Thursday, December 28, 2006
Jen's on a secret mission right now, and the kids have friends over, so I'd better go make sure the rest of the house is still standing. Be good to one another.
Monday, December 25, 2006
Oh, the the people got lots of cool stuff too. We also got (and still get) to hang out with loved ones.
Merry Christmas. Hope you all aren't too bloated with consumption.
Thursday, December 21, 2006
To nobody's surprise (at least not to those who know me), much of the music I bought fits the mood evoked by gray, rainy days. It's going to take a little while for all of this music to sink in. I hope the days stay gray. It's comforting somehow.
Unfortunately, all of this music consumption reminds me that I've been stuck in a creative rut myself. I haven't drawn or written much (outside of blogging) lately. I think most of my extra energy is spent on work and family. In fact, Willow is in the room now, so I'm going to hang out with her now.
Wednesday, December 20, 2006
Nate is now 8, and one more party at the local video arcade is behind us. Willow's class held a Christmas party, at which the "surprise guest" turned out to be the same Santa the girls met after the parade a few weeks ago. Nothing like a little continuity in the Santa department to ensure belief. He's a good Santa too, with a genuine beard. That helps. Willow and Sophie both got to sit on his lap again.
I'm off work this week and next. I've been spending lots of time visiting all of the local Tower Records locations in an obsessive quest for bargains. A few days ago I met up with an old friend/ex-coworker at the Tower we used to work at, and we walked around reminiscing and bargain hunting for awhile. That was fun. Today I discovered that the San Jose Tower had everything in the store priced at a dollar. I also discovered that the store manager is somebody I used to work with when I was a Tower employee. Of course, now he's out of work.
For me, it was just a bunch of shallow retail therapy. I bought loads of cool cds though.
Friday, December 15, 2006
I was inspired by the fact that one of the teachers at camp this week made a deal with her kids that if they managed to stay out of trouble all week she'd cut off ten inches of hair on the last day of camp. To tell you the truth, I didn't think she'd actually do it, but at the end of the week, during our closing ceremony on the last day of camp before the holidays, she had one of her fellow teachers take the scissors to her hair. She's going to send the hair to Locks Of Love, of course, so it can be made into a wigs for cancer patients. Pretty cool thing to do. She even overlooked the fact that a couple of kids did actually get in trouble during the week.
We also had an incident involving an off-balance camper and a tumble off a wall into the creek. The kid rumor mill ran wild with that one for awhile, with reports of paralysis and shattered bones. In the end it turned out that he only had a few bruises. He did get an ambulance ride to the hospital though. A field instructor once fell in the same place and broke her arm in two or three places. This time we were lucky.
Wednesday, December 13, 2006
I've gone to Tower Records a couple of times this week. I got well tipped for the party I did last rainy Saturday (beautiful day, with rain making the city somehow indistinct, almost dreamlike, and gusts of yellow leaves scudding across the asphalt) and for helping tie trees onto cars at the Christmas tree lot. I scoured the two local Towers for overlooked gems (granted, a lot of the music I like tends to get overlooked) and got some good cds for 60% off. I'm curious to see how much more prices will drop in the next week and a half before the chain closes for good.
It's almost 10 PM. Time to think about going to bed. It's finally quiet in the house. Maybe I'll read for awhile instead.
Friday, December 08, 2006
Then the holidays will be upon us.
Sadly though, there are a couple of people I knew who won't be here for the holidays this year. These two people, one of whom I hadn't seen in years, passed away early this month, both from illness. The first was Sam Kress, who once sang for old Bay Area heavy metal band, Heathen, and co-created the magazine, Whiplash, with my old friend Brian. I didn't know him well, but he was part of the heavy metal community I chose to be part of as a teenager. If nothing else, his death has gotten a lot of people talking with each other for the first time in decades. That's something, at least. R.I.P. Sam.
Virgil Lorenz also passed away. He lived on site at the school I work at, and acted as kind of a night watchman, making sure all of the various doors and gates were locked after dark. In fact, my last conversation with him was about a missing lock on the front gate. He led another life too, as can be seen on this site. He will be missed by many. R.I.P. Virgil.
Hard to segue away from such sombre news, but one must continue...
As for me, I'm working at a Christmas tree lot again this year to make a little bit of extra money for the holidays. Another birthday has passed too. For my birthday, Greg took me to see John Waters up in San Francisco. Wanda Jackson, a rockabilly contemporary of Elvis, opened the show. She must be in her seventies, but she had a great voice and actually got me to enjoy rockabilly, which in most circumstances I do not. John Waters, now sixty, is still just as crass and hilarious as ever. A good night out. I haven't laughed that much in awhile.
Thursday, November 30, 2006
My week off came with a pair of feasts, the first with Jen's nearby kin, and the second with my side of the family, with Matt included for good measure. Jen's mom put together some fantastic food on Thursday, and everybody except Willow gorged themselves. Willow spent most of her time running up and down the hallway.
Jen cooked up a second Thanksgiving feast on Saturday, with Greg, Matt, and my Mom and Dad in attendance. Unfortunately, this coincided with me getting some sort of disease. My stomach hurt for a few days and the wonderful food that Jen cooked made a u-turn somewhere inside me. I felt pretty bad about this, because my immediate family only gathers under one roof once or twice a year, and this time I didn't really get to enjoy it or help out. Jen and Matt ended up doing most of the work while I slept.
I had improved enough by Monday to be able to go to work, but even now still feel kind of drained. Good thing the kids this week are easy. Catholic school kids again. Last night's night hike was one of the most beautiful of the season, with ghostly puddles of moonlight dappling the forest floor and a magical stillness taking hold. It's not often that a group of sixth graders falls under this spell. Usually they're too nervous and giggly to ever be silent for long enough to really get a feel for the forest. Last night I think they got it. We even managed to stuff the whole group inside the stump of a thousand-year-old Redwood tree. That was pretty cool.
Tuesday, November 21, 2006
One of these days I might even get the courage to get a haircut. My self image has always involved me having long hair for some reason - some sort of left over from childhood when I decided that long hair looked cool. Yeah, it also stems from an obsession with heavy metal and a frustration with, well... I'm not sure what it was a frustration with at the time. Perhaps with the popular kids and their little cliques. Now I have more adult frustrations, but they do run along similar lines.
The bright side of getting a haircut would be that I would never again have to think up a reply to, "how long did it take to grow your hair?" It's a hard question to answer because I can't even remember what year it was the last time I got it trimmed, let alone cut. I think it was sometime in the late eighties.
I'm too much a creature of habit. Sometimes that's a good thing. Sometimes it's not. Grant me the wisdom to know the difference.
Sunday, November 19, 2006
What next. Squirrels in top hats?
Later, still shaking my head over the bad taste of people who clothe their pets, I went to Tower Records to circle like a vulture around the racks of cds and dvds. Everything is now discounted by at least 40%, which means the prices have finally plummeted below the normal prices of other nearby stores. The world music section had about 5 cds in it. The magazines are nearly gone. All of the other sections are but shadows of their former selves. A couple of things I'd had my eyes on were gone. I did find a few things at bargain prices though, and I wrote down a few other titles that I'll probably pick up if they're still on the shelves next week or the week after. It's a gamble, not knowing if the things I want will be there when the discount is more favorable.
Now Willow is in here with a dragon mask, repeating, "can I wear this?" over and over again. Hold on....
Okay, where was I?
I did another reptile party this weekend, out towards the central valley in Livermore. Most of the kids were five years old and younger, so we split the "sit down and focus" part of the party into two sections by serving pizza and cake halfway through. I gave out a few of the cool Flickr business cards that Jen got me for our anniversary last month, so I'll probably be out that way again soon. It takes me nearly an hour to get out there, but the money I get for my time definitely makes in worth the trip. Of course, not to sound overly avaricious, the kids make it worthwhile too.
I took the picture of the sunset last night. I stood out in the driveway with Willow in my arms as we watched the colors darken. It was a nice moment.
Greg and Matt are in Boston at the Brainwaves festival. Wish I could have gone. I'm sure they'll have some good stories when they return.
This week marked the last camp week of the year for our second site. The campers came all the way up from garlic-smelling Gilroy, from a school that had never been to our camp before. The kids were so enthusiastic about camp that they yelled at the bus to, "go away!" when it arrived to pick them up on Friday. They were also plotting to disable the engine. They all got shuttled back to their school as planned, of course. Good week though. Three more to go at our main site after Thanksgiving week, then Christmas break. Where did the year go?
Saturday, November 11, 2006
Despite the crispness in the air, my hiking group found four Garter snakes on the trails around camp this week. Pictured here is the first find. We also had a minor run-in with Yellowjackets when one of the kids got to close to an underground nest. It might have been much worse if the weather had been warmer. As it was, one boy got stung on the side and one girl got stung on the tongue. I administered vinegar to the wounded and flicked a few wasps off of hats and jackets. It's funny to watch them busily stinging clothing. Talk about wasted effort.
Then, on the same hike, my cabin leaders (teen volunteers) forgot to check to make sure the kids picked up the backpack containing camp journals and the tote bag with the extra water, costing me an extra forty five minute round trip hike to retrieve them. It actually ended up being kind of nice though. It has been awhile since I've gone on a hike without being followed by a big group of kids. I love leading kids, of course, but the solitude of the solo hike helps me recharge batteries drained by the constant chaos of children.
All of the schools this week were private catholic schools. Students from three of the four schools were dropped off by parents rather than by bus, so the week began and ended with a severe parking crunch. On Friday, I actually had to guide the one bus in because there were about two inches of clearance on either side of it due to the sloppy parking jobs of the mobs parents who felt they were entitled to park wherever their SUV driving little hearts felt like. Apparently one parent parked right in the middle of the one road leading up to camp. I've seen this behavior while dropping off our own kids at school, and while manning the bus stop during summer camp. A certain percentage of the population seems to operate outside the realm of common sense and common courtesy.
On the bright side, while talking to the catholic school teachers, we learned that the Pope is now cool with the concept of evolution, at least to a degree.
I ended the week by actually getting to go out and see a movie with Jen - Stranger Than Fiction (which is both the name of the film we saw and very descriptive of our actually getting to go out on a date together, given all of our various commitments and perpetual lack of funds). Very good film.
Thursday, November 02, 2006
Jerusalem Crickets - several of them
Banana Slug - 7 or 8 of 'em
One big Harvestman
Clusters of Ladybugs
Crayfish - 2 or 3 of them
Pacific Giant Salamander larvae - 2 or 3 of them
Slender Salamander - out walking around in the rain
California Newts - 99 of them! During one class!
Western Fence Lizard - 4 or 5 of them
Northern Alligator Lizard
Garter snake - one little baby
Lots of other little brownish birds moving too quickly to identify
+ rabbit and raccoon scat
Wednesday, November 01, 2006
Tomorrow night I get to do Halloween again, this time at work, where we'll be throwing a Halloween party for this week's campers. It's just started raining too, so the possibly of a wet Halloween party has to be factored into our plans. As for now, we're all about to go on night hikes. Wish I'd thought to bring some rain gear. Oh, well.
Sunday, October 29, 2006
It's only 4:22 right now, but it should be 5:22. Only slightly over three hours to go and I'll have earned my $300 and I can go home. I love a job that pays me to watch movies and eat chocolate covered espresso beans. And blog, of course. I think I'll go do some stargazing now. It's a beautiful night.
Saturday, October 28, 2006
Jen's getting some time away from home this weekend. Last night she went out with friends, and today she's out shopping with her mom. Willow and I are hanging out at home, playing board games and eating cookies. Willow has a fever, but seems to have improved over last night.
Later, I get to earn some extra money by going to work and staying there, awake, all night. A weekend group renting the site is paying me $30 an hour to be a night supervisor. I think the teachers are worried that their high school students will try to sneak out and make mischief. My job: catch them and send them back to bed. I might blog about how things are progressing sometime in the middle of the night. We'll see...
Thursday, October 26, 2006
Happy anniversary to us! Here's to many more to come.
Tuesday, October 24, 2006
I'm doing something a bit different this week. Instead of having a field class and teaching natural science, I'm the "hub host." A hub host is in charge of the day to day running of the camp - getting the kids in to meals, coordinating other activities with campers, cabin leaders, and classroom teachers, as well as other staff members, and being in the hub (camp office) so kids who are sick, injured, in trouble, or just plain clueless, can get the help they need.
Fortunately, I picked a great week to try something new - all of the kids, cabin leaders, and teachers are first class, making my job quite easy. Right now the kids are out on the trails and camp is quiet. A doe, with faun in tow, just passed through the amphitheater area. Yellow leaves are falling and it's quiet enough to hear them hit the ground.
Last night I got to hear a large group of coyotes yipping it up quite close to camp. I don't hear them often, so I'm always glad when I hear them. They almost sound like a loud group of people if one isn't listening carefully.
I just picked some Madrone berries too. I'll probably give them to Alex, since he's mired down in the middle of an Ohlone Indian project and the Ohlone ate the berries.
The ravens are croaking up in a nearby tree too. Very nice.
Saturday, October 21, 2006
With this in mind, I took a group of students into a short tunnel that leads away from Lake Ranch Reservoir - just for old times sake, and because they asked to go in. It's a lot harder to walk stooped over than it was when I was a kid, and the tunnel led to a drop off, so we had to turn around and go back. Still, it was fun. My job keeps me young.
The kids this week were probably the best informed of any of the groups I've led in the last two years. This meant that the "lesson" part of each class was short, and the experiential part was extended. The discussions went deeper and exploration time was longer. I suppose walking through drainage tunnels counts and learning about watersheds and water supplies, which are things we're supposed to teach. Maybe I'll do things like that more often.
Speaking of doing things more often, I ended up back at the children's museum today so I could borrow back my tarantula and scorpion. The girls went with me and had a great time until it became evident to them that we were about to leave. Willow had quite a meltdown at that point, but with a little help from one of the staff members I was able to get the arachnids and the girls back to the car.
A few hours later I put just about all of my animals in the car and took them all to Livermore for a Halloween party. We all had a great time, and the $150 I got paid for the trip definitely made it worth my while. While there I noticed that once again there were baby cockroaches in the cockroach cage - the day after I'd picked out all of the babies from last week.
Does anybody want some cockroaches?
Monday, October 16, 2006
Saturday I did another birthday party. Sunday I supervised the work crew at our school.
I need to recover from my weekend.
This week has started well. The weather is cloudy and cool. The kids are brilliant. Jen and Willow dropped in at lunch to say hi, which was a pleasant surprise. The Rattlesnake is back in its usual place, and I found the first Ensatina of the season. One of the kids decided that his camp name is going to be Salt Marsh Harvest Mouse. I like that.
Sunday, October 08, 2006
Lots of additional photos can be found on Flickr.
Today we had a small birthday party for Alex over at Nickel City. The kids loved it. The adults were a little exasperated by the rather disorganized staff. The key to the storage room where the beverages were kept had left the building in the pocket of a homeward-bound employee who had to be called back to work so the kids could have drinks.
I'm sure all of this is damn boring except to members of our immediate family. Sorry.
In slightly more universal news. Tower Records has been sold and is being liquidated. I spent a lot of time during my childhood taking the bus there to buy records, and more time during my young adult life working there for very little pay. I could probably write a book on my experiences there. The magazines, movies, and music that came home with me while I was a Tower employee (great employee discount and free video rentals - almost making up for the miserable little paychecks) played a great part in shaping my current interests. I went down to the nearest Tower earlier this evening to see if there was a sale on yet. There was, but so far the cds and dvds are only 10% off, with books 20% off and magazines 30% off. The woman behind the register told me that they'll be open for two more months. I think I'll wait for the prices to plummet further. So, instead of buying anything at Tower, I went to another nearby cd store where I ran into a guy who recognized me from when I worked at Tower. He was a tall, sort of crazy looking guy with a big beard and a handful of heavy metal cds who said he'd worked in the record department (I was over in books) at the same time I'd been there. I've just now remembered (I think) that he was clean shaven when he worked there. This was the kind of thing that happened to people who started working at Tower. They grew beards, stopped cutting their hair, adorned themselves with piercings and tattoos, and eventually just dropped out of sight, probably because their parents finally kicked them out and they had to go find real jobs or live on the street. This particular guy looked like one of the latter.
Friday, October 06, 2006
This was also the first week this season during which no snakes were found. I did come across a few scorpions, including one missing a claw, and a caddisfly larva that had made its home inside a little piece of stick.
On Tuesday night I went up to San Francisco to see Celtic Frost. Read more about it here. Read Umlaut's report here.
In the car, I've been listening to the Cowboy Junkies. It's just the time of year when their music meshes well with everything.
Tomorrow, Jen and I are going to her sister's wedding, which is being held in the same place that an old friend of mine got married a decade or so ago on Halloween.
Monday, October 02, 2006
I finally found out more information about these spiders! I happened to flick through a bug book somebody left in the staff room at work. On the page with the California Ebony Tarantula (the big, brown, hairy tarantulas one often sees out and about this time of year) there was a passing mention of something called a Calisoga Spider. Sure enough, armed with the name and looking online, I found out that these spiders, which go by the common name Funnel Web Tarantulas, aren't actually true tarantulas at all. Just tarantula-like. This solved a little mystery for me. It's funny that the article I found advises people not to pick them up - you can pick them up if you do it really carefully. The one in the photo trying to use my radio only tried to bite me once. It missed. Another time I had one in my hand and it got startled by the kids all straining to see it. It lunged at my palm with fangs extended but stopped short of biting me. Bluff. I'm not sure if they're all bluffers or if I just got lucky with that particular individual.
Today's other animal story involves a pigeon that has moved into the staff room. It first tried roosting in the staff storage room we refer to as "the nook," but I evicted it by carrying outside the storage box it was perched on. Later, it walked back in and is now dozing on top of some shelves. It shows no inclination to leave. Judging by the bands on its legs, I think it was a captive pigeon. It sure doesn't seem to mind people...
Thursday, September 28, 2006
I took a couple of my fellow field instructors up to look at the Rattlesnake family yesterday, only to find that they weren't in their usual place. This minor mystery was soon solved when we heard some rustling sounds in the nearby bushes, which soon proved to have been made by a man with a nice camera and a couple of homemade snake sticks - one a hook for turning over boards and logs, and the other a grabber for moving Rattlesnakes. He told us that he'd just finished photographing the Rattlesnakes, and that they'd all crawled back into their holes.
And all along I thought I was the only one doing this!
At any rate, we all introduced ourselves and then talked reptiles for awhile, sharing stories about local finds. He's seen both Sharp-tailed snakes and Night snakes, which are the two local snakes I've yet to come across. Apparently I haven't been looking far enough up the hill or far enough up the peninsula. He also told me about this website, which I think I'll have to start visiting regularly.
Friday, September 22, 2006
Yesterday was a Coyote day. According to various Native American legends, Coyote is a trickster, not to be trusted, so if I was superstitious I could read all sorts of stuff into this. They aren't often seen (by me, anyway) during the day, so it was really surprising to see two. I spotted the first one on my way to work while turning onto the little road leading up to camp. It vanished into the undergrowth before I got much more than a glimpse. The second one was just hanging out at the reservoir. The reservoir is at the top of a .6 mile hill, and as usual I solo-hiked the campers up this stretch (to avoid having to listen to them complain about how steep the trail is). This means that I got to the top about five minutes in advance of the first kid. I got a chance to look at the Coyote through binoculars and take some bad pictures of it while it eyed the waterfowl just out of reach floating out in the reservoir. The first two kids to finish their solo hike got to see it too, but it left before the rest made it up the hill. Later, when we walked along the reservoir, we found a deer leg with the thighbone split so some predator could get at the marrow. We saw a Great Blue Heron too, and soon after came upon the remains of a less fortunate Great Blue Heron. I'm not sure if this was the work of a Coyote or Mountain Lion. There have been reports of a Mountain Lion in the area. One of the other instructors found some Lion pawprints much closer to camp this week too.
The trails are all very dusty right now. Walking down them with twenty fifth-graders makes it look like we're caught in a dust storm. Rain seems to have left the forecast for next week as well. At least all this dust makes it easy to see animal tracks. Judging from the tracks I've seen, there must be hundreds of Raccoons living nearby.
On a completely unrelated note, if you like gloomy literature, check out this site. I've only read one of Laszlo Krasznahorkai's books, but will read more as they are translated from Hungarian.
Monday, September 18, 2006
Jen is good at perplexing doctors.
It's great to have her home again.
With Willow sleeping over at a friend's house for a second day in a row, and the three older kids dropped of at school by their dad (and all with scheduled playdates afterwards) I started the Fall season of outdoor school. It's been about three months since I last did this, but I slipped right back into the groove, although I must say a portion of my mental energy was spent worrying about Jen.
The construction of the new lodge created steady background noise, so I spent less time near the buildings. This is going to be the case for at least the next year or so.
The coolest thing about today (other than Jen coming home, that is) was the Rattlesnake - the one I always check on. She had babies! There were two visible, coiled up next to her, and probably more out of sight somewhere. Willow and I saw her on Saturday, and she looked a lot thinner than usual then, so she probably had the babies (Rattlesnakes give birth - they don't lay eggs) over the weekend sometime. The mother doesn't care for them in any way, so seeing the young nearby is an indication that the births were very recent.
The kids in my group took lots of pictures. It was a good way to start the week. Definitely something you don't see every day.
Sunday, September 17, 2006
She has been coming to work with me all weekend, helping me with my temporary position as site supervisor. A group of teenagers with a reputation for rowdiness rented the site from Friday evening through Sunday afternoon. I did witness a bit of rowdiness and a fair amount of loudness, but no lasting damage was done to the site. It helped that they had competent leaders watching over them. Willow ran around and looked cute, playing with hula hoops and eating chocolate. Earlier today though, she developed an imaginary friend named Steve. Unlike most imaginary friends, Steve is hopelessly trapped in an elevator somewhere. Willow misses him. I asked her if it was something she dreamed and she said yes, so I'm sure she's subconsciously processing Jen being gone. In the young, The veil between reality and dreams is so thin. That's part of what makes little kids so cool.
Jen is doing well, and is really looking forward to leaving the hospital. Sometime tomorrow, after the test that she's been waiting for, we'll know more about what's going on with her (of course, now that I've typed that there will be another delay...). Thanks to everybody who has helped out and/or left kind thoughts on Jen's blog. It's during times like this that I really feel I live in a community (even if it's a far flung one).
Earlier,as I was walking past the emergency room on my way to visit Jen, I was trying to put into words what kind of aura the hospital has, and I don't mean in some sort of new-agey mystical sort of way. As we go through life, we develop impressions of people and things based on past experience. The feeling I get from hospitals is one of stalled time, an interruption in the flow of reality. I get a distinct feeling of unreality everytime we end up there. I think of all the people in the rooms, and how their lives have been altered, their plans put on hold, their perceptions changed...
Maybe the veil between worlds is thin for all of us.
Friday, September 15, 2006
With mysterious ailments on my mind, I noticed this story about toxic dumping and subsequent riots in Ivory Coast. This is yet one more example of corporations assuming that they can do whatever they want to the poor. If this isn't environmental racism, it's definitely environmental classism. The poor always get the shaft, and Ivory Coast, the last time I checked, is one of the poorest countries on the planet. I'm glad they're fighting back. If I was there, I'd riot too. It's a shame though that this is pretty much the only recourse for them. It's bad enough that people without money (either individually or collectively) are treated as second class citizens, but to endure illegally dumped toxic waste is the ultimate insult.
Of course most of us are aware that this sort of thing happens all of the time in the U.S. too. Not only does our lifestyle cause problems at home, but all over the rest of the world as well. It's often more subtle (but not always) than what is happening in Ivory Coast, but you don't have to dig deeply to find a multitude of environmental insults. With that in mind, I recently discovered a reference to this man in James Bishop Jr.'s biography of Edward Abbey, Epitaph for a Desert Anarchist. He's one of my new heroes.
Anyway, we're all walking cesspools of toxins. Every time we eat and every time we breathe we're taking more of them in. I don't advocate violent revolution, but it would be great if each and every one of us spent time fixing the problem. The System is broken. The System is a sewer system. The waste never really goes "away," it just cycles its merry way back into the soil and into the air and into the water and into our bodies, forever and ever, no matter how much money somebody behind a big desk made from it.
Long live the Fox!
Thursday, September 14, 2006
Fingers crossed that she'll be back home tomorrow.
Wednesday, September 13, 2006
Do not, I repeat, do not, go out and "protect" people by killing animals you perceive as "dangerous!" With that kind of logic, you'd have to become a mass murderer because people have long been the most dangerous animals on the planet. Think about it.
I haven't been on here as much lately because Jen has been using the computer for work. The extra income is really saving our butts. That said, I've picked up some more extra hours here and there, so things are a bit less dire for us. I'm going to be selling some records on eBay as well. I'm curious to see what how much money, if any, that brings in.
Summer has thrown another handful of hot days at us too, like a parting shot before disappearing until next year. It's early yet today, but the sky is pale blue and still. You'd never know that it's hurricane season.
Monday, September 11, 2006
Symbols and grand ideals continue to rule the airwaves. Human beings continue to die. People continue to hate. Everytime somebody dies, somebody somewhere hates a little more. It's twisting us all into little knots so tightly tugged that they're just going to remain tied until doomsday.
None of this is new other than the fact that we keep becoming more efficient at killing. I came across an old bumper sticker in a drawer the other day that reads, "efficiency = death." Boy does it ever, in so many ways...
I know that there are decent people out there. Millions of them, I'm sure. It's just that there voices are lost under all of the blustering and inane babble of the puppets with their prepared speeches.
The world has grown too small. Everything happens too fast. We're running out of space to escape to when the walls close in. We are billions, and so many of us are all alone
The more of us there are on this planet, the less human each individual becomes. It's as if we've passed the carrying capacity of caring. I really do feel that it's going to get a whole lot worse before it gets any better.
Being vulnerable like only a parent can be, that makes me really sad.
Bastards! I leave you with a couple of quotes from Edward Abbey, who died fifteen years before the attacks, but whose words live on:
Men love their ideas more than their lives. And the more preposterous the idea, the more eager they are to die for it. And to kill for it.
Society is like a stew. If you don't keep it stirred up, you get a lot of scum on top.
Wednesday, September 06, 2006
Money stress aside, things are going okay. The boys are now avid bike riders. Sophie is still an avid tantrum thrower. Willow is still eating things frozen when they ought to be cooked. Jen is hard at work with her writing jobs, and I went and started a new blog focusing on music reviews. Check it out here. There's not much there yet, but I plan on adding to it regularly.
Monday, September 04, 2006
I've often joked that he had my dream job. His passion for his work and his skill at handling dangerous animals has always impressed me, not to mention his commitment to saving wildlife and wilderness. I'll bet he was a bit of an adrenalin junkie though. There is something exciting about getting close to dangerous animals, especially when it's only your skill keeping you safe. I don't take chances like he did, but I'll admit that it's always a thrill coming across our local venomous reptile, the Western Rattlesnake. I even took Jen and the kids up to see the one pictured here (we also spotted a Yellowjacket nest and some Mountain Lion scat) on Thursday after work. It has now been in the same place for over two months, under a piece of corrugated metal siding stuck in the dirt, and in a perfect place for safe viewing. The thrill is still there though, despite the fact that I see the same snake on nearly a weekly basis. Willow at least was pretty excited about it and has been telling everybody that she saw it. It makes me think of Steve Irwin's kids. The excitement is gone for them, and the enormity of the tragedy is no doubt still sinking in. My heart goes out to them.
R.I.P. Steve Irwin.
Saturday, September 02, 2006
We hope to get my car fixed next weekend. Public transportation around here sucks, and the road I would have to take were I to bike to work has been the scene of many cyclist fatalities over the years.
The picture of Nate was taken in the nearby hills. We've been trying to engage in more one-on-one time with the kids, especially the boys since Willow gets a lot already and Jen gets time with Sophie due to school schedules. I took Nate on a hike looking for tarantulas, but tarantula season doesn't start in earnest for another month, so we didn't find any. We had a great time anyway. Here he can be seen looking out over the valley, which only looks good from a distance. The hills smell a lot better too, and we both came home smelling of them.
I got some unexpected and much needed extra work this past week in the form of random maintainence work at the school. They've broken ground and are in the process of digging various trenches and shoving vast quantities of dirt around the site, so our various painting and mending jobs were done to the tune of beeping and clunking of heavy construction equipment. It's a shame they ripped out the blackberry bushes to put in a sewer pipe though.
Our last task yesterday was to unbolt or saw off everything connecting the large banana slug-visaged water tanks to the ground in preparation for their removal. The site is going to look barren without them.
Willow has just wandered in and needs attention. Bye.
Thursday, August 24, 2006
Willow. The one time she decides to not eat a hash brown frozen (her usual preference) I'm out of the room.
Later, after I've made everybody sit in the backyard for a bit to avoid breathing in the smoke, the fan I've put on the table to clear the air vibrates off the edge and breaks on the floor.
Now we're out one plastic plate and one fan, all because, as Sophie put it, "Willow made a black hash brown!"
California and Lake Stevens
The earliest memories of my life are so vague that I sometimes think they have been imagined after I'd been told about it. One is being very very sick and being carried off the train by Daddy. Another, playing with a little boy in a wagon "Logo" & a little girl in California. There was an orange tree too that I remember.
Then Lake Stevens. Robert and Betty. I used to go early & get breakfast over at Betty's with her sometimes. We used to catch grasshoppers in the long grass in front of her house and name them. We rowed in the boat and swam. We used to play games but they would run away and make me "it" because I was littlest & would cry.
There was little William Stack Bridge & Mr. Hally's dogs. And the cabin in the woods of Jasper & Bob that was the delight of our soul. On the way to the cabin there was a huge burnt stump grown over with "twin flowers." There was our mail box hidden in the rafters of the wood shed & in Larson's big wood pile. There was Anna Drew and paper dolls "Dolly Dingle" paper dolls & our throne in the woods & raspberry stalks to chew, and old Captain Larson's and the Allens. My first bycicle (sic) and the fall when Jasper & I were riding in the freshness of the early morning. School - going to school when dew covered (illegible) were along the fence - beautiful.
There were excursions to Big 4 or "Camp Glacier". There were visits to the big house in Everett elaborate meals prepared by the (illegible) & games with Uncle Jasper and ice cream at the store. Occasionally snow - the deep snow. Jumping out of the wood shed window. Snowshoes made of planer ends. Mother's pink satin dress and my chopped finger. Miss Copps. Admiring little boys. flowers on my desk. Daddy away. Ice on the lake - the mill burned down. Mr. Ecklund petting me - taking me home in his car. Little Clare Groger. Bertha and William. Fab old "Dimples". The swing - "Isn't she cute" and my anger. Rides with Dr. Allen. Dr. Harris in Arlington. The episode of the fruit from Allen's Aunt Margaret. The Stock Bridge farm - the Stockbridges & Round-a Roadles!
There you have it. I love reading about childhood, especially when video games and TV are not mentioned. I like the stream of consciousness feel to this as well. Back in those days, kids played outside and were no doubt more actively engaged in the world around them than many kids are today. It's sad to think that many of the current generation will grow up to find that they don't really remember much of their childhoods because of the time they spent having virtual experiences rather than real ones. The video games and TV shows just don't stick in our heads like actual life does.
Of course, as I type, I can hear the kids watching a movie in the other room. Guilty! Bee leaving bonnet now...
Speaking of kids, Willow is having an "opposite" day today. She stood on the toilet and later peed on the walkway.
Tuesday, August 22, 2006
As it was, it was an excellent show. On the way to the venue I saw a guy, in lieu of the usual sort of hip hop medallion, wearing a genuine school clock on a chain around his neck - you know, the big, clunky 12" diameter ones. It made me laugh out loud.
Carla Bozulich started things out singing and sometimes playing guitar with keyboard, cello, and drums, in addition to another guitarist, accompanying her. The first few songs were decent, including one I overheard somebody saying was a Low cover (must be on one of their cds I don't own). Then, the keyboardist started a funereal organ dirge, sounding for all the world like Paul Chain, and Carla got some tall guy (audience member? co-conspiritor?) to carry her down off the stage, and then proceeded to sing the remainder of the song while making her way through the audience. After regaining the stage and finishing the song, the band was joined by Bonfire Madigan for the title track from the new cd, Evangelista.
Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra and Tra-La-La Band was up next, and put on a stunning show. Their instrumentation consisted of two guitarists (sometimes three, when the drummer switched instruments), drums, upright bass, cello, and two violinists. The vocals, often thin and wavering, are a bit of an acquired taste, but one I've acquired. Everybody else sang backing vocals (hence the "Tra-La-La part of their name) to much better effect than can be heard on their studio recordings. They even did a couple of new songs, "a million people died to make this sound," and "Blind, blind, blind," which took up about a half hour of their stage time since most of their songs clock in at about fifteen minutes. They played for nearly two hours, with the sound ebbing and flowing from delicate violin plucks to full bore assault on the eardrums and back again.
This morning, of course, was the only morning this week that I had to go to work. Work consisted of going to the Office of Education all-staff inservice at The Flint Center in Cupertino. Our school was nominated for an award for our astronomy program, but we didn't win. Oh, well. At least the keynote speaker was energetic and amusing, punctuating his powerpoint presentation with cartoons hilariously relevent to the room full of educators and support staff.
Jen's out getting the girls haircuts right now. The boys got theirs earlier today. Tomorrow the three bigger kids go to school. Summer is gone.
Sunday, August 20, 2006
At 12 Galaxies, Loop!station opened the show with Cello and voice, both looped and layered so that it sounded like several cellists and several vocalists were performing at once. Very nice. If I'd had the money, I would have bought their three cds like Matt did.
After Loopstation, we were treated to a recital of a T.S. Eliot poem, which was accompanied by a performance by a trapeze artist. The whole show, MCed by the versatile Chicken John (once a member of G.G. Allen's band) was billed as a memorial for someone named Margaret Rucker. She turned out to be present in the form of a tattered scrapbook that Chicken John had pulled from a dumpster fifteen years ago. It seems that the scrapbook, along with Margaret Rucker's other possessions, had been unceremoniously disposed of, and would have disappeared forever into a landfill if not for the fact that Chicken John, for reasons unrevealed to us, roots through dumpsters. He even went so far as to prepare a short powerpoint presentation covering the highlights of the scrapbook clippings. Mrs. Rucker was revealed to be a poet, survivor of a nasty accident, and later on the widow of a suicide. At the end of the presentation, the scrapbook was passed around and audience members were encouraged to take pieces of it home. Margaret Rucker has literally been rescued from the dustbin of history.
After this, Baby Dee appeared dressed as a bee and riding an old iron tricycle. She ascended the candlelit stairs to the stage and started out with a couple of Tiger Lillies-esque songs on the accordian before settling down behind her harp. She included her version of Idemaea, as heard on the latest Current 93 cd.
Faun Fables this time around featured, in addition to Dawn and Nils, Ari Fellows-Mannion (Loretta Lynch), Camilla Lincoln (Whoreshoes) on backing vocals, and upright bassists Jason Walker (Mandrake). The sang beautiful new songs, including a Scottish folk song about fishermen, and a few old songs, which were bolstered by the upright bass and backing vocals. In the picture, you can see the clueless guy who insisted on standing at the front even though the five or six rows behind him were all seated, ignoring the shouted chorus of "down in front!" from behind him. He finally sat down when the guy sitting directly behind him bought him a beer. He got rewarded for being a jerk, but at least he sat down.
I ended up driving back by myself because Matt was going home with Dawn and Nils. I was a bit stressed out due to the fact that, before the shows, while we were looking for parking, my battery light blinked on a few times. I contemplated asking Matt if I could borrow his cellphone, but elected not to. I got on the freeway and made it about fifteen or twenty miles before my lights dimmed and the car threatened to stall. Taking the nearest exit, I managed to find a 24 hour gas station before the car died. Then it was a comedy of getting piles of quarters from the attendant and calling from a payphone. AAA proved useless since I only get five miles of free towing and I was thirty miles from home (after the five free miles, the price jumps up to ten dollars a mile - you do the math). Jen's insurance wouldn't help because it doesn't cover my car. Finally, I called Jen and she had to drive up and rescue me, leaving my car behind. As of now, after being ripped of eight ways to Sunday by the service crew at the gas station, we've elected to not have them put in an alternator (the diagnostic fee, new battery, and radiator hose cost more than double what they should have) and waiting until we have the funds to purchase one and install it ourselves. In the meantime, we're going to try and get by with one vehicle. Wish us luck.
Funny sidenote: They mechanic called while I was out doing parties yesterday and got Jen on the phone. As mechanics often do, he assumed that since she's a woman she would know next to nothing about cars, only becoming nice once she proved him wrong. Why is it that auto service places only treat you fairly if they think there's a possibility of you being a repeat customer and/or if you exhibit some knowledge of car repair? Because they're assholes, that's why. Anyway, we're gritting our teeth, forking over too much money, picking up the car tomorrow, and driving it home with a good battery and bad alternator. It will sit in the driveway for awhile.
To top it all off, I lost half the tip money from the parties I did yesterday. It probably fell out of my overstuffed poickets when I went to retrieve something. Shit.
We ended the day on a good note though, going up to a friend's birthday party in Redwood city. Despite being tired, Willow, Jen, and I had a great time socializing, listening to the live music (a latin jazz band), eating the middle eastern food and wonderful exotic cheeses, and basically just unwinding.
Oh, and summer camp is over too. We watched the last bus go down the hill on Friday. I'm off work most of next week, so it's time to do some Autumn cleaning around here. That's the plan anyway.
Wednesday, August 16, 2006
I hadn't been to Natural Bridges since I was a kid. I remembered there being two wave weathered rock bridges then. Now there is only one, the more fragile of the two having fallen sometime during the late eighties or early nineties (I think). Perhaps it should now be referred to as Natural Bridge.
We're gearing up for Autumn here. Jen has turned her attention towards getting school supplies for the kids. Summer camp ends this Friday, to be replaced by outdoor school in a couple of weeks. As usual, I'm looking for ways to plug the gaps in my work schedule. I'll miss the summer camp kids. Many of them have been with us for multiple weeks. A lot of them I remember from last year. There's a real feeling of community at camp. I'm sure a lot of them will be camp counselors in a few years. Perhaps they'll be staff someday. This kind of environment is really good for kids if they're open to it.
I do have moments when I think it's kind of funny that I'm leading team building activities for these kids. When I was young I was not a team player. I still don't really see myself that way. I have always been a bit of a loner with an anti-authoritarian bent. Maybe it's my job to help the kids who also feel this way. The socialization process can be so complex for kids who are told that they must be part of a team when their personalities run counter to this kind of thinking. It is good to have teamwork skills, of course, but I can definitely relate to people who have no use for them...
But I ramble...
Sunday, August 13, 2006
The stories we read (two each), were old, dating back to the mid to late nineties. When trying to decide what to read, I noticed that most of the stories I considered were all from the middle of our most productive period of writing. I don't care for the early ones, and in my opinion the more recent ones are lacking something as well. The whole experience made me want to go back to writing fiction. It's been awhile, and I think my writing style has changed a bit thanks in part to this blog. Only one way to find out, of course...
Looking at the newspaper coverage of the latest averted terrorist attack makes me think that reality is still managing to compete quite well with fiction in terms of excitement and ironic humor (lets not forget utter stupidity, insanity, and tragedy - they're always very much in evidence too). Some might say that the terrorists have scored a minor victory here because at the moment it is against the law to bring a Christian bible on board a commercial airplane. Of course the Koran is equally against the rules, as are all books and just about everything else. Don't want anybody to receive a papercut, do we?. I wonder if you can get a bigger papercut from the Bible or the Koran? I wouldn't know. I do plan to read both someday, just to see what the fuss is about, but at the moment neither of them grace the bedside table. I just wish that people would stop using these books (both of them) to justify all of the killing and hatred. It's making the rest of the Christians and Muslims look bad.
Friday, August 11, 2006
As usual, after the dust from the leaving vehicles settled, we took the campers on a night hike. The moon was bright enough that I had to shield my eyes when coming out from under the trees. My group this week consisted mostly of seven year olds, with a trio of younger kids and a couple who were older. A lot of them wanted their mommies when faced with the darkness of the forest, but they all made it through in the end. They were all in bed by eleven, only to be awakened at five in the morning when the sprinklers unexpectedly came on, drenching many of the sleepers. I slept through it somehow, unmoistened. My coworkers managed to avert disaster by fumbling around in the dark and disabling the sprinkler controls. I don't regret being a heavy sleeper in this instance.
Next week is the last week of summer camp. More hideous raffle prizes await.
Wednesday, August 09, 2006
Tuesday, August 08, 2006
Monday, August 07, 2006
As one can see, it was cloudy today, with temperatures below normal. I approve.
This photo was taken with a new camera. We took the old Nikon in to get it repaired this weekend. The guy behind the counter took one look at it and asked, "have you considered getting a new camera?" It turned out that for ten dollars above the cost of getting the camera repaired, we could buy a new, much better (twice the megapixels) one. It sure is nice to take pictures that don't have flaws caused by a dirty lens. It's also nice to have a camera that doesn't flash the "lens error" message whenever it's turned on. Simple pleasures...
With our new cameras in tow, we took Willow to the county fair this weekend. Matt came along as well, so Willow had three adults to boss around. She loved the pony ride and the merry-go-round, but was much less certain about the petting zoo. The goats and sheep, animals of satan that they are, scared her. She was even a bit uncertain about the rat-sized piglets who tried to eat my fingers and pick my pockets.
While the piglets failed to get anything from my pockets, the fair vendors were much more successful. The price and lack of quality of the food was outrageous. The rides were all at least three dollars, with some being much more expensive. Willow had a great time though, even stopping to peruse the hot tubs on display inside one of the main buildings. She even requested that I take pictures of them. Despite the draining of our limited funds, it was worth it to see Willow have a good time. It's a good thing the other kids were at their dad's place or we'd have spent hundreds of dollars.
Thursday, August 03, 2006
Right now I'm at work. I'll be spending the night tonight, camping out on the lower field with a whole bunch of summer campers. Maybe this time I'll put a tarp over my sleeping bag so I don't wake up covered with dew. Actually, last week it was dew and a small tick crawling along my leg, which I promptly flicked off into the dirt (the tick, not the dew).
We did another critter hunt today, where I caught several of the same lizards for the second time this week, and we saw the same Rattlesnake again. It must be getting used to our visits by now. Hopefully we'll be able to get the camera fixed this weekend so I can take worthwhile pictures for the remainder of the summer. That's the plan anyway.
Wednesday, August 02, 2006
At work this morning our group was accompanied by a camera crew who were shooting segments for onee of our fundraising groups. They were more interested in seeing outdoor school, as opposed to summer camp, activities so I taught a couple of mini-lessons on animal classification and weathering. We found a salamander nymph too. They filmed at least one other group and did some interviews with campers as well. When it's all edited together it will be posted on a web site somewhere. Link to follow at that time.
Oh, I forgot to mention that we saw a Bullfrog eating a Crayfish a couple of days ago. That's another first for me. Those damn Bullfrogs will eat anything, won't they?
I took Nate out to get some monster movies last night because he's been pestering us to get him some. I picked up Tremors because it's good monster fun, and Tim Burton's Planet of the Apes and The Mummy because they were really cheap used videos. Nate's watched them all and given them the thumbs up. I forgot about all of the cussing in Tremors though, mainly because the last time I watched it I wasn't thinking about whether it would be appropriate for children or not. As a parent, I find that I watch films in a much different way than I used to. Everything now goes through the, "is it okay for kids?" filter. The verdict on these three films: yes, sort of. Monster movies are cool.
Monday, July 31, 2006
At work today, I witnessd the old office come crashing to the ground with the aid of some heavy duty construction (shouldn't that be "destruction?") equipment. They also took out the front walkway, several trees, and a couple of hedges, leaving an expanse of wasteland bordered by temporary fences festooned with signs warning visitors against entering without proper headgear. This is the first physical indication that the new lodge is being built. It has been a long process sorting out the funds and the various permits to get to this stage. Now we just have to cope with the fences, noise, and dust for awhile.
As for the kids, I took a bunch of them on a critter hunt, during which we found a couple of Western Skinks, lots of Alligator lizards, and the same Rattlesnake I came across a couple of weeks ago. Last week, due to the heat, most of the reptiles were nowhere to be seen. Now they're back. You know it's too hot when the reptiles are hiding. This week temperatures are in the seventies. Let's hope they stay there.
Also, we started bringing Duckweed and Elodia into the garden at work to use as compost. Tomorrow, if I remember, I'm going to get some worms out of the worm bin in the garden and bring them home so we can start composting here. Maybe we can use the soil we make to actually get some things to grow in our yard.
Sunday, July 30, 2006
Currently listening to the Fonal jukebox. A perfect soundtrack for sitting in the woods.
Jen came home late last night and left again this morning for the Woolfcamp being held as kind of an addendum to the Blogher conference. She's having a blast, as I'm sure she'll report when she finally sits down at the computer.
Meanwhile, at home, I took the kids up to visit another family whose mom is away at Blogher. We discussed having annual Blogher widowers get-togethers. There was a third dad there when I arrived too. His wife is also at Blogher. Between us, we had ten kids. They had fun, and only a few things were destroyed. We came home with a worm bin too. Now we can compost!
The kids are all asleep now, and I just finished watching a movie called Dark Remains. Last night it was The Gravedancers. I must say that they were both quite satisfying, as movies about vengeful ghosts go. Not quite M.R. James (still the undisputed master of the ghost story), but full of enough creepiness to make them worthwhile. Thanks go out to my brother for the lending of said films. Jen wouldn't have liked them much, which is why I watched them this weekend. I could just kind of tell by the titles that I'd better watch them alone.
Friday, July 28, 2006
I slept over at work last night with the campers. During summer camp, half the staff spends the night on Thursday and goes home on Friday morning. The other half goes home Thursday night and works all day Friday. I think I prefer sleeping over. It's like getting paid for camping. Actually, it is getting paid for camping! Before going to sleep, the kids are treated to a barbeque, campfire program (songs, skits, raffle, etc.), a story (told by me this week), a night hike, and marshmallow roasting. I've got to admit that the raffle is my favorite part. Most of the prizes are items rescued from the darkest recesses of garages and the dustiest shelves of thrift stores. They are all uniformly hideous. Winners often have the most priceless expressions on their little faces.
Later, at bedtime, I lay on my back and watched meteors for awhile. It's finally cooling off at night again too - a welcome relief after the inferno-like temperatures earlier this week.
In the morning, I rushed home so Jen could go to the Blogher conference. Hope she's having a great time.