Saturday, February 28, 2009

Computer Adventures

About one week ago I determined I could no longer open pdf documents with my Adobe reader software. Worse than that, I couldn't delete the version I had and start over. When I downloaded a new version, it wouldn't install because the old version was there. I was more than frustrated for a couple of days. Then I found a message about Foxit Reader and installed that and I was back in business.

Yesterday at work I encountered the same problem and quickly downloaded Foxit reader and was back into business. Last night on the news I heard the problems I encountered are widespead. So if trouble comes to you, google Foxit Reader, install it, and you'll be back in business with pdf documents in about five minutes. Good luck!

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Snowy Adventures

A snow storm was forecast to make the evening rush hour messy. I decided to take the bus to work and leave the car in the garage. That was easy. The snow was to start around 9:00 AM. Before a 10:30 AM meeting I looked at the weather radar and found that the storm was like a C with the Mpls-St.Paul area in the center. Before a 12:00 noon meeting I looked again and found the storm was at the west of the cities. By 1:00 PM we had lots of snow. At 2:30 we got a e-mail that the university was closing and we needed to be gone by 4:00 PM.

I left my office to get the 2:42 bus. There was about 5 inches of snow, a lot of snow considering it wasn't snowing 3 hours before. Walking reminded me of the trek between Reymontowka and Pierog on the sandy roads in Poland.

I think the bus came about 3:00 PM. Things went very, very slow. Then we got to a hill, and another bus was stuck and in trouble. Our bus driver got the bus to a corner and went back to a main street, one we had just left. It took more than an hour to get about 1.5 miles down the street to another street to get around the hill and get back on the route. This street had a hill, too. Some cars could not up the hill and men pushed them up. Our bus chuged up the hill. Finally we got back to the route.

It took me 3 hours to get home. I read 102 pages in a book and finished it! Glad I had it. My seat mate was from Brazil and needed someone to help her understand what was happening. She was hoping there will not be school tomorrow. I told her things would be plowed out by morning, so no luck! More later!

Addendum: While all I was doing was sitting, I was wiped out when I got home. I fell asleep watching a DVD and woke up at 10:30 PM when my snow shovelers arrived. I was awakened again by the snow plows on the street a bit after 3 AM. The city must have new trucks. These had flashing lights that lit up the house and the beep-beep-beep sound associated with vehicles backing up. I know there is a need to be cautious around the snow plows, but in the middle of the night it seems to me only the flashing lights are quite enough.

So I told the young woman from Brazil the right news-- we would be plowed out by the morning and she will have to go to school.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

More Adventures with Silliness

But the positive kind! On a blog regarding how to speak Polish, the writer recently posted an entry that concludes that it is easier for a priest to get married than it is to speak Polish. How funny!

Now perhaps somewhat related. I'm presently enjoying the film, An Angel in Krakow. I had no idea what Netflix was delivering to me. I put it in the DVD player and was proud that I could make my way through all the opening credits with a good idea of what an indicated person's role was for the film. Then the screen goes white and one hears Elvis Presley singing, Love Me Tender, and one is off for an amazing and fun time.

I know I'm enjoying this more because I've been to Poland. I keep finding things that tell me it's really Poland, such as the laundry drying everywhere. Yes, he's in Krakow. I can recognize the famous buildings in the Stary Rynek. However, how he gets there is a mystery to me. The roads he drives with a couple are very flat, nothing but grain fields, and no buildings or trees in sight. I'm wondering just where the director found this vista in Poland. I've never gotten to Krakow on any road that looks like that. (And yes, I know perhaps for artistic reason the director wanted something that was bleak and without clues, for the poor Angel was to be sent to Holland, but the angel in charge of transport tricks him and sends the Angel to Poland instead.) But what fun! I'll be talking about this film for a long time.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Adventures in Silliness

Today I had to be an event in a downtown hotel by around 7:15 AM. To avoid paying very expensive parking fees -- hey I saved taxpayer money because I could have been reimbursed for this -- I took the bus downtown.

As some of you know, I'm trying to get things organized to sell my house property. In doing so I found some problems with the title document which I'm beginning to resolve. I had one document that needed to be filed with the county, so I thought it was perfect to walk over to the courthouse after the event at the downtown hotel.

I get there and have to go through having my bag X-rayed and being wanded down too. All this before I could get to the Information Desk to ask where I needed to go. Only then do I find out that the office I need is now across the river in a different part of town. Now wouldn't it make sense to have the Information Desk before security, and save all the work of doing security procedures on people who don't even need to be there anyway?

Monday, February 23, 2009

Adventures in Laughter

The university I teach at began a bit more than 30 years ago as a very non-traditional university for working adults. Gradually we are moving to some of the traditional activities. Some of us have been working very hard on creating study abroad opportunities and a structure to support this. Today we had a Lunch and Learn about this. One of the presentations was given by a student who had recently studied in Cambodia. She explained part of her experience had been living with families in a floating village, using the toilet facilities they had and eating the food they had -- even spiders and crickets. At the end someone asked her what spiders tasted like. Of course someone said, "Chicken." Her answer though caught everyone by surprise: her answer was "like crickets."

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Adventures with Ice

A blog that I read about living in Poland recently had a posting about Polish ice cube trays and then some comments. Yes, we Americans are surely different than Europeans when it comes to ice. Diet Coke without ice is simply not the same thing. I always remind myself that I'll have to give this up for several weeks while traveling. However, after several stays at Reymontowka now I've learned I can go to the kitchen and ask for ice. In the summer of 2007 one of the language camps had students and staff also from Germany. The German teacher looked at my glass of ice and said, "Where's the scotch?"

We are "contaminating" Poland. At Reymontowka during the summer language camps the only thing one can buy in the bar are soft drinks. Much to my amazement, in 2008 when I asked for Diet Coke, the young woman asked if I wanted ice!

When I was in the Ukraine in 2007, the weather was dreadfully hot -- 90s in the F scale and 32 at least in the C scale. There was a McDonald's one block from my hotel that was both air conditioned and sold Diet Coke (called Coke Light in most places I've been) with ice. Oh happy day!

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Adventures in Learning

Today I attended a faculty conference. I learned for this first time about this video about today's students:

This shows the challenge we are facing in higher education.
I presented a workshop on the research associated with students' attendance in college classes. I'm glad to have it done. Now all I have to do is revise two courses before fall semester and invent a totally new course. This is on top of all the regular work associated with teaching 3 courses and serving on 3 university committees which actually require a lot of work, way beyond just showing up once a month and talking, serving a department chair, and serving as chair of the admissions committee. And people think faculty don't work.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Adventures? with Arthritis

On Saturday my right knee began to hurt. I haven't had such an arthritis flare in a knee for years. I tried the therapy of rest and elevation and thought my Sunday it was better. I did go to church, but that was about it. On Sunday night I didn't sleep well, not because of pain but because I had napped so much with the rest therapy. Monday was rotten! I had a 3 PM meeting, but that got canceled. Thank heavens. I came home and went to get some Ibuprofen, then went for lunch. Already by the time I was finishing lunch I thought it was better. Today I'm 95% and it's like the sun has come out again. So now my travel bag will never be separate from Ibuprofen. I surely don't want to go to find that in a language I don't speak.

But I've hit the 120+ days out from traveling this summer. I can hardly wait. It's going to be so much fun to be back in Poland.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Cultural Adventures with Hotel Reviews

I've been doing a lot of Internet research on hotels in Poland, helping some acquaintances to plan a trip to Poland. This involves going to some of the hotel review sites such as Trip Advisor. I get amused with what I find there sometimes. It is clear that some travelers arrive in another country with the expectations of what they have or find at home. An example is the frequent complaint that in Polish hotels there are no mattresses on the beds. Most simply fail to understand beds are different in Poland than in the United States, for example. Yet I've slept perfectly fine in seven different places in Poland on Polish beds during my intermittent stays that now add up to a bit more than 4 months of time in Poland. In fact when I did some shopping for a new bed in the United States, I put a mattress on the bed, but went to IKEA to get the duvets that I became familiar with in Poland. I've slept much better for going to that pattern rather than the U.S. pattern of a top sheet, blankets, and a bed spread.

I wish travelers would try to celebrate the differences and uniqueness they find in travel, rather than complain or worse,diminish a culture because of these differences.

On one experience I had with Global Volunteers I was with a team in a very small town in the United States. One of the volunteers was very upset because the local grocery store didn't have arugula lettuce. I tried to help her understand that even if the grocer could stock it, doing so would probably cause his local customers to think he had gotten just a bit too "big town." Since then I've called it my Arugula Rule: If you want everything to be like it is at home, stay home.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Valentine Adventures -- Pancakes and Music

My church has a pancake breakfast one Saturday morning of month as a way for people to meet each other. (Our church has grown to having two Sunday morning services and one Sunday afternoon service. If one is faithful to one time, there are hundreds of others one may never meet.) This month's event coincided with Valentine's Day. But it became a very special event with the additon of music. My church has one choral group called the Unity Singers, a 16 member group. By a blind audition this group was chosen to present a concert at the upcoming conference of the American Choral Directors' Association. As a fund raising to support their attendance at this they sold musical Valentine's and delivered those during the pancake breakfast. The recipients varied from a 7 year old girl from her parents to very romantic sentiments from spouses to each other. Then the singers presenteda 30 minute concert of the music they will sing at the choral directors' meeting. They will do the concern again in March. I think I'll go back again! All this made the Valentine's Day very memorable.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Adventures in Learning

My church holds a program on Wednesday night that begins with supper. I must digress a minute to note that tonight the menu was roast pork with fruit chutney, spinach salad with pears and candied walnuts, and baguette. For dessert we had cherry pie with ice cream. This plus good company was a great start to the evening.

I go to the Wellspring Wednesday events when there is a program in which I wish to participate. Tonight was a lecture by Jim Farrell, a history and environmental professor from St. Olaf College, Northfield. Tomorrow is the 200th anniversary of the birth of Abraham Lincoln, so there has been many Lincoln events of late. Dr. Farrell spoke about Lincoln and idea of hope. He is a great speaker and very learned. I enjoy every time he comes to do a lecture. The take home message from this evening is that Lincoln appears to the first to use the idea that justice involves being willing to take another's place. His response to advocates of slavery was to ask if they would like to change places with the slave. This idea became much more prominent in the 20th century when one definition of justice became the willingness to take another's place. If we are not willing to do that, thinking it will diminish our life or comfort, then obviously the other party does not have justice.

Another good idea lately comes from Rick Steves recent speech at the Commonwealth Club. I heard this on Minnesota Public Radio. Steves began his speech by saying he went to Iran because he thought it "is good to know a people before we bomb them."

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Spring Adventure #1

I decided to walk to the nearby public library branch this afternoon. We've been having a couple of days of warm weather so there is much water about. My usual path is to walk up to the corner, up the hill and then across the park. There is a walkway across the park, but it isn't cleared in the winter so as to not interrupt sliding down the nearby hill. I watched four boys having a wonderful time. The hillside was nearly ice and with a bit of water on it, they sailed for nearly half a block after coming to the bottom of the hill. And no I don't mean on a street. Just the distance inside the park.

I had to mush my way around some big puddles to finally get into the library. I decided to try a less challenging way home. Not! Every sidewalk has huge big puddles trapped by snow banks on each side. One had to walk up on the snow banks to get around. My next sign of spring I'll be looking for is to hear the male cardinals calling out their territory. That usually happens in just the next few days of February.

And of course, I should note it's 5:30 PM as I write, and it's no longer totally dark outside!

Friday, February 6, 2009

End of an Adventure - -Amen!

Two weeks ago my younger daughter went away for the weekend. She left her car parked at my house just in case it snowed. I tried to move it while she was gone and had a terrible time. I thought perhaps I just didn't know how to use her gear shift. Anyway to make a long story short, when she came home it was clear something was very wrong with the car. I took her home, she came back the next day and arranged to have it towed. Since then, for two weeks now, I've been getting up extra early to drive over to her house by 7 AM and get her to her job at 7:18. This also meant a ride to class on Saturday morning, too. Many of these mornings have been very cold, well below zero. Today I finally picked her up at lunch time and took her the car repair shop where she got the car. Her tax refund arrived, too, so I didn't have to pay the bill either. I'm so glad to be back to doing nothing but getting myself to work now.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Fourth Verse, Point 2

I've picked a land surveyor, and then when I started to work on the written materials that were needed, I discovered some irregularities with my land title. So things are in progress to work that out. An example is that when State Capitol Credit Union changed into Affinityplus, things got all messed up on my certificate of title. Good to find this now. Who could have believed that what looked like a simple transaction could be so screwed up?!?

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Third Verse of Point 2

I'm beginning to hear from several land surveyors by e-mail! Hurrah!!! The cost is more what I found to be reasonable. I'll wait to see what shows up in the e-mail yet tomorrow and then start working with a couple of them. One has responded to me reporting working with the St. Paul office that I need to work with. I was quite discouraged on Wednesday with the news about the fact that property description is not what I thought, but some progress is being made and at a resonable price range, now.