Friday, January 30, 2015

Challenges, Both Real and Artificial

More than 15 kids have gone home sick this week. The symptoms have invariably been vomiting, headaches, and fevers. This morning, the paramedics had to be called because a girl had a 103 degree-plus fever and was acting kind of spacy. One kid went home tonight for starting an altercation during the dance. It has been a busy week. Nothing we couldn't handle though. I still have about six more hours on my shift before the week is officially over though.

This year, I plan to start each month with some sort of personal challenge. January's challenge was to not buy any new music, which seems like a silly and pointless thing to do, but I've been overdoing my music consumption for years, spending huge amounts of time and money amassing a large collection that, truthfully, I struggle to find the time to enjoy. I'm often too busy listening to new acquisitions to go back and re-listen to older ones. Sure, I enjoy each new purchase, but I also enjoy the cheaper option of going back and listening to records already in my collection. I was relatively successful with this challenge, if one discounts the two purchases I made on the first weekend of the month (Jeanine actually enabled me by saying it made more sense to start at the beginning of the work week, so with this justification in mind, I made a pair of purchases), and one pre-order made mid-month, justified by making a challenge within a challenge of walking 5 miles and doing something creative before making the purchase. I walked nearly 6 miles on that particular Saturday, and carved a nice little chicken rubber stamp.

I think my challenge for February will be to lose 10 pounds before the end of the month. If I write about it, maybe it will actually happen.

Currently listening to: Monolyth & Cobalt "Sub + Rosa"

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Camp Chaos

The first night of camp this week was busier than the usual Monday, with campers visiting the hub regularly throughout the night. One boy complained of severe nausea, and we couldn't reach his parents by phone, so I ended up sending him back to bed. I think he was just homesick anyway. The cabin leaders who would be heading to our other site in the morning stayed up too late, which irritated me because they're supposed to be on the adult side of the equation, not acting like campers. Add to this the usual assortment of headaches, vomit, and nosebleeds, and we've got a full work night.

There is a girl with diabetes at camp this week, and she has this innovative wireless blood glucose monitoring system which sounds an alarm when levels aren't within a defined range. I was pretty excited to learn that such a thing exists, although after talking to her dad on the phone, I learned that it's new enough to not be FDA approved (if I remember what he said correctly), and that it still has some glitches. The issue for me was that the range was small enough that I actually had to stand inside the girl's cabin to get a reading. I had initially expected to be able to do this from the comfort of my chair in the other building. It's just as well though, because I had to wake her up so she could have some glucose tablets. It's good that this kind of technology exists, and I hope it enters into wide usage.

It was also windy enough to cause doors to bang open and lighter objects to skitter across the cement. One of those objects was the clock hanging on the wall outside.

In the morning, it almost rained. A few desultory water molecules drifted down, and then dry January shrugged its shoulders and continued its parched trek toward February. This month's rainfall totals won't be measured in inches, but in drops.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Unhappy Anniversary

Today is the fifth anniversary of my mom's death. Despite my desire for it to be otherwise, I can still remember that day quite clearly. Of course that is always the case with any event outside of normal routine, isn't it? The death of a loved one is especially deeply branded into the soft flesh of memory.

Last January, Jeanine and I hid a letterbox in the park around the corner from my mom's old house. Unlike the first letterbox I hid in my mom's honor, this one is still in place, or at least it was on January 5th, which is the last time it was found by a letterbox hunter. Check out the clue here.

Earlier that day, I had provided some snakes for a photoshoot up in Oakland. It wasn't until I'd driven home from Oakland that the phone rang and I got the bad news. Pictures from that day ended up on the cover (as well as an interior spread) of Decibel magazine. This issue, to be exact.

That was the worst of bad days. Today is much more routine. Laundry is being done as I type. In fact, I think it's time to go put it in the dryer. Then, maybe I'll read a bit more. I'm reading Robert Aickman's account of his time with the Inland Waterways Association, which was formed to help save England's abandoned and endangered canal system during the mid-twentieth century. Thanks goes out to my brother for giving it to me for Christmas. I think my mom would have liked it too. She was always surrounded by more books than she would ever have had time to read, even if she'd lived to see 100. I know the feeling. We never do fall far from the tree.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Busy Work Week

When I got to week on Tuesday night, there was a puddle of vomit on the floor of the hub, covered in the substance we use to help absorb wet messes, and awaiting clean-up. Several kids had already gone home sick, and the girl who had decorated the hub floor was waiting for her parents to get her. Before all of the kids were in bed, another kid puked on the basketball court. This wasn't an auspicious beginning to my work week.

The following night, a kid crapped himself, or at least partially crapped himself, meaning that some of it got to its intended destination and some of it got on his clothes. This is the second week in a row that I had to turn on the showers in the middle of the night and then do laundry. It has been chilly too.

Beyond that, I've been faced with the expected types of camper problems, like homesickness, broken glasses, chapped lips, headaches, and an earache. Next week, we'll have at least 50 kids more than this week. There is definitely some sort of illness making the rounds right now.

At home, Jeanine found a neat spider in one of the kitchen drawers. It looks like Zoropsis spinimana, a European invasive species. It now lives in the ferns out front.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Sunrise, As Photogenic As Ever

Here are a couple of sunrise photos, taken late last week.

Rain is back in the forecast for next week. I'm betting that the chance of rain will dwindle as we get closer to the date. Forecasters appear to engage in wishful thinking more often than not.

There is a robin in the bush out my window right now, and I can see seven doves perched on a power line, plus two in the yard. Other than Dash, the chickens still haven't started laying yet this year. Their rent is overdue.

After a night off, I'm heading back to work tonight. There are supposed to be around 150 kids at camp this week.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Happy Martin Luther King Day

I've got the night off work tonight in honor of Martin Luther King's birthday. We're celebrating by going to a balloon jam (that's an idea sharing session for balloon artists) tonight. These always happen at restaurants, and tonight we'll be at Harry's Hofbrau, which serves German food, meaning that 99% of the menu is meat. It's a good thing the vegetarian side dishes are so filling. Plus, there's pie. Mmmmmm... pie.

The weekend flashed by. I took Willow to see the latest Night At The Museum movie, which was mildly entertaining in a predictable, made-for-kids sort of way. I also walked around five miles, four of them by myself, and one of them with Willow. I also carved a final rubber stamp, belatedly reaching my goal of carving 12 stamps for 2014.

Here's the second to last stamp. I like the way this one turned out.

Finally, here's some advice from Werner Herzog. Listen to the man.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Oh, Poop

The sky is covered with a wet blanket of grey, but it's not likely to condense and fall. It has been cold though,at least by local standards, with temperatures plummeting into the thirties at night.

The work week is mostly over now. It hasn't been quite as smooth as last week though. Tuesday night, a boy showed up in the hub along with his cabin leader, complaining of a stomach ache. I asked the usual diagnostic questions and then concluded that the boy needed to go sit on the toilet for awhile. His response was, "but I don't have to go." Despite my gut feeling about his gut feeling, I got him a hot water bottle to help soothe his stomach, and sent him back to bed. Ten or fifteen minutes later, he was back, covered in his own poop. How he managed to get it on the front of his shorts and all over his sweatjacket, I'm not sure. A shower and some laundry-doing followed.

This type of scenario is familiar. A kid will come in with a complaint of some type and ask for help, and then will neglect to include some crucial bit of information that will help us diagnose the problem, or (as in this case), initially refuse to do what we advise. I don't buy for a minute that "I don't have to poop" becomes "oops, I just crapped myself" within a quarter of an hour.

This all happened about an hour and a half after another kid from the same cabin peed himself, making it a laundry-heavy night.

I've been setting up my trailcam each night too, although I haven't gotten a single photo this week. Maybe last week was a fluke. It doesn't hurt to keep trying though. I'd better go recharge the batteries so I can try again tonight.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Breakfast Is Back On the Menu

This is the first egg of the year, making it six days overdue compared to last year. I think Dash the chicken knew that Jeanine had just bought eggs. This works on the same principle as a rainy day happening right after you finally wash your car. Hopefully, the other chickens won't be too far behind. Store bought eggs just seem so flavorless once one has gotten used to fresh-laid ones.

So Far, So Good...

Every Monday is like the first day of school here at camp. A new batch of kids arrives each Monday morning, so they've been here for around 11 or 12 hours by the time I get to work in the evening. I have to let them know what the overnight routine is, and while doing so, I work in whatever else I think they need to hear. I'm a bit more no-nonsense with the rowdy groups, of course. We all do what we can to anticipate problems, and we're pretty good at it.

No problems yet this week. In fact, so far I've seen a couple of homesick kids, and that's it. It helps to once again have some tried and true cabin leaders, including one who was here last week and one who has got to be pushing 30 at this point.

The rain that was in the forecast seems to have mostly disappeared. I feel like we're being teased.

Here are a few photos taken during yesterday's walk:

A Night Heron:

An empty percolation pond. The water company occasionally allows them to drain so that they can scrape the muck off the bottom, which enables water to percolate more easily. It's like cleaning a coffee maker, I guess...

A small hummingbird, ignoring the paparazzi.

A turtle. In January. This is why people in other states hate us.

A cormorant.

A dog, attempting to play with Canada geese.

A slightly ruffled egret.

A feral cat.

And that canoe that somebody lost, revealed by receding water.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

I Blinked, and It's Sunday Evening Again

Night has fallen on the weekend, and Monday lurks in the darkness. I did some cooking (enchiladas from the Soy Not Oi!2 cookbook) and stamp carving on Saturday, and today Jeanine and I went for a 5.5 mile walk along the creek trail. The birds and feral cats were out in force, and we even saw a turtle basking in the weak January sunshine. Haze made distances indistinct, and I have a feeling today was probably a Spare the Air Day. We're supposed to (maybe) get some rain by the end of the week, which will sluice all of the crap out of the air and add it to our water table. Joy.

Here are a couple of pictures from late in the week.

Early morning at camp:

Mrs. Charles presiding over one of our fallow garden beds:

Thursday, January 08, 2015

Nocturnal Garden Activity

My work week continues to flow smoothly, untouched by any ripples of unrest. When I got to work last night, my friend/coworker Bat mentioned that there were piles of scat on the benches in the garden, near our compost area. The scat looked to me like bobcat, or possibly coyote. Some looked a bit like raccoon leavings. That said, the placement on benches looked to me like something a grey fox might do, although most of the scat looked too big to have come out of the back end of a fox.

So I set up my trailcam.

This handsome little fellow is a grey fox, which of course doesn't mean that he's responsible for the scat. In the last photo, you can see him (or her, I'm not sure) giving one of the stinky piles a good sniffing. In total, I got 54 photos, but given the nature of infrared motion sensor cameras, most of them weren't the best quality. I'm told that there is a coyote who has been hanging around lately, so I'll probably set up the camera again tonight.

Speaking of grey foxes, next month one of my old high school teachers (my creative writing teacher, to be precise), who is now a grey fox researcher, is coming up to our camp to give us a presentation on foxes. I'm looking forward to it. Check out his website here.

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

An Easy Start

My work week has been ridiculously easy so far, with only around 130 kids at camp. Not only is the number small, but the kids are well-behaved too. The weather has been clear and mild, but the just-past-full moon has interfered with my ability to see comet Lovejoy, which at the moment should be moving into the Taurus constellation.

While the kids are sleeping, I've been killing time watching season one of Orphan Black, and enjoying it immensely (thanks to my brother for lending two seasons to me). I'm also reading "The Sunrise Lands", by S.M. Stirling, which is the fourth book in his Emberverse series, which takes place in a United States where all modern technology has mysteriously ceased to function. It's just the sort of thing that appeals to me. Imagine medieval warfare taking place in modern Oregon, add in fun things like cannibals and tons of Lord of the Rings references, and you have a recipe for fun. Finally, I've been continuing my habit of walking 2 miles a night while listening to music. This week, it's the massive new Leonard Cohen triple "Live in Dublin" set. Leonard Cohen and walking in the dark go well together. Quality entertainment all around, I'd say.

The only incident of note so far was the mysterious beeping sound emanating from one of the cabins, which was brought to my attention by an irritated trio of boys who had been awakened by it two mornings in a row. On the first morning, it had stopped by the time I got to the cabin, so I didn't follow up on it other than to make sure the cabin leaders didn't have phones with them. On the second morning, the sound was revealed to be coming from an iPad mini, which is definitely not on the packing list given to campers. In fact, this kind of thing is on the "do not bring" list, so I confiscated it and handed it off to his teacher.

Suddenly, it's Wednesday evening, and almost time to head back to work.

Monday, January 05, 2015

Back To Work

In around an hour, I'm leaving for my first night of work this year. My two week break sure vanished quickly. Today, I went out and got a Blu-Ray player and groceries. I don't often buy electronic playthings, but I've been thinking of getting a Blu-Ray player for awhile now. Now that we're halfway through the second decade of the 21st century, I figured I'd take one more little step toward making it seem like I don't still live in the last century. Ha. I'm actually planning on doing some cooking with the groceries. I've always been an advocate of not buying packaged meals, but often find myself not living up to my own standards in this regard. I've got a couple of new cookbooks to play around with though (this one and this one), which will hopefully help cut down on lazy meals. The second one was created by some friends. I can't wait to try out some of the recipes.

Meanwhile, in the yard, urban wildlife is always in our peripheral vision.

Somebody just came by and picked up our old coop, since our chickens have a new one. We should be getting eggs again pretty soon. Mrs. Charles laid her very first egg on January 7th, last year. There are some types of chickens who produce eggs year round, but not ours. Ours take a break.

Sunday, January 04, 2015

More Links

Here are two more interesting lists.

Top Ten Archeological Discoveries of 2014, and The Greatest Scientific Breakthroughs of 2014. Good stuff.

Another List

Here is an interesting "top 10" list. It's a list of the top 10 new species of 2014, although I'm not sure what the criteria for being in the top 10 might be. My favorite is probably the New York Frog, which definitely gets the reward for hiding in plain sight. It got away without being discovered by looking very similar to the Leopard Frog. I've told this story at camp a bunch of times already. I like telling kids that every hike is like a treasure hunt, except that the treasure only gets taken home in your memory.

Saturday, January 03, 2015

2014 by the Numbers

I've always claimed to hate math, but I like statistics and lists. Go figure. Looking at 2014 by the numbers, I managed 138 separate posts here, which is exactly 100 more posts than I managed to squeeze out of my brain in 2013. I'm not sure why that is. I didn't make any resolutions or vows or anything like that. I guess I've just felt like writing more recently.

I uploaded 40 separate posts over at my music blog, which more or less means I went to 40 shows this year. This is exactly the same number of posts I managed to produce the previous year.

Overall, this means I wrote 178 blog entries this year, although the length and quality of all of these varies greatly. I'm not making any vows or promises to write more for 2015, but if I keep up my current momentum, it will happen naturally.

I've already seen two movies this year. On Thursday, we went to see "The Woman In Black: Angel of Death", and while I enjoyed it, I enjoyed the first one (not to mention the stage version, which I've seen twice now - once in London and once in Walnut Creek, of all places) better. It's good to see Hammer producing films again though. The sets were appropriately atmospheric and eerie, old-school style, and I loved the scenes where the ghost is in the frame in such a way that she isn't seen until she moves. This kind of trickery makes movies like this fun to watch, and I may even have to watch it again to see if I can catch the ghosts before they move.

This afternoon, I took Willow to see the third Hunger Games movie, and it was good too. This series is grim fare when once considers its intended audience is teenagers. I doubt either of these will rank amongst my favorites of the year, but 2015 is only days old. I'm not sure what my favorite film of 2014 was, but Jodorowsky's "Dance of Reality" is definitely a contender. "Under the Skin" was really good too.

Thursday, January 01, 2015

Happy New Year

Where once we wrote "4" at the end of a short string of numbers, we will now write "5". Rather artificially, the cycle begins again. These days, I'm generally rather jaded and skeptical about the whole concept of making resolutions at the beginning of the year. Sure, it's good to want to improve oneself, but so many so-called resolutions a mere memories by the time February rears its chilly head above the temporal horizon.

That said, there is no time like the present for forging ahead and mending flaws. The hedonism of the holidays is behind us, and the time for going back to work is quickly approaching. The new calendar (I got one called "Serpentine", which features nice drawings of venomous snakes) is on the wall, showing that, as always, our days are numbered. Today is day number one. I'm going to try out a few minor changes in my habits, but stop short of making any sort of official announcement on the subject.

I spent part of the last day of the year at the mall with Jeanine. The night before, in the midst of the usual chaos that accompanies such things, at the Neurosis show at the Great American Music Hall, she showed how quick her reflexes were by ducking to avoid a stage diver. Unfortunately, this motion caused her glasses to leave her face and meet their untimely end somewhere amongst the feet of the people piling up in front of the stage. When I found them, they were bent and missing a lens. The nearest LensCrafters location happens to be in a mall, and despite my aversion to malls, I went with her to keep her company while she waited for her new glasses to be ready. We wandered through perfumy-smelling department stores (Jeanine had to return a gift that was too small), gawked at all of the silly people, ate mall food (okay, the jalapeno pretzel was pretty good, but the vegan place in the food place couldn't sell me a soda with kale and fresh ginger in it because it wasn't "ready" yet). In short, the experience confirmed and reinforced my stance on such places. As always, it was fun to spend time wandering with Jeanine. We wander well together.

Last night, I celebrated at midnight with Willow and Eva (Jeanine was already in bed) with store brand sparkling cider. Willow's first words of the new year were, "this tastes weird". It was nice to spend New Year's Eve at home. Predictably, people nearby were celebrating with fireworks, but it wasn't as obnoxious as it sometimes is.

Reflecting on the year, I'm happy to say that it was a good one. Willow turned 11 and Eva turned 13, we added three chickens to our little flock, and I got to do a little traveling (Baltimore, Yosemite for the first time, Lava Beds National Monument for the second time, and L.A. with Eva to see Black Sabbath), saw a lot of shows, read a lot of books (but unlike some years in the past,didn't manage to keep track of how many pages I read), saw a bunch of movies, and walked 484 miles. I now have 496 more miles to walk to complete the "Walk To Mordor" challenge on DailyMile. Maybe I'll go for a walk today.