Available photos and news
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—Latest items listed above older items. Separate pages for different years. Links below—
February ’24 Internet Access:
In my semi-rural area, there will be no cable broadband – it will be “Fixed Wireless”, which I presume to be similar to mobile phone connection. All the rain lately has caused my old-style landline connection to be very unreliable, with ground water damaging the underground phone lines. I don’t know whether wireless connection will solve that problem, but I guess I’m going to find out!
January ’24 Purchase Tracking:
Buying goods online is made more convenient by online delivery Tracking. Vendors decide which courier firm is used, but their online tracking needs to be updated within an hour or two of every package movement or it’s useless. Posting details days later, after the package is already delivered, might help the vendor, but not the consumer. I recently received a package from a Melbourne vendor (usually 3 days delay) after 8 long days, while the courier’s Tracking Page showed it not going anywhere the entire time. Hopeless! Then, a week later, another package was tracked as “Not yet scanned into system” but turned up in my mailbox a week later anyway.
December ’23 Boxing Day Loss:
Every year for decades, I have watched the Sydney-Hobart yacht race but, like many other sports, it is no longer covered by free-to-air TV. This year, they covered exit from Sydney Harbour for the first hour, but then all coverage switched to social media, so yacht racing is another activity I will turn my back on.
November ’23 Marketing Excess:
What the hell is Black Friday? It’s marketing desperation. People can see that Christmas is all a stale marketing exercise, and aren’t madly buying trashy gifts anymore, so marketeers need to jump onto a new bandwagon. We are all expected to believe that this is it. A chance to pick up a bargain – whoopee! – even if it’s something you don’t actually need. My Black Friday will definitely be like any other Friday.
November ’23 Constitution:
Captain Cook infamously made his Terra Nullius
ruling, that Australia was uninhabited and could therefore be claimed for the British Crown. By 18th Century standards, that was even legally correct, as there were no national bodies
occupying the land, which was how that issue was judged at that time. 200 years later, that was overturned, because contemporary legal interpretation ruled that to be invalid. Could High Court rulings on other aspects of the Constitution force corrections of plainly incorrect or outdated Constitution clauses without politicians deciding them?
October ’23 Milestones:
Birthdays are usually regarded as milestones but, as one gets older, their arrival changes subtly from welcome to not-so-welcome... I have reached the point where these milestones are more like millstones.
October ’23 Flickering Out:
I have completed writing my latest novel (Flicker Dawn), which is shorter than all my others at only 80K words, but it still took me nearly two years! I wrote four different endings, and finally settled on a rather abrupt one that best simulates what might happen in the real world for protagonists engaged in scientific efforts under political pressures. But the eBook is now built and available for free download here.
October ’23 More of the Same:
In every country, Constitutions get more and more dated with passing time, because they are practically impossible to amend for any reason whatsoever. A public referendum is required to allow politicians to draft amendments. But politicians turn everything
into bitter political arguments.  Voters usually decide that they would rather tolerate known Constitutional weaknesses than allow those same politicians to draft politically-biased amendments... No change at all is preferred.
October ’23 Will-power versus Won’t-power:
As I get older, bladder control requires more critical attention. In younger days, I would think, Ah! I need to pee. At the next convenient lull in activity, then, sometime in the next couple of hours.
But these days, it’s more like, Ah! I need to pee, and safety-first dictates RIGHT NOW!
I know that coffee is a diaretic, but I’m not about to give that up!
September ’23 Better or Worse:
I keep an eye on animated films, and the growth of CGI technology has, over the past few decades, pushed the realism of computer-generated images steadily higher. Computer technicians, for whom striving for photo-realism is a prime target, now dominate the industry in place of artists and story-tellers. For most audiences, however, that’s a negative. FICTION characters looking slightly artificial
is a positive story-telling attribute.
September ’23 Booking Time:
Since July I have been proof-reading all my novels, discovering lots of simple typos or search-&-replace errors associated with the recent page layout “prettying up” work (see Cover-up, below), now complete. It also gave me some ideas for expanding an existing trilogy into a tetralogy... so that will probably keep me off the streets after I finish the current novel, Flicker Dawn
August ’23 The Un-sandwich:
I have often settled on a sandwich for lunch... but I always preferred to make ‘open’ sandwiches, using only one slice of bread. Bread is a mere starchy platform to hold the topping elements, so I now prefer to go one step further – no bread at all. A hard-boiled egg can be cut in half, then layered with things like cream cheese, paté, anchovies... all pure protein. Yum, yum.
August ’23 Perspective Bias:
People always judge any new idea, gadget, tool or attitude from their own perspective. Does it have religious, ethical, commercial, racial, social or financial implications for ME? Some people will love or hate the new idea, but most will just shrug and think ‘So what?’ But if the idea has political implications of any type, that will be the basis on which it is either accepted or rejected. Any new idea that might offer advantage to political opponents automatically becomes ideological poison, considered dangerous for ordinary people to accept.
August ’23 Hot Stuff:
I see on the TV news that a previously forbidden phrase is slowly creeping back into common media usage: Global Warming. Prior to this year the use of that phrase drew furious reactions from politicians around the world... but they seem to be slowly warming to it. Or at least no longer trying to ban its use as an outrageous exaggeration!
July ’23 Cover-up:
I am nearing the end of the writing phase of my latest novel, and I have made a cover illustration for the eBook... but that’s actually a problem. The other 15 eBooks now have to be updated to include reference to the new book, and I want to slightly revamp the page layout of ALL of them, so that means hacking the html source code for all 16 eBooks! Ho-hum...
June ’23 Throttle Back:
My new ride-on mower has a right-side grass output chute, so the left side is always close to trees or bushes when mowing along borders. But that’s where the throttle lever is located – an irritating design flaw! Shrubbery pushes it back to idle speed several times whenever I cut the grass. I have been forced to create a makeshift movement limiter for that throttle lever.
June ’23 Greasy Treat:
I enjoy classic fish ’n chips with lemon juice, or with caramelized balsamic vinegar. But my current fad is to substitute poutine for the chips. Proper Canadian poutine uses cheese curds, which we can’t buy here, so I just use grated mature cheddar. A very rich gravy is needed. Sprinkle grated cheese over hot chips then pour the hot gravy over that to melt the cheese. Bad for the constitution but great for the taste-buds.
June ’23 Boomer Bust:
The vast majority of people grow old and die at home. Only a small proportion live in aged care homes. The predicted strain on that sector will happen as Baby Boomers reach their statistical lifespan age, but over that same period of about ten years, huge numbers of Boomers dying at home of natural causes will trigger a dramatic reduction of welfare payments with a massive redistribution of wealth and housing, offsetting the extra aged care cost to the taxpayer. After that, the population will be smaller, much younger, with housing pressure eased. Politicians will claim to have ‘fixed’ that problem.
June ’23 Antisocial:
Media reports always seem shocked when professional sports-people behave like thugs or predators. But that’s normal behavior. Once there is a professional version of a sport, the amateur version is seen as nothing but a recruiting-ground. Fiercely competitive amateurs, for whom winning is everything, have aggressive attitudes, abrasive social habits and lax ethics – they stand out. Because
they are ultra-competitive and combative, they are the ones picked to play professional sports.
May ’23 Racing to Oblivion:
Although I have been a Formula One fan for several decades, this year marks the end of free-to-air TV coverage of F1 – it’s all pay-TV, now, and the free-to-air TV channels can’t even broadcast edited highlights the day after each race. Making F1 exclusive has simply caused me to turn my back on it – I just don’t take an interest in it any more. I’m sure I won’t be the only one...
May ’23 Bitza-speak:
English is a bitza language – bitza this and bitza that. The vowel sound that annoys me is the one spelled ‘ough’
but pronounced in at least six different ways. OH (dough, though); OW (plough, sough); AW (bought, thought); OO (through); UFF (tough, enough); OFF (cough, trough). There is a need for some spelling rationalization here. Tradition is all very well, even if only for some esoteric reason, but this just doesn’t make sense.
May ’23 Drying Up:
The garden-waste shredder I recently bought has an input size limitation of 40mm Ø (two-finger-width), which is quite big enough to use as kindling. As I prune branches off trees, anything up to about that size gets shredded. Larger stuff becomes firewood or kindling although, once sawn to length, that all needs months of drying before it can be easily burned. Weather-proof places to stack all that wood for drying out, are drying up!
April ’23 Wobbly Cutter:
Pruning high tree branches can be risky, so I made a simple outrigger leg, ratchet-strapped onto my step-ladder. A steady ladder allows me to use a pole-saw at a safe cutting angle, to drop branches up to 200mm Ø (bigger than I need!) much higher than I can reach from the ground. Also, rotating the chain-saw head allows me to drop branches at right-angles to the pole handle, while standing on a stable surface like the house roof – very useful!
March ’23 Caesarean Mobile:
I use a yearly prepaid for my mobile phone, but have trouble remembering exactly when it is due to expire, because the provider doesn’t send me a reminder. But “Beware the Ides of March!” – I can remember that! I received what LOOKED like a reminder last month but was, in fact, a scam message. Just click here to renew.
So now my Caesarean phone dies mid-March every year.
February ’23 Branching Out:
My new ride-on mower is taller than the old one, so I get a face-full of foliage mowing around my fence-lines. I have a pole-saw with a chain-saw head, so I can prune branches. Anything over 50mm Ø can be used for firewood or kindling, but smaller stuff is too bulky to bin, and too time-consuming to secateur-prune for mower-mulching. So I bought a domestic shredder, which makes easy work of it. Branch pruning is now a regular chore!
February ’23 Marketing Machinations:
I paid $25 to have a $5 battery fitted to my watch, because I could no longer buy a battery at retail. I was even told that it’s ILLEGAL to fit my own watch battery! I am annoyed about marketing maneuvers to make batteries available only to jewelers and service kiosks in shopping malls, who won’t sell just the batteries – they
must fit them. What about other small devices like hearing aids, cellphones, cameras? Must we now call an electrician if the battery in a TV remote or a smoke alarm needs replacing? More marketing intrusions.
February ’23 Cutting Comment:
Expected for about the last two years, the engine of my old ride-on mower finally died – so I bought a second-hand ride-on from my local mower shop in excellent condition. On the first day it easily towed my old mower up the hill from where it conked out. Next day, I tried to actually cut grass... but the cutting blades would not engage! So my new mower does everything EXCEPT cut grass – very funny. Progress, hee, hee...
January ’23 Anime Fizzer:
There isn’t much hope that the awful film scripts of Japanese Anime will improve, because their censorship laws are based on cultural beliefs – very unlikely to be relaxed. Possibly Anime studios could use their excellent art-style and production values to make adult-themed films for foreign markets – but there’s no hope for making films set in Japan. Some other country will have to make those films, but not with USA-style ultra-realistic CGI in a cartoon form, or with cartoon-style exaggeration in mannerisms, actions, speech – that just ruins any adult-themed story. Anime’s art-style does suit adult themes, because it’s subtle, restrained, and visibly artificial – but censorship prevents even the mildest of adult content being shown. A pity.
January ’23 Respect vs Belief:
Prior to the Industrial Revolution (mid-18th century), ethnic, religious and political groups all over the world had their own cultural and historical belief systems. Scientific Method, though, proved most of them to be wrong. Every country scrambled to retain some respect for its cultural heritage, while embracing the new fact-based present. Australian indigenous leaders are trying to do the same thing as Japanese did then – claim that all their ancient myths and legends are ‘metaphysically’ (spiritually
) true. Respect for cultural heritage is healthy, but Charles Darwin had this right: failing to adapt to changing conditions is a death sentence.
January ’23 Paranoid Source:
Back in April 2019 I posted here about my video call webcam, showing a ‘sock’ I made to cover the camera so it couldn’t be used as a spy device. Friends and family all called me paranoid at that time... but if you go online to buy a webcam today you will find that nearly ALL of them have a ‘Privacy Shutter’ to block the camera lens and/or disconnect the power – a built-in sock! I rest my case. A little paranoia is quite justified!
December ’22 Privacy Barrier:
Japan is the ONLY country where film censorship officials take the strange view that the audience
, who can see and hear whatever is depicted, IS
the public, so everything
in a film is public. Films cannot portray privacy, where story characters might do or say things like expressing emotions or private thoughts that would be considered rude or impolite in public. Films from other countries depict public or private places differently. This has so many different implications that I have made a separate page
to cover them!
December ’22 One Periwinkle:
I use my slow-cooker to make stews and measure them out into single-serve containers for freezing. However, my usual 600g serve is really too big, so I have started to make smaller freezer portions. My kitchen scale measures in heaps, periwinkles, and smidgeons (imperial system), so my new, smaller single-serve portions are now one periwinkle, or 454g to pound it home.
December ’22 A Stitch in Time:
Using a needle and thread for very small jobs like repairing a tear or replacing a button is getting harder as I get older, because I no longer have 20-20 vision. I can see well enough to sew, but not to thread a small needle. Using a sewing machine is a skill demanding regular practice that I never get, so I recently bought a hand-held, battery-powered stitching device – a bit like an electric stapler. It seemed like a good idea at the time, but it’s not really suited to repair-type sewing, so I will probably never use it! ...but then: I discovered needle threaders! Tiny tools for threading needles, so I can go back to sewing small items by hand again.
December ’22 Magic Cop-out:
Makoto Shinkai is currently the ONLY Anime Producer exploring ways to tell adult stories in ways that do not culturally offend Japanese audiences – excellent work. But the trailer for his latest film, ‘Suzume’, shows that he has resorted to blatantly-obvious magic to counter Japanese censorship. One main character is magically transformed into a small wooden chair, which then runs around like a dog, and another character is a talking cat! Telling believable
adult-themed stories with transparently-foolish magic is devoid of all
adult credibility. Until Japanese cultural customs become more like those in other countries (don’t hold your breath!), Anime films are unlikely to tell credible stories with adult themes, considered too ‘RUDE’ for public display.
November ’22 Mini, Midi, MAXI :
About every 5 years we all need to buy a new computer, and I have just bought my 3rd one since moving to Maleny. I wanted a smaller machine, but decided that Mini PCs are just TOO small – too hard to fit extra things like graphics cards inside them – so I asked for a Midi-size desktop, using less desk-space than my old desktop tower. Instead, they supplied a new tower PC that is positively HUGE! Better for cooling, they claimed, but that’s an excuse, not a reason. So now I have a good PC, but even less desk space – why are PCs getting bigger, when all other devices are getting smaller?
November ’22 Cultural Barrier-jumping:
Japanese cultural restrictions make it hard for Anime film producers to make films that SHOW adult-themed or emotion-rich story elements like films from other countries, without offending local audiences – still a big slice of their overall market. Anime scripts are not slowly changing to allow adult themes to be portrayed realistically. Instead, those story elements are simply being replaced by magic – the more wildly-improbable the better. Magic is used as a metaphor
for ‘rude stuff’ that might be culturally offensive, so the actual adult-themed story element does not need to be shown in any way. Anime is likely to gain a reputation for making terrible adult-themed films, and could easily shrink back to a child-level-only Japanese market.
October ’22 Buying Trouble:
Because my background is artistic and I also write novels, when shopping I DO judge a book by its cover. Online, I frequently look at the photo of an item and make a snap judgment. When retail shopping I don’t bother to read labels – I just judge by packaging appearance to make quick decisions. So I often buy things, later to find them not what I wanted at all. Recently, I had red lentils on my shopping list but picked up a packet of red kidney beans instead because it was in the same shelving area and I saw the word ‘red’... so I looked no further.
October ’22 Self-sufficiency:
Could Australia ever grow all its own coffee? Not if we want to use Arabica beans – we just don’t have the high altitude equatorial rain-forest climate to grow the trees. We could grow Robusta trees but they’re no good for making Espresso-style coffee. The Espresso system uses high-pressure hot water forced through finely-ground roasted Arabica beans to QUICKLY brew mild-tasting coffee. To replicate that process, but using much cheaper, easier-to-grow Robusta beans – more than twice as strong in flavor, caffeine and bitterness – we would need different machines. Different filter shape and size might be needed, and maybe a different granule size or a different roasting method. But certainly less than half the number of vey strong Robusta beans per cup would be used, so that would make it easier to meet our market demand. Foaming milk would remain the same as on existing Espresso machines. Robusta beans produce a better crema than Arabica, but the taste, although much stronger, is very similar. It just needs to be brewed in a weaker form. That sounds like a worthwhile research project – an Ozpresso
October ’22 Pitter-patter:
Sitting inside, the sound of rain outside always used to seem very soothing. I’m warm and comfy, and not getting wet.
But with all the present La Niña and Climate Change worries, it’s not a soothing sound anymore. It just means more mud, more flooding, more mould, lichen and moss growth, more grass, which is finally starting to grow with Spring-time haste, requiring frequent mowing.
September ’22 Royal Flush:
Drip-trays on espresso machines are several times bigger than needed to just catch drips. During a machine’s warm-up cycle, all the cold water in the pipes between the water-heater and the brew-head is tapped away into the drip-tray, so that only hot water reaches the brew-head when needed. That same amount of cold water is always flushed away on startup. Most of the time, I use my machine to make only one cup for myself, so the drip-tray fills up annoyingly quickly. Even more annoying, it seems to need emptying every time I have a visitor and offer to make them a coffee!
September ’22 eBooks Versus pBooks:
Direction change for me as an author. After decades of honing my skills for writing, then producing eBooks to a professional standard, my early decision to support eBooks for ecological and ethical reasons – which book-readers don’t seem to care about – is looking shaky. This won’t deter me from continuing to write novels, because I enjoy that creative process, but has changed how I make them available. This is too complex to discuss here, so I have modified an existing small page about eBook marketing to explain – see here.
September ’22 Spring Hasn’t Sprung!
Normally, with the onset of Spring, the warmer weather is very obvious but this year the cold, wet winter is dragging on and I am still lighting fires just about every evening. That’s the La Niña effect coupled with climate change making weather more extreme, of course, but it reminds me of my comments in May (Window on Design, below) about house insulation. My house, with its ‘Cathedral Ceilings’ and open-plan design, is good for summer, but not winter. Heating a large open space is difficult – heat from the wood-burner goes straight up into the high ceiling area and doesn’t warm ME! So not just good insulation is important. Good room design matters, too. As I get older, staying warm becomes harder.
August ’22 Symbolic Movement:
Interested in how CGI animated films are made? I ran into a technical brick wall when writing the script for my first CGI story, so had to think up a way to solve the problem of clothing being part of a CGI character – more like a second skin than separate items. Watching dozens of CGI short films, I can see that this is a common problem, but I am usually disappointed with how poorly it is handled, as CGI producers typically put clothing manipulation in the ‘too hard’ basket. It could be done fairly simply, but convincingly, so click here
to see my solution!
August ’22 Hi there!
All languages change, and common usage is the only true arbiter – not language academics, who always complain about lazy dialect usage becoming mainstream. That happens in every language, and always will. With the invention of the telephone, the word ‘Hello’ was enthusiastically coined but, after about a century, very few people say Hello anymore – it sounds archaic. The inherited remnants are either Hullo, ’ullo or Hillo (to avoid the hard U or E). Most of us just say Hi, ’cos that’s even easier and is now used in several languages. We are slowly saying goodbye to hello...
July ’22 Age Barrier:
As an ex-animator from the old-school hand-drawn era, discovering a new public-domain CGI platform a few months ago was exciting for me. Many small production teams are now making excellent CGI 5-minute shorts, and I am currently learning how to do that. I will continue to learn about CGI – all fascinating! BUT :
my known skills in scripting and animation are not enough!
Now retired (in splendid rural isolation), and no longer in touch with others in the movie production industry, I can’t form a TEAM of specialists, and just stick to my own skills – while others contribute their particular skills. I would have to be a solo
producer, personally doing everything – script-writing, modelling, set-designing, music-writing, animating, sound recording, editing, etc... I have written a promising short story script but can now clearly see that I need to master several new-to-me CGI production aspects. That would mean making several story versions over a few years to gradually achieve professional standards in all aspects. I am really too old to take on long-term projects like that. CGI will remain a topic of interest and learning, but now on a much smaller-scale hobby level.
July ’22 The Big Picture:
With the rise of cellphone camera resolution, it is now common to receive emails with very large photo attachments. Once incoming photos have been examined, they become just reminders of what the message was all about. But when filing such messages, my email app allows attachments to be deleted, but not changed – I can’t reduce photos to little more than thumbnail-size for ideal filing. I get around this by forwarding the messages to myself, resizing the photos in the process, then deleting the original email... a clumsy method, but effective enough.
July ’22 Cultural Best Intentions:
During the 18th Century Industrial Revolution, many technical, social, political or religious beliefs were disproved, then abandoned – often against violent opposition. Every country or ethnic group had its own historical cultural beliefs, now KNOWN to be incorrect. In Japan, many old beliefs were incorporated into formal or ceremonial customs, trying to maintain some cultural links with their medieval past. That was a good idea – respecting cultural heritage should be encouraged everywhere – but instead of regarding these disproven beliefs as mythology
(‘symbolic’ but not ‘gospel’ truth), they were claimed to be true on a ‘metaphysical’ level. By promoting spiritual faith in old ideas known to be wrong, political and religious stability was protected. Many Japanese cultural traditions today are therefore STILL based on medieval ignorance... amazing in such a modern, industrialized, forward-thinking country!
July ’22 Addressing the Problem:
Living in a rural area, far from any city department stores, I regularly rely on online shopping. Delivery – getting more reliable, but also more expensive – is the main problem. My address is potentially confusing for delivery drivers. I live well outside the township of Maleny, but on the main road running through it. Oddly, my particular part of the road has the same name as the part inside the township. It doesn’t revert to the normal main-road name until the next corner down the road from me. Normal mail delivery is reliable, because local drivers know this, but non-local drivers don’t. I quite often receive parcels intended for someone living on the other part, while they receive parcels intended for me. No easy fix, I’m afraid.
June ’22 Visual Credibility:
Animation is close to my heart. When watching any animated film, audiences know that it MUST be fiction. So there is a credibility balance to be maintained throughout the film. Trying to make characters look as real as human actors just feels wrong – an uncomfortable deception. Making them look like cartoon characters goes too far the other way – too unreal, especially when telling stories with serious or adult themes. Japanese Anime strikes that balance about right by using real-looking CGI-rendered backgrounds, but with characters that LOOK like they have been hand-drawn in a realistic style, so can be accepted as stylized substitutes for real people, suitable for telling all sorts of stories well. However, Anime studios typically make films with brilliant art but terrible story-telling! They could easily lose their prominence in the animation film production world – see my separate page about Anime scripting.
June ’22 Host Post:
This website has been moved to a new host because the old host, where the site had been for a decade, was gobbled up by a US hosting firm – a red flag event for me. Standard US corporate expansion policy is to simply buy market share. The new locally-owned host has stricter security requirements, believing that every new website will have online marketing and sensitive data attracting hackers. Simple personal sites like this are becoming rare. I also had problems with domain name propagation – it took a l–o–n–g time! DNS records are a network, not just one server in each country.
June ’22 Marketing Blitz:
I get constant ads urging me to install solar panels on my roof “practically free!” Whoopee!! The cost of the panels is fairly low, but control equipment to allow feedback into the Supply Grid, and labor to fit it are both expensive. It would take me more than 10 years to recover installation costs, and the State Government ‘Rebate’ to reduce those costs is really just a loan. It’s NOT offered to owners like me with low electricity bills, or who won’t live long enough to repay it with savings. I would simply be adding an asset for whoever buys the house when I die, plus my house is surrounded by trees, so has limited continuous sun, and leaves drop on the roof constantly, which would reduce solar panel efficiency.
June ’22 Political Stalemate:
US gun laws are unlikely to change more than superficially despite all the mass shootings, because of Capital-C Capitalism. Even though the vast majority of US citizens agree that tighter gun laws are needed, public opinion is not what matters... money is what matters. Arms manufacturers are major Republican Party donors, so Democrats support gun law reform, but Republicans oppose it. Gun deaths are seen as a social problem, but NOT a political problem. Only when politicians of any stripe fear political demise will they agree to limit the market opportunities for politically-friendly industrial sectors. Congress does not decide what manner of new laws are needed – US corporations do.
May ’22 Bipartisan Failure:
Most analysts agree that the dramatic loss by the center-right Liberal Party in the Australian Federal Election was caused by an unpopular decade-long decline in support for their Moderates, increasingly favoring their ideologically inflexible far-right faction that opposes any bipartisanship or compromise, seen as political weakness. Voter dissatisfaction led to the wide-spread election success of politically-moderate Independent candidates, who WILL be bipartisan. The center-left Labor Party has its Moderates and Extremists, too, but the Moderates hold sway.
Ironically, although most Liberals who lost their Seats were Moderates, their new leader is NOT a Moderate. He is a man with known far-right views, who often uses aggressive personal attacks on opponents – exactly what disgruntled Liberal voters disliked! A puzzling choice that could reduce Liberal support even further. Existing Liberal Moderates, now a minority, could shift allegiances en masse. Most of the current important issues like climate change, renewable energy, political accountability, women’s representation, indigenous rights, all demand bipartisan discussions and at least some compromise to get ANYTHING done. Politicians of either persuasion dislike thinking in practical instead of political terms, so will look for ways to avoid it. Fascinating!
May ’22 Window on Design:
Long regarded as unimportant in Australia, house insulation is finally receiving proper attention. Decent wall and roof insulation can make a house much easier to keep at a comfortable temperature without using much energy, but that means re-thinking windows. I dislike modern floor-to-ceiling windows in a small-to-medium size house. They limit the available lower-wall space for furniture items like chairs, impractical against windows. They are also a thermal-loss source – high windows or skylights let sunlight in best. And well-insulated houses do not need wide-opening windows – fixed-glass windows, with waist-level sills, double-glazed to increase thermal insulation, and with a simple slider type of ventilation bar make more sense for MOST windows. The only real problem for a well-insulated house is that some energy must be be used for air circulation to avoid stuffiness. If I had my time over...
May ’22 What exactly is CGI?
It stands for Computer Graphic Images
. Up until the mid-1980s, animation was wholly non-digital. Images were drawn and painted by hand, then filmed on a specialized rostrum with a film camera modified to record frame-by-frame – videotape recorders cannot do that. Commercial pressure to produce animation directly onto videotape for TV ads led to an interim technology. Every frame image was recorded on videotape for a few seconds, then later edited together to make a film-style succession of single frames – a slow, expensive process demanding commercial-level videotape recorders and editing gear. I simply could not afford to remain an animator making TV ads... I moved on.
Digital art was in its infancy, and then digital cameras were invented, followed closely by digital movie files, and that changed everything. Videotape was no longer needed at all. Digital frame images could be added to a file for playback on computers, now powerful and fast enough to display movies. CGI was born. But it was still VERY expensive, demanding cutting-edge technology and powerful computers, so the system software was not made available to the general public – it was all leased (not sold) to commercial studios, since it required substantial upgrades every few months over nearly two decades... but the technology has finally plateaued a bit, and there are now a few Open Source CGI platforms suitable for hobbyist animators like me.
May ’22 Stereotypes:
Most people fit a stereotype of some sort. They observe the world around them and use that to shape their decisions. Depending on their occupations, skills or beliefs, they participate in various local events and projects, usually for personal or political reasons, and so contribute to social, cultural and economic activity. Normal human behaviour. But some people resist actually participating. They merely observe, usually from a safe distance, and sometimes comment on what they see. Writers such as me are typical examples... other writers I have met seem to fit that same stereotype.
I recently read a translated fiction trilogy by a prominent Japanese author and enjoyed the story, but not the author’s choice of characters. The main story protagonist was a female physical fitness trainer, so she seemed quite believable during frequent derring-do and dramatic physical activities. But the male characters were academics, authors and publishers. Casting literary figures in physically-active roles was so out-of-character it just seemed completely wrong. Such people are typically not DO-ers – they are observers... stereotypical, I know, but fairly true. Wish-fulfilment by the author, perhaps?
April ’22 Sporadic Clicks:
Many decades ago, as a parent of young kids, I took lots of photos. Over the past decade, though, simple point-&-click cameras have been almost completely replaced by cellphones. A few months ago my old cellphone developed faults, so I bought a new one, but I haven’t taken any photos with it, mostly because oldies like me don’t take selfies, send photos by phone to friends, or use social media... we’re just not phone-dependent like younger people today. So pix on these News-&-Views pages are becoming rare. They are mostly of items around the house or grounds, so I still use my ancient camera for taking those. Old habits die hard.
April ’22 Dialect Dilution:
Fifty years ago, before the digital age, struggling to understand someone who lived only a few dozen miles away was a common problem, even though they spoke the same language. Most people didn’t travel much, so their local dialect and accent made them seem like foreigners speaking a different language. And then along came global TV, cheap air travel, then computers, the internet, and social media, so that people can easily talk to other people living far from their homes, and that is now considered normal.
Slowly – as individuals explored their much wider personal social network – local dialects and accents started to naturally moderate, steadily becoming less extreme. I am old enough to have HEARD all this happening ...and all without any official prompting – that’s a healthy trend!
April ’22 Political Perspective:
There are social or economic topics that are likely to have costly political outcomes for whatever Party holds government – no matter how they propose to tackle them. All political Parties tend to adopt the same tactic. Talk about the difficult problem a lot, but do nothing substantial to solve it. Stall until Opposition Parties propose solutions, and then attract public blame for suggesting unpopular policies. Politicians see political implications as far more important than any practical ones, so have to be forced to take action on Big Picture issues that WILL be unpopular.
Example #1: The worldwide Climate Change debate, with practically no action on meeting reluctantly-agreed long-term targets. Business leaders, anxious to restore business investment confidence, are now implementing policies forcing government to declare support for various positions on climate change. It is now obvious that no political Party will take the initiative.
Example #2: During the last General Election, residents of coal-mining towns penalized any candidates who did NOT disagree with environmental extremists calling for an immediate end to all coal mining. The issue was not really about IF mining should end, but WHEN. Demand for coal will steadily decrease as global reliance on all fossil-fuels reduces – a simple commercial reality. Mining towns need to diversify into new industries over time to avoid certain civic ruin.
March ’22 Oz Beans?
With current supply-chain disruptions, coffee is getting very expensive and some local farmers are recommending growing more coffee in Australia. The two main types of coffee bean for the world market are Arabica and Robusta. Australia’s geology and climate is too harsh to effectively grow Arabica trees – the type needed for making Espresso coffee – except in small plantations with high maintenance and labor costs. Far too small-scale and costly to satisfy the domestic market. Robusta could be grown locally on a commercial scale, but is commonly used only to make instant coffee, and is unsuitable for Espresso except in small blend quantities. It has a much stronger flavor, with more than TWICE the caffeine and acidity of Arabica. This makes the trees easier to grow, even at sea-level, as caffeine is a good insect-repellent.
However... there are other types of coffee trees in different Indo-Pacific countries that have never been commercially grown. One of these might suit Australian growing conditions, to produce a low-acid bean similar to Arabica, with Ag-Bots designed to keep labor costs low. Or perhaps Robusta trees could be economically grown locally, and the green beans (they’re not really beans) steamed and rinsed to ‘decaffeinate’ them. But the cost advantage of growing Robusta trees instead of Arabica is largely negated by the cost of the water-decaffeination process, which tends to also reduce the beans’ flavor... not a bad thing for very strong-flavored Robusta beans. Research into a more efficient, more variable, and more cost-effective decaffeination process is needed.
February ’22 Blending In:
I retired as an animator about 35 years ago, at the end of the hand-drawn cel animation on film era, as 3D CGI technology was just emerging in simple forms along with early personal computers! The new equipment and software, back then in the 1980s, was too expensive for a free-lance animator to justify – I didn’t have a spare million to invest – so I turned my back on animation and struck out in new directions. No regrets, but I have maintained an interest, and what used to be horrendously expensive is now becoming accessible on a ‘hobbyist’ scale. PCs are now hundreds of times faster and more powerful than the primitive models of the 1980s, but another factor is the slow improvement of Open-Source 3D CGI platform blender
, first released in 2010. I have downloaded the new v3.0 of that and am starting to learn how to use it – both for the fairly-complex business of making 3D models of static objects (tables, chairs, household items, buildings) and the follow-up process of ‘rendering’ them in a 3D world with correct camera angles and lighting, along with 3D-modelled human characters. My long-term goal now is to create a short animated story using this new-to-me technology... and with 20 years as a professional animator, and 15 novels behind me, I can surely write a short film script! Perhaps even several in time. For an ex-animator, this is quite stimulating!
February ’22 Bold New Anime:
Japanese director Makoto Shinkai is completing his latest anime film due for release in ’Fall 2022’ – that’s about October. It doesn’t have an English title yet, but looks to be extremely philosophical in nature. He describes it as a ‘Road Film’ around Japan, with key characters finding doors that need to be SHUT after calamitous events or historic injustices. This, he says, is to allow local people in many Japanese locations, now facing an uncertain future with new directions and priorities, a form of closure. Wow! That sounds like a documentary-style social commentary that must have religious and political implications, so a brave subject to tackle, and definitely an adult-themed story! With any luck he will tell the story without magic and fantasy... Japanese fixation with Shinto ‘Spirit World’ is one door that, in my opinion, NEEDS to be shut. I recently heard it described as a ‘Metaphysical’ aspect of Japanese life. Occam’s Razor suggests otherwise: that clinging to medieval delusions instead of abandoning them like other contries was a political power-play, and remnants of that still shape Japanese culture today. It’s fine – even admirable – to show respect for one’s cultural heritage by NOT making fun of ancient beliefs. But it’s quite wrong to insist on continued literal belief in long-disproven archaic mysticism.
January ’22 Slow Uptake:
a gardener! Messy, dirty, unrewarding activity. The closest I want to get is whatever I can do from the seat of a ride-on mower, but have been forced to accept that some minimal gardening is essential. Trees and shrubs, for instance, just keep growing, and must be pruned back regularly to avoid becoming a jungle. Landscape gardening, just changing the lay of the land for easier maintenance, is something I can accept. I recently built a garden wall – really just a series of straight edges one garden sleeper high for tidy mowing – but I will back-fill the back yard area with soil and grow grass on it when finished to get rid of an annoying hollow along one edge that has been irritating me for a whole decade and making it hard to mow that area. I’m slow, when it comes to activities that I don’t enjoy, but I do eventually get there.
November 2021 Mystic Madness:
Having now researched the screen-size of modern cellphones (not just assumed that my own phone was typical), I could get back into writing a sequel to computer game Mystic Towers
WITHOUT resorting to intrusive modern marketing methods. I would enjoy doing that, for the satisfaction of handling the animation, art, music, coding at high and low levels, game-play, sound recording and editing... all the different aspects of game authoring that are now handled by TEAMS of specialists. I would probably ‘sell’ very few copies of the game, but maybe writing a single-level alpha version of a retro game, for free download, would be sufficient. Most likely for the huge Android cellphone market, with touch-screen game controls. Hmmm... thinking, thinking...
I have created an extra page
to serve as a ‘log’ for progress on this project.
October 2021 Mystique a Mistake:
To better understand the recent anime film, Weathering With You
, an historical perspective helps. The invention of farming was humanity’s first global cultural change, replacing thousands of years of hunter-gatherer traditions, and led to towns and cities... and, unfortunately, also to politics. But despite this, humans everywhere
believed all sorts of ridiculous ideas because there was no obvious way to prove or disprove any of them. The next major cultural change was the development of ‘Scientific Method’ in the 18th Century – the end of the medieval period, and the start of the Industrial Revolution. Scientific proof steadily disproved many long-established religious or political beliefs, often against violent resistance.
In very-traditional Japan, ancient mystical beliefs were not simply abandoned completely like they were in other countries – they were woven into traditional ceremonies and social standards. Although no longer believed to be literally true, they are still respected for cultural reasons. Shinto, more a social philosophy than a religion, is based on Spirit World concepts, with core ideas that are medieval and illogical. But, being distinctively Japanese, these ancient ideas have never lost social favor, and are still used for writing anime film scripts. For non-Japanese film audiences, sadly, they’re just centuries-old nonsense.
To make adult-themed films like Weathering With You
, they need to change their scripting methods to make films with adult logic. This is too complex to explain here, so I have made a small extra page
to do that.
September 2021 Writing Milestone:
I just finished writing Quantum Heritage
, the third book in the Vortex Evolution
trilogy... still just tweaking the ending to make it more definite, but basically a job completed, novel #15 for me. Fiona completed the cover illustration, the eBook was built and has been edited and checked for errors, now about to be uploaded, which also means uploading all other 14 books as they all now have slight changes to include a reference to this new one. Although it took only one year to write, I hope that this is my last novel. I’m getting better at doing this, but enough is enough!
No doubt I wll be struck by some social, cultural or technical observation, and think, ‘Hmmm... There’s a story there...’ But perhaps, this time, I could just splice that into some existing novel rather than write a whole new story.
August 2021 Anime Success:
As an ex-animator, I admire the work of Japanese director Makoto Shinkai, who uses anime-style animation to tell adult-themed stories. He made the popular, but flawed film Your Name
(see my 2019 review of that
), and has released his new film Weathering With You
, which, UNLIKE its predecessor, is artistically impressive AND easy to follow. Emotional exchanges between story protagonists – a common failing with anime films – were well handled. It did rely on loosely-interpreted Shinto mysticism, which ruined its adult appeal for non-Japanese audiences, but it is what it is.
During a worldwide weather shift (definitely NOT Global Warming!), continuous rain drenches all the artificial reclamation and building projects by mankind over the past 200 years until ground subsidence causes large chunks of Tokyo, over years, to slowly sink. Tokyo Bay is steadily reverting to what it used to be like. But there are ‘Sunshine Girls’ who can appeal – by prayer – to Shinto Spirits, and restore sunshine locally for a short time, but they pay a high price. Every time they do that they lose some of their humanity, until they slowly ‘fade away’ and become a permanent part of the spirit world – they are ‘human sacrifices’. This is the Shinto element that is very Japanese and hard for other adults to accept. Apart from that, a very impressive film with amazingly detailed city scenes and a somewhat cynical portayal of authoritarian restriction of rights for minors, and a strict law enforcement system. It takes animation in a healthy, mainstream story-telling direction, following the effects on human relationships at all social levels.
July 2021 Diet Plan:
When my wife was alive, and we had growing kids, with lots of friends and relatives visiting, I quite enjoyed sharing cooking duties, especially dinners for family and guests... that’s a rewarding experience and I enjoyed being an adventurous cook. Since she died and I moved to rural Maleny more than a decade ago, my focus has changed completely – I’m now old and a one-person household, with cooking for visitors extremely rare. I just need to keep myself fed. So my pantry and fridge look bare, as I want only bare essentials for the simplest, quickest, cheapest, most basic possible cooking. I realize that this is probably very common for retired people but, somehow, it took me by surprise!
July 2021 Slow, but not steady:
I have had my second AstraZeneca Covid-19 jab with no ill effects. The 90-day delay between first and second shots of the AZ vaccine is the main reason for the incredibly slow vaccine roll-out. A delay of only 30 days for mRNA vaccines like Pfizer or Moderna makes them much quicker to reach full coverage. But making mRNA locally on a commercial scale will demand taxpayer investment in that new technology. Common sense won’t matter – there will have to be a political reason. Either a gain for the ruling Party or a loss for its opposing Party.
July 2021 Supply-chain Reaction:
Post-pandemic, governments around the world will enact new laws to prevent densely-populated countries like China or India, with their cheap prices from low wages, dominating world supply-chains. Just about every country will legislate for minimum local manufacturing levels for essential goods and services, even if they can’t match the prices from India or China. Expect limits on firms selling online locally, but delivering goods directly from overseas – more ‘Buy Local’ encouragement. The other main problem is manufacturers ignoring patents, trademarks or intellectual property, selling copy-cat items at HALF the cost of genuine items. Expect tighter controls here, too.
June 2021 Too Many People:
Over-population – especially in densely-populated countries like China or India – is a world-wide problem. But politicians know that planned population reduction means shrinking economies, with greatly-reduced political and economic controls. They want perpetual population growth. As with global problems like climate change or fossil-fuel dependence, politicians will have to be dragged, kicking and screaming, into reluctant compliance. The only hope for world-wide population reduction is by coordinated grass-roots action. People-power. Don’t hold your breath!
June 2021 Greener Grass:
My old ride-on mower will soon need a new engine (See: Planned Obsolescence, below). A friend with the same make/model mower as me has welding equipment, so bought a new OHV engine and did his own modifications to the mower chassis, belt-guides, footrests, exhaust, fuel-tank, and drastic changes to the engine hood/bonnet to cover the new, much larger engine. He has offered to modify my old machine, at about a third of the price of buying a whole new mower. So when my old engine gets terminal, I can buy a new emission-compliant engine and keep my old mower running for several more years – a much greener option!
May 2021 The Aging Population:
Boomers are now all in their seventies and, although many more people live to 100 than ever before, the AVERAGE life-span remains at little more than 80 years. So, within just a few more years, the great mass of our aging population will naturally disappear. After decades of political arguments, blame-shifting and stalling, the government has reluctantly agreed to extra funding and staffing for Age Care, but cynically phased in s-l-o-w-l-y over the next few years... by which time the problem will be – quite literally – dying away. This ‘extravagant’ funding is then bound to be scaled back.
May 2021 Phone Harassment:
In my rural area, I do not have NBN internet. When I receive calls on my old-school landline phone, I just hang up without answering if it’s an unknown number, as 95% of incoming calls are marketing messages, political surveys or scams – ‘nuisance calls’. I also leave my mobile phone turned off unless I need to make an outbound call. Every few days I turn it on, to get a rash of text messages – ALL of which are usually unwanted.
April 2021 Planned Obsolescence:
About the turn of the century small vertical-shaft motors used for ride-on mowers changed from side-valve to overhead-valve to meet stricter emission standards – a worthy environmental upgrade – but forcing a different engine shape, size and ‘footprint’. My old mower cuts grass beautifully but the engine is getting tired, and I can’t legally have it reconditioned. Chassis modifications would be required to fit a new, larger, low-emission OHV engine. Mower shops make that work prohibitively expensive, so hundreds of thousands of owners have been persuaded to buy a whole new mower and just junk the old one... a huge environmental waste!
April 2021 First Jab:
I have received my first Covid-19 jab, months later than expected. With the very slow rollout of vaccine – made slower by cancelled EU deliveries and locally-made AstraZeneca blood-clotting issues – it was a relief to get any sort of jab, especially with no adverse reactions. This is a good time NOT to be living in a city! With the AZ, the delay between first and second jabs is 90 days (only 30 days for the Pfizer jab) so my second dose is due in three months, and maybe a third as a booster some time later.
March 2021 Online Delivery:
I am a firm supporter of online shopping, and think that it will continue to cause shrinkage in the traditional retail sector for years. Parcel sorting and delivery is now incredibly reliable... but still not perfect. There is very little human oversight of the now fully-automated sorting system. With millions of parcels sent every day, it’s inevitable that a few go astray.
I had a package go missing despite being too large to possibly be accidentally mislaid. After a few weeks, the online vendor DID send a replacement item and it arrived here promptly. Probably the vendor’s printed label on the missing parcel did not suit the automated parcel scanning system. When you spend your money, but receive no goods, that is very annoying!
March 2021 Poll Toll:
I used to make animated TV ads that sometimes pushed ethical limits. The heavily-regulated advertising industry generally stays inside legal limits, but the unregulated marketing industry often strays well into offensively manipulative. Over time, they have exploited all public polls, surveys and questionnaires for personalized marketing. Even when firms or official departments insist that strict privacy rules apply to all customer data, their marketing divisions or agencies WILL milk every last drop of benefit from any data you give them. Political polls are particularly prone to abuse, followed closely by ‘How did we do?’ questionnaires. Refusing to answer is not rude – it’s just sensible. Don’t give marketeers ammunition to fire back at you!
February 2021 Misinterpretation:
The Impeachment Article presented to the US Senate charged Trump with inciting the insurrection at the Capitol. Impeachment is a political judgment on the suitability of a sitting office-holder to hold public office, and to force them out of office if they do not uphold the principles of the Constitution. Trump’s incitement of the insurrection is a legal matter. It can’t be proven one way or another. He certainly used his political rally oratory to suggest it, to encourage it, and did nothing to stop it once it started, but never said ‘Go and invade the Capitol. Stop the counting of those fraudulent votes. Kill a few political opponents while you’re there.’
Legal analysts will realize this but be unable to re-word the impeachment provisions in the Constitution. Constitutional changes are rare, one of the vulnerabilities of any Constitution. Legislators are reluctant to change foundation laws even after they become ‘stale’ and increasingly irrelevant to contemporary conditions or standards, or so dated that wildly-varied interpretations are possible.
February 2021 Face-off?
What is it about house-flies that makes them so keen to run exploratory missions up my nose or into my ears? Even though I have fly-screens on all doors and windows and do use them during summer – making sure that no door is left open without a fly-screen covering it – I always seem to have house-flies very determined to buzz me. I do use fly-spray but rarely manage to score a direct hit, or the flies seem to be impervious to the stuff. Is it just my magnetic personality?
February 2021 Lame Duck:
An impeachment trial held by politicians, where they decide the trial rules, what evidence to consider or ignore, and vote along ultra-partisan political lines – what could possibly go wrong? To nobody’s surprise, Trump was acquitted of the open-&-shut impeachment case. Political partisanship ‘trumped’ evidence.
The US Impeachment process has been shown to be a lame duck. It is just a ban on holding public office – yet the Senators ‘judging’ Trump focused on his legal liability for the insurrection, which is NOT what impeachment is about. Trump carefully avoided directly instructing his followers to invade the Capitol, just urging them to ‘Fight like hell!’ for his victory. A proper court case to consider whether an insurrection was provoked is specified by the 14th Amendment. But that would require proving to Judges that Trump had specifically ‘ordered’ the invasion, not merely encouraged it with fiery rhetoric. So he is NOT to be held accountable in any way for inciting that event.
Governments of other Constitutional Democracies around the world – such as Australia – will be looking very carefully at this public farce. We had our own similar event with the dismissal of Prime Minister Gough Whitlam, so it CAN happen anywhere.
January 2021 Pre-trial Chances:
If the February impeachment of Donald Trump fails, it will be the result of Republican die-hards refusing to censure a Republican President, seeing nothing but the need for partisan solidarity. But Trump is a Republican for only as long as it suits his own purposes – if he stands as an independent, he would effectively split the right-wing vote to the benefit of the left-wing Democrats. Sadly, extreme partisanship is considered normal in US politics, making any form of bipartisanship or neutrality difficult, and Trump does not appeal to moderates who value neutrality. He appeals to extremists, and there are a lot of them – that is really the problem.
January 2021 Delusional?
A lot of US media commentators now describe Donald Trump as ‘delusional’ for persistently claiming that the presidential election was stolen from him by voter fraud. They agree that he should be removed from office but, as delusional, treated humanely. I can’t see the slightest evidence that he is delusional about this. He knows that he lost, but saw whipping up support for violent action among his poorly-educated, over-emotive and white-supremacist supporters, as the only way he could hope to regain power. It was coldly calculated and deliberate. Impeaching him a second time is the only way to make sure that he can never run for public office again. Because the Constitution is regarded as sacrosant, incoming President Biden can’t change it to prevent this happening again, but he might be able to add an interpretation of evidence to describe incitement to violent political tactics as an impeachable act.
January 2021 Fake News?
Remember before the 2016 US presidential elections? Donald Trump was recorded claiming that he could shoot someone in the street or grab women any way he liked, and nobody would object. At that time, everyone outside the USA thought, Well, that’s the end of HIM as a presidential candidate!
But his loyal base just assumed that, since the report was anti-Trump, it was therefore fake news. It never really happened.
Now we have White House recordings of Donald Trump trying to persuade a Republican official to deliberately falsify election results. More fake news? – can’t believe those White House crooks – or justifiable action to counter the widespread voter fraud that he insists happened in November, but which nobody else has been able to detect. Then the unbelievable mob attack on Congress during the presidential vote certification joint session. Some Trump supporters even claimed that the whole mob was far-left ‘Antifa’ radicals (Anti-fascists) sneakily waving Trump flags. Supporters believe that any anti-Trump ‘News’ MUST be a lie.
It is really very simple. Anywhere in the world, you can tell when a politician is lying – you can see their lips moving. But, in the USA, politicians’ radically-partisan formulaic lies and exaggerations, so extreme that ANYONE can identify them as political hate-speech, are accepted as gospel truth by their supporters. ALL Democrats are evil communists in disguise, ALL Republicans are evil fascists in disguise. Huh? People who actually BELIEVE what politicians say should not be surprised when others describe them as stupid, gullible, one-eyed fanatics!