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Saturday, February 21, 2015

Snow Stuff

You're looking at three flower boxes of snow-creep.  I haven't touched them, but they are starting to morph into art.  Click on the photo to enlarge to fully appreciate.  Gazing at this, after snow-shoeing to check a neighbor's propane tank gauge, got me thinking about this white stuff.  It's interesting how one year there won't be much of it.  Take the winter of 1912-13, for example.  Total snow accumulation in Albany was 13.8 inches.  The winter of 1970-71, on the other hand, saw 112.5 inches in Albany.  Do you remember where you were that winter (if you were)?  I remember it well.  Heck, I even remember the distinct "crunch!"  I was a sophomore at Plattsburgh State and I had a permanent frozen mustache.  Try going into a German class with a frozen mustache and see if you can pronounce umlauts correctly.

Snowfall's not particularly easy to measure.  Click here to read NOAA instructions to its volunteers on how to measure it.  I don't know how much snow we've had so far this winter, but it's a lot and so thoughts turn to all that white stuff on the roof.  USA Today has an excellent article on this subject: "How much snow is too much snow on your roof?"  A key quote: ""More often than not, attempting to remove snow from a roof is more hazardous than beneficial, posing a risk to both (people) and the roofing structure," the Federal Emergency Management Agency warned recently."

Click here for more on snow.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Blog/News Readers

You're reading this blog, so you know what a blog/feed reader or personal news reader (or news aggregator, RSS reader, Web-based feed reader, and a whole lot more)  Do you access it via such a reader?  If not, I recommend you look into using one.  I use NewsBlur.   There are many alternatives: e.g. Bloglines, Feedly, My Yahoo!.

Here's how NewsBlur works. Go to  Sign up for a free account.  Click the "+" symbol at the lower-left corner of your screen to add a blog/feed (i.e. copy and past the blog's URL address there).  Repeat to add all the blogs you monitor.  Now, instead of your email being flooded with blog postings, sign on to NewsBlur whenever you feel like accessing the content ("pull" vs "push" content) and you can then toggle through all the postings that have appeared since the last time you signed on by simply clicking on the "Next Unread" command button to the right of the screen.

Here's a starter set of blogs/feeds for your reader: 

Saturday, February 7, 2015


One of the items on the bucket list for my upcoming retirement is to write the Great American Novel. I considered Bennington College's MFA in Writing program.  Very tempting, but more than I care to spend at the moment.  I thought about requesting permission to audit courses at Williams College.  No charge, just faculty permission, but then what do I do if I want to travel for a week or more in the middle of the course?  Because of my need for such flexibility, it occurred to me to look into a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC), online courses aimed at unlimited participation and open access via the Web.  I'd heard about these but never really dug into them.

Want to learn a foreign language?  Take up creative writing?  Learn how to program?  Learn basic electronics?  How about photography?  Consider a MOOC.  They’re typically free.  With some you can earn college credit hours.  Others are simply for your enjoyment and edification.   Most online classes operate in what is called an "asynchronous" mode. This means that the course participants, including the instructor(s), are not in the course at the same time.  They may not even be online in the same time zone, as is the case in this class!  Because of this, there are communication tools that allow for people to post information at one time and then come back and give feedback at another time.  Some MOOCs are simply put out by individuals who feel like creating one, others are made available by world class universities (e.g.  MIT MOOCs and University of Pennsylvania MOOCs). Click here for a really good search engine to find a MOOC for you.

Getting back to writing the Great American Novel, I figured I’d better first master basic sentence construction.  It was covered at by the good nuns at St. Mary’s Elementary School in Waterford but, at the time, I was too busy sitting in the back row checking out Donna and Jeanne in the rows in front of me.  When I was called on to go to the blackboard and diagram a sentence, I got by but I should have done much better.  So I’ve signed up for Mt. San Jacinto College’s Crafting an Effective Writer: Tools of the Trade as part one of my preparatory program.  I have 28,000 classmates in the course, from around the world.  There's a pin map maintained on the course site, where you can click and see your classmate's name and a short introduction from them.  Now off to the eight parts of speech.....

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Weather and a Wish

From my online weather station.  Note the low of -14 at 6:08 a.m. -- that's right, just when I leave the house for work.  Crunch, crunch, crunch.....  That's cold even in my book!

Also,  a virtual plea to the Rensselaer County snowplow crew: Please plow closer to the mailboxes!  Excavating through mass quantities of County Road 88  snow and ice in front of the mailbox gets old.  Particularly at these temperatures.