Forward…

Yesterday, I attended Fresno’s first anit-Trump rally — couldn’t stay the entire time because we had rehearsal for last night’s KKDJ-VU (reunion “celebration” for a station at which I worked for most of the 1980s, almost a dozen of my former colleagues were there). It was great to see so many show up, at the rally. When I got there, there was a small gathering on the SE corner. During the time I stayed, a second, slightly smaller group had formed on the NE corner, and a very small group was congregating on the SW corner. Fresno Police were everywhere. A camera drone circled above the intersection. Camera crews from local TV were there. I saw reporters from the Collegian and the Bee. Only a few counter protesters — basically, one redneck with a pair of signs. He was the only person I saw the cops tell to get back on the sidewalk — what happened to the instructions that setting foot in the street risked arrest?

That said, my heart, once again, broke. I stood there watching the rag-tag group that represents the America I know: women, Hispanics, the elderly, the young (many college-aged), African Americans, Asians, lawyers, a couple of other college professors, a doctor from UCSF Medical Center (a white man and his Latina wife), manual laborers, and everything in between. My heart broke because I kept seeing the faces of my students, this past Wednesday morning. Faces filled with fear and foreboding.My heart broke because of the anguish and trepidation on the faces of so many gathered in desperation.

But, just as disheartening was the lack of cohesion, on the part of the protestors. Chants of “Dump Trump” and “Trump is not my president” are magical thinking. Unless the electoral college does something completely drastic, he will be our next president, and he needs to be stopped. Impeaching him just gives us Pence — the truly scary one because he actually believes his right-wing ideology, unlike his running mate who just said what he needed to say to get elected.

My heart broke over the signs that read things like, “Blame the DNC” and those who were telling people in the crowd that had Bernie not had the nomination stolen from him, we’d be looking at a different future — I’m not so sure, pegging him as a dirty commie would have given the fascist all the ammo he needed to rally the low information voters (Trump said, he loves the poorly educated). That said, I’m no longer concerned as to who’s to blame — we all let this happen. I’m not gonna blame the Bernie Bros, Comey, or even Putin. This, I’m afraid, is the natural backlash of having a black president and white (slightly left of center) liberals believing they had a permanent majority.

Most of the cars that drove by barely acknowledged the protestors. Those who did either honked and gestured in solidarity or honked and gestured quite rudely. One very overweight white woman in the passenger seat of a a lift-kitted, oversized 3/4 ton (or larger) pick’m’up truck screamed her “Fuck You!” punctuated by flipping off the protestors. Those who demonstrated support and those who demonstrated opposition were approximately equal in number — which is to be expected, in this area.

My heart continued to break when I left the protest. I drove down Blackstone and looked at all the people, most of them POC, trying to get on with their lives. Part of me couldn’t fathom why they were not several blocks north, making their voices heard. Another part, fully understood that they were just trying to keep their heads down and get through the day. Tomorrow, will be another day to try to just get through.

I left, after an hour — I had to get ready for this evening. I could NOT not go to the protest. I owed it to myself, my family, my students, my friends, and my communities (all of the ones to which I belong). That said, I’m going to find away to amplify the voices of the voiceless. I will find a way use my talents, knowledge, and experience to somehow make a difference. I have the genesis of a plan (as Baldrick would say, a cunning plan) to move forward. Step one is to finish writing the dissertation (number 1 priority). Step two entails a new venture (adventure) that I’m going to try hard to make happen that combines all I’ve ever done and might have a small impact (I’m realistic as to my limitations). I don’t want to say more until I’ve made progress, but “watch this space.”

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Some thoughts from the week…

For a variety of reasons, this has been a complicated week. I won’t go into most of it, but needless to say, it is often during times of confusion when something clicks. I’m currently teaching a number of sections of History 11 (the first half of US History, to 1877). The lectures, this week, among other things have included the early industrial revolution, urbanization, and immigration (mostly Irish, Chinese, and German/Eastern European).  No, this isn’t going to be a discussion of Donald Trump and his xenophobic rants in relation to the anti-immigrant rants of the so-called Native Americans (nativists, not Indians) of the early 19th (20th, and 21st) Century. Really, what really struck me, actually right in the middle of lecture, was the current systematic, systemic economic and social changes that, in some ways, parallel and complete the processes that happened between 1820-1860: a fundamental paradigm shift from one sort of economy to another. As I explained the transition from the self-sufficient farm and the workshops of crafts people and artisans; the; shift to factory timetables and pay packets; and the creation of a market economy, I began to look at my students and wonder.

I described to my students that when I was just a tad younger than most of them, I had never pumped my own gas. I described pulling into a full service (the only kind) gas station and, following the unforgettable “ding ding” of the bell, being greeted by a man in a uniform who checked my fluids and belts, tire pressure, pumped the gas, and wiped the windshield (“Wipe the Windows. Check the Oil. Dollar Gas. A Live Collection” Allman Brothers Band). I explained that by the end of the seventies, all those jobs went away (and never returned). I then pointed out that in 1820, most middle class families had one or more servants — but, they’re no longer needed since we have vacuum cleaners, dishwashers, washing machines and dryers, and a whole host of mod-cons that eliminate those jobs. I suggested that every time they opt to use the “self-serve” check out at the supermarket or DIY store, they’re eliminating someone else’s job. I suggested that every ATM replaced another bank teller. I talked about when I was in radio, from the last seventies to the early nineties, it took dozens of people to properly keep a radio station on the air — now, automation, satellite radio, and consultants make most of those jobs redundant. I proclaimed my love-hate relationship with Amazon.com. I love the fact that I can get ANYTHING from the comfort of my home. I hate the fact that robots in the warehouse (just like all the robots making cars, appliances and other robots) eliminate thousands of workers who should be finding work in retail, but who are not needed because of the one-stop-shop of Amazon.

I recalled that when I was in high school, we were told that we all needed hobbies because automation, computers, and mechanization would all improve productivity so much that by the 21st Century we’d all be working 15 hours a week and producing more. We got the productivity gains, but most of us are not working 15 hours a week, because all the gains of that productivity went to the shareholders and management — not the workers.

I also mentioned a film I show in my California History Class, called Why Braceros (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=in4wXocVgUQ) in which the California Farmers Association flatly states that they wish to see the guest worker program extended (the film was made in 1959) until such time that all so-called stoop labour can be replaced by machines. I pointed out all the signs up and down Highway 99 and Interstate 5 proclaiming “NO WATER! NO JOBS!” paid for by conservative farmers throughout the state. I pointed out that many of these same farmers are currently in the process of plowing under crops that actually required human labor and, in the middle of the worst drought in at least 1000 years, planting thousands of acres of the water-intensive almonds. Instead of needing semi-skilled and skilled laborers to pick tomatoes, lettuce, or other crops that require hand picking, they’re planting a crop that a single crew of three (one driving the shaker and three with rakes) can harvest an entire crop. The farmers don’t give one hoot about anyone’s job — they care (like all good capitalists) only about the profits.

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I told my students that the world they are preparing for — a world where everyone is a worker, dependent upon a paycheck for basics like housing and food — was created in the first half of the 19th Century and (with a few hiccoughs served us well for much of the 20th) may not be there when they leave the safety of the college and university. I pointed out that there had been numerous demonstrations against McDonald’s because of their reliance on very low pay for (mostly) part-time workers, many of whom have to work 2-3 jobs (60-80 hours/week) just to be able to afford an occasional Big Mac and medium fries. As one student pointed out, McDonald’s has agreed to raise the minimum to $15 sometime in the next year, however, what none of them had heard about was McDonald’s announcement that within the next few months, they will be installing in more than 200 stores self-serve kiosks that will allow (sic force) customers to place their orders, themselves, eliminating the need for cashiers. Fire half the workforce, and give the others a raise — problem solved. Wages increased with no loss to profits. According to this article, it’s not just Mickey D’s: http://www.businessinsider.com/what-self-serve-kiosks-at-mcdonalds-mean-for-cashiers-2015-8.

I tried to challenge my students to wrap their heads around the potentialities. Are we going to be sending them out into a world where there really aren’t traditional jobs. The rise of capitalism and industrialization are linked. Both require a workforce that doubles as consumers and employers that provide the capital to produce the goods that the consumers (who are, in turn, workers) consume. Without even taking outsourcing and the migration of jobs overseas into account, the sheer number of jobs being replaced by automation should create alarm. Taking all three into account, should create panic. Perhaps, we are, like the farm girls who went to work for wages in the mills of Lowell, at the beginning of a new paradigm? The shift from artisan to manufacturer (under the putting out system) to factory worker created a new middle class and expectations that, for those willing to work, a future could be secured. But, how will these young adults fare in a world where work is not available for most of them. In Japan, today, they’re conducting research on human-like androids that can do everything from man a perfume counter or function as a life-like sexual partner. If even the oldest profession is being threatened by automation, what jobs are safe.

I remember, in 1979, having a long discussion with someone that I could never be replaced (in radio) by automation — my skills and knowledge couldn’t be replicated by machines. I’ve eaten those words many times.

My dear son is just 20. He’s still trying to decide who he wants to be when he grows up (like most of my students). But, I’m beginning to wonder what his world (in 40 years) will look like. Will the Capitalist model that we’ve used for the last two centuries still function, or will it collapse back in on top of itself. If Capitalism does fail, does it do so quietly, like the 19th Century transition that ushered it into prominence, or will the death-throws of Capitalism plunge us into war and social collapse.

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Mid-November Assessment

This continues to be an intense semester. My health is suffering (although, not drastically), and I constantly feel like I’m forgetting something, or that my fly is open — I know there’s SOMETHING!

Last week was very difficult. On Monday, at Fresno State, there was a diverted tragedy, as one of the freshman football players sent out a message on social media that a hot blonde would be getting a head shot by 3pm, that afternoon. I first heard about it when a fellow lecturer came into our shared office and said that students were telling him about the posts and the internet “buzz.” A few minutes later, in my class, I found that almost every student in my class (that was scheduled to conclude at 2) already knew about the threat. The campus finally sent out an alert, during that class, and I decided to let my students go a few minutes early, so we could all get off campus by 3. On Wednesday, at UC Merced, a freshman attacked 2 fellow students, a contract employee, and an advisor with a knife. He was shot and killed by campus police. These two events, so close to my heart. My personal ties to Fresno State go back almost 10 years to the time I returned to complete my BAs in History and Anthropology and stayed around to pick up an MA in History. My mother used to take continuing education classes, as far back as 1967, and my step-father earned his BA from Fresno State College, in 1956 (the year I was born). I may not consider myself a died-in-the-wool bulldog, but that doesn’t negate my association to the school — first hand as a student, grad student, teaching assistant, and now lecturer. UC Merced is probably one of the campuses to which my heart is most closely attached, and I have found myself in tears, several times, thinking about the tragedies in COB, on Scholar’s Lane and on the Bridge. I posted the following on Facebook shortly after the incident:

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To some, this makes no sense. Those of us from the campus understand the importance of “our bridge.” It may appear to be just a bridge over an irrigation canal that runs through campus, but in reality, that bridge is THE bridge between worlds.

A day or two before the beginning of each Fall semester incoming freshmen and transfer students gather on the “lower” side of the bridge, along with the Chancellor, Rufus Bobcat, faculty and staff, and upper class men and women. Everything on that side of the bridge is support — dorms, the health center, the dining commons, the gym, and the visitor’s center — while everything on the other side of the bridge (what can be seen in this photo) is the academic side of the campus — the library, labs, classrooms, lecture halls, and faculty offices. On the signal from Chancellor Leland, the new “Bobcats” make their way across the bridge to the academic side and walk through the “Beginnings” statue (what we all lovingly refer to as the metal vagina). Two to five years later, for commencement, graduates walk back through Beginnings, cross the bridge (going the other way), and wind their way down to the soccer pitch to receive their diplomas (or, in reality, an empty folder into which they can place their diploma when it arrives in 2-3 months).

It was on this bridge that the perpetrator of this horrible series of events was shot and died. For those of us who are part of the campus community, this stain on our bridge — a structure that most of us have to cross at least twice each time we’re on campus — is permanent. Few of us will look at the bridge without remembering the events of this week. May we never go through anything like this, again. May we reclaim “our bridge” and let it, again, symbolize the bookends of our academic journey. The bridge is now a reminder of the death of one of our own; a young man that we failed. He saw no way other than to strike out at his fellow students and faculty and staff. I’m sure he brought many of his demons with him, but it breaks my heart that we, as a community, were not able to help him grow beyond them.

So, maybe our bridge is now also a reminder of our failures, as well as our successes. When we cross that bridge in May, and many of our fellow Bobcats celebrate our collective and individual successes, perhaps, we’ll take a moment (in sadness, not anger) to remember our mistakes and failures, as well.

Two campuses to which I’m closely associated, attacked by their own students, in one week — yes, I take it very personally.

As for the rest of the semester, it’s been interesting (so far).

This is the first time I’ve taught an online class, and I’m adjusting. The upper division Applied Anthropology class has proven to be an interesting experience. I’m always fascinated by how much I learn when I teach a new class — even one like this. In this instance, however, most of what I learned was about how to teach that particular class, and the changes I will make for next time around (I can see a weekend rewriting and revising that syllabus, in the near future).

My US History classes have been quite disappointing. Both at Fresno State and Fresno City, the grades have been the lowest I’ve ever seen for these classes. The average score for the midterm ranged from a low of 41% to a whopping high of 47%. Additionally, I have tightened up the citation requirement, which has resulted in lower grades on the papers. Regardless, it is becoming increasingly clear that most students are not purchasing or using the books for the class. So, next term, as an experiment, I will be switching my US classes at both campuses to the on-line system provided by Globalyceum. This puts the textbook, additional visual essays, and all assignments on-line, allowing me to force them to not only do the reading, but to demonstrate an understanding of the material in a step-by-step fashion. This eliminates the need for me to grade midterms and finals (just their papers), and provides me with a wide array of tools that can be used on-line or in-class to try to be more effective. There’s a lot of prep to set up the class shells, and tweak the sections, but, I think in the long run, a) they’ll learn more, b) I’ll provide better assessment and feedback, and c) I’ll have less hand-grading to do while retaining the same amount of critical thinking and writing. We shall see.

My World History class is an anomaly. It’s basically a 4 week class — 4 Saturdays, 4 Tuesdays, and 3 Thursdays. Each class is 4.5-5 hours long, and it is brutal. Loathe as I am to turn down any class offered at Fresno City College, I don’t think I’ll ever agree to another of these compressed classes, again (possibly the 4 week session in summer session, but never another one of these short classes during the regular term). It’s rough on the students. It’s rough on me. I don’t know that they’re actually learning anything. Between my lectures, films, small group discussions, and other activities, I know they don’t have the time to internalize any of the information. I tried to explain, last night, that my goals for the class were for them to a) gain a better understanding of the various religious traditions, b) to employ cultural relativity when viewing the rest of the world, and c) to at least have an inkling of how the ancient world developed. Beyond that, I don’t know what they’ll be able to retain.

Next semester, I may be adding two additional upper division Anthropology classes to my cv. Ethnic Relations and Culture and the History and Theory of Anthropology. The first (which looks like it is scheduled) is very exciting for me, as it will allow me to really tackle race and ethnicity in a global context with my students. I’m reviewing books and films, now (between everything else). I can’t wait to sit down with upper division Anthro majors and watch them try to get their heads around these topics. Likewise, the second class (which is not finalized, yet, so it might not happen) is one for which I have been a teaching assistant, and one that, when done well, can be a great foundation for Anthropology majors hoping to go on to graduate school or just hoping to get a more theoretical base from which to approach their work. I hope I get that assignment because it will provide some depth for my cv, at the same time, I think I can do a good job for my students. Watch this space.

As for my research and my dissertation: I think I’m on-track. I have sent four chapters to my primary advisor for review (I’m scared to death to hear back from her, on those), and I’m writing the most important chapter on weekends and evenings. Over the course of the next six weeks, I hope to finish most (if not all) of the research for that chapter, draw a circle around what I think is most important, frame it theoretically, and write it up. If all goes as planned, by the time next semester starts, I’ll have a document called my dissertation (for my advisors to tear apart). it’s time to get this finished and enter the next phase.

There are just a couple of other (somewhat) interesting points:

I’ve been asked to speak, as part of a speaker’s forum, at Porterville College on Feb 5 (that’s a Friday). This is almost strange for me because I have such a history with that town and college. I actually finished high school at Porterville High School — if my meaning finished, I mean I ditched class for two years so I could party with my friends and barely graduate with a low D average — and my earliest college units (all for music and theatre) were earned at Porterville College. Within six weeks of graduation, I left Porterville for Los Angeles, only returning 5 years later (almost to the day) to be program director at K-100, the local FM station. I spent just one year, there, that time, When I left, in 1979, I never looked back — having returned only a couple of times to “cruise” and see how the town had changed (not much) and for one unsuccessful job interview at Porterville College. But, all my encounters with Porterville have always been a bit strange, so this may turn out to be another great story to add to that chapter of my non-existent biography.

I’ve also been invited to speak (sometime next semester) on a panel at the Delano campus of Bakersfield College (part of the same district as Porterville). Again, watch this space, as more details unfold, I’ll pass them on.

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Fall 2015 — They’re HERE!!!!!

Today is Tuesday, the 18th of August, 2015. That means that the new semester (at least part of it) began, yesterday. Classes at Fresno City College began, this week — Fresno State starts up, next week.

In many ways, I’m really looking forward to this upcoming term. All my classes are either at Fresno City College (the community college a block from my house) or at California State University, Fresno (Fresno State, just a few miles away). This means, for the first time in many years; minimal commuting. For five years, I’ve driven (or ridden the train) to UC Merced, 3-6 times/week to attend seminars, meet with advisors, teach classes, or TA sections. Last spring, you may remember, I taught at Merced College and UC Merced). At various times (before and during those five years), I have also taught in Hanford, Lemoore, and Visalia (at the three Brandman campuses and West Hills) — making me a poster child freeway flyer. The semester before I started at UCM (Spring 2010) I commuted every week to San Francisco to attend classes at the California Institute in Integral Studies (CIIS), while teaching in Kings, Tulare, and Fresno Counties AND working as a substitute teacher in Kerman, Sanger, Parlier, and elsewhere. For someone who hates to commute, the last 6-7 years have been hell. When I was at UCLA, I lived a block from my office. When I worked in computers here in Fresno, I lived less than a block from my office — I’ve never believed that humans should spend that much time driving — and getting nowhere. I will only have to go to Merced 4 times, this term, to meet with my advisor (and possibly have dinner or coffee with colleagues who I will otherwise not be able to spend any time with). Since the drive-time normally takes me up to 3 hours/day, the savings in time will be welcome.

I will be teaching History 11 (precontact to 1877) at both campuses, one section of the first half of World History (at FCC) and two sections of an upper division Applied Anthropology writing course (online, at Fresno State). This will be the first time I have taught an online class. The University is providing training (which I should have completed BEFORE this class — it got added, late in the process), so I will be certified to teach any class face-to-face or on-line, in both History and Anthropology. The more flexibility I can build into my CV, the better. Additionally, the University will be paying for medical, dental, and vision, for both Nikolas (my son) and me, eliminating one of my major worries. The 10-20 hours spent driving each week, will be refocused on my writing and research, with the goal, as mentioned, before, to finish my Ph.D., this coming May.

As I was offered the opportunity to teach an introductory Anthropology course at the UC, this past summer, Fresno State has been gracious enough to offer me the two Anthropology courses this term (and, we’re already talking about Spring). This has been an issue, as I began wrapping up my degree at the UC, because it’s not a degree in Anthropology or History. I’m in an interdisciplinary Ph.D. program (World Cultures and History), which is often hard to sell (jack of multiple disciplines, master of none?). Because I have an MA in History, I’ve taught lower and upper division history classes, since even before the completion of that degree. Because of my research and foci, I’ve also taught a range of ethnic studies classes. However, my first love — and my goal — has remained teaching Anthropology at the collegiate level (it’s a long, drawn-out story about how I ended up here). Now that I’ve been able to put multiple semesters of Anthropology courses on my CV, it should be a little easier to land assignments teaching within that discipline (at least, at Fresno State). I have a game plan, but it will take a few more years to complete. This is phase one. Finishing the Ph.D. in May, is phase two. After that… I’ll talk about that, later.

Speaking of my research, yesterday, I attended a meeting in Fairmead with Congressman Jim Costa, members of the board of Fairmead Community and Friends, and others (from Fairmead and Planada) to discuss the current water crisis. No real progress, at the meeting, other than a promise to return, next month with participation by the appropriate federal, state, and county agencies to seek solutions to the on-going problems. As strange as it may seem, the combination of the construction of the High Speed Rail (which will have a junction in Fairmead) and the drought may, in the long run, be highly beneficial to Fairmead, thanks, in no small part, to the efforts of Fairmead Community and Friends. All of this activity plays into the ethnographic work I’ve been doing in that small Madera County settlement.

The other exciting (for me) development, this semester, is the return to Fresno of my bestie, Dr. Elvia Rodriguez. Elvia and I have been friends for quite awhile. Several years ago we spent an entire summer writing our MA theses together. Since then, we have traveled to conferences Seattle, Las Vegas, Long Beach, and New Orleans, as well as numerous visits throughout SoCal (she’s been in Riverside). Luckily, another of our colleagues, who had classes at both Fresno State and Fresno City, landed a tenure-track, full-time job in SoCal, creating a need to hire someone to teach those classes. Luckily, I heard about them when they first became available, and was able to recommend Elvia to both schools. Because of her talent and skill, both schools jumped at the chance to bring her on-board, and she is moving back to the area. Yesterday, she taught her first two classes at Fresno City College, and will begin teaching at Fresno State (where we both earned our BAs and MAs), next week. We have joked, for years, how perfect it would be to be teaching at the same school. Although, I expect her to move on to a tenure-track job, in the next few years, I will enjoy having this talented, smart, and lovely person as my colleague at both of these schools (she’s also in talks with Brandman, as well, so we may be sharing three employers). It is a great joy to call her “Professor Rodriguez.”

IMG-20150504-WA0007I spent the past weekend in Morro Bay, on California’s Central Coast. That part of the state holds great memories for me. As a young adult, I spent many weekends visiting friends in San Luis Obispo County. I moved to Atascadero (18 miles from Morro Bay) in the mid-70s (I returned to the Valley in 1979). While there, I met my daughter’s mother and began working in radio. Over the years, that area has been one of my refuges — a place where I go to get my batteries recharged, and my head cleared. Again, this year, I only had a few days between the summer and fall sessions, and I chose to spend that time, alone, on the Bay. It was great to get away from the heat. I had a great room, right on the embarcadero (just across the parking lot from the docks). I had some good alone time, ate (fairly) well (had one horrible steak and lobster meal at the Great American Seafood Company — avoid it, at all costs), enjoyed conversations with fellow tourists and local, and managed to have a couple of meals with my UCM colleague, Erin Renn. All-in-all, it was a success, although, I think that my next solo getaway should be somewhere else: I need a change. I’ll need to decide — Santa Barbara or Monterrey? I’ll be in San Diego, in April for a conference, but that’s not the same as a non-working vacation.

11896123_10153093710398730_3324548669433304541_nSo, Fall 2015 is well underway. There will be challenges (teaching online, getting certified to teach online at FS, and finishing my research) and rewards (reclaimed time, finishing my research, and good work with good colleagues).

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Midsummer (not Midsomer)

It’s the middle of July, and the summer is on the slide toward fall. The weather continues to be up and down — days in the high 80s as well as other days well over 100. Either way, it is what it is in Central California. Just three more weeks of the summer session at UC Merced and the fall semester will be upon us. Hopefully, I will be able to get out of town for a weekend before Fall 2015 begins.

My fall schedule is finally set in stone. I’ll be teaching History 11 (US History to 1877) at both Fresno State University and Fresno City College, as well as an on-line, upper-division Applied Anthropology “W” course (upper division writing requirement, as likely to be taken by non-majors as majors). This will be the first time I have taught an on-line class (not sure how I feel about it, really). I have to get some training and become “certified” (whatever that means) at Fresno State, before the beginning of the semester, but once I’m certified to teach on-line classes, I can teach on-line versions of any of the classes I teach at Fresno State (History or Anthropology). Having options is always a good thing. The best thing about my fall schedule is that I really have only two class preps. The history classes at both campuses are the same course — a single prep. Although, I have to give each lecture a few times, it’s fewer students than I’ve had for that same class in the larger lecture hall, at FCC (which holds over 200). Lectures, assignments, and exams are pretty well set from having just taught it, this past semester. The Applied Anthropology class (the on-line class) should also be fairly easy to administer, as I will have a course shell provided by a fellow faculty member that I just have to tweak, a bit. It is a class for which I was a reader/grader, while I was working toward my MA, at Fresno State. Since it’s on-line, I can work it around my schedule. I will just have to keep one step ahead of my students.

My plan, as I suggested in the previous blog, was to try to avoid working as a teaching assistant at UC Merced. I love UCM and really enjoy the students, but I have to eliminate the commute. That time will be better spent in Fairmead (or one of the other communities in which I do research) and writing (or sleeping, watching an old B&W movie, or reading). Fresno State pays part-timers fairly well (compared to the community colleges) and they’ll be supplying health insurance (which I was getting as part of my employment as a teaching assistant/fellow). This eliminates the drive to Merced, except once a month, to meet with my advisor(s). The additional income offsets the loss of salary at UC Merced, my student loan will cover my fees, and I will have insurance. It’s nice when things work out.

One of the great ironies associated with teaching at the collegiate level (here, at least) is the insanity in relation to compensation. Here, in Fresno, the University (California State University, Fresno or Fresno State) pays better for part time faculty than Fresno City College (the local community college). Fresno State provides health insurance to contingent faculty who teach a minimum of three classes, and part time faculty can teach up to five classes. On the other hand, the community college pays less, part time faculty can teach no more than three classes per district, and insurance is not available. However, everything essentially flips that model for full time faculty members: the community colleges pay significantly more than the CSU’s (or even the UC’s) for full-time, tenure-track appointments and the time to tenure is half as long (3 years). So, financially, it’s better to part-time at a CSU (or UC), but get a tenure-track, full-time job at a community college. Who knew?

Interesting things happening with my research. Fairmead is currently making progress toward resolving the worst of her water issues, and has been holding public meetings with the High Speed Rail Authority about the impact of the intersection on the future tracks that will bisect Fairmead. I was able to attend the first meeting, a couple of weeks, ago, but missed the follow up meeting, this past Monday due to a very nasty stomach bug that wiped me out Sunday-Tuesday. I even cancelled my Monday classes — only the second time since I began teaching in 2009 (the other time was the day my mother died, two years ago). I’m going to call community members, this weekend, to see what I missed, because I think it was probably a very interesting and important meeting.

According to the summer edition of the newsletter for the Southwestern Anthropology Association (SWAA), the 87th Annual Conference will be held April 22 and 23, 2016 at Humphreys Half Moon Inn and Suites on San Diego’s Shelter Island. According to the the president, Kim Martin, “Famous for its ties to Hollywood and for the intimate concert venue on its grounds, Humphreys is also known for its restaurant and the wonderful tropical ambiance that embraces scenic accommodations and meeting facilities… San Diego, here we come!” Coming on the heals of the conference on the Queen Mary, this past April, this sounds like another great venue for our annual meeting and conference. I encourage all of my friends who “do” anthropology (undergrads, grads, faculty, professionals) to consider submitting papers or posters to the conference. They’re always wonderful mid-sized gatherings. The general theme for the next conference will be centered on sustainability. The actual call for papers, of course, has not gone out, so I do not have the actual conference title, but this should get you all thinking presenting. Since I did no presentations in 2015, I will be submitting something for that conference, and I am considering that I will tackle the American Anthropological Association’s (AAA) annual meeting the following year, in Minneapolis. I’m trying to limit my conference participation for the 2015-2016 academic year so I can finish my dissertation, and hopefully, I can take on of the chapters and edit it down for AAA, the following year. I would like to get another publication in, this coming academic year, but that has to take backseat to the dissertation, at this point.

Yesterday, I got the proofs for my article Growing Along the Side of the Road: Rural African American Settlements in Central California. It will appear in the Summer 2015 edition (Vol. 54, No. 2) of the Journal of the West. It is great to finally see this one heading for actual publication. Several years ago, I was asked to submit a chapter for a book on non-urban spaces to be published by the University of Oklahoma Press. For about two years, the book languished in review. When the editor finally pulled the project and submitted it to a new publisher, it looked like it might finally be published — until that deal feel through, as well. Finally, the original editor of the book approached the Journal of the West, who agreed to consider each chapter for publication over the course of 2015. Because I originally wrote the piece several years ago, I needed to make some minor revisions, but ultimately, I had a version with which the editor was happy. After submitting illustrations and maps, the orphan article finally found a home. I can now update my CV with actual publication information, instead of always listing it as “in progress” or “in review.”

I had a late lunch with my friend, Erin Renn, yesterday in Merced. She’s moved up there this summer, as she begins the Interdisciplinary Humanities Ph.D. program, in August. We were looking forward to being in grad school, together, but it looks like she’ll just have to make new friends. Luckily, we ran into two of the other grad students at J&R Tacos so she has been introduced. Between the Interdisciplinary Humanities and World Cultures grad programs, we have three women with the first name Erin. Two of them will be new, this year. Some of the returning students have already come up with a solution: the existing Erin, will remain Erin; Erin Renn will be known as Renn, and the other Erin will be known as Stempy. Seems to me like they have it all figured out.

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It’s HOT!

Summer is here — several days over 105 degrees. Last night, we had a (for here) massive thunderstorm, which dropped 0.01 of an inch of rain on the area (guess it didn’t end the drought). Last summer, all my classes were in the morning at Fresno City College, which is just over a block from my house, so, although it was also a hot summer, I was able to be home before the hottest part of the day. This summer, my FCC classes were limited to just the evenings during the first four-week session, and for the last two weeks (and the next six) I’ve been teaching Intro to Sociocultural Anthropology and 20th Century US History at UC Merced, requiring me to have to be out during the beginning of the hottest part of the day. The classes are going well, and I’m enjoying my students, but everyday when I make the half-mile trek from the academic center of the campus to the lower parking lot, I find myself wilted before I even try to get into my car (which, most days, sports an interior near 120 degrees). As the classes are just Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, I’ve had lots of time to write and work on my research on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and the weekends. For me, at this point in my writing, the dissertation is a huge word file filled with bits, bobs, odds and sodds — partially written chapters and sections; illustrations, maps and photographs; conference papers and publications that will be “folded” into the final draft; and field notes that need to be squeezed, massaged, expanded, and organized, into some sort of final form as the research unfolds. Nothing is where it will ultimately end up, some of it will be discarded, and there’s a great deal of information that still needs to be incorporated, however, by compiling all of these pieces now, I (hopefully) will be able to produce an acceptable draft by the end of winter break, in January, that can begin the review processes with my graduate advisors. My sights are set on finishing the Ph.D. by May 2016. I’m confident that I can make it happen, as long as I don’t lose my focus on that goal.

A couple of days ago, I attended a meeting with Fairmead Community and Friends, members of the Fairmead community, and members of the California High Speed Rail Authority. It was an interesting meeting, as members of the community were able to express their concerns (the intersection between the East-West section, to the Bay Area, and the North-South section that continues on to Sacramento cuts right through and/or around Fairmead). The HSP authority listened carefully to the comments and appear to be willing to make any concessions necessary to build their routes with the least negative (and possibly some positive) impact on the settlement. Another meeting has been scheduled for two weeks, after the Authority has had an opportunity to review the County’s growth plans for Fairmead. We shall see. More interesting developments for my research.

As for the fall, my teaching schedule appears to be full, but it shouldn’t really be too taxing. By not going to Merced 3-6 times each week, and focusing my teaching activities in Fresno, I hope to reclaim all that time to focus on the writing and research. So far, all of the history classes I’m scheduled to teach are classes I’ve taught in the past, and I will be teaching multiple sections of the same class, so prep will be minimal. Additionally, it appears that there is a possibility (I don’t know how strong) that I will be able to add one (or more) Anthropology courses to my CV, so that’s a huge plus. I have loved the experience of working toward my Ph.D. and will be very proud of that accomplishment when it finally happens, but I have always liked the fact that my program is an interdisciplinary program (almost a necessity at such a young university) rather than a discipline-specific program — which, I hoped, would allow me to pursue teaching and research positions in both or either Anthropology and History). However, I have been aware, from the outset, five years ago, that it is more difficult to qualify for most academic teaching jobs with an interdisciplinary degree because of hiring requirements, state standards, and other limitations that really require a discipline-specific title on your degree. The interdisciplinarity of my program means that I can bring multiple disciplines and theoretical foundations to my work, but, on the job market it means that I’m not really a master of both or either discipline (in my case, History and Anthropology). Since 2008, because my MA is in History, I’ve been teaching history at community colleges and universities throughout the region, but landing any classes in Anthropology has proven to be difficult (if not impossible). It was an attempt to offset that liability that several members of the Anthropology program at UC Merced felt it was important to offer me an opportunity to teach an Anthropology class, this summer (which is why I’m teaching it, now). Teaching this class, being a member of the Executive Board of the Southwestern Anthropological Association (SWAA), my presentations at SWAA and AAA (American Anthropological Association) annual meetings, networking, and perseverance my begin to pay off. I’m fairly confident that if I don’t get another Anthro class for Fall that something may open up in the Spring. The more classes I can get on the CV, the stronger my case is that I can rightfully claim both disciplines within my quiver. Having taught lower and upper division classes in African American Studies and History, as well as lower division courses on Native American and Chicano Studies also help to round out the portfolio. At some point, all of this will come together and some school will decide I’m a perfect fit for their program.

The other thing that I should mention is that the Graduate Division at UC Merced, in conjunction with KVIE in Sacramento, is doing a short filmed piece on my work to follow up on the article they published a few weeks ago. Whereas that article focused on activities in South Dos Palos and Teviston, the film will feature my engagement with Fairmead. At the end of June, the camera crew went with me to film a community meeting in Fairmead and conducted a few interviews with community leaders about my research. That, along with an interview with my advisor, Robin DeLugan, an extended interview with me (filmed, yesterday) and so-called B-roll to be recorded in my Anthropology class, next Wednesday (as well as additional background material filmed in Fairmead) they should be able to produce a nice little 90-120 second “news” story about my research. They have agreed to provide me with the raw footage from all of these events and interviews for my own use. I plan to do an extended version of the film to post on my website. Perhaps, I can also incorporate some of the material recorded by Arax, Lowe, and/or Pickford to round out the production. I’ve never done much video editing, so this will be a fun project to work on around my other activities (field work, writing, and teaching). Yes, I’m keeping myself busy.

So, to make the “long story” a little bit shorter. Things continue to advance. Progress is being made.

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Progress

Generally, things are going well, here. Many of you know I interviewed for a full-time, tenure-track job at Merced College. I didn’t get the job, but it’s all good. I also had one of my summer classes cancelled due to low enrollment, but, I’m not too disappointed about that, as it will allow me to have eight weeks of free evenings (no night classes, once the 4-week session ends).

The 4-week session at Fresno City College is half over. My students are studying hard (I assume) for their mid-term on Monday. This term unlike the prior times I’ve taught World History at FCC, is made up, almost entirely, of Liberal Studies majors — those looking to eventually get their teaching credential (most of them from 4 year schools). I’m used to having a mix of history majors and liberal studies majors. The bulk of the class is made up of juniors and seniors. I was amazed by their lack of understanding about how and when to cite. Although most had a passing understanding of MLA, none had ever used Turabian or Chicago. They panicked when they read in the syllabus that any paper turned in with no citations or no Work Cited page would earn zero points, and they’ve been scrambling for the past two weeks to figure out the basics — when and how — of citation. In the past, I usually just deducted a few points for citations and many of my students were willing to forgo a few points rather than learn how to do it. I like it better, this way. Another thing that has most of them in a panic is my assessment procedures. I use bluebook exams for most of my tests. A significant majority of these students did not even know what a bluebook was, and had never taken an exam that was not either true/false, multiple-choice, or matching. The only way I can assess that they learn more than trivia is to have them write out their answers (definitions and essays), I would not have imagined that they (especially the juniors and seniors) had never been exposed to the type of assessment I took for granted as an undergraduate at Fresno State and UCLA (and even at FCC, when I took most of my lower division classes). You would think that education majors would be aware of more than “fill-in-the-bubble” type of assessment tools. I’ll know, shortly, how they rise to the challenge.

I have been enjoying the students as a group, however. They’re vocal (one result of already having a couple of years of undergraduate work under their belts) and seem to be taking the class seriously. They ask questions and participate freely in both large and small group discussions. I started with thirty-five students, and have only lost five or six, so they’re hanging in there, even though the pace is brutal. After two weeks, we’ve covered half of the material I usually present in 15-16 weeks.

In just two weeks, I’ll be starting up Intro to Sociocultural Anthropology and 20th Century US History, at UC Merced. Both of these are lower division classes. This will be the first time I teach the former, although I’ve taught the latter (in several forms) many times. In addition to the new discussion boards that I instituted with the roll out of my website, I will be testing an on-line quiz system known as Socrative for quizzes on each and every lecture throughout the term (socrative.com). These quizzes will be taken by the students in class, on-line, via their phone, tablet, chrome device, or laptop. First day of class, the students will need to download a small application to their phone to access the quizzes. Each quiz focuses on the main topics of the lecture and will be administered either immediately following the lecture or at the beginning of the next class session. Because I will see the results of the quizzes in real-time, I should know whether or not I successfully covered the key points in my lecture, and can follow up, immediately. I opted to use this phone application, rather than require clickers, because every student has a phone, tablet, or laptop from which he or she can participate (at no extra cost). This will be an interesting test to see how the system works, as well as a good assessment tool for me to insure I’m covering the material I think I’m covering.

Recently, the Graduate Division at UC Merced published a short article about my research (here’s a link). It sparked enough interest that the public information office and KVIE in Sacramento are going to do a short video about my research. A camera crew will follow me to Fairmead in July or August. They plan to do additional interviews with some of the locals, as well as record me “in the field.” That will be fun. I’ll provide a link to the video when it becomes available.

It’s been just over two weeks since the fall semester finally ended. During that time, I’ve just had evening classes, 4 nights each week. I started the summer with a trip to Southern California to visit friends and family and attend my nephew’s wedding. It was good to get away, and the past two weeks have been rather lazy — I’ve worked on class prep for the summer, but otherwise, I’ve watched Santo movies, old episodes of Dragonball Z and Batman: the Animated Series, and the Ricky Gervais show (I have to get my Karl on). The remainder of this weekend will be to continue to focus on R&R, and then I will return to writing, on Monday. I have two more weeks on just night classes, and then eight weeks of classes (in Merced) on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday), so I’ll still have four days each week to write.

Class prep for the fall looks pretty straight forward, as all the classes I’m currently scheduled to teach are ones that I’ve taught multiple times: California History, US History to 1877. and World History to 1500. Other than minor revisions (normal stuff), teaching should be fairly light, next term. if the Socrative experiment, this summer, works well, I’ll have to set up some quizzes, but that’s not a huge project (I already have paper quizzes for History 11 that will only take a small amount of work to convert). I do not plan to work as a Teaching Assistant, at UC Merced, in the fall. All told, between my MA and Ph.D. programs, I’ve done a total of six years as a TA and see very little educational benefit, for me, in continuing. The 9 – 11 hours each week I would spend driving back and forth to Merced to attend lecture and sections can be better spent in the field or writing. The major loss will be the health coverage provided by the university and the cost of fees, but I will pay those costs, myself, to regain the time lost by commuting. I have been making the round trip between Fresno and Merced as many as six times per week, for five years. I’m really tired of that particular stretch of Hwy 99. As I want to put all my energy in finishing the dissertation in the next 6-9 months, I need to focus as much energy as possible, and driving is not the best use of my time. Financially, it will be more difficult, but I really want to finish and move on to the next step of my career (or at least wear the cool hat at future commencements).

I think that pretty much brings everything up-to-date.

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