Archive for the ‘education’ Category

Moving On

August 16, 2017

No, not me.  Jonathon Overpeck, the U of A professor I’d had for a Humanities class on Climate Change1, a globally recognized climate researcher who co-authored a Nobel Prize-winning report2, after having said that the lowering water level in the Colorado River would doom life in Southern Arizona3, has left U of A for a position at the University of Michigan.

Then there’s Usain Bolt of Jamaica, who had compensated pretty well for having scoliosis, leaving his right leg half an inch shorter than his left,

Though Bolt stands 6 feet 5 inches, he starts nearly as explosively as smaller sprinters and needs only 41 strides to cover 100 meters, while other elite runners need 43 or 45 or even 48.

On average, Bolt struck the ground with 1,080 pounds of peak force on his right leg and 955 pounds on his left leg. Because his right leg is shorter, it has a slightly longer drop to the track, contributing to a higher velocity for that step.4

and who I wrote about during the 2012 Olympics5, who pulled

…up with an apparent injury in the men’s 4×100-meter relay final at the world track and field championships on Saturday…  It was hardly the farewell party that Bolt had in mind when he decided to make this meet the final one of his career.6 (Photo by Martin Meissner/Associated Press)


I actually took this photo in July before a storm.  Think we had the last monsoon of the season last week.  My phone woke me at 1:30am and 3:30am with storm and flood warnings.  Decided it was time to google how to take those warnings off my phone.  Done.  And for all of the blustery winds, we only got maybe an inch of rain here.

But New Orleans flooded yet again, on August the fifth.

NEW ORLEANS – A massive series of rain storms dumped between 8 and 10 inches of rain in the metro New Orleans area over about a three-hour time span, flooding streets, stranding motorists and – unlike two weeks ago – getting in to some homes, cars and businesses.8

After Hurricane Katrina I worked for FEMA for eight months in Mississippi9, so I do have some informed opinions.  After Katrina, the National Flood Insurance Program paid out $16.3 billion in claims. $13 billion went to claims in Louisiana.  hurricane-katrina-statistics-fast-facts

In Arizona, or at least Pima county, you are not allowed to build in a 500-year flood zone.  Gee, that makes sense.  So rather than the National Flood Insurance Program paying people to fix their houses, or rebuild their houses right back in the flood zone, why don’t the Feds just give each family a fair price for their house (yes, this could be businesses too – I worked with school districts, and after Katrina smashed three blocks of houses into an elementary school, and four feet of water sat there, impregnating the CMU block construction with mucky water that turned to mold, the district decided to build farther from the Gulf of Mexico, away from the flood zone – duh!) and forbid anyone to build in a flood zone!  The government would be out a lot of money short term, but then they could disband the stupid system.

And then there’s the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers moving sand back onto Dauphin Island, Alabama, a strip of land with beach houses for the well-to-do.  I saw it after Katrina, but before the sand was moved back.  Sand washes away with each storm.  Leave those rich people without sand, and maybe they’d move away…

Spark Joy

Finished Marie Kondo’s second book, Spark Joy.  Only filled up one giant trash container and one giant recycle container.  But am donating, to Goodwill, five more giant trash bags of mostly Christmas decorations, including fourteen strings of outdoor lights that I used to put out.  In fact, for the last house I built, my electrical engineer put in electric sockets on the garage roof, switched from indoors.  Loved that.  But I never have Christmas at my house, and my daughter has enough of her own decorations.

Also donated a few of the winter sweaters that my mother knit probably forty years ago.  Had to say goodbye to them (which the book instructs you to do).  Don’t even remember what’s in one of the black plastic trash bags.  Also have to get rid of the steamer truck (covered in contact paper) that my ex- and I used for our first coffee table!  Way tacky.  Has been full of Christmas decorations ever since.

Also must sell my Grandmother’s china set, which I only use once a year for a large party.  No one in the family wants it, and I don’t even like it -it has a platinum edge , but then dainty pink and grey flowers.  My next-door neighbor in Starr Pass said that her mother had the same pattern, Noritake china – Glenwood pattern.  There are numerous partial sets for sale on ebay, for quite a lot!  Also many shown on etsy and pinterest.  Interesting history:

The Noritake of today grew out of a trading company that was originally established by the Morimura Brothers in New York in 1876. This trading company imported chinaware, curios, paper lanterns and other gift items. In 1904 [it] …was established in the village of Noritake, a small suburb near Nagoya, Japan. It took until 1914… to create the first porcelain dinnerware plate that was suitable for export.  noritake-history

Then there’s my grandmother’s vintage Coronation Oneida Community silver plate flatware set.  (The Coronation pattern was introduced to commemorate the crowning of King Edward VIII in England – which never did happen.7)  Had to google a couple of items.  Believe the spoon on the left to be a dessert spoon, the next a soup spoon, the third a bon bon spoon ( also called a jelly server and a stewed tomato strainer!).  Then there are four kinds of knives in this pattern, not counting the butter knives and butter spreaders.  I apparently have french grille knifes (top) and modern grille knives.  (Grille knives have shorter blades than dinner knives, which have the same length blade and handle.)

1climate-change blog
5scroll down to 2012 Olympics in the-ovens-a-dry-heat-too blog
9blog is-this-the-end


March 18, 2017

My grandson was helping me pull weeds.  But Grandma, these have yellow flowers.  Why do we have to pull them?  The line between weeds and wildflowers is a wavy one, or maybe a dashed one.  Had to kill all of the weeds at my last house, then move into another rental house, 4.7 miles away, only to get a note from the HOA that we have to have all of our weeds pulled by April 1.  No fooling.

But speaking of wildflowers – while the east coast is covered in snow there is a spectacular wildflower display here in the desert wherever the housing developments haven’t scraped the ground and replaced the natural desert with a few trees, cacti, bushes trimmed into tight balls, and lots of gravel.  This photo from the Web of the flowers at Picacho Peak, where my daughter and family are camping for the weekend with the Boy Scouts, there to see the wildflowers and the reenactment of the Civil War battle at Picacho Peak.  (  Unfortunately, the hot weather (it’s 92° right now, at 5pm) has also brought out the rattlesnakes, so she texted me that they’re leaving after the roasting of the marshmallows tonight.


My life has gotten just a tad busier the beginning of February.

Did dislike the last rental.  January’s gas bill was $148!!!  The insulation was terrible, and, in the winter, it was cold downstairs, with drafts, and hot upstairs.  But good news – hah!  So many things had gone wrong with it (such as the heat going out four times in one year!) that they decided to sell.

My lease was up end of January,  then was on month-to-month, but four families had looked at it in the first week, so I figured I better find another rental as my son-in-law won’t finish his training (to be a hospital CFO) for another year, and when the hospital chain assigns him to a hospital somewhere, if it’s a nifty place, I may move there too, to be near the grandkids.  Another move!  Much harder than finding a place to buy, as rental agents “own” their own properties.  Thank goodness for the internet!

Online, looked at 50 (!) houses near here (which means near my daughter and my grandkids), and chose five.  One zapped me for having a cat, so I looked at four.  Found a smaller, less expensive rental (but with a view of the desert and mountains) west of the last house.  The people were moving out the middle of February, so I started packing, yet again.

Here’s a photo from my bedroom window, after I got all of the windows cleaned.  (Not as good as the professional photo above, but it is 5pm, with its long shadows.)

Was chest high in boxes on that first weekend and I was sore to the bone, double-popping ibuprofen.  In order to get my security deposit back, had to have the empty house clean, including the tops of the fans (ten feet up in the living room), the outdoor lights, garage, you name it.  And no weeds.  (This all in the lease that I had signed.)  Of course, we had had our winter rain, and then the temperatures soared into the 80’s.  Never saw so many weeds.  Too many too small to pull, even with my grandson’s small hands, so I had to resort to the dreaded poison.  (Sorry Mitch!  It was that v. $2200.)  My daughter, having never read Silent Spring, had a poison sprayer canister, which I borrowed.

Final inspection.  A woman came to spend an hour taking photos of everything with cabinets open, lights on. Then she gave the set to the rental agent (the fourth one I’ve had, and never met) and he would decide how much of the security deposit to return in two+ weeks (per contract).  The photographer called me the next day and said that they had just put a check in the mail for the entire security deposit.  Guess I overdid it!

Speaking of rental agents- I mentioned to my present one that the garbage disposal was backing up and she said she’d get back to me. Four days later and no return call to my message left, so I tried it when the dishwasher had filled up the sink, and it magically fixed itself. What a way to get things done…  (There’s an apocryphal story that Napoleon opened his mail about once a month. Why? Because if it was still important after a month, he attended to it; if not, one of his minions had dealt with it, or it was just junk mail.)

Too Much to Protest, Too Little Time

As I was packing, moving, unpacking, etc I was feeling very guilty about not having enough time to protest!  Sure, I had emailed my senators regarding Trump’s appointments, especially of Scott Pruitt and Betsy DeVos.  (See my blog from January:  As if Flake and McCain care about my opinion.  But my rep is Tom O’Halleran, and he’s a Democrat, so no prob.  Next was the protest against Monsanto, which is building a huge greenhouse near here.

Then I sent off an email to my governor because he…

 …defended state laws that let parents use public funds to send children to private and parochial schools.  But he sidestepped questions of whether he would sign legislation to open up that possibility to all 1.1 million public school students statewide.


Republican lawmakers in the Arizona Legislature are attempting to fast-track a plan to eventually offer vouchers to every public-school student and, in separate legislation, privatize oversight of the public money given to parents to pay private-school tuition and other expenses.

The Legislature is training its sights on the plan to broaden eligibility for Empowerment Scholarship Accounts, a school-choice program created six years ago for disabled children. Under the legislation, all of Arizona’s 1.1 million students would be eligible for the program by 2020.

Sen. Debbie Lesko, of Peoria, and Rep. John Allen, of Scottsdale, have introduced identical bills to expand the program in their chambers, a move intended to expedite passage. ESAs allow families to use public-school dollars on private-school tuition and other educational expenses.

As I had pointed out to my governor, private schools, including Catholic or Christian, are segregated – either by economic inequality (with shades of race discrimination) or by religion.  As Wikipedia points out,

Separation of church and state is a phrase used by Thomas Jefferson and others expressing an understanding of the intent and function of the Establishment Clause and Free Exercise Clause of First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States which reads: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…”

Consequently, I believe that it is in our constitution that our taxes should not be used to fund private and parochial schools, and that includes the school tax credit, which comes out of our taxes.  But Arizona is a red state, so it’ll no doubt pass.

Zero to 1.34 Million

You must read Nicholas Kristof’s column from Sunday’s New York Times from a month ago, regarding Trump’s original travel ban:

People’s Climate Movement April 29th

This was in my Sierra Club magazine:

Michael Brune on the People’s Climate Mobilization, Feb 24 2017

Two years ago, the first People’s Climate March took place on a crisp, blue-sky September day in Manhattan. An estimated 400,000 people, representing the full display of American diversity, were united in the same righteous purpose: to demand that our leaders act fast to address the climate crisis.

The day was filled with promise, and in the following years our enthusiasm was reciprocated with progress. The Paris Agreement. The Clean Power Plan. The rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline. We could say that, powered by a movement of millions, the United States was truly leading on climate.

Now the political landscape is different. Donald Trump’s election will upend U.S. climate policy. I doubt that many citizens voted for Trump because they were enthusiastic about his views on climate change, but that’s beside the point.

The Trump-Pence administration has no mandate to roll back environmental progress. Polling before the election showed that seven in 10 Americans agreed the government should do something about global warming. Polling after the election showed that 86 percent of voters—including three out of four of those who voted for Trump—support “action to accelerate the development and use of clean energy.”

… we can’t afford to underestimate the Trump administration. Unchecked, Donald Trump and Mike Pence are a threat to our climate and the civil rights and liberties guaranteed by our Constitution. This is a dangerous moment in U.S. history.

…If the Trump-Pence administration attempts to roll back the progress we’ve made in the past 50 years, we do not have to stand for it. Instead, we will stand up against it. We will march, organize, and keep marching—and we will not give up.

The Tucson march:

Connect the Dots

December 4, 2016

Climate change is hard to think about not only because it’s complex and politically contentious, not only because it’s cognitively almost impossible to keep in mind the intricate relationships that tie together an oil well in Venezuela, Siberian permafrost, Saudi F-15s bombing a Yemeni wedding, subsidence along the Jersey Shore, albedo effect near Kangerlussuaq, the Pacific Decadal Oscillation, the polar vortex, shampoo, California cattle, the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, leukemia, plastic, paper, the Sixth Extinction, Zika, and the basic decisions we make every day, are forced to make every day, in a world we didn’t choose but were thrown into. No, it’s not just because it’s mind-bendingly difficult to connect the dots. Climate change is hard to think about because it’s depressing and scary.1

This is from (of course) the New York Times, a month and a half ago.  It took me a while to find the 15 connections.  I had never heard of the Sixth Extinction, so I read Elizabeth Kolbert’s book, The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History.  Had to research the albedo effect near Kangerlussuaq, the Pacific Decadal Oscillation, the polar vortex, shampoo.  So a challenge to you too.

You might also like to read the entire article, entitled When the Next Hurricane Hits Texas.  Great photo from the hurricane in 2008.


The Worst Word in the English Language

…the website of Oxford Dictionaries called off its search for the worst word in the English language before I got a chance to have my say. When the survey was halted — the Oxford folks said that too many people were sending in offensive or insulting words — the word “moist” was in the lead…

I no longer think that the word I most dread in the English language is “maintenance.” That realization came to me not long ago, when I was in my car, by myself, at a red light. Ordinarily, I would have been thinking about the points and plugs of my car…

And here we come to the word in the English language that I now most dread: “Upgrade…”

Here’s how I imagine an upgrade to a computer operating system comes about. In the offices of a tech company in some West Coast loft building, Jason and Justin, two impossibly young-looking techies, are having a desultory conversation after finishing their 10th Ping-Pong game of the day. They’re killing time until the weekly foosball tournament starts.

“You know,” Jason says, “I think most of them are getting so they can find their calendars and their contacts pretty easily.” (“Them” is Jason’s word for grown-ups.)

“Remember how much fun it was to complicate the way to get to contacts on that smartphone we worked on?” Justin asks.

“Are you thinking what I’m thinking?” Jason replies. An expression of intense anticipation comes over their faces. They resemble the fraternity boys in “Animal House” just before someone yells “Food fight!” Suddenly, Jason and Justin shout in unison, “Upgrade!”2

I have to agree with Calvin Trillin.  (He’s an American journalist, humorist, food writer, poet, memoirist and novelist.  One of his most famous quotes is, The most remarkable thing about my mother is that for thirty years she served the family nothing but leftovers. The original meal has never been found.)  Read the entire article – it’s quite humorous.  And see my blog on that subject, when I upgraded.3


I have no comment on Castro’s death.  But I do recommend that you read Cuba Diaries: An American Housewife in Havana, by Isadora Tattlin.  One of our art group recommended it, and I read it before we went to Cuba in 2012.  You can read my blogs, starting with this one:


Shall get a pile of essays on Wednesday. (That supplements my weight training.)  My last day of school is December 16th.  Have gotten to like most of these students.  Shall I miss teaching?  Yes and no.



November 1, 2016

Science Technology Engineering Mathematics

On Friday, October 28th, [the Pima College Northwest Campus] hosted the second AZ STEM Adventure.  We had over 1100 high energy 4th-8th graders on our campus.  The students participated in a wide variety of STEM related activities including dissections, making silly putty and liquid nitrogen ice cream, taking rides on a “hovercraft”, building rockets, and much more!

catapultI spent 4 1/2 hours with a group of 4th-8th graders from the Islamic Al Huda school1, which I hadn’t even been aware of until I was assigned to escort 22 of the kids (along with three parents and two Pima students).  Not as bad as herding cats, but almost.  Kids liked the talk on liquid nitrogen the most, no doubt because they all got a dixie cup of ice cream made (as we watched) with liquid nitrogen.  Second favorite was attempting to make catapults to shoot candy corn at a target.  (I’ve blurred out the kids’ faces.)  Had to eat lunch outside on the grass, and it was 93°!  Girls sweltering in their abayas and hijabs.


On Sunday carved pumpkins with the grandkids.  (My granddaughter is ten, but as tall as I am.  She likes to borrow my shoes.)  Had no trick-or-treaters Monday night.  Not many kids in the neighborhood and I’m at the end of a cul-de-sac.

Are We Sick of the Election Yet?

Someone on NPR noted that he thought that Trump’s campaign has been a long infomercial.  He’s been showing his hotels off to the news media.  All that free publicity!

Then FBI Director James B. Comey has to bring up Clinton’s emails again, eleven days from the election.  And it’s not political?


Good News, Bad News

August 30, 2016

Well, this isn’t news, just two items that made me laugh.  First, the one paragraph in the book that I just finished (The Road to Little Dribbling by Bill Bryson, which I discussed in my last blog) that made me laugh out loud:

Years ago, when my wife and I were just dating, she took me on a day trip to the seaside at Brighton. It was my first exposure to the British at play in a marine environment. It was a fairly warm day — I remember the sun came out for whole moments at a time — and large numbers of people were in the sea. They were shrieking with what I took to be pleasure, but now realize was agony. Naively, I pulled off my T-shirt and sprinted into the water. It was like running into liquid nitrogen. It was the only time in my life in which I have moved like someone does when a piece of film is reversed. I dived into the water and then straight back out again, backwards, and have never gone into an English sea again. 

Then this video, which was mentioned on NPR yesterday, Web Site Story:

Bad News

Last week got my Sierra Club magazine.  A lot of gloom and doom –

  • If Trump is elected he will bring back coal, its pollution and greenhouse gases.
  • Kids today spend four to seven minutes outdoors playing each day and up to seven hours staring at a screen.
  • IMG_6503[1]We should stop using plastic.  (There has been a plastic bag stuck high in a mesquite tree in the desert behind my house, too high for me to retrieve it, kinda a portent for the future.)
  • 44% of honeybee colonies were lost between April 2015 and April 2016, probably due to neonicotinoid pesticides.
  • A Maasai man in Kenya said that the young Maasi children grow up now without ever hearing a lion roar at night.  (Photo of me next to our Maasi guide in Tanzania at the bottom of a blog1.)
  • Coral reefs are bleaching in the equatorial Pacific, including as much as half of the Great Barrier Reef.  (Guess I should see it before it’s gone.)

And so on and so on.  Regarding the last four items, who can dispute that there are too many people in the world?  If each couple had only two children we could stop the insane overpopulation.  If I were a god, that is what I would dictate.  But none of our gods micromanage, so we must do it on our own.  How?  (I’ve already written about this in a blog2.)

Our growth is not healthy.  Governments want growth, but what we have is more like a cancer, enlarging itself and killing its host.

Everyone should read about the Tragedy of the Commons. (The concept and name originate in an essay written in 1833 by the Victorian economist William Forster Lloyd...  The concept became widely known over a century later due to an article written by the ecologist Garrett Hardin in 1968.3)  This from the Web, re Hardin4:

1. The world is biophysically finite.

  • The more people there are, the less each person’s share must be.
  • Technology (ie, agricultural) cannot fundamentally alter this.
  • We can’t both maximize the number of people and satisfy every desire or “good” of everyone.
  • Practically, biophysical limits dictate we must both stabilize population, and make hard choices about which “goods” are to be sought.
  • Both steps will generate opposition, since many people will have to relinquish something.

2. Over-population is an example of the tragedy of the commons (ToC).

  • Commons are un-owned or commonly-held “pool” resources that are “free,” or not allocated by markets.
  • Hardin’s ToC model assumes that individuals are short-term, self-interested “rational” actors, seeking to maximize their own gains.
  • Such actors will exploit commons (have more babies, add more cattle to pastures, pollute the air) as long as they believe the costs to them individually are less than the benefits.
  • The system of welfare insulates individuals from bearing the full costs of over-reproducing.
  • When every individual believes and behaves in this manner, commons are quickly filled, degraded, and ruined along with their erst-while exploiters.
  • A laissez-faire system (letting individuals choose as they like) will not “as if by an invisible hand” solve over-population.

3. The “commons” system for breeding must be abandoned (as it has been for other resources).

  • In other words, something must restrain individual reproduction. . .
  • but it must not be individual conscience; appealing to conscience will only result in fewer people with conscience in the population (assuming here that it is genetic, or perfectly transmitted by learning).
  • It should be accomplished by “mutual coercion mutually agreed upon.”
  • Sacrificing freedom to breed will obtain for us other more important freedoms which will otherwise be lost.
  • “Coercive” restrictions on breeding could take a number of forms.
  • The “right” to determine the size of one’s family must be rescinded.
  • This will protect the conscientious traits in the population.

4. The problem is then to gain peoples’ consent to a system of coercion.

  • People will consent if they understand the dire consequences of letting the population growth rate be set only by individuals’ choices.
  • Educating all people about the ToC, its consequences, and the alternatives to it, is necessary.
  • Then various restraints and incentives for low reproduction can and must be instituted.

This is one of my rants (in addition to ZPG).  I wrote about it in 2010, at the bottom of this blog:


Valley Fever

November 16, 2015

A few friends have emailed, alarmed that I haven’t posted a blog since July, when I said that I had pneumonia. (Why do I have two emails asking if I want burial insurance?)  I also mentioned that I would be teaching two computer classes in the fall – CIS and CAD. It’s easier if I just post a combination of the emails I sent them (so some of this is in the present tense, even though it happened in the past):

Valley Fever

When I felt like I had cracked ribs on my left side in July my doctor was out of town and his sub had me get X-rays and said that I had pneumonia. He didn’t give me the blood test for valley fever as I’ve lived in Arizona for over 40 years. (At that point in July I was working full-time, teaching math at the Northwest Campus, as the afternoon instructor was with her dying sister, her substitute had a vacation planned, and I had been working only mornings.)

What I had thought was pneumonia had me flat on my back, on drugs, listening to a book on CD’s for three days (although I did have to get out of bed to buy groceries on Saturday and do laundry on Sunday), so I am behind my self-imposed review of AutoCAD, which I have to do before I get up in front of a class of students to teach it! And yes, I am still going to see my son in Canada from the 28th to the 5th, as I already have the non-refundable tickets.

But when my doctor got back to town the next week he did the blood test and said that I did have Valley Fever. No drugs, since the side effects are bad. He said that because I only had it in one lung, I wasn’t sick enough. For the bad cases, drugs are prescribed:

In severe cases, the infection can cause chronic pneumonia, and the symptoms can last for years. In less than 1 percent of people who get valley fever, the infection can spread from the lungs to the rest of the body, causing meningitis (spine and brain infection) or infection in the bones and joints.

A guy I worked with at IBM got it in his joints and ended up in a wheelchair. My qigong instructor said that her sister-in-law’s brain had “melted” (her words).

In the meantime, my son-in-law got a job in Tucson and I went out with them on two occasions, when they flew in from Idaho, to look at houses. They bought one near his hospital in Oro Valley. My daughter scheduled me to meet the movers at their new house on Friday morning, as they aren’t driving as fast with 3 kids, 2 dogs, and a cat, and won’t arrive until the pm. Who knows what else she’ll corral me into.

I did finish off the summer session at Pima College and took my grandson to Vancouver. He wore me out a bit in Canada – he skipped everywhere! (Wish I had blogged it. My grandson, six, took about 300 photos, many of them pretty good. Oh well.)

With Valley Fever I have been tired for months, sleeping 10 – 12 hours a night.  But because my daughter and family have moved here, I have grandkids to “cavort” with.  (Went to Willcox to pick pumpkins the weekend before Halloween; we carved them at my house.  That night I went to sleep at 8!)  Have the house on the market yet again, but am doing very little yard work or house cleaning. (Hence the neighbor’s housekeeper coming over tomorrow after which I’ll put the house on the market again.)

Had two couples look at it last Friday – one loved it but have to sell their house first.  A couple from Texas flew in to see it, both Monday (evening, after they arrived) and Tuesday (during the day) – she loved it but he didn’t, so they negotiated with each other and bought what he wanted.


This adjunct stuff is nonsense. First I was scheduled to teach an evening CIS class and a morning CAD. The CIS was cancelled for low enrollment, but I was offered another CAD class to take its place. Then the department head lost one of his classes to low enrollment, so had to take my morning class, as he is required to teach 3 classes. But I was offered a writing class (two days before the start of the semester) in its time frame. Next, the evening CAD class was canceled due to low enrollment, so I was offered a late-start math class.   That was canceled due to low enrollment just yesterday. So I’m only teaching the WRT class.

In addition to teaching a writing class at Pima this semester, I’m taking a Revit (3-D CAD) class (for only $15, as an instructor), to continue to keep myself busy. I took the class many years ago, but I never got to use it. So I am relearning it because I’ll teach it next semester (!) as the present instructor is pregnant, due in December, and wants to take a semester off. The department head has great faith in me.

But I successfully installed the new graphics card that I needed for Revit on my computer! (Had a graphics card that I had to take out, then this one fit right there.) Maybe this stress will make me live longer.

So basically haven’t had extra time to write the blog – spend it sleeping!

World Population Day

July 2, 2015

On July 11, please think of our overcrowded earth.  And how Investing in Young People can help us.


World Population Day has been celebrated every July 11 since 1989. On July 11, 1987, humanity surpassed the threshold of 5 billion people, and two years later the Governing Council of the United Nations Development Program decided to set up an appointment for an annual reflection on demographic trends and development in an ever more crowded world with increasingly limited resources.

The theme of this year’s World Population Day is “Investing in Young People”.1

world pop
This map, from Wikipedia, shows population density in 2012 by country, per square kilometer.  You can click on it to see it better.  Notice that India is magenta  (397 people per km2, compared to the density of the US, which is 34.) That’s why when you Google overpopulation and hit images you’ll get photos of India.  (Singapore is much worse, with 7,301 people per square kilometer, but it is a small island with a population in 2013 of 5.4M as opposed to India’s 1.252B.)


The graph above is scary.  Over 8 billion in 10 years!  The world’s population on June 29, 2015 at 9:30 am was: 7,325,150,960.  Was hard to catch the number on this website,
world-population/, ’cause the clock was running too fast.

Those Young People

grameenWe ought to be putting more resources into the education of girls around the world.  If girls are educated, the world’s population growth, which is now on a dead run, shall slow to a comfortable walk.  There won’t be a food crisis, as there will be fewer mouths to feed, and those women shall be farming smarter.  Educated women shall earn more money, so health care shall improve.

(If you wonder how they can get a job in a country with a high unemployment rate, help by getting into microfinance by donating to the Grameen Foundation2.)

Educating girls is a key factor in hastening the demographic transition to lower birth rates. In sub-Saharan Africa, women with no education have 6.7 births, on average. The figure falls to 5.8 for those with primary education and more than halves, to 3.9, for those with secondary education.3

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is putting more money into Africa than is the United States (not counting our military spending there).  Last year they spent $50 million to fight the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, in addition to their other fundings.  I tried to pin down other numbers, but only got world totals of how much spent on what.4

Our Work in Africa
We work with partners in Africa to make smart investments so that together we can achieve real and lasting impact for those with the greatest challenges… Our efforts cover nearly all of the foundation’s key program areas such as agriculture, family planning, financial services for the poor, HIV, malaria, polio, and vaccines delivery…

In June this year [2014], the total amount given as grants to food and agriculture projects by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation surpassed the $3 billion mark. It marked quite a milestone. From nowhere on the agricultural scene less than a decade ago, the Gates Foundation has emerged as one of the world’s major donors to agricultural research and development.”5

Quite different than the US priorities.  We seem to be working on what we can get out of the continent.  (These numbers do not include CIA drone strikes against al Shabaab’s leadership in Somalia, the US Army providing equipment and intelligence to fight Boko Haram in Nigeria, US  airstrikes targeting and likely killing an al-Qaida-linked militant leader in eastern Libya, and  120 American advisers in Uganda providing training, weapons and supplies — $100 million worth since 2011, just in Uganda. )

Connect and Empower Africa: $133.9 million to support key commitments and investments in Africa, including Power Africa ($76.7 million) to increase access to reliable, cleaner power for economic growth, as part of the Administration’s expanded $300 million annual commitment; Trade Investment Capacity Building, including Trade Africa and Investment Hubs ($47.2 million), of which $30 million supports the Administration’s $75 million commitment to align, focus, and expand current USG bilateral and regional trade programs in sub-Saharan Africa; and Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) ($10 million), which aims to bring young African leaders to the United States for six weeks of training and provide professional development activities for fellows once they return to the continent.6

Our country (including Bill and Melinda Gates) does not find educating girls a priority.  (At least the Gates Foundation is funding family planning.)  But here’s our real problem, as seen by the New Yorker magazine:
Scientists: Earth Endangered by New Strain of Fact-Resistant Humans


MINNEAPOLIS (The Borowitz Report) – Scientists have discovered a powerful new strain of fact-resistant humans who are threatening the ability of Earth to sustain life, a sobering new study reports.

The research, conducted by the University of Minnesota, identifies a virulent strain of humans who are virtually immune to any form of verifiable knowledge, leaving scientists at a loss as to how to combat them.

“These humans appear to have all the faculties necessary to receive and process information,” Davis Logsdon, one of the scientists who contributed to the study, said. “And yet, somehow, they have developed defenses that, for all intents and purposes, have rendered those faculties totally inactive.”…7


South Carolina

June 26, 2015

confederate-flagDiscussion continues to rage around Nikki Haley and the removal of the confederate flag from South Carolina’s State House grounds. Nicholas Kristof wrote an opinion about it day before yesterday in the New York Times: Tearing Down the Confederate Flag Is Just a Start.1  Yes, it is definitely only a start.

This controversy has come up because of  Dylann Roof’s slaughter of nine people in SC.  But… Sixteen hours after killing nine people inside a Charleston, South Carolina, church, 21-year-old Dylann Roof was treated to a free meal from Burger King by the Shelby, North Carolina, police officers who arrested him.   Now imagine this: a black guy goes into a white church and guns down nine white people.  When the police catch him they take him to Burger King for a free meal.  As if.  (Although it would make a great SNL Burger King ad.)

In Maryland, Freddie Gray (who did not kill nine people) was arrested for what the police alleged was an illegal switchblade, fell into a coma in the police van, and died of spinal injuries.  In New York, Eric Garner (who did not kill nine people) was being arrested on suspicion of selling single cigarettes (single cigarettes!!!), was put in a choke hold and died.  In South Carolina, Walter Scott (who did not kill nine people) was shot eight times (!!!) in the back when he ran away after a traffic stop.  In Ohio, Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old boy (who did not kill nine people) was fatally shot by a police officer over a toy gun.  Guess the race of Dylann Roof, of Freddie Gray, of Eric Garner, of Walter Scott, of Tamir Rice.  Something is wrong with this picture (and it’s not just in SC).


Sure, the US of A has made a few advances.  Everyone loves Oprah.  Obama was elected twice as the most important leader on our planet.  MLK has his own holiday.  Desmond Tutu and Nelson Mandela (and our Prez) were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.  Then there are all of the sports stars, authors (how many of Toni Morrison’s have you read?), movie stars – Morgan Freeman even played God!

stromOn the other hand, Shrom Thurmond, who had been a (white) South Carolina senator, had fathered a child with a 16-year-old black maid  – how Old South.  So a statue of him stands on the grounds of the South Carolina State Capitol as well as one in the town square of Edgefield, South Carolina (where a high school was also named after him).  President Bush Gave him a Presidential Medal of Freedom. Buildings are named after him at the University of South Carolina, Charleston Southern University, and Winthrop University; these universities are in South Carolina, of course, and nobody there cares if a white guy who said,

I wanna tell you, ladies and gentlemen, that there’s not enough troops in the army to force the Southern people to break down segregation and admit the Nigra race into our theaters, into our swimming pools, into our homes, and into our churches.

had sex with a black teenager, who then had a child. (Hit that clip to hear him.) It wasn’t until six months after Thurmond’s death (at the age of 100), that Essie Mae Washington-Williams publicly revealed that she was his daughter.  BTW – he started that affair with Carrie Butler in 1924, when miscegenation was a felony.  (No big deal for a white guy, but Emmett Till, a 14-tear-old black kid, was mutilated and murdered for just whistling at a white woman in 1941 in Mississippi.)

In 1967, 17 Southern states (all the former slave states plus Oklahoma) still enforced laws prohibiting marriage between whites and non-whites. After the ruling of the Supreme Court, the remaining laws were no longer in effect. Nonetheless, it took South Carolina until 1998… to officially amend state constitutions to remove language prohibiting miscegenation.

For a few years I lived in Greenville, South Carolina, one of the Ten Least Segregated Metropolitan Areas in 20102 (as well as Tucson). Greenville’s index of 43.6 means that it is moderately segregated, that about four out of 10 black residents would need to move to another Greenville neighborhood to be distributed throughout the metro area in the same way as whites.

But the center of most everyone’s life there was The Church (and this was not just Sunday, but almost every day of the week, with activities for the kids, prayer sessions, bible study classes, and so on), and I’ll bet all 33 of them were segregated.  In spite of the fact that the Southern Baptists, who …didn’t formally apologize for its stand on slavery until 1995, think that it’s a good idea to integrate.  “Right now, 11 a.m. on Sunday morning is the most segregated hour in America.”3

corridorWhen I was there, got to know about the 2007 documentary, Corridor of Shame: the neglect of South Carolina’s rural schools, an hour documentary that tells the story of the challenges faced in funding an adequate education in South Carolina’s rural school districts.4  If you don’t watch the entire film, at least watch this 9-minute segment:  Then read this article from February’s (2015) Charleston Chronicle, SC Legislators Continue To Deny Court-Ordered Education In “Corridor Of Shame”:

The South Carolina State Legislature’s efforts to appeal a state Supreme Court ruling mandating it provides the resources to rural schools in the state’s worst school districts indicate the general assembly will continue to do nothing to insure students in the predominantly Black schools of the “Corridor of Shame” receive a quality education…
The lawsuit to force the legislature to provide basic education to the schools was brought in 19935

…Parents and other community leaders responded to school desegregation by creating private schools that could discriminate in accepting applications to attend.  Prior to 1956, South Carolina had only 16 private schools.  Between 1963 and 1975, almost 200 new private schools were created in the state.  In some of the more rural, majority-African American counties in South Carolina, these schools enrolled over 90% of the white children in the public school system.  Named “segregation academies,” these private schools continued segregation in education throughout South Carolina.  In Clarendon County today, Summerton High School has an enrollment of 95% African American students, while the whites attend Clarendon Hall.  Clarendon Hall only began accepting African American students in 2000.6

…The federal government forced South Carolina to dismantle its dual school system, where certain schools were predominately black or white, by the beginning of the 1970-1971 school year. Greenville and Darlington counties, under specific court cases, had to  integrate their schools by the end of the 1969-1970 school system. This order led to protests and violence in Lamar, where a group of almost 200 white adults attacked and overturned a school bus full of black children. Over three thousand of Darlington County’s white students had boycotted school for weeks before the mob attack.7

Back then there were 200 private schools, today there are 449 private schools in South Carolina.  Minority enrollment is 14% [9,298 minority kids, 57,113 white kids].  78% of South Carolina private schools are religiously affiliated.8  I did a spot check on some of the religious schools – one was 100% black, but two others were actually integrated by color (33% minority for a Catholic school, 13% for a Christian), if segregated by religion.  Plus poor people cannot afford private schools, so the well-to-do can send their kids to private school and vote down money for the Corridor of Shame schools.  It’s also of interest that back when the schools were forcibly integrated, hardly any white kids got bussed, and many (substandard) black schools were closed.

Now I want to apologize to my friend L, who befriended me when I joined the Greenville chapter of the AAUW (American Association of University Women) for dissing her state.  She is a marvelous person, as well as all of the women who I got to know in the AAUW book club (of which there was one black member).  We read many books that did not shed a good light upon the history of the south, such as Warriors Don’t Cry by Melba Pattillo, one of the nine black students to integrate Little Rock Central High in 1957.  I would highly recommend it, even if you end up in tears.  She…

…had acid thrown into her eyes and also recalled in her book… an incident in which a group of white girls trapped her in a stall in the girls’ washroom and attempted to burn her by dropping pieces of flaming paper on her from above.

See photo from the Little Rock integration below.  Think we read The Help too.  I just wish that all of South Carolina were as tolerant as those AAUW women.  But I was only there for a few years, and unfortunately I met too many people who give Southerners a bad name.


6 In 2004, …95.5 percent of Summerton’s 1,230 public school students are black, mirroring the levels of minority concentrations seen in a growing number of schools nationwide. At Clarendon Hall, all but about 20 of its 275 students are white, reflecting the racial isolation experienced by most of America’s white students.

Train of Thought

June 23, 2015

…keeps a-rollin’

jane-fonda-cover-1542x2056american-apparel-advanced-basics-features-old-woman-in-ad__oPtgapRevisiting older women in ads (Old is the New Black1), with Jane Fonda (77!!!) on the cover of W, Jacky O’Shaughnessy (scouted in a New York restaurant) modeling for American Apparel, and Angelica Houston (and Michael K. Williams) in a Gap ad.

Uranium mining

Continuing looking into the state land trust funds (from Arizona Education at the bottom of the last blog2) that our governor hopes to dip into a bit more enthusiastically, for the sake of K-12 education, I checked out how the state lands are used to generate the money:

Sales and Commercial Leases. Leasing categories include grazing, agriculture, mineral, mineral material, exploration, and apiary. Other administrative areas include water sales, mineral material sales, water rights administration, dam safety, trespass, recreational permits, environmental contamination, and cultural resources.3

But there’s a lot of controversy regarding uranium mining near the Grand Canyon.

Uranium mining has a long history in northern Arizona. For over a hundred years it’s created jobs, but has also caused cancer in miners who breathed it or the many Native Americans who drank it after their water became contaminated by it.
In 2011 then Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar proposed a Uranium mining ban in a million acres around the Grand Canyon. It became law in 2012, but it only banned new claims, not existing ones.
That is how it is completely legal for a company called Energy Fuels to re-open and start mining uranium out of Canyon Mine, which was permitted to be mined in 1986.4

It was taken to court, but (surprise, surprise) the white guys won again.  April 8, 2015  Federal Judge OKs Uranium Mining Next to Grand Canyon National Park:

U.S. District Court Judge David Campbell denied a request to halt new uranium mining at the Canyon uranium mine, located only six miles from Grand Canyon National Park’s South Rim. The Havasupai tribe and a coalition of conservation groups had challenged the U.S. Forest Service’s decision to allow Energy Fuels Inc. to reopen the mine without initiating or completing formal tribal consultations and without updating an obsolete federal environmental review dating to 1986. At stake are tribal cultural values, wildlife and endangered species, and the risk of toxic uranium mining waste contaminating the aquifers and streams that sustain the Grand Canyon and Colorado River.5

I hiked down to Supai village, located within Havasu Canyon, think about 1998.  It’s at the bottom of the Grand Canyon.  We chose that hike for the four series of waterfalls (this photo, of Havasu Falls, from an article6).  havasu fallsIt was July but the water temperature was 52 degrees!  Too cold for me, so I just enjoyed the spray from the falls, but my son’s girlfriend, from Canada, dove in without a qualm.  Would hate all of this pristine water to be polluted with uranium!

colorado-river-trailYears before that I had taken a raft down the Grand Canyon, from Lee’s Ferry down to Lake Mead.  (This photo of Colorado River & Trail Expeditions – Day Trips from TripAdvisor)  We “bathed” in the water, we swam in the water (only if we were very hot), we drank the water (out of plastic mugs they gave us which were dark brown inside so that you couldn’t see the color of the river – colorado means red), we brushed our teeth in the river (using those mugs), we made coffee from the water.  One of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World could be contaminated by uranium.

Tucson Community Center

EckbowaterfeatureA while back, when I was doing independent study on landscape architecture, I read Garrett Eckbo’s Landscape for Living.  He was one of the most highly respected and influential American modernist landscape architects, and he designed the landscape at Tucson’s community center.  (Photo credit: fotovitamina, 2012)

This landscape – composed of stepped terraces, undulating water courses, tree groves, and cool shallow pools… faces destruction nearly 40 years after its completion by the very city that once commissioned it.7

Two years ago there was an article in the Arizona Daily Star, Tucson’s public art crumbling from lack of maintenance funds:

Many of the public artworks were installed as part of the city’s 1-percent-for-art program — 1 percent of every capital-improvement project is earmarked for public art. None of the money can be set aside for maintenance because capital money is designated for creating a project and all the funds must be used specifically for that, said Mary Ellen Wooten, public art program manager with the Tucson Pima Arts Council.8

tucson cc
The lack of maintenance has extended to Eckbo’s landscape.  I had just moved to Tucson when the community center was being built.  Do you remember when water crashed about these beautiful boulders in the Fountain Plaza?

A year ago KGUN9 news reported that Group plans renovation for overlooked downtown landscape:

The landscape is already on the list of Arizona historical properties. Now Helen [Erickson of the Tucson Historic Preservation Foundation] is working toward the national register. Rio Nuevo gave the group a matching grant of $25,000 and Erickson says the area is being considered for a future Pima County Bond Election.

For more information about the group planning the renovations, click here. For a look at the conservation master plan for this space, click here.9

With that backstory, we now get to my train of thought, my mention of visiting a CAD class in the last blog2, about the Pima independent study students and the Revit club turning a pointcloud laser scan into a set of Revit (3D CAD) drawings.  That laser scan was done of the community center landscape, and it is being turned into a Revit drawing for presentations of the project that is on this fall’s bond election.

Prop. 427
Music Hall, Leo Rich Theatre, and TCC landscape renovations* – $23.5M
Historic county courthouse restoration/repurposing – $25M
Temple of Music & Art rehab – $.9M
Tucson Children’s Museum remodel/expansion – $5M

*Rio Nuevo is currently in discussions with the city of Tucson on how to fund an additional $48M of suggested renovations to the Tucson Convention Center. (Phase I renovations of $9M to the Tucson Arena and other areas were completed in December, 2014.

Last week I went to another one of those independent study classes, and the group was giving a presentation to Helen Erickson, Steve Grede (landscape architect and CAD department chair at Pima’s downtown campus), another landscape architect  (I should have been taking notes), and two professors from U of A.  All were suitably impressed.  And now that I know what this is all about, so am I.



June 17, 2015

tiny spider 001Tucson isn’t all tarantulas and black widows1.  This week I’ve seen some tiny (1/8“) spiders in my garden – one white, one light green, one light yellow, all beautiful.  My camera isn’t so good at that size closeups, but you get the idea.


I don’t recall ever seeing a spittlebug before, but I knew exactly what it was when I saw it.  According to Wikipedia, they’re froghoppers, capable of jumping many times their height and length, but are:

170px-Spittlebug4383…best known for the nymph stage, which produces a cover of frothed-up plant sap resembling spit; the nymphs are therefore commonly known as spittlebugs…
The froth serves a number of purposes. It hides the nymph from the view of predators and parasites, it insulates against heat and cold, thus providing thermal control and also moisture control; without the froth the insect would quickly dry up. The nymphs pierce plants and suck sap, causing very little damage, much of the filtered fluids go into the production of the froth, which has an acrid taste, deterring predators.

Good News/ Bad News

In a joke, the guy always asks for the bad news first.  No joke, but the bad news was that I got laid off yet again (the last time was from Fluor2, see below), at the end of the spring semester.  STEM (Science, technology, Engineering, and Math) is a big push nationally at this time, as we’re giving foreign STEM graduates green cards3 because not enough of our young people are going into the STEM fields.  The STEM grant that funded my job, and three others, is going for a different letter (S, rather than M) in the fall.

There was only one position under the grant at the campus closest to my home for summer and they chose (surprise, surprise) the only white guy.  It had been suggested that he apply at the campus closest to him, but like Bartleby, the Scrivener (a Dickens character in the book by the same name), he said I’d prefer not to, so I emailed the person in charge of the developmental math program at that campus, and when he didn’t answer, drove up to see him, and got the summer job.  So we two staff instructors are crossing paths as we drive to work each morning, bad for carbon emissions.  Part of the good news is I like the setup at the summer position better.

Then, because of my many certifications with the college (based on previous careers), I emailed heads of relevant departments regarding openings for adjunct instructors for fall semester.  Two disciplines with no openings (writing, math) and two interviews.  I shall be teaching CIS (Computer Information Systems) at the campus south of me one evening a week, and CAD (Computer Aided Drafting) at the downtown campus two mornings a week.  Part of the good news is that I shall be earning, with 8 hours in the classroom a week, a bit more than I earned with 18 hours in the classroom previously.  The caveat is that I have some reviewing to do this summer.  Shall be getting my CIS book next Monday and shall “drop in” (suggested) to a CAD independent study class,  which is turning a pointcloud laser scan into a set of Revit (3D CAD) drawings, held this summer two evenings a week.  (An exciting project.  More about that later.)  And, of course, the 8 hours don’t include preparing lessons, filling out the weekly attendance form, grading, nd so on.  I shall report back.

More Good News

The offer my daughter and her husband made for the second house was accepted.  They shall be moving here in July.  Depending on the closing date, they may be staying with me for a week.  It shall be difficult enough to have (in addition to three kids) two cats (mine and hers) in the same house, so I suggested that they leave the two dogs with his grandparents for the week.

Arizona Education

My SD friend was surprised last year when I told him that Arizona’s contribution to K-12 schools (at $7,208 per student in 2012-13) is third lowest in the nation (with only Utah and Idaho behind us, more than $2K below Arkansas).  He had to google it to verify.  According to NEA rankings for estimated expenses for 2014–154, we have sunk to the bottom, at $7,461, below Utah at $7,711.  (If Utah is at all like Safford, AZ, a Mormon town, education budgets are lower because all of the after-school activities take place at the church, leaving out, of course, non-Mormons.)  That’s too low, even for Arizona, so our Republican governor (who can’t raise taxes, of course), Doug Ducey, proposed Thursday taking $1.8 billion from the State Land Trust Fund for K-12 education in the next five years.5

The trust now has 9.2 million acres, and the current voter-approved formula allows a payout of 2.5 percent of the fund balance annually. Last year, that payout was about $80 million, divided equally among school districts based on enrollment. That comes to about $72 for each of Arizona’s 1.1 million public school students.

Ducey said Thursday that the trust has money to spare.

“We have $5 billion in the bank and up to $70 billion in potential future value,” he said. “We are getting less than $100 million a year for it. We can do better.”

The $1.8 billion over five years would increase the annual per-student payout from the trust to roughly $323 over and above other state educational funding.

Those of you with a calculator would have checked 2.5% x $5B and have come up with $125 M, not $80 M.  Huh?  $1.8 billion over five years would be $360 M a year, which is 7.2% a year (all of this uncompounded).  That’s way too much to take out of a trust fund unless Ducey is taking into account $70 billion in potential future value.  Would you do that to your trust fund (if you are one of the 1%)?  But even if, extra money from the fund would not be available until 2017, leaving my grandchildren not only out of the windfall, as they shall be here for only two years while their father is in training, but with an extra $135 per student cut for fiscal Year 2015-2016. Putting us below the bottom, which I guess is the basement, in education spending.


trumpI heard on the news yesterday that the myriads of Republican candidates for president have been trumped (trump: a suit in card games that outranks all other suits for the duration of a hand).  The Donald has thrown in his hat.  (He never wears one anyway, being proud of his hair.)

2 3/20/09 Fluor Corporation today announced that it has received notification from Kuwait National Petroleum Company to stop work on the utilities and offsites for the al-Zour refinery. Fluor has approximately 300 employees performing engineering work on the project. The remaining contract value of approximately $2.1 billion will be removed from the company’s backlog in the first quarter.
Several lawmakers in parliament have alleged violations, such as handing out a package to US firm Fluor Corp without a tender.
And on another note from the layoff, an old blog that also has a lovely photo of Tucson fog: