Listen to Pilot Light

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Anteaters in Cambodia

You might be familiar with the South American anteater, but Cambodia has some that are quite different. Here is a photo of the female anteater stalking her prey.

She is after large red ants that live in the trees. The trick is to shake the leaves, knocking the ants off the leaves and into that basket at the end of the pole. The bucket is water she will use to get ants off her hands and feet (you didn't think they would sit calmly in the basket did you?)

In this case, after a time, the male anteater (aka Mr. Sau) came along as the relief hunter. Mr. Sau is the gardener here at Dr. Philippe's who is intrigued by Dagny's art and my attempts to speak Khmer without a net.

These trees grow along a stream that feeds into the river, which is a lovely place for insects. You can see the basket in the upper left as he disappears into the tree below. This not only allows him access to the ants at the top, but gives the ants at the bottom access to him, which I take as a fair exchange. Periodically he stops to perform an interesting dance step that probably dates back to the time of Apsara. I wasn't fast enough to get a photo of that. Perhaps another time.

Below is a closeup of the basket. It only has a few ants in it, in fact I saw more on the handle than in the basket, so it was not the best of harvests.

While I know they gather these to eat,(Mr. Sau was very clear on that point) I don't know the recipe yet. Mr. Sau's English and my Khmer are not up to the task of exchanging recipes yet, but perhaps they will invite us over for tea and ants some afternoon. I suspect that, like spiders, they are fried, but that is only speculation at the moment and they will need to catch a lot more ants if they are going to have company.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Weather is only human

I read about the drought that is going on in the US the other day, and that it was the worst in 25 years. That led me to the curious thought about what makes one drought worse than another. I assume they mean less rain over a longer period of time, but this seems to be a government statistic, which makes using common sense a rather foolish thing to do.  Governments seem adept at avoiding sense, of either the common or extraordinary variety. So I wonder. I don't suppose it matters what the criteria are though. It's bone dry.

I heard from a good friend in MO that he hasn't seen any rain since June, and he has been looking for it. That means something. For one thing it means that he has to buy vegetables, since gardening takes water. Instead of a yard full of veggies they have temperatures over 100 F and no rain. Having lived in New Mexico I understand what that means. New Mexico's major tourist attraction is droughts. End-of-the-world apocalypse movies are shot there as they require no extra work to prepare the scene. Practice makes perfect and they have gotten good at droughts. So I understand.

In a rather petty way (by comparison), we need rain here too. Oh we get rain from time to time, but not the good old wash-the-roads-out-of-existence rains that this area is known for. Without those rains it is hot. The rice paddies aren't looking so good. Just hot and humid. The skies tease. looking like they do in the photo below, which I took at sunset a few days ago. Now you'd think a sky like that would produce some rain, but no. Weather is arbitrary and does what it wants. Like people. You have to admire that. Actually it is like people who are contrarians and I like that even better.

So it is hot. That makes it hard to think (old wooden houses do not have and would not benefit from air conditioning). So we swim in the river. The water comes from the mountains and is cold enough to lower the body temperature down something below 451 F so my books don't burn when I touch them.

Meanwhile, there was a deluge in Beijing and a large tropical storm crosses northern Viet Nam that is probably flooding the Mekong. Is that balance?

Sometimes weather can seem more frustrating than governments. Nah! That's unfair. Its just that weather is only human after all. Capricious, yes. Officious and pompous, no.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Moo frog chorus

I suspect that there are many among you who thought I was exaggerating when I wrote about the moo frogs. They seem mythical to me, but they are pretty amazing. Sure, we've all heard frogs in the yard or creek at night. This is, I assure you, different. Last evening, after a rainy day, we were treated to quite a chorus and I captured a bit. I don't have a recorder handy so I used my camera. I can't figure out how to put just audio here so I uploaded the video. The steady black stuff is what the yard looks like at night. The sound in the video is amazingly like it sounded sitting on the porch, with the difference that this is just over 30 seconds and we get to hear it most of the night. Some other soloists joined the orchestra later in the evening for a bit of a jam session, adding a nice glissando as a counterpoint to this, but I had already packed up the camera. Just thought you might enjoy it. Call it a taste of the rainy season.

For those who are into musical arrangements, the baritones are the moo frogs. Then you will hear an alto voice that seems to tie the moos together nicely, or perhaps the moos punctuate the alto lines. The percussion from the gecko and insect groups fits in rather nicely, I think you will agree. Overall, a bit repetitious from a melodic perspective, but the arrangement is excellent. Good sound balance too, so kudos to the sound technicians. Here we go.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Collecting and republishing the past

I got an email today from someone curious as to what I was up to. He wanted to know if I had a blog, and I sent him the link, but I realized that primarily what I have posted is observations, not updates of the ongoing effort to proved the world with new and improved art and music. So here is an update.

When we lived on an old wooden boat in the Caribbean, part of the way I earned my keep, when not doing boat work, was writing about living on a boat. I did a monthly column in the journal Caribbean Compass for at least five years, probably longer. It was caustic, and made fun of the readers, other people who wrote for people on boats, and even the very idea of life on board. It turned out to be very popular with readers, and advertisers didn't seem to hate it. At least the editor, Sally Erdle, never complained.

As I worked to edit and republish The Legend of Ron Anejo  and worked with my friends John Pocock and Tom Tsui to finish and publish Chancy,which is also about sailing, I thought of those short pieces and wondered it they still held up. Were they still funny? Would a collection be something worth republishing as a book.

But first, did they even still exist? My traveling lifestyle has been death on any old manuscripts that I might have had. Hell, the computers haven't survived, and I threw out the 5-inch floppy disks they were stored on years ago (any of you too young to know what those are can Google to find out).

I contacted Sally in Bequia and told her of my idea of publishing them as a book. She not only had the text files, but happily zipped them  and sent them to me. Dagny and I read through them, kicked out a few, and now are editing the 60,000 words that remain into a fun book. The good news is that very little turned out to be perishable. Since I seldom  address ideas more topical than what I had for breakfast, there is little to fade.

The intention is to publish the book both in ebook and in paperback formats; the ebook should be ready fairly soon, fairly being a time interval between one and three months. Being the chief editor, formatter, designer and distribution manager takes time. And this isn't the only project going on. But here is the dummy for the ebook cover.

So, if you happen to pass up the Kampot River and don't see us swimming, you now know what is going on in those strange wooden houses along river.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Cows and bats

If it seems like I am on a roll talking about interactions with animals, it is because I am. Living in a rural place, even if it is a small community, tends to put you back in contact with the creatures we share this world. I enjoy most of it, even if I would be happier if certain creatures (insects, turkeys...) were left out of the equation.

Recently I noticed that Mr. Sau, who takes care of the grounds, using a new lawn mower. This was  a nice upgrade for him from the weed eater they were using to cut the grass. There is a lot of grass now, and that is a slow way to get the job done. Doctor Philippe, the landlord is quite proud of the new lawnmower, and rightfully so. They are not common here.

Nonetheless, I wasn't surprised to look out the other day and see the supplementary equipment at work.

The animal belongs to one of the neighbors, and I assume that Mr. Sau came to an arrangement with him. So every afternoon, this beast is tethered somewhere on the grounds, filling her stomach while taking over part of the lawn maintenance burden.

The other recent encounter was nocturnal. When we first moved onto our boat in the Caribbean, we had no electricity. So the evenings were spent in the dark. When we got electricity sorted out, we found that we preferred spending evenings in the dark. There were fewer insects and you could see what was going on around you under the moonlight. We were an exception and most people turned on lights at night. When we visited other boats, looking out into the black night seemed odd. We preferred things our way.

In our house here, we like to sit in the dark. Habits die hard, and there is still the issue of insects. They love light. Our neighbors turn on porch lights and we watch the mosquitoes plan their attacks. But we have no reason to be smug. Darkness brings like-minded creatures around. In this case, a bat. The bats fly around in the evening catching bugs. They fly through our porch.

One bat, however, was not content with this routine, and on an evening not long ago, as I sat contemplating the universe, I was assaulted with bat guano. Now this is a rather nice form of that substance, and not caustic like that of the fruit bats in Venezuela, and certainly not as troublesome as the vampire bats we had there either.

But I didn't like it. We used a broom to discourage the little guy; I just poked it near him and he flew off. The next night he came back to the exact same spot under the porch roof--directly over my chair. We turned on the light and he left. The next night, he decided the light was okay, and he would stay, but I turned to chemical warfare and sprayed in his direction with bug spray. Again he left.

  Here he is hanging right above my chair. 
So what are you going to do with a guy like that? We like him to come around and eat bugs. He would even be rather welcome to hang around if he would pick a different spot, but he has not shown a willingness to negotiate. So we close curtains at night now and hope he will find a nicer spot. Maybe he can go hang on a roof beam over the cow and they can talk over the craziness of people.