Wednesday, December 1, 2004

Take Back Your Holiday!

Jo Anne Ellis reminded me before the potluck supper that:
One way of taking back the holidays, or your sanity during same, is to divert the focus from the commercialism and "we've always done it this way, the family expects it" to trying to understand and meet the needs of others.
We came to this conclusion as well:  Reduce your gift giving obligations, and select or make "cheap but meaningful" gifts for those you choose to give to.  Consumable gifts are wonderful--homemade or purchased.  You don't need to find a place for them, they fit people of almost every size, and best of all, require no dusting! 

I give my nieces and nephews inexpensive bound unlined books with crayons, colored pencils, or paints, depending on their ages--I often personalize the covers so they can tell them apart.  Janine's children and their cousins prepare and videotape a skit every year as a gift to their parents and grandparents--2 years ago, inspired by the TLC program "While you were out" they gathered to redecorate their grandparents enclosed back porch and videotaped the event.  Its become a holiday tradition that they watch some of the older tapes as well as the new and admire how the kids have grown.  Children also give the priceless gift of chore coupons.  Grandparents that are reluctant to ask for help find it easier to cash them in for various projects around the house.  One Sharon's large immediate family selects names from a hat, so each person is responsible for only one gift; the other Sharon's immediate family makes donations in each other's name to favorite charities.  They distribute the names of their top three choices, and siblings choose amongst the three.  She notes that the contributions can add up, but they significantly reduce the stress of selecting just the right thing. And there really is no shame in asking:  my father-in-law distributes his letter to Santa with a list of inexpensive tools that he could use if received. 

Further gift thoughts from Jo Anne:
A "muchness" of something is impressive and often isn't expensive.  My mother-in-law mentioned recently that she wanted to replace her spices, which pre-dated the move to her current apt. 5 years ago.  A trip to Northway Discount Foods and a dollar store (including a buck for a wastebasket to pack them in) did the trick for her recent birthday, and she was delighted.
In past years, I've given her assortments of canned soups (upscale brands or unusual flavors she probably would never buy for herself), a variety of flavors of spaghetti sauce and different flavors/shapes of pasta,  a basket of one-pot packs of flavored coffee, etc.  (Can you tell I hate malls??  I can do most of my shopping at the grocery store!)  Gift shops are a great place to get ideas for basket assortments--then look at the price tags and buy your own goodies!  Assortments are easy to replicate too, if you need a lot of presents--gift bags are the easiest way to stuff them, if you're arrangement-impaired like me.
For elderly recipients, especially, consumables (edible or otherwise) are often better than "stuff."  When we cleaned out my mother's house, we found stacks of gift sweaters, bathrobes, jewelry, etc., still in their boxes.  On the other hand, the gallon of her favorite laundry detergent (of which she usually bought the smallest size) I gave her for her birthday was gone!  Stamps (especially in a theme geared to the recipient), phone cards, gas gift cards, gift certificates to restaurants or fast-food places--you're giving someone convenience, and you don't have to wrestle with wrapping paper--just stick them into cards!  
And a timely reminder from the Employee Assistance Program (12/15/2006):
It’s that time of year again – when we have to give ourselves permission to be imperfect – in advance.  We aren’t going to have the Better Homes & Gardens Christmas no matter how hard we try – so let’s accept it right now and not feel guilty of “Failing” later on.
Some suggestions for a hassle-free holiday season: 
1. Lower your expectationsLearn to live and laugh with broken cookies, lopsided trees and cards received that weren’t sent.
2. Lower your housekeeping standardsClosets exist to hide clutter replaced by seasonal paraphernalia.  Let’s use them.  Learn to live with the messier bathrooms that accompany returning college students and visiting family.
3. Do away with money worries.  Rule of thumb:  either enjoy spending it or don’t spend it.  Don’t fall into that trap of over-spending and then resenting it.
4. Don’t worry about spending the exact amount on every child.  They only complain when they sense you’re feeling guilty.  If they do complain, give them ‘The Look”.  If that doesn’t work, give them the “The Talk” about giving.
5. Don’t – repeat – DON’T feel guilty about not having a gift for an unexpected giver. Send them a Valentine cake.
6. Eat what you cook or don’t cook itWhy make others feel guilty by baking rich foods and then watching them with incriminating eyes as they enjoy it while you munch celery?  If you’re going to feel guilty because of holiday eating, go ahead and eat because you’re going to feel guilty anyway.
7. Enjoy – don’t endure – the holidaysAnything that infringes on enjoyment should be questioned.  Pray, laugh, and share good times together – including memories of pleasant hassle-free time in the family.
EAP Committee: Leslie Rutknowski (Coordinator), Tom Slocum (Chair), Mark Hill, Teri, Frese,Linda Stubbs, Dave Soderberg, Barb Nelson,Shirley Wilbur, Al Wilczek, Pete DeMola

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Balancing work and… (Social life, family, personal time, sleep….)

Undergrads, graduate students, faculty and staff met over dinner to discuss what we'd like to spend more time on, less time on, and any suggestions we have that have helped us do so.  Here are a sampling (not necessarily in the order that they were discussed):
1.  Prioritize, and lower your standards on items that don't really matter (like the punctuation in this email!)
2.  Cultivate good relationships with the office people, and those in the know in the dining halls.  They are the ones who know procedures, shortcuts, how to process which paperwork and in what order it needs to be done.  And, in an emergency, they are the ones who know how to bail you out.
3.  Try to set aside some cookies in the freezer--then you can bring a variety the next time you need to bring something somewhere.
4.  Laundry is overrated--if its not really dirty, don't wash it yet.  But find a way to keep it out of the clean pile so it doesn't get forgotten.
5.  If you don't know where to go, ask someone rather than getting bogged down with it.
6.  Don't feel bad about not going to the gym when you'd really rather be getting your exercise out of doors.
7.  Find people to do things with.  Our little lists made us realize most of us want to be more physically active, several would like to dance more, and there is an African Dance class on Wednesdays at the Westcott community Center. This kind of builds on a pre-dinner discussion:  some of us knit, others would like to learn--we foresee some lessons in the future. 
8. Pleasure reading:  Book clubs have merit, but require you to have read a specific book or portion thereof in a specific amount of time.  Instead, get recommendations of books that friends have enjoyed, and put aside 15-20 minutes at the end of the day.
9.  Find a (or several) delivery place.  Because so many of us are already overtasked, we planned that those who could would bring something to contribute, and those that couldn't would bring a few dollars.  We pooled the funds and ended up with an almost complete meal, and some nice discussion with some folks we wouldn't otherwise have had the opportunity to meet. 
We did get a little off the track of the balancing theme later in the discussion, but since some of us wanted to spend more time with friends old and new, maybe that's not such a bad thing.
This potluck supper was coordinated by the Graduate Student Association and the ESF Women’s Caucus.

Tuesday, April 6, 2004

Sloane Speaks About Sustainable Transportation

Environmental Professions, students share the responsibility of reporting on our speakers for distribution to co-sponsors and the Knothole.  The following press release was prepared by Nicole Williams, SUNY CESF student.

Dr. Christine Sloane, Director of FreedomCAR and Technology Strategy at General Motors, Inc., gave a lecture entitled Sustainable Transportation: Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Cars.  The April 6th lecture was part of ESF’s Women in Scientific and Environmental Professions lecture series for the spring of 2004. Sponsors of this lecture include ESF, the Office of Student Affairs and Educational Services, the ESF Women’s Caucus, and the Graduate Student Association.

 Dr. Sloane focused her lecture, not on the problems with hydrogen fuel, but instead on the solutions that GM has come up with “on the road to hydrogen” transportation.  Sloane pointed out that the transportation energy sector is the only sector “stuck on one fuel: petroleum.”  She believes that in order to control the outputs of the transportation sector, we must first find an alternate input instead of petroleum.

Hydrogen transportation has many advantages, according to Dr. Sloane.  A shift to hydrogen fuel will improve national security by decreasing US dependence on foreign petroleum.  Air quality will be greatly improved with hydrogen fuel because greenhouse gas emissions will be reduced.  Hydrogen fueled transportation will also increase the powertrain efficiency of our vehicles.   

Sloane believes that the key to decreasing vehicle emissions is to find a technology, such as hydrogen fuel, that will not increase emissions as the vehicles become outdated.  Approximately 75% of greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles come from about 15% of the cars.

The major challenges that lie in the way of sustainable hydrogen transportation are hydrogen production and storage, cost, and fuel availability.  GM is exploring ways to compress enough hydrogen to run the cars for an extended length of time.  A more extensive hydrogen-fueling infrastructure also needs to be put in place.  Today, there are hydrogen fueling stations and experimental vehicles in Los Angeles, Sacramento, and Washington DC, to name a few.

Dr. Christine Sloane is GM’s former Director of Environmental Policy and Programs.  She is responsible for global climate issues and mobile emission issues involving advanced technology vehicles (hybrid-electric, fuel-cell, and advanced compression-ignition systems).  From 1994 to 2000, Dr. Sloane served as Chief Technologist for the Partnership for a New Generation of Vehicles (PNGV) where she guided the development of and implemented energy conversion and materials technology for use in GM’s hybrid-electric demonstration vehicle, the Precept.  Her earlier research interests include aerosol chemistry and physics, air quality and visibility, manufacturing and vehicle emissions, and environmental policy.  Dr. Sloane received her PhD from MIT in chemical physics.

Tuesday, March 2, 2004

Bendz Speaks About Environmentally Friendly Computers

As part of the course requirements of FOR 496/797 Women in Scientific and Environmental Professions, students share the responsibility of reporting on our speakers for distribution to co-sponsors and the Knothole.  The following press release was prepared by by Nicole Kadey and Susan Tumwebaze.

Diana Bendz returned to her alma mater (ESF Chemistry ’68) to discuss the growing concern and importance of “Environmentally Friendly Computers: New Concepts of Design, (Re) Use and Recycle.”  Ms. Bendz is a Senior Location Executive for the IBM Corporation in Endicott, New York. 

Ms. Bendz’s discussion focused on the digital revolution and its environmental considerations, industry response, and challenges ahead.  The digital revolution included many applications of communication, knowledge access and E-business and E-commerce, distance learning, intelligent buildings, intelligent transportation and entertainment of demand.

Environmental considerations concern the disposal of an overabundance of process waste, the use of excessive energy in recycling, and the tremendous use of PC products and materials by consumers.  Consumers are scrapping computers more than recycling them. The U.S. has not implemented any federal regulations on CRT landfill restrictions as the individual U.S. states still control regulation.  The industry’s response has been primarily concerned with computer design issues, and secondarily with recycling issues. There is an increased awareness in the designing computers for the environment (DfE) and a change in how they are recycled.

There are many challenges ahead for the industry.   There must be a continuance in DfE initiatives that include upgrade-ability, maintenance and repair, material selection, use of recycled material, and design for disassembly and recycling.   Costs must be lowered by creating logistical networks that reduce transportation and processing costs -- an increasing percentage and value of recovered parts -- and by improving the collaboration and harmonization of take back programs initiated by the federal government.  There must be an increased investment in technology with more demand for recycled materials, an improved computer materials separation process, the ability to identify parts for interchangeability and reuse, an industry standard classification for used or certified parts, and an increased ability to reuse packaging material.  There needs to be an improvement in the economy of recycling computers and their parts, and a more effective public/private partnerships which may be coordinated by federal programs, federal R&D initiatives, and responsible policy initiatives. 

Ms. Bendz has been with IBM for 34 years, beginning as a process engineer during the early days of semi-conductor production. Through the years, she filled diverse roles throughout the company until named an executive in 1991. In this position, she developed IBM's much-duplicated program for the design, manufacture, and disposition of environmentally conscious products.

This presentation was jointly sponsored by the ESF Faculty of Chemistry, the Graduate Student Association and the ESF Women’s Caucus.  Only one speaker remains in the 2004 Women in Scientific and Environmental Professions Speaker Series.  GM’s Christine Sloane will address “Sustainable Transportation:  Hydrogen and Fuel-Cell Cars” on April 6.  For more information about the series, visit:

Tuesday, February 17, 2004

Henderson Discusses Women’s Leisure at ESF

As part of the course requirements for FOR 797 Women in Scientific and Environmental Professions, students share the responsibility for reporting on our speakers for distribution to co-sponsors and the Knothole.  The following press release was prepared by Mary Joyce G. Sali.

Dr. Karla A. Henderson, Professor and Chair of the Department of Recreation and Leisure Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, presented a lecture entitled Leisure and the (Secret) Lives of Women and Girls on Tuesday, February 17, 2004 as part of SUNY-ESF’s Women in Scientific and Environmental Professions Speaker Series for Spring 2004. 
            Dr. Henderson discussed the meaning of leisure and five social factors that influence it. She emphasized that leisure is not only freedom to do certain things that a person likes but also freedom from doing certain things such as work-related activities. She also tackled how having a family affects the leisure choices of women. She specifically mentioned that for women who are mothers, the ethic of care often takes precedence over personal leisure needs.
            She discussed that the most significant obsession of our culture is focused on a woman’s body. Media plays a big part on our perception of body image and the issues of eating disorders. She also spoke on how fear and violence in American culture constrains women’s pursuit of leisure.
            The speaker inspired everyone when she discussed seven habits for a highly successful leisure life: be conscious of the myriad of choices, do something you love each day, be open to new things, make leisure a priority, savor all aspects of life, enjoy and challenge yourself, and find an activity partner. She ended her lecture by emphasizing two things- leisure is a right and leisure is a gift.    
Dr. Henderson received her B.S. in Physical Education Chemistry and her M.S. in Education (Major in Guidance and Counseling) from Iowa State University. She finished her Ph.D. in Recreation, Park, and Leisure Studies from the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis.  She has authored and co-authored several books and has published in several journals. Her research endeavors focus mostly on women’s leisure and social psychology of leisure behavior. She has been a recipient of numerous awards such as the NCSU “RPTM Partner” Award, University of Illinois Allen V. Sapporo Research Award, the Julian Smith Honor Award, the NRPA Roosevelt Award for Research, and the JB Nash Scholar Award.
The lecture was sponsored by the Faculty of Forest and Natural Resources Management, the ESF Women’s Caucus, and the ESF Graduate Student Association.  It was also funded by The Kaleidoscope Project, a diversity initiative between the Division of Academic Affairs and Student Affairs to broaden the understanding of diversity and promote healthy dialogue about related issues at Syracuse University.
For more information about this or upcoming speakers in the Women in Scientific and Environmental Professions Seminar Series, please visit

Tuesday, January 27, 2004

Press Release: Swackhamer and Estrogen Mimics

As part of the course requirements for FOR 797 Women in Scientific and Environmental Professions, students share the responsibility for reporting on our speakers for distribution to co-sponsors and the Knothole.  The following press release was prepared by Karen Howard.

Dr. Deborah L. Swackhamer, Professor of Environmental Chemistry in the School of Public Health at the University of Minnesota, presented her research on Estrogen Mimics and Sex Education for Fishes on Tuesday, January 27, 2004 as part of SUNY ESF’s Women in Scientific and Environmental Professions Spring Seminar Series.  The Faculties of Chemistry and Environmental and Forest Biology, the Graduate Student Association, and the ESF Women’s Caucus jointly sponsored the seminar. 
            Dr. Swackhamer discussed a variety of endocrine disrupting compounds in the environment (also called EDCs) that mimic endogenous hormones.  Examples include synthetic hormones, organohalogens, pesticides, detergent components, and plasticizers.  These compounds bind to estrogen receptors in organisms.  The effects of these compounds on organisms and the levels of exposure required to cause effects are still widely unknown. 
Attention was first focused on EDCs through observations of their effects in the field.  Colonial nesting birds around the Great Lakes have been greatly affected by DDT (through eggshell thinning) as well as PCBs and dioxins, which cause developmental deformities resulting in early death.  Nearly 50% of the beluga whales in the St. Lawrence River exhibit hermaphroditic characteristics thought to be caused by organochlorine exposure.  These and similar cases led Congress in 1998 to enact regulations requiring the screening of all commercially available chemicals for endocrine disrupting ability.  This screening has been delayed to date by the lack of validated assays.
            Within Dr. Swackhamer’s research group, studies have been conducted to determine the effects of EDCs on walleye and carp.  They have found that wild fish captured during the spawning season in the discharge channel from a sewage treatment plant exhibit high levels of estradiol, low testosterone levels, smaller gonads than reference fish, and a lack of milt.  However, a controlled laboratory study exposing fish directly to the effluent from the treatment plant produced no reduction in sperm quantity or quality but did indicate a behavioral failure to compete for females during spawning.  Current and future research is focused on the identification of an appropriate indicator compound that could be used in the field to identify populations affected by EDCs.
Dr. Swackhamer received her B.A. in Chemistry from Grinnell College, and her M.S. in Water Chemistry and Ph.D. in Oceanography and Limnology from the University of Wisconsin at Madison.  She serves as co-director of the Water Resources Center at the University of Minnesota.  She sits on the Science Advisory Board of the International Joint Commission of the U.S. and Canada, and serves on the Advisory Board for the National Undersea Research Program of NOAA for the North Atlantic-Great Lakes Region.
For more information about this or upcoming speakers in the Women in Scientific and Environmental Professions Seminar Series, please visit