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.