of criticism, including that I am uptight. (May not have been her exact words but that was what she meant.) At least she didn't call me weird! Something else she said was that throwing her out of my office was uncalled for because she is getting a lot out of class, and expects to get an A. (While very brazen, it may not be an unrealistic goal, because her grades are OK. But 60 percent of the assessment is still to come, including the two most important pieces of work.)

I finally let her stay in my office (door open) but (as you can probably imagine) I wound up lecturing her that coming to my office to ask for help and then texting while I was answering her questions was disrespectful and not socially acceptable, especially since one of the problems with her group is that they constantly text in class! I told her that it's a tough economy. If she acts that way in the professional world, she will be fired. (Truth is, I know lots of folks in the real world who are rude cell phone addicts, so my prediction may not be accurate. Still, it is good advice for a young person just entering the market. Being less of a jerk is advisable.)

The assistant to our chair was hovering around after the student left, and she asked me if I was OK. She was really alarmed when she saw the door closed, and once opened, when she heard the student's tone. I was relieved she was on alert. It is an isolated floor and there wasn't anyone else around, aside from a strange guy who was knocking on every door in the hallway, and said he was on the wrong floor when asked if he needed help (but he continued to briefly knock on every office door). We thought it very odd, but maybe we were overly sensitive because of the disgruntled student shooting up that college in California the day before yesterday.

It was too late to eat lunch as a result, I had to get to class. And I couldn't get something quick between my classes because I had a meeting. Then, in the afternoon class, technology betrayed me, students couldn't figure it out either, we had to get tech support, and the class was over with little accomplished. What a lousy day!

In the evening class, there was perfect attendance, and no one bailed at break. Everyone in her group was there and diligently working, although they had no questions for me. The other three groups had many questions and have made significant progress on the big project - that includes the one that initially had problems. I am expecting one of the stronger performances from that group. In classrooms, sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. It is the educator's laboratory.

Reflecting on the incident last night, I decided that for this group, my efforts only made things worse. I decided to cut my losses and started the countdown to May 10. I resolved that I would let things alone and hope for the best. I wasn't happy about it, but one of the beauties of college teaching is that there is always the promise of a new semester up ahead (and a nice, long summer to recharge).

Here's the all's well that ends well part. She sent me an email apology late last night. I suspect she talked to her parents and they ripped her a new one. It was thoughtful and reflective and seemed sincere. Time will tell, but what a relief! In a way, it is pleasant to think that maybe I did get through to her and she will overcome the addiction, learn to set boundaries and take responsibility, and become a better, more polite student. I may have had a lasting impact on her. Sometimes the challenges of teaching turn into a positive. It can be very rewarding. I'd almost forgotten that this spring. Glad to have this reminder. Not wishing my life away!

An aside, but not really: whatever happens this semester, I think the smart phones battle is lost, unfortunately.

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

I had a bad day today. Result: countdown to end of semester has started. Ignoring my mother's sage advice "don't wish your life away." (Not really; just being cute.) More tomorrow.

Monday, April 02, 2012

I have fun speculating about (fixating on?*) being labeled "weird" and decided a long time ago that it relates to three things: 1) saying atypical things in class 2) limping / walking with a cane and 3) my fingernails.

About #3, they are extremely long right now. I know I have to cut them. It's time consuming to do it and I really don't like to do it. I thought I would take a picture of them first.

I was surprised to notice the scar on my hand. I don't think about the twin scars on my left hand and wrist any more. Here I am nearly fourteen years ago fretting that my dreams of a career as a hand model were over:

We briefly had a camper in Samsonville before our house was built and that's where these two photos were taken. I didn't like it much and we didn't keep it long -- the first night we stayed there, I cut my hand on a falling light fixture, and when I was at the ER having it stitched, Rudy destroyed the screens and jumped out of the window. He was wildly running around the yard when we got home. Thankfully he didn't run off, that would have made a bad night much worse.

Unrelated: I had a lovely dream about Sophie last night. That's the second one. Disappointing to wake up and have her not here.

*Now you know why I avoid checking RMP.

Sunday, April 01, 2012

We begin a week full of religious ceremonies, culminating with Bob making his first communion and confirmation at the Easter vigil on Saturday.  Today was Palm Sunday, or course, and church was packed. I'm glad they came, but I'd by lying if I said I didn't wonder where they are the rest of the time. We both have a difficult time with morning punctuality whether it is work or an event -- we're owls. (So I never teach in the morning and Bob is one of those "higher-ups" [LOL, such a vulgar descriptor] who doesn't have to sweat the small stuff.)  Fortunately, we live very close to the church and so aren't late very often but generally get there no more than five minutes early.

Today we didn't allow enough time for the Palm Sunday crush and so had to stand in the back of the church. I've never had to stand before and frankly, it wasn't easy for either of us. Bob is having a (fairly minor, but still) RA flare in his ankle, and enough said about my ankle. But I did it with good humor, even went out and split my palms with late comers who missed the distribution and were standing behind us in the lobby.

The next Mass on the agenda is Holy Thursday. We are going to go to the soup and bread dinner at the church, and then at Mass afterwards, Bob will carry in the oil of Holy Chrism. I've only been to Holy Thursday Mass once before -- last year. I wasn't sure if I would go this year -- Thursday is a teaching night for me and I never imagined Bob would be converting. (I knew it was something he'd thought about from time to time but I neither encouraged nor discouraged him, and I didn't think he would ever decide to do it.) But I rearranged my teaching schedule so that I can manage attending.

Then on Good Friday the choir is going to perform a special concert. Saturday is Bob's big day, the Easter vigil, and he told me today that he wants to go to Mass on Easter Sunday as well. I've never been to Mass at Sacred Heart for Easter, since I am always in Samsonville, and go to church with my family at St. Augustine's, the little mission chapel I attended as a kid. I believe this is the first time I won't be with my parents, siblings, nieces, nephews, grandnieces and grandnephews for a holiday. This year friends are going to attend the Easter vigil with us, and then on Sunday Bob and I will go to Chatham House for brunch. My family all came to Bob's welcome ceremony in February. The Easter vigil is too late at night for it to be practical for them to travel, what with the Sunday meal looming, so that's why we made a big deal of the welcome Mass.

Unrelated: Rosie barked three real woofs today! She was happy when we got home from the supermarket and were preparing to take the dogs on their cemetery walk, She's not 100% competent at it yet -- they were still a little too shrill to be howly enough but she is getting pretty close. Even threw her head back in hound fashion. Yay.