Thursday, December 29, 2005

R.I.P. Per Frykdal. He was indeed unforgettable, and hence will live forever. Unlike the other people whose passings I have mentioned on this site, I actually knew Per. It's a shock to hear that he is gone. I saw him last in early November, and then only for a moment or two since his arrival pretty much coincided with our departure from that particular party. Little did we know that his own departure would come so prematurely. If there is indeed any kind of afterlife, he will make it all the more interesting. I'll miss him.

Check out some of his art here. Art is forever, even if we are not.
Favorite cds of 2005, in no particular order:

Birch Book "s/t"
Bohren Und Der Club of Gore "Geisterfaust" cd
Current 93 "How I Devoured Apocalypse Balloon"
Circle "Tulikoira" "Perekluchenie"
Om "Variations on a Theme"
Rasputina "A Radical Recital"
Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra & Tra-La-La Band "Horses in the Sky"
Sol Invictus "The Devil's Steed"
Dar Williams "My Better Self"
Various Artists "Irreplaceable Hand" (benefit for Dax Pierson)
Simon Finn "Magic Moments"
Chirgilchin "Collectible"
Kemialliset Ystavat "Latvasta Laho"

And some singles/eps:

Current 93 - the "coptic" single
Nurse With Wound "The Little Dipper Minus Two (Echo Poeme Sequence 1)"
The Folklore of the Moon series of 3" cds released in time and tune with the fullness of the moon. What a great idea! It also ensures that I get something in the mail every month.

There were lots of things that would probably have made the list if I'd been able to afford everything I was interested in, and a few other things that might be on here if I'd written this yesterday or tomorrow. It's all so subjective, isn't it?

Saturday, December 24, 2005

The kids WON'T GO TO SLEEP! They keep popping out of bed like a bunch of Jacks-in-the-Box with their springs wound too tightly. Willow, at least, is yawning. Alex is doubting, even though he's been following Santa's progress here. Maybe it's the crappy computer animation that tipped him off.

Uncle Jay is spending the night, which is something of a tradition, although this time he had to catch a plane to get here. I think everything is wrapped, except for a couple of things out in the garage. The wind seems to be picking up too.

Think peace and love. Smile.

Friday, December 23, 2005

I wish health and happiness to all, as long as it doesn't interfere with somebody else's health and happiness. Health and happiness and reasonableness. And peace. Don't forget peace. Merry Christmas/Solstice/Hanukkah/Yule/Kwanzaa/Xwtzachaopl.

Tomorrow is Christmas Eve. A lot is done. A lot is not yet done. Let the cards fall where they may.

I'm home today, having traded working today for working next Wednesday. Those 10 hour days of manual labor were tiring me out, so I welcomed the opportunity to stay home today. This morning it was foggy, and it lingered into the afternoon, which was nice. I like it when the edges are blurred. It seems to open up more possibilities somehow. Mystery is alive and well.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Another day spent painting - this time the women's bathroom, which has a very high ceiling (and no, not a glass one either...) and more stalls. These things matter when you have to cover everything with paint. This time I remembered to bring a cd player though, so time went by quickly.

It's strange working until after dark. Everybody else goes home a couple of hours before I do and the days are short, so I often find myself virtually alone on the site. Of course now the days are going to get longer again. Happy Solstice to those of you who observe it in some way. To my mind, it's the most important of all the year-end holidays. Sure, we generally celebrate Christmas around here through sheer force of habit and nostalgia, but I feel more of a sense of connection to the Solstice. We keep meaning to mark it with some sort of traditional ritual, but time gets away from us because the holidays bring with them all sorts of frantic activity and last-minuteness. The 25th is always further away than the 21st. It would just be too much to ask to get anything completed and ready by the 21st, so we don't even try.

I do mark the day in my mind though. The darkness is drawing back.

Earlier, I suddenly found myself clothed in vomit. Willow was sitting on my lap acting distressed, when all of a sudden the contents of her stomach burst forth and coated us. Once I got her into the bath, she felt better, and even played little games with the playmobile people who reside there. Her games always involve a person going, "oohhnooo!," and falling into the water.

Speaking of water, I think I'll go take a shower. The paint and the vomit don't mix well.


Tuesday, December 20, 2005

The classroom teachers who accompany their students up to science camp have long been complaining about the inadequecy of their accomodations. Today I helped do something about that. I ripped out a bunch of brittle linoleum, pulled out some sheetrock, and painted a bathroom. In the middle of doing all of this, while throwing away some old carpets, I surprised a pair of raccoons who were trying to sleep in the dumpster. They huddled together and watched wide-eyed as my coworker and I carefully angled a rolled up carpet into the dumpster so they could escape if they wanted to. They elected to remain put. I hope they don't think they've found a permanent home.

All afternoon the wind rattled doors and sent debris across the site. So far no rain has fallen, but that may change soon.

Tomorrow we put in a new shower. How exciting.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Check out Umlaut. This guy is an old heavy metal friend from back in the eighties, when sometimes we'd go to more than one show a night. I wish I'd kept tabs on all of the shows we went to back then. Of course it was all punk and heavy metal, but this music took up a major portion of my high school and early college years.

Now we're all grown up. Sort of.

The year is winding down, and I've been seeing a lot of lists of people's favorite music and/or concerts from 2005. It occurred to me that I haven't been to enough concerts this year to justify picking out a top 10. I can say that just about all of the live music I saw this year was good, and most of it was free too, thanks to me having friends in bands or actually being involved in the show myself. This is just one more way to stretch the dollar. Anyway, here's the list - not a top 10, but a list of all of the shows I saw this year (to the best of my recollection) and Spoonbender 1.1 @ the Elbo Room
Lhasa at the Great American Music Hall
Sleepytime Gorilla Museum @ The Independant
Sleepytime Gorilla Museum, Faun Fables, and Dot Dot Dot
Om and Six Organs of Admittance at Bottom of the Hill, Moe!chestra, Barely Human Dance Theatre, French Radio, & Drew from Matmos
- Benefit for Dax
M.S. Waldron & J.B. Haynes at some venue in S.F. whose name escapes me.
Dungen, Faun Fables, and The Lonelyhearts at Bottom of the Hill
Circle, Merzbow, Earth, & Growing at the Great American Music Hall
Wooden Octopus Skull Pfestival at various venues around Seattle
In Gowan Ring at Adobe Books
Sleepytime Gorilla Museum @ The Attic
Current 93, Om, Baby Dee, Simon Finn, Maja Elliot, Six Organs of Admittance, and Pantaleimon at the Great American Music Hall
Simon Finn and Whysp at the Hotel Utah Saloon

I might come up with a list of favorite cds of 2005 before the end of the year. Like anybody besides me cares...

I've had a rather extended weekend which was actually almost a week. I've actually been kind of slacking off, sleeping in and wasting time on the computer. That's not to say that all of my time has been wasted. I'm pretty much done with my holiday shopping. The tree is up and decorated. The lizard cages are clean. Nate had a party at the cheese rat place. I saw King Kong with my mom and thought it was brilliant! Peter Jackson has managed to stuff more creatures into his version than they did in the original, not to mention the creepy islanders who I think are the main reason that Nate and Alex aren't going to get to see this one. He's even given us his version of the "lost" footage excised from the original for being too gruesome (a chasm full of sailor-eating invertebrates of various types and sizes - another reason Nate and Alex won't see this). There is a blatant reference to his earlier film, Dead Alive (aka Braindead) as well. In addition to this, he's managed to give it much more emotional depth than the original. Don't get me wrong though, I'm not knocking the original, which is a classic in its own right. Oh, and I also have to mention that I was very impressed by the recreation of a depression-era New York. A little something for everybody here - over the top at times, but endlessly entertaining.

Now we're halfway through re-watching the extended versions of the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Movie nerds through and through.

The picture is of Willow jumping on the bed - something she does incessantly.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

My day of manual labor at work was cancelled for some reason. Perhaps everybody is sick. The answering machine message didn't say...

So I stayed home with the monkeys, who screeched and ran around and seldom did as they were told. The more days I spend at home, the more I can empathize with Jen and the more I can understand why she is always so frazzled. It wouldn't be so bad if the adults didn't have a million things of their own to get done, but we do. If it is indeed true that full moons inspire madness, then that was a factor as well. I even had to deal with not one, but two soliciters. I heard the first guy minutes before he rang the bell because he was loudly repeating, "hello, hello," as he made his way up the walk. When I answered the door, he launched into his rehearsed spiel about carpet cleaning. If he hadn't been a lunatic, I might have considered hearing him out, since our carpets are several colors away from whatever color they started out as. But he was, and I didn't. The second person was a kid selling magazine subscriptions. I think he was trying to be funny, but all he succeeded in being was slightly irritating. To top it all off, he didn't even shut the gate when he left.


Tuesday, December 13, 2005

It turns out that I could have worked all week (with the possible exception of Friday) if I had wanted to. A lot of my coworkers are ill, so despite the fact that there are only 90 kids (give or take) at camp this week, opportunities to work keep knocking at my door. I turned down a chance to work tomorrow because there is a major holiday looming on the horizon that we're just not properly prepared for. Today I worked, taking a group of nineteen kids and a couple of cabin leaders on two hikes. We studied the creek and the chaparral. It's always a little hard to show up in the middle of the week and take over a group. There were no real problems with this one, other than not knowing their names as well as I would have had I been there the day before. They were a chatty group too, although a couple of the kids outshone the others with their constant participation and helpfulness. Elsewhere at camp there were problems with shouting cabin leaders and ailing staff. It has all the makings of a chaotic week. It's probably just as well that I'm staying home tomorrow.

It's funny that I was worried about getting enough work this month when in reality I ended up getting more work than I wanted. As of now, I'm scheduled to work on Thursday, and then not again until Tuesday. Sometime during that time, I'm going to go see King Kong. It's strange that the original had him climbing the Empire State building, the seventies remake had him climbing the World Trade center, and now he's back to climbing the Empire State building again. Of course, the new version is set during the early part of the twentieth century, back before the World Trade center was built, but one can't help but meditate on the whole 9/11 angle. Idle thought.

During the days that I spend away from work, I'm going to be searching for the multi-dimensional vortex that must exist somewhere around the house. It's the only explanation for all of the sippy-cups that have gone missing. My theory is that Willow has found this vortex and has been steadily stuffing random items into it, like the aforementioned sippy-cups and God knows what else.
When I got home today, Jen was in a frenzy about the state of the boys' room and the mess that always covers the floor. The boys are unable to ever pick anything up without making a big production of the process. My thought is that if we can find the vortex, we can stuff the contents of their room into it. Problem solved.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Jen's stepdad had surgery today, and it went well. He'll still be in the hospital for a bit, but that is to be expected. Definitely a relief.

I stayed home with the kids, and everything was relatively peaceful except for the usual after-school grouchiness that afflicts the boys.

I get to work tomorrow. As predicted, one of my coworkers is sick (I could have worked today if I hadn't been watching the kids, but that would have been my ninth straight day working, so I'm glad I got to stay home) so I'm filling in. I'm kind of ambivalent about it. The work is fun and we always need the money, but there's lots to do around here and a break would be welcome. Not that I accomplished much of anything today. I mostly just hung out with the girls. Sometimes you just gotta do nothing.

Oh, and preorders are now being taken for the medecins sans frontieres 5 cd set over at Jnana Records. Go on a musical adventure and support a good cause. I make a small appearance on the first track. Lots of friends and other people I really respect (not to mention enjoy listening to) have contributed songs to this.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

I remember a few weeks ago being worried that I wouldn't have enough work in December. Ha! I just finished my eight day in a row working. Granted, I won't be working for the next few days, but things have ended up working out better than expected. Yesterday, I worked three birthday parties, getting tipped a total of $50 in the process (sorry, poverty makes me pay attention to the nickels and dimes, and for some reason tell you about them), and today I put in seven hours at the Christmas tree lot. It's very amusing to see people drive up to the lot in their huge SUVs, buy a six foot tree, and then insist on tying it to the top of their vehicle, when they could easily put a tree twice as big inside and still have room left over for a small town. My question, rhetorical though it may be, is why the hell do people buy SUVs if they're not going to take advantage of the extra interior space?

Oh yeah. I forgot. The status thing. People don't want to scratch up their juggernauts by actually using them for anything practical.

Friday, December 09, 2005

I got my first tip from a student today. As all of the kids were leaving, a girl handed me an envelope (we had made envelopes out of old magazine pages during class to illustrate the concept of reusing things) with a dollar in it. I tried to give it back to her, but she wouldn't take it. Thinking about it, I think I earned the tip anyway, since this was the girl who I'd carried a half a mile on Thursday after she twisted her knee. She's feeling much better now.

I got mentioned a couple of times on the teacher feedback forms too. Apparently they were impressed by my constellation talk. Yay for me.

I took the girls to my work's Christmas party, and they had a good time until a strangely costumed Santa made an appearance. Willow immediately started saying, "I GO HOME! GET SOPHIA! I GO HOME!," followed by, "I DON'T LIKE SATA!" Sophie very emphatically didn't want to go because she was busy hobnobbing with my coworkers, so I was stuck in between two opposing forces. Cry if we do, scream if we don't. One of my other coworkers, bless her heart, came to my rescue by pointing out the mini-play structure out back (the party was in the clubhouse at a mobile home park). I took the girls out there for awhile and we played pirates. This was enough to mostly erase any thoughts of Bad Santa from Willow's mind. We popped back in long enough for the girls to hang around the pool table and interrupt some games. Despite everything, they charmed everyone. We even made off with a ton of extra food.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

The rain held off for today's hike, but the fog and general moistness was very much in evidence. I've been feeling kind of low energy all week, and the kids this week have been less studious and less attentive than most of the other groups I've led this season. To top things off, on the way back to camp, a girl fell and twisted her knee badly enough that I had to give her a piggyback ride the rest of the way. My arms are still sore. Hopefully she's on the mend.

At home, Jen told me that the boys' school was hosting a stargazing party. Despite total cloud coverage, they both insisted on going. Nate especially was having a fit about it, so I drove them down there fully expecting to see nobody. Strangely enough, there were some people and a telescope all set up. I heard somebody say it was focused on a Christmas display on somebody's front door across from the school's field. Go figure. The boys played for a bit and then we left. Nate got mad again because he wanted to stay and play. Jen got him calmed down.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

It started raining near the end of the night hike tonight, momentarily hushing the nervous kids. They were scared for the usual reasons - falling over things, nocturnal animals, general fear of the dark, etc. That said, they all thought the owl we heard was pretty cool.

One of the cabin leaders attached to my group went home sick earlier in the day. She is the third person in my group to do so this week. One of the other instructors went home sick yesterday. Several others are sick, but refusing to let it slow them down. A lot of us can't afford to be sick. I am so far successfully fighting off this cold, although I do feel in need of a break. Next week I'll get one because there are only going to be ninety-something kids at camp, meaning that I won't be needed. The week after, I get to help move things around in preparation for the demolition of the office building. That will see us through the Christmas season.

The picture is of frost melting on the roof of the storage building at one end of the school. It used to be a cabin for kids to sleep in, but geologists determined that it was too close to the San Andreas fault, so now it's just a storage building. There are lots of convoluted rules about building use when faults are located nearby. Probably just as well...

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

It's cold today. The kids complained about it during both field classes. I asked how many of them were dressed in their warmest clothes, and only a couple of hands went up. Hopefully more of them will remember to dress warmly for the night program later on.

I found out that I will definitely have more work this month the week after next. I think it consists of hauling the contents of the office to the portable building currently occupying lawn space out front. Ho ho ho.

A stinkbug squirted me in the eye earlier. That's the first time that's happened. It stung a bit, but I flushed my eye out with water and it seems better now. Lesson: don't get your eyes within squirting range of stinkbugs. I asked the kids to smell my eye to see if it stunk, but nobody did. Kids these days... no sense of adventure.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Originally I was only going to work one day this week. Last night, that became a day and a half. Later last night, it became a whole week. I'm glad I hadn't made any solid plans otherwise. This will save our butts in January.
The kids in my group, being fifth graders, are less knowledgable and less mature than last week's sixth graders, but a number of them are really cool. Two kids had headaches near the end of class, and at least one of them ended up going home with a fever. It's that time of year, I guess. I seem to remember that at this time last year I had a bad cold. This year I'm making sure my immune system is in good shape by popping immunity booster capsules, courtesy of Trader Joe's.

Yesterday, Jen made wonderful concoction called Death By Chocolate Torte. M, who shares a birthday with me, came over, as did my mom, and we had a lovely dinner followed by the aforementioned dessert. 38 candles. I had help blowing them out though.

Send energy our way.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

I turn 38 today. Somebody once said that the thirties go by in a blur. It really is true. Jen got me a guitar, which is really cool because it's a gift that will cause me to stretch my creativity. I don't know how to play it, but I've passively wanted to teach myself for awhile now. With a nice guitar in the house, I'll have the incentive I need to get off my butt and learn. It will come in handy at work as well, since a big part of our program is playing and singing songs for the kids. About half of my coworkers are guitarists, and I feel that I should attempt to join them.

Yesterday I worked at the christmas tree lot again. We moved hundreds of trees around, swept up tons of needles, tied trees to a wide variety of vehicles, and bought pizza with funds from the tip jar.

Jen's stepfather is in the hospital after having a minor heart attack (are they ever really minor though?). We're all thinking of him and hoping for a speedy recovery.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

It has been raining all day. When I got home from work after hiking for four hours, I wished I could just get in the dryer to dry myself off. Willow, with her duck, beat me to it. Oh well, I wouldn't have fit anyway.

It was the wettest hike of the season so far. All of the trails had little chocolate brown rivulets rushing down them. Near the end of our hike, the kids were so wet that they were no longer trying to keep dry - they were laughing and splashing through the water like pre-schoolers. Of course, some of the kids were not quite as accepting of their fate. Most of us had fun though. After we got back, it started raining even harder.

It is still coming down as I type.

The rain sure brought the newts out in force though. We counted 35 on the hike today.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

It's getting pretty windy outside, with rain slated to fall soon. Earlier it was sunny, with steam rising from the moist ground and trees. I found an Arboreal Salamander in the Chaparral, along with the usual assortment of scorpions, mice, lizards, and other salamanders. It's just that I don't often see Arboreal Salamanders, so I was happy to find one. I always tell the kids that looking for wildlife is like going on a treasure hunt. Of course in this case we never keep the treasure. I took a picture instead.

I had to talk above the wind on the night hike, and everytime I lit a candle for an activity, the wind blew it out. Despite this, or perhaps because of it, we all had a good time. The wind always energizes me.

It's a new moon today. One would think it would be dark outside, but due to all of the city lights and the low clouds which reflect them, it is quite light. We had no trouble seeing the trails during the night hike.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

I survived two Thanksgiving dinners last week - the first at Jen's mom's house, and the second at my mom's house. I was so stuffed after the first one that once home I crawled onto the couch and just lay there for an hour or two. After the second one, we all migrated to our house and we watched some of the documentary, an epic mini-series on South Africa, that G is editing. Very interesting. Maybe someday it will be finished. Lots of dessert and coffee was consumed as well. So much consumption going on - I think this maybe one of the only countries in the world where people regularly overeat and complain about it afterwards. It makes me feel a little guilty. I'll shut up about it now.

On Sunday, I worked my first shift at the Christmas tree lot. I think we sold 32 or 33 trees while I was working. Not much to it really - mainly a customer service position. I did get to use the chainsaw though, and there's a tip jar!

I'm currently working what may well be my last week of outdoor school for the season. It has been gently raining for the last couple of days, with some nice fog descending over the school during the astronomy program tonight. These are a smart bunch of kids we have this week. After the powerpoint presentation on astronomy, one of the girls started asking questions about particle physics. It ended up being one of the longest question and answer sessions I've seen at this program, which is good because it means they're interested. That said, we went over time by about 40 minutes. Our rainy day timing needs tweaking.

Of course, maybe if I wasn't wasting time wandering around and photographing Raccoons we'd get done earlier.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

I have the whole week off, thanks to there being only enough kids at my job to warrant two instructors. Yesterday I went on a field trip to Alum Rock Park with Alex's class. It was sort of like going to work, since I ended up taking the kids on a hike up to a place called inspiration point. It was really smoggy though, and the usual view of the valley was hidden by a gauzy layer of brown. Despite this, the hike ended up being the highlight of the trip for most of the kids. I got to see some of my old coworkers from the Youth Science Institute as well.

After we all got back home, I took the boys to see the latest Harry Potter movie, which was, as expected, quite entertaining. The film even includes a Banded Tailless Whipscorpion as one of the "magical creatures." Too bad mine died.

Last weekend, I went with my mom to the Berkeley City Club to see the new Central Works play, Achilles and Patroklos, in which characters and themes from Homer's Iliad are plopped down in the modern era, where due to the fact that history endlessly repeats itself, they fit quite nicely. It was strange to watch the combination of the ancient and the modern, but if viewed in a dreamlike, alternate history sort of way, it worked very well. Great sound design by G, as usual. To bad about the wedding going on above us and the birthday party across the hall. When moments of intense drama are interrupted by partygoers singing "happy birthday," something is irretrievably lost.

Oh, and thanks to the mother of one of Sophie's friends, I've picked up a few weekend shifts at a Christmas tree lot. The pay is lousy, but we get a free tree.

Friday, November 18, 2005

I've been slacking off on blogging lately. I've always been of two minds about technology. On one hand, it can make life easier, but on the other hand, it can suck away time and meaning from life. The computer does both. I find that I use the computer to unwind after work, which is not a far cry from using the TV to unwind - something that I've always managed to avoid doing, if only because for most of my life I haven't had a TV (we have one now, but don't have cable, so it doesn't really count - besides, with the kids around, my only option would be to unwind to whatever they're watching, and their shows are more likely to have an effect opposite to the one I desire).

Anyway, I' ve been occupied with trying to figure out how much work I'll have next month. I found out today that I'll have at least one more week than I thought I'd have, but that still leaves several other weeks in question. I'm not sure if I'll be working next week. Right now I'm an alternate, ready to fill in if either of the two field instructors scheduled to work gets sick. Or maybe I should say, "stays sick," since at the moment they're both feeling poorly.

Started my holiday shopping today too.

Winter, which peeked in the door last week, has turned around and walked back up the street. It has been warm during the day, but pretty cold at night. Good weather for sleeping in and lounging around in slippers.

Nurse With Wound's "Salt Marie Celeste" has been living in the cd player for the past few nights. Comforting somehow.

Spot the hawk in the photo above. It is perching on the power line. I'm pretty sure it's a Cooper's Hawk waiting for something small to make a mistake.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

I finally worked an astronomy night program that finished more or less on time! That said, I ended up leaving late anyway because the teachers found a large spider in their room and left it with the hub host (the person in charge of the day to day running of the camp) for identification. She couldn't immediately identify it, so she sent me out to find the teachers to let them know what it was. It turned out to be a small tarantula, so I went over to the nearest teachers with it to tell them.

Wrong teachers.

These particular teachers had no previous knowledge of the spider, and were quite unthrilled to learn that tarantulas roamed unsupervised through their rooms. I imagine them sleeping in their cars tonight. I finally located the right teacher, and she was much more calm about the news. Then I let the little critter go at the edge of the front lawn. It scuttled off into the darkness. I scuttled off to my car and came home.

Monday, November 14, 2005

And all of a sudden it's halfway through November. The evenings are perfect, with orange and pink clouds glowing in the sky. Tonight the moon, one day short of full, seemed to have an ethereal helmet of cloud as it ascended.

The weeks run together. We blazed a few new trails during the all day hike last week, sliding down muddy hillsides and pulling trash out of a section of creek that I hadn't previously visited. This week, like last week, the students are all from catholic schools, the names of which all begin with Saint this or Holy that.

The weekend was quiet. Jen went up to Berkeley with her mom on Saturday while I watched Willow, who is experimenting with underwear. She's still got a way to go, but she did manage to use the little potty a couple of times. The other times she used the floor. It's a start, anyway.

Sunday we lazed around the house.

I'm starting to stress about how much work I will get during the month of December. Our other site shuts down at the end of the week, and that means only the so-called "permanent" employees are guaranteed work. The "full-time-part-year" people like myself are only there as needed. We'll see how it goes.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

I went up to San Francisco again last night to see Simon Finn at the Hotel Utah Saloon, and got there early enough to hang out with Simon and Joolie a bit before the show. G showed up soon after I did. I guess the Hotel Utah folks thought we were roadies or possibly band members, because they gave us free food. They make these veggie burgers (my second choice, actually, because they were out of hummus) that were much better than the gardenburgers one usually gets when ordering veggie burgers. We milked it a bit and got ice cream too. The opening band was loud enough to start my eardrums vibrating in an unpleasant way, and not interesting enough to make it worthwhile. The second band, Whysp, was very interesting, with banjo and sitar and all manner of jangly bells and hand drums - a bit like the Incredible String Band or some of the more upbeat In Gowan Ring songs.

Since they were headlining, Simon and Joolie played a longer set than they did at the Great American, which was good because the music is great, but bad because it meant that I didn't get home until almost 2 AM. David and Dri showed up too, so I got to say goodbye to them since they're leaving for home on Friday. Al was there as well, which was nice. Simon and Joolie are taking the train down to L.A. for another show - a chance for them to check out some beautiful scenery.

Today I'm tired. I think I'll go lie down on a couch.

Oh, before the show I did my duty and voted against that steroid-laden Austrian guy's initiatives.

Monday, November 07, 2005

I went and saw the second Current 93 show on Saturday night, this time by myself, which is just as well since I didn't get back until after 4 in the morning. No babysitter would stand for such a late return home. Maja Elliot started things off with some astounding piano playing and beautiful singing. Her ethereal voice provided a nice counterpart to the waves of notes rolling from piano. She did one song acapella, singing along with a backing tape of other voices. Very nice indeed. Ben Chasny, as Six Organs of Admittance, played next, alternately playing quiet melodies and savage bursts of guitar noise, with his delicate voice gluing it all together. Next up was Andria, playing as Pantaleimon on a dulcimer and harmonium (the borrowing of which was arranged by G at the last minute - I wonder what would have happened if he hadn't managed to get it...) and accompanied by acoustic guitar. The old songs were great as usual, and the new ones were sublime. She even had the good sense to drink Kombucha on stage (and is actually responsible to introducing me to the stuff - expensive but good!). Then Om flattened the place again, followed by Current 93, who did pretty much the same set as Friday, albeit in a different order. Absolutely stunning, as usual.

I ran into more old friends. The last time I saw Ann she was pregnant. Now her son is one and a half. Very cute kid, judging by the pictures she showed me. The last time I saw Steve he was living in San Jose. Now he lives in Idaho, where he and his wife have bought a house. Good for him! His label is releasing a split 10" record by Om and Current 93 sometime next year. Can't wait.

Aferwards, we went downstairs and hung out and talked until well past everybody's bedtime. There was some uncertainty about what everybody was doing the next day, although I knew that I wasn't going to the 9:30 breakfast that people were planning on. Too damn early, especially if I factored in the hour it would take me to get there. As it was, I ended up being one of the last six or seven people at the club.

The next day, Jen, Nate, Sophie, Willow, and I went up to hang out at Dawn and Nil's place for a belated birthday get-together for Dawn. We brought food (pumpkin cake and rosemary focaccia made by Jen!) and spent a wonderful time just relaxing (as much as people can relax with three young kids in tow). Lots of great food made by others as well. Jen and Nate stayed behind at the house (Nate wanted to play cards) while a bunch of the rest of us went for a hike in the foothills. The girls had a great time, as did I.

Today it's raining. I worked the campfire tonight, although being inside the dining hall and without an actual fire, it should probably be called something else. It was great fun, as usual, and at the end of it all I was covered in sweat and losing my voice. That's the way it should be.

On the way home, I enjoyed watching the leaves being blown all over the already leaf-encrusted streets. I love this time of year!

As for the photos - the first one is Current 93, the second is Nils with an unfortunate orange, and the third is a group of miscreants clowning around after the show. Taken by Baby Dee, if I remember correctly.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

I had Halloween twice this week. On Thursday evening, we hosted a Halloween party for the science campers, including a "haunted hallway," a morgue with "body parts" (mostly food items) kids could touch by reaching through slits cut in a sheet, trick-or-treating, doughnut bobbing, vampire tag, dancing... the list goes on. It was pretty exhausting coming back from a five and a half hour hike and having to get right to work on setting everything up, but in the end it was worth it. My costume consisted of pieces of lichen attached to my face with Elmer's glue. The next time I do something like this, I will attempt to not get any glue in my beard or chest hair. Ouch. Some of the kids were too scared. Others were not scared enough. It sounds like we achieved a good balance.

I had two different Current 93 cds playing in the scary rooms (the morgue and the haunted hallway), and I think they contributed wonderfully to the atmosphere.

And then (segue, segue) last night, we went and saw Current 93 at the Great American Music Hall. Jen and I drove up (while Jay and Stacy, bless their selfless hearts, watched all four of the kids), picking up Justin on the way. At the venue, we bumped into a great number of friends and acquaintances, some of whom we hadn't seen in years. Baby Dee was up first, playing piano and harp. Simon Finn, accompanied by Joolie Wood on violin and recorder, played second - powerful Leonard Cohenesque folk music, which sometimes erupted in snarling fury. Om followed them with rumbling sludge that could be felt through the floors and walls. Jen commented that it was the audio equivalent of used motor oil (in a good way). Current 93 played one of the best sets I've seen them do, with lots of new material and rearranged versions of old classics. David has assembled a band that includes two guitarists, piano, accordian, harp, two violins, recorder, flute, and cello, making the sound more lush than it has been in the past.

Oh, and Nigel, who flew in from London for the show, gave me a small, plush Tawny Owl that hoots when you squeeze it. What a guy! The girls have been playing with it all morning.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Unfortunate event. A man claiming not to be Lemony Snicket can here be seen lying prone on the stage of a high school auditorium. Later, magically recovered, he signed autographs for hundreds of people. The line reminded me of visits to Disneyland.

Oh, and he sang a song whilst accompanying himself on an accordian. Wretched. Miserable. Plumbing unforeseen depths of despair and dismay without so much as a flashlight.

Monday, October 31, 2005

Halloween was quiet around here. As usual, no trick-or-treaters passed through our gate, which means more candy for us. We took the kids out to visit a few of the neighbors' houses, and they got whole handfuls of candy at each one. Jen and I reminisced about our childhood Halloween experiences, when it took much longer to get the same amount of candy due to the fact that people handed out candy one piece at a time back then. Later, we took the kids to granny's house (not over the hills and far away, but oh well...) where the neighborhood was a bit more hopping. Lots of kids out ringing doorbells there. Now we're home, and the Jacks O' Lantern have been extinguished for another year.

I get to do it all over again on Thursday at work, when we will host a Halloween party for the science camp kids.

Over the weekend, M and I went to see Sleepytime Gorilla Museum at The Attic in Santa Cruz. They'd just gotten back into town after a national tour. Luckily we ran into Carla and Matthias outside (actually in Streetlight records downstairs from the club) and they put us on the guest list. Nils, we soon learned, had contracted pneumonia in New York and had been touring across the country with it. He was feeling a bit better, but was glad to be nearing the end of the tour. Their show was great, but marred by the rhythmic intrusion of the dance club downstairs. Carla now plays a trumpet violin on some songs, which is just what it sounds like - a violin with a trumpet attached to it making the sound uni-directional and allowing it to be miked more effectively than a regular violin could be. It sounded like something out of a 1920's music hall. The electric violin and the nyckelharpa where still in evidence as well, which is good. Shinichi was along for the tour as well, and for the first fifteen or twenty minutes of the show he hung upside down in a structure that resembled a glassless aquarium, suspended from the rafters. I think that would cause me to pass out if I were to try such a thing. Beautiful movement and music, and great people one and all. Who could ask for more?

Speaking of beautiful music, Current 93 are in town and are playing at the Great American Music Hall in San Francisco along with Om, Six Organs of Admittance, Baby Dee, Simon Finn, Pantaleimon, and Maja Elliot next Friday and Saturday. This is good. They're all great people too.

Happy Halloween, however you celebrate it. I always feel a bit rushed myself. The photos were taken in our yard tonight. More images on Flickr.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

The Hub, which is sort of our center of operations at science camp, has been busy this week with a million and one different minor (in both senses of the word, I guess) crises. There have been lots of the usual fevers, stomach aches, and homesickness, as well as other assorted sprained ankles, lost monkeys (a crying kid thought he'd lost his stuffed monkey in the field after dark, so a coworker and I spent a lot of useless time out with a flashlight looking for it - the damn thing turned up under his bed), a boy who couldn't get his jacket unzipped after the night hike (I couldn't either, so I turned him over to a teacher), and others too numerous to mention.

On Tuesday, near the end of the afternoon hike, one of the kids spotted a large bird perched on a broken branch at the top of a dead, fungus-riddled tree. I borrowed binoculars from a girl and managed to figure out that it was either a Cooper's Hawk or a Sharp-Shinned Hawk before it flew away. We walked up the trail to get a closer look at the fungus and, unfortunately for us, off the trail for an even closer look. That's when the Yellowjackets attacked. This always results in panicked screaming and running, but, being a veteran of this sort of thing (the last one happened almost exactly a year ago), managed to keep things relatively in control. I had to remove the shirts of two boys because the wasps were crawling around inside them. After some diligent work, I managed to remove all of the wasps. Another group was nearby, and they helped keep the unstung kids occupied while we dealt with the ones who needed help. My little bottle of vinegar (a mild acid to neutralize the mild alkalinity of the wasp poison) finally came in handy. During all of the commotion, I barely noticed that I'd been stung four times. Now it kind of itches. Two of the boys (probably the ones who'd stepped on the nest) got the worst of it. One of them was really upset at first because he'd never been stung before and he was worried that he might be allergic. I told him that if he was allergic he'd already know at that point, and this calmed him down.

Afterwards, I was a bit worried that they'd be reluctant to do more hiking, but that has proven not to be the case. A few of them are still a little nervous, but it could have been much worse.

The kids this week, despite the hubbub around the Hub, have been really good. Some of them really stand out. Here a few excerpts from journal entries they did after the night hike:

Our eyes were proven wrong because we saw beauty can be found even in dirt... Our feet were our eyes as we walked along the path.
By Wildflower

As the shadow creeps over the forest, the diurnal animals go to sleep, and the nocturnal animals awake. There is music in the night. The crickets sing. The coyote howls. An owl flaps silently overhead, outlined by the stars...

By Tiger

It's good to know that some of the kids get it. I wish that they all did. It was a beautiful hike this week. We went out into the chaparral where we could see the stars. In the distance the city lights were visible, and the smell of the Coyote brush combined with a thousand other wilderness smells made me nostalgic for childhood.

The top photo is of mist rising over the trees on Wednesday. The bottom one, taken today, is of the picnic area where we had our wedding reception three years and one day ago, taken from the platform in the Peterson Memorial Grove where we were wed.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Jen, Willow, and I went to a couple of grocery stores today because one is just not enough. Willow insisted on bringing her life-sized Elmo doll into both of them, and then making me carry it. At the first store, as I was in line to pay, Willow decided that she wanted to go outside, so Jen took her, leaving me in line with Elmo. One becomes more than normally conscious of public scrutiny at times like this. I tried to see myself through the eyes of a stranger - a grown man clutching a dirty, three foot tall Elmo doll as he waits in line with a bottle of mushroom juice and a homeopathic earache remedy. I thought for a moment that I should play it up a bit by pretending to talk to Elmo, maybe even pretending to hear Elmo, but the responsible adult side of me overruled the impulsive kid side.

At the other store, Willow giggled as I pretended to have Elmo push the cart. Later, freed from the cart, Willow repeatedly tackled Elmo, knocking him to the floor and inviting comments like, "now we know who to call if we ever need to get rid of any muppets," from store employees.

I think more people should carry around large puppets in public. It would make life more interesting.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

We went to Hidden Villa today, even though the kids were in foul moods, because Alex had a video project due for school which involved documenting a trip to the farm. Jen helped him with it while I alternately wrangled the girls and took photos. Nate was grouchy and stubborn, and Sophie was pouty, which made the grownups less happy than they would have been otherwise. Despite all of this, I feel recharged, like I always do when I go there. Jen and I have grand plans to go there alone at some point. There is a cottage you can rent for weekend getaways...

It is supposed to be cool this week, with rain entering the picture towards next weekend. I'm full of the need to get projects done, like cleaning the garage or finishing the stalled OAC stories. Maybe doing some holiday shopping... Or perhaps putting together some materials for work. I'm in the middle of setting up a new cage for the new scorpion as well, but I've been foiled by the fact that all of the outlets have things plugged into them. The compressed coconut fiber substrate is still moist too, which is just not acceptable because the scorpion is from a part of the world with a dry climate. Details, details. Even if the kids weren't here, we'd still never quite finish everything that needs finishing. Is simplifying an option? We're trying to get rid of stuff, of course, but there always seems to be more hiding around the corner.

I'm looking forward to Sleepytime Gorilla Museum next week, and then Halloween, followed by a local appearance by Lemony Snicket, and a couple of nights of Current 93 and friends. Then the holidays will descend upon us.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

The year has rolled around to almost Hallowe'en again. We visited the same pumpkin patch again. Everybody is a year older now. If nothing else, the ritual of the pumpkin patch is a reminder of the importance that everybody once placed in the harvest. This is still one of my favorite holidays though, and it may be for this very reason - this tenuous connection to the harvest. Of course, I like ghosts, ghouls, goblins, and zombies too. Scarecrows as well. I think this holiday, more than the others, gives us a chance to exercise our imaginations.

And a lot of fundamentalists hate it. That's a selling point too.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

The cool weather continues. We've seen a few amphibians this week, including Pacific Giant Salamander larvae, California Newt, and Pacific Tree Frog. The newt was the first of the season for me. In couple of months, after the rains have started, we'll be seeing dozens of them every day.
I switched my planned hike to the reservoir to accomodate one of my students who has cerebal palsy, and took my group down to what is known as "indian country" today. The area takes its name from the fact that it boasts a few Ohlone mortars. The kids played around them for awhile. I caught one of them grinding up his snack inside one, using a large rock as a pestle. So much for lessons on conservation and not wasting your food.
We played in a creek I hadn't previously visited as well. It was full of deep, clear pools, and a variety of mushrooms grew in the shady areas.
On the way back, one of the girls spotted a scorpion crawling along beside the trail. It's very unusual to come across one crawling around during the day. It must have been an insomniac. A pretty large one at that.

I hope the weather remains cool.

When I got home I put my backpack in a cubby.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

I went to get pet food earlier and I was conquered by that age old marketing ploy of putting merchandise next to the register. There they were - a bunch of cute little scorpions all lined up just waiting to be taken home. I resisted the ones that the owner told me were called "Arizona Reds," because he didn't seem positive of their identity. The thing with buying scorpions is that you need to be sure you're purchasing something that isn't lethal. Flat Rock Scorpions, native to South Africa, are not lethal, so I bought one. As their name suggests, they tend to be somewhat flat, with tails that fold over sideways so they can crawl into cracks in rocks. I've got to work on that impulse buying problem of mine.

Weatherwise, the clouds lingered over the tops of the hills all day before finally pouring over into the valley during the late afternoon. It's overcast at the moment, and it looks like it might rain, despite what the forecast says. There's lots of plant debris on the ground too, due to some late night windiness. I love this time of year.

Oh, and earlier, when I went in to check on Sophie in the bathroom, I found her sitting on the little potty (she now refuses to have anything to do with the convenient flushable one) with her pants down and the floor covered in those little cheese flavored goldfish crackers. I asked her what had happened, and she replied, "they were in my pants!!"

At the same time, a half asleep Willow was heard to say from the other room, "wipe yourself!" That's a bit holier-than-thou coming from somebody who hasn't even figured out the toilet thing yet.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Yesterday, I spent eight hours supervising the work crew as they cleaned the dining hall, cabins, amphitheater, staff room, and teachers' quarters. We also cleaned one of the school vans so it would look nice for a fundraising event. Not as fun as my regular job, but since it counted as overtime, well worth it. Of course, today I'm more tired than I would have been otherwise. My battery didn't get a chance to recharge.

It's sixth graders this week, coming from three different schools. I recognize some of the teachers from last year. I continued with my new Monday routine of setting the field class loose in the chaparral. We found some Fence lizards, a Black Widow, a scorpion (technically a California Common Scorpion, aka Silvestri's Scorpion), and a small insectivorous bird's skull. Oh, and the dead mole is still there from last week, although it looks like something took a bite out of it. I really like starting the week out this way because it gets the kids moving around and exploring on their own. Again, there were a few kids who elected to follow me instead of doing their own thing, but the world is made up of many different personality types, so who am I to complain?

Oh, I forgot to mention that I went with a number of my coworkers to record a bunch of the camp songs we sing to the kids every week. Not being a guitarist, I contributed vocals, tamborine, and a tiny bit of mouth harp. Other instrumentation included, guitar, banjo, mandolin, djembe, dobro, slide whistle, and various shakers. The idea is to release the recordings on cd to sell to campers. The songs themselves are mostly familiar tunes (Louie, Louie, La Bamba, etc.) with the lyrics changed to reflect the wildlife and conservation themes we teach.

It was hot today, with a few clouds gathering during the afternoon and evening. The forecast claims that things are going to cool down over the course of the week, with a slight chance of rain towards the weekend. I took a few pictures of the full moon rising over the apartment behind our place tonight. It's not great photography, but still interesting...

I started reading Gabriel Garcia Marquez's One Hundred Years of Solitude last night, noticing as I did so that it was first published the year I was born. Cool.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

It rained last night, leaving a lingering autumn smell in the air and diminishing patches of moisture on the sidewalks this morning. It was relatively cool and cloudy today too; a welcome change from the warmth of the past week.

We got together heaps of old electronic debris, including a couple of televisions, three computer monitors, a toaster, three vacuum cleaners, a microwave, and several other bits and pieces, and heaped them into the van, which I then drove to an electronic waste recycling yard called ASL. This means that we now have a bit less clutter around here. Later, Jen took some stuff to Goodwill. It's nice to know that these items will get a second lease on life somewhere besides our garage. The main selling point here is that they won't end up in a landfill, and that there were no fees of any kind.

I did another party today too. Cake and a tip.

I spent a good part of the late afternoon wandering across the pages of Carlos Ruiz Zafon's The Shadow of the Wind, and I'm now lamenting the fact that it seems to be his only book currently available in english.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Sophie looks funny with short hair. It's her own fault for deciding to give herself a haircut. What can one do?

It has been warm the past couple of days. The night hike last night went well. This week's fifth graders were actually less scared than last week's sixth graders were. They handled the long hike today better as well. At the end of the solo walk, as the kids filtered into our hilltop meeting spot, we put together a mandala made out of plant debris that had been blown to the ground sometime during the last week. It looked pretty cool. I think I'll try to do that kind of thing more often. Next time I'll take a picture.

Tomorrow, in lieu of our usual end of the week meeting, we're supposed to go and record some of the camp songs. Saturday I work a birthday party, and Sunday I supervise the work crew who comes to clean up our site. Busy.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

I hope it rains sometime soon because it's very dusty on the hiking trails right now. Fifth graders can't seem to walk without a fair amount of shuffling, which exacerbates the problem. On the bright side, there are always a variety of animal footprints in the dust too (at least until some shuffling kid obliterates them...). This one is from a Raccoon. The temperature seems to be holding steady in the mid to upper seventies, and the skies are a crisp, autumn blue.

I'm trying to focus on doing things with the kids that they couldn't do at school. We've been doing a lot of community studies this week, scrambling around looking at leaves, dirt, and wild animals. I think about that when I'm at home too. The boys spend a lot of time trying to avoid doing their homework, and I can't say I blame them. Homework is almost always dull and repetitive. It would be so much better if we had the time and energy (not to mention paternal agreement) to homeschool them.
Sometimes the kids I teach at work tell me that they wish it was their real school. A girl last week waxed eloquent about how she felt a real connection with nature and the world at the end of her science camp week. I don't think the average public school fosters that sort of connection. The kids need to be out there doing things. They need to feel more connection. It's a shame that so many of the parents are spending most of their time and energy struggling to survive in an increasingly complex world. How can we raise children properly if we can't even raise ourselves? How can we pass along wisdom if we're still trying to figure things out? We just have to do the best we can.

Monday, October 10, 2005

We have only one school up at camp this week, and they're all fifth graders. For our afternoon field class today, I had them explore the chaparral, which resulted in the discovery of an Alligator lizard, a Ringneck snake, some Fence lizards, a tiny Jerusalem cricket, a big fat mouse, deer and coyote scat, and a very dead mole. I had asked the kids to spread out and explore on their own, but they seemed to want to bunch up and follow me around instead. Maybe they're still a bit intimidated by the great outdoors. Maybe they thought I was more likely to find interesting things than they were. Maybe next time they'll spread out a bit more.

I think I'll let the Wolf spider go tomorrow. She's still dragging around her egg sac, looking a bit like somebody glued a small marshmallow to her butt. A spidery marshmallow though.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Alex turns nine today, so I can no longer say, "2, 4, 6, and 8," when people ask how old the kids are. We now have an odd one. Actually, we have four odd ones, but that's not a numerical concept.
We had the party yesterday, borrowing my place of employment for the occasion. Jen held down the fort at the picnic table while the rest of us went on a hike. Each kid got a bag of trail mix, a harmonica, and a compass, all wrapped in a bandana, as party favors. When the hikers arrived back, we feasted on cupcakes and the ever present trail mix while Alex opened presents. Simple and successful.
Oh, and Nate spotted a Garter snake on the trail. It looked like it had recently shed too.

Later on, I went up to Adobe Books in San Francisco to see a rare local appearance by In Gowan Ring (the last time was in 1999, I believe). The bookstore turned out to be one of those appealing hippie-run establishments with an eccentric organizational ethic (ie, unsteady looking piles of books upon every surface). The odor of incense permeated everything, and there were some interesting photoshopped photos on the walls. A homeless guy was asleep in one of the number of mismatched chairs littered throughout the store. The show itself started about an hour late, but I filled the time by browsing and talking with some of the other people waiting for things to start.
The first band did not appeal to me, being rather simplistic singer-songwriter type stuff. They were friendly and relaxed though. The second band, a duo like the first, sounded like Devendra Banhart's drug-addled younger brothers. Better than the first band though. In Gowan Ring was just B'eirth, or Bee, as he is calling himself these days, and he was incredible, with fluid, melodic guitar playing and hushed vocals which perfectly complemented the music. He accompanied himself on a variety of harmonicas as well, and even did a brief, vietnamese mouth-harp solo.
Since it was a free show, somebody passed around the hat so he could finish his mini-tour with enough money to eat. I picked up his newest cd too. I only wish the show had been properly advertised. I guess since the venue was confirmed only a week ago (or less) that the advertising was all last-minute. It's hard for wandering minstrels to make a living if nobody knows that they're wandering.

A nice night out. Now I'm watching the three younger kids while Jen takes Alex out for a birthday lunch. They're making mischief, so I'd better go get busy now.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

An exit and an imminent entry:

R.I.P. Paul Pena, who was the subject of the documentary "Genghis Blues" a while back. One of the few western musicians to master tuvan throat singing. I never met him, but he seemed like an incredible human being.

And the entry - I noticed that the wolf spider currently living in the cage over by the window has produced an egg sac. New spiders are expected soon. I think I'll release the expectant mother with her sac so we're not overrun by newborn wolf spiders. Jen says that she can put up with crickets underfoot, but is putting her foot down on the spider issue. I think I agree with her on that one. Wolf spiders are pretty aggressive.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

I liked the way these Tan Oak leaves were outlined with sunlight. This was taken during an activity called a "ranger hike," during which the kids split into groups and take turns teaching each other about trees (and sometimes other things, depending on what is nearby). After I explain the procedure to the group and get things started, I often find myself standing and waiting for the kids to teach each other. It's a good time to look around for things to take pictures of. As usual, there were dozens of glistening little spider webs strung throughout the branches of the Madrone trees, but webs are extremely hard to photograph properly.

At the end of the activity, many of the kids complained the their "students" didn't listen properly. Welcome to the world of teaching.
The work week continues to flow easily. Yesterday a group of students in a park ranger program came up to the site to get some hands-on experience. I had four of them tag along with my class for the morning hike. Two of them oversaw the "web of life" activity (teaching interconnectedness using a length of string or yarn) with the kids, and two of them ran the "meet a tree" activity (kids taking turns wearing blindfolds and exploring with their other senses). All four of them were competent, but with room for improvement. It was actually helpful for me to observe and critique them, since observation sometimes can offer insight into one's own strengths and weaknesses.

Today, as I stopped the group on the ranger road overlooking the meadow under which the San Andreas fault zone lies, one of the kids yelled, "snake!" Sure enough, as it always seems to be the case when this happens, it was a Rattlesnake. After getting everybody to stand on the far side of the road, I coaxed the little fellow out onto the trail so the kids could see it. Cameras flashed. The snake, unused to paparazzi, quickly slid back into the dry autumn grass.

I'm blogging from work right now. It's a little warmer than it was yesterday, but not warm enough to be a bother. There are kids outside the room talking about how bad the bathroom smells. Now they're comparing it to how the pond smells. Okay, they're still talking about it. Now they're yelling and running off. Ah, recess. Emphasis on the cess, I guess.

Monday, October 03, 2005

It's finally starting to feel like autumn. It was sunny, but cool and breezy today. Leaves are starting to leave trees and drift downward with graceful ease.

The kids this week are sixth graders, with all of the almost-teenager drama that this entails. There are lots of autistic and other special day class kids at camp too, although none of them are in my field group. I had a good time today, even though we got a late start. I got everybody to crawl around in the dirt with their eyes closed just for the hell of it. Most of them thought it was pretty cool too, even though it meant getting dirty. Things kept going like that, with an energy that I like to attribute to the changing of the seasons, for the duration of the class.

It all wore off by the time I got home. I'm a little sore from the extensive hike we took yesterday. I never get quite enough sleep because I stubbornly stay up too late. We're always worrying about the details of existence here in this prohibitively expensive region. Sounds like a good time to go immerse myself in a book. I just finished "Fire on the Mountain" by Edward Abbey, and am starting a new one called "Shadow of the Wind" by Carlos Ruiz Zafon. It's quite promising so far. The Abbey book was great too. Let's hear it for crusty old-timers stubbornly resisting the U.S. government!

Time to go before the monitor shorts out again. Sleep well, live long.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

I went on a long hike with M today through Henry Cowell park. We followed the train tracks for awhile before descending to cross and recross the creek a few times, the first time to discover a pair of abandoned sunglasses, but no trail, and the second time to actually discover a trail that went in the direction we needed to go. Finding the sunglasses was funny because that's the way I always get sunglasses. I have never once actually purchased a pair. They always appear before me on the ground. Well, except for the last pair I found, which was under a log.

Another interesting thing happened on the trail leading down to the creek. A woman and her dog (a Siberian Husky, I think) were ascending the hill towards us. The dog was proudly carrying something in its mouth. The woman looked somewhat embarassed. "He found a deer leg and I can't get him to let it go," she told us as we passed.
"So, you're taking it home with you then?", I asked. She replied that she most definitely was not. The dog, oblivious to the conversation and drooling over its prize, padded past without looking at us.

I'll bet she had a battle getting the dog to relinquish the leg.

Oh, and we found some crayfish. As the photo shows, they weren't happy about being discovered.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Last night, with the three older kids at their dad's place, and Willow in bed early, Jen and I sat down to watch "O Brother, Where Art Thou?" to help us unwind from the chaos of the day. Sadly, unwinding was not on tap for the evening. Willow woke up less than halfway through the movie with a barking cough. It soon became evident that she was having trouble breathing, so we jumped back into our clothes and took her to the nearest emergency room. Jen had already decided that it was probably croup, but we didn't want to take any chances. At the ER, the doctor agreed with her diagnosis and an unhappy Willow got some medicine and a moist air treatment to help her breathe a little more easily. One of the nurses even brought in a TV so she could watch cartoons. This calmed her down a bit, and soon we were told we could go home. Willow happily said "bye bye" to everybody we passed as we left.

She is much better today, with a lingering hoarseness the only indication that she's sick.

Friday, September 30, 2005

Two short critter stories:

Less than half an hour ago, as I was about to walk in the front door, I noticed a very handsome Alligator Lizard resting on the step. Unlike the Kingsnake that showed up there a few weeks back, it was not in a cage, so I picked it up and took some pictures. It pooped on me. I decided at that point to let it go in the yard - the other option being keeping it until I could release it in the hills while at work. Since I had just a couple of days ago freed the last native creature to end up on the step, I figured the yard would have to do.

The other one happened at work. I felt something in my hair, and thinking it was a leaf or some other innocent bit of plant matter, reached up and plucked it out. To my surprise I discovered that I was deftly holding a Yellowjacket between my thumb and forefinger. I was holding it just hard enough to prevent it from flying away or stinging me. Any more pressure and it would have been squished. Any less pressure and I would have been stung. I let it go at that point, and it flew around the staff room for awhile before finding an exit.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

I took the California Kingsnake to work this morning, and we let it go in the garden. It made a good visual for the lesson about how organic farmers protect their crop from pests. Everything else went by quickly, and according to plan. It was hotter than I would have liked, but I'm sure that will change soon enough. I took some luminol and bleach water with me on the night hike - substances that, when mixed, glow blue for a brief moment. The kids thought it was pretty cool, and it made a great introduction to the glow worm story I tell before feeding them lifesavers that spark in the dark. The only problem is that at the end of the hike, I had to carry the plastic container full of the liquid mixture back to camp. It just wouldn't do to dump bleach on the trail. I'll have to think of a better way to transport it if I do it again.

At home I ate a big bowl of ice cream. You have to be fast around here to get ice cream. It mysteriously vanishes.

Hmmm... and I can't seem to upload photos at the moment. Maybe later.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Here's a photo that would have had a rabbit in it if it hadn't hopped out of frame. Instead it has some small, barely visible birds (Juncos, I think) towards the bottom. It doesn't matter though, since it is a better view than a lot of people have at work, even those with corner offices. The only other photo I took today was of a small, very surprised field mouse, which turned out blurry. I didn't photograph the small, very dead, shrew on the road.

At home, Sophie and Nate managed to break three of our four plastic backyard chairs by throwing large rocks at them. So now all that remains of our table and chair set is one chair. The table met an untimely end during the Tree Trimming Incident some time back. I guess our yard furniture is just ill-fated.

We are enjoying the new shade structure that K gave to us, and the new/old pale blue, wooden picnic table she indefinitely lent to us. It's all out on the patio, and it's almost as if we've added an extra room onto the house. A nice place to do homework for the boys, and a nice place to eat for those of us who feel so inclined... until it rains, anyway.

Nothing much else going on. I'm trying to break up my routines at work by trying new stuff - new educational strategies. One of these days I'll actually write it all down. I got the benefit of having one of the long-time field instructors observe my class today, and he had some helpful observations. He, along with one of the other old-timers, are mixing it up this week by trailing along with different classes to either observe or be observed. In addition to this, there are a couple of people from an outside agency randomly observing the staff as well. It's good to get feedback. I don't know about others, but it always lights a fire under my butt when I get any kind of feedback. It makes me want to improve the way I do things, even when the feedback is positive.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

They're predicting thunderstorms for tomorrow. I've been watching the clouds all day, and I think that they just might be right. I love watching the sky darken and the clouds grow heavy. I love hearing the wind kick up, and the sound of leaves scuttering across the driveway. I mean no disrespect to those who live on the gulf coast when I say that. They've got hurricanes, we've got earthquakes. I just heard part of a program on the radio on the subject. After the world saw what a fiasco the aftermath of hurricane Katrina was, everybody is making sure to be prepared for any eventuality. That means we'll probably be hearing a lot about earthquake preparedness for awhile.

I'm getting a cold. Hope it doesn't get any worse.

Oh, and thanks again, Kerstin!

I just went out and bought a couple of cds witht the tip money I got from this weekend's parties. New Dar Williams and new Rasputina. Just got a new Current 93 single in the mail too. Yippee!

Thursday, September 22, 2005

This season's second week of outdoor school is drawing to a close. Once again I have a pretty good group of kids. Sure, some of them don't listen...

The phone just rang - it was my stepmother in law (is that a real term?) calling from the freeway about 200 miles from Dallas. She's been on the road with Jen's dad since about seven this morning Pacific time, part of the stream of evacuees heading north from Houston to avoid the landfall of Hurricane Rita. That's over fifteen hours in the car so far. It looks like they might beat my record of 23 non-stop hours of driving. Of course, when I did it, it wasn't in bumper to bumper traffic. I hope their home weathers the storm okay. I hope nobody dies this time. We can all hope, can't we?

Anyway, as I was saying before the phone call, my week went well, with no abnormal problems. One of the other field instructors had a girl tumble down a hill during the night hike last night. Luckily she was okay. I think we all worry about that happening. As for my night hike, we got to watch bats darting around in the late evening glow, catching insects. Very nice.

This week did come with one mystery though. Somebody paid for an upgrade to my Flickr account so I can basically upload as many photos per month as I want. If you are that mystery benefactor, I thank you. That was very nice of you. I'll try to upload lots of interesting photos for your perusal.

Jen is out with her mom seeing a play. The kids all stayed up too late, like they always do when she isn't here. The good thing about that is that when they finally do conk out, they do it without arguing. Sophie is asleep in front of the TV wearing a Halloween costume. Willow fell asleep in my arms, which was nice. The boys stayed up late dawdling over their homework, and fell asleep almost instantly when they hit the pillows. There are all sorts of things I could be doing right now instead of typing, but I'm tired too, so I'm typing.

Maybe I'll stop now though, because now I'm typing about typing. That's boring.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

So it did indeed rain yesterday. Real, honest-to-goodness lightning forked down out of the sky for most of the afternoon. The paper today said that it hasn't rained here on this particular date since 1948. I love a good storm, as long as it doesn't render whole cities uninhabitable. Poor gulf coast. First Katrina, and now it looks like Rita is going to hammer Texas. I can't help but think about all of the people from New Orleans who got shuttled off to Houston. Now there's a voluntary evacuation happening there. They must feel cursed. Jen's dad and stepmom, who live in Houston, have headed north to stay with his parents, just to be safe...

It makes our little downpour seem like nothing.

Jen's birthday was today. She's 35. Happy birthday, Jen!

Enjoy the photos. I'm constantly thinking about how fortunate I am to have a job where I can take pictures like this. The first photo is of rain pounding the roof of the old cabins, which are slated to be torn down soon to make way for the new lodge. The second is of a Big Leaf Maple leaf, held up to the sun. The third is of Bay Laurel leaves, limned with light.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Here's some more babble about Wooden Octopus Skull.
The weather forecast calls for rain late tonight and into tomorrow. I don't believe it. Today was too hot and clear to allow me to believe that any rain is forthcoming. One can hope, though. Jen's birthday and the Autumn Equinox are both happening this week. Happy almost birthday to Jen! Happy almost Equinox to us all.

Earlier, Sophie (okay, I'll stop calling her "The Dickens" now - Willow is quickly taking over that particular calling, that mischievous devilry of the very young...), Willow, and I went out and spent some time with the frogs. Sophie is quite adept at catching the Milkweed bugs (called "Fence Bugs" by the kids after their preferred perching place) in jars and dropping them in the frog cage. The frogs hide while she does this, but when nobody is looking pop up out of the murk and swallow all of the bugs like nobody's business. There is only one cricket left from yesterday too. Hungry frogs.

I went to the pet store yesterday and got food for all of the various reptiles and arachnids. Then I filled the car with gas, which I notice has gone down in price slightly. It's funny how doing simple things like this makes me feel more on top of things. That's the secret of life, I guess. Get all of the little tasks out of the way. Clean the house. Get rid of stuff that you don't use (Jen spent some time doing this today - maybe I should too). Lots more to do though, as usual.

Okay, it looks like the kids are all asleep now. Time to go watch some more Six Feet Under.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

After finally getting the cable we needed, we just tried to hook up our backup monitor, only to find that it has problems of its own, so we'll have to live a bit longer with the one that shuts itself off without warning on an increasingly regular basis. Oh, the woes of the modern era!

The past week was pretty much a dream week for me at work. The kids from all three of the schools staying a camp were thoughtful, well-educated, and relatively well-behaved. There were no problems from my end at all. I haven't gotten back into a routine yet, which is a good thing. Falling into a routine can kill creativity. I'm trying to do things that I haven't done before, which will ensure that I continue to be enthusiastic about going to work.

I did a science birthday party today as well, which is something I haven't done since mid-July. It went smoothely, but the parents, being wealthy and thus disconnected from the trials and travails of the proletariat, neglected to tip me. A pox on them. A couple of the kids in attendance recognized me from summer camp though. That was nice.

Here's a couple of pictures that I couldn't put up on Flickr due to my being too cheap to pay for an upgrade. The first one is of the Seattle skyline, as seen from Gasworks park. The second is a detail from a piece of art that was literally under my feet as I took the first picture. The third was taken outside the ReBar, and what a disreputable looking bunch they are...

Time for bed now.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Hey! More Wooden Octopus Skull photos. I'm not sure who by. Some great shots though. (edited to add: G called and told me that they were taken by the Canadians who interviewed us. Credit where credit is due and all that...)
Also, I just found another handful of photos here. Right above some Destiny's Child photos. WTF?

We just finished watching season four of Six Feet Under too. One more season to go. Then what?

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

got back from Seattle early Monday afternoon, and spent the day just hanging out with Jen and the kids... oh, and grocery shopping. On Tuesday I was at work from 8:30 AM to 9 PM, so it was almost like I was still away. Same with today. I'm at work right now, in that noisy lull in activity known as recess.

Seattle is an interesting city. It has enough hills and waterways to make the scenery interesting. There seems to be a lot of public art as well. Especially cool is the huge troll under the Aurora st. bridge. It has one silvery eye, and its outsized left hand grips a real volkswagon. The gasworks park is pretty interesting too, with its rusted mini-skyline of old gas processing equipment and a nice view of the downtown area from a grassy hill. Also of interest was Archie McPhee's, a store that specializes in bizarre toys and novelty items. I got the boys some Mexican jumping beans and the girls some Parasite Pals paraphenalia (a line of items featuring cute little characters who just happen to be parasites, including a head louse, bedbug, tapeworm, and eyelash mite). Sweet. We also managed to visit a couple of Thai restaurants, and a landmark movie theater showing Herzog's Grizzly Man, which was totally brilliant. The story was just tailor made for Herzog.

We got picked up at the airport by a guy named Sean, who would prove to be indespensible over the course of our stay. He was the Wooden Octopus Skull Pfestival's driver, and spent a lot of time cheerfully shuttling people to and from the airport, and driving us here and there around the city. Despite his claims of laziness, he never really stopped working for the whole week, even helping cook the vast amounts of pancakes and waffles for the Sunday pancake extravaganza. What a guy! All hours of the day and night!

We stayed at William and Leslie's place again (like we did last December) and fell victim to a territorial cat. G's jacket and my sleeping bag were the main targets. On the first morning of our stay, they proved to be moist. When I lifted my sleeping bag up, cat nuggets rolled off onto the floor. She was always sweet to our faces though. Probably passive aggressive. William and Leslie themselves, being festival organizers, popped in and out as they juggled running their record store and the festival.

The festival itself was at four different venues, the first of which was the Sunset Tavern (on Ballard St. near Market, if I remember correctly). Thursday night's show took place here. The headliners were the Portland Bike Ensemble, who used bicycles as instruments. I've seen this done before, but never exclusively. We missed Friday night's show at the ReBar, due to our wish to see Grizzly Man. There were two shows on Saturday, the first of which took place in the early afternoon at a bar called the Funhouse, located almost directly underneath the Space Needle. The Funhouse has an emergency exit located directly behind the stage, and doesn't allow anybody to set things up in front of it, so performers had to work their way around this restriction. We were a little less than pleased to learn this, since that is where we were playing the next afternoon.
Saturday evening's show was at the ReBar, and turned out to be one of the better ones. My favorites were a band from Portland called Smegma, the members of which seemed to range in age from twenty-something to sixty-something. I guess I would describe them as strange, somewhat humorous garage rock, with a large variety of instruments. The raw, pounding bits often meandered off into stranger territory before being reined in again by the drums. The headliners for the evening were the mighty Caroliner, who have been putting out strangely decorated records for nearly two decades now. The one I have, for instance, contains part of an old shoe. The existence of one containing a dead rat is also a story I've heard now and then (real San Francisco garbage!). For this show, the band had decorated the stage with brightly, obsessively painted bits of cardboard and various dangly things hanging and spinning from the ceiling. The stage was lit by blacklight, and the band was unrecognizable beneath large, bulky costumes that resembled an amalgamation of farm animal and garage sale trash. The music was loud, heavy, and utterly weird. One of the best bands of the festival. I saw them at Gilman St. during the late eighties, and they were weird then too. This was much more elaborate though.
We played on Sunday, with Broken Penis Orchestra, who were really cool, with funny masks, noisy noise, and strange video footage (Stan, who runs Psychform records and acted as MC for the whole festival is the main guy here - a great guy who also didn't seem to sleep for the duration of the festival and stayed at the forefront of things all week). Bill Horist played too and did some very inventive things with his guitar. Climax Golden Twins did an interesting, noisy set from one of the booths opposite the bar (They've been around for years as well, but until now their music was unknown to me, although apparently every performance is quite different). We played after them, and it was pretty chaotic due to the lack of monitors (feedback problems), but lots of fun. Matt's costume broke open and packing peanuts went everywhere. Sean cheerfully cleaned it up. Hans Grusel's Krankenkabinet wrapped things up with a wall of noise that morphed into a strange dance number at the end. Inventive. Afterwards a bunch of us went out for thai food and wandered around the Space Needle. There's a small amusement park at its base, so we went on rides as the sun set. I just went on the ferris wheel, due to a distinct lack of funds and a belly full of thai food. Beautiful view though. It was like a slice of some more innocent period of history (if there really was such a time, which I doubt), or maybe like a Saturday night in small town America. It wasn't lost on me though that we had spent much of September 11th in the shadow of a very recognizable national landmark. So much for innocence.
Afterwards, we walked to a well appointed bar called the Baltic Room. Stan played again, this time with a project called Broken Human Machine. This was a more sober affair than the afternoon show, being more of a drone. Almost somber. At that point, we where whisked across the street to be interviewed by a couple of people from a radio station in Vancouver. As the interview progressed, police cars entered the parking lot and I think somebody was searching the building directly behind us, lending a certain air of tension to the proceedings. Nobody hassled us though. Later, we watched the Spider Compass Crime Band (I've got to check to see if I have that name right...), who, dressed as ten foot tall vultures, played some really twisted, gothic organ-sounding music on their keyboards. Then, Steve did an absolutely incredible DJ set (in surround sound!) from his rather extensive back catalog. He had originally planned to do a mellow, lounge-ey type of thing, but quickly got irritated with people talking over it and switched to a much louder, rhythmic set. People danced. We got home late and stayed up even later talking with William and Leslie, who finally had time to talk since the festival was officially over. Oh yeah, we had a picnic of hummus, bread, ginger beer and berries in the parking lot of a local grocery store at 2:30 in the morning. A nice little moment.

One other funny anecdote. Steve had a little trouble at the airport at the start of his journey due to the fact that one of his fingerprints didn't match their records. It turns out that if you smash your finger with a hammer it can alter your fingerprints. Who knew? He showed them his smashed fingernail and they let him continue.

What else? There was an auction for pieces of art by Steve and M to raise money for a couple of bands who had lost almost everything during hurricane Katrina. Steve's fetched $500. Not sure how much M's brought in. A hurricane relief can was in evidence all weekend as well.

There were a lot of great people involved in this event, and lots of favorable response from what I could see. It will probably become an annual thing.

Now I'm back at work, and it feels great to be back. The kids are really cool this week, and we've found some critters too - a Garter Snake, a couple of Scorpions, and the usual assortment of deer. I saw a Raccoon passing the cabins during dinner yesterday too.

Okay, people are in line for the computer. Time to stop.