Thursday, April 7, 2011

Notes 4/8/10

1. As our country is facing a possible shut down of government - these are the points I would like to tell my representatives-

a. When the American people are permitted to prosper the economy will benefit. Programs that benefit "business" at the expense of "people" lead to the impoverishment of our population, and the diminishment of their buying power. Don't cut social programs and use the money to give tax cuts and benefits to the rich. The bottom 50 percent of income earners in the United States now collectively own less than 1 percent of the nation’s wealth. The rich are getting richer and the poor are getting more poor!

A city of American people

b. If money for scientific research is cut (as it is proposed), it will damage an entire generation of scientists and scientific work. It might lead to a balanced budget but at what catastrophic cost to the US world scientific standing and competitiveness?

c. Making education accessible is a priority - if we are to compete in the world wide economy we much have the best trained innovative workers. We can not compete with low cost manual work in third world countries - if we are to survive it has to be in the area of developing and producing new high tech products. This requires trained people. This week it was stated the tuition to the UC universities will double if funding is not made available.

A neighborhood of wage earners - the American Middle Class

d. Trickle down economics has failed. The rich can spend only so much for their own needs. Excess money received by the wealthy tends to be invested in risky financial endeavors that can lead to further financial instability through the economy. The 400 richest people in the United States now control more money than 155 million people at the other end of the socio-economic spectrum combined. Despite the financial crisis, the number of millionaires in the United States rose 16 percent to 7.8 million in 2009 ( last data available).

The increase in American population is evident in our changed traffic patterns
e. With the increased American population we have more workers, with increased technology we have more automation, companies have moved offshore to maximize their profits. New jobs (not service jobs) are going to require new research and development - we must develop new products that we can produce better and cheaper than anyone else - and this all requires well educated innovative people.

f. Politicians, as you settle the budget forget the "riders" ( tacked on unrelated items that have been added to the bill in the hope of getting them passed too). Don't be distracted by side issues - don't get waylaid by petty partisan bickering - you have a nation to run!

2. With my concern for the state of the nation I still have a great love for the constant surprises I find in the natural world. I walk my two dogs most days ( 3.5 miles = 1.3 hours) Grasses have grown tall with this winter's rain and the thistles and mallows are splendid in this season.

Wild mustard still in bloom

This past week I found a mature 5" grasshopper - how it survived the winter I don't know - also monarch butterflies, and comical black beetles that are out seeking a mate his time of year . They routinely stop and hoist their rear end to release a scent ( a pheromone ) to attract a girlfriend. Mockingbirds are now in full song... Killdeer have returned. I suspect that our rain is pretty much finished for the year - But for now it is the peak of the growing season.

3. I continue to work as a student teacher field supervisor. I travel at far north as ElCerrito, South to Hayward, West Oakland, and East Oakland... I admire the courage of my young teachers - attempting new things for the first time is always a challenge - and the good student teachers are constantly testing themselves with attempting new ways to make their teaching most effective for all students.

Campus of Mills College - I attend weekly seminars in another building

The best teachers are not afraid to take risks... sometimes they experience great satisfaction when something "works" well - but its OK when it doesn't - A good "flop" is something to learn from. I see my student teachers for two semesters and we are now in the final quarter...I have seen them evolve from timidity at the start of the year to confident tweaking their performance now.

Student teacher at work

I see them now with clear learning objectives as they start a unit, individualization of instruction for special needs kids, and developing means to get a meaningful response from all students in the class. Some are now starting to put out feelers for job hunting ( most school districts don't know their needs yet for next year).

One of the inner city neighborhoods where one of my schools is located

4. Judy and I have no wild daring plans for summer adventures this year- No return to Chiapas or Tanzania... Unless some chance opportunity comes our way we will probabily travel close to home - An extended trip to our dear Tuolumne Meadows ( with with 160% snow pack this year it will be late July or August before we can get in)

Tuolumne meadows - this photo is about 10,000 feet

...probabily a trip up the coast to Oregon and maybe into Washington... the coast is beautiful in the summer and we have a string of friends and family to visit. There is even much in the Bay Area that we dont seem to have time to do during the year - I love walking through some of the neighborhoods in San Francisco ( Urban Hiking!) and the museums... Our closest ocean coast land is about an hour from us - and it is fine too... We still enjoy tent camping - so who knows where we'll end up...

Science Museum - San Francisco

San Francisco has some excellent museums - the new Natural Science museum in Golden Gate Park, the Asian Art museum, three really good art museums, then a variety of small museums on the grounds of the old Presidio military base.

"The Thinker "-(Rodin)- Stanford art museum
5. Several years ago public television had a long term series of adaptations of the Poldark saga... A story of life in Cornwall just prior and during the Napoleonic Wars. Judy and I enjoyed them greatly at the time We are now reading them - and finding them much more detailed than the film version - but I warn you they are addicting - and page turners. You can find good used copies on