Waitomo Glowworm Caves, New Zealand by da-AL

We’re a long way down in the Waitomo Caves.

Really I’d like to sound official, truly scholarly when I describe these magnificent caves. But I’d be faking it. I was too busy trying to keep my eyes in their sockets as I took in all the amazing sights to retain whatever our hard-working guide endeavored to teach us.

A mineral formation can be as delicate as a veil.

Here we were in New Zeand, and everywhere we visited was utterly beautiful and entirely distinctive from the prior site. Auckland wasn’t at all like Rotorua, which resembled neither the Redwoods nor Huka Falls, and Craters of the Moon wasn’t like any of them.

And — the Waitomo Glowworms Caves were all their own too. We walked down, down, down, and then down, down, down some more while trying not to get bugs in our hair or smack our heads on nature’s sculptures along the way made of limestone and fossils.

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“The limestone formation in the Waitomo Glowworm Caves occurred when the region was still under the ocean about 30 million years ago … These cave decorations take millions of years to form given that the average stalactite grows one cubic centimeter every 100 years,” according to Wikipedia.

This photo might look like nothing — but those pinpricks of light from glowworms! They exist in New Zealand! What you can’t see because without electric light its so dang dark down there, is that the GLOWWORMS give off spiderweb-like strings to ensnare their dinners.

The white dots in the immense darkness are glowworms.

Looking for an adventurous new job? They’re always looking for explorers to map out new tunnels. These are just mannequins, but they give an idea of what’s required…

The explorers who map out the caves are quite heroic.

Have you visited a limestone cave?

Video: Craters of the Moon, New Zealand by da-AL

Crater at Craters of the Moon, Taupo, New Zealand.

Nowhere is it more evident that New Zealand owes its geography to tectonic uplift and volcanic eruptions than at any of its geothermal parks. Our visit there began with Auckland and Rotorua, then the Redwoods and Huka Falls.

Steaming burbling craters galore behind Khashayar and da-AL at Craters of the Moon, Taupo, New Zealand.

Along our drive to Taupo, (before we’d view the Waitomo Glowworms Caves) we stopped at the aptly named Craters of the Moon.

Straying from the path isn’t advised at Craters of the Moon, Taupo, New Zealand.

Heat and steam from below percolate up to uncork land, leaving behind jagged craters, some of them huge. Visitors are told, not asked, to keep to the trails, lest they become boiled and billowed…

Do you have craters near you?

Guest Blog Post: Angels Flight, Best Fun for $1 in L.A. by R. Barden

Given how I plan to soon publish novels of my own, (“Flamenco & the Sitting Cat will be my debut one) the definition of heaven for me is anything to do with books! Blogger/writer Rosalind Barden’s guest blog post about Angels Flight — well, that’s heaven + books!…

Photo of Angels Flight – Photo credit: http://www.picturetrail.com/sfx/album/view/23044083 and https://angelsflight.org

“Angels Flight: Best Fun for a Buck in Los Angeles!” by Rosalind Barden

A character in my humorous noir mystery, “Sparky of Bunker Hill and the Cold Kid Case,” set in Depression-era Downtown Los Angeles, isn’t a person at all, but a funky funicular railway, Angels Flight.

Over a hundred years old, the funicular’s two cars chug from the top of Bunker Hill to the Downtown flatlands. It still exists thanks to the funicular’s fans who campaigned to save it from the wrecking ball in the 1960s when historic Bunker Hill was leveled. It was disassembled and packed away for decades, then pieced together in the 1990s on the reconfigured Bunker Hill, a half block from its original location. Sadly, a fatal accident shuttered the funicular again. The fans never left, and owing to their love, time and money, Angels Flight reopened in 2017.

Billed as the world’s shortest railway, it actually isn’t, though it is plenty short. The delight begins when boarding at the arch at the bottom of Bunker Hill, across from historic Grand Central Market at Fourth and Hill Streets, or at the matching station and wheelhouse at the top of Bunker Hill. The two orange and black cars are a delight of Beaux Arts design from an earlier, more exuberant time. The gleaming wooden interiors are each shaped like a staircase to conform to the slant of the hill. Riders sit in benches along either side.

The bell dings, and the car creaks to life. Then it merrily clanks along the track. Half the fun is listening to the reactions of fellow passengers as they oh and ah, or watching those silently smiling, lost in thought. The pace is slow, allowing time to detach from Downtown’s bustle and relax. For only a dollar, it’s a ride guaranteed to lift the mood.

Photo of Rosalind Barden by Diane Edmonds.

About Rosalind Barden: In addition to blogging, she writes mystery, sci-fi and horror with a sense of humor. “Sparky of Bunker Hill and the Cold Kid Case” is her new, wacky noir young adult mystery set in Depression-era Los Angeles.  Find out more about her and her books here.

What’s your favorite historical site where you live?

Video: Great TV, an Inspiring Author, and a Humble Tango by da-AL

My husband I do a little dance for our dear cousins.

Someone said that a good story makes you both laugh and cry. To me, a remarkable story does all that while capturing the nuances of how each of us can be wonderful yet flawed. Bramwell, a TV show I only recently discovered, does it all. It’s from the 1990s, which apparently is so old that the closest to a trailer for it that I could find for you is this opening…

I’m discussing Bramwell to tell you about the inspiring screenwriter. Wikipedia notes, “Lucy Gannon once worked as a military policewoman, a residential social worker, and a nurse, and lived in a concrete council house with no central heating. She later moved to a converted barn in Derbyshire and now lives near Cardigan, in Wales.” Here she describes how she came to writing…

And here, my friends, is a tango that my husband and I danced for our dear cousins in Gold Coast, Australia…

What makes great writing for you?

Guest Blog Post: The Reinvention of Lee Gale Gruen

Think it’s too late to write a memoir or to take on a new career? Actress/author/blogger/lecturer Lee Gale Gruen describes how, since she retired, she’s reinvented herself many times over…

Self-reinventor Lee Gale Gruen

When I retired from my 37-year career as a probation officer, and I found myself with nothing meaningful in my life and decades looming. I mistakenly enrolled in an acting class at a senior citizens’ program, thinking it was a play discussion group. When I was forced to perform in a scene in front of the class, my lifelong stage fright kicked in. However, my shaky voice strengthened as I became completely immersed in my character, unaware of the sea of eyes watching and judging me. What a high! I became hooked on acting.

After my mother died, my outgoing, charismatic father, Marvin, became depressed and withdrawn. “Come with me to my acting class, Daddy” I blurted out to cheer him up. After some convincing, he agreed.

Midway through the class, the teacher called on Marvin to perform an improv with another class member. He really hammed it up and later asked me, “So, when are you picking me up for our next class?”

That started us on a magical journey attending the class together for three years, bonding more than ever. I wrote the humorous Dad/Daughter scenes we performed in the class showcase every six months.  The audience members loved us; Marvin loved the attention; and I loved acting and making him happy. All six scenes are included in the book.

I transitioned into the world of professional acting.  As my fledgling second career started going uphill, my father’s health started going downhill.  I shared all my new acting experiences with him at the nursing home where he resided in his final years.

My book (available on Amazon.com) is an inspirational father/daughter bonding story with a twist: both of us were seniors at the time.

For more about Lee Gale Gruen and her book…

Email:  gowergulch@yahoo.com

Acting website:  LeeGaleGruen.com

Book website:  AdventuresWithDadTheBook.com

Public speaking video:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_cen-dN6SUU&feature=youtu.be

Author interview video:  youtube.com/watch?v=FIUm9e7NRKc

Blog: Reinventing Myself in My Retirement:  LeeGaleGruen.Wordpress.com

Video: Huka Falls, New Zealand’s Longest Falls by da-AL

Huka Falls bridge, New Zealand by Khashayar Parsi.

Green, lush, and filled with surprises. Everywhere we went, New Zealand amazed us! From Auckland, we drove to Rotorua and then hiked the Redwoods. (Later we’d visit Craters of the Moon and the Waitomo Glowworms Caves.) Next, we visited Huka Falls, where water waits for no one!

Up to 220,000 liters (just under 5,300 gallons) of water rush down the series of falls per second. They begin at New Zealand’s longest river (Waikato River) and drain the country’s largest lake (Lake Taupo).

Panoramic of Huka Falls bridge, New Zealand by Khashayar Parsi.

Have you visited any waterfalls?

Guest Blog Post: Who are you calling stupid? by Jean-Paul

I admit it. I’m a terrible friend to you. I’m sharing the following sample of London-based blogger Jean-Paul so that you’ll be snared like I am. Experience the same one-two-punch love-hate I have with his site. #1) I love that he’s so talented!!! (though I am jealous!), and #2) I hate that every time I visit, I can’t resist spending way more time there than I plan for — even his friends who comment are clever!! Read on, my forewarned friend…

Photo by blogger Jean-Paul of “myhusband&i: two guys making out & trying to make it”

“Who are you calling stupid?” by Jean-Paul

When it comes to math, I’ll admit I’m a complete dummy. At school, I understood a lot, but arithmetic? It was all mental to me. My husband, on the other hand, has a brain like a push button calculator.

“You’re not stupid,” said Guido after dinner last night, “you just need some math practice with imagination. I have an idea,” he said, “sit back right this second and imagine yourself in a farmyard.”

As you can see, we really do need to get out more.

This was worrying. I had a sneaking feeling I was going to be asked to talk algebra to a chicken. I’ve only ever visited a farm once in my entire life, and I seem to recall a pungent odour. It was strong enough to make me squeeze my nostrils all day long.

“Okay,” I said involuntarily pinching my nose, “what’s next?”

There was a pause.

“What are you doing?” Guido asked, eyebrow raised.

“I just think it’s important that I embrace this part of the exercise before we move on to any complex multiplications or differential equations. Though I’ll admit, I’m becoming anxious about whether I should go put on rubber boots?”

Take it from me, this was a totally bona fide concern. If you’ve ever walked around a farmyard, then you’ll know there are some big brown stinky things you really don’t want to stand in. Did I mention the flies?

“Don’t worry about that. This is the cleanest farm ever.”

This was reassuring, but I held onto my nostrils just in case of an unexpected whiff of ammonia. I couldn’t see any flies though.  Which was even more re-assuring on account of my limited one arm swatting abilities.

“Now imagine there are 13 animal heads and 40 legs in front of you,” said Guido.

One moment I’m in a loft apartment eating a perfectly adequate mid-week lasagna and the next I’ve suddenly been put out to pasture herding a bunch of unidentifiable livestock. As you can tell, I like to take my visualisation pretty seriously. Which is more than I can say about the math. I mean, where was the straw?

“Now tell me,” said Guido, “how many sheep and how many ducks can you count?”

I closed my eyes. I could actually see the sheep just standing there staring at me. They seemed pretty friendly with only the occasional baa. The ducks, on the other hand, were all over the place quack quack quacking and waving their wings about. Anyone would think they’d just been told the hunting season had started.

There was another short pause.

“Well?” asked Guido.

“Hang on,” I said, “I’ve counted the sheep, but the ducks are proving problematic. Have you got any stale bread I could feed them?”

It was, I think, at that point, Guido began to understand the challenges my teachers had all those years ago.

“Hmm, I think we’ll leave this lesson for now,” said Guido wisely pouring me a glass of wine.

Back from the country, safely at our kitchen table, I let go of my nose. In the end, I couldn’t teach Guido that much about the sheep but what I did tell him was if something walks like a duck and talks like a duck then it’s usually a duck. And there’s nothing stupid about that.