Communication

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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Analyzing Data and Preparing to Write

I did a teaching methods study last year in two of my classes. I developed a survey with Likert*-response format questions** testing some self-reported values, which I then correlated to course performance. Since my survey did not create a true Likert scale (e.g. a survey with multiple questions testing the same variable to create a scale), it complicates the data handling. Before the study I had scribbled many notes and ideas in my lab notebook, so now I am in the process of carrying out my intended analyses.

One analysis that I am currently working on when I can find time involves rank testing. I have been struggling with how to present the data in a fashion that accurately tells an honest story. Tonight I made a prototype chart that helped me take a step forward. It’s still very rough and not completely developed, but the core idea has been planted and I am excited to create the polished version of the chart soon.

The rank data chart prototype, hot off the press.

The rank data chart prototype, hot off the press.

I decided to present counts of the responses from students in four categories. My previous plan had been to present percentages on the Y-axis, but I felt that it was deceptive. Using counts allows the reader to remain aware of the size of the samples in each category.

The final chart will look like the prototype above, yet will have four different variables (i.e. be four times the size of the chart above). The labels and titles will be clearer as well (this is currently unpublished data, so I want to be vague with it right now).

My goal is to submit this manuscript by the end of the winter break. I don’t know if it is a reasonable goal yet or not–but it is a goal nonetheless. . .

* This study taught me I did not know how to pronounce Likert.

** This study taught me that I had a misconception of Likert-scales.

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Camping in Sequoia National Forest (Oct 2-4)

The Fall Quarter has been busy. In the middle of the chaos Pam and I spent a short weekend camping with friends. We went to Sequoia National Forest. It still amazes me that we have such diversity here. The coast, the desert, and the mountains all close together. We camped near 5,000 ft of elevation in a small campground.

On Saturday I did some work in the morning, then we set out on a hike. It was a beautiful hike through redwood groves and springs. We gained a couple thousand feet of elevation, ending up near 7,000 ft. There were many dead and dying trees in the forest, a testament to how stressful this summer has been. It was easy to understand why campfires are banned.

But all the springs and plant diversity made it possible to get caught up in a small piece of the forest. The world in view looked lush and healthy. The drought seemed far away as water bubbled over rocks and green abounded.

In the forest it was possible to forget we were in a major drought (for a time).

In the forest it was possible to forget we were in a major drought (for a time).

I spent some time admiring the Kellogg oaks (Quercus kelloggii), which is a species I am not very familiar with. I collected a few leaves, and at the end of the day pressed them in my car owner’s manual. (That is the sort of thing horticulturists do.)

A Kellogg oak seedling along the trail.

A Kellogg oak seedling along the trail.

Early in the hike we saw large patches of mountain misery (Chamaebatia foliolosa). While it might not make a very good food source for wildlife, it is pretty cool to look at.

Mountain misery looking pretty.

Mountain misery looking pretty.

I lingered in the back of the group, scurrying around taking pictures.

The hiking party in action.

The hiking party in action.

The sheer size of the trees was captivating. Such amazing structures.

The large pines, firs, and redwoods were spectacular.

The large pines, firs, and redwoods were spectacular.

The trees made humans look small.

The trees made humans look small.

Posing with a large strobilus (I think a sugar pine cone).

Posing with a large strobilus (I think a sugar pine cone).

It was fun to spend some time in the national forest, which is different from the national park part of the Sierra Nevada. Both are wonderful in their own way. I suspect we’ll be returning to the national forest in the future–there are many trails left to explore and sights to see.

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