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A fellow I follow on Twitter asked this question sincerely so I'm trying to answer it. It's not a Twitter sort of answer: it has parts, and history, and nuance. So here it is.

Zoos started off as conspicuous consumption. Some rich person would show off how much wealth they had by accumulating exotic animals and keeping them confined. There wasn't too much thought put intto the animals' welfare. Since the emphasis was on the large and dangerous sorts, the approach towards managing the animals was all about being tough and forceful. The lives of the animals were not all that good.

Over time, zoos became places for public entertainment and more and more, public education. At first this education was "See what marvels the earth has." But as zoos also became places for biological study, the education of the public also became more sophisticated. Everything from evolution and ecological biology to animal behavior was presented in zoos. What also happened over time is that zoos changed in their orientation to the animals and in their orientation to the world. The more zookeepers knew about the animals, the more this changed.

Even when I was a kid a zoo was a fundamentally sad place. The animals moped in small cages. But already this was changing, along with the purpose oif zoos. I read about this change in one of my favorite series of books, Gerald Durrell's memoirs of animal collecting. He started out collecting exotic species from around the world for zoos in Europe. He wrote affectionately and humorously about the animals and his adventures, but in later books he started collecting for a different purpose. He started feeling an urgency to save animals from habitat degradation and overexploitation. He founded his own zoo dedicated to just that. I don't know how much of a ioneer he was, but it was his generaton of zookeepers that began to develop zoos with the modern sensibility.

Modern zoos invest whatever resources they can muster into appropriate environments for their animals. Not all animals really need a safari park type of zoo, but few of them can thrive without some sort of specialty environment. For some of them, it only means that they need a place to hide (a box with a hole in it might do, but there are arificial hollow logs made just for this purpose). Others need places to climb, or complex environments that change from day to day so they can explore. Attention is paid to the kind of social life the animals need. Some animals need a decent sized group to live in. Others are so solitary that they are terribly stressed if they have to share a space with another.

Something I learned when Emma started her job as a zookeeper is that most modern zookeepers are women. This seems to have gone along with a change in mindset about animal care (there's a chicken or egg question here I can't begin to answer). You rarely see a zookeeper with a cattle prod, and never with a whip, anymore. Instead zookeepers use cognitive-behavioral training to teach animals what they need to know to be safe in the zoo environment, to be comfortable and content, and honestly, for the entertainment of the animals. The last time I went to the Monterey Bay Aquarium, they brought down the albatross who lives on the roof (who I had met on an earlier visit thanks to Emma's back-of-the-exhibits access). The handler said to the audience, "You may think that we've brought our albatross here for your entertainment. In reality, we've brought you all here for hers." The albatross proved this was correct by craning her neck around to observe the audience, and when she exhibited her behaviors for them, she was clearly comfortable, relaxed, and enjoying herself.

But why do zoos even persist? We're moving away from the private zoo, the animal-show aspect is diminishing, we all agree that animals should have a natural and comfortable life, everybody hates confinement.

Remember Gerald Durrell and his idea for a safe haven for animals? Many (most? I don't know numbers) zoos see themselves this way. Petting zoos for children are made up largely of rescued domestic animals. At Happy Hollow, where Emma works, a lot of their animals are geriatric, old animals who would have died long ago if they weren't at the zoo (and many of those are on "quality of life watch"--once they reach a point where they are in a protracted state of dying, and they are not getting anything out of living longer, the keepers will help the animals complete their dying). Other animals end up at the zoo in other ways, like the injured turkey vulture (he's kind of vindictive, but so beautiful). But mostly zoos are a haven for species more than individuals.

Everybody knows about pandas, how they have so much trouble living and breeding in the wild. They're such an extreme example that they're not a good one, because they take up a lot of resources for indifferent breeding success. Let me tell you about the lemurs at Happy Hollow instead. Madagascar has a terrifically dangerous situation with respect to its environment. It's large for an island, but an island it is, and it's terribly stressed from many directions. Colonial exploitation combined with limited space for indigenous agriculture and also climate change have resulted in great pressures on the forest habitats of the lemurs.Add to this the direct exploitation of the lemurs. Currently the Malagasy people are trying to heal their environment and save their indigenous species, but they are poor and have few resources (and mixed motivations among the people there, to be honest). They are making progress, but it will take time to save the lemurs' habitat. The lemurs don't have time. Zoos provide a safe haven for lemurs to live while Madagascar works on their end. Happy Hollow is one of several zoos providing a refuge for lemurs, They participate in a breeding program for a couple of species, giving the lemurs a place that is safe and congenial to live out their lives and raise their babies.

The Monterey Bay Aquarium's albatross lives on the roof because she was injured also. But more importantly, the aquarium is a center of conservation work. This takes several forms. One is informing the public with displaysincluding  just what does happen when a plastic bottle hits the ocean, or what we find inside the stomach of a prematurely-dead seagull, or with activities that teach ways that even children can actively contribute towards rebuilding the health of the oceans. Another is sponsoring research. ALmost all animal research has environmental repercussions, even if it's something like how birds learn their songs or what spiders do with all those eyes.

For people, zoos provide a place for research, some of which is vital to preserving species and their habitats, and education: go to any zoo now and you'll see chatty signage and docents who will tell you everything from the life cycle of the animals they're presenting to what you can do to help preserve their habitat. You're going to see it brought home again and again that people are not the only animals that matter. Modern zoos represent a worldview that no longer puts humanity at the top of a ladder of existence, but now in the middle of a web of life, distinguished mostly by our power to destroy or enhance the world around us.
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Tomorrow is the day I get a new left knee made of shiny smooth titanium! I have spent all day cleaning and organizing because the room I will be sleeping in until I can climb stairs again (at least as well as I can now, which is not well) was flithy filthy. No excuses, but some reasons: KI had let the whole house go for some years of grieving, and then I was just beginning to clean up after myself when I had Shakuntula move in, and she promptly filled every space woith boxes so I couldn't turn around let alone clean. But now it is clean (the toip bookshelves could use some serious dusting but I dusted the ones within reach and my friend who gardens for me came over and vaccuumed and mopped while I organized a bunch of stuff). Also in the process I had Zack move my desk upstairs. It consists of two small horizontal filing cabinets in black and an eight-foot hardwood plywood slab. I've arranged it so the files face to the sides with an overhang at each end. When I am back upstairs my sewing machine will live at one end (the end where the drawers of fabric are) and my computer will live part-time at the other end and the four or five feet in the middle I will endeavor to keep clear so I can cut things out on it or lay out maps or writing notes on it. I have it set up by the humungous window assemblage, but I may bring it farther into the room later if I decide I want to be able to walk all the way around it.

Zack had found a futon frame on the street some time back, just in time to put up a number of capoeiristas from Norway on it. For this purpose he moved it upstairs. The mattress is my old mattress from when I was living downstairs. It's really a cozy little room.  Speaking of piled boxes, I still have three or four boxes of papers to go through, but I have them tidied away oin my closet and I will go after them when I am upstairs again. And I've managed to get all but a few albums and  one shoebox-sized container of photos into the old Army footlocker, so that's fewer boxes. That's another project. My family is not so huge that we should have that many photos.

I still have a wee mess to put away before I sleep, and the bed to make (I mean my actual bed upstairs: for the futon, I just piled a bunch of bedding next to it). Also some clothes to take downstairs so I can get dressed over the next few weeks. Some are already down there. Also taking the library books down and the water bottles.

I also watered thje garden pretty well because it won't get otherwise watered until Saturday.

When I get better I'm going to go to work with Emma a few times to help catalog plants at the zoo. She's making a huge map to show where the browse materials are, and also the toxic plants that animals shouldn't have.  Another project is to expose me to the capybaras because they are rodents and I am curious as to whether I am allergic to them! So far I know: rats=sever allergy, mice=significant allergy, guinea pigs=mild allergy. I don't know about voles or gophers.

She brought her best zookeeper friend over soi she could pick up her mail (19th century science books), and we pulled out atlases to show off that our family had a hand in making them. That's what we brag about.
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Today is the anniversary of both my children's births. They are not twins: theyare eight years apart. Today one of them is in the UK, thousands of miles away. He said he worked, and afterwards and his wife celebrated by taking a walk along Butthole Lane until it turned into fields of some kind of brassica. The other lives close, but she worked today too. She said she celebrated by buying a coyote skull.

I'm spending the day with my ailing, possibly-dying dog, and also moving into my proper bedroom at the top of my house, where I have a view of green layered on green, and the last of the Belle of Portugal roses wilting in the apple tree.

The dog might be okay, but if she isn't, well, she had many years more than we thought she might, and she's been my true companion, and I don't want to go too far in this direction yet, until I know whether she's recovering from this.
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Of course it's a mixed bag.

Starting with the personal, I rode up Petřin Hill on the funicular railroad in late August and walked down, and in the process came to the revelation that I had only one life to live and it was stupid to live it unable to walk down a hill in a normal fashion. So I concluded that it was time to get a knee replacement or two.So I have been working on that ever since and I have the surgery scheduled for February which is not all that long from now.

I got titanium teeth last spring, so hopefully no more broken ones. I cannot tell you how much better life is with chewing surfaces on my molars instead of ragged holes.

My dog got surgery and now she is a much happier dog. She is thirteen now, which surprises people. They think she looks and acts like a dog who is just beginning to be old, like eight or nine years, but that's because they didn't see her when she was a young, obnoxious, energetic dog.

I did go to Prague for what may be but I hope is not the last time, and I got to listen to an opera while perched on the steep side of a valley in the forest, and to watch a parade of bagpipe players from all over the world many countries in Europe and Asia. It was the wrong time for linden blossoms but it was the right time for new wine, which can only be enjoyed in a small radius of its manufacture because long travel induces explosions.

Next, family: both of my children have acquired the exactly correct jobs. In these times this is a huge, huge thing. Emma had suffered as a theater costume shop seamstress for six years (she had advanced to "first hand," but that made her work even more frustrating), and now she is a full-time, permanent, career zookeeper. She's even getting to design a training program to help the birds keep from going crazy. Frank was in the UK for only a month when he landed a "Senior House Officer" job at Royal Leicester Infirmary, working in the emergency room. I mention the job title because it is silly. It is actually a junior doctor job: it's equivalent to a residency in US hospitals. It is exactly what he needs at this point in his career, and he thought he was going to have to work as a substitute doctor for a year or so to get NHS-specific experience before he could get it. And the setting is what he hoped for (though he would have taken anything)-- a large, urban hospital serving a diverse community.

So even though 2014 had some trying times for both of them, and for their spouses, they're fine now. Well, not just trying: Emma's husband Jason was very nearly killed by a confused action on the part of his sweet but clearly deranged rescue dog. Jason has a pretty remarkable scar but he is otherwise okay. Frank's wife Hana got hit by a virus as soon as they landed in the UK, and hasn't found a job, but I feel that after she worked so hard while Frank was finishing med school and getting his papers together for the UK, she can take her time and find a job she likes. She doesn't quite agree, but I find that the younger generation is understandably anxious about work and money and home.

Speaking of work: I have had two books published this year, a shortish novel and a novella, and a romantic (do you call them novellettes when they are  just shy of novella length?) story in an anthology. I also wrote another novella that was rejected, a short story that was rejected twice and is now in the limbo of long, long, long response times at that publisher that need not be named, a story that's in submission at another place, several stories that didn't go anywhere, and two stories that are almost finished and will be submitted before the first of the year. And another novelette that was accepted and paid for, for another anthology. And another one that was for a just for fun anthology.

The things that were published this year I wrote last year but I spent an inordinate amount of time editing them. There has to be a more efficient way, and I suspect if the publisher was paying a living wage to the editors they'd find it.

Notice what is missing from the work list: not-Poland. I felt it was a year to focus on getting a bunch of easy things published for immediate small payments, and that next year will be the year to finish and submit not-Poland. Among other things. I do need to work faster and harder.
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My daughter Emma just got hired on as a permanent fulltime keeper at the Happy Hollow Zoo.

This is almost exactly the very best thing she could imagine doing ever. (The very best would involve more marine avians)
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We all know that I am not a language peever, but I reserve the right to hate the word meme anyhow.

So anyway, this week's game is to grab the book nearest you and read the first sentence on page 45: it is supposed to explain your love life. I did it yesterday and the nearest book was 400 Czech Verbs and the first sentence was some damned thing about the accusative case or something and I forgot. But today I was reminded again and the nearest book was the Czech dictionary (don't get me wrong, I've totally been slacking on studying Czech all year, it's altogether unusual for these books to be anywhere near me). On page 45 there are actual sentences, in a sidebar about distinguishing "breast" from "chest." The first sentence is

The pain spread across the chest.

Being that we are in fact fifteen days from the 6th anniversary of the nice fellow's death, it's actually kind of apposite.

Though I tend to feel it in my head (my physical head, not my abstract mind), not my chest.


How to rescue this post from the abjectly emotional? natter on about my living family.

I think I have convinced Hana and Frank to go to Chemnitz with me. Hana has quit her jobs in preparation for following Frank to the UK whenever his paperwork gets approved, so she's available. At any moment Fank may have to duck out and go to the UK for a last-minute job posting, but I don't mind the uncertainty. He's the reason I have developed a habit of flying to Prague, but he is not the only thing in Prague. I'm flying Norwegian Air from Oakland on the 20th of August, which is a strange day for me but it's good to be busy on it.

Emma has gotten a job with Happy Hollow Zoo as a "temporary" relief zookeeper. It puts a limit on her hours and benefits, but it doesn't preclude her applying for a permanent position, of which there are one or two coming up. She's as happy as she has ever been, her husband Jason said yesterday.

This is after a tragedy: their sweet doofus rescue bulldog got her wires crossed and leaped at Jason's throat, nearly killing him in the process. She had to be killed: and grief for her was almost as strong as the terror around Jason's brush with death.
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Apparently the desktop is now a brick too. There was a power outage this morning -- but 1) the computer was not turned on at the time and 2) it was plugged into an uninterrupted power supply device that's supposed to protect it from surges and 3) the other thungs plugged into it arren't harmed so I think that's a coincidence.

anyway my new computer's coming Monday. Between the two dead ones I think I'll only have lost a wee bit since the working files are on external drives and also backed up.

On another front, Emma got a substitute zookeeper job and she's so happy she could cry.

And on yet another front, Truffle met a middle-aged yellow labrador named Henry who is cute and pudgy and thinks she is the bee's knees. He wanted to play and play and play with her. His person says he rarely puts anything like that much effort into playing. She likes him well enough, though not as much as "her" puppy.

And, reading: I finished The Song of Achilles and now I have Michael Chabon's Summerland and also Eleanor Arnason's A Woman of the Iron People. I chose these more or less at random at the library.
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I had not been to the California Academy of Sciences since it re-opened, mostly because it costs thirty dollars or so now. This is a what, infinity percent increase over what we paid when I was a kid? Because it was free then.

so I enjoyed myself but . . . this is long )
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I've been offline more than on since Friday. There are multiple issues. My ISP had its own troubles: they were doing one of those maintenance things for a while on Friday, and on Saturday they had a crash for a while. There also seems to be something wrong with my router, so that sitting absolutely next to it with the tablet I can't get a strong enough signal to finish authenticating. In addition, we had a short at the box that just got fixed, so that meant no phone and no internet at all for most of yesterday and today. Since I'm trying to get files on to the tablet so I can use it to write while I'm on the plane and thus not allowed to connect to the cloud storage, I'm very frustrated.

I've started packing. Phase 1 is identify everything I could possibly want to take and put it in and around the suitcase and carryons. Phase 2 is saying "that's too much crap" and taking it all out again and sifting through it for what I really want. Phase 3 is "wait, I can't last that long with only that," and sifting through the rejects for more stuff. Et cetera. Later, when it is closer to departure time, I get to the phases involving realizing I have forgotten exteremely important things I need to live. I hope to execute those phases before takeoff.

Part of Phase 1 is mending things and hemming things I have never bothered to hem before (almost everything I own that could be too long is). Today I did an eccentric job of shortening pants that could not be hemmed because of the stratewgic placement of zippers and snaps at the bottom. I attempted to replace buttons but apparely Emma has all the buttons? I need to talk to her about multiple things.

I am now in possession of my knee xrays. Each knee has a particular place where bone touches bone: the rest of the knee is normal looking. Also, the doctor's notes say the right knee is worse but the right knee doesn't hurt at all these days.
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Well, I was all about to write a whiny post about how much the "Covered California" plans were going to cost me and how much they wouldn't cover when I went back to check the exact numbers and found that I had somehow been directed to the wrong chart yesterday. Maybe. It looks like the new plan is actually going to work for me.

Currently my doctor and my pharmacy have been giving me hefty "uninsured discounts" and my medicine is actually costing me a wee bit less than it did when I was insured (not my doctor visits, though: they're almost three times as much, but still less than they could be). But according to this chart and the calculator on the site, I'd be paying about $75 a month for coverage, and then well less than I'm paying now for medicine and very much less for doctor visits than I paid before when I had insurance. Which is cool. I'm not one of those people who hangs around endlessly bugging their doctors, but I would like to be able to go in an discuss the complex of ongoing issues I have on a more regular basis. And maybe address with him a couple of them that I've just tended to grit my teeth or apply home care to because the big ones demand our attention.

I don't see any reference to dental or vision on there, though, and that's unfortunate, because teeth are such a vulnerable space -- you get mouth infections and they go to your heart, and that's not good. Also, glasses and quality of life, you know. (on that front, I've applied to the Lions club for vision subsidy, and I'm sure I qualify, but the big question is do they pay for the kind of glasses I need -- trifocals, continuous blend, and a prism? That's a pretty expensive ticket right there. My frames are good, but I've rarely been able to reuse them because they keep changing the shapes of the lens blanks so much that you just can't match them)

On another front, I am making oxtail and beef shank stew with plum wine and the usual vegetables and herbs. I used to eat a lot of oxtail when it was cheap. It was cheap this time, I don't know why.

And can I brag about my daughter? She's spying on penguins for the aquarium these days, that and scrubbing shit off rocks and tallying fish. But it's what she's always wanted to do, and the fact that she can do this now is a step closer to her being able to do it for a living.
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So apparently I am exploring all the different ways a person can have a magical affinity for trees. The latest story has a couple of guys constructed from willow twigs in order to be servants of black magicians. I have an unfinished one about a person who is more or less a dryad. And there is not-Poland, in which the sister is a botanist with extra tree senses (also the tendency to be a seer, but she says much more cryptic and less-detailed things when the subject is human than when it is tree), and the brother has an uncomfortable attachment to the wooded wetland, and will eventually be rather like the lorax, with respect to the urban forest. And I have written a couple of other stories about zelniks which do not highlight their tree affinity but still.

So I don't know. Most of these are pretty urban stories. The big novel starts out utterly rural but ends up urban. So I could call the arc Trees and the City?

on another front, the degree verification finally came. So as soon as the Dean coughs up Frank's letter, his application to Malta is complete: Ireland is next.

and on yet another front: I heard scrabbling in the walls so I think I have to call on Emma and Jason for help with the rat traps again. I am already cleaning in slow motion, so I better pick up the pace.
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Yesterday I gave blood: went to the teacher's recycled junk store in Santa Clara: had a Filipino lunch that I chose badly for (Emma and I were too hungry to choose well and we both chose things that we wouldn't have ever liked, go figure): tagged along as Emma got silk embroidery ribbon: and went to Ranch 99 and stocked up on Japanese vinegar, kabocha squash, bean curd noodle (not bean thread), and macupuno (mutant coconut).

Today I finshed a draft of as creepy a story as I could have written while still having a kind of happy ending. And I have cleaned some of the fridge and I have tried to buy new drawers for it. The drawers are broken in front -- they are flimsy and I have bad door closure habits -- but they cost sixty dollars before tax and shipping from the manufacturer.  I did find them for 45.  But how can a badly made piece of plastic be so expensive?

There's something terribly wrong with my fridge anyway.  I have it set almost all the way to the coldest setting and it's still dripping water all the time and developing mold on the ceiling. I was happy with it till recently, though the door needs encouragement (maybe that's what's wrong with it).

Also I cooked: a massive baby bok choy and tofu stir fry with bean sprouts, mushrooms and bell pepper: a "kugel" of broccoli and onion (it's maybe more like a Persian kookoo), and I cooked the butternut squash that came from the food bank and I roasted strawberries, which was a mistake but I hope to make it all right.  Yeah, you;re going to say "roasted strawberries? What were you thinking? That couldn't end well." But twenty-nine million food blogs insisted that there was nothing better on this planet to do with extra strawberries so I tried it.  The strawberries were those huge blandish wet ones from Driscoll to begin with, but there were two pounds of them from the food bank and I made fine dried strawberries and jam from that kind in the past and they taste good plain with yogurt or whatever so I had some hopes. I'm gong to run them through the blendr and hope they make a decent sauce to eat with macupuno and almonds.

If you're wondering why I go to a faraway ethnic grocery store when I am also depending on a food bank, let me point out that I mostly only buy things there that are very inexpensive and I can't get here, and I only go there when I am running other errands on that side of the hill (like giving blood and getting things for work).

Also from the food bank: a pile of pears, which I am letting ripen for a bit and then I will dry them.

Also, I have not found Frank's UCSC diploma or transcripts, which I thought I gave to him ages ago but can't remember the occasion at all, but I did find a pile of other things useful for his application to foundation years (residency), and I scanned them and sent them to him.

He's applying to Malta and to Ireland, because their deadlines are now and  for various reasons having to do with bureaucratic failures he's more likely to get in there. I should be rooting for Ireland, but I'm kind of in favor of Malta. It's more exciting.  And Hana used to have a Maltese terrier.
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This is from here. I saw it here.

I am now a mother-in-law twice over. Frank had to get deportation proceedings started against him in order to get married. Because, you see, when they start deportation proceedings against you, you have 30 days before you have to leave the country, which meant that the foreign police could sign off that he had a legal status to be in the country on the day of his wedding. And now that he's married, he gets to appeal the deportation on the grounds that he is married to a citizen of the EU.

If you want to see way too many pictures of the happy event, you can go here. Notice, especially, the glass balcony on which the fairytale princess and her consort are standing, in the room full of low arches like unto a salt cave, within the Staremestko Town Hall (next door to the astronomical clock, of which of course there are pictures). Frank is not wearing an orange sateen tuxedo with matching pork pie hat, he is wearing a good dark suit of the type apparently most fashionable in Communist times,along with an orange shirt and tie. Hana is wearing an absolute fairy princess dress and elbow-length gloves and is having the time of her life, apparently. I invite you also to notice the tesselated sidewalks.

Meanwhile, my younger offspring has not been idle. She got her scuba certification, and would have her advanced certification also, but they had to cancel some of the dives for that because of rough water and poor visibility. The weekend her brother was tying the knot 9000 miles away, she was exploring the microbreweries of the north coast. In general she's living as exciting a life as one can in Santa Cruz without doing unwise things.

And I got to be the trick or treat lady at the Agave Agape tequila tasting fundraiser for the Women's Center, by which I mean that I handed little tasting glasses to the people when they came in and I handed them little goody bags when they left. In between I ran around and did whatever needed done. I was far from the busiest person there, but I was plenty tired after.

And I am almost finished with the hundred-years-after story, which is way topical for some reason, and I have figured out so many things I am ready to go back to the beginning of the not-Poland book and revise the feathers off it and then forge ahead and finish it.

I'm thinking that the sister needs her own story, but while I believe she is an interesting person who does interesting things and who has interesting thigns happen to her, I don't have a particular story in mind for her yet. Maybe it's her daughter who gets her own story, I don't know. It will come to me eventually. probably.

Also, I have been studying Czech for almost an hour every day again. I spent time in bed in the morning with the dictionary and the verb book, rying to memorize things and to compose simple sentences with what I'm learning. Then at my break at work I use this online vocabulary quiz thing to try to memorize more words. I figure that just knowing a lot of words would be better than having all the declensions memorized (though I do intend to memorize the declensions!), because it's better to be able to say a thing incorrectly than not to be able to say it at all.
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I collected about two liters of blackberries along the Arroyo Seco path by University Terrace Park today, and came home to make jam.  I almost lost it from spacing out.  But the jam, while too thick, is not burnt.  There's burnt jam on the bottom of the pot, but the rest of the jam tastes good (not amazing).  I think I should make another batch with the berries from Emma's house.  Also, since I am not scheduled at work this week, I think I should get strawberries and make strawberry jam for Emma.  And that will be pretty much it for jam.  Well, and lemon marmalade.  I'm not making apricot jam this year, because except for the strawberries I have a policy of not buying fruit for jam this year.  I've used wild plums and blackberries, and I can use my own lemons.  I decided that jam is not the best use for the Satsuma plums.  I have plenty of other projects for those.  And for the apples.  I used to think home canned applesauce was kind of a waste, but I ate all my applesauce last year and wished I had made more, so I suppose I will make more this year.  If the apples and pears at Emma's house are any good this year -- last year they weren't, and I don't know why -- I can do something with them too. 

I also have figs coming along, but Zack will account for all of them in desserts he makes for the Wednesday night game meeting at Connie's house. I have been dropping by there for a half-hour or so after I walk the dogs at Ocean View park, which has a little hillside path leading out of the dog area.  It overlooks the river and the Boardwalk on the other side, which is quaint and nostalgic for me because Ted and I used to live near there for a few years and when we worked at the Boardwalk we used to go there by crossing the railroad trestle near there.  You're not supposed to take your dogs offleash on the little hilly path but I had gone there several times and met several other offleash dogs there before I even saw the sign.  So I ignore it.

We spent two hours at the berrying today.  The dogs actually got bored after a while and came and stood around me with eager expressions -- like, Can we go do something else now? But when other dogs came along the path they were happy.  I think that's the only place in Santa Cruz city where you can take your dog offleash and get in a mile-long walk.

I'm killing time because I'm getting Emma at about one o'clock in the morning and I didn't put myself to bed earlier and now there's no point.    She's essentially working a double shift this week, and by double I mean double. I did that once -- I worked spinach season at the freezer plant and ten hour days at the small leather goods factory.  I did it because it seemed romantic and I thought it would only be for three weeks because spinach season was really short.  But it went on for more like two months and I was really wiped.  And then one year when I didn't get a teaching job and I was subbing half-heartedly and we were pretty strapped Ted worked as a manager at a fast food joint at the same tinme as he was a cook at the University.  He did it for a few months and then I put my foot down, because while he was doing that I couldn't get a real job because there were the kids and all the stuff around the house to take care of and he was exhausted all the time and I had to take care of him, too.  Most people who moonlight for a long time take on a part-time job for their second job, not a full-time one.  But Emma's only doing this for a week, fortunately. 

I always think in ":we" instead of "I" when I think about doing things or going places, even though "we" has to mean me and the dog(s) nowadays.  Sometimes I remind myself of that Star Trek Next Generation episode where they captured a single Borg soldier and he was completely freaked out about being separated from his pod or whatever it was called. 

I'm all sticky from handling the blackberries. 

Another project I want to do is to take cuttings from the prune tree in Emma's yard, because those are very nice and you don't see that variety around here.  Most of the fruit in Emma's yard is suffering horribly.  I suppose it's from neglect but I have seen neglected fruit trees that had better and more abundant fruit.  I don't see any sign of disease: just mostly empty branches, and last year most of them except for the plums and blackberries did not develop much flavor.

She's ready!  I'm going to get her now.

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One of our teachers (whose position is assistant teacher) is going to take a regular teacher position at another school. It sounds to me like she'll be taking a net loss in her income and benefits, since the new position is part time, but she wants that teacher title.

I'm taking the assistant teacher position that she's leaving, which entails a drop in pay over what I was making before the layoff (but not what I was making during the independent contractor period). Also, part of the desperate attempt to stay afloat after Even Start was defunded was that everybody got cut from 8 hours to six and a half, which means, altogether, when you add the cut in hours and the cut in hourly together, I'm taking about an eighteen percent pay cut. But I'll get my benefits back in a while (I have to go through the whole rehire thing with the ninety days till benefits thing, I think). There's some program with the state called "workshare" which allows unemployment benefits for people who work at places where everyone's hours are cut, which I am not eligible for because at the time that the program was set up for the employees at our center, I was not on the payroll, being an independent contractor at the time.

The overall cut in hours doesn't bother me as much for myself as for everybody -- because I personally do not like eight hour days and will cut my own hours whenever we're low in numbers and I don't have a big project to do. So I shouldn't complain about that part. And the cut in hours was done to avoid a complete loss of health coverage. Well, it wasn't billed as a complete loss. There was some fiddle-faddle about a health care account, into which the center would put a minuscule amount of money and the employees could put whatever they wanted on top of that, and that would be expected to cover all your health costs. Right. Fortunately, my boss's boss told the board that was unacceptable. Our insurance is going to erode a lot, but that's mostly from the insurance companies, which are raising the costs and cutting the coverages across the board. We're changing over to some HMO that makes my boss grimace to name it, but even though I haven't seen the details I know it could be a lot worse.

The smallest cut that any of our workers is taking is a ten percent cut in wages. If you ask me, this constitutes a raise in taxes -- since our wages are public money, paid for out of our own pockets, and it has been taken away from us to fund wars, torture, giveaways to wealthy criminals, and luxuries for their mouthpieces.

I read that the sticking point for the republicans in the house of representatives in voting for John Boehner's vindictive mess was that there was money in it for Pell grants. Pell grants are the thing that allows poor kids to go to college. It's just breathtakingly mean to object to them. But every single dog-damned detail of the whole mess, from the Tea Party ravvings to the Koch Brothers to Obama, is breathtakingly mean and evil Avedon Carol said something a while back -- I wish I remember her exact words, but she said that all this hardship and degradation isn't an accidental byproduct: it's what they want us to have.

When it wasn't so wildly flagrant, when it wasn't so maniacally destructive of everything of any use or beauty in western civilization, you might have been able to say it was because they hadn't learned anything about economics or politics in the last two centuries and they sincerely thought they were going to improve their profits this way. But they've gone so far beyond what could improve profits in any sustainable way that I am forced to conclude that they really don't believe they will be here in ten years and it doesn't matter how bad it gets because the obscene inflation of their wealth at the expense of the rest of us is all there is.

It's a pyramid scheme on a global scale, is what it is. We're all paying everything back to the tip of the pyramid: even our great-grandchildren are.

But, anyway, as of August 15, dog willing and the creek don't rise, I will have a regular job again. It will be in the toddler room instead of the infant room, which has its advantages and disadvantages.

And next week Emma's working fifteen hour days for six days straight, last I heard: and Frank is coming on Wednesday to spend most of August here. So life goes on.
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There are two kinds of blackberries (at least) growing along the Arroyo Seco Canyon trail (that sounds so heavy-duty and hiking-boots grand, doesn't it? But it's an asphalt path along the edge of a city park), One of them is ripe right now. So when I take the dogs down the trail I collect berries, usually getting a good handful each time. That's my fresh fruit -- I feel guilty bujying anything when I haven't finished off the pears and peaches I canned last summer (I did finish off the plums). This summer, I think I'm, drying more of the fruit if I get similar windfalls to last summer.

The sides of the trail are completely lined with these berries, and poison oak, and there's a patch of native honeysuckle. Native honeysuckle is smaller than the thug kind, and has a purplish flower that grows in clusters. It's lacking the heavy fragrance, but it has the sweet nectar: a smaller drop, to be sure. Also it doesn't have the thug growth habit: instead of sprawling all over and choking out everything in its path, it grows gracilely up through the underbrush and sends a few slender waving branches into the air.

I've always been immune to poison oak. When I was a little kid I was horrible about it. I would cart around the leaves and show them to people to harrass them. I didn't realize then that poison oak rash can be really serious for people. Then I also learned that immunity can sometimes go away without warning, so it became clear that it was not a good idea to test that. So I avoid poison oak like other people, except that I don't worry about it when I do. I don't want to find out the hard way that I'm nt immune any more, and I don't want to be spreading the oils anywhere where people might have to touch them.

So I'm pickign these berries and keeping an eye out for the poison oak, which is really lush and beautiful at this time of year, with big, tender leaves and goregous sprays of yellowish-green berries. And then I notice a soft touch at my elbow, which is uncovered because I wasn't thinking about how I'd be picking berries and should wear long sleeves to protect against the thorns. The soft touch is a big fat beuatiful tender poison oak leaf. I'm disappointed that I've failed to notice it before. All the way back up the trail my elbow itches, in that phantom way that your head itches when people are talking about lice.

That was yesterday. I don't have any rash today, though.

On another note, Emma still has a nasty black eye from getting head-butt by a big dog on Thursday. The hospital visit cost, with discount for paying up front, two and a half times as much as the one in Prague. And I'm not sure that the doctor's fee isn't separate . . .
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Frank took us to the Monastery beer garden at the base of Petrin Hill. Maybe not the base, maybe partway up. There's supposed to be an antenna on that r. We had beer and beer-based food. Emma and Frank adored ther goulash in bread bowls: I would have found it too salty to finish. Emma also ordered a beer cheese spread and potyato pancakes but could only eat a little, and I could only help her out with a few bites: way strong. I had beer-onion soup and a kind of blue cheese (don't know what kind of blue cheese) on thin whole wheat toast. And a cucumber salad with roasted pumpkin seeds and a tin splash of soy sauce (I thought it was probably dark beer at first, but it wasn't). We had two beers between us: an amber and the Easter beer, which was kind of lager-y or ale-y, I don't know enough about beer to say. Anyway, my Easter beer was a rich, light yellow color, with a light taste but a strong aftertaste that I called pleasantly bitter and Emma called too hoppy. Frank's amber had a thicker, sweeter (but not too sweet) taste, and an interesting aftertaste, less so than mine. The waiter was terribly surprised that we didn't want more beer.

Not far away in the complex of buildings around the monastery was a miniature museum which seemed to showcase the work of a SIberian who also designs tools for eye micro-surgery. Which explains why his wok features things like horseshoes on a flea and a caravan of camels marching through the eye of a needle. Understand I am speaking of literal fleas and needles and poppy seeds and mosquito wings. The museum has a series of counters which hold actual microscopes which appear to have been made for the purpose as the housings are fine oak. You cannot see the works without the microscopes.

Then we were on our way somewhere else when we had the idea to show Emma the HungerWall. This is a medieval version of the Works Projects Administration. So naturally we walked around the wall for a long time talkng about economics and governments and taking pictures (which I will post some of eventually). Then it felt like time to go and check on the funicular and see if it was running and we were coming down a shortcut and . . .

Emma took a nasty tumble and did something to her ankle, and it took us a couple of hours to just get down the hill and into a tram hotelward. Frank did some quick diagnostics and we iced her up (which involved me having another awkward conversation in Czech at the potraviny around the corner, where they nemaji led but the receptionist at the hotel found us some. Then we sat around talking and Emma chatted with Jason online and after a couple of hours Frank and I went out in search of food which was a minor adventure and finally produced kung pao beef, beef with broccoli, lemon chicken (without deepfried coating), and tiny glasses of plum wine for Frank and me while we waited.

It's early, early morning -- I'm going back to sleep for a while after this, I really only got up to get more acetaminophen for Emma (and me -- I am not damaged but we're on the fifth floor and I've been making a point of hardly ever using the elevator) and to pee. I kind of think Emma will still be in pain today. The pan for today is to put her on a streetcar and to ride around town just looking at things. If she's not up to even that, I intend to take that as a sign that she should be seen. So if it's that bad I'll ask the very helpful receptionist how to do that. They are very fluent in English, so I can dodge trying to express all that in Czech.
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Here we are. I'm posting from Emma's apple laptop, which is a bit annoying but less so than any other apple computer I have ever used. It's about eleven in the morning on Tuesday, and we went out to take care of a little business (metro tickets, cash, some toiletries, and a phone I don't quite understand) and now Emma's crashing and pretty soon I am going to go out and forage snacks.

I keep having linguistic weird moments. A woman approached me at Schiphol -- the airport in Amsterdam -- and started asking me, in Spanish, if I happened to know which gate she needed to find to get the plane to Venice. Recall that this is a language I am not fluent but somewhat functional in. So I was able to tell her I didn't know, and that I was going to the gate for the Prague plane. She seemed a bit startled that I answered her in the language in which she spoke.

My first conversation in Czech went like this:

Me: "Kde je WC?" (where is the bathroom?)
Airport employee, sweeping the stairs: "Prosim?" (excuse me?)

Me: "Kde je WC?"

Airport employee; "Prosim?"

Me: "Toalety?" (another word for bathroom).

Airport employee points and says something which is definitely not the exact words I would expect for "The toilet is over there," or "The WC is in that corner," or any direction words relevant to the situation. But I see where she is pointing so I understand.

And: I said: "Gracias." (oops, wrong language: should have been "Dikuju.")

Second conversation in Czech:

Me: "Chtela bych dva jizdenky pet deny." Not correctly constructed, but roughly: "I want 2 five-day tickets."
Trafika employee points to the five-day ticket representation on the counter with an inquiring expression.
Me: "Si," ops, again: ought to have been "ano."

Third conversation in Czech: Tesco cashier says something I do not understand at all. I hand over my debit card and all is well.

Fourth conversation in Czech:

Me: "Mluvite anglicky?"
Mobile phone employee: "Yes."
Me: "Okay, good. I need an inexpensve phone . . . "

Trafika, by the way are sort of like convenience stores. They carry snacks, newspapers, metro tickets, cigarets, and some other stuff. The trafika where I bought my tickets was in the metro station at Devicka, and looked like an old-fashioned subway staton newstand, but some are hole-in-the-wall shops.

There was an Easter market on the street by the Tesco we went to, but Emma needed to crash so we marked it as a place to go back to later. You can totally buy spanking sticks there.

Frank tried to buy us 5-day tickets last night at the airport, but the Trafika was closed and the machines were misbehaving, so that one of them wouldn't give him anything and the other one decided that "two five day tickets" means "two 75-minute tickets, one of them a half-price one." So we decided that for the purpose of getting to the hotel, we would pretend that we thought I was old enough for a senior ticket. Not that anybody checked, of course. They very rarely do.

I'm going to go forage now. There's a cheese deli and a bread shop in this block.
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I was sick Thursday and Friday and I came home early both those days because I could. I decided to go dancing Friday night anyway and I believe it was the right decision.

However: I did not go to Lighthouse Field: I did not go to the forest: I did not finish pruning the apple tree quick quick before three weeks of rain comes down: I did not yet clean the kitchen or do the laundry.

I made a simmified and futurificated rendition of my own bedroom for the "attic" contest at Black Pearl Sims, and I wrote a paltry chapter in the silly-sweet novella for fictionpress (nobody seems to go into automatic "nobody should write except for pay" diatribes anymore, but let me tell you, if you were thinking of it, that what I write for fictionpress has no paying market anywhere but it does have a bit of a following. Nobody charges anybody for anything: it's just an old-fashioned APA, facilitated by some webmaster somewhere who makes a living off the ads -- which tonight as I check are normal ads for tv shows and consumer reports as far as I can tell, rather than predatory scalp-the-author outfits). I did take Truffle to both Frederick Street and to Meder Street, where she played with dogs, and I did go to the grocery store and also get hot and sour soup for Emma, who has a very sore throat. She showed me the work she's been doing with fabric and she's done really wonderful things. She will be selling the series of bags and purses with leather appliqued fossils. They're really nicely conceived and executed.

And Frank is now referring to the young woman as his girlfriend who last month he was not sure he was dating.
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By way of Making Light:

This guy who paints himself to match his surroundings and blends in perfectly.

Emma says I can brag on her all I want. She's brilliant! She's compassionate! She's recovering from knee surgery and taking four classes (which is a class extra in a quarter system, because you ahve only nine weeks to do everything) and was working till a couple weeks ago and working on two plays, one of which she is writing with a couple other students!

And yesterday she helped me get over the hump of posting crap on Craig's List.

I'm posting:
-- a vintage rapidograph technical pen set in okay condition (posted yesterday as part of the tutorial process)
-- a pantograph (manual enlarger/shrinking device for hand-drawn pictures), lightly used
-- a telescope (I need to get the list from upstairs before I post details, but it's huge)
-- a darkroom timer
-- a ricoh 35-mm camera
-- a small classroom-sized cuisenaire rod set
-- a small-group sized base-ten set, no thousand cube

I got to see some of her photos from her Seattle honeymoon too.

And I had her banana bread for breakfast.

Daughters are fantastic.

Progress: I have emptied like ten of the wtf? boxes. I have put all my clothes away. I have sorted out maybe six boxes of books for the used book store. I still have the equivalent of ten miscellaneous papers boxes to go through. Fortunately many of these turn out to be stuff I kept because I thought I might be a high school teacher again, and I have definitely closed the door on that. As much as I enjoy teaching reading, I only miss it a little bit, and I don't miss educational politics at all. I think I'm going to stick right where I am, if that turns out to be possible, until I die or retire (the latter may be unlikely, though, because it doesn't pay that much).

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