Wandering Thoughts

March 29, 2009

Getting out more often

Filed under: Going Places,Staying Places — terence @ 7:50 am
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On Saturday, angling for late summer sun, Jo and I drove to Titahi Bay. Almost freed by steroids, we walked along the beach and waded into the warm green sea.

Rolling in like sighs from the Tasman, the waves were almost too soft to bodysurf. But after all these years I’ve got a few tricks up my sleeve. So I caught some – tilting down the little drops, skipping across the flats and sinking into the ebbing white water.

Afterwards we drove up a little hillock and sat in the car.  Beyond the tidepools waves broke like glass in the sun. Further out still, the rising norwester pulled tufts of white from the sea off Plimmerton. We ate our iceblocks and immersed ourselves in papers on the art of aid growth regressions and the economics of family planning. These were very happy hours.

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March 28, 2009

Sillyness

Filed under: Ramblings and Musings — terence @ 9:53 am

The Paul Krugman Song.

H/T Duncan Green.

March 26, 2009

Metronatural America

Filed under: Ramblings and Musings — terence @ 7:13 pm

Ok, so Arabia didn’t work for me but, on the other hand, oh to be able to write reviews like this.

True, Raban’s helped by the quality of the material being reviewed, and the space for poetry made when the ache and grind of small town life nestles amongst the sublime Pacific Northwest. But, never the less, I have actue essay envy…

March 23, 2009

XKCD

Filed under: Ramblings and Musings — terence @ 5:43 pm
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yip – I still have this dream.

March 22, 2009

And as the steriods wear off…

Filed under: Reactive Arthritis — terence @ 8:57 am

…I feel flat and prickly, like a run over hedgehog.

March 18, 2009

Ode to the Hutt

Filed under: Reactive Arthritis,Staying Places — terence @ 6:04 pm
Tags: ,

I grew up in Eastbourne and even for an awkward fit like me that brought with it certain snobberies. Chief amongst these being the one we cast over our shoulders back in the direction of Lower Hutt.

My teens took me through high school there so, to be fair, I at least had evidence for the grudge I bore: the bogans, the black jeans, the way the parties always ended in fights. The smoggy conformity, the prefab pride. That fucking shopping mall; tumorous, relentless, eating through the heart of the city. The architecture in general.

But that was then. Today I’m sitting on the 6th floor of Hutt Hospital receiving steroids intravenously. The view out the window is hemmed by hills. Worn geometric skeletons behind Belmont. Green regenerating ridgelines converging north. The lurching Tararuas. In between, lazing in the forgiving sun, is a valley I’ve never seen before: sports grounds and hopeful homes. Trees everywhere, hiding roads and nestled round red-tiled rooves. Nikau palms like landed stars, white ivory eucalypts. Willows along the river and Norfolk pines stretching taller than the building I’m in.

Every once in a while black-back gulls glide by, sailing on confident wings, letting out their gloating cry. They’re right you know; Lower Hutt is really beautiful. Truly.

-~-

On an unrelated note, one of the most common side-effects of methyl-prednisolone is a ‘high’: a state of mild but giddy, euphoria. Did I mention that?

March 15, 2009

Poste Restante!

Filed under: Going Places — terence @ 9:01 am
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It seems impossible now, but in the beginning at least, I crisscrossed a world which barely had an Internet. Bali, when I first got there, was filled with places to make international phone calls instead of cyber-cafes. And it was only intermittent postcards that let my parents know I was still in one piece in the Mexican wilds.

Change was afoot, of course. The guys I lived with in New York used the “net” to figure out what the waves were doing, and thought my habit of trying to predict the wind from the flow of the clouds almost as quaint as my accent. The surfers in the small town in Portugal were I stayed spent the evenings at home flirting and gossiping in on-line chat rooms. And slowly restaurants started sprouting computers. Increasingly, other travellers would offer to exchange email addresses.

I didn’t actually get an email account of my own until 1999. But got the hang of things quick enough after that. It made life easier. On the other hand…

-~-

Benji and I arrived just in time, having woven our way on maps of broken Portuguese and Creole through the cobble stone streets of Sao Vicente. Giddy, from the overnight ferry ride across the trade wind washed sea and the new surroundings – a proper town! – we burst into the post office in an ebullient clatter.

“Poste Restante?”

We were directed to a counter round the back.

“Boa tarde. Tem cartas para Terence Wood e Benjamin Prou?”

In Germany we would have been doomed. Two guys in their early twenties, with long hair and baggy hotch-potch clothes, mangling the language and grinning like Cheshire cats.  But in those African Islands, dots of sand floating off the Sahara, people laughed in post offices and excitement was infectious. Behind the counter the woman smiled a big beautiful smile and joined in on the game.

“Talves,” she said with mock seriousness, making an act of looking for letters which might or might not exist.

She returned with a pile, and began doling them out one by one.

We kept score like they were goals in a penalty shoot out. I got the first one. Benji equalised, then pulled ahead, then I got a second…in the end he won four letters to three. Not that it mattered.

With hasty ‘Obrigados’ trailing in our wake we raced back to the hotel, flopped down on our beds and read. Letters from girlfriends, friends and family, written 6 weeks ago but news to us. Words lifting up off the page, forming half painted pictures, restitching frayed connections and continuing conversations before heading on their way – dispersing into the chatter of the ceiling fan above.

March 14, 2009

An Excursion into Flower Blogging

Filed under: Ramblings and Musings — terence @ 12:55 pm
Tags:
dandelions-for-blog

This morning's congregation

Fair enough, sun worship’s had a rough couple of millennia. Shoved aside, one by one, by a bunch of metaphysical religions. From a practical point of view though, there’s still a lot to be said for it. After all, the sun is the bringer of life to our troubled little planet. And the bringer of the rhythms that govern our lives.

Luckily, the Dandelions are still as devoted as ever. And if you were a deity, and in need of devotion, could you really ask for more? Flattering you with their colour and form. Reverent swaying in the breeze…

Of course, I’m not a deity, and am in no need of floral devotion. I just like their happy little presence, sprinkled across the lawn, celebrating another week in which they didn’t get mowed.

Waiting for the sun

Waiting for the sun

March 7, 2009

Iceland Sliding Under the Waves

Filed under: Going Places,Ramblings and Musings — terence @ 12:08 pm
iceland-rain

Rain Clouds In Reykjavik

Via Dani Rodrik and the Dim-Post, Michael Lewis writes of Iceland’s unravelling in Vanity Fair.

It’s a good read but it’s central flaw, I think, is the emphasis – verging on sneering at times – on Icelandic culture’s contribution to the country’s demise.

I guess I’m unconvinced because the Icelanders Lewis meets don’t seem much like those I met in my travels there. True, of course, that I wasn’t exactly hobnobbing with investment bankers and politicians but, at the same time, despite being of a eminently barge-able physique I was never shoulder checked by burly Icelandic men. (Something which apparently happened repeatedly to Lewis during his visit). And the much vaunted stubborn Icelandic self-reliance came coupled with a good does of common sense, at least in the people I met.

iceland-graf-for-blog

Reykjavik Graffiti

More than that though, I’m just inclined to believe that if you give enough people incentives, opportunities, and a fairy tale ideology that says it really can be so, they’ll make a mess. Regardless of their own particular cultural milieu. This is a global crisis, after all.

-~-

Mostly unrelated: trying to couple a little bit of culture with my geysers and glaciers I carried round Halldor Laxness’ Independent People, reading it by candlelight in empty Icelandic campgrounds at night.

If my memory’s not betraying me here, the protagonist’s undoing, having escaped debt bondage, endured grinding poverty and braved a witch’s curse, is his dogged independence, coupled the bursting bubble of World War One wool prices.

March 4, 2009

Bill

Filed under: Going Places,Surfing — terence @ 6:39 pm
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On the subject of ants.

The waves in Sumbawa were good, but busy. Which meant that every morning Bill, my Welsh travelling companion, and I would get up in the almost-cool, pre-dawn-dark and paddle through the dusk out to the reef. Doing this earned us a few waves, half an hour maybe, before the pack hit.

You had to be quiet though. Any noise and the definitely not soundproof bamboo walls meant you’d wake the other surfers. And they’d be hot on your heals.

You can imagine my surprise then, when one morning our painfully quiet routine was interrupted by a yelp.

“Fuck!”

“Bill?”

“Fuck, fuck, ow,” SLAP, “ow,” SLAP, “FUCK!”

I turned on the light, illuminating a scene which has stayed so much longer than my other memories from that trip. Bill, a 6ft tall Welshman with snow white hair, was naked, his boardshorts round his ankles, desperately slapping his backside and swotting at his genitals.

“Ants man. In my board shorts.”

The shorts had been on the floor of the hut all night and, tempted by the damp I guess, the ants had crawled in as we slept.

Now, attacked by some hideous beast, they were fighting back. It was painful to watch. Clearly, there was nothing I could do. Except chuckle encouragement.

Eventually, Bill won the battle and, in a different pair of shorts, joined me on the way to the surf.

Funnily enough, if my memory serves me right, the waves were still uncrowded that morning. Perhaps the other surfers, woken by the war cries of an enraged Welshman, decided to wait until the sun was safely in the sky, having chased away the demons that haunt the jungle’s Sumbawan night.

-~-

Naturally enough, I was punished for my schadenfreude a few days later when I picked up my Lycra rashshirt from the ground and, whap!, was stung by a scorpion.

A-ha!

Filed under: Reactive Arthritis — terence @ 6:32 pm

The mystery of my painful, but unswollen, left knee was resolved last night by the rheumatolgist – referred pain from my left hip.

The bad news: my arthritis has been getting worse again; hips damage easily; and I’m back on steroids.

The good news: I now know my body just a little bit better; the rheumatologist gave me some good treatment options; the roids are making me feel better.

Hah!

Filed under: Ramblings and Musings — terence @ 6:22 pm
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Caption of a cartoon spied last night whilst visiting hospital:

“They lied: a little bit of hard work can kill you”

Huh?

Out the window before I saw a Bumblebee being chased by a butterfly. It was a pretty intricate dog flight, although I missed its ending. The main thing though, is that that can’t be right? when did butterflies start chasing powerful stinging insects????

March 2, 2009

Really Micro-Economics

Filed under: Ramblings and Musings — terence @ 6:18 pm
Tags: , ,

The poor souls over at The Visible Hand in Economics are loosing sleep over big things like job summits,  nationalisation and protectionism. I thought this, from Tim Flannery might cheer them up:

These mushroom farmers are known as attines, and they are found only in the New World. Widely known as leafcutter ants, they are doubtless familiar from wildlife documentaries.

The attines, say Hölldobler and Wilson, are “Earth’s ultimate superorganisms,” and there is no doubt that their status is due to their agricultural economy, which they developed 50 to 60 million years before humans sowed the first seed. Indeed, it is in the changes wrought in attine societies by agriculture that the principal interest for the student of human societies lies. The most sophisticated of attine ant species has a single queen in a colony of millions of sterile workers that vary greatly in size and shape, the largest being two hundred times heavier than the smallest. Their system of worker specialization is so intricate that it recalls Swift’s ditty on fleas:

So, naturalists observe, a flea
Has smaller fleas that on him prey;
And these have smaller still to bite ’em;
And so proceed ad infinitum.

In the case of the attines, however, the varying size classes have specific jobs to do. Some cut a piece from a leaf and drop it to the ground, while others carry the leaf fragment to a depot. From there others carry it to the nest, where smaller ants cut it into fragments. Then ants that are smaller still take these pieces and crush and mold them into pellets, which even smaller ants plant out with strands of fungus. Finally, the very smallest ants, known as minims, weed and tend the growing fungus bed. These minute and dedicated gardeners do get an occasional outing, however, for they are known to walk to where the leaves are being cut and hitch a ride back to the nest on a leaf fragment. Their purpose in doing this is to protect the carrier ants from parasitic flies that would otherwise attack them. Clearly, not only did the attines beat us to agriculture, but they exemplified the concept of the division of labor long before Adam Smith stated it.

March 1, 2009

Waves

Filed under: Ramblings and Musings,Surfing — terence @ 10:10 am
Tags: , ,

“Saltwater is poetry” ~ Janet Frame

If you need convincing of this, have a look at the gallery of Clark Little’s photos in the Guardian.

H/T: The Surfer’s Path Blog

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