Saturday, April 28, 2007
I've just been informed that this is a Variable Checkerspot. Good enough for me. But does it really think it can hide behind those flowers?
On Monday night, my inaugural voyage as our camp's night supervisor hit some rough seas. None of it was my fault, fortunately. First of all, our volunteer cabin leader coverage was lacking. A couple of cabins, for various reasons, didn't have cabin leaders in them at bedtime. One was at some sort of play practice somewhere, and one was just not where she was supposed to be. During this time, the hub (camp office) was packed to the brim with kids, some of whom were homesick, and some who had headaches of varying severity. The most severe cases of homesickness and headacheness ended up going home. One girl with a sinus headache fell asleep on the lower bunk of the hub's bunk bed. After an hour and a half of this, things quieted down a bit... until around 1:30 AM when a boy covered in vomit staggered in. Some general cleaning followed. After he had cleaned up and changed, he fell asleep on the top bunk, above the girl with the sinus headache. I finally got to sleep around 2:30, and woke up to my alarm at 6 AM. At that point, you could see a number of bats flitting around outside the hub window, coming home to their hiding spots in the crevices and crannies in the roof of the building. Getting to watch the bats and helping kids fight feelings of homesickness were the high-points of the night.
After I left, I picked up Willow, dropped her off at school, and went back to work at our other site. It was kind of funny greeting kids on their first day of camp two days in a row - like having two Mondays in a week. I got to stick with this second batch of kids though.
Our second site also had a dearth of volunteers. My cabin leader, instead of being the usual 14-17 year old high school kid, was a classroom teacher. She was definitely more effective than a high school kid would have been.
Now it's the weekend all of a sudden. I was going to write more, but Willow needs me. I'll end by saying that it's too damn hot.
Monday, April 23, 2007
Tomorrow morning I go over to our other site to start the 4 day program there. It's sort of like having two Mondays in one week. Hmm. I'm already tired.
Sunday, April 22, 2007
Happy Earth Day! Remember, it is far better to have a symbiotic relationship with our gracious host than it is to have a parasitic one. Right now I'm thinking of the Gaia hypothesis (now more properly known as the Gaia Theory) and how it really rings true for me. If you look at how the Earth regulates itself, whether it's through plate tectonics or atmospheric patterns, it is easy to think of it as a living thing. I remember reading somewhere that the salt content of the oceans is the same as the salt content of our own bodies. Sure, none of this is proof that the Earth is a living organism, but we've all gotta have faith in something, don't we?
Think of how we treat parasites. I don't want to be plucked off and smashed under a fingernail. Do you?
Saturday, April 21, 2007
As I was leading my group of kids up to the pond (actually now a meadow, thanks to the pathetic amount of rain we've gotten this year), we looked to the right and saw another hiking group on circled up far below. You can barely see them in the photo here. This is the cool thing about our second site. It's much more open, with chaparral being the dominant community, so the views are much more striking.
Later on the same hike I caught sight of a Western Racer, a smallish olive green snake with a yellow ventral side. It caught sight of me at about the same time and shot off into the Coyote Brush and Poison Oak where I couldn't follow. I haven't seen a Western Racer around here since I was a teenager, so it was a treat to see one. Too bad I didn't have a chance in hell of catching it or even photographing it. Quick little bastards. I still remember catching one more than a couple of decades ago and having it bite me multiple times before I could get it into a bag.
As for the kids this week, I had a great time with a large group. On Wednesday evening, there were 31 people on the night hike I led - 24 students, 2 interpreters for my 5 deaf students, 3 cabin leaders, one teacher, and one head of a San Diego outdoor school (a member of the California Outdoor School Association - COSA for short) who was observing our camp so that we could get re-certified (something that happens every five years). Oh, and me. 32.
We got re-certified, by the way. We're all quite excellent at what we do, of course. Basically, what happens is heads of COSA-member schools take turns observing other COSA-member schools to make sure they're doing their jobs well. It's a great way to self-regulate.
I had a great time interacting with the deaf students and their interpreters . We even played a round of "telephone" in sign language. It was quite amusing. I hope I get more chances to work with people with special needs. It definitely keeps me thinking and second guessing myself. I changed my plans a few times during the week so that everybody could be included in the games and activities.
At home, Jen is still sick, although right now she and Willow are out babysitting baby O (actually he's toddler O now). I did a reptile party earlier today for a 7 year old boy who knew as much about reptiles as I did about dinosaurs when I was his age. In other words, everything. There were lots of younger kids there too. I brought four snakes, a couple of Bullfrogs, the Flat Rock scorpion, two tarantulas, and some Hissing cockroaches. At one point, I looked back at the cages and found one of the Bullfrogs sitting on top of it. He'd pushed up the little plastic window in the middle of the lid and hopped right out. It was amusing trying to catch him. Bullfrogs are quite slippery. The kids loved it, of course. Good money too. It started raining pretty hard while I was there, and then most of the way home as well. It seems to have calmed down now.
I'm continuing to try to fight off this sore throat/cold thing that has so afflicted Jen for the past week and a half or so. Hopefully we'll all be better soon.
Tuesday, April 17, 2007
I've got an interesting group of kids this week. Five of the campers in my group are deaf, as are two of my cabin leaders. There are, of course, a couple of sign language interpreters hiking with us. Without them I'd be reduced to pantomime. I think this is the first time I've worked with deaf kids, and it makes me feel energized, perhaps because I find I'm having to rethink my lessons so as to include everybody. I'm already picking up some words in sign language, as are some of the other students.
The only picture I took during class today is the one accompanying this post. I'm not sure what kind of butterfly or moth this will turn into. In a way, caterpillars are sort of like kids. They eat a lot, and they have the potential to turn into butterflies that can spread beauty wherever they flutter. Some of them, however, may turn into moths that eat holes in all of your best sweaters. It's sometimes hard to tell what kind of adult a kid will turn into. Of course, with kids it's not predestined. Through hard work and vigilance we can usher them away from the good sweaters and towards something more productive and aesthetically pleasing.
That said, I find moths aesthetically pleasing too.
Monday, April 16, 2007
Definitely more fun than watching TV.
I wish we had a yard that would support life though. We should all grow food. It doesn't get more local than that. With oil production peaking and prices rising higher and higher, buying (and producing) food locally is going to be something that we'll be hearing about with increasing regularity. Think about all the fuel we use shipping food from out of state, not to mention internationally. Think about getting some worms to work for you. Not that I have any illusions about us actually producing food in our backyard.
The squirrels would get to it first.
Saturday, April 14, 2007
This week we didn't see any coyotes, but we did find our first California Kingsnake of the season. It was a baby, spotted by one of the girls in my field class. We also came across a couple of baby Western Rattlesnakes, the first one in the garden (now residing in a nearby meadow) and the second one alongside the trail leading through the chaparral (so well camouflaged as to be virtually invisible). The Ringneck snake count for the week was four, including the biggest one I've ever come across, which isn't saying much since Ringneck snakes never get much bigger around than a pencil. I also had a kid, after repeatedly being reminded not to step on boards, perforate his foot by stepping on a nail jutting out from a board. His sock was soaked in blood, but after a little medical care it didn't slow him down on subsequent hikes. On the all day hike, we found a roadkilled deer nestled in a dry wash beside the road leading up to the reservoir. I'm sure it will stink over the coming weeks. Poor thing. Less water in the hills means more animals on the roads. We also found a couple of dead moles, who are among the only animals to be buried while alive and on the surface when dead. They've gotten it backwards.
Tomorrow I'm doing some extra work around camp. It will probably involve mowing the lower field. Monday I'm off, and Tuesday I'm at our second site with students from our kids' school. They're a year ahead of Alex, but I'm sure I'll recognize some of them.
Sunday, April 08, 2007
I got back from L.A. late Friday. It was a great, albeit quick, trip. Vic and Jim Kaiser picked me up on Thursday morning for the journey down. We had cds and snacks and a car without a working speedometer. Vic drove most of the way, with Jim taking over right before the Grapevine. It was nice to be a passenger for once. The Central Valley has always interested me, with its vast expanse of nothingness and hazy distant hills. Here and there human beings have gone to great lengths to farm. I remember reading (or hearing) somewhere that portions of the valley have subsided over time as much as 75 feet due to aquifer depletion. That's what happens when one attempts to farm in a desert. The only real unpleasant part of the journey, as always, is the cloying odor of cow shit that assaults the nostrils of unwary travelers as the 5 makes a beeline through Coalinga.
We managed to avoid any signs of traffic congestion until we were only a few miles from our exit. Nurse With Wound were slated to play instore at Amoeba Records on Sunset Boulevard at around 7 PM, and we pulled into the store's underground parking lot at sometime around 4. This was okay by us, since we're all confirmed music junkies and Amoeba is the biggest record store on the west coast (biggest store worth a damn, anyway). Jim works at the Amoeba in Berkeley, so it was almost like going to work for him. We split up inside and I pawed through cds and vinyl for awhile before Vic informed me that Matt and the other Jim (Haynes) were upstairs. Vic had brought down a couple of boxes of printed material that he'd been asked to have printed by Ken (owner of the fledgling label Raash Records, whose inaugural release was to be the Nurse With Wound disc that this whole shindig was the release party for). By the time I got upstairs, Matt and Jim, with the help of a couple of other people I hadn't met yet, were already hard at work cutting them up, using box-cutters and a couple of tiny paper cutters. The room they were in also contained a great quantity of snack food and drink, there for the taking. Trips are all about snack food, so I had some. As there weren't any other cutting tools to use, I went back downstairs to wander around the huge expanse of cd, dvd, and vinyl racks that make up Amoeba. I picked up a few cds (mostly used, due to my budget constraints) and noted with irritation that the unfavorable exchange rate between British pounds the the U.S. dollar has caused a steep jump in U.K. import prices.
The store gradually filled up with people there for the instore. Steve arrived, as did John Contreras, who would be contributing cello to the proceedings. John was the only local member of the evening's Nurse With Wound lineup. Matt and Jim are both from the bay area. Steve lives in Ireland. Hazel resides in Texas.
Big Amoeba employees enforced fire lanes and roped off aisles. More people crowded in. The show started. Steve had a pair of turntables and a guitar that he bowed during the latter part of the set. Matt had his bass and usual bag of bits and pieces. Jim had rusty things and his own bag of tricks. John improvised with his cello. Hazel read a T.S. Eliot poem and then something of her own. My plan had been to stay up front and get a few pictures, then move back so I'd actually be on the proper side of the P.A. system, but I discovered I was hemmed in by the crowd so I stayed up front the entire time. They played for about half an hour, during which the piece rose from a soft, surreal soundscape to an ominous, unintentional drone caused by Hazel's mic feeding back. Steve later said that this was his favorite part of the show. It was strange to see this all unfold in a well-lit record store instead of a more traditional venue. I'd seen everybody except Hazel perform before, and been on stage with both Matt and Steve, but this was the debut of this particular line-up, so in some ways it made it all brand new. There is always a trade off between the mystery of not knowing how the sounds are created and the up-close observation and inside knowledge of what is going on. All you really have to do though is close your eyes and avoid rational thought . The mystery floods back in. Thirty minutes of beauty.
After the set had concluded, I went back upstairs to the little back room with the food. There was some stress surrounding the fact that the cd that this was a release party for had not actually arrived yet. It was still at the airport, but Ken was dealing with it. Ken had elected to be mysterious about what cd was actually being released, but most people had been able to figure out that it was Insect and Individual Silenced, one of the only items in the extensive Nurse back catalogue yet to see official re-release. Steve had disliked this release so much that at some point he'd destroyed the masters, so this release was made possible through the diligent efforts of people like Kevin Spencer (of Robot records) who spent time digitally cleaning up the recording using a pristine vinyl version of the release (if I'm remembering that right) and Matt, who did his usual brilliant job of tweaking/manipulating the artwork and doing the layout.
Steve stayed downstairs to talk and autograph things. I found myself talking with a couple upstairs. He was a writer. She was a singer. They'd just moved down to L.A. from the Bay Area. I found out that they knew where Sanborn park was (where I work, essentially) and we talked awhile before I asked the woman about her music. It turned out she was Jolie Holland, a singer who Jen and I both listen to quite regularly. I did one of those comical double takes, or at least I imagine I did. We talked a bit more before she asked if she could borrow a guitar. Jim Haynes went downstairs to ask Matt if it was okay, and soon she was singing and playing. It was kind of like getting a bonus concert. During this time the much anticipated cd finally arrived from the airport, and it turned out to be beautiful. It comes in a plastic slipcase inside which is a fold-out digipack. Quite stunning, actually. Steve, ever the generous type, gave me a couple of copies (one for Greg). Jolie continued to sing in the background. Who could ask for anything more?
We finally started clearing out. Vic, Jim, and I went searching for a cheap hotel to stay in for the night. Most of the rest of the crew went down the street to a bar called the Cat and the Fiddle.
After a bit of searching, we found an economy hotel (which actually had the word economy somewhere in the name) and checked in. Then we went to join everybody at the Cat and the Fiddle, unfortunately arriving too late to get any food. The waitress took pity on us and comped us a couple of rolls with butter. We all stayed until around 1 am or so, then all went our separate ways to get some sleep.
In the morning, I discovered a tick on my leg. The little critter had probably been hanging out in my pants or shoes since Wednesday, since it's more reasonable to expect to find them at my work than it is to find them in the sheets at a hotel on the Sunset strip. Damned hard to get them off without tweezers.
After I removed the tick and we'd all gotten cleaned up, we drove down to meet up with Jim Haynes and Matt. We ended up at a restaurant called Roscoe's, which served chicken and waffles in various combinations. Afterwards, we walked back to Amoeba so Jim could collect some cds he'd put on consignment the day before (he'd managed to sell a few, but not all). He gave me one too. Thanks Jim! I listened to it yesterday and it's quite nice.
Next stop was the Museum of Jurassic Technology, a favorite of Jim's (Haynes, that is). Due to missing a turn on the way there we got treated to the L.A. experience of witnessing paparazzi in action. Not sure who they were photographing, but a mob of them had their cameras directed into a store of some sort (possibly a clothing store).
The Museum itself was quite interesting. It is a maze of creatively lit (or unlit) rooms featuring displays of such things as trailer living and cat's cradles. There was a display on strange folk remedies, and one on microgaphy, as well as lots of other interesting little nooks and crannies. Some of the displays were in virtual darkness, and I had to strain to make out what they were. It added to the mysteriousness of it all. Upstairs, there was even a little tearoom where a woman with dog (some sort of greyhound or wolfhound, I think - see photo) offered me tea. We wandered, as if in trance, from room to room, with sacred sounding music and scholarly voices expounding on ridiculous subjects emanating from unseen speakers. Some of the exhibits were patently false, while others perhaps had a grain of truth to them. Werner Herzog, and his concept of ecstatic truth (he differentiates between facts, which he calls "accountants truth" and ecstatic truth, which often has nothing to do with facts). It is probably not a coincidence that among the dvds in the museum shop there was at least one Herzog dvd.
At any rate, it was like visiting a museum in a strange alternate reality.
After that, Vic, Matt, and Jim Kaiser, who were staying in L.A. another day, parted ways with Jim Haynes and I.
Jim and I hit the road and promptly got stuck in traffic which would last most of the way out of the city. Once we'd been on the 5 for awhile the cars thinned out and we made good time.
Now I'm back home. The older kids are away at their dad's Willow is sitting on my lap, playing with Easter eggs and wiggling. Last night we went to a staff house party at my work. Willow was the only kid, but basked in the attention of the grown-ups. Jen made a delightful goat cheese pasta and some yummy lemon bars. Lots of other good food was on hand as well. It was nice to hang out with my co-workers in a non-work setting. I should do it more often.
Wednesday, April 04, 2007
Work has been going well, and the snakes (Ringneck, Garter, and Rattle) are everywhere. I'm going to have a go at becoming the night supervisor so I can get benefits. More on that as things progress.
Tomorrow I head down to L.A. to catch a short Nurse With Wound set at Amoeba Records. It feels like forever since I've gone on a trip, so even though it's only to L.A. I'm excited to hit the road. I'll be back sometime on Friday though.