Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Giving Tuesday

Today was Giving Tuesday. The day when our self-driven, consumer-oriented, capitalistic culture is supposed to give back.

The day started with a friend sending me a story from overseas entitled, "After five years, has Giving Tuesday caught on?"

That was the Marketplace story that ran today on NPR.

At the Imperial Valley Desert Museum the Giving Tuesday campaign raised just under $2,000 from 16 donors. It was an average of $120 per person. This is four times what we raised last year.

About half of the people who gave I know personally. Two of them I know intimately. So yes, NPR, it has caught on. Giving Tuesday is a success. Or is it...

The surprising thing to me is that out of the 300+ members of the museum, the 11 people who sit on the Board of Directors, and the five people we employ, only 16 people donated to the museum on our Giving Tuesday campaign.

I understand that people give their time, and their energy, and their support, but at some point you have to GIVE. I think that is what the founders of Giving Tuesday set out to achieve. A day when we would give back. Not our time, but our money.

I think my family spent around $600 between Black Friday and Cyber Monday. I got one thing I wanted. But today, on Giving Tuesday, we gave to three organizations totaling $170.

I feel so smug in my benevolence. But should I? I received a dozen or more requests in my inbox today from organizations that I really believe in and that I really want to support. But, evidently, the things I want are more important than the things I believe in.

That should be a lesson to us all. 100% of the Education Programs at the Imperial Valley Desert Museum are funded by donations. Today, people gave 30% of what we were hoping.

I will go buy a new Coach purse for my wife. You decide which kids don't get to come to the museum.    

Thursday, November 17, 2016

What is an Adventure?

I have been writing this blog for almost 10 years. But between 2013 and 2015, there were only 9 posts. I have been going though my blog in the last few days! I have been the most productive and have had the most professional success between 2013-2015. I am bummed out that I did not share this. There should have been a lot of pictures to share between these three years...

Blog posts are better when they include a picture. But there are a lot of posts that are just text. Boring! 

but then again, these are some pretty cool tires. I have written about Jeeps before. But I have not really expressed my obsession. These tires will be paid for in just a few days. I wish I could see them, but I am in Alaska, where I walk five miles a day because I do not have a car. Soon, however, these tires will be on a 2014 Wrangler, and an even better set will be on a 2000 Wrangler. 

But I digress. I don't think I have ever even posted a picture of my 2000 Wrangler

Soon come. Soon come. . 

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Research and Researchers

For the first 60 days that I was at the Museum of the Aleutians, we had a researcher in the building every day. Marjolein Admiraal, a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Gronigen, in York, England, came to do isotope studies on 4,000 year old stone bowl cooking vessels. Then, Kale Bruner, a Ph.D. candidate from the University of Kansas, came to do a Minimum Nodule Analysis study at another 6,000 year old site. She is looking for "standard technological attributes to reconstruct lithic nodules brought to and reduced at different archaeological sites."

Her work was amazing. She started with our collections of thousands of unsorted flakes - the trash left when making a stone tool - and sorted them by color and then by geological grain pattern. She analyzed the grain by placing each flake under a microscope. She worked in the museum every day for 8 weeks and identified more than 50 nodules, or cores,  in each of the three assemblages. A core is the piece of rock that a paleolithic hunter would start with when making a tool.

I would normally consider the stuff she was working with as trash. I never understood the value of these small pieces of rock. But her dissertation is ground breaking and has opened my eyes to a whole new line of research

This week, our new Collections Manager came onto staff. We have initiated a new strategic direction, with a focus on staff directed research. The first thing she is working on is an National Science Foundation emergency grant to complete excavations at an archaeological site that is eroding along one of the beaches. I have been monitoring the site since I got here. It is an unprotected site that is being looted as it erodes. The Aleutian Islands are ground central for climate change. And both the archaeological collections at the museum and the sites around the islands offer research opportunities to show how quickly the climate has shifted in the past, and how humans have adapted to these shifts.

It is exciting stuff. I wish I had the background to do the actual research. The science is cool. But evidently it is my job to put the science into accessible words and programs so that everyone can benefit. In the last 60 days we have been awarded three small grants that I have written and we will be producing a series of four quick temporary exhibits focused on our research collections. That, I think, will this weekend.    

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Election Day

The last polling places to close in the US are in the Aleutian Islands. They close in about an hour. These islands are the farthest west you can go in the US. The election is not over until the polls here close.

I don't think that the few thousand votes will make a difference to the outcome of the election. And it is likely that the election will be decided before the polls close.

But you would not know this from being here. The votes here count. And the political debate is as vigorous as anywhere else in the US. Alaska is very conservative. In fact, if many people really believed what they say, they would be voting Libertarian. Really, no different than in the Desert Southwest. At the same time, I hang out with teachers, who are largely very liberal. The local elections here were last week. The new mayor beat the incumbent by just 5 votes. I heard last night that everyone is trying to take credit for being one of the five votes!  

Monday, November 7, 2016

Grand Turk Photos, 2009 - RE: see last post

Bonfire of the Vanities

I have been looking at pictures from Grand Turk this week. My computer is acting funny, so I have been saving files down to an external hard drive. In every photo we are eating on a screened-in porch with a beautiful backdrop. In the Turks and Caicos, evening lasted a long time. The sun was often up until 9pm or so, and every day was nearly perfect. You just had to be on a screened-in porch. The mosquitoes were the worst on Grand Turk. You never see them in the pictures, but I was at several parties that were ruined by mosquitoes.

In the deserts of Southern California, it is often too hot to do anything until nightfall. So our gatherings there were after dark when the heat of the day cooled down. My favorite thing about Imperial County was swimming at midnight when the temperature of the water was 100 degrees and the temperature of the air was 100 degrees.

In the Aleutian Islands, bonfires are the focal point of gatherings. There are shipping pallets everywhere, Thousands of them. Everything on and off the island goes on pallets. And Dutch Harbor is a major stop for international trans-Pacific cargo boats - when they need something. There are lots of pallets.

So a pallet bonfire is very typical. There are places all over the island where you can see the evidence of someone's party. If you are walking on the beach, you will eventually come across evidence of a bonfire.

On Saturday, I was invited to the "christening" of someone's new metal fire pit. They had made a large ring of metal pilings, metal used to build retaining walls for shipping channels. The party was at the house of a significant regional artist who specializes in woodblock printing. The artist had drawn the outlines of a starfish, and a local welder had cut the details into the 1/2 inch metal. He said that each plate took 12 hours to cut with a blow torch. I am pretty sure all this work was done by bartering art.  I have to admit, the fire pit was cool. It was 30 degrees on Saturday and I walked to work in the snow. But humans find ways to adapt. Though it was sleeting and the conditions sound unreasonable, the party was very enjoyable, and with the fire blazing it felt quite normal. And did I mention, there are no mosquitoes here.        

Friday, November 4, 2016

Devil in the Details

In the last several weeks, I have noticed something during my weekly building inspection at the Museum of the Aleutians that has made me think a lot about design, facilities maintenance, and the "real" job at most museums.     

In September, I participated in a conference session at the Museums Alaska conference in Juneau. The session was called “Working with the Architect.” The session was a lot about bashing your architectural services provider over poor decisions made during the design and construction process of building a new museum. I became part of the session after two other presenters were not able to make it. I am pretty sure they did not know I have a degree in architecture and was coming at the topic slightly differently than everyone else. Though, full disclosure, I also have my issues with the architectural services provider at every museum I have ever worked at. 

The session was really about small decisions. The big decisions in most cases are cool. They result in spaces and places that visitors think are cool. The reality is that architects design spaces where people want to sit and drink a cup of coffee. Well, good architects design those spaces. I showed images and talked about the new museum in Nome, Alaska, the Snohetta designed museum in the Turks and Caicos, the Wexner Center on the campus of The Ohio State University, and the Ohio Village Church at the Ohio History Connection.

When it comes to the architect and facilities maintenance issues, the devil is in the details. At the Museum of the Aleutians, the problem is the detailing and specification of the men's urinal. This Kohler urinal is designed and mounted in such a way that everyone urinates on the floor when they use it. At first I thought is was the average age of cruise ship passengers. Then, I thought maybe it was just me. Now, I blame the architect.

I have to mop this floor every two days, and immediately after a cruise ship visit. It is a combination of a poorly designed fixture mixed with a poorly specified floor tile. But, it is a facilities nightmare. I have not come up with a solution, and it makes me wonder if someone has been mopping the floor every two days since 1999, when the building was completed. 

There is a joke about the getting a job as the Executive Director of a small museum. It means you get to clean the toilet, I guess this is no joke. This week we hired the fourth staff person. In the last three months we have gone from being closed to having four people hired on staff. 

But I am still cleaning the toilets.