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.