Monday, December 22, 2008

Had to post it

Im not sure how I feel about this whole bailout, but I had to share this:

Feliz Navidad.

Listening to Blind Pilot (and its awesome)

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Graphic Design

I am Finally starting the Christmas break, and I wanted to share some beer labels that i have developed in the past. (I, of course cant show this years Christmas label, because it may spoil the surprise). Ive been learning a lot about photoshop and how to use it to design. Its a lot of fun, but somewhat time-consuming.

This is Winter 2007

This is for our neighbors' wedding beer.

???? This year's Xmas label will be posted after the holidays.

Monday, December 15, 2008

A little recognition

So I was published in two local publications. Its kind of exciting even if they are just letters to the editor.
Santa Cruz Sentinel letter
Metro Santa Cruz letter

Nice to know my voice is heard, even if it is just a little bit.

Yesterday, I saw Milk with Meghan and my friend Scott. What an inspiring look at not just a man's life, but at how powerful individual activism can be, when someone cares enough to make change.

I highly recommend it.

Saturday, December 13, 2008 a setting winter sun

In an effort to slide down the last post, to push it out of my life; its time for a little reflection:

I love this time of year. When the air gets cold and the it hurts a little to get out of bed. Its been a little strange this year, with winter just on the edge--not quite ready to commit. But with this weekend, and this last week I've really felt winter in the air.

As much as Meghan will deny it, I kinda like Christmas time. I don't like the commercial side of it, but I like the warm feeling it brings, and the anticipation. And walking through union square in SF even makes me like the commercial side of it (just a little bit)

Winter moves slowly, like a poem, gently leaving its imprint on you. Its not an easy season, but it is absolutely necessary.

One of the main reasons I moved from San Diego back to northern California was a desire for change in season. I know Santa Cruz is no snowy mountain retreat, but the chill is beautiful and it make me feel more alive. Change is important to us all.

Even the ocean feels different in the winter, it has a cool glow. Meghan and I walked along it this morning and tasted the cool fog and salty air on our breath, and it tasted different. The winter waves can be monstrous, but the ocean itself is just changing colors, like the leaves. The redwoods feel different too, they bring in the darkness and the cold quicker. On my afternoon bike ride, my fingers started to freeze, and even though I was a little upset to end early; I could hear the winter trees belly-laughing at me.

In winter, it is ok to stay inside and read; and melancholy music really feels perfect; beer tastes a little bit better and warm cup of tea can solve all of your problems. I think I am a winter person, and I think the change it brings is good for us all.

Listening to Damien Jurado Ohio

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

A bit perturbed

I don't want to post too much information about this because its still in the works, that being said, here's why today kinda sucks:

Last week on one of the days I rode my bike to school, I forgot my classroom keys. While in Yearbook I sent two trustworthy students to the office to get the keys to my camera closet. They came back and opened the closet and brought the key to me. They opened it without my permission, so I just mentioned to them not to do it again. Then I locked it (probably 3 minutes after they opened it). They then checked out the camera and took pictures around campus.

That night I had a midnight vision, in which the school video camera was missing from the closet. I went to school the next day and found it to be gone. I talked to the one student who was there and of course he knew nothing about it.

So I let my principal know, and he was visibly upset, as was I.

So my first dilemma arises, why cant I trust students? I want to be able to and I feel that earning trust is an important step in growing up. So once again, students break Mr. Zs trust. Ugh

So this week gets going and the camera was not found. Both students denied any knowledge, as did all studetns in the class. So another piece of equipment (that I dont even use) has been stolen.

Today, I recieved a demerit letter of unsatisfactory job performance. It was because I wasnt taking care of the school's equipment well enough. I am frusterated in myself for trusting students, but really? unsatisfactory performance? How does that have anything to do with my teaching?

I am tired of getting taken advantage of by students, and by administration. I am not a bad person, nor am I a bad teacher; I believe this is a little bit unfair.

What do you think?

Now playing: Dar Williams - The One Who Knows
via FoxyTunes

Friday, December 5, 2008

A video you really must see

Not only is this video hilarious, its relevant and Jack Black playing Jesus... priceless.

See more Jack Black videos at Funny or Die

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Throwing a bottle (That's what they call hitchhiking in Cuba)

Its been awhile since I rode my bike to work, but that's because my local bike shop took forever to get my wheels rebuilt. But I finally got it back and was able to ride today. I knew that either I would forget something or something would go wrong, I just wasn't sure what.

So there I was, riding my normal route amongst the cows, strawberries and gigantic trucks sufficiently in the middle of nowhere, and I got a flat tire. This is normally not a problem, but today I didnt have any sort of tire changing equipment, so I tried to use the back of my pump, and lo and behold, I broke it. So not only could I not change my tire, I couldn't pump up the original.

I was about 20 minutes from school over a big hill, so I called my colleague who drives the same way. I left a message and called him again and again; he already thinks I'm weird, so this morning bombardment of calls probably didnt help.

He didn't answer. I thought, "shit" what do I do? i guess my principal could come get me, but that's probably not the best solution. I ended up calling him too, but noone answered, so I decided to hitchhike. I did it in central America and Alaska, why not Prunedale. I put out my thumb for awhile and noone even slowed down except to give me a funny look. So I waited, and waited. And then, flying around the corner comes my fellow teacher, Carlos, or C-lo as I like to call him (not really).

He skids up to me looks at me as if I've lost my mind. He throws his hands up in the air and I throw my bike in his truck and get in. He tells me, what are you doing. I said, hitchhiking, what does it look like.

So as we sorted things out, it turns out that his phone was turned off and he had no idea that I called, he just thought I was some wahoo trying to get a free ride, but he recognized my bike and stopped.

So I made it to work, fixed my bike and had a nice ride home. That was quite a morning though.

listening to Britney spears "womanizer" (not really)

Wednesday, November 19, 2008


<-- a little Photoshop fun

A few weeks ago, I kindof decided that I wouldn't be following the CAHSEE curriculum as closely as I had been told to do. Aside from scoffing at the idea of teaching to a standardized test, I also found that there was no way I could conduct or control a class if the kids were lambasted with boring-state-mandated materials.

So I started peeling short stories from my previous years teaching and from my college readings that left an impression on me. We read "Lamb to the Slaughter" about a woman who kills her husband with a lamb leg, "The somebody" about a kid from east LA who finds that tagging his name all over his neighborhood made him feel like a somebody, and now we are reading, "Greasy Lake." I've been choosing these stories for their themes and connectedness to my students.

While reading, "Greasy Lake" to them, while describing a brutal fight, drug exploration, and a potential rape scene, I began to question myself. I don'd like censorship, and I like hard-hitting stories that really get my students into them and that they can relate to, but I wonder, even with deep discussion and analysis--will they really get the positive messages out of the stories?

I cound read to the class for 45 minutes and the F bomb or "marijuana" would be mentioned once and they wouldnt be able to tell me anything about the story except that the main character smoked pot.

I believe in challenging the traditional notions of the classroom but I also want to support the understanding of difficult situations in literature and life and I may not be always getting through. I guess all I can do is try.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Two important links

I realize I have been quite political lately, but our lives are inherently political so here are two people saying things better than I could:

Keith Obermann on Prop 8 (powerful words):

Alice Walker in an open letter to a new president:

An Open Letter to Barack Obama

Alice Walker on expectations, responsibilities and a new reality that is almost more than the heart can bear.

AFP/Getty Images
Type Size


Nov. 5, 2008

Dear Brother Obama,

You have no idea, really, of how profound this moment is for us. Us being the black people of the Southern United States. You think you know, because you are thoughtful, and you have studied our history. But seeing you deliver the torch so many others before you carried, year after year, decade after decade, century after century, only to be struck down before igniting the flame of justice and of law, is almost more than the heart can bear. And yet, this observation is not intended to burden you, for you are of a different time, and, indeed, because of all the relay runners before you, North America is a different place. It is really only to say: Well done. We knew, through all the generations, that you were with us, in us, the best of the spirit of Africa and of the Americas. Knowing this, that you would actually appear, someday, was part of our strength. Seeing you take your rightful place, based solely on your wisdom, stamina and character, is a balm for the weary warriors of hope, previously only sung about.

I would advise you to remember that you did not create the disaster that the world is experiencing, and you alone are not responsible for bringing the world back to balance. A primary responsibility that you do have, however, is to cultivate happiness in your own life. To make a schedule that permits sufficient time of rest and play with your gorgeous wife and lovely daughters. And so on. One gathers that your family is large. We are used to seeing men in the White House soon become juiceless and as white-haired as the building; we notice their wives and children looking strained and stressed. They soon have smiles so lacking in joy that they remind us of scissors. This is no way to lead. Nor does your family deserve this fate. One way of thinking about all this is: It is so bad now that there is no excuse not to relax. From your happy, relaxed state, you can model real success, which is all that so many people in the world really want. They may buy endless cars and houses and furs and gobble up all the attention and space they can manage, or barely manage, but this is because it is not yet clear to them that success is truly an inside job. That it is within the reach of almost everyone.

I would further advise you not to take on other people's enemies. Most damage that others do to us is out of fear, humiliation and pain. Those feelings occur in all of us, not just in those of us who profess a certain religious or racial devotion. We must learn actually not to have enemies, but only confused adversaries who are ourselves in disguise. It is understood by all that you are commander in chief of the United States and are sworn to protect our beloved country; this we understand, completely. However, as my mother used to say, quoting a Bible with which I often fought, "hate the sin, but love the sinner." There must be no more crushing of whole communities, no more torture, no more dehumanizing as a means of ruling a people's spirit. This has already happened to people of color, poor people, women, children. We see where this leads, where it has led.

A good model of how to "work with the enemy" internally is presented by the Dalai Lama, in his endless caretaking of his soul as he confronts the Chinese government that invaded Tibet. Because, finally, it is the soul that must be preserved, if one is to remain a credible leader. All else might be lost; but when the soul dies, the connection to earth, to peoples, to animals, to rivers, to mountain ranges, purple and majestic, also dies. And your smile, with which we watch you do gracious battle with unjust characterizations, distortions and lies, is that expression of healthy self-worth, spirit and soul, that, kept happy and free and relaxed, can find an answering smile in all of us, lighting our way, and brightening the world.

We are the ones we have been waiting for.

In Peace and Joy,
Alice Walker

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

We did it!!

I don't think I will soon forget the feeling that I felt when Obama was declared president of the US, and everyone in the restaurant I was in stood up and started clapping and screaming. A tear in Meghans eyes and overwhelming joy in mine. Yesterday was a day for the history books.

I heard it many times today on the radio: Not since Lincoln signed the emancipation proclomation has there been a more important day than today. It is not a day for speeches, or prose, it is a day for poetry.

I am overjoyed by our countries decision to elect Obama, but I am a bit frusterated that in a state that votes for chickens to have bigger cages a proposition was passed that will make it illegal for all people to get married. I hope very deeply that this unconstitutional proposition is rejected in the state courts.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

A Pressing issue

I felt the need to share a podcast that I just listened to to bring up an important discussion around the presidential election coming up next tuesday. So here's the link to the podcast.
This American Life Ground Game

You can also download it via itunes. I realize its hard to sit through an hour radio show, but I highly recommend it. It goes in depth with some volunteers on both sides of the campaign specifically in the supposed battleground state of Pennsylvania.

I have to say, as I was listening to it this morning I became slightly frusterated. One of the main issues with a lot of folks who normally vote democrat, but arent sure this time is race. Its not even a little voice in the back of their mind either. There are a significant number of voters who actually will not vote for Obama because he is black. (along with the other absurd accuasations of terrorism and a muslim background)

It really bothered me to hear how ok it was for people to say that they are openly racist, or at least prejudiced. I come from a surface-level liberal state where most people would never admit to being racist--I say surface level because I see racism every day, it is ingrained in all of us, even Californians--what really bothers me is the sheer momentum that racism is mounting against our canidate.

If anything it reenforces my belief that the election of Obama will take forward in great strides as a country. But it really makes me think--damn--we need to really evaluate the paradigm that we live in. We need to attack racism head on, not just turn our heads and pretend we didnt hear that comment made in the office or the classroom. There needs to be a powerful assault from all people to change the way so many people think in this country.

Now playing: The Weepies - Stars
via FoxyTunes

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Proposition 8 and equal rights

I was just visiting my mother in Danville, and I saw an unfortunate number of signs pushing for a Yes vote on proposition 8. This deeply disturbs me, even more than the McCain Palin signs I saw all over Tahoe this weekend. What gets me the most is the yes on prop 8 sign works a propaganda approach saying that it is protecting our families.

If you have no idea what I'm talking about, here's the downlow:
Proposition 8 was introduced to the ballot for the november 4 election to eliminate the law that says marriage, in California, is legal between a man and man or a woman and woman. This law was established by the CA supreme courts this last winter. And I thought it was long overdue, but now some special interest groups are trying to change it. According to some of their commercial they are saying that teachers (that's me) will brainwash their children to believe that homosexuality is ok. The unfortunate addendum that they are missing is that they will be the ones who have brainwashed their own children to believe that love can only occur between a man and woman.

There was an interesting letter to the editor in Saturday's SF Chronicle that was from a mother explaining what a difficult thing it would be to tell her daughter that not all people are allowed to love each other, only men and women.

I believe this to be a civil rights issue that should not be ignored, if you live in California and you vote for prop 8, I believe that you are voting to take away human dignity and rights that all people deserve.

Vote no on prop 8!

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Politics and Rhetoric

Just listening to the vice presidential debate and I'm of course interested, but I'm also a little bit frustrated. When I hear these debates, especially this one, I find, as an audience member awash in rhetoric.

It seems that these debated aren't so much about the issues as they are about how best to spin their issues. It may seem strange coming from me that I am disillusioned by politics after all of my pro Obama statements. I haven't changed my opinion, but this vice-presidential debate has shown me that debate--even on a presidential level-- is a game of wordsmiths, not policy.

After hearing Biden and Palin arguing over a vote that McCain made about protection of troops I realize that the game has begun.

I do have to say though. I think Biden kind of kicked butt against the middle-class hockey mom BS coming from Palin.

Did I just contradict myself?

Thursday, September 25, 2008

The Sweet Mix of Fertilizer, Urine, and Exhaust

As I was riding my bike down my new commute route, taking a deep breath, I wondered if I was increasing my life expectancy by riding or decreasing it by breathing in the chemical ridden Salinas Valley air.

I am trying to balance my ugly commute with 2 days of riding/bus-ing per week to balance my physical activity, my mind and my ugly toll on the environment.

Its a good ride--about 14 miles each way from Watsonville to Prunedale, up and over a small mountain and against traffic on the 101 for a short distance. It definitely increases my happiness quotient, and surprisingly, I like the bus ride a lot as well. There is some incredible people wathching--and work time-- but best of all I dont have to drive.

After reading the section of The Omnivores Dillema that talks about the Salinas Valley and smelling the mixture of odors that waft by me, I definitely have to question farming practices. Although, the strawberries to smell delicious.

I hope I can keep up this routine and possibly alternate it with some carpooling. It will definitely make this commute more manageable.

Listening to Blitzen Trapper Furr

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Music in strange places or strange places in music?

Been watching some interesting videos from a french website that films bands playing their songs in very different settings than would be expected:
Beirut in a brooklyn stairway:

Grizzly Bear in a Bathroom:

Arcade Fire in an elevator:

Awesome stuff.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

What will we do if it does Change?

I woke up this morning with a strange thought... and now in retrospect it seems less likely than it did through my early morning dreams.

I was thinking about Mr. Obama and what might change if he were commander in chief. Of course being the ego-drowned american that I am, I believe that everything I want to change will change based on my beliefs, but thats slightly absurd.

I was thinking about how life in the America has been littered with bad decisions and the crumbling notions of an empire in decline during the last 8 years. I was thinking about the anger I've had about the war in Iraq and Bush's "environmental policies."

Then I thought what would we, collectively as progressive Americans have to complain about if Obama was president. There was a strange Utopian feeling that came over me about how everything would be great if he were to become president, and we wouldnt have anything to protest about or be enraged about.

Then reality struck me again. I think Obama is the right choice for our country, and I think "W" has really done some destructive things but things arent going to instantly be better.

Not to be a pessimist, but I believe that we are dealing with a roman empire on the edge of collapse no matter who is in charge. I have nothing but hope for the future, but no one person is going to make this country better from the ills that it suffers.

Now playing: Josh Ritter - Monster Ballads

Monday, September 1, 2008

Labor Day in a Coffee shop, Laboring

Just wanted to share some interesting experiences from the last week:

Ladyfight in my classroom: There were desks flying, people cheering, and nails scraping. I tried my best to break it up, but there are some things that just cant be stopped. Some of my other students told me they would have helped to break it up because those girls are tough--that was nice of them.

Indigo Girls and Matt Nathanson singing "kid fears" and "Closer to fine":
Wow, yesterday Meghan and I spent the day at the Oakland Art and Soul festival. I have to say that hearing these two songs were close to perfection. The ladies harmonies are amazing and smooth as butter, but throw in a male voice and wow. We had a great time celebrating her birthday.

I'm actually enjoying my new school quite a bit. Of course its a challene, but what school wouldnt be? The kids are more respectful that my students last year, but they are all working on being students--of course Im working on being a teacher. :)

Listening to the Temptation of Adam--Josh Ritter

Sunday, August 17, 2008

My distant summer past

The flowers sitting beside me on the desk seem like the perfect metaphor for my summer past.

They were once bright, eclectic and beautiful, and now they are desperately trying to stay colorful and beautiful while their life is withering away.

Okay that may be overly dramatic.

School started last Wednesday, and it seems like its bee three weeks, not days that I have been teaching. The interesting thing, is the planning and the commute are the two things that have been exhausting me most, not the kids. For the most part, they are respectful and interested. And--get this-- they listen.

It is most definitely the honeymoon period, but this school is definitely run with an iron fist. Kids don't get away with much. I walked into class Wednesday, slightly afraid of what to expect, and all except for the freshman, I am happily surprised. It is definitely a change, teaching a 6 period day after teaching block schedule last year, and after my summer mellow time.

I believe this will be a good match, but its going to take awhile to adjust to the change.

Now playing: In My Time of Dyin' - Bob Dylan
via FoxyTunes

Monday, August 11, 2008

Just when I thought I was Safe

I realize that most people reading this should have no sympathy for me, but my summer vacation is--unfortunately--coming to an end.

Tomorrow I begin my new teaching career. I will be starting the new job and trying to adopt the new curriculum. I will have new students who may or may not trust me as a teacher, I will be a new member of a cohesive staff and will see if I can also gain their trust.

I will be teaching Advanced English, CAHSEE english, and Yearbook. I am a little bit afraid of the CAHSEE class. I will basically be preparing students to pass the CA state High School exit exam. As you may or not know, I am personally opposed to teaching to a test. That is exactly what many of the mandates coming from Georgie and NCLB are getting teachers to do. I understand as well that many of these students must pass this test for a high school diploma. So it does have a very concrete outcome.

I hope that things remained balanced, as they seem very out of balance right now with my transition from relaxation to stress. Ugh :I

Monday, July 21, 2008

Big Sur: Joy, recuperation, and soul

Last week, when I told friends that I was riding my bike down to Big Sur to camp, the two most common responses were, "Why?" and "You know that Big Sur is on fire, right?"
After watching a small soulful show of The White Buffalo playing at the Fernwood bar in Big Sur, it would be easy to assume that Big Sur was still on fire. The fire burning there now is not a dangerous one; it is a fire of energy and beauty that was exemplified when the large man with beautiful long hair names with the moniker of "The White Buffalo" moved the crowd through a set of soulful folk-rock songs that would have set any place on fire.

Meghan and I met up with Tim and his fiance Jill at this rustic bar and over a few locally brewed beers, we were rocked to a completely different mind-space. The White Buffalo isn't all that well-known, he had a song on the soundtrack for the surf movie, "Shelter" and he has released one EP. It seems that he may not want to be any bigger than he is.
But check out this beautiful song:

Love Song 1 - The White Buffalo

Beyond that it was sad to see the entire mountainside of Los Padres National forest charred from the Basin Complex fires. A lot was burnt, but not destroyed, as we all know fire is a necessary force for revival in the forest. But it was truly exciting to see the people of Big Sur reviving themselves and coming together. There was a great energy everywhere we went. It was as if this natural disaster brought everyone together a little bit more.

It added to the strange magic that makes Big Sur what it is.

From my Perception, Big Sur is doing just fine.

Now playing: Shearwater - White Waves
via FoxyTunes

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

A Short Rant

This is purely for me to vent a little bit:
I went in to the doctor about a month ago for a physical. It was mainly because of two things: I knew that my insurance was soon to expire (changing jobs and all that) and because prior to that I hadn't been to the doctor in about 3-4 years.

Everything went fine and I am ok but my insurance sent me a bill telling me otherwise.

I was billed $330 for my physical and I found out that my insurance, Anthem Blue Cross would not cover the physical, this was considered, "preventative care." I called them and they verified that they would not cover preventative care, yet that if I went in with a cold or flu, they would have covered it.

It made me very upset that I would have to pay for this "preventative" care. I made an office visit and they gave me a slight discount, but it was nothing substantial.

Obviously this is a dent in my wallet during the summer, but I will survive. It just brings about bigger questions and problems.

Health insurance is a faulty system that allows a vicious cycle to continue. If they are promoting good health, shouldn't they be more focused on preventative care? If people are more healthy and check their health more often, they wont have to go in when they are really sick or injured because that wont happen as often. Preventative care should be insurance for healthiness. Obviously these big health care companies care less about health of their members and more about health of their gigantic billfolds.

It time to change the health care system. I am tired of waiting. And I am one of the lucky ones who has a decent health care plan that accompanies my job, what about the millions without health care? There is something deathly wrong with a society that values capital over health!

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Summer Break Pt. II / The New Roadtrip

Its not a completely new concept or anything, but to me it seemed like an astonishing discovery.I discovered over the course of about 7 days that the absolute best and most efficient way to travel over short or long distances is by bicycle. And with gas prices the way they are it seems that there really aren't many other options.

It started a few weeks ago at the Kate Wolf Memorial Music festival in Laytonville (North Mendocino county) with a few friends. We spent the weekend camping, swimming in the river, meeting people, jamming, hula hooping, and listening to some great music: Highlights included Greg Brown, Taj Mahal, The Wailin Jennys bringing the crowd to tears with their harmonies, Ani Difranco, Ruthie Foster, and many more.

After the festival was over, my friend Perry and I descended into the depths of hell (the Legget fires) on our bikes. As we got closer to the smoke and the fires it seemed as if someone was trying to tell us that maybe this bike thing wasn't the best idea. But after some greasy burgers and interesting conversation with the local sherriff, we ascended the coastal mountains and were blessed with crystal clear views of the Mendocino forests and coastline.

We made our way down the northern California coast averaging about 50-60 miles a day and had a blast. We camped at bike camps, ate great food, and shared with fellow bikers. We met some wonderful people and some strange people. We watched the sun set on the coast and the fog descend upon us every afternoon and morning. We went swimming in the Navarro river, napped on pacific cliffs and ate dough nuts out of dumpsters (interesting story).

It was an incredible journey and it really got me excited about bike touring. Its so easy, its a great workout, and its inexpensive.

In the past i really enjoyed going on roadtrips as a way to see places and meet interesting people, but I feel that current gas prices don't really make that kind of frivolous gas-burning acceptable (that and global warming). I think that bike tours are the new road trip. They really teach you to appreciate your surroundings and every mile of the road.

Im realizing that its very late and my words are blurring together. I will post a link to my photos from the trip in the next few days. Here are a few pictures:

Some travellin friends Organic coffee in Fort Bragg

view from the coastal town of Elk

View Larger Map

Now playing: Chavela Vargas - La llorona

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Summer Break Pt. I

This summer started with the Santa Cruz Mountains burning in 4 different places. It seemed like an ominous beginning to my first summer without specific plans since before I started high school.

This summer I have chosen not to work nor to vacation internationally, mainly because of the dominating costs and my want to spend more time with Meghan, my friends and my family. I realize that it is a luxury, as a teacher to have this much time to play around with, but I think and hope that it will increase my happiness quotient. (random fact: The country of Bhutan actually measures its GNH Gross National Happiness)

I did begin working on the farm that works with the Santa Cruz Homeless Garden Project, but I will write more about after I spend more time there. Along with this vacationing, I hope to get involved with my community

The first week was surprisingly difficult as I discovered that Newtons first law (an object in motion remains in motion unless acted upon by an equal and opposite force) applies to teachers and summer break. I had no idea what to do with all of my time. I wanted to relax but found myself unable to. So, I got together with my old high school buddy, Dominick and decided that we should go backpacking in Yosemite.

And being the privileged vacation-prone people that we are we did it. We spent 3 days in and around Yosemite's Tuolumne meadows. Over 3 days we hiked about 25 miles from an elevation of 8,000 ft to an elevation of 11,000 feet. The trails we hiked on were just thawing from their winter hibernation... meaning that they were muddy, snow covered and extremely mosquito-ridden in some places.

We saw Marmots, Prairie dogs, White tail deer, bear scat, wild rivers and streams, frozen lakes, alpine tundra, and boy scouts. It was a wonderful experience and it left both of us wanting to stay longer.

I am sure it wont be my only backpacking trip this summer, but it sure was an amazing one to start with. Dom had to be back to continue his job search, and i had to return for my next adventure: The Kate Wolf Music Festival and my bike ride down the California coast. But more of that to come. Until then here are some backpacking pictures and a link to where you can see more.

River Thoughts

Dinner Prep

Ireland Lake, Frozen in all its glory

Dom and Daren on top of another Pass.

Now playing: Dolorean - You Can't Win
via FoxyTunes

Thursday, June 5, 2008

You guys rock

Just wanted to say thanks to the responsive public. Lets keep the avenue open for discussion. Anyone have any thoughts about Obama's recent nomination--should Hillary be his his vice nomination or will he be ok on his own?

Now playing: Nina Simone - Little Girl Blue (The Postal Service Remix)
via FoxyTunes

Monday, June 2, 2008

not feeling extremely reflective

Summer is on the horizon. I can see it, yet at times it just feels so far away.
It's June and I am so looking forward to being done with the school year. Kids are a little crazy, but the reality is--the stress of preparing, grading and planning is just getting to me. I need a break.

This is the last week of instruction and next week we have graduation and conferences and cleaning my classroom and compiling data for my school (WHAT??!!). yeah, its all coming.

Its funny because I look so foreword to summer, but I'm really not sure what I'm going to do with myself. I know I need to relax, but it will be weird not to have any work. I feel like I've been putting everything off until summer begins (not really the best excuse).

Well I guess the title of this post is suiting, I'm just not sure what else to talk about. Although, I would enjoy if anyone who reads my blog could please click on the little comment button. And say something. It gets hard to get motivated to write when I'm not sure if anyone is reading. Thanks

Listening to: random classical music at the coffee shop

Wednesday, May 21, 2008


I just wanted to share a few things. First of all its been a long couple of weeks, dealing with this job transition and such, but I'm making it through. One of the things that Is really helping me is my capoeira class that i started a little over a month ago. Its this amazing Brazilian Martial art that is more of a dance then a fight. Each of the moves are responses and music plays an integral part in it. It is a physical and mental challenge, but it really takes my mind off other things.

I thought I would post some videos of it. It is originally a dance that slaves developed and practiced in brazil. It has roots in African and Portugese music and dance. This first video is from my school during the last presentation they had:

This second video is of a famous instructor mestre bimba. It has some really cool footage:

oh yeah, one other fun thing I found recently. Totally unrelated: Tom Waits interviewing himself. How postmodern

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Humbled through headphones

I was riding my bike home today, and I was very nearly pushed off the road by a truck who was turning left without a signal. I, of course, could rant about those drivers who don't feel the need to use turn signals, but I wont go off on some diatribe.

In my usual non-confrontational defensive fashion, I gave the driver the evil eye. I think he must have been quaking in his boots, so he opened his window and yelled at me. I couldn't hear what he was saying because I had my headphones in, but I was sure it was something obnoxious. So I took out a headphone and started telling him that he needed to use turn signals or bikers cant see him. I was slightly furious. And when I finished he looked at me strangely and repeated himself, "I said, I'm sorry" he yelled through the window. My anger turned into humility, "thanks man." I had nothing more to say.

I guess its not fair to think that all SUV drivers are jerks. I kinda felt like a jerk for yelling at him.

So I learned a lesson, but I still hope people learn to better use their turn signals. There have been far too many bike deaths in Santa Cruz this year.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

It's Official

Last week was somewhat absurd, but it is now official. I will be taking a new job on next year.

I was hired by a school that has a similar population to mine, but seems to be a bit more organized. The interview went great and the principal called me at 7:30 am the day after to offer me the job. It is a continuation school, not a charter, and it exists for students who either don't pass classes in mainstream high schools, get kicked out, or are raising children while trying to attend school.

It has some really interesting programs, one of being its nursery. There is an on-site childcare setup so that young parents can finish high school. They also serve a sit-down meal to all of the students and their parents one night every other month.

The best thing is that the principal runs a tight ship and really seems to support his teachers in any way that he can. All of the rooms have lots of technology, the teachers attend and present at at least one conference every year, and the school is a "model school."The kids were extremely respectful, and if they don't abide by school rules they are booted.

I don't want to mention the name of it, because I don't know who reads this blog, but I have to say i think the next few weeks may be difficult at my school. I really don't want to burn bridges with them, because they've provided me with so much--but I know they aren't happy with me. I also want to let the kids know, but not create chaos, as a few other teachers are also leaving.

I think a lot of wonderful and exciting things will be happening in my near future, but I will also have to deal with the transition and change of one position to another.

Oh yeah, then there's the commute. I currently ride my bike every day to school. That will definitely change next year as this school is a little over 25 miles away. Ugh-- gas prices don't seem to be going down either. but overall, I think it will be a welcome change.

Now playing: Spokane - American Television
via FoxyTunes

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

More Politics your way-- si se puede cambiar

I just ran across these two videos about my man. I thought I would share them. I find them inspiring in their diversity. I realize that songs are somewhat unfair forms of sharing political opinion, but I also think that there is nobetter way then to use art to make a difference. I have a feeling this won't be the last Obama post.


Sunday, April 6, 2008

A poet's lament

In listening to Adam Duritz and the Counting Crows new release, Saturday nights and Sunday mornings, I have to admit that I wasn't initially impressed; even though I have a deep-seeded love for the crows, I have come to resent their commercial success-their seeming lack of humility to produce a Coca-cola commercial or a Shrek soundtrack. Although in deeper listening, I am reminded of Adam's incredible ability to write lyrics of euphoric beauty or ironic metaphor and insightful emptiness:
And I believe she loves you
Cause you never make her feel like anything

If his lyrics are as autobiographical as they seem, then Adam must have been in and out of hundreds of relationships, but at least they have created musings for depth in his music. His songs often connect to a continuing story or character or even a muse (Elizabeth, girl on a wire) and for me the truest and deepest connection comes from my personal past. I remember the snippets of beauty and how they exhaled through me as a young adult in middle and high school. I feel as if I have grown up with the crows and for that reason I cant let them go.

And so as an ardent crows fan, my opinion wont really be unbiased, but whose opinion is? The crows have a depth and self-absorbed beauty that not many other modern bands will ever be able to touch through lyrics. I think their new album Saturday Nights and Sunday Mornings, sings of truth and melodic beauty, and its probably the strongest album they have released in years.

Now playing: Counting Crows - Come Around
via FoxyTunes

Friday, March 28, 2008

Select Cycle

The Laundromat is a strangely beautiful place on a rainy evening.

The strange non-verbal interactions that take place between customers and the groaning silence of the few working machines create a strange feeling of warmth and safety.

flickering off-white lights drone through this ambiance. Cars speed madly from place to place, without pondering the simple beauty of this place.

I will sit and breathe in the strange elegance of a rainy night in the laundromat.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Quite a Day

I just got finished with my conference-style day and I just thought I would share some of the experiences that I had:

There was one of my favorite student's mother who came in, unable to concentrate on what I was saying because she was waiting on a call from his doctor to find out if the body in his head was a tumor or just a clump of fat. I couldn't imagine going through that.

Her son is the sweetest boy. He plays mandolin and guitar (how can I not like that). He had brain surgery last year to get a cancerous body out of his head. He now forgets things and has to wear an eye patch to see correctly, but he is an incredible writer--like professional level description and character depth, its amazing. I was almost moved to tears when I found out that I'm his favorite teacher and he tells me things that he never tells his mom, like how afraid he is of the MRI that he had yesterday.

Then there was the mother who screamed at her son through the speaker of my cell phone. She couldn't make it, but wanted to be included. He isn't doing well, but she's a bit harsh. I must've had a look that was somewhere between, "yeah you better shape up" and "I'm so sorry dude."

And my favorite, one of my favorite students and her two moms, who are really great. She's been slacking lately but will graduate eventually. I asked her what she wants to do with her life and she said, " I want to be an English teacher Daren, like you." almost in tears, I wanted to say, "Then why the hell don't you do any of the work in my class!:)"

I think she'll make a great English teacher--one day.

Then there's another one of my favorites who played a guard in the recent production of Dead Man Walking. He is an amazing boy, who lost his brother to gang violence and lives in the craziest household I've ever heard of. Mom, Dad, Mom's boyfriend, adopted son and his coke addicted girlfriend. Even his dad told me, "home is not a safe place."

It breaks my heart but I don't know if he'll ever graduate because of the states new no child left behind requirements. He still struggles with reading the newspaper.

Thats my day in a nutshell

Now playing: Bon Iver - The Wolves (Act I and II)
via FoxyTunes

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

A Strange incidence

For Some reason I always want to begin these entries with "So" as if I am finishing a thought, but it seems so unprofessional and repetitive.

So, I got my ipod Stolen at school last week. Now, although Meghan may contest, I pride myself in not being an excessive consumer, but if you know anything about me and music you know that my two most prized posessions are my guitar and my ipod. So, I was a little dissapointed. More than just a little dissapointed I felt that this was the back-breaking straw that make me decide it was time to leave my school. Then there was this strange turn of events.

One of my favorite, most respectful, kindest students somehow ended up with a new ipod this week. She used it in her presentation in class, and told me that her boyfriend gave it to her. I have to say, I was not the least bit suspicious, but I still had to write down as much of the serial number as I could see.

As it turns out, the serial number matched, exactly with mine. I was surprised more than anything. How could one of my favorite students end up with my ipod? I must have written down the wrong serial number. But no, my mistakes did not add up. She somehow ended up with my ipod.

Our principal confiscated it and her boyfriend came in to talk to her about it. It turns out he found it outside of his Cabrillo class, and decided it would be a good gift for her. (can you sense the sarcasm in my writing?)

My principal thinks that he is covering for her and she actually stole it.

I have no idea what to do. I'm still a little shocked. I don't feel the need to force an apology, but I need her to know she broke my trust. I will talk to her tomorrow and it should be interesting.

She is the last one I would ever suspect. I just wonder if theft gives kids a sense of power or stability that they cant find anywhere else. I'm not mad, but I am happy to have my ipod back.

Now playing: Breathe Owl Breathe - Sylvia Plath
via FoxyTunes

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Been awhile

I haven't posted in awhile but I thought I would ass some photos from Meghan and I cross Country Skiing in Tahoe last weekend. It was beautiful!

Friday, February 8, 2008

VIdeo to get your heart thumping

I was moved by this video as Meghan teared up. It may be unfair to hit such a deep emotion when discussing politics, but I think its powerful.

I voted for Barack Obama in the primaries and although he didnt win California, I am extremely hopeful. I think that with support, Obama has a strong chance to really make change in this country.

I do question myself when I think about a big word like "change." Because it is vague but specific at the same time. When i hear Hillary I think more of the same in a slightly different direction, when I hear Obama I think...

America finally has a chance to fit in with the rest of this world, that it has been so intent on destroying.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

My official Obama Endorsement

I may be jumping the gun, but after listening to a few speeches and doing some research, I've decided that I will vote for Barak Obama in the upcoming primaries. I know its not traditionally American to say who you are going to vote for, but I think its important for me to share it so that I can encourage others to vote for him as well.
Here are my researched reasons:
He wants to end the war in Iraq as soon as possible
He wants to provide universal healthcare to every American
He wants to make NCLB actually work (or at least I can hope)
He is an avid environmentalist
He is a charismatic speaker
He makes me feel like I can be a part of the change

I am a bit interested to hear more about his policy on immigration, from what I understand its only ok.

Well there it is. Let me hear what you think.

Now playing: Magnolia Electric Co - Leave The City
via FoxyTunes

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

This is the Poem I used.

This Poem Wants to Be a Revolutionary
by Mari Ann Roberts, from Emory University

This poem wants to make a change . . .

To be a strong yet silent raised fist in Mexico, 1968.

To stand at a window w/a shotgun writing the words
“By any means necessary”

To sit in at a lunch counter in Birmingham, Alabama
Until it is read

To start a breakfast program in Compton, California
In order to feed hungry minds

To stand up for its rights in Akron, Ohio and shout,
“Aint I A poem?”

To integrate an all white book store under protection of the National Guard
And if George Wallace says to it,
“You will not enter unless it's over my cold, dead, body...”
This poem will gladly take him up on his offer.

But now this poem feels that perhaps it is too militant,
Maybe it and Spike should just “Do the Right Thing”...

Take the hand of other poems deep in the South Georgia woods and lead them to freedom
Under cover of night-light.

Take its brothers and sisters out of “the man's” world and
Into Aaron's “Boondocks,”

Play it's own music, live in Jamaica and
Grow Nappy Locs,

Start a union with A. Phillip down at the docks,

Be read by Martin while being pelted with rocks.

Find out what would happen
“If Beale Street Could Talk”

This poem will get accused of “Ego Trippin” but
will not take it personally while saying
“And Still I Rise”

It will invite other poems to a free concert headlined by
Marvin, Stevie, Chuck D, and Black Thought

This poem will do what it should, not what others think it ought...

This poem will be munificent...
Will give because so much has been given to it...

Will do because so much has been done for it...

Will be able to sit down because so many others have
Stood up . . .

But this poem can not sit still for long...
Because this poem has been disenfranchised...

This poem was told that there is no longer a need
For affirmative action
and has had it replaced with definite inaction

This poem cast a vote in Florida, only to be told that it did not count...

This poem watched its country expand our “melting pot” to include all kinds of ingredients,
Then scrape the black off the bottom of the pan...
and send it back to Haiti on a raft

This poem has been pulled over for being DWI
(drafted with intelligence)

This poem was profiled at Hartsfield Airport,
And made to take off it's...blues.

This poem never cast its vote for any species of Bush,
It's not concerned with whom you marry,
Nor does it desire to trade the blood of young soldiers for oil, but look what it got...

No wonder,
This poem wants 2 b a revolutionary...

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

A Compulsion for Sound

Forgive my banter, but I have been obsessed with music over the last few weeks. It started with me trying to make a list of the best albums of the year passed through some compulsive music purchases and continued with shared itunes music in a coffee shop and sonic mornings on my bike to school.

I just got a bunch of albums that are really cohesive and wonderful, and at the same time, 2007 pop. M Ward, Magnolia Electric Co., Andrew Bird, Beirut-- all amazing in their own merit and as far as complete albums go they flow. I just personally discovered M Ward and i cant seem to get enough of his peaceful voice. just had to get that out there, its been a long time since I've been so extremely moved by music.

Which is funny because up until now I have sort of refused to use music in my classroom in the place of poetry.

I will never forget one of my poetry professor's critiques of music lyrics as opposed to poetry. I do see faults in her argument (Hello Bob Dylan!), nevertheless it sticks with me. I probably will bring music in in the next few weeks, but I have definitely been stalling.

Today I fell asleep while reading a student paper (Dont worry, I wasn't teaching) but I still had a difficult time grading it. This student has never written anything for my class and suddenly he drops a 7 page murder mystery on my desk. It was intriguing but still lacking. Sometimes it is really hard to be an English teacher because I just run out of things to comment on. I ended up telling the student it could be more clear and better edited, which really was just a b.s. comment because I couldn't think of anything else.

Listening to M Ward Fuel For Fire

Sunday, January 13, 2008

"These people are not from the Ground"

Cowboys and Indians
This was an extremely interesting observation of Indigenous Americans and Americans from the perspective of an Irish visitor. The guy who wrote this is in the band "The Frames" and really brings up some interesting points about the state of the United States. Some of the points I think should really taken into consideration as election politics begin to take hold and (hopefully) some big change starts to grip us.

in case the link doesn't work, here is the url:

Monday, January 7, 2008

I can't believe I spelled "too" wrong

I made a slight grammatical error on the last entry, but maybe no one noticed it. I have been reflecting on my last list and I realized that I had to add another album. Its Jenny Lewis of Rilo Kiley's album.

I spent Saturday evening sipping it in and found it to be an amazing album. It may have just been the time and place, but I loved it. Its has a twang with a bit of a sonic sound and some profound and moving lyrics. What more could you ask for really?
Here is a sample of it:

On Sunday morning I arose to sunny skies and decided to go for a run on West Cliff Drive. It was an incredible morning. The storm still seemed present yet the sun was breaking through the spaces in the clouds-- and the ocean was ferocious!

The waves were hyperboles in themselves and there was a spot on the path were the waves actually washed over the path and two lanes of the road, it was spectacular but I couldn't help but thinking what the homeowners thought when they see these waves suck away the land on the edge of their yard. Everything is temporary I guess.

Listening to Iron and Wine: Boy With A Coin

Friday, January 4, 2008

never too late for cheese

After some new years chats i really wanted to put together some best of 07 lists for entertainment and hear what others came up with. I realize the cliches and lameness of best of lists but I'm just going to move past that.

The criteria for me was not that these were released in 2007 but that I expierienced them in 07:

Best Albums:
Radiohead In Rainbows-- beautifully mastered album all fits together and has the potential to really affect the listener
Iron and Wine- Our endless numbered days. I realize its a few years old but all I have to say is Naked as we Came
Wilco-- sky blue sky grows on you
Eddie Vedder-- Into the Wild soundtrack. Awesome new campfire songs and a great movie.
M Ward Post-war gets me into that creative feeling state.
Tom Brosseau-- What I meant to say is goodbye. soft. melodic. understated. and he played at my graduation in San Diego
The White Buffalo-- EP. Man I wish this guy had some more music out there

The Mysteries of Philadelphia-- great book fun story.. soon to be a movie
Dharma Punx-- I read it with my class probably 8 times. It was engrossing the whole way through though
Flight-- Sherman Alexie is my hero
Billy Collins-- the Trouble with Poetry. Accessible but insightful poetry
its sad but I cant think of any other books that moved me this year... maybe more will come

Lars and the Real Girl--quiet subtle beautiful
Into the Wild-- of course
Paris Je t'aim-- great shorts but slightly disconnected
Once-- great film about an irish folksinger
Juno-- interesting hot Dialogue
Garden State-- Watched it again for the first time
Across the universe-Beatles musical--good times

I guess my main purpose of posting this was to start a discussion about what your favorites were or about what you thought of these films. I realize most people don't comment on my blog but all you have to do is click on speak your mind here and write a quick comment. Thanks

Now playing: Greg Brown - I Want My Country Back
via FoxyTunes