Friday, September 28, 2012

I have written many times before that only a handful of the students I have in my classes are unethical -- or slackers. Unfortunately those two groups take an enormous amount of energy and too often overshadow the remaining students, most of whom are perfectly capable. And then there are a small number, though larger than the slackers and cheaters, who are truly wonderful. I shared my recent situation with my students yesterday, and also met with the three who will be handling my classes next week. Many well-wishes, and the three who will be substitutes are excited by the prospect. One student even stopped me after class to tell me that his mom had a brain tumor removed eight years ago, she is perfectly fine and he knows my father will be too. What amazing young people! It gives me hope for the future.

My I hate September theme: Forgot to mention last post that 9/25 was the 7th anniversary of Rudy's death. RIP, Mr. Wuj. Miss you.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Just came in from weed whacking (it so needed it) and picking tomatoes. I've managed to get coverage for two of my three on campus classes next week, and I am waiting to confirm the third. The online class is pretty much on auto-pilot, provided I get it ready by Friday (which I would have to do anyway). So my schedule is clear for going to Samsonville and Boston. Feeling very optimistic (and occasionally, panicky).

On Monday, our catechism class starts. Turns out it will be a combined grades 3 & 4 class. The following week we have the Columbus Day holiday, which is good, as I anticipate coming back to Castleton from Samsonville on that day.

Last night we attended a class called the Spiritual Journal at the church. It was great! We wrote three posts, and if we wanted to, read them aloud and / or discussed the process. I chose to read one of mine. The prompt was write about something you did today:

September 24, 2012. Today I wrote in my "other" journal - the one I have been keeping since March 1, 2002. Today's entry was just a photo of the fruits of my garden, as it winds down into early fall. Some tomatoes, green beans, cucumbers and one pitiful zucchini that I am so proud of. Reason being I never have any luck with zucchini in my Castleton garden, even though most other veggies thrive. I also revised yesterday's post, which was a long one. I have to revise long posts because for the past ten years I have written publicly, and that means the internal censor kicks in. There are some things I cannot write about in my public journal. That one has more rules than privately writing on paper. There are pluses and minuses to this - some creativity and venting gets lost, but on the other hand, it doesn't have to be burned afterwards, as a paper journal may have to be. Wow, writing with a pen is tiring!! 

Recently, I noticed in referrer logs that I get often get visits from people searching for two things:

1) Mass times at St. Augustine's in West Shokan. So, if you land here searching for that information, Sunday Mass it at 9:30 AM and holy days are 5:30 PM.

2) Whether the Carol Burnett show is on roku. If that's why you are here, the answer is I have not found any full episodes. However, if you download, you can search and watch youtube, and there are many clips of all favorite skits, in fact to watch them all it would take hours or days.

Monday, September 24, 2012

As promised! The garden is winding down, but still producing. And zuke is little -- but a victory.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

It is one of the mysteries of our nature that a man, all unprepared, can receive a thunder-stroke like that and live. There is but one reasonable explanation of it. The intellect is stunned by the shock and but gropingly gathers the meaning of the words. The power to realize their full import is mercifully lacking. - Mark Twain's Autobiography (writing about his daughter Suzy Clemens' death).

I've read the autobiography many times; it is my favorite book by my favorite author. There are many sentences, paragraphs and anecdotes within it that resonate. This quote has been running through my mind for the past week. Last Saturday morning, we rushed my father to the hospital because we thought he was having a stroke. Turns out it was not a stroke, but instead he has a brain tumor called a meningioma.

It's very serious of course, but not quite as bad as it sounds at first -- it is not something that spread from somewhere else but instead it is something that he had had for many, many years, apparently a lot of people have them and they do not cause symptoms and do not need to be treated if they are not causing symptoms. It is not "in" his brain, but on the surface in the membrane. Also, at 85 he is in excellent health and has no other issues. So they were able to stabilize him with medication, his symptoms went away, and he came home from the hospital Tuesday (my birthday, certainly one I will never forget). He has a slight speech issue, although no worse than many people his age, and you would never know something was wrong with him.  A big victory happened yesterday -- my brother threw a reception for his daughter, who married her partner over the summer and my father did not want to miss it. And he didn't!

Friday, September 14, 2012

More campus construction -- this is the new school of business building.

I didn't post yesterday, but wanted to note that it would have been Mimmie's 108th birthday! I thought about her all day. I am working on turning A Visit with Mimmie into a kindle book...stay tuned.

2012 continues to dish out sad milestones. I found out that a friend and former co-worker Nancy died yesterday. She was about 67, I think. She had not been well for about the past 5 years. I last saw her in December 2010. She was a nice and gracious person, and was often my walking companion on the trek up State Street at lunch time. RIP Nancy. I'm sure there was a party waiting for you in heaven.

Added: Another great column.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

No chance to post yesterday, but on Monday night I scanned some photos I took in 1997 on a visit to Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty, on my 36th birthday. It seems like longer ago than 15 years, while eleven years ago seems like yesterday.

Monday, September 10, 2012

As always, I am contemplating how I can bring the herbs inside as soon as the frost threatens. It was a little crisp this morning, but no where near freezing yet. Bright blue September day. (Also the 17th anniversary of Howie's death...howzerdo or just "do.")
Offspring of Little Shop of Horrors have sprouted everywhere. This little guy was in the middle of the lawn. I dug it out in the hope of having an inside tomato plant.

Sunday, September 09, 2012

Spent another four dollars for an amazon movie on roku -- this time, The Perfect Family. We chose it solely because of Kathleen Turner, whom we both like. She has aged a lot since I last saw one of her movies, and also gained some weight. Neither is a criticism; I admire her for aging naturally and gracefully. She is still lovely, although they did their best to make her appear frumpy, and she pulls it off. It was an OK movie I guess, but only because she is a good actress. Apart from that, the movie's message was Hollywood's understanding of Catholics: they are unhappy, unforgiving, unenlightened, vain -- oh, and by the way -- hypocrites too. Plus, there are no "cool" clergy. But it did have a happy ending, and her family loves one another. So it's all good. (Not really.)

Here in the real world, I'm very excited to build a lesson plan on Kateri Tekakwitha for the 4th/5th grade catechism class Bob and I are going to co-teach this year.

Saturday, September 08, 2012

Staying in Castleton, so no barn duty this weekend. We took the dogs to the cemetery for a walk, and then to the local Stewart's for a treat. When Sophie was alive, that usually meant an eggwich. However, at the location in our village, there is a day time employee we call "the eggwich bitch." In all other Stewart''s I've every patronized, the associates bend over backwards to make customers happy. They keep the hot box full of eggwiches and burgers and the coffee fresh. But our eggwich bitch seems to hate making them, and resents all who want to buy one. They must sell the least volume in eggwiches of any shop in the chain. Today I see the sandwich board in the parking lot says eggwiches and coffee combos are fifty cents off. Must be the eggwich bitch is on vacation this week.

Added Sunday: this morning, again no eggwiches. I didn't plan to buy one, but some other customers were asking, and were told they were being made. But they left empty handed. The eggwich bitch was no where in sight, but it seems she has created an anti-eggwich work culture.

Friday, September 07, 2012

This week I had lunch at the Patroon Room with someone I hadn't seen in about 15 years. She asked me, kind of out of the blue, whether I find my job rewarding? The question took me by surprise. At the time I wondered if she was judging me. I was wearing a tie dye tee shirt and bright pink capri pants. I'm so not where I was when we were peers in class. I have a great memory, and 15 or 20 years ago still resonates on occasion, but actually seeing her again made that reflection all the more powerful. When we were both students, she was full time, GA supported. Doted on by the faculty. Hung out in study groups where they memorized every nuance of the literature in preparation for the comps. I was one class per semester, wearing a suit, running to class from Western Avenue where the bus dumped me out, often late if the class was 4:15 since my System Administration ball & chain did its level best to keep me inside the velvet trap, and off CDTA bus 10. I was invisible to most faculty, and truth be told, kind of liked it that way. Did my funded peers covet my situation? I always felt they disdained it. Or maybe they were just afraid of me.

The question was polite, it was a friendly conversation. We had a lot of fun gossiping. But I wondered, is she thinking how could I chuck the ladder and excitement to become a mellow, spacey hippie? I didn't think about it a lot before I said that I love teaching and that is the part of my job I find most rewarding. I told her the only downside is being an adjunct, but I don't worry about security at all. After ten years being fired seems unlikely, and even if it happened, I'd land on my feet.

Afterwards I thought about it some more, and wondered whether she was not asking me because she questions my motivation, but because she is soul searching her own choices and future. Clearly the stress of running fast takes its toll.

I thought about it some more and decided even when my "cohort" was hanging out in the study lounge and I was dragging my ball and chain to class, I was the hippie.

An quasi-unrelated aside: Now I figured everyone knows I am too young to have been a hippie. But yesterday, one of my students said to me while explaining a contemporary band and protest music: "you're from the sixties, you understand..." I didn't bother to correct him, didn't say "hey buddy, I am a decade too young to be 'from the sixties' except as a baby" -- but that took me by surprise too. LOL moment (in my head).

Added: A funny moment, the blast from the past and I were discussing a person we both know, and I summed it up suddenly: "he has little man syndrome." This so surprised and tickled her. She may have forgotten how fearless I am in my discourse.
As a result of this post, I was asked about a cost comparison. Both districts are in NYSED's similar schools category of "average need / resource capacity." In 2009-10 [the most recent year of data], districts in this category spent $18,262 per student (while all schools in NYS spent $19,921 / student). Similar schools spent $9,695 per general education student, and $26,949 per special education student (compared to $11,105 per general education student and $26,888 per special education student at all schools in NYS). The classification rate for students with special needs at similar schools was 12.3%, and at all NYS schools it was 13%. At Schodack: $18,715 / student total; $8,932 for general education; $26,067 for special education; 14.7% classification rate.

Now hang on to your hat...At OCS: $30,747 / student total; $15,495 general education; $40,128 special education; 17% classification rate. In terms of performance, all of Schodack's schools are in "good standing." At OCS, the high school, Bennett and Woodstock ES are in "good standing." The junior high and Phoenicia ES are labeled in need of improvement (year 1).

But the most shocking statistic to me is that Schodack's graduation rate was 95% for the cohort entering ninth grade in 2006; OCS had a grad rate of 81%, and so did not meet the aspirational goal set for students completing HS in 5 years (95%).

How's this for a punchline? (My mother loves this commercial):

Thursday, September 06, 2012

I made french fries with some of those wonderful potatoes from the garden. (We had baked potatoes Monday night -- very versatile crop!) The french fries plus tomato sandwiches were dinner last night! Love the harvest...

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

I wanted to wait until I had my tax bills, pencil and calculator in hand before commenting. (They arrived Saturday but I wasn't home.) For OCS, it comes to a 2.7% increase over last year (slightly more than reported in the article.) For Schodack, it is an increase of 3.8% over last year (although overall the OCS bill is 56% higher than the one for Schodack). However neither is over the 2% tax cap. I must need to sharpen my pencil and get a new calculator. Or maybe this is "new math?"

The Schodack newsletter explains it this way: "the law requires school districts to use an eight-step formula to determine how much they can increase their tax levy by. As a result, most school districts can raise their tax levies by more than 2% and still be within the tax cap.The reason is the state’s formula allows exemptions for certain school expenditures that are outside a district’s control – such as contributions to the state retirement system – as well as allowances for growth in a community’s tax base. In Schodack CSD, the state allows the district to increase its tax levy by 2.47% and still be within the cap. The district decided to raise the tax levy by that amount to reduce the level of cuts that would be required to programs." 
OCS newsletter says "The Board of Education has adopted a budget that contains a ZERO percent increase to the tax levy. This does not mean that each individual tax bill will remain unchanged from last year."
But I am just being funny, not really expecting a comprehensible explanation. Reconciling the much-touted 2% with reality reminds me of Nineteen Eighty-Four.
Stealing a few minutes to write briefly about one of the things that has been pending. We watched the movie Bernie on roku via amazon (4 bucks). It is an entertaining and often funny movie, very clever. Shirley MacLaine, Jack Black, Matthew McConaughey were all great. But it left me feeling very unsettled afterwards. Again, a bit of the biopic hatchet job, although this time not of the title character, who was portrayed as the hero, very sympathetically. Instead, it was the ultimate of blaming the victim. Spoiler alert: is it really appropriate, tasteful or ethical (forget kind) to produce a movie that makes light of a 30-something charismatic man seducing (emotionally if not physically) and murdering an 81-year-old woman by shooting her four times in the back, and then stuffing her body in the freezer for nine months while he spends her money? This is acceptable and even hilarious because he was a nice, charming guy, she was a rich bitch and he donated some of her money to charity? And it is not like the events were ripped from far back in history -- this woman's immediate family is still living. (Reminded me of The Iron Lady in that single aspect.) News flash: the jury got it right. I feel guilty for enjoying the story (even though my laughter abruptly stopped at the murder).
 These are from the Samsonville garden. Best potatoes ever!
For regular tomatoes, in Castleton I grew Celebrity this year. They are great in containers -- plants didn't get too big, produced an abundance of medium-sized tomatoes perfect for salads, sandwiches and caprese. Thanks to Becker's for the recommendation -- two paws  up!
Bob drove the commissioner's SUV to Rochester today. Filled it up last night. Wow...

Lots of things to write, but very little time to devote. It will keep, or be forgotten, I suppose.

Monday, September 03, 2012

My weekend
And this was waiting for me -- it seems Little Shop of Horrors was quite busy too

Saturday, September 01, 2012

I went swimming today! It's been a hot summer but I haven't done much swimming. There have been a lot of problems with the filter and I don't find it appetizing when the water isn't 1) warm and 2) crystal clear. So...closing the pool in 2-3 weeks so it was a treat.