Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Late Summer Trails

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

Bad Place To Sleep

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

Plotting and Planning

We're gearing up for our wedding, which will take place at my work in the hills above Saratoga. So far, we know when and where, and we've selected somebody to actually perform the ceremony. There are more steps to complete, such as invitations (and what form they will take), and a number of specific details. We have yet to decide on a band, but there will definitely be live music of some kind. We're going to make the wedding as simple and relaxed as possible. Neither of us tend to stress out about things.

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


This morning, a guy came by with an estimate on what it would take to install solar panels on our house. Even after all of the various incentives, it would cost $16,000 dollars. Eek. Still, it's worth putting some thought into. It's interesting that the only tactic the guy used to convince me was the financial one. I already new that switching to solar wouldn't save us much money in the short term, and I'm okay with that. The main reason I'm interested in finding out more is because I think switching to solar power is the right thing to do, morally and environmentally speaking. The guy didn't mention that at all. Ha. It's not all about the money, Mr. Guy.

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

Digging In The Dirt

As we worked in the backyard this morning, I started feeling a bit like a gopher. When walking in the hills, I often see little eruptions of soil as some gopher or another cleans house, kicking dirt out the front door in what seems like a neverending battle against gravity. This is the only evidence of gopher home-building or remodeling that one is ever likely to see, and as I hauled wheelbarrow load after wheelbarrow load of weeds and branches out to the curb, I gained a deeper appreciation for the trials and travails of hapless, ground dwelling rodents everywhere. Much the same as gophers, the only evidence of our backyard labors that the neighbors are likely to see is me reappearing again and again with the wheelbarrow and the mountain of yard cuttings growing in the street.

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

The Time Between

Nice shirt.

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

That Autumn Feeling

For the first time this summer, I got a whiff of Autumn. It was probably due to the clouds this morning, which capped the valley with a pleasing grayness, but it might also be because I was thinking about it being the last week of summer camp this year. For those of us who have jobs tied to the school year, autumn will always be the time of year when it's time to stop playing around and get back to work. It's actually an invigorating feeling, although in reality my plans often outstrip my progress. This year it might be different though. Having a new home and preparing to get married puts a whole new spin on things.

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

A Tuxedo and a Rattlesnake

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

Eight Down, One To Go

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

Of Moons and Scorpions

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"