The U.S. is in a strange place. If it weren't enough to have a pandemic we can't seem to get under control because we can't stay away from crowds, now we can worry about what might happen between now and Inauguration Day. I don't know what to make of the assault of the Capitol. I can't describe how disturbed I am by the overt displays of racism by those who see the incoming administration as a threat to White culture. I sometimes wonder what rock I live under in that I can't even imagine feeling that way towards another person. It doesn't have to be that some lose while others advance; all boats can rise together if we make the commitment to implement appropriate practices and policies.
I echo the sentiment of others that the work of UC ANR is needed now more than ever. Just take a look at this recent video put together by the Strategic Communications team, outlining UC ANR accomplishments despite the pandemic! The Governor's budget brings hope that our efforts are recognized and valued by state decision makers. Our work with small farms and fire, in particular, were acknowledged. While it is early yet in the annual budget process, I have high hopes that UC will do okay in this year's budget discussions, despite the economic challenges brought on by the pandemic.
This week we made strides to finalize the strategic plan update and prepare to present it to President Drake on February 1st. I need to work on my comments and get them under 1 minute in length – time goes faster than you would think! We talked about metrics today and identification of key performance indicators (KPI) for the plan as a whole. I came across an interesting metric in my reading over the last week - authentic laughter is a metric for measuring inclusivity of an organization. I don't know how one measures authentic laughter, but perhaps this is something to think about in the future when we aren't primarily on Zoom.
Conversations to explore new partnerships, with new and existing partners, present exciting opportunities for us. I enjoy these conversations and look forward to further discussion and brainstorming. I have had a couple of such conversations this week and last, with more to come in the next couple of weeks. Thanks to all who have spent time putting ideas onto paper as either logic models or concept notes. Some of these concept notes yielded results when the Governor released his budget. I fully anticipate there will be continued return on those investments of time.
Happy 2021 everyone! My realistic hope is that 2021 has fewer surprises than popped up in 2020. Admittedly, I don't want to get my hopes up that fewer people will be unemployed, homeless or hungry, that our ANR budget will swell, that inequalities will be erased or drastically diminished, or that I will see far less of my garage. I prefer pleasant surprises over avoidable disappointment. Fortunately, I have much for which to be thankful and I have the power to make a difference for myself and others. Keeping those things at the forefront of my thoughts is my 2021 resolution.
Now, with all that said, it is tough to fully engage back in work. For this reason, I hesitate to take time off – I always have a difficult time getting back into the work routine. I turned off this winter break perhaps a bit more than customary. In fact, a full work week seems like it was long ago. With Program Council this week and the regular ‘First Friday' lineup of calls and meetings, I have no choice but to jump back in with both feet.
Believe it or, I spent much of my time off in my garage, but not on Zoom calls. What a difference walking around makes when there is no heat and the space is uninsulated. I might have to try a headset so that I don't need to be in front of the laptop during the Zoom meetings. Maybe I can get 10,000 steps in each day by marching in place.
Some good news to start off the year includes welcoming Grace Woodmansee as a Livestock and Natural Resources Advisor, based in Yreka, with programmatic responsibilities in Siskiyou County. Welcome, Grace – we have eagerly awaited your start date! Also joining us is Tian Tian as a Viticulture Advisor, based in Bakersfield with programmatic responsibilities in Kern County. Brian and the Table Grapes Commission have waited some time for the right person to fill this role. I am eager to meet Tian in the coming months. Please take a moment to welcome Tian and Grace!
Other good news includes the vaccine. I hope to hear soon that personnel across UC ANR and their families begin to receive the vaccine. Technically, I should be fairly low on the priority list, but as a caregiver I may have a chance to move up a bit. Initially we had heard we might have a chance in mid-December but the days passed without a call. Now that a more infectious strain has emerged, I am hopeful it won't be long now. I never would have imagined hoping that it might be my birthday present later this week. A vaccination would sure beat windshield wipers!
The year 2020 is almost behind us! We made it through a crazy, crazy year that, in 2019, might have seemed like some sort of virtual reality game. There is a lot to be said for just having survived it. Fortunately, despite the ups and downs, UC ANR more than survived, budget aside, we thrived. We learned that we could do what was previously considered infeasible. Partners continue to recognize our contributions. Recently, Spectrum News highlighted Niamh's work tracking coyote-human interactions, and educating professionals and local leaders on how to control coyotes. The need for more farm advisors across the state, and in the Salinas Valley in particular, was called out. Donor numbers are up remarkably, and donations followed. UC ANR personnel were honored with numerous prestigious awards. And, perhaps most important for 2020, as a whole, we have remained safe by exhibiting science-based behaviors. Let us all keep the going as we head into 2021.
A high point for me over the last week was taking a virtual tour of Ricardo's art exhibit. I have noted his talent previously and consider myself immensely fortunate to have one of his paintings in my office. I encourage all to take a trip through the art gallery. Not only did I learn more about Ricardo's emotional journey through 2020 and the meaning of color, I discovered through this augmented reality adventure, that Ricardo's talents extend into the foray of creating an augmented reality experience. I also notice that Ricardo does a great job titling and signing his work, something I was recently chastised for not doing (again) on one of my own projects. The recipient proceeded to accept the gift, but insist that I create and send a label for it.
I have been thinking quite a bit about virtual reality and augmented reality, trying to determine the differences in applications, tools and skill needed for creation. Simply put, Augmented Reality builds on what is real by adding digital elements while Virtual Reality shuts out the physical world. Ricardo's exhibit and my recent virtual try-on of eyeglasses are examples of Augmented Reality. In a scenario where I slay dragons, restore world order, and then ride off on my unicorn – that's Virtual Reality. Augmented Reality experiences can be created using a cell phone, like that of the art exhibit. Imagine the reach and impact our programming could have if we provided user experiences using Augmented Reality? Consider if a grower could logon to their computer and take a stroll through an almond orchard. At the end of a row of trees, the grower is greeted by Jhalendra Rijal who shares best practices for implementing mating disruption techniques to protect against Navel Orange Worm. The grower continues along a path and is met by Blake Sanden and David Haviland who are discussing irrigation research findings as key components of optimizing production while minimizing pest conditions. Perhaps there are options in the orchard visit to ‘choose your own topic' and you meet different scientists based on the path chosen. Similar experiences could be developed for growing a home garden – sort of a ‘plant along with me' approach, food preservation techniques, youth education, firewise landscaping….The possibilities are endless.
There is so much to look forward to in 2021. Some things didn't happen in 2020 – I couldn't see Saturn or Jupiter last night. But there is time in the future to address those things – the planets will be aligned again in 2080. In some cases, needs and priorities have changed and 2020 provided the backdrop to reveal what is most important. No matter how crazy 2020 was, the reality of it all provided one thing for sure – I wasn't bored.
Fortunately, those of us in the northern part of the state have seen rain recently, quieting concerns about wildfires in our areas. However, if you have tuned into the national news lately, you've heard about the concern over fire and climate change impacting the future of California's redwoods, some of the world's oldest living things. This concern isn't new to many of us. Hopefully, awareness has been raised for many, many more, thanks to people like Lenya. Lenya was recently quoted in the New York Times. It is always great to see UC ANR names in prominent publications!
This is a crazy week – the storm before the calm, I hope. Everyone is rushing to get things done before a 10- to 14-day break. Yesterday I spent half the day working with a small team to develop a strategic directions document and annual work plan for the Western Extension directors. There is more work to do next week to complete that effort. The REC directors spent today working on development of strategies to achieve the goals for the REC system. It was a good meeting with lively discussion and solid plans outlined. At the same time, it made for a bit of an exhausting day. It doesn't help that Wednesdays begin at 7 AM each week for me and that 7 AM meeting always has a full agenda for the 6 of us that meet.
Friday holds an interesting mix of meetings, some of which may translate into new exciting opportunities. I will be sure to share more as things develop. I look forward to the virtual winter celebration tomorrow. It will be different from ‘normal' years with a benefit that we can celebrate with people both near and far. The planning committee came up with clever ideas for breakout activities. I hope to see many of you there!
The San Joaquin Valley sits below 6 percent ICU capacity. As a resident of the Valley with my mother in my household, this is worrisome. I have cancelled all of my travel plans for the winter break. I found it much more difficult to cancel my December plans than it was to cancel my plans back in the summer. I am tired of staying home and not getting the break from caregiving that I count on twice a year. I started to plan a pity party, then recognized how easy I have it. Imagine how our healthcare workers are feeling after all these months. I understand the temptation to take a risk, even with precautions in place, or even just continue as I have for the past six months. However, now is not the time to let upon safety measures or let down our guard. As difficult as it may be, we need to be even more careful for the next month or so. I so appreciate Linda and her team putting together a motivational reminder that we all need to stay the course. It does help knowing that we are all in this together.
I have turned my frustration into something productive, aiming to help others even if only in a small way. Thanks to a partnership between 4-H and UC Medical Center, Julie, a former 4-Her who is now a healthcare worker at the UC Davis Medical Center, provided me with all the Steri-Wrap I need to make that difference. Initially, I learned of this face covering material from a sibling, then found information about it from the University of Florida. Other institutions, including UC Irvine, have investigated use of the material for face coverings as well. I am a huge fan of the recycling aspect of this endeavor, not to mention the protective efficiency.
I have exchanged commute time for sewing time these past few months. Thanks to Kathryn sharing a new design with me, my throughput has increased dramatically. If you weren't aware, not only is Kathryn exceptional at her job, but she is incredibly talented and creative! To date, I have serged over 800 face masks in an effort to protect people during this current pandemic surge. And, because of the extensive supply of Steri-Wrap provided by Julie, I expanded beyond face coverings to send a special ‘thank you' items to Julie and her colleagues. I hope these health care heroes make good use of the items.
Perhaps a few special face masks will bring a smile to some who are struggling to remain vigilant and stay the course over these next weeks.