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2021 December 7

New endowment fund at Cabrillo College

Filed under: Uncategorized — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 22:19
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I try to direct my charitable giving either to organizations I feel a particular affinity for (like West Performing Arts, where my son had theater classes for 15 years, or the iGEM team at UCSC) or where I feel that the small amount I have to give will have outsize impact.  I really don’t see the point of giving money to rich organizations like Stanford University, and even my giving at UCSC is limited to giving to student projects that I feel some affinity for.

Cabrillo-name-sign-from-Cabrillo-website

Our local community college is an efficient and effective way to improve education with small donations.

I have just given a gift (and a pledge for the next 4 years) to the Cabrillo College Foundation to start a new endowment fund—one to support the Cabrillo College Extension, which provides a large number of non-credit courses for kids, for working adults, and for retirees.  I don’t think I’ve ever taken one of the Extension courses, but now that I’m retired I’m much more likely to.

The Extension has been hurting for funds ever since the legislature has focussed almost exclusively on the transfer mission of the community colleges. And philanthropy through the Cabrillo College Foundation has focussed mainly on scholarships for matriculated students, with a little directed at the splashy cultural activities like the summer musicals, and some at vocational training—little or nothing was going to the Extension.

I’m not knocking the transfer mission nor the vocational training mission—those are indeed where the legislature should be investing in the college.  Nor am I knocking the cultural activities like summer musicals centered at the college—they are important also.  But people were overlooking the “recreational education” mission—the outreach to kids too young for college and the “making life good” courses for working adults and retirees.

I see the Extension as an essential part of Cabrillo College, but one that could easily be lost (many of the other community colleges have no such outreach to people who are not seeking degrees or certificates).  Since I was planning to give a modest amount to the Cabrillo College Foundation anyway, I asked how much it would take to set up an endowment fund for the Extension.  It turned out that I could afford to set up such a fund, if I spread the gifts out over a few years—so I’m doing that!  It isn’t a huge chunk of money, and the 4%/year payout will be a rather tiny amount for the Extension, but it’s a start.

If anyone else feels as I do that Cabrillo College Extension is a community treasure that is at risk, feel free to send a check to Cabrillo College Foundation, directing that the money be added to Cabrillo Extension Endowment (or just designating it as for the Extension program, in which case they can spend all the gift immediately rather than just the interest on it).  You can mail the check to Cabrillo College Foundation, 6500 Soquel Dr, Aptos, CA 95003 (please note the program you wish to support in the memo section of your check).  They also take donations on their website https://foundation.cabrillo.edu/donate-2/.

2021 August 9

Entertainment and exercise week

Our son visited us from Berkeley from Friday July 30 to Sunday August 8, so we crammed in an entire summer’s worth of entertainment in just over a week.  We also got a lot of exercise (though not a full summer’s worth).  The steps log from Project Baseline is rather useless for estimating how much we walked, because it does not let me see more than 7 days—then it chunks arbitrarily into weeks.  I can see that we had two big days lately (about 22,000 steps on Tuesday Aug 3 and Saturday Aug 8) and a couple of medium days (about 9,000 steps on Thursday Aug 5 and 11,000 Sunday Aug 8), but I can’t tell how many steps there were on July 31 and Aug 1 (though I’d guess around 10,000 each, based on what I remember of mileage).  I think that the Secret Walks that my wife and I have been doing have increased my walking substantially, as July had about 215,000 steps and no previous month (since last September, as far back as the crippled Project Baseline steps log will show me) had more than 125,000.

Santa Cruz Shakespeare: RII Saturday July 31 8 p.m.–10 p.m.

On Saturday, we walked the 3.7 miles to the Audrey Stanley Grove carrying our picnic dinner in backpacks in order to see RII, an adaptation of Shakespeare’s Richard II performed by 3 actors.  M.L. Roberts performed as King Richard II, and Mike Ryan and Paige Lindsey White performed all the other roles.  I don’t remember ever seeing a performance of Richard II, and the only speech from it I recognized was the tell-sad-stories-of-the-death-of-kings monolog, which my son memorized once for a Shakespeare conservatory.  This reduced-cast version was surprisingly understandable, with the costuming by B. Modern really helping the audience keep track of who the actors were playing (good acting was also essential, to make the body language of the different characters distinct). The set was rather minimal and consisted mainly of banners hiding what was clearly a set for the other play and a few grates to remind the viewers that Richard is in prison and having flashbacks (part of the adaptation of the play).

We all felt that the play was highly successful, and the audience gave the performers a standing ovation.  Some of the appreciation might have just been for having live theater again, but we joined the ovation (something we don’t always do—only when we feel that the performance really has been outstanding).

I had forgotten to pack my hearing aids (which I only noticed about a mile from our house—too far to go back and fetch them), but the new sound system that they installed this year seems to work well, and I had no trouble hearing and understanding any of the actors.

Casts were kept small this season to avoid the possibility of a Covid-19 outbreak among the cast and to keep within budget—there was no season last year to provide the forward funding for this year, and ticket sales were limited because social distancing kept the capacity to about 1/3 of normal.  They are, for the first time, streaming the shows so that people can watch at home (for $25/stream).  I don’t know whether they will continue that option in future years, but it is good for this year, when seating capacity is reduced and many potential audience members are still nervous about even socially distanced groups of people.

After the play, we did our usual routine of catching Lyft home, since we don’t like walking either the Audrey Stanley Grove Trail or Upper Park Road in the dark.  We had to wait a little, as there were few drivers available, but it worked about as well as in previous years.

Cabrillo College Pirates of Penzance Sunday Aug 1 2 p.m.–4 p.m.

On Sunday afternoon, we took a bus out to Cabrillo College to see Pirates of Penzance, performed outdoors in the little amphitheater, which I don’t think Cabrillo has used for a production for over a decade before this year. Cabrillo also had socially distanced seating (which in the small amphitheater meant a very small audience), but they had a full cast and a moderate size pit orchestra.  I don’t know what precautions they took to avoid an outbreak during rehearsals, but the performances were all in only one weekend, so they did not have to worry about maintaining a Covid-free cast for very long.

I quite enjoyed the performance (though I’ve seen Pirates many times, including by D’Oyley Carte Opera Compnay when I was child).  This performance had a lot of energy and ok costuming, even if the set was really minimal and the stage a bit too small for the size of the cast.  The sound engineer was not sufficiently rehearsed during tech week, as he drowned out part of the Major General’s song by misbalancing the orchestra and the singer in the first act, and left off Mabel’s mic at the beginning of one song in the second act.  There were also a couple of songs added to the second act (one from Ruddigore and one from H.M.S Pinafore)—I’m not sure exactly why they were added, as the performance did not really need to be lengthened.

My wife, who is an opera fan, said that the singers were quite good for a local production, and that Mabel hit all the high notes.

After the performance, we had to wait quite a while for the bus back to Santa Cruz: the 71 buses are an hour apart on Sunday afternoons.

Arboretum walk Tuesday Aug 3

On Tuesday, we did a long walk in our Secret Walks series, which I covered in a separate post.  After the walk, no one felt much like cooking or going out to dinner, so I just got takeout from Sabieng Thai, which is just a 2-block walk from our house.

The Green Knight Thursday Aug 5 1:15 p.m.–3:30 p.m.

On Thursday, we did something none of us has done since before the pandemic—we went to a movie theater!  We deliberately picked the first matinee of a movie that we were interested in, but which was unlikely to have a large audience.  Indeed, there were only three other people in the audience.

I had a little trouble with the sound in the movie—it was certainly loud enough that I did not need my hearing aids, but a lot of the actors were whispering their lines and the background music was badly balanced, so that big chunks of the dialog were unintelligible in places.  The film was mostly an ok telling of Gawain and the Green Knight, though the addition of a CGI fox to the story seemed completely pointless, and pushing Gawain’s mother into the story was not really necessary (though it certainly worked better than the stupid fox). They also mangled the end of the story, to try to make it more ambiguous and relatable to modern audiences—I don’t think that worked very well either.

Overall, I’m glad that we saw the film, but I have no desire to see it again and I would not recommend it to anyone who was not already familiar with the story. It would be better to read a decent retelling than to get the story from the movie.

Bicycle ride in Wilder Ranch (Cowboy Loop Trail) Friday Aug 6 6–8 p.m.

On Friday, my son borrowed an ancient mountain bike from the garage (no suspension), and he and I took a ride out to Wilder Ranch, to do the short Cowboy Loop Trail.  We planned to do the loop clockwise, but we could not find the second entrance to the loop and went a ways up Engelman’s Loop before we decided that we must have missed it. Engelman’s Loop had very loose sand and gravel, which did not work well with the slick road tires that I have on my recumbent—I had to walk some of the steep parts, because my rear tire kept losing traction.  We came back down and did the Cowboy Loop Trail in the clockwise direction.

It seems that the Cowboy Loop is more popular with equestrians than bicyclists—we saw no wheel tracks but our own.  The trail is a narrow single track, with tall grass growing up on either side—on my recumbent my hands occasionally brushed the thistles and blackberries encroaching on the trail.  Luckily the large stands of poison oak did not encroach so much.  My son walked some of the twisty downhill parts and found the tall grass on either side of the trail a bit claustrophobic.

There were some nice vistas from parts of the trail, and the creek actually had water in it where we crossed near the end of the trail (in the counter-clockwise direction).

When we finished the loop, we found why we had not been able to find the upper turnoff to the trail—both the park map posted at the entrance and Google maps have the trail mapped incorrectly.  The creek crossing has been moved, and the trail now ends where it begins, not further up Engelman’s Loop as the maps have it.  I’ve given feedback to Google maps.

Santa Cruz Shakespeare The Agitators Saturday Aug 7 8–10 p.m.

On Saturday, we again made the 3.7-mile trek to the Audrey Stanley Glen, but we tried a slightly different route, going through the Church of Christ parking lot to Pacheco, rather than going up Elk.  Next year, we might try going all the way to Park Way, rather than using Old Vineyard Trail, though we’d miss seeing the remnants of the old zoo on Old Vineyard Trail with the entrance off Pacheco.

The Agitators is a two-hander, with Patty Gallagher playing Susan B. Anthony and Allen Gilmore playing Frederick Douglas.  These are two of my favorite actors from Santa Cruz Shakespeare, and they provided excellent performances.  One problem with the play is that it spans almost 50 years, from when they first met until after Frederick Douglas’s death.  That puts a heavy burden on the actors to convincingly play all the different ages (and on the wigs and costumes).  Patty did an excellent job of all but the youngest, and Allen of all but the oldest.

The play is very timely, despite being set entirely in the 19th century, as many of the issues of racial and gender equality have still not been resolved, 125 years later.  The play is thoughtful and inspiring, rather than being heavy-handed propaganda, and the dialogue humanizes the characters while still portraying them as heroes of their times. Some sections seem to have been taken from their speeches or writings, but a lot seems to have come entirely from the playwright’s imagination.

The audience was once again impressed with the performance, and we again joined in the standing ovation.

After the show, we tried to get a Lyft, but no vehicles were available—same for Uber.  We also tried two taxi companies—one offered a ride with at least a 45-minute wait and the other didn’t even answer their phone. We decided not to wait, but walked home taking Upper Park Road out, because Audrey Stanley Glen Trail is too risky in the dark.  The distance is only slightly longer (3.8 miles instead of 3.7 miles), but the road is quite narrow in places, so it is not a walk we would take when there was a chance of two-way traffic.  We got home a little later than we planned (around midnight), with a little more exercise than we’d planned.

Santa Cruz Antique Faire Sunday Aug 8

On Sunday morning, we walked our son down to the bus station to catch the Highway 17 Express bus to the Capitol Corridor train to Berkeley (he has enough Amtrak reward points to redeem that Amtrak is cheaper than BART, and the walk home for him from the Amtrak station is about the same as from BART).

After his bus left, my wife and I went to the Antique Faire downtown—the first in over a year (last one was March 2020).  My wife noticed that a couple of vendors were missing, but the fair was almost the usual number of vendors.  My wife did not buy anything, but I got a couple more Hawaiian shirts (I’m retired now—I have to dress the part!).

After browsing the fair, we had lunch outdoors at Cafe Campesino—our first time eating there.  My wife liked her gordita (cactus and green sauce), but I had mixed feelings about the mole plate.  The sauce worked well with the corn tortillas, but not so well with just the chicken—I was not able to include the tortillas in every bite.  Next time I eat there, I think I’ll try the tinga plate instead.

2018 March 13

Cabrillo College Robotics

Filed under: Robotics — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 13:56
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I just donated to the Cabrillo College Robotics Club, to help them send students to the NASA Swarmathon this year:

https://www.gofundme.com/cabrillo-college-robotics-club/

I am not affiliated with Cabrillo College in any way (except as a resident of the county which they serve), but I’ve been impressed with their recent attempts to better serve the community, with an extensive Extension program of non-credit courses and a new Makerspace. So I look for small ways to support Cabrillo College.

The Cabrillo College Robotics Club looks like a good opportunity.They are trying to raise $7000 in a month, which may be difficult, given the resources available to community-college students.  The goal is to send the team to the NASA Swarmathon in April.  They won the 2016 NASA Swarmathon Virtual Challenge, and they are hoping to win the 2018 in-person competition this year, but first they need the funds to go there.

2015 June 18

Suki Wessling: In praise of adult ed

Filed under: Uncategorized — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 23:49
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A friend of mine who writes professionally, Suki Wessling, recently wrote on her blog about her experience at Cabrillo College, our county’s community college (In praise of adult ed – The Babblery):

There’s a lot of wrangling going on right now about the purpose of community college. The combination of limited funds and the push for “college for everyone” has incited discussion on whether community colleges are for the community as a whole or just for the specific purposes of helping young people on to four-year colleges and giving specific technical degrees.

Personally, I have always loved the “community” aspect of community college, and I think it would be sad to see it go. I have both taught at and been a student at a few different community colleges, and I think they only benefit from mixing the “young divas” with the more, ahem, seasoned members of our community.

People who want to separate the community college from the community are probably unaware of how much learning takes place in a classroom that seems so informal. They are also probably unaware of (or unconcerned with) how important intergenerational learning can be to many of the eighteen-year-olds who end up drifting into community college simply because nothing had gelled for them yet.

Although the majority of their students are young adults (though typically a bit older than at 4-year colleges, since community college is the most common route for students to start going back to school after a break), community colleges serve a wide age range. Cabrillo College also runs a number of enrichment courses for middle-school students in the summer, so they really are spanning a very wide age range, from 10-year-olds to 80+.

Our governor seems intent on stripping community colleges of most of their missions, leaving them only with transfer preparation, which currently accounts for a relatively small fraction of their students. I seriously hope that he does not succeed (or, better, gets educated about the true value of the other missions of the community colleges).

The community college is essential for the home-school community (though the home-schooled students make up an insignificant part of the college’s enrollment), the theater community (the musicals produced there each summer are a major part of the county’s theater experience, reaching much larger audiences than the productions that UCSC puts on, though not as big as Santa Cruz Shakespeare), and the arts community (the art classes at Cabrillo are very popular with people of all ages).  These functions are essential to the community, but are not part of the transfer-prep mission.

My son and my wife have taken courses at Cabrillo and found them valuable, even though neither was preparing for transfer to a 4-year-college (my son was in high school and my wife was a decade or so past her BA).  Although I have not yet taken any community college courses (it is a bit far for me to cycle to when I’m busy), I expect to when I retire.  I’m not sure exactly what, as my hobby interests tend to change every 5–10 years, but it probably won’t be stuff from the IGETC (Intersegmental General Education Transfer Curriculum), but more idiosyncratic stuff that requires in-person classes.

I sure hope that the fun courses still exist when I have time to pursue them and haven’t been thrown away in the name of austerity.

2014 November 18

Question about high school workload for home schooling

On Thu, Oct 30, 2014 at 12:57 AM, a parent  wrote to a homeschooling e-mail list (I forget which one now):

I want to prepare my kids for college, but I also value them spending an hour drawing, or trying to get a fire by rubbing cottonwood sticks together, or making a ridiculous video for fun. Can’t we have it both ways? I’ve already written off UC for freshman year, but I don’t necessarily want community college to be the only option they have. I want his 16th year to be just as fun as his 6th, filled with math and writing, yes, but also with whatever his passions are. That seems like an exciting time to get real world experience, like interning at an environmental organization, helping with water quality research, becoming a park docent, going on amazing backpacking trips … as opposed to sitting studying biology with a textbook, for example. 

Am I in dreamland? Are my priorities right here? He is in 8th grade, so according to these presenters, 9th grade is around the corner and we should be figuring out this fast.

Thoughts???

I’m coming from a different place than many home schoolers, as we did public and private schools through 9th grade, only switching to home school for 10th, 11th, and 12th grades.  I understand that the reverse path (starting out in home school and switching to public or private for high school) is more common.

Having just sent my son off to college this fall (at UCSB in the College of Creative Studies) after three years of home schooling (with the aid of an umbrella school in the local school district), I can answer a few things with some confidence:

  • No matter what you do, entry into the super-selective schools is effectively a lottery.  Most people don’t win the lottery.  All the crazy-making prep changes the odds very little on the super-selective admissions lottery. Unless you donate millions to buy your way in to a private school, your odds are not much better than the ones you get from the Common Data Sets for each college.
  • High school can involve a lot of fun activity—my son took at least 22 different theater classes in his 4 years of high school, about 8 of them in his senior year (mostly through WEST).  There were at least 15 different performances in his last year (see his theater page) with four different shows four weekends running one month. He also started a tech start-up with other home-schooled teens (something that he is continuing in college—they’re expecting their 4th prototype back from China this week and hope to do first sales through Kickstarter in December).  He also was involved in a couple of the MATE underwater ROV competitions, did science fair (up to state level) every year except his senior year, kept up a full load of UC a–g courses, and still had time for his main recreations (reading and computer programming).
  • Some springs got a bit stressful, with the umbrella-school trip to Oregon Shakespeare Festival, State Science Fair, WEST performances, MATE robotics, and AP exams all piling up in the same few weeks.  Time management and priority setting required parental support (though my wife and I sometimes disagreed about how much parental support was needed).  Extra parental support was needed some years (like for flying from CA state science fair to Ashland, Oregon, when two events overlapped by a day, or finding a way to get AP exams offered in the make-up time slots, when AP exams conflicted with the Ashland trip, or even just finding a way to take AP exams for AP courses not offered in our county, like the AP Physics C exams).
  • Taking courses at Cabrillo College and at UCSC can be very good experience (my son had 2 at each: Spanish at Cabrillo and math at UCSC).  Cabrillo courses are much cheaper, but the hassle of biking 45 minutes each way for classes (or taking even longer on the bus) made scheduling them harder.  The practice of getting himself to classes on an irregular schedule was good prep for college, where he has a different schedule every day (from Wednesdays with classes from 8am to after 8pm to Fridays with one class at 1–1:50). Getting into lab classes at Cabrillo turned out to be very difficult, so we ended up doing all science at home (calculus-based physics for 2 years, then on-line AP chemistry for one year).

For students thinking of University of California (still a very good choice, even if the state legislators and state governor don’t put much money into UC any more), I’d recommend trying to make sure that the a–g courses are covered in spirit, even if the courses are at home or through other non-UC-approved sources.  It is not a perfect curriculum, but it represents a good compromise between many different views of what a high school education should include.​

The time-management skills my son learned from doing too many of the things he loved should help him get through college, where he is likely to set up the same sorts of stresses for himself—he took a fairly light load first quarter (4 courses: 2 math, 2 computer science), but is planning a heavier load for winter (6 courses: 2 math,  3 computer science, 1 theater, I think).  Luckily 2 or 3 of the courses are graded on a rather strange system, where the teachers decide at the end of the course how many units were earned, so if he slacks a bit on those courses his grades won’t suffer—he’ll just earn fewer units.

Of the generic advice from the Khan Academy about what all high school students should be doing:

  • Take college-prep courses. Yes, definitely.  The a–g courses are a good guide.
  • ​Focus on your grades. Not really—we kept him focused on learning, not on grades. Most of his courses were ungraded, though we had very high standards for what we expected him to do.  Those courses from outside providers that were graded got high grades, but that was a natural consequence of focusing on the learning and doing all the work to high standards, not from paying any particular attention to grades.
  • Explore and commit to extracurricular and leadership activities. We considered his theater work and his start-up company as curricular activities, but someone with a more conventional view of education would have considered them extracurricular. I don’t know whether his odds at super-selective schools would have been different if we had spun the work as extra-curricular rather than curricular.​
  • Find summer volunteer opportunities/jobs/internships. Nope, he spent his summers doing more theater, more on the start-up company, and relaxing. He worked very hard at the theater and on the start-up, but it wasn’t a “job” where he was reporting to a boss—it was more like professional work, where he had to manage his own time, sometimes with externally imposed deadlines.
  • Begin an ongoing dialogue with your parents about how to pay for college. Start saving for college. High school is rather late to be thinking about paying for college.  We saved 10% of my salary each year in a 529 plan from the day he was born. As it turns out, because he ended up at a state school, we saved more than we needed to, so unless some of it gets used for graduate school expenses, we are likely to end up paying a tax penalty in 4 years for the previously untaxed earnings in the 529 plan.
  • Search and apply for non-traditional scholarships (those available before you are a senior in high school). Other than the National Merit Scholarship (he was a Finalist, but no one offered him money except desperate schools that had nothing of academic value to offer), he did not apply for any scholarships. Most of the scholarship applications are a lot of work (comparable to another college application), with very little expected return. He decided to put his time into his startup company instead, which has given him very valuable learning and experience, even if it never breaks even. Because he ended up at a public university, and we had been saving enough to be able to pay for his going to a private school, he did not need a scholarship to go to college. So the investment of his time in learning how to design electronics widgets and get them manufactured was probably a wise one—it will pay off later much more than a $1000 scholarship would.
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