Sunday, August 30, 2009


It's always darkest before the dawn, and its always quietest on a campus before the students arrive. Convocation and the start of the new semester is Sept. 1st, which means this week was the last where quiet reigned supreme.

I always feel some nervousness before starting a new job or position, and this time is no exception. No matter how prepared, how experienced I become, each new entering class of students is different, with unique needs and presenting unique challenges. Of course, that's one of the reasons I love the job--diversity keeps all the neurons firing full speed ahead.

At least now I know quite a bit more about CMC. Monday and Tuesday morning of this week I went to orientation, where everyone from the Registrar to the Library to Campus Services had their hour to fill the new faculty full of information. It was very different from my last orientation, though. This time around, with eight years experience as a faculty member under my belt, I knew exactly what I needed to know, and that confers a huge advantage. Braced with that knowledge, I knew what questions to ask and so I think that I have all the answers I need.

At least until the students arrive.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Moving On

Settling in a new place is always...interesting to say the least. There are good aspects: the staff and faculty at CMC have been great about helping me learn the ropes and get up to speed on the local system.

But there are always bad aspects too. Most baffling is my new faculty housing. In many respects it is a wonderful small two bedroom house: the air conditioning is both effective and quiet, and the blinds are great. On the other hand, the laundry room isn't wide enough. Sure, it has both electric and gas hookups for a dryer, but the room physically lacks about four inches needed to fit a washer or dryer in there. This is the kind of thing you'd like a think a builder would know about.

So today I took my second trip to the laundromat. Not much to say there, as like most things in Claremont, the Coin-Op Laundry is clean, sunny, and modern. After a year or two of tramping over there I might feel differently, but for now it seems better than the last time I used a laundromat regularly by a wide margin.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Of quartz it is....

My next to the last day of travel found me in the Petrified Forest National Park. I'd been here as a kid, but the burning sensation left my the merciless sun left no other room for memories.

The sun is still there, but oh nelly is this a wonderful place! Petrified wood is found all over the world, but only here was it found in true forest fashion--carpeting the landscape like a quartz reminder of the slow geologic processes of time. Of course, much of it was removed by tourists before the park became protected. Even today, the park says it loses about 1 ton of wood a month. This is both sad and sickening, when you realize that what makes this place special is the sheer intensity of the amount of petrified wood found. Outside the park? Well, it's just another pretty rock, of fairly low value.

Add to that the plethora of petrified wood available for sale in sizes large and small outside of the park, and I seriously wonder at the mental capacity of the visitors who steal the stuff out of the National Park.

Anyway, rant complete!

Now on to the next sight of the day: Meteor Crater! Words fail to describe the sheer awesomeness of this (privately owned) hole in the ground. They try: they've put a little tiny 6 foot astronaut that you can barely see through a high power telescope in the center of the crater, and that does give a bit of a hint as to the magnitude of the thing that lies before your eyes. It is a wonder.

So burned and seriously fatigued, the next day I finally made it into Claremont! Now for a week of hooking up (with cable and phone service at least) and learning the ins and outs of CMC.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Of Pecos and Pueblos

I stayed the night in Albuquerque because it was on the road, but my goal for this day of sightseeing was the Santa Fe area. First stop, the tiny village of Pecos, next door to the Pecos National Historic Monument.

This was the home of the Pecos Pueblo builders, who picked a humdilly of a spot. From the top you could see the whole valley, and one pass to the north narrowed to be only 30 feet wide, allowing them to charge tolls and get a nice little city-state going.

The only problem? It was in the 1300's that things really got rolling for them. So just like the Aztecs and Incas whose empires were formed just before European discovery, they never really had a chance to go big.

They did have a really good spot though, so it took a few centuries before things went south. Today you can tour the ruins (I went on a very thorough Ranger led walk--took about two hours for 1 1/4 miles,) and they have a small museum.

Santa Fe has big museums, including the new New Mexico History Museum, which opened a few months ago. It's very nice, and has all the amenities of a modern museum--artifacts interspersed with interpretive text and paintings, a well thought out flow, and gorgeous theaters.

The Palace of the Governors Museum is somewhat more old school, but that can be nice too, and when I visited they had a photography exhibit and a special exhibit on religious art that were both very good.

Lunch was Nu-Mex at the Plaza Cafe, where they cheated by seating me right in front of the pie case. Boy was that Apple Pie with Caramel on top good though.

Heading to the great Southwest

So yesterday I traveled from Oklahoma City over to Albuquerque in New Mexico, with a brief visit to Texas in the middle. Texas does have the coolest rest stops, and all of them have Wi-Fi, even if it is a pretty weak signal.

But the most fun I had was at the Mesalands Dinosaur Museum in Tucumcari, NM. They have a unique setup, with the museum being run by the Mesalands Community College. What do they have that most places don't? Access to a foundry.

Most of their casts are actually solid bronze, and I must say, that makes for a real cool dinosaur exhibit. They have a large number of fossils and casts that you can touch as well, which always adds a nice immediacy to the experience. It took me about an hour to see everything, then run back and pose for pictures--a nice little experience.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

More on Pigeon Forge...

Nested in the foothills of the Great Smoky mountains is Dollywood, Dolly Parton's paean to her Appalachian roots.

It's a fun theme park--even more family orientated than the Disney parks, but without the size of the budget. Therefore the rides tend to be simpler. For instance, for me the best ride in the park is the wooden roller coaster "Thunderhead". While it does not include any animatronic critters, it is a superbly designed ride where you feel like you are going much faster than you really are.

The music in the shows at Dollywood pretty much consists of country and bluegrass. The 50's and 60's rock revue was dark the day I visited, so I missed that. All of the shows I saw were top notch quality, in addition, the Kratt brothers were running an animal show for a week and they are as funny and charismatic in person as they are on their show.

As I stated in my previous entry, Dollywood has also partnered with a company to offer a zip line tour of the surrounding mountains. There is an additional fee of about forty dollars, for which you get to zip down four different lines. Two cross the park walkways, while the other two cross two nearby ravines. The longest is about 850 feet, long enough to get going at a pretty good clip. It was a great experience: they have it set up so that it is very easy for novices such as myself
to get started, and it really does give a different view of the trees to be able to stare straight down at them. Highly recommended!

Sunday, August 2, 2009


Good news! Dollywood has zip lines now!

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Stairs, stairs, stairs

It is truly amazing how much garbage a tiny one bedroom apartment can hold. But eighteen trash bags later, the remaining stuff barely fit in my car. And so, I was off on my great American cross country road trip!

Unfortunately, I live (or lived, I should say) in a third floor apartment, and so each trip meant two flights of stairs. It was a very long day.

So any sane person would have stayed away from hiking their first day of travel.

Fortunately, sanity has never been one of my weaknesses, and so i headed for Chimney Rock. A private tourist attraction up until 2007, now it is run by the state park system of North Carolina. Fortunately, they have an elevator to the top, so it was only on the down trip that my legs started to feel like rubber. Still the view was worth it!

On a side note: the Holiday Inn Express in Hickory and Lazy Bear in Pigeon Forge are both great places to stay!