Sunday, January 30, 2011

Rain is sweeping back over the Bay Area today. It started yesterday, and I've been enjoying listening to it spatter against the roof.

Despite the energizing weather, I've been spending an aimless weekend, listening to music and reading and feeling like I should be doing something more. I'm not sure why I sometimes feel this way - that relaxing isn't enough. I start to feel guilty when I spend too much time inside. I am, after all, an outdoor educator who spends much of his time trying to get kids outside. I guess I could read outside today, but my book would probably get wet.

Then again, this might just be an ebb in my energy cycle. I'm not manic depressive or anything like that, but I notice that my energy and inspiration levels seem to fluctuate. It is often tied in with the weather, with energetic weather seeming to generate similar energy within me. Maybe the ebb can be explained by the Springlike weather of the last week or two.

Currently listening to: Yob "The Great Cessation"

Friday, January 28, 2011

Spring seems to have found a new home in January. The days and nights have been surprisingly mild for the last couple of weeks, although I notice that there is finally a bit of rain creeping into the forecast. Given the nature of meteorology though, it might never actually materialize. Strange weather always seems to start a war of words between the people who dismiss the whole concept of global warming and the more logical section of the population. The global warming naysayers always point their sharp little fingers at every cooler than usual day and exclaim, "See! The climate is getting cooler!" Of course, the whole concept of geological time is probably completely lost on the majority of them. You don't see a bunch of people hopping up and using this mild California January to argue the other side.

I think, generally speaking, that a lot of religious people only think of things in human terms and human time. Gradual trends in one direction or another, which take place on a whole different time scale, are beneath their radar. Maybe they just need to have faith in something they can't see. Wait...

Speaking of time, it has now been a few days more than a year since my mom died. Wednesday marked the anniversary of that date, and Jeanine and I went and hid a letterbox in her honor, near the library where she spent much of her time and energy sorting books for library sales. As of this writing, it has been found four times. I think my mom would have appreciated the tribute, and probably would have liked getting involved in the hobby of letterboxing too. Check out this page for clues on how to find her letterbox.

After hiding the letterbox, we took a walk around the block near her house, a place where I had spent some very bad moments exactly a year earlier. It has been transformed by the new owners. Landscaping has been cleared (there used to be a monstrous, ivy-choked, rat infested tree off to the left), the garage door and some windows have been replaced, and new outside lights have appeared. It's beginning to look like somebody else's house. For some reason, blogger won't let me insert photos in the middle of the post. They always float to the top, so if you were confused as to why there is a picture of a house up at the top, now you know the story behind it.

Currently listening to: Bear McCreary "Battlestar Galactica: The Plan and Razor" soundtrack. I don't watch TV, but occasionally somebody will lend me DVDs of TV shows. I watched the original Battlestar Galactica as a kid, either at friends' houses or on the little black and white TV at my dad's work (if I remember correctly). That entertained me as a kid. The new version of the series entertains me as an adult, it being much more thought-provoking than the original. Don't let the fact that it is a TV show keep you away from checking it out. The music is excellent as well, with it's mournful middle-eastern tinged orchestral sounds and occasional heavy metal guitars. I love McCreary's version of All Along the Watchtower too.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Today was blue and warm, with birds in the trees and people in the parks. I took the girls to the park and sat with my back against a Redwood, reading a book while they played. It even smelled like Spring.

My dad, who couldn't make it down for the holidays, finally made it down this weekend for a belated visit and gift exchange. Now, there are more books to read and more chocolate to eat. It was a nice visit. Before he got here, Willow was worried that he wasn't going to come, but he made it here, along with my brother. After they left, Willow and I went to a convention with Jeanine and her daughter,Eva, where we caught a magic show and a bit of belly dancing before playing with balloons. The girls got their faces painted, with willow looking like she had a large ladybug smack in the middle of her face, and Eva looking like a rotting corpse. Willow got to stay up until almost midnight too, although she'll be going to bed much earlier tonight. She still has remnants of the face paint around her eyes, making it look like she's either very tired or has started wearing make-up.

Now, we're going to eat creme brulee.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The sky is blue and calm, and has been for several days. It feels good to go outside without a jacket, but the mild weather lacks spark and intensity, leaving me feeling that I need an injection of energy of some sort. The moonrise yesterday evening was beautiful though, with the white bright moon rising beyond some wispy orange clouds and shining through them with such intensity that it was almost as if they weren't there at all. For some reason, the moon looked too bright for the sky, lending an air of unreality to the scene.

When I'm not out gazing at the moon, I've been spending too much time reading lately. Jeanine loaned me a book, by Walter J. Williams, called The Rift, about an earthquake with a magnitude of 8.9 occurring on the New Madrid Fault along the Mississippi River. I wasn't previously aware that there was a fault there. It seems strange that there would be one in the middle of a continental plate. Who said that you can't learn new things from fiction? It's a long book too, with more than 900 pages, lots of characters, and quite a bit of serious damage. I'm nearly 300 pages into it now.

All of this fictional disaster has me thinking about the problem of peak oil, which is something more people should be thinking about. An oil-based economy will one day prove to have been a mere blip on the timeline of civilization. There is no way that it won't.

Currently listening to: Bohren & der Club of Gore "Geisterfaust"

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The raccoons have been keeping a low profile around camp this season, although I'm finally starting to see them now and then. Last night, one was temporarily obsessed with climbing onto one of the ping pong tables, and then jumping off so he could climb back up again. He looked quite deranged, doing something that seemed to serve no purpose, something not immediately linked to finding food. Whether he was playing, or had been driven insane by ingesting too much human garbage, I'll never know. I kind of like the idea of animals playing for no discernible purpose, which reminds me of Jeanine's cat Dexter, who has so much fun playing with the laser pointer (chasing the little dot of light) that he will attempt to take it out himself, often at strange hours of the night. Of course, that has a purpose - it's training to become an efficient hunter. I'm currently watching Willow playing with her Playmobil toys, She has made a little corral for her deer family. Regardless of whether we're feline or human, or otherwise, play shapes our minds, so I'm glad that she can lose herself in a world of imagination for hours. Playing isn't just a pastime, it's one of the skills one needs to be truly happy. We're never too old to play, and apparently at least one raccoon knows that too (if my garbage eating hypothesis is incorrect, that is...).

A couple of nights ago it was cold enough to leave morning frost on car windows. Today, it was warm enough to go out without a jacket. Welcome to January in California.

Currently listening to: Umbra Nihil "The Borderland Rituals"

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Today was spent inside. Willow lost herself in a Playmobil world of her own creation, with time set aside for reading. I lost myself in a novel called Lucifer's Hammer, written by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle and first published when I was 10. It's interesting reading about major disaster striking the planet (in this case, quite literally, in the form of a comet)during the seventies. What was true of survivors then would be doubly true now - the realization that nearly all of the things we take for granted are suddenly in very short supply. The point is brought up several times (by the same character) that we couldn't fix, let alone make, most of the things we use in our everyday lives if they were to break down or vanish. This is something that I often muse about. What always interests me most about stories like this is how the characters react to overwhelming disaster. How does a technological society start anew, or does it? Then again, I have always been interested in sociology, enough so that I majored in it (along with Environmental Studies) in college. In the case of this book, unlike, say, George Stewart's Earth Abides, the survivors are focused on regaining their technology. I could go on about how technology is a mixed blessing, but being surrounded by complicated electricity-sucking devices, it might come across as a bit hypocritical. I'm the first to admit that I often take too much for granted, and this book has me probing that particular back alley in my subconsciousness. Fiction is useful in that way, especially speculative fiction.

Yesterday was different. We actually went out and spent some time in the bone freezing cold (by California standards) at Happy Hollow in San Jose, watching the sleepy Jaguar, restless Fossa, and a trio of uncooperative Capybaras, among others, and chasing after the girls as they excitedly ran here and there. After leaving the park, we walked along the derelict park train tracks under ominous skies. The weather seemed apocalyptic, with a whitish sky that turned slightly orange towards the west. This impression was no doubt bolstered by the fact that many of the redwoods in the park are dead or dying, with removal notices tacked to them.

Currently listening to: Elm "live at WFMU'

Friday, January 07, 2011

The cold fog erased the distance this morning, and a hazy whiteness hung around for most of the day, lending a certain, undefinable strangeness to the air. This is possibility weather. Anything can happen. The less we see, the more options we have waiting out there beyond the limits of our vision.

Now, darkness has joined the cold, erasing more than even the fog can, and I'm warm inside, reading a novel about the end of the world, which continues to be either an unintentional or a subconscious literary theme of late, since I just now caught the thematic connection to the two books I wrote about a couple of posts back. Either way, it's a subject which has always fascinated me, not because I even remotely want it to happen, but from a sociological interest in the human factor involved in such a shattering event.

Now, back to reading.

Currently listening to: Thomas Bel "The Birds are still the Monarchs"

Thursday, January 06, 2011

My first short week of work this year is almost over. The first three camp weeks of this month are 4-day programs, which means I only work three night shifts per week. So far this week, each night there has been a pee incident, which means that each night a pair of lonely pants has tumbled through the washer and dryer. It makes me wish all of the incontinent kids would get it over with at once, so I'd have a full load of laundry. The timing of these accidents is beyond my control though, so I can only sigh and accept the soggy clothing as it is handed to me.

Other than that, it has been a nice week, with a good group of kids. The stars have that cold, Winter clarity, and the mornings are painted with frost.

Currently listening to: Ruby Howl "The Wind and the Tree"

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Here's a link to the Voluntary Human Extinction Movement (VHEMT, pronounced "vehement")website. It's actually very reasonable and interesting. I don't think there is currently much of a chance that the majority, let alone all, of the people on our planet will ever get behind this, but if our environmental problems continue to spiral out of control, it may someday become a popular movement.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

The last two nonfiction books I've read go strangely hand in hand. The first one, Thomas Ligotti's "The Conspiracy Against The Human Race" has as its main premise the idea that consciousness is a curse, and something not to be desired. Ligotti feels that humanity should voluntarily end its existence by no longer breeding. It's a fascinating book, and reads very much like one of his works of supernatural fiction. This was my introduction to pessimist philosophy, and while, for the most part, I don't agree with it, I found the book interesting and very well written (like everything else he has done). For instance, I had no idea there was a pessimist philosophy movement, no doubt, as Ligotti points out, because the pessimists don't get as much press as the optimists.

Strangely enough, the next book I read, Alan Weisman's "The World Without Us" tackles the question of what will happen to the mess we leave behind after we go. Within its pages, there is even brief mention of a group called the Voluntary Human Extinction Movement, whose members advocate the same thing Ligotti does, if for slightly different reasons. It makes me wonder if Ligotti is a member of the movement, or if the horror writer in him would be more at home with the Church of Euthanasia, whose members advocate, among other things, cannibalism (I haven't checked, but Weisman mentions that their website has a guide for butchering human carcasses, plus a recipe for barbeque sauce). If we did indeed stop breeding, or at least slowed it down, life would definitely be better for those among the decreased future population. If we keep breeding with carelessness, eventually our population will be so out of balance with the natural order of things that nature will balance it for us, which as any biologist will you, means disease and famine. Not to mention increased warfare over progressively dwindling resources.

Both books are fascinating, and well worth the time and effort taken to read them.

Currently listening to: Tor Lundvall "Under the Shadows of Trees"

Monday, January 03, 2011

One more day of vacation remains after today, and then I go back to work. I'm hoping that my recent energy doesn't get sucked away again by the necessity of splitting my sleep schedule.

I spent my first money of the year today, ironically enough on a free photo book, which came with my annual renewal of my Flickr account. I picked my favorite photos of last year from my Flickr stream, and there were enough of them to make my book a few pages too long for the "free" offer, so I paid the few extra dollars, plus some money for shipping. I mention this because after nearly a year of not watching my budget, I'm going to be paying more attention to where my money goes.

Speaking of buying things, I've been reading more about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, and have been reawakened to the evils of plastic, especially plastic of the throw-away variety. I also recently saw a great short film by Ramin Bahrani called "Plastic Bag", brilliantly narrated by Werner Herzog. You can watch it, and other films in the Futurestates series here. I haven't watched the other films yet, but it's on my list of things to do. I've long been converted to the cause of cutting down on excess plastic (and other materials) by consuming less of them, but it's always good to keep learning more about the continued dangers of careless living.

Currently listening to: Bohren & der Club of Gore "Sunset Mission"

Sunday, January 02, 2011

Welcome 2011. The holiday residue is partially cleared away, and the sky remains steadfastly gray.

Despite realizing that numbers on a calendar are arbitrary, I find myself enjoying the chance to reflect on a numerically delineated chunk of time while looking forward to the next chunk. It seems to be human nature to compartmentalize things in some fashion or other. Sometimes we use words, and sometimes we use walls. I'm a bigger fan of the former, unless the wall in question is covered in moss and lichen, and beautifully crumbling, or the words in question advocate greed, hate, or any of humanity's other less desirable traits. If this is the case, I'd have to reverse my stance.

May you all have a beautiful new year. May old walls crumble and may your words build connections.

Speaking of words, here's a link to a cool site on word origins. Jeanine and I discovered it last night when we all of a sudden had to know the origin of the word "cobweb". "Cob" was originally "coppe", which was derived from the old English "Attercop", meaning "spider". This was derived from "atter" (poison) and "coppe" (head), Poison-head!

Currently listening to: Rasputina "daytrotter session" This was the last new music to enter my home in 2010, in the form of a free download from