Monday, January 30, 2012

Work Continues Under Dry Skies

Gray light filters down outside, but despite the clouds, everything remains dry. Other than a tiny bit of rain a week ago, there has been no rain for at least a couple of months.

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

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Two Years

Exactly two years ago today, I spent an afternoon in Oakland in small photography studio. I had with me 4 snakes, who were kicking off their reptilian modeling careers on the shoulders of members of the Oakland metal band, High On Fire. The photos eventually surfaced in the April, 2010 issue of Decibel magazine. The Burmese Python used in the shoot died this Monday.

When I arrived home from the shoot, it was to the news that my mom had died suddenly, so today marks an unpleasant anniversary. I remembered her by drinking a cup of good tea. The tea, Peet's Ancient Trees Organic Pu-erh, was in one of her cabinets at the time of her death, along with lots of other types of teas. My brother and I often gifted her with interesting teas, and truth be told, she had more tea than she would have been able to drink if she lived for decades longer. I think that she would have agreed that it's nice to have a variety though, because like me and my brother, she loved to surround herself with excessive amounts of the things she loved. I didn't actually try the Ancient Trees tea until yesterday, when all of a sudden I felt compelled to get it out and brew some. So, today I raise a steaming cup of tea in the memory of my mom.

Additionally, I think she would have felt she was in good company if she'd known that the week of her passing would one day be shared by Theo Angelopoulos (see previous post).

Also, R.I.P. Riot guitarist Mark Reale, who passed away yesterday. This week is not a kind one.

Currently listening to: Ordo Equitum Solis "Paraskenia"

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

"What Am I, If Not A Collector Of Vanished Gazes?"

This morning, soon after I got up, I read an announcement that Greek film director Theo Angelopoulos had died. According to the news article, he was hit by a motorcycle while crossing the road near the film set of what was to be his new film, "The Other Sea". He was the same age as my dad.

It's not often that the death of somebody I didn't know upsets me this much. The world has lost a filmmaker who can't be replaced, someone with unique vision. It looks like his newest film is stillborn, which is a shame indeed.

Earlier today, Jeanine and I watched his 1995 film, "Ulysses' Gaze". It seemed like the thing to do. "Ulysses' Gaze" was the first Angelopoulos film I saw (at a sold out screening at the Castro Theater in San Francisco, no less), and it's still one of my favorites.

As long as their are archives and collectors, Angelopoulos' gaze will never vanish. Even when his physical form is dust and nothing, we can still look through his eyes. There is some comfort in that.

Currently listening to: Eleni Karaindrou "Music For Films"

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

A Day In the Life...

Nearly five years ago, I randomly chose a day during which I took careful note of everything I did from the time I woke up to the time I crawled back into bed. It ended up not being the best of days, which of course made it much more readable. Nobody wants to read stories in which everything goes according to plan. That said, my primary motivation behind this kind of writing is selfish. I like to go back and look at these little slices of life, these little verbal time capsules. Because of this blog, I know exactly what I was doing every minute of February 22, 2007. Now, years from now, I'll be able to look back and know exactly what I was doing on January 23, 2012. Like the 2007 post, it ended up not being the best of days. In fact, death figures into it. Read on.

6:30 - Alarm goes off. I flail at the alarm clock until the noise stops. I keep doing this every 9 minutes until shortly after 7:00.

7:10 - I manage to become vertical and shuffle to the kitchen, where I brew some coffee and pour myself a heaping bowl of 9 Whole Grain Crunch with almond milk. While consuming coffee and cereal, I check e-mail and recent news stories.

7:20 - Willow wakes up. I make her toast with butter. She gradually gets ready and makes her toast disappear, except for the crusts, which sit forlornly on her plate.

7:20 to 7:55 - We finish getting ready. Willow makes sure to put her stuffed monkey, Monkey, into her backpack. Monkey, along with stuffed animals belonging to Willow's classmates, is having a sleepover at school this evening. Willow wonders if he'll be homesick.

7:56 - We drive to Willow's school.

8:10 - Arrive at school. I walk Willow to her classroom.

8:16 - I get back to the van and start driving home.

8:25 - The cop who has been following me for several blocks pulls me over. I have to open my door to talk to him because my window is broken. He asks the usual cop question: "Do you know why I pulled you over?" I reply that I don't. It turns out that one of my brake lights is out. Sigh of relief. At least it wasn't a moving violation of some sort. He doesn't give me a fix-it ticket, but tells me to get it fixed.

8:35 - I arrive home.

8:40 - Check e-mail, download new Jolie Holland Daytrotter session.

8:45 - Decide to chronicle my day. I start list of what I've already done while listening to Far Black Furlong.

8:50 - I start "watching" a couple of Natural Snow Buildings auctions on eBay.

9:07 - I do the dishes and gather stuff to put in storage. A couple of boxes of my dad's stuff will be joining the others in the storage space that my brother and I share.

9:16 - E-mail Jeanine, wishing her good morning.

9:23 - Finish listening to Far Black Furlong and get ready to go.

9:30 - Eat banana and discover that when I play with the round magnets on the fridge, they make interesting sounds. Think about recording them.

9:35 - Leave. iPod on shuffle.

9:40 - Once on the freeway, I see a rainbow.

9:43 - Arrive at auto parts store, buy brake light bulbs, replace the dead one, and then discover that I'd actually already had a spare in the glove compartment.

9:49 - Head for storage space.

10:06 - Arrive at storage space, drop off boxes and get wheat bag (one of those microwaveable bags, most commonly used to warm sore next muscles, but in this case slated to be portable heating unit for my python, who I'm taking to the vet).

10:28 - Arrive at work and check on python in the Nature Lab. He's in a bad way, in fact at first I think that he's dead, but he is moving slightly. Late last week, it was discovered that there was blood around his mouth, and after observing and treating him (for possible mouth rot) for a day, I decided that he had a respiratory condition and needed to see the vet. Unfortunately, the soonest I could get an appointment was this morning). It's not quite time for his appointment, so I wander up to camp. I chat with coworkers for awhile, finding out that there was a half hour power outage over the weekend, which when one considers the condition of the python, was really bad timing. I microwave the wheat bag and get the python into a pillowcase for his ride to the vet.

11:04 - I leave for the vet. iPod on shuffle.

11:26 - Arrive at vet and check in.

11:40 - while sitting in the plastic waiting room chair, I check on the python and realize that he is dead. The vet double checks and confirms this. I talk with the vet, and he asks if I want them to determine cause of death, although given the symptoms he agrees that it was due to a respiratory condition, most likely pneumonia. Whatever it was, it sure acted quickly, because a week ago the python exhibited no symptoms. I decline. I also decline their offer to take care of the corpse, preferring instead to bury him at work. I am not charged for the visit. R.I.P. python (No, I never gave him a name, since snakes don't come when you call them). He was 20 years old, give or take a year. In 2010, he was immortalized on the April cover of Decibel magazine. The photo shoot took place on the day that I was told my mom had died (which will have been exactly 2 years ago tomorrow). Strange coincidence.

11:50 - Back in van.

12:15 - Back at camp. I eat lunch and talk with coworkers and the teachers who have arrived with the kids attending science camp this week. We discuss classroom pets, and the fact that most districts have banned them.

12:34 - I bury the python in the garden. While collecting rocks to place on top of his grave (so local scavengers don't dig him up), I startle a small Tree Frog.

12:50 - I go back to Nature Lab, feed the Tegu some cat food, feed crickets to the Scorpion and Tarantula, get some blackberry leaves for the Walking Sticks, and give some insect food to the Hissing cockroach. I give water to the animals that need it.

1:07 - I head for home.

1:28 - Arrive home. Check mail.

1:32 - Read mail.

1:40 - Go online, check e-mail, reply to Jeanine and Paul Roland, first spending some time looking through my Paul Roland collection as I try to figure out what I'm missing so I can take him up on his kind offer of a free CD. I decide that I'm missing the most recent reissue of "Duel".

2:24 - Come up for air from the murky waters of the internet.

2:28 - Gather clothes and quarters so I can have some laundry fun.

2:30 - Stop what I'm doing to read an entertainment news article on the film speed of the upcoming Hobbit films (speed doubled to 48 frames/second to make images more lifelike. Cool!)

2:33 - Back on track.

2:39 - Laundry is now in, and I'm listening to the Far Black Furlong bonus disc while cleaning the apartment.

2:58 - I'm still cleaning. Willow, home from school, calls about softball from her mom's house. I need to sign her up for a slightly younger team because she misses the age cut-off by about 2 months.

3:05 - Finish cleaning (more or less) and go put laundry in dryer.

3:10 - Check phone messages and call back bloodsucking creditor (who is after money that my dad owed when he passed away). She is shocked to learn that I'd already mailed a check.

3:18 - Check e-mail (because, you know, there could be new ones).

3:20 - Pour a tall cup of ice water and drink.

3:21 - Update list of executor expenses and assets (because I'm executor of my dad's estate)based on new information gleaned from today's mail.

3:28 - E-mail Willow's softball league in an attempt to get her onto a slightly younger team.

3:34 - Get sucked into internetland for a minute or two.

3:36 - Put on a Valravn cdr (sent by a certain Mr. Potter with a recent CD order because we share an interest in Scandinavian folk music). Valravn sound like the bastard child of Bjork and Hedningarna. This is a good thing.

3:37 - Start week 3 of the 100 Push-Ups challenge.

3:48 - 46 push-ups completed and e-mail checked again. Willow is now on the proper softball team. Sitting and resting for a couple of minutes.

3:55 - Pause Valravn so I can get laundry.

4:08 - Valravn back on. Laundry put away.

4:09 - Check Facebook and Failbook. Laugh.

4:15 - Put on pants, still warm from the dryer. Read e-mail from Jeanine. Turn off computer.

4:17 - Go for a walk, with the intention of checking out houses for sale in the neighborhood.

4:25 - I see a nice little house for sale. As I pass, a kid leans out of the front door of the neighboring house and shouts, "Hey! You're the guy from camp!" I say hi and keep going, thinking that it would probably blow his mind if I were to buy the house next to his.

4:37 - Still walking, I notice a tree, a light pole, and a fire hydrant decked out in colorful macrame outfits. I wonder if it has something to do with Chinese New Year, or if I've simply wandered into a strange neighborhood.

4:40 - Hundreds of silent seagulls fill the sky overhead.

5:22 - Back home.

5:24 - Glass if ice water, turn music back on, check e-mail, then log miles on DailyMile (3.91 miles today).

5:29 - Rest for a minute. Read some news.

5:40 - E-mail Jeanine. Continue relaxing. Put on Fovea Hex CD.

5:45 - Cook vegetable fried rice with fake beef. Add lots of pepper.

5:53 - Dinner is served.

6:02 - Dinner is done. Continue listening to Fovea Hex and farting around on the internet.

6:15 - Preorder expensive Fall Of Efrafa box set reissue from Alerta Antifascista records in Germany. Chastise myself for being a spendthrift.

6:27 - Put on Fovea Hex remix disc. Nice.

6:28 - Feel cold. Put teakettle on.

6:35 - Sip Dim Sum Bo Nay tea (which is great for making Bod Jha, or Tibetan butter/salt tea). Listen to Fovea Hex remix.

7:04 - Replay Fovea Hex remix. Put away clean dishes, clean dirty ones, and wipe down counter and stove.

7:18 - Finding and reading my blog from 2/22/07.

7:32 - Put on Natural Snow Buildings CD and start getting ready to go to work.

7:38 - Interrupt myself and clean off framed photos of Willow, salvaged from my dad's apartment last November. Think about hanging them, but can't figure out where. Put them back.

7:42 - Turn off laptop and put it in bag to take to work.

7:44 - Reluctantly turn off CD.

7:47 - Put on hat, scarf, and jacket, then leave for work.

8:10 - Get to work, check in with Hub Host (it's Meadow this week), turn on heater to cabins, turn off some lights, check to make sure pool bathrooms are unlocked, and take a moment to listen to the frogs singing out in the darkness.

8:25 - Meet with cabin leaders, discovering that all but 3 of them are return volunteers. Meeting is short. Spend a minute talking with Meadow, Moonlight, and Bunny. Congratulate Bunny on his recent engagement.

8:45 - Sing closing song, "I Wish You Well", with campfire staff and kids.

8:50 to 9:10 - Do introductory night talk for campers, include some bad puns for my personal amusement, and end it with a quick question and answer session. Kids mostly ask questions on subjects that I just covered during my talk. cluing me into the fact that not everybody was listening very well.

9:15 to 9:40 - Supervise campers as they're getting ready for bed, talk to homesick kids (there are two of them, one boy and one girl) and convince them to go to bed. Play music on my tarka.

9:40 - Ring five minute warning bell. Check in with teachers.

9:45 - Ring final bell. Camper gets sent to me for talking after the bells have rung. I explain to him why he shouldn't be talking (as if I didn't cover this several times during the night talk). Teachers start night patrol (checking to make sure kids are quiet and cabin lights are out).

9:50 - Plug in laptop and clock. Get book out ("House of Windows" by John Langan).

9:53 - Talk with a teacher for a moment.

9:57 - Check e-mail. Send e-mail to Jeanine.

10:05 - A girl gets sent to me for making noise after lights-out. I find out that she is also homesick. I counsel her for a few minutes and send her back to bed.

10:08 - Go make myself some mint tea in the dining hall. Have brief conversation with a teacher who is also getting tea.

10:13 - Arrive back at the Hub to discover a whole group of boys waiting for me. They got sent over by their cabin leader for making noise (knocking on wall, fake farting, etc.). I find out which one was most at fault, and proceed accordingly. I send them back to bed after sorting things out.

10:17 - I drink my tea and read.

10:24 - A girl comes in and, while leaning over me, tells me she feels like throwing up. I tell her to go to the bathroom, because I'd rather she throw up in the toilet than in my lap.

10:27 - The girl is back. She informs me that she threw up "a little bit". I quickly discover that she is nauseous because she is feeling homesick. I counsel her for a little while and send her back to bed. Then, I resume reading.

11:23 - Check e-mail. Back to reading. Discover pretzels in the staff room. Eat them.

11:55 - Turn off heaters so it doesn't get too hot in the cabins. Surprise raccoon in the trash.

12:11 - Finish book. E-mail Jeanine, noticing thematic similarities between her last e-mail and the book I've just read.

12:20 - Briefly look at Facebook. Shut down computer.

12:32 - I crawl onto the top bunk in the Hub, and begin my several hours of light sleep. The alarm is set for 5:30 AM.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

If Only We Could Banish the Bureaucrats

It's the second work week of the new year, and I feel like I'm doing more work at home than I am at my actual job. It all has to do with the undue importance that certain financial organizations place on arcane procedures and convoluted paperwork. Some of them aren't so bad, but at the moment I'm stuck in a bit of a catch-22 situation with another. I filled an entire afternoon with meaninglessness, and I don't even have anything to show for it. Finally, I stopped and put on some music. Music makes almost anything better. It's frustrating that I can't just be done with all of this bureaucratic nonsense, although I guess it's necessary as long as I continue to be a functioning member of society. I can still rant about it though.

The kids at camp this week are really nice, although in general they seem even younger than they are. For example, a kid came into the Hub last night sometime after 1:00 AM and told me that he'd lost his sleeping bag. "It's on the floor next to your bunk," I told him. His response was, "really?". I knew it was without even looking of course. There hasn't yet been a case of a sleeping bag growing legs and running off.

Things are currently being made better by: Forrest Fang's Sans Serif "Unbound"

Friday, January 06, 2012

Do the Math and Then Forget It

I helped out at a rehearsal for the musical Annie today. Willow and Sophie both have small roles in it. Of course, most of what I did involved helping to lug ungainly bits of stage from a shed over by the kindergarten rooms to the "cafetoriunm" where the rehearsals take place. I also briefly helped one of the girls with her math homework because her mom, who was sitting nearby, had forgotten how to do elementary school math. This inspired me to reflect on the purpose of learning math in the first place, and outside of some of the more obvious reasons to know basic math (all having to do with money), I couldn't really think of much, other than the inevitable necessity of having to help your kids with their math homework. Of course, I'm sure that many people are like this particular mom. They've forgotten how to do it, making all of those hours they spent learning math a complete waste of time.

Thinking about money, I reminded myself that math is important in a society where quantity is increasingly more important than quality. Continuing along the rails with that train of thought, I have to conclude that massive debt, whether it is personal or national, is as pervasive as it is because most people are like this particular mom. They've forgotten elementary school math.

Or maybe they done been raised up wrongly.

Currently listening to: Efterklang "Daytrotter Session"

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

First Night Of Work This Year

I'm drinking a cup of Earl Grey tea before heading to work. This is my first night back since mid December, and it just so happens to coincide with the Quadrantid Meteor Shower, so it looks like I'll get a lightshow in the middle of the night. Sometimes it's the simple things that make me happy. Sometimes it's little bits of flaming dust.

It will be nice to get back to work though. Kid energy always makes me feel more alive.

Currently listening to Simon Finn "Through Stones"

Sunday, January 01, 2012

A New Year...

This is the view of the sky at sunset on the last day of 2011, taken during our very last walk of the old year. I've logged 1007 miles since April. Here's to the next 1000.

I spent the final hours of 2011 at the India Gate restaurant in Sunnyvale, making balloon swords and braids for excited young partygoers. Jeanine was next to me, painting faces and arms. One of the great things about working at this particular restaurant is the free buffet. This is the best Indian restaurant I've been to in the Bay Area, and we both ate until we were stuffed. We hung out together as the minute hand passed the 12 for the final time in 2011, and everybody whooped it up. Lots of people came up and shook our hands, wishing us a happy new year. It was nice.

As for 2012, I've made some resolutions. I don't believe that anything changes at exactly midnight on December 31st. Time is a spectrum, not something that happens in discrete movements. Nonetheless, it is nice to imagine pushing the reset button and looking forward to the next chunk of time. Most of my resolutions concern consuming less and producing more, which I'm sure is quite common. My rather vague goals, made around 365 days ago, for the most part didn't come to fruition. This year, I've decided to try being more specific. We'll see if it works.

Later this year, I'll see the 10 year anniversary of this blog. It has already seen me through marriage, the birth of my daughter, the ending of my old job(s) and the start of my new one, divorce and the resulting move, the earning of my teaching credential, the start of my relationship with Jeanine, and the recent deaths of both of my parents. In fact, most of the major changes in my life have happened during the last 10 years. It makes me wonder what the next 10 years will hold.

Happy New Year. I truly hope that it is a good one for all of us. Yes, even you. The year will be what we make it.

Currently listening to Tenhi "Saivo", which is one of my very favorite albums of 2011.