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News & Views
Available photos and news: 2011 – 2016
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__—— December 2016  New wheels:  I have decided to trade in my old-model Spyder on a new one.  Lots of reasons, all valid enough, despite the old Spyder still being a perfectly practical vehicle for my semi-rural lifestyle...  but basically, it’s mostly because I just want one of the new F3 models.  My old RS model was designed to be like a sports-bike, so the riding stance is similar to a jockey on a race-horse, and it has a high-revving V-twin engine for exciting performance, somewhat at the expense of comfort...  but more and more, I feel like an overage, oversize jockey on an underage, undersize horse.
The F3 model is designed to be ALL about comfort, like a cruiser motorcycle, with a relaxed, feet-forward riding stance and a slow-revving 3-cylinder engine for...  well, leisurely cruising.  Less exciting, racy performance, but comfort is starting to seem more important than anything else.  I need to add a windscreen and a top-box ( I find panniers impractical ) as essential extras for day-to-day use, but there are bound to be some pure bling accessories, as well.  Gotta have some bling!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Baldric

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

__—— December 2014  Extremist Views:  SA Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young last week posted a blog claiming that the BIGGEST victim of the recent Martin Place Hostage drama in Sydney had, in fact, been the gunman.  Naturally this drew astounded and angry responses.  A Senator should know better than to make socially-offensive, sweeping statements like that, so it was very poorly expressed, and she thoroughly deserved all the criticism she copped.  However, what ( I think ) she meant was that the gunman was a refugee immigrant with a long history of mental instability and violence, but that the Oz system failed to identify those factors and help him.  The hostage drama might have been avoided.
Unlikely, but this raises an interesting idea:  that extreme religious views could easily be regarded as obsessive behavior and therefore symptoms of a mental disorder.  In the Sydney case, the gunman had several times tried to pose as a Muslim Cleric, always preaching violent Jihad.  The local Muslim community had to resort to civil action to prevent him from continuing that, or claiming to represent them.  The man clearly had a chip on his shoulder ( probably from his violent childhood ) and was barking mad, but the fact that he was a Muslim was not really the point – ANY extreme religious view might have led to that type of violent Crusader attitude.  In recent history, so-called ‘charismatic’ Christian leaders have been just as insane.
I quite like the idea of assessing the mental stability of leading religious figures.  Trials, obviously, would not be necessary – we’re way too modern for that!  Just normal social media discussion followed by normal, restrained public responses aimed at attitude adjustments when necessary.  Probably using wooden stakes or other sharp implements, given normal public reactions.

__—— December 2014  Devolution?  It’s late December and the large, hard-backed ‘Christmas Beetle’ – a type of Scarab – has arrived.  They emerge from ground burrows in early summer, and Anoplognathus Porosus is their etymological name, but Turbinus Myopia would be a better name, because they’re like jet fighters piloted by Mr Magoo clones!  Is this evolution gone wrong?  Like moths, they are attracted to lights, so bedrooms become an invasion zone.  They take to the air with a buzz that you can hear meters away, and they fly fast!  But flights usually last only a few seconds before...  splat!  They run headlong into a wall, a window, a piece of furniture...  or me!  ‘Buzzzzzzz ...  Blat!  ...plop, skitter.’  Every morning I find half a dozen of them lying on their backs, legs waving feebly...  they have knocked themselves senseless flying into stationary objects overnight.  Why are they practising Kamikaze Aerobatics inside my house?  I’m pretty sure there aren’t any insect burrows in my tile floor!  And how did insects that are such dreadful fliers ever get off the ground?  Are they now devolving to lose that ability?

__—— December 2014  Septic-genarian:  Since Graham & Jenny wouldn’t allow me to ignore my own 70th birthday, there is a nice feeling of revenge in announcing that Graham is now officially an old fart – he turned 70 this week.  Jenny had arranged a 14-strong family get-together at Centerpoint, a large apartment tower in central Caloundra, and I drove down there to say Hi...  and perhaps also to rub it in a little.

__—— December 2014  Dipthong Dilemma:  Dipthongs are sounds formed by merging two different vowel sounds into one – and you could argue strongly that dialects differ from others mostly by the way that dipthongs are pronounced.  They also tend to mutate over time, and often a sound that is already a dipthong gets merged with another vowel sound.  Does that make it a double-dip thong?  The differences are often subtle, and it’s very hard to represent those unique vowel sounds in print in a way that appears accurate to all readers.  Take the OW sound (already a dipthong) used in words like ‘outboard’.  In the USA that is almost a wide-mouth ‘ah’, as in ahtboard.  In the UK (BBC) it is more like a round-mouth ‘oh’, as in oh(w)tboard.  Regional UK dialects stretch it out and treat it like an expanding-mouth ‘aah’, as in aahtboard.
In the Australian dialect, just about EVERY vowel sound is already a dipthong, and new ones are being created all the time.  Unlike the UK, here there is really no BBC/ABC-style ‘standard’ dialect, and the ‘Ocker’ type of accent, once considered so twee during the 1960s, is now rarely heard.  Most regions treat OW like ‘eow’, as in ‘meow’ from a cat, but with the ‘e’ shortened into a soft ‘y’.  Australians move their lips less than others, so the wide-mouth ‘eow’ is more nasal than other English accents, plus nearly all words are compressed...  reduced to minimum syllables, even if that means merging some word parts or omitting consonants ( actual dialect differences ).  Explosive leading consonants like ‘p’ or ‘b’ are pronounced, but trailing consonants like ‘r’ are notoriously not, and harder ones softened – like ‘ck’ becoming ‘g’; ‘t’ becoming ‘d’.  So in Australia you use an ‘eowbawd moda’ ( missing middle ‘t’, trailing ‘r’ ignored; ‘t’ in motor softened ).
I just finished re-reading Afferbeck Lauder’s 1965 classic Let Stalk Strine and, although it was still hilarious, it is now very dated.  It is very Sydney-based (Sinny-beist) and the vowel dipthongs are no longer true.  They have mutated further in the past 50 years...  sigh.  Lauder’s Tan Cancel ( Town Council ) is more like ‘Teown Keowncel’ now.  Ishaunby alleowd.  Aorta crag deow nonnid.

__—— November 2014  Sore Feet:  Just back from a trip to visit Fiona, Chris & family in Deloraine, Tasmania, also to catch up with Eric and Terry, who flew down from Sydney.  Too much to include here, so there is a separate page with all the details.

__—— November 2014  Itchy Feet:  Getting ready to go to Tassie to visit Fiona and family – haven’t seen them ( apart from a few minutes when they flew up to Brisbane a couple of times ) since moving to Maleny 4 years ago.  Did the sums and decided that driving or riding, although probably more enjoyable, is close to twice the price of just flying down and back, so that’s what I will be doing.  Bummer.  Eric will also be in Sydney during November, working on a new George Miller movie, and Terry flew down from Toronto, too, so perhaps we might get together down there...

__—— October 2014  Book Done!  Finished!  The last chapter written and the editing process completed amazingly quickly...  there’s a reason:  this time, I edited and polished chapters as I completed them so that I could upload them to the website, here, much like a writer producing a serial.  So there wasn’t a lot of editing to do at the very end, and I lost less than my normal 10% cull during the process – a pleasant change.  I have obtained my ISBN number and edited that into the appropriate pages, and drafted a cover illustration, but Fiona will have the last word on that.  As soon as she does that I will be able to actually build the e-book and upload it to Amazon, then remove the separate chapters from the website.  I also had to make some very small changes to Throwback’s Realm and Tree Thinker to accommodate the slight age adjustment of one character in Heavy Biscuits.

__—— October 2014  Public Disclosure:  I tried to let it slide quietly by with nobody noticing, but Graham & Jenny wouldn’t have a bar of that.  They insisted on contacting my ex-neighbors from Brisbane, Maureen & Andrew, and we all went for lunch at Secrets on the Lake at Montville for my 70th birthday.  Good nosh and good to catch up with everyone, but I would have preferred it to be a little less public.

__—— September 2014  Booked Out:  I have finished drafting Chapter 28 of my latest book, Heavy Biscuits, and uploaded it to the website here.  That’s taken the story to the point where my original research notes end.  From here on in, it will end fairly quickly, but that could happen in a number of ways, and I am now pondering the best way to do that with a bit of a ‘twist in the tail’ for no other reason than that I personally like stories that end that way...  It will also disappear from the website as I go through the re-writing procedure that is the drawn-out ( and painful ) editing and polishing phase.

__—— August 2014  OBD or OBD-2?  That’s the protocol built into every car since the mid-1990s...  ever since all engines had an ECU.  It’s the socket under the dash on the driver’s side where an auto electrician plugs in his expensive diagnostic gear to find out what errors have been logged on the car’s electronics system.  Of course, the Spyder doesn’t have an OBD-2 socket, does it...  no, it has a custom one ( surprise, surprise ), using a slightly different CAN-bus data flow system with a custom MPI-2 protocol – so that auto electricians can’t diagnose faults – it has to go to an authorized Spyder Dealer, and they can charge you whatever they like ( mutter, mutter... ).
I bought a little hand-held Car Reader with an OBD-2 plug.  Very cheap, and my local auto-electrician made up a converter lead for it.  The hope was that he could get the Reader to display the diagnostic data from the Spyder, but no luck.  However, that’s not the end of it...  it may be necessary to build a custom ‘black box’ to read the data, so that’s what we are pursuing now.  I am not trying to ‘crack’ the Spyder diagnostic system so that owners can avoid going to Dealers for repair work – just trying to retrieve the one part of the data that affects wheel alignment, because Dealers hate doing that, and would be delighted to see third party operators and individual owners tackling that job.

__—— June 2014  Shock Announcement:  I recently fitted ‘Shock Re-locators’ to my Can-Am Spyder.  They do a good job but also slightly change the castor, camber and toe-in of the bike.  A re-alignment job was necessary, but I have now sent all my alignment gear off as a ‘Kit’ for other Spyder owners to use!  It was necessary to go see my mate Charcol to use his equipment, and while doing the alignment, we worked out a new way to center the steering before changing the alignment.  See: Alignment Kit Instructions for details.

__—— June 2014  The right word:  Living in Maleny, my house is perched on a northern slope just below an east-west ridge ( main road ), 440+ meters up in the air, and the prevailing weather here is from the south or south-west.  So there is a row of trees along my southern boundary as a sound and wind-break, for which I am often grateful.  There is also one along my eastern boundary, but with different types of trees.
I can now really appreciate the word ‘sough’ – it’s one of those awkward ‘—ough’ words that few people know how to pronounce properly, so maybe that’s why it has gone out of common usage.  It should be pronounced ‘sow’ or ‘soff’ ( like plough or cough ) and it’s an onomatopoeic word dating back to the 10th century to describe the sound wind makes through trees or across water.  When the wind soughs through my southern wind-break it makes a ‘Wee-hee, yee-hee’ noise ( plus the occasional ‘Ker-ash‘ as branches blow off ) because all those trees are regular ones with branches and leaves that flap about.  But my eastern boundary has a row of conifers and the sound there is quite different – more like a low-pitched ‘Woo-hoo’ because of the tightly-packed pine needles restricting the wind flow.  It often sounds like a train rushing past.
...just thought I’d share that with you.  No, no – you’re welcome.

peter party group peter party sibling group

__—— May 2014  Big Brother saga:  My older brother, Peter, had his 80th birthday in Nelson, NZ, and I flew over there for that milestone occasion.  The collection of rellies was positively overwhelming!  It had been 10 years since I was last there so all those I actually remembered were a lot older, and many had gone forth and multiplied...  as they tend to do.  It was good to be able to meet those who were previously just names to me, or those who were little more than toddlers when I last saw them.  I suspect that the experience from the opposite end was not so positive, but I can’t help being an oldie.  The first photo is of the core group of next-generation rellies with some following-gen ones; the second photo is of the siblings: Jill, Diana, Peter, Lindsay.

__—— May 2014  The Spyder Wheel Alignment saga:  All the gear I have for performing wheel alignments has now been assembled into a Kit, and this will be provided to anyone who wants to align a Spyder’s front wheels...  for no cost other than shipping it on to the next person or group that wants to use it.  And, before you even think it, this wasn’t a horribly expensive gesture...  I bought only the laser levels; all the rest of the equipment I built by hand out of fairly inexpensive materials, and the gear itself is not as important as the method for using it, to be sure of aligning the wheels accurately.  I spent more time getting the instructions right than I did building the equipment.
I sent it off to Melbourne, where it has already been used to align several bikes, and will be primarily used for a Shed Day in June.  There are already at least 8 owners lining up for an alignment at that venue – it will be a busy day!  From there, it goes to Sydney, then Adelaide...  and I’m not sure where after that.  There is one owner living in Broome, WA, who booked the Kit but then pulled out for travel reasons, and I am quite happy for the Kit to go to individual owners living in remote locations.  Until manufacturer BRP equips all Spyder Dealers with proper laser alignment gear, owners will have no option but to tackle this job themselves...  plus, of course, it is common for Australian owners to live hundreds of klicks from their nearest Dealer, anyway.  For them, DIY will always be the most practical option.

__—— March 2014  The Pod saga:  Still not complete, but here is a series of photos showing the naked car, then the car with roof-rack, then the car with pod closed, open, and with annexe attached.  I had to make some way for the Annexe roof-ridge pole to attach to the pod roof, so I added a webbing loop to the pod roof front and back, and the roof-ridge pole lashes to that – when I crank the pod roof up, the annexe rises with it, so that works well.  Because the annexe was made to suit a much taller vehicle than my car, however, the inside ‘wall’ of the annexe is about 30cm too tall, so I have had some stretchy ‘ladders’ sewn in at the right height to allow me to peg it down properly.  The pod provides quite reliable and comfortable sleeping, and the annexe a practical daytime living area, so that satisfies the main purpose of the equipment. smilie
The annexe will eventually house all the normal cooking & eating gear to complete the camping setup for short 1 or 2-day trips, and I will accumulate that gear over the next few months.  Timing...  not wonderful, with summer now drawing to a close, but I should be ready for some exploratory trips by next spring. smilie
pod saga  pod saga  pod saga  pod saga  pod saga  pod saga  pod saga
To minimize car wind drag, I have now also made a rudimentary ‘sling’ under the carport roof to hold the pod when not being used, but still allow it to be easily lowered onto the car.  It uses a small winch with a collection of pulleys and ropes for lifting and lowering so that I can do it on my own.  Ironically, with the pod higher than head-height, lowering is harder than lifting.  The pod weighs only 65kg, so it’s not heavy, but it’s nearly as big as a small car!  It’s easy enough with two people but hard with only one – I need that winch setup – it’s not just an indulgence!  ...but it would probably be accurate to say that I get more fun from making gear like this than I expect to get from actually camping with the pod.

__—— March 2014  The Quiet Life.  When I say that I live the quiet life in Maleny, I mean that literally.  I am outside the village in the countryside, surrounded by fields.  With rotating pastures my nearest neighbors are often cows, who seem very taciturn creatures – you don’t get much conversation out of them.  With nobody to talk to I may go for a week without uttering a single word around the house apart from the odd expletive.  I hardly ever use the phone so, apart from Skype, I don’t talk very much...  always been a bit wary of talking to myself!  smilie
I really don’t mind this at all.  I’m happy to live a hermitage life, but it does have a down-side:  when I am required to talk for more than about 10 minutes, I get a sore, scratchy throat and start coughing.  I suspect I just don’t get enough practice at talking.  I have a lunch date with old friends today, catching up on activities around my old stomping ground, so hope that I don’t start spluttering at them.

__—— February 2014  The Noddy Car bites the dust!  When I moved to Maleny, I knew that I would need a car as well as my bike but, if I had thought about it a bit, I would not have bought a tiny hatch-back car.  I would have bought a ute, probably, because that’s a more sensible vehicle for life in a village.  But when I need to take my ride-on mower to the shop for repairs, Graham brings his ute up here and we swear and curse until we get the thing loaded on the tray.  It can be done, but it’s not easy, so a ute is not ideal either!
Then another friend suggested that a van might be more suitable, because the floor is a lot lower than a ute tray, and you can use the van for camping, too...  Hey! – that’s a good idea!  So I then went looking at vans, but all the good ones were ex-couriers and had huge mileage on them.  Another friend has a roof-top “pod” for camping, though, and that seemed another good answer...  I just needed to trade the Noddy Car on a slightly bigger car to hold a pod, so a small station wagon with its long roof was the best option, and a 1.8L engine is big enough, even on a front-wheel-drive car, to tow a light trailer for transporting the mower.
So that’s the way I finally went.  I have the station wagon, with a roof-rack and a sleeping pod on order, and an annexe that attaches to the pod to form a semi-open ‘living/cooking’ area to one side of the car.  The pod opens or shuts in seconds using a crank handle, but the annexe is just a tent, so erecting or striking that takes a few minutes.  The wagon, roof-rack and pod/annexe is just the basic setup for camping...  at least I will have a comfy bed!  The rest of the stuff I need is available from any local camping supply store.  I do not intend to become a Grey Nomad, living on the road for weeks at a time, but getting away for a few days at a time is certainly an attractive option.  The pod is a bit like carrying a coffin on the roof, though...

__—— February 2014  Finally!  I have finished all the research and development on a DIY method for performing wheel alignments on a Can-Am Spyder...  it’s taken the best part of 3 months of hard slog.  But I can now align Spyder wheels accurately – and that’s important, since just about every new Spyder has incorrectly-set alignment and needs to be corrected.  Spyder owners are looking for ways to tackle this job.  There are signs that manufacturer BRP is finally biting the bullet on this issue, reacting to world-wide bitching by owners.  Dealers are being encouraged to buy laser alignment gear and train their staff to use it!  Car alignment firms usually can’t handle a Spyder because the single rear wheel makes them unsuitable for their car-hoist jigs – they have to be aligned on the floor.  Now maybe I can get back to a normal life again...

__—— February 2014  I recently bought a new dart-board because my old one had become hopelessly compressed over time – every second dart just bounced out.  So I am enjoying having a good board, now, and had a couple of my practice games of darts today, for which the average score is 5...  one per turn.
In the first game I got a massive 13 points, but nearly NONE of the darts felt good as they left my hand.  It was frequently a case of: “Bugger!  ...oh, look – that was a lucky fluke!”
In the second game I got exactly 1 miserable point but ALL darts felt “perfect” as they left my hand.  And the shooting was not crap, either.  No darts were more than a few mm from the targets, just always on the wrong side of the wire.  Darts can be very frustrating.

__—— January 2014  Some songs have that infuriating ability to lodge in your head and refuse to be dislodged by other songs...  in other words, you find yourself humming and whistling them for bloody weeks, until it becomes very irritating!  Such a song is/was Abba’s “I have a Dream” which I heard on the in-store musak recently when shopping with Graham in Caloundra on our semi-regular trip to ‘The Smoke’.  It’s so simple it’s impossible to forget it.
I had just about managed to get it out of my head several days later when I received an email from Graham.  He had been infected, too, and had been researching it, so sent me a link to Abba performing the song live in the USA, and I got infected all over again!  Bugger!

__—— January 2014  I enjoyed spending time with Al & Vera on Xmas Day, with a l—o—n—g Skype call from Eric & Terry in Toronto, who are thinking of selling their inner-city house and moving to a different style of home more suited to the extreme cold weather.  Toronto was experiencing a Polar Vortex with temperatures in the minus 30's ( frozen water-mains, ice-clogged power lines falling onto the street... ), in contrast to our Monsoon-driven heat-wave, with 45° in Brisbane.  I was glad to be back in Maleny, ’alf a klick up in the air, where the top temperature reached 37°, and that was quite hot enough, thank you.  I tried to tee up Fiona to Skype Al on Xmas day, but she has had email problems, so did not receive my email, nor those from Eric.  New Year’s Day arrived with a whimper, and the hot weather has been the only noteworthy feature of January apart from the Bickie-Gang’s first day-ride in partnership with another Spyder-only forum.  That went off extremely well, so future Bickie-Gang rides look likely to be successful.

HoHoHo

__—— December 2013  Well, the Silly Season is upon us, so Season’s Greetings, ’n all that...  smilie I will be riding down to Bangor Moggill on an eastern train on Xmas Day to eat and drink much more than I need with Alister & Vera, riding back on Boxing Day.  With any luck, given the number of drunk drivers on the road, the Box won’t be needed for me.  So, Hoe, Hoe, Hoe!  The new Bickie-Gang forum is up and running, although little traffic there yet.  Our first ride has been posted, so activity should pick up in January.

__—— December 2013  Well, the decision to pull the plug on the Maxitag website and forum has been made.  It ran for 8½ years, the first 5 of them very successful, and the next 3 tapering away to very low participation – not worth continuing.  It will go offline in late January, so I have started to prepare a small forum for this site.  The ‘Bickie-Gang’ forum will alow some purely local bike-related discussions and ride planning.  That was the main problem for Maxitag...  the membership spread became too wide, I could not organize events outside my local area, and the number of members prepared to contribute dwindled away to zero.  The massive floods in 2010, me moving to Maleny about the same time, and the gradual shift of membership to the south-side of Brisbane also played a part.  RIP Maxitag.

__—— November 2013  Woohoo!  A hail-storm ripped through Maleny yesterday with some people reporting hailstones the size of tennis balls.  I didn’t see any quite that big, but plenty the size of golf-balls.  The grass outside my patio area was covered with hailstones and it looked like it had been snowing.  I have counted at least 15 holes in the patio roof, because it’s made of that plastic corrugated sheet that goes brittle from UV sunlight.  Most of them fairly small holes, but some larger ones, too.  Some patching work to do...

__—— November 2013  My head hurts!  Over the past week or two I have been working with a club friend to tackle the problem of wheel alignment on a Can-Am Spyder.  Ordinary car alignment firms can’t handle the Spyder because it has only one rear wheel, so it has been necessary to build a jig for a laser-level and work out a process for accurately aligning the front wheels.  That meant actually learning about how wheel alignment works!  As a result I have ordered a couple of magnetic-base laser levels on eBay.  Under Bike Stuff there is a detailed summary.

__—— October 2013  For months, I have been thinking about making a start on novel #11.  It could be a stand-alone story or I could use the general plot ideas to create a sequel to Tree Thinker, making the Warder Cycle a trilogy instead of a duology.  All that would change would be the cast of characters and the settings.  The existing characters from Tree Thinker could be used, so I have drafted a Prologue for this possible new novel.  Like most sequel Prologues, it’s mostly back-story for those who did not read the original.  Please drop me an email to say whether you like or dislike this opening chapter.

__—— July 2013  My sister Diana from NZ visited here for a week, so we did all the touristy things because she had never seen the Sunshine Coast.  It’s time for one of those secret admissions... I quite enjoyed doing all that.  I wouldn’t dream of beating the tourist trail normally – I’m quite happy living the quiet life in rural Maleny – but showing off the area to a visitor is different, somehow.

__—— June 2013  Just returned from plodding around the Brisbane Caravan & Camping Show, looking for brilliant new ideas for mobile accommodation suitable for short road trips.  I had imagined that tray-on campers to suit either a utilty vehicle or a box-trailer would be the best option, but they were simply too expensive and not very comfortable-looking.  Camper-trailers look a much better bet even though the trailer has been so heavily modified that it really can’t be used as a box-trailer any more, so it becomes a specialized vehicle that gets only occasional use...  but with a fairly low capital expenditure and maintenance cost to soften that disadvantage.
I would also need to trade my Noddy Car on a vehicle suitable for towing a light trailer, and also to carry more general ‘stuff’ around Maleny than I presently can and, since a camper-trailer can’t be used as a normal box-trailer, a ute seems a better choice than a car there.  Stay tuned – something is going to happen in this arena.

__—— June 2013  This site has finally been moved!  I don’t like bad-mouthing businesses but there are exceptions – the ISP freehosting.com where the site used to be hosted was so unreliable that I was desperate to get away from them.  It was offline as often as it was online.  My new Oz-based host is very different from them – like chalk and cheese – because they are actually helpful; they actually respond to inquiries.  The temptation to use freehosting.com was that the hosting itself was free...  but that small saving resulted in endless hassles.  If you ever consider going down that road, let me assure you that it just ain’t worth it!  Buy a local hosting plan.

__—— May 2013  CanadaEric got married in Canada.  He lives in Toronto but the wedding was held at Lake Muskoka, about 3 hours drive north-west of Toronto.  The ‘Muskoka Chair’ is well-known in Canada, and is a type of deck-chair made entirely of wood, capable of withstanding the severe Canadian winter... but nowadays most of them are made of plastic and are just another type of stacking chair.  I went over for the wedding, and Alister & Vera also went over separately.  Under the Sidebar’s Sundry Stuff there are 2 pages covering: The Wedding, and The Trip.

__—— April 2013  Just returned from Sunday at the weekend-long Maleny Music Fest, featuring mostly local artists with a few invited guests, in two indoor halls and two outdoor tents.  The big attraction for me was Barry Charles, who is always worth going to see, but there were several other good acts, too.  Notable were percussion group Mumbo Jumbo ( mostly comprising local high school students playing xylophones and marimbas of every possible size from baby treble ones to huge bass ones ), local Irish-born Contralto Jenny Fitzgibbon, and local guy Linsey Pollak who has made instruments of all sorts of ‘found objects’ and plays them onstage to record loops, then layers the loops digitally to build up complex repetitive tunes.  Fascinating!  He even constructed a ‘clarinet’ in real-time from a carrot, then played it.  But the winner was plastic pipe rolled up into a coil... it looked like a rolled-up coil of rope but sounded just like a contra-bassoon.  Very impressive.
Organizers are hoping to make the Music Fest a regular annual event to replace the long-lost Maleny Folk Festival, now firmly the Woodford Folk Festival held over the Xmas-New Year holiday ( complete with December rain and knee-deep in seasonal mud ).  I remember going to the Maleny Folk Festival before it moved to Woodford, and thought it was great fun with lots of hippy weirdos and wacky acts... I guess some things never change.  Lots of artists, writers and musicians retire to Maleny precisely because of its reputation as a trendy hippy enclave, although that heritage is being slowly diluted under the constant inflow of boring middle-class retirees ( like with most other small towns! ), so smelling marijuana in the main street is becoming less common.

__—— March 2013  I have recently fitted floorboards to my Can-Am Spyder smilie to allow a more comfortable riding position, particularly for longer highway cruising, and my feet now may be either back or forward while stopping.  Because my Spyder is a manual model, I use my left foot to change gear, and my right foot to operate the brake pedal...  on manual 2-wheelers the hand-levers are the clutch and the front brake – the foot-brake pedal operates the rear brake only.  This demands a well-coordinated balancing act when slowing down to stop – you need one foot free to put on the ground, and it’s usually the right foot on a manual bike.  You can slow to a final stop using only the front brake, but you usually need to change into neutral to stop, so the left foot is occupied right up to the last possible moment.  Some riders prefer to engage the clutch before stopping, so that they can use their left foot, but then they need to change balance from the left to the right foot and change into neutral after the event, which means a bit of a dance, leaning the bike from one side to the other.  On an automatic scooter or bike both feet are always free, so that’s more convenient, but one foot still has to go down on the ground for balance purposes.  Also, driving on the left side of the road means that shoulders drop away to the left, so relying on a left foot for balance can sometimes cause the bike to tip too far, and it’s easy to ‘drop’ a heavy bike.
Spyder floorboardsNOT SO on a Spyder... mine may be a manual, so I do have to use both feet when stopping, but 3 wheels means that it doesn’t fall over if I stop without a foot stuck out.  The foot-brake pedal operates front and rear brakes simultaneously, like a car, so Spyders don’t even have a front brake hand-lever.  Fitting the floorboards just made me appreciate the advantage of not needing to perform a little ballet or jig every time I stop, and to be able to stop on sloping ground without worrying about the bike tipping one way or the other.  Awesome!  More and more, I admire this half-bike—half-car beast...

__—— February 2013  It’s taken 2 hard weeks but all the Oswald storm damage is now fixed and the place tidied up...  in better shape than it was before the storm!  It prompted me to fit gutter-guard to gutters that did not already have it, so that should help keep my water catchment clean.  With so many trees surrounding my house, falling leaves are a constant problem.  Also, my north-facing patio roof is made of translucent plastic sheeting to let some light through ( not very effectively! ), and falling branches from the storm made two holes in it – but there were three existing holes, anyway.  They have all now been patched.  Any more damage and I think I will just replace that grey-tinted plastic stuff, which gets brittle in the sun and is not very strong to start with, with steel.  The patio area is 3m wide but summer shade is more important than winter light.  The cyclone gifted me with some extra firewood, too, so that was a good thing.

__—— January 2013  Tropical Cyclone Oswald paid Maleny a flying visit over the Australia Day long weekend ( 26–28 Jan ).  It came ashore south of Rockhampton, gathering intensity as it encountered land, and ripped through Bundaberg, Maryborough, Gympie as it headed steadily south.  In Maleny, the rain had been torrential since Thursday but that was nothing compared to the fury that the cyclone added when it reached the Sunshine Coast on Saturday!  Oswald peaked in Maleny during the early hours of Sunday and gradually faded back to steady rain by Sunday evening as the front continued south towards Brisbane and the Gold Coast, slowly losing intensity.  By the time it crossed into NSW on Monday evening it had been downgraded to a ‘mere’ Tropical Storm.  Lots of rain and flash-flooding but only moderate winds.  Maleny received 0.7 meters of rain over Saturday and Sunday alone, so it would have been well over a meter for the entire Thursday–Monday storm period.
The whole town of Maleny lost power at 5am on Sunday, and it was not restored until 4am on Tuesday, so there was a lot of spoiled and smelly foodstuffs around here!  Energex announced on Sunday that they had 230,000 customers without power, about half of those on the Sunshine Coast.  They had crews out around the clock, but they could not attend to the essential repair work on fallen wires, poles, trees, or blown substations in cyclonic wind conditions.  Rain they can deal with, but handling high-voltage cables high off the ground in high winds is just too risky.  So most of the actual repair work on the Sunshine Coast did not get underway until Monday, after the cyclone front had passed.  Maleny was in lockdown for Sunday and Monday – an instant ghost town.  I became another ‘Lookie-Lou’ on Monday, but that was research – I needed to be sure that the whole town was blacked out, not just me, so I did a simple loop drive-through.  Yep.  Everything shut, no lights anywhere.  People standing around looking lost, lots of shrugs.
According to the radio storm reports, the emergency crews had plenty of trouble with rubber-neckers in Brisbane, driving around to personally inspect all the damaged areas, even where they were cordoned off and dangerous repair work was underway...  many even deliberately removed or broke through road-blocks ( They don’t apply to me...  I’m just looking! ), then claimed to be amazed at official anger.  That’s a typical city thing – you always get Lookie-Lous there after any disaster.
Damage:  I was lucky.  Lots of fallen branches including one 7m gum-tree monster with a 30cmØ thick end, which will have to be chainsawed to even move, but it missed the house.  Otherwise mostly just water everywhere, which was ironic...  I had a completely full water-tank but without power I had no water-pump, so no water in the house!  The forecast is for more rain for the rest of the week so serious repair and cleanup work ( lots of muddy clothes! ) will have to wait a bit.  My first hot shower, followed by my first coffee at 5am Tuesday felt and tasted bloody good!

__—— January 2013  The ‘Wheel of Time’ Fantasy series is finally finished!  This ends a two-decade-long wait and an ongoing fascination with a bloody good yarn.  My thoughts about the series are really too long to include as a single news item here, so I have added a separate page under the Sidebar’s Sundry Stuff! menu.

__—— December 2012  WOT CoversFingers, toes, legs... everything crossed!  January 8th is the official release date for the final book in Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series (  W.O.T. ).  The Publisher has announced that the e-book version will NOT be released until May... so I will be forced to read the dead-tree version and add to our planet’s destruction!  Many trees will die to make enough paper for 4 million very large books – that’s how many they are expecting to sell of this ONE final book in the series.  The e-book version uses no paper at all, but Publishers still see e-book sales as an evil threat to their traditional business models, trading methods and profits.  I wonder if there was a species of Dinosaur that tended to bury its head in the sand when threatened?  All that will happen is that Pirate e-book versions will become available a few days after the first p-book is sold, and the official Publisher will simply miss out on all those sales anyway.  Stupid!

__—— December 2012  I have been forced to buy a new coffee grinder.  This was top-priority news in this household when it happened, because I suddenly couldn’t make coffee!  But the sheer, blind panic is subsiding now that I have a replacement grinder for the one that broke, so this item has now been added to the existing ‘making coffee’ page under the Sidebar’s Sundry Stuff! menu.

__—— December 2012  BRPI wrote a critical item about the brilliantly-successful French-Canadian firm BRP, who manufactures the Can-Am Spyder that I ride, but also has strict ideas about how customers should pronounce their name.  The item just got longer and longer as I dug further into the background.  So I have now moved it to its own page under the Sidebar’s Bike Stuff! menu.

__—— November 2012  Ouch!  I developed an abscess under one of my teeth and I was dimly aware that it was slowly getting more uncomfortable, without being quite sure what it was.  A club ride over bumpy back roads was just enough to turn it into a full-blown face-numbing episode, and it became fairly obvious what was wrong.  So off to the dentist I went, to receive the news that I needed root-canal work to drain the abscess, followed by a massive filling job.  Except that the tooth broke off completely while they were exploring the root canal.  So now it just has to come out...  and that has just happened. I’ll have to learn how to work the expression “H’yuck!” into conversations, now, to go with my new hayseed look.  Bummer!

__—— November 2012  Now I don’t know whether we’re coming or going!  The weather-forecasting ‘Experts’ have been assuring us all year that the La Niña weather pattern that has been giving us floods and torrential rain for the past couple of years was about to end, thankfully, but that an El Niño pattern was about to start in its place.  So we were expecting to change from very wet to very dry!  They had been tracking the large pool of warm surface water in the Pacific that causes the phenomenon as it drifts back and forth between South America and the Indian Ocean.  It seemed to be migrating from the South American side of the Pacific, back to the north of Australia, exactly as expected.  That’s the normal way the system vaccilates between the two extremes – it migrates all the way to the Indian Ocean before swinging around again.  While it is over on this western side of the Pacific we have an El Niño pattern, with dry weather here – in Chile they get cold, wet weather with fantastic ocean upwelling.  They love that!
That would mean that this summer would be dry and hot, and we could expect high bush-fire risk and about 7 years of drought conditions before the warm pool once again migrated east, out into the Pacific and over towards Chile... but no!  The experts are now saying that the warm pool has inexplicably stopped... it seems to have changed its mind, and is now heading back towards South America, instead.  So the latest theory is that we won’t be going back into El Niño after all.  We will be stuck in an extended La Niña with more persistent rain and flooding, while Chile will get more hot, dry weather.  Bummer!

__—— October 2012  Using Latitude & Longitude in a GPS.  This item was really a bit too big for this News page, and has now been moved to its own page under the Sidebar’s Bike Stuff! menu.

__—— October 2012  Some things just get under my skin and won’t stop irritating.  I met a local biker recently who strongly disapproved of me riding a Spyder.  He personally rode an off-road style Beemer and had no problem accepting other people riding Sports bikes, Tourers or Cruisers but, as far as he was concerned, Spyders have 3 wheels, so are therefore specifically for octogenarians or invalids – using them for anything else is evil.  The fact that they perform as well as sports bikes, corner as well as sports bikes ( way better than ANY Cruiser ), are more comfortable than most bikes, have a reverse gear, are far more stable than ‘tweelers’, are impossible to ‘drop’... none of that mattered at all.  I was simply letting the side down, insulting all ‘proper bikers’ by riding a ‘Motorized Walking-frame’ while I still had all my limbs and faculties.  He just couldn’t believe that somebody might actually like them!
Perhaps he worried that some faceless official might think that they made good sense, and then ‘proper bikers’ like HIM might be forced to ride one?... what a dreadful prospect!  I suppose that I should have been able to take a philosophical view about this, just shrug it off, but somehow... Grrrrr.

__—— October 2012  Newsflash!  If you are reading this, you will know that my little website is back up and running.  After working with Fiona on yet another website ( this time for Deloraine Creative Studios, where she rents a studio for her art work and sells directly to the public ), discussion turned to cheap site hosting.  Alister chipped in to recommend freehosting.com and they proved to be a reasonable choice.  I was able to register the domain name of www.lindsayroland.com with them and they charge a lot less for domain rental ( only US$13 / year ) than other ISPs with whom I have dealt.  The actual site hosting is completely free!  Image loading is a little slow, so the bandwidth is probably lower than other ISPs, and the whole site seems to be inexplicably offline from time to time, with very slow technical support, but it should still be quite good enough for this little site.

__—— September 2012  Novel #10 is finished!  Sometime in the next few weeks I will finish proof-reading the e-book and upload it to Amazon to join the other 9 already there.  Shadow Hacker was the first one written entirely as an e-book, so the production phase was a lot smoother than all the previous ones.  Not needing to satisfy a traditional publisher, I made no attempt to ‘format’ the content... each chapter was just a continuous stream.  The actual formatting happened at the HTML stage, using the CSS style framework that had been laboriously developed for all the earlier books.
You can see more details about this novel under the Books page.

__—— August 2012  My second winter in Maleny is just about over, thank goodness.  It’s quite windy at times up here, and the house is perched just on the northern side of an east-west ridge at 440m elevation, so I get plenty of sun with the northerly house aspect, but the prevailing south-westerlies tend to howl over the house at times.  A tree right on the ridge was blown down recently.  I attached a rope to the remaining branches and pulled them over completely with the ride-on mower, so at least that’ll be enough firewood to last until next winter, because the tree was completely dead.  By the time next winter comes along I hope to have acclimatized a bit!  At least the Pacific currents associated with the La Niña that Australia has been caught in for the past few years, causing very wet weather and flooding, are finally changing direction.  We are now expecting to go back into an El Niño pattern, which means that we will experience drought conditions for the next 7 years instead of floods!  It seems we have to have one or the other...

__—— April 2012  More practice at writing html, now with integrated StyleSheets as required by modern websites.  Fiona has designed the art for a personal website hosted in Deloraine, Tasmania, to showcase her art skills.  I wrote the code for the site, since I had updated my html skills during the e-book experience.  It’s been rewarding to watch the site grow and finally go online.  I really should do something about getting my own site ( this one ) back online... but I am stuck with BigPond for an ISP, because mobile reception in rural Maleny is awful.  BigPond has better phone coverage here than other providers and ISPs.  However, they do not allow html sites, only pre-formatted blog pages.  No, thank you.  I’ll wait until I find an ISP offering cheap hosting for small html sites.
Take a look at Fiona’s site at: http://www.fionafrancoisart.info.

__—— November 2011  At last!  I’ve coveted one of these ever since they were first introduced.  Traded the yellow Yamaha TMax on a Can-Am Spyder, because one came along at the right price.  A good price, despite it having only 6k on the clock, because it is a manual, and the semi-auto models ( push-button clutchless gear-changes ) are proving more popular than the manuals.  It’s been a blast from the past learning how to ride a manual all over again!  A Spyder ain’t a bike, because it doesn’t lean into corners, but it ain’t a car, either... it’s a bit like a quad-bike on steroids.  Very different, demanding quite different riding techniques, and it takes a while to get used to it!  BRP, who manufactures it, is working on a leaning version... that would be fantastic, but it’s years away, yet.
Of course, Spyder owners like to customize their rides, and I am no exception.  Mine is the RS ( sports ) model, so I immediately bought 3rd-party accessories to allow me to sit up straighter... bar risers, mirror extenders and a taller screen.  Much more comfy than riding hunched over, especially for highway cruising.  To hell with looking ‘sporty!’  But it hasn’t stopped there.  All sorts of extras have now been bolted on.  I designed some ‘tats’ and had them printed on car-wrap film by a Sunshine Coast sign firm, and these give the bike a distinctive appearance.

__—— July 2011  After more than 20 years, the first nine of my novels ( well, one is just a novella ) have been converted into e-books and listed on Amazon.  Although the decision to abandon the prospect of getting them published as p-books was easy enough, it was a hard slog doing the conversion.  Even though I am comfortable writing html ( e-books all have html core documents ) I discovered that my knowledge of it was woefully out of date!  So it’s been a case of learning about StyleSheets, since that is the main difference between modern code and the old stuff I used to write for websites.  However, it is finally done, and any future books will be converted much more easily now that I have a style framework suited to the job.  Just as well, since novel #10 is now under way.
See: Roland Lindsay on Amazon to see the books listed.

__—— February 2011  Just in time!  I finally bought a car again.  Having just a scooter is not really enough for those times that I need to carry something bigger than a couple of small shopping-bags.  So I now have a Proton Savvy, and it’s a real Noddy Car.  Positively tiny!  However, it is quite big enough for my village needs, and also very timely, since I finally get my hernia repaired this month.  Driving a car to Brisbane and back again after the op will be much easier than riding there and back on a scooter.

__—— January 2011  Whoopee!  Moved into the new house over the Xmas period and I am getting settled in, despite the constant rain... that’ll end soon, I hope.  Well, it’s always cooler and wetter up here on the Blackall Range than down on the flat in Brisbane, but the rain is not usually like this!  Maleny had more than 1.5 METERS of rain in 2010, most of it during November and December.  It’s all related to the huge weather fronts that have caused such extensive flooding throughout southern Queensland this year, with whole towns going under.
It’s so wet!  Last week I bought some new riding gloves and they are now spotted with mould!  But, in the longer term, Maleny ( I think it should be renamed Mareny! ) is perched on a ridge of the Blackall Range, so is not a flood candidate... but we sure get our share of rain, up here with our heads in the clouds.


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