Complete list of electives for middle and high school

If you are looking for ideas for electives for your middle or high-schooler, I’m compiling a complete list of electives here. If you know of other electives, and/or where they are available, leave a comment and I’ll update this list. Kids enjoy school more when they can study things that interest them. I hope it becomes a useful resource to parents, teachers, administrators and students. Suggestions welcome.

 

Recovering from Santa Cruz Mountains fire

We were evacuated on 8/19/20 and spent 10+ days with friends and in hotels, before returning on 8/30. It was terrifying to think we might lose our home, but we were lucky. To-date, over 900 families in Santa Cruz county have lost their homes. Here are a couple of local agencies who can help and who would appreciate donations. Thank you.

Valley Churches United

Community Foundation’s Fire Response Fund

Remains of house in Boulder Creek, CA

36 Alien Civilizations?

This is a pretty interesting article on the likelihood of contactable, intelligent life. The article, a summary from the full report in the Astrophysical Journal, suggests that there are 36 intelligent civilizations in our galaxy capable of communicating with others, today. And the likely furthest distance to the nearest one is 17,000 light years away. By comparison, the Orion Nebula is 1,300 light years away, Alpha Centauri is the nearest star to our Sun at 4 light years, the Andromeda galaxy is 2.5 million light years away, and our entire galaxy is 100,000 light years from end-to-end. Note that this estimate of 36 is just for our galaxy and there are an estimated 100 – 200 billion galaxies in the universe.

One of the keys is the word “today”. Civilizations come and go, and there’s plenty of time for more of them to have existed previously. The report also asserts that, while it is a speculative theory, alien life would have similarities in appearance to life on Earth and that we wouldn’t be super shocked by seeing them.

RIP John Prine

I have nothing profound to write; my sadness leaves me without energy.  But I can’t let this great man’s passing without writing something.  If you are not a fan of John Prine’s music, it’s because you haven’t heard it.  But it’s never too late.  Many have published a list of his best, but I prefer this Billboard list.  If you want to start somewhere, his Sweet Revenge album is my fave.  Or find “Hello in There”, “Grandpa was a Carpenter”, “Please Don’t Bury Me” and Bonnie Raitt’s rendition of “Angel from Montgomery”.  If you don’t laugh and cry at John’s songs, you don’t have a heart.

I have to thank and offer sympathy to those people who were John’s friends and family.  Thank you for helping make his life rich.  He made the world a better place; how many of us can say that.

John Prine in Saratoga

I last saw John in 2016 at the Mountain Winery in Saratoga. Photo by JBahn.

RIP Clayton Christensen

Professor Christensen passed on Jan 23, 2020 at age 67.  I note his passing in this blog because his insight helped me to become a better marketer, a more useful employee, and helped me to see that “common wisdom” is often not useful.  Along with gurus like Seth Godin, Al Reis, and Geoffrey Moore, Professor Christensen provided guidance for actual strategic marketing thinking.  This NY Times byline says it well: “He broke ground with his assertion that the factors that helped the best companies succeed were also the reasons some of those same companies failed.”  He was an inspiration and I cannot recommend his books “The Innovators Dilemma” and “The Innovators Solution” more highly.

Why we believe what we believe

Do you ever wonder how someone you met can believe what he/she believes?  A good friend of mine convinced me that people make up their own realities. They build a world that supports what they want to believe.  Our fears and desires can fool us. For instance, if you are a lover of french fries, and you read an opinion piece in the National Enquirer that claims french fries are good for you, you might create a reality for yourself that gives you permission to eat all the fries you like.  You ignore the hundreds of negative french fry articles because you WANT to eat fries.

In some people’s reality, cities might exist on the backs of flying turtles.  Here’s proof that they do.

turtle

Well, here’s an article I highly recommend that takes a slightly different and more scientific look at this phenomenon.  In it, the author describes several studies which seem to explain why people make regrettable decisions.  He writes that “under the right circumstances, a subconscious neurobiological sequence in our brains causes us to perceive the world around us in ways that contradict objective reality, distorting what we see and hear. This powerful shift in perception is unrelated to our intelligence, morals, or past behaviors. In fact, we don’t even know it’s happening, nor can we control it.”  He names this “brainshift”.

Though the article is fairly academic, there’s practical value in it if you believe what it says.  For me, understanding that people have their own realities allows me to spend a lot less time arguing.  If my reality is sufficiently different than yours, on what basis can we have a meaningful disagreement?

Vandenberg rocket launch

Marty S. and I drove down to Vandenberg AFB this AM to see a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launch.  We had never seen a launch and it was on my bucket list.  It was around 4:30AM and I didn’t get any pictures, but here’s a video taken from the actual rocket.  We’ll do it again I’m sure and next time we’ll shoot for a daytime launch.

If you ever decide to do this, consider three places to view a Vandenberg launch on pads 3 or 4.  And consider bringing along binoculars.  Options include:

  1.  On Ocean avenue near or on Renwick Ave.  About as close as you can get to the pads, about 5 miles.  Could be foggy.  Park off Ocean or on Renwick.
  2. Providence Landing Park.  About 5 miles further, but at 330′ elevation, might get you out of the fog, if it’s foggy.  You don’t have to get there early.  Look south.
  3. Harris Grade Road up in the hills, at 1000′ if it’s really foggy, but it is further away.

There’s some old info on internet sites.  For instance, you probably can’t reach Surf Beach and Hawk’s Nest is sadly closed.  Having said that, here’s a pretty useful map, including info on seeing other launch pads.

https://www.google.com/maps/d/viewer?ll=34.67556999999999%2C-120.594177&spn=0.27105%2C0.439453&msa=0&z=11&source=embed&ie=UTF8&mid=1eJ71ff_mISR9o8ndMX7nwrvQlTw

Note that pads 6 and 8 are quite a bit further from the viewing spots I mention than 3 or 4.  If you have a better place to see 6 or 8, let me know.  There’s a coast road but others mention that it’s closed for launches.  I’ll keep this blog updated as I learn more.

Leg exercise is critical to brain health

Interesting article in ScienceDaily says that using the legs, particularly in weight-bearing exercise, sends signals to the brain that are vital for the production of healthy neural cells.  The study gives doctors new clues as to why patients who are bed-ridden often rapidly decline in health.  They not only lose muscle mass, but their body chemistry is altered at the cellular level and even their nervous system is adversely impacted.

legsThe study was done on mice, but it doesn’t take much of a leap to see the implications for you and me.  I’m sure it’ll spark more study but it seems like a good idea to avoid long periods of inactivity.