Friday, May 27, 2016

Where Are We Now - Oakland

I am now fully committed to my undomiciled lifestyle. Though I have briefly stayed here in Oakland once in the past, it was less than a week, just passing through. Now 'South Oakland near the Zoo' is a geographic description I give to friends and family.

My future plans are listed over there at the top of the right-hand column. That's my plan for the next twelve months, most likely there will be a few adjustments but the die is cast.

I'm working hard on my book: "Undomiciled: How to be the Perfect Long-Term Houseguest." Hopefully, by the time this year of wandering is complete, so shall the book be.

In the meantime, I would be interested in any tips or insights you may have on experiences as a home-interloper or host of same. You will remain anonymous if quoted in the book.

Happy Cooking Travels!

photo credit: Dennis Past

Friday, May 20, 2016

Boat of a Million Years

I had an unusual experience today while reading. 

But first some contextual history. I was not a big science fiction reader in my teenage years, the usual time for boys to have their sci-fi immersion. Oh sure, I read 1984 and Animal Farm but those are more dystopian political commentary. In college, I read Lord of the Rings but that was fantasy and in the 60s a right of passage. I think Brave New World was assigned in an English Lit. class but reading it did not set the sci-fi hook.

It was not until 1972, when I fell in with the McGovern crowed at the University of Michigan that I discovered science fiction. In truth, it found me or rather a good friend did. In the course of conversation a work of sci-fi came up and it was discovered that I had not only not read it but I had missed the mandatory sci-fi bibliography altogether.

I went home from his house that evening with a small stack of 'required reading.' I still remember the list:

Dune Frank Herbert
Stranger in a Strange Land Robert Heinlein
The Moon is a Harsh Mistress Robert Heinlein
The Foundation Trilogy Isaac Asimov
Childhood's End Arthur C Clarke

Hooked I was. I read the compendium of science fiction over the next several years. However, since the late-70s I have kept up only when 'must read' works of science fiction have appeared; with the exception of finding Kim Stanley Robinson in the early 1990s and reading everything he has written.

Here begins Part Two of my tediously long preface -- I am not much of a re-reader. Few works of fiction get a second pass from me. However, a few days before departing the Berkeley condo in March, someone left an old copy of The Foundation Trilogy on the recycling bench. On impulse I picked it up and got around to reading it while lingering up here in Lake Shastina. Seeing it on my night stand my host mentioned again that he had been trying to find The Boat of a Million Years on audio. 

Weeks later I was hunting for something or another and stumbled on the book cabinet in the garage. Sitting there on top of a row of old sci-fi novels was The Boat of a Million Years by Poul Anderson. The front cover was detached but it was the old oversized version I had read back in 1990.

The years 1989 & 1990 were a bit stressful for me, part of my coping strategy was fiction. Several sci-fi novels were included in my literary escapism, including Poul Anderson's novel about immortals.

I reattached the front cover and put The Boat of a Million Years on the nightstand . . . which leads us back to I had an unusual experience today while reading today.

I'm about 2/3 of the way through the novel and out of the blue I have a complete memory of a conversation with a young woman I was dating in 1989. It was our first date, I had picked her up at her apartment and we had gone to dinner. Afterwards she wanted to see my house in Hermosa Beach. As the home tour passed through the bedroom, she noticed The Boat of Million Years on a pillow. As a sci-fi fan she knew the author but not this, his latest novel.

We talked about science fiction for a few minutes before she abruptly changed the subject.

For over eight years I have kept this blog at least R rated usually PG, unless you are a sensitive conservative, however, the remainder of the story is absolutely X-rated. I apologize to readers who feel deprived by this abridged NSFW ending. Trust me, the memory came back most vividly.

 I wonder where she is today?

[Yes, you know who you are, I will send you the unabridged ending of the story, all you have to do is ask]

Friday, May 13, 2016

Antarctica (1981)

I don't think I've ever written about my trip to Antarctica 35 years ago. I was prompted to do so now because of the picture above. That photograph is an entry in the 2016 National Geographic photo contest.

I know this place, I recognize those mountains, this is the Bay of Isles on South Georgia. I was there December 19 1981.

The foothills are just under a mile from the beach. We landed in our zodiac down the beach to the far right. This is a king penguin rookery, on that day the only birds at the shore we either going or coming from the sea. We had to hike about half way to the mountains to be close of the clustering colony of adults and yearlings. The young chicks and parents were even farther away, I and my two companions did not venture near the rookery, best to stay far from the chicks.

So I walked to within twenty yards of the colony edge and stopped to watch and photograph. Slowly the adults returning from the sea would either push through the throng to get to their hungry chicks or, if they were not brooding parents, they would just stop at the edge of the colony. Over the course of an hour without moving I was subsumed into the colony.

The returning penguins eventually reached me and surrounded me as the colony edge expanded, I was one tall, red-jacketed bird.

Eventually, the ship whistle blew calling us back to the shore and our boat ride back to the safety and warmth of the Discovery Expedition. I edged my way out of the pack, to many squawks and a few beak pecks to my well-padded arctic coat. I worked my way towards the nearest open ground, which soon was to cause a problem.

I was headed back to the sea shore by the nearest route but not the one I had used to reach the penguin colony. My plan was to make it to the shore and then walk on the beach to the landing where the zodiac raft awaited.

Unfortunately, I had waded several small glacial streams deep inland on my way in but now near the shore, those streams had merged into a icy, eight foot wide flow of indeterminate depth. Looking back it was a big hike inland to where a crossing might be more sensible.

As I pondered my options, two penguins arrived on the opposite of the icy divide. I looked at them, they looked at me, they looked at the swiftly moving water, so did I. Then they looked at me again.

I took a single cautious step into the water with my water-tight, well-insulated booted feet. Six inches of water only. Another step and I was a foot deep. A quick calculation told me at this rate mid-stream might well be exerting enough pressure to knock me down, hypothermia was not a suggested course of action.

Just as I was about to step back on the bank and head back inland, one of the penguins stepped into the water on his side of the stream. With a knowing nod, he leaned forward and with his beak, tested the depth for his next step. Slowly he located a rocky ridge of stream bottom that meandered a bit upstream but stayed at the depth of less than a foot.

Once he was midstream, his buddy followed him and there they stood. If they fell in, they just swim out, being much better insulated than I was. I was pondering our situation when a loud squawk brought me back to my, I mean, our predicament.

I swear the penguin was suggesting I get with the program and do my part.

I backed out of the water where I had originally entered and moved upstream to where the two penguin buddies stood about three feet from my shore. There was clearly a deep, swiftly moving gully between them and dry land.

I noticed another shallow ridge just a bit upstream. I easily took two, three, then four steps on the ridge and found myself even with the penguins and just a few feet upstream. Taking the initiative, I hopped over to where the penguins stood. The buddy gave me one good, hard peck while his trailblazing friend duplicated my hop in the reverse direction. His buddy followed and now we were both within shallow sight of our goals.

If there had been an observer to our inter-species cooperation, they would have noted my three foot leap across the watery divide was much more elegant than the splash and dash approach taken by the penguins.

Then again, I was the one who had to be reminded that we were involved in a joint venture to ford the stream. The penguins had been there before, I was the rookie in the rookery.

Friday, May 06, 2016


Over the last decade I have written for a dozen or so websites. Most of the work is background or SEO content. Search Engine Optimization for those not into cyber jargon. During this time I have received a lot of feedback from editors, content managers, public relations specialists; you get the point.

Each website has a theme or a "voice" they wish to project and often times it takes some back-and-forth to get in synch with what they are looking for. More often than not the editorial suggestions are constructive. Writers tweak our work to fit the tone of the website.

It's often good work for decent pay until it isn't. The internet is ephemeral.

However, and I do mean however. This last week I got a one sentence rejection based on a spec article I wrote for a website I thought would be a good fit for my work. I offer you the befuddling feedback I received without further comment.

"Your approach to the topic and your research is simply too intelligent for our needs."