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Girl Friday. 3/30/2007

A story for Miin - River raid. 3/26/2007

Mangrove swamps are found along many tropical shorelines, usually around river mouths and along the banks, spreading inland many kilometers, depending on how low lying the ground is. They are an essential part of the ecosystem, playing host to many species. Their inhabitants form an essential part of the food chain, and also protect the soil from wave action, stopping soil from being washed away. They absorb pollution from upriver, leaching it out, and preventing it from getting further down the food chain.

They also are great places to hide.

The various tributaries of the river are used by the locals for transport and communication. They do this by the use of small sampans fitted with outboard motors, or speedboats. The many waterways are interconnected, and the proximity of the rivers with 2 neighbouring countries also tends to make it ideal for smugglers to ply their trade. I won’t, at this point, mention piracy, which was another problem in itself.

The responsibility for policing the coastal waters lay with the Marine Police. Understaffed, under equipped, and usually out engined by the smugglers, they had their work cut out for them trying to keep smuggling under control in that area. Then someone had the bright idea of using the teams to assist in patrolling the area.

This wasn’t so bad. We got to sample the wildlife and nightlife in the coastal town where the marine operations were based at, and it was a fairly cushy assignment, all told, because due to a lack of base accomodation, we were billeted one of the local hotels. This was pure heaven. Hot and cold running water, clean sheets, flushing toilets. We even had a choice of catered meals from the nearby restaurants.

We did the normal routine of patrols, usually in the pre-dawn hours. We were on a 2 month rotation, and we were 2/3rds of the way in, without having spotted a single unauthorised vessel in our patrol area. We stopped a lot of fishermen in their sampans, but since everyone knew the fishermen were probably also doing the smuggling as a supplementary income (or vice versa), we didn’t manage to arrest anyone. I guess the smuggling activities stopped suddenly when word got around town that there were a bunch of newcomers carrying some really heavy weapons and wearing no nonsense faces were moving up and down river.

Some of the rivers were shallow, and had a lot of debris in them, usually floating logs. This meant that for most patrols, the team travelled in RIBs, or rigid inflatable boats. You would have probably seen them in some movie or other, 2 rubber pontoons with a rigid fiberglass hull, and an outboard hung on the transom. Or in our case, twin 200hp outboards with high speed screws.

One particular early morning, we were heading upriver. It was cold and somewhat misty, with the first tendrils of the rising sun beginning to colour the sky. I looked up at the sky, and pulled my boonie hat a little closer down to my ears. I looked up ahead, and saw a vessel coming down river towards us.

To be continued…


Caught these guys flying past on Sunday morning. I was hanging out the laundry when I heard the familiar rumble of turboprops. I ran in, got the SLR, slapped the zoom lens on, and rushed out to take the pic. A formation of Pilatus Porters, belonging to the Police Air Wing.

Relationship advice for women.

Relationship advice for women:

1. It is important that a man helps you around the house and has a job.

2. It is important that a man makes you laugh.

3. It is important to find a man you can count on and doesn’t lie to you.

4. It is important that a man loves you and spoils you.

5. It is important that these four men don’t know each other.

Reading. 3/23/2007

I first started reading books, seriously, from age 9. The first book I ever read was Enid Blyton’s “Valley of Adventure”, which belonged to my mother. This started a very serious passion, which I had in common with my dad, much to the despair of my mother. My father taught me how to appreciate books, and to use their contents to improve my knowledge of the world around me. I remember, as a young lad, going to the club where he was a member. While he spent time playing tennis, I would be comfortably ensconced in the club library, with the librarian keeping an eye on me. This club library wasn’t just a couple of bookshelves filled with cast off books. It was the real deal, with reading tables, a proper card index and everything. I spent many happy hours in there, with the kind librarian (I remember her being a very nice chinese girl) sometimes giving me sweets or cakes, or getting one of the waiters to bring me up a soft drink from the members’ lounge downstairs.

As I got older, I kept badgering my dad to get me more books. Soon enough, I had a room filled with books, of all sorts. A fair number of them weren’t exactly recommended reading for an impressionable 12 year old. I read voraciously, reading anything I could lay my hands on. My uncle had left a collection of Reader’s Digests from the 60s in my grandparents house, and my granddad told me some years ago that he recalled me reading every single issue, cover to cover, when I spent a month in their house during the school holidays. I went through my dad’s 30 plus year collection of National Geographics, and he then started using me as his index system, asking me specific questions about things, and then asking if I knew which article, month and year of National Geographic it came from. And I would, about 98% of the time, be able to quote him the exact month and year, and sometimes even the author’s and photographer’s names.

As I got older, the collection of books I had grew, and grew. At last count, which was at the turn of the century, I had something close to 12,000 books, spread across 3 households. Some books are favourites, which I will re-read again and again. Others are read once, and never looked at again, or perhaps pulled down from the shelf at a slack moment. Still others get thrown out an open window from 12 storeys up. I think the last book I threw out the window in disgust was a Michael Crichton novel. In and all, I still have a fair amount of books in my place, many still in boxes, some others on the shelves.

Since books are a very large part of my life, it was with some interest that I perused these lists that I read from Lainie and Meesh. I took the list, and decided to fill it in, to see what the results would be. So, below, you will find my take on the book list meme.  The coding is, bold the books you’ve read, italicize the ones you want to read, cross out the ones you won’t touch with a 10 foot pole, put a cross (+) in front of the ones on your book shelf, and asterisk (*) the ones you’ve never heard of.  In my case, my caveat is that there are books that I have read, have on my bookshelf, and I certainly don’t want to ever read again.  The very first book in the list is a good example.

1. The Da Vinci Code (Dan Brown) +
2. Pride and Prejudice (Jane Austen)
3. To Kill A Mockingbird (Harper Lee) +
4. Gone With The Wind (Margaret Mitchell) +
5. The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King (Tolkien) +
6. The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring (Tolkien) +
7. The Lord of the Rings: Two Towers (Tolkien) +
8. Anne of Green Gables (L.M. Montgomery) +
9. Outlander (Diana Gabaldon)
10. A Fine Balance (Rohinton Mistry)
11. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Rowling)
12. Angels and Demons (Dan Brown) +
13. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (Rowling)
14. A Prayer for Owen Meany (John Irving)
15. Memoirs of a Geisha (Arthur Golden) +
16. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (Rowling) +
17. Fall on Your Knees(Ann-Marie MacDonald)
18. The Stand (Stephen King) +
19. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban(Rowling) +
20. Jane Eyre (Charlotte Bronte)
21. The Hobbit (Tolkien) +
22. The Catcher in the Rye (J.D. Salinger) +
23. Little Women (Louisa May Alcott)
24. The Lovely Bones (Alice Sebold)
25. Life of Pi (Yann Martel)
26. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (Douglas Adams) +
27. Wuthering Heights (Emily Bronte) +
28. The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe (C. S. Lewis)
29. East of Eden (John Steinbeck)
30. Tuesdays with Morrie (Mitch Albom)
31. Dune (Frank Herbert) +
32. The Notebook (Nicholas Sparks)
33. Atlas Shrugged (Ayn Rand)
34. 1984 (Orwell) +
35. The Mists of Avalon (Marion Zimmer Bradley)
36. The Pillars of the Earth (Ken Follett)
37. The Power of One (Bryce Courtenay)
38. I Know This Much is True (Wally Lamb)
39. The Red Tent (Anita Diamant)
40. The Alchemist (Paulo Coelho)
41. The Clan of the Cave Bear (Jean M. Auel) +
42. The Kite Runner (Khaled Hosseini)
43. Confessions of a Shopaholic (Sophie Kinsella) +
44. The Five People You Meet In Heaven (Mitch Albom)
45. Bible +
46. Anna Karenina (Tolstoy) +
47. The Count of Monte Cristo (Alexandre Dumas) +
48. Angela’s Ashes (Frank McCourt) +
49. The Grapes of Wrath (John Steinbeck)
50. She’s Come Undone (Wally Lamb)
51. The Poisonwood Bible (Barbara Kingsolver)
52. A Tale of Two Cities (Dickens) +
53. Ender’s Game (Orson Scott Card) + (This is a bloody excellent read.  I have both the series, as well as the short story the books are based on.)
54. Great Expectations (Dickens) +
55. The Great Gatsby (Fitzgerald) +
56. The Stone Angel (Margaret Laurence)
57. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (Rowling)
58. The Thorn Birds (Colleen McCullough) +
59. The Handmaid’s Tale (Margaret Atwood)
60. The Time Traveller’s Wife (Audrew Niffenegger) +
61. Crime and Punishment (Fyodor Dostoyevsky)
62. The Fountainhead (Ayn Rand)
63. War and Peace (Tolstoy) +
64. Interview With The Vampire (Anne Rice)
65. Fifth Business (Robertson Davis)
66. One Hundred Years Of Solitude (Gabriel Garcia Marquez)
67. The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants (Ann Brashares)
68. Catch–22 (Joseph Heller) +
69. Les Miserables (Hugo) +
70. The Little Prince (Antoine de Saint–Exupery)
71. Bridget Jones’ Diary (Fielding)
72. Love in the Time of Cholera (Marquez)
73. Shogun (James Clavell) +
74. The English Patient (Michael Ondaatje)
75. The Secret Garden (Frances Hodgson Burnett)
76. The Summer Tree (Guy Gavriel Kay)
77. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (Betty Smith)
78. The World According To Garp (John Irving)
79. The Diviners (Margaret Laurence)
80. Charlotte’s Web (E.B. White) +
81. Not Wanted On The Voyage (Timothy Findley)
82. Of Mice And Men (Steinbeck)
83. Rebecca (Daphne DuMaurier)
84. Wizard’s First Rule (Terry Goodkind)
85. Emma (Jane Austen)
86. Watership Down(Richard Adams) +
87. Brave New World (Aldous Huxley)
88. The Stone Diaries (Carol Shields)
89. Blindness (Jose Saramago)
90. Kane and Abel (Jeffrey Archer) +
91. In The Skin Of a Lion (Ondaatje)
92. Lord of the Flies (Golding)
93. The Good Earth (Pearl S. Buck) +
94. The Secret Life of Bees (Sue Monk Kidd)
95. The Bourne Identity (Robert Ludlum)
96. The Outsiders (S.E. Hinton)
97. White Oleander (Janet Fitch)
98. A Woman of Substance (Barbara Taylor Bradford)
99. The Celestine Prophecy (James Redfield) +
100. Ulysses (James Joyce)

Strange list.  Whoever first came up with it obviously wasn’t much into science fiction or military history, both of which feature prominently in my library.  Or hard science, for that matter.  One of the books I enjoy re-reading is Philip K. Dick’s “Do androids dream of electric sheep?” which was the basis of the excellent Ridley Scott movie, “Bladerunner”, along with the follow on books, “The edge of human”, “Replicant night” and “Eye and talon” by Kevin W Jeter.   I also have several books on the military, both fiction and non fiction.  Of course, when I say several, I am refering to a number with 3 digits.

I also find it funny that Terry Pratchett didn’t make the list.  I think his writing is very funny, very satirical, and very political.  His Discworld series of books are excellent reads in themselves, and also a very funny and accurate reflection of the state of the human condition.  When reading his books, you will recognise something of yourself, or of things you have observed in others.  I’ve been a Pratchett fan since 1994, and I have almost everything he’s published.

I’ve resolved not to buy any more books this year, or at least, not buy books on impulse and by the yard, which is what I used to do.  And spend hours in bed at night reading.  The last book I bought was Neil Gaiman’s “Fragile Things”, which I shared with someone.  I enjoyed it, immensely.  The next purchase on my list will be a couple of replacements, which I found in the Kinokuniya today.  I rather stupidly lent those books out years ago, before the internerd and Amazon came into being, and I never got around to replacing them.  What are they?  A pair of books which are essential  reading for any rider wanting to perfect his craft.

Girl Friday.

Wet crotch riding. 3/21/2007

The one unfortunate thing about riding a motorcycle is that you are exposed to the elements. There are times when I am grateful that I have year round riding weather where I am, unlike my buddies here, here and here. OK, year round is relative. Gary once did an entire winter season on 2 wheels, for which he has my respect, and a heart felt “You’re fucking crazy man”. I’ve ridden in snow and ice, and I have no desire to repeat the experience, unless I really have to, like running out of weapons grade plutonium or something. So I luxuriate in being able to ride anytime of the day or night, whenever I feel like it, or the need arises.

Coming back to the unfortunate thing, yesterday morning saw me staring out the window at grey skies and a persistent drizzle. I considered taking the truck in to work, but I woke up late, and didn’t fancy spending the next two hours sitting in a traffic jam practising bladder control.  I decided to ride in anyway, in spite of the fact that riding in the rain is not something I like to do much anymore.  In the rain on an open highway is fine.  Riding in the rain splitting lanes in heavy city traffic is lethal.

I pulled on my rain gear, and headed off to do the good fight with the traffic.  I was taking things easy.  Not because I didn’t trust my riding skills of Bikebike, but because rain makes drivers do stupid things.  They no longer keep to a constant speed for one thing.  And some of them drive too fast, or too slowly, or too close, for the prevailing road conditions.  SO I rode hyper aware, leaving myself lots of escape routes, keeping the brakes covered, with the bike in a lower gear than is usual.

I prefered to have the bike ready for anything.  I got to work safely, with only a few drivers getting a blast of the horn, or a quick thump on the window to get their attention.  As I stripped off my rain suit, I thought about the differences between riding in the dry, and riding in the wet.

I’ve spent a huge amount of time on two wheels, more than most, but less than others.  And I have ridden in various types of road, dirt, mud, tarmac, salt flat.  You name it, I’ve very probably ridden on it.  Also in all types of weather.  Sometimes, I didn’t have a choice, because a motorcycle was my only available mode of transportation.  So, out of sheer necessity, I became rather adept and handling variable weather conditions on my motorcycle.

I soon realised that the key to riding in the rain was smoothness, smooth like butter.  No sudden twists of the throttle, no grabbing of the brakes, no sudden changes of direction.  I applied these techniques to my track riding, and it soon paid dividends.  After a time, whenever a race was held in bad weather, I was better than even money to win the race, or place strongly.  A few of the guys started calling me “the king of rain”, a pun on the Police song that was in the charts at the time.

I’ve slowed down a lot, since then.  I explore the edge of the envelope now and again, and sometimes even step outside the envelope, standing on the glued portion of the flap, looking around for the devil, and kicking him in the crotch when he shows up, on my way to taking another machine right to the limits of tyre adhesion.  But not these days.  I prefer to end my rides standing up, with adrenaline coursing through my veins, as opposed to having a M.O. taking my patient history, and a nurse treating me like a pin cushion trying to intubate me for the saline drip.

So, returning to wet riding.  I still hate the fact that no matter what rain suit I wear, I still end up with a wet crotch.

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