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.