A Not-So-Normal Saturday

I didn’t see any deer this Saturday, so will show you the doe I saw last week resting under a tree.

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I left early to go shopping in Folsom so I could be back in time to catch the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) activities being put on by the Square Root Academy at DOCO.

The train was crowded. It included two guys who planned to bike around Folsom Lake then return home via the American River Parkway bike trails. We had a nice chat.

The shopping went fine as usual, and I was shortly on the bike trail headed back downtown.

There are some plants which – kind of amazingly – wait until late summer to bloom. One of them is tarweed. It is not native to this area, but grows well here. As you might be able to tell from the photo, its branches and tiny leaves are sticky.

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The ride was relatively uneventful until I got down to the area of Rancho Cordova’s Hagan Community Park (the same park where they have Kid’s Day every year). The trail that goes by there experienced a wash out near the river, so someone decided to fix it, and that section of the trail was closed.

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So everyone had to bike through the suburbs of Rancho Cordova, then into the park. There is a school next to the park where football players and cheerleaders were practicing. But if I got close enough to get good pictures, I thought I’d interfere with the practice. The geese at the pond were much more available (although I really would have liked a nice shot of the cheerleaders!).

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After squirrels, birds are probably the most noticeable animals in parks or park-like spaces. I usually take a short break at the Sac State Arboretum. And who should I find sharing the shady forest-like environment with me? Turkeys!

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Turkeys are kind of a “thing” in Sacramento, particularly near both large and small waterways. It’s a bit like the free-roaming chickens in Fair Oaks and Yuba City. Permaculture-wise, poultry or fowl are considered an important part of a natural garden. They help with weed control, add some fertility to the soil via their poop, and can be used (if privately owned) as a source of meat. Turkeys are commonly seen in odd places near the river or tributary creeks around Sacramento, but I’d never seen them in the Arboretum before.

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They were just hanging out; seemed not very interested in going anywhere else. They are large strong birds compared to chickens, or even geese, so it’s wisest to give them some space.

After the Arboretum, I took city streets into town.

After stowing the groceries, I went out to the DOCO to see the STEM displays. Square Root Academy is an educational non-profit that helps get less-advantaged kids interested in technology subjects. I was interested in what they would “bring to the table,” so to speak.

On my way out, there was a large group of bicycle riders (not “cyclists” – the ones who wear special spandex suits and do it for exercise, just ordinary-looking people) outside my door. I don’t know what they were up to but it looked fun.

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In case anyone wonders, that’s an older mural in the background. The city has a lot of murals, as there is an event every year during which artists are invited to paint more of them. The area next to that was a very old hotel. The brick facade looked nice, so it was left standing and the old structure behind it completely removed. The area looks rather strange right now, as they are just beginning to put in a foundation for the new hotel that will go there. So all you see from the street is the old brick facade, suspended on a beefy steel framework, which I suppose will be removed when the facade is attached to the new building going in behind it. I’ve never seen this done before.

STEM

Meanwhile, in DOCO the Square Root Academy volunteers have set up tables with science projects suitable for young people (like me).

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The sugar snake table attracts my attention. You can mix sugar with baking soda, then set it on fire and it’s supposed to puff up into a big black weird-shaped ash. Um – mine didn’t come out that great, though.

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There was a table for each of the four “elements,” fire, water, earth and air. At the water table they had vortex bottles and bowls for comparing the density of clear water and salt water. At the earth table they had two water filters set up, one filled with sand and the other with wood chips. Hm. And they also had an erosion demo set up in a paint tray. I played with that. At the air table you could make a sail-powered car, except they ran out of hot glue by the time I got there. I made a pretty good one anyway without using glue.

I am not “passionate” about technology the way some people still seem to be. I know it has an up side and a down side. The up side is that we can use it as a tool to extend our capabilities. The down side is that we can use it as a crutch, or for destructive purposes, or to “maximize profit” while leaving a poor class who can no longer find the manufacturing jobs that used to be so plentiful.

Still, a modern society must be able to deal with technology successfully. We can only  maintain control over it if more people understand it quite well. So we do need to educate people about it. But that requires Study Technology, which most educators are not yet aware of.

From what I can tell, society is in the throes of the next phase of its technological development. In this phase, a wealthier stratum has the choice to “break away” and build a society where machines do all the hard work, including the policing of the masses. The “common people” think that they have an opportunity to improve life for everybody by somehow seeing to it that technologies do not get abused by special interests. It seems to me that this is the real battle and the real issue. How do you bring humanity and compassion to a stratum of society that has seldom if ever demonstrated these traits in the past? That’s our big challenge.

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