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|Saturday, May 16th, 2015|
|Wednesday, October 17th, 2018|
|A Festive Swarm
I'm trying to get out of the habit of only posting when I have something that's really too long to post. This is one of several stories I recently posted as an overly long facebook post, I'll try to get around to posting the others here too.
So this past weekend was the annual big festival of my little village, "Birregurra Festival." The weather was great and it was fun. While I was walking the 100 meters or so from my house to the festival with my friends Mick and his girlfriend, our route took us past the flow hive in my neighbor's empty lot and I was like "Oh Hey Mick have you seen a flow hive lets go look at it"
While there we encountered said neighbor himself, Trevor, mentioned here before, a very jolly fellow. He was sitting on his back veranda with his wife and a friend. "Hey, when are you bringing me more bees?" he jokingly pressed me, "I've got the second stand built and ready!" Really its the ethical dilemma mentioned before that had prevented me from already providing him with bees, since enough bees to start a hive cost $120-$150 and I dunno about providing a SECOND lot of bees even to my favorite neighbor for free. (see previous post for full ethical examination)
But just then Mick says "Hey, what about those bees?" and we look and he's pointing to a swarm of bees just BESIDE the new stand.
"Oh, how about right now I say?" and we all have a good laugh about the quick turnaround on this request. So I trot quickly home, all I can find is an empty box (no frames) someone else had given me a swarm in that I was going to return to them, but it'll have to do. So there I am in my nice clothes, trying not to get grass stains on my pants, moving bees by hand into this box.
We did a pretty halfassed job, since unlike most swarms I would be easily able to return to this one, so we ignored the many bees on the base of the pole saying they would clump up again and then I'd move them too. When I came back later they actually had also moved into the hive!Today after I checked the now five hives I have in my own yard, I enjoyed being able to bbq right where I'd just been working, and then I put some ice cream in my leftover coffee in this cute little cup and it was delicious.
I actually took my laptop outside and am writing this in location pictured as it rains all around me (:Part II
Day 2: I came back with a proper hive box with frames the following day and transferred them. I actually had the queen in my hand twice but didn't have a queen cage at hand (I'd had it an hour earlier, I don't know where it got to!). Bees will to a certain extent do what they want, and at a certain point they all started flooding out of the hive and collecting under the box an at that point it was carrying water up a hill with a seive. So I left htem hoping they'd get cold overnight and move up.
Day 3: I came back, they hadn't moved up, so I put the box under the stand, ie under the swarm, and shook them all into it. Kept an eye out for the queen but never saw her. Then placed the hive back on top and they appeared to be content to stay inside. Just in case I put a queen excluder under the box (ie between the bulk of them and the entrance), though having seen this queen I reckon she's small enough to slip through (and when they slim up to fly with the swarm they're more able to do so, and this one had been very flighty the day before).
Then I walked to the health center to book their meeting room for a planned community beekeeping meeting. While talking to the receptionist she said "you have a wasp on you!"
To which I said "oh" and cupped my hand gently around the bee and walked briskly outside to release it, as she called after me "careful it could sting you!"
I hadn't even glanced at it, but when I released it and it flew away like an overlaiden B-24, in a roughly straight line away from me right to the ground I was like waitaminute waitaminute. Thats how QUEENS fly. Went to examine her and... yep it was the queen! She had hitched a ride on ME!!
So I picked her up, finished talking to the receptionist whilst pretending not to be holding a bee in my hand, popped her into the queen cage I now had at hand when I got back to the car, and placed her in the hive!
|Monday, October 15th, 2018|
1869 - Spotted Owl passed between the two tall trees he had been told were considered the gates to the mountain. Gateless gates. The stark cliffs of the Six Grandfathers seemed forbidding and blue in the afternoon light. Spotted Owl stood and gazed at them for some time as the wind swished through the pine trees around him. It was truly an impressive sight. People from the closest village had told him they weren't sure there was a wise man living on top, but they didn't know for sure. Having journeyed several days from his home village, Spotted Owl gazed at the impressive mountain and thought to himself that it was a worthwhile trip even if he couldn't find the man.
He carefully picked his way across the scree at the base of the blue cliffs skirting around the edge of the massive craggy stone outcrop until he found The place he'd been told he could climb up to the top. It was an extremely steep and arduous climb, at times making Spotted Owl think wistfully about how much easier it would have been when he was young. At times he feared for his life as dislodged stones slipped from under foot and went skittered away down the precipice.
He found the top of the giant rock formation to be uneven and rugged. He explored for awhile but found no sign of anyone else. He searched around for awhile but soon the sun was setting in a beautiful golden sunset behind the black hills. He sat on a rock and watched it and then, as it was becoming dangerous to wander around the area in the gathering darkness he spread out his furs in a crevice and was able to gather enough firewood for a small fire.
He woke up early the next morning and explored the rest of the top of the rocky outcropping but there was definitely no one living there. He sat on a rock admiring the extensive view. He had been very interested to learn the wisdom of the wise man he had heard about and was disappointed to learn he either didn't exist or at least wasn't to be found here. But he gazed out over the landscape and tried to look on the bright side, he had gone on an interesting journey to this beautiful place.
That afternoon he heard some noises and was surprised to find another person climbing up to the top. He was disappointed to find that this wasn't any illusive hermit returning but a young man. Upon reaching the top the young man quickly saw Spotted Owl seated on his rock, looking off into the distance, and came to him.
The young man greeted him in the traditional Lakota manner and then explained that he had come to ask some questions.
Spotted Owl laughed and said "it is not me you seek."
Ah I should have expected he would speak in riddles the young man thought to himself. "It is answers I seek" he said
Spotted Owl sighed, "me too young man, me too." while he gazed into the distance.
"But you ... are wise?"
"I think.. it is wisest never to think of yourself as wise" said Spotted Owl.
The young man thought about this while looking out at the view himself.
They proceeded to spend the rest of the afternoon talking, the young man soon to be married to a girl he barely knew from another village, had many questions about society's expectations for him in life, and Spotted Owl answered as best he could from a lifetime of pondering these same questions.
The next morning the young man departed back down the precarious side of the mountain. After he left, Spotted Owl stood on a rock and enjoyed the fresh breeze. He was in no hurry to return home. His wife had long since died and his children were grown and didn't need him around. Indeed it was that feeling of being redundant in his own village that had lead him on this journey. He thought he'd maybe stay another day and enjoy the serenity here.
The next morning He rolled up his bed furs and ate some more dried venison, and then decided to sit on an inviting rock in the warm sun for awhile before leaving. He was watching an eagle wheel about in the sky when he heard steps coming towards him. He didn't take his eye from the wheeling eagle though because its majesty could disappear while the human approach was but inevitable.
"Hau kola" said the voice, which Spotted Owl noted did not belong to the young man he'd been speaking to earlier. "I have questions"
Spotted Owl smiled. "Having questions is good"
Somewhere out of earshot in the surrounding forests, a tree fell.
The area encompassing "the Six Grandfathers" ("Tunkasila Sakpe" in Lakota) was promised to the Lakota Sioux "in perpetuity" by the Treaty of Fort Laramie in 1868, only to be seized in 1876, and as you may have guessed the mountain was turned into Mount Rushmore in the 1930s. I don't believe there's any actual Lakota tradition of a wise man living atop it and I hope the Lakotas will forgive me for any ways I have failed to embody their spirit here. They did have a tradition for sort of wise men called Heyokas who, as wikipedia itself notes, would pose questions in the manner of zen koans. Being more familiar with zen koans I tried to work some classic zen koan references in (the gateless gate, blue cliffs, etc).
|Saturday, October 6th, 2018|
Iolcus, Greece -- "Aand a young man with but one sandal!" the announcer announced as yet another attendee from the countryside entered the courtyard that had been decorated for the festivities. One sandal? King Pelias, seated at the dias, said to himself, as he examined the newcomer. He looked about the right age to fit the prophecy. Pelias frowned.
"Why does that man come wearing only one sandal?" he asked an aid
"I don't know sire" the aid foolishly responded,
"Well find out!" Pelias angrily admonished him, adding as an afterthought as the aid began to turn away "but don't tell him I asked." He strummed his fingers irritably on the table, barely paying attention to his wife and courtiers around him.
"It seems sire, he lost it helping an old woman cross the river Anaurus, which is currently in flood." The attendant reported upon his return. Pelias frowned and picked at his food.
"That's silly" Pelias said grumpily. "Why doesn't he take it off?"
"Sire?" asked the attendant, as if this sentiment required some action. Pelias disgustedly waved him away.
His mood didn't improve as the youth won the wrestling competition, and the foot race, and the swim race... and all the other competitions. It was like he couldn't be beaten. No one knew where he had come from, some whispered that he had been raised by the centaur Chiron himself. Finally with the games over, there was no avoiding talking to the young man.
The young man stood before the dias in his simple tunic as all the gathered crowd watched how the king would congratulate this unexpected champion. The youth had a serious, almost defiant expression on his face. Pelias, eating grapes languidely, bestowed upon him the minimum of congratulations he felt were due.
"Tell me, young man, you have bested all the other young men gathered here today, I wonder, what would you do if you were confronted by the man destined to be your downfall?" he asked.
The young man thought a moment and then responded "I would tell him to retrieve the golden fleece they say is guarded by a dragon in Colchis"
The king raised an eyebrow. "A thing probably you yourself couldn't even do!"
"Oh, I could" responded the youth. The impertinence! But Pelias saw he had him now!
"Well then! I command you to bring me the golden fleece!" declared Pelias with a triumphant grin.
"I shall." responded Jason, with a confidence that unsettled the king a bit even in his triumph.
Jason and the Argonauts is a tale known to just about everyone but modern retellings seem to exist almost exclusively as oversimplified children's tales. There doesn't appear to be a serious modern prose retelling of it (the original is a bit tedious to follow), so I've had a hankering to work on it for awhile.
|Sunday, September 30th, 2018|
So we've been playing D&D every Saturday evening, as I've mentioned. I'm pleasantly surprised to find it's so much more than justy nerdily rolling die. Aside from giving us a solid reason to spend time together once a week, and ancillary things like I've really developed my salsa recipe, I've found it surprisingly links in to two favorite hobbies of mine. The Dungeon master, pictured above, has promised to give us all extra experience points if we write a "log entry" sort of thing about the day's adventure, which I've relished as a creative writing opportunity (and have yet to write from my own character's perspective though I might do so this week just to change it up). But also, perhaps most unexpectedly, because he provided pencils and paper for taking notes, and I find I'm sitting at a table with pencils and paper, getting to some degree intoxicated which makes one restless, and often things are happening that don't pertain directly to me so ... I naturally start doodling. At first it was just simple things (sailing ships are always a go-to for me) but then it was things or characters from the story (We made Ben nervous by saying the birdman was roosted directly over his face, or this saucy gnome named Coppershaft) or.. the people sitting across from me!
Not to toot my own drum but I'm rather impressed with myself for the above picture of Mick and the below picture of Ben. For reference here's not the best picture of Mick but the only one I could find where his facial hair was the same as it was when I drew the picture. His eyes look square because he sits there with a laptop in front of him and what you're seeing is just the laptop screen reflected in his glasses. The effect is a bit cyberpunk but considering he programmes industrial lasers for a living that's quite appropriate!
I went to look for a reference picture of Ben just now and apparently not only do I have none but on his facebook he has no photos more recent than 7 years ago at which point he looks in no way like himself. So Just take my word for it that this is what Ben looks like:
It's funny I felt what I had didn't look like him at all until I made a very very subtle change to the shape of the mouth and voila there he was.
Other miscelleneous D&D related thoughts: Dungeonmaster-face is really creative, he made these potions for us to actually drink when we needed to drink a healing potion. The tops are dipped in beeswax, of course.
Also in the official manual the gold coins are this weird square shape with two concave sides. I feel very strongly the coins should in fact be coin shaped with twenty sides. You know, like the d20! So appropriate! My google search just now to provide that link satisfied me at least that most peopel seem to ignoring the stupid shape suggested in the manual.
My character has three "retainers," of which one is an orcish bard. Once we were already started and I feel it's too late to retcon it in I have recently realized that orcish bards should totally have a highly ethically questionable musical "intrument" that is actually some kind of small animal that can squeeze and prod to make a melodious noise. And just to make it extra disturbing how about it does actually sound nice?
Here's my own character, Krusk Thompson, a half-orc paladin. His mom was the orc. I am envious of his hat.
If you happen to fancy reading my "log entries," here they are! I already shared the first one here but conveniently I had also written this quick note that covers the same vent very briefly, which I wrote mainly to establish the characters of the squire and the bard more:
( A Brief Note to the Arch-Curate of the National Geography Society of the Kingdom of MafordCollapse )
( Another slightly better full body one of the character )
Unfortunately I drew this too small to do much with the face or the hand over the face. Also there's a classic one of those boats I draw. I actually like this one because for this world I was trying to draw something kind of different from our historic vessels and was aiming for a cross between a viking longship and a Mediterranean galley (that weird waterline cross is because it was damaged, this relates to the storyline form before I joined). Also apparently we're transporting a magic orb.
( A Day Around TownCollapse )
( Davvydge Finally Catches UpCollapse )
An attempt at an orcish female, possibly our bard Blortessetrix. I was aiming for like decently-attractive-as-far-as-orcs-go. All pictures on the internet all seem to concur that orcs have large protruding jaws and its the LOWER canines that protrude; and as a face in general I think I failed in putting too much space between the mouth and nose, so I might erase the lower jaw and try to correct it.
( In Which Blortessetrix Suddenly Becomes a Player Character!Collapse )
I also decided to draw a "disturbingly sexy tentacled snail thing" just to, you know, disturb. Muahahahaha.
I'm looking forward to much future doodling and actually the quality of the portraits, which not to heap praise on my own work but I was really surprised myself when I woke up and saw what I had drunkenly done. It's all got me thinking maybe I should sign up for an actual drawing class. And I'm really wondering if there's something to this being able to do it better while drunk thing, I mean here's what I then drew the next morning while in wonderment of my abilities, to my immediate disillusionment:
|Saturday, September 29th, 2018|
A rose in my front yard
I tend not to post unless I have a lot to say, but I need to get out of that habit, smaller entries are much easier to digest after all. (:
So swarming season has begun. That's when beehives reproduce by sending out a "swarm" of 5-10,000 bees, that land on a branch or overhanging roof while they look for a new home, prompting people to call around for local beekeepers whilst exclaiming "you won't believe this!!!!"
In California because Africanized bees swarm so much and are hard to deal with, the phones of anyone people can get ahold of about this ring off the hook during the season -- at Bee Busters we'd get 30 calls a day! And people would be shocked to learn that no one would take them for free -- but there was just a burdensomely large number of them.
Over here it is quite different. I absolutely want every swarm I can get my hands on. It actually presents some interesting ethical issues. I am happy to come get the bees for free, I am happy to have the bees. If I were to buy an equivalent amount of bees it would cost me around $130-$140 (AUD, so like $100US). If I know a friend or neighbor wants bees I am happy to give them the bees even though it means I'm forgoing a thing thats worth $130 to me that may be legitimately mine once I've taken possession of it. Interesting they've discovered some Roman law tablets specifying who owns a swarm of bees under what conditions. But I'm happy to give them away just because, I guess, my having them at all is a "gift to me from society" and me passing them on to someone else is just me "paying it forward" on that. I would not pass the bees along for free to another commercial beekeeper but to individuals I know yes. Individuals I don't know I'm more undecided about -- I do have one woman who called me asking for bees and she's neither a friend nor a neighbor and I think I might sell her a swarm ... but it still feels shiesty selling something I received for free earlier in the day.
Neighbors often insist on paying me, which again I feel like, these bees were free to me. How would the people forwarding me the calls or inviting me to come take their bees feel if they knew I was turning around and selling them at a substantial profit?
But I've come up with a solution! After one neighbor particularly put the "come on let me give you something for this" on me it hit me. "You can make a $20 donation to Bee Aid International if you'd like?" And since then I've suggested that to others who wanted to compensate me and they are only too happy to. I feel like this conveniently solves all the problems. I'm not personally profiting, they're feeling like they gave something back, the people calling me to take their bees are in essence making a donation themselves of the bees, and Bee Aid International which has really had a lot of trouble garnering any donations at all finally has a small donation stream.
The hive in my backyard
I really enjoy stopping by to look at my neighbor's hives. When I stopped in at my across-the-street neighbors the other day they were in the garden having a glass of champagne each because he had just sold the business he's retiring from and they insisted I join them for a glass. It was a wonderful sunny day.
Friday and this morning were cold and rainy. It was nearly freezing last night. Another neighbor called me today saying he thought the swarm he had newly boxed on Thursday was dying from cold and asked if he could warm it up. "Sure, like wrap a blanket around it?" I asked
"I was thinking like take it in the house"
"Ahahaha I don't think anyone would think of that here" I said "but that's what they do in Ethiopia in winter! Absolutely go for it!" He's closing up the entrance of course. But its too cold for them to be out foraging so the bees won't be missing anything for it.
Also I've officially broken out the grill for the season! Sadly I was out of saeurkraut today (I'd been famously working through a 5 pound jar of it), and that small amount of mustard was the last of that too. Guess I need to go to the store soon!
|Monday, September 24th, 2018|
|Livejournal Idol .... now at Dreamwidth!
It was a writing contest called ("the real") Livejournal Idol that originally turned this specific livejournal into more than a hollow experiment that had emerged from a prank. Despite that I have near a loathing for the kind of reality television that "Livejournal Idol" would seem to be mimicking, I have found i to be a thoroughly fun contest and have participated in I believe every season (its almost yearly I think) since I discovered it in ... 2009? One gets a prompt to write once a week, and to keep the heat under you people are eliminated every week! Simple as that! Mostly.
Remember how everyone has been abandoning livejournal for Dreamwidth? Well apparently now Livejournal Idol has gone there to. Livejournal Idol. Let that sink in. Gary, the maniacal djinni who runs the thing, says its just an experiment to test the waters over there but.. that's what I said about starting this livejournal ;)
I believe we can still participate FROM here and I for one intend to do that. I do have a dreamwidth account but I think I'll participate from here, I think that's a thing one can do.
So all this is to say, this is my official note that I'm joining this season, and you should too (:
|Friday, September 7th, 2018|
I almost forgot to mention I was in Fiji again. What has life come to when you can neglect to mention you were in Fiji again?
I also neglected to mention I was in Panama. I was in Panama.
Well, Panama was for two four hour layovers or so, so I didn't get out of the airport. What I _can_ report is that the airport has no restaurants within the terminal. I think there's one or two of those places with no sitting room that sells overpriced flimsy sandwiches from refridgerated shelves that are probably manufactured offsite in a factory, but whereas most airports have one of these places every three and a half gates I think there was only one in the entire international terminal. Weird. COPA, the Panamanian airline, was fairly alright, though sometimes their reminder emails were only in Spanish. The meals were actually surprisingly good. Each flight I had a main meal which was fairly alright and a roast beef sandwich as a "snack" which was actually a really good specimen of itself. Movie selection wasn't great. These days looking at all the other TVs everyone has been watching the new tomb raider. I had watched 80% of it on an earlier flight and wasn't enthused enough to try to find where I left off (most of these seat-back entertainment systems you have to manually fast forward at 4x time through a whole movie to get to where you left off which usually isn't worth the trouble). It had taken me a bit to get used to this re-imagining of Tomb Raider where the protagonist does NOT have enormous breasts as her primary attribute, and also isn't filthy rich, though then I realized its supposed to be a pre-story of before she becomes filthy rich and Angelina Jolie.
When I booked my flights I had had the option to select my seats. On the first airline I selected a window seat in an empty row near the back, 29A. On the next leg (it was LAX-Panama and then Panama to Dominican Republic) 29A was also available so why not, and on the next leg oh hey why not 29A annnnd basically on all four flights I was in 29A because hey why not.
Between arriving back from the Dominican Republic and leaving again for Australia I had just about 24 hours at home. Just enough to spend some time with my parents again, lounge around half the day feeling like I had heeeaaaaps of time, and then go into a crazy panic when I realized I suddenly didn't. We had googled and discovered there was a Venezuelan restaurant in Orange County we were going to go to for dinner but it turned out not to be open so we settled for Mexican. I had a huge burrito and huge margarita, great last hurrah before heading to the land of no great burritos or margaritas :X
At LAX it was the weirdest thing, there was NO one in line for my flight at check in. I checked my watch, it was more than two hours before. I asked the check-in lady and she said "oh everyone's checked in already" like it was the most obvious thing, and Ii checked my clock again and it was indeed more than two hours before the flight. Weirdest thing. I was actually really concerned that they would pull any one of a number of tricks they've pulled on me in the past, such as raising a stink about how I had booked this flight as Kris instead of Kristofer, or wanting to see a return ticket, or wanting to see my Australian visa, or quibbling that my luggage was like half a kilo over the limit, but no, breezed right through!
I found on this aircraft there were only two seats betewen the aisle and the bulkhead, and I had the bulkhead seat as I always request. The woman in the aisle seat was already there and asked me nicely if I wouldn't mind changing seats with her husband, who was in the aisle seat in front of her. Normally I really try to be accomodating if it's in my power, even to my own mild inconvenience. But in this case I really had to apologetically decline, for me a ten hour flight is living hell if I don't have the bulkhead to rest my head against. As it happens I really lucked out because she had also put her request to the flight attendant and just before we took off the flight attendant informed her that there were some seats up forward where she and her husband could sit side by side.... so on an almost entirely full flight I had the seat beside me empty! ::pause for angels singing::
I had hit up my tour guide from last time I was in Fiji, Ravik (sp?) and so he came and got me from the airport, he had a cousin with him whom I think he was training to become a guide himself -- though the other guy certainly didn't have his charisma and I forget if he even spoke english, he was pretty quiet. I had wanted to see this waterfall I remember hearing about last time, but he said it was relatively dry right now and since it was a Sunday the villagers there who usually put on a whole thing would be taking the day off. So instead we were going to go see the central highlands or something. Were going to, but then he got a call, four cruise boat crewmembers wanted to go to the mud pools. I was by no means married to this highlands trip so I said sure lets get them and go to the mud pools! So we redirected to the marina where the shoreboats were plying between the big cruiseship anchored offshore. And get this. Remember the P & O Pacific Jewel? No of course you don't (other than (wantedonvoyage, but it was the cruise ship way back last February that I first passed in Port Philip Bay and was then surprised to run into again on the south side of Tasmania! Here it was again! It's stalking me!!!
I hadn't quite been clear prior to their arrival that these weren't cruise passangers (are they all like 80? I had asked Ravik), but actual crewmembers. They were from the "spa department" (I think??) so not my people, deck department people, but they were young and from all over the world and living the wild carefree "I work in a cruise ship's spa department" life. We went to the mud pools. Apparently first you lather yourself with this creamy grey mud, wait for it to dry, then get in the first pool of water, which, Ii was thinking, doesn't look like a mud pool to me. But then you get in and realize the first 2-3 feet are water but below that you're wallowing in this really soft mud. I forget if this pool was also hot water, maybe? Then we got into the second pool, which I definitely remember being warmed by the natural hotspring there. And finally a third pool that was actually rectangular and tiled instead of the natural shape and look, and this one was even warmer. It wasn't cool out, Fiji always seems to be a perfect temperature in the 70s, but it was nice in the hot pools. Especially sicne I think I was still bitter the hot tub in Dominican Republic wasn't hot. >:(
Then we went to lunch, traditional local curries ... I felt like my lamb curry was way more bones than meat. Then we returned the crewmembers to the marina becasuse they had to get back. Then Ravik asked if I wanted to try kava, a traditional Fijian drink. And after acertaining to wasn't some weird drug that will make me hallucinate I decided it sounded fun. So we actually went back to his home village, he bought some ground kava from an uncle that lived next door, brought out a traditional bowl and prepared the kava by straining water through a sack contianing the ground kava repeatedly, and then we took turns drinking it. Then he said that by having kava together I'm officially no longer a stranger but a friend/family, which sounds like the kind of hogwash tour operators might feed en masse to dorky tourists but sitting on the floor of his porch kind of outside normal tour organization it felt not entirely implausible. Then we still had some time to kill so we went 4x4ing around some nearby hill country, and I enjoyed just seeing around the countryside.
And then in mid afternoon it was time for me to get back to the airport. I tried to after-the-fact haggle that he should give me a discount since I was so flexible on our plans but he declined and charged me the standard excursion rate, so much for special deals for friends! If I had insisted on the plan I'd already "booked" he'd have been out the fees from all four crewmembers! Ah well. Got to the airport and on my next flight without incident. Arriving in Melbourne late in the evening it was like 40f, a definite shock from the nice weather I'd been experiencing for a month! My friend Ben picked me up and took me home. The next day the high once again never reached 50 ::grimace::. But these last few days (two-three weeks later now) its seemed to imrpove rapidly, with temperatures in the 60s and next Tuesday is supposed to even hit 70! When the weather is nice it really is very nice here!
|Friday, August 31st, 2018|
|The Balladeer's Tale
Nerd Alert: This Entry Involves Shameless Retelling of Shamelessly Nerdy D&D Adventures
So I thought I wrote about this but maybe I didn't. After a lifetime of being vaguely d&dcurious, and even writing at least one seemingly d&d inspired entry without having actually played, my friends and I got around to organizing a weekly game. I found it involved a lot of being a fictional jerk to my friends (it helped that my character was a roguish hobbit I named Dillweed Tosscobble), such as, drawing a dick on my friend's character's forehead when at the end of a boss fight he was unconscious (Dungeon master: "okay roll, ummm performance, to find out how well you drew it"). Apparently on a night I missed Trent, who always plays his characters like some kind of psychotic chaotic jar jar binks, "used an old woman as a surf board to descend some stairs into a crowded bar, immediately angering all the occupants." Another achievement I'm particularly proud of is when I found my character with a bottle in hand when a battle broke out so I threw the battle, rolling a natural 20 (ie a critical hit, ie double damage), killing the shit out of the goblin it had hit.
Well, while I was gone they started a new adventure, and having returned I just was inserted into it. The dungeon master is my friend Mick, a very technologically inclined character, has made a wiki for it, and a shockingly professional looking map, and a really cool little intro video which doesn't appear to be up yet. Anyway he happens to be encouraging us to record log entries about the sessions, I think enticing us with a samll amount of experience points for it or something, I don't know, I don't need much encouragement to engage in creative writing. The others have written pretty short straightforward little entries. I of course, this is not my way. Related aside: in 9th grade my english teacher had us write sentences with lists of vocab words, there was no expectation other than that each sentence would generally make sense, but I of course had to craft the whole thing into an actual story, because that's what I do. Anyway, the account I wrote is as told by my NPC retainers (apparently as a knight my character gets three retainers!), as recounted later that evening in a tavern. It contains lots of wild inaccuracies or outright lies:
( The Balladeer's TaleCollapse )
Totally Unrelated Picture of the Day
|Saturday, August 25th, 2018|
|Isla Saona And the Crystal Clear Waters
August 15th, Dominican Republic - Bright and early we embarked on a minivan shuttlebus at our hotel, that had already been collecting tourists from neighboring hotels, and I was slightly irked that the available seats weren't side by side. So for a precious hour of our vacation we were separated. Finally we turned off the big main highway to take a small road that wound through walls of thick scrub until we came to the cute little coastal town of La Romana. Here were joined a whole bunch of other tourists who had been disgorged by other minibuses, and were ferried out by small boats that could beach on the white sand out to bigger catamarans that could not come in. From thence, with despacito blasting on the sound system we and about three other large catamarans departed as a fleet bound for the Isla Saona.
Look look, she's Cristina, I'm Kris, and the boat behind us is the Krister! (click for bigger version because I know you need to confirm this!)
Plastic cups of rum and coke were passed around freely ... and I dreaded to see them soon flying into the water by the score but I actually didn't see this happen at all. The only thing that I saw go into the water was my own sunglasses, which leapt from where I'd hooked them over the top button of my shirt, and scuttled across the deck like a crab to dive into the water before I even knew what happened. Soon after getting underway the crew raised the sails and doused the engine, much to my pleasure. The sun was bright and warm, the air was fresh, Dominican and latin music continued to play festively on the sound system, many people danced, the rum and coke flowed. I could definitely understand why this was rated "#1 of 546 things to do in Dominican Republic" by Trip Advisor!
Other passengers seemed to once again be from all over the map, but
Americans United Statesians seemed very underrepresented, with only one or two people seemeing to come from there (actually the only one I can positively remember talking to was a US/Dominican citizen and had moved back to DR from San Diego because it was "too expensive" there). I guess they prefer to go to more developed Caribbean countries?
I really like her sort of Mona Lisa smile here (:
Also on board was a professional photographer who makes his money taking pictures no doubt of couples like us and then selling us the photos. I felt he was quite alright at it and later on the beach where he had his laptop set up under the palm trees on an otherwise wholly electricity-less undeveloped island he burned his 46 pictures of us onto a CD, which I paid for and then wondered where the heck I'd find a CD reader in this day and age.
Though I quite rather think we got some cute ones ourselves
Finally we pulled up to the turqouise waters around a classic Caribbean island of flat aspect with nothing but palm trees and white sand beach as far as the eye could see in either direction. The sails were doused, anchor dropped, and once again the smaller boats nosed up like ramoras to take us all aboard. The square nosed little landing craft took us the short distance to the beach and off the front end we were like storming the beaches of Normandy! Okay maybe not quite. Too soon?
The beach had many rustic cabanas and beach chairs. We were told that lunch (bbq, included) would be at 1:00 and we'd depart at 3:30. Until then we were set free! The sand was hot on our feet, the beach was beautiful. We splashed out into the water, which was crystal clear and a pleasant temperature. While lovingly twirling her around in the weightlessness of the water I brought up something that had been on my mind -- let's make this officially official official. You know, "facebook official." She readily agreed, I think we hardly needed to have a talk about it at this point, but clarity of communication is really key. And these crystal clear waters seemed conducive to clarity ;)
In what seemed like no time we saw people queuing up for lunch and we went ashore for feeding. There was a picnic table just beside the food table that was almost abandoned because of all the bees around it. Yes honeybees, not yellowjackets. Someone must have spilled a lot of rum and coke on the table (since bees don't care about your meat, only sugar). She seemed unafraid of the bees herself so we sat at this conveniently vacant table laughing at our good fortune. Even, I was about to gently remove a bee from her cup and she said "no, es lindo," -- she knows the way into my heart!
Food was some delicious bbqed chicken, pasta and watermelon. Also rum and coke continued to be free flowing.
I really wish we had gotten the photographer man with his relaly good camera to take a picture of us in about this location. He stopped taking photos once we got off the boat though. We took one with her camera but I wish I had realized her phone camera really isn't very good, we should have at least used mine! :-X
We then resumed our frolicking in the delightful waters until we saw all the tender boats pulling up their anchors and starting their engines. I thought we'd return to the big catamaran but instead, once boarded on the little vessel we motored up to coast of the island to a place where there had once been a big dock and now just the pilings remained, and we were given snorkles (I dreaded to wonder if it had been cleaned since someone else's mouth had been on it) and told we had half an hour to see all the fish here. Cristina, not a swimmer, kept her lifejacket on like most of the passengers, and I towed her out of the crowd in the immediate vicinity of the boat like some kind of adorable gorgeous little barge. I think she really enjoyed it and maybe next vacation we should book a scuba diving excursion .... but maybe we should work on her swimming first.
Once we reboarded we headed up the coast a little further and were let out again in a place where the shallow water extended really far out from the island and everyone frolicked about in the waist deep water here. By now many strangers had met eachother and there was more joking around and chatting between groups that hadn't come together, the alcohol having been flowing all day probably helped as well --in fact now they seemed anxious to empty their rum stores, wading out to us with cups--, and everyone was very friendly and having a grand old time. Then we re-boarded, returned all the way back to La Ramada at high speed by motor in this craft (but still with the despacito and other latin music -- we joked they only had once CD as we soon recognized the same songs returning, but no one minded). Bus back to the hotel once again I was unable to sit beside Cristina, hey not to sound clingy but we were getting down to 18 hours left together for who knows how long!
That evening we got all dolled up (or she did, I am like an undomesticated beast that cannot be dolled up) to finally go out to that hotel discotheque, but ultimately ended up chatting in the deck chairs by the beach. I'm not one normally to weigh in on fashion but I just loved her outfit: long skirt, corsetty shirt, long jangly earrings ... ::heart eyes::
Playing up our sad faces at parting
August 16th - Her flight was at 11:40 and mine at 12:40. Despite having more than enough time we planned to arrive at the airport at 8:00 "because this airport is very lazy," as she said. Sure enough it well and truly took a very long time for her to check in with the Venezualan airline, which seemed to distinctly not have its shit together. Then we stood in line at COPA, the Panamanian airline, for my ticket, which was faster but we were among the last in line since we'd been busy with the other. Only after she had checked her checked luggage did we realize she still had the honey I'd brought her in her carry on. We were both very afraid it would get confiscated at security, since honey is considered a liquid and can't be carried on in quantities over 2oz ... when her bag made it through the x-ray without being stopped I wanted to rejoice and give her a high five but like smugglers we had to furtively hide our joy until we were well away. And THEN when we sit at our gates (our flights were side by side gates using the same seating area!) she pulled out bottles of water and a soda for each of us from her carry on ::facepalm:: if I had had any idea I would have told her to make sure she didn't have anything ELSE that could hae gotten security's attention on her bag! Good work security ahahaha. Kindly airline official allowed us to hug until the last possible minute after everyone else had boarded and they were closing the gate. Despite her flight being officially an hour before mine it had been a delayed and then I had literally just enough time to walk over to my gate, stand for maybe two and a half minutes, and board my plane. The end.
|Wednesday, August 22nd, 2018|
Monday, July 16th - My parents, cousin Kateri and I departed the cheerful Gilded Drifter B & B Monday morning and drove through the sunny Sierra valleys to retrace our steps. Through the hills and vales, down into the broad mundane valley of Reno, back into narrow mountain valleys on the 395 and... amid wildfire smoke and the smell of burning chaparrel to Walker Burger for lunch! Just as absolutely delicious as on the way up!
From there we proceeded on down to Mono Lake and this time went to see the Tufa Towers. Apparently they form where there were underwater springs, the minerals in the spring water immediately precipitating out their mineral contents on contact with the cooler fresh water to slowly over time form a stalagmite-like tower reaching up from the bottom. The previously mentioned extreme lowering of the level of Mono Lake by Los Angeles' thirst for water has exposed these formerly underwater tower formations.
A significant problem with the reduction of the water level was that formerly isolated islands on the lake critical to migratory birds became accessible to coyotes and other land based predators. In this picture we are looking at an osprey nest ... which though dramatic is probably not one of the threatened bird species. Wait Mono Lake has no fish (too saline).. is this actually an osprey? Maybe it lives here while getting fish from the tributary streams? Hmmm mysterious.
From there we proceeded to a volcanic crater just beside the lake getting a little lost on 4x4 tracks in our non-4x4 prius on the way. To our west toward the Sierras at this time there was a solid white wall of wildfire smoke that was steadily getting closer to us and was a bit concerning. We poked around the crater nontheless, there was cool obsidian. We then continued.
We stopped again a little later at another cindercone just near mammoth. What can I say we really like volcanic rocks.
I have a particularly large number of scene setting photos because I was updating a certain Venezualan senorita on roadtrip progress ;)
Also at this time, President Trump was in the process of making news for insulting our NATO allies pretty much as much as he could at a recent summit and then meeting with his bff Putin and saying that Putin says there's been no Russian meddling and that about settles it. The world we're living in!
We once again stayed at the same hotel in Independance. Got pizza at one of the immediately prior towns (Big Pine?).
Tuesday, July 17th - We proceeded on south, stopping in the flat hot bland town of Lancaster (has anything interesting ever happened in Lancaster? Has it even been the setting for any exciting stories? It seems a thoroughly bland place), for a picnic lunch in a park. Then west along the foothills north of Los Angeles which were often covered in orange groves or other hearty slope-growing crops. Finally emerging on the Pacific coast and proceeding north among expensive beach houses with the occasional giant palm tree looming over them like a toilet brush. Finally we arrived in Santa Barbara to drop off Kateri at the suburban house where she and her boyfriend rent some rooms on the upper floor of a stucco suburban house. Also met her boyfriend, whom I hadn't met before but apparently my parents have. He seemed a swell fellow. Some of these cousins are surely due to start getting married soon. I hope so I do enjoy attending weddings.
Also I at once recognized my grandmother's style in a painting on their wall that I haven't previously seen. I do so love her paintings. All the relatives have them all about their houses and its fun visiting relatives whose houses I've maybe never been to before and seeing previously unseen paintings by "mum-mum."
From there we could have headed home inland through the heart of LA but instead, as apparently my parents have been in the habit of doing (they come out this way fairly frequently because mom's dad lives in neighboring Ventura county), we went down the Pacific Coast Highway. This iconic road winds right along the coast practically in the spray of waves in places. In Malibu we stopped at a sandwich place (actually a sandwich bar inside an upscale grocery story) they are in the habit of visiting on this route. I ordered a mammoth sandwich at this upscaley place and then had to gloat to my friends in Australia because at whatever it came out to ($7? $8?) you couldnt' even get a dogfood quality fastfood burger in Australia. And this at a fancy place in Malibu frequented by people any one of whom looked likely to be a celebrity I didn't recognize!
From there we continued on down the coast before eventually turning inland somewhere in Los Angeles county and finshing up with a quick slog through the urban sprawl unil we finally got home. The End!
One more picture of Mono Lake just because I feel I need a picture here
Okay, now I swear tomorrow you get day 1 of the trip to meet Cristina in Dominican Republic!! (: It seems appropriate in anticipation to tease out this photo of her on the plane on her own flight to the Dominican Republic!
|Tuesday, August 21st, 2018|
And now... remember that cliffhanger I left you all on? Well... this post will have cliffs at least! Tomorrow should wrap up this wedding trip and then the next day we'll get to the other side of that cliffhanger! ;DSunday, July 15th, Loyalton, California -
The day after the wedding about half the family went to a nearby mountain lake and the other half went to go hike to the top of a nearby mountain. I went with the latter. Let's go with more like a photo-essay style here.
At the top of Sierra Butte there's this rocky outcrop with the really steep stairs seen leading to the top, on which a stout fire watch tower defies the sky itself.This one is looking up to the watch tower platform itself. My cousins Linnea and Kateri are up there.
Uncle Mike and his son Sylvan strike a pose on a neighboring pinnacle. My cousins Linnea (Mike's daughter) and Kateri lay behind them.
Looking down at the base of the watchtower (which is still atop the rocky outcropping). Various cousins
After returning from this hike (only 2.5 miles / 1800 feet elevation change between the trailhead and top) we returned to Loyalton, and I believe everyone socialized for the rest of evening? This is a month ago now and my memory is pretty bad. All I know is I darted back to the hotel for an hour to submit my flash fiction submission for that contest. Recall I had to write a romantic comedy involving a chihuahua and a bus stop. In my little story the protagonist goes to the bus stop hoping to get the number of an attractive young lady with large brown eyes whom he knows waits for the same bus, and then a chihuahua shows up interrupting him to his annoyance, but she thinks its cute so he pretends its his, but then he's prevented from boarding the bus because it's "his" dog. I'm pretty happy with it as far as something I cooked up in my head in the midst of a busy wedding weekend and pounded out on the keyboard in half an hour, followed by half an hour of technical difficulties uploading it, finally getting it up with a minute to spare literally.
I thought my brother Tobin was going to take a picture but apparently he took several and gifed them together. such sauce.
|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 her main picture used a lot of filters, which she was in the habit of at the time, and now that I know what she looks like I can appreciate that she looks cute with bunny ears, but on tinder when presented with an airbrushed looking face with a puppy nose and ears as the main picture I usually just 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?