Moments of Permanence

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Let me tell you about my computer Apr. 11th, 2014 @ 12:35 pm
So, my computer had a virus.

(It's not the whole reason I haven't posted in so long, but it's part of it.)

It was quite an unusual virus, in my experience, not least because it infected my computer, which no virus had ever done before. The symptoms were odd. Eradicating it was tricky.

I shall now describe the events in detail, because if other people get the same thing, they might want to spend less time trying to fix it than I did.

The first phase was odd, and we spent a fair amount of time thinking it might be a hardware issue, heat-related or something. It was characterised by a curiously progressive freezeup. First any background applications would go unresponsive, then Windows itself would, and finally the active application would hang.

Meanwhile, the hard drive light would be solid on, without so much as a flicker.

When I tried having Task Manager up before the crash started, nothing whatsoever showed as out of the ordinary or overactive in any way.

The system Event Log showed nothing.

At first, the crashes were happening with bizarre regularity, close on to every two hours. However, when I went to back up my data, all that changed.

Due to past bad experiences with forgetting to back up something in an odd corner of the hard drive and being sad when I realised I lost it, my preferred method of backing up before I do something drastic is to copy the entire contents of my hard drive to something else.

However, when I tried to do that this time, there were a couple of noticably odd things:

First, Windows Explorer appeared to conclude that the entire contents of my c:\ drive amounted to something like 25.7GB. This is not even close.

Second, the attempt to copy files set off the crash well ahead of schedule, and triggered a change in behaviour such that the crash would now happen more-or-less as soon as the computer booted.

In Safe Mode, however, I was still able to back up my files - which I did by copying them across to the other hard drive in the same computer, and believe me, it turns out I'm very glad I got a laptop that has two hard drives - but the computer was still instacrashing if it loaded normally.

So, files secure, I did a factory reset on my Windows partition. Did all the install stuff, then immediately downloaded a fresh copy of Microsoft Security Essentials, updated the virus definition, and set it to scan everything. Left that to run overnight...

... and in the morning discovered that it had crashed. Tried to go again, but the crash happened as soon as Windows loaded.

While I reinstalled Windows again, I had a long chat about all of this with my father, who's rather an expert on all things software, and he recommended that I outright hard-format the drive.

While we were discussing this, and I was poking around in Disk Manager, I noticed something out of place: a drive I didn't recognise.

Disk Manager was seeing my C:\ partition (HDD 1), my D:\ partition (HDD 2), my E:\ partition (HDD 1), my DVD drive (holding the system recovery DVD), and a strange, mysterious 8 GB drive that claimed to be a Sandisk SD card.

The thing is, while my laptop does have an SD card slot, as I very carefully verified, that slot was holding a piece of SD-card-shaped plastic designed, I assume, to keep dust out of the slot, but absolutely resolutely in no way more advanced technologically than "moulded plastic". There was no SD card.

My dad looked up the specs for my laptop online, and could find absolutely no mention of there being some kind of SD card onboard for any reason. I recalled no such thing, either.

According to Windows, the SD card did not contain readable data of any kind; Windows opined it was data intended to be read by a different operating system.

My laptop does not have and has never had any other operating system.

So I disabled that "drive", and reinstalled Windows. I nuked the c:\ and e:\ partitions but didn't actually do a full hard format.

Lo and behold! My computer worked. I even re-downloaded Security Essentials, updated it, and successfully ran a full scan of everything (which picked up nothing).

I've never before heard of a virus that hides itself as a fake SD card, but it's my best theory on this one.

There's actually a bit more to the saga of My Recent Computer Troubles, but it's not virus-related, and this post is quite long, I think, so the odd, quirky hardware incident that followed can be another post.

Better living through video games Nov. 10th, 2013 @ 07:24 am
So I'm pretty sure Gran Turismo has made me a better driver.

Two incidents spring to mind on our recent trip: the first, when two tyres blew out on a narrow bridge at 50mph, and I stayed entirely in my lane and didn't so much as scratch the paintwork on the car as I drove it off the bridge and pulled over further along, where there was shoulder to pull over on.

The second was when I came around a curve at about 90km/hr (we were in Canada) to find a deer sproinging cheerfully across the road.

Braking sharply *while cornering* is fairly high on the list of things I was taught Not To Do when I was learning to drive, because it is, in fact, a spectacular exercise in the Applied Physics Of Wrecking Your Car.

Nonetheless, I braked sharply, and reflexively compensated to keep control of the car, successfully.

The thing is, I don't think I used to be quite as good at dealing with cars bobbling like that, and add to that I've barely driven a car at all in the last few years. (I've never owned a car, though when my mother was ill I drove my parents' car constantly, but riding a motorcycle is a *rather* different experience.)

However, I have played a fair amount of Gran Turismo, and one of the things that I *definitely* had to learn in that game is how to cope with cars going slightly out of control. Gran Turismo is a good simulation of that stuff, and I had to learn how to correct for a lot. Now, in GT generally the reason the car is at frequent risk of bobbling is that I am driving at speeds that, in the real world, would qualify as "suicidally insane", but, you know... racing video game. Nonetheless, the general principles are the same.

Arguably, this probably helps for the translation of the skills into a real car. The conditions I've learned to handle in Gran Turismo are far more extreme, because it's coping with a control issue when I'm already driving at the limit of the car's control to begin with; since I do not, in the real world, in a real car, drive with the accelerator buried in the floor except for those moments when I stop accelerating to brake as hard as I can for a corner nonetheless taken as fast as I can wrestle the car around the curve before flooring it again, kinda thing, I have more margin for error.

Having said that, I did take a couple of corners in North America marginally faster than I was quite comfortable with, but that was not intentional. Certain sections of road - generally when going through mountains - are really extremely twisty, and there's a section of the Trans-Canada Highway where the signposted recommended speed is 40km/hr, and all I can say to that is ha ha, you crazy Canadian optimists, because I slowed to 40km/hr, and then the only reason I did not actually yell holy shit the fuck is this AHHHH is that my jaw was clenched and the brain processing power usually assigned to "language, production and recognition" was reassigned to "decreasing radius curve, navigation" and also "terror, not screaming in".

Admittedly there were roadworks, but still. I think I went through the rest of that section at about 25km/hr, slower to go past the mans. I vaguely recall [personal profile] velithya making word-like noises during that first curve but I honestly did not process what they were.

"Too fast" is so very, very much a relative concept.

Current Location: Perth, Western Australia

Nov. 1st, 2013 @ 10:37 pm
Only two flights made it from Oakland to LAX after the shooting.

We managed to get on the second one.

(We'd stopped in Oakland because our flight was dropping off and picking up passengers. We weren't actually supposed to deplane at all, but more-or-less exactly when we arrived, our flight was cancelled. Along with every other flight.)

Recapping Oct. 22nd, 2013 @ 09:09 pm
So, I was going to go to the Big Four Ice Caves.

I didn't. On the way, I had a car accident - dodging oncoming traffic drifting into my lane at a narrow bridge on Stevens Pass Highway, the right tyres of my car clipped the kerb and... both were shredded open.

Sooo I got to wait a couple of hours for the tow truck, then ride almost two hours into Seattle, and fix up switching to a new car, aaaand then it was almost dark and I headed back to my motel.

I'm currently planning to try again tomorrow, but I probably won't actually be driving the same road - partly because there's a *lot* of narrow bridges and I'm kind of unnerved, partly because it's an hour longer than the route that takes the freeway by Seattle. (But not through Seattle, so I'm hoping it won't be hideous traffic or anything.)

Having said that, the route I did take is stunningly beautiful. Sadly I don't have photos of most of it, because I was driving, but it was definitely worth the trip.

Although Leavenworth, with its Bavarian Village theme, is cute but kinda disconcerting.

more detail tomorrow Oct. 20th, 2013 @ 11:00 pm
When a call centre operator asks where I am, and I say, "Washington State," it is a supremely unpromising moment when she replies, "Is that Washington D.C.?"


I am practical and forward-thinking Oct. 20th, 2013 @ 08:30 am
I'm going on an Adventure today! It involves a nearly four-hour drive each way, which is Long, but the thing about Ellensburg is that it's central; it means that anywhere is at least some way away, but *everywhere* is in *reach*. I am Exploring Washington State.

Of course, getting gluten-free food can be stressful at the best of times, and my destination also includes a long-for-me walk that I might have to accomplish quite slowly, due to bad knee etc, so...

... I'm packing lunch. I bought gluten-free bread and breadrolls before I left Portland, and last night I bought cheese and jam and butter and storage bags at Fred Meyer, and now I am making myself food so I don't have to find food while I am travelling because I am clever.

(Note: I am using a paper plate as a cutting board for the cheese, and a combat utility knife to *cut* the cheese, because clever is not the same as "entirely stocked with kitchen supplies" or, for that matter, "willing to buy a kitchen knife while travelling". Why I have a combat utility knife is a whole 'nother thing. But despite being quite a thick blade it cuts cheese very well.)


Current Location: Ellensburg, WA
Current Mood: ADVENTURE

What is this I don't even Oct. 19th, 2013 @ 06:58 pm
Things I had forgotten about America:

Prescription medications advertised on television.

The side-effect warnings are akind of... what.

"Hey, here's this drug that's awesome for these things! 44% of people found it easier to quit smoking, when only 17% did with sugar pills! By the way, it could kill you, or make you crazy, or just super-sick. Or, seriously, kill you."

Adventures Oct. 19th, 2013 @ 04:59 pm
Sooo I came back to my motel room, and was sitting doing things, and then suddenly I became aware of a loud buzzing sound from over near the window.

I thought it would be a fly because I am Australian. I looked behind the curtain.

There was a GIANT BEE like an INCH LONG AT LEAST.

... I found my room key and rushed to the motel office.

"Oh, that'll be a yellowjacket. We get those at this time of year."

The very nice lady from the desk got a cup and a lid and came back to my room with me. She oh-so-calmly trapped the yellowjacket in the cup, put the lid on, and took it outside to release it. I thanked her profusely.

Apparently courage in the face of small creatures is somewhat regional. I am *completely chill* when it comes to dealing with spiders.

However, faced with a bee bigger than my rented SUV, I go running for a local, because EEEEEEEEEEEE.

Taken/Not Taken Oct. 19th, 2013 @ 08:57 am
Photos I took this morning:

1) The mist rolling across the surface of the river/lake/thing behind this motel.

1a) The same with a polarising filter, because sun on water = glare.

2) My name, written with my finger in the frost that had formed on the bonnet of my car.

(Sorry, the hood of my SUV, I'm in America. Even though by American standards it's a tiny baby SUV, but still.)

By the standards of my home, it is midwinter, deepest freezing cold here, but it's clear blue skies and sunshine and it's just beautiful.

Photos I wish I'd taken yesterday include:

Washington State's approach to anti-littering signs. I've seen all of two, but they're just so... direct, in a way I've never seen from any other region.

It just says:


Current Location: Ellensburg, WA

moments I hate... Oct. 19th, 2013 @ 12:25 am
... when you realise there is a bug crawling across the sheet in your motel bed.

In this instance, a little beetle-like thing that probably came in with me, BUT STILL.

Much driving later Oct. 18th, 2013 @ 08:18 pm
This was today's driving path, approximately:

Then I hit some sort of limit, cried for about two hours, and am now chilling in a motel room.

Sooo going to post less than I'd planned to, for now, about driving through Columbia Gorge.

Short version: Columbia Gorge takes the concept of "scenic beauty" and elevates it to almost sarcastic levels.

Current Location: Ellensburg, WA
Current Mood: depressed

Today in Portland: Clear skies and sunshine Oct. 17th, 2013 @ 08:21 pm
I am losing my will to believe that it rains in America.

Anyway, today I slept in and then napped, and seem thereby to have at least partially dispelled the brain malaise that had been lingering since Vegas. (Too much cigarette smoke and alcohol fumes for my brain, apparently.)

After that we went and collected the hire car that will be driving me for the next week, and [personal profile] velithya as well for the week after that, around northwestern USA and a small part of Canada. We got a pretty-much-free upgrade to an SUV, which will be handy if the roads are a bit frosty or something.

We went to Best Buy, where I acquired a Samsung Galaxy, then we went to a little vintage-y shop and [personal profile] velithya bought a couple of sewing patterns and I bought a 1941 issue of Life magazine, then we came back to [personal profile] rathany's house and had an Authentic Cultural Experience, e.g. we did some pumpkin carving.

It is fun, although cleaning out the pumpkins is also gross.

Tomorrow, [personal profile] velithya is abandoning me to go to Pittsburgh, and I am heading out to explore and maybe visit some national parks, since they're opening again.

Today's post will be brief but VERY TALL Oct. 9th, 2013 @ 01:52 am
So, today we left Lee Vining, drove around the June Lake loop, and then drove through the Sierras to Las Vegas.

There were mountains. And more mountains. And a pass through the mountains to a flat tundra-ish plain surrounded by mountains, until we got to the mountains, and drove through those mountains too.

There was also the steepest and squiggliest section of road I have ever seen in my life. If you want to get an idea - although it just does. not. convey the true, staggering twisty ear-popping chasm-riddled nature of the road - look on Google maps for Highway 168, heading east from the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest.

... no, seriously.

After the last few days of raw beauty and wonder, I'm now in Las Vegas. Las Vegas is not a place of raw natural beauty.


The first cultural difference between California and Nevada seemed to be this: In California, not one road sign I noticed had bullet holes in it.

In Nevada... yeah, pretty much all of them.

Current Location: Las Vegas, Nevada
Current Mood: sleepy

When I arrive I bring the fire Oct. 7th, 2013 @ 08:48 pm
Today I shall post an actual photo from the trip. (Photos taken so far: 473. No, I'm not posting *all* of them ever, but I want to get started.)

This was the very first actual-sightseeing-type photo I took, on the J20 (I think) towards Highway 120 near Yosemite National Park. My home country, and in particular my home state, is flat and in no way geologically excitable, so I always find hills and mountains to be quite stirring to visit.

As I progress through the images, I'll start posting shots with more story to them, but... you know. This was the first.

Today was a highly successful day, in that we combined both resting for the management of physical and mental health and endurance and also some very satisfying tourism.

We had breakfast at a reasonable hour, for once - [personal profile] velithya went to the market next door to the motel and bought milk and disposable bowls (made from wheat stalks, but the packaging hastens to assure us that they are totally gluten-free), and we had cereal in our motel room. (The cereal we brought from home, because acquiring gluten-free cereal that I'm not allergic to and both of us like is not an easy task.)

After munching a bit, we sort of loafed for a bit and discussed potential plans. I had slept really badly and was very tired, though, so I had a nap for a couple of hours while [personal profile] velithya poked her computer in some fashion, and felt much better for it afterwards.

The one error we made in our day was that we were still a bit slack about getting out of the motel and starting our afternoon plans, and by the time we got lunch, both of us were pretty shaky from low blood sugar.

Still, we had a quite nice lunch at the Mobil station on the road between Lee Vining and Tioga Pass. (You can tell you're in a small town when one of the best restaurants is... the gas station.)

After that, we went out to another part of Mono Lake - the part with tall spires of tufa and, curiously, a distinct lack of gag-inducingly horrible smell. It smells like brackish water - not surprising for a body of liquid more than twice as salty as the sea and ten times as alkaline - but not the nauseating stench of rot at the other place where we approached the water.

We took many pictures. Here is one, to give you an idea of the curious, almost alien aspect the area has.

Part of why the tufa is so high, it seems, is that the lake used to be much, much deeper than it is right now. There are sign placards on the trail as you approach that show where the lake edges were in something like 1959 and 1963. Too much water was diverted from the lake's tributaries to serve Los Angeles and other places, and the lake was drying out; water has subsequently been returned. The target appears to be the boundaries of 1959 (which are slightly lower than the '63 boundaries, but not far).

The paved trail from the carpark to the lakeside gives way to a path made of wooden beams at that point, which I find rather charming. On either side of the path is a seemingly endless scrubland of low bushes I dubbed "spinifake" - because we don't know what it's actually called, but both [personal profile] velithya and I found it put us strongly in mind of spinifex, even though it obviously isn't spinifex because, you know, America.

As I approached the edge of the water, I had a rather startling moment that made me glad I tend not to have massively flinch-like reactions to surprise, as a rule, since I was standing on uncertain footing amid sharp rocks.

I was walking towards the water pooling amid the forming tufa crystals and suddenly it was as if the ground surged around me, with a sudden loud buzzing that was pretty much straight out your less-appetising film selections. It turns out the alkaline flies that are a significant section of the lake's ecosystem were present in vast swarms, and I hadn't noticed until I approached close enough to startle them.

After we had our fill of the tufa, we left and set off to find Panum Crater, one of the many craters in the region, which has an extensive collection of (geologically) young volcanoes. We took a wrong turn first, but it got us some spectacular views, and then went back and found our way to the crater's carpark.

From the carpark, there's a steep sand-and-gravel slope to walk up in order to get to the rim of the crater itself. From there, there are two trails - one around the rim, the other to the volcano's lava plug.

The first steep slope had been rather an acute effort for me, and the lava plug trail was a long path with more steep slope to climb, so I stayed there while [personal profile] velithya went up and on.

I enjoyed my time sitting on the rim in part with the fascinating and funky echo effects the crater seems to produce. A sharp clap from me would come back to me like a roar that ripped around the crater from left to right.

It was a highly satisfying trip, but quite exhausting. I think it will take more photo-posting to show why, but I am quite, quite tired tonight.

For dinner, we went low key - some turkey slices and cheese from the market with crackers I still had in my bag from when they were packed as potential travel snacks on our flights. We ate them as a picnic on my bed.

(It was dark by then, so having a picnic outside was not an option. It seems that there have been a number of sightings of bears around the town in the last couple of weeks. Having food out and about... not a great idea.)

Current Location: Lee Vining, California
Current Music: Sleepy Hollow (FOX11 Reno)
Current Mood: drained

Am I more than you bargained for yet Oct. 6th, 2013 @ 09:46 pm
This morning (after poor [personal profile] velithya had spent about an hour on the phone with Verizon trying to get our phones to work) we checked out of our motel in Buck Meadows, had breakfast, and headed off towards Mono Lake, via Yosemite National Park.

We set out in buoyant moods, but were soon quite thoroughly sobered as we began to drive through parts of the forest that had been affected by the recent fires. Our light-hearted chatter became comments like, "Looks like here is where the fire jumped the road."

Driving along with burnt-out stands of trees by the road is bad enough, but then you get to the parts of the road where the vistas spread before you, of the hills and mountains normally carpeted with trees and suddenly you see entire hilltops are just blackened and dead, and you realise the air still smells like ash even now.

To me, the smell was strangely alien - I'm familiar with the smell of bushfires, but the Yosemite wildfires burned different woods, and the smell is different, unfamiliar chords behind a painfully familiar melody.

Eventually we reached Yosemite itself. At the park gates the ranger asked us our destination, and we told her we were headed for Mono Lake; she nodded, and handed us a leaflet explaining, more-or-less, that everything was shut. (It will be among the many, many photos I will eventually be posting to elaborate these posts, but I'm too tired to do the photos right now, but want to write about my experiences while they're still fresh in my memory.)

She also warned us that there had been an accident about eight miles ahead, which was also the cause of us missing a turnoff and driving through quite an extensive section of the park that we weren't, technically, supposed to, and then having to turn around. (On the bright side, I got to glimpse Half Dome and Bridalveil Falls.) [personal profile] velithya, who was driving, was edging around the emergency vehicles, and I was in awe of the scenery and also sort of averting my eyes from rubbernecking at an accident scene, and both of us managed to fail even to register that that particular spot was, in fact, a turnoff, and the turnoff for Highway 120 to Tioga Pass at that.

Eventually we realised we were going the wrong way, turned around, and came across a couple of park rangers standing by their parked car and confirmed where we were going with them.

Parts of Yosemite are intact, of course, and are stunningly beautiful. But there are such swathes of destruction still left from the fires that I would struggle to comprehend if I hadn't seen them - hell, I did see them, and I still struggle to comprehend them.

I wonder if it might not have been worse still were it not for Yosemite's extensive collection of granite outcroppings - nature's own firebreaks that are just not going to burn.

I think I missed appreciating some of the true majesty of some of the taller granite peaks and features of Yosemite - somewhere above 10,000 feet I seem to get a little vague and spacy-feeling. Nonetheless, I can assure you, I appreciate quite a lot of spectacular and majestic scenery today.

Eventually we reached the Tioga Pass, and were waved through by the park ranger at the booth there. We headed onwards, discovering that at least one section of Highway 120 is somewhat terrifying, but I'll go into that more when I post the photos, because I don't know words could do it justice, at least not without at least a full conversion of the thousand words value of a picture.

We got petrol at a station with a sign outside apologising that the government can't do its job, then finally rolled on to the town of Lee Vining. ([personal profile] velithya and I still can't agree on how this town's name is pronounced, and have yet to get around to asking a local.)

We had lunch (and later, dinner) at Nicely's Restaurant before going to the Bronze Bear something-or-other gift/souvenirs/etc shop, outside of which is, well, a bronze statue of a grizzly bear, about eight feet tall, with a cute legend placard behind it. The idea is that you have three tries to put a coin on the bear's tongue and get it to drop into the container below; if you succeed, rub his nose and make a wish.

I had a go. My penny went in on the second try.

After that we checked in to our motel, chilled out for a bit (we'd done a lot of driving), then went down around sunset to see Mono Lake. It's a beautiful and eerie location, although - we discovered - it also smells absolutely disgusting. The water level is low at the moment, so we came down the path and, like other people who were there, walked out across what is sometimes the lake bed to get closer to the water's edge.

And then the wind shifted, and the water started coming off the lake, and we both gagged and hastened to get more distance again after all.

I took some photos I have reasonable hopes for, and then we noticed that we were being swarmed with (at a conservative estimate) ELEVENTY BILLION mosquitoes, and fled outright. We went back to Nicely's for dinner, and then returned to the motel... where we are now.

It turns out that Las Vegas is only 5-6.5 hours away (depending on route), so we're staying here for two nights and then heading to Vegas in one shot rather than going halfway, stopping overnight, then going the rest of the way another day.

This means, I think, that I can skip going into more detail about Mono Lake, because I'm sure we'll have more on the topic tomorrow.

Current Location: Lee Vining, California
Current Mood: tired

Space may be the final frontier but it's made in a Hollywood basement Oct. 5th, 2013 @ 07:01 pm
So, today!

Last night I talked [personal profile] velithya into staying here two nights, so we could recuperate a bit from the journey here. We more-or-less slept until noon, and then were sort of dozy and slack about getting showered and dressed etc, so we finally wandered over to the restaurant for breakfast at about, oh, 2pm.

We'd last eaten at 5pm in LA. I'm currently running, foodwise, on a schedule where every meal starts out with OOOH, FOOD and then halfway through I have a moment where my body is like, wait, food? and I have to take a moment while it remembers that yes, eating actual food is something that we do.

We had a nice chat with the waitress, since it was quite quiet there - between it being mid-afternoon and the distinct dropoff in visitors to the area due to the closure of the parks, things are pretty quiet around here generally right now, I gather.

Not to mess up the chronology of this account in any way, but when we went to Groveland a bit later, and stopped to look around the antique store there, the lady in the shop was thanking customers very effusively for shopping there, and pretty much *everyone* around here seems to be really very distressed about the shutdown.

They're only just recovering from the fires, and now... this. It's pretty bad for them.

I think that's part of what some people seem to miss in the idea that closures that stop tourists doing their fun, touristy things aren't important - after all, it's just tourists doing holiday stuff, it's not a big deal, right?

Except that it is. Sometimes because the tourists are doing something that's incredibly important to them, that they've planned or worked for for a really long time, but also because those tourists are the livelihoods of real Americans, as well. The people in this area I've talked to - they love this place, they love Yosemite, they love the forests and the land here, and this is really hurting them.

Not just financially. After lunch, as you may have gathered, we went to Groveland, where we poked around the antique/gifts/home decor store, then we went to the Information Centre. The woman there was rather lovely.

First, because this: We walked in, and she swung around from the desk she was at, and asked if she could give us information about anything.

Me: "Hm. Astrophysics?"

... at which point she told us about how once she attended a lecture by Carl Sagan.

I like it when people can roll with my sassypants moments.

We did then get more pertinent information, and I tell you, that woman is passionate about working at the Groveland Yosemite Information Centre. She gets the brochures, and marks them up, highlighting important places to go to, and the tips she can offer, and telling you all the things. One place she pointed out to us she described as an "oasis of green" because it's in an area which was badly hit by the fires, and she told us about how the thousands of firefighters converged to save every business, every home, and every life in this area.

She got choked up. I for one don't blame her.

There are signs all over the place - mostly quite home-made-looking - all dedicated to thanking the firefighters. It's rather touching.

Partly it's a cultural thing, I think. One of the things that I suspect Americans don't realise is that they are an incredibly demonstrative people. It might be what's behind a lot of the ways in which Americans don't tend to understand other nations and nationalities as well as they might - I suspect Americans assume that certain feelings aren't present in other peoples because they're not expressed, and certainly not expressed as visibly and as vocally as they are here.

Because things like putting signs all over the town with gushing, heartfelt gratitude to the firefighters who saved so many people's lives and livelihood, and so much of the forest, too - it's not something I can imagine being done in Australia. It doesn't mean that we don't appreciate our fireys, and especially appreciate the work they do in bushfire season. We are grateful for their work and we acknowledge their heroism.

Just... not like that.

So I wonder if a lot of cultural misunderstanding, and especially a lot of the assumption some Americans seem to make that America is the best country ever and the rest of us are just jealous because we don't love our homelands like they love America, and all that - whether that might actually, in part, stem from the fact that in America, declaring your love for America, displaying American flags everywhere, all of that stuff is a thing that happens, a thing that people do, that truly heartfelt sentiment is something you proclaim to the world.

And for much of the rest of the world, it isn't. In some ways, the strongest feelings are the ones you don't express, because it's sort of, I don't know, gauche or tacky or something, the same way it would be to start a long, public speech about just how much you're in love with your wife, how you adore the way her nose wrinkles up when she laughs and how cute she is when she first wakes up and all the intimate, private emotions that you feel that you wouldn't talk about with strangers because it's too personal, too real, too important.

Love of country, love of homeland, the gratitude and awe we, too, feel for our heroes, our firefighters and our soldiers, the people who make themselves the line between us and destruction and pain and chaos - these are feelings too powerful to proclaim.

And it's odd, because I don't know how I really feel about this, in general. I think Americans' declarations of patriotism and love of country, especially those of American politicians, are kind of cringe-inducing. They trigger sympathetic embarrassment.

But the expressions of thankfulness to the work of the firefighters? I'm a little bit in love with that.

Current Location: Buck Meadows, California

I found a Merica Oct. 5th, 2013 @ 12:55 am
We have arrived! A few minutes ago. Because we landed mid-afternoon, had to get through Customs and Immigration, then pick up car, then get food - real food dear God not some weird stuff on a tray that you pick out the edible parts of then give up on - we went to In-N-Out and got omg gluten-free "protein style" burgers (no bun, it's wrapped in lettuce, it works surprisingly well) and chips and went OM NOM NOM FOOOOD and then we had to drive here, and we hit LA rush hour traffic (rush two hours or so, at least, imo) and then the route the GpS decided would be "fastest" was a super, super-twisty road that was basically one endless switchback.

so my further thoughts on Arriving In America (and also, possibly, Passing Through Japan) can wait until tomorrow.

Current Mood: tired

Leaving tonight Oct. 3rd, 2013 @ 08:28 am
Things done: Most of packing.

Things to do: Buy stuff to wear to wedding thing in Vegas, because I still haven't, but I have a plan for this: order it from a site I already ordered clothes from to be delivered in America and Meg can bring it with her because WHERE THE HELL DID THE LAST TWO MONTHS GO.

(There was... a lot of stuff, actually. But still.)

Acquire - i.e. see if the boys have a spare, or else arrange to pick up - a jar of Vegemite for Amy, because apparently the Vegemite she can buy in America is not the same as Australian Vegemite, and she likes it. It seems weird to be taking someone a Special Australian Delicacy and have it not be Tim-Tams, but someone on a ketosis diet probably shouldn't be snacking on Tim-Tams anyway.

Download some more e-books, not required, but I will probably be happier and calmer. Historically I have trouble sleeping on outward bound flights, though. Need enough stuff to read to pass the time.

Pack my cabin bag, and some accoutrements - chargers for camera equipment, pencils, sketchbook(s), that kind of thing.

Photocopy my ID and travel documents. Photocopy [personal profile] velithya's. Make packets of our own and each other's for us to have in our own baggage, and also a set to leave with [personal profile] rathany or someone. (Not that I travel slightly paranoid, or anything.)

Current Mood: how is it October already

Things to do today... Oct. 2nd, 2013 @ 07:59 am
ahahaha I fell behind on reading my reading list already.

In my defence, I'm leaving the country tomorrow night and there have been things to do.

On today's list is: scouting for new things to do for a few days in the vicinity of California, since we had planned, for those days, to be visiting Yosemite National Park, which is closed now.


The clarity is confusing Sep. 28th, 2013 @ 03:54 pm
I picked up a new pair of glasses today. Slightly different prescription from my last pair, and I appear to have been long overdue for it - I'm finding the precision and clarity with which I can see everything suddenly incredibly disorienting. It's disconcerting precisely because the feel is as of having blurry vision, except... I can see with crystal clarity.

I went into the optometrist's to collect them with [personal profile] velithya, since we were on a sequence of errands. Fortunately, she was driving - the guy at the optometrist's office asked if I was, and warned me not to drive wearing these glasses today.

He's right. I'd be positively dangerous on the roads - the act of seeing is in and of itself distracting right now.
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