September 5th, 2019



Now in Brisbane. Impressions:

* Wow, customs was easy. Get a ticket with my passport at an electronic kiosk, get my bag, hand the ticket and my declaration form to someone, walk out. It's harder to get back into the US as a citizen. You'd think they would at least sniff my luggage more to make sure I'm not bringing in undeclared lifeforms.

* Getting a working SIM was a pain. In Osaka I bought it, the salelady installed it for me, and it worked right away, e.g. I could use it to plan my route to my stay. Here I bought it, I installed, it, I used airport wifi to register it (and I needed my laptop; Telstra's website failed in my phone browser), I was told it would be activated in four hours; I had to get home on screenshots of the route. I got an activation message after 2 hours. It actually still didn't work, and I had to go to a store to get APN data, since apparently my phone failed to get that on its own.

* Brisbane feels like a less car-oriented LA. Warm, dry, subtropical plants, more walkability and transit.

* Trains and busways (BRT) seem to run every 15 minutes, with overlapping routes. Some of the trains may switch to 30 minutes after 19:00. Just looking at routes through Rome Station on Google Maps is actually pretty confusing, lots of things seem to be rush hour only or something.

* The busways might be even more frequent than 15 minutes, actually. OTOH that still leaves them filling up and leaving people waiting around 15:15, when a local school gets out.

* The busways DO NOT ANNOUNCE THE NEXT STOP. There's neither a display or a voice-announcement. This is amazingly primitive compared to anything I've experienced for years now, even more so for BRT that's trying to imitate a train experience.

* Lots of drinking fountains, at least at parks and on QUT campus. Including "water bottle filling" modes.

* Lots of school uniforms. Lots of what I would guess are middle/junior high schoolkids going home on their own by transit (albeit in large groups.)

* The Botanical Garden is a 24-hour park, and seems pretty neat. I think I saw fruit bats in the dusk. Also huge colonies of Australian ibises, like an open-air aviary.

* Lots of ibises out and about too, like large exotic pigeons; one cleaned up the remains from my falafel wrap.

* Tipping: apparently not required, with a minimum wage of over AUD$17/hour.

* Money! AUD $1 = 2/3 $USD. $AUD/kg -> $USD/lb means dividing by 3.3. Or dividing by 3 and taking another 10% off, or dividing by 3 and letting yourself be surprised by spending less than you though.

AUD/kg * 5 kg / 11 lbs * 2/3 USD/AUD = 10/33 USD/lb.

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oil lamps

If you asked me to imagine pre-electric artificial lighting, my images would be of fireplaces, candles, torches. I bet that's true of many of you too. We still have the occasional fireplace, and campfires, and candles on birthday cakes and in emergency supplies. Torches are least have fantasy cachet, as in "torches and pitchforks".

But candles don't seem to have been around that long. Reliable sources are hard to find online (one page talks about the ancient Romans of 3000 BC...) but Wikipedia says dipped candles go back 2500 years to the Romans, or 2200 years to the Chinese. (This is distinct from rushlights, soaking a reed in tallow and burning that.)

What I don't usually imagine is oil lamps:

But they seem to have been around from 15,000 years ago, or earlier, and used up into 1800s America, across many cultures, including Inuit seal blubber lamps. Similar materials as candles, with less labor. Similar shapes across time and culture, a shallow dish with a place for a wick, apparently for physical reasons: vegetable oils and melted animal fats are 'heavy' and don't go far up a wick via capillary action, so the burning wick has to be close to the oil. (The same is true of candles, but there the wick follows a shrinking column of wax, whether by self-burning or by human trimming.) With more lightweight spirits (distilled alcohol) or lighter kerosene/paraffin oils, you can have a wick in a tall jar of fuel and have it work.

This is why Aladdin's lamp is a lamp, despite looking maybe like a squashed teapot: it's an oil lamp, and the spout is for the wick, not for pouring something out.

Handmade lamps using clay are like 6500 years old, but shells and stone bowls were used before that. The cave paintings were painted by the light of animal fat in stone depressions.

This monograph describes someone buying and using several different oil lamps, including trying solid fuels, and the late Crusie and Bette/Betty lamps of the 1700s and colonial America.

So when you're thinking about fantasy/pre-industrial settings, and how they see in the dark... don't just imagine candles and large fires, but oil lamps! (But not the late Argand lamp, reworking how burning vegetable oil could work, or the more modern kerosene oil lamps, both of which look very different.)

The UU flaming chalice doesn't seem to directly be an oil lamp.

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