Monday, November 30, 2015

The Future

One thing you’re excited for:

For the following year, I’ve decided to reign in a lot of my bad habits and focus more on my good ones. Rather than waiting for the start of 2016, I’m going to start on my birthday, which is in less than a week. Now that I’ve written about it, I’m more likely to not backslide. I think that I’m going to set myself some sort of challenge for December as well, probably a photo challenge of some sort. At the moment, I’m thinking of doing a photo-a-day challenge, with the stipulation that I can’t use my phone.

I’m also looking forward to the holiday season. It has faded with time, but I still retain a bit of that childlike excitement for this time of year. It's more for the cookies and less for the toys these days though. Willow finally gave me a list of things that she wants, and today I'm going to head out and see what I can find. Like always, we had nothing to do with the national travesty called Black Friday. Somebody should digitally match the voice of the radio announcer covering the Hindenburg disaster with a compilation of Black Friday scenes, and it would be comedy gold with a side helping of schadenfreude. For now, click here and here and imagine...

Since she is a party entertainer, Jeanine is already dressing for the holidays. Since he is a cat, Brian is napping:

Sunday, November 29, 2015

A Long Time Ago...

The night of your 21st birthday:

I truly don’t remember. I don’t drink, so the often-discussed rite of passage of going to a bar didn’t happen. I’m not much of a partier either. Sometimes I think this writing challenge was geared toward people with an entirely different personality type than mine. Turning 21 wasn’t a big deal for me.

Growing up happens in small increments, not with the sudden flip of a calendar page.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Spoken Word

The word/phrase you use constantly:

This changes with time, but lately I’ve been using the phrase, “very good”, as a default reply to anything that isn’t bad news. I think that any constantly used word or phrase is mindless filler, but despite my awareness of this, I find myself occasionally mindlessly filling. It comes with being old and lazy, I guess. I really should be more rigorous when it comes to mental discipline.

At least I don’t say “like” all of the time. Some people seem to use it as verbal punctuation. Even that isn’t as bad as this one poor guy I once had to listen to though. He was an employee of the Marine Science Institute, and he’d come to my work (which at the time was the Children’s Discovery Museum) with a Leopard shark and perhaps another critter or two. It was fun to pat the shark, which felt like sandpaper, but it was a chore to listen to the presentation because the man used the phrase, “you guys”, as verbal punctuation. It was very distracting, and I’m betting he had no idea what he sounded like to his listeners. The fact that I remember this, more than a decade after the fact, is an indication of how noticeable it was.

It pays to be aware of our speaking habits. I try to be aware of mine.

Friday, November 27, 2015


What you wore today:

It’s not even noon yet, so I’m still wearing things.

I’m wearing a whole set of clothes: T-shirt, pants, belt, underwear, socks, and shoes. On top of that I’m wearing a Lava Beds National Monument sweatshirt emblazoned with pictures of stick figures caving. I’m not concerned with things like brand names, so I’d actually have to look at tags to remember what brands my clothes are. I’m not motivated to do that. I just don’t care. There is, no doubt, something on the front of my T-shirt too, but it’s under my sweatshirt, so I’ll have to look. Oh yes, It’s a Solstafir shirt that I got for free when I purchased the CD box set version of their most recent album.

Earlier, I was wearing a jacket too, but I took it off. It was kind of cold this morning. Jeanine and I went to a harvest festival in downtown San Jose. We mostly bought things to eat. I ogled some drone flutes but didn’t buy any because they’re expensive. I did take a business card though, and I’ll probably get one online at some point.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Ex Marks the Spot

Things you'd say to an ex:

This writing prompt seems to have been written under the assumption that “an ex” is one person. I suppose I could choose an ex to focus on here, and the most obvious choice would be Jen, my ex-wife, but there isn’t really anything I feel a pressing need to say to her. Pretty much everything that needed to be said was said, sometimes repeatedly, back in the initial months after our break-up. In the present, I have moved on and so has she, so mostly what we say to each other these days has to do with scheduling, since we share a child. That said, most of our conversations manifest themselves as text messages and e-mails. Ah, the impersonal nature of modern life. Truth be told, in some cases I prefer it that way.

Since it’s Thanksgiving today, I suppose I could say (and mean) something like I’m thankful for the time we had. After all, if we hadn’t met and married, there would be no Willow. I can’t imagine life without Willow. Anything else is just water under the bridge, flowing toward the sea. Besides, if I had anything else of emotional import to say to her, I wouldn’t share it publicly.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Weird Traits

Four weird traits you have:

I can do a couple of weird things with my tongue, which either counts as one or two weird traits, depending on how many others I can think of. I can put my tongue above my soft palate, making it look like I’ve swallowed it. That always grosses out kids. I can also fold it in from the tip, making it look forked (actually, it makes look like there is a miniature person inside my mouth, mooning the world). I haven’t met anybody else who can do this.

I’ve always been good at meeting people on their levels. When I was younger (high school age), I often spent time with friends who enjoyed altering their consciousnesses with illicit substances, and I would sometimes find that I was the only person in the group who wasn’t drunk or high. Despite my sobriety, I would be able to successfully spend time with people who were decidedly not functioning normally. Currently, this skill helps me relate to kids at work. I’m able to put myself into their world in such a way that I can better relate with them. I can be childlike without being childish, and I guess that helps me be better at my profession.

Despite the fact that I enjoy quiet and solitude, I like making noise. Give me an object, and I’ll figure out how to make music with it. If I was more organized, I’m sure I’d have a discography (I do have a page on, but it’s solely based on my contributions to my friend Matt’s work). I have done a few live performances over the years, including one solo performance (opening for my own brother). Once I did a duet with a clarinet player. What was I playing? A plastic drinking straw. Jeanine usually just rolls her eyes at this tendency of mine.

Awkward social situations, job interviews, and even such things as routine appointments fill me with more anxiety (or at the very least, irritation) than wrangling rattlesnakes (of course, wrangling rattlesnakes doesn’t fill me with anxiety at all). I guess I could say that I both love and hate routine. I feel the same way about structure and deadlines. I don’t like them, but I seem to require them, at least to a certain degree.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015


Something you miss:

In my day to day life, I don’t miss anything of note. Life is good, my needs are met, and I have spare time and money to pursue the things I love, and more importantly, be with the ones I love.

One thing I miss is traveling. I feel like I missed out on the opportunity to do more of it when I was younger. There are good reasons I didn’t, of course. Young people don’t often have the resources to travel extensively, and I was no exception. Later in life, I find that I’m typical in at least one regard. I have enough responsibilities and obligations to prevent me from dropping everything and hitting the road on a whim. Up until last year, we managed to do an annual family vacation, but Jeanine’s mom needs us nearby these days, so we can no longer leave the area for overnight stays. I don’t resent her for this, but I do miss our vacations.

Fortunately, we live in an area where interesting day trips are possible. Here are some photos taken over the last few days. Saturday, Willow and I went to an upcycling event (basically, arts and crafts made from re-purposed items) in Alameda to do a little holiday shopping, and also to say hi to my friend Colin, who was selling his amazingly packaged CDs there. Among other things, we got a Lithuanian spit cake (as in turned on a spit, not spat upon) to enjoy later in the week. On the way back, we stopped at Coyote Hills to watch the sunset. Along with clouds of insects, we admired the view for awhile before deepening darkness ushered us back down the hill and back into the car. Despite it being the weekend, the freeway was bumper to bumper brake lights. These days, I really don't like getting on the freeway at all. This outing was worth the aggravation though.

Yesterday, I went with Jeanine, Eva, and Eva's friend Montana to San Francisco. We spent some time on Haight St. so the girls could wander and I could get rid of my money at Amoeba Records, and then we headed west to Sutro Baths where the low sun lurked behind clouds and the water glittered with the promise of evening. Eva had her camera with her because for her, the stated reason for our trip was photography. I only had my phone, but in a pinch, it's better than nothing:

On the way back to the car, we passed a bunch of tweens descending the stairs with selfie sticks. All is vanity, and our society seems to encourage this with products aimed at narcissists.

I'm off work this week, and the last couple of work weeks have been relatively easy, with the exception of a crucial water pipe breaking, leaving us without running water for around 24 hours. For one night, we had a row of port-a-potties at the end of one of the buildings. They were pretty high-end though, with lights and sinks.

Finally, my cousin Peter has moved out here with his family. He has been in town for around a week, starting a new job. He came over on Sunday afternoon so we could meet his twin daughters. They were very cute, and spent a lot of time exploring the house. They especially enjoyed a pair of hand-knitted snakes that were a wedding gift from our friends Jack and Jackie. Here's a picture of Willow with one of the twins:

Oh yeah, looking at the picture reminds me - Willow got braces last week.

Monday, November 23, 2015


A family member you dislike:

I’m fortunate enough to not have a good answer to this. That said, I don’t keep in close contact with my extended family. In fact, I’m sure there are many family members I’ve never met. I imagine that if I talked politics with some of my dad’s side of the family, there would be some heated disagreements, but based on the short amount of time I’ve spent with them as an adult, I have to say that they’re all nice people.

During my first marriage, I had a number of in-laws who irritated me (to be fair, there were also some I really liked), so my answer will simply be: several unnamed in-laws from my first marriage.

As for my current in-laws, I’ve only met Jeanine’s kids and her mom, and I like them. She doesn’t keep in close contact with her extended family either. We’re alike in many ways.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Morning Routine

Your morning routine:

At the moment, during the work week I go to bed in the morning, so I’ll just relate what I generally do after getting up, which often actually happens in the middle of the afternoon.

After getting out of bed, I turn on the lights for the lizards (the Bearded Dragons have a timer, but at the moment, the Iguana and the Sandfish do not), turn on my laptop, let out the chickens (if it’s actually morning and Jeanine hasn’t beaten me to it), and check my e-mail on my phone (deleting most of them unread) while fixing something to eat (if I get up in the morning, I make breakfast, but if I get up in the middle of the afternoon, I usually just make coffee and wait for dinner a couple of hours later).

Then, if left to my own devices, I usually settle in with the computer for awhile. The two parts of the routine that never change are drinking coffee and checking e-mail/Facebook. Neither of them are necessary to life or even happiness, but they’ve become deeply ingrained habit.

I’m thinking of making a renewed attempt to break that habit, because I spend too much time on the computer, and caffeine is bad for people with high blood pressure. I've always had trouble doing things I like in moderation, so I guess it's good that I don't have any really bad habits (like smoking or drinking).

I’m working towards going back to being diurnal, which actually means demoting myself in terms of pay, but right now, Jeanine and I often pass like ships in the night due to our opposite schedules.

I’ve never been a morning person, and don’t often accomplish much within a few hours of waking up. I get a burst of energy at nightfall, which has proven invaluable when one considers my current schedule. I still think there are enough positives to justify reversing my schedule though.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Astrolomy and Astronogy

Your zodiac/horoscope and whether you think it fits you:

Sagittarius (11/22 - 12/21)

Living up to other people's expectations is challenging today, especially if you're busy obsessing over your long-term goals. However, you must be discerning about what you say; if anyone realizes that you're not fully present, they may not want to work or play with you. Although it's nerve-wracking to juggle both realities, there is undeniable potential to your dreams and you have a serious chance to make them real. Life is a tricky balancing act between the past, present and future.

These are usually so vaguely written that anybody who believes in this sort of nonsense can find a way to make the horoscope fit. It’s a “one size fits all” sort of thing. I stick to trying to live up to my own expectations and I don’t obsess over my long-term goals.

In other words, this is aimed at the credulous and the gullible.

Also, I’ve always gotten a chuckle out of people who confuse the word “astrology” with the word “astronomy”, or think that the former is as valid as the latter.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Musical Shuffle

Put your music player on shuffle and write the first 3 songs that play and what your initial thought is:

Mark Lyken & Emma Dove Douglas from “Mirror Lands”

This is a beautiful piece of sonic art from Lyken and Dove, recently released on Colin Herrick’s wonderful Time Released Sound label. Herrick spends a lot of time obsessively packaging his releases to make them special, and this one is no exception (check out the link above). Ultimately, it’s about the music though, and fortunately, that’s beautiful too, with haunting strings and nautical-sounding embellishments over a seabed of mournful synths. A subtle, wordless vocal melody drifts in and out. This is part of a soundtrack to a film which I haven’t seen yet (although the package comes with a link to a page where it can be viewed), and incorporates appropriate field recordings into its musical tapestry to the extent that the sounds here straddle the fence between soundtrack and sound design.

Volcano the Bear The Following Him, from “Commencing

This is from the box set that I mentioned getting in the mail a couple of posts back (many purchases made online come with a free download). Volcano the Bear are sonic adventurers of the purist sort, taking a surrealist, kitchen sink aesthetic and applying it to everything they do. This song is no exception, layering sped-up voices and strange squeaks over a slow, grinding rhythm abetted by a cheesy synth melody. The amount of music on this release is overwhelming. I haven’t had a chance to process it all yet.

Thy Catafalque Oldódó formák a halál titokzatos birodalmában from “Sgurr

This is a 15-minute, Hungarian folk metal song from an album that came out last month, so Like the other songs here, it is relatively new. There is a narration in the middle that, like the rest of the lyrics here, I can’t understand because I don’t know Hungarian, but I listen to enough music in foreign languages that it doesn’t matter at all. The vocals are just another instrument, and the emotion and intent shines through despite the language barrier (strangely enough, possibly due to the fact that I listen to so many songs in languages I don’t understand, I often find myself not paying attention to lyrics when they’re in English). This is like a sonic travelogue for part of the world that I may never visit. The music evokes vast natural vistas and epic questing.

Thursday, November 19, 2015


Five fears that you have:

I’ve always been acutely aware of the possibilities of miscommunication and misunderstandings, which can lead to becoming embarrassed and/or looking like a fool. This might be at the root of my mild phobia of talking on the phone. I intensely dislike looking like a fool, to such an extent that sometimes I act like a fool on purpose, thus taking charge of my foolishness. Is it a fear? I suppose so. Comedy is my armor.

Terminal disease scares me. The possibility of something lethal quietly growing inside of me is terrifying. I read about people dying of cancer all of the time, most of them my age or younger. It just doesn’t seem fair. Then again, nobody ever said that life is fair.

That’s pretty much it. I could break these two into sub-categories in order to reach the number of fears requested by the prompt, but these are the only two that really ever occupy any space in my head. I suppose I have a fear of bodily injury, bad things happening to my loved ones (parents are always more vulnerable than people without kids), and all of the other usual things, but I would categorize these under “an awareness of possible danger” rather than outright fear. To me, “fear” is a strong word, much like “hate”. People use these words much too freely, hating this and fearing that. Me? I dislike this and am wary of that.

As I was thinking about this, the following picture popped up in an article I was reading:

My fears are in the "daily life" and "personal future" categories. I am aware of the other hazards, especially the "environment" category, since part of my job is teaching kids about environmental stewardship, but I don't consider it a fear. Despite its seriousness, it's more of an abstraction to me. It's also something I'm actively involved in making better. Action often negates fear. Fears are behavioral adaptations (to help keep us safe) and as such, are sometimes beyond our ability to easily control (like phobias involving spiders, heights, etc.).

Wednesday, November 18, 2015


Your favorite color and why:

I know it’s not technically a color, but I’ve always really liked black. To me, it represents mystery, a veil across hidden corners. I’ve always liked nighttime and fog for the same reason.

As far as real colors go, I have a fondness for natural colors, especially green. I like the way various shades of green blend together in the forests and fields. Mossy greens, lichen greens, evergreens, and many more. I can feel my blood pressure lowering when I’m surrounded by green.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

A Day In the Life...

Bullet your entire day:

I've actually done this a couple of times before, but have been hesitant to repeat the exercise because for some reason, the other two days ended up being kind of crappy. This attempt was yesterday's writing prompt, but I exchanged it for today's because my work "day" straddles dates, meaning I was still bulleting when I would have had to publish it. It turns out that, due to a simple oversight, I didn't manage to get anything published on Monday anyway though.

11:57 AM - I swing my feet out of bed and into my slippers.

Noon - I turn on a couple of lizard lights and my laptop. There is a package on my chair. I open it and discover it's the new Volcano the Bear 5 LP box set, "Commencing". Joy!

12:03 - I check e-mail on my phone while waiting for my laptop to boot up. 35 out of 53 messages are unimportant enough to be deleted unread.

12:09 - I make breakfast and pat Brian the kitten.

12:18 - Breakfast is 2 eggs, 2 strips of veggie bacon, cinnamon toast, and coffee (from yesterday, microwaved). Time to check Facebook.

12:28 - Listen to voicemail from my bank, informing me that there were some fraudulent attempts to use my credit card (I received an e-mail to this effect a couple of days prior). Wonder if the e-mail and voicemail are themselves fraudulent. Jeanine checks the website she uses to reverse-dial numbers. Some people claim the phone number is legitimate, but others seem unsure.

12:39 - I call the number on my bank's website.

12:55 - Call done. It turns out that the messages I received were legitimate. It's a good thing I never keep large amounts of money in that particular account. Old card is now deactivated, and new card is on the way.

12:57 - More coffee, recheck e-mail and Facebook while drinking it.

1:08 - Done with computer for now.

1:09 - Time to listen to a cassette. I finish listening to Circle "Tavastia", a live document from the end of the last century, and a very good one at that.

1:56: Shower time.

2:09 - Out of the shower and getting dressed. Listening to NWOFHM Attack Vol. 1 cassette.

2:15 - Make bed.

2:29 - Done with side A of the cassette. Time to go do something productive.

2:30 - Do dishes.

2:44 - Check e-mail and Facebook again. Delete 6 out of 11 unread messages and skim remaining.

2:56 - Paying bills.

3:00 - Get distracted by a video in which a Jumping spider attacks an Orb Weaver.

3:08 - Bills ready to mail.

3:09 - Tidy up. Delete 2 more unread e-mails.

3:13 - While listening to side 2 of NWOFHM Attack Vol.1, I look through the Volcano the Bear box set. It's beautiful, but causes me to reflect on my out of control music consumption habits.

3:38 - Done with the cassette. Jeanine is back from getting Eva from school. I notice that she is spreading peanut butter on cinnamon graham crackers. I make one for myself, and add some wasabi snapea crisps to the menu. Brian wants some too. Brian always wants whatever he sees going into our mouths. Brian has yet to learn about wasabi.

3:43 - I go out into the yard and pick up several dozen fallen avocados. Most of them have been partially eaten by the neighborhood squirrels. We're past caring, because the tree has produced way too many avocados this year, perhaps in reaction to the drought. Afterward, I lift some bricks for the chickens so they can check for cockroaches. There aren't any roaches, but the chickens find some other bugs worth eating.

3:51 - Done. Jeanine comes out to give the chickens water and snacks. We hang out in the yard for a moment or two.

4:00 - Recheck e-mail and Facebook. Delete, delete, delete. Check Brainwashed and Post Secret sites, which are updated weekly. Chat with Jeanine while aimlessly clicking around online. Write tomorrow's prompt/post (or should I say yesterday's?)

4:33 - Jeanine and Eva leave to go see The Misfits at the Catalyst in Santa Cruz.

4:35 - I leave to go get Willow from her mom's house. Swans "The Gate" is playing while I drive. It's brutally beautiful. The tops of the East Bay hills are bathed in the ruddy light of the setting sun. The bottoms are in shadow.

4:57 - I arrive at Willow's mom's house. I ring bell and can hear Willow rushing around to get ready. Alex comes home while I wait. We briefly chat. His new girlfriend is in the car and late for work, so we don't talk long. Willow comes out. We decide to eat out somewhere. We head for Aqui in downtown Campbell. "The Gate" has ended. I put in Zbigniew Preisner/Lisa Gerrard "Diaries of Hope" as we drive. Willow waxes poetic about the new One Direction album, and explains that she wants four copies of the CD version for Christmas (each cover features a different band member, apparently). She is getting her braces tomorrow too.

5:16 - We arrive in downtown Campbell.

5:23 - Our food is on the table in front of us already. Aqui is fast. I'm having a falafel roll up (instead of my usual goat cheese quesadilla), and Willow, as she always does, is having the kid's chicken bowl. Willow wants me to solve a debate between her and her best friend: Is death metal considered rock? I get all pedantic about it for a moment. She calls me on it.

5:45 - Done with dinner, we head across the intersection to Rocket Fizz. I buy a peanut butter cup for now and a coriander/orange soda for later. Willow wants a cardboard stand-up of some pretty boy actor. I don't buy it. She doesn't want any candy though.

5:57 - We're back in the car.

6:05 - We're back home. It's dark, so I go out and lock up the chicken coop for the night. Brian is in his pen (one of Jeanine's balloon bins turned on its side), so I get him out. I cuddle with him while checking e-mail and Facebook (damn, I really do spend too much time on the computer).

6:23 - I make coffee, and while it's percolating, wheel the garbage and recycling bins out to the street.

6:26 - Oops. I'm on Facebook again.

6:32 - I hang out with Willow while drinking coffee. She is watching Full House on TV, although she's more focused on scrolling around on her iPod. Kids these days... She shows me several pictures of a happy looking elderly gentleman holding an enormous onion. From his expression, one would think the onion contains the secrets of the universe.

7:18 - I pack lunch (leftover manicotti) and shut down my laptop, then play with Brian and talk to Willow.

7:36 - We head back to Willow's mom's house so I can drop Willow off.

7:46 - We arrive and I say goodbye to Willow. Now, it's time to go to work.

8:06 - I arrive at work.

8:08 - I check in with Otter, who is the hub host this week. There are only 93 kids at camp, which is well below the average number. He tells me that they're good kids. We discuss other random things while I wait for the cabin leaders to arrive from the hillside amphitheater. One of my duties as night host is to have a quick meeting with the cabin leaders on Monday night. The cabin leaders arrive, and I introduce myself. There are only seven cabins with kids in them this week, rather than the usual eleven. The meeting goes quickly because nobody has any issues or detailed questions. One of the leaders mentions that the Raccoons cabin is cold, so I grab the key to the heater room and go turn on the heat.

8:28 - I walk over to the hillside amphitheater and catch the end of a skit, then join Tiger Lily and Squirrel in singing "On the Loose", which is a quiet song to help mellow the kids out. Then, Tiger Lily calls out the names of some kids who need to take medicine before bed. They head for the hub while I introduce myself (every Monday is like the first day of school) and give the night talk, during which I describe my role, our behavior expectations, and the night time routine. The kids seem like a respectful group. After I dismiss the kids by cabin (with a quiet challenge), I grab the nearby hose and put out the campfire, soaking it thoroughly. I turn off the big light above the amphitheater as I had back to the hub. The hub is full of kids, some there for medicine, some there to borrow books (I mentioned this during the talk because with the end of daylight savings time, it gets light before the official wake-up time in the morning, which means kids sometimes wake up before they can get up, so books give them something quiet to do), and some there because they're missing home. I help out as needed, finding time to go outside and play my drone flute. I make periodic announcements about how much time the kids have left before I ring the warning bell, and meet a boy who I might have to wake up in the middle of the night so he can use the bathroom. He decides that he doesn't need to be awakened, but I note where he is sleeping in case he changes his mind later in the week. A girl comes up and tells me that she heard a cabin leader swearing. I ask her who, but she doesn't know his name. She describes him as a blonde male, and I tell her I'll figure out who it was. I find out that there are no cabin leaders answering to that description. I find the boy with the lightest brown hair and ask him about it. He says it wasn't him (either truthfully or because he doesn't want to get in trouble, but he looks genuinely surprised to me, so I think he's telling the truth), but I give him the talk anyway.

9:25 - I ring the warning bell.

9:30 - I ring the final bell. The teachers start night patrol (checking to make sure that lights are out and kids are silent).

9:32 - I watch a cute puppy video with Tiger Lily, followed by the video currently making the rounds about how cats get freaked out by furtively placed cucumbers. I realize that it would make an interesting introduction to an adaptation lesson.

9:35 - We're interrupted by a homesick kid named Night Owl. He says he picked the name because his anxiety often keeps him up at night. He says his stomach really hurts. His teacher and I walk him to the bathroom, and he goes inside and pukes. We look at the stars while we wait. He comes back out and we return to the hub. I get him a hot water bottle to help soothe his stomach, and then we all talk some more. We finally convince him to return to his cabin and try to sleep.

10:15 - The hub is empty of kids, so I return to chatting with Tiger Lily. We watch YouTube videos of arachnids while we talk.

10:30 - Another homesick kid shows up, this time a girl named Hurricane. She is with her partner (we have a buddy system at night, so no kids are allowed to leave their cabins alone). I help her feel better, and the girls return to their cabin. Tiger Lily and I watch more YouTube videos.

11:00 - Our security guard, Apple Juice, arrives.

11:15 - Tiger Lily leaves for the night. I go check the lodge and turn off lights. Then, I check my e-mail and Facebook.

11:30 - I resume reading the novel I'm working on, "Fever Dream" by Preston & Child.

11:45 - Night Owl is back in the hub with his partner, wanting me to put more hot water in his hot water bottle. I do this, and he goes back to bed.

12:15 AM - It's lunch time. I go microwave my manicotti, then continue reading while I eat. I drink my coriander/orange soda too. It's good. Not too sweet - almost more like flavored mineral water.

1:22 - Check e-mail, Facebook, and Discogs.

1:31 - Start my walk around camp (I walk circles at night, ostensibly to patrol, but really just so I can get a little exercise and be outside). I put on my scarf (it's quite cold) and my headphones. I'm listening to "Gore Motel" by Bohren & der Club of Gore. 74 minutes of music that would provide the perfect soundtrack to a spaghetti western in slow motion. The music is appropriate and the stars are beautiful.

2:43 - On one of my circuits of camp, I notice a girl and her cabin leader heading for the hub. The girl is named Waterfall, and she misses her mom. I give her a pep talk which seems to work. They return to their cabin. I finish my walk.

2:48 - I'm done with my walk. I walked 4.16 miles. That's 32 loops around camp. I do some more internetting.

3:00 - Back to "Fever Dream".

3:55 - Done with "Fever Dream". It's a page turner. I finished it in two days.

4:00 - I hang up the little wooden plaques with cabin names on them for the breakfast and lunch hoppers (meal servers) for Tuesday. Hawks are handling breakfast, and Raccoons lunch. I bring my used mug (oh yeah, I had mint tea earlier) and fork to the dining hall. Then, I realize that I never posted my Monday writing challenge prompt. It's Tuesday already. I rectify my oversight.

4:13 - I'm leaning back in my chair and closing my eyes. It's quiet and chilly.

4:20 - Oops. I notice an Indiegogo campaign to raise money for the new Alejandro Jodorowsky film, "Endless Poetry". I donate $15.00. That's the problem with sitting there in front of a laptop all night. Problem for me, not for Jodorowsky, who is now $15.00 closer to meeting his goal (although it looks like the initial goal has already been surpassed).

4:24 - Leaning back in my chair again...

5:55 - Night Owl is back for more hot water. He seems to be doing better though.

6:03 - I turn on the cabin heaters (which I had turned off around midnight). More internetting ensues.

6:35 - Six boys from the Newts cabin get sent to the hub for talking. I lecture them and show them where to put their names on the discipline clipboard. I then take six points off of their night patrol score. Their perfect 10 becomes a less-than-acceptable 4.

6:45 - I wake up the Hawks and tell them they're hoppers. Then, using an old trombone, I play loud music to wake up the other cabins. One day I'll learn to play the trombone correctly, but for now, it's a useful tool for ending sleep. Our health aide, Moonlight, arrives. We briefly talk about how the night went. Her husband,Scooby, who tells stories in the morning, is sick, so I'll be taking over the storytelling part of the routine this week.

7:10 - I ring the bell that calls the kids to the amphitheater. Once everybody is gathered (the Newts are lagging this morning), I dismiss the cabin leaders to go meet with Moonlight (she is taking over that duty for me so I can take over for Scooby), and then arrange the kids around the Scooby Tree (yes, he has a tree named after him) and tell them a story (it's a creation story about how the stars and the moon came to be, and also answers the question about why moths are attracted to lights) that I used to tell during our astronomy program years ago. The kids laugh and clap in all of the right places. About five minutes into the story, and hawk calls from the top of a Douglas Fir tree on the east side of camp. I pause so the kids can all get a good look at it. It's really big, and kissed by the morning sun. It's either a Red-tailed Hawk or a Red-shouldered hawk, but it's far enough away that I can't tell. I'm leaning toward Red-tailed though. Then, I finish the story and introduced the kids to Eagle, our custodian. He does his usual schtick about helping keep the bathrooms clean, and the kids laugh in all of the right places. Kids make such good audiences. Then, I turn the kids over to Spider, who is one of the early shift field instructors this week. He'll be leading the pledge, telling the kids their night patrol scores, and dismissing them into breakfast.

7:57 - I depart. Blyth Power's "Ten Years Inside the Horse" accompanies me on the drive home.

8:22 - I arrive home. I chat with Jeanine and play with Brian for a few minutes.

8:49 - I get into bed. Good day.


A quote you try to live by:

I try to live by the so-called Golden Rule, “do unto others as you would have them do unto you”. It’s a good, solid rule, whether one looks at it from a religious or evolutionary standpoint (after all, it’s a good behavioral adaptation). Technically, it’s a paraphrased version of a quote from the Bible, but that doesn’t change my answer.

I simpler version of this is simply, "be nice". I'm not nice 100% of the time, but I try.

I should have posted this before midnight, but I was busy working on my next post (which involves keeping track of every damn thing I do until I next go to bed) and I lost track of the time. The days get away from me sometimes.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Pet Peeves

Three pet peeves:

I spend a lot of time and money buying music, and often treat the internet as a kind of 24-hours-a-day record shop. Over time, I’ve noticed that there are a lot of people who treat it as a 24-hours-a-day cash cow, buying low and selling high. These people are called record flippers. A lot of the music I buy comes from niche markets, which means that physical releases are often very limited. People who buy them up just to make a profit take them out of the hands of people who buy them for listening pleasure. A $20.00 record becomes a $100.00 record in no time. People who actually buy these releases at the inflated prices are only adding to the problem by encouraging this kind of behavior. I’m aware that this nasty capitalist phenomenon occurs in other markets as well (such as homes – one of the reasons we got our current home for the asking price, with a free new roof thrown in, was because we weren’t flippers – the woman who owned the house told us that she was happy that we were planning to move in with our family rather than fixing it up and reselling it).

I’m usually pretty quick on the draw, but occasionally something I want sells out and gets flipped. Get a real job, assholes.

Another thing that really pisses me off is willful ignorance. These days, there is more information at our fingertips than ever before, yet some people seem to know nothing about anything. I sometimes joke that we’ve forgotten to ask the correct questions, but in many cases, people seem to just not care. I’ve definitely met some horrifyingly uninformed individuals over the years, and some of them even seem proud of their lack of knowledge. Unfortunately, a lot of these people are currently vying for the republican presidential nomination. Just what the world needs.

And then there are people who act like they’re entitled to more than the rest of us. We’ve all seen them, stepping to the fronts of lines, imperiously grabbing things from under our noses, stomping their little feet like enraged toddlers when they’re thwarted. That’s ugly.

I have more pet peeves, maybe even enough for them to qualify as a menagerie, but these are the first three that popped into my head.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

The Future

Your life in 7 years:

One of my faults is that I often passively wait for things to happen, rather than going out and making them become reality. Luckily for me, this strategy has worked out pretty well. Then again, I’m pretty good at accepting my present conditions, whatever those conditions happen to be at the time. This kind of acceptance is both a blessing and a curse. It’s a blessing because I’m almost always content, and a curse because I might not know what I’m missing by not taking initiative. I guess I could say that I’m not overly ambitious.

This prompt also makes me think about what my life was like seven years ago. Seven years ago… 2008. In 2008 I was going through a divorce. I had just moved into a small studio apartment, and I still had both of my parents. Willow was 5 years old. Currently, I’m married again and living in a house we own, and both of my parents are dead. Willow is almost a teenager. A lot has happened in the last seven years, and I guess that the marriage and home ownership part are events that I helped make happen (these are things that don’t just happen on their own, after all). The latter was helped by getting an inheritance though.

In seven years, I’ll be about to turn 55. Willow will be 19. I have no major plans that are likely to come to fruition in the next seven years. Maybe I’ll clean the garage or something… More seriously, I’d like to make music. I feel that my creativity needs a jump start. I was talking with a friend on Facebook recently, and she mentioned wanting to collaborate on a creative project. Will it happen? Only if I step up and make it happen.

The short answer to this question is that, barring the influence of outside forces, I don’t see any major changes happening between now and then. Life is good. Sure, it could be great, but I am content.

Friday, November 13, 2015


Your commute to and from work/school/etc.:

At the moment, I have a reverse commute which has the benefit of not involving any freeways. The only bottleneck happens when I hit the morning “dropping kids off at school” traffic.

It takes me around 20 minutes to get to work. I start at home in the suburbs and end in the hills. The elevation change is just enough so that it can be overcast at home and sunny at work. Very occasionally, a storm will bring down a substantial tree near work, and on a couple of occasions, I’ve had to be creative to get in or out (parking and shuttling or borrowing a co-worker’s vehicle, like I did one morning when Jeanine and I had just started dating – I refused to miss our date).

The round trip gives me about 45 minutes of music listening time each work day, which always puts me in a good mood.

I realize how fortunate I am, living in the Bay Area and not having an interminable commute. The freeways keep getting worse and worse, with miles of stationary vehicles clogging the arteries each day. Morning rush hour has blended with the afternoon commute, so I try to avoid freeways completely during the week.

Thursday, November 12, 2015


Two words/phrases that make you laugh:

Poor word usage or atrocious spelling sometimes makes me laugh, but in a derisive way. Same goes for unintentional oxymorons.

The thing about words and phrases is that it is often the unexpected that makes me laugh. If I hear something often enough to remember it well, it loses its comedy power.

As authors go, I often find myself literally laughing out loud while reading the words of Joe R. Lansdale. He can turn a phrase with the best of them, often with darkly hilarious results.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Ferocious Fruit

A fruit you dislike and why:

I’m not a fan of grapefruit, finding it too tart. I’m not a fan of this question either. It doesn’t really lead anywhere interesting. If I disliked a fruit because it insulted me in some way, we'd have a story, but in this reality we share, the average fruit tends to be well-behaved, barring those incidents when rotten individuals are propelled toward the deserving, in which case human help is had.

Inspired by the insipidity of this question, I'm going to come up with an alternate 30 day writing challenge.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015


This particular writing challenge prompt almost coincided with our anniversary. It was off by a day, but I flipped the order of a couple of the prompts, saving the much less interesting one about fruit for tomorrow.

Your current relationship; if single, discuss that too:

Jeanine and I have been married for exactly three years now. Happy anniversary to us!

Strangely enough, we went to high school together, but didn’t know each other then. She remembers sitting behind me in algebra class. In fact, that’s how we re-met on a dating site – I got a message saying something like, “I think I sat behind you in Algebra class”. I never would have had a profile on a dating site in the first place, but after talking to a coworker who had tried it, the whole thing made sense. Online dating opens up a whole new world of people who you wouldn’t meet in your day to day life, which means you’re more likely to find somebody compatible.

Our first “date” was a walk along the trails at Rancho San Antonio Open Space Preserve, and that’s also where I proposed to her (no, not on our first walk together, but sometime later). That was in 2009. Now, in 2015, we’ve been married for three years, owned a house together for slightly longer, and we’re still going strong. The honeymoon period is over (due to various responsibilities, our actual honeymoon was a brief trip to nearby Carmel), but I find my love and appreciation for her still growing. I can only hope that this feeling continues to be reciprocated. Sometimes I feel like I could be a better husband – taking more initiative to get things done in a timely manner and things like that. There is always room for improvement, I guess.

She is quietly competent, owns her own business (she is a party entertainer, with balloon twisting and face painting being her specialties), likes the same kinds of pets I do (I got her a slightly dangerous spider for Christmas a couple of years ago, and she not only liked it, but named it George), puts up with my musical tastes (although occasionally raises her eyebrows and the piles of records and CDs that threaten to take over our living space) and odd hours, is completely unflappable, has a couple of cool kids (Eva is currently fourteen, and Steven is in his early twenties and doesn’t live with us). We’re both introverts, and both make our livings working with kids. She is also selfless and kind, and has as sense of humor compatible with mine. What’s not to love?

Her mom, Irene, lives with us too. She has mobility issues which are slowly getting worse. I know that for some, living with an in-law might sound hazardous, but I genuinely like her too.

Another important thing to mention is that neither of us drink or take any recreational drugs, which makes us part of a small minority. I never used to think that having a significant other who abstained from these substances was crucial for me, but now I realize it really is. She’s not a vegetarian though, but that’s okay. I wouldn’t want to marry somebody who was exactly like me in every way. That would be boring.

Here's to many more years!

Monday, November 09, 2015

Quarry Park

We got some more rain this weekend, and even a bit of thunder and lightning. Dexter the cat spent some time in the closet with his tail all poofed up. He's not a fan of thunder. Brian the kitten isn't fazed by it at all.

Willow and I checked out the new Quarry Park in Saratoga yesterday. It's near my work, and features the remnants of an old quarry, as well as information about the mining (copper and lime) that used to take place there. All of the facilities are sparkling and new, and the gravel-lined pathways are pristine. I think Willow took more pictures than I did. She looked inside the restrooms just so she could marvel at how clean they were. All of the trash cans and picnic tables were brand new too.

From the overlook at the park, there was a decent view of the cloud-enshrouded South Bay.

Today, in the backyard, a gravity-defying squirrel was spotted eating lunch. We no longer care if they eat our avocados. There are just too damned many of them. Have at it, squirrels.


Your feelings on ageism:

I’m betting that nobody ever says, “I’m all for ageism!”, even if they happen to be practicing ageists.

From what I’ve read, for most of human history, people respected their elders. I’m sure there were exceptions, of course, but during a time of very little technological progress and/or in societies without written language, the survival of a group (whether it be a tribe, farming community, or any other similar grouping) depended on the passing down of information through the generations. More often than not, the village elders were founts of information and wisdom. They were the torch passers.

The older you are, the more life experience you’ve accumulated. That said, I’m sure that even then there were people who were so full of being young and in their prime that they resisted the advice of their elders.

These days, one doesn’t have to look far to come across evidence that elders are no longer always treated with respect. With technology changing faster than people can keep up with it (I’ve often said that our technological progress has long outstripped our social progress), a lot of people stick with what they know and avoid new innovations. This leads younger people to sometimes discount the life experience accumulated by the elderly due to their perceived helplessness when it comes to navigating modern technology.

Sure, grandma can’t figure out the computer, but have you ever sat and listened to what she has to say? Yes, grandpa would rather use his rotary dial phone than an iPhone, but he has accumulated 80 years of life experience. For all I know, it has always been this way, at least to a point. We tend to romanticize the past to a certain degree, even if we sometimes discount the people who have actually lived it. As a species, we’re maddeningly inconsistent, aren’t we?
Our society is centered on the young. Just look at who the ads are aimed toward. We tend to infantilize the elderly, and some of them, after enough treatment of this kind, almost seem to buy into it. The next time you watch a funny YouTube video of an octogenarian trying to navigate Facebook or a grandkid’s iPhone, thing about why you’re laughing and realize that your grandkids will most likely be laughing at you for a similar reason.

At the very least, if you’re middle aged or older, you can almost feel the wind from the giant broom as it sussurates across the floorboards to sweep you under the carpet. It’s an iBroom, of course, with all of the bells and whistles of modernity.

My feelings? It’s a shame.

Sunday, November 08, 2015

Books Abide

A book you love and one you didn’t:

Since I would categorize my word consumption as “voracious”, there are many books I could write about. My first instinct is to mention Richard Adams’ “Watership Down” as a book I love, but instead I’m going to write about George Stewart’s “Earth Abides”, since at different times in my life, it has been both a book I loved and I one I didn’t.

The first time I read it, I was because it was assigned reading in high school, and while I enjoyed the post-apocalyptic theme, I was disappointed that there were no supernatural elements to the story. I was still young and immature enough to require monsters in order for my interest to be fully engaged.

The second time I read it, I was finishing up my sociology degree at San Jose State, and I enjoyed it much more, realizing that it was the human story at the core of the book that made it interesting, not the trappings of apocalypse. The collapse of civilization doesn’t need the supernatural to render it fascinating. After all of the intervening years since I last read it, I still consider it one of the more thoughtful entries in that particular sub-genre.

These days, with TV shows like The Walking Dead leading the way, one doesn’t have to look far to delve into the what-ifs of post-civilization survival stories. We’re at our best when our surroundings are at their worst, or are we?

I posit that this cultural interest in the collapse of civilization is tied in with our fears that it might happen in our lifetimes. After all, much of the science fiction created during the mid twentieth century seemed to revolve around the idea of alien invasion, and many of these stories, like “Invasion of the Body Snatchers”, featured alien infiltrators. Behind these fanciful stories was a very real fear of the Soviet Union. Our entertainment choices often reflect our fears and help us work through them.

Perhaps George Stewart was ahead of his time, or perhaps we’ve always feared societal collapse.

Saturday, November 07, 2015


What tattoos you have and if they have meaning:

I have three tattoos. The first was done in the field during lunch in junior high, back in the late seventies or very early eighties. We used a pin and a bottle of ink. If the lunch bell hadn’t rung, I would have a Black Sabbath styled cross on my right wrist. As it is, I have something that looks either like a lightning bolt or the Sowilo (sun) rune, which is the rune of guidance, goal setting, and success. When kids ask about it, I tell them that Voldemort tried to kill me but I put up my arm to block his spell, hence the lightning bolt shaped scar on my wrist, instead of on my forehead like the one Harry Potter has.

The second tattoo is of a crow. I got it in Flint, Michigan in 1995 while on a road trip with my friend, Chad. On our way to Flint, we kept encountering crows, and while in Flint, I took advantage of the fact that one of Chad’s friends owned a tattoo shop. These days, Chad has a much bigger and more intricate tattoo of a crow himself, across his chest like the boy in Santa Sangre. Chad also sung at my wedding to Jeanine almost exactly three years ago. Oh, and these days we both call ourselves “Crow”, me for work, and him because it’s an abbreviation of a family name. Chad sings and plays washboard on this album, which features a song called General Crow.

The third tattoo I got while I was married to Jen, or perhaps almost married to Jen – sometime in 2002 or 2003, I think. I got the image out of a Brian Froud book – it’s of a wood faerie playing what looks like a sitar. At the same time, she got a tattoo of a lavender faerie on the small of her back. I think, from what Willow has said, that she regrets having it now. I like my wood faerie though. It doesn’t have any real meaning – although at the time, the fact that Jen and I got our tattoos together did.

I have no plans to get more tattoos, although I know who I would get them from if I ever change my mind. Josh Visher, an old coworker of mine from my Tower Books days is now a phenomenal tattoo artist. Check out his work here.

Friday, November 06, 2015


Someone who fascinates you and why:

I’ve thought about this off and on for around a week now, and can’t come up with a satisfying answer. There are plenty of people who I admire, respect, love, like, dislike, and am disgusted by, but nobody comes to mind when I think of the word, “fascinate”. Or maybe I just don't want to single anybody out. I sometimes have a hard time writing about specific people.

Taking a more general approach, I guess I am fascinated by our human capacity for acting contrary to our best interests. If one looks at the life choices made by fellow human beings (or at one’s own life choices, for that matter), it becomes obvious that some of these choices (what we eat, how we spend our time, etc.) aren’t doing us any good at all.

That said, much of the time, I’m motivated by pleasure. If something feels good, I tend to overindulge. Eating ice cream is quite pleasurable, but it sure isn’t doing me any favors. And don’t get me started on cheese. Putting off objectionable tasks feels good, but comes back to bite me later. The list goes on. I don’t even have any of the usual addictions (smoking, recreational drugs, etc.) and I still don’t have to look very far to find fault with myself in this regard. Fascinating.

Lack of understanding also leads to fascination. The less I know about a person (whether that person be an inscrutable artist or someone whose motivations are unclear), the more fascinated by that person I'm likely to be. Some of my favorite lyricists are those whose work is layered and full of hidden meaning. I'm also fascinated by cultures I don't understand. If more people were fascinated rather than fearful when it came to foreign cultures, the world would be a nicer place.

In general, as a species, our pathological behavior is fascinating. In true punk fashion, I blame society.

Thursday, November 05, 2015

Living Somewhere

A place you would live, but have never visited:

This is a hard one to answer, because I’m not going to commit to living somewhere I’ve never visited. I wouldn’t buy a house without seeing it first, and I certainly wouldn’t commit to living in a geographic region (whether it be a city, county, or country) without visiting first. That said, for some reason, Scotland and Ireland come to mind. So do New Zealand and Australia. I’d rather live in a temperate or even arctic region rather than live near the equator. I’m not into constant heat and humidity. Scotland, from what I’ve seen in pictures and film, looks ruggedly beautiful. I know people in Ireland, which is helpful. Come to think of it, I have at least one friend in Switzerland too, so I’ll have to add it to this list. New Zealand and Australia are full of interesting wildlife. Living somewhere in Scandinavia might be interesting too, although it would involve having to learn a new language, and at my age, that wouldn’t be much fun. How would I make a living in these places? Not sure.

As for U.S. states that I haven't visited, maybe somewhere like Maine, Alaska, or Hawaii.

The short answer is: somewhere beautiful and interesting, without excessive heat, and populated by people who I share a language with. I'm getting too old to be able to easily learn a new language.

Wednesday, November 04, 2015

Ten Facts

Ten interesting facts about yourself:

Hmmm. Another list. I notice that a lot of online articles I see (and sometimes actually read) are produced in the form of a list. That’s an obnoxious trend, and is one more nail in the coffin of literature, but I’ll do my best to put my dislike of lists aside and answer this anyway. I refuse to number it though.

I have a mild phobia about talking on the phone, especially when it comes to making cold calls. I wouldn’t have a cell phone if it weren’t for the fact that they keep being given to me. My first one was given to me by Jen, who I was then married to, because she was tired of not being able to get hold of me. It was her old one (strangely enough, a few weeks ago, and around a decade after Jen gave me the phone, I got a text from her sister, thinking it was still her number - she probably still had it stored in her phone somewhere). That phone eventually became so decrepit that Jeanine got me an iPhone, so I find myself more or less keeping up with technology even though I have no real interest in doing so.

On a similar note, I’m suspicious of new technology until I’ve worked out the human cost of owning it. This is probably due to my interest in sociology (which I have a BA degree in) and my general Luddite tendencies. I’d probably be better off not owning a computer, but now I’m hooked. It also bothers me when I become dependent on technology that I can’t fix (let alone make), were it to break. I just watched a video yesterday in which a man built a whole house using stone-age technology, and it was fascinating. That said, making things like that isn’t a skill I possess. I seem to think better either abstractly or in two dimensions.

Sometimes I get the feeling that I think I’m smarter than I really am, maybe because most of my knowledge and intelligence doesn’t appear to be of the practical variety.

I’m a hardcore introvert, although my profession involves working with groups of people. Jeanine is the same way.

I feel that I often take the path of least resistance, but so far, this has worked out pretty well for me. I have a good life. That said, I tend to be very accepting of whatever my current circumstances are, a tendency that is both a blessing and a curse. On one hand, I’m always relatively happy, but on the other hand, I’m not often inspired to improve my life (with occasional exceptions that seem almost cyclical or seasonal in nature).

My favorite season is Autumn. I like transitions in general, and Autumn is a transitional time. I love wind, rain, and fog, and Autumn is full of promise when it comes to winter weather. Winters, especially lately, have been disappointing in this regard. My interest in transitions is due to the fact that I’ve always been a fan of possibilities and anticipation, and Autumn scratches both of these itches.

The qualities I most admire in others are ones that I don’t feel I possess myself: bravery, self-discipline, humbleness, selflessness, etc.

The qualities I least admire in others are the ones most opposite to the ones I think I possess.

I highly value intelligence. Plus, if your spelling is atrocious, my first impression of you won't be favorable.

I’m reserved around other people, unless I really like them and/or feel comfortable around them, in which case I’m kind of a goofball.

Tuesday, November 03, 2015

Newts, Plus Some Kissing and Telling

A couple of months ago, there were little Chorus frogs everywhere. Now, no doubt because of the recent rain, the walkways are crawling with tiny newts. I think we can thank the absence of bullfrogs in the pond for these as well. Adult newts are extremely toxic and any bullfrog ingesting one wouldn't live to repeat the mistake. The larval stage, on the other hand, don't contain the tetrodotoxin that the adults do, and thus make yummy snacks for everybody. This morning, I rescued several from the pathways, one from our staff room, and one from the boy's bathroom.

Here are three of them, hanging out on a moist patch of concrete in the middle of the night.

This is day 3 of my November writing challenge, and this is the only time I'll ever kiss and tell in these virtual pages.

Your first love and first kiss; if separate, discuss both:

I’m going to use my context clues and assume this question means my first romantic love. I could feign ignorance and talk about my childhood love for dinosaurs and monster movies, but no…

My first love was a girl named Sara. I was kind of a late bloomer, not due to a lack of interest, but because I was shy around the opposite sex and had low self-esteem when it came to my confidence in attracting that kind of attention from girls I liked. So, it wasn’t until I was nearly 20 (or maybe already 20) that I had my first proper girlfriend. I’m not really counting the girlfriend I had in the sixth grade. My sixth grade girlfriend was named Christie Williams, and I still wince when I remember how I asked her out. It went something like: “my friends want me to ask you to be my girlfriend”. That’s right, I was so lacking in confidence that I left myself a backdoor in case she just laughed at me. If I blamed the whole thing on my friends, I could respond to rejection with: “I didn’t really want to go out with you anyway. It was all my friends’ idea”. She said yes though. We sat around together and sometimes held hands. She broke up with me at Redwood Glen, which was the sixth grade science camp back then (it’s actually the same program I work for now, although under a different name and at a different location) because I was a messy eater. I think it was the spaghetti dinner that did me in. Anyway, Sara didn’t come into the picture until nearly a decade after that. I had plenty of female friends in the interim, but I never asked any of them out because I didn’t want to take the risk of introducing a huge awkwardness into our friendship if my advances ended up being rejected. There’s that fear of rejection again. With Sara, she made it pretty clear that she liked me. She was a few years younger than me, and lived 90 miles away. We’d met at Gilman St. (the punk club in Berkeley where I spent the majority of my time on the weekends, and where I still occasionally attend gigs to this day), which was around halfway between our houses. We dated for around a year and a half, with me heading up to Napa on the weekends and often staying there until late Sunday evening. This is when I started drinking coffee. It’s scary when you start to fall asleep while driving. She broke up with me shortly after she got her own car. I think she’d started seeing a previous boyfriend again, or maybe she just wasn’t excited at the prospect of driving all the way down to see me. In my relative naivety, I thought our relationship would last forever, and my agony at having her end it precipitated my move away from home. I suppose that was the lemonade that came from that particular lemon. It was good while it lasted, I suppose. We became friends on Facebook a few years ago, and had an interaction or two there, but she has since dropped off of that particular social media platform (maybe for one or more of the reasons outlined in my answers to the first question in the writing challenge).

I had my first kiss in the 5th or 6th grade, so I must have been 10 or 11 years old. There was a line of redwood trees along the fence at our elementary school, and like many kids, we were drawn to the trees, mostly because if we sat under them or between their thick trunks and the fence that separated the schoolyard from the backyards of nearby houses, we weren’t under the direct supervision of the “yard duty” (in retrospect, it’s funny that we would call a person “yard duty”, as if it were an official title rather than the description of a thankless task – that aside, I actually liked the old lady, Mrs. Larson, who performed yard duty and acted as a crossing guard – she often gave me things, like little wind-up monsters and candy and such). Anyway, one day a bunch of us played a game of Spin the Bottle, and I ended up kissing a girl named Lisa (who, strangely enough, just sent me a Facebook friend request a few days ago). It was very clinical – we pressed our mouths together, inserted our tongues, and moved them around. Our tongues were like two fish, alarmed to run into each other in the dark and frantically slipping past one another. I felt no real spark of excitement, other than the excitement that accompanies doing something forbidden. I was intrigued by the mystery of this weird adult ritual. I also remember going swimming at Lisa’s friend Melissa’s house, where the girls would jump into the pool in such a way that their shirts would ride up. The boys, myself included, were underwater with goggles. Not that there was much to see at that age.

I didn’t kiss anybody else (maybe not even my so-called 6th grade girlfriend, who I have no memory of actually ever kissing), until early in high school, when my friend Cristie drunkenly kissed me at a Michael Schenker show. In the interim, I’d matured enough to really enjoy the experience, and one of my other friends had to pull me away because he was impatient to leave. Due to the fact that Cristie was actually seeing somebody else at the time, neither of us ever followed up on that one kiss. We're still friends though, even after all of this time, and even if these days it's mostly limited to occasional Facebook interactions.

Monday, November 02, 2015

November Writing Challenge

It started raining at 1:50 this morning, and as the noon hour approaches, the ground is wet and the sky is heavy. The rain seems to have stopped for now, but we got some good, solid hours of downpour, including some power outages. This makes me happy.

The work week whipped by in a flurry of darkness and starlight. One of my favorite teachers, my friend Les, was up with his class. This meant I finally got to return all of the books and DVDs I'd borrowed from him. It was a by-the-numbers sort of week though, so no stories to tell.

Halloween came and went. I actually went to a party, but it was as a hired hand. I brought reptiles, plus a tarantula and a Hissing Cockroach, to a birthday/Halloween party in Los Altos. This was the second time I'd been to this particular house, although the first time was three years ago, so the birthday girl was correspondingly older. It went well, and in addition to my fee, I was sent home with a pizza and a ton of leftover spaghetti.

At home, Jeanine counted around 120 trick-or-treaters. For some reason, a lot of kids really don't know how to ring doorbells or say "trick or treat", instead electing to stand quietly on the front step and hope that somebody notices them. Modern parenting paranoia (not allowing kids to go to friends' houses on their own) is probably to blame. This year, I didn't dress up or carve a pumpkin. Inspiration just didn't strike. Jeanine carved all three. She never seems to lack inspiration for such things.

Shifting gears a bit, recently, I stumbled across an online writing challenge, and I thought I'd give it a try. The challenge consists of responding to one writing prompt/question per day for a whole month, and it appeals to me because it will shake me out of my comfort zone (or rut) as far as the kinds of things I post here go.

It's already the second of the month, so here are the first two:

Five problems with social media:

The following answers are based on my experiences with Facebook, since that’s the only social media I currently use.

The omnipresence of clickbait and targeted advertisements simultaneously empty the minds and wallets of the unwary. Even if the user genuinely wants the subjects of the ads, it still results in people having too much of a good thing and not enough of a bank account. My Achilles’ Heel is music and literature. That said, most of the music I find through social media comes from pages I choose to follow, not targeted advertising.

It’s the place where good grammar goes to die, sort of like the fabled lost graveyard of the elephants, except it’s all too depressingly real.

Social media insidiously changes the way people think. Like monkeys, we reach our little questing hands toward the objects of our desires, but the objects are forever changing, and suddenly we find that we desire things that aren’t conducive to health and happiness (for instance, stupid viral videos, arguments that go around in downward spirals of ever-increasing fallaciousness, blood-pressure-inducing articles about human idiocy, etc.). It’s like a drug that leaves the user wanting more and more. Since it’s updated in real time, there is always a new fix to be had, 24 hours a day. It’s easier to sit down in front of one’s favorite electronic device and scroll than it is to spend time accomplishing real world things.

Did I mention that social media is the grandfather of all time sucks? It’s like a black hole where all of our good intentions go to die.

It’s passive entertainment masquerading as active interaction. What we see is chosen for us, mainly because it’s easier just to scroll down the page than it is to premeditate our reason for being there.

Social media reveals that many people in our lives are rather vapid, which is kind of depressing. For example, many people tend to “share” things on Facebook as true, when they are obviously satire. It’s pretty simple to take the extra seconds to either closely read the article or do some quick background searching.

Oops. That was more than five. It might have been more challenging to come up with five advantages of social media. Writing only about the problems sounds too much like complaining, although it's probably more fun. The best way to write about problems is to pair them with solutions, and the best solution here is to be aware of the problems and simply use social media in moderation. Being human though, a lot of us, including me, have trouble with moderation.

Your earliest memory:

I’m not sure how old I was at the time, but I have a really clear memory of breaking a lamp in my room. If memory serves, the base of the lamp was in the form of a man holding a bunch of colorful balloons. I knocked it off a table (or something to that effect) and proudly went into the other room to show my parents what I had done. I remember feeling confused when they weren’t happy at my ingenuity. My destructive tendencies ended up being the cause of many other minor incidents over the years, often involving my own possessions. I thought it was a laugh riot to hit things (usually toy cars) with a hammer and pretend that they’d been in horrible accidents. The lamp might have been where it all started.