Archive for the ‘teaching’ Category

End of the School Year

May 20, 2017

First there was the kindergarten graduation. (My youngest grandchild’s photo here with his proud parents.)  I think this is beyond silly, but that grandson also had a pre-school graduation!  Interesting that they sang about learning the alphabet, while my grandson has read the entire Adventures of Tintin series.  And they counted to ten in Spanish.  He can add three-digit numbers in his head.  My daughter said that’s because he is a competitive third child.

Then the second grade performance, followed the next week by the middle child’s piano recital. (Pictured here with his instructor.)

Next the fifth grade performance  (granddaughter pictured here at the microphone).  They sang about memories from first grade to fifth, nostalgically.



The next day was the elementary school orchestra, band, and chorus performance.  (My granddaughter still plays the violin, although she only practices about 3½ minutes a day.)  Two boys, middle school to high school age, sat to my right, both hunched at a 45° angle over their phones, playing video games the  entire time.  While the orchestra and band (which consisted of one clarinet, no flutes, about a dozen trumpets – with no mutes, a sax, and four drums – imagine the cacophony bouncing around that hard-surfaced room) performed from the floor of the multipurpose room, the chorus sat on bleachers on the stage fidgeting, one with her new Fidget Spinner,  another picking at her toenail, some chatting with each other, and no one sitting up straight.  Luckily all of the girls in dresses were also wearing tights, as they they were all sitting with legs akimbo.  Just more than half of the performers were dressed up (my granddaughter in a pink sparkle dress, a few boys in suits and ties), and the others in ragged T-shirts and jeans.  The jeans that the violin soloist wore had holes in the knees.

Finally the oldest boy’s taekwondo finale.  He is now in training to get this black belt, so he can start sparing.  Free classes in the summer for parents or grandparents.  Actually thinking of doing it again, with a few caveats.  I did mess up my left knee four-and-a-half years ago, demonstrating a taekwondo kick for the boys.1

And I’m finished with my last semester teaching at Pima.  This one burned me out.  A class of students just out of high school, who couldn’t be bothered to attend class or do all of their assignments.   Started with 18, then four dropped, and another four pretty much just stopped coming.  Those who did finish seemed positive about the class, and two of the girls actually hugged me, but that’s it.

Seen Today

Those were not dried grasses my mouse had gathered in the storage shed, they were pieces from my broom that it had chewed off!

On my fence this evening – a rosy finch, a male quail (watching over his family from above) and a pair of lovey doveys.  (Okay – I’ve made an adjective into a noun, but those doves do go at it.)

Drug Cartels

On the radio one morning they were discussing a drug cartel in Hermosa, Mexico and I thought they called it the Golf Cartel, so immediately I pictured the drug lords and their minions in golf attire.  Then I realized that they had said the Gulf Cartel.


Who to Help and Who to Kill

December 31, 2016


Because we adjuncts are so poorly paid at Pima College, I have pretended that I’m getting twice the pay half of the time, and the other half of the time I’m volunteering.  But I continue, even though I meant to completely retire. When the head of the department, at the end of the semester, said that one of the instructors for the Writing Fundamentals class had bowed out, and asked if I would teach another class, I said yes.

senior-transI’ve also decided that I need to help more than my students.  (Did connect on of my students last semester to Helping Hands for Single Moms, which provides scholarships and services for single mom college student families.)  Shall be going through orientation for ICS (Interfaith Community Services) – Helping Seniors and Individuals with Disabilities Stay Safe and Independent, as a Senior Services Driver – providing transportation to doctor’s appointments, the pharmacy, the grocery store, etc.1

I know that it’s more than the transportation, but the companionship. When I had done Christmas at Primavera1, which has a temporary shelter for the homeless south of town, (with my mother and possibly my children – it was years ago), we were asked not only to bring food,  but to sit and listen to their individual stories.

Sure, this is through a church group, and most of you know that I don’t go to church, as I can plainly see that if there is a god, he or she doesn’t micromanage, or we wouldn’t have such horrible natural disasters, wars, diseases, and overpopulation, so prayer does nothing.  But if churches, synagogues, mosques want to help others, I’m all for that.


I believe that I got ripped off.  A few months ago a couple of young people at a table outside Lee Lee International Supermarket were asking for contributions to ChildFund International Guardian Angels.  The brochures were glossy and the pitch sounded legit.  But they said that I had to sign up for at least $30/ month to sponsor a child.  They took my email address to send the receipt, and since then I have gotten at least two junk emails a day for EnhanceMind IQ <>, Military Flashlight <>, Choice Home Warranty <>, and so on.  It took me a while of tossing them into the Junk Email folder to realize that I should Block them.  (Done.)  But after three months I tryied to cancel the money being taken out automatically on my credit card by ChildFund, and hadn’t gotten an answer since my email on December 18, nor a returned call from a message I left (with an actual person) on December 22.  Finally, a chirpy woman called on December 27 to say that yes, they’d cancel but wouldn’t I like to give only $10 a month.  Apparently that had always been a choice, but it was not given to me.  I declined.  Here is a lawyer’s take on the charity:

The ‘Kids Wish Network’… has doled out less than three cents for every dollar contributed over the last ten years. $110 million donated by people thinking they were helping sick kids has gone into their own pockets. Another $4.8 million has gone to the founder and his consulting firms. It’s rather shameless that on their own website they claim 100% of donations to “Kids Wish Network’s Guardian Angel Fund will go directly to supporting our kids through our services and programs.” I sense some lawyerly dissemination there. Do they mean the donations go directly to the kids, or that they go to their companies which operate the charity and ‘support’ kids? That second interpretation is MUCH different from suggesting the money goes straight to the kids and I suspect it’s what is actually going on.

The strange thing is that apparently watchdog groups think a legitimate charity should spend about 35% of donations on direct aid. If you’re good enough to really pick a great name, throw together a great website with a link for donations, and then get some great pictures of sick or hungry kids (remember Sally Struthers and the Child Fund?) you can operate a legal money-making machine on a grand scale. If you keep your overhead low you should have no problems tossing a few dollars here and there to real charitable causes to get close to the 35% guideline and stay off the bad list. I mean, hey – if you bring in $200,000 this year you can spare $50,000 if it goes to a soup kitchen or something. Of course running one of these fake charities really depends on your ability to stomach all that ripping off of well-meaning people who think they are trying to help some dying three-year old kid in Africa. But if you can do that then you are in business.3

Who to Kill

Interesting article: Self-driving cars are already deciding who to kill.4  I thought I had already written about the trolley problem, an ethical conundrum, but I can’t find it in any old blog.  This from Wikipedia:

trolley_problemThe general form of the problem is this: There is a runaway trolley barreling down the railway tracks. Ahead, on the tracks, there are five people tied up and unable to move. The trolley is headed straight for them. You are standing some distance off in the train yard, next to a lever. If you pull this lever, the trolley will switch to a different set of tracks. However, you notice that there is one person on the side track. You have two options: (1) Do nothing, and the trolley kills the five people on the main track. (2) Pull the lever, diverting the trolley onto the side track where it will kill one person. Which is the most ethical choice?

So the programmers of the Autonomous Vehicles have to decide who to kill:

The most well-known issues in AV ethics are trolley problems — moral questions dating back to the era of trolleys that ask whose lives should be sacrificed in an unavoidable crash. For instance, if a person falls onto the road in front of a fast-moving AV, and the car can either swerve into a traffic barrier, potentially killing the passenger, or go straight, potentially killing the pedestrian, what should it do?4


NPR discussed Ring Lardner this morning.  He wrote poems about when each of the boys were born. His wife insisted they name Ring Jr. after himself, so he writes,5

When you are christened Ringworm, by humorists and wits
When people pun about you, till they drive you into fits
When funny folks say ‘Ring, ring off!’ until they make you ill
Remember that your poor old dad tried hard to name you Bill.



January 30, 2014

I’ve rather over-scheduled myself this semester.  As usual, am teaching math part-time at Pima College, exercising at the Y five days a week (Silver Sneakers and qi gong), and am taking a class for fun to exercise those brain muscles.

After have been burned out on the U of A Humanities courses by Utilitarianism, I cast about for a different class.  One of the women in TMA’s CAS (Contemporary Art Society), who teaches art at Pima, suggested I take an art class there.  Normally an instructor can take classes for a pittance, but because I’m on a grant, that largesse does not include me, and I had to pay full tuition for Lost Wax Sculpture Casting.

Introduction to metal casting of sculpture with emphasis on the ceramic shell method of moldmaking, historical and contemporary issues in cast sculpture, and individual artistic expression. Includes major techniques, health and safety issues, verbalization of visual perceptions, project variations, and content.

Making a wax sculpture is hard!  I’ve tried making a clay mold and pouring liquid wax into it, making a ring by heating wax just by body heat, and carving a netsuke (a Japanese small carving of wood or ivory) out of a harder wax.  All look terrible, and I have to have one very small sculpture by next week to cast in bronze for our first project.

Plus I signed up for a one-day class with the Desert Museum, Sandhill Cranes Raptors and Waterfowl, for this Friday. 

Southeastern Arizona’s desert grasslands and agricultural areas are dotted with artificial lakes, ponds and mudflats providing habitat for winter birds, including are least twelve species of raptors and numerous waterfowl (ducks and geese).  Thousands of sandhill cranes migrate from as far away as Alaska to spend the winter near Willcox.  Join us for a spectacular day of discovery as we explore the Willcox area–one of the region’s birding hot spots.

I ordered an inexpensive pair of binocs, shipped in one day, but then got the email that they were being shipped from China!  So won’t have them.  Must practice burst photography, which I’ve never tried with my camera, on flying birds.

Burst or continuous high speed shooting mode allows several photographs to be captured in quick succession. This is used when the subject is in successive motion.

Next month off to the Palm Springs Art Fair and Modernism Show with CAS, and in March volunteering for the Tucson Festival of Books and Music in the Canyon.  But more about those later.


I donated blood last week, as I usually do at the local hospital, but this time got an email thank you:

donationMadison is a first-grader who has suffered from a debilitating disease, anti-NMDA receptor encephalitis, a disease which causes antibodies to attack the part of the brain which controls speech and behavior and can result in personality changes, seizures and other symptoms. She receives blood products to treat her condition.
Madison is nearly fully recovered thanks to the help of blood donors, and she is very grateful. She attended a recent blood drive and provided this note of thanks for donors like you.

I would encourage more of you to donate blood.  Doesn’t hurt much, but helps many people.  The Foothills Mall has a donation center open most days.  Check it out online.


I had an older student in one of my classes last semester, bald, kinda out of shape, out for a few days for cataract surgery.  When I was helping him with a math problem I mentioned something about when I had taught high school.  He asked what school I had taught at, then what years, and I had to fess up.  He then asked what my name had been then, and I knew something was up.  He had been in one of my English classes!  Boy, did I feel ancient.


Finally finished Gore Vidal’s Empire, fourth in the series of seven empirehistorical novels, preceded by Burr, Lincoln, and 1876, all of which I had read.  (They’re all long; this one 486 pages in the paperback.)  I’m obviously not rushing through them – this one was first published in 1987.

Published between 1967 and 2000, they chronicle the history of Vidal’s “American Empire”, from dawn to decay, by interweaving the private stories of two fictional American families with the public stories of historical personages.

Empire, its timeline from 1898 to 1907, weaves the lives of many historical figures (including President McKinley, Theodore Roosevelt, William Jennings Bryan, William and Henry James, William Randolph Hearst, the Astors, the Vanderbilts, and the Whitneys), with fictional characters.  Vidal has researched his characters so well, you’d swear you could hear them talking.  With yellow journalism and the buying of politicians, it shows that not much has changed in that respect.


May 4, 2013

A white-winged dove
on the edge of the bird bath
asked me to fill it.

A roadrunner running across the road with a small lizard in its beak.  A neighbor said that she watched a road runner kill a rattler.  First it unfurled its wings (to confuse the snake?)  Then it grabbed the snake in the middle and shook it until its spine broke.  (Don’t try this at home.)  I had never seen a roadrunner with its wings spread, so, of course, I checked it out on the internet and found this video:  (Just watch the first minute or so.)

Same neighbor said that the woman across the wash from her scatters birdseed, attracting pigeons (which we normally do not have here).  But she said that the bobcats hop onto her roof at night (one-story house) and dine on the pigeons.

wasp 004Tarantula Wasp
A tarantula wasp1 had gotten between the screen and the door.  Took a few photos before I drew back the screen to let it fly out.  Its wings are such a beautiful coral.


My large mesquite has been showering pollen.  A light gold dust on everything.  Maybe that’s what I’m allergic to.  (My eyes are red and itchy.)

I’ve had my May Day luncheon for almost ten years (inspired by one in a Sonoma or Napa wine magazine, exchanging bouquets) and we used to dine on the deck.  Last year and this I’ve had to move the tables may day snowinside.  (Sunday 97°.)  You’d think that the globe was warming up or something…  Then the new shows photos of Cheyenne, Wyoming, which received more than a foot of snow Tuesday night and Wednesday morning!

 A Learning Vacation
There had been an article in the NY Times Travel section a few weeks ago, Professional Conferences Double as Vacation Venues2, which piqued my interest, as I love to learn.  But most of the photos were of Davosyoung things.  Except for one, showing people a bit older.  Turns out it was Christine Lagard, Managing Director of the IMF, and Mark Carney, Governor of the Bank of Canada, at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, a bit above me.

There are several levels of membership: the basic level, which will get you one invitation to Davos, costs about $52,000. The ticket itself is another $19,000, plus tax, bringing the total cost of membership and entrance fee to $71,000.

A friend had already told me about TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design).  These are two of her favorite talks:


One of my College Algebra students pointed out this article about him in the college newspaper, Student’s winding road leads back home3, proud that he started off hopping freight trains at 13, later getting involved with a girl whose mom was selling speed to the Hells Angels, but now hopes his next realities include transferring to the University of Arizona and eventually earning a Ph.D.

My exercise class is a national thing:

The SilverSneakers® Fitness Program is an innovative health, exercise and wellness program helping older adults live healthy, active lifestyles.

Monday a group of Special Needs adults joined us, with their care staff.  Imagine a dozen people with Down’s Syndrome (actually only on man had Down’s Syndrome, but you get the idea) with varying abilities; some could follow instructions, some not.  Some had a range of motions, some not.  A few of us helped the aides.  Made us oldsters look like we could do anything.  Class went a bit slower today, but I’m so glad they’re out and trying.  They’ll join us once a month.




Sexiest Man Alive

November 29, 2012

A while back I quoted The Onion and a friend didn’t realize that The Onion is a satirical news organization and took offense.  Sorry.  Now China has also believed The Onion:

Kim Jong-Un Named The Onion’s Sexiest Man Alive For 2012 didn’t know it was satire and ran it as straight news.  Five days later Beijing’s Guangming Daily website included a shortened article.  The story next made it to the flagship paper of the Communist Party, the People’s Daily, on Tuesday along with a significant upgrade: a 55-photo slideshow of Kim.  Next the story ran on three channels in Chinese and English.

Then The Onion updated their original piece with a link to the People’s Daily and a shout-out: For more coverage on The Onion’s Sexiest Man Alive 2012, Kim Jong-Un, please visit our friends at the People’s Daily in China, a proud Communist subsidiary of The Onion, Inc.  Exemplary reportage, comrades.  (Articles about this abound on the internet.)

Here is the infamous article:

The Onion is proud to announce that North Korean supreme leader Kim Jong-un, 29, has officially been named the newspaper’s Sexiest Man Alive for the year 2012.

With his devastatingly handsome, round face, his boyish charm, and his strong, sturdy frame, this Pyongyang-bred heartthrob is every woman’s dream come true. Blessed with an air of power that masks an unmistakable cute, cuddly side, Kim made this newspaper’s editorial board swoon with his impeccable fashion sense, chic short hairstyle, and, of course, that famous smile.

“He has that rare ability to somehow be completely adorable and completely macho at the same time,” Onion Style and Entertainment editor Marissa Blake-Zweibel said. “And that’s the quality that makes him the sort of man women want, and men want to be. He’s a real hunk with real intensity who also knows how to cut loose and let his hair down.”

Added Blake-Zweibel, “Ri Sol-ju is one lucky lady, that’s for sure!”

With today’s announcement, Kim joins the ranks of The Onion’s prior “Sexiest Man Alive” winners, including:
2011: Bashar al-Assad
2010: Bernie Madoff
2009: Charles and David Koch (co-winners)
2008: Ted Kaczynski
2007: T. Herman Zweibel

The Onion’s commemorative “Sexiest Man Alive” issue will be available on newsstands everywhere this Friday and contains a full 16-page spread on Kim. 1


I broke down and bought a ticket (all of $2) when the take would have been $580M.  Didn’t win.  One more reason I don’t believe that God micromanages.  I wasn’t going to build the largest house since Versailles (ref the movie, The Queen of Versailles).  I didn’t even want five mansions, one complete with a car elevator (ref Romney’s houses2).  True, it wasn’t enough to wipe out disease in Africa (ref The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation which has an endowment of $36.2 billion, and whose grants include The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, and Polio eradication).

I just wanted to teach the kids at my local high school, Cholla, mathematics – no more of this 60% failure rate in Algebra and Geometry3.   Thought to give the school some portables outfitted with classrooms full of workstations complete with computers loaded with Pearson’s MyMathLab, Foundational Studies in Mathematics, the self-paced program I’ve been teaching at Pima College for the past year, which starts with whole numbers, rounding, adding, subtracting, etc, and ends, four semesters later, with logs and exponential functions.  Thirty stations per classroom, and I’d hire two teachers per class, every other one a Spanish speaker.  (Yes – one teacher for every 15 students.)  This would be for all students who got a D or F in Geometry or Algebra the previous year, or students arriving from a feeder middle school with a D or F in math.

Not sure any of this would go through District One and/or the Arizona State Board of Education.  ‘Cause next I would require that students who did not have a computer at home (or those who did but did not do their homework) to stay for two hours after school, or after any sports activity they had.  If it ran through dinner, I’d buy all of the students and teachers (need different teachers at night, or they’d be on a four 10-hour day schedule)  dinner, take-out from a different local restaurant each night, served in the cafeteria.  Then a chauffeured ride home, so they’d feel special.

Lots of ideas to go with that, like giving our Iraq/Afghanistan veterans full scholarships for teaching degrees in math if they pledge to teach at Cholla for at least five years.  (Dealing with these students should be a piece of cake after dealing with al-Qaeda.)  Another is to give all Cholla students a full scholarship if they enroll in an engineering program at a four-year college.

More ideas, as I spent the $580 million, trying to go to sleep at night before the drawing.

Kinesio Tape

Have been going to physical therapy for my knee injury three times a week, and do eight exercises twice a day.  The recently injured knee (minor ACL tear) is much better – hasn’t collapsed in six days – but the other knee, with its old injury (minor meniscus tear + arthritis for which the doc gave me a shot of cortisone) aches more now.  Guess I had been babying it before, and now I do the exercises for both knees.

For the past few sessions, after the requisite exercise bike and exercises (I’m pretty good at the balance ones), they’d wrap an ice-filled pack around the knee, plug it in, and it would do a pulsing massage.  Weird.

Today the therapist attached Kinesio Tape, the tape you saw on many Olympic athletes. (Should have asked for the combined turquoise and pink in the ad; look how great she looks! 4)





Math Hurts

November 11, 2012

Guess my students have been right all along.  Here’s an article about a study, High Anxiety -How Worrying About Math Hurts Your Brain:

The latest research shows that even the thought of arithmetic can trigger a physical reaction that looks a lot like pain in the brain.1

Knee Update

The doc said that I’m not allowed to go to any of my exercise classes until I’ve done a month of physical therapy for my injured knee.  I’ve been walking so carefully so as not to turn my left leg, but yesterday getting into the car I did it again, and that shock, not quite a stab of pain, not quite an electric shock, but a shock to the system my knee is collapsing!

The Confetti has Settled

The election is over in most places – even Florida has tallied its ballots – but all of the votes have yet to be counted in Arizona.  As of Friday:

The hand-picked successor of former Democratic Rep. Gabrielle Giffords pulled slightly ahead of his Republican challenger for the first time Friday as more votes were tallied from the election.

Results posted late in the afternoon [Friday] show Democrat Ron Barber with a lead of nearly 600 votes over Martha McSally in the 2nd Congressional District race.

…more than 631,000 votes statewide remained to be counted in the coming days.

Confetti.  Democrats are a confetti of colors: black, white, Hispanic, Asian, and also male, female, gay, lesbian, transgender, young, old (although the old confetti is winkled and frayed around the edges, from wear.)  I love the mélange.  Just like I love hearing many different languages spoken on the streets of San Francisco.  Cosmopolitan.

On the other hand,

As of 2012, the Republican party is 89 percent white with the majority of their voters 65 and older. 2

The American demographic has changed (yet again – it was originally Native Americans!)  Unless Republicans change, they’ll continue to lose.