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.

   Introductions - I've introduced myself a few times, typically for LJ Idol, here's the ones that are correctly tagged.
   LJ Idol - Nonfiction LJ Idol entries
      America - Only a few of the most travelogue-like posts tagged, since I've lived most of my life there.
            Brisvegas! (AKA Brisbane)
            The Bundaberg Gulag
            Life in and around Moorepark (outskirts of Bundaberg)
            Birregurra - Life in and around my quaint little village
      Dominican Republic

   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!

Media Reviews
   Movie reviews
   Book reviews



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

And most important:

Clango & cat

Rodent Plague

   We have a bit of a rodent plague here right now. It's not as bad down here as it is in New South Wales but still, I seem to have at least one mouse living in every room. They're always darting between furniture out of the corner of my eye, I hear them chewing on things all night and lie there hoping they're not in the act of ruining something, and in the morning I find their poop all over the table and counters. I realize now what a "bread box" is actually for -- and not having one I've taken to storing my bread in the microwave.

   Legendary cat Cato doesn't actually live with me unfortunately, he lives at work. Every now and then I glance outside and see the neighbor cat Bailey walking by, and throw open the door calling out to him "Bailey come patrol for mice!" And, lo, he immediately changes direction and walks right in, and then he proceeds to walk the perimeter of my house sniffing around at all the nooks mice could be in. As he passes the kitchen I'll open the undersink cabinets and he'll walk in and sniff about and then come out. Once he's done a thorough inspection he proceeds to the door to be let out. He does this so purposefully it's like he's a pest control professional just doing a routine call, and it really makes me think about how really this is exactly why we domesticated cats in the first place and maybe it's deeply ingrained in their instincts as essentially a job.

   This morning after hearing particularly insistent gnawing in the kitchen I traced it to a box of pasta I hadn't known was there (it was among some things my Russian friend had given me before evacuating last year), I quickly tried to close the box to trap the mouse but it successfully lept out.
   Ereyesterday I heard rustling from the small box I put recycling in in the kitchen. I also went to quickly pick up the box but much to my alarm I fekt something strugging against the hand I'd placed under the box -- it had been under the box. I whipped my hand away doublequick because I'm not keen at all to get infected with something by a mouse bite.

   I've been lucky on occasion though, I did successfully catch one in a box, and in a stroke of remarkable luck (good luck for me, particulary bad luck for the mouse), I heard rustling in a box of crackers, I quickly picked it up but the mouse lept out. flying through the air right into a pint glass half full of water, from which it was unable to extricate itself.

   Now many people might find this very convenient indeed, since drowning is a common method of killing mice, but it feels a bit barbaric to me. I'm actually a big softy in fact, or maybe I can blame it on my vague pseudo-buddhist philisophies, I feel I cannot kill anything _directly_, but I can feed things to other things because the circle of life. I've attempted to feed mice to Cato in the past and have wished I had a snake just to feed the mice to it (though apparently feeding live mice to snakes is illegal in Australia, which.. comeon people, in nature things eat eachother, you can't deny the cycle of life!). My current preferred method of disposing of mice is to simply place them in the greenwaste bin. If it's mostly full of stuff I dont' worry too much, but currently it's mostly empty and there's two mice living in there, and now I find myself looking around for some past-its-prime fruit or vegetables to throw out to feed the mice in the Greenwaste Gulag. It may well be that they will be crushed by a trash compactor in the greenwaste truck but, well, that's still easier on my concience than if I offed them myself.


Turkey For Birre Mail

   I've been writing articles for the local monthly newsletter for just over a year now, about everywhere I've traveled, the one I recently wrote about Turkey had to be broken in two, so I thought I'd put it online if someone reading the first half wants to find the second half, so here it is
   I wanted to post to my dreamwidth account since it has a less inscrutible name, but apparently things posted directly there can't be tagged after you've used 2000 tags, but imported entries come through with tags intact so I'm posting this here to show up there with tags
. ;)

   When I first stepped out of the Istanbul airport in 2009, my first time outside the Americas or Western Europe, I recall it seemed so foreign and exotic. Countless towering minarets jutted out of the city toward the sky, the ululating call to prayer echoed through the streets five times a day, swarthy carpet salesmen constantly tried to cajole us, the plumbing was a bit questionable. I ended up returning for one reason or another nearly every year through 2017 since it’s a major transit hub between “the west” and either Africa or Central Asia. I’ve literally spent more time in Istanbul than Melbourne, I came to be familiar with Turkey’s sights and culture and to see it not as scary and intimidatingly foreign but the first and last bastion of modernity before I’d step off into somewhere more remote or return therefrom.
   Turkey happens to be a place many Australians visit so I will focus a bit more on the tourism potential and aspects of it than usual.
   Istanbul/Constantinople/Byzantium is famous as the city at the crossroads between East and West, located mainly on the west side of the sea passage between the Black and Mediterranean seas known as the Bosporus, a substantial part of the city and its suburbs (Istanbul has about three times the population of Melbourne) also extends on the east side connected by bridges or reached by ferry. From the international airport on that first arrival we took a taxi across the scary unknown distance, through the still-standing-impressively legendary Land Walls of Constantinople into the city center, but on more recent trips I merely nip down an escalator to the city tram connection, buy a card like a myki card, and ride the rails right to whereever I’m trying to get to in the city.
The first area I and probably most tourists explored was the tourist heart of the city, the Sultanahmet district located on a hilltop with expansive views of the surrounding sea. This area held the capital palaces of the Eastern Roman Empire and later the Ottomans. It’s chock a block with Roman columns and architectural artifacts a millenia-and-a-half old as well as the famous Hagia Sophia basilica/cathedral/mosque -- constructed in 532 it was the largest cathedral in the world for about a thousand years. Last year current Turkish president Erdogan turned the Hagia Sophia back into a mosque so it may no longer be open to public tours. Topkapi Palace, the residence of the Ottoman Sultans, is an impressive place to tour; there’s also an extensive archeological museum; and a vast underground Roman cistern (I noted at the time: “It had giant fish in it that we're pretty sure eat tourists”). There are good restaurants here but they’re probably a spot overpriced compared to other places in Istanbul/Turkey. Here carpet salesmen pestered my traveling companions and I when we first arrived looking confused and hauling our luggage, but once we learned to look less like we’d just stumbled out of an airplane we hardly got importuned at all.
   From Sultanahmet I like to walk across the short bridge over the Golden Horn (a sort of inlet) to the Taksim district. This area is a more modern shopping district (modern being a relative term, plenty of buildings still look hundreds of years old) with the long pedestrian-only Istiklal street leading to Taksim Square. This is both a popular tourist destination but also very popular with locals which keeps prices realistically related to what a local would reasonably pay (as opposed to Sultanahmet which is a tourist bubble).
   On the third day of that first trip my friends and I flew from Istanbul less than an hour south (flight: $34) to the coastal town of Izmir (formerly Smyrna) and took the train ($2.50) another hour south to the small town of Selçuk -- we were on our way to fulfil the itinerary most first time visitors to Turkey follow. Selçuk is just next door to the remarkably well-preserved ruins of the ancient town of Ephesus, which aside from just being well enough preserved that you can actually feel like you’re walking the streets of an ancient Greek town, is also prominently mentioned in the Bible (the Ephesians and all), and is the former site of one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, the Temple of Artemis, though nothing remains to be seen of it.
   The next day we got on a tour bus bound for Pamukkale. During the three hour journey the bus stopped at a sort of cafeteria for tourists and it, like a similar one I encountered later in Cappadocia, was some of the worst food I’d had in Turkey. If you travel to Turkey, odds are pretty good you’ll end up on a lot of package tours that feed you at places such as this and I implore you to make an effort to eat in some good restaurants and/or simply where the locals are eating. Turkish food is so much more than just kebab. Some of my favorite things are the breakfast dish menamen which consists of poached eggs in a delicious stewy mixture of tomatoes, onions and peppers; or the ravioli-in-yogurt dish manti. You will also want to try the boat-shaped Turkish pizza called pide.
   Pamukkale itself consists of natural hot springs which cascade down a series of tiered rock shelves formed of the frosting-white calcium deposits from the water. A bathing pool has been constructed at the top where one can swim in the naturally 37 degree water.
   Much later, in 2013, I was dating a Turkish ship’s-officer, when we rather had a fight so I set off alone by bus to Cappadocia in central Turkey. Cappadocia is a region of soft sandstone in which the locals have long bored their homes right into the cliff walls. The local geology has somehow created these horn-like stone towers which sometimes occur right in the small towns and are pock-marked with windows from the dwellings that have been made in them, which looks quite bizarre. My hotel room here was a “cave room” bored into the cliff-face, though the front of the hotel looked relatively normal. Cappadocia has many tourist draws such as horseback riding or ATVing through the surreal landscape, or hot air ballooning above it, but what I’d really come here to do was see one of the ancient underground cities. There’s several in the area, I arranged to go with a tour group to the largest, known as Derinkuyu. This entire underground city of winding passages and subterranean rooms once held 20,000 people. Its lowest level is 60 meters underground. Locals built these underground cities for both insulation from the heat and protection from raiders. This city may have been begun in the 7th-8th centuries BC but reached its heights (depths?) in the 8th-12th century AD. As we wound up and down narrow stairs seeing former wineries and bakeries in little underground rooms it felt like some Tolkien goblin city to me.

   After Cappadocia I went on a five day “Blue Cruise” on a small sailboat along the Mediterranean coast. There were 12 of us passengers (half Aussies) and two crew. We spent our days going from ancient pirate cove to cute little fishing village and swimming in the perfect turquoise waters. As we were anchored off “Santa Claus Island” where the real Saint Nicholas had lived, a little boat came up to us -- aboard it, a local couple were cooking up crepes on a stove and selling them. Basking on deck after a swimming, eating a freshly cooked crepe from a little boat I felt life could hardly get better, other than the ongoing trouble with my girlfriend which I was trying not to think about.

Here ends Part I and Part II begins below:

   I had been on a fantastic 5 day “cruise” on a 12 passenger 2 crew sailboat up the “turquoise coast,” finally coming ashore in the coastal town of Fethiye, just onshore of the island of Rhodes on the Aegean coast, south-west corner of the relatively rectangular country of Turkey. Fethiye is a beautiful little seaside town that’s not on the usual quick trip to Turkey itinerary but there is much to do there. The nearby Oludeniz beach is often rated among the top beaches in the world, it doesn’t have soft sand or waves of any kind but what it does have is crystal clear turquoise waters and dramatic mountains and cliffs that surround it in a semicircle. It’s a popular paragliding location, as one can paraglide down from way up the steep mountain, riding the updrafts right on down to landing right on the beach. We had anchored in the little bay there when I was on the boat, I will observe also that the beach was very popular with Russians, who lounged about like a rookery of pale hairy elephant seals in speedos.
   Also just beside Fethiye is an abandoned Greek town, Kayaköy, preserved like a ghost town from the day in 1923 when Turkey expelled its Greek population. I had also heard about a nearby gorge worth visiting, so I took local buses (dolmishes, which is closely related to the stuffed grape-leaf dish dolma, as the word means “stuffed”) to Saklıkent Gorge, a very narrow crevice of a gorge one can trek several kilometers up, at times with water up to your chest
   That evening I was back in Fethiye taking photographs of the beautiful rock tombs carved into the cliffs behind the town, the setting sun casting them in dramatic pink rosey light, when my Turkish sea captain girlfriend, whom I’d been traveling separate from since a fight two weeks earlier, texted me to suggest we meet back up. As it happens Gallipoli was about halfway between us so we decided to meet there. At this point in the evening I didn’t have many resources at my fingertips to plan an immediate 700 kilometer trip, but a friend had recommended a tour agency in Istanbul and I now called them for help -- I almost never (actually literally never except for this one time) use travel agencies to plan trips but calling True Blue Tours in Istanbul, even late in the evening and not being an existing client, the women patiently helped me figure out what buses I needed to take to leave immediately and travel overnight by a combination of local and long distance busses, to Gallipoli, and I don’t think I ever booked anything through the agency, ie they didn’t make any money from me at all. So the least I can do is very strongly recommend you book your future Turkey trip with True Blue Tours!
   After my nine hour scramble across the country, I was with my girlfriend in Canakkale, the town across the Dardanelles strait from Gallipoli -- Gallipoli itself is a national park now and Canakkale is where the hotels are. But before we went to Gallipoli, first we visited another famous battleground -- Troy. The legendary city of Troy is very near there and the ancient walls have been excavated. As a huge fan of ancient myths and legends, to stand with my hand on the warm stone of the very walls of Troy seemed unbelievable to me.
   Finally we went across with a tour to Gallipoli. Nearly everyone on the tour except us was Australian (I was not yet an Australian at the time). The rugged landscape of Gallipoli still looks much as I imagine it did in 1915, and some trenches have even been preserved/reconstructed at the top of the cliffs. It’s truly awe-inspiring to stand there with the sparkling sea and the wind gently rustling in the lone pines and one can easily imagine everything that took place on those fabled beaches and bluffs. The tour guides are of course Turkish but as they recount stories of the war there’s no bitterness or lingering animosity, they and all Turkish people I have met truly embody the spirit of Ataturk when he declared “After having lost their lives on this land [your sons] have become our sons as well.”
   The next day my girlfriend and I went on a Turkish tour, consisting entirely of Turks with she translating for me. This tour naturally focused on more tales of Turkish heroism like an artillery man who allegedly continued to load and fire 90kg shells by himself when the rest of his gun crew was killed, and a Turkish soldier who carried a wounded ANZAC back to his own lines in the midst of the fighting, but the overall tone was still one of complete mutual respect.
   Overall, since 2009 I’ve seen Turkey under Erdogan drift a bit towards authoritarianism and away from some of Ataturk’s principles of a strictly secular state, but it’s still a safe country with a rich culture and many amazing tourist sites to visit. Many Australians are drawn by Gallipoli to visit Turkey and I strongly encourage you to make the trip, just please promise me you’ll eat more than just the food the package tours put in front of you.


Pako Pantry, Not Quite A Restaurant Review

   The weekend before last Trent asked if anyone wanted to go for breakfast at this place called Pako Pantry off Pakingham Street in Geelong Town. Pakingham Street is the kind of hipstery part of Geelong so I predicted everything would be "desconstructed," but I do love a good breakfast so I put my hand up to join. For most of our friends 9am Sunday morning may as well be the middle of the night but this fellow Alex joined as well.
   I was initially going to order the "chai spiced french toast" but I noticed it came with ice cream. Invariably french toast or pancakes seem to come with ice cream here, I like ice cream as much as the next person but not for breakfast. Sure one could ask them to leave it off but I know if the portion sizes were calculated to involve a big scoop of ice cream they won't compensate with something else for its lack so I may as well order something else to get my money's worth. So I ordered this "shakshouka" which turned out to be very much like the Turkish dish I know of menamen which I quite love, basically poached eggs in a stewy bowl of tomatoes and onions and such. Trent ordered a hot chocolate with his wrap thing, which came "deconstructed."
   Trent mentioned he usually goes to this place on Wednesday morninings.

   This past Sunday he again proposed we go there, this time at noon and more of our friends joined. After a waitress seated us I looked at Trent mischieviously and asked "is it her??"
   He laughed noncommittally and avoided answering. "What?" asked Alex.
   "Oh if Trent starts going somewhere every week it is inevitably because he has a crush on a waitress." Again he laughed and neither confirmed nor denied.
   This time I ordered "pork belly bao rolls," which for $36.23 consisted of three little taco-like morsels the size of mini street tacos. After eating them I was still fully ravenous and proceeded to eat a side of bacon, and then, after everyone else had slowed down, I ate Grant's plate of fries, Trent's plate of fries, Eli's bacon and her kielbasa sausage ("kransky"). Kristen gave me her "green fritters" of which she'd only eaten half and she claimed "they're better than they look," and actually she did this before I'd eaten all the other things and was still fully ravenous, but I must admit I wasn't quite ravenous enough to eat more of them after my one bite.

(the pork bao, "green fritters" visible to right)

Okay I just double checked my pork bao dish was $21.50 and the remaining nearly-$15 was between the small side of bacon and tiny tumeric latte. I don't care how big a crush Trent has on the waitress I don't think this place gives one one's money's-worth.


Fiddle-dee-dee! A Gone With the Wind Review

   I might pump out several entries this morning since I have several different topics I fancy writing about and a free morning while it rains outside, which is pleasantly conducive to writing.

   So I just finally read Gone With The Wind. I had just finished reading Half A Golden Sun about the Nigerian civil war in the 60s, which is told from the perspective of people on the losing side of the war and it had gotten me thinking I ought to read that American classic about being on the losing side of the civil war. I thought Half a Golden Sun was great by the way and recommend it. Also I had recently written a piece I wish I could get published about traveling in Tigray and the lovely people I met there, the losing side in the recent Ethiopian civil war, so I had this theme of being on the losing side of civl wars much on my mind.

   Anyway so I finished Gone With the Wind and.... boy was that racist. I expected the characters to be racist because of the time it takes place, and the author to be a bit racist because it was written in the 1930s, but yikes. All the black characters just want to serve and be taken care of by their kind kind white masters and ... I don't even want to recount all of the racist stuff because it's disgusting to recount. But just like, the author (NOT a character but the author in the omniscient narrator's voice) tells us that after the civil war black people turned free didn't know how to take care of their own children and abandoned them to starve unless kindly white people took them in. Like, seriously? Or like when the auther breezily mentions second-main-character Rhett shoots a black person who was impertinent to him or something minor like that, and acts like we should agree he shouldn't be held accountable for it as those damn yankees are seeking to do.
   So this kind of made me want to hate the book, that plus the main character starts out very dislikable and remains so. For much of the book I was trying to decide if the author thought the character of Scarlett was actually likeable or knew she was an unlikeable character, but gradually towards the end I began to conclude the author must know she is largely dislikeable and I began to have some admiration for an author who could write a whole book (a very long book!) about an unlikeable character. It was weird, I read it almost entirely rooting _against_ the main character and hoping her disagreeable ways would bring her misfortune. One theme I identified though, fitting for a book about the civil war, is that even when bad things happen to characters you don't like, in their own mind they are never defeated, and ultimately it is useless to wish them misfortune because of the fact that they'll never see themselves as defeated.
   I think another redeeming quality of the book was that it did seem to have a coherent feminist message about how a very capable woman was constrained by the society of the day.
   On a very minor note it kind of annoyed me that they refer to "Captain" Rhett Butler as "Captain Butler" throughout, despite that his own maritime experience seemed to be a few months of blockade running during the war, which it doesn't go into the details of but as he had zero maritime background prior to that he presumably was involved in as the owner but not the seamanship expert aboard and as an avid sailor and consumer of books about sailing adventures, I strongly feel he does not appear to have earned the title of "captain" at all.

   Anyway, I think it was a worthwhile book for its interesting themes and bold decision to make a dislikeable character the main character, but, and I'm normally totally against censorship, but I rather feel like someone should go through and eliminate all the blatantly racist garbage the author included (not the racism inherent in the people and society of the time but the steaming shit the narrator tells us) and release an official updated version that won't poison the minds of impressionable readers who might already be inclined towards racism and gobble that shit up / it's distractingly appalling for anyone.


In Which I Meet a Moth

   Yesterday was a nice sunny day (for once), and it being a holiday I was enjoying a nice nap in my lush probably-overdue-for-mowing backyard lawn. As I drifted back to wakefulness I heard the sound of a small animal slowly rustling through the grass nearby. Thinking it might be one of hte large blue-tongue lizards I sometimes see, I carefully raised my head. What I beheld instead was a very large moth, a little longer than my index finger, making its way toward me "on foot" through the grass. The back edge of its wings were very ragged and a yellow jacket appeared to be attacking it.
    I sat up and the moth continued on toward me and then climbed up my torso, up my neck, and onto my ear, where it proceeded to remain for most of the rest of the evening even after I went into the house and attended to various things. I hope it didn't put any eggs in my ear that would be quite rude.

   Asking around, it appears to be a bogong moth, which I'm informed is edible. Australians probably put chicken salt on it, they put chicken salt on everything. I did not eat it.

   At one point it fell off me and fluttered its wings frantically (but didn't appear capable of flying, the fluttering was completely ineffectual), but when I got it in my hand again it immediately calmed down completely.

   Finally when I had to go to bed I put it on the outside table. It walked around as lively as when I'd met it once placed there. In the morning it was gone, I'm gonna assume Sancho the Possum didn't apply chicken salt to it and instead it has flown off to seek its fortune.


A Rather Duct-Taped-Together Profile

   So I've been taking this "narrative journalism" class taught by southern california journalist of some repute Gustavo Arellano. For one of our assignments we had to do a profile on someone. El profesor said our subject didn't have to be newsworthy, they could be just important to us, but to me that sounded like a cheap cop out and I wanted to go for gold. And of course a profile of a doctor straining to deal with the overburdened undersupported conditions of coronavirus in Venezuela would probably be quite acceptable but doing my own fiancee also seemed like a cop out. But there's one celebrity I've been hearing about around here (not counting the former sports star who was insulted that I didn't recognize his name), Australian travel show presenter Catriona Rowntree (pronounced "Catrina" -- I don't know why Australians have to spell things so strangely)
   I had first become aware of her almost exactly a year ago when she was the celebrity host of the launch of a major conservation project that had its launch event immediately prior to lockdown, she's apparently a household name in Australia for her travel show. Being, you know, rather interested in travel, I proceeded to look up what clips of her show are on youtube and found, at least as far as I can gather from the clips on youtube, her show seems to be entirely show-length infomercials talking up specific tour packages or cruises. I wasnt' really terribly impressed but at least she's a local celebrity, involved in travel, and appears to live in the area -- Stavros among my new coworkers actually has hives on her property.

   So I googled around for a contact for her, messaged her public figure profile on facebag, surprisingly got a response from her asking me to contact "Jo" to sort it out, and then realized that "jo" was an email address listed on that profile, so I emailed her. A day or two went by. Then, as I was walking across the open field between my house and my village's main street to attend an editorial meeting of the local monthly newsletter, my phone dinged with a new email -- Jo writing back to say that I could interview Catriona by phone at 10:00 on the 22nd. The profile was DUE on the 22nd and thus that wouldn't work for this assignment, but I figured I'd come this far I might as well go through with it, maybe I could write a profile and sling it to an Australian travel magazine or something. Then I walked into the editorial meeting and immediately one of the editors was asking if I could possibly do a profile on a resident, an olympic* equestrian, who was moving away next week (* chosen for the 1980s Olympics which Australia boycotted). Why yes, yes I could do that. And so I did: Chris Smith Rides Into the Sunset

   To interview Chris Smith and his neighbors I used a simple voice recording app on my phone and that worked well. But that app wouldn't record a phone call. Interviewing Catriona would be by phone, so I downloaded and tested FIVE different purported call recording apps and not one of them would record a caller (they'd just record my voice and periods of silence). And somewhere in this my phone developed a problem where callers couldn't hear me clearly if I was on speakerphone. So now even if I were to take pen and paper notes I'd have to do it while uncomfortably propping my phone against my ear. I had a recording program on my computer I'd used for recording the podcast but that wouldn't work without speakerphone either AND my computer crashes every twenty minutes.
   So the totally duct-taped-together hare-brained solution I came up with in the end was plugging my computer's external speakers into my phone so while I was speaking into the handset in non-speaker-mode it was coming out loud enough from the speakers that audible could pick it up, and I just had to hope against hope the computer wouldn't crash during the interview.

   I called her manager at 9:55 as instructed but it turned out Catriona had forgotten and was unavailable, but she was available at noon. Well okay, even though this was already a bit of a clusterfuck and it would mean not coming into work at all (it was a day I would have worked, and I was going to come in at noon after interviewing her at ten), I figured I'd come this far.

   So I got her on the phone at noon, she would talk to me while driving somewhere that would take fifteen to 20 minutes.

   After about half my interview, my computer crashed, dumping the first half of the interview forever. I hadnt' written anything useful down as it was tedious between holding my phone against my shoulder and everything. This was officially a bit fucked.

   In preparation I'd watched some other interviews of her and they all seemed to tell the same story -- she wasn't a terribly great student in school and constantly got in trouble for talking too much. Then one day she learned a friend's dad was a radio presenter and was thrilled by the idea that one could essentially get paid to talk. She then went in to community radio once she was out of school nad slowly worked her way up until she got her big break with the opportunity to host on the Getaways travel program which was initially expected to run "maybe a season" and only covered local Australian destinations but has now run for over 25 years and covers destinations throughout the world (if this were a real profile and not a mere blog post I'd probably include more detail about that rise to fame I promise).

   Hearing her tell this familiar story almost word for word the way I'd seen it presented in two interviews about her I rather wondered if other journalists were too lazy to try to vary the story or this was how she herself had formed her "profile" in her mind. Anyway, I politely tried to get her off that track because i'd heard it all before and I wasn't here to write the same profile I could have from watching existing interviews.

   So what I really wanted to know was had she always wanted to travel? I forget what she said, that was on hte part of the interview that flushed itself and I have no memory.

   Her first trip abroad was to Fiji at 14 with her mom, who was an "air hostie" as the Australians call it. "We had a very fraught relationship, [paraphrased from my bad memory] so that was interesting" Okay this sounds promising "what kind of problems did you have on that trip?" "oh I don't know." Well okay so much for a good story coming out of that. But her mom being an air hostie definitely sets a prominent place for travel in her early childhood. And she said she much later went back to Fiji with her mom as a seasoned traveler and they had a much better time. There's probably a story there but I didn't capture it.

   At 15 she went to Egypt on a class field trip [I'm making mental notes at this point about how posh her school must have been], but this got her talking about how she's always liked history and cultures and didn't have the grades to go to university and study these things on an academic level, but she found she loved traveling to places to appreiciate their history and culture and later to share them with the world, and this seemed to be really something. As she expanded on this subject I came to see and appreciate how she's not just a luxury-cruise-aficionado on TV sharing her love for five star hotels but someone who loves travel for some of the same reasons I do, but slinging vacation packages is what sells and keeps you on TV to talk about these foreign places. At least that would be my thesis if I hadn't already lost hope in getting an adequate interview due to the overwhelming technical difficulties.
   "Well you're probably about to arrive at your destination?" I asked kind of looknig to bail out of this disaster.
   "Oh, I got here a few minutes ago actually, do you have any more questions?" the thought that she was sitting in her car in a parking lot to continue the interview warmed my little heart.
   "What's the most unexpectedly likeable place you've been?" I asked. Bhutan, apparently, it's so peaceful and nice and the government measures its success on this concept of gross domestic happiness (again loosely paraphrasing from memory here, if this were a real profile I do have her actual quotes about this on the bit of audio I was able to salvage). I ended by pitching that she really ought to go to Ethiopia and that was that.

   I think aside from the immense technical difficulties, just being on the phone made it disconcerting for me. I've never particularly liked talking on the phone, not seeing the person feels like you're dealing with the person in a darkened room and triggers fight or flight responses, makes me feel uncomfortable and disconcerted at the best of times. I think one could get a decent profile out of her but I think I'd want to be talking to her or anyone else I might be profiling in person rather than on the phone.


A Year Later

   A year ago today Australia entered coronavirus lockdown. At that time there had been 2,136 confirmed cases, people had only just begun to wear masks, and the grocery stores were surreal places with big gaps on the shelves where pasta and flour had been, mostly empty produce sections, and of course a completely empty toilet paper section. None of us had any idea how long it would last but if we were to venture a guess I'm pretty sure we would have all wildly under-estimated.
   Melbourne enacted the "ring of steel" quarantine that was one of the longest and most stringest lockdowns in the world. And as a result of these measures, we haven't had widespread community transmission in about five months now, and life is pretty much back to normal without even much vaccination (I think the doctors have been vaccinated but I haven't heard a thing about general public getting vaccinated at all). Masks are still common but there are very few instances when it's still required (public transit maybe?).

   In the United States vaccination is going forward as fast as possible, with, I believe, most older people vaccinated and my teacher friends are all getting vaccinated these days. Community spread in the US still seems to be pervasive.

   And in Venezuela, official news is sketchy, but they are once again on a very strict lockdown, Cristina seems to practically live at the hospital working 6 days a week, she's received her first vaccination dose (the Russian one) but not yet the second, and she reports some doctors havent' even been vaccinated yet. In a hospital where pre-corona they seemed to lose a patient once a month and Cristina would be pretty bummed about it, they lost 22 patients to coronavirus this past weekend alone.


The Trump Putsch

Today was a beautiful day. Perfect for beekeeping. I didn't get much work done today.

In the early morning my time, my phone started beeping like mad with notifications. When I'd gone to bed the two democratic senators had just been declared winners in Georgia, yet when I opened my phone to the messenger chat group of my politically minded high school friends the first post I saw was "shit shit shit shit," but I scrolled up 44 messages to the last one I hadnt' seen to see what was happening in order. Of course as I was reading them more shit was going down. I finished right around the time people were announcing "they've breached the senate chamber" and "people are shooting in the capitol" .... shit shit shit shit.

This has been.... an unprecedented day. I hope all these insurrectionists whose faces are brazenly on camera --mugging for shots behind the rostrum or even livestreaming themselves with their feet up on Pelosi's desk-- get charged with sedition and locked away forever.

The one plus side is I hope Trump and his ilk have overplayed their hand and completely discredited themselves. A number of republicans and conservatives loudly distanced themselves from him today and there seemed to be serious talk about the 25th Amendment, wherein his own cabinet would declare him unfit. He shockingly actually conceded in the early morning hours after the EC count was finally formally completed (which I think was at 3:45am so he was still awake and monitoring it at that time like a neurotic maniac?? Like he somehow thought it might somehow still go his way???), but I hope that doesn't take reimpeachment or the 25th off the table. I think they need to send a strong message that this is utterly way beyond acceptable. Rermember when Sen Collins said she thought Trump had "learned his lesson" after the last impeachment (and therefore her vote against it was, she alleged, justified), yeah about that. Related fact, Adolf Hitler was convicted of High Treason in 1924 but given a slap-on-the-wrist sentence, eight years later he had absolute power. Sedition cannot be punished with slaps on the wrist.

I'm going to bed now, I fully expect to wake up to more wild news developments.


2020 Year In Review

   As is tradition let us begin with the map of where I've traveled in the past year:

   Though this would seem to imply I've been to the Melbourne airport, which, I have not, but you have to input at least one airport code to make it make a map.

   In fact I never left the state (indeed for much of the year we legally could not. Counting just these furthest trips this year I traveled 969 miles, which compares to my mileage and my comment about my mileage last year: "23,695 miles this year, a fraction of any previous year since 2012."

   Anyway, so, this year! I'm pretty sure this will be a year we'll all remember for the rest of our lives. [Interruption for the celebration of new years. Okay all writing after this is in 2021!]

Cases in this state

   In January Australia was on fire. Literally a seventh of this state was on fire. Its funny I think I recall in the first week it looekd like Trump was going to start a war with Iran, Australia was on fire, and I forget what all else but we were all like "whoa 2020 slow down." Little did we know. Little did we know.

   In February my parents made their annual visit. One of dad's friends happened to be on an around-the-world cruise that happened to be stopping in to Melbourne while they were here so we met up with them and went on a walking tour of Melbourne. Needless to say, their cruise never made it around the world (they were actually left wandering the sea for awhile with nowhere willing to allow a cruise ship to dock, which was a bit silly since having been at sea for over two weeks it clearly wasn't aboard)

   March: by the beginning of March the pandemic was definitely on our radar but we had nooo ideaa what we were in for. On March 5th I booked the flights for Cristina and I to fly to the Bahamas to get married April 20th... woo yeah woo! .... that was $3,000 I may as well have flushed down the toilet as the airlines refused to refund any of it, though United agreed to give us the equivalent maount in credit that will expire after a year. I'll definitely start harassing them again to at the very very very least get an extension on it's usability.
   Anyway things quickly exploded from for example 28 new cases on March 12th to 537 on March 22nd (the height of the first wave it turned out), and the state went into lockdown on March 25th. What we initially thought was going to be a two or three week lockdown turned out to be a 112 day lockdown. In what became known as the "ring of steel" Melbourne residents couldn't leave Melbourne except for work, and the state borders were also locked for all but a small handful of very narrowly defined reasons. During the height of the lockdown one could only leave the house to work an essential job or go on one grocery shopping run a week (I think?) and an hour a day of exercise within 5km of their house. This didn't effect my day to day much at all really.

   On March 30th the beloved tallship Pilgrim sank at her dock, which was heartbreaking for those of us who have spent countless hours aboard her.


   April I started to notice it was severely impacting my sales, cutting my income to a meagre trickle, and unlike all my neighbors I don't have the support of the numerous Australian programs that supported people with lost income. Also coronavirus was hitting Venezuela and Cristina and her coworkers had no PPE, leaving them feeling doomed like little coloured chickens, and it was freaking me out.
   And again, Cristina and I had been going to get married on April 20th. I then could have added her to my existing visa, she could hae joined me within months, and been no my Permanent Residency visa application. Instead I need to wait till the PR hopefully gets approved and then start a separate $13,000 14 month visa to get her here, so not being able to get married in April _really_ set us back.

   June after about two months of low double digits of monthly cases it felt like we had this Covid thing mostly behind us and lockdowns were starting to ease up. My friend even had a party and all got together! Not like huge bumpin 30 person party but there were like a dozen of us. In one indoor location! Meanwhile in the states Trump was encouraging ominous displays of police force against protestors. It's funny I suppose for many of you reading this that was summer but for me that was mid winter and literal dark days. My memory of this whole period is of one continuous night actually.

   July - On July 3rd my grandfather Roger collapsed and died, he was 93. He's fortunate I suppose, there was no lingering away in a hospital, he was up on his feet, had just gone to the hardware store, and then he suffered heart failure. I never posted about it earlier because how do you begin to do justice to an amazing man who lived such a multifaceted remarkable life? Also I hate it when people say "I'm sorry for your loss" to me. I do feel like I should make a post about him though. Obviously I was unable to travel to his funeral, which I would have under normal circumstances, but then again, no one was able to. There was a nice ceremony in August via zoom attended by dozens of people recalling how he had impacted their lives. Later later in October there was an "inurnment" in which his ashed were placed in the grave beside his wife my grandmother, which hadn't been intended to be a ceremony but a dozen plus people ended up attending, and as well since he was a veteran the military sent a bugler to play taps.
   In July the "second wave" hit us here, this time it was almost exclusively in Melbourne. It apparently had somehow gotten out from the quarantine hotels. There was a pervasive rumor, apparently started by a tabloid making up a story whole cloth, that it was because a security guard had had relations with a quarantinee, but I believe that turned out to be baseless. On July 21st, masks began appearing around here. Which is amazingly late in the game looking back on it. On that date there were 359 new cases in the state and rising vast, and I estimated about 1 in 8 people out on sidewalks was wearing a mask and about 40-60% of the people in the grocery store. Also around this time Cristina and I succeeded in getting her PPE.

   In August having successfully figured out how to get money to Cristina and source PPE there I decided to start a gofundme for her coworkers, which raised $2080 in 48 hours! Also some time around here I discovered that a group of volunteers here in the little village of Birregurra get together every Tuesday to do landcare around the township, weeding, planting native plants, cutting out blackberry brambles, etc. I found this very enjoyable and a way to be more involved with the community.

   In September I signed up for classes at two community colleges in California, since everything is offered remotely now! So that was the one up side to this year. I took two biology classes and a writing class, finishing with a 98% average. (: Also in September I was increasingly panicked since my 457 visa was due to run out Oct 4th and I had to chase down a lot of paperwork from my boss and jump through some other hoops (it looked for awhile like I'd have trouble proving I speak English but that turned out to be unnecessary in the end).

   November I took the train out East (the Easternmost route on the above map) to go hiking with my friend Billie, whom I hadn't caught up with in over a year. Most people I met out there in Eastern Victoria were excitedly hoping for a Trump win in the election that was then days away. Yikes. And then there was the election!


   December a beekeeping friend invited me to their family's place in Warnambool for Christmas dinner, thus making the westernmost extremity of my travels for the year. In the United States and Great Britain people began to receive vaccination shots for covid which is exciting. Here in Australia a new outbreak began in Sydney mid month (20-30 cases a day since then), and, after 60 days with not a single new locally acquired case here in Victoria we had 3 locally-acquired-from-unknown-source cases yesterday and six today. With undetermined local cases and people generally thinking its over and attending multi-hundred-persno NYE parties tonight, I fear we may be in for a third wave.

   Tonight as I mentioned, I was working on this very entry when I took a break to videocall Cristina to ring in the new year with her. After midnight I went outside to see if anyone was firing fireworks or anything, but things seemed pretty low key here. The moon was bright like a floodlight, and when I looked up at it whispy clouds were scudding past in front of it ... but they were going the opposite direction they usually do. I've only ever seen the wind blow west-to-east here. To see clouds flitting east-to-west across the moon felt downright eerie. I hope this isn't some kind of omen for the year.


All in all 83.7 million people worldwide have been diagnosed with coronavirus this year, and 1,824,053 people have confirmably died of it. This is almost the population of Latvia, and certainly greater if one ccould include undiagnosed deaths. There are about 30 countries with populations smaller than the 2020 death toll from coronavirus.

Plans for 2021
   They don't expect to open up international travel for the year so probably no traveling. If at all possible I very badly want to see Cristina as one could imagine but it's not looking likely. I tihnk my PR should be approved sometime between April and July, which will be a huge relief and make life easier. Other than that it's hard to make plans in this uncertain world!

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