Available photos and news
—Click any tiny picture for a larger pop-up image; [X] to shut image down—
—Latest items listed above older items.  Separate pages for different years.  Links below—

1999-2008 || 2009-2012 || 2013-2016 || 2017-2020 || 2021-2024

December 2020  New World Order?  Many economists have long been predicting that China will become the world’s new super-power, with the largest economy, biggest population, strongest military, and will start to impose its will on the world.  The start of the Xi Dynasty?  A return to imperial grandeur?  Probably not.  Those predictions were based on China’s pre-pandemic economic growth.
During the early stages of the pandemic, before lock-downs and survival measures became the main focus, just about every country was hurt badly by a supply-chain crisis.  Relying on only one country – China – for just about all manufactured goods was seen by just about every country to be a serious mistake.  Globally, governments will try to avoid that during the recovery phase, wanting at least some domestic manufacture of important goods, services and health-related items even if that means higher production costs.  China’s proportion of world manufacturing supply will drop from the overwhelming majority it had achieved through ultra-low prices, to a much more modest level, and stay there.  Without commercial dominance, the Chinese economy will not be able to grow further.  With its new imperial-style world-view, China will try to bully and bluff its way back to commercial dominance, but with a smaller world market share, and a global fear of a manufacturing monopoly re-developing, along with political trade interference, that will slowly fail.

December 2020  Protest Strategy:  Democratic governments, even with temporary emergency powers, do not have the right to use authoritarian compulsion to force citizens to comply with abnormal laws and regulations.  Disagreeing with the government of the day is a constitutional right.  Citizens are expected to voluntarily cooperate with emergency measures, and there will always be some who refuse to do that.  Nor does the government have the right to force businesses or individuals to act in the interests of any political ideology.  During the Covid-19 Pandemic, democratic countries have struggled to cope while authoritarian countries have simply dictated severe restrictions.
Rather than complain about China’s frequent political abuse of trade and diplomatic activities, seeking to minimize trade damage, it would be better to simply reveal it internationally as a routine, official Chinese government policy.  That now includes official publication of undisguised propaganda reminiscent of WWII Nazi material.  Chinese citizens are required to be ‘loyal’ to official ideology, so political interference and coercion is considered normal and acceptable.  The Chinese government will continue to meddle with trade and diplomatic deals for political reasons.  In time, many countries regarding China as an unreliable trading partner will have a stronger effect than any individual objections can have.

November 2020  Poll Inaccuracy:  I generally just hang up on phone polls, never respond to email polls, and pointedly avoid talking to anyone in public holding a clipboard.  We all now know that answering poll or survey questions merely gives marketeers more data to use against us – like more intensive personally-targeted advertising.  Surveys, polls and after-sales follow-up questionnaires have all been soured (corrupted) by excessive use for marketing purposes – they are no longer ‘safe’.  I recently saw a pollster admit that little more than 1% now agree to answer political poll questions.  Most people, when asked to contribute to polls, think,  ‘Why should I help?  Telling you my truthful opinion gives ME no benefit whatsoever, and is none of your business.’
Marketing firms will continue to milk every last drop of advantage from any personal data they can access, all the time claiming that they are not doing that.  Ipso Facto: polls will become more inaccurate as more people refuse to honestly answer poll questions.  By announcing pre-election expectations, the now-notorious inaccuracy of political polls contributes to the growing partisanship becoming worse right around the world.  Both sides convinced that the other side must have been cheating in some way because the pre-election polls always prove to be wrong.  Media should STOP using polls as a reliable indicator of likely results.  Some mysterious pre-election anticipation is no bad thing...  a bit of bated breath or, if you like anchovies as much as I do, baited breath.

November 2020  Online going offline?  The stock market reacted to the announcement of the first Covid-19 vaccine tests with immediate reversal of previous investment patterns for stocks that had been heavily impacted by the Pandemic.  OK, that’s understandable – investors hoped that hard-hit sectors like air-travel, tourism, hospitality might finally bounce back.  But investors strangely decided to sell shares in the medical sector – NOT part of the pre-Pandemic growth market – even though MAKING a vaccine is going to be a profitable world-wide scramble, and governments around the world are plainly going to protect that sector in the future.  The one that puzzled me most was the sudden abandonment of investments in online marketing, payment and delivery stocks.  Do investors really think that buying goods online is going to stop once Covid-19 is no longer the dominant influence on society?
Covid-19 was merely the latest in a long line of milestones along the road from bricks-&-mortar to online shopping.  During the Pandemic, millions of extra people have used, and are now comfortable with, online shopping – particularly for only one or two big-ticket items.  Driving to the local supermarket to buy dozens of small items makes sense.  Driving an hour or so to buy one domestic appliance or large hardware item, then another hour home again just doesn’t make sense, especially for people like me, living in a township with no major retail stores apart from the supermarket.  Sure, I need to wait a few days for delivery when ordering online, but the cost of delivery is usually no greater than driving my own vehicle to a distant shop, and someone else faces all that ugly traffic.  What’s not to like?  Online shopping is here to stay, and will only get bigger.  Retail shopping will certainly get smaller, which will slowly change the landscape of our cities.

November 2020  Word-smithing:  Let’s invent a new word: partisanity.
Most politicians are more interested in what’s good for their party and for them personally than for the common good.  Faced with issues demanding solutions likely to be unpopular, they resort to the easiest solution – follow partisan policies.  Either ignore the issue completely, or talk about it incessantly without actually doing anything.  They can continue profiting from their privileged position at least long enough to reach the next election, since that cycle is short.  Then, they can either receive another term in power or retire from politics, unscathed and richer, leaving the unsolved problems to somebody else.  Incoming politicians, probably from an opposing political party, will have to accept the blame for unpopular decisions caused by previous inaction...  unless they, too, simply stall.
Avoiding blame for unpopular decisions is one underlying reason for partisanship, the main fault-line of democracy.  Democracy itself depends on public participation and respect for the democratic process – citizens decide.  When citizens can’t trust politicians to tackle awkward issues, democracy could collapse.  There is a need for partisanity.

October 2020  Covid-normal Voting:  During the Pandemic, avoiding the crush of normal election-day mingling with long queues and milling crowds, is welcome.  Early Voting seems a good solution, now the second time I have used it.  Here in Queensland, we get two extra weeks to turn up at a nominated polling booth, manned from 9am to 9pm, to vote in a Covid-safe manner – distancing queue crosses on the floor, hand sanitizer, personal pencil, only 2 or 3 people voting at one time, widely-spaced voting booths – and I find that quite relaxing.  Much better than the election-day crush!  I get a whole fortnight to vote – very civilized.  Of course, in the USA, Early Voting is the work of the Devil, bound to be fraudulent.  Voting early, without hearing candidates’ last-minute electioneering messages, promises and accusations, is plainly corrupt.  Some might vote for non-political reasons!

September 2020  Spirit:  With the Presidential Elections looming in the USA the media is focusing on every word Donald Trump utters or posts online.  If you can cut through all the vitriol, ideological bias and downright stupidity (fascinating but scary), it is still hard to understand what is happening.  This is too complex to post here, so I have made a small extra page to summarize the facts as I see them.

September 2020  Micro$oft Sudoku:  Along with the automatic updates to Microsoft Windows 10, necessary for security reasons, I found that my Microsoft Sudoku was ALSO automatically updated.  I am very disappointed with the new version.  The whole point of Sudoku is that it requires you to THINK – it’s a logic puzzle.  But the new version has been ‘dumbed down’ so that NOBODY can enter a wrong number.  They either flash in red and beep, or are simply ignored, no matter how many times you try.  At the end of every puzzle your ‘ability’ is pronounced, always using words like Fantasic, Awesome, Legend, or Amazing.  What a load of crap!  There is something quite disturbing about removing all logic from a logic-puzzle game – obviously a sales-oriented marketing decision, not a game design decision.  I will have to find a different Sudoku game, or go back to old-fashioned pencil and paper.

September 2020  Give us this day...  I keep sliced bread in the freezer, but recently took my bread machine out of a cupboard and used it for the first time in more than a decade.  Some claim that home-baked bread tastes much better than store-bought stuff, but I think it tastes much the same, and costs about the same, too.  I quite like the smell it makes when baking, but the main problem is that it isn’t very practical for single-person households.  Even eating twice as much bread as normal, it takes me about a week to get through the big loaf it makes, by which time the bread has gone stale.  My bread slicing jig is messy, especially when the bread is still warm from baking, and waiting for it to cool down defeats the main attraction of freshly-baked bread.  The convenience factor has firmly prevailed.  I took the bread oven (along with my two ‘extra’ coffee grinders) to a local Op Shop for somebody else to use.  Pre-sliced bread is the best thing since...  well, the last best thing.

August 2020  Hard Grind:  Cooped up at home during the Covid-19 pandemic, domestic issues – such as making decent coffee – loom large.  My old coffee grinder did not grind quite finely or evenly enough, I thought.  Absolutely intolerable!  So I splashed out and bought a new one...  but chose poorly.  It ground beautifully but proved to be so messy to use that I almost just went back to using the old one.  But that wouldn’t FIX the problem, so I bought another new grinder.  Finally, I now grind beans to the correct granule size without making a mess all over my bench-top – but that slightly finer grind also compresses more under tamping pressure.  A kilo bag of beans used to last me six weeks, but it now lasts only FIVE weeks!  I’m up from about $1/day to about $1.20/day!  Pandemic isolation, apparently, has a coffee-related price...  about an extra $10/year.

photo July 2020 Speling Check:  There is no X in espresso, but X in bacon is a popular breakfast coffee accompaniment.  For more coffee-flavored comments, see my coffee page.

July 2020  Splitting Headache?  Every winter I have to order either one or two cubic meters of firewood.  When moving from Brisbane to Maleny a decade ago, I inherited a wood-burner that doesn’t like big logs.  So each load required two, sometimes three days of log-splitting, followed by days of recovery from back problems, blisters and bloody sharp hardwood splinters – just picking up a split hardwood log without gloves is asking for trouble!  photoSwinging a splitter-axe into hardwood like redgum or ironbark is hard work, so I recently bought a hydraulic log-splitter.  Not a commercial model with a petrol or diesel motor and 40-tonne pressure; not a lower-pressure model suitable for softwood only; not a foot-operated manual splitter...  An 8-tonne pressure model with an electric motor, adequate for domestic firewood work.  On my first use, it turned a hard 3-day job into an easy 3-hour job.  Yippee!  I have built some simple equipment to make it easily transportable, so it can be regarded by friends and neighbors as a ‘community asset’.  It might even get used for more than just a few hours per year.

June 2020  Book Bonus!  I have finished writing Storm Pilgrim, the sequel to The Quantum Elbow, which had been un-published while the sequel was being written.  So finally, I published both of them – see the Books page via the sidebar menu (the Vortex Evolution series).  While writing Pilgrim, I assumed that this would be my last novel.  But the general theme of the sequel was the establishment of humanity’s first off-world settlement – the village of Flora on the settler world Hyacinth.  Such an undertaking would obviously not happen in a single year, nor even a single decade...  it would take many decades, longer than one working lifetime.  There is a possiblity that a third novel could pick up events after the establishment of several villages on Hyacinth, and then follow another main character in the human settlement story, on another settler world...  Sylva, Saxus and Marina have long been judged suitable, but are as yet unsettled.

April 2020  Covid-19 Aftermath:  What will life be like after the Covid-19 pandemic, when we have a vaccine for prevention and some sort of treatment for infection?  This is too complex a subject for this page, so I have made a separate page for it.

April 2020  Delivery Woes:  This is not a complaint – merely an observation.  During the present pandemic restrictions on travel, most shops are shut, so far more people are ordering goods online.  That means that the transport and courier services needed for home delivery purposes are stretched far beyond their usual maximum capacity.  For my rural location, I used to allow a 2-day delivery window for goods from Brisbane, 3 days from Sydney, 4 days from Melbourne, and about 5 days from Perth.  It looks like days are creeping toward weeks for now, so I will have to start ordering stuff far earlier than before.  Time-critical stuff like coffee or other foodstuffs will be more awkward to manage.  As the pandemic drags on, the backlog of deliveries might get worse with the industry struggling to cope with the load.
But the fact that deliveries are happening at all is wonderful under the circumstances – well done to the transport industry!

April 2020  Ill Wind:  During the Covid-19 pandemic there are restrictions on travel.  As a 70+ person with a partially-collapsed lung from pneumonia, I am in the high-risk category, so home quarantine has become my norm.  I live in a rural area but a neighbor kindly dropped off a small package with some eggs, home-made soup, and a roll of toilet paper!  Much appreciated, and set me to think – I could use my slow cooker to make a batch of soup, useful for long periods at home.  I made a huge batch of soup, decanted into 2- or 4-serve containers and jammed into my freezer.
There was one container that would not fit so I had one serve for taste-testing, followed by two more serves the same day just to get rid of it...  bad move!  The following day there was a very nasty smell following me around – I simply couldn’t stop farting!  Moving around to escape the smell didn’t work – when I walked that just made me fart more!  Must be the onion in the soup, I think.  Definitely no more than one serve per day from now on...

March 2020  Has-beans:  gif 48-hour delays on all online coffee bean orders because of a big increase in online activity, partly as a result of a profit donation to bush-fire recovery funds boosting sales (that’s good) but also partly because more people are making coffee at home instead of going to a café during the Covid-19 crisis (that’s bad).  I’m about to run out of beans – quelle tragédie!  I try to avoid ordering until precisely 3 days before I run out, or a couple of extra days before if a weekend falls in the delivery window, so that the beans are freshly-roasted when I start using them.  I’ll have to get out of that habit!  Has-beans are much better than no-beans...
PS:  Exactly one minute after writing this I got an email confirming that my order has been dispatched, so I might get it before the weekend, after all.

February 2020  Supercar Puzzle:  I’m a V8-Supercar fan, and enjoy the fact that the sport is very Australian.  The Ford versus Holden rivalry has been the backbone of the sport for half a century.  But the reality is that, under the skin, all the cars are identical, not really any particular brand at all except for the engine.  After Ford decided to stop manufacturing cars in Australia the plastic reproduction of the iconic Falcon saloon was replaced with a plastic body-shell of the US Ford Mustang – the basic Supercar chassis and equipment under the skin remained the same.
General Motors recently announced that Australia is too small a market to continue supplying with right-hand-drive vehicles, so the entire Holden brand will be axed.  That will mean no new GM cars here at all, except for those made in the UK.  To my surprise, the general Supercar media reaction has been enthusiasm for replacing the Commodore plastic body-shell with a Camaro plastic body-shell – because the Camaro has long been the GM rival to the Mustang in the US.  ...Huh?  When did you last see a Camaro on the road here, and are you ever likely to see one in the future?
Why are we promoting US brands and models when US corporations plainly aren’t interested in the Australian market, and caused this dilemma in the first place?  Why don’t we make a body-shell of a hybrid, generic, Australian-designed car that doesn’t represent any particular brand at all, and which any team could use?  Neither should it matter what brand the engine is, since all the cars are only superficially brand-related.  The old days of weekend race results driving showroom sales on Monday have completely vanished.  Manufacturers don’t care who wins on the race-track, only who wins on the race to the bank.

February 2020  Anime Morality:  As a former animator – but from the era when all character animation was hand-drawn, so was 2-dimensional (cartoon-style), and never truly accurate and lifelike – I admire the advances in realism achieved using CGI methods of 3D modeling, texturing and rendering.  It is getting more realistic all the time, and many people predict that it will soon be impossible to tell what is real and what is animated.  The main advantages of CGI are that all objects are 3-dimensional.  They no longer need a cartoon-like solid outline, have absolute dimensional accuracy in any position or perspective, and sophisticated texturing so that difficult, highly-variable surfaces such as skin, clothing, hair, shadows, can be very accurately rendered with subtle lighting effects so that they do look real, unlike flat 2D, painted cartoon images.
See my comments (September 2019) about the Anime film Your Name.  I have long been keen on the animation industry moving away from making nothing but children’s films, and CGI looks the best chance of that happening.  BUT...  a whole new class of animation – hentai, which is Japanese for animation with graphic sexual content – has been created to use CGI.  So we now have very detailed, expertly-rendered sequences of amazingly-proportioned young women, performing very explicit sexual acts...  purely because it can now be done, and it SELLS well.  Some hentai portays less-than-perfect people, trying to appear completely real.
As an ex-animator, I can still spot the tell-tale signs that it isn’t real, but most people would not, and these ultra-real animated sequences have very real criminal potential.  I worry that the animation industry – particularly the much-loved Anime branch in Japan – has lost sight of the main goal.  Telling stories with animation, without being always limited to children’s stories.  Anime producers have embraced 3D CGI for backgrounds and props, but NOT for characters.  They are trying to remain true to the 2D hand-drawn Anime tradition.  It’s inevitable that using CGI for characters will happen despite the purists’ desires.  Characters would appear lifelike and convincing, but in a stylized form, instead of indistinguishable from real people.
Recognizably-animated characters could be used to tell stories with adult themes and content, performing acts that real actors would need expensive special-effects or props to manage, as long as the art treatment of ALL characters is consistent throughout the story (and Anime producers resist the very Japanese urge to resort to Shinto ‘Spirit World’ fantasy elements in scripts), but trying to deliberately blur the boundary between animation and reality is, in my opinion, unhealthy.

February 2020  Burnt Offerings:  After the terrible bush-fires across Australia this summer, the explosive return of the Asian Monsoon followed in the tropical north – a couple of months late, but better late than never – bringing torrential rain and flooding, spreading slowly to the sub-tropical and temperate south.  Too late to help fighting the fires, but perhaps indicating a return to the once-common wet-season summer pattern of decades ago, before the current drought period set in.  Some serious thought will have to be given to fire hazard reduction on a continental scale.  We can expect summers to be increasingly hot and the vast size of Australia means that bushlands covered with dry leaf-litter will be fires waiting to happen.  Back-burning to get rid of ground litter certainly works, but a fair proportion of these small fires turn into accidental major fires.
A bit like the challenge of dealing with the disgracefully huge amount of household rubbish our consumer society creates, we will need to get more creative with how we keep the countryside clear of fire fuel.  Climate change IS happening, despite most politicians looking the other way, whistling tunelessly, every time someone asks them about it.  Climate change?  Our economic climate, or our industrial climate? – they’re real things!  Unfortunately, we don’t have the social mechanisms to take deciding important long-term planning goals out of the hands of politicians – with their 3-year election cycle, there is no direct benefit to THEM to seriously consider issues that might be electorally damaging.  Their decisions are made on political grounds, and practical implications hardly matter at all, so they simply assure us that all is well under control.  All is NOT under control.

January 2020  Bean-counting:  What a load of unmitigated wank surrounds the operation of an espresso machine to extract all the flavor from the coffee beans!  Here’s what the experts say:
bullet Someone decided that precisely 13.6 kg of downward pressure was required to tamp the grounds flat for optimum, even extraction of flavor, so posted that on a US coffee aficionado website.  That sounds very scientific, so the coffee equipment industry responded immediately.  You can now buy ‘calibrated’ tampers or pressure pads that click when exactly 13.6 kg pressure is exerted...  until you understand that 13.6 kg is really just 30 pounds – so that was probably just a rough estimate in the first place!
bullet After that, the self-declared experts now reason that an exact tamping pressure is not as important as even pressure – most people start with a ‘mound’ of grounds in the filter basket, producing a highly-compressed zone in the middle and lower compression around the outside.  Water, under pressure, will simply flow into the low pressure areas and little flavor will be extracted from the high pressure areas, which is where the bulk of the grounds are.  That actually makes sense, so you can now buy leveling tools to make the grounds flat in the filter basket before tamping.
bullet Filling the filter to the point where the grounds touch the brew-head above was next identified as a no-no.  During the pre-infusion cycle (just a few seconds of low pressure to ‘wet’ the puck) the grounds try to swell and, if too full, will not be able to do so – instead, the higher water pressure bores channels through the puck, resulting in eneven flavor extraction.  A gap of a couple of millimeters is now recommended.  Necessary?  Who knows?
bullet Bottom line:  Forget the precise tamping pressure.  I do try to get the grounds flat before tamping now (a very light twirly-whirly with the tamper does that fine), and I do grind slightly fewer beans (probably only about 5 beans less than I previously always used!) to fill the filter basket less.  I never imagined that I would be a bean-counter!  Do accountants make better coffee?  For more coffee-flavored comments, see my coffee page.

December 2019  Storytime:  As with all my novels, actually writing the current one, tentatively titled Storm Pilgrim, was preceded by a research period, during which I wrote about 10 pages of notes to form the foundation for the story.  Storm Pilgrim is a sequel to Quantum Elbow that I wrote close to 30 years ago, but was never quite happy with...  I recently re-wrote QE to be much more satisfying, and with a cliff-hanger type of ending suggesting a sequel.  My notes were mostly about technical changes to the core ‘invention’ of the first book – the actual Quantum Elbow device.  Characters in the sequel, a quarter of a century later, can do things with it that those in the first book couldn’t do.  All good.  But I have nearly exhausted my technical notes while only about a third of the way through the new book!
I will have to go back and write some more research notes – this time about new subjects – and the story will spear off in an unexpected direction so that the sequel’s characters can explore their new capabilities, probably with some serious moral or philosophical questions to face.  A case of ‘winging it’.  Quite an exciting prospect for a writer.

December 2019  Demitasse:  Alister to the rescue.  After complaining about down-sizing to a demitasse cup for my morning coffee, I did some online research to find suitable cups but found that I had to buy half a dozen at a time.  I asked Alister if he could use some of them, since I need only one, perhaps two cups that size.  I also needed to visit him to see the new house that he and Vera recently bought, and found that he had gone through the exact same crisis – he had bought 6 demitasse cups for himself, but used only one, perhaps two (weird, since we had arrived at the same solution for completely different reasons:  I like a single-shot short black, but my espresso machine ‘dribbles’ during the pour so needs a slightly bigger cup – Alister likes a Ristretto but his machine doesn’t dribble).
So I went to see him and he gave me two of his demitasse cups (and saucers, which will probably never be used) instead of me giving him two.  The new cups are excellent with very thick walls to retain heat well and the handles are just big enough to get one finger into.  A great result.

November 2019  Fusspot:  My late wife told friends that I was obsessional and a long-time friend claims that I am a perfectionist, but I am neither.  Like most old farts, I am certainly becoming set in my ways – a creature of habit – but therein lies the reason.  There’s no personal satisfaction in doing anything poorly, so none of us like to do that.  The first time I do some new task I don’t expect to do it any better than anyone else.  Will I feel distressed because it wasn’t done perfectly?  No – not at all.  I’m quite happy to do things as well as I can manage at the time.  However, if that task is going to be repeated, that’s different.  I can at least try to do it better next time, and I think that most people would think the same way.  Over time, I should get better at that task until I can do it pretty well...  not perfectly, perhaps, but at least as well as I can repeatedly manage.
Not being very good at multitasking is a common male limitation.  I get better results when I concentrate on one job at a time.  My usual strategy is to follow strict routines, because I have learned over the years that being ‘focused’ (read: obsessive) usually leads to reliably good results, and my routine might include a few extra steps that other people don’t bother to take (read: perfectionist).  I am not obsessional, although I do try to avoid distractions and stay focused on one job at a time, and I’m not a perfectionist, although I sometimes add refinements that might not be essential but I personally find gratifying.  Am I fussy?  Well...  yes, guilty to that charge.

photo November 2019  Downsizing:  I never eat breakfast – I have a morning coffee and, during the past few months, had started to make a Ristretto instead of my normal single-shot long black, because the taste is a bit richer and stronger, better for waking me up, I reasoned.  But my morning routine is pretty invariable and that coffee is started while sitting at the computer dealing with emails and other distractions...  so it often isn’t finished!  Quelle tragédie!  I usually get about half-way through it before it goes cold and a microwaved coffee just doesn’t taste the same as a fresh one.  The half-cup goes down the drain.
I usually have 3 or 4 cups of coffee per day, all single-shots.  A 1 kg bag of beans costs $41 and lasts me about 41 days (the reason for being so fussy about airtight storage to keep them fresh) so each ‘shot’ costs between 25-33¢.  A Ristretto uses twice as many beans as a single-shot, so having one stronger coffee per day was costing me heaps!  But if I drink only half of it?  Hmmm...  at 25-33¢/day, it would take 3 months to pay for another kilo of Colombian beans.  OK – I might just downsize to a short black in a Demitasse cup, instead.  A short black is richer than a long black (no extra water in it), and a Demitasse (sometimes called a Piccolo cup, although Piccolo is really the fluid volume rather than the cup) is about half the size of my usual Alto cup – small enough to easily finish, even if it is like ‘drinking from a thimble’, and my fingers don’t fit through the tiny handle.

October 2019  Great Race:  The Bathurst 1000 race every October never fails to excite me.  I have attended the race, 1000 km away, a couple of times, and being there in person allows you to see, smell, hear, feel all the race incidents, but for complete understanding of all the dramas as they unfold during the six or so hours of racing, you still need to watch the comprehensive TV coverage, and it’s much cheaper to stay at home and be a couch potato for one weekend.  This year was no different.  After five hours, tired drivers started making small judgment errors, and tired cars started developing small faults, bringing out successive safety cars.  Scraping a concrete wall at up to 300 km/h tends to be terminal.  But the last safety car episode ended with just one lap of the circuit to complete, by which time the top few drivers in the championship were lined up in championship order at the lead of the race, so the whole event came down to a one-lap procession that made no difference whatsoever to the year’s championship outcome.  Despite all the entertaining dramas happening up and down the field all day long, it would have been easier and cheaper in retrospect to just skip the race entirely.
PS:  There was a protest that affected the outcome.  The team-mate of the winner, running third, was ordered by his team to deliberately hold up the whole field by over half a minute during the penultimate safety car deployment to avoid double-stacking during a pit-stop, preventing any other cars catching the two leaders before the final safety car and its subsequent one-lap procession.  That second team driver was relegated to last place for doing what his team instructed him to do.

September 2019  Anime Failure:  As a former animator, I like how Japanese anime films are moving toward more adult themes – not necessarily overtly sexual content, but at least less like children’s stories.  There is no reason why animation should not be used to tell stories with mature themes like racialism, religion, political extremism or social inequalty, but the scripts need to meet adult credibility levels, and not rely entirely on plot elements that have been used for children’s stories for decades.  A recent release (late 2016) was ‘Your Name’ – a teen romance...  but evoking modern views of ancient Japanese Shinto (ancestor worship, reincarnation, nature spirits, and a spirit world just out of normal reach – for the film, multiverse ideas have been added to it.) – this is the traditional Anime plot basis, and fails to meet adult credibility levels.  The boy is a city-dweller, scornful of old-fashioned religious beliefs, but the girl lives in a rural village, and performs Shinto ceremonies.
I’m sure you don’t want to read a long blow-by-blow review of the movie here, so I have made a separate page about it – see here for that page.

photo May 2019  The Trundler:  In Queensland we have 2 sizes of wheelie-bins – a smaller one for household rubbish, basically destined to be land-fill, and a slightly larger one for recycling material, mostly paper, cardboard, cans, glass and plastic bottles.  Ironically, the big bin is rarely very heavy while the small bin often is, and my driveway is an uphill drag with full bins.  Bringing the empty bins in after collection is easy enough, but putting full ones out can be an effort.  So I looked at bin-trundlers available online and designed a version of those to fit my ride-on mower...  why?  Because I have a friend with a welder.  I just needed to take some some steel I had lying around to him and we jointly built a trundler – the first design wasn’t towing at quite the right tilt angle, but the odd ‘bend’ in the shaft corrected that,  Bin collection day is Wednesday here, so now the roadside grass gets cut at least every Tuesday!

photo 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.

photo 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.

gif 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!

photo photo
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.

back to top