Sunday, October 31, 2010

The Birds

Alice and I took a break from the Halloween haunts for a sunset trip to Lodi to see the annual visitation of the Sandhill Cranes at the Isenberg Crane Reserve.

The reserve is a vast wetlands just off Interstate 5 that plays host to variety of birds through the winter month migrations.  Ducks, geese and other birds make their nightly roost at the reserve along with the Sandhill Cranes.  Lodi will celebrate the return of the crane at their 14th annual Sandhill Crane Festival this coming weekend.

The cranes have an almost prehistoric appearance as they arch through the sky.  As sunset approached waves of the cranes appeared on the horizon as thousands settled in the marsh for the evening.

We are planning a sunrise trip to see the cranes as they awake for their day and head out for the daily forage for food.  As far as tonight's adventure it was a great way to spend Halloween in the dwindling light without a single trick-or-treater in sight.

Friday, October 29, 2010

What the duck?

Making a bet — and losing isn’t all it’s quacked up to be.
Poet Christian principal Bill Maslyar made a friendly wager with his staff, students and parents that if they could reach the lofty goal of $20,000 in a September fundraiser, he would wear a duck costume for the school’s annual Halloween walkathon.

Students who sold baked goods, jewelry and magazine subscriptions received small rubber ducks as incentives during their fundraising sales, and the corresponding duck costume idea was pitched by members of the Poet Christian Parent-Teacher-Student Association who ran the fundraiser.
With sales of $21,800 in the two-week period, the principal was destined to wear the fowl costume created by PTSA members. A furry yellow body, bright orange socks and felt flipper feet made up Maslyar’s outfit as he watched over the 650 students in the school’s fourth annual Halloween walkathon.
“I thought I was home free — this was one of the easiest bets I could make” Maslyar said as students circled around the blacktop.
As the walkathon got under way, the principal, in recognition of his flashy getup, was given the “best costume” award for the day.
Tracy Unified School District eliminated all money earlier this year for field trips and office supplies, as part of $12.5 million in overall cuts for the 2010-11 school year.
The success of September’s fundraiser will keep all of Poet Christian’s field trips funded for the rest of the school year and cover the expense of classroom supplies. Ongoing online sales could push the fundraising total up to $24,000, which would give the school a chance to improve its technology supplies.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Rise of the Pumpkin Man

I thought last Halloween's flaming steel pumpkin man built for a party in rural Tracy was one of the coolest Halloween yard decorations I have seen.  Nothing says Halloween like a towering steel skeleton belching flame.  What could top that?  Hmm, how about a towering steel ghoul nearly as tall as a house that stands up and flails it's arms in a fiendish frenzy?  Behold the rise of the Pumpkin Man.

Kirk has created another nightmarish piece this time to dress his home this Halloween.  An 11-foot-tall Pumpkin Man will greet Halloween visitors to his north Tracy home belching air instead of flames as it rises from his driveway to frighten unsuspecting trick-or-treaters.
The pneumatic driven creature will rise and flail its arms as other animated inhabitants of his haunted front yard clang into action.  Kirk tries to design something different each year and the animated monsters has tested his mechanical skills as he sets the creature into motion.
It is sure to be a frightening site come Halloween night.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Adventures in babysitting

Pulling into the parking lot at Monte Vista Middle School Saturday night I knew we were in trouble.  The line of campaign signs and demonstrators chanting in the rain was a good indication that the congressional forum scheduled to begin two hours was going to be a bumpy ride.

The evening was scheduled to be a political forum between candidates vying for the 11th Congressional District seat on the November 2 ballot.  But the night quickly turned into an example of why I don't like politics.  It wasn't just the Democrats or the Republicans that were a problem, it was everyone.  How a crowded room of adults turned into a squabbling pack of children is amazing.

The first fun encounter of the night was with a group of picketers on the school property with campaign signs.  The school district had given us clear guidelines on the use of their facilities for the forum, and chief among them was no campaigning on the school property.  So silly me I explain the situation and tell them I need them to move along.  No such luck.  I am rebuked and the picketers chant freedom of speech and continue along their way.  Nice.  I need some jerk in the rain explaining freedom of speech to me-really?  Seriously?  Thankfully the police were able to move those morons along which left me with the unruly children inside.

I can understand the fevered emotions and partisan politics but when we make an announcement of little things like don't interrupt the speakers, keep your signs down so other people can see, no name calling it sounds like we are talking to a room full of four-year-olds.  And a vast portion of the crowd did indeed behave like juveniles.  The highlight of my night was when someone comes up to me to see if I can have a person kicked out because they were "being mean".  Really?  seriously?  You got your feeling hurt?  So I try and get specifics and it was they were saying "really mean things" and they he was dressed "offensively".  Lord give me strength.

So I have a talk with this person and give them a warning.  Don't talk to anyone leave people alone or they would be removed.  Then later the person who complained turns out to be a screamer and shouts at the opposition candidate throughout the evening.  Welcome to adulthood.  I had talked with Tracy Police officers and was told I could have audience members removed if I thought they were causing a disruption.  Kind of a weighty responsibility to try and determine when a person' right to free speech has gone to far and created a nuisance or danger to others.  I could not  throw someone out of the building just because they were dressed the way someone didn't like.
And there were the people who would interrupt speakers, the cat calls, the shouts of "liar!" across the room and the jeers and taunting.  Looked less like a political forum and more like a school playground.  I wasn't impressed by either party's behavior.  The other forums we hosted this year had the best, respectful audience members and those forums were a pleasure to work out as we informed the voters about the candidates. All I walked away with from this forum was that no matter which candidate wins the candidates supporters and crowd lost my vote of respect.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

All in favor say "eye"

It's not to many assignments where I get to say stuff like this:
 "Can you move your eyeball a little to the right?"
 "A little more, no wait-pull it back in just a tad..."
"That's it...perfect! Hold it, ok now don't blink."

Grand style

I have covered a lot of grand openings and they are all pretty much the same.  Speeches, a ribbon cutting, it is a routine assignment.  what was different and kind of cool at the Macy's store grand opening was the Jefferson School marching band leading the shoppers through the doors.
It was kind of cool to watch them wind their way through the store's isles and had to be the the first time I have ever photographed a marching band playing indoors.