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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 bulletseparate 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.

photo photo
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, bulletHeavy 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: bulletAlignment 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 bulletwheel 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.

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 bulletthis 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 2012gif  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  logo 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.

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