August 25, 2014

Just To Show I Didn't Spend the Weekend in Bed with the Covers Pulled Up Over My Head

After Robin Williams' shocking suicide last week, we learned from his wife that he'd recently been diagnosed with Parkinson's disease.

I wondered if that new information had affected his decision to kill himself. And it made me think more about my own final exit.

Reading those grim thoughts in the blog last week, some of my nearest and dearest expressed concern that I might be speeding into a serious depression.

Not yet. But I'm now looking for a therapist who specializes in end-of-life issues. Even if I didn't have Parkinson's, this 85-year-old thinks it might help to talk with a counselor about these important matters. 

Sunday, Not in the Park, but at the Farmers Market

I love my Palisades neighborhood. On most Sundays, you'll find me here at our farmers market. It's just a five-minute drive from home on familiar streets, one of the few destinations I'll permit myself to get behind the wheel to visit. 

That's Gloria standing with me. She manages the market on Sundays, and serves as a valued caregiver to a friend who's pretty far down the Parkinson's road.

Sunday in the Park with John
Well, it's not really a park. But my back yard is where I spend hours during the day -- and sometimes in the evening -- when the weather is as nice as it was on Sunday. Next year will mark the 60th anniversary of my arrival in Washington, April 1955. I have never experienced a summer as free of oppressive heat and humidity as this one! The forecast is for yet another week without a 90-degree reading.

The bird feeder is usually full of sparrows, but the red-headed woodpecker has chased most of them away. You can see them, waiting in the lower right corner of the photo.

Mildly Depressing... the Deer are Back, Eating my Plants
I used to see as many as five deer in my garden at one time. They may be pretty to see, but the damage they inflict on my hostas and other plants isn't pretty.


A few years, ago my Bartlett Tree people sprayed a special concoction in the garden. Presto! No more deer... until this year. All the rain we've had this summer has probably washed the deterrent away. I've asked Bartlett's to come in and spray again.

That deterrent, by the way, uses the same chemical (disulfiram) that's in the Antabuse many of us took during our early alcoholism recovery days. With the Antabuse pill, you were supposed to throw up if you took even a sip of alcohol. I wouldn't know; just the threat of that unpleasantness helped keep me sober. Jeez, that was 36 years ago!

It's late afternoon and here's where I've been much of the day:

Here's What's Really Depressing these Days: Reading the Newspaper
One of my family members is a middle school teacher. I've got three great-grandchildren -- another's on the way -- all lining up to start school. So, I'm interested in the subject of education. Here are a few things I learned today from either the New York Times (the links below should open for non-subscribers) or the Washington Post:
  • This excerpt below is from a Post column by Colman McCarthy titled "Colleges' dirty little secret: Adjunct professors."
Hordes of adjuncts slog like migrant workers from campus to campus. Teaching four fall and four spring courses at $2,700 each generates an annual salary of $21,600, below the national poverty line for a family of four. In a classroom across the hall, a tenured professor could make $100,000 for teaching half as many courses to half as many students.
Not surprisingly, part-timers now make up more than 50 percent of faculty.
Public school teachers' pay is pathetic (a median of $54,000 in 2012, versus $70,000 for a dental hygienist). So too are the conditions in which they often work. Notions about what constitutes good  instruction have always been shockingly vague, and ideas about what to teach and how to measure learning are subject to politics and passing fads.
  • Another Times book review indicts America's elite universities, like my alma mater Cornell:
Elite universities choose their professors for their ability to research. Tenure-tracked and tenured professors teach as little as they can, and leave what used to be their core task to ill-paid adjuncts and graduate students.
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Perhaps now is the time to go to bed and pull the covers up over my head.

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