Monday, March 24, 2008

more photos

In the Sandia Mountains in Albuquerque- This is the view from the top of those spiral stairs in my last blog, down to the path below. Under the stairs was nothing. My sister, in the stairs photo, had to close her eyes to climb up and down. She was very brave to offer to go back up the stairs for the photo.

This is a Navajo artist (left) with my son, who painted a wonderful painting of five Kokopellis on a piece of limestone. It's just gorgeous, and Matt bought it for an amazing $25. This was taken at White House ruins in Canyon De Chelly.

The "two owls" near First Ruins in Canyon De Chelly.

Me, on a rock, at Antelope House, Canyon De Muerte. You can just barely see the antelope paintings over my head.

At the bottom, where the canyons meet. (De Chelly and Muerte) This is close to where we got stuck in our 4-wheeler. Another tour pulled us out.

All in all, our vacation was wonderful. The train ride down was a bit noisy, with kids out on spring break, but there was a room on the first level of the train that for some reason had all the seats removed, so the kids used it as a playroom, and us non-parents enjoyed them playing elsewhere. We saw a heard of elk and antelope, and a huge fllock of wild turkeys. I was on the lookout for a roadrunner, but I never saw one, even when we were told "Ohm they are all over the place." Right. All over except where I was. We walked along a canal my nephew likes to fish in and saw gunea fowl and quail, loads of ravens, and heard some red-winged blackbirds.

In the morning we hiked up to the 10,000 year old burial cave, and then went to santa FE for lunch and serious jewelry shopping. Serious as in from the Navajo, on blankets, around the town square. I got DH two decorated guitar picks, one from a guy who claimed he made them for Steve Miller. I beleive him. If he would have said Bruce Springsteen, I might not have, but Steve Miller is beleivable. I got several pairs of earrings, and Matt got two sand paintings. He's started collecting tiles, and these go very nicely. Below is a photo of his two sand paintings and the Kokopelli rock from the artist above.

At Canyon De Chelly we stayed at Thunderbird Lodge, which was once an old trading post. The rooms were nice, but the bathrooms were NOISY! Just flushing could be heard from both sides, and if someone was in the shower, you had to close the door or it could easily wake someone up, like me, who was exhasuted from all the hiking and spending.

We played rummy that night, and I lost miserably. Must have been the altitude. Yeah, that's the reason.

The 4-wheel tour of the canyons was a bit expensive, $200 for the six of us, but it was totally worth it. There were other tours, but this one got us all in one car, with no strangers. Our guide was excellent, even getting stuck didn't bother him. Without a guide, you can't go into the canyons, and without going into them, you can't see anything. The second day there we drove around the top rim and got photos looking down. We stopped at the Hubble Traing Post on the way home, and, of course, did some more shopping. (There was shopping IN the canyons too, where there were more Navajo selling jewelry and art.) I saw the most beautiful pot, all hand carved, and I just didn't have the money to get it, and I would have had to carry it home on the train. But I'll probably always wish I had bought it.

We were trying to get to Acoma Pueblo on the way home, but it was just too far of a drive to make it before it closed. Well, that's for next time. We managed a short trip to Old Town Albuquerque before we jumped on the train for home. My nephew loves trains, so he got to come aboard and look around. Still more shopping from, you guessed it, Navajos at the train station. All in all, I got 7 pairs of earrings, two pairs of socks, three T-shirts, several magnets, bookmarks, a pen and a keychain for me, and some gifts for family and friends.

The next great adventure? A trip to Buffalo, NY by train with my good friend, and hopefully a large meetup with the BOs.

Today? Back to work, slogging thru emails, realizing I only have two weeks to write a 10 page paper draft on cap-and-trade carbon credits, and several pages of revisions I promised to do on the watershed plan by wednesday. Oh yeah. Back to the grind.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Back from New Mexico!

OK- So we went to Arizona, too. This is Canyon De Chelly in Arizona. We took a tour with a Navajo guide and got to see Anazasi ruins and cave paintings. It was truly breath taking!

I can heartily recommend De Chelly Tours if you go. The owner, Des Yazzie, grew up in the canyon and explored the ruins as a kid.

We also hiked up the Sandia Monutains to a cave where a 10,000 year old burial was found. We had to climb a spiral staircase to get to the cave that just kind of hung over the cliff. This is my sister on the stairs and my nephew Tanner and me in the cave.

We were well sunburned, totally broke, but we had such a great time!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Almost time for vacation!

I just can't wait! in 36 hours I'm on the train and off to another wonderful week in New Mexico. I have 125 4th graders tomorrow for and annual science event, which is fun but exhausting. Then home to pack, get last minute items together and saturday am... on the train. Right now the plan is to hike around Albuquerque Monday, go to Santa Fe tuesday, then to Canyon de Chelly, Arizona wednesday and thursday. Friday at 1:00 we are back on the train to come home.

I plan to take lots of photos. Stay tuned for more adventures.....

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Whew! What a day!

I was going to have a nice day off. Well, there was something that need my attention at school. So into work I go, get a lab set up, then home to take the new kitten to the vet for a quick gender check. (It's a Boy!) He cried the whole way to and from the vet. About 45 minutes of howling from a tiny kitten! Back to school in time for lunch. Great timing. Played Mahjongg, lost. Then off to get a cut and a perm.
Home in time to convince DH that a male cat was perfectly fine. (He wanted a female.) and since he has an M on his head, he needs an M name. Oh, we had some silly ones, but he ends up being Merlin. (DS suggested Moonbeam, but that was too sissy for a boy.) Primo Cat Sparkle is not thrilled with the alien, but she's doing better. Or was until I accidentally touched her butt, when she was staring at the invader. She jumped, howled, took off down the hall and is now back to hissing. **sigh**

Then this evening I went to a talk about cap and trade carbon credits. Yup, about as exciting as it sounds, and the friend I was with knew more than the guys making the presentation. It did make them come over and talk to us after the presentation, and we got some good information and traded some websites. It was kind of cool to talk to people trying to do something about global warming. I have to write a paper on cap and trade, so I got some good leads and quotes.

Back home, kitten hates me. I think he remembers who took him on the car ride. He's very bonded with DH, which is good. I can have the old kitty, he can have the new one.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Farewell February!

Whoa- what happened to February?

I had the greatest time friday. I went to a Recource Day in Springfield, where a bunch of environmental educators got together to share ideas and who is doing what. I got loads of info about IDNR programs, col stuff happening all over the state and after a forgettable lunch (ok but not fantastic) I got a behind the scenes tour of the Illinois Natural History Museum and Research Center. OMG! When you walk into the first room- like a warehouse with rows and rows of shelves, the first thing you see is a pair of stuffed African Lions, with an elk next to them, and two standing grizzlies. Peek around the elk and there are two Dalls sheep, assorted wild boars, and a wall full of African antelope heads. Look up on the shelves- fox, squirrels raccoons, bobcats, and about 20 rabbits look down. We were all quiet, just in awe of all these mounted animals, and someone says "and they all come to life every night."

This place holds everything that is not on display at the museum, which is all the research specimens and all the non-native animals donated from Grandpa's trophy room. Birds, even an eagle, and skeletons of everyhting imaginable. When we walkied into the bone lab, they had the pig skeletion wrapped with Christmas lights. We asked how often they found them that way. They have 95% of all the native plants in Illinois in their herbarium. And the rocks! Oh the rocks! Beautiful specimens, huge fluorite crystals (the Illinois state mineral) and fossils on top of fossils! It's funny, but Illinois has no dinosaur fossils, but we have mammoths and tons of sea fossils and plant fossils. I could have just roamed for days, opening drawers, poking in boxes. Amazing, simply amazing. I'd love to have some of that for our school.

so here's my daily rant- I'm taking an online class, and the instructor has been MIA for a couple weeks. Then he shows up, claims the flu (like he only has to get to a computer for 5 minutes to post a "keep on going, I'm sick" message) and puts up a lecture and then announces a test. Well most of the material on the test we covered 7 weeks ago, with no discussion or input from him, period. He said te test was going up friday. Friday, no test- not unusual, because he always says something is up when it's not. So I went into work Satuday to catch up on my work for friday, and thought, Oh I'll down load the test and work on it at home. He had said something about it being an essay test he would post and we'd have a week to work on it. So what did I see Saturday? The test is online and I hvae until Sunday at 2:00pm to take it! He never says which Sunday, but typically these are online for a week. Since he doesn't say, I have to assume that he only is giving us a day and a half, over a weekend, to take this exam. And it's timed- 69 questions (4 essay) in an hour and a half. That's not bad except it takes about 30 seconds to submit each answer, not uncluding the time to read the question, decide on an answer, maybe check the book or notes to be sure (all online tests are open book) so it could (and did) take about 65 minutes for the multiple guess/ TF part. Once you pick an answer, you have to click save, wait for the saved box to pop up, close that box, click on the submit button then "yes" on the "are you sure" box, brcause once something is submitted you can't go back and change it. Then there were the essay. He said he wanted a "good sentence" for each one. Well, I'm sorry, but a sentence is seldom enough. I know this stuff very well since it's the same thing I'm teaching a the college level. ( I teach undergrad 100 level non-major introductory science lab and this is a 400 grad level majors class and I think my class is harder.) I only had 4 minutes left when I finished. And this online test had no "restarts" which means once you start you have to finish. If you get booted mid-test, too bad. You are done.

I almost emailed the instructor twice, telling him that he was an idiot, but much nicer, of course. I almost posted a note to him as well, but didn't do either. This isn't my class, and he's going to have to learn how online classes work. I'm just planning to ream him on the eval. I've onnly really done that once before, adn it was the same thing- any instructor who goes MIA for more than a week, and doesn't answer questions (even "Since we are behind, when are our assignments due and what should we be reading?") gets the wrath of RockWoman! I just keep thinking- I could sooooo do this better. Example- we have powerpoint lectures to listen to every week (well we get them about every other week whhich is why at week 8 we are only starting chapter 5) and during the lectures, he voices over the slides. He has a boring voice, tells the same joke every lecture, and worst of all YAWNS during his own lectures! Over and over he's yawning at us. So how easy do you think it is to stay awake? C'mon... at least re-record the clips you are yawning through!

Well, that's my rant. Seems like that's all I do. At least here. But friday were were talking, hugging, eating and I just love getting together with my EEAI pals.

And two weeks from today, I'll be in New Mexico! VACATION!