Thursday, April 23, 2009

hummingbird nests...roadrunner...iguana...
blooms...spring in Paris

...a few photos from this past Sunday afternoon, when we took some kids for their visit to the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum:

My wife and I had never seen hummingbird nests before--so tiny!

Every visit to the Desert museum, we've spent some time in the hummingbird aviary...
...and what a treat, this time, to see these little nests...
...the prairie dog habitat had an unexpected visitor in the enclosure:
...funny, that roadrunners are in the cuckoo family...
...later in the afternoon, we saw this guy perched on a rock, not in an enclosure:
...a spiny-tailed iguana, roaming free in the desert. I like his smile--a reptilian toothy grin.

..things in bloom, too. This is a bud of a 'Carl Nielsen sage:"
...and, of course, varieties of prickly-pear-cactus:
Et voilĂ --a little bit of April in Tucson.

April in Tucson...can't help but think of April in Paris...
...Exactly ten years ago: early spring, along the Seine, behind Notre Dame:

...later in the spring, rhododendrons in bloom at the Parc de St.-Cloud, near where I lived:
...and just for fun, an architectural face as a parting shot:

(a Renaissance-era balcony with a mini-gargoyle in the Marais district in Paris.)

Sunday, April 19, 2009


So, up this Sunday morning at 5:30, for my first 5k!
Perfect weather--slight breeze, in the 60's, eucalyptus and palms and Aleppo pines at Reid Park crisp against the mountains and sky... April in Tucson is truly perfect...

Here's the cause. (click)

Here's the course. (click)

And, here's the t-shirt:

Since this was my first 5k, I didn't sign up for the competitive portion...

...but, still! It was fun to have an official starting line, finish line, and a midway point with volunteers clapping and handing out cups of water to the thousands of passing runners; felt all official and sporty...

My goal was to finish under half-an-hour. And I did: just over 26 minutes! (Experienced Runners out there--don't laugh, eh? acorns before oaks, 5k's before marathons...)

I didn't realize the event would make me pensive, but it did. Seeing all the people running/walking in honor or tribute to loved ones who have either survived or died from cancer--made me think of relatives and friends...and knowing that 75 percent of the funds raised from this event go to Southern Arizona cancer research is heartening...

I also thought of the fact that, growing up in GA, I didn't know a single person who did things like run 5k races or do bike tours. Tucson is nice that way--'positive peer pressure' to get outside and move around...

Several of the staff from the school where I work did the run as well; nice to get our minds off the continuing uncertainty of our employment...

Maybe next year I'll sign up for the competitive run; you get to wear a computer chip that tracks your time officially...

Now--time to do a bit of housecleaning (my wife is dusting as I type), and then this afternoon, taking a couple of kids we know to the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum...

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

last week: Mt. Wrightson.

Last Friday, a couple of friends and I hiked in the Santa Rita mountains south of Tucson. We climbed all the way to the top of Mt. Wrightson (9453').

...a few photos from the hike up from Madera Canyon ...

...beginning with a cell-phone-camera shot of a wild tom-turkey, in full strut down by some b&b cabins:

...we had just entered the Canyon preserve, and my camera was in my backpack, so all I could do was quickly open my cellphone...There must have been over a dozen wild turkeys all over the parking lot and crossing the road...

...a bit further up, right as we began hiking, we saw these deer:

...and already, a few wildflowers are beginning to bloom up over a mile in elevation. (The hiking trail begins at 5400'.) These are Indian paintbrush:

...after several hours of climbing and switchbacking (well past the point where I hiked back in early November), we were approaching the rocky summit, with a bit of snow still in the crevices on the northern side:

...The next day, this past Saturday, a storm rolled through and several inches of snow blanketed the mountains above 8000 feet...

...and finally, approaching the summit--this view looking south past a forest-fire-burned ridge, looking toward Mexico:
The summit is bare, except for the foundations of a fire-lookout built back in the 1920's--a welcome windbreak to sit behind, especially last Friday when there were gusts up to 40 and 50 miles per hour...

...looking back down over the entrance to Madera Canyon, to the desert floor seven thousand feet below, with some mines (and their leaching pits) off to the NW...the green line in front of them are the pecan orchards that stretch for miles along I-19 in the Santa Cruz valley:

...from the summit off to the Mustang Mountains to the east, over the grasslands of Sonoita and Elgin--incidentally, where parts of the film "Oklahoma" were filmed and where there are a few vineyards (!) in southern Arizona's 'wine country'...

...and a 'hiker's-eye-view' looking to the north, with Tucson and the Santa Catalina mountains in the distance:
Finally, driving away in the already put away in the backpack, so this is from my cell-phone:

Mountains in all directions from Tucson; nice to be able to get 'above it all'...

The uncertainty in the education-job-world continues...

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Letter and photos in the paper

So, I wrote a letter to the editor, and it was published in this morning's Arizona Daily Star:

Private information made public

Monday night I noticed that the Star posted a searchable database on its Web site so that Tucson readers could find out who is being laid off at what school, those people's full names and what date they were hired by the Tucson Unified School District.

Yes, I know that technically this is all "public information" made available by the TUSD (Tucson Unified School District) board. But is it really necessary to post a searchable database? Maybe some of those teachers and administrators would rather not have everybody know that they will potentially be unemployed.

I'm one of those teachers. Don't I have the right to choose when and how I would like to inform whom? Isn't it an invasion of my privacy for your paper to have published my name, hire date and "layoff" status for anyone to find out?

Allow us to be uncertain in private, if we so choose. Thanks for adding to our stress.

Joseph Cyr
Teacher, Tucson


The day after I e-mailed the above to the paper, the editorial department called me to make sure that I wanted to have it published, since I did sound 'kind of angry.' Well, yeah, I'm annoyed; (insert 'duh' here) that's why I wrote...I did appreciate the call, though; very considerate.

On a less peevish-sounding note, the same paper has also featured several of my photos on its website recently:

--they were requesting 'wildflower' photos, so I submitted this one of wild desert heliotrope, a.k.a. scorpionweed, blooming now...
...and these were blooming along a mountain trail last November, but I haven't been able to identify them--anyone know what they are?
...and then 'moon over Tucson' was the topic:

So...I am perhaps looking at future unemployment, (and "RIF"s are not actually pink, by the way), but in the meantime, I'm getting my fifteen minutes of local newspaper 'fame,' eh? (cheap thrills...)


It's rainy and 50 degrees as I type this. Snow on the mountains. Occasional thunder-accompanied-sleet (!) here in town...

...a huge contrast from yesterday, sunny and around 80 degrees. I went with a couple of friends to climb Mt. Wrightson, just south of Tucson...a 13-mile round trip from the trailhead in Madera Canyon: 4000 feet up, and 4000 feet down--destination, the 9453-ft-summit of the highest peak in the Santa Rita mountains--a 360-degree view of a good chunk of southern Arizona and northern later.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Today's press-release.

Friday after work...
...from my work e-mail inbox to you, a press release from Tucson Schools, verbatim:
Preliminary notices sent to Tucson Unified teachers, administrators regarding a potential reduction in force

Tucson Unified Schools is giving notice of a potential reduction in force to approximately 560 certified employees and 65 administrators in schools on Friday. The certified employees include teachers, counselors and librarians who have not been employed for the major portion of three consecutive years with Tucson Unified.

Certain special programs such as alternative education and hard-to-fill positions such as highly qualified math and science teachers and exceptional education teachers have been exempted from this potential reduction in force. Tucson Unified employs approximately 3,500 teachers.

Because of the uncertain budget situation and the statutory deadline of April 15 for providing notification to certified non-tenured teachers that they will not be offered a contract for the following year, it is necessary for us to over-notify individuals.” said interim Chief Human Resources Officer Nancy Woll.

“We anticipate being able to recall at least some teachers when we have more definitive budget information. I am hopeful that we will receive positive budget information soon and we will be able to begin the recall process.”
So, 1 in 8 teachers in this city: looking for work...
...including me.

We've been getting stronger and stronger hints for a few weeks now...
Earlier this week we were told it very likely would happen.
And today it did: The Letter and 'the conversation in the office.'
The administrator who handed me my letter is himself also receiving the same kind of letter.
And then, mid-month, the 'real' 'official' RIF * letter will be delivered.

I wonder if it'll be on pink paper.

Fun times in Tucson, on a breezy spring day...

Hey, at least we're not as bad as Los Angeles, where six THOUSAND have been told that they won't have a teaching position come August...

* RIF=Reduction In Force
Another acronym for today:
"RIP" for the idea that
"careers in education and healthcare guarantee recession-proof jobs."