Monday, December 29, 2014

Chilly and Sunny

By California standards, it has been chilly, causing us to do strange things like wear sweatjackets inside and go to bed with socks on. This week, the forecast calls for actual freezing temperatures, which means more socks and maybe another blanket on the bed.

Today, everything is bright and lush, with the yard still soaking in the afterglow of recent rain. We threw the new straw into the chicken coop, dumped the water out of the worm bin, and cleaned up the yard a bit. The chickens followed behind us and have already started to undo things. Chickens are like that. Chickens abhor neatness, and will do their best to scatter things like dirt and leaves. Maybe we should lacquer the yard. That'll teach them.

Wild birds flit around the periphery of the yard, waiting for the humans to disappear back inside.

We've got several plastic bins full of rainwater too, which we'll use to water things during dry spells. At the moment, the next chance of rain looks to be around 10 days away, right at the end of the extended forecast.

Currently listening to Stray Ghost "October Songs"

Friday, December 26, 2014

Holiday Sloth

On the 24th, shortly after my last post, it stormed ferociously for around five minutes, irritating the chickens and thoroughly soaking everything. I picked up Greg at the BART station, and then Willow at her mom's. We did the usual gift exchange/Christmas dinner thing, and I think everyone was happy.

For the first time since we moved here, we used an artificial tree instead of a real one. It worked just fine, and was much less work, both before (not having to go get one, put it up, and decorate it) and after (no needle mess).

Christmas morning, everyone slept in until at least 9:00. More presents were opened. I dropped Willow back at her mom's around noon, and then went up to my work to check on the animals in the nature lab. Since then, I've been enjoying not having to do anything in particular or be anywhere in particular. The only problem with this is that the days fly by (although, truth be told, they fly by regardless) and soon I will have to be doing things and being places again. For now though, holiday sloth is the order of the day.

That said, I did pay some bills and walk to the pet store to get crickets today. Speaking of animals, there was a cute possum in our avocado tree the other night. It vanished upward when we opened the back door to get a closer look.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014


The two expected packages showed up this morning, leaving only one to go. I expect it will be late. The holidays aren't about packages though. The religious right would have everybody believe that it's all about Christmas, celebrating a magical birth that supposedly happened over two thousand years ago, but memories are short and traditions are in a constant flux. Despite being raised in a family where Christmas was celebrated (albeit in a secular fashion), I've always approved of the idea of celebrating the winter solstice instead. being an atheist who appreciates paganism, I think both the pagans and the atheists can agree that celebrating the solstice makes more sense. Let the light return.

So, yeah, the holiday season provides an excuse to spend time with family and exchange gifts. Be careful out there though, because for many people, the season provides an excuse to drink ridiculous amounts of toxic substances and then try to operate heavy machinery. As for me, I'll stick with ridiculous amounts of chocolate.

The doorbell just rang, pushed in a way that made it simply go "dong!". Outside was a harried looking FedEx driver, too tired to make the door chime actually go "ding dong", with a huge, heavy bag. It turns out that the bale of straw that Jeanine ordered from Amazon has arrived in time for the holidays (yes, you can buy straw bales on Amazon - who knew?). We're doing our part to support the War On Christmas by wishing the chickens "happy holidays" with new bedding for the bottom floor of their coop, which is somewhat mucky due to recent rains. Maybe we should put a little chicken-centric nativity scene in there too.

That reminds me of this story. Apparently, Christmas is fighting back.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Holiday Preparations and Supernatural Visitations

The days are getting longer again, not so anybody would notice yet. I spent my infinitesimally longer day wrapping presents and doing a little last minute (and probably unnecessary) Christmas shopping. I also went and got a tofurkey, some ice cream, and other holiday essentials.

When I got home, Jeanine was still quietly freaking out about seeing a ghost in the garage. She said a man stepped into the garage from the kitchen, paused a moment, and then walked towards the closed garage door, where he vanished. This isn't the first time ghosts have been seen around the house. Jeanine's mom has seen them too. I'm sure Dexter the cat sees them all the time, since cats see all sorts of stuff that others don't. I haven't seen anything, and probably won't. Interesting though.

My coffee maker is broken, but I won't go so far as to blame our supernatural visitors. I think it just wore out. I've been pouring water from the tea kettle over the coffee, cowboy campfire style, and the result is strong, gritty coffee. It's kind of like Turkish coffee. Yum. Since I don't know how to fix the one I have, I suppose I should get a new coffee maker.

I'm still waiting for the arrival of three separate packages containing gifts. Two of them look like they're supposed to show up tomorrow, if the tracking information is accurate. The other one will show up when it shows up, I guess.

Currently listening to: Phil Legard "Angelystor" Beautiful.

Monday, December 22, 2014

The Final Stretch

I'm done with work for the year, and so begins the final approach to 2015. Please make sure your tray table is up and your seat is in the upright position. Thanks for flying air 2014.

Holiday shopping is nearly done, although the suspense of whether or not the gifts I've ordered online will arrive in time is still very much present. Over the weekend, I took Willow to see some bands play, saw my brother perform a holiday show at a house concert in San Francisco, and took Willow to see the final Hobbit film, which as expected was full of Peter Jackson's brand of over-the-topness. Good though. Jeanine mostly worked. Eva wandered around with friends.

I did some shopping too. While attempting to buy iTunes gift cards at Fry's, I was first told that they were limited to one per customer (??), and once the guy had figured out that this statement was as ridiculous as it sounded, the system went down and the clerk and his supervisor couldn't manage to activate two of the cards. I left with two of the four cards I'd attempted to buy, and for my trouble, a $10.00 gift card, and $25.00 credited back to my account. That means I made well over minimum wage just standing in line. In fact, I probably made more than I get paid at work. Not bad. I'll go buy the other gift cards somewhere with working machinery and competent clerks.

We had a bit of rain over the weekend, although it seemed to mostly lurk somewhere between San Jose and San Francisco, which is where I got rained on the most. Not much rain in the forecast right now, but there is a 25% chance it might rain a bit later in the week.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Exceptionally Extreme

It rained most of the night last night. On the news today, I saw that the recent rains have helped 23% of California move from "exceptional" drought to "extreme" drought. I'm sure there are a number of people out there in our massive state population who think that the minute it rains, the drought is over. It reminds me of the people who think that a cold spell or a snowstorm means that global warming is a hoax.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

A Corpse Is A Corpse, Of Course Of Course

Heavy rain is falling in the darkness beyond our windows. I can hear it impacting on the skylights and the roof. This is shaping up to be a good, solid rainy season so far. Let's hope it continues.

Human remains were found in the woods near camp on Sunday. I had noticed a line of burnt out flares on my way to work last night, and hadn't remembered them until I saw this article. According to the report, the body had been there for around a year before being discovered. It's a good thing it was a little farther away from camp than we ever take hiking groups, because it would have been a bad thing to stumble across while hiking with a group of 5th or 6th graders.

The kids this week seem like a good group. I don't have to wake up anybody at night, and the kids seem relatively well behaved. I found out in the middle of the night that my friend and coworker, Scooby, who usually tells stories in the morning, wouldn't be coming in in the morning (due to pain from possible kidney stones), so I ended up telling stories instead, while worrying if the staff who live on the ocean side of the coast range would make it to work on time due to Highway 17 being closed in both directions because of a downed tree and power lines. Like most worries, this didn't end up being an issue. Several staff members made it in by 8:00, and I got to go home and sleep.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Vampires, Rain, and Chickens, Plus A Bonus Cat

After a relatively dry weekend, the rain is back. It started raining last night as we were driving home from seeing the Iranian vampire film, "A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night", and it hasn't really stopped since. The film is definitely worth seeing, filmed in stark black & white and given to long silences, meaningful looks, and industrial squalor. Just my kind of film, actually. This is a good year for art house vampire films, with Jim Jarmusch's "Only Lovers Left Alive" also being worthy of note. Both films have good soundtracks too.

Later, I'll go to work for the last week of camp for the year. We're supposed to have over 200 kids this week, meaning we'll be stuffed to the gills.

Out back, the chickens weather the storm as best they can.

Here's Henrietta:

Here's Mrs. Charles:

Here's all five of them. Note Dot's swollen feet. The vet couldn't figure out what the problem was, but they don't seem to slow Dot down at all. She can still perch with the best of them.

Dexter still wants to know why the birds get to play in the yard and he doesn't:

Saturday, December 13, 2014


AT&T is a corporation that apparently can't find its ass with both hands and Mapquest. Jeanine called to get a repair person to come and figure out why our internet connection was borderline nonexistent, and why we had no dial tone on the land line. She was told that somebody would come out between sunrise and sundown on Friday. We waited. And waited... Nobody showed.

Today, an AT&T guy showed up sometime in the early afternoon, poked around a bit, and said that the problem was waterlogged equipment. He pointed to something up one of the nearby poles, and said he couldn't fix it but would call someone who could. A couple of hours after he left another AT&T guy showed up. He had no idea that somebody had already been here, but took a quick look around and said he could fix the problem. He did confirm that the first guy's diagnosis was correct though, and wondered why the hell he hadn't been able to fix the problem.

The problem is now fixed. We have a dial tone. We have internet. That means Jeanine can get work done and I can go back to wasting time.

Thursday, December 11, 2014


The rain came roaring in sometime during the wee hours, lashing sides of buildings and creating standing water in the low lying areas. Our power cut out a little after 7:30, but of course the generator kicked in seconds later. When the power cut out, my friend Scooby, who was telling a story to the kids at the time, clapped his hands and snapped his fingers, making it appear that he'd magically restored the power. The kids were in awe.

As I left, I only had to swerve around one substantial branch on my way down the hill, which relieved me. I wasn't looking forward to getting stuck at work again, especially since I had to go downtown and get a new copy of Willow's birth certificate. The powers that be are making all employees re-apply for health coverage, and like all bureaucracies, they require enough official documents to choke a clerk. I'm not sure which one of Willow's parents mislaid the original, but neither of us can find it at the moment. It's a moot point now, I suppose. Plus, the storm kept the casual document searchers away this morning, and I was in and out in less than ten minutes.

As usual, I slept through most of the day. The wind and rain never got vicious enough to wake me up, which is sort of disappointing. When I went to bed, the media hype machine was running on all cylinders. I wouldn't be surprised to hear a news report that the raindrops are laced with the Ebola virus and that good citizens have been found bleeding out in puddles across the state as the CIA tortures the survivors in a vain attempt to find shadowy culprits.

It also occurred to me that anybody who has gotten a driver's license in the last couple of years is driving in stormy weather for the first time today. Now, that is actually a little scary.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

This Had Better Be Worth It

The wind is moaning and moist. The weather isn't supposed to get really wild until much later, but the storm is definitely on its way. At least one concerned parent has called camp to make sure everything is all right. Schools in the north and east bay will be shut down tomorrow, and the media keeps repeating variations of "be afraid - be very afraid".

I'm hoping that the coming storm lives up to its hype. I'm also hoping that no kids vomit tonight. Two kids lost their dinners last night - one of the floor of his cabin, and one in the doorway to the girls' bathroom. As far as I can tell, it was all because they were feeling anxious. Another girl complained of a stomach ache, which I quickly discovered was probably because she hadn't pooped since Sunday. Kids are weird.

The sunrises have been beautiful again this week.

Sailors take warning.

Tuesday, December 09, 2014


There is storm on the horizon, expected to hit our area late Wednesday night with heavy rain and wind. At camp, there is talk of switching up the schedule so that the usual Thursday all-day hike doesn't coincide with the downpour. Not that this really affects me, since I get to stay dry in the hub at night anyway. I look forward to enjoying the storm though.

There is always the chance that a tree or a power line will make getting home problematic, but that's okay. I'm just excited that inclement weather is on the way. We actually seem to be getting a decent amount of rain this Autumn. I hope it continues for the rest of the season.

This week, we have around 190 kids, which is a bit more than the 115 I was expecting. I hadn't realized that a second school had been added to the schedule. I got to camp last night to find that there were more people in a couple of the cabins than there were beds, so I had to open the storage room to get extra mattresses. That was definitely some poor planning on the part of the daytime staff. If this kind of thing isn't addressed during the day, I'm left to scramble at bedtime. At that point, it's too late to do anything other than throw mattresses around. It made me grouchy.

I have to wake up two kids at night so they won't wet their beds, and this week, both of them are nearly impossible to wake up. Other than that, I had a good night, and the day arrived with another colorful sunrise. Jeanine said the light at home was a strange glow. The calm before the storm, perhaps.

Currently listening to: Nest - "At the Shelter, First Awakening" Beautiful solo Kantele music.

Monday, December 08, 2014

Orange Clouds, Unconcerned Birds

One of the good things about owning chickens is that We find ourselves in the backyard at sunset and sunrise, so we get to see sunsets like this:

And sunrises like this:

The chickens, having no appreciation for the finer things in life, don't care. They just march up their ramp at sunset, and down it again at sunrise. Right now, they're eating dried mealworms and the rice we didn't finish during dinner a few days ago. Easy to please, chickens.

Last night, the crows were in the persimmon tree again. They left as I photographed them. This one looks like it's hanging on a branch, like some strange corvid fruit.

Saturday, December 06, 2014

Mysterious Stranger, Flea Markets, and Other Unimportant Anecdotes

Our modem is being grumpy again, but we're stuck with it until one of us gets fed up enough to call AT&T and wait on the line for most of the day. Having to make a phone call has always been a big deterrent for me.

Nobody puked on the last night of camp this week. I got there a little early so I could set up the trail cam near the deer carcass, only to find that the carcass was gone. I set up the cam anyway. I still don't know what happened to the deer, although it's a good bet that it was dragged off by the Mountain Lion to a more secure location.

The only picture the trailcam took was this:

I have no idea who this person is, or why he (it looks like a he to me) was running by our camp in the middle of the night. The time stamp on the camera isn't set properly, so I'm not sure what time of night this was taken.

The only other thing of note to occur was an alarm going off in the kitchen. It turned out to be the temperature alarm on the big walk-in refrigerator/freezer. I didn't even know that particular alarm existed, but it makes sense to have one. We wouldn't want to serve spoiled food to the campers. It turned out that some genius had left the door to the freezer ajar. Thanks, genius.

I stayed up all day on Friday, which is something I've started doing on the weekends that Willow is here. That way, I'm not sleeping all day while she sits around bored. It's just as well too, because we had to get up at 5:30 because her girl scout troop was selling stuff at the flea market to raise money for future trips (Disneyland, Europe, etc.).

When I dropped her off, somebody tried to buy the trombone in my trunk (which was open so I could get the things that Willow was selling). The trombone is not for sale, sir. When I went to get her later, I bought a lamp from the guy in the stall across from theirs, to replace the one the cat broke. I also noticed that many people who attend flea markets have no idea how to fit their cars between the lines of the parking spaces. I actually made one guy move by pulling in next to him after he'd done a sloppy parking job. His wife couldn't get out on her side of the car. Take that, guy. That kind of thing is high up on my list of irritations. It shows a serious lack of consideration and/or a complete unawareness of one's surroundings. After that, I saw several even more egregious examples of poor parking skills. I think I'm turning into a grumpy old man.

Speaking of broken, we've been having plumbing issues. Today, when I was washing dishes, water pooled up in the shower. That's weird, and probably expensive.

Outside, for once, the sky is not having plumbing issues. It has been raining off and on all week. The early morning drizzle has given way to partly cloudy skies, but more rain is in the forecast. Hurrah!

Thursday, December 04, 2014

Around the Sun We Go, Where We'll Stop, Nobody Knows...

I turned 47 today, and spent most of the day sleeping, waking up in the evening to have cake and such.

My first action on the anniversary of my birth was to clean up puke. Somebody has managed to vomit in bed every night this week, and as I type, I'm wondering who will do it tonight. I had checked this particular girl at midnight because she's a diabetic, and found that her blood glucose levels were elevated. She has one of those neat little pumps that calculates what dosage of insulin to administer, so she did this and went back to sleep. Less than an hour later, as I was coming back from the lodge with my freshly microwaved meal, I found her waiting for me in the hub, covered in vomit. Lots of cleaning ensued, and she rechecked her blood glucose levels. Still high, but then again it hadn't been too long since she'd had the insulin, so I had her drink some water and go back to bed. Around 5:00, she puked again, and more cleaning had to happen. This time, I called her mom, who ended up having to drive up to camp to figure things out. To make a long story short, the catheter in her device was slightly bent (she'd changed it out herself earlier in the day), so she hadn't been getting the insulin she'd administered (which meant the hot chocolate she'd had right before bedtime was wreaking havoc). She ended up going home to catch up on lost sleep, and hasn't come back.

The other interesting thing that happened on my birthday eve was the partial deer that appeared at the bottom of our driveway right around the time the night hike started. Some of the kids got to see it before our hub host and our facilities manager dragged it off the road and hid it behind a boulder. The kids were impressed. I wanted to set up my trail cam, which takes infra red photos and has a motion sensor, but I didn't have the right SD card with me. Tonight, when I went down to set the camera up, the carcass was gone. I don't think the rangers would have moved it, so it was either our facilities manager (who worries about getting nervous calls from parents whenever Mountain Lions are mentioned), or the lion coming back and dragging it off. I set the camera up anyway, and will check it in the morning.

The other thing that happened was that a live wire came down on our access road, preventing me from heading home in the morning, and preventing the daytime staff from getting here. They ended up parking at the adjacent county park and hiking in, and I eventually drove down the road as far as I could and chatted with the rangers and our facilities manager until the PG&E guy had things cleared up. It's never a dull moment around here this week. Our facilities manager is going with the theory that the deer might have been hit and dragged by a vehicle, while the rangers are certain that it's a Mountain Lion kill. There is a mother lion with a couple of cubs in the area, so I'm siding with the rangers on this one. It was strange that it was found in the middle of the road though, but then again the lion night have been startled by nearby people, forcing her to temporarily abandon her kill.

It's always nice to get a mysterious story for my birthday.

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

A More Than Welcome Deluge, Plus Vomit

The rain hit sometime after midnight last night, and continued until past sunrise. The worms were out on the walkway, and I even found a small frog in the hub, covered in dust from spelunking under the desk. Figuring he'd be happier out in the rain, I ejected him.

The campers this week are 6th grade Catholic school students. Each night, I have to wake up two potential bed wetters and a girl with diabetes. Last night, a kid puked all over himself and his bed, adding to the smelly bag full of vomit-stained clothes already awaiting me outside the laundry room. One girl went home with a fever too. Plus, there were a few other people, including a cabin leader, with stomach aches. I think I had been getting spoiled by a series of relatively easy Monday nights, so one like this was bound to happen at some point. It wasn't too bad though. Plus, there are a couple of part time staff members, Fox and Weasel, filling in as cabin leaders, which means at least a couple of the cabins have good, solid leaders.

During the time I wasn't cleaning up vomit or taking temperatures, I continued reading S.M. Stirling's excellent "A Meeting In Corvallis" (part 3 in the initial trilogy of his post-apocalyptic "Change" novels), listening to the massive "Ballades" cassette box set by Motion Sickness of Time Travel, and watching old Sherlock Holmes episodes. I do keep myself entertained. I walked another two miles too, circling camp my customary sixteen times to do so.

I'll do it all again tonight, and the night after that, and so on... It's supposed to rain again later, and out the window I can see a bank of dark clouds to the north.

Sunday, November 30, 2014


This is the view out the window as I type these words. We were awakened by the sound of heavy rain this morning, and hours later, it is still coming down. There are puddles in the backyard, and the chickens are still in their coop. I love mornings like this. I'm in my pajamas, with a steaming cup of Earl Grey next to me.

Speaking of the chickens, they've stopped laying for the season. We probably won't see more eggs from them until sometime in January, so I finally broke down and bought some eggs yesterday. Store bought eggs are no longer as appealing, being relatively tasteless when compared to the ones we get from our pets. They even look less appealing, seeming pale and watery compared to the rich, thick hues of the ones produced in our yard.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Friday Follies

Need I say more? Click here to watch the idiocy.

Calm Down, Stay Home

Eva has started a blog, featuring photos & quotes from strange people she has encountered. As of now, most of the photos on the page were taken in San Francisco on Monday.

Today is Black Friday, during which people brawl in the aisles of big box stores and wage open warfare in the parking lots surrounding them. Sensible people refer to the day as "Buy Nothing Day", and celebrate it by staying home or doing something outside that doesn't involve a wallet. I'll admit that Jeanine and I went to the Harvest Festival in downtown San Jose. Jeanine does this every year. It's nice to buy things from people who actually make their wares. Some of these people make candy. That always inspires a purchase or two. So, I guess we celebrated "Buy Hardly Anything Day" today.

Then, I finished watching Season One of the French TV show, Les Revenants. Good stuff. It looks like, as usual, there is a U.S. remake coming. The French version is based on the movie, They Came Back, making the upcoming U.S. remake a show based on a show based on a movie. How's that for originality? The French show is well worth watching though. The U.S. version is set to air on A&E in 2015, and features a soundtrack composed by Jeff Russo and Zoe Keating, which should be good. Speaking of music, the soundtrack for the French show was composed by Mogwai, and is suitably haunting and eerie.

Strangely enough, Dexter crawled into my lap while I was sitting there. He never does that. I think he must have been cold. It's mostly sunny today, but there is an autumnal chill in the air, and rain is expected tomorrow.

He looks kind of embarrassed in the picture though.

Thursday, November 27, 2014


The wheels of the internet are still spinning slowly, but for AT&T customers, setting up the new modem requires calling them and undoubtedly waiting on the phone for hours, so the new modem sits in its box and online navigation requires patience. We're still not sure if the modem is the problem though.

Today is a lazy day. Due to Willow having two different homes in which to celebrate that holiday, we had a Thanksgiving dinner yesterday. Greg came down and joined us. Another Tofurkey was slaughtered and consumed. Pies were eaten afterward. Life goes on. There are enough leftovers for us to have another, similar meal tonight.

The sky is bland and blue today, making me think that it's the calm before the holiday storm. Tomorrow is Buy Nothing Day, although Jeanine and I (and most likely, Eva) are going to the Harvest Festival, so we might actually buy stuff. It will be from independent crafts-people though. Meanwhile, people across the country wait in front of big box stores. We have bets out on how many people will die in consumer stampedes this year. The talking heads on the media will wring their perfect little hands in mock terror, while the ads that feed these stampedes continue to run.

Welcome to the holiday season. Buy, and possibly die.

Monday, November 24, 2014

New Coop

The coop guy arrived on Friday with a new coop for the chickens. Finally, they can all live together instead of having to squeeze into two smaller coops.

Our artichoke plants are now in a cage so they won't run away get eaten by the chickens.

Meanwhile, the chickens are all hanging out in the compost pile.

Now, we're heading to San Francisco so Eva can take photos of weird people for a photo project.

Saturday, November 22, 2014


If one can envision a modem as a gateway to the lush, green lands of the internet, then our modem doors have swung almost entirely shut, only allowing tantalizing glimpses of the varied fields beyond. At least, I think it's the modem. I might buy a new one later today. We'll see.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Sailors Take Warning

Here's the Thursday morning sunrise this week.

Later in the day, rain came down. I slept through most of it. As I type these words, I have seven more hours of work before I'm off for the rest of the month. It has been an easy week, with good kids and somebody else handling the dispensing of evening medications, leaving me with little actual work to do. I'm feeling thankful that I don't work retail. There are Black Friday countdowns online. The chaos clock is ticking.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Pond Update

After hearing that the County Park people have started refilling it, I went down and looked at the pond before leaving work this morning. Sure enough, there is now some water in it, minus most of the Duckweed and all of the reeds that have plagued it in the past. Apparently, there is still a tiny bit of Duckweed, which means that soon the whole surface will be covered in it. For now though, it looks like a completely different pond.

On the front lawn, the Dawn Redwood has turned orange and its needles are dropping.

And on the other side of the camp, there was a rainbow.

It's already night three of camp this week. Last night, after watching a couple of Japanese gangster movies, I had a powerful craving for noodles and tofu, so tonight, armed with a 40% off coupon, Jeanine, Willow, and I (Eva is sick) went out to get some. Willow had some wonton soup, which is a first for her. She wasn't too thrilled, but managed to eat a fair amount of it. Afterward, we went and bought pies. Pies are always good.

Also, it rained a bit today. I saw two newts on the road as I drove up to camp tonight, and the Arboreal salamanders are already out crawling around. Life is good.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Suddenly It Dawned On Me

Due to partial cloud cover last night (as well as being inside watching movies for awhile - it was chilly out), I didn't see any Leonids.

I watched a really nice sunrise with an early-rising teacher and our substitute nurse (who is also the mother of one of my coworkers, as it turns out). This is typical for this time of year.

The first photo was taken right before I woke up the kids (163 sixth graders), and the other two right after I roused the last cabin. So far, the kids this week haven't presented us with any unusual problems. They are relatively well-behaved, and other than some mild homesickness, none of them had any issues at night. Three more nights to go.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Time For A (Meteor) Shower

There is a chill in the air and rain in the forecast. Tonight, the Leonid meteor shower is supposed to peak, and I'm hoping for a break in the clouds. This is the start of the last week before our Thanksgiving break. After the break, there are three more work weeks before a two-week holiday break.

I went to a pair of musical events this weekend, both of which were last minute decisions. There will be reviews up on my music blog sometime later this week. Other than that, I didn't accomplish much. I meant to buy new shoes, and possibly a snake, but time flew by while I stood still.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Salamander Watching

Around midnight last night, gusty wind heralded a few hours of light rain, which petered off into heavy mist by daybreak. The Arboreal Salamanders were out on the pathways. I even watched one run up a pathway and startle another one as it passed. Tonight, I had to move one from the ground in front of the hub. I must be part salamander, because I like this weather too. I draw the line at eating worms though.

The week is about over. There has only been one bed wetter (a couple of nights ago) and one puker (a little over an hour ago), making it a relatively easy week. Those two kids might disagree, of course.

It's getting colder at night too. Last night, this wasn't helped by insistence on walking at least two miles during each work shift. Even light rain will soak a person if one is exposed to it long enough.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Eye Right Good

I've always been a pretty good speller, mostly thanks to my voracious reading habit. The more books one reads, the more likely it is that a misspelled word just looks wrong. It's almost like a gut feeling.

Enter the internet.

Online, especially on social media and in any comments section anywhere, there is no oversight. Nothing has to meet with the approval of an editor. Instead, consonants and vowels are vomited forth in all sorts of peculiar permutations. The come to rest in the blazing alien light of our screens, looking like murder victims waiting to be autopsied. Basic grammatical decency is abandoned. Reliance on spellcheck results in improper word usage. Laziness turns decent words into barely comprehensible strings of acronyms and abbreviations.

I think the internet is actually harming my ability to spell. I get so used to seeing errors that sometimes I have to second guess myself when I'm writing. Misspelled words no longer immediately look wrong.

The internet is slowly murdering innocent words, and my time online is slowly killing my ability to spell.

It's a shame, really.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Salamander Spazz

The two animals to visit me last night were a small mouse, who perched on the windowsill outside the hub window sometime in the wee hours, and a lone Batrachoseps attenuatus (aka California Slender Salamander) hanging out on the front walkway. This second encounter gave me the rare opportunity to observe an interesting behavioral adaptation, which for lack of a better term, I'll call "complete spazz attack".

See a short video here.

The above video and the below photos were taken with my phone. Why is it that now that I've actually got a couple of decent cameras, I'm taking photos with my damned phone? "Because it's in my pocket," is the answer that springs to mind.

Later, as is often the case this time of year, colorful things happened in the morning sky.

I really do love this time of year.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Banana Slug

Tonight, I got to work a little early so I could do some work in our nature lab. I could hear the campfire program starting over in the hillside amphitheater (which, coincidentally, is where Jeanine and I got married exactly two years ago). As I walked out the nature lab door to find a stick to wedge under a cage to allow room for a heating pad cord, I heard the first campfire song start up. As usual, it was the camp classic, "Banana Slug". I looked down at the dark pathway and saw a small stick. In fact, it was exactly the size I was looking for. When I touched it, I realized that I had been mistaken...

It was a banana slug.

There must be magic in those old camp songs.


It's true. They're already playing holiday music in the stores. On Saturday, I went to Barnes & Noble with Willow, and there it was. Sappy Christmas music. That's what we get for going to a chain store, I guess.

I managed to successfully flip my sleep schedule for the weekend, something that had been becoming a bit of a chore this season. Of course, I had to stay awake for more than 24 hours to do it, but that's not really that hard for me.

Today, Jeanine and I celebrated our second anniversary. It's hard to believe that it has been two years already. I say that kind of thing enough that I should probably just stop now, but time really does appear to speed up as we get older. We never have as much time left as we think we do. Regardless of the seeming inconsistency of the relative passage of time, we couldn't be happier. Better all the time, actually.

We went for a walk awhile ago, and the air quality seems poor today, with the distance obscured by an unhealthy haze. I still love walking this time of year though, enjoying the cooler temperatures while scuffling through leaves.

Tonight, it's back to work for what we call "all saints' week". Five or six different private catholic schools are attending camp. This often happens on weeks when there's a national holiday that the public schools get off.

While I was typing, Dexter the cat just got chased by his own poop. Sometimes, when he's in his box taking care of kitty stuff, his poop sticks to him and he runs like a mad cat, scattering it as he goes. Comedy gold.

Friday, November 07, 2014

Shades of James Watt

Politically speaking, next year will be interesting, and by "interesting", I mean "a fiasco". For starters, the Environment and Public Works Subcommittee and the Subcommittee on Science and Space are going down in flames. By "in flames", I mean "chaired by knuckle-dragging bible thumpers". Read about it here.

Thursday, November 06, 2014

Night and Day

Thanks to daylight savings time, I managed to sleep until after nightfall today. Jeanine was just putting the chickens to bed as I was shaking the sleep out of my eyes. That said, my sleep was interrupted at 1:30 by somebody insistently leaning on the doorbell. It turned out to be the mail carrier with a package in need of a signature. It made me want to find out where she lived so I could go to her house and ring her bell at 1:30 AM.

Then, after I climbed back into bed, the yard people started up their leaf blowers somewhere nearby. Leaf blowers are such stereotypical "American" devices. They're loud and they don't actually deal with the problem. They just blow it into the next yard or into the street, thus making it a problem for somebody else. It also strikes me that the "American Way" has come to mean doing a job quickly and noisily rather than properly and respectfully. I guess it's always been that way though, hasn't it?

Plus, it's hard to sleep while they're being used. This is one of the drawbacks of having a sleep schedule opposite most of the world.

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

So It Begins...

It's Dinovember time again. For the uninitiated, November is the month during which plastic dinosaurs come to life and, when nobody is looking, do mischievous things around the house.

We're never sure where they'll strike next.

For the time-wasters out there, check out the Dinovember Facebook page.

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

Wasting Time

I tend to waste time online, partially because, due to the nature of my job as a night supervisor, I'm left to my own devices at work, but also partially because I have an addictive personality. I'm not sure when this kind of behavior became my default setting, and I'm not really happy that it has, but the fact is I spend too much time sitting right where I'm sitting now, and not enough time pursuing more creative or personally enhancing pastimes. At least when I'm writing I feel that it's not a complete waste of time. Truth be told, that's one of the reasons I've been writing more lately. The next step is to pare down some of my other time-wasting activities here in internetland.

Facebook can be a time suck, although it's also a way to (rather passively, I admit) keep in touch with distant friends. I also use it in my obsessive quest to obtain more music. That said, I thought it might be fun (and perhaps enlightening) to describe below the 10 posts at the top of my Facebook news feed at the moment:

1. Picture of coworker/friend with his baby, mentioning that he voted today (yes, it's election day and yes, I voted by mail). And yes, his baby is cute.

2. Suggested post (basically, an advertisement spewed my way by some Facebook algorithm), featuring an obviously fake news story about a cast member of The Walking Dead contracting Ebola while filming in Africa.

3. Video link about Russians and Muslims fighting, from an obviously right wing junior high school friend. No, I didn't watch it.

4. A Gofundme link posted by a home business I've never purchased anything from. Is your business unsustainable? Beg for money online! That said, I "liked" this page while holiday shopping last year. The woman who runs it sells creepy dolls, which is something that Eva likes. Maybe Eva will get a creepy doll this holiday season. It's always good to buy from people rather than huge, soulless corporations.

5. A band (The Melvins) reminding us all that they're playing in Orlando, FL tonight. The flyer has an artist's interpretation of what Peanuts characters would look like under the influence of bath salts.

6. A post in the "Now Playing" Facebook group (where music nerds upload pictures of whatever record they currently have spinning on their turntable) featuring a picture of a record sleeve by a band I've never heard of.

7. A reminder from a drone musician to attend a show in Japan. As if.

8. Another "I voted" post from a coworker.

9. A notification that a Facebook friend (who I haven't actually interacted with in decades, and even then never on any deep level) commented on a post that doesn't look interesting enough to bother reading.

10. Another Facebook friend (who I actually do sometimes interact with) linking to another story, this time about the murder of an Oklahoma teen who was "allegedly practicing witchcraft". Yet more evil and injustice served up in bite-sized morsels.

There you have it. I'm sure there are many better things I could be doing with my time right now.

In the real world, I'm one night into my work week. Daylight savings time is wreaking havoc with my mornings this week because all of a sudden its broad daylight well before the official camp wake-up time, meaning that many kids are awakened by the sun and then expected to keep absolutely quiet until I come and tell them to start getting ready. Yes, it's almost impossible for fifth graders to do that. My preemptive strike involved having them borrow books last night so they'd have something quiet to do when they awoke. One girl actually got in trouble this morning for reading out loud. Sigh.

A homesick boy(we actually prefer the term, "missing home" these days because this way it sounds less like an affliction) came in last night feeling nauseous (as often happens in this circumstance), so I went and placed a wastebasket near his bunk just in case. This morning, there was a puddle of vomit... next to the wastebasket. Double sigh.

Later, a boy was brought to the hub by his cabin leader because she thought he might have "poison ivy". I told her that this was impossible, and she soon caught on that this was because the local plant is actually Poison Oak. When I looked at the kid though, he was completely covered in a blotchy, red rash. It wasn't from touching Poison Oak. In fact, I'm not sure what it was. Thankfully, our health aide walked in at that moment. She isn't qualified to diagnose this kind of thing either, so this resulted in a call to the boy's parents, who would have to come get him and take him to an actual doctor. Weird.

Monday, November 03, 2014

An Extra Day of Halloween

Recently, Eva has spent a big portion of every weekend at the Halloween Haunt attraction, which takes place at the local amusement park every October. One of the friends she made at the park got her a volunteer gig at a different haunted attraction called Deadtime Dreams, so last night she and her friend Michelle got to put on costumes and scary make-up and lurk inside a haunted maze over in East San Jose. You'd think that, being only 13 years old, they would have been the youngest monsters, but there were also a couple of tiny little girls in scary clown make-up, the youngest of whom was probably only 5 or so. They were very cute, going for the creepy-cute vibe, which to my mind is much more effective than the jump-scares the teenagers tried out on us.

Going to pick up Eva and Michelle, Jeanine and I got there early enough to go through both of the haunted mazes. They were relatively well done, but pretty typical of what one might expect. I almost felt bad for not jumping. Jeanine never jumps either. In fact, I can't understand why anybody would jump. You go into this type of thing with the expectation that actors will try to make you jump and the knowledge that none of them will actually touch you. Plus, they're mostly teenagers, who usually lack any real subtlety, so their attempts at scaring the paying public are predictably clumsy. This particular attraction had a kind of Rocky Horror Picture Show meets the Renaissance Faire vibe anyway, and I could well imagine many of the actors attending those events.

After walking through the mazes, we found a little side room that was showing Bride of Frankenstein, with fake skeletons in most of the seats. That was kind of neat, although it was kind of hard to hear the dialogue with all of the haunted calliope music and chainsaw noises bleeding in from outside. It put me in the mood to watch the old classics.

Later, as it grew colder, we talked briefly with the man in charge (or so I assume). He asked us what we thought of the mazes, and we basically told him what he wanted to hear. He mentioned that they'd had some "code yellow" incidents, and even a "code brown" (slang we use at work too), which surprised me. I find it hard to imagine that people would get scared enough to poop or pee themselves. Some people must be pretty jumpy and/or seriously incontinent. Later, Eva mentioned that there had even been a puking incident. Wow.

Around 11:00, while we waited for the girls to emerge from the attraction, it was cold enough for us to see our breath. Autumn is definitely in the air. Above us, I could see Cassiopiea, Orion, and part of Cygnus. Light pollution swallowed the rest.

Saturday, November 01, 2014

Halloween, 2014

Despite my best intentions, plans I have for holidays seldom come to fruition. The days zoom by like a never ending flipbook, deadlines be damned. This Halloween, we didn't even get pumpkins until the 31st. I left it to Jeanine to buy them, and she always gets them at grocery stores because its cheaper that way. This year, the grocery stores must have under-ordered. She ended up getting three little ones yesterday, and the last minute carving idea that popped into my head was this.

I did the eyes, and Jeanine did the mouth. We were told it looked like all one pumpkin from the street. Neither of us went out and checked though.

We got somewhere in the neighborhood of 70 trick-or-treaters this year, sometimes in groups of 15 or so. It was nice to see a few homemade costumes in the mix. Jeanine once again made seasonal balloon wands to hand out, and the constantly ringing doorbell kept her busy. Apparently, we're now known as "the balloon house".

After the visitors dwindled, we sat down and watched Mario Bava's "Bay of Blood". So, basically, all we did this Halloween was hand out candy and balloons, and then watch a horror movie. At least Eva got out of the house. Willow is with her mom this weekend, and the last she mentioned, she was planning on being a skeleton. She tends to change her mind about things though, sometimes at the last minute. I'll know more shortly.

Oh, and it rained. Most of it happened while I was sleeping, but I did take sunrise and sunset photos which were nicely enhanced by threatening clouds.

Friday, October 31, 2014

In Anticipation of Inclement Weather

I hear leaves skittering across cement as I type. Rain is in the forecast, and it looks like there's a good chance that there will be moist trick-or-treaters tomorrow night (or, more properly, today, because midnight has come and gone).

We're woefully unprepared for Halloween this year, to the extent that we haven't even bought pumpkins yet. I've been feeling low-energy the last couple of days because I've got a slight cold, but the anticipation of wind and rain always perks me up. Sometimes the anticipation is even better than the arrival. I wonder why that is. Either way, I'm happy that we'll get some rain.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014


This week is off to a pretty good start, although somehow it's already Wednesday night, so "start" is a relative term. I took the night off on Monday night, and that's almost always the hardest night because of homesickness, envelope pushing, and general settling in pains.

On Tuesday night, a girl managed to get her neck caught in her zipper. That's a new one. Fortunately, her neck popped free relatively easily, although there was definitely a mark. No blood though.

Also of note, this is my 100th post of the year. Happy hundred posts to me.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

More Tiny Visitors

Continuing the invertebrate theme from the previous post, here are two more cute little critters.

The first one was found by Eva, and I knew it was some sort of Metallic Green Beetle, but had to look up the species. It turned out to be a Figeater Beetle (aka Cotinis mutabilis). When I picked it up, it promptly peed on me. That's a new one.

We didn't have any figs handy, but in the end it didn't matter. Figeater Beetles are more than happy to eat persimmons, a fruit that, thanks to the neighbors' tree, we always have access to.

The other critter was an Argiope spider (possibly Argiope trifasciata, or Banded Garden Spider), hanging nonchalantly in the middle of the tomato plants. Since it is late in the season and the plants are ending their productive period, Jeanine was going to remove the chicken fence around the garden bed, but didn't want to disturb the spider web that stretches across the top of the plants. Yes, our actions are sometimes dictated by the whims of arachnids.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Small Visitor

This ended up being a crappy week. Literally. Thursday evening, two more kids crapped themselves. Fortunately, it was before my shift started. Unfortunately, my daytime counterpart didn't finish washing all of the clothes during her shift.

Later, when all of the clothes were washed and all of the kids were slumbering, I had a little visitor in the form of a Jerusalem Cricket. When I picked him up, he played dead.

But not for long.

After I put him back down, I could hear him clunking around under the desk. After I almost rolled over him with the office chair, I took him outside and found him a safer place to explore.

Thursday, October 23, 2014


I love Autumn sunrises. This is what the sky looked like this morning around the time I woke up slightly over 200 campers sleeping in 12 different cabins. A few of them took note of the sky, but most just shuffled sleepily to the bathrooms.

Poop, Then Salamanders

Around 10:45 PM, as I was working hard reading my book, a cabin leader and a kid came into the hub because the kid had just vomited. At first, I was relieved that he had managed to vomit into a toilet instead of all over himself or onto his pillow or somewhere else equally inconvenient.

Than I noticed the poop smell.

As he stood up from the hub's one bunk bed, I noticed a wet patch where he'd been sitting while I took his temperature. He had been about to just head back to bed without mentioning his poopy pajamas. I tactfully asked him if there was anything else he needed to tell me. After continuing this line of questioning for a couple of minutes, I finally got him to admit that, "while I was throwing up I think I might have pooped and peed my pants."

While taking him over to the shower, I spotted a small Arboreal Salamander on the walkway. I pointed it out to the kid, telling him that at least he got to see a cool salamander which he wouldn't have gotten to see otherwise. He didn't seem too impressed, probably completely focused on the embarrassment of crapping himself at camp. Oh, well. I have to at least try to distract kids however I can during moments like these.

While he was showering, I took a picture of the salamander.

It wasn't until I'd uploaded the picture to Facebook that I noticed there were actually three salamanders in the picture. Can you spot them?

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Ghostly Easy Listening

Last night, around 4:00 AM, I wandered outside (okay, I actually went out so I could wake up a kid so he could use the restroom - as opposed to using his sleeping bag) and I heard music. It seemed to be coming from the direction of our lower field, and it sounded so close that I actually walked down into the darkness to make sure there were no miscreants joking around out there. Nobody was there, and it became obvious that it was coming from farther away. What kind of music was it? It sounded like crappy easy-listening music to me, and I could picture in my head some guy with a mullet standing next to an old faux wood paneled station wagon, blasting AM radio into the uncomplaining darkness.

I checked again at 5:30, and the music was still happening. Who the heck plays that kind of music at that hour? Despite its distance, I was concerned that it might wake up the kids.

That reminds me. I've got to go wake up that kid again. He needs to be awakened twice each night. Poor guy.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Happy Gloomy Monday

The warm weekend whipped by. I filled it with boring, yet necessary, activities such as paying bills, grocery shopping, and feeding pets. Yesterday, I spent a bunch of time playing records and converting songs from vinyl to Mp3 in continuation of my lifelong, obsessive desire to compile favorite songs on to mix tapes. Of course, these days, mix tapes have been replaced by playlists. I cling to the past by burning CDrs from playlists and making my own packaging for them. One of these days, I'll upload some photos of the packaging.

Sometime between noon and 1:00 today, I woke to a cool breeze blowing through the open window. I could hear kids on a playground somewhere, which is funny because the nearest schools aren't really that close. Sometimes, when atmospheric conditions are right, sound really carries. Today, the sky is gray and the ground is wet. It's drizzling outside, which makes me happy, although I'd be happier with some good, honest rain.

When I go to work tonight, there will be three times as many kids as there were last week. This doesn't necessarily mean that I'll be working three times as hard though. Each group is different.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Foxes, Hawks, and Squirrels

Last night, in the darkest hour before the dawn, out of the corner of my eye, I saw movement outside the Hub window. I turned in time to see a Grey Fox scamper by. Quickly going outside, I saw that there were two of them. They didn't stick around long enough for me to get a good photo, and in seconds I was staring at the empty space where they had been standing. I followed them around the corner of a cabin and into the dark beyond. They had already crossed the long driveway at the edge of camp, and I could hear their footsteps as they crunched through leaves down the slope leading down to the meadow. I you look closely at the picture below, you can see the vague shape of one of the foxes at the corner of the fence by the cabin. I guess they don't like paparazzi. This is the first time I've seen foxes in the middle of camp.

Soon afterward, the sun rose.

Later, at home, Penelope the chicken started bucking up a storm. We noticed that all of the chickens were huddled on the right side of the yard, and none of them came running to the door to get snacks. I soon spotted the cause: a Cooper's Hawk, probably the same one that has been dining on doves, was perched on a wire nearby.

A squirrel crouched nearby, finishing something that looked suspiciously like one of our avocados. He dropped it soon after, and started toward the hawk.

The hawk, either full of dove or shocked to see its prey calmly approaching, elected to leave the wire...

...and find a new place to perch.

The squirrel eventually made it to the next pole. The hawk eventually left the area. Kind of anticlimactic, but fortunate for the squirrel.

Now, I'm back at work for the last night of the week. It has been another relatively easy week, with fewer than 70 kids in attendance and good cabin leaders. There was a tiny bit of rain a couple of nights ago, just enough to get the ground wet.