Blood and Kiva

30 Aug 2012 by Skyring

Hello Discoverylover!

It’s me, Skyring. Today I went down to the mobile bloodbank to give an armful of blood in memory of Becky, whom we lost two years ago. Something I do twice a year, on her birthday in February as well. If I’m organised enough, I can squeeze in a third donation between 15 and 29 May, given that they won’t let me donate more than once in a three month period.

I know you’re a veteran of these things, and give plasma as well and I’ll never catch up with you, but it’s something that gives me pleasure to help out, and to remember Becky, who was a loving and generous soul, and an inspiration yet.

I’ve learnt from past years, and this time around, I gave up my normal huge Starbucks mug of coffee in favour of fruit juice. And more juice.

And yet more juice while I drove down to Tuggeranong where the mobile blood bank is located today. When they asked me to hop on the scales, I protested that at least 10% was fruit juice, but I don’t think they believed me as I sloshed off.

Not a great experience this time. They always have a bit of trouble and I steered them to the good arm. The nurse dug around in it for a little, and then gave a little exclamation. I opened my eyes, and she apologised, said she had accidentally pulled it out the needle, and if I was at all squeamish I should avert my gaze.

She mopped up the blood and got me to swap end for end on the narrow bunk to get to my other arm. An antique mobile bloodbank, two narrow bunks on each side, an airline-wide aisle between with the staff, volunteers and donors forever bumping bottoms.

Second go was more successful, but after a suspiciously short time, my nurse was clucking over me again and fiddling with the needle and jiggling it around inside my elbow. Finally, with a blood flow of zero, she pulled it out and told me to avert my gaze if I was squeamish. Which I did, but not before I saw an impressively long blood clot which had grown up inside the needle.

At least my platelets are clotting well. They packed me off with a biscuit and more juice. They’ll use my blood in a sort of general pool, rather than as a nice tidy pack, but it won’t go to waste.

My elbows and I wandered around, did our shopping and drove home, where we decided I’d be best placed to spend the rest of my day quietly reading.

I like giving blood, actually. I feel that I’m a small part of the grand machine of modern society. Doing a little bit to help out.

And who knows, one day I’m liable to make a withdrawal.

But the best part is the people you meet. As ever. I have a lot of time for nurses, to begin with. They self-select for caring, empathy and compassion. One of my best jobs was working as a computer programmer for a nursing agency, and the rest of the staff were nurses, full of smiles and jokes. Practical, reliable people.

Much like yourself, really.

Volunteers help guide the flow of donors. They hand out the forms and the pens, keep the fruit juice flowing, steer people to the appointment booking sheet for a return visit and just take the load off the nursing staff. Full of smiles as well, they put the donors at ease, and laugh at all the tired old jokes that nervous people come up with.

And of course, there are the donors. Some of them have been giving blood for decades, and they know the drill better than anybody wearing a badge. There’s something joyous about giving, and all round, the atmosphere is just wonderful.

As you’d know far better than I.

Oh yeah. Kiva. More on that next letter!

Yours aye,


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What do you do?

12 Aug 2012 by Skyring

Hello, Discoverylover!

It’s me, Skyring!

Today I went with my daughter to a public lecture at the Australian Academy of Science here in Canberra. Due to its futuristic dome shape, the building is commonly called “The Martian Embassy” or “The Eskimo Embassy.

The speaker was Dr Brian Schmidt, who recently won the Nobel Prize for Physics, and he was giving a talk on the topic that earned him the award, namely the accelerating expansion of the universe.

He was impressive, not just for the topic, but for the way in which he made a complex subject, one which had consumed most of his life, comprehensible to we people just off the street. The link above includes a video feed of the lecture, and it is well worth watching.

Afterwards, we filled out a feedback form. My responses were mostly on the high wonderful end of the rating scale, but we were also asked to provide some demographic details: age, gender, level of education, occupation and so on.

I hovered over the “Occupation” field for a bit. I’m an ex-cabbie nowadays, but I haven’t retired completely. In fact, I’ve been giving a lot of time and thought to a particular project. So I wrote down “Science Fiction Writer”.

I used to be a huge science fiction fan in my youth. Had several hundred science fiction and fantasy books – still have them tucked away somewhere, actually – read all the magazines, watched all the films. And I wrote SF stories, even commenced a novel which was so horribly unreadable even my most devoted fan, my English teacher, handed the first chapters back with a firm rejection of anything else in the same line.

So, despite some modest success in Australian SF fanzines, where I thank the brave souls who put out zines on duplicators and cut rate printed post, I’ve never really returned to my first love.

Science fiction has some superb writers, and I’m thinking of the extraordinary Ray Bradbury here, but it’s mainly about the idea. The “What if…?” scenario explored. Space travel, robots, computers, swashbuckling adventurers fighting off tentacled aliens to get the girl in her form fitting spacesuit.

Star Wars was the epitome of the all-time great science fiction move, but the rather more cerebral and challenging 2001:a space odyssey was my favourite. Challenging because it took several viewings to work out what was happening. Each audience would be deposited on the street looking at each other and shaking their heads in disbelief. WTF?

I’ve got an idea for a science fiction novel, and I’m working on the thing, testing it out, tasting the possibilities. It’s built around time travel, but with a twist. A new twist, I like to think, or at least one I haven’t encountered before.

But if you have time travel, you also have access to the technology of the future, and just where can you go with that?

I should take my idea to someone like Neil Gaiman and say that if he just writes it up, we can split the proceeds.

And Neil would say that he has about a million ideas already, more than he could ever “write up”, and really the writing is the hard part!

So that’s where I’m at. Fleshing out the scenario and making a start at the writing.

I may not ever get anywhere with it, but at least I’m putting enough effort into it that I can call myself a science fiction writer with a straight face.

Stay tuned!

Yours aye,

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28 Oct 2011 by Discoverylover

Hey Skyring,

One of the things I love about my job is getting to see different parts of the country, and being pleasantly surprised by them. Last year the place that stood out for me was a little town called Te Aroha, and I don’t remember where we stayed (if I could be bothered, I could probably search for it in our work accommodation database, but I’d have to get out of bed to do that!), but the place was quite nice, and they owner thought BookCrossing sounded like a cool idea. So cool that she gave me a couple of books to read and then register etc! To top it all off, we found this amazing restaurant, called Ironique, which had amazing food, and an even more amazing decor! Lots of stuff done in iron (obviously!). My favourite was the bent cutlery!

Then last weekend, we were in Fairlie (think down South!). Shane had taken the car to go visit his Dad, who is working somewhere near there, and so I had the place to myself, and also no car. I figured I’d go into town and find some of the historic places listed on the Historic Trust Register (I’m not far off hitting 300 snarfs!), so I started walking. I only got to next door, and someone asked me where I’d come from. Number 40, I replied, laughing, and she said she thought I might have done one of the walks near by. It wasn’t a terribly long conversation, but when we finished, I turned around, and took the longer (by about 40 minutes!) route into town, via the river. It was such a nice walk, and I never would have found it on my own. Again, pleasantly surprised.

Then again, I always enjoy being in the South Island. People here are usually so friendly, and happy to have a yarn!

When I finally got into town, I was walking along the main street (called Main Street!) taking photos of old buildings, when I was (not exactly) stopped by a woman in a car. She owned the art gallery/shop over the road, and had gotten sick of sitting in the shop, so was sitting opposite, and if anyone went in she was planning on dashing across the road :D (There was some nice art in there too, but the one I liked most was a bit big to fit in the car with all our stuff, and I don’t really have space for it in my room!) We had a nice long chat, I managed to sneak an introduction to Markeroni to her, and I even managed to hoist one of my BookCrossing bookmarks off on her! She hasn’t joined yet, but she still might :-) (Or if she has she hasn’t listed me as her referring member!).

I walked down the road, taking photos as I went (turned out the restaurant/pub we’d had dinner in the night before was a historic place!), and eventually made my way to the museum. The museum (who the woman in the car had recommended to me) was the place to go if you were interested in history apparently. Unfortunately, the museum was playing host to an exhibition, not so much about history, but still awesome! Quilts! One of my Aunts is a quilter, and I’d like to learn one day, and this exhibition did nothing to sway me! Quite a few gorgeous quilts, all in different styles, and fabrics. There was one amazing one of the moon over a bay (I can’t remember the name of the bay), and there were some fantastically bright ones made for kids (usually the kids had chosen the fabric too!).

Now we can skip forward to yesterday. After a fairly long drive (pun not intended), we arrived in the bustling metropolis of Ranfurly (home of New Zealand’s coldest known temperature of -25.6 degrees – thankfully it wasn’t that cold last night!). We weren’t even staying IN Ranfurly. Instead, we made our way to the Trail Blazers B&B. I had trouble deciding which room was the most awesome, but eventually settled on mine (it was the only one with a tv in it, so I knew I wouldn’t be kept awake by someone else watching tv :p). It even had a cool quilt on the bed! The owners offered to cook us dinner, but when they found out I’m vegetarian, and realised they didn’t have any vegetables in the house (that would have gone down well!), they recommended the Naseby Royal Hotel for dinner.

Holy Moly it was Anasing (pun intended :p)! I had the vegetarian spanakopita :D Usually I’d expect to be asking for something like a burger without the meat patty, or fish and chips, and it still wouldn’t be particularly great, but this was seriously awesome! Vegetables on the side weren’t overcooked (remember those peas?), and it tasted like someone had actually made it there, not ordered it in, unfrozen it for me, and put it on a plate! Even the hummus was good :D Sadly it was insanely filling, so we couldn’t fit in desert (or maybe that’s a good thing!).

And the best thing? I looked it up today, it’s registered as a historic place AND it’s in a historic area!

Cheers, DL


PS: the coolest thing about this B&B: my room had glow in the dark stickers on the ceiling!

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Hello again!

07 Oct 2011 by Discoverylover

Hey Skyring,

I know it’s been a while since I’ve written anything, I don’t even know why I haven’t, just a slacker at heart I guess. I have actually been meaning to write for a while, I had a topic picked out and everything!

It all started when I was in Auckland for work. As you know, one of my favourite people lives there, and I was out visiting her, when I saw this:I’m sure you remember that day! We met up with ApocolypticBob, and CrrCookie’s family at Pops, in Arcadia. I got to order a burger without the meat pattie, and I actually drank root beer and enjoyed it! I’m sure it will live on in your mind as a turning point in my life! The best part (apart from the company of course!), was getting to wander around the shop, with 500 different flavours of fizzy drink (or pop as they call it there I guess), and choosing 6 to sample. I don’t remember the flavours I chose, although I think there was one red apple flavour that was quite nice! I do however remember the different brands – Jones, Rat Bastard, Route 66, and Boylan Bottle Co to name a few.

It wasn’t the most awesome day (hard to beat a fabulous BC release and catch, Sister Hazel, meeting the perfect man, AND drinking green chili beer from Flat Brach Pub!), but it did fit right in to help make the holiday a wonderful one!

Love, DL

PS Can’t wait to see you in Wellington next month!


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06 Jun 2011 by Skyring

Hello, Discoverylover!

It’s me, Skyring!

It’s winter here in Canberra and that makes the memories of our trip together even warmer. Cruising through the California desert the outside air reached 100°F, and most everywhere we went it was clear that spring was sprung and summer coming on fast. The colours of the dogwoods against the fresh bright green of the forests made my heart sing.

Thank you for making the trip so enjoyable. Travel shared is pleasure doubled and a helping hand to navigate through the rough spots. With you, your sense of fun and love of discovery makes everything a joy.

So many highlights! You’d have your own list, I guess, but I think we’d both rate the Sister Hazel concert in Columbia, Missouri right at the top. What an atmosphere! At one point I turned around and looked at the audience from the band’s perspective, albeit slightly lower. All I could see were happy faces. As you put it, “happy” wasn’t strong enough a word. “Bliss” was a better fit.

You were entranced. Being mentioned by Ken Block as having travelled so far was nice, but it was the sparkle on the twinkle on the glitter to meet the band members later on. I think the New Zealand hazelnut chocolate swung the deal. “What, we autograph this?” one asked. “No,” you replied, “You eat it, silly!”

I’m so glad you introduced me to Sister Hazel’s songs. I was cool at first, but once I got into the lyrics, I loved them. Listening to the songs, singing them to myself, hanging out for the next album. All good. All shared pleasure.

We took our own Heartland Highway through America. Sure, we had to loop around for a week to catch the concert in Columbia, but we saw a bunch of places we wouldn’t otherwise have gotten to. The bridges of Madison County, for instance.

I’m sure I would have had a fine time all by myself, dutifully poking along every forgotten bend of the old Route 66 in a nerdly fashion. But you were my sparkle, my twinkle, my glitter. You were the dogwood blossoms in the forest. You were the cherry on top. You were the music, the colour, the sun.

A little too much sun when we visited the Grand Canyon, perhaps!

Anyway, thanks for sharing my Route 66 adventure. Thanks for making it into something I’ll remember with grand pleasure for the rest of my life.

And, thank you, Sister Hazel! As ever, you were an inspiration, a celebration, a thoughtful eye on humanity, a song of joy.

Once upon a time I’d sigh and say, “Now I can die happy!”.

But no longer.

Now I can live happy.

Yours aye,


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