Monday, December 31, 2012

Saw the movie Lincoln last night. It was great! My only two criticisms, both minor, were that I think it could have ended a little bit earlier, by about 10 or 15 minutes. Not that I thought it was "too long." Yes, it was quite a long movie, but I'll refrain from saying why I believe it could have had a scene or two cut. (How can a movie on this subject have a spoiler problem? But still.) Also, (an I knew this would happen, always does in Spielberg movies) it should be toned down in the 1-2 instances when the lighting gets all warm & fuzzy during heartfelt scenes. He didn't do it as much in Lincoln (or Schindler's List) but he still can't resist. The scenes are fine, but that lighting always reminds me of ET.

Neither hurt the movie much, though. Sally Field was great! I didn't know who was in it (or forgot) besides Daniel Day-Lewis (who was also great). I'll bet there will be some supporting actor nominations and wins too, or should be anyway.  If it doesn't win almost all the Academy Awards, I will be pissed. I didn't see many other movies (yet or at all?) that will get nominated, but I can't imagine any could be as good. However, I am not sure whether someone with less knowledge of the Civil War, Lincoln and government machinations would like it quite as much.

Added: Bob is of the opinion Les Mis will take the awards. He may be right. It it more of a Hollywood pleaser. Something I forgot to mention about Lincoln, though: the audience applauded as the credits rolled. Haven't experienced that very often in movies.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Last night we ate at Hana. I rarely go near Crossgates Mall, but we both get our hair cut in Colonie on Central Avenue (by a guy who has been our stylist since 1985 when he worked downtown) so we were kind of in the vicinity. I never would have thought of the place -- not sure I even knew it was there -- but Bob was treating.

We eat out a lot, always have. It's a shared common interest. Both of us (especially me, but him too sometimes) like to cook, but it can't compete with our love for fine dining establishments. Our preferences run to nicer places, patronizing fast food joints only when we are treating the dogs to lunch out.

I do have a restaurant tag here, but rarely review places. Usually I only link with a comment of "ate at the wonderful X, a favorite spot," or something like that. Bob and I have discussed collaborating to write restaurant reviews many times -- years ago, a print guide and more recently, a blog, but have never gotten around to it.

This is one time when I feel compelled to whip up a review. The best word I can come up with to describe the experience: Mediocre. First ding, the parking lot was a sheet of ice. There was maybe a teaspoon of salt sprinkled near the door, which -- second ding -- we discovered was locked. There were no signs or directions indicating the entrance was on the other side of the building only. But, Bob drove around after we couldn't open the door. The parking lot was less slippery near the unlocked door on the other side of the lobby.

It's a big place, almost showy, Bob said it was a steakhouse before becoming a Japanese restaurant. The majority of patrons were in large groups sitting around cooking tables. We sat in what seemed to be the only section for regular tables.

The menu is large, maybe 2/3 sushi, 1/3 other items. Most of our favorite (shared) Japanese appetizers were listed, so we chose two: vegetable tempura and chicken karaage. Third ding. The tempura was primarily disks of what I think were potatoes and possibly squash, no carrots, no onions and only one broccoli floret. They weren't crisp enough and the coating was tasteless. The chicken was exactly like popcorn chicken off a bar food menu. The plum dipping sauce was nothing special.

The service overall was hurried but efficient and not unpleasant. We both ordered hibachi chicken. That's uninspired, but we figured it's a hibachi place. They come with a two shrimp appetizer each. I told the waiter I was allergic to shrimp, and asked if I could have more vegetables or chicken (heaven forbid I asked for a spring roll) and fourth ding, he said they don't allow substitutions. He acted as if cooking my food away from seafood was doing me a favor.

Fifth ding, the dinners came out before we finished the appetizers, and Bob's was not what he ordered. He told the waiter he'd ordered hibachi, and the response was sixth ding, 1) didn't you really order teriyaki 2) isn't there a chance you will take it anyway? The meals themselves were nothing special. They reminded me of Asian food that is sold frozen in the supermarket. Seventh ding.

Every so often, the music was interrupted. I cannot remember what it was exactly, but something is vaguely telling me Carly Simon singing "You're So Vain" was one song. The interruption was the large groups of people reacting, loudly, to the antics at the cooking tables. One or two of the outbursts may have been rounds of Happy Birthday No Copyright Violation Hana Style. Eighth ding.

I told Bob it must be a chain. He thinks it is privately owned, but he also thinks it was the target of those ads a few years ago (or are they still on? No clue). Koto was making fun of inauthentic hibachi table techniques and marketed the Koto experience. I have been there and it is way better than Hana, but I say go to Shogun. No cooking tables at all, oh well. Fabulous food and atmosphere and downtown location

Thursday, December 27, 2012

The morning of shoveling wasn't quite as bad as I was anticipating. We got about 5" of snow overnight, and it didn't seem to have changed over to rain or mixed so it wasn't too heavy. The worst part was that the village plowed the road on to the sidewalk! 

Then it snowed moderately all day.  Round two of shoveling, the patio near the side door and the gate. If you saved the snow removal task for tonight, bad idea. Only about two more inches has fallen but it is wet and heavy. I did the sidewalk again and the village plow went by at what seemed to be 50 mph and threw filthy road snow on the sidewalk and splashed me. I'm not sure where the snow came from, as the road is clear. Thanks a lot! 
This is the first significant snow since we've had Rosie. She likes it! Not like Rudy -- his joyous rolling in snow is a memory that brings a smile, but she wades out in it happily, considering she's a little tiny and Sam used the opportunity to try out his herding skills on her.
The Samsonville tree is Charlie Brown all the way.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

I always "sleep on" the grades before entering, so just now I finally finished that task. It's agonizing -- easily the most disliked task of teaching. Not only the physical exhaustion of the end of semester grading marathon (last night I got a carpal tunnel brace for my left hand), but the sometimes difficult decisions. First, there are the hard cases. How long to wait for the slackers to hand something in. How much to subtract for being soooo late. What to do about the emails appealing for special consideration. And, for the majority, the average and good students, what to do about the borderline A/A-, A-/B+. B+/B, etc. Their anticipation, the happiness generated by rounding up, the disappointment caused by not doing so. My every semester's end hope that the outcome was expected, or at least that disappointment does not lead to demands for clarification, but rather to resignation and acceptance.

I have jury duty January 7!

Gave Rosie-Posey and Sam Wham two gifts each last night. Posey had to be crated during the opening, of course. Can't take risks. Fingers crossed -- the question on our minds was "does she know how to open presents?" Dogs opening Christmas gift is one of those beloved times shared with pets. Sophie's last gift unwrapping -- last year -- is still the wallpaper on my phone.

Anyway, the answer to the question is yes! But she does not care about toys. The carrot bone was a big hit, though. She was so cute opening it! And, Sam was thrilled to get both toys. Now it's off to S'ville for Christmas.

Friday, December 21, 2012

I've been meaning to link to this wonderful curriculum from Loyola Press that we are using for faith formation class. Here is a sample of the art prints.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Tomorrow I will upload them to the registrar's database, but I am essentially done with grading! YAY. Gave myself a carpal tunnel flare in my left hand in the process, oh well. Who cares, I am done! Just in time for the start of winter session (tomorrow).

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Can it be possible? I think I will be done with grades tomorrow...ssshhhhhh

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Starting to see a glimmer of daylight. It isn't that I'm nearly done. (I'm not.) But I really don't want to work Monday (deadline is 11:59 PM), or the weekend if I can avoid it. I wasn't sure whether that would be possible, though. But I am cautiously optimistic at this point.

Monday, December 17, 2012

I'm making good progress on grades, but I don't have the stamina for nonstop marathons any longer. I feel like a zombie after 10 hours. Oh no! I've become a slacker. Or too old for this. LOL.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

I think she would look like the grinch's dog if she had an antler tied to her head. Isn't she so incredibly cute?

I think picture posts will have to suffice (and already have been sufficing) for a while -- drowning in grading!

The angels on my tree

 A girl in faith formation gave this first one to us for Christmas.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Liberty, one of my mother's horses, died on Thursday. She was a 20-year-old miniature horse, which is not old for a horse, but she has Cushing's Disease fore several years and had been having trouble walking, and in pain recently. She was born there, on Independence Day in 1992. After April, the Morgan who passed away two years ago this month, she was Ma's favorite. December is a sad month; Liberty's mother also passed away in December from Cushing's. Liberty was spunky as a young horse, and personality-plus for her whole life. Ma says she has gone to heaven to be on a merry-go-'round up there. RIP Liberty Belle.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Family legend is that Bob's maternal grandfather (Opa) has a tree fall in his yard during the depression, and he cut it up and made Christmas wreaths. That started a tradition of wreath making in his family, which eventually expanded to grave blankets, and palm crosses at Easter time. When they were teenagers, it was not unusual for his brother and Bob to make 100 wreaths each per day. His family continues to make them on a much smaller scale, and as you can see, Bob has not lost any of his skills. This is our front door, and this year in particular, it is his tribute to Millie.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

In faith formation class Monday night, we lit the Advent candles (but this time we played a CD of O Come Emmanuel instead of putting ourselves through the humiliation of singing), read the Christmas story from Luke, looked at a painting of the nativity, and Bob taught the kids how to make these centerpieces. Afterwards they proudly posed with their creations and we took their pictures. Now we have a break until January 7.

Last teaching day for Fall 2012 semester yesterday -- and last day on campus today (until January 24). Now the grading "fun" begins.

Friday, December 07, 2012

So much work to do! Yikes! Classes end 12/11, student work has to be in from 12/13-12/19 (I stupidly made an error on a due date and it was too late when I discovered the 19th is for final papers in one class, oh well). The registrar informed us that grades have to be in 12/24! How ridiculous. But I did stay on task and make progress today so that's good. Winter session starts 12/21, and became accessible today -- a competing priority. The life of an adjunct, nonstop teaching!

Yesterday was one of those days with students where you wonder if there is full moon (I know there wasn't). One student who seems to have a social disorder was particularly rude, or maybe just weird. I know there is an issue and have made an effort to reach out and be inclusive. But I guess that was a waste of time. In my experience, it just makes odd balls dislike you more. Yet I have to keep trying. Anyway, this student could not understand extremely simple economics, and seemed to direct that annoyance at me, personally. The comment was (sort of directed at me, in the third person) "why would she make us figure out how much loans we have? I know how much loans I have." Putting aside that wasn't the point of the exercise...hello! I'm standing right here! Are you talkin' to me?

Another emailed a colleague (a fellow adjunct who caters to students as much or more than I do), with BCC to me: "I don't mean to offend, but I find your communication vague and unhelpful." Naturally, she was offended! And hurt. Why don't people think before hitting "send" or opening their big mouths? (It reminded me of this.) This student will most likely be in my summer class. Is there any way we can advise a different path? Hmmm..."no offense, can you drop?"

Finally, one minute before I had to rush off to class, a student suddenly appeared out of nowhere in my door. I barely knew who the student was, since attendance has been, well, atrocious. Bad in September and October -- missed more than half the classes -- and completely vanished in November and December. The student said nothing, instead handing me a big packet of information. What was it? Paperwork for me to fill out and deliver to undergraduate studies, approving a late withdrawal, although weeks ago I warned the student about the deadline for withdrawing. (What choice do I really have, though? But are you kidding me?)

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

We got our tree from the boy scouts on Sunday and put it up, also decorated the porch. We have lights on the tree, but nothing else. I do plan to put ornaments on but I am kind of liking it with only lights!

Faith formation on Monday went pretty well. We lit a candle on the Advent wreath, sang O Come Emmanuel a Capella (which sounded atrocious -- definitely not singers!), studied the art easel -- this week was a Russian painting from 1863 called "Waiting for Christmas," read from the Action Bible, and made prayer books. Three kids decided to wrap them as gifts for their mothers. A parent met us in the parking lot and told us how much her son loves our class!

End of semester -- bittersweet! Happy and sad at the same time. So much work to do. Today I took some time to get organized. It was worthwhile in terms figuring out what I have to do, so I guess I am less overwhelmed. Winter session class has 14 students enrolled, and will become accessible on Friday (although it doesn't officially start until the 21st).

I'm very excited to be teaching a graduate class this summer! But I am having to force myself to focus on what I have to do now for fall semester's end. Also winter session and spring will be here before summer so chill...

Saturday, December 01, 2012

Snow! Just a coating -- enough to cover the ground, maybe 3/4 of an inch. But it looks so pretty! (And I am kicking myself for procrastinating on poop patrol yesterday :-(