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.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Wallowing In Fear

Somewhere in between the fear-mongering mainstream news outlets and the little DIY crackpot conspiracy news blogs, the truth lies. Somewhere there is a news source that doesn't report lies as truth. Somewhere, sports and celebrity gossip are relegated to the sidelines instead of being presented to the public as news that matters. The current state of affairs wouldn't be so problematic if people consumed with thought and checked sources. On Facebook, I often see people linking to stories that are either patently untrue or outright satire. The comedy site, Failbook, is a good place to find examples of this kind of thing, although the examples themselves might be faked too. The solution seems to be to trust nobody. That said, I've even seen people state distrust for fact-checking sites like Snopes based on political disagreements with the people behind the site. How can we be so gullible yet so mistrusting at the same time? The answer, of course, is that people believe what they want to believe and either ignore or spew bile about anything that clashes with whatever belief system they follow. Either way, the corporate shit shovels keep scooping steaming piles of "news" into our open mouths, and we keep asking for more.

That said, satire sites like The Onion are more likely to touch on what Werner Herzog calls "ecstatic truth" than most of the mainstream media news sites. The problem is that some people take it as literal truth.

Speaking of truth, one of the current hot topics is Ebola, which was identified back in the seventies, but is only now appearing on the radars of the sheltered citizens of the U.S. The media is doing its best to stoke the fires of panic, and many of the stories I've seen are full of what is basically grim speculation. Grim speculation isn't news. Ebola is scary enough on its own, of course, but the media seems determined to create panic.

Here is a site that seems to be taking a different approach, so if you want a more balanced look at the current epidemic, click away.


Over the Summer, the County Parks people started the process of fixing the pond near camp. By the end of summer, the pond was nearly drained. Now that the school year is well underway and I'm working nights, I don't get down to the pond much. Last night, my friend and co-worker, Jellyfish, told me I should go look at it, so this morning I went down there and took a few pictures. The pond is in the process of being dredged, and the muck is being dumped up in the chaparral somewhere. Once the dredging is complete, the cracks in the cement can be fixed. On the one hand, it's a shame that one of our teaching areas is out of commission, but on the other hand, this process has eradicated some of the invasive species that called the pond home, which in the long run will be a good thing.

On the way to the pond, deer calmly stared at me and indignant quail burst into the air as I approached.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

A Gust of Autumn

Overnight, the wind picked up. This morning, a bank of distant clouds, backlit by the rising sun and spewing over the coastal range, looked like the smoke from a forest fire. Jeanine reports that the chickens looked ridiculous as the wind disarranged their feathers into fanciful formations. As I type the sky is several shades of grey (thankfully not 50) and the local foliage is dancing. It is unlikely that we'll get any rain today, but one can hope.

Last night, sometime before the wind started, a couple of girls came to visit me in the hub for some mild complaint or other (headaches, I think, although they visited me several times with thin excuses - I think they just wanted to stay up and talk) and then were afraid to walk back to their cabin because there was a fearsome looking... deer standing in the way. The girls had never seen a deer before, and were uncertain about their chances of getting back to bed unscathed. It was kind of cute, really. We stood and watched the deer together while I filled them in on what to expect from the local wildlife.

It's kids like this who gain the most from science camp. I wish I could see the world through their eyes. I enjoy seeing deer around camp at night, but it's definitely not something that fills me with excitement or trepidation. For these girls, it was a brand new experience. They were living on the edge.

In the morning, as the kids were getting ready for the day, one of the girls from the same cabin informed me that there was a mouse running around under the bunks. Fortunately, it was near enough to the door that I was able to quickly usher it out the door with a broom. It immediately ran around the corner and vanished up inside the vending machine.

Currently listening to: Kettle Rebellion

Monday, October 13, 2014

Renaissance Faire

Jeanine had Sunday free this weekend, so we found ourselves at the Renaissance Faire. For many people, the faire is an excuse to dress in cleavage-enhancing period costume and/or sport an arsenal of edged weapons, all while speaking in dubious medieval accents. Well, why not?

It was hot, and I imagine a lot of the people in the more elaborate costumes were quietly suffering. We took in some of the shows, which were mildly entertaining. Eva and Willow made candles, although Willow managed to wreck one of hers before we got to the car. I bought a Nepalese flute and a singing bowl because... well, why not? We ate overpriced food. Willow went on the bungee bounce thing:

While I was taking pictures of Willow, I remembered how I used to take pictures of her at various parks when she was little. My camera was out pretty much every time she went down the slide or got on a swing. Her hair would often fall victim to static electricity on the slide, which always made for good photos. Now that she is older, moments are more likely to go unrecorded. She is still a little girl at heart though, and even though we don't often go to city parks, she always wants to do things like the bungee bounce. I'm young at heart too, so I can easily identify with her when it comes to these kinds of things.

After the faire, we stopped at Casa de Fruta next door. I loaded up on salsa, spicy nuts, pickled garlic, and hot sauce. In fact, I think we all got nuts of some sort. Nuts are good road food.

At home, we watched the season premiere of The Walking Dead. The Walking Dead is the TV show that made me break my long-standing rule about not watching TV. I usually watch TV shows on DVD long after they've aired, but my inner zombie nerd dictates that I must watch these as they air. We were not disappointed. I really do think that as far as popular entertainment goes, some of the recent TV shows are giving movies a run for their money. Of course, to offset all of the good quality shows, there are things like Vanilla Ice Goes Amish (which, to be fair, I haven't seen and won't ever see, so I'm basing my derision on the concept alone), or any other reality show I might mention.

Friday, October 10, 2014


The teacher who got to see the eclipse with me the other night just came in and thanked me for bringing her out to see it. The eclipse had slipped her mind because her mom had died a few hours before (I was unaware of this at the time). That's not quite as shocking as it sounds though. Her mom was quite elderly and in poor health, but expected or not, the death of a mom is never something easily shrugged off, so the eclipse-viewing provided her with an island of tranquility in the midst of an otherwise restless night.

Here's a song for those of us who find ourselves motherless, posted by Greg from one of his Thomas Carnacki performances, and featuring Dawn McCarthy on vocals. This was recorded the month after our own mother passed away.

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

The Moon Swells With Blood, and Then Bleeds Out

The so-called Blood Moon has come and gone. I watched the moon's face slowly vanish in a welter of red. At 3:30 in the morning, and lasting for quite some time, it looked like the moon had been replaced by Mars. While I craned my neck upward, I saw at least three meteors leave brief, white scratches across the star-speckled black. The crickets sang, and out front, four deer munched grass. One teacher and a couple of kids, up to use the bathroom, also got to see it.

I love it when these things happen on nights when I'm at work. Not only am I already up, but I'm getting paid.

The blood had almost completely drained away by the time the moon met the line of Redwoods on the ridge to the west.

Tuesday, October 07, 2014


Due to the heat, the first night of camp this week was plagued with sleeplessness for many of the kids. Many of them were exhausted and frustrated by their inability to fall asleep. There wasn't much I could do about it beyond telling them that the forecast called for slightly cooler temperatures today. Sure enough, today is cooler, although not as much cooler as the forecast stated it would be.

This morning, there were three turkeys on the front lawn at work. At home, Jeanine managed to get a phone photo of the hawk. Birds everywhere. Probably looking for water.

And here's Jeanine, medicating Dot the chicken. Dot is not at all sure about this.

And while I'm at it, a picture of Jeanine's Gooty Sapphire Ornamental Tree Spider, who put in a rare appearance on the glass side of his enclosure. He usually hides behind the backdrop.

Meanwhile, in drought news, California's hydropower is drying up. The only good thing to come out of resource-related problems like this is the fact that they hit people in the face with the fact that our resources are finite.

Sunday, October 05, 2014

Gaze Into the Flickering Eye

While watching the season finale of "The Strain" (originally a trilogy of novels, then a comic book, and now a TV show, just to cover all bases, I guess...), we were subjected to an ad for a TV show called "Vanilla Ice Goes Amish". It struck me that the majority of TV shows like this are very anti-intellectual. More to the point, they're basically aimed at the lowest common denominator. At this moment, I was reminded of something.

The only possible reason for shows like this is to keep stupid people out of trouble.

If religion is the opiate of the masses, reality TV must be the crack of the masses. Keep 'em pacified and they'll never start questioning things. Keep 'em doped up on flashy images and they'll never start wanting anything better.

Sleeping In

For some reason, after having worked the night shift off and on since 2007, this is the year that I finally seem to be managing to get enough sleep. Although I guess it has only been a couple of years since I have been told to stay awake all night. Last year (or at least the part of the year I was working nights) and the year before, I never seemed to be able to stay in bed much past 2:00 PM. This year, I've managed to sleep until nearly 5:00 a couple of times. I'm not sure what the difference is this year. Maybe I'm more relaxed for some reason. Thursday and Friday this week, despite temperatures in the nineties, I slept the days away.

I even slept in longer than usual on the weekend. The downside to that is it makes the weekends seem shorter. Not that I did much this weekend. I've been a homebody lately. That said, I did leave the house on Friday evening with Jeanine, Eva, and Eva's friend, Jesse to go to the Halloween Haunt at Great America. I really only went to keep Jeanine company while Eva and Jesse had fun. Amusement parks aren't my idea of a good time, mostly due to the crowds. Sure enough, we spent much more time in line than we did inside the various attractions. In more than four hours, we went through three haunted mazes, saw two shows (some sort of zombie dance thing, which was actually pretty entertaining, and something called "Blades of Horror", which was an ice skating show, of all things), and went one one rollercoaster. The rest of the time, we stood in line, wandered around, and ate soft serve ice cream. The ice cream was the best part. Eva went back Saturday night, although to be fair, she mostly goes to hang out with friends. As for me, I'd much rather get into the spirit of things by staying home and watching horror movies. I've just started watching a French TV series called "Les Revenants" (based on the film "They Came Back", which is also excellent), which hits the mark in a subtle, eerie way.

I walked around four miles in the 90 degree heat on Saturday. I might have rethought that if I'd known it was going to get warm. That makes 13 miles I've walked so far this month. Hopefully we'll get some cooler weather soon. While I'm feeling hopeful, let me add rain to the list too.

Thursday, October 02, 2014


Dot the chicken is back home. The vet prescribed antibiotics, which means one of us will have to hold her while the other pries open her beak and administers the medicine. Joy. Dash, with whom she shares a coop, missed her (or perhaps just her warmth) enough to bed down with the other chickens in the big coop. It's kind of funny when one takes Dash's personality into account. Dash is usually kind of an asshole, insisting on that whole "pecking order" thing and enforcing it with well-placed pecks to the heads of the other chickens. The other chickens were magnanimous enough to let her into their coop though. Or maybe they were bullied into it.

The chickens don't know it, and wouldn't care if they did, but all of a sudden it's Thursday. Jeanine and Eva are at a Weezer concert tonight. Eva has a short list of bands she needs to see before they die, and for some reason Weezer is on it. Jeanine's list is even shorter, consisting solely of BB King, who is almost certainly closer to death than the surviving members of Weezer. My list, if I was to sit down and think about it, is probably both burdensome and unrealistic. I'll continue to attend shows when and where opportunity takes me. Not tonight though. Tonight I'm going to work.

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Chicken Mystery

Dot the chicken is mystifying the vet. She doesn't have a case of Bumblefoot, but so far, the cause of her swollen feet has proven elusive. Jeanine ran across somebody on an online chicken forum who had the same thing happen to her chicken, and it eventually went away, so whatever it is, it doesn't appear to be life-threatening.

It's Wednesday night at work as I type these words. The kids came back from their night hikes and went to bed, leaving the night to the crickets and other more furtive nocturnal creatures. I set up my stealth cam again, although given my luck so far this school year, it will probably prove to have been in vain.