Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Wheel Keeps Turning...

My dad is in the hospital, and his outlook is not good. I'll say no more at present. Over the coming weeks, there will either be lots of updates here, or none at all. I'm not really sure which way this whole process will drive me. This is a time of transition. The outcome is certain, but when it will come is not.

Currently being comforted by the sounds of: Tom Waits "Bad As Me"

Monday, October 17, 2011

Linguistic Generation Gap

The other afternoon, while I was walking down the street, a boy leaned out of the window of a passing vehicle and shouted, "SICK HAIR!", and then , realizing that I was old and presumably unaware of current slang, translated: "NICE HAIR!". How thoughtful of him,although no translation was necessary. Working with kids keeps me abreast of changes in the slang world. It's funny how each generation takes words and does 180 degree turns with their definitions. I can still remember people using the word "bad" when they meant "good". I'd love to see this type of linguistic playfulness translated to the dreary adult world of boardrooms and cubicles. "That's a shitty tie you have on today, sir."

It's overcast this morning, although according to the forecast, it unfortunately won't last. Still, Autumn is definitely in the air, and on the ground in the form of colorful drifts of leaves. I'm drinking pumpkin spice coffee and enjoying the morning coolness while it's here.

Currently listening to: TwinSisterMoon "When Stars Glide Through Solid" LP

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Dangerous Visitor

After the Monday night spider stampede, during which I relocated an imposing yet harmless spider, I would have thought it unlikely that any more animals would show up inside any of the cabins this week. It's actually pretty rare for interesting animals to find their way inside at camp. Imagine my surprise when I found out that in my diurnal absence a small Northern Pacific Rattlesnake was found in somebody's shoe inside the cabin next to the one from which the spider was evicted. You'd think that everybody on the planet would be able to identify a rattlesnake, but apparently the cabin leader in charge of that particular cabin is from another planet, because he picked the little snake up and took it outside, only later finding out that his day might have ended in a hospital visit had the snake been more irritable. Yet another thing that I previously thought "goes without saying" has now been added to the "I shouldn't have to tell you this, but I'm going to anyway" list. We're adding yet another minute or two to the cabin leader training session so we can tell cabin leaders NEVER TO PICK UP ANY ANIMALS THEY FIND IN THE CABINS.

As I was dismissing the campers into breakfast this morning, I overheard a kid from that cabin mention that seeing the snake was the highlight of his week. I can relate. If I was a fifth grader, it would have been the highlight of my week too.

Currently listening to: Counterblast "Nothingness"

Wednesday, October 12, 2011


There are nights when the moon is a frozen oasis, a centering point untouched and untouchable by the constant motion of my surroundings. Yesterday evening I looked up and saw its profound glowing disc being born above the east bay hills, tinged an orangish brown by the intervening layers of spoiled atmosphere but nonetheless beautiful. It bathed the hills in fairytale light, making them seem worlds removed from the street I was driving down.

The moment is perfectly captured in memory, and less than perfectly captured by my point-and-shoot attempt at photography while driving.

Currently listening to: Common Eider, King Eider "How To Build A Cabin"

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

During summer camp, we held a series of silent auctions to raise money for the ongoing updating of our site. My part in the process was to donate my time and efforts toward a pair of on-site "critter parties", and this weekend I facilitated the second one, starting with some hands-on reptile and arthropod interaction in the nature lab, and ending with a short hike to look for their wild counterparts. There were 12 girls, including the birthday girl, plus a couple of siblings and a few adults. In our short hike, we managed to find 7 snakes, some lizards, and a few interesting insects. That's a pretty good critter hunt by any standard, I think. The breakdown was 4 Garter Snakes, 1 Gopher Snake, and 2 Rattlesnakes, so I think it's safe to say that this particular girl's family got some real value for their donation to our cause. Plus, I love to do this kind of thing, so when I actually pocket the money myself I consider it an added bonus. In this particular case, it helped that the temperature was somewhere in the low to mid seventies, just right for the local reptiles. Any hotter and they get more difficult to find in the afternoons.

Yesterday was just as warm, if not more so, but it was overcast and drizzly, with the humidity levels high enough to produce a sheen of sweat as I walked to get Willow. Every animal I saw along the way was black. I saw a black squirrel hanging out with a trio of crows, and several black cats lounging in front yards. I did hear a tree frog or two, croaking from the shrubbery, and I assume they weren't black, but I can't confirm this. There was also a tree full of boys, which powerfully reminded me of my own childhood. What I overheard as I passed definitely reminded me that I'm no longer a child though: "That's not a teenager! That's some 50 year old guy!" I guess they'd thought I was a teenager from a distance. Maybe it was because I was wearing all black. You see, I'd gotten the memo about the dress code for the day.

I have to remind myself that to the average child, anybody over 30 is "old".

The camp week started out with the usual assortment of homesickness, vomit, confusion, and minor scrapes. At one point, a whole cabin-full of kids came pouring out of their door, screaming and yelling. I soon discovered that they'd all been terrified to discover their cabin-mate for the evening was a Calisoga Spider. I went in and removed the spider, finding it a more peaceful place to spend the night. This morning, an eagle-eyed camper spotted a dusty Arboreal Salamander hiding behind a support column. I moved it too, mostly because it looked unhappily dry, but also because I didn't want to find its sad, flat carcass later on.

I prefer animals to be three-dimensional.

Currently listening to: Ruby Howl "Heaven Hides There Too"

Saturday, October 08, 2011

I went for an eleven mile walk in the hills yesterday, and it was only later, when I started wondering why I felt so wiped out, that I realized that I'd spent more time walking than I had sleeping. The recent rain had sharpened my surroundings, especially in an olfactory sense. The powerful smell of Bay Laurel leaves cut through everything, but other, more subtle scents made themselves known too, combining to powerfully remind me of childhood. The late summer dust had disappeared, and in sunny spots, there were upward flurries of winged ants, rising en masse into the blue. Towards the end of the walk, I heard Stellar's Jays kicking up a fuss, and stopped to watch them drive off a small hawk, either a Cooper's Hawk or a Sharp Shinned Hawk. During the entire 11 mile walk, I only saw two other human beings, one jogger and one hiker. I guess weekday mornings are the time to hit the trails if you don't want to share them.

Currently listening to: Johnny Kask "Sluten Anstalt Blues"

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Rain, A Gunman, and An Owl

The first real rain of the season arrived yesterday, making the sidewalks slick with a pasty brown mulch of leaves and mud, and making the asphalt slippery with a mixture of water and several months worth of accumulated oil. I spent most of last night worrying that the power was going to go out at work, especially since they've rerouted the backup generator to only supply power to the main office building and science lab construction site. That means that, if the power goes out, the building I'm in and the buildings that the campers are sleeping in are without power. I ended up not having to break out the battery powered lanterns though.

At our second site there was some concern about a deranged gunman headed their way, but evidence now points to him heading in the opposite direction. This started when early this morning, a man showed up for a meeting at the nearby quarry and opened fire, killing 3 and wounding others. He has also been implicated in a carjacking. The last time I checked, he hadn't been caught and most of the area schools were still in lockdown mode.

It's hard to segue away from that one, so consider this my attempt. I'm still trying to walk every day, and one of my goals this month is to finish walking all of the trails at Almaden Quicksilver County Park. It won't take me long because I've nearly walked all of them already. My most recent hike there was with Willow, when we went on a twilight hike over the weekend. We hadn't intended it to be a twilight hike, but the combination of our tardiness and the early autumn sunset made it so. It's a good thing too, because if we'd been earlier or the sunset had been later we wouldn't have gotten to watch a Great Horned Owl hanging out in a tree near the trail. The city lights, as viewed from the darkened hill, helped set the mood as well. I've always enjoyed looking down at the glittering constellations of street lights, although to properly enjoy them I have to stop thinking about things like electricity and suburban expansion.

The forecast today calls for thunderstorms. I haven't heard any evidence of this yet, but my ears are open and ready.

Currently listening to: Sand "Desert Navigation" and Opeth "Heritage"