Friday, August 23, 2013

The Run Of The Yard

I finally got my section of the garage (books, work stuff, and old vhs tapes, mostly) more or less squared away, and it only took me around 15 months. There is just something about the thought of toiling in the garage that deters me nearly every time.

While I toiled, the chickens ran around the yard. We've been leaving them out for most of the day. They put themselves to bed around 8:00 PM, although I imagine their bedtime will get progressively earlier as the days get shorter.

Right now, they're over by the garden beds. So far, they've stayed away from eating the important stuff, preferring grass and bugs and such. And styrofoam. Lets not forget styrofoam.

Currently listening to: Lisa Gerrard "4-track Sampler"

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

The Time Between

The last couple of weeks of summer camp swept by in a flurry of dust and play, emptying my energy reserves and a couple of bottles of sunblock. Willow came to camp the last week, getting to participate in the annual Ramble Scraffle (a mad dash for unused raffle items strewn across our lower field) and collecting bug bites like some sort of masochistic hoarder. Fun was had. I appreciate all of my multi-talented co-workers anew every summer. We're all quite different, which is one of the strengths of our summer camp program - we do what we love and the kids follow.

I don't always appreciate the summer camp parents though. On the final Thursday night, I noticed that some parent had double parked, blocking me in. I got on the microphone and announced the fact, and the parent moved. I got blocked in twice more before the evening ended, only escaping homeward with the help of a coworker who halted foot traffic and helped me navigate through some trees backwards. Why is it that people often seem to become less courteous when encased in the anonymity of their automobiles? Anonymity is the key, of course. Look at any comment thread online and you'll feel like you're in a war zone. Maybe it's a religious thing - religion ensures good behavior by holding the fear of punishment over the heads of followers, so it's reasonable to me that once people get into that sort of mindset, their everyday actions will reflect it. "If you didn't see me do it, then I can get away with it".

Minor gripes aside, it was another excellent summer. To a degree, my summer is measured by interactions with wildlife. During the last couple of weeks, there were no wildlife encounters the June sighting of a Bobcat chasing a rabbit, but we did encounter a couple of things I'd never seen before. The sightings both involved baby arachnids.

First, towards the end of Week 8, we found a scorpion family under a large log. One of my favorite summer campers was there for the discovery as well, taking pictures beside me. Last year, he had an old point and shoot camera that actually smoked when he used it. It kept on working somehow, but there was obviously something quite wrong with it. This year, he has upgraded to a camera that doesn't behave like it's about to spontaneously combust. Progress.

Late in the final week, we found a Mother Calisoga spider with her newly hatched brood. The babies were tiny, and if I had come across them on their own, I wouldn't have known they were Calisoga spiders.

Praying Mantises were much in evidence too.

Water levels were low everywhere, although the creeks still managed to flow somehow.

The weather has been relatively mild lately, nothing like the heat we experience back at the end of June/beginning of July. A couple of nights ago we even got a thunderstorm, complete with torrential downpour. Jeanine blames herself for that, because she'd just washed her car. We still need more rain though. The nearby percolation ponds are looking pretty sad.

Now, I'm in the middle of the time between summer camp and science camp. I still have around a week and a half off. What to do?

Sunday, August 04, 2013

Chicken Update

Chickens are strange birds. When they're out of their coop, they never seem to stray too far from it, preferring to circle it in search of food. The bits of styrofoam are all gone now, so they've switched their focus to plants and bugs. Doodle the rooster spends much of his time chasing the two hens back into the coop. Next door, there is a dog (the house is in the process of being sold, so I don't know whether the dog belongs to the old owners or new ones) who sticks its nose through one of the knotholes in the fence and whimpers piteously, no doubt wishing for a chicken dinner.

Yesterday, a large branch burdened with avocados reached its breaking point and fell into the yard next to the coop. When the chickens came out, this new addition to their surroundings turned the familiar yard into a strange and new place, inspiring them to venture further from the coop. They ended up on the walkway near the back door, where Dexter the cat sat and watched them. I'm not sure whether he is jealous that they get to play in the yard, or is contemplating a chicken dinner.

A couple of weeks ago, in the middle of the night, a small raccoon tried to get in to the coop. Doodle made some horrible noises and that, combined with Jeanine waking up to see what all of the fuss was about, scared Mr. Raccoon away. We've since fortified the outside of the coop with bricks. Next we'll add a moat and some watchtowers.

Poor chickens. Everybody wants them for dinner.

Today, the yard guys are giving the yard a makeover.

Friday, August 02, 2013

Las Vegas

For the last couple of summers, our vacations involved visiting various caves to the north and east of home. This summer, we ended up in Las Vegas, a city I've managed to avoid for almost a half century. Not that I have anything against the city itself, but the fact that neither Jeanine nor I drink, smoke, or gamble might hint that it wouldn't be a logical destination for us.

One of the reasons we went was because Eva wanted to see a performance by magician Criss Angel, who currently has a show at the Luxor on the strip. As for me, I was curious to see a city I'd never been to before. Willow was excited to learn that there was a roller coaster inside the hotel we'd be staying at. The roller coaster is part of the Adventure Dome amusement park inside Circus Circus. There's a circus too, of course, above the main casino.

We mostly used the monorail to travel the strip, although I figured out we walked more than 18 miles over the course of five days. The temperature hovered around the 105 degree mark, and the hotels all blew air-conditioned air out into the heat to entice passers-by in. To name a few hotels on the strip, we visited Fake Venice, fake Paris, fake New York, fake Camelot, and Fake Egypt, and I must admit the hotels were pretty impressive. We saw sharks, a carved mammoth tusk, dolphins, tigers, lions, a Komodo Dragon, a crocodile, and many other sights one wouldn't expect to find inside hotels. In addition to Criss Angel, we went to the Tournament of Kings at Excalibur, a really impressive Titanic exhibit, yet another Bodies exhibit (with plastinated corpses), Madame Toussaud's wax museum, Goretorium (haunted house), and more. It was all fun.

Basically, the strip is like Disneyland for adults. It's also a great place for people watching. Lots of people were walking stereotypes - I saw many unhealthy specimens spilling over the sides of their chairs in front of slot machines while chain smoking. There were tons of drunk young folks, and lots of sausages on stilts (women lurching along in high heels and dresses several sizes too small). Not too surprising, I guess.

The girls spent a lot of time in the Adventure Dome, playing laser tag and going on rides. Willow is now pretty much fearless when it comes to amusement park rides, and she's pretty good at laser tag too. I was surprised that she agreed to check out the Goretorium (which did kind of scare her) and the Bodies exhibit.

This week, Willow is at Girl Scout camp on the ocean side of the hill. I just finished up week 7 of summer camp, and a good week it was too. Nothing surprising or unusual happened, but I did move two more rattlesnakes away from camp. I've gotten tired of driving them away though, so I've gone back to walking them up the hill a bit. I'm feeling tired and ready for a relaxing weekend.

Currently listening to: Greg Haines "Qbus Club Leiden Full Concert Live 28th of December 2012" on Youtube. Might have to get some of his records.