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

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Saturday, May 16th, 2015
5:30 pm

   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
      "Epic Roadtrip 2007" around the United States
      "Epic Roadtrip 2008" up and down the US West Coast
      "Australia Roadtrip 2012" - Melbourne to Sydney in four days
      Australia - since I lived there long enough that it was no longer novel that I was in Australia there are likely missing tags.
         Brisvegas! (AKA Brisbane)
         The Bundaberg Gulag
         Life in and around Moorepark (outskirts of Bundaberg)

   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!



And most important: www.beedev.org

Tuesday, January 9th, 2018
9:40 pm
On the Walls

   So I've been trawling through my pictures on flickr (there's 70 pages of them!), to try to find some to print out and put on my walls. I do already have an album of about a hundred of what I've considered "the best" I'm finding when I look at them with an eye to "would I like to hang this on my wall" a lot of pictures I otherwise feel are good pictures don't measure up, and pictures I wouldn't have previously thought of as among the very best I suddenly feel are.

   For example I've decided the one at the top of the entry is one of my very favorites, even though I think just looking at it on a computer screen without thinking about putting things on my walls I'd be like eh its just a mundane scene. But I like the colors and everyone in it seems so composed, and it reminds me of peaceful evenings sitting on that porch in Guinea. That fellow pouring the tea would pour it back and forth for what seemed like hours every day to make it just right. The other guy is the head beekeeping trainer there and I really quite like him. And the girl shyly peering around the side is Fatimatah, a sweet and shy girl.

   This is another kind of unexpected favorite, but again I like the color balance and moreover Aissatou and Kamera laughingly trying to pull eachother out of (and/or into??) the puddles I feel is evocative of their cheerful laughing demeaner and makes me happy when I look at it.

   Again I feel it seems kind of random that this of all pictures would come to be one of my favorite of all my photos but it is, and I actually already HAVE a large print out of this on my wall.

   This one I had printed out a few years ago but it came out with a green spot in the middle and I've been afraid to have it printed out again in case that's some sort of inevitable result of the way the colors are coded in the jpeg or something, but I quite like it and think I'll give it another go.

   This one I already ordered printed the other day as kind of a test to see how the k-mart photo printing comes out and how I feel about the size (8" x 12" / 20cm x 30cm). These are the two boats I sailed around on for seven months, up at peaceful Sucia Island (entire island is a national park and does not, I believe, had any regular public boat service so people can only get there by boating in themselves), with Mt Baker in the background, somewhere near Bellingham. I wish that modern boat wasn't in the picture, but its not even easy to photoshop out since its in front of a varied background with the shore and all (but if anyone wants to have a go at it I'd be extremely obliged!!)

   I also want to aim to get a variety of different places I've been represented. Anyway, the 8" x 12" photos are only like $3.95 while those nice printed-on-canvas things are around $50 so I think I'll print out a bunch on the cheap and one by one replace the ones I really like with nice canvas ones.

And probably this picture I took of ANZAC cove because, Australia.

   If you're interested I'm posting a few more photos I'm heavily considering as comments.

Saturday, January 6th, 2018
10:19 pm
Beekeeping Development Presentation!
So I give presentations to beekeeping clubs about the development work I do ... and at one I recently gave they videoed me and edited it together and put it on the youtube!

So here's my presentation:

4:44 pm

Yesterday: I'm just starting up from the almost-complete-stop at the stop sign when the engine shuts down, leaving me slowly rolling in terror across a highway that has no stops, in what's called a "black spot" intersection due to the dangerous accidents that occur there. Muttering "no no no no no noooo" under my breath I look both ways expecting to see a log truck doing 100 barreling down on me but fortunately the road is clear. It's barely a week since I'd been standing amid the wreckage of an accident at a nearly identical intersection -- but whereas before I was safely wearing the flourescent yellow of the country fire brigade, now I was in a dead car broadside-on to oncoming traffic!!

   Of all places in the 30 kilometer commute to work, my car chooses the absolutely absolutely worst car-length to break down in. It almost defies belief, but I have little time to contemplate it heavily as I will the car to keep on rolling, which it does, until I'm on the conveniently wide gravel shoulder of the road beyond the intersection.

   The day had begun a bit ominously too. I had just cleaned up the house for the airbnb guests who would be arriving later, which involves tossing all miscelleneous objects into my office, which consequently looks a complete mess. As I went to close the office door the doorknob had come off in my hand. Leaving me staring at it. No clear way to solidly reaffix it. Well this would look pretty ghetto if the first thing guests see when they come in is a door missing a doorknob, or that door hanging open to reveal an epic mess inside. I carefully managed to get the door closed and kind of get the doorknob back on in a way that at least looks right, but it seemed like a bad omen, and apparently was.

   Also of note, the PREVIOUS day I had arrived at work to find the work truck wouldn't start. Had to have it taken in to the mechanic, turns out there was an air-leak in the fuel pump. So when my own car broke down the following day "oh come on this car too!" could be added to exclamations of "no no no anywhere but here!"

   Checking the basics, the engine was out of oil BUT in my defense I had checked it only like two weeks ago, though I've been aware it guzzles oil (and yet doesn't drip any, where it goes is anyone's guess), so I'm terribly afraid the engine might have done itself in by driving with no oil (but there was no smoke or anything, I'd have thought an oil-less related death would result in lots of heat and smoke?). Anyway as it happens there is an auto mechanic place around the corner from my house (the town is tiny but has everything one needs!), so I had them come tow me back to Birregurra and am now driving their kinda quirky loaner car.

   In other news I've had three airbnb guests in a row this week, which necessitated buying a lot more of all categories of linens so I didn't have to wash everything every day (filled three laundry machines when I finally went in today!). First couple was really nice, they were in the midst of driving the coast. I'd have liked to talk to them more but they kept to themselves in their room mostly. Second couple was also really nice, was here because they were going to local "45th best restaurant in the world" Brea for lunch on Saturday (they mentioned reservations fill up three months in advance, they booked this last October!). As soon as they had their stuff in the room asked "do you have a bottle opener?" ... we spent the rest of the evening having beers and chatting on the porch and it was great.
   Third couple arrived today. They arrived while I was still out getting the laundry done around 12:30, but I figured what can you expect when you ask to check in early and I had mentioned I had a previous booking, and they wouldn't be sleeping in the middle of the day right? Well when I got back it turns out they were but had brought their own bedding? But anyway, the noteworthy thing here is they kind of regarded me as an intruder in their own space when the guy finally came out to the living room and found me there and was like "you live here?" all surprised. I had gotten this surprised response once before from another older couple, who like this one had had trouble figuring out how to book on airbnb. So I guess people who are unclear on how airbnb works are... unclear on how airbnb works.
   And they have a small fluffy dog! My listing had said indoor pets to be evaluated on a case by case basis, which Ii realize was a mistake because everyone swears up and down their dog is the best and are you going to say no?
   And they've gone off to a wedding leaving me to dog-sit their dog, who has been whining. I didn't sign up for this :-/ I have now added "$50 fee for inside pets" to my listing and am thinking of trying to come up with the most seamless phrasing to emphasize that yes I god damn live here.

   Also, though airbnb keeps telling me if I lower my price I'll get "19% more bookings!" I was just having a gander at the listed "listing similar to this" for mine and they're all around $150 (mine is at $100. All prices OzDollars btw which is like 75 cents to the dollar), so I don't know why airbnb is telling me to lower my price, I'm _this_ close to raising it!

   Anyway, that's the latest. It's 107f today, a friend is having a pool party, and I'm here dog-sitting for some strangers, my car might be dead, and this doorknob keeps coming off in my hand.

UPDATE: Sunday now, this last couple just left. Among other things I noticed they were passive aggressively only using my back door and going the long way around to the front (the front door sticks a bit but honestly its not anywhere near unusable) ... I've got a feeling they're gonna leave me with an "interesting" review... :-X

Monday, January 1st, 2018
11:35 pm
2017 Year In Review

   In 2012 I flew 47,181 miles.
   In 2013 I flew 52,387.
   2015 was 58,649.
   2016: 60,852.
   2017 ... would the upward trend continue?? I had plans to go to Guinea and the Congo both of which fell through...

   2017: 83,230 miles (133,946 kilomters). I'm really not sure I want to see this trend continue! Travel related shenanigans this year involved a 73 hour travel odyssey from Kyrgyzstan to Nicaragua, a rather disturbing interrogation by Turkish secret police, and a leg on Air Asia which, it turns out, is just inherently regrettable.

   At the beginning of the year I was living in the countryside halfway between a monastery and the little hamlet of Moriac, a short way outside of Geelong town, sharing a house with a woman I rather think may be a witch, without the negative connotations that come along with that. By which I mean, she was always making strange potions and things (brewing, kambucha, weird holistic health concoctions), in particularly filling the bathtub with strange murky water (no doubt a ploy to get me just to step right in to her cauldron!), and to complete the cliche had a black cat.
   In February before I could get permanently hexed I moved much much further away from civilization to the delightful little town of Birregurra, where my crotchety hermit-like self could live in peace by myself cursing the whos in whosville and celebrating christmas in winter as it should be! I've been meaning to write a sort of portrait of Birregurra / ode to, and in theory still might, but suffice to say it's a delightful cute little townlet. In the western world we don't generally call communities "villages" but I found myself calling Birregurra "my village" in conversations with my friends in Africa because it matched much better their association with village than town, and, you know what, I'm just going to go ahead and keep calling Birre a village because that's what it is. It's a cute little community of about a thousand people with just a handful of local shops and with much more of a community feel than small commuter communities (such as, for ex, Moriac) I've lived in.
   My house here is a cute little 100 year old three bedroom place (when I describe it to Birre locals they always seem to say "oh that cottage," so apparently I officially live in a cottage. I should make cheese). The kitchen floor is black and white checkers, I have hung drinking horns on all the walls, there's white roses that grow out front despite my complete lack of rose care. I've named my house Caligurra.
   Being somewhat far from civilization is somewhat mitigated by the pleasantly surprising fact that my friends seem to like coming to visit and probably at least once a fortnight two or three of the lads make the trip from the city to come hang out at my place.

   In May I returned to the States for the first time in a year and a half and proceeded on an epic roadtrip up and down the entire West Coast (literally, minues maybe 30 miles between downtown San Diego and the Mexican border and Bellingham and the Canadian border), and my younger brother's wedding.

   In August the planned trip to the Congo after enumerable postponements and near cancellations (which kept me here through the depths of the dreadful winter!) was finally scrapped the very day I was supposed to ship out, to be replaced with a trip to Kyrgyzstan (pictures), which, to be perfectly honest, to wake up one day thinking I was going to the Congo and be informed I'm going to Kyrgyzstan instead was a life goal I didn't know I had I think.

   The Kyrgyzstan trip had been backed up right against an existing Nicaragua trip, which was backed up right against my other brother's wedding, which was convenient actually because it allowed me to return to the States to attend the wedding for something like $30 in fare differences. Kyrgyzstan being backed up against the Nicaragua trip was less convenient though, since the organizations couldn't sort out to transfer me direct from Kyrgyzstan to Nicaragua so instead I went on this absurd 73 hour ordeal from Kyryzstan - Istanbul (police interrogation) - Abu Dhabi - Melbourne - Sydney - LAX - Atlanta - Managua.

   Nicaragua at the end of August to beginning of September was fun. My first time in Central America. Funny I'm only finally getting over there now that I'm much further away. I really hope to do another Central American project in 2018.

   And immediately after the Nicaragua project I was back in California for the second time in three months! For my other brother's wedding. Now I'm the only one left :-|
   I do quite like weddings and I think I've managed to attend at least one real nice destination (for me anyway) wedding every year for a number of years now. I don't yet know of one in 2018 oh that's right I'm going to try to attend my friend Claire's in Kenya in June. Also I have a fair few cousins who have yet to get married!

   About two weeks after returning from that trip I was off again, to the World Beekeeping Conference in Istanbul. Got a bit too carried away booking the cheapest flight options since I was doing it myself, so while on the plus side it gave me an opportunity to actually visit Paris for the first time, but on the minus side my return to Australia was Istanbul - Paris - Abu Dhabi - Sri Lanka - Kuala Lumpor - Melbourne. The final KLA-MEL leg was worse than possibly all my other flights combined because it was on budget airline Air Asia, an 8+ hour flight sandwiched in like a sardine with no amenities whatsoever (and I'm not a worrier but their safety record is among the worst of any major airline, and it does kind of feel like taking one's life in one's hands flying with them).

   Also this year within Australia I've travelled west into South Australia where I attended a grain combine demolition derby (which is the most awesome thing ever!!!), which I have not yet posted about but vaguely intend to! Traveled east to the "Man from Snowy Mountain" festival way out in the mountainous south east of Australia (ALSO on the list of entries yet to write), and north to the border with New South Wales, where there were steam boats! And actually wrote an entry about it this time. So all that's left now is to go to the southernmost point of Victoria (and continental Australia), "Wilson's Prom!" It's very definitely high on my list!

   Anyway now it's a beautiful summer here in Australia and I'm looking forward to a good successful bee season here and hopefully an enjoyable and adventurous year ahead! Congo is back on for April now, and Kyrgyzstan in May. I'm hoping to return to Guinea and maybe even get back to East Africa.

Friday, December 29th, 2017
10:42 am

The siren wails, as we cruise through Birregurra's small downtown at a brisk but not reckless speed. From the high cab of the firetruck I see the people seated outside the cafes downtown look up as we go past. I'm seated behind the driver, trying to attach the neck-guard to my yellow helmet. Indeed I'd only just ripped the plastic off all my gear when the call out and come on my phone a few minutes earlier, and I realized I probably should have unboxed the gear already. Across the radio other fire trucks from surrounding areas are checking in in a sort of precisely mandated incantation: "vic fire Deans Marsh Tanker One on scene" "Vic fire Birregurra command vehicle en route" "vic fire barwon downs tanker one en route" * and a bit of more specific traffic such as "Barwon downs tanker one this is Deepdean control could you stop the traffic at..." There's three other firefighters in the truck with me, they conduct themselves in a brisk businesslike manner, no one is joking, someone died at the last car crash we were called out to just the other day.

I haven't been remembering dreams lately but weirdly I do remember having drempt I was driving a firetruck the night before -- and had returned it to the wrong station. And then I'd had a bad dream which is extremely rare for me. I was standing on the dock watching a sailing race go by, primarily big schooners. The boat I used to sail on, the Hawaiian Chieftain, was in the lead with her tanbark (dark red) mainsail clear and distinct -- she hadn't even had that sail any more when I knew her. I was talking with a former captain I liked. Suddenly a small sailboat about cracked in half not far from the dock and went down immediately with the two crew members. I jumped in after them and had to swim down to get them. I used to be a lifeguard so this part of the dream was no doubt informed by actual memories, I got to them, they gripped me wildly, I calmly pushed them away and got them in a manner where they were both facing away from me and couldn't accidentally drown me. Upon coming to the surface... they were both dead and the woman looked like she had been dead a long time, was falling apart. I woke up at this point and lay there listening to the rain, feeling weirdly disturbed, thinking "but they were just alive!"

Later on, telling my dear friend Kori about the dream she remarked "Chiefie's tanbark sails are no longer fit for use at all, they are rotting in the laz" referring to a dark dank storage area down near the bilge of the ship. I found the reference to rotting in a deep dark place an unsettling reminder of other parts of the dream.

I happened to be home working on my computer when the app the fire brigade uses began its urgent beeping on my phone. Minutes later I was piling into my car.

This was the third serious accident at this intersection (near a place called Deepdean?) a few km from town in five days. Two country roads intersect perpendicularly right after both come over a rise. One has stop signs the other doesn't. Both are fairly straight and people cruise along at about 60mph... and apparently tend to blow right through the stop signs. (I heard one firefighter saying "I was in the States once, did you know they have intersections with stop signs on all four sides? Who has right of way! No one knows!")

There was a serious collision on Christmas Eve. Day after Christmas there was one fatality and six people hospitalized. And now this was two days later and as we approached I could see two smashed cars both fifty feet off the road in the fields. A wheel and part of the ganglia that should attach it to the car sat in the middle of the intersection. As we approached the other men in the truck exploded with things like "fuckin hell! It looks just like the last one!" Several trucks and police vehicles were already there.

We came to a stop on the road near one of the cars, jumped out, powered up the pump and ran out the hoses. Nothing was on fire or smoking but we had a person standing with a hose on either side of the car just in case. The car was in long dry grass so it seemed a good precaution. I was one of these two people.

After awhile someone told me to let loose with the hose onto the unremarkable grass nearby and I wasn't sure he wasn't just trying to make the new guy look like an idiot but then he explained the water in the hose heats up and can cause the pump to come unprimed or something if you don't occasionally let out some water.

Two adults were put on backboards by the paramedics (I asked if we were supposed to render any medical aid if we arrived first and was told "nope we don't touch em, we're just [volunteer] firefighter" "not even a tournequit?" "Not even a tournequit"). I couldn't see the two injured adults because they were far side of the car from me. "If they look like the two people who died in my dream...!" I thought to myself but fortunately they did not. Amother adult from the car seemed to be fine and there was a five or six year old little girl who fortunately seemed unharmed. Later saw a grizzled old firefighter carrying her like a koala, and another brought her a teddy bear from somewhere. A medivac helicopter eventually arrived, landed a few hundred meters down the road, and the injured adults who had been put in an ambulance while waiting for it, were driven over and transferred to the helicopter

About three hours after call out the cars were taken away on flatbeds and we returned to base and dispersed. Apparently this Sunday there'll be a big press conference with politicians and all about the accidents. The intersection already has as many warning signs as one could come up with and rumble strips on the approach of tho road wits stop signs. I reckon they need to offset tho two sides of that road so it's not possible to fly on through.

In other related news, just prior to the call out actually, Pandora introduced me to this sad song about firefighters I quite like:

Sunday, December 17th, 2017
11:51 pm
Episode IIIIIIII: The Lost Jedi
Non Spoilery Bit

   So I saw Star Wars Episode VIII yesterday. It's number eight right? I feel like it's becoming very confusing trying to accurately refer to the movies. In discussion after the movie with my friends we kept saying "but now the last one, well not the last one, the prequel to this, but not the prequels, just the one that comes right before this.. in the time line!"
   And being as Disney probably intends to keep milking this franchise with a movie a year or so, and in the immediate future looks to be continuing to jump around the timeline (from what I hear the next one will kind of concurrant to Rogue One?), I think this is going to get VERY confusing!!
   At least there's no "alternative timelines" like in Star Trek!! (though a whole slew of books have been uncanonized by subsequent movies ... bring back Admiral Thrawn!!)

   But anyway, how shocking was it when they revealed Jar Jar Binks is Grand Master Snopes??? I mean uh, I better put up the spoiler break!

Spoilers Ahead!Collapse )

And Here's an Entirely Unrelated Picture of the Day

This picture is partly here so that if someone wants to comment on the non-spoiler part and not be spoilerized there's a bit of a buffer between the comment box and the spoilerized dicta.

But also I can't believe I apparently haven't yet posted this cute picture of these Kyrgyz kids and their donkeys?? This was up in the mountains, there was a nearby yurt in which they appeared to live.

Monday, December 11th, 2017
11:39 pm
Infused with Moral Outrage

   I've had a similar conversation about this with several people lately:

   You can infuse honey with things like ginger, cinnamon, garlic, chocolate, whatever, and it tastes pretty good and moreover sells very well at farmer's markets and such, and in fact I often see it at farmers markets.

   "Well, why don't you do that then?" my friend asks with their eyes gleaming.

   "Well it's unethical." I say with a grin like I'm joking, but then when I don't retract the statement they look at me a bit confused.

   You see, here's the thing. It's not really, inherently unethical, but it runs up against two complaints for me. First of all, as a beekeeper I have an absolute horror of adulturating honey. Adulturated honey IS unethical -- in many countries with less strict food testing people cut honey with sugar syrup or high fructose corn syrup. You can hardly find pure honey in a big city market in Africa, and China is flooding the rest of the world with exported adulterated honey, and they keep finding new ways to do it to continually fool even high tech testing. If you can't tell the difference, you might ask does it matter? And I would say, yes, it does, because adulteration is inherently unethical ::glare::

   Now infusing honey with ginger for example, well, on the face of it is literal adulturation. That in of itself makes it distasteful to me. But if it's clearly labelled as such what's the harm right, I mean pretty much most of making food products is combining things. But that's where it butts up against my second objection -- even knowing what I'm looking for, even knowing when I see "ginger honey!" in a farmer's market it is almost certainly an infused product (does ginger even HAVE flowers?), it often takes some careful examination of the bottle or talking to the sales person to determine with certainty that it is. Your average person by and large isn't going to do these things. They're going to buy a product and say oh look at this delicious chocolate honey yeah I guess the bees visited chocolate flowers or something (which, I guess cocoa plants do probably flower?), or more insidious is infused honeys that plausibly could the actual honey, peach, apricot, and most often orange. When people are buying an infused product, even if it is good and tasty and tehy're happy with it, and even if it says its infused in the small print on the back, but they don't realize it is, my professional pride in high quality unadulterated honey is deeply offended.

   Obviously I could make the product and just very very clearly label it as what it is, maybe even use it as an opportunity to inform the consumer about what it is, but it's just I guess professional pride gives me such a very very strong aversion to adulteration I just really couldn't bring myself to do it.

   A sort of related thing is infused spirits. It's a commonly known "life hack" to put skittles in vodka to make a flavored liquor. I've heard countless stories of people in Eastern Europe putting various fruits in vodka over winter, a practice that no doubt has replaced traditional liquor making techniques with the advant of generally available cheap vodka. I don't really have an objection if you want to do that on your own time, by all means have fun with alcohol and experiment. I was recently at a corner store near here though and saw some gin on the shelf with the name of one of the local berry farms (there's several in the area!). Having a strong interest in distilling, I was excited. Do they do distilling there??? I carefully examined the bottle. It was by no means self evident but eventually I found some small print noting that they created their product by infusing berries into grain alcohol they had acquired from such and such distillery. FOR THE RECORD proper gin or any other true commercial liquor* fit to be marketed with a straight face by an artisan food maker is made by combining the products during the fermentation phase prior to distillation. Infusing after distillation is... cheating! A cheap trick!

*not to be confused with liqueur which IS generally traditionally flavored post-distillation.

   Much more alarming to me, there's a guy around here producing "honey mead liquor," as the label says, and its a very professional looking label. I haven't seen it for sale but I've encountered it being bandied about several places within the beekeeping community. Its really quite good. I was actually wondering what his secret was. And then I heard, through the bee grapevine, APPARENTLY he is, you guessed it, making up some kind of honey juice concoction thing and... then combining it with grain alcohol he has purchased from some commercial distillery. Which I guess is why he can't actually label it merely as "mead." But, as you can imagine, despite that its a very nice tasting thing, I am morally outraged.

   Now, I realize I may sound like a crotchety old man about all this, but, I don't know, professional pride is a thing. I believe in pure products made the proper way, and not intentionally or unintentionally misleading consumers.

Only Vaguely Related Picture of the Day

And here's Cato looking gruff and disapproving

   I'm curious to hear if any of the rest of you have professional pride related moral high horses such as mine but as pertain to your own industries?

Saturday, December 2nd, 2017
4:08 pm
Discovering the Expanse

   It's time for another episode of netflix show reviews!

Star Trek Discovery
   I had previously reported optimistically on the new Star Trek Disco after the first few episodes. Now it's on a "mid season break" (when did that become a thing??" so it's a good time to look back and how it has or has not lived up to expectations. I still find it interesting and watchable but I think it's fallen short of being The Next Big Thing.
   Character Development: In the first few episodes they were of course introducing characters left and right and trying to rapidly round them out. This was exciting at the time, but it appears to me that they've done the lazy thing of having a character appear one way in the first episode they'er introduced, "show them changing" in like one episode, and from the third time they show onward oh look they're such a changed person! I put also into this category the terribly written romance that I feel isn't even a spoiler because from the moment the two characters are first in the same room together it's obvious we're looking at a terribly written romance on our hands. This "romance" takes about an episode to result in their inevitable getting together. I hate to read the speculations as it sometimes comes awfully close to feeling like a spoiler, but for my part I feel like it seems unlikely they plan to keep a cutesy relationship going for the rest of the series so I reckon the guy gets killed or betrays them all or something otherwise unfortunate interrupts this entirely contrived romance. Thus leaving our protagonist with a broken heart, oh how cute ... and subtly done as hammer.
   Continuity Problems: I think the consensus with the way the series fits in with the other shows in the franchise is that it either is in or sends itself to an alternative dimension. Star Trek is nerdy enough, and all these alternative timelines are hard enough to swallow for normal Trekkies, it seems like that explanation would be really off-putting to non-Trekkies trying to watch. "So how does this fit in with Captain Kirk and all that? Alternative dimensions whaa? ::eyes glaze over, clicks over to Top Chef::" And that explanation still doesn't explain why technology is somehow across the board better than in the Original Series, or the uniforms wildly different. The Original Series uniforms look tacky sure but they could have made them at least vaguely reminiscent. One particular technology that has been bothering me is I feel like in the other serieses they would get messages that clearly had reached them from somewhere else at much-faster-than-light-speed, but it still seemed like it wasn't easy, they wouldn't just casually call someone up for high definition real time hologram conversation. Even if this is a divergent timeline, technology would have generally proceeded at the same general rate wouldn't it?
   General Context of Things: this may sound a bit more quibbling, but because their new technology allows them to pop up anywhere instantaneously, and with the added instant communication to anywhere. The feeling that they are anywhere specific has been lost. When they're in a situaion I don't feel they are alone far far away trying to deal with it, like you feel in OS or TNG, but rather they are a button press from home. There's no sense of contextual location. And I find that bothers me.

   What I do like though is when characters from the original series wander into the story. I suppose that's why they set it at this time. Though even this they mess up frequently, like I think it hasn't been adequately explained how she's apparently Spock's adopted sister and yet has somehow never come up before.

   So anyway, as you may have gathered, I'm not wholly impressed with the show so far, though I'm sure I'll keep watching once they get back from their break to see where they go with it. Now as it happens, when they left me in the lurch for this random break, my attention has been caught by something else, a show I have come to love!

The Expanse
   I hadn't really heard any mention of this from my friends or usual sources of hub-bub about shows you really ought to watch, so it was kind of blind luck I guess that it caught my attention on netflix. I started watching it, quickly found myself binging straight through with an episode a night until I got through all of the two current seasons.
   THe show takes place (200?) years in the future, where people have thoroughly colonized mars and some other locations, but by and large haven't learned to break any currently known laws of physics and as such are confined to the solar system. Interestingly I had been wishfully thinking such a series already existed and thinking about it months ago! In the series the Earth is governed by the UN, and an independant Mars is the major rival. There's many colonies in the asteroid belt that don't have independence themselves but really want it.
   Character Development: As you may have noticed, I am big on character development and complex characters. In this series many of the characters slowly and extremely believably develop throughout the series. There's even a romance that I actually _liked!_ -- it was NOT something you'd expect in the first many episodes with the two characters but slowly you started to see how it might happen and actually felt pleased when it finally did. Also complex characters -- many characters who aren't entirely good or entirely bad despite what your first impression might be.
   Compelling Storyline: man I can't wait until next season to find out where this is all going!! and I don't know who to root for!
   Literary Allusions: if I wasn't sold on it already, the moment the group of main-est main characters named their ship the Rocinante you know I was sold for sure!
   Plausible future: I also just really love how it's not the basically kind of fanciful future of Star Trek and/or many other sci fi universes but everything you see is an entirely plausible extrapolation of where we might be without breaking the rules of physics as they are currently understood, as well as plausible political and societal developments. In my own vague idea of a series set in the 100-200 year future I ALSO had always thought of the UN being the world government and big corporations being major political players. Oh that's another thing I liked, where a lot of shows go to great lengths to not call the world governing body the UN but rather something understood to be the same but different, or won't name any current corporations or organizations, in this one you see "fedex" written on shipping containers in space and there are mormons. Space mormons!

   Shortcomings: There's really just a few shortcomings I can think of that prevent the show from potentially being GoT-level good (I discount the most recent GoT season in my consideration of "GoT-level good" ;) ) -- (1) while characters who have been well developed and you thought were gonna have a larger role DO very occasionally die, by and large I feel pretty confident that the main characters aren't about to die, and I really think that uncertainly that someone will survive a given incident is part of the magic with GoT. (2) now, I am not craving gratuitous GoT level nudity in order to approve of a series, but when, for example, as a major plot development a character was discovered naked and dead, when they used contrived camera angles or object placements to preserve the body's modesty, it just makes it feel a bit stilted and prudish, and takes your mind out of the storyline itself back into thinking of it as a tv show. Storyline-pertinent nudity souldn't be contrivedly avoided! Don't be so American!

   But in conclusion, I gosh darn love this series and if you are remotely into sci fi you should watch it!!

   ...also is it just me or does that main character James Holden remind me a lot of Jon Snow? (Edit: haha while googling for an official Expanse picture to include here I came across this)

Random Picture of the Day

   A donkey in Kyrgyzstan. I don't think I've shared this one yet? It's actually my desktop background. At the time, having gotten a new computer just before this project I didn't have much to choose from and it was a picture I had just taken, but I quite like it. Though man I know I recently saw a picture I had taken of a rocket shaped monument out in rural Kyrgyzstan which would be perfect here, but considering all my pictures from more than a month ago have been lost I can't think of where I had seen it, maybe I'm just remembering having seen it before The Loss. ):

Wednesday, November 22nd, 2017
10:29 pm
Notetaking, Regicide, and Whimsy

Here's a thing. I posted this to instagram and facebook and didn't really think anyone would be interested but a lot of people were. This is an example of how I take notes on beehives I inspect. There's templates out there that take up a whole page for each line there, but I don't have time or space for such shenanigans.

The first number is the hive number. Once upon a time in Days of Yore the hives would have been in order such that after 101 you'd have 102 and 103 etc, but as they get moved around they end up in all sorts of order. Hive 111 is named Ithaca but that doesn't make it into the notes.

A note about names. At first it seemed embarrassingly whimsical to name hives, but I find it actually really serves a practical purpose. The bees are distributed in locations (called apiaries by the pedantic and "bee yards," by us in the industry), which I've "named" A through P. I usually name at least one beehive at every location, with a name that begins with the name of the bee yard, so there's Athens, and Byzantium, Corinth, Delphi, Ephesus, Fangorn.... I might not know offhand where bee yard O is, but then I remember beehive Olympia and I can picture that exact beehive and where it is. Or vice versa I'm about to to make a note in my logbook and I'm wondering what bee yard this is, then I look over at beehive Mantua and remember oh yes this is M.

After the beehive number, there is a pictogram of the number of boxes currently on the beehive, then the first number is frames of bees -- since the bees tend to cluster together there'll be frames covered in bees and frames that just have a few. I'm using eight frame boxes so every 8 is a full box. I believe a frame of bees is about 1500 bees. The second number is frames of "brood," that is, developing bee larvae. I think this is possibly the most important number as it tells you how their future population outlook is. The third number is the frames of honey, which, as you can see by its presence as the fifth piece of information, I don't really dwell on. Because bees almost invariably partially fill a number of frames at once this isn't a number of filled frames so much as an aggregate -- if there's eight frames that are 20% full the number will probably be 1 or 2 (I try to resist putting in numbers like 1.5).

The last number is the queen. The O with a dot in it means a marked queen. The O with a line and little w means I just marked her with a white dot. The 3 means I didn't see the queen but I saw eggs, which means I know she was there at least three days ago, since that's how long an egg stays an egg. If the youngest thing I saw was a larvae I'd write a 4, 5, or 6 depending on its size, and if all I saw was the capped-over brood containing pupae I'd write a 21 meaning all I know is the queen was there within 21 days.

The queen marking color varies by year. Last year was white, this year is yellow. The one I marked white was because it was a queen from last year.

Most commercial beekeepers re-queen either once every two years or, increasingly, every year, since the queen's productivity goes down after the first year or two. "How do you replace the queen?" a friend asked after I posted this. Well. First you find the existing queen. Then you crush her head between your forefingers. Then you toss her over your left shoulder into the bushes behind you. Do NOT be like Ole GregA and leave her in the hive for the other bees to find, that is idiocy. Then you either insert a new queen in a queen cage and release her three days later or insert an unhatched queen cell.

Personally I think if a queen is still laying it seems a waste to just destroy her, so I like to do things like put the redundant queen in a new hive with a very small number of bees to see if she can start a new longshot hive.

But more importantly, instead of just automatically sight-unseen deciding to replace all my queens I make the decision on a case by case basis. In the case of the three hives inspected here, 9 or 10 frames of brood is just fine at this time of year so even though these are last year's queens I see absolutely no reason to replace them. However the one with 3 frames of brood you'll notice "RQ" written next to, which means it's earmarked to be requeened.

A marked queen on capped brood comb.

Monday, November 20th, 2017
9:53 pm
Nicaragua 2017 Pictures

And Pictures up from Nicaragua! Above, boat traffic at the end of Somoto Gorge. In other parts it looked more like this.

There were many quaint tile roofed houses like this in the rural areas! This one I guess is a sort of rough adobe brick and timber? But many were covered in plaster with just a bit of brick peeking out where the plaster had coyly chipped off in places, just like in gosh darn Zorro or something!

This imposing fortification with it's bellicose mural is just beside the central square in Somoto! I suppose it's part of town hall or something, and I guess town hall is meant to possibly serve as a citidel.

And lastly, here is someone's daily driver idling by a tree in the remote community of La Neranja near San Jose de Cusmapa.

More pictures on Flickr

I've integrated pictures into my public Kyrgyzstan and Nicaragua posts over at Dreamwidth. Posts are still originating here don't worry! But I've actually been directing people In Real Life who want to read my travelogues to dreamwidth hence the priority given there I'm speaking at three beekeeping clubs before the end of the month, got interviewed by the local paper today and have an article in the next issue of the Birregurra newsletter, I've been busy!

Sunday, November 19th, 2017
8:14 pm
Kyrgyzstan 2017 Pictures

Okay finally finally went through and sorted through and posted my pictures from Kyrgyzstan! Unfortunately my external hard drive having died made it a little more tedious since I had to re-download them from google photos, and one whole day for some reason had failed to backup and is now lost forever.

In theory I might go back and put pictures in the entries I wrote about Kyrgyzstan. Maybe.

I was staying and primarily working in the valley just behind this rock, known as "broken heart rock," because, yeah. Also you often see those little gypsy cart looking carts, especially by bee yards since people keep them manned 24/7 against theft.

This yurt is a restaurant, but people actually live in yurts that aren't too dissimilar:

"Son, saddle up the donkey I have to go to work"

That's one gosh darn big lake (Lake Issyk-Kul)

Oh hey I hadn't posted this one yet? Gosh darn eagles!!!

Dancers at wedding.

Anyway the rest can be found here, and I might sprinkle some more around when I need a picture for an entry that doesn't lend itself to any particular picture (for every blog entry should always have a picture). Also, coming soon, pictures from Nicaragua!

Thursday, November 9th, 2017
10:07 pm
Steamy Adventures on the River!
Apparently that&apos;s the &apos;Murray River Flag&apos;

Last Sunday, November 5th, Echuca, Australia - Woke up in a swag on the banks of the Murray River. The Murray River is the border between the states of Victoria and New South Wales for much of its 1,500 mile length. Looking at a map it looks like it empties on the eastern coast but it actually begins in the "Victorian alps" over there near the eastern coast and flows across almost the entirety of the south-eastern bulge of Australia to empty into the Great Australian Bight. In the great age of steamboats it was navigable way past the point where I was encamped, and yet it looked to be no more than maybe 200 feet across here. It flowed slowly, a thick milk chocolatey brown, though I think Billie or Lek had noted reading an account from an early settler of the water having been very clear in days of yore.

   After a quick breakfast of oatmeal we packed up camp and headed into town. We headed across the Murray River Bridge to the New South Waleseran (New South Welsh?) sister city of Moama. Moama is contiguous to Echuca but it definitely seems most of what's going on is on the Echuca side. We perused a farmer's market which was afoot there and much to my surprise I found a magic artifact of at least +3 enchantment on a table of knick-knacks -- labelled as a "cannibal fork" (I apologize for picture quality, I think part of it's magic is defying attempts to get a decent picture of it). It looked to be just over a foot long, a glossy ebony colored wood, with a head on the top with African features, a twisty looking shaft, and then it flutes out to four spikes. There's intricate carving where the twist changes into the fluted part, as well as some inlaid mother-of-pearl. And the person only wanted $15 for this artifact of power?? Clearly I had to get it!! It would go great wit the cannibal spoon I already have!

   And then we went into a nearby "Op Shop" (Thrift / Antique store) and I was eyeing some clay goblets. There were 6 of them and they were $6 each, so I asked if there'd be a discount for the lot of them and the lady sold me all six for $12!! This was quite the unusual amount of shopping for me! But I'm very pleased, and last night back home here I drank mead from one of the goblets and verily it was good! (And in related news I drank mead out of my new drinking horn the other day, the only horn I have that's actually a drinking horn actually, and it definitely affected the mead taste negatively. ): ): Hopefully I just hadn't cleaned it thoroughly enough and it had chemical residues in it or something (it did taste chemical-ly))

   We went to book a ride on a steamship but the only sailing left in the day didn't have enough spots left for us so we booked for the next morning. Walked around downtown Echuca and it was touristy in the best way, if that's not an oxymoron. It was busy with tourists and everything downtown seemed to cater to tourists, but they had not lost site of the old timey quaintness that draws people, nor did they have to fake it, because it was already there. So they kept their stately buildings from a bygone era and didn't besmirch them with neon signs, but just filled them with nice restaurants, pubs, antique stores, candy shops and a camping store or two. By the steamboat dock was a working recreation of a steam powered saw mill which was cool. I wish I had a cool picture of the mill but my phone was dead at the time.

   Then we proceeded to an RV campground just outside of town to camp so that people could use the showers. We were able to get a campsite at the other end of the field from nearly everyone else which was nice, but still, the vicinity was just a perfectly flat field which wasn't very scenic, and the wind came in across it pretty wicked cold in the evening. River wasn't in sight from where we were but I think it may have been near the other end of the field where everyone else was.

   We went back into town for dinner to a Greek place that Lek remembered from an earlier time she was in Echuca for some work related purpose (she's an irrigation consultant or something along those lines), and it was actually extremely good.

a kookaburra looks on as the Pevensey begins another cruise

Monday - After a quick breakfast at a restaurant across the street from the steamboat dock we went aboard the Paddle Steamer Pevensey where she was moored up to wooden landing on the steam riverbank. The bank being relatively high, the top of the landing was actually way above us and yet we came aboard the Pevensey on its top deck. As much as I'd like to think my writing skills can entirely paint a picture I'm not sure how to quite give you the idea of the size and shape of the boat but hey here's a good picture of it. One thing that surprised me was just how many boats there were. There were three more similarly sized paddle steamers moored up in front of us, one behind us (and I'm not sure if the Canberra in that picture is yet another or one in the previous picture), and one more a little way up the river. Just about all the boats were authentic 100+ year old boats with some degree of restoration, though only one was noted in the captain's running commentary to have never been on the bottom of the river. The Pevensey itself, which we were on, was built in 1911.
   Until eventually replaced by modern trucks, steamboat river trade on the Murray and other major Australian rivers was a major Thing, as they carried timber and wool from the interior to the big port cities on the coast. Apparently there have been two Australian TV miniseries about the steamboat era, All the Rivers Run, and "All the Rivers Run II."
   The boat was just over a hundred feet long on deck, with the main deck originally have been entirely space for wool bales, other than the engine, and in the middle a second floor housed the crew cabins and wheelhouse. In the middle under the superstructure was the magnificent steam engine, which I took a video of here and I rather fancy is worth a gander. The original engine! It was hypnotic to watch the thick gleaming pistons chug along. The engineer was happy to answer all our questions expansively. I asked if there were practical differences between stern-wheeler steamboats and side-wheelers such as all of these, and he said why yes, the stern-wheelers of the American West never pulled barges so the stern wheel wasn't a problem --"oh the stern wheel gets in the way of the tow does it?" I eagerly interjected,
   "Well, no, it's not that, it's that the load will be pulling right from the back where your propulsion is so you can't turn, and you can't put the towpoint forward for the propulsion or it will keep pulling you around ... with the side-wheelers the tow point is actually the very center of the vessel" and he pointed to the very sturdy supports that converged above the engine and connected to a very sturdy tow point above the deckhouse in the center of the vessel, "so we are very well balanced and can turn just fine with a load." Now that's a thing you know.

   We cruised up the river and back for a total of about an hour. The weather was nice, and because the front was entirely open (though covered against rain and sun) even standing next to the engine we got the nice breeze, and I think I did spend a significant portion of the time talking to the engineer and appreciating this beautiful engine.

   After we finished our cruise we strolled about downtown just a little bit more and then I bid my friends adieu -- they all had Tuesday off but I did not!

   This time I didn't go as far off the fastest route as I had coming up, but I did get on some country roads north of Melbourne (I could have stayed on the relativley freeway-like B75), and found myself going over rolling hills in which several times I wished I could stop and take a picture but there wasn't a turnout in the right place. Sometimes the road went through forests and sometimes it was mainly pastureland (though never without a fair sprinkling of grand old relict trees), and I stumbled upon another piece of Australian history, I found myself on a road called "Burke and Wills Track." The Burke and Wills expedition had been an early (1860-1861) attempt to cross the continent, but Lewis and Clarke they were not and after many many misadventures only one of the 19 men who had set out made it to the other side and returned alive to Melbourne.

   Skirted the outskirts of Melbourne and then was on the major M1 freeway from there to home (though it becomes slightly less obnoxiously big after Geelong, changing from the M1 to the A1, and actually has stop lights in Winchelsea). Stopped at my favorite Moriac Pub for dinner as I passed by (Moriac is near work and where I used to live) and half an hour later I was home in the early evening with the sun still shining gloriously!

   Altogether, I found Echuca, and especially the steamboats, very enjoyable. Because it's several hours from anywhere else I'm not sure I could recommend it as a destination for someone on a whistle-stop tour of Australia but if you've got time and/or maybe are making a roadtrip down from New South Wales into Victoria the steamboats are pretty cool.

Wednesday, November 1st, 2017
10:29 pm
A Week in the Life of a Beekeeper

Tuesday, October 24th - In the morning I had a meeting with a nearby beekeeper, a pastor from Uganda, and a local pastor who is trying to work with the Ugandan. The meeting was about beekeeping, as you might guess. They had gotten in contact with this local beekeeper Stan (like most beekeepers, an older fellow), who had invited me to the meeting since he knew I'd been involved in beekeeping projects in Uganda. I enjoyed the meeting, during which Stan and I gave the other two a lot of advice about beekeeping and resolved to keep in touch. Afterwards Stan and I continued to talk for about another hour -- I had only first met him at the meeting the preceding Friday so it was nice getting to know him. I rather think we got along quite well.

   Immediately after arriving home on this nice warm sunny afternoon I decided to walk to the general store to get some fresh sausages for dinner (see also, fridge is broken due to the ongoing electronics curse upon me), but crossing the street I saw my across-the-street neighbor Trevor and decided to ask him if he'd assembled that beehive he had gotten, since I'm getting many swarm calls these days and will bring him one if his hive is ready. He said it wasn't but "hey let's assemble it right now!" and next thing I know we're in his garage trying to figure out how to assemble his "flow hive." This was the first time I've actually had one of the vaunted "flow hives" in front of me and you know what, it's a LOT more complicated to assemble than a normal hive!!
   I was feeling a bit like the LAST thing I want to do when I get home from work is assemble a beehive but we were having quality neighborly bonding time I suppose. Trevor is semi retired, he still commutes by the train into Melbourne [?] days a week to his business there. He's a jolly sort of shortish yet rotund man who always seems to have a glowing smile. At some point when he was out of earshot his kindly wife confided in me that "I'm glad you're here he's not actually very good with tools" and I had to laugh and note that I 'm not either!!
   But I really can't complain because I did enjoy spending time with them and then they invited me to partake in their delicious dinner, which was surely better than anything I was about to make.

My front walk these days

Wednesday, October 25th - See last entry (fire brigade meeting in the evening).

Thursday, October 26th - As I'm leaving the house to head to work there's a guy standing next to a ride on lawnmower in front of my next door neighbor's house. The neighbor has had people in and out doing various things at every day for awhile, apparently in a hurry to get it all in prime condition to sell in two weeks or something, so I asked the guy if he was a lawnmower man because my lawnmower man stopped calling me after I was gone for so many weeks this winter. Well it turns out it WAS my neighbor ("Stretch") whom I've only met once before and didn't recognize. Awkward. On the plus side he readily agreed to mow my lawn, for free even! Probably because my lawn had become an eyesore ::shameful look::

   Thursday at work I was busy placing empty beehives where I wanted them in preparation for the fifty "packages" of bees I'd be getting Sunday! But since I'd be working Sunday I'd be taking Friday off which meant that this, Thursday evening, was actually my "Friday!"

Friday, October 27th - As I was enjoying a nice slow "saturday morning" this Frday, Joe, who runs my favorite cafe in the nearby town of Winchelsea, called me to ask my advise on removing a beehive that was in the old vicar's house by the Anglican church here in Birregurra. The Anglican church looks like a medieval castle tower, and is probably about 200 meters from my house, so I volunteered to come over there and advise him in person. It was a beautiful sunny Spring day and I hadn't much left the house all day (though I'd had the front and back door open and spent some time on the old couch on my pack porch, lest you think I'd completely neglected to partake of fresh air.
   It was early evening when Joe came by to begin the bee removal operation. He said "oh, I'm just doing it for fun, you can do it and have the bees if you want," and I had to laugh because I do NOT remove bees from walls for fun on my day off!!
   The bees were in the eaves above the second floor, fairly high up. He had a ladder that wasn't tall enough, and a pretty sturdy scaffold thing, so he set up the ladder on the scaffold, which I had to remark I'm pretty sure Workplace Health and Safety would not approve of!! It was fairly sturdy but being up there kind of reminded me of being in the rigging of a tallship. He only had the one beesuit, all my stuff was at work, so I kept my distance and let him do all the hands on stuff, though the bees really never got angry. His wife came by with their young kids in the car, to bring us something or other we needed. We were at it until it was thoroughly dark, around 9pm. Brood comb had been transferred to frames in an empty beehive, which we placed on top of the scaffold (I'd have liked to have it closer to the former location of the colony but this was the best we could do), with the idea that the bees would hopefully come to regard that as their home and regroup there overnight.

Current view out my kitchen window, featuring my pet basil plant Theodora

Saturday, October 28th - Spent the earlier part of the day once again luxuriating in the wonderful weather. Checked on the bees and they appeared to have not moved into the hive. I called Joe and advised him to come back with a box and some wasp spray, brush the bees into a box and thence into the beehive, wasp spray their former location so they can't return to it (bees won't fly into a space that's been poisoned). Was secretly glad it wasn't my responsibilty in this case to keep coming back to sort out these bees.
   My friends were having a halloween party in the evening and I had no costume so I made the drive into town (Geelong) to look for costumes. It's usually a forty minute drive but my car was so low on gas I first went the wrong direction about ten minutes to the nearest gas station in the small town of Colac. I absolutely loathe, abhor and hate shopping and after about ten minutes at the first costume place I went I had utterly had my fill and resolved just to be Alex, the protagonist from Clockwork Orange, yet again, since I have all the stuff, save a costume cane which I did purchase.

   Returned home and enjoyed the rest of the afternoon. Well tried to work on the onerous reports I now need to write for the projects abroad I did this year. Then half an hour before I needed to depart for the halloween party I went to get dressed and couldn't find the white collared shirt I needed for the costume ANYWHERE. I know I definitely have a white collared shirt but I frantically looekd everywhere and made a thorough mess of my room as I turned everything topsy turvy looking in even the most unlikely places. Quick googling revealed I could still get to the K-Mart in Geelong ten minutes before it closed, with a battle cry of "AUGH I HATE HALLOWEEN!!" I jumped in the car and I was off!

   Now, I don't really hate halloween. I do hate shopping though and when I don't have a costume idea I'm really excited about and prepared for I find it quite a chore to come up with something. Halloween seems to be just beginning to become pervasive in Australia, with many Australians grumbling about "this American holiday that's taking over," and I think people expect me to be wildly excited about it just because I'm American. Yeah nah mate. It's alright I guess, and you can bet I loved it when I was a kid and had heaps of candy to look forward to, but these days putting on a costume doesn't really overly excite me.
   Halloween party was kind of smallish but all my core group of friends were there which was fun since we haven't all been in one place in a long time. Trent, our awkward friend who as far as any of us knew was still in the UK where he's been since February or so, made a surprise appearance! In a scream mask so we didn't even know who it was at first. He fractured his ankle playing some mysterious game called "Netball" which apparently is neither volleyball nor basketball, so was sent back to recover.
   I observed that even me halloween-enthusiastic friends who had put on this party had no idea what candy corn was. I was like "wait where's the candy corn??" and they were like "the what??"
   And then they brought out "jelly shots," which sounded to me like a rather unappetizing cousin to jello shots that involved like strawberry jam or something, but it turns out Australians call jello jelly ::shakes head::, and all candy is "lollies," apparently, even if it in no way resembles a lollypop!
   Also despite the reputation of Australians, at this party, like nearly every single other Australian party I've been to, nearly everyone had just a drink or two and was sober enough to drive home in the end. I found found there is _significantly_ less drinking at parties here. From my experience in the States people aren't drinking and driving either but between uber and talking a friend into being a DD usually MOST people contrive a way to drink a fair bit at parties.

Sunday, October 29th - Had to drive 200 kilometers to a town called Pakenham on the far side of Melbourne. In the past I've taken the very across the bottom of the bay even though that costs $65 each way (!!) because I find the part of the drive through the middle of Melbourne really miserable. That's on city streets with traffic and signals and cars parked along the side of the road and pulling out in front of you and bizarre street signs and trams in the middle of the road. Anyway I survived Melbourne alright. As you can kinda see from the grid of roads the urban environment extends really far on the east side of Melbourne but eventually one gets back into countryside and then you're at the town of Pakenham!
   I stopped for lunch at a cafe in town, sitting outside because it was another nice day. At the table next to me sat an older couple and their 20s-ish daughter and her boyfriend and the family was talking about halloween, and what it was all about, and I couldn't hear everything but I heard the word "american" numerous times in exasperated tones, and gathered that the parental units had resignedly decided to buy "lollies" just in case kids came by trick or treating.

   William the "Bunyip Beekeper" had a facility just on the edge of town. While he was bringing bee packages over to my pickup truck ("ute") I asked him if flow hives (the big thing last year) were maintaining their momentum and he said nah everyone is buying normal hives this year.

   Drove the 200km back to the home farm uneventfully. Was able to unload and install about half the packages before storm clouds swept in, with it beginning to rain just as I finished the last hives I was putting in this location. Since the other location is an hour from there I decided to call it a night. Usually the work truck stays on the farm but I didn't want to leave these bees out in the cold overnight. Had a quick dinner at the very good nearby Moriac Pub, which sits alone in the countryside, in a manner that would be picturesque except the freeway runs right in front of it. The freeway here is only four lanes and only at most two or three cars are even in sight on it at any given time, if any at all, but the giant band of asphalt is inevitably a bit of an eyesore for a picturesque location in the middle of the countryside.
   I have a garage it turns out the work truck fits in, though I had never bothered to put a vehicle within it before, but it turned out to be a stormy night with heavy rain so I'm very glad I w as able to stow the bees in there.

Monday, October 30th - The day before I had asked Joe, when talking to him about the bees in the vicarage again, if he'd like to come with me as I installed package bees and he said he'd love to! So this morning he came to my place (he also lives in Birregurra), and off we went! "Shaking" package bees can be kind of fun, since you literally shake the bees out of the cage into the beehives. These beehives were on some properties in the thick stringybark forests west of Birregurra so we had a pleasant morning of it. [a set of them pictured here with a scare crow in the background because everything here is storybook quaint ;) ] We talked of many things, including comparing and contrasting the sausages from the butcher's shop beside his cafe to those a local guy sells in the Birregurra general store, which I remark upon because it just felt so quaint and country -- in suburban California you would never know who was making your sausages personally and what they were doing differently.
   Returning to Birregurra around lunch tim we swung by the vicarage and upon inspection I discovered the gosh darn bees hadn't moved into the provided hive box because they had more comb under the roof! Since we didn't have the tools and equipment to cut into her tin sheeted roof we resolved to declare that we'd given it our best but could not finish the job. The resident will be having more extensive work done on the house in a few months with professionally assembled scaffolds all around it so we might have at what remains of the bee colony at that time (though, I'll do a lot of things for free for my neighbors, including assist Joe at a bee removal if he takes the lead, but I won't do a major bee removal project from under a roof for free myself!)
   Had lunch at home and then returned to the main farm to do other stuff. The weather had been alright in the morning, not really warm and sunny but just a bit cool. Moments after a bid Joe adieu in front of my house though it began hailing and it's been cold and wet every since Meant to knock off early since I worked late Sunday but it wasn't until today (Wesdnesday) that I finally found the time to do so.

Tuesay, October 31st - Did stuff at work. After work I swung by the house of an old woman who lives near the farm because she had called me describing what sounded like bees living in her wall, though she thought it was just a swarm ("but the bees only appear when it's sunny"). Ii was pretty sure it wasn't a swarm and I'm not keen on removals but it wasn't far out of my way so I thought I'd see what was going on over there. It turns out she had had a colony there last year that was exterminated, so this looked more likely to be just bees that wanted to get to the honey that was sealed inside. I was bit annoyed at her insistence that the bees couldn't have had time to make honey inside because, she insisted, she had definitely caught them immediately. Despite this being on the back side of the house and small amounts of bee activity usually go unnoticed for months she was quite adamant ::rolls eyes:: Also despite that I was voluntarily taking time out of my life to tell her what in my professional experience her bee problem was she didn't seem terribly grateful.

   From there I proceeded to trivia in Geelong town, mainly because I thought with Trent's return all my friends would be there again -- I had stopped going partly because while many people I know go none of my closest friends have been going regularly ... and the other reason being that all their god damn questions are pop culture questions. Well it turns out Trent didn't go, his mom had forbade him... he's like 26! ::sigh:: And everyone was in costume because it was Halloween ::grumbles, grinch like::

Friday, October 27th, 2017
2:12 pm
Killer Trees!!

   "The following video contains graphic footage of trees being damaged and destroyed, if this makes you uncomfortable please advise your trainer immediately"

   The five grizzly old men in big yellow fire fighting pants held up with thick red suspenders hoot their sarcastic terror, while behind the front desk, Ronnie, our local fire captain, attempts to distance himself from the video, saying in his thick scottish accent, "I havena seen this yet"

   There follows a twenty minute informational video about "killer trees," that was, in my opinion, a bit amateurishly edited together, and seemingly unironically continued to talk about the extreme danger of "killer trees," calling them repeatedly a "clear and present danger" (which need I remind you is the title of a movie referencing nuclear annihilation!). I was really expecting the warning to be because there would be footage of some unfortunate soul who had a tree fall on them but no, the dire warning at the beginning was literally because seeing burning trees might upset someone. I'm not quite sure someone who is freaked out by seeing burning trees in a video should be on a fire brigade.

   Of course falling fire damaged trees an tree limbs really are a danger, and several of the guys had stories about near misses, but it really seemed to me a bit overly dramatic to call them "killer trees" rather than "dangerous trees" or if you love acronyms maybe FDTs for Fire Damageed Trees instead of the "CPD Trees" (the Clear and Present Danger).

   Especially references to establishing zone to exclude the killer trees (a radius twice the height of the tree), and that it's everyone's responsibility to constantly be on the look out for killer trees really made it sound to me like these were some kind of wandering tree monsters we have to look out for.

   After the video as is typical with government mandated training things, we had to do an insultingly simple multiple choice test.

some killer trees have taken control of construction vehicles for greater mobility

   The occasion was annual "pre-season training" for the local volunteer fire brigade, which I have joined. I'm not yet trained up enough for call-outs but by next month I should be. Other training we did last night included setting the truck up to suck water from a pond, using the hoses whilst the truck is intaking water, and crew protection procedures in case of burn-over -- if the truck is overtaken by the fire, in the cab you pull down these heat shields around the windows and the truck puts a spray all around it. Random fact I learned: you hold a firehose nozzle (a "branch") overhand, that way if it slips from your wet gloved hand it doesn't slam you in the face! (did NOT learn this the hard way fortunately)

tree chases its prey over a ledge

   Above killer tree warning signs I had photographed earlier in the Kingslake State Forest north of Melbourne.

Saturday, October 21st, 2017
1:45 pm
A Very Convoluted Return To Australia

October 5th, Istanbul - My flight out of Istanbul was at 13:50 out of Gurken airport east of Istanbul. I was informed the outside limit of how long it would take to get there was an hour so I planned to catch the bus at 11. Felt like I had plenty of time for a nice easy morning since the airport bus allegedly left from just beside the hotel, but of course inevitable ended up in a panicked hurry at the end. And mystifyingly the guy at the front desk told me directions which in no way conformed to the reality of where to find the bus. It sent me two blocks in the opposite direction, where the bus actually stopped just around the other corner from the hotel. So I end up rushing around the cobbled streets dragging around my gimpy luggage (one of the two wheels is completely destroyed) at the last minute. Fortunately I happened to stumble upon a Turkish girl who was also looking for the bus and together we (she) were able to ask around until we got there. I note you can work up quite a sweat on a nominally cool morning when you are in a panic and stressed and lugging around 23 kilos of luggage.
   And then while standing in line at the bus I was informed we wouldn't get to the airport until 12:45 -- the journey would take nearly twice as long as expected and get me there with only FIVE minutes to spare before boarding commenced and check in may be closed (an hour before the flight). That sounded thoroughly dire!!!! I considered grabbing a cab but figured that would cost exponentially more and yet be stuck in the same traffic.

   The drive across the Bosporus bridge and out through the city ouskirts as it happens proceeded fairly smoothly though I was very anxious ... and got me to the airport right on time after all around 12!!! Much to my very immense relief.
   Now I hate to sound petty, but I found it remarkable that just behind me in the check in line was the most classic "Russian trophy wife" I have ever seen. Her skin was a vaguely orange color, botox-inhanced lips gave her perpetual duck face, she had the very definition of "bolt-on breasts," massive battering rams of things jutting unnaturally from her chest. I think her bum may have been enhanced as well, I vaguely recall it was a bit oddly rounded. Her husband wasn't actually Russian but by all appearances a Turk, but I'm still calling her a "Russian trophy wife," because her look was infinitely more in keeping with the fashion mores I've seen in the Moscow airport than you see among women in Turkey.

   Flight back to Paris, once again on the super budget airline Pegasus. A several hour international flight with no seat back entertainment! But I think once again I was glad to have the lights on and finished reading my book. Had a bulkhead seat with the middle seat beside me empty, so that was pretty ideal. An asian woman in the aisle seat was working on her laptop and became annoyed when the person in front of her leaned his seat back, and began banging on it. When that illicited no response she called the flight attendant, who at first was reluctant to do anything, no doubt noting that he had a right to put his seat back, but laptop lady finally prevailed upon the flight attendant to politely ask the guy in the forward seat to move his seat back up, which he did. Personally, as someone who often finds oneself lacking knee room, I am often less than enthused when the person in front of me puts their seat back, but I think one has a right to put their seat back and I would never think of demanding they don't do so. Besides having to sit bolt upright for hours I think is even worse than not having knee room (and again, this coming from someone who is 6'2")

   Arriving at Paris Orly in the evening, I had to get to the Charles De Gaulle airport across town, my plan was to get a hotel near the airport there since I had an early morning flight out of CDG. The person at the information kiosk made it sound quite simple to get to CDG. A light rail line runs right from this airport to a station where you get on the RER B and it takes you all the way across town to CDG. So I bought the ticket for [memory fading] and off I went!
   What had not been mentioned by anyone is that, defying all logic, the RER B line splits just before the airport and apparently I was on a train that took the wrong fork! I fortunately became suspicious just shortly after this forking and realizing the error darted (darted with my differently-abled luggage bumping after me that is) off the train at the next station. Now it was either a 45 minute workaround on the train or a five minute €3 uber drive. I could see on the map that we weren't that far from CDG but there was no direct root by mass transit. Okay well uber sounded good. So I called an uber.
   But he took me to a nearby location which clearly wasn't the hotel! But we confirmed it was where I had booked the uber to. It was the same address ("4 rue de Paris" or something ubiquitous like that) as I needed but in the neighboring suburb. I don't know how that got mixed up because I had had the correct location up in google maps and it had prompted me with uber and I had clicked the uber button from that screen with the correct address. Anyway at this point there was no logical course but to rebook this same uber for the correct location. I haven't examined the receipt but I vaguely imagine it ended up being more like €15. It was about a ten minute drive. The sun was setting at this point and it actually looked very pretty over the city of Paris to the west, with a beautiful orange sky above the cityscape, and semi rural scenes nearer at hand.

   Also, I had just booked the hotel after arriving in Paris. I should have learned this lesson by now, but it turns out hotels generally cost about $100 more when booking the day of. I'd just been too busy with other things to have gotten around to it earlier but if I had realized the price difference I certainly would have! The hotel I ended up going with (Comfort Hotel CDG) was advertised for $48 every other day but $148 on this the same day. This made me feel a bit grumpy.

   At this point I hadn't eaten all day and was starving. So I asked reception, was informed there was "a sushi place, an italian place, and a french place" all within a five minute walk, and off I went. I of course headed to the French place because, when in France... it was by now dark and a bit chilly out, and the streets seemed to be deserted but it looked kind of like a small town. there were several other airport hotels in the immediate surrounds. The French place looked kind of cute, had the look from the outside of a kind of a traditional fachwerk country house. Inside I found a small dining area, such that one couldn't help but fully hear the conversations of the other tables -- there was a group of americans from Texas who it appeared were on the last day of a two week vacation in France, yet still seemed to barely be able to handle even the most basic French, saying "Well, bonn swarrr. That means goodnight right? Bon swarrr!" in brassy American accent that completely flattened the phrase.
   When I ordered (recall, I can speak French just well enough that people can understand my meaning and that they should respond in English, which is ideal really because I'm clearly making an effort and not annoying them by expecting them to speak English), and the other guy at a neighboring table, who was by himself, jumped in to help explain the menu to me. They had a "normal" menu and a sort of set menu, but you could choose one of three appetizers, mains, etc. The small room began to fill up with other people and he asked if he could join me, and I said certainly. His name was Thomas, he was a retired (accountant?) from Germany, kind of shortish, wearing a knit cap, visiting France on a vacation. He seemed to have a great enthusiasm for some cathedrals he had visited in some small towns I sadly don't quite recall (possibly Rennes and another small town near it?). I kept waiting for him to drift into con trails as particularly friendly strangers who join your table usually inevitably do but throughout the conversation he remained thoroughly sane and reasonable. We both ended up having sausages and saurkraut, I don't recall the other options (every time I travel I when I get to blogging about it and hit all these omissions I tell myself I'll take better notes next time!). Once again they didn't sell wine by the glass but by the small carafe.
   After Thomas and I both paid and left Thomas started ranting a bit about Paris rudeness. Admittedly the waitstaff had sometimes been hard to get the attention of, and when we paid our bill the guy was busy talking to two other people and barely gave us any attention. I suppose it wasn't quite the politest but I don't think I'd have registered it as rude if it wasn't pointed out to me. Maybe I just haven't been noticing "Paris rudeness" occurring around me??

I hate these anti luggage bollards

October 6th, Paris - Easy hotel shuttle to the airport. One more thing I want to remark about about Paris airports. Airports throughout the world these days have some level of security, ranging from the barely visible really in Australia to soldiers in balaclavas in Kyrgyzstan, and in many African countries its soldiers in fatigues with AK-47s, kinda hanging around. In the US there were uniformed soldiers with m-16s after 9/11 but that has faded away. They would stand in the middle of the hallway like a rock that the river flow of passengers would swirl past. But nowhere have I seen them as seemingly alert as in the Paris airports. The soldiers, in green camo with berets slouched across their heads, patrol in groups of four exactly the way you see in Vietnam movies, spaced apart, fingers on the trigger, constantly scanning the crowd, each step like a prowling cat. They appear to be behaving as if they are in actual fact in the middle of a combat zone.

   Flight to Abu Dhabi. Only memorable thing about this flight was that I had the front row of my cabin area, so our television screens were on the bulkhead in front of us. One usually can't help seeing one's neighbor's screen and I've seen many movies I wouldn't choose to watch myself that way (ie Bay Watch and Fastest and Furiousest or whatever that latest is called), but in this case it was really too easy not to. My neighbor was watching this new Spider Man movie, again a movie that I wouldn't choose to watch because I don't like comic book movies, but there were a number of scenes that caught my attention for extended periods of time. At first the guy would look over at me kind of accusingly and I would look away and go back to my book. But then I thought, what the fuck what is wrong with watching your screen which is also right in front of me, so the next time I found myself watching and he gave me a sideways look I didn't look away. He looked at me very pointedly immediately followed by slowly reaching forward and pushing the pause button on his controller, and then made like he was trying to sleep. I had to laugh to myself about this pettiness! Oooh I'm stealing your movie enjoyment am I? Ahaha the memory still warms my black little heart.

   In Abu Dhabi switched to Sr Lankan airlines for the flight to Colombo. Meals on Sr Lankan were good (for airplane food!) and spicy. I love spicy. Flight attendants wore sort of saris. I was relieved to see a new selection of movies since I've seen everything on Etihad I'm interested in. I think I watched a movie but I can't for the life of me recall anything about doing so. Also wrote one of the previous entries on my phone.

October 7th, Colombo, Sri Lanka - I was a bit surprised, speaking of airport security, that in Colombo, where, by the way, suicide bombing was first invented, there seemed to be nearly no airport security. As far as I could tell you would walk in right off the street up to the gates. Many people in beautiful saris. There was a "buddhist information center" kiosk with nothing at all on it and I was tempted to take a picture and post it with some zen sounding caption like "but is it really empty?" or "the information is within YOU" or something. But didn't want to annoy anyone by seeming disrespectful by taking a picture of said obviously empty kiosk. (In fact I'm quite interested in zen buddhism and I think the empty kiosk really does fit in to some kind of koan). Arriving in this airport around 5am and flew out about two hours later.

Kuala Lumpor, Malaysia< - Glad I had an eight hour layover here because it took at least three to get from the one terminal to the other!!! This last leg was on super budget airline "Air asia X" (and here I thought Pegasus was budget!). The baggage allowance was a mere 17 kilos for which privelege I paid an absolutely ridiculous like €150. Since my luggage was 23kg I had to somehow get 6 kg into my backpack, which was already not-empty. By some miracle I did, though in the hurried changeover a bottle of honey ended up in my backpack and was therefore confiscated as a "liquid or gel" at security.

   Inside the secure area I went to a noodle shop I remembered being delicious last year, and, well, it was fairly alright, but not nearly as delicious as I remembered.

Really this is just here because the entry needs pictures

   The Air Asia X flight left more than two hours after its scheduled departure. It was supposed to leave at 10pm and left closer to 12:30. No one seemed surprised, everyone in the passenger area seemed to know what they were getting into and cracked a lot of jokes about it. As I noted before, nothing brings people together like things going wrong. When we finally boarded I found there were once again no television screens and I'm not sure the seats went back either, this was as budget as it comes. And despite being a I don't know ten or twelve hour flight there were no meals unless you wanted to pay way too much for an airplane meal. During this miserable flight, after having already been in air transit for two days, I really began to reflect that I must have been out of my mind when I booked this. In past self's defense, I had booked it while on the road, in the sweltering hotel in Somoto in Nicaragua. And google.travel had pulled a prank on me, after I found the best deal it said "but you have to book each leg seperately" and then AFTER I had booked the first leg and went to book the second one, on the actual airline page (and any other booking service) that leg turned out to not be available, so now I had a leg that didn't connect to anythingg that I had to connect and... so yeah, I had glued a bunch of things together which in the end was an arduous odyssey on budget carriers ):

Sunday, October 8th, Melbourne - And then my friend Ben picked me up as usual in Melbourne where the weather was lovely and sunny and warm and on my way home the flowers were out everywhere and the air smelled like spring! The "traveling season" is thus over until next March and instead I'll be enjoying the warmer weather here in Australia and working on this season's crop of honey and expanding the operation! (:

Wednesday, October 18th, 2017
11:22 pm
A Star Trek Discovery

   Now, I don't really watch TV (I don't actually own a TV), and I rarely seem to be watching whatever everyone else is watching (though after GoT had been going four or five years I finally caught up whilst in a cave in central Turkey and have been a huge fan ever since), but I do sometimes watch things on Netflix.
   Back in high school when Star Trek Next Generation was still airing I was rather fond of it. I watched a bit of Deep Space Nine but it failed to really catch my interest and they seemed to be just godmoding around once they got their super stealth space fighter jet the Defiant going on (though admittedly I was already barely following things by then), and Voyager really I think I just didn't find any of the characters likable, and many of them downright annoying. And then that series Enterprise, I've never seen at all but from the trailers and things it just didn't appeal to me, though I don't remember well enough to say what put me off. And the movies! the more recent movies have all felt like they were trying to be a stupid action movie too hard instead of whatever it is exactly that makes Star Trek Star Trek, and having to compress their storylines into a movie -- people are zipping all over hte galaxy and having interstellar action sequences which make it feel like the whole galaxy is one very small place.

   But the Discovery trailers somehow caught my interest and enticed me to watch it, and now, lo, verily, I am caught up on a series in its first season, I can for once participate in the true heart and soul of livejournal, fandomry!

   I have found the series to be a really good mix of action and adventure without feeling forced like the recent movies. There's plenty of action happening but it's still very Star Trek.

   One major thing I really look for in series or movies is complex characters. Star Trek has had a tendency to have everyone in Starfleet be just such a nice chap / woman, unless they're a purpose written bad apple who will die in the episode. So far in Discovery there appear to be several crew members you're really not sure you like, and I watch subsequent episodes just HOPING they don't become likable, because I'm black hearted like that. Without giving any spoilers away, the (current?) captain of the Discovery in particular definitely seems like someone not entirely admirable, and I love that. He seems to have done some extremely questionable things in the past. I hope he does more!

   The one big problem seems to be that, from my just-now-googling, it appears to take place ten years before the original series, but general look and unfiforms specifically are definitely not the same as in the Original series, and the level of technology seems to be more advanced. In particular their key piece of experimental technology seems like it breaks "the universe" by being more advanced than anything subsequently seen.... but it also seems like it might be unethical so maybe it ends up getting buried....

   Also is it just me or is Klingon style in this century totally baroque?

   And was there a starfleet bridge officer in the first two episodes with a big blocky robot head? You only catch glimpses of them and I'm almost tempted to go back and rewatch because the question is bothering me.

And speaking of doodling, just because I believe every entry should have an image component, here's a piece of a little adventure I doodled up that I call "spacecat."

Meanwhile in real life
   Went over to the fire station for some more training for joining the volunteer fire brigade, but it was interrupted when they actually got a call out and had to scramble. "In the olden days we coulda taken you with us but these days you can't come along until you're certified"
   Walking back home across an empty paddock in the middle of "town" and looking up to see the millions of starts and the milky way I thought to myself "man, I love this town."

   In other news my fridge now appears to be broken. I think someone has put a hex on my electronic devices :'(

Sunday, October 15th, 2017
4:50 pm
Technically Touring!

October 4th, Istanbul - This day began with a bit of a panic. Five hundred people were milling around in front of the conference building, there were a rumoured 14 busses coming along to pick us up for the technical tours, miraculously people formed into a giant single file line without even being told, and got their tickets out and... wait, what tickets?? I had paid online for the technical excursion when I paid my conference registration, but never got a physical ticket. I tried to go in to the conference building since I knew the secretariat had an office on the subterranean floor the conference took place at, but security wasn't letting anyone in, there were a few other people with the same problem trying to talk to someone but the only people in the lobby were security personnel who knew nothing. There were no conference staff anywhere in sight! I joined my Australian friends in line, anxiously hoping the staff would be checking names on a list or something.
   The primary reason I had signed up wasn't so much I felt the urgent need to see yet more bees so much as I recalled from the conference in Tanzania that it was on the technical tours that I actually met most of the people I met, since there's not nearly as much opportunity to meet people during presentations or passing in the halls as there is on the busses and such. Sure enough, whilst I was in line I met a nice young man from Tanzania who wants to go into business with stingless bees!
   Well there wasn't a list... but the person a few people ahead of me showed them the invoice in her email on her phone and they let her on. Quickly I started scrambling to get my email open but then we were at the door, my Australian friends were boarding and I was still dredging through my emails. Then they were saying "we can get one more person on this bus" and I got the requisite email open and triumphantly showed it to the guy manning the door, who looked at it so briefly I figured I coulda probably shown him anything, but he handed me a ticket and waved me aboard.
   At this point of course there was only one seat left and it was beside a bearded Argentinian who quite rudely I felt kept leaving his bag on my seat taking up my space.

   We drove an hour, across the Bosporus bridge to the Asian side and north-east up to the Black Sea coast. I was surprised by how quickly we left the city and found ourselves going up and down bushy rugged hills. We arrived at a cute little village in a narrow valley, the buses had a hard time navigating the narrow roads. We all trooped down a cobbled street, beekeepers excitedly pointed out a hive on a balcony like they'd never seen one before, and we arrived at a construction site where we sat in plastic chairs and watched a promotional video for the beekeeping informational center which was being built there. Then we all trooped right back up the hill back to the buses.

   Then we drove just a little bit to the town of Sile itself (pronounced "Silly"), where we were let out by the traditional outdoor market, and given our lunch. The market seemed to possibly have been set up just for us, it wasn't the busy local market I've often seen, with closely packed tables heaped with vegetables and crowds of locals buying their daily food, but rather was a quiet affair with booths set around the outside of a square -- we appeared to be the only customers. We were encouraged several times by official announcements that we should buy the famous local cotton cloth. It was also announced that after this we'd go down to the beach and we could have coffee there. At this point many people started approaching eachother to ask if they were on the right tour, and were we going to see any bees?? Some Romanians approached me to ask these questions and pointed out as well that only half the busses were here and half their friends were missing. "What's going on??" they urgently wanted to know. I was similarly approached by some Czechs. Nothing brings strangers together like confusion and fear that something's gone wrong. I asked if the Czech Republic had ever hosted Apimondia and they said "yes, in 1966, before the Soviet tanks came in 68," "well you're overdue then!" I said cheerfully, and when he gave me kind of a weird look I added "for another Apimondia, not more soviet tanks!!"

   The Tanzanian lad was marveling at the size of some chili peppers being sold in the market. He told me they don't have such big peppers in Tanzania, I said he should get some seeds and plant them, and his eyes lit up like this was a genius idea and he immediately bought some chilis to get the seeds out of. And here's some weird fruit that were next to the chilis.

   We then reboarded the bus to travel just a few minutes down the main road through town to the waterfront. There we found ourselves separated from the lapping waves of the Black Sea by merely some rocks and a low concrete wall. People immediately began scrambling down to the water, which was blue, clear, and inviting. One unabashable old fellow immediately stripped to his skivvies and dove in, proceeding to swim to an island about 200 meters out. On another nearby island stood a square castle towerA, which I thought was a delightfully dramatic place for a castle, since the island walls were very steep. It looks like it could have been connected to the mainland by a narrow causeway, I think I saw what could have ebeen the remains of stone pilings. At the time I had no particular information about it, but now that I can look it up on wikipedia (recall, wikipedia is blocked in Turkey), it's apparently a 14th century Genoese castle and apparently there's a controversy! I thought it looked a bit crisp, it was recently renovated, but there seems to be a weird amount of outcry that they went too far and it "looks like Spongebob now." An inquiry was even openedA. I don't really see it other than yes both the tower and spongebob are rectangles. My only concern would be if they really departed from the original design and it does look like there were big arch-windows that are no longer there. At least they got rid of that ugly sign that had been in front of it.
   Then I had some turkish coffee (confession time, this was the turkish coffee I posted a picture of earlier), and was joined by a Swedish beekeeper, who broke Swedish stereotypes by being a bit overweight. A bit balding, he looked like someone you'd expect to find hating their life in a cubical in some midwestern US city.

   We reboarded the busses, traveled for about twenty minutes and spent another twenty minutes as the bus repassed the same area repeatedly trying to find the turnoff it was looking for. Finally we arrived at a cleared area among the hills where beehives could clearly be seen in many places. Finally!! Everyone eagerly disembarked the busses. Also sometime around now we learned that the total group of 500 had been divided in two so the other half had done the bees first and the things we did second.
   Anyway this area turned out ot be really cool! All the honeybees you see are generally all the same species, Apis mellifera (there's about seven other species of Apis but they're only found in southeasern Asia), but there's some 250 different subspecies and a handful of these are used by beekeepers. In this yard each set of hives was a different subspecies, and were on hand with smokers lit to open up hives and show us the bees! ... really there wasn't too much difference to see even for the discerning eye, the differences would be found in honey production and seasonal behaviors that you wouldn't see in a minute of looking in the hive, but at least we could determine which ones were the most stingy!!
   There was also a bee truck -- a big-rig with a trailer that was filled with beehives with their entrances to the outside, and a walkway down the middle. Each hive had it's own thermostat and temperature control. Afterwords talking with my Australian friend we agreed it was cool but probably totally overengineered ... probably had just been made to impress us.
   I met a couple from Nigeria and greatly amused them by breaking out my one phrase of Nigerian pidgen English ("hw u day?" (how are you), "I dey kampe (com-pey)" ("I am well and strong")).
   As we reboarded the busses here I noticed the Tanzanian lad was carrying a lavender plant he had purchased "we don't have these in Tanzania!" he told me cheerfully. He's gonna have quite the interesting luggage.

   From here we proceeded about an hour back into the Eastern suburbs of Istanbul where we arrived at a honey processing facility. Specifically, it was the "R&D" facility for Turkey's biggest honey packing company, which, incidentally, is one of the biggest in the world (Turkey itself is the third largest exporter of honey in the world and considering the population is a lot less than numbers 1 & 2 (US and China), clearly honey production is big business in Turkey.

As you can see in the above picture not only did they have an impressive laboratory, but basically the floor above the laboratory was a dedicated viewing platform of the lab floor! I felt like I was in some Bond villian's evil laboratory lair!! At first this seemed to me to be a baffling use of space but talking about it with my friends we came to the conclusion that actually the entire R & D facility is a giant marketing thing. When you're in the business of making contracts for thousands of tons of honey worth millions of dollars a year, when you have potential visiting clients you want to absolutely wow their brains out. When they're standing on your Bond-villian red carpeted viewing platform gazing down at the impressive lab equipment in the shining white laboratory floors, and the dozens of industriously busy and strangely uniformly kind of attractive mid-20s aged female lab workers, you feel like you are IN on the evil plan and it is a solid investment for world domination!!

   From there it seemed to be at least an hour through traffic back to the conference center. Arriving there, had dinner with the unofficial Team Australia one last time. The overly-lengthy journey home, which I came to think I must not have been in my right senses when Ii booked, will be detailed in a subsequent entry!

Thursday, October 12th, 2017
10:35 pm
Rediscovering the Pen

   I've been known to draw, upon occasion in the past, though I haven't really in years now.

   It is swarming season here, and there already is a flyer on the general store bulletin board that says "CALL [MURRAY] FOR BEE SWARM CATCHING" in big block letters in sharpie. Well I'm sure I can do better than that. So I sat down with the pencils and paper I had at hand, quickly discovering I didn't appear to even have an eraser. So then I went to the store for an eraser and came back with a ruler and several different finenesses of pen as well. But you can only erase and redraw bits so many times, so I thought I'd scan my drawing and edit it on the computer, that turned out pretty tedious between the scanning app on my phone and the freeware photo editing program (paint.net) I've been using... so I ended up getting an actual scanner/printer for around 50 roo bucks (around 30 US!), the biggest investment of which was probably actually the 80 minutes driving to town and back.

   Now for my vision I needed the perfect bee, and I happened to recall the perfect bee occurred in this old diagram of mine of a bee vacuum:

That bee at the end of the hose with the exclamation point over her head? Yep that's the perfect bee! Problem is, it's probably like half a centimeter in length. So I enlarged it, printed it out, traced over it, and inked it, to create the New, Improved, More Perfect Bee:

Although, a bit ironically, I don't think it looks so great in small any more. I cut pasted it all over the swarm in the final one below, and the two flying into the beehive are it's sisters (retraced), but anyway, below is version 1 of my vision for a swarm catching flyer:

   I think the quadrant around the guy still has too much empty space / the spacing / context of it isn't quiet right just yet, but I'm not sure how to fix it?

   And the spacing of the words and bee on the bottom also looks off. If I moved the bee to the right it would look better but then the bee wouldn't be centered. Not sure what to do about it. And I know it would make more sense to have "Call Kris" precede the phone number, but this way the number is under the guy calling and the name is under me.

   Any suggestions greatly appreciated!!

Tuesday, October 10th, 2017
11:13 pm
More Technical Failures

   My phone died today. That's my phone, laptop, and external hard drive all in a month (and though it's not in the electronics category I also had to replace the tires on my car). Getting tired of this.

   I had my phone in my hand as I was going through my front door and while jiggling the key I dropped it. It's in a protective case so dropping from doorknob height onto the wooden deck wouldn't seem like it should be lethal. It didn't crack, but the screen stopped working. I still get notifications but the screen remains black and can't be swiped or typed upon.

   It's funny how much one relies on one's phone. I had an hour of driving to do later and usually I listen to an audiobook on audible but I couldn't do that, and the car radio doesn't work so I just had to drive in silence and dwell on my frustration. And my phone is my time piece so I didn't know what time it was for the rest of the day. Or how would I wake up tomorrow morning?

   Not to mention I can hear people messaging me but I can't respond or tell them why I can't respond!!

   The same friends who helped me with my laptop volunteered to come over, even after I said I was in too bad of a mood to drive into town for the usual Tuesday trivia (and even though I live a forty minute drive out into the country from town!!). I don't know how I got so lucky to have such nice friends. So Ben and Mick came over this evening and looked at my phone, determined I probably just need to have the screen replaced and it shouldn't cost me an arm and a leg, and Ben even had an old Galaxy 4 (I think mine is a Galaxy 5) that seems alright except it's got no battery life, that he let me borrow till I get it sorted. Seriously how'd I get so lucky.

   Tomorrow I'm going right into town to try to get this handled. But I still feel very frustrated with everything breaking. As I said all my electronics are of the age where they need to be replaced... which I "can't" afford to do except I'm having to. And now it'll be the same age again, can't it stagger itself?


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