Saturday, March 30, 2013

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Sort of related to my post from a few days ago about whether ignorance or reflection is the path to happiness, yesterday I was thinking that there is something to the idea that you can decide to have a good day and to be happy. Naturally this isn't an easy task for someone suffering with chronic pain, or who is drowning in bad luck or sad events. But I mean otherwise -- to go into a day with a bright outlook and cup half full attitude rather than starting out on a sour note? Making a habit of counting one's blessings and focusing on the positive rather than being cynical or blue? Definitely can be routinely done and it is life changing, not just a trite exercise in aphorisms.

If it's Monday, it must be faith formation. It was our last class for the 2012-13 academic year. Tonight we read The Easter Story (2003, Allia Zobel-Nolan & illustrated by Trace Moroney), finished the mosaics, and celebrated end of year with a pizza party.

 Each has a tag listing the student's name and grade, and the kids chose which stained glass window in the church to display their mosaic in. The project and kids will be mentioned in the bulletin. It was a great way to end the class!

Saturday, March 23, 2013

"Ignorance is bliss" and "the unexamined life is not worth living;" was Thomas Gray or Socrates closer to the truth? I often ask students to reflect on and discuss quotes and the one from Socrates generally is favored more by them. I don't think Gray meant this exactly -- but I do wonder if being shallow or self-reflective leads to greater happiness. Not that I think "deep" people are necessarily less satisfied than others; the ignorant have their share of disappointments too.

I was thinking about this the other day (ironically as I was performing the rote task of cleaning the cat box). It isn't the only time I've turned the dilemma over in my mind, and this time it wasn't just to amuse myself while doing something unpleasant (though that would have been a good enough reason) but because I am engaged in a difficult and rewarding project -- creating a new syllabus for a class I am going to teach for the first time this summer.

I am going to attempt a blended learning class again, after what I consider to be a disaster with that type of delivery (in 2008). This time the class will be graduate, and I am going to use a combination of face-to-face on campus, web conferencing, and online.

To that end, I am likely going to buy a new laptop. I don't have a camera for video recording, and although I know I could get by with audio and text web conferencing, I want the option of video. It will also allow me to take the current laptop to Samsonville, because the desktop there is minimal (can risk a decent wired machine there with the chance of lightening strikes) and I hate packing up the laptop to schlep it back and forth.

I've also created a reader for the class, sort of like a course pack of journal articles, but instead of photocopies, this is a real book that will also be available as an e-book. I am so happy with the experiment that I will do the same with foundations and toleration in the future.

So aside from grading "papers" from this semester, this is what has been occupying me. I've had a productive break, and in spite of my prediction otherwise, feel pleased by my progress. The on campus meeting yesterday was interesting (for a task force about online teaching and learning that I am on), and I feel in fairly good shape for this semester. More "papers" to go, but I'll get there.

In other news, we got tickets for BNL at Tanglewood in July. (Really good tickets, in fact!) And, I am successfully managing to (re-)read The Winter of Our Discontent a little at a time, without letting it take over my life and crowd out all else. This is the third book I've been able to read this way, and I'm pleased.

I bought a recumbent bike, which will be delivered this week. (One more effort to combat my aversion to formal exercise.) Spring (not that it feels like it) and summer invitations are starting to arrive. Will have to be careful about not getting too booked up. Things are good!

Friday, March 22, 2013

Off to campus today for a meeting. Lots of (academic) stuff rumbling around in my mind. It will simmer and then I will write.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

I am working diligently on my to do list, but I fear it is overly ambitious for spring break and I am destined to be disappointed with my accomplishments.

Spring officially starts tomorrow -- LOL! I suspect we will have a snowy April. I thought faith formation might be canceled last night due to the storm, but the snow didn't start until 7, just as class was ending. 

We talked about the new Pope, looked at maps of Argentina and they found Buenos Aires, we studied a print of the batik St. Francis (unknown, 17th Century), and continued the mosaic project. They are coming out great! While they were working, we reviewed what we've learned since October, starting with St. Kateri. What did they remember about that lesson? That there was a mouse in the room! Also that Kateri was born near Fonda, NY.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

It's no secret that I am not a sports enthusiast. (Any doubts, read Gym Teacher from Hell. I have my reasons.) But this is good news anyway!

Later: Go Danes!
Great piece. It's too bad this place is threatened.

It's a Samsonville weekend. Happy St. Patrick's Day! I always think of Mimmie.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Interesting piece about Pope Francis, from the Chronicle. Also, here's the official translation of his first homily.

Related: Sadly facebook empowers people to opine on subjects they know nothing about, and share opinions on things they (allegedly) don't believe in and so shouldn't care about. Go figure.
Can you say "desperate to garden?" I'm growing a potato! I found a forgotten one from the fall crop lurking at the bottom of the fruit bowl and instead of composting, I planted it.
I'm feeling generally irritated about the university's academic calendar this semester. In the first place, this was too long to go without any break. Second, suspending classes starting on a Friday after midterms was essentially inviting students to skip Thursday classes. Third, having the break timed so that the week we come back is Passover and Easter week guarantees attendance will be low for another week.  Finally -- it is an outrage to craft an academic schedule for social rather than academic reasons. The timing of St. Patrick's Day and having a cynical expectation for student behavior is controlling the calendar? Are you kidding me? Are those social norms surveys true or not? Let's treat young adults like children, just to reinforce our jaded view, right?

Today is all about putting out fires and sparking a few new ones.
That nut who killed four people in Herkimer and Mohawk also murdered this gorgeous FBI dog. I am not sure why the agents would risk this beautiful creature -- they had to know the guy had nothing to lose and there was a strong likelihood the dog would be shot. Ape did not have the benefit of a gun; it was not a fair fight. Why didn't they just storm in and shoot the creep? It makes no sense. RIP Ape. Once again, a dog is the hero.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

We have a Pope! (The AP announcement was pretty irritating so I am not linking.)

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

I got a message from the petition site, as follows: "The Petition was very successful, and all book signings for Michael Vick at Barnes & Noble were cancelled! Thanks everyone for your help with this effort!"

Monday, March 11, 2013

Another lovely Castleton view -- looking toward the river from in front of the church yesterday morning.
My second cousin has been scanning and posting her grandfather's photos on facebook. My parents' wedding reception. Hard to believe my granfather was 73 in this picture!

If it's Monday, it must be faith formation...

Finally, this was making the rounds on facebook today:
When told the reason for daylight saving time, the old Indian said... 'Only the government would believe that you could cut a foot off the top of a blanket and sew it to the bottom of a blanket and have a longer blanket.'
 I don't usually care for such forwards, but this one really resonates!

Saturday, March 09, 2013

This village snow family is near the river! So cute. They won't last very long though as today feels like a spring day. Such is March -- major snowstorm to balmy sun in 24 hours.

The annual outrage occurs tonight (actually early tomorrow): springing ahead. I hate the early change to Daylight Savings Time. Am I a broken record? I know I write about it every year, and again in the fall when we switch back to real time far later than in the past. Curse you, Congress -- this is one thing you managed to successfully pass? $#&*(+!@%^)=

Friday, March 08, 2013

Somewhat related to my last post (but not completely, as my students are young and will have many future life experiences to teach them about making good moral choices. And Vick, well...enough said).

I've recently been thinking about the values of a couple of my friends. These are long-term friends who were once very close, but aren't so much any more. Not because of any falling out, but due mostly to geography, and just the way things work out in life.

One of them seems so bitter and underdeveloped. Life is viewed through a lens I don't share, and frankly find offensive. I find myself wondering what life experiences have led to such a hostile attitude. The other is a lot happier, but uses personal relationships for professional gain, which is something I do not understand either. However the industry is hardly a humanitarian one, so it isn't exactly shocking.

I am trying not to be judgmental about their choices. It isn't any of my business. I think it has been on my mind more than usual due to what I've been covering in class and the attitudes expressed in class discussion, and also because I am reading The Winter of Our Discontent. (BTW I'd forgotten the ethnic slurs in that book. They are not mentioned in the introduction. I may do some digging to find out if there is a lesson [as in Huck Finn], or if Steinbeck simply shared his protagonist's prejudice. I confess I can't remember.)
Wow! The snow is heavy. I just came in from shoveling. Bob had to go to NYC so guess who got hit with the task? It would make a good snowman.

I liked the movie more than he did (though not as much as some others did), but I agree 100% that this is disrespectful and creepy.

Here's a worthy petition. To think they run our campus bookstore! I will boycott and only patronize Mary Jane. He can never redeem himself, as far as I'm concerned. In fact, he's responsible for a good number of posts with the "animal rights" tag (and inspired a "nileston news"). He, his fans and the book signing make me want to puke.

Handed out midterms, used this recent incident to combat the tired and so-not-true "there is no black & white morally" and gave my fear-inspiring talk on cheating last night. How tough is the life of a moral exemplar! (LOL.)

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Yesterday, I received an email from a visitor about this ~ten-year-old post informing me that the link is broken, and offering this one instead. She also asked me if I would be willing to share this link about Health News for Autoimmune Moms.  It's not really a subject I write about (not a health writer, plus I'm childfree and past the age to become a mom), but with Bob's RA and a family history of autoimmune disorders -- I figure, what the heck. It seems strangely appropriate to share something sparked by an old post -- given the recent anniversary of GBP. I'm too busy at the moment to really explore it, but perhaps I will in the future.

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

The proceeds from the sale of this painting of my sister's will go to the organization that is hoping to restore John Burrough's boyhood home in Roxbury. It's a good cause and a gorgeous painting. (More information at the link.).

Monday, March 04, 2013

Something else I wanted to post on Friday but didn't: We were discussing super heroes (can't remember why, possibly roku-sparked). Neither of us had much interest in them when we were kids, but agreed that Batman was our least favorite. Bob said he'd always preferred Superman. I said my favorite was Superman. (But not the movies; I read and sort-of liked the comic strip.) I guess I identified with the high school geek element. I have two piercings in my left ear (and one in the right). In the extra hole, I often wear the (above) green spider earring. I find it rather amusing, since I was bitten and got very ill from a poison spider in 1984. But the coincidence of my teenage affection for Spderman had never hit me until now. I don't think I have any special powers though. (What's more ironic, that picture I took resembles a tick, ewww).
Here are the two sample mosaics we made for faith formation class. We told the kids that they can work on theirs for the next four weeks, until Easter. When they finish, they will be displayed in the church. They are coming out good! Each one is unique. To prepare for the mosaic project, we studied an print of St. Paul's Joy, a 20th Century stained glass window by Waclaw Taranczewski. We also discussed the selection process for the next Pope, looked at a map of Italy and located Rome, read about the first Pope, Peter in the Action Bible, and viewed an art print of Saint Peter (Lucas Cranach, c. 1510).

These foam squares took hours to cut up!

One of the things I did on Friday that kept me from making an anniversary post was spend a gift certificate at a brick and mortar bookstore. It's a privately owned small business, so I won't name it or link. Years ago I volunteered for a local charity, where we spent an evening there gift-wrapping purchases during the holidays to raise money, so I've never felt anything but kindly toward the place. Until now...

This will probably sound ungrateful, especially since it was for a sizable amount, but I was kind of pissed when I got the gift certificate, and it took me quite a while to bother spending it. I'm usually all about buying local and avoiding chains, but in this case, I'm an enthusiast (since I hate to go to stores and shop), I love the convenience of finding what I want quickly and easily, I love having the item arrive on my porch two days later, and I love my kindle and e-books. So while I am thrilled to get a gift certificate that facilitates my love of reading, I was upset that using it would be time consuming and result in dead trees.

Further aggravating, I tried visiting the store a couple of months ago, and they essentially have banker's hours. So on Friday I finally got there, and had a very hard time finding things to buy! I eventually located enough frivolous items to come within $10 of the amount, and the clerk told me I had to spend $5 more get change. Are you kidding me?

I felt like I had somehow transported back in time to the '90s -- that seems to be the business model this store is utilizing. All the prices are retail -- and much more than I could find the identical item sold for elsewhere. A man came in and asked for a recent book by a well-known author and was told they'd have to order it. They did not have a good selection of any subject, not even titles that would be better in paper, such as coffee table art books. All during the spree, I was shaking my head and grumbling under my breath "this place is filled with Luddites!" and "just take the gas pipe already." Bob was in stitches over my antics.

One thing I bought that I never would have thrown $13.99 away on without the gift certificate was a pair of lighted eyeglass readers. They look funny, like something from outer space, which tickles me. They will be great for reading the tiny font on menus in the dark bistros we frequent.

Saturday, March 02, 2013

The 11th anniversary of GBP -- both the blog and the website -- was yesterday! I intended to write a post, but had a long and busy (and good) day with no time for writing or the e-world (aside from a small amount of email checking on my smart phone). But, it will keep for a day or two.