Monday, May 26, 2008

The hills to the southwest have been burning since Thursday. Here in the valley there were a couple of days where the thick campfire smell of smoke hung in the air. Being me, I kept imagining all of the burning Poison Oak bushes up in those hills, and what inhaling the smoke was doing to my lungs. Friday morning was particularly bad. I can't complain though. We still have our house.

Normally, I'd have left for work already, but thanks to good old Memorial Day there's no work tonight. So I can sit here and write boring blog posts instead.

Currently listening to: Leonard Cohen "Field Commander Cohen"

Monday, May 19, 2008

The temperature is supposed to drop this week, which isn't surprising because it sure couldn't have gotten much hotter. Despite the heat, I've still been walking to get the kids from school in the afternoon, dragging our squeaky, red Radio Flyer wagon behind with the girls safe inside. Sure, they could walk, but then they'd get tired and fight over which one got to be carried. Besides, Sophie likes to pretend she's in a limo going to Hollywood. Where she got that idea, I don't know, but it is kind of cute.

I only have three more weeks of working nights before the school year melts into summer. I'm looking forward to changing my weekday schedule back around and getting ready for summer camp to begin. I'm only working 6 weeks of summer camp this year, since the program for kids Willow's age only lasts that long. All the kids are coming to work with me for 6 weeks. I sure hope they don't burn out.

I need a new camera too. My screen has gone black. hmmm. That sounds like a grim metaphor, doesn't it? "Did you hear about Harry? His screen went black. The funeral is next week."

Currently listening to: Tanakh "Saunders Hollow"

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

First Harvest, originally uploaded by Corbie.

We all went to the Maker Faire a couple of weekends ago, and I've been meaning to blog about it but I haven't been able to download the photos from Jen's old camera. It seems that the software on my computer doesn't recognize it. I'll have to find the time to load the photos on to one of the other computers. In addition to this, my own camera's display screen has finally gone completely dark - it succumbed to the cold during a snowstorm up at Mt. Shasta a few month ago, but still worked well enough for me to see an image. No more.

The Maker Faire is an annual event up in San Mateo, with artisans, geeks, freaks, and other creative types converging on the San Mateo fairgrounds with their D.I.Y. projects. Objects on display (and sometimes for sale) ranged from arts & crafts to robots and rockets, and everything else in between. The kids got to see their first robot battle - actually a series of robot battles, with weight classes and everything. The very first robot to be sundered and have its pieces flung about the arena was one of the cute, little dinosaur robots the girls had been cuddling with earlier. I thought they'd be traumatized, but they were thrilled, even to the point of grabbing bits of crushed plastic and torn rubber skin from the aftermath. Jen got to indulge in some craft shopping, and we all got to hang out with Jeremy, who is a bit of a maker himself. As for myself, I've always wanted to spend more time making things, but don't always have the time, skills, or information I need. My one purchase for the day was a big block of red oak sawdust and rice bran impregnated with the mycelium of the Shiitake mushroom. The block is supposed to yield several "crops" of mushrooms (the part that grows above the ground is the "fruiting body" of the mushroom, used for reproductive purposes - the releasing of spores). Over the last week, I harvested my first batch of mushrooms, and damn, they're the best mushrooms I've ever eaten. I've been eating them raw too. Next time I'll try cooking them. Just a few minutes ago, I cut some mold off the block. Gotta watch that mold. Hopefully I'll have some more mushrooms soon. For your own block, go to Far West Fungi.

Another interesting site that had a booth at the faire was, which is billed as the world's biggest show and tell. It's full of user generated instructions for just about everything. Become a maker!

Speaking of making, I don't think I've mentioned in my blog (although she has mentioned it in hers, of course) that Jen had a short piece published in a book called "Can I Sit With You?". Along with several other authors featured in the book, she did a reading at Angelica's Bistro up in Redwood City. She did it well, too, despite her aversion to public speaking. We're all very proud of her. See an excerpt here.

At home, I'm continuing to walk to pick the kids up from school (tomorrow should be fun, with the forecast calling for record heat). Willow had her pre-Kindergarten assessment today, and she is ready for Kindergarten, which is no surprise to anybody. I'm told that she needs to work on her fine motor skills a bit though.

Everything in good time.

Currently listening to: Steve Von Till "A Grave is a Grim Horse"

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Willow (as I drove her to school this morning): Why can't I play on the roof?

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Friday, May 02, 2008

Even though her days are hectic, Jen still occasionally finds the time to send me an interesting link or two. Today, she sent me this one, which is essentially all about the joy and looming necessity of exploring your immediate neighborhood on foot. They call it a walkshed - sort of like a watershed for people, I guess. The whole idea is to get out there and see how many useful destinations are in walking distance. For instance, which stores are in a half-hour walking radius of your house? What about 45 minutes? An hour? Think of the saved gas money and the bulging calf muscles!

Thinking about it, I don't know my current neighborhood even a fraction as well as I knew my childhood haunts. Despite the fact that for the past three years (barring the current school year), I've hiked for a living, I still, shamefully, often drive when I could be walking. Blame schedules, or my inattention to the clock, or general to-much-to-do-ness, but I almost always drive to get the kids from school, which is only about five or six blocks away. Granted, I park around the corner rather than join the idling line of over-sized vehicles in front of the school, but still...

Today I walked. Willow rode her little plastic bigwheel (or whatever the heck they call them these days) and I brought the wagon because I didn't want any part of the scene that I was sure Sophie would make when she was faced with the prospect of... gasp... walking! As it was, she was so thrilled with the wagon ride that she wants to ride home that way every day. The boys were fine with it as well, but then again they often walk.

I'm going to try to keep this up. It was good to be out there in the Spring air, even if it was humid and overcast.

Then, coincidentally enough, the boys asked to go on a walk so they could "map the neighborhood." They're finally getting to the age where, equipped with a cell phone, it's more or less okay to let them wander off. And wander they did, with drinks and blank paper for making maps. I asked them just now if they actually made maps, to which Alex replied, "yeah, kinda." They plan on finishing the project later. Maybe I'll come along. I know that up the hill and around the corner there is the entrance to a hiking trail of some sort. It's probably not extensive, but it's definitely within walking distance. I've been meaning to mount an expedition up that way for awhile, but I'm such a damn procrastinator. There's also the added problem of getting all four kids (and attendant friends), to all agree at the same time to do the same thing.

One can only try.

(cue voice of Yoda) "There is no try. There is only do!"

Current listening: Crow Tongue "ditch mix volume three"

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Unless..., originally uploaded by Corbie.

I spent last weekend down in Malibu, at a place called Camp Hess Kramer, for the Association for Environmental and Outdoor Education's (AEOE) Spring Conference. This is the second AEOE conference I've been to, and the first down in southern California. This time, ten of us went - naturalists, one of our cabin leader advisors, and a cabin leader/songwriter who lent her talents to the AEOE talent show and helped us win two of the four categories. We won for having a skit most closely related to the conference theme (Unless...), and cabin leader extraordinaire, Guinea Pig, won "most educational" for her song, You're Not A Loam. Hear it on her MySpace page. The skit was truly collaborative (both in its creation and in its message), but the song was all Guinea Pig's. We did have and extra collaborator show up while we practiced though - when our cabin leader adviser, Sequoia, put on his hood, a small, agitated scorpion fell out. I think I was more amused than he was.
As for the rest of the proceedings, the conference featured a great number of workshops, the intent of which was to make us more well-rounded outdoor educators. I was disappointed that the workshop where we were supposed to get a chance to dissect a Humboldt Squid, didn't in fact have said squid on hand, but other than that, I had a fun time, going to a workshop on "keeping the magic alive" led by Steve Van Zandt from San Mateo Outdoor Education, a workshop on Cage-free children led by Elaine Gibson from the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History, in which the subject of parental fear was discussed (if anything, it made me rethink the boundaries I set for our children at home more than it had any applications for the children I watch over at work), a workshop on working with English Language Learners (I didn't get a lot of new information from this one, but I did pick up a couple of extraneous activities from a fellow attendee), and a workshop on fire-making (I can now, among other things, make fire using only a flashlight and steel wool). This last workshop probably taught me most, in terms of new skills, but they were all inspiring in a way that makes me regret not being in the field at the moment. Summer camp is only about six weeks away though.

In addition to this, the conference was situated in a canyon that opened onto the beach, so the surroundings were beautiful. I took myself on a hike up to the nearest ridge during the first workshop session, enjoying the view of the pacific and the cacti that grew here and there in the hot, crumbly chaparral soil. I had hoped to see some reptiles, but only saw the region's ubiquitous Western Fence lizards. Despite their relative ordinariness, I took pictures of them anyway. Hiking up the same trail at night, I experienced the infamous Santa Ana winds, which felt for all the world like somebody was aiming a hair dryer at my face.

The conference also afforded my the opportunity to see at least one of my co-workers falling-down drunk. To his credit, he could still deliver a mean astronomy lecture despite being barely able to stand up. Also on hand for the conference was an ex-coworker who worked with us for a few months last year, and now works at the Yosemite Institute. I didn't really know anybody else though.

It was all over quickly, of course, and now I'm in the middle of a week off from work. I'm getting more sleep that usual, but for some reason I'm still tired.

Willow is calling from the other room again. I think her pancake is ready...