Wednesday, February 9, 2005

My truck window this morning, as the sun topped the mountains to the east. Nice color and beautiful crystals.

Monday, February 7, 2005

We’ve been hearing word that snow was returning to our valley for half a week now, and true to the meteorologist’s word, it snowed right on cue overnight.

I was riding my bike around in my shirtsleeves yesterday, feeling for the change in the weather with my bare arms and sniffing for it with my nose. I didn’t perceive any great change.

Usually when there’s a big storm coming in around here, the wind starts howling from the south, raising temperatures and bringing all sorts of new air and scents. Not so, yesterday. The sun was hidden behind some high clouds and the air still, nothing foretold any big change.

The day was cool and the atmosphere unmoving clear into the evening as the light faded to a purple dusk. And just before I went to bed, it was just the same.

I looked up at the starless sky, still somewhat incredulous, sniffed for some shift in the humidity or scent, and traipsed off to bed with my mistrust of weathermen intact and a slow shake of my head at the continued attention I give to their predictions.

But as dawn filtered through the my window this morning, I could sense a difference in the direction light was coming into the room and knew the prediction of snow had been correct after all. I brushed the curtain aside to see new snow covering everything in an unbroken drape, as low, dark clouds foreshadowed more of the same before long.

Sometimes prediction doesn’t match what we see evidenced in the weeks, days, hours or even moments before something awaited comes to pass. The sum of one’s own experience isn’t always a reliable predictor of what’s to happen.

After all, we never really know what’s going to be, no matter how much information or observation is available to us. We experience what each new day brings, regardless of expectations. That's what I keep reminding myself, at least.

Thursday, February 3, 2005

It was a warm and hazy day yesterday, with plenty to keep one busy at work and at home. But when someone says "Let's ride out and fish", one ought to do what one needs to do, and that's ride.

Ryan and I got to Thistle Creek at around 4:45, and there was already a truck from Utah County in our spot. That usually produces a groan from me and a request to keep driving from Ryan, but there was nowhere else as good anywhere near, and besides, there had to be enough room for all on the accessable half-mile ribbon of water.

And there was; Ryan had a good day with his wooly bugger/brown midge rig, with numerous hits and at least four out of the water. I tried the same with a purple midge and had two hits, and those might have been snags for all I know. As I pulled my tangled line from the edgewater as the light got too faint to see my cast, I walked over to Ryan with one comment that I could make with confidence, "God was here." That's about it. I wasn't on, and Ryan was, but either way, the stream flowed well.

We were more than halfway to Sportsman's Warehouse, so we flashed up to the south end of Provee to get another tying vise for my fly tying unit in Arts & Humanities at the school. Good grief, but flys were on sale for 79 cents, so we got 'em along with the vise and an extra set of hackle pliers and headed over to Diego's Taqueria for del Pastores before heading back.

And boy, were they good.

But while we ate, there was the matter of this guy with a tie on the corner teevee who talked and talked for people who clapped and clapped. He said our dear soldiers valiantly resisting people who were fighting against democracy in Iraq, which might be the end result, but not the real intent of those people. I only know of people over there, right or wrong, who are for the most part fighting against what they percieve as foreign occupation. I don't really know about anyone fighting against democracy perse, but I have heard of people fighting, again rightfully or not, a religious war against what they see as crusaders from a long history of meddling foreign powers. I heard this guy talk about Americans fighting in Iraq to protect Mom back home, but all I know about is people who are embroiled in difficult situation that might have been avoided had they come home quite a while back, really serving the Iraqi people to bring some sort of rational government, not really protecting Mom by anything but a real stretch of the imagination. I saw audience plants cued as emotional propaganda. This powerful man kept speaking hyperbole about this and that, speaking in absolutes when at the best, conjecture is what I heard. All the man did was hype proposals when the revered title of his speech was simply put as "The State of the Union."

He followed us into the truck on the pre-tuned radio until I asked Ryan if it would be alright if I switched to the iPod.

So, the iPod took us all the way back, to home and hearth and fresh baked cookies, thanks to some who indeed fought or stood to preserve our freedom, not vagaries or euphemism or political agendas, though not to diminish those sacrifices, at all.

Eh. It's just that some plain truth instead of marketing propaganda in public discourse would be nice. In no way does it lessen the honor or sacrifice of those striving and at times, dying, for change.

Wednesday, February 2, 2005

I was just walking in the hall and saw a dustdevil a-whirling outside the window. What else was there to do but run outside and jump in?

I highly suggest the experiencs, just make sure there aren't any really big objects blowing around. Leaves only make the experience better, though.
A desire to study and understand multicultural literature is something that must come from individual attention and careful, individual tailoring. Perhaps I am a grumpy old voice of counterpoint, but I believe that, while having a tremendous merit in its own right, the push for multicultural studies results from an undercurrent of malcontent. People in positions of authority tend to respond to loud voices, those who are unhappy or bored with status quo and don't see what they view as their own self-interest being served. Hence, the focus upon "other" cultures and viewpoints.

Around me are the stories of American Indians, Africans, African-Americans, Women's Lit, people of the Indian, Jewish, Mexican, Polynesian and Central American diasporas, the Wiccan tradition and many more. Each has a different agenda and point of view to share, and each is valid in its own right.

Unfortunately, some get more rights and institutional backing for academic and media focus. That is when I get frustrated and notice the viewpoints that get shuttled to the rear, or rarely get any notice at all.

Each teacher has a responsibility to look into the past of each student and find out what she brings to the discussion of the classroom. That can come from ethnic, religious or recent intellectual heritage, not just the focus group's latest golden cultural children.

Through this individual focus, one can bring out new viewpoints such as that of Roman civilization being an origin for conquest and subjugation of so many subsequent civilizations and societies, including the Picts, Jews, Northern Africans, original Welsh, native Iberians and on to the new world with the philosophies inculcated into Christianity by the inheritors of the Roman mantle, the Holy Roman Empire and its progenitors. Not many see the current notions of our chauvinistic western society as rooted so many millennia in the past and in a different and many times more chauvinistic culture, and that even the watered-down concept of “white” America has had its cultural roots torn up and ignored, as well.

Each person merits individual attention. The seed for multicultural exploration should come from a deep examination of the self. Thereafter will be kindled a curiosity for the literature and cultures of different societies and peoples, other than one's own.

Tuesday, February 1, 2005

Speaking of NCLB, here is a great parody written by John Taylor, a retired District Superintendent from South Carolina. It was originally entitled "Absolutely the best Dentists", but is currently making its way around the email circuits as "No Dentist Left Behind", at least that I've encountered. Just in case you've missed it:

My dentist is great! He sends me reminders so I don't forget checkups. He uses the latest techniques based on research. He never hurts me, and I've got all my teeth, so when I ran into him the other day, I was eager to see if he'd heard about the new state program. I knew he'd think it was great.

"Did you hear about the new state program to measure the effectiveness of dentists with their young patients?" I said.

"No," he said. He didn't seem too thrilled. "How will they do that?"

"It's quite simple," I said. "They will just count the number of cavities each patient has at age 10, 14 and 18 and average that to determine a dentist's rating. Dentists will be rated as Excellent, Good, Average, Below Average and Unsatisfactory. That way parents will know which are the best dentists. It will also encourage the less effective dentists to get better," I said. "Poor dentists who don't improve could lose their licenses to practice in South Carolina."

"That's terrible," he said.

"What? That's not a good attitude," I said. "Don't you think we should try to improve children's dental health in this state?"

"Sure I do," he said, "but that's not a fair way to determine who is practicing good dentistry."

"Why not?" I said. "It makes perfect sense to me."

"Well, it's so obvious," he said. "Don't you see that dentists don't all work with the same clientele; so much depends on things we can't control?

"For example," he said, "I work in a rural area with a high percentage of patients from deprived homes, while some of my colleagues work in upper-middle class neighborhoods. Many of the parents I work with don't bring their children to see me until there is some kind of problem and I don't get to do much preventive work.

"Also," he said, "many of the parents I serve let their kids eat way too much candy from a young age, unlike more educated parents who understand the relationship between sugar and decay.

"To top it all off," he added, "so many of my clients have well water which is untreated and has no fluoride in it. Do you have any idea how much difference early use of fluoride can make?"

"It sounds like you're making excuses," I said. I couldn't believe my dentist would be so defensive. He does a great job.

"I am not!" he said. "My best patients are as good as anyone's, my work is as good as anyone's, but my average cavity count is going to be higher than a lot of other dentists because I chose to work where I am needed most."

"Don't get touchy," I said.

"Touchy?" he said. His face had turned red, and from the way he was clenching and unclenching his jaws, I was afraid he was going to damage his teeth. "Try furious. In a system like this, I will end up being rated average, below average or worse.

"My more educated patients who see these ratings may believe this so-called rating actually is a measure of my ability and proficiency as a dentist. They may leave me, and I'll be left with only the most needy patients. And my cavity average score will get even worse.

"On top of that, how will I attract good dental hygienists and other excellent dentists to my practice if it is labeled below average?"

"I think you're over-reacting," I said. "'Complaining, excuse making and stonewalling won't improve dental health'...I am quoting that from a leading member of the DOC," I noted.

"What's the DOC?" he said.

"It's the Dental Oversight Committee," I said, "a group made up of mostly lay-persons to make sure dentistry in this state gets improved."

"Spare me," he said. "I can't believe this. Reasonable people won't buy it," he said hopefully.

The program sounded reasonable to me, so I asked, "How else would you measure good dentistry?"

"Come watch me work," he said. "Observe my processes."

"That's too complicated and time consuming," I said. "Cavities are the bottom line, and you can't argue with the bottom line. It's an absolute measure."

"That's what I'm afraid my patients and prospective patients will think. This can't be happening," he said despairingly.

"Now, now," I said, "don't despair. The state will help you some."

"How?" he said.

"If you're rated poorly, they'll send a dentist who is rated excellent to help straighten you out," I said brightly.

No one would ever think of doing that to schools.

"You mean," he said, "they will send a dentist with a wealthy clientele to show me how to work on severe juvenile dental problems with which I have probably had much more experience? Big help."

"There you go again," I said. "You aren't acting professionally at all."

"You don't get it," he said. "Doing this would be like grading schools and teachers on an average score on a test of children's progress without regard to influences outside the school — the home, the community served and stuff like that. Why would they do something so unfair to dentists? No one would ever think of doing that to schools."

I just shook my head sadly, but he had brightened. "I'm going to write my representatives and senator," he said. "I'll use the school analogy — surely they'll see my point."

He walked off with that look of hope mixed with fear and suppressed anger that I see in the mirror so often lately.

Here is one of the things upon which I am spending my energy, bland assignments for classes that I don't want to take, but which the Utah State Office of Education wants me to take because of Mr. Bush's No Child Left Behind fiasco:

Inasmuch that books are a great method for exploration, understanding, recreation, learning and teaching, choosing a good book is a handy talent to cultivate. It can become a bit of a job, since one must understand to some extent the author’s background, the content and style of the book, the person the book is for, the taste of the person reading, and most of all, the purpose the book will serve.
Books are the brainchildren of the author who writes them; if one knows something about them and their background, one will to some extent understand their books. My favorite books are written by authors with whom I feel some affinity or connection, and whose lives I can understand and empathize with.
Ed Abbey was a man whose writing I love, as was Ellen Meloy's. T.S Eliot is a favorite of mine, and I count anything by Orson Scott Card as a good book, too. Each of these authors’ lives and opinions have something to do with my own, and even if they each diverge quite radically at times, the passion with which they write about things that matter to me keeps me exploring their writings.
Most authors have within their reach different styles and perspectives, so being acquainted with the author of a book is only part of choosing a good book. I have heard more than a few authors describe their chose profession as a sort of prostitution, a whoring of their talent to the purposes of description and what the public might want. Authors sometimes write things that don’t reflect their own views or ideals.
Besides, even though one might think or hope that he knows his favorite authors, one can never hope to know another’s personality completely. Authors are generally people who plumb the depths of their own souls, and often those depths get transcribed onto paper through stories. It’s best to peruse a book a little bit, to get to know the individual book’s personality, before choosing even a familiar author’s work to read.
Sometimes one might choose a book for another person or group. In that case, one needs to understand the personality of that individual or the group collectively. Although not as easy as if choosing for one’s self, all one needs to do is gauge the reading ability of the person or people, and understand their interests to some extent and their tastes in previous readings. Each person is different, but the human condition and desires are indeed universal with minor adjustments for ideals and personality, and that is the beauty of books. Each is slightly different according to a person’s personality.
Finally, when choosing a book, it’s important to know what purpose the book will serve. While all of the previous information will help to find a good book for a person or even a group, one must keep in mind the reason the book is being looked for, whether for recreation, information, assignment, or a combination of all of these.
If for recreation, a good book is found using all of the previous information and a healthy dose of present mood. The moment needs to take precedent in these situations. For an assignment or to find information, the subject matter is king. Sometimes a good book just has what one needs to get the job done in the quickest time possible. One needs to keep in mind the reason for which one will be reading.
After all, reading only serves to expand the experience of the self beyond the firsthand. That’s why we need to know what we’re after, a good book will do the trick every time.

That was almost as much fun to read as it was to write! Hoo boy.