Monday, December 31, 2012
This is my 61st blog post this year, at least on this site. I only managed 28 posts this year on my music blog. Still, 89 separate posts is a fair amount. This has been my main creative output this year, and I still feel like I could really be increasing my creativity in other ways. Something to look forward to over the coming year! On the consumption end of the spectrum, I figured out that I read 15,090 pages this year. That's slightly over 54 books, and doesn't count any online or magazine reading. I can't really compare that to previous years, since this is the first year I've been nerdy enough to sit down and figure it out.
Christmas went well, and the kids were happy (which is really what this holiday is about, isn't it?). There were plenty of colorful lights in our neighborhood too, and we got some good rain last week. As I type, it has gone back to being cold and dry, with no rain in the immediate forecast.
I still have another week off. Tonight, I'm heading up to Oakland to see Neurosis play. Happy New Year's Eve to all.
Currently listening to: Misery "Lore"
Saturday, December 22, 2012
I've worked my last night of 2012, and now I'm back on a daytime schedule for a couple of weeks. Sometimes it's easy to make the transition, and sometimes it is hard. Take for instance this morning: I've been awake since around 2:30. It wasn't so bad though, because there was a thunderstorm to keep me occupied. The rain was pretty ferocious at times too, pelting the roof and gurgling in the gutters. Every so often, the room would light up, followed by the distant rumble of thunder. Eventually, I gave up trying to go back to sleep and got up. Currently, I'm watching the sky shed darkness as a seemingly endless stream of crows glides by overhead. A couple of them have alighted on nearby power lines, and one is attempting to wake up the neighborhood. They seem to like the persimmons on the neighbor's tree. So do I, and since many of them hang over the fence into our yard, we have a good supply.
Currently listening to: Crows, the burbling of the fish tank, the gurgling of the gutters, and the ringing in my right ear (I think I have a touch of tinnitus, possibly precipitated by a Wovenhand gig a couple of years ago).
Tuesday, December 18, 2012
This week is the last week of camp before the holidays. I'm reading "The Neon Bible" by John Kennedy Toole. For years, I thought that "A Confederacy of Dunces" was his only book, but no, he wrote this one too, when he was only 16. I was a bit dubious about starting it, but I needn't have worried. It's quite good. It helps that it's written in the first person, and that the character is a kid. Being so close to the age of the character, he managed to capture the voice of the protagonist quite well. Too bad Toole chose to end his own life.
Currently listening to Michael Tanner/Plinth "Witch Elder" I've been discovering too much good music online lately, so much that I'm starting to feel overwhelmed by it all.
Tuesday, December 11, 2012
You can lead kids to water, but apparently it's hard to prevent them from drinking.
I don't usually make it to the Friday meetings at work, but I often get a good laugh out of the agenda items. This one was no exception.
Currently listening to: Crippled Black Phoenix "Live In Bern 2012 A.D."
Saturday, December 01, 2012
As we wait for the third of three storms to hit, I'll take advantage of the calm between the storms to bring you this little photo of a poor, misunderstood creature who was just trying to come in out of the wind and wet.
This particular Calisoga Spider figured he'd warm himself by crawling into the bottom bunk. He probably considered that since he is such a handsome fellow, the fifth grade girl already occupying the bunk would welcome him.
This turned out not to be the case. Like the frog and the beetle I'd had to evict from the cabin earlier in the week, I had to convince Mr. Spider that the woodshed was a comfortable alternative. I walked around with him for awhile before I had time to get him down there though, since I still had to oversee bedtime for the campers.
I hope he is happy in the woodshed. Like other members of the infraorder Mygalomorphae, he breathes with book lungs, which due to their placement on the underside of the abdomen, make it easy for him to drown in a relatively small amount of water, so letting him go outside in the middle of a storm wouldn't have been very nice.
Currently listening to: William Basinski "The Disintegration Loops"
Thursday, November 29, 2012
Here's a photo taken during our short honeymoon last week. We found all sorts of creative uses for the ducks people brought to the wedding.
Call me an idiot, but I just noticed that I can share photos directly from my Flickr page, not to mention compose the post itself from there, so the main function of this post is that of a guinea pig. Here goes nothing...
Sunday, November 25, 2012
The wheel of the seasons is spinning towards Winter, but for the most part, it doesn't feel like it. California never really has a Winter, instead skirting the edges of the season with a storm or two, and never staying below freezing for more than a few hours all season long. This time of year, the best thing is the interesting sunrises and sunsets. I think my biggest problem with Summer has always been the boring sky. I'd rather have something more varied to look at, and I'd even rather have things fall out of it than have to suffer through months of pale blue nothing.
The Thanksgiving holiday week is drawing to an end. We had a modest little get-together at our place, which included the Trader Joe's brand of imitation turkey. I forgot to put the gravy on it, but it was still good. Willow was actually here on the holiday instead of a day or two afterwards, which means her mom spent Thanksgiving without kids for perhaps the first time in 16 years. I must note that we celebrate Thanksgiving the same way we celebrate Christmas - from the standpoint of tradition rather than any real agreement with the myth behind the holiday itself - in this case, it's the myth that the pilgrims and the Native Americans lived in some sort of Disneyfied fairytale land where everybody helped each other out. I think most people don't really give it a lot of thought. Sure, everybody comes up with lists of things to be thankful for, which is a good thing because it steers us away from taking too much for granted, but I'm sure nobody has ever uttered the thought, "I'm thankful for this continent we stole from the poor suckers who were here before us." People, I might add, who thought the concept of land ownership was ridiculous. Good for them. Why is it that sensible people always get overtaken by barbarians?
We went to a Harvest Festival the other day too, and bought things from artisans there - candy, tea, ear cuffs for Eva, and a romantic picture to hang on the wall. Willow doesn't think the picture is romantic though. She thinks it's creepy because it has skeletons in it. Oh, well. The whole reason I mentioned the festival at all is that the name signifies another thing we're generally out of touch with in modern society, at least those of us who don't live in rural areas. I'm talking of course about the harvest, the bringing in of the crops, the squirreling away of food in order to stave off starvation during the bleakness of Winter. There was no shipping fruit in from the southern hemisphere in the old days. No, you had to spend the Autumn months stuffing it into jars and cans. We have it pretty easy these days, but as always, this comes with a hidden price. Every convenience does. Think about it.
Currently listening to: William Basinski "The Disintegration Loops"
Tuesday, November 20, 2012
Traveling with us will be a bunch of rubber ducks, given to us by literal-minded wedding guests who read the fine print on the invitation. Or perhaps people just like buying ducks. Either way you look at it, we have a bunch, and they're going with us.
We're taking the chocolate ducks with us too. They won't survive for long.
Currently listening to: V/A "Benefit For Animals In Need" Follow the link if you'd like to support the ASPCA while at the same time adding 31 songs to your digital library. Go on, you know you want to.
Sunday, November 11, 2012
Plus, we have a lot of ducks now, mostly of the rubber kind, but also a nice wooden mallard, a plush duck or two, and some wind-up ones. I'm not sure what possessed me to write "nobody will be admitted without a duck" on the invitation. I'm just glad that nobody brought live ducks (at least a couple of people almost did).
My friend Jellyfish took some nice pictures too:
Currently listening to: Celer "Recumbent In Wishes"
Saturday, November 10, 2012
Currently listening to: Xambuca "Kamuy"
Thursday, November 08, 2012
After a couple of weeks in the field, I'm working nights this week and next, followed by a week off in honor of the annual Feast of Gluttons.
Here's a picture taken during field class the week before last. I love how fog utterly changes the mood of the photo.
Currently listening to: Tim Eriksen "Josh Billings Voyage"
Saturday, November 03, 2012
I often get Facebook messages from friends, usually accompanied by a photo (like the case in point here), asking me to identify some mysterious creature that appeared in a yard, or bathtub, or garage, or somewhere else terrifying and inconvenient. Usually I can identify the critter right away. In most cases, if I can't identify it, I'll at least have a good idea.
The animal in this picture is as well known to me as the palm of my hand, and since I know what it is, I would never actually put one in the palm of my hand. It's a Rattlesnake, of course. To be precise (as a pair of fictional detectives are fond of saying), it's a Northern Pacific Rattlesnake. Fortunately for the kid in the picture, the species isn't very aggressive. It makes up for its lack of aggressiveness with relatively toxic venom though, so it's not something you should pick up with your bare hands, no matter who you are.
In this case, if I remember the story right, the irresponsible party was a grandparent. As adults, it's our responsibility to be knowledgeable about potential dangers in our immediate environment. This particular adult fell down on the job. Hard.
Where living things are concerned, the best advice I can give is: If you don't know what it is, don't touch it.
Friday, November 02, 2012
This day also marks a somber anniversary, since it is the one year anniversary of my dad's death. It's hard to believe that a year has already vanished, since the day is still so finely etched into my memory. It's interesting to note that my dad passed away on the Festival of the Dead, a festival that became All Soul's Day once the Christians got hold of it. Yet another holiday that now has a deeper, more personal meaning for me.
Speaking of the dead, All Hallow's Eve passed without incident. A row of jack-o-lanterns and a large balloon Frankenstein's Monster greeted the surprisingly large number of trick-or-treaters who came to our door. Jeanine reported that many of them didn't seem to know what to say, instead standing there with mute expectation.
Currently listening to: At Jennie Ritchie "The Communist's Garden"
Wednesday, October 10, 2012
It's not much, but it's been dry for so long that even a few drops seems like a deluge.
Currently listening to: Bernardo Devlin "Sic Transit"
Tuesday, October 09, 2012
We're slowly but surely pulling the elements of our wedding together. Jeanine and I collaborated on the invitations, and I'm still trying to confirm a band. All of the local bands I've asked are either suddenly not local or have time conflicts (although one band member expressed a desire to play our 10th anniversary). At the moment, I'm pinning my hopes on a friend who has two bands, a swing band and a blues band, and I'm waiting to hear back about the availability of either. They'd be coming from a bit farther away, but hopefully at least one of the bands will be available on the date.
Another friend, who also plays in a blues band, was surprised that we were interested in having a blues band play our wedding, but if you think about it, the whole point of blues is to make people feel good. Of course, most of my favorite music could be labelled "depressing" or at least "melancholy", so what do I know?
I know that the music draws out sadness and expresses it in a way that nothing else can, so the sadder the music, the happier it makes me feel. Not that I'm sad or anything like that, but perhaps the reason I'm rarely sad myself is because I wallow in musical morbidity.
Lest one think that it's just me, Jeanine is fully on board with having a blues band play. Yet another reason why we're such a good match.
Currently listening to: Tinariwen - YouTube mix, which isn't melancholy at all, and thus doesn't really support the point I was making above, but sometimes life is like that.
Friday, October 05, 2012
As I walk around in the dark, I think. This week, I've been thinking about passion, and about how I feel the need to develop some new creative passions, or perhaps revisit dormant ones. I feel like a lot of my creativity has been left by the wayside over the years, although I guess blogging sort of counts as creative, even if it is more like a chronicle of my experiences most of the time. For the time being, I'll take what I can get, I guess. I'm looking for some new muse or inspiration though, perhaps because I just finished reading a novel about a muse of sorts - Christopher Moore's Sacre Bleu. Of course, with this particular muse, pain and loss is inextricably linked to inspiration. I'm not a big fan of pain and loss, even though a lot of great art and music is born from it. Does that make me some sort of psychic vulture, benefiting as I do from the pain and loss of others? Ha.
Currently listening to: Empty Vessel Music "The Burial",
Wednesday, September 26, 2012
I've got a cold. I think I picked it up over the weekend while I was at the Stella Natura festival in the Tahoe National Forest. The festival was phenomenal, and a detailed report will surface on my music blog soon. For the time being though, I'll sit here and continue blowing my nose.
Currently listening to: Natural Snow Buildings "Live at The Pop, Paris, France 05.11.2003"
Wednesday, September 19, 2012
Suddenly, we have two Bearded Dragons. Their previous owner tried to donate them to science camp, but the nature lab is already stuffed with critters, so I offered to take them home. These weren't available as pets when I was a kid, or I probably would have had one before now. Over the last decade or so, they've become quite popular and easy to find. Everybody seems to be breeding them. Maybe we will too, since now we also have an incubator.
Currently listening to: Hazy Loper "High In The Murk"
Tuesday, September 18, 2012
Moments after having these thoughts, I noticed the license plate holder on the car in front of me. It read, "the internet makes you stupid". Amen to that.
Currently listening to: Felicia Atkinson "Les Bois Rouges"
Monday, September 17, 2012
I still feel like I need to recover from my busy weekend, which featured Willow's soccer photo day and the game that followed (well played, although Willow's team lost by a point or two), a birthday party up in the hills (with live blues band and karaoke - Willow is a karaoke monster!), open house at work (for kids who are coming to camp this school year), and an instore performance by my brother at Amoeba Records in Berkeley (followed by pizza at Zachary's pizza). To top it all off, I seem to have caught a cold.
We walked to get Eva from middle school earlier, and as we started walking homeward, I noticed a kid in front of us contemptuously toss his pencil into the air behind him. Half a block later, one of his friends did the same thing, flinging his pencil into a bush. Do kids these days think pencils are a one-use item? I suppose I did my share of similar things when I was their age, but from my current perspective, it seems kind of senseless. If these kids are sixth graders, we'll be seeing them at science camp in the Spring, and we'll get a chance to teach about not wasting resources. If they're seventh or eighth graders, then they've already been at camp and the lesson didn't stick.
Currently listening to: Nurse With Wound "?"
Wednesday, September 12, 2012
So far, I've been treated to a Devo concert (I could hear the music from the nearby Mountain Winery) and a couple of bloody noses. The music and the blood are done now, and I'm anticipating seeing the moonrise in a little over an hour. This year, my goal is to actually stay awake all night, rather than try to get my usual 4 or 5 hours of sleep each night. This will mean more sleeping at home. So far, so good. I have to awaken 3 kids in a few minutes, so they don't moisten their sleeping bags before dawn. Then, it will be back to diverting myself with music and literature. I just finished E.R. Eddison's "The Worm Ouroboros", a book that has languished unread on my shelf for years. I'm glad that I finally read it. Next up is "The Jekyll Legacy" by Robert Bloch, which didn't even rate a shelf, but rather languished, coverless, in a cardboard box in various garages and storage spaces for probably decades. I'm trying to focus on what I have, instead of on what I want. This is a good way to start.
Currently listening to: Aural Apocalypse 9/5/12 Podcast, which is chock full of bands set to play the upcoming Stella Natura Festival up in desolation wilderness. I'm officially excited now.
Sunday, September 09, 2012
I also found this book, and it reminded me of Dexter, who would be a six-dinner cat if he could get away with it. Six-Dinner Sid manages it by being an outside cat who fools six different families into believing they are each his sole owner. Dexter is an inside cat, so he mournfully meows at odd hours of the night.
Like he did last night.
Currently listening to: V/A "The Active Listener's First Birthday"
Thursday, September 06, 2012
We're in the middle of our set-up/inservice week at camp, and the transformation from summer camp to outdoor school is almost complete. Willow is signed up for her school play this year, as well as doing soccer and girl scouts. She is a busy girl. It must be getting close to Autumn.
This morning, Jeanine and I were awakened by brief, pounding rain, complete with lightning and thunder. By the time we actually got out of bed, it was over. It was a great way to wake up though. I hope this winter is wetter than last year's was.
It just got dark enough for one of the solar-powered lights to blink on in one of the backyard garden bed, which I can see from where I'm typing. The clouds are in the process of losing their pinkish orange underbellies. I think I'll step outside to get a closer look.
Currently listening to: CMX "Melankolia"
Sunday, September 02, 2012
We also might get a chicken, although we're still not sure if chickens and tortoises willingly share space with each other.
Currently listening to: Miranda Sex Garden "Peep Show"
Saturday, September 01, 2012
Jeanine and I went for a walk, and yes, we saw the moon rise. It was glorious, hanging yellow and gravid just above the horizon. We barely saw anybody else outside on what was a very pleasant late summer evening. There was one guy walking with a small child, and a couple of girls in sparkly outfits running in and out of their open front door, but other than that, the darkening streets were deserted. We reminisced about childhood, about how there were always lots of kids doing kid stuff all over our neighborhoods, and how now many of the kids are inside sitting lifelessly in front of their electronic mood supports.
Currently listening to Natural Snow Buildings "Daughter of Darkness"
Tuesday, August 28, 2012
the weather slowly gets cooler, we'll most likely be spending more time taking long walks, both nearby and up in the hills. Today, Jeanine and I took a long overdue walk at Almaden Quicksilver County Park. On the way there, it occurred to me that we hadn't been for a walk there since last Autumn, when I finally walked the last stretch of trail that I hadn't walked. That was the day we found the one tarantula we saw in the wild last year.
Today was warm, even at our 9:00 AM starting time. We wandered in from the uphill entrance and walked to Hidalgo Cemetery and back. The cemetery is a plot of land surrounded by a weathered white-picket fence. The wooden grave markers have long since returned to the earth, as I'm sure most of what rests beneath has. There are little rodent holes everywhere, and right inside the gate, Jeanine discovered an owl pellet with a sad little rodent tailbone jutting out from one side. She also saw something spidery duck back into a little webby hole, so maybe today's walk was blessed by a tarantula as well. On the way back, she spotted a praying mantis sitting at attention by the side of the trail. It looked like it was ready to lay some eggs.
We both ended up being more tired than we should have been. It could have been the warmth, but it was probably due at least in part to the fact that we just haven't been doing enough walking lately. I prescribe regular walking for what ails us.
Currently listening to: Nurse With Wound "The Memory Surface"
Sunday, August 26, 2012
There is a neighborhood cat who usually sleeps on the chaise lounge in our backyard, but yesterday I looked out the window and discovered another place he likes to sleep. He woke up when I peeked out the front door to take his picture, but didn't move. It's a good thing I hadn't planned to drive anywhere.
I'm in the middle of two weeks off, and I think I'll spend today like I'm actually off work, meaning that I'm not going to be productive. Yesterday I mowed the lawn with our push mower, impressing our mail carrier with its silence. She acted like she had never seen a lawn mower that wasn't either gas powered or electrical. Think how much quieter it would be in suburbia if everybody had a push mower. Of course, the lawns wouldn't be quite as immaculate, but I'm all in favor of that too. Immaculate lawns = death.
Currently listening to: Rustavi Choir "Alilo - Ancient Georgian Chorales"
Wednesday, August 22, 2012
On our way to a brief wedding planning meeting this morning, my van sulked all the way up the hill, stuttering and displaying the "check engine" light. I'll have that checked out tomorrow. I remember when I used to get really stressed out about car problems. Not so much anymore. They're still kind of a pain though.
Here's a picture of Willow, hanging out with her pet coconut, Carl. Just because.
Currently listening to: Dead Can Dance "The Hidden Treasures" bootleg
Tuesday, August 21, 2012
I also finally got around to contacting an accountant to deal with my dad's final taxes. I couldn't get hold of the accountant (recommended by the paralegal I'd been working with earlier this year) by phone, so I went down to her nearby office, only to find it close and locked. I tried the phone again, and this time got hold of her and set up an appointment for next week. It feels good to finally make some progress on this front (the delay was partially because I didn't have all of the 1099 forms until relatively recently, and not being able to find the time or energy due to work). I'm glad there are accountants in the world, because I have no interest in having to deal with mountains of mysterious paperwork. I might change my tune after finding out how much this accounting work will cost, but for now I'll be grateful. Again, it's not really about the money though. It's about getting it done and putting it behind me.
Now, Jeanine is out getting Eva, and I'm getting a start on writing some CD/record reviews for my other blog. I would have to start with a 3 hour box set, wouldn't I?
Currently listening to: Eleni Karaindrou "Mousiki Gia To Teatro 1986-2010"
Monday, August 20, 2012
What were we removing from our yard? Apparently, when plants get too heavy, they break and topple. The bougainvilleas were the first to go, snapping their supporting structures and toppling to the patio. This was followed by a branch of the avocado tree, which snapped and had to be pruned, leaving nearly 50 avocados stillborn. There were also the weeds along the right side of the house, which reminded me of the weeds growing along the right side of my mom's house long ago - an early and fondly remembered playground for me.
I also finally put together a worm bin, although I think I'll probably need to add more worms to it.
During the morning, I was also reminded of the fact that dirt contains a bacteria called Mycobacterium vaccae, which according to this article, "has antidepressant properties through activation of serotonin neurons". Play in the dirt. It's good for your mental health.
Back inside, I can't help but think that Tom Waits disapproves of my reading material.
Currently listening to: Sveinbjorn Beinteinsson "Edda"
Saturday, August 18, 2012
Two weeks stretch out before me, two weeks of not going to work. Summer camp is over for another year. I worked 8 out of the 9 weeks - 8 weeks of hiking, splashing in the pond, catching critters, and hanging out with a wide variety of kids, counselors, and coworkers. It's nice to be reminded that there is a lot of good energy out there in the world.
I'm sure that the weeks will go by quickly, and I hope that I manage to accomplish some things before I find myself once again tied to a schedule. Right now, it seems that I'm not accomplishing anything of substance, so I'll end this here and get busy.
Currently listening to: Jim Haynes "Okno Non Konec"
Wednesday, August 15, 2012
First, there are still two final days of summer camp. Two final days of playing around, followed by a couple weeks off, although "off" just means I don't have to go to work. There is a lot to be done at home, not the least of which is planning our upcoming wedding. I also plan to finally put my dad's final taxes to rest, which means gathering bunches of paperwork and dumping it all on some unsuspecting accountant. Accountants love that stuff though. More power to them. I have at least two "to do" lists as well. Maybe I should consolidate them and start doing stuff. I'm sure that the weeks off will rip by like monkeys on fire.
Week 9 of summer camp has been good so far. The kids are great, and the counselors are mainly of the returning "superstar" variety. There is a girl in my group who is the daughter of an old friend of Matt's, and I only figured out the connection due to her uncommon name and the fact that the only other girl I'd met with that name was a baby 10 years ago. Sure enough, they turned out to be one and the same.
Currently listening to: Natural Snow Buildings "Daughter of Darkness"
Sunday, August 12, 2012
This summer, every single time I've taken campers on a so-called critter hunt, we've found at least one rattlesnake, often more. The local rattlesnakes are Northern Pacific Rattlesnakes, which are usually quite docile, a fact that is offset by the relative toxicity of their venom. I don't ever catch them with my hands, because not only would that be stupid, but it would set a very bad example for the kids watching. So far this summer, I have moved five rattlesnakes to new locations farther away from camp. Three of these were under some cement blocks near our garden gate, and two were near one of the driveways leading up to camp. Only one rattlesnake got angry enough to rattle and strike, and that was one of the ones that I didn't need to catch. I'd only caught it so the kids could see it, but it rattled pretty much the whole time it was a captive, and even struck at the inside of the plastic cage. After that, I left that one alone. It's neat how different rattlesnakes have different personalities.
The picture above was taken on Thursday evening, taken because I thought it was a strange pair of things to see on a mattress. For the past week, we had to vacate our usual summer staff room to make way for a youth symphony group that was ensconced in our regular staff room (not to mention most of the cabins normally used during outdoor school), which meant we ended up in one of the cabins ourselves. Each staff member staked out some personal space on a bunk bed. My stuff tends to spread out across the floor, although in this picture I'd already put most of it back into my van, leaving only the tuxedo T-shirt (which I've gotten into the habit of wearing on Thursday evenings for the BBQ/campfire program) and the most recent rattlesnake. This one was actually found by another group, resting quietly a foot from the driveway, nearly invisible in the leaf litter. Not long after this picture was taken, I released it deep in the meadow, where it is less likely to get run over or stepped on.
As I type, it's Sunday morning. We fell asleep last night instead of going out to watch the Perseid meteor shower, and today I'll be heading out to Livermore with Jeanine to help out at a party, and then we'll be traveling up to Berkeley to attend the Dead Can Dance show at the Greek Theatre. Tomorrow, the last week of summer camp for 2012 will begin.
Currently listening to: Murder By Death "Like the Exorcist, But More Breakdancing"
Friday, August 10, 2012
the sun is setting on the eighth week of Summer Camp as I type. I have a good view of the west from our bedroom window, which is nice change from my apartment, where the window offered a view of my messy patio and a few dying treetops. The sunset pictured above is from last night, as I prepared to drive home from camp. Its sublime orangeness was appreciated by many.
This week, Alex was my counselor and he did a fine job, anticipating problems and jumping in to help where needed during the week. He's coming up next week with Nathan. All four of the kids where on hand Thursday evening for the BBQ/campfire program, and Willow finally won the raffle, becoming the proud owner of an R2D2 collector case and a Jar Jar Binks poster. At least she didn't get the life-sized George Bush (Senior) cardboard standup. Ha. These prizes, by the way, come about due to our camp director's dedication to the flea market. He finds the most amazing garbage.
Jeanine is out working right now, and I'm home resting after finishing a day of work. Of course "resting" means writing, at least for the moment. There are other things that need doing, of course, and they are gradually getting done. We haven't whipped the house into shape as quickly as I had expected us to, but it is slowly getting done in a more organic fashion, with little improvements happening on an almost daily basis. I have a couple of weeks off soon, and I plan on using them productively, because my summer camp schedule doesn't allow a lot of time (or when there is time, extra energy) to accomplish major tasks.
This week was a hot one, although I shouldn't complain because I recently saw an article noting that this is the hottest summer in the U.S. since people started paying attention to such things. The Bay Area has been more or less spared from this, with temperatures ping ponging around in the mid-eighties for the most part. Today it was in the mid-nineties.
Currently listening to: Murder By Death "10 Years" box set
Friday, August 03, 2012
Week 7 of Summer Camp is winding down. Willow has been at camp this week, climbing, creating, and playing. In the air, there is a palpable fog of disbelief that August has arrived. Many kids are due back in school well before the end of the month. We old folks have been reminiscing about the days when school didn't restart until after Labor Day.
The week flew by without any real distinguishing marks. Nobody got attacked by Yellow Jackets, although I did note a few new locations. More accurately, what I did was confirm a couple of nest locations I'd heard about, and a camper spotted another one. Last night, there was a glorious moonrise, which happened in conjunction with the start of the night hike. This morning, when I opened my eyes, it was to the sight of the moon softly sinking beyond the hilltops to the West. All this and a paycheck too.
The most interesting critter find of the week was a freshly-molted Forest Scorpion under a rock, which is something I hadn't seen before. Uncomfortable in its vulnerable state, it whipped its stinger around in a miniature frenzy, so after taking a few photos, we left it alone.
Currently listening to: Monolyth & Cobalt "E.Co - Boxset Vol. 1-4"
Tuesday, July 31, 2012
Now, I'm typing on a laptop, two residences removed from the one I lived in a decade ago, and searching for something profound to say about it all. Much has changed around me. When I started this blog, I was childless and preparing to get married. Now, I have a 9 year old daughter and I'm preparing to get married a second time (we're looking at November).
Sometimes months will go by without an entry here, but I always come back. It's almost like a responsibility - something I've started and must continue. Not many people read this, but I feel like I can't abandon what I've begun, if only for myself and my own reasons. I actually get a kick out of going back and reading the older posts - they're like a message from the past.
How long this will continue is anybody's guess.
Currently listening to: Monolyth & Cobalt "Eilean"
Sunday, July 29, 2012
Like last year, this year we ended up spending our summer vacation week visiting an amusement park and a succession of caves. In fact, it was the same amusement park as last summer, mainly because it was on the way to the caves.
The caves were closer to home than last year, and unfortunately all of them were the guided tour type of excursion, rather than like the Lava Beds caves we visited last year, where one is allowed to wander at will. That aside, the caves were fantastic. We went to Black Chasm, California Caverns, Mercer Caverns, and Moaning Cavern, even finding the time to do a night of car camping and Sequoia-ogling at Calaveras Big Trees State Park. I got to do a tandem zip line ride with Willow at Moaning Cavern, zipping down the 1500 foot cable over the dry scrub below. We also checked out nearby Natural Bridge, which featured a creek that had worn a tunnel through the limestone.
While in town of Volcano, which is where Black Chasm is, we wandered through the old Catholic cemetery there, finding a letterbox as we did so. We soaked up a lot of history at every stop, seeing a Cave Bear skeleton at California Caverns, and piles of bones on display at Moaning Cavern (not to mention some still in place on the cavern floor, left behind by people and animals who took the quick way down). There was one skull said to be from a Chinese girl who fell the 165 feet to the bottom of the cavern around 12,000 years ago. In Angels Camp, we checked out the museum, which was full of artifacts from the Gold Rush days, not to mention plenty of history related to the famous frog jumping contest, instigated by the Mark Twain story. The girls generally seemed to like the places we visited, although I think they both enjoyed the amusement park part the best. Ha.
Oh yeah, we also went to the Jelly Belly factory and went on the free tour. Needless to say, we bought some jelly bellies before hitting the road again.
The trip was well documented, of course.
We've been back a week now. At camp this week, Sophie came along and had a fun time. She got to be in my group too, which was nice. The Hognose snake wasn't in his cage on Monday (somebody needs a lesson on how to properly secure the top), but when I was getting food for the other animals on Wednesday, I discovered him crawling across the floor in the Nature Lab. I put him back in his cage, and the first thing he did was get a drink. It has been a parched summer.
Speaking of dryness, I think this is a contributing factor to our Yellow Jacket problems this year. There are so many more of them around than I've ever seen before. One group of kids got attacked on Wednesday as they navigated the narrow trail that follows the creek. I knew where that nest was, because a group I was leading stumbled over it several weeks previously. Then, on Friday, while on a "critter hunt" (an activity that I love to lead), we were looking under some old sections of brick wall that pepper the chaparral area. I had already looked under a few, finding a pretty little baby Rattlesnake under one, when one of the kids pointed to another and said, "I have a weird feeling about that one." It was set in the ground pretty well, so I really had to yank to free it from the dry dirt, and of course when I did, the Yellow Jackets were already boiling out of the ground. 10 people got stung, including a boy that got stung 5 times. Once I got all of the kids to safety and swatted the wasps off of them, I had to go back and get the plastic cage I'd dropped a few feet from the nest. By that time, the wasps had stopped boiling over, and were settling back down. I managed to grab the cage without getting stung again (I had initially gotten stung twice). It took awhile to calm down the boy who'd gotten stung the most, but for the other kids, it proved to be no big deal. One small girl, who couldn't have been more than 7 or 8, was particularly inspiring, shaking the whole experience off with a smile. Some kids are cool that way.
I'll add the location to our ever-growing list of areas to avoid, and the next time a kid says he has a "weird" feeling about something, I'll ask if he means good-weird or bad-weird. I guess he must have meant bad-weird, which is interesting because, as far as I know, none of us actually saw any Yellow Jackets flying around until I pulled off their roof. The kid had a bona fide psychic moment.
Currently listening to: Various "PM50"
Friday, July 13, 2012
Last night, a kid got stung by a Forest Scorpion while on the night hike. He wasn't with my group, but with the only other group leader who uses a UV light to look for scorpions and millipedes. The kids in my group were a bit older, and our scorpion and millipede viewing went off without a hitch. Apparently though, younger kids are a bit like magpies, grasping anything shiny within reach. Scorpions look pretty shiny when reflecting UV light, so the kid, who I believe is eight years old, reached for the shiny object and got a rude surprise. Fortunately, the local scorpions don't pack much of a punch, and the site of the sting didn't even swell. It hurt though.
When she was informed, the boy's sister (who was hiking with me) sighed and said that she wasn't surprised at all. Later, she told me that he had thought it was a shiny nut.
The lesson is, when hiking with younger kids, be aware of this tendency.
Currently listening to: Common Eider, King Eider "Worn"
Wednesday, July 11, 2012
Later, I told some kids that I put the frog back in the pond. One kid opined that it would have been funny if it had turned into a prince before I dropped it into the water. It's true. That would have been funny, in a "dignified people getting messed with" kind of way.
Currently listening to: Evan Caminiti "Night Dust" LP
Sunday, July 08, 2012
It actually pains me to get rid of so many magazines. The photos are exquisite, and there is so much interesting information in those thousands of pages. It occurred to me that much of the contents of those magazines probably isn't available anywhere else. Not on the internet, in other words. I remember sometime back reading or realizing that every time there is a big technological change (I think I read an article about a lot of movies on VHS not making the jump to DVD), a lot gets left in the dustbins of history. Of course, where National Geographics are concerned, a lot just gets left in closets and garages. Hopefully someone will be able to take the magazines put them to good use, perhaps in a classroom or some other similar place, because realistically, I'm never going to read decades worth of old magazines. Information overload.
Currently listening to: Pentangle "Cruel Sister"
Friday, July 06, 2012
I realized sometime last night that the 2012 summer camp season is already one third over. Today marks the end of week three of summer camp, with six more to follow.
Willow just peeked in and said it's time for ice cream, so I'll end this post here. Ice cream is calling.
Currently listening to: Neil Young & Crazy Horse "Rust Never Sleeps"
Saturday, June 30, 2012
Currently listening to O'death "Daytrotter Session 6/28/2012"
Wednesday, June 27, 2012
Actually, agitated insects aside, it has been a good week. The second week of Summer Camp has been relatively cool so far, much more so than last week, when temperatures ascended into the uncomfortable nineties for a day or two. At one point, around a week ago, the readout on top of a local Bank of the West branch declared that it was 97 degrees.
Last week went very smoothly when one considers that none of us had run a week of Summer Camp since last August. No big snafus occurred, except for Friday morning when the sprinklers came on at 6:00 and watered a bunch of sleeping campers and counselors. I don't think that's an effective way to get kids to grow faster.
I've hiked to the reservoir both weeks so far. The water level is as low as I've seen it, and everything else is dry too. Today, we found a pile of dead bullfrogs with missing hind legs. Somebody has been expanding their culinary horizons at the expense of our local (although invasive) frog population. Some of the kids were a bit creeped out. We also saw a Rattlesnake in about the same place I saw the same snake slightly over 2 years ago. I've seen him a couple of times over the past month or two, but tonight I compared photos, and it looks like the same snake. Rattlesnakes are much more sedentary than the other local species, but I think this is the first time I've seen a snake in the same location after 2 years.
I got some great pictures in 2010 by taking them upside down over the lip of the rock the snake was under, but today's shots were poor. Here, you can see the rattle as the snake disappears into the darkness.
I wonder if he has lived there all his life, a mere 2 or 3 feet from the main path around the reservoir. He looks old, like he would be in a rocker on a porch if he had the anatomy to fit in one properly.
Currently listening to: Forrest Fang "Seeds of Memory" EP
Saturday, June 16, 2012
As for set-up week, the most useful thing I did all week was save a snake's life. While returning a shovel to the garden shed after shoveling out the campfire pit, I spotted a large Gopher snake in the corner, sprawled across the floor like a corpse. Its front end was well entangled in a roll of plastic garden netting, so tightly that sections of it bulged outwards. I was so certain that it was dead that I was surprised that it hissed when I touched it. I found some scissors and took about 15 minutes to cut it out of the roll, and when I finally finished, the front of the snake was still hairy with jutting bits of plastic, making it look like some sort of laboratory experiment gone awry. With the help of a coworker and a pair of fingernail clippers, we finally managed to free the snake from the remaining plastic. After smearing some antibiotic on it, we kept it overnight for observation, and after ensuring that all of the garden netting was safely put out of reach (this is an ongoing issue, but when so many people use things, it's sometimes hard to ensure that everything is consistently put away), we released the snake in the garden. It eventually disappeared down a gopher hole. I'm going to enlarge and laminate a copy of the the photo I took and put it on the wall of the shed as a reminder.
Currently listing to: "Victrola Favorites" 2CD
Sunday, June 10, 2012
Summer camp set-up begins in earnest tomorrow, and summer camp begins the week after.
Our bed arrived, and I only got one blister putting it together. The mattress is perched on top of a 14 drawer dresser, which is kind of neat. The house is still in a state of some disarray, although every day sees a new element click into place. Today, the framed pictures that had been leaning against the wall in the living room found places on the walls. I mowed the lawn with the push mower too, feeling like a stereotypical suburbanite as I did so, sweating under the warm June sun. The push mower is picky. It only cuts grass, leaving all of the weeds standing proud and tall in its wake, giving the freshly mowed lawn a mangy look. Oh, well. We'll have to do some weeding.
Last night, one of my favorite co-workers (actually two of them, come to think of it) got married up at camp. We had a van load, with Willow and Eva being joined by Sophie, Nathan, and Alex. It was one of the rare times that still owning a mini-van came in handy. The wedding was beautiful, and it was nice to see a number of people I hadn't seen in awhile. Happy future to Scooby and Moonlight.
Also, taking the advice of a woman at the local pet store, I tried feeding baby food to the turtle, and she actually ate it! It's strange to have a pet that only eats worms and baby food. Next, I'm trying tofu.
Currently listening to: Agalloch "Whitedivisiongrey"
Monday, May 28, 2012
When sitting in a rocking chair on a hardwood floor, one must make faces. It is the law.
My apartment is virtually empty of my stuff now. Still remaining is a small pile of dirty laundry, some cleaning supplies, and a few miscellaneous items destined for the dumpster or recycling bin. We're still working on emptying Jeanine's place, but hopefully that will be accomplished by the end of the day. The end of the month is upon us.
At the house, things are magically settling into place while the girls, unconcerned with the piles of boxes, play video games.
Dexter the cat arrived howling, and spent the better part of a day with his tail all poofed up. He's better now, and is making the house his own.
More to follow...
Friday, May 11, 2012
Yesterday, since we couldn't move anything, we went for a walk at Hidden Villa. It's Horned Lizard season, but we didn't see any. We saw fewer Whiptails than last year too, although we did see a few, like the one pictured above. Early in the hike, Jeanine spotted a Jerusalem Cricket scuttling across the trail. That's a strange thing to see in the middle of the day. I wonder what disturbed it enough to inspire this atypical diurnal activity. There were fewer ticks along the trail than last time, although we did find a few of them patiently waiting on some trail-side plants. Later, I found one attached to my chest near one of my nipples. Sneaky little bastard. Its meal was cut short.
Currently listening to: The Iditarod "the Ghost, the Elf, the Cat and the Angel"
Tuesday, May 08, 2012
For me, the act of moving is like going on vacation. It doesn't seem to have any weight or reality until the hour is nigh and the routine of living is shuttled off onto a new track, or to put it another way, until the suitcase (in my case, usually a hastily stuffed backpack) or first box is full of my stuff. It's a sad commentary on my tendency to hoard that some of my belongings only get handled when I'm moving them from one residence to another, but that's a whole other subject. I'm working on it. Really.
I stripped a bookcase of its stories today, and filled a number of boxes with books. I came across one book (Swine Lake, by James Marshall) illustrated by Maurice Sendak, and I plan on sitting down later today and reading it in memory of his passing, the news of which greeted me when I woke up this morning. Lets all hold a wild rumpus in his honor.
The new house is scheduled to be tented tomorrow, ensuring that the dry wood termites discontinue their gnawing. I'm not a big fan of using poison gas on insects, but I think I'd be even less a fan of having the house collapse on top of us at some indeterminate point in the future.
Still to be scheduled is the chimney work, and some plumbing repairs. Right now, if there was an earthquake, the chimney would probably fall on the neighbor's house.
Currently listening to: Accept "I'm A Rebel"
Sunday, May 06, 2012
Here then are a couple of photos. Over that last couple of months spent viewing hundreds of online photos of houses for sale, I've been amused to see the various tricks of the trade - photos stretched to make the house look more expansive, low angled shots to make the house look more mansion-like, and other similar bits of trickery. I can't now recall what the "advertisement" photos of our house looked like. I learned to more or less ignore those photos anyway.
Currently listening to: Bowline "s/t"
In addition to all of the home buying activity, this period of silence has been full of activity. Perhaps most importantly, my brother Greg, Willow, and I finally got off of our isolationist butts and visited relatives. This meant traveling to Cape Cod to see my mom's sister and her son, Peter, and then on to Minnesota to see my dad's sister and her family. I had reconnected with my mom's sister, Marilyn, and my cousin Peter, when Jeanine and I were in Boston for a balloon convention in February, but Greg and I hadn't seen our relatives on our dad's side of the family in decades. Willow had never met any of them. I'll not recount the entire week here, because it won't be that interesting to the casual reader, but the trip was definitely a success. Our Aunt Marilyn even got us into the Edward Gorey house before it was open for the season, and while we were on Cape Cod, we visited our friends Matthias and Carla, who live in a pleasingly rustic house right near the beach (although everywhere on Cape Cod is right near the beach). The trip was well documented.
After coming back, I hopped in the car with Jeanine and we headed for Big Sur, where we took in a Godspeed You! Black Emperor show and camped under the redwoods. That week, Sophie's class was at camp, and since the kids' school always attends our second site, I switched sites and worked days. We wrapped up the week with a second Godspeed show, and the next morning, Greg and I flew to Seattle to see the newest Bela Tarr film, The Turin Horse. Perhaps this is how my second childhood has chosen to manifest itself - plane flights to see films. This also meant that we were in Seattle on Record Store Day, so we bought lots of music while we were there. I came back with quite a variety of sounds, from bird songs and a double CD/book collection of old 78 recordings, to Ennio Morricone doing bossa nova and neoclassical sounds that used a previous Bela Tarr film as inspiration. As for the film we had gone to see, it was everything we expected it to be, although at least one audience member must have been expecting something different, because she walked out and didn't come back.
I've started another walking challenge as well. Somebody who is even nerdier than me has figured out that Frodo and Sam had to walk 1779 miles to walk to Mordor. Since I started the challenge, I've walked a mere 11 miles. Only 1768 more to go.
I did a reptile/bug party yesterday, and in preparation for the party, Jeanine and I went on a short bug hunt Friday, which netted me a little California Forest Scorpion and a Jerusalem Cricket, not to mention a Garter Snake (I found two under a board, but only caught one). In addition to the two Garter Snakes, we saw eight Rattlesnakes. After the party, when I went to release the Garter Snake, I discovered that the board under which I found it still had two Garter Snakes under it. Nature hates imbalance, I guess.
Here's Rattlesnake number eight. He was still there the next day.
As for the house, after lots of last-minute craziness involving the lenders, yesterday we finally got the keys. I went over in the afternoon, and when I arrived, our realtor was sweeping the floors (talk about a full-service realtor!), and the sellers were bundling the last of their possessions (and their cats) into the car. They were leaving for Oregon. They left behind a few things for us, including the patio furniture and some yard tools. Later, Jeanine and I converged on the house and thoughtfully wandered through it. Jeanine brought out her tape measure and did a few calculations, and I hauled a few things in from my van. We're having the house tented for termites on Wednesday, so we won't be moving a lot of things over there until after that's done. We have the whole month to be out of our current residences, so there isn't too much of a rush.
So now we're homeowners. I guess I'm a grown-up now. I've lived in my studio apartment for nearly three and a half years now, and while there are some things I like about my apartment, I'm ready to step into a larger space again. I'm ready for our new yard, with its towering avocado tree, garden, citrus trees, artichoke plants, and expansive lawn. There is a compost area and a worm bin too.
Currently listening to: Natural Snow Buildings "Shadow Kingdom"
Sunday, April 01, 2012
My last post was on February 22nd, a handful of days before Willow turned 9. A lot has happened since then. The times when I am most prolific with my blog writing always seem to coincide with long stretches of routine, when very little news of excitement or importance occurs.
Jeanine and I, sometimes with Willow and/or Eva in tow, have spent the last month or so looking at open houses. A realtor that we met at the first one we went to has been showing us around. The houses have ranged from dumpy and forlorn to interesting and appealing. Our first actual bid was rejected, mostly because we wanted the owners to take care of a rather sizable termite problem. Our second bid wasn't even in the top 3, despite the fact that we bid $15,000.00 over the asking price. It seems that the low interest rates have encouraged a vast number of people to buy homes. For the third house we bid on, we bid $15,000.00 under the asking price, and the sellers didn't respond by the time the bid expired. The fourth time was the charm. We bid the asking price, and it was accepted. The fourth house is the only one of the four where we actually met the owner, and I think the fact that we're planning to occupy it with our children instead of using it as an investment worked in our favor. The house has been in the seller's family for half a century, so its fate seems important to her. More on the house in future posts.
Needless to say, all of this searching and bidding has taken up a lot of time. Not to mention the fact that I've been working days for the last couple of weeks while Willow's mom has been in the hospital for a planned surgery. While working as the night supervisor at camp, I tend to take for granted my daytime freedom, so now that I'm working days, I'm surprised at how little time I have. I have two more weeks of hiking with kids before returning to my nocturnal schedule - one because my boss asked me to, and one because Sophie's class is coming to camp. Sandwiched between those is a week off which coincides with Willow's Spring Break. Tax day looms as well. In short, much is happening in a short period of time.
We've finally seen a bit of rain too. March had a few rainy days, including yesterday when I led a "reptile safari" along some of the trails near camp. This was for the son of a woman who hired me through Jeanine's website, and despite the rain, the party was a success. Most kids don't mind mud and rain, as long as they don't have to stay out in it too long. The parents were good sports too. The reptiles we found were sluggish due to the chilly temperature, so the kids caught some lizards and I caught a couple of Rattlesnakes. Fun was had, cake was eaten, and I even got a $40.00 tip.
A lot of my childhood literary interests have factored into recent weeks as well. Willow has finally started being interested in the works of J.R.R. Tolkien, thanks to the Retro Dome, which has showed the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy on its screens recently. She is currently reading The Hobbit. We saw the Tintin movie too (which was very good), and Willow has started reading the Tintin books. I was so excited by this that I dropped $120.00 for a box set of the entire Tintin series (I reread mine until they were shedding pages). We also saw the John Carter movie (based on the Edgar Rice Burroughs Martian novels, which I happily read and reread as a child) and I quite liked it.
Welcome Spring. This is definitely a Spring during which many things are happening. I feel more or less caught up now.
Currently listening to: Dead Can Dance "A Passage In Time", and looking forward to seeing them play in August.
Wednesday, February 22, 2012
The second overhead conversation took place inside a store, between a little girl and her dad. The girl, who couldn't have been more than two or three years old, gleefully proclaimed, "I are a dummy!", as she toddled along the aisles. Her dad kept trying to correct her: "don't call yourself that! You're silly, not a dummy". The girl kept insisting though, "no! I are a dummy!"
I couldn't help but think that the person who should have been saying this was the first guy, but he was too self-righteous and full of himself to ever admit such a thing. In fact, he got angry when he was called on it, responding with trite insults delivered at excessive volume, as if he subconsciously wanted to broadcast his ignorance as far and wide as possible.
Currently listening to: Espers "III"
Friday, February 17, 2012
At the beginning of the month, Jeanine and I went to Arizona for the 2012 Twist & Shout convention - several days in a Sheraton, playing with balloons, eating pizza, and in general, having a fun time. Arizona felt like Spring, with blue skies and temperatures in the seventies.
Other than that brief vacation, I've been working. There have been more homesick kids at camp than usual, and nocturnal incontinence has been an issue with more than a few campers. This week, in a failed attempt at egg theft, a camper filled his water bottle with pond water and newt eggs, but dropped it in the evening, during the astronomy program. A cabin leader, feeling thirsty, retrieved the bottle and took a swig. Unsurprisingly, he was unhappy to discover that he'd ingested pond water. I'm glad that he didn't swallow any newt eggs. California Newts contain a poison called tetrodotoxin, which can kill humans if ingested in sufficient quantities. I did some quick research on newt eggs anyway, but still don't know if, or how much, poison is contained in the eggs. I'll add this to the growing number of cautionary tales in my repertoire. Look before you drink.
The most significant thing that happened this month is that I finally asked Jeanine to marry me, and she said yes. I asked her while we walked the trails at Rancho San Antonio, where around 2 and a half years ago, we went on our first date. I'm excited at the prospect of looking for a home together. Both of our daughters seem happy about this too. This should be an interesting and exciting year.
Currently listening to: Greg Weeks "The Hive"
Monday, January 30, 2012
I'm nearing the completion of a lot of the tasks associated with my dad's passing. It has been almost 3 months since he died, and there has been more than enough to keep me busy during that time, but very little time for mourning or reflection. I still have his taxes to figure out over the next couple of months, and I'm not messing around with it. I'm hiring an accountant.
Today marks the beginning of the fifth week of science camp this year. I'm only working the first 2 nights though, because I have other plans for the last half of the week.
Currently listening to: Isengrind "The Stone Breads of Golden Bankets" from "Menagerie 3" compilation