Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Duck Realignment

This morning I had the occasion to solve a complicated logistics problem.

The area where I was working happened to be an apartment complex swimming pool. When I accessed the gated area, I noticed immediately three ducks on the pool deck, apparently distressed. I soon realized why-- there were about 15 little ducklings in the pool. And they couldn't get out.

The mother duck was perched at the edge of the pool, nervously quacking at the ducklings, rooting for them to get out of the pool like mom had done. This technique was not effective.

The ducklings gathered like a globule of Cheerios in a bowl of milk. They huddled together, waiting for the epiphany that wouldn't come, short of them growing up enough to step out or fly out of the pool.

My first though was to balance one of the chaise lounges at the edge of the pool, as a makeshift ramp, so they could collectively assert themselves up and out. But the chaise was too cumbersome and didn't balance well at the edge.

So I finished my work, glancing back at the ducks now and again to see if they'd made any progress. Unfortunately, they seemed fresh out of ideas.

I saw the ducklings swim into the filter area-- there are two such cut-outs in the pool's sides, with a flapper that swings under the weight of the water moving in and out of the filter. I walked over to the filter where the ducks were (and they promptly swam away to the center of the pool out of my reach) and opened the cover on the filter. I thought maybe I could angle the lid in the hole and create a ramp, but I was wrong-- the lid was too big to fit inside the hole, and was rigid so it couldn't be manipulated.

Next I saw the filter basket, and I devised a plan to systematically scoop out the ducks, one by one if I had to, with the filter basket. But that quickly proved to have no merit, as the ducklings were able to evade my advances deftly and efficiently.

So I ran out of ideas. I tried herding them towards the pool steps, thinking they might be able to get a foothold and jump out, but that didn't work either.

So I gave up. Reluctantly, I gave up, because I was at work and I was spending too much time doing animal recovery work and not my job.

I continued to do my job, and suddenly, the breakthrough I'd been looking for was revealed. I found a plank of wood, a small two by six, that I thought I could place on the steps of the pool and create the makeshift ramp.

I returned to the pool and set up the ramp. It looked like it would work, if the duckies would just use it... I tried to herd them in the direction of the ramp, all the while distressing the elder ducks-- Mom, Dad, Uncle Hank, Aunt Peggy, I don't know. It still wouldn't work.

So I let go again. I got back to work, continued on with my assigned tasks. I'd work my way back around the apartment complex and check in on their progress.

When I got back around, in about a twenty minutes, I noted that nothing had changed. Duckies still in pool, elders still beside themselves and at a loss for what to do, except wait, squawk, flap, repeat. The gate on that side was locked, and I wasn't sure I had a key, but it turned out that I did. So I went back in and tried to herd the duckies into the corner one last time.

I got them to move over into the corner where I'd set up the ramp, and then I "sat" on them, countering their movements with mine, to keep them there. Soon a stalemate was established, and I stood still, waiting for the epiphany.

Sure enough, one of the duckies discovered the ramp, swam up to its edge, and then walked easily out of the pool.

Mom saw the duckling and turned to lead the way, expecting all the rest of them to fall in line. Unfortunately, the remainder duckies were all going crazy, as if to say, "Hey! How'd you do that? How'd you get outta here? Wait for me!"

I was awash with a sense of accomplishment, and a peaceful sense of knowing that the rest would find their way.

My work here was done.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Moving Memories

The jets have cooled a bit since I posted eight times in February. So-- to the Journal Jar! Let's get this started.

Where did you live as a child-- town, country, suburb? Describe the landscape of your childhood home.

We lived in a few different places over the course of my childhood. First there was an apartment-- but I have no recollection of it. Then came the family's first home-- on Cherrystone Drive in San Jose. It was a smallish house, but seemed plenty big to me at three years old. I remember on hot summer nights, my parents would place a box fan in the hallway, and I'd go out with my pillow and plop down in front of it. Sometimes, if my dad was snoring loud enough, I would be scared back into the comforts of my room, hot as it was.

One night we came home and my dad noticed that the gate had been left open. He had closed it when we left, so he had us wait in the car and went around to the back to enter that way. He grabbed a knife from the kitchen and walked the entire house, checking for the crooks-- the back door had been forced. Evidently they had been spooked in the middle of their heist attempt-- our television was sitting, unplugged by the front door. They got away with this and that-- they took everything from my piggy bank! But they didn't get as much as they'd hoped to. My dad never felt comfortable in that house.

Next we lived in a bigger house on Blossom Hill Drive. The street is four lanes and has a fair amount of traffic, so as kids my sister and I didn't get to play in the front yard much. But that was okay because we had a good sized back yard, and we made friends with the family living behind us, so we were continually being handed over the fence to each other's place. There were three knot holes in the fence that I could stick my big toe in and lift myself up and over the fence, then use another knothole to climb down. It was like our own ladder access to each other's house. I met Greg, who was my age, when he was peeking through the knothole one day and we started up a conversation. It turned out that he had a sister that was the same age as my sister, and soon we were spending lots of time together. Here we are, hanging out on a pile of bricks by the old barbeque. A classic from the 70's, indeed. It was great when we could all get along, but there were times that we could not. But they were mostly few and far between.

It was at this house that I learned to ride a bike. Where my mom caught a gopher in our back yard and was forced to euthanize it for our safety. It really rattled her for awhile. This was where I fell off of the swingset (I was climbing on it, not swinging) and broke my wrist just before I started kindergarten. And where my dad had a pool table. Still have the pool table balls that were with that table that have been carried around along with a dream for a new pool table at a new location.

Next we moved to Bel Ayre Avenue, which was San Jose at the time. Now it's Santa Clara. But I digress. Bel Ayre had a home alarm system that gave my dad peace of mind at night and when we were away. It also had a HUGE backyard. My grandfather grew some excellent gardens there, including some corn on the cob that was the best-tasting in my memory. There was also an orange tree that produced a bumper crop of the sweetest, juiciest oranges year after year. This is where I seriously began my love affair with gardening, although I had been involved in the gardening back on Blossom Hill... Here I learned to work a shovel, turn the dirt, and mow the lawns.

The tour of childhood homes doesn't end there, though. In 1980 we moved to the Central Valley into a new tract home in Ceres. We were enrolled in a private school for the year that we lived there. Creekside private school no longer exists, was razed several years after we left. We installed a dug-in Doughboy pool that we spent a lot of time in, even though we only lived there one year. I rode my ten-speed all around the neighborhood, scoping out neat cars and trucks and flexing my independence. But we didn't have a garden-- because there was no dirt! The lot was all sand, like the beach, without any shells or driftwood. Was great for the pool installation, not so good for plants. I'm sure there are some things we could have planted (besides the iceplant) but we weren't there long enough to try and figure it out.

Next came our final destination-- Escalon. A very rural community, lots of agriculture, smell of manure in the air all about town. Population was about five-thousand when we moved there. My parents just paid off the loan on the house this year. They've added on-- went up above the garage to add two bedrooms and a bath. It's on a huge lot. And now it's a 5-bedroom, 3-bath home with only my mom and dad living in it. But that may change soon enough... Escalon is still small, but has grown quite a bit. They now have traffic signals. Franchise fast food restaurants. But the main street is suffering, with no anchor business to draw attention. While I was in high school there, it seemed like business was good-- all the mini-marts and restaurants seemed to do well, but I wasn't really paying much attention to that. I was more worried about losing my virginity before I turned forty.

I now live in Santa Clara, in a house that we bought from my parents (yes, they've gotten around alright). But we are open to finding a nice town where we can be a part of the local politics and know all our neighbors and the like. Maybe Escalon? Maybe. But after moving at the end of last year, we swore up and down we'd never move again.

Until the next time.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Secondary High

Describe a typical day in high school.

Roll out of bed with minutes to go before the first bell. Apply quick hygiene. Clothes. Catch ride with friends or, if drive self, let truck warm up for 15 minutes. Seems like longer. Chug along. Truck stalls two or three times on way to school. Bell sounds as you're closing truck door.

Hastily walk to locker. Add a kick and a punch as part of combination. Gather books and homework. Pencil or pen. Kleenex or hanky (always had allergies, it seems, in high school. That is, until going to Dr. Dy, the acupuncturist.) Run to class and sneak in as the tardy bell rings.

Try sleeping with eyes open through boring first period. Clock watch last twenty minutes. Then off to 2nd period.


Get changed and line up on gym basketball floor. Make fun of gym teacher's "thunder thighs". Lust after the great looking upperclass "girls". Still don't know what sex is. Still can't think of much else.

Run around for warm up, then split up for sports or workout. Some do aerobics. Some do the "try to disappear" thing. Others go to the weight room to "buff up." Typically you "run" the track.

Finish up and hit the showers. While changing back into clothes, start sweating again. Hope for a breeze while you wait outside for the bell.

Third period English. Like this teacher. She allows a fair amount of clowning around, as long as it's witty. Find my voice here. Discover creative writing. Discover an applied sense of humor. Discover confidence. All of it a daily build.

Next is Chemistry. A fairly good burn. Good people in class, quality learning. Remember liking doing the math.

Then, lunch. No, wait. When was the reading period? 40 minutes of just reading something. Mr. Mulvihill some days would start nodding off. Then he'd drop his book and wake up with a snort. He'd pick up the book, and within minutes would start repeating the routine...

And there was a "recess" in there, in the morning sometime... Typically we'd make fun of people walking by in the halls. Well, not make fun, as much as make noise. As people approached, we'd start a low drone... and as they got closer, we'd get louder and higher pitched. Then as they'd pass, we'd reach a crescendo and lower the tone and volume as the subjects passed. Sort of like "aaaaaaaaAAAAA!AAAAAaaaaaaa." But with lots of variant sounds-- whooping, hollering, barking, faux-Spanish... Yeah, we were weird. I still am.

Like how I've been shift tenses all through this post. Bother you? Oh, I apologize. But it's not my problem. aaaaaAAAAA!!!AAAAAaaaaa.

Lunch meant eating as fast as possible and then going back to our histrionics of the hallways. One day, one of us had an orange that was cut into four sections. We each took a section and shoved it into our mouth. We made each other laugh for the entire lunch period, blowing stuff out of our noses, doubled over in laughter.

After lunch we'd go our separate ways, off to the next set of classes. Depending on what lunch entailed, we'd fight to stay awake through filmstrip and lecture, until finally that last bell would sound and we would be free! Free to do anything! And yet we'd wonder-- what is there to do?