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Geode Collecting

by dave

A warm Saturday in March without major plans. That is unusual on many levels, but we embraced it, and went down to the San Rafael Swell to see if we could find any Geodes. We hiked around just off I-70, about a half mile north of the Interstate, at this one spot.. fairly well known, where there is a gate directly off I-70 you can pull straight off the interstate, through the gate, and onto dirt roads. It took us a bit to find a good parking place because I didn’t want to break down the edges of the road bed or the vegetation, but once we found one, the kids were off exploring before we even had our backpacks on.

We did find a few rocks that looked and felt promising for geodes, and I need to open them up today to see what is inside them. We also found a nice piece of jasper, maybe a foot square and about 3 inches thick,  which got picked up to add to my collection for chess pieces. And then we made a small campfire in an existing firepit, and had some lunch. We drove back through the San Rafael Swell stopping to look at petroglyphs,but mostly just enjoying the views. The road winds through canyons and cliffs that are fairly impressive… as nice as the national parks, in my opinion.

Of course, because it is March, after a lovely day of outdoor activity in the desert, we drove home through a blizzard in the mountains.

First Outing of the Season

by dave

Tuesday afternoons, my boys both have music lessons, which leaves my daughter and I home alone for the afternoon. We took advantage of it to go down and try to pick up some rocks to work on the chess set that I’ve been wanting to carve all winter. So we drove down to Nephi and heading up the Nebo loop. The gate was still closed for winter, but it closes about a quarter mile shy of where I wanted to park anyway, so no biggie. We walked the rest of the way up the road, and headed up to where a rock quarry used to be, ages ago. It is a short walk, and an easy one if you are young and in shape. Not as easy if you are old and/or broken, but still not too bad.

We first started try to work some rock out of a wall that has clearly seen its share of rockhounders over the years. It had 2 types of rock — way too hard to break, and way too soft as it crumbled into tiny pieces. So we quickly gave up on that spot. But the trail had flattened out and went around what clearly used to be the quarry, so we walked its edge and found some nice collections of rocks big enough for our purposes, loaded up the backpack with 50 pounds of them (the daily limit for non-commercial collecting by 2 people on federal land), and started walking back downhill.

I’ll just say that walking a mile or so downhill with 50 pounds of rocks on your back is easier than trying to do it uphill. But I was still glad when we got to the car, and now that it is 2 days later, I still can feel the effort in my legs. Hopefully by later this spring, it won’t seem like such a big deal to do a hike like that.

Yesterday, I started cutting the rocks down to size. I cut the rough pieces for the first half of the white pieces of the set. And that was enough for one day of work. My hope is to have the rough pieces cut out over the weekend, so next week, assuming my wrist injury doesn’t get sent off for surgery, I can start refining them down into actual chess pieces.

Homeschooling and Parenting Goals

by dave

I noticed that Loretta and I often make different choices in our parenting and in our schooling for our children vs. other parents we talk to. And it frequently comes down to our focus on our long-term goals. I’m not sure that those goals are any different than other parents… but we do think about them when making decisions, and try to avoid getting caught up in the day-to-day routine of school, work, and activities.

Our long-term goals for our children are vague, but simple — we want them to grow up to be adults with the skills to make their own choices, adapting to changes in their lives and their world, setting their own directions for their own lives. We want them to have the intellectual and emotional capabilities to make good choices to build stable lives for themselves, and to build the families they choose to build. We want them to understand the consequences of their actions, and use that when making life decisions.  We want to raise them to be successful adults, not “good children”.

Along the way, we are concerned that they do not make choices that restrict their options later. We care about school performance not because grades matter, but because poor grades might restrict the college options later in life. We care about college not because they have to go (it is not the right path for everyone), but because the choice to not go will impact their career choices later.

And that is what brings these goals down to the reality of homeschooling for an 11 year old girl. In general, when homeschooling, we can focus on helping her advance her skills in various subjects. But we also need to prepare her to be ready to go to college if she chooses, or to decide another path if that does not end up being the correct one.

Our real goal is to teach our children to learn, and to love learning. To help them figure out what their interests are, to learn how to dig deeper into a topic, to learn how to ask and answer questions, and how to manage their own time. We are working on things that many people don’t deal with until after college such as planning out personal time management, setting daily and weekly goals, measuring your own progress, dealing with failure if a project doesn’t work, and figuring out how else to approach a problem. We’re working on how to be an independent learner, how to be productive when someone isn’t spoon-feeding you a schedule, and how to take minimal direction and turn it into a real result.

Of course, we’re covering the actual topics and curriculum needed for kids at their ages, too. That is a given. But again, with the goals of raising adults with the skills to succeed in the world… there is more to it than just the subjects they learn, and test scores.

Seeking My Last Job…

by dave


Wait, what? Is Dave leaving his Job? Click for info if that question is concerning to you...

No, I’m not necessarily leaving my current employer…  But we are going through changes, and it is a natural time to think about whether or not it is still the right place for me. I also am suffering from some injuries due to more than 20 years working heavily at a keyboard, and moving to a new role with lighter typing would help me.

I’m also just kind of done with coding. I’ve accomplished all I want to. I could accomplish more, but there is little satisfaction in it anymore. And I’m not excited by newer technologies. I do like to achieve new goals, but I have no personal ego in having to be the guy who wrote the code to do so. So it is time to consider new paths.

None of this is news to my current employer. We’ve been talking about this for over 6 months, and we may find a new role for me there. Or we may not. Time will tell. We’re in a good place with each other either way. But this post is more about what I am seeking for the future, and less about where I sit in the present, so I’ll just leave it at that.

I’m intending to have a new role at some point in the relatively near future. I do not think of this as my “Next” role, but as my “Last” role.

I have been thinking about my career recently, and have divided it into three phases. Or, really, 2 phases, and I am planning out the transition into Phase 3.

Phase 1 – Building the Career:

These were the early years. Jumping from place to place for more money, more responsibility, a move to a new city, etc. Building technical skills, focused on always growing and improving, and trying to always stepping up in one way or another.

Phase 2 – Running At Speed:

I’ve been here for a while — Fully skilled up, leading projects, building products, running teams, consulting, having more successes than failures, but enough of each to learn lessons. Basically, a solid, reliable, professional tech guy.

Phase 3 – The Last Job:

Time to change gears to the next phase. The last phase, not the next phase. Time to move to my last role.

Why “Last?”

Because I’m not looking for just any job to collect a paycheck. I’m looking for something that adds meaning to my life, and to my family. I’m no longer interested in just doing generic tech work to make the  numbers grow for some corporation. I want to build something that is meaningful, and watch it grow.  I want to raise my family, and let them see me work at a long-term product while they grow up, seeing me spend time building something meaningful, and taking the time to do it well. I want a product that improves the world. It doesn’t have to change the world, but it should have a net positive impact. It doesn’t need to make me rich, but it does need to support the family. I want this to bring personal satisfaction to my life, and add meaning to my family. I want my children to see that it is good to be proud of what you do, not how much money you make.

So to find a role that hits those somewhat nebulous goals, I think of my search for my role not as just looking for a job… but as a bigger search for the last thing I will do in this life. It punctuates the importance of the search to me, and reminds me not to just go applying to a job because it is available and match my abilities… but to really think carefully about it and ask myself if it really matches who I want to be, and what I want to be doing for the next 15 years.

Now, of course, I hope that in 15 years I am still healthy and get to do this search all over again, and it isn’t really my last role. But there is no guarantee in life. And I do not want to end up working my life away while kids grow up without it adding meaning to our lives, because if it really does end up being my last role… what a pile of regret that would end up for all of us.

Right now I am young enough to accomplish big things in this world. And old enough to know that if I don’t start doing so right now, I’ll no longer be young enough sooner than I would like.

So this spring and summer, the search is beginning. I don’t know if I will find the right role or not. I could just end up staying where I am, while searching without success… but I am going to search.



Open Letter/Rant to Anyone Developing Online Curriculum for Kids

by dave

I have one child who homeschools, and 2 children who would like to. I also work indirectly with educators who are trying to improve the curriculum through the US educational systems. So I have a decent exposure to the details of the curriculum being offered to our children via online tools.

And I’m not impressed. I don’t want to be dismissive of the hard work people have put forth… on the contrary, I really do appreciate it, and have great hopes for the future. People are trying to identify betters ways to teach, and acting on it, which is wonderful. Nevertheless, this is a very typical conversation at my home:

Daughter: “Dad, I don’t understand this lesson.”

Me: “Let me see…”

*I watch, see what is being taught…*

Me: “OK, let me explain it differently…”

Daughter: “Oh! I get it! Why didn’t they just say that?”


Exactly. Why don’t the authors just explain it in the way children can understand? What I tend to see is an abundance of detail being thrown at my kids before the high-level questions are answered of “What are we teaching in this lesson? What goal are we trying to achieve?”

I’ve seen this trend described as “elementitis”, a term apparently coind by David Perkins in his book, <a href=”http://amzn.to/2hJIrGo”>”Making Learning Whole”</a>, which apparently I need to read, as doing so might be more productive than ranting online…

But to continue… Most of my daughter’s questions are not about the details of the lesson. They are about a lack of context. She can follow lessons just fine if she knows what she is trying to do. But sit her down and start delving into the details of a process for solving math equations, without telling her first what the equation is and what the final result looks like, and she cannot focus on the details because she is still trying to understand the overall goal.

The other common flaw I see is not speaking at the level that children speak. I see two extremes — talking like adults do, with complex grammar and vocabulary, and long explanation of details…. or dumbing it down to a kindergarten level, with cute pictures and stories. There is a middle ground that needs to be hit for kids at elementary school ages. They can handle some complexity… but for example,  (Sorry, Khan Academy folks…) don’t go down tangents about what each syllable in the word “concrete” means when trying to explain the difference between concrete and abstract nouns. Again, kids need context first, details later. FIRST tell kids that concrete nouns refer to real objects, abstract nouns refer to concepts. 5 seconds, and boom, they have heard the point of the entire lesson. THEN feel free to go into more detail about the meaning of those words. But don’t spend 90 seconds on a vocabulary lesson, unless you are actually trying to teach vocabulary. You’ve lost their attention, and they are not listening when you tell them the actual main point of your lesson.

Kids are smart. They soak up knowledge like sponges. But that doesn’t mean they have huge attention spans or complex thought quite yet. Tell them what they are going to learn, give them the simplest, quickest lesson you can, give them examples, let them practice it.  And be done. This isn’t even specific to kids – Adults learn well from general –> detailed, too.

It is OK to start simple! They have years to learn the details!