Sunday, July 31, 2022


Are we in one, or not?

Does it matter?  

Here's all you need to know about recessions and the current press coverage of our not-a-recession-no-matter-what-we've-said-in-the-past:

Whom Does So-called Credit Recovery Help?

"Credit recovery", by its very name, tells you that student learning isn't the goal.  Rather, students can take milquetoast online courses and earn graduation credits for learning nothing.  Such "courses" are the antithesis of what we in education should promote, but they are darlings of counselors and administration and the bane of existence for teachers.  Who among us hasn't heard a student say, "I'll just take the class in credit recovery and pass"?  What do students learn in such courses?  They certainly don't learn any academic material.  Rather, they learn that they need only jump through a few hoops and they'll receive (but not truly earn) a diploma.  

What should students learn?  How about the origin of the phrase "jumping through hoops", for starters?  the richness of our language and its literature is valuable, and not just for its own sake.  But I digress.

I assert that no learning takes place in these "courses".  They are a waste of time, designed solely to improve graduation rates.  Here's some evidence to support my claim:


An emerging body of research links online credit recovery programs to rising high school graduation rates but does not find comparable increases in student learning. This study follows high school students who engaged in online credit recovery into the labor market to understand the longer-term implications of this growing educational trend. If online credit recovery contributes to high school completion and facilitates job entry, then participants in online credit recovery may have labor market outcomes that differ little relative to those recovering credits in traditional classroom settings. However, if online credit recovery courses are inferior in terms of the knowledge or skills they impart and that learning is critical to workforce success, then online credit recovery participants may earn less over time. The study findings suggest that high school students who participated in online credit recovery initially had earnings on par with those who did not recover course credits online, but a negative differential emerged between their earnings and the earnings of nonparticipants that grew over time. We found no evidence to suggest that students ever benefitted in the labor market from online credit recovery in high school.

Saturday, July 30, 2022

District Pays A Penalty For Insulting Its Teachers

Should teachers be treated this way in order to keep their jobs?  Short answer:  no.  Perhaps the school board in question needs this slap:

Just weeks after Oklahoma's governor called for a special audit of Tulsa Public Schools (TPS), the State Board of Education voted to downgrade the district's accreditation status for violating a law that restricts teachings on race and gender.

In a 4-2 vote on Thursday, the board based its decision to downgrade to "accreditation with warning" in response to a complaint stating a mandatory training session for teachers violated state law 1775.

A teacher filed the complaint with the state after she claimed training videos she was required to watch "...specifically shame white people for past offenses in history, and state that all are implicitly racially biased by nature"...
TPS issued a blistering response to the state board's decision and said the schools "are teaching our children an accurate -- and at times painful, difficult, and uncomfortable -- history about our shared human experience," according to the statement.
Oklahoma's HB 1775, which does not include the term "critical race theory," is intended to stop discrimination, according to the bill. If any educator teaches that "an individual, by virtue of his or her race or sex, bears responsibility for actions committed in the past by other members of the same race or sex" or that "an individual, by virtue of his or her race or sex, is inherently racist, sexist or oppressive, whether consciously or unconsciously," they could be suspended or have their license removed, according to the law. 
According to the Oklahoman, the training session the teacher complained about was "provided by a third-party vendor and took place in August 2021, before the administrative rules had taken effect. Those rules advise a school district be labeled 'accredited with deficiency' at minimum if it is found in violation of HB 1775."
If the training occurred before the law went into effect, the BoE's action is inappropriate.  Otherwise, the district has to follow rules just like the rest of us.

I've addressed implicit bias many times, just type "implicit bias" into the search box at the top or bottom of this page to read those earlier posts.  The test used is not very reliable.

Friday, July 29, 2022

This Is Why We Have Local Control of Schools

How many of those complaining have kids in that district?

Hot Springs County School District #1 shared photos of fifth and sixth grade students learning marksmanship in the school’s gym during P.E.

The post, which is no longer available, showed the children aiming air rifles at targets propped up against the bleachers.

Air rifles are usually used to introduce children to firearms, and while they are far less lethal than actual firearms, they can still cause serious harm...

While some people expressed support and praised the school district, many expressed anger and concern...

In a statement, district superintendent Dustin Hunt and board chairman Sherman Skelton stated that the three-week air rifle course is practical for Hot Springs students, and apologized to anyone offended by the post.

“One of the many beauties of public education is that locally elected school boards help shape curriculum to match community norms and needs,” they wrote. “In Wyoming, the vast majority of households have firearms. It is important for students to safely learn about and respect things they will encounter in their everyday lives.”

Would the pearl-clutchers who worry about "danger" like to see pictures of the archery classes at my own school?

Thursday, July 28, 2022

The Math Framework, A Year Later

California's racist and anti-achievement math framework from last year has been cleaned up a little, but systemic problems remain:

The proposed California Mathematics Framework generated a storm of controversy when the first draft was released in early 2021. Critics objected to the document’s condemnation of tracking and negative portrayal of acceleration for high-achieving students. Indignation focused on the recommendation that schools stop offering Algebra I to mathematically precocious eighth graders. A revised draft was released in 2022, softening the harsh language of the original text while leaving intact the framework’s dim view of course acceleration or other forms of tracking.

Those are important issues; however, this post is concerned with students on the opposite end of the distribution of achievement: students who struggle with math. Over the past decade, math scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) have been declining at the 25th percentile, indicating that struggling students are falling even further behind their peers. Moreover, as schools recover from the pandemic, the percentage of students with disappointing math achievement is sure to go up. What does the framework portend for them? What evidence does the framework rely upon to build its recommendations for these vulnerable youngsters...

It appears that the framework’s ideological commitment to the principle that all students should be treated the same—same curriculum, same instruction—is the primary reason why the extensive literature on struggling students is ignored. Effective interventions require identifying students who are falling behind and creating supplemental instructional settings for them, either in small groups or individually. In contrast, the framework places all its bets on instruction that attends to mindset theory, lessons using math to explore social justice topics, and Universal Design for Learning (UDL) to reduce the number of students who need extra help. The framework doesn’t say it out loud, but the idea that students could fall behind once this instructional regime is established is treated as unlikely.

The framework’s second ideological commitment is to inquiry. Topics are organized around “big ideas” and “drivers of investigation.” Inquiry methods have a century-long checkered history, particularly for struggling students in the primary grades. As a long time reader of California’s frameworks, I can say that the 2022 Math Framework is the most inquiry-oriented that I’ve seen since the 1992 California Math Framework. This statement from the 1992 framework could have easily come from the 2022 version: “Children often misinterpret and misapply arithmetic and algebraic procedures taught the traditional way. This program, in contrast, values developing number and symbol sense over mastering specific computational procedures and manipulations.” The 1992 framework flew under the radar until a coalition of concerned parents and mathematicians, in what became known as “The Math Wars,” rallied against the textbooks and instructional methods that the framework spawned and drove them all out of state policy...

The 2022 California Math Framework does not reflect current scholarship on how to serve students who struggle when learning mathematics. A search of studies cited in a recent What Works Clearinghouse publication, “Assisting Students Struggling with Mathematics: Intervention in the Elementary Grades,” reveals absolutely no overlap. None of the studies cited in “Struggling Math Students” are cited in the framework. This is particularly troubling because of the transparent, rigorous process followed in producing the practice guide, ensuring that recommendations are based on scientifically sound research. In sharp contrast, the process employed to search literature and select evidence for the framework’s recommendations is unknown. It is not described in the document or on the framework’s website.

The California State School Board will consider the framework for adoption in July, 2022. All students will be poorly served if the state endorses inquiry over explicit instruction. Students who dream of pursuing a STEM major will arrive at college unprepared. Students who have difficulty learning math will see their frustrations increase and challenges multiply as they fall further behind their peers.

The Board should reject this framework.

For so many reasons.

Wednesday, July 27, 2022

When Math Knowledge Is Valuable--Realities About Energy Demand

Lack of understanding of relatively simple mathematics causes so much feel-good unicoria that can be and is exploited by people whose agendas may not be ideal.  Here's what you can learn if you understand math:

A week doesn’t pass without a mayor, governor, policymaker or pundit joining the rush to demand, or predict, an energy future that is entirely based on wind/solar and batteries, freed from the “burden” of the hydrocarbons that have fueled societies for centuries. Regardless of one’s opinion about whether, or why, an energy “transformation” is called for, the physics and economics of energy combined with scale realities make it clear that there is no possibility of anything resembling a radically “new energy economy” in the foreseeable future. Bill Gates has said that when it comes to understanding energy realities “we need to bring math to the problem.”

He’s right. So, in my recent Manhattan Institute report, “The New Energy Economy: An Exercise in Magical Thinking,” I did just that.

Herein, then, is a summary of some of the bottom-line realities from the underlying math. (See the full report for explanations, documentation, and citations.)

Read the whole thing. Here are some of the points made:

A 100x growth in the number of electric vehicles to 400 million on the roads by 2040 would displace five percent of global oil demand...

Replacing U.S. hydrocarbon-based electric generation over the next 30 years would require a construction program building out the grid at a rate 14-fold greater than any time in history...

To make enough batteries to store two day's worth of U.S. electricity demand would require 1,000 years of production by the Gigafactory (world’s biggest battery factory)...

It costs less than $0.50 to store a barrel of oil, or its equivalent in natural gas, but it costs $200 to store the equivalent energy of a barrel of oil in batteries...

The common cliché: an energy tech disruption will echo the digital tech disruption. But information-producing machines and energy-producing machines involve profoundly different physics; the cliché is sillier than comparing apples to bowling balls...

No digital-like 10x gains exist for solar tech. Physics limit for solar cells (the Shockley-Queisser limit) is a max conversion of about 33 percent of photons into electrons; commercial cells today are at 26 percent...

No digital-like 10x gains exist for wind tech. Physics limit for wind turbines (the Betz limit) is a max capture of 60 percent of energy in moving air; commercial turbines achieve 45 percent...

No digital-like 10x gains exist for batteries: maximum theoretical energy in a pound of oil is 1,500 percent greater than max theoretical energy in the best pound of battery chemicals...

These address some of the silly, non-scientific claims of the mathematically illiterate.

Monday, July 25, 2022

Then and Now

I just came across some pictures from the first time I went to San Felipe, perhaps 20 years ago.  Here are some "then and now" pictures.

These are from the hilltop shrine to the Virgin of Guadalupe looking back at town.

Big difference between high and low tide!

And these are from the same hilltop shrine looking north along the beach towards our campground.  I stayed at the same campground on both visits.

Who doesn't enjoy the 2-story palapas at Ruben's and Kiki's?

Sunday, July 24, 2022

John McWhorter »Woke Racism« - »How a New Religion Has Betrayed Black Am...

Americans of good will on both the left and the right are secretly asking themselves the same question: how has the conversation on race in America gone so crazy? We’re told to read books and listen to music by people of color but that wearing certain clothes is »appropriation.« We hear that being white automatically gives you privilege and that being black makes you a victim. We want to speak up but fear we’ll be seen as unwoke, or worse, labeled a racist. According to John McWhorter, the problem is that a well-meaning but pernicious form of antiracism has become, not a progressive ideology, but a religion—and one that’s illogical, unreachable, and unintentionally neoracist. Fortunately for Black America, and for all of us, it’s not too late to push back against woke racism. John McWhorter shares scripts and encouragement with those trying to deprogram friends and family. In conversation with the philosopher and Director of the Einstein Forum, Susan Neiman, John McWhorter will present a roadmap to justice that actually will help, not hurt, Black America.


One of the things I enjoy in Mexico is the public art.  Another is the bright colors on signs and buildings.  Here is some art I saw on this most recent trip:

Saturday, July 23, 2022

What Do Those "Best By" Dates On Your Food Mean?

Seemingly, not as much as you think:

Avoiding unseen food hazards is the reason people often check the dates on food packaging. And printed with the month and year is often one of a dizzying array of phrases: "best by," "use by," "best if used before," "best if used by," "guaranteed fresh until," "freeze by" and even a "born on" label applied to some beer.

People think of them as expiration dates, or the date at which a food should go in the trash. But the dates have little to do with when food expires, or becomes less safe to eat. I am a microbiologist and public health researcher, and I have used molecular epidemiology to study the spread of bacteria in food.

A more science-based product dating system could make it easier for people to differentiate foods they can safely eat from those that could be hazardous...

The dates on those food packages, however, are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration. Rather, they come from food producers. And they may not be based on food safety science.

For example, a food producer may survey consumers in a focus group to pick a "use by" date that is six months after the product was produced because 60% of the focus group no longer liked the taste. Smaller manufacturers of a similar food might play copycat and put the same date on their product.

One industry group, the Food Marketing Institute and Grocery Manufacturers Association, suggests that its members mark food "best if used by" to indicate how long the food is safe to eat, and "use by" to indicate when food becomes unsafe.

But using these more nuanced marks is voluntary. And although the recommendation is motivated by a desire to cut down on food waste, it is not yet clear if this recommended change has had any impact.

A joint study by the Harvard Food Law and Policy Clinic and the National Resources Defense Council recommends the elimination of dates aimed at consumers, citing potential confusion and waste.

Much more information at the link.

Friday, July 22, 2022

Driving in Baja

Any book or web site about driving in Baja will tell you the same things:  the highways are very narrow, they're bumpy and full of potholes, don't drive at night.  One of those isn't necessarily true.

The Transpeninsular, Mex 1, is narrow.  Like 19' narrow.  It's a 2-lane road that runs 1,000 miles from the Tijuana on the US border down to Cabo San Lucas, but it's narrow.  Did I mention how narrow it is?  


When a truck-with-trailer meets a big rig, there are only inches of clearance.  I'm sure there were times I actually closed my eyes!

To make matters even more exciting, you have to consider the cliffs.  There is a mountain chain that runs down the center of Baja and the Transpeninsular zig-zags across these mountains, from the Pacific to the Sea of Cortez, as it goes from one town to the next.  Combine the narrowest of roads with often no shoulder or guardrail and you get a driving "experience".

We didn't cross at Tijuana; we crossed at Tecate, and took Mex 3 to the wine country and then Ensenada.  Maybe an hour or two of driving on Mex 3 this trip, although in the past I drove it from Ensenada to Mex 5 just north of San Felipe.  Good road.

Mex 5 is a dream.  For decades it went from Mexicali to many miles south of San Felipe, where it turned to dirt for dozens and dozens of miles.  Just a few years ago the dirt part was paved and it now connects to the Transpeninsular about a third of the way down the peninsula.  On our way north we turned off Mex 1 onto Mex 5 to go to Coco's Corner and San Felipe.  

Mex 5 is one of the newest, smoothest, and nicest highways in all of Mexico--it even had guardrails and shoulders!  Despite all that, I still lost a trailer tire on the newest section.

Despite what I'd read, and expecting the worst, I found those three freeways to be in exceptional shape.  In fact, I noticed the difference right away when I crossed back into California; California's highways are not as well maintained as Mex 1, 3, and 5.  The worse roads I encountered on the whole Baja peninsula were in and around La Paz, something I didn't expect from a large city that is also a state capital, but they were probably no worse than California's.

So that's the good news about driving in Baja, now let's address what could be improved.

Topes (toh-pays).  Speed bumps.  Often unmarked, and in unexpected places.  Except for wearing of face diapers (and then only in BCS, not northern Baja), I've usually found rules, regulations, standards, and laws to be mere suggestions, and as such, a change of speed limit sign would probably be ignored.  And to be honest, why wouldn't they be?  The speed limits were often so absurd--straight stretch of road out in the middle of nowhere, speed limit 60 kph (36 mph).  So what do you do when the highway becomes the main street through your little town in the desert?  First, you put these round, aluminum bubbles maybe 6" in diameter in the street across the lanes so people know you mean business about slowing down.  And then you put in a tope, often so tall that my hitch equipment would bottom out as I drove over it.  This tope might or might not be marked by signage, might or might not be marked by paint.  I'll bet there are plenty of transmissions left on the roads after those damn topes!  And all those heavy rumble strips and aluminum bubbles to shake your kidneys apart must provide plenty of job security to people who perform front-end alignments.  If they had reasonable speed limits and enforced them, maybe they wouldn't need to tear their citizens' cars apart in the name of safety.

Something else I hadn't anticipated was the lack of paving anywhere except the main roads.  So many of the towns we drove through had just the highway paved, all the other roads were dirt (and, thus, bumpy).  Not only that, but if you pulled off the main highway to a store or gas station, you probably drove or parked on dirt.  All those dirt roads and parking areas signaled poverty to me.

The military checkpoints were a special treat.  We probably encountered one every other day or so.  We'd be driving along this beautiful (but narrow!) highway, and all of a sudden we'd have to slow down and divert off the beautiful highway onto dirt (bump bump bump) to be greeted by genuine soldiers.  They would ask where I came from and where I was headed, and they'd always want to inspect my trailer.  Do the cartels ship drugs in travel trailers?  Most of these inspections were so cursory, it's like they were satisfying their curiosity about what the trailer looked like inside more than trying to catch me breaking any drug laws.

I did have two "interesting" official encounters.  I'd read that the police in Tecate were "predatory" regarding Americans, so I was very careful to follow the rules especially carefully there.  Not 3 minutes after having my trailer and accompanying paperwork thoroughly inspected at the border crossing, I saw a flashing light behind me.  I turned onto a side street and pulled over.  The vehicle was not marked as police and the man was not in uniform, but he showed me some sort of badge and asked to see my trailer paperwork.  He spent some time trying to find the VIN on my trailer--it was probably on one of those decals that has flaked off over the years due to the sun--and eventually gave up and sent me on my way.  Should I decide to take my trailer to Mexico again I'll probably get some punches and just punch the VIN somewhere easily readable on the tongue.

When passing from Baja North into Baja South, there used to be an agricultural inspection station.  All vehicles would be sprayed for pests for a small fee and then you'd drive on.  I watched my friends, two vehicles ahead, pay and get waved through, but there was no inspection and no spraying.  What was this fee for?  The car in front of me had Baja California Sur (Baja South) state plates, and that driver didn't pay.  So when I drove up, the guy (not a soldier, either) said something to me.  I thought he said veinte, 20 pesos ($1 US), and I handed him a 50-peso note.  He handed me a 10-peso coin in change.  I paused, waiting for more change, and then asked, "Cuarenta (40)?" as if to say, "40, really?"  He gave me 2 or 3 additional 10-peso coins and I drove on.  I still have no idea if that was even legitimate!

There are some driving customs in Baja that Americans will find alien.  One of them is that vehicles will pass when no passing is allowed (that "no passing" signage is just a suggestion, remember!), and that big rigs and RVs will assist.  If you're following a big rig that isn't going very fast, the driver will put on his left blinker when it's clear for you to pass!  He's not turning left, he's telling you it's safe!  Even with my 5.7 liter Hemi engine pulling my trailer up some of those hills, some cars wanted to go faster, and it doesn't challenge my manhood if someone wants to pass me.

That passing can create problems, though.  Some people will try to pass on those twisty-turny mountain curves, and that's just not a good idea.  Sure, those highways are mostly empty and the probability that a car will be coming the other way at exactly the time you want to pass is extremely small, but it's not zero.  How do I know it's not zero?  Because twice on our way north we passed pretty bad collisions on some curves, with the most logical explanations being either someone was passing on a curve or someone swerved into oncoming traffic because they were going to fast on a curve.  You've got to respect the curves.  To me, passing on the curves is such a silly, unnecessary risk to take.

Another odd thing I saw a couple times occurred in some of the bigger towns we passed through on the Transpeninsular.  The highway would become the main street of the town, but the bigger towns need more than two lanes.  Now imagine 3 parallel sets of 2 lanes, each set separated by an island in the road.  The set on the far left would be coming towards you, the set in the middle would be one lane in each direction, and the set on the far right would be going in your direction.  OR, and I kid you not, you might get each pair of lanes being one in each direction!  It was so weird when a car in a lane on my right would stop at an intersection and then cross in front of me to go somewhere on my left!  I never did figure out how that was supposed to work and fortunately only encountered that insanity a couple times.

The last thing to mention about driving involves getting back to the US.  Google Maps took us to the border and put us in a lane with a sign that said SENTRI.  I don't know what that means, do you?  I wondered if it was Spanish for "sentry", and why we would be told there is a sentry on duty.  Turns out it's a Customs and Border Protection expedited entry program like the TSA's Global Entry, and neither my friends nor I had it.  We got diverted to the special inspection area (they took my apple!) and told that if we ever go through that line incorrectly again we'd be subject to a $5,000 fine.

After reading this post and my previous one about the Baja trip, I think you'll agree that I got a pretty good representation of the stereotypical Baja experience!

Thursday, July 21, 2022

Do You Really Believe This, Professor?

So many of the arguments on the left today sound so condescending to me.  "Expecting people to be on time is racist.  Expecting students to learn is racist."  Really?  Are only white people capable of succeeding in Western culture?  The Little Rock Nine, and those American blacks who fought so hard in Brown v. Board of Education, they must have been stupid--why fight for education if learning is racist?

Some of the arguments on the left today sound right in line with the Jim Crow racists of the past, that black and brown students just cannot succeed or live up to the standards that "whites and Asians" do.  And that brings me to this idiot professor:

On June 30, Antar A. Tichavakunda, an assistant professor at the University of Cincinnati (UC), published an article on Inside Higher Ed that argued exam surveillance, zero-tolerance policies, and fraternities and sororities harm “Black and Latinx” students. 

On the issue of technology, Tichavakunda claims that “proctoring software built to monitor students during remote exams… perpetuates racial biases and stereotypes.” 

Of course, because white and Asian students never cheat and are not subject to the same proctoring software.  Weak.

Then on the issue of zero-tolerance, Tichavakunda writes that policies against plagiarism and standards of academic integrity “disproportionately harm Black and Latinx students.” 

He believes that the people who make the decisions about academic integrity standards and then enforce them are not “race-neutral,” arguing that minority students are often falsely accused of breaking academic rules. 

"Believes"?  Any evidence?  Weak.

Referring to ‘test banks,’ which are cheat sheets for exams made by fraternities and sororities, as an exclusive academic resource, the Cincinnati professor said that white students “take exams and do homework with unfair advantages” and claims that white students cheat regularly. 

Do non-white students not join fraternities and sororities?  Is using a test bank cheating?  If white students are "cheating regularly", don't you want some test proctoring?  Weak.

I'll repeat what I said earlier:  this professor is an idiot.  And an obvious racist.

Wednesday, July 20, 2022

Worst Patriarchy Ever

Narrative Destabilizing Fact: For the fourth straight quarter through 2022:Q2, Asian women out-earned white men.  Guess that makes Asian women "white adjacent".

Banning TikTok

While I would agree that TikTok offers more harm than good, I'm not sure that banning it is the best idea:

TikTok has never been far from controversy, and we’ve recently learned that private user data is being shared with TikTok’s parent company in China...

According to a new poll from Trafalgar Group, 58.6% of voters support efforts to remove TikTok from app stores, while only 17.8% oppose such a move. Another 23.6% say they are not sure...

The poll found that while a majority of Independents (56.9%) and Republicans (76.8%)  support removing TikTok from app stores, Democrats are divided on the issue. Only 39.2% of Democrats support removing TikTok, while 25.1% oppose it.

Impactful Composting, or More Kabuki Theater?

I haven't cleared a spot for it yet, but I've received my mandatory (but free!  no one pays for these!) countertop composting bin.  Great.  In addition to the garbage bags I now have to buy because stores are required to charge for bags for your groceries, in addition to paying a refundable redemption fee for cans and bottles as well as being required to pay for a blue garbage can for recyclables (and for the 2nd garbage truck that picks them up), in addition to paying more so the green "yard waste" bin will now be picked up weekly instead of biweekly, I have the privilege of paying for special compostable bags for use in my required (but free!) composting bin:


Does any of this produce environmentally meaningful results, or is this just a way to generate more money for governments and certain businesses?  I'd really like to know.

A Bleak Assessment

You can shoot the messenger all you want, but when you're done with that, the points made still need to be addressed:

A new Gallup Poll shows that only 28% of Americans hold a “great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in our public school system, and given the state of that system, one can only assume those people work for teachers’ unions.

This is the second lowest percentage since Gallup first started tracking the issue in the 1970s, and it isn’t hard to understand why. The failings of our government school system were put on full display during COVID as schools shut down and the classroom moved to Zoom. 

Parents were, often for the first time, presented with the materials their kids were actually being taught and many realized just how much time their kid wasted on a day-to-day basis.

Couple that with the egregious actions of the teachers’ unions—unions that leech off the taxpayers’ dime like a fat tick—who worked to unnecessarily keep schools shut down or enforced ridiculous COVID protocols despite parents’ wishes. They basically held the education system hostage for two years and left us with the bill—which was bound to anger anyone paying even passing attention to the situation.

And this is just the backlash against the policies found in public schools over the past two years, it doesn’t even touch on the abysmal testing results and outcomes for those who go through government schools.

If you want to know what was being taught in my classes, you can view my instructional videos on my YouTube page

Just a few days ago I received an email from a lady who used to be a rookie teacher at my school, now she oversees math and science teaching in our district.  She congratulated me on teaching what will be our first dual-enrollment (with the local community college) statistics class in our district, and of course offered what assistance she could.  She also said she'd like to come visit that class some time, if that would be OK.  Administrators and other teachers are always welcome in my class, and no, they don't need to make an appointment with me!  It's my class but it's their school, and we share the students, and I expect them to know what's going on in classes around school!  Anyway, I told this new "suit" that she could come by at any time.  I have nothing to hide from my bosses.

Monday, July 18, 2022

Convoy to Cabo

Two vehicles--my truck and trailer, and friends in their VW Westfalia camper van--set out for Baja 3 weeks ago.  It was a true adventure.

We crossed the border at Tecate on Tuesday morning.  I'll just say it, Tecate is not a good presentation of the United States, or even of California, but that's where we crossed.  Tecate, Baja California, is nicer (and certainly larger), but unfortunately the Tecate Brewery has been closed to tours due to the 'rona so we continued on highway Mex 3 south.

We spent our first night in El Valle RV Park in El Valle de Guadalupe, the "Napa Valley" of Mexico.  Lots of vineyards, and the charcuterie and wine samples we had nearby were nice after the morning's exertions.

From there we went to Ensenada--ever been on a 3-day or 4-day cruise to Mexico out of Southern California?  If so, you went to Ensendada!  The highlight there was, of course, the natural blowhole at La Bufadora.  I hadn't been there since taking my son in about 2004.

It was in Ensenada that we started south on Mex 1, the Transpeninsular.  On the way to our next stop, beach camping near San Quintin, we stopped in Camalu, where a former student had poured concrete in a park as part of a church project several years ago.  I took pics and video and sent them to him on Instagram.  The place we stayed in San Quintin came highly recommended in the Baja Bible, the Traveler's Guide to Camping Mexico's Baja.  Sure, it was beach camping, which was kind of nice, but the bathrooms and showers (neither of which worked) were well over a quarter mile walk away.  When we didn't use the bathroom in my trailer we used nearby porta-potties, but we had to squeeze through barbed wire to get to them.


Woke up there to a flat tire on the trailer.  We plugged the hole and, to be safe, rotated the spare into its place.  We'll hear about that tire again later in the story!

Rather than risk the totality of the 195-mile "gas gap", we took a spur off Mex 1 to Bahia de Los Angeles, our first stop on the Sea of Cortez.  The sight of the bay after crossing the mountains was more beautiful than any picture we took.  Camped on the beach in a small hotel/campground--took the maiden voyage in my inflatable kayak there, too!

Back on Mex 1, the next day we crossed the state line from Baja California to Baja California Sur, as well as a time zone, and made it to Guerrero Negro.  Guerrero Negro might be the happening place in the winter, when the gray whales come to the lagoon to calve, but in the summer it's not so much.  We stayed in a so-called RV park behind a hotel and, if nothing else, enjoyed flush toilets and hot water showers, extravagances we hadn't experienced since Ensenada.

We passed through Santa Rosalia without stopping, missing the church designed and built by Gustav Eiffel, but at least we saw it on the way home.  Our next stop was Mulege (moo-lay-hay), an oasis on the Sea of Cortez coast.  I'd heard nothing but good things about Mulege, but I didn't see them.  One of my traveling companions coined the phrase, "Never stay in Mulege".  She softened her stance on the way back when we stopped at the Mulege Brewery on the edge of town, but...  Our campground was across the river and was just a dirt field with electric/water hookups.  The owners' house was on the side of a hill overlooking the "park", and they had a nice pool--which guests were free to use.  And we did.  Liberally.  It was warm, it was surrounded by greenery, and it was better than anything we would do had we driven the mile or so into town.

We drove less than 2 hours the next day, to Loreto, a much nicer town.  Our "campground" consisted of between 6 and 10 RV hookup spots in what had been an open area in a small gated community.  We liked Loreto much more, and made significant use of the community's swimming pool.  Again, flush toilets and hot showers with water pressure.  And laundry!  We were able to do laundry!

I had to pick up a friend in La Paz, a 5-hour drive and the capital of BCS, the next day, so I left about 2 hours earlier than the others and made it to La Paz in plenty of time.  I reconned a nice campground near the airport, less than 15 minutes from downtown and the waterfront, and still picked up my friend at the airport on time.  I got a text from the others; they wanted to consider a beach 45 km on the other side of town, out in the middle of nowhere.  Ugh!  So we drove from the airport to Playa El Tecolote--out in the middle of nowhere!--and waited for the others.

I cursed them as we got farther and farther from La Paz (I like cities), but at least Tecolote was beautiful and we decided to stay there for a couple nights.  This was our first true beach camping--no campground, no hookups, just us parked on the sand with the waves lapping nearby.  Completely legal in Mexico!  The beach was full during the day, but at night there were only a few vehicles to punctuate the darkness.  I used my generator at times to keep the trailer at a tolerable temperature inside.  The wind picked up at night, but the temperature didn't drop too much!

Just over the hill, a short drive from Tecolote, was Balandra Beach.  Balandra is considered the most beautiful beach in Mexico, and rightly so.  It's also a National Heritage Site.  I don't recall that there was a fee to get in, but partly because of the 'rona, access was severely limited to only 400 visitors at a time.  One group would be allowed access between 7am and 1pm, the beach would be cleared at 1, and a second group would be allowed between 2 and 7 pm.  Pictures capture only the smallest shred of the majesty.

We took a day trip in to La Paz.  In Mexico, seaside towns and cities have a Malecon, or waterfront walkway, and La Paz' is over 2 miles long.  These malecons often have sculptures as well as colorful signs with the city's or town's name, all the better for tourists.  I enjoyed La Paz, it was a nice city.


At this point, it was time for our 2-vehicle convoy to split up.  My other friends had a nice place to stay in a shipping container building in Cabo, and I didn't.  There's no camping in Cabo--all the old campgrounds have been bought up for seaside resorts--so my friend and I headed to Los Barriles to set up camp.

I've heard a lot of bad things about Mex 1, but the only criticism I have of it is how narrow it is.  For most of its length it's the tiniest of 2-lane roads.  I also found it to be very well maintained, not full of potholes like I'd read so many places.  (In fact, after crossing back into California, it didn't take me long to realize that I was driving on roads not maintained as well as Mex 1 is.)  Part of the problem with Mex 1, though, is that it winds and twists through the mountains that form Baja's spine, and when we got stuck behind a Coke truck on those twistie-turnies, we were doomed to 25 mph for about 45 minutes.  No, there's no requirement to pull over and let people pass, and mostly there wasn't a place to pull over anyway!  It was a grueling drive to Los Barriles.

We finally got there and set up in a nice beachside campground, and then headed to Cabo.  My friend who flew in had never been to Baja before so we had to take a ride in a transparent boat out to see The Arch, but only after we stopped off at the orphanage (watch Blue Miracle on Netflix and make a donation if you can) to drop off the donations I'd brought.  We enjoyed the touristy part of Cabo, then drove back to Los Barriles.

He had to catch a plane home on Saturday, and I didn't want to risk getting stuck behind another Coke truck on the way to La Paz, so we went back to La Paz on Friday afternoon and stayed at that (very nice) RV park near the airport.  That allowed us to go enjoy the city Friday night and relax Saturday morning before he had to catch his flight.

After taking him to the airport, I had lots of time to myself, which I occupied by visiting more places in La Paz as well as making good use of the RV park's swimming pool.  My friends arrived from Cabo a day or so later, stayed one night in the RV park, and then we headed north.

It was a long day of driving, but we camped on the beach at Playa El Requeson, partway between Loreto and Mulege.  Right on the beach, but a "caretaker" there charged us 200 pesos ($10 US) per vehicle.  This beach was stunning.  At low tide there was a small sand causeway out to an island; you could walk it at high tide, but you'd be waist-deep and the current was fairly strong!  Very picturesque.

The next morning we left and this time we stopped in Santa Rosalia to see Eiffel's church.  It was a nice church but would not be a place to stop and see had anyone but Eiffel built it.  Then we continued on to Guerrero Negro and stayed at the same place we'd stayed on our way south.

We left Guerrero Negro in the morning and drove a few hours until we met with Mex 5, which joined Mex 1 only within the last few years.  Our goal was to get to the hot springs on the beach at Puertecitos.  But first, we had to stop at Coco's Corner.

Coco is a Baja institution.  Before Mex 5 connected to Mex 1 with asphalt, Coco lived just off the dirt road.  Apparently his place was a nice stopover on some of the long Baja desert races.  After Mex 5 was completed, Coco's Corner was too far off the highway--so, and I don't know how, it was moved.  Coco is an old man in a wheelchair, who's lost his legs to diabetes and lives alone out in the desert.  Travelers stop in and Coco offers them a beer--and he solicits bras and panties from the women, the ceiling and walls of his ramshackle hut are covered with them.  We signed his book, just names and "where you are born, not where you live".  His broken English and our broken Spanish allowed us to stay and talk over half an hour.  I don't know how he lives alone out there, an hour from the nearest town of any size, but somehow he gets enough groceries and beer to live on.  He'll let you pitch camp on his land if you ask nicely and ask early enough.  He's been out there in the desert since 1987, living alone, inviting random visitors into his plywood house.  Was there even a front door?


From there it was an hour to Puertocitos, where we encountered two problems.  First, we could not get to the hot springs.  I didn't understand why completely, but they were inaccessible.  And somewhere along Mex 5, the newest and smoothest freeway in all of Mexico, I'd lost a tire on the trailer.  That spare we put on in San Quintin?  Completely gone.  How long had I been driving on just that rim?  Good thing I have 2 axles and 4 tires on that trailer!  The tire that had gotten the flat so many days before was holding air, so we put it on and made our way to San Felipe.

I wanted to stay in a campground on the south side of San Felipe, nearer the town center and malecon, but my friends wanted to stay at a place on the north side and further from town--a place I'd stayed back in 2004 or so.  I thought it would be too small for my trailer, but I didn't want to spend hours comparing sites when we could spend that time on the beach, so I agreed and we just headed there.  I could barely fit my trailer in between the 2-story palapas, and my door wouldn't open all the way because of the room (think skinny! I would say to myself as I squeezed in), but we got there.  Then they wanted to go check out another place on the south side of town, but I was so frustrated after all the driving and the tire change that I didn't want to try to unsqueeze my trailer and go look elsewhere, so I implored them to just stay there one night and we could move the next day if they wanted to.  We ended up staying at Kiki's for two nights.

Yes, we went from Coco's to Kiki's in the same day :-)

Kiki's was ideal for my friends in their camper van.  I knew it would be, as it had been ideal for me and my camper van almost 20 years ago.  Right on the beach, too, which was nice.  The toilets and showers don't seem to have been improved in those almost-20 years, though.  Ugh.

There's something about San Felipe, I really like it as a town.  Less than 3 hours from the US border at Mexicali, it's easily accessible.  It's big enough to have everything you need, and small enough to be "cozy".  Population of about 20,000, tourism and fishing seem to be the major sources of income.  Well-maintained.

Got that rim fixed, and a relatively new tire, for $45 US.  It's now my spare, and is holding air.

I'd read about an ultralight pilot who lands on the beach and charges $50 US for a 20-30 minute ultralight flight over the town, beach, and water.  I knew my friends wanted to leave after our 2nd night in San Felipe, but I considered staying longer just so I could take an ultralight flight.  We were chilling on the beach on our full day there when I looked up.  It's a bird!  It's a plane!  It's an ultralight, and he's going to land on the beach!  I got his attention immediately, we chatted briefly, and I went to get $50.  I'd have recorded the whole flight, of course, but he warned me to ensure I didn't let go of my camera or it would "cause problems with the propeller" which was immediately behind me.  And there was nothing for me to hold onto, the only thing keeping me in place was a seatbelt.  I gripped that camera for dear life, not wanting to drop it or anything, so I took very little video and only one picture.  I was a little scared up there, too, again not being able to hold onto anything even if only for psychological effect.  I opted to just enjoy the flight as I could without recording the whole thing.  He was a great pilot!  When we landed on the beach and one of my friends paid for his flight, I told him he'd probably enjoy the flight more if he didn't have to worry about holding his camera.  He handed it to me and they took off.


Having accomplished what I really wanted to do in San Felipe, I had no urgent reason to stay longer, and my friends were anxious to get home.  We left the next morning, crossed the border, and got back to crappy roads.  The thermometer on my truck read 118 degrees north of Calexico. Ugh.  Somewhere off 210 we decided just to find a hotel for the night.  We found one but there was nowhere nearby to park my truck and trailer, so I found a hotel about 10 mi away where I could at least park on the street.  For the first time all trip they got up and ready earlier than I did and, since I didn't answer their text, they got underway, getting home that afternoon.  I slept in, and then took a nap/food break somewhere along I-5 that afternoon, and got home about 9pm Saturday.

Then the work began.  Unloading.  Laundry.  Cleaning.  Parking and unhooking.  And my water heater at home was giving me problems before we left, and still is.

Back to the real world.

Update, 8/31/22:  There is a post on Instagram that Coco has been found dead at his house.  I've not found any news reports online but I'll keep looking.  What I have found, though, is reports of his death going all the way back to 2003, so I'm cautiously hopeful.

Update #2, 9/1/22:  I have found an online story reporting Coco's death, but it seems to reference the same Facebook post that the Instagram post relied on.  I haven't found anything yet to counter it, so it seems that this time it might be real.