Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Home From Tasmania

All I've got to say right now is "Ow." Followed by beer. And "Wow." And snoring.

More soon, including lots of pics and video. Here's one for now, taken from Bruny Island, just off Hobart, Tasmania.

And here's a picture of a home appliance:

That, my friends, is an LG washer/dryer combo. It washes - and it dries! (Some please tell Jack to look at this photo. And tell him I have closeups too. Thank you.)

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Sydney to Hobart, Day 8: Goodbye Eden

We were scheduled to leave late this afternoon. Sitting in the boat this morning we listened to boats radio in to Marine Rescue Eden: "Marine Rescue Eden, yeah, look, we've just left Twofold Bay and we're headed down to Tassie. Just checking in..."

The fleet is headed out - and we're following their lead. Off in an hour. We'll have cell phones until tomorrow, maybe, maybe tonight, then out for three days or so.

It's sunny and calm, another beautiful day in Eden. Another good day for leaving.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving

Hardest day of the year to not be with you, my family and my friends in the good ol' USA. Ow.

Sydney to Hobart, Day 7: Off From Eden Tomorrow

November 23: After four full nights at anchor or on the jetty here in Eden, NSW, the winds in the Bass Strait are finally shifting, spinning from the southwest to the northwest—"She'll be right up your ass"—so tomorrow afternoon we'll be setting off south on the second and larger (in many ways) leg of the great Sydney to Hobart Sail 2011. Hoping for four to five days, three or so of them will be out of contact.

Back out to where the albatross goes...

I hear you smiling, baby...

Monday, November 21, 2011

Sydney to Hobart,Day 5: Quick Video

It's now Day 5 of the great Sydney to Hobart sail with Skipper Craig aboard the Southern Ocean. I wish I'd written more, but the first two days were spent in various states of wretchedness, up to and including actual wretching. (Kids, if you want some real excitement some Friday night, try taking a dump in a bucket in the belly of moving sailboat on a sloppy sea, all while trying not to vomit—only one bucket available! Whoopee!) The last day of travel was good, I spent a good amount of time at the wheel, day and night hours, so I may finally have my legs. We'll see. I don't care—if I can do those first two days I can do damned anything.

We're in Eden, NSW, now, 300 miles south of Sydney, waiting for a handful of weather systems to move through the Bass Strait before we can head off to Tassie. May have to wait until Friday. That means I have actual work to do for my real job—so just a quick video here, and a pic or two.

First, Craig proves that I actually drove the boat:

I almost yelled, "Hello, Lieutenant Dan!"

Look at this:

It's so weird: I just recently learned bout these clouds by reading and writing about them for work. I'll do a post on them later—just wanted you to see that shot. There are better ones, and there's video, too.

Here's a Pacific gull, native of —twice as large at least as regular old gulls.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Sydney to Hobart, Day 5: Eden, New South Wales

Monday, November 21: It's now Day 5 of the great Sydney to Hobart Sail with Skipper Craig aboard the Southern Ocean. I wish I'd written more, but the first two-plus days for myself were spent in various states of wretchedness, up to and including actual wretching. (Kids, if you want some real excitement some Friday night, try taking a dump in a bucket in the belly of moving sailboat on a sloppy sea, all while trying not to vomit—only one bucket available! Whoopee!) The last day of travel was good, I spent a good amount of time at the wheel, day and night hours, so I may finally have my legs. We'll see. I don't care—if I can do those first two days I can do damned anything.

We're in Eden, NSW, now, 300 miles south of Sydney, waiting for a handful of weather systems to move through the Bass Strait before we can head off to Tassie. May have to wait until Friday. That means that while I'm here I have actual work to do for my real job—so just a quick video here, and a pic or two.

Pics and video. (Click on pics to get larger, clearer versions.)

First, Craig proves that I actually drove the boat. We're five or so nautical miles offshore at this point. (We got as far as 23 miles off on the way down.)

I almost yelled, "Hello, Lieutenant Dan!" I guess it's better I didn't.

Look at this:

It's so weird: I just recently learned about this cloud phenomenon by reading and writing about them for work. They're very rare—and we drove right under that sucker! I'll do a post on them later—just wanted you to see that shot. There are better ones, and there's video, too.

Here's Eden's Killer Whale Museum, home of the skeleton of "Old Tom"—the orca that helped whalers get their whales that Christine had told me about ages ago. (More about that later, too.) Eden Cove behind.

We'll finish with a Pacific Gull, found only in Southern Australia, and huge—twice as large as average gulls. Look at this beauty:

That's all. More soon. Love to you, Christine...

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Sailing From Sydney to Hobart, Tasmania

I mentioned the other day that I may be going on a sailing trip. Well, the details have been worked out, and tomorrow or Thursday (Australia time) I'll be headed to Hobart, Tasmania, on a 38-foot sailboat. Skipper: Craig. Crew: Me. (Home, gnawing fingernails on walls, ceiling: Christine.)

Short story shorter: Craig, friend of Christine's who lives in Hobart, bought a sailboat on the internet a few months ago. It's here in Sydney, so he flew up last Thursday to get it ready and sail it back home. I had expressed interest in tagging along when I first heard about this some months ago, but Craig said he had had a close friend going back with him, and said no. I forgot about it. On Thursday, when Craig got here, he said that his friend had backed out. There ya go. 

It's take up to two weeks. Highlight of the trip: the Bass Strait.

I'll be out of internet and phone range for much or all of that time. Hobart is way down there: Nothing but open water between us and Antarctica. I will of course have much to post here when I return.

The route is the same as taken in a what is a very famous race here, the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race, held every year stating Boxing Day.

Did I mention I've never sailed before? (I have been on the sea, as I said in that other post.)

Here's the boat (second one out). Best I could do for now:

Here's Craig showing Christine around, up on the bow:

Skipper Craig and Christine on the Southern Ocean.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Wild Kangaroos Give Me a Boxing Show

This is a video I took in 2006, on my first trip to Australia. (This is a repost, rewritten, from January.)

I hadn't been in the country long when, one very early morning, probably 5:30 a.m. or so, I was walking in the capital city of Canberra, not far from the city proper (though you wouldn't think that seeing the video). Suddenly, there they were: The first two wild kangaroos I had ever seen. They were hanging out in front of a high school. I immediately became transmogrified into the worst videographer in history, which will you see in a second.

After what would likely be considered "cardiac event," I managed to remember how my lungs, eyes, legs, arms, hands, and fingers worked, and started videoing. The kangaroos are immediately seen disappearing behind a small clump of trees. Great. While mimicking the camera work in The Blair Witch Project, I make my way around the trees.

Then something truly remarkable happens: As my camera peers around the end of the tree clump, the two kangaroos are standing there, looking at me. They're looking straight at me, like they were waiting for me. As Christine says, "You can almost hear one of them sigh, and say to the other, 'Well, come on Meryl, let's give the doofus tourist a show.'" And HOLY CRAP THEY DO. They rear up on their tippy-toes, lean back on their tails, and go to town, kicking, punching, heads flapping around like punching bags. And when the camera inexplicably starts videoing the sky at one point—I may have been losing consciousness from the excitement—the kangaroos actually stop and look (at the 39-second mark), seemingly waiting to make sure I'm not screwing up.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Two Blind Indus River Dolphins Found Dead

Two more blind dolphins were found dead in the Indus River here on Saturday, putting the number of dead dolphins found in Sukkur to 28 in six months.
The Wildlife Department shifted the two dead blind dolphins to Dolphin Research Institute for post- mortem. 
The wildlife and the fisheries departments have so far failed to find the possible cause of the deaths of the precious specie. Sources said that the higher authorities recently formed a probe committee, which had revealed that some fisherman threw poisonous substance into the river which is causing deaths of the endangered fish found only in two rivers Asia-Ganges and the Indus River.
I've seen those dolphins, or a closely related species, in the Ganges River. Just magical creatures, so elusive—I could only ever see them for a second as they curved up out of the water and down again quickly. Nobody else was seeing them—I thought I was seeing things. The imprint off their shape—especially the very long beak—seemed to be burned into my cornea.

Let's hope they figure out what the hell's going on.

American Exceptionalism

I was sitting in one of my Oregon haunts, the Wild Goose - in the bar in back - one afternoon a few years ago when two guys walked in. They took a seat in the corner and Dennis the bartender quickly had two beers at their table.

There were two guys at the bar speaking German. (I know this because I speak pretty good German.) I don't know if I sensed something or what, but I started paying attention, because something wasn't right: The dudes who had just walked in had immediately become very uncomfortable. They looked like they were about to shit their pants, to be truthful, and it was all about the two guys a the bar—speaking a foreign language. The Germans weren't doing anything other than talking—they were just sitting there, talking. They hadn't even looked around the room that I noticed. 

The two dudes in the corner didn't say a word to each other. They sat in stunned silence. It was as if they had walked in to find a goat on top of the bar being raped by a gorilla. And nobody cared! Everybody just sat there, as if speaking in a foreign language was some kind of okay thing to do! Why wasn't this outrage being stopped?!

After just a few minutes the two dudes suddenly got up from their table and walked, arms swinging, toward the door.

"So long guys!"called Dennis from behind the bar, oblivious to the dudes' outrage.

"Yeah," mumbled one, looking back over a pumping shoulder. "We'll be back, and when we do WE'LL TALK ENGLISH!" and SLAM, out the door they went, I'm sure with a feeling of great conquest in their loins. The Germans never even noticed them.

Every time I hear the phrase "American exceptionalism," I remember that afternoon.

"Going on Strike From One's Culture"

Matt Taibbi with second thoughts about OccupyWallStreet:
Occupy Wall Street was always about something much bigger than a movement against big banks and modern finance. It's about providing a forum for people to show how tired they are not just of Wall Street, but everything. This is a visceral, impassioned, deep-seated rejection of the entire direction of our society, a refusal to take even one more step forward into the shallow commercial abyss of phoniness, short-term calculation, withered idealism and intellectual bankruptcy that American mass society has become. If there is such a thing as going on strike from one's own culture, this is it. And by being so broad in scope and so elemental in its motivation, it's flown over the heads of many on both the right and the left.
That's a really good way to look at it: It's a bit bigger than we understand right now. And that's okay.

And not just "American society," I think it's "modern society."

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Beating Non-Violent Protestors

These are big tough guys beating young men - and women - and really wailing on them - with nightsticks. This is just cowardly crappy shit.

And some more crap: UC Police Captain Margo Bennett said the protesters deserved it because they linked arms - and LINKING ARMS IS "AN ACT OF VIOLENCE."

I want to kill something.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Sailing From Sydney to...

I had a curious offer dropped in my lap yesterday: A friend of Christine's who lives here in Australia, but quite a distance away, bought a sailboat here in Sydney over the internet, and arrived yesterday to pick it up. He'll be sailing for home next week. He was supposed to be joined in that return trip by a friend—but the friend backed out. (Why? I'll tell you later.) So I've been invited along. The trip will take about two weeks on the water, traveling constantly.

Hmm. Haven't made my mind up...completely. (I've had just a wee bit of experience behind the wheel of a boat on a seiner in Alaska. I've only been an afternoon on a sailboat.)

Christine's been on the phone to insurance companies. This could be her big break...

Coca-Cola Overturns Bottle-Ban in Grand Canyon

Because Coca-Cola should be deciding national park policy. Makes perfect sense:
Weary of plastic litter, Grand Canyon National Park officials were in the final stages of imposing a ban on the sale of disposable water bottles in the Grand Canyon late last year when the nation’s parks chief abruptly blocked the plan after conversations with Coca-Cola, a major donor to the National Park Foundation.
Stephen P. Martin, the architect of the plan and the top parks official at the Grand Canyon, said his superiors told him two weeks before its Jan. 1 start date that Coca-Cola, which distributes water under the Dasani brand and has donated more than $13 million to the parks, had registered its concerns about the bottle ban through the foundation, and that the project was being tabled. His account was confirmed by park, foundation and company officials.
And listen to this crap, from Coca-Cola:
She also characterized the bottle ban as limiting personal choice. “You’re not allowing people to decide what they want to eat and drink and consume,” she said.
Coca-Cola is worried about our personal rights...to consume it's products in our national parks. Makes you want to stick a flag pin up your ass.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Occupying Foreclosed Homes

I haven't hear of this happening before, but it sounds like a really good idea. Could see it really taking off.


Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Sacha Baron Cohen as Lord Monckton

This is possibly the funniest thing that has ever been done in the whole history of doing things:

Lord Monckton.


Monday, November 7, 2011

My FaceBook Music Store

I've set up a CDBaby FaceBook Music Store where you can listen to and buy my songs. You lucky devils. (And the telephone gives you some idea of when this photo was taken. Maybe the sweater, too?)

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Stephen Colbert's Super PAC

Stephen Colbert - of Comedy Central's The Colbert Report - is doing something extraordinary to American politics, through the founding of his Super PAC, "Making a Better Tomorrow, Tomorrow." It is not often that you get to witness someone of Colbert's stature pull off a stunt like this: using a law (or in this case two Supreme Court rulings) to highlight the absurdity of said law. The whole thing is downright Mark Twainian.

To get a proper idea of what Colbert is doing, look at it this way: If the U.S. Supreme Court made a ruling that said it was perfectly legal for extraordinarily wealthy people to designate their homes as foreign countries - thereby making them off-limits to U.S. police organizations - Colbert would right now have a mansion next to the White House with a 24-hour-a-day, Las Vegas-themed, gangster/biker party going on, complete with drug-fueled machine-gun target practice contests, strippers in every window, and dogfights in the front yard. And possibly live kitten barbecues on the veranda.

And there would be nothing the cops could do, because the Supreme Court made it legal for extraordinarily wealthy people - and Stephen Colbert is definitely one of those - to designate their homes as foreign countries. (Colbert's would probably be called "Colbertistanistan.")

Except Colbert wouldn't be doing because he's a rich asshole - he'd be doing it to show how horribly undemocratic and morally perverse the Supreme Court ruling was. And that's exactly what he's doing here.

The Supreme Court ruling Colbert is lampooning is actually two recent rulings, and they concern one thing: the role money plays in political campaigns in the U.S. In this case by the way of the "Super PAC."

What's a Super PAC? It's a brand new kind of PAC, or "political action committee" (see last link for more on them), an organization that raises and spends money on advertising for or against candidates for public office. If you want to spend money on political candidates - apart from contributions directly to a candidate or a political party (these have their own rules) - it has to go through a PAC. It's the law. PACs have been around for a while,  but they used to have restrictions: Corporations, unions, and individuals used to have strict limits on how much money they could give to PACs; and PACs were only allowed to spend so much money. Why? Because it was believed that allowing extremely wealthy corporations, unions, or individuals to spend enormous amounts of money on political advertising gave them an unfair advantage over us regular schmoes who don't have yacht-loads of cash to spend on such things - which isn't exactly rocket science.

As of the Summer of 2010, those restrictions are gone. Thanks to those recent Supreme Court rulings. (Well, some restrictions remain, but many are gone.) What effect did it have? 84 Super PACs were quickly formed, and, over the course of only a couple months, they spent $65,326,957 on the 2010 midterm elections. $65,326,957. (And the 2012 election cycle—it'll make 2010 look like pocket change: read this. Or don't.)

Stephen Colbert looked at all of this and thought it was just nuts. Which it of course is. And he decided he was going to show just how nuts it was. How? By forming his own Super PAC. And he did it. Stephen Colbert can now hold the equivalent of drug-fueled machine-gun target practice contests, with strippers in the windows and dogfights on the lawn - right in the middle of the American political election process, and there's not a damn thing anyone can do about it. (He'll probably spare the kittens. He seems like a nice guy.)

An excerpt from Colbert's victory speech after getting the okay for the Super PAC from the FEC:
Sixty days ago today, on this very spot, a young man petitioned the FEC for permission to form a super PAC, to raise unlimited monies and use those monies to determine the winners of the 2012 elections. Moments ago, the Federal Election Commission made their ruling. Ladies and gentlemen, I’m sorry to say … We won!
"Sorry to say" is exactly right.

It's going to be a very interesting 2012 election year. Maybe some of it will be the good kind of interesting - thanks to Stephen Colbert.

• More here.

All 2012 Super PACs

Making a Better Tomorrow, Tomorrow


—I've edited this very lightly for clarity, and to get rid of the typo - in the first damn line. 

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Report: Another Protesting Vet Hospitalized By Police

Americans have been so blasé about police brutality for so long. It's nice to see that the OccupyWallStreet protests are making it one of its unintended issues:
Sabehgi was due to undergo surgery on Friday afternoon to repair his spleen, which would involve using a clot or patch to prevent internal bleeding.
This was after being arrested, beaten (allegedly), kept in a police van for some hours, then in a cell for more hours, and finally - after 18 hours - taken to a hospital. Just so wrong.

 P.S. Is The Guardian the best American news organization right now?

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

The Christmas Beetle

I was reading on the veranda late the other night when I was suddenly bombarded by what could have been empty walnut shells. I actually thought someone was throwing things at me - some drunk neighbor, not an uncommon thing - then I saw beetle in a planter:

I picked it up and got some shots, most of which did not come out because it was too dark. One good one:

Look at those claws!

Here's a beetle butt:

I put the beetle back into the planter, and in thirty seconds or so it was gone—dug down into the soil. Ah, I thought, "it" is a "she," and she's gone to lay some eggs. Research must be done...

Christine's sister Shannon said she thought it was a Christmas Beetle. They show up every summer, and, she said, look like our friend here.

She's right, no doubt about it. And I was right that she was going to lay eggs. Photo herelife cycle description here:
The life cycle of a Christmas beetle is from one to two years. The larvae of Christmas beetles live and develop in the soil for about a year, eating decaying organic matter and plant roots of mainly native grasses and other vegetation. In agricultural land larvae can feed on the roots of crops and pasture. In urban areas larvae often feed on the roots of turf. This feeding can cause plants to turn yellow and wither. 
Toward the end of winter the larvae move closer to the soil surface and pupate. The adults emerge several weeks later and dig their way out of the soil. They then fly to the nearest food plant to feed. And of course their other main duty at this stage is to mate. They then lay eggs in the soil close to their food source.
There are 35 different species, 8 in the Sydney area. And I may have to dig up those eggs, put them in soil in a glass jar, and watch them. Stay tuned...

Shocking Look Into Free Medical Clinic in L.A.

This is what late-stage cancer looks like if left unchecked, like many cancers were 100 years ago and still are today in the developing world. But I encountered this case this month, and Yvonne, the woman who sat crying before me, lives in Los Angeles.
Dr. Mehmet Oz writes about a very recent experience in Los Angeles. That quote above is the least of it.

Japanese MP Drinks Water From UNDER Fukushima Plant

If I were Japanese, I wouldn't think the MP brave - I'd think him an idiot:
A Japanese official has drunk water collected from the quake-hit Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, after reporters challenged him to prove it was safe. 
Yasuhiro Sonoda appeared nervous and his hands shook as he downed a glass during a televised news conference. 
The water he drank was taken from puddles under two reactor buildings. It is decontaminated before being used for tasks such as watering plants.

He "appeared nervous," did he? Huh. Maybe that's because the Japanese people (along with the rest of us) have been lied to repeatedly ever since the disaster happened.

Best of health to MP Sonoda.

Update: Plant will take 30 years to close.

Update II: Just found this: Fukushima Diary.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Melbourne Cup Day

Today is the day of the Melbourne Cup, otherwise known as the Stanley Cup of Horse Racing (by me, only me.)

It is an event of such import in Australia that in the state of Victoria it is an official holiday. Really. In the rest of Australia, it is not an official holiday, but is by many treated as one.
A few of the rels will be coming over for snacks, champagne, and pavlova. We'll head down to he TAB and have a flutter. All around good fun. If we win a big one we'll let you know...in a month or two.