Echidna Media Organization project S.N.A.L.'s Journal|
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|Saturday, May 16th, 2015|
|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 (:
|Saturday, April 21st, 2018|
For awhile now I've had this idea to do a "Portrait of Birregurra," initially because I was new here so it was worth painting the new setting, but now it's been a year, but during the intervening year I've been thinking a lot about how people don't write about what to them is most familiar -- who writes a travelogue to their hometown? I even finally made an America tag and tagged the entries from last year's Epic Roadtrip 2017, during which I first tried to treat even Los Angeles and So Cal as travelogue-worthy subjects. If nothing else, as a writing exercise I think writing about one's local town in a manner that would give the idea of it to someone who hasn't been there (ie, as if in a travelogue), is a great writing exercise -- forcing you to overcome your own assumptions of what's familiar to everyone whilst writing about something one is thoroughly knowledgeable about. Which is to say, I would love to see anyone else try the exercise. And without further ado, Birregurra: A Portrait.
II. Getting There
Melbourne is the gravitational centre that defines everything in here, in descriptions of state-wide issues here, talking heads often use "Melbourne" interchangabley with Victoria, even though the Eastern corner of the state is six hours away, and the northwest corner is seven and a half. Knowing full well I live two hours outside Melbourne, Melbournians will ask me "so how do you like living in Melbourne" without seeing anything weird about the question.
Melbourne, when one is here, one assumes is naturally the Center of the World and everyone of course knows where it is. But if you'll suspend disbelief with me for a moment and assume someone reading this might not know their Perth from their Darwin, Melbourne is on the southern edge of the Australian continent at the top of a big bay. It take 15 hours to fly here from LA, usually with a stop in Fiji or New Zealand, and nearly two days from Europe with a likely stop in Abu Dhabi, and the last eight hours of the flight are over the monotonous red deserts of central Australia.
The Tullamarine airport is on the northwest edge of Melbourne, which is fortunate since I can skirt the city on the ring-road. Some times there is traffic but even then it's not the stop-and-go of Los Angeles but a mere increased viscosity of cars on the road, like trying to pour cold honey, as we wend our way along at no worse than say 35mph. For the first half hour one is surrounded by warehouses and other industrial looking buildings, with the city's skyscrapers off to the left, and then rather abruptly one crosss the Werribee river and one is driving through open plains. I'm not sure if this is some kind of protected land or a flood plain but it doesn't appear to even be grazing land, just flat plains, as the skyscrapers fade out of sight in the background. The bay lies off to one's left, parallel to the highway, but is not visible. Twenty minutes later a single Lonely Mountain named the You Yangs rises up out of the plains, and one sees signs for the town at it's base, Little River. Then, if one looks carefully one can see the giant hangers of Avalon Airport ("Melbourne's OTHER Airport" Melbournians smugly call it, because it's totally not basically in Geelong or anything). Then there's the flaming minarets of the oil refineries, and the dock where they seem to be forever loading an interminable load of woodchips into bulk freighters (I imagine it's part of some Greek curse where for one reason or another the ship will never be full)
And then one comes up around a hill to see the suburbs of Geelong draped over the next hill, and in this valley what looks like the ruins of a roman aqueduct comes up, and stops at the highway, but clearly formerly continued up to the top of the hill on the left where, now surrounded by suburban houses, the silos of an old concrete factory stand like a castle. One then swoops down over the Boorabool river, keeping thick quarter-acre-lot suburbs on one's left and farmland on one's left, over another hill, over the Barwon River, and up and down another hill or two, the highway seeming a dyke that keeps the suburbs on the left from flooding the farmland on the right. Over at least one rise one gets a sweeping view of the city, the most memorable feature of which the the standium in the middle which appears to have a dozen giant spatulas rising into the air around it like some great temple to baking.
Then one turns right and after passing between two hills with high walls on them feels as if one's been shot out of a rapids down into the countryside again. One is headed west now, parallel to the southern coast, and can continue most of the way on this two-lane-per-side divided highway, and I do after dark to avoid kamikaze kangaroos (kangikazis?), but otherwise I soon turn off on the two lane country road known as Cape Otway Highway, which my GPS pronounces as "K Pop Highway." After just a few minutes one arrives at a railroad crossing and across it a little store with a big facade that declares in faded letters "SUNSHINE BISCUITS!" -- this is the Moriac general store and beside it a now closed saddlery store -- welcome to the country. I used to live 2km outside this town near a buddhist monastery before moving to my current location.
Continuing on west from here to Birregurra it it gently undulating countryside, driving parallel with the green someone stumpy Otway mountains on the left, and the crumbles smooothing out into the "Golden Plains" to the right. In the evening, my favorite time to drive through this area, the sun casts a golden glow on the dried grass of the countryside, rectangular black cattle seen from a short distance resemble schools guppies nibbling on a lake bottom, and bounding squadrons of kangaroos fly up the hills like leaping salmon, traversing fences as if they weren't there.
About forty minutes out from Moriac, 25 since the turnoff for my work, one crosses a short floodplain that fills with fog in early winter mornings, and the three steeples of the Birregurra churches emerge from the trees and/or fog on the far side. One rumbles over the bridge (once again over the Barwon River, much diminished now), and one is in Birregurra town!
III. Birregurra Town
Birregurra is arranged like a tic tac toe grid, except only the main east-west road and one headed out of town north is actually paved. In this day and age most of our roads in this town are still not paved. Most houses are quaint and old (mine is casually 101!) one story weatherboard cottages. This is not to say they're dilapidated or run down, property valued in Birregurra utterly eclipse everything around because its such a delightful place to live.
On my first visit to Birregurra I was traveling through it with my boss to Colac the very first week, he was kind of showing me around, and of Birregurra he said "this is Birregurra ... that was Birregurra" as we passed through it in about thirty seconds. Upon crossing the Barwon River and entering town, one proceeds two blocks through these quiet shady residential streets, which one can do in seconds at 60kph, then crosses a small second bridge over Birregurra Creek, and the two lane country road becomes extremely wide. I'm told these old country towns are all designs so you can turn an ox cart around on the main street, and indeed, I can _almost_ even do a u-turn with the work Navara here. On the left there's a park, on the right the pharmacy, then it's houses on the right and on the left a row of half a dozensmall shops with facades like an old western town. A provedore (which I've learned means "food for hipsters" -- but they are a really nice young couple and carry all local products); an art gallery; the pub everyone complains isn't very good; an art gallery; the general store (actually has the best burgers I've found in Australia!); the post office; in a very solid looking building that was once a bank, a gluten free bakery (which I refuse to go into because gluten free is such a fad); an art gallery; this small used book store with a really great selection; and a barber shop. I really have no idea how we support three art galleries.
Walking from "down town" to my house one crosses the park, goes over a little wooden bridge over the creek, crosses a little bit more park and walks along beside a pasture with cows in it, a house that's actually an old church, complete with stained glass windows (and a beehive in the wall everyone mentions to me), and then crosses the street to my house.
I have one neighbor between me and main street, and usually they aren't there since it's, I believe their "weekend house" from Melbourne. They've never introduced themselves, which makes me feel a bit resentful when they show up on weekends blasting music on into the night. For a long time the house on the other side of me was vacant as well but now a guy with dreadlocks (not a hippie though, a construction worker, usually seen wearing his high visibility uniform at all times) and his family has moved in, apparently his parents live in the church across the street. I really quite like the neighbors across the street from me, a lovely older couple. They just moved from Melbourne, the man is easing into retirement and still works a few days a week in the big smoke. The houses on either side of them are vacant, I think both locked in a similar kind of situation where the grandmother of the family was living there and died and now the younger generation who currently owns it lives in Melbourne but doesn't want to give it up so it just sits there vacant. So at one point it was me and my across-the-street neighbors surrounded by four empty houses. Three red chickens sometimes wander around my street.
As you may gather from all the art galleries and provedores and gluten free bread, Birregurra is a bit more artsy than your average country backwater (we're more like a delightul lagoon!). Early on, I was so fortunate to be invited to a party at the historic Tarndwarncoort Homestead just outside of Birregurra, and there around the outdoor bonfire by a 150 year old bluestone building, drinking locally made wines (and mead I brought!), eating locally made cheeses and such, I chatted with many locals and learned that most of them, involved in various interesting artisan businesses, were in fact locals. Something in the air here it seems, makes people instead of getting stupid tattoos on their necks and growing rat-tails, connect with their community and start very interesting local enterprises.
IV. The Surrounds
Just twenty minutes south of town stretches the temperate rainforest in a small mountain range known as the Great Otways, and beyond the forest is the famous Great Ocean Road (everything is great!). These and the wineries in this area just north of the rainforest, as well as the "44th Best Restaurant in the World" just on the outskirts of Birregurra draw a fair number of tourists through in the summer. Brae, the restaurant, doesn't feature much in our lives since it's like $250 a plate so locals are only likely to go there for like a 50th wedding anniversary or similarly momentous event.
Just fifteen minutes south, just on the north edge of the Otways, is the tiny townlet of Dean's Marsh, with its own general store and The Martian Cafe which frequently has live music though I've never been down there for it. The Martians (as residents are called) seem a friendly community oriented lot who fall a bit more to the hippie side of things than Birregurrans.
Fifteen minutes in the other direction is the town of Colac. With a population of 12,411 to Birregurras 828, it is the cultureless gas giant our little moon forlornly orbits around. Colac is on the shore of Lake Colac and yet, they don't even know how to make use of a lake and have not developed the waterfront in any manner other than ruining by putting a parking lot right on it. Restaurants overlooking the lake? Water sports? Nope, parking lot. Mention Colac to anyone in Victoria and as reliably as an Arizonan will say "but it's a dry heat" you will be told "did you know Colac is the STD capital of Australia?" Colac is only good for groceries and even then I usually make a once a week trek to Geelong for the better grocery stores there.
And so that, you see, is Birregurra -- the last little outpost of civilization at the edge of the world.
|Sunday, April 15th, 2018|
|A Mundane Week in Autumn
I've got a million pictures of Cato on my shoulders but I think this one came out particularly good.
Just a mundane week here. It's a depressing time of year, as Autumn sets in, but we don't even have the autumn holidays one looks forward to in the states - April being the southern hemisphere October, we'd be thinking about Halloween at this time if this was the states, but nope nothing. Though I am thinking about making eggnog, since I read somewhere it should be aged a few months and want it ready for the heart of winter in June/July. Because terms for the different cream-levels of milk are different here I had to talk consult with cooking magician Koriander for recipe adjustments.
Normally this time of year I have projects abroad to look forward to, but this year all the organizations I usually work with are saying they don't have budget for any new projects -- I vaguely suspect I can blame Trump for this (the money all cmmes from USAID). Other than a possible project in Haiti, anywhere I go will have to be on my own dime and time, yuck. There's a traditional wedding in Kenya I am invited to and would really like to attend but it's expensive getting oneself to Africa... and it's the exact same day my uncle is getting married in the States so I might be in trouble if I go off to a wedding in Africa instead ::hides::
For four days this week the weather was actually extremely nice, highs in the upper seventies, sunny. Even in the evening it was comfortable! I don't think we've had four days in a row of nice weather all year. Went to trivia in Geelong town on Tuesday for the first time in possibly months just to see everyone. Wednesday I finished the labels for my honey -- In the picture above you see the front and back of the label as seen on the smaller 500g pale/bucket/jar/thing, as well as my really messy table (the two wine bottles immediately behind it are Udi's wine actually). The honey is a different color in the bottom 1kg bucket because thats the one that's been sitting on my kitchen table for months and has crystalized. Its currently the same size label on both buckets, but it kind of covers the whole side on the smaller buckets and I may get smaller labels for the smaller buckets in the future. Any thoughts on anything even as subtle as font choice are appreciated. I set the expiration date as "5:08pm 01/02/2099" as sort of a joke -- the health official I talked to had said honey doesn't need one but it's worth putting on since people expect one on food products, and I can set it at absolutely anything I want.
Logo and the nearby landmark it's supposed to be reminiscent of -- this is the "cover image" our designer made for our as-yet-uncreated facebook page.
Also I might increase the opacity of the three hive logo that is currently under the name on the front label, since it's currently so faint it kind of just looks like a stain.
Thursday I brought a load of honey to the cafe my friend Joe and his wife run and sold it to them. It was interesting negotiating a price with my good friends since instead of trying to hardball eachother we were like "so.. what should the price be?" "::shrug::, what do other people sell you honey for?" "ummmm let me check" ... I think in the end I matched the prices of the higher priced other local supplier -- $14/kg from the store to me, to be put on the shelf at $22 (for the 1kg units, for the 500g $15 on the shelf and same $14/kg wholesale) I think the Apiary has 390g jars on the shelf for $14, I've always thought their prices were ridiculously high. But hey if people will pay it... and since it has an infinite shelflife I'm happy to set it at a high price that may sell eventually over a lower price that may fly off the shelf.
Felt like I was comning down with a bit of a cold so used 5 hours of sickday to take the rest of the day off. Was just sickish enough to be mildly uncomfortable all day.
Friday I had to drive down to Melbourne to get one last load of hives from the sterilizer. Man it's a whole long day of driving to go down there and back. It was a good my-health-may-not-be-100%-yet activity though ... but then my health was bound to take a thorough shellacking because my friend Trent is going abroad next week for potentially years so we were bound for a night of heavy drinking at his favorite place Friday night. Rheingold's is one of those Kitschy permanent-Oktoberfest style German restaurants, located in the basement of an old bank so it feels a bit like a dungeon. One pays one amount for all-you-can eat dinner (they roast a whole pig, as well as provide sauerkraut and other such appropriate things. I found I was strangely loving the sauerkraut), and one can pay for drinks as one goes or like $60 for all you can drink tap beer -- which I did the math and I'd have to drink three liters to make that worthwhile which is NOT about to happen -- but many people go for it and try to get their money's worth and hence end up ridiculously drunk. Really funny animated-gif picture of Trent being goofy as the roast pig is paraded by behind him. A large group of students (of medicial imaging apparently) from a local univsersity happened to be there too, all dressed up in lederhosen and such. It was a really fun evening. As we were leaving a cold wind was beginning to gust but it still felt nicer than most evenings all summer.
In the morning I woke up on my friend Greg's couch to sideways rain pelting down outside. Driving home through it was wild, as the car got buffeted and in places it looked like the water was just flowing across the country roads in a roiling mist -- I passed at least one car that I think had decided to stop and wait it out. All weekend it's continued to rain and generally be cold and yucky. Fortunately I didn't need to leave the house. I'm actually glad when we get this shit weather on the weekend because unlike the rest of you, my work is not a fun place to be in poor weather -- I'm either outside or in a non-temperature-controlled shed.
And here's Cato looking more sweet and innocent than he ever has before! Normally he likes to strike such stern poses.
Random pandora discovery song of the week: Save This Penny - Medicine --I really like this style of music, I guess one would call it "folk" but I think if I told people I liked folk music they'd picture something hokey going on with banjos, so I find it hard to describe.
|Monday, April 9th, 2018|
|A Pleasant Morning on the Reef
Yesterday, Saturday, April 8th, Point Lonsdale - Finally there was a conservation project only an hour from me. I'd never actually been to Point Lonsdale, because I thought it was a non-place, just a point, beside the town of Queenscliff, so I was pleased this project brought me there to find that it's actually at least five shops on a street fronting a beach, as well as a kind of cool reef that's exposed at low tide, and a lighthouse. I've always thought of Queenscliff as the end of the peninsula on this side but I guess Pt Lonsdale is the actual narrowest point of the harbor entrance (I wish that picture was bigger but I took it from within the facebook app, which apparently only takes small res pictures).
It turned out there were only two other volunteers -- two marine biology students (a couple?), as well as myself and two rangers (both young women in probably later 20s. Apparently several more people had signed up but never turned up. Which was weird because the weather from the beginning (9am) was just perfect, sunny, in the 70s. We once again were out putting quadrants on the ground and using the same form to fill in what was within them, and this time they had already selected random places by GPS to set them on the ground for random sampling. Consisted of a lot of counting sea snails (I counted 311 limpits in one 50cm/50cm quadrant!). I feel like a started to become familiar with the names of the various sea snails but its not quite cemented in my head yet. Some had these cool digital camo style patterns though.
On our arrival there were several people out on the reef with dogs off leash, they started quickly trying to move away upon sighting the rangers but the one of them hustled after them to give them all a chastising. Halfway through the morning someone brought to one of the ranger's attention a dead sting-ray in a small pool in the exposed reef, she (the ranger) was concerned someone may have killed it on purpose because people do, but after examining the poor dead cute thing there were not visible external injuries so cause of death was inconclusive. Faith in humanity reached a nadir when it came to the ranger's attention that there was a human poop on the end of the pier. But on a more positive note, people with little kids would often ask what we were doing and the rangers clearly enjoyed explaining it to the kids and were able to do it in a manner the kids found interesting.
A large number of other young people started appearing with measuring tools of their own (tape measures?), which caused the ranger to grumble a bit about how people are supposed to let them know when they have a planned research project, but eventually the person in charge of these people came over and it came out that he'd told a different ranger who had failed to tell this one, so instead she grumbled about him.
We finished our surveys just after noon. Apparently the next one, on the 22nd of this month, is even closer to me! So that'll be nice. In general I've noticed as we go in to winter there's far fewer conservation projects on any of the calendars.
The weather was lovely and being as I've never been to Pt Lonsdale before I walked down to the row of shops, and just as I was walking into the one I decided to have lunch at, there were the rangers at a table! They waved me over and I joined them (no mom, no romance). They had to go back to the office, and bemoaned about how "people think we have such a great job working in such a beautiful place but, what it really means is we are stuck in an office here while we can see people enjoying the beautiful beach out the window!" I had an absolutely delicious calamari salad, would totally go back to that place for it.
Then I drove around the corner to Queenscliff town and just spent awhile walknig around town. It's a cute sort of victorian coastal town kind of place. Really cute. And the weather as really nice so I was in no hurry to get home.
Saturday had also been a day of lovely weather, again in the 70s and sunny. I had helped my friend Udi man his booth at a farmer's market in the morning, and then slowly made my way home, stopping for a delicious lunch in the town of Inverleigh,
But back to the reef, big ships kept passing through the narrow entrance to the bay to reach Melbourne (recognize this one??). And the above lovely picture is a good segue to an article I came across last week and had been meaning to share, this totally gripping article about the worst US maritime accident in 30 years. It's estimated that a major merchant ship sinks somewhere in the world once every two or three days, but it doesn't make the news the way aviation disasters do. Having gone to sea myself (as a tallship sailor) and knowing many people who work in commercial maritime (two of my exes have captain's licenses), stories of maritime disasters really hit me close to home.
|Friday, April 6th, 2018|
Last Tuesday -I arrived at my friend Udi's vineyard in the grey light of morning, with dew still glimmering on the grapes. I was immediately greeted by my friend Jason, on whose land I have some beehives, with his typical Australian humor: "Did you steal a car or something?" -- since he usually only sees me in my work truck, not ole Kermit (who once again seems to have gone through five liters of oil in two weeks) -- Australian humor can sometimes sound like they're having a go at you.
I soon saw many other people from the local community I've seen around at other local events, including Alfred, "the local beekeeper" -- it was nice to have someone ELSE in the group referred to as "the bee man" for a change. Alfred is 81 and very friendly. He's been in Australia since 1964 but still talks with a distinctive German accent, heavy-handedly turning all "th" sounds into "d"s. We were all given a small pair of pruning shears, brief instructions ("cut off everything that looks like grapes!"), and set loose on the vines. As we all later agreed, after more than four hours it wouldn't be very fun any more at all, but it was a pleasant way to spend the morning. Because one was often working opposite someone else on the vine row one would have a little conversation for a few minutes before one of you had to go empty one's bucket into the big container on the truck, so one had many little snippets of conversation. Would be a great setting to start a flirtation in a romance novel ;)
Tuesday, as it happens was the first day after a four day weekend, because, Easter Monday is naturally a thing ("What did Jesus do on MONDAY??" I asked a friend -- "gave us a public holiday, now quit complaining!" was the response). I was initially wondering why Udi didn't have it on Monday when we'd all be off (I worked a half day on Friday and Monday to justify myself), but I think the winery which is actually processing the grapes didn't want to receive them on the holiday.
Udi just has about an acre of vines, which he explained he put around his house because he didn't want the cattle right up to the house but didn't just want a giant lawn he had to mow. So, grapes! He sells just enough to cover the costs and uses the rest to entertain or give away to friends and family.
We finished right around noon, the dozen and a half or so of us having made short work of it. Jason's two teenage sons then got to squabbling about which of them would drive their atv back to their place just across the narrow valley, so Jason made them both walk. Really it seemed very civilized for brothers -- they didn't look even close to punching eachother. Anyway, the rest of us then sat down to a feast, at a table on the lawn just above the vineyard! Among some salads and things, Udi had made a slow roasted beef short rib in guinness, which he had apparently grilled just a bit before beginning the slow roasting to give it some crispyness. Needless to say it was delicious!!
More interested tidbits about Alfred that came out at the table -- back in Germany during the war, his father was taken to a Auschwitz for refusing to fight in the army. And his wife Doris' eyes became momentarily sad and resentful when she said the US airforce completely leveled her hometown. But then the conversation flowed on and by and large we had a lovely "neighborhood" gathering. I feel so lucky to have been absorbed into this lovely circle.
This weekened (today being Friday) I'm helping Udi at a farmer's market tomorrow (Saturday), partly because I'm about to jump into farmer's markets myself to sling honey so it'll be nice to dip my toe in by helping someone else at their booth (Udi sells meat -- he actually does the whole process from raising his cattle to selling the meat, cutting out several stages of middle-men most people have), but also I just enjoy hanging out with Udi. And Sunday there's another conservation project, this time at a beach that's not terribly far from here.
And in other news they announced the winners for that writing contest I entered to win a trip to Argentina and... I didn't win. It was of course always a longshot what with 7,000 entries, but I'd read a whole bunch of them and many were terrible, so I dared to hope. Now I'm feeling sorry for myself for never having ever won a writing contest -- if I can't win at "travel writing," ... ):
And it's probably quite entirely sour grapes, but the third winner may have hit on a poignant story background but I rather feel they exhibit not an ounce of inspired execution of their writing or promising ability to describe their travels, they seem to have won purely by happening to hit their head on a background situation that the judge liked.... but I'm not bitter ;) (and in a kind of weird coincidence I also have an ex who was imprisoned for six months in the Republic of Georgia for having visited that same place (Sokhumi) -- guess I should have written about it...
|Friday, March 30th, 2018|
It occurs to me, that life in an office is as unfamiliar a setting to me as some sort of improbable science fiction. My normal workday consists of working in the forest surrounded by kangaroos, as the kookaburra laughs overhead.
And I haven't posted a poll in a long time anyway, so here's a poll with some office life stereotypes that come to mind.
In the last week have you:
Read a stupid memo
Gotten in a fight with the copying machine
Had a chat by the water cooler
Rolled your eyes at the boss when they weren't looking
Played a prank on a coworker
Had a prank played on you
I'm sure there's other office cliches I'm forgetting at this moment. Please feel free to brainstorm them in comments!