Friday, March 25, 2016

More Photos, Taken While Not Sitting In Front Of My Laptop

I feel like this week really validated my decision to go back to working days. The kids were great, saying a number of funny and/or profound things during their time at camp. For example, when we discovered some mating Milkweed bugs, one girl looked down and mock-angrily yelled, "get a room!". At the end of the week a lot of the kids mentioned that they were grateful for the opportunity to get to know students from the other school (we had two different schools at camp this week), and in general, many of the kids indicated that they now have an increased appreciation for wilderness/nature. That's what I want to hear. Sure, sometimes kids just tell you what you want to hear, but in this case, I didn't get that feeling.

Tuesday morning, the first thing I did after opening my eyes was pull back the curtain and look outside. This is often my first action in the morning, but this time the view that greeted me was a bit different:

If you look closely, you can see that she has babies in her pouch. They were wiggling around. By the time I thought to do so, two different neighbors had already called Animal Control for advice. Jeanine later got in touch with the Humane Society (after talking on the phone with some rude person at Animal Control), and the consensus was that the opossum had been scared away from her home by something, and couldn't quite decide what to do. She stayed on the fence for a few hours before vanishing.

And here are a few other photos from my work week.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Monochrome Mornings

I'm back in the field again this week, hopefully this time to stay. Working days tends to keep me away from spending too much time on the internet, which I choose to see as a happy side-effect of my job change. This week started out with some heavy rain, which the kids endured. Some even had smiles on their faces about it all. The girl who fell in the creek today definitely had a smile on her face.

Here are some photos I took last week, one morning when the fog lingered. I've been playing with various settings on my camera, and lately I've taken a liking to the monochromatic look.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Lead Us Not Into...

To illustrate the temptation I'm faced with when I'm online, I give you this afternoon:

After a quick check of my e-mail and Facebook accounts, three musical carrots dangled in front of me. One came my way via a Bandcamp e-mail. Once you buy something through Bandcamp, "helpful" e-mails will appear in your inbox every time that artist or label releases something new. The second and third enticements appeared in my Facebook feed, with one being a recommendation (for a new Polish black/doom metal band) from a friend, and the other being an update from a veteran Italian horror electronics group who is celebrating their 30th anniversary by releasing not one, but three albums.

I'm listening to the Polish band via YouTube as I type. If this was last year, I already would have clicked a "purchase" button or two, but this is this year, and I'm trying to restrain myself. I always tell the kids who get in trouble at camp that they should think before they act, so I'm walking the talk and following my own advice here. I really do have enough music. Besides, I'm over my (somewhat arbitrary) budget for this month already. That's a little sad, given that we're only halfway through the month.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Top Ten (In Order, but Not In Importance)

Here are the ten most recent items in my Facebook feed:

1. Video of my friend's daughter playing on the slide at the park.

2. Link to a news story about the forming of a "Trump militia". My friend who posted it makes the usual snide references to Nazi Germany. I agree completely, of course.

3. Photos of Episode 3 of Hap & Leonard, which is based on a series of books that I absolutely love. I still haven't gotten around to watching the TV show, but I plan to do so. Not sure why I would need to look at photos though.

4. A link posted in a discussion group called Debate Me, of a video featuring a discussion between Rand Paul and Bernie Sanders. Paul comes across as a smarmy, self-interested slimeball, and Sanders is eminently reasonable.

5. A link to a video of a Scandinavian guy happily dancing to accordion music throughout his day around town somewhere in the frozen north, and getting others to join in. Apparently an ad of some sort, but cheerful and innocuous.

6. Another Debate Me post about how Bernie Sanders has just been endorsed by a Wall St. economist. Preaching to the choir.

7. An animated short, posted in the group Folk Horror Revival (one of my favorite Facebook groups) and featuring a fight between death and an old woman who proves that she has more life in her than expected.

8. A video of a short interview with Jimmy Carter in which he states that there is no way he would be able to (or want to) run for president today. He mentions that our democracy has been replaced by an oligarchy. I think that this country has always been an oligarchy, but it's definitely more so now than it was then.

9. A video of Norwegian black metal band Carpathian Forest covering Discharge's "The Possibilities of Life's Destruction". I like the original better. The song doesn't really lend itself to the black metal style.

10. A check-in at Lucille Packard Children's Hospital Stanford for a genetics testing appointment.

I find myself agreeing with all of the political posts above, which isn't too surprising because most of my Facebook friends have similar views to my own. I do have a few people whose opinions are almost polar opposites of mine, and I keep them around because sometimes I like to argue. Plus I don't want to live in a political echo chamber. One of my few Republican friends (and old Junior High school friend, actually) gave me a shout-out in a post yesterday (the post was about another so-called "liberal" that he respected), saying that even though we disagree politically, I walked the talk. That was nice of him, and a reminder that there is common ground in amongst the differences. It's also refreshing to see that a lot of people on the right can't stand Trump. That said, the other Republican contenders are either equally bad, or worse. Trump gets the most press because he's loud and crude. The lowest common denominator can relate to him better. We live in an oligarchy which is aided and abetted by an idiocracy. Hopefully we never add "theocracy" to that description, like Ted Cruz wants to do.

It's a bit of an eye-opener to see grandfatherly Jimmy Carter talking about the current political climate. Maybe "eye-opener" is too strong a phrase. After all, I was around when he was president, and I'm around now. I've seen the changes. Carter remains my favorite ex-president though. He definitely walks the talk too.

The music and video links are just enjoyable distractions, many of which are almost immediately forgotten. For me, the compelling thing about social media (and to a lesser degree, e-mail), is that it is updated constantly, which sends little spurts of dopamine to my pleasure centers. Have a moment of indecision about what to do next? Let's see the latest posts! That said, most of the e-mails and Facebook updates aren't worth my time. None of the posts mentioned above really have any bearing on my day, other than to confirm that yes, there are other like-minded people out there in the world. But I already know that, don't I?

I worry that people in the current generation often don't have thoughts like the ones above. It's easy to mindlessly scroll through social media sites, mindlessly share links (without bothering to fact check them), mindlessly rely on autocorrect, and generally navigate the internet without any real thought. The current generation can't remember a time before (I even sometimes have trouble doing so, which is one of the reasons I've been focusing on this kind of thing lately) the internet. The virtual world has become the real world. People are forgetting how to do real world things.

It will have consequences.

Saturday, March 12, 2016


I just saw a pair of crows chasing a seagull. Don't mess with crows.

Here's a pair of photos from a week ago, taken by my friend Wayne at Dos Pinas in San Francisco before heading out to the second of three Neurosis 30th anniversary shows at the Regency. The shows (the two I saw, at least) were phenomenal, and it was great to see lots of old friends too. Eva came along for the Saturday show, and Jeanine for the Sunday one. Sunday we had Thai food beforehand.

And a bonus picture of Brian, taken by Jeanine.

Friday, March 11, 2016


I'm back in the field now, although with staff shortages, I'll be doing one more week of nights next week. I got to play outside this week though, with great kids, varied weather, and lots of hiking. We even had to bushwhack around a fallen oak tree to get to the creek, climbing through lichen encrusted branches and gingerly stepping over blackberry bushes. I'm guessing that the tree fell victim to the storm we had last weekend. More rain is in the forecast for the next couple of days too. This is good.

I did get a bit of a sunburn after exposing my pale, nocturnal skin to the elements all week.

This is the view from the highest point we reached this week:

I've got a cold right now, which doesn't affect my energy level when I'm teaching, but sure leaves me drained by the end of the day.

We also had parent chaperons this week, which was new to me. One local school district insists on them, and fortunately, the parents seemed like a good bunch. The one who hiked with me was positive and helpful. I've heard from co-workers that having more than one with a group can be a bit of a trial, because the parents sometimes just hang out together and talk while instructors are trying to teach.

I haven't been strictly limiting my computer time over the last week, but I've still spent much less time online than usual, mostly due to the change in my schedule, but also due to being aware of how much time I waste online.

Tuesday, March 08, 2016

Back In the Field

Today was my first official day back in the field at work. I've been the night host since 2007, and although I've led many field classes between then and now, it was always with the understanding that I was still the night host, and just subbing for other staff members.

Technically, I'm subbing this time too, since one of my coworkers is out on maternity leave, but this time I'm staying diurnal and a new position is supposed to be created for me sometime before the end of the school year.

I'm at the Cupertino site this week. The kids and teachers are nice, the cabin leaders seem to know what they're doing, and there are parent chaperons (which is mandated by this this particular school district). I haven't worked with parent chaperons before, but I'm not anticipating that things will be much different.

It rained a little bit, but isn't supposed to rain again until Thursday.

Monday, March 07, 2016

Obsolescence, Planned or Otherwise

When Jen and I divorced, she let me take her computer with me, but it didn't last out the year. I replaced it with the laptop I'm currently using. Later this year, it will be 8 years old, which makes it more or less a museum piece by current technological standards. It's funny how fast the things we use become obsolete, but not funny when one considers how much of this is planned obsolescence. I guess this is what drives innovation. The concept of planned obsolescence is still irksome to me though. It's beyond wasteful. Everything has to have an update every year (or in smaller time increments), and from the complaints I hear, sometimes the updates are less desirable from the prior version.

I still get the feeling that time is speeding up. I wonder if people in other centuries felt the same way. "This new scythe makes the harvest so much faster! It seems like just yesterday that we had to work weeks longer every Autumn!"

I'm guessing not.

We still use books though, and despite the various e-readers on the market, books are the oldest technology still in wide use. Or so I've read. Strangely enough, I think I read it online though. I'm still very much married to the idea of reading actual books and don't see that changing anytime soon.

Saturday, March 05, 2016


I wasn't online at home until late 2001,about 10 months before I started this blog, when I moved in with Jen. We had a dial-up modem, and in order to go online, we had to unplug the phone to plug in the modem. It's funny how primitive that seems now, but at the time, I knew no better.

The good thing about the dial-up modem, not to mention the fact that the computer was tucked away in the master bedroom, meant that it was hard to make it the center of our existence. It wasn't on all day, so I checked it at discrete intervals rather than having it immediately available whenever I had a sudden whim.

One thing I've learned about myself over the years is that if I like doing something, I tend to overdo it. It's a good thing that I never got into alcohol or other recreational drugs. Do I have an internet addiction? Possibly. That's one of the reasons I'm backing off from it this month. So far, so good, although I haven't been as productive as I thought I would be.

There were a couple of days this week when I didn't turn the computer on at home at all. I did take it to work with me though, but I limited how much time I spent on it. I'll also admit to checking my phone at home on those days, just to make sure that there were no messages that required immediate response. We tend to live in a world where people expect timely responses. The younger generations growing up in first world countries (and in some cases, third world ones) know no other way of life. Everything is immediate. Everything is now. That's the thing about e-mail and social media. It doesn't come once a day like snail mail. This creates a desire to constantly check and recheck various inboxes and homepages. As I was typing this paragraph, my phone buzzed twice, indicating that I now have two unread e-mails. It's constant.

In a profound way, to be connected is to be disconnected.

Friday, March 04, 2016


It was while I was working at the Children's Discovery Museum that I first got my credit card number stolen online. I was trying to buy this CD (which means that it was the year 2000), and somewhere out there in the world, greedy little eyes were following my progress. The transaction never went through, and it wasn't until much later that I found a copy of the CD used at Amoeba Records. It's funny how many of my memories are somehow tied to music.

The thief managed to buy an airplane ticket with my card number. Such audacity. I've had my card information stolen online only one other time since then. Given that I have a powerful tendency to treat the internet as a 24 hour record store, that's not too bad.

Thursday, March 03, 2016

More Firsts

I didn't send my first e-mail until after my parents split up. I don't always remember what year certain events took place, but I know that my dad wasn't online until after he moved to an apartment. Come to think of it, I can't remember the subject of my first e-mail either, although I'm betting it was music related, probably involving ordering a record or something like that. I used my dad's e-mail address. I wouldn't set up my own account until much later.

Writing the above paragraph inspired me to go check my current e-mail account, just to see what the oldest e-mail is. It's probably not the first one I ever sent from it, since I think I used to occasionally delete messages. The e-mail is from D#1 (see this post), and she talks about riding her new unicycle and meeting up for a concert. Looking at the e-mail that she was responding to, I see it was a Heather Alexander show. I was looking up Heather Alexander awhile back, only to discover that she is now a man named Alexander James Adams. Here's my favorite song from that long ago evening. I seem to remember that she made us all sing along with the chorus.

The e-mail was sent nearly seventeen years ago. I was working at the Children's Discovery Museum and living with Laura and Kelly in Mountain View.

Here in the present, things have snowballed, which is why I'm currently enjoying the challenge of cutting down on the amount of time I spend online. Some of my newfound extra time is taken up with reading, and some of it is taken up with more immediately useful pursuits.

Wednesday, March 02, 2016

First Computer

My parents got a computer sometime during the latter half of the eighties. It was this huge, hollow beast of a thing that survived on a steady diet of floppy discs. In order to converse with it, one had to consult a dusty grimoire and use the knowledge contained therein to tap out arcane, rhythmic commands on its plastic teeth.

It wasn't user-friendly at all. My brother took to it with much more alacrity that I did, perhaps because he was younger. I used it primarily to type up tape trading lists (that's cassette tape, not sticky tape) because that was during my tape trading days. I can still remember the sound of the dot matrix printer as it slowly relinquished its grip on page after page of those lists. I'd send off the lists with a cassette or two, and get back a different list and a cassette or two, and so it went. It's so much easier to obtain new music these days.

That reminds me. I had friends whose parrot could do a perfect imitation of a dot matrix printer. It was uncanny. I still have those friends, but they no longer have the parrot.

I also used the computer to write bad song lyrics inspired by the bands I listened to, the movies I watched, and my own morbid interests. I turned many of these horrible writings in for credit for my creative writing class. I actually just got an e-mail from that particular teacher a couple of days ago (on a totally unrelated subject though - I doubt he remembers those old writings).

I remember a number of text-based computer games that my brother would play. I might have played once or twice too. Eventually, the computer became obsolete. It was replaced by a newer model, and I think it was primarily used by my mom, who played solitaire on it.

By the time she died just over six years ago, my mom still hadn't gotten online at home. Then again, she never hooked up the answering machine I got her either. I think she knew exactly what she was doing.

Tuesday, March 01, 2016

Beginnings and Endings

When I woke up this afternoon, I did something different. I didn't immediately fire up my laptop. In fact, I waited around 2.5 hours before doing so. I'm trying to break the habit of immediately sitting down and losing myself in the garish unreality of the internet. So it begins...

On a much more sobering note, Jeanine's dad died last night. Ever since I've known Jeanine, her dad has been in various assisted-living situations, with each successive one upping the assistance. Strangely enough, I never officially met the man, although I did see him unconscious in a hospital bed once (after yet another stroke). Jeanine would often refer to him as a "grumpy old fart" or a "stubborn old man".

He was just short of eighty years old. R.I.P., Edwin.

Jeanine and Eva are at a punk show tonight, and I'll be going to work in a few hours. I'm turning off the laptop now.