Thursday, June 30, 2011

State Parks Grant

It is about 2:00 in the morning. I have just finished a 59-page grant in the amount of $2.1 million. The grant is for the creation of "new parks." It just so happens that when the museum property was transferred by Congressional Act 990, it was conveyed to be “reserved, maintained, and utilized for public park (including museum) and recreational purposes.”

The new parks are specifically to be placed in communities with significant poverty. Well, lucky for us, in December 2010 Imperial County, California, had the highest jobless rate of any county in the United States.

You would think that we should have a competitive grant application.

The grant has taken almost the whole month of June. This included five public meetings, estimating the construction of a dozen recreational features, getting a willing seller agreement for the 48 acres behind the museum in the last 24 hours, and finding a consultant to draw a site plan with a two day turn around (for free, knock on wood).

I am sick of writing about the challenges and benefits of a new recreational park. It is interesting though. There are real challenges here. The community has been working on this museum for 24 years. That is a long time to raise funds, secure grants, build buildings, and still not get open.

Museums seem like they cost a lot of money. But do they really? Right now there is a power line being constructed within a mile from the museum. It is costing $1.8 billion dollars. Soon the Ocotillo Wind project will start construction. It is a billion dollar clean energy development that will be built on 15,000 acres around the museum.

So really, a couple million seems like peanuts. But convincing people of that is another story.

The second round of the California State Parks Development and Community Revitalization program will be putting $185 million of bond money into developing new community parks. From what I have been able to piece together, I think there will be about 40 new parks funded. I think just over 10% of applicants.

I really wish I would have gone into energy development. With clean energy projects I could probably still feel good about myself.

I can write a pretty mean grant though.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Bats and Lasers

Several years ago I read a story about a bat exhibit that had been installed at a natural history museum. The exhibit was about how bats navigate with sound waves and they used an interactive laser to illustrate the point. When they previewed the exhibit, everyone wanted to play with the laser. No one wanted to read about bats.

What do you do in this case? Clearly the visitor is not getting it. The museum exhibit is about bats.

The museum removed the exhibit about bats and installed an exhibit about lasers.

When working with children in any program, the key is to create an environment where they can be successful and learn on their own. I received a comment a few weeks ago about the museum mind map we created during strategic planning at the Imperial Valley Desert Museum. The mind map included a large discussion of "EDUCATION" which is something the museum does...and said nothing about "LEARNING" which is what the visitor does. Learning is a user directed activity.

Most museums think of themselves as educational institutions, as was evident to one of the readers of the mind map I posted. When in reality, we should think of ourselves as learning institutions.

Making coiled clay pots is hard. But working with clay is fun. On Thursday, there were a bunch of kids here. This was the second day of our coiled clay art pilot program. Most of them had never been inside the building before. They were not very successful in creating pots. But they were very successful in creating small things out of clay.

What do you do in this case? Clearly the visitor is not getting it. The museum program is about pots.

When they were leaving I heard one of the little boys tell his sister, "this place is fun."

I did not have the heart to tell him its not fun

...its a museum.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

But its a Dry Heat!

Last week the wind blew 48mph one day and 52mph the next. Deneen woke up at 2:30am and got mad saying that rocks were flying through the window screens.

This week the wind has died down.

Yesterday it was 112 degrees. Today it was 116.

When I first came everyone wanted to tell me about the heat. Its actually no big deal. I like the heat. And compared to Grand Turk where it was 105 degrees and 90% humidity this is nothing.

Deneen wishes she could go to the beach. I keep reminding her that she spent most of her life in Ohio, where there is no beach. But she will have none of it.

"If its this hot, there should be a beach," is all she will keep saying.

It is 6:00pm, the house will not cool down, everyone is sweating. I think maybe we are just getting seasoned for somewhere really hot!

Oh, we can see one of John McCain's border fires from the museum. The boys and I wanted to hike up and see it. That would be super cool.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Sunday Picnic

On Sunday we went for an evening drive and hike out to Sin Nombre Canyon in the Anzo-Borrego State Park. The Anzo-Borrego is California's largest state park and is 650,000 acres of desert and mountains. It is also in our backyard.

The drive is very interesting in that the off-road trails wind through the passes of the canyon where the stratification of 9 million years of changes to the landscape is extremely evident. Or I guess a few thousand years of several catastrophic events stacked up on top of one another. Depending on which one of my friends is reading this.

We stopped and hiked into one of the slit canyons. I bet Martin that he could not free climb up the end. Then, while we were waiting for him to come down we had a nice picnic dinner of chilled fruit, roasted chicken, and french bread.

Deneen is starting to complain of a lack of things to do in Ocotillo, but there are few places where on a whim you can drive a dozen miles or so and have dinner in a slit canyon in the region's largest state park. It was very cool.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Hiking is the New Diving

On Sunday we got up at 7:00 and took off for the Coyote Mountains for another attempt to find Fossil Canyon. Graham wanted to get some good hiking in before he had to leave on Monday. Lucas and Davis are now here, so we have a fairly large hiking party. We hiked for three hours in the morning, and then went again Sunday evening.

The morning hike took us up a small slit canyon to a small crevasse climb up about 12 feet. Once above that, the canyon
opened up into a wash. At the top of the wash we picked up a small trail that cut across the top of the ridge.

This trail was either a big horn sheep trail or perhaps a much older Indian trail. The hike was steep.

We ended the hike at the top of the first ridge line. The sun came out and we beat it back down the mountain to avoid the heat.

What do we like about hiking?

Davis likes the "view from the top." Lucas likes being able to say that he is a "Mountain Climber."

"Once you get to the top you feel like you accomplished something," he said.

Martin said, "I like feeling connected to nature and the environment." Which is a bunch of hooey.

I like the danger of the free climbs. They are crazy and serious adrenaline pumpers. Though they are small right now, all I can think about is the last dive on Grand Turk on the north reefs looking for sharks.

I don't like it so much with Davis. Just like diving, I find that I have a real aversion to Davis doing anything remotely dangerous. It kind of freaks me out, because the apple has not fallen far from the tree.

Which is OK. Just as long as the apple doesn't actually fall from the tree.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Deneen's Arrival

Ok, the first thing you will notice about this blog, is that it does not mention Deneen's arrival.

Friday morning we tested the car to see if we could get six people and luggage in it. We could not.

What we decided was that I would take Graham to San Diego to meet Deneen's plane. The thought, being that Martin would be able to see San Diego later, but this was Graham's one chance.

We arrived in San Diego around 2:00pm. We spent the afternoon in Balboa Park, specifically visiting the San Diego Museum of Art. I had read an article in the San Diego Union-Tribune about spring events at the museum. They sounded great. I was a little disapointed as the article made the museum seem much cooler.

I did give Graham a lecture tour about the history of nineteenth and twentieth century American art and discussed at length that I think most art museums totally miss the boat on interpreting the context that art is created in. Without this, art is usually misinterpreted and misunderstood by the viewer.

After the art museum we went down to the Gaslamp District and walked around we got a hamburger at Hodad's. Graham thought this was the best hamburger he ever had.

On the way back to the car there were crowds of people walking down to the Petco stadium. So we followed them.

Just in time for the beginning of a Padres game. I don't think that I have been to a professional baseball g
ame in twenty years. But the stadium had cheap seats and we had a good time.

Show all

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Coyote Mountains

It was hot today. Graham even put his pants in the freezer. The boys were awaken today by a 4.4 magnitude earthquake that struck at 8:22am about 13 miles south of Seely. It rattled the house for about 20 seconds.

When it cooled down this evening, we drove out Shell Canyon Road back into the Coyote Mountains. Somewhere up that way there is an ancient oyster shell bed left over from when the whole world was covered with water. And I guess before earthquakes so big they created mountains.

We could not find the shell beds, but we did come across a small slit canyon that looked cool.

The pictures should tell the story. But we hiked and climbed for 2 1/2 hours. Through the canyon. Then up the end of the canyon. This was not the plan, but at least today we were a little more prepared with water, gloves, and hiking boots

Graham said he did not have a problem getting up, but he was not sure the plan to get back down.

There's usually always a way down on the backside.

But then we almost had to come down on our backsides.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

End of the Road

I told Martin and Graham today that I think Ocotillo is a lot like Grand Turk. You sit around doing nothing for hours that are then interrupted by crazy adventure.

This evening, we took BLM Route 091 to the end of the road.

It dead ended at the wilderness area at the base of the Coyote Mountains. This seems crazy when you look at the pictures, but this is what we see from the back yard.

The Jeep handles great in the desert. It is definitely not made for the highway, but it is definitely made for the desert. I want another one. 091 goes from a trail, to a path, to a wash, to..well nothing.

"It's a little tight for the Jeep, don't you think?" says Martin.

"No, its made for the Jeep."
The light was very cool at the end of the day.
We decided to hike to the top of the first ridge.

I will title this last picture: "Not prepared for the life experience."

You would think that the desert is just sand and you could walk around like being on a beach. But the desert is full of razor sharp rocks, cactus, and thorny plants. I got pretty messed up.

And if that's not enough...

Long boarding down S2. Imperial County, California

Monday, June 6, 2011

Have you seen Saturn Lately

Sunday night we went up the grade to the San Diego Astronomy Associations property in Boulevard. The association has an isolated piece of property where amateur astronomers bring large and expensive telescopes to view stars in a very dark, mountain setting.

We went up at about 6:00. About 10:00 it got dark.

For years I have looked at the night sky seeking a satellite. Some guy came over to where we were standing.

"In about a minute the Hubble Telescope is going to come by," he said.

And there it was. A small, steady light moving west to east at about 15 degrees above the horizon.

"Its going to shimmer and then disappear as it moves into the Earth's shadow."

Then it was gone. A minute later a second satellite moved across the heavens going north to south.

"That is a military satellite. They are the only ones moving north to south," the young man continued.

"It was quite alright when it was high but now its very low. Da, da, da," said I.

A while later the telescopes were set and warmed up.

Saturn has been high in the night sky within ½ยบ of the 3rd magnitude star Gamma Virginis all month. I have never seen anything like this before. It looked fake. It was so clear it looked like a sticker someone had put on the lens.

We also went into the super large, super cool telescope that the association opens occasionally for visitors. We looked at M51, a whirlpool galaxy about 24 million light years away from the Milky Way. About a month ago, a super nova showed up in this galaxy. It was a small dot of light visible in the lower center of the vortex.

With the exception that we were totally dressed inappropriately, because it was freezing, this was very cool stuff.

Mind Mapping

Over the last few weeks, I have been leading a series of Strategic Planning sessions at the Desert Museum. At the last session, participants and board members worked on creating a mind map of the idea of "Museum." A mind map is a graphical representation of an idea. I had planned on using the technique a few weeks ago, and then while I was at the AAM meetings in Houston I sat through a session that used mind mapping. Ah, it is still a relevant tool.

Two ideas from our mind map of a museum are very interesting. One is that the idea of a museum as a gathering place for social change can be an overarching goal of a museum. In fact, this is an idea at the center of the 21st century museum. I actually sat through a session on that at the AAM conference as well. This session was led by the past director of the National Museum of the American Indian. He talked at length of the importance of social change in the museum.

The second idea is that a museum has a whole area called "Do Things." This is in opposition to what most people think about a museum, which is "See Things."

I think this area of Do Things is where the museum should live. When you look at our mind map, doing things can be understood as creating Experiential Hands-on Connections. This is important, because just like the graphic we created, I believe that Physical Participation (equals) Knowledge. The mind map can be seen as just a fun exercise. As a way of getting people involved. But I love the yellow bar area of this mind map. I think it is the most important part of the museum.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Jeep Guy

I LOVE the Jeep!

I have had it out today, testing it to make sure it will be OK for Deneen to drive when she gets here. It handles much differently than the big four wheel drive Blazer, which actually is not that big. We had it over near the place Deneen got out of the car (I don't remember if I told that story, but it was pretty funny). Later today I think we are going to take it out to Devil's Canyon.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Cross Country Drive

This week I had a vision of the day Martin spilled hot chocolate in his lap at the Tim Hortons on Bethel Road. Every morning we stopped and got a donut on the way to school during his first year as a student at Ecole Francais. On this day, we had to leave early and drive over to Kmart so we could buy a new pair of pants. He changed in the car and we went on to school without anyone every knowing.

I was very sad as I sat thinking about this day. And I am tearing up again as I write about it.

That day is gone. I no longer have any little boys to take care of.

Last Tuesday, Martin left Columbus, Ohio, to make the cross country drive between Ohio and California with our car. Before I left to come out here I bought a map, planned his trip, highlighted a route, put it in the car. I have spent hours online searching for the optimum travel distance. I gave him suggestions of where he should stay. I put just enough money on a credit card so he could buy gas, but not so much that if he lost it...

I was sick to my stomach the entire day he left. I sent him a text message every couple hours to see how he was doing.

"OK, make sure you leave St. Louis on I-44 down to Joplin. Watch the weather. Always be on the lookout. Don't stop in big cities."

"We are already on I-70 on our way to Colorado," came the reply, "We are camping tonight next to a river, we already booked a place online."

"That's the wrong way. That's the wrong way. That's the wrong way," I kept thinking.

"Ok, well, I can fix it.
You just have to get to I-25 and come down through Santa Fe."

I couldn't sleep. I could barely work on Wednesday waiting for an update to see if he made it to the right road.

"We have been on the road two hours already. We're going to Utah. I figured if we are camping, we might as well camp somewhere cool," came the text.

On Wednesday I had to let Martin go.

I worked hard to give him the skills so that he can make his own decisions. I have loved him and I have tried to teach him to love others and to love life. This has not been the easiest three years on my family. But what I want my children to learn is that life can be an adventure. It does not have to be a job. And it does not have to conform to what other people tell you it should be.

On Wednesday it became clear that Martin can lead his own adventure. I need to let him.
He just called. He is about four hours away. He will be in Ocotillo by dinner.