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.