Monday, January 31, 2011


The past week has been virus heaven. I went to two meetings at work which indeed might have been two meetings too many. Glad to be teaching online for I could work for a couple of hours and then take a two hour nap and then start the cycle all over again. Finally beginning to feel like "me" is coming back.

One day during this episode the view out the window was interesting. 

I thought the long shadows cast by the midday sun were interesting.

Looking forward to February. I learned in a meteorology course that February 15 is good day in Minnesota.  I mentioned that once in a group and someone asked if that is because chocolate is on sale that day. Well, that's a second good reason. The first is that February 15 marks the time when enough sun is back that is statistically impossible to keep an outdoor ice rink frozen.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Views out the Window 2

The views were basically only out the window this weekend. I've encountered some sort of respiratory crud.

The thing remarkable about this picture is that I took it about 5:30 (17:30) pm. Hey! the daylight is coming back.

Meanwhile I've been reading the papers from students in my health policy class. They have been writing their analysis of our present health care system and their role as an advanced practice nurse in making it better. I'm so very proud of their ideas and their growth in only two weeks.

I'm also teaching a Graduate Nursing Informatics class. My students are all in our Entry Level MSN program. This is a program for persons with a degree in another field who now want to be a nurse. They have to write a reflective paper on how knowledge is built from facts and data. I've only read two of those papers, (they aren't due until February 1), but I'm knocked out at what they are doing in their clinical situations. One wrote about caring for an 83 year old woman who everyone thought was displaying dementia which her repeated attempts to get out bed and then falling. After three hours with this patient, this student went to her supervising nurse with the idea that the woman was displaying the confusion associated with urinary tract infections in the elderly. Further clinical evaluation proved this hunch was correct. We teach geriatric nursing-- few programs do this in depth as does this program -- and I can see having nurses out there who think like these students is definitely going to make a difference.

There is often a perception that online classes are impersonal. I think the opposite -- I get to know students' ideas and aspirations better because I hear from all of them -- not just those brave enough to speak in class.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Views out the Window

A busy week is coming to an end! I did at least 24 hours on Wednesday and Thursday alone with meetings and classes for the entire day and then reading and evaluating student papers for another 2-3 hours.

A long dental appointment filled this morning -- with much annoyance on my part. I was there for 90 minutes, that included a 45 minute period just sitting in the dental chair waiting for someone to have time to start the procedure I needed. I was handed a magazine to help me occupy my time -- a magazine that under normal circumstances I'd never buy or read -- one of those women's magazines that is nothing but a huge set of advertisements for cosmetics, etc.

I am a health professional so perhaps this all aggravates me more. We have a system that operates to maximize the system, rather than really trying to deliver services that meet people's needs. This wait was not due to another person needing services for a dental emergency or anything like that -- it is was due to the belief that the time of the dental professionals is more valuable than the time of the patients they serve.

Wednesday included a class that started at 4:00 (16:00 for my European readers) and continued to 5:40 PM. I happened to look out the window and thought the late afternoon view was quite beautiful.

The above view is out of one of the classrooms in the library. The white expanse is the roof of the attached public library which is a one story building. This is an unusual partnership. When the new library was built for our university, it included space for a public library branch. This brought public library services into an area of the city that was really lacking access.

We see in the background St. John's Hall. St. John's is an unusual name for a public university. The name is attached to the fact that this building was originally St. John's Hospital. I used to have an office in this building with a window looking towards the library. I truly enjoyed seeing the parade of people, both adults and children, everyday walking down the sidewalk to the public library.

We are in the very coldest days of winter -- and we are truly having winter this  year in Minnesota, after several years of milder winters. The snow falls and temperatures are like I remember from the 1980s, temperatures and snowfall that are surprise to younger people, who if they remember these conditions, remember them from the perspective of how much fun they had on snow days.

I gauge the weather now by looking out the window across to the bluff and seeing how much steam is coming out of the chimney for the hospice across the way. I enjoy this view every morning too because the rising sun turns the building a beautiful coral color.

This hospice is for persons who do not have health insurance. And speaking of hospice -- interesting data from a Health Reform Roundtable I attended at the University of Minnesota. The Kaiser Permanente system on the West Coast has 10 million participants. Data from this system now shows that persons with late stages of cancer who go on to receive standard treatment such as chemo or radiation live 29 days fewer than persons who simply enter hospice -- not to mention also the difference in quality of life provided in hospice care.

And part of the morning view is usually a train. The main switching yard is about 4 miles away. A train comes in and stops and waits for clearance into the switch yard. Stopping along the track that is out my window keeps the trains far enough away from tripping off all the signal lights and barriers.

So life is moving along.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Ongoing Adventures

Life is just humming along quickly, without anything special, unless we take the viewpoint that everything is special. I appreciate being reminded about this through my friend's blog:

My university classes are buzzing along. I have two sections of the same course which are heavy front-loaded with content and learning products. Reading the papers and responding to the questions for these two sections is more than keeping me busy. Committee meetings are running full speed now too.

I got my granddaughter a Ipod Shuffle and my computer is not cooperating with that, so there's a problem to solve. Actually the Apple Store will help. We went there on Sunday. My granddaughter said I should take my computer along. She was both right and wrong. They would have helped, but we might have had to wait for two hours. I can make an appointment and go back another time without having too wait for very long.

Snow and cold continue to be challenges. We are heading into what is forecast as the coldest winter weather we will have. The always come in January when the northern latitudes have cooled about as much they can, and soon the longer days will be bring more sun and warming.

February 15 is one of my favorite days. Someone said, "Because that's when the Valentine's chocolate goes on sale?" Well that's  a good reason, but what first put it on my schedule is that's the day when it statistically becomes impossible to keep an outdoor ice rink frozen for skating.

So nothing remarkable -- yet perhaps everything is remarkable.


Thursday, January 13, 2011

Computer Adventures

Got my computer back and found out the problems was caused -- not cured -- by virus software!  Who knew this could be a problem! Very glad to have it back because it works much better than the old one!

Two 12 hours days have me down. 

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Expensive Adventures

For some reason my computer started having fits last night. It started putting up complaints about an unrecognized USB device, then the resolution would change, and then it would go into hibernation. This mystified me for I wasn't using anything new.

I took the computer to the Geek Squad this morning. That's blessing of being in Minnesota, although now that Best Buy owns Geek Squad perhaps it is more available in other parts of the country. The diagnosis and repair on this will not be cheap. We decided too to protect what's on the hard drive by copying it to an external hard drive, so I had to pay for that too. Needed to get that going anyway.

In another ten days I'm back to the dental office to get a permanent crown. Even though I have dental insurance, I still have a big co-pay on a crown.

And I have to get two new tires for the car too. Have to think about when to make that appointment.

Oh, January will be expensive.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Searching Adventures

In a couple of weeks I will participate in a session about being a Global Volunteer for participants at a Center for Lifelong Learning here in the Twin Cities. Today was a planning session for this. Every year at Zakopane we are presented with a fabulous powerpoint show prepared by one of the Polish teachers. I could find the CD for 2008 and 2009, but not the one for 2010. Also missing is my pink alarm clock. The pink alarm clock has traveled the world with me and I have a sentimental attachment for it. So I went on a search for both items, by searching through what has become some very messy containers of teaching materials related to my Poland volunteering.

Here's the pile that came out of the closet. But I never found the 2010 CD nor the pink alarm clock. I even went through all the pockets of suitcases I had in Europe last year -- nothing. I cannot imagine where these two things went.

I tried to modify the 2008 CD and damaged it, but the 2009 CD still works.

Oh well, the teaching materials got sorted out. I was reminded of a photo project I intended to do. There is a modified Bingo game called Community JINGO. The items are things such as city hall, power plant, and resale store. I had intended to take photos of those things to use before doing the game. So when the weather becomes more favorable I'll go out for some photo shoots. And it's only 4 months from today until I'll be in Poland for the program of teaching English in village schools.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Back to Teaching!

Even though the semester doesn't officially begin until Monday, I'm back to teaching. I have three online classes. The course web sites opened yesterday and students are beginning to write their introductions. People often think online classes lack interaction, but I find they have more. I don't think in a classroom I would ever have learned that one of my students loves marathons and is going to Paris over spring break to run in a marathon there. Another is getting married this Saturday in Florida, and with the internet, obviously can do this introductory statement from there. Another immigrated from Latvia. That brings the number of countries from which I've had students now to 28, that in addition to all the diversity of U.S. born students.

In one section I have a student who lives 3 hours north of the Twin Cities and another who lives 1.5 hours south. That is what makes online so good. Think of the hours they can spend doing something else rather than driving on the highways.And think of the resources that saves, too.

And speaking of resources, seldom does anything end up on paper. Students submit electronic files, I add comments to their work, and send it back electronically. I only download and print an assignment when it is very complicated and I really need to have a visual.

And I was reading and responding to students last night at 11 PM. Can't really do that in a classroom. With the shifts our students work, online is good because they do work when it fits their schedules and I can do mine when it fits my schedule. I often start at 6:30 in the morning looking for course materials students have submitted during the night. Sometimes I find something a student submitted at 2 AM and I've reviewed and graded it by 7 AM. Again, that doesn't happen with only classroom based teaching.

Love teaching and really love teaching online.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Walking in the Sunshine

Today I got everything ready for two meetings I must chair in the next few days and began working on the opening lecture for one of my classes next week. In addition I got the live wreath carried out without making too much of a mess. A lot of work done today.

About 4 PM I noticed the sunshine on the living room wall again and decided I should get outdoors and see what the world looked like. The temperature at this time was slightly below zero in the Fahrenheit system and -16 in the Celsius system that my European friends will understand.

Here's the view out the door on the way to the river. The lights along the path are just a bit below my shoulder -- but then I'm short. However that may give you an idea of the depth of the snow out the back. The drifts here are higher than in some other areas because the wind blows the snow across the river and it doesn't hit anything to make it stop until it hits the building.

The next trick was to find a way through or over the Minnesota glaciers between the sidewalk and the river trails. A Minnesota glacier is made when the snow is plowed from the street, including the salt put on the street. This freezes into a block that is just about impossible to break. And the snow banks along the sidewalk are much too high to climb over.

Finally found a place that some maintenance worker had carved through the glacier. Speaks well to the maintenance services we have around these buildings.

From the distance it appears that the river is frozen. However that is never the case. The ice that forms when the temperature falls below 0 is too thin to walk on and too thick to boat through.

When I got closer I found open water. The current was very fast along this open channel, too.

The final view today is of the district heating plant.

The district heating plant serves the downtown buildings. The heat -- or in the summer cool  air- is delivered through a series of pipes and ducts around the downtown area. On a day like the this, the steam really bellows. I was so surprised when someone in Pecs told me the power plant there used wood as a fuel. It wasn't until I took a walk after returning home and read all the signs by the district heating plant that I found this one too operates by burning wood. It sits next to the Science Museum and on the plaza there is are signs that explain about the power plant.

With my new coat and boots, I was quite comfortable. Sun makes all the difference even when the temperature is 0!

Monday, January 3, 2011

Reading and Dental Adventures

I started out the day reviewing two books about persons with disability. In one of my fall semester courses there is a unit that includes working with students with disabilities. These books gave me concepts to add. One important idea from a book by Georgia Kleege, titled, Blind Rage: Letters to Helen Keller. In this book she writes that the icon we carry in our heads about Helen Keller causes us to see "disability is a personal tragedy to be overcome through an individual's fortitude and pluck, rather than a set of cultural practices and assumptions, affecting many individuals that could be changed through collective action."I've got very good ideas now to put into the course module and will have it ready for next fall.

Meanwhile life goes on.
Above is a photo of snow plows on the railroad tracks. The plows have been a fairly regular feature this winter, but I really don't think the trains have been delayed, other than the Amtrack. It is often weather delayed this winter as it comes east from Washington State. Also the passenger train has to defer in schedule all the time to freight trains.

The blog, Updraft, on the Minnesota Public Radio web site explains we are now in the midst of a polar vortex located over Hudson Bay. The blog uses the metaphor of a bicycle wheel, explaining that as the spoke of the wheel comes over us, we get another spit of snow. The accumulation today is only about one inch. This weather is expected to go on for the next two weeks.

I ended the day in the dental chair, getting all the work done for another crown. This appointment was for 4 PM, really got started at 4:15. I knew it was planned to be a 90 minute appointment and so would end in the dark.

When I walked out I saw the lovely winter scene with the flag.

The dental office is basically across the river from where I live, but of course one can't walk across the river. I got into the end of rush hour. The last part of the trip is down hill, over the railroad tracks and then turn right. One has to take care at the tracks, not to get stopped in the wrong place. Much to my amazement there was a traffic jam on the street in front of my apartment. It took maybe 10 minutes to go the last half mile. I really don't know what the problem was. Often there is a lot of traffic this time of day, east bound if the Minnesota Wild are playing hockey. However, this was a west bound slow down. Probably a stalled car or an accident somewhere ahead.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Getting Back to Normal

I woke up at 6:30 rather hungry. I made breakfast, unloaded the dishwasher, put the dirty dishes in and went back to bed and got up again at noon. I don't know if this is normal, but while I enjoy having family around, it's so nice to be alone again living on my own schedule.

I got so bored I decided to clean the oven. That job is nearly done, although I'm not at all impressed with the self-clean cycle of the stove. I'm really going to have to get oven cleaner to finish the job, and the oven wasn't that dirty to begin with. I did the rack scrubbing job too. First time I've done this but then remember I was gone for six months in 2010 and no one was using the oven!

I love Extreme Home Make-Over and hurrah! It's a Minnesota family tonight.  This family is terrific and I love that they gave their old home to a immigrant family. They are really Minnesotans!

For the last two days I've been noticing sunset light on the living room wall. That's a sign that the days are beginning to get longer again.

I'm beginning to think I will never be able to handle retirement for I can't even handle two weeks without work to do!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Starting 2011

It's been more than 10 days since I wrote a blog entry entitled Done! Well a lot more things are done, too.  I've cooked a lot of food, loaded and unloaded the dishwasher countless times, helped with work parties, and helped my older daughter, who lives in a group home, to purge out clothing that needed to be either donated or thrown away. My older granddaughter stayed with me one night and surprised me with having all the Goodwill clothing laundered when I got up the next morning. She stayed up until 1:30 AM to get that done for me.

I've read a lot of books and was glad for my Kindle when I ran out of things to read when the library was closed for holidays. The work e-mail just kept coming and coming even though I'm technically off contract for two weeks.

I spent New Year's Eve babysitting my infant granddaughter while everyone else went to a party. It was a church sponsored party so I really couldn't complain about their going to it. Drove home a bit after 3 AM.  My granddaughter was fussy about the time the ball dropped in New York City and of course, there is no TV coverage of New Year's Eve from anywhere else.

I enjoyed a lot of the holiday moments but I'm ready to get back onto a regular schedule. 

Happy New Year all!