Rain, Rain

I think it started raining Monday and only now, Friday, does it appear to be letting up. Rare around here to have a week straight of rain (and another week appears on the horizon, a little way out).

People grumble. The rain is an inconvenience, but then they say, “Of course we need it.” Because of course we do. Here in sunny Southern California.

We continue in a drought. Out where Carol and I walk, the grasses are burned out and turn charcoal black in the summer.

In class Wednesday, the row of students by the window of our horribly small room let out a gasp when the one of the trees out in the courtyard just keeled over with a bang. Luckily, it was raining so nobody was sitting on any of the benches the tree hit.

One of those damn eucalyptus. Another much bigger one fell and blocked one of the main entrances to the campus.

This eucalyptus behavior confirms me in my opinion that the eucalyptus is a pernicious weed.

And to think one of the reasons they were brought to this country was to serve as windbreaks. And as possible sources for railroad ties. Did nobody even stop to look at that corkscrew wood.

Sometimes I think the bees people get in their bonnets distract them from what is right in front of their noses. 

Bad Boxes

I received an email informing me that several UC officials had received boxes in the mail containing a white powder. Tests showed this powder was harmless. Nonetheless, forewarned is fore armed, I guess. So the email listed the warning signs of a possible bad boxes as follows:

1. They are unexpected or from someone unfamiliar to you.

2. They are addressed to someone no longer with your organization or are otherwise outdated. An addressee’s name/title may be inaccurate.

suspiciouspackage.jpg3. They have no return address, or have one that can not be verified as legitimate. It may show a city or state in the postmark that does not match
the return address.

4. They are of unusual weight, given their size, or are lopsided or oddly shaped.

5. They are marked with restrictive endorsements, such as “Personal” or”Confidential.” This factor is significant when the addressee does not
usually receive personal mail at the office.

6. They have protruding wires, strange odors or stains. It may feel rigid, or appear uneven or lopsided, and is unprofessionally wrapped with several
combinations of tape used to secure the package.

7. They look markedly different than most that typically arrive in your office.

Now tell me who is going to open a box that is lopsided, oddly shaped, strangely stained, has protruding wires and emits odors? Not to mention, appears unprofessionally wrapped!

Not me. I can tell you. 

Cell Phone Hell

My cell phone croaked. Actually, the cell phone is not to blame. For some reason, water doesn’t show on our new granite counter top and, without realizing what I was doing, I put the phone down in the middle of a puddle–perhaps from a piece of melted ice.

So I went through cell phone abandonment anxiety. I kept opening the thing to check the time, forgetting each time that it was dead. That meant I had to use the land line; we have one of those antique wireless phones (that you used while wandering around the house). But of course, it didn’t work because it hadn’t been charged in a month of Sundays. So I charged it. Frustrating.

Then I went to the AT&T store to get a new cell and felt guilty about that because AT&T gives money to incredibly conservative causes and thinks global warming is a fantasy. But honestly I was just too tired to think about getting a politically correct phone. So, as I said, I went to the AT&T store and asked for a phone like the one I had for the last four years, the one I stupidly put in the puddle.

Of course, they did not have that phone; they have “upgraded” way past that. Still, the guy pointed to one that looked simple and cheap too, only 29.95. That’s what the sign said. But that was not the reality. It was 29.95 if I renewed our contract with them for two years, and if I mailed in a thing for a rebate. If I didn’t do these things, the phone would cost 200.

The kid pitching the phone was pleasant. But the false advertising sort of pissed me off. Like what McDonalds is doing right now, advertising you have a chance to win a million dollars everyday if you play some game they have got going. They make it seem like it’s possible to win a million dollars everyday. But I don’t think that’s the case. I think you have a chance everyday to get into the lottery for the million dollars–that is not handed out everyday–but sometime in the future.

To get the rebate, I have to cut the end off the box the phone came in, supply proof of purchase, fill out a form, and mail the whole damn thing to get a Visa debit card. Now why the hell would I want a Visa debit card. I don’t use Visa. I don’t like their commercials. I am a Master Card guy. Damn it. So not only do they make it hard to get the rebate (when the hell will I get to a post office) but they are screwing with my consumer identity.

Just a second ago my new phone started talking to me in my pocket. It said I should use voice recognition.

I told it to go to hell.

I wonder if it recognizes swear words.

Retirement: Who Knows?

I am 63, going on 64. I had thought I would retire at about 65.5. But who knows.

I received a email with the subject heading: Post-Employment Benefits Local Forum.

Just the phrasing scares me. What the hell are Post-Employment Benefits? Is that some attempt to change the definition of “retirement.” Because that’s what they will be talking about “retirement” benefits.

Apparently the UC Pension plan is in significant trouble; and I am of course concerned that these troubles may affect me significantly. That I may have to work longer than anticipated, and that even if I do, I may received reduced benefits, in terms of money and medical.

But something is afoot and it is hard to know what to think, or plan or feel.

This language appeared in the email:

The University’s long-term liability for retiree health benefits for current and future retirees is also projected to increase, from $13 billion today to nearly $26 billion by 2018. In other words, the liability is increasing at a rate of more than $1.5 billion per year. Governmental accounting regulations now require UC and other employers to include this liability in their financial statements. Such a significant liability could affect UC’s credit rating when borrowing money for campus buildings, hospitals and other projects.

If in fact the liability associated with the pension fund might inhibit
the University’s power to build buildings, support hospitals, as well
as unnamed other projects, whatever those might be, then they may do
something drastic. One does not have to look far to get some sense of
how businesses treat their employees these days, and more it more it
appears the University is a business.

Oddball Weather Events

Oddball weather week here in Goleta, right next door to Santa Barbara.

We had a weather event, as they call it, on Tuesday. More specifically a rain event. I don’t know why everything has become an “event.” One expects to hear trumpets or something announcing the coming “weather event.”

So the event occurred as predicted. Rain Tuesday night, slacking off in the morning, and coming back much more heavily in the afternoon and early evening. But the strange thing about the event was that the high for the day was 63 degrees and so was the low. In other words, it was 63 all day long.

I don’t remember when that last happened. I think having the same temperature all day long qualifies perhaps as an event, but a pretty uneventful one. Really.

Oh the rain event was attended also by a wind event. Though the wind event was not as intense as predicted.

There was also the possibility of landslide events because of previous fire events that had burned the vegetation off the hills. But that didn’t happened.

And then today out of nowhere we have a heat event. They were predicting 77 degrees for today but instead we hit 93. I don’t know if this heat event is connected or not with the weather event previously described.

For no known reason I began to think about phytoplankton and their role in cloud event formation. Apparently these tiny creatures emit a a chemical of some kind that goes up in the air and sort of serves as seeds for clouds. This particular contribution of the microbial kingdom to the functioning of the weather cycle was not and still is not completely understood.

Why I should think of this and where I learned it, I am not sure, though I think I heard it in lectures I used to attended in biology when I was teaching the research paper to biology students. I learned many things then most of which I have forgotten. I learned about diatoms for example. I am pretty sure they also play a significant role in the weather cycle.

I remain 98% water.

H1N1 Again

I have lots of coughing students.

We all got an email from the administration:

We have received reports that Student Health is getting inundated with students who are ill with the flu in search of written excuses for missing class. Please remind all faculty, lecturers, and instructors in your department that Student Health does not have enough staff to provide any written excuses for ill students; all faculty and instructors have been asked to not require a written medical excuse until further notice.
Thank you for your immediate assistance with this situation.

I don’t know what H1N1 is exactly, if I mean it is worse than your normal flu. But it surely seems to be hitting more people at once. I have never received an email of this kind before…not in 30 years; of course 30 years ago there was no email.

Meanwhile on the soccer front, the soccer team had to cancel practice yesterday because 10 people on the team were going to a Dance Concert downtown required for Carol’s classes. Carol has two lecture classes in Dance with a total of around 700 students with no TAs to help her out and no secretarial support.

Below students in Carol’s classes do a “Victory Dance” (African in origin) after one of them scored a goal in a recent soccer contest.

victory dance.jpg

And for streaming video of this goal.

Beach Walk…Finally

Carol and I have kept to our thirty to forty minute walk-talk each day, but we didn’t make it clear out to the ocean once this summer.

Lack of energy, maybe; and Carol’s knees get hurting if she has to walk a steep incline and there are a few of those out to the bluffs.

But Labor Day, we cut across the golf course (though we had been previously kicked off for trespassing) and took a gentle incline over towards the Coal Oil Point Slough.


Not much water…but it’s early September.



As previously noted: not much water (looking inland).


Looking back towards the ocean.

Where we came from.

Where we were going…

What we saw.

75 degrees; winds 8 mph WSW