Wanderlust: Hawaii

It’s Wanderlust Wednesday… time for me to go look at a place I want to visit, then write about it.

Today, I’m going to talk Hawaii.

I’ve wanted to go to Hawaii since I was a kid. I had a Hawaii Barbie, and I remember being captivated by the little “background scene” they do on the box to show you what the doll might look like if you weren’t living in a shitty concrete jungle.

Or is it asphalt?

Asphalt, concrete, none of it is Hawaii.

I have a list of foods I’d like to eat if I ever go (mostly plants, Hawaii is home to loads of rare plants), and I have a huge list of activities I’d like to do when I get there too.

Here’s some pictures of Hawaii:

Picture courtesy of Qantas airlines.
Picture courtesy of Qantas airlines.
Picture courtesy of Go Hawaii.
Picture courtesy of Go Hawaii.
Picture courtesy of Flora 2000.
Picture courtesy of Flora 2000.
Picture of Old Lahaina Luau, courtesy of Alternative Hawaii.
Picture of Old Lahaina Luau, courtesy of Alternative Hawaii.

Isn’t Hawaii an exciting place??  Apparently it was annexed by the USA in 1898, before that it was an independent island nation with its own monarchy.  Before it was called Hawaii, it used to be called the Sandwich Islands, because Cook wanted to brownnose to the Earl of Sandwich.  I prefer the name Hawaii.  I would love to visit the islands.  Here’s my rundown of the 5 things I want to do most in Hawaii:

  1. Climb Mauna Kea on The Big Island Hawai’i:  Mauna Kea is the tallest mountain in the world from bottom to top – but most of it’s underwater, with only 4,205m (13,796 feet) of that is above sea level, so it doesn’t really rate for mountaineers.  That wouldn’t stop me trekking up it – it’s higher than Ben Nevis (which I totes need to write about now I’ve climbed it… argh I have such a long to do list).
  2. Grab a cocktail in O’ahu:  It’s the third largest island, but it’s home to two thirds of the population of Hawaii, and I’d love to sip a cocktail (virgin or otherwise) from one of those beach bars (I don’t want Tom Cruise to mix it, though I actually hear he’s quit tending bar and works as an actor now???  So I’m probably safe).
  3. Snorkeling in Maui:  The second largest island is home to all sorts of fun sporting activities.  I’ve always wanted to give snorkelling a go, and apparently Maui is a good place to do this.
  4. Surfing in Maui:  Of course, no trip to Hawaii would be complete for me unless it included some surf dudes with attitude…  wait, that was California, wasn’t it?  I still want to go surfing in Hawaii.  And that song is still pretty chillin’ all these years later:
  5. See some shell crafting in Niihau:  This island has a population of only 170 – but apparently they’re the finest shell craftspeople in the world.  I’d love to see them at work.

Have you ever been to Hawaii?  What’s it like?  Tell me all about it!

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Bunny pictures: Katie

My camera’s still not got a battery. Luckily, I took loads of rabbit pics this week. Today’s star is Katie. Someone dumped her in a box outside my vets. So we adopted her. Katie-boo is my biggest, squishiest rabbit.

Katie is poised to make a break when I come to let her out.  She always thinks she's escaping it's so funny.
Katie is poised to make a break when I come to let her out. She always thinks she’s escaping it’s so funny.
Katie is on the outside, looking into her run wistfully.  The open door is 3 feet away.
Katie is on the outside, looking into her run wistfully. The open door is 3 feet away.
Katie never stops eating.  Never.
Katie never stops eating. Never.  And she’s so cute when she eats.

Here is a vid that proves that she never stops eating:

Mysteries and Histories of Newgrange, Ireland

I slept like a log last night.  Do logs actually sleep?  How do logs sleep?  Like me?

This is Newgrange, a Neolithic site in Ireland that was on my 30 list, which I visited in June when I went to Dublin to see The Who (I recently re-read that article and I’m glad I waited to write this one because I wasn’t making a lot of sense back then).

All the photos from Newgrange came out very, very brightly, because the light was doing something strange here.
All the photos from Newgrange came out very, very brightly, because the light was doing something strange here.

Archaeology:

Newgrange was constructed around 3,200BCE (it’s 5,000 years old; BCE means ‘before common era’).  It’s a chambered passage tomb in Neath, Ireland, about 40 minutes drive up the road from Dublin Airport.  It is ringed by kerbstones, most of which are carved.  The site was previously filled to the top with soil and remains (I have no idea what they were remains of), but in an act of Archaeological Stupidity, it was cleared out in the Victorian era (Ireland did also call the time period this because they were under British occupation at the time) so we don’t have as much evidence as we would like, so archaeologists can’t really say what was going on except that it was a chambered passage tomb.  Which I said already.

It’s mostly risen to significance in the last hundred years because of an interesting phenomenon:  For a couple of days before and after the winter solstice (December 21, midwinter), every year, when the sun rises, it shines in through a hole above the doorway and shines on the floor of the tomb, making it a clever way to mark the passage of time because it marks an annual event.  You can get entered into the lottery that they draw to get a ticket to see it in December but you’d have to make your own way there and you’d have to go alone because the lottery is per ticket.  I went alone but I’m not sure I felt like repeating the trip in the middle of winter and I have to wonder how many people win a ticket then don’t show up for whatever reason, causing other people (who would have turned up) to miss out.

Why does it only do it on Solstice?  Because the Earth is tilted, and it’s orbit around the sun is slightly elliptical, so the sun appears to move position in the sky to different heights (in its second dimension, it rises and sets on one plane and lifts and falls on another; see the diagram below) at different times of year.  In Ireland, in winter, it’s at its lowest during the winter solstice, so the rest of the year, it’s too high in the sky to shine through the hole above the entrance to Newgrange.  In summer, it’s got further to travel than in winter, so the days are longer (actually, we’re the ones travelling, but it’s easier to think of it this way if you’re stuck).

I just drew this to show how the sun appears to move across the sky at different heights at different times of year.
I just drew this to show how the sun appears to move across the sky at different heights at different times of year.

Why go to all the trouble to build something so big just to mark the passage of time?  Well there’s a few reasons (if we’re assuming this was its only purpose which is doubtful due to the human remains that have been found inside), but it’s mostly to do with the fact that during the Neolithic (when Newgrange was built) most of the world had transitioned to agriculture – in fact, these days, we define “Neolithic” as happening at different times around the world depending on when the onset of agriculture was, nothing at all to do with stone tools or fire or whatever.  The Neolithic fits into our current “age system” for prehistory (was the “three age system,” but sort of expanded now) like so:

Palaeolithic – Was “Upper Stone Age” (really long time ago, all of human prehistory until 10,000 years ago)
Mesolithic – Wasn’t a thing, now defined as between 10,000 years ago and the onset of agriculture.  The time of the “hunter-gatherers”
Neolithic – Onset of agriculture.
Iron Age – Discovery of and use of iron.
Bronze Age – Discovery of and use of bronze (an alloyed metal)
Historical – documentary evidence of events in the past.

These “ages” are debatable and the time we reached them differs around the world and particularly how they are defined differs around the world as different cultures view different events as being pivotal moments in their past development.  It is fairly likely that Newgrange, then, was built without the use of iron and was built by people who were living in an agri-culture.  Because this is really all we know about them, it has been put forward and agreed upon by many archaeologists that Newgrange’s function as a big calendar probably has something to do with needing to keep track of the time of year for purposes such as planting crops.  This, of course, would depend on what sort of agriculture was taking place because there is always a bit of an assumption that agriculture has always looked the same since it was first brought to the West, but we don’t actually know that to be true (and are gaining evidence that this is not the case – a topic for further discussion at some point perhaps).  Evidence for agricultural practices has pre-historically been difficult to find although advances in bioarchaeology might move us forward with this if people start seeing farmed land as legitimate archaeological sites instead of just looking for settlements.  Anyway…

I’m not using “absolute” words because you can’t point to anything in the past and say it’s a fact or an absolute truth, because it’s all down to whether we’ve made the correct interpretations of the evidence or not, and while scientific methods can reduce the margin of error, they can never fully eliminate it so most of the time we can’t construct those elaborate “histories” or narratives of the past that people like to hear with any great amount of accuracy.  Which sort of defeats the original point of archaeology if we’re to believe it was ever really about finding narratives of the people from the past in the first place (which I don’t believe, I believe that came later).

Enough Archaeology!  Show Me The Photos:

On the approach. The darker stones to the left are original, the whitest ones are part of a reconstruction.
On the approach. The darker stones to the left are original, the whitest ones are part of a reconstruction.
The entrance to the actual tomb, from almost straight-on (at a slight angle so you can see some contrast in the pic because the sun shines directly on it).
The entrance to the actual tomb, from almost straight-on (at a slight angle so you can see some contrast in the pic because the sun shines directly on it).
The opening through which the sun shines around the December solstice.
The opening through which the sun shines around the December solstice.
The corridor leading to the chamber in the heart of the tomb (photography not allowed inside).
The corridor leading to the chamber in the heart of the tomb (photography not allowed inside).
Another interesting structure nearby.
Another interesting structure nearby.
The site is still disappearing into the landscape and becoming one with its environment, making it hard to get a good picture from a distance.
The site is still disappearing into the landscape and becoming one with its environment, making it hard to get a good picture from a distance.
Many of the rocks were carved in the Neolithic, into intricate patterns that many call "Celtic."
Many of the big rocks (kerbstones) were carved in the Neolithic, into intricate patterns that many call “Celtic.”  These carvings would probably have been done with flint (a type of stone) tools because there were no iron tools yet.
Rock art in one of the rocks forming the outer back wall.
Rock art in one of the rocks forming the outer back wall.
A side view of Newgrange.
A side view of Newgrange.
A tumbledown farmhouse near the site. I thought it was particularly beautiful.
A tumbledown farmhouse near the site. I thought it was particularly beautiful.
A closer picture of the old and reconstructed stones.
A closer picture of the old and reconstructed stones.
A shot of Newgrange taken from the Visitor centre.
A shot of Newgrange taken from the Visitor centre.

The Tour:

It was remarkably short but still enjoyable.  For the fact I’d waited so long in line and on the bus and for the tour to start, I thought there could have been a lot more made of the age, construction, and archaeological finds (by contrast, the tour at Rosslyn Chapel near Edinburgh is fantastic, if you want an out of the way and mysterious site to visit with a damn good tour, go there).  Most of the information I gave you in “archaeology” was stuff I had researched as part of my archaeology final year dissertation (and never used, because I decided to stick with British Neolithic sites).  There were also too many people visiting for the size inside the tomb, and the guide told the taller people to get to the back (which is fair on the shorter people, and usually I’m all for this, but when the taller people are then unable to see much, it’s just a bit unfair).  It was stunning inside, but there was no photography.  More annoying still, there were no photos of the inside of the tomb available to buy in the gift shop, all the pictures focussed on the light on the floor or this one specific rock with carvings in it.  For you, dear readers, I did sketch while I was in there.  Forgive my crude drawings; I got a D in GCSE Art and when I did my degree, I only did archaeological drawing for 2 days then I dropped it because it was the stupidest course I ever went on, and everything we learned there had no real use in a situation like this (y’know, an actual archaeological site).

This was done inside the main chamber. The roof (bottom right) was from standing in the middle of the central atrium (see pencil arrow) and looking straight upwards.
This was done inside the main chamber. The roof (bottom right) was from standing in the middle of the central atrium (see pencil arrow) and looking straight upwards.  The zigzags and swirls were copied from some of the stones in the three chambers.

Given the way that the sun was behaving, and the fact that I went two days after the Summer Solstice (midsummer’s day) I would like to put forward, based on the evidence of my own eyes, an additional theory about Newgrange:  That it wasn’t originally just a winter calendar, but also a summer one – there’s a straight up and down arrangement of rocks (see my drawing) with a capstone which may not have been original, through which, I’m fairly sure the sun could have shone in from above if the capstone hadn’t been in the way.  So perhaps, since it was full of soil and overgrown when people found it back in the Victorian days, the whole thing was repurposed and filled in at a later date (when the capstone went on)?  I don’t have any hard evidence of this, just my drawings, but it seems entirely possible to me.

A major redeeming feature of the tour was that the guide was open in admitting  that we don’t really know much about Newgrange – there are all sorts of theories and ideas bouncing around in the academic and “fringe” circles, but at the end of the day what they’re all lacking is any kind of evidence.  Some people (not archaeologists, I hope,) make it their life’s work to concoct plausible stories for big sites, using the least amount of evidence (a grain of truth to support their lies, if you will), and the most amount of drama, fantasy and “inference” (in quotation marks because it’s not so much inference as ‘making it up to get on the History Channel’), and sadly these versions of things run around the world before we can research, get evidence, assess context and investigator biases, consider reductionism, and all the other things that need to be done to support an idea about the past.  I’ve been to a few “historical sites” and found the guides to be reiterating as “facts” some complete gobbledegook that has no basis in evidence at all.  I found it very refreshing that what little the guide did tell us was all clearly stated as interpretation and she did tell us what those interpretations were based on (and why we don’t know more) and I think there’s a middle ground between “we just don’t know” and “a wizard did it.”

Accessibility:

There is no disabled access to the actual Neolithic tomb of Newgrange itself.  This picture is taken at the entrance, this is as far as you can get if you’re not pedwardly mobile:

There is no disabled access to the tomb of Newgrange.
There is no disabled access to the tomb of Newgrange.

Tickets must be bought at the Visitor Centre not at the site, and there is a walk and a bus ride between the Visitor Centre and the site.

Newgrange 3

You must get there early.  I got there before 9:00am and went on the first  tour of the day, and this was the queue already for tickets when I arrived:

This was before 9:00am and there was about 30 people inside the building who I had to wait behind before I got to the ticket desk.
This was before 9:00am and there was about 30 people inside the building who I had to wait behind before I got to the ticket desk.

Buying tickets:

When I visited, the combined ticket was the same price as the separate tickets for Newgrange and Knowth, so you may as well go to Newgrange first (because that sells out) then decide whether that’s enough chambered passage tombs for you or not (I decided it was enough for me but then I’d been up for 2 days and that always kills my attention span).  Ticket for Newgrange cost 6 Euros.  Check opening times and do some Googling before you go so you don’t miss out on the significance of this site.

Bunny Picture: Sebastian Washes His Face

In accordance with the new posting schedule, here’s two pictures of Sebastian washing his face; he’s our little grey Netherland Dwarf bunny.

Sebastian washes his face.  He is such a Sebasti-pon!
Sebastian washes his face. He is such a Sebasti-pon!
...And then he washes his paws because they needed washing too.  So cute.
…And then he washes his paws because they needed washing too. So cute.

Bring on the Bunnies!

Okay so I promised bunnies, and whilst I’m not the post office ladies and gentlemen I deliver!

Banacek jumped onto the sofa and stole my toast.  I stole it back, of course, but the audacity of it amuses me.
Banacek jumped onto the sofa and stole my toast. I stole it back, of course, but the audacity of it amuses me.
Banacek tries to make a burrow.  For some reason the idea of bunnies and duvets in the same geographical location makes me squee slightly.  I need to leave the quilt on the floor more often (it's waiting to be washed and doesn't fit in our tiny basket).  So precious.  Unfortunately, this was the only picture because the little bugger psychically knows when I'm reaching for the camera and instantly runs away.
Banacek tries to make a burrow. For some reason the idea of bunnies and duvets in the same geographical location makes me squee slightly. I need to leave the quilt on the floor more often (it’s waiting to be washed and doesn’t fit in our tiny basket). So precious. Unfortunately, this was the only picture because the little bugger psychically knows when I’m reaching for the camera and instantly runs away.
Banacek acting nonchalant and chewing a box immediately after burrowing into the duvet because he knows I'm wanting to take pics of him doing cute stuff.  The boxes are his "projects."
Banacek acting nonchalant and chewing a box immediately after burrowing into the duvet because he knows I’m wanting to take pics of him doing cute stuff. The boxes are his “projects.”
Cleo on the other hand doesn't mind the camera as much.  She has spent the last two years demolishing that cardboard folder, which I used to use for lesson planning.  Now it's almost down to the metal rings.  I think it's the only folder I've got in the house that wasn't coated in plastic, so I'm glad she picked that one.
Cleo on the other hand doesn’t mind the camera as much. She has spent the last two years demolishing that cardboard folder, which I used to use for lesson planning. Now it’s almost down to the metal rings. I think it’s the only folder I’ve got in the house that wasn’t coated in plastic, so I’m glad she picked that one.
Folderol! Cleo sees the camera and decides she's going to copy Banacek and get silly about it too.
Folderol! Cleo sees the camera and decides she’s going to copy Banacek and get silly about it too.
Katieboo!  I see you!  Katie runs excitedly through her flowerbed.  It's her daily version of walkies - I let her out of her run (which is half the garden) and she mows the other half for me.  She is my little lawnmower.
Katieboo! I see you! Katie runs excitedly through her flowerbed. It’s her daily version of walkies – I let her out of her run (which is half the garden) and she mows the other half for me. She is my little lawnmower.
Three, snuggly, bunnies.  Three, snuggly, bunnies.  See how they sit there and do nothing.  See how they sit there and do nothing...  Sebastian's in a separate run because he keeps attacking Fifer.  But they both love Katie.  But Fifer saw her first so she's housed in her primary relationship but I do let her and Sebastian have time together too when I can.
Three, snuggly, bunnies. Three, snuggly, bunnies. See, how they, sit there and do nothing. See, how they, sit there and do nothing…
Sebastian’s in a separate run because he keeps attacking Fifer. But they both love Katie. But Fifer saw her first so she’s housed in her primary relationship but I do let her and Sebastian have time together too when I can.
Fifer pretending to be a plant.  He's pretty convincing unless you're out there with him.  A few times I've gone to the window and been like, "where has Fifer gone?  Has he escaped?"  But he never does.  He's half wild so we have to keep an eye out for escapings.
Fifer pretending to be a plant. He’s pretty convincing unless you’re out there with him. A few times I’ve gone to the window and been like, “where has Fifer gone? Has he escaped?” But he never does. He’s half wild so we have to keep an eye out for escapings.

I’m not vegan anymore (but I still eat vegan food).

I haven’t talked about food for a good long while, and there’s a reason for that:

I’m not vegan any more.  And I haven’t been for a while.

You may remember my New Year’s resolution was to get back to veganism again.

It didn’t really work out.  Between the 9 month mixed state I’ve been in until August and the fact that I had to avoid all sugar (not just “added” but fruit sugar and some sweeteners too, as I had no mood stabilizers and was in a mixed state), I’ve had to put whatever I can into my face.  And I’ve been gravitating towards specific things.

Most vegans gain a sort of sense of what their body needs.  Mine’s been taking me away from veganism.

The truth is, the more I learn about food, the more I believe that a paleo type diet is actually more helpful.  I’ve been eating solid pieces of meat (such as chicken, lamb and beef), along with two to three servings of vegetable, and a small amount of carbohydrate.  I don’t know what type of diet that is but it’s been my best configuration.

I still avoid milk but I have now found out where I stand on the allergy/intolerance spectrum (I outlined the types of allergy/intolerance here and updated it today to add A1 casein intolerance): I have an A1 casein protein intolerance as well as lactose intolerance.  This means I can tolerate something called A2 milk (available in supermarkets) without getting milk allergy symptoms, which means I can try small amounts of milk without the fear of dying or going blind (which happens if you have galactosemia and you keep having milk).  When the symptoms were similar, I was not going to take the risk.

I call my current way of eating a “real food” diet – if someone from a thousand years ago (date picked at random) looked at my plate, would they recognize everything on it as actual food?  Independent of food inventions and discoveries, but just going with what they know about things that can be eaten, what would their opinion be?

For example:  chips are not real food.  Baked potatoes are.  Pasta isn’t real food.  Whole boiled or steamed or raw vegetables are.  Meat is (but not processed meat such as bacon).

I didn’t get this from a recipe book or diet guru, I just started eating like this.  It was what my body was crying out for.  And I’ve felt a lot better since I’ve been doing it.  I do still eat meals that are completely vegan, but I feel that I’ve found a different way of eating that is more beneficial to myself.  I have nothing bad to say about veganism and the vegan community in general, and I do believe the underlying philosophy to be more valid and worthy than that of people who have never questioned.  I have simply found a different nutritional path.

I’m not sure right now where it’s taking me, but I will keep you posted.  And possibly share any recipes if I have any.

In Pictures: Urban Industrial Decay by the Sea in Aberdeen

How long has it been since I last did a travel/pure delight article??  It feels like forever!

While I was in Aberdeen I saw some awesome decaying industrial objects which reminded me of Natalia Goncharova and Futurism here’s some inspiration pictures:

Giacomo Balla's Velocity of Cars and Light, 1913.
Giacomo Balla’s Velocity of Cars and Light, 1913.
Natalia Goncharova: A Factory (1912).
Natalia Goncharova: A Factory (1912).

I’m sure people much more accomplished at Art have commented on these pictures to death.  To me, they remind me of the opening minute of the song “Breathe” by Pink Floyd on The Dark Side of The Moon album.  It all links together.  In that vein, of industrialization and movement and life borne of machines and future provided for by machines, there’s little room for the question of the inevitable death of those machines.

When I came across this bounty of stimuli just abandoned on various plots of land in Aberdeen, I was reminded of the inevitable omega – the end of all things.  So I took lots of pictures of these industrial objects because their death masks were so beautiful, and I included the surroundings in some of them because their burial sites were often in direct contrast with their tortured metallic endings.  Such an unnatural and contrived resting place for what was once some chemical elements separated from base rock by a blast furnace.  Abandoned because their ferrous surfaces have combined with too much oxygen.  One question which I cannot answer is: “How sustainable are these burial sites where we lay out our expired machinery?”  There was a LOT of stuff like this in Aberdeen.

I felt sad that such amazing and titanic objects had been abandoned.  There were far more pics than this but I decided to just share this set of 11 in this article, paying particular attention to texture (especially rust) and unusual focus length.  I’ve written my own criticism by them in places so you can see what I thought of how my pictures came out.  I’m a crap photographer but I’m trying to learn, so any feedback would be appreciated, positive or negative.  This was before I bought my amazing new lenses for my DSLR, and I’d had the camera maybe 4 days by this point, so all pics here taken with my 18-55 kit lens on 100% manual camera settings with no autofocus (c’mon, autofocus is for wimps).  Click any image to enlarge.

A laburnum growing up a fence on a backdrop of rust.  The astigmatism and slight vignetting bugs me.
A laburnum growing up a fence on a backdrop of rust. The astigmatism and slight vignetting bugs me.
I really liked the texture.
I really liked the texture.
Some containers looking very tall and thin.
Some containers looking very tall and thin.
A metal thingy.  The sea is behind this wall.
A metal thingy. The sea is behind this wall.  I like the contrasting texture of the lichen, the wall and the metal thingy.
Is this a bunch of Johnny 5 lookalikes at an audition???
Is this a bunch of Johnny 5 lookalikes at an audition???  Apparently they’re lifeboat launches?  ISO too high.
More delightful texture.
More delightful texture.  Not level (argh).
Rusty giant chain.  Each individual link of this chain was bigger than my torso!  I wonder what it was used for...
Rusty giant chain. Each individual link of this chain was bigger than my torso! I wonder what it was used for…
The rusty textured giant 30 foot maw of an enormous digger, with laburnum growing near it.
The rusty textured giant 30 foot maw of an enormous digger, with laburnum growing near it.
barbed wire
Barbed wire and concrete textures contrasting with roof tiles.  Horizontals not straight.
Crane and sky.  I know my angles are awful I was playing around with my settings to try and get the clouds visible and the crane non-silhouetted.
Crane and sky. I know my angles are awful I was playing around with my settings to try and get the texture of the clouds visible and the crane non-silhouetted both at the same time and forgot to level it out.
Texture tyres.  I know the commonly accepted way of doing this image would have been to blur the tyres and focus on the background, but I wanted to show the texture of the tyres as I thought it was a really nice texture (I love the kitemark, bottom right).  I did one the other way around but thought this was the more interesting shot as it forces the viewer to notice the gargantuan tyres (tractor tyres??  What has tyres this big??)
Texture tyres. I know the commonly accepted way of doing this image would have been to blur the tyres and focus on the background, but I wanted to show the delicious texture of the tyres as I thought it was a really beautiful surface (I love the kitemark, near bottom right). I did one the other way around but thought this was the more interesting shot as it forces the viewer to notice the gargantuan tyres (tractor tyres?? What has tyres this big??)

I don’t know what to say to sum this post up, so I’m going to let you do it instead.  Feedback please!