Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Moving Forward

This weekend the Imperial Valley Desert Museum held its Annual Member Meeting. This was my second meeting since I have been here. This was a very different meeting from the one last year. Last year I presented on our plans to open the museum. This year I talked about our first year of being open.

We hired staff last January. We installed the conservation lab in January. We held our first public event on January 28. We installed our first exhibit in February. We opened to the public in March. It has been a crazy year. My job has transitioned from planner to manager, with constant fundraising in between.

Yesterday I received a text message that read: "I am thrilled with the energy, work, and direction I am seeing this museum headed in. Makes you say, 'I want to be a part of that!' "

I can't imagine anything I would rather hear. That kind of has been the plan, so I guess things are moving forward.       

Friday, November 16, 2012

Border Crossing

The weather has broken. The first summer we were in the Imperial Valley the heat was exciting. This past summer it was just hot. We now complain that it is too cold. Over the weekend there was a weather advisory out of Yuma. It was expected to be under 60 degrees and they were warning people to be careful if they were going out to the parade.

On Monday we took our fist hike of the season. We hiked 4500 feet up into the Jacumba Wilderness - all the way to the border. This is a hike I have wanted to do for the last two years. In the wilderness area the border is a broken barbed wire fence. This is not the billion dollar fence you see across the desert from the highway.

We hiked another mile or so to the boundary monument. The border of Mexico was set by the Treaty Guadalupe Hildago Treaty of 1848, and reconfirmed by a survey in 1889. Between 1891 and 1894, 258 boundary monuments were erected along the border. Monument 231 is on Blue Angle Peak in Jacumba. From this vantage point we could see the mountains on the east side of the county and the Salton Sea, both 60 miles away, as well as El Centro, Ocotillo, and Jacumba.

This whole area at one time was the home of the Kumeyaay. The border was placed right through their native lands and today there are reservations both in Mexico and in the US. At the museum we have written a couple grants talking about the artificial border that separates the indigenous peoples. From where we were hiking you could see the US border going both directions, as if it were a giant line drawn in the sand. I had never experienced it like this before. It  was truly amazing. It really looks like an artificial demarcation. A line we have drawn and dared people to cross.

This was a very tough, but very cool hike. Well worth the 19-month wait. The people I was with wanted to go across the border and get a picture looking back at us. I told them they were going to set of the motion detectors. On our way back down we were met by three Border Patrol jeeps. They asked us if we had seen anyone hiking, someone had tripped the monitoring device. So I guess those are real. We will be more careful next time.    

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

History on the Go

It has been a long time since I have posted a blog. But that does not mean nothing is happening. In December 2010, before I actually came out to California, I developed a personal strategic plan for creating viability and raising the profile of the Imperial Valley Desert Museum. This included what one of the trustees called the "We Do Stuff Program." In May 2011 I developed and wrote a proposal and budget for the We Do Stuff Program called "History on the Go." In June the History on the Go program moved forward into a new strategic plan.

In part the proposal reads, "the Desert Museum would like to take the unique story of the desert region out of the desert and into the classroom." One of the first grants we received here was to pilot the coiled-clay art program. If you have followed my blog or the museum's blog at all you will have read about the coiled-clay program often. This pilot program has been used to develop History on the Go.

This week we committed to fund the History on the Go program for the next three years. It will be the museum's signature public outreach program and will be available, free of charge, to any school in the county.

The program includes a signature "History on the Go" Jeep that will be very visible in the community. Last week, a call from one of our trustees set up a really quick meeting with the local Jeep dealer. I got up in the morning and mocked up a proposal using Adobe Illustrator, which is above, We made our pitch at 9:00am. At 2:30pm we picked up a new Jeep Patriot. This is an exciting development. One of the first programs that I have developed here to really take hold and make a difference. As I write this I am 15 minutes from having a coiled-clay art home school program.  

Monday, August 27, 2012

Earthquakes and other natural disasters

The USGS website lists eleven significant earthquakes around the globe in the last 30 days. We had the top two of them today. The first was a 5.3 two miles north of Brawley at 12:31. We were sitting in the house after church. Deneen thought it was a train. But it just kept shaking and shaking. Then at 1:52 there was a 5.5 about three miles north of Brawley while we were standing in line at Starbucks. That one shook the whole store. We stood at the counter watching the cups shake back and fourth. You could feel the earth shake both ways, first one direction then the next. Everyone just sat there; business as usual.

Deneen thought she felt a couple more during the day. Tonight Lucas and I were just at Walmart. He pointed out that all the signs hanging from the ceiling were swinging back and forth.

Evidently, the fault here was very active today. I just looked at the USGS real time earthquake chart for Southern California. There were over 100 earthquakes listed in Brawley beginning around 7:30am. Most you don't feel. But a 5.5 is pretty big.

Earlier this evening I had to take a hot tub out to the new intern residence at the museum. On my way out of the parking lot I noticed a stream of water by the road that should not have been there. There was a broken water pipe at the storage facility shooting water into the air. I put a quick fix to it and and did not think much, except I could not figure out why the line had broke. It was like a shear break. It was weird. Now it makes since. Tomorrow I am going to have to write up an Environmental Incident report to record damage caused by an earthquake.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Water Color Workshop Video

It has been an extremely busy summer. I have not been keeping up with the blog. I came out a year and a half ago to open the Imperial Valley Desert Museum. The museum opened in March and this was our first full summer of programming. We received a summer grant for healthy activities, so Lucas has been teaching karate, and we received a grant for an artist-in-residence. Martin has been here all summer investigating desert sized art and running the youth coiled-clay art program.

This past weekend was the end of our summer programming and we held a watercolor painting workshop. Saturday was also the karate board breaking ceremony. So it was a big, full day. Our whole family participated in the painting class. The painting instructor was really good. Even Deneen liked it. She painted this bird, which I thought turned out great.

There was an article and video in the paper today. Click here to see Davis going on and on about the painting class. The video looks like it was just us, but the other people who came did not give photo release permission.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Big Bay (15 second) Boom

I am sure you have seen on the news the crazy 15 second fireworks display in San Diego on Wednesday. Deneen, Lucas, Davis, and I were there. I flew in to San Diego on Tuesday. We had planned the trip so that we would be able to see the firewors display. We visited the Maritime Museum and the Midway Museum, both located on the bay, and then found a bench at the end of one of the piers.

We staked out a place right on the end of the pier early in the afternoon. Deneen was not extremely happy to sit all afternoon. It was extremely cold for July, 65 degrees, with a stiff wind coming off of the ocean. We did not plan well and had no blankets or chairs.

At about five minutes before 9:00pm there was a tremendous series of explosions. We could see three of the barges, and the barge in front of us was less than 100 yards. It was really loud. I had to put my hands over my ears. The crowd starting cheering, thinking that this was the start to the best fireworks display they were ever going to see. It quickly became apparent that something was wrong. At 9:00 the radio played a coutdown, but then nothing happened. The music that was to sinc with the fireworks continued to play. We could see people with flashlights on the barge. Then, about 20 minutes later, the tug boat attached to the barge put it in high gear and started moving the barge back across the bay.

I just watched the event on Youtube. It looks way different that I remember it. I don't remember the explosions being very big, they were just loud. But the video is crazy. Lucas only captured the last seconds on his iPhone, but you can clearly hear the crowd, and Davis, to understand the everyone's reaction. After sitting on the bay all day it was a real bust. Then we got in the car and drove and hour and a half home.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Why Too Busy to Blog?

My brother Bryan has been complaining that I never blog anymore. I kind of blew this off, then I see that I have one blog in the month of February, one in April, and one so far in May. He did not take any of my excuses.

What excuses? Life is crazy. All I do is work. Lately, work is mostly writing.

This last week I had an interview with a lady in Brawley who immigrated from Italy in the 1950s to avoid an arranged marriage. I knew that the article was to be about Italian cooking and I had suggested that the photographer take pictures of the lady cooking. I thought the interview would take an hour. When we got there it became clear that this was a lunch meeting, and it was an Italian lunch meeting. We had pasta Siciliana. As Bryan will remember, I knew this was going to be a pork dish because of a dinner we once had in Culver City. But unlike that day, which is a story only the best of friends, and four family members, will know, this was the best Italian food I have had in California. Three hours later I had heard story after story and had eaten two plates of pasta. It took two more days to edit my notes into 1000 words.

I use to say that on Grand Turk you had nothing but time. Whatever you wanted to become, you could become on Grand Turk. Because there was nothing to do, you could devote your time to learning something. And this actually became what you did for fun. I knew people there who were working on contract who became fluent in Spanish. Or who moved from working a cruise ship excursion to being the leading marine biologist in reef reclamation.

I had all these plans. I was going to finish two books. I was going to learn French, Italian, and Spanish. What I did was cook and blog. But then, as I return to the states something amazing happened. I can cook really well. And I can write.

I did not see this coming, but all the writing I did on Grand Turk for free, has turned into a second job in the Imperial Valley. Within the first few months of being here I was hired at the Imperial Valley Press to write advertorial copy. I sent the editor there a link to articles I had written for the Turks and Caicos Weekly News and a link to my blog. The next thing I knew I am getting writing assignments to travel around and write about cool stuff you can do in Southern California. That blossomed into writing for the Winter Shopper magazine, the Valley Women Magazine, and Abundant Opportunities, the magazine of the Imperial Valley Economic Development Corporation. All the time I use to spend in the evenings blogging, I now write travel articles. Or in the case of Valley Women, stories about women.

Most people I run into now, here in the Valley, know me from the Valley Women's magazine. I basically interview women and write their stories. Typically, I set up interviews at Starbucks, talk to someone for an hour, then write their story and email it to an editor. I have never seen the magazine. The other day, Deneen made fun of me by telling me she had read one of my articles - at the  hair salon. I asked if it was the one on wedding planning, she said no, it was the one about wearing a condom (in all fairness, that was an important story on the county director for AIDS awareness).


Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Lucas' Life through My Eyes

Update: and here is a picture from Budapest, July 2017, one of the three summers Lucas spent building inhabitable art in Hungary!

I will be the first to admit, when you look at the pictures it is a little hard to listen to the complaints. I guess we have worked hard not to let school get in the way of his education.

Tucson, Arizona, April 2012. Lucas took two days off school to go to Tucson to see TuneYards and the Sonora Desert Museum
Coyote Mountains, overlooking Ocotillo, Ca, April 2012. Lucas on a hike that we did nearly every weekend over the winter.
Carnival Destiny, overlooking Grand Turk, Turks and Caicos Islands. The last of five cruises Lucas took while moving between Columbus and Grand Turk when he was in school at Ft. Hayes.
London, England, January 2009. Lucas missed the first two weeks of school in January 2009 to go on a Holland America cruise to Miami  and then a week-long trip to London. Even so, he was student of the month at Ft. Hayes for the month of January.
Salt Cay, Turks and Caicos Islands, February 2008. One of a hundred or so days of diving and snorkeling in the Caribbean. Lucas was the youngest diver ever to participate in a reef reclamation project with REEF out of Miami.
Blue Ridge Mountains, November 2007, on our way to Miami to move to the Turks and Caicos Islands we spent a week in the mountains.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Complaints Will Be Received the Second Tuesday of Next Week

Since my last blog, three things have occupied my time. One is Lucas.
Lucas has four days left in his Junior year of high school. This has not been the easiest year. And he has not been as excited about going to high school in California as, lets say, Davis has. Today, Lucas says, "I have not learned one thing this year. Well , maybe one thing - don't let school get in the way of your education - Mark Twain said that. And the ends justify the means - Machiavelli said that."
Lucas has had an interesting high school experience. He attended HJ Robbins for a year on Grand Turk, in the British West Indies, where among other things he played in the steel drum band. He attended Ft. Hayes Arts and Academic High School, in Columbus, Ohio, for two years. And he is just about finished with his Junior year at Southwest High School where he is in the Southwest Academy of Visual and Performing Arts (SAVAPA) program doing visual arts. He has passed the state graduation exams in both Ohio and California.
You can say he has had a high school experience that was full of diversity, but he will tell you that is not true, there was no diversity. On Grand Turk he was one of two Caucasian students in the whole school (the other was his brother), the student body at Southwest is 86% Hispanic, and Ft. Hayes was a very urban pubic school. Lucas has complained a lot this year, especially about having to take another state graduation test, but when you write this down, it really seems quite remarkable. And given all that, he has risen to the challenge of moving somewhere new, and he has excelled. This month we have had to go to a half a dozen awards banquets. Lucas received an award for having the highest score in the county for his Mock Trial character. He received the Shining Star award for being the second best art student in the SAVAPA program. And after placing second in the Sub-regional and Regional, Lucas came in second at the Rotary District 5340 4-way Test Speech Contest, the highest anyone from Imperial County has ever placed. 

On Thursday, we had a big Rotary event at the museum. I stood up and gave a talk about everything that was going on. At the end I asked if anyone had any questions. No joke, someone raised their hand and said, "Tell us about Lucas."

Monday, April 30, 2012

AAM Conference

I am in Minneapolis at the American Association of Museums annual conference. I presented yesterday on Truth and Cherished Myths in Museums.

Last night, I was at the Minneapolis Museum of Art in a room that had both a band and a Rietveld chair. So, that to me is pretty cool. Kind of all my favorite things right there.

In fact, lots of chairs; a Marcel Breuer chair, a Charles Mackintosh chair, a Mies Van Der Roe chair, and a bunch of Frank Lloyd Wright furniture.

Chairs represent one of the greatest artifacts to showcase the culture of design. They have a utilitarian function that is directly tied to the proportions of the human body. And in the history of the human body, the chair is nearly the same as it had always been. You can not design a chair that does not conform to the same basic size as the "chair," because if it can not function as a chair, it is really not a chair. So when you see a bunch of chairs together, you can begin to clearly see, and begin to understand, stylistic difference of period design.

I pointed this all out to the colleagues I was with. They pointed out that I was kind of a dork. Then we went to listen to the band.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Four-Way Test Speech

Lucas competed in the Rotary International Four-Way Test Speech Contest today. About four weeks ago he won the club contest in El Centro. Today, we drove to Rancho Bernardo and he competed in the Sub-Regional Contest. He placed second. But the top two were advanced to the Regional Contest.

When he heard about the local contest, and that there were only four people signed up he thought it was an easy way to make a little money - there is prize money for first, second, and third place. But it was not the plan to win. He has a really good speech, its really a sermon, about the difference between Rotary on Grand Turk, and here in California.

After the contest was over we stopped by the Studio Diner, which I think I blogged about once before, to get a chocolate malt.

We had a good talk breaking down the results of the contest. Lucas said that we only have three rules in our house:

1. If you're not first, you're last
2. If you lay on the floor you get stepped on
3. There is no such thing as too much chocolate

Now, I am pretty sure that first rule is from a movie. And the second one is actually more of a life lesson, than a rule. And the tird one is a rule. In any case, Lucas would set the bar pretty high for all three rules.

It was a good four-way test speech contest this year. One of the girls told Lucas that the competition this year was at a totally different caliber than it was last year. She has competed every year for the last four years. Last month we had never even heard of the Four-Way Test speech contest I was very happy that Lucas worked on in his speech three different days this week.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

El Centro Arts Festival

I think the best thing that I have been able to do at the Imperial Valley Desert Museum, so far, was to get Jessica out here. I have never worked with anyone who had more drive and aptitude with a desire to achieve excellence. I met Jessica at the Society of American Archivist conference in Austin, Texas, in August of 2009. She came to the Turks and Caicos National Museum to help run the Afterschool Homework Program grant and in the process cataloged and conserved 333 archival collections.

Read this for nostalgia.

In January, I hired Jessica as a curator to move the re-curation of the Imperial Valley College Archaeology Collection forward. But because of her willingness to take on any project everything is moving forward.

Yesterday, we hosted a hands-on coiled-clay art tabled at the El Centro Arts Festival. We went through 100 pounds of clay working with over 100 youth at our table. Jessica made a connection at Kohl's while we were hosting a booth at the Mid-Winter Fair and Fiesta and not only did they sponsor our coiled-clay art table, they provided five volunteers.

Hurray for Kohl's. Their volunteers were amazing. It is cool that in this small community how many of the national corporations interact as very local organizations. Without them I think the community would be hard pressed to get anything funded. The Kohl's just opened here right before Christmas. We go all the time. I think it reminds us of home.

The coiled clay art activities are becoming the core of our public outreach program. The activity is tied into our ceramic olla collection at the museum, but as an art activity it integrates very well in the school system. We piloted the project last summer at the museum. This year we piloted the project at the Southwest High School Art Club, and we have now been asked to develop programs for Desert Gardens Elementary School and Holtville High School.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Very Busy February

Ouch! where has February gone. This has been a crazy month. I am sorry for not blogging.
I came out to the Imperial Valley 13 months ago to create a plan to open a museum that was built in 2008, but never opened. Well, on March 1 we opened a museum.
This month has been spent meeting with the Board of County Supervisors, with Caltrans, with SDG&E, and the superintendents of Imperial Unified Schools and El Centro Elementary School District.
In between all of that, we have built exhibit walls and installed a conservation lab.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Weekend in Ensenada

I spent this weekend in Ensenada hosted by a Doctor friend I met through Rotary. We had two goals, volunteering at the Thousand Smiles clinic, and making contacts with our partner museums in Ensenada. I would write a lengthy blog on the clinic, but I don't want to get all mushy but it was very...touching. You can find more information at ThousandSmiles.org.

I have to tell you, at first I was not sure how I could help with a dental clinic. But I learned something about myself that I had never really though about. After many, many years in the museum field, I can do data entry and filing like nobody's business.

On the other hand, Ensenada was amazing. Like Grand Turk on steroids. Or maybe like Grand Turk with a million more people. I am sorry I did not take more pictures. I had meetings and saw museums and ate at taco carts. The highlight of my weekend, however, was a Saturday visit to a local fishmarket on the beach. We ordered a half a dozen oysters from a small stand and sat at a makeshift table right at the high tide line. As boats came in, people swarmed to buy fresh fish. It was very reminiscent of my first experience buying fish on Grand Turk. My friend bought two dog snappers. I bought a 4-foot reef shark for about eight bucks. I had the shark cut up into about a dozen or more steaks to bring back to El Centro.

Yesterday, I took jalapeno and cilantro crusted shark to the Super Bowl party.

Monday, January 30, 2012

New Stuff: FYI

Just FYI for anyone who follows all the crazy antics of trying to open a museum:

This week we started a Facebook site http://www.facebook.com/IVDMuseum

And the blog is now focused on all the stuff that is going on: http://www.ivdesertmuseum.blogspot.com/

Sunday, January 29, 2012

First Public Event at IV Desert Museum

This week marks exactly twelve months that I have been at the Imperial Valley Desert Museum. During most of that time I have been the only employee and have been writing plans to open the museum. On Saturday, we held our first public event, a "Star Gazing in the Desert" event. We had four amateur astronomers come out to the museum to set up telescopes. Saturday was a dark sky night, and it is really dark in the parking lot of the museum. When we planned the event a couple months ago, we set a goal of having 20 people show up.

I started to get nervous on Wednesday when Davis brought a flyer home from school that a friend gave to him. The friend had no association with the museum, and he did not know that Davis was connected to the museum. He just said it looked like a cool event and thought Davis would want to go. A local business who was sponsoring the event put out an email and told me they had 8 people had responded the next day saying their families would be there.

I met with staff and told them we should rethink what we were going to do. We replanned for 50 people. On Friday we set up the building. On Saturday morning I bought more drinks and refreshments.

At 3:45 two students came from the local community college. They said that their environmental science teacher told them to come. If they took a picture at the event they would get extra credit in the class. Then people kept coming, and coming, and coming. At 5:30 we had 78 people in the building. The final attendance count was 135.

There is an anticipation of the museum opening that is peculating just under the radar here. I said a year ago that I thought we had a twelve month window to do something, before the momentum would fade. This week we are going to have to rethink our plan and strategy. Things are going to start moving really fast.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Zero Waste Society

This weekend I hung out a little bit with Vince and Ivan. I hike with Vince and I just met Ivan at an art gallery opening on Friday. Vince runs a series of community gardens. One is two blocks from the house. He preaches the future of a "zero waste society." This resonates with my "use it twice" philosophy I developed on Grand Turk and still preach both at the museum and at home.

Vince gardens with a regenerative agriculture process. This means that everything he uses comes out of the 12x40 garden bed that sits beside a parking lot - from seed to compost.

I call this type of gardening "post-organic." Now that organic farming has been taken by commercial corporations it has little meaning. But regenerative agriculture does not fit cleanly on a box. I have been taking basil, peppers, and several types of greens out of the garden. Deneen won't eat them. She says they taste like dirt. I tell her its not that they taste like dirt. They just don't taste like chemicals and pesticides.

Oh, sorry, she says the reason is not that they taste like dirt. They taste like grass.

Monday, January 16, 2012


I went across the border to Tecate today. Two museum trustees and myself had meetings with people from institutions in Mexico. We are looking for a partner for a cultural exchange grant we are working on. Tecate was halfway between Ensenada and El Centro so everyone drove and we sat in a cafe for five hours discussing possible programs.

I applied for this grant in 2007 as my first grant with the Turks and Caicos National Museum. We were the alternate - the fifth grant out of four that were awarded.

At the Imperial Valley Desert Museum we are working on a cross border cultural exchange using Ipads. For several years there was an active youth exchange program between the Native American tribes on both sides of the border. The area is much different today. It is very difficult to get groups of youth under-18 across the border and there is a lot of fear. The program we are working on seeks to exchange artists who work in traditional crafts. The youth exchange will happen by giving kids on both sides of the border Ipads and having them participate with each other using Skype.

We had great meetings today and I believe found our partner. This weekend I will write the grant.

I think I found my new international museum project. I wish I would have been learning Spanish this whole last year.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Hiking Around the New Year

This week is Martin's last week before he goes back to college. We have been trying to hike as much as possible, but through the museum we have been on a couple pretty cool hikes looking for Tenahas, or water tanks. These are areas where water naturally collects during this time of year. The native inhabitants of the desert knew where these were, and the trails through the mountains often placed in areas where water was available.

You can find the water tanks by following the signs. Green plants, birds, animal tracks, fecal matter, and bees. With one hiking group we searched all day and never found the tenaha we were looking for. The next week we went out with Chuck, a museum trustee, and we found six or seven in a small amount of time.

There is also the tale tell sign that you are near a traditional tenaha that has been used historically as a water source in the desert - broken pottery.

On the way home we also stopped by the water holes that are used today. Five Palms is a natural warm spring where 92 degree water comes out of the ground and has created a two foot pool of warm water in the middle of the desert.

We spent about 30 minutes soaking in the evening on New Years Day.

At the BLM Campground called Hot Springs there is a 116 degree mineral spring that is pumped into a concrete pool. You can only soak a few minutes at a time here, but it is a very relaxing few minutes.

Monday, January 2, 2012

New Years Eve

This year for New Year's Eve we took a journey across the border into Algodones, Mexico. We did a progressive dinner taco cart to taco cart, and ate tacos until we could not eat anything else.

That's not even true, because on the way out Lucas said "I think I could only eat two more tacos."

Our afternoon started out at Manolos Tacos. They have a sign that says "Best Tacos in Town." Everyone thought they were pretty good. Lucas thought they were great.

We walked down the street and a little off the beaten path. We came across a young guy frying fish tacos on a cart in front of a house. We had fish tacos and shrimp tacos.

A couple blocks later we came across a taqueria grilling chicken on the street. We stopped to get one taco, but the proprietor invited us in to sit down. We bought additional tacos, a piece of grilled chicken with four tortilla shells, and several cokes. Our bill was $9.50.

Around the corner we came to another open fronted taqueria with a cart parked inside. They were grilling carne asada quesadillas. We ordered two with a very large bowl of guacamole.

We had thought that New Years Eve would be busy across the border. We wanted to leave before it got too late. Near the border we stopped some guy to ask why no one was around. "The party starts at 8:00 and will go all night," he said.

The border closes at 10:00PM and reopens at 6:00AM.

"There will be people laying all over the street by morning," he continued.

As we left we drove by a two mile long line of cars waiting to cross the border. The party was getting ready to start.