Posted in Sunday photos

My photography journey 13Oct19

Many school districts here have fall break. Mine is on a modified year-round schedule: teachers started in mid-July, students started a week later. By the end of September, the first quarter is over, and we get two weeks off.

The Kid’s district has a one-week break that coincided with the second week of mine (same as most districts in our local area).

We took a long weekend and went to Joshua Tree National Park and Knotts Berry Farm. Photos today are from Joshua Tree.

We’ve been to this park quite a few times in the last few years (three of those with The Kid) and it never gets old. Sometimes camping, sometimes just for a day, once climbing, usually scrambling, some hiking, a lot of driving (the park is enormous!). And it’s not very far from here.

We’re planning another trip in the spring.

Anyway, this was my first time there with the Nikon. I didn’t always carry it—scrambling and wearing a camera don’t go well together—but I did get some decent shots. Most of them are of details—I am slower on getting good landscape shots—but it was fun to walk through places we’ve walked before and see it differently.

Which is your favorite?

Posted in about me, socializing

Birthday climbing party

About a month ago, we learned that we can rent the climbing gym for a per-person fee (with a minimum number of people). We agreed that it would be fun but that acquiring enough people would be challenging.

The Climbing Daddy’s birthday was last month and mine is in a few days. We decided to use that as an excuse to attempt a climbing party.

It did not disappoint.

First, having the gym to ourselves was phenomenal.

We hired a friend’s son to be the babysitter for the evening and had games for kids to play, so if parents wanted to come and their kid didn’t want to climb, there was somewhere for them to go and something for them to do.

I didn’t get to climb as much as I thought I might. We had the place for three hours, and I definitely didn’t do even as much climbing as I do when we’re there on a normal day for an hour or so.

Regardless of that, it exceeded expectations.

We were surrounded by friends. And climbing. What could be better?

Several people who hadn’t planned to climb decided to try it (and enjoyed it!), both adults and kids. It was fun to watch people who were wary of climbing all the way up try it, make it—and celebrate with them when they came back down.

I tried to climb up a large overhang and failed twice, but it was fun to try. (It didn’t help that it’s been a couple of weeks since I’ve climbed.)

Several of us agreed: we need to do it again. And I suspect we will.

Posted in education, mindset

Teaching, especially beginners

In the media, and in conversations with believers of said media, you will learn that anyone can be a teacher, that “those who can, do; those who can’t, teach,” that passive learning from a video is the same as learning from a dynamic teacher. Basically, teaching is not a skill.

I’m here to tell you they’re wrong.

Now, there are some people who will learn from whatever you put in front of them. But we can’t make the exceptions the rule. (And typically, this applies to only one type of learning—the same person rarely can learn both book skills and kinesthetic skills from non-interactive instruction.)

There is value in connection. This is true in all parts of life, not just teaching. Why do you think, in certain situations, we’re trained to see people as “other”? It breaks our connection and makes it much easier for the people in charge to pit us against them.

There is value in being able to ask questions. If you went to college, surely there was a difference between a large lecture and a more intimate class. Or — there’s a reason for office hours (beyond asking for a better grade that you didn’t earn).

There is value simply in body language. A large portion of the feedback I get in classes I teach (to any age) is from body language and facial expressions. Sometimes it’s clear right away that what I just said isn’t making it. Or they’ve checked out and whatever I’m saying isn’t being received.

All that said, teaching beginners is a further specialization.

Every skill has technical language that goes with it. If, as the teacher, you aren’t aware of these words (that you’ve been using fluently for years, maybe decades) and define them ahead of time, your students are going to be lost. (Have you ever had a conversation with a person in a different field who isn’t aware of their field-specific acronyms?)

Human brains (again, any age) don’t absorb everything in one pass. It’s going to take more than one explanation of some of that vocabulary before students get it, and longer than that before they’re also fluent. Different students will remember different details first.

Skills need to be broken down into component parts, and those parts need to be offered in a sequence that makes sense.

And flow of information needs to be regulated. Too much too fast and your students are lost. The skills might seem simple to you, but how many years of practice with the skill do you have? Offering way too much information over and over doesn’t help most students to learn. If you’re in a position of being overwhelmed and the same volume of stuff comes at you repeatedly, does that help you to get a handle on it? If yes, it’s because you pick out one or two things from each wave and incorporate just those. Which is what you, as a good teacher, need to do for your students.

This is why people who teach preschool and kindergarten have a harder job than people who teach high school. Sure, we all know the content for preschool and kindergarten (probably?), but we definitely can’t all teach it.

Respect good teaching (whether it’s in a school, in a training, in a workshop—context is irrelevant). Remember that teaching is a skill, it’s something you get better at over time with intentional practice, and no, not anyone can do it equally well.

Posted in mindset

The disintegration of shopping the perimeter

Have you heard the advice to “shop the perimeter” of a grocery store to find the foods that are more likely to be “real food”? That the highly processed stuff tends to be in the aisles (and there are so many aisles!), but produce and the like are around the edges? Seems like good, simple advice.


Due to poor planning, I needed a carrot and a head of garlic. Due to life choices, I live in an area with many grocery stores, though the ones I typically shop at aren’t the closest one. Because the things I needed were available at any grocery store (I think), I went for efficiency.

I’m not sure why this day and not prior, but I was overwhelmed and amazed by how much junk food there was. In the perimeter!

From the front door, I had to walk through the bakery to get to the produce. Front and center was a huge table of pink baked goods, where you can work on cultivating your own cancer for the cure.

Beyond the bakery, on shelves under the produce stands were various candies, chocolate-covered things, etc.

A large display for bulk candy was at the back end of the produce.

The divider between the produce and the aisle next to it was “fruit drinks” and other crap beverages.

And this was the produce section.

Disheartening is a massive understatement.

While we’re all implicit in our own food choices, life in the US certainly makes eating well more difficult than it otherwise could be.

There are grocery stores where this kind of layout is not the case (including the places I normally shop), but mainstream America doesn’t shop at Health Food Stores.

We can do better. We need to do better.

Posted in meandering, motivation

Designers vs. users vs. maintainers

I know this has 8 tons of application in computer/tablet/phone software, but that’s not where I’m going today.

What was this post inspired by?

Hotel bathrooms.

The lead photo is from our bathroom at a hotel we stayed at in California over the weekend. Two bath towels had already been used, so at presentation, there would have been four towels up there. Under the sink, there were two more full sets of towels available.

There were no hooks. Literally zero. Not on the walls, not on the back of the bathroom door, not near the shower, not near the sink. (I feel like this paragraph isn’t too many tweaks away from being Seuss-ish.)

That bar, where the hand towels and washcloths are, was the only place supplied to hang any wet towels.


Are people so gross that they don’t hang up wet towels?

Are people so [I don’t know what adjective] that they pull hooks out of the walls?

While this hotel was worse in this regard than most I’ve stayed at, I think maybe one ever had enough hooks or bars or anything for all the wet towels.

It wasn’t a high-end hotel. Was it just so cheap that they didn’t want to install hooks for wet towels? Did they used to have hooks but over time or with [undescribed] people, the hooks were removed and never replaced? Is it a design or a maintenance issue?

Inquiry minds want to know!