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|Saturday, May 16th, 2015|
|Monday, August 20th, 2018|
This is Cristina. In a world of people holding "we swiped right!" signs at their weddings, we didn't meet on tinder. We didn't meet on tinder because I swiped left. Which isn't the most romantic start to things but it's at least.. different. More interesting? I like to think of it as proof that "swiping right" isn't the be-all end-all determinant people think it is, that a failure to match on tinder can be overcome by the forces of romantic chemistry.
Why didn't I swipe right? I don't know, I haven't actually seen her profile since the time I apparently didn't take notice of it. It's possible it failed to load, as sometimes happens, and presented with a blank profile I swipe left and the next one loads correctly. Or maybe she used too many filters, which she was in the habit of at the time, and presented with an airbrushed looking face with a bunny nose and ears I always swipe left.
But tinder also allows you to link your instagram, which I had done. And you'd think it would keep auto-updating from my IG feed, but for some reason it had become frozen at a point when I was in Africa and my most recent pictures were of a baby elephant and myself kissing a giraffe [LINK]. Apparently she liked these pictures and followed me on IG.
I noticed a suspiciously attractive girl follow me on IG, which is often the modus operandi of spambots, and yet she seemed like a real human, and I had a comment on one of her pictures, which I left, she responded, we exchanged a few comments. She seemed very nice so I added her. A few days later I left a comment to another picture and we had another short conversation ensued. I believe this may have been her in scrubs in a hospital and in our exchange I learned she's not just a pretty face on instagram, she's actually really smart and finishing medical school. A few days went by again and after exchanging another round of messages we moved the conversation to the message app whatsapp, used by seemingly everyone who isn't in the USA or Australia.
She's not in the USA or Australia. I had grown tired of the very slim pickings in my local area and was changing the location of my tindering to various cities all over the world. It was only on her city for about 24 hours and ... really it's one of the very most inconvenient places to meet some. She lives in Caracas, Venezuela. She cannot enter the United States and I cannot enter Venezuela.
Anyway we got to talking every day and I've found her to be extremely sweet and caring (she's training to be a doctor in a country where doctors aren't paid any more than anyone else).
There's just one problem. We don't have a language in common. She barely speaks any English and I don't speak Spanish. We've been talking mostly through the miracle of Google translator, which0she seems to be lightning fast with. I choose to look at it as evidence she hasn't been planning to hook an American and get out of Venezuela, she could have learned English if she'd previously wanted to but she didn't.
Anyway, I meant to post this around about August 12th, because she and I made plans to meet in the Caribbean island nation of Dominican Republic on August 13-16th. Four days, no common language, first date! HOW WOULD IT GO?? Did I mention we don't speak the same language??
Well, presently it's the night of August 17-18-19th as I cross the international dateline into Fiji. I know how it went but I'd hate to spoiler this for you so we'll pretend it hasn't happened yet ;-)
|Sunday, August 12th, 2018|
|Independance to Loyalton
( Previously: Up the 395 from So Cal to Independence!
July 13th - Upon waking up and emerging from our motel room we were greeted by a spectacular view of the nearby mountains. Because there were no restaurants in Independence we were obliged to backtrack half an hour to the larger town of Lone Pine. In glancing at the wiki entry for Independence just now I notice it's actually the Inyo County Seat, despite being described in that same entry as a "tiny village" with a population of 669. On the way back to Lone Pine I took the above picture as soon as I didn't have buildings obstructing my view.
We ate at the Alabama Hills Cafe, a diner my parents have also come to be in the habit of stopping at on this route. They had many delicious looking things on the menu, including biscuits and gravy which I'd been longing for, but I actually ended up going for a dish, I forget what they called it but various things all sizzled up together in the griddle with a fried egg on top. Mom and dad both had pie like the total gangstas they are!! Kateri had some impressive stack of pancakes with strawberries that was on special and she got the last one much to the envy of a diner who later sat at the table beside us and tried to order it.
The namesake of the diner, the nearby Alabama Hills are a rugged set of foothills distinct from the high Sierras behind them, that have been used as ambiguously rugged western terrain in a great many Western movies (there's a movie museum nearby we have also never been to). The Alabama Hills Cafe had a lot of pictures of the rock formations about which inspired us on a sort of whim to drive the loop road around the hills. We decided it was well worth doing as we wound through the picturesque rock formations. We even found what looked like an old movie-set mineshaft (any major western aficionados think they recognize it??)). On parts of it that were private property there were some very unique looking dwellings and I surmised that I bet at least one of them is on airbnb!
From there we headed up north on the 395 again, in the sage filled valley between the jagged Sierras on our left and small mountains on our right (what's over there to the right? no one knows!). By and by we found ourselves in pine forest around the turnoff for Mammoth (do non Californians know about Mammoth? It's kind of like Yosemite but not -- famous for skiing but I've always been there for the beautiful forest hiking.) Near mammoth we turns off for the Hot Springs with every intention to go swimming in them. It was once again oven hot as we got out of the car there. I have fond memories of swimming in the hot springs here when I was wee but I guess one too many people boiled themselves alive by going in the parts you're not supposed to go into, because the old swimming holes were all fenced off and there didn't appear to be any current swimming opportunities. Nevertheless we walked along the picturesque stream a bit.
Just north of Mammoth as one comes back down out of the tree line is Mono Lake, a hypersaline endorheic lake. We stopped into the visitor center there. The lake had been drained to half it's 1940s size by the 1990s by water being redirected to Los Angeles, which threatened many birds that depend upon the lake for migration and breeding. Since then conservation efforts have one a legal fight the water waterlevel is once again rising to reach an agreed upon minimal level. We visited the famous tufa tower formations on our way back south but I'll get to that when I get to that!
North of Mono Lake we once again were winding through relatively narrow valleys. The next place worth mentioning is definitely WALKER BURGER. My parents had been advised of this place by my uncle's fiancee who apparently would some times come down this way, but during their Thanksgiving sojourns it had always been closed. Walker, it turns out, is an absolutely tiny
town "census designated place," but this burger place is legit amaze. I had a half pound "western bacon burger" that was possibly worth driving all the way to this remote locality just for, as well as an extremely delicious shake. Everyone else was similarly pleased with their food. The outdoor seating area was really lovely and my pictures really don't do it justice, but it was like a pleasantly shaded garden with benches and a central grassy lawn, whimsical windmills, water features such as water pouring from one barrel to another to create that peaceful tinkling water noise. Really superbly lovely spot!
From there we had to nick into Nevada near Reno, where I think we were no longer in a narrow desert valley and surrounded by more signs of civilization, but by now I was drifting in and out of sleep even though it was only late afternoon (but again,I was still suffering from jetlag!). Then we got back into the mountains just north of Tahoe. During moments of wakefulness I was aware of beautiful mountain valleys around us. Finally we pulled in to our destination town of Loyalton, with which a population of 769 is smaller than Birregurra. Our bed and breakfast was a beautiful Victorian house just on the outskirts called the Gilded Drifter (it's hard NOT to call it the Gilded Grifter though!). During the weekend our family would have the whole place booked out but on this first night it was just us (me, my parents and Kateri) and some strangers in the other rooms whom we only saw extremely briefly (I think there were two different couples who both arrived late at night). All the rooms were named after famous American authors of a level of obscurity that I didn't actually recognize any of their names but Kateri (again, an English major) did and was quite tickled by it. My favorite part about the place was that it had a really cute cozy little library room. In which I enjoyed to sit and read my book.
Also it so happens that there was a flash fiction writing contest I intended to participate in and the topics were to be announced this very evening! I was very unsure I'd have time to write a flash fiction in the hubub of a busy weekend with the family but I was planning on giving it my best go. I checked my email and found that I had been assigned to write a romantic comedy set at a bus stop involving a chihuahua! Would I be able to accomplish such a thing in the next 55 hours??
|Tuesday, August 7th, 2018|
|Journey up the 395! Part 1
July 12th - "It's desert noir" I commented, as I snapped a photo of a ramshackle falling-down old house with junk around it, with Mt Whitney rising up behind it. Somewhere near the Manzanar internment camp.
I'd only arrived in the states just the day before and already we were on an epic roadtrip! My uncle was getting (re)married in a small (tiny) town north of Lake Tahoe, which would have been probably a 10 hour direct drive up "the five" through the middle of California, but we decided to take two days to go up the east side of the Sierras. In fact this plan was a major selling point for me to come to California rather than go back to Africa at this time. Also my cousin Kateri would be joining us, I wasn't quite sure why, but maybe she liked the roadtrip idea as well!
Because Kateri was coming from a different direction (Santa Barbara) we came up from Orange County to fetch her from a train station in the northern LA suburb of Van Nuys. This trip took us on different highways than we usually take and we actually found ourselves driving right through the middle of the cluster of skyscrapers at Los Angeles' dark heart. It took two or three hours to get through LA and we ended up arriving at the train station nearly an hour late... but by a stunning coincidence her train was also running about an hour late and we actually pulled up with just enough time to park and walk to the platform and greet her coming out!
We ate at a nearby In-N-Out and then proceeded through the foothills that surround Los Angeles to the north and east. This route on the 14 through the hills I haven't taken in recent memory and its a much broader less dramatic valley than Tejon Pass which the 5 passes through. On the far side is the low flat town of Lancaster baking in the desert sun, and a little later amid the sage and yucca plants of the high desert there's a boeing facility, which looks like a huge international airport in the middle of nowhere, in terms of hte number of large jetliners parked there. Somewhere around there is also Mojave Spaceport. Then the 14 joins up with the 395 and as we head north the Sierras begin to rise up on our left. By and by we see more extinct cindercones and other evidence of ancient volcanic activity.
Kateri and mom at Fossil Falls
Kateri, by the way, had just recently graduated from UC Santa Barbara as an English major. She's quite into writing, so we enjoyed talking about books and writing. I'm not quite sure why she has neglected to appear on livejournal, haunt of aspiring writers that it is! She quite prefers Young Adult books and writing, which is not quite exactly my favorite genre but still we had a lot to talk about.
Picturesque parking situation at Fossil Falls
When I was wee we used to drive up this way to Mammoth every summer but I haven't made the drive since then, so it was fun to see the barely remembered sights along the way. At the base of a memorable large red cindercone we turned off on a turnoff for "Fossil Falls," to do a little sightseeing along the way. After a five minute little drive we parked at the trailhead and amid baking 100+ degree weather (which I was loving as I was still trying to thaw my bones from Australia) we took a short hike to fossil falls -- which is a formerly dramatic waterfall through very artistic looking curvy volcanic rocks. Formerly because now the water that fed it is entirely rerouted to supply Los Angeles.
Dad gazes into the abyss
After about half an hour clambering about we were happy to get back in the air conditioned car and continue the journey. We passed the red cindercone (Which, melodramatically, had a large dust tornado in front of it as we went past), and despite the oven heat of moments earlier, soon rain was splattering across our windshield. A strange thing then happened: all of our phones suddenly started making an unusual alarmed warbling noise at once. Looking at my phone I saw I had "an emergency alert system alert" and it was a flash flood warning in our vicinity. Never had that happen before! Good to know the alert system works! We stopped in at the Mt Whitney visitor center at Lone Pine, it wasn't raining but clouds obscured Mt Whitney itself. Passed the Manzanar Internment Camp visitor center and it occurred to me that we've never stopped there and the present political climate makes it seem very apropos. Maybe next time.
just across the river
At Independence, a tiny little town just up the road from the bigger Lone Pine, we checked into a small motel my parents have apparently made a habit of stopping at (Thanksiving apparently has often these last few years been at my uncle's place we were now headed towards, and my parents have been going up this 395 route to get there). This little town apparently has no restaurants except a semi-permanent mexican food truck (it was actually semi integrated into an old gas station), so we walked over there and I procured a delicious authentic burrito (exciting being as, despite everything that had happened in the previous 24 hours, I still had only just arrived from Australia and not yet had a decent burrito in a year!)
After we ate we walked to a little park where there had been a steam locomotive, but it was gone, replaced by a sign noting it has been taken off somewhere else for repairs. By now it was evening and a pleasant temperature. A very pleasant babbling brook ran through the park and, crossing the river with a cute wooden bridge, a trail meandered out among the low sage that stretched out to the sheer wall of mountains. By the bridge there was a notice sign saying it could be dangerous around the river at times of flash flood and I noted that it was such a time -- we were in the dangerous intersection of the venn diagram. Needless to say we crossed the bridge and proceeded ti walk up the trail. There was that amazingly beautiful smell of fresh rain over sage desert. Even in the city the smell of fresh rain is famously delightful, but among the sage in the desert I think it's arguably one of the best smells in the world. Sure enough it was soon sprinkling, and the rain quickly got a bit heavier so we were thinking of turning back. I happened to glance behind me, and noticed a wall of grey obscuring the mountains approaching us. "uh, guys, look what's coming out way!" I pointed out the wall of heavy rain approaching to the rest of the family. We then more or less ran back down the trail, and it was coming down heavily already by the time we crossed the bridge. Spent the later evening sitting under the eaves of the motel reading my book as rain poured down around us, and the temperature still pleasant enough to be not wearing a jacket!
The wall of water approaches (on right!) also very slightly different version
::TO BE CONTINUED!::
|Friday, July 13th, 2018|
My flight was at 23:40 on Tuesday, so I had all day to get ready, which was plenty of time, but also I had a lot of random errands to do beforehand so I felt pretty anxious and stressed all day .. as is usual before a big trip.
An annoying note is that I couldn't find any of the three external phone batteries I have anywhere. I use at least one every single day so it was a bit unusually irksome that not one of them could be found. We swung by work on the way to the airport though and I did find one but I do hope I eventually find the others as one is a big $80 one.
The only other thing that qualifies I think as having forgotten something is that though I grabbed my DSLR camera, I forgot to check its charge, which turned out to be at completely un-charged, and I forgot the battery charger. So I'll have to pick one up at a nikon store at some point if I want to use it at all. Also I don't know if it was missing the lense-cap when I picked it up, I would think I would have noticed, but by the time I was checking in at the airport the camera no longer had a lensecap. I had a lense-cap walk off on me in Tanzania once and the lense quickly became smudgy enough to ruin every picture (and that was the trip in which my phone was later stolen so these two events conspired to leave me with no photos but I digress).
But now here's the big mystery and inconvenience. My friend Ben kindly gave me a ride to the airport. We both very distinctly remember, just after I had stepped out of his car, him handing me my reading glasses saying "don't forget your glasses." A literal minute later when I got into the check in line I realizde my glasses were not on me anywhere nor in my backpack. I quickly bailed out of line to go retrace my steps and they weren't on the ground anywhere along the way or where I'd gotten out. Where they got to is a complete mystery to me, they completely vaporized!
I looked for reading glasses at the shops in the airport but couldn't find any. Usually I spend a significant number of hours reading on trips like this but I really can't read without glasses any more so that was a bit torturous. ):
Flight from Melbourne to Fiji went from 2340 Melbourne time to 0630 Fiji time, which, being as Fiji is +3 hours on Melbourne means the flight was 3 hours? And they spent an hour at least with the lights on serving us dinner and all so basically I got no sleep that night.
At Fiji airport one walks through open-air walkways to the terminal, and even at 6:30 it was a nice pleasant temperature. In the terminal building a trio of fijian men were playing ukuleles and handing big pretty white flowers to young ladies to put in their hair. Welcome to Fiji! Having read that you can book day trip tours at the airport instead of bruskly brushing off the tour agent who solicited me as I wandered aimlessly, after an initial gut reaction to do exactly that I was like "oh, actually, I want to book a tour!" so like a trap door spider dragging its pray into its burrow he took me into their tour office.. where they put a necklace of shells around my neck.
They had a number of tour options. Of course they started with their most expensive one, an island tour for $264. And I was shamelessly like "soo what do you have thats cheaper?" Their cheapest thing was a tour around Nadi (the capitol) for like $110 but it sounded kind of dull, markets and city landmarks don't excite me much. There were a number of different options in the $150 range. I forget what exactly they all were, though there were some ziplines and a hot spring / mud pool and I think I tried to book one involving caves but since no one else was taking that one that day they didn't want to run it for one person. So I ended up booking the "coastal tour" that visited some WWII fortifications and some sand dunes. I think it was supposed to be $120ish AND the tour guide paid for my lunch and a beer saying I could just pay him back for everything in one lump at the end, which sounded good though I suspected maybe it was an excuse to add things up with fuzzy math to an inordinately high number.... but in the end he only asked me for $100! AND, I was the only person on the tour!
So yeah my tour guide was a young fellow, aged 26 to be precise. We drove from place to place in a nice little mini-van. He was very nice and friendly and... well I get the impression he is verrrry friendly with the lady tourists -- I think he relished having a youngish guy tourist to who he could regale about his exploits because it sounds like he's quite the satyr! Regularly going above and beyond sacrificing his personal evenings to the constant demands of foreign women ::shakes head pityingly:: #neocolonialism
The WWII bunkers weren't terribly exciting, I've seen plenty of bigger bunker complexes on the California coast, but it was nice to enjoy the view from there. Fiji really is a gorgeous place. The temperature all day was in the 70s with a pleasant breeze and sunny skies. Ground was covering in luxurious grass everywhere, palm trees grew picturesquely all about. Island paradise it truly is.
For lunch he asked if I wanted a "tourist lunch" or a "local lunch." I would Moderately have gone with the latter anyway but he laughingly noted that the "tourist lunch" is much much more expensive.
So we stopped in at a little food counter attached to a grocery store, each got a plate with some stewy chicken and a big heap of rice. I was more than I could eat! And for $2.50 each. Also there was no room at the benches but two old guys eagerly made room for us and tried to speak to me in a friendly manner in their extremely broken English. This cemented my opinion that Fijians seem to be a very friendly lot. I mean I feel like everyone "is friendly" everywhere but they did seem on a whole a really quite friendly lot.
Next we went to these big sand dunes. I was expecting just like, dunes, but they were actually mostly overgrown with thick foliage so it was quite lovely. Some dunes at the end were bare sand and they were really quite massive.
After this we both agreed it was time for a beer. At first he was trying to be well behaved and not have a beer since he was working but he eventually broke down to the age old reasoning of "just one wouldn't hurt." They came out ice cold like ice was Figuratively forming on the glasses. I wouldn't expect good beer from a small island nation but, and maybe its just because it was ice cold and I was really in the mood, but I found this "Fiji Bitter" beer to be really quite good!
From there that was apparently the end of the tour. There was a waterfall around there but when I inquired about it he said ti would cost $75 (claiming that was out of his hands, the cost the villagers charge), and I decided much as I like waterfalls it could hardly be worth $75. I still had all day left on my layover (flight out at 20:00) but the tour seemed to be over. He recommended I hang out at a privately run "transit lounge" which would cost me $20 and at first I was opposed to this but then I thought about spending the next six hours in an airport terminal and $20 seemed worthwhile to escape that. It was a very peaceful place full of soothing music and friendly staff, and I even got a complimentary foot massage (I guess the place is also a massage school and many westerners were coming in just for massages ... and no not that kind of massages get your mind out of the gutter!)
Caught flight out with no incident. On my flight were 70 American highschool students who had apparently been part of some programme called "Rural Pathways" in which they spent two weeks studying the Fijian reefs and scuba diving and studying marine pollution and such. Sounds pretty fun! Also probably expensive - I cynically noted they all seemed at least middle class, and white. Also weirdly 90% female (of whom 90% were wearing yoga pants, apparently the young lady's traveling attire de jour). These 70 teenagers completely filled the aircraft cabin in my area, and tittered away like a tree full of lorikeets (which is to say, fairly a cacophony of tittering).
Fiji airlines movie selection really not great. Aaand I couldn't read because I still didn't have reading glasses.
Arrived home, picked up by my parents, went straight to In-N-Out burger, am living happily ever after! Sitting at the table in my parents back yard reading in the warm summer evening light at 7:30pm, my coworker in Australia reported it was a high of 39 and thick fog!
|Saturday, June 30th, 2018|
I have discovered the scariest thing about Australia. Something far more terrifying than drop bears, hubcap sized spiders, and snakes that kill you by looking at you! But I'll get to that in a moment.
I've been doing a lot of writing and thinking about writing lately. It kind of reminds me, I used to try to write a blog post every day for all thirty days of June and what I liked most about it is find there's a clear difference between being "in the zone" and not being. Once you're in the zone you're always thinking of writing ideas, you can't wait to get home and sit down and write about one of the ideas you've been thinking about all day. When you're not in the zone you have something you want to write for some reason or other but its hard to come up with ideas, hard to make yourself sit and have at it.
I submitted three submissions for the Geelong writing club yearly anthology last week. One of their categories is "memoir" which at first I felt hard to wrap my brain around the definitions thereof but I've since decided I really quite like it. I turned a previous self-introduction from my time slaving away in the steamy bee mines of the Bundaberg Archipelago into a memoir of that time, and in the final hours before the deadline basically rewrote the bit about being surrounded by ebola in Guinea -- I had been trying to expand the very short piece I had written for a previous contest's very short requirements, but just jamming new paragraphs in the middle was simply not working. Rewriting the whole thing allowed me to integrate the parts I liked smoothly with new parts. And then in the last half hour before the deadline I made some quick fixes to a very short story I had written about a ghost and sent it in for their short story category because why not.
Somewhere in all this I had what felt a bit like a revelation. I basically used the same exact skills and techniques to write my memoirs as I've been using on travelogues, and indeed they could be both, and indeed, I quite rather suspect, that when truly well written a travelogue and a memoir should be indistinguishable! (EVEN if in your memoir you didn't "travel," as I've been exploring with some previous entries about traveloguing about one's home environs)
And here's an entirely unrelated photo of Hokea laurina. I feel like maybe I should crop this photo closer but I like the leafy background.
Now, most of my stories are "genre fiction" -- Historical fiction, science fiction, zombies, etc, and the Geelong Writing Club previous anthologies seemed to contain absolutely none of this, which is why the ghost story was the best I could come up with. BUT, then I happened to notice the closest university to me, Deakin, had a literary journal, with the deadline a week hence (which was/is today). I haven't read their back issues, but I figure university students will be much more receptive to genre fiction than the older demographic of the Geelong club. On any account, it's what I'm serving them up!
And the most amazing thing, instead of writing it all the last day (again, today), on Thursday I reprocessed some 6,000 words of previously written stories (who writes new ones for contests, psh). I've repolished and intend to submit later today (1) the historical fiction about the origin of the largest preserved viking poop; (2) the prologue zombie apocalypse story "patient zero;" (3) the story about a swarm of bees finding a new home as told from the perspective of a bee. So now it's the day of the deadline and I'm just sitting pretty here. Except I have one burning question I would like to ask you if any of you could be bothered to read the story -- it begins with him cursing, and rereading it I was like oh I should say what curses he's actually saying, and then, I was like, well, duh, obviously, he should be saying "shit" or "crap" or something ... but then I was starting to wonder would that actually be TOO many excretory references in the story??
It was interesting trying to adjust these stories for Australian readers. Patient Zero was, in the previous draft, explicitly set in Newport Beach California (when not in Congo) -- I deleted Newport Beach references but, like, a car knocks over a firehydrant and shoots up a fountain of water, but at least in my current vicinity, there actually AREN'T standing firehydrants, the fire brigade carries the above-ground portion of the hydrant on the truck and screws it in on arrival. And in the honeybee story there are squirrels, there are no squirrels in Australia but I decided to leave them. A character is eating a burrito from the Del Taco 99 cent menu, which might seem thoroughly implausible here where the cheapest of the cheap horrible awful fast food will run like $7. But any such adjustments were nothing compared to...
Horror of Horrors
And then I noticed a peculiar thing. Both this and the other writing contest had had "Australian style rules, singular quotations" written in the submission guidelines. And I was like.. surely they can't mean... oh god they do! It TURNS OUT, Australia has some giant national beef with "double quotation marks," that's right official Australian style calls for 'single quotations.' And not only that, but, brain-bendingly, for punctuation to be 'outside the quotation marks', unless the quote is a full sentence whereupon 'the punctuation mark is placed inside the quotation marks.' In reworking my stories to fit "Australian style" I mean 'Australian style' guidelines, I found myself particularly perplexed about when the punctuation goes in the quotation marks, and when it does not, as sometimes it's a full sentence in the quotes but also part of the outside sentence. So if you're conversant with this bizarre style standard feel free to point out places in my stories where it can be fixed.
Additionally, I assume you're all on the correct side of the moral schism about the oxford comma, which is that it is ordained from on high by the holiest as holies as a true necessity for life. Well official Aus style is AGAINST the oxford comma ::weeps in despair::, but, because it is a well and truly necessary part of the circle of life the guidelines do allow it when it is necessary for clarity. I picture here an oxford comma melodramatically exclaiming "oh, when you NEED me now you want me, I see how it is!"
Next on the Agenda
Also I've managed to get on some mailing lists or something, I don't know, writing contest and journal submission opportunities are just falling in my lap left and right. It came to my attention yesterday that there's a $10,000 ( O: O: O: O: ) prize up for three chapters of a novel. I suspect serious circles are still looking down their collective noses at zombies as an overdone crap genre of the hoipolloi but well I've already got a first chapter and sketched out ideas for the rest of a novel and I really quite fancy I have enough deeper themes I intend to jam in there to make it worthwhile. Hey Dracula and Frankenstein are "monster genre" classics, zombies need their own (and don't give me that World War Z crap, that's just our crap baseline).
And speaking of crap, here's a question that occurred to me as I contemplated the cursing at the beginning of the viking story -- are crap and shit entirely interchangeable? Do they have subtle nuances between them? why do we even have two words with the exact same meaning. [edit to add: in the category of unnecessary amount of background effort that will never be noticed, because the characters are presumably speaking proto-Norwegian/Swedish, I suppose I should use shit because skit means the same thing in Swedish but I'm not aware of a crap equivalent in THEIR language]
|Monday, June 18th, 2018|
|Thursday, June 14th, 2018|
|Christmas in Winter! Another Day on Driveabout and Some Tacky Adventures
well my day began with comedic misfortune. The plan for the day was to go on driveabout to check out places where people had called me in response to last week's flyers and to put up more flyers. I was running late when I left the house for to get up there two hours from here to meet with someone, and the last thing I grabbed was the little plastic box of thumb tacks that was conveniently on the corner of the table. Well I guess it was for some reason upside-down and as soon as it was over the floor the lid fell off dropping thumb tacks allllllll over my floor. I stared at this in horror for a moment before calculating that it would take several minutes to pick them up and I didnt' really have several minutes, so I'd just buy more somewhere on the way. I just had to remember when I came home not to take my shoes off and then walk in and step on thumb tacks! We've talked about my memory before right? Yes I believe we have. I told several friends to remind me but of course they wouldn't know when I was walking in. Anyway, there was nothing for it I was in a mad dash out the door, knowing full well this would probably lead to painful misfortune later!
Though a bit cold out, the sky was blue when I left my house and it seemed like a relatively nice day. I don't know if it's because I got into higher altitude later or across the board the fog came in but by the time I got into the forested area to the north there was heavy mist all about. It was actually quite pretty (see above picture). Also I finally got a picture of the sign for this funny-named Lerderderg River (If you're not familiar, #ermagerd is totally a common hashtag for accidentally really embarassing facial expressions)
First guy I met with was in the country outside of the small town of Trentham. While I chatted with him briefly in his kitchen (because I was running late he didn't have much time before he had to go somewhere else), the fog was dramatically billowing past the windows very visibly. He made a joke about being in the cloud forest. He was very nice but it didn't look like the actual forest was within 2km of his house (you'll read bees will forage up to five kilometers away -- they WILL but they prefer not to and it makes their honey collection less efficient), though it was hard to tell since visibility was about a hundred feet due to the fog. From there I drove in the direction he indicated the forest was in to see how far it was. It was during this time that I took the above picture of a narrow track in the forest (Wombat State Forest).
Found some residencies which were somehow in the middle of the forest and allllmost got up the courage to actually knock on their doors but reasoned I had to hoof it to make next appointment and it didn't loooook like they had any flat spaces with vehicle access which I could put hives on. If they had mailboxes I'd have put something in but they didn't (probably postal service won't deliver to the middle of the forest and they collect at the post office in town).
Next stop was the christmas tree farm!! The guy who runs it and his brother were there, they came out of the shed where they'd been huddled against the cold when I came up. They were both very friendly. I've never actually selected a christmas tree from the lot where it's growing before! There was one I really quite liked its needle floof game but it was a bit short, another I quite liked but at about five feet I'd select it if I was really really going all out Christmas but since I don't really quite quite feel like going full bore christmas-in-june I toned it down to this 4 foot tree (they apparently measure and sell christmas trees by the imperial measure here still!). He offered to sell me an "American style" christmas tree stand for $45 but that seemed a bit steep. I thought I'd ask my friends if they had one I could borrow but as it turns out not ONE of my filthy lacking-in-true-christmas-spirit Australian friends has ever had a real christmas tree! Fake ones all around! (Also had noticed a suspicious lack of christmas tree lots around christmas. Even though its middle of summer there's no reason they shouldn't be able to have real trees but it just doesn't seem to be as much of a thing here). Also I quite appreciated that the weather was so, well, christmassy today for christmas tree getting!
Christmas trees available were Monteray Pine (Pinus radiata, more commonly called Radiata Pine here). and then they also had Douglas Firs in pots, though I didn't even really look at them. He had kind of waved at them dismissively and I was content with the Radiata. Though and I had previously googled what pine tree smells best but I've forgotten the results, if douglas are known to smell more delightful I may be made to feel regretful. (though selected tree now in my laundry-room pending all the rain on it drying off, already is making it smell wondrous in there!)
Now, as it happens. The christmas tree lot is just right on the edge of the forest. And has empty swaths along the edges just wide enough to drive a truck along ... and plonk down some beehives. So of course I was like "heeeeeyy how do you feel about..." and the friendly guys were kinda like "::shrug:: sure? why not!" ... so I think I may have gotten an in on a perfect bee site through my christmas tre mission!! (picture below is just outside the christmas tree lot)
By now it was getting on lunch time so I proceeded to the nearby town of Daylesford. While in Daylesford I determined that only 1 of 3 flyers I'd put up last week now remains (later confirmed another in another location was still up so 2/4 were confirmed to still be up after a week, kind of disappointing odds), I don't know if it was due to winds ripping them off, store policy (the one on the bulletin board inside the grocery store disappeared. I had hoped to ask a staffmember before I put it up but they all seemed extremely busy so I just went with it. I got more calls from that one than any other though, since it was in plain view of people bored while waiting for a teller and everyone has to go to the grocery store), or spiteful other beekeepers (sadly beekeeping actually kind of selects for antisocial people, there's a lot of absolutely lovely beekeepers don't get me wrong, but there's some real crochety antisocial cases too, and this area is a beekeeping hotspot).
For lunch I went to the same American style diner I had gone to last week. Last week I had gotten the gravy burger and verily it was delicious. As well the fries were remarkably good! This time I had the "fresno burger" which was a regular burger with "spicy" relish (Australian spicy, so I couldn't actually taste any heat whatsoever) (Is Fresno known for spicy relish or did they just choose the name from a hat?). But what really made me weep sweet red white and blue tears of joy is it actually had actual crispy actual real bacon on it!! (all bacon here is this flimsy stuff more like thinly cut ham).
The one anti-American I caught them doing is they serve this weird mayonaise dip with the chips. I asked if the owner was American, because they're America-ing so well I thought maybe they were, but nah just an Aussie who thought it would be a fun theme restaurant. I need to take the owner aside and be like hey mate you're doing great here, fantastic, but ::whispers in ear:: we don't put gosh darn mayonaise on our gosh darn fries! And then Johnnie Cash started playing and I almost over-Americaed <3 <3 <3 <3
Gravy at my request because nothing goes on chips like gravy. And their gravy is thick and delicious!
From there I proceeded back up into the forest to this property this woman had called me about literally less than an hour after I had initially put the grocery store flyer up. Its in the very midst of the forest, has plenty of space I can drive up to and.... is just gorgeous! It's called Cloud's End and it has it's own webpage but my browser is half crashed right now so I can't seem to get it open. So it's definitely a go! Okay browser fully crashed and now in a different browser which has not yet crashed). But yeah look how perdy it is:
From there drove through more beautiful forest area to the small town of Guildford. Flyered there and then headed home, which took about two hours. Got home and...... do you remember? Because I didn't! THUMB TACKS!! Fortunately I didn't take my shoes off before walking in. But when I did sit down to take my shoes off there were half a dozen tacks stuck in the bottom and I was like D'OH! I then picked up some of the tacks but then I had to go to a meeting at the fire station.
Even though it was pouring rain I decided to walk because I much prefer walking than driving short distances. It was absolutely pouring though, I was thoroughly soaked by the time I got to the station, though not terribly terribly cold. I was wearing my wool navy sweater and naval bridgecoat and they did the wetsuiting thing they're meant to do where they kept me warm even when soaked.
And then when I got home from the fire station even though I had joked it would happen and you'd think by now I'd have finally remembered but nope I finally did step on a tack without a shoe on.
And that has been my day!
|Wednesday, June 13th, 2018|
|Flyer 2.0, Now With Beedev!
Now, I'm (very obviously) not a graphic design professional, but I do greatly enjoy what little graphic design projects I do end up doing in the course of living my life. I was out last week putting up the previous version of the above flyer and I'm going on another driveabout tomorrow, and in the intervening week since last week it has occurred to me I may as well put a little shout out to Bee Aid International on the flyer -- I mean I'm running around putting around flyers anyway I might as well hey?
Now to go finally finally update some critical beedev.org pages that haven't been updated since 2014 and still refer to the 2015 project in future tense :X
In unrelated news, I made eggnog the other day. Anyone else have eggnog making experience? I've got a number of experimental ideas for next batch, such as replacing all the granulated sugar in the recipe with honey because of course. And cardamom seems to me like it would be good but no recipes mention it so maybe I'm wildly misunderstanding tastes?
|Friday, June 8th, 2018|
|First Expedition to Colonize the Gold Country
Went out boating with my friend Udi on Wednesday. In his little motorboat that is surprisingly stable for its small size we launched from Queenscliff, the end of the peninsula on this side of the bay, and circumnavigated the sand bars and mud flats the block most of the entrance (there's a shipping channel on the east and west and actual mud islands in the middle. Big ships actually have to enter the bay and skirt the east side for a bit). I was pleasantly surprised by the number of "landmarks" (seamarks?) to visit and navigate around out there. Udi thinks he saw penguins in the water which is entirely plausible but I can't confirm because I only fleeting glipsed the suspect bird. We also saw albatrosses which was cool. Once we reached the east side we skirted the beaches there. Lots of cute colorful beach sheds along the shore. And then as I was trying to identify a pier for navigation I found myself spluttering "the the the a a the THATS A WHALE!" as one dark back and then another silently rose in front of the pier and went back under. The whales, which I believe to be humpbacks, were in only 30 feet of water slowly going up the coast. We paced them a distance off for a bit. The entered the anchorage pictured below and deviated from their previously straight path to make some circles around the anchored vessels. I've seen plenty of whales at a distance in Southern California but I'm not sure I've been as close as we were to these ones. I was unsuccessful at getting any photos of them spouting.
Thursday I headed up to a town called Daylesford because I've determined the "box ironbark forest" in that area is the best honey producing area around. So I put flyers up in Daylesford and other general stores in the forest area. While doing so I began to worry that maybe this was a colossal waste of time and no one would call me ... but not an hour after I'd put the flower up a nice woman called me after seeing the flyer on the Daylesford grocery store bulletin board and from what she says and how the property looks on google maps I think I already have a great location!
My other goal was to get a Christmas tree. June is six months from December and therefore the southern hemisphere equivalent, and last year I got some pine boughs from a local pine plantation and put them all in a big vase, and I was going to do that again this year but all the low hanging branches in that plantation this year are brown. Well I found that making it a bit christmassly last year really made the heart of winter much more cheery so I was determined this year. So then I googled christmas trees and found there was a christmas tree plantation by Daylesford. I emailed them with "I know this is an eccentric time to be after a christmas tree but..." and they wrote back that they did indeed have christmas trees to sell right now! The guy asked what time appx I'd be there and I said "11-12?" thinking I'd stop there first before flyering around. But of course I stopped at every general store or likely looking bulletin board on the way and didnt' get there till after 1 and he was no longer there. ): But when I return next week to check out places that call me I'll try again to catch the christmas tree guy.
The last and furthest north place I got to, which wasn't actually that far north as far as the target forest region is concerned, was this cute little townlet called Glenlyon. According to an informational sign there was a nearby waterfall one could walk through the forest too but the weather was actually really miserable so I only got out of the truck long enough to put a flyer on the bulletin board. From there I proceeded along small country roads through thick forest to Trentham, a town that looks so cute I was seriously thinking "maybe I should move here?!" which is saying a lot because I love my current little adorable town a great deal. From there I headed south on the fastest route home which was still mostly back country roads. Across a bridge over the "Ermahgerd River" which sign I really wanted to photo but there were no pull outs. Breezed through another little cute town, Meredith, at which I didn't stop this time but have before (fairly decent burgers at the pub). I had chosen this route as simply the best way to get home after flying Glenlyon and Trentham but it occured to me it was a particurly scenic route up to the Victorian Gold Country through several cute towns. If anyone wanted to engage in cute-town-tourism this would be a very good route. I was already thinking next time my parents visit of taking them up that way so we might have to retrace the route. Daylesford itself is pretty cute but with a population in excess of 2,500 it's far too big city for me ;)
|Monday, June 4th, 2018|
|Drowning in Fake Honey
First let me apologize for the poor quality of these graphs, they're photos of slides and my phone camera doesn't focus so well any more (there appears to be shmutz under the lense confusing the focus)
But on any account, if you are in say, the United Kingdom, increasingly nearly all the commercial honey on grocery store shelves is coming from China.
And/or you can see the Australian honey industry is being drowned in Chinese honey (I know it's really hard to read but blue line going down is Australian honey exports, red line going up is Chinese honey imported to Australia)
And here's a funny graph, the blue line headed ever upward is Chinese honey production and that red line staying steady at the bottom is... Chinese numbers of hives!
Sooooo either they are getting ever better and better and better at producing honey, in a manner that utterly eclipses everyone else, or they're, I don't know, adulterating honey with rice-derived sugar.
The above slides from a presentation by Dr Norberto Garcia of Argentina about honey adulteration. I of course knew it was a huge issue but his presentation really convinced me that Chinese honey adulteration is absolutely drowning the honey industries in every other country. He had a lot more interesting slides but I don't think I got legible pictures of a lot of them. If you want to know who "the good guys" in honey exports are I do have this barely legible graph, with the outright cheaters or major transhippers of Chinese "honey" in red, countries strongly implicated in repackinging and re-exporting it in blue (really Belgium, really?), countries with major increases in exports that are due to legitimate reasons in green (New Zealand with manuka honey and Brazil is apparently doing major work in producing organic honey), and the countries with huge losses in exports, Argentina, Canada, and Australia are the ones who have strict testing to prevent adulterated honey transhipment but are getting hosed in terms o their own exports because they can't compete with the ridiculously low prices adulterated honey gets slung around at. So I'll add to my perennial advice of buy local honey! with also go ahead and buy honey from Canada, Argentina or Australia ... and American made honey too of course. But seriously in almost any country the honey in the major grocery stores is most likely mostly rice-syrup there's surely a farmer's market near you where you can get real honey and support a real beekeeper ;)
|Sunday, June 3rd, 2018|
|Imminent Machine Death
Driving home last Tuesday my car started alarmingly shuddering just a few hundred meters from home. Of course I looked in the engine immediately after getting home but to my utterly inexperienced eye nothing looked amiss. Maybe it was just a random thing. Driving to work Wednesday morning (21 miles), the shuddering was there from the outside, steadily got worse, after about halfway the car could hardly go over 80kph (50) (interesting fact, all these country roads have a speed limit of 100kph, which is 62mph, which I think is a bit ridiculous for country roads -- in the states I think non-highways are 45mph (70kph) tops), and the last few hundred meters into work even at the 20-30kph I went up the farm driveway at it was shuddering so badly I expected it not to make it.
Long story short but talking it over with my more mechanic-inclined friends we quickly determined the head gasket is blown -- the professional mechanic had looked at it just two weeks ago over the oil guzzling situation and determined it wasn't anything outside the engine block, that the gaskets and such inside were probably leaking, and so I gather this is the critical natural progression of that problem. Additionally I confirmed there's bubbles in the radiator when the accelerator is applied (actually I learned there's a throttle in the engine area one can pull instead of magically pushing the foot pedal and trying to see the engine at the same time! So that's a thing I learned today), and this bubbling apparently is positive proof that the head gasket is blown. All my life I've heard of "the head gasket being blown" in hushed whispers as the certain death of a car, though my one friend says as long as I keep the oil and coolant up it could hobble through life for awhile yet. It's not worth an entire engine rebuild so my plan is to just keep driving it until its eventual catastrophic failure -- which would definitely happen the moment Ii really needed to get somewhere like to catch a plane but I definitely don't plan to put the car and I in that situation. As long as I only drive to and from work it should be no worse happening on the roads between here and there during business hours than if I just gave up at it at home hey? And in the mean time I'm heavily looking for another car (I think I'll look again at leasing because I don't have the kind of money sitting around to buy a car and/or the kind of car I could afford would definitely be another maintenance nightmare)
I was going to be done posting this guy's paintings but it seemed to me the imminent machine death of my car called for something mech related
Also I was about to go on to write about the state beekeeping conference that occupied the latter part of the week but after finishing the above paragraph I thought oh hey, there's a complete thought. Might as well post it as a standalone.
|Sunday, May 27th, 2018|
So the Geelong* Writing Club puts out an annual anthology and recently put the call out for next edition, and the theme this time is... the hardest theme of all ...open topic. ::cue picture of Edvard Munch's the Scream:: *Geelong being my nearest large town. Submissions may be poetry, flash fiction, short story, and memoir. The flash fiction prompt is this picture, which includes the caption "Early morning, Barwon River" (which runs through Geelong), but if I can ignore the caption (it just says respond to the picture so it depends on if the caption is considered an inherent part of it?), the picture does actually remind me of the low native fishing boats I've seen in Africa -- if I can just come up with a 300 word plot arc. Short story I'll try to come up with something after the memoirs, since the memoir deadline is earlier. Feel free to submit yourself I guess if you want, even though that means more competition for me ;) but I don't write poetry so I especially welcome you to have a wack at that.
Memoirs is an interesting topic one doesn't see in writing contests as often, I had to read through the memoirs in last year's edition to familiarize myself with the parameters -- it seems to be just a presumably non-fiction slice from the author's past that doesn't necessarily have a plot arc, just a general feeling of nostalgia is enough. In the case of this anthology it's almost all from the 70s in Australia, absolutely chock a block with Aussie slang. Now I'm not old enough to have any stories from the seventies (I didn't exist), nor is my memory good enough to come up with anything from the 80s. As to the 90s maybe if I really poured the shmaltz on I could have something from the family cabin in the foothills north of Los Angeles or the snow blanketed landscape of winter in Sweden, but I'm much better with more recent events (again, my memory is actually really terrible, if I didn't blog who knows what I'd even know about my past :X )
And so I decided to also conform to their memoirs-about-Australia thing and adapt the LJ Idol Introduction I'd written while in Bundaberg to be a memoir of that time (ambitiously pushing the mists of time all the way back to 2012!). I prefer writing in present tense even for past events but to emphasize the this-is-a-memoir! of it I'm trying to convert it to past tense (in the below you'll see this is kind of inconsistently completed, if it's in the past but the sun always rises does one still write about it in the past tense? Ties my brain in knots!)
We can make two submissions per genre so I will also be taking the piece about Guinea which I had shortened for the really short prompt of the last contestA and seeing what I can add back in. I might post that as well, though that would be basically the third time I've posted a version of that piece so you might be getting tired of it ;D
The sun, quite impertinently, refused to set over the ocean as I had grown up accepting as the only proper solar behavior. Instead it would hide its colorful daily finale behind the tangled branches of mangroves and eucalypts.
Not one to be out-witted by a giant ball of gas, I swam out beyond the waves and watched the sun set from there. As I slowly backstroked about in the warm water, the sky would fade through ever darker blues to black and a stunning array of stars come out. Huge flying foxes would begin to glide about above, eclipsing unfamiliar constellations. It's funny, I mused, how you take the stars for granted until you find yourself in a place where they're all different and you have no point of reference in the sky. Finally I would reluctantly leave the balmy water and walk the hundred yards to my house.
I tried to outwit the sun by getting up early enough for sunrise, but one step ahead the wily bastard actually rose over a headland which curves out into the Coral Sea, so the sun rises and sets without ever touching the water.
By 06:30 when I'd be headed to work it was usually already too hot for hot coffee. The first and often only human interaction of my day would be at the bakery, where I'd stop for a meat pie for breakfast. “How are you?” I'd ask the proprietress. “Thanks” she would say. “How was your weekend?” I'd ask, “thanks” she would say. “Hear about the storm they say is coming?” I'd ask. “thanks” she'd say. During the rest of my day I likely wouldn't talk to anyone. My phone wouldn't ring, and if I received any texts they'd invariably be a "special offer!" from telstra.
The beehives were mostly among the cane fields. Twenty-one trailers full of beehives, parked in twos and threes surrounded by solid walls of sugarcane like a hedge maze. It's rather like giant grass, like perhaps you've been shrunk to the size of a bee yourself. Then they burn it and cut it and suddenly you're working in open space ... for a few more weeks until it's back to where it was. In some places the fields are bordered by impassably thick forest, in which insects make a constant loud buzz like high tension wires. There was a bird that made a sound so much like someone whistling for your attention that I would turn around every time. There'd just be a four foot goanna giving me a wry look from the scrub as if to say, as if there's anyone else here.
Twenty-four beehives per trailer. Five hundred hives altogether. Approximately thirty million bees. Commercial beekeeping smells of diesel and is caked mud on your boots. It is hard work in the hot sun. It is working for crotchety salty bosses as you slowly become one yourself. And yes, it is getting stung. A lot. My predecessor in this job had to leave after he lost his eye and half his sanity. I'm told he's still sighted around town on occasion, randomly, like a restless ghost.
My boss, the farm owner, if I may be so bold as to conjure an Australian legend, reminded me of Steve Irwin -- he had the same short boxy stature, the same exuberance, except in this case rather than for animals and conservation his enthusiasm was entirely directed toward profitably growing vegetables, and everything he'd say was peppered with the most shockingly profane analogies. I'd give you an example dear reader but you'd be unable to sleep for the next three days trying to work out if it were anatomically possible. Despite being one of the largest vegetable growers in the Bundaberg area, I have never seen him wear shoes. I generally got along with him fine, but he had this unnerving propensity to appear like an unholy genie the moment anything went wrong despite his properties being spread over thirty kilometers. Someone rear ends my work ute? Oh there's Trevor coming around the corner. Ute gets stuck in the mud in a paddock, oh look Trevor is just coming along.
A tropical storm (ex-cyclone ozwald) rolled through, amd for three days I could do nothing but watch the pounding rain on the windows, and the road in front of my house flowing like a river. Listening to the news I learned the entire area was flooding; in Bundaberg the water was over the roof of the grocery store, and 17 helicopters worked overnight to evacuate 7000 people from roofs. My seaside community of Moorpark Beach had become an island. Then the power went out and I had no more news, just rising water around me. Quite disconcertingly, in the middle of the night I was jarred awake by my smoke alarm going off, but it was merely because the battery had died. When I finally awoke to a beautiful sunny morning I called Trevor to see how things were going but he informed me the water was still then rising around his house and he was at the moment standing waist deep in it trying to rescue what he could, and sure enough, despite the sunny weather the water continued to rise over the next three days, and all we could do on the now-island of Moorpark Beach was stroll around and collect coconuts on the beach, since the ocean itself had become contaminated with all the outflow.
Every evening I would walk out to where I could see what used to be the surrounding cane fields and road to Bundaberg, now a vast inland sea, to confirm I was still on an island and wouldn't have to get up for work in the morning. As it happens, when the waters finally fell it fell all at once overnight and I was caught off-guard at 6am with someone pounding on my door, I jumped out of bed to answer it and there was Trevor, shoe-less as always, and barely had he expressed that the waters had receded than his eye hit upon the smoke alarm hanging open and he immediately launched in on a truly remarkable feat of extemporaneous composition with an extremely creative story about how without my smoke alarm working my house was going to catch fire, and burn down, and I would die, and the fire brigade would arrive but they wouldn't care, and neither would he, and then they'd be burying my body, because there weren't batteries in my smoke alarm. I can't even begin to do this fascinating spontaneous piece of speculative fiction justice, I think there were several more unlikely but compelling twists in it, but I'd been awake for thirty seconds, my brain was still trying to catch up with that he was standing here before me and, what's this about a smoke alarm??
A surreal scene was revealed in the formerly flooded lands, with tin skiffs tied to telephone poles miles from the sea, and a house in the middle of an intersection in Bundaberg north. I found dead fish on the ground all around my beehives, and a waterline on the trailer wheels, but by stunning good fortune the hives themselves had survived. I do tend to, without even thinking about it, locate beehives on rises so they have a maximally clear line of sight to the surrounding countryside, and this may have inadvertently saved them all.
After this interlude it was right back to sixty hour weeks in the “bee mines.” Even in summer, sometimes the sun was already setting by the time I'd be headed home. Around 5pm, already the forests were bathed in a warm golden light slanting in from the side. The sun sets over the sea of sugarcane as a giant orangish-red fireball. If I was running the honey extracting machinery I wouldn't emerge from the corrugated metal extracting shed until after 11pm, whereupon I come into the fresh night air covered from head to foot in honey, to find the world illuminated by the moon as if by a floodlight. Just the cane fields and the metal shed under the moon and stars, I'd contemplate it could be a hundred years earlier and it would look the same.
At night the narrow muddy tracks amid the cane truly do feel like a labyrinth. When I get home to my empty house, if I were to go online all my friends back home in California have long since gone to bed, so I'd often make myself something quick to eat and walk out to the beach, where I'd sit in the sand under the stars, watching the lightning on the horizon as I eat. Sometimes I'd think I had it pretty good. Sometimes I thought I might be in hell.
(1) I know the tense is still inconsistent. Though feel free to give me advice about what you think can still be kept in present tense. I seem to do better writing from scratch but trying to change the tense of an already-written piece I get bogged down in, well this whole thing is past but this was then-ongoing and/or the sun always rises so why would it be past tense etc.
(2) I know I'm using the Imperial system of measurement, this is all part of the American flavor of the piece.
(3) I know also that I don't actually say I'm from California to nearly the last line nor do I spell out much else about the location explicitly. You can tell me if you hate this style but it's how I've come to rather like to write. No one likes exposition, I'd rather fit facts in in context then slam them in, and I'd rather keep the reader piecing things together
(4) I knowingly avoided some obvious Australian slang, like the tin boats would obviously be "tinnies," but words like that just don't come naturally to me. It's a god damn tin boat not a tinny god damn your eyes.
(5) It bothers me a little bit that I have the sun set twice. But I like my start and I really liked the format of the original entry as it kind of followed my day (the biggest change from that format is I added the whole flooding incident, which had come after the original introduction was written). Also I feel like the sunset behind the mangroves from the beach and the sunset from the extracting shed are distinctly different (and hey the sun is finally setting over the sea, just a sea of sugarcane! -- actually that just occurred to me, I use the word ocean in teh first sentence I should make them both either sea or ocean ::strokes beard::). Anyway, thoughts?
(1) Obviously I don't know them, please let me know ;)
Pointedly Unrelated Picture:
And here's another picture by the amazing Jakub Rozalski, even though I have plenty of pictures pertinent to the above story I want you to evaluate it the way the contest judges will, without accompanying thematic photos. Also I wanted to share this picture ever since I was goingh through this guy's portfolio for last entry ;)
Addendum: Oh what do you reckon I move the second sunset to occur as I'm watching the sun set over the floodwaters that are at that point to my west, possibly with
a wry comment about getting what I wished for? Maybe something more subtle, the connection must be subtle enough that some people will make the connection but I hate un-subtle things.
|Wednesday, May 16th, 2018|
The big tech news last week was that the new google AI can call in a reservation for you and sound exactly like a human, complete with "umms" and pauses as if indecisive. And apparently people thought this was creepy, though I don't really see what is creepy about that. Not the mere fact that one can talk to a computer and not realize one is doing so anyway, but the larger ramifications of what the people behind the technology are going to inevitably do with it.
The kind of companies that have a use for telemarketers are no doubt already slavering to fire their telemarketers en masse to replace them with an AI phone voice seemlessly connected to google analytics. Instead of receiving a phone call from someone in Calcutta with an obvious Indian accent who might at best be awkwardly trying to read your weather report off a screen to make conversation with you, you will receive a phone call from the voice and accent google has determined you find most charming, maybe with the same name as your old best friend in high school, after all google knows all this. If you're the contact for any kind of group maybe it will call under the guise of a person interested in that. Amid dropping references to a mutual interest in your favorite team and just enough other favorite things of yours to be just shy of creepy, as determined by algorithm, this caller will maybe mention the great new telecom plan it's on and hey you really should get on it too! After an hour, maybe two, after all it doesn't have to pay for its own time, you will finally get off the phone with what you think is your new best friend or maybe even love interest, (heck if they can get you to call back later maybe they can sell you something else), and you won't even have realized what a terrible new phone plan you've just signed up for.
Optimistic sci fi of the mid 20th century envisioned a rather optimistic future where robots have replaced much human manual or repetitive labor to make everyone's lives better. Instead we find people in terror of their labor being taken by robots, and moreover, the robots are mining US to extract our money. Not physically mirrouring our likeness but mirroring our personalities. There won't be any "three laws of robotics," just the one, "profit for the owners above all things."
What concerns me about this isn't the mere fact that it can annihilate the "turing test," and be indistinguishable from a human, but that (A) since they don't have to pay anyone to make the calls it'll probably happen even more than current telemarketers do, and (B) one will become deeply distrustful of anyone calling on the phone one doesn't already know.
Someone needs to write about a dystopian future where AI is exploiting everyone as much as it can for the benefit of a miniscule elite cabal that owns everything. It can be called I, Brobot
And Now A Mostly Unrelated Image!
Just because I believe no entry should have no image, here's an image of a more whimsical dystopia, by the amazing Jakub Rozalski
|Saturday, May 12th, 2018|
Today should be my friend Neema's 27th birthday. I believe she is dead though. And I could have saved her.
I first met Neema in 2014 when she was the housekeeper of the guest-house Doug and I stayed in in Moshi on the slopes of Kiliminjaro, in Tanzania. One of my most distinct memories from that time is a day she happened to be walking to town at the same time Doug and I were so we all went together on the sun dappled streets roofed with jacarandas. She walked briskly along with us, friendly but clearly not trying to make friends with us. She complained of having a tooth-ache, and Doug, who's more charitable with his money than I, was beating around the bush about maybe we should pay for her to go to the dentist, though with my heart of stone I was trying to lose him in that bush, and on any account Neema herself was evasive, she clearly wasn't angling for anyone's money.
Some time after we left we found each-other on whatsapp and/or facebook and began corresponding. When I returned to Tanzania the next year, remembering her as very competent and business-like, and as she was not at that time employed, I hired her on to be my translator (actually she agreed to come along before I proposed paying her for it). Even though she's a native Tanzanian I don't think she'd ever been quite so far out in the bush as our Hadza project took us, which was practically camping, but she was an absolute trooper, invaluable as a translator, and she really enjoyed it I believe and connected well with several Hadza women.
Neema and I got along very well, which is not necessarily anywhere near a foregone conclusion when you are traveling through really remote areas with someone, and she took to calling me "Kris my brother" and "Kris Kris" which she pronounced "krees krees." Another fond memory I have is when we visited an island off Dar Es Salaam after the project and the tides came up so to get back around to the landing we eventually had to wade through surf which was up to my waist -- Neema is very small and doesn't know how to swim, so she was clinging to me piggy-back style exclaiming "Krees Krees we gonna die!"
And in the years since we've stayed in close contact, corresponding at least weekly.
This past February after having been sick and in great pain she went to a local doctor who determined she had a large fibroid in her womb and that she might die if they did not operate. Because my heart is a chunk of frozen ice I prepared to regretfully inform her that I didn't have the thousands of dollars surgery would probably cost, and asked her how much it would be. 800,000 Tanzanian shillings she said, which is actually only $350. Now I can't afford to dispense $350 like a pinata to everyone who has a go at me for it, but I reflected, after for years hardening my heart against just this kind of inevitable request, in the end if I could save my Neema's life for $350 I'd never be able to live with myself if I didn't. So I wired her the money the next day.
What happened next apparently is that they went to the hospital but found out that even with the money, they'd have to pay for a hospital bed at 65,000 TSH a day ($28.50)("it was very expensive"), and as they didn't know how many days she'd be there they didn't think they could afford it. So apparently they spent the money instead on a witch doctor and herbal medicine. When I talked to Neema in the days after all this she told me informed me she felt "better but different." I guess now I was fishing around to determine if I should send a large enough amount for her to have he operation but she seemed to think she was okay (and Dr Google seems to say that a fibroid in teh womb shouldn't really be fatal? But I'm assuming a very big one in a very small girl, as she is, and without adequate medical attention very well could be). In retrospect I wonder if it was like the tooth-ache again, and she had already received what to her was an astronomical amount of money from me and didn't want to ask again.
On any account, on March 20th I asked her if she was well, she said "yeah my dear," and apparently has never even seen my response an hour later. Since then I have messaged her on every email, whatsapp, phone number, or facebook account I have for her with no response, posted on her wall (no facebook activity from her March 18th), no reponses anywhere, which is highly unusual.
I know I know without confirmation the worst has happened one can always hope she's just somehow completely incommunicado and believe me I'm hoping for that, but I don't think it looks good.
In most of the West we don't have the burden of having to save our friends. In the United States we usually can't afford to save ourselves. In Africa we have the awful burden of it being affordable. Neema was at least a very dear friend I definitely wanted to save, but if people less dear ask it puts me in an awful moral dilemma -- I can't save everyone, but I can afford to save some, and that puts one in an awful position.
I'm not used to feeling these things called emotions about situations that are past and no further action is in order, but usually I guess a close friend isn't probably dead for the want of $150-$200 dollars. People I've talked to about it already tell me "you did all you could," but it just keeps playing in my head that I could have insisted on giving her the money sending her to have the surgery after she told me she hadn't. Really, I'm not hoping anyone will tell me I did all I could or anything, I just, I just feel really sad about it all.
|Thursday, May 10th, 2018|
|Podcast Episode 1 Transcript and Some Thoughts on the Podcast Project
So of course after putting a heap of effort into making that podcast (Nigeria #1 - Arrivals and First Impressions) I'm not sure anyone listened to it except the two or three close friends I guilted into listening to it to give me feedback. So much for going immediately viral hey. BUT hey podcastery is a nearly completely foreign media to me (I only listen to This American Life and that by irregularly going directly to their website at random intervals when I'm doing menial work at work and realize there's probably an update in the weeks since I last checked) so I have yet to figure out how to be properly.. poddy trained? ahaha.
I asked my one friend who does regularly like every day listen to podcasts where she gets them and she said castbox.fm, which immediately became in my head and will henceforth be referred to as catbox (to be used once your cat has been poddy trained??). So I uploaded my podcast there. I have thus far not even been able to get that friend (Billie) to listen to it ::sigh::
I've learned to go back and delete my "umm"s and awkward pauses, and even go back and insert something recorded at a different time into the middle of an audio file, so that was an achievement. On the minus side, both the sites I've uploaded to don't seem to allow me to replace the audio file that's been already uploaded, so I can't do what I do with livejournal which is usually continue to come back to entries and tweak parts that are bothering me. If you actually listen to my episode that is up, I say it's "Episode II" but clearly it is Episode I. I was thinking of the intro as Episode I when I said that but it's not worth fixing. Also I'm not super happy with the part where I repeat myself about Nigerians being proud of being business owners but also it's proved too tedious to replace that bit.
Part of why I'm into this project is learning to dabble in another form of media as well as gain a better understanding of the podcastsphere, so at least I'm achieving those goals if not actually getting listened to myself.
I searched both podcast sites (Catbox and SoundCloud) for other travelogues to you know evaluate the competition / see how they are faring ... and so far have found hardly any at all and those I have found seem dreadfully dull. Hey my first episode has multiple bombs going off, car crashes, a plane crash, inexplicable pirate ships, and a cliffhanger. Hmm actually maybe I should replace my current bland summary of "first impressions of Africa" with that sentence I just wrote. See this is why I like blogging, it helps me sort things out since apparently I have no internal monologue other than this.
Anyway I was going to post the script of the entry here since you are, after all, a bunch of livejournalists who might not be expected to change your habits to listen to a podcast anyway. And I had the script all written and ready to go .... except my computer decided to reset itself to install updates and dumped everything I hadn't saved, which was a lot of things since I pretty much never intentionally shut down my computer unless its for travel and all too often neglect to save things. I do have the first draft of the script and I'll try to make some quick changes of the major things I changed but if you want the "final" version you're a gonna have to listen to the podcast. ;) I know I know its a bother to sit and listen to something for twenty minutes while you're sitting at a computer but the key is to cue it up and listen to it while you're out chopping wood in your flannel and beard or in the kitchen chopping carrots (best trade out the axe), or driving to work with your flannel tie on (with cute little axe shaped tie clip??).
( Episode I - Arriving in Nigeria - TranscriptCollapse )
|Monday, May 7th, 2018|
|Podcast Episode 1
EPISODE I - ARRIVING IN NIGERIA
So here's kind of the first full episode of my planned podcast series. Eventually I'll learn how to edit it by section and be able to fix parts of it but for now I am limited to recording the whole thing in a twenty minute straight shot :-/
Anyway, I'm very curious to hear feedback so if you could give it a listen and tell me what you think I'd greatly appreciate it!
|Friday, May 4th, 2018|
The above is the current logo of my non profit, Bee Aid International, it was very kindly designed by my parents' neighbor, a professional graphic designer, who was very very responsive to my many requests and tweaks about it. I was pretty happy with the result but over time I've begun to feel a bit like I don't think that's the optimum bee in it.
As you probably don't recall from my last post about drawing, I had identified a tiny bee in an earlier drawing I'd done as "the perfect [stylized] bee." Today being a miserable cold rainy day with buffeting blustery gusts of wind it was definitely a day to hole up inside and work on sometihng on the computer machine. So I thought I'd see what it looked like if I inserted that bee into the three hexagons:
As you can see I used the extent of my off-brand-photoshop skills to rotate the wings. The original plan was that the bee's wings completed the sides of the hexagons, but I don't think I like it as well as simply the original:
Definitely fills the space better even if it abandoned the follow-the-hexagons plan. Also I chuckle to myself guiltily that one of the things I was insistent on to the original designer was that it accurately have two sets of wings as bees do (the major distinguishing feature between bees and flies-that-try-to-look-like bees!), and here I've abandoned that. I'm still not sure about it. I think it might look better if the hand-drawn quality of the lines was completely replaced by nice smooth computer generated lines, but because both the wings and body are not elipses but kind of pear shaped lopsided elipses, it is beyond my meager graphic design skills.
Anyway, all of this was kind of a side note to the main activity of the day. I need to establish bee sites ("apiaries" in pedantic) in areas further afield from where I currently am. The plan is to put looking-for-a-bee-site flyers on general store bulletin boards in areas with lots of the flora I'm looking for (I'm doing serious studying this winter of the flowering patterns of western Victoria), as well as possibly knocking on doors of houses on property that looks ideal, with a jar of honey ("pre-giving" they called this in my Theories of Persuasion class) and a nice note I'll have printed on cardstock in case they aren't home (primordial version). So here's the flyer I designed today:
Background picture is of one of my current bee yards (I loathe and despise using stock images, and even seeing them on other people's websites.), I wanted to give them an instant visual of what it would look like in practice.
In entirely unrelated news for about ten minutes yesterday it looked like I might have a chance to spend my winter/summer sailing on an adorable brig between England and Ireland -- I had applied for a paid position they had advertised and they actually contacted me sounding very interested, asked if I could be available on May 8th which is only 4 days hence and, flabbergastingly, when I checked flights they were actually available on this three days notice for around $1300 which is what it would be at best of times anyway Ii think ... but then my dreams of being out of here chair spinning to be getting paid to do something awesome for second-summer were dashed when they asked if I had a work visa for UK and Dr Google informed me that it does not look like I can just conjur up a UK visa all lickity-split. So stuck here in the increasingly miserable cold blustering wind and rain ): ):
|Wednesday, May 2nd, 2018|
This morning while I was huddling under the heater drinking my morning coffee I came across this fascinating three piece article: The Long Way Round: The Plane that Accidentally Circumnavigated the World and didn't even think about getting on with my day till I had finished reading through it. I think I'm going to order the book he mentions.
And then it reminded me of another story of a crew trying to get around the world. While reading Peter FitzSimmons' "Gallipoli," he had mentioned that the German cruiser SMS Embden was lurking in the Indian Ocean threatening the ANZAC transports, and that the ship was eventually sunk and it's surviving crew marooned on an island, from which they then took a schooner on which they made it to Arabia, had many more misadventures involving bedouins and things before finally making it to Istanbul and being able to get on a train home. FitzSimmons just gave that overview but mentioned there was a book on it, and I had meant to get said book because it sounded interesting, but had forgotten until reminded this morning.
But now I am confronted by the problem of that there are actually at least five books on the subject, all by authors I've never heard of. They all have about 4.2 of 5 stars from amazon and/or goodread and 6-7 reviews, but I'm assuming most readers/reviewers read only one of them so it's not really a good comparison. So how does one choose??
Which Book Should I Read?
In other news I'm slowly but surely composing the second episode of the podcast, my plan is to conflate all three of my Nigeria projects so I can thematically arrange all the best parts of all three. If I had more audio skills I actually have video interviews I did with local friends in Nigeria at the time which would be a fantasmical addition to the podcast (which may run more than one "episode" length if I put everything and the kitchen sink in, as I rather intend), but I'm not sure I have the audio magic to get the audio off the videos and into the audio recording.
|Sunday, April 22nd, 2018|
|Honey, and Webpage Problems and Podcast!!
Now pretend for a moment I wasn't going on about my honey label last post and tell me which of these labels is best?
In related news, normally I host my pictures on flickr but I was forced to actually use livejournal's own hosting because earlier today Flickr was acquired by some entity no one has ever heard of before (hugmug, or smugmug, or mugthug or something?) and very ominiously oh look now Flickr is quite entirely down. ):
And in other other news, I made a podcast! Sort of. It's only seven minutes, where I think a podcast ought to be more like 20-30 minutes but hey I just wanted to get something up that's not too long and see how it does. I'm annowed because soundcloud automatically named my url "https://soundcloud.com/kris-fricke/," whereas I'd much prefer it to be "/beedev" (as in beedev.org), but even though I can find where I should be able to change it its for some reason not changing. I submitted a help ticket so hopefully it'll get sorted out and then the following link will be broken but for now you can listen to my seven minute introduction to my planned podcast series here!! (and if the url does get changed it would be this). Feedback appreciated! Thanks (: