Saturday, December 31, 2016

Final Post of the Year

I suppose I could have gone somewhere or done something noteworthy over the break, but I chose to stick close to home. I didn't even go hiking. The closest thing to that was the walk to downtown that Jeanine and I did yesterday. That said, I guess I walked around Berkeley a bit too, when Jeanine and I went to meet up with Greg, my cousin Peter with his twins (recently turned 4), and aunt Marilyn. This is the first time Marilyn has been out to California since before I was born, and Peter has been showing her around. We managed to cross paths twice while she was here, once at home, and then in Berkeley, where we spent most of the visit in bookstores.

Christmas came and went. Greg ventured down. Presents were exchanged and food was consumed. Eva's present arrived just in the nick of time, and one of Willow's is still not here. If it shows up, she'll be getting it for her birthday instead.

I got Eva a colony of Dermestid beetles, which are mostly used for cleaning animal skulls. Come to think of it, I might borrow them from her if I find anything interesting at work. So far, the beetles have only eaten cat food, but a couple of days ago I found a dead rat on the lawn, so we'll see how that goes...

Oh, we might have a new cat. A couple of days ago, I spotted a fluffy, white cat in the yard. It was too busy watching the chickens to take notice of much else. Jeanine went out and brought it in. She took it to the vet to see if it had a chip, and it does, but the chip was never registered, which essentially makes it useless, meaning we have no efficient way of finding the owner. So far, no bites on Craig's List or the local community forum either.

This will undoubtedly be my final post of the year. Willow is here this weekend, and we don't plan on going out anywhere tonight. Jeanine has a couple of gigs, but should be home well before midnight. Tomorrow, I plan on going to Gilman for the first part of the Lookouting festival, which is spread out over this weekend and the next. Eva was there last night and her friend's car got broken into, so she lost her phone and an expensive make-up kit. A parting kick from 2016? I guess that neighborhood has never been the best, but I always felt perfectly safe parking there. Until now. Jeanine had the foresight to insure Eva's phone though, so a replacement is already on the way.

But I ramble...

Willow has a plan to try going vegetarian, at least for the month of January. Today, she wants to go out and have a burger though. I'd laugh, but I spent yesterday buying a crapload of music online in preparation for my plan to buy none during January. The apple doesn't fall far from the tree, I guess...

2016 definitely had some lowlights, none of which I'll recap here. One highlight for me was that 2016 was the year that I finally started to learn how to play guitar. It's also the year that I ended my time as the night supervisor at camp and went back to being a field instructor. We got a new boss too, and she's a breath of fresh air after the interim director we were briefly saddled with.

Politically, I despair. Personally, I'll keep doing what I do. Yeah, I have some so-called resolutions in mind. Maybe some of them will stick this year. In addition to my annual attempt to cut down on my unsustainable music spending habits, I'm going to try and severely limit my time online at the start of the year, at least when it comes to Facebook and such. Recently, Willow actually voluntarily deleted some of her social media apps, so she has finally (independently) come to the conclusion that she spends to much time on social media as well. This way, we'll be able to benefit from mutual support.

Here's to the coming year. Let it be a good one.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

A Final Week of Work for the Year...

We only had around 70 kids attending the final week of science camp for 2016, which made camp seem kind of empty. My hiking group was composed of 17 campers and one cabin leader. We only had two volunteer cabin leaders this week, with two staff members filling in as cabin leaders for the other two cabins (we usually have 11 cabins full of kids). Thursday brought a deluge, and the road to camp was briefly blocked when a large Madrone tree fell across some power lines. It was still there when I drove out, looming ominously above the asphalt, propped up by nearly nothing. I'm not sure why the utility people were allowing us through at that time, but probably because they'd turned the power off.

On Wednesday, I took the kids on my favorite winter route for the all day hike. The forest is beautiful when the weather is rainy and foggy.

During the rainstorm, on a whim, I had the kids dig around an old Mountain Lion kill site (without telling them what it was) to see what they could find. This is all that remained:

Below is a photo taken the first time I visited the remains a couple of years ago. It was pointed out to me a day or two ago that felines will usually go for the brains and hearts first because they contain high levels of taurine, which feline bodies don't produce. Canines, on the other hand, will eat the stomachs because they can benefit from the plant nutrients but don't have the enzymes to break down the cell walls of plants. Due to this, a girl in my group actually stepped on the stomach the first time we visited the carcass. If coyotes had been about, she wouldn't have.

This weekend, my cousin Peter's twin daughters celebrated their fourth birthdays. I went over and celebrated with them, and then headed up to the city for a Neurosis show, which was excellent, as usual.

Willow was out with her girl scout troupe this weekend, having a sleepover. Jeanine has been busy with work, and Eva has been out with friends (she rarely seems to be around on the weekends at all these days). I have two weeks off now. I usually have all sorts of plans to get things done, but end up not accomplishing much. Will this year be different? Time will tell...

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Suddenly December

The weather has gotten colder and rainier over the last couple of weeks, with mushrooms burgeoning into colorful existence along the forest paths. I spent one week at our second site, which is primarily oak woodland, and this week at our main site among the redwoods.

The Death Caps seem to be everywhere this year. I've seen them at both sites.

At our second site, the ground is alight with Jack O'Lantern mushrooms, which are also poisonous, but not quite at the level of the Death Cap. I read that eating one will make a person "open up at both ends", but at least one will live to tell the tale. The other interesting thing about this mushroom is that the gills of fresh ones are faintly bioluminescent. I have yet to see this though.

The wet weather also inspires the newts to be out and about. I don't often photograph them these days, but when I find one in an interesting location, I can't help myself.

I got my car back in the middle of the first of the two weeks chronicled above. The fuel pump was under warranty, so I didn't have to pay much. Last weekend, I took part in a craft boutique masterminded by my friend Bat. Awhile back (years ago, actually), I had the inspiration to make some cards out of some of my old photographs. At the same time, Willow drew some cards as well. More recently, I carved some rubber stamps, so I quickly made some cards using those too. Jeanine, of course, had a stash of Christmas-themed cards that she had made, so I added them to the pile. Between the three of us, we made a whopping $24.00. I also traded some cards for a nice collage made by my co-worker, Acorn, who was selling them at the table next to mine.

Oh yeah, it was my birthday last weekend. Jeanine arranged a set of clues for me to follow in order to find my presents. One was even in the chicken coop. It made me smile.

Putting a damper on the day was the news of the Oakland Ghostship fire, which claimed the lives of 36 people, and obviously exponentially affected the lives of many, many more. In addition to the immediate tragedy, the fallout from this has arrived in the form of the shutting down of DIY art spaces. Being an artist, especially one who (rightly) steers well clear of the mainstream, is hard when it comes to finances and basic survival in the world we find ourselves in. Being one in an area that is rapidly being gentrified is even harder. Moving out to the country isn't an option either. Can you imagine trying to attempt anything provocative in a red state? It's a catch 22. It's hard to live where you can thrive, and you can't thrive where you can afford to live. People are forced to live illegally in spaces that aren't zoned for habitation.

As for the immediate tragedy, my brother lost a friend, and so did a lot of my other friends. I'll share what I wrote on Facebook in reaction to all of this:

I find myself spending my birthday reflecting upon the Oakland Ghostship fire, and the people who headed out to the show without realizing that their journeys were almost done. A good night out quickly became something other. For me, this magnifies my usual birthday thoughts about mortality. We celebrate our beginnings, but never know where it all ends. The clear conclusion is to not put off those things we plan to do. Don't wait until tomorrow. Live. Celebrate lives. Tell people you love them. Be kind. My heart goes out to those who are left behind. I don't think I knew anybody who went to the show, or if I did, they were people I might have met briefly, but ultimately, it makes no difference. A lot of people are never coming home from the show. Sure, this kind of thing happens every day around the globe. People die in great numbers, either by accident or by design, but I feel like these were my people - many of them, although I didn't know them, were in my network of friends, attending the kind of show that I might have attended (I didn't know the artists involved, but I've been to plenty of shows like this one). We pick up the pieces as best we can. Love to all.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Week Off With No Car

It has rained a couple of times this week, but I don't pay as much attention to the weather when I'm not out in it. I've had the week off due to the Thanksgiving holiday, and I've spent an inordinate amount of time inside, mostly because, on Tuesday, my car stopped functioning. After waiting around 2 and a half hours for the tow truck, getting my car towed to the nearest service station, getting told the next day that it was a fuel pump problem that was under warranty from the dealer, waiting another hour and change (this time with Jeanine) for another tow truck to get my car towed to the dealer, and finally hearing from the dealer that they'd ordered a pump from Tennessee (was the really the closest one?) and that my car probably wouldn't be ready until Wednesday or Thursday of next week, I've more or less adjusted to the sudden lack of mobility that being a one car family entails.

Greg came down for Thanksgiving, which we celebrated on Friday instead of Thursday due to Willow being a two family kid and Friday working better for Greg anyway. Jeanine did all of the cooking, and I did all of the driving (using Jeanine's car, of course) to get Willow and Greg. Dinner was yummy. Jeanine pressure cooked an imitation meat roast with stuffing for the vegetarians (Greg and I), while everybody else (including Eva and her friend Michelle) ate more meaty fare.

On Friday morning, I went with Jeanine to the San Jose Harvest Festival, which has become sort of a tradition. The guy she buys her tie-dyed dresses from is always at the festival. I figure that, despite it being "buy nothing day", it's okay to buy things directly from the people who make them. I ended up buying a flute from this guy and a couple of candles.

I've been listening to a lot of records, both trying to catch up on music I haven't listened to and continuing my quest to re-listen to everything I own. At this rate, it's going to take awhile. I also finished reading a book called "White Trash", which is a 400 year history of class problems in the U.S. It didn't tell me much I didn't already know, but it shaded in the blank areas a bit and reminded me that there have always been assholes in the world. Too bad not everybody reads history, because I don't think Trump would have been elected if more people did. As they've done for more that 400 years, people like Trump prey on the uneducated poor with promises that most of us can see for the lies they are. It's interesting to me that he is already backing away from some of his more outrageous statements, and people actually seem surprised by this. Are memories really that short? During the election, his whole persona was calculated to get racists, rednecks, and frustrated idiots to like him, and it worked perfectly.

I go back to work on Tuesday. I'm still not sure how I'm going to get home the first couple of work days this week, because Jeanine is working in the evening. I've got at least a couple of options though.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Autumn Beauty

It was chilly this week, with jackets and hats helping matters a bit. Unusually, I had at least one teacher accompany our group on every hike. Sometimes there were as many as three. Part of the reason for this was that I had at least one student who needed extra support. Naturally, this student ended up being one of my favorites. I'm always drawn to people who are different in some way.

Strangely enough, we found four different species of snakes this week (Garter, Gopher, Ringneck, and of course, Rattlesnake). The Gopher snake was sharing a hiding spot with a toad. Over the weekend, a Sharp-tailed snake was discovered in the kitchen. That's only the second time we've found one of those around camp.

One of the campers in my group found a rattlesnake rattle in the meadow. That doesn't happen very often.

Here are a few photos from the week.

The last two photos above are actually from the previous week, but they very well could have been from this week because I visited the same spots. This week, we had a wild leaf battle, with kids picking up armloads of Big Leaf maple leaves and tossing them at each other. They had a blast.

The photos below were taken using my phone. Once upon a time, I vowed not to become one of those people who takes pictures with his phone, but sometimes it's the closest thing within reach. Despite my dislike for the whole "convenience over quality" mindset, I sometimes succumb.

Now, I have a week off. What to do?

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

More Recent Photos

My laptop is old and cranky, not to mention mostly full, which means that I often put off offloading photos from my cameras onto my groaning hard drive. Over the last few days, I haven't felt quite 100%, meaning I've spent more time in front of my computer and less time being active. The upshot of all of this inactivity is that I've finally gone through the recent photos I've taken. I don't consider myself a photographer. I've got friends who are way more careful in their framing and manipulating than I am. I merely document things of interest. Due to this, I tend to have low standards when it comes to choosing which photos are acceptable.

Here are some photos from the day (Halloween, to be exact) that Jellyfish and I walked the entirety of the Steven's Creek trail, including the part that, unbeknownst to us, isn't actually connected to the rest. We walked around 15 miles, if I remember correctly. Lots of birds. Plus, a bonus Google bike in the poison oak. Plus, a fishy smell where the trail meets the bay.

Here is a picture of Sophie, taken at Willow's party a couple of weekends ago.

And the moon...

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Traumatic Week

It has been a traumatic week, with Trump (or President Pussy Grabber, as my co-worker, Acorn, calls him) winning the election and Leonard Cohen dying. I feel like I live in a bubble within a bubble, working where I do within the state of California, but across the nation, including locally, there are various signs that the bottom-of-the barrel Trump supporters are ramping up their childish intimidation tactics toward those who disagree with them (or don't have the right color skin, correct religion, or just happen to be different in some way). That's not to say that elements of the left have been much better, with rioting, looting, and destruction. What a mess. In short, the politicians (including Trump - he's really no different than the establishment politicians, except for the whole lack of experience thing)are doing what they always do, and the imperfect system benefits those at the top. Right now though, there is a riffraff rampage on both sides of the aisle, or so the media would have us believe.

Does any of this really affect me? Being a white male, and being cognizant of the whole white privilege (not to mention male privilege) thing, I realize that I can hide in plain sight. So, no, it doesn't affect me physically. Emotionally though, it's troubling. All of the things I believe in are at risk.

At work, despite the trauma, things are going well. This week was humid and warmish. Last weekend, Willow had a 13th/14th birthday party camp out celebration on the field at camp. We set up a couple of tents, and small group of Willow's friends (some from camp, and some from school), along with Sophie, had a pizza dinner, went on a night hike, roasted marshmallows, slept on the field in the tents, had a breakfast of chocolate chip pancakes cooked on a camp stove, played a game called sprout ball on the front lawn, and then went on a hike. They also did a rather intense sharing circle inside the big tent while I listened to music in the newly purchased smaller tent. I'm glad that Willow seems to crave conversations with depth. That's always a good sign.

During the week, Willow was sick. She is better now, but sitting out today's soccer game. I feel like I'm coming down with something too, and the symptoms make me think it's the same cold that Willow had.

Finally, here are some photos from my work week. Out on the trails, the reptiles have gradually been replaced by amphibians, mushrooms, banana slugs, and the like. We did find a tiny garter snake and the usual rattlesnakes though. The Big Leaf maple trees are dropping their giant, yellow leaves like they can't wait to get rid of them. One of my favorite moments of the week was running around with the kids and attempting to catch leaves as they fell. Thankfully, nobody collided, which is always a possibility when a bunch of kids are running around while looking up.

When national politics is traumatic, it makes me doubly thankful that my job is therapeutic.

Saturday, November 05, 2016

Verbosity and Photos to Combat a Long Period of Silence

Suddenly, it's November. Halloween has come and gone. Willow went out with her friends, so I didn't see her that night. We forgot to buy pumpkins, but Jeanine purchased this cool little projector a few weeks ago, and it more than made up for our oversight. In short, we projected little loops of zombies, ghosts, and other holiday-standard images onto the window facing the driveway. I easily found an appropriate soundtrack somewhere in the depths of my record collection (Vagina Dentata Organ's "Music for Hashasins", if you must know), and away we went. Jeanine counted somewhere in the neighborhood of 75 trick-or-treaters. Every one of them got a balloon wand along with candy.

We've gotten enough rain to dampen the dust on the trails at camp. I've completed the October walking challenge run by my employer, the county office of education, and even though it was a step challenge, I notice that I walked more than 300 miles in October. That might be a personal best. Our team(s) didn't win, but if everybody had walked as much as me (or my overachieving friend and coworker, Jellyfish), we would have won easily.

Here are a bunch of recent photos taken at camp.

Yeah, I know... More spiders and snakes. The Argiope spiders are everywhere right now, and their webs are twinkling with moisture. I love Autumn.

I set up my trailcam in the garden for the first time in a couple of weeks, and I didn't get the expected fox. Instead, I got this:

Raccoons are such clowns.

Friday, October 14, 2016


It's raining today! The drought continues, so it's nice to get an occasional atmospheric spritzing. It replenishes the groundwater and makes everything smell a bit nicer,especially the forest. This weekend is the northern AEOE conference, which this year is being held at my work, and I'm going to head back up there a bit later, but for now I'm going to type and enjoy the rain. Sunday looks to be rainy too.

It has been a couple of weeks since I last posted here, and if I'm not careful, the weeks tend to run together in my memory. Work has been going smoothly, with everybody seeming to have new energy now that we have a new director. With the exception of a handful of hot days, the weather has been lovely.

Last weekend, Jeanine, Willow, and I went to the Renaissance Faire at Casa de Fruta, and it was okay, but nothing special. I bought more musical instruments that I probably don't need, but I figure every home should have a rainstick and something that may or may not be a sintir (wrong number of strings). I got more hot sauce too.

Jeanine and I saw the new Japanese Godzilla movie this week. It's one of the better ones, although I still prefer the original Godzilla from way back before I was born. It seems like I haven't been seeing enough foreign films lately.

Here's some photos from the last couple of weeks.

I saw the frog pictured below two Mondays in a row. It lives inside a hole (bored by a Pine Sawyer beetle)in the huge Douglas Fir stump down by our climbing wall. It tends to emerge and leap away if enough people stare at it.

The praying mantis was inadvertently discovered when I leaned down to extract the large Kingsnake skin from amongst the star thistle bordering the path alongside Lake Ranch Reservoir.

This rattlesnake was near our front gate a couple of Fridays ago. There was a line of stopped staff cars as we all got out to say hi to it. It didn't say hi back.

I've started setting up my trailcam in the garden again. There is a very persistent gray fox who visits regularly. It likes the compost. The first time I set up the camera, it became evident that our barricade attempts weren't thorough enough. The second time, the fox was thwarted.

The three photos above were from last week. The photos below are from this week.

For a couple of weeks in a row, I've been focusing on having the kids help clean up trash around Lake Ranch Reservoir, including along the road leading there. This is what we gathered last week. It includes a couple of self-heating meal boxes, fishing line, and a dirty diaper. This week, a girl got a fish hook stuck in her shoe. Luckily it didn't stick in her foot. This is the same girl who managed to startle a rattlesnake earlier in the week. Luckily the local rattlesnakes aren't overly aggressive.

Last week, one of the campers spotted a deer carcass partially hidden under the trees near the driveway at Sanborn park.

It wasn't all trash and death though. Here are some more pleasant pictures.