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Echidna Media Organization project S.N.A.L.'s Journal
 
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Below are the 20 most recent journal entries recorded in Echidna Media Organization project S.N.A.L.'s LiveJournal:

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Saturday, May 16th, 2015
5:30 pm
Sticky
Index

   Being as there are now over 900 entries here, I thought I'd make a tag index for the unlikely circumstance that someone other than myself might want to look for something here ;)

   Unfortunately everything is going to be listed from most recent to oldest so if you start at the top it'll be "reverse order" -- I don't know how to fix this.

   I'm sure there are entries that lack the proper tags. The travelogues at least are pretty well tagged I believe.

Index
Non-Fiction
   Introductions - I've introduced myself a few times, typically for LJ Idol, here's the ones that are correctly tagged.
   Beekeeping
      Honeybees
   LJ Idol - Nonfiction LJ Idol entries
   Roadtrips
   Sailing
   Travelogues
      America - Only a few of the most travelogue-like posts tagged, since I've lived most of my life there.
      Australia
         Queensland:
            Brisvegas! (AKA Brisbane)
            The Bundaberg Gulag
            Life in and around Moorepark (outskirts of Bundaberg)
         Victoria!
            Birregurra - Life in and around my quaint little village
      Ethiopia
      France
      Guinea
      Israel
      Kenya
      Kyrgyzstan
      Nicaragua
      Nigeria
      Spain
      Sweden
      Tanzania
      Turkey
      Uganda
      Zanzibar

Fiction
   Historical Fiction
   Science Fiction - I know there's more that could be here, it seems I haven't been using this tag diligently
   LJ Idol Entries - Mostly fiction, a wide variety of topics. I think only about 75% of these entries are correctly tagged.
      LJ Idol Season Indexes - used to be a thing I did, though I stopped doing it in later seasons because it was kind of tedious to put together.
   The Coming Zombie Apocalypse - Continuing coverage of the coming zombie apocalypse
   The Clone Series!

Drawings

Photography!

Podcast! - "Tales of a Wandering Beekeeper" -- travelogues from Africa.

And most important: www.beedev.org

Monday, December 10th, 2018
12:58 am
LJ Idol - Wk 8 - Sprezzatura

   James leaned against the railing beside the estate to finish his cigarette. Nearby an obvious papparazzi was awkwardly trying to look like he wasn't waiting around. He was a forgettable sort of ugly with his unkempt hair, untrimmed beard, clashy hawaiian shirt, and obviously overpriced camera with bazooka-like telephoto lens. As he finished the cigarette James couldn't resist remarking to him "the countess isn't even here you know?"
   The papparazzi looked flustered and stammered "wha, wha, what? how do you know?"
   "Oh, I know," responded James with a wink as he turned to walk toward the entrance. He straightened his bow tie as he approached. A burly security guard in a suit with a black tie looked up as he approached the gate.
   "I'm on the list," said James smoothly, and with a motion that appeared to be pointing at a name on the clipboard he actually deftly deposited a hundred dollar bill. He barely broke his stride as he slid smoothly past the guard, who professionally affirmed he was on the list as he pocketed the money.


   Later on, in the ballroom, everything was going according to plan. James had been making eyes with the countess' beautiful daughter, who was key to getting into the plot. He would ask her to dance and slip the tracking device onto her. Their eyes met across the hall and they began to walk towards eachother, people parting between them like the sea. Suddenly a man stumbled backwards right into James.
   "Hey!" exclaimed James, and as the man began to stammer his apologies, James recognized him as the papparazzi, now clad in an ill-fitting tuxedo.
   "How'd YOU get in here?" growled James between clenched teeth.
   "I was on the list" replied the other man with a sheepish grin.
   "Oh lord," breathed James as he rolled his eyes. Did this chump also bribe the security guard? Does the guard have no shame at all?
   "And let me guess you're not a papparazzi?" asked James as he looked up to try to find the countess' daughter but she was no longer where he'd last seen her.
   "I'm a family friend!" said the papparazi in a badly acted attempt at sincerity.
   "No you're not" rejoined James as he deftly fished a small camera out of the papparazis jacket pocket.
   "Hey! That's mi--" the man began to object
   "Look just stay out of trouble and I won't have security throw you out" said James pocketing the camera and moving away back into the crowd to try to find the countess' daughter again.


   Later that night James crept deftly out of the daughter's room well inside the secured part of the chateau and made his way down to the room in the dungeons where the McGuffin device was kept. He expertly disabled the alarm and picked up the small device. As he was hurrying down toward the helipad in an upper hall bathed in moonlight from the row of windows, an alarm began to wail. "oops" he mumbled to himself as he began to run. Suddenly a guard appeared from a doorway ahead, and almost immediately fired a shot at him. The shot missed and shattered a nearby wnidow. James fired back with the small gun he had pulled from inside his jacket, and dove out the window, expertly landing in a hedge below.
   Climbing out of the hedge and dusting the leaves off himself James was gratified to see that across the ornate flowerbeds, fountains and hedge topiaries in the cold moonlight a small catering truck was still on the property and near it stood a janitor who had been pushing a trash bin towards it, still cleaning up after the fancy ball so the property would be pristine in the morning. But in the mean time James had to deal with security. To his left he saw a tall hedge maze and ran into it as uniformed security guards began to run into the garden. In the hedge maze it was a simple matter to hide in the hedge itself in a nook until a security guard came by. Then James clonked him over the head and put his large jacket on over his tuxedo jacket and his distinctive hat on his head. He then exited the hedge maze while shining his newly acquired flashlight around as if he was looking for someone, as he made his way to the catering truck. Despite the ruckus the janitor was still unloading trashcans from the cart onto the truck.
   "Excuse me sir," said James in a tone of brusque authority, "we have a situation here please allow me to search your truck"
   "Yes, of course," said the employee in a tired sounding voice and beckoned James around to the back. James planned to expertly knock the man out as he came around the corner but much to his surprise as he came around to the back of the truck he found himself staring down the long barel of a gun with a silencer and behind it the ugly face of the paparazzi.
   "You??" James couldn't help showing his surprise.
   "Quite." said the man with neither a stammer nor a smirk. James carefully manouvered his gun hand in preparation to shoot this new adversary. Just then the small camera in his pocket exploded with electrical currents, effectively tasering James. As he involuntarily doubled over the other man relieved him of the McGuffin Device and disappeared into the night.




I've had this idea for awhile now, I know the incompetent spy is a well worn cliche but I've had this idea for a novel or movie about a spy who is actually thoroughly competent but instead of being ultra suave like James Bond his cover is to look so un-suave as to not be taken seriously.
Monday, December 3rd, 2018
6:27 pm
Overland Procrastination

   Firstly of all, while vaguely aware of this writing contest for at least a month, I've naturally put off thinking about it until the deadline is six hours away. Overland Writing Contest, theme: TRAVEL. Travel! $4000 prize! You'd think I'd have something good for that but I'm not sure I do. Most of my short stories about travel are of course non-fiction, and even so, of the two that are presently polished enough in my opinion for submission for publication, one aleady is published and the other is twice the length requirement. I suppose I could submit my story where some people go to Congo and get the zombie disease as well as one of the one's with bees and protagonists. Nah I just read their top three from last year and it looks like they're solidly into realistic human based fiction. (the number one one is about a partner being deported from Australia, how close to home!) :-/ Anyway if any of you get this in time feel free to submit something yourself. Deadline is six hours from this moment though :-| (midnight East Australia time Monday night)

*** UPDATE: I was making valiant effort at reducing the 6000 word story about wandering Turkey after Asli and I broke up down to the necessary 3000 words, well I knocked off a thousand words in an hour so I might not have made it with the remaining hour. But then my computer crashed! And auto-save was only able to pull up the original document! I think I'm well and truly torpedoed now! ::bangs head against desk:: I absolutely loathe writing (or unwriting in this case, which is as much work) the same exact thing twice.

*** UPDATE 2: okay the deadline just passed. I went ahead and recreated my edits while they were fresh in my memory. I think this contest has the same theme every year ("travel") so I guess I'll just have a year to try to polish this more (I stopped trying to delete more than what seemed obvious so its still sitting around 5,000 words) for next year. d:



20181203_180140.jpg

   In other news this anthology by the local regional writing club was just released, and I had two submissions accepted! Village in the Forest is about being in Guinea in the heart of the ebola outbreak. With slight adjustments from the version that originally was posted here I also submitted my little ghost story Reruns just because it seemed like the anthology's style and it was accepted too!

20181203_180140.jpg

   I'm rather pleased with my bio. Everyone else is like "I'm a writer!" and I'm like "I am Grendel" ;)


   Also, a few weeks ago I had this photo up at a local art show (coincidentally from the same adventure as the Guinea story). Later this month I'm taking a drawing class. Getting all artsy over here lol! (:

Saturday, December 1st, 2018
4:28 pm
A Tasteful Sex Scene and Giant Cave Spider Haikus

   Meanwhile in the Dungeons and Dragons inspired creative writing odyssey...

Week 10
   I won't reproduce in full here but I was quite pleased with a tastefully inserted sex scene. In my character's background it had been written that he had "insatiable desires" but that hadn't really come up yet in any log entries or storyline. It was known that my character never slept in the inn with them but hadn't been said where. So I inserted a scene where he wakes up beside a Swedish girl who had just accidentally pulled the blanket off him (the guys had been talking about Swedish girls at the previous session), then begins to feel his insatiable hungers, and then I tastefully change the scene to a steam hammer a gnome had just invented as it rhythmically hammered some metal (a steam hammer had featured on some program on the tv that was running silently in the background at last session) ... and then when we rejoin my protagonist he is just finishing a delicious Swedish dammsugare. Now isn't that tasteful?? I got a lot of push-back from the guys though alleging that "Swedish girl" isn't a valid D & D race, hrmph.

   Also I really miss dammsugare.




Week 11
   What you need to know is we wandered into a cave and came across four giant spiders. We had in our company a "giant goat" named Tandoori which we sent ahead of us to trigger the spiders because we're jerks like that. I think this giant goat was unrealistically well behaved, in reality I find they never want to do what you want.
   Also the previous week our friend Greg had tried to enter a single haiku as his log entry, which made many of us groan, and particularly incensed Ben, who went off on a tirade about how he hated haikus. Now if anything is a worthy goal its annoying Ben, so this week, I present you, our encounter with the spiders, as told from the spiders point of view, who, it turns out, only think in haiku form!!

Giant Cave Spider HaikusCollapse )

Friday, November 30th, 2018
9:43 am
Jason and the Episode II

   Jason sat on a rock on the beach, looking out over the dark sea waves gently lapping at the shore. The day before he had brazenly accepted what was essentially a suicide mission from the king, and things had really come together to make it happen but it was still very daunting. Behind him up on the shore he could hear the revelry of the many young men who had volunteered to go with him, and the black bulk of a new ship that had been volunteered for their use rested half in the water nearby like a great sleeping bull.
   "Heyyyyy, what are you doing down here??" Jason's reverie was interrupted by one of his new friends, Idas, stumbling down to him holding a small amphorae of wine.
   "Just, thinking," said Jason, looking out at the many stars over the sea
   "Oh yeah, what about?" asked Idas
   "We're going to have to travel well beyond the limits of civilization, through the narrow sea into the black inhospitable sea beyond and to the far shore. Who knows what monsters we might encounter along the way, how long we'll be gone, if we'll ever make it back"
   "Hey you're not getting cold feet are you??" inquired Idas bruskly
   "Hey, no, but it's a serious undertaking, I just wanted to enjoy the serenity here because I don't know how long it will be till we're back,"
   "Look if you're having second thoughts you can stay here and Heracles can lead us"
   "Hey, you're drunk Idas" another voice broke in, and Jason looked up to see one of the older volunteers to the expedition, Idmon, coming up to them.
   "Hey I'm just saying" said Idas defensively.
   "Jason is right to take it seriously, and it is the right attitude in a leader. I myself feel like I won't make it back, but I still willingly go in support of Jason." said Idmon, placing a hand on Jason's shoulder.
   Idas looked at Jason sitting thoughtfully on his rock with a goblet in hand, and said "well he better be steadfast as a leader, second thoughts and quibbling are NOT what we need"
   "Will YOU be steadfast or are you going to be second guessing my leadership the whole time?" asked Jason angrily.
   Just then some beautiful music began wafting down to the shore from the rest of the party, where Orpheus had begun to play his lyre, and the three stopped their argument to listen. After a moment Idas mumbled a half hearted rejoinder and began to stumble back up the beach.

Saturday, November 17th, 2018
10:52 am
The Unmarked Path
   This is written to work as a stand-alone piece but is the latest installment in my dungeon's and dragons adventure (though there's three sessions since the last one posted here, the only event in the missing time that's particularly worth noting is when Krusk wrapped his flail in his cup-bearer's boxers to protect it while fighting an acid blob).

   The trail seemed to abruptly end amid some shrubbery. On either side a white skull gleamed atop a stake driven into the ground. A small song bird twittered atop the one on the right but flew up into a tree as they approached. They stopped briefly between the skulls and Percival, looking left and right could see more stakes with skulls spaced out to form a border between the darker forest ahead of them and the cheery forest they had been traveling through.
   "There is no path to the temple," Krusk, his large companion, explained. "It's symbolic, it's all symbolic. We have to find our own way there"
   "And we must tread carefully so as not to make a trail?" ventured Percival.
   "Ah, yes." answered Krusk, "very good."
   They carefully picked their way in the general direction the trail had been headed, careful not to disturb the grass overly much or walk where it appeared maybe someone else had. Percival reflected how this necessity made one more considerate of the natural environment and felt pleased with it. The forest past the skulls was thicker and darker but not really in a depressing way. There were if anything more birds about and generally the environment seemed more undisturbed. Percival noticed Krusk had taken his kite-shaped shield off his back, and was holding his flail at the ready.
   "There's some dangerous creatures in here," Krusk explained, "that can surprise the unready."
   Percival put his hand on the hilt of his sword. Technically Krusk's sword, but Krusk almost never used it, probably only owned it for symbolic reasons. Designed for an orc like Krusk, it was a bit big for Percival, a teenage human. Percival wondered what kind of "creatures" lurked in this forest. Sometimes the difference between a monster and an animal seemed very subjective, and Percival disliked killing things he didn't have to.
   He thought back to some of the creatures they had recently encountered. The undead creatures he didn't doubt were worth scourging away, but what about that giant vulture thing, the "vrock?" [illustration of the event] It had attacked them sure, but maybe it felt they were threatening its territory or was hungry? Percival looked forward to visiting the Geographic Society in town where he could converse on this subject with people interested in natural history.
   "That group of thieves we encountered," began the usually untalkative Krusk, "do you think we should have fought them?"
   "Oh, um, uh, I don't know?" ventured Percival, mildly surprised how closely Krusk's question matched the theme he was already thinking about.
   "Why not?" prompted Krusk, not looking at him.
   "They hadn't attacked us, there were more of them than us?"
   "Yes but they were clearly thieves, it was our duty to oppose them. We probably could have taken them"
   "Maybe?" offered Percival meekly. He thought back to the time the previous day when they had hidden in the bushes as nine humans who looked very thievish had come down the road. Krusk had wanted to confront them, but Malek, the lizard-man had held Krusk back urgently hissing to just stay hidden. Percival had to smile recalling how Krusk's cup-bearer Davidge had skillfully defused the situation by thrusting a horn of strong mead into Krusk's hand at just the right moment to console him.
   "But the rest of our group didn't want to fight them" offered Percival
   "Yes but they would have gone with it if it came to that." speculated Krusk. "I think we should have. One must have courage to fight one's enemies but also the courage to go against what others think is best for you" mused Krusk. He wasn't usually this philosophical, thought Percival, but since they were on their way to Krusk's initiation into the Third Degree of the Order of Azetlotlex, Percival supposed he was thinking a lot about his duty. Percival briefly questioned whether he really wanted to follow in Krusk's footsteps and become a paladin, the path his parents had proudly put him on. His chest swelled with pride as he thought of the honor of the righteous path and he squashed his feelings of doubt.
   "What if they weren't thieves at all?" asked Percival
   "Well I would have confronted them and probably if they were criminals they'd fight or run. If they had nothing to hide we could have discussed it." Percival nodded, remembering how Krusk had tried to talk to the goblins they had encountered, before others had taken the initiative and attacked.

   Presently they came to the temble complex, delineated by another row of skull stakes. There were a few stone and wood buildings around a square with a grove of trees in it, and the imposing blocky edifice of the temple building beside it. Many members of the order of various races, human, dwarven, elven, orcish, and more, stood around or sat at tables, wearing black robes. Several cheerfully greeted Krusk, who soon disappeared into one of the buildings to change into a black robe himself. Percival noticed an attractive human female not much older than himself and found himself wondering if she was wearing anything under the robe, which caused him to be particularly flustered when a dwarf with a fiery red beard introduced himself ("Tyler") just then with a friendly but overpowering handshake. The dwarf then introduced Percival to the "dread master" of the lodge, a grey haired centaur whose face was lined with age. As Percival was introduced around everyone was very friendly, though he felt meek and intimidated. He was grateful that despite his feeling of awkwardness no one seemed to talk down to him. Some meat was roasting on a spit, which smelled delicious. Percival recalled being told their the Dread God Sithrak, whom the Order is dedicated to, was said to particularly love a good barbecue ("even now Sithrak oils the spit!" being one of their common sayings), and had even forbade them to eat an entirely vegetarian meal. On a table near the middle several gold coins lay apparently unattended, which Percival suspected was another symbolic test of the order. As the evening darkened, tallow candles were set out for additional light.
   "These are tallow candles, laddie, but inside the temple I can tell you we use only beeswax candles," offered Tyler.
   "Oh," answered Percival, watching how the twenty-sided gold coins glinted in the candle light.
   "The beeswax burns bright and doesn't splutter or smoke" continued Tyler, "but Sithrak is pleased by tallow candles as well. So tallow candles without and pure beeswax candles within"
   Sithrak does like burning animal fat Percival thought to himself.
   Just before midnight the members of the Order entered the temple (The Dread Master seemed to determine the time from the stars). Tyler took a position beside the great door with his sword grounded. "Your role doesn't begin just yet" he explained to Percival, "so yea may as well sit." Percival gazed at the large carving of an upside-down skull above the door, lit dramatically by the flickering candle-light.
   After about half an hour several members of the order, including the young woman, exited the temble. "They are the one's who aren't yet of the Third Degree themselves laddie" explained Tyler, "but now the ceremony begins, so you come up here and take position on the far side of the door. Percival took a posiiton in mirror of Tyler on the other side of the door, grounding the sword between his feet. He had hoped the young woman would stick around but the members who had exited departed didn't hang around. Over the next several hours he sometimes heard chanting from within the temple and at one point he thought he heard a muffled scream abruptly cut short. Tyler didn't seem opposed to talking but after awhile seemed to settle into an abstracted thoughtful state. Percival himself was soon lost in thought. Did he have what it takes to join this order himself in time? Would he join a different order? Aspects of it terrified him but he urgently wanted the respect of Krusk and the friendly members he had met tonight. And that woman..
   Finally just as the sun rose, the members of the order started to leave the temple. Krusk looked tired but pleased. He appeared to have a steak of blood smeared across his forehead.

Thursday, November 8th, 2018
6:44 pm
Misc Rants and Rambles

   Firstly of all you may have noticed there was a recent election in the United States. (Presumably?) unrelated, Attorney General Jeff Sessions then resigned / was pushed out the window. While he wasn't much beloved by most people I know, he had at least refused to fire Mueller and I'm assuming Trump is replacing him with someone rip roaring to do so. I posted a facebook post outlining my fears that this will happen, and well, it said this: "This of course paves the way for Trump to appoint someone who will fire Mueller and terminate the investigation, which will mean the president can literally get away with criminal activities. I feel like US democracy is on a collision course here. People say "oh he couldn't do THAT there'd be huge protests," but it's already plausible he could disperse those crowds with tanks and his supporters would cheer him."
   I bring this up here and now because I just want to thank myself for not unfriending my Trump supporter friends like so many of my other totally reasonable friends have done. If I had flushed them all away I would be sitting here thinking really seriously how can anyone really support him and is that nightmare scenario I outlined really plausible? Buuut out of the woodwork to bolster my fears no less than three of my Trump supporting friends commented in earnest seriousness that the investigation hadn't found anything criminal (really? how many guilty pleas is it up to now?) and really should be disbanded, as well as talking about what an uncivilized beast CNN's Acosta is, despite this having nothing to do with the argument at hand (since I think all their minds work in a sort of connect-these-very-disparate-dots-to-justify-my-worldview kind of way). Note to future self or anyone who lives deeper under a rock than I do, the Acosta thing is because Trump kept interrupting Acosta and a female staffer tried to physically remove his mic today.


   In other news, a sort of mini rant myself here. I got to talking to the wife of a beekeeper friend in the area today, I hadn't previously met her. She said she'd been meaning to talk to me because she is also interested in helping people in Guinea. When we got on the subject of how France has been intentionally holding Guinea back through exploitive corporate agreements she suddenly launched into me with "and this is YOUR fault too! You yanks are exploiting it as bad as anyone [insert anti American tirade]," and when it came out that my volunteer projects there are funded by the United States Agency for International Development she clearly curled her upper lip in a distasteful sneer. And then after all this she suggests when I go there again I could take her along as a "cultural attache" because she's "good at collaborating with people" or something. I just smiled politely because I am actually diplomatic but I was thinking "you know I actually have a degree in this, in international relations, and you have completely unnecessarily made me feel blamed and attacked in this very short conversation."


   In other news I've received many very positive comments to the short short little story I hammered out for last LJ Idol prompt. Thank you, I'll try to get back and reply to all the comments (I still have the houseguest about so am not sitting in front of hte computer alot). Many people have said they want to read more and indeed I'd like to make it longer (and I didn't intend to end it abruptly right there until I wrote it to that point and realized it was a natural stopping point), but the question is how?? Some ideas I've had are to introduce a young lady in the local town who is romantically interested in him but obviously terrified of the house. Also it occurred to me that I should have him have some happy rememberances of his dead friends earlier, at a point where we don't realize they died horribly in front of him, like he walks past the pub and thinks of some of their unique mannerisms and misses them but we do not then learn they're dead.
   In behind the scenes news, I left it kind of ambiguous but it's the Crimean War (1853-1856) (famous for the the Charge of the Light Brigade) and other conflicts around that time period that in my head he had fought in, and it's vaguely set in Scotland (all the names I took from the more normal sounding names on a list of common Scottish names). I welcome any ideas on what else to add to the expanded story!


   And finally, Cristina and I have an appointment (via whatsapp) to talk to a visa agent tomorrow (Friday) morning to discuss if she has any chance of getting here on a tourist visa and if not then a student visa and if not.. what hare brained scheme we can cook up. :-[]


   Also I have as yet no idea what to write for the next LJ Idol prompt of "Kayfabe" :-\

Thursday, November 1st, 2018
11:53 pm
LJ Idol Wk 4: Ghosting

   The neighborhood was atwitter to learn someone was actually moving in to the haunted Malvyrn House. It was so infamously haunted it had sat vacant on the market for years. Prior to that it had been inhabited for very short periods of time by various families, after all it was a very nice looking victorian house, but usually the occupants would abruptly move out. Sometimes they'd make various excuses, sometimes, such as the case with the most recent previous occupant, they made no secret that they were terrified and convinced the place was haunted. Previous to these short term inhabitants it's shrouded in local legend. There was a suicide? Or a murder?

   When the new owner finally showed up, neighborhood children watched him arrive and unpack. The stared across the overgrown paddock, through the hedge down the lane, more terrified of being seen by the house than the man. Like wildfire they spread their observations to their parents and the local community. It was just one man, by himself, in that great big house? Soon after, he began to be seen about the small country community, a grizzled-looking middle-aged man with perhaps a slight limp. A veteran from the wars they said. Mary at the post office got up the courage to ask him if it was really just him alone in the house.
   "Well, me and my dog" he said, patting the hound. Does he even know? wondered Mary.
   "Isn't it.... a bit big?" she asked, not quite sure how to broach the subject.
   "Got it for a great price, fully furnished!" he said with a wink and turned to exit the post office. Mary was left very unsure.

   Later on, Ethan got to talking to him in the general store and asked him point blank, albeit wrapped in the guise of possibly a joke, "so you're in the old Malvyrn House... you know they say it's haunted haha."
   "Yeah, they say that" the man, whose name was learned to be Gordon, said in a slow sort of inscrutable way.
   "...you're not afraid?" asked Ethan, who may have already had a beer or two that day and was going to get to the bottom of this.
   "Are you?" asked Gordon, prompting Ethan into a retreat of nervous laughing and explanations that of course HE didn't believe it.

...

   About a week after moving in, Gordon was sitting in the armchair by the fire idly smoking his clay pipe while lost in thought when the dog started whining again and looking frantically at the doorway behind Gordon. But Gordon was a very rational sort and couldn't think of anything that could be in that direction -- he would definitely hear an actual intruder in this creaky house, so he just commanded the dog to calm down and continued to thoughtfully puff the pipe. The dog had frequently been spooked in this house but hopefully he would soon get used to it. As he looked up from the dog his eye caught upon the blank spot on the wall where he had taken a painting down. He had been happy to keep most of the house's furnishings just as he'd found them but he had taken this painting, a supposedly heroic depiction of red coated soldiers in battle, off the wall and put it away out of sight. The blank spot on the wall still triggered unpleasant memories though: his friend Craig screaming as he died from a gunshot wound to the head, trying in vein to cover the rip in his skull with his hands, his blood all over Gordon, and the sergeant yelling at him to keep moving forward; Johnnie looking stupified with his arm blown off; the innocent surprise on the face of a young enemy soldier Gordon had killed himself... He shook himself back to reality, the sober Victorian study, the cozy fire, the dog still whining nervously. He scratched it behind the ears. I should put a picture of a sailboat in that spot he thought to himself.

   Later when Gordon got up to go to the bathroom down the hall he thought he saw a figure out of the corner of his eye, but this kind of thing had often happened to him since the war and he had put a lot of effort into not flinching at these things, so he didn't react.

   It was when he was walking down the long dark upstairs hallway to his bedroom around midnight that he clearly saw, pale and translucent, the figure of a girl in the hallway in front of him. He stopped walking. The dog bristled and growled. The figure came towards him with a wild look in its eyes. After a moment's hesitation Gordon continued walking toward the ghost. The ghost came at him with a crazed expression, and as it got closer Gordon noted it looked like maybe she had been strangled. He kept walking towards it and when they were about to meet it kind of reared up and seemed almost confused.
   "Hi," said Gordon, putting out his hand. The girl looked at his hand and then at him. Her lip quivered. He thought of all the ghosts in his head, whom he couldn't actually meet again. "would you like to talk about something?" he said in a conversational tone.




   This is kind of the kernal of a story idea I had (hey I worked 12 hours today and have a house guest), of "what if someone wasn't afraid of a ghost." Yeah this has been done in comedy/childrens stories but what about in a serious manner? What if the protagonist is busy battling their own more figurative ghosts?
Wednesday, October 17th, 2018
4:29 pm
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
2:26 am
Tunkasila Sakpe

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
2:14 am
Challenger

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
8:46 pm
Dungeon Scrawl


   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
5:16 pm
Swarm Ethics


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
11:36 pm
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
7:25 pm
Fiji II

   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.

This shot of a COPA plane is actually from my non-COPA flight to Fiji!

   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&apos;m almost unrecognizable but I&apos;m in the bright blue swim trunks

   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
10:58 pm
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
1:16 pm
Isla Saona And the Crystal Clear Waters
( Previously )

Man she really rocks my hat

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
7:48 pm
Tufa Towers!


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
9:41 pm
Sierra Buttes
   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! ;D



Sunday, 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
2:37 am
Cristina


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 we didn't match, we're not quite sure now exactly who swiped left or maybe just didn't swipe right. 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 we match? It's possible her profile failed to load, as sometimes happens, and presented with a blank profile I swipe left and the next one loads correctly.

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 ;-)

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