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:


Questing for Appliances

I. The Greg Collection
   In the beginning, there was nothing. Just the checker-board patterned firmament, and me laying upon it, rejoicing in for the first time having an entire house to myself, even if I would only be renting. In the normal course of things, I think people seldom have no furniture. You go out from your parents house with a few things to an apartment, bounce around progressively larger apartments for years gradually accruing more Things and by the time you finally move into a house you've got baggage. But, having fallen out of the sky here like lucifer cast down from the heavens, I found myself with nothing but the wispy smoke of brimstone. Can you believe Australians haul around even all their heavy appliances such as fridge, washer dryer (they don't have dryers) every time they move??

   I happened to be very lucky that my friend Greg had recently divorced and was living in his van ("the Gregvan") with most of the former contents of his house in boxes in the commercial building in which his company operated (making distilling equipment) and he was happy to give me all this stuff _for free_. I thus in one fell swoop got all kinds of things such as a toaster, microwave, knives and kitchen utensils, kitchen table and chairs, an armchair, bed linens... Also my garage is full of bits and pieces of stills now, which makes me happy though I haven't gotten around to trying to piece one together. But these copper tubes and kettles lying around make me feel like a proper mad alchemist. Collectively I like to refer to these things as "the Greg Collection." ("Your kitchen chairs are nice" "thanks they're from the Greg Collection")

My empty house upon move in. It looks like the first thing I moved in was that green glass demijohn :-D

II. The Washer
   After the Greg Collection and some other acquisitions I most notably lacked a fridge, washing machine, and couch. Several people also attempted to offer me TVs and seemed incredulous that I didn't want one. But the first of these remaining necessary items I found was a washing machine, on Gumtree (like Craigslist), conveniently from someone right here in Birregurra town!
   I drove over to the guy's house. He appeared to be in his early to mid 30s, a bit overweight. It wasn't immediately obvious from looking at him but he mentioned being on mental disability and from his rambling circular odd conversation this was evident. He was living at his dad's place and apparently bought and resold things on gumtree as a sort of hobby. He tried to offer me various things I didn't need or want, including a TV, though I did walk away with a chess set he offered me for like $5.
   Unfortunately, he proceeded to call me every few days after that. I think because we weren't too far apart in age, lived not far from eachother, and I had been friendly, he hoped we would be friends, but he often called while I was at work and it could be very hard to get a word in edgewise to excuse myself. And he seemed to not understand that I didn't have time to talk during working hours and he would become a bit petulant (And also, there's like literally three people in the entire world I don't mind just shooting the breeze on the phone with, anyone else I'd rather convey necessary information and get off the phone as soon as possible).
   On one of the last times he called me I had literally just pulled up in front of my friend Billie's house (one of those three people), She was out by her front door and waved at me and just as I went to open the car door the phone rang. I had never put him in my phone so I didn't know it was him until I answered. So then while Billie was awkwardly waiting to greet me I was trying to get a word in to tell him it was a bad time but literally couldn't get a word in for two or three solid minutes as he ranted about "fags" for some reason.

   Fortunately he stopped calling me. One later time I saw an advertisement for something and I started to dial the number but as soon as the number autocompleted I realized it was him and aborted. The washing machine he sold me broke after not terribly long and I ended up buying a new one from a store.

Greg securing the largest pieces of the "Greg Collection," onto my work truck, the Gregvan visible on the right

III. The Fridge
   My current fridge is a funny story. I also found it on gumtree. Though I corresponded with Lucy* on facebook to coordinate getting it I hadn't looked at her profile, but apparently she had looked at mine. My friend Trent went with me to assist in fridge moving. Lucy and her fridge were in the nearby little town of Inverleigh, which you get to from here by driving along dirt country roads. When we arrived at her place, I was surprised to find a very attractive woman, about my age, tattooed, with kind of a cute pouty lip, a casual air of authority, showing me her spare fridge. Because I'm not a creeper I didn't linger or try to gratuitously chat with her, just got the fridge loaded up and off we went. I'd later realize, after seeing her in her more normal state of dress, that she had fully put on her makeup and dressed cutely for the pickup.
   On our way out of Inverleigh Trent pointed out a faux-leather couch by a curb ("kerb" in Australian. WTF) with a "free" sign on it and we loaded it onto the truck (I had borrowed the work pick-up) as well. This couch has been on my back porch ever since and I'm very happy with it.
   Since Lucy had, after all, looked very attractive, and I was single at the time, I sent her a message the next day affirming the fridge worked ("Fridge is working and hasn't even a little bit exploded. Thanks! 😊") and thanking her. She responded in an encouraging (you might even say non-frigid) manner, soon we were talking about what beers I would be putting in the fridge, and gradually drifted away from purely fridge related business. It turns out she's a police sergeant in Melbourne, and single. After a week or two we went on a date. I didn't want to jump right into going on "a date," I just wanted to "get drinks" at the lovely old bluestone pub in Inverleigh. But then I was hungry, so I got food, and so did she, and suddenly it was a date. (when things are looking more promising I can put on a slightly better first date) Dinner was alright, but she scowled at me when I went to bus my own table and said "people were paid to do that!" and I noted this as an early red flag. Kindness is a guiding virtue for me, not transactional accounting of what is owed or obligated. Long story short we hung out a few times, I was also unimpressed when she seemed to think it was unmanly of me NOT to express road rage at other cars on the road ("flash that asshole your high beams. Come on he deserves it! Seriously you're not going to??"), and when she started expressing racist opinions it was truly over (the most common racist narrative here is that refugees are forming "gangs" in Melbourne making it unsafe, I've had drunk white Australians make me feel unsafe plenty of times but never an immigrant). But in the mean time, I got not only the fridge out of it, she also gave me two small bedside tables and sold me an indoor couch for a good price!

   I got a good year or two out of her fridge but after awhile it too disappointed me, gradually falling farther from a proper refrigerative temperature until it is now the prevailing ambient temperature.

The living-room side looknig more inhabited

IV. Quest for a New Fridge
   I think it was about a year ago I first noticed the fridge was falling behind. I called around for a fridge mechanic, which was surprisingly hard to come by and when I found someone he said he had a three month back-log before he could get to me. That was clearly too long... and here I am a year later.
   Billie gave me a spare minifridge she had, which I placed in my garage. It works well but is small, and it's a hassle going out to the garage (which is not attached to the house so I have to go outside) for things, especially in winter when it feels blizzard cold out there in my estimation and an inky blackness even flashlights can't penetrate falls on the land at about 4:30 (I may be exaggerating conditions very slightly, but only to emphasize how to feels to me being accustomed to paradisical Southern California).

   I've been meaning to call that Fridge mechanic back or find a fridge somewhere but haven't gotten around to it for months. Finally I happened to mention my nonfunctioning fridge to my across-the-street neighbor Trevor, a jolly round red-cheeked gnomish jovial man I like a lot. Since I mentioned it he's been sending me about three links a day to fridges on gumtree. Because it feels rude to let his effort go to waste I've dutifully looked at them and contacted them if it looked like it could be The One. Most of them were snapped up before I even contacted them, apparently it's a seller's market in fridges around here. But this morning the seller of a $100 fridge in the coastal town of Torquay said "yeah come and get it." It was a bit far (40 min) but for $100 to finally get this fridge problem sorted I was down.
   I asked my friend Joe if he could help me unload it (reflecting that while Trevor would probably be willing he does not strike me as a very physically impressive specimen fit for moving fridges), and just for old times sake I asked Trent if he wanted to help me move a fridge again. He didn't have work today and sounded willing to help if I really needed him, but I admitted I had help on both ends and probably didn't actually need him so he didn't join me.

   The seller, Samuel, was a skinny young man who looked to be in his early twenties, blonde haired, very skinny, notably his head seemed almost too skinny for his features, his eyes and teeth both seemingly sticking out a bit.
   Looking at the fridge I was concerned to see it looked abnormally wide. His mother came out as well and mentioned that the reason they were selling it was because it was too wide for the space they had for it. My fridge-space is also constrained between cupboards and the oven, but I hadn't bothered to measure it or ask because it's more than wide enough for my current fridge and looked wide enough for any _normal_ fridge.
   This fridge looked too wide, but I didn't want to have driven all this way on a wild goose chase for nothing. This was a long way to drive just for a gander! I called Trevor, whom recall is my across-the-street neighbor.
   "Heeeeey Trevor? Could you do me a huge favor and go measure my fridge space??" I asked. He cheerfully said yes he would right away. What a great fellow.

   While Trevor got his tape measure and headed across the street, "Samuel" got his own tape measure to measure his.
   "It's 90" Samuel reported, at roughly the same time Trevor was trying to tell me the measurement he got.
   "It's 30 inches" Trevor reported
   "Whats that in metric?" I asked.
   "oh um ... 770" He reported
   "Oh this is 900 that will never work" I said
   "Oh, no, it's 90 inches!" Samuel said indicating the tape measure.
   "What? Oh what's that in metric?" I asked, and then to Trevor "Trevor, what's 770 in imperial?"
   "...2 feet 6 inches" reported Trevor, once again while Samuel was trying to tell me the measurement on his end, this time HE reporting in metric.
   "oh it's 89 centimeters" said Samuel. By now I'd forgotten what Trevor had originally said.
   "What's 89 centimeters in imperial?"
   Eventually after a relative comedy of one always reporting in imperial while the other compared it in metric, we finally determined that the fridge was 89 cm wide while the available space I had was 77cm. Not going to work.
   (Also, his initial reporting that the 90 was inches was obviously wrong but while trying to wrangle two conversations in two different systems at once that didn't click in my mind at the time.)

   I headed home. He texted me apologizing that it didn't suit. I texted back saying I should have checked the width before I headed out. I thought that was the end of things but then he texted back, presumably joking, that I could have taken it to see if it fitted.
   At this point I'm thinking, a bit nervously, I really don't need another gumtree seller carrying on a correspondence after our business is done. I responded merely with "ahaha" and he fortunately hasn't messaged again. My fridge may be broken but my heart remains frigid.

A small fermenter makes a lovely table centerpiece

*name changed


Tis The Season

Friday, December 20th - Under clear blue summer skies in western Victoria, tractors pulling hay baling machines slowly move up and down the gentle slope of the rolling countryside, leaving behind an even line of giant cinnamon roll shaped hay bales. The farmer wipes his brow, it's 114 fahrenheit. He scans the skies. One seventh of the eastern end of the state is on fire and this is a day of officially "extreme" fire danger. At the edge of the field is a thick forest of tangly gum trees rising out of volcanic rocks. For 40,000 the aboriginal people used these volcanic rocks to construct little walls in the seasonal creek beds to catch eels when it rains. A koala slowly climbs a branch, thoughtfully munching leaves.
   The hours go by. The koala munches, the farmer makes rows of haybales. Some campers arrive at a campsite in the northeast corner of the forest and set up tent after a day traveling the Great Ocean Road. They go on some short hikes during the long summer evening to admire the lava flows. They see a koala. As evening sets in they regret that they can't have a campfire. Even though it's really hot, camping just isn't the same without a campfire. Finally relief from the heat comes as some clouds blow in from the west. There's a flash, followed by a crack of thunder reverberating among the tangled trees. The bats come out and flit across the sky. The mosquitos begin to bite, so they go to bed. In the morning there are several plumes of smoke rising over the tops of the trees. They decide it's time to move on.

Fires 20191225 2340.png

Monday, December 23rd, Christmas Eve, 0900- 120 miles to the east, I am just arriving at work to meet with my boss. He meets me outside his office, which is beside the beekeeping workshop and overlooks the garden. Despite this proximity I sometimes don't see him for months and seeing him often fills me with terror. He could, after all, fire me on a whim. He's dressed in the kind of business casual that results from someone who only wears business wear genuinely tries to dress casual. He greets me cheerfully and invites me in.
   "How are the bees?" he asks after some preliminaries.
   "Oh they could be better ... they could be worse" I say. He smiles understandingly. "The weather was like winter until last week" I elaborate, "but I'm optimistic they'll do better with the warmer weather."
   "And what do you plan to do for the holidays?" he asks
   "I'm inclined to work" I say cautiously. We've been over this every year. He frowns.
   "You should take Christmas and boxing day off" he says.
   "Yes well... it's the busy season" but I shrug, I don't argue with him. How do I explain that it's more sad to spend Christmas alone than to work and pretend it isn't Christmas.

   I spend the day working beehives in the warm sun. A puff of smoke, lift the lid, inspect the frames. Is the queen laying? Are there any signs of disease? Golden fields surround me. Kookaburras chortle in the trees. This is nice. What I want to be doing tomorrow and the next day.
   A friend texts me asking if I want to come over for Christmas. But sometimes you're more alone with someone else's family than by yourself.
   My phone makes a harsh blaating noise, I jump a bit. The bees seem startled. I set the frame down as quickly as I can, leaning it against the hive, and fish my phone out of my pocket. The noise is the fire brigade app, but I'm relieved it's not a local fire. They're asking if anyone is available for a strike team for the next three days.
   I look thoughtfully off into the distance for a moment. Yes, this would be perfect. I text my fire captain to tell him I'm in. I text my boss saying I'll take those days after all. I text my friend saying I can't make it, I'll be on the firegrounds. I pick up the frame of bees, now where was I?

   The next morning I found myself sitting in the cab of a firetruck in my yellow firegear as the convoy of trucks headed westward to the fires that lightning on the evening of December 20th had started. We arrived to find ourselves posted between a gentle sloping field dotted with picturesque haybales, and an enchanted-looking forest of tangled Eucalypts. Dismounting the truck beside the forest I found it surprisingly bucolic; the grass by my feet was green and full of wildflowers and it smelled strongly of fresh mint. Of the forest beside us, though the canopy of leaves was still green, the rocky ground was the black and white of ash and soot and lazily billowing white smoke in many places.

   For the next three days my crew of four and I were busy hosing down hotspots and hauling around hoses as the temperature pushed 100. As the hose kicked up white soot and billows of white steam I remembered briefly it was Christmas and thought to myself "♫ I'm dreaming of a white Christmasssss ♫ ♫ "

   To break the fourth wall for just a moment: I'm skimming past the details of this deployment since I already wrote about it in detail.

Fires 20191225 2340.png

   Returning home smelling of bushfire, it was time for another week of the daily grind. Catching up on beekeeping and bottling and distributing honey, as the stores I supply along the Great Ocean Road have a voracious appetite this time of year due to tourists on holiday. News of the wildfires consuming the state are on everyone's mind, and come up in nearly every chance conversation. When I'd stop to stretch my back between hives I'd check the latest news. When I checked the "Vic Emergency" app (of which the above screenshots are from) to see the situation, I'd often find myself panning back west to the fires I'd fought on. They sat there, under control but still on the map. The easternmost fire I'd been on, the Condah Fire, we had been fighting hard to prevent it from spreading into the plantation to it's south or the larger forest to it's east.
   On Wednesday evening looking at the app I was shocked and alarmed to see a fire had started, apparently independantly, in the middle of the forest just east of Condah.
   On Thursday they asked if anyone was available for a Friday-Sunday strike team. But I had work on Friday and my days off are always stretched extremely thin. I sadly had to desist from putting my name in, and spent another day filtering and bottling honey.
   Then Friday a message came through asking if anyone was available for a one day deployment out there Saturday. Yes, yes I am.

Saturday, January 5th, yesterday, 0530- in the feeble pre-morning gloaming I met another volunteer at our fire station, this young lad Danny. We took the brigade's toyota hilux "FCV" (Fire Command Vehicle?) to the nearby town of Colac. At the station there a few more volunteers from nearby brigades gathered, and we boarded a charter bus for the long journey out west. Around 6:20 the sun rose back behind us, so dim and red that one could look directly at it.
   We picked up more volunteers outside a remote country pub surrounded by rugged volcanic terrain. At 6:50 we stopped briefly at the fire station of a town called Cobden to pick up the last of our volunteers. The Cobden station conjured brief memories for me of filling up the tanker there several of times throughout the night when I was on a strike team operating out of the station in March 2018. But soon my attention was distracted from this, as we'd taken on a fellow here who looked a bit like David Hasselhoff named Woody who would be our Strike Team leader. As we rumbled out of Cobden he gave us a bit of a briefing though he didn't know much yet about the exact situation. But we were assigned our tankers.

   At 8:15 we arrived at the sports ground ("footy oval") outside the town of MacArthur northeast of the fireground. There didn't seem as much activity here as I've seen at other staging areas, just about a dozen of the professional forestry department (DWELP) firefighters and us. We were fed bacon-and-egg sandwiches, there was instant coffee and hot water. It was about an hour before anyone knew anything. Apparently another major fire had broken out in the area, near the town of Nelson in the very southwest corner of the state, which was occupying the attention of the higher ups because there were a lot of pine plantations near it and it could cut off the major highway. Finally we were briefed that we'd be doing "asset protection" on the northern sector of this fire. We would be patrolling and holding the line on the northern edge of the forest between the fire and a house and telecom tower.

09:38 - We trundled out of the staging area in a convoy of firetrucks. I was in "Beeac 2" with a stout fella named Greg driving and cheerful balding man named Russell as the crew chief in front passenger side. In the back with me was an old fellow named Darrel. I was disappointed not to have a squirrel-door between the cab and back of the truck like last deployment, but Beeac-2 made up for it by having a 100 meter high pressure hose on a reel. Last week we had to keep connecting and disconnecting 25 meter lengths of hose over and over again, this hose reel was much more pleasant!
   Most of the fire trucks have a hose nozzle on the front that can be controlled entirely from in the cab, called the monitor. We don't tend to use it terribly much because it's kind of hard to aim. In one place where we wanted to put out some flaming branches that were dangerously close to the end of the blacked out area, a nearby tree was smoking from halfway up it's trunk, identifying it as a "killer tree" that could fall at any moment. So our crew chief told us not to get out of the truck and we attacked the fire with the monitor. Unfortunately after about 30 seconds the up-down servo on it ceased working. Henceforth if we wanted to use it someone had to adjust the verticle angle while we were in a safe position and then we'd drive up to the target area and hope we could make that angle work.
   The day was grey and overcast. Russell looked at a weather app and reported that it would actually be continuously getting colder throughout the day. By noon it felt like winter again and I was beginning to shiver despite the thick fire jacket. Someone said over at Nelson it was "blowing hard enough to blow the spots off a dog."
15:16 - "Look hey look!" Greg was pointing at sometihng beside the truck. I leaned to look forward out of my side window. It was a koala! Standing on the ashen ground.
   "Does it look injured?" asked Russell?
   "I don't think so," said Greg, looking at it from the driver's seat.
   "I'm going to have a look" declared Darrell, unbuckling his seatbelt and opening his door
   "Be careful!" warned Russell.
   I scrambled for my phone but the battery was only 2% and wouldn't take a picture. Darrell squatted near it and gave it a good look, and then it turned and scurried off to a nearby tree and proceeded to climb it. It didn't appear to be limping or injured in any way. Later I saw another volunteer with some bandages on his arm and overheard him saying "like a furry bolt cutter!" I think he was referring to a koala. They can do some damage. There's some heartwarming pictures out there though of other CFA volunteers holding rescued koalas.

18:00ish - By the end of the day our sector seemed thoroughly under control, and I was thoroughly cold. Looking forward to going home and taking a hot shower. We withdrew from the fireline to a nearby brigade firestation for dinner. A "fleet maintenance" truck happened to be there with two of the sky-blue uniformed maintenance guys. They had a quick look at the monitor for us but they thought it was the control electronics and couldn't be fixed then and there. Another strike team joined us there as well as at least one strike team of the green-clad DWELP crews. I contemplated how we, the yellow-clad CFA guys and they, DWELP are almost invariably at staging areas together and the two groups _do not_ socialize together at all. As we waited for food CFA stood on one side of the driveway while DWELP stood on the other. Presnetly two guys with "Staging area Management" tabards (what they call these vests they wear with position designations) arrived with hot meals of chicken and a sort of coconut rice. I liked it but I think it was too exotic for some of the old codgers among us.
18:45 - Headed back to the footy oval. Reboarded the bus (poor bus driver was getting paid $57/hour to wait around for about 12 hours. He complained the television reception in the footy club lounge was very bad). Woody made some typical remarks thanking us in conclusion as we headed back through the feeble twilight, the sun disappearing redly into the haze behind us. Around 21:30 back in Colac Danny and I stopped in to a McDonalds to use the bathroom. As we pushed through the door from the dark and cold to the warmly lit interior I found everyone looking at us with abnormally friendly smiles, and I was suddenly self conscious that we were wearing fire gear and reeked of the heady scent of bushfire. A young woman passing me to exit murmured "thank you." I smiled bashfully, a bit embarrassed. It hadn't really occurred to me all day that people might react like this.

   This is only the beginning of the fire season, which is really ominous.

The most recent review for the campsite that's very near where I was posted yesterday gives it one star with the comment "on fire"

Star Destroyer

The Mandalorian

   When ads for the Mandalorian first started appearing, I took notice because I'm into Star Wars, but also it was even more than usual plastered with the Disney name which seemed a bit suspicious. As soon as it began to air, however, the groundswell of people saying it was really good was very notable. And apparently there was a baby yoda, I'm not calling that a spoiler because it quickly became a pervasive meme. So I quickly felt that this was a thing I should watch. And then I saw Disneyplus was advertising a week of free access! Score!

   The Mandalorian is... great. Fantastic. Everything Star Wars ever should have been. I saw a meme somewhere baout how its funny directors aren't having to blame things on "toxic fans" when they actually for once get things right. I think the real secret is that they remembered that Star Wars was originally, at it's heart, a kind of space western. The original story wasn't about complicated space trade embargoes and space bureaucracy, nor was it about changing scenes every 7 seconds, maximum explosions, and unnecessary stupid characters inserted just for marketing purposes. The Mandalorian I'm glad to say doesn't have the frenetic pace of the most recent Star Wars movie nor the coterie of hateable characters, nor does it have any resemblence to the prequels. It's like finally being home again in the original trilogy.

   I didn't hate the most recent Star Wars movie, I felt like it was "pretty good," but it left me wondering, is it me? Can no future Star Wars movie measure up not because the original trilogy was amazing but rather because I've made the original trilogy holy in my mind and am too crochety for anything new to "measure up?" But I feel Mandalorian has answered that question ... no, when it actually seems true to the originals, it can still be epic.

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   In conclusion, I loved it, for once I think something Star Wars has _fully_ lived up to the quality of the original series, and will totally re-subscribe to Disneyplus for the duration of next Mandalorian season ;)


2019 Year In Review + Bonus 2010s Decade in Review!

23,286 miles, just down from 23,695 last year

   When I think back to this year there well and truly is only one story to this year, which is of course when I had to chase after Cristina all around the Caribbean as governments shifted her around,finally catching up with her in the Dominican Republic, asking her to marry me ("Siii"), and then having an absolutely lovely time at the beautiful remote corner of the Dominican Republic we had found ourselves in.


   Compared to that there hardly seems like there's anything worth noting in the year. Got some articles published in the American Bee Journal. Got a new car which was immediately seriously collided with by some maniacs without insurance.

The 2010s!
   It is also the end of an entire decade! Looking back on where I was exactly ten years ago, New Years Eve 2010 I spent with the tallship crews as several boats were in Long Beach and having a party, and I ended up going with the Hawaiian Chieftain crew back to the HC where it was moored up in Newport Beach and hanging out with them. I had only just discovered tallships were a thing just a few months earlier and would go on to spend 7 months of 2010 aboard the Hawaiian Chieftain. I went on to also crew on the brig Pilgrim, brig Lady Washington, East Indiaman Gothenburg, schooner Enterprize, schooner Spirit of Dana Point, schooner Unicorn (week of guest crew), and a few times on cute little schooner Amazing Grace.
   Starting in 2012 I started doing beekeeping development projects, which would take me to Nigeria, Nigeria again, Ethiopia, Nigeria yet again, Egypt Guinea, Tanzania, Guinea, Kenya-Tanzania-Uganda, Guinea, Cote D'Ivoire (stranded for three days), Kyrgyzstan, Nicaragua, Kyrgyzstan. Also in either my own time or on my way to and from these places, Turkey, France (attended wedding), Germany (attended wedding), Philippines (attended wedding), Sweden (tallship Gothernburg), Mexico (about 24 hours), Dominican Republic (<3). Brief appearances also in Netherlands, Denmark, Fiji, Dubai. It's tempting to link each of these but that would be a disproportionate amount of putting links in when really you can go to my index entry and click on the country name ;)
   Also of course Australia, first in 2012-2013 and then permanently since December 2015, for a total of 45% of the past decade.

   This New Years Eve I... have declined all invitations out because all I really want to do is videochat with Cristina at midnight.

2020 and Beyond!
   Cristina and I definitely plan to get married in mid 2020. We had wanted to do so at the lovely beachside hotel we ended up at but in light of sudden new stringent visa requirements imposed by DR on Venezuelans we might just do a courthouse wedding in some neighboring country followed by a nice wedding in a year or so when we are able to figure out a practical location. Basically all I can say with any degree of certainty is that Cristina are planning and looking forward to our future together. (:


Hurry Up And Wait: Blacking Out the Heywood Complex Fires

Friday, December 20th - At the end of a day that had reached 114f around the town of Heywood in Victoria near the South Australia border, a thunderstorm rolled in. Relief from the heat was hardly to be appreciated for long, as lightning strikes soon ignited several (at least 13 of note) major wildfires in the surrounding area. Though the next day was 66f because of course it was, this is Victoria.

Monday, December 23rd, Christmas Eve - I had a meeting with my boss this morning. He was actually quite cheerful and friendly, but there was one thing we disagree about at this time of the year every year, time off. And it's the reverse of what you're probably thinking. To me this is a normal week I would rather work through. He thinks I should take days off. Don't get me wrong, I like Christmas a lot. I put a Christmas tree up for a whole month and all by myself continue the family tradition of sitting down by the tree to eat a few christmas cookies on various evenings as the big day approaches. But I do this in Winter, when Christmas should be. Christmas in summer feels to me nothing like Christmas. It's just a day like any other with the exception that everyone around you is reminding you that you have no family within nearly 8,000 miles. In years past friends have invited me over, which is very kind and in-the-christmas-spirit of them, but I find that just drives the point home even more and makes it even more sad. And so, I'd rather work and pretend it's not christmas. But here's my boss saying "I really think you should take these days off."
   And then the answer fell into my lap. A notification came up in the fire brigade pager app: "is anyone available for a strike team Dec 26th-28th?" Yes, yes I am. I responded that I was available and by the way if they need anyone Christmas Day sign me up for that too. No such luck on that though.

   This would be my first overnight fire brigade deployment. I wasn't quite sure what to pack. I decided to forgo any normal shirts since I'd be wearing firefighting gear, though this caused me to be just wearing a plain white undershirt whenever I wasn't wearing the fire jacket, which normally I would consider too undressed for public but when you've clearly just been fighting a fire I don't think people are judging.

December 26th - I drove to the nearby town of Colac, about fifteen minutes from where I live. I would be the only person joining from my own brigade but in Colac a tanker from the nearby town of Beeac and several members from the area met up around 08:30. We then proceeded 40 minutes further west to where the rest of Strike Team 0709 was forming up in the town of Camperdown. I actually road up with this dwarven shaped fellow Paul since he was driving his own car to Camperdown. He currently works for the CFA (Country Fire Brigade) as a safety officer, but because it's not actually his job to go out fighting fires on the strike teams he was using leave time to go as a volunteer. He had also recently been on some of the major fires up north in New South Wales so he had a lot of stories.
   In Camperdown I learned I would be assigned to the Timboon tanker. There was no one on the team from Timboon but we would be known as "Timboon" within the strike force nevertheless (nor did Beeac have anyone from Beeac on it). I was excited about this tanker though because it had a fun squirrel door between the cab and back (see above picture). Paul, it turns out, would be on this tanker with me. As well we had: Michael, a jovial and rather giant Danish fellow in his fifties; Max, our crew chief, an older fellow who didn't talk very much on the way in and I sort of assumed he'd be gruff but he was actually very nice; and Gavin, our driver, who had a kind of wild crazy looking goatie and laughing eyes and when he put his helmet on, which was rare since he was usually in the driver's seat (we don't wear helmets in the truck, apparently they can actually cause neck injuries if worn inside the vehicle??) I was surprised to note he had the red helmet of a brigade captain. Altogether our crew got along fantastically and they were all great.

   The other four trucks and one command vehicle that made up Strike Team 0709 actually came from further East (ie the direction we had just come from, ie further than us from the destination), including Geelong City and several Geelong suburbs. I think most of the other trucks did carry crews from their own location.

10:00ish - Strike Team 0709 headed out west as a convoy. Out to the coastal town of Warnambool and from there along the coast to the West. In the unlikely case that you recall my recent entry about driving to the Western coastal corner of Victoria we basically followed that same coastal route West of Warnambool, but without all the stops at viewpoints I had made.

12:30ish, Heywood - Heywood turned out to be a very small town but it had a DWELP (Department of Water and ... Forest Stuff) command center. Here we took on bags of snacks, were fed bacon and sausages, spent an hour or so waiting around, were finally briefed, and finally finally we headed out for the nearby Condah Fire east of town. Around 1:30 we finally began to see white smoke rising over the forest. The trucks lined up on a dirt road leading into this forest. To our right a bucolic field was full of hay bales, in front of us smoke rose in places among the forest. Where the dirt road led into the forest the forest was stained pink with fire retardant. People got out of the trucks as this was looking to be another wait. A small plane buzzed around over the fire , and presently a helicopter came and landed in the field just to our left. Two older guys in the green DWELP uniform walked out and boarded the helicopter, which then took off. I'm assuming it was giving some command staff an overhead look at things. After half an hour or so of waiting here we were told to mount up and the convoy continued on down a road running along the edge of the forest to the right. Every 100 meters so a truck was told to pull off and work that section. We were peeled off just beside a small pond and I was struck by how strongly it smelled of wild mint. It was actually very pretty, with the hay bales behind us, green grass around our feet with wild flowers and the smell of mint, and the nearby forest of tangley eucalyptus trees full of ominous smoke like some dark enchanted forest. The trees still had canopies of green leaves but the ground was black, volcanic rocks surrounded by smoking ash.
   We unrolled two hoses and set about attacking smoking hot spots. When one gets the water into a particularly hot spot it kind of roars at you and kicks up a lot of steam. Its very satisfying. The goal here would be to "black out" about 30 meters along the edge so that it can't spread to the unburned areas.

   After we expended our water, we headed to the water fill up point which was down the dirt road into the forest. The road was a a firebreak and the first had been prevented from crossing, so the forest was burned to the right but not the left. The pink fire retardant had been dropped along the road to help ensure the break. There were a number of old walls of piled volcanic stone the forest, which Maike, the Dane, said had been built by aboriginals as part of their traditional land management as detailed in a book he recommended, The Biggest Estate on Earth. We generally agreed this may have been true of some particularly old walls in low places, which apparently the aboriginals constructed to catch eels when the water levels rose enough to flood those places and then withdrew. As the walls were extensive though we suspected they may have been built by convict labor or, sadly, by the aboriginals at the nearby Aboriginal Mission possibly merely because white man said they better.
   Also of note, in the briefing we'd been told that this land was culturally sensitive aboriginal land.
   The water point turned out to be the former location of a bridge. As far as I can surmise this road used to lead over this bridge to the Aboriginal Mission, but now a modern road leads there from the far side and this road is only used for forest management purposes. Darlot Creek formed a clear pool here and little fish could be seen swimming in it. It was quite picturesque. The far bank was a lush stand of reeds, and from somewhere behind them a column of white smoke billowed.
   The trucks can suck water from water sources ("draughting") but it works better (is slightly less finnacky) to have as we had here, a portable pump set up to pump water up from the water into tankers as they came.

(trees covered in the fire retardant on the left and unaffected trees on the right)

   On our way back out of the forest we noted a lot of smoke rising just beside the road, including even some open flames, so we called in for and got permission to work on putting out these hot spots. We spent several hours and several tank-loads of water in this area. At one point an ambulance came hurrying along the bumpy dirt road, which we'd learn was to take away a young man from the Geelong City truck with severe abdominal pain. We were slightly unimpressed when around four we were brought (lunch? dinner? supper?) consisting of styrofoam boxes containing corned beef, potato salad, an asian style cold noodle salad, and no utinsels. We tried fasioning chopsticks of scrounged twigs but I've never been very good at eating with chopsticks. Paul was particularly flummoxed by this meal because he had already been complaining about the amount of corned beef he was fed while on strike teams in New South Wales (fun fact, they call corned beef "silverside" apparently). We eventually finished blacking out along the road, returned to our originally assigned location and finished blacking that out, and around 8:30. Everyone convened together in meadow for some reason labeled "phoschek weak" on the map and we were fed once again! This time it was roast chicken with vegetables (and utinsels), and I didn't think I'd be able to eat again so soon after the previous meal but I thoroughly devoured my portion. We received a daily debrief from one of the DWELP commanders and as we headed off into the golden twilight saw DWELP crew setting off into the forest on foot apparently to lay hoses for a grand sprinkler network.

21:30 Heywood Command - Back at the command center, the DWELP crews in green and CFA crews in yellow mainly ignored eachother. The DWELP crews appear to be mainly in their twenties, and possibly 30-40% female, while the average CFA age I think is about 50 and only one out of every 30 is female. The DWELP crews are clearly accustomed to hanging out at this facility and were casually sitting at tables in indoor spaces on either side of the open courtyard in which the CFA crews stood awkwardly about in. Getting a bit cold I went into one of the buildings when it seemed the DWELPERs had left but then they all came back and I felt awkward and went back to being cold outside. Meanwhile it was still undetermined where we would spend the night. Finally, after 22:00we were told we would be spending the night at the Aboriginal Mission. As this would be an alcohol free zone some people quickly went for beer and hurriedly put back a few.
   We mounted up and moved out and drove ten to fifteen minutes to some cabins on a hill overlooking the forest, which at night was just a dark expanse. Conveniently the capacity and number of little cabins was just right for each truck crew to have a cabin. We were issued sleeping bags and pillows, neither of which were ever collected, and a number of people later mentioning taking them home at the end. Apparently its logistically or economically unfeasible for CFA to reuse the sleeping bags? I didn't keep mine but after something like 4 out of 5 people I talked to said they did I rather wish I had. They were very decent sleeping bags.

Day 2, yesterday, December 27th
09:30 -
In the morning we packed up everything including the abovementioned sleeping bags since we didnt' know where we'd be spending the night, and headed down to the Heywood command center. There we were fed bacon and sausages and in the morning briefing we learned we would be headed west to the Mount Deception fire. This was about half an hour west of Heywood (the one due west of Heywood on the map at the top of this entry). The firegrounds in this case was deep in a thick forest of tall stringybark trees. They rose relatively straight from a forest floor covered in ferns, like the Forest Moon of Endor. The roads cut fairly straight through the forest, and like the day before generally the ground was blackened and smoking on one side of the road and we were putting water on hot spots. This proved to be a rather tedious day as it mainly consisted of connecting two or three hose lengths together, dragging them out to a hot spot, and then disconnecting and folding them up only to relocate 100 meters and do it all again. Over and over again. As the temperature reached around 100f.
   Someone from Geelong City truck was reportedly stung by a bee. As all medical incidents were originating from there truck people began to joke that they were unlucky and/or would have no one left by the end.

14:00 - Relatively early everything was feeling pretty well blacked out in our whole sector and we mustered up and headed back to Heywood Control. Here we learned we would spend the night in a tent city now being erected on the footy oval. Word about what we would do the following day kept changing but the last word before we left the command center and therefore most enduring was that they just needed us to monitor the pumps for this sprinkler system at the Condah Fire. Sounds dreadfully dull right, but we were told one team would have to hike in to their pump, one would take a fisheries boat across the lake, and one would be inserted by helicopter. This sparked general good natured arguments by everyone about why _they_ deserved to ride the helicopter (clearly its us because we have a CFA staff member to pull rank for us!)
   We each got out own tent in Tent City, and each came already set up with a cot ("stretcher" they call it here, which seems a bit creepy to me) and another sleeping bag! A lot of crewmembers immediately set about drinking either at the pub or at tent city, though they were later commended for no one getting embarrassingly drunk. I spent the afternoon sitting on the grass reading my kindle.

Day 3, today, December 28th
07:00 -
Last I heard before I turned in at 22:00 was that we were rolling out at 08:30 so I thought I was getting up early at 07:00 only to find I was one of the last up! Apparently word of a changed muster time hadn't reached me. We headed in to the command center and were informed plans had changed again, and we'd be headed to the Hotspur Fire. We were excited because this one wasn't under control yet, maybe we'd do more than just blacking out! We mounted up around 09:00 and headed about half an hour northwest to the Hotspur station, which consisted of a large garage (the fire station) and a building I thought was an abandoned building (the town hall) in a large field surrounded by forest. Here a private catering company called "rapid relief team" or some such was set up making breakfast (bacon, sausages, and a tomatoe stew apparently to be poured over the bread one puts the bacon on. Must be an Australian thing). The three guys working there looked creepily similar. Almost certainly family, possibly three brothers and a father, but the fact that they all had the same thick black rimmed glasses and the same haircut made it seem a bit much and kind of creepy. At some point Gavin, our driver, looked at his phone and said "guys I have bad news, Hotspur Fire is now listed as contained."

10:00ish - After much waiting around here we finally mounted up and headed into the forest to the front lines. We found the blackened areas to be smoking much more heavily than the previous fires. At the frontline control point we found many bulldozers, the usual DWELP crew and staff in green, and some crews in a strange blue uniform with mostly-white trucks. Turns out they're the crews of the tree plantation companies. A massive DWELP unimog fire truck presently rolled in and was greatly admired by us. "Hurry up and wait!" was grumbled numerous times.
   Finally at nearly 11 we were deployed to once again douse out hot spots. They were very plentiful so there wasn't that setting up a hose to take care of one spot and then move it thing. At one point while I was at the end of a hoselength into the bush (so about 25 meters) Max, our crewleader, who happened to be near me, pointed out the smoke thickening into nearly a wall of smoke just a little further in and advised me that humidity was dropping and we'd have to be careful not to be caught in the bush if it all goes up.
   After about an hour we had to go refill our watertank at a nearby creek and just as we were finishing we were told we'd be pulling out and headed home. After only an hour on the line today! General consensus of the grumbles is tha we should have spent more time here and less time in Mt Deception. We rolled back down to the Hotspur Station for lunch (chicken burgers) and another hour of standing around, then back to the Heywood Command Center where we washed the trucks and spent another 30-40 minutes before heading back to Camperdown.
   About halfway there the whole convoy stopped at a pub where people from many of the trucks went in to load up on beer. The consensus on my truck was that "this if the first decision the strike team commander has made that I don't agree with ... it's a bad look for someone to see an entire strike team loading up on beer in the middle of the day."

16:30 - Parked along the long grassy "avenue of honor" in Camperdown, the commanders made little speeches about how we'd made them proud, goodbyes were said, and Strike Team 0709 split up and we went our separate ways.

Star Destroyer

The Rise of Skywalker

I have seen the new Star Wars, The Rise of Skywalker. Unspoilerific notes are that it felt a bit obsessively fast paced, I swear they were in an entirely different scene every 7 seconds throughout the whole thing and visited like 17 different planets. Sloww dowwwwwn. And several characters were briefly introduced and/or other random thnigs happened that seemed to have no explanation other than being a gratuitous hook into some spinoff story they already have planned or maybe something they plan to put in a ride in Disneyland.

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No Rioting Inversion

Milkshake Duck

  Doug stood on the dock gazing out at the glassy water of the pond. On the shore nearby people were laughing as they tossed bits of bread out to the ducks. Doug contemplated the peaceful scene as he took a long pull of his delicious milkshake. They wouldn't be cheerfully laughing if they knew the dark secrets of the lake. He looked out across the smooth dark waters; at the far side cliffs reflected in the mirror-like water. Green forests surrounded most of the pond except here at the town park where people were feeding the ducks. Wood ducks! He hated wood ducks. He felt the blood thumping in his head. Did he really hate them that much? Oh wait, he was just getting brain freeze from drinking the milkshake too fast. He took a break from the shake and his blood began to feel harmonized again.

   His phone pinged, a text message. From that girl Aix whom he quite rather fancied.
   "hey, want to do something this evening?" she asked.
   Hmmmm, damn, this would not do. He eyed the place in the sky where the moon would rise anxiously. This would not do at all. Probably can't tell her to meet up tomorrow because the effect usually lasts 24 hours. Will have to suggest next week. He sadly started punching in the message.
   While his phone was out he checked the time of the moonrise again. He still had about an hour until the full moon would rise. Somewhere in the distance a wolf howled, startling a nearby couple. If only they had any idea, thought Doug, shaking his head as he walked away.

   He tossed the empty milkshake in a trashcan and wandered into the forest. Following his favorite secret trail, ducking under branches and winding through thick foliage until he came to a little glen on the far side of the pond, across from where the moon would rise. The sky was turning a dark blue, the sunset glowing somewhere behind him. He checked the time on his watch, and then took it off and carefully placed it under a thick bush. He then removed his clothing and carefully placed it under the bush as well. He sat there shivering with goosebumps in the evening air. This was a bit awkward but he'd found it to be the best way to do it. There had been some awkward moments when the moonrise had caught him in town. He cursed his luck for that fateful duck bite he'd received a year ago. Who would have guessed...
   Suddenly he felt it happening. Suddenly he was quivering all over, quaking.. quacking. He regained his composure, feeling a bit embarrassed about that inadvertent outburst. He waddled to the water's edge and looked down at his reflection. The prim green head of a mallard gazed back at him. He recoiled, he would never get used to this. He took another few moments to steel himself to his fate, and then hopped in the water, which actually felt quite comfortable, and paddled off to where the other mallards hung out. He'd have to tell them about those damn wood ducks.

The Next Day:
   With a tremendous splash Doug came down into the water and skidded along sending up a spray, bowling right in amongst the wood ducks, followed by two of his mallard friends. Immediately he set about wildly flapping his wings and quacking wildly, setting the wood ducks to flee.
   "Hah!! Take that you wood duck bastards!" he exclaimed happily in duck, which sounded like a very self satisfied "quack quack quack" to the nearby humans. The ability to do those splash-down landings made it almost worth having this strange were-duck curse. An elderly woman tossed a piece of bread right in front of him. Ugh, it's that cheapo wonder-bread he thought to himself and turned away. One of his companions gobbled it up though. Some guys have no shame.
   He decided to waddle ashore, he was getting that bloodthirsty urge to peck at people's heels. As he was waddling about looking for a likely victim he noticed what looked like a milkshake cup from his favorite cafe, sitting upright on the ground. "Hmmm, I wonder..." he said out loud, which sounded like a quick contemplative "quack?" and he waddled over to it.
   It was half full! Someone had just... abandoned half their delicious milkshake?? He knew he would never demean himself to finishing someone else's milkshake as a human, but he couldn't help that being a duck somewhat effected his senses of propriety. He carefully took the bent top of the straw in his bill and attempted to suck down the delicious contents. It took a bit of trying, not really having lips and all, but eventually he managed to make it work. Ahhhhhhh he closed his eyes and enjoyed it.

   "HEY LOOK AT THIS!!" he was abruptly broken from his reverie by some loud young man. He opened one eye to see the young man pointing at him.
   "Guys, guys! This duck is drinking a milkshake!!" the guy was getting out his camera-phone. Oh great he appears to be taking a video. Doug's first impulse was to storm off or maybe just start acting like a totally normal bird brained duck but then he got a better idea. As he kept slurping down the milkshake the man got closer and closer with his video.
   Yessss get closer Doug thought to himself nefariously, and I'll show you a surprise!!!

Bee Drawing

The Queens of Isla Saona


   A beehive is a stack of boxes. Technically the ones above the bottom ones are called "supers" because they go above the bottom one but I think that's dumb and just call them all boxes. See picture below. My hives generally have a "queen excluder" which keeps the queen in the lower two boxes so she doesn't put brood (larvae and pupae) in the "honey super" above. The queen excluder (abbreviated as QX) is the metal bars you see in the above picture, workers can fit through them but queens cannot.

   When opening the hive one first takes the lid and places it upside down on the ground. Then one inspects the frames in the top box. Then one places that box on the lid, flips the QX over as one places it on top of that box. One does this so if the queen happens to be on the QX she'll stay on the correct side of it. I've always said I've never actually found the queen on the QX but there's a right way and wrong way to do everything.

   The first thing I noticed about hive S-7 "Isla Saona" yesterday was that there were two frames of brood above the QX. Okay I probably accidentally got the queen above the QX. But then after I've finshed the first box and flipped the QX I find brood in the second box. Okay probably the QX is broken. The width difference can be so subtle one can't see that it's broken with the naked eye. I go through the bottom two boxes and count 12 frames of brood but don't find the queen. Queens are hard to find, it's easy to not find the queen, and if I don't absolutely need her I don't stress about it as long as I know she's there (usually evidenced by eggs, which last three days before hatching).

   I flip the QX back onto the top of hte second box. Before putting the top box back on I look at it again for the queen but don't find her there. Then I look at the QX and there she is. Long and dark like a limousine, with a little green spot I had placed on her previously (but only a little one because I've been having trouble with my marking pen). As I'm standing there admiring her fondly suddenly I see A SECOND QUEEN! What!

Hive D-39 today

   There is of course "only one queen in a beehive." Conventional beekeeper wisdom is that actually you can have a laying queen with her no-longer-laying retired mother, or if you have three or more boxes and restrict one queen to the bottom box and one to the top box it might work. But in this case I think they were clearly both laying ... 14 frames of brood is more than any other hive I have, it probably took two.
   While it might be tempting just to see if this hive would continue to operate with two queens, as I watched them a few workers seemed to be chastising the queen with the green dot. So I removed her and placed her in an empty gatorade powder container I keep for that purpose.

   I placed her in the second nuc hive on my porch (which has become queenless). I think I'll make sure she's laying and then install her in my neighbor's queenless hive.

A photo of a different queen from today. They're just so beautiful. (:


The Rebel Queen

08:30 this morning: It was a bright sunny morning, already approaching the 80s as I stepped out onto my back porch. This weather would be an unmitigated cause of excitement for me except they'd slapped a state-wide fire-ban on the day so I couldn't actually do any beekeeping -- lighting the smoker counts as (and is) a fire risk. Despite this I still had a busy day ahead of me delivering honey.

   As I cut across the corner of my lawn between the back porch and garage to get some honey jars, I noticed something in the grass.

   A cluster of bees. On the ground. A suspiciously sized cluster of bees on the ground. A cluster of bees on the ground only generally happens if the queen is injured or can't fly. I happen to know a queen who is injured or can't fly. This cluster of bees is much much bigger than the literally seven retainers I found "Queen Sera" with last week, but much smaller than a typical swarm. In fact, it's about exactly the size of the amount of bees in the hive I had put her in.

   Suspicious, I lift the lid on that hive box. Sure enough a proverbial tumbleweed blows out; it's empty. It's rare for (non-African) honeybees to "abscond" (leave entirely) from a hive after they've been there longer than about three days. So this gives us actually a relatively revolutionary insight. Generally when explaining bees to people I emphasize that the queen has no role in decision making. But in this case, these bees have been here for several weeks, all except Queen Sera who has been there about three days. That means that basically as soon as they accepted her as their queen she must have somehow rallied them all with her cry of "come on girls let's get out of here!!"

   Were the workers in the hive too feckless to do anything until a queen arrived, or did she rally previously content bees to stage a walk-out? These are very intriguing questions.

   I knelt down and tried to pick through the bees with my fingers to find the queen and return her to the hive, but it was proving difficult as they were intermingled amongst the grass, and I had to go to work. I took their hive box and placed it just beside the bee pile, with the entrance just beside them, and headed off to work.

This Afternoon: I was back home in mid-afternoon to pick up some jars of honey I had in the garage. The temperature had peaked around 94 and all day people seemed to be trying to get me to agree with them that it's "really hot." No this is not "really hot" this is lovely I just wish there wasn't a fire ban so I could work.
   The bees, however, as I expected, had decided to get out of the sun and go back inside their home which had weirdly appeared beside their new location. Only a few bees remained outside and others were going in and out of the entrance on normal nectar or pollen collection flights. I opened the box and examined the two occupied frames in search of Sera.

   I endeavored to get a photograph my presently most well-known queen bee, but tt's very hard to get a good picture holding the frame with one hand, my phone in the other, unable to clearly see the screen due to sunlight and knowing my camera is very bad at focusing up close. Fortunately one photo came out well enough for her to be seen.
   For ease of identifying her in the future I attempted to place a green dot on her back (by very carefully and gently pinning her in place with one hand and making a mark with a "posca" paint pen). I didn't get a very good mark on her and she seemed irritated with me.

   "Is rebellious" my Venezuelan fiancee Cristina commented when I informed her of the goings on, which you should imagine being said in an adorable Spanish accent, and "is like me."

   I quickly put the box back together with Sera in it. Then I moved it to its former position, thinking maybe confused returning foragers would easily find it again since it's the position the hive was in until recently, but after a few minutes a lot of bees seemed thoroughly confused around the position the hive had just been so I put the box back there.

Appx 15:00 - As I pulled up to a location in some fields where I planned to shake out a swarm I had just collected I found myself shivering. Misty low clouds scudded past on a stiff cold wind. Phone says the temperature is in the sixties. Even the "hot" days here are cold!!

Right now, 20:24 - I'm going to move it back to its former location now that it's dark out.

Addendum, A Week Later: I found Sera out walking once more today (the 25th) and returned her to the hive. I've confirmed she appears to have one shorter wing and hasn't laid any eggs yet so I think it's almost certain she has failed to mate and is continuing to leave the hive to fulfill that essential lifegoal. Queens can only mate while flying, which she can't seem to do. Technically she is of no use and cold hard farmer logic would be to do her in, but to get that small group of bees she's with up to speed with a new queen would take as much work as just starting a hive without them, ie she's not holding up any resources and I've come to enjoy constantly looking in on her and observing her unusual behavior, and there's certainly value in learning about more obscure bee behavior anyway.