Saturday, November 30, 2013

Holiday Madness

Tomorrow the numbers reset themselves back to one again, and it becomes December. Another lengthy span of time has passed without any new words appearing here, but life goes on.

Thanksgiving, which marks a fictitious moment in American history but nonetheless provides an excuse for family get-togethers, came and went. Greg and Kat joined us for dinner, although their train was a little late due to the train ahead of theirs hitting a car. This ended up turning the waiting area at the local station into what is crudely known as a clusterfuck. Still, we emerged victorious and a nice dinner followed.

Yesterday was the anti-holiday known as Black Friday, during which hordes of consumers battle amongst themselves in the aisles of big box stores over crap that nobody really needs. See the damage here. A commenter pointed out on Facebook that a thorough documentation of day to day shopping incidents might put this into perspective, so more study might be needed. Maybe this sick trend isn't as confined to Black Friday as one might think. I usually don't buy anything on Black Friday, just out of sheer disgust at the depraved antics of my fellow citizens, but I ended up going to the local Harvest Festival with Jeanine (which, counter-intuitively, is held inside a convention center) and bought a few things from the booths of independent artists and crafts-people, including yummy peanut brittle from one of Jeanine's friends, some soy-based candles, and a Woodrow Old Time. If I'm going to buy things, it's going to be from small businesses and individuals, not from big corporations that whip consumers into violent frenzies over piles of poorly-made crap. It has also been pointed out that this kind of insanity is just a reaction to being stuck in an insane society, and my gut (as well as my sociological training) tells me that there is more than a grain of truth to this observation.

Speaking of this, Willow is done with soccer for the season now. Her team played well, winning some and losing some. During the final tournament, they played especially well. Sometime during the season, I overheard one of the other parents mentioning that he paid his daughter for each goal she made. I think she got $20.00 for each goal, or something like that. In my opinion, this is almost like training your child to become one of those frenzied idiots battling it out in parking lots and big box aisles across the country during the holiday season. It's like saying that, no matter what else you're doing, money and winning are the two most important things in life. I hope these little girls don't grow up to die in a Black Friday fight because they're determined to win in a battle over a parking space or or come out on top during a tense confrontation over a deeply discounted Blu-Ray player. Parenting fail. If enough parents fail, then we're heading for full-blown society failure. From the looks of things, we may be there already.

But enough about our sick society. Here are a few photos of Autumn, which is perhaps my favorite season:

Partially enabled by the fact that I've had the week off work, Jeanine and I have been walking a lot over the past week. We've found seventeen letterboxes in a couple of different parks. It's good to get out.

Finally, we've had one rain storm so far this season (not counting the one back in September during our camping trip), and as always, it brought out the salamanders:

Monday, November 04, 2013

What The... I Don't Even...

These days, with all of the different satire sites on the web (The Onion and The Daily Currant are the two that spring immediately to mind), it's sometimes hard to know whether news stories are satire or not. Snopes is usually a good way to double check.

Apparently, celebrity science educator Bill Nye recently upset some folks in Waco, Texas by telling them that the moon doesn't actually emit light. Yes, this sounds like something one would expect to read in the virtual pages of the Daily Currant or The Onion, but so far, Snopes is silent on this one. It looks like at least some residents of Waco don't emit light either. Or maybe they do, but nobody is home.

I can remember, as a child, being alarmed that this kind of ignorance existed, but after long exposure to the world, I now find myself reacting with a combination of amusement and disgust. The alarm only gets factored in when people like this hold public office (which, unfortunately, sometimes does happen).

Saturday, November 02, 2013

A Wild November Springs From the Shadows

It has been a dry Autumn, with only a few hours of desultory rain to dampen the dust. I spent a week back in the field this week, giving up my night supervisor job to the appropriately-named Papa Bear, who has to be one of the most nurturing male twenty-somethings I know. He did a fine job too.

This week was the first week this season that really felt like Autumn. Daytime temperatures were brisk, and I wore some sort of second layer all week. We had nearly 200 kids from 5 different Catholic private schools this week, 21 of whom were under my personal supervision during the hikes. There weren't many animals out and about this week, but there is an impressively mangled deer carcass near one of the trails, all that remains after several nights of feeding by a mother Mountain Lion and her cubs. A ranger clued me into its location last week. It was covered in Yellowjackets and other insects, and soon will disappear back into the dirt to cycle its way back into the vegetation. Some of the kids held their noses while looking at it, and one girl accidentally trod on what I think was the remains of its stomach. I asked her to move over without telling her why. I didn't think she'd want to know she'd been standing on a stomach.

The other bit of excitement involved a boy who fell down a steep hill during the solo hike. He had picked up a walking stick (which is against the rules) and lost it off the side of the trail, and then decided he could get it back. By the time I got back down to where he was, he was clinging to a tree about 15 feet down a hill that was so steep that it had aspirations to be a cliff. To make matters worse, it was composed of loose, crumbly dirt. I slid down and almost overshot the tree myself. My cabin leader was already there, keeping the boy relatively calm, and eventually we all managed to regain the trail above. This is the first time in my nine years of employment there that somebody has managed to fall off that particular trail. The trail, by the way, is wide enough to admit cars. The boy and his twin brother were dramatically grateful.

On the way back, we saw a whole flock of turkeys.

The other news since my last brief post is that we've given away our rooster, Doodle. He now resides at a boys' ranch up in the East Bay. Hopefully he can crow to his heart's content there. The chickens don't seem to miss him, and I'm sure the neighbors don't.

Halloween came and went. The kids at camp had a Halloween party, but I came home to carve pumpkins and hand out candy. Several neighborhoods-worth of kids came by to relieve us of our sweets, and also of part of Jeanine's Halloween decoration (with some balloons, she turned our recycling bin into a monster, but by the end of the night it was missing its arms, one horn, and two teeth). While all of this was going on, Jeanine and I watched Gates of Hell, although I lost count of how many times I had to pause it so candy could be handed out.

Now, it's November. How did this happen?