Sunday, October 31, 2010

Rally To Restore Sanity on 10-30-10

We just got back from Washington DC. We attended Jon Stewart's Rally To Restore Sanity, along with 200,000 other people from around America. We tried to squeeze a lot of sightseeting into one day, so the pictures above show some of what we did. We saw The White House, The Washington Monument, The Lincoln Memorial, The Capitol, Ben's Chili Bowl (where the president took the Russian President for lunch...and we ate the world's largest, heart-attack inducing breakfast), and everything in the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum (including the Apollo 11 Columbia Command Module and the Spirit of St. Louis).

The most surreal thing, however, was the "duet" on stage. Cat Stevens (now known as Yusef Islam) sang "Peace Train" while Ozzy Osbourne sang "Crazy Train". The duet/debate was settled by the O Jays singing "Love Train". Amazing!

Sunday, August 29, 2010


Congrats to Aaron Paul for winning the Emmy tonight for his role in Breaking Bad. He deserves it alone for the "I've Got Nothing" speech he gave in one episode of season 3.

If you haven't watched Breaking Bad, seasons 1 and 2 are now on Netflix or fly to your nearest retailer. Be prepared for thought-provoking, original and gritty programming; the best show on TV. It is not for the faint-of-heart or for children.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Please Get Involved

Read the quote at the end of my rant. Unfortunately, it was taken from a fictional TV show. Then, see what you can do to help your local school. Have a kid in school? Then volunteer to help in the classroom or to take projects home (teachers have lots to cut, glue, and grade). And, get your kid to school on time, make him or her attend every day that he isn't sick, and don't pick him up early on Fridays just because it is more convenient. Teachers cannot teach kids who are absent or tardy. If you don't have kid at school, consider helping anyway. And, drop off your old National Geographic magazines or extra art supplies...there is always a teacher in need (we actually spend hundreds of dollars on our classrooms each year because there often is NOT a budget for copy paper or pencils or crayons). It seems so much easier to bitch about how bad the schools are and how teachers are terrible, rather than to proactively get involved. I really, really don't know a bad teacher. I don't know one teacher who doesn't genuinely care. I do, however, know a lot of teachers who have about eight years of college and grad school who are getting paid much, much less than doctors and lawyers with the same number of years in college for their specialties.

Do you realize that our country has made a commitment to educate EVERY child from five to eighteen...for free? Other countries, those who get featured on the evening news and always seem to have better test scores, they don't educate everyone. They track kids who might be successful and them give them an education. They don't offer much to kids who don't show promise early in life. So, when we compare test scores, we are comparing all our kids against a few of theirs who were given a very monitored education in a limited subject area. And, while we are at it, it seems a bit bizarre to me that we expect every kid to be good in every subject every year...and we are willing to blame and fire teachers or withhold raises if their entire class doesn't score highly (and the bar is raised higher every year). Did you know I suck at math? I am great at history, science, language arts, cooking (!), but I wouldn't be able to score higher and higher in every kid going to be good at everything? Were you?

If you want the future to look bleak as hell, then ignore the public school system. If you are realistic, you will realize that the children of this country will be the citizens tomorrow (and will be working with and voting with private school kids and home school kids and anyone else that thinks they can escape public school).

Ok. That is my soapbox speech, and I do feel better now. But...remember to read the quote:

(This is a quote from the TV show "The West Wing'. It was said by one of the secretaries of something or other...played by Rob Lowe).

"Education is the silver bullet. Education is everything. We don't need little changes. We need gigantic revolutionary changes. Schools should be palaces. Competition for the best teachers should be fierce. They should be getting six-figure salaries. Schools should be incredibly expensive for government and absolutely free of charge for its citizens, just like national defense. That is my position. I just haven't figured out how to do it yet."

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

What We Did On Our Summer Vacation, Part entry

The American Museum of Natural History in New York City is the site of the movie "Night At The Museum" with Ben Stiller. So, most people were seeking the talking head from Easter Island (see first picture below). However, we were getting a behind-the-scene tour of the primate fossils from a wonderful intern named Michelle. She and Walt connected through an internet group (they are both "goons") and she generously gave us three hours of her time to see and touch the fossils that take up 10 floors of the museum. Much of what is on display for the public is reproduced...we were actually touching the real stuff. Walt was a bit speechless, which is shocking for those of you who know him well.

We had an amazing opportunity when we met Dr. Andres Giallombardo, who just completed his dissertation on the link between placental mammals and the earlier marsupial and monotremes from the Jurassic period. He had a one-of-a-kind skull of the tiniest mammal you've ever imagined, found in the Gobi Desert. The skull was over 100 million years old. He showed the mandible and surviving tooth and let us view it through the microscope. Amazing. We are so thankful to him and to Michelle for their time...we saw stuff that visitors don't see, and you know how interesting that was for us. Walt will have some interesting power point presentations for his middle school students. By the way, Michelle turns out to be from Moreno Valley, and got interested in science in middle school, so who knows where Walt's presentation will lead...he is teaching the future scientists.

Finally, you will notice shelves and boxes. There are fossils that were recovered over 100 years ago that haven't even been open because there just are not enough researchers to work on them. Can you imagine? One of the people who brought those fossils to the museum is Edward Cope, famed paleontologist. You will see Walt standing at his actual desk. And, you will see Walt reading 1st and 2nd editions of Cope's and Darwin's books from the stacks of the research library. Speaking of books, Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson who heads the Hayden Planetarium was unable to meet with us due to a teaching commitment, but sent his regrets in the form of a signed copy of his book The Pluto Files. Read it, when you get the chance. Dr. Tyson is the main reason Pluto is no longer considered a planet in our solar system, and his writings are an enjoyable reading experience.

This is the end of our photolog from the trip. We enjoyed putting our feet on foreign soil again as we toured two provinces of Eastern Canada. We enjoyed the daunting task of learning Manhattan - a place we cannot wait to return to. We enjoyed beautiful views of the Atlantic sea and the NYC skyline that will hopefully stay with us throughout the next school year when days are stressful, and we learned a lot about primate fossil research (did you know there was an animal that lived in North America that is really half cat and half dog with a long, prehensile tail that allowed it to swing between trees in the forests that used to cover our country?).

What a great getaway. Thanks for reading, looking, and sharing it with us.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

What We Did On Our Summer Vacation, Part 4

First, I have to say that we left our hearts in New York (yes, I know, that is a San Francisco song...but we really loved NYC). We had a WONDERFUL hotel...the Excelsior on W. 81st Street between Columbus and Central Park. We had a room on the top floor facing lower Manhattan, so you can see the pictures taken from our window (in the first picture below, our room is top, to the right, directly under the decorative part of the roof). The Excelsior was located across the street from the American Museum on Natural History, which was Walt's destination, so it was most convenient. The ball you see is the Hayden Planetarium. We spent a lot of time at the museum (that will be featured in the final set of pictures tomorrow), and took taxis downtown to see some sites and to find our favorite British restaurant - Pret A Manger. In the evenings, we walked Central Park to view the robins, the fireflies, and the Native New Yorkers. We also discovered a pizza place that was amazing - just picture a typical New Yorker saying "how ya doin'...watcha want ta eat" in that typical accent. We might never eat pizza in California again. The taste and texture of the Pizza Margherita spoiled us!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

What We Did On Our Summer Vacation, Part 3

Some of these photos might look redundant, but we got up at 4:30 a.m. so we wouldn't miss the trip back into the harbor before docking at 7:00 a.m., showing some of the same shots we took when leaving the harbor 5 days before. The sunrise over the Manhattan skyline was amazing, and we caught the Statue of Liberty in the morning sun...different than the evening pictures we got on the way out. The deck of the ship was virtually empty - why sleep when you can see a view like this? I'm glad we got up early. The fourth photo shows the area where the World Trade Center towers were located. From the ship I could see how vast an area it was, left empty except for the cranes that are still working to clear debris and rebuild. Towards the bottom of the photos you will see the top of the Empire State Building, originally intended to dock Zeppelins when they thought those would be the travel mode of choice in the 1930s. Strong winds put an end to that idea. Finally, you will see a pair of deck chairs. We started our voyage on those chairs, and then returned to the same chairs to view the docking procedures. Most people stayed away from that deck and we enjoyed the relaxing privacy.

These photos are probably more meaningful to us that you, so thanks for letting me share them anyway. The next blog posting will feature photos of NYC.