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.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

In Flight?

In Flight?, originally uploaded by Corbie.

At work, we have a stuffed Barn Owl hanging from a wire on the ceiling of our nature lab. The owl, long dead, has recently begun to support a population of insects. It fell to me to do something about it, so I took a closer look at the problem today and found that it was crawling with little beetles. So, with my class watching, I took it down and we marched it up to the freezer. Once there, we bagged it and stuffed it inside. Unless the beetles have little parkas this should solve the problem.
One of my Flickr contacts thought the beetles looked like Carpet beetles. After doing a little research, I agree with her diagnosis. It's funny that the carpet beneath the owl shows no sign of infestation. I'll bet they're in there somewhere though.

I found a big Gopher snake in the chaparral area as well. The last one I came across was in the meadow last summer, so this was an unexpected treat. One of the other instructors spotted one in the meadow near camp too. Oh, and I found another baby Rattlesnake near our hillside amphitheater, mere minutes before the area was to be inundated with kids.

As for the kids this week at camp, they're bright and full of good questions. I like that.

Jen is on her way to Texas for a wedding right now, and will be there until Sunday. I'm taking the rest of the week off work to juggle the kids. Right now the younger ones need milk and stuff. Bye for now.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Jumping Spider

Jumping Spider, originally uploaded by Corbie.

One of my co-workers found this little critter in a box (or at least used a box to transport it over for the rest of us to see it), so I figured I'd take some pictures of it. Of course, being a Jumping spider it jumped off my hand and right through the hole in the knee of my pants. It took me about ten minutes to get it back out of my pants. In fact, I finally had to take my pants off and gently shake them to make the spider reappear.

Later, a Calisoga spider left my hand and disappeared somewhere. I don't think it's in my pants. Calisoga spiders don't mess about. They bite.

Anyway, I got a good photo out of the experience. Now that I've figured out how to crop things I can increase the macro effect too.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Jen recently picked up some new wind chimes (for "W" sharing day at sophie's class), which now grace the space under the eaves outside the north wall of our house. Right now they're chiming and it's a peaceful sound, serving as a counterpoint to the occasional howl of the wind. It's a sunny day though. Willow and I went to the park for awhile. The guy running the ticket window for the carousel was a past volunteer at my work, so he let us have a couple of tickets for free. At the end of the ride, Willow hugged her horse goodbye. Now, Jen is out seeing Spiderman 3 with Nate. The girls are playing in the other room. Alex is at a friend's house. Perhaps I should be doing something more productive.

Speaking of productive, they're going to have to add on to the war memorial wall in Washington D.C. I read a report that they've run out of space to add more names - names of people who would still be living if not for... war. It has been said that the insane don't know they're insane. But surely the sane should know not to vote for them. And surely the sane should have figured out a few hundred better ways to settle differences between opposing factions. Or maybe there just isn't enough sanity left...

Friday, May 04, 2007

Staring Contest

Staring Contest, originally uploaded by Corbie.

As a child, I used to spend an inordinate amount of time catching toads. In those days, most neighborhood parks had large rocks as part of their landscaping scheme, and there was usually just enough space underneath to comfortably fit a toad or two. I was too small to overturn the rocks, so I would flush the toads out by dumping water into the holes. I was very patient, and my patience was usually rewarded with the appearance of an irked amphibian or two. I would then take them home and keep them, which unfortunately often resulted in their premature demise. I had the enthusiasm but not always the knowledge needed to provide for them.

These days, despite spending most of my working hours on hiking trails, I don't see as many toads. I'm pretty sure that local populations have declined greatly, probably in part due to kids like me who remove them from their habitats. That said, I'm sure habitat destruction and pollution also must take a share of the blame. It really is too bad. I admire the zen-like expression of the toad. They're very placid little creatures, and their jewel-like eyes seem to contain hidden depths. In the case of this photo, it is possible to see the reflections of my camera lens and a couple of kids. We found this little guy on a hike along the shores of Lake Ranch reservoir. He was inside a hole, with just the tip of his nose showing. Right after this discovery, we also found a mother Killdeer who loudly defended her eggs from us. The silly bird didn't even have a nest, and the little speckled eggs lay on the ground underneath her, almost invisible.

I often reflect on how part of my job includes doing the same kind of thing I loved doing as a kid - finding animals. The main difference, of course, is that now I just take pictures and leave the animals where I found them. I find comfort in knowing that these animals are out there, and I find comfort in their simplicity.

Human beings make things too complicated for their own good sometimes. Why is that? When can we stop?