Friday, September 28, 2007

Scrabble (The agony of defeat)

Facebook has its ups and downs as anyone who is on it will tell, but I like the Scrabble app. I just lost the best game that I have ever played. It was a complex board, interesting and we got to use cool words like "anal". It would have been totally impossible to have played in person though. I don't think that Matt would have enjoyed watching me stare at the board for hours on end (literally).

Good game Matthew.

"good game. especially the last part where I won."

Too bad you are a jerk.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Thoughts I am mulling over today:

"Change is inevitable, growth is optional"
This is a great quote. I tend to be enthralled with other people's thoughts that make me say "Of course. I believe that. Tell me something I don't know." It is only when I think on it do I realize that although I may have been on the same track and I immediately agree with the component parts, I have been beating around the bush my whole life. I realize that I have unwittingly made a whole bunch of caveats to a simple rule. A more honest criticism of me is that I tend to take a seemingly complex rulebase, some anecdotal and empirical evidence, come up with a loosely organized and complex way of thinking about it and totally miss the point. The resultant doesn't distill and its no axiom, I can assure you. Life is complex. I need to strive to break it down before I build it up. Once again someone wiser than I in life beat me to the punch line and I am the better for it. Simple and succinct. Universally applicable. Today I trimmed a whole branch from my tree and that squirrel with the fluffy tail and mental energy siphoning fangs was still on it. This isn't a new thought, but I will pretend that it is. Thanks old surfing lady.

Rigidity (again)
I had another "of course" moment when I was talking to a friend about arguing. We were talking about those people who love to argue. To debate and more importantly to win those debates. They feel that the more confused their fellow combatant is - the better. My comment was that this is a total bullshit way to approach conflict. This person isn't seeking mutual understanding or striving for forward movement. The only possible outcome is a momentary self pat on the back and of only frustration and resentment on the other side. It is born out of a fear of the vacuum; the unknown of not being rigid, of letting go. I had a sudden flash of self hatred. I sometimes used circular argument as a coping mechanism for my not knowing how to deal with change. Internally and externally.

The Brick
Even with no job, negative cash flow and unsteady brain, important things in life can still be put on lay-away. I'm glad.

Email is Bullshit
A concise form of communication it is not. Said, unsaid, simple or complex, each word carries the heavy burden of history... and imaginary, criminally insane half brothers.

Knocked Up
It’s a funny movie. After the earthquake when Katherine is giving Seth hell for not protecting her and the cop drives by. Seth (an illegal Canadian alien) is trying to act all nonchalant after throwing his bong away and says "California.... eh?". Its so Canadian.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

My Bali washroom (a decomposition).

The place I am staying at is really nice and mostly clean. There a bunch of ants in my room, but they seem more interested in eating all the furniture than making my life miserable. I'm not sleeping very well though, so maybe they are and I just don't know it. There are a few cockroaches and I killed one last night in the bathroom that was about 2 inches long. I was tired and was thinking that I should take a picture of it in the morning to gross everyone out before I stuffed it down the drain. I couldn't sleep and an hour later (almost exactly an hour), I went to the bathroom. It appears as though the ants in this place also eat the flesh of the fallen. My award winning pinup model, "Miss Roach, September" was only half the size.

Then I started a 100 minute time lapse of what was going on and went to sleep.

I am still learning on my 4-5? year old Cannon S50. When you take a time lapse, it refocuses every time it takes a shot. It makes sense, I just never thought about it. Next time I will set it to manual focus and make sure to get all the action (and set a more appropriate aperature). Even if I knew, I probably wouldn't have cared because I didn't relish lying on the floor of the washroom at 2am, a foot from Antstock 2007. I should also have brought a mini tripod instead of propping it up on two 500 rupe coins. The camera shifted at one point in the night. Maybe the ants tried to carry it down the drain? The last frame is a picture from 9am this morning. I'll see if I can get some more food for the drain dwellers / construction crews and get a better set of shots. You get the point that I was trying to get across though I am sure :)

[EDITOR'S NOTE: Check out the matchstick that is inexplicably on my washroom floor and strangely moving.]

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Blogger template edits (footer font size, post widths)

Did some maintenance on ye old blog. I found the footer to be a bit oppressive, which led me to this link which was very helpful.

Another thing that drove me around the bend was the default behavior of wrapping words around photos. I like to wrap text around photos sometimes. Small photos are too small. Medium photos allow you to still get the point even if you don't click them to enlarge. Large photos are too large (and don't wrap text). With the font size and layout, I always get these orphaned words and blank spaces beside photos.

I made the following changes to my default template - "Minima".
Made the whole thing 60 pixels wider:

#outer-wrapper {
width: 720px;

(from 660px)

#footer {

(from 660px)

#header-wrapper {

(from 660px)

And soaked it up in the posting container:

#main-wrapper {
width: 470px;

(from 410px)
We will see if it sticks. Maybe I will be lucky and the new width will be the same as the "new post" preview... don't get me started on that.

Indonesian five.. oh crap.

I've learned a little bit more about the workings of the cops here. They have a strange rule that is kind of like double jeopardy in the US (wow.. I didn't know that was also a valid defense in Canada): You can't be charged for something if you have been charged for it in the last two weeks (IF you have a receipt).

Lets do some learning through a hypothetical situation with my imaginary friend, Billy. Oh Billy.. sometimes! Oh mon dieu! Lets suppose the following set of circumstances were true:
1. That Billy doesn't have an international license and is driving illegally while on vacation.
2. That he thinks that this fact is of no consequence where he is, because nobody ever checks for such things.
3. That on Billy's morning commute for breakfast there is a sometimes manned, sometimes not manned Polisi hut.
4. That once in a while they try to wave Billy down and he pretends not to see them and heads on down the road.
5. That he thinks that they must just be waving hello as he knows that the police are very friendly on the island where Billy is on vacation.
6. That one day (for the sake of argument and for the purposes of this exercise, we might as well say today) they seemed SO eager to shake his hand that they stood directly in front of him while Billy was doing 50.
So he needs that receipt so he can be all like "diplomatic immunity" and shit. He has been told that one can be had for 10-20k for locals.

I have to warn the class that in my imagination, Billy is a stupid head causing all kind of angst and self doubt and that there may be more optimal and predictable attacks. That said, if this were to happen in real life, he would recommend an approach that is similar to:
1. Say you have a valid license at (imaginary, medium distance away hotel) and you would be happy to go and get it and bring it back. Yes? Find new breakfast place.
2. No? Negotiate hard on the bribe option and then say that you might as well get a receipt so that they don't "check" you again on the way back.
3. Smile.
4. He doesn't have any real knowledge of it, but in this particular, hypothetical case, 2 x bribe equals receipt. Results may vary in real life.
5. Shake hand of man in charge and say the people of your vacation island are really quite nice.
6. Ask if any more "random" checks will be necessary for this particular tourist sucker (you).
7. Start wearing too small, leather, do-nothing helmet.
I hope that there is no more learning to be had for any of us in this particular oddity of life in Bali.

[EDITOR'S NOTE: Now this is WAY too funny. I've learned even MORE about what goes on here. Locals pay a 10-20k bribe, or get a ticket to wait 2 weeks to pay. The gist of what I did, was not get a receipt that I thought I was getting, but paid to be ticketed. The old bait and switch. Hahahaha They must love me in this place. NOW I know how this things works and at least I still can't get another ticket for no license. I think.. hopefully no more updates.]

Monday, September 24, 2007

I'm not surfing, but loving the surf movies

These guys take it a little bit far, but the cinematography is superlative. IMDB entry that doesn't say much here. These are BIG waves. If you ever want to feel little in the face of the oceans immense power - watch this and feel the fear.

[EDITOR'S NOTE: I had originally linked the image from another site. They swapped it for an ad. I'm not sure who owns that material. Although limited, that site would have got SOME traffic at least. Subsequently, I have downloaded and posted the movie cover from here.]

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Random updates on life in Bali.

Surfing, beer, waxed thread and flying.

I stopped surfing when I left Kuta. I pretend that it is geography, but I am hurting. Actually I am hurt. I was involved actively in two sports that are pretty arm centric and I strained a tendon in my left arm from getting my bulk up on the board. This arm is also the one that I use to pull up the front of the glider at launch which incurs a reasonable amount of strain. As I get better at it, it becomes less and I am not doing 5 hours of ground handling a day which took its toll back when I was a rank amateur instead of just an amateur. I decided to take a little break from the water which was sage, but my little on camera antics reminded me to be more careful (pain). I am at a point that I can generally pick waves that don't suck, generally get up on them, generally follow them along and steer and do all that good stuff. I've hit the pause button on my surfing career. This makes getting sponsored pretty difficult which was my plan to keep me out of a job until quite recently ;)

I haven't had a beer since labour day. The hard part is still the heat and camaraderie. A man can only drink so much pop, water and fruit juices during the day while folks are laughing and bonding with each other over a Bintang (tasty and cheap local brew).

I am hesitant to update on flossing cuz thats kind of trivial, but in the spirit of Garth, I need to come clean (haha). I have some work to do to insert it into my daily routine and have only about a 50% adoption rate at the moment.

Flying. I love flying, but I am coming off a 2 day hiatus for physical and mental reasons. I really didn't understand what happened during the diabolically bad session which kind of scared me. Being dragged around is one thing, flying fast 1 foot off the ground is quite another. Its surprisingly speedy and there are a lot of hard things like people and bamboo huts to be found that low to the ground. "Mentor" is the only adequate word for Basil (which is not his real name - Garrit bwahahahahahaha). He is a retired guy who is staying at my hotel and I think one of the best pilots here. He is very giving of knowledge and he has a wealth of experience to draw upon. We talked a lot about it and I understood better why things broke down the way that they did. Mostly he helped to fill in some missing information about cause and effect, aerodynamics and smrts.

Two days ago I had my best day of flying yet. The glider lifted off like it was carefully placed above my head by a kind and caring lover (the kind that actually loves you). It was smooth and gentle and as close to ideal as I have had so far. My second launch has been regarded as 95%, but I have a careful optimism that I am back on track. I flew for a total of 2 fantastic hours.

[EDITORS NOTE: Today I also had a meaningful day and made a few mistakes, but I'm generally happy with the process. After my first couple of hours of flying, the sky was crimson with inconsiderateness and the landing zone was covered in peoples crap. I was frustrated, the radio wasn't working and in my haste to get on the ground and apply sunscreen to my nose I kind of pushed it. A terrible landing, but a good learning experience. Sometimes Basil over does it on the "mentoring", although he had some good advice today. "If you are so frustrated with the BS that went on here today and so eager to get on the ground, you might get onto the ground a LOT faster than you intend. Take a ride down the coast and breath. Don't come back until you remember why you are here". I landed pissed off about getting cutoff (a million times in every which way possible), went and sat by myself for a while and then was back at it. I did a few rounds of approaches and took four and a half out of five good landings with no input from my instructor. A good finish. Learning learning learning. 16 or 17'ish hours to date. I should make my 20 goal before I wrench myself away from the hill and onto the traveling thang again.]


Once I left Kuta, the economics of this country got great. By my earlier definition of "living" I could easily pull it off for $10 /day. My room is $6, 2 beer at a cafe costs $1.25, Internet is either free or $0.30 / half hour, an awesome rice and meat cornucopia of flavour from any random stall is $1.00 and more incidentals than you could shake a stick at rounds it up to $10. The problem is that my requirements have changed slightly. I need a motorbike ($3) and I need to feed that bike to the bank breaking tune of $0.50 in petrol daily. I am no longer a heathen and beer is the work of the devil, but if I drink wine then they are "fermented in a stained bathtub, doubling as a toilet for a family of 13" tasting and $3 per. Another mango lassi please. Yum! a breakfast omelet. You get the picture. Renting gear at the hill is obscenely priced in comparison which makes my quest for living on the cheap a farce anyways, but I pretend that that isn't happening and therefore don't need to account for it. If I am honest, I am probably spending 20 bucks and living like a king. Well, my crown got knocked a bit askew last night during a fight with the most enormous cockroach that I have ever seen, but thats neither here nor there. Why is it then that I have spent so much money while here? Right... the thing thats not happening. I have adopted an expensive sport to learn and dream of every night. I do... every night I am flying for at least part of it. If I am awake, I instant replay every good and bad flight. One night I woke up flaring. Too funny.]


I haven't talked much about the food on this trip overall, but it has been (almost) universally good. Food needs to meet one of two criterion for it to be eaten: it has to either smell good; or be spicy as hell. There are only two meals that I've been burned on. One was a gut wrenching chicken surprise in Thailand (the surprise being food poisoning) and the other was a nasi goring in Malaysia when all of those tasty looking little bits of meat ended up having eyes and tails (deep fried anchovies - who knew?). I couldn't get over the fishy taste or all of those beady little eyes staring me down. I hate anchovies.

There is a stall across the road from my hotel, unfortunately named "Mercury Seafood". Kind of like the shoe stores called "Athletes Foot". Well intentioned; poor connotation. I try to eat there often and have either the chicken with chili sauce, rice and vegetables or the whole fried fish with the same ($1.00 or $1.25 - yes this meal cost me $1.25). I have a running joke with the guys there that they can't make it hot enough for me to not eat. So far I am winning, but a few days ago it was neck and neck, a laugh fest as beads of sweat ran down my face while I continued to deride their chili infusing abilities.

[EDITOR'S NOTE: I am sinning a bit. There is a place a few kms down the road which makes an amazing pizza and has free wireless Internet. You can sit there and watch awesome surf videos and catch up on whats going on. Arghhh 3 days running.]


Aptly named, there is a beach 10 or 15 minutes down the road that is kick ass. It costs 50 cents to get into it and that is money well spent. The first day I went down I was pretty excited as I thought it mightn't not be a bad surfing destination for me. The next few times that I went it was pretty fierce (no camera). The entire coast is being raked with some heavy surf so I hear. One time I decided to go swimming for a bit and boy did I get demolished. You wade out to waste deep water and then a set comes in and the rip almost knocks you forward off your ass. Suddenly you are standing on the beach again and you can look left and catch a crazy view of surfers doing their kamikaze thing on 10-12 foot faces at what seems to be eye level. Then you realize that 6 feet of churning white water is coming in fast. If you jump too soon, you end up dragged across the beach (the best case. Worst case is the incoming surf nails your legs and you do a subsequent handstand). If you jump too late then you end up.. well, dragged across the beach. Lets just say that I had to buy Q tips to get all of the sand out of my EAR! which still hasn't cleared. I'm still picking bits of sand out of weird places. Definitely the biggest surf that I have been swimming in. Good times.


Crap. My 25 day, cross Indonesia tour is kind of screwed. I dropped Java off the Itinerary a while back and now if I want to keep my connector flights to Bangkok I have to leave... tomorrow. Thats not gonna work. SO. I am leaving October 1st before my Visa runs out and I still plan to spend some time in Sumatra. You can get stamped in and out for $150 (before negotiation) to get another 30 days here, but I've drawn a line in the recently poured concrete. There is too much that I want to see and do, no matter how cohesive I feel while flying and surfing. Fluidity knows bounds. Also complicating is the fact that if I don't leave now and sort my passport issues out then I might be stuck in whatever country I find myself in on Oct 21st (6 months before my passport expires). If I were a betting man, I would say I would be in Bali for another 3 days. My instructor is taking a day off and wants to go flying with me in Chandi Desa and there is some surfing that I want to do to leave on a good note. I'm happy, but every day that I spend here I am blowing more cash on paragliding when I could be seeing more of an inspiring country. It is tough to balance. Sumatra is also my most likely target for a $5 day... AND I don't want Sumatra to become my new Burma (an area that I haven't been to yet, despite repeated attempts to do so). Will keep you updated.... If its December 1st and I am still talking trash about people cutting me off at the hill don't think any less of me. It is, after all, "recently" poured concrete.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Morning of the earth.

Watch it.

Some of these beaches I've been on. I CAN'T believe how much they have changed. Its a beautiful "period piece" through its age about surfing.


I'd grown accustom to her eccentricities a bit, but she was getting unnerving. Even incense couldn't make her get into the spirit with 75ccs? of raw power and 33,000 kilometers to her name. She had taken to stalling unexpectedly and at all the wrong times. I went for a ride up the west coast of the island one day and a local at one of the beaches I stopped at actually was feeling the front tire and laughing. The nail in the coffin (thank got it wasn't mine) was when a bike cut in front of me, to the inside of a dump truck and tossed a pop bottle poorly into the back, missing miserably. A real hazard at 60km/h, no real breaks, bald tires and a machine that is operating at its diminished limits. Not really a relaxing way to spend my afternoon. I missed it barely. One day it took me 2,5 hours to get home. She also got a thorn in her back paw (thankfully only a few hundred metres from a handy tire fixit stall - only $2 for a new tube, installed in 20 minutes flat). I was happy to say goodbye to her limp, physically and mentally challenged body. My distrust had made me timid and THAT is what was going to surely end up in my premature ticket home.

There is a new bike in town. I've affectionately called her Blu; less of a donkey and more like an ox. You can rent anything up to a huge Harley here if you have the money and the skill, but I had shied away from manual bikes because I figured that I had enough to concentrate on and I am a far cry from an "expert". I didn't realize that most of the "manual" bikes here are actually "semi automatics" where you need to select the gears, but there is no proper clutch. Her brakes and gear selector are in the proper places, her brakes brake and all!, she has compact car sized tires, two mirrors that actually work (I am not simply checking to make sure that my left love handle is still where I think it is). American hard iron power of 125ccs (the extra power is much appreciated and it is heavier. It doesn't get buffeted in the wind to the same extent). I still find myself reaching for for a phantom clutch at shift time, but being able to down shift if needed is probably safer in the long run. A huge improvement to what the death trap had on offer. My commute is a reasonably pleasant drive with about 30% of the traffic. There are no Polisi huts and I am SO safe that I am "remounting" my role as Peter Fonda in Easy Rider, with my greasy locks swaying in the breeze (sorry mom).

Head south, young man.

It was surprising hard for me to leave Kuta (about 7 or 8 days ago). I had become surprisingly installed in a place that is the antithesis of what I think I am looking for. It was a gross town, but I think I just really needed to stay in the same place for a while.

They have a bar there with drinking contests. A wall of fame and all. One guy wrote "Scottish. We invented drunk". He drank 8 shots in 49 seconds (shortly after that I puked and got thrown out). Seriously though, this beach is like Daytona during spring break. Every night, all night. I've driven to Daytona, more than once.. well three times actually. One time I even took a bus. Now that's dedication to the cause... and embarrassing. Here its less embarrassment that I feel and I see it more of an opportunity to make some serious fun of whats going on. I saw a 40 year old man in dockers and tucked in dress shirt (loafers with no socks... yes I'm serious) rolling around on the floor because he couldn't get up, grinding against pillars and then fighting the boyfriend of one the hottest girls in the world (boy did I ever get a thrashing that night :). Its fun, but gets tired. If I open up my encyclopedia of clich├ęs I would find Kuta under "a nice place to visit, but I wouldn't want to live there (for long)". There are also some of the hottest bodies that I have ever seen in waking life parading around in almost nothing, which is more tortuous, but somehow doesn't get tiring. Strange.

Most of the tourists on Kuta beach are from Australia. I guess its kind of like me going to Daytona for a holiday. The touts pick up on that type of thing and tend to say "mate" a lot. Their Ts tend to come across as Ks to the uninitiated. "You want to buy a Tshirt Mike? Transport? Hey Mike, massage? Woman Mike? You want a blow? Marijuana Mike? You like Charlie?".... I don't even know the man... How do I know you? It was a serious problem. I kept taking double takes at touts, hawkers, drug dealers, whores and legitimate massage types alike where a single take is too much to offer in most circumstances. It is a sign of weakness; of interest; of certain infestation to a man who thinks he just heard his name and a special kind of hell for a man who absolutely HATES being hustled. I once got pulled out of the window of a truck like bus by a throng of very hungry and enterprising taxi drivers in Laos at 3am. I didn't like it before that night and especially don't like it now. Its also part of traveling alone and I've inherited oodles of behavioral expectation from those lonely male travelers who have come before. I am a freaking magnet walking down the street past 2am (in any country). We (tourists) created this in a culture which is otherwise deeply spiritual, honest and timid (at least from what I have seen during my limited time here).

It did feel strangely like bizzaro land home though. I had wheels (decrepit and dangerous wheels, but wheels all the same), I liked my hotel (although it was too expensive for what it was), I had a dude who I rented my surfboard from in the morning, I knew where to go and get good, cheap coffee, I knew how to get around the one way roads and back into town (I went days! without getting lost). If I wanted to spend a $1 on some delicious nasi goring, $2 on a whole red snapper, or $3.50 on some great pizza it was all there. I knew the name of the guy who checked my bags for bombs when I went for my free Internet glut in the evening.

It was kind of creepy staying almost directly across from the previous site of the Sari Club, but they have a nice little memorial. The locals say that they are about 65% recovered from the mayhem, but the last 35% will take quite a long time methinks.

As soon as I left I felt good about it, but I had dug myself in with a fair bit of inertia. It was definitely time, although tough to get away. The commute was taking way too much out of me. Its not the physical side of it (although I was generally exhausted from a morning surf), but it was concentrating so intently all the way there, concentrating so intently 400ft over the ocean for the afternoon and turning around and doing it again. My brain just isn't built for that type of thing these days and I would arrive back at my room twitching, covered in pollution with contacts that where glued to my eyeballs with a heady brew of noxious dust and goo. Then there was that fucking scooter, forged from the depths of hell.

Speaking of larger than life,

check out this setup.

You get some cool perspectives in flight. This is some rich Australian dude's place that you can rent out all or part of for some serious cake I am sure. Check out the open air chill out lounge (with loft), the infinity pool with the skylight to the room below and the palm trees with the glass railings that are planted on some sort of garden deck underneath. If you get lower you can see all this stuff more on the level. At that point however avoiding the cliff and catching lift is a little bit more important than blog worthy photography :)

And this is their view. I've never actually seen anyone there, just a gaggle of minions doing menial minion type of stuff. Hard core rich folks, although probably not as rich as you might think (not necessarily so at least).

Drama and blogging. Ackems Razor.. sort of.

I was out on the patio of my hotel chilling when two of the paraglider folks came in and asked if I wanted to head up to Chandi Desa for the night and do some flying there the next day. It was a great opportunity and I wanted to check it out as it is meant to be a stunning site. I called my instructor and asked if he would rent me a wing for the trip and what he thought of the whole idea. The launch is really tricky at the top of the hill (you have to be perfect or bad things happen) and even the lower launches off a myriad of peanut terraces are a bit dodgey (picture of one of the guys taking off below, "Basil"). He decided it wasn't really wise and I was happy to concede. Trusting a guy to keep me safe and then overriding his call is a bit ridiculous. I decided to go and observe and I trudged up the hill to check it out after a couple of hours worth of driving. I had a really good time.

I remember me and Jeh sitting in Wide Open one night and I was trying to explain a problem that I have with the act of blogging. I'm a little bit paranoid that this thing is overly dramatic, but just the act of writing something down as an attempt to describe it automatically makes that happenance 100 times more dramatic than in real life. "The dingy and poorly lit bar was as it should be. A hundred details that make me like the place were immediately apparent. Comfort. A good friend at my side and my favourite bartender doing what she does best; charm. The stereo plays some guilty pleasure for the 1000th time. Life is good." Its all true. I felt it all. Dramatic as fuck. "I went out for a beer with Jeh and it was fun" is also true, but it doesn't convey anything about how I felt or what was around me. So anyways, I'm in Chandi Dessa and we stayed in an awesome place for $5 including an egg sandwich breakfast and coffee. I was struck by this place and I paused at the door to my room that night. I need to tell people about this door. Its beautiful. There is a problem though, as the act of describing this door to any extent would have made it the door of a palace, of mythic proportions and incalculable worth. A picture is worth a thousand of them,

but it was a great door. It was a great place. Why do I feel like I can't describe them without making them larger than life? Its strange and I don't really know what to think of it. I am enjoying writing for the first time (this thing is my first foray into writing for joy). The primary purpose of this is to keep a diary for later years while keeping loved ones informed (my first attempt to do so that has ever stuck for more than a day). Everything that I write about has happened and is as factual as I can make it. I'm not sure why I feel like I can no longer write about stuff and when I do, it feels like I need to tone it down. Which kind of feels like lying to me. This door was awesome.

I have come to the conclusion that my inner critic needs to take a Valium. I need to get back to the who gives a toss Mike. For better or worse. Dramatic or not. He just keeps rearing his ugly, deformed head.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Almost (in)famous(ly incompetent).

So I thought this post should really be a narrative between all of my personalities in my head, but I don't really have a clever name for my ego and writing a dialogue about today would be a) a lot of work and b) kind of stupid. Besides, Mike's Ego (Mick?) has had a tough enough day already without everyone laughing at his expense.

I was selected as an ambassador for the school for a segment on BaliTV. My progress has been good and I'm a tourist.. Go Bali! It was a stunning day and the hill was all a buz with activity. The camera crew was there and a beautiful Balinese woman was doing the commentary. All the pros were doing cool flyby's and there were tonnes of great footage of people gently soaring over the ocean like poster children for some sort of serenity foundation. I was getting my gear ready and it was time for my big brush with local fame. - Enter Mike stage left - I was asked a bunch of vanilla questions about my experience and why I was here, about safety and what flying was like in my country. Well... I'm not really sure how flying actually is near Toronto, but I faked it all the same. I also lied and said that "it has always been a dream of mine to paraglide", because it seemed like something someone magnanimous would say. The story of a desire to surf and a succession of seat sales bringing me eventually to Bali, resulting in my accidental passion for paragliding seemed something that my adoring fans did not want to hear ;)

Ok.. time to fly... I can hear her talking to the camera in Bahasa Indonesia, but I could hear "michael" being said a lot. "Watch now as Michael, superstar student, readies himself to launch off this here cliff and realize the dream of the ancients; to soar among the birds". Both camera angles ready. I leaned down to get all of my risers sorted out and a "brush with fame" it was as my face went right into the seat of a very tight pair of designer jeans. "Watch now as Fido the Canadian tourist performs the sacred preflight ceremony, paying homage to all of the God's of Doggie Flight". This was going to be one of those moments that my fragile ego dreads.... I can tell, I'm keen like that. I was finally all set, although already blushing, as I pulled the wing over my head to get this show on the road. "Road rash" is more accurate as my poor launch caused my sorry ass to be dragged all over the launch site. I tried again and still couldn't get it. The camera crew moved onto more camera worthy material. Perfect! However, they set up in the corner of the site and I can just see myself in the background of her commentary, being dragged into and out of frame. Left to right, right to left. Repeatedly. Like 10 times. I eventually had to take a break and it was getting a bit ridiculous. I felt bad for my instructor, but I couldn't help but laugh my ass off. This was funny stuff. Way too funny.

It was a gnarly day on the hill and I saw some more tree landings, ripped canopies, near collisions, my first "crevat" and random scary stuff. One guy who just came in from Singapore really struggled and smashed into the side of the cliff, breaking his leg. The wind was pretty strong and as such you need to do a reverse launch... it's the rule. He didn't know or couldn't do one and insisted on playing it forward anyways. He barely escaped with a scary looking launch, lost some altitude while he got himself settled, turned directly into the cliff, caught some suspension lines on a tree and smacked with brutal force into a very large, bone crushing rock. He awaited rescue, dangling by his canopy two feet off a ground, only slightly above another imposing and sheer rock face. He was actually trying to climb out of his harness, which in this case (I am told), could have easily caused his death. Scare-yeeeee.

The wind picked up and I decided that I was done for the day. Not a great day for the sport from a publicity standpoint, as it was a bit of a gong show.

I really don't know what the hell went wrong with my launches - gotta get that nailed.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

"Learning to fly" and there is a lot of learning going on (an update)

I have finished my course and continue to learn as I go along. I have 20ish flights (about 10ish hours in the air) and I hope to log 25 hours of flying time before I leave. I am top landing each time (landing in the same spot from where I took off) and have done about 30 landings of this type so far (when it isn't busy on the hill, I touch down and then take off again for practice). Top landing is good; beach landing bad. It's a hellish walk up that cliff along the steep goat path. I am getting better and I continue to have the utmost trust in my instructor and he has started trusting me more. We have a little bit of an understanding now and although he watches me like a hawk, he only uses the radio when he thinks that I am about to cause (major) harm to myself or those around me. The approach is a bit unnerving in a strong offshore breeze as you need to start the baseline leg about 20-30 metres lower than the lip of the cliff. You don't catch the lift until you are quite close to it and then you shoot up the side, up over the lip, across the landing site, into the wind and down. This happens fairly quickly and sometimes I feel like maybe this time the magical elevator is going to be out of order due to servicing and I'll smack into the side of the cliff. Sometimes you come in too low and have to abort. Sometimes you come in too high and the lifting force causes you to overshoot the height by 10 or 20 meters from where you want to be. Its kind of funny as every once in a while I look down to see this 140lb Balinese dude smiling big as he gives a little point to the left or the right when I am off course and not "ideal", but not "running with scissors". I find comfort in knowing that if I am being a total dumbass that there is someone who will override my call and prevent me from unwittingly pushing through with an impossible or dangerous situation. My first top landing was a cacophony of instructions. Left, right, slow, smooth, hands up, down, more break, less break, 1 centimeter more, less, quarter breaks, half breaks blah blah blah. "Too high, we try again - o.k. Michael?". Progress.

I am on my fourth different glider as I continue to learn and can safely handle a little bit more performance in my flying. It allows me (with considerable respect for the dangers involved, guidance and tutoring) to know whats out there and faster, more responsive wings allow me fly in a wider range of wind conditions. For instance, in the wind today the first wing I was under would have done nothing but fly up... and straight backwards (which really isn't cool). I think I am committed to the sport enough that I will be purchasing my own kit (once I have a source of income of course :) and now I'll be a little bit more informed / experienced through the opportunity to leach knowledge and demo equipment here in Bali. Its also very educational to take a break from flying and watch different gliders / pilots approach things differently. I've learned a massive amount from sitting myself down next to some of the wizened old timers and asking a million questions with live, contextual examples of what and what not to do.

I am having some sublime moments in the air and wind and weather patterns are becoming a little bit less random in my mind. I am starting to understand where the best lift is to be found from the landscape with differing wind direction and speed. Yesterday I spent the afternoon skirting around a temple and at one time I was about 15m away from this guy as we shared some laughs and had a casual conversation about how freaking great things were. Today I had the entire coastline to myself for an hour in some beautiful wind and sunshine. After that though, the sky was thick with 10 gliders, but even thats a good opportunity to learn and apply the rules of the road practically (although annoying as hell).

From the air I've seen two people land in the ocean, one guy do a harsh downwind landing on the beach, another guy hanging upside down in the trees after a pretty weird looking launch and another guy plow directly into the lip of the landing site after doing everything wrong that he could (everyone was fine). Its helpful to see good and bad takeoffs and landings from all angles. If I don't know why things went bad, I ask to make sure that I minimize the chances of the same happening to me. Some of these people are "expert" pilots and have logged an impressive amount of hours and this in itself is a sage lesson to be learned.

Anyways, I love it and could go on and on. I am really enjoying the active learning and although its not like running a marathon, my body is loving the different activities. I'll save everyone the ramblings... I have a book to read... and an exam tomorrow morning. Wish me luck.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Far away from it all

Didn't even feel it.. No big wave to worry about apparently.

Step four: No deer for a month

This ones kind of old... I gave up beer as of Labour day. I still have wine with diner and I had two vodka redbulls the other night, but I digress. This is tough for me, cuz nobody loves beer more than me. I like all kinds of beer. I like it in the morning and at night. I love it when its cold and I love it only slightly less when its warm. The liquor laws here are non existent (if you aren't Muslim and even then they aren't practically applied from what I can see), it's smoking HOT here, there is a 24-hour-freezing-cold beer dispensing unit every 10 steps and the pricing makes it free for all intents and purposes. I was starting to abuse my privileges a bit and although its a hard place to do such a thing, for the sake of my body and in keeping with my latest mantra it was something I had to do. Swilling beers all day really doesn't fit with the "random kind things for the body" idea. My plan is to stick with it until I "admit" myself into the kickboxing camp October 1st (can't wait for submission grappling ;). I'm signed up and ready to go, I just need to get my passport issues worked out in Bangkok before then. They have a Yoga / nutritionist type person on staff and I plan to stay on the camp grounds to be a little bit more "immersed" (and to keep me away from -insert bad food / bad thing here-).

My only thought so far is that not drinking beer isn't very refreshing and is kind of boring :)

[EDITOR'S NOTE: This all started with an effort to do "Random Kind Things for My Body", which is here]

Monday, September 10, 2007

Finally! Some constructive progress in the "War on Terror"! YAY!

Name calling and propaganda.

After roughly 4000 coalition dead and tens of thousands wounded, bush is announcing the "next phase" during the anniversary of September 11th and Osama still leads. Don't worry though... he's "virtually impotent".

That's great guys. I thought for a second that things weren't going very well for you, but now I see that everyone is keeping the eye on the ball.


Sunday, September 9, 2007

Step three.two: Wright Brutha

It was a beautiful day overlooking the Indian Ocean on the southernmost tip of Bali... We join two arch rivals engaged in a serious struggle:

meek: "i think... i think i'm going to pack it in.... i probably shouldn't have started this...."

Mike: "What the fuck are you talking about? You've come this far. Get on with it. We've got stuff to do."

meek: "but... i'm ... i'm scared..."

Mike: "You're SCARED? Its only 250ft for Christ's sake."

meek: "its high enough..."

Mike: "That’s the point. WHAT! You’re telling me that you are afraid of heights now?” he spat with a smirk of superiority which he knew that meek hated intensely.

meek: "no... its just that.. i don't know..."

Mike: "Everything they said about you is true. You don't follow through and you're half ass."

meek: "don't say that... please... i've got enough on my plate right now..."

Mike: "If you don't finish this, I'm gone. I'm dead. I'm not coming back. I'm leaving you with a lame 9-5. You can drive a BMW and cheat on your wife."

meek: "but..... i need you.... don't do this to me..."

Mike: "Well, the ball is in your court. Isn't it?"

I left a lot behind that day. I took a massive amount of self doubt, of external critics (real and imagined), internal criticism, fear and angst... I put it all in a little box and tied it with a solid gold ribbon. I placed it gently on the top of that cliff and stepped off into the prevailing trade winds.

Nobody died that day. However, I am a step closer to understanding what drives me. I have a MASSIVE fear of failure; stronger than I thought. As a coping mechanism, I incent myself by making failure SO unattractive that I can't help but rise above it or face lopping off serious chunks of my psyche as penalty. The problem is that in search of black and white, I’ve ended up with black on failure and a thousand shades of gray on the success side. Higher, faster, longer, different, more. I need to work on that. AND heaven help me if I end up on the side of not success.. real failure or just made up to be so.. catastrophic. Black.

Paragliding is relatively safe, but this battle did wage on. From it I understand that my fear of failure has somehow made me a gambler and a risk taker. I don't know what to say about this correlation (it seems a bit suspect), but I feel it all the same. I need to think on this.

In any event, I am taking my license. This was the first of four solo flights that I have to my name, en route to logging 5 hours of flight time for my first rating. It is a beautiful, peaceful and sometimes scary endeavor that has intense meaning for me at this stage of discovery.

I feel truly powerful.. from the inside.. for the first time in a long, long time.. and it only took a week.

[EDITOR'S NOTE: This all started with an effort to do "Random Kind Things for My Body", which is here]

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Step Wheels of injustice

So I am getting a bit installed in Kuta, although that really wasn't the plan. I have an iron steed for the commute (1.25 hours each way!) to school. Its not really a horse, more like a yellow, petulant, iron donkey. I have named her Kitty. She has bald, roller skate sized tires and a missing mirror. The rear brake hits like a sponge; the front like a sledgehammer (at any speed). I don't think Kitty's front brake has ever been applied in her lifetime. She is gutless and once you finally get her up to 80 km/h, she gets this cute little instability / speed wobble thing (like I picture a kitty cat might). This isn't actually cute and scares the hell out of me. There isn't really anything to do, but slow down and hold on tight.

If I ever needed a reason to hate scooters... Kitty the Iron Donkey would be it.

We start our morning together by maneuvering through the traffic of Kuta and then dumping ourselves on a highway thats absolutely ridiculous. A random melange of trucks, cars, bikes by the hundreds and pollution that makes me want to vomit. I need to duct tape my camera to Kitty. You need to see this.. its a trip. I think of it a little like a high speed puzzle. It has many pieces and I am just now starting to understand the rules. Number one is to not do anything unexpected. Methodical and predictable wins the race. The only problem is that predictable is passing on the inside left, squeezing between cars, crossing any piece of available space, anywhere and all the time. Always pass the trucks as fast you humanly can (don't get one of those stones in the teeth). Its actually more dangerous to drive like you would in Canada, as it would be truly unexpected to the 20 bikes in the immediate vicinity. A pack mentality is encouraged, unless the pack is going faster than 70, in which case you are that 90 year old slow guy on the 401 who is nothing but a hazard. The good thing is that there is so much traffic that everyone is generally meandering along at about 50-60 or so. Actually, the real number one rule is to always drive on the left... very important.

Its a pretty lawless land, unless you are a tourist who makes a left on a red under the sign that says "no left turn on red". you know that sign thats conveniently located beside the little police hut? I realized as soon as it happened that it had happened, but I was like - "moving violations don't count here obviously. Take a look around!". They called to the next little police hut on their cell, with a message that i am sure went kind of like "I have a sucker on a yellow scooter headed your way". A cop came walking across four lanes of traffic to stop me, so that I could get escorted shamefully back across to get the "talk".

Scary police man: "My friend called me"
he smiled.

Stupid Tourist: "Oh yeah?", smiling back. This is a pretty corrupt land and both Scary Police Man and Stupid Tourist knew exactly what was going to happen here.

SPM: "Registration and license?"

ST: "I think we have a problem then", having neither.

SPM: "Ho ho ho" (Like it was suddenly Christmas for Hindus and Muslims across the land). "You must go to pay fine in town right now".

ST: "No problem, how much?"

SPM: "Infraction, infraction, infraction blah blah blah. 500,000 rupiah."

ST: "How far is town? I am really late... are you sure their isn't something we can do?" feeling like he was straight out of some cheesy movie.

SPM: "Well, if you are late... maybe you could pay me know to save time?" Smiles all around again.

"I have 104,000"

"Done. Here, take 4000... For petrol"

I came back to ask how best to get across the 4 lanes of traffic and not get another "infraction". Him and his buddy were already splitting up the "fine" money, but were nice enough to escort me back to my turning lane. I was smart in that I had a huge wad of cash in the other pocket for my instructor and I lied. I was dumb in that if I had more time or had more wits about me, I would have probably gotten off for much less. Asking for a receipt probably would have done wonders. Or if I pushed actually going to pay the fine they would have let me off for almost nothing, cuz whats in it for them? Who actually wants to write out a ticket? Good learning experience.

So its lawless for everyone else but me and lawless (and subsequently more safe) for me when there is no police hut around.

I hate the commute, but its that damn surfing. I can only surf beach break, beginner waves. I haven't been able to find any that are closer to the school. Not really complaining :)

[EDITOR'S NOTE: This all started with an effort to do "Random Kind Things for My Body", which is here]

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Step three: Like Rodney Dangerfield:

I am back to school. More on this to come in due time.

I am better than great on this decision.

[EDITOR'S NOTE: This all started with an effort to do "Random Kind Things for My Body", which is here]

Goofing off - also kind to me.

So, Internet is cheap and plentiful in Bali (at least where I am.. crap I gotta get off this beach). Time to catch up on my blog stalking. An incestuous group to be sure, but they all have merit to me for different reasons. I am on vacation and all, so don't rib me on "branching out" right now.

These are my favourite posts in the last little bit:

Garth is branching out from the tech and sharing like he was an A grade student in kindergarten.

Gillian continues to put it on the line. Her ability to be heartfelt and vulnerable and beautifully eloquent in her blogs is inspiring.

Brianna is wanting to kill the roaches. I like the way she writes/perceives.

Newcomer SparklyD threw down her own meaning of life from a unique and most excellent vantage point.

Thats that. I am exhausted (shattered?) time to leave.

Guys: thanks for the posts. Y'all good at relaying your feelings and stuff. Keep it real yo?


Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Step one redux: Surf app design v1.1 and v1.2

I need to get off the 50 foot beginner long board and into something a little bit more manageable. I'm not sure when I am supposed to do this, but I think I might decide that its tomorrow.

1) Its really hard to paddle and turn around. It goes like this: "Wow that's an awesome looking wave, just about to curl and looking powerful. I'm going to teef this bad boy out from under all those lame suckas who aren't as hip to the scene as I so clearly am. Ok, paddle, paddle, paddle, almost turned a quarter of the way... wave gone.

2) Its covered in a spongy, grippy material that I am sure that I am happy is there, its just that I have a friction burn on my knees (when I paddle they move back and forth and when I stand, they drag for a second on the way up) and on my top two abdominal muscles (and my lowest two ribs). I had to stop today cuz it was too painful to lay on the board. I think this might be why surfers a) use non spongy boards (this is a secondary benefit to performance me thinks) b) most wear thin shirts (in addition to UV protection) and c) surf shorts go below the knee (maybe? not really sure on that one - anyone? UV again or just style?).

I learned that surfing wave faces is exponentially more difficult (and fun) than surfing white water, crashed soooo 20 seconds ago stuff from surfing v1.0.

[EDITOR'S NOTE: This all started with an effort to do "Random Kind Things for My Body", which is here]

Step two: Floss and fly this mofo.

Do you guys remember the Ebonics Delta Airlines bit? "East coast, west coast, it don matter neeah we get you to your ho and back lickety split, no _hit. Then you be back at your crib chillin with a phat spliff thinkin we was some crazy ass angel. " Rich it was.

[EDITORS NOTE: I think this was it, but the site is pretty lame. If anyone can find it fo sure, send me the link and I will make this unlame. I can't vouch for the audio as I don't have anywhere to listen to it... i.e. buyer beware on this link]

So I like my teeth. I don't floss. I go to the dentist very infrequently and am kind of lucky I didn't get burned the last time. I don't want dentures before 2000 and never. This ones easy. Done.

[EDITORS NOTE: My original title was to be "Heidi Floss" before I realized that her name was "Heidi Fleiss". Ms Floss turns out to be real though (sort of), its not really clear what is going on and then I realized I was investigating the porn career of someone who may or may not exist, which started with an error, and then I had to realize that the factual nature of this particular part of this particular post doesn't really matter that much. What does matter is that I am going to start taking care of my teeth... AND that Heidi Floss is somehow a fictional character in porn, played by Rebecca Bardoux or a real person... in gay porn]

[EDITOR'S NOTE: This all started with an effort to do "Random Kind Things for My Body", which is here]

Monday, September 3, 2007

Step one: Surfing

So my first effort to do nice things for myself is a good old fashioned surf lesson in Bali. Nobody told me that surfing was hard? Jeesh. It was labour day and I think it was fitting, as surfing is very labourious which I immediately ascertained (I'm keen like that). Two foot waves might be right, maybe a bit optimistic. These things are the throw aways from the big waves that hit a bit farther off shore which leaves them mere babies (but still packing a surprising wallop) by the time they hit the throng of posers (me). The point on these is to learn how to get up and balance on the board which is more difficult than I might of thought (especially after doing it 30 or 40 times). It was a really good time. Laugh out loud good time. Its very satisfying when you do it right and you just have to laugh as its kind of a ludicrous feeling in a way. I had some problems though: the sun, as it's really hard to be in the equatorial sun without a hat or sunglasses for any length of time; the back, as you need a pretty flexible back which has never been my strong point; the stamina, back to the comment that surfing is hard; the stance, as I tend to lean too far back (from water skiing maybe?); and the mindset, as you need to let go of any thought that you had of surfing the waves that you see on TV (which I was happy to to do as soon as a 2 foot wave knocked me flying). Yes, I did a surfing lesson in Kuta Beach of all places ($30). Yes I paid more money to buy the digital photos ($10). Yes I am putting them here because I am pretty proud and yes I am not putting the ones of my picking my bathing suit out of my ass and falling down. So what?

I'm definitely going daily while I'm here. I feel goooood. Really good.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Plans are useless

So I've spent the last couple of days trying to figure out where to go, and what to do, and whether to fly / drive / walk / boat / crawl / swim / hitch / not go. I've been a bit off mentally the last little while and am suffering from paralysis by analysis big time. I am also remunerating on the age old questions: "what the hell am I doing here?" and "are you kidding me?". I've been on the pot for too long and its time to finish my business and move on. I have simplified my requirements to a) learn to surf and b) do random acts of kindness for myself.

SO, I decided to just throw a time frame, and some geographical boundaries on my Indonesia trip. I can't armchair this one. I have refused to buy a guide book on this trip cuz although handy for maps and points of interest, I really want to go with the flow a bit more. If I have a guide book in my hand, I only tend to stay in places that are listed there and in my price range, I only see the sites they recommend and I thumb my nose at stuff that they thumb their nose at. If you get lost then you have to ask for directions (even if you don't the language) and thats where all the good things start (remind me to tell you the story of the butler to the political heavyweights). If you sleep at "random place" then it could be freakin awesome, or an unmitigated disaster, but an experience either way. I guess the point is that LP might not have liked it and I might, or listed it and used careless or undefined adjectives like "Clean, but noisy", "Dirty and quiet" or any other qualifications that may or may not apply to me (or apply to me yesterday when I cared about "clean", but not today when all I really care about is "quiet"). What do these terms even mean? They can't be calibrated to what I feel about any of them in their present form and right now I feel much better asking a random person and taking the risk. I'll get burned badly one of these days, but its a better model for me right now than scrubbing my traveling experience free of colour. It also depends on where I am at (obviously). These places so far are a little bit like Disney Land: fairly forgiving of mistakes and if you don't like it, you tell the operator to stop the ride and you run to random safe place for cover. Drop me in East Timor or Jakarta (or any Anti-Disneyland place) and I really better have a name of a place to stay, a map, SOME understanding of what the heck is going on there and an understanding of how to tell someone to take me there. I better be damn sure that the place is what I am looking for (whatever that is).

SO the time frame is 25 days. The geographical brackets are Bali and North Sumatra (thats a bit like saying "Newfoundland" and "Vancouver". Indonesia is a massive collection of islands and has the 5th largest population in the world). I have booked a flight from here (KL) to Bali and I will take a ferry out of Sumatra to Penang and then back to KL and on to Bangkok again on Sep 25th. In between is up for grabs. Its kind of stressing me out that most of the beginner waves in Indonesia appear to be in Kuta Beach, Bali (Disneyland for Disneylands). We shall see. I also think that it is kind of funny that I am using the Internet to research beach and point breaks in Indonesia. Wouldn't want a guide book! Mike: you are a farce.

After an indeterminate amount of time in Thailand, I will be in India (as long as I can do some fancy passport work - Sey, I can't believe I didn't listen to your advice... of course I was going to stay traveling longer). I will be in Southern Ontario for Xmas.