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!



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

And most important:


Spring At Last

   Yesterday (Friday) was a very lovely day. 76f and sunny. My application for permanent residency had just finally been lodged, finally freeing me from the threat of being expelled from the country on the 5th, so I was in a very good mood. For an hour or two at twilight I've been cutting blackberries along the slope beside the river at the edge of town, to make a trail, and this fun project was much on my mind in the morning. The trail is being bored a dozen feet a day through the thick tangle of brambles and was getting very near the comparatively clear "other side" of the entangled slope. In particular just the evening before I had discovered instead of slipping on the loose hillside and carrying the cut tentacle-like branches all the way back out of the track, if I carefully laid them lengthwise underfoot and stood on them they made a great stable trackway. So in the morning I eagerly thought about getting back to that, but first I had a busy day of beekeeping, to take advantage of the good weather!

 Mid-afternoon, around 3pm-ish, I was emerging from the forest when my phone started giving me notifications. I glanced at my phone and my brother (Tobin) had sent me a screenshot of a Trump tweet announcing he (Trump) had coronavirus. I nearly swerved off the road! I had to stop and demand "IS THIS REAL???!?" it turns out, as you probably know, it was.
   The rest of the day I was checking my phone between every hive as the updates continued throughout the day. More Trump allies infected! Trump off to the hospital!

   I'm not gonna lie, this already good day was suddenly upgraded to euphoric. I've seen some hand wringing from people saying its immoral to wish ill on even Trump, and some Trump supporters posting that we should be ashamed, but you know what, no. Trump has downplayed this all along. Becuase of his downplaying this 200,000+ Americans are dead and now he himself is sick. It's his own damn fault and I'm not sorry. He mocked Hillary for getting pneumonia during the 2016 campaign, he mocked the McCain family when McCain died, he deserves exactly zero sympathy. He is a direct threat to the health and very lives of Americans and if this severaly damages his elections then it is objectively good.
   On top of all that, I think there's been every indication he planned to lead a chanting mob on election night to dispute the results, which was a terrifying prospect for democracy, but I doubt he can do that from a hospital bed. So yeah, no, this development may have saved America and I won't pretend some imaginary "high road" compels me to feel sympathy for this ogre.

   Anyway, in this state of euphoric wonderland I mnaged to finish the day, inspecting at beehives until the sun set around 6ish. Driving back to work to unload the truck, legendary cat Cato came to greet me and I held his warm furry purring koala-self for possibly an hour while I contentedly watched the big yellow moon rise. And took a photo:

Here is the moon. Did you know it's surface is "slightly brighter than that of worn asphalt" according to wikipedia?

   This morning (Saturady) wasn't even forecast to be a sunny day but it turned out to be yet another nice sunny day. I eagerly walked over to where the blackberry cutting had been going on and found the other two guys who have been having a hack at it in mornings had actually succeeded to cutting all the way through!! I was disappointed though that they didn't seem to take note of my track-laying technique and had manually lugged all the cut branches all the way out and left the soft bare earth of the slope to be directly walked on.
   And then throughout the day today about every hour we find out that yet another member of the Trump camp has come down with Covid!
   It kind of reminds me of the 30 Years War. Ah it seems like just yesterday ::gazes off into the distance:: but no really, so the war raged across Europe with important battles happening in different corners with important ramifications but the news might take weeks to get across. So for example, RBG dies, it feels like "our" side has just lost a significant battle somewhere a bit far away but turning the tables so things seem nearly hopeless for our side. But then just two weeks later there's another battle, and throughout the day news is slowly trickling down to us of all the major figures of the opposing side who have fallen as casualties in it.

   Though in studying the 30 Years War, which I've been finding fascinating lately, I still can't decide for the life of me which side to root for.

   Anyway, in conclusion, Spring is here, in spirit, in the weather, and apparently in politics.


Blockade Runners

   16 days until catastrophic visa failure.

   I feel like people here went through about three stages so far as far as general feelings about lockdown. In Stage 1 everyone was terrified, it was new and crazy and scary. In stage 2, after about a month people started geting tired of the masks and restrictions. They eagerly looked forwar to this being over. They talked about it being over constantly. Then they eased up restrictions, too soon as it turns out, and we got the second bigger surge. Now we're in a third stage, acceptance. Not of death like certain American politicians, but that this is not going away. We automatically put on masks before we go out in public, we don't notice everyone else wearing masks. After shopping for half an hour in the grocery store the other day I asked myself "is everyone still wearing masks?" and I had to look around, and, yes, everyone was wearing masks. But It hadn't even registered until I thought to look. Books and movies that show pre-pandemic life of people casually mingling in public seems cringingly weird now.
   The local grocery store still has signs on smoe shelves that say rationing of certain products is still en effect, which still strikes me as a bit surreal.

   Today I had to drive to Melbourne again to deliver some honey. Melbourne is still a locked-down area, which means I need a travel permit issued by my employer to get through the checkpoints back out of Melbourne, or face a $6,000 fine. Because of the nature of my job, I can issue myself the permit, so I downloaded the template from the government website, filled in the requisite information, and signed it twice, as the employer and employee. But then, a bit worried that the police/military manning the checkpoint would be suspicious of my self-signature, I printed a second honey invoice for the receiver to sign, so I'd have a signed delivery receipt to prove I'd just delivered honey. And then for added measure I tossed my fire brigade hat in the passenger seat so the authorities might look on me more favorably.

   At the checkpoint, there's a sign that says "cars: left" and "trucks: right." There's much more traffic on the car side, and I noticed plenty of personal cars zipping into the truck side. I hope they're not getting away with that I grumbled to myself.
   They run the checkpoint like a DUI checkpoint (indeed they use their DUI charterbus for whatever tehy use it for at checkpoints), sending about ten cars at a time into a side lane to be checked and letting the others go while they do that. Two of the past three times I've been through here I've actually just been waved through. This time as I approached I saw they were waving cars into the inspection lane, dang, guess I wouldn't shoot on through this time. Then I realized that in fact officers had just walked into the "truck only" lane and were waving all the non-trucks from that lane into the inspection cue! I cackled with glee at them not getting away with it. And then I was waved through without being inspected myself.


Podcast: Ethiopia Now!

Podcast updated! This time I didn't try to keep it to 20 minutes, so it's 40 minutes long. After looking at other podcasts I found they mostly don't adhere to a set length. I also experimented with incorporating more "conversational" bits from other people so there's three other people you'll hear in it! And I even badly inserted some music!

I feel it gives a pretty good overview of Ethiopia with a bit of story telling ,and sets the stage for further episodes dealing more specifically with my adventures in Ethiopia. (:

The above doesn't seem to be displaying but it might just be my crotchety computer. If the above isn't working try this link:

Ethiopia Episode I


Philosophical Explanations for Anti-mask Behavior.

   So I've been thinking a lot lately about conspiracy theorists and covidia deniers and how their actions can be explained by either philosophical theory or psychology. I've come up with two main explanations for the outbreak of conspiracies and denialism, which probably are both in effect to some degree.

1. Equilibrium, Cognitive Dissonance, and Tranquility - One does not enjoy to be stressed or anxious. One's mind seeks an equilibrium in which they feel just engaged and challenged enough to not be bored, but aren't stressed out of their mind. Because the scale of the coronavirus disaster is literally "too horrible to contemplate," after an initial unsustainable level of stress about it, they seek to regain a stress level they can handle. Presently their mind hits on denial -- "it's really not that bad!" the fact that prominent people such as the president are saying this makes it easier to swallow, and so they do. Once they've swallowed it they no longer feel stressed, they feel more tranquil. They have good feelings once again about life and their glorious president. Cognitive dissonance, the desire to bring their thoughts and beliefs into cohesion, causes them to fiercely defend this belief that makes them feel alright.

2. Hobbes, Rousseau, and the Social Contract - Most of us will vaguely recall these concepts from high school civics or intro to poli sci. I probably remember them better than average because I'm a huge nerd and admit even I did some quick refresher googling. Thomas Hobbes believed people were basically selfish, and then government was divinely ordained because it was necessary to keep people in check. Rousseau believed people were born good but corrupted by society, and that they organized amongst themselves government as a "social contract" to arrange a life well-ordered for mutual well-being. I rather hash between them and believe people are basically selfish ogres amongst whom the social contract is necessary to maintain order.
   Sovereign Citizens, a Tangent - both the US and Australia and probably all places have these self styled "sovereign citizens" who of late have taken to filming themselves here driving through police checkpoints insisting their rights to not wear a mask and go whereever they want are above the law, innate and inalienable, and the police somehow have no authority over them. Interestingly here in Australia the police seem content to say "yeah okay fine go ahead ::eyeroll::" and then later send them a fine in the mail or even come arrest them at the officer's convenience. (Some comments have reminded me that non-Australians won't know the context of the checkpoints -- no they're not enforcing an irrational requirement to wear masks while alone in the car, it's a travel ban on unnecessary travel and in particular unnecessary travel out of the hotspot of Melbourne or the hot state of Victoria. Yes it feels a bit dystopian (we need travel passes signed by our employers if its for work!), but seems reasonable to me given efforts to control this outbreak, and anyway this essay isn't about whether rules are objectively good but people's attitude towards adherence, so anyway now you know the context of this). It seems to me these sovereign citizens have more in common with Hobbes than Rousseau, thinking their rights come not from any social contract (which would after all make allowances for the well being of persons other than themselves), but somehow come down from on high as divinely gifted and objectively existing rights. They do at least have that they are innately selfish right.

   But bringing this back to the larger issue of why we're seeing more people exhibiting this behavior during the pandemic, I posit it pertains the the social contract in a more informal sense. These people, whom I believe are no more civilized than feral and slightly rabid dogs at heart, learned through their rowdy teenage and early adult years where the lines of acceptable social norms are. Having learned where it's appropriate to throw a fit and where they must behave, they have proceeded down the bowling lane of life without going into the gutters, and would happily proceed along to the bowling pins of life without serious mishap. But suddenly the coronavirus has changed the rules! What is and is not appropriate behavior has suddenly significantly changed and things they've always done are no longer acceptable! These people are suddenly back to their feral state, and any concept that they were actually guided by concern for others is shown for the illusion it always was, they've always only proceeded along the path of what they could get away with without running afoul of social norms.

   You may note that the social contract in this sense is no longer "the law" or government but social norms. I think, basically, people only follow the law to the degree that it is the social norm to do so amongst the people they really care about: their family and close friends. You have to keep in mind that for most of human history, for most of the 100,000+ years of history, people's society was the village/band/tribe of a few dozen people in which they existed, and by and large they were not innately opposed to trying to kill everyone in the next tribe over and take all their stuff if the mood suited them; ie, people lack a great deal of empathy for people they don't know and are not innately constrained by views outside those held by their immediate social group. What that means for modern society is that people are primarily concerned with the social norms embraced by their immediate family and close friends. If their immediate family and close friends are all saying "don't be an idiot, wear a mask" they're going to be heavily inclined to do so. If their immediate family and close friends are all "woo yeah Trump woo!!" they're going to look at him as an acceptable moral authority and be all side-eyeing eachother like "does this mean it's okay to be racist again? are we all on board with this? yeah? you in too? alright yeah woooo let's not recognize the social contract as applying to people different from us! yeah woo I always hated that woo!!!"

   Which also explains why, to retain moral cohesion, what I might term here by parallel as "moral dissonance," they may start blocking and unfriending close friends or family members who are subscribing to a different set of moral values as regards to all this.

   That being said, I think this really only applies to about 70-80% of everyone. I optimistically think 20-30% of people are not feral beasts but possess the moral integrity to stand up for what they philosophically feel is right and guide those around them.

   A friend I was discussing this with asked "well, yes, but is there a practical application to all this?" And I think understanding this can effect the communications strategies used to influence these people.
(1) In the first case, the "too horrible to contemplate" cognitive dissonance, while we're inclined to emphasize the dangerousness of the pandemic and usually it is they who are trying to downplay the danger, the most effective strategy might actually be to focus solely on how _safe_ it would be if everyone was wearing masks.
(2) The second case is more difficult (and remember they are probably overlapping as dual causes of antisocial behavior), but the key might be trying to get figures they actually look up to as moral authorities to actually endorse taking masks and social distancing seriously. Also remember that people don't respond well to negative feelings (ie, shaming them), but do respond to measures that make them feel good about themselves,so if you find yourself surrounded by a majority of family members or friends who are anti mask, if you can contrive to cajole them positively in a pro mask direction as a group ("I'm glad we're all taking it seriously, as are our uncles and [name a bunch of family members to give the impression of a majority]") rather than shaming or berating them, it will be more effective.

   Anyway, I'm admittedly a bit rusty on the philosophical concepts herein mentioned and would love to further discuss the ideas so let me know what you think (:


PPE For Venezuelan Doctors

   The above graphic is of deaths of doctors as a percentage of all coronavirus deaths in a country. As is quite clear, this statistic is overwhelmingly out of proportion in Venezuela.

   As you know, I was extremely stressed and worried about Cristina's safety. I succeeded in getting her the money and she found a source to buy a full set of gear. I breathed a sigh of relief that she finally had adequate gear, though she still faces substantial risks.
   "Do co-workers have this protective gear?" I asked her after her first shift with it, hoping they all had their own secret source.
   "No, they do not." she replied. No longer quite so worried about her, now I was worried about her coworkers, many of whom are older and/or have families they're going back to every night. Several times there've been rumors that the hospital would close due to to the complete lack of safety for the doctors, or the doctors would refuse to come in, but they always come in in the end, "because the patients need us."

   Cristina and I have figured out how to get money into Venezuela and buy the needed PPE, maybe we could help her coworkers?

   My previous foray into fundraising hadn't actually gone that well. The Bee Aid International adventure only raised a fraction of the costs I actually faced (and gofundme itself only raised a preposterously small amount, like $60). Still, however, this is a manifestly compelling cause, and many people whom I had told about the situation had earnestly asked if there was anything they could do. So I created a gofundme campaign.

   Initially our goal was $1000 and the scope was to get PPE for her coworkers in the anesthesiology department. We actually achieved $1000 in less than 12 hours, so I've expanded the scope to the operating room staff (her recommendation on who she thought was most in need), and increased the goal by $1000. Donations currently stand at $1,250.

   Please don't think that because donations have been good so far that it's all taken care of, there's a much greater need and every big helps! If you can afford to make a donation please do! Show these selfless doctors risking their lives that people all around the world appreciate what they do and our hearts go out to them.

   Please consider donating here

   Also it helps to share it on facebook and such-like. Though I'm trying to not fully broadcast it in such as the open airwaves of Twitter because the Venezuelan government maintains that they don't need any aid and if this happened to come to their official notice it might have bad results for her.


   PPE For Venezuelan Doctors on


Masks Begin Appearing

   I left the house today, which is news these days. Mask policy is changing here in Victoria. Recall, a week ago I went to Melbourne and saw not a single mask; Friday I was in Geelong town and I saw my first two masks being worn by civilians. At this point masks are "strongly recommended" for everyone an will be mandatory in public in Melbourne starting tomorrow.

   First today I drove through the very small town of Winchelsea, and during my brief drive through I saw not a single mask on anyone, including, INCLUDING, about four middle aged persons pushing three very frail elderly people in wheelchairs. A situation where they cant maintain social distancing and the persons right in front of their mouths are extremely vulnerable ::facepalm::

   Later I had to drive into the slighly larger (population 11,000) town of Colac. Of people out and about on sidewalks I think only 1 out of 8 people was wearing a mask, but when I went into the grocery store it appeared 40-60% of the people in there were wearing masks, so clearly they are thinking to put them on if they go grocery shopping (and/or the people who are taking it seriously aren't out strolling the sidewalks).
   I feel like, when nearly no one is wearing masks (as was the case last week), one could possibly say someone is not wearing a mask because of peer pressure not to, they don't want to be the first one. Sure maybe. But when half the peopel are wearing masks, one really has to wonder about the people not wearing them.

   In important mask related news, Cristina finally has n95 masks! And a tyvek suit and goggles and face shield, ie, a full set of proper PPE!! (: (: (: (: (:

She also notes that she looks a bit like a chicken :X

   267 new cases last 24 hour count here. The outbreak in neighboring Colac I mentioned last entry is apparently 27 cases, the most of anywhere outside of Melbourne (and Geelong (pop 200,000), for example, only has 13). Currently 3,858 active cases in Australia (again, almost entirely in this state).


Podcast Episode III!

   I have finally, after a two year delay, posted the third episode of my podcast about my projects in Africa! The three thus far are all right on about 20 minutes long and are all about Nigeria, though I think I have now concluded the Nigeria arc.

   After a certain amount of time had passed it became harder to update because I felt I had to relearn how to do it, but I'm hoping that now that I've relearned it again and having more time on my hands now I might be able to keep up the originally intended monthly update schedule now.

   Incidentally when I wrote my script and read it to myself for time it was about nine minutes. And I was like oh no, the target is more like twenty minutes, like the others! But then I realized it was actually already longer than the others (in terms of length of written script), and sure enough, when I read it for recording, which apparently I actually do more at ease and conversationally than reading it to myself, it was right on twenty minutes.

   I also submitted to itunes podcasts so when they gets approved it might be available on itunes *like a real podcast!*

   I'm thinking maybe this weekend I'll see if I can wrap my brain around some very simple audio +slideshow = youtube video, to put the podcast on youtube accompanied by pictures pertinent to whats being discussed.

   Nigeria Episode III

   I am already rather thinking of tackling Ethiopia next, which would make sense because it was the second country in Africa I went to anyway, but also there's heaps to say about it. Though I was thinking a little bit to skip around to the ever popular story of Cristina and I on our mad dash around the Caribbean. I'm currently having fun writing a little series for the local newsletter about my travels and for them I started with the two part Caribbean adventure, then did Nigeria, and I think I'll do Kyrgyzstan next just to keep jumping around.

   And the ever continuing covidia case count, recall in last post on the 10th it was "1,293 active cases in Australia." Well today it is 2,448 currently active cases, mostly in Melbourne.


Like Wildfire

1,293 active cases in Australia.

   So as I mentioned the other day, cases are really ramping up in Melbourne. A true "second wave," after weeks of single digits nationally now Melbourne alone has over a hundred new cases a day and trending upwards.

   Tuesday, I believe, they announced new lockdowns would be in place both to contain people within Melbourne and to prevent travel between Victoria and the neighboring states, to come into effect a little over 24 hours later, the following day's midnight. Not surprisingly this led to immediate traffic jams at the borders as people tried to get out while they can, as well as more traffic headed down here (Geelong, the Surf Coast, and my area). At present they haven't imposed any new restrictions on rural Victoria outside of Melbourne but my friends are all pretty sure that will happen in a few days, this seems to be roaring to life even faster than the first time.

   Also yesterday or today they announced a case at a supermarket in Geelong (the nearest large town, and an hour south of Melbourne so "the next town over" from there), as well as a case in the seaside town of Torquay where my friend Trent lives and works. Trent was feeling unwell yesterday but immediately went to get tested. Apparently, As our friend Ben dryly pointed out, he is obligated to self quarantine and not go to work once he's taken a test. Which, well yes you shouldn't be going out if you think you might have it, but to have it automatically triggered by taking a test is a disincentive to taking a test. Incidentally, shortly later, Ben, who works in Melbourne, someone at his work has come down with it so they've shut down work. "I'm not getting tested myself though" he said. "get tested!" we all said.

   Trent, btw, says after he had some of my honey he felt better, and no longer feels unwell at all. Nevertheless he's in self quarantine for (a mandated?) six days.

   So yeah, it feels like things are progressing rapidly here now.


A Second Wave


   Currently active cases in Australia: 665. Currently active cornoavirus cases in this (Victoria) state: 645 (which I believe are almost entirely in the city of Melbourne). That's according to this site, though the worldometer site I've been using actually lists 903 current cases, up from 380 in mid June. Most recent 24 hour period lists 107 cases, though thats a weekend day and weekend days are always underreported -- previous weekday was 254, a rate not seen since April.

   I'm not actually very well plugged in to Australian news but I gather the quarantine hotels for people returning from overseas or diagnosed with non-hospitalizing covidia have turned out to be a total scandal -- totally lax enforcement of quarantine, security guards and staff mingling with quarantinees and then going out into the world themselves. At present the statewide state of quarantine remains paused at a mostly-open level, I think the most visible remaining state of non-normal is the bars and nightclubs are still closed. Gatherings of over 10 or having more than 5 out-of-household guests over are not allowed. Informally, people have gone from feeling like this was "over" to being very cautious again. Rather than clamp down on the whole state they're clamping down very heavily on specific Melbourne suburbs where outbreaks are happening. I believe these post-codes are back to "only go out for necessary reasons," but 9 public housing towers are on total lockdown, their residents cannot leave for any reason. The government is providing them food and necessities, they're rent is waived and they're getting a payment from the government. Police and possibly military are enforcing the heavy lockdown. Of course some people are whining about "government oppression" but I think the government needs to do what it can to knock this down and these measures have nothing to do with any wild police state conspiracies.

   See cazzicles comment to this entry which clarifies some things (which I've already changed in the above paragraph) and adds a bit of context about the public housing towers.

   I probably need to deliver honey to some places in Melbourne this week. I think one can't even travel through some of these suburbs so I'm going to have to examine a map. Also, it's fortunate that the masks mom mailed me, after taking nearly two months, finally arrived.


   As you can see from the above graph, Venezuela didn't actually have very many coronavirus patients back when the height of the first wave was hitting everywhere else, but now it's on its first big wave. Everyone in Venezuela quarantined back when the rest of the world did, but it seems to be that people get tired of quarantining after about 40 days -- and they've started to come out and act like its "over" there too. I'm really afraid it's going to hit Venezuela extremely hard. ):
   Eery day I've asked Cristina if they had any corona patients at her hospital. They haven't until last week, but now they do, and they've had their first coronavirus death. She has the usual nose-mouth covering mask but not the higher degree of protective gear you see in hospitals in more developed countries. She thinks she can buy a face-shield though, so I sent her money for that and hope she is able to do so.

***Edit to add, she reports many people are dying of covid in her hospital now ): ): ):

United States

again, the past two days are both weekend, when things are always underreported, in this case making it look like the US is down from a peak when it probably is not. Perhaps i'll update these graphs when Monday data comes out.

   And you're probably familiar with the US situation but for posterity this is the current situation in the US. I need hardly point out that this is very bad, and I think it nearly entirely hangs on Trump's head. Reasonable leadership from the top could have reduced mask-resistance to just a few wingnuts, and led to coordinated state responses and well prepared medical services. As it is, America is now clearly doing just about the worst in the world, worse than many 3rd world countries, and not only Europe but Canada and Mexico have closed their borders to the US. He said the world was laughing at us, he made that literally true when the UN laughed at him; he said he wanted to prevent Mexicans from entering the US, and now Mexico has closed the border to keep Americans out of Mexico. Making America Great Again indeed.