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__—— April 2019  The Sock:  Am I Paranoid?  Probably – most people are to some degree, but recent revelations about the insecurity of social media platforms, the mining of personal data for profit on a gigantic scale, and the absolute paranoia of security agencies has led me to take some precautions.  I have never had a social media account of any sort, and I won’t, either – the insecurity of personal data on all platforms has been demonstrated countless times.  So I never open an account with any online vendor that might require disclosing personal details – I’m prepared to always be a ‘visitor’ whenever I buy something.  Vendors always assure visitors that they don’t mine their personal data for profit, but they all do.  Next, being an author requires online research on many subjects, and I am now bombarded with ads and unsolicited emails about those subjects.  And the latest?  Any commonly used communications software published in the USA must have back-door access for the FBI or the CIA to use “when necessary” – which means any time they like.  I now have a ‘sock’ that I drape over my web-cam so that Skype can’t be used as a spy device – because it now can be used that way, without the subject being aware of it.  Yes, I could just unplug the camera, but that’s too awkward – the sock is a visual reminder that Big Brother might be watching.

__—— March 2019  Kindling Galore:  During summer, everything here grows wildly, and keeping all the trees and bushes pruned back is a constant battle.  I recently bought a cordless pole-pruner with an electric chainsaw head to trim off branches, even quite high ones, but didn’t realize that this simple-seeming job requires 6 different tools to complete!
1: the chainsaw takes a branch off, up to 15cm thick, in about five seconds.  Crash!  Typically, it’s quite heavy.
2: long-handled pruners take sub-branches off the main branch – that’s an awkward manual job, and takes quite a while.
3: secateurs take off all the leafy stuff and small, twiggy sub-branches – also a long job.
4: the easy step – run the mower over all the leafy stuff to mulch it all up, make it disappear.  Now down to bare branches.
5: an axe on the chopping block for all branches up to about 4cm diameter, a long, sweaty job.
6: circular saw for all the really thick branches, and I finally have all the kindling I will ever need!
NB: This pruning and cutting activity is as close as I will ever get to ‘gardening’ – preventing plants from over-growing our domestic living spaces is far more important than actually encouraging them to grow!  Gardening is something best done from the seat of a ride-on mower or the handle end of a chain-saw.

__—— January 2019  Re-write Project:  A novella-size book I wrote nearly thirty years ago is being ripped apart and re-written.  Over time, I had been getting more uncomfortable with a couple of known technical contradictions in the plot, so it’s time to give it a face-lift and make it into a full novel-length story with an ending suitable for a sequel.  Quantum Elbow is the book, and that will probably also become the name of the 2-book series, with Quantum Heritage probably the name of the sequel.  Promoting a series is more economical than promoting a stand-alone novel.  This should keep me occupied for a while...

__—— December 2018  Out of the Woods:  My year-long ‘heart scare’ is over.  No need to go back to see the cardiologist again – he now admits that my heart is performing well and strongly, and that’s ALL because of his prompt intervention.  Nothing to do with the fact that my GP pressed the panic button too early and referred me to a cardiologist BEFORE finding out that I had a collapsed lung from pneumonia associated with the shingles I had a couple of years ago, which explained my shortness of breath pretty convincingly, and which has been slowly getting better over this past year anyway.  It’s now down to the GP to decide when next to press that panic button – what I might think or want doesn’t matter in the slightest.

__—— December 2018  Bug Battles:  Oh, no!  It’s December, and the Christmas Beetles are out and about.  Little brown hard-shelled bugs that are the world’s worst flyers.  Don’t see many of them during the day, except dead ones that have run into a wall or other hard surface and brained themselves.  But at night...  they all have a kamikaze instinct, and fly around in the dark, looking for ears, eyes, nostrils or mouths to crash into, or exposed bits of skin or hair they can crawl over or through.  I never notice them outdoors – probably all crashed into trees – but plenty inside, and I have no idea how they got there.  Certainly they didn’t cleverly navigate their way on the wing past all the door and window insect screens.  You know they’re there, because their wings make a whirring sound as they blunder about like buzz-bombs, crashing into furniture.
At least, in Maleny, at 460m elevation, they’re not quite as numerous as I recall them being in Brisbane, down at sea-level, and they appear for only a few weeks every year.

__—— November 2018  Sequel Success:  Summer is approaching and I have just finished writing novel #13, a sequel to Shadow Hacker...  called Shadow Raider.  Quite pleased with progress on this one – it took just 16 months from go to whoa.  Of course, the main character already existed, so that made it easier.  Shadow Hacker had to have its tail chopped off and a cliff-hanger ending added to justify the sequel, so it has to be re-published, too.  I have made cover illustrations for both books in the new ‘series’ but will wait for Fiona to cast her professional eye over them before publishing both in January.
The series is known as the Clone-zone Cycle, after the way that the local police refer to what the main character does as he investigates crooks, starting with illegal hackers, but later expanding to different types of criminals.  Is the main character’s name, Julian, a snide reference to Juian Assange?  No, it’s not, unless it was completely unconscious at the time.  Will there be more novels in this series?  Hmmm...  maybe, I suppose.

__—— August 2018  Bark worse than bites?  Winter is finishing and spring is stuttering into existence.  Just about every day, I walk around the property and pick up strips of bark from the eucalyptus trees along my eastern boundary.  I don’t like to leave it lying on the ground – it can easily become a fire risk, and it’s useful stuff.  Bark is great for starting fires in the wood-burner.  Both summer and winter, what I find on the ground is just about enough to light a fire every second night all year round.  But I light evening fires for only about 3 months of the year, so I end up collecting far more bark than I can actually use.  During spring, I burn whole boxes-full of bark just to get rid of some of it and, during summer, make piles of it on the grass and run the mower over it to mulch it down into dusty debris.  So I collect more bark than I can use.
Can’t say the same for kindling wood – I’m always running out of that!  Because winter temperatures in Maleny are not cold enough to keep a fire burning during the day, I need to light a fire just about every night.  I pick up fallen branches whenever I can, and break them into kindling-size pieces for winter use, and I usually manage to fill 4 large crates, but that never seems to be enough for winter fires.

__—— July 2018  Floored:  A builder removed the roof of the outside patio area on the sunny northern side of the house in readiness for replacing it, allowing sunlight to flood into the dining and lounge-room areas for the first time in about forty years...  and the result was a row of cracked tiles on the floor!  In addition to the new patio roof, I then had to also have a new floor fitted!  Done quickly enough, but a simple roofing job turned into an expensive renovation job.

__—— June 2018  Year of the Fraud:  I’m a medical fraud, and it all started in September 2017 – I presented to my GP with fluid in my lungs, gurgling and bubbling when I lay down, and shortness of breath.  He put that together with my irregular heart-beat ( AF = Atrial Fibrillation, a condition I have had for several decades without the slightest problem ) and said, ‘You’re off to see a cardiologist, Sunshine!’  So he pressed the panic-button, then sent me off for various tests that were needed before I could see the cardiologist.  One of them was an ultrasound ECG, which clearly showed a partially collapsed lung – no wonder I was short of breath!  It was yet another aspect of the horrible bout of Shingles that I had in early 2016.  That included pneumonia resulting in the collapsed lung, and it had taken a year to slowly get worse.
Well, I saw the cardiologist, told him about the collapsed lung, and he recommended a procedure called cardio-version, which entailed zapping me with defibrillator paddles to restore a normal, ‘sinus’ heart rhythm.  They did that in November, but the sinus lasted less than a week before my AF pattern returned.  So that didn’t work.  Next, he scheduled me for an angiogram procedure to see if there were any serious blockages or restrictions in the arteries leading to my heart – that happened late December and the surgeon performing it told me that there was nothing much wrong that he could see...  but in February I went to see the cardiologist again, to be told that since I wasn’t in a retirement home, inactive, overweight, or a smoker, it was worth ‘throwing the kitchen sink at me!’  He had identified one chamber of my heart that was under-performing compared with the other so recommended another angiogram, this time to insert a stent or two into arteries near that chamber.
So, even though I didn’t really need it, I had that procedure in April and they inserted FOUR stents to open up two arteries leading to that chamber and, judging by the X-ray images that I could see as they worked, it made a huge difference to its pumping performance.  Now I just need to wait another six months before they re-measure my heart pumping with another ultrasound ECG.  But a whole year as a cardiac patient when all I really had was a partially-collapsed lung?  I really didn’t need any of this done, so I feel like a fraud...

__—— February 2018  Standing up for my rights:  ...sitting is the new smoking?  When writing, I often sit at the computer for four or five hours at a time, so standing instead of sitting should be a good thing.  I just bought a simple sit-stand desktop riser – mechanical, not electrical.  A couple of minor design glitches, easily enough fixed.  Keyboard and mouse pad just 25mm higher than the normal desk at the bottom position ( so sitting position doesn’t change, although I am investigating lowering my monitor height for a more comfortable viewing angle when sitting ), but up to 36cm higher at the raised position for comfortable standing.  The mechanism is spring and gas-strut assisted, so it takes only a second to either raise or lower it, with practically no effort required.  Very expensive electrical motorized versions seem a gross overkill for this very trivial up-down movement every now and then.  Only downsides so far are that my lower back starts niggling me if I stand fairly still for more than about half an hour at a time, so I tend to shuffle around a bit to counter that, and typing while standing feels different, because my hands are at a slightly different angle to the keyboard.  But I will probably stand for a while, sit for a while...  Not as expensive as you might think – just AU$159 plus freight.

__—— January 2018  A Feet of Endurance:  For years, I have basically had one pair of shoes; a pair of boots.  This is because I have always had problems buying shoes to fit my feet, which are an odd shape, like a cross between Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck.  Like Mickey, they are short and wide but, like Donald, my toes splay out at the end, and are always crushed by shoes, which are tapering inward to the toe at that point.  For boots, I have relied on the half-size wide fit system – with 8½ being the length of an 8 but the width of a 9, so that’s what I always buy ( UK size ).  When I actually measure my foot, the length, which is what all shoe sizes are based on, makes me a UK7, so I end up buying shoes 2 sizes bigger than I need just to get the width.  My toes are in the very wide part, but there is a huge empty space forward of that.
Just recently, I discovered the E width fitting system, with shoes made in widths ranging from 1E all the way up to 7E, with each extra E representing 3mm ( 1/8” ) width over a standard fit.  As an experiment, I bought a pair of US-made sneakers online in size US8 / 4E and they fit perfectly!  US size 8 is equivalent to UK size 7.  Of course, you can’t just walk into a Main Street shoe store and buy shoes in 3E or 4E fittings – they just don’t stock them ( ‘Go away, sir – you don’t have feet.  You have appendages! ), and in a rural township like Maleny we don’t have a shoe store at all, anyway.  I would either have to drive to Brisbane where there are some specialist shoe stores, or order online.  Yes, I know that ordering shoes online is considered a recipe for disaster, but I have now found that a UK7 / US8 in a 4E fitting will fit my odd feet or, when only a more common 3E fitting is available, a UK7½ / US8½ would also fit okay.
I am positively gruntled!

__—— December 2017  The Political Lens:  Why is there so much political instability around the world in countries that are considered ‘developed’?  I think the main problem is with the absolute reliance on the Party political system of representation, which has slowly mutated from the fairly crude structures of a century ago, to the very sophisticated structures today.
The main problem with the Party political system is that, at the grass-roots level, residents vote for a representative who will be able to voice their local concerns at government levels.  Candidates of every political persuasion, of course, always assure voters that they will do precisely that.  But, once elected, they almost never do that.  They are required to follow Party policies to the letter, and those policies are entirely determined by the political implications of current issues – local electorate needs are simply not part of those policy considerations...  unless inaction by all Parties has caused the unresolved issue to generate enough local anger to become a hot potato, no longer merely social or economic in nature, but political, offering possible political advantage or threat.
No matter what Party, policies are determined by a small core group of Party officials with advisers and lobbyists.  Advisers and lobbyists are always hard-liners with their own agendas.  Advisers push an idealistic political agenda; lobbyists push a commercial non-political agenda.
All Parties see the whole world through a Political Lens.  Debate on various new issues always focuses on possible political implications of any new policy.  Possible practical, economic or social implications, such as ordinary voters might be interested in achieving, are considered dangerous territory – tackling those aspects might have a negative political effect – so new policies are designed to bolster a political view, but ignore or barely touch other aspects of the same issue, unless there is definite commercial gain to be made.
So that’s the core problem, but what’s the answer?

__—— July 2017  Remember threepenny bits?  I often throw threepenny-bit grouping in darts, all 3 darts touching each other, which looks awesome, and darts-players often admire tight grouping.  But looks can be deceiving...  in fact, threepenny-bit grouping usually serves no useful purpose, since my threepence is only sometimes on the money.  Tight grouping is beneficial if centered on a target, but is otherwise completely pointless.  Instead of thinking, Oh, look – great grouping! ...it would be more accurate to think, Oh, look – the same mistake three times!  Typical of my darts, really...  nice try, looks impressive, but just a gnat’s whisker off target.  No cigar.

__—— June 2017  A Load of Rubbish!  Here’s a puzzle.  I frequently have to pick up fast-food packaging from the grass roadside verge outside my house.  Always from precisely the same spot, adjacent to the baby hedge mentioned below.  Somebody apparently has a habit of pulling off the road for a snack, then carelessly tossing the packaging out the window before driving off again.  It’s nearly always McDonalds packaging, and the nearest Maccas store to me is in Caloundra, about 30 minutes drive-time away to the East.  But that grass verge is on the East-bound side of the road.  Huh?  That makes no sense – does someone like to eat greasy food cold in an 80km/h zone, with traffic whizzing by just a pace or so away?  Or does that grass verge look inviting to somebody as a parking spot to clean out their car before driving to Maccas?  Either way, it’s still littering, and still very annoying.

__—— May 2017  eBook Promotions:  Too complex to list here, so a separate page has been made to present the details.

cover__—— April 2017  Magnetica Span:  I have now completed the fourth version of the fourth novel in the Homo Magnetica series – Red-Hand Heritage.  So it’s now a ‘tetralogy’.  Of course, during the writing process, events and plot developments naturally happened that required me to also go back and edit some parts of the first three novels to avoid contradictions, and sometimes to add hints to entice readers as they progressed through the series, and finally make complete sense in the fourth book.  The first three eBooks have been edited – until recently a difficult task, but new software makes it fairly easy, now – and the fourth eBook built ( eBooks are built from html files, not plain text ).
I made a cover illustration for the book but, for continuity purposes, my daughter Fiona has improved on that ( she made the covers for the first three books ) so I can now complete the project and upload all four eBooks to Amazon.  This latest book completes a series stretching right back into my literary pre-history – Sensitive Sapiens, the first in the series, was the first novel I wrote, and it took took about 6 years to write!  It was finished in 1996 but not first publshed as an ebook until about 2006, then re-published in 2011 after substantial modifications when the next 2 ebooks were ready, so it’s taken about a quarter of a century to get this saga out of my system.  I see from the posts here that I started writing Red-Hand in September ’15, so even that one book has taken nearly two years to write.  Slow business, this authoring stuff.

__—— March 2017  Debbie Does Maleny:  Cyclone Debbie passed through Maleny over a couple of days, leaving the usual calling-cards...  fallen branches, wind-damage and saturated ground from enough rain to fill my water-tank ten times over.  I lost a couple of sheets of roofing from my patio, but they were those brittle plastic roofing sheets – easy enough to replace.  So, for the next few days, I will be repairing minor damage, thankful that it wasn’t worse.

__—— March 2017  Hedge Fund:  That’s what you need to afford to plant a hedge.  Along my road verge I had an ugly gap between two camelia bushes, with one straggly bottle-brush tree between, and inpenetrable jungle downhill from that.  I cleared the jungle and planted that in grass so that I could actually access the downhill side of the verge, then dug out the bottle-brush by its roots to make a bare gap with the intention of planting a hedge.  That’s when I discovered that, for hedges, you have to plant the bushes very close together to avoid getting ground-level gaps in the hedge as it grows, so I had to buy 12 plants to span this moderate distance, and in more expensive potted format, not seedlings or ‘tube-stock’ – I would like to see the hedge grow high enough to prune within my lifetime, thank you.  All the baby hedge plants are wearing overcoats to protect them from weather and accidental damage, and to encourage them to grow vigorously upward...  although there’s no sign of that happening yet!

__—— January 2017  Chalk & cheese:  Here are a couple of photos of my new Spyder F3, and the similarities between it and my previous Spyder RS model are...  well, limited.  First impressions are that the F3 is very quiet – it just whispers along, while the RS used to rattle windows and frighten horses.  I have successfully adapted an existing windscreen for use on the F3, and a friend has welded up a rear luggage rack to hold a large top-box.  To break up the otherwise overwhelming expanse of black paint ( this model is available in no other colour ), I designed some decals that were computer-cut out of silver-grey film to match the headlight/air-scoop shroud, and these have now been added to the bike, so I should finally be able to simply enjoy the new beast.
f3Technically, it’s very impressive – all it’s advertised to be, all I expected it to be, and more – I like the relaxed cruiser-style riding stance and don’t really miss the more sporty performance of the RS model, but I still think that the F3 is an ugly duckling.  To accommodate the taller, wider 1330cc 3-cylinder engine, and the need for the rider to sit further aft to allow a feet-forward riding stance, the front of the F3 looks very bulky and blunt-nosed.  It’s ok at the rear.  Like it or not, many people will see it as a ‘Fugly3’.

__—— January 2017  Degrees of Separation:  I nearly blew a mental foofer-valve fitting the windscreen to my new Spyder F3.  Madstad makes very good, solid motorcycle windscreens, and provides an angle chart for fitting them.  Their chart is biased to 60°, which they say is the most ideal angle for most bikes...  but their chart is wrong!  If you use their chart with the heavy 60° arrow pointing directly vertical, yes – the screen will be at 60° from horizontal, but that’s only 30° from vertical, so I found that very confusing.  That heavy vertical arrow should be labeled 30°, not 60°, I thought, but that wasn’t the only problem – all the other angles on their chart looked wrong, too.
For the Spyder F3, the rider sits further back from the screen than on other bikes – and 60° from horizontal is consequently too steep...  the screen needs to lay down at a flatter angle.  So I have my F3 screen set to 50° from horizontal, which is about where 50° from vertical would be on the Madstad chart, or 70° from horizontal.  Their angle increments run in the wrong direction, got it?  It took me ages to figure that out, mostly by analyzing the angles after I had set the screen purely by eye and feel, convinced that I must have my angle figures wrong.

__—— January 2017  Novel thoughts:  Eureka!  I have completed the first draft of my latest novel, Red-Hand Heritage.  All the chapters for that will stay on this site ( see sidebar: Books > Magnetica > Red-Hand ) for a month or so while I start on the first re-write to incorporate many changes I thought about while writing the first version, then they will be removed.  Probably the second re-write will be the release version that I will assemble into an ebook for publication with Amazon.  That’s probably nearly another year away!  This re-write procedure is normal – by the time I reach the end of a story I always see possibilities for either character or plot development in the early chapters, so they have to be re-worked.

__—— December 2016  New wheels:  I have decided to trade in my old-model Spyder on a new one.  Lots of reasons, all valid enough, despite the old Spyder still being a perfectly practical vehicle for my semi-rural lifestyle...  but basically, it’s mostly because I just want one of the new F3 models.  My old RS model was designed to be like a sports-bike, so the riding stance is similar to a jockey on a race-horse, and it has a high-revving V-twin engine for exciting performance, somewhat at the expense of comfort...  but more and more, I feel like an overage, oversize jockey on an underage, undersize horse.
The F3 model is designed to be ALL about comfort, like a cruiser motorcycle, with a relaxed, feet-forward riding stance and a slow-revving 3-cylinder engine for...  well, leisurely cruising.  Less exciting, racy performance, but comfort is starting to seem more important than anything else.  I need to add a windscreen and a top-box ( I find panniers impractical ) as essential extras for day-to-day use, but there are bound to be some pure bling accessories, as well.  Gotta have some bling!

__—— December 2016  Ho, ho, ho-hum:HoHoHo  At the risk of sounding very predictable on this subject, because I have raised it several times already...  What does one do, without any personal religious convictions, when christmas rolls around? – first, the early christians rebadged what had been a pagan winter solstice celebration, even though the date bore no relation to the birth of Jesus, then American marketeers rebadged it again for the much more important business of making a buck.  Even those with religious views would admit that it has now lost all significance.  How does one regard a blatantly commercial promotion to get everyone to spend money on trivial trinkets and brash baubles to dress up the ‘festive season’?  Errr...  what season is that, exactly?  What does one do when the original Northern European mid-winter festivity retains only one core element – that of family gift-giving?  That’s pretty irrelevant for someone like me, living a retired one-person lifestyle.  And what does one do when living in the southern hemisphere where summer heat-waves are the harsh reality, but we are all still bombarded with northern hemisphere advertising and marketing featuring snow, ice and fat old men in fur-lined winter clothing – which is plainly ridiculous here?
Answer:  Nothing, really.  Just look on in amazement at the gullibility of the general public.  As usual, I’ll pass...

__—— October 2016  Backing the wrong horse?  An important accessory for a dart-board is the backing-board, to catch all the stray darts that miss the actual board.  Of course, I personally never miss, so I provide a backing-board purely for visitors. smiliesmilie I used to have a huge backing-board, 2m high, 1.2m wide – hinged from the top to a patio rafter so I could swing it up under the patio roof when not needed...  except that I rarely ever did that.  So, really, it just became a large patio fixture that I had to walk around all the time.
So I recently chopped up that large backing-board to make a new, much smaller one to mount on a brick wall, freeing up the patio space previously occupied by the giant backing-board.  The thing is...  after all that effort, I find that I’m not actually any better at playing darts!  There must be something wrong with the new backing-board – it can’t possibly be me!

__—— September 2016  Ghosts of lost youth:  I recently had a weekend visit from a couple of old friends, and thoroughly enjoyed that.  Apart from visiting one of them once briefly about 15 years previously on a trip to NZ, my previous exposure to these two was during the late 1950s when I was a young teenager!  Yet the old memories flowed, and I’m sure that they enjoyed the ‘Aha!  Yes, I remember that!’ experience as much as I did.  Ah, those were the days ( not! ).

__—— August 2016  Magnetic Personality?  I made some wheel alignment gear for Can-Am Spyders a year or two ago and assembled it into a Kit that could be posted to Spyder owners wishing to perform DIY alignment jobs, especially those owners who live in remote areas and can’t easily get to cities to have the work done.  I recently improved the gear by adding rare-earth magnets, and I am very impressed with how strong those little suckers are!
I have updated my webpage about the Kit, and expect that owners asking for the Kit now will find the job just that little bit easier to perform than before.  Those living in larger cities now have a number of places where they can have this essential work done, but those living in rural areas continue to struggle with wheel alignment problems.  That’s the trouble with a 3-wheeler with two wheels at the front – the front wheel alignment has to be perfect, and even brand-new bikes, straight out of the crate, are often poorly-aligned.  Dealers, who typically don’t have wheel alignment equipment, don’t check them before selling them.

__—— August 2016  Half a Year!  In February I suffered an outbreak of Shingles, a very nasty disease which damaged nerves around my bladder, so led to treatment for that plus eventual surgery, which in turn resulted in a fairly serious, hard-to-treat infection that lingered on and on and o—n.  It also resulted in a bout of pnuemonia leading to a partially collapsed lung...  oh, what fun!  Now, half a bloody year later, I believe I am finally coming good, able to resume a fairly normal life as my plumbing starts to work properly again.  I have dropped a bit of weight and condition, so will need to start building up my stamina.  This has been a medical episode I will be very pleased to forget!
Sometimes, even events like this can have an unexpected benefit, and in this case I have been able to write most of my current novel effort...  because I have been stuck at home, and really couldn’t do much else, anyway.  Although I am still working on a ‘twist-in-the-tail’ ending, the shape of the novel has been largely completed...  I am actually looking forward to starting the editing phase, because I want to modify what I have written so far in some specific ways to make it more immersive.  That will probably take another six months!

__—— July 2016  Voting Preferences?  After years of public confusion and distrust surrounding the way that political candidates and their parties allocate preferences in an attempt to influence the outcome of elections, this year saw the first time that electors were required to nominate their own preferences...  by numbering EVERY candidate in order of preference, even where there are dozens of candidates.  The Senate voting paper, in particular, was absolutely ginormous – so wide that I could not see all the candidates’ names at one time within the confines of the tiny election booth and was forced to ‘rock-’n-roll’ the ballot paper to see them all – and the number of unknown candidates was bewildering, some independents, some representing wacko parties I had never heard of.  Electors deciding their own preferences is a good concept, but with one fatal flaw:  most electors arriving at polling stations don’t know any candidates except their preferred one, and simply allocate all their preferences in fairly random order – they don’t know any of the other candidates.  So the flow of preferences, which really do influence outcomes, are bound to produce some weird results in close contests.  A better, more easily-understood method of marking the ballot paper is definitely needed, else we are doomed to go back to the [ 1 ] type of ballot marking with political parties deciding on preferences again.
All that preferential voting resulted in a dead heat anyway!  But that’s more the general dissatisfaction with the rigid party system – evident in many countries.  Throughout the election campaign, all candidates simply mouthed their party’s policies, word for word – no local variations or personal opinions whatsoever.  Every time a candidate was aked a question on a particular subject you knew exactly what he/she was going to say, right down to the exclamations and asides.  All responses were carefully scripted, and other candidates had already stated them.  It became quite obvious that no dynamic or adaptable government could ever result, no matter which major party won.  Every issue would be decided on what the various inflexible party pressure groups ( factions, but they won’t call them that... ) believed, and the public is never consulted on that.  That will really have to change, or minor parties and independents will simply take over.

__—— June 2016  TT Excitement:  Recent TV news carried a story about a possible TT-style of motorcycle race to be held in Maleny, making use of the many twisty roads snaking around the hills here.  The course would be 48 kilometers long, so would be a severe test for riders.  On the attached map, the whole left side of the course ( left of the orange dotted line ) is essentially the normal inland access to Maleny from the south, so that would be entirely closed off for each race.  The other road access to Maleny is from the Sunshine Coast or Brisbane to the east, and the two stretches of track marked ‘A’ & ‘B’ are parts of this main highway ( yellow dotted road ).  That would make Maleny almost completely inaccessible for the duration of each race.  TT = Tourist Trophy, but also stands for Time Trial, and TT races are against the clock, so riders would be released at set intervals – usually one per minute or so – until the whole field is on the road, widely spaced...  and the field would probably take about an hour to finish each race.  Road access could be reopened between races, but would need to be controlled and coordinated carefully.
There is access from the west, out past my house ( x ), but population is sparse to the west.  Almost all visitors would be from the Sunshine Coast or Brisbane, and would face a one hundred-klick round-trip diversion to be able to use that western access – few would bother.  Nor can those two stretches of eastern highway access be avoided, as there are no alternative routes.  No access to Maleny from the north at all.  I’m guessing that the Showgrounds ( pale green patch near the top of the course ) would be the pits and start area.  If the popularity of TT races elsewhere in the world are any indication, Maleny could profit quite well from the influx of enthusiasts.  But my personal opinion is that the idea – exciting though it may seem – will never get off the ground, because the traffic control and policing would be too expensive.  Not just for Maleny township, but for all the other small places and farm properties around the proposed route.
...and then there are the typical small-town nay-sayers.  ‘Those bikes go way too fast – we like to do things slowly.’  Conclusion:  Bikers or their fanatical speed-freak supporters aren’t welcome to spend their money here.  Or...  ‘We’ve never had races before.’  Conclusion:  We should never have races – stamp this out before people start liking the idea.  I have already received an expensive, glossy printed anti-TT flyer in my mailbox, riddled with gross exaggerations, like 3m-high barriers erected on every corner, residents being forced to stay indoors for a whole week, unable to shop, people being unable to commute to work, aged care services disrupted, 24/7 intolerable noise, certainty of multiple deaths of both riders and spectators, damage to livestock from constant media helicopter passes...  typical parochial, reactionary attitudes.  Sigh...  Sometimes I do wonder why I like to live in a small township, full of stick-in-the-mud red-necks...

__—— May 2016  Cutting Comments:  I recently bought a used ride-on mower, slightly bigger and much newer than my reliable, but very old work-horse.  It needed some minor work so, over the past few weeks, I have fixed the motor’s choke mechanism, corrected the deck-height adjustment, and replaced the deck’s anti-scalp wheels, among other small tidy-up jobs.  Great!  Now I have a reliable mower that perfectly does everything I need...  and what happens?  The bloody grass completely stops growing!  Did I scare it into retreat?
No, seemingly overnight, hilltop Maleny has lurched directly from scorching summer into freezing winter.  Going outdoors to cut grass suddenly seems less attractive than staying indoors to light a fire.  Brrrr...  smilie  Yeah, I can pick ’em.

__—— April 2016  Smoke Alarm Postscript:  Since grumbling, last year, about my house smoke alarms, I have discovered that my hard-wired alarms are not the older ionization type that were the bee’s knees when smoke alarms became compulsory, but are now regarded by fire brigades across Australia as ‘pretty useless’ – mine are the newer, supposedly superior photoelectric-type alarms, but they’re still bloody useless.  Just lately they have been triggering full-blown alarms several times every night – not just warning ‘chirps’.  I had to call in an electrician to replace one that was only a year old!  The electrician reckoned that tiny flying insects were getting inside the alarm and flying between the light beam and the sensor, causing the alarm to trigger, and that’ll be $150, thank you.  Looking inside the alarm that was removed, there are dozens of tiny insect corpses, so that might be a fundamental design flaw, but his claim that the replacement alarm has better insect screening to minimize this problem is still not very reassuring.
These are compulsory safety items.  Is it just me, or do other people find this unacceptable?

__—— March 2016  Ticked off!  Have you ever had a tick bite?  You will know that they are not pleasant.  And getting the little bugger out is tricky, invariably causing it to dump a load of toxins that drive you mad with itching.  Well, while recovering from my bout of shingles, I have been mostly house-bound, but I had to get out one day because my grass was growing s-o-o-o fast.  I use a ride-on mower, so the cutting itself was fairly easy, but my ‘back paddock’ was difficult – some parts were up to my chest as I sat on the mower – so that every pass of the mower resulted in clouds of dust and small flying insects.  The following day I came out in a rash that soon looked suspiciously like chicken-pox and, with my recent shingles experience, that rang all the warning bells.  On closer medical inspection, though, what certainly looked like chicken-pox turned out to be a tick infestation – between thirty and forty of the little buggers.  Bush Ticks (  sometimes called Grass Ticks ) that are about 1mm unfed, swelling to about 2mm when fed.  I suppose I can be thankful that they weren’t Paralysis Ticks, which are about the same size.  That many could have been lethal.
I’m still scratching!

__—— February 2016  Gravel Rash?  While bending down to peer inside my coffee machine, trying to figure a way to make a small modification...  ping!  Pulled a muscle in my lower back.  Oh, bugger!  Apart from needing to walk like a pregnant duck, I also had a lot of trouble trying to sleep at night so, over the next 4 days my general wellbeing slumped as lack of sleep took its toll.  Then a mysterious rash appeared on my left side at waist height and became rapidly more severe.  I had never seen anything like it so, after a few days when it had become too serious to ignore any longer, I took myself off to the local hospital.  It was immediately identified as shingles!  Good grief!  I had heard of shingles but didn’t know anything about it, nor anyone who had experienced it.  It can lie dormant after a chicken-pox episode during childhood, for decades – in my case for nearly 7 decades! – before erupting.  I was given some ( very strong! ) anti-viral medication and, after the second ( very uncomfortable ) week, the rash started to respond to that and slowly started scabbing over, but the whole rash area, at the end of the third week, was a mass of weeping scabs, still swollen and very tender...  I’m not sure how long it takes for that swelling to ease – perhaps yet another week?  More?  It has also led to a bladder problem, so I will now have to go see a Urologist and take another barrage of tests.  Oh, what fun!
...instead of being a very satisfying feeling, it’s now only a mild compensation that the modification to the coffee machine worked exactly as planned.

__—— December 2015  Visitation:  Over the Xmas break I had my daughter Fiona and her family from Tasmania staying with me in Maleny, and I really enjoyed that...  but I’m also really glad that they’re now gone!  My household jumping from one person to five people was a shock to the system – both to the house ( my grease trap overflowed with the extra water useage, fortunately promptly fixed by a local firm ) and to my person...  I couldn’t wander off to the loo in my knickers in the middle of the night, as is my usual wont.  Quelle surprise!  Bad Santa!  And I had to remember to shut the toilet and bathroom doors!  Good grief, who does that?  I think I prefer living in splendid isolation – much more predictable, and my casual habits won’t offend anyone.
NB:  Our ‘Summer Solstice Feast’ was very enjoyable, with 10 attending on a mild, overcast day.

__—— December 2015  DIY Frustration:  I just finished doing an oil & filter change on the Spyder.  I’m glad I did it, even though it’s not actually due for a while yet, because engines always run a little sweeter with fresh oil.  But it made me wonder about people who design machines like this – have they ever actually had to perform this sort of elementary maintenance work?  The Spyder has a Rotax dry-sump engine, so why design ( separate ) oil reservoir and engine drain plugs recessed into chassis rails so that normal L-shaped Allen Keys ( tools that owners might actually have ) can’t be used?  I was lucky that a friend had a straight 6mm hex-key designed to fit a ½” socket drive, so I was able to use that, and I have now bought one of them online for next time!  But the average owner would have to just give up at this first step.  And why is the engine oil capacity 4.1 litres when all oil is sold in 4-litre containers?
Grrrr...

__—— December 2015  Xmas Perspective:  In Pagan days, the Solstice feasts were important community events, and the winter solstice was a dark, dreary, cold time in northern hemisphere lands where humans had settled for farming.  Having a feast during hand-to-mouth winter was an eagerly anticipated family event, and important for small farming communities.  During the first and second centuries, the early Christians “re-badged” the winter solstice as Christmas, even though it had nothing to do with the birth of Christ in the baking-hot Middle East.  This was one of the first successful global marketing campaigns.  Christmas stayed a mostly-religious festival until after the industrial revolution, when values started to change, and American industrialists and marketeers re-badged it again.
Now, the glossy commercial Xmas farce ( which has never made any sense in the southern hemisphere, where it is mid-Summer ) is devoted to the new religion: consumerism.  We are encouraged to buy...  well, anything, really, as long as it costs a lot and has no real purpose.  The more ‘stuff’ you buy and display, the more impressed will be your friends, neighbours, relatives, seems to be the theory.  Just buy, buy.
Well, ’bye, ’bye – this is not for me.  If I ever impress anyone, I hope it isn’t with ‘stuff’.  I will remain part of the ‘Bah, humbug!’ fraternity.

__—— October 2015  Fun Mods:  I recently used my car-top pod and annexe for camping for the first time, and discovered a whole host of little details that needed to be modified.  None of them absolutely essential but all of them contributing to making the camping experience more comfortable or convenient.  I always enjoy tinkering with stuff like that, so the gear has been quite extensively modified over the past few weeks, and I am now looking forward to trying it out again – and probably discovering a dozen more things that could be made better.  Also recently, a Spyder owner in the USA has been asking about building a copy of my Spyder Wheel Alignment Kit, and this led directly to a little ‘flash-bulb’ moment...  so the Kit had to be modified to accommodate a simple new idea – another very satisfying modification that will actually make wheel alignment a slightly simpler job for Spyder owners around the country to tackle.

__—— September 2015  Sequel Thoughts:  I really should have returned to working on the sequel computer game after dealing with all the tree-lopping debris, but instead found myself thinking about a sequel to the Homo Magnetica novel trilogy instead...  it had a bit of a cliff-hanger ending, and it would be good to revisit the theme after about fifty years.  By then, there would have been quite a few changes and some interesting social developments could have happened.
I have added a page with a general synopsis to the Homo Magnetica listing.  Any feedback would be welcome.  I will probably just let that draft sit for a few months before revisiting it – and by then, no doubt, all manner of things will seem wrong with it!  But that’s how most authors work, I suspect...  can’t stop ‘fiddling’ with possible plot twists.

__—— August 2015  Vanilla Slice heaven:  I found a way to make vanilla slices in either ‘regular’ or gluten-free form, but it’s too complex to post here, so there is now a separate page about it, also listed on the ‘Sundry Stuff!’ side-bar menu.

__—— August 2015  Timber!  I had a door-knock from a team of tree-loppers working in the area, and they gave me a price for lopping the large trees that were overhanging the roof on the western end of my house.  A team of 9 guys turned up and spent a few hours drastically trimming 2 trees and I’m glad that I didn’t try to do that myself – the team-work was impressive to watch, and the potential dangers obvious.  The main lopper guy was in full harness with spiked footwear and went up those trees like a bloody monkey!  No, thanks.  A rope as thick as a ship’s hawser was used to safely lower branches to the ground ( the reason for the large team ) so I ended up with a huge pile of logs, too big and green to burn, yet, so they all needed to be cut to length, split, then stacked to dry.  I also had a 2-meter-high pile of lesser branches with leaves, most of them arm-thickness at the thick end, that I slowly worked through, mulching up anything smaller than my pinkie, cutting up anything thicker to become kindling.
It took about 3 weeks, but all the dross from the tree-lopping is now gone, and it yielded just about enough firewood for an entire winter plus more kindling than I could...  well, shake a stick at.  I am currently burning some of that kindling ‘gratuitously’, despite it still being green, just to get rid of some of it.  It would take years to use it up naturally, there’s too much of it to store in a dry place, and Spring is fast approaching – I need to burn it before the warm weather arrives!

__—— July 2015  Steady Progress:  ...a bit slow, of course, but fun.  The Closet-Skeleton enemy cliché is now done and dusted, and I’m working on the next...  the Avoid-like-the-Plague cliché.  Another skeleton, carrying a scythe.  That’s an image that triggers immediate fear in most people, so I have really enjoyed camping it all up by making that skeleton move with a child-like skipping motion.  It’s still deadly, poisoning floor-tiles as it moves and also shooting sickness waves, and will be hard to kill, but I’m hoping that such an enemy blithely skipping in a carefree manner will look totally absurd.  Only another 20 or so clichés to do after this one...

__—— July 2015  Finito Baldric:  I was a bit pessimistic about the size of the Baldric animation project – I have now finished drawing all the actions needed for him, and have started working on the enemies, which also means working on background and decor items, since many of the cliché enemies relate directly to parts of the background art.  The first enemy I tackled was the Closet-Skeleton, so I had to design closets, wall niches and alcoves for him to jump out of, and that meant also animating the doors so they could open and shut, and redesigning many of the active game items such as food or weapon types because having closets or niches means that these items can be stored inside them, now.  So progress is not linear...  I find it necessary to fly off on tangents frequently, but expect that this will decrease with time.  This part of the project is actually running a bit ahead of schedule!

__—— June 2015  Chug-a-lug Baldric:  I wonder, I wonder...  have I bitten off more than I can chew?  I have spent the past few weeks redrawing Baldric for a possible new game, making all the animation frames much bigger ( because screen resolution is much higher, now ) and now also adding extra frames to all the actions ( because all machines run at much faster clock-cycles, now ).  Looks like several more weeks before I finish drawing Baldric, the main game character, because I keep finding reasons to expand the range of animated actions, then I have to start drawing ( inventing, first! ) all the enemies, which will all be visual representations of clichés...  like a Wolf-at-the-Door enemy, or a Closet-Skeleton enemy.  All of them quite ridiculous, but that sort of contrived absurdity was one of the features of Mystic Towers, and the sequel should be just as daft or more so.  But the penny is starting to drop (  good cliché, there ) – this is one BIG project!

__—— May 2015  Alarming Views:  If I could legally do so, I would totally remove the smoke alarms from my house.  They trigger full alerts every few days, or nights, unfortunately, without the slightest sign of any smoke anywhere.  Every time I use a fry-pan I can expect it to go off.  I have called an electrician to replace one of them 3 times, now, and he just shrugs, claiming that some alarms are more reliable than others, and that the sensor is probably getting clogged with the bodies of tiny flying insects.  Taking his advice, I bought a spray-can of compressed air, and squirt into the sensor grille regularly...  but that made no difference whatsoever.  With government regulations making them compulsory, the smoke alarm industry is like any other – it will stop researching possible improvements to concentrate on the far more important business of milking the cash cow!  I feel much the same way about air-bags in cars, too.  They deploy ‘accidentally’ frequently – witness the recent recall affecting a dozen different vehicle manufacturers – are expensive to re-arm, but they are legally required, so nobody is remotely interested in improving the deployment sensors.  I would be comfortable with NO air-bags.
Compulsory safety measures are all very well if they work, and work without fail.  Smoke alarms don’t work well at all.  Not happy, Jan...

Baldric

__—— May 2015  Software Flashback:  Since posting the item about the old Mystic Towers videos I have been bombarded with opinions that I really should make another game, and should never have stopped making them 20 years ago...  easy for people to say, but I recall that game sales back then were only marginal...  not big enough to warrant a permament game production business.  Since old-style DOS games are experiencing a bit of a come-back for mobile devices, though, the idea of making a sequel to Mystic Towers now seems a reasonable idea...  the games market for phones and tablets today is at least a hundred times bigger than the desktop PC market of two decades ago, and mobile devices use touch-screen controls – no need for devices like joysticks, game-pads or even a mouse.  Hmmmm...  Mobile devices with touch-screens weren’t even a fond dream in the early nineties – that would have seemed the wildest fantasy!
I dug out all the original art, music, sfx, code, and studied it.  Well, the main character, Baron Baldric, is worth revisiting, so I have been playing with the game animation, resizing all the original ( small ) art to a bigger size.  If this goes well, I will tackle the programming, music-writing, game design aspects to make a game with very wacky gameplay.  Something completely different.  Why is he called Baron Baldric?  Because he wears a diagonal strap holding a goodies-bag, and those straps are called baldrics – plus the game was set in a medieval castle, and I needed a catchy name for the game.  The original Baron Baldric game was written in about 1986-7, and I had never heard of Baldric in the TV show Black Adder at that time.  Mystic Towers was a sequel, and a vehicle to re-use the Baron Baldric character.  The Mk-3 version of Baldric will lose his shoulder bag but retain his baldric.
Absolutely NONE of the tools I used two decades ago even exist any more, and programming, music-writing and animation preparation now require new authoring software, too...  and they are all intended for use by teams writing games – the idea of one person doing everything seems to be an alien concept these days.  I must have been the last of the mavericks during the late 80s and early 90s, so it won’t be easy.  This old dog will have to learn some new tricks.  But it should keep me off the streets for a couple of years...

__—— April 2015  Tassie Downsize:  Fiona & Chris sold their e-n-o-r-m-o-u-s Federation-style house in Deloraine ( 4 bedrooms, 5 bathrooms, 4 sheds, about an acre of land ) and bought a much smaller place.  Still 4 bedrooms but a modern house on a 1000m2 block, just a couple of streets away from the big house.  Settlement for the sale of the old place and the purchase of the new place was on the same day, so they had a hectic moving day, but report that they managed to get out of the old, then into the new...  now just have to wait for some services to be connected.  In a small place like Deloraine, that takes time.

__—— April 2015  Mystic Towers Monster Lindsay:  I understand that I am a bit picky about getting Sudoku games just right, and admit that I am fussy about games in general – a consequence of the fact that I used to write them!  It was a real blast from the past when I recently came across this U-Tube link to several videos of Mystic Towers, released in 1994...  a complete walk-through of the game from beginning to end.  I had almost forgotten how complex the game-play was.  Aaaah, those were the days...  Making different floor layouts for the ‘Apprentice’ and ‘Wizard’ versions of each tower seemed like a lot of work, so I just ‘cheated’ a bit, and used the same layout and decor but without maps for the harder levels.  On Tower #6 or #12 ( The easier tower #6 is covered in videos #9 and #10 ) there is a Lindsay-monster!  monster A bit of a woosy one, just shooting lightning, but I had completely forgotten that!  I do remember that, with 5 different types of monster per tower, it got pretty hard to dream up new ones as the game expanded from 4, then 5, and finally 6 towers during the development phase...  I must have been desperate, and can see that they tended to become less and less ‘conventional’ for the later towers, but I particularly liked the ‘Bagfly’ ( a flying bagpipe).  And, according to contemporary reviews, the difficulty levels for the entire game seemed about right for an enjoyable challenge, even for the hard-core gamers.  Also important to note that the Lindsay-monster had ( some ) HAIR!
This from the Wikipedia listing:
Marchwall Hold and Marchwall Fort
  • Fire-Asp:  A snake-like monster that is capable of firing fireballs from its mouth.
  • Verdragon:  The only melee monster in these two towers.  It is capable of flying over obstacles though.
  • Firebones:  A fiery skeleton that is capable of firing fireballs from its eye sockets.
  • Writwraith:  A male apparition that is capable of firing lightning bolts as its primary means of attack.  Very dangerous.
  • Toxignat:  Its small size makes it difficult to spot.  It is especially dangerous because it’s fast and powerful, with a powerful venom attack to boot.  Approach these monsters with extreme caution.
So I’m a ‘Writwraith’, eh?  ...and that – finding the right balance between challenge and satisfaction – is why I set my Sudokus to 80%!

__—— April 2015  Mr 80%:  I love doing Sudokus, and have 4 documents, each containing 120 puzzles, that I can print out, because pencil & paper is still better than using a tablet or hand-held device.  The electronic game versions always have cheats, hints and corrections, so aren’t as genuine a challenge.  That gives me plenty to occupy my mind...  nobody can remember that many puzzles, so repetition is not an issue.  It often amuses me, though, that a common reaction from people who discover that I like Sudokus is, “Oh, I couldn’t do them.  My maths isn’t good enough!”.  Most people don’t realize that maths has nothing to do with a purely pattern-matching logic puzzle – if it did, I wouldn’t be able to do them, either!
But I set my saved puzzles to 80% difficulty level.  Why?  Because anything less difficult is too easy and the satisfaction factor diminishes.  But anything harder just leaves me in a bad mood, having wrestled for more than 30 minutes to get the damn thing out.  I want that little glow of satisfaction on completing a puzzle, a “Yeah, that was fun!” feeling, not an “Aaaagh!  About bloody time!” feeling.

__—— March 2015  Camp Coffee:  Just a little disappointed with the Aeropress ( a low-pressure ‘plunger’ type of machine ) that I bought for making coffee while camping.  Certainly it makes much better coffee than instant, which doesn’t really taste like espresso at all, but fails to live up to all the hype about it being as good as, or even better than, pressure-espresso machines.  The Aeropress makes between 1 and 4 ‘shots’ of coffee...  you then add either milk or water to that.  But the shots are like black tar – no crema at all – tasty but flat.  It is designed to make ‘Americano’ coffee, which most people here would call a long black, but to North American taste.  Americans/Canadians generally don’t like European-style espresso, which they find too strong...  they prefer something about half-way between espresso and drip coffee.  That’s not a criticism – just an observation.  Those who like latté or cappuccino would also need some means of heating/foaming milk remotely while camping, which a normal ( pressure ) espresso machine can easily handle....  but you would need a v-e-r-y long extension cord.  For camping, heating milk would be fairly easy, and you can buy battery-powered whisks for foaming it, but that’s not a problem for me – I like my coffee black anyway.  So I will be able to make sort-of-okay coffee while camping, but not quite as good as a proper European-style espresso.  Just mildly disappointing.

__—— March 2015  Planned obsolescence:  A saga of modern marketing philosophy...  one of the two nylon rollers at the bottom of one of my two sliding glass doors broke, so that the door became very hard to slide.  Those doors are bloody heavy!  I found out why glass replacement tradies are all built like gorillas.  Even identifying what brand my doors are was difficult – they don’t have a brand-name or model-plate on them anywhere that I could find.  And, of course, with the house being more than 25 years old, the rollers for those particular doors are simply no longer available.  The OEM roller units available today just don’t fit older doors.  The manufacturer wants to sell new doors, and doesn’t make it easy to maintain old ones.
I had to scout around for 3rd-party units, and eventually – against all expectations – found that my local hardware store had a range of roller assemblies, including just the actual roller wheels to fit my old doors.  Whoopee!  If one roller has collapsed, though, the other 3 must be close to the end of their lives too, so I will buy 4 rollers and fix both sliding doors.

__—— January 2015  Bickie-Gang bites the dust!  The little Bickie-Gang forum attached to this website had few users, and a major Spyder-related forum shut down in early January, so I purchased the domain name www.gospyder.net and revamped the forum to reflect that new name...  basically just changed the look and feel of the bickie-gang forum.  It took a week or two before the gospyder.net domain name ‘pointed’ correctly to the forum, but it all works well, now.  Perhaps, in time, some ex-members of the now-defunct SpyderMates.com forum will start using the gospyder.net forum.

__—— January 2015  Pod Developments:  ( see March 2014 )  ...almost ready to hit the road!  With the annexe modified so that it goes up and down quite easily, it now comes down to getting the right camping gear for short trips.  I bought a little 2-burner camp stove and a folding table for it, now MUST get an Aeropress to make espresso on it...  camping without decent coffee would be inconceivable!  I never want to make long trips because I like my comfort too much – I will always want to get home for a decent shower and...  well, other things, too.

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