Sunday, December 30, 2007


Sisters, originally uploaded by Corbie.

The main new thing to enter our house over the holidays was a new computer for the kids. Being new, it's much better than the obsolete one I'm currently using. In the picture, we see a peaceful moment of computer-sharing bliss. This will probably be an exception to an endless succession of arguments over who gets to use it when, but we enjoy the moments of peace when we can. I still wish the kids would spend less time entertaining themselves electronically, but we did get a basketball hoop and a couple of basketballs as well, so hopefully that will provide a little balance around here. Plus, in all fairness, the computer will be a great tool for homework and other educational pursuits.

The year is almost over, and we leave 2007 with the tragic assassination of Benazir Bhutto, as well as the much closer to home escape of a tiger from the San Francisco zoo - an escape that ended the life of a teenager and the tiger. I'm always of two minds about zoos - I really appreciate the educational and conservation work they do, but it is sad to see so many animals in artificial habitats (of course, it doesn't escape me that many of their real habitats no longer exist, or are in danger of disappearing forever under the continued onslaught of the ever-expanding human race). I also can't really talk, because I've got some animals living in artificial habitats around the house. I've been to the zoo several times over the last few years, including the trip Willow and I took on her birthday this year. We probably spent some time looking at the tiger - a tiger that could have at any time jumped over the shorter- than-it-should-have-been wall around its enclosure. Of course, we weren't doing anything to enrage it at the time, as it may turn out to have been the case with this particular incident. The jury is still out on that one though.

The New Year is coming. I'm not sure if this will be my last post of the old year or not. You just never can tell with these things. I generally don't voice aloud any resolutions of any kind, but I always have a few things in mind to quietly work on (or not, as the case often is). We'll just have to see. Right now, I'm feeling lethargic - probably from an overabundance of sleep (how often does than happen these days?) and chocolate. The boys are at a friends house. The girls are watching a dvd, and Jen is at yoga. I've still got a week to go before I get back to work and school, but Jen goes back to work this coming week.

Currently listening to: Susanne Rosenberg "Uppa marmorns hoga berg"

Saturday, December 29, 2007

I've been sleeping in this week, and accomplishing very little. I'll get back up to speed in a week or two, I'm sure, but for the time being I've been enjoying the absence of the ringing of alarm clocks.

I posted the obligatory "best cds of 2007" list over at my rarely updated music blog. Go look at it and disagree with me.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

December Frost Prints

December Frost Prints, originally uploaded by Corbie.

Happy Solstice! Let the light return!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

I went down to "the main office" this morning to keep an appointment to "get processed" for my new permanent position at work. This means that I keep doing the same job, but now actually get benefits (health, dental, vision, etc.). I now make more per hour too (although it is a salaried position), but due to the vagueries of bureaucracy, union dues, and spreading my ten month per year salary out over twelve months, many of my monthly checks will be less than I've been getting. That said, I can elect to not "work" during the summer and still get paychecks for those months. Hmmm.

This whole process has gotten me thinking (again) about how I'm not a practical planner, but more of an optimistic hoper. Things generally work out okay for me, but I've come to the realization that this is because Jen does all the real planning. I'm often mostly talk and little action. It's a problem I'm working on. I think that working my way through the teacher credentialing program will help me with this. Perhaps it already has.

Currently listening to : Stone Breath "Songs of Moonlight and Rain (expanded edition)" It's good to revisit this one.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

It's 45 degrees outside, and raining, with gusts of wind up to 30 mph. I'm pleasantly surprised that the power hasn't gone out up here at camp. I love this weather. This marks the start of the last week of camp for 2007. Then I get some time off from work... so I can work harder at home. At least I'll get more sleep during the upcoming weeks. I'm looking forward to that.

Right now I'm going to go outside and enjoy the cold, darkness, and rain. It's nice.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Orange Morning, originally uploaded by Corbie.

I know everybody with a camera takes this kind of picture, but I couldn't help it. This was the view from camp the other morning. A lot of the kids had their cameras out too. You know it's gotta be beautiful when 10 year olds start taking pictures too. I think this was taken the morning of the day I saw a coyote on the driveway up to camp. Beautiful things happen in groups. I love it when wildlife appears unexpectedly, unless of course the wildlife in question is on top of the cd player, knocking cds to the floor, like the raccoon from a few weeks back. Those raccoons have got to get a life and stop raiding camp for trashcan treats.

This coming week is the last week of work for me this year. It also marks the last week of school for the kids - at least until we all get back to business as usual on January 8th. That's not really that far away, but it seems like it with the holidays in between.

I found out this week that I'm going to be a so-called "permanent" employee soon. It has taken so long to get to that point. There are only a handful of permanent slots, with the rest of the staff filling "substitute" slots, despite the fact that we all work full time - the only difference being that the subs don't get quite as much work as the permanents. Lucky for me, over the last three years there has always been a permanent employee or two who actually needs somebody to sub for them during the times I would otherwise not have work. Those days are behind me now though. I'm the new permanent "evening program specialist," aka "night host." Now I get benefits. I'll probably need them with the reduced amount of sleep I've been getting.

The stress of the holidays is upon us with the realization that, despite the increased cash influx brought about by our family having two employed adults, we still don't seem to have enough money. Oh well.

Oh, I got an "A" for the first term of my teacher credentialing program. That's gotta be worth something.

Also, Jen and I went out together on Thursday night - without any children in tow. I got one of the new "substitute" employees from work to watch the kids. Thankfully, the kids all thought he was great, and he had a similar opinion of them. Jen and I went to the Blogher holiday party in San Francisco, where I finally got to meet a lot of her coworkers. Check out unflattering photos here and here. I'm always bad at going to parties where I don't really know anybody - it brings out my introvert tendencies - but I had fun after awhile, helped by the fact that I did know a couple of other attendees and that the husband of one of Jen's coworkers is also going through a credentialing program. Oh, and there was lots of cheese and chocolate to be had. And good coffee. This brought out my "snack table hovering" tendencies.

Currently listening to: Hrsta "Ghosts Will Come and Kiss Our Eyes"

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

I turned 40 today. The sky is a uniform gray. I'm listening to the new Pantaleimon cd, and the music matches the sky, at least for me. It's a peaceful sort of feeling.

I'm done with my first term (half-term, actually) of school work for CalstateTeach - the program I'm working my way through to get my teaching credentials. I passed the CSET too. I was pretty sure I would, but it's nice to get outside confirmation.

Still lots to do, of course. The holidays don't happen by themselves.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Nothing truly illustrates the true spirit of Thanksgiving as it is celebrated in the 21st century like the turducken - a chicken stuffed inside a duck stuffed inside a turkey. Can't choose which one you like best? This is Amuuricuh dammit!! Eat 'em all!

A little excessive, don't you think? Of course, so is every other popular holiday in this country.

I'm waiting for the day when other examples of overconsumptive indecision start flooding the market. What about a mosedummer? For the uninitiated, that's a motorcycle stuffed inside a sedan stuffed inside a hummer. Maybe you'd like to live in a mohousion (a mobile home stuffed inside a house stuffed inside a mansion)?

Actually, come to think about it. I do own a cd stuffed inside a record. A band called Contrastate is responsible. Funny thing though- they're not even from the U.S. The sickness is spreading!

Happy Thanksgiving to those out there who are thankful for something real.

Monday, November 19, 2007

I finally saw a Sharp-tailed snake in the wild. It happened while visiting friends up the peninsula. Unfortunately, some other animal had seen it first, eaten it, and regurgitated it. There was no head or tail in what remained of the little critter, but my friend who'd discovered it had seen a more complete specimen (also dead) recently, and after looking at pictures, confirmed that it was indeed a Sharp-tailed snake.

Maybe next time I'll actually see a whole one. Perhaps it will even be alive.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Apparently, comet Holmes now has a diameter larger than the sun. Of course, most of it is just an expanding cloud of dust - all size and no substance. I could make a joke or two here, but won't. I watched this faintly luminescent dust through a telescope again this week, while ensuring that nearly two hundred private school kids got to do the same. This reduces the telescope experience to a semi-efficient assembly line of, "don't touch the telescope - yeah, that's what you're supposed to be looking at - I know it looks like fog - please sit over there - I said 'quietly'." Everybody got to see it though. This was at the start of an epic 17 hour shift, which culminated in me once again getting observed by my professor (they actually refer to the teachers in this particular credential program by some sort of acronym that has long since slipped my mind - I think I'm acronym impaired or something...) as I taught a lesson. This time she wanted to see a reading lesson, so I wrote something and made some kids read it. Then, being evil, I made them answer questions about it, formulate a hypothesis, test the hypothesis, and then report on their findings. And yes, I found a snake during the lesson too. It's what I do. My professor liked what she saw, and had some helpful hints to make things even better. Actually, most of the things that she said could be improved were little organizational oversights that I belatedly noticed during the course of the lesson myself. We're on the same page, at least.

Then I took a night off so Jen could attend some work-related meetings. I fell asleep with the girls shortly after 9 PM. Sleep, precious sleep.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

The days pile up with no posts, and moments in time fade away unreported. Most of these moments, though, are taken up with the mundane maintenance of life and living, and hence aren't very interesting anyway.

The days are getting colder, but Autumn has thrown a few summer-like days into the mix. Many of the mornings have been foggy, which is bliss. The sweet melancholy of dropping leaves and indistinct greyness matches my mood. I've examined myself and found room for improvement, but as usual, I'm not sure how to proceed. I turn 40 in less than a month, but I don't always feel like an adult.

That said, I am making improvements in some ways. I'm still working towards getting my multi-subject teaching credential. It's not always easy to find the time to do the assignments though. There is always somebody nearby with a pressing need - usually Willow, who has developed a fear of the bathrooms and now acts like a little tyrant with her constant reminders to, "clowse da door and turn off da liiiights!" Poor girl. I hope this fear is short-lived.

Speaking of teaching credentials, I took the CSET last Saturday. The test covers language arts, math, science, social studies/history, physical education, human development, and the arts. It has eleven essay questions and something like 143 multiple choice questions. I actually kind of enjoyed taking it because I didn't get interrupted by anybody for a whole five hours. I'll find out my scores on the 26th. I think I'll pass. I hope.

That same night, I went and saw a couple of concerts in San Francisco. The first was Iva Bittova at the Noe Valley Ministry, which is a nice place to see a show. The show started out with a haunting, elegaic a-cappella song, and continued with a mixture of spirited, gypsy-inflected violin and voice pieces, with a few detours featuring a marimba (beautiful, like a haunted music box), kazoo (silly, but then again that was the point), and various vocal calisthenics. At a couple of points during the show, she stepped down off the dais and wandered barefoot through the audience, singing in people's faces and looking for all the world like an itinerant gypsy musician trying to get a rise out of the townsfolk. She acted out her songs, which helped those of us who didn't understand Czech (did I mention that she sang in Czech?) get a sense of what they were about. She often punctuated the music with floor stomping and tongue clicking, which was quite fitting somehow.

Then, I rushed over to the Hemlock Tavern to catch (coincidentally enough), another Czech act, Uz Jsme Doma (upon discussing this with Greg, who also went to both shows, I realized that this wasn't the first time we'd seen a show at the Noe Valley Ministry and then rushed off to see Uz Jsme Doma in another club). After some difficulty in finding parking, I got to see part of Mute Socialite's set (Moe!'s new band), and found them satisfyingly gritty and manic. Uz Jsme Doma, who lean more towards the punk end of the musical spectrum than Iva Bittova, put on a great show too. Their sax player is no longer on board (and hasn't been for awhile - but it's been around six years since they were last here), but his shoes were nicely filled by a trumpet player. Good fun, and well deserved after taking the CSET, I think.

More recently, I got to show the kids at camp comet Holmes through the telescope this week. It looks like what it is, and expanding ball of gas around a bright core - sort of like fog in space.

That's all for now. I'll try to update this page more regularly - time allowing, of course.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

My work week began with the realization that some of our current week's crop of cabin leaders are a bit ineffectual. The sixth grade campers, despite the fact (or maybe because of it) that they're all from catholic schools, wasted no time in taking advantage of their leaders' meekness. I think we have things whipped into shape now though. That said, there also had been some vomiting. Last night, at 1 in the damn morning, I found myself washing bedclothes and bleaching a mattress. At least tonight's puker made it to the bathroom.

Willow was a little bit under the weather on Monday, and now Nate shows signs of having a cold.

Way back on Sunday, I took Willow up to the city to see Om play at Amoeba Records. I had mentioned to her that Al (from Om) had helped us move to our current abode almost six years ago (damn, has it been that long?). This information, despite the fact that the moving had transpired before she was born, made Willow really excited. She was dubious about the actual music at first because, despite that fact that I put earplugs in her ears, it was loud - even though we were at the very far end of an immense store. By the end though, we had inched our way forward and she was nodding her head in time to the music. Afterwards, she got to meet Al, which she thought was really cool.

Okay, since I'm at work right now, maybe I'd better go chase some Raccoons or something.

Friday, October 12, 2007

The coyote came back last night. After the kids had all been sent to bed, one of the cabin leaders came to the camp office and informed me that some boys needed to use the bathroom but were afraid to leave their cabin because a coyote was standing outside. I went over and saw it step out of a pool of light near the hillside amphitheater, and vanish down the hill. One of the teachers went with me as we tried to spot it again, but we didn't find it.

The funny thing about this is that camp code for going pee is "chasing a coyote." So, if you think about it, the boys couldn't chase a coyote because they were afraid that a coyote would chase them.

I thought it was funny anyway.

It rained again overnight too. Nothing like the storm a couple of days ago though.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

I saw a coyote out on the field this morning. I heard it before I saw it though, yapping and yipping at something unseen, or maybe just for the sake of doing it. Some of the campers, just waking up and on their way to brush their teeth, stopped and watched it with me for awhile. Eventually, it wandered off into the forest. Fifteen minutes later, it was replaced by a Cooper's hawk. It's a busy field out there in the morning.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Well, it certainly rained last night. After eleven, the wind picked up even more and the rain started. At a few minutes to midnight, the power flickered off and on. A couple of minutes later, the power went out and stayed out until 4 AM. I turned on a flashlight in the camp office to act as a beacon in case any campers woke up, and sat there in the semi-darkness wondering why the back-up generator hadn't kicked in. Later, one of the teachers came in to let me know that the alarm system (which is located in the teachers' room) was beeping. I want in and soon figured out that the beeping stopped if the "alarm silence" button is pushed. Then I got some intermittent sleep, waking up when the power went back on.

In the morning, while talking to our facilities manager, I found out that a malfunction in the alarm system had registered as a "pull" down at the fire station. The fire engines were already on their way up the hill to our site when a call to our facilities manager let them know that it was a malfunction. In other words, my night was almost more interesting than it was.

I finished more homework today. Sophie is currently plowing through a weeks worth of homework in one go. She's starting to lose focus though... Rick has six pennies. He gets 3 more. How many pennies are there in all? I think I'd lose focus too.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Alex turned 11 today. He got a camcorder. We ate cake. Jen took him out for dinner while the rest of us stayed home. It's not often that anybody in this house gets the one-on-one experience. I think everybody would be less grouchy if it happened more often. It is quite hard to schedule such things though.

I'm at work right now. I just did some online work for my class, to the soundtrack of the wind gusting through camp, taking leaves and anything else not nailed down with it. I love this weather. There's even a promise of rain in the forecast. I'll believe it when I see it though.

I think I'll go read awhile. I connected with a homesick kid earlier tonight - he's reading Pullman's The Amber Spyglass at the moment. It's good to be able to discuss literature with fifth graders. We're both looking forward to seeing The Golden Compass (the first part of the trilogy) when it comes out in December.

I hear large things being blown across camp now. I'd better go nail them down.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Three mornings a week, when all four kids are in school, I get a couple of hours by myself. These days, I usually use this time to catch up on much-needed sleep. Today, I'm fashioning yet another "to do" list and listening to music (without anybody yelling at me to turn it down). We spent yesterday over the hill at G's place in the woods. The kids outnumbered the adults 2 to 1, but were generally well-behaved. I say "generally" because Sophie proved to be the exception to that particular rule, but perfection, as always, is an unattainable goal. Of particular interest to the kids was the zip-line. Even Willow managed to hang on as she went zipping down the hill. The Amazing Flying Four-Year-Old. It was good to get away for awhile.

I took another Thursday night off this week; this time to go see Finntroll at Slim's, in San Francisco. This marks the second Thursday in a row for live, Finnish entertainment. Finntroll manage to mix Finnish polka rhythms with death metal, which to most people reading this probably sounds quite unappealing. I had a blast though. Also, I think it's the first time I've heard a band advocate the eating of Christians. Those Scandinavian heathens - what will they think of next? This was the first heavy metal show I've attended in a long time - the last one being Celtic Frost a year or so ago. I definitely still appreciate the energy. Anything that makes an almost-forty-year-old feel like a kid again is a good thing. I even contemplated going into the pit (despite the "no moshing" sign, there were lots of people flying around). I nixed the idea after realizing that I was too encumbered by 21st century gadgetry - cell phone, I-pod, digital camera, etc. Sometimes I long for the primitive days of the 80s and 90s when all I had in my pockets were my wallet and keys. Sometimes. As it was, I placed myself right next to the pit because that's where the best air circulation is. Of course, you've got to keep your arms up to deflect people back into the melee. Greg showed up about half way through, and due to my thermos of coffee, I was able to give him a ride home (actually, I dropped him off at a coffee shop). Without coffee, I find myself just a bit too tired to do much these days.

But now it's Monday. I've got photos to post, but at the moment no way to post them. Our main computer has taken a turn for the worse. Now it won't shut down, and the monitor only displays the little mouse arrow. Not sure what to do about that. Curse my luddite tendencies! Life goes on though. Dishes need cleaning. Laundry needs doing. Class assignments need attention. I've now got less than a month before I take the CSET. Better get moving here.

Currently listening to: Sunburned Circle "The Blaze Game" (on the main stereo too, since the kids are all sitting in little desks in classrooms.

Monday, October 01, 2007

So, in addition to my car not working, our computer has decided not to let us go online. It's a good thing that Jen has two laptops. She's been using her work laptop and leaving her other one at home for me to use. I've been using it mostly to do assignments for school - answering random questions for my CSET preparation class and doing online assignments for my teaching credential class.
The computer problem is also why I haven't uploaded any new photos lately. Of course, working nights doesn't give me as much opportunity to take photos either, so it's really two factors involved in my Flickr page stagnating. Sorry.

In addition to work and school, I did manage to get out and see Circle at the Bottom of the Hill in San Francisco on Thursday night. The opening bands were pretty good, especially Triclops!, who were refreshingly manic. Circle, of course, topped them both with the most varied set I've yet seen them do. They did everything from prog rock and tongue-in-cheek heavy metal to punk, with a silly wresting moment thrown in for good measure. It's good to see such an excellent band with a bizarre sense of humor. I feel like I got the best of both worlds.

Then, on Saturday, I went to my first actual class down in Monterey. I had to get up at 5:30 in the morning, which wasn't fun, but once I got there I was feeling a bit better. We spent the day learning about how to teach students to read.

And finally, yesterday, Willow and I went to the open house at my work. Kids who will be coming up to science camp (and a few who've already been) showed up with their parents for some welcoming fun and festivities. I led a hike, since I don't really get much chance to do that for the time being.

Speaking of Willow, I've got to go pick her up from school now. Bye.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Being the night supervisor at camp is starting to become routine. I don't see Jen very much during the week, and I miss her. I'm also kind of like a stay-at-home dad now, picking the kids up from school every day and hanging out with them in the afternoon. I don't really have time to hang out though, because I'm usually either doing dishes or homework. My class is going pretty well - I'm managing to keep up with the assignments, at least. I have my first teaching observation tomorrow morning while all of our kids are in school - I teach and get observed by my professor. Hopefully she'll have some helpful comments. This weekend I have to go down to CSU Monterey Bay for an all-day Saturday seminar. Busy busy busy.

Willow is currently asleep on the bed. This would be an excellent time for me to take a nap too, but I have to go get the other kids from school right now. That means I have to wake Willow up.

More later, if there's time.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

The character of each week of camp is different. So far this week, the kids have been models of good behavior, but when the sun sets, they want their mommies. The hub (camp office) was busy with a steady stream of visitors, some sniffling with eyes downcast, and some talking about all of the reasons they couldn't sleep.

At sunrise, I watched a clumsy bat try multiple times to enter the safety of its home underneath the shingles lining the side of the covered walkway in front of the hub. During this time, sleepy kids walked to and from the bathrooms, not realizing that the shapes darting around their heads were bats.

Later, driving home, I noticed that my car was running rough and threatening to stall while I was waiting for lights to turn green. It's a good thing we have three vehicles now. I'll miss the cd player though.

Monday, September 17, 2007

I'm about to start up my second week as night host at science camp. The first week flew by pretty quickly, and reminded me how much I love being up at night. It's nice watching the stars, which are more visible up in the hills than they are down in the light-polluted city. I find it aesthetically pleasing when the mist rolls in, and when the coyotes yelp out their songs. The raccoons are a bit troublesome though. On Thursday night, while I was in the new lodge facilitating the cabin leader break, the raccoons got into the camp office and dumped over the compost bucket that some unknown individual had left there. When I got back, it was all over the mat in front of the door. Even so, when I'm not cleaning up after them, I enjoy watching their antics. I also like watching the bats as they come home right around sunrise.
During the week, I've been getting around 4 hours of sleep a night, which so far has been enough to function on. I'll crawl into the office bunk bed for a few hours between 1:30 and 5:30 AM, and on days the Willow has school, get another hour or two at home. I'm also hard at work studying for the CSET test and doing coursework towards getting my teaching credentials (which I probably should be doing right now instead of blogging). Add to that watching the kids during the day while Jen is at work, and I'm pretty busy.

With that said, it's time to go do some dishes and laundry before I have to pick up Willow from preschool.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Two in a Tree

Two in a Tree, originally uploaded by Corbie.

The Resumption of Nocturnal Activity

There are going to be a lot more photos like this one popping up in my photostream over the coming months. Last night marked the beginning of my time as night host at science camp. My job begins right before the majority of the kids go to sleep, and ends soon after they wake up in the morning. Anybody who can't sleep (due to homesickness, real sickness, or other issues) or gets in trouble for preventing others from going to sleep comes to me. At that point I will put down whatever book I'm reading and help them with encouraging words, thermometer, stern advice, or whatever else seems right at the time. Sometimes I might get an hour or two of sleep myself, depending on the night. Oh, and sometimes, armed only with my camera flash, I scare raccoons away from the garbage.

I think I'll go lay down for a minute, or at least until the pokemon video that Willow is watching reaches its conclusion.

Team Leader

Team Leader, originally uploaded by Corbie.

Recycling 101

Our inservice week ended on Friday with a trip to the local recycling plant. Since Willow wasn't in school that afternoon, she came along for the ride. The tour of the plant started in a small "education" room featuring walls adorned by helpful paintings of the recycling process. Also on hand were plastic containers filled with the end result of the recycling process - plastic pellets and cotton candy-like fluff that used to be plastic bottles, crushed glass, etc. Our gum-chewing guide talked a bit about the process (we're single stream in our area now, which simplifies things on the input end, but makes for more sorting work at the plant), only to be interrupted about halfway through his talk by Willow.


I love the honesty of the very young. They're never afraid to tell you how they feel. The "boring" part was soon replaced by an actual walk through the actual plant, where we were treated to scenic views of mountains of old paper, plastic, and metal. Willow thought this was much more interesting. She was especially intrigued by a forlorn teddy bear resting on a heap of old plastic and paper on the plant floor. We watched as the teddy bear got bulldozed onto a conveyer belt, and waved to it as it disappeared from sight. There was also a sad little stuffed monkey attached to one of the chutes on the second floor, and a dinged up animal mobile hanging at eye level in the work area. In a way, it's sad to see those cast-off bits of childhood in amongst all of the detritus of our throw-away society. Sure, all of the stuff at the plant is destined to be recycled, but it all started its journey there when somebody threw it in a bin somewhere.

Willow's final verdict was that the whole thing was a worthwhile excursion. She spent the rest of the day regaling anybody who would listen with tales of the "becycling place.".

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

As I was dropping Willow off at preschool (which shares a campus with a local high school), I spotted a car with the words, "SENOIRS RULE!", written on the back window.

You too, with a little bit of window paint, can turn your poor spelling into instant public embarrassment. Too bad that kind of window doesn't come with spell check.

This made me think that some seniors don't rule... or maybe their teachers don't. Hmmm.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Mountain Home, with Marissa Nadler, originally uploaded by Corbie.

Marissa Nadler, Mariee Sioux, and Mountain Home at the Hemlock, plus transitions into new routines.

Since I had the week off, I spent the week shuttling the kids to and from school while Jen worked. Leaves have already begun to fall, and it would seem like autumn if not for the unseasonable heat we're experiencing at the moment. Willow has already made a new friend - another little blonde girl. They like pretending to be rabbits together. The girl's dad seems nice too. It turns out he knows one of my coworkers. Small world. The bigger kids have all settled in to their school routine, and Jen even had a chance to do some belated back-to-school shopping for everybody today.

Did I mention that we have a new van? Our schedules are now such (or will be in a couple of weeks) that two vans are needed in order to drop off and pick up the volume of kids (sometimes 5) that need to be transported. Life sure is expensive sometimes. It's a nice van though.

Midweek, I managed to slip away and see a show at the Hemlock Tavern up in San Francisco. I went up alone, but after I'd been there a bit, Greg turned up too, as he often does when good music is to be heard. Mountain Home opened, and turned out to be one guy on acoustic guitar playing folk/country-tinged instrumentals. Nice, but a lot different than what I was expecting based on the songs on their myspace page. Mariee Sioux played next, playing Native American flavored acoustic folk, and managing to be haunting and catchy all at the same time. I'd only just heard her a day or two before while researching the openers for Marissa Nadler, who was the main draw for me. Marissa Nadler plays haunting, reverb drenched folk music, and wouldn't sound out of place alongside 70's bands like Pentangle or Trees. During her set, she even included a Townes Van Zandt cover, Tecumseh Valley. Towards the end, she was joined on stage by two members of Mountain Home for a stunning Mountain Home song (see photo - she hadn't quite memorized the lyrics and was holding them in her hand). Can't wait to hear their cd when it comes out.
On the way to drop off Greg in Berkeley, we got caught in a detour that added a half hour to our trip. At least it wasn't this weekend, because at the moment the Bay Bridge is completely closed down.

Other than this, I've been studying for the CSET (California Subject Examination for Teachers) and doing related assignments. I'm still awaiting to get my box of course materials in the mail, but I definitely have enough work to keep me busy in the meantime.

Oh, and check out this. It's from the readings we did at the Berkeley City Club some time back. More to come, possibly.

R.I.P. Alfred Peet.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007


Sunbeams, originally uploaded by Corbie.

I can imagine that people who weren't aware that an eclipse was happening might have been a little alarmed when the moon gradually turned to blood in the middle of the night last night. I, aware that an eclipse was scheduled, set my alarm and went out to watch it for awhile. Kind of eerie, actually - but eerie in a good way. Of course, I'm of the opinion that eerie is usually good. I shared the night with a garden spider who was busily making its web nearby, then went back to bed so I could get up a few hours later to help with the removal of kids from the house so they could go to their first day of school. Hard to believe that Sophie is in the first grade, Nate in third, and Alex in fifth. Willow had her first day yesterday. By most accounts the first day experiences were good, with only Nathan expressing the opinion that the kids in his class were, "annoying."

Yesterday was technically my first day of school too, and Jen's first day at the office. It seems though, that my financial aid forms are still floating around in the deep end of some bureaucratic swimming pool, preventing the final step of legitimacy from happening, and Jen is actually working at a cottage owned by her boss instead of the actual office. So.... almost!

My faculty adviser/contact person had arranged to meet with me this morning around the corner at the coffee shop. Of course, today of all days there was a handwritten note on the door stating that it wouldn't be opening until almost noon. We met at our house instead. She seems nice enough, but I'm definitely going to be working hard and sleeping little over the coming months. In addition to the assigned course work, I'm studying for the upcoming CSET test in early November. Right now I'm reading the social studies/history section in the big CSET study guide. It's sort of like relearning everything I was supposed to learn/learned but forgot in all of my classes from kindergarten through the eighth grade. It's actually more interesting than it sounds though. Just time consuming.

Over last weekend I didn't get much studying done because Jen's brother J finally married his girlfriend S in a lovely little ceremony up in the hills. Of course this meant that lots of out of town relatives were on hand too, including Jen and J's dad and stepmom, various uncles and cousins, friends, and lots of people whom I've never met. In other words, lots of restaurant dining and sitting around tables and talking. It was nice to see the far away relatives-in-law again, but I tend to get overwhelmed in crowds, I'm afraid - especially the rehearsal dinner with forty or so people all eating together. The wedding was a definite highpoint though. Jen and I even got to dance a bit. So did the kids, who all comported themselves with style (if not always grace) on the dance floor. They're already better dancers than I am.

The picture above is of the sun slicing through smoke from cooking food, over the unsuspecting heads of wedding guests.

That's it for now - posts may become more infrequent than usual as we all slip into our new routines around here. Next week is science camp set-up week (for which I might occasionally have to have at least Willow with me), followed by the beginning of the science camp school year, during which I'll be working as night host. We'll see how that goes...

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Forked Tail

Forked Tail, originally uploaded by Corbie.

This is the forked tail of a Fence lizard, first spotted by a summer camp boy on a critter hunt at camp last Monday. Unlike, say, a two-headed snake, the lizard isn't born this way. If a lizard's tail breaks halfway off, a new tail starts to grow from the wound. In the picture here, the new tail is on the left. New tails are always less attractive than old ones. The lesson here is be careful with your tail. If you're not, you'll either end up with an ugly tail or, if you have the forked variety, attract unwanted attention from passing people.

Tomorrow starts the last week of summer camp. A lot of kids will already be in school by the end of the week. Jen is going to her new office for the first time on Monday, so I'm going to bring the boys to camp with me again while the girls go to a friend's house.

Summer camp has been going quite well. I've been leading a lot of critter hunts and pond saving expeditions. The snakes have started to make themselves scarce, with only a lone Gopher snake allowing itself to be found over the last two weeks. I did a couple of new activities over the last week though. One of them was a simple geography challenge. Every kid got a piece of paper and a pencil, and was instructed to write down as many countries as they could in a certain amount of time. At the end of it, most of them had written down somewhere between 15 and 35 countries. I got 89. One of the camp counselors got 121. That makes me smarter than 5th graders, but not, apparently, than high schoolers. Good to know, I guess... The other activity was labeled "elephant appreciation" and involved listening to the Thai Elephant Orchestra cd (music played by elephants on special elephant intruments), learning how to make convincing elephant trumpeting sounds, and finally, a question and answer session with yet another camp counselor, who just got back from Thailand where he had been working with elephants - perhaps some of the same elephants on the cd, since he recognized some of the backgrounds in the pictures gracing the cd booklet.

I continue to love the fact that we can do whatever we want at camp.

As for me, I got up at 5 AM yesterday and drove up to Santa Rosa (about 120 miles away) to attend an orientation for the teacher credentialing program I've enrolled in. It mostly involved the technological aspect of the program. This is important to know, since it's an online course, with only 4 or 5 mandatory "seminars" over the entire duration of the program. A lot of our work will involve online forums and submitting answers via e-mail. I came away being quite enthusiastic about the program, although I'll admit I'm a little worried about managing to fit all of this extra work in to an already tight schedule. Entries on this blog may become even more infrequent. We'll have to see how it goes...

On the way back, I crossed over the Golden Gate Bridge. San Francisco was uncharacteristically sunny, with sailboats dotting the bay. I stopped for dinner and cds before continuing home.

Monday, August 06, 2007


The five year anniversary of this site came and went while I was looking the other way. My first post here was on July 31, 2002, and was inspired by Jen starting a blog a couple of weeks earlier than that. Since then, it has become a habit, although I've slowed down a bit. I no longer try to post every day during the week - more like once or twice a week, if that. This is due largely to life getting in the way of writing about life. I used to sit down at the computer after coming home from my night job, when the house was quiet and I did my best thinking (or reflecting, at any rate). Due to the diurnal schedule I've kept for the last three years, I no longer have a guaranteed quiet time every day. Jen and I are both working full time now, so there's not a lot of time for slumping in front of the computer and trying to compose posts. That said, most of my posts are pretty stream-of-consciousness anyway. I've never agonized over the quality of what I type here. I just sort of blurt it out and hit "publish". Not that it matters. I'm not trying to win any writing awards here.

As always, this site has no real direction other than the one that I follow in life. It goes where I go. My schedule is likely to change again soon. I'm gearing up to earn my teaching credentials, and I'm going to try my hand at being the night supervisor at work - if they actually get around to hiring for it (the process is trapped in some sort of bureaucratic spider web at the moment, it seems). Right now though, I've just started the third-to-last week of summer camp, so for the time being life is still relatively the same.

I still have fun going back and reading early posts. Lots of things have changed over the past five years. I wonder what life will be like five years from now?

Oh, I've decided to start entitling posts. Just because.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Due to the near-daily reminders from Willow, we ended up at the "summer fair" this weekend (actually, the Santa Clara County fair). We arrived around mid-afternoon, with Willow and Sophie in tow and a hundred bucks in my pocket, and left several hours later with three dollars and some change. There have been a series of articles in the local paper about the imminent demise of the fair, which hasn't broken even in years, and in my opinion the coffin is being nailed shut by prices that border on extortion. It gives one the illusion of single-handedly helping the fair break even every time a soda or water is purchased, not to mention parking and entrance fees.
Still, the girls had fun until the money ran out, at which point Sophie had a fit. Willow, for her part, was saddened by the fact that she isn't quite 42 inches tall and therefore too short to experience the ferris wheel.
Both girls liked the pony rides, even though one of the "ponies" was very obviously a donkey. They also liked the trampoline/bungee cord thing that propelled jumpers high in the air. I liked the... I don't know... the indefinable feel of history one associates with octogenarian quilters and pens of farm animals. Not to mention the midway, with its small-town carnival feel.

I can see why people are fighting to keep the fair alive for another year, but I can also see why any such effort is doomed to failure.

On a somewhat unrelated note, while I was talking to a family after our summer camp's barbeque and skit program (talk about another old-timey americana holdover), a Great Horned Owl flew over us, probably about thirty feet up in the darkening sky. Although we were in shadow, the owl was high enough so that its underside glowed orange with the light of the setting sun. We went quiet as we watched it disappear into the distance.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

R.I.P. Michelangelo Antonioni. These things tend to happen in clusters of three. Who's next?

Monday, July 30, 2007

R.I.P. Ingmar Bergman. Proof that the good (or great) don't always die young.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Somebody Recycled A Perfectly Reusable Pair of Raccoons!

Friday morning, right in the middle of our end-of-the-week meeting, we got the word from one of the camp counselors that one of our recycling bins was full of raccoons. This must have been a hard feat to pull off because the bins are inside a supposedly raccoon-proof wooden box, with bungee-corded lids. For the raccoons, it ended up being a lot of work for nothing because the bin they were in was devoid of any recycled materials. We pulled the bin out and, without alerting any of the campers who were all gathered mere feet away for breakfast (with the exception of Sophie and Willow, who were with me and got to see the action), walked it over to where the forest begins. It took some coaxing and tilting to get the frightened little baby raccoons to leave the shelter of their bin, but once they were out, they wasted no time in scrambling up a tree.
Later the same day, I also relocated a large Wolf spider from the Wild Things (that's what we call the program for campers under 7 years old) room. Counting the Rattlesnake from a couple of days ago, we spent a lot of time moving wild animals this week.
As if that wasn't enough, While I was driving up to camp with Sophie and Willow (the boys spent the night, going on the night hike and sleeping in the field with the other campers) we saw a coyote walking right down the middle of the road. As we got closer, we could see that it had a deer leg in its mouth. It bounded up the hill to our right, and I stopped the van to try and get a picture - an utter failure, I'm afraid, due to the poor light and moving target. It did pause long enough for the girls to get a good look, and they were quite excited - in fact, they spent the rest of the day telling people about it, but due to the fact that they're at an age where fact and fantasy are often seamlessly blended, I had to confirm the story many times.

By Friday afternoon, the kids were all tired and kind of cranky, especially Nate. They all had a great time though, meeting other kids, hiking, climbing (Alex and C on the high ropes course, Nate on the climbing wall), archery, and just plain hanging out around camp or at the pool. Alex got in some more reading time on the newest Harry Potter book too. Once home, we ordered pizza and unwound a bit. Nate and Sophie fell asleep relatively early. Willow hung in there for awhile before falling asleep in the big bed. Alex stayed up late to read more Harry Potter.

I think it was good for the kids to see what I do at work. I hung out with Nate the most, since he was in my group. It was good for me too - I don't really do stuff with the boys as often as I should. This was a good chance to just relax and have some fun (while getting paid too!).

Jen is still in Chicago. She's working hard and not sleeping enough. Hope she makes it over to the art museum (and manages to stay out of the neighborhoods I found myself in the last time I was there - the kind of neighborhoods where taxis won't stop for you).

Today, Sophie is at the zoo with friends. The rest of us are going to go see the Simpsons movie later.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

The Snake and the Spider

The Snake and the Spider, originally uploaded by Corbie.

I've been doing this activity at camp during which I take kids into the forest to gather ingredients for "Ohlone tea". We gather fallen Madrone bark, Douglas Fir needles, Bay Laurel leaves, and Yerba Buena. The secret to good tea is go heavy on the Yerba Buena and Douglas Fir, and really light on the Bay Laurel leaves (I put in too many the first time I tried this, and nearly melted my sinuses). Madrone bark is mostly for color, although I'm told that the Ohlone people used it to make compresses, as well as tea, so it must have some medicinal use. The other secret to getting kids to enjoy the tea is to let them sugar it to taste. Oh, and making it iced tea. It is summer, after all...
Yesterday, we had just started on our gathering hike (with Alex, whose camp name this week is Unpleasant Chicken, coming along) when I got a radio call from our facilities manager, Walrus, that there was a visitor at the new lodge who needed moving. "Does the visitor have a rattle?" I asked. I already knew the answer, and sure enough, I was told that there was a two-foot Rattlesnake near the front of the lodge. I asked the Ohlone tea gathering group if they wouldn't mind becoming a Rattlesnake relocation group. Of course, I got an enthusiastic and unanimous "YES!". On the way back up to the lodge, I grabbed a stick and an old recycling barrel. Then it was just a matter of encouraging the Rattlesnake, who had been hiding behind a stack of cardboard leaning against the wall of the nearly completed new camp entry walkway, into the container. This accomplished, we showed our captive to other nearby kids, and hiked it up the hill away from camp.

It was a beautiful snake too, lookng like it had recently shed.

I also, for the first time, found a cicada nymph. Usually we just find the molted exoskeletons or adults.

The kids are all having a great time at camp this week too. I'll admit, it's hard getting everybody out of bed before 8 and out the door before 8:30, but I managed somehow. The boys are going to sleep over at camp tonight, but I'm taking the girls home. We'll see how the boys fare.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

The Best Way to Spend the Summer

The Best Way to Spend the Summer, originally uploaded by Corbie.

Jen is on her way to Chicago for the Blogher conference. I'm at work right now with all of the kids, plus Nate and Alex's friend C. I'm glad I work at a summer camp - it makes child care issues easy.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

It seems that the new Harry Potter book sold in excess of 8 million copies during the first 24 hours after its release. Jen, thinking ahead, reserved a couple of copies at Borders. I went down there with Willow on Friday afternoon so I could get a wristband that saved me a place in line. The one I got was silver, meaning that I couldn't get in line until all of the people with orange wristbands had lined up.

Later in the evening, I went back and joined the crazy circus of people, many in costume, who waited for midnight to signal the great unboxing. I ran into a few people I knew through work, shopped around, and found myself in line for coffee when my wristband color was called. I had a moment of indecision then - should I forget the coffee and get in line for the book, or should I obtain caffeine. Coffee won out. This meant, of course, that by the time I got in line most of the other bearers of the silver wristband had already lined up. I found myself all the way across the shopping center, out by the road. I couldn't even read in line because they were going to be handing the books to customers at the registers, and since the line was outside the store, I couldn't bring out the other books I'd selected.

About an hour later I had two copies of the book and a free poster. The wait was interesting from a sociological perspective - the parents, some harried, some grouchy, and some joking with their kids, were fun to watch. The kids, some amped up on anticipation and sugar, some dazed and sleepy, some (like the small girl passed out in her grandma's lap, head resting on one arm of a chair, feet on the other) sleeping, were quite cute. The people who came out of the store with the first copies held them high and offered to sell them to the highest bidder. I don't think I've waited in a line like this since the original Star Wars movies came out. My tastes don't usually make it necessary for me to stand in lines.

When I got home, despite the fact that it was 1 AM, I figured I'd better get reading. We'd gotten two copies so we wouldn't all have to take turns. Anyway, if Alex finished first, it is very likely the ending would no longer be a mystery to anybody nearby. This weekend, he's got a copy at his dad's, and I've finished reading the other copy.

And I'm not telling you what happens.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Summer Camp?

Summer Camp?, originally uploaded by Corbie.

The last time it rained around here on July 18th, they weren't even keeping records yet, and they started keeping track of such things 150 years ago. Today it rained enough to shut down the camp's climbing wall for the afternoon. Too slippery. The moss was soaking up the much needed moisture, and beads of water shimmered on leaves and spider webs. The ground drank it up. The kids, for the most part, ignored it and did the usual summer camp things like swimming and eating ice cream. That said, when we went down to the pond today, I was the only one who actually went in all the way. One boy stepped in up to his thighs before thinking better of it, but that doesn't really count. One must become one with the pond. One must get duckweed in places that duckweed is not meant to go.

I caught a huge Bullfrog too. I think the cool weather slowed it down just enough to make this possible.

Oh, I'm also playing bingo all week this week - wildlife bingo. I made up little bingo grids with the names of local animals written on them. Kids have to see the animals in the wild to cross them off. Five in a row wins. So far, several kids in my group have gotten bingos. Kids are naturally enthusiastic about seeing wild animals, but this makes them even more eager to find them. It gives us one more thing to focus on during hikes too.

Now, the clouds have mostly disappeared. Tomorrow is supposed to be warmer. It's too bad, really. I enjoyed the fog and rain.

Sunday, July 15, 2007


inn.aff.(orchext.), originally uploaded by Corbie.

Friday after work I made my way rather quickly up to Oakland to participate in the inn.aff.(orchext.) big band show at 21 Grand, for a which a dozen or so musicians/sound artists/whathaveyou from all over the bay area converged (and in some cases, met each other for the first time) and improvised a mass of textured sound. Most of the usual suspects were involved, including all founding members of the O.A.C. and all members of the first live incarnation of (actually, come to think of it, all members of the most recent live incarnation too), as well as the good folks behind Maleficia, NF Orchest, French Radio, Petit Mal, and many others.
Before the proceedings got underway, I learned the hard way that it's not a good idea to park my car on a dimly-lit sidestreet in Oakland on Friday the 13th. Before it even got fully dark, some crackhead decided to vaporize my front passenger side window and rummage through the meager offerings within my car. The offerings proved to be so meager that nothing was actually stolen. Stuff sure was strewn about though. I'm glad he (it's almost always a "he", isn't it?) didn't take any of my cds. This is one of the many times I've been glad that I don't have musical taste similar to that of crackheads.

Anyway, after some thought, I decided to use the broken glass during the performance. Contact mics are wonderful things because they make broken glass sound so interesting. Before that, though, there were four opening acts. I'll have to admit that I spent a good amount of time outside the club chatting with people and keeping an eye on my car so that nobody would take advantage of the missing window to do some furtive shopping, but I did see some of Tarantism, who were delightfully bizarre, and Rubber O Cement, who played with us ( in Seattle a couple of years ago. After the Rubber O set, an older gentleman was heard to comment (and I paraphrase here), "I don't know much about music or art, but I do know a rampage through the audience when I see it." It is indeed a wonder nobody got knocked out by the bizarrely costumed character wielding an instrument that resembles an electronic two-by-four stumbled amongst the seated audience.
When we finally go on, things start out with a projected video of Nora, the piano playing cat. With this many people playing at once, and from my monitor-less vantage point from behind the P.A., I can't really comment on how it all sounded. People clapped at the end though. Special thanks go out to Jim Haynes and the guitarist whose name I've temporarily forgotten for giving me their share of the proceeds to help me buy a new car window.

On Saturday, I went and got a window. $140. Cheaper than I remembered. This marks the 4th time my car has been broken into over the last 20 years. That's about 1 every five years. Not too bad, I guess.

Took the girls to the Children's museum too, which is always free for me. The girls liked the new Clifford the Big Red Dog exhibit.

Today we got things done around the house. I finished applying for financial aid for the teaching credential program I'm planning on doing. Finished applying for the program too. I feel a sense of accomplishment because It's sometimes hard for me to take the first step.

Tomorrow marks the start of the fifth week of summer camp. Hard to believe it's halfway through July already.

R.I.P. Kelly Johnson. I saw Girlschool open for Iron Maiden and the Scorpions at the Oakland Auditorium way back in 1982 (that's a quarter century ago!). I always like to think that musicians continue to live on, like their music. Sadly, that's not always the case. I haven't listened to much Girlschool in recent years, but I've always respected them for being one of the few all-female heavy metal bands in a male dominated genre.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Slipping Over the Eyes

Slipping Over the Eyes, originally uploaded by Corbie.

I had clipped an article about Butano State Park out of the paper several months ago, and Saturday I finally managed to drive out to the coast to check it out, bringing Willow and Matt with me. It proved to be lush and full of banana slugs, and pleasantly cool. So cool, in fact, that I ended up dressing Willow in some of my clothes to keep her warm. She thought it was quite funny. We went on a two mile hike, of which Willow probably walked 3/4 of a mile. Pretty good for her. We spent a lot of time investigating fungi and things under logs, as well as the great number of plants.
Afterwards, we went to nearby Waddell beach and watched the para-surfers (or whatever the heck you call people who allow themselves to be dragged around by inflatable kite/parachute contraptions while surfing) splashing through the waves. Willow, of course, got wet. I joined her. The water from a nearby river mouth was actually quite warm. There is still a lot of sand in my car. I don't care though. One day I might have a car I care about getting dirty, but for now I'll enjoy not caring about the state of my car.

We also managed to watch two movies this weekend, as well as go out to eat twice, the first time with Matt, and the second time With Jeremy and Jennifer. Will wonders never cease?

I'm into week four of the summer camp season, and my group this week consists of ten and eleven year olds. I found the hat I lost last week (it was under a board, dropped while I was attempting to catch a rattlesnake) and temporarily lost my walkie-talkie. The latter I found by going back to camp and getting another one so I could call my lost radio while I retraced my steps. It turns out I had dropped it while catching a Ringneck snake. I tend to get a little too focused sometimes, I guess...

Monday, July 02, 2007

This is week #3 of the 2007 summer camp season, and later on in the week the temperature is supposed to be in the mid nineties. I can't say I'm looking forward to that. This time of year, I much prefer the cool mornings. None of the kids have to get up early, so it's relatively peaceful. The roads are devoid of any school-related traffic, so the drive to work is easier. Not to mention me not having to drop any kids off at various schools on the way there.

Our camp has a bus that picks up kids at a school near the downtown area. Parents are advised to circle the block so they don't have to make an illegal left turn into the school parking lot. One day last week, I drove our camp van down to the school to oversee the bus boarding process. My job was to make sure the kids were safe and that their parents were obeying the traffic rules. I put cones out in the road to block any left turns the "specially entitled" parents might attempt to make. Jutting out of the top of one of the cones was a sign that read something like, "for the safety of your children, no left turn." Of course, at least one parent attempted to make a left turn AROUND THE FUCKING CONES! I effectively blocked his way, forcing him to make an awkward correction in the middle of the road.

This kind of thing really pushes my buttons. In fact, any time a person acts like safety rules and common courtesy only apply to lesser beings, I want to make them eat a traffic cone. Backwards.

On a more relaxing note, the other night, when the full moon was about to rise, Jen decided that it would be a good idea to go out and watch it, since it was supposed to appear extra large (yeah, I know it's just an illusion, but the effect is beautiful nonetheless). After failing to see it from our vantage point at the end of the block, all six of us hopped in the van and drove down the street.

Still no moon.

We drove here and there, eventually ending up back near home. Finally we saw it, rising beyond the houses, trees, and hills. We followed it, ending up at a park with a grassy hill, where we hung out for awhile while Jen took pictures. The moon was beautiful, but better yet, the kids mostly behaved.

It's nice not having a big TV in the front room. It makes it much easier to convince the kids to leave the house and do crazy things like driving around looking for the moon. Lunacy, indeed.

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Would You Trust These People?, originally uploaded by Corbie.

On Monday evening, a bunch of us got together at the Berkeley City Club for some spoken-word fun. Greg, who regularly haunts the club in his role as sound designer for Central Works, put the whole thing together. The Club itself is a very elegant place, designed by architect Julia Morgan, and feeling like one of those places one would expect to find old men sitting in overstuffed chairs in front of the fire, discussing past exploits as they chew on their pipes. In fact, the upstairs room we occupied was called the men's lounge. Nearby was a sign that for the men's room, and we all hoped nobody would end up standing expectantly in front of the toilets, waiting for them to read stories or spout poetry.
As it turned out, being a Monday night, only a handful of people showed up. I read an old OAC story which I had extended over the course of the last week. Greg improvised some sound underneath it. The whole thing culminated in Matthias and Greg throwing a dirty garbage bag over my head and hauling me out of the room (pre-planned, of course - not a reaction to my story). Matt read a couple of short pieces (one OAC story, and an essay he had submitted elsewhere) accompanied by a backing cd. Greg read an OAC story, accompanied by Dean on guitar and Jim on bicycle wheel. Dean read/performed a very touching story about a corpse. Matthias very effectively read a section from an old John Cheever novel, involving the unfortunate demise of a dog.
Afterwards, a bunch of us went out for coffee and discussed silly names of teachers we'd had growing up. There are plans to do this sort of thing more often, schedules allowing. The next time a bunch of us get together will be on July 13th in Oakland. Expect improvised weirdness. More on that as the date draws near. Of course, Matthias won't be participating because one of his bands, The Book of Knots, is having their debut performance on the opposite coast.

At home, we've had some good news on the income front. Jen is going from being a contractor to being an employee, with an increase in salary and benefits to come. I can already feel some of that financial stress dissipating.

The kids have taken to staying up way to late, cutting in to any adult time the grownups might have. whenever kids are involved, summer is always so different from the rest of the year. Since I both live and work with kids, that means my whole routine changes.

This week, I did my first week of summer camp at my primary job. We have the option of spending Thursday night camping out with the kids (their one overnight stay during the week) or working on Friday. I opted to spend the night and have Friday off. Camp, in some ways, is like outdoor school, in that each staff member gets a group of kids to be in charge of. The differences are that we don't have to teach them the science standards, their ages vary more, and we only have them in the mornings. In the afternoon, we get to do whatever we want (within reason, of course) and whoever wants to do that particular activity shows up at the appointed time.
In the mornings, this week, I had a group of 7 and 8 year olds (much like I did last week at YSI), and in the afternoon I led a bunch of "critter hunts", during which we looked for snakes. The only snake I caught was actually during the morning (which makes sense, because that's when they're more likely to be out basking), but we did find some Alligator lizards and scorpions in the afternoon. I had an average of 20 kids on each of the hunts. On Wednesday, I did some "pond saving," during which a bunch of us went into pond to scoop out duckweed and catch non-native Bullfrog tadpoles. Afterwards, we fed the tadpoles to my Water Monitor lizard. He ate about 15 of them while the kids watched with rapt attention. I think I'll do this every week, since it proved to be popular and it's a good way to feed my Monitor for free.

That's it for now. It's getting late and pizza must be ordered.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Board Removed to Show More Snake

Board Removed to Show More Snake, originally uploaded by Corbie.

My reptile camp came to a close in fine style today, with the discovery of the largest Rattlesnake I have yet seen on the trails of Sanborn park. One of the kids spotted it first. It was resting under and between some boards piled up in the chaparral. The boards themselves form part of a large pile of wooden detritus which also includes some old doors, pallets, and various signs and bits of wire mesh. Rather unsightly, but, like the nearby panels of corrugated metal, great cover for any number of reptiles. The corrugated metal tends to become too hot during the summer though, so the wood becomes one of my favorite places to look. This particular Rattlesnake was content to sit still while I moved a board to get better photos. The one kid in my group with a camera also started clicking away. I wouldn't let him get too close, but I did take his camera and get him some close-ups. He was thrilled. I made certain that he mentioned to his mom later that the close-ups were taken by me. It wouldn't do to have parents thinking that I let their 7 and 8 year olds get within a foot or two of potentially lethal wildlife.
The section of snake I could see was nearly as big around as my forearm. And when it finally slithered back under one of the boards, I think I counted at least 12 buttons on its rattle.

And here I was afraid that the reptile camp kids wouldn't get to see any snakes! If I remember right, last year we found a Rattlesnake during the bug camp, but nothing of note during the reptile camp. I'm glad that trend was broken.

I'm glad that I continue to be excited by this kind of thing.

Solstice Sunset, originally uploaded by Corbie.

Yesterday, Jen had this brilliant idea of just dropping everything, piling a bunch of towels and snacks into a bag, and going to the beach to watch the solstice sun set over the water.

We ended up at Natural Bridges just north of downtown Santa Cruz, barely out of sight of the pier and the boardwalk. Since Santa Cruz is slightly set back in a bay, we weren't sure if we would be able to see the sun actually sinking beyond the ocean. Of course, once we got to the beach we discovered that the sun was fixing to sink beyond some trees and houses above the far end of the beach. Curse the unevenness of the coast! It ended up being just fine though. The kids all ran and giggled as they splashed in the surf, drew things in the sand with sticks, and practiced their acrobat skills. Pelicans lined the remaining natural bridge and occasionally peeled off in groups like fighter squadrons. I'll bet that's how the fish view them, at any rate. There was a fair amount of other activity on the beach. A photographer was busy taking portraits. A couple was attempting to do yoga on a sandy slope. Pagans were burning sage... the list goes on. I took pictures of Jen and the kids and then wandered off to get some shots of crabs.
After awhile, we bundled back into the van and went to eat at Saturn cafe, where Alex was dismayed to learn there was no meat on the menu. That said, the kids were pretty happy to discover a cache of anti meat stickers mixed in amongst the papers on the free paper rack. Stickers, apparently, are cool, even if they espouse ideologies antithetical to one's own.
As for me, I ate too much dessert. Longest day, biggest dessert.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Okay, things have settled down now, despite the fact that the boys have not one, but two, friends spending the night tonight. I can still hear them talking and bumping against the walls in the next room, but it's nothing like the mayhem earlier today.

I must admit that I added to the mayhem a bit. When the girls decided they wanted to play musical chairs, I put on a Dead Kennedys record to accompany the game. Initially, the boys refused to join the game, holding out for some Black Sabbath. I finally caved in and pulled out a Black Sabbath record (yes, I said "record" - the turntable still gets some use around here). You can imagine that 5 kids charging around a circle of chairs listening to Black Sabbath might get a little out of hand.

You'd be right.

But now all is relatively calm. I think I'll go to bed now.


Encore, originally uploaded by Corbie.


I finally sit down to post something after weeks of being busy with other things, and the girls get into a fight over Sophie's near life-sized stuffed lion, which ends with Willow sitting in my lap. Of course, she kicks the computer's "off" button and shuts the computer down, causing my post to un-write itself.

Anyway, this is a cicada, who unlike most cicadas who know when to shut up, is singing happily away while clinging to my finger. The kids in my reptile camp were fascinated by it, and didn't care that it wasn't actually a reptile. We'd just found a couple of snakes anyway - a baby Rattlesnake and a young Gopher snake, both with lumps in their bellies from recent meals. Some poor mouse or vole is probably missing a couple of offspring.

This is the only week I'm working for Youth Science Institute, then it's over to the summer camp at my outdoor school...

Oh, by the way, we got a small pool, and there's another sort of altercation brewing concerning the whereabouts of various bathing suits. Silly me thinking I could sit down and write something. Bye for now.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

During the night hike this week we found some glow worms. They're kind of reddish, with little bio-luminescent dots underneath. From a distance they're mere pinpoints of light standing out against the barely seen trail. We found them right after I'd told my usual night hike story about freeze dried glow worms, during which I feed the kids Wint-o-green lifesavers, which spark between your teeth when bitten (due to a phenomena called triboluminescence). Seeing the real thing helped convince some of the skeptics.

Sophie turns six tomorrow. We're going to the usual birthday place - the one with the guy in the rat costume and the imposing banks of video games. I'm sure she'll have a great time. Lots of her friends are coming. She got her ears pierced too.

Oh, I don't think I mentioned that our TV died. It's been peaceful around here. The kids still have their little portable dvd players, and there's a crappy old TV in the girls' room for watching videos, but I think they've been spending more time doing other things. If Jen and I want to watch a movie, we do it on her laptop.

One more week of science camp to go before summer descends upon us.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

I'm in the middle of a four-day camp week, which just seems too short. I've given up on trying to cram five days worth of instruction into four days of camp. The kids have already had their Star testing anyway, and I don't think those happen again until the 8th grade or so. We are finding lots of snakes, salamanders, and other creatures that start with "s", and I think the kids will remember that more than lessons on photosynthesis or energy flow. Today I found, in quick succession, a Rattlesnake, a Ringneck snake, and a Gopher snake. I managed to get covered in ticks while doing it, so every minute or so a kid would point to me and say, "there's another tick!" At least now they all know what ticks look like. I think I got them all off me but I still have the phantom crawling sensation one associates with small arachnids pushing their way through a forest of body hair. Too bad they don't hurt when they bite. Of course, if they did hurt when they bit, they wouldn't ever live to breed.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Today is Memorial Day. One would think that with all of the advances (admittedly more technological than social) that the human race has made we would have found a better way to settle our differences than killing each other. Sadly this is still not the case, and people continue to die. Our governments are quite adept at rolling out tired old justifications for the ongoing violence, but it really boils down to squabbling over the basic animal needs of food, water, shelter, and space. Everything is linked to these four little needs. People will continue to die for them, especially now as the global population continues to rise and resources are squandered and just plain used up. That said, we're all in this together and my heart goes out to anybody who has lost a loved one through the impersonal violence of war, no matter what cause or country they think they are fighting for. Here are the lyrics to a song by a now defunct band called Amebix that I think appropriate for the occasion:

Coming Home

I just buried a friend
He had come to an end
But I can't help feeling that it needn't have been
Caught in the flak
There was no turning back
So he gave up his life for some psychopath's dream

So we're leaving the front
Having taken the brunt
Now we're tired of the slaughter in some foreign land
So the leaders of war
They fight alone on the shore
Our mutiny over they are left on the sand

We stand as one
We are an army now of many thousand strong
They stand alone
To fight for ravaged land to gain their worthless throne

The boys are coming home

I see within my mind
A vast and lonely plain
Great armies meet in no man's land
To clench their hands in friendship
For the first time
The dark tide is ebbing
A mass of tired humanity drifting toward the dawn

We are coming home

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Willow Eclipse, Part Two

Willow Eclipse, Part Two, originally uploaded by Corbie.

Willow and I headed for the hills yesterday so Jen could enjoy the novelty of being home alone (and so Willow didn't have to be stuck at home all day). I think if I had just had my appendix out I would want a little time away from small people with dependence issues too.
At Hidden Villa, Willow depended on me to carry her for the entire duration of our hour plus hike along the creek, up through the hot, aromatic chaparral, and down through the sun-dappled forest. We rested in the shade every so often to watch the butterflies and Fence lizards. I had hoped to see some Coast Horned lizards, but once again no luck. Nonetheless, we had a great time. Willow had an enormous amount of fun playing peek-a-boo with the chickens.

Today, I'm at work supervising the hapless Weekend Work Program inmates - people who at some time in the near past made some bad decisions that ended with them being arrested. I'm getting paid overtime to supervise them as they clean dorms and bathrooms. They're actually paying to be here.

There are only two more weeks of outdoor school left before summer sets in. Where does the time go? Speaking of time, its time to get back to work...

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Appendix removed. Jen still in hospital. Home soon we hope.

Monday, May 21, 2007

So, Jen has to spend the night in the hospital. She had a scan done and was told to go over to the ER for admittance. I guess they think her appendix needs to come out. Some variation of this seems to happen every time she goes to have something checked out - the visit becomes an overnight stay, which becomes a stay of days and days. The kids are taking it surprisingly well so far, and we have friends willing to watch them after school tomorrow until I get home from work. I have to work the evening astronomy program tomorrow, but I plan to bring the kids back to work with me for it. Maybe they can get in some telescope time. Hopefully they'll all behave. Hopefully Jen will be home soon.


Sunrise, originally uploaded by Corbie.

Jen is sick with some sort of stomach pain, and I took the afternoon off work so she could have it checked out. We're hoping it has nothing to do with her appendix.

As for me, I'm just tired. Greg and I went to the wedding of Dan and Nieves up in Petrolia this weekend. We left after work on Friday and got home around mid-day yesterday, sleeping very little in between. The wedding itself was beautiful, with beautiful people and stunning surroundings. Attendance was divided between the mountain folk of Petrolia and Salmon River, and the smoky venue-dwelling creative types of the San Francisco bay area, with a few people coming in from even farther afield. Greg and I got there after midnight, just missing a set by Faun Fables (who, coincidentally enough, played for us when Jen and I got married). We slept on the floor of a converted barn, which also served as the band stage and dancing area. It was probably the best sleep I've ever gotten while on bare, plank flooring. The next day held the ceremony itself, some wandering around down to the nearby Mattole river, lots of marvelous food, a multitude of conversations, a short hike, and a rousing, nearly 3 hour set by Rube Waddell. Afterwards, Greg and I slept in the car. My plan to have the cold wake me up in time for the drive home worked perfectly. At 5 AM I turned the key in the ignition and we set out for home, stopping briefly in the Humboldt County Redwoods to ogle the "Tall Tree" (359 feet) and the "Giant Tree" (of impressive, but momentarily forgotten circumference), as well as the "Flat Iron Tree" which, having been laying on its side for 12 years or so, was sort of flat, I guess. Photos can't do justice to these trees. I took pictures anyway, of course. The Redwood forests up in Northern California make the one around my work look pretty tiny. Driving through them at night on the way there was amazing. We even saw some critters which I thought were Ringtails or Martens. After doing a bit of online research, I'm still not sure what they were. They could even have been young Foxes. The only definite Fox we saw was on the way back. It was a Grey Fox (which, just to be confusing, have some red on them). I can now cross them off my list of animals I have yet to see in the wild. At the wedding itself, one of the children there found a cluster of Coast Garter snakes. This excited me almost as much as it excited the kids, and I took lots of pictures. They've got a lot more orange than the local Santa Cruz Aquatic Garter snakes do. I also found a small Gopher snake dying on the road, making it the second dying Gopher snake I've come across in the last week (the first being at work, discovered by a co-worker in the process of expiring after obviously being run over by car). This Gopher snake was little more than 6 inches long, and seemed to have no life in the front half of its body. It did wind its tail around my finger when I picked it up though. Strange and sad.
On the wedding night the crescent moon smiled down on Venus, the Goddess of Love. The photo accompanying this post was taking the morning after as we drove home.
I wish that Jen and the kids could have come. Our lives these days seem to be all about taking turns doing things rather than doing them together.

On the subject of kids, I recently got a mother Emperor scorpion with a back full of babies. This resulted from me asking about them at the pet store when I went to get food for the other animals, and being told I could have them for $20 because the guy who runs the store didn't want the extra work of caring for them. It should be interesting to watch them grow up.

I should really post more often here. Things happen and, being nearly 40, I forget them. The kids at science camp are done with their testing for the year, and they're obviously ready for summer. We've been finding lots of snakes and such, and generally having a good time. Still waiting on word of when they're hiring for the next position with benefits. Soon, I hope.

More later.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

I've been fooling around with the "map" option on my Flickr page - and it's really interesting. It allows you to "geo-tag" your photos so that if you click on the "map" link next to the photo you can see exactly where the photo was taken. Try it. I can zoom right in and actually see a satellite image of my work and some of the trails I hike on.

A Snake in the Hand...

A Snake in the Hand..., originally uploaded by Corbie.

I managed to get the kids to school on time (or almost on time, at least) this morning. The girls have been a chore to wake up lately, and Willow never wants to eat breakfast at breakfast time. I think her internal food clock needs batteries or something. She seems to get hungry a couple of hours after meal time. I ended up having to throw away most of the string cheese I gave her to eat on the way to school. It's funny how we're all wired differently when it comes to things like eating and sleeping.

Later, after I picked up Willow from school, I took her up to my work to get my paycheck. We got there at noon, which on a Thursday is very quiet because all of the kids are in the middle of their so-called "all day hike," during which they eat lunch on the trail somewhere. The kitchen staff cooks up a "teacher's lunch" for the classroom teachers, and since it is geared towards the adult palate, it's always much better than the kid food. We joined the teachers. Willow had some cake. Then we went to the garden where Willow got to hold a small Ringneck snake, followed by a little hang-out time at the pool with some of the teachers. It was actually kind of nice just to relax for a bit. I love my job, but the occasional break is good too.

Now we're all home. Time to go do some laundry or something.