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__—— 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.

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