Decalogue For a Reader

I appreciated this post. I was particularly amused by number eight.
JC

Attenti al Lupo

  1. You have the right to read                               oldbooks
  2. You have the right to read whatever you want
  3. You have the right to stop reading a bad book
  4. You have the right to stop reading a good book
  5. You have the right not to like a famous book
  6. You have the right not to like any book
  7. You have the right to reread the same book
  8. You have the right to be bored by Moby-Dick
  9. You have the right to not understand a book
  10. You have the right to read sitting on the toilet

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HarsH ReaLiTy Challenge – Got an Opinion?

One of the blogs I follow has issued this opportunity for reblogging opinion posts. Read his post and see if you want to take up the challenge.
JC

school district election day

Today, across New York State, voters are heading to the polls for school district elections. For some reason I have never been able to ascertain, school budgets are the only ones that are voted on directly in New York. Unfortunately, sometimes this means that school budgets fail as a general statement against taxes, forcing second votes on revised budgets or austerity budgets that cut all extracurriculars and all-but-bare-bones transportation.

This year, there has been an unusual amount of advertising to pass the school budget. I think it is to convince people not to use the budget vote as an opportunity to take out their frustration with the contentious rollout of common core standards in the state. For the record, I no longer have school-aged children in my household, so I haven’t experienced common core directly in my family. I do support the concept of common core, to cover fewer topics in a school year, but in greater depth, in contrast to the current trend toward a mile wide but an inch deep approach. New York State’s curriculum has long been infected with survey-itis. For example, in the social studies curriculum, a survey of US history is taught in fifth grade, again as a two-year sequence in seventh and eighth grades, and then again as a one year Regents course in high school, locally usually taken in 11th grade. Because so much time is devoted to rushing through large amounts of material, there isn’t time to engage in in-depth analysis of any time period or theme. When I was in high school in Massachusetts several decades ago, we had options for semester-long US history courses in Civil War and Reconstruction, Minorities in America, Presidential Greatness, or several other options. Already expected to have an overview of our country’s history, we were able to develop deeper understanding of the hows and whys of history, which also helped to inform our lives as active citizens.

The upset over the implementation of common core seems to mirror two statewide changes that happened during my children’s school careers, the ending of local high school diplomas in favor of more rigorous Regents diplomas for all graduates and reform of state-wide tests in fourth and eighth grades and high school Regent exams. It also mirrors the transition to a new high school honors program on the local level. The root of the problems with all these changes was not that the final goals, but the transition itself, in which students are tested in the new framework without the benefit of the years of preparatory study that is in place when the transition is complete, resulting in lower test scores as these students catch up to the new standards. It seems that the same mechanism is happening with the transition to common core.

The other oddity of this election locally is that we have eight candidates running for four board of education seats. Given that candidates often run unopposed or with only one more candidate than seats available, this year is a hot contest. Even more unusual, there is a group of four being presented almost as a slate, advertised together in mailings, on yard signs, and in hand-delivered fliers, and endorsed by the local teachers’ union.

Voting is from 12-9 PM today at the local elementary schools. It will be interesting to see how this all turns out.

UPDATE:  The budget passed by a wide margin. All four of the candidates endorsed by the teachers’ union were elected; the two incumbents who were running for re-election got only 50-60% of the voting totals of the successful candidates.

WordPress Meet and Greet #3 – All Bloggers Welcome

OM is hosting another opportunity for bloggers, authors, photographers, etc. to post their links and a blurb to go with it in the comments of this thread. Check it out! You may find some new blogs to follow and get some new reads or follows for your own work.

HarsH ReaLiTy

Well this is the third post I have done like this so far and I have seen some great connections. I’ll keep doing these off and on and I think they provide a great way for “active bloggers” to network.

All bloggers are welcome to use this post as a “Self-Promotion” thread for their blog, projects, causes, writing, books, eBooks, food, fashion, or whatever you are into. You may post links, book covers, or whatever you like and feel free to revisit and leave a new comment as this thread will quickly fill up. I’ll leave this post as a sticky through May.

Hopefully some authors, photographers, painters, writers, and bloggers will take the opportunity to push their work. Please keep promotional comments on the posts dedicated for that purpose.

Feel free and re-blog or share this post. Thanks!

-OM

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Safely home

We made it back safely from Hawai’i. Now, I have to attempt catching up on two weeks’ worth of mail, chores, appointments, etc. This is not fascinating stuff but will probably keep me from posting much in the next week or so. I’m hoping by the time I post again, there will be something interesting rather than mundane that is Top of JC’s Mind.

Hawai’i and Climate Change

Hawai’i is the inhabited place that is most distant from any other inhabited place in the world. Because of its isolation, Hawai’i is home to more endemic species than anywhere else on earth. Endemic means that a species is found just in that one area and nowhere else on earth. In such a remote location in the middle of the Pacific, one is tempted to think that climate change won’t affect the islands, but that is a mistake. There is a reason that climate change often appears with the adjective “global” in front of it.

The ecosystems and microclimates of Hawai’i are already complicated, due to topography. There are dry leeward sides and wet windward sides. The height of some of the volcanoes creates an alpine ecosystem. The peak of Kaua’i is the wettest place on earth, averaging over 450 inches of rain a year, yet other areas are deserts. There are tropical, temperate, and dryland forests.

Yet, even here, the climate is changing noticeably. The trade winds are what keeps Hawai’i from being as hot and humid as one would expect at this latitude, yet more and more often the trade winds stop blowing. This creates longer periods of hot, humid weather, even when it isn’t summer. Most of our time in Honolulu, there was a heat wave, despite it being early May. The trades dying down exacerbates vog, which is smog caused by volcanic ash. Given that Kilauea has been erupting continuously, the airborne ash can travel to other islands and create air quality problems for them. When the trade winds die down, the ash levels build up and people with breathing difficulties suffer.

The native Hawaiians named only two seasons, the rainy season and the hot season. In our current terms, the rainy season was late fall through early spring, but, as we see in other parts of the world, weather tends to be more extreme, so the wet season tends to be wetter and longer, with more possibilities of thunderstorms, which had been very rare. Meanwhile, the hot season is hotter and can get much more humid when the trade winds die down, which is happening much more frequently than in the past.

The increased dryness of the dry ecosystems makes them more vulnerable to drought. When we were on the leeward side of the Big Island, there were many signs warning of extreme fire danger. Wildfire is especially dangerous in Hawai’i because the plants evolved there without that threat, so they are not adapted to survive or re-populate after it. The problem is made worse by invasive species, such as fountain grass which grows on relatively fresh lava flows, making them useless as natural fire breaks. When we visited Ka’upulehu , Wilds was telling us about some of the problems that climate change is causing for them in their mission to restore a native dryland forest, one of which was the need to maintain fire breaks around the perimeter to protect the native plants.

The people of Hawai’i are working to reduce their carbon footprint to help fight climate change. There are many more electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles here, along with public charging stations. Rooftop solar photovoltaics and hot water are common. There is a light rail system being built in Honolulu to alleviate wasted time and fuel on the highway. There is some utilization of geothermal power, as well.

I have already been trying to do my part to combat climate change and this trip makes those efforts seem that much more important. I hope you will join me in work toward energy efficiency and renewable energy for the sake of extraordinarily beautiful Hawai’i and the rest of the world.

 

 

Diamond Head and Dole

We all got up early this morning to arrive at the beginning of the Diamond Head trail around 6:30. We chose today to climb because the trade winds have finally returned, ending several days of hot. muggy weather. We were all equipped with our sturdy shoes and water bottles and a couple of cameras. The trail is eight tenths of a mile and includes a number of switchbacks, a short tunnel, and several flights of stairs, for when the slope is too steep to manage any other way. There are several lookout points along the way for taking photographs and – more importantly for me – resting a bit before the next uphill segment.

There are two routes to the summit; we choose the less stair-intensive one, which approaches the old civil defense post/observation lookout from outside. The view from the top really is worth the climb! Looking inland, we could see Manoa Valley, where the University is, and Kaimuki, the neighborhood in which my daughter and son-in-law live. Along the coast we could see Waikiki Beach, with all of its attendant hotels and stores and Kapiolani Park beside it. We could see Diamond Head Lighthouse further along the coast. And, of course, we saw a great expanse of the Pacific – white lines of breaking waves near shore and deep blue waters beyond with an occasional ship heading to or away from port.

We descended by going through the old civil defense structure, which involves descending a spiral staircase and passing through a concrete structure to reach a very long, steep flight of outdoor stairs. We were glad we had decided to take the alternate route up, as descending the stairs was less daunting than the prospect of climbing them. The descent was a bit quicker than the ascent, although we had to be even more careful with our footing. The rock path was often slippery, as there was a thin layer of dirt that had been transformed into mud by the rain the night before. Still, the front that brought the rain had brought the cooler, drier air that made the climb doable for me, so it was a fair trade.

We rewarded ourselves for all our hiking with a nice breakfast at one of Beth and Larry’s favorite neighborhood restaurants. We had eaten an early breakfast before our hike, but banana pancakes with coconut syrup were certainly tasty for second breakfast.

We headed to the leeward side of the island to go to the (very commercial) Dole plantation. It was the original site where Mr. Dole started growing pineapples, which grew to more and more acreage, a huge cannery in Honolulu, and lots more acreage on Lana’i, before contracting to a much smaller footprint in the Islands. The treatment of workers was glossed over in the signs and presentations, as one would expect from a company-run enterprise. We did get to see how pineapples are grown, plus bananas, cacao, coffee, and other plantings. We all had a delicious Dole Whip treat. Dole Whip is pineapple soft-serve, with the bonus of being lactose-free. I had mine as a float with pineapple juice. Yum!