Saturday, February 13, 2016

Day 26: Victor via Phelp’s Lake, car issues, and really big, black dog.

We started the car and drove down the dirt road when the “low tire pressure” gauge light went on in the car. 

Dammit.

We drove to a gas station and found that the right front was low but not crazy so, and I added air into the tire with hopes that it last past a morning hike.  We continued down Moose-Wilson Road to the Laurence Rockefeller Center and prepared for our ranger-led hike to Phelp’s Lake.  Ranger-led were going to be the norm for the Grand Tetons and Glacier because my wife is terrified of bears.  This creates slow-going trails that don’t usually travel long distances but offer plenty in terms of information. 

The ranger was a seasonal intern who was a college student from Las Crucas, New Mexico.  The hike was only a total of three miles, and the information was primarily history  (John Rockefeller Jr was amazing) and conservation related.  It was a really nice hike except that it took a long, long time to go a mile and a half.  Then why the guide?  A sow and cub were in the area and we liked the idea of the ranger guiding us along.  We walked back to the car, satisfied but desiring more.   

When we got in the car to continue our trek, the tire pressure warning came on again.  We needed to get it looked at.  We headed to Jackson. 

Big O took us in pretty quick and they seemed packed.  We only waited about 40 minutes or so for our tire issue to be fixed and in that time I convinced my wife that the scraping sound I was hearing should be looked at before we made our push into the eastern end of Glacier National Park.  The tire was patched.  The culprit was a small piece of sheet metal.  Then we headed over to Teton Subaru.  It was around 2:30 by this time and we described our situation; we were on a long road trip, there was a sound that was odd, it shouldn’t happen in a 2015 vehicle.  They agreed and the a technician took it out for a test drive.  My wife called Subaru and we got our warranty straightened out.  Our warranty paid for rental car and hotel (if necessary) on a trip so the only question was what was wrong and how do we fix it.  The technician came back from the test drive and said he’d heard nothing.  At this point I was quite annoyed but they put the car up on the lifts, a man in the drivers seat pressed the gas, and as the wheels turned a technician immediately snapped his head toward the driver rear tire.  The man put something akin to a stethoscope on the wheel assembly and immediately announced, “Wheel bearing.”

At this point Teton Motors and Subaru became awesome.  The service department didn’t have a wheel bearing there (who would have a bearing for a 2015) but had it overnighted from Colorado, and they would begin work on it in tomorrow morning.  Subaru said that they would pay for the overnight shipping cost, the part (covered under warranty), and the rental car if the service was going to take long tomorrow.  The only problem was if the part would arrive in time.

We headed back over the pass to Victor (the technician said driving the car was fine) and decided to take a walk up the dirt road the lodge was on to a series of trails that ran around Moose Creek.  Once again a mother black bear and a cub had been sighted in the area about four days ago but we felt secure in that there were homes on the road, some traffic, and bear spray in our hands.  We weren’t even considering really running into a bear until we walked about a half mile down the road and my wife pointed about 30 yards ahead proclaiming “Hey, that’s a really big black dog.”  The black bear seemed to be munching on a bush on the left side of the road when it looked up at us and bolted across the road into the brush.  We walked back down the opposite direction to get some mileage in and eventually back to the cabin; my wife shaken up and I elated that we had our first bear encounter.            

We’ll be at Teton Motors at 7:30 tomorrow with bells on, and hopefully we can get the car fixed and get some hiking in as well.

Trails hiked:  Phelps Lake, cabin road

Miles hiked:  4.25

Sunday, February 07, 2016

Do you feel this?

Young teachers are often shown this during their first years of teaching:

Parts of this are still a part of a regular teachers’ year long process in my opinion; minus the survival part becaue at this point there shouldn’t be a survival mode.  But this is usually the point of the year were I’m tired and I become extra annoyed at all the little idiocies that are a part of education.  My guess is that the drag of the holidays mixed with the end of basketball season sprinkled with the continued existance of a Winter season all contribute to my dreary mood. 

My guess is that the end of the season will perk up my spirits when I’m not tired all the time from game nights.  Increased sun might do the trick too.  I’m noticing that since our forays into the desert Southwest that I’ve been craving more sunshine and warm temperatures.  I’ve always used to be the kind that loved a good rain and fog.  Now I’m good for a couple of weeks and I want my sun back. 

Anyone else on this track or is it just me? 

Sunday, January 17, 2016

A sexual harrassment charge; what do?

Believe it or not I was taught about teacher versus student sexual harrassment in college.  Yep.  The credential program.  We had classes that actually navigate potential interactions with students that could get you in trouble.  For instance; we had a situation were a student of the opposite sex might be flirting with a teacher.  What do?  Some credential students got too loose and sarcastic with the situation and were immediately told that this was not something to mess with.  Sexual harrassment charges, especially with male teachers, were a real danger. 

The number one piece of advice we recieved was preventative.  Make yourself as open as possible within your classroom and if there was any semblance of flirtation, slam the door on it.  I have taken that advice very seriously.  I have two doors in my classroom; one that leads outside and one that leads to a middle common area.  If a female student is in my classroom for any extended time frame the inner door is opened immediately.  No questions asked, no big deal, I just do it.  Colleagues are consistantly mingling in the common area along with students and often the doors of other classrooms are open.  It’s my safety valve and it is perfectly legitimate.  If a female student is going to be in my classroom after school for make-up work I’ll actually go to another teacher and tell them that a female student is in my room and they are doing whatever. 

No, I’m not kidding.  And not one time has one of my colleagues laughed, smirked, jeered, or felt that my statement was foolish in any way.  We are in a society were teachers are under a microscope and have little social leverage when an accusation is made. 

I bring this all up because there is an issue within our district that has now garnered some attention.   I know as much as the average person reading the newspaper so you’ll get no quotes about the issue from here.  But I was asked by a colleague what I would do if a student had falsely accused me of sexual harrassment.  My answer?

I would warn the student and the family of the student that since the accusation attempts to destroy my livelihood and means of income that I would sue them for defemation.  I would tell them that my lawsuit would involve taking their home, their monetary assests, their child’s tuition money, and every other thing they own.  You might see that as harsh.  I see the attempted destruction of a teacher’s career as harsh and yet society has become programed in the absolutism of the words out of the mouth of a child.  Take a look at parent/teacher interations and the attitude is now “believe the child and trust no one else”, something that wasn’t really that status quo years ago.

I have no idea what is going on within our district in this case.  Zero.  All I know is that if someone were to lie about taking away my love of teaching on a vendetta or a prank or a lie, they would pay for it.       

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Day 25: Victor via Grand Teton National Park

We got up late, lounged around the cabin and did laundry and left for the Tetons with no intention to hike.  We wanted to drive the park, be mellow, have a picnic at Jenny Lake, and have a lazy day with no real activity.  Basically we wanted to sniff out Grand Teton National Park for tomorrow.  Don’t ask why we decided to do this.  The mood just seemed right.  

We drove over Teton Pass and headed into the little town of Wilson and decided to take an alternate road to the park.  We turned onto Moose-Wilson Road to take the “back way” into Grand Tetons and ran right into…..a moose. 

Yeah, side of the road, just eating whatever and within arms length of my wife.  I was trying to figure how to enjoy the view without scaring the moose while maintaining the structure of my car.  The moose was large.  When the moose crossed in front of my car to cross the road I kept repeating “please don’t hit my car, please don’t hit my car” because the moose will win.  We eventually got passed the moose and into the Tetons. 

We hit the Rockefeller Preserve portion of the park and promptly set up a hike for early the next morning for Phelps Lake.  Then we head to the Moose Visitor’s Center and started planning our routes for tomorrow.  We drove down to Jenny Lake and had a picnic on the shores of the beautiful location, looking straight up into what is considered one of the most beautiful hikes around; Cascade Canyon.  Cascade Canyon has been a bucket list hike for me but right now there are no ranger-led hikes into the canyon and my wife is very bear concerned in the Tetons, Yellowstone, and Glacier.  There is a very slim chance that I can convince her that we can tag along with a group but I think Cascade will have to wait for another year.  That’s ok, something to look forward to.

We headed back down Moose-Wilson Road, stopped a bit to see a female moose grazing in a pond, and then drove over the pass and back to the cabin.

And the kids.

I have no idea why I feel guilty because having a couple of beers isn’t illegal in the United States.  And it isn’t like the family is telling me off in the slightest.  But, man, I’m getting a strong sense that I’m the one out of whack for drinking my Fat Tire in front of Mormon family reunion.  By the way, I know this is a family reunion because when I went to the office to check on a bear sighting the manager asked if I was with the reunion or the wedding party for tomorrow (wonderful), and I’m going to solidify my thesis that it’s a Mormon family reunion because of the big BYU banner that is now flying in front of one of the trailers that’s as big as our cabin. 

Meh.  Again the religion doesn’t bother me.  The amount of kids running around this cabin area is another issue.

Friday, January 01, 2016

Day 24: Vernal, Utah to Victor, Idaho

Right now a large, I’m thinking Mormon, family reunion is watching me creating this blog post.  Why Mormon? 

Women are modestly dressed.

There are a million kids here.

They got together and prayed before their meal.

BYU flags  are everywhere.

And it is 6:30 p.m. on a Sunday afternoon and there is not one drop of alcohol anywhere in this entire area, except next to me.  My glass of wine might be it.

I doesn’t really matter that they are Mormon.  Personally I could care less.  What does matter is that we arrived on the pretense that we would have a secluded cabin near Moose Creek with the sound of the wind in the trees and the babble of the water.  We have a family reunion here instead.  Some of them looking over here and shaking their heads, probably the fact that I’m using a laptop while sitting on my concrete porch of the western side of the Tetons.  Funny, I want to shake my head back as if to say, “You all shouldn’t be here.  This many people shouldn’t be here.”  Oh well.

It’s just been a real annoying day for children.  Last night the Vernal Townplace Suites back in Utah was overrun by Babe Ruth Under 11 Little Leaguers, caravans of painted up cars celebrating Western Region All-Stars from one area or another.  The night was spent listening to parents drink beers in the parking lot while their kids roamed the hotel late into the evening.  Then this morning those parents were nowhere to be seen as kids played morning soccer in the hallways and made a complete mess of the continental breakfast.  I wanted to taser the kids and punch the parents. 

But we left for the mountains by heading north out of Vernal with  happy realization that the word “cabins” usually meant solitude.  Canyon country continued north of Vernal, solidifying that Utah might be the most beautiful state in the entire country.  The last piece of beauty was Fiery Gorge National Recreation Area, a man-made lake that was surround by gorgeous geography and a bright blue sky.  We crossed into the flats of Wyoming……and stopped.  About thirty miles south of Rock Springs traffic was dead in the road and people were milling about watching the flashing lights of police down Highway 191.  There had apparently been an accident involving multiple motorcycles.  The Life Flight helicopter, the tow truck, and the investigation closed the road for well over an hour.  We walked around, talked with families from Salt Lake City and Fresno, and resigned ourselves to the fact that there was really no turning around when you were in scrubland of Wyoming.  We did finish Gone Girl, our second audio book, and we agreed that Amy Elliott Dunn was in fact a sociopath. 

Central Wyoming north of Highway 80 sucks.  Hours of nothing until the Tetons and then the temperature drops, the moose crossing signs appear, and the mountains and streams fill our visions.  We were ecstatic to be in this new country and we were so excited when we pulled into Moose Creek Ranch.

Now I have a bunch of people looking over at me and I’m wanting a refund.    

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Let’s welcome new education laws in California!

While you’re kissing a complete stranger at midnight on January 1, 2016 there are some new laws that will go into effect for us educational folk here in California.  Shall we take a look?

Mandatory Vaccines (SB 277) Requires full vaccination for most children to enroll in school, beginning with the 2016-2017 school year, in order to attend public or private school regardless of their parents' personal or religious beliefs.

I’ve always thought that parents that don’t vaccinate their children are pretty much on par with bath salt dealers and ISIS.  They not only present a danger for their own children, they present a danger for society as a whole because they won’t remove the tin foil from their head to get the facts about immunization.  I’m a little safer thanks to this law.

High School Exit Exam (SB 172, Liu) Suspends the administration of the high school exit examination and removes the high school exit examination as a condition of receiving a diploma of graduation for each pupil completing grade 12 for specified school years.

YOU GET A DIPLOMA….AND YOU GET A DIPLOMA….AND YOU GET A DIPLOMA!

Good news for those that didn’t quite earn a diploma but managed to get an education that is somewhere below the level of eighth grade.  If you passed high school with good enough grades, and you graduated between 2004 and 2015, you will be getting a diploma.

Even if you failed the California High School Exit Exam.

There are three positive things that came out of the era of the mess that was No Child Left Behind. 

1)  The term “the soft bigotry of low expectations.”  This was important because it is true.

2)  The use of data showed that we are totally underperforming to our Black and Latino students.

3)  A minimum skills assessment to graduate high school.

The Exit Exam (nicknamed CAHSEE) was the bane of the existence to many teachers mainly because it was ANOTHER test to be given to students on top of the STAR test which measured the No Child Left Behind nonsense, and currently Common Core.  With the test contract expired, California decided to stop offering the Exit Exam (wanting to mix it with Common Core later) but was left in limbo because a lot of students that had graduated yet were still allowed to take it…now couldn’t.  So they suspended it……back to 2004.  This means that every student that didn’t pass a basic skills exam that any eighth grader should pass will now be given a diploma.  Why?  Probably because the test was racist, sexist, and discriminated against those in poverty because that’s a great way to bail out an education system that allowed students to take the Exit Exam once in 10th grade, twice in 11th grade, and up to five times as a Senior in high school.  Oh, and the English section requires a 60% to pass.  The Math?  A 55%.

Trying to meld it into Common Core is a great idea.  Simply granting a waiver to a decades worth of students shows that the government doesn’t really have confidence in its teachers at all.  With a small margin of error, about 10% of high school students could not pass the CAHSEE.  10%.  And those were disproportionately Latino and Black students.  But while the data shows that schools, parents, and communities have have along way to go in meeting the needs of these populations, Senate Bill 172 gives the whole thing a “meh, it’s good enough” approach.  The same approach that has plagued the system for a long, long time. 

Sex Ed Instruction (AB 329, Weber) Changes sexual education courses from voluntary to mandatory. Updates curricula to include, for example, more information about HIV and the spectrum of gender identity. Parents will need to specifically opt-out​ their children if they do not want them to receive the instruction. 

Mandatory sexual education courses are a good thing.  I remember when it was controversial to talk about HIV in 1991 in high school and I’m embarressed that it was even a thing.  Gender identity?  I have many feelings on the issue of gender identity, most of it revolving around the mantra of “I could give a shit.”  I always find it interesting and hypocritical about how most of society in all spectrums treats the issue of gender.  But gender identity taught in schools will probably cause enough controversey to remain entertaining, so be it.

Gun-Free School Zone (SB 707, Wolk) Persons with concealed weapons permits will no longer be allowed to carry a concealed weapon on public or private K-12 schools, universities or colleges. There are exemptions for certain appointed peace officers who are authorized to carry a firearm by their appointing agency and certain retired reserve peace officers who are authorized to carry a concealed or loaded firearm.

Police officers should carry guns on campus.  No one else should.  Those morons that believe that more guns create a safer environment that deters crime have no evidence that backs that up and are fools.

“Yes means yes” (SB 695): Teaching students about consent will now be included in high school health education classes. This law requires schools districts to include in their health classes, which are mandatory for graduation, lessons on the importance of consent for sexual acts, or that “yes means yes.”

This is disaster written all over it.  Just so I’m absolutely clear, we are going to tell high school teachers that teach health education, from dedicated health specialists to the 30 year veteren PE teacher that has to teach it and resents the hell out of it (and every spectrum in-between) that THEY are going to explain what consent is?  Oh this is gold.  Don’t get me wrong, I think the issue of consent should be discussed.  But this just has the potential of being a total and complete mess.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Day 23: Dinosaur National Monument

The day changed because of weather.  It looked like it might storm early on so we hustled the 35 miles out to the Canyon section (the east side) of Dinosaur that was actually back in Colorado.  After talking to the rangers in the Visitor’s Center we drove the 30 miles north to the actual park and started the hike at the end of the road; the Harper’s Corner hike.  The hike would take us out along a ridge about a mile and a half out to a point overlooking the Echo Park and the Green River.  The weather was not looking great but the drive was long and we wanted to get walking.  We grabbed a bottle of water and headed out.

We broke our own rules.  About a mile into the hike we heard our first thunder and the rain started.  Shit.  It sounded far off so we half jogged out to the point.  This is not what you are supposed to do, especially on an exposed ridge or a canyon point.  When we hit the overlook we were in a steady rain with a decent wind, and we could see the storm cell coming up the canyon. 

Not good.  And not smart to be here.

For the record, we have to come back here.  The views were great regardless of the rain and wind.  The Canyon section of Dinosaur is already on our list for a future trip and guess what; the views of Dinosaur to the south are as good as any that we have seen on our trip.  It’s out there but it’s so worth it.

Except that now the thunder was sounding sharp. 

We jogged back to the car and made it without incident, although we were not happy with ourselves because the trip back was fairly stressful.  We worked our way back down the Harper Canyon Road but couldn’t really stop because the wind and rain didn’t really let us out of the car.  By the time we reached Highway 40, the rain (of course) had stopped.  Instead of going back we decided to hit the western section of Dinosaur National Park.  This was the location of the famous dinosaur quarry. 

We headed back into Utah to the Quarry section of Dinosaur and first hit a couple of small hikes.  We walked two box canyons and started a canyon hike until we heard the thunder.  We went back to the Visitor’s Center and took a small tram to the dinosaur quarry.  You can either take the tram up or walk up.  We decided to take the tram up and walk down.  It was only about a mile and half.  The quarry is very interesting; a half excavated rock quarry of dinosaur bones that has been encased in a large building.  It looks unreal, meaning it looks really, really cool….if you are a child.  For adults?  Meh.  It’s neat for a little while but the fossils are petrified and only one really looks like the structure of a small dinosaur.  The rest are independent bones except for a couple of skeletons in a small glass case.  It was nice but we probably won’t be returning to this side of the park.  We walked done the hill from the quarry, watching the clouds move in and the seemingly ever present sound of thunder in the distance.  We stopped in a couple of locations to see fossils in the rock but eventually moved expediently back to the car, and headed back to Vernal.   

This was a quick trip to Dinosaur and we didn’t realize that it could be so big.  There is a strong chance we will be returning to hit the east Canyon section for a visit to Echo Park in the near future.  It’s just too awesome to pass up.

Trails Hiked:  Harper’s Corner Trail, Plug Hat Trail, Box Canyon, Hog Canyon, Fossil Discovery Trail

Miles Hiked:  5