Monday, February 27, 2006

The wind is still howling and the trees outside are dancing to the sound. Our camp night-host just called to let me know that there are some pretty sizeable trees down on the road leading up to camp. I may have some trouble getting to work tomorrow, especially since the powers that be don't intend to remove the trees until sometime in the afternoon. Stay tuned.

"Daddy, can spiders walk in your butt when you're not seeing?"

I guess it's a valid concern, although one that had never crossed my mind until now. The subject came up because Nate was upset yesterday when we confiscated some wildly inappropriate comics books that a friend's mom had bought for him. To ease his wounded spirit I caved in and let him watch Giant Spider Invasion, which was filmed in the seventies on a budget of about $17, and starred Alan Hale, better known as the Skipper from Gilligan's Island. The little spiders are real tarantulas, the medium sized spiders are big, floppy puppets that are dropped on the actors from off camera, and the big spider is a silly looking mechanical contraption so fake looking that you can sort of see the volkswagon being used to move it from place to place. Nate really likes it. Alex is sort of grossed out by it (to be fair, so was I when I saw it in the theatre when I was about his age), and Sophie, as one can deduce from the question above, is more philosophical about it.

Ah, the seventies... All of the Mystery Science Theater fodder.
It has been dumping rain all day. Out in the woods with kids we all heard the giant trees groan and creak as the wind forced its way between them. Later, we found a newt eating a worm that was longer than it was. As I type I can hear the wind and rain. As an added bonus, its supposed to be like this all week!

Willow loves her new playhouse, even though the battery operated doorbell isn't hooked up yet (no batteries available at the time). Her Cheese Rat party wasn't exactly smoothe sailing (as those of you who read Jen's blog already know) because she's "scawed of da rat!!" She does love the little plastic slide in the toddler area though.
In the evening, we had all of the local immediate family over. I picked up M at the bus station so he could be the token non-family member. He's like family though, so I guess there's no real distinction. He spent the night because he secretly loves getting awakened by hordes of small children too early in the morning. Tomorrow he leaves for the British Isles to take part in a musical event put on by ICR called Intergration 5. We wish him luck and success. It would be nice to be able to go in person, but we'll just have to wait for his report upon his return.

Time to go check and see if the boys need additional help with their homework. It's too quiet...

Friday, February 24, 2006

In about five minutes or so it will be Willow's third birthday, which is hard to believe because I can still picture her tiny form being cut from Jen during an emergency c-section. Never have worry and joy been so hopelessly entwined.

I went and picked up her big gift today - a large, molded plastic playhouse with a porch and various other bells and whistles (quite literally, I think). The guy who carted it out of the back room seemed skeptical about our chances of wedging it into the van, but wedge it we did. Of course we still have to assemble it, but that's another story for another time.

Happy birthday, Willow. May each birthday be better than the last.

Papa! I pooped! Come on! It's pwetty! I made it!

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

My number came up, so I had to go down to the courthouse this morning. I got there at exactly the time I was supposed to, but then had to stand in the long line that stretched out the door and down the sidewalk towards the parking garage. A half hour later, after passing through the metal detector and putting everything back in my pockets, I found myself in a check-in line while an courthouse employee with a bad cold apologized for the wait and offered to let people with an aversion to standing for long periods of time jump to the front of the line. After getting through this line, I bumped into an old co-worker of mine (the one who ended up getting that water company job I'd applied for some time back) who was there as alternate for a trial already in its third week. We talked shop for a bit, and then she had to go in. I went and sat down in the waiting area and read some nautical fiction until a woman announced that we could all go home because there had been a change of plea in the cases we were waiting for. That's that.

An ex-local family friend currently living in Massachusetts came over with her two young ones today and we went to the park. Her older girl is older than Sophie, and her younger one is younger than Willow, so we had a whole spectrum of ages. The boys were at play practice, so I was the lone male for the outing. We saw a Great Blue Heron building a nest up in a Eucalyptus tree, and Willow had a great time watching the waterfowl paddle around in the creek. We spent a good stretch of time tossing rocks too, while Sophie complained about not being able to skip rocks. Good lazy sunny day. Willow screamed when we left, which is becoming part of the routine.

I've got a cold. Dammit!

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

I was informed by mail some time ago that my services as a juror might be required this week (actually, for a week in January, but I postponed it until now because I'm not working this week). The court website indicates that they don't need me today. One down, three to go. Not that I have any opposition to serving on a jury - I just don't have the time and can't afford it. Although, the idea of letting rich idlers decide the fate of the accused isn't very comforting. Jury of your peers indeed.

I guess I put on a blatantly political shirt today for no reason.
Sophie (while wrapped in a purple blanket and spinning around on the bed):

Help! I'm getting flushed in the toilet!

Flushed away!

Flushed away!

Sunday, February 19, 2006

The older kids are with their dad, so Willow and I went to the park today. She really likes riding on the little steam engine and on the carousel, so we figured we'd get some riding time in quickly before she turns three and all of a sudden she can't ride for free anymore.

She remembered that last time we were there the water level in the reservoir was low, which shows that she pays attention. Of course, on that day we spent a good half hour down by the shore while she threw rocks into the water. She quickly graduated from little pebbles to rocks the size of her hands, and then to crayfish. The crayfish part was my fault. I found a small one under a rock near the shore, and briefly let her hold it. Unfortunately, she was still in rock-throwing mode and hucked the hapless critter into the water. Oh well, that's where it would have ended up anyway.

Today we stuck to the playgrounds. She's getting really good at climbing a wide variety of things, but for some reason today wanted to slide down most of the slides in my lap. She takes great delight in scooting down flights of stairs on her butt as well.

She did not take great delight in leaving. In fact, she screamed all the way home. Now she's playing with the plastic pirate ships and watching B*@#y.
Here's a photo of Jen at Woolfcamp! She's having a great time. You can also check out a whole slew of photos here. Making it happen!

The girls went to bed late and woke up early. One of the first things I heard this morning is this:

Sophie: Knock knock.

Me: Who's there?

Sophie: Papa.

Me: Papa who?

Sophie: Papa you're doomed.

Hopefully she hasn't suddenly developed the gift of prophecy.

Saturday, February 18, 2006


"Papa, you're a sissy!"

Now she's bouncing little plastic basketballs on the keyboard while I'm typing this, making it very hard for me to concentrate.

The temperatures dropped enough over Thursday night that on Friday there was a light dusting of snow on the tops of the local hills. In the East Bay, the hills were white.

Jen is away at Woolfcamp, a blog writing retreat, in Santa Cruz today, and is staying there until tomorrow night. It's a well earned break for her. The boys are going to the drive-in with a friend tonight. Sophie, Willow, and I are hanging out at home.

Next week I don't work, but I'm supposed to have jury duty. As always, jury duty would be a financial hardship, so I'll make sure to let them know that if I am actually instructed to report to a courthouse somewhere. Or maybe I'll just act like a hillbilly or express some harsh opinions about the legal system or police officers. It's a thought, anyway.

The girls are hungry. Time to go whip up some glop to eat.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Acrofish, who is an old friend of mine, has posted some pictures from our mutually misspent youth. Look through them and find me, if you can. A couple of shots include Mike Sammon, my old friend who died recently (since I posted about his passing, I've found out that it was due to a blood clot of some sort).

I managed to make it up to the city last weekend to catch a couple of films being shown as part of the 8th annual San Francisco Independent Film Festival. Out of all the films being screened, I decided to go see Dario Argento's Jenifer and Don Coscarelli's Incident On and Off A Mountain Road (based on a Joe R. Lansdale story!). These are both part of Showtime's Masters of Horror series, and as such were projected via video projector rather than actual film projector. Still a treat to see them though. In attendance were Don Coscarelli and Angus Scrimm (Coscarelli directed Incident..., and is probably best known for the classic 70's horror film, Phantasm, which starred Angus Scrimm as the mysteriously villainous undertaker known only as the Tall Man). They did a short Q & A after the screening, which was nice. More Phantasms on the way, apparently - as Scrimm put it, "Oh, why not?" G had interviewed them earlier in the day, so I managed to get in for free as a plus one on the guest list.
Jenifer, which played second, is probably one of the most gruesome films Argento has done, which is saying something. I'll not review it here in detail, but I will say that it is unlike any other Argento films, possibly because he didn't write it. I just read that they come out on DVD in March too, along with the other films in the series. This is good.

I also went and saw Huun-Huur-Tu play at a venue called Don Quixote's in Felton (of all places), and as usual they put on a great show. I've been a fan of Tuvan music ever since I saw Werner Herzog's Bells From the Deep many years ago. The film, a documentary on Russian mysticism, has a segment featuring a young tuvan singer. Sometimes you've just gotta hear more. Huun-Huur-Tu are one of the first tuvan bands I heard, and I've seen them a few times over the years (most notable, perhaps, was the show they did with Kronos Quartet at Stanford) and the utterly alien sounds they produce keep me coming back for more. They're also good animal mimics, making very believable horse sounds with their voices and instruments, not to mention the bird calls... but I ramble...

As for the week at work, I took the kids on a truly epic long hike yesterday. Most people either go to the reservoir or the peak during the long hike. Our group managed to do both. To do this, I utilized my childhood knowledge of trails surrounding the reservoir. It was a lot of hiking, but the trails I used as a kid hooked up quite nicely with the trails I now use as an adult. Hmmm. We saw a Great Blue Heron too. Magnificent birds, herons. Later, just before getting back to camp, we came across a very small, very angry California King Snake by the side of the road. When I picked it up it bit me several times, but due to its rather unimpressive size it didn't do any damage. I noticed that it seemed to have some trouble crawling, but I couldn't see any visible injury. Maybe it was just stressed. I let it go away from the road and away from the kids. The rest is up to the great unknown.
Earlier tonight a girl passed out in the dining hall. We have something we call "special talents" where campers come up and display their... well... talents. This girl's talent was apparently her ability to turn purple. Of course, if you're turning purple, that means your oxygen supply has been compromised, which can of course lead to dizziness and loss of consciousness. Lesson learned. She was only out for a moment, but she ended up being both freaked out and embarrassed.

Now the week is almost over. Not to worry though. Next week will be here before we know it.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

There was a brief moment today when we thought something horrible had happened to Alex's crayfish. Jen came into the room earlier and informed me that it had exploded. Looking into the tank, it appeared that she was right. It looked like it had burst. Of course I figured out pretty quickly that I was looking at a molting - crustaceans, like other arthropods, shed their exoskeletons in order to grow. The real crayfish was hiding under the artificial rock cave, looking quite rejuvenated.

Jen pointed out that Alex would have blamed himself for the incident, so it's just as well that it proved to be a non-incident. I thought it was pretty cool though. I never got to witness any of my own childhood pet crayfish (you knew I had some, didn't you?) molting. Better late than never, I say.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

February is feeling more like April at the moment. The days have been clear and cloudless this week, and the nights relatively mild. As much as I love storms, this is a welcome break from all of the slogging through mud that we usually have to endure during this season. Of course, we do occasionally find a bit of mud to dip our feet in. We even found a patch right near the recess area (poetically known as the "sport court" ) and discovered that a Mountain Lion had already dipped its feet there. In fact, there was a whole line of large, feline paw prints coming down off the hill. Smallish for a Mountain Lion, but largish for a Bobcat. No claw marks present, meaning that they didn't come from anything canine. Of course there is a large stray dog wandering around, but we've found dog prints as well. The dog even came down and hung out around camp today. It had been described to me as looking somewhat like a Hyena, and it's an apt description. It left when we noticed it.

Last night a couple of us went for a walk at nightfall, and saw a lone bat flying through the oak branches underneath the moon. There are a couple of owls (most likely Great Horned Owls - I'll have to verify this though) living in the giant Eucalyptus trees bordering the road. They hoot incessantly. Very calming.

The night hike tonight kept getting interrupted by bats, which is okay by me. They flitted around mere feet above the heads of the children who, to their credit, weren't too freaked out. We met a couple of hikers too, foolishly walking around without jackets. I wouldn't let them pass me until all of the kids had finished their solo hike. There's nothing freakier for a fifth grader than running into a stranger while walking alone in the dark. Hell, kids freak out during the day if this happens. These particular strangers seemed okay - just a couple out for a moonlit walk.

Today was also the day that the sociopath camper got sent home. The night before he kept two cabins full of kids awake until 3 or 4 in the morning by claiming he'd seen a man with a knife out the window. In addition to the tall tales, he was full of petty nastiness and blatant lies. His teacher pointed out that he had a habit of constantly scanning the room for adults to see if he was being watched. I watched him, and sure enough, he was watching me. I'll probably see his face again someday in the paper after he's done something particularly heinous.

I think I'm on the verge of getting a cold. I've managed to fight it off so far, but poor Willow is feeling pretty miserable with an ear infection and a face full of snot. She's sleeping under a fuzzy blanket on the couch right now. She'll be better soon

Sunday, February 05, 2006


"There's gonna be poop for dinner!"

"There's gonna be wipes for dinner!"

"Poop salad!"

"Matt steak!"
Yesterday we packed all of the kids and most of the pets into the van and went to the house of a girl who used to go to school with Alex. A while back, the girl's mom had asked Jen if I would do a reptile party for her daughter, so I was basically working the party but doing it independently of the company I usually do parties for. I brought all four of the snakes, one of the tarantulas (the slow one), and the scorpion. Oh, and a whole cage full of Hissing cockroaches. The python ended up being the hit, with many of the kids posing for photos with it draped over their shoulders. We hung out for awhile afterwards, eating cake and ice cream and adding to the volume level.

Today we're hanging out and cleaning up. The boys are at a friend's house, so only the girls are here to undo our work behind us. They are very effective at this. Sophie, in particular, is in fine form today, clinging to my legs whenever I try to walk and belting out a childish, scatological tirade of her own devising. Things are cleaner than they were at this time yesterday though.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Geekdom is a force to be reckoned with locally. On the way home from work, I noticed that the "do not pass" sign placed beside the road where two lanes merge into one had been modified to say, "you shall not pass!" Visions of Gandalf flickered through my head.

It has been a pretty good work week. We found a Dobson Fly larva in the creek, which tried to take a bite out of my finger but missed. The small Stonefly larva in shared the little bug container with wasn't so lucky. Later on, we found some spotted Banana slugs, which are much less common than the yellow ones. Maybe we should just call them Rotten Banana slugs, since this is what they resemble.
Wednesday night marked the first time I did the astronomy powerpoint presentation by myself, and the first time I presided over the planet walk (which I had never even seen before). These two things are usually handled by our lead teacher (sort of like a vice principal, but friendlier since he's not in charge of discipline) who was a major force in creating astronomy night. He's in San Diego this week though, so we were on our own. There are two field staff members working each night program (with the exception of the night hike, when everybody is present) and my coworker for the evening had never seen, much less helped run, the astronomy program before, so it was pretty much up to me to make sure things went well. There was a moment of panic after I plugged in the laptop and attached the projector to it when all I could it to project was a grim pair of words that said, "no signal." A quick phone call to our other site produced a solution: the projector had to be turned on before the computer. By this time all of the kids were sitting, patiently waiting for things to start. As I fiddled around with the electronics, I explained to them what the word "luddite" meant.
After this, things went smoothly. The classroom teachers ended up being pretty impressed, which is a big compliment since both of us were doing our respective jobs for the first time.

Sophie is standing next to me trying to get me to let her play video games. I'm resisting. Now she's saying she's not my friend because I won't help her. There is just no middle ground with small children.