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Thursday
May072015

Choosing age appropriate activities

A man's gotta know his limitations.
                                            - Dirty Harry

Perhaps my first clue should have been there was no one else in any of the hiking groups for Ciudad Perdida that looked over 30. Or that seemed to have any ounce of fat on their bodies. Or seemed to be sweating.

Long story short, I decided that after the first day of hiking the trail to Ciudad Perdida, a relatively short 4.7 miles, there was no way in God's good earth I was going to do three more days of hikes up to 8 miles. I chose to return with another group and cut my hike to two days. And schedule a less strenuous hike for my remaining time.

That's not say I didn't enjoy the experience I did have.

Santa Marta beach at sunset was lovely. My 2-star hotel was adequate (although for my first 6 nights in Colombia, I did not have hot water in any of my hotels.) Huge statues of the Tairona Indians watch over the beach.

 

For some people, I suppose. Inoperable bathroom at The Magic Tour travel agent office. Seemed pretty well organized but do not expect an English speaking guide. Find a bi-lingual fellow traveler ASAP.

At the small mountain town of Machete, reachable only by an hour and a half of bumping along 4-wheel drive roads, the kids watch Phineas and Ferb, Curious George, etc. just like my grandkids in the US. Same glazed expression. An iPhone was being charged there as well. You'd think there would be more international understanding with every kid in the world watching the same dumb cartoons and using the same stupid technology.

A swimming hole in the river 45 minutes into the hike. Next hour and a half was climbing pretty much straight up. The temp that day in Santa Marta was 99 degrees. I didn't get to the top first. I didn't think I was going to make to the top at all. (See note about no other hikers fat or over 30 above.) 

The mountains themselves were beautiful. Although this a national park, it seemed plenty of private farming was being done. Lots of mules, donkeys and motorbikes shared the trail bringing supplies to the locals. Still some signs of terracing of the indigenous people on the hillsides.

Didn't see any snakes. I'm sort of glad. You don't have to know much Spanish to figure out this warning.

Every kid needs a machete. 

My bunk at the camp. Columbia roosters start crowing at 3:30AM. I didn't experience any mosquitoes. Cold showers. But cold beer for sale and a filling meal. I woke up during the night thinking I heard rain on the tin roof and wondered how anyone could hike these trails when slick with mud. Turned out it was just the sound of the river a few feet from the bunkhouses.

As my daughter likes to observe, it's not really an adventure without a swinging bridge. This one leads into the first camp. There were satellite TV dishes on one of the buildings in the camp.

I hiked most of the way back by myself, getting a jump on my adopted group, with these two boys sometimes ahead and sometimes behind me. I am guessing the closest school was back in Machete, where the hike began. 

Large parts of the trail were of a white powder (no, I don't think it was cocaine). Made for really dusty shoes. I had been dreading the long steep downhill path that I had climbed the day before, but somehow I lost the trail and got on a mining road - that thankfully got me back to the same place - with a more gradual descent. 

Typical trail conditions. What you don't see is that the climb continues around the corner. Steeper. And again and again. And what you don't feel is the humidity. Did I mention how difficult this trail was?

It was good to get back in town. I hope who ever owns this restaurant finds a new marketing guy.

We are working on developing growth mindsets in our staff and students and I need to apply the growth mindset to this adventure.

  • I didn't get to the Ciudad Perdida - yet. The Lost City will remain lost until I have the time to do it in 5 or 6 days instead of 4 (or I get younger). December is supposed to be the coolest month. A retirement plan.
  • I need to begin selecting more age-appropriate activities. The hike in Tayrona Park along the beach from Canaveral to Cabo San Juan was a couple hours each way, lots of relatively short hills, still in 99 degree heat, but broken up with a 3 hour break on a beach. Very doable. God, I hate to admit I am getting old, though.
  • And I am beginning to think that hiking from lodge to lodge is a nice way to adventure. Lighten the load of clothes and sleeping bags and stuff. But I am not ready to give up camping quite yet.

So I am not sure if this hike was a failure or a learning experience - or both. At least I survived so I can face the bugs, bears and lightning bolts of the Boundary Waters with the Boy Scouts this August.

Last night in Colombia. I wonder if tonight's hotel has hot water? 

Saturday
May022015

BFTP: Integrity

There is no such thing as a minor lapse of integrity

      - Tom Peters 

This post will be tricky if I hope to take my own blogging advice to "praise locally, complain globally."

Over a few weeks (when this post was first published in 2010) a couple of incidents at work have made me think a great deal about professional integrity and its importance in technology. Some breeches of privacy and inappropriate access to a system appear to have been committed by people whose values I thought I knew and who I thought knew better. To the best of my knowledge, no real harm was done and steps have been take to make sure such incidents don't happen again. But it left my faith in human nature more than a little shaken.

In the same way we give doctors access to our bodies and accountants access to our financial records, we give technicians access to our data in order for them to maintain the systems in which it is stored. And both a sense of professionalism and personal integrity keeps those of us who have access to such data from abusing this access. Or should.

When hiring, I've always looked carefully at both a person's technical skills and interpersonal communication abilities, deeming them the two defining characteristics of a great employee. Now I realize that without integrity, neither of these attributes is worth beans. A charming genius who can't be trusted is far worse than an antisocial incompetent who CAN be.

I don't know a simple test for integrity. I suspect most people would know the right answers to interview questions of honesty and privacy and appropriate behavior. Unfortunately, knowing the right answer is not always the same as doing the right thing. And given most people's highly advanced rationalization abilities, I often wonder if any of us can do a very accurate job of judging our own integrity.

Ironically, toward the end of the week, another incident occurred that did much to restore my faith in people. A former employee came to my office with a small plastic box in her hands and a sheepish look on her face. She explained that while doing some spring cleaning she ran across the box that had been stored with the personal school stuff she'd packed away on retirement over five years earlier. She thought the box contained old rubber stamps and was shocked to find that she had inadvertently packed away the library's petty cash - money from lost books, etc. And she wanted to explain and return it. I don't remember at the time that anyone missed the funds and I am sure no one ever would have. Had she kept the money, no one would have known. Except for her, of course.

 

Original post April 17, 2010.

Wednesday
Apr292015

Saying the Pledge or not?

I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America. And to the republic for which it stands, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America. And to the republic for which it stands indivisible, with liberty and justice for all (who can afford it).

I enjoy poking sacred cows now and then, and when the question came up on LM_Net, "Does your school have kids say the Pledge of Allegiance?" I (purposefully) interpreted the question to read "Should your school ask kids to say the Pledge?"

And I suggested that as long as the words "under God" remained in the Pledge, asking kids to say it violated their rights. Atheists and kids who might worship Allah, Budda, or woodland spirits may feel pressured to conform.

And just for a little snark, I also suggested adding the words "who can afford it" to the end of the pledge.

I got some push back from LM_Netters. No surprise there. Most of those disagreeing with me or giving me flack about even talking about a "political" topic in the LM_Net forum did so publicly. But also received quite a number of private e-mails those who agreed with me.  One has to wonder why the critics are usually public and the supporters private? Hmmmmmm.

There were a couple public comments that were great:

In NY, schools recite the pledge every morning.  However, students are not required to say the pledge.  I helpfully pointed this out to my homeroom teacher back when I was in high school (and then to the school administrators), and I put up with a lot of harassment from students AND my teachers for my refusal to say the pledge.  (I vividly remember my homeroom teacher saying every morning, "Those of us who are real Americans will now say the Pledge of Allegiance.")

I've always thought reciting the pledge smacked of the kind of indoctrination we despise in places like North Korea or Nazi Germany. We can love or be disappointed in our country as we see fit but mechanically reciting a daily pledge doesn't magically transform someone into some sort of patriot.

In as much as that we as librarians should be the guardians of intellectual freedom, and support all beliefs in public school systems, the comment was not just proper, but absolutely relevant. Avoiding these kinds of issues is in itself a "political" statement.  Whether to say the pledge should be contingent on which version of the pledge we are asking kids to say. "Under God" impinges on the rights of my atheist students and they should not be pressured to repeat it. 

If we as a profession don't take stands on these kinds of issues, they may as well just replace us all with technicians.