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Brisbane jaywalking

I'm told there's a reason for 'good behavior': "the rangers will lurk and fine you". I did find multiple articles about anti-jaywalking enforcement campaigns by Australian cities, with fines as high as $150 in the Northern Territory, which also includes vague clauses that make harassing and arresting aborigines easier.

Though I also learned it's explicitly legal to cross a street at least 20 meters away from a crosswalk. (I've been using jaywalking to specifically mean crossing a "don't walk" signal.) Given how long some of the signals are, it would almost be worth making the detour, if you were at a street with low enough traffic to make that safe but were still afraid of cops.

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Brisbane through Oct 9

* Australians really do say "no worries" often.

* Australians continue to be very good about not jaywalking, even when a crosswalk is safe and has been keeping them waiting for 90 seconds.

* I've seen lots of middle schoolers taking the bus, but today I saw my first elementary kids, three little kids nowhere near their growth spurt.

* Saturday I walked across the Story Bridge into Fortitude Valley. Not that long. Though it's not like you just get on a pleasant bridge, you get on the sidewalk of a very busy car bridge. First time I climbed a long spiral staircase, but coming back I walked down a long gentle slope.

* Sunday I finally took the free CityHopper ferry. Crowded and hot and smells of exhaust. Prefer CityCat.

* Yesterday I visited E&A again. Almost took the cross-river ferry, which is most frequent -- 12 or 18 minutes -- but a Hopper showed up first. E was sort of south of Brisbane, so I went down to meet him. Express bus and train were the same speed, and bus was more frequent, but I forgot that buses here don't announce their stops, so I had to be on tenterhooks, made worse by E changing where I should get off.

* New place today. Big and nice, though central AC and I suspect I'm more indulgent than my host is. Airbnb should try to tell us what kind of AC places have... I hinted that a fan would help, then found a AUD$9 USB fan. I'm not sure it'll do me much good but it's cheap.

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traffic lights and online maps

On laptop browser:

Google Maps Brisbane: shows no lights. (Also not on the phone app.)

OSM (Open Street Maps) Brisbane: shows lights, seems accurate near me.

Google Maps Osaka: does show lights.

OSM Osaka: does show lights.

Google shows some that OSM doesn't, and I don't recall which is accurate. OSM shows one that Google doesn't, and in that case I'm pretty sure Google is right, I went through there a lot and recall no light.

...Google has Street View, so I can check that there is in fact no light, or wasn't a year ago. I wonder if I can update OSM. ... oh wait, OSM calls it a 'blinker', and now I do see a single light, yellow in one direction and red in the other. Like a power-hungry yield and stop sign combination?

Both show pedestrian overpasses but OSM has better visual contrast.

OSM seems more regular in showing street names... I've often been annoyed by zooming in and out, trying to get Google to tell me what some street, often major, is.

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Brisbane ferry

So, I chose poorly with this new place. Local bus runs every 40 minutes and stops running at 1930. It's a 23 minute walk to the nearest busway station. But it is near ferry stops, and today I tried that. There's CityHopper, a free but short route running every 30 minutes. CityCat, a long paid route that runs every 15 minutes during the day, though slowing down in the evening. And a few ferries that just shuttle across the river at points. I actually have three ferry terminals: one is Hopper, one is Hopper plus cross-river, one is CityCat.

So I went down to the CityCat one, and hopped on, toward QUT St Lucia. I sort of feel like it doesn't go THAT far down the river -- no further than I've already been -- but it does take 50 minutes to get there from Mowbray. This despite being a catamaran with 25 knots cruising speed.

Boat capacity is around 150 people, which given 4 an hour, doesn't seem much -- no more than 600 people an hour passing through a ferry terminal.

Anyway, it was fun. Having been to QUT already I got off at West End instead, which wasn't super exciting. The buses there aren't good, but there's a City Glider thing, which is two good buses -- 15 minute or better headways, USB chargers, 24 hour service on Friday and Saturday. Google Maps knows nothing about it, which is weird. But I took one (5 minute headway at 1630) and rode across Brisbane to Tenerife terminal, taking another ferry back home.

Ferries from North Hamilton go to every 30 minutes at 1719; going the other way from QUT, they switch at 1818. Pretty early.

First ferry was pretty punctual, not sure about the second one.

They look weird, like they're riding on ice skates. I assume there are pontoons beneath the water surface and I'm just seeing a thin connector.




Edit to add: I keep forgetting to rant again about the lack of announcements on the buses. (No sign, no verbal announcement, of what the next stop is.) It was particularly telling when I was coming back from the Botanical Gardens. Strange route, in the dark, with no landmarks, no way of knowing when to get off except asking the driver (maybe) or GPS. Does Brisbane assume everyone has a smartphone and GPS now?

Would have been an issue on the City Glider today too, but I was heading to the end of the line.

The trains and ferries don't have this problem, but all the buses do, including the fancy busways and City Glider.

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traffic light contrasts

In Osaka 1, I could reach a conbini, supermarket, several restaurants, a subway station, more shops, and maybe a large park, without even passing through a car-enabled intersection. Helps to live on a pedestrian arcade, with the subway station providing an underpass under the main road.

In Osaka 2, I could reach at least three supermarkets, 5 different train stations, multiple malls, countless shops, the same large park, without passing through a traffic light (or intersection that needed one.) This comes from lots of narrow calmed low-traffic roads, pedestrian overpasses, and subway underpasses. W lived 20 minutes way but I would need at most one traffic light to reach her.

(Though more commonly I took a main road sidewalk that did have a traffic light for a garage exit; avoiding lights meant taking sidewalk-less one lane roads with the occasional slow car to dodge.)

This isn't necessarily typical of Japan. My place in Tokyo couldn't really be escaped without traffic lights. And exploring various cities, I certainly had to wait at lights a lot. Still, the ubiquity of low traffic roads, and the fact that all neighborhoods are at least somewhat mixed, raises the chance that you can reach something without much interaction with cars.

Brisbane 1, despite being very different, was similar in this. I could reach a supermarket, pharmacy, handful of restaurants, and the busway station, without lights.

Brisbane 2 and 3, not so much. Brisbane 2 needed a long-wait traffic light to reach the market, my favorite restaurant, or either busway station. Brisbane 3 needs a long-wait traffic light to reach anything other than a ferry terminal or one cafe.

In terms of walking to the central area, Brisbane 1 might have been better, though it might be that the same number of traffic lights were spaced out better, rather than jammed up at one end.

So, this probably explains part of how I've been feeling the past 2+ weeks. I went from 14 weeks where interaction with heavy traffic was completely optional, to places where such interaction is mandatory to eat.




How about other places I've lived? Where I grew up in Chicago was pretty walkable. I think stop signs would allow reaching the supermarket and bank and maybe library without lights, but for the train station and other things you would need a light.

Where I lived in Cambridge... subway station and several restaurants without light. Maybe one of the supermarkets. Harvard probably technically needed lights, but on low traffic roads where it doesn't matter much. At Harvard itself the subway gives some underpass capability.

Where I lived in Somerville, not so much. Couldn't reach anything without lights or dangerous jaywalking. You could get to one supermarket without much of a light but it was a long walk. Getting to the subway station took two lights, though one of them was pretty responsive to pedestrian buttons.

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Brisbane through Oct 2

Sep 30: Finally got to the Brisbane Botanic Gardens. Not the park in the CBD, which used to be the gardens, but the ones out west, 56 hectares of plant exhibits. The bus route was wonky -- 30 minute headway? so I took an Uber, which wasn't that much faster in the end. "Your car in 4 minutes" was more like 8 minutes, a common ridehail failure.

Visit was fun. Tropical dome, small Japanese garden, well labeled bonsai exhibit, giant bamboo... the further part of the park got confusing though, no signs out there, I even worried about getting back in time.

Saw my first live artichoke plant in the Kitchen Garden. I'd never thought before about where the artichoke actually grows.

I chatted with some employee while we waited for the bus back. I asked about age of mobility; he said his parents didn't trust him out to "go to the city" until 17, but at around age 7 he was walking to school and hanging out with friends until dusk.


Oct 1: had some Indian lunch. It was a bit creepy: no one else there at 12:20 PM, lights out... I tried it anyway but checked reviews, which were good. But I saw that Google says it's only open for dinner, maybe that's why no one was there... I uploaded some photos of the menu, and drew the owner's attention. Food was decent in the end.

Walked around the park 'gardens' again, then tried the QUT art museum. Accidentally first found the William Robinson gallery, a small museum devoted to just one artist, who is still alive and working. Weird. The paintings were interestng though, in the 10 minutes I had before closing time. More so than the actual art museum, which is given over to a couple of modern artists..


Oct 2: I'm in a new place for a week, on Kangaroo Point. As the ibis flies I'm closer to the CBD than I have been, but practically I'm further; no good transit on this tongue of land. There's a bus stop right outside the building but the bus is like every 40 minutes; my best on-the-fly option would be a ferry!

Walked around. Timed that a traffic light was indeed 2 minutes before I could walk. Nearby blocks are 1 by 6 minutes by foot -- 6 minute walk long! Eek. A school zone was posted as 40 kph, or 24 MPH; I think the default road speed is 50 KPH, or 30 MPH. So similar to the US, but shocking compared to Japan, where 30 KPH is a typical street speed.

I saw another postman on an ebike. I forget if I'd mentioned seeing one before.

For all the car orientation -- long signal times, wide roads, my last place and this one were both right by highways or busy roads though at least here I'gm facing away -- gasoline is AUD $1.70 per liter, or $4.29/gallon. I guess that's not hugely expensive, Japan was more like $5/gallon, but what's the US now, $2.50?

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Brisbane traffic count

Today I did something I've thought of but never really done: do my own traffic count. Not super long or thorough, but something.

First I counted people coming off the SW end of the Goodwill Bridge, which is a non-car bridge. Only counted one way, to keep things simple. Finished at 16:42, was counting at least six minutes, probably more like ten. Bikes were in the lead for much of the period but I ended up at 80 pedestrians, 60 bikers. I didn't count scooters, and also didn't count children walking with their parents, which might have added another 10 to the peds.

Then at the nearest main street, I counted pedestrians and cars, for three traffic light cycles. 38 pedestrians, 159 cars (including a few motorcycles.) No idea about multiple people per car.

Given the nature of this intersection, largely pedestrians coming off the bridge or river, with little cross car traffic, it might be fair to count people who were crossing the street rather than going along the direction I was counting. I didn't, but if we assume it was equal to the pedestrians I did count, that would be 76:159.

I ignored bikers there, having been too lazy to get out the tools for a three-way count (pen and notebook, lots of tally marks to sum later). Not sure if I was actually seeing as many bikes as pedestrians there.

http://www.cityclock.org/urban-cycling-mode-share/ claims a mere 1% cycling mode share. Methodology unknown. https://chartingtransport.com/2017/10/24/trends-in-journey-to-work-mode-shares-in-australian-cities-to-2016/ has a similar number. (And also suggests Melborne and Sydney are notably better transit cities than Brisbane.)

Of course Brisbane is rather large, and I was counting in a fairly central area that's specifically geared to pedestrians and cyclists.

I regret not doing a count in Japan, though it could have been challenging. The first spot that comes to mind is along my main street to Tennouji, which was was high traffic and cars might have beaten pedestrians... but I also know that there was a perfectly good parallel route, along one-lane streets no one would drive without good reason, which I myself often took.

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Brisbane Riverfire

There's been some culture festival going on in Brisbane for the past few weeks, which I've completely ignored, except for the un-ignorable plane flybys. And the fireworks tonight. I turned out to be staying a ten minute walk from a point where I could look down into a launch barge. Was I incredibly lucky? No: there were multiple launch points up and down the river and around bends; I counted at least 7 from where I was, and I wouldn't be surprised if they were more out of sight. Synchronized, so you weren't missing anything.

Also decently synchronized with the music, with fireworks pulses in time with musical beats. That's the first time I observed such a thing... maybe the first time I was in a position to do so; I don't associate music with *during* a fireworks show (vs. the Boston Pops going for a couple hours *before* the 4th of July show.)

Fireworks features: no hearts or smiley faces, but things like glowing Christmas tree n (balls of fire) that split into more balls... I dunno, they looked bigger and more 'real' than your usual spark of light. Fans (like hand fans or peacock tails) of fire drifting sideways.

Music was pretty eclectic; I noticed the Simpsons opening, an Indiana Jones theme, 500 Miles (abridged), Love Shack (I think also abridged), and a familiar classical tune -- Ode To Joy, if my memory didn't go awry -- for finale.

Duration was 20 minutes, like the 20-30 I'm used to in the US and Chile, and vs. the 80+ minutes of Japan...

I can't really do justice to it in words, but it was an awesome show. Good visuals, I appreciated the synchrony, great view, and easy access (I walked up a few minutes before it started and found a good spot -- there were a lot of people, but not crushing crowds.) Only thing better would have been having a friend with me.

Someone's finale video: https://www.reddit.com/r/brisbane/comments/dae1qo/finale_to_riverfire/

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Brisbane through Sep 27

Part of why walking around Brisbane does not give joy: long wait times for lights to change, and complex intersections where you may have to cross two lights in a row.

Locals seem averse to dashing across quiet intersections. I noticed that given drive-on-left traffic flows, it's wise for me to be averse as well, since I'm not used to looking in the correct direction for turning cars.

Central area continues to be neat. South Bank has a Nepalese Peace Pagoda, left over from the 1988 Expo, and right next to it is a rainforest boardwalk.

I went to QUT St. Lucia to check out free museums there; they were pretty small, like the Harvard free museums. Anthropology, which was a few aboriginal artifacts but mostly colonial photos of settlements and schools Torres Islanders were forced into. Art, which had a few weird modern exhibits. Physics, which was a bunch of instruments like Harvard's but smaller. But also a pitch drop experiment, which has been going on for decades; pitch apparently is solid enough to shatter on hammer strike but liquid enough to drip very slowly (like years between drops), the way urban legend says glass does.

Oh, also an Antiquities museum -- yes, I basically exhausted four 'museums' in one afternoon -- which had a nice ancient coin collection. Not huge but well labeled, and I got to see drachma, denarius, aureus up close.

Tried exploring St. Lucia itself. Dull residential neighborhood with a few restaurants. I retreated from the sidewalk seating of one, too much noise and exhaust.

Today I went to the Queensland Gallery of Art, which is also free, but a decent size; took me a while just to eyeball everything. It would probably take a few hours to probably look at everything and read their signs.

Then I found that the Brisbane Square Library was open to midnight. On a Friday? Yep, it's actually a brand new policy, as of two days ago: midnight hours on Wednesday and Friday, trying to be more of a social center. There were people playing music in the lobby, and a table of optical illusions, and I think other events. Physically it's a nice library, lots of plants, and the colored glowlights that Brisbane loves to have all over its CBD. Non-fiction was a good size.

Other things... there's going to be a Riverfire festival Saturday, with fireworks and plane performances; a fighter was practicing today, flying low and loud and threatening my hearing. Not sure if I'll go or avoid... I looked up the ferries, which seem neat, but haven't taken one yet. (Brisbane straddles the Brisbane river.)

I re-read the Silmarillion, working on Unfinished Tales. It's striking how the more obscure the Tolkien work, the more women and women's dialogue there are...

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Tolkien fantasy and non-humans

I'm reading the Silmarillion again, for the first time in years and years. This edition includes his letter to a publisher, pushing for publishing it with LotR. As a summary it's a bit dull, but includes a couple of interesting points. One is that he views A Fall as essential to a story, which certainly makes for tragedy and loss, but seems a bit depressing. (Gaiman, as expressed through Desire in Endless Nights, has a different perspective: "Let me tell you how every story begins: someone wanted something.")

The other is that his work is non-anthropocentric, which yeah. Especially the Silmarillion and First Age stuff, which is mostly elf-centric, where you could have a timeskip of centuries and still feature the same characters. But of course The Hobbit and LotR are hobbit-centric, not human-centric, and while hobbits are a lot like humans -- in some ways, more so than the Dunedain, with their long lives and implied psychic powers -- they're technically not human.

For all the talk of Tolkien's alleged imitators in fantasy, how many have non-humans as the star characters?

(Two come to mind. Watership Down, which whether it was directly influenced by Tolkien or not sure seems like it could have been, conlang and all; and Hodgell's Kencyrath, who are magical humanoids closer to us than Tolkien's immortal elves, but different enough to give a biologist pause about species definitions. Including mental differences: incidents of Kencyr lying or breaking sworn oaths can be counted on one hand.)

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David Epstein, Range

I'm healthy enough to feel like studying or reading non-fiction again, and have started this book, on the nature of expertise, and arguing that generally breadth is better than overspecialization.

* Tiger Woods was a golf prodigy from like age 2, but Roger Pedersen came to tennis casually and late.
* Chess and golf are kind learning environments: clear rules, clear feedback, lots of repetitive situations. Tennis less so. Much of human life, even less so.
* Collaborative human-computer chess is apparently more fruitful than I knew. Humans can provide strategy and management that complements the computer's tactical genius. Even fairly inexperienced humans... whereas much of the work of becoming a grandmaster is becoming a tactical expert, something that is now entirely eclipsed by the computer.
* The more eminent a scientist, up through Nobel prize winners, the more likely they are to have artistic hobbies or other non-scientific interests.
* The Flynn effect -- the widespread rise in IQ scores -- is particularly pronounced in abstraction, like Raven's Progressive Matrices, or more abstract words in language-based IQ tests. Younger generations don't do better than older ones on concrete words.

* Luria studied peoples during the rapid modernization of the USSR and found that untouched remote villages were extremely concrete thinkers. They could learn from experience, sure, but categorically refused to answer questions outside their experience. They tended to group things oddly, compared to 'modern' people who would group items easily by color or material, or function (hunting tools vs. prey, say.)

Like a sample syllogism:
All bears in the far north are white.
Novaya is in the far north.
What color are the bears in Novaya?

Villager: "How can I know? I've never been to Novaya!"
Slightly modernized villager: "Going by your words, the bears there would be white."
Modern person: "White, duh."

Of course, syllogisms are at least 2300 years old, thanks Aristotle, so it's not literally a 'modern' thing, but something about education or social complexity.

On the flip side, the villagers were immune to some optical illusions where same-sized circles look different sizes based on what's around them.

Luria's results have been replicated since in other subsistence societies.

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Brisbane Sep 21

Went down to see E&A again. I thought I would buy lunch at or near Park Road Station, where I was catching a train. Ha ha no! There is nothing there but houses and a hospital. Google showed nothing closer than 7 minute walk. Not even a vending machine.

E had some similes for Australian cities.
Melbourne: NYC or Cambridge, intellectual, well-dressed.
Sydney: LA, superficial and casual, rapidly improved transit.
Hobart: cute compact coastal English town.
Brisbane: generic medium-sized city.

Yay? I have to say, apart from the King George/Albert area, walking around does not give me joy.

Though the parks here are still neat, and the modern Botanic Gardens sound great; I would have checked them out today but had some health stuff to attend to.

I'd complained about my 'wholemeal' pasta having a disgusting gritty texture; E thinks Australia skips a processing step that US whole wheat products do.

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Brisbane through Sep 19

It's been a slow time. Partly from getting a cold last weekend. Colds hit me hard the first few days. Now I'm doing better but blowing my nose a lot.

Highlights:

* Bats! Went back to the Roma Street Parklands, saw lots of flying foxes around dusk, dipping into the pond. Apparently it's wetting their front fur, then they go hang and suck it off to drink.
* I watched "Your Name", it was pretty good, though I'm grumpy about the ending. And that's Shinkai's happiest ending...
* On the 8th I took the train down to Helensvale to visit E&A on their 12 acres of land; that was pretty fun, just hanging out and walking. Didn't sleep well though, foam mattresses aren't my thing and they have many chickens including roosters, so I fell asleep late and was woken around 4.
* Then E took me over to Griffith and I explored some of the Gold Coast. Got my feet wet in the Pacific!
* Read GRRM's Fevre Dream, aka Life On the Mississippi With Vampires.
* Took a bus trip outward, to explore more. It wasn't very exciting but I'm glad I tried. "LA with better transit or maybe selection bias" continues as an impression.
* 90% of everything closes by 9PM.
* Tried exploring Fortitude Valley and Central Station areas. There's a Chinatown but it's tiny and half-dead.
* Lots of public toilets. Some of them look creepy but none of them have smelled bad. Even Japan can't say that though I gave it a lot more chances to fail.
* Going by the store and my second host, Australia is big on instant coffee.
* Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) busways seems hardly less resource-intensive than subways. Big concrete busways and stations platforms and such. I guess the stations can be shorter.
* Go Card machines have terrible touchscreens.
* Re-read Lord of the Rings, first time since before 2004.
* Re-read Crispin's Zar Star Trek novels. Second one felt pretty dire at first but eventually got good.

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Brisbane Sep 5-6

Dates here are European order, dd/mm/yy. This confused me when I was checking my phone balance, getting upset that the expiry date was 09/10/19 -- but that's October 9th, not September 10th!

Brisbane has some really nice parks. I mentioned the Botanical Gardens already. Last night I went exploring around South Bank, and found Aquavity, a bunch of water features: swimming pool, fountains, things to dump water on you randomly, all free and open even at night (though no lifeguard at night.) I guess Boston Common has a pool, which I've probably never seen at night, but this was better. Various lights and plantings, and lots of people using it.

There were what I thought of as baobabs, though the descendant trunks were many and thin so I'm not sure, and some tree mammal that was neither squirrel nor primate.

I'm at some park near me right now, at 22:42 local time, with teens or young men playing basketball, and some group/family of immigrants (women wearing shawls style) behind me. And a great tree draped with Christmas lights.

My local commercial cluster is somewhat diverse but small and mostly closes by 9pm, apart from a bar, a burger place at 10, and a bubble tea cafe to 1am.

One city bus stop has multiple lines, each running every 15 minutes or so. Another was less frequent, and not running at all on weekends.

I've run into two shopping areas that rely on public bathrooms. Which are clean.

It was fairly hot today, 32 C, and I fear for my bedroom. My hosts are Vietnamese and I think disinclined to run the A/C unless it gets truly torrid. The various businesses and campus buildings weren't particularly cool, sort of mild A/C I guess.

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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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Brisbane

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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quick update

I'm in Tokyo now, pushing the boundaries of my visa, and getting to see my mother's first husband B, who moved to Japan decades ago. Then I fly to Brisbane.

In my 2008 visit to Tokyo (tagged 'japantrip1' rather than 'japan' or 'travel', at the moment), I stayed in a hotel on Yasukuni-dori, east of the palace. Now I'm in an Airbnb just south of Yasukuni, west of the palace. Technically in Shinjuku, though 'main' Shinjuku is a 10 minute train ride west.

I see many bikes parked, but fewer in motion than in Osaka, and more that are moving are on the busy roads. This may be because the sidewalks are often jammed. Though I'm probably more central relative to Tokyo than I was in Osaka, so I don't know if this is a city difference or an area-of-city difference.

The shinkansen was fast and not particularly exciting. Kind of like a very very very fast commuter train. Many bathrooms but not the amenities like a cafe/lounge car you'd find on an Amtrak long distance train. Though there were airline style food carts pushed up and down the aisle. There's more room to squeeze past them if needed.

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day of meh exploration

I headed out toward Kobe! But Google Maps said there were technical problems. JR Loop line was very crowded for mid day. At Osaka station, JR Kobe was apparently *stopped* due to heavy rains (from last night?) There's another Kobe line, but I decided to go explore the area instead, Osaka and Umeda stations.

It wasn't that exciting. Very tall mall and office buildings. Some weird tech gallery. A nice little plaza of water and plant features. I'm pretty sure there's excitement somewhere in Umeda, but I missed it, going north and east from the station. I did find the first curbside parking I've seen in 11 weeks. 300 yen, one hour limit.

Decided to ride Midosuji to its north end. Going over a big river south of Nishinakajima, I noticed the river banks being wide and green, with no buildings, and then a tall and thick berm. Maps says "river park" but I suspect it's also floodplain management.

End of line is Senri-chuo. Going north, I found wide roads and boring residences: pure residential (no businesses for like 5+ minutes, vs. around every corner where I'm staying), meh density (five story apartment buildings but widely separated.)

I noticed that gasoline is 140 yen/liter, so like $5/gallon.

I was going to ride Midosuji back a stop or two to explore those areas, but found that Senri-chuo also has the Osaka Monorail. Monorails are elevated. Sunset was in less than an hour, I decided to ride it and see things. And got a great view of a 10 lane highway (3+2, each way). Also lots of buildings, but nothing super scenic. At least I tried!

Got off at Dainichi to transfer to the Tanibachi back home. The platform had fences lining it, but no gates blocking the train doors. So it's not really an anti-suicide measure; maybe just a safety measure when crowds are lining the platform?

Steps to the subway also had ramps for walking your bike up or down. To make sure you don't ride your bike down, there are thick heavy (I checked) barrels at the bottom.

On the way to groceries, I noticed a beer vending machine. I've seen cigarette ones. The web tells me those actually need a special age card to keep kids out, but that the beer ones don't.

Japan is famous for weird vending machines but the only ones I've seen in Osaka are drinks (water, teas, coffee, sports drinks), cigarettes, and now beer.

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gentrification paradox

For all the American talk about creating wealth via your home, we've mostly outlawed the historical paths for doing so: living above your shop, hosting boarders, tearing down your house and replacing it with a bigger building when urban development reached you. Instead you're probably living in a single-family zone: no business allowed, no boarders allowed, no apartments allowed.

https://www.strongtowns.org/journal/2015/12/14/best-of-2015-the-gentrification-paradox

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soap differences

I used to get bar soaps like Dove and Ivory. They seemed to melt away fast.

Then I stayed with Fanw for two months, and went through less than one bar of what I was told was Yardley's. Fanw suggested that it's a solid bar of soap, rather than a wannabe aerogel of soap and air bubbles.

Bee and Flower, courtesy of my last roommates, also seemed to hold up. Likewise whatever Japanese brand of soap I purchased here; I'm still on my first bar after 9 weeks, including a lot of two-shower days because of humidity.

(The place did provide its own soap, but as body wash, which I loathe.)

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