Saturday, March 29, 2014

Stamp Art

I've been trying to carve at least one rubber stamp a month this year. Here's a piece of art incorporating a couple of stamps.

Sunset for Cinema

I've just finished a week of working at our Cupertino site, which has fewer Redwoods and more chaparral, not to mention a bigger creek and better views at the tops of the hills. There are fewer trails though. There was a boy with Down Syndrome in my group, and he was super cute and super excited to be there. There was also a boy who said he wants to be a biologist when he grows up. He even brought his own field guide with him, and I saw him referring to it from time to time.

During the week, we got a bit of rain, although it rarely got heavy. Just enough to bring out the newts and moisten the dust.

Speaking of childhood, the local dome theaters that marked the landscape of my youth are falling one by one. The Century Theaters were once five: Century 21, 22, 23, 24, and 25, but now they are three, 25 and 24 having been reduced to rubble in the name of "progress", although the way I see it, "progress" is usually just a euphemism for greed. Developers are swooping in with their avaricious plans. The three remaining domes have fallen under the jaded gaze of the people who toppled the old Town & Country shopping center across the street, where the sprawling shopping dystopia called Santana Row malevolently squats. It looks like Santana Row is soon going to engulf the property where the domes currently reside.

Last week, I happened to be near the remains of another old movie theater, the Meridian Quad. The only physical evidence that it was ever there is this sign:

Why was I there? I was inside the pizza place getting face painted by clowns. Yes, clowns need to practice this kind of thing. I then went to work, where my coworkers weren't surprised at all. In fact, my boss didn't even ask why my face was painted. I love my job.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Mysteries, Both Real and Imagined

Spring has been gathering steam for most of the Winter, and now it's officially here, as of 12:57 P.M., EDT. Happy Vernal Equinox. Hopefully we'll have some Spring showers before Summer comes along to cook us.

My nights at work this week have been relatively easy. I finished reading Edogawa Rampo's "Tales of Mystery and Imagination" and almost finished watching season 4 of Farscape. I can do that sort of thing when the campers are all asleep. Three more episodes to go.

I also marveled at the mysterious pile of crap that appeared outside one of the cabins. Sometime in the middle of the night, one of the campers evidently couldn't be bothered with the 30 second walk to the toilets, but instead let fly less than 10 feet from his cabin door. He can cross "criminal mastermind" off of his list of potential careers though, because after the deed was done, he stepped in it, allowing the janitor to follow the tracks back to his bunk. That was where things stood when I left this morning. I'm sure he's had a talking-to by now.

Monday, March 17, 2014

The Beckoning Darkness

After around a month of working days, I'm back on the night shift this week. It's actually not that hard for me to switch back and forth, but only because even when I'm working nights regularly, I tend to be diurnal on the weekends. It's probably not good for me to constantly switch my schedule around though. when I'm working nights, I usually spend nearly 24 hours awake at the beginning of the week. I manage this by exerting very little energy on those days, and taking cat naps at work (and apparently, by sitting in my comfy chair and blogging).

Yesterday, Willow used a bunch of her own money to buy various gag items to use on April Fool's Day. She wants to organize a party at which she and her friends prank each other. I tried to convince her that pranks are less effective if people expect them, but dad advice often falls on deaf ears.

Speaking of special days, here's a photo of the birthday present I got for my step-daughter, Eva, on her birthday last month:

I wonder how many kids go through a "creepy doll" phase. I approve.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Records, Pizza, Coffee, and Snakes = the Perfect Outing

I'm currently reading a book called "The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains", by Nicholas Carr, and so far it hasn't told me much that I hadn't already figured out for myself. The internet is distracting us and ruining our attention spans. Carr provides the reader with a lot of interesting background information though, so from my perspective, it's still worth reading.

I'm reminded of another interesting piece of information that I once read (or heard), pertaining to the reason why people often walk into rooms and suddenly forget whatever mission they had in mind. It has to do with the fact that we evolved in a world without compartments, where there were no rooms. Once we moved away from the wide open vistas and stuffed ourselves into compartmented boxes, it in turn compartmentalized our thought processes. The end result of this is that when we suddenly find ourselves in a new room, whatever it was that we were thinking in the previous room sometimes vanishes from our mental horizons.

The internet can be like that. The continuous landscape of a book vanishes into a welter of enticing, neon-lit alleyways down which every imaginable distraction (or vice) is displayed. Every link is a doorway leading to another "room". It really isn't surprising that our thoughts can end up scattered and our internal calm shattered.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, I notice that some physical shops are taking things in the opposite direction. Yesterday, Willow and I were wandering through Berkeley (after stopping by a friend's house to buy a truly impressive record with real leaves pressed into the vinyl, followed by lunch at Zachary's pizza with Uncle Greg) when we stumbled across a coffee place called Artis. See an article here. We mostly went in just to use the bathroom, and I figured I'd pay for that privilege by buying some coffee. I figured it would be one of those places that brews each cup by hand, and I was right, but they took it one step farther. They roasted the beans by order too. I bought a pound of beans and watched them roast it for me. I must add that the bag that contains my newly roasted and purchased beans exclaims, "each bean in this bag was PICKED LOVINGLY BY HAND thousands of miles away".

Taking this to its logical conclusion, I envision that one day citizens will be able to wander into coffee shops and witness beard-tugging hipsters gathered around pots of soil as they watch coffee plants grow, waiting for the beans to be ready for harvesting so that they can conclude their transactions.

I wonder if this kind of thing is a reaction (conscious or otherwise) to the fast-paced, hectic online world that many of us inhabit. If so, I approve.

After we left, we went to East Bay Vivarium and looked at snakes and spiders. Willow wants me to get another python. I still have my eyes on the Beaded Lizards.

In other news, Willow's softball season is up and running. She keeps saying that each year will be her last, but keeps signing up again anyway. She's a busy girl.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Lanterns to Light the Darkest Passage

Broughty Cole's body was fished out of the Sacramento river yesterday. According to police, there was "nothing suspicious" about this. Really? At least his family can have some closure, but that doesn't lessen the tragedy of his passing.

Here are some faerie lanterns to light his way into the beyond. I don't necessarily believe in a beyond, but if there is one, it should have faerie lanterns.

Sunday, March 09, 2014

What Tomorrow Brings...

Remembered past is history and unknowable future is a mystery, and somewhere in the future lies the answer to the question about a man named Broughty Cole, who vanished off the face of the earth a little under a week ago, leaving his car parked at a marina near Sacramento. I didn't know Broughty, but he played drums for the opening band, Lasher Keen, at a show I attended a couple of days before his disappearance. I am slightly acquainted with his two bandmates though, and they're both fine examples of humanity. This fact, coupled with having seen him just a couple of days before he vanished, makes what is essentially yet another missing person case more personal (yes, they all suck, but we'd all be emotional wrecks if we took every bad news story personally). I find myself checking for updates quite often (there is a Facebook page set up to coordinate search efforts) and I donated some money to help fund the search efforts (you can too, if you are reading this in a timely manner - just go to the Facebook page and send money via Paypal to the e-mail address mentioned there).

Other than that, words fail, so here is a healing photo of a forest, taken earlier this week.

...And here is the most recent version of the flyer. I don't imagine that posting it here will make much of a difference, but I know for a fact that not posting it here will make exactly no difference.

Friday, March 07, 2014

Out of the Mouths of Babes

There is a teacher at camp this week whose name is ConcepciĆ³n.

The kids call her Misconception.

Monday, March 03, 2014

When Working Is Playing

We've been getting a bit of rain over the last week, with attendant rainbows.

Last Wednesday was especially moist, but that didn't stop us from hiking. I figured it would be a good day for the kids to learn about water. We ended up wearing it. I don't think we would have gotten any wetter if I'd led the kids into the pond. As it was, we spent a lot of time playing in the gutters and culverts. At one point, we unblocked a clogged gutter and got to watch a refrigerator-sized cluster of leaves, branches, and other debris go racing away down the hill like a bear saddled with extra gravity. The kids loved it. They also loved just playing in the water. I love getting paid to play in the water.

During all of this, a boy said that he could have chased a coyote in his pants and nobody would have noticed. "Chasing a coyote" is camp code for peeing, and yes, we were all that wet.

On the mid-week feedback forms that we have the kids fill out, one kid remembered the lesson on decomposers slightly incorrectly. We teach about decomposers (fungus, bacteria, and invertebrates), using the acronym "F.B.I.", and one kid remembered that part, but wrote that he'd learned about fungus, bacteria, and immigration.

As I was leading the kids into the nature lab, one girl looked up and told me, "you smell like syrup." At first I was confused, since I hadn't eaten anything with syrup that morning, but then remembered the Candy Cap mushrooms I'd had in my backpack. They smell strongly of maple syrup, and even though I've lost the mushrooms somewhere, my backpack continues to smell like syrup. As smells go, it's a pretty good one.

This week, it feels colder and the clouds remain. Maybe we'll get some more rain. Speaking of getting things, one of the teachers from a couple of weeks ago showed her appreciation for what we do by giving all of the staff members who were working that week inscribed copies of her book. I hadn't even known she was an author. It's a children's book about the Redwood forest, complete with beautiful illustrations (check it out here). I love it when people make these kinds of gestures. It's yet another reminder that what we do is appreciated.