Monday, April 27, 2015

Home For Wayward Critters

Yeah, I know, no posts for almost two weeks and then two posts in one day. Color me inconsistent.

Most people, let alone young girls, freak out when large spiders appear in the bathtub. My stepdaughter Eva, on the other hand, wants to keep them as pets. Her current pet is a large, female jumping spider (I have yet to sit down and figure out the exact species), who has been living in a jar on our kitchen table for a few days now. It suddenly occurred to me that the spider might like the wax worms I'd bought for the Sandfish, so I dropped one in. Sure enough, in no time, the spider had pounced and retreated up the side of the jar with the wax worm dangling from her face.

I took pictures, of course.

This reminds me that I haven't mentioned a couple of other new additions to our menagerie (*goes and takes a handful of quick pictures, then runs back to computer*). In the middle of last week, Jeanine casually mentioned that she had just agreed to adopt a Ball Python (I love that we both have this kind of problem!). At about the same time, I got a Facebook message from my friend/coworker Cedar, offering us an iguana. He and his partner, Pika, had a pair of iguanas, but the nice one recently died, leaving behind the ass-hat iguana. Did I want said ass-hat? I hemmed and hawed, but eventually said yes. It didn't look like anybody else was showing an interest, so it was kind of a good deed for all concerned. I'm going to try to hold him regularly, and just maybe he'll calm down a bit. So far, he has shown a high opinion of mangoes, but a low opinion of everything else.

As for the python, it came with a sad story as well. Jeanine's friend got it a year ago while at a garage sale. It wasn't for sale, and when she asked about it, she was told that they were waiting for it to die. It was in a cage in the yard, and that is apparently where the people were keeping it. I don't know if it was a pet belonging to a kid who had gone off to college, or what, but it sounds like those particular people should have been arrested for cruelty to animals. Jeanine's friend isn't a snake person, and only took it because she felt sorry for it. Now, it lives with us.

Spring Continues...

Nearly two weeks have passed since my last entry here, but nothing really noteworthy has happened during that time. The kids at camp last week were adorably clueless, as fifth-graders sometimes are. To me, they seemed more like fourth-graders, which is unusual for this time of year. One expects September fifth-graders to seem young, but not April ones. Or should I say almost May?

Somewhat sporadically, I've been putting up my trail cam at night, but have been running afoul of the dew point. Once the dew point has been passed, condensation forms on the camera lens, leading to pictures like this:

Willow and I went for a hike at Rancho San Antonio this weekend, which given its proximity to the suburbs and free parking, was packed with large, loud family groups with their strollers and lunches. Once past Deer Hollow Farm, the people thinned out a bit. It's the same everywhere there are hiking opportunities: most people don't want to exert themselves by doing any actual hiking.

It's sometimes hard to convince Willow to go on hikes, but she generally has a good time once we hit the trail. We have some of our best conversations while walking together.

Surprisingly, given the drought, the little pond past the farm had some water in it. A pair of ducks were having a beach day, and the air vibrated with the hum of bees.

The new goats were doing goat stuff.

And the sky was bluer than blue.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Spring In My Step

The dark sky contemplated raining last night, and even washed us with a desultory drizzle for around an hour before deciding against it. During my nightly circuit of camp, I came across a female Western Toad squatting by a pair of milk crates on the front walk. I hassled her just long enough to take this photo, and then continued my walk.

There were a couple of kids who were full of tears for their distant homes. One was really insistent about leaving, almost like the boy who kept coming to see me last Monday night. I imagine there's a good chance he'll be gone by the time I get to work tonight.

In the wee hours I watched "Night of the Demon" (1957), which is based on the M. R. James short story, "Casting the Runes". It was quite good. Strangely, at one point a character announced, "it's 3:00 in the morning!" and when I turned to look at the time, I discovered that she was exactly right. Spooooooky.

On Sunday, I attempted to go to Hidden Villa and look for Horned lizards, but found the site closed for a private function. It looked like some sort of charity event. This didn't deter me though, because I knew that just down the street, off of Rhus Ridge Road, there is a trail that hooks up with the Hidden Villa trails I was planning on hiking. Long story short, I didn't find any Horned lizards, but hiked for over 5 miles on a beautiful Spring day. I didn't even have to shake any ticks from my legs. I did, of course, find every other kind of local lizard, and in quantity. The first two Fence lizards I encountered were... uh... intent on making more lizards. This morning at work, my friend Otter told me he had something to show me, pulled out his phone, and sure enough, he had a photo of a Horned lizard. He took in at the Grand Canyon though.

Here are a few photos from the hike:

Friday, April 10, 2015

Walking Through the Work Week

After some rain early (very early) Tuesday morning, and a gentle misting the following night, the sky has dried out. Out my window, I see a uniform bone-dry blue. Birds are flitting through the underbrush and taking a worrying interest in the garden. Yesterday, we witnessed a bird snacking on the snap peas. Birds don't understand the concept of ownership, which means our harvest, such as it is, won't be as bountiful as it might otherwise have been.

My work week breezed by. Jeanine recently got a pair of Fitbits from an online trading group (Listia, to be precise), and I've been using mine to log my activity (mainly walking, but also sleeping - it's kind of addictive). It's linked to an app. on my phone, so I can watch the step counter in action as I walk. This means that I've been moving more. My current walking goal is to complete my Walk To Mordor challenge by the end of June, which means I have to walk around 90 miles a month each month until then. So far, it hasn't been hard. I currently have 232 more miles to go, which is pretty good, considering that I started with 1779 of them. I started the challenge around 3 years ago though, and there have been some months in the interim during which I walked very little. At work, I walk loops around some of the camp buildings while the kids are sleeping. Last night, in the middle of a nearly 5 mile walk, a cabin leader came out and asked me what I was doing, and then wondered why anybody would want to do such a thing. Kids these days...

The homesick kid from the beginning of the week ended up going home on Tuesday morning. He came back for a whole hour on Thursday morning before falling apart again. Apparently he had a "spectacular" meltdown. I'm glad that I wasn't around for that. Despite counseling kids with these types of issues for a decade now, I really can't relate very well. I never felt that way as a child. Despite this, most of the time I can help them feel better quickly, but this particular kid wasn't having any of that. He seemed determined to be as miserable as possible. It is said that happiness is a skill. If so, this kid isn't very skilled. One of the teachers indicated that he is profoundly spoiled too, so I guess he is used to getting his way, and his way proved to be the highway.

I took Wednesday night off so Jeanine and I could go see Magma at Slim's in San Francisco. It was a profoundly excellent performance. A somewhat longer review will surface shortly on my music blog.

Shifting gears here, my old high school teacher, Bill the Fox Guy, is the subject of an article here. It's an interesting read. It has been a pleasure reconnecting with him.

Finally, I got a nice surprise this week in the form of a children's book. It was written and illustrated by Loretta Halter, who is a fifth grade teacher for one of the schools that brings students to camp every year. Last year, she gave each staff member a copy of this book, and this year, once again, I found a book in my inbox at work. This one. Inside, she wrote an appreciative message about me, something I'm sure that she did for all of the other staff members who worked the week she was at camp with her students. There was also a big thank you note from the kids, although I'm not sure if these were her students or not. A lot of schools have their kids write thank you cards to the staff, and sometimes kids take it upon themselves to thank us without being asked. Either way, we sometimes joke that these are our real paychecks. This is why we do what we do, and it's always nice to be thanked. Otherwise, I guess it would be a thankless task, wouldn't it? I'm really touched that Loretta took the time to do this. It made my week.

Tuesday, April 07, 2015

A Coyote and A School Trip

Other than one very persistent boy who came and visited me every time he woke up, I had a quiet night. It started dumping rain around 3:00 AM, and by morning there were puddles everywhere. The rain made no difference to the boy. He slogged through the cold and wet so he could inform me of his misery. At least he only had one complete meltdown, and that was early in the evening. All of this was because, of course, he was missing home. Nothing I said seemed to have much of an impact, which is somewhat unusual. I half expect to go to work tonight and find him gone. Maybe not though. Maybe he got over it. Most kids do.

After sunrise, as the kids were filing out of their cabins, I noticed that one cabin was unaccounted for. I found them gathered at the edge of the lower field, shouting about a wounded coyote. It was our friend Tripod, the three-legged coyote who has been hanging around camp for months. This was the first time I'd seen him (or her?) though. Not having my camera in my hands at the time, I took a couple of phone photos which, as predicted, turned out to be nearly useless. I'm including one here anyway.

Oh, and I forgot to mention in the last post that Eva is on the East Coast with some of her classmates, taking part in a school trip to see the historical sights (or sites - both words work here, don't they?). Here's a picture of her playing in the snow while wearing a tank top. Apparently she is impervious to cold.

Monday, April 06, 2015

Where Does the Time Go?

I guess nothing noteworthy happened last week. Either that, or I just didn't find the time to blog. The kids at camp were well-behaved and not very needy, which is always a good combination. One of my favorite ex-coworkers, Raven, was up with her fifth grade class.

Willow had her open house, and she showed me lots of schoolwork saved on the school's Chromebooks. It's weird seeing a computer in front of every chair. Things sure have changed in the last few years. There was also an art show, which featured a couple of her art pieces.

I'm pretty impressed by these, especially the top one, and I'm glad that there is still an art program at her school. These days, so many of the important things in life seem to have fallen by the wayside, at least as far as curriculum goes.

Now, I'm up at camp on a Monday night. The wind is picking up and rain is promised by morning. This is what the sky looked like this evening when I picked Willow up after softball practice.

Willow gets the week off for Spring break this week. I don't.