A Spring Update

The spring is a busy season of life. I’ve had many times that I’ve thought I should write a blog post about this but lacked the time. Some of the things that almost got a post: the 2016 NCLC Team trip to Mississippi, the Tomato Mania sale, various plant pictures, political discourse, baseball strategy (particularly bunting), and today the FFA State Finals (and they’ll get a brief mention).

Today the FFA State Finals were held at Cal Poly. I am the faculty advisor for the Nursery and Landscape Competition, so I’ve been working on staging this contest for the past few months. It went relatively well, though there was a glitch with one of the judging contests that I’m not happy about. But now I can close the books on FFA until early 2017, when planning for the next contest will begin. I showed up on campus well before 7am this morning to ensure I was ready for the start of the event. After I parked my car I was gathering things to begin walking and a van pulled into the parking lot. The Eye of the Tiger was blasting over the speakers. At the conclusion of the song the doors slid open and the contestants poured out. It made me laugh.

Now that the bulk of my extra service activities (NCLC, Tomato mania, and FFA) are wrapped up for the year I can focus on other things. I have one manuscript close to submission. My goal is to have it submitted before the end of the academic year. A second manuscript will be written over the summer.

Over the summer I’ll be preparing to take over Plant Materials I and II (taught in two quarters) next academic year. It will be a large undertaking, but I’ll enjoy it. I have  a mountain of hours to put into preparing that class, but I need to generate publications to keep my job . . . so I need to prioritize.


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Grandpa Hoover

My Grandpa Hoover (Daniel A. Hoover) has always been a hero to me. At first it was because he created a steel business that had a big warehouse, trucks, and large machinery. From an early age I believed I could do almost anything, in part because Grandpa built Hoover Steel, Inc. With time my Grandpa maintained his hero status with other things. He knew a lot about rocks and gems. He invented stuff. He was generous. He was always curious about the world around him. He loved my Grandma and said so freely. He adored my Grandma. All these things made my Grandpa a hero.

Grandpa did not have an easy life. He overcame adversity and ensured that his family looked different than the one he came from. He did not dwell in the past. In hindsight, I see that he spoke mostly of the present and future. Grandpa saw a bright future for his kids and grandkids.

I remember Grandpa paying me $5.00 to accompany him on trips to the steel mill when I was young. We would leave early in the morning in the tractor trailer. During most of the trip we would ride in silence, but conversations would pop up at various times, often relating to steel or what I was learning in school. We would stop for lunch at a roadside restaurant, and without fail Grandpa would introduce me to everyone who would listen. I always ordered the cheapest thing on the menu (either a grilled cheese sandwich or BLT), and Grandpa seemed to appreciate that fact.

Grandpa liked to hire his grandkids to do little tasks. He was always generous about the payment, but he only paid when the job was fully completed. It was his way of ensuring that we had a good work ethic and associated work with a reward. As a little guy I swept floors, took garbage to the dumpster, weed-whacked brush, mulched gardens, shucked corn, washed trucks, organized rocks, pulled weeds, fed dogs, and did all sorts of odd jobs. My work ethic was shaped by many factors, but Grandpa definitely contributed.

As I got older my conversations with my Grandfather changed. He would talk to me about business opportunities. When I began working at a nursery as a teenager, he thought growing shrubs shaped like letters was a great market to target because plants are not regulated like billboards. By the time I reached graduate school he was mostly focused on whether I was going to find a wife and science. The comments about a wife were lighthearted. He never pushed the topic. The science questions were more persistent. He had questions about tomato growth. He wanted to know why some tomatoes were good and others bad, or what was causing a particular disease. He was intrigued by the parts of a tomato, particularly the placental tissue in the mesocarp, and he wondered if some physical characteristics were associated with taste quality. Grandpa never made it to high school; I think he would have loved the opportunity to study science at a university. I have treasured my high school, undergraduate, and graduate education because I know that it is a privilege not everyone is afforded. I’m grateful for the curiosity and love of learning that my Grandfather passed on to me. And back to the wife question, when I introduced Pam to my Grandpa he told me he approved.

Grandpa ran the race set before him. He loved Jesus, loved his family, and he loved others. I’m proud to call him my Grandfather. I’ll miss you Grandpa—thanks for being you.

I found out my Grandpa passed away as I was walking to teach my Nursery Crop Production class. I had just mentioned him in the previous class, due to his belief that shrubs shaped like letters were an untapped, rich market. The latter part of this week I’ve been a bit distracted as I processed my Grandpa’s passing and tried to decide if I would make a trip back east for the funeral. In the end I decided to stay in California and write this tribute to him. I might be wrong, but I think the fact that one of his grandsons will be teaching a college statistics class during his burial ceremony would have made him happy–he loved learning and education.


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I’ve been thinking about communication lately. Words and attitudes make such an impact on those around us. I’ve particularly been impressed by how positive words and responses differ from negative ones (with regard to productivity  and atmosphere). Some people bring life and joy–I want to be one of those persons.

Another aspect of communication that amazes me is the connected world we live in. Over the past few days I’ve been playing Carcassonne with my favorite world traveler (via iPhone). During much of that time I could track where she was by locating her phone, looking at maps of another continent. Not that long ago we would have been out of communication for a week–not texting every day.  Communication can be a blessing. May I remember that and treat it as a blessing.

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A Few Quick February Thoughts

Things have been busy. Here are a few quick notes on this February 5th evening:

The Cal Poly Performing Arts Center

This year Pam and I are season ticket holders at the PAC. So far we’ve seen the Cal Poly Symphony Fall Concert, Riverdance, The Wellington International Ukulele Orchestra, and Cameron Carpenter. We also went to Bach in the Mission last month. Having the arts be so accessible is one of the things I love about working at a university.

The Winter Quarter

I have a full winter quarter, but so far it has been great. I’m teaching Experimental Techniques and Analysis (lectures and two labs) and Nursery Crop Production (lectures and one lab). I’m also getting the Cal Poly National Collegiate Landscape Competition team ready to travel to Mississippi in March (I’m also getting travel details in order, writing the proposal to fund part of the 2017 team, and fundraising for the team). The Tomato Mania project is also starting, and I have a very good team this year (sales dates will be April 8 and 9). I’ve been trying to develop my teaching methods manuscript, which has been slow going so far (but I remain optimistic).

The Presidential Election

I’ve been following the primary campaigns, though I find them tiring. There are times when I am convinced that I am watching a movie–some of the candidates seem too far fetched for reality. Politics are like lane reductions on the highway. When I see the decisions people make and their inability to work together it raises my blood pressure. At this point I do not know who will get my vote. . .

The Return to Music

I’ve been playing bass guitar at Coastal Community Church for the past few months. It has been fun to work with a band again. I had Seymour Duncan Blackouts installed in my Washburn Bantam, which was a major pick-up upgrade. Next weekend I’ll be leading the music at CCC for the first time (with my Martin, not a bass). It has been fun to plan a set-list again–it had been a long time. I have layers of musical rust and a conspicuous lack of calluses on my fingers.

Baseball is in the Air

I’m looking forward to Spring Training. The Phillies will have a rebuilding year, but I am okay with that. Just the thought of seeing a full year of Franco is enough to make me smile.

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December Travels

In December Pam and I traveled east to spend Christmas with family and friends. Our first stop was in Pittsburgh, PA. We spent a couple of lovely days with Renee, Kylie, and Siena. I failed to get a picture of all of us, but here are a few from our time there:

We drove from Pittsburgh to Montgomery County. In a very sudden modification to our plans, we took the northern route. This allowed us to stop by the Boyer Candy Outlet (Mallo Cups!) and do a very fast drive through State College. I gave Pam the fast tour of the town and campus and we were back on the road.

Back in the eastern part of the Keystone State we had a whirlwind week. We went to Lancaster. I showed Pam Amish country, we went to a quilting store, we ate at a Pennsylvania Dutch smorgasbord, and we sampled good stuff like shoo fly pie and whoopie pies. We had meals and conversations with family–times to treasure. The Christmas festivities were rich and happy. During the visit Pam and I stayed with Richard, Rebecca, Madeleine, and Oliver. It was very fun to catch up, share meals, and read books together.

On the way out of town we stopped in Philly to visit Geno’s and Pat’s for cheesesteaks with my parents and Hannah. Pam had not had an authentic Philly cheesesteak before then, so i thought it was appropriate to give them both a try.

Our journey back to the Central Coast took longer than was expected. Weather complications left us stranded in San Francisco for the night. That led to an unexpected visit with Chris, Esther, Liam, and Aleksey. It was a nice cap on the end of our trip.

I’m grateful to have so many wonderful people to share life with. Here’s to 2016!

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