naturedance: my foot, in my boot, on Mount Rainier (Default)
Coronado Butterflies

A couple weeks ago I enjoyed a "Rails and Trails" local Sierra Club daytrip to the Coronado Butterfly Preserve. We took the train from Los Angeles to Goleta, hiked about 3.5 miles of sidewalks along the roadways of Goleta to the Preserve, enjoyed a few hours there, then hiked back (stopping for snacks/dinner along the way) to catch the train, and so home by that evening.

Seeing the coast from the train to Goleta was lovely, and of course the thousands and thousands of butterflies were so beautiful. It was a gorgeous, gorgeous trip.

I managed to capture some (admittedly slightly wobbly) video of some of the clusters of butterflies.

Carrizo Plain De-Fencing and Exploring

This weekend, I took part in a volunteer work-day at Carrizo Plain National Monument, getting rid of old barbed-wire fence on Saturday, and then exploring on my own on Sunday. It was a great weekend!

I took some photos today as I explored... I've posted them as a photoset on Flickr.

For more info about Carrizo, please see:

official BLM website for Carrizo Plain

Friends of Carrizo: Volunteer Opportunities

Nature Conservancy webpage about Carrizo Plain

Wikipedia page about Carrizo Plain
naturedance: crafting joy (crafting joy)
I typed some of this up as a response to a post by [ profile] armchairgamer last weekend, but I wanted to post it here as well, along with some other links... this is a followup to my earlier post here about the current state of our country...

I trust Howard Dean, and the Democracy for America folks. -- they're working to put progressive clueful candidates in races nationwide, from the local to the national. That's how I first encountered Barack Obama, who's pretty amazing...

Habitat for Humanity is making a difference for good in the world...

Second Harvest is doing good work in the food bank area...

Which reminds me... the Caltech Y has a group of folks who volunteer at a local shelter here in Pasadena, cooking meals... they also do beach cleanups and such. Easy, local, make a difference stuff in the Pasadena area...

Mercy Corps is doing good things... some of my friends who dislike the Red Cross and/or the Salvation Army for various reasons give to them, and after doing a bit of research, I can see why...

Doctors Without Borders does good work...

Heifer International does, too... (plus it's just pretty cool to give a family a critter that allows them a better livelihood, you know? Critters are cool.)

There's also The ONE Campaign To Make Poverty History at

There are a set of six websites which I try to click buttons on every day... and and and and and
You can click buttons for free and goods/money/services are donated to those causes. Setting one as a default homepage in a browser reminds me to click each day... it's not just that it's a free way to help out, but it's also a conscious reminder that I'm part of the larger world and that I can make a difference in it when I sit down at the web. They also have affiliated stores...

That reminds me... about debt stuff... do you know how much your own credit card companies donate to the Republican Party each election cycle? What about the bank where you have your checking or savings account? I did some research on that last spring, got pretty angry/depressed, and realized I needed to make a significant effort to deal with my debts and my investments to make sure that megacorps weren't using my money or debt to advance their agendas which contradict mine.

Oh, and when I remember to, I check out where I'm spending my money to see if they are green or blue rather than red (and yeesh, color-coding sucks, but, hey...) I try to buy environmentally-conscious or Democrat-donating rather than Republican-donating:
And I just spotted another interesting place...

I get action alerts by email from these:
NARAL ProChoice America
Planned Parenthood
American Civil Liberties Union
NRDC BioGems
The Nature Conservancy
The Sequoia Natural History Association

I also signed up to get news emails from my elected officials a while back... the Congressional folks all have such mailing lists, linked off their official websites. I haven't yet done the same for the state representatives or local government stuff, but I probably should.

Do you read or I don't read them as much as I feel I should... I find that I get overwhelmed if I read them every day, but I can handle the smaller doses at Kit's Concatenation ( and two journals by the Plaid Adder: and

After seeing image after image online of poor black people struggling for survival, and sometimes not making it, in New Orleans, I couldn't help thinking about the United Negro College Fund and that also led me to the American Indian College Fund at I'm still looking for useful organizations for poor white folks and women to get help to pay for college.

V-Day has a press release with information about organizations assisting battered women in the Katrina disaster areas. From that page: "Following Hurricane Andrew in Miami, spousal abuse calls to the local community helpline increased by 50%. The Missouri floods of 1993 saw the average state turn-away rate at shelters rise 111% over the preceding year and an overall 400% increase in need for services." Numerous shelters in the gulf coast region need help to rebuild, and that press release has good links and info.

You can locate blood drives by US ZIP code at

And because I just want to link to pretty recycled and/or eco-conscious things right now... Natural Spaces looks like a really neat storefront.

Lately, I've replaced a couple halogen torchiere lamps with fancy fluorescent bulbs in nicer torchieres. I'd had a fluorescent torchiere once before, but the circular bulb just didn't have the brightness I needed in two rooms of my current place. But I found an uber-fluorescent bulb that works, and I'm thrilled with it. It'll save money on power bills, and it doesn't get as hot, and the light is bright enough. Yay! I use fluorescents wherever I can.
naturedance: my foot, in my boot, on Mount Rainier (cascade)
I'm trying not to be political right now, but I'm really disappointed that this multibeaurocratic beast that we call the USA has failed so blatantly to take care of our fellow humans, and I have to say this:

I "lose sleep" all the time. That's a strange little saying, isn't it? It's not like I've misplaced hours of rest, that they're just sitting somewhere I've overlooked because I happened not to notice where I'd put them or why.

I think about all sorts of things, and I worry about all sorts of things. When I do manage to sleep when I'm really worried, I have pretty spectacular nightmares that are more exhausting than staying awake.

Usually, I cope... I'm not posting this just to wail and gnash my teeth. What I'm trying to say is that when I know badness is happening somewhere, it bothers me, and as a coping skill, rather than just worrying and awfulizing, I try to brainstorm things I can do to make a difference, do some research, make a checklist, and get off my butt about it, doing what I can. If I had to sum up my goals on this earth, in this life, it would be to leave this place in the black rather than in the red.

So how furious do you think I am to read that after getting a call from Governor Kathleen Blanco at 8:00 pm Monday night (the day the hurricane hit), asking him to send them "everything you've got", the President of these United States went to bed?

I'm somehow supposed to have sympathy for poor George. Having to cut short yet another five-freakin' week vacation to deal with the biggest natural disaster in the US in recent memory... but apparently still going to bed by 9pm. Not bothering to figure out what exactly was happening, how dire the sitation was.

By the way? I thought long and hard about taking a three day vacation right around Labor Day. Things have been really busy at work this summer and if I took any time off the catch-up would have been more brutal than just plowing through. I'm not saving anyone's life, I'm not doing groundbreaking scientific research... I'm just doing my part on a team keeping a university's central computing infrastructure working. I'm not deciding where and when to wage war, I'm not deciding who lives and who dies, I'm not deciding where to send limited military and civic resources to respond to disasters both natural and man-made. I'm just little ol' me.

And I'm furious.

I realize that disasters happen all the time, and that human suffering worldwide is a huge and ongoing problem. I realize that the scenes of refugees trying to get to safety on the Gulf Coast are no more or less poignant than similar scenes that happen around the world... and that American lives are no more and no less valuable than lives anywhere else. But it is frustrating and disheartening to see such poor coping skills, such lack of empathy and capability, such piss-poor organization of immediate assistance in crisis in my country. We have so many resources, there are so many of us, we should have been able to do more, sooner, to assist those in the path of Katrina. Mismanagement, miscommunication, lack of leadership, lack of planning, disaster plans that ignored the needs of the poor and the elderly and the ill... at this point, I don't know where all the various bits of blame should be laid, and I'm sure there are enough faults to go around about this, but I do know that there's one place where the buck stops for federal aid... the White House. At the end of the day, the captain of the ship has ultimate responsibility for his or her sailors and where the heck the boat has gone, you know?

I do my best to make a difference where I can. I work and I pay my taxes and I volunteer and donate where I can, and I doublecheck before I give of my money and my time to know it will be well-spent. I think about the big picture and what we as a species are doing to ourselves and our world. It's more and more obvious that though individuals may be like me, they're not the ones in charge of the power structures in this country.

MSNBC Newsweek: How Bush Blew It

Read [ profile] plaidder. Read [ profile] twistedchick. Read (...Parenthetically Speaking). And please, don't ask me how angry I am that many if not most of the rebuilding contracts for the damaged Gulf Coast region have been awarded by the US Government to Bush's friends at places like Haliburton.

I hope someone has the guts and the opportunity to speak truth to power. In the mean time, I'll try not to vent too much of my frustration here... that's not the purpose of this journal, and besides, I have work to do orienting all the new students so they don't infest the network with viruses, spyware, worms and spambots, plus my other job duties, and I'm digging into my second class of my graduate school program to get my MSIS.

Which reminds me... (...Parenthetically Speaking) linked to an article on computer security that I want to finish reading when I get a moment.

I hope the Red Cross and other relief organizations and simple heroic individuals can make the differences where our goverment has not. I made what donations I could this month as the hurricane made landfall. And now I've got to get back to work...
naturedance: Caltech GeoChem BS, former ITS staffer, and member of Blacker Hovse (techer geek)
I overcommitted myself on volunteering with the SFP folks this year, thinking I could do anything at all to help during business hours in September, but aside from that, I feel really good about what I did manage to do to help out this year.

(Reminder to self: it's all right to volunteer for things in July, August, or October, but NOT SEPTEMBER WHEN ITS-RELATED WORK WILL EAT YOU ALIVE, ok?)

I did two half-hour orientation sessions for prospective students (mostly high schoolers) and their parents, and a few local teachers. My goal was to provide an introduction to Caltech, an overview of SURF, a description of what Seminar Day is, and a few tips to help them get the most of it, and then I take questions from them. All in 25 minutes or less. :-) I love doing this sort of thing.

I need to get the latest pamphlets from Admissions and the Alumni Association for alumni recruiters so I'm up to speed on the latest news on campus.

Seriously... I work there every business day, I eat lunch on campus most days, and I still don't know even an overview of everything that's going on!

Last night, we watched Real Genius over dinner, and I dug out my Legends of Caltech and More Legends of Caltech books and a few of my college photo albums. I've been tripping down memory lane for a lot of varied reasons lately, and it seemed pertinent.

And then I read the latest campus newspaper, the first part of this year's catalog, an outreach booklet called Caltech 101, an update newsletter about the capital campaign from last fall, and this year's introduction booklet that all incoming undergraduates get from the Deans Office. Now I know... what I don't know. Or rather, what I want to know more about. But I'm still sure I'm missing out on hearing about something really cool that's happening, because it's all happening so much all over campus.

I want to see if I qualify to do recruitment meetings in Indiana. If so, the next time I go home to visit my folks, I could have an info session the way one or two guys did when I was in high school.

I want to keep myself more up to date on what the alumni groups are doing.

I want to shift my hours so I have more quiet time in the office to get my backlog of web development and retirement DONE. I'm tired of feeling like I'm too far behind on things to leave my desk or go home.

So after the orientation sessions this morning, I was kind of an outreach floater for the rest of the morning, talking with anyone who had questions and then nearly filling in as a judge in one session because the fellow was running late. Then I went to the session chair training meeting at 11:15, and then lunch at noon. I sat with some SURFers, a high schooler and his Dad, and S, and Roommate. This was her first in-person introduction to SURF, and it felt great to share a window on this part of my Caltech experience with her. Her college experience was so different in some ways from mine; it's been great comparing notes and getting a broader view of the world.

I chatted with random folks for a bit and then we went to chill out in Moore courtyard, and then we made sure all of the AV equipment in the session room was working. I chaired a mini-session, only four talks, in Aeronautics this year. Fascinating stuff.

After that was followup with my session's judge and schmoozing with the other SURF volunteers and the SFP ladies.

The semifinal round of the Perpall Speaking Competition are in November. I heartily encourage anyone within range of Pasadena to attend.

I wanted to check if something of mine was still lurking in the undergrad long-term storage area, but we couldn't find it, so it looks like it's been put to other use by now. Since we were already down in the SAC, we did a quick tunnel over to Throop, a slow saunter around Milliken Pond and Beckman Institute, and then found the car and hit Zono Sushi for dinner.

SURF Seminar Day always tesseracts past and present for me. Oci being sick lately has had me thinking about when I got her, too, and that was my first summer SURFing. I feel much closer to the 19 and 20 year old I was when I was SURFing those two summers than I normally do nowadays, and it's a strange feeling. Also, my Caltech entering class' ten year reunion is coming up next spring.

Having Roommate there, talking with her about why I care about SURF and why I care about Caltech, and seeing her reactions to her first batch of SURF talks... it provided some anchor here in the present for me, one I hadn't really figured out that I needed. Rather than getting linked to my past, today somehow felt different, like present was linking with past and past with present. Rather than looking at my present self from the perspective of my younger self, I feel more like I'm looking at my younger self from my present self.

I don't quite have the words to describe what's rattling around between my ears just now, but... ah, at least I've tried. :-)

I wish my parents lived closer so they could come see a day full of SURF talks.

I wish I could somehow hook up a USB drive to my skull and put what this place has meant to me in mental pictures and feelings so that others could just see it and feel it...

Anyway, we just came home and, on a whim, went for a quick soak in the hot tub. It started raining while we were down there, and it felt great.

I now feel something of a cross between a teabag and a baked potato. Ahhhhhhhhhhh.

And now it is time for comfy PJs and hot spiced cider. Mmmmmmm.

What a fantastic day!!
naturedance: my foot, in my boot, on Mount Rainier (autumn bountiful harvest)
The harvest moon is on September 28th. That's a good reason to remember to come home on time Tuesday night.

I also want to remember to get home early enough in October for the full moon eclipse, which we ought to have a decent view of from the apartment starting at dusk. Alternatively, I'll end up on the roof of the building where I work, which is where I watched the last lunar eclipse I managed to see.

From links at Fusion Reaction, I found some interesting links for geek volunteerism, from Wow.

I'm checking and revising the offsite links in the sidebars on the website and the journal this morning. I also have some webpage updates for, but those come after the link-checking. I detest linkrot.

I'm a few days behindtimes, but upon reflection, I think I'm marking my own celebration of Mabon today. Looking forward, looking backward, noting what's left to finish (and start) before Samhain, and what to look forward to after it.

Maybe I'll make an apple pie or oatmeal cookies.
naturedance: my foot, in my boot, on Mount Rainier (skyward)

Yes, I sent in my first contribution to the Kerry campaign today.
naturedance: my foot, in my boot, on Mount Rainier (cascade)
One of the local newspapers in Greenwood is running an unscientific poll today, March 18th, about putting in a Walmart near where I grew up. For years the roads there have been unable to handle the traffic there is already, and Olive Branch is very narrow and twisty. I don't remember how many friends got into accidents on that road, but it was a high number even when I was in high school a decade ago. On top of that, the proposed Walmart center is right next to the funeral home there... how tacky is that?

Please go to and vote to oppose the Walmart at Olive Branch and 135. Thank you.

Additional information:
naturedance: my foot, in my boot, on Mount Rainier (Howard Dean)
Dean for President 2004 may be over, but Dean for America is only beginning.

I got involved in the campaign to take my country back from faceless megacorporations and special interest groups with hidden agendas. I got involved because I wanted my voice to be heard. I got involved because Howard Dean was a catalyst for hope.

The movement which sprang up around him is only beginning. We have much work to do, and more direction now than we had before we began to talk with each other, connect with each other, and work with each other.

Thanks for the wake-up call, Dr. Dean. And thank you for making me proud to be a Dean Democrat this year.

If anyone wants spare buttons or bumper stickers, please let me know... I have plenty spare for anyone who, like me, is not slipping quietly back into complacency but is instead continuing to stand up and make a difference.

We've found our voice, now we need to continue to organize on a broader scale. The Presidential election is not the only important one, and community service and political activism are growing because of the Dean campaign. We are Dean for America, and we're taking our country back.
naturedance: my foot, in my boot, on Mount Rainier (Howard Dean)
"A Column You May Not See in the Media -- so I'm posting it here.




Dr. Dean's words and actions strike chords deep in the core of the American psyche

by Ben Bloggin

DNN-- We've all heard of them-- "Deaniacs". The term implies the phrase "Dean maniac", as in a wild-eyed, irrational fringe personality emotionally super-glued to their candidate. 'Mania' may be an explanation to start, but what about Dean can inspire such tenacity in the first place, and why among so many?

Some will say, and undoubtedly have, that it is a "personality cult". That something about Dr. Dean himself attracts these people. Examining this theory in detail, I find this a difficult sell.

For one, the good Doctor is not what one would call physically awe-inspiring. He stands a "hulking" five-foot-eight in his stockinged feet, and is rather ordinary of appearance. His tenor voice cracks when he shouts. Charleton Heston he is definitely not. We are left, then with Dean's words and actions themselves.

Dean speaks in simple, clear declarative sentences. Often, the sentences are brutally declarative-- he pulls no punches when criticizing this policy or that individual. The matters he speaks of are matters of fundamental American policy-- shall we provide health care to all our people, or not? what budgetary policies should we follow? what should our foreign policy be?

Dean's speech furthermore is steeped in the phrases and attitudes of those documents which are considered to form the cornerstone of American Philosophy, of the world view which distinguishes American culture from any other culture of the world. The Declaration of Independence, the Constitution of the United States, Thomas Paine, the Federalist Papers, and the speech and writings of Martin Luther King flavor his declamations. When one listens to Dean, one is transported back to the schooldays of one's youth, when we studied the founding of America itself, and our hearts swelled with pride at the courage and nobility of our founding fathers. The spirits of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, and Patrick Henry prowl in the back of our dreams-- and Dean, when he speaks, brings them to the fore. It may fairly be said that Dean, to his supporters, is thus a living, breathing incarnation of the founding, the foundational, principles of America. Or in another way, he is a talisman of those principles, which ordinarily are invisible, untouchable things-- but in Dean, take form and gain a voice.

This alone does not complete the story. It is possible (as many of us remember from those same school history classes) to speak of the founding documents of America in a very dry, unexciting fashion. I believe there is also a completely different Dean factor at work, one which operates on an extremely basic, almost limbic human psychological level. This is the phenomenon of The Good Pit Bull.

We've all seen one. A large, powerful, toothy family dog which dotes on the family toddler. The dog curls up around the child, allowing the tot to tug its ears and pull its tail, and bears all small-fingered torments with gentle indulgence. Let a stranger attempt to bother the little one, however, and the dog is airborne, fangs ready for blood, with no higher goal than to tear the interloper limb from limb. Listening to Dean speak, one gets the impression time and time again that Dean is the pit bull to America's, to Americans', toddler. He is not just savage, as the media love to point out. He is savage *in defense of us*.

This evokes a protective response from his followers in turn. The pit bull's family cares deeply for the dog, often going far out of their way to ensure his welfare. You see this same response among Dean supporters. Far from fearing his toothy wrath, they offer him cold remedies on his campaign web-log, and urge him to get enough sleep. As he curls around and offers to protect them, they seek to protect him in turn.

Dean and his supporters have bonded together, as a human tribe does, in pursuit of the common goal of making America more closely resemble its foundational American Philosophy. Perhaps it is fair to say that this is one of the first, or at least one of the strongest, new tribes of the electronic age. Gathered around that Internet "campfire" known as "the blog", the Tribe of Dean warm each other with cameraderie and encouragement, share information and advice, remind each other of the principles that Dean speaks, and share the latest news and ways to further the campaign. A family-outside-the-family, the Dean campaign is a way for these humans to feel like part of a larger world, part of a larger family. These are powerful, basic human motivators, fundamental glue of human social bonds, and are difficult to break.

Posted by Dean Nut In Sandy Eigo at February 9, 2004 08:07 PM"

Have I mentioned how much I love this candidate, this campaign, this country? Go Deaniacs, go swing that bat again. Wisconsin awaits.
naturedance: my foot, in my boot, on Mount Rainier (Howard Dean)
I was one of three coordinator-hosts for the Dean Meetup at the Coco's in Pasadena tonight. We had a lovely little crowd of fourteen, good food, better conversation, and much enthusiasm. Our group was one of many that met in the local area and one of very, very many who met nation-wide (and world-wide, the Expats for Dean are incredible, too!) tonight.

I feel like I could march outside and take on the whole wide world right now.

Please, if you haven't already, read over Howard Dean's Common Sense for a New Century pamphlet.

If you live in the local area, check out the new website of the San Gabriel Valley For Dean group, at -- there are Victory Day events on December 18th and all sorts of other good stuff.

Wherever you live, check out the Get Local tab on the official blog and website, and type in your zip code and how far you're willing to travel. It will show you all sorts of events in your local area that other Dean supporters have organized and put into the Get Local system... flyering, voter registration tables, fundraisers, Dean Corps community volunteer events, plays and benefit shows, charity walk/runs, steering committee meetings, groups getting together to travel to the early primary states to volunteer... all sorts of things you can do right now, right in your local area, to make a difference, whether small and personal, or huge and national.

There's also DeanLink to help you connect with other folks to attend and organize your own local events.

We're part of something really big and really powerful and really wonderful here, folks. We're making it happen.
naturedance: my foot, in my boot, on Mount Rainier (Howard Dean)
I was feeling kind of under the weather, so I almost skipped out and just came straight home from work, but I had second and third thoughts about that and I'm very glad that I did.

I went to a planning meeting for the next Dean Meetup, since I'm now an officially approved data entry person for the San Gabriel Valley For Dean group. Exciting stuff. Brainstorming and ideas for flyers and increasing both numbers and enthusiasm at Meetups and other events, sharing information on how to get more information about local events going on for volunteers... there's some amazing energy going on.

Met some great people, tried not to over-commit myself so I don't end up burning out and letting people down, but at the same time, I really care about this campaign and want to do my utmost.

I don't naturally strike a very good balance... I've been told that I tend to have two speeds: bat outta hell and full stop. This makes activism a bit tricky at times.

It's going to be an interesting ride, from now until November 2004. Go Howard Go!!

And then I came home to a package sitting on my doorstep with my order from Wil Wheaton. Please pardon me, I seem to need a bit of a fangirl moment... oh, he's such an awesome writer, and he's really a nice guy on top of that, and I am very happy right now... *deep breath* OK, I'm fine now. *happy smile*

Hey, Wil, if you're reading this: Thank you! You rock like a rocking thing, and I'm proud to be part of your posse!
naturedance: my foot, in my boot, on Mount Rainier (path less traveled),1072,0_1_1847,00.html American Red Cross overview article Inland Empire Red Cross Los Angeles Red Cross San Diego/Imperial Counties Red Cross California chapters of the American Red Cross Salvation Army USA Western Territory Information

And yes, I'm still fine.
naturedance: my foot, in my boot, on Mount Rainier (path less traveled)
For anybody who's worried about me here in Los Angeles, I'm fine. :-) I'm completely stocked and ready for anything, and my home and workplace are basically unaffected.

Yes, Ventura, Los Angeles, San Bernadino and San Diego counties have been declared national and state disaster areas. :-P

I found a decent map online that shows the entire four county area... I'm located roughly under the CO in LOS ANGELES COUNTY and above the g in Los Angeles, northeast of the 5 freeway shield. The Simi Valley fire is the closest to me, but it's at least 20 miles away.

This is a PDF from the LA Times, via Akamai so it should load faster and this is the same image on the LA Times servers.

Lots more information is available online if anyone wants it...

This is another good illustrative image, again in PDF format: This is via Akamai and this is the LA Times servers' version.

On that image, if you draw a line between the s in Los Angeles and the a in Santa Clarita, and directly west of the Angeles National Forest lettering, that's where I live. I'm northeast of the little 5 freeway shield, north of the 210 freeway and along the foothills at the base of the forest.

If you follow the unlabeled freeway going northeast from the l in Los Angeles, you can see where the 110 freeway dead-ends into Pasadena. Caltech, where I work, is just east of that. and allow you to listen live to a couple of AM news radio stations in my area. Note that they also have all sorts of random talk radio programs, not just actual news.

You can also stream NPR Hourly News from and one of our local public radio stations also streams online from .

At least two local TV channels and the LA Times have good information, as does San Diego's web portal:

The Red Cross is coordinating relief efforts and accepting donations:,1072,0_1_1823,00.html,1072,0_1_1844,00.html

If you live in the San Diego area, you can visit the San Diego/Imperial Counties Red Cross chapter website to register online for volunteer opportunities. may have some really good information, but it takes forever to load.

Most of the four county area is affected by the smoke, even if the fires are nowhere near us. I highly recommend HEPA air purifiers and humidifiers... I have those at my apartment and they do help. Medical paper masks and dust masks from hardware stores or drugstores do help with the worst of the smoke and ash if you're having sinus trouble, but for the tiny particulates that are responsible for bronchial trouble, you need a more heavy-duty respirator mask. I have one which filters just about everything I could think of that I'd be breathing in any disaster situation and takes attachable cartridges of varying porosity/filtration.

Take care, folks.
naturedance: my foot, in my boot, on Mount Rainier (bright dreams nasa)
I'm battling my standard start-of-school-year upper respiratory infection, but other than that, and being very, very busy, I'm doing well.

Last weekend I volunteered with the Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowships program at Caltech, for the annual SURF Seminar Day.

I talked to high school juniors and seniors and their parents about seminar day, SURF itself, and Caltech in general. Then I chaired a session in Chemistry, keeping the presentations ticking along on schedule and collaborating with the Perpall Speaking Competition judge for that session to decide who to send on to the semifinals.

It was really tough this year. There were a lot of good presentations, and many of them were very good in different ways, so it was incredibly difficult to compare them.

SURF is an amazing program, and it keeps getting bigger. There were over two hundred and twenty-five students presenting the results (or lack thereof!) of their summer research last Saturday, and there is a Summer Seminar Day for the nonCaltech SURFers and MURFers (that's Minority Undergraduate Research Fellowships) a month or so earlier that had at least a hundred and seventy-five student presentations.


SURF students write research proposals in the spring, working in conjunction with an experienced researcher in their field to formulate their project proposal. Once submitted for consideration, those proposals are reviewed, and some projects are funded by the program. Those students whose projects are funded spend ten weeks of their their summer doing original research under the encouragement of a group and a mentor, usually a Caltech professor or post-doctoral scholar, but sometimes a researcher up at JPL (that's NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory). They participate in group meetings as a full member of the research group they are working within, and the SURF program itself has lunchtime and evening events and workshops and roundtables all summer long. At the end of the summer, the students write up a technical paper and give their seminar day presentations... whether or not their project got results or worked; that's just like real world research in academia. Some lucky/industrious students usually end up publishing their work in technical journals; some students usually go to present their work at NCUR (the National Conference on Undergraduate Research) and/or at SCCUR (the Southern California Conference on Undergraduate Research).

Many students SURF the same project for more than one summer, submitting a followup proposal each year for consideration. Some students continue their summer projects either for credit as during-the-school-year independent research, or as a work-study job to help pay for their college tuition and expenses.

Most undergraduates don't get the opportunity to do this sort of original research at all; they have to wait until grad school for this sort of experience. Not at Caltech. As a friend of mine says, SURF is one of the crown jewels of the Institute. Undergraduates have a lot of energy, and their participation in the research community at Caltech gives the whole place a much different vibe than it would have otherwise.

I'm proud to have been a SURFer in '93 and '94, to have attended NCUR and given my presentation there, to have been a peer coach in '94 helping MURFers and nonCaltech SURFers prepare for their seminar day talks, and a volunteer with the program for the past few years on seminar day.

More information is here, and yes, undergraduates at other colleges may apply for the program:
naturedance: my foot, in my boot, on Mount Rainier (Howard Dean)
It seems at least possible that Dean will figure out how to turn a campaign -- and maybe even an administration -- into a two-way conversation with its supporters. If so, he will have done something truly remarkable, giving the people the voice they are meant to have in a democracy.
-- from an Orion Magazine article by Bill McKibben

I will be the first to admit that I don't know anything about this apparently very Green publication, but Mr. McKibben seems to understand part of what's got me so motivated about this campaign.

I feel it's important for a candidate to support the voting process itself... and Dean's supporters are registering voters at every opportunity. I found some great info online about how to do that, and when I worked a flyering table last weekend, I personally helped register five voters, which was cool.

Did you know that you can register to vote absentee if you're a US citizen living overseas? I kind of assumed that you could, but had no idea how. Now I know.

"The Federal Post Card Application (FPCA), also known as Standard Form 76 (SF 76), is a postage-free postcard, printed and distributed by the Federal Voting Assistance Program (FVAP) for use by absentee voters covered by the UNIFORMED AND OVERSEAS CITIZENS ABSENTEE VOTING ACT (UOCAVA). In order to register, and/or vote absentee, an eligible U.S. citizen must carefully, and accurately, complete an FPCA."

Check out for all sorts of informational links about how to do it. It's kind of impressive!

Also, I've been thinking about putting together some local volunteer efforts by a bunch of people wearing Dean t-shirts and buttons. The DeanCorps idea keeps popping back into my head. So I started researching local efforts that are easy to participate in on short notice... My schedule is usally pretty last-minute, only thinking about a few weeks if not days in advance because I've gotten myself so busy at work, choosing to work insanely long hours trying to launch a big new website.

I looked over at the Caltech Y's website and it looks like they are helping serve dinner every third Saturday of the month at Union Station (if the website is current).

It should be pretty easy to join up with the LA DeanCorps, actually...

There are other possibilities with local volunteer groups in the San Gabriels... seems to do trailbuilding every Saturday.

And ooooooh, Heal the Bay does beach cleanups on the third Saturday of each month. Woo hoo, beach trip!!

Wow. First the ease of following the Get Local link and searching by my zip code leading me to all sorts of Dean-related opportunities to make a difference in politics, now the ease and initiative to get involved in local community improvement efforts... people power really is the best way to describe this feeling.

I've seen t-shirts that say "Howard Dean brings out the best in me" and had thought it was kind of corny, like you're just infatuated with the guy himself or something. Now I'm wondering if they're just earnest statements from people like me.

Strange feeling. Good, but strange.
naturedance: my foot, in my boot, on Mount Rainier (bright dreams nasa)
I read some news stories a bit ago (from USA Today and from CNN, for instance) about Reading Rainbow being underfunded, having to cut back production and possibly face cancellation.

Frankly, that stinks!

Reading Rainbow is an excellent childrens program which promotes literacy, tolerance, and the pursuit of varied interests. It was one of the staples of my childhood, and has no doubt touched many, many people's lives.

I did a bit of research, and found the official site online. From their informational brochure, I found contact information, and sent the following email:

I hope this is the right place to ask this question; I found your email address at If this is misdirected, please forward it along to the right place... thank you!

Some friends and I heard from recent articles that Reading Rainbow is having funding problems and may be cancelled.

We are in our 20s, 30s, and 40s, and absolutely love the show. Some of us have children, others do not. Many of us are members of our local PBS stations, some of us are not. But all of us want to help keep Reading Rainbow on the air... many of us watched it faithfully as children.

Is there a simple way for you to set up a way for interested individuals to donate money to keep it on the air? So that the donations are specifically for Reading Rainbow and not other projects? Paypal is a wonderful invention...

In any case, thank you very much for a great show.
-- Adele Shakal

Today, I got a response.

Hello Adele:

I apologize for the delay in responding to your Email.

LeVar's comments on the Emmys have generated a large amount of calls and Emails from individuals wanting to support Reading Rainbow. We are also receiving calls from corporations and Foundations exploring how they can support Reading Rainbow. Ann Hudson, individual who normally responds to the Emails is out recovering from heart valve replacement surgery and we are little behind in answering the mail.

Thank you for the efforts to support the continuation of Reading Rainbow. When individuals contact GPN about how to support Reading Rainbow, financially or otherwise, we encourage them to send letter and any contribution to Program Manager at their local PBS Station and send a copy of the letter to PBS -- John Wilson, VP Programming PBS, 1320 Braddock Place, Alexandria, VA 22314. We make this request for the following reasons. You could also send letters to your Congressional representative so they also know the value you place on the service

A. It is very expensive to produce each episode of Reading Rainbow -- $150,000 per episode. We should be producing between 10 - 13 new episodes each year so "older" episodes can be retired. We feel it not possible to support this large production cost form individual donations alone on a year to year basis.

B. The local PBS Station decides independently whether to continue to broadcast Reading Rainbow. Letters and contributions will let the local Station know how much you value Reading Rainbow. The local PBS Stations will in demand that the national PBS office continue to provide funding for the production of new episodes.

C. Over 50% of the Station's budget comes from viewer support. It is in Reading Rainbows long term interest to help the Stations build that support. The Stations support Reading rainbow and Reading Rainbow supports the local Stations.

Following is the message we are sending people asking about making donation to Reading Rainbow. (See attached file: email reply v2.doc)

We are receiving an amazing number of Email from people in their 20s talking about the impact of the series on their life. These letters are testament to the valuable service provided by the public broadcast system and Reading Rainbow. After twenty years it is great to know we are still having impact.

Please call if you have any questions.


Stephen C. Lenzen, Executive Director
GPN Educational Media
1800 North 33rd Street (68583
PO Box 80669
Lincoln, NE 68501-0669
Phone 1-800-228-4630 or 1-402.472.2007
Fax 1-800-306-2330 or 1-402.472.4076
Web: or

The attached document said:

We appreciate your concern for Reading Rainbow. Many people like you have graciously offered to contribute, and the overwhelming response has touched our hearts.

The most important way you can assure the future of Reading Rainbow is to communicate your passion for the series to your PBS station. Here’s how

1) Send your PBS station program manager a message about why you value Reading Rainbow – they need to hear that you believe the series is important and relevant. [Visit -- look to the left of the page for a box to key in your zip code, then click on the station icon or call letters to get to the station site.]

2) Donate the amount you were intending to give Reading Rainbow to your local station in honor of Reading Rainbow – this will signal the importance of the series, as well as help the station pay their fees for the series.

If you want to go a step further, send a message to PBS’s national program chief specifying why Reading Rainbow is important to you [John Wilson, VP Programming, PBS, 1320 Braddock Place, Alexandria VA 22314].

Your message and donation will impact the continued scheduling of Reading Rainbow at the local level – as will messages & donations from many others. This system-wide support is a very important factor for us as we work with companies and foundations to raise money for this nationally known and loved series.

Thanks again from all of us at Reading Rainbow.

I'll be writing my letters soon.
naturedance: my foot, in my boot, on Mount Rainier (spring valley)
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.
-- Margaret Mead

34 Million Friends of UNFPA Campaign
About UNFPA: the United Nations Population Fund

Note that I do not advocate sending emailed chain letters about this or any other issue. However, letting your friends know the URL to get complete information about the entire situation is a great idea.

From the 34 Million Friends very informative FAQ webpage:

In July 2002, the U.S. Administration announced its decision to withhold $34 million - that had previously been appropriated by Congress to UNFPA - based on false claims that the Fund supports coercive abortion in China. The decision was taken despite recommendations made by a State Department fact-finding team to release the funds. The State Department team investigated UNFPA-supported projects in China and submitted a report in May stating, “based on what we heard, saw, and read, we find no evidence that UNFPA has knowingly supported or participated in the management of a program of coercive abortion or involuntary sterilization in the PRC [People’s Republic of China]. Indeed, UNFPA has registered its strong opposition to such practices.”

UNFPA has publicly stated that it has never, and will never, be involved in coercion in China or any part of the world. The Fund is a staunch supporter, and promoter, of the human rights-based approach to family planning.

In a nutshell, the 34 Million Friends Campaign seeks to replace that 34 million dollars via private donations, one dollar at a time if need be. They've already reached their first million dollar milestone. And a buck or two is less than the cost of a latte these days.
naturedance: my foot, in my boot, on Mount Rainier (spring dawning) (this is the International Committee of the Red Cross - ICRC) (this is the US Veterans of Foreign Wars) (this is Disabled American Veterans) (this is US VETS, a private public partnership that helps homeless veterans) (US Department of Veterans Affairs website) (if you are a veteran, and you haven't heard of this, check it out)

The vernal equinox is Friday. The flowers on my front porch are blossoming, along with the oxalis growing wild on the corner down the street from my apartment, and two very confused Christmas cacti in my office, and small pink bushes on campus that I've forgotten the name of... This planet we live on is a beautiful place, and life itself is beautiful. Sometimes it's easy to forget that.

Permanent Human Values, A Speech Given by Joseph Campbell at Sarah Lawrence College, December 10, 1940. This man is always so amazing. Go read.

D-Day, by Thomas L. Friedman, an op-ed piece from the New York Times today. Very interesting.

I found that from the Jumping Monkeys blog, posted by Megan from TechTV's The ScreenSavers. I like Megan.

February 2017

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