Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Quick bites...

Brief lunch-break musings...

This past Sunday afternoon, while going for a little hike in Sabino Canyon, I saw my first rattlesnake.
Walking with a friend, he almost stepped on it, when we heard the trademark warning-noise; no matter how many times you've heard it on t.v. or have seen snakes behind glass, that rattle makes your heart jump.

It was 'just a baby,' less than 4 feet long...
...but I've been told that bites from babies are more dangerous, since the youthful serpents don't know how to 'measure' their venom just yet, so they give you all of it...

Then on this morning's news--a story of a New Yorker who was out here over Labor Day for a weekend trip. While taking trash out, she was bit--not once, but twice, on both her feet.
So, her weekend trip out West became a month-long hospital stay,
with two dozen doses of anti-venom...
since she has no health insurance, a bill that bites as well:
Eighty-nine thousand dollars.

Health-care-reform, anyone?

So I'm having my first 'hot' lunch at work since the school-year began--
I finally got around to getting a little microwave--on sale, of course: 35$
...and to think that my parents spent over 300$ on their first microwave back in the early 80's...

...so, another appliance plugged in, sucking energy...adding to my 'carbon footprint.'
That's an expression that wasn't around a few years ago, eh?
But, wouldn't it be more accurate to say:
carbon buttprint?

I mean, really--a footprint is small, our collective consumer glutei taking up more space, no?
And we SIT for most of the things that make our carbon-contributions larger, anyway:
we SIT in cars...we SIT in planes...we SIT and watch TV...we SIT while the dryer dries our laundry.
Just a thought.

And the monsoon-season is now officially over here in Tucson.
Morning lows are positively chilly now--60 degrees...(still 90 in the afternoon)
Cool enough to plant cilantro.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Local calendar. Names and figures.

The school-year's about a month-old down here...
and as usual, by now kids are coming to school with late-summer colds and runny noses...
and eventually the teachers catch it as well.

So I'm at home this morning, sitting here with a faithful box of kleenex at my side...

Before the school-year started, one day we drove by Saguaro National Park's eastern district, which edges up to our part of Tucson. Their newsletter included the native calendar--how the local tribe, the Tohono O'Odham people, call the months.

Here we go, then...I'll start with now.

Wasai Gakidaj Masad
(month of dry grass)
avg. high temp.: 94 degrees; avg. low temp.: 67 degrees
Bats and hummingbirds preparing for early October migration; activity increases.
First-year juveniles must gain strength for first long flights to wintering grounds to the south...

Al Ju:big Masad
(month of planting frost-hardy squash)
avg. high: 84; avg. low: 57
Cactus wrens begin to build winter nests in cholla cactus...

S-ke:g S-he pjig Masad
(month of pleasant cold)
avg high: 73; avg low: 45
Ocotillos produce new leaves within five days of winter rainfall...

Ge'e S-he:pjig Masad
(month of big cold)
Desert mistletoe bearing fruit...

Gakimdag Masad Masad
(month of depending on stored foods)
Succulent plants filling up with winter moisture...

U: walig Masad
(month of mating deer)
If the winter has been rainy, desert wildflowers, such as Mexican gold poppies, begin blooming...
This is also the month of "Festival de los Vaqueros,"
or 'rodeo'-time. Tucson schedules one of its school-vacations for this long-weekend...

Ce:dagi Masad
(month of new plants coming up)
Brittlebush blooming; beetles appearing...

Uam Masad
(month of desert in bloom)
Gambel's quail begin mating; snakes active if the winter has been quiet...

U'us Wihogdag Masad
(bean-gathering month, time of hunger)
Nocturnally-flowering cacti in bloom, including saguaro and night-blooming cereus...

Ha:san Bak Masad
New saguaro-fruit ripening, falling to ground--harvested to eat and make wine...

Jukiabig Masad
(month of rain)
Desert toads croak at night to attract mates...

Sopol Esabig Masad
(month of short planting)
Barrel cacti, asters, morning glories, devil's claw, trailing four-o'clock all blooming

And now for a few more, non-calendar, figures...
Demographics gleaned from this morning's paper:

One in five Arizona adults was born in another country.
Hmm....I wonder where--
The Census Bureau really had to spend lots of data-crunching time
to figure out that 2/3 of these come from Mexico?
About 1/3 of Arizonans classify themselves as Hispanic.
Statewide, however, only 25% of the population says they speak Spanish.
Among the foreign-born AZ residents, (who number about 900,000) 85% speak Spanish,
and only 157,000 of them say they speak English very well.

2.2 million AZ adults were born in the state. 3 million were born in a different state. 70,000 born outside the country but born as citizens. 273,000 foreign-born, but naturalized US citizens. 655,000 non-citizens.

"Locals" are a minority.

I saw a bumper sticker the other day--it read "Leaving Tucson? Take a friend with you."

Nice. The driver of the vehicle, though, wasn't looking too 'native'...

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Yes, this is a RANT...

For los amigos who are reading this--please accept my apologies in advance.

I really don't want to treat this blog--and you--as a dumping ground for my frustration.

So...instead, view the following rant as a way for you to be aware and 'enlightened' about idiotic bureaucracy and the dangers thereof. I sent a copy of more or less the same content as a 'letter to the editor' to one of the Tucson papers...it will likely not be published, so I am 'self-publishing' here...

(An acronymous explanation: TUSD stands for Tucson Unified School District, one of the state's largest employers, by the way.)


TUSD's Human Resources Dept. evidently does not consider verifying potential (and current) employees' past work experience as being part of its job.
As a result, experienced teachers end up not being paid what they were told they would be when hired. Let me explain.

I am a teacher with a graduate degree and have been teaching since 1998.
I just moved to Tucson from out of state.
I was offered my current job back in the spring.
When I got my first local paycheck recently, it seemed (surprise) even smaller than I thought it would be.
Yes, I knew moving here would involve a paycut.
But I didn't think that TUSD would, as a 'welcome gesture', pay me on the 'STEP 1' of its salary schedule.
That means that right now, I am being paid as if I have zero teaching experience.
This is thousands of dollars less than I was offered.

When I asked about this, a Human Resources employee said:
"Well, someone should have told you when you were hired that until we receive verification from your prior employers you will be paid accotrding to Step 1 on the salary schedule."
In all due respect, I replied:
"Isn't that the job of the Human Resources dept.? I mean, I was hired back in the spring--in between then and now, no one has verified my work experience?"

The reply from HR was "do you realize how many employees we have?"
In other words, 'we don't have time to do that; we couldn't be bothered.'
So--TUSD does not consider that verifying prior work experience from its potential employees as being part of its job.
Instead, they hand new teachers paperwork that we have to send to our prior workplaces, who surely have nothing else to do than fill out paperwork for people who no longer work for them?!
Until that paperwork is returned to TUSD, TUSD does not pay its teachers what those teachers had been told would be their salary.

The previous district where I worked had a HR department that did consider it part of its job to verify its employees' past work histories. Imagine that.

How many 'professional' organizations out there have HR departments that don't bother to verify their potential employees' past work experience?
This is a needless disservice to TUSD's current teachers, and a potential danger to TUSD's students, wouldn't you think?
In the meanwhile, teachers who are new to the district are treated as if their past experience doesn't exist, and this hits home in a very real financial way.
What a 'professional' policy...'Welcome to TUSD,' indeed.